The Moon, My Companion

Penny and I enjoyed a beautiful morning on today’s walk.

This morning's moon

Last night we got some much needed rain, but the storm had passed through, leaving the air feeling cool and well-washed.  High in the sky was the friendly moon, darting back and forth through gaps in the scudding clouds, casting a silver sheen over the treetops and walkways and first-fallen leaves.  As we strolled through the darker areas of our morning journey, I thought of the amazing amount of light that is generated by the moon’s reflection of the sunlight.  On a morning like today, where the moon is full and the skies are moderately clear, the unobstructed glow of the moon alone is more than bright enough to light our path.

Classiness On Display

Today I got a weird email from the Chairman of the Ohio Democratic Party, Chris Redfern.  In the email, Redfern said he was being criticized by Republicans for using obscene language while giving a speech, but that he wouldn’t apologize for being passionate about the issues in this campaign, etc.  The email ends with an appeal for voters to be as passionate as he is and volunteer to work for Democratic Party candidates.

Chris Redfern

I hadn’t heard anything about the incident Redfern was referring to because, to be honest, I could care less about political party chairmen.  I’ve always viewed them as complete shills for their slate of candidates, always ready to mouth the latest spin rather than giving any kind of honest reaction.  Why would I waste my time reading about what Chris Redfern has to say?

Still, I was intrigued, so I did some checking and learned that Redfern dropped an f-bomb while being videotaped giving a speech.  He used a derivation of the word to refer to people who oppose health care (i.e., more than half of Americans, according to polls).  If you want to see the video, it is available here.  Does it look like a mistake of passion to you, or a calculated statement by a guy wearing a dress shirt who is hoping to get some free publicity as the election approaches?

Pretty classy, Chris!  Nothing like some reasoned discourse to sway voters to your position!  Is it any wonder that so many people are fed up with the politicos and their minions, like Chris Redfern?

Stalking Brutus

Here’s a weird codicil to the story about the Ohio University mascot who tried to tackle Brutus Buckeye at the start of the OSU-OU game:  it turns out that the OU mascot always planned to do just that, and indeed tried out for the job of OU mascot last year with the ultimate goal of tackling Brutus at the start of Saturday’s game.  The guy who wore the Bobcat mascot uniform for OU at the game, Brandon Hanning, isn’t even a student at OU any longer.

Who knows where the Bobcat guy could be lurking in the future?  Brutus could be innocently buying groceries, only to get blasted by the Bobcat lurking behind one of the produce bins, or he could be hoisting a beer at a campus establishment and look up only to see the Bobcat bearing down on him, teeth bared.  If I were Brutus, I’d consider getting a restraining order.

It’s Official: The Browns Stink

I’ve refrained from posting anything about the Cleveland Browns because, really, what’s the point?  It’s worth briefly noting, however, that the Browns have lost their first two games — again — to two exceptionally mediocre teams.  Averaging an overpowering 14 points a game, the Browns have been bested by Tampa Bay and Kansas City.

Even Penny realizes this season already has gone to the dogs

No one should be surprised by this.  The Browns have consistently sucked and disappointed their fans even since they have returned to the NFL.  But where there’s life, there’s hope, and Cleveland fans always are hopeful.  Now we know, only two games into the season, that our hopes will be dashed once more and another season will slide into the gloomy abyss of failure.

How long, O Lord?  How long?  How long before this once proud franchise finally produces the excellent football that is so much a part of its history, and which its stalwart fans so richly deserve?

The Departures Continue

Slowly but surely, the members of President Obama’s economic team are hitting the road.  In July the budget director left the Administration, earlier this month Christina Romer departed, and now Larry Summers, viewed as one of the President’s most senior economic advisers, has announced that he is leaving.  President Obama has praised all of them as brilliant, capable, moving things in the right direction, etc. — but the reality is that the recession continues, economic forecasts are downbeat, unemployment and foreclosures rates are extraordinarily high, and consumer confidence is scraping the bottom of the barrel.  If that is the President’s definition of brilliant stewardship, what would abject failure look like?

I think the President and his political team have the savvy to realize that, given the lame performance of the economy and the unkept promises of the stimulus bill and other economic initiatives, heads need to roll.  Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner undoubtedly will soon follow Romer, Summers, and others out the door, so that the President can make a show out of bringing in a “new economic team” with “new ideas” to deal with his plummeting popularity and the nagging suspicion among many people that President Obama might not be up to the task.

The timing is obviously coincidental, but the poignant question posed to the President at his recent town hall forum about middle class citizens worrying about returning to a franks and beans existence is a powerful indication of what average Americans are thinking.  The President needs to show that he understands what they are saying and is acting on it, and he can’t do that with the same group of advisers who are widely viewed as presiding over a failed — indeed, disastrous — economic policy.

“Guard The Change”

One of President Obama’s new themes is “Guard the Change”:  that is, protect the policy initiatives that have occurred during his first two years in office and shield them from encroachments by Republicans.

I’m sure this theme, like everything else in politics, has been focus group-tested — but doesn’t “guard the change” seems like an odd motto to use during an economic recession when so many people are scrimping and saving?  It conjures up images of Scrooge McDuck or some other miserly figure, rubbing his hands together, zealously standing watch over a jar of nickels, dimes and quarters and hoping to keep the Beagle Boys from getting their mitts on the coins.  “Guard the change” seems paranoid, defensive, and woefully out of step with the President’s typical efforts to inspire.

Mascot Love

The Buckeye Nation is up in arms because the Ohio University mascot, Rufus the Bobcat, tried to tackle Brutus Buckeye as the Ohio State team took the field on Saturday, and then engaged in some roughhousing in the end zone.  Not surprisingly, Brutus — like any rugby shirt-wearing stud — easily shook off the cat’s foul and unwelcome embraces.  Nevertheless, Ohio University has apologized for the unseemly mascot behavior.

I wouldn’t make too big a deal out of the Bobcat’s antics.  After all, the OU mascot is a feline.  Ohio State fans just should be grateful that the Bobcat didn’t scratch someone’s eyes out, start yowling, mark its territory on the  50-yard-line, or otherwise use the Horseshoe as a big litter box.

Holy Cow Batman is 82 !

See full size image

Yesterday the original Batman, Adam West turned 82. The Batman Show aired back in the 60’s and Batman had a host of villians that he fought on a weekly basis. One of my favorites was the Mad Hatter where his hat pops open and a pair of eyes hypnotizes / paralyzes his prey.

Of course the show would culminate with a fight scene, Zlonk, Klonk, Kapow where Batman and Robin would prevail. This was classic television in the good old days. Sometimes I wish we could get those days back.

The Campaign Mailbag

With the election now less than two months away, Kish and I are getting bombarded with campaign mailings.  Everybody wants money, of course — even candidates running for office in faraway states.  (How do these people get our names?)  In any case, here are a few splenetic Webner House reactions to the campaign literature we’ve received over the last few days:

1.  We’re not stupid. I hate it when somebody tries to design a mass-produced mailing to look like it was hand-written.  We received one yesterday with a faux hand-written address on the envelope and a faux hand-written post-it note inside.  Does even the most credulous voter actually think that another human wrote the address and note?  It’s insulting to think that politicians trolling for money consider us to be so gullible. Why would I want to give money to someone who evidently believes I am easily duped?  How about showing minimal respect for our intelligence instead?

2.  Please don’t order us around. More and more, political fliers seem to issue edicts, rather than simply trying to educate voters on the different positions of the candidates on pertinent issues.  For example, we received a mailing from the Kasich-Taylor campaign that criticized Governor Ted Strickland’s approach to balancing the state budget, which has involved use of Ohio’s “rainy day” fund and federal “stimulus” dollars.  A fair point to make during a campaign, I think — but the envelope for the mailing commands:  “Tell Ted Strickland . . . “No More Band-Aids!”  My initial response to that directive is:  “Bite me!  Tell him yourself!  I’ve got better things to do!”

3.  Don’t pretend. Our state representative, Marian Harris, recently sent us a mailer focusing on voter frustration with the responsiveness of government and touting her Saturday office hours and regular town hall meetings, both of which are commendable.  But then the mailer says:  “Marian Harris is One of Us — Not a Politician.”  I’m sorry, but by definition a state representative who is currently serving in that capacity is a “politician.”  Why treat your current profession like it is a dirty word?

A Visit To Oakland

Work took me to Oakland, California this past week.  It’s the first time I’ve visited that fair city.

The marina at Jack London Square

I stayed at a downtown hotel and had a chance to walk around a bit.  I visited Jack London Square, which is a development on the waterfront.  Unfortunately, a walk down Broadway from the center of downtown to Jack London Square takes you through a sketchy neighborhood and under a highway overpass, through a dark area that is liberally coated with bird droppings and probably is a haven for homeless people at night. From a city planning standpoint, it is unfortunate that visitors can’t simply walk from downtown to what is intended to be a destination area without seeing the underside of the city.

"Cheemah, Mother of the Spirit-Fire"

Jack London Square itself is nice, with a boat docking area, a marina, and an interesting view of the industrial docks nearby.  It has the kind of restaurants and entertainment options you would expect, as well as some curious public art.  (The piece shown in the photograph at right, called “Cheemah, Mother of the Spirit-Fire,” seems a bit over-the-top in its overt symbolism.)  I found myself wondering how well the area is doing, however.  I was there shortly before lunch on a Thursday, and the Square was pretty much deserted.  In fairness, though, the middle of September probably isn’t the high tourist season in Oakland.

Oakland also has a colorful and very interesting “Old Oakland” section that features some beautiful buildings that look like they date from the turn of the century.  The architecture of the area is replete with the distinct touches and flourishes you would expect in buildings constructed in a vibrant, rapidly growing city of that era.  It appears that modern-day Oakland is trying to rejuvenate the area.  From my walk-through, I’d say it is worth the effort — but I think establishing a feeling of personal security among visitors will be an issue in that area as well.

One of the interesting buildings in Old Oakland

My exploration also took me through Oakland’s “Chinatown” section, which seems to be a vibrant area where lots of people were out and about, and around the newer part of downtown, which features memorable structures like the Oakland Tribune clock tower, the municipal building, and a lavish complex of new federal buildings.  The area near the federal buildings includes a pedestrian mall with an outdoor eating area, restaurants, and shops.  It was a busy place Thursday afternoon, but was pretty much deserted when I walked by Wednesday night at around 7 p.m.

Oakland reminded me of many cities in the Midwest: a once thriving blue-collar city that is trying to deal with an aging downtown, the departure of businesses to greener pastures, a considerable homeless population, and tough economic times.

Make Room For Ducks

The neighborhood duck gang, on the lookout for food this morning

The earthbound ducks that patrol our neighborhood have had a successful summer.  A brood of ducklings was successfully hatched and reared, and our brace of ducks (as opposed to a gaggle of geese, a clutch of chickens, or a covey of quail) now numbers eight individuals.

According to our neighbors, the ducks spend the night in a shallow depression behind a nearby home.  When morning comes, they are on the prowl, looking for food.  When I see their little band on my morning walk, they quack quietly, making a comical noise that sounds like the duck equivalent of the background murmurs of an expectant crowd before a performance.

Whatever the ducks have been doing, it seems to be agreeing with them, as they have fattened up considerably.  Will these ducks head south for the winter?  If so, will they get off their considerable feathered duffs and fly, or will they just waddle into the sunset, quacking all the while?

Room For Improvement

I went to the Ohio State game today and, as expected, saw an easy 43-7 win over the Ohio University Bobcats.  The Buckeyes controlled the game from the start, scored 34 points in the first half, and put the game away early — which is what you want to do if you are the number two-ranked team in the country.

The Bobcats take the field

Defensively, the Buckeyes simply overmatched OU.  Cameron Heyward and his mates forced five turnovers, notched a safety, and held the Bobcats scoreless until the defensive reserves took over in the fourth quarter.  In all, the defense held Ohio U. to 158 total yards, most of which were gained during mop-up time.  The defensive line in particular looked very good, but the whole defense was solid.

Offensively, the Buckeyes sparkled for most of the first half.  Terrelle Pryor completed 16 straight passes at one point, ran for a touchdown, and threw for two more.  He used his tight end and spread the ball around, ultimately completing 22 of 29 passes for 235 yards.  Still, the offense had its struggles.  In the two-minute drill at the end of the first half, Pryor took a sack and threw an interception in the end zone.  The running game was not as steady as you would like, and some of the new plays the Buckeyes attempted (including some plays run from the “wildcat” formation, with Boom Herron taking a direct snap) clearly didn’t work as they had been drawn up.  I like the fact that the Buckeyes are trying some new formations, however, and a game like this one is a perfect venue to conduct some on-the-field experimentation against real opponents.

Finally, the special teams again looked shaky, and it is becoming a real concern.  Ohio U. had a kickoff return for a touchdown called back and came close to breaking a few other returns, and they also blocked a punt.  The special teams just don’t look sharp, and OSU’s inability to get the ball into the end zone on kickoffs is giving opposing teams excellent field position.

Coach Tressel will be thinking about how to improve the special teams

Only at a school like Ohio State, I suppose, could a fan look at a 43-7 drubbing of an opponent and say that there is “room for improvement” and really mean it — but that insistence upon excellence is what distinguishes the Buckeyes from many other college football programs.  True fans know that successful Big Ten teams need dependable running games in the second half of the season, when cold, wet weather and bad footing make it much more difficult to depend upon pass-oriented offenses.  True fans know that successful teams must consistently execute the two-minute drill and score touchdowns when you reach the red zone and be able to do so in a distant stadium filled with 100,000 howling fans who are hoping the  opposing team pulls off an upset that makes their season.  True fans know that, in a tough away game against well-coached teams like Iowa or Wisconsin, a special teams blunder can mean the difference between a win and a heartbreaking loss.

On days like today, when the weather is warm and sunny and the Buckeyes take the field against overpowered opponents, the team can work out the kinks and strive to establish the consistency and capabilities that will be sorely needed soon enough, when the cold winds begin to blow and the conference contests begin.

Early Signs

On my morning walks lately I have noticed political yard signs going up.  Nothing odd about that — except that Election Day 2010 is more than six weeks away and in New Albany we have a rule that says that yard signs should not be put up until two weeks or so before the election.

Can we draw any inferences from the early appearance of yard signs?  It probably means that the neighbors who have put up the signs feel especially strongly about the election and want to make their views known early.  In that regard, it may be significant that every yard sign I’ve seen so far is for a Republican candidate.

Pundits and pollsters have been writing for months about a purported “enthusiasm gap” between Republicans and Democrats as they approach the upcoming election.  We may be seeing evidence of that on the lawns of New Albany.

It’s All About Me

This primary season has seen a number of establishment Republicans lose to “Tea Party” upstarts.  Some of those losing candidates have reacted with class, some have reacted with petulance, and still others have simply refused to accept the will of the voters.  Lisa Murkowski of Alaska is the latest to fall into the last category.  Having lost in the Republican primary to challenger Joe Miller, she has now announced that she will run as a write-in candidate.

Murkowski, of course, couches her decision as some kind of noble personal sacrifice.  She says she is listening to the “will of the constituency” and feels a “responsibility” because she has heard an “outpouring of support and concern — concern about the future of the state of Alaska and our representation here in the Senate.”  Does anyone in Alaska actually buy such absurd spin?  We all know the real reason Murkowski has made her decision:  she wants to keep her cushy job and has an inflated sense of her own capabilities.   When your senatorial days are spent listening to the whispered blandishments of lobbyists and toadying supporters, I suppose that kind of reaction is inevitable.  But what has Murkowski actually done in her eight years in the Senate?  Read her bio information on her website and see for yourself whether she has a record of such stunning legislative accomplishment that her return to the Senate is crucially important for Alaska.

Of course, voters in Murkowski’s own party have already had the opportunity to decide whether her return to the Senate is essential — and obviously they decided it wasn’t.  Murkowski is simply too selfish to accept that legitimate decision.  Her decision in that regard is just another affirmation of the out-of-control egotism and unresponsiveness of so many of our elected representatives.  I hope Alaska voters recognize that and send her a message she cannot ignore come November.

Avoiding The Totally Generic Business Travel Experience

I’ve been on the road this week, enjoying the exciting world of business travel.

My hotel room, shown at right, is clean and perfectly suitable (and no bedbugs!), but it also is so generic as to be vaguely depressing.  This kind of purely functional hotel room, with its bland artwork, neutral color scheme, pillow-laden bed, and unobtrusive furnishings, could be found anywhere in America.  You can determine where you are only by looking out the window — and maybe not even then, because downtown areas often look the same, too, especially if you are close to ground level.

New lawyers at our firm often express interest in work-related “travel.”  Any seasoned road warrior will quickly disabuse them of their romantic notions about business travel.  Typically, you spend your time in generic airport boarding areas, generic taxicab passenger seats, generic conference rooms, and generic hotel rooms.  There’s not much that is broadening in the experience.

I have a few rules that I try to follow when I travel to make the experience more bearable, for me at least:

(1)  Try to stay in a hotel that is itself interesting.  I like older hotels, because they often have architectural flourishes, gilded lobby areas, and other touches that separate them from the mass-produced modern hotel experience.

(2)  Do not eat in the hotel where you are staying, whether it is the hotel restaurant or, even worse, room service.  Get the name of a good nearby restaurant from the concierge and walk to it.

(3)  Find a hotel near your ultimate destination and walk back and forth.  At least by walking, you get a sense of the city and its rhythms.  If you spend all of your time separated from the city by taxicab, hotel room, and conference room windows and walls, you have had only a virtual travel experience.  Walking also helps avoid the dreaded feeling of “travel bloat.”

(4)  See if you can’t find time to see something of the city.  Don’t just dart back to your hotel room and start thumbing away at your Blackberry.  Most cities have interesting places to visit, and a quick stroll to the waterfront or a park will connect you to your location and provide another walking opportunity.

(5)  Consider whether you have family, friends, or acquaintances in the area who might join you for a meal.  It’s lonely to have no human interaction, and even a good book can be tiresome company after a few days.  On this trip, I was able to get together for dinner with college friends Scott and Pat (thanks, guys!) and it was such a pleasure to have a warm conversation with friends at the work day’s end.  If a little advance planning allows you to renew connections with long-lost friends, why not seize the opportunity?