Sunday, November 27, 2011

A Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year

The holiday season is shaping up to be quite busy so I've decided to take a break from posting new material in December. I just do not believe I can devote the time necessary to produce quality material for the next few weeks. I'll be back in January when I have more time. Until then, I hope those who regularly read this blog have a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

'The Nightly Daily' falls one win short on 2011 UT football prediction

Back in August, The Nightly Daily predicted the University of Tennessee football team would finish with a 6-6 record this year (click here to read). Of course, with Saturday's loss to Kentucky, the Volunteers finished with a 5-7 record. There will be no bowl this year, and the team has posted back-to-back losing seasons for the first time in my lifetime (and that's a long time). After the 3-1 start, the team looked promising, but injuries and an awful offense did them in.

This team has a long way to go.

The thundering herd of shoppers

It is Thanksgiving weekend, and that can only mean one thing: the race to buy Christmas gifts is under way. In some ways this is an exciting time of year, but it can also be a little disillusioning.

Thanksgiving is a special holiday in many ways, but more and more, there is a rush to get it over with so the focus on Christmas commercialism can begin.

If somebody would dare deny this, he should simply take a peek at the contents of his mailbox in the coming days. It will be stuffed with mailings from businesses wanting us to spend our dollars with them. This does not include the advertising that pelts us from television, radio, newspapers and the Internet wanting our business.

Companies will try every trick in the book to pry their way into our bank accounts.

The last few weeks of the year make or break many businesses. During regular times this is true, but our nation’s economic struggles only intensify this fact. The economy is stagnant at best, and unemployment continues to be a thorn in the side for many.

The national and state unemployment rate remains round nine percent, but the ‘under-employment’ rate is probably closer to 16 or 17 percent. In addition to the unemployed, the underemployment rate includes people who either have been unemployed so long that they no longer draw benefits or people who have had to settle for part-time jobs.

The bottom line is a lot of people are not coming close to working at full capacity. They have so much to offer, but no place to deliver their skills. Because of this, money is scarce and people are going to be very choosey about where they spend it.

Even for those who are prospering now, the decision regarding where to spend money is a big one. I certainly hope most people will make every opportunity to spend here locally.

I know the larger cities just up the interstate are tempting. Murfreesboro is not far away and that city has exploded in size in recent years. Though that city has a lot to offer, it can be a hassle to drive in during this time of year.

The road system there has not kept up with the growth of the city. This means a Saturday afternoon or evening there can rival Nashville during rush hour when it comes to driving.

Because of this, shopping locally can be quite attractive. We can save money on gas and meals by not going to those other cities.

Gas prices will continue above three dollars a gallon through the rest of the year. Even if a person makes a couple of trips to Murfreesboro or Nashville to shop, the cost of travelling there adds up quickly.

Additionally, sales tax is a primary form of revenue generation for our local governments. While a provocative debate can be had regarding whether the sales tax is a fair tax on the poor, it remains a powerful force.

As the cliché goes, money spent here will stay here. In a time of economic strife, doesn't it make sense to serve ourselves before going elsewhere? This seems like a no-brainer, but common sense can vary from person to person.

Please keep in mind that it is understood that we cannot purchase all we want or need here locally. Coffee County has not cornered the market when it comes to goods and services.

The point is that it is more important than ever to spend our money here locally.

Money is a primary way our community remains strong. If we do not shop here, we are just making somebody else strong.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

People and failure

At this point, it has been about two weeks since the scandal at Penn State became big news. During this time, turmoil and change have been the order of the day at the university.

Former defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky has been charge with 40 counts relating to child sexual abuse. Of course, these are only charges at this point and Sandusky deserves his day in court.

However, I recommend that people read the grand jury report that summarizes the crimes he is alleged to have committed. It is only 23 pages and is written in a way all can understand. Simply 'Google' it on the Internet, and a person can have it in a manner of seconds.

The allegations are reprehensible, and we should pray that justice is done.

Heads have rolled at the university. The school’s head football coach Joe Paterno and president Graham Spanier have been shown the door. Other employees are on administrative leave. Unfortunately, school officials knew of Sandusky’s activities as early as 1998, but they did not do much about it. We will find out how much they knew in coming months.

The stench from this mess is not going away soon.

The big question is: What do we take away from this? It is a simple question, but the answer is complicated.

This is because we can take this question in a thousand different directions. When I think of this situation, I tend to focus on the failures of mankind.

Obviously, the system failed the victims there. As ESPN analyst Jay Bilas correctly stated, there was a "conspiracy of cowards" when it came to dealing with Sandusky. University officials involved seemed more interested in protecting the school than reaching out to the victims.

In addition to the victims, there has been a lot of collateral damage. Sandusky was a person who was widely respected in the Penn State community. He was part of the community for decades and had endeared himself to many.

To them, he was a hero. Between his success on the gridiron and his efforts to enrich the lives of people, he was thought to be a model of what a man should be.

Now, the people who felt that way are deeply shaken. They wonder if a man who they respected so much can turn out like this, what does it say about mankind?

Actually, it says a lot. It is part of our human nature to put people up on a pedestal. We admire people to a degree that it is impossible for us to imagine them doing any wrong.

We all do this. We may not intentionally do it, but we do. We all have people we admire so much that we cannot imagine them failing.

As well meaning as we may be, we tread on dangerous ground when we do this. This is because we all have frailties nobody else can see. If we admire other people too much, we are setting ourselves up to be let down.

It may not be in as dramatic a way as Sandusky allegedly betrayed those around him. However, if we idolize other people too much, trouble is coming.

It is all about maintaining a proper balance in our lives. We can respect people and look at other people as role models. But that is as far as it should go.

That is easier said than done. How do we know when we are crossing the line when admiring people too much? I don't know. If it was so easy, then we would not have seen the tragedy we just witnessed.

Still, we should strive to maintain that balance. If not, it could cost us big later.

Monday, November 14, 2011

This is not here

Didn't you read the headline? This is not here. Stop trying to read something that isn't here.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Let's get married

I have never visited Hollywood, but because of the media, we all get a steady dose of what the culture is like out there.

There are pros and cons to this. On the positive side, it is interesting to see how the other half lives. In the grind of our daily lives, we can fall into the trap of believing that this is all there is. Therefore, it is eye opening to see another approach to life.

On the other hand, there are times when I believe the approach to life out there is crazy. Obviously, I understand that everything seen from Hollywood is through a media filter. Because of this, it is important not to take what is seen at face value. We see what they want us to see.

However, I just do not understand what I see sometimes. The most recent example of this is all the hullaballoo surrounding Kim Kardashian's filing for divorce from Kris Humphries after only 72 days of marriage.

Back in the summer, their wedding was huge news, and it is estimated that Kardashian raked in $18 million from the event. These riches came from money earned through her reality television show and gifts from friends.

Already wealthy, the event showed the young woman to be a sharp businessperson when it came to capitalizing on the event. Still, because of the briefness of the marriage, many are speculating as to whether it was a sham from the beginning.

After all, 72 days is not a long time to put into a marriage. It is one thing if she has legitimate grounds for divorce, but given the cynicism of our culture, many believe this may have been a stunt just to promote the 'Kardashian brand.'

I have no idea if this was a stunt or not. If it was, this would not be the first time somebody has pulled the wool over the public's eyes for a big payday. Still, I have to wonder what kind of example this is to the public.

Treating marriage in such a disposable manner is troubling. Again, if she had legitimate grounds for the divorce, that is one thing. However, nothing has surfaced to indicate that.

Some of the most interesting spin coming out of this situation has been from people who support gay marriage. Some gay marriage supporters have said the Kardashian situation is another example of traditional marriage being treated in a cavalier way.

I can understand their point of view. Though I oppose gay marriage, it has to be very frustrating for homosexuals to see heterosexuals treat the institution in such a flippant way.

If Kardashian did use her marriage to generate a big payday and was a sham, gay marriage supporters must wonder why they cannot be invited to the carnival as well. Most must justifiably feel that they cannot do a worse job than she when it comes to handling this institution.

Cynicism is one of my least appealing traits, but I am oozing cynicism when it comes to the Kardashian marriage/divorce. Then again, maybe my feelings are a sign of the times.

Her wedding generated big ratings for her reality television show, and the money she made cannot be denied. Everything has a price, you know, and I am sure her divorce should make a compelling storyline for her show.

The young women who swoon on every movement Kardashian makes are likely learning from this event. However, I hope they understand how they are being manipulated.

It's all about ratings, and the latest chapter of Kardashian's life should make for a few good episodes of her show. It is nothing more and nothing less.

Monday, November 7, 2011

The wretched status quo

Is it just me or are there a lot of people living their lives at a level much lower than what they are capable of?

I hope that does not come off sounding condescending or arrogant because the question is not meant that way. It is a question that I ask myself a lot.

At some point in life, we all pause and take stock of the talents we have. We all have at least one talent, and most of us have several. When we recognize the talents we have, I believe most of us make a good faith effort to use them.

However, it is not enough to simply use them. We get in trouble when we only rely on talent to accomplish what we want. If we are honest, we understand our talents will only reach their full maturity when we pause to develop them. I know I am guilty of coasting on my talents too much.

Sports are a great example of this. We all know people who are naturally athletic. It is obvious that God touched them in such a way that they have a natural advantage against the competition.

However, pure talent can only take them so far. The truly greats in athletics often have a relentless work ethic as they develop their talent.

When Tiger Woods was at the top, he was a good example of this. He obviously has been blessed with talent, but the stories are legendary when it comes to the amount of practice he dedicated himself to as he developed his talent.

Though his decision making off the golf course has been shaky, he understood what it took to elevate himself from an excellent golfer to a legend.

The same goes for quarterback Peyton Manning. As the son of legendary quarterback Archie Manning, he was blessed with physical gifts most people do not receive. Like Woods, he understood he could not just rest on the skill with which he had been blessed.

Both in college and the National Football League, stories are well know about his dedication to film study and working out in the offseason. In this case, his willingness to commit will likely result in enshrinement in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Of course, we can find examples from all walks of life in which people did not coast on their talent. There are plenty of examples involving spiritual leaders, businessmen, and politicians. All these examples show people who wanted to be exceptional instead of ordinary.

Obviously, most of us will not have lives that will play out on a large public stage like the examples just provided. However, this does not mean we should be any less dedicated when developing our talents.

This is because we all are examples to those around us, and we touch each others lives in ways we do not even realize. It is easy to forget that because we cannot see into the hearts of the people around us. We can only see the outer shell, and because of that, it is tempting to believe we do not have much of an impact at all.

We have a choice. We can settle for the wretched status quo or we can strive for greatness. Do not roll your eyes when I use the word 'greatness.' Even though a person’s name will not show up in the history books, it does mean that somebody cannot achieve greatness.

Never underestimate the importance of being a great father or mother or police officer or store owner or friend or secretary.

The decisions we make can have long lasting consequences. It is a decision we must all make.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

'The Ides of March' worth seeing as a matinee

I finally got around to seeing The Ides of March, and I can recommend it. It's not a great film, but it is a slick and entertaining political movie. Strong cast (George Clooney, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Ryan Gosling and Paul Giamatti), and even though it is a political film, it is more about backstabbing and betrayal than pushing an agenda. Click here for a full review.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Today's get rich quick scheme: Marry Kim Kardashian

Cynicism is one of my least attractive qualities. However, it is extremely difficult not to feel cynical about the recent announcement that Kim Kardashian plans to divorce her husband after 72 days of marriage. She raked in $18 million when she got married. Was it all a sham from the beginning? I don't know, but she sure made out like a bandit in terms of money and publicity for her television program. Instead of occupying Wall Street, maybe all those protesters should occupy Ms. Kardashian. She is a remarkable example of cool-headed capitalism.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Evil never wins

Though progress against evil seems to move slowly, it does move. This progress is often misunderstood as a lack of progress because it goes so slow. Many times, progress against evil moves as slowly as a snail crawling across a highway.

However, when the winds of change finally blow, it is a sweet feeling. People experience one-of-a-kind emotions when a scoundrel gets his comeuppance. At this point, time moves with breathtaking speed. Circumstances that were once thought of as impossibly bad become situations that are filled with optimism.

Anything seems possible when an evil person meets his doom. Eventually, this bubble of optimism bursts as it collides with the real world. However, for a while, everything appears perfect.

I can only imagine that the people of Libya are still enjoying their bubble of optimism. It has been less than two weeks since the death of Moammar Gadhafi, and for a while, they will get to enjoy a honeymoon period as the country decides what its next step will be.

However, the big story is that evil has lost again. It may have taken 42 years, but Gadhafi has been removed from the list of problems that country faces. Libya has been delivered from a really bad person.

Of course, evil manifests itself in a multitude of ways, but one of the most visible ways is when leaders misuse the power they have. History is littered with monsters that misused power and hurt a lot of people.

We can easily list the worst of these leaders. Adolf Hitler. Joseph Stalin. Also, let us not forget evil leaders in recent years such as Saddam Hussein and Osama bin-Laden. Those people were all powerful and unstoppable at some point.

However, all those men mentioned share one thing in common. They were all stopped. Some were overthrown and executed. Others just finally died.

So, for Gadhafi and others like him, their reigns of terror will likely be a blip on the radar of history. They vainly tried to puff themselves up into being great and powerful men, but now, they are just another person who belongs to the ages.

I wonder what it is like to be in Gadhafi’s shoes right now. Most of the world’s major religions teach that in the afterlife people will be held accountable for actions done on earth.

Obviously, it is impossible to absolutely know what he is going through at this moment. I may be overstepping my boundaries, but I cannot imagine things are going too well for him.

I wonder if he is facing all the people he played a roll in torturing and murdering. I wonder if he is facing the women he raped. I know this is pretty graphic, but these are possibilities that must be addressed.

Most of all, I wonder if he is getting a chance to see all the good he could have done if he had used his power in an appropriate way. Maybe he understands now that he could have been more than that blip on the radar if he had used his power for the bettering of mankind.

Now, he has eternity to contemplate what might have been. ‘What if?’ is a question that can haunt us all if we do not make the right decisions.

The solace we can take in this is that the bullies of the moment will eventually get what is coming to them. It may or may not take place in this lifetime, but it will eventually happen.

As sappy as it might sound, good really does triumph in the end. Unfortunately, some people do not realize this until it is too late.