Sunday, December 15, 2013

Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy

This is bad news to bring up during football season, but there is increasing awareness of possible long-term neurological consequences of repeated concussion-type injuries.  Formerly, these were associated with boxers, and was at one time referred to as traumatic encaphalopathy of pugulists -- in other words, being punch-drunk.

This diagnosis can only be made post-mortem; but here's a list of players who had confirmed or suspected diagnoses:


Brett Favre has stated that he would not let his son play football; and I respect his decision as a loving and conscientious father.  

I wonder if we should reconsider its prominence in American culture.  Are we doing thing the right thing by encouraging this potential form of chronic brain pathology?  They need to radically revise how the game is played, or discourage it if  this persists.

Severe amnesia problems are not normal in 40-year-olds.  I hope stiffer penalties for head shots or other potentially dangerous hits will do it.  But we may need to go further.

Especially for high school or college football.

Some cheerleading competitions have forbidden the use of standing pyramids or other dangerous gymnastics.  If that sport can do it, certainly football also can.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Seriously Inappropriate School Play

A Spanish school staged a play in which some of their students played camouflage-wearing Spanish soldiers invading Gibraltar, and shooting other students playing Brits.  Suppose the Brits in the play didn't die according to script?  Kids would rather be on the winning side.

I remember another Spanish-speaking nation trying an actual invasion of a British-owned island and it did not turn out very well.

Apparently, we're not the only country with dumb ideas.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Football Predictions Week Five

South Carolina  45   Univ. Central Florida  7  -- What idiots scheduled this one?

Alabama   35   Ole Miss  17 -- While Bama was uninspired last week, they should have more enthusiasm for the Rebs.

LSU  24     Georgia  21 -- This is the SEC Game of the Week.

Vanderbilt  29  UAB  13 -- Again, a SEC team has a semi-week off.

Tennessee  40  South Alabama  14

Texas A & M  45   Arkansas  17

Florida  31   Kentucky  10 -- Florida probably learned its lesson last weekend.

Missouri  38   Arkansas State  10  --Mo is too strong for the Red Wolves. 

Well, I hope I do better than in the previous weeks.  Don't use my picks as info on filling out your football pool card.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Alabama School Asks Permission for Corporal Punishment

Well, Alabama managed to get another negative news item:  Now Leeds City School sent home with all children a consent form allowing the school to use corporal punishment on their children.  If the parent does not return the form, this is taken as implied consent.  No specifics are included as to which offenses might be dealt with using corporal punishment, or the like.

In other words, the school would like a blank check saying it's okay to beat the child in question.

This is another example of how Alabama manages to shoot itself in the foot from time to time.

Eliminating corporal punishment in schools is long overdue.  I know it's legal in 19 states; but it doesn't make it right!

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Football Predictions Week Four

Vanderbilt  30     Massachuetts  24 -- An interesting intersectional game.

Georgia  45    North Texas  17  -- An easy one for the Dawgs.

Arkansas  38     Rutgers 16 -- The Hogs look improved, and should prevail.

Florida  45    Tennessee  20 -- Tennessee needs a quarterback.  Florida needs some cred in the SEC East.

Alabama  42   Colorado State  10 -- After last week's headline game, the Tide gets a breather.  Still, not one to blow off.

Texas A & M  44    SMU  20 -- The Aggies are pissed; and the Mustangs are what's available as a consolation victim.  Johnny Football continues to mouth off.

LSU  28  Auburn  14 -- In this Battle of the Tigers, the Bayou ones prevail

Mississippi State  35   Troy  14 -- Ho hum!  It's the Bulldogs.

Missouri   31   Indiana  24 -- These Tigers win also.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Bad News from Tuscaloosa

As an Alabama alum, I'm still interested in what is going on with the institution.

First, I must say that I enjoyed the Tide's win over Texas A & M yesterday hugely.  I notice that the story line emphasized by the sportswriters is Saban winning out over Manziel.  Talk about oversimplification!  Oh well, there are not great thinkers on most sports columns.

But for the bad news. 

Earlier, apparently the sororities had gotten involved in the local Tuscaloosa School Board elections, even to the point of members signing up to vote in the month before and being driven to the polls.  Has the goddam Machine entwined into local county politics?  Anyway, it read bad.  Somehow, I don't feature the average university student from elsewhere having that must stake in a local school board election.

Unless one candidate was a UA grad.

The other news is even worse:   Apparently sorority alumnae successfully blocked  African-American students from pledging into at least three sororities.  I thought we were past that crap long ago.

Doesn't anyone on the administration there pay attention to things like that; or are they all mesmerized by football?

Neither of those stories makes me proud to be a UA grad.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Football Predictions Week Three

There's just one headliner this week; but some good games.

Alabama  38   Texas A & M  31 -- This is the big 'un.  Alabama outlasts A &M in a wild game if they can contain Johnny Manziel.

LSU  38   Kent State  7 -- An easy one for the Tigers.

Louisville  40   Kentucky 14 -- No end of misery for the Wildcats.

Oregon  42   Tennessee  21 -- The silly-outfitted Ducks are too much for the Dreamsicle-colored guys.  Still, UT played two warmup games and is finally going against a competititve opponent.

Arkansas  28    Southern Mississippi  14 -- The Eagles should be tough for the Hogs.

South Carolina  28  Vanderbilt  14 -- Vandy has gotten better; but this should be a win for the Cocks who have had their ups and downs.

Mississippi State  28   Auburn  24 -- A painful one for the Tigers.

Mississippi  31    Texas  24 -- This game will show whether Ole Miss is Top 25 material or not.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Football Predictions Week Two

Arkansas  44   Samford  7 -- Did Arkansas have that much trouble filling out a 12-game schedule?

Kentucky  20  Miami (Ohio)  16 ==Let's face it; Kentucky's not too good this year.  The Hilltoppers almost handed them their asses last week.

Florida  35    Miami  24 -- Florida plays the real Miami.

Tennessee  35   Western Kentucky  20  -- When does Tennessee's football season begin?  The Hilltoppers may have something to say, like they did against the Cats.

Missouri  48    Toledo  7 -- Holy Toledo!

South Carolina  26  Georgia  21  -- The Cocks prevail over Georgia.

Mississippi State  35   Alcorn State  7 -- Rather pissed off Bulldogs take it out on outmatched opponent.

LSU  48   UAB  0 -- No holding those Tigers on this one.

Texas A & M  50  Sam Houston State  0  -- No stopping Manziel

Auburn  38    Arkansas State  28 -- A wild game with the P.C.-named Red Wolves

Vanderbilt  40  Austin Peay  6 -- Vandy in an easy one.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Football Predictions: Week One

So, let's look at Week One:

Alabama  22  Virginia Tech 14 -- An interesting match.

Arkansas 35  UL Lafayette 24 -- The Hogs are too much for the Ragin Cajuns.

Auburn  28   Washington State 20 -- Tigers in a close one.

Florida   40  Toledo 6 -- Shouldn't Florida be ashamed for scheduling this one?  This is a joke.

Georgia  35   Clemson 30 -- This is the headliner game of the week, with the Dawgs prevailing in the long run.

Kentucky 28  Western Kentucky 14 -- Kentucky, though the rock bottom team of the SEC, should win this one.

LSU  35   TCU 20 -- TCU is no longer a patsy; but LSU should win.

Ole Miss 21   Vanderbilt 14

Mississippi State 27   Oklahoma State 21

Missouri  35  Murray State 10 -- A rebuilding year for MO

South Carolina 40   North Carolina 24 -- An ACC headliner, with South Carolina coming out as Best Carolina.

Tennessee 35   Austin Peay 14 -- One of those ridiculous games to schedule that I'm refraining from using caps. 

Texas A & M 40  Rice 7 -- A & M is strong this year; might give Bama competition for the championship

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Realism or Honesty in Ticket Pricing

Recently the University of Tennessee announced that they will offer for sale 6,700 seats in the upper deck of the south end zone of Neyland Stadium based on market demand.  In other words, dpending on the attraction of the game, the cheap seats (relatively speaking!) will be sold for less.

These seats would otherwise be likely to go empty.

Here are the seat prices for the seven home games of the Tennessee Volunteers:

Austin Peay: $20

Western Kentucky  $20

South Alabama  $20

Georgia:  $80

South Carolina:  $80

Auburn:  $70

Vanderbilt:  $55

These ticket prices can be adjusted throughout the season to squeeze some more money out of the 'cheap' seats.

I have a few observations:

1.  The relative pricing is kind of a testimony of respect, or lack of it, for the different opponents.  Might Vanderbilt be pissed enough  that their tickets go for less than Auburn or Georgia ones, and be motivated further to thrash the Vols?

2.  By pricing some games at a mere $20, UT is tacitly admitting that these are breathers, not real games in which there is true competition.  They're no longer even pretending.

Maybe Alabama ought to do the same for the Chattanooga Mocs game!  Seriously, scheduling that one is an embarassment!

Sometimes I wish one of these D-1AA teams should teach the Godalmighty SEC a lesson! 

Hubris is often followed by Nemesis in classical Greek drama.  It ought to be in football also.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

SEC Predictions --- 2013

Since football season will begin in a little over two weeks, it's time for me to give my strictly non-expert predictions as to the outcome.
First the SEC EAST: 

1.  Georgia --Should eke it out over SC and Florida                        
2.  South Carolina -- Close               
3.  Florida -- Close, but no cigar                     
4.  Vanderbilt -- Should pull some surprises
5.  Missouri                       
6.  Tennessee
7.  Kentucky -- Not likely                      

Now for the  SEC WEST: 

1.  Alabama -- Clearly the favorite
2.  Texas A&M -- A contender 

3.  LSU -- Also a contender
4.  Auburn
5.  Mississippi State
6.  Arkansas
7.  Mississippi

But I could be wrong.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Misty Fiord

Misty Fjord is a National Monument near Ketchikan, Alaska.  It's accessable by boat of floatplane.  I think that it is one of the most scenic places in the United States.
It is misty there usually; it lives up to its name.

Ketchikan is probably the rainiest town in the United States, but a nice place to live.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Crows on the Massachuetts Turnpike

Researchers for the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority (or MTA) recently found over 200 dead crows near greater Boston, and there was concern that they may have died from Avian Flu. A bird pathologist was called in to examine the remains of all the crows and, to everyone's relief, confirmed the problem was definitely not Avian Flu. The cause of death appeared to be vehicular impacts.

However, during the detailed analysis it was noted that varying colors of paints appeared on the bird's beaks and claws. Analysis of these paint residues determined that 98% of the crows had been killed by impact with trucks, while only 2% were killed by an impact with a car.

MTA then hired an Ornithological Behaviorist to determine if there was a cause for the disproportionate percentages of crows killed by trucks versus cars.

The Ornithological Behaviorist very quickly established the cause: When crows eat road kill, they always have a look-out crow in a nearby tree to warn of impending danger.

The conclusion was that while all the lookout crows could say "Cah!", none could say "Truck!".

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Let Us Alone Flag

When Florida first became a state, it adopted a flag with the then-current United States flag in the corner, and five different-colored stripes.  In one of the stripes was the motto, "Let Us Alone."  It was unveiled at the inaugaration of the first Governor, William D. Moseley.  Ultimately, it was approved through resolutions by the House and Senate in the following year.
It was replaced by another one in 1861.  The present flag of Florida was adopted in  1900.  It was ultimately approved by both the House and Senate.


Tuesday, June 4, 2013

A Fairly Useful Prayer

Now I'm not particularly religious, but sometimes people should pray, whether you get down on your knees, or use a prayer cloth, or a prayer wheel.  Here is a prayer for one of those occasions:

"Dear Lord, don't let me be an asshole today.  I have those proclivities, having come from a long line of people with said quality.  My wife does not need the aggrivation, my children need a better example, and my friends and neighbors have enough crap to put up with and don't need an extra ration from me.  And if I act a bit like an asshole, smite me lightly, or at least give me a case of the runs.  Amen."

Seriously, a big problem in our country is rampant, unfettered assholedom.  A little humility, a little discretion, and a whopping lot of consideration for others is needed.

And, in honor of all assholes, here's Paulina Sinaga with a song just for you:

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Airline Travel

Airline travel seems to have become less and less user-friendly in the past ten years are so.  The costs have dramatically jumped; and many airlines have tacked on fees for baggage, changing flights, and other things.  Airline food, once passable, has become dreadful.  My wife and I have fallen back on the strategy of purchasing cold sandwiches at airports for in-flight meals if the flight is long or during meal hours.

On our last trip, from Knoxville to Seattle with a stopover in Chicago, American Airlines went 0 for 4,  Every flight was delayed!  The last one for an hour due to a taillight problem and the pilot having to do the paperwork.  The seats were incredibly uncomfortable.  I would dread a trans-Pacific flight in one of theirs.

My limited take on airlines:

Southwest Airlines is without a doubt the best, even though we have to drive to Nashville and often spend the night there.  It's easier to schedule, less costly, the cabin personnel are friendly and helpful, and it's a better ride.

Delta is okay; but stops in Atlanta can be a problem.  Frankly, I find ATL to be a crappy airport!  And if you have a short time between flights, you might miss your connections if your incoming flight is late.  As a rule, give yourself at least 75 minutes to get from one gate to another.

Air France is pretty good.

Northwest is okay, but we once flew across the Atlantic in a geriatric airframe on one of theirs.

O'Hare in Chicago is very crowded. 

Good airports -- Ft. Lauderdale, Nashville, Charles De Gaulle Paris, Seattle-Tacoma, Monterey, New Orleans, Montreal, Anchorage, Houston

So-so ones -- Las Vegas, Detroit, Oakland,  Knoxville, Memphis, Dallas-Fort Worth, Oklahoma City, Huntsville, Nome

Not too awful -- Los Angeles, Logan (Boston)

The Pits -- Burbank

American Airlines gave poor service.  It reminded me of riding a bus in the Bolivian mountains.  Riding the Dog, as I did in the 1960's was more comfortable.

Here's something.  Those add-on luggage check fees has prompted many passengers to put somewhat oversized bags in the carry-on luggage containers.  That makes the boarding process take long, as them try to jam those suitcases in spaces meant for carry-on bags.  And latecomers may not have any room for their carry-ons.

Thebest flight I had on the last trip was on a float plane from Ketchikan to Misty Fjord. Michelle is a surperb pilot, and gave us a great flight!

Saturday, May 25, 2013


The love child living next door has spent practically the whole day pressure-cleaning his driveway!  Now I know that a little noise is going to happen with grass cutting or trimming, but this is totally excessive.

He should take up a nice hobby, like birdwatching or photography or cat-herding or even masturbation; just so he doesn't inflict himself on his neighbors!  It seems that a six-hour concerto is enough.

Right now, I'm listening to Mozart while wearing earplugs.

I think after he's done, I'll play some t.a.t.u. on the porch; or maybe non-stop football songs.

"Cheer, cheer for old F***ing Notre Dame," Hail to the Victors," "Buckle Down Winsocki."

Or maybe just take Fred for a long walk. 

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

In Which I'm Tempted to Mis-Fire Lloyd Morgan's Canon

While Diana and I were walking with Fred (dog) yesterday along the river at The Cove, we noticed that the Canada geese were back, and one pair had four goslings.

I'm aware that Canada geese, among other species, form crèches of goslings, kind of a group effort in which they take care of others in addition to their own.  In this case, the mother goose with with the goslings in the center, and five adult geese formed a pentagon-like pattern around the group.

If these were humans, I would have no problem in calling this a defensive perimeter.  fact that they're geese puts me in a bind.

I know, per Lloyd Morgan's Canon, which states that "In no case may we interpret an action as the outcome of the exercise of a higher mental faculty, if it can be interpreted as the exercise of one which stands lower in the psychological scale."   Still, this seems extremely well-organized and almost planned.

Maybe the Canada geese that are crapping on a nearby golf course are doing it purposefully in response to the noisy wind machine there.  While humans can only grit their teeth, the geese have found an alimentary way of expressing their displeasure.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Tuesday, April 30, 2013


Yesterday our cat Shorty had to be euthanized.  He had too many problems and was in acute pain.  It hurt like hell to see him go.

We got him about 11 years ago; our daughter brought him home from Tuscaloosa, where he was born in an attic to a stray cat.  He was a very timid kitty, and spent the first two weeks with us under a bed.

We lived in Florence, where we had a tall privacy fence.  Shorty was amazingly athletic: he could go over an 8-foot tall fence.  Mostly, he would hang around in the front yard, and protect us from the encroachments of other cats.  But he was definitely The Cat Who Walked By Himself.  He was always fond of our daughter, though.

He seemed at first to be a very unpromising, distant cat; but he grew into the family and fit in with us, and with Fred (dog) and Peaches (the older cat).  Each morning, when he came in, he rubbed against the dog and stretched out on the carpet.  He came to trust us with time, and we grew fond of him.  He managed to find a preferred place on top of our sofa.

He liked going on the porch.  All he had to do was scratch on the door, and one of us would let him out.

Lately, when this old fart would take an afternoon nap, he would join me for a nap also.  And at night he would join my wife and I and watch Burn Notice or Justified or whatever comedy movie we happened to watch.

Rest easy, Shorty.  You were a cat in a million!  Roll Tide, little buddy!

Saturday, April 13, 2013

A State Map That Raises Many Questions

First, the map:

What is going on here?

I've recently become aware that there are University of Alabama garden gnomes with the goofy A monogram on their hats (Google THAT, unbelieving infidel!), but why is this lapse in taste so widespread?  At least we should be fortunate that it hasn't crept into Lauderdale or Colbert Counties.

And what is in the water in Shelby County?

But who knows?  What may be going on in the wilds by Waterloo or south of Cherokee?

I hope this intrigues you as much as it did me.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Safe and Not-So-Safe Places to Visit

According to the Canadian government, here is a map roughly depicting the countries that are safe with ordinary precautions, the ones where extra precautions are needed, and the ones to be avoided.  In general, Europe is pretty safe (I'd skip going around St. Denis in Paris, some parts of London, the Red Light District of Amsterdam, and Travestre in Rome.)  And so is Australia and New Zealand.

If it's green: no worries.
If it's red, you're an idiot for going.

Monday, April 1, 2013

Random Observations on Academia

Now that I'm safely retired, and no longer subject to the social and fiscal pressures of academic life, I'd like to weigh in with a few observations.  If you're going to fell a chinaball tree, let the chips fall where they may.

When I first started teaching at an institution in another state, I had to sign a loyalty oath.  As if I even thought of overthrowing the United States or the State of Louisiana!  Naive and unpolitical as I was, I signed this as well as a bunch of other things.

My hair was a bit long from grad school days, and I was told to get a haircut.  I did.

Colleges and universities back then operated under the in loco parentis, with various rules, some quite arbitrary.  For some reason, the Dean of Women would smash Hurricane glasses in girls' dorm rooms. 

Curiously, some faculty members who were higher-ranked officers in the military used their military titles instead of plain old 'Mister.'  It was 'Colonel This' or 'Captain That.'  No one went by 'Sergeant Whomever' or 'Lieutenant Diddle.'

I got another job, this one in northern Alabama.  The previous president required all of his faculty to be members of the A.E.A.  Yeah!  The new President ended that.  We don't need no stinkin' union membership!

A former President jumped out of a cake.  He was wearing shorts.

When I was about 12 or so, I was amazed to find myself thinking for myself.  By the time I was an Associate Professor, I had learned to keep a lot of it private.  That is a useful skill for college faculty members.

I've repeatedly encountered seagull administration in a number of settings.  Basically put, this is the management strategy where the person flies in, shits, and squawks.

There is also the management by slogan strategy.  It's like they channeled Chairman Mao Zedong and parody some of his quotes.

College teaching requires a sense of humor.  Actually, college students are wonderful to teach, even the freshmen!  I remember an old prof from grad school who pitched a fit because he had to teach a large freshman class.  I thought at the time that I hoped that attitude is not too prevalent.

Sadly, it is.  One strength of UNA is that real professors taught classes, not overworked and underpaid graduate students.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Praise the Lard!

It is surely the winter of our discontent that nowhere in northern Alabama is their a decent barbecue restaurant, since the demise of Dreamland.

I know there are some barbecue places, but not up to the grade.  There was a nice one on 2nd street in Muscle Shoals years ago, and then Dreamland; but the rest have been pale imitations of the real deal.

And for some, they put that mayonnaise-based white CRAP on their sandwiches.  And they shred, not pull!  That, in my opinion, is as big a sin as stirring martinis.

Not that I go in for such a pretentious drink; only that is James Bond's way.  And the original James Bond (Sean Connerly) was cool!

It is written in the Book of Bubba (6, 22-24): "thou shalt not defile your stomach by eating roadkill, nor eat of the products of mayonnaise."

Christ, get it right!

Christ, get it right!

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Iwo Jima Day

On this date in 1945, five U.S. Marines and one Navy corpsman raised the American flag on Mount Suribachi, Iwo Jima.  Photographer Joe Rosenthal captured the moment in this famous photograph.

Semper Fi!

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

The Pilfered Cod

One of the more legendary pranks involved some Harvard students stealing the Sacred Cod from the Massachusetts House of Representatives.  This five-foot pine carving of a codfish hangs suspended above the entrance to the chamber of the House.  It was there as a symbol of the importance of the cod on early Massachuetts history.

It's a quirky decoration; the kind that's tempting to mess with by irreverend college students. 


By James J. Montague

From Winthrop Beach to Bunker Hill,
From Cambridge to Revere,
The voice of happiness was still,
One heard no note of cheer.
A pallor whitened every face.
All eyes were red and swollen;
A dreadful crime had taken place —
The Codfish had been stolen.

The Fish that symbolized a trade
Which, in the days of old,
The shores of old New England made
A strand of shining gold,
The Fish that millions came to view
With ardent admiration,
The Fish whose fame has echoed to
The Corners of the nation.

When first I set my roving feet
Upon Bostonian sod,
I hastened blithely up the street
To view the Sacred Cod,
And in its dull and glassy eyes,
The instant of our meeting,
I fancied that I saw arise
A glance of cordial greeting.

Today there is an end of grief;
No more the skies loom black;
A chastened and repentant thief
Has brought the Codfish back.
No Stygian gloom now broods around,
No heart with woe is freighted;
Bostonian pulses leap and bound —
The Cod is reinstated.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Kitten Killing and More

No, this is not about that internet euphemism for mastrubation; it's about the recent spate of alarmist articles that allege that cats are bird- and wildlife-killing machines that account for much mortality.

The solution sometimes proposed?  Eliminate large numbers of cats; or at least spay them.  Especially feral cats.

Let's put things in perspective.  Some cats are efficient killers; most are not.  Certainly, the domesticated, well-fed cat has less motivation and opportunity to engage in aviacide.  Moreover, this is a skill that is partly learned by observation.  The typical housebound kitten has much fewer opportunity to learn this.

Plus he has regular access to food. 

So what does a house kitty do?  He sits on his butt, or he sleeps.

And, seriously, where does that data come from?  One thing that I've learned over time is that some people are very impressed with numbers; and they should be, if the source is valid. 

The fact that humans do domesticate several species of animals and make a select number of species does tinker with nature, and possibly the course of evolution.  But so does feeding the birds! On the average, more birds are able to survive and breed because humans kindly feed them.  The rigors of natural selection are lessened to some degree, some less vigorous birds may survive into adulthood.

And so does every silo or warehouse shift the balance.  Basically, these are unintended places where rats and mice have more access to food than would be present in nature.

And cats are not the only species that preys on birds.  Even other birds, such as hawks and owls. 

But, wait!

We're part of nature too.  And we screw with it for our own advantage.  And thank god that we do, sometimes.  Advances in agriculture, animal science, medicine, and public health are examples of our tinkering with nature. 

So I would not lose much sleep over some lardass housecats offing a few birds or rodents. 

As a matter of fact, the PETA crowd does not come out strongly pro-rat.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

John Heisman Quote and Factoids

"What is this? It is a prolate spheroid, an elongated sphere in which the outer leather casing is drawn tightly over a somewhat smaller rubber tubing.  Better to have died as a small boy than to fumble this football."

John Heisman coached at Auburn, Georgia Tech, and Penn State.

In 1916, while coaching at Georgia Tech, his team ran up the most lopsided score ever in college football, winning 222-0.