Urban On The Recruiting Trail

Urban Meyer has been the head football coach at the Ohio State University for a little over two months.  Tomorrow we will get the first tangible sign of his impact on the program, because it’s National Letter of Intent Signing Day!

For those of you not hip-deep in college football recruiting news, breathless updates, and rankings from recruiting “gurus,” tomorrow is the day when high school seniors sign letters that confirm where they will go to college.  College football fans love the day because they can forget about last year and focus on the new members of their favorite teams — usually knowing nothing about the kid except the “rating” they’ve gotten from “ratings services” and, perhaps, a video of carefully selected high school highlights that can be found on YouTube.  And then, after the signing is done, there will be disputes about which school recruited the best class.  During the off-season, college football fans thrive on that kind of mindless argument.

Coach Meyer has been out working hard, and by all accounts he has done a tremendous job of attracting high-profile players and convincing them that the Ohio State University is the best possible place for them to get an education and display their football talents.  Tomorrow we’ll know exactly who has agreed with him and decided they want to call Columbus home for the next four years.

I don’t pay too much attention to recruiting because history has shown that on-field performance frequently bears no relation to the pre-college opinions of the so-called experts.  Still, recruiting is a big part of the job for a college football coach and his staff.  If you want an elite program, you have to recruit elite players and coach them up to their maximum potential.  Coach Meyer is showing that he is quite skilled at the first part of that job description — which is a good sign for Buckeye fans.

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From Grandpa’s Bookshelf: The Masters of Achievement

One of the largest — and most tattered — books on Grandpa’s bookshelf is a volume called Masters of Achievement.  From its condition, it obviously was a favorite, read over and over again.  What kind of book was so well-thumbed?

Masters of Achievement was published by the Frontier Press Company of Buffalo, N.Y. in 1913.   To quote its title page, it seeks to tell the stories of “the World’s Greatest Leaders in Literature, Art, Religion, Philosophy, Science, Politics, and Industry.”  It tells you something about the people of that era, and what they considered to be important, that figures from literature, art, religion, philosophy, and science all take precedence over politics — and that leaders of “industry” are included at all.  Of course, 1913 was a time when Americans welcomed industry and celebrated the bursting economic growth of a still-young, rapidly growing nation.

The breadth of the book also is surprising.   It does not focus only on Americans or modern figures.  The first hundred pages are devoted to writers, starting with Homer, Aeschylus, and Sophocles.  The section on religious figures discusses Zoroaster, Confucius, Buddha, and Mohammed, and the philosophers include Socrates, Plato, Descartes, and Spinoza.  The political and military leaders come from a broad range and feature Alexander the Great, Charlemagne, Alfred the Great, Charles V, and Peter the Great.

Finally, you notice who isn’t included.  Masters of Achievement does not discuss sports stars, or actors, or musical performers.  Obviously, they weren’t considered figures who made significant achievements.  American culture — so overwhelming and pervasive today — receives nary a mention in a volume that is hundreds of pages long.

If a book like Masters of Achievement were published today, what do you think it would look like?  How many pages would be given over to NFL players, rappers, and people like Paris Hilton or the Kardashians who are “celebrities” for some inexplicable reason that has nothing to do with actual accomplishment?

From Grandpa’s Bookshelf:  A Noble Horse

From Grandpa’s Bookshelf:  Optimism Amidst The Great Depression

From Grandpa’s Bookshelf:  Grandma’s Book Of Sayings

The book

Driving Versus Facebook

The Dayton Daily News reports that fewer Ohio teenagers are getting their driver’s licenses these days.

The data shows an almost 10 percent drop in the number of licensed 16- and 17-year-old Ohio drivers, and a nearly 5 percent drop in 18-year-old licensed drivers.  These statistics mirror a national trend — a trend that the auto industry, obviously, finds troubling.  If teens aren’t clamoring to use a car, the demand for cars will fall.

Why have teenagers become less interested in driving?  Some speculate it is attributable to a poor economy and a lack of jobs.  Others suggest that teenagers are simply satisfied to interact within virtual communities via social media like Facebook.

If the latter point is true, America has changed a lot since I was a teenager in the ’70s.  Of course, Facebook didn’t exist back then, but even if it had, it would never have taken the place of a driver’s license and a car.  A driver’s license meant you had passed the first milestone on the road to adulthood.  A driver’s license and car meant you could get a job and start earning your own money.  A driver’s license and car meant you could take a girl on a date without needing your Mom to act as chauffeur.  A driver’s license and car meant you could tool down the road in your own rig and crank up the radio as loud as you wanted when you heard the first riffs of ZZ Top’s La Grange.

Facebook is great, but driving was . . . freedom.

Are Federal Workers Overpaid? (II)

About a year ago I wrote a post about whether federal employees are overpaid. It’s a never-ending debate — and now the Congressional Budget Office has weighed in.

The CBO conducted a study that compared the wages, benefits, and overall compensation of federal employees and private-sector employees who shared certain comparable observable characteristics.  The study noted, of course, that certain important qualities that can have a significant impact on compensation — such as effort and motivation — can’t really be compared.  So, the study focused on objective, measurable factors, like educational levels, years of experience, occupation, geographic location, and demographic characteristics.

The study found that federal workers with just a high school level of education make considerably more than their private-sector counterparts — 36 percent higher in total compensation.  Federal employees with a bachelor’s degree also made materially more, receiving 15 percent higher total compensation.  Only when education levels reached graduate degrees and doctorates did private-sector employees earn more than federal workers, pulling in 18 percent more in total compensation.  Overall, federal workers earned 16 percent more than comparable private-sector workers.

The CBO study probably isn’t the last word on this topic — but it does provide significant ammunition for those who think government workers often are overpaid, and that we should look long and hard at the federal government payroll as a potential target for federal spending cuts.

Syria On The Brink Of Chaos

It’s bad in Syria, and it seems to be getting worse. This is not good news for the United States, or the world.

Fighting between Syrian government troops and rebels apparently is raging across the country.    The rebels are reporting that 95 people were killed in clashes that reached the suburbs of Damascus.  Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is clinging desperately to power while the international community debates how to proceed and whether to approve a UN resolution that calls upon Assad to step down and hand power to a deputy.  Russia and the United States are on opposite sides of the issue, and Iran, as always, is a wild card.

These are perilous times in the Middle East.  Old governments have fallen, Islamist groups have assumed power in formerly secular states like Egypt, and the United States is trying to redefine its role.  Any kind of armed conflict could spill over into other countries, further destabilizing the region.

Assad obviously is not a significant historical figure — but he could become one if his downfall leads to broad-scale conflict in the Middle East.  No one today would remember Austrian Archduke Franz Ferdinand but for his assassination, which plunged the nations of Europe into the First World War.

The Flush Factor

Travel always presents challenges and requires some accommodations.  One little-mentioned point of travel-related adjustment involves the bathroom area.

After all, you’re accustomed to your home commode.  You’re used to the height, the seating, the back support, and the sound that is made when you flush.  So, when you go the road and find one of those new-fangled devices in your hotel room, you have to adapt.

The low-slung, hotel room miracles of modern plumbing are different in almost every way.  They’re down at squat level.  The seat is deeper, somehow.  It’s like you’re riding a motorcycle.

My principal objection, however, has to do with the flush factor.  I know that they are supposed to be low-flow and more environmentally friendly — but I don’t like turning that weird rectangular handle and hearing that uncertain gurgling sound, where you don’t know for sure whether the entire reason for flushing has been fully and successfully accomplished.  I don’t want to send the contents of the bowl on some gentle journey, as if it were taking a languid cruise on the Blue Danube.  No, I want it harshly jettisoned, ejected, and expelled — shot, with unmistakably effective, torpedo-like force, deep into the plumbing, never again to be seen or even contemplated.

I’m all for hotels conserving water.  When I’m staying at a hotel for multiple days, for example, I don’t ask them to wash the towels.  I’m not guzzling tap water, leaving the faucets running when I shave, or taking ridiculously long showers.  I’m doing my part for water conservation — but flushing is where I draw the line.

Catching Fire – Love This Trilogy

Catching Fire the second Suzanne Collins book was another exciting quick read with lots of action. I finished it in a couple of days and am now waiting on a friend to loan me the third and final book in the trilogy, Mockingjay. If your not a big reader I would definitely recommend this series.

At the end of the first book Katniss has enraged evil President Snow who resides over a repressive regime and lives in the Capitol. The ending leaves you wondering whether or not the Capitol will seek revenge over Katniss and if so in what way.

Book two had a really interesting and totally unexpected ending, but I can’t say much more than that because I don’t want to ruin it for anyone who decides to read the series. The trilogy was initially categorized as young adult fiction, but is now being enjoyed by all ages including adults.

I can’t wait to read book three !