Chocolate Cake for Breakfast

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Letter from the Editor

Dear Mr. President,

I hear you're getting ready to take over things around here. Congratulations on the new job – I think. I hope you're ready to go to work on Day 1 without any on-the-job training because things haven't exactly been going well lately. And we haven't been too happy with the leadership or the direction they took us in.

You're looking a lot older than you once did. You've been around this business for a long time now. Some people doubt your ability to get the job done. They say we're simply holding on to the past by supporting you. They say we needed new blood, maybe even some younger blood. But there's something about you – you've made us excited. You've given us hope.

But your predecessors certainly did you no favors.

Performance ratings for our leaders have hit all-time lows the past few years, so it's hard to imagine you making things any worse. But you're not here just to maintain the status quo. A lot of people have been clamoring for change around here. They want a new direction. That's why you're here. To make some sense of the mess you've been left with.

We used to have it pretty good. But it's been a long eight years here. The late '90s seem so long ago. And the people of this great nation deserve better. We all know George W. used to run things around here, but we're not looking to the past – it's all about the future. Of course, we want things to get better in the here and now, too. But we all know the most important thing you can do is help raise the next generation that will keep this nation great for years to come.

So, good luck President Nolan Ryan. You'll certainly need it. The fans of the Texas Ranger nation salute you.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Super Week

Three days. Two Supers. Just 36 hours after basking in the glow of a Patriots' defeat on Super Sunday, I'm gearing up for another favorite pastime – election season in all it's glory. Happy Super Tuesday!

Sunday, February 03, 2008


Super Bowl XLII was supposed to be a sacrificial ceremony. New York was the lamb, and New England was the man with the knife needing to spill just one last team's blood before it's coronation as the greatest team of all time. And when Tom Brady tossed an easy touchdown to Randy Moss with 2:42 left in the fourth quarter, the Patriots had Giants' head pressed down and the knife raised. But this sacrificial lamb had other ideas. And with 35 seconds left, Eli Manning and Plaxico Burress picked the Giants up off the altar, and it was the Patriots' blood this was spilled before the football gods.

And what a sacrifice it was.

People have been trying to quantify the Patriots' place in history for months. Were they the best team the NFL has ever seen? Where does Tom Brady rank among the league's best quarterbacks? Is Bill Belichick (Spygate aside) the greatest coach of all time? And just when the media had sized all three for their crowns, the Giants reminded us how silly it is to have all that talk was before the final game has been played.

It turns out the greatest team of all time isn't even the best team this season.

The greatest quarterback of all time was bested by a quarterback previously known more for his shortcomings and his older brother.

And the best coach of all time didn't even stay on the field for the last play as the clock expired to congratulate a coach who likely had to convince his team's management why he should have kept his job after a disappointing season last year.

(Quick aside: What happened to the gray hoodie? Did the ratty, old garment finally fall apart in the wash? Maybe this fancy, red short-sleeved hoodie simply was his dress hoodie only pulled out of the closet for coronation ceremonies. Now, we might never see him without the gray rag ever again.)

I've always heard it said that people only remember the winners of the Super Bowl, not the losers. I don't think that will be the case this year. In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if people have more trouble remembering what team was responsible for putting the only blemish on the '07 Patriots' record. And that gives this Cowboys fan some satisfaction. Because I don't really want to have to dwell on the winners of this game – this is the same team who knocked the Cowboys out of the playoffs three weeks ago. But I don't think I'll forget it was the day the whole world came to crown the Patriots dynasty, but the crown everyone spent the past five months sizing for them for still ended up being a little too big after all.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Rage against the DPS

We interrupt your happy holidays for this (jaded?) rant.

My driver's license expires in two weeks. I had hopes of renewing it yesterday before I go out of town later next week. So I set out for the Department of Public Safety office a little after 2 p.m. But I did not find a waiting line, government forms and a new mugshot for the ID waiting for me. No, instead I found myself staring at my dim reflection outside of a locked glass door reading a sign that said:

"We will close at 12 p.m. Friday because of the Christmas holiday."

On Dec. 24, I would have no problem with being in this situation. Even Dec. 23 wouldn't be absurd. But I would like to point out the ridiculousness of finding myself in this situation on Dec. 21 -- four days before Christmas. What did that half day give them? An extra 5 hours to drive to their holiday vacation locations? They already had two full weekend days to get wherever they were going before Christmas Eve came around. To top it off, the office will remain closed Dec. 26. So they already were looking at a five day holiday -- Saturday through Wednesday -- before they decided they needed an extra five hours off.

Perhaps it's just me being callous because I've worked on just about every holiday in the past 16 months, but it all just seems a little excessive. I'm all for time off around the holidays. And usually it's not a problem. If one business closes shop a little early, there's some other business that probably kept its doors open. But this is a government operation. It's not like I can take my money and my driver's license to another business. Surely my state sales tax isn't going toward these peoples' vacation pay so they can take a superfluous half-day the week before Christmas. But I guess it does, and I guess I don't have much recourse. So I rant. On here. To you.

And my license continues to speed toward uselessness. Here's hoping the DPS can find a few hours to come in Thursday or Friday morning to work before they begin their New Year's holiday, which, no doubt, will extend from noon Dec. 28 through Jan. 2.

I now return you to your happy holidays.

Friday, September 14, 2007

The unPatriot

Since early in the decade, I often have said I have an irrational hatred for Bill Belichick, head coach of the NFL's New England Patriots. Since the turn of the millenium, we have seen the Patriots crank out win after win and three Super Bowl titles. Yet every time I'd see this man, I couldn't help but bristle.

My hatred never really made sense. By all accounts, he was an excellent coach. He was successful. He was low-key. And he clearly cared more about coaching football than what the public thought about his physical appearance, as confirmed by his Sunday gameday apparel — what can only be described as a homeless man's poncho (pictured above). That should have inspired me to respect him, or at least respect what he had accomplished. But all his success? Just made me tired of seeing him. His low-key nature? Just made him seem arrogant. And the homeless man's poncho? Just made him seem like, well, a homeless man. And the one thing I know about homeless men — sometimes they get desperate. As The Office's Creed Bratton once said, "The only difference between me and a homeless man is this job. I will do whatever it takes to survive — just like I did when I was a homeless man." Well if that's what defines a homeless man, then it appears Bill Belichick has more in common with a homeless man than just the poncho.
Belichick fined $500,000 by NFL for taping Jets' signals
So how long has this been going on? I just don't see any reason to believe that last Sunday was the first time Belichick has resorted to video taping the opposing teams signals. Maybe it was earlier this season. Or maybe it was 2005 -- the last year the Patriots won the Super Bowl. Or maybe it was in 2001, just before they went on to win their first Super Bowl. I don't know. I don't really care. The man cheated. Oh, he apologized. My guess, though, is that he came across as tight-lipped and unrepentant-sounding as ever. But I still feel a little better — knowing my hatred wasn't so irrational at all.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

God bless the Russians

Russian Governor Sponsors Conception Day

MOSCOW (AP) — A Russian region best known as the birthplace of Vladimir Lenin has found a novel way to fight the nation's birthrate crisis: It has declared Sept. 12 the Day of Conception and for the third year running is giving couples time off from work to procreate.

The hope is for a brood of babies exactly nine months later on Russia's national day. Couples who "give birth to a patriot" during the June 12 festivities win money, cars, refrigerators and other prizes.

Ulyanovsk, a region on the Volga River about 550 miles east of Moscow, has held similar contests since 2005. Since then, the number of competitors, and the number of babies born to them, has been on the rise.

Alexei Bezrukov and his wife, Yulia, won a 250,000 ruble prize — equivalent to $10,000 — in June after she gave birth to a baby boy, Andrei. Bezrukov said patriotism wasn't their motive for having a child, their third, although the money was welcome.

"It was a patriotic atmosphere, you know when everyone around is celebrating, but I wasn't thinking of anything but my son," he said. "The whole thing is great, it's great to get 250,000 rubles when you have a new baby to take care of."

Russia, with one-seventh of the Earth's land surface, has just 141.4 million citizens, making it one of the most sparsely settled countries in the world. With a low birthrate and very high death rate, the population has been shrinking since the early 1990s.

It is now falling by almost half a percent each year. Demographic experts expect the decline to accelerate, estimating that Russia's population could fall below 100 million by 2050.

In his state of the nation address last year, President Vladimir Putin called the demographic crisis the most acute problem facing Russia and announced a broad effort to boost Russia's birthrate, including cash incentives to families to have more than one child.

Ulyanovsk Governor Sergei Morozov has added an element of fun to the national campaign.

When he held the first competition in 2005, 311 women signed up to take part — and qualify for a half-day off from work. In June 2006, 46 more babies were born in Ulyanovsk's 25 hospitals than in June of the previous year, including 28 born on June 12, officials in the governor's office said.

More than 500 women signed up for the second contest on Sept. 12, 2006. Exactly nine months later, 78 babies, triple the region's daily average, were born. They were welcomed into the world as Russia's national anthem was played, the officials said.

Since the campaign began, the birthrate in the region has risen steadily and is up 4.5 percent so far this year over the same period in 2006, according to the regional administration's Web site.

Everyone who has a baby in an Ulyanovsk hospital on Russia Day gets some kind of prize. But the grand prize winners are couples judged to be the fittest parents by a committee that deliberates for two weeks over the selection.

The 2007 grand prize went to Irina and Andrei Kartuzov, who received a UAZ-Patriot, an SUV made in Ulyanovsk. They told reporters they were planning to have another child anyway when they heard about the contest.

Irina Kartuzova had to have a Caesarian section to deliver the baby and it was scheduled for June 12.

The selection committee chose the Kartuzovs from among the 78 couples because of their "respectability" and "commendable parenting" of their two older children, a spokesman for the governor said.

Other contestants won video cameras, TVs, refrigerators and washing machines.

Under the federal program, women who give birth to a second or subsequent child are to receive certificates worth $10,000, which can be used to pay for education or to improve the family's living conditions.

Monthly support payments were raised this year to $60 from $28.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

The Perfect Storm ...

... And I'm not even referring to Tropical Storm Erin.

Tonight was one of those nights at work where just the right number of things all happened at once and converged to create the perfect disaster of an evening. And I was just lucky enough to be on A1 duty when it happened. You see, on any given front page, you often have one big package of stories that all go together. Some of these go on the front, and the rest go on the jump page. Tonight, there were three of those packages — all on the front page. Just having one of those would have required quite a bit of work. Three was just unheard of (for me at least). I just lived through it all and don't particularly want to relive it, so I won't bore you with the details. Just know that no one died and we made deadline. Some nights, that's all you can hope for.

And then there was the real storm. This one isn't so perfect, but it is bearing down on the Coastal Bend. Tropical Storm Erin is supposed to come ashore between 9 a.m. and noon today, likely just north of Corpus. By tropical storm standards, it's a fairly week storm — winds just above 40 mph. Here on the ever-windy coast, that isn't so outrageous. What's going to get us though is the inches and inches of rain it's going to drop on an already saturated coast. Flooding is going to happen again tomorrow. It's just a question of where and if I'll drive by another submerged vehicle on the way to work. Overhead street signs were particularly helpful as I came home from work last night. People shouldn't try driving through standing water, so the signs offered this spot-on advice:

Turn around
Don't drown

Thanks road signs. I'll keep that in mind.

I'll be storm watching tomorrow morning and early afternoon before I have to head in to work. Perhaps I'll have some of my own pictures. Stay tuned ...