Thursday, May 29, 2008

I'm feeling good about Tennessee Volunteer football in '08

It is still more than three months until the Tennessee Volunteers play their first football game (at UCLA on Sept. 1), but I have to admit that I am feeling really good about the team.

Despite all the turmoil surrounding last year's team, we still won the SEC Eastern Division and came within a couple of plays of winning the conference title. We have a lot of experience at every position on offense except quarterback. However, Jonathan Crompton looked good in spring practice, and I like what I've seen from new offensive coordinator Dave Clawson.

On defense, we have to develop more depth in the defensive line. If we can do that, the defense will bounce back this year because the secondary and linebackers should be solid units.

I was skimming the early college football magazines the other day when getting groceries, and nobody is giving us a chance. Most are picking us to finish third in the division and have us ranked in the lower half of the Top 25. Call me crazy, but I think we're better than that.

There will be plenty of time to write more on this in the coming weeks, but I have a feeling this may be the Vols' year. Not just to repeat as divisional champion, but to win the conference.

Then again, all fans are optimistic this time of year.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Now it's time to feel guilty about being out of shape

Recently, a 76-year-old Nepalese man reached the summit of Mount Everest becoming the oldest person to ever do that. Everest is the tallest mountain in the world and is 29,035 feet high.

First of all, congratulations to that man. A young man would have to be physically fit to do that so for a person of his age to do it is an even more impressive accomplishment.

However, his achievement is making me squirm in my seat a little bit. Even if I had the desire to do so, there is no way my physical condition would let me climb that mountain. Right now, I get a rapid heart beat by walking to the mailbox. I break into a sweat when taking a shower.

Summer is almost here. There is no excuse not to exercise.

People, get off the couch and get to work.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Make the most of Memorial Day

For many of us, this is a three-day weekend because of the Memorial Day holiday that falls today.

This holiday means different things to different people. For many, Memorial Day is considered the unofficial start to summer. Cook outs in the backyard and spending time with friends and family will be the agenda for most folks on Monday.

Additionally, many people will be hitting the road to enjoy a little relaxation out of town. Despite our grumbling about gas prices, most will not let this interfere with plans to travel.

Of course, there is nothing wrong with this. Life is quite hectic, and it should be considered a blessing whenever we can all pause and relax for a day.

However, it is important that we don't forget why we are observing this holiday. More and more, it seems like we view our holidays as a reason to get festive without any real focus on why the holiday was set aside in the first place.

In the case of Memorial Day, this holiday was established to recognize the men and women who have given their lives serving our country in the military. The number of people who have done this is staggering.

More than one million have died while serving during wartime, according to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. More than 400,000 died during World War II alone.

If those numbers don't make you pause and think, I don't know what will.

Obviously, our country's history would have been quite different if these people had not been willing to make this sacrifice. Without their commitment, monsters like Adolf Hitler would not have been stopped.

If Hitler had led Germany to victory in World War II, all of our lives would be much different. We certainly would not have been able to experience the wild, animal luxury that most of our lives are.

I recently watched the film Saving Private Ryan, which graphically re-enacted the storming of Normandy Beach during D-Day.

Before you say it, let me beat you to the punch. That was only a movie and there is no way it could have captured what the event was really like.

I agree with you.

However, if the film only captured one-tenth of what it was like, then it should provide us insight into what our soldiers have sacrificed for the cause of freedom. The horror of that event played a major role in allowing us to live the lives we are enjoying now.

If nothing else, this should make us all ponder how we are using the freedom these people fought and died for.

It is easy to take our freedom for granted. I know I do it all the time.

It is easy to fall into the trap of thinking that our freedom can never be taken away from us. After all, we are the powerful United States of America.

There are lots of threats to the freedom we enjoy, but complacency could be the one thing that eventually brings our country down.

It is part of our human nature to take things for granted, and if we do that with our freedom, we will one day wake up and wonder where it has gone.

So, on Monday, spend some time considering the sacrifices many have made for our country.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

'Politics of fear' alive and well in Campaign '08

One way to win people's votes is to scare the daylights out of them. It is a common practice used by both Democrats and Republicans.

Illinois Sen. Barack Obama recently provided an example of this in our presidential race. Talking to a group of seniors he said that Arizona Sen. John McCain would threaten the social security that they depend upon because McCain supports privatizing the program. In other words, if McCain is elected president, old people need to be very afraid. Read the rest of the story by clicking here.

Obama has positioned himself as the candidate of 'change' and 'hope,' but this example shows he can be a negative campaigner when it suits his needs. I don't mention this to be critical. I only mention this because this side of his approach does not get reported on much.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

The duality of man

My spiritual side longs to serve and please God in all that I do.
My fleshly side longs to serve and please myself no matter what the cost.

My spiritual side loves to lift up and support other people.
My fleshly side is only interested in what they can do for me.

My spiritual side cultivates kindness, gentleness, and forgiveness.
My fleshly side embraces abrasiveness as a tool that manipulates others.

My spiritual side is disciplined enough to obey traffic laws.
My fleshly side loves to zoom like the wind with no concern about how it endangers other motorists.

My spiritual side is patient with those who live near me.
My fleshly side wants no neighborhood children playing in my yard. Ever!

My spiritual side knows I am a unique creation of God.
My fleshly side thinks I am just another cog with no special purpose.

My spiritual side knows God wants an active role in my life.
My fleshly side wonders whether He really hears me at all.

My spiritual side understands the need for moderation.
My fleshly side believes there is nothing wrong with that fourth piece of chocolate cake.

My spiritual side wants me to open my heart and let others see who I am.
My fleshly side wants to keep people at arm's length.

My spiritual side loves to attend a worship service and praise Jesus.
My fleshly side loves to sleep late on Sunday and watch ESPN in bed.

My spiritual side looks at the hobo on the side of the road and wants to help.
My fleshly side believes he is getting what he deserves.

My spiritual side teaches me to be content with what I have.
My fleshly side wants the green grass on the other side.

My spiritual side prays for our leaders in government.
My fleshly side wants to set everything on fire and smile while watching it all burn to the ground (but then again, there is a time for everything).

My spiritual side is grateful for modern conveniences.
My fleshly side wonders whether the restaurant meal I just ate for $12 was slapped together in a microwave.

My spiritual side understands the need for humility.
My fleshly side believes I have a higher IQ than everybody in Alabama combined.

My spiritual side enjoys giving.
My fleshly side is selfish in unspeakable ways.

My spiritual side runs to the Light.
My fleshly side crouches and rests in darkness.

My spiritual side understands that I have been blessed in remarkable ways.
My fleshly side wonders why my life is so lacking.

My spiritual side enjoys the give and take of teaching a Sunday school class.
My fleshly side makes it easy to view that class as just another obligation to fulfill.

My spiritual side is filled with contentment.
My fleshly side is filled with despair and restlessness.

Monday, May 19, 2008

The New York Yankees and the power of the golden thong

I am an avid baseball fan. The only thing I enjoy as much as the Atlanta Braves winning is when the New York Yankees lose.

I can't explain why, but it has always been that way. When it comes to sports, I've always been anti-establishment. And to me, the Yankees are the establishment.

This year, the Yankees are floundering and currently reside in last place of the American League Eastern Division. Help may be on the way soon as third baseman Alex Rodriguez and catcher Jorge Posada may soon return from the disabled list.

However, gold thongs could also play a role in their possible resurgence. First baseman Jason Giambi owns a gold thong that he only wears when he is in a deep slump, and he says it helps when he wears it. Teammates Johnny Damon and Derek Jeter have also worn it and say it helped them.

A few days ago, the New York media presented the entire team with gold thongs in an attempt to get the team out of a slump. Maybe it will help, maybe it won't.

They may start hitting better, but they aren't going to win the division. Their young pitching isn't panning out, and they look old and brittle at other positions.

It's going to be the Red Sox year. Bye, bye Yankees...bye, bye.

I'm counting the minutes to the next Hank Steinbrenner explosion.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

The power of corruption

When people are put in positions of power, they basically have two options.

They can either serve the people they were put in place to oversee or they can serve themselves. It is really as simple as that.

With this being a presidential election year, the candidates will be scrutinized from almost every conceivable angle, and one of those angles will be whether they will serve the public or their own special interests.

A primary complaint directed at elected officials these days is that they really don't care about the people they are governing. This is a complaint most candidates try to exploit because they repeatedly emphasize the need for change and that they can be that agent of change.

However, as frustrated as Americans get regarding how our government is run, there are examples all over the world that are much worse than what we experience.

For example, consider what the people in the Asian country of Myanmar have to tolerate.

People there have been under the thumb of a military dictatorship since the early 1960s. The number one priority of the government is maintaining and solidifying its power, and this was never more apparent than when a cyclone hit the nation a little more than a week ago.

Communication there is not what it is here in America. We take for granted that we can turn on The Weather Channel anytime during the day to keep abreast of the current weather conditions.

However, citizens in many portions of that country don't have that luxury. So, when the country was being threatened by the cyclone (the name for hurricanes in that part of the world), the only way most of them could have been warned was from their government.

Did this happen? Apparently not. According to published reports, the government knew for three days that the storm was coming and did little to prepare for it. When the cyclone hit the country, most of the people had no idea that they had been in danger.

Because of this, the loss of life and property has been staggering. There are estimates that the death toll will eventually climb to 138,000.

The secrecy and suspicion in which the government operates is also hindering relief efforts. The United Nations, Red Cross and other organizations have all criticized the government for the lack of cooperation they are receiving.

When looking at this, it is hard not to compare this situation to the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina back in 2005. The U.S. government was rightfully criticized for its slow and shoddy response to that disaster that resulted in more than 1,800 deaths on the Gulf Coast.

Unfortunately for the citizens of Myanmar, their government's response to their disaster is making the Katrina response look like the gold standard for disaster relief.

Not only has the Myanmar government done a lousy job supporting relief efforts, but they are also trying to exploit the situation for propaganda purposes.

For example, as relief supplies are being handed out, the boxes they come in are stamped with the names of generals from the government.

The government wants this to come across like it is giving gifts to the people. They are manipulating the people into feeling gratitude to the government, but the people aren't being told the government withheld information about the storm.

So, the next time you grumble about our government, think about what the Myanmar people have to endure.

That doesn't excuse some of the actions of our government, but it should help put it all into perspective. We really do have it good.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Good movie: Terminator 2: Judgment Day

Recently, I wrote about the good deals I've been finding in the Wal-Mart DVD bargain bin, and I struck gold again the other day when I got Terminator 2: Judgment Day starring Arnold Schwarzenegger for only $5.

I've never been a big Schwarzenegger fan. For a variety of reasons, his films generally don't appeal to me, but Terminator 2 is an excellent film. Directed by James Cameron, it has a taught script, but action and special effects really drive the film.

Schwarzenegger films don't usually result in Academy Award wins, but this film won four Oscars, mostly for sound and special effects. However, I liked the storyline a lot, too. True, the idea of even a Terminator appreciating the value of life sounds a bit hokey, but the filmmakers pulled it off well.

The only disappointing aspect of the film was the script's reliance on profanity, especially as used by the young actors. I know profanity is readily accepted in society today, but I think scriptwriters take the easy way out when they pepper their dialogue with it. Their job is to be creative with dialogue, but having an actor say a profane word that we've heard a thousand times before isn't creative.

Still, this is a good film. Keep checking out those bargain bins.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

The unluckiest man in the world (this week anyway)

We've all had bad days, but consider what recently happened to Justin Hill of Rock Island, Tenn.

According to published reports, he got into a car crash when turning into the path of an oncoming car. Upon hearing the crash, Hill's wife left their kitchen stove where she was cooking. This caused their trailer to catch on fire.

Later, he was written a ticket for allegedly failing to yield in his wreck.

So, within a few minutes, Hill was in a car wreck, his home caught on fire, and he was written a ticket.

I've heard that both good and bad luck comes in threes. If a person believes in luck, then this might be an example to support their position.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Quote of the day

"Do I identify with James Bond? No. But I did catch Fantastic Voyage, and I identified strongly with the germs." -- Woody Allen, 1967.

In this case, I can certainly identify with the Wood Man.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

2008 becoming 'Year of the Tornado'

Like many people, I am fascinated by weather. Here in Tennessee, we are blessed with just about everything nature has to offer.

In the winter, we get just enough snow so that it doesn't become a big nuisance. Last summer, we certainly learned that Tennessee can be a hot and dry furnace when atmospheric conditions line up in a certain way.

Autumn and spring remain our most beautiful seasons, but as this year is showing, spring can be quite dangerous from a weather perspective.

So far this year, tornadoes have repeatedly battered the Southeast. Actually, the parade of tornadoes began in the winter when storms in early February hit several states causing millions of dollars in damage and killing dozens.

Dubbed the '2008 Super Tuesday tornado outbreak,' the storms hit as voters in many states went to the polls to vote in presidential primaries. There were 57 total deaths, including 32 here in Tennessee.

The barrage of tornadoes continued last week as storms hit Arkansas and killed seven people. This came only days after a tornado outbreak in Virginia that injured approximately 200. Also, 23 died in storms this weekend.

What in the world is going on here? If this pace of damage and mayhem continues, this could wind up being one of the most destructive years ever for tornadoes.

When it comes to these storms, I am really torn. I believe they are among the most interesting of weather events.

Tornadoes, in most cases, are relatively small storms but can produce remarkable power and damage. As we have all seen in news reports about these recent storms, large homes can be turned into kindling in a matter of seconds.

Because of this, tornadoes fascinate me.

If I am flipping the channels and stumble across a tornado documentary on television, I know I will be spending the next hour watching it. They possess an almost hypnotic quality.

Of course, it is easy to say that when I am watching them safely from my couch and not having to worry about one of them bearing down on me. Still, this hypnotic quality fascinates lots of people because professional storm chasers devote a large chunk of their lives trying to get as close as possible to them.

However, it is difficult to maintain this feeling of awe when hearing the stories of people hurt by these storms.

In last week's storms in Arkansas, there was one especially tragic death as a 15-year-old girl died while sleeping in her bed after a tree fell through the roof of her home. She never had a chance to flee.

There are lots of other stories just like that one, and sometimes people lose site of that when the threat of tornadoes exists.

A staple of tornado coverage in the media is amateur video footage and photographs provided by the public. Instead of taking steps to protect themselves, these untrained people grab the nearest camera and try to document the event even as danger descends on them.

While that has resulted in amazing photos and videos, the judgment of the people doing this is questionable at best. Though these folks mean well, they make a big mistake when they do not respect the power of these storms.

I believe it all goes back to the hypnotic power these storms hold over us. Tornadoes attract some people like a moth is attracted to a flame.

Though I can understand why they are attracted, they need to understand that they are not being brave when documenting these storms.

Sometimes, being brave involves knowing when to run and protect your own life.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Civil servant demoted for 780,000 hits to porn sites

Ah, the temptations the internet provides.

According to published reports, a Japanese civil servant was recently demoted for logging 780,000 hits on pornographic web sites over a nine-month period.

The man's name was withheld for obvious reasons, but the remarkable thing is that he did not lose his job. He was only demoted.

Since he was not fired, I can only assume he is a really good employee. After all, if he was able to do his job while surfing on all these web sites, he must have a lot of value as a worker.

It gives an all new twist to the stereotype of the efficient Japanese worker.

Monday, May 5, 2008

Chris Lofton cancer story is amazing

I'm sure most of you have already heard that Tennessee Volunteer All-American guard Chris Lofton privately battled cancer between his junior and senior seasons.

If you haven't, here's a quick re-cap. Following the 2007 basketball season, Lofton underwent surgery and radiation treatments for testicular cancer. He didn't go public with his illness at the time because he didn't want to distract his teammates. He kept the news quiet until last week when he spoke about his battle for the first time.

In a way, this makes sense. For followers of the program, it was obvious Chris was out of sync during the early part of last season. Even though the team was winning, there was a lot of talk about what was wrong with him.

I've known several people who have had cancer, and they have talked about the fatigue and sluggishness they felt for months after their treatments ended. It is something that takes a long time to get over, and I believe it played a big role in Lofton's early season funk. It says a lot about his character that he kept trying even when he had every right to walk away from basketball to concentrate on his health.

Here's praying that he remains cancer free and lives a long and healthy life.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

I'm moving to Philadelphia

The controversy involving gas prices in our country continues to grow, and it will likely simmer for a while because prices will not be coming down anytime soon.

Last week, I wrote about the role we all have played in this crisis. For years, we have developed an insatiable appetite for gasoline, and now it is biting us on the rear end.

We can blame the oil companies, OPEC, and the government all we want, but our demand for gas has created the marketplace we find ourselves in now.

During the last week, the debate on this has raged in both humorous and serious ways.

On a humorous note, a gas station owner in Philadelphia decided to sell fuel for 76 cents a gallon for 76 minutes as a tribute to the Philadelphia 76ers basketball team who recently made the playoffs for the first time in three years.

Predictably, cars began lining up hours before the sale began and about 100 lucky motorists got to take advantage of the man's generosity.

I've never been to Philadelphia before, but if this man makes an offer like this again, I may be visiting there soon.

Additionally, this issue has become a hot topic on the presidential campaign trail. Both Sen. Barack Obama and Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton have pointed their fingers at the other regarding this mess.

Clinton recently criticized Obama for his support of a 2005 energy bill that she claimed had "billions of giveaways to oil companies."

Obama, on the other hand, has criticized the entire Washington establishment.

Recently, he said: "The candidates with the Washington experience -- my opponents -- are good people. They mean well, but they've been in Washington for a long time and even with all that experience they talk about, nothing has happened. This country didn't raise fuel efficiency standards for over 30 years."

I'm sorry, but it tickles me every time I hear Obama criticize the Washington establishment. Doesn't he realize that he is a big part of the Washington establishment by being a senator?

It seems that Obama wants to have his cake and eat it to. He wants to project himself as a Washington outsider when compared to Clinton and Republican Sen. John McCain. However, his success in the race so far is a direct result of his ability to exploit the notoriety he has received by being a senator.

If nothing else, Obama deserves credit for having a lot of chutzpah.

As for the gas crisis, it is time for the American people to take this issue into their own hands.

There has been some talk about temporarily reducing taxes on gas on the state and federal level to give us a break at the pump. However, I don't see this as much of a solution.

If the government did do this, there would be no guarantee that oil and gas companies would drop prices. Remember, drivers have shown a willingness to pay the almost $4 a gallon prices we are seeing. Because of this, why would those companies drop prices even if taxes are reduced?

The only real way to force prices to drop is for demand to drop.

If every driver committed to driving 10 percent less than they currently are, then prices would slowly drop. I'm no economics expert, but this is simple supply and demand.

If demand drops, then supplies will increase causing prices to drop so companies can sell their product.

The big question is whether drivers will have the backbone to cut back.

It's up to you.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

The luckiest man in the world (this week anyway)

I don't play golf much anymore, but in my younger days, I played a lot. I played on my high school team (that wasn't quite the honor most of you probably think it was), and I played a lot into my 20s.

Perhaps the most coveted achievement golfer's desire is to score a hole-in-one. I've come close a few times, and I've played in groups where other golfers came close. It is a rare achievement so I always take notice when somebody gets one.

However, consider what Ted Kemp did recently. Kemp, who is a 12-handicapper, scored holes-in-one on back-to-back par 3s on his local municipal course in Muscatine, Iowa.

He got his first one using a pitching wedge from 130 yards. On the next hole, he nailed an 8-iron from 182 yards out.

According to published reports, the odds of getting two holes-in-one in one round are 67 million to one.

Well done, Mr. Kemp.

Now go away.