Sunday, October 25, 2009

A cold winter awaits

Autumn is a wonderful time of year, but it often disappears in the blink of an eye. For those of us who don't like heat and humidity, summer seems to drag out forever.

Then, when cooler air gets here, it appears to be nothing more than a brief transition into winter. This has been especially true this autumn because of all the rain we have had.

Don't get me wrong; I appreciate the rain. After the drought that punished us in 2007, I don't think any of us will ever take rain for granted again.

Still, all the recent rain has dampened the beauty that accompanies autumn.

For those wanting dry weather, some help may be on the way. Officials at the federal Climate Prediction Center recently issued its forecast for the upcoming winter, and it predicts the Southeast will experience a cooler but drier winter than normal.

Get ready to hear a lot about El Nino again because that is the reason the experts are giving to support their prediction. The El Nino phenomenon is fascinating on one level, but it is a topic that often gets beaten into the ground by weather people.

However, it is tough to blame them. After all, autumn is usually a wedge season when it comes to violent weather. Even though tornadoes can occur in every month, we don't hear much about them in October. They typically fade away in autumn when compared to summer.

Plus, the coldest weather of the year does not usually occur until January. Because of this weather lull, the meteorologists really do not have a lot to talk about this time of year. So, they probably thank God when El Nino appears.

As for this year's winter prediction, I hope they are wrong about the temperature. While I loved winter when I was a boy, I have lost my appreciation of it as I have grown older.

January is one of the year's gloomiest months. Whether it is the short daylight, the cold temperature, or the general restlessness after the holidays, it is a month that is dull. This is the only thing that it has in common with July.

January and July are opposites when it comes to weather, but these are easily the two most tedious months. Both have 31 days and are stagnant. Both are nothing more than gateways to more pleasant times.

I know it would be easy to lump February into that category as well, but it only has 28 days most years. Though that is only three days less than January, the month seems to go by a lot quicker. Plus, once February is gone, we know spring is just around the corner.

The only bright spot in the Climate Prediction Center's forecast is that they expect it to be drier than normal. For snow lovers, their prediction could wind up being a great source of frustration.

After all, if it is supposed to be cooler than normal, we could be on the receiving end of some healthy snowfalls if we continue to get the same amount of moisture we have recently.

However, for those folks, this won't happen if the Center is correct. Frankly, I am hoping they are.

As I've gotten older, snow has become more of a nuisance. I was like most kids who loved the snow and was ecstatic when it shut the schools down.

While it maintains some of its allure, it gets old a lot quicker. I like watching it fall, but not much else. There is a sweetness to watching it melt.

I know...Bah Humbug.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

San Diego Chargers throwback uniforms are the best of them all

As most football fans know, many of the original American Football League teams are wearing throwback uniforms for special games this year. San Diego wore theirs on Monday night, and they are the best of all the throwbacks. The power blue jerseys with white helmets and golden thunderbolts are classic. It doesn't get much better than those.

Previously, I have written posts praising the New England Patriots and Tennessee Titans. While both those are great, the Chargers rank at the top.


Sunday, October 18, 2009

Beware glass houses

To paraphrase an old cliché, if a person is going to criticize somebody else, he better make sure he has his own house in order.

Of course, the point of that saying is that it would epitomize hypocrisy if a person made fun of or criticized another person while doing the same thing. We all make mistakes, but ridiculing somebody while engaging in the same mistake they have made is just plain wrong.

David Letterman is a funny man, but recently, he found himself embroiled in a controversy that was not funny. He was the victim of an alleged extortion attempt. The person accused of the crime was arrested, but in the process, information about Letterman's personal life became big news.

The root of the extortion attempt was that if Letterman did not cough up $2 million then information about sexual relationships he had with members of his staff would be made public.

Of course, workplace sexual harassment has been a high-profile topic during the last couple of decades. Perhaps most famously, the topic became a prominent issue in the confirmation hearings of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas.

I won't re-hash all that information, but for those who remember, there were people mentioned in those hearings that I doubt will ever be mentioned again in the halls of Congress.

Since Letterman's personal information hit the news, he has been on the receiving end of scathing commentary from some who feel that it was inappropriate for him to have relationships with people on his staff. Couple this with the fact that he was in a long-term relationship with a woman that he eventually married during this time, and he is coming off looking really bad.

Boiling this down to a simple sex scandal is oversimplifying the topic. The ironic aspect of this is that Letterman has made his living for years ridiculing public officials who were caught in compromising positions.

During the final years of President Bill Clinton's administration, Letterman needled the president relentlessly after Clinton’s affair with intern Monica Lewinsky became public.

Of course, there are other examples of Letterman doing this. When South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford got caught going to Argentina to see his mistress, Sanford became cannon fodder for Letterman night after night.

The same goes for former New York Gov. Elliot Spitzer and others. Their mistakes were compounded because comedians like Letterman reminded the public of them every night.

How are these officials reacting to Letterman being caught in basically the same situation? It is tough to say because most of them have been tight lipped about the matter.

If they are chuckling to themselves, they are doing so in private.

The reaction of some organizations to Letterman's situation has been interesting. The National Organization of Women (NOW) came down hard on him. They criticized him because they viewed him as an example of a man in power using a workplace setting to engage in sexual relationships.

Of course, NOW is the same organization that remained almost completely silent when President Clinton had his relationship with an intern. I guess the organization's conviction about an issue depends on how it helps them politically.

The bottom line is Letterman's situation is a casebook example of how our words can make us look really bad if we get caught doing the very acts that we ridicule.

We all do this to a certain extent. We all have our dark side that has done things that we would hate for other people to know.

If nothing else, we should be grateful these things have never been exposed.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Titans search for their hearts this Sunday at New England

As we were all taught when we were younger, if you can't say anything good about somebody then don't say anything at all. That's how I feel about the winless Tennessee Titans as the team travels to play the Patriots this weekend. With that in mind, here are this week's picks...

The pick: New England 27 Tennessee 13

Other picks: Green Bay over Detroit, Minnesota over Baltimore, New Orleans over N.Y. Giants, Seattle over Arizona, Atlanta over Chicago, San Diego over Denver, N.Y. Jets over Buffalo

Last week: 5-2 (.714), Overall 41-10 (.756)

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

God: The redeemer of the oppressed

Right now, I am involved in a study of the Book of Job in the Old Testament. Specifically, I am at Chapter 19, and the last part of the chapter records Job's words regarding God as his redeemer.

While studying this passage, I came across this interesting information in a commentary I was reading:

"Throughout the Hebrew Scriptures, God is often seen as ga'al, or the redeemer, of oppressed and weak peoples. For instance, in Proverbs 23:10-11, God's role is described in these words: 'Do not move an ancient boundary stone or encroach on the fields of the fatherless, for their Defender [ga'al] is strong; he will take up their cause against you.' In the Psalms, God is noted as the redeemer of those who die: 'Praise the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits – who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases, who redeems [ga'al] your life from the pit and crowns you with love and compassion' (Psalm 103:2-4)."

Just something to think about.

Source material: “Wisdom for the Walk: Job, Ecclesiastes, Song of Songs” from David C. Cook Ministries

Monday, October 12, 2009

Happy Columbus Day

Today is the day that we set aside every year to recognize the man who didn't discover America.

I know...I don't understand it either.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

I just wasn't made for these times

As I am growing older, I feel like I am getting increasingly out of touch with our society. More and more actions that would have been condemned when I was growing up in the 1970s now draw nothing more than a raised eyebrow.

I recently thought of this as I watched the circumstances surrounding the arrest of Oscar-winning director Roman Polanski in Switzerland. Polanski has primarily lived in Europe since fleeing the United States more than 30 years ago to avoid jail time for drugging and having sexual intercourse with a 13-year-old girl.

Since then, there has been a warrant for his arrest, and he was captured by Swiss authorities when he came to their country to accept an award for directing.

Polanski has not been living underground for the last three decades. He has continued directing, and I have seen some of his films. There can be no denying his talent.

However, it is puzzling why it took so long for authorities to act against him. Equally puzzling are the calls by many to let him off the hook for the crimes he committed.

The primary argument being used is that because the crimes took place so long ago that it would be a waste of resources to pursue the matter further.

Additionally, the victim of his crimes has come forward and said that it is time for the matter to be dropped. She said all this has done is open old wounds, and it is time to put this matter in the past.

While the victim's wishes must be carefully considered, I disagree that this matter should just be dropped. While it is important for the victim to feel closure, there is simply something wrong with allowing child abuse like this to go unpunished.

Of course, some have argued that Polanski has been punished. He has been living in exile for a long time and could not re-enter the country without arrest.

However, living in exile can't be that difficult when a person is a rich and famous movie director. Living in his type of exile would seem like paradise to a lot of people.

Since he was detained, more than a hundred actors and directors have come forward in support of Polanski and want him freed. I can not help but think their attitudes would be different if the person involved was not a beloved member of their profession.

For example, what if Polanski was a Catholic priest? When considering the anti-religion rhetoric that many put forth in Hollywood, their position would likely be different if we were talking about a person of faith. They certainly condemned a drunken Mel Gibson when he was caught making anti-Semitic comments.

Recently, I was watching one of the cable news channels, and there was a series of programs that dealt with adult men trying to meet teenagers on the Internet.

Called 'To Catch a Predator' the program basically was a sting operation, and when the men showed up at a house for what they thought was going to be a tryst with a teenager, they were arrested and confronted by television cameras.

The double standard here is pretty obvious.

On the one hand, the average men who showed up in this sting were rightly busted for what they had allegedly done. On the other hand, many want Polanski to go free for basically doing the same thing.

As is typical in our society, there is one standard of justice for the rich, and there is another standard for the rest of America.

This is sad, but are we really that surprised?

Friday, October 9, 2009

If the Titans don't beat Indianapolis this week, they likely will be 0-6 heading into bye week

As a fan, it is disappointing when your team is likely eliminated from the playoffs this early in the season. This is especially so when a team like the Tennessee Titans was expected to be extremely competitive. However, the Titans are 0-4 and share the worst record in the NFL with the Kansas City Chiefs, Cleveland Browns, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and St. Louis Rams. That is some pretty gruesome company. Carolina is 0-3 so, technically, their record is a little better than Tennessee's.

This week, the Indianapolis Colts visit Nashville to play the Titans on NBC's Sunday night national broadcast. We can bet that much of NBC's storyline will focus on the Titans' collapse.

Despite losing its first three, Tennessee was competitive and could have won all three. However, last week's debacle at Jacksonville was breathtaking. The defense could not stop me, and the offense padded its statistics late in the game when it did not matter.

The Titans' pass defense has been hampered by injury. It looks like cornerback Courtland Finnegan may try to play, and Nick Harper is banged up. This isn't good news when facing Peyton Manning. Manning has thrown for more than 300 yards in each of the Colts' first four games. This is the first time in his career that he has thrown for that many yards in four straight games.

In the aftermath of Tennessee's disastrous start, it is almost hard to remember that it was the Titans who won the AFC South last year. This year, the division already appears to be the Colts to lose. The Colts are 4-0 and lead Jacksonville and Houston by two games, but does anybody really believe those two teams will catch them?

If Tennessee loses this week, a trip to New England awaits next week and a likely 0-6 start heading into the bye week. Speaking of "byes" we probably should go ahead and say that to this season.

The pick: Indianapolis 35 Tennessee 17

Other picks: Baltimore over Cincinnati, Atlanta over San Francisco, New England over Denver, Cleveland over Buffalo, Dallas over Kansas City, Philadelphia over Tampa Bay

Last week: 6-1 (.875), Overall: 26-8 (.765)

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Tennessee, Georgia game begins series of must-win games for Volunteers

The rest of Tennessee's football season would have been much more manageable if the Vols had beaten Auburn last week. Of course, that did not happen. Tennessee is now 2-3, and qualifying for a bowl has to be considered only a 50-50 proposition at this point.

The Volunteers have to find a way to win four of their next seven games to qualify for a bowl. For a team incapable of functioning consistently on offense, this will prove a challenge. This week, a good Georgia team visits Neyland Stadium. Considerable improvement is needed if the Vols are to win.

Though the criticism of quarterback Jonathan Crompton has been well-chronicled, we saw last week that his wide receivers are not providing much help. Sitting in the crowd, it was frustrating to watch open receivers drop balls. The receivers were not open that often, and many of them had problems creating separation. In other words, our offensive woes aren't all Crompton's fault.

Defensively, we have been playing well enough to win. However, that unit is not creating enough turnovers, sacks, or defending well on third down. We have also done a poor job of pressing the kicking game. Last week, the kickoff coverage team was awful again, and it allowed a long return late in the game that led to Auburn's game-clinching field goal.

Obviously, this posting has a lot more to do with Tennessee's problems than with Georgia's strengths. Don't get me wrong; Georgia is a good team. They took fourth-ranked LSU to the wire last week, and likely would have won if not for a questionable celebration penalty late in the game.

Still, the winner of this game will be dictated by what Tennessee can do on offense. If the Vols somehow pull it together, they have a chance. Otherwise, oh well...

The pick: Georgia 28 Tennessee 14

Other SEC picks: Florida over LSU, Alabama over Ole Miss, Auburn over Arkansas, South Carolina over Kentucky, Mississippi State over Houston, Vanderbilt over Army

Last week: 6-1 (.857), Overall: 36-4 (.900)

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Autumn is the grandest of all seasons

Mercifully, summer has ended, and it was not a minute too soon for me. Summer is by far my least favorite season.

The heat, humidity, and general stickiness that come with it get old very quickly for me. Generally, summer begins on June 21 each year, and by June 22 I am ready for it to end. Even though this year's summer was cooler and wetter than normal, it was still tiresome.

I have no patience with it whatsoever. However, there is one aspect of summer I like a lot.

Summer's best aspect is that it provides the transition to my favorite season, which is autumn.

I have always loved the word "autumn." It has an almost poetic feel to it. The word definitely has a lot more flavor and style to it than "fall," which is the word most people use to call it.

The word itself feels like a breath of fresh air.

After all the stagnant air that is typical of summer, autumn is, indeed, like a fresh wind that cleanses the environment.

The season's most obvious characteristics are its cooler temperatures and the falling of leaves from the trees.

In mid to late October, the leaves on most trees will turn to astonishingly beautiful colors before they fall to the ground.

For nature lovers, this period is a feast for the senses. Do yourself a favor during this time and take time to walk through some of the parks we have in this area.

In Manchester, go to Old Stone Fort and spend a couple of hours walking on the trails and soak up the best nature has to offer. It will be well worth your time.

For folks who dislike summer, autumn feels like a reward for the patience we had during the previous three or four months.

If for no other reason, go outside and enjoy how wonderful our climate is this time of year.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Farther along

It would be an understatement to say that our nation is going through turbulent times.

The country is in a tizzy about healthcare reform, the economy continues to sputter, and we continue to deal with war on the international scene. In some respects, these problems might make a person not want to read a newspaper or watch television for several months.

However, events are not always as bleak as they seem. Though the challenges we face are daunting, we know we get to go through them in a society of freedom and liberty.

Let's face it; we take a lot of the basic liberties that we enjoy for granted. So, for a much-needed reality check, let's take a look at what some people are dealing with around the world.

The following information comes from various human rights organizations, including the International Christian Concern.

For example, Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari recently acknowledged that Muslim extremists in his country have been exploiting blasphemy laws in order to persecute non-Muslims and moderate Muslims, according to the ICC.

Basically, the laws there prohibit any attempts to convert people from one religion to another. According to reports, Muslim extremists with the aid of police and local officials have exploited laws that have led to the deaths of 33 people, most of who were Christians.

Religious freedom is one of our most cherished freedoms in the United States, but as this example shows, many people take their lives into their own hands just to do activities that we don't think twice about doing.

Examples like this are not isolated. For example, in Vietnam, Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung recently stated that his government will not return property that it confiscated from churches. This is a long-standing practice there, and the government has been taking buildings and other possessions from the Catholic Church since 1954.

At a time when many in America are concerned about the intrusiveness of government, this example shows us that we should count our blessings.

This doesn't mean that we should not keep a close eye on our government. The public has been doing an excellent job of that lately. We should just be thankful that we do not face the type of tactics the people in Vietnam are facing.

Though the war in Iraq has gotten a lot less attention from the media in recent months, it remains a treacherous place. A common tactic being used by gangs there is the kidnapping of people from another religion and holding them for ransom.

For example, Islamic kidnappers recently released Dr. Sameer Gorgses Youssif after 29 days in captivity. He was tortured throughout that time and threats were constantly made toward his family as well.

The crime took place in Kirkuk, and this is the fourth time in two years that a doctor has been snatched in that city. People who have money in that war-torn country have to keep looking over their shoulders to avoid becoming another statistic.

As America begins drawing down in Iraq, the problems of that country will likely be unbearable to watch. Obviously, it is in the world's best interest if that country develops into a strong democracy. If that happens, more stability will be brought into that region, and it will definitely help the United States.

Unfortunately, it will not be that easy. Iraq likely faces decades of turmoil like any country does when it starts from scratch. Though the country has been around for a long time, it basically is starting over in the aftermath of Saddam Hussein's reign of terror.

Let's pray they do well.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Titans' season spinning out of control

Of all the developments in the NFL season so far, the Titans 0-3 start may be the most surprising. However, should we be that surprised? After starting last season 10-0, the Titans have now lost six out of their last nine regular season games. Throw in the playoff game, and they have lost seven out of ten. Maybe the dip started last year, and nobody noticed.

At this point, we all need to stop figuring out ways in which the Titans can rally and still make the playoffs. Simply put, the Titans must figure out how to get one win. This week looks like a good opportunity as Jacksonville is 1-2, but the Titans must get more efficient on offense, defense, and special teams. Special teams' blunders cost Tennessee the game against the Jets, but the offense dried up and died in the fourth quarter. Kerry Collins missed his last 13 passes, and that is pretty difficult to do.

As for Jacksonville, their only win was on the road last week at Houston. Running back Maurice Jones-Drew is their bread and butter, and he scored three touchdowns against the Texans. If the Titans can shut him down, they will win. It's as simple as that.

Call me crazy, but the Titans are simply too good to slip to 0-4. Then again, I thought they were too good to slip to 0-3.

The pick: Tennessee 20 Jacksonville 17

Other picks: Indianapolis over Seattle, Houston over Oakland, New Orleans over N.Y. Jets, Pittsburgh over San Diego, Minnesota over Green Bay, New England over Baltimore

Last week: 7-2 (.778), Overall: 20-7 (.741)