Sunday, August 31, 2008


North students Gopali and Neerali had their Arangetram this evening at the Diane Wortham Theater in Asheville. It is a sort of like a graduation recital for the classical style of dance, Bharatanatyam, that they have been studying and perfecting for years.

The performance was quite amazing and it was really neat to be invited to a special evening. The cousins had about 200 relatives in from all over the place so for me to be included meant a lot. I also got a yummy dinner of Indian food after the performance.

Can he do it?

Can Paul Johnson win at Tech the way he did at Georgia Southern and Navy? Only time will tell, but Thursday's debut was a good one. The offense was not exactly crisp, but it was effective. That triple option will work and I liked the passing game downfield. Nesbitt played smart. Not great, but smart. And man, I like Tech's defensive front. They're good!

Welcome to the Paul Johnson era at Georgia Tech...

Friday, August 29, 2008

Let's Get Political

Alright, now the election season is starting to get very exciting. John McCain announced Republican Alaska Governor Sarah Palin as his running mate, making her the first woman vice-presidential candidate in Republican party history. It is a very bold move. It might also be a very dangerous move.

Before I chime in on Palin, let me make a few points about Joe Biden:

The Good:
- He has experience.
- He is pretty respected in political circles
- He is not Hillary

The Bad:
- He has experience
- He is pretty respected in political circles
- He is not Hillary

As someone who is campaigning as a candidate of change, Obama risks backfiring by choosing a running mate who has served as a US Senator since 1972 and is tangled with many political alliances. Some people were hoping for a "Super-ticket" of Obama and Hillary, but I understand why Obama did not do that. For most of GW Bush's presidency, I felt that he was sometimes overshadowed by Dick Cheney, that is was Cheney calling many of the shots. Had Obama nominated Hillary, I think people would have wondered who the real President was.

Now Sarah:
It seems like she has done a pretty good job of governor of Alaska. I got a good impression of her while I was in Alaska. She appears to be in touch with the constituents, personable, pretty and smart. She's advocated for Alaska and, for all my knowledge, seems like an effective governor. McCain is the maverick, the candidate not confined by the Beltway. To prove that, he chose a running mate from another country. Okay, I know, Alaska is not another country... but how many Americans know that (not my student who was arguing that there were 53 states in our country)?

McCain also knows that there are a lot of Clinton voters who are not happy with Obama and many of those voters are women. Here is a chance to steal some votes. Did you see the interviews of the Democrats that were still upset about Hillary losing in the primaries? They were all women. To me it means that: a) women are more passionate/opinionated or b) they're not mad their candidate lost, they are mad their WOMAN candidate lost. (btw, voting for Hillary because she is a woman is stupid. Or voting Republican because McCain brought a woman is stupid. Stupid is also voting for Obama because he is black. As is voting McCain because he is 80 and white)

How could this historic and bold pick hurt McCain and the Republicans? Off the top of my head, two things: Ted Stevens and experience. Ted Stevens is the Republican US Senator from Alaska who has been federally indicted for shady dealings with oil contractors. He is a mainstay of American politics as he is currently the longest serving US Senator, chaired the Senate Appropriations committee and is beloved by many Alaskans for his ability to bring beaucoup of federal money to Alaska (ex: the infamous Bridge to Nowhere). I don't think the Democrats need to necessarily smear Palin, they just have to make it known that Palin is the Republican Governor from a state whose senior Senator, a Republican, just got indicted and also has a host of other ethical issues. As an uniformed electorate, we won't want to know anything else. Why bother checking facts, the connection is enough. Amazingly, despite indictment, Stevens won the Republican primary in Alaska and will be on the ballot for re-election in November.

Experience is the other issue that has to concern the Republicans. For months, they have attacked Obama's experience in national and, especially international, politics because his only major political experience is 4 years in the US Senate (not including 8 years in Illinois State Senate) . And you know something, the campaign has been working as McCain has closed the gap considerably. But it's hard to criticize the Obama-Biden ticket now since Biden brings over a quarter century of US Senate experience and the McCain-Palin ticket includes a candidate, who despite being a star (sound familiar?), only has been elected to two offices: 6 years as Mayor of Wasilla (population 5,469 in 2000 Census) and Governor of Alaska (who's entire population is less than Brooklyn, NY) for 2 years. John McCain turned 72 today (29 Aug). I can see the commercial now... what if McCain's health took a turn for the worse? The next president would be a 44 year old lady (two years younger than Obama) with only 2 years of major office experience and no foreign policy experience (even though Alaska is a foreign country).

Wednesday, August 27, 2008


Anybody seen this? For once, I hope the predictions are wrong. I fear that three years after Katrina, New Orleans still cannot take on a category 3 storm straight on. It's a tropical storm right now, but it's expected to strengthen as it moves off Haiti and into the warm waters of the Gulf.

Monday, August 25, 2008

New Year

We started our new school year today. I currently have 81 students in 3 classes. North Henderson is packed. Almost a thousand students. Overall, today was very smooth. It was also great to see a bunch of kids from last year.

On another note, it rained today. A nice, thorough shower which this drought stricken land needed. The only bad thing about the rain: can't ride my motorcycle to work.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Olympics Updates

With the closing ceremonies tomorrow, here is the review of my Olympics Previews on athletes I was watching and storylines to follow:

Athletes to watch:

Allyson Felix - Did not look like the Allyson Felix that won the last two world championships, but still finished with a silver in the 200m to a very fast Veronica Campbell-Brown of Jamaica. Was still able to get gold as a member of the 4x400m relay team, running a fantastic leg (48.7 split!).

Taylor Phinney - I read that a writer called the "next Lance" a huge disappointment for not medaling. I think the kid, who took up competitive cycling just over a year ago, did great. One round from placing for an 18 year old kid. Great learning experience for Phinney, who might be the future of US Cycling.

Jake Deitcher - One match away from wrestling for bronze, he was a highlight of an otherwise dismal performance by the Americans in wrestling (amplified by NBC's lack of coverage). This guy is for real, I foresee a lot of wrestlers bumping weight classes next year to get away from the University of Minnesota's super freshman.

Ben Askren - He promised gold and failed to deliver. Miserably failed. He's going to be fine down the road and has a lot to learn but has a good future ahead of him.

Liu Xiang - Pulled up lame with achilles injury even before he left the blocks. As much hype was surroundng him, he was a huge disappointment. One has to wonder if the pressure of carrying China's track expectations on his shoulders finally got to him.



100m Showdown:
What showdown? Bolt set the world record while cruising the last 20 meters. He was so dominating. There was only a race for second. Ditto the 200m.

Fun in the Pool:
Phelps was amazing. The rest of the the American swim team, hyped to be so great, performed admirably, but not to the hype that preceded them into the Watercube. Natalie Coughlin had a very good Olympics, Katie Hoff underperformed, Dana Torres was impressive. Outside of Phelps, the men were only above average. Hero of swimming: Jason Lezak, who swam from behind to edge France in the 4x100 freestyle for the gold and perserve Phelps' quest for eight.

What will blow up in China's face:
Well organized and a grande opening ceremonies, but they could not escape controversy. The pollution was obviously there, though there were some good days. China at the last minute revoked many visas of lots of tourists, denying them entry. They did set up protest zones, but they were far from venues and the largest might hold 200 protesters. You had to apply for a permit to protest; no one who applied was granted a permit, some were arrest (for applying). There was the unfortunate murder of Todd Bachman, that in fairness to China, was out of their control. But they could control their image and lying about sold out venues, a lip synced opening ceremonies and questions about the age of their gymnasts haunted the image of the Chinese regime.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

More Bumbling

As I posted yesterday, USA Track and Field has been seriously underachieving. The sprint relays seemed to sum up much of the Beijing Games for the Americans. Dropped passes in the men's AND women's 4x100 semis resulted in both teams being disqualified from an event which the Americans could have competed for gold (though I would have still bet on the Jamaicans even if both American squads advanced).

Lower the Drinking Age?

100 University Presidents have signed a petition to lower the drinking age to 18.

Their rationale: it would help to curb the binge drinking that plagues college campuses. According to the Centers for Disease Control, 90 percent of alcohol consumed by people under the age of 21 is in the form of binge drinking.

I would not be completely opposed to lowering the age for the legal consumption of alcohol, though I do have worries about the "trickle down" effect of increased access to alcohol among high schoolers.

What I would like to see more, however, is more serious enforcement and consequences for those who abuse alcohol. Our current system is no deterrent. Our legal system has become a system for enabling abuse. There is no reason someone who has a blown over .08 BAC (by the way, Sweden has a .02 limit) should get to walk, much less drive again. My solution: first DUI - $500 fine, 5 days jail and 365 day suspension of license and your picture, name and address goes into the local papers. Second DUI - $1500 fine (or 30 days jail) and your license is revoked for the rest of your life, so please make yourself aquainted with public transit.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Track and Field observations

Update: 23 Aug - Angelo Taylor also wins gold in 4x400.

Three quick track and field notes:

1) I was thrilled about the medals sweep in the men's 400m Hurdles. Even more excited that the winner, Angelo Taylor (above, right), is a Georgia Tech alum. Congrats also to silver medalist Kerron Clement (left) and bronze medalist Bershawn Jackson.
2) Usain in INSANE. Not only did he sweep the 100 and 200, he set world records in both. And did you see him cruise the last few meters of the 100? Track and field has a new star. Not to take anything away from Phelps, but Bolt may be the better story of the games. Especially if Jamaica can win the 4x100.
I know Phelps won eight, but swimming offers more events (and styles). Yes, Phelps did break seven world records, but with the technology of the swimsuits, there should almost be two world records in swimming: BL and AL ("before LZR" and "after LZR", as in Speedo's revolutionary LZR swimsuit). Bolt alone shattered the two world records; there were races Phelps won where several other swimmers also bettered world record times. And what if Bolt were American? Again, I love what Phelps accomplished, but you have to admit that NBC has a huge media crush on the guy (and who can blame them?).

3) Team USA Track and Field has been extremely disappointing. A lot of pre-Olympic favorites have not shown up or performed poorly. You couldn't watch Lolo Jones (100m Hurdles) hit the ninth hurdle and not feel bad for her. Sanya Richards was supposed to win the 400 easily, but faltered at the end and wound up with bronze. Some people predicted a sweep in the men's shot, but the third best American heading into Beijing only got second and was the only American to medal. Women's 100 (where Jamaica swept) did not step up, Terrence Trammell (110 Hurdles) pulled out lame and the Bernard Lagat, our great middle distance hope, did not place in a deep men's 1500.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Go Canada!

It seems that all Canada had to do was be patient... or wait until an unassuming American visiting their country blogs about their lack of medals.

After Saturday's competition, Canada went from having zero medals on Friday to seven on Saturday. The medal haul included four medals in rowing (one gold, silver, two bronzes) and two in women's freestyle wrestling (one gold, one bronze). Their other medal was a silver in swimming in the 1500m freestyle.

Man, can those Canucks row; they medaled in the following rowing events: Men's Pair, Men's Eight, Men's Lightweight Fours and Men's Lightweight Double Sculls. I have no idea what most of those are, but I am nevertheless thrilled for my northern neighbors.
Now bring on the Winter Games: Curling, Hockey, Bobsleigh, skiing and skating... Canada can compete and win!

Sunday, August 17, 2008

I miss...

…the train.
I am riding the Amtrak Cascades from Seattle to Portland is it sure is a lot of fun. I can walk around, get food and drink and the scenery out the windows is spectacular. It’s very comfortable and I would do it again. It makes me miss the train. I miss the Elon train (photo below, from wikicommons) and its late night whistles through campus. I miss the Ecusta train that used to run behind my property in the afternoons. With the closing of the Ecusta plant in Brevard, the train no longer makes its daily runs. I miss taking the train places like I did in the UK and through Europe and in Alaska (photo above, my own, on Denali Star Train) last summer.
The big downside to my journey today was Amtrak’s connecting coach from Vancouver. We were delayed at the border for 4 hours as Immigration and Customs could not quick enough process all the cars, trucks and buses that were heading into the United States. My previous experience with border crossing was much more expedient,… like 10 minutes. Note to self, next time entering or leaving USA, do so in the middle of the night or at a smaller crossing like Sault St. Marie, Michigan or Calais, Maine. I am all for homeland security and keeping Mad Cow out of the country, but there’s got to be a more efficient way of processing travelers than what I witnessed today. I missed the 2:20 departure from Seattle by two hours and had to instead get bumped to the 5:30 train.

Friday, August 15, 2008

I Wish I Could...

...speak better conversation Chinese.

I wandered down to Chinatown today in search of Dim Sum. Inevitably, people always try to talk to me in Chinese. One of the regrets I have growing up is that I did not do a better job of practicing and keeping my native languages. My Cambodian is non-existent and my Chinese is broken and I know no Mandarin or Cantonese.

On the bright side, the Dim Sum was terrific (even if I had to point to what I wanted).

Also, I blogged earlier how the Canadians were more laid back than Americans. I do have to say, however, that the Canadian press and the Canadians in the hostel are up in arms over the fact that Canada has yet to win a single Olympic medal through a week of competition. I think that the pragmatic Canadian realizes that their medal collection is going to come in Winter Olympics (curling, anyone?), but for a wealthy country of 35 million to not score a single medal is somewhat embarrassing. Come on, Togo, Mongolia and Tajikistan have more medals than Canada.

Jennifer's Journey

Here is a nice article on Jennifer (formerly Pharr) Davis, who is just a few days from a record setting hike on the Appalachian Trail.
Times-News article

Here's the link to her hiking blog that she and Brew on have been keeping along the way.
Jen's blog

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Watching the Olympics

I stayed the last two nights in Victoria. Really nice city on the southern tip of Vancouver Island, the largest island in the west coast of Canada or the United States. Found some good eats, got a nice, free tour of the British Columbia Parliament building and biked around the city.

The Hostelling International hostel in Victoria has this tiny TV room. At one point last night, there were about 10 of us crammed in there watching the Olympics. Canadian broadcasting does a great job of televising the games. I was the lone American. There were people from Britain, Austria, Australia, Germany, Canada, South America. It was quite an international affair and a lot of fun. We were all thoroughly impressed with how easily the Chinese routed everyone in the men's gymnastics team event, all laughed when the presenter tried to put another medal around the neck of the Japanese gymnast he had just given a medal to, and were tranfixed by Phelps and how easily he won in the semis of the 200m Butterfly.

It was a great moment: an international room of spectators, watching athletes compete at the international level. We cheered when our home countries did well (Canada has yet to win a medal) but really we cheered for all countries because it was the Olympics.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Another Reason to watch the Super Bowl

If true, it's one more reason to be excited about the NFL Finale:

Oh, Canada!

Why do I love Canada so much? Everytime I visit I am reminded how I just love this place!
Maybe its the air?
It might be all the good Chinese and other Asian foods.
Perhaps its the fact that I think Canadian girls are very pretty.
Is it the fact that this is the world's second largest country but not even in the top ten in population?
Or that I have not been to a place in Canada that I have not liked. Prince Edward Island... gorgeous. Calgary... one of my favorite cities. Banff, Jasper, Lake Louise... stunning!

I do know one thing that I definitely like. Canadians don't take themselves near as serious as Americans do. They are mostly chill; as Americans we sometimes get so wound in our own complexes. We always have to be superior and always have to let everyone around us know we are great too. It happens at a national and individual level all around. I think Canadians know that America could blow them off the map and they really don't care. It's a good place.

I read a T-shirt in Calgary two years ago (paraphrased):
What's the difference between an American and a Canadian? Nothing, except that one is not carrying a gun and has health care.
If you were in my world history class last semester, I revealed to my students my secret plan to take over the world. It involves three steps:

1) Move to Canada (no one would expect it)
2) Take over Canada (Canadians would never see it coming)
3) Take over America (Americans would never see it coming) then rest of the world.

Here's to world domination....

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Carless in Olympic

I incorrectly assumed that I could see Olympic National Park and most of the Olympic Peninsula without a car. The bus systems of Kitsap, Jefferson and Clallam Counties seem efficient enough and connect to each other, if you time it right. Or if you are not traveling on a Sunday.

Spent last night in a nice hostel (Olympic Hostel... yeah, go Olympics) at Fort Worden in the wonderful town of Port Townsend. Really wanted to get to Port Angeles today, but found out yesterday that the buses don't run to Sequim to connect to Port Angeles on Sundays. I really would have been fine staying another day in Port Townsend but wanted to get to Victoria soon.

But honestly, it was a good travel day. Here were some highlights:

11:00 - Stop by Visitor's Center. Call Olympic Shuttle, who were really nice but tell me that their contract states they can only transport to and from the airport, not between towns since it would be competing with local transit. I asked, "even on Sundays, when they don'r run?" Sorry, he says.

11:30 - Nice couple working the visitor's center, feeling bad for me and learning that I was gonna hitchhike, offer to take me to the junction of HWY 20 and US 101.

11:45 - Dropped off by Pauline and her dog at US 101.

About 12:15 - Picked up by Laurie and Jeff and their new kitten. I've waited two and half hours for a ride before, so 30 minutes was a godsend.

12:30 - Dropped off at casino near Sequim. I inquire about their shuttle to Port Angeles, the casino people want no part of me.

12:45 - Wait up the road from casino.

12:50 - Picked up by Paul, who was on his way from his job of growing algae to feed oysters. Shortest wait ever for a ride. Paul likes my idea of going to Victoria and then Vancouver. He tells me I'll like Vancouver because, "they have the best pot in the world". Personally, I was hoping he would say something like tapas, mountain biking, or sea lion pups but oh well. He drops me off right at the ferry terminal.

1:30 - ticket purchased.

1:45 - lunch and blogging at Rick's Cafe.

Regrettably, I won't be visiting Oympic National Park. That will have to be the next trip.
Next stop: Canada!

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Olympics Storylines

With the Game's Opening Ceremonies just over a day away, here are some of the best storylines heading into the Olympics:

100m Showdown: Who will be the world’s fastest man in the showcase event in track and field? Jamaican Usain Bolt is the world record holder and most experts believe that the 200m is his best event. American Tyson Gay has run the fastest 100 ever (the time was not a record because of the wind), but is he recovered from the hamstring injury he suffered in the US Trials? Asafa Powell, also of Jamaica, is a former world record holder and not even considered a favorite. The finals, if they all make it through preliminary qualifying, could be one of the best ever.

Fun in the Pool:

Michael Phelp’s quest for 8 medals, 41 year old Dana Torres making a quest for history and bonafide stars Katie Hoff and Natalie Coughlin give the United States one of the best swimming squads ever. Combine that with the new, ultrafast (and ultra-controversial) suits and a hyper cool and crazy fast facility called the Water Cube, this could be a very record setting Olympics in the swims.

What will blow up in China’s face: Whether it is Tibet, individual freedoms, the air in Beijing, political boycotts, energy issues, environmental problems or the threats of terrorist acts, China has a lot going against it. The People’s Republic’s ability to match the hospitality of Australia or the tradition of Athens faces many obstacles that previous hosts have not encountered. Athletic achievements will not be an issue, because some of the best ever are going to show. It is planning, organizing and hosting that will truly test China. Already, China has made some things off limits to foreign media. The International Olympic Committee has a lot riding on the Beijing Games; it could be another Sydney or be viewed as a modern Berlin.

Others to consider:

USA Basketball: Can we improve on bronze in Athens?
Last Olympics for Baseball: Will it be popular enough to get it reinstated?
Ping Pong: Will people outside of China care about its national obsession?
Doping: How clean are the Games this year? Every winner will have questions hanging over them regarding doping.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Ping Pong

In anticipation of the Beijing Games, watch the video below of China's pastime. It's pretty dang amazing:

Monday, August 4, 2008

Olympics- Athletes to watch

Here are some athletes to watch in the coming Beijing Games. Everyone knows Michael Phelps, Kobe Bryant, Yao Ming so I am throwing out five other that I will be keeping an eye on:

Allyson Felix (United States, Track and Field) – Can she help save Track and Field? Daughter of a preacher, she teaches Sunday School in the offseason. With Marion Jones in jail because of doping and lying, Felix has all the tools to be the face of American women’s track and field for a long time. She’s only 22, but has already won a World Championship in the 200m, is articulate, well managed and has the face, body and legs that could help her explode into a megastar if she can pull off victories in the 200m and on the 4x400.

Taylor Phinney (United States, Cycling) – Son of a not just one, but two Olympic medalists (Dad won bronze in time trial in 1984, mom took gold in road race), Phinney might be the future of US Cycling. He's obviously blessed with good genes but only recently took up competive cycling. Then, surprise, found out he's good at it. Probably not a medal favorite, but don't count him out. Oh, and he's only 18 years old.

Jake Deitcher (United States, Greco Roman Wrestling) – At 18, he just graduated high school. He’s the youngest Olympic wrestler for the United States since 1976. Not really a medal favorite, but he’s a great story and a kid with huge potential. In the trials, he showed that he is a fighter and you cannot count him out, even against more seasoned competition. He's heading to national power University of Minnesota next year and will be a favorite to contend for a NCAA championship as a freshman.

Ben Askren (United States, Freestyle Wrestling) – The "Funk"! Askren made a career at the University of Missouri with his crazy wrestling style (Funk), crazy hair, and outlandish personality (and two NCAA titles). He has guaranteed a gold in Beijing, so now let's see if the kid can back his word against some great competition.

Liu Xiang (China, Track and Field) - Surpised the field by winning the 110 Hurdles in Athens, the first Chinese athlete to win gold in men's track and field. China has made a huge push to compete with the United States in the medal count and no one is under more pressure than Xiang. Just imagine having the hopes and expectations of 1.3 billion people on your shoulders. That's what Liu Xiang has. Anything less than gold will be a disappointment for an entire nation of believers.


I like to pretend that I know what's up and I have things in control. Then I get humbled in the revelation that not only am I in not in charge, but the one who is really is pretty good at what He does. Actually, very good and nothing I can conjure really compares. Take for example this pass week:

Crater Lake National Park, Oregon:
I had a "Wow!" moment. Crater Lake truly inspires awe. I pulled into the first overlook on the north rim and was completely stunned by the view, about 1200 feet below me, of a 6 mile wide, perfectly blue lake lying in the middle of a caldera that formed 7,700 years ago when the summit of Mount Mazama collapsed. As you drive around the rim and stop at differnt overlooks, the walls of the caldera literally change colors before you as the sun moves across the sky. No wonder the Natives believed the lake to be sacred.

Redwoods National Park/Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park, California
So I am standing next to this tree who's trunk is bigger than my living room and who's top is towering almost 300 feet overhead and I am again humbled. Even as humbling is the beginnings of this tree, at least 700 years old, if not older. This tree has withstood earthquakes, snowstorms, fires, and the encroachment of man. Europe was suffering through the Black Death in its infant stages and it was a mere adolescent when Columbus sailed west. I cannot recall ever being amazed, much less humbled, by a tree until now.