Thursday, June 30, 2011

Happy Birthday, Mr. Sowell

Thomas Sowell turns 81 years old today. Over the years I have read the writings of many great thinkers, and none of them can match Sowell's analytical skills or his ability to communicate important ideas in plain English. When I first discovered him in the early 1990's, his columns and books invigorated my mind like a jolt of lightning, and they have continued doing that ever since.

If you are not familiar with his biography, you may want to read this tribute that I wrote when he turned 79. But to really appreciate a scribe, it is best to read his own words in full with recent history in mind, here are my five favorite Thomas Sowell columns from the past three months, in order from oldest to newest:

To follow his columns, and read other things about him, you can visit his web site here.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Newborn Stage Again

Erika and I are thrilled that Parker has exited the womb. After more than 6½ years, we again have a newborn in our home.

We encountered some unexpected curveballs in the last 24 hours before Erika's C-section was scheduled to occur, but maybe that shouldn't come as a surprise since we have gone through a great deal of difficulty and heartache in our efforts to have a second child.

Fortunately there was no heartache this time. I have written before about our fertility travails, but I will not rehash them today nor will I write about this week's curveballs. We are only focused on the good, on the miracle of life, so I am here simply to post pictures of us with Parker. All of these were taken in the hospital.

Now that we are home, I guess we should get around to taking one of all of us together!

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Summer Solstice

Because I do not like hot weather, summer is my least favorite season. But there are still things I enjoy about it, and surprisingly, some of them are specific to this sweat-soaked state in which I live. So here are some thoughts on summer’s first day:

I love opening the season with our annual Beach Weekend.

I love Independence Day.

I love that there is one time of year when I am able to prefer chilled white wine over room temperature red wine.

I love when evening breezes carry the sweet scent of orange blossoms across Florida.

I love watching swallow-tailed kites, one of my favorite birds of prey, as they soar in the air and seem to stay up there forever without flapping their wings.

I love watching fireflies illuminate the woods at dusk.

I love San Diego.

I love the dramatic pulse of Florida’s afternoon storms, when black clouds darken the sky and spew lighting and thunder and unleash torrents of blinding rain – only to blow away and be replaced by sunny skies in less than an hour.

And I especially love that on the second day of this summer, we will get to meet our son.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Flag Day

For Flag Day, I figured it would be a neat idea to "illustrate" the lyrics to God Bless America using pictures I have taken throughout this great country -- so here goes:

God bless America...

Land that I love...

Stand beside her and guide her...

Through the night...

With the light from above...

From the mountains...

To the prairies...

To the oceans white with foam...

God bless America...

My home sweet home...

Note: The final picture was taken by Kelly Noel.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

et ceteras

Sarah is 6½ and Erika and I have taken several trips without her. This week she is in the mountains with her grandmother, aunt, and cousin, and it is her first trip without us. The first night she was gone, I almost walked into her room to check on her when I went upstairs to get something. It was muscle memory, force of habit, whatever you want to call it -- and it made me feel sullen when I remembered she wasn’t there. I always miss her when we are apart, but it’s strange how much larger her absence seems to loom when she is the one away from home.

Do you need another reason to ignore what you read in the MSM? Last week, the punditry was going on and on about how Mitt Romney can not possibly beat Barack Obama in 2012. But yesterday, a poll showed Romney ahead of Obama. And then today, a headline said “Obama holds big 2012 lead over Republicans.” This schizo-style inconsistency reminds me of a quote I read many years ago, which noted that “when you hear two eyewitness accounts of an auto accident, it makes you wonder about history.”

Here is an excellent editorial by Mark Steyn, which uses the Weiner affair to illustrate just how big government has gotten.

And here is one by Jonah Goldberg, about politicians’ destructively irresponsible impulse to pass the buck.

When it comes to a much more inspiring topic -- hockey -- I must admit that I love the edgy tone of violence that has taken over the Stanley Cup Final. I love that after being the perpetrator in Game One’s biting incident, the Canucks’ Alex Burrows rang up three points in Game Two, including the winning goal in overtime. But even more than that, I love that the Bruins responded by taking the fight right to the Canucks in Games Three and Four and bloodying their noses while outscoring them 12-1. I love the finger-wagging at Burrows, and the way Tim Thomas leveled Henrik Sedin on Monday and then chopped Burrows’s leg on Wednesday. This has become a man’s series and I have to question the manliness of anybody who does not enjoy watching it.

Sticking with hockey, one of the things I wrote on June 1st -- that “as the series unfolds and I see how Vancouver and Boston play each other, there is a better than average chance I will find myself choosing a side” -- has come to pass. I am cheering for the Boston Bruins. Not because they are based in the U.S. or because they are from the same conference as the Lightning, but because I can not stand Vancouver’s attitude. There is nothing particularly wrong with the fact that the Canucks dwell in the gray area of the rulebook and sometimes play dirty, but there is something very wrong with the fact that they pretend otherwise and try to portray themselves as the virtuous maiden being unfairly attacked by the dragon.

And lastly: Am I the only one who thinks Tim Thomas resembles Yukon Cornelius?

Monday, June 6, 2011


67 years ago this morning, human beings from the naval forces of eight Allied nations laid their lives on the line in ways most of us can hardly fathom. Two-thirds of them were from the U.S., U.K., and Canada.

Traveling in ships and amphibious vessels, they set sail from England in the pre-dawn hours of June 6, 1944, bound for the Normandy beaches of Nazi-controlled France. It was the first time since the 1600’s that any invading military had crossed the perilous waters of the English Channel, and as day broke tens of thousands of troops disembarked from their landing craft and plunged immediately into Hell on Earth.

Slogging first through waves and then through sand, they were sitting ducks for the Nazi gunners positioned on shore. Bullets rained down on them amidst a cacophony of explosive reverberations. The men at the fronts of the landing crafts were the first ones to step on the beach, and they stepped onto it knowing they were likely to get shot. Each of them was acutely aware he might be entering the final seconds of his life.

Approximately 10,000 Allied men were killed or wounded that day. However, in bearing that brunt of brutality, those who were first on the scene helped clear the way for 100,000 of their fellow soldiers to reach shore and advance against the enemy, freeing occupied towns as they went. By the end of the month more than 800,000 men had done so, and the war’s momentum had swung in the Allies’ favor. Within a year the Nazis surrendered unconditionally.

In military parlance, the phrase “D-Day” refers to the first day of any operation, but in the public’s mind, it will always refer to the events on the beaches of Normandy. And now, the men who braved the bullets on those beaches are dying away at a rapid rate. Let us always appreciate their valor, and always understand that we would not be free without them.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

About the Finals

Tonight the Vancouver Canucks and Boston Bruins will face off in Game One of the Stanley Cup Finals, and the battle will be on to win the most sacred trophy in sports. When it comes to writing about this match-up, there are so many ways to approach it that it’s hard to know where to start.
As a Lightning fan, I ended last Friday boiling with anti-Bruins rage. But my cooler head has since prevailed, like cream rising to the top, and now I am looking at the SCF intelligently instead of emotionally. For what they are worth, here are some of my thoughts.

Canada vs. U.S.
Conventional wisdom says Canadians will cheer for the Canucks and Americans for the Bruins, and there is probably some truth to that. However, in reading comments left on some Canadian blogs I have encountered a surprising (to me) amount of anti-Vancouver sentiment. From what I can gather as an outsider, it appears that some Canadians, especially from the interior provinces, look at Vancouver as a city populated by latte-sipping sissies living in a climate that is too mild to really be considered part of the Great White North. Some people even use the phrase “ABC,” meaning “anybody but the Canucks,” when asked who they want to see win the Cup.

Canada vs. U.S., continued
In any event, the idea of national rivalries among NHL franchises seems overblown because every NHL roster is multinational. Vancouver’s highest profile players are the Sedin twins, who are from Sweden, while Boston’s highest profile player is Zdeno Chara from Slovakia...And Vancouver has eight fewer Canadians on its roster than Boston has…And when you look at the most effective performer on each of these teams during this post-season, you will find that both of them (Ryan Kesler for Vancouver and Tim Thomas for Boston) are Michigan natives…Need I say more?

East vs. West
There is a school of thought that Western Conference hockey is wide open and freewheeling while Eastern Conference hockey is defensive and hard-hitting. That same school of thought holds that Western Conference teams lack the toughness that is needed to win against the more physical teams from the East. People who subscribe to this school of thought tend to overlook the fact that the last ten championships were divided evenly between the conferences, and that three of the last four were won by teams from the West. They also tend to overlook the fact that Vancouver gave up fewer goals this season than any other team in the NHL. I can not wait to see how it plays out in the finals.

The Netminders
Tim Thomas was a journeyman who spent most of a decade bouncing around foreign leagues and the minors. But since reaching his mid-thirties he has become Boston’s starter, won the Vezina Trophy, and established himself as one of the NHL’s elite goalies.
Roberto Luongo backstopped Team Canada to Olympic gold in a pressure-packed situation, winning what was arguably the most important international game for his country in nearly 40 years. And that was after his stint with the Florida Panthers, during which he proved he can carry a team on his back. But despite that resume, people talk about him as if he is a basket case who can’t handle pressure.
For Thomas, a Stanley Cup championship would be a testimony to perseverance and to the reality that people can bloom late. For Luongo, it would silence his critics and vindicate his unfairly maligned career. No matter which team wins, the story of the man in net is sure to inspire.

“Original Six” vs. “Newcomer”
I have heard some people depict this as a kind of old vs. new final, with the Bruins playing the part of the old, storied organization and the Canucks the part of the yappy young gun. That storyline rubs me wrong.
Yes, the Bruins are one of the “original six” franchises, but the very concept of the original six is misleading because the franchises in question were not the NHL’s first six. They were simply the ones that happened to be playing in 1966, one year before the league’s famous 1967 expansion. Many others had opened and folded in the decades leading up to then.
Meanwhile, the Canucks are far from a new franchise since they have been playing hockey in Vancouver for 40 seasons now. Every time a Beacon Hill snob begins to rattle on about Boston’s hockey greatness, any Vancouver fan within earshot should point out that the last time the Bruins won the Stanley Cup, the personal computer had not been invented and Aerosmith’s first album had not been released.

If Boston Wins…
…I will be satisfied. The Bruins have been knocking on Stanley’s door for a few years now, so it would seem appropriate for them to break through this season. And it would not be a bad thing for me to be able to say that the only team capable of beating the Lightning in these playoffs was the team that won it all. And after 35 years of singing national anthems in Boston, I suppose Rene Rancourt deserves to see the Bruins win the Cup before he dies.

If Vancouver Wins…
…I will be satisfied. The Canucks are fun to watch, and their defense is just as stout as their offense is creative. Plus, I am sympathetic to fan bases that get dissed by fans of the original six. And even though I am an American, I have to admit that after an 18-year drought it would be nice to see a Canadian franchise win the Cup and take it “home” for its fans to see.

Of course, if the Lightning was playing in the SCF there is no way I could say “I will be satisfied” about the prospect of anyone else winning. And as the series unfolds and I see how Vancouver and Boston play each other, there is a better than average chance I will find myself choosing a side.
I hope you watch and enjoy it as much as I plan to. And although the Lightning are sitting home at this point, I have to close by saying this again: Go Bolts!