Sunday, August 30, 2009

Observations and Reflections

School has started. Great first week. I think I am going to have great classes (again!). Here's how I know I've been teaching for a very long time:

I have my 4th Diaz sibling (there's like 9 of them).
I have my 4th Vera sibling (out of 4).
I have my 3rd (and last) Harris brother.
I am also teaching another Anders, Campbell, Dalton, Kampfen, Maciejewski, Sims, and Yoo.

And dear Jessica is taking my class for the 3rd time. She also took it at least once, maybe twice, with other World History teachers.

North football is 2-0 for the first time since 2003. Volleyball is 5-0. Soccer is 4-1, I think. Catie Byrd won the Invite Race at the WNC Cross Country Carnival, with a time of 20:41.06 on a course that's tough to run fast on (though 3 girls did break 19:10 in the Championship Race and 3 boys went under 16:00).


"We should be ministers of righteousness, ministers of hope,
ministers of something other than condemnation."

Josiah Bancroft, from his sermon this morning at Grace.
Sermon topic: relationships.


So I'm at church this morning, just doing my thing and I look down and see:

Does the above picture mean:

A) Heang needs to separate his Salomons.
B) Heang has too many Salomons.
C) Heang should wake up earlier so he does not have to rush to church.
D) Heang is quite the trendsetter.

Have a great week, friends. Be sure to check your feet before you head out the door...

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Things Temporal

Will it last? That's what I've been asking of my surroundings the last few days.

A few days ago, English teacher Mr. Loving came into my room and looked at my poster from the First Emperor exhibit at Atlanta's High Museum of Art and asked if I saw the show? We talked about how cool it was that Qin Shihuangdi's entire tomb and the Terra Cotta army laid buried and forgotten for over 2200 years.

It was not until 1974, while digging a well, that some farmers stumbled upon the remains of the first and perhaps greatest emperor of China. The legacy of one of the richest men (and most brutal tyrants) in history laid forgotten for millinea. Except for the Great Wall, which was begun during his reign, his army of clay and opulent tomb were little more that myth and lore.

Coach Loving, who I call Dr. Loving because he's one of the most intelligent people I know, has been to China several time and actually met one of the farmers that discovered the artifacts. We both marveled at how this king, who is now believed to have amassed wealth comparable or surpassing to the Egyptian pharaohs and Roman Caesars, became a mere afterthought. Everything he built, but for an accident, was forgotten.

Babylon was the greatest city of it's time. No place on earth could compare to Babylon's wealth, prestige and might. Babylon was New York, London and Tokyo rolled into one mighty city ruled by great kings such as Sargon, Hammurabi and Nebuchnezzar. When the Old Testament prophet Jeremiah prophesized that Babylon would stumble and fall and not be raised up (Jeremiah 50), the people of the time mocked him in the same way that we would consider crazy a man standing in Times Square predicting that New York would disappear off the map.

Like Qin's treasures, Babylon became buried by dust and time. The city that boasted the Ishtar Gate and the Hanging Gardens was reduced to legend and tales. Even the site of the great city of Nebuchanezzar and where the Old Testament book of Daniel was set was unknown for centuries. How did such a great city, the center of Chaldean and later Persian culture and the site of Alexander the Great's death, just vanish? It was not until the late 19th century that archaeologists located the ruins of mighty Babylon buried in the sands of modern Iraq.

Qin and Babylon were incomparable in their time. And they were both lost or forgotten. What are the great things of our time? Which of those will last and endure?

So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen.
For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.
- II Corinthians 4:18

Monday, August 24, 2009


Sometimes, you don't tell you friends things because you don't want them to make fun of you. For example, I'm a closet Kelly Clarkson fan. Admit it, you also turn up the radio when she sings.

The other confession is that I am slowly becoming an Ochocinco fan. If you don't know, Chad Ochocinco is the wide receiver for the lowly Cincinnati Bengals. He's known for his cockiness and on field antics after touchdowns. He also legally changed his name from Chad Johnson to Chad Ochocinco (he wears number 81).

I used to think he was a self absorbed loser. I still think he likes himself, but unlike Terrell Owens, Ochocinco also likes his team. And the fans. Chad has personality and humor. Here's Sports Illustrated's Peter King, talking to Chad Johnson.

Peter King: "I'm having a lot of trouble calling you, 'Chad Ochocinco,''' I said.

Chad Ochocinco: "Just call me 'Ocho, that's not hard.''

And he can kick. He got to kick a point after in the Bengal's preseason game on Friday because the one kicker on the roster was injured. And Ocho did it well. And the ensuing kickoff was very good too, all the way to the 9 yard line. That's not bad for a wide receiver moonlighting as a kicker.

After the game, Ochocinco was pleading with the Bengals to let him handle all kicking duties. Wisely, to reduce the potential for injury to their star receiver, the Bengals said no. They signed former Wake Forest kicker Sam Swank. Asked about Swank's signing by Peter King, Ocho relied, "Totally unncecessary."

Yeah, I like this guy.


Speaking of kicking a field goal, it might be one of the hardest thing to do in team sports. A good snap needs to get to a holder who then must place the ball upright ("Laces out!" Ray Finkle is yelling) and while the kicker boots it through uprights. All this must be done in less than 2 seconds while the other 8 guys are madly blocking a rush of defenders trying to block the kick. And it's not always the kicker's fault (though in Ace Ventura, it was).

What's the gutsiest thing to do in football? Return punts. I don't mean fair catch. I mean catching, holding on to and running with the football while being covered by guys who want to knock your head off.

The most difficult thing in football? Man coverage by a cornerback. You are defensive back lined up across from Calvin Johnson, Larry Fitzgerald or Randy Moss. You must backpedal and defend a guy who is 6-4 and runs a 4.4 Forty with no help. All the rules in football favor the offense too. Your job is an uphill battle. Which is why Deion Sanders was so good. Best cover corner ever. Also best ego ever, but that's another post.

Top 10

Less than two weeks from College Football season kicking off. Here is MY preseason top ten:

1) Florida - Defending BCS Champions. Returns 19 or 22 starters, including their entire 2 deep on defense. Oh, and they got that Tebow guy.
2) Oklahoma - Sam Bradford is Mel Kiper's number 1 draft prospect for next year. He'll take the Sooners far if they can beat...
3) Texas - Big 12 will be fun to watch on offense again. Yes, they have Heisman candidate Colt McCoy, but Texas's defense might be the difference maker in this conference.
4) Southern California - Another year, another talent laden team and another top 5 for Coach Pete Carroll and the USC Trojans.
5) Ohio State - This might be a little high for the Buckeyes, but Tyrelle Pryor will have better grasp of the offense in year 2 (even if I don't believe he ran a 4.3 Forty). Will players step on defense to replace the lost All-Americans?
6) Alabama - Nick Saban is still Satan, but he can coach. As a team, I like them more than I like Ole Miss.
7) Oklahoma State - In the shadows of Austin, Norman and even Lubbock, Coach Mike Gundy has quietly assembled a Top 10 team in Stillwater.
8) Boise State - Blue field plays mind tricks on teams. Plus, they are the best non-BCS conference school this year.
9) Virginia Tech - Darren Evans going down hurts this team, but they are loaded at running back anyway. Plus, Beamerball will keep them in games.
10) Oregon - The Ducks are looking to upend the Trojans for the PAC10. Cal might have a word here also, but I like the potential for success in Eugene.

And where are my beloved Jackets? I'd say Top 15 right now. Let's see where we are at the end of the season. Hopefully playing in Jacksonville in December and then somewhere warm January.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

What we can learn from Montana

I was in Montana the same day that President Obama held his town hall in Belgrade (pop 5,728- 2000 Census), right outside of Bozeman. I took a break from listening to "This American Life" podcasts and stumbled upon a live broadcast of the town hall on AM Radio.

The highlight of the meeting was a sharp question by a Randy Rathie, who was obviously passionate about his beliefs (though I chuckled that he got his news from cable outlets because he didn't like the spin of the networks). He called Obama out and wanted to know from the President how we can pay for this without raising taxes. It was blunt and sincere.

It wasn't the question that impress me. It was the way he asked it. It was a question pointed at the president that was asked in a respectful manner. He didn't yell, kick and scream or bury his head in the sand. He asked a question and listened.

In the rhetoric on health care, the biggest loser is all us who are not privy to dialogue and debate because of ranting, baiting and fanaticism. I cannot think of many things more "Un-America" than the supression of of debate. We must have dialogue.

Health Care has to be reformed. We spend more than any other nation, but our care is not as efficient. It's an travesty that in the wealthiest nation on earth, over 15 million go uninsured. No one should have to decide between taking a sick child to the doctor or buying groceries for the week. How do we streamline health care and cut costs (cheaper does not mean worse-- an Accord is cheaper than a Jaguar, but the Jag will be in the shop most of it's life) while still providing quality services and encouraging medical companies to innovate, research and discover? These are the things we need to be talking about and working towards.

Maybe Obama's plan isn't the one. Perhaps it will die much like Clinton's did. Before it does, I would like to see us to talk about the way we insure, care for and treat ourselves in this country. An honest debate is what we need and is what we should get. Anything less would be a disservice to all Americans.

High in Sitka

I was in Sitka six days. On three straight days I got to summit some of the mountains around the town. Climbed Gavan Hill solo one day, Starrigavan with Emma the next and we were joined by Ben on Verstovia the third.

Here's what I saw (click to enlarge):

Gavan Hill (Elevation ~2500 ft)
Mt Edgecumbe
Gavan Hill Steps
Baranof Island

Starrigavan (Elevation 2875)
Emily ascending
Emily being Emily
This is a good one
209/365 - 30 July [Starrigavan]

Verstovia (Elevation 3350)
Verstovia (or is it Arrowhead?)
Top of the World!
Down to earth
Clouds rolling

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

The Golden Circle

Skagway and Haines, Alaska are only about 17 miles apart. By air. Or water.

Driving is another story. The scenic route known as the "Golden Circle" starts and ends in Alaska and in between is 360 miles of mostly road that takes you through 1 Canadian province (British Columbia), 1 Canadian territory (Yukon), 3 nifty towns (Carcross, Whitehorse and Haines Junction), thousands of feet of elevation gain and loss and a dozens of lakes, rivers and springs and dozens more mountain peaks.

Emily and I did it on bikes.

Here's the recap:

Day 1: Wednesday, Aug 5 - 65.9 total miles, 12.0 avg speed, 5:29 riding time (not including breaks)
Day 2: Thursday, Aug 6 - 43.4 miles, 15.7 avg, 2:45 riding time
Day 3: Friday, Aug 7 - 101.3 total miles, 12.8 avg, 7:54 riding time
Day 4: Saturday, Aug 8 - 65.5 miles (does not include the approx 8 miles we rode in the back of a truck through construction), 11.4 avg, 5:42 ride time
Day 5: Sunday, Aug 9 - 79.6 miles, 15.9 avg, 5:00 ride time.

The good:
- Sweet riding partner. We're close to the same ability. I'm probably faster, though Emma was always stronger at the end of the day than I was. Besides being a great riding partner, Emily was great company too. Not one moment did I think, "Man, I gotta get away for a while." I don't know of many people I can spend 5 straight days with and not tire of.
- White Pass. 3200 feet of climbing. Took us 2.5 hours to do 14 miles. But we finished and it turned out that all this dreading that I was doing for months was for nothing.
- Scenery. White Pass to Fraser is awesome. Haines Junction to Haines is spectacular.
- Emma's homemade powerbars. Secret ingredients that put em over: agave nectar and coffee.
- Met Koko. He's been biking around the world for the last three years. On his way to Argentina. I think Emily and I were both envious. Also, not 20 minutes earlier, Emma was just saying she would like to see some other cyclist since she we hadn't seen any yet. Wish granted.
- Weather. Day 5 was cold and rainy, but we had great riding weather. 4 out of 5 days of perfect weather is not bad. Plus, with the fires in the Yukon, the area needed the rain much more than we needed it to not rain.
- Mile 33 Restaurant. The food was okay. The service was very slow. But for two drenched riders on the verge of hypothermia, the first public place in nearly 90 miles was a welcome godsend. Best restaurant: Frosty Freeze in Haines Junction. Runner-up: Sticky Buns, near Carcross.
- Safety. I worried about cars. And falling off bikes and mountains. My biggest concern was not the ride, it was that one of us would get hurt. I am thankful for safety. A little soreness and tiredness, but no injuries. And we had no mechanic issues with the bikes. Pump, tubes, patch kit, spare tire went unused.

The could have been better:
- My trailer broke. It was still usable, but just sketchy. And it didn't belong to me.
- Baby powder. Should have packed it. I started chafing a little. Not going into details.
- Calories. Lesson learned is that no matter how much we ate, it was never enough. We were always famished at the end of the day. You should have seen us devour rice and beans after Day 1. If you are going to ride this far, you constantly have to eat.

Break on the way up to White Pass
Carcross Camp
Trucks only
Emma on break
217/365 - 7 Aug [Koko]
Break on Alaska Highway
Quill Creek
We made it
Haines, Alaska

Monday, August 3, 2009

Wedding Traditions

While I was in town, one of Emily's roommates was getting married and I crashed the wedding. The wedding was terrific and everyone was very gracious to a stranger from out of town. Even though the preacher tried to marry the bride to the best man and the wedding cake never showed up, it was a very joyous and fun occasion.

I've been to two weddings this summer: Dylan and Audra (the Kings, below top) in June and now Peter and Rachel (the Coils, below bottom). At both weddings, I wore flip flops to the reception. Both are also among the most fun I've been to in a while.

I was thinking of wedding traditions and there are some that I hate. Take it with a grain of salt, since I'm not really a "wedding guy" either. But I can't stand:

- The garter and bouquet toss. Silliness. Most singles don't want to be there. When's the last wedding where you saw guys pushing, shoving and diving for the garter like it was a loose football? I've never gone to a wedding and thought, "Oooh, I want to catch the garter today so I can be married soon."
- "Electric slide" and "Chicken Dance". Thankfully, the last few weddings I have been at the couple have requested these not be played. Again, I can't remember the last wedding I went to and thought, "Man, I'm gonna rock the Electric Slide tonight." Oh wait, I've never thought that.
- Just about anything involving the cake. Cutting the cake is sweet. Smashing the cake in face is tacky, except with certain people. Also, the idea of eating my wedding cake a year later has little appeal to me. I'd rather go to the Purple Onion or a seafood buffet.
- Dollar Dance with the bride. Sorry, too close to prostitution. If I ever get married, I will not be pimping my wife.

Here are some traditions I do like:
- Exchanging of vows. Yes, I know, that's the whole point. But every marrying couple does it a bit different. Some are visibly nervous. Some cry. Some laugh. But committing the rest of your life to one person, in the sight of God and all the witnesses present is quite amazing. I never tire of seeing it.
- Toasts. When they are sincere and heartfelt, I could toast all night. With or without champagne.
- Dancing with the parents. You know, it's sweet to see the groom dance with his mother. But it's even more special to see the bride dance with her father. Best dance all night.
- Decorating the car. Mostly, as a responsible groomsman, because I've been a part of this several times. As long as you follow the rules: Nothing gets broken or damaged and stay off the paint. Other than that? Marbles are fair. Balloons okay. Stuffed penguins, sure. Naked mannequins, mostly fine.

Agree, disagree? Did I leave anything off. Feel free to comment.