So why am I not a member of the APA Billiards League?

First of all, Happy 2012 to everyone! It’s been a little while since I’ve written on here, mostly because of the holiday season and everything. You can expect to see a lot more posts on here, especially when it comes to creative writing spots and anything else that comes to mind. Of course, there was one thing I wanted to talk about that’s gone a bit unfulfilled from last year.

Last year, I said that I wanted to join a billiards league. I’m a huge fan of every discipline of the sport, and I love going head to head with some of the league players at the local (by local, i mean 20 miles away) pool hall. I felt that going to a billiards league would help me elevate my game beyond what it is now, and get the feel for real competition, and while that may be the case, there’s just a few things that don’t work for me.

The first thing is clearly the schedule. I just got a promotion at work, and I can’t afford to be waiting until 1 in the morning to play a match with someone. On top of that, by the time I get to the match, I might not be into it. I play pool the best when I WANT to play. If I have to adhere to a particular schedule as it pertains to playing pool, there may be days where I just don’t feel like playing, and that’s not the ideal time for me. I’m going to shoot like crap, and it won’t be all that fun to me. By not joining the league, I can take advantage of playing whenever I want to play, and feeling that connection. The distance I have to travel is also a problem, and I neglect to mention that since I started going to the pool hall, I’ve developed a severe phobia of driving alone at night. I can’t do it anymore, and the only time I can go now is in the daytime on a weekend, if possible. Any other time isn’t comfortable for me.

Another thing that bothers me (and this comes as no offense to the people at the pool hall) is that when you walk into those doors, you’re pretty much walking into a Spanish soap opera. I mean it, there are some serious issues in there. Being part of the league would also mean that I would have to be subject to that stuff on a weekly basis, which is probably a lot more than I would ever want. I can endure some of it in very small doses, but even then, it’s still more than what I’d desire, and it becomes tiring. I come there to spend time with my friends and have fun, and I end up being a counselor to a handful of people, and as much as I love to help people out, a lot of these problems are beyond my power to help people out with, and I’ll just leave it at that.

One of the biggest reasons that I haven’t joined the APA League is because when I head to the pool hall, I’m really only there for a few people (usually just one person, actually). It’s fun getting to spend some time with my friends, but they’re usually running all over the place, and it’s hard to keep up. I don’t really get the chance to spend that quality time with the people I came there for. I’ve tried to spend some time with the other people in the pool hall, but I can never really get that big of a connection with a lot of them. The guys I know from UM are awesome to be around as well as a couple of others, but apart from that, the only real connection I get with people is in playing them, and for me, that isn’t enough. When I go back to UMBC, I have my friends there, I can go play with them, and then after, we can head to a restaurant, see a movie, play tennis…hell, we even went rock climbing. The thing about the pool hall is that the people there live to play pool, and I admire that.

But I’m not one of those people. I love to compete and excel in the game, and I get a big thrill out of playing great games with people, but there’s so many other things that I do as well, and joining the league would cut into the time I have to do everything else. There’s so much I want to do away from the table that I feel it’s for the best that I don’t join. There’s thousands of other minute details for this decision, but this pretty much explains my side of the story. I know I’m bound to get a lot of chastising remarks for what I said here, but the experience just hasn’t been what I thought it would be. I’ll keep playing pool, and that won’t change, but I’ll do it on my terms. And by my terms, that means a lot of SNOOKER! lol 🙂

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The Season of Giving

I was walking back to work after visiting the National Christmas Park today at the Ellipse in Washington, D.C., when I saw a homeless guy rattling a cup on the sidewalk. I checked to see if I had any money on me, but it turns out that I had used all of my dollar bills on presents and errands through the week. But I saw the man there, so I decided to take time out of my break to run across the street, withdraw money from my account, and come back to give it to the man.

So I gave the guy some money, and told him to stay warm out here. He thanked me, and after a brief pause, he said “Bless you.” I knew I had done the right thing. I’ve been thinking a lot about things, about life, and we’re all born into different circumstances – some more favorable than others. But I’ve always felt that for people like us, the people that have the college degree, landed a job, and made a decent living, we also hold a social responsibility to take care of others that are less fortunate.

For that guy, $5 is the difference between getting a chance to eat and going to sleep hungry that night. For me, it amounts to reimbursement for a meager amount of time working at the office. I feel that those of us that have the resources and power to make a difference should take the necessary steps in making life much more manageable for others. It could mean giving spare change to a man on the street, it could mean helping an old lady get to her destination, it could mean building low income housing, and even if you don’t have the resources to help someone out, it’s even as simple as keeping them in your thoughts, your well-wishes, and your prayers.

I hope to do this more in 2012, and I strongly encourage everyone to be mindful of those that face difficult circumstances. Everyone out there could use some help, and the holidays are the biggest time to remember our responsibility to humanity, and do the right thing for someone. So take some time out to make a difference. $5 may be enough for a coffee or something from CVS, but some people around the world struggle to even make $5 a day to support their family. Speak with your heart this holiday season.

🙂

– Danny

TOUR Championship, FedEx Cup reaction

There’s really only one thing that can be said about the finale to this year’s PGA Tour season – the shot that Bill Haas pulled off on the second playoff hole was worth $10 million.

For those of you who are weekend golfers that were watching football on Sunday, let me clarify the situation for you. In the final round of the TOUR Championship, Hunter Mahan and Bill Haas finished their rounds tied for the lead at 8 under par, and forced a playoff that was worth more than its weight in gold – not only would the winner of the playoff win the TOUR Championship, but the would also win the FedEx Cup, which is the year-round points race boasting a very finely crafted chalice from Tiffany’s, as well as a monetary prize of $10 million.

Now that you’re all caught up, let’s talk about the details. On the first playoff hole, the par 3 18th, Both players missed to the right: Hunter hit a 3-iron into the greenside bunker, and Haas pushed a 4-iron to the grass behind the bunker. Both players remarkably get up and down to save par, which leads us to the second playoff hole, the par 4 17th. Haas hits his tee shot into a fairway bunker on the right side, and Mahan crushes his drive into the left-center of the fairway. Things went from bad to worse for Bill Haas – from the bunker, he hits his second shot a little too far left, allowing the ball to roll off of the drainage area on the green, and into a water hazard. However, all was not lost – 3/4 of the ball was still above water, and the ball was playable, but definitely posed a significant threat to Haas’ tournament life. Hunter hits his second shot to about 20-25 feet of the pin for birdie, applying more pressure to Haas’ third shot.

What transpired after this was stunning. Electing to play the ball as it lies, Haas blasts the ball out of the water hazard, and manages to get it to spin and stop within 3 feet of the cup, bringing the crowd to a frenzy. This also stunned Hunter Mahan, who went on to miss his birdie putt. The final playoff hole saw Bill Haas hit to the left side of the green, with the ball resting on the collar of the intermediate cut of rough, and Mahan hit into the same bunker as the first playoff hole. Hunter overhit his second shot, and missed his par, while Haas two putted to take the TOUR Championship, the FedEx Cup, and the prize money for both.

Now, admittedly, I was rooting for Hunter to take it. It was nothing against Bill Haas, but Hunter is a big-moment golfer, and these are the kinds of situations he loves. Many people would challenge the fact that I call him a big moment player, especially when reflecting on the last Ryder Cup performance, but people also fail to remember that Hunter was also instrumental in the US taking the Ryder Cup two years before, with an electric performance to square the match with Paul Casey, a formidable Ryder Cup performer. The look on Bill Haas’ face hinted at impending doom when he hit his second shot on the second playoff hole, but once he found he still had one chance to survive, he showed fierce determination and delivered what I believe to be the shot of the year by far. I don’t even think Phil or Tiger could make a shot like that with that much on the line.

From there, I just felt that if Bill Haas didn’t win, it would be a great injustice, but thankfully, justice was served, and Bill Haas took down one of the biggest titles of his career. He deserves the championship, and Hunter Mahan has every reason to keep his head held high. He played incredibly great golf, and held his demeanor enough to get into a playoff with Haas, and overcame great odds and many unfavorable situations to extend the playoff. Hunter didn’t lose this championship – Bill Haas had to win it. Overall, this was one of the most exciting finishes to a PGA Tour season that I’ve ever seen, and I look forward to what next year will bring.

Protected: My week at the 2011 US Open – part 3

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Wah Wah Wednesdays – Unfollowing people

I recently had to unfollow a couple of people on Twitter because they keep making pointless tweets. The whole point of Twitter, or any social media, is for people to keep track of you, see what you’re thinking or doing, etc., etc. But honestly, two-word tweets that you post every couple of days isn’t just boring, it’s also annoying. When I’m on Twitter, I like to see what people are up to, but if you’re posting something like “i’m dying”, what’s that supposed to tell me? Are you actually dying, did you drink too much, eat too much, or just craving for attention? I’m sure if you were ACTUALLY dying, the message would be a little more heartfelt or panicked than that. And what am I supposed to say to a status that just says “Peanut butter”? I mean, you have 140 characters in a tweet, dammit! The most you could do is add a couple of m’s at the end so that you can convey the message that you’re a peanut butter enthusiast. But don’t just write “peanut butter” and expect people to understand you. Come on.

What is Netflix doing with their company?

If you wanted to watch a movie 15 years ago, you’d either wait for the cassette (or DVD, for the younger generations) to become available in the stores, or you would stop by your local Blockbuster video store, and rent it out from there. Depending on where you lived in proximity to one of their brick-and-mortar stores, this could be either a convenience or laborious. However, as the internet blossomed, and DVDs replaced video cassettes as the main source of motion picture media, the idea of a online video rental delivery service became much more appealing. Netflix single-handedly turned the video rental world upside-down with their business, offering a wide selection of films at reasonable prices, with no penalties for late returns. It was revolutionary for its time, and led to a massive collapse of Blockbuster as a company, who failed to increase their market share by taking advantage of the online medium until it was much too late.

However, Netflix has managed to shoot itself in the foot with all of their recent business decisions. First, the company announced that they would be raising the prices of their monthly fee from $10 to $16, and that the streaming media service would be separated from their DVD delivery service, which will now be repackaged as Qwikster. What’s more is that they have also imposed a download limit on streaming video for some accounts, making it more difficult for customers to watch what they want.

I find it very ironic that the company that’s helped to redefine the video rental industry is slowly becoming the one that’s going to destroy it altogether. For one, this is ultimately bad timing, given that they’re raising prices for their product while we’re going through an economically unstable time. This pressure by Netflix is also coming from Hollywood itself, who is losing money thanks to the advent of illegal online streaming and torrents. But I just don’t see how their recent moves benefit them at all – raising prices on anything that isn’t a necessary evil like food or gasoline will end with customers leaving your product for cheaper alternatives, and I feel that this, if anything, will encourage more of the online community to piracy via the illegal streams and torrents. It might drive more traditional moviegoers to drive to their local store and buy the movie, or visiting a local Redbox. But apart from that, this will not only hurt Netflix as a company (as it already has, since they’re leaking wildly in their stocks since their announcements), but it could even hurt Hollywood as an industry by turning people away from renting, and more towards pirating movies.

Sure, this is a particularly extreme way of looking at things, but I just feel that Netflix’s service is more of a cash cow – either way, if they maintained the product that they had, they would make money, and nobody would turn away. With their changes, they would still be making money, but with a lower customer base, that income might just amount to what it is that they were making before they imposed the changes. Basically, I don’t think their changes would improve their income, and it hurts them because now they’re working with less people and lower stock. They’ve essentially set themselves back a few months or even a year. It doesn’t seem to look promising for Netflix, but I can only see this angle from its face value, and I know there are some aspects that I might be missing. I’d like to see what you guys think about this whole situation – what do you think Netflix could do to regain their customer base? With all of the different features being introduced like 3D movies and Blu-Ray, do you see a justification in the price hike? And will any of this make a long-term difference? Let me hear what you think in the comments below!

What’s a better match: Federer/Djokovic, Federer/Nadal, or Djokovic/Nadal?

If you were to ask me two or three years ago about who I would rather see Roger Federer play in a tennis match at a Grand Slam between Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic, the answer would easily have been Rafa. Federer and Rafa were engaged in a white-hot rivalry, which had produced some of the best major tournament tennis seen in ages, with the masterpiece being their match in 2008 at the Championships at Wimbledon. It was, at that point, the longest final that had ever been played, and even throughout countless rain delays, the intensity between the two players never died down. Roger was the five-time defending Wimbledon champion, and arguably one of the most formidable opponents to meet at the finals in London, and Rafa was the no-nonsense southpaw who has consistently made an embarrassment of Federer on clay, and was looking to win the first non-Parisian Grand Slam of his career. After four hours and 48 minutes, Rafael Nadal finally succeeded in defeating Roger Federer, winning his first Wimbledon, and the two of them making their mark in history.

That match was one of those matches where John McEnroe wouldn’t sit down in the commentators box. It was exciting from beginning to end, almost like great theater, with the rain delays serving as sort of an intermission. Since seeing the replay of that match, I thought that there would never be another singles competitor that could ever make Roger Federer play as well as he did that year.

I, of course, was greatly mistaken.

At that time, Novak Djokovic had just come off his win against Jo-Wilfred Tsonga to win his first Grand Slam, the 2008 Australian Open, which was also where he defeated Roger Federer in the semis in straight sets. He was riding a high, but yet he still wasn’t at the same level as either Roger or Rafa at that point, and was beaten in the second round of that year’s Wimbledon by semifinalist Marat Safin. However, fast forward two years later, and you’ll find the breaking point in Nole’s career. Ever since he led Serbia to winning their first ever Davis Cup, Djokovic has been nothing short of unstoppable going into 2011, and as the track record goes, he has only had two losses in 2011 – once in the semis of the French Open, and the other due to a shoulder injury in an ATP event, which forced him to withdraw. But apart from these two losses, Novak has pretty much dominated every other event he’s entered, which includes three Grand Slam trophies this year, and even carried a winning streak from the beginning of 2011. His extremely solid play against the other players in the top 10 fueled his meteoric rise to the #1 ranking. And recently, his matches against the other two players in the top 3 have been nothing to be excited about – he’s dominated them both, making it less appealing since it almost feels like I know what’s going to happen.

Or do I? All this time, I rooted for Roger to go up against Rafa because I knew that it would be a great match, but that was until I saw the 2011 French Open semifinal between Federer and Djokovic. In that match, I saw something from Roger Federer that I haven’t seen since before he played against Sampras at Wimbledon in 2001. Federer has always been the picture of level-headedness on the courts today, but that day, he threw all of that out the window and became hyper-aggressive. In fact, to be quite honest, he transformed himself into a more contained version of the semi-volcanic, arrogant bastard that he was before the turn of the century. He knew that he had a game that could beat Djokovic, but his problem was that he was being exploited mentally by Novak’s surges of emotion.

Now, everyone that’s into tennis knows that Novak Djokovic is an incredibly arrogant person. When thrown into the top 10, he’s seen as an abrasive person to deal with – the type that will mockingly imitate his competitors and say that he’s the best, but also has the game to back up his claims. When going against him in a match, you can’t just be a good player and keep your composure – you have to take it to him. In recent matches, that’s been the problem with Nadal when he goes against Novak. He’s not very subtle when it comes to his game plan – big topspin forehands to a righty backhand, and amazingly aggressive returns from well beyond the baseline. But Rafa isn’t the type that’s overtly “in your face” apart from the shots he makes. He’s very statuesque when it comes to his mental game, but it doesn’t do anything to Djokovic, who’s somewhat unimpressed by stoicism.

But Roger decided to surprise Novak at the French Open. Roger purposefully played much more aggressive and in-your-face tennis, both technically and mentally. In every one of his movements in that match, he was telling Novak “There’s just no way you’re as good as I am today. You have to beat ME.” He treated him like a child, almost like he was putting him in his place. In fact, Roger played the arrogant card that day better than Novak could ever play it. And Novak was stunned by it. He had always thought his exquisite play and holier-than-thou personality would be able to stifle his competition up until that point. It was a huge disappointment, especially because that match signified the end of a monumental winning streak for that year – one which hadn’t been seen since back in the days of John McEnroe.

In the end, if you had to ask me, I would much rather see Federer play Djokovic, because it’s the only time where he literally becomes a different person in order to play. It’s one of the few times that you get to see Roger’s dark side, which is a polar opposite from the more fluid and composed Roger that’s won 16 Grand Slam tournaments. As much as I would love to say that Federer and Nadal would put up a better match, I feel that Federer and Nadal have too much respect for each other. They’ve learned how to co-exist with one another. There’s really no tension between the two of them, apart from the fact that they both want to win. With Novak, there’s more tension because he’s made himself an a target that’s begging to be hit, and with his game, it’s pretty difficult to hit that target. If you asked a tennis player, they’d probably say they want to win against a Federer or a Nadal, but against Novak, they just want to kick his ass. And so far, only one player this year has actually been able to do it.