The Game, 2015 Edition

Today football fans the world over get to watch, once again, the greatest rivalry game in college sports.  In a few hours Ohio State and Michigan will square off at the Big House for The Game.

IMG_1835Don’t believe those who say this contest has lost some of its luster after Ohio State’s stunning loss to Michigan State last week.  If anything, that makes The Game even more important.  Ohio State does not want to end its season with two soul-crushing losses — and the Wolverines would like nothing more but to send Ohio State back to Columbus, whipped and beaten and clearly knocked off the top of the Big Ten pedestal.

I have no idea what to expect from this match-up — other than that it will be hard-hitting and hard-fought, because The Game always is.  Jim Harbaugh has turned Michigan around quickly, and made them a tough, power team with a good defense.  His old coach, Bo Schembechler, would be proud.

As for Ohio State, you wonder where the Buckeyes are, mentally.  Are they still reeling from a bad game, or are they primed to go out and show the world that last week’s dismal offensive showing was a rain-soaked fluke?  This is a week where Urban Meyer earns his paycheck.

Go Bucks!

Reeking Of Class

How low can Donald Trump go?

Trump obviously is a jerk, but his buffoonery seems to have a kind of unfortunate multiplying effect.  He makes the outlandish claim that he saw, on television, thousands of Muslims in New Jersey celebrating the fall of the World Trade Center towers on September 11.  His claim is debunked.  Trump then seizes on an article written by a reporter that suggests that at least a few people in New Jersey were detained by police for apparently celebrating the attacks.

When that reporter says in an interview that he doesn’t recall anyone in authority saying that thousands, or even hundreds, were celebrating the 9\11 attacks, Trump attacks the reporter.  Some view Trump’s depiction of the reporter as meanly mocking the reporter’s hand disability, and Trump denies the charge — on the barely more defensible ground that he was simply mocking a flummoxed reporter, rather than mocking the reporter’s hand — and demands an apology for being criticized for his insensitivity.  All the while, Trump stays in the headlines, day after day.

Even if you take Trump at his word that he was not mocking the reporter’s disability, it is inarguable that he was mocking the reporter — and all the while acting like the loud-mouthed bullying kid who made 7th grade so unpleasant.

If, like me, you are disgusted with the coarseness of our national discourse, it’s hard to even imagine how low things could go with Trump forever in the news.  When was the last time you saw a politician stoop to physical mockery?  Where’s the next stop on the downward spiral?

Family Time


 It’s Thanksgiving, the quintessential holiday for American families.  
It’s a holiday where each family tends to develop its own rich trove of traditions.  Maybe it’s a family football game before or after the feast.  Maybe it’s a particular food, like Aunt Gertrude’s oyster stuffing or cranberry sauce still maintaining the shape of the can from which it came, sliced to produce red hockey pucks.  Maybe it’s the rickety, riotous “kid’s table” where everyone under the age of 30 has to sit because the real dining room table can’t accommodate the whole clan.

But one of the biggest and most closely held traditions has to do with time — as in, when do you sit down for your meal?  Newly married couples learn to their astonishment that not every family eats at the same time.  Some people eat at noon, right after the parades end.  Some people eat at four, squeezing the meal in between the football games on TV.  So the newly married couple might eat two meals, one with each family, until they start to establish their own traditions.

I’ve never heard of anyone waiting until a more standard dinner time — say, 7 p.m. — to eat their turkey.    By then, most of us are chowing a cold turkey sandwich, pounding down a second piece of pumpkin pie, and groaning at our gluttony.

Wherever you are, and whenever you eat, Happy Thanksgiving!

The Jerkiness That Spread Around The World

When I was younger, I once read a book called, I think, “The Smile That Went Around The World.”  It told the happy story of a kid who came outside with a happy grin and smiled at a stranger, who then smiled at another stranger, who smiled at another — and on and on, until the smile reached every country and world was one big happy place.  It was a nice thought to instill in small children, who could cling to the idea that they could change the world just by smiling.

Of course, when we reach adulthood we realize that often it takes more than a smile from a stranger to turn someone’s mood around.  But what about the opposite kind of behavior?   How does behaving like a colossal jerk affect others in the vicinity?

rudenessNew studies are indicating that rude behavior does, indeed, spread like a kind of disease.  The studies reveal that being the target of discourtesy, or simply witnessing ill-mannered conduct, tends to induce more rude behavior.  The psychologists posit that seeing loutishness or abusiveness activates parts of our brains that are sensitive to rudeness and triggers an increased likelihood of an impolite response on our part.  Our ungracious response, in turn, can provoke escalating rudeness in others.

Unlike the happy but unrealistic concept of the smile traveling around the world, this research matches our experience in real-life scenarios.  How many times have you been cut off by a thoughtless person who is driving like a jerk and felt a surge of anger and a sudden wild desire to retaliate?  If you’re standing in a line and some jerk tries to cut in front, it’s not unusual to see surly reactions or even a breakdown in the queue.   How often have you seen perfect strangers telling each other off because of some ill-advised conduct, or the mean actions of a supervisor then mimicked by his subordinate?

It’s sad to think that rudeness is so easy to provoke in others — but as we move into the Thanksgiving weekend, we can all be on guard.  We might not be able to send a smile around the world, but at least we can exercise some self-control and stop the spread of boorishness in its tracks.


Seasonal Reflections

IMG_7518In downtown Columbus, you know that the holiday season is here when they place enormous red globes in the flower pots.  I like crimson balls, because they add a welcome spot of color and because they give you a red, fish-eyed view of reality — which often can be a helpful perspective during a Columbus winter.

Double Oven Dreams

Lately, when I go into our kitchen, I am drawn to the shiny, aluminum-clad appliance in the far corner, next to the outside wall.  I look at it, and think about possibilities.  Happy, hopeful, heated, holiday possibilities.

It’s the double oven, of course.

IMG_7516_2A double oven may not be a big deal for those who’ve always had  one, but I’m not in that category.  I’ve only had a single oven, which has been . . . sufficient.  There aren’t many times when you really need two ovens.  But the holiday season is one of those times.  And now, with Thanksgiving only two days away and the Christmas cookie season right behind it, I think of what I might be able to accomplish with deft use of the double oven.

For Thanksgiving, the benefits of a double oven are obvious.  The turkey can be cooking away in one oven, perhaps with one or two other dishes, and the other oven can be used for warming pies, candied yams, rolls, a green bean casserole, and on and on.  No more desperate attempts at oven space management, trying to jam every course into the nooks and crannies around the turkey in a doomed bid to get everything hot and ready to serve at the same time.  In short, the double oven affords the luxury of ample space.

For Christmas cookie baking, the potential benefits are different.  The double oven should allow me to maximize efficiency and eliminate the down times, when I’ve got a sheet of cookies ready to bake but I’m waiting for those in the oven to finish.  I look at the shiny aluminum facing and I think of Dutch spice cookies turning a rich golden brown in the top oven as I’m loading a tray of Cranberry hootycreeks into the bottom unit.  An efficiency expert would undoubtedly be able to calculate how much time I might save by deft use of the double oven options.  It will require careful planning and sequencing, of course, but I’m eager to tackle the challenge.

And now I wonder — do I have enough counter space for all of these cookies?