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Monday, December 31, 2007

Lakers Gallery of Short Shorts from Throwbacks vs. Celtics

When Ashley and I walked into Staples Center last night, December 30th, 2007 -- we were in for a big surprise as we prepared to watch the Los Angeles Lakers vs. the Boston Celtics. Just as we walked in the entrace, we noticed some shirts were being handed out. Which was perfect, I love free shirts!

Once we had our shirts, I looked at them a little closer. They read:

Lakers vs. Celtics - 12.30.07 - I saw the short shorts
Almost what we immediately realized is that tonight was a throwback jersey night -- and in this case it was from 1987-1988 -- that meant short shorts, or John Stockton shorts so to say. So, in addition to the game I took quite a gallery of pictures of many of the Lakers in their short shorts.

Now the Celtics wore their normal road jerseys, and the short shorts of the Los Angeles Lakers were gone after halftime. Here is your chance to see the gallery -- the rest of the evening is covered in the post here.

What did you think of the short shorts? Let me know with your comments below.

Andrew Bynum with his short shorts at Staples Center for Lakers vs. Celtics
Andrew Bynum with his short shorts at Staples Center for Lakers vs. Celtics

Derek Fisher with his short shorts at Staples Center for Lakers vs. Celtics. Derek Fisher with short shorts and short socks. Ashley's favorite!
Derek Fisher with his short shorts at Staples Center for Lakers vs. Celtics

Kobe Bryant with his short shorts at Staples Center for Lakers vs. Celtics. Kobe said he throught wearing these felt like a thong.
Kobe Bryant with his short shorts at Staples Center for Lakers vs. Celtics

Lamar Odom with his short shorts at Staples Center for Lakers vs. Celtics. Doesn't Lamar look a little like Michael Cooper from those Laker teams in the 1980's?
Lamar Odom with his short shorts at Staples Center for Lakers vs. Celtics

Luke Walton with his short shorts at Staples Center for Lakers vs. Celtics
Luke Walton with his short shorts at Staples Center for Lakers vs. Celtics

Trevor Ariza with his short shorts at Staples Center for Lakers vs. Celtics
Trevor Ariza with his short shorts at Staples Center for Lakers vs. Celtics

Vladamir Radmanovic & Kwame Brown with their short shorts at Staples Center for Lakers vs. Celtics
Vladamir Radmanovic & Kwame Brown with their short shorts at Staples Center for Lakers vs. Celtics

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Los Angeles Lakers vs. Boston Celtics at Staples Center on 12/31/07

Last night's game for the Los Angeles Lakers is the first game of this NBA season that Ashley and I have attended. Our seats are pretty good, in the 6th row of the Premier Section (PR9) at Staples Center – great to get tickets for this game at face value – as I heard scalpers looking for $1500 for tickets that were not any better than this. This is one of, if not the game to see this year at Staples Center.

Yes, we did get tickets for both the Detroit Pistons and San Antonio Spurs -- however, other family members attended those games.

Over the past week, as I thought forward to this game – I noticed I had kept this Los Angeles Lakers season at arms length. In fact, even during the Christmas Day game I feared a 20 point loss to the Phoenix Suns. I was definitely a doubter in their recent run, but boy was I wrong!

The atmosphere at Staples Center for this game versus the Boston Celtics was electric for a number of reasons. The first being is that this is the only game this year in which the new Boston trio of Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, and Ray Allen will appear at Staples Center against the Lakers. The second being that tonight was a throwback night to the Los Angeles Lakers’ championship season of 1987-88.

Not only were they handing out gold t-shirts, but they read “I saw the short shorts” which meant the throwbacks would include the shorts as well – or as some folks refer to them, as John Stockton shorts. (Click here for a great gallery of the Los Angeles Lakers that started with short shorts)

Derek Fisher with his short shorts at Staples Center for Lakers vs. Celtics
Just before tip-off a great video lit the crowd up with a collection of footage from the storied franchises of the Lakers and the Celtics. Some of the written comments in the video included….

Impassioned Hereos. Larry Bird, "Championship Rings...I live for them." Pat Riley, "Celtics...a bunch of thugs." Boston. Los Angeles. The Lakers. The Celtics. Can you imagine it any other way?

Here is the video:

The video got both the fans and the players into the game and it showed up as a very chippy game in the first few minutes. Either that, or Bennet Salvatore and his NBA officiating crew never had control in the game. Very quickly, for both teams there were too many bad foul calls, make-up calls on the other side that frustrated a lot of the players on both side of the ball. That translated into 7 or so technical fouls that included Kevin Garnett, Kobe Bryant, and Doc Rivers.

It really disrupted the flow of the game early on.

In the end however, the Los Angeles Lakers proved to be overmatched in this game, struggling to keep the deficit under double-digits for most of the second half. Andrew Bynum fouled out fairly early in the 4th quarter and then that ended it. Not to mention Kobe was off the entire night on anything not in the paint.

Even thought the Lakers lost, it was a great experience in the rivalry and we got a free t-shirt. I am looking forward to my next game in January against the Phoenix Suns.

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Sunday, December 30, 2007

How to Enter Motorola Bootloader Init Mode for the RAZR

This article a short tutorial on how to put your Motorola RAZR phone into the Bootloader mode and access the system and program settings you currently have on the device.

What is bootloader mode? It is mode that enables you to access all the software and setting on your Motorola RAZR or other Motorola cellular phones. It is similar to a BIOS or DOS mode on your computer where you can access and change the system settings.

What are the common uses for the bootloader? Backing up your entire Motorola Phone (link to how to guide) Restoring your Motorola Phone after a problem or botched hack (which I had to do yesterday, guide coming soon!). Changing your phone's software or applying monster packs. All of these things can be done via a USB data cable connection.

Here is how you access the Bootloader mode on your Motorola RAZR phone:

Note: You should be careful when in this configuration and ensure your phone is fully charged before performing any activities in the bootloader mode. If you are not, you can irreparably damage your phone. In addition, if you do not know what you are doing or following specific instructions you may harm your phone.

1. Turn your phone completely off. An alternate and confirmed method is to turn off the phone and completely remove the battery from your phone.

2. Hold down both the * (star symbol) and # (number, pound, hash symbol) and turn the phone back on.

3. The phone starts up with a text screen (shown below). Press ok to give you computer's USB data cable connection access to the phone. The text (on my phone) reads: Boot Loader 08.26 SW Version: R374_G_0E.42.1.5R Battery OK OK to Program Connect USB Data Cable.

Motorola Bootloader init for RAZR how to guide and screen shot
4. Congratulations, you are now in the Motorola RAZR's Bootloader configuration.

5. To exit the bootloader mode, simply power off your razr mobile phone or allow the software you are using to restart the phone.

Did this guide work for you? If so, let me know with a comment below!

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California Gift Card Law Goes into Effect January 1st, 2008

Did you receive a gift card for Christmas as a gift?

Do you have a lot of left over gift cards sitting around with less than $10 sitting on them?

Well, if either of the above are true, then there is good news for you starting January 1st, 2008 in the state of California! Starting the first of the year, anyone with a small amount left on a gift card -- $10 or less -- can choose to receive the remaining balance from the merchant in cash.

This is welcome to many of us who end up with numerous cards with amounts remaining in the $0-$10 range. This is unwelcome for the retailers who hope that we will come into their stores and spend more than the remaining amount. Either that, or forget about them altogether.

Hopefully, this will help out Americans who left roughly $8B (yes, that's billion) on the table in 2007 in unspent gift cards -- according to Consumer Reports. While the law currently only applies to Californians, other states may quickly follow suit.

Here is the full text of the California State law -- SB 250 -- for those who are interested:



INTRODUCED BY Senator Corbett
(Coauthor: Senator Kuehl)
(Coauthors: Assembly Members Beall, Eng, Huffman, Krekorian, and

FEBRUARY 14, 2007

An act to amend Section 1749.5 of the Civil Code, relating to gift


SB 250, Corbett. Gift certificates.
Existing law prohibits the sale of any gift certificate, as
defined, that contains an expiration date or service fee, with
specified exceptions, including, but not limited to, for a gift
certificate issued for a food product. Existing law also provides
that any gift certificate sold after January 1, 1997, is redeemable
in cash or subject to replacement with a new gift certificate.
This bill would allow any gift certificate with a cash value of
less than $10 to be redeemed in cash, as defined, for its cash value,
and would except donated gift certificates from the above-described
prohibitions. The bill would also delete the exception described
above for food product gift certificates, thereby prohibiting those
gift certificates from containing an expiration date or service fee,
unless issued for perishable food products.


SECTION 1. Section 1749.5 of the Civil Code is amended to read:
1749.5. (a) It is unlawful for any person or entity to sell a
gift certificate to a purchaser that contains any of the following:
(1) An expiration date.
(2) A service fee, including, but not limited to, a service fee
for dormancy, except as provided in subdivision (e).
(b) (1) Any gift certificate sold after January 1, 1997, is
redeemable in cash for its cash value, or subject to replacement with
a new gift certificate at no cost to the purchaser or holder.
(2) Notwithstanding paragraph (1), any gift certificate with a
cash value of less than ten dollars ($10) is redeemable in cash for
its cash value.
(c) A gift certificate sold without an expiration date is valid
until redeemed or replaced.
(d) This section does not apply to any of the following gift
certificates issued on or after January 1, 1998, provided the
expiration date appears in capital letters in at least 10-point font
on the front of the gift certificate:
(1) Gift certificates that are distributed by the issuer to a
consumer pursuant to an awards, loyalty, or promotional program
without any money or other thing of value being given in exchange for
the gift certificate by the consumer.
(2) Gift certificates that are donated or sold below face value at
a volume discount to employers or to nonprofit and charitable
organizations for fundraising purposes if the expiration date on
those gift certificates is not more than 30 days after the date of
(3) Gift certificates that are issued for perishable food
(e) Paragraph (2) of subdivision (a) does not apply to a dormancy
fee on a gift card that meets all of the following criteria:
(1) The remaining value of the gift card is five dollars ($5) or
less each time the fee is assessed.
(2) The fee does not exceed one dollar ($1) per month.
(3) There has been no activity on the gift card for 24 consecutive
months, including, but not limited to, purchases, the adding of
value, or balance inquiries.
(4) The holder may reload or add value to the gift card.
(5) A statement is printed on the gift card in at least 10-point
font stating the amount of the fee, how often the fee will occur,
that the fee is triggered by inactivity of the gift card, and at what
point the fee will be charged. The statement may appear on the front
or back of the gift card, but shall appear in a location where it is
visible to any purchaser prior to the purchase thereof.
(f) An issuer of gift certificates may accept funds from one or
more contributors toward the purchase of a gift certificate intended
to be a gift for a recipient, provided that each contributor is
provided with a full refund of the amount that he or she paid toward
the purchase of the gift certificate upon the occurrence of all of
the following:
(1) The funds are contributed for the purpose of being redeemed by
the recipient by purchasing a gift certificate.
(2) The time in which the recipient may redeem the funds by
purchasing a gift certificate is clearly disclosed in writing to the
contributors and the recipient.
(3) The recipient does not redeem the funds within the time
described in paragraph (2).
(g) The changes made to this section by the act adding this
subdivision shall apply only to gift certificates issued on or after
January 1, 2004.
(h) For purposes of this section, "cash" includes, but is not
limited to, currency or check. If accepted by both parties, an
electronic funds transfer or an application of the balance to a
subscriber's wireless telecommunications account is permissible.

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Ethanol Production Turns Farmers into Kings

This morning's paper had a few interesting items in it. One of them was a political cartoon on the recent legislation continue the promotion of US Farms, specifically for Ethanol farming. In this cartoon, the picture shows two farmers, one wearing a non-traditional US farmer outfit on a tractor commenting to a traditional looking US farmer with the following caption:

"I started wearin' this when I realized how much money there is in ethanol."
Here is the actual cartoon:

Ethanol Turns Corn Farmer into Oil King and puts on traditional Middle Eastern dress - Politcal Cartoon
The suggestion is that Ethanol production via Corn Farming has become as lucrative for these farms as oil has been for many in the Middle East.

Admittedly, I am one who still does not quite understand or agree with the "science" and subsidies behind ethanol farming. Even with all of the reading that I have done. It is hard not to feel that much of the spin on corn farming and Ethanol is politically motivated. It is sure to be a hot topic in the 2008 election year!

What are your thoughts on recent laws and initiatives supporting Ethanol production in the United States? What other impacts might it have?

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Saturday, December 29, 2007

How to Change Outer Image on Motorola RAZR Phone

Sick of the stock image that displays when your Motorola RAZR V3 is open? I was. So are a lot of different people. In fact, this is the most commonly asked for modification.

To take your outer image from this image:

Default Cingular 96x80 image on Motorola RAZR phone out LCD Screen
To something like this image:

Custom Cingular 96x80 gif image on Motorola RAZR phone out LCD Screen
The process of implementing this through this guide is fairly easy. However, you must follow very specific instuctions, or you may be left with a message that displays just "/a/mobile/system" on your outer LCD screen on your Motorola RAZR mobile phone. To remove this message is a painful and technical process to follow, which I will document in a future post.

In my case, I made some mistakes on my first try with the image size (had bad information) and after going through the process I learned some valuable lessons. In fact, a couple of the mistakes I made, required me to restore from a backup of my phone. So, be very careful and precise here. You can always take a backup of your cellular phone first by following this post here.

Now for the parameters of the process. Basically, this is usually a very simple image replacement using a program like P2KTools or P2K Commander. For demonstration purposes, I will be using P2KCommander 4.9.E -- on the Microsoft Vista 64-bit (x64) system.

In addition, the image on the outer LCD screen of your Motorola RAZR V3 cellular phone only displays when the phone is opened. This image will not display on the outer LCD screen when the flip is closed. Only the current background image will display and there is no way to change this.

Here are the steps:

1. First, you need to create an image that is exactly 96x80 pixels. That is 96 pixels wide by 80 pixels tall. If your image is not this size, it will not work. Use a program like Paint Shop Pro, Microsoft Photo Editor, or Adobe Photoshop to edit the picture.

2. Save the picture as GIF formatted file. You must convert it to a GIF (.gif) file -- you cannot simply change the extension of a JPG, TIFF or other format. It will not work.

3. You must name the file "cl.gif" without quotes and it MUST be lowercase. If it is not, it will not work.

4. Fire up P2K Commander and browse to /a/mobile/system. Browse in the other pane to where you saved your new cl.gif file.

Replacing the image on the outer LCD screen of the Motorola RAZR cell phone with P2K Commander
5. There are two confirmed techniques that work. The first is to delete the original cl.gif file and the copy the new cl.gif file across. The method that worked for me was to simply copy over the existing version, and then clicking copy to move the new cl.gif file across.

6. Use the tool to restart your Motorola V3 RAZR Phone.

7. Open up your flip and see you new cl.gif image on your out LCD screen of your RAZR phone.

New outer LCD screen cl.gif image on the Motorola V3 RAZR after transfer

Congratulations, you did it! Did it work for you? If so, please leave a comment below to let me know.

If it did not, I will be publishing a troubleshooting guide in the new week or so!

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Friday, December 28, 2007

How to Check Your Best Buy Gift Card Balance

Did you recently receive a Best Buy gift card? Perhaps you have a Best Buy gift card sitting around that you spent some of the gift card -- but you cannot remember how much you have left on it. There are a couple of easy ways to check the balance.

Checking Best Buy Gift Card Balances for your Best Buy gift cards

First off, if you need to check the balance for your card, you can do that fairly easily. All you need to do is go to the Best Buy website, find gift cards, and there is a link for checking the gift card balance. Or, you can follow this link directly to check your Best Buy Gift Card Balance. From there, all you need is your card, plus the security code from the back (pictured below) to get your balance immediately!

Checking Best Buy Gift Card Balances for your gift cards using the back number and security code

However, what if you have more than one Best Buy gift card and you want to check your balance for more than one card at a time? That is a little more difficult -- from the main Best Buy website, you have to enter and submit and do this for each card you want to check. However, there is a better way.

By doing more searching, I was able to find a different website called "Best Buy for Business" where you can check the values of multiple cards (up to 3) on the same screen. This is really helpful if you want to see multiple card values on the same page, at the same time.

Here is the link so you can check the balances for multiple Best Buy Gift Cards:;?cmd=BBFBGiftCardBalance

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Thursday, December 27, 2007

Oops. Telenav could not generate route. Please try again

When we arrived home from New York city, I attempted to pull out my Blackberry 8800 in order to use the TeleNAV GPS Navigation unit to get home. Not that I need to know how to get to my house, rather I like seeing how much distance we remaining. I went to my favorites, selected my home and after a few seconds received the message:

Telenav could not generate route. Please try again
I did not quite understand the error message or what could be causing the problem, so I tried it again.
Telenav could not generate route. Please try again
I figured the problem was similar to what I frequently experience with the Blackberry after flights – where the GPS will not find any satellites once I get off a plane. So, I rebooted the Blackberry 8800 assuming that would fix the issue. Going back to my route, I received the message again.
Telenav could not generate route. Please try again
At this point I figured that TeleNAV must be down and figured they were experiencing some sort of outage where I could not contact the server to calculate the directions.

Then today, on my way to the LAX airport, the same thing happened. However, with a slightly different behavior. The TeleNAV GPS software was giving either the error
Telenav could not generate route. Please try again
or it was providing really interesting routing instructions taking me only on side streets.

I did not get it. In fact, I was about to call TeleNAV’s support number to see what was going on.

Then I remembered that while we were in New York, I flipped the navigational preference from “Fastest Route” to “Pedestrian” since we were doing a lot of walking around the city. (Which the GPS was very handy for, if I may say so.)

I flipped the preference setting back to “Fastest Route” and the TeleNAV software was back in order. If you ever start encountering the above error message on your TeleNAV GPS – make sure to check your preferences and routing before freaking out about the software not working. I wish I would have thought of that sooner!

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Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Andrew Bynum: Tuck in Your Shirt!

We just got done watching the Los Angeles Lakers beat the Phoenix Suns on Christmas day from my parents house. The Lakers performance was awesome -- what many of us thought could be the start of something great. Before all of the trade nonsense that happened this past summer.

Andrew Bynum sloppy dress - shirt untucked on Christmas day - Lakers vs. Suns at Staples Center
A little earlier than many expected, Andrew Bynum is turning into a force on the basketball court -- the kind of teammate and inside presence that Kobe Bryant needs to lead this team back to the playoffs with an opportunity to win. The recent trade for Trevor Ariza also has help -- bringing the former UCLA Bruin back to his hometown.

The only problem in the game? A sloppily dressed Andrew Bynum. (pictured above) His shirt, which hangs down to his knees was untucked and hanging out throughout the game. So, my only message to the Lakers after that game is -- Andrew, tuck in your shirt!

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United EasyUpdate Saves the Day

I recently started using the EasyUpdate service that United airlines provides to give you the most up to date information on flight cancellations, delays, rebookings and other flight updates. Thus far I have only signed up for email alerts, but they also offer wireless and text message updates.

My experience so far has been a mixed bag in terms of the experience.

The first experience was while I was in Chicago and I signed up to get the latest information on delays for my flight to Cleveland given the mess that was happening in the Midwest on that Monday.

I was supposed to get notification of any changes that were greater than 15 minutes for the particular flight I was on. I know that the time on that particular day changed at least 5 times that met the criteria. However, I did not receive any updates. Basically, the service was no help.

Then, before our trip to New York, I decided to sign up for the broader service to see if it would make a difference.

It did.

Yesterday, when I woke up in the morning on what was going to be our last day in New York City – I noticed I had several emails from United’s EasyUpdate. Not only was our flight out at 5:00pm cancelled, but we were also rebooked on a 9:50am flight out of LaGuardia on Christmas day.

Without this information, it would have been very possible for Ashley and I to go throughout the day without knowing the status of our flight and still planning to head to the airport. Instead, we were able to call United to get on the flight we wanted and make the appropriate hotel arrangements for the extra night so we could spend the day in Manhattan worry free.

I will definitely continue to use United’s EasyUpdate service based on what happened yesterday!

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Merry Christmas Everyone!

Ashley and I want to wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year! We hope this is a joyous time of celebration of the birth of Christ as well as a time spent with family and preparing for the New Year.

-Kenny & Ashley

We're currently at the Newark, New Jersey airport about ready to board our flight back to Los Angeles. While we were initially surprised that our flight home yesterday was cancelled -- due to weather in Chicago -- it could not have been a better Christmas gift.

We had a wonderful last day in the city of New York and the weather was the best of all the days of our visit.

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Monday, December 24, 2007

Christmas Eve Day in New York City

If you had to pick the perfect day and the perfect way to get stuck somewhere, this would have to be it. This morning Ashley and I woke up at around 7:00am and as I checked my email on my Blackberry – I had a notification from United’s EasyUpdate.

Uh, oh – our flight home today at 5:00pm is cancelled. But, we have already been rebooked on a flight home Christmas day at 9:50am. Initially, both Ashley and I are a little shocked that we will not be getting home until late on Christmas day – how will we make it up to my parents in Bakersfield? Furthermore, what about the hotel room – was the Hilton Times Square booked full tonight – what would we do?

Ice Skating and the Christmas tree in Rockefeller Center on New Year's Evein NYC

Over the next half an hour, our worries are no more. With one call to United, I was able to move our flight from 9:50am to 7:00am in Newark, NJ instead of the La Guardia airport. Luckily, there was a direct flight that landed in Los Angeles before 11:00am rather than the late arrival through Dulles that we would have had us in much later. Better yet, looks like we’ll be at my parents by 2:00pm, early enough to catch the Los Angeles Lakers game and enjoy a great Christmas dinner.

Then, we found that our hotel still had room for the evening. A quick call to the Hilton HHonors folks and 40,000 points later – we added another free night to our stay. Whew, that was pretty easy.

United’s EasyUpdate really saved our day, otherwise we may have been oblivious throughout the day and showed up at La Guardia at 4:00pm – only to find out we were not only stranded, but check out of our hotel. What a relieft

Now on to the day...

The weather on Christmas Eve day was by far the best that we had experienced thus far in New York City. As we looked outside it was crisp – in the low 40’s, but clear as a bell. We were really looking forward to enjoying a great day now that our plans had been changed.

Our first event for the day was ice skating at Rockefeller Center – we had eyed the ice skating rink all week and today was the day for us to do some ice skating. After a quick wait, we had an absolutely wonderful time in this “must do” attraction in New York City. See my detailed post on the experience by clicking here.

Next up for us after the long skate session was lunch. We quickly debated a couple of options for lunch, namely the Café at the Rockefeller Ice Rink and Carmine’s Italian food before deciding on Carmine’s, just a couple block away.

Carmine’s was a good place to eat, although it started off a little rough. First our waitress was pretty brash before bring out a clearly cracked glass for the Pellegrino sparkling water. She was not too much help in advising us on what to order, either. The lunch menu was out given it was the holiday of Christmas Eve Day, so we went with the Chicken Parmigana and the Garlic and Oil pasta. It was excellent, but way too much food. In hindsight, you can order a side of pasta with the Chicken Parmigana for only an extra $10 and that would have been the right move.

So, we ate more than we should and could not even consider desert.

After Carmine’s it was off to Central Park to explore a little more and take some photos with the great sunshine in the weather we were experiencing. We spent the better part of a couple of hours exploring and taking photos with my Canon Powershot G7 with a mini-tripod. Here are a couple of the pictures we took...

Central Park on Christmas Eve Day

Central Park Boathouse on Christmas Even Day in Central Park, New York City
After finishing up in Central Park, it was getting towards sunset. On our previous visit to New York we went to the top of the Empire State Building. Tonight our choice was to repeat that for sunset (a la Sleepless in Seattle) or check out the Top of the Rock at Rockefeller Center. Electing for a new experience, we headed to Rockefeller Center and up to the Top of the Rock.

Ken and Ashley at the Top of Rock - Rockefeller Center at Sunset with a view towards Central Park
When we previously went to the Empire State Building, the weather was not the best. However, today from the Top of the Rock, as sunset approached – the view was amazing. Snapping tons of photos, below is one of the panoramic pictures that Canon’s Photo Stitch put together – a great view!

Panoramic View from the Top of Rock at Sunset Christmas Eve Day - Rockefeller Center
After the Top of the Rock, we headed back to our hotel to relax a bit before heading out to a movie. All the shows on Broadway went dark for Christmas Eve, so we ended up going to a movie instead. We saw National Treasure – Book of Secrets, which was at least as good as the first movie. After that, we headed back to the hotel and ordered room service to end what was close to a perfect day in New York City.

Completely unexpected.

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Apple Store Shopping in NYC on Christmas Eve!

It's 4:00pm on Christmas Eve, where are people shopping for last minute Christmas gifts in Manhattan? Where else, other than the Apple Store?

Ashley and I were walking back from Central Park down Fifth Avenue and the only place with a line to get in still was the Apple Store here in downtown New York City!
Apple Store New York City (NYC), people shopping on Chstimas Eve for their iPhones, iPods, Nanos, iTouches and more - Shot 1
I guess people waited just a little too long to grab those hot iPhones, iPods Nanos. and iPod touch devices. Either that or are the Genius' at the Genius Bar in NYC that good? You be the judge!

Check out that line everyone, not even Tiffany's (line around the corner yesterday) or FAO Schwarz had a line out side. Up, down the stairs and into the Apple store.
Apple Store New York City (NYC), people entering on Christmas Eve to buy their iPhones, iPods, Nanos, iTouches and more - Shot 2
No, we did not get in line and wait. We were on our way to Rockefeller Center! Well, at least there was not a fire at the Apple Store in New York City. (Like San Francisco)

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Ice Skating in Rockefeller Center on Christmas Eve

One of the main things we wanted to do while in New York City on this trip was to ice skate in Rockefeller Center -- under the Christmas Tree and next to the sculpture of Prometheus. It's a time honored tradition that 250,000 of us tourists participate in each year.

While we were already planning to visit Rockefeller Center to ice skate on Christmas Eve day, an additional gift an extra day in New York due to weather to in Chicago made it the much more exciting -- this is because you could not have asked for a more beautiful day on the 24th of December -- clear, crisp and it was going to be 47 degrees. Amazing weather.
Ice Skating and the Christmas tree in Rockefeller Center on New Year's Evein NYC
We arrived at Rockefeller Center shortly before 10:00am today and found the rink to be empty compared to how it had been in just two days before. Jumping in line, we knew the wait would be short since we were close and snapped a couple of pictures of the ice skaters finishing up their session.
View of the Ice Skating Rink at Rockefeller Center as we wait in line on Christmas Eve Day in New York City
While in line, we met a nice couple from Cambridge, England in line who were also in NYC on holiday. We chatted with them while we watched the "Zamboni" resurface the ice.
Clean ice for our ice skating session at Rockefeller Center on Christmas Eve Day with Pometheus in the background in Manhattan
Since we were now at the front of the line for the 10:30am session, we were one of the first ones inside to get our skates. We quickly paid the cost -- $53 for two adults and two ice skate rentals -- expensive, but worth it -- and we quickly laced up the skates tight and got out on the ice.
Ashley and Ken on the ice skating rink in Rockefeller Center on Christmas Eve Day in New York
It took just a few minutes, but my ice skating experience (minimal) and mainly my rollerblading experience (a good amount) came back to me pretty quickly. Ashley also stabilized after the first couple turns around the rink. After we got comfortable, we snapped a few pictures -- and a couple of folks volunteed to take ours (shot above). We ended up staying out on the ice for a little over an hour before hanging up our skates and heading out.

Ice skating on the rink at Rockefeller Center is a great experience that is a must if you visit New York in November or December. It is a little more costly than Central or Bryant Parks, but it is full of history and a lot of fun!

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Sunday, December 23, 2007

New York City Vacation Day 3 - Churrascaria & Legally Blonde

Continued from the first part of our 3rd Day, that post is here.

Churrascaria Plataforma will be our single return visit restaurant from our last trip. It was recommended by my sister Kimberly and brother-in-law Dominic. Last time we did not plan our Brazilian barbeque experience too well. We were not overly hungry, filled up on the salad bar (and Ashley on the Flank Steak) and we came during the dinner time which got a little price at ~$55 a person.

This time we were prepared, and planned for the ~$33 a meal price. Interestingly, they also offer packages that include all the beer and wine you can drink at the same time – as long as it is within a two hour span. While that does not appeal to our tastes, it may to some!

Churrascaria Plataforma in New York City
We ate breakfast very early in the morning so we would be sufficiently hungry by the time our 3:00pm reservations for Churrascaria Plataforma came. In fact, we planned too well as we were so hungry by 2:30 that we just had to go in early. Luckily, there was plenty of space so they were able to accommodate us early.

The experience last time was good, but this time it was great. Focusing on the right foods and less salad bar this time – we enjoyed a wide range of food – Top Sirloin, Prime Rib, Bacon Wrapped Turkey, Bacon Wrapped Beef Tenderloin, Sausage, more Top Sirloin, and then just a little bit of Flank Steak. All of the sides including broccoli, plantanes(friend bananas), meat sauce (salsa), cheese bread rolls, and rice were equally enjoyable. We spent the better part of an hour eating until we were more than full, and getting our money’s worth. The only part we missed out on was the garlic bread which happened to finally come out right as we were choosing to leave. Oh well, guess we will have to do that next time.

Churrascaria Plataforma is quickly becoming one of our favorite restaurants. It will be hard not to continue going back each time we go to New York.

After finishing up our meal, we decided to head back to Central Park for a horse drawn carriage ride. A carriage ride through Central Park has always been high on our list of items to do while in New York City. Last time, it did not work out for us based on our schedule, but we knew we would make it work this time.

Enjoying a Horse Drawn Carriage Ride through Central Park
It was a little damp out, but we noticed that the carriages had covers for them – so we got in “line” to get on a carriage. Quickly we realized, in true New York fashion that there was no line for the carriages and you had to flag one down at the return point to board. I grabbed the next carriage that came down, standing waiting to get in as the previous customers were still getting out.

The quick ~25 minute ride through the park was very enjoyable, especially in the evening as we passed by the scenery and the families walking through the park. We both had a great time and felt the $46 for the ride (including tip) was well worth it for one of those things you “have to do” in your lifetime.

Now for the highlight of the day. I will admit that I was somewhat skeptical about choosing the Broadway show “Legally Blonde”. There were a couple of others that I would have “preferred” to see – like Seafarer (not playing on Sunday) and Spam-a-Lot (dark for the holiday). That being said, “Legally Blonde” turned out to be the most fun that I have had at a show. It also helped being in the 3rd row and being close to the action.

Legally Blonde Theater on Broadway in Manhattan, New York City
A great mix of east coast / west coast humor, fun, silliness, and music – Legally Blonde was a great performance that had us laughing most of the time. Following a similar thread as the movie starring Reece Witherspoon, there are a couple of unique twists. It was a very fun show and had a couple of catchy numbers worth checking out.

The Stage at the Theater on Broadway for Legally Blonde
While I am surprised to say it, I would consider it a must see on your next visit – as I mentioned above, it is not the best I have seen (Wicked), but it was the most fun.

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New York City Vacation Day 3 - The Fun Continues

Rain storms and showers. That is what we are expecting today in New York City. It looks pretty damp out there as we look out the window. Looks like we’ll be bringing out our rain coats in addition to all the other layers we are wearing. The only good news is that today’s temperature is supposed to warm by 10 degrees to near 50. Maybe we will not need so many layers.

Ken and Ashley visit with Santa Claus at Macy's New York
We started off today almost identically as we did yesterday with a quick trip down to TKTS again the corner of Front and John streets. The pickings were slimmer this time as many Broadway shows just have matinees today or are dark because of the holidays. Based on the availability, Legally Blonde was our clear cut choice. We were rewarded with third row seats – we know our aunt will be happy as she saw it several months ago and highly recommended it us.

Now that we have our evening entertainment taken care of, the next order business was to head to Macy’s at Herald Square to check out their Christmas windows and SantaLand.

Circling the building, the window that impresses me the most is the one that has a roller coaster that is Santa’s sleigh with reindeer that does a full loop, then a corkscrew on his way around the work. Unfortunately, the pictures did not come out too well.

Next, entering the building we were greeted with the thousands of Poinsettias that line the department store this time of year on our way up to the 8th floor to visit Santa. After getting in a relatively short line, we enter SantaLand that ends up with us getting a nice picture with Santa. The ‘elves” were even nice enough to take a picture with my Canon G7 which turns out a nicer shot than the ones in the package that they sell for $27. That was a welcome surprise.

Macy's New York Christmas decoration with thousands of Poinsettias

While in Macy’s, Ashley did a little shopping to bring herself home a couple of ornaments for the Christmas tree – which is a tradition of hers. A nice little snow globe and a stuffed snowman will compliment her collection well!

After we finished up at Macy’s we headed to Rockefeller Center to “kill” a little bit of time before we had our 3:00 reservations at Churrascaria Plataforma. The rain was not too bad but enough where Rockefeller was not overcrowded as it had been yesterday.

Daytime photo of the Christmas Tree at Rockefeller Center in New York City
We were tempted to go ice skating – but figured our luck with the rain would end and we would get dumped on. After about 30 minutes, we were getting really hungry so we headed over for our reservations.

Rest of the day is continued in the post here.

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Saturday, December 22, 2007

New York City Vacation Day 2 Continued - Broadway, Pizza, and Central Park

Continued from part on for Day 2. Click here for the first part.

It was approaching 1:00pm and we were getting hungry. Down the street from Bloomingdales are two popular and heralded locations – Serendipity and Patsy’s Pizzeria. Given the weather, we chose Patsy’s Coal-Oven Pizzeria – where they have been baking pies since 1933. We ordered a Pepperoni and Sausage pie, ate the New York style pizza and headed on our way.

Patsy's Pizzeria, serving great Pizza in Manhattan since 1933
Continuing some more shopping, we ended up at Lacoste at some point. They had a sweater I had been looking for a couple of months, so we made our first shopping purchase this trip in New York City. Not having sales tax on clothing (if the article is under $100, otherwise the first $100 is tax-free) is very nice.

When we finished shopping, we continued our day with a stroll through Central Park. On our last trip we did not spend much time in there Park which we had some regrets about. We had a full schedule and were looking to exploring a little more.

Our first stop was by the first ice skating rink on the southern end of the park. It looked like a lot of fun, and we were looking forward to some ice skating later this week.

The Ice Skating Rink in Central Park, New York City
We also took a ride the on Central Park Carousel (Merry-Go-Round) at a $1.50 a person which was fun, but surprisingly quick.

Riding the Merry-Go-Round / Carousel in Central Park
Then it was just some aimless wandering an exploring that included the Boat House, the Alice in Wonderland Statue and a walk down Fifth Avenue by the Central Park Zoo before taking the subway back to the hotel.

Dinner tonight was a tough decision. Daisy May’s, a highly regarded and Zagat rated (a 24/25 for food) was on our list – but the actual Southern side dishes they had that even did not. So instead we choose Pigalle, a French bistro with a Prixe Fixe menu for pre-show located on 8th Avenue just a couple of blocks from the Ambassador, where Chicago was playing.

It turned out to be a pretty good choice. Ashley got the Prix Fix menu at $25 that includes a choice of soup (Tomato Basil) or salad – which she choose salad and then a half chicken. For me, I started with the Onion Soup Gratin which was just ok – Marmalade Café’s in Southern California is better – and the lamb steak served with garlic basil mashed potatoes and steamed spinach. The meal was excellent and one of the better lamb steaks I have had. For desert, Ashley chose the coffee ice cream, so we split it.

We greatly anticipated the show Chicago and were even more excited to find that we were seated in the front row orchestra as ‘CC’ was not the third row as we had thought. This was a first for us at a Broadway performance in New York. Both a different and fun experience with the cast members interact directly with us from the stage made it more engaging. In the end though, this performance of Chicago was disappointing. I am not sure if it was the stand-in for main character or if the missing tap dance scene from the production – but of the 8 shows we have seen on Broadway, it was perhaps the most disappointing.

The Broadway show Chicago in New York City at the Ambassador Theater
Still, we had a good time. :-)

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New York City Vacation Day 2 - Broadway, Ground Zero, Bloomingdales, and Central Park

Wow, apparently we were really tired last night after that red eye flight to New York and the long day. We woke up this morning after 9:00am – that is really late for us – we rarely sleep in past 7:00am. Now time is short for us to make it down to the TKTS booth at Front and John streets downtown from our Times Square hotel.

The TKTS / TDS line for cheap Broadway tickets downtown at the corner of John and Front streets in New York City
Note: The downtown TKTS booth is much better and smarter than the Times Square booth. Not only is it less crowded, but you can get matinee tickets for Broadway shows the day before. For evening Broadway shows, it opens each morning at 11:00am vs. 3:00pm in Times Square. The likelihood of getting the shows you want (assuming you are not looking for Wicked, which never goes up on the boards) are very high.

We scramble to get ready quickly, grab our free buffet breakfast at “Above” at the Hilton quickly and head to the subway. Jumping on subway #2, we are at the Fulton Street station in just a few minutes. After a minute or two of remembering where things are, we find our way to the TKTS line, only about 50 people deep at 10:30am.

Today is supposed to be the coldest day while we are here in New York City. And it feels like it. I have two long sleeve shirts, a sweater, and a North Face Fleece on and at times – like when standing in line – it is cold for me, even with the weather in the high 20’s.

Once TKTS opens, it is just a matter of minutes until we are at the front of the line. It is much more controlled than yesterday’s chaotic scene at Times Square. With similar choices today (with Mary Poppins and Legally Blonde off the boards) we end up with Chicago – which we’re pretty excited about. It appears that we are in the 3rd row orchestra, meaning it should be a great close-up performance.

To warm up after standing outside for so long, just around the corner in John Street is a Europa Café where we stopped to grab a coffee. Actually, we wanted a latte and mocha – however, somehow we ended up with a Cappuccino and a coffee – we realized that once we had gotten down the block with how cheap it had been. Oh well, it looks like that was what we were charged for.

With how close we were to Ground Zero at the World Trade Center, we strolled over to take a look to see how it had changed in the last 18 months. Although I am sure a lot of foundational work had been done – from the casual viewers perspective, it actually looks like very little has been done in terms of the new construction. In addition, there are tall fences with coverings over them so it is very difficult to see in. You have to find a small crack to peer through like I did in the picture below to catch a glimpse.

Picture of new construction at Ground Zero - World Trade Center in New York City, December 2007
After Ground Zero, we hopped on a subway and headed to Bloomingdales to see their Christmas window decorations and do some shopping around Madison and Fifth Avenues. Browsing through Bloomingdales and did not find anything that we could not live without. There are of course a lot of great stores down in this area – but nothing we do not have in Los Angeles in many concentrated areas.
Bloomingdale's Christmas Windows in Manhattan with Ashley standing in front of

Continued post for day two, click here.

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Friday, December 21, 2007

Our First Day in New York and Lost Luggage Continued

Continued from the first half of the day, post is here.

Quickly 2:30 was approaching, so that meant that we needed to head over to the TKTS booth in the Marriot. Oddly, the central area where they are “supposed” to be building the new TFS/TKTS booth for theater tickets is still not built. It was under construction back in May of 2006 on our last trip to New York City.

We jumped in line at TKTS which was already wrapping twice with hopes of getting some pretty good tickets. A lot of shows were up on the board including Seafarer, Monty Python’s Spam-a-lot, Chicago, Rent, Mary Poppins, and Legally Blonde among others. The scene, as you may have experienced is more like a cattle drive and ensuing chaos. Once you make it to the main ticket area, you are left fighting to get to the front of the window. When we made our way to the farthest window (and shortest line), we choose Mary Poppins and ended up in the 19th row orchestra. (As the next two days would show – this was an excellent choice as Mary Poppins never showed back up on the TKTS boards the next two evenings)

Disney's Mary Poppins is playing on Broadway at the New Amsterdam theater in New York City
A little worn our from our previous night red-eye flight – we walked back to our room to take a nap. A little surprise greeted us when we arrived – our luggage still had not made it back to the hotel. I checked on the baggage check website for United and it showed it would arrive between 12:30pm and 6:30pm, which was good news since the show did not start until 7:30pm. Enough time to get ready.

We took a nap and work up around 5:30pm. Shortly after, we received a call from United’s 1K service to see if we had received the bags yet. After a quick conversation, the agent put a priority on our bags to get them to us by 6:30pm. Another call came at 6:30pm, but still no bags – she assured us they were very close and apologized for the inconvenience. At 6:40pm they made it – enough time for us to get ready for the show. The agent called again at 7:15pm to make sure we had received them – which was great. Overall, a great customer experience despite the delayed bags. (I still need to write a comment to United appreciating the dedication and follow-up of the employee)

Then we were on the show to see the Broadway production of Mary Poppins. Overall, it was a great all-around performance of the famous Disney movie. The sets and changes in costumes and props were impressive, as were the children and the tap dance scenes. We left the performance happy with our choice.

Inside of the New Amsterdam Theater for the Broadway production of Disney's Mary Poppins in New York City
Now for our dinner, based on some recommendations from people Ashley works with at The Cheesecake Factory Corporate offices – we had quite a list to go by. Not to mention the Zagats New York City guide. Our choice tonight was to try the DB Bistro Moderne, a very well rated place – although a little on the more pricy side.

The DB Bistro Moderne is famous for their DB burger which includes both a patty stuffed with short rib meat as well as truffles. At $32, this is one of the burgers that Carl’s Jr makes famous with their six-dollar burger commercials. (The DB Bistro also has $50 and $100 versions) This was Ashley’s choice with fries, while I choose the crispy duck confit. Both of us were impressed with our choices and I even stole a bit of Ashley’s $32 burger so I could say I tried it here.

DB Bistro Moderne in Manhattan, New York serves their famous $32 burger, the DB Burger.
The only disappointing thing was the wine I had. I choose a glass of Pinot Noir from New Zealand and it was ‘ok’. Not bad where you send it back, but not a good glass of wine either. Otherwise, the overall experience would have been highly recommended. It’s recommended, but if you are looking for a glass of wine, stay away from the Pinot Noir from New Zealand!

After our late dinner, we headed back to the room to get some rest and get ready for a big day tomorrow.

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Our First Day in New York and Lost Luggage

When we landed in Dulles (IAD) this morning, we already knew that that we would be missing our connecting flight to LaGuardia (LGA). We were already rebooked on a flight that left just an hour later than our original flight – putting us into LaGuardia right at 10:00am.

Just one problem when we arrived. Our luggage did not make it. Although United rebooked us, our luggage still made it on our earlier flight. The caveat being that the earlier flight actually had mechanical delays – it had not left Dulles yet. That meant that everyone from our flight was missing their luggage.

After speaking with the baggage folks, it was expected in a couple of hours and they would deliver it to our hotel.

We hopped into a cab and headed to our hotel, the Hilton New York – Times Square. 45 minutes later we made it through Friday morning traffic in the city and arrived at the Hilton.

The lobby for the hotel is around the 21st floor of the hotel, so we handed our bags to the doorman and headed on up. Early check-in was available and we ended up with a nice room on the top floor – the 44th.

The interior lobby of the hotel is not overly impressive – which is what we expected. There is a basic lobby, café where meals are served and a small bar. It is more of a hotel that you use as home base rather than a place you spend a day or evening hanging out in. This is exactly what we planned to use it for.

Our room was nice, complete with a 37” widescreen television and a great view towards uptown where we could catch a glimpse of Times Square. The alternate view was downtown towards the Empire State building. The only downer was that there was no refrigerator to keep any leftovers in – only a mini-bar refrigerator.

After we got settled in, we realized how hungry we were. We ran down to Times Square to find something to eat that was not your normal everyday common restaurant like Olive Garden, Applebee’s, or even McDonalds that litter the square.

Our choice ended up being Maxie’s restaurant – we had taken out cheesecake desert a couple of years ago, but we had not eaten at this delicatessen. Upon opening the menu, I instantly remembered two things about Manhattan – one, anything that is near an area like Times Square or not a chain is expensive and two, any deli makes huge sandwiches. Ashley chose the 1 pound hard salami sandwich and I choose the meatball sandwich. Both were not only immense, but also very tasty.
Lunch at Maxie's Restaurant, Bar & Cafe in New York City's Time Square in Manhattan.  The entrance and signage on 7th Avenue
After Maxie’s we wandered around Times Square for a couple of hours window shopping, exploring the Toys-R-Us, complete with a Captain Jack Sparrow full-size Lego character.
Toys-R-Us in Times Square in New York City has a nice life size Lego built i nthe shape of Captain Jack Sparrow
On a side-note, it is really cold here. Even with multiple layers – which I am not used to, I am still a little cold. The main thing is that when it is getting windy, even that cuts through my jacket and I cannot wait for my luggage to get here with my beanie and gloves arrive – I need them.

Ok, this post is getting too long and I am splitting it in half. Click here to go the second part of the day.

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Thursday, December 20, 2007

New York City Vacation Starts Tonight!

Our trip to New York City started just over an hour ago. It was we would call a "spontaneous" trip for us -- meaning it was not planned 6 months in advance. :-)

It started when a few members of the family were not going to be able to make it down for Christmas Eve. At that point, Ashley and I decided that we would take a trip somewhere for Christmas.
New York City Vacation for Ken & Ashley, waiting at LAX
Ashley has always wanted to see New York City during the winter and especially around Christmas. My sister Kimberly, and her husband Dominic spent New Years there 3 year ago and that made her want to even more.

I personally am not a huge fan of New York. The California boy in me just does not seem to fit so well there. I had a pretty good time last time we were there in 2006 (of which I have about 7 half-written posts that I still need to finish), really enjoying the food and theater -- but it was not one of my favority destinations.

However, I decided to give it another try. So, with decently priced tickets and a plethora of United Airline frequent flyer miles and Hilton Hotel points -- we ended up with free first class upgrades and a free stay at the Hilton Times Square for three nights.

We leave in just under an hour on a "red-eye" flight from LAX to Dulles, with a quick change and a skip up to La Guardia airport. Then we come back late Monday night with a direct from La Guardia to LAX.

We're looking forward to some great food, amazing shows (thank goodness the strike is over!), and some winter and holiday fun enjoying the decorations and festivities in New York City!

More to come!

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Join the Lakers for Basketball 101!

Great opportunity for fans of the Lakers to get some face time with their favorite players!

Basketball 101
Lakers Fans:
We would like to offer you the opportunity to participate in an exciting, private event which will give you an up close and personal look at your favorite team.

4th Annual
Basketball 101 with the Los Angeles Lakers
Defense is Key with Phil Jackson

Wednesday, January 16, 2008 5 p.m.

BASKETBALL 101 is an officially sanctioned NBA and Los Angeles Lakers event. Guests will include 400 men and women in the business, entertainment and sports industries, along with the media. Whether you're a diehard fan or just want to enjoy the game, you need BASKETBALL 101. Join us for this fun and interactive event with "coaching" from the experts including (in alphabetical order):

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Assistant Coach, Los Angeles Lakers
Jeanie Buss, Executive Vice President, Los Angeles Lakers
Michael Cooper, former player, Los Angeles Lakers and current Head Coach, Los Angeles Sparks
Jordan Farmar, Guard, Los Angeles Lakers
Derek Fisher, Guard, Los Angeles Lakers
Hue Hollins, Retired Referee, NBA
Phil Jackson, Head Coach, Los Angeles Lakers
Bill Macdonald, Broadcaster, FSN (emcee)
Kurt Rambis, former player and current Assistant Coach, Los Angeles Lakers
Brian Shaw, former player and current Assistant Coach, Los Angeles Lakers
Tex Winter, Basketball Consultant, Los Angeles Lakers

Ticket prices start at $550 per person (or $5,000 for a table of 10) and include:
Free throw practice on the Lakers court
Lakers Locker Room tour
Cocktail reception
Buffet dinner
Silent Auction
Gift Bag

BASKETBALL 101 program
Net proceeds from the event benefit the LASEC and LA Lakers Youth Foundation, both 501c (3) organizations.
For more information or to make your reservation, please contact: Mike Smith
LA Sports & Entertainment Commission
(213) 236-2393 (phone)

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Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Ouch! I knew this would happen.

What is your first thought when you see the below picture? I know what mine was. Dangerous.

When we first moved into our new home six years ago I saw this storage area and thought -- someday I am going to smack myself upside the head on that closet system that is there.

In fact, everytime I have gone in there over the past six -- since we store most of our decorations for various holidays there -- I would always worry about it and be totally conscious each time I went in and out.

Of course on a couple of occassions I would glaze the edge and think to myself, "That was a close one. I really should put some foam or some padding on that corner."

But, I never did. Then came tonight.

I was scrambling through the house looking for my Gore-Tex hiking boots for our quick vacation this weekend to New York City. Searching all over the place, I was somewhat perplexed when I could not locate. On a last ditch effort, I decided to check this closet as there was a slight chance they could be in here.

After a couple of minutes, I turned around and SMACK. I knew I had done a little damage. It a matter of seconds I had a good amount of blood running down my face and I had to run to the bathroom to keep from getting blood all over the carpet.

As with most head wounds, they bleed quite a bit. And in this case -- with some nice swelling, I was also a little woozy from hit. Anyways, I am sure I will be feeling this tomorrow still. Here's a little shot of the damage:

Nothing too major, which may or may not leave a little scar. Guess I will not be able to keep cutting my hair this short for awhile.....

And, most importantly -- I think once I get back from New York I will definitely put some foam padding around that corner. Before I put ANY Christmas decorations away!

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