Friday, December 24, 2010

A Carol Born

When it comes to carols, I have always found “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day” to be especially poignant (if you're not familiar with it, you can listen to it here.)

It did not begin as a song, but as a poem written on Christmas morning 1863 by America’s greatest poet, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. At that moment in time America was torn apart and battling itself in the Civil War – a war that still stands as the one in which more Americans died than in any other.

When dawn broke that morning, Longfellow was despondent. During the war his son Charles had been horrifically wounded when a bullet passed through part of his spine, leading to a long and excruciating recovery. And as if that wasn’t dark enough, his wife Frances had died as a result of burns sustained when her clothes were set on fire by dripping sealing wax, which she was melting with the intention of using it to preserve some of their daughter’s trimmed curls.

But despite that sorrowful backdrop, as Longfellow sat in his Massachusetts home on Christmas and heard the ringing of local church bells, his faith in divine promise started to stir and he was moved to put pen to paper. The resulting poem was transformed into a hymn nine years later, when John Baptiste Calkin composed the music to which it was set.

The poem’s words absolutely speak for themselves. Since some of them are excluded from the carol we normally hear this time of year, here they are in their entirety:

I heard the bells on Christmas Day
Their old, familiar carols play,
And wild and sweet
The words repeat
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

And thought how, as the day had come,
The belfries of all Christendom
Had rolled along
The unbroken song
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

Till ringing, singing on its way,
The world revolved from night to day,
A voice, a chime,
A chant sublime
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

Then from each black, accursed mouth
The cannon thundered in the South,
And with the sound
The carols drowned
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

It was as if an earthquake rent
The hearth-stones of a continent,
And made forlorn
The households born
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

And in despair I bowed my head;
“There is no peace on earth,” I said;
“For hate is strong,
And mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!”

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
“God is not dead, nor doth He sleep;
The Wrong shall fail,
The Right prevail,
With peace on earth, good-will to men.”

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Winter Solstice

Here are some thoughts about the year’s coldest season on this, its first day:

I love how it begins with evergreen boughs on mantles, lighted trees in village squares, carols on the radio, and people knowing that life’s greatest joys come from giving rather than receiving.

I love its chilly mornings when fog clings to the surfaces of ponds.

I love sitting outside on those mornings drinking hot black coffee.

I love watching Sarah try to catch snowflakes on her tongue during our winter vacation.

I love driving across California’s High Sierra between snow drifts so deep they soar above cars and turn roadways into tunnels of white.

I love walking through Appalachian forests that are barren of leaves but laden with snow, and therefore have the appearance of black-and-white photos come to life.

And finally, I love that I can spend a whole day outside in Florida without feeling the need to shower every hour.

So for those who curse the cold: Remember that every season brings beauty, so long as we stop to notice it.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

That Christmas Feeling

As long as I can remember, I have spent the Thanksgiving-through-New-Year’s season feeling buoyant and hopeful. On December mornings like today’s, when the temperatures are below freezing and the grass is coated with frost, I have always found it easy to catch the Christmas spirit.

But even for people like me, the appreciation we feel for this time of year is increased many times over when we become parents. Watching our children’s faces light up with wonder, we remember how we felt at this time of year when we were kids. Surely, even the most jaded adult must have fond recollections of Christmas Past and hope that today’s tykes are enjoying Christmas Present.

When Sarah was two, I am pretty sure she remembered Christmas from when she was one, but I know she remembered it when she was three. That was the year we got a flat tire while driving to the annual Christmas Eve party for my extended family. It was dark and cloudy and we were stranded for some time on a rural road -- a circumstance that would usually lead to bad moods and quick tempers. But when the lights of an airplane tracking through the clouds became visible, I pointed to them and told Sarah it was Santa’s sleigh. Her face immediately lit up. She pointed at the lights and wiggled and shrieked to Erika: “Mommy! Mommy! It’s Santa! It’s Santa!” And a potentially bad experience was transformed into a golden moment that will never be forgotten.

Exactly one year later, when she was four, getting her to go to bed on Christmas Eve proved next to impossible. For what seemed like hours, she kept getting up every few minutes and running into our room, laughing and jumping and swearing that through her window she had just seen Santa’s sleigh in the sky. Then she started saying that she thought she heard reindeer on the roof. And she kept getting up and making these claims over and over and over again…

When she was five, we took her to Disney World on December 23rd, and the Magic Kingdom was decked out in holiday splendor. After night fell, as we made our way down Main Street USA with Sarah on my shoulders, she broke into song and belted out “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” and “We Wish You A Merry Christmas.” Then artificial snowflakes started to shower down, blown from the tops of the storefronts, and the day came to a picture-perfect end.

The next night saw more classic, Christmas Eve moments. Sarah claimed she saw Rudolph’s nose in the sky on our way home from the annual party. Before bed she made a trail of cookies in our driveway to lead the reindeer to our door. At the end was a marshmallow snowman cookie, along with a note on which she wrote: “Rudolph only.”

Finally, inside our home on her own small table by the tree, Sarah left milk and cookies, and an unfortunately broken candy cane, out for Santa. We disposed of the food and drink before she awoke, and Erika was sure to leave cookie crumbs on the plate next to the empty glass. Erika also composed a thank you note from Santa to Sarah. We had already turned this into a tradition, and Sarah reveled in it again.

Sarah is now six. For the third December in a row she is rising before the roosters every single morning, opening her Advent Box and finding where the Elf on the Shelf has moved to. She is smart as a whip and I did not expect her to still believe in Santa last year, but now it is a whole year later and she continues to believe.

We have always told her that Christmas is to commemorate the birth of Jesus, and is about giving rather than receiving, and she seems to get it. Two years ago, when we told her that after opening her gifts she had to choose one to give away to the poor, she countered by asking if she could give away ten of her old toys rather than one of her new ones.

When Sarah was born, we actually said that we would not even do the Santa thing, specifically to avoid the dreaded conversation in which we would have to admit (there’s no delicate way to put this) that we have been lying to her all these years. Then Christmas came and we did the Santa thing anyway, and although I have some reservations, I don’t have any regrets when I watch her enjoy herself. Her excitement heightens mine and Erika’s, and I am serene in my confidence that she will look back on these days with happiness. After all, one of my fondest memories of Christmas Past is of the year my parents broke the news to me that Santa is not real. The memory involves a chalkboard, but that is a story I will share another time, perhaps another year.

The bottom line is this: I love Christmas to begin with, but I love it even more because of my little girl. Erika and I can not wait to keep making new memories with her and her little sibling, who right now is resting snugly in Erika's womb.

Friday, December 10, 2010

The Real Saint Nick

History provides many examples of actual people who have, over time, become so melded into the popular imagination that we tend to forget they were real. Saint Nicholas is one of them.

Born sometime around 280 A.D. in the town of Patara, in what was then part of Greece but is now part of Turkey, Nicholas was the son of wealthy parents who died when he was young. Having been raised as a devoted Christian, he spent his life using his inheritance to help those in need, and in addition to his charity he became known for harboring great concern for children and sailors.

Down through history, one particular story about his generosity has persisted. In those days, women whose families could not pay a dowry were more likely to die as spinsters than to get married. It is said that when Nicholas learned of a poor man who was worried about his daughters’ fate because he lacked money for their dowries, Nicholas surreptitiously tossed gold into the man’s home through an open window, and the gold landed in stockings that were drying by the fire. Much later, this 1,700-year-old story inspired the modern tradition of hanging stockings by the chimney to receive gifts from Santa on Christmas Eve.

Nicholas became Bishop of Myra and was imprisoned during the anti-Christian persecutions carried out by the Roman Emperor Diocletian. Based on the stories of his life, Catholic tradition considers him a patron saint of children, orphans, sailors, travelers, the wrongly imprisoned, and many other categories of people. Churches were constructed in his honor as early as the sixth century A.D. Today, his remains are buried in Bari, Italy.

For generations now, kids and adults alike have used the names Santa Claus, Saint Nicholas, and Saint Nick interchangeably, without giving it a second thought. But there was an actual Saint Nicholas, a decent man who is obscured by commercial renderings of Christmas. We should not allow that fact to be forgotten, regardless of whether or not we are Catholic (and for the record, I am not).

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Never Forget

Pearl Harbor Day is upon us, so let us recall what happened 69 years ago. The day after the bombing, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt addressed Congress on December 8, 1941, to request a formal declaration of war. His speech was simulcast to the country at large via the radio. In it, he said:

Yesterday, December 7th, 1941 – a date which will live in infamy – the United States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked by naval and air forces of the Empire of Japan.

The United States was at peace with that nation, and, at the solicitation of Japan, was still in conversation with its government and its emperor looking toward the maintenance of peace in the Pacific. Indeed, one hour after Japanese air squadrons had commenced bombing in the American island of Oahu, the Japanese ambassador to the United States and his colleague delivered to our secretary of state a formal reply to a recent American message. While this reply stated that it seemed useless to continue the existing diplomatic negotiations, it contained no threat or hint of war or armed attack…

Yesterday the Japanese government also launched an attack against Malaya.

Last night Japanese forces attacked Hong Kong.

Last night Japanese forces attacked Guam.

Last night Japanese forces attacked the Philippine Islands.

Last night Japanese forces attacked Wake Island.

And this morning the Japanese attacked Midway Island…

Japan has, therefore, undertaken a surprise offensive extending throughout the Pacific area. The facts of yesterday and today speak for themselves…

Always will be remembered the character of this onslaught against us.

No matter how long it may take us to overcome this premeditated invasion, the American people in their righteous might will win through to absolute victory…

With confidence in our armed forces – with the unbounding determination of our people – we will gain the inevitable triumph – so help us God.

Pearl Harbor was attacked because it was where the U.S. Navy’s Pacific fleet was headquartered. The bombing, which killed more than 2,400 people, began shortly before 8:00 on a Sunday morning.

Five of our eight battleships were sunk, the other three were badly damaged, and multiple other naval vessels were destroyed.

The majority of the American war planes based in Hawaii were destroyed as they sat on the ground.

In addition, most of the American air forces based in the Philippines were destroyed during the nighttime attack on that nation, which FDR also mentioned in his speech.

By crippling our Pacific defenses, the December 7th attack left us extremely vulnerable in the face of an aggressive enemy to our West – an enemy that had signaled its intent to rule the entire Pacific basin by subjugating other nations to its will.

This came at a time when we had not responded to the fact that Nazi Germany to our East had already declared war against us, had already brought most of Europe under its thumb, and had signaled its own intention to rule the world by way of an Aryan resurrection of the old Roman Empire.

Such circumstances would have spelled doom for the vast majority of countries throughout the course of history. With their foundations based on the accidents of ethnicity and geography, most countries would have simply surrendered; or, in a distinction without a difference, entered into “peace” negotiations under which they would have to accept the aggressor’s terms and after which the lives of their citizens would most certainly change for the worst.

But the United States is a nation based on ideals. Our foundation springs from the knowledge that there are things greater than us, things which are greater than the transient circumstances which exist on any given day. We have always found strength in the conviction that our nation exists to support and advance those greater things, to the benefit of people all over the world, and this sets the United States apart from all other nations in all other times.

Taking heed from FDR’s appeal to “righteous might,” reflecting what Abraham Lincoln earlier referred to as the “faith that right makes might,” the American people of 1941 summoned the invincible courage to rebuild and fight at the same time they were under fearsome siege. They did this despite the fact they were still suffering through an unprecedented economic depression that had started more than a decade before.

Let us pray that those qualities – that will to power and that unwavering belief in the sanctity of human freedom – have not been lost as new generations of Americans take the baton from the great ones which came before. For as has been said, those who forget the past will be forced to repeat it.

It would be shameful if history were to record that we failed to transfer freedom’s blessings to our descendants.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

What a Wrap-up!

Except for the Army-Navy game, college football's "pre-bowl season" came to an end yesterday...and I still have not come down from my SEC Championship Game high.

I am not surprised that my Auburn Tigers beat South Carolina, but the way they did it was something nobody could have predicted. I was expecting a tightly contested nail-biter that would go down to the last minute, but Auburn throttled 'em from the beginning. The defense was strong all the way through, making big stop after big stop in both the passing and running game after having been questionable through the season. The 56-17 final represented the largest margin of victory in SEC Championship Game history, and it would have been even larger if not for three dropped passes that killed second quarter drives.

Aside from that game, I was happy that Oregon knocked off Oregon State to clinch the Ducks vs. Tigers match-up everyone wants to see for the national title. And I was happy to see games being played in the snow in places as far apart as Cincinnati, OH and Boone, NC.

I had mixed emotions about Oklahoma and Nebraska squaring off for the Big 12 title. I am 39 years old, which means I have been around long enough to remember the days when Oklahoma-Nebraska was one of the biggest annual rivalries in all of sports. For 71 consecutive years, up until the mid-1990's, those teams ended the season against each other on national television. The championship of the old Big Eight Conference was almost always on the line, as was a bid to the Orange Bowl. On multiple occasions, an opportunity to play for the national championship depended on the outcome. Look at the names of players who participated in that rivalry, and you will see the names of legends: people like Lee Roy Selmon, Brian Bosworth, and Broderick Thomas on the defensive side of the ball; and people like Johnny Rodgers, Irving Fryar, and Billy Simms on the offensive side. It was bad enough when the game was relegated to an every-several-years event, but now that it has been snuffed out almost entirely by Nebraska's departure from the Big 12, it feels like there is a gaping hole in the spirit of college football.

One more thing about Oklahoma-Nebraska, or, more precisely, the Big 12. Based on media coverage you probably think Texas has dominated the conference for the past decade, but in reality, with the Sooners' 23-20 win last night, Oklahoma has won seven Big 12 crowns since 1999 while Texas has won only three. That's one more reason you should impose a hefty discount on any impression the American media gives off.

Now it is time for the Stanton's Space Top Twenty. First I feel compelled to say that based on the way Auburn has played over the past few weeks, I think they deserve the #1 spot. However, since Auburn and Oregon are destined to play each other in 37 days and settle everything on the field, I will not downgrade an outstanding Oregon team that has never been beaten. My hope is that my alma matter will drop an indisputable downgrade on the Ducks by defeating them on January 10th...but until that date comes and goes, here is the college football landscape as I see it:

1. Oregon

2. Auburn

3. TCU

4. Wisconsin

5. Ohio State

6. Stanford

7. Michigan State

8. Arkansas

9. LSU

10. Oklahoma

11. Virginia Tech

12. Texas A&M

13. Alabama

14. Nebraska

15. Nevada

16. Boise State

17. Oklahoma State

18. South Carolina

19. Missouri

20. Mississippi State

Monday, November 29, 2010

Almost in the Rear View

This weekend, there are a handful of huge games to be played before college football's "pre-bowl season" will be behind us. I say pre-bowl instead of "regular season" because a few of this weekend's contests -- namely, the conference championship games -- are really post-season affairs. But while the athletes must keep their eyes on what's in front of them if they are to achieve their goal, the fans should pause for a moment to remember all the great battles that played out in the "Rivalry Weekend" that just ended.

The biggest and best was the Auburn-Alabama showdown on Black Friday, also known as the Iron Bowl. You might say I am biased because I am an Auburn grad, but I dare you to deny that the Tigers' unfathomable comeback from a 24-0 deficit, on Bama's field, in front of an ear-shatteringly hostile crowd, was the game of the year in all of football. Considering how disastrous the first quarter was, it is incredible that the players remained on an even-enough keel to turn things around.

It speaks volumes about Auburn's coaches that they were able to keep the team grounded while making key adjustments. Defensive alignments were switched up, and Bama was held to zero third-down conversions during the last three quarters. The offense began to utilize a not-so-obvious unbalanced line, and to shift both its running and passing attacks to the perimeter, and suddenly it looked unstoppable in the second half.

So much for all that MSM crap about Nick Saban's indomitable genius. One year ago, after the Tide had won only two consecutive games in the series after losing the previous six, all the media could talk about was how Bama owned the series and owned the state and how they would remain on top for as far into the future as anyone could see. However, after Saturday's smackdown the reality is that Auburn has won seven of the last nine Iron Bowls and Bama is reeling.

About those 24 points that were overcome, it must be noted that never in history had Auburn won a game after trailing by that many and never before had Bama lost after leading by that many. Because some Bama bloggers have whined that the Tide gave the game away more than the Tigers took it away, allow me to remind them of some things: 1) one of Bama's scoring drives was kept alive by an outrageously bogus "excessive celebration" flag; 2) one of Auburn's first half drives ended after Darvin Adams was called out of bounds on a catch, although replays showed he was inbounds; 3) two of Auburn's defensive linemen had to sit out the first half; and 4) Mark Ingram's second quarter fumble was not an inexplicable case of Ingram getting butterfingers, but a result of Antoine Carter punching the ball out of his grasp from behind.

I have rambled on and on about that game and I promise I am about to stop, but first I have to mention a few other things which speak to the character of my alma matter's team. It has to count for something that they converted two fourth downs in the final quarter; that they have beaten five teams currently ranked in the BCS Top 25; that they are 12-0 despite trailing in eight of their games; and that four of their comebacks have been from deficits of 13 or more points.

But of course, college football is a grand thing all across the fruited plain, not just in the Southeast, so I must admit that there were other games this past weekend that were every bit as exciting as the Iron Bowl. Nevada's upset of Boise State on a frigid night in Reno, in which they pulled off their own massive comeback to force overtime, was one for the ages. And while Boise State fans are disappointed that their Broncos went so quickly from being in contention for the national title to being relegated to an afterthought bowl, they should be happy that QB Kellen Moore proved he is one of he nation's elite. His 53-yard pass to Titus Young right before the end of regulation, to set up what would have been a game-winning field goal, was a model of perfection. So was Young's catch. Unfortunately for the Broncos, their kicker just wasn't up to the challenge.

Meanwhile, watching the Bedlam game between Oklahoma and Oklahoma State was as fun as it gets, especially that wild stretch when the teams combined for four touchdowns in a span of 92 seconds during the fourth quarter. The only downside is that the 47-41 final may serve only to prove that these teams play no defense, just like their detractors have been saying for months.

Here is another observation: Wisconsin might be the hottest team in the land. They are a running team but have put up 70+ points on three occasions, and did not miss a beat when their best RB was lost to injury a month ago. Plus, they have one of America's best all-around tight ends and best defensive linemen.

In closing, a final thought about Auburn: As awesome as their regular season was, and as epic as their Iron Bowl win was, the SEC Championship Game against South Carolina will be their biggest challenge so far. South Carolina is playing much better, and with much more confidence, than when Auburn beat them in Week Four. It is extremely difficult to beat the same team twice in one year, and in fact, that feat has never been accomplished against a team coached by Steve Spurrier. On top of that, after the kind of win Auburn just pulled off in the Iron Bowl, it is legitimate to worry about them experiencing a let-down as they prepare to face a three-loss team they previously defeated. But despite my jitters, I believe this team has the necessary maturity to pull through.

Finally, here is the Stanton's Space Top Twenty:

1. Oregon

2. Auburn

3. TCU

4. Wisconsin

5. Ohio State

6. Stanford

7. Michigan State

8. Arkansas

9. Nebraska

10. LSU

11. Texas A&M

12. Alabama

13. Virginia Tech

14. Nevada

15. Oklahoma

16. South Carolina

17. Boise State

18. Missouri

19. Oklahoma State

20. Mississippi State

The picture at the beginning of this post, showing the scene at famous Toomer's Corner a few hours after the Iron Bowl, is courtesy of my good friend and fellow alum Rendi Hall.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Giving Thanks

Erika and I are extremely thankful this Thanksgiving, and this ultrasound picture shows why. When this was taken on Monday, our baby measured 8 weeks and 4 days old and we could see and hear the heartbeat. At one point we saw our baby move. If you look closely you can see the arm and leg buds starting to form.

I have written before, once in 2008 and once in 2009, about the fertility problems that have plagued us for several years. Erika got pregnant with Sarah, naturally, the very month we first decided to have kids -- but ever since Sarah was born, our attempts to have another child have been a struggle. Failed attempts to conceive naturally led us to IUI's, which also failed, and then to IVF's. Although the IVF's did result in two pregnancies, both ended in miscarriage.

While going through these struggles, Erika's "numbers" were always good and so were mine, but this year her FSH was only 22. Without getting into all the scientific mumbo jumbo, that means her chances of becoming pregnant, by any means, had shrunk to somewhere between slim and none. We tried a final IVF, which failed, and then we gave up and started wondering how we could possibly afford to adopt.

Then her period didn't come in September. God has a way of blessing you when you least expect it.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Twelve Weeks In

With college football's "rivalry weekend" just ahead and the regular season nearing its end, here is the Stanton's Space Top Twenty:

1. Oregon

2. Auburn

3. TCU

4. Boise State

5. Wisconsin

6. LSU

7. Ohio State

8. Stanford

9. Michigan State

10. Alabama

11. Nebraska

12. Arkansas

13. Oklahoma State

14. Texas A&M

15. Virginia Tech

16. South Carolina

17. Missouri

18. Oklahoma

19. Mississippi State

20. Nevada

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Eleven Weeks In

We are 11 weeks into the college football season and Auburn is 11-0, so I am happy. And until any real reporting occurs, I am not losing any sleep over the Cam Newton drama that has been swirling for the last 11 days. If you have read this blog over time, you know how I feel about the media, and the faux reporting in this drama does nothing but confirm why I hold the media in low regard. The stories consist of somebody writing that somebody else told them that somebody else said x, y, or z. The sources are unnamed, or several degrees removed, or not quoted, and no evidence is given. Even the story about Newton's father admitting to having solicited cash was a report that he was alleged to have admitted to it. Lost in all this non-news are the true stories which show Newton's good character, like this one. Unless something solid and credible surfaces, the only opining I will do about Newton will relate to how he performs on the field.

Another example of media malfeasance is the way the Oregon-California game has been described. Everyone is saying Oregon might have lost if Cal didn't miss that late field goal, but nobody is bothering to mention that the reason the score was close enough for Cal to try that kick is that Oregon missed two field goals earlier in the game. Come on, guys. If you want to play "what if" with Cal's kick, you have to also play it with Oregon's, in which case Oregon would have won by even more.

Kudos are long overdue for Northwestern QB Dan Persa, one of the most underrated players in the country. Last season he lit up scoreboards and guided the Wildcats to a New Year's Day bowl game in which they almost beat Auburn, and this year he has them sitting at 7-3. Yesterday he orchestrated fourth quarter touchdown drives of 85 and 91 yards to erase a 10-point deficit and defeat Iowa. Unfortunately, he ruptured his Achilles tendon after completing the winning TD pass, a 20-yarder to Demetrius Fields with just over a minute remaining in the game.

Kudos are also owed to our service academies. Air Force and Navy have already clinched winning records this season, and Army only needs to win one of its last two games to do the same. If that happens, this will be the first time in 14 years and only the second time in 47 years that all three academies will post winning records in the same season.

And finally, based on the season to date, here is the Stanton's Space Top Twenty:

1. Oregon

2. Auburn

3. TCU

4. Boise State

5. Wisconsin

6. LSU

7. Ohio State

8. Stanford

9. Nebraska

10. Alabama

11. Michigan State

12. Arkansas

13. Oklahoma State

14. Missouri

15. Virginia Tech

16. Iowa

17. South Carolina

18. Texas A&M

19. Oklahoma

20. Mississippi State

Monday, November 8, 2010

College Football Ten Weeks In

First, I must tip my hat to Joe Paterno for earning his 400th victory. He has always done it the right way: 61 years as a coach at the same school, including 45 as the head coach, with only five losing seasons. The game has never passed him by, and let's not forget that his teams have always had high graduation rates. Joe Paterno embodies what college athletics are supposed to be, and I doubt there will ever be another coach like him.

Next, I must identify my top twenty teams. Keeping such a list in first-second-third order, updated after each week's results, can be challenging after weeks like the one that just ended. What are you to do when teams you think highly of, and have been giving high rankings to, get trounced at home? But whatever...I have been posting the Stanton's Space Top Twenty for several weeks now and I am not going to stop, so here it is:

1. Oregon

2. Auburn

3. TCU

4. Boise State

5. Wisconsin

6. LSU

7. Ohio State

8. Stanford

9. Nebraska

10. Alabama

11. Iowa

12. Arkansas

13. Michigan State

14. Oklahoma State

15. Mississippi State

16. Missouri

17. Texas A&M

18. Oklahoma

19. Arizona

20. Utah

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Election Day

6:55 a.m. -- I leave for work and find myself happy that I early-voted on Saturday, because that means I won't have to wait in line today.

2:28 p.m. -- I leave work early for my annual appointment at the ophthalmologist.

4:15 p.m. -- I leave the ophthalmologist's office, happy that he confirmed what I already knew: namely, that my eyes remain in excellent shape after 22 years of diabetes.

6:34 p.m. -- We leave the house to attend Week Nine of Dave Ramsey's Financial Peace course.

8:13 p.m. -- While sitting in that class I receive a text message from my brother, informing me that although it is early in the counting, Rick Scott is up by 4% in the Florida governor's race.

9:53 p.m. -- Back home, I check and see that Scott is now up by more than 5%. But more importantly and more gratifyingly (is that a word?) I see that Marco Rubio has officially won Florida's open Senate seat. It appears that the final tally will show he received more than 50% of the vote even though it was a three-way race. On many levels, this is very good news for conservatives.

9:54 p.m. -- I see that Democrats have won both the senate and congressional seats from Delaware. This was expected, but I still don't like it.

9:55 p.m. -- I see that Democrat Joe Manchin has won West Virginia's open Senate seat, which is disappointing because it was thought that Republicans might pick it up. Still, it is encouraging that Manchin won it by campaigning against Obama.

10:07 p.m. -- In Arkansas, Republican John Boozman (great name!) has unseated incumbent Democrat Senator Blanche Lincoln. Since the 1860's, there has been only one other Republican Senator from that state.

10:17 p.m. -- Watching the ticker at the bottom of the TV screen, I note that Republicans are ahead in three of the four Pennsylvania races whose results I see. Although the counting is still going on, this is an encouraging sign.

10:23 p.m. -- Still watching the ticker, I see that Republican Kelly Ayotte has an insurmountable lead (64% to 33%) over Democrat Paul Hodes in the New Hampshire Senate race. This surprised me, but apparently it is not a shock to many national observers.

10:25 p.m. -- It looks like Pat Toomey is going to lose the Pennsylvania Senate race. Bummer.

10:27 p.m. -- I am watching Geraldine Ferraro and listening to her, and she is annoying the hell out of me.

10:37 p.m. -- The Republicans just picked up a congressional seat in New Hampshire. Is the Granite State going back to being red, or did I miss something?

10:38 p.m. -- The Republicans just picked up two congressional seats in Ohio. This is good.

Also at 10:38 p.m. -- Republican Mike Lee won the Senate race in Utah. As you may recall, he is an upstart conservative who upset "establishment Republican" Tim Bridgewater in the primary. He is what the MSM derides as a "Tea Party candidate," and his victory is a good sign for America.

10:54 p.m. -- Toomey just pulled ahead in Pennsylvania! Maybe I was speaking too early with my 10:25 entry.

11:02 p.m. -- More good news: Republicans have picked up at least three congressional seats in Pennsylvania.

11:06 p.m. -- I might as well state that with the exception of Rubio's victory in Florida, all of the wins and losses mentioned above are based on news outlets "calling" elections based on returns. Therefore it is possible, but highly unlikely, that they could change before the night is over.

11:18 p.m. -- It is safe to say that the GOP has picked up the open Senate seat in North Dakota, where, with 87% of precincts reporting, John Hoeven is trouncing Tracy Potter by a margin of 77% to 22%.

11:28 p.m. -- In Wisconsin, Russ Feingold goes down! And Scott Walker wins the governor's mansion to boot! This is a very good night for the GOP in a state that usually goes blue.

11:30 p.m. -- Although Republicans have fared poorly in New York tonight, they did just gain a House seat.

11:43 p.m. -- Of the four tallies from Washington state that I just saw on the ticker (three House races plus the Senate race) the Republican is ahead in each one. Almost two-fifths of precincts have yet to report, so there is a good chance the numbers will turn around, but things are looking better than I would have expected out there.

11:49 p.m. -- It looks like we have this one in the bag. Looking at the district-by-district map, the entire country is a sea of red broken by only a few isolated spots of blue, and the Republican wave is so enormous (apparently the biggest in 78 years) that the GOP will definitely take control of the House. In fact, John Boehner just gave a speech as the presumptive new Speaker of the House. And although I doubt Republicans will gain a majority in the Senate given how few Senate seats are being voted on, they have already gained four seats to break up the Democrats' filibuster-proof super majority. I am cracking open a victory beer.

12:11 a.m. -- The Republicans just won the governorship of Michigan in an ultimate "it's the economy, stupid" moment.

12:12 a.m. -- Switching back to my home state, I should mention that at least two high-profile Florida Democrats have been booted from Congress, and Rick Scott is holding onto a two-point lead in the governor's race with only a handful of precincts outstanding.

12:28 a.m. -- Fox News just called the Nevada Senate race for Harry Reid. This makes my blood boil because I consider him a lying Marxist scumbag who has done nothing for this country but harm it. And when you consider this and this, in conjunction with Reid's long history of prevailing in close elections, I can not shake the feeling that his win today is not above board. Fortunately for America, however, the GOP wave has greatly diminished Reid's power no matter what.

12:51 a.m. -- The Republicans have gained 56 House seats, far more than they needed to take control, so we DO have this in the bag!

Also at 12:51 a.m. -- Toomey has won Pennsylvania, so cancel my 10:25 entry.

12:56 a.m. -- Although I still expect us to come up short of taking numerical control of the Senate, I like what I am seeing from a philosophical-shift perspective. Not only did Toomey win in traditionally blue Pennsylvania, but Mark Kirk won in traditionally blue Illinois and Ken Buck is leading in lately purple Colorado.

1:04 a.m. -- I just saw the numbers in the Florida Senate race, and couldn't help but notice that even though it was a three-way race, Rubio received greater than one million votes more than second place finisher Charlie Crist. And back when he first announced his candidacy, he was considered a can't-win curiosity. All I can say is: 1) Wow! and 2) I am happy.

1:10 a.m. -- I should be going to bed, but I am not the least bit tired. I am cracking open another victory beer, even though I am disappointed that Dino Rossi is trailing in Washington and Carly Fiorina and Meg Whitman are both trailing in California.

1:16 a.m. -- Brighter West Coast News just showed up on the ticker. In Oregon, Republican Chris Dudley, who many of us remember as an NBA player from the 1990's, has a two-point lead in Oregon's gubernatorial election.

1:50 a.m. -- Nothing above has changed in the last 29 minutes, except that it is now looking like Republicans will gain more than 60 House seats. I have to get up soon for a challenging day of work, so I am calling it a night...and on balance, a good one!

Monday, November 1, 2010

Election Eve

Last week I wrote about one reason we conservatives should not be overconfident going into tomorrow's elections, and I might as well take this opportunity to mention that there are other reasons as well. Therefore, I am not "into" the idea of making any predictions...but like I also wrote, the electorate obviously understands the big picture in these elections, and this means I can't resist the temptation.

On the federal level, I predict the GOP will regain control of the House with about 10 seats to spare, but come up a few seats short of regaining control of the Senate. Pundits will depict the latter as a Republican defeat, but it will actually be a victory because it will eliminate the Democrats' filibuster-proof majority, which has been allowing them to legislate against the people's will without check.

In my own state, Marco Rubio will hold off a late rally by disgraced narcissist Charlie Crist, and accede to the Senate by a wider margin than was being indicated in last week's polls. Controversial gubernatorial nominee Rick Scott will benefit from the Rubio wave and get pushed across the finish line just ahead of Democrat Alex Sink -- keeping the governor's mansion in GOP hands despite recent polls that show Sink leading.

Out West, Republicans Carly Fiorina and Meg Whitman will fall short -- by a frustratingly small number of votes -- in their surprisingly competitive attempts to defeat Barbara Boxer and Jerry Brown in California.

And in a shocker's shocker, Republican Dino Rossi will become the next U.S. Senator from Washington state by defeating incumbent Democrat Patty Murray. This might ease any lingering sting from the 2004 gubernatorial election, which was won by Rossi only to be overturned in what was arguably the most egregious example of voter disenfranchisement in American history.

Tomorrow is an opportunity for us to start reasserting our control over the government by throwing Obama's power mad minions out of office. We all know what we have to do, so let's do it. Hopefully my predictions about Fiorina and Whitman won't come true, and hopefully the Republicans will win more Senate seats than I predict. We shall see...

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Top Twenty

Happy Halloween everybody. There is something I am very excited about and want to write about, but I am still trying to wrap my mind around it to get the words right. So as we prepare to take Sarah and her cousins trick-or-treating on this glorious autumn afternoon, I will simply revert to the topic that has dominated my blog this month -- college football -- by posting the Stanton's Space Top Twenty:

1. Oregon

2. Auburn

3. Boise State

4. TCU

5. Alabama

6. Utah

7. Wisconsin

8. Ohio State

9. Stanford

10. Nebraska

11. Missouri

12. Oklahoma

13. Iowa

14. LSU

15. Arkansas

16. Michigan State

17. Arizona

18. South Carolina

19. Virginia Tech

20. Mississippi State

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Keep an eye out

Since I historically write a lot about politics, it probably seems strange that the closer we have gotten to next week's vital mid-term elections, my posts have become less and less political. But, because the electorate obviously understands the big picture of these elections, and my writings over time have made it clear that I never side with the Democrat Party way of doing things, voicing my opinions about the minutia of recent weeks has felt unnecessary and, frankly, uninteresting.

Still, I can't keep myself from commenting about the mid-terms, if for no other reason than to warn my fellow conservatives to keep their foot on the gas and to not assume anything before the final gun sounds. Polls suggest that the GOP is in good position to at least regain control of the House of Representatives, but given the Democrats' long history of chicanery (deceased Chicagoans casting ballots for JFK, Al Gore trying to overturn Florida's entire statewide election by cherry-picking which counties to recount, Black Panthers threatening white voters in Philadelphia) I am nowhere near ready to believe all those predictions that say a GOP sweep is inevitable.

If you don't think voting fraud is a genuine concern, consider what has been reported recently about Pennsylvania's 8th Congressional District, where the incumbent, Democrat Patrick Murphy, is facing a challenge from Republican Mike Fitzpatrick. As reported on The Corner blog on National Review Online:

New reports are emerging that could spell trouble for Patrick Murphy's campaign after it was revealed that his campaign manager controlled a post office box where voters were being instructed to send their absentee ballots. The ballots were then re-mailed to the county Board of Elections.

A letter from a fictitious agency, the "Pennsylvania Voter Assistance Office," was sent to an unknown number of residents across the 8th district in southeastern Pennsylvania warning them that their ability to vote could be jeopardized unless they returned an enclosed absentee ballot in a pre-paid envelope that went to a private post office box in Bristol, PA...

At the heart of the controversy is the unusual practice of a party not only soliciting absentee voters, but specifically directing the ballots be returned to the party -- rather than directly to the board of elections.

While Democratic operatives insist there was no wrongdoing, the mere fact that ballots were directed to their private post office box before being received by the county raises a cloud of suspicion over the motive for receiving and holding the ballots.

In other words, local Democrats with the Murphy campaign are asking for trust in their word alone that no ballots were discarded or manipulated.

It is incumbent on me to state that neither Murphy nor any of his campaign workers have been charged with breaking any laws; and even if they were, they are entitled to the presumption of innocence unless proven guilty.

But what we know is suspicious at the very least, and I guarantee you that if Murphy was a Republican, the MSM would be talking about the story ad nauseum and ringing alarm bells from coast to coast. This shows why we should remain vigilant in the days and weeks ahead, as the elections come to an end and as the results are sorted out.

For the entire National Review Online report as of this evening, go here.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

A lot of Auburn talk, and the top twenty

Auburn's win over LSU on Saturday was noteworthy for all the reasons the pundits are saying, and some the pundits are missing.

Of course it is impressive that Auburn ran for 440 yards against the SEC's top defense, but the more you look at the numbers, the more impressive they get. They ran for all those yards while throwing for fewer than 90, which means they did it without forcing LSU to choose between focusing on defending the run and focusing on defending the pass. And while no player this season had run for 100 or more yards against LSU, two Auburn players did it in the same game on Saturday.

For the first time all year, Auburn's defense looked like the kind of confident, take-no-prisoners unit you can depend on in the clutch. The front seven was ferocious, especially DT Nick Fairley, but even the previously soft secondary looked strong. In the second half, several of Auburn's sacks and QB pressures came after the QB had time to survey the field, which means they can be credited to the secondary preventing LSU's receivers from getting open.

That Auburn won a game like this despite starting most of their possessions deep in their own territory, including twice at their own one in the second half -- and despite giving up a momentum-killing turnover in the third quarter -- and despite failing to convert a 4th-and-6 with the game tied in the fourth quarter -- and despite giving up a tying TD right before halftime, then another one early in the fourth quarter -- and despite being flagged for costly penalties at several crucial moments -- and despite missing a field goal -- speaks to their resolve and resiliency.

From week to week, the whole team is improving and becoming more and more of a team; i.e., this is not just the Cam Newton show, it is a football team to be taken seriously. There are certainly reasons to doubt they can finish undefeated, and I must admit it is not entirely clear that they are even the best team in their own state, but they are "for real" and Auburn fans should be excited.

Now it is time to turn my football mind away from its focus on my alma matter, and objectively consider the entire college football scene. Having done that, here is the Stanton's Space Top Twenty.

1. Oregon

2. Michigan State

3. Auburn

4. Boise State

5. TCU

6. Utah

7. Missouri

8. Wisconsin

9. Alabama

10. Ohio State

11. Stanford

12. Oklahoma

13. LSU

14. Iowa

15. Arkansas

16. Florida State

17. Nebraska

18. South Carolina

19. Virginia Tech

20. Mississippi State

Thursday, October 21, 2010


In my September 6th post I made six predictions going into the second week of the college football season. I was undeniably correct in five of the six, and arguably correct in all six because even though I predicted Miami would beat Ohio State, I also said "Miami is clearly not at their level. My brain says that Ohio State will win, but...I am going to ignore my brain while making a prediction."

I have not waded into the "prediction waters" since then, but since I did good and now have more information at my disposal, why not stick my neck out again? Here are my forecasts for big games this week:

Oklahoma at Missouri. Considering that Mizzou is a major school from a BCS conference, its 6-0 start has has been relatively quiet. That won't remain the case if they beat Oklahoma, of course, but there's no point thinking about that because it won't happen. Oklahoma will use this big road game to erase any doubts the pollsters have about them being for real. Prediction: Sooners 28-19.

Nebraska at Oklahoma State. Last year's Oklahoma State squad was supposed to be the best in school history, but stumbled over itself under the weight of high expectations. Conversely, this year's squad began the season with little fanfare and is 6-0. Meanwhile, Nebraska is good but relies too much on a freshman quarterback whose passing abilities are suspect. This game is OSU's chance to make the battle for the Big 12 South a two-horse race between themselves and their in-state rival, and they will do just that. Prediction: Cowboys 26-21.

Wisconsin at Iowa. Whoever wins this battle of one-loss teams will control their own destiny for winning the Big Ten and playing in the Rose Bowl. Iowa is a top-flight team that has been overlooked in recent weeks because of an early-season loss to Arizona. Wisconsin is also a top-fight team and is coming off the program's biggest win in years; howvever, that means it must guard against the drop-off which often occurs the week after an emotional victory. Combine that with the fact that the game will be played in Iowa, and you can expect a Wisconsin slip. Prediction: Hawkeyes 31-24.

LSU at Auburn. I should not be allowed to predict this game because my emotions get the best of me where Auburn is concerned. However, with both teams undefeated and in the Top Ten, it would be cowardly to avoid it, so I won't avoid it. Auburn leads the SEC in offense; LSU leads it in defense; and on top of that Auburn's defense has been embarrassingly weak, so logic says I should pick LSU because of my belief that defense wins championships. But then again, I know the LSU Tigers have been prevailing in fluky games they have no business winning, and I know that over the past decade they have been outplayed by Auburn many times yet won anyway. Both teams are called Tigers, but Karma's a bitch and it is the Auburn Tigers that will prevail, in a game with far less scoring than the experts expect. Prediction: Auburn 22-18

Upset Special -- Michigan State at Northwestern. I have Michigan State ranked number two in the country, and stand by that based on how they have played and what has unfolded this season. But the fact of the matter is that it is very, very difficult to go undefeated, and with the Spartans scheduled to visit Iowa next week they are susceptible to "look-ahead syndrome." Northwestern is 5-1; smart; exceedingly well-coached; and looking to make a name for itself because it has had fine seasons back-to-back but received almost no attention for them. Plus, this game is at Northwestern. For the favored team, this is precisely the kind of contest that gamblers call "a trap." Prediction: Wildcats 23-19.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Seven Weeks In

My last three posts have either been about college football, or mentioned college football in them. Well, make that my last four. I haven't posted in two weeks, partly because of a business trip to Chicago, and now that I am doing it again it just feels right to write about this topic.

It also feels wrong in the sense that after writing in September about Sarah missing what would have been her first two official cheerleading appearances, I have not written about the three appearances she has since made. However, we have not yet downloaded the pictures and videos from them, so I decided to hold off on until I can include the visuals.

Anyway, back to my thoughts on college football:

I am surprised that Michigan State (8th in the AP and 7th in the BCS) is not ranked higher.

I am also surprised that everyone has stopped talking about Stanford; and while I'm at it, I might as well say I'm surprised that everyone has also stopped talking about USC.

From a rival's perspective, I am thrilled that Alabama has been knocked from the ranks of the unbeaten and that Florida has been knocked from those ranks three times over. I have some good friends who are Florida fans, and I do not count some of them in what I am about to say, but -- generally speaking, Florida fans are the most obnoxious blowhards in America, have absolutely no sense of perspective, and constantly say things that show their relationship with reality to be superficial. In short, since I live in an area where I am surrounded by them and am usually forced to hear their high-decibel crowing from one end of autumn to the other, it is a fabulous feeling to have them silenced by mid-October.

Speaking about lack of perspective, allow me to look in the mirror and admit that I am sometimes guilty of that when it comes to Auburn, since I stew after each loss and tend to be overly critical of my alma matter's team. So I mean it when I say that Cam Newton is the real deal and probably the best quarterback in America. He is second in the nation in passing efficiency; fourth in rushing yards, including running backs; has 13 TD passes versus just 5 INT's; has 12 rushing TD's; and has led his team to an unbeaten record more than halfway through the season despite playing in the toughest conference in America. I am damn near ecstatic with the way he plays.

Also speaking as an Auburn man, I have to say (because nobody else will) that the poor officiating in Saturday's game went both ways. Looking at the write-ups in the national media, a lot is being said about two of Auburn's touchdowns being assisted by controversial calls...but nothing is being said about the bad call that led to an Arkansas touchdown. With Auburn ahead 30-21 in the third quarter, Arkansas went for it on 4th-and-6 and was stopped well short of the first-down marker, but a generous spot by the refs granted them a first down and they scored on the next play. In other words, that troika of calls netted the Tigers only 7 points in a game they won by 22, so for the media to focus on the two flags that benefited Auburn while completely ignoring the one that harmed them represents one more example of the anti-Auburn bias that has been evident for years. And I am not even including the pair of iffy pass interference calls that went against us, or the phantom holding call that wiped out a long reception by Darvin Adams. All I am saying is that Saturday's win was legit, not gift-wrapped, and media statements that disparage it should be ignored.

Finally, here is the Stanton's Space Top Twenty.

1. Oregon

2. Michigan State

3. Boise State

4. TCU

5. Oklahoma

6. Auburn

7. Utah

8. LSU

9. Wisconsin

10. Alabama

11. Ohio State

12. Stanford

13. Missouri

14. Iowa

15. Arkansas

16. Florida State

17. Oklahoma State

18. South Carolina

19. Mississippi State

20. Nebraska

Update, 10/21/10: Speaking of Cam Newton, as if his play wasn't enough, this article gives even more reasons to like him.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

More college football

I have already shared some of my thoughts about college football this year. Here are some more:

Mark Richt will not be back as Georgia’s coach unless the Bulldogs beat Florida and Auburn and Tennessee.

You might think that by losing to Oregon on Saturday, Stanford failed to play like the team I described in my September 27th post. On the one hand you would be right; but on the other hand I did rank Oregon ahead of Stanford in that post, so I will counter by saying I was proved just as much as I was disproved!

Speaking of Oregon, they are a legitimate national title contender. If they finish undefeated and Alabama loses a game, it would not be an injustice for Oregon to play in the title game despite Alabama having a tougher schedule. After all, it’s not like the Ducks are playing chopped liver.

And speaking of Alabama, I am not surprised they beat Florida but am very surprised they beat them so easily. When you consider that Urban Meyer has failed to develop any offensive plays suited to John Brantley’s considerable skills, despite knowing for the last couple years that Brantley would be this season’s starting QB, it just may mean that he is not as good a coach as everyone thinks.

I continue to be enthused by Auburn’s play. I love that our top three RB’s all performed very well on Saturday; that Cam Newton completed nearly 75% of his throws; and that for the first time I can remember we went an entire game without punting, unless you count Newton’s quick-kick when it looked like we were going for it on 4th-and-2. Still, I expect to lose a couple games along the way because our secondary keeps allowing receivers to get open downfield.

Lastly, here is the Stanton’s Space Top Twenty:

1. Alabama

2. Ohio State

3. Oregon

4. Boise State

5. TCU

6. Oklahoma

7. Michigan State

8. Auburn

9. Utah

10. LSU

11. Wisconsin

12. Stanford

13. Nebraska

14. South Carolina

15. Florida

16. Arkansas

17. Arizona

18. Iowa

19. Miami

20. Michigan

Friday, October 1, 2010

et ceteras

Perhaps you have heard of Molly Norris. She is the Seattle cartoonist who realized that when Islamic terrorists seek to kill anyone who draws a picture of the prophet Muhammad, they are acting as enemies of freedom, so she decided to stand up for freedom by announcing an “Everybody Draw Muhammad Day.” Predictably, Muslim leaders responded by calling for her assassination, and our government has said nothing in her defense. The MSM, which routinely accuses Christians and Jews of intolerance, has done nothing to oppose this Islamic assault on what it claims to cherish more than anything else: the right of free expression. Everything about Norris’s plight is an outrage, and an excellent column about it can be found here.

Federal income taxes are scheduled to go up in January for each and every income class. That will make money even tighter for American earners, and tighten the noose that is already choking our economy. Knowing this, Republicans have been calling for tax rates to be frozen at current levels instead of being raised -- but the Democrats, who control every branch of the federal government, have decided to postpone any vote on the issue until after the elections. Need I say more about the Democrats’ intentions?

Have you heard that because of provisions in Obamacare, McDonald’s is considering dropping the health insurance it provides for its hourly employees? This is not an isolated instance, as a slew of other employers -- including Verizon, AT&T, John Deere, and Caterpillar -- have also announced that Obamacare’s costs are causing them, for the first time ever, to consider dropping their employees’ health insurance. I hate to say I told you so, but…

Finally, I notice how negative I sound in the paragraphs above! But like I have said before, I am not a negative person and can not close on a negative note, so I will switch to the more pleasing topic of college football. In my most recent post I wrote that Stanford is “one of the best-coached teams in the country” and “a darkhorse in the national championship race.” Two days after I typed those words, an excellent column about Stanford Coach Jim Harbaugh was published on Yahoo Sports. To read it, go here.

Monday, September 27, 2010

College Football One Month In

More thoughts on college football:

Intellectually, I realize that college football doesn’t begin and end at Auburn University; but emotionally I feel like it does, so I will open this post by saying that Saturday’s victory over South Carolina was the most satisfying win Auburn has had in three years. You know your team is for real when it runs for more than 330 yards against a run defense that had been giving up less than 60 per game -- and when your QB completes 16 of 21 passes, including a pair of clutch TD’s in the fourth quarter -- and when you score four second-half touchdowns against a ranked opponent.

Michigan’s Denard Robinson may not be the most complete quarterback, but he is definitely the most electrifying player in America. And when you consider his passing stats (71.3 completion percentage, 162.01 rating, four touchdowns to one interception) it starts to look like he is a very complete quarterback after all.

Stanford is solid, productive, hungry, and if they beat Oregon this weekend…look out. They are one of the best-coached teams in the country and are a darkhorse in the national championship race. Just remember you heard it here first.

Speaking of Stanford, how good is it to see a two-way player like Owen Marecic prowling the gridiron? He plays fullback and linebacker, and against Notre Dame he scored from each position 13 seconds apart.

Lastly, because I consider my opinions to be as valid as any pollster’s, here is the Stanton’s Space Top Twenty:

1. Alabama

2. Ohio State

3. Oregon

4. Boise State

5. TCU

6. Stanford

7. LSU

8. Wisconsin

9. Florida

10. Oklahoma

11. LSU

12. Auburn

13. Nebraska

14. South Carolina

15. Michigan

16. Arkansas

17. Arizona

18. Iowa

19. USC

20. Texas

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Autumn Equinox

In most years there is no doubt which date marks the official start of fall, but this year some sources say it is September 22nd while others say it is the 23rd. Although my research is limited it appears that, scientifically speaking, the 23rd is the correct date because the equinox will occur a few hours after midnight tonight.

Nevertheless, with temperatures dipping and even Florida beginning to reveal a few scarlet leaves, I would rather be a day early than a day late publishing my “beginning of the season” post. So here are some thoughts about autumn, on what is more or less its first day:

I love stepping outside on that first morning that fall’s nip is in the air.

I love how changing leaves turn Appalachian mountainsides into fiery palettes of orange, red, and gold.

I love driving winding roads through those mountains, catching glimpse after glimpse of falling leaves as they twirl their way to the ground.

I love cold nights marked by the scent of campfire and the sound of wind in the trees.

I love watching my daughter skip through the pumpkin patch looking for the perfect one to bring home.

I love walking behind her as she trick-or-treats on Halloween night.

I love pumpkin pie on Thanksgiving Day, and how it sets the ideal tone to start the Christmas season.

I love watching flocks of birds land in Florida at the end of their migration, while others keep flying to points further south.

And last but not least, I love football, especially college games where the fans are loud and the bands are blaring…and most of all, where Auburn is winning and the fight song you keep hearing begins with the line: “War Eagle, fly down the field, ever to conquer, never to yield!”

Friday, September 17, 2010

et ceteras

Last week I wrote about how Sarah's first cheerleading appearance, at a youth football game, was cancelled due to lightning. The good news is that this week's game was not cancelled, but the bad news is that Sarah had to miss it because she was sick. Sooner or later I will have pictures of her cheering at an official event to post, but until then, here she is topping the pyramid in practice:

On another family-related topic, this morning I went to a breakfast at her school that was sponsored by All Pro Dads, an organization made famous by Tony Dungy's involvement with it. Much of what was said was common sense boilerplate ("be there for your kids," "stand up to the way pop culture portrays dads as incompetent buffoons," etc.) but something really struck me. The speaker said that he keeps a jar filled with marbles -- one for each week until his daughter turns 18 -- and removes one each week to provide a visual reminder of time slipping away as the day approaches when she will leave for college. That gave me goosebumps, and I feel compelled to pass it on.

Switching to politics, much ado has been made about an editorial written by Dinesh D'Souza. D'Souza theorizes that Barack Obama believes in the doctrine of anti-colonialism, which is prevalent in Third World societies, and that this doctrine is the driving force behind Obama's policies. Predictably, liberals have responded not by addressing the editorial's merits, but by accusing those who agree with it of being racists. In truth, the editorial is well thought out, cites the president's own claims, and is not racist in any way. You can make up your own mind by reading it here.

Lastly, I find it disturbing, but not at all surprising, that the MSM has spent far more time gibbering about Terry Jones (the would-be Koran-burner) than it has ever spent reporting the truth about Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf (the would-be builder of the so-called Grand Zero Mosque). Jones heads a minuscule congregation, and his provocations have been widely and publicly condemned by Christians. On the other hand, Rauf has immense influence and cavorts with men of international power, and his refusal to condemn terrorist organizations has received no public criticism from Muslims. That difference is what the media should be focusing on, but they are ignoring it like the sycophants they are.

Now Sarah and I are off to go swimming. Have a good weekend!