The New Big Ten

Today I was invited to Ohio State’s homecoming game.  What traditional Big Ten team is the opponent this year?  That’s right — Rutgers.  Wait, what?

Oh, yeah.  Ugh.  This is the year the Big Ten adds the Rutgers Scarlet Knights and the Maryland Terrapins to the conference.  I don’t know whether Ohio State will be any good this year — I’ll write something about that later this week — but I know that Rutgers and Maryland aren’t likely to increase the Buckeyes’ strength of schedule any.  Last year the Scarlet Knights were 6-7 in whatever conference they were in (was it the Big East?) and the Terrapins were a hardy 7-6 in the ACC.  Will they be any better this year?  Heck if I know, but I do know that a homecoming game against Rutgers doesn’t exactly get the blood pumping.

I get what the Big Ten is doing.  College sports these days is all about money, and money flows from TV revenue.  The Big Ten wants the Big Ten Network to be carried on the cable packages in the big media markets on the East Coast, and it also hopes to increase sales of jerseys, hats, and other paraphernalia.  Does that mean lots of New Yorkers and inside-the-Beltway types will decide to watch Big Ten football this year and wear Big Ten gear?  I doubt it — unless they’re alums and were going to be watching the games, anyway.  I’m not sure that New Yorkers pay any attention whatsoever to college football, and the main sport in D.C. is politics.  But there’s probably enough Big Ten alums in the two markets to make cable companies include the Big Ten Network, and that’s what matters.

I think adding Maryland and Rutgers to the Big Ten is lame, and when I see the devious looking Maryland Terrapin sporting the Big Ten logo, as in the illustration accompanying this post, I cringe.  They may make a lot of money through this expansion, but they’ve really undercut the tradition in a conference that had a tradition second to none.  No amount of money is worth that.

 

Bicycle Hit Man

On this morning’s walk I came within a whisker of being struck by a bicycle.

It happened on one of the darkest parts of the leisure path, where there are no street lights.  The cyclist didn’t have a headlight.  I could see him because there was a dim red light on the back of his bike, but he apparently didn’t see me.  I moved to the right edge of the path, but he kept veering inexorably over in my direction.  I’m guessing he was fiddling with his gear or water bottle and wasn’t paying attention; I’m fairly confident no one has put out a bicycle hit on me.  Finally, I trotted off the leisure path to get out of his way, and the sudden movement got his attention. He said “Sorry!” as he righted his bike and went whizzing past, and I emerged from the encounter unscathed, with only an adrenalin surge to remember him by.

There’s always been an uneasy truce between cyclists and walkers on leisure paths and sidewalks. Bicycles move much faster than pedestrians, of course, and it’s unnerving to hear cyclists shout “On your left!” from behind you before they go flying by.  When I see cyclists weaving though the people on the path, I’m tempted to think that the path should be reserved for walkers and joggers.  Then I remember that I ride my bicycle on the path, too, because it’s a great ride — a smooth path, unhindered by stop signs or cars that drive too close, with a cool tunnel, little hills to get the blood pumping, and long coasting runs.  It’s perfect for cycling, just as it’s perfect for a brisk, head-clearing morning walk.

There’s no reason why cyclists, pedestrians, and joggers can’t share the leisure path, day or night or early morning.  But the cyclists need to really pay attention, especially when it’s dark outside.  Having a light on the front of the bicycle would help, too.

The Day Of Golfing Acceptance

When I got back from golf today Kish asked me, brightly, “How was golf today?”  “I sucked, but it was okay,” I replied . . . and it actually was true.  I really did suck — horribly, completely, irrefutably, from tee to green and every hazard in between — but it was okay.

IMG_1090That’s a big change for me.  I think I may have reached the fabled Day of Golfing Acceptance.

When I was younger, I hoped that one day I would be a good golfer who could regularly shoot rounds in the low 80s.  Unfortunately, that hasn’t happened, and I realize I have neither the time, nor the talent, nor the temperament to devote the hours of practice needed to make a significant improvement in my game.  The difference now is that I’m not going to become infuriated at myself and the Golf Gods about the bad shots and the bad scores.  So I suck.  So what?  I’m reconciled to the fact that I’m always going to be a mediocre player who shoots in the 90s.

That doesn’t mean I can’t enjoy the game.  In fact, I’d argue that it’s more enjoyable when you’re not blurting out awful curses at shots into the weeds or bad bounces on the green.  And who knows?  Maybe some day I’ll decide I do want to try to be a better player — but that day is not today.  Today I was awful, but I liked getting the exercise and sharing a few laughs with my golfing companions.  I’ll take it.

The Season Of Hand-Out-The-Window Drivers

The weather’s not bad right now, as we wait expectantly for the next Midwestern exposure to the dreaded Polar Vortex.  That means it’s the season of the hand-out-the-window drivers — that small fraction of motorists who like tooling down the road with their forearms and hands flapping in the breeze.

IMG_2905Of course, the HOTW drivers flout standard driving conventions.  Obviously, they aren’t keeping both hands on the steering wheel at 10 and 2 o’clock, as we were taught to do by our hectoring drivers’ ed instructors. And there has been no need for a driver’s hand to be out of the car since the hand-signaling Model T era, before automakers made the turn signal standard equipment.  In fact, air conditioning means there’s no need for the window to be open at all.

Yet still the HOTW drivers persist.  Some use the elbow on the door frame, hand clutching the edge of the roof approach, others extend the arm outward and hold the side-view mirror, and still others just let their hands wander free in the air stream, like a happy, tongue-lolling dog with its head outside the car.  But, why?  Why expose the arm to the outer elements?  Why have the forearm skin battered by the random insects that meet their fates mashed against a car windshield?  Why not experience the pristine wonder of the completely enclosed, carefully climate-controlled, fully interior driving experience?

I’m guessing the HOTWers have a bit of rebel in them.

Celebrating All Things Scottish

IMG_2909Last night Kish and I went to the lovely home of the Rhyming Scots for a celebration of All Things Scottish.  Mr. Rhyming Scot, who combines the qualities of fierceness and intellectual firepower that you would expect from the son of a country that produced William Wallace and Adam Smith, sported a kilt and other traditional Scottish garb.  Scottish flags were proudly flying, and tartan ruled the day.  A bagpiper was present, skreeling off favorite bagpipe selections.  Scotch, Scottish ale, and Scottish food were to be had in abundance. 

Technically, last night’s festivities commemorated the 700th anniversary of the Battle of Bannockburn, a crucial and crushing Scottish victory over the English in the First War of Scottish Independence, but it was also a nice opportunity for friends to get together, listen to the bagpipe refrains floating on the sultry evening air, and nosh on haggis.  And about that haggis:  it’s actually pretty good, kind of like a loose sausage.  I’d definitely eat it again at the next big Bannockburn anniversary. 

Penny, The Cover Girl

In today’s mail we received Healthy Pet magazine.  Imagine our surprise, and double-take, when we saw our dog prominently featured on the front cover.

IMG_2906That’s right — that’s Penny, looking all noble, in the circle on the cover.  Sure, her name is misspelled, but that kind of publicity is priceless.

Upon close examination, we saw that it was, in fact, our Penny — but it’s not the actual, glossy cover of the magazine.  Instead, it’s a kind of add-on cover courtesy of the Animal Hospital of New Albany, where Penny’s veterinarian practices.  Presumably it was added specifically for our benefit, and the homes of other four-legged patients received special covers about their pets.

We’ll have to save the cover, because along with her brief brush with stardom Penny’s medical schedule is advertised for all the world to see.  There’s no federal law protecting the privacy of pooches, so there’s no problem with a magazine cover that embarrassingly discloses that Penny will be getting that heartworm/lyme/E/A test in a few weeks.  Let’s just hope it doesn’t come back positive, now that the mailman knows all about it.

Hyper-Organized

Recently I was in a law firm conference room and in need of a pen.  I opened a drawer in a credenza and found a large tray of office supplies organized in a meticulous, almost artistic way, as shown in the photo below.  It was a beautiful sight — but alas, no pen was present, so all that organization really didn’t serve my needs.

“Organization” is the Great White Whale of the busy modern world.  Harried working moms end their days exhausted, worried about the cleanliness of their houses, the unfolded laundry, and their other pressing obligations and responsibilities, thinking that if they were just a little more organized life would be so much easier.  Overwhelmed white-collar employees who inherited the duties of the guy one cubicle over who was just let go in the latest downsizing think if they could just organize their damn desk and that teetering pile of files they might actually make it.  How many of your friends, at lunch or over coffee, express the fervent wish that they were just more organized?  How many New Year’s resolutions read, simply:  “Get organized”?

IMG_2891I think people fret too much about being “organized.”  In reality, there are two things that people need to decide about the world and themselves, and if they would just make those decisions they would be a lot more comfortable.

At the outset, you need to know whether you are one of those people who has to be perfectly organized as a matter of your own mental health.  If having a cluttered desk, or a Franklin Day Planner that doesn’t include every upcoming task, event, and deadline, will drive you crazy, then you’d better embrace that fact, respect it, and plan your career and life accordingly, or your life will be an unhappy one.  People who crave extreme order probably don’t want to work at a job that inevitably involves chaos and unexpected events that require you to drop everything else and pivot to the latest crisis.  Such people also probably don’t want to marry a complete slob.

But if you aren’t one of those people, why not accept that you’re not perfect and that you aren’t going to meet the standard of organized perfection embodied by that meticulous credenza drawer?  Everyone needs to be organized to the point that they don’t forget or miss deadlines and events they or their kids must attend.  Everyone needs to keep their personal space in compliance with minimum health code mandates.  Everyone needs to be sure they pay their bills on time.  But you really don’t need to try to maintain a perfectly ordered house that looks like June Cleaver will come strolling out at any moment with a tray of chilled lemonade, or a desk that would pass a prissy white-glove test.

If people spent less time worrying about “being organized,” and devoted that time instead either to reaching the organizational level that they are comfortable with or to enjoying life after accepting the inescapable level of disorder in their lives — and stopped beating themselves up about their failure to meet some idealized level of “organization” — the world would be a happier place.

A Republican Truck

IMG_2902Kish and I got a laugh as we drove down to the OSU campus tonight for dinner and ended up at a stop light behind this apparently fed-up Republican pickup truck owner.  We had two questions.  First, how irate must you be to prepare your own political signage and display it on your pickup truck?  Second, if you’re driving it down on campus, how often has the truck with the sign been egged, keyed, had prior versions of the sign torn to shreds, or otherwise been the subject of vandalism?

My Low-Carb Lunch (II)

IMG_2898Today I was up in Cleveland, and when lunchtime rolled around there was nary a food truck in sight.  So, regrettably, there was no apparent way to continue the celebration of Food Truck Summer today.  Fortunately, the Fast Talker consulted some kind of map app on her smartphone and rattled off a list of options.  The only one I was able to hear clearly in the rapid-fire torrent of words was Urban Farmer, which sounded intriguing — so that’s where we went.

Urban Farmer is a steakhouse, at bottom, but it looks like it’s a strong proponent of local sourcing, organic options, and a lot more.  It’s been open for three months, in a part of Cleveland that is being rejuvenated by the opening of the Convention Center on St. Clair Avenue.  It’s got a quirky interior, with mismatched chairs and unusual lighting fixtures and an outdoor eating area — which you don’t often see in a steakhouse.  It looks like a place that would be fun to frequent for an after-work drink.

It also offered just what the doctor ordered for my low-carb diet:  a lunch special today that consisted of a 6 ounce New York cut steak (which looked like a lot more than 6 ounces) and creamed spinach.  I scraped the bread crumbs off the top of the creamed spinach in a nod to low-carb sensibilities, then alternated forkfuls of the succulent, almost buttery steak with the creamed spinach.  Normally I wouldn’t eat creamed spinach under any circumstances — it’s one reason why, as a kid, I preferred Bugs Bunny to Popeye — but I was desperately hungry, and the combination of the rich steak with the creamed spinach was satisfying and made me feel good about my adherence to my new eating regimen.  The Fast Talker, who is normally not a big eater, got a good-sized, rich-looking pork sandwich and ate every bit of it, which tells you something.

I hope Urban Farmer hangs around.

Kasey’s Secret Past

Last night several lines of thunderstorms rolled through central Ohio.  As the lightning flashed and the thunder clashed and rumbled, it sent Kasey to quivering.  Penny is oblivious to outdoor storms, but they terrify Kasey and send her darting for the nearest human being to cower beside.

DSC04122Why are thunderstorms so frightening to Kasey?  We don’t know — but then there’s a lot we don’t know about Kasey.  She’s only been part of our lives for less than three years.  She’s a “rescue dog” of sorts and was retrieved from a Humane Society near Vermilion when she was already a fully grown dog.  We don’t know how old she is, exactly, but the veterinarian, from looking at her teeth and other evidence, things she’s 11 or 12.  That means she had about 9 years of life experiences before we entered the picture, and we don’t know what those life experiences were.

So, we try to draw inferences about Kasey’s secret past from what we know about her, now.  When we got Kasey she wasn’t particularly well housebroken.  She’s got bad teeth.  She doesn’t like storms and loud noises.  Initially, before encountering Penny, the bottomless pit, she wouldn’t eat all her food immediately when it was served.  And, most distressingly, she was very skittish and suspicious around males, even growling at me a few times during the early days as I approached her.

What can we surmise from these very few pieces of a much larger puzzle?  Not much, really, other than some pretty uninformed guesswork.  Her teeth suggest that her past owner or owners didn’t take her to the vet very often.  On the other hand, she must have been reasonably well fed — dogs that are starving aren’t going to leave available food to nosh on later.  The incomplete house-training suggests that she lived with someone who started the job, but couldn’t completely pay attention to Kasey’s habits for some reason.  Her fear of thunder and lightning and loud noises suggest that she may have been a doghouse dog for part of the time who was left outside during bad storms, or perhaps she lived in a place where loud noises meant something bad was happening.  As for the skittishness around men, I’d rather not think about that — but the inference is obvious.  Fortunately, she seems to have gotten over that.

So, we really don’t know much about Kasey’s past — but we like to think that she views living with us is a definite improvement, storms and all.

Captain Kirk Vs. Mr. Sulu

Apparently William Shatner (Captain James T. Kirk) and George Takei (Lieutenant Hikaru Sulu) don’t like each other.  In fact, they really don’t like each other.  It all relates to some comments Takei made a a comedy roast about Shatner, or to Shatner’s belief that he wasn’t invited to Takei’s wedding, or . . . something.

This is distressing news for people like me, who were fans of Star Trek.  We want to believe that the members of the Starship Enterprise crew got along like ice cream and apple pie.  After all, they were part of a united world where peace and science reigned and Earth was leading a United Federation of Planets in efforts to peacefully explore the galaxy.

Fortunately, every true Star Trek fan also knows that nothing is as it seems.  If you think about the plots of the episodes, you realize there are lots of explanations for the feud that allow us to cling to our cherished illusion that the crew members are all close friends.  Such as:  (1) We are actually living in an alternate universe where Sulu has a scar and Kirk is a bloodthirsty, marauding pirate; (2) Kirk’s body has been occupied by some kind of shimmering life force that wants people to fight because it lives on hate; (3) Kirk and Sulu are being controlled by an alien who turns out to be (a) a little child, or(b)  a chicken-like creature that is destroyed in a smoky meltdown after Kirk smashes his magic wand; (4) Kirk and Sulu are being controlled by phony Plato-like intellectuals who have consumed alien plants that give them the power to mentally direct the actions of other people; (5) Kirk and Sulu have been exposed to some virus that is making them old and cantankerous.

Oh, wait . . . they are old and cantankerous!  Too bad Bones is no longer with us to cure them.

That Inexplicable Political Perspective

In Ohio we’ve had two recent examples of how politicians just seem to think about things in ways that are different from the rest of us.  Both involve Democratic candidates for statewide offices, and both involve cars.

Ed FitzGerald, the Cuyahoga County Executive — that means he’s the county’s top official — had no driver’s license at all for six years, then he had a “learner’s permit” that required him to drive in the company of another adult as part of a series of temporary permits for additional years; in all, he went 10 years without a permanent license.  This came to light when the story broke that FitzGerald was found in a car with a woman who was not his wife at 4:30 a.m., during a time period where he had a learner’s permit.  FitzGerald says nothing untoward happened, but he acknowledges that after he dropped the woman off at a hotel he drove home alone — which violated his permit.  It’s unclear how many other times FitzGerald violated his learner’s permits, but another Democratic official admits seeing him drive himself back and forth from work frequently during the time before he had full driving privileges.

Then there’s David Pepper, the Democratic candidate for Attorney General.  It turns out that Pepper has wracked up more than 180 parking tickets over 14 years — some which were for driving with expired license plates — including one as recently as last month.  Pepper, who served as a Hamilton County Commissioner and a Cincinnati City Council member during that 14-year period, has paid more than $9,000 in fines on the tickets.

Of course, both the FitzGerald and the Pepper campaigns say these curious matters are being emphasized by Republicans just to distract voters from the more important issues.  Perhaps that’s true, but these strange stories still tell you something about the candidates.  How many working adults in America don’t have permanent driver’s licenses, and how many would drive under a series of restricted permits rather than just going to the DMV, waiting with the rest of the unwashed masses, taking the necessary tests, and getting their license?  I would be a nervous wreck driving myself around in violation of a permit.  Wasn’t FitzGerald worried about getting pulled over, or getting into an accident and having to show his license to police?

As for Pepper, his campaign says he had a “hectic schedule” during the time period he got all of the parking tickets.  Of course, that could be said about most working Americans — but somehow we find ways to park our cars legally.  I can understand parking in an illegal space in an emergency, but there is no way Pepper experienced more than 180 true emergencies over 14 years.  If he got 180 tickets, how often did he park illegally and not get ticketed?  Can’t he read parking signs like the rest of us?  And didn’t he come to conclude after his first, say, $1,000 in parking tickets that it might be prudent to pay attention to signs and leave himself more time to find legitimate parking spaces?  Why shouldn’t voters look at this record of personal responsibility and question whether Pepper would be a responsible choice for the position of Ohio’s top law enforcement officer?

To Those Who Behead Innocent People

U.S. officials have confirmed that U.S. journalist James Foley was beheaded by the Islamic State In Syria (“ISIS”).  ISIS posted a video of the beheading on-line, but I’m not going to link to it because it would just serve their evil, depraved purposes.

I often think that there is a complete lack of understanding between the terrorist groups in the Middle East and the citizens of the United States.  The murderous thugs who make up ISIS might well have the misapprehension that beheading people like James Foley is going to make us cower.  They’re wrong, of course, so I want to correct the record with this short message: 

“Dear ISIS:

Just so you understand, your willingness to behead innocent people doesn’t scare us, it just infuriates us.  Because killing helpless people in cold blood is so abhorrent, it also tells us that your organization is so utterly lacking in basic values and human decency that you don’t deserve to be part of the community of civilized people.  We regret your act of callous murder, we cannot understand how anyone could rationalize such brutality, and we grieve for the Foley family in this time of terrible and completely unnecessary loss — but we also understand that your act exposes the true nature of ISIS.  We now know that your group is comprised of soulless butchers, and that knowledge will help to guide our decision-making in the future.

Make no mistake:  you are evil, and you will be punished for what you have done.  We will get you.  You deserve it, and it will happen.  And when it does, and your organization is scourged from the face of the planet, you can realize that it is your own fanatical bloodthirstiness that led to your downfall.”

My Low-Carb Lunch

IMG_2888I’m trying to stick to an eating regimen where I avoid bread, noodles, and starches like potatoes.  I can do it for dinner, because Kish has been good about preparing low-carb options for the evening meal.  The real challenge is lunch — where sandwiches rule the day and french fries are the side dish for an overwhelming number of options. 

Today Dr. Science, the Purple Raider and I went out to lunch, and trying to figure out a venue that would work took some time.  We settled on Skillet, a really good local sourcing eatery on the edge of German Village.  There I ordered their farmstead cheese omelet with two kinds of cheese, covered in Green Edge Garden sunflower sprouts.  I added a little hot sauce — homemade by Skillet, of course — and the result was quite good.  The omelet was light but cheesy, and the sprouts added a nice crunch.  I ate it all, and left satisfied and happy that I stuck to my limitations. 

That doesn’t mean I didn’t look longingly at the Purple Raider’s toasted cheese sandwich and tomato bisque (which included bread, of course) and Dr. Science’s smoked pork and apple hash (with fingerling potatoes mixed in), both of which looked extremely tasty.  Just because I’m restricting my intact doesn’t mean I’ve lost my taste buds.

The Alarm About Ebola

Africa seems very far away to most Americans.  In contrast to, say, Europe, we don’t know most of the names of the countries, we don’t learn much about the geography of the African continent, and we tend to hear about it only when a particularly bloodthirsty dictator or terrorist organization has committed another outrage.  The recent outbreak of Ebola Zaire in west Africa, though, is a story that should command the attention of Americans and everyone else in the world.

Ebola, which is transmitted by contact with bodily fluids, is one of the most deadly diseases in the world.  It’s a virus that wreaks havoc with human blood systems and immune responses, and in this most recent outbreak it has infected more than 2,000 people and has killed more than half of them.  In fact, in past outbreaks Ebola has been so deadly that it has restricted itself:  people who were infected became symptomatic and died before they had a chance to infect other people.  This time, though, the progress of the disease seems to be slower, somehow, and infected people have more of an opportunity to infect others.  For this reason, no one is quite sure how many people have been infected with Ebola in this latest outbreak — or, more importantly, exactly where they are.  That’s one of the things that should concern everyone.

There are other points of concern, too.  The deadliness of the disease has caused a breakdown of the health care systems in Liberia, Guinea, and Sierra Leone, where this current outbreak is centered.  Due to fear of Ebola, many health care workers have fled their hospitals — which not only leaves Ebola untreated, but also opens the door to the spread of other diseases like malaria that are found in the region.  Even Doctors Without Borders is having trouble finding people to treat Ebola patients.

In addition, this latest Ebola outbreak has occurred in a place where Ebola has never been seen before.  The virus somehow traveled hundreds of miles, from central Africa to west Africa, without any human outbreaks along the way; researchers think it might have been carried by swarms of bats.  Now it is found in much more densely populated areas and — here is a key point — areas that have airports that can carry passengers to huge international airports where they can connect to flights that might carry them just about anywhere in the world.  Combine that fact with the more slow-moving nature of this strain of Ebola, and you can see how this disease could spread, uncontrolled, to a much larger geographic area. 

And here’s the last concerning thing:  this deadly disease outbreak is raging on a continent that has been home to chaos, tribal genocide, rampaging terrorist groups, and other forms of social disorder in recent times.  In Monrovia, Liberia, “looters” recently attacked a temporary holding center for Ebola patients, ransacked it, and ran off with blood-soaked sheets and mattresses.  That troubling incident raises the question of whether they weren’t “looters” at all, but rather members of a terrorist group — such as Boko Haram — who are trying to acquire a means to spread the disease as part of their savage campaign to establish control over territory and kill anyone who doesn’t adopt their religious and political views.  That is truly a frightening scenario.

So this story manages to combine an incredibly deadly disease, a mass outbreak, swarms of virus-carrying bats, health system breakdowns, and potential terrorist concerns in one appalling package.  Yes, I’d say this is a time when we all should be paying attention to news from Africa.