Archive for July, 2009

Sports for Children with Autism

July 23, 2009

There was a good article in the Washington Post yesterday about a boy with autism who swims on a local swim team.  Kids with autism can benefit a lot from playing sports, as can their neurotypical peers from having them on the teams.  Swimming is one of the better sports for kids with autism because it is both individual, without a lot of complex requirements, yet still social in that kids are still part of a team.

Participating in sports can help kids with autism and other disabilities in many ways.  Sports give kids with disabilities confidence, improve socialization, get more oxygen to the brain, improve coordination, help them stay in shape, help them sleep better, improve cognitive function by improving proprioception (the body’s sense of where it is in space), and reduce inappropriate behaviors.  Improvements in fine and gross motor skills often go hand in hand with improvements in academic and cognitive function.  Certain exercises can relax kids and even help align both hemispheres of the brain.  And of course, sports are also a lot of fun.

Kids with autism often like swimming, trampoline, and swinging.  This gives us clues on what kind of sensory input they need.  What is the best sport for children with autism?  I tried to answer the question a couple of years ago at http://www.coachmike.net/autism-faq.php#12.  I think the real answer is, “Whatever they like best.”  In order to find out whatever they like best, we need to get rid of our preconceived notions and expose them to as many athletic opportunities as possible.  I learned this after coaching a child in soccer a few years ago who ultimately ended up playing hockey.  I never would have thought hockey would be a great sport for kids with autism because of the need to skate and handle a stick simultaneously, but it turns out that it can be great, and it just goes to show that we shouldn’t put limitations on anyone.

Sports can be more effective for kids with disabilities when they are mixed in with academics and social skills.  You can do a half hour of sports followed by a half hour of schoolwork, followed by a half hour of social skills.  Each area helps the child generalize and build on the previous one. Sometimes people make the mistake, though well intentioned, of segregating each activity to the point where each one is facilitated by different specialists who, worst-case scenario, don’t coordinate and communicate with each other.  In any case, each activity should transition and relate to the others, and ideally, you can do some academic work while moving at the same time.  One example is to play catch or jump on a trampoline while answering questions.  This helps with sensory integration.  Yoga is also great for balance and relaxation, and deep breathing and meditation exercises can help improve the attention spans of children and reduce unwanted behaviors at the same time.

For a high functioning child, you can have him or her play in a league with typical peers, preferably a couple of years younger than the child who has autism.  The child has a “shadow” who helps integrate him or her with the other children athletically and socially.  I’ve facilitated in this way, and also coached Special Olympics soccer, and both can be great depending on the situation.  See www.soccerideas.net for ideas on drills.  It’s the same concept as in school – sometimes it’s best for kids to be mainstreamed into the typical school environment, and other times it’s best for them to be in a self-contained (special education) classroom, and often the best of both worlds is a combination of both, depending on the situation.

Exercises are great, but it’s best to do ones that are meaningful in the context of sports, so that children can eventually be part of a team, or at least play in impromptu games after school, or even use imagination to make up their own games.  It’s how kids learn best – not just sitting at a desk doing work, but getting along with others, being spontaneous, thinking on the fly.

A lot of people are familiar with the amazing story of Jason McElwain, an autistic teenager who scored 6 three-point baskets for his high school team a few years ago.  This type of success doesn’t happen a lot, but it would never happen if too many limitations are put on children who have autism and other disabilities who want to play sports.

I’d like to add one other thing.  While parents shouldn’t push their kids too hard into sports, they should expose them to sports and in some cases kids may need a nudge.  You wouldn’t tell your child who says, “I don’t want to do math” that it’s ok to avoid homework just because he or she doesn’t want to do it.  Math is necessary and good for kids.  Sports may be good for them as well, so don’t be so quick to say, “He doesn’t want to do it.”  In any case, it’s better to try something new that to do the same things over and over.  Sometimes I think parents are more autistic than the kids themselves – not willing to try anything new, just doing the same old x number of hours of therapy sitting at a desk in a vacuum.  And playing sports is certainly better than sitting inside and watching TV.

Ok, that reminds me, I have one other thing to add.  Today, a lot of kids play video games, and one video game that can be beneficial is the Nintendo Wii, which has simulated sports that can create an interest in real sports (tennis, bowling, baseball), as well as fitness (yoga, exercises, and running).

For people in the Bethesda/Montgomery County, MD/Washington, DC areas, there are several sports-related opportunities for children with autism.

  • Kids Enjoy Exercise Now (KEEN, www.keenusa.org) is a free, volunteer-run sports program for kids with disabilities.  There is a waiting list that was up to a year long the last time I checked, but they don’t turn anyone away unless they are over 21.  KEEN has a general sports program, a swim program, a music program, and a Teen Club for higher functioning children to do outings.  KEEN has chapters in Bethesda, Washington, DC, and several more across the country, and even a few in England, where KEEN began.
  • Sports Plus, based in Germantown, MD, has sports leagues for kids with high functioning autism (www.playsportsplus.org).
  • Fitness for Health in Rockville has some excellent equipment and specializes in one on one training sessions.  See http://www.fitnessforhealth.org/.
  • Special Olympics provides sports for not only children but also adults with disabilities: http://www.somdmontgomery.org/.  The Special Olympics national website is http://www.specialolympics.org/.
  • There are a few youth hockey programs in the area such as the Montgomery Cheetahs (www.montgomerycheetahs.org).

Elsewhere, check with your local schools and governments, or search the web to see what is out there.

How to Drive and Park in a Parking Garage

July 15, 2009

I thought I’d remind people of the rules for driving in a parking garage.   They’re not that much different than regular driving rules, really.

  1. Stay on the right side of the road.  The same rules apply as if you were driving on the street.  If you were in England, you’d drive on the left; if you knew you were the only person in the garage, you could drive in the middle; but barring those two situations, you should drive on the right.
  2. Neither drive as fast as you can, recklessly disregarding the possibility that someone might be around the corner, nor go incredibly slow, tentatively hoping that you will find a spot.  Try to strike a balance between the two extremes.
  3. It may not be worth it to sit there forever and wait for people who get into their cars to leave so that you can get their spots.  Why not just drive to the first spot that’s already open?  You might find that even though you have to park on a higher level, it might be just as close if not closer to the stairway or elevator so you won’t have to walk as much.

This was inspired by the parking garage in Bethesda between Bethesda Ave., Woodmont Ave., and Elm Street.  I know, I need to find more inspirational things to write about.

The Daily Show: Samantha, Bee Nice

July 15, 2009

I love the Daily Show but a couple of weeks ago Samantha Bee was making a joke about the House of Representatives, saying, “They eat paste and wear a helmet.  It’s the one that likes bright colors and hates loud noises.  I’m saying that they’re dumb.”

I don’t get offended too easily, but this is inappropriate and I would think very insulting to people with disabilities.  Here are a couple of examples:  Some people may need to wear helmets because they are prone to seizures.  And certain children and adults with autism may have very sensitive hearing so they hear things much more loudly than most people do, so it’s not their fault if they are startled by loud noises.

Books on Tape/Audiobooks for sale on Amazon.com

July 11, 2009

Imagine you’re driving a long, boring commute.  You’re tired of hearing the same songs over and over.  Even on satellite radio, the stations play the same stuff again and again.  Music CDs get old too.  Even the news, unless you listen to BBC or something else international, covers no more than a few stories over and over, without much depth.  Sports radio?  Gets old fast.  Howard Stern?  They replay the same stuff over and over.

What is the solution?  Books on tape (or nowadays, books on CD) can help.  More and more people are trying to use their time productively whether they are in the car or taking public transportation to work. They’re also great for people who are blind or cannot read for other reasons.  (I’m pretty sure there’s a way to transfer audio books from CD to Ipod, though I haven’t done it myself.)

I have a couple of hundred books on CD/audiobooks that I am selling on amazon.com.  My prices are the lowest on amazon.   My prices for used audiobooks (all of mine are used) range from from $4.50 to $49.99.  Some of the audiobooks when new were originally priced at over $100 because some of them have more than 15 CDs.  A lot of people list the prices sky high if they have the only copy available of a particular book on amazon because of supply and demand, but I list a lot of them at $29.99 even if I have the only copy for sale on amazon.

Some of the authors include: John Grisham, Stephen King, Jane Austen, J.R.R. Tolkien, Jack Kerouac, William F. Buckley, and Jackie Collins.  A couple of the titles include:  “Worse Than Watergate:  The Secret Presidency of George W. Bush” by John Dean, and “The Google Story” by David Vise.

The list is below and also at http://www.amazon.com/shops/mikeneedsakidneydotcom.  (A few of these books are hardcover books on art, sports, or other topics but I didn’t have time to edit those out from the list).  Thanks for looking.

Straken (High Druid of Shannara) [Audiobook] [Unabridged] by Brooks, Terry
Poet, The [Audiobook] [CD] [Unabridged] [Audio CD] by Connelly, Michael
The Surgeon [Unabridged] by Gerritsen, Tess; Marshall, Christine
Blood Canticle (Vampire Chronicles) by Rice, Anne; Pittu, David
Hide Yourself Away by Clark, Mary Jane; Valle, Melissa Delany del
Sisters Three [Audiobook] [Unabridged] [Audio CD] by Stirling, Jessica
The Patient [Unabridged] [Audio CD]
Jazz [Unabridged] [Audio CD] by Toni Morrison; Lynne Thigpen
The Good Guys [Unabridged] [Audiobook] [Audio CD] by Bill Bonanno; Joe Pistone
Call it sleep [Audiobook] [Unabridged] by Henry Roth; George Guidall
To the Last Man: A Novel of the First World War [Audio CD] by JEFF SHAARA
Game of Kings [UNABRIDGED CD] (Audiobook) (The Lymond Chronicles, Book 1)
Neanderthal [Unabridged] [Audio CD]
The Empty Chair (Chivers Sound Library American Collections) [Unabridged]
Bearing an Hourglass [Unabridged] [Audio CD]
L.A. Requiem [Audio CD] by ROBERT CRAIS; RON MCLARTY
Acqua Alta (8 Audio CDs) [Unabridged] by Leon, Donna; Fields, Anna
The Romanov Prophecy by Berry, Steve; Michael, Paul
The Marching Season [Audio CD] by DANIEL SILVA; FRANK MULLER
Black House [Unabridged] [Audio CD]
McNally’s Caper [Unabridged] by Lawrence Sanders; NARRATOR
Sara’s Song (Chivers Sound Library American Collections) [Unabridged]
A Time to Kill (Unabridged) [Audio CD] by John Grisham; Alexander Adams
The Bounty – The True Story of the Mutiny on the Bounty [Unabridged] [Audio CD]
Cloud Atlas by Mitchell, David; Full Cast
The Perfect Storm [Audio CD]
Dune: Butlerian Jihad (Dune) [Unabridged] [Audio CD] by Brian Herbert
The Hook (Chivers Sound Library American Collections) [Unabridged] [Audio CD]
Dark Horse by Hoag, Tami; McDonald, Beth
The Judas Pair: A Lovejoy Mystery [UNABRIDGED] (Audio CD) [Audio CD]
The Happiest Toddler on the Block (Unabridged) [Audio Cassette]
Carry Me Home [Audio Cassette] by Sandra Kring
The Drowning Tree (1930’s Trilogy) [Audio CD] by Goodman, Carol
The World According to Garp [Unabridged CDs] [Audio CD] by John Irving
The Hammer of God (Recorded Books, Inc.) [Audio CD] by Arthur C. Clarke
Ariel (Unabridged) [Audio CD] by Lawrence Block
Afterburn [Audio CD] by Colin Harrison; Pete Bradbury
Some Kind of Miracle [Audio CD] by Dart, Iris Rainer; Driscoll, Moria
Cuba Libre [Audiobook] by Leonard, Elmore; Guidall, George
Taking Heart (Unabridged) [Unabridged] [Audio CD] by Carol Doumani; Mary Peiffer
The Ten Commandments: The Significance of God’s Laws in Everyday Life [Audio CD]
Touching Evil [Unabridged] [Audio CD] by Kay Hooper; Alyssa Bresnahan
Antietam: Library Edition (Civil War Battle) [Unabridged] by Reasoner, James
Oblivion by Abrahams, Peter; Marks, Ken
Cape Breton Road [Unabridged] [Audiobook] [Audio CD] by D. R. MacDonald
On the Road [Unabridged] [Audio CD] by Kerouac, Jack; Parker, Tom
Mama (Chivers Sound Library American Collections) [Unabridged] [Audio CD]
The Ship of Brides–Collector’s and Library Edition [Audio CD] by Jojo Moyes
The Return of the King & The Annals of the King & Rulers (UNABRIDGED CD EDITION)
Sense and Sensibility [Audiobook] [Unabridged] by Jane Austen; Donada Peters
Stargazey [Unabridged CDs Library Edition] [Audio CD] by Martha Grimes
Isle of Dogs [Unabridged] [Audio Cassette] by Cornwell, Patricia Daniels
Fred & Edie [Audiobook] [Unabridged] [Audio CD] by Jill Dawson
Dating Is Murder [Audiobook] [Unabridged] by Kozak, Harley Jane
Impressions of an Irish by Davison, David H.
Garlic and Sapphires: The Secret Life of a Critic in Disguise by Reichl, Ruth
Blood Lure (Anna Pigeon mysteries) [Unabridged] [Audiobook] [Audio CD]
Nuremberg: Library Edition [Unabridged] [Audio CD] by Buckley, William F.
Haunted in Death (In Death) [Audiobook] [CD] [Unabridged] [Audio CD]
Losing America – Confronting a Reckless and Arrogant Presidency [Unabridged]
The Friday Night Knitting Club [Audio CD] by Kate Jacobs
Duplicate Keys [Unabridged] [Audio CD]
Dedication [Audiobook] [CD] [Unabridged] [Audio CD]; West, Ashley
Found (Firstborn Series-Baxter 2, Book 3) [Abridged] [Audio CD]; Burr, Sandra
The Age of Innocence: Library Edition [Preloaded Digital Audio Player]
Strategy by Liddell Hart, Basil H.
Crusader [Unabridged] [Audio CD] by Brand, Max; Lawlor, Patrick
Hostage (Brilliance Audio on Compact Disc) [Abridged] [Audiobook] [CD]
Superman on Radio: Library Edition (Old Time Radio) by Smithsonian Institution
Between Lovers [Unabridged] [Audio CD] by Eric Jerome Dickey; Dion Graham
Lascaux (French Edition) [Hardcover] by Bataille, Georges
The Pearl Harbor Murders [Audiobook] [Unabridged] [Audio CD]; Jeff Woodman
The Sweet Potato Queens’ Field Guide to Men : Every Man I Love is Either Marr…
The Last King of Scotland [Audio CD] by Foden, Giles; Willis, Mirron E.
Mix with love: Cookbook for dogs by Herbig, Maddelena
The Talisman [Audiobook] [Unabridged] [Audio CD] by Stephen King; Peter Straub
A Blessed Event [Audio CD] by Jean Reynolds Page; Carrington MacDuffie
Testament (A Soldier’s Story of the Civil War) [Audio CD] by Benson Bobrick
Little Altars Everywhere [Unabridged Library Edition] [Audio CD]; Judith Ivey
Bridesmaids Revisited (An Ellie Haskell Mystery) [Audio CD] by Dorothy Cannell
H.M.S. Surprise (Aubrey-Maturin, Volume 3 in the series) [Unabridged] [Audio CD]
The Warmest December [Audio CD] by Bernice L. McFadden; Myra Lucretia Taylor
Nothing Like it in the World [Audio CD]
The Winter Queen (Erast Fandorin Mysteries) by Akunin, Boris; Kramer, Michael
The Bishop and the Beggar Girl of St. Germain [Audiobook] [Unabridged]
Secret Justice: Library Edition [Unabridged] [Audio CD] by Huston, James W.
The Secret Hunters [Unabridged] [Audiobook] [CD] [Unabridged] [Audio CD]
American Folk Decoration [Unknown Binding]
KNOCKNAGOW OR THE HOMES OF TIPPERARY [Hardcover] by Kickham, Charles
The Government and Politics of China [Hardcover] by Ch’ien Tuan-sheng
Julie of the Wolves [Unabridged] (Audio CD) [Audiobook] [Unabridged] [Audio CD]
The Unashamed Accompanist [Import] [Hardcover] by Gerald Moore; Geoffrey Parsons
English Passengers [Audiobook] [Unabridged] [Audio CD] by Matthew Kneale
Fijian Protocol by Dari, Willie; Petit-Skinner, Solange
The Lost Painting: The Quest for a Caravaggio Masterpiece [Audiobook]
The Manchurian Candidate [Audio CD] by Condon, Richard; Hurt, Christopher
The Communist Manifesto. Authorized English Translation [Paperback]
Terminal: A Burke Novel (Burke) [Audiobook] [CD] [Unabridged] [Audio CD]
The Google Story by Vise, David A.; Malseed, Mark; Hoye, Stephen
Turncoat: Library Edition [Unabridged] [Audio CD] by Elkins, Aaron J.
Jackdaws [Unabridged] [Audio CD] by Ken Follett
Demolition Angel [Unabridged] [Audio CD] by Robert Crais; Paul Hecht
Thrill! [Audio CD] by Jackie Collins
Faster [Audio CD] by James Gleick
Every Little Thing About You [Audio CD] by Lori Wick
Black Maps [Audio CD] by Peter Spiegelman
The Religion [Complete and Unabridged] [Audio CD] by Tim Willocks; Simon Vance
A Loving Scoundrel [Audio CD] by Johanna Lindsey
Murder Runs in the Family [Audio CD] by Anne George
Islam Unveiled Disturbing Questions About the World’s Fastest Growing Faith: …
The Young Man [Audio CD] by Brendan O’Carroll
Foreign Fruit [Audio CD] by Jojo Moyes
The Devil’s Advocate [Audio CD] by Morris West
Buried Onions [Audio CD] by Gary Soto
In Colt Blood [Audio CD] by Jody Jaffe
Known Dead [Audio CD] by Donald Harstad
Another Song About the King [Audio CD] by Kathryn Stern
The Return of the Native [Audio CD] by Thomas Hardy
Death Goes on Retreat: Library Edition [Unabridged] by O’Marie, Carol Anne
The Judas Testament [Audio CD] by Daniel Easterman
Places in the Dark [Audio CD] by Thomas H. Cook
Black Heat [Audio CD] by Norman Kelley
The Third Victim [Audio CD] by Lisa Gardner
zzGlory in Death [Audio CD] by zzJ. D. Robb; zzCristine McMurdo-Wallis
Resort to Murder [Audio CD] by Carolyn Hart
Bitter Medicine [Audio CD] by Sara Paretsky
Being the Fourth Jane Austen Mystery: Jane and the Genius of the Place
The Rapture of Canaan [Audio CD] by Sheri Reynolds
A Wild and Lonely Place [Audio CD] by Marcia Muller
Worse Than Watergate: The Secret Presidency of George W. Bush [Audiobook]
The Train Now Departing : Two Novellas [Audio CD] by Martha Grimes
Sharpe’s Eagle: Richard Sharpe and the Talavara Campaign, July 1809 (Richard …
Ethical Assassin, The [Audiobook] [CD] [Unabridged] [Audio CD] by Liss, David
One Hundred Years Of Art In Israel [Illustrated] by Ofrat, Gideon
Le Divorce [Unabridged] [Audiobook] [Audio CD] by Diane Johnson; Suzanne Toren
A heritage of grandeur by Crutchfield, James Andrew
Washington Redskins Danny Wuerffel Jersey 2XL
The Final Days [Unabridged] by Olson, Barbara
Monkeys (Animalways) [Library Binding] by Zabludoff, Marc
The New Art by Lorch, Catrin; Morton, Tom; Kopsa, Maxine; Hunt, Andrew
The Vision of Emma Blau [Abridged] by Hegi, Ursula; Edwards-Fukei, Kim
The Tender Years (Prairie Legacy Series #1) [Unabridged] [Audio CD]
Kitchen Privileges [UNABRIDGED] (Audiobook) [Unabridged] [Audiobook] [Audio CD]
A Christmas Carol [Audiobook] [Unabridged] by Dickens, Charles; Dale, Jim
Sula [Audio CD] by Toni Morrison; Lynne Thigpen
Footprints of God, The (Brilliance Audio on Compact Disc) [Audiobook] [CD]
Babyville [Unabridged] [Audiobook] [Audio CD] by JANE GREEN; KATE READING
House Call [Hardcover] by Darden North
The Hot Flash Club [Unabridged] [Audiobook] [Audio CD] by Nancy Thayer
100 Years in Zambia: What Is God Teaching Us When One Culture Meets Another?
NEW YORK, Cobb’s America Guyed Book Series [Hardcover] by Cobb, Irvin S.
FRENCH ART OF THE 18TH CENTURY [Hardcover] by Gilou, Abert & Spar, Francis; 0
Before You Know Kindness [Audiobook] [Unabridged] by Bohjalian, Chris A.
Inglés Esencial: Básico – Intermedio by Living Language
Meeting of Eastern and Western Art by Sullivan, Michael
The Botox Diaries [Audio CD] by Janice Kaplan & Lynn Schnurnberger
Piranesi As Designer [Hardcover] by Sarah E. Lawrence; John Wilton-Ely
Book of Q [Unabridged] [Audiobook] [Audio Cassette] by Jonathan Rabb
Sports Illustrated 17th Annual Swimsuit Issue Magazine Christie Brinkley Febr…
The Elect [Paperback] by James Gilbert
Painters of the Italian Renaissance [Hardcover] by Edith Healy; T. de Mare
Raid on the Sun: Inside Israel’s Secret Campaign That Denied Saddam the Bomb
American Medicinal Plants of Commercial Importance [Illustrated] [Paperback]
Songs of Harvard [Hardcover] by NOBLE,Lloyd Adams, compiler
Abenteuer in Berlin by Nohara, Komakichi
Sports Illustrated Magazine February 1980 – Christie Brinkley Bikini Cover
Angelica Kauffmann, R.A. 1741-1807 [Illustrated] [Hardcover]
Making the Ghost Dance [Paperback] by David Kranes
The Confession: Library Edition [Unabridged] [Audio CD] by Steinhauer, Olen
Picasso: L’euvre grave, 1899-1972 (French Edition) by Picasso, Pablo
What Becomes of the Brokenhearted [Unabridged] [Audiobook] [Audio CD]
A Blind Man Can See How Much I love You [Unabridged] [Audiobook] [Audio CD]
Le Mariage [Unabridged] [Audio CD] by Diane Johnson; Suzanne Toren
Seven Up (Stephanie Plum, No. 7) [Abridged] [Audiobook] [CD] by Evanovich, Janet
The Taking [Audiobook] [Unabridged] [Audio CD] by Dean Koontz; Ariadne Meyers
Thackeray’s Novels Illustrated. Vol. III: The Virginians, Henry Esmond, Lovel…
Design With Culture: Claiming America’s Landscape Heritage [Paperback]
A Christmas Journey (The Christmas Stories) [Unabridged] [Audio CD]
From a Buick 8 (AUDIOBOOK) (CD) [Unabridged] [Audio CD] by Stephen King
The Mark: The Beast Rules the World [Unknown Binding]
A Virtuous Woman [Full length] [Audio CD]
52mm Tristar Optics UV & C-PL Filter Bonus Pack Plus Carry Pouch [Camera]
Lying Awake [Audio Cassette] by Mark Salzman
Interlude in Death (In Death) [Audiobook] [CD] [Unabridged] [Audio CD]
The John Cheever Audio Collection [Audiobook] [Unabridged] [Audio CD]
Wit & Wisdom of Hubert H. Humphrey [Hardcover] by Thompson, Jane C. (Editor)
Sports Illustrated 15th Annual Swimsuit Issue Magazine Christie Brinkley Febr…
The Collected Works of Emile Zola (One Volume Edition ) [Hardcover]
The Burning Point [Audiobook] (CD) [Unabridged] [Audio CD] by Mary Jo Putney
Zoning and the American Dream: Promises Still to Keep (American Planning Asso…
English Sporting Prints by Wilder, F.L.
The Perfect Scent: A Year Inside the Perfume Industry in Paris and New York [CD]
Itinerario Pittorico [Hardcover] by Deoclecio Redig De Campos
General Biscuit Company: 125 Years of Experience and Expansion [Hardcover]
‘Til Death Do Us Part by White, Kate; White, Karen
Canawlers (Autographed) by James R. Rada
Game of Shadows [Audiobook] [Unabridged] by Mark Fainaru-Wada; Lance Williams
Hell has no heroes by Robinson, Wayne
RUSSIA AT WAR: 1941-45 [Hardcover] by Karpov, Vladimir; Photo Illustrated
Florence of Arabia [Unabridged] [Audio CD] by Christopher Buckley
Going Through the Motions [Audio CD] Rockinghams
The Altonberrys of Sandwich Bay [Audio Cassette] by Carpenter, Leo
If Only They Could Talk/It Shouldn’t Happen to a Vet [Audio Cassette]
Masterpieces of Australian Painting by Terry, Martin
Girl on a Motorcycle [VHS] [VHS Tape] (1998) Alain Delon; Marianne Faithfull
First Law, The (Dismas Hardy) [Audiobook] [CD] [Unabridged] [Audio CD]
CD Compact Disc of Clair LeBear Songs From THE COZY COTTAGE. 1 What does a be…
The History of Pendennis [Hardcover] by W. M. Thackeray
The Life and Art of Albrecht Durer [Hardcover] by Panofsky, Erwin
Conservation Research: Studies of Fifteenth- to Nineteenth-Century Tapestry (…
Whisker of Evil [Audiobook] [Unabridged] by Brown, Rita Mae; Forbes, Kate
Agonies Of Enjoyment [Hardcover] by Raiford, William, Russell
Touchdown: The American Pro Fooball Magazine – Bruce Smith 1985 Collegiate Dr…
Government and Politics of Southeast Asia [Hardcover] by George McTurnan Kahin
Reflections A Poetic Approach II [Paperback] by Charles Lee Taylor
The Story of the Rhinegold. [Hardcover] by Chapin, Anna Alice.
Measure of My Days [Hardcover] by Scott-Maxwell, Florida
The Land That Time Forgot: Library Edition [Unabridged] by Burroughs, Edgar Rice
Maurice Sendak’s Really Rosie Audio: Starring the Nutshell Kids [Abridged]
Paul Temple: The Conrad Case (BBC Mystery Series/2 Audio Cassettes)
European Paintings from the Gulbenkian Collection [Paperback] by Walker, John
ALL THE PAINTINGS OF ANTONELLO DA MESSINA [Hardcover]
The Witness Tree [Hardcover] by Harold Channing Wire
Gemaldegalerie, Berlin (Prestel-Museumsfuhrer.) [Illustrated] by Prestel
Cold Paradise (Stone Barrington) [Audiobook] [CD] [Unabridged] [Audio CD]
1897 Sears Roebuck Catalogue [Hardcover]
Bee Season [Unabridged] by Goldberg, Myla
Worst Fears [Unabridged] [Audio CD] by Fay Weldon
The Complete Works of Geoffrey Chaucer. [Hardcover] by Skeat, Walter
The Glass of Lalique: A Collector’s Guide by Percy, Christopher Vane
Buster Midnight’s Cafe [Paperback] by Dallas, Sandra
A Fatal Thaw by Stabenow, Dana; Gavin, Marguerite
SPORTS ILLUSTRATED DECEMBER 10, 1979 SUGAR RAY LEONARD COVER PHOTO [Paperback]
Lost and Found [Abridged] [Audiobook] [CD] by Krentz, Jayne Ann; Burr, Sandra
Salmon (Cookery) by Advanced Global Distribution
Winston Churchill: His Life As a Painter by Soames, Mary
Other People’s Children [Unabridged] [Audio CD]
African majesty: From grassland and forest : the Barbara and Murray Frum Coll…
Giotto alla Cappella degli Scrovegni [Paperback] by Edizioni Kina Italia
History of the Formation of the Union under the Constitution [Hardcover]
Waiting for Aphrodite Journeys into the Time before Bones [Unabridged]
Kadoorie Agricultural Aid Association, 1951-1971 by Blackie, W. J
Night of Fire [Unabridged] [Audio CD] by Barara Samuel; Jill Tanner
EPCO Antique Collectible Cigar Label
SPORTS ILLUSTRATED DECEMBER 11, 1989 LARRY BIRD CELTICS COVER [Paperback]
Inside Sports Magazine February 1989 Charlene Tilton Lucy Ewing of Dallas * …
Wimbledon 85: The Lawn Tennis Championships Official Souvenir Programme
America As Art (Smithsonian International Press publication: no. 6263)
Big City Eyes [Audio CD] by Delia Ephron
Sports Illustrated Magazine May 13, 1985 (Magic Johnson cover) [Paperback]
The Economics of John Maynard Keynes – The Theory of a Monetary Economy
The Fandom of the Operator [Unabridged] [Audio CD] by Robert Rankin
Paris in New York: French Jewish Artists in Private Collections [Paperback]
Chapel Hill in Verse [Paperback] by Lois Bracken
Home To Me [Audio CD] Coyote
Desecration Antichrist Takes the Throne #9 in the Left Behind Series [Audiobook]
SPORTS ILLUSTRATED AUGUST 22, 1988 WAYNE GRETZKY AND MAGIC JOHNSON COVER; Yes
SPORTS ILLUSTRATED MAR 22, 1982 parick ewing on the front Cover [Paperback]
MICHELANGELO PAINTER. [Hardcover]
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1991-1992 Portland Trail Blazers Media Guide [Paperback] by John Lashway
1991-1992 Portland Trail Blazers Media Guide [Paperback] by John Lashway
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The Interrogation [Unabridged] [Audiobook] [Audio CD] by Thomas H. Cook
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Ten Most Underrated Countries in Western Europe

July 10, 2009
Here’s my list of the most underrated countries in Western Europe. Basically, I took away the largest, most well-known countries — England, France, Germany, Spain, Italy, etc., and listed some of the ones that get less publicity.  Of course, no countries are “better” than any other countries – this is just a fun list, not meant to be taken too seriously.  In fact, I haven’t been to Portugal or Iceland.  I guess I just like making lists.  Also, even though I like Sweden and Scotland more than Belgium, for example, Belgium ranks higher because it’s more underrated.
  1. Norway
  2. Denmark
  3. Luxembourg
  4. Belgium
  5. Portugal
  6. Finland
  7. Holland
  8. Iceland
  9. Sweden
  10. Scotland

Customer Service: A Lost Art

July 10, 2009

Customer service from various places has been terrible lately.  Maybe it’s the economy.  Anyway, the representatives are just ruthless.  Here’s a random sampling of experiences.

DirecTV.  My DVR wasn’t working right so they said they could send a technician out.  They didn’t tell me until after they had fixed it that it would cost $49.99.  Also, the technician charged me $15 for an extra 1-foot cable, which is all he did, and he wouldn’t take a credit card, so I had to give him a $20 bill, and he didn’t have change so he wanted to just leave but I made him go and get change.  Then I called DirecTV and got transferred to about five different people and I told them they should have told me beforehand that there would be a charge.  Finally, after talking to about six people the first five of whom disagreed with me, they agreed that they should have informed me of the charge beforehand.  But what happens to people who aren’t persistent and don’t stay on the phone for a half hour?  In the past I’ve also had to repeat the same things over and over to them as if they never take notes on calls.  Also, when I first started, their reps were in the habit of promising things just to sign you up and then a different rep would deny that this ever happened.  Grade:  F

Comcast.  They insisted I had not returned a cable box and that I owed $50.  After many, many hours on the phone with them, they finally agreed that it was a mistake.  But after that, I still got bills for it.  Plus, even though the charge was eventually reversed, my phone bill was an extra $50 because of all the time I spent on the phone with them.   One other note – I’ve talked with two different people who don’t have TV set up because they had so many problems with Comcast.  Grade:  F

Carbonite.  I had a specific issue for which I wanted specific help, but after emailing them about 15 times and saying, “please don’t just cut and paste instructions for me,” they continued to just cut and paste standard instructions for me.  Also, at one point they asked me to send them specific files.  I did and they never responded.  Then they said they’d call me back and they never did.  Finally I asked again and they did call back to resolve it.  Grade:  D

Linksys.  They reset the settings on my router for a one-time charge and insisted that I wouldn’t need anything else for two years.  It didn’t help and the wireless access was actually slower so I asked if I could get a refund or have it credited toward a new router or a 6-month plan but they said no.  They said they’d call me back but never did.  I emailed them but they didn’t respond.  Usually they are pretty good on chat, though.  Grade:  D

Verizon.  When I was first getting my internet access set up, I remember the representative being unbelievably verbose and speaking in long, drawn out ways, almost as if she was reading a telemarketing script instead of just being concise and getting to the point.  A couple of other times they’ve been ok.  Grade:  C

Apple.  Generally, they’ve been pretty helpful.  Grade:  B

Best Buy Geek Squad.  I had a lot of problems with my PC and they weren’t helpful to say the least.  One of many examples:  I brought my laptop in because the touchpad, the left click button, whatever you call it, was always slightly depressed so that wherever the cursor, or the little hand, whatever you call it, was pointing on the web, it would occasionally just click on it without me touching it.  Example.  I’m writing an email and it’s halfway done.  The cursor is pointing over the “send” button but I’m not touching the computer at all.  The computer sends the email.  Best Buy insisted that there was nothing wrong with it because they supposedly couldn’t duplicate the problem even though this clicking when I wasn’t touching the pc happened about five times an hour every day for half a year.  You can see the left button is physically lower down by about a millimeter than it should be.  Grade:  F

Sirius Satellite Radio.  Keeping in mind that this would be easier than internet access or computers, generally, they’ve been good. Grade:  B

Southwest. I typed in my voucher code when I made a flight and it didn’t work.  I hope this isn’t a way for them to save money. But when I callled, they fixed the problem.  I guess there isn’t too much that can go wrong with airlines compared with technical companies, but if I list the bad ones I should also list the good ones.  Grade:  B

A Seller Tool.  They usually say, “just follow the instructions on the website.”  They aim to save time this way but they actually increase time spent because people have to keep calling back.  If they would just walk people through it a little bit, it would save time for everyone.  Grade:  D

A.C. Moore in Rockville, MD. This may not fit here, but I wanted to include it because I had a good experience there.  I bought 8 frames – of course they didn’t come with the brackets on the back.  I had to buy those separately, and they had those tiny nails that are impossible to use.  The guy at the counter agreed to do it right then and there for free.  I would have expected to have to wait and/or pay.  Grade:  A

Post Office, Bethesda, MD. I love the post office in Bethesda on Wisconsin Avenue.  It’s open 24 hours and they have one of those self-serve machines that you can use to send packages and other mail.  There is also one at the branch on Arlington Road but they close early.  The staff at both places are great.  Grade:  A

Ten Most Underrated Fruits

July 10, 2009
  1. Coconuts
  2. Pears
  3. Peaches
  4. Cranberries
  5. Kiwis
  6. Lingonberries
  7. Nectarines
  8. Figs
  9. Limes
  10. Pineapples
  11. Blackberries

Top 10 Frozen Yogurt Toppings at Yogiberry in Bethesda

July 10, 2009
  1. Raspberries
  2. Strawberries
  3. Coconut
  4. Chocolate
  5. Cranberries
  6. Blueberries
  7. Mangoes
  8. Blackberries
  9. Granola
  10. Walnuts

Chicago Bears QBs: Sid Luckman, Jim McMahon, Jim Miller, and Jay Cutler

July 10, 2009

I’m a little tired of sports media types and fans not being able to think for themselves and instead just repeating things over and over.  I gave an example the other day when I said that the whole sports media world says universally that Roger Federer was better than Pete Sampras just because he leads him in Grand Slam titles, 15-14.

Here’s another example.  Fans and sports media constantly say that the Chicago Bears haven’t had a great quarterback since Sid Luckman in the 1940s.  What about Jim McMahon?  All he did was win a Super Bowl, go 36-5 for the Bears from 1984-1988 and 67-30 overall for his career.  It’s pretty pathetic that people don’t care about results, about productivity, about winning.  It’s true that the Bears had a great defense then, but they had a pretty bad receiving corps.  He was also known as a good leader.  Remember too that McMahon was a first round pick, No. 5 overall in 1982.

McMahon’s career completion percentage was a very good 58%, and from 1984 to 1987, his TD to interception ratio was 40 to 29.  Pretty good for that era.  McMahon obviously wasn’t as good as Marino, Elway, Montana, Esiason or Moon, but four of them are in the Hall of Fame.  McMahon was great for a few years.

I don’t care about McMahon or the Bears but I do care when people (fans, sports media, news media) don’t think for themselves and just repeat back what others say.

I hate it when people like Jim Miller of Sirius NFL Radio agree with callers who say that the Bears haven’t had any great QBs.  Of course, Miller says a QB should have a ratio of 2 TDs for every interception.  He and others ignore the fact that passing stats were much less prolific 20 years ago than they are today.

In my article a year and a half ago advocating Art Monk to get into the NFL Hall of Fame (http://www.coachmike.net/artmonk.php), I talked about this (though Monk’s stats are unbelievable for any era):

If we look at the rise in offensive statistics in the Super Bowl era, we see three distinctly different eras. The first 14 years of the Super Bowl were characterized by run-first teams. The middle 14 years (Monk’s Redskins career) were dramatically different with the passing game opening up because of the rules changes in the late 70s. What some of the voters either fail to recognize or acknowledge is that the most recent 14 years have also had significant increases in passing and receiving numbers due to further changes including the west coast offense and other schemes in which passing is used to set up the run. See the table below.

NFL

1966-1979

1980-1993 (Monk’s era with the Redskins)

1994-2007

Number of individual 4,000 – yard passing seasons

2

19

46

Number of individual 100 – catch seasons

0

3

50

Number of 1500 – yard receiving seasons

0

5

15

McMahon played in the 1980s.  It wasn’t that long ago.  Of course, now everyone says that Jay Cutler is the first great quarterback to play for the Bears in 60 years.  What an insult.  Cutler is 17-20 overall for his career and hasn’t made the playoffs.  Cutler does have the stats, though, and that’s what people care about.

Federer the best ever? Not so fast.

July 7, 2009

Yesterday, Liz Clarke wrote an article in the Washington Post about Rod Laver’s opinion on whether Roger Federer is the greatest player of all time.  Laver was non-committal; saying just being the best in his era should be enough for Federer.  Nowhere in the 565-word article does Clarke even mention Pete Sampras’ name.  This is an egregious omission, even though in the main article about the Federer-Roddick match, she did mention Sampras as one of the greats.

She says, “Both names, Laver and Tilden, have long been bandied about in the debate over who is the greatest to play the game. And a third — that of Roger Federer — was listed alongside even before Sunday, when Federer raised the mark for excellence by winning a record 15th major title.”  Stating “a third” without mentioning Sampras, who won 14 major titles, is very misleading – it makes it seem like there are now three great ones on the Mount Rushmore of tennis.

I’m not saying Sampras was better than Federer, but I think it’s premature to say that Federer is undisputedly the greatest just because he has one more major than Pete.  I am saying that Sampras was equally as good as Federer.  Sampras had Andre Agassi as a rival while Federer had Rafael Nadal.  Sampras was 4-1 vs. Agassi in Grand Slam finals while Federer is 2-4 vs. Nadal.  Plus, Nadal has been great for only a few years while Agassi was a top contender for most of Sampras’ career.  Sampras also faced Jim Courier, who had four major wins, whereas during Federer’s era, no one other than Nadal (six) has more than two.

As for their strokes, they are about even.  Neither had a discernable weakness, while Pete’s serve was a little better than Federer’s.  True, Federer won the French Open and Sampras didn’t, but the surface and balls at the French Open have been changed to give non-clay court specialists a better chance to win.

I also take issue with the talking heads at ESPN who automatically agree that Federer is the best without even mentioning that there could be a debate.  Maybe after all is said and done, Federer will have close to 20 majors and it will be more clear, but not just yet.  Just because someone has more Grand Slam titles than another player doesn’t make him better.  Agassi won eight and John McEnroe won seven.  Agassi also won all four majors and Mac didn’t.  Does that alone make Agassi better than McEnroe?  Not necessarily.  For what it’s worth, McEnroe also won 9 doubles majors.  McEnroe was also much more dominant than Agassi. True, Fed has been more dominant than Sampras, but the field isn’t as good.

By the way, Bjorn Borg should also be in the discussion, though my personal opinion is that his game was too one-dimensional as a baseliner to be considered the best.  Still, he had 11 Grand Slam titles, and he won all of them on the two most diverse surfaces:  five on grass at Wimbledon, and six on clay at the French Open.  Plus, during Borg’s era he had to play against McEnroe, Connors (eight majors), and Guillermo Vilas (four).

A lot of people think Martina Navratilova was the best female player ever even though Steffi Graf had 22 Grand Slam wins and Navratilova had 18 and Chris Evert also had 18.  I personally believe Graf was the best, but the point is, why do people automatically assume that Federer is the best just because he has the most majors, while most media types would say Martina was the best female player, so they use different criteria for women?

Back to the talking heads – Today on Pardon the Interruption, Mike Wilbon said that there was absolutely no debate that Tiger Woods is a better athlete than Federer.  Really?  Tiger walks a course and hits a stationary ball.  Federer is constantly moving for hours at a time and he needs to make a lot of quick movements in a split second.  He faced serves against Andy Roddick at Wimbledon that were up to 140 miles per hour.

It’s not even a debate.  Tennis players are much better athletes than golfers.  Would Tiger be able to move on the court like Federer?  No way.  You can be out of shape and still succeed at golf, but you need to be fit to play tennis.  Tiger may be a great athlete, but don’t say he’s unquestionably a better athlete than Federer.


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