Friday, December 25, 2015

December 2015: Christmas Letter

In November, when it actually snowed.
     It is early Christmas morning. I am indeed the only person up and about. It is 7 am, not so early. Day has broken and it is a snowless Christmas Day in what has been a very warm December. It was over 60 degrees on the 23rd. There is no hint of snow today none on the horizon.
     We have come to associate Christmas with snow in the parts of the world where I have lived. Maybe we have had it marketed into our psyches through countless ads and holiday films. Maybe it is longevity of pagan and druid festivities on which Christmas has been overlaid that makes us want to mark the Winter Solstice with light and greenery in our homes. I often hear when friends or family move to or spend Christmas in a warmer clime, like California, say “it just doesn’t feel like Christmas.” It is odd because I do not believe that there was snow, yule logs, holly boughs, and evergreens at the first Christmas in Bethlehem. There certainly were no Gaghant Babas, Sinterklaases, or Santas around. The only gifts exchanged were from the three wise men who arrived twelve days later bearing gold, frankincense, and myrrh. 
     It is a pleasure, freshly brewed coffee at hand, to sit and pen this Christmas Letter to family and friends. 
     Two Grandsons: My friend Ara always makes fun of my Christmas letters and just about every other letter I pen. He chastises me for my “It was a dark and stormy night” opening line. Pardon the Charles Schultz and Peanuts reference, my opening tended to revolve, like in this letter, about being up before everyone else. It is usually still dark and quiet and basically a “not a creature was stirring” Clement Clarke Moore kind of morning. 
      The only sound I really hear is my friend of recent years, tinnitus, which this morning is at a higher volume than most. Whereas, I have enjoyed the solitude of this hour in previous years when my grown children were sleeping upstairs, I am listening over my tinnitus, for waking of my grandson, Vaughn Alexan, who is visiting for the first time from California. He is spending his first Christmas with us! 
      I would interrupt writing this letter the moment I hear him stir. Even though his mother, Armene, will attend to him, I want to savor every moment with him while he is here. Others my age and older had told us, when grandchildren were simply a concept to us, “wait until you have grandchildren, it is the most amazing experience.” I never told these folks, but it was not much of a revelation. It is a concept we understood very well and were totally ready to embrace. Plus, we knew this because we knew how special our relationship was with our grandparents and were totally ready to provide the same to grandchildren of our own. 
      Almost on cue, our older grandson, by just six months mind you, facetimed me. Aris Gabriel is in NY for Christmas with his parents and grandparents. It is his second Christmas. He doesn’t quite understand the concept of Christmas but has very well linked the concept of wrapped boxes that hide new things to play with. It was a great pleasure to see him and his parents just know. 
     We are blessed to have two healthy and charming young grandsons. Yes, charming. They both know, in their own ways, how to work a room as they say. But, of course, they are not working. They are being their own engaging and loving selves, happy to see people they know and even don’t know. They are inquisitive, engaging, and smiling. Better than working a room, for which their grandmothers or parents may cast a raised eyebrow in my direction, they simply light up a room more than any festive lights or Christmas tree. It is a joy. They are a joy. 
     e-letter Interruptus: Some of you have asked me about not getting my e-letter. Did I stop writing? Was there something wrong on their end? My mother, my cousin John Sharoian, and a few others were the most vocal in this regard. 
      Yes and no and yes… it is all me. 
      Since November of 2014, I have only written and distributed the February Anniversary letter. I have partially written several other letters which I do plan on finishing and distributing. 
      What happened? 
      The first speed bump happened last December. I attempted both in December of last year and January of this year to write about the racial unrest in this country. The protests in Ferguson, MO were full fledged and there seemed to be no end to the police killing unarmed black men. I tried to make sense of it. I wanted to write my own style of a middle of the road piece about something in which everyone around me seemed polarized to the extreme. I also wanted to relate this to the 100th Anniversary of the Armenian Genocide. I had big and bold plans. I tried to wrangle big and bold ideas and relate them in big and bold ways. Basically, I found myself in quicksand that I have yet to fully escape. Maybe Ara is right, I should not be concerned with providing insight to a polarized world but rather return to my forte which is the Seinfeldesque blogging about nothing, contemplating navel lint and such. 
      While I did not really get my e-letters done, I did post twenty-eight times on my This Side of Fifty blog. I started a series there, reflecting on subjects related to the 100th Anniversary of the Armenian Genocide. I am titling the posts in this series: Chidem Inch (Armenian slang for “what do I know”). 
      Secondly, it was my new job. I was in my first year as a full time college professor. I was teaching four of courses which is one more than a full load. All the courses were new. This meant I had a lot of preparation work. Also, wanting the students to have a full return on their tuition dollar, I assigned a lot of work which required a lot of grading. On top of this, there were administrative requirements I never experienced as an adjunct. I had to attend meetings (gee how I didn’t really miss these from my corporate days). I had thirty students I had to advise… after I learned how to advise. I was busy and all of this took precedence over my writing. 
     When I had a corporate job, I was able to do my writing. People always wondered how I did that. While my corporate positions were demanding, I was used to doing them and got efficient at doing them. In those days, I wrote, mostly, in the mornings, and it became a routine. I have not quite established the same as a professor. But, I am working on it. In preparation for the upcoming Fall semester, I am already ahead of the game and feel confident that I can get back into a writing groove.  
     Thirdly, I had a medical issue this summer that resulted in surgery in late July. I had a sinus surgery to basically roto-root out and the sinuses which were 50-75% blocked and correct a deviated septum. These issues made it very difficult to breathe each and every winter and more recently impossible to sleep a full night with some kind of medicine that had the letters PM at the end. 
     The issue became critical in early May. We had had a very wet early Spring that resulted in a most lush and flowery May. There was a report on the radio the radio that said that a high pollen count was like 10 (I may be way off here) and we were experiencing ten times that. While, my nose and sinuses weren’t able to breathe very well, they heard this radio report perfectly and decided to completely and totally comply. They committed themselves to function at the lowest possible level and drive me to seek medical attention. 
      I was definitely sleep deprived for the first seven and a half months of this year. It took all I had to just do my primary work. After the surgery, I have experienced the simple pleasure of breathing through one's nose and sleeping thought the night in a bed. While the condition and surgery were not anything dire, it was nothing I wish upon anyone. Two months before the surgery and two weeks after were simply a pain in the… nose. This all contributed to lack of concentration and motivation to write. 
     Lastly, everything I was writing was on a keyboard. I had moved away from pen and paper and wondered if that was contributing to my lapse in my monthly letters. I missed the personal act of handwriting compared to the impersonal word processing. So, I returned to handwriting. It was more appealing to me during my convalescence. I now carry a notebook again suitable for writing and keeping the writing organized. I always have a fine writing instrument handy as well.
     Christmas 2015: As noted in earlier Christmas Letters, I used to write a Christmas email to work colleagues and direct reports. Every year, the list grew and for some unorganized reason, I relied on memory to select who I would send the email to. I would certainly include the folks in my current department but often would forget others I had worked with. It made sense to turn that impromptu Christmas morning habit into a bona fide e-letter and blog post. It also made sense to post the link to the blog on Facebook. 
     I usually note an old Armenian American tradition where the menfolk for sure and perhaps the whole family would make a Christmas day tour to the homes of close friends and wish them well, eat some food, hoist a glass, and make a toast. I loved the idea of this and wish I could, like Santa Claus, make that tour and see everyone I know and love around the world. It would be a amazing to visit cities around the world in various climes to shake hands, give a hearty embrace (un fuerte abrazo), wish you a Merry Christmas, and toast to the health and happiness to each and everyone of you for the coming year. Which is exactly what I am doing now. 
     In my December 2004 letter, I wrote about a Bible verse that has always resonated with me and been a theme on many religiously themed Christmas cards over the years. Luke 2:14 says:
“Glory to God on the highest and Peace on Earth, Good Will Toward Men.”
     It seemed like we needed to embrace that message very much in 2004. I think we need it all the more this coming year.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Çidem İnç: Terror in Paris and Beirut

     On the way home from work, I heard a report on the radio about the multiple terrorist events in Paris.  Apparently, over 120 were killed by explosions and gunfire in what was a very coordinated, well planned, series of attacks.  Suicide bombers hit three different restaurants.  Germany was playing France in a soccer match and there were 2-3 explosions outside the stadium.  The bulk of the deaths took place at a rock concert in which gunmen entered, sprayed the venue with bullets, and then methodically executed people.
     This occurs the day bombings in Beirut killed 43 people.  This bombing was also well coordinated in the heinous way suicide bombings have evolved.  Two bombs were detonated in the same area to create maximum chaos and terror.
     I feel sick, empty, and numb.
     Who is responsible?  ISIS or ISIL or whatever they are being called took responsibility in Lebanon and I am guessing that everyone suspects them to behind the latest Paris attacks.  There is bound to be a similar attack in the US.  It seems inevitable.  In this regard, I hope I am wrong.
      I have yet to turn the television to a 24/7 news station.  I am numb and not sure I want to be shocked, awed, and numbed further by gluing myself to a news source,  I also wanted to react to these events without being influenced by the television journalism.
      It shows the resolve and vicious intent of ISIS.  They are a universal enemy to a great majority of the world.  They must be stopped.  I have no idea how they should be stopped, but they must be stopped.  The US, France, and others have to engage them directly with ground troops.  Air strikes will only do so far.  We will have to ally with Russia and others to eliminate this threat to half of Islam and the rest of the world.  We have to seriously look at our ally Turkey to see where their allegiance truly is.
     This ISIS enemy must be treated as just that:  an enemy capable of horrific acts.  They have no morality or compassion of anyone that is not them.  They are a serious enemy that cannot be taken lightly.
     The dastardly part of these attacks is an immediate realization of how vulnerable we can be in a free society.  This is nothing new to the people of Syria.  They have been living this for a few years and is why they are migrating to Europe in droves.  We have to defend ourselves.  We have to defend ourselves from overreacting in fascist and jingoistic ways that constrict our freedoms or polarize us religiously in our own countries.  That will not be easy to do especially if these kinds of attacks become more frequent.
     For many it will be easy to blame the new wave of migrants. Before this there were reports that terrorists could easily be part of the wave of migration.  Life will probably become much tougher for these migrants because of this Paris attack.
     I am not sure what the consequences of these attacks will be.  But is something that we will have to deal with.  Even before the terrorism this week in Paris and Beirut, many people think the world has been increasingly more polarized, tense, and thus scary place in recent years.
  Thoughts and prayers go out to those who perished and their families.
  Peace on Earth, goodwill to men.

Monday, November 2, 2015

Win Some/Lose Some

Lose Some
The Paul Bunyan Trophy
Win some
The Little Brown Jug
     The oval shape of a football makes it bounce funny.  On occasion it does just that.  Or it doesn't.  This unpredictable behavior add another of dimension of randomness to a game already complicated with randomness.  As readers of this blog know, I am a University of Michigan Football fan.  I live and die with the team and their results.  Randomness over the years has a lot to do with the who wins and loses the close games.  A tipped pass, a missed field goal, a made field goal, fumbles, sacks, interceptions, all play a role and often in the last few plays of the games.  I am I think I have become  much more philosophical both due to age, an understanding of the randomness I am referring to, and the humbling Michigan record from 2008 to 2014.  
      The last two games were excellent examples of both the role of random shocks in this game and a test of my supposed balanced emotions.  On October 17th, the Wolverines lost a heartbreaking game to the Michigan State Spartans on last play of the game.  Today, October 31st, we sealed a victory on the last play of the game against the Minnesota Golden Gophers.  
     Two weeks ago, Michigan lost a game, as they say, by "snatching defeat from the jaws of victory."  The Wolverines played the Spartans tough.  While MSU had more yards, time of possession, and first downs, Michigan's defense held them close.  With less then two minutes left, Michigan had the ball and a well earned 23 - 21 lead.  If they could get a first down, they would surely win.  They didn't but were able to drain the clock down to 10 seconds.  If they punted the ball deep, the would of probably won.  They didn't.  Instead our very good punter, Blake O'Neill who earlier in the game blasted something like an 80 yard punt, fumbled the snap.  He might have fallen on the ball and State would have had 8 seconds or less for one maybe two plays from the Michigan 38.  He didn't.  Instead he tried to pick it up and still get the punt off.  He didn't.  Michigan State knocked the ball out of his hands.  Jalen Watts-Jackson, a sophomore defensive back scooped up the ball and rand in for a touchdown.  No need for an extra point and the final score was 27 - 23.  The joy that was building on the Michigan side turned to gloom.  The bitter taste of loss that motivated State fans to leave the stadium turn to joy.  Everyone was shocked.  MSU kept the Paul Bunyan Trophy.
     There are youtubes of the play.  There are youtubes of completely stunned Michigan fans and grown men crying... literally grown men crying.  Meanwhile the MSU team and fans were going crazy celebrating.  This is football.  I have seen my share of last minute wins.  Sure I was disappointed, but from the very same seats I had seen my Wolverines win last minute games against Notre Dame, Illinois, and Michigan State (a triple overtime classic).  I have seen us lose to Notre Dame and Colorado.  If you follow a team long enough, you will see a fair share of triumphs and tragedies on the last play.
     I thought about writing about the Michigan State game.  I didn't.  I was busy, I did not have exactly the right angle.  I knew the angle I wanted was summarized in the previous paragraph but I just didn't get to it.  Maybe my heart wasn't in it.  Maybe I didn't want to sound whiny.  So, I didn't write a word.
     The game tonight, however, motivated me.  It was the Minnesota v. Michigan game.  Last year, Minnesota came to Ann Arbor and shellacked  the Wolverines 30-19.  It wasn't pretty.  The Golden Gophers won the Little Brown Jug for the first time since 2005.  Earlier this week, the Minnesota Head Coach, Jerry Kill, resigned for health issues.  He was a great coach who had succeeded in turning around Northern Illinois and then Minnesota.  Tracey Claeys, Kill's long time defensive coordinator, took over as head coach.  While Michigan was favored by 13 points, it was clear that the Golden Gophers would want to win this one for Jerry Kill.  They did come prepared to play.  Minnesota out rushed and out passed Michigan.  The really seemed to dominate the game.  Minnesota led at half-time 16-14.  Both teams exchanged touchdowns in the 3rd Quarter.  Minnesota added a field goal in the 4th Quarter and looked like they were going to coast to a win.  Michigan's starting QB, Jake Ruddock, was hurt late in the third quarter.  He was replaced by Wilton Speight who did not look very good in his first few series.  Things looked dire with Minnesota having a 26 - 21 lead.  Minnesota's offense seemed on fire.  Their offensive line opening holes for the impressive running of Rodney Smith and protecting QB Mitch Leidner.  They accumulated 144 passing yards and a whopping 317 passing yards on Leidners pinpoint throws against Michigan's vaunted defense.  They looked unstoppable.  The weren't.  While each Michigan score was a touchdown the Michigan Defense held the Golden Gophers to three touchdowns and three field goals.  
     Speight settled in and engineering a drive with with 5 minutes left in the quarter for a touchdown.  Michigan went for a two point conversion to prevent Minnesota from winning it with a field goal.  Michigan had a 29-26 lead.  Minnesota had a great drive with the clock winding down.  Leidner seemed to have saved his best passes for this drive.  It looked like the last pass was for a touchdown.  The officials signaled such.  But it wasn't.  Thanks to the magic or curse of reviewed plays, the ball was placed inside the 1 yard line.  The tried a pass.  Michigan pressured the quarterback who threw it away.  2 seconds left. Kick the field goal and go to OT?  Or go for it?  Tough call.  Claey chose to go for it.  Bad choice.  Michigan's defense dug in and stuffed Leidner's quarterback sneak.  Whew... we won. We won a game we could have and maybe should have lost.
     One game to the next, I experienced opposite sides of the same thing.  We lost to MSU on the last heartbreaking play and we held off Minnesota to win.  These kinds of last play of the game scenarios do not usually happen back-to-back.  But they did.  
     We won a game we should have lost and we lost a game we should have one.  The feelings are quite close.  How's that for an angle?

     Side Notes:  
  • In his touchdown run, Jalen Watts-Jackson was tackled by Michigan's tight end Jake Butts who dislocated Jalen's hip which resulted in season ending broken pelvis when he fell to the ground and/or his teammates piled on him in glee.  That was sad.  I wish Jalen a complete recovery and a return to Spartan Football.
  • Certain idiots, I cannot call them Michigan fans, threatened Blake O'Neill's life via twitter.  This is also sad.  I hope these folks seek therapy and can eventually rejoin normal society.
  • The Little Brown Jug is the oldest rivalry trophy in College Football.  Michigan has won it a majority of the time leading the series 74-25-3. The last time Minnesota won it at home was in 1977.  The last time they won it in consecutive seasons was 1961 and 1962. 
  • There were three other games I saw parts of that were decided on the last play of the game.  Notre Dame beat a feisty and determined Temple team 24 -20 with a game ending interception.  Washington State missed a game ending field goal to lose to Stanford 30-28.  The biggest last play, perhaps in a decade, was in the Duke v. Miami game.  Duke took the lead 27-24 with a few seconds on the clock.  They kicked off to Miami who had a crazy, amazing, seven lateral return that ended up in a game winning touchdown.  Great games.  I enjoyed watching them but... without the emotional involvement of living and dying for any of these teams, it was just really great entertainment.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Enough with these Shooting Rampages

     There was a shooting today.  This one took place in Roseburg, Oregon at Umpqua Community College.  The gunman, 26 year old Chris Harper Mercer, armed with three pistols and a rifle killed 10 people and wounded at least 9 though some reports had it as high as 20.  It was another shocking shooting at a school in the US.  
     We are the only country where these kinds of tragedies happen.  I am not sure what the time between shooting rampages is but these kinds of incidents happen way too frequently.  Is there anyplace else in the world where this kind of thing happens?  I am guessing not otherwise it would be reported here especially on a day like this when we are dealing with yet another shooting rampage and a tragic and shocking loss of life.  
     I was at North Park University where I teach when I heard the news.  I wondered what possesses someone like Chris Harper Mercer to do such a thing.  Why?  Why is this a uniquely American thing?   I left North Park to go to the University of Chicago for a rehearsal of the the Middle Eastern Music Ensemble.  Both campuses are relatively open and thus vulnerable to a similar attack by what I have to classify as a deranged person.  
     On the drive from North Park University to the University of Chicago, I turned on the radio and heard President Obama's passionate reaction to this shooting.  I have to agree with what he said in his remarks.  This is nothing to be partisan about.  The President speaks common sense and as a nation we need to do something about this.  It doesn't matter what you think of the President.  When he is right, he is right.  I think everyone should read the transcript of his speech and consider the wisdom his words.  Here are two paragraphs that sums up his and my reaction to these kinds of shooting rampages.
Earlier this year, I answered a question in an interview by saying, “The United States of America is the one advanced nation on Earth in which we do not have sufficient common-sense gun-safety laws — even in the face of repeated mass killings.”  And later that day, there was a mass shooting at a movie theater in Lafayette, Louisiana.  That day!  Somehow this has become routine.  The reporting is routine.  My response here at this podium ends up being routine.  The conversation in the aftermath of it.  We’ve become numb to this. 
This is a political choice that we make to allow this to happen every few months in America.  We collectively are answerable to those families who lose their loved ones because of our inaction.  When Americans are killed in mine disasters, we work to make mines safer.  When Americans are killed in floods and hurricanes, we make communities safer.  When roads are unsafe, we fix them to reduce auto fatalities.  We have seatbelt laws because we know it saves lives.  So the notion that gun violence is somehow different, that our freedom and our Constitution prohibits any modest regulation of how we use a deadly weapon, when there are law-abiding gun owners all across the country who could hunt and protect their families and do everything they do under such regulations doesn’t make sense.
     He is right.  We simply have to do something about this.

Monday, August 3, 2015

August 2015: Ohio State's Excellent Quarterback Problem

Braxton Miller, J. T. Barrett, and Cardale Jones
http://blacksportsonline.com 
      Football season is upon us yet again.  The pro camps are commencing and college media days are taking place.  It all makes me want to write about college football.  And oddly, I want to write about Ohio State.
      I am not an Ohio State fan.  Not by any means.  I am a Michigan fan and they are our great rival.  I do believe that there can be no rival without the rival and that both teams need to win about fifty percent or so to make the rivalry exciting.  Michigan has not been holding up our side of this bargain. Our latest hope is on our new coach John Harbaugh.  Michigan fans are pretty excited to the point of believing that "we're back to the glory days."  I am excited but a little reserved about making any sweeping grandiose claims since we have not even played a game yet and I got over excited by the two previous coaches .   This piece, however, is not about Michigan.  It is not about the rivalry with Ohio State.  It is simply about Ohio State and something, from my perspective, that is very unique and amazing going on down there in Columbus.
     The Buckeyes had something special going on when they hired Jim Tressel.  He won a national championship and beat Michigan regularly.  He was a great recruiter and good coach but left in disgrace given with what I will simply call the Terrelle Pryor incident.  Luke Fickell became the interim coach for a year in which the Buckeyes were uncharacteristically mediocre.  He was holding the job for Urban Meyer who took over in 2012.  Meyer has only lost three games in his tenure in Columbus and won a National Championship last year; the first year of the playoff system.
     I felt a tingle of admiration for the Buckeyes when they kept Luke Fickell as Defensive Coordinator after Urban took over.  I was impressed how they took care of their own.  Meyer could have easily insisted on bringing in his own guy.  I am not often impressed by anything Ohio State does.  But, I had to tip my hat to them on this one.
     Last year, when they won the National Championship, they used their second and third string quarterbacks all season.  Their starting quarterback was to be Braxton Miller.  He was a pre-season Heisman hopeful.  He was a great mobile college quarterback that was a better runner than a passer.  He reminded me of the great Texas quarterback Vince Young.  He was electrifying, deceptively fast, and routinely shredded defenses with both running and passing.  When he went down in the pre-season, most wondered how the Buckeyes would fare without their star quarterback.
     Ohio State began the season with J. T. Barrett, their second stringer, at quarterback.  They beat Navy 34-17 in their first game and then lost their home opener against Virginia Tech 35-21.  At this point, there was a general consensus that the Buckeyes were going to struggle the rest of the season.  Everyone who thought that was wrong including me.  J. T. Barrett, as it turns out, is a very good quarterback.  He was a better passer than a runner and he was a pretty awesome runner.  After the Virginia Tech loss, Barrett led them to nine consecutive wins putting a lot of points on the board.  Commentators were saying he might even be better than Braxton Miller.  He was definitely a much better passer.  In the last regular season game, Barrett was orchestrating a win against Michigan when he suffered a season ending broken ankle in the first play of the fourth quarter.
     With the score being Ohio State 28 and Michigan 21, the Michigan hopeful were actually thinking we might have a chance to win with Ohio State having their third string QB in the game:  some guy named Cardale Jones.  Well... on his next series it was second and fifteen and this third stringer rips off eighteen yards and looked like the best power back on the field doing it.  He continued on from there to seal the win against Michigan.
      Cardale Jones played the remainder of the season.  The Buckeyes stomped Wisconsin 59-0 in the Big Ten Championship game.  They were then selected as one of the four teams in the first ever NCAA Football Playoff Series.  Their first game was against Alabama who they beat 42-35 and then convincingly beat Oregon, with the Heisman Trophy winning Quarterback Marcus Mariota, 42-20.  The buzz was now that Cardale Jones was the best of the three... and it was hard to argue.  He ran like a tailback and passed, to me, like Ben Rothlisberger.
      They won a National Championship basically with their second and third string quarterbacks.  That is a significant accomplishment.  Take any of the top teams that were given a shot at the national title at the beginning of the season.  Then if someone were to tell you their first string quarterback would go down before the season, the second string quarterback would start the 12 regular season games only to get hurt in the 12th game, and any postseason would be using the third string quarterback.  Would anyone think this team be it Alabama, Oregon, Florida State, Notre Dame, Michigan State, Wisconsin, Auburn, Baylor, Texas, or Ohio State would have any hope of even winning their conference let alone win a National Championship?  Very few people would answer affirmative to such a question.
      Yet, Ohio State, Michigan's nemesis, did just that.  Wow.  Unbelievable.
      I discussed that with my colleague in the School of Business and Nonprofit Management at North Park University:  Professor Chris Hubbard.  Chris knows what he is talking about since he teaches leadership and played Division 1 football at Bowling Green as a tailback.  He said it was the Urban Meyer system.  While I agreed that the coaching and management system is important and Urban Meyer has a very good system, there was also a degree of luck involved in having three quarterbacks of that caliber on one team.  There are many coaches with good systems.  Nick Saban immediately comes to mind.  I do not know if Alabama would have won their conference if they had had to use their third string quarterback to do it.  We finally agreed the both the system and luck had something to do with it.
      It was most impressive what Ohio State did.  But, that is not why I am writing about them.  I am writing because all three quarterbacks are returning to Columbus.  That to me is even more amazing then anything.  The buzz was that Cardale Jones was probably going to be the starter.  This led to speculation that Braxton Miller and perhaps even J. T. Barrett might leave Ohio State to ensure a starting position elsewhere.  There was even talk of Cardale Jones opting to go pro.  None of this happened.  All three agreed to stay at Ohio State.   In this day and age of giant egos and doing best for oneself versus the team, that is even a bigger wow to me.
      Quarterbacks transferring schools has become commonplace in the past few years.  Russell Wilson transferred to Wisconsin from North Carolina State.  For the 2015 season, Evert Golson transferred from Notre Dame to Florida State and Jake Rudock transferred from Iowa to Michigan.  Some Michigan hopeful wanted to see Braxton Miller don the winged helmet, as if that was ever going to happen.
     So, why have all three of these talented quarterbacks decided to stay at Ohio State?  Any agent or financial/career advisor would have had to tell all three that their professional prospects would be heightened if they were the starter at Ohio State... or elsewhere.  I would have expected at least one of them to transfer.  But, it didn't happen.
     I asked the same question to a college coach I recently met.  He reminded me that all three players are well compensated and this contributed to their staying in Columbus.  I do not buy into this for the following reasons.  First, if there is under the table compensation, that is probably available wherever Jones, Barrett, or Miller might have considered transferring to.  Second, as argued above, their potential professional compensation would easily overshadow whatever college level compensation they are getting... especially if they were starters.   So, this line of reasoning made no sense to me.
      What makes sense, and is the astonishing part, is that they have loyalty to Ohio State and loyalty to Urban Meyer and his system.  Assuming they are making decisions based on self-interest, each quarterback believes that staying at Ohio State is their best career move even if they are not the starter.  There is something powerful and magic going on in Columbus.  Perhaps when I post this piece, others will provide theories that are more plausible than what I just stated.  We shall see.
     While they may not all start at quarterback, they may all start.  It was recently reported that Braxton Miller will be a wide receiver because that is probably where he would play as a professional.  OK that makes sense and really is not a surprise to anyone that has thought about this.
      This brings me to my final point.  Could Barrett, Jones, and Braxton all be playing at the same time?  Make Barrett the quarterback, Jones as wishbone running back along with Ezekiel Elliott, and Braxton at wide receiver.  By the way, Ezekiel Elliott is a preseason Heisman candidate himself. Three of the four are awesome runners.  Three of the four are very good passers.  Who gets the ball and what do they do with it?  How could teams hope to defend such a versatile offensive backfield and wide receiver?  Think of the reverses and double reverses with Miller, Elliott, and Jones.  Think of the run-pass options.  It is almost mind boggling.  It is like the modern manifestation of Notre Dame's Four Horsemen.
     Now platooning quarterbacks is something fans think is cool.  Coaches do not usually do it.  They do not think it is a good idea.  The quarterback position is so important that coaches want to build their offenses around the styles of one quarterback, not two, and most definitely not three.  But, coaches do not usually have this excellent talent problem facing Urban Meyer.  Barrett is a quarterback.  Jones and Miller are quarterbacks, running backs, and ends simultaneously.  Why not use their skills and drive opponents insane trying to defend against all the possibilities the Four Horsemen bring to the gridiron.  Urban Meyer is a great offensive coach.  I have to assume he has been hard at work to be able to leverage this once in lifetime confluence of talent.
     Ohio State is a preseason favorite to repeat as National Champions.  They look great on paper.  They are coming off a spectacular season.  They might be one of the best teams ever.  They might be the team of the century just like everyone was touting the Buckeye team of 1969.
     Hey a fella can dream can't he?


Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Manual Treadmills? OMG!

     There was an article in the July 7, 2015 Wall Street Journal, Treadmills Unplugged: A Gym Workout Powered by Your Feet, talking about manual treadmills gaining a foothold (pun intended) in gyms around the country.  
"Treadmills without motors, or manual treadmills, are popping up in high-end health clubs and at the CrossFit Games, an international fitness competition. Instead of pressing a button to start a mechanical conveyor belt, users make the belt go simply by moving their feet."
     Imagine powering a treadmill with one's own energy and exertion.  What a novel idea.
     Well it is not that novel an idea.  Before the fitness craze of the past thirty years, most treadmills were not powered be electricity.  Most were powered by whoever or whatever was on the treadmill.  I remember back when treadmills were becoming popular in gyms, I just assumed they were devices driven by manual power.  The only treadmills I could remember seeing were manual powered.  The idea of a treadmill driven by an electric motor seemed odd and counterproductive.
    Whatever was on the treadmill? Yes, whatever. Consider the definition of the word treadmill:
noun
1. an apparatus for producing rotary motion by theweight of people or animals, treading on a succession of moving steps or a belt that forms akind of continuous path, as around the peripheryof a pair of horizontal cylinders.
2. an exercise machine that allows the user to walk or run in place, usually on a continuous moving belt.
3. any monotonous, wearisome routine in which there is little or no satisfactory progress.
dictionary.com 
     Certainly, numbers two and three make sense.  What are they talking about in definition number one?  Consider the word treadmill itself.  One definition of tread is to walk and that makes sense since walking is one of things people do on treadmills.  Mill?  The first treadmills were not human exercise machines.  Treadmills were used to grind grain and they were powered by people or animals.  Treadmills were human and animal powered devices to generate energy for the milling of grain in places where water and wind mills were not practical or not known about.  In the 1800s, treadmills were used in prisons.  These prison treadmills, which were more like stair steppers, were used to punish prisoners while grinding grain.  These non-exercise treadmills were indeed monotonous and wearisome routines.  
     Eventually steam engines took on these monotonous tasks.  Gasoline engines and electric motors replaced steam engines.  Thus, an electric treadmill is kind of an oxymoron.  It is clear why I was confused by electric treadmills.  They didn't make sense. 
     When I was growing up and was first exposed to ecology, I had an odd notion.  Why couldn't we generate electricity by having everyone that was able, spend a half hour a day on a treadmills or bikes rigged up to harness that human powered energy?  People could exercise and perform a civic duty at the same time.  I never did anything with the idea thinking that hundreds of thousands of folks spending thirty minutes a day on a hamster wheel would never fly.  Silly me.  Clearly, my oxymoronic view of electric treadmills were rooted in this sophomoric notion of mine.
     NordicTrack makes a full line of aerobic exercise machines.  Their business began with a very simple, small footprint, and elegant (in minimalist Scandinavian way) cross-country skiing device.  There was definitely no electricity involved.  If memory serves me correctly, they followed up the success of their skiing product with a manual treadmill.  Their treadmill had many of the same simple and elegant design features as their skiing machine.  While the skiing machine was popular and made both profit and a name for company, the treadmill was not.  Looking at the NordicTrack website today, all of their treadmills are powered.  They had to follow the market.
     Of course electric treadmills make sense.  The first were used in medical facilities to get patients heart rates up very quickly and efficiently for stress tests.  Patients probably exclaimed, "that was quite a workout."  Folks who were better at commercializing ideas than I am, ran with it (yes, another intended pun).  The purpose of a treadmill is too get a good workout, not to generate energy to drive other machines.  Plus, manual treadmills were just too hard as the human was required to get it up to speed and keep it there... just like real running.
     Manual treadmills were too hard.  I tried one once.  It was even more monotonous and wearisome.  My pace was uneven.  Electric treadmills was easier.  They were easy to get a good workout.   There are programs to vary the pace and incline as well as tracking heart rates.  For me, I gravitated to stationary bikes.  Besides preferring biking to running, I liked that electronics on these machines were generated by the rider. 
     So, we have come full circle.  All things old are new again.  As folks are looking for more extreme and vigorous workouts, the manual treadmill is gaining popularity.  Perhaps we can hook them up to the electric grid...
     
      

Monday, June 15, 2015

Chidem Inch: Sedition Medition!

Not sure if this is an actual quote...
but it could have been.
     Some days, it is unclear what I should write about.  Other days, the topic is handed to me on a silver tray as on June 3, 2015.  There was an article in a Turkish Newspaper,  Hurriyet Daily News, with the headline:  "'Journalists, Armenians, gays are ‘representatives of sedition,' Erdoğan says."  Well thank you President Recip Tayyip Erdoğan.
     Needless to say, as too often is the case with Erdoğan, I felt a combination of being offended and amused.  It is bad enough, our last name means infidel in Turkish.  Now, being Armenian, I am a representative of sedition as well?  Sedition?  I was not sure what that exactly meant but I know that if Erdoğan was using the word to describe Armenians, gays, and journalists, it was not a compliment. Per merriam-webster.com. sedition is "the crime of saying, writing, or doing something that encourages people to disobey their government, incitement of resistance to or insurrection against lawful authority."
     I can not speak for the gays and journalists, but dang, Recip nailed it with respect to the Armenians.  We do exactly that.  Our lives, especially in the Diaspora are 110% dedicated to encouraging people to 'dis' the government of Turkey.  We most definitely are inciting both resistance and insurrection (dang, I may have to look this word up too).  It is a long standing plot of the Armenian people.  As a nation and race of people, we were directionless for the early part of our history.  Sure, we adopted Christianity, created an alphabet, built lots of cylindrical domed churches, and even had a golden age of sorts.  But, on those very rare occasions when we are honest with ourselves, we had no direction until...
      Our national goal became clear when the Ottomans conquered us in the early 1600s.  We knew almost instantly that our raison d'etre was finally revealed.  It was our job to be irritating agents of sedition to any and all Turkish governments.  We purposely allowed ourselves to be conquered by the Ottomans.  Cunning as we Armenians are, we allowed the Ottomans to treat us as second class citizens for centuries.  We fooled Talaat, Enver, and Djemal Pashas into orchestrating the 1915 Genocide basically tricking the Turks into confiscating Armenian lands, businesses, and monies.  All of this was just a ruse.  They were putty in our hands, puppets at the end of strings we held.   
      What a plan.  They never knew what hit 'em.  But, we didn't stop there.  We had them enacting Article 301 of the Turkish Penal Code making it a crime to insult Turkishness.  You don't believe this?  Look at the number, 301, the very year Armenia adopted Christianity as the state religion. Bwah- haha!  Enough?  No way, we just keep working at our national sport.  We even had Kemal Ataturk establish the Presidential Palace in the villa of one Ohannes Kasabian.  The mansion, known as Çankaya Köşkü, might or might not have been bugged.  For sure, we buried treasure underneath the floors.  Saroyan was not quite correct, for every time two Armenians met, we were not creating a new Armenia but rather laughing about the Turkish President sleeping unbeknownst atop of gold buried in the floorboards.  Çankaya Köşkü served as the Presidential Palace until the last piece of our master plan was put in place.  The code name for this last mission was Djermag Pigh.  Our agents convinced Erdoğan to build a new palace, Ak Saray or White Palace, the was so expensive and so ostentatious that it cost his party the election on June 7, 2015:
Turkish voters delivered a rebuke on Sunday to President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan as his party lost its majority in Parliament in a historic election that thwarted his ambition to rewrite Turkey’s Constitution and further bolster his clout.   ~ New York Times
     I will freely admit, as the self-appointed representative of Armenian infidel seditionists, that the gays and journalists could not have done this without us.  While they are wily and clever too, they needed our 400 year plan to humiliate Erdoğan and the AKP party in this most recent election.  
     The only thing that mystifies me is how Erdoğan found out we were part of this.  There must have been a leak within our ranks... unless, of course, we leaked it on purpose.  Alas, Erdoğan will never know.  Poor sap.

Friday, June 5, 2015

Answering Debbie: Why I am Driving a Toyota

     My car needed service.  I took it to a dealership on the way home from North Park University.  While waiting for my car, I noticed a poster of a photo I have seen before.  It is an old black and white photo in Grand Central Terminal with the sun pouring in through, I believe, the window on the east side of the building.  I took a photo of it and posted it on Facebook with the this message:  "A surprising photo to find hanging from the Toyota dealership in Lincolnwood, Illinois. Immediately, I felt a pull to whatever New York State of mind I thought I once had."

     A friend from Burns Elementary School, who now lives in Texas, made the following comment:  "That is a great pic, but how could you be from Detroit and be shopping for a Toyota?"
     I started reply and after about three hundred words, I decided I was writing a blog post.  So, here we are with my response to Debbie.


-- o --

     Well good question Debbie.  
     It is a question I am still sensitive to as I do care for both the city of Detroit and the people I know that work in the auto industry. 
     When I worked in the auto industry, I exclusively bought American.  Not only that, I exclusively bought Fords because that is where I worked.  I kept buying Fords even after I left Ford and worked for automotive parts suppliers TRW and Rockwell International.
      Because I began my career in quality, I knew that Toyota made better cars at that time. Fact. Period.  My first ever business trip was to visit dealerships that sold both Fords and Toyotas.  We were putting together a database so Ford could actually quantify the warranty repairs for their cars versus Toyotas.  In opening a file drawer, back then such information was not digitized as it would be today, we could tell immediately which folders were for Ford vehicles and which were Toyotas.  The Toyota folders were visibly much thinner.  Without any analysis, I knew that Toyotas simply had significantly less repairs than Ford cars and trucks.  It made a huge impact on me.  
     When I left that industry and became just a consumer,  I moved to Connecticut and worked in New York City.  Yet, I kept buying American cars out of a sense of duty and loyalty that I believe Debbie was invoking with her question.  Out of curiosity and getting a very good deal, I bought in 1994 Camry. Wow. Night and day difference. It was a great car.  It is arguably the best Camry vintage ever made.  I still kept buying myself American but I bought my wife Toyota sedans and then Lexus SUVs. 
     I bought myself two Chevy Blazers. They were OK.  Not great, just OK. I liked them well enough until they started to become very costly rattle traps at about 70 - 80K miles.  That was my expectation for American cars and they lived up to that low expectation.  After the two Blazers, I bought a 2002 4Runner. Again, it was simply a better SUV.  It is 2015 and I still have it. It has 146k miles and runs well. I plan on keeping it till it has at least 250K or maintenance costs more than $4000/year as that starts to equal the very low end of a new car.  It was an oil change and replacement of an air fuel sensor bank that took me to the Toyota dealership where the Grand Central Terminal poster was hanging.
     My auto buying choices are personal and have proven to be sound economic decisions.  My choices are not why Detroit and the auto industry failed.  General Motors and Ford failed me.  
      Regarding the downfall of Detroit, there were many contributors.  It was the auto industry, changing racial demographics, awful local governments, and white flight to name a few. I haven't lived in the city of Detroit since 1969 and the metro area since 1990. Debbie could have easily asked me why I left Detroit, but as she no longer lives there herself she knows the answer. Economic opportunity took me elsewhere. That move to Connecticut was the best single career decision I ever made. Sure, I miss people and places in the metro Detroit.  It was tough to leave but I did and it ended up being a good thing.
      As for the US auto industry?  To me the answer is inept corporate leadership at all three. They were unable to marshal their corporate talent to build vehicles that could cost effectively compete on design and performance quality with foreign automakers. It is that simple.  Look at the market share graph.  It speaks of epic management failure.  In the late 1960s, the Big Three had almost 90% of the US vehicle market share.  They are under 50% now.  This does not happen because they had sound strategies, excellent product development, and world class manufacturing.  
     This is pretty much how the rest of the world looks at the US auto industry leadership.  I do believe folks in Detroit might admit to it now too.  Since the shock of the Great Recession, it seems that the Ford and GM may finally have have management in place who have restructured and retrenched the companies to produce cars and trucks that can compete globally.  There is a great book, American Icon by Bryce Hoffman, on the transformation engineered at Ford by Alan Mulally who joined the company in 2006 and recently retired.  While the book is about the past ten years, it captures the ingrained feudal culture that paralyzed the US auto industry.  
      Sure I no longer buy American cars.  But, my loyalty continued past my employment with three car purchases which were not as fulfilling as any Toyota or Lexus product I have purchased.  I am not talking about toothbrushes, computers, or TVs.  We are talking about cars that, next to our homes, are our largest  purchases.  Should I spend $40K for a car that will last maybe 100K miles that costs me more to maintain and has lower quality out of loyalty?  Should, I continue to shop at Sears just because they are a Chicago icon and that is where I live now?  No.  Companies have to earn and retain customer loyalty... not expect it.
      Here is a quote on Toyota from Alan Mulally from circa 2006 (American Icon, page 130):  
They make products that people want, and they do it with less resources and less time than anybody in the world.  They're a magical machine.  This system of continually improving the quality, putting the variations into the product line that people want  and doing it with minimum resources and minimum time is absolutely where we have to go.  If you at Ford, it's the antithesis.
     I look forward to the day when Ford or GM lures me back as a customer.
     Sorry for the long winded reply to your simple question Debbie.

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Stand Up Desks

     The first time I ever heard about a stand up desk was when I read about the CEO of Schneider National sometime back in the 1990s.  It seems that Don Schneider worked at a standing desk because he was believed it made him more alert and created a greater sense of urgency.  I was intrigued and never forot reading that because no one I knew had or worked at a stand up desk. 
     What is a stand up desk?  Historically, they were not so rare.  Think of the Bob Cratchit desk without the stool.  Think of the maitre'd desk at many restaurants.  They especially make sense for restaurant seating staff as they need to be eye to eye with customers, they are always moving, and thus getting into and out of a chair is wasted time and motion.
     A few years ago, I heard about them again from my son.  He had gotten one in his office and just loved working standing up.  He told me that they were now fully electric and could be raised and lowered by a switch.  I did what I normally do in such situations:  I Googled it.  There were a few companies making such desks that ranged from a few hundred to a few thousand dollars depending on the size and features.  The web search also revealed numerous articles touting both the evils of sitting in a chair all day long and the health benefits of working on one's feet for at least four hours a day.  
There's an emerging body of research that suggests sitting down all day at work, then sitting in front of the TV at home, can heighten the risk of serious illness, such as cardiovascular disease, cancer and other ailments, and premature death.

Physical inactivity has been identified as the fourth-leading risk factor for death for people all around the world, according to the World Health Organization.  ~ CNN Money 
 
     At that time, I was working out of my home office for both my consulting projects and adjunct teaching. There was no way to justify replacing the desk in my study which was a piece of furniture with one of these desks that would never pass the decor standards of my dear wife. I pursued the idea no further... that is until I began my full time position at North Park University.       I have an office at North Park.  It is, how shall I say it, not very big:  7' x 10.5'.  It is small.  I could get all the hand-me-down furniture available in the basement of the house in which the School of Business and Nonprofit Management was located.  I thought about getting one of those cool electric stand up desks but given the plentiful amount of surplus, i.e. free, furniture and a department furniture budget which was smaller than my office, I didn't ask for a $2000 stand up desk.  
      My office is functional.  The only thing I really wish I had was more desk space which is a spartan 4' x 2.5'.  Next to my desk is an empty square space of 2.5' x 2.5' which I knew should be better utilized somehow.  I thought of getting a bigger desk but facilities has not been the most responsive as they are understaffed and the fact that I already have a desk.  I then thought about buying something myself an end to table for storage and desk extension.  I looked around and could never find anything that was suitable from the criteria of price, dimensions, and style.  So, I did nothing.
     A month ago, I was in an office supply store and walked by the furniture section and saw an offering of stand up desks of varying sizes a few of which looked small enough and reasonable priced to be candidates for my empty space.  I wrote down the dimensions and basically did nothing for a month as it was the end of the semester exam and grading time.  One of the small stand up desks, actually it was really a stand up table, looked like it would fit.  It was not electric but could easily be adjusted.  It cost $200 which was at the upper limit of what I wanted to spend.  
     Before buying the desk, I looked online.  There were a lot of stand up workstations between $60 - $350.  While the dimensions were provided, I did not want to buy anything I could not see, touch, and ensure worked to my satisfaction including the maximum height of the work surface.  I stopped at another office superstore just to see what was available from them.   They had a very study stand on which I could easily use as a computer while standing.  If I lowered it, I could use it as a text book stand.  Best of all, it was the last one and priced to go at $100.  I bought it. 
     It is the stand in the photo.  It is a perfect size of my workspace.   As my first stand up activity, I wrote and posted this blog.  I am so trendy.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Deflategate


From sports-rings.com:  Patriots Super Bowl Ring Parody
    Yesterday, it was all over the news that Robert Kraft, owner of the New England Patriots, announced that the Patriots would accept the punishment handed down from the NFL in regards to the under-inflated football scandal.  The Patriots will be fined $1 million, lose two draft picks, and Tom Brady will be suspended for the first four games of next year.  Brady is, however, appealing his suspension.  There has been almost no limit to the interpretations of Krafts acceptance of the penalty in the press.  For me, it is Kraft cutting his loses, realizing that there is probably no defense for what they did, and moving forward.  There might have even been a negotiated settlement for both the NFL and the Patriots to put this behind them quickly.
     Let me state that I am a Patriots fan.  I am not a live and die fan as I am for the Michigan Wolverines, but I generally like both head coach Bill Belichick and Tom Brady.  They have accomplished some great things.  Belichick has coached in 31 post season games (29 of them with the Patriots).  He has won 22 of them (21 with the Patriots).  Brady was his quarterback for most of those.  They have been in five Super Bowls together and have won four of them.  This is quite impressive.  I like Belichik because he is a great strategist.  He is a great strategist, first, in terms of continually refreshing his roster and thus always be competitive.  Secondly, given time, no one prepares better game plans the Bill Belichick.  I am a Brady fan not only because he went to Michigan but more so because I was not high on him when he was there.  I guess I am compensating and reveling in his remarkable NFL legacy.
     Deflategate is not the first cheating issue the Patriots have been accused of.  There was the Spygate scandal of 2007 when the Patriots were caught taping and deciphering the New York Jets defensive signals early in that season.  One transgression might be forgivable.  Two?  That could be a trend or the tip of the iceberg.  I am still reeling from the disintegration of my admiration for Lance Armstrong and would hate to see a repeat of that.  I really don't want to have to say, "Say it ain't so Bill.  Say it ain't so Tom."
      Yet, football at this level is war.  Even more so, it is big business with big egos who want the brass... er... gaudy gold and diamond ring.  There are those that will do whatever they think they can get away with to increase their chances of winning.  I am not condoning it but stating what has to be an obvious fact.  That is why there is a league with rules.  That is why there are referees in the games.  That is why there are league officials that review records and game films.  They want enforce the rules.
      To me, the NFL has some responsibility here.  There is a term we bandy about almost without thinking about it:  A level playing field.  In sport, if the playing field is not level, it could favor one team or the other.  The way sports like football get around it by switching sides so both teams has the same amount of time with the field, wind, and sun being either an advantage or a disadvantage.  When it comes to the footballs themselves, the NFL has fumbled.  Why would they allow each team to have and manage their own balls that they use on offense?  There should be a game ball.  It should be in possession and control of the referees to ensure it is a regulation ball and properly inflated.  The same ball should be used the entire game with strict rules of when, why, and how it can be changed during the game.  I, for some naive reason, assumed this was the way the sport was run and thus did not full get what all the fuss was about when the Deflategate story first broke.  Basically, the NFL needs to make it close to impossible for this to ever happen again... by simply leveling the playing field.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Letterman

     Tonight is David Letterman's last show on CBS.  At 68 years old, he is calling it quits after over 35 years as a late night television host.  It is certainly a retirement worth noting as David Letterman has been a late night icon longer than even Johnny Carson who hosted the Tonight Show from October 1, 1962 to May 22, 1992.  David Letterman began his run with NBC on February 1, 1982 with Late Night with David Letterman.  The show came on after the Tonight show.  Late Night with David Letterman ran until June 25, 1993 when David left NBC for CBS to host The Late Show with David Letterman.  The NBC show ran from August 30, 1993 until tonight, May 20, 2015.
     It was assumed that Letterman would have gotten the Tonight Show hosting when Johnny Carson retired.  Letterman paid his dues following Carson for 11 years on NBC.  It seemed natural Letterman would get the job.  He did not.  When Jay Leno was named as Carson's successor
     For most of Letterman's late night career, I lived in the Eastern Time Zone.  That meant the Late Night with David Letterman came on at 12:30 on weeknights.  While I was only in my thirties, I did get up early for work and thus rarely watched the show.  On the rare occasions when I did watch it, I thought Letterman was hilarious.  We moved from Detroit to Connecticut in 1990 and the story was basically the same.  When he moved from NBC to CBS in 1993, I watched The Late Show with David Letterman religiously every night that I wasn't traveling.  I watched it in bed from the opening monologue to the Top Ten List.  It was fabulous.  My closest friends at work used to watch the show the show.  We would talk and laugh about his one liners and his Top Ten lists.  He was very fresh, timely, and very New York. We seemed to be the right demographic for the show.  It was almost as if we could not get enough and we couldn't.
      It took a year or two, but I finally figured out that The Late Show with David Letterman was taped in Manhattan at the end of my work day.  So, I sent in a letter and asked for tickets.  I did this a couple of times and actually got to go on the show twice.  It was pretty cool.  I loved being in the Ed Sullivan Theater.  I could not believe how small the set and theater were compared to what it seemed like on the TV.  I remember enjoying the show but, oddly, for the life of me, I cannot recall the guests. 
     David Letterman lived in New Canaan, CT.  We lived in the next town over in Wilton.  I remember seeing Letterman, on Spring and Summer Saturday mornings, driving through town in bright red Ferrari.  Very cool.
     Yes, I religiously watched The Late Show with David Letterman.  I religiously watched it from from the first day it aired on CBS.  After a few years, something happened.  Either I aged past the show's target demographic or, dare I say it, it started to get stale and repetitive.  I slowly lost interest and in recent years have rarely watched him nor have I watched any late night talk shows.
      Because of how much I loved his show for a few years, I will certainly watch his final show tonight.   As Bob Hope would say and sing, "Thanks for the memories." 

Some favorite Letterman moments:
  1. Carson as a guest on Letterman
    Love the first 1:35.
  2. Letterman working the drive thru at McDonald's
  3. Adweek's 10 Best Top 10 Lists

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Legends of Football

    OK, let me step away from the 100th Anniversary of the Armenian Genocide and address another favorite subject of mine:  Football.  You are probably thinking, "Yeah, he is going to write about Harbaugh and Michigan, return to glory, blah, blah, blah."  No, I am not going to write about Michigan Football and their energetic, enigmatic, and very well compensated head coach.  I am  writing about something different and something new.  Well, it is new to me.
     I am a bit of a TV junkie.  Being part of the first generation that grew up with TV, it has always been fascinating and captivating.  There is the warm glow of the screen that is a window to the world.  It is also a window to a world where everything is reconciled in either thirty, sixty, or ninety to one hundred and twenty minutes i.e. sitcoms, TV crime shows, and movies.  When football is not front and center, I am surfing the channels and channel guides for a movie I may not yet have seen or perhaps one that I have seen countless times.
     I was surfing the other night... very late night.  The channel guide offered something called Legends of Football.  I thought "Hmmm, this could be educational."  Rather than hit INFO to see what I was in for, I hit OK/Select.  I expected to see a documentary on Y. A, Title, Archie Griffin, Jim Brown, or Joe Namath.  Maybe it would be about legendary rivalries like the Packers and Bears, Harvard and Yale, or perhaps Bo vs Woody.
     I could not have been more wrong.
     It was not Legends of Football as I had misread but rather Legends Football. Legends Football is an Arena Football League.  I have watched a little Arena Football which is football that is basically played on a hockey rink sized field covered with astroturf.  I have never watched more than a few minutes because it is... not my cup of tea.  It is not footbally enough to hold my "let me see what else is on TV" attention span.
     Legends Football, however, is not your grandfather's Arena Football League.  No Siree.  The players are all girls.  The Legends Football League is the Arena Football equivalent of beach volleyball.  We are talking athletically fit women in bikinis.  Football in bikinis?  I kid you not.  Their uniforms are bikinis with
shoulder pads and what appeared to be hockey helmets.  It was 2 am in the morning, I was not sure if the game I was watching that pitted the Chicago Bliss against the Atlanta Steam was real or a parody.  
     It is a real league.
     The Legends Football League was founded in 2009 by Michael Mortaza who continues to run the enterprise.  It was, not surprisingly, first called the Lingerie Football League.  The idea was born out of a Super Bowl halftime event called the Lingerie Bowl on some pay-per-view channels.  When it was founded, the players actually wore bikini lingerie.  In 2013, the league decided to rebrand itself to be taken and respected more.  The decided to don the more modest uniforms shown in the photos here.  If the new uniforms are more modest, you can see why I might think this is all a parody. I found articles claiming that the wages were horrible and players were suing the league because the league thwarted their efforts to unionize.  I tried to find out how the league and teams were doing financially.  That web search yielded nothing.  
     I did go to the Chicago Bliss website to find out how much tickets were going for.  I got a "website unavailable" screen.  Ticketmaster wanted to sell me two tickets to the next game against the Atlanta Steam for $76.30 each.  Wow... this is more expensive than I had expected.  One articledid say that the Atlanta team was drawing 2500 - 3000 people per game and that was enough to breakeven.
      OK... we are talking small potatoes in terms of attendance and finances.  This explains the fact that I ran across a game at 2 am.  I only watched it for like five minutes max.  I was totally in awe in how such an inane concept became an actual business.  I then changed the channel to see whatever else was on TV.  Cheesecake aside, I would have probably found an infomercial for a revolutionary weed whacker more interesting.  As I surfed away from the Ladies of the Gridiron two thoughts crossed my mind:
  1. Political correctness is applied haphazardly.
  2. Where have all the feminists gone?
  3. There is only 127 days to the start of Michigan football.
      



     
   

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Chidem Inch - The G Word

Chappatte Cartoons FB page
Patrick Chappatte is an editorial cartoonist for The International New York Times
     Armenians and Turks are split on many issues regarding their shared history.  Depending on how one looks at it, there is a case to be made for the vortex of this disagreement to be about the G word:  Genocide.  
     Per the United Nations, their Legal Definition of Genocide is:

Genocide is defined in Article 2 of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide (1948) as "any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such: killing members of the group; causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group; deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part1; imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group; [and] forcibly transferring children of the group to another group."
     Armenians believe what happened beginning on April 24, 1915 was a Genocide. The Turkish Government has evolved over the years but still shies away from using the G word. Their defense began with "What?  Nothing happened... what?" When that no longer worked, they tried to paint the Armenians as having massacred more Turks than Turks killed Armenians. That really did not work much better. Now, in the Erdogan era, their line is that it was a horrible time of war, both sides suffered, and there is a shared pain and loss. While this is a huge move for the Turkish Government, but it is not enough for the Armenians. Our way of life in our ancestral homelands was abruptly ended. Those who were not killed, starve to death, or Islamified were scattered around the world. 
     On April 12th in Rome, Pope Francis presided over a mass and memorial service for the Centennial. Catholicos Karekin II of Echmiadizin and Catholicos Aram I of the Great House of Cilicia were present and participated in the service. In his homily, Pope Francis said that what happened to the Armenians was Genocide.  Basically, the Turkish Government bristled.  Maybe flipped out is a better word.  I am sure in private conversations Erdogan, Davutoglu, and Cavusoglu may have even bestowed my last name to Pope Francis.  President Tayyip Erdogan dressed down the Pope in no uncertain terms.  Per NBC News:
Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan condemned Pope Francis on Tuesday for comments that the 1915 mass killing of Armenians was genocide, warning him not to make such a statement again.  

"We will not allow historical incidents to be taken out of their genuine context and be used as a tool to campaign against our country," Erdogan said in a speech to a business group. "I condemn the pope and would like to warn him not to make similar mistakes again."
     The very next day, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon,via a spokesman, labelled "the slaughter of Armenians by Ottoman Turks 100 years ago 'atrocity crimes,' but he isn't supporting Pope Francis' description of the killings as 'the first genocide of the 20th century.'" (NY Times)  While Erdogan's outrage seemed to bolster the Pope's view, at least from an Armenian perspective, Ban Ki-moon's statement had no visible impact on anything I read.  Neither Armenians nor Turks seemed to react to this.  Perhaps it is because no one really knows or cares who the Secretary General of the UN is (take that Ban Ki-moon).  Many Armenians just assume that he was a paid dupe of Turkey and the US who also refuses to use the G word.
     One side or the other is going to have to give up their position on the G word.  The New York Times cartoon kind of nails it from the Armenian perspective.  What happened could not possibly be Genocide because Raphael Lempkin had yet to define the term.  It seems the Turkish Government could claim a grandfather clause, "How could you possibly call that Genocide?  Heck if they had known it was going to be considered a crime, Talaat, Djemal, and Enver probably would not have done it."
     Yes, one side or the other is going to have to give up their position on the G word.  Likelihood of that happening? Your guess is as good as mine.