Sunday, August 31, 2008

Empty Sports Weekend

Well, I spent $21 on game tickets, $5 on parking in Cleveland, and who knows how much on gas to go follow my high school and college football teams to their respective games this weekend. Kent Roosevelt played at Stow on Friday and Kent State played at Cleveland Browns Stadium against Boston College on Saturday night. I saw my teams score a grand total of ZERO points in Roosevelt's 14-0 loss to Stow and Kent State's 21-0 loss to BC. I will say neither game was a total surprise as Kent State would've had to pull off a pretty big upset to beat BC. For a team that hasn't been to a bowl or won the conference title since 1972, I guess we just have to take the moral victories where we can. As long as we beat Akron on October 4th I'll be happy! =) Roosevelt's game wasn't too unexpected either, though they had their chances as Stow only scored one touchdown purely on offense and the other was mainly the result of an interception returned near the goal line. Stow just had a much bigger team physically, so the fact that the game was only 14-0 is a good sign that Roosevelt has a pretty good defense (and they are FAST!). I think Roosevelt will be OK in PTC play in two weeks. I will say I felt Roosevelt won the halftime show (if there is such a thing!)! Even though Stow has an enormous band, they had several alumni marching with them, so for their halftime show they simply played three songs standing in a huge elongated arch while Roosevelt was in a constant state of movement and formations for their songs. Roosevelt has always had a pretty good and balanced marching band and I've always loved their sound. I just wish there were more people in the band! Right now it has around 100 members. The other cool thing was that since the game was at Stow, it was more like a second home game for Kent fans. Stow-Munroe Falls High School literally sits adjacent to the Kent border, so there are houses directly across the street from the school that go to Roosevelt since they are located in Kent. So, going to a game at Stow isn't much further than going to a game at Roosevelt. We had almost as many fans there as Stow did, something that is not true the other way around when Stow plays at Roosevelt! I was surprised too how Stow's stadium, which is built into a natural bowl, is evenly split between the home side and visitors side in terms of seating. Most high school stadiums have a large home side and a smaller visitor's side. Stow seems to have both sides pretty even, though their "home" side isn't very big at all, especially considering how large the school is (over 1,900 students). I guess it doesn't matter that much since the stadium is in a natural bowl, so people can sit on the sloped grass if the stands are full (and many did)!

The plus side this weekend for me was that Ohio State won 43-0 (not that that was unexpected playing Youngstown State) and Michigan lost at home to Utah 25-23. I think I was rooting against Michigan as much as I was rooting for Utah, the university I nearly went to on two different occasions and still think very highly of. Even though Kent State lost, I did enjoy my first visit to a game at Cleveland Browns Stadium. The halftime show was pretty cool too. The Kent State marching band along with five or six high school bands played "America the Beautiful" as part of the Patriot Bowl's armed services theme. It was quite an impressive site to see the field covered with band members (see my picture above). The last time I was inside the stadium was way back in 1999 for an open house just before it was finished. I have never been to a Browns game and don't think I will be able to anytime soon (not because I don't want to, but because I can't afford it!). I mainly went to see a game in the stadium. It's a nice stadium for sure, though I hope Kent State has learned the lesson that scheduling a game there won't translate to more fans coming. Since the team has been so bad for so long, they don't exactly have a huge following even IN Kent, so moving a game 45 minutes away from campus and then charging more for tickets just trims the attendance down even more. The announced crowd was just over 10,000 and that included a pretty good-sized contingent of Boston College fans. Had the game been played in Kent at Dix Stadium, I bet it would've been closer to 20,000 since more students would've come (it's free to come to games at Dix Stadium for students) and more local fans would've shown up as well to see the new stadium upgrades and just for something to do (not to mention not that expensive and a chance to see a big-name BCS school). Even then, it was nice to get a chance to see a game at Browns Stadium and go to Cleveland. I love going to downtown Cleveland!

Notes on pictures: 1. Picture from my original seats in the corner looking southeast of the halftime show with the KSU marching band and several high school bands playing "America the Beautiful." I ended up moving to better seats in the second half. 2. Outside shot of Cleveland Browns Stadium with the transit station visible on the left and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame visible on the far right as I was heading back to my car.

VP Thoughts

Well, both major party candidates have made their vice presidential choices with Obama choosing Delaware Senator Joe Biden and McCain picking Alaska Governor Sarah Palin. I have to say that both picks surprised me a little bit, but the more you look at each choice, the more you see why each candidate went in the direction they did.

Obama's pick of Biden was a pretty obvious one: Biden is a long-time Senator who sits on the Foreign Relations committee in Congress. Since Obama lacks both Congressional and foreign policy experience, it only makes sense that he choose a running mate who has substantially more experience in those areas. That said, Obama's message of "change" took a major hit to me by picking a long-time politician who's been part of the status quo Obama is claiming to try and change, though I wasn't exactly convinced Obama's "change" was anything new. McCain's pick of Palin was a bit more surprising to me, though like Obama's pick of Biden it has its own ironies. McCain's biggest criticism of Obama is Obama's lack of experience, yet Palin is equally inexperienced and even more so on the Federal level. Interesting how the VP picks seem to contradict each candidate's main message, huh? Anyway, at first I was a bit disappointed McCain didn't pick Mitt Romney as I'm still a big Romney fan. Him being a fellow Mormon is an added bonus, but I think Romney's business skills and his experience as governor of Massachusetts were valuable tools that could've been used to the country's advantage, particularly in balancing the budget. That said, the more I've read about Palin, the more I like her. For one she has delivered on her campiagn promises as governor of Alaska. While Alaska is hardly the most populous state (ranked 47th), nevertheless fulfilling things that a candidate has promised is something I haven't seen a lot of in politics, especially in regards to ending corruption and reducing spending. She was able to do both in Alaska, even going after members of her own party to reduce wasteful government spending. Her not being afraid to call out members of her own party is something I think is a rare strength in politics today. How often to we see corruption brushed under the rug by people in the same party as the offender? Can you say Lewinsky scandal (among others on BOTH sides)??? Her being a mother of five is a big plus for me too as she understands the pressures and importance of motherhood. I think that plays into her no-nonsense attitude about wasteful spending and corruption as well. About the only thing I disagree with her on is her abortion stance. While I also oppose "abortions of convenience," in cases of rape, incest, or the mother's life is in danger I believe that is a place where the woman should have the choice to abort or not. When people just fool around and then the girl gets pregnant, that was a conscious choice she made (to have sex); rape and incest are not choices; they are violations, so having a choice is something I think should still be available (meaning abortion shouldn't be completely illegal, but it also shouldn't be widely available and promoted as an alternative to common sense and responsible living). Even in cases of rape, incest, or the mother's live being in danger, that is still something that is a very personal choice for the mother and shouldn't be a definite yes or no for every case. So I guess I'm pro-life and pro-responsible choice. =)

The one important thing that Palin brings, albeit very little, is executive experience. As little as she has as governor (two years), she still has two more years than anyone else in the field as McCain, Obama, and Biden have all been legislators. Being Governor is much closer to being President than being a Senator is since they involve much of the same skills in leadsership. I think the ideal candidate for me would be someone with both legislative and executive experience so they not only have the skills to put together a good cabinet, but also understand the legislative process and what needs to go into it to be successful. Senator Voinovich of Ohio comes to mind as he has had extensive experience in both the executive (Mayor of Cleveland and Governor of Ohio) and legislative (Senator). The important thing to keep in mind, however, is that we're voting for President, not Vice President. True, if the President dies the VP takes over, but when you look at history, that isn't exacly a common occurrance. Democrats keep harping on McCain's age like he could die in office just from natural causes-- he could indeed-- but Obama unfortunately has just as much chance of dying from natural causes or even being assassinated as McCain does. It's the sad truth that I hope never happens, but it is certainly possible.

In the end, as someone who is pretty much assured of voting for McCain at this point since I agree with his stances more than Obama's, I'm happy with the choice of Palin as VP. I think she could truly help bring about the real change we need in Washington (responsible spending, accountability). My one concern is the charge against her related to abuse of power. I hope it's not true, but if it is she needs to face the consequences of it. One thing is for sure: whichever tandem wins this election in November WILL make history. Who would've thought that a few months ago? I've also noticed that no matter who McCain or Obama would've chosen, those who are opposed to them would find major faults with their selection. It's just the way we work as humans! And lastly, no, I don't think Obama choosing Clinton would've been an "unstoppable" duo as my experience tells me too many Americans view Obama and Clinton as too far left (I've found most Americans are pretty close to the center politically--moderate-- maybe leaning a little to the right) and Clinton embodies the status quo even more than Biden does, so it would've stood even more in contrast to Obama's message of "change" to have her on the ticket.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Olympic thoughts!

Whew...the Olympics are over and no major catastrophe accompanied them! I was so nervous some extremist group would try something and I'm glad nothing happened. The Olympics themselves seemed to go pretty well, not only the physical aspect, but the performance aspect as well. I was particularly proud of the performance of Team USA in these games, as they came away with 110 medals. China didn't do too badly either with 100 total medals, 51 of which were gold. I thought it was interesting how the Chinese looked more at the gold medal tally, while Americans were more concerned with the overall medal tally. I guess each country can say they achieved their goals then and was "best" according to their standard of excellence. I got the impression that the Chinese placed a much higher priority on winning as opposed to just placing, while as Americans we definitely like to win, but we also recognize and celebrate best efforts even if doesn't result in a win. That's probably why Americans were more concerned with the overall medal count instead of just looking at the golds. In the end, as I've mentioned to several people, most Americans don't really care about the medal totals if they pay attention to the Olympics at all. So really, even if the US didn't win any medals, most Americans wouldn't find their patriotism bruised or go into a national depression. I see some countries that go into collective mourning when their national team loses (especially in international soccer). I'll never forget when I was on my mission in the Tucson area in 2002 when the US beat Mexico in the World Cup. The Mexican reaction was the collective shock and mourning I mentioned previously. One quote I remember was a Mexican who basically said the US wasn't "supposed to" beat them in soccer since we beat them in every other sport. The typical US reaction: "we're in the World Cup?" I rest my case. We definitely have pride for our national teams, but it is nowhere near the fanaticism other countries have for their national teams. I think it's more because of the many strong pro-leagues (NFL, NBA, MLB, NHL) we have here that dominate the sports scene. Most Americans seem a lot more concerned about their local teams than the national teams. I think I enjoyed watching Michael Phelps win the eight gold medals the most, though the Men's Volleyball Team winning the gold after that horrific start (their coach's father-in-law was murdered in China) as well as the golds in both men's and women's beach volleyball among many others. It was a great time watching and I was proud to be an American! U-S-A! U-S-A!!

As for the Olympics themselves I thought they went pretty much as planned. Sure, China put on a great show with excellent facilities and planning, but as far as I could see, it was the same old China underneath all that glitz and glamor. The same China that represses free speech and dissent. The same China that really doesn't care about the poor and "undesirables" in their country. I'm sure there are those that would say we do the same in this country. To a degree, yes. Of course as a host country you want to put your best face forward and present as positive an image as possible. But when the US has hosted the Olympics (most recently in 2002 and 1996), did we have mass movings of poor people to make way for the stadium and building projects? Did we divert water supplies and even electricity from outlying villages to make sure the host city had enough? Did we have to mandate no or limited driving to attempt to clean the polluted air of Atlanta or Salt Lake City (or even Los Angeles in 1984!)? Did the US government have to compromise with IOC officials to allow places to protest (but only with a permit) and then not issue any protest permits? We know the answers to all these questions. The saddest thing to me is that there are enough people in China who have seemingly bought into the idea that they are "sacrificing" for their country when they could easily still have their water and electricity and Beijing would be fine. This article pretty much summed up what I figured would happen. Of course, most of the media who coevered the Olympics saw the grand side of things: the shining new facilities (I did like most of their designs!), the smiling, friendly volunteers, the cleaned streets. How ironic that a country which functions under a communist/socialist form of economics and government has such a gap between the haves and the have nots. The have-nots are far more numerous and have virtually no voice. Granted, we have a gap here too, but this is a capitalist country! Gaps happen in capitalism, but are theoritically not supposed to happen in communism or socialism. Funny how this form of government and economics still gets support even from many Americans despite all the evidence against its functionality and its history of failure to close the gap and to provide real opportunities for more people.

I did want to say something about the whole age controversy surrounding the Chinese women's gymnastics team. Most people seem to not be aware that younger gymnasts actually do have an advantage, which is the reason that countries have lied about ages in the past. Younger gymnasts are more flexible and agile as well as smaller, so are therefore more able to do things older gymnasts can't do as well if at all. That's why you rarely see the same women's gymnastic team from one Olympics to the next. It'd different from most other sports from the standpoint that age and experience usually means a better team (like the difference between a college and a high school basketball team or between a college and a pro team). In gymnastics, however, experience is very important, but age is a major enemy, even the difference between ages 14 and 16. And no, the US did not call for an investigation because they won the silver...they and many others alleged an age scandal while it was going on. I hope the Chinese gymnastics federation and the government didn't use those girls as pawns to pad their egos, but things sure do look fishy based on several media reports before the Olympics as well as alleged government pages that were all removed as soon as the story broke. I honestly don't expect anything to come of this. It would be too bad as the Chinese team did a wonderful job, but rules are rules.

Oh, P.S. I'm not at all happy about the IOC dropping baseball and softball from the sports, especially after having to endure watching such exciting sports as trampoline. Baseball is especially popular in Japan and Latin American countries besides the US and softball also has a growing popularity in Australia, Japan, and Canada. It just goes to show the European bias and dominance that exists in the IOC; since it isn't popular in Europe, then it isn't popular. BRING BACK OLYMPIC BASEBALL AND SOFTBALL FOR 2016!

Monday, August 25, 2008

McCain Opens Five-point Lead in Latest Poll

I'm not one who really gets into the political polls, though I thought I'd comment on this. Today a new poll was released that has John McCain now leading Barack Obama nationally 46%-41% after Obama had a seven point lead back in July. The other thing that I thought was interesting in the poll was the fact that McCain leads 49%-40% in the category of "who would be the best manager of the economy." It seems that Obama's opposition to off-shore drilling has really hurt him, as has his recent vacation to Hawaii according to the poll analysis.

Now, I'll be the first to say that polls are not a sure thing when it comes to predicting an election. Just see the exit polls from 2004 which showed John Kerry had won the election, when in fact, he didn't. For instance, this poll asked just 1,089 registered voters, a small fraction of the actual number of registered voters in the U.S. Having worked at a call center that did surveys, I know that not everyone who is called responds; in fact the vast majority don't. Most of the people who answered the surveys in my experience were people who had something on their mind. For instance, I did an on-going survey about gasoline. This was in late 2004 when gas prices were just beginning to really start rising (I don't think we had even hit $2.00/gallon yet). Even then, if someone had something to say, the 15-20 minute time of the survey didn't deter them. Most people we called, though, either regarded us as telemarketers, didn't have the time, or just weren't interested and declined. That said, I would be interested to find out if a study has ever been done to find out just WHO answers surveys and if there is a trend in the types of people (idealogical, cultural, etc.) who most often participate. On top of my experience working for that data research company, I also took a class at Kent State in statistics, particularly in political stats. How the questions are structured can greatly influence a poll's results, as well as the random aspect of who is called and who answers. There are many many factors that can influence a poll, not to mention the latest news reports about a certain candidate or news on the economy or world affairs.

That said, even with my initial skepticism of polls like this in general, if I were an Obama supporter, I'd be a little nervous about this poll. My experience has shown me that conservative people, in general, are less likely to respond to polls than a liberal. Conservatives by nature tend to keep to themselves. Seriously, how many huge conservative protests have we seen in this country? Not many. Most of the outgoing, expressive, and vocal people tend to be liberal. It's why liberals tend to be more supportive of the arts than conservatives, since the arts are forms of creative expression (not that conservatives aren't supporters of the arts or don't have creative expression, of course...this is in general!) So, if I'm seeing that McCain now has a lead, as an Obama strategist or supporter I'm worried that the gap could be even bigger than the poll suggests since most conservatives won't express their opinions until they actually vote. That's what I think happened during the 2004 election and the exit poll failure. While we still have the conspiracy theorists that believe Kerry actually won Ohio because of the exit polls, my belief is that most conservatives (who more than likely voted for Bush) didn't respond to the exit polls as they, again, tend to keep to themselves. They did their patriotic duty by voting and that's no one's business but their own.

I want to believe that the poll represents undecided voters beginning to see who Obama really is and that being charismatic and a great speaker, while valuable, does not make someone a great president or even a diplomat. Those are skills that can greatly aid in those responsibilities, but without the proper knowledge, experience, and understanding, they are useless. There is no doubt that Obama can draw a crowd and make great speeches. But is he really in touch with the realities of diplomacy and world politics? I don't think so. Is McCain the best? Hardly, but he has more experience than Obama, not to mention military experience. It makes me laugh when Democrats try and criticize McCain's military service as inadequate. OK, if McCain, who served in Vietnam, is inadequate, what does that make Obama who has never served a DAY in the military?? Seriously...if you're going to criticize someone, make sure YOU are in a position to criticize! As for other factors, I think Obama's initial opposition to off-shore drilling really hurt him with the average American voter. Polls have shown most Amercians do favor off-shore drilling for oil to lesson the nation's dependence on foreign oil, so opposing it doesn't make anyone believe that you want the country to have energy independence. And, with all Obama's talk of "change" I see much of the same. Like any politician he says what he needs to say to win votes and in the end, blames all the nation's ills on the other party while promising to fix everything. No party or politician will be able to fully address the problems we face as a nation until they do with EVERYONE's best interests in line and not just the party's. So far I've been very underwhelmed with Obama's rhetoric and ideas.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Where'd Summer Go?

It's hard to believe that Summer is pretty much over now. What's even more hard to believe is that my Summer classes are over as well. I still remember my first class on June 9th and how the end seemed so far away. Now that I'm at the other end, June 9th seems so far away. For one thing, I don't think I ever imagined that the people who made up my cohort this Summer would become such great friends. I was pleasantly surprised how well we all got along and just enjoyed being around each other. I'm not one who enjoys being in classes, though I do enjoy learning. It's just that for the last few years, most of what I do in classes isn't learning, it's just memorizing. I'm happy to report that most of what I did in the five classes I took this summer was actually learning instead of memorizing facts for a test and then forgetting them right away! I had four great teachers and a great group around me. It was nice to actually enjoy going to class, even though getting up at 7:00 for the 7:35 class wasn't always easy (I'm not a morning person!).

Now I'm hoping to enjoy a nice week off before Fall semester starts August 25th. My schedule still isn't set, mostly due to the fact that my advisor has been on vacation all summer, so making sure I chose the right classes hasn't really happened yet and the classes I do need to take I can't get into since I'm not a music major anymore. I'm hoping, too, to get some blogging and general projects done this week, though Fall semester should be a little less stressful than the Summer since classes are more spread out. The way my schedule is shaping up, it's going to be a strange set-up during the week, particularly the evenings.