There is a stone marker at the end of our new block, right in front of a small commercial area with a restaurant and a few stores. It looks like the remnant of the kind of markers that used to be used for platting or showing the distance to nearby towns. It seems like an apt symbol for us as we move from the suburbs to a more urban setting. We wanted to be within walking distance of restaurants and grocery stores and shops, just as we were when we lived on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. back in the ’80s, and now we’re here.
This morning, for what will almost certainly be the last time, I took my morning walk around the Yantis Loop walking path.
For many years now — I’m not sure exactly how long, really — I’ve started my day with this walk. I’ve taken it virtually every morning we’ve been home, rain or shine, save only days when we’ve been blitzed by freezing rain or I was laid up after foot surgery. I’ve walked it with Dusty, Penny, and Kasey, or accompanied only by my trusty iPod, in darkness and in the golden rays of dawn depending on the season and the vagaries of Daylight Savings Time.
And every day, the path is precisely the same — something that Kish finds very amusing. It’s left out of our house, left on Alpath Road, right on Ogden Woods Boulevard, and then right — always right — on the Yantis Loop itself, so that the familiar white fence is ever on my left. Then, past the top of the Loop, over the boardwalk around the pond at number 5 North and following the curves of the Loop as it heads back due north, then veering from the Loop to head up Route 62 to join up with Alpath once again. All told, it’s about a two-mile circuit.
The sameness of this early morning journey is part of its enormous appeal. My feet know where to go, the walk clears my sleep-addled brain, and the quiet and peaceful surroundings of the stroll make for ideal thinking time. I get a little exercise out of it, too.
I’m looking forward to our move to German Village, but my walk on the Yantis Loop is one of the things I’ll really miss about New Albany, so this morning’s final effort was a wistful experience. I’m going to try to replicate the Loop — somewhat — by regularly walking to work from our new place, but moving through the streets of downtown Columbus can’t really fully substitute for the familiar, bucolic path along the white fence.
Does anyone remember learning in history class about the economy of the Weimar Republic — the ill-fated government of Germany between World War I and the ascendance of Adolf Hitler and the Nazi Party? It experienced hyperinflation and financial calamity, and we read about Germans needing wheelbarrows of cash to buy even a loaf of bread.
We think that couldn’t happen anymore in the modern world — but it can. In fact, it is happening right now in Russia, as a Fortune article reports. Some people think that Russia’s currency, the ruble, is in a state of irretrievable collapse; its value against other currencies, like the dollar, is plummeting and even draconian increases in Russian interest rates might not stem the tide.
The reason is oil. It’s Russia’s one big marketable commodity and the bedrock of their economy. The price of oil has been falling for months, which has made investors nervous about how Russian companies are going to pay off their debts given the lack of incoming cash. So, the ruble trades lower, and the ability of Russian companies to pay off debts calculated in foreign currencies becomes harder and harder — which makes defaults even more likely. By one calculation, the amount of rubles Russian companies need to pay off foreign debt obligations has increased by 90% just since the start of November.
How is Vladimir Putin going to deal with this crisis? You might be tempted to say this disaster couldn’t have happened to a nicer guy, but let’s resist the impulse to enjoy some schadenfreude. Putin is adventurous as it is, and you have to wonder whether a destabilizing currency failure is going to make him even more likely to wave his big stick to try to distract from his other problems. And if Russian companies start defaulting on the more than $670 billion they owe, what is that going to do for the world economy?
Keep an eye out for the wheelbarrows.
Millions of American households with young children have an “elf on a shelf.” As explained to me — because the elf didn’t become popular until well after Richard and Russell were out of their childhood years — the elf is a little figure that changes its position from time to time and moves from room to room, supposedly so he can keep an eye on things and report back to Santa Claus on whether the kids of the family are being naughty or nice.
Now a Canadian professor contends that there is more to the “elf on a shelf” than meets the eye. Rather than an innocent yet tangible expression of the power of belief in Santa Claus, she contends that the “elf on a shelf” conditions children to uncritically accept existing power structures and norms and to get used to lack of privacy and being spied upon.
So . . . even if that questionable theory is true, what’s wrong with that? Speaking as a parent, I wanted our kids to accept the existing power structure — namely, that Kish and I got to call the tune in the Webner household — and to think that if they were doing something bad, it would be discovered and reported. Fortunately, our kids were little angels at all times.
Of course, the combination of Christmas and spying goes back to well before the “elf on a shelf” first made his appearance. Santa Claus, of course, knows if you’ve been naughty or nice — so he’s not only spying on your kids, but he’s also judging them. If we’re worried about the impact of naughty/nice spying on children’s psyches, maybe we also should ask what gives Santa the right to judge our kids? Obviously, a guy who smokes a pipe, wears real furs, and has a gut that shakes “like a bowl full of jelly” when he laughs is not living a perfect, healthy, blameless lifestyle, so why should he be deciding whether a little kid is abiding by accepted societal norms?
Maybe there’s a deep, dark underbelly here — or maybe professors at the University of Toronto Institute of Technology need to relax and realize that kids trying desperately to control their inner demons for a few weeks each December in order to maximize their presents is part of the magic of the holiday season.
If there’s one thing that drives Ohio State fans to distraction, it’s the Buckeyes’ notorious lack of success against the SEC. Whether it’s the shellacking Bear Bryant put on Woody Hayes back in the ’70s, or the crushing losses to Florida and LSU in back-to-back BCS National Championship games during the Jim Tressel era, loyal members of Buckeye Nation have endured terrible performances against SEC teams in big games. And when Ohio State finally seemed to lance the boil by beating Arkansas in a bowl game a few years ago, that victory was snatched away as a result of the “Tattoogate” scandal.
So, what’s an OSU fan supposed to think about the fact that when Ohio State made the first-ever four-team major college playoff this year, it was paired against the Alabama Crimson Tide, the consensus choice for best team in the land and an SEC team to boot, in its first game?
Call me crazy, but I welcome this challenge. Ohio State might get its butt kicked, but it will never have a better chance to definitively end the SEC Curse and stop all the laughing and name-calling than it does in this game, this year. Alabama is the SEC personified, and they will be the prohibitive favorite, too. If Ohio State can somehow prevail — despite the presumptive advantages to the Tide stemming from “Southern speed,” the murderous schedule they’ve played in the world-beating SEC West, and the legions of five-star studs that Nick Saban lures to Tuscaloosa every year, maybe the SEC fans will finally shut up and recognize that Midwestern teams know their way around a pigskin, too.
I’m old school about how sports are supposed to work. Alabama is the most successful college football program right now; Ohio State aspires to that position. The best way for Ohio State to achieve its goal is to beat the best in a big game — and they’ve got that opportunity. Now is the time. If the Buckeyes lay an egg and Alabama crushes them like it did Notre Dame, we’ve got no one to blame but ourselves, and the SEC buffs have every right to crow and call the Buckeyes an overrated program from a candy-ass conference. If Ohio State somehow wins the game, however, we’ll lance that SEC boil, once and for all.
I really, really want to lance that boil.
This afternoon we close on the sale of our home in New Albany, Ohio. We’ll move out later this week, hand the keys over to the new owners, and just like that our 19-year sojourn in the North of Woods neighborhood of New Albany will be ended.
Yesterday Kish and I were madly packing up clothing, books, dishes, and the contents of our cupboards in preparation for the move. It’s one of those basic chores that fully occupies your lower brain function — you have to pay enough attention to make sure that the boxes are securely packed, after all — but leaves the upper brain free to roam. In this instance, my mind naturally turned to the notion of chapters ending, and new chapters beginning.
I tend not to be sentimental about homes; people and experiences are far more meaningful to me than structures. Even so, I’ll miss this tidy wooden house where we watched the boys grow up, where we have put down deep roots and have such a strong sense of place and belonging. We’ll miss our neighbors and the annual Halloween celebrations, we’ll miss the white fences, we’ll miss our walks to the library and around the block with Penny and Kasey, and we’ll miss seeing the ‘hood continue to grow and develop.
But, it’s time to move on. Today is another step in the process.
I knew that when the Browns decided to start Johnny Manziel, the season was over. Sure enough, the Browns got crushed by the Bengals today in a game that was never even competitive. Manziel was predictably awful.
I’m not saying that Johnny Manziel lost the game single-handedly, because he didn’t. The whole team didn’t show up. But when you have to change quarterbacks in the middle of what should be a sprint to the playoffs, and you’re going with a raw rookie whose arm strength is questionable and who made most of the great plays in his college career with his legs, you can’t really expect anything good to happen. Real playoff teams just don’t do that. Brian Hoyer’s awful play the past few weeks left the Browns coaches with no choice, because you can’t just let games slip through your fingers through offensive ineptitude — but only rabid fans would expect anything good to happen with Manziel making his first start in a crucial divisional match-up with the Browns’ fading playoff hopes on the line.
And so a season that once seemed promising has spiraled downward into a smelly, urine-soaked, rat-infested dumpster. It’s the unfortunate lot of the Browns fan. Now let’s turn our attention to the Buckeyes and that tilt against Alabama on January 1.