Sunday, December 09, 2012

2016


So it's way way way way way too early to begin speculating about the 2016 Presidential race. But I'm going to speculate anyway. I've have been way off in the past (see my prediction that the 2012 GOP primary would be a two man race between Mitt and Rick Perry). But just in case I stand one little chance of being able to point back to this blog and say "I told you so" here goes. You can also point back to this post and mock me if things go completely a different direction. I'm sure there will be all kinds of mystery or semi-mystery players who pop up in the next four years and make a serious run.

But as of now, here are my thoughts...

In the 2016 GOP primary race it will come down to Marco Rubio and Chris Christie. Christie will win and graciously ask Rubio to be his running mate thus producing the Christie/Rubio 2016 ticket.

The Democratic primary will come down to one person and one person only...Hillary Clinton. Hillary will name Cory Booker as running mate. Clinton/Booker 2016 for the Dems.

Of course this is all contingent all millions of unforseen variables. Some of these guys may win or lose state elections before then. Hillary may just retire to a life of lucrative speech-making. Someone might make a surprising comeback (i.e. Rick Santorum). Bobby Jindal might jump in. You never know. But here's my early prediction.

Christie/Rubio vs. Clinton/Booker 2016.

That would be an awesome campaign.

photo: Christie and Booker getting along before they go at it in 2016. Wouldn't it be awesome if these dudes put party affliation aside and ran as Modern Whigs?

Wednesday, December 05, 2012

Take Five



In 1994 me and the three other members of the Earl Enterline Quartet piled into a 1969 Cadillac and headed to Tulsa to the Greenwood Jazz Festival to have our minds blown by Dave Brubeck. We were not disappointed. We finagled our way to the front of the crowd. OU basketball legend and jazz bassist Wayman Tisdale (now deceased due to cancer) opened up the evening with a very impressive set. Then came the mad professor and his quartet.

Even in their seventies Brubeck and crew were stunning. One of the most memorable musical nights of my life.

Dave Brubeck died this morning one day shy of his 92nd birthday. He was one of the towering greats of jazz. A humanist, intellectual and game changer who played in African-American clubs in the south when that just wasn't done.

Rest in peace and Take Five, Mr. Brubeck.

Monday, December 03, 2012

Guns, Football and Domestic Abuse

 
As a longtime Kansas City Chiefs fan I was stunned by last week's murder/suicide. Belcher was a murderer who selfishly orphaned his three month old baby daughter. I have really nothing to add to the discussion.

The best piece I've seen on this tragedy is Jason Whitlock's column. Whitlock was once a columnist at the KC Star who I read every week even when I disagreed with him. This article is right on the mark and should be required reading by every American regarding our gun culture and our idolization of football. Bob Costas referred to it repeatedly in his halftime remarks at last Sunday night's game. Please take a look at it...

http://msn.foxsports.com/nfl/story/jovan-belcher-kansas-city-chiefs-murder-suicide-tragedy-girlfriend-self-leave-orphan-daughter-why-still-playing-sunday-120112

Sunday, December 02, 2012

Bowling


Wow. Except for the National Title game and the Fiesta Bowl, this year's slate of BCS games are terrible.

The National Title game is a dream match-up for the network execs. Two blueblood programs like Notre Dame and Alabama will bring plenty of eyeballs to the television sets. The fact that the Fighting Irish have been out of the picture for two decades brings even more drama to the proceedings.

The Fiesta Bowl pairs two teams, Kansas State and Oregon, that were tantalizingly close to playing in the title game themselves. Both teams feature high octane offenses that will light up the scoreboard. The Wildcats have Collin Klein, a Heisman candidate, that will put up the points.

The rest of the BCS games are duds.

The Orange Bowl has the worst of the lot. Due to short-sighted rules to appease the small schools, Northern Illinois will be playing Florida State. Of course the Seminoles will pack the place due to the in-state proximity and their tradition of being a good traveling fanbase. But NIU? A tiny little school in DeKalb? How many fans do they have in the first place and how many of those will trek down to Miami? Plus FSU can't win. If they lose they look like chokers. If they win it was an expected victory. And they'll have to win big to appease the critics. And who will watch this game? Who cares?

The Sugar Bowl features Florida and Louisville. The Gators should be playing OU in a title rematch from a few years ago. But the Sooners lost out because of the new rule that vaulted NIU to the BCS. Louisville is a small school that doesn't travel well. Plus, they were in a four way tie for their league title...a league which they just announced they're ditching for the ACC. Again, this is not a match made for TV. Makes for a better basketball game.

The Rose Bowl has Stanford and Wisconsin. Wisconsin is a league champion at 7-5 because Ohio State is on probation and somehow the Badgers hung 70 points on Nebraska. Stanford deserves a better opponent in the Granddaddy of the bowls.

The biggest non-BCS bowl? Definitely the Cotton Bowl. They get two 10-2 teams in Oklahoma and Texas A&M. OU is the Co-Big 12 Champion. A&M beat Alabama in Tuscaloosa. A&M has Johnny Football (possibly Johnny Heisman) in Manziel. The Sooners have the all time OU leader in wins and passing yards in Landry Jones. A&M is coached by former Stoops assistant Kevin Sumlin. You got two old Big 12 rivals playing in Dallas which is in close proximity to both schools. This game has to be one of the best match-ups of the bowl season.

Finally, SMU is going bowling in Hawai. Doesn't matter who you play in the Hawaii Bowl. You're in Hawaii. Go Ponies!

Monday, November 19, 2012

Skyfall


I'm a big 007 junkie. Love the series even though the movies are often completely ridiculous. It's all about the escapism for me.

Skyfall is pretty good. I found it lagging a bit at times. Javier Bardiem plays one of the best villians in the series. Daniel Craig is the best Bond since Connery if not better in some ways.

Glad Q and Moneypenny are back. I'm also glad M's office is moving back to the traditional wood paneled office with the padded door. Although the 1965 Aston Martin DB5 has made a few cameos in recent Bond flicks (Tomorrow Never Dies and Casino Royale) it actually got a centerpiece moment which was very well done.

The whole thing felt very retro yet with a modern tinge that freshened everything up.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

2012 Election Post-Mortem


 
 
 
I don't believe in jumping to hasty conclusions. I do not believe the 2012 election signifies the end of the Republican Party or that we have entered a watershed moment in American demography. I don't believe American attitudes have shifted that dramatically. As we move forward we'll see if patterns continue to develop and trends emerge. I'm sure they are evolving.
 
However, the truth is elections come down to the candidates themselves. Mitt Romney did not lose because of a supposedly liberal media. He did not lose because of voter suppression conspiracies. He did not lose because of a hurricane or Chris Christie. He did not, as the Wall Street Journal absurdly claimed this week, because of a lack of funds. He lost because he was a weak candidate who could not even fire up his own base.
 
He lost because evangelicals weren't enthusiastic about a man who was once a bishop in a religion that denies the divinity of Jesus Christ. He lost because he changed his positions on just about every issue you could imagine to win votes from the right. These issues included core convictions that people simply don't change at the drop of the hat including abortion, capital punishment, gay rights and healthcare. The guy invents Romneycare (as Santorum labeled it) and then runs away from it as fast as he could.
 
People didn't trust the guy. He was rich by the mysterious means of venture capitalism which very few of us really understand. He refused to release his tax returns. When he released one it showed he had paid a rate 14% lower than mine...a teacher. He had bank accounts in the Caymans and Switzerland. He had no problem completely reversing himself in the middle of the primary debates. He offered Rick Perry that $10,000 bet (who does that?) and of course saw 47% of Americans as freeloading welfare leechers. In the first debate he completely denied his own budget plan which he had been touting for ten months. Then he said Jeep was moving their operations to China which the Republican CEO of Chrysler completely repudiated.
 
The only response Repubicans have is that Obama is worse.
 
And that's the problem. The Republicans have been so focused on being against Obama that they haven't been able to be for anyone. Look at the loons they had running in the primary. Santorum, Gingrich, Cain, Bachmann and Perry? Seriously? That's the best you got? Each one got their time in the sun because the Republicans wanted ABR (anybody but Romney). Then each of these loons fell on their own swords and Romney was the best alternative in a sorry lot.
 
I may not agree with all their positions but John Huntsman, Bobby Jindal, Chris Christie, Mitch Daniels and Marco Rubio would all have had a better chance of beating Obama than any of those nutjobs. Think about that. Obama against any one of those guys. I'm thinking unless any of those guys had had real skeletons come out of the closet they would have mopped up against Obama. Just speculation of course.
 
So the essential question is what is it about the Republican Party as currently constituted that discourages their most qualified leaders to run for their party's presidential nomination? Romney would have had a chance had he not had to move his positions so far to the right to appeal to the tea party wing. His move to the right came off as disingenious and he never could shed that label of being a flip-flopper.
 
Obama should have lost this election. The Republicans had an open door to the White House. Demographics and party issues are interesting and perhaps important but the real reason the GOP lost is because they put up a weak candidate.
 
The Democrats went through the same thing back in the 1980's with Mondale and Dukakis and then Kerry in '00s. These elections weren't about seismic shifts in American attitudes. It was about a weak candidate getting beat by the stronger candidate. Only the Gore loss is a bit of an anamoly since he was the VP during an economically successful (although morally bankrupt) administration. The Democrats can always blame Nader for that one. Plus, Bush was a much stronger candidate than Romney ever hoped to be.
 
If I was a Republican that would give me hope. I would stop making excuses and talking about how evil Obama is. I would start looking for a candidate that can win a national election. America is a centrist nation. We don't like people on the fringes either right or left. We can handle center-right or center-left. But you gotta get a candidate out there who can people can actually get behind.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Buddy Holly

For old times sake. The best music video ever. Circa 1995. =w=



Monday, October 22, 2012

Romney/Ryan Tax Plan



The Romney/Ryan Campaign have finally released their budget plan. You can find the details HERE.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Shaky Pedastals

 
 
I have really wanted to believe Lance Armstrong. Despite years of allegations I always gave him the benefit of the doubt although admittedly there was always a nagging little voice in the back of mind warning that something didn't seem right about Lance.

I shrugged off the French journalists as jealous xenophobes. I blew off the American journalists as attention hungry muckrakers. I dismissed his former teammates as bitter.

But the evidence continued to pile up. Even his best friends gave up the goods. Lance himself gave up trying to defend himself. But then it got even worse. Reams of evidence has been released that show that Lance not only used PEDs he was active in pushing them on others. It has been revealed that he was the mastermind of a wide spread and sophisticated doping operation.

Nike (NIKE!) has ditched him. Lance has even been forced to step aside from his own cancer fighting charity LIVESTRONG.

And it's all terribly sad. This guy misled millions of fans. He was the inspiration for so many cancer fighters and athletes. And now it turns out that he was a cheat. He was a dealer. He was a criminal. All while playing the sanctimonious cancer survivor card. And there's even a possibility that he got his cancer as a side effect from doping. That's mere speculation but testicular cancer is indeed a well known possible side effect of the type of PEDs he's been accused of taking.

Dwell on that one for a minute. The one thing that gave him moral credibility, the one thing that kept a lot of people off his back, the one thing that served as a huge inspiration to others...surviving cancer...may have been caused by him cheating and breaking the law. It's in the realm of possibility that he may have never gotten cancer had he not taken PEDs.

Sickening.

I watched all seven of Lance's Tour de France victories. I rooted him on. I wore the yellow bracelet. I argued in his favor through years of allegations. Turns out he wasn't worth it.

Of course this happens when you place your faith in human beings.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

No words...

 
 
Dinesh D'Souza is one of the most dangerous men in America. But fortunately his hubris has finally caught up with him.

His "documentary" Obama:2016 was nothing more than character assassination. Even the conservative magazine, The Weekly Standard, dismissed it out of hand as the ravings of a right wing lunatic. In fact, that is an insult to right wingers and lunatics everywhere.

In his debates and interviews, desperate for credibility,  Dinesh always reminds people that he is a college president. However, he conveniently forgets to remind people that when he took over The King's "College" it had seventeen students. It was a school that had gone bankrupt and actually dissolved until revived by the Campus Crusade for Christ (now called Cru). Until recently the school's motto was "God, Money, Power." At least they put God first.

Academic credibility? D'Souza does not possess an advanced degree nor had he ever taught before becoming a "college president."

And now World Magazine, an evangelical magazine, has exposed him as a full fledged hypocrite. At a values conference in South Carolina event organizers discovered that he was sharing a room with a woman he introduced as his fiancee. Even more interesting was the fact that he wasn't divorced from his first wife at the time. The King's "College" is now investigating. D'Souza says that he did indeed share a room with the woman but that "nothing happened." Their engagement has since been called off.

What an absolute and disgusting hypocrite who's an embarassment to anyone who identifies themselves as a Christian.

My Newest Hero


On the back wall of my classroom I have a section I call the wall of heroes. Lined in a row are figures both current and historical who inspire me in some way. I added a new portrait this week. Malala Yousafzai is a 14 year old girl who lives in the Swat Valley of Pakistan. She has been a passionate advocate for the right of girls to attend school. For the past few years, since she was eleven, she has written and spoken eloquently about the transformative power of education. 

The Taliban extremists who live in the region found her a great threat to her twisted ideology. Last week they boarded her school bus and in front of her frightened classmates shot her twice, once in the head and once in the neck.

Miraculously she survived the attack. Her life still hangs in the balance. At the time of this writing she was in critical but stable condition. The Taliban have vowed to murder her should she survive this first attempt at assassination.

She is an inspiration to me. I hope she is able to resume a normal life. I hope the attempt on her life can finally galvanize the Pakistani people to once and for all reclaim their nation from these mindless thugs.

Malala Yousafzai (1998 -      ) is one of my newest heroes.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Specialization Schmelcialization



My whole post-secondary academic career I was pressured to specialize in one particular area of history. Problem is, I get bored easily. I am fascinated by all areas of history. I didn’t want to dedicate my life to one highly specialized area of study. I didn’t want to dedicate years of my life to one subject. Some enjoy that level of detail. I, however, am a proud generalist. This shot of my daily topic board is what I love best about my job. In one day I’m ranging all the way from Chinese philosophy to French religious history. It’s also why I actually like having three different preps (classes). In fact that’s one reason why I’m pursuing a Masters in the Humanities at SMU…it allows me to range all over the spectrum of history, art, religion, culture and literature.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

The Weirdness of Homecoming Week


So sophomore Kevin Olvera made this light-up mouse helmet to wear on Homecoming Friday. He “scavenged” materials from around his house and garage. The shell is made made from an old world globe. Kevin built it in only a day. Now, I’m not sure how this relates to KHS Homecoming. The helmet is gold in color which is one our school colors. But regardless, I was greatly impressed by the creativity and work behind the creation of this mask thing.

Monday, October 08, 2012

State Fair Madness


Went to The State Fair of Texas today. Some photos of our excursion can be found on my Flickr site HERE.

Wednesday, October 03, 2012

Incomplete Thoughts on Free Will


Six students from the high school where I teach were involved in a fiery car accident this past week. Their Suburban rolled over and crashed into an electrical tower. The SUV caught fire. Two students were thrown from the vehicle. Three others were trapped. One student heroically dragged the unconscious students from the burning overturned wreck. All six survived although some are dealing with long term injuries.

People are describing their survival as miraculous, that God must have had his hand on them. 

I must admit that I'm not so sure. On April 19th, 1995 me and two college classmates were scheduled to take a tour in the Murrah Bulding in Oklahoma City. One of them called the night before to cancel due to a school golf tournament. Had he not cancelled we may have been in that building when it was bombed. We possibly survived that day because of a fluke phone call ten hours before the explosion. 168 others, including over a dozen children, weren't so fortunate.

In 1984 I survived a traumatic car accident while my sister who was sitting next to me was permanently disabled. Three people in the other car were killed that day.

I know all the theological arguments and pithy statements suggesting otherwise, but I can't easily accept the idea that God chooses to save some and allows others to die or suffer. I especially can't accept that fact when some pretty rotten human beings survive these things while some Christian people, like my former student Collin who drowned this past summer, do not.

You can psychoanalyse me all you want. You can say I have survivor's guilt or whatever. But I wholeheartedly reject Calvinist predestination or fatalism. I believe in free will. I believe that we live in a fallen world. I believe that things in this life are not fair. I cannot accept that God chooses at certain times not to intervene to save someone from death on this earth when he has the power to do so. His salvation is fulfilled when we do die and enter His Kingdom.

And yet, perhaps contradictory to my position I still pray every day for God's protection for my son and wife. I will continue to pray for healing for people because one, prayer is meant more to get us into communion with God rather than provide Him with a wish list and second, I'm well aware that my ideas about the nature of His intervention could be wrong or short-sighted or both. My comprehension of His grace and mercy are pathetically ignorant.

I do believe in God's calling, however I do not believe we have a predetermined path. Many Christians fret about big decisions...is this God's will or not? I believe that if you are walking in true relationship with him you are always in God's will no matter the circumstances.

I do believe God does intervene in the world through the Holy Spirit. I do believe The Holy Spirit comforts, empowers and provides wisdom. 

Yes, I know you can drive buses through the holes in these views of faith. But the question is, how much do you truly believe in free will?

photo: that was the Suburban, yes a Suburban, the six students were riding in. It was completely burned up.

Monday, October 01, 2012

Wait, what?


"This contemptuous disdain for our elected leaders of either party is worrisome and unhealthy for our democracy." Dr. John Mears - SMU

Dr. Mears is a legendary professor on the Hilltop. I'm currently taking his course The Cultural and Intellectual History of Europe. I agree wholeheartedly with his assessment.

The other day, one of my friends posted on facebook that he had overheard a conversation in a restaurant between two old men who were comparing President Obama to Hitler. My friend, a Republican who does not support Obama's re-election bid, was nevertheless shocked that these two ignorant fools actually believed what they were saying.

What was more shocking was some of the comments posted on my friend's status. Many of these are people I knew at SNU and are supposedly educated although their words indicate otherwise. One said "Those old guys are right! Look at Obama's agenda!" Another said, "He may not be like Hitler personally but governmentally he has a lot in common, after all Nazi means National Socialist." Another said "we can never truly know what's in Obama's heart."

My moderate Republican friend tried valiantly to argue that no matter how much he disagrees with Obama on matters of policy, comparing him to Hitler is the height of insanity. He said Obama has never invaded another nation with the the goal of wiping out an entire race and so on...

Although tempted I refused to comment on the facebook status because I know how much of a waste it is to argue with morons. Logic doesn't apply to these folks.

First, Hitler's National Socialism has nothing in common with the Marxist Socialism that right wing whackos accuse Obama of espousing. Only the word is the same. In fact, Nazis considered Communists their mortal ideological enemies. National socialism did not favor a planned economy. Nazis had no problem with the concept of private property. Most upper-class businessmen in Germany and Italy favored the fascists because they represented order in the midst of economic chaos.

And most true socialists are upset that Obama isn't socialist enough for their liking. Obama has deep ties with Wall Street. It was his administration that bailed out the banks and the auto industry. It was the Bush administration that propagated a war for no good reason, created the No Child Left Behind standardized education system and The Patriot Act which brought government intrusiveness into private lives to a whole new level. And everyone knows Bush was no socialist or fascist.

The last time America had a balanced budget was during a centrist-Democratic administration. America's debt has grown expotentially more under Republican administrations. Yet there are fools out there who compare Obama to Hitler, ignoring the fact that Hitler was a rascist who executed people of color by the millions.

Disagree with Obama but leave the contempt and mischaracterizations aside. Yes, I've been guilty of the same treatment toward other political figures. But I now realize how dangerous such behavior is. Please join me in trying to help promote civil dialogue in this nation.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

jPod


Last night my wife and I stopped at the Half Price Bookstore in Mesquite. She was wanting to buy a gift for a friend. While she was shopping I wandered over to the fiction section. I normally gravitate to my three favorite living authors Douglas Coupland, Dave Eggers and David Mitchell.

I pulled out a hardback copy of one of Coupland's books, jPod. It's one of the few of his works I haven't read although it's been on my wish list for awhile. When I opened the cover I was stunned to find what appeared to be his signature in the front cover. It was addressed to "Sam of Austin." The inside cover even had a post-it note with the name Sam on it. By all appearances it looked like the typical situation where a writer is given a stack of books to sign to specific people. Somehow or another this book had made its way from Austin to Dallas.

I was super excited. Here was a signed edition of a book by one of my favorite authors. Half Price Books had it priced at $7.99. I hadn't planned on buying any books that night but I got that one quick. When we got home I immediately went online to find photos of Coupland's signature. Sure enough it looked exactly like the dozens I found via Google. It had his distinguishing X mark as well.

You see, Douglas Coupland is one of the most important post-modern novelists of the late 20th and 21st century. He is the man who coined the term "Generation X" which is often applied to those of us born in the mid 1960's through the mid 1970's. Generation X, his first novel, became a major benchmark in observations of our particular little subset of society. GenX was a satirical reaction against the over labelization of culture.

Coupland, a Canadian, has also become world renowned as an modern artist. His books and artwork are amazing. He's been one of my touchstone authors since at least 1992 when I was first exposed to his work.

And by sheer dumb coincidence I have come into a signed edition of one of his works. I asked my wife how could Sam have let this out of his possession? She said maybe Sam got a divorce and his ex pawned the book to Half Price or maybe Sam died, who knows? I whispered "Sam's dead." I just wanted to buy the book and get out of there before Half Price Books realized what they had missed.



Monday, September 10, 2012

4,486


Yes I'm mad.

I'm mad because documents released this week show the CIA admitting they were wrong about WMD's in Iraq. It's nothing we didn't already know but now it's official. Now it's on the record. And all the CIA basically has to say is "oops."

Oops?

4,486 Americans died because of that oops. And you know what? No one will be held accountable. George W. Bush will continue to live his cushy live in Preston Hollow. Dick Cheney will continue to live in his Halliburton retirement funded bunker. Rumsfeld will continue to mumble nonsense to himself wherever he finds himself.

There will be no prosecutions, trials or even a simple investigation. 4,486 brave American soldiers dead and no one will be held accountable for the fact that they were sent to Iraq on false pretenses.

They have congressional hearings for steroids in baseball but not for faulty government intelligence that led us into war?

Remember the reason we went to war was because we were told without a doubt, by Colin Powell on the floor of the UN Security Council chamber, that the Iraqis possessed weapons of mass destruction. Even Powell has offered various mea culpas the past few years for what he admits were "faulty intelligence."

I was called Un-American and unpatriotic for opposing this war in 2003. I was called a nut for believing it had more to do with oil and Halliburton than WMDs.

You say this is all old news and I need to get over it? Tell that the the loved ones of 4,486 young Americans who died trusting their government.

Maybe we should think about that number, 4,486, the next time we are tempted to jump on the war bandwagon.

Maybe we should think about that when the party that stoked that war fever asks us for their vote.



Wednesday, September 05, 2012

Fiesta de Propaganda


Why bother watching the political conventions? Both the Republican and Democratic conventions are nothing but propaganda festivals filled with exaggerations, distortions and downright lies. It's high time the networks stop broadcasting these ridiculous pep rallies. They do nothing to serve the political process in America.

If people aren't informed enough about the candidates by now then that's due to laziness. If you want a better introduction to the candidates watch the upcoming debates. But don't waste your time watching the Pharisee and Sadducee conventions.

In fact, let's ban political parties altogether. Good ideas are often rejected simply because it came from across the aisle. After all, "Obamacare" was the invention of the Republican nominee. It's worked quite well in Massachusetts. But because it's now associated with the Democratic Party it's become toxic to Romney and he's gone to great lengths to distance himself from his creation.

I guarantee our economy would have improved much more quickly if both sides had agreed to work together. But the GOP didn't want Obama to get any credit and obstructed at every opportunity. And the Dems would do the same thing if a Republican was in office. Let's ditch them both.

Monday, September 03, 2012

Happy Labor Day!


Sure, labor unions have sometimes evolved in troubling ways. Like most institutions of man they have often become corrupt, selfish and self-destructive. But a couple of things to remember this Labor Day is that without labor unions the United States may have come close to experiencing a revolution, similar to the Russian Revolution, in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. Tensions were high due to the excesses of laissez faire capitalism. Violence and worker unrest was common across the nation. But concessions earned by labor unions took away the incentive for all out revolt by the working classes. These same concessions may have also prevented more revolutionary fervor during the Great Depression as well.

Because of labor unions we have...
  • Forty Hour work weeks.
  • Paid overtime.
  • Workman's Compensation in case of workplace injury.
  • Due process in termination.
  • Eight hour work days.
  • Minimum Wage.
  • Vacation days.
Yes, the excesses of labor unions may have contribued to the near collapse of the American auto industry a few years ago. But overall they have been a great for our nation and today I salute them.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Me and SMU


Classes started at SMU last week. I'm only taking one course this semester: The Cultural and Intellectual History of Europe. It's a two part class. This semester begins with the Renaissance and ends with the Enlightenment. It dovetails very nicely with my AP European History course which also begins with the Renaissance. Plus it's taught by a legend in history circles. Dr. Mears was once president of the World History Association. He's been at SMU since 1967 but is still as sharp as ever. We meet around a Harkness style table in Dallas Hall (pictured above. It's the first building built on campus and the oldest) and the course is in the seminar format. The first class went very well and has me stoked about the semester.

Friday, August 24, 2012

The Temple of Doom is Ready


The classroom (The Temple of Doom) is cleaned up and ready to go. School starts Monday. This will be my fourteenth year in education. It also happens to be the halfway year for me to attain full retirement. But in fourteen years my son will be a freshman in college so I doubt I'll be quite ready financially to retire. This room has been my classroom for twelve of the past fourteen years. It was also the birthplace of our cat Simba. Long story.

Monday, August 20, 2012

QR Code Madness!



I am somebody!

The internets knows me!

I finally have a QR Code!

Okay, so I may be behind the game but I know I'm ahead of some you out there. I don't have a smartphone. In fact my phone is quite dumb. I even took off the data pack on my phone plan because I didn't want to be one of "those guys," Those guys who always have their head bent over staring mindlessly at a tiny screen. People are often shocked that I don't have an iPhone or at the very least an Android.

So I had no use for those QR codes, you know those little squares of garbled lines that when you scan them with your smartphone direct you to a website.

But now I have an iPad thanks to my school district. And last week during iPad training we learned about QR Code generators. So I've gone QRazy. I've put QR codes on the back of my personal business cards which direct your mobile browser to my blog. That may not be a great idea with all the nonsense I post on here.

However, I also have a QR Code for my school website. I have it posted on the wall of my classroom. If students point their smartphones and click it will direct their browser to my school website. That will direct them to study guides, make-up work and all sorts of other important things for class. Typing in an entire browser address seems too laborious for today's students so we're making it easy for them.

If you open up your QR app on your iPad or phone and scan the code at the top of this blog you'll be directed to my school website. Yes, maybe I'm easily impressed. And maybe this is so 2007 techwise. But for me, it blows my mind.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Superheroes



My son is currently in a superheroes phase. He loves comic books and superhero stories. His last birthday party was a superhero party where all his friends dressed up as their favorite hero. My son was THOR. THOR (all caps required) is his absolute favorite. I like the fact that he picked a hero a little less ubiquitous than the usual Spiderman, Superman and Batman. It's a bit more of an original choice.

But he's still too young to watch many of the superhero movies. He definitely can't watch any of the Batman movies. Even THOR we rented, previewed, made note of the questionable scenes and showed him our edited version. We caved and let him watch The Avengers (after previewing it ourselves) which he loved...but not in 3D...we thought that might be too intense.

So I pulled out my DVD of 1978's Superman this week. And we watched it as a family. He loved it although he did get a bit bored during the talky parts. I had forgotten how good the Christopher Reeve version is. I had seen it at the old Glenwood Theater in Overland Park as a kid when I was about my son's age. It has aged very well. It still has the best opening credits ever of any movie of any genre.

Sure, some of the special effects are a bit dusty, especially the scene when a high school Clark Kent runs alongside a train. But most of the FX hold up very nicely and in some ways are superior to the cheap CG effects used today. CG gets overused and overblown these days. The first half of Superman is fantastic. The scenes on Krypton are some of the best true sci-fi scenes you'll ever see depicted on screen. Gene Hackman is the best Lex Luthor ever. The new Superman made a few years ago just doesn't compare. Hopefully next year's Man of Steel will do it some justice.

So it got me thinking. What are my favorite superhero films of all time? So I've composed a top five list of my personal faves. The list is negotiable and certainly not set in stone. But as of today here's my list:

1.) Ironman (If I could be a superhero...this is who I would be.)

2.) Superman (1978's version with Christopher Reeve, Margot Kidder and Marlon Brando.)

3.) The Avengers (My son calls me Hawkeye for some reason. I don't even own a bow.)

4.) The Dark Knight Rises (I could easily change this to Batman Begins. The Dark Knight although very good was too long and a bit pedantic. TDKR closed the series very nicely. I also really liked Michael Keaton's Batman.)

5.) The Amazing Spider-Man (The new one with Andrew Garfield. I can't stand Tobey Maguire but I will admit that Spider-Man 2 is an excellent superhero movie. If Garfield had played Peter Parker in that one that would be in the list. Spider-Man was my favorite superhero as a kid.)

You'll notice (or maybe you wouldn't) there's no X-Men. I just have never been able to get into that series. I like Patrick Stewart as Xavier and Ian McKellen as Magneto but I can never take Hugh Jackman seriously as Wolverine. In fact, his casting may be the reason I never got into the series.) Captain America also gets an honorable mention. I thought it would be cheesy. I was pleasantly surprised and it's very good. Anything with Hugo Weaving is worth watching.

Also, a shout out to one of the so-bad-it's-good superhero movies of all time...1980's Flash Gordon with Sam Jones, Timothy Dalton and Max von Sydow. Bizarre special effects and weird characters make this flick a trippy experience. I can't imagine watching this under the influence of "medicinal" properties. But the thing that takes it over the top is the awesome Queen soundtrack: FLASH! Ahh Ahh!

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Bourne Again?



The Bourne Legacy was a perfectly fine summer action flick. The acting was good, the story entertaining and the chase scenes frenetic. But...

It wasn't quite up to the level of the original Bourne Trilogy. Every time you watched a new Bourne movie with Matt Damon you had the feeling this was original stuff. Even the car chases felt new and different. The stories were fresh and innovative. All three movies seemed clean and modern.

I like Jeffery Renner but he just doesn't have the on-screen charisma that Matt Damon possesses. The story seemed too familiar...a bunch of seedy government types tracking down a rogue agent while looking at big monitors.

The motorcycle chase scene was entertaining but a bit blah in comparison to the chase scenes in the originals. And the Chinese assassin who was billed as "Treadstone without the inconsistencies and Outcome without the emotional issues" (or somesuch) was the weakest by far of the Bourne enemies. SPOILER ALERT: he gets killed not by Bourne but by the girl with a helmet on the back of a motorcycle in very unconvincing fashion. He was not nearly as scary as the Russian in The Bourne Supremacy or the Tunisian in Ultimatum.

The intro plods on and on. We get it. He can climb mountains in Alaska while being chased by wolves. We already knew he was an enhanced agent. Move along now to a story.

So yeah, I was entertained. Rachael Weisz, as usual, was fantastic. It was a nice summer afternoon movie. But it wasn't quite up to snuff and deserves a bit of a lesser place than being included in The Bourne canon.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

No more...

Okay okay! No more politics on this blog. I promise! I know I've said that before but this time I really mean not to give into temptation. I don't have the energy for a political blog. I don't even like politics despite having a degree in political science and history. Both political parties are corrupt. Human Beings are too complex to be forced into boxes and labels such as conservative or liberal. For instance, I'm pro-life but anti capital punishment...so am I a liberal or a conservative? I'm not a moderate because I strongly believe in my positions. Both FOX and MSNBC are ridiculous. So I told you who I'm voting for and that's it. No more political statements online.

I hope.

Monday, August 13, 2012

MORE reasons!



So I had written a blog post discussing why I could never vote for Mitt Romney and then he goes and names Paul Ryan as his running mate. Boom! All those reasons pale to why I could never vote for a ticket with Paul Ryan on it.

Yeah, he's a good looking guy who knows how to talk to a reporter. He's much more eloquent than Sarah Palin. But...

Despite his insistence that he hates big government and he wants to cut the deficit and debt, here are some startling facts...

He has consistently applied to the federal government for pet projects for his home district. Wow, he's hardcore tea party isn't he? Just like Palin. Just like Bachmann, they talk the talk and then ask the federal government for millions.

His budget plan would actually raise the deficit and debt because he wants to cut taxes for the wealthy...by $300 trillion.

Under the Ryan plan Romney would have had a tax rate of only 0.82% in 2010. Newt Gingrich's staff found that nugget out and Gingrich called it radical right wing social engineering. NEWT said that.

Hates big government eh? So why did he vote FOR the auto bailout, TARP, the Patriot Act and No Child Left Behind? He votes for NCLB but then says he wants to shutter the Department of Education? Huh?

Wants to shut down the IRS. Of course he offers no plan on how to actually collect taxes for the federal government.

Wants to shut down the Department of Transportation but of course offers no plan on how to regulate air and harbor traffic.

He actually told Boehner not to agree to the "Grand Bargain" in last year's debt ceiling debacle. Not because he was against it but because he thought it would work and help Obama's re-election possibilites.

His biggest inspiration is Ayn Rand who notoriously wrote her fiction while strung out on meth. Remember, she wrote fiction.

He may look good in a suit and speak well. But he is as big a freak and hypocrite as anyone you'll find in Washington.

Fortunately polls are saying that the Ryan pick is the most unpopular pick for VP since Quayle. Ryan makes Quayle look like a genius. Romney would have done much better to pick Quayle.

Paul Ryan. SMH (shaking my head). I'm starting to get the idea that Mitt has already given up. You got Rubio, you got Christie, etc etc etc and you go with...Paul Ryan. SMH.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Forward.


I am about to make a political announcement. A lot of people can't handle that these days as evidenced by the vitroil and hate spewed on the internet any time sometime expresses their opinion on a political issue. I rarely post political statuses on facebook because a lot of people just can't handle it. Some of my best friends and family have opinions completely different than mine yet we get along fine. I wish that was the case more often in society.

So I'm warning you. If you have heart issues or stress management problems any time you read an opinion contrary to your own...just do yourself a favor and not read this post. And don't bother trying to change my mind via a comment or an email. If you want to talk send me an email and we'll grab coffee at the Lazy J Coffee House or something and talk in person. But that probably won't work either because I'm very close-minded person.

I am voting for Barack Obama for president of the United States of America in November. This will be my second time to vote for Obama no less.

Those who know me know I'm not a Democrat...or a Republican. I think both parties are corrupt. And Heaven knows Obama hasn't been a perfect president (drones anyone?).

But I got my reasons for voting for Obama and I got my reasons for voting against Mitt.

In the days to come I'll be posting my reasons, so stay tuned...not that it matters...because since when has a blog post ever changed anyone's mind? I'm not doing this for you...this is for my peace of mind.

So Obama 2012. Forward.

Thursday, August 09, 2012

Tuesday, August 07, 2012

The BOLT



J-Man doing the BOLT (ala Usain Bolt) at the local Splashpad.

Monday, August 06, 2012

BOLT



I'm not saying anything here that everyone doesn't already know. But Usain Bolt is the most electrifying athlete in the world. I'll never forget watching his 100 meter run at Beijing with my jaw to the floor. In that race he beat the field and a world record in almost a casual fashion. I didn't think I'd see the like again.

Yes he's cocky. But it's not an arrogant cockiness like we saw from Ryan Lochte. He doesn't disprespect his fellow competitors. He talked very highly of Justin Gatlin and Tyson Gay after the race. He says Yohan Blake made him stronger. His cockiness is more playful than spiteful. And it gives him a mental edge.

The race last night showcased the greatest field of runners in Olympic history. Justin Gatlin: won gold in the 100m in Athens. Tyson Gay: fastest American ever with the American record in the books. Yohan Blake: 2011 World Champion. Asafa Powell: former world record holder. And of course Usain Bolt: Olympic Champion and Current World Record Holder.

It was a much closer race this go around. But even in the end Bolt drew away from the pack. It was closer...but Bolt still won decisively. He is the man.

I felt very badly for Tyson Gay. Gay was injured for the Beijing games. Had major surgery last year. Came back and was very fast. He came in fourth...the worst possible finish for a true competitor. So close yet miles away from the podium. Strangely Asafa Powell came in last. He finished the race over 11 seconds...nearly two seconds behind Bolt. Got to hate how the body ages.

Of course if I ever ran the 100 meters in 11 seconds I'd be rejoicing night and day.

With apologies to Michael Phelps, if I had to choose one Olympic event and one Olympic athelete to watch at a games it's no contest. Usain Bolt is the man.

photo: still not close and a new Olympic record (breaking his own) to boot.

Saturday, August 04, 2012

Bye Hotmail




In 1996 my university email account, my first, was deactivated due to my graduation. I actually went several months without an email address. You could get away with that in those days. Email was still a novelty and many Americans didn't have an address.

Knowing I was heading to Spain for a year I established an account with hotmail. Hotmail was free and web based so it could be accessed anywhere. I found that pretty amazing at the time. I set up my account but my name, in several iterations, had already been taken. I was forced to go with dcarltonwhite@hotmail.com which I always thought was a little long. Plus I always had to spell it out to people on the phone.

Other web based hosts never tempted me to switch over. Yahoo had too much bulk and junk mail. Gmail didn't have enough features to cause me to ditch hotmail. Microsoft made great improvements to hotmail over the last few years. But it was never enough to erase the stigma that had been associated with the name. Hotmail was seen as a service used by computer novices. Many were embarassed to have one. I was never one of those. Hotmail always worked great for me.

But on August 1st Microsoft began their phase out of Hotmail. I quickly set up an account in order to stake my claim to a better email name. My first two choices were taken but I ended up with a pretty good name. Hotmail addresses will still be operational for the time being but they have shifted to the new format. The new name for MSN's web based email is actually an old name...Outlook.

Outlook has been MSN's client based email for years. My current SMU account is an Outlook account. But the new web based Outlook has a new, clean, minimalist format. It's very user friendly and has been getting excellent reviews from techies at Slate, Mashable and CNET. I've been impressed as well.

I hate to send out that email to my contacts about my address switch. I know it's a hassle for people to make the switch. I'll be sending it out in a few weeks. I'll keep my Hotmail for awhile, forwarding all my emails to my new Outlook account. I'm a little nostalgic about phasing it out. That email has been the constant throughout job changes (and the accompanying email changes) and service provider changes.

So goodbye Hotmail. You were a great email home.

Friday, August 03, 2012

Chick-fil-a



Well, I guess I should weigh in on the Chick-fil-a fiasco.

Full disclosure: I eat at Chick-fil-A more than any other fast food restaurant. I probably eat there once a week. And I will continue to eat there because they have good chicken and great service. I don't agree with the politics of many of the companies I patronize.

However,

Cathy is entitled to his opinion but he went too far. He stated that homosexuality will bring down God's wrath on our nation.

If he had simply said he opposed gay marriage I would have no problem with him expressing his opinion even if I disagree with him or despite it being a questionable decision business-wise.

But to single out a one sin and one group of people as the reason why God's wrath will come upon this nation is utterly asinine.

If you personally believe that homosexuality is a sin then you probably believe that all sins are equal. This is traditional Christian doctrine. Why do Christians say this sin is worse than others? Why would this sin be the one to bring down America and not lying? Or adultery, gluttony, cheating, judgementalism, gossip, drunkeness, etc etc etc?

We are all sinners and we have been commanded not to judge others. We have been called to love others. No. Matter. What. God loves us despite our sin. He loves us before we even ask for repentence. We can't extend that love to others who we think of as sinners? Really? Because I know I have no room to judge anyone. Anyone.

Stand up for what you believe in. Freedom of speech is a wonderful thing. Boycott groups you disagree with. But stop making a big show about it...whatever side you're on. Because if you do you are setting yourself up as a hypocrite because you'll most likely be gossiping by dinnertime. If you want to eat at CFA, go ahead. But don't post your pictures proudly on facebook. And if you see CFA as supporting hate groups...go to KFC.

Thursday, August 02, 2012

on the playlist



Some groups and songs I've been listening to a lot lately...

Never to Part - Tennis

Heartbreaker - The Walkmen

Myth - Beach House

No One Like You - Best Coast

Lazyboy - Brazzaville

Available links take you to YouTube or iTunes to sample the song.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

I Hate to Tell You...


That terrible day. That terrible day when a parent realizes their high school kid isn't among the intellectual elites of their class. Happens every year, usually about eleven school days in, after the first test or quiz. Kids have been flying along with their peers, their social network since elementary school. And they crash headlong into reality, into the wall of a true Advanced Placement college level course. Natural talent isn't enough. Being upper middle class and white is not enough.

Stages of Parental Reaction...

1.) Shock
2.) My kid just needs to "tweak" his study habits a bit.
3.) Tutoring. Tutoring is the answer!
4.) The teacher is being completely unreasonable!
5.) "Mr. White is deliberately crushing my son's spirit."
6.) Transfer request

Honestly #'s 3 through 5 don't happen very often, very rarely in fact. Usually they quietly transfer in the night to an on-level World History course. By #5 is an actual quote from a parent four years ago.

It happens to all of us sometime or another. That day when we realize the competition is fierce and it's time to stop lollygagging. Sobering but instructive and hopefully lifechanging for the good.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Random Olympic Thoughts



Random Olympic thoughts:

My five-year old son has Olympic fever bad. He asks us to record every event including the boring ones...waterpolo, cycling etc...

The opening ceremony was pretty much lame. Paul McCartney looked and sounded old. I like the idea of national healthcare but does it deserve an entire set piece in an Olympic ceremony? And the ripping up of agrarian England in favor of the Industrial Revolution? Why would you celebrate that? The Industrial Revolution was the worst thing to happen to this planet.

And how can you feature British music without Elton John, Oasis, The Smiths, The Clash and Eric Clapton? The Stones, Zeppelin and Bowie only get one line?

On the flip side, The Queen parachuting from a helicopter with James Bond was genius. Genius!

Ryan Lochte is too cocky. Phelps has no idea how to handle a loss.

Okay, more to come I'm sure.

If you haven't seen the Queen and 007's entrance watch it HERE. It's the highlight of the games so far.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

ACL Illusions



So the other day I finally got around to watching an episode of Austin City Limits that I had recorded a year ago featuring Elvis Costello. It reminded me of a time when I was talking with a relative, who lives in Austin, about the greatness of the show. He told me he was also amazed that in over twenty years an episode had never been cancelled due to rain or bad weather. It was amazing how the weather was always perfect for the show...no wind or anything that would hinder the performance.

I didn't have the heart to tell him that the show is filmed in a studio and that the skyline backdrop of Austin is fake. I didn't want to shatter his illusions.

Geez, I hope he doesn't come across this blog.

post-script: in fact, the ACL studio is a registered landmark. If you want ACL with the real Austin skyline backdrop you can always attend the ACL music festival in Zilker Park in October.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Delonte!



The Mavs re-signed Delonte West this week. I can't tell you how happy this makes me. That's one tough hombre, a real scrapper. The guy's been through crap and back. During the lockout he didn't just sit around and watch Chris Brown videos. The guy got a job at Home Depot. The guy's for real. Played with a compound fracture in his finger. Tough tough dude. My second favorite Mav player after Dirk. Glad Mark Cuban made the right call.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Fall 2012 at SMU



So this fall I will only be taking one course in my masters program at SMU. Just too busy to be in class more than one night a week. After this next course I'll be halfway toward graduation. I've really been enjoying the program. This next fall I'll be taking a course that relates directly to my job. I teach one section of AP European History at the high school. The course I'll be taking is...

The Cultural and Intellectual History of Europe

Dr. John Mears is the instructor. Dr. Mears is a legend in world history circles. He's a former president of the World History Association and is highly respected by everyone who has worked with him. This will be my first course with Dr. Mears and I'm anticipating a great semester.

photo: Dallas Hall, the oldest building on the SMU campus and the site of the class I'll be taking this next semester.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

XMU


Haven't offered many album recommendations lately. There are two records that I have been listening to a lot the past few weeks. I'll offer up individual reviews on those records in the days to come. But I have been fortunate to listen to a lot of good music lately, mostly because with the new car came a subscription to satellite radio.

I used to scoff at those who would actually pay money for radio, especially since Dallas has a great public alternative/indie music station at KXT 91.7 (which you can stream on the web HERE...I have it running in my classroom all day every day during the school year.). I love KXT but satellite radio is awesome. The four stations I listen to the most are Real Jazz, XMU (indie music), Altrock, and Lithium (90's alternative and Jackson's favorite since they play Weezer and Sabotage by The Beastie Boys). But I love perusing the huge number of speciality stations on the Sirious XM dial. The fact that you can listen to them anywhere you travel in the nation is fantastic.

One note: I've been listening to KXT since the first day they went on the air two years ago. I've been a paid member of the public station. Finally they're getting some recognition. This week they won The Dallas Morning News poll for best radio station in DFW. Nice to see some class in Dallas.

Monday, July 23, 2012

A Not So Good Joke


A not so good joke: But it is an original made up while JDW and I were tooling around walmart and it makes me and my son laugh.

Q: What sound does Jack White make when he, uh...uses the restroom?

A: Doo, Doo, Doo, Doo, Doo, Doo, Doo

some context: the answer must be sung to the song Seven Nation Army by the White Stripes whose lead singer was Jack White who we often tell JDW is his namesake which is not really true.

For those not familiar with the classic song Seven Nation Army you can hear/watch the song here:

Saturday, July 21, 2012

A Good Joke



My son, who is really into all things THOR made this joke up the other day (I don't know where he gets this tendency to create jokes)

Q: How does Thor count?

A: One, Two, Three, THOR, Five.

much laughter then ensues from the teller of the joke.

photo: Thor

Friday, July 20, 2012

God Bless...



Just Shut Up!


Listen, I don't care what side of the Trayvon Martin/George Zimmerman case you fall on. I don't care if you think Martin was a drug addicted thug or a saint or somewhere in between. What I do know is that George Zimmerman needs to shut the crap up.

In his latest interview with that blowhard Sean Hannity, Zimmerman says he believes everything that happened that fateful night was part of God's will. What a load of crap. It was not part of God's will for Zimmerman to track down an unarmed teenager against police advice and then confront him and shoot him to death (even if Trayvon attacked Zimmerman the whole thing would never had happened if Zimmerman hadn't acted in such a hostile manner, followed him and confronted him.).

I don't know what happened. It's hard to trust the word of a repeat liar, possible perjurer, girlfriend beater and police attacker with a history of anger management issues. Regardless, a young man, innocent or not, is dead because one guy was packing heat and the other wasn't. And the guy who killed the other guy needs to show some freaking respect to the grieving family and stop bringing God into it. Zimmerman: shut your freakin' mouth.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

I can see clearly...a little



The clouds are beginning to lift over the American Airlines Center. After losing out on Deron Williams, Jason Kidd and Jason Terry it looked like a nuclear winter was in store for the Dallas Mavericks next year. But they have rebounded pretty nicely in the free agent market.

Signing Mayo, Kamen, Brand, Collison and Jones has given me some hope for next season. Still not quite convinced this is a championship squad but they are looking better and better. I'm not as depressed about their prospects as I was last week.

After Jason Kidd's arrest yesterday for DWI in New York I'm glad they got rid of the punk. I never liked Kidd. He bailed on the Mavs not once, but twice in his career. And I can never respect someone who was charged with beating his wife. I've always thought Kidd was overrated. His DWI arrest is confirmation that the Mavs were lucky he ditched town.

So after a tough period I think the Mavs have turned the corner.

Monday, July 16, 2012

The Loss of a Great Man



The History Community lost a great man yesterday. Dr. Jerry Bentley passed away yesterday at the age of 63.

Dr. Bentley had served as the president of the World History Association and he was the editor of the World History journal. He was a professor at the University of Hawaii and a legend among world historians. His work on global history was groundbreaking.

For the past seven years my classes have used the college level textbook he co-authored. It is widely considered the best textbook in the field of world history. Dr. Bentley was also a grader/table leader for the AP World History exam. That's where I was honored to meet him several times. He was always gracious and humble despite his status as one of our great historians. He never minded people coming up to him and talking with him at lunch or dinner during the AP readings. He was even willing to take his picture with me a couple of different times.

At the beginning of this past reading at Salt Lake it was announced that Dr. Bentley was in bad health and his situation was dire. We were given no other details and I just assumed that he would pull through whatever it was. After all, he was only in his early sixties and I saw him every year playing tennis in the evenings.

So I was stunned to hear the news today of his passing. He was a great man who lived a full life. He will be missed.

Rest in Peace Dr. Bentley.

photo: Me and Jerry Bentley at last year's AP grading at Colorado State University...his last year to serve as a grader.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

pix pix pix



Massive photo dump on Flickr. Check it out HERE.

Photo: JDW practicing his noodling skills at the original Bass Pro Shop in Springfield, Mizzou

Friday, July 13, 2012

On the Road



Just back from our annual trek to southern Indiana and Indian Territory (Oklahoma).

Sad to see Indiana experiencing a record drought and heatwave. We usually enjoy the break from the heat that French Lick, Indiana usually gives us. But this year Texas was actually cooler while we were up there. Everything that is usually so green and lush was brown and dry. Fortunately they did get a blast of stormy rain that lasted all day while we were there. Things were cooling off as we were leaving.

Interesting experiences this year: Kim and I ziplined in the Hoosier National Forest. I was nervous that this might be some fly-by-night operation and would be lame. But it took two hours to go through the course and was a blast.

Uncle Mike, a volunteer fireman, arranged for Jackson to take a ride in the department's hook and ladder truck. We rode around town, JDW in the front seat, in this massive truck with a 100 foot ladder. Jackson pulled the horn and operated the siren.

We also searched for cows and a bull on the Crews Farm, rode the world's largest water roller coaster and enjoyed the supercool rides at Holiday World in Santa Claus, Indiana.

Then we raced on to Tulsa, Oklahoma. Had a nice visit with my grandparents. Saw my uncles, aunts, and cousins in a whirlwind day. Had a nice dinner at the Rib Crib, lunch at Pepper's and great meals at the Reinking house.

As nice as Spring Valley and Indian Territory is it's always nice to be back in Tejas. YeeHaw.

photo: Uncle Mike and JDW in front of the hook and ladder truck.