Friday, September 02, 2011

Calling My Shots: 2011 NFL Predictions

I have decided to actually record my NFL predictions this year to demonstrate my soothsaying powers (or documents how wrong I am). Is there a bit of a Homer-feel to these predictions. Sure. But for the first time in 10 seasons, I'm really excited for the home team:

East - New England
North - Pittsburgh
South - Houston
West - San Diego
Wild Cards - Baltimore, Indianapolis

East - Dallas
North - Green Bay
South - Atlanta
West - Arizona
Wild Cards - New Orleans, St. Louis

Super Bowl: Atlanta defeats HOUSTON...

Yep, I'm picking my Texans to the Super Bowl. Call me a homer, call me delusional, call me Al... whatever. I really like this Houston team. Explosive offensive, and a defensive that will improve by attacking under Wade Phillips.

Other interesting items -

1. I think Atlanta may be the best team in the NFL, the Falcons or the Patriots.

2. I have Kolb in the playoffs and Vick out.

3. I think Dallas may be quite good. And I don't trust Mike Vick to stay healthy.

4. The Rams keep improving. I don't have a real good feeling on this, but the schedule is inviting and frankly I needed a 5th new team (see below).

5. For many years now, 5 teams that made the playoffs the previous season do not return to the playoffs. Often it is a Super Bowl team. I've tried to hold true to that (although I do have both GB and Pitt returning to the playoffs).

Playoff teams from last year that I do not have returning:
New York Jets - I question their QB, WRs, and think the running game will fall off.
Kansas City - Much more difficult schedule and San Diego will win more.
Chicago - I think they played over their heads last year and are worse this year.
Seattle - They are worse than the 7-9 they snuck in with last year.
Philadelphia - As I mentioned, I've never trusted Mike Vick to stay healthy and V. Young is not an NFL QB, even as a backup.

Texans to the Super Bowl...clearly I'm just crazy.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

To Believe or to Live?

I'm becoming more and more convinced that within the churches of Christ, it's more important to "believe" the right things than to "do" the right things. Living Christ is far less important that believing the right things.

Does it really matter what you believe if you don't live as Christ? Does it really matter if you get every doctrine right if you don't feed hungry people? Is it more important to believe right on baptism if you don't meet people's physical and spiritual needs?

Is it even possible to live as Christ in a church fellowship where the most important thing is believing the right things? I don't know anymore.

Thursday, June 09, 2011

Launch Site or Final Destination?

Anyone else reading since its launch yesterday?

My thoughts thus far:

> Klosterman = +. His pieces have been fascinating (which I was expecting) and, frankly, touching (which I was not).

> The reality fantasy draft post (about a fantasy draft of reality tv characters wherein points are earned by various horrific, yet totally expected, behavior) included the following line: "We encourage you to start your own leagues, suggest changes to our system, or just read these posts and mumble to yourself, 'I thought this site had Malcolm Gladwell?'" That may be the funniest thing I have ready in months. I literally laughed out loud uncontrollably - probably because as I was reading that trainwreck of a post, that is exactly what I was thinking.

> The writing has been absorbing. These are genuinely creative, talented, and (I just can't think of a better adjective) great writers. You can just lose yourself in the worlds they are creating -- mid-80's North Dakota junior college basketball...Wembley stadium...Wrigley...a freaking video game review when I don't play video games... When reading this stuff, I have become somewhat lost in the worlds created by these writers, and it's almost a shock to come to the end of the piece and leave those worlds. The essays (thus far) are deeply compelling, even when they are about the most trivial of subjects.

> As gripping the writing has been...the site is just "meh" at best. At best. I actually like the attempt to keep it simple, but it's just not easy. Once a column has fallen off the mainpage, where does it go? Go to columnists and you only get Simmons and Klosterman. You have to search for prior columns - there does not appear (yet) to be an archive or an ability to click on an author and find their work. I think this needs to be cleaned up relatively quickly.

> But, mainly, it has Simmons writing regularly again. I've got this sneaky suspicion that he may wind up as the President of ESPN one day soon, (FN1) and he's had so many irons in the fire recently that the writing has just fallen way off. What - a column every two weeks or so? That makes sense. I don't like it, but it makes sense. He's so good (in my opinion) that he's been pulled in a million directions and it just takes time and focus to sit down and draft 5,000 words that won't ruin the reputation he has developed. But Grantland may be getting him back to his writing roots, at least that's what I'm hoping. Granted, three pieces in two days is because of the "launch." But, if this site has him focused on a column a week, it's well worth it. And writing is what he does best.

The question becomes is this Simmons' launch site? Does the "Editor-in-Chief" want to move onto to further executive positions? Or is this right where he wants to be, and where he'll be content to stay. No idea, but it will certainly be interesting to watch... or rather read.

FN1 - There was a long feature on Simmons and the launch of Grantland in the NY Times Magazine on May 30. In the midst of it there was a throwaway moment in which Simmons was at a LA Lakers game with the author/interviewer and they see Stephen A. Smith (who does not notice them) walking by. Upon seeing Stephen A. go by, Simmons tells the interviewer, "We need to do a better job of protecting out talent. ... He's a guy who should be writing more. We let him become too big a yakker." Look, Simmons has the most widely read sports column on the internet, he is (in large part) the creator of the exceptionally high-quality '30 for 30' series of documentaries (maybe the most critically acclaimed thing ESPN has ever done); and now he's the Editor-in-Chief of, an ESPN spinoff. Call me crazy, but I think he could be running ESPN someday soon.

Friday, April 08, 2011

Symphony in Space...

Last weekend, I had one of the truly special experiences of my life... Our family has a package of tickets to the Houston Symphony's season of family performances (3 or 4 shows). Last weekend (2-Apr) was the last show of the 2010-2011 season, entitled "Symphony in Space." It was really great. But one part of the show stood out... At about the mid-point, the conductor (dressed as an alien...yes, conductors in Houston do that for the kids) called out an actual astronaut, the distinguished Chris Hadfield (@Cmdr_Hadfield on Twitter) who will command the final shuttle mission next year and spend six months on the International Space Station as well.

In addition to "just" being an astronaut commander (what am I doing with my life) he sings and plays guitar. His brother, just by chance (WHO ARE THESE PEOPLE???), composed a song about him going up in his first mission called "Big Smoke." [FN] Cmdr. Hadield played guitar and sang the song during the Symphony's performance, along with a chorus of children from a local school. [Yes, in addition to being a Space Shuttle commander, he was an accomplished guitarist and singer.]

After the performance, Cmdr. Hadfield took questions from the audience. At first, my son Noah was throwing his hand in the air to ask a question. I immediately told him to put his hand down. I asked him if he had an actual question to ask. He did not [of course]. After about a fifteen count he told me he did have a question. He explained it to me and I told him that was a good question, and he put his hand up, way up, again.

Belive it or not (we had pretty good seats) the conductor called on "the boy in the striped shirt," -- Noah!!!

"What does if feel like to float in space?"

Noah asked that question loud and strong -- in front of about 4,000 people filling Jones Hall.

Cmdr. Hadfield ( @Cmdr_Hadfield ) proceeded to answer Noah, in detail, for several minutes. He called a little girl out of the chorus who had pig tails and demonstrated how your hair floats in space; talked about how your blood doesn't flow down to your feet without gravity so you have to do certain exercises in space; and how you eat without gravity in space.

I was floored. This was my son asking a real life astronaut -- commander -- what it was like to float without gravity in space. And the commander answered the question in such detail and with such deliberateness, yet, spoken from the actual experience.

ARE YOU KIDDING ME??? What a wonderful moment in my life --- and Noah's life. What a special time. I would never have guessed/expected that this would be my life. Providence!

[FN] Big Smoke refers to the smoke that emits from the launch of a Space Shuttle.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Biden for VP

As the world now knows, Barack Obama has chosen Joe Biden as his VP running mate. Biden is a fine choice. A safe choice. But I didnt' think he was the best choice.

I sent the following email (I've edited out references to other VP contenders) to a friend yesterday before the Biden choice was confirmed:
Just wanted to get this thought out there before it becomes moot tomorrow. Obama is announcing his vp pick tomorrow. In my opinion, there is one guy who is the obvious choice, and would be an absolute grand-slam...but he's apparently not even on the radar screen.

New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson.

What does Richardson give Obama?

1. He's a connected, inside-the-beltway, exceptionally experienced - and an "outsider."

If Obama chooses Biden - who is fine - he's getting an almost 40-year veteran of the Senate. There goes the "change" theme. ... Richardson spent eight years in Washington in the Clinton Admin, and was in leadership of the Democratic party prior to becoming Governor. He has the connections, understands the inside game, has a national name, can raise money --- and as Governor of New Mexico, has a legit claim to being an outsider that can reinforce a change message. Perfect.

2. He brings boatloads of experience and the "resume."

What's Obama's biggest alleged weakness? His resume. He doesn't have the "experience" necessary. (Off topic - Yeah, right. Go look at Bush the Lesser's "experience" prior to running on his daddy's name. Go look at Reagan's "experience." Or JFK.) Badda-bing. Problem solved. Richardson - even though he is governor of New Mexico - may have the most foreign policy experience of any "name" democrat right now outside of Biden. He negotiated with North Korea, Iraq/Sadaam Hussein. World leaders know and respect him. He was clear in opposition to Iraq. He served as Energy secretary in the Clinton admin. What are the four biggest issues of this campaign (probably): 1. Economy; 2. National Security; 3. Health Care; 4. Energy. Obama is lights out on 1/3, Richardson is lights out on 2/4. It is a perfect complementary fit...AND he doesn't serve as a glaring signpost to Obama's alleged weakness. You select Biden - who has little directly going for him other than foreign policy expertise - and what that primarily does is show voters that Obama is sensitive to foreign policy as a weakness. ... Richardson reinforces that area, but is much more well rounded (pun intended) so that he doesn't accentuate it as a weakness of Obama's. Perfect.

3. He is geographically targeted to states that are close and Obama needs.

Biden is from Delaware. Yawn. It always votes democrat. It's close to Virginia, but he's not going to move Virginia. .... What does Gov. Richardson bring? He pushes New Mexico in safely Dem territory. He *likely* solidifies Colorado as Blue, and may just put Nevada out of reach. He will also genuinely puts places like Montana, South Dakota, Missouri, Indiana, North Carolina, etc. in better position - why? He's a gun-toting, pro-gun, anti-gun control Democrat. Don't find many of those. He is really liked and respected in the west because he's willing to take on the national party on guns. That will help in those other generally red states too. Perfect.

4. He isn't a white guy.

.... Biden [is]. He solidifies a hispanic base that - at least the media reports - is having some trouble coming around to Obama, and sees McCain as the moderate he was before the lust for the Presidency got to him. If he was to really push up the hispanic vote, he could make Florida a lot closer than it is now and, again, really help in Colorado and Nevada. Perfect.

5. He brings the Clinton supporters around.

Biden... - none of them are an overt olive branch to those Clinton supporters that are still (irrationally) irritated that Obama won the nomination. Richardson is. He has a long history with the Clinton family, and in the Clinton Admin. He is still close to him, her, and a lot of the key players from that era. He could be seen as the olive branch without actually nominating Hillary (which just can't be done). Perfect. (By the way - my gut feeling is that this is also the very reason he was never considered - he too much a Clinton choice, and Obama's people wanted a clean break.)

In every way conceivable, Richardson would be a perfect compliment to Obama on the democratic ticket. And he, apparently, wasn't even considered.

It just doesn't make complete sense to me that Gov. Richardson wasn't considered. That said, Joe Biden is a very solid choice. My concern, of course, is that Biden acts as a bright red flag pointing out Obama's "weakness," rather than reinforcing his general message. We'll see.

Biden was probably my third choice in the Democratic primaries behind Obama/Hillary (tie for first) and Richardson (which explains why I would have preferred him as VP).

It's a solid ticket. Still underdogs, but solid. 70+ days to go...

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Profoundly distorted...

A friend recently asked me what I thought about the "Obama issue." The answer: I don't think of it much or much of it.

The fact is, I don't have much of an opinion on the whole Obama-flap. I think this is/has been little more than a media-created non-story. The Clinton's have convinced much of the press that they have been to easy on Obama, so they are searching for something to smear him with.

I didn't get to see the entire 'A More Perfect Union' speech, although I read the transcript. The speech itself was courageous and genuinely exceptional. Just an all-time great American Speech. He said exactly what is truth - we all know folks who are good, nice, "non-overtly-racist" people...who when pressed, when frustrated, or just because they are from another generation drop some really horrific phrases or stereotypes on occasion. Then, of course, it's uncomfortable and awkward...but you don't necessarily throw that person under a bus because they are not perfect.

Kind of like he mentioned, I know "older" people whom still sometimes refer to "black-town" or "the blacks" or something ridiculous like that. That does't mean that I completely abandon a relationship with such people. I just think they are unenlightened and insensitive. Recently, I met a guy in the airport while I was waiting on a plane. We talked about work, kids, even church stuff. He seemed a really nice, family guy. Then later, the conversation turned to politics and in discussing Clinton/Obama he said something about how he didn't want to see either one of those "types" of people - a woman or a minority - become President. ... Okay, awkward. But that doesn't mean that I unloaded on the guy right there or self-righteously refused to talk to him anymore. I just think he's wrong and comes from a profoundly distorted perspective.

My family goes to what would generally be considered a very conservative church and a lot of the things that people in my church believe - both religiously, and socially/politically - I don't support, or believe in, or adhere to. Even some things that have been said from the pulpit, I squirm at and feel completely uncomfortable with. But we still go to church there because on the whole the "core" beliefs are shared. Our family has found a place there. My son has friends, we have friends, we are involved with the youth group, etc. We believe that it is the church family for our family. Just because something gets said, or just because a leader in the church has an 'opinion' that I disagree with doesn't mean that I'm going to disassociate myself from my church. I may well think they are wrong and/or nuts and/or misinformed, but I'm going to keep showing up and, yes, making my contribution each Sunday.

He also addressed the flip side of that issue:
Most working- and middle-class white Americans don't feel that they have been particularly privileged by their race. Their experience is the immigrant experience -- as far as they're concerned, no one handed them anything, they built it from scratch. . . . So when they are told to bus their children to a school across town; when they hear that an African American is getting an advantage in landing a good job or a spot in a good college . . . when they're told that their fears about crime in urban neighborhoods are somehow prejudiced, resentment builds over time.

[These resentments have] helped shape the political landscape for at least a generation. And yet, to wish away the resentments of white Americans, to label them as misguided or even racist, without recognizing they are grounded in legitimate concerns -- this too widens the racial divide, and blocks the path to understanding.

He was brave enough to acknowledge the resentments and "profoundly distorted views" on both sides, while urging America to transcend. It was a great speech.

That doesn't, however, mean this should have been a front-page story in the first place. Oh, No!!! Someone Obama knows said some atrocious things some years ago!!!! That has never happened to a politician, or anyone else, ever!!! [Yawn]

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

The "epic downdraft" to come...

In TX-7, right-wing Rep. John Culberson (R) has acknowledged what could be "an epic downdraft that defeats every Republican in Harris County unless we work hard to correct these problems."

True, that is primarily just a standard political line to scare the base into giving money to the campaign...but maybe this year it proves to be true.

For the first time since first being elected in 2000 Culberson faces both a competent and well-funded opponent.

Michael Skelly is a great candidate who has substantive plans on the issues that affect our district (energy, health care, education, transportation, etc.), perspective and judgment to be a leader on national issues (Iraq, economy, national security, etc.), and has the vision to step to the fore in the House and be a leader.

John Culberson is a party-special-interest-loyalist and one of the biggest Bush-supporters in Congress. He has no vision to be a leader on issues important to our district. On his own website, Culberson states that he has no energy policy (a critical issue in Houston and the 7th District) but rather that the 2005 energy bill solved all the problems there were. Of course, that was before $100 oil/$4.00 gas, etc. Culberson just doesn't get it. Culberson has no transporatation plan other than cars, cars, and more cars. He has radically opposed investment in Houston's public transportation infrastructure to reduce congestion, improve commute times, and reduce environmental impact. In fact, Culberson's website says TODAY that his plan for transportation in the 7th Dist. is "working with Majority Leader DeLay and other members of the Texas delegation." Culberson just doesn't get it.

Other than these homages to the past-days of Republican history, Culberson has no vision for an energy plan for America. Michael Skelly does -
Michael Skelly built a leading wind energy company right here in Houston. In order to build that company, he had to understand the entire energy equation. The energy business fuels the world economy, and energy is at the heart of many of the pressing issues of our day—national security, global warming, the economy, and the strength of our currency. Michael Skelly understands how important it is to think strategically about energy. It’s what has made his wind energy company successful. Right now, the country’s energy sources come disproportionately from areas of political instability, and it’s urgent that we replace our dependence on foreign oil with sustainable energy from a broader variety of sources. As a country, we need an energy strategy that balances the long term with immediate problems, and we need to change our energy policy sooner rather than later so that business people can make the right investment decisions. For all those tough choices, Washington will need our city. Houston is the energy capital of the world, and it’s vital that our representative in Washington understand energy so the rest of the country can benefit from our expertise.

Other than somehow still relying upon scandal-ridden Tom Delay, Culberson has no vision for a transportation plan for Houston and the 7th Dist. Michael Skelly does -
In the energy business, Michael Skelly oversaw infrastructure investments worth several billion dollars. He knows what it takes to carry out complex projects, and he will use that experience to improve Houston’s transit system. Most Houstonians spend endless hours in traffic every day because they have no other choice. Michael Skelly is committed to working with Mayor White and other elected officials to reduce traffic and gridlock. Houston needs a complete transit system—not just roads and highways, but also buses, urban rail, and commuter rail—options that will cut air pollution and decrease commutes so that people can spend more time with their families. Michael Skelly will make sure Houstonians can choose whether to drive, ride the bus, or take the train.

Culberson does not even have any reference on his website to policies for health care, the economy, or national security. The 7th District deserves better.

The 7th District is a diverse and robust part of Houston ranging from Jersey Village in the Northwest, through the Memorial area, Bellaire, West University, and into the Montrose area of mid/near-town. It is a district that should have a leader with clear policies that will make an impact on the important issues facing it, and have the perspective and judgment to take leadership on natonal issues. What we do not need is a party-man, Bush-buddy, career politician.

Best of all, Michael Skelly is not just a good alternative to Culberson, he is a proven leader with a record of entrepreneurship, job creation, getting things done and solving problems. Skelly looks like just what the 7th District needs.

Related posts:

Michael Skelly for 7th Cong. Dist. of Texas...