Snow On Pine

Saturday morning the snow was still fresh when Penny and I took our walk.  We passed one pine tree where the snowflakes had been caught by the clusters of pine needles like a baseball is caught by a catcher’s mitt.  It looked like ice cream cones or cotton candy.  The snow was so new, and the air was so cold, that the snowflakes that had fallen on top still retained their individual shapes.

Europe Is Still There, And Its Problems Are Getting Worse

In America, we have the ability to just ignore the rest of the world now and then.  When the news from abroad is too depressing, we turn it off and focus on more interesting American things instead, like a celebrity scandal or  the new iPhone or a weirdly viral YouTube video.

I think most Americans have tuned out the debt crisis in Europe.  It has been going on forever.  There’s no end in sight.  Lots of different, faraway countries are involved. The Europeans appear to be dealing with it.  So why should we care?  Look, a squirrel!

On Friday Standard & Poor’s cut the credit ratings for the debt issued by nine European countries.  France, Europe’s second-largest economy, lost its AAA status, Italy’s debt is now rated the same as that of Kazakhstan, and Portugal’s debt is down to junk bond status.  Even worse, it looks like Greece won’t be able to reach agreement with its creditors, which would mean that the latest Eurozone effort to address the Greek debt crisis would fail and Greece would be facing default and bankruptcy in March.

In the modern world, the economies of countries are connected in countless ways.  We sell lots of good and services to Europe; if its economies crash, those markets vanish and American businesses will suffer.  American banks, mutual funds, and investors have purchased the sovereign debt of European countries and would experience huge losses in the event of defaults.  And, of course, Europe’s current predicament is just a peek at America’s likely future if we don’t deal promptly with our governmental debt problems.  European countries that are saddled with enormous debt are now at the mercy of ratings agencies, creditors, and faceless bureaucrats at the International Monetary Fund.

So, we can be distracted if we choose — but Europe is still there, and its problems are, too.  They may be our problems soon, if we don’t start paying attention.

The Big Ten Free-For-All

This afternoon Ohio State hosts Indiana at the Schott.  Even though the season is young, it’s being viewed as a must-win game for the Buckeyes — but then again, just about every game in the Big Ten this year may be of the must-win variety.

This year appears to be the most balanced Big Ten in years.  Only five games in, every team has lost at least one game.  Northwestern’s huge upset win yesterday over unbeaten Michigan State proved, again, that no game can be taken for granted.  As of today, Michigan State and Illinois stand at 4-1, four teams, including the Buckeyes, have two losses, and three teams have three losses.

That’s why Ohio State’s game today against Indiana is seen as a must-win contest.  The Buckeyes lost to Indiana in a foul-plagued, turnover-heavy game at Assembly Hall, so they need to win today to even the season series.  Ohio State also lost at Illinois when Illinois’ Brandon Paul had one of those magical games where he simply could not miss.  If the Buckeyes want to stay within range of Illinois and Michigan State, they need to put today’s game in the win column.  We’ll be looking for our senior, William Buford, to lead the way.

As an Ohio State fan, I want the Buckeyes to win every game by 30 points.  As a sports fan, however, I’m enjoying an unpredictable Big Ten season where many talented teams get the chance to beat up on each other.

Frost-Covered Sunrise, New Albany, January 15

It stopped snowing yesterday, the sky cleared, and of course the temperature dropped.  This morning it was frigid.  On our morning walk we noticed that everything was covered with a delicate layer of frost.  On this little tree, the coating of frost looked like fine white hairs in the refracted light of the sunrise.