UCBC: The 3 Seeds

At last, we get to the “3 Seeds” for our tournament. I guess this can be considered a celebration of the Orlando Magic reaching the NBA Finals, since they were the 3 seed coming from the Eastern Conference! Congrats, Magic!

Anywho, this past weekend was epic, not because anything special happened, but because I am actually that much closer to making my first car purchase! I went car shopping this week, and I’m not gunna lie, it was a bit overwhelming.

And let’s not forget kinda scary. I don’t think many people will put car salesmen and sales managers on the top of their “People I want to have extended conversations with” list. But overall, the experience was good. I made a few rookie mistakes, such as revealing my target payment. I’ll have a do-over soon enough.

It’s something you think about growing up- part of the “American Dream” per se. Buying your own this and that. My first car will be coming up this month!

Therefore, we need to get a move on with this tournament!

Based on my experiences this weekend, some minor changes were made to the brackets. The following 2 cars were 3 seeds, but they were replaced by models I saw over the weekend. So here are the “Honorable Mentions:”

MINI Cooper

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Scion xB 1st Generation

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Both would have been solid competitors, but size issues, and relative appeal pretty much removed them from consideration. Though I will miss the peppiness of the quick mini and the almost endless possibilites of modification to the xB.

And now, the 3 Seeds for the UCBC:

Dodge Magnum R/T (all years)

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Dodge brought back the wagon design a few years ago, and it was an instant hit. Anytime I see one cruising around, I have to stop and look. What is fortunate is that Dodge decided to put Hemi’s in these bad boys.

So of course, I would want that additional V-8 goodness so I don’t get confused with a soccer mom. The R/T comes with a 5.7L engine good enough for 340 ponies. It will do burnouts and smoke up the skies. The SRT is a 6.1L Hemi with a whopping 425 hp. I don’t know if I am man enough to handle this… well, at least not prudent on the pedal.

A sharp design, solid engine, and cargo room make the Magnum a candidate for an early upset.

2005 + Pontiac GTO

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Pontiac’s ressurection of it’s marquee muscle car is so mean, that it even passes along its “I’m a badass” attitude to its passengers- young or old. The GTO namesake is a muscle car legend. But due to the oil crisis of the 70s, this trendy generation of automobiles fizzled out.

The Goat name was bestowed up a quite simple exterior, which is the main argument of its critics. The goods are on the inside.

The 2005 GTO has a 6.0L 400 hp engine. It needs it in order to move that heavy frame. And don’t gotget the interior. Beautifully upholstered leather that matches the color of the car! And the seats are comfy. No need to squeeze in like in the Mustang or Camaro.

Powerful, neat, and a sleeper. It doesn’t look that fast. Exxxxxcellent.

2010 Mazda 3 Hatchback

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The Mazda 3 Hatchback was had a successful run in the US for the past 5 or so years. I was close to purchasing one last year when they offered a ridculous price of 9000 for a new one. Too bad I still had to finish school.

The 2010 edition is a redesign. Many auto critics online were worried about this, noting that it would be hard to improve upon the design of the first generation HB. Despite the controversial “smiling” grill on the front, the newest version is poised to be a success, despite a slumping economy.

The taillights now wrap around, reminiscent of some Lexus designs. Overall it has a nice, muscular look. Dual exhaust with chrome tipped mufflers are also “hot” as the salesman put it.

2008-9 Honda Accord Coupe

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If there is any Japanese word that Americans are familiar with, it is Honda. I’ve heard rumors that it is the Japanese word for reliability, but I’m pretty sure these are false. 😉

Enter: a sleek design, great gas mileage, and a car that maintains its value. The Honda Accord coupe, while not luxurious, brings a beautiful, affordable vehicle to the table. As with all older Honda’s, the mods are endless. But the new look does attempt to shed its “rice-burner” reputation with refined curves and cuts.

With some tint, rims, and intake, you could have a 200 hp object of envy

So there you have it. The 3’s are ready. We’ll meet their counterparts, the 2’s, in the near future!

smallheap.jpg image by jmooser

The End of Civilization

My mom had this video mailed to her by one of her coworkers, and as usual, she forwards all of that lovely chain mail to me. Luckily, this time it was a hilarious clip. I have never seen this before! The face at the end is priceless. I guess this is appropriate today, since California upheld the ban on same sex marriage.

Enjoy!

smallheap.jpg image by jmooser

UCBC: The 4 Seeds

Here’s the long awaited first post of the UCBC- the quest to determine the best car for me! 16 cars will vie to be number 1 in the tournament, and most importantly: Number 1 in my heart.

We start with the “4 Seeds,” who are heavy underdogs. And to be honest, most of them were added to the master list just so we could have 16 cars… Though upon their addition, I have developed a soft spot for them. They are, all 4, solid cars… but they more than likely wont make the cut.

The Good? They are probably goin to be family favorites, and as I said, they are traditionally solid cars. The Bad? Well… they’ll be matched up against the “1 Seeds.”

Let’s meet them.

2006+ Volkswagen Passat

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VW engineers hit the drawing boards and labs for the virtual over hauling of the VW design for the 2006 fiscal year. The current Passat, Jetta, and Rabbit were all born from these engineering refinements.

The Passat is big and spacious. While it’s European heritage likely translates into higher maintenance and fuel costs, it is tough to beat the new look. What’s funny is that past designs of the respective vehicles were actually viewed similarly. While the old Passat was a little bit smaller, it had a unique look.

Style, safety, and name all make it a worth competitor!

2007+ Nissan Altima

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I think the link at the bottom of the picture explains it all. Nevertheless, Nissan’s Altima continues to be an extremely dependable car. Its recent redesign and the introduction of a coupe only strengthens this “family” car’s position. The availible 3.5 L engine does try to add a little bit of oomph. The coupe, which isn’t pictured, looks incredibly sharp.

Safe, slick, and fuel efficient are the keys for Altima’s success in the tournament.

2005+ Chrysler 300

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Chrysler’s redesign of the 300 was an instant hit. The design beckons comparisons to Bentleys and Rolls Royces, and is perhaps one of the most consumer customizable cars ever produced. So basically, your 300 is as nice as you make it to be. Another plus is available engines. It can come with a HEMI. Yes, the most famous of engines. The high end 300, the SRT-8, comes with a 6.1 L engine and 425 HP. Brutal. Both on the racetrack and gas station.

2008+ Mitsubishi Lancer

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The newest edition of the Mitsubishi Lancer look MEAN. Again, mods are key for this car. While its not my favorite of the batch, could its sharkish looks be enough to sway me?

So there you have it, the “4 Seeds” have been announced. “3 Seeds” tomorrow? We shall see.

smallheap.jpg image by jmooser

‘Mobile Madness: The Ultimate Car Buying Championship

Today, I am up for a likely raise. After proving my ability for 6 months (a long 6 months at that) I will be reviewed today! So, in much deserved (and delayed) jubilation of graduating a year ago as well as being successful in my line of work, I have been thinking about getting a new car!

But now, which car should I get? There are countless used car dealerships in my area. How will I able to decide what suits me, especially since I will hopefully be able to afford a nice used car.

The solution? The creation of a “reality blog.”

Survivor. The Biggest Loser. The newly created X’s and O’s. There are a plethora of reality TV shows which pit contestant against contestant, often in grueling competiotion, to ultimately find the champion. So why not do this for my own car buying quest?

Later this week I will be starting a new segment. The Ultimate Car Buying Championship (UCBC) is an exclusive The Heap tournament of 16 car finalists. There will be four 1,2,3 and 4 seeds. 1s will match up against 4s in the first round, and 2s against 3s. For each match up, there will be a comprehensive review, research, comparion of stats, and a media portion- pics and youtube videos. And of course, I will get to use WordPress’ POLL feature! YOU willI’ll see if I can come up with some sort of rubric later, but it will be along those lines.

 

I’ll be announcing the seeds throughout the week with the tentative first match up this weekend!

smallheap.jpg image by jmooser

Thank You!

I just wanted to thank all of my family and friends for the kindest of birthday wishes! It was a great day for your Heapmaster, as I celebrated the day at work with a nice cake from my coworkers!

Thanks for all the wonderful gifts! (Which include:)

Ed Hardy Sandals, a PERFECTLY picked out Hurley shirt, a great travel pouch for toiletries (specifically for when I go to TX 😀 ), khaki shorts, a Powerball ticket, scratchoffs (which I failed at miserably), a new Rays shirt, another awesome graphic T, money, and of course, lovely cards.

Thank you all for thinking of me, whether it was by phone, text, or Facebook!

 

A Fellow Reflection

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Oh the Grotto… I can’t believe it’s been a year since I said my final goodbye at the candlelight ceremony.

In light of the events occurring on campus, fellow Dillonite Dan Tostado has written about tonight’s ceremony and how Fr. Jenkins was received by a majority of the student body.

And our hearts forever…
There’s a buzz in my room. This is true. Everyday, I hear through my closed window, the buzz of a plane flying overhead. This plane is flying low, and toting a huge banner of a graphic image of an aborted baby. I am aware, perhaps hyperactively, of the amount of social divide that this decision has been to invite Obama to speak at Notre Dame.

A re-cap for all those unaware (those who know can skip this paragraph.) On campus, there’s been the biggest amount of protesting and counter-protesting, discerning the subject of whether President Obama can or should come to speak at the ND commencement ceremony. On the corner of Notre Dame Ave, there’s the sign-holders protesting to the cars. There’s hundreds of passionate letters written to the ND newspaper. There’s alumni who denounce the school and have severed ties with Notre Dame because of this. There’s a crazy pro-life protester named Randall Terry who puts on a bloody Obama mask and chases children, who has given us such quotes as “This place will be a circus” and “Hate is good”. There’s been pressure on our University President, Father John Jenkins, to step down for inviting Obama to speak.

So, as I sang for the Senior week last visit to the Grotto, I got to see the reaction of the senior class towards our University President Jenkins. Every year the senior class gets to award some important figure with the “Fellows Award”, and this year they awarded it to Father Jenkins. When he got up to speak to the class, they applauded. The class of 2009 applauded Father Jenkins for a solid 60 seconds. That was one of the most significant things I’ve witnessed on campus. Here, crammed in the Basilica, are all the holy-rollers who attend Mass and are most likely to be anti-Jenkins and anti-Obama. Yet, they validate Jenkins in such a deeply meaningful way.

This night, though I am not a senior, was so powerful to witness. I can see why people love Notre Dame, why they bend over backwards as alumni to stick up for and support Notre Dame. Notre Dame is truly something greater than just a top 20 university, or any old Catholic university. What I saw tonight was integrity of the senior class to support both their Presidents, in a chaotic time of recession, unnecessary panic that gripped ND when (now) two students contracted swine flu, in a new era that ushers in a bright young President who happens to be black. The world is on fire right now, and the ND class of 2009 chose to stand up for what they believe.

The night ended in the grotto, with what’s probably become my favorite song, the Notre Dame alma mater.

And our hearts forever
Love thee Notre Dame

So now we know how the graduating seniors feel at least. Thanks for writing a wonderful reflection. And congrats and good luck this weekend!
smallheap.jpg image by jmooser

A Letter From Fr. Jenkins

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Here is a copy of the letter that Father Jenkins, president of Notre Dame, sent out to the Graduating Class of 2009 addressing the “controversial” invitation to Obama as Commencement speaker and the bestowing of an honorary degree.

May 11, 2009

 Dear Members of the Notre Dame Graduating Class of 2009:

 
This Sunday, as you receive your degrees at Commencement, your joy – and that of your families – will be shared by the faculty, staff, and administration of the University. We have had the privilege of laboring with each of you to inquire and discover, to teach and to learn, and we will send you off with affectionate and fond hopes for the future.
For those of you who are undergraduates, I feel a special kinship. You arrived in your dorm rooms as I arrived in the President’s Office. You have learned much; I may have learned more. I am grateful for the opportunity I had to learn with you, come to know you, and to serve you during our time together at Notre Dame.

 
During your years here we have endeavored to train you in the various disciplines and urged you to ask the larger questions – discussing not only the technical and practical but also the ethical and spiritual dimensions of pressing issues. I have been proud of you as you’ve grappled with intellectual, political, and spiritual questions. But I have never been more proud than I have been watching the way you’ve conducted yourselves over the past several weeks.

 
The decision to invite President Obama to Notre Dame to receive an honorary degree and deliver the Commencement address has triggered debate. In many cases, the debate has grown heated, even between people who agree completely on Church teaching regarding the sanctity of human life, who agree completely that we should work for change – and differ only on how we should work for change.

 
Yet, there has been an extra dimension to your debate. You have discussed this issue with each other while being observed, interviewed, and evaluated by people who are interested in this story. You engaged each other with passion, intelligence and respect. And I saw no sign that your differences led to division. You inspire me. We need the wider society to be more like you; it is good that we are sending you into that world on Sunday.

 
I am saddened that many friends of Notre Dame have suggested that our invitation to President Obama indicates ambiguity in our position on matters of Catholic teaching. The University and I are unequivocally committed to the sanctity of human life and to its protection from conception to natural death.

 
Notre Dame has a long custom of conferring honorary degrees on the President of the United States. It has never been a political statement or an endorsement of policy. It is the University’s expression of respect for the leader of the nation and the Office of the President. In the Catholic tradition, our first allegiance is to God in Christ, yet we are called to respect, participate in, and contribute to the wider society. As St. Peter wrote (I Pt. 2:17), we should honor the leader who upholds the secular order.
At the same time, and born of the same duty, a Catholic university has a special obligation not just to honor the leader but to engage the culture. Carrying out this role of the Catholic university has never been easy or without controversy. When I was an undergraduate at Notre Dame, Fr. Hesburgh spoke of the Catholic university as being both a lighthouse and a crossroads. As a lighthouse, we strive to stand apart and be different, illuminating issues with the moral and spiritual wisdom of the Catholic tradition. Yet, we must also be a crossroads through which pass people of many different perspectives, backgrounds, faiths, and cultures. At this crossroads, we must be a place where people of good will are received with charity, are able to speak, be heard, and engage in responsible and reasoned dialogue.

 
The President’s visit to Notre Dame can help lead to broader engagement on issues of importance to the country and of deep significance to Catholics. Ultimately, I hope that the conversations and the good will that come from this day will contribute to closer relations between Catholics and public officials who make decisions on matters of human life and human dignity.

 
There is much to admire and celebrate in the life and work of President Obama. His views and policies on immigration, expanding health care, alleviating poverty, and building peace through diplomacy have a deep resonance with Catholic social teaching. As the first African-American holder of this office, he has accelerated our country’s progress in overcoming the painful legacy of slavery and segregation. He is a remarkable figure in American history, and I look forward to welcoming him to Notre Dame.
As President Obama is our principal speaker, there will no doubt be much attention on your Commencement. Remember, though, that this day is your day. My fervent prayer is that May 17 will be a joyous day for you and your family. You are the ones we celebrate and applaud. Congratulations, and may God bless you.
In Notre Dame,

Rev. John I. Jenkins, C.S.C.
President

Couldn’t have been stated any better. Well done. The letter appeals to the true meaning of our namesake, Catholic as “universal.”

I’m not going to get into any political/moral shenanigans here right now. I’m much too heavy for a soap box anyways. However, The Heap’s position is that regardless of political, religious or moral affiliation, it is an honor to have The President of the United States as speaker. As many media sources have already pointed out, there have been many past speakers that have not had beliefs 100% in line with those of the Catholic Church. Controversy is not new to Notre Dame Commencement. And perhaps the degree of protest and dismay isn’t either. I have a good feeling that media coverage has probably made this a bigger deal than it really is.

I know abortion is a big deal. I know the artificial development of human cells is an issue. It would be insensitive and even reckless to passively address the issue. But the topic is for another time and another place.

The time and place of May 17th  on the greatest of all campuses in the land will provide a national stage for accomplishment. THAT is what should be at the forefront. But I guess it is appropriate that demonstrations will be occuring. The real world is at hand. This is what has been handed to us. While I don’t agree with some of the extreme opinions that will probably be voiced, I would also be glad to see that we can live in a country where an opinion can be had, so long as it doesn’t violate personal space and regulations.

I recently read that 50 or so students are planning on boycotting the ceremony by instead having a prayer service. More power to you.

On the other hand, you bet I would be at Commencement after working my tail off for 4 years, and paying enough to by a house for my education, no matter who the speaker was. It’s a moment I worked for- for myself but most importantly, for my parents.

My advice to all in attendence is to listen. Perhaps you don’t agree with President Obama on ANYTHING. You might think his policies are only going to further debilitate our country. You may not like his manner, or uncanny humor, but his call to our generation for change is clear. What he has accomplished, as a devoted family man, and an outspoken social advocate for the improvement of quality of life alone is worth lauding.

I can only hope that he can top the address to Arizona State last night, because that was spectacular. Even if the speech echoes of the same themes, the message will be just as powerful, and perhaps even more meaningful to a university which has historically changed the world.

Just Listen.

smallheap.jpg image by jmooser