Thursday, December 30, 2004



Was reading blogs at my brother's house in Denham Springs, LA, using Lisa's laptop and a mini-mouse-- instead of her headband laser beam mouse. Bruce and Lisa have WiFi, which allows one to wander from kitchen to living room to bedroom, dropping in on various conversations and various activities going on throughout the house. WiFi is really the only way to go.

Alice(Bacchini) in Texas directed me to Seraphic Secret, which is written by Robert Averich, with contributory comments from his wife, Karen. Robert and Karen lost their beautiful college age son to a long term disease. I was touched by their story, their courage, their love for their family, their tenderness, their wisdom, and their ongoing grief. Reading Seraphic Secret, I was overcome by grief. I felt a tangible, physical urge to flee their blog, but remained riveted through a decent bit of their archives. God bless them.

Alice made a comment which stuck with me:
"...grieving, which may be tabboo but is actually part of life, all round the year."


Travelling to Texas, we jumped off HWY 190 and onto Interstate 49, which is a pine tree lined straight shot across the upper of Louisiana's boot, angling from southeast to northwest. Beside me in the front seat, Jake assumed the "teenager position", which is slumped down with earphones on and eyes closed, only stirring every 40 minutes to change the CD. Nancy and Vachel assumed the "AARP position", which is eyes closed and asleep in the back of the Yukon. I had lots of miles to drive quietly, and lots of time to let my mind drift. I thought of Alice Bacchini.

Alice will soon load her ark with children and move back to Britain. She will no longer be "Alice in Texas"(in Austin). She will end that blog, and return to blogging at some unspecified time, in some unspecified form. I will miss her. Alice has had lots of wise and interesting and fun things to say. I've enjoyed reading her British girl's perspective on things American.

So, I think about Alice as I drive, and I know what's likely to happen: Alice will get caught up in a whirlwind of packing and moving and trans-Atlantic arking, and there will be nothing on her blog for a long time, and then there will be a note that she's in Britain, goodbye, and she'll be back someday-- who knows when, in a different blog format. And I start to feel sad. And I start to pre-grieve over the demise of Alice in Texas as I drive through Alexandria, Louisiana. My grief is a thimble-full compared to the ocean of grief at Seraphic Secret. My grief is a pinprick compared to that. But it exists. Grief is grief. A pinprick hurts. I think I should not ignore and push away my grief and pain any longer, as I have for the first four decades of my life.

I hatch a plan: I'm going to do that dating/relationship thing, where you avoid pain and grief by breaking up with the other person at the first sign of trouble, before they have a chance to break up with you. I'm going to not look at the Alice in Texas blog until the summer, after I can be confident the blog has ended. Then I'll go back and see what I missed, and I'll minimize my own pain and grieving in that fashion. This comforts me for some miles.

But, wait, a disturbing thought: This is no way to live one's life-- by avoiding fully living in the present, so as to avoid some pain occurring in the future. My parents are both asleep in the seats behind me. They will likely die before I do. Would I avoid being with them because I know I shall grieve at their deaths on some future day? Will I avoid feeling maximum love for Jake because he might die in an auto accident and break my heart, ala Seraphic Secret? A creeping and terrible realization begins to emerge: How much of life have I missed while I hid from some future grief which might or might not occur?

I'm writing bits of a book about coaching youth sports. Youth sport should be an end in itself, insofar as playing and competing and being excellent at sport is fun; and it should be a means to an end, insofar as sport builds character. One thing I discovered, which I had not quite fully understood before-- and, I'm sorry-- I cannot remember who wrote this:
Losing creates grief-- even in sport.
It may be a pinprick of grief, like my grief over Alice leaving her blog, but it is grief nonetheless. Even a miniature happening inside a larger sports game is an opportunity to feel grief: if you kick a ball and miss the goal; if your opponent defeats you in an individual matchup; if you let your teammates down in some way; or feel embarrassed before the crowd of onlookers. All of these are opportunities to feel pain and to grieve. The pain and grief may be tiny, but it will still hurt. How many children refuse to play games because of the pain and grief which may result? In my own life, have I refused to play in some areas, in a misguided attempt to avoid pain and grief? I have. Dammit.
I know this next happened in the spring before I turned either five or six, because I remember the weather, and I remember we lived in Waco:
It was a bright and sunshiny spring day. I was playing in the back yard, and came running through the sliding patio door and into the kitchen. I slowed to listen to my parents, who were off to my left, sitting at the kitchen table. They were sad and concerned. They were discussing a relative who had died. I stood in the middle of the kitchen and stared at them as I listened.
"Why did he die?" I asked.
"He was old. Everyone dies, eventually."
"They just do."
"Why do they have to die!? Everyone doesn't have to die!"
"Yes. Everyone dies. Run along. Go back out in the yard."
My parents were sad and distracted.
I went back to the yard, and I was overcome with grief and sadness. I had thought people died only by accident. If no accident happened, I assumed people could live forever. This was a terrible twist. I began to cry, and my crying intensified to sobs. I went back in the kitchen and spoke to my parents in sobbing, crying gasps:
"Not everybody dies! You don't have to die, and Daddy doesn't have to die, and Bruce, and Bradley, and me! We don't have to die!"
"Yes, everybody dies. That's the way life works. Now, straighten yourself up. Get back outside until you can stop crying."
I've never gotten over it.
I realized, as I drove towards Natchitoches, Louisiana, that what I felt in the back yard in Waco was grief. It was grief over the fact that people I loved would die, and this life on Earth that I loved would end.
And I still feel that grief, to this very day. It kills me that my son will one day die. It kills me that my beloved brothers will one day die. It kills me that my own life will one day end. I love so many things in this life. I love to read, and to watch movies, and to play many sports like football and basketball and softball and golf, and to play many games like chess and dominoes and cards and Yahtzee and Stratego and Risk, and I love good conversation, and food and drink, and the beach, and the Rocky Mountains in summer, and the Rocky Mountains in winter. I love rainy days and sweaty days, and I love to drive long distances, and I love to fly to new places, and I love sunsets and sunrises, and I love the feeling of a fish on the end of my line, and I used to hunt dove and quail-- and I loved watching the hunting dogs work! And I loved killing and eating those birds! I love many things, much.
And I'm mad at God! I'm mad at any God who would take those things away from me, and would take those things away from those I love. I am MAD MAD MAD. It is completely unfair, and I am enraged at a God who would toy with my feelings this way, and with the feelings of those I love. Dang you God! Dang you! Dang you! Dang you!
I feel sadness and grief that everyone and everything I love has to die. I feel about as much sadness and grief as I could feel-- and I've felt it for nearly 40 years! DANG YOU GOD! DANG YOU for making me feel this way!
...Ok. I took a deep breath and a little break. I'm not willing to stop blaming God-- YOU HEAR ME GOD!? I'M ANGRY WITH YOU! However, I am willing to notice that my thinking is a little skewed, and I'm a little unwilling to embrace reality(40 years worth of unwilling), and I'm playing the victim very nicely. And I'm willing to notice there's a great opportunity for me to have a breakthrough moment IF I'm willing to stop blaming God(forget that), and to get in touch with what is actually true, versus what I've been carrying around with me for almost 40 years. Its a big opportunity. I appreciate that, and I'm getting a little excited about the opportunity of it all, though I'm still plenty pissed at YOU KNOW WHO.

Christmas Vacation Travelogue

Monday morning, me, my son, and my niece dropped my nephew off at the New Orleans Airport, from whence my nephew traveled to Houston, and then to farmland south of San Antonio. All three kids are high school aged. On Tuesday, Baron shot a deer on Lisa's father's farm. Baron then had to wait most of the day to announce his kill to his grandfather, who was hunting on another part of the farm. Apparently, the waiting was the toughest part for Baron. He was alone, and he wanted someone with whom he could share the story and celebrate.

While still in New Orleans on Monday morning, Jake and Courtney and I strolled through the French Quarter. The French Quarter would be a nice place for a quick romantic getaway, IF you could find a time to go when things were relatively deserted and quieted down. On Monday, Dec. 27, the place was jammed with tourists freshly escaped from their local K-Marts, and with hustlers looking to deprive saps of their hard-earned dollars. Maybe I was in a fluky bad mood, but I was not charmed. The busking musicians would've been cut from Jake's High School Jazz Band, the artists hawking paintings were similarly untalented, the crafts belonged in a strip mall Dollar Store, and I doubt that the campy and voodooish fortune tellers could spin tales as well as your average six year old who has broken a window. There wasn't a hustler in Jackson Square who could've held onto a job at the Waxahachie Scarborough Faire. Bah. Humbug.

We made a return trip to the National D-Day Museum, at 945 Magazine St. in New Orleans. This is an excellent museum, well worth the somewhat steep entry fee, which is, I think, $15 for adults, $8 for students, Free for military in uniform. God bless those Allied soldiers who gave their lives and their healthy bodies.

On Monday night, Courtney had Jake meet some of her friends, and they went to see Ocean's Twelve, which they reported was good, though I have my doubts. On Tuesday, Courtney ferried Jake around to shopping malls until he tired of that. He spent the evening playing Madden 2004 with me; and dominoes and Moon with me and Lisa. Nancy and Bruce and Courtney went on a massive Wal-Mart run.

Wednesday, we hit the road for Texas, making a random gas stop on Hwy 190 after Baton Rouge, and before the Atchafalaya River Basin, Point Barre, and Opelousas. Before I had time to ruminate about the two Arab brothers running a gas station in the middle of Cajun country, I noticed a couple of nicely rounded, conscientious ladies running a tiny lunch buffet in the back of the store. It was obvious their food was good. They had worked up a light sweat laboring over the pots, and the Cajun-looking lady had some strands of long jet-black hair that had escaped their clip, and had damply plastered themselves down the side of her face. I bought some fried chicken, jambalaya, mustard greens, and fried chicken livers. While she filled my order, the Cajun lady told me of a friend who went to Texas and ate in a restaurant: "The food was good-- for Texas." We feasted as we drove the next 30 miles.

Wednesday, November 10, 2004

Madison to Ft. Worth; Recap of Big Ballgame

Madison to Ft. Worth was not as much fun. Hung around to see my niece and nephew off on their days, and still hadn't showered, and didn't get off until almost 9:00. Decided to drive through southwestern Wisconsin and eastern Iowa on 151, which is a trip I normally love. Within a mile of my brother's house, I took a wrong turn and got lost. Bad omen.

The trip included a 50 mile detour around construction and through several 25 mph towns; three long slow drives through construction; and an extended 5 mph creep for a traffic accident. I had pinched a muscle under my right shoulder blade, and could not get it comfortable. It hurt more and more as the day went on. By the end, the pain was killing me, yet I was still getting drowsy. I was singing, chewing gum, and sucking mints to stay awake, and finally got home at 3:00 AM. Thank God it ended. Ann Althouse, if you're reading this, forget the Corvette and buy a Lear Jet.

Did enjoy listening to Wisconsin Public Radio. The hosts and the callers were in a lot of post-election pain, and I don't blame them. If Bush had lost, I would be devastated and distraught. That said, both the hosts and the callers were, ummm... Uninformed? Out of touch with reality? Its hard to find the right description. There's what is, and there's the claptrap they were saying on the radio. The two are mutually exclusive.

Heard a spunky PBS radio babe reporting, I suspect, from a Baghdad hotel:

American forces will be conducting night operations in Fallujah, using night-vision goggles, which most of them have.

THEY'VE ALL GOT NIGHT VISION GOGGLES, YOU AIR-HEAD! And a bunch of heat imaging equipment the enemy can only dream of.

"Cuba City, Wisconsin. Home of Presidents."
25 MPHering through Cuba City, I spot a teacher leading a line of students. I pull over and jump out, keeping the car between me and her, so she won't be scared by the crazy man:

Me: Why is this the Home of Presidents?
She: That's just our theme.
Me: Have any Presidents ever lived here?
She: Well, President Bush came through last week!

Cuba City has red, white, and blue shields lining their main street, each listing the name and term of a President. In a choice between this actionable theme, and some forgettable theme, like: "Friendship, Service, Community," I'd choose "Home of Presidents." I'm down with Cuba City.

Welcome to Hazel Green, Wisconsin.

Iowa: Fields of Opportunity. Welcome! From the People of Iowa!
Warms the heart.

Tourist break: National Motorcycle Museum in Anamosa, Iowa. Worth $5 and a 45 minute diversion.

Kansas City has Riverboat Gambling! Wish it wasn't so late in the day. Downtown Kansas City is BIG! Didn't realize it was this big.

Emporia, Kansas has a National Teacher's Hall of Fame. Perfect. I've spent time in Emporia. They are proud to be an oasis of literacy surrounded by miles and miles of corn.

If you're me, driving through Oklahoma in the dark of night, you'll get all choked up over this song: "Have You Forgotten," by Darryl Worley. Sample lyrics:

Have you forgotten how it felt that day?
Too see your homeland under fire and her people blown away
Have you forgotten when those towers fell?
We had neighbors still inside going through a living hell
Have you forgotten all the people killed?
Yeah some went down like heroes in that Pennsylvania field
Have you forgotten about our Pentagon?
Yeah all those loved ones that we lost
And those left to carry on
Don't you tell me not to worry about Bin Laden
Have you forgotten?

The Southpark hipsters made fun of Darryl Worley for pandering with this song. I heard Darryl Worley interviewed just before I heard his song. I think he's a sincere guy, trying to inject a dose of emotion into a national conversation in which one side is desperately trying to tamp down all emotion. I don't think he is pandering. My neighbors were vaporized on 9/11, and its a valuable thing for us to look that reality in the face.

You want pandering? I submit Lee Greenwood's "I'm Proud to Be An American."

As promised:

Big Ballgame at Camp Randall!

The Wisconsin Badgers kicked butt: 38-14! Wiconsin is strong, and fundamentally solid. I would not want to play them.

This was a game for men. Everyone on the field was big, strong, and perfectly willing to sock you in the mouth. The Big 12 and SEC have more skinny speed guys. There were no skinny speed guys on the field for this game. Real men only.

We watched the end of the second quarter from the field level walkway behind the Minnesota bench. The noise! The noise! Its louder and more jarring at field level. Its the Roman Coliseum, the crowd wants blood, and these young men are giving it. Bruising, adrenaline, pain, glory-- see it all from behind the Minnesota bench!

The Wisconsin Band has a signature bow-legged knee-raising jump-step. They do a different routine every week. The crowd adores them.

The stands at Camp Randall angle sharply upward-- the way all stadium stands ought to. The crowd is well-focused and well-attuned to the unfolding game. They create walls of noise. Its a big home team advantage. The suites atop the East stands help to entrap and enhance the noise.

The East stands have wonderful quirky stairs and walkways and tunnels, and cramped ancient bathrooms. They have doors(!) swung open between the stands and the tunnels. The West stands' architecture is more generic. The West stands honor Wisconsin's Heisman Trophy winners: Ameche #35; Dayne #33.

Wisconsin does two things every school in America ought to do:

1) On three consecutive breaks near the beginning of the fourth quarter, they play three energetic favorites of the student section. Eight thousand students leap to their feet and begin waving their arms in the air, singing, and jumping up and down energetically.

When the students first leapt into action, I was standing near the student section at field level, and I involuntarily exclaimed "Oh my God!" Eight to ten thousand dancing, arm-waving students is an awesome sight. The students love it, the crowd loves to watch the student section dance, and it gets everybody fired up for the fourth quarter.

The first song is "Shout,"(lyrics below) by Otis Day and The Knights, made famous in the movie "Animal House." The second song was a rap type of song called "Jump and Shout." The students especially loved this song. Ann Althouse blogs that the third song was "Twist and Shout," which was once recorded by the Beatles, and was lip-synched by Ferris Bueller in the St. Patrick's Day parade.

2) The Fifth Quarter: Put 15 minutes on the clock. Bring the band onto the field to sing and dance. Bring cheerleaders and pom pom girls out to dance with the band. Bring some football players out of the locker room to dance with the band and the cheerleaders. Allow the band to play and dance with increasing independence and individualism as the Fifth Quarter goes on. By the end, let the field be like a big Mardi Gras.

The Fifth Quarter was completely charming and fun. Every school should do this. The band gets some glory. Everybody gets to celebrate and party. Thirty or Forty thousand fans(or more) stayed to watch this.

No Wisconsin game could've been more perfect: score, weather, fan happiness, everything. It was wonderful.


Written by The Isley Brothers
Made famous with version by Otis Day & The Knights in the movie "Animal House" from 1978

Weeellllllllll,You know you make me wanna shout
Kick my heels up & shout
Throw my hands up & shout
Throw my hands back & shout
Come on now, shout
Don't forget to say you will
Don't forget to say yeah yeah yeah yeah yeah
Say you will

Say it right now, baby (say you will)
Come on, come on (say you will)
Say it, eeeee (say you will)
Come on now (say)
Say that you love me (say)
Say that you need me (say)
Say that you want me (say)
You wanna please me (say)
Come on now (say)
Come on now (say)
Come on now (say)
I still remember

When you used to be 9 years old
Yeah yeah I was in love with you
From the bottom of my soul
Yeah now that you've grown up
& old enough to know yeah yaeeah
You wanna leave me
You wanna let me go
I want you to know

I said I want you to know right now
You've been good to me, baby
Better than I've been to myself
Hey hey,
& if you ever leave me
I don't want nobody else
Hey hey, I said I want you to know
Yeah, I said I want you to know right now
You know you make me wanna shout

Yeah yeah (shout), yeah yeah yeah (shout)
All right (shout), all right (shout)
Come on now (shout), come on now (shout)
A little bit softer now

A little bit softer now
A little bit softer now
A little bit softer now
A little bit louder now

A little bit louder now
A little bit louder now
A little bit louder now
Heeeeyyyyy (Heeeeyyyyy)

Heeeeyyyyy (Heeeeyyyyy)
Heeeeyyyyy (Heeeeyyyyy)
Heeeeyyyyy (Heeeeyyyyy)
I'm gonna shout, now

I'm gonna shout, now
I'm gonna shout, now
I'm gonna shout shout shout
I'm gonna shout shout shout
I'm gonna shout shout shout
You know I love

Sunday, November 07, 2004

Wisconsin vs. Minnesota: Pregame

First-- the big game in the front yard:

Most boys don't become competitive until age 10 or so. My 6 year old nephew is competitive now. He kept a close tab on the score of the game. Luckily, his team won. Less chance of tears that way. I am tired and grass-stained. Perfect. Wouldn’t have it any other way.

Off to the big game at Camp Randall Stadium:

Me and my brother and sister-in-law parked near a bike trail, and walked in for about a mile. We emerged near the corner of Regent and Breese, to a sensory overload of red clad fans, the smell of grilled brats and beer, plus that Autumn sunshiny smell, and the sight of Camp Randall off to our left, silhouetted against a clear blue sky. Also perfect. All of it.

To my knowledge, there's barely any parking close to Camp Randall. The stadium is bordered on the south by a classic gymnasium, now used by Wisconsin Wrestling and Volleyball. Soon beyond the gym is a few restaurants, and then residential housing. Across the street to the west is residential housing. To the north is a football practice field, with the UW campus spreading out just beyond. To the east is a bit of campus, and a neighborhood of restaurants and bars and shops, et al. The stadium is wedged into the middle of it all. On game day, the area all around the stadium is a sort of giant neighborhood/street party.

A bar is blasting music into the street: Head East, "Never Been Any Reason", circa 1978. I flashback to my freshman year at Baylor. Was in Austin at a campus party the night before the Texas-Baylor game. Was some beers into the night, away from home for the first time(for all of about 6 weeks), and was surrounded by women that-- Jesus Christ and Oh My God—they could not have been any more beautiful. They were dropped down from Heaven as God’s personal gift to man. And this great song with these driving lyrics was playing really loud. I was so happy to be away from home and at that party with that music and those girls-- I could’ve cried out in joy and gratitude.

Back to the sunshiny day. We moseyed up Breese and past the stadium, passing house parties filled with people-- except for one house party with poor turnout. We felt sorry for those guys.

Badger fans are unapologetically proud of their team and excited to root for them. I'm wearing red. I'm proud of the Badger team. I'm excited to be here. Yea! I've got about 80,000 new best friends.

We circle the north end of Camp Randall, and my mechanical-engineer sister-in-law begins describing a professional tour she took of the stadium with an engineering group:

She: Camp Randall has Field Turf, and the manufacturers had a dickens of a time matching the correct color red in the endzones. They applied various shades of red to the Field Turf, but it would not come out the correct Wisconsin color. The end zone red is still just a smidgen too dark.

The visiting locker room is very spartan. No need to lavish luxury on the enemy. There was controversy over the color of the visiting locker rooms. Red is an aggressive color. No need to help the visitors' aggression. Pink is a passive color, and they considered that. Pink apparently depresses testosterone levels for 2 hours after exposure. Wisconsin finally settled on baby blue, feeling that created a sufficiently pacifying environment for the visitors.

Me: Did you learn any engineering on that tour?

She: Really, we didn't. But we had fun!

We pass through the Camp Randall Arch and circle back towards Regent St. We pass the trombone section circling the stadium and playing "On Wisconsin." We turn into a mosh pit of hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of 35-40 year olds in the beer garden of "Big Ten Pub". Its 90 minutes before game time, and who knows how many identical mosh pits exist within 500 yards of where we are? 10? 20? More? I've been to some fabulous pregame scenes. I've been to Baton Rouge and College Station, and lots of other places. This is as amiable and fun of a scene as you could find anywhere. I'm having a fine time.

Two beers and two brats for me. My sister in law is balancing a beer and eating a brat and chattering along happily with a girl friend. They notice Penn St. on a TV, and they begin earnestly discussing when Joe Paterno will be forced to leave his coaching position. I suddenly love both of them intensely: beer-drinking, football-talking women. Their husbands are lucky men.

Kickoff approaches, so we fight our way out of the mosh pit. There are still hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of beer drinking, happy, smushed together people in the beer garden. I'm a two beer kind of person. These Madisonites are way tougher than I am. As we leave, a police officer surveys the mosh pit and pronounces:
"This is ridiculous."

My sister in law begins the mile long trek back to the car because I'm using her ticket! She hiked a mile in and a mile out just to make the scene and visit with her friends. It was worth it.

Next Post: Ballgame!

Saturday, November 06, 2004

That Madison Vibe

Its Saturday morning, and this was just yelled through the house down to the basement:

"If you don't turn off TV now you don't get to watch TV later when its time for your animal shows."

On Friday, I went by the UW campus at the 2:00 class break. I get on a college campus at a class break about 3 or 4 times a decade. I love it. I love to watch the students. Youth has its own beauty. Love to observe the clothing and the latest looks. Its also inspiring. The UW students were carrying books. They walked with a sense of purpose. They looked like they just finished paying attention in class.

Miraculously found a parking place. Strolled through the Student Union. Parents in town for the football weekend. Video games. Students huddled over Lap Tops. There's a focused young man who's angry about corporations, et al. I can tell this just by watching him read his text book. He reads it angrily, with an anti-corporation attitude! The truth about this guy is that he's merely shy. He needs the affection of a good woman. The repeated affection of a good woman. She can bring him into a world of people who like to laugh and love and crack jokes, and not take themselves so seriously.

I walk past a girl bent over her lap top, with hip hugger jeans running low, and 1/3 of her buttocks exposed to me. She has intentionally accessorized her buttocks crack with hot pink thong underwear that says "Victoria's Secret" in big advertisement lettering. Just like Audrey Hepburn accessorized her neck with a choker, and Mae West accessorized her cleavage with a necklace, this girl is accessorizing her buttocks with thong underwear. I've got absolutely no problem with looking at 20 year old's buttocks' cheeks. If this is the next big thing, you won't see me protesting it.

I venture into the sunlight, and begin moseying through a quadrangle towards the library. Come face to approaching face with a professor rushing himself and his books through the quadrangle, towards an oh-so-professorly important meeting at the Student Union, or maybe at his office. His personal presentation, there's no other way to say it, is exactly like Lenin. Same beard. Same Russian-Lenin-coat. "Peasant coat," maybe its called. You had to see him to understand the full effect. If Che Guevara came back from the dead and ran for Governor, he'd get this guy's vote. Course, if Che came back from the dead, I'd vote for him too.

The professor and I face off as we approach each other-- like gunslingers in the Old West-- Lenin's cousin, and me: Homer Simpson in Nikes and a Dallas Stars sweatshirt. We each could not possibly have less respect for the other. As we pass shoulder to shoulder, we each have the identical thought: "Sheesh. What an asshole."

Fun stroll.

Picked up the kids at 4:00, went to the greatest neighborhood playground ever. Felt guilty, b/c I let the 3 year old run around, even though she developed a cough. Ah, well, we were having fun. And I'll be gone on Monday. Can leave the cough for my poor brother and sister-in-law to deal with.

Now its Saturday, and I'm listening to a 3 year old's song about ice cream scoops, and we're all gearing up to go outside and play. Big game today! But only after the big game in the front yard! Gotta go!

Friday, November 05, 2004

Ft. Worth, TX to Madison(Fitchburg), WI

Thursday: Departed 5:30 AM. Arrived 10:00 PM. Traveled 1030 miles in 990 minutes, breaking mythic "1000 minute" barrier. Woo hoo!

Gear: 2 turkey sandwiches, 2 Peanut Butter and Red Plum Jam sandwiches, carrots, Tootsie Pops(orange), Snickers, Dr. Pepper, water, ice chest, road atlas(w/route highlighted).

"Waggoner, OK: Home of Tommy Biffle, Bass Fishing Champion"

"Pryor, OK: A Town for All Seasons"

"Shop and Stay With Us in Lebanon, Missouri"

Hospitable, welcoming Lebanon!? Hard to get your mind around that.

Bible verse highway billboards in Missouri, interspersed amongst Adult Bookstores. In between the billboards and the Adult Bookstores, Missouri is beautiful.

Friday: Walked Niece(3) and Nephew(6) to his bus stop. When bus appears in the distance, all 10 kids at bus stop start yelling: "Bus! Bus! Bus!" When you're 6, the arrival of the bus is a gleeful occasion. And then they line up, on their own initiative, and before the bus has even arrived and stopped. Their line is neat, orderly, perfectly composed. They wait expectantly for the bus. We are trying to spread consensual democracy into a world in which our 6 year olds consensually organize better than their 36 year olds.

Walking home from bus stop:
Me: Are you going to learn to read when you go to "big kid school"?
Niece: No.
Me: What are you going to learn?
Niece: To play, and take naps, and eat snacks!
She's obviously visited a public high school.

Niece to her upscale daycare. Front door has one adornment: Photo of John Kerry, former Presidential Candidate. Kerry won 85% of the vote in the daycare's mock election. Course, this is the suburb of Fitchburg. A daycare in Madison might've produced a Hussein-like 100% of the vote for Kerry.

One daycare teacher has magenta-pink hair. I think that is perfect for the kids, as she looks like a cartoon character come to life. Other daycare teacher is a UW student from Boston. We reminisce about the Sox' big victory. She went to the Springsteen-Kerry concert. It sounds like it was a really fun event.

Home. Walk the family golden retriever to park. Its an impossibly beautiful and sunny day. Ft. Worth had its first crisp days before I left, but they were rainy. This is maybe 55 degrees, with a playful breeze blowing. Its the prettiest crisp day I've seen since March or April.

Check Madison newspaper. A pair of psychos held Madison residents hostage for days, murdered two of them, dumped their bodies in separate locations, then went to the police station and turned themselves in. If it wasn't so grisly and tragic it would be funny. Madison is easy to lampoon: "Get some real desperate criminals!" Except citizens are murdered and families are bereaved. Silent prayer for the families and loved ones of the dead. And the murderers. One of the victims looked like Mia Sara in "Ferris Bueller's Day Off." Sad.

Zip around internet. Fallujah is heating up. Republicans homophobed their way to winning the election-- yawn. Peggy Noonan is back!! I LOVE that woman!

Write this post. In two minutes, I'm heading out the door and into this perfect day to shop for some long underwear for the game tomorrow. Its so pretty, I might stroll through the UW Campus and watch the students enjoying a sunny Friday afternoon. I might eat an ice cream cone. Life goes on. On a sunny November Friday in Madison, it doesn't get any better.

Wednesday, November 03, 2004

Post-Mortem: Where Did My "Electoral Landslide" Prediction Go Wrong?

From The End Zone:

"If the unreasonable happens, and Minnesota and Wisconsin both go to Kerry, Bush still wins: Kerry 251 v Bush 287."

The unreasonable happened: Kerry 252 v Bush 286. Bush still won by 34 Electoral Votes, which is more than a lot of experts predicted. Still, where did I go wrong?

Analyzing the math, Bush could've won the election by winning any one of these hotly contested states:

New Hampshire

Since Bush did win one of these: Ohio, victory was his. Kerry won five of the six by very small margins. Amazing, and statistically fortunate- kind of like winning the daily double at the horse track. All five of Kerry's victory margins were equal to or smaller than Bush's victory margin in Ohio.

In retrospect, Kerry's only legitimate chance of victory was to sweep all six of these close states. I predicted Bush victories in all six states, reasoning that pollsters had underestimated the post 9-11 Republican turnout. I based that on the pollsters missing trends in the 2002 mid-term elections, and that is where my prediction went awry.

If Bush had swept all six states, my 352-186 prediction would've almost come true, as Bush would've won 348 electoral votes (Kerry won Hawaii's 4 EV's by a comfortable margin). I figured, if I was wrong, these states would follow pollster predictions and split about three and three for each candidate. Instead Kerry won five of the six. Again: Amazing.

So, the election was close, but not that close. Bush was equal or closer to winning any one of the other five contested states than Kerry was to winning Ohio. Overall, with the Republicans picking up seats in both the Senate and the House, and with Bush winning the popular vote by a significant margin of 3.5 million, this election was a very solid victory for Bush and the Republicans.

Talk of the nation being "divided" is starting to look a bit like bull**** carping by a minority party that is only now beginning to vaguely sense the reality of their circumstance. In the last forty years, only one Democrat President has won at least 50% of the popular vote:

Jimmy Carter. 1976. 50.5%.

Bill Clinton won two elections with about 45% of the popular vote. The nation is trending conservative. If it was not, Bush would've been bounced out of office yesterday. Conditions were ripe. Powerlineblog:

The country is divided, but the division is in favor of President Bush and his party. If the goal is to decrease division in the context of a democratic society, the Democrats will have to accept this voter-imposed reality to a much greater degree than they have shown any past willingness to do.

Its a shame, for the Democrats, that the election wasn't a big blowout. The close result will allow the Democrats to believe they need a simple bandage, when they really need surgery to remove the moonbats, followed by full courses of chemo and radiation.

Here are the numbers from the six states. If Bush had won any of the first five, including New Hampshire, he could've lost Ohio and still won the election:

  • New Hampshire 1% margin; 9,000 vote margin
  • Pennsylvania 3% margin; 122,000 vote margin
  • Michigan 2% margin; 165,000 vote margin
  • Wisconsin 1% margin; 12,000 vote margin
  • Minnesota 2% margin; 98,000 vote margin
  • Ohio 2% margin; 147,000 vote margin

What about Florida? Kerry could've won if he had won Florida. However, Florida was a small but solid Bush victory, and wasn't as close as the above six:

Florida 5%; 377,000 votes

I'm off to mow the lawn, pack, and drive to the heart of "Moonbats in mourning" country: Madison, Wisconsin (a town which can only be properly represented by Communist Red!). I shall visit my niece and nephew, and attend the big Wisconsin Badgers vs. Minnesota Gophers football game at Camp Randall Stadium, hoping that my seats are in the end zone. Go Badgers!

Saturday, August 07, 2004

Good Quotes

Don Meredith:

Howard made my job so easy, because I knew if I just sat there long enough he was gonna to say some fool thing I could comment on. Howard didn't know a whole lot about football. But it didn't matter, because we were just up there to have a good time anyway. We tried not to let the game get in our way.

James Lileks

Vets v Kerry- Media's Waterloo
There are two tales here: the story, and how the story will be played in the dinosaur old media. [...] This is not about Vietnam. This is about character, and this is about spin. Over the next week there’s going to be a lot of discussion in newsrooms about what this story means, and how the mainstream media’s handling of the charges will affect their image. They can tear the story down to the foundation and root for the truth, or they can hide behind he-said-they-said reportage. It’s their Waterloo. We’ll see.

Update- (From Greg) So far, the media are largely playing this as "he said/they said." When detail is given, it is often blatantly incorrect. Its shocking to watch "legitimate" media report blatant falsehoods with cocky assurance. A local TV newscast(in Dallas) assuredly reported that the Swift Boat Vets were liars "because none of them served with John Kerry." This was broadcast in a news story on the "controversy," implication being that the reporter had researched the story. I have more examples, but you get the picture. With some exceptions, the coverage amounts to either blatant lies or "he said/they said."

Peggy Noonan

I do not think a lot of modern conservatives have taken on their philosophy because they were brought up in it, schooled in it, and swallowed it whole. And I don't think a lot of them became conservatives because they read a book by Hayek or Adam Smith and thought, "Ah ha, this seems sound!"

I think a lot of people in our time who have become conservatives did it because they had a certain and particular kind of mind. To choose just one facet, they have a natural respect and even sometimes love toward human beings, while at the same time having no illusions--none--about who we are. Man is not perfect and is not perfectible, at least by other men.
You start out there, and then you find yourself hearing something or reading something that you find out is "conservative." You pick up National Review... or you read C.S. Lewis or bump into the autobiography of ... Whittaker Chambers... and suddenly you think, "Oh my God, that's exactly what I think."

Alice Bacchini

Personally, I strongly believe that there is no point
[in making immoral decisions],
because bad things always come back to you anyway,
and nearly always pretty immediately.

Walter Williams

"It’s always been my contention that the conservative vision shows far greater respect for blacks than the liberal you-can’t-make-it-without-us vision."

Mark Steyn

There's a narcissism about the tone of this convention that cuts to the heart of the Democratic Party's difficulties: They don't believe in anything except their monopoly of goodness.

Zeyad of Healing Iraq

We smiled at one another. There was a cool breeze outside and life suddenly felt good. When you are vulnerable and have death waiting around the corner at any moment, it's only better that you try hard to make the most of what you have.

Wednesday, July 28, 2004

July Good Quotes

In honor of the impending end of blog vacation, I've rounded up some good stuff from other places (including some repeats)--

Alex Rodriguez- "F*** YOU! F*** YOU! F*** YOU!"
Jason Varitek-
"F*** YOU! We don't throw at F***ing .275 hitters!"

jay nordlinger in NRO
"Before I left New York, I observed a crystallizing scene in Central Park: One female jogger encountered two others - whom she knew - and she said, "I'm going to see Fahrenheit 11" - that's what she said, "Fahrenheit 11" - "at 12:05," and the other two joggers squealed, "Ooh," and they all hugged. This is a funny moment in America, ladies and gentlemen."

From Allah:
It is a great affront to god that a woman so saucy should also be learned, but there is the problem with your women in a nutshell, America. Pro: They are looking good. Con: They attend school. You must accentuate the positive and eliminate the negative.

Ted Kennedy
"...the only thing we have to fear is four more years of George Bush."

Really? Fade to photo of WTC Towers...

Victor Davis Hanson
Without historical perspective(about Iraq), thousands of pundits and politicians maneuver every 24-hours to "prove" that their shifting and contradictory positions, like millions of the American people's own rising and falling spirits, are in fact really consistent and principled. But mostly they are all just confused about Iraq and not sure whether we are emerging from a few skirmishes with a few weeks left to the armistice or firing away on Guadalcanal with three more years of mayhem to go."

Allah in the House
Osama and the mujahideen saw a website that claimed Jews are controlling the world with robots. The mujahideen were frightened, and declared jihad on robots: The intifada against Jew robots continues apace this morning, kufr. Three more Zionist vending machines and 11 ATMs have been liquidated by shahids in glorious martyrdom operations.

via Jay Nordlinger
'the author discusses the accusation that Schwarzenegger is anti-semantic . . .'

Tom Daschle
"[Americans] wonder how we can build new schools in Iraq, while so many American schools are crumbling?"

Really? Is it the mortar which is crumbling in American schools? Is it a money problem?

Iraqi blogger Firas Georges
"What may back up my criteria is what is going on in the ISX (Iraq Stock eXchange). Things there are more than good, its terrifying good. Nobody expected to close deals in one day with the same value of what he used to close in three months work, and investors are trying to find themselves a broker who isn’t so occupied with deals. "

-Roger L. Simon
Deep down (the Democrats) are saying the War on Terror was a bad thing because "we didn't do it."

Jamie Lee Curtis' exasperated speech to Kevin Kline's Otto, in A Fish Called Wanda:
"Aristotle was not Belgian. The central teaching of Buddhism is not 'Every man for himself.' The London Underground is not a political movement. These are mistakes, Otto. I looked them up."

David Frum II
"The Democrats are not well served by the media bias in their favor. [...] (they) suffer from the same problem as ultimately felled Saddam Hussein: They cannot trust their (media) servants to report the truth. "

Iraqi blogger Alaa-
You are indeed falling prey to the Media. [...] we, who are in the middle of it all, see a definite improvement in the overall security situation [...] In fact, we expected much worse. The enemy has no agenda, no clear political objective, he is just desperately striking left and right and committing more and more terrible atrocities that will only increase the hatred and repulsion against him; while the offensive against him by the patriotic Iraqis is gaining momentum. The majority are going to get stronger and stronger, and this is already observable in the new security formations. We are in the thick of it and don't feel discouraged at all.

This chart contrasts the number of stories on Joe Wilson before and after both the Senate Intelligence Report and the 9/11 Commission Report outed him as a liar.

Outlet..................Wilson Before....Wilson After
Washington Post............96...................2
New York Times............70...................3
Los Angeles Times.........48...................2

-Howard Kurtz via Virginia Postrel
"Bush told his senior aides Tuesday that he 'didn't want to see any stories' quoting unnamed administration officials in the media anymore, and that if he did, there would be consequences, said a senior administration official who asked that his name not be used."

Victor Davis Hanson-
Email Question: What would constitute "victory" for our enemy? Were you in their shoes, what would be your goal? How would you define victory and then remain victorious?
Hanson: An enemy victory in Iraq is something most likely to be a government of jihadists, whether Sunnis or Shiites, like Iran. An agenda of such a state?

>Get your hands on billions of petrodollars.
>Form a loose alliance with Iran and understandings with Syria.
>Undermine the Gulf States.
>Follow the Iranian/Libyan model of nuclear acquisition.
>Daily threaten Israel.
>Make the Europeans sell whatever you want, through a mixture of oil blackmail and loose talks about missiles, nukes, and launching ranges.

So, if they could turn Iraq into a Taliban-like badlands first, and a petrofueled theocracy second, then the rest would be easier. There are only two ways for Islamist governments now to threaten us: transform their country into terrorist havens (Afghanistan) or use petrol-dollars to buy nukes (Iran). Otherwise they are about as relevant as the Sudan or Somalia.

LaShawn Barber- the clear-thinking, the beloved-
"Dealing with race discrimination, perceived or otherwise, is secondary to individual accountability."

via Jay Nordlinger
Pine Bluff. Black History Month. Come to school as famous African-American. My co-worker's kid was told to come as Tina Turner. My co-worker informed the teacher that her child would come as Condoleezza Rice instead. The teacher refused to allow it, on grounds that Rice 'is for white people.'

Roger L. Simon
"I will admit that we optimists have been wrong about 98 percent of the time and that, on the surface, we are nitwits.(Hey, I like Kafka too.) But I submit that we are happier in our idiocy. "

Hussein Massawi, former leader of Hezbollah--
"We are not fighting so that you will offer us something. We are fighting to eliminate you."
"Fixed fortifications are monuments to the stupidity of man."
"Remember the poet. Audace. Audace."
Frederick the Great--
"To defend everything is to defend nothing."

Mona Charen
"Is it really arrogance to believe that the system and the culture we've inherited is superior to others? Or is it ingratitude to deny it?"

Saturday, July 24, 2004

Observations Loosely Related to Part I

1) We're at war. Any person who understands this has no quarrel with "with us or against us." Any person who doesn't understand this doesn't need to be governing our nation.

2) Bush is riding an excellent streak of political and diplomatic success. He is perfectly positioned to achieve a blowout electoral victory in November. Iraq is well-positioned to be a historic democratic success. The Palestinians are more and more disgusted with Arafat. During Bush's term, diplomatic progress has been made in critical areas such as Russia, Pakistan, Libya, and North Korea. Over 90 nations aided the effort in Iraq.

3) John Kerry is not "suave" in any way that gets any positive thing accomplished. John Kerry is "suave" in the self-aggrandizing fashion of an arrogant and dense snob.

Actually, to this point Bush has performed like one of the great politicians and great American Presidents in history. From the gubernatorial defeat of popular Ann Richards, to the Presidential campaign, the tax cuts, the mid-term Congressional elections, the liberation of 50 million people, the capitulation of Ghaddaffi, the discovery and break-up of Khan's international nuclear black market, the diplomatic successes mentioned above, and the rebound of the economy and the job market from the recession he inherited, Bush is on a historic run of political success. Listening to the yelps of outrage, it's pretty funny to think this is what one of the great Presidencies in history looks like!

Friday, July 23, 2004

Part I- The Straw Man of "Presidential Style"

There's an argument that President Bush's international style is too arrogant and inflexible, thus creating hard feelings, and leading to less economic and security cooperation with other nations.

The real argument is not about style, it's about policy. Were certain policy goals worth the risk of angering certain other nations? Any international hard feelings were spawned by policy disagreement, as in "If you disagree with me you are inflexible and polarizing."

"Bush's style" is a straw man. An argument about policy can morph into a separate argument about style, with the style winner hoping to declare proxy victory in the policy argument, even though the policy argument has not actually been resolved. It's sometimes hard to see this, whether you are the morpher or the morphee, so to speak. It was a long time before I saw the fallaciouness of the "style" argument.

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.
The straw-man rhetorical technique [...] declaring one argument's conclusion to be wrong because of flaws in another argument.

When Senator Kerry says he would "reestablish credibility in the rest of the world," he's making a straw man argument about style. Kerry hopes to win the straw man argument and go on to declare victory in the policy argument.

Update 7/26/04
Andrew Sullivan in The Sunday Times of London- "The argument Kerry must make is that he can continue the substance of the war, but without Bush's polarizing recklessness."

"Continue the substance of the war" is code language for discontinuing large portions of the current war policy. Sullivan is trying to win a policy argument without arguing policy. He's setting up Bush's leadership style as a straw man. The real argument is about policy. If Bush's policy equated to police action, his current critics would not accuse him of "polarizing recklessness." Style is a straw man. Policy is what Sullivan is not addressing.

Friday, June 18, 2004

Honorable Sports Play-

(Update: Steven Den Beste has written a post about this.)

Here's an ethical dilemma I've been idly pondering. I don't know the answer to the dilemma, and am seeking input-

Imagine your teenager is preparing to play high school sports. He or she will encounter sports opponents who will grab and hold them when the referees are not looking. When the referees are looking, the opponents will exaggerate or fake their reactive movements, acting as if your child has committed a foul against them. How do you teach your child to ethically respond to such tactics? What constitutes honorable play in a sports game which is officiated by referees or umpires?

I ran across a Donald Sensing post about speeding and sin and Immanuel Kant and duty. I excerpted specific parts in this post, so they could be referenced in our current discussion-

Kant wrote that the primary ethical imperative is, "Act only according to that maxim by which you can at the same time will that it should become a universal law."

Put another way: Do that which- if everyone did it- would strengthen community and promote justice.

One may argue that those who speed believe faster speed limits are justified, and they are "willing" that faster speed limits become universal law. They are neither weakening community nor promoting injustice. Keeping this in mind, I can think of three distinct approaches to honorable play in a refereed game:

1. Follow the rules as written in the rulebook.

2. Follow "the spirit of the rules." Follow the rules as you believe the referees intend to enforce them for that game, and as you can will that the rules should be universally interpreted. Note that every umpire has their own definition of the strike zone, and every basketball referee has their own definition of charging and blocking. Use those definitions to gain competitive advantage.

3. Consider the presence of the referees to be a competitive circumstance of the game. Take every possible advantage of their lack of omnipotence and their imperfect human judgment- just as you would for every other competitive circumstance in the game. Hide and disguise actions which the referees would otherwise call a foul if they could see them being committed. At opportune moments, act as if the opponent is committing a foul, and exaggerate or fake your reactive movement in hopes of inducing the referees to call a foul on your opponent.

Many players on high school playing fields will be following the third course of action. If your child does not follow that course of action, he or she will be increasing the likelihood of being defeated on the scoreboard. I doubt Magic Johnson or Larry Bird could've ever won a championship without treating the referees as competitive circumstances to be exploited to the advantage of Magic and Larry. Were Magic Johnson and Larry Bird playing dishonorably?

A participant could "will that players should universally consider the referees to be a competitive circumstance of the game." To do so would create a particular kind of justice, insofar as the referees will not see every foul, and opposing sides will not be calling fouls on themselves. Both sides are therefore implicitly agreeing that the very human referees constitute a specific kind of competitive circumstance which becomes a part of that game. Some key assumptions: A)Every competitive circumstance ought to be exploited as much as possible. B)One cannot help it if one's opponent does not understand this calculus. Of course, the moment one's opponent begins calling fouls on himself, all assumptions are invalidated.

Taking a slightly different tack: If an opponent is exploiting the presence of the referee as much as possible, where's the injustice if your child responds in kind? This is the ground I currently occupy in this issue. I would want my child fighting back if their opponent tried to exploit the presence of the referees. However, I'm not confident my recommendation is the best parental advice. It's a type of middle ground, and middle ground is usually for the weak-spirited and the weak-minded.

The alternative argument would be that playing outside the spirit of the rules both creates injustice for one's opponent and entirely misses the purpose of the enterprise. The players are there to play a sport which is defined by rules. When one is acting outside the rules, one is not even playing the sport.

Also, there's something viscerally distasteful about playing outside the spirit of the rules. It can nag at one's conscience. Is your child's intention strictly to win on the scoreboard? Isn't the deeper purpose to do one's very best and to fairly play by the spirit of the rules? Isn't it sometimes preferable to be victorious in ways that do not show up on a scoreboard? Many of us have played against basketball opponents who fiercely grabbed and held onto our uniform shorts whenever they could get away with it. I've wondered if that isn't the very definition of when to "turn the other (buttocks) cheek" in sport?

I'm seeking input. I think this impacts Youth Sports as well as High School Sports. Most parents will want to encourage honorable play, but will not want to artificially hobble their children through misguided or narrow interpretations of what's honorable. I can't seem to get a handle on the various aspects of the issue, and have been thinking in circles for some months.

Thursday, May 13, 2004

Lets look at this set of Nick Berg facts-

288 million American citizens.

One citizen's email password and email account end up being used by Zacarias Moussaoui, and the same citizen later is beheaded by Musab al-Zarqawi. From

U.S. officials say the FBI questioned Berg in 2002 after a computer password Berg used in college turned up in the possession of Zacarias Moussaoui, the al Qaeda operative arrested shortly before 9/11 for his suspicious activity at a flight school in Minnesota.

The bureau had already dismissed the connection between Berg and Moussaoui as nothing more than a college student who had been careless about protecting his password.

But in the wake of Berg's gruesome murder, it becomes a stranger than fiction coincidence -- an American who inadvertently gave away his computer password to one notorious al Qaeda operative is later murdered by another notorious al Qaeda operative.

What are the odds that is a coincidence? 1 in 100? 1 in 1000? Total number of American contractors in Iraq odds- 1 in 20,000? Lottery odds- 1 in 16 Million? DNA odds- 1 in 30 Million? Total American population odds- 1 in 288 million? Longer odds than that? I don't know how to figure the odds, but whatever the odds that the Berg/Moussaoui/Zarqawi connection was coincidence, they are certainly sky-high. If the Berg/Moussaoui/Zarqawi connection was coincidence, it is one of the amazing coincidences in all history.

Was Berg a spy working for either Al Qaeda or the Americans- or even a third party(Israelis)?

If he was a spy, he had a perfect cover- American entrepreneur working on Communications Towers. The job required (solo?) travel to various far-flung parts of Iraq. From

Two e-mails he sent to his family and friends show he traveled widely and unguarded throughout Iraq, an unsafe practice rarely done by Westerners.

Also, think about this- Berg allegedly worked atop Communications Towers. He was in perfect position to plant communications listening devices. Who knows if that happened, but suddenly the scenario doesn't seem ridiculous. From CBS-

Berg wrote about his experiences in trying to track down and later meet an in-law in the Mosul area.

Lets run through this list again-

--Berg/Mousaoui/Zarqawi connection.
--American traveling widely and unguarded throughout Iraq.
--Berg's family hates American military action ("Nicholas Berg died for the sins of George Bush and Donald Rumsfeld."- Michael Berg)


--Alleged "in-law"(!!) in Mosul?!

Boiler plate spy novel cover story! And, if it's true, it raises a whole new set of questions.

These coincidences are starting to add up! Add this final bit to the story, again from

Officials said the U.S. government warned Berg to leave Iraq, and offered him a flight out of the country, a month before his grisly death. On April 10, four days after Berg was released from an Iraqi prison, an American diplomat offered to put him on a flight to Jordan, State Department spokeswoman Kelly Shannon said. But Berg told the diplomat he "planned to travel overland to Kuwait and would call (his) family from there," Shannon said.

Michael Berg, said that although his son wanted to leave Iraq, he refused the flight offer because he thought the travel to the airport would be too dangerous.

This last bit is completely nonsensical. Berg was warned to get out, and was offered a flight out. He declined, telling his parents

"travel to the airport is too dangerous(?!)."

Instead, he proposed travel to Kuwait?! Solo?! For the purpose of "safety?!" Roll eyes here. There's discrepant reporting as to whether Berg was in Mosul or Baghdad when the flight offer was made. Either way, it's nonsensical that he would travel to Kuwait for "safety" purposes.

Note this detail for future reference- Berg allegedly told the American Diplomat he would call his parents once he got to Kuwait. He apparently did call his parents, as his father gives a detail about why Berg didn't want to go to the airport. Was Berg abducted in Kuwait? How would you get a kidnap victim back across the Iraqi border? Bribe? Subterfuge? Or, maybe the "victim" was a willing travel companion?

It all might be a big series of coincidences. Maybe mitigating facts will come out. Maybe has some of their facts wrong. But it doesn't look good for our old friend "coincidence." Vincent Bugliosi used to argue against coincidence alibis in this fashion-

The law doesn't say "beyond all doubt," it says "beyond a reasonable doubt." Maybe somewhere on some distant planet in some distant galaxy this set of coincidences could've occurred. But here on the Earth I live on, with brown dirt and green grass and Little Leaguers tossing the ball around, these types of coincidences just do not happen. Here in the real world, it simply does not happen that- on the very day your wife disappears- you go fishing in the ocean within a mile of where her body eventually washes up. That does not happen in the world you and I live in.

PS- This is off the cuff, but-

Fox News reports that Nick Berg and Zaccharias Mousaoui both attended the University of Oklahoma in Norman, OK. Mousaoui used Berg's email account while he was in Norman.

Nick Berg was from Philadelphia. If I'm a high school student in Philadelphia, what are the odds that I scan the nation for place to matriculate, and my gaze falls upon Norman, Oklahoma? Again, the odds seem steep. There's probably a legitimate reason this Pennsylvania kid went to college in Norman, but, at first glance, it doesn't look right.

I should say that I've been on the OU campus, and I'm confident OU is a both a fun school and a solid scholastic institution. I'm equally confidant OU is not the first choice of most Philadelphia teenagers.

Berg family spokeperson says Berg encountered Mousaoui on a bus(OU Shuttle Bus?) while at school in Norman. The Berg family spokesperson speculates that Berg helped Mousaoui out of kindness.

Sunday, February 22, 2004

ARod Magnum Opus: What Went Wrong in Arlington

(Greg's note: I wrote this as a way to psychically and emotionally cleanse ARod from my system. I recommend writing a magnum opus for anyone similarly afflicted. I really love ARod on the field. And I was sad he was gone. I feel better now.)

When compared with fans coming from Tarrant County, a disproportionately low number of Ranger fans come from Dallas County, and a disproportionately low number of that group comes from the City of Dallas itself.

Tom Hicks lives in Dallas. When he looked at purchasing the Rangers, his attention focused on Dallas County as an untapped reservoir of Ranger fans. A franchise deal was made with this in mind: increased Ranger attendance from Dallas County would equate to increased Ranger revenue.

Based on his Brett Hull free agent experience, Hicks thought he knew the formula: a star free agent, living in Dallas and being an enthusiastic member of the Dallas community. Dallas would be proud of their star, and Dallas would flock to The Ballpark to watch the star play for the Rangers.

Examples of this dynamic exist all over the sports world: Roger Staubach in Dallas, Brett Favre in Green Bay, Dan Marino in Miami, John Elway in Denver; Julius Irving in Philadelphia, Magic Johnson in L.A; Ozzie Smith in St. Louis, Derek Jeter in New York, Nomar in Boston, Bagwell and Biggio in Houston. Even in Dallas, Brad Davis and Derek Harper and Rolando Blackmon were perfect examples. All continue to live in Dallas; all are respected icons of the community. Brett Hull was another good example. Hull loved living in Dallas, and might of lived there in retirement if he had he not been traded. The fans took to Hull partially for this reason. Which is all how Tom Hick's gaze fell on ARod.

Tom Hick's didn't fully consider that ARod was already a God/icon in Miami, and ARod had no intention of diminishing that status. ARod is approximately as big as Dan Marino in Miami. In the offseason, when he's not on the sidelines of University of Miami football games, and not working out with the University of Miami Baseball Team, ARod works out at his childhood Boys Club, with his childhood Boy's Club Director giving him soft toss and batting tips as needed. Minicams record those workout swings for 10 O'Clock Newscasts. ARod is revered among Miami's Latin community, who read his Spanish Language interviews in the sports sections of their Spanish Language Newspapers. ARod knows the pulse of Miami, and loves to go out to the restaurants and clubs in South Beach, and to hob knob at charity functions and golf tournaments.

Maybe it was impossible to see the impact of this dynamic in advance of signing ARod. For whatever reason, Hicks did not see the full repercussions of ARod's marriage to Miami. Before negotiations began, Hicks laid out his scenario for ARod: Hicks would not pursue ARod unless ARod was willing to wed himself to Dallas, and become Dallas' Superstar. Hicks conducted an elaborate Chamber of Commerce type campaign to woo ARod for Dallas, and to simultaneously woo Dallas for ARod. All parties fell into lust.

And here is the moment ARod began lying to Hicks and treating Dallas like his mistress: ARod promised to divorce Miami and wed Dallas. And he re-promised over and over, even after the contract was signed. Every offseason, ARod ran back to Miami, calling over his shoulder that he would divorce Miami soon, just not right now. When ARod returned the next season, did he go out for fabulous nights on the town with Dallas? No, he did not. He holed up in his Highland Park love-nest and did to Dallas what all men do to their mistress, month after month and year after year.

I specifically remember the ARod contract speculation: How much would it take to sign ARod? $16M/season? No, ARod would break the bank if he came to the Rangers: $18M for sure. If the Rangers really wanted him, they could go to $20M/season and ARod would crawl on broken glass to get to Arlington-- who wouldn't?

We now know ARod was going for the money, and the media salary speculation was very accurate: $18Mish would've likely gotten ARod, $20M would've done the deal almost for sure. But Hicks had that Dallas County revenue stream in mind, and he went higher. Also, somewhere inside the negotiations, Hicks developed ARod fever, just like Jerry Jones had done 5 years earlier with Deion. Like Jones, Hicks began bidding against himself, and eventually went to $25M/season. Who wouldn't have given up everything for ARod? But ARod was a too-smooth Latin lover. A Julio Iglesias for the ages.

Besides not wedding himself to Dallas as promised, ARod had another problem when it came to drawing fans through the turnstiles: ARod is a cool as ice personality. He is not outwardly fiery and swashbuckling on the field of battle-- like a Staubach or a Favre or a Marino or an Elway. He is not earthy in interviews-- like a Ditka or a Barkley or a Warren Sapp, or Curt Shilling or Jeff Bagwell, or...Brett Hull. When ARod failed, he lightly chalked it up to the law of averages. ARod never mourned his failures. He never publicly felt pain over them. Had he done so, it would have bonded him more to the fans. ARod was cool and corporate, which did not arouse passion among Ranger fans in either county. Fans liked ARod, but their like did not energize them to the turnstiles. Rangers' attendance declined every year ARod was here, sinking below 1.7M last season.

And now ARod's Achilles Heel flared up: his ego/selfishness. He was ARod, Goldangit! ARod was the best player in the game. ARod did not deserve to lose!

Every offseason, with ARod's strong encouragement, the Rangers would sign free agents and get their hopes up. Every season their free agents would bomb, and the Rangers would finish in last place, with lower attendance, and more dead money going to injured and useless free agents. All of that dried up the funds for purchasing future free agents, so the future looked steadily bleaker and bleaker. It was a vicious cycle.

Two and a half seasons into ARod's Ranger career, Tom Hicks decided enough was enough, and made a firm commitment to build with young players. This meant 2-3 more seasons of losing, so ARod immediately let it slip that he would accept a trade, followed by: Oops. Just thinking out loud fellas, don't take it seriously. I love being with the Rangers.

Whereupon ARod began to maneuver and conspire behind the scenes to get out of Arlington, and even went over to the Dark Side: becoming a discontented locker room disruption who fought with his manager. Impeccable ARod followed the "me-first" tradition of every jerk-athlete who had come before him: Ty Cobb and Barry Bonds, Allen Iverson and Stephon Marbury, Terrell Owens and Randy Moss, ARod(and Scott Boras). I believe it was a deliberate attempt to be a pain in the butt so the Rangers would seek to trade him, and would also make him available at favorable terms. In this he succeeded more than admirably. As a bonus, he used his media savvy to come through the process with his reputation unscathed.

ARod left the Rangers and Dallas and Tom Hicks used up and crying in crumpled disarray, as well as responsible for a baby on the way: which is the money Ranger's fans will be sending to New York over the the next 7 seasons, residue of the ARod affair. ARod got the money and the future World Championships and the Pinstriped Immortality. It's easy to see what Ranger fans got, for we are the ones paying 1/3 of ARod's future salary in NY.

At least we know for sure what ARod is worth to a good team: $16M/year-- which is basically what the Yankees will be paying. Ranger fans will be paying ARod a lot of deferred money, and our part equates to maybe $7M-$8M per year(figuring time value of money). Still, it's worth it to get rid of ARod. Relationshipwise, he was no good for us. We'll be better off without him, baby responsibilities and all. It was a hard lesson, but we learned it fully: We will not be dating any more married men. Are you listening, Tom Hicks?

I feel a need to warn New York to watch out. It's not hard to envision more World Championships in NY. It's also not hard to envision ARod working his Machiavellian behind the scenes strategies.

ARod's presence puts a lot of pressure on Jeter and Torre. If Jeter slumps or gets injured, or the Yankees hit a losing streak, there will be an outcry for ARod at SS. ARod might say diplomatic things which will cleverly imply the following:

"I love Jeter, but really we're all in this to win, and I, ARod, ought to be the SS. I love Jeter, and I love his athletic pride, but really he's being selfish by clinging to SS."

ARod would have the advantage of being right about this: he should be at SS. ARod might subtly and masterfully build the pressure on Jeter and Torre, until things finally boil over. Torre could be fired for refusing to replace Jeter. The new manager would put ARod at SS, Jeter at 2B. ARod might skip merrily to SS without facing public blame for his role in the drama. It may not happen, but it's sooooo easy to see it happening. Watch out,New York.

Thus ends the ARod Magnum Opus.

Update: This article (hat tip: Joe Siegler) is exactly what I'm talking about: it speculates about friction between ARod and Jeter. There's no way to know if there's truly friction or not, but this is one of many articles that will speculate about that very thing.

Notice ARod's role, and the role of ARod's Ego, in the entire 2001 spat. Notice also, ARod never said: "You know, I was just wrong to say that, and I'm sorry." Instead, he doggedly tried to justify his statements about Jeter.

Final thought: The best scenario would be if Jeter rose to the occasion, and used ARod's competitive push to sharpen his own play to it's highest level. I love Jeter, and this is my preferred outcome. If it doesn't happen, I will still love Jeter at 2B. I know everyone says Jeter will go to 3B, but he looks like a 2Bman to me.

Friday, January 23, 2004

1992 Cowboys-49ers NFC Championship

Went to Best Buy earlier this evening. They had the 1992 Cowboys-49ers NFC Championship Game Recap playing on HD TV. The format showed each play, usually twice, interspersed with retrospective commentary from the participants. Ended up watching for about 45 minutes.

HD TV is noticeably superior to regular TV. Emmitt Smith had a jagged cut on his arm, and it felt like I could reach out and touch the blood.

This was a fun uniform game. Against the Red and Gold 49ers, the Cowboys pants have never looked so blue. The field was wonderfully muddy and wet, with globs of turf shearing up everywhere. The uniforms were wet and muddy and grass-stained and ripped. HD TV showed this beautifully.

It's easy to forget how powerful the 49ers were going into this game. All through the game, through body language and facial expression, the 49ers showed they thought they were the superior team. Their defensive front seven was rugged and aggressive and talented. This was a frenetic and viciously contested game. The 49ers scored with 4:22 remaining in the 4th, drawing within 4. Both Young and Rice stated at this point, they fully believed they would win. The Cowboys would be stopped; the mighty West Coast Offense would win the game.

It was then that Alvin Harper caught his slant. Alvin Harper sucks. After the catch and run, he raised his arms in a method intended to celebrate himself-- not his team's accomplishment. Aikman comes on the screen and says he saw the coverage as he broke the huddle for that play. He knew Irvin would have gotten across the CB's face against the coverage, but he was nervous about Harper doing so. On the replay, presnap, you can see Aikman actually hand motion to Harper to get across the CB's face. Aikman said he decided to trust Harper, but remained concerned. Thank goodness Harper made the play. Harper had more talent than Irvin. But Irvin is going to the Hall of Fame, and Harper had an average career.

Again and again, on crucial downs, Aikman threw the slant to Irvin. I saw three of them, and I didn't watch the whole game. Irvin was wearing Eric Davis like a fur coat at a drug trial, but he caught all three slants. Any other WR would've been covered. With Aikman's accuracy and Irvin's size, the plays were successful.

Irvin also caught a skinny post for 20 yards, going down inside the 5 yard line. This pattern is straight for about 12 yards, then slants at a shallow 25 Degree angle. Again, the coverage was excellent, and Aikman gunned the ball exactly into a small opening. Irvin made an aggressive striding move for the ball, catching it in the classic index fingers and thumbs triangle, 12 inches in front of his chest. As he began to tuck it he was violently double hit and whipsawed between Mervin Hanks and Davis: Bam/Bam. Irvin never even got a foot on the ground after the catch. Irvin, as best I recall, was insta-spun 270 degrees-- his butt drill-bitted itself into the turf, exploring for oil under Candlestick. He tipped over at the end of his spin. From a prone position, Irvin flipped the ball to the ref and popped back to the huddle, a Weeblo that wobbled but didn't stay down. Watching, I realized I never doubted that Irvin would catch the pass. He was so big and tough. He knew he would take whatever Hanks and Davis had and still make the catch. It was almost routine for him. For anyone today, the catch would be praised to high heaven. I doubt Randy Moss, for instance, would've made this typical Irvin catch. What am I saying? Moss wouldn't even have run the pattern.

Both Aikman and Young took 3 and 5 step drops, not 7. There was not much blitzing-- compared to today. Twice, on crucial 3rd and longs, Aikman dropped 5 steps, hesitated, and dumped to Emmitt Smith-- once for 15 yards and a first down, once for about 12 yards and a touchdown. It's shocking that the 49ers would ignore Smith, who began both plays as a blocker. Smith was at the height of his greatness in this game: running, blocking, receiving, protecting the ball. He was such a pleasure to watch. He could do one thing about as good as anyone: he could make a defender miss within a very small space. He did it twice while I watched. Once, Emmitt had about 12 inches of space on either side. A normal runner would've been dead. Somehow, Emmitt "Ole'd" the defender and went through that little space.

Leon Lett was a monster in this game. Thomas Everett was all grit and guile. Without a salary cap, this team would have won who knows how many Super Bowls. Even when the 49ers beat them in that great Championship Game in 1994, the Cowboys had already suffered significant Salary Cap losses: Ken Norton was playing for the 49ers, defensive Linemen were gone, Kevin Gogan was gone. This 1992 Cowboys team was impossibly deep and impossibly young. That's why they would've run off an incredible streak of Super Bowls. My opinion, anyway. Shared by a lot of others.

It still amazes that rookies Kevin Smith and Larry Brown stood up against Rice and John Taylor. Course they had some help. Still...

Aikman and Smith protected the ball. Young and Ricky Waters turned it over. That was the difference in the game. Without the turnovers, these teams might of played dead even. To me, protecting the ball is an attribute of great players. It's not an accident.

Anyway, it was an enjoyable 45 minutes of viewing. The winning touchdown was scored by a golden oldie: Kelvin Martin! Number 83. Worming the ball juuust atop the Goal Line with an ankle high shimmy. That was a great game.