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SpongeBob Ballard 

Welcome, undersea friend

TUES 11/18

Is there any adventure left in the world? Do the crags and crannies of Earth hold any mysteries beyond the opening date of the next Starbucks? Have the secrets of our planet been surveyed, excavated, Web-cammed and GPSed into ho-hum banality? At 7:30 p.m. in the Morris Center on the campus of Southern Illinois University Edwardsville (I-270 at Rte. 157), you can ask Dr. Robert Ballard what he thinks. The seven seas are Ballard's domain, and his 100-plus underwater expeditions have uncovered the Titanic, the Bismarck and Jack Kennedy's PT 109, among other hidden treasures. He's discovered new aquatic species, such as the nightmarish giant red tube worm that clusters around geothermal vents on the ocean floor. He mapped parts of one of the world's largest mountain ranges, a 40,000-mile underwater belt that runs continuously around the globe. He's also rummaged through the sodden debris of the Andrea Doria and the Lusitania, all driven by his self-described "childish desire to poke around." Jacques Cousteau is gone and Indiana Jones never was, but Robert Ballard walks among us -- until his next trip to the briny deep, anyway. Admission is $9 for the public ($4.50 for students). To order tickets or to find out more, call 618-650-5555. -- Jason Toon

The Terror of Triceps Town
And the bench of oppression

How do you take the measure of a man? Does beating Sylvester Stallone in arm-wrestling make you a man? How 'bout taking steroids and clouting 73 home runs in a season?

For a certain breed of manly man, it's the bench press that provides a quantitative measure of testosterone, arm strength and the likelihood that Maria Shriver will marry you.

The men with the most 3-D veins in town will be pumping iron at the Workout for the Cure bench-press competition at 5:30 p.m. Friday, November 14, at She's the One Fitness Spa for Women (727 Olive Street, 314-241-3488, $25). Let's not forget the ladies built like the American Gladiator gals -- the women have their own contest on Thursday, November 13, to benefit the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation. -- Byron Kerman

Charity Kills
An endless volley for Make-A-Wish

FRI 11/14

Set, block, dig, dink and spike till you collapse at the Tenth Annual 24-Hour Volleyball Marathon at Canaan Baptist Church (5409 Baumgartner Road in South County). The first serve is at 6:30 p.m. Friday, and the fun doesn't let up until the same time Saturday. Proceeds go to sponsor one child's special request through the Make-A-Wish Foundation and to buy Christmas presents for kids at the Missouri Baptist Children's Home, so stretch those hamstrings, dust off the kneepads and get on the court. The metro area is teeming with amateur volleyball leagues, and the church welcomes teams of all shapes and sizes to compete in the marathon. What's it like to play volleyball at 3 a.m.? Some folks are about to find out. (Teams are asked to donate $10 per player, per hour; call 314-487-1730, ext. 33, or e-mail to find out more.) -- Jason Toon

Pick Your Battles

Tired of getting static in the "What if Rommel had taken a left turn at Alexandria?" chat room? Prove them all wrong at the Big Muddy Historical Gaming Alliance Convention, where (mostly) men with figurines, dice and dozens of different tabletop war games compete (10 a.m.-5 p.m. Friday-Sunday, November 14-16, $5-$10, 314-544-5714, Never fight a land war in Asia? We'll see about that. -- Andrew Schubert

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