About webnerbob

A Cleveland and Ohio State sports fan who lives in Columbus, Ohio

Calling For Christmas Cookie Recipes–2022

Now that December is here, and the Thanksgiving holiday is well behind us, it’s time to start thinking about holiday baking. This year, I’m going to try some new recipes to with some of my traditional favorites. I’m interested in adding a bit of international flair to my baking efforts, and in doing some poking around the internet I stumbled across a recipe for sequilhos, which are a traditional Brazilian cookie made with cornstarch. So, the cookies not only have a South American lineage, they also will be gluten-free for our gluten-intolerant friends. Even better, this recipe only has four ingredients and sounds simple to make.

Sequilhos

Ingredients: 8 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened to room temperature; 1/2 cup and 2 tablespoons of sweetened condensed milk; 1/4 teaspoon Kosher salt; 2 1/4 cups of cornstarch

Combine the butter, sweetened condensed milk and salt in a large bowl and use a spatula to mix everything until the butter is incorporated into the condensed milk. Slowly add the cornstarch, mixing first with the spatula and then, as the process gets harder, using your hands until a smooth dough forms. (The website indicates that judgment should be used in this process, because you might not need every grain of cornstarch and don’t want to overdo it if the dough looks right.)

Roll the cookie dough (about 1 teaspoon per cookie) into balls and press each ball with your thumb. Place the balls on a two baking sheets lined with parchment paper. Using a fork, slightly flatten the cookies, then refrigerate the cookies for 30 minutes to avoid them spreading when baking.

Preheat oven to 350ºF with a rack in the middle. Bake the cookies for 15 minutes or until they begin to gain some color on the bottom but remain pale on top. Cool the cookies while still on the baking sheets for 15-20 minutes, then move them to a rack to finish cooling.

These cookies are supposed to be fairy light and addictive. Sounds like a good Christmas cookie to me! I’ll probably add some colored sugar to some, and perhaps some jam to others, just to put the cookies into the proper holiday spirit.

Calling For Christmas Cookie Recipes — 2019

Calling For Christmas Cookie Recipes — 2018

Calling For Christmas Cookie Recipes — 2017

Calling For Christmas Cookie Recipes — 2016

Calling For Christmas Cookie Recipes — 2015

Calling For Christmas Cookie Recipes — 2014

Calling For Christmas Cookie Recipes — 2013

Calling For Christmas Cookie Recipes — 2012

Calling For Christmas Cookie Recipes — 2011

Calling For Christmas Cookie Recipes — 2010

Calling For Christmas Cookie Recipes — 2009

Saucy Columbus

When you go to a restaurant and ask if they have a hot sauce, you never know what you’re going to get. Typically, it’s Tabasco sauce, or Cholula, or perhaps Texas Pete’s. But sometimes you get a new hot sauce that you’ve never heard of before. So it was earlier this week, when Dr. Science and I visited Bar Cicchetti and inquired about the availability of a hot sauce. The waiter promptly delivered this bottle of Sauce Boss Gang Spanish Chipotle Granada hot sauce.

Just a look at the bottle was promising, because the hot sauce experience is a holistic one, and names and labels on bottles are a key element. The Sauce Boss Gang Granada passed the label test with flying colors, with its uber-cool combination hand grenade/rib cage/roses presentation. And the contents of the bottle, if anything, exceeded the label. The Granada sauce is a ruddy brown and super smoky, with flecks of pepper (or some other substance) and enough heat to make you sit up and take notice without obliterating your palate. It went very well with my french fries and left me eager for more.

As I had never heard of Sauce Boss Gang, I asked the waiter about where Bar Cicchetti found the sauce. He explained that Sauce Boss Gang is a local Columbus company that make several different kinds of sauces. You can find the website here, and a list of the different sauce flavors here. SBG encourages people to put their sauces in dishes, drinks, and desserts, which raises some intriguing possibilities. I also commend Sauce Boss Gang for making sure that all of their products are attentive to the crucial label and naming tests. I’m steeling myself for a taste of the Garlic Scorpion La Jefa sauce, which is described as “fierce and flavorful.” That sounds like a pretty good option as winter approaches.

Capable Kids

When I first started going to elementary school in Akron, Ohio in the early 1960s, I walked to school with my brother. The next year, when my sister was old enough to go to school, she walked with us, too. It was a journey of about 10 blocks, and we knew the route by heart. When we got to the area around the school, we would encounter groups of kids who had walked to school from other parts of the neighborhood, and an older kid wearing a Safety Patrol belt would let us know when to cross the street to get to the school itself.

This sounds like one of those “I walked three miles to school in the snow” codgerdom tales, but it’s not. Having grade school age kids walk unaccompanied to school in those days was an entirely normal activity, and no one gave it a second thought. We had been taught the route, we knew the street names and the turns we had to take, we had memorized our phone number, and we knew to talk to a policeman or to an adult if there were some kind of problem. But there never was a problem, and our walks to and from school were entirely uneventful. Everyone did it, and it was no big deal.

At some point between then and now, things changed. An interesting article in Psychology Today looks at those changing views. The shift in parenting concepts were captured in a book written several years ago called Adult Supervision Required by Markella Rutherford, who analyzed 565 articles and advice columns about parenting that appeared in magazines like Good Housekeeping and Parents. A 1966 article in Good Housekeeping, for example, captured the view that prevailed among the parents in my neighborhood in Akron: ““A six- to eight-year-old can be expected to follow simple routes to school, be able to find a telephone or report to a policeman if he is lost, and to know he must call home if he is going to be late. A nine- to eleven-year-old should be able to travel on public buses and streetcars, apply some simple first aid, and exercise reasonable judgment in many unfamiliar situations.”

Rutherford’s book shows that, by the 1980s, the notion of child capability and the presumed value of child independence that were generally accepted in the 1960s had been replaced by the view that children need to be monitored and protected, pretty much at all times. Rutherford describes the significant change in approach as follows: “For example, children walked unaccompanied to school, roamed around and played in neighborhoods alone and in groups, rode their bikes all over town, hitch-hiked around town, and ran errands for their parents, such as going to the corner store or post office. These descriptions of freedoms to roam have disappeared from contemporary advice. Instead, parents today are admonished to make sure that their children are adequately supervised by an adult at all times, whether at home or away from home.”

The “helicopter parent” concept of constant monitoring when a kid is outside hasn’t been the only change. Rutherford found that parents are now advised to be much more permissive about kid choice in the home, about things like what to eat and when to go to bed, and that the messaging to parents also changed about the value and expectations of children helping out around the house and doing chores.

The key question in this analysis is: has the change in messaging about approaches to parenting been good for children, or not? Does increased adult supervision affect development of children’s sense of their own capabilities, ability to think and act independently, and personal responsibility? The author of the Psychology Today article linked above thinks the trend is a negative one, and has helped to produce increased mental health problems for kids and declines in creative thinking.

Determining causal connections is always difficult, and debatable–but it is interesting to see how core concepts of parenting have changed dramatically over only a few decades. And you do wonder: if you treat children as capable at an earlier age, and let them exercise some personal responsibility, does that help to build a core sense of capability that will serve children well as they age and assume increasing control over their own lives?

The Random Restaurant Tour — L

Yesterday Dr. Science and I decided to brave the fierce winds on a cold, gusty day to head south for lunch. Our destination was the always cool Westin Great Southern Hotel–the oldest hotel in downtown Columbus–and a new restaurant called Bar Cicchetti that has opened in the hotel’s footprint to serve breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

Bar Cicchetti is in some reconfigured space at the Great Southern. There always was a bar there–what would be a hotel, really, without a bar?–but now they’ve opened a new room that is located just past the bar area. The room is spacious and bright and looks out over High Street. Dr. Science and I sat at a window table to fully revel in that urban lunch vibe.

The lunch menu has a lot of options that should appeal to just about everyone, from salads and pizza and pastas to handhelds–including a concoction featuring charred broccolini (involuntary shudder). Although the pizza and pasta options were intriguing, I found myself to be in a fried frame of mind, so I opted for the Milanese Chicken sandwich, shown above, and had them hold the lettuce and pickles. My choice was a winner. The chicken breast was so enormous it spilled over the sides of the bun, and it was crunchy outside, with just the right amount of breading, and moist inside. Topped with pickled onions and a nifty aioli, it was delicious. I also give Bar Cicchetti credit for providing a reasonable amount of fries, which were dusted with some freshly grated parmesan and very tasty, too. The fries were so delectably enticing that Dr. Science, always ready for a food experiment, couldn’t resist swiping a few from my plate as he gulped down his salumi sandwich.

I don’t think the word of mouth about Bar Cicchetti has spread yet, because there weren’t many patrons there when we visited. Perhaps this post will help to acquaint people with this fine new food option in the south part of downtown, which is well worth a visit. I’ll be coming back to try one of those pizzas.

By the way, in preparing this post I note that this is the 50th edition of the Random Restaurant Tour series, which began in 2017 and somehow managed to bridge the COVID pandemic and the shutdown period. Thanks to the B.A. Jersey Girl, Dr. Science, the Bus-Riding Conservative, JV, and all of the others who have accompanied me on these culinary adventures, and to everyone who has read them!

The Unknown Ancestor In Our Human Family

The Earth of about 80,000 years ago must have been a pretty interesting place. That’s the point in time when our direct human ancestors left the African continent and began to spread across the face of the globe. As they spread, they encountered hominid cousins–cousins so closely related that, from time to time, our direct ancestors were able to interbreed with them and produce live, fertile offspring who, in turn, produced other children who entered into the ancient human genetic mix.

We know all of this because of the work performed in the human genome project, which is hard at work in analyzing human DNA and tracing it back to sources. The human genome project has shown that our DNA includes elements from Neanderthals, like the thoughtful fellow pictured above, and Denisovans. Now the project has identified a third, previously unknown, and as-yet-unnamed ancestor species that left an imprint on our DNA. The unknown species might be a product of separate interbreeding between Neanderthals and Denisovans or might be an entirely separate species.

Neanderthals, Denisovans, and the third species are now extinct, but they live on in their fractional contributions to our DNA, with most modern Europeans and Asians carrying a tiny part of Neanderthal DNA and most Melanesians and Australian Aboriginals carrying slightly larger amounts of Denisovan DNA. Researchers are trying to figure out what meaningful impact–if any–this “archaic DNA” has on the appearance, immune systems, and other characteristics of humans. That’s a complicated process, and the fact that we’ve now identified and welcomed to the human family another, previously unknown ancestor just makes the puzzle more challenging.

Bridging The Great Soccer Divide

Today the U.S. Men’s National Team plays a crucial match against Iran in the 2022 World Cup. If the Americans win, they advance beyond the group stage into the knockout stage and keep their long-shot hopes for the World Cup alive. If they lose or tie, they are out. Since the U.S. team has played to two draws in its first two games, they face a significant challenge, and because their opponent is Iran there are obvious geopolitical overtones.

I’m not a soccer fan, but I am a fan of my country, so I watched the U.S. game against England that ended in a scoreless tie. After the match, some loudmouth commentator on another channel said that the 0-0 tie (“nil-nil” in soccer lingo) was boring, and that’s why more Americans don’t pay much attention to soccer. The guy’s comments were part of a weird dynamic that has bedeviled the U.S. soccer scene for as long as I can remember: non-soccer fans make fun of the injury-faking and the low scores and argue that the sport is a total snoozer, and soccer fans respond that the non-soccer fans are basically knuckle-dragging, mouth-breathing cretins who can’t appreciate the subtleties and strategies of a game that, incidentally, the rest of the world absolutely loves.

I didn’t think the U.S.-England match was boring. The U.S. has a very young team, and the fact that they played heavily favored England to a draw and kept their chances of advancing alive was a great result for them. They don’t seem to go in for the ridiculous play-acting on the injury front, either, which I appreciate.

I clearly don’t get all of the nuances of world-class soccer, but it doesn’t take much watching to appreciate concepts like reversing the field and trying to clear things out for breakaway runs and passes. I’m still working on the penalties, what results in corner kicks, and other elements of the game, but I can watch a soccer match without understanding those issues just like I can watch a hockey game without knowing what “offsides” is or the significance of the red line and blue line. A low-scoring soccer match involves its own special brand of tension where you know one mistake could be fatal–just like in a low-scoring baseball game. And you can’t help but admire the energy, athleticism, and skill of elite players, who run hard throughout the match, can bend and place a ball with amazing precision, and then can mash it with astonishing force. Soccer may not feature crushing hits or thunderous dunks, but it definitely offers a lot to admire.

I’ll be at work today and won’t get a chance to watch the U.S. match against Iran, but I’m definitely hoping that the U.S. finds a way to win and advance. I’m also hoping that, if they do so, we can put this perversely American argument about soccer to bed, once and for all. Both sides of the great soccer divide need to understand that not every sport needs to appeal to every person, and there’s no value in denigrating either soccer or those people who just don’t enjoy it. Live and let live, sports fans!

Go U.S.A.!

The Disturbed Among Us

Recently I was walking home from work when I was approached by a street person. We have some “regulars” in our part of downtown, and over time you get to know them, but this person was unfamiliar. I immediately noticed that she had that kind of distracted, fidgety appearance that suggested that she was disturbed, or drugged up, or perhaps both. In any case, I kept my distance, and listened as she said she was a TikTok celebrity and asked for money to make a new video. (At least, I think that’s what she said.) When I demurred, she started fumbling in her pockets and dropped an unopened soda can, which started spraying all over. At that point the light changed, and I crossed the street and was on my way.

It was one random encounter on one early evening, and nothing came of it, but it got me to thinking all the same. If you live or work in a downtown area in America, you’ve no doubt had similar experiences. We’ve lived with street people in our midst since the U.S. adopted a deinstitutionalization policy decades ago, but lately it seems that a new layer of concern has been added to the interaction between the housed and the homeless. What used to be predictable panhandling has become more uncertain, and many of us have heard or read of encounters that have turned violent. The son of a coworker, for example, was attacked and stabbed with a screwdriver by a deranged street person in Denver. I’m not familiar with any such incidents in Columbus, where the homeless population seems to be smaller than in many other cities, but you don’t need to hear many such stories to be on your guard.

It’s difficult to get precise data about crime committed by the homeless, although there seems to be a consensus that it is underreported, because many such crimes are committed against other homeless people who don’t want to involve the authorities. Data from Los Angeles indicates that the substantial homeless population in that city accounts for about eight percent of the total amount of crime in that city, but 60 percent of that crime is classified as violent crime. Also concerning is the fact that many of the homeless among us are people who formerly were incarcerated; according to a recent study, people released from prison are 10 times more likely to become homeless than the general population. Drug use among the homeless population just adds to the volatility.

The issue of homelessness obviously is a complicated one, but the failure to address it has produced a culture in urban America where a street person seeking money might become suddenly aggressive, and a random encounter with a total stranger might become violent. That’s obviously not good for our cities, for people who live and work in them, or for the homeless people themselves.

Spanking The Rankings

An interesting movement is underway among some of America’s most prominent law schools. One by one, they have begun deciding not to participate in the U.S. News and World Report law school rankings. Yale and Harvard led the way earlier this month; my law school alma mater, the Georgetown University Law Center, followed two days later. You can see a list of the law schools that have eschewed the U.S. News rankings here.

Each law school that has withdrawn from the rankings process has released a statement explaining its reasons. You can read the statement of Georgetown Law Dean William Treanor here. In a nutshell, he contends that the rankings reflect priorities that are at variance with the public service orientation of the law school and do not adequately account for efforts to help students attend law school. He writes:

“Rankings formulas that over-emphasize GPA/LSAT scores, that refuse to credit public interest lawyers who are subsidized by school-sponsored fellowships as fully employed, that treat need-based financial aid as a disfavored use of resources, and that penalize schools that admit students who have to borrow to fund their legal educations are not rewarding quality education and are not advancing our profession’s high ideals.”

U.S. News and World Report is pretty transparent about its methodology in compiling the rankings. You can see a description of the methodology here. The publication summarizes its approach as “evaluat[ing] institutions on their successful placement of graduates, faculty resources, academic achievements of entering students, and opinions by law schools, lawyers and judges on overall program quality.” Among the data it analyzes are LSAT and GRE scores, acceptance rates, median undergraduate grade point average, bar exam passage rates, and post-graduation employment rates. The decisions of Georgetown and other law schools to not participate in the rankings presumably means that U.S. News won’t be able to collect at least some of the data it would use to evaluate the withdrawing schools against the same standards applied to participating schools.

So, are the decisions of law schools to withdraw from the rankings a good thing? Of course, academic institutions are free to choose whether to participate or not, and if they feel that the ranking algorithm is fundamentally contrary to their values, as Georgetown does, then withdrawal makes sense. It will leave incoming students with less information–but some have questioned the credibility of the rankings and whether schools have goosed the data they provide to inflate their ultimate ranking. A whistleblower recently raised issues about the accuracy of data supplied by Columbia University, and last year a dean at Temple University was convicted for fraud offenses for falsifying data.

I’ve always had a basic objection to the U.S. News rankings. I think they are both absurd, because an education simply can’t be reduced to a mathematical equation, and distortive, because institutions inevitably end up making changes in hopes of increasing their ranking–even if those changes alter the character of the school and its goals. If the law school withdrawals, coupled with the issues about the validity of the data underlying the rankings, cause the rankings to go the way of the dodo, I think that would be a good thing. Schools should get back to focusing on delivering what they consider to be the best approach to education, and stop the mindless competition to be “top ranked” on some list or another.

Striking The Thirteenth Letter

This week, the thirteenth letter of the alphabet is not to be seen in Ohio’s capital city. All around town, it has been crossed out on street signs, billboards, and business signs–even scooters, as shown by the scooter above that we saw near Goodale Park earlier this week. We excise old #13 wherever it is found because we don’t want to see anything that represents That State Up North this week.

The striking of the thirteenth letter is one of the newer traditions in the old rivalry. I don’t recall it happening when I was a student at Ohio State in the ’70s. Back then, people settled for things like “Screw the Blue” car stickers and got a chuckle out of TTUN toilet paper. But then a person decided that the 13th letter was just too offensive to be endured during this particular week, and the habit caught on like wildfire. Now it’s just another part of the tradition of the greatest rivalry in sports.

After today, the 13th letter will be invited back into the alphabet and we’ll be able to use it again. That’s a good thing, too–it was challenging to write today’s blog post without using it!

Go Bucks!

A Day After Thanksgiving Vocabulary Builder

It’s the day after Thanksgiving in America. If, like most Americans, you went a bit overboard in the food and drink departmentyesterday, you are undoubtedly feeling the after-effects today. But how to adequately capture the curious mix of sensations that you are feeling today–that unique combination of a desperately overworked digestive system that has been shoved into once-a-year overdrive by your gluttonous consumption of proteins, starches, carbohydrates, and sugars, washed down with more than a few of the adult beverages of your choice?

Bloated is always an apt description on the day after Thanksgiving, but if you want to sound more sophisticated, tumid or tumefied are good words for describing that still lingering stuffed-to-the-gills sensation.

If your overindulgence is leaving you feeling foggy and cotton-mouthed, katzenjammer is a useful synonym for a hangover.

And if you are feeling a deep sense of regret at your failure to celebrate Thanksgiving in moderation–again–or your inability to adhere to your vow to avoid a pointless political discussion with a family member, note that remorseful might well capture your mood, as would compunctious, penitent, and contrite.

As for your likely sense that today you need to refrain in order to make up for yesterday’s wretched excess, abstinence is a pretty good word. Willpower is going to factor in as well, since there are bound to be leftover pieces of pie ready to provide temptation.

The Three-Day Thanksgiving

Most of us are generally familiar with the story of the first Thanksgiving, as the Pilgrims and the Native People in the region–called the Wampamoag–gathered to feast and celebrate the bountiful harvest that, with the assistance of the helpful Wampamoag, ended a period of severe want and deprivation and helped to save the Pilgrims from starvation.

We tend to visualize the event as a kind of stodgy sit-down dinner, but the only surviving account of the actual first Thanksgiving suggests that it was a slightly different and far more relaxed affair. The account was written by Edward Winslow in the fall of 1621 in a letter later delivered back to a friend in England. Winslow described the event as follows:

“Our harvest being gotten in, our governor sent four men on fowling, that we might after a more special manner rejoice together, after we had gathered the fruits of our labors. They four in one day killed as much fowl as, with a little help beside, served the Company almost a week. At which time, amongst other recreations, we exercised our arms, many of the Indians coming amongst us, and among the rest their greatest king Massasoit, with some 90 men, whom for three days we entertained and feasted, and they went out and killed five deer, which they brought to the plantation and bestowed on our governor, and upon the captain and others. And although it be not always so plentiful as it was at this time with us, yet by the goodness of God, we are so far from want that we often wish you partakers of our plenty.”

In short, the first Thanksgiving was at least a three-day feast that featured hunting, other forms of entertainment, eating five deer and a variety of wildfowl (including, in all likelihood, wild turkey as well as duck, geese, and swans) thanks to the efforts of the Wampamoag and the Pilgrims, and enjoying the company of the entire Pilgrim settlement and more than 90 members of the Wampamoag, too. Other records of the Plymouth Colony suggest that the feast also would have included a variety of vegetables, maize supplied by the Wampamoag, fruits, and nuts.

This Thanksgiving, I am thankful for good health and prosperity among my family members, friends, and colleagues, and for many other things–including the generous spirit shown by the Pilgrims and the Wampamoag (who you can read about here) in sharing the bounty of the land just over 500 years ago. I’m also grateful, frankly, that while we have maintained the tradition of a Thanksgiving celebration, we’ve shortened it from three days of revelry to just one. I’m not sure my waistline could endure three full days of feasting.

Our Downtown Light Show

Last night we legged it over to Indian Oven for dinner, and on the way back we walked through Columbus Commons. It is all decked out and lit up for the holidays. The brilliant display includes colossal outlines of Christmas bulbs–which also reminded me of the “five golden rings” from The Twelve Days of Christmas–that are strategically positioned at various points on the grounds to allow for posing-within-the-ring selfies (something we saw other visitors doing while we were there) as well as nutcrackers and an assortment of different holiday objects. With some of the lights blinking and others configured to resemble dripping icicles, it’s an active light show, too.

The Columbus Commons decorators didn’t quite attach lights to every square inch of the park–as the photo above shows, they wisely left the central grassy area open for the benefit of neighborhood dogs and outdoor yoga fans–but otherwise all of the trees, shrubs, beds, fountains, and the big stage are adorned in just about every color you can imagine. Add in a giant TV that displays footage of a burning yule log, and you’ve got a pretty impressive display. If you’ve got kids and they like light shows, it is definitely worth a visit.

My First Visit To “The Game”

In the spring of 1971, my family moved from Akron to Columbus, where Dad began working as the general manager of a car dealership. He quickly recognized that everyone in Columbus, regardless of their politics, religion, or general viewpoint, could agree on one thing–Ohio State football–and he assembled a mass of season tickets to Ohio State games so he could build relationships by handing out the prized ducats to the dealership’s business partners and other managers. Fortunately for the kids in the family, Dad had enough tickets to allow us to go to the games, and I went to my first Ohio State game in the fall of 1971.

Before then, I had only been to high school football games. In Ohio, high school football is a big deal, but going to Buckeye games at Ohio Stadium was different by orders of magnitude. The massive gray stadium, the huge crowd of more than 80,000 roaring fans, the band, and the cheerleaders all made home games at Ohio State an entirely different experience. I don’t remember who Ohio State played in the first game I attended, but I was hooked immediately. And even though the Buckeyes weren’t very good that year, Ohio State fans knew that the season could be salvaged if the Men of the Scarlet and Gray could just knock off Michigan, at Ann Arbor, in their end of the season match-up. Michigan came in as a heavy favorite, but Ohio State gave them a very tough game. The Buckeyes fell just short, losing 10-7, in a game most people remember because Ohio State coach Woody Hayes, incensed that the officials didn’t call pass interference at the end of the game, tore up a yard marker and had to be physically restrained by coaches and players.

That set the stage for 1972, when the game would come to Columbus. Both Ohio State and Michigan were good that year, and it was clear that The Game would decide which team would be the Big Ten champion. I was so excited about going to The Game that I had trouble sleeping the night before and got up even earlier than normal. At Ohio Stadium, the atmosphere was electric–far more charged than at a regular Ohio State game–and the roars of the crowd when the Buckeyes made a great play were deafening. I sat in the closed end of the Stadium, right next to the scoreboard, using a single ticket that Dad had picked up. The game was a rugged, hard-hitting defensive battle, as the Ohio State-Michigan games traditionally were in those days, but the Buckeyes pulled out the win, and the joyous celebration in the Stadium when the game ended and the victory bell rang was just short of a riot. I’m pretty sure the end of that game was the first time I was hugged by an absolute stranger.

Being a sports fan has its ups and downs–Cleveland sports fans, regrettably, have lots of bitter experience with the downs–but when your team wins a big game against its archrival, the surging feeling of absolute elation is impossible to describe. I still remember that feeling from that first Ohio State-Michigan game, on a crisp autumn day in 1972. It’s hard to believe that it was 50 years ago.

Circular Sheep

The world is a wide, weird, and (literally) wonderful place. Sometimes odd things happen that defy easy explanation: things like hundreds of sheep walking clockwise, for days, in a perfect circle on a farm in Inner Mongolia in northern China. The remarkably creepy sheepy behavior was captured on a surveillance video and is so strange it has been covered by news outlets across the world. You can watch some bizarre, ghostly footage of the circular marching sheep on the New York Post website.

The rotating sheep are in one of 34 different sheep pens on the Chinese farm. According to the farm’s owner, Ms. Miao, a few days ago a few of the sheep in one particular pen started walking in a circle, then the whole pen joined in. To make the whole story even weirder, the pen where the eerie marching sheep are found is pen number 13–and none of the other sheep on the farm are exhibiting the same curious behavior.

So what’s the cause of the sheep in pen number 13 marching around like strikers on a farmland picket line? No one knows for sure. A British agriculture professor speculates that the synchronized sheep began marching because of frustration at being stuck in a pen, and that once one a few sheep started with the marching the rest of the sheep just played follow the leader, as sheep typically do. But if that is the impulse and cause, why has the behavior occurred only in pen number 13–and why have the sheep marched continuously for days in a perfect circle, using only part of their pen?

It’s the kind of mysterious conduct that leads people to indulge in conspiracy theories and fantastic explanations, like witchcraft or the sheep responding to the call of aliens who have grown tired of making crop circles and decided to make sheep circles instead. As for me, I’m just grateful to the sheep for showing, again, that the world is a pretty interesting place.

“The Week” Begins

Today begins the seven-day period that is known in these parts as “The Week.” It’s the period of time right before the Ohio State Buckeyes strap on their gear and take on That Team Up North in what is known as “The Game.”

This year, as in so many years in the past, The Game is poised to be a classic. Both Ohio State and TTUN won nail-biters yesterday, with the Maize and Blue pulling out a last-minute win at home over a tough Illinois team and Ohio State surviving a road battle against a Maryland squad that pulled out all the stops. It was one of those days that make college football so great, as many of the top-ranked teams were pushed to the limit and the playoff hopes of one–the Tennessee Volunteers–were left crushed on the field in South Carolina.

But both the Buckeyes and the Wolverines survived and kept their unbeaten records intact. Both are 11-0, and both have played games were they have looked unbeatable and games where they looked good, but not great. Both teams have lots of talent, and both teams have been dealing with injuries. But we know one thing for sure: one team’s spotless record and great season is going to be marred next Saturday, while the other team will survive and celebrate and advance to the Big Ten Championship Game and, perhaps, the College Football Playoff beyond. But the Big Ten Championship Game and the playoffs aren’t the focus right now–instead, the focus is exclusively on beating the arch-rival and hated (but respected) foe. Nothing is more important, and there is no looking beyond.

This is a familiar scenario for Buckeye fans, and those of us who have followed the team for decades and have Buckeye football in our family DNA. That’s why it is fitting that The Game always happens around Thanksgiving. For many families, including mine, Buckeye football and The Game is as much of family tradition as the turkey and stuffing and the cranberry relish that still maintains the shape of a can. And when another version of The Game rolls around, and both Ohio State and That Team Up North are top-ranked and having terrific seasons, we think about the Buckeye fans in our families, the great games, joyous victories, and crushing heartbreaks we experienced with them in the past, and the tailgates and the scarlet and gray outfits and the thoughtful and earnest pre-game analysis and the killer Bloody Marys and the riotous post-game revelry when Ohio State notches a win against those arrogant bastards from our neighboring state.

So The Week is here, and we can feel, again, that familiar nerve-tingling anticipation that always arrives at this time of year–only heightened now, with so much on the line. And we know that somewhere, those Buckeye fans in our families will be watching, with Woody and Bo and the rest of Buckeye Nation and the TTUN fans, as these two great programs prepare to square off for another chapter in the Greatest Rivalry In Sports.