Saturday, December 31, 2005

The Small Moments Fill Me With Wonder

My eighteen year old son, Jake, is an excellent trombone player. I was reminded of his play as I sat Christmas morning in Jefferson Baptist Church, in Baton Rouge, LA, watching a flutist and several horn players raise their instruments to their lips, then blow just the right notes.

Jake plays in churches, and in other venues. I sometimes watch him raise his horn, to maybe play solo notes in a silenced chapel or auditorium, and I wonder at how he can be so confident that the right notes are about to come out? He is immensely confident that just the right notes will come out at just the right moments. Why is he not more nervous? Why does he not fear failure to a palpable degree?

The answer, of course, is practice. But only partly. Jake knows he may crack a note, or fail in some other way, yet he accepts that he is imperfect. He is undeterred that some listeners may not accept his imperfections or failures. Jake takes a stand that their beliefs, and any condemnation those beliefs generate, are about the listeners themselves - and are not about him.

To take that stand to heart, and to act out of it, is a courageous thing. And that courage must be summoned not just once, but again and again - maybe during the same performance! It is our lot to be courageous one moment, fearful the next, then courageous again. The cycle is never-ending, because we never "make it" in this life. We never get to a place of solid and constant courage. If we are to be courageous, we must summon it again and again.

There are sparks of divine grace in those summonings. Glimmers of God. The sparks and glimmers cue us to turn our faces to God; and to wonder at the loving gifts he bestows upon us, and at his perfect plan.

For instance, why does a loving God allow fear in our lives? In his novel "Gates of Fire," Stephen Pressfield asserts that the opposite of fear is love. Maybe God allows fear so as to prompt us to turn towards Him, and to let ourselves be washed in His love - the true antidote for fear. Maybe God does everything so as to prompt us to turn towards Him.

Consider: If God allowed us to become constantly courageous, could we then still identify fear? Some of my loved ones have died. My love for them lives on, but my memory of the contours of their faces dims with time. I reassure myself: "Oh, their faces were like this...." But, were they really? Similarly, if I were constantly courageous, would the memory of fear fade, like the memories of the faces of my loved ones?

Without a close familiarity with fear, could we anymore identify courage? What would we measure it against? Courage would be constant, normal, mundane, taken for granted. Could we anymore identify a spark of divine grace in that courage? Would that avenue to God, paved with sparks and glimmers, be then shut off to us forever? I wonder. Humbly. And with great reverence.

Christmas morning, I was awash in wonder as I watched the flutist and the horn players: the beauty of the music, the skill and artistry of the performers, and the confidence and courage. All of existence intertwined perfectly, surrounding and flowing through the musicians and their instruments.

Friday, December 23, 2005

A Teenager's Room

In Denham Springs, LA, where I sit on my futon bed in the room I am sharing with my nephew, Agent 90*, for the Christmas holiday. I spy:

  • 19 caps and visors neatly hung on the door
  • sports trophies, plaques, award medallions, and personal team photos
  • toilet items
  • walkie talkies
  • TV and Stereo remote controls
  • CDs
  • hand gripper
  • baseball bat weight
  • "Money Mizer" change separator
  • "Plinco the Monkey", awarded, by class vote, for being the most interesting student in Spanish class
  • LSU action posters: football and baseball - Geaux Tigers!
  • An LSU football, signed by Nick Saban, mounted on a plaque
  • hung on pegs: several colors of elastic baseball belts; plus football belts; plus lanyards, plus a dress belt
  • Basketball
  • Football
  • pillow shaped like football
  • football minihelmets: LSU and Dallas Cowboys
  • a closet stuffed with clothes top, middle, bottom, and spilling out
  • a 7 point rack of deer antlers(with an 8 point rack on the way!)
  • World globe
  • IPod
  • Collection of Quarters from 30 of the 50 states
  • Boom box
  • Board games: Stratego; Payday; Monopoly; Battleship; Scrabble; Rules of the Game; Texas Hold Em Poker
  • Daniel Boone style coonskin cap
  • DVDs: collection of Indiana Jones movies; Hoosiers; Bull Durham; Sahara; Friday Night Lights; Rundown - starring The Rock; Cast Away; Coach Carter; Longest Yard - starring Adam Sandler
  • the all important Playstation PS2, sitting upon the child's chair I grew up sitting in at our tables on Royal Oaks in Waco, and on Cromart Ave in Ft. Worth
  • an "Arrow of Light" from Boy Scout Pack 19
  • bag of baseball equipment
  • bucket of baseballs
  • about 8 pair of shoes: tennis, basketball, jogging, cleats, dress
  • bag of golf clubs
  • two LSU flags: one purple, one gold
  • special double issue of Field and Stream magazine, open to page on how to make your own hunting knife from an antler

*"Agent" stolen from Richard Lawrence Cohen

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Christmas Gift Project: A Cautionary Tale

Upper middle class kids gets all the toys they really want from Santa Claus. Most everything else is detritus, which fills up toy closets and basements until it overflows into the house proper.

I had an idea to write a children's book for my seven year old nephew. It would be about 500 words and 25 pages - illustrated with pictures from Google. I imagined the entire process would be about 5 hours of enjoyable project; as opposed to 2-4 hours of detestable shopping; for a gift my nephew didn't even know he wanted, and which would only swell the impressive toy overflow already spilling into his house. Writing a book looked like a genius idea!

With a loose outline in my head, I began to write on Thursday night. I love to write. When I'm really into it, I lose all track of time. I was really into it. I arose after 45 minutes, and it was over 4 hours later. Over the next 48 hours, I would easily spend 90 minutes rewriting and editing what I had already spent 4 hours rewriting and editing. The thing is, its not War and Peace. Its a children's book! And I kinda knew what I wanted to write before I began! I don't know why it took so long, but I couldn't have written what I wanted to write any faster.

Friday night, I began Googling pics to match the words. Its pretty hard to think of pics which illustrate concepts such as pride and hubris. Even when you know what pics you are going for, its pretty hard to find just the right ones. I am something of an idealist. I searched through pages and pages of Google pictures.

When you find the picture you want, you must determine an artistic placement for it on your page. If the action is exiting the right side of the picture, you don't want the picture action to be exiting the right side of your page, and vice verse, plus up and down.

I decided to make some pages simple and sparse; and to complicate some pages with groups of pictures and multiple sentences. By Saturday afternoon, I had finished color printing the pics into their proper page locations. I was happy with the pics. I was getting excited.

I began(low-tech style!) to print the text into the white space on the pages. I arranged the text by visual estimation, printed it onto a practice sheet, held the practice sheet and the picture sheet against the light, estimated corrections, and repeated the entire process as needed. I abused Print Preview to an obscene extent. It will never be the same.

I was surprised by the impact of the pictures upon the words. Lots of words were rendered unnecessary. I deleted a lot of words, changed a lot of words, and rewrote entire sentences. Where the pictures were fun, I often toned down the words. The finalized text, read without benefit of pictures, can seem dry and disjointed. Yet, together, the words and the pictures flow in a fun way.

The pages were finished late Saturday, and it looked like a good book. I had put an unexpected 15+ hours into the project. On the plus side, I had enjoyed the process, and was excited about the almost finished product.

I began to think of other 7 year old friends who might like the book. So, off to Office Max to bind a few copies, when, whammo! - color copying costs 69 cents per page! Still, I was excited enough by now that I spent $35 to make two bound copies for gifts. I don't think children would dig the book in black and white. I kept the original color copy for the future - just in case.

And that's how I turned a good and good hearted idea for a 5 hour project into 16+ hours of labor, $10+ of expended printer ink, and $35 of vanity spending at Office Max.

In future, if I print one pic per page, with simply arranged text, maybe I could produce the 25 pages in an hour. Add a 40 minute run to Office Max for a $4 binding, and there would be a gift for another 7 year old friend. Its a new plan!


Merry Christmas to All!

If you read my blog(and some people do!), all best wishes for a wonderful and loving holiday season.

Friday, December 16, 2005

The Boy Who Thought Ahead

I wrote this as a Christmas gift for my 7 year old nephew:

It started when he was a young boy, and
he never went into the street
without first looking both ways:
he was a boy who thought ahead.

It continued when he played soccer.
He learned to act as if he was kicking
the ball into one side of the net,
then kick it into the other side to score a goal.
He knew the goalie would go for his fake.
He was a boy who thought ahead.

When the weather might turn cold,
he left the house with a hat or a hood.

When he had a big day coming up,
he went to bed a bit early.

When the bases were loaded,
he thought ahead.
He would throw to home plate on a grounder,
or check the runners if he caught a pop fly.

When he had homework,
he tried to get it done early.

Sometimes, he thought of good birthday gifts
for his family.
He would make a mental note -
or even write his idea on a paper
he kept in his drawer.
He was a boy who thought ahead.

He would watch
opponents' eyes
before a football snap.
The eyes would often tell the tale
of where the entire player would be going
after the snap.

He would study
where the opponent
might plan to move his chess pieces.

He would think ahead,
and open doors for his Mom.

He would fake
a basketball shot
to get his opponent
into the air.
He would drive to the basket
while they were coming back to the ground.
He learned to shoot lay-ups
from both sides of the basket.
He was a boy who thought ahead.

He learned good table manners,
so he would be a welcome dinner guest.

He only went swimming when an adult was present.

He ate vegetables so he would grow tall and strong.

He drank plenty of water on hot days.
He was a boy who thought ahead.
It was a gift.

the boy
became a bit
too proud
of his ability to think ahead.
He began to think ahead
when he really needed
to pay attention in the moment.

There's a Greek word
for allowing pride
to create overconfidence:
Hubris has caused trouble
for famous Kings and Queens and warriors.
Hubris will sneak up on all of us
when we least expect it.
It snuck up on our hero.
Too much thinking ahead
began to cause problems.

While he dressed for school,
the boy would think about brushing his teeth.
Sometimes he put on one red sock
and one blue sock.

When he brushed his teeth,
he would think about riding to school.
Sometimes, he accidentally put foot cream
on his toothbrush!

On the schoolbus, he would think about doing math.
Sometimes he almost got off the bus at the wrong stop,
until the driver called out to him.
Thinking ahead could be a problem!

When he went to recess, well -
he did focus on play during recess. Thank goodness!

One day, the boy sat down to talk with his Dad:
"Dad, thinking ahead can be helpful,
but too much of it can be unhelpful!"

His Dad said:
"True. The Bible says there is a time for everything.
So, there is a time to think ahead, and a time to focus on the moment.
Its pretty easy to figure out - how did you get confused?"

The boy's eyes twinkled as he remembered his goof-ups, and he smiled a mischievous smile:
"Dad, we must have Greek ancestors.
It was Hubris!
I was too proud and too confident about thinking ahead!"

The boy then recounted his misadventures.
He and his Dad laughed happy laughs,
without thinking at all.
The end.

Friday, December 02, 2005

Genius Mascots Denied: Part III & IV

Recap - I: Grandview, Texas:

Grandview Gravy? Denied!

Grandview Gravity? Denied!

Grandview Grasshoppers? Denied!

Actual mascot: Grandview Zebras

Recap - II: Tuttle, Oklahoma:

Tuttle Turtles? Denied!

Actual mascot: Tuttle Tigers

III: Frisco, Texas:

Frisco Freedom? Denied!

Frisco Treats? (Mascots = pretty wrappers around individual candies. Marketing tie-ins can raise funds for the school district or the athletic department. When football team gains a first down, band plays final line of the Rice-A-Roni jingle; or the jingle of whatever candy company has a marketing tie-in with the school.) Denied!

Actual mascot: Frisco Racoons

IV: Rolla, Missouri:

Rolla Fallas? (Helmet emblem = three overlapping autumn leaves) Denied!

Rolla Maulas? (Mascot = masked professional wrestler w/Jersey accent) Denied!

Rolla Koalas? (HOW could anyone NOT choose ROLLA KOALAS?!) Denied!

Actual mascot: Rolla Bulldogs

I weep for the school-spirited children of our nation.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Phantom Regiment, and Life

Phantom Regiment is a drum and bugle corps squad. Over Thanksgiving weekend, 500+ candidates tried out for approx. 220 slots on the squad for the Summer 2006 Season. Candidates came from many places in the world, including France, Korea, and Japan.

Phantom Regiment is known to have the best horn line in all drum and bugle corps. This is partly what attracted Jake to the team - the other part being that two of his good friends also tried out for the team. All three made it - yea!

Drum and bugle corps don't use trombones. Jake made the team as an Euphonium player - though Euphonium is an instrument he has never played. An Euphonium is vaguely like a Baritone - which Jake learned to play for the tryouts - though Phantom Regiment uses no Baritones. Why learn the wrong instument? Hmmm. I hadn't yet thought to ask. A Baritone does use the same mouthpiece as a Trombone.

On Sunday, November 27, I picked Jake up after his weekend of try-outs at Huntley (IL) High (appropriately located on Harmony Road!). Jake was forlorn. He thought he had been cut in the tryouts for the squad. Here's what actually happened: Jake made the squad, but Phantom Regiment administrators left him off the official roster until he could resolve scheduling conflicts. Jake mistakenly thought he had been cut.

Oh, the sadness. It was like his dog died. Bye bye, best horn line in America.

Since we had only about 16 or 17 hours to drive, I decided to let Jake talk about things as he felt like it. I did not account for cell phones. First, maternal grandmother called. She got the full story. Then mother called. Full story. Jake was dying a thousand deaths. Then paternal grandfather. Full story. 10,000 deaths. Then paternal grandmother got on the phone. Full story. 100,000 deaths. They tortured him as if they were the Egyptian Secret Service, and he had secretly been rendered for interrogation. Brilliant parent that I am, I could only think of one thing to do: we stopped for ice cream in De Kalb, IL.

Didn't help much. Jake was frustrated. He declared he wanted to get back to Texas so he could attend classes on Monday. I confidently asserted that stopping for ice cream would not interfere with getting back to Texas.

We started trucking, and we truck pretty good. We only stop for gas and quick bathroom breaks. During a stop we complete 6 or 8 football pass patterns to stretch our legs. One can always find a location for a "Staubach warm-up" pass. You only need a narrow alleyway through a service station parking lot, and a nice leading lob pass. After, we are basically good for another 300 or so miles.

6:30 PM Springfield, IL gas station: Jake gets a call from his high school Band Director. The high school band will practice for their Christmas concert at 6:45 AM - 12 hours & 15 minutes from now. Jake promises he'll be there. His high school is 750 miles away from this gas station. Uh oh.

Jake drives almost till midnight, all the way to Joplin, MI. I drive through the deepest part of the night, N to S through OK on Hwy 69, passing through one 35 mph town after another. A toll booth guy told us(accurately) this was an hour faster than going through OK City on the Interstate. Still, those 35 mph towns really get to you when a 6:45 AM deadline is looming.

We make it to Jake's high school at 6:50 AM, after travelling the last 750 miles in 12 hours & 20 minutes - including the last part, which entailed fighting through Dallas - Ft. Worth commuter traffic. Woo hoo! Jake had called ahead to inform that he would be late. Band Directors are as demanding as Vince Lombardi.

Here's an irony: the De Kalb ice cream prevented us from making it exactly on time. I oughtn't have been so cock-sure about getting back to Texas.

During the night, we talked about Jake's not making the squad. Jake felt he had deserved to make it. He got very high marks during the tryouts for musical ability, but his marks were apparently not high enough during tryouts for "visual presentation." Oddly, Jake is an outstanding technical marcher (a sentence I never, until this very moment, ever envisioned writing or uttering). The Euphoniums all marched in one big crowd in the school cafeteria, and Jake felt he had been overlooked in the mishmash. He had some regret about messing up the proper Euphonium "Rest Position", but did not feel that was a serious enough error to keep him off the squad. So,

  • Jake had some regret(poor Euphonium Rest Position).
  • He had some sense of having been a victim of bad luck(via poor judging of his marching skill).
  • He had some sense that he had let people down (family and friends).
  • He had some sense of embarrassment that family and friends would believe he was not talented enough to make the squad.
  • He had quite a lot of sadness that he would not have the fun of being on the squad for the 2006 Season.

These are all extremely human feelings, and extremely common experiences. We talked about some of the following:

All you can do is all you can do. When you see ways to improve your best for future situations - take note!

Meanwhile, ain't none of us ever gonna be perfect. And a perfect God designed it that way. It is misguided and fantastical to beat ourselves up for being human.

Being a Victim of Bad Luck
First, some perspective: Many people experience way worse luck than this.

Second: The weekend was a lesson about winning and losing. Luck is often a factor - which is why the journey is just as important as the end result.

Jake gave the performances he gave over the "intense" weekend of try-outs. Do the opinions of fallible human judges either validate or invalidate the quality of Jake's efforts, performances, and experiences? Of course not! Do the whims of good luck or bad luck either validate or invalidate those performances and experiences? Does an arbitrarily created method of score-keeping either validate or invalidate those performances and experiences? Of course not. And of course not.

Jake's performances and experiences were ends unto themselves. Who would assert that Jake's efforts did not bring joy to God? Or that Jake's performances were not windows through which observers might glimpse aspects of God's glory? Who would assert that Jake's efforts did not fit neatly into God's eternal plan? The Lord works in mysterious ways. The journey is an end unto itself.

Letting People Down
Intellectually, Jake knew he had not let people down.
Instinctively, he felt he had actually let people down.

Its important to understand that instinctive feelings do not equate to truths. Your instincts are instincts. No matter how strongly instincts scream out, they are not truths to be relied upon, but rather circumstances to be considered.

Imagine you are walking across the African prairie, and you encounter a lion. Your instincts scream out that the best action is to run. And yet, the best action may be to crouch quietly in the tall grass, with heart thumping fast, and let the lion pass by your position.

Its important to keep instincts in perspective. They are circumstances. They are not truths.

First: Is it our life's major purpose to impress others with our wonderfulness? Though I've done plenty of trying to impress, I choose a larger purpose. Luckily, almost any purpose is larger than the purpose of impressing other people!

Second: In fairness, we are social beings. Social relationships are important. The respect of one's peers has its place. The good news is that we can credit our friends with having intelligence and understanding. If any of Jake's "friends" are so shallow as to have their opinions of him impacted by his Phantom Regiment results, does Jake really desire to continue those "friendships?"

Third: Not making the squad prompts sympathetic attention from girls. I declare this a good thing.

Jake's sadness was about mourning and grieving. Mourning is passive. It happens to all of us. Grieving is active, and brave. Grieving is a proactive process of relearning the world. Something has happened, and the world will never be the same for us. Grieving is our method of learning to live and to thrive in the new circumstances.

Grieving is our frequent and sometimes constant companion. Sometimes we grieve a thimble-full, such as when a company stops making a favorite product, or when our favorite team loses a big game. Its valuable to recognize and acknowledge that we grieve small occurrences(in appropriate proportions!).

Sometimes we grieve an ocean-full. Especially during these times, we often wish life could go back to the way it was before our loss. These are appropriate wishes. They serve as a way of acknowledging and honoring the depth of our feeling for the one we have lost. However, it is unhealthy to become stuck in a state of such wishing. The world has changed. It is healthy to acknowledge the truth of that, and to go about relearning the world as it is now.

There's a tendency, whether a loss is small or large, to try and ignore it, and to move on with other activities. Friends see us in pain, and their hearts go out. They council us to "just don't think about it." This is well-meaning, and exactly wrong. We ought not wallow in an unhealthy fashion - we can use our best judgment about that. But we ought not pile up a mini-mountain of pain which we have never acknowledged, and never worked through. That is a recipe for myriad long-term problems.

The Anchoress wrote beautifully about pain. We should not seek it; but, as much as possible, we should not resist its appropriate appearance. The key is to tamp down our initial reaction to pain. Rather than unconsciously react, consciously respond. Let the pain occur as God designed it. Let it be. Just look at it. Look on in wonder.

Jake was responding to his pain in a healthy fashion. It was inspiring. God is in the small things. Jake's chance to be a member of Phantom Regiment was (apparently) gone. He was in mourning, and was bravely grieving. We talked about such things, and about other, more lighthearted things. He is a wonderful young man, and I am terribly proud of him.

Then, on Monday, Jake discovered he had actually made the squad, if only his scheduling could be worked out. Forget all that healthy, tiresome grieving! Yuck. That bitter medicine. That tasteless ordeal of gruel. Oh joy! Oh ecstasy! Its the best horn line in America!

And, oh parental joy! For Jake's happiness - but, also: How good is that life lesson?! For him and for me? What better demonstration of the randomness of good luck and bad luck? What better demonstration of the illogic of judging yourself, for good or for ill, according to the arbitrary standards and judgments of others - as if those standards and judgments actually mean something about you, or about the quality of your work? What better lesson for Jake and for me to vividly remember?

Its about the journey. Thankfully.

Friday, November 18, 2005

The Funeral of Donnie Van Meter

Donnie Van Meter died in a traffic accident at age 41. He is survived by his wife: Kenny Beth, and his daughters: Morgan and Madison - ages 12 and 10. He was laid to rest at 10:00 AM today, in his home of Robinson, TX, which is just south of Waco.

Donnie coached every softball and basketball team on which Morgan and Madison ever played. Last summer, when Morgan's softball team finished as the second best team in Texas, Donnie struck up a friendship with the coaches and parents of the best team in Texas: Graham, TX. He told them Robinson was coming to get their championship medallion in 2006. The day before Donnie's funeral, three of the Graham coaches and parents drove four hours so they could personally express their condolences, and also present Kenny Beth, Morgan, and Madison with their team's 2005 State Championship Medallion.

The night before Donnie's funeral, a long line of mourners had to wait over an hour to view Donnie's body.

This morning, the mourners at Donnie's graveside service included several dozen ten to twelve year-old girls - many of whom wore blue jeans, athletic jerseys, and tennis shoes. Some of the jerseys said "Robinson All-Stars," and these all-stars wore their 2005 State Runner Up Medallions outside their jerseys, dangling from their necks on red, white, and blue striped ribbon.

Most of the girl mourners were stoic throughout most of the ceremony - until the very last song - performed by a single acoustic guitar. The finality of the notes, carried on the November breeze, began to be too much for the girls. A few began to cry, with heads lowered and shoulders heaving. Then, a few more. Soon most of the 40 or so girls were sobbing great salty tears, which visibly dropped from their cheeks, and plopped into the yellowed winter grass below. Of the many ways to ceremonially depart this Earth, being serenaded by the tearful lamentations of young girls is not the worst, by a long shot.

Friday, November 11, 2005

Hangin With Dad

You cannot understand until you get into my Dad's head. My Dad intends lack of criticism to be understood as praise, i.e. his silence means there is nothing to criticise - which is its own form of praise/approval - and he intends it to be understood as such. Here is a typical interaction between us:

Dad: Criticise. Criticise.


Dad: Harshly criticise. Harshly criticise.

Me: Sharp retort.

Dad: How dare you be disrespectful to your father!?



Me: (Isn't that nice! Dad is bestowing praise. His silence means he approves of my actions and/or my personal presentation!)

Here's a variation:

Dad: Criticise. Criticise.

Me: Sharp retort.

Dad: What? What'd I say? You're awfully sensitive today, aren't you?

Here's Dad and I having an extended conversation:

Dad: Who was that kid you used to have on your team?

(I coached 9 different teams and approx. 150 players)

Me: Which one?

Dad: You know, the one whose parents thought he was the greatest thing ever?

Me: Every kid's parents thought their kid was the greatest thing ever.

Dad: You know. Don't be like that.

Me: I really don't know.

Dad: Yes you do. His Mom was really overprotective.

Me: Every kid's Mom was really overprotective.



Dad: I just don't understand you sometimes.

Me(in a helpful tone): Baseball player? Was it A, or B, or C?

Dad: None of those. You know the kid! I can't believe you. He was a pretty good little infielder.

(This is a big break, as Dad only believed about 4 of the 150 kids were good players.)

Me(in a relieved tone): Was it D, or E, of F?

Dad: That's it! F! Well, his Dad used to always stand around and criticize your coaching, so one day I said to him "You know, there's one difference between Greg and us." And he said "What?" And I said "He's the coach, and he gets to make the decisions." So then he walked away, and he never came back down there and talked to us.

Me: Yeah, you've told me that before. You were smart to get rid of that guy. He didn't know what he was talking about.

Dad: Yep. He never came back down there, that's for sure.

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Liveblogging West Wing Debate

Apparently, this is live television. It's surely scripted(to an unknown extent), and rehearsed(?!), but its not pre-recorded.

Both candidates profess pre-debate terror.

Senator Vinick - out of conscience, proposes ditching the time limits on responses -like that would ever happen!

Congressman Santos naturally accepts. What else could happen in Hollywood? Still, great premise.

My expectations for this are the same as my expectations were halfway through the FX series "Over There": the producers/directors will tease me by touching on my side of issues, then they will drop the hammer with bs at the end of the show. That pretty much happened with "Over There", which had an American unneccessarily killing an innocent Iraqi boy in the last episode. I must say, though, I really enjoyed the entire "Over There" series. Good show. I made it appt. TV. On balance, it was a net positive for America's effort to help Iraqis succeed in being democratic.

Let's debate!


Santos: problem of illegal immigration is ...

Vinick: changes subject to CAFTA, which Santos "voted for before he voted against."

Santos: rehabs John Kerry for future Presidential run.

Santos is waiting to drop the hammer re immigration... ... waiting... here it comes:
false alert - here it comes again: ".. this is an economic problem. Its about Mexico's economy. There is no real solution for this. "

Great. Typical Dem. No ideas on how to solve the problem.

Balanced Budget:

Vinick: even Santos' tax increases won't be enough to pay for his spending increases.

Santos: I will balance the budget by raising taxes on the rich. Vinick has written loopholes into the tax code for the rich.

(This totally skirts the fact that lower taxes increase tax revenue by jazzing the economy. Grrrr. GRRRRRRR!!!)

Moderator Forrest Sawyer:
Spending Cuts? Specifics?

both evade.


Vinick: Parents want them. Dems blocking them.

Santos: bbffffftttt.

Vinick: Head Start doesn't work! (audience audibly ooohs/booos)

Santos: Head Start works, but we lose the progress once the kids start school.(He doesn't cite any relevant studies or statistics for this assertion.)

Forrest Sawyer threatens Vinick re: civility.

(I call bullshit. Vinick paid for that microphone!)

Vinick: stop pretending everyone can and should go to college, or that everyone can and should go to MIT.( Excellent!)

Santos demgogues Vinick: so you're just going to give up on those Head Start kids. I'm going to stake my Presidency on improving public education.

Health Care

Vinick: make health care tax deductible.

Santos: this unfairly penalizes low income Americans.(a fair point, as far as I can see.) Nationalize health care.

Vinick: impossible to do effectively.

Santos: my ideal plan: let all Americans have the equivalent of Medicare benefits. Private insurance companies spend 25% on administrative costs. Medicare spends 2% on admin costs. (this is horribly misleading. Medicare is huge - this cuts admin. costs on a percentage basis. Also, Medicare is notorious for getting ripped off by Drs and health care vendors. Medicare pays mind boggling vendor ripoff costs, b/c they almost never investigate anyone who may be ripping them off.) Medicare is the most efficient healthcare system in the world. (oh my God! can't breathe... must .. calm... down) Takes gratuitous shot at HMOs. (Santos is saying Socialism will work! roll eyes here.) Santos takes shot at Pharmaceutical Companies.

Vinick defends Pharma Co's: amazing accomplishments - they save lives. (this has the following benefit for Dems: it identifies real life Repubs as defenders of Pharma Co's. Still, I'm glad to see it. If there's a Pharma Co problem, the solution is more Pharma Co competition - not more govt. We may need to check that Congress hasn't passed laws which prevent new Pharma competition from entering the market. The FDA may be guilty of such barriers to entering the Pharma market. It would be good to take a look at that.)

Canadian drug price limits are unfair to Pharma Co's. Aids drugs in Africa. (Boring).

Vinick: Tax cuts will help impoverished countries of Africa. They have the highest tax rates in the world. Keeps their people poor, and without capital for building things, and without ability to attract foreign business investment. Those nations have high tax rates to prove to us they can pay back our massive loans. Therefore, we have encouraged those nations to lock themselves into economic depression. In this situation, our charity will never be enough.(good stuff)

On commercial now - they have written in parts where each candidate gets a bit tongue tied and flustered. This is good, since we haven't seen a good Presidential debater in a long time. The best debater of my lifetime? Cheating a bit: Dick Cheney. He is fantastic at zeroing in on the important points. If you could combine Cheney with Reagan's charisma, you would have supercandidate!(and mass Dem suicide.)


Santos: technical bs answer.

Vinick: I would cut jobs in my first term.. I will reduce the number of jobs in the federal govt. The Presidents job is to get out of the way of private business.

Santos: Government needs to interfere with (implied corrupt) CEOs - such as Airline CEOs running their airlines into bankruptcy.

Santos: Abe Lincoln was a liberal Republican President, then Repubs got pissed off and ran liberals out of their party. (Santos hints, IMO, that Repubs are racist meanies.)

Santos makes long speech about accomplishments of Dems over years - with no response from Vinick!! Vinick folded! Damnit.

Death Penalty

Gun Control

Vinick: pro 2nd amendment

Santos: we need bullet control.(roll eyes here)

Oil and Energy

Santos demagogues Vinick's Oil Industry ties(via campaign contributors?).

Vinick apologizes for his tone!! (I call triple bullshit!!! Bs Bs Bs!!)


Santos: not enough oil to make a difference.

Vinick: we'll never know until we start drilling. Clap if you've ever been to the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge?(zero claps. Vinick is very strong here- thank God. How could anyone honestly lose with all the facts on their side?)

Nuclear Power Plants:

Santos: radioactive waste!!

Vinick misspeaks: "nuclear is completely safe"(Repub misspeaking is the only way the Dems could win this argument also. The fix is in.)

Vinick: the market is the thing which can save us. (You preachin' to the choir!)

Santos: Global Warming!! (these days, crying "global warming" is like crying "racism" - it stops all conversational give and take.)

(Vinick may stroke out at some point. He's getting pretty hot.)

Santos: I will never go to war for oil. (huge applause) I invite Sen. Vinick to join me in that pledge.

Vinick: Oil is a commodity. You don't have to shoot people to get oil. You just have to pay for it.(Vinick refuses to take Santos' pledge. More to come later in the campaign about this. My antennae are up.)

Closing Statements

Santos: govt is good. free market = scary, dangerous bogey man. I grew up a poor (Mexican) child. I'm not using my race as an advantage! I'm so virtuous for not having done so!

Vinick: Thanks Santos for dropping the rules. Different ideas about govt. I have more confidence in freedom. I don't want any more govt than we can afford. I don't want govt trying to do things it can't do. (Hooray!) The Presidential Choice = more govt vs. getting control of govt. (Hooray!) The Presidency needs experience and muture judgment.
(You preachin to the choir again! Vinick is talking about Santos' age, but I say the Dems are children with immature judgment. Do not let the children get their hands on the nation's controls!)

Final Analysis: Hollywood writers did as good a job as they could've of presenting conservative ideas they don't believe in. Very commendable. Alan Alda did as good a job as he could've of presenting ideas he doesn't believe in. Very commendable. That said, as presented, Hollywood made sure Santos won the debate by a narrow margin. Further, the Santos campaign will grab onto Vinick's refusal to take the "no war for oil pledge", and they will hammer Vinick with it for weeks. As they hammer Vinick, the West Wing writers will be metaphorically hammering President Bush. Blegh. Maybe the writers will surprise me by having Vinick eventually and effectively answer this scurrilous charge - which will pave the way for a Vinick campaign victory.* We shall see.

Final Grade: A+. Really. Outstanding episode.

* I'm not very excited about a possible Vinick campaign victory. I'm suspicious. It seems logical that writers who do not believe in conservative ideas will always find subtle, maybe even unconscious, ways to make a conservative President look bad. Ditto for Alan Alda. He's a decent guy, but it makes me queasy to think of him making the case for conservative causes.

Monday, October 10, 2005

7 Things About Me

1. Seven celebrity crushes.

  1. Misty May - I love this woman. She is fierce, yet I sense an inner goodness.
  2. Patricia Heaton - Just a freckled girl from Cleveland, Patricia is an interesting and gutsy person. Look behind the eyes.
  3. Jennifer Lopez- she would have to magically(or drunkenly) find me irresistible, and she would have to magically disappear after a wild weekend.
  4. Jewel
  5. One of the great basketball players of all time: Diane Taurasi. The strong Italian look is very sexy.
  6. Anna Kournikova: The face that launched a thousand magazine covers. I never liked her until I saw her throw out a pitch and be interviewed at a Rangers' game. She is over 6 feet tall!

    Bonus women:
  7. Brandi Chastain
  8. Heather Juergensen - from "Kissing Jessica Stein".

2. Seven things I can do.

  1. I am naturally very good with kids.
  2. Score in the paint.
  3. Skim-read very fast, yet still understand what is written.
  4. Disagree with you while not being angry with you, and while still respecting your right to your opinion. Related: I listen and understand your opinion. I can lay out your opinion and your argument in a clear and understandable fashion.
  5. Apologize
  6. Stand my ground
  7. Roof a house.

3. Seven things I can't do.

  1. Skateboard or Surf.
  2. Play any musical instrument.
  3. Write or understand any computer code.
  4. Be comfortable and relaxed at a large cocktail-type party.
  5. Plumbing.
  6. Trigonometry and Chemistry - faked my way through both classes.
  7. Hang out with someone who is shopping - this causes actual, physical, Passion of the Christ level of agony.

4. Seven things that attract me to the opposite sex.

  1. If a person loves me, I am attracted to them.
  2. If a woman truly likes and appreciates manliness - that is attractive. It's okay if manliness sometimes frustrates her, so long as she appreciates - deep in her core - the good and noble qualities of men. By appreciating manliness, she makes herself a very attractive woman.
  3. Everyone is touched by God - yet, with some people, His light shines out in every direction. It's very attractive.
  4. Humor/wit
  5. Softness
  6. Courage: to be direct with people, and to get up and try again, after getting knocked down.
  7. Nurturing

5. Seven things that I say most often.

  1. Remember the song "Rock Me Amadeus"? I like to insert a choice epithet in place of the "Rock" in that phrase.
  2. When I yawn, I say "Higgabah". No reason. The sound just fits my yawn.
  3. "Things are actually going amazingly well in Iraq."
  4. "The Texas Rangers need to just sit tight! Good pitching is on the way!"
  5. "I'm actually very good with kids." For some reason, people don't seem to believe it. A prophet(or child-care expert) is never respected in his hometown!
  6. The Lord's Prayer
  7. "Groovy", as in: "How are you, Greg?" "Groovy!"

6. Seven things I plan to do before I die.

  1. The Smithsonian - and tour all of D.C.
  2. Yoga
  3. Take a motorcycle trip to Yellowstone National Park.
  4. Tango
  5. Read the entire Bible.
  6. Rome
  7. Fish Newfoundland and Nova Scotia.

Friday, August 05, 2005

How to Apologize

Michelle Malkin commends Robert Novak for genuinely apologizing, and points to some other public figures who made "fake apologies": link.

Here's how to apologize:

What I did (specify it) was wrong, and I apologize for doing it.

Here's how to not apologize:

I apologize if what I did hurt your feelings.

Here's why this is a fake apology:
This is not about my action - it's about your reaction.

The fake apologizer is actually lamenting the other party's over-sensitivity, as in:
I regret that you are over-sensitive. If you would have displayed normal sensitivity, this would not have been a problem.

Thus the fake apologizer can continue to believe in the rightness of their action. They can even revel in their cleverness - as the other party often fails to notice their subterfuge.

What if one genuinely regrets that the other party was placed in a predicament, yet genuinely believes their own actions were righteous and correct? Then there is nothing to apologize for. This would be an honest communication - though its a bit harsh:
I correctly chose the best course of action. I empathize with your predicament - but that's the breaks. I would do the same thing again.

An action is either optimal, or suboptimal. A true apology always acknowledges suboptimal action, as in:
I could've created the desired result in a way which was more sensitive to your predicament, and I apologize for not doing so.

Why is apologizing so difficult?
Most people are heavily invested in being right. Their self-image is of being right about things, and of being on the right side of issues. They sometimes associate this with being virtuous. People will choose to be right at the expense of their relationship with a parent, child, or sibling. People will choose to be right at the cost of their jobs. People will choose to be right at the expense of make-up sex with their spouses.

A solution:
Instead of self-identifying with being right, make a subtle shift in perspective, and self-identify as someone who is committed to certain principles, to certain values, and to achieving certain results. When conflict occurs, declare yourself - as in:
This is what I'm committed to, and this is who I am going to be in this conversation: a person who is committed to x,y,z.

This has the effect of bumping a conversation onto a higher plane, where everyone's true motivations can be seen and acknowledged. For example:
I am committed to our having a close, loving, and nurturing relationship

creates a different conversational dynamic than:
I am committed to you either fixing that leaky pipe, or dying a painful death.

Hopefully, both parties can find common ground on a higher plane, and consider lower plane issues against that backdrop of shared values and goals.

This is not a clever tactic designed to win an argument. In my own life, instances of self-declaration have opened my eyes to who I truly intended to be, but was not being:
I am not a person who is committed to being right. I am a person who is committed to us having a wonderful relationship.
I am committed to our department accomplishing this particular goal, and that's who I'm going to be in this conversation: a person who is committed to our department accomplishing this particular goal.

Saturday, July 30, 2005

End Zone World: High School Mascots

High schools are generally clueless about choosing mascots. They could choose based on a sense of fun and whimsy; or a historical aspect of a geographic area; or a school + mascot wordplay which is fun to say aloud. Instead, high schools often cede mascot choices to the students.

In theory, this is egalitarian. In reality, this often devolves into the dominant group of girls organizing, cajoling, and bullying fellow students into voting for whatever mascot the dominant group of girls considers the "cutest." One should avoid letting teenaged girls control a process. Case in point: Grandview(Texas) High School, i.e.

the Grandview Zebras

Grandview is located on a hot and grassy prairie - but that's where the logic of this mascot choice ends. A zebra is a prey animal. When you think of a zebra, it is going down and dying in a panic, i.e. a Lion or a Cheetah is taking it down with a chomp on the neck; a group of alligators is ripping a zebra apart - same with a pack of hyena. Who wants to be a zebra?! Other possibilities for Grandview:

  • Gators
  • Gamebirds
  • Gorillas
  • Guatemalans

and my favorites:

  • Grandview Grasshoppers
  • Grandview Gravity
  • Grandview Gravy - I once made up some cheerleader cheers* for the Grandview Gravy, whose mascot would be named "Lumpy."

The real purpose of this post is to consider the Tuttle (Oklahoma) Tigers, as I encountered a Tuttle Tiger at Cabella's last week. Nice nickname. Not overly cute. Fierce. Alliterative. But not good enough, reason being that "Tuttle" is such a spectacular name - a gift from the Mascot Gods.

"To whom much is given, much is expected." - Book of Matthew

When you're working with fabulous material, like "Tuttle," you don't want to mold a simple ashtray. Its a waste, and a kind of affront. Consider the memorable possibilities:

  • Tuttle Turtles
  • Tuttle Toddles - these would be weeblo-like mascots: "they wobble but they don't fall down." Students would don colored sumo suits on the sidelines. I think these would be undefeated mascots. No rival student, in a lion or tiger costume, could defeat a Tuttle Toddle in sideline combat. The gymnasium would be "The Toddle House."
  • Tuttle Tittles - these would be laughing creatures with expressive faces
  • Tuttle Tattles - good cheer-taunt possibilities: "Don't do wrong..." School Newspaper: "The Tattler."
  • Tuttle Puddles**
  • Tuttle Muddles - "Muddle through, boys!"
  • Tuttle Bubbles - children's bubble-blowers in the stands!

Even if you're allergic to whimsy, the point is:

How could you pass on Tuttle Turtles!?

Its natural, its memorable, and its catchy. Turtles would've been embraced by the entire town of Tuttle. You'd have turtle statues all over Tuttle; turtle figurines; climbable turtles in playgrounds; shoe-polish turtles in store windows. Tuttle would've reacted similar to Hutto, Texas, where beloved, smiling Hutto Hippos have come to represent the entire town.

In End Zone World(EZ World), it would be Tuttle Turtles.


I've also got a beef with the Buda (Texas) Eagles, who obviously should be:

the Buda Bellies

Another example of school officials shunning creative genius in favor of mundane mediocrity. Such a pity.


*Three cheerleader cheers for the Grandview Gravy:

1) Meat gravy
Cream gravy
Natural gravy too,
We're gonna ladle gravy
All over you.

2) You guys are so wimpy
You're gonna get a loss,
You guys are so wimpy
You must be a sauce.

3) Grease em
Give them gas,
Cream em
Soak em
Saturate their...quarterback.

One cheerleader cheer for the Grandview Gravity:

Think you're high and mighty?
Think you're pretty tall?
Here comes Gravity,
You're gonna take a fall.

Note: As mascots go, the Robinson (Texas) Rockets are well designed to defeat the Grandview Gravity. And vice verse, actually. Outstanding mascot matchup, if only.

**One cheerleader cheer for the Tuttle Puddles(this cheer recommended for girls' sporting events):

Manolo Blahnick, Jimmy Choo,
Espedrilles, spike heels, sandals too,
Luscious suede beauties you wear to a fete,
You can’t avoid the Puddles so they’re gonna get wet!

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Humor Break: Ode to IMAO

I wish I knew what IMAO meant. Maybe it means "It's Frank J's world":

Affirmative Action
Whose dumb idea was this? The solution to racism is to ingrain racism into our laws and hiring practices? Some may say you should fight fire with fire, but, if my house were ablaze and the firemen showed up with flamethrowers, I'd be like, "Hey! Don't fight fire with fire!" That why I'm 'gainst affirmative action.

Israeli-Palestinian Conflict
To start off, I don’t know much about the Middle East. I don’t know who is an arab and who is technically not an arab, how much killing the Koran actually condones, or even what continent the Middle East is on. I mean, it’s wedged right in there between Europe, Africa, and Asia, so which one is it? What I do know is that it’s really hard to sympathize with the Palestinians. Maybe if once I read off the AP “Today, a group of Palestinian thugs grabbed a man they thought to be plotting a suicide bombing of an Israeli daycare and beat him severely for eight hours straight. France has already denounced it as one of the worst acts of violence they have ever witnessed.” then I’d be like, “Hey, those Palestinians are pretty cool. Maybe the Israelis should be nicer to them.” Instead I’m always hearing things like “A bomb has gone off in a crowded marketplace in Israel. Reports are still sketchy on the dead and injured, but we already have video of the Palestinians celebrating by jumping up and down and screeching like deranged howler monkeys.” and I’m like, “I hate the Palestinians. Why haven’t the Israelis killed them all yet? Don’t they have some sort of Zionist conspiracy to deal with these ‘people?’”

Random Ninja Attacks
Nothing ruins a quiet stroll through the countryside quite like being jumped by a group of ninjas. It’s a common complaint, and the problem is only getting worse. Yet, the solutions offered are just more of the same. Build taller fences they say, but we all know how adept ninjas are at climbing. They propose putting more townspeople on ninja watch, but the whole point of a ninja is to sneak by unseen. Sometimes hiring wandering ronin to attack the ninjas’ headquarters has worked as a temporary solution, but the ninjas always regroup and the ronin are expensive and not always trustworthy. Frankly, how good could a samurai be if his master is dead? I say the only real solution is to make the death touch available to the people. When the common man is able to cause someone’s heart to explode by striking certain pressure points, then they will be able to defend themselves from vicious ninjas. There are many who oppose this, but, when the death touch is outlawed, only outlaws will use the death touch. And that leaves no one safe.

Big Government
Government is evil. It’s a necessary evil, but it’s still evil. Its job is to be big and powerful and push people around. It’s sorry thing we need it, but, hey, them’s the breaks. So, the idea is to be as careful as possible when applying it. You should be as hesitant to use the government to achieve something as you would be burning down an orphanage to achieve something. But people don’t get it, always whining to government to fix every problem instead of getting off their own duffs even though government can often make things worse. Look at this way, the government is like Godzilla: it’s most adept as smashing and breaking things, but if it tries to help an individual person, it’s more likely to crush him accidentally than anything else. So that’s why I’m ‘gainst big government.

Slave Reparations
Slavery in America was a horrible crime against humanity, and the governments support of it is more than inexcusable. I say, rather than that forty acres and a mule crap, give every surviving former slave $10 million dollars so he or she can get a condo and a porsche. And, since slavery was such a horrible thing, I think there should also be some reparations for the children of slaves who were never slaves themselves. They should all get free residence in a nursing home, if any are still alive. As for all other descendants, they can get an "I sought reparations for slavery and all I got was this lousy t-shirt" t-shirt for the apologetic price of just $12.00. Act now, because these reparations won't last forever!

I’m just kidding ya. I’m ‘gainst reparations. T-shirts are full price.

Sunday, June 26, 2005

Hank's Homeys Rock

Hank's Homeys is my first fantasy baseball team ever, and its surely the best fantasy baseball team I'll ever have. I could play for 30 more years and never have another team this good, so I'm careful to fully enjoy the fabulosity of this team.

We are in first place in Annika's Fantasy Baseball League. We've been in either first or second place for maybe six weeks. We acquired seven excellent players in the draft; one player through trade; and everyone else via waivers. Its amazing who you can acquire off the waiver list. We've had the last waiver drafting postition for most of the year, yet we've still been able to acquire fabulous players. We've had good luck acquiring pitchers while they were temporarily on the DL. Here's our roster, with notations about how everyone was acquired.

Position Players:

  • C: Brandon Inge- Waivers- Catcher is a weak position league-wide. In an upset, Inge has been the top ranked fantasy catcher so far this season.
  • 1B: Mark Texiera- Draft(3rd round)
  • 2B: Bip Roberts- Waivers- A lucky pick. Was looking for stolen bases, and stumbled across a fantasy baseball god.
  • 3B: Casey Blake- Waivers- This has been the worst production of any position. We have been through a dozen different 3Bman so far. I wish I had grabbed Morgan Ensberg off waivers.
  • SS: Michael Young- Draft(4th round)
  • OF: Vladimir Guerrerro- Draft(1st round)
  • OF: Manny Ramirez- Draft(2nd round)
  • OF: Ken Griffey, Jr.- Draft(10th round) This was an excellent draft pick. The last few years, Griffey has continued to hit when healthy. I figured it was time for him to have a big year.
  • Utility: Andruw Jones- Waivers(Drafted in 9th round, then traded for Dunn, then reacquired via waivers) This guy is white hot! Ride that streak!
  • Bench: Adam Dunn- Trade(for Andruw Jones) I love this player. He has a .245 BA, but is productive in every other offensive category. He even steals bases!
  • Bench: Hideki Matsui- Waivers- Continues to improve his already impressive game. Enjoys the huge advantage of being nestled amongst big hitters in the Yankee lineup: He sees good pitches every at bat.
  • Bench: Felipe Lopez- Waivers- SS for Cincinnatti continues to put up excellent numbers, which are comparable to Michael Young's numbers so far this season. Lopez plays these fantasy positions: 2B/SS/3B.


  • SP- Dontrelle Willis- Draft(7th round) Another excellent pick: I had a hunch about Dontrelle. Also, he's a sentimental pick: I just love him as a player. I wish the Marlins would let him play OF when he's not pitching.
  • SP- Jon Garland- Waivers
  • SP- Mark Prior- Waivers (while on DL)
  • SP- Eric Bedard- Waivers- I hope Bedard, when he gets off the DL, will continue his excellent development.
  • SP- Kenny Rogers- Waivers- Ride'em while they're hot!
  • SP- Brad Penny- Waivers (while on DL) I've been super-patient with Penny, and he's repaid me with mediocre play. When Bedard comes off the DL, Penny may have to go.
  • RP- Francisco Rodriguez- Draft(7th round) I saw him the last two seasons against the Rangers, and knew he would be big as a closer.
  • RP- Jason Isringhausen- Waivers (while on DL) God Bless the DL!
  • RP- Doug Jones- Waivers- Here's where its good to be an old fart who can remember when Doug Jones was good, and can speculate that he might have a good season closing for a strong Marlins team.

My favorite part of the season was April and May, when we had Dontrelle Willis and a cast of thousands running through a starting pitcher tryout camp. I kept only 9 position players- every one of them had to start every day. I kept 8 SPs rotating through 3 SP slots. We went through SPs faster than Jimmy Johnson went through waiver players in 1989: Here on Tuesday, cut on Thursday. Here on Thursday, cut on Monday. If you were a starter facing the Astros, Royals, Pirates, Brewers, or the Rockies on the road, chances are you were with Hank's Homeys for at least one start. We did come up with Jon Garland and Eric Bedard in this fashion- and maybe Kenny Rogers too. Its better to be lucky than good.

And if you're scuffling, its better to give luck a chance to happen by practicing nonattachment to players, otherwise C.C. Sabathia, Andy Petitte, Bruce Chen, Brad Backe, Jerome Williams, Kevin Brown, Brad Radke, Jamie Moyer, Gil Meche, Oliver Perez, Horatio Ramirez, Mike Hampton, Brad Lawrence, Bobby Madritsche, Joel Pinero, Victor Zambrano, and Derek Lowe might still be hanging around, pitching on a last place team.

My one big mistake was cutting Matt Morris. He won 5 games in a row for us, then I cut him as he faced the Yankees and Red Sox in three consecutive starts. To my surprise, he mowed down the Yankees and the Red Sox, THEN he blew up like a suicide bomber against the Pirates! That's right- the Pirates: Swashbuckling Sultans of Swat, featuring a murderer's row of Lawton, Redmon, Bay, Mackowiak, Ward, Cota, Castillo, and Wilson, knocked Morris out in the 3rd inning of an 11-7 victory. Sometimes theres no figuring this game. Its better to be lucky, and Hank's Homeys have had plenty of that. Hopefully, its the residue of good karma from associating with the classy Mr. Blalock, and his classy fan club: Hank's Homies.

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Corpus Christi

In Corpus Christi to help Secure Horizons Health Insurance open up in this market. I really like this area, which is called "Texas Coastal Bend." I've visited most areas of Texas, but must admit I've never been down here. Had no idea it was so charming - in a rugged, plain kind of way. The beaches are wonderfully sandy - perfect for walking barefoot. They are without the sea shells which cut your feet on many beaches.

There is seaweed, my friend. Huge horizontal swaths of it, stretching for miles along the tide line. I met a Texas A&M Coed/Marine Biology major. She's working as a Padre Island Park Ranger for the summer, and she was out walking for exercise at the end of her shift. We walked together for a mile or so. She said this particular seaweed grows on top of the Atlantic Ocean, between South America and Africa, then washes onto the Texas beaches this time of year. She said it gets stinky as it rots on the beach. But there's always been stiff breezes blowing, and I haven't noticed any unpleasant odors.

Met and strolled with an Army specialist on leave from Iraq. He was at the beach with his 3 month old(!) niece, and his fiance. He said the Army's techonologic weaponry and scouting capabilities are unbelievable. The Army uses only a fraction of their technology in Iraq.

On most of these beaches you can drive your vehicle right onto the sand beside the Gulf waters, then set up a tent for overnight; or sleep in your Winnebago, or trailer, or van(1, 2). I've seen many families, married couples, and lovers doing all these things. These are state parks, and their entry cost is either nonexistent, or nominal. It makes me happy that Texas has beach parks which are so nice. These parks serve a refreshing milieu of Texans and visitors: well-off, not so well-off; black, white, brown; children, adults, seniors, dogs: everywhere.

I mostly work from about 9 AM to about 7:30 PM, then I rush down to Mustang Island to walk in the lapping waves, and watch the sun set over the sand dunes. Four different nights I've sat out on the beach until I could study the stars a bit, then made the 25 minute drive back to my hotel, arriving about 10:15 PM. Its a nice life, especially for someone like me, who's barely ever lived near the ocean.

Walking in the waves and watching the stars like that, one has a strong desire for a beer, a girl, and a tent. Then another beer. Actually, then another girl, also. But now we're getting sidetracked into fantasy. It wouldn't be that hard to arrange for two beers, two girls, and a tent on the beach. But, in real life, this scene would usually be more trouble than it was worth. The girls might want some of my beer, or some other silly thing.

Went to Port Aransas on Sunday. Walked their classic wooden pier. It juts 1/4 mile or so into the Gulf. People fishing everywhere. I like to chit-chat with the children. They are very excited to be fishing. They approach their task with seriousness of purpose.

Walked the mile long dirt and rock South Jetty, which was built to cut down the ocean waves molesting the Corpus Christi ship channel. The jetty is basically a dirt road jutting straight out into the Gulf. They floated huge square-cut rock chunks out to frame both sides of the dirt road, to prevent erosion. Pretty cool. The rock chunks were about 10'x5'x5'. People fishing everywhere on this dirt and rock pier, also. Serious, focused children.

After, rode the ferry across the Corpus Christi Ship Channel, drove to Port Aransas Pass, then Gregory, then Portland, then back into Corpus across the Corpus Christi Harbor Bridge - which is nicely tall.

I'd be remiss not to mention Corpus Christi is the home of Selena, and Janis Joplin. I saw Janis and Stevie Ray Vaughan on a huge mural near downtown.

Its easy to see why Selena was a real life Elvis. This town is heavily Mexican-American, and heavily working class. Selena was Corpus Christi's girl. She raised herself up from nothing, right off the bottom of a working class town. They loved her for that more than anything. They loved her for that more than they loved her music. She embodied their dreams. She meant their dreams really could come true: Mexican girls could become famous and rich; and be respected and admired by Anglos.

A lot of working class Mexican-Americans have little practical conception of what a Mexican girl's life is like as an outstanding Lawyer or Engineer. But they understand and grasp an outstanding entertainer. That is very real to them. Very right in front of their eyes.

And a Mexican-American entertainer brings credit and honor to all Mexican-Americans. Rooting for her was like rooting for your own team.

Selena's eyes, and her face, always reflected sensibility and graciousness(1, 2). I had a gut instinct that she was a very decent girl. Makes her untimely death all the more tragic.

The nice hotel staff is taking good care of me, and I'll be back in Ft. Worth on Sunday.

Next Post: Whataburger (Baseball) Field.

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Globetrotting Famous Cousin Jeff Weighs In On ANWR, Misleading Media, and Psycho Ecos

This guy is exactly right. The ANWR debate has been about deception for the last 20 years. The Sierra Club, CNN and all of the left leaning media can get away with this deception because so few people have actually ever been to ANWR. (I have been to ANWR.) Musk Ox are not very common in the area being considered for drilling, but even if they were, why would they give a shit? They are big giant beasts who’s only enemies are mosquitoes and maybe native Inuit hunters. The same with the caribou, who are common in the proposed drilling area. There is 30 years of experience with oil production operations on the Alaskan north slope and the caribou are not the least bit bothered. Yet the environmental lobby constantly claims drilling in ANWR will destroy the caribou. It’s ludicrous.

In this case CNN is really a pawn to the extreme environmentalist. If you really understand the issues, the only way to be truly opposed to drilling in ANWR is if you are simply anti-development of any kind. There are people in the Sierra Club that think they are anti-development of any kind, but the percentage of people that fall in to this category is miniscule. They have to use mis-information to try to somehow make the issue relevant to others. They also like to say that the native people are opposed to ANWR development. This is only true of the villagers that live in the Brooks Range who are miles away from the potential development and won’t get any direct financial benefit.

In 1988 when I was coming back from ANWR, NBC News was doing a piece on the issue. They went to film a previous Chevron drill site. However, because the drill site had been remediate so well they couldn’t find it. So instead they filmed the local Inuit village’s gravel pit and claimed it was Chevron’s drill site. Chevron asked them to do a correction the next day. NBC said they didn’t do it on purpose (and therefore are not libel) and they don’t do corrections. That was the end of it.

None of this BS would matter if we actually had a functioning government in Washington that could take on and resolve any issue of significance. I think we should drill in ANWR for many reasons, but at this point, the main one is simply so we could get it over with and move on to the many more important issues that we should be debating.

Congrats to the Lady Bears.
(Big 12 Conference Tournament Basketball Champs! Second Seed in their Region in the NCAA Tournament!)

Jeff gets results - from Powerline:

The Senate has voted to open the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil exploration. The portion that will be open to drilling (assuming the Senate approves its budget and the House goes along) is a largely barren coastal section about the size of a regional airport in a refuge the size of the state of South Carolina. Drilling will occur only in the winter, when the place is frozen solid, using sophisticated technology that will scarcely leave a footprint come spring, when the single caribou herd that grazes in the refuge comes calling.

The vote was 51-49.

Posted by deacon at 02:56 PM