Wednesday, September 30, 2009

What's Wrong With College Football

1. Pre-season rankings. How do you know a team is number 1 this year if they lost half of their team to the NFL at the end of last season and half of their current starters are freshman? I know they do it in college basketball too but in college basketball their postseason success isn't determined by their ranking. Which brings us to....

2. The BCS and bowl game system in general. So explain to me why its good for college football for mediocre teams from big conferences to play in 30 meaningless bowl games rather than to use some of those same games for a playoff? I went to a Big Ten school and I think that automatically giving the Big Ten and other big conference schools a place in bowl games without any consideration for how good other teams are is ridiculous. We will never know which team is the best because if you aren't in a big conference then you can never be a national champion. If you don't have some human selection committee, like they do in college basketball,in addition to the polls then college football will never get it right. Strength of schedule, AP and USA today polls with input from biased coaches and sports writers and other strange statistics that play into the BSC formula are not an accurate assessment of which teams are the best. Lets be honest, the bowl system rewards big time schools with big time money (that they really don't need) and the bowl games in no way reward the most gifted teams. People don't get excited about post season college football the way they do about college basketball and March Madness and they never will unless something changes.

My proposal would be a 12 team playoff. The top 8 teams in the BCS get an automatic bid into the postseason (I don't think we'll ever get rid of the BCS completely). Then a panel of experts selects 4 at large teams to also be in the series. The top four teams in the BCS get an automatic bye and do not have to play the first week. The #5-#8 teams in the BCS play against the 4 at large teams. The four winners of those games face off against the #1-#4 teams in the BCS in the second week of the playoffs. Then the third weekend you have the final four teams face off to determine who will play in the national championship game which would be played a week later. The 4 bowl games that host these playoff games and the national championship would rotate every year with a pool of tickets set aside for the home teams to buy once they are determined. The teams that are in this pool would be announced the last week of the college football season which is typically around Thanksgiving. These teams would be out of eligibility for other bowl games which could still honor the conference ties that they currently have. We already know that the results of most of the 30 bowl games are meaningless so lets not pretend like they are anything more than an exhibition game in a really cool location and and excuse to take a vacation on your university's dime.

3. Crappy non-conference schedule. This is a personal gripe but its not just my team that has this problem. As a Penn State alumni and proud football fan, I am sick of the 4 cupcake teams that have been on our schedule every year since my freshman year in 1994 and I'm sure many years before that. Why is everyone surprised when we lost to Iowa last weekend when we were tested by the likes of Akron, Temple and Syracuse in the previous weeks? And really, was anyone surprised when USC beat the crap out of us in the bowl game last year? We don't play teams of that caliber on a regular basis so why should we expect to be able to hold our own against them? Our opponents in previous years have included such football powerhouses as Rutgers and Coastal Carolina. Virginia Tech played Alabama as a non-conference game for their first game of the season. Yes, they lost that game but by playing against big time schools they have made their program better over the years. We will never win another championship unless we start to do this as well. We should have never been ranked #5 in the first place. If we would have gone undefeated this year and went into a national championship game ahead of Virginia Tech (who I hate with a passion) if their only loss was to Alabama, a much better team, I would have been pretty disgusted with the system.

I still love college football but it is in need of a serious overhaul.

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Where Have You Gone Dave Matthews?

I love live music. I went to my first concert when I was 11 years old and I have been addicted ever since. I have seen 100+ live acts in my 33 years and plan to see plenty more in my lifetime. This past week I saw The Dave Matthews Band for the sixth time. I hate to say it, but I think I have outgrown this band.

I became a fan of The Dave Matthews Band (DMB) in 1994, when they released Under the Table and Dreaming, their first major studio album. When I saw them for the first time in January 1995, it was a life-altering event for me. It is the first concert that I can remember where every song, every note, everything was perfect. Even the crowd, which can often ruin an otherwise great concert, was perfect. The next three shows were very similar to this show: enthusiastic but respectful fans, great sets, great atmosphere.

People started referring to DMB as the new Grateful Dead because of the cult following that they elicited. I wasn't one of those fans who followed the band from town to town but I had every album and listened to them constantly. I prided myself on being one of the fans who had been around since the early years before MTV and pop radio started playing them in heavy rotation.

My fifth concert experience in 2004 was pretty miserable. The crowd was very young, mainly teenagers and college kids but also plenty of pre-teens there. I was almost 28 at the time and felt like a senior citizen. DMB only played a couple of their upbeat hits that night. The set primarily consisted of extended versions of some of their slower hits and newer, more obscure songs. Goodbye brilliant musicianship, hello endless jam sessions with little to no melody. But the crowd of high teenagers loved it. They weren't there for the music, they were there to do drugs, hook up and be seen. The lack of crowd sing-a-long at this show was kind of eerie compared to the earlier shows.

DMB albums started to turn south at this point as well. It seemed like the band, like most of pop culture, started to cater to the tween to teen generation of kids. The music became simpler and less unique. The concerts were merely background music for the live after school special playing out at the shows. But of course, this is when they received the most critical acclaim. Everyone and their mother became a DMB fan at this point.

I didn't buy the next few DMB albums. What I heard on the radio didn't inspire anything and barely resembled the band that I had fallen in love with a decade ago. When the newest album, Big Whiskey and the GrooGrux King, came out earlier this year it seemed like the old DMB was coming back. Musically this album sounds like the old DMB. The music is good again and the lyrics are more thoughtful and less pop. My husband had never seen them before so I decided to check out the band on their latest tour.

We bought lawn seats to the show this year. I had stadium seating right in the middle of 90210 at the 2004 show and it sucked. At least on the lawn we could distance ourselves from the rowdy, high, drunk, rude teenagers that were there to put on a show and not witness one. We were happy when we found a lot of people just like us (music lovers that weren't trashed or 12) near the back of the lawn area. There was plenty of ridiculous behavior in front of us but we were able to distance ourselves from it and have a good time.

While this show was much better than the 2004 show it was no where near the epic experiences of the earlier shows. They played a few of their upbeat hits but once again seemed to focus heavily on the slow, dirge-like songs. While their new album is good, playing almost every song from that album consecutively rather than mixing them in with older hits was a mistake. They lost the crowd for several songs at a time. A lot of the people at the show didn't seem to know there was a concert going on. These people were having very loud conversations with each other and on their cell phones. There were walking around, sending text messages, laying on the grass making out or dancing manically to the drug-induced hippie beat in their head whether or not music was playing or not.

My husband and I left early on in the encore to avoid traffic. People had started leaving in significant numbers 30 minutes or so before we left and a lot of people left at the same time that we did. DMB started to play some of their classic hits during the encore but by then we had our fill. Sitting through 2 hours of mediocre music to get to the good stuff if just unacceptable.

Of course the band didn't notice the droves of people who left early because all they could see were the crowds of trashed teenagers pushed up close to the stage. These people "danced" non-stop and screamed every time a new song started. The band couldn't see the back rows of the reserved seating or the big empty spaces in the lawn. If you check out Live Nation or some of the other concert websites you will see glowing reviews of how great the concert was and how DMB is the best band around. These reviews were written by the teenagers.

So while I feel like I can be a fan of DMB again, I doubt I will go to another concert. They are catering to a different group of people and I don't really want to hang out in that group. DMB now joins Counting Crows, another band that puts out brilliant studio albums but is horrible in concert, as a band that I must love from afar. If you like jam bands that will turn a 5 minute song into a 30 minute opus to mediocrity then you should go get tickets to the show. Otherwise, save your money and enjoy the music at home.

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Monday, September 21, 2009

Dog Pet Peeves #1

People who don't pick up their dog's poop. If you're in the woods its okay but in a neighborhood or at the local park with lots of people it's just rude. You people are the reason that dogs aren't allowed in a lot of places.

Parks and trails that provide poop bags but no trash cans. Seriously, one of our favorite 3 mile hikes only has a trash can at the beginning of the trail but it has poop bag receptacles all over the place. Who is the genius....

People who walk their dogs without a leash when they are in very busy places. That's great that your dog is well trained and all but you have no idea what he might react to and it makes me nervous to watch him roaming all over the bike path 100 yards ahead of you as bikers and other dogs whiz past. I love you people who yell "My dog is friendly" as me and my leashed dog approach you and your unleashed dog. Well is my dog friendly? Will our dogs get along? How will my dog react to this strange, wild dog jumping all over him? My dog and I have both been bitten by "friendly" dogs.

People who don't walk their dogs at all. If one more person says "I can't walk my dog" I'm going to scream. If you never taught your dog how to walk nicely on a leash, he isn't just going to pick it up naturally. It's not second nature to him; you actually have to do some work.

Ditto for people who get mad at their dogs for not "eliminating" in the exact place and time that you want. If you don't exercise your dog regularly or properly house train him and he messes in the house, that's your fault. If he goes in the house, the 5 minutes that you left him alone in the yard probably didn't do it for him.

People who stand in their front yard with their high energy dog on a leash. Seriously, would it kill you to walk around the block? I'm sure Rover is enjoying standing in the front yard while you yell at him to go to the bathroom so you can get back in the house as soon as possible.

People who keep their dogs in crates too much. If you want to crate train your dog fine, but don't use it as a cage that you can put your dog in because you don't want to deal with him when you have company or when you're too tired. The same goes for leaving your dog in the yard, garage, bathroom, basement. Dogs needs interaction with other dogs and people. If you aren't willing to put in the time and incorporate that dog into your life then you shouldn't have a dog.

People who bring their dogs to road races, festivals and other events where there are tons of people. Usually I see these people yanking their dogs around and yelling at them for being interested in all that's going on around them. I know you like to hear people say what a cute dog you have but it's incredibly frustrating for the dog and the good dog owners around you to see your dog trapped at the Carnival all day. He would much rather be sleeping in his warm bed in his favorite spot at home. Same goes for people who drag their dog around town on errands and then leave the dog in the car for hours or people who take their dog on trips with them only to have the dog locked in a hotel room or boarded for several hours at a time.

People who carry their small dogs every where and don't walk them or exercise them. All dogs need exercise. Just because your dog weighs 3 lbs doesn't erase the fact that he is a dog that has the same basic exercise and behavioral needs as other dogs.

People who say their dog gets plenty of exercise because they are in the yard all day. Well that's like saying that because you have a gym membership you're super fit. It doesn't work that way. You need to interact with your dog and play with him. You can't just throw him in the yard and expect that to cover his exercise quota for the day. Electric fences or real fences, an unattended dog is susceptible to bad people and other animals that can hurt him or at risk for running out of the yard because he is bored or excited. Do you know how many dogs get hit by cars every year because their owners left them alone in the yard and they escaped? Do you know how common it is for a dog to run through the electric fence barrier if the stimulation is strong enough?

People who smack their dogs. If you don't' train your dog and then he acts badly you can't punish the dog for that. If your dog has developed bad habits then work to get rid of those habits either on your own or with a professional trainer. Spot doesn't understand that you are smacking him on the butt because you don't like him jumping on people when they come to the house. He has probably made the association that bad things happen when people come over and it will just keep getting worse until he develops a fear of people. Fear will lead to worse behavioral issues and possible aggression later. When you scream at your dog and smack him you are doing that for your benefit, because it makes you feel better. You are not doing anything for that dog.

People who leave their dog unattended in their yard without a fence (electric or otherwise). These are the dogs that you see roaming from house to house. The dogs that follow you when you're walking your dog or when you out for a run or a bike ride.

People who buy dogs from pet stores. Puppy mills supply these stores. Reputable breeders don't sell their dogs to pet stores.

People who won't even consider rescue because they want to know where their dog came from and they want a guarantee that the dog will never be sick. Sorry folks but dogs get sick. It's unfortunate fact of life no matter where you get your dog from. I've actually had people say to me" You got him from the Human Society? I didn't know they had dogs like that". Really, some people are that ignorant.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Adoption Diaries

I have always had a fascination with adoption. While I don't want to have children, I have always felt that if I did I would adopt. I'm guessing that whatever it is inside me that drives me to rescue animals that other people have cast aside and deemed "less desirable" than other animals is what would drive me to adopt a child.

I have seen every episode of a An Adoption Story on Discovery Channel Health at least twice. Unfortunately they stopped making new episodes several years ago. So I was very excited when I heard that the Women's Entertainment (WE) was reviving the show. I have watched two episodes and don't plan on watching any more. The new show only focuses on open adoptions of newborns and doesn't even present the other types of adoptions that are out there.

I can understand the appeal of open adoption to a young mother who doesn't feel that she can raise the child but doesn't want to lose all communication with the child. And I guess if you really want to have a newborn baby then open adoption would appeal to prospective adoptive parents as well. Personally, if I carried a child to term, that would be my baby. I would find a way to make that child fit into my life. After being pregnant for 9 months and going through labor and all the emotional highs and lows that accompany the miracle that is childbirth I would be emotionally destroyed if I gave up that child. My husband had a vasectomy. We knew we didn't want children so we did the responsible thing rather than deal with an unwanted and unplanned pregnancy. But if we were in the <1% of people who find themselves pregnant after surgical sterilization then we would make it work. I am a strong believer that everything happens for a reason. Whether you want to call it religion or spirituality, I would not fight the universe if it were so determined to give my husband and I a child. I would accept that there were forces much greater than us plotting our future and not question it.

Millions of people do it every day but I just can't get past the adoptive parents having to share their child with the birth mom forever. The obligation to keep the birth mom in the child's life would just be too big a price to pay for me as an adoptive parent. The best part of the old show on Discovery Channel Health was that it focused on all different types of adoptions. There were open adoptions but there were also adoptions of older children domestically and abroad, the adoption of babies and infants domestically and abroad and the adoption of children by foster parents. By showing all of the different types of adoptions and how successful and happy the families were in the end it opened people's minds to the other options that were out there if you couldn't or didn't want to have a child naturally.

There is no shortage of parents looking to adopt newborn babies in this country. On the flip side, there are plenty of children that age out of foster care every year. Meaning that they live in a group home or foster families until they reach 18 years old and then are thrown out into the world to make a life for themselves. Can you imagine waiting for parents year after year after being abandoned by your birth parents? I can't imagine the psychological damage that this does to a person. The movie Antwone Fisher, starring Denzel Washington, tells the true story of someone who went through the experience of aging out of foster care and how it affected his life. The movie received mixed reviews but the message from the story is undeniable: growing up without a solid family structure prevents you from having a fully developing emotionally as a healthy adult. Note that a solid family structure can exist in a home with a single parent, grandparents/aunts/siblings and from a gay couple and an unstable homelife can come from a two parent household.

I think open adoption is a great option for people who insist on having a newborn child and I think it is a much more reasonable option than fertility treatments that lead to litters of children and present a greater health risk to both the other and the child. But I think that by only focusing on the segment of adoption that doesn't need any promotion, WE is doing quite a disservice to the general public and the unadopted children of this country.

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Friday, September 18, 2009

Chale Update

I just realized that I never followed up on Chale's cancer diagnosis from June. A cyber friend of mine just lost her German Shepherd to Cancer earlier this week so I figured I'd provide an update on my boy's status. We went through many of the same challenges that she did with her dog but have had more positive news since the initial diagnosis.

After receiving the cancer diagnosis in June we were very sad but hopeful since Chale showed no symptoms of Cancer other than the low platelet count. We were dealing with the side of effects of the prednisone but, other than that, life was relatively normal. Two weeks after the diagnosis, his right front leg swelled up to more than twice its normal size from the armpit all the way down to his toes. We took him to the emergency vet to have it checked out. We were told that a chest x-ray was needed to determine whether or not there was a mass that was was restricting his blood flow and causing the leg to swell. While we were prepared to lose Chale after the initial diagnosis, we were not prepared to lose him that soon.

Luckily, the chest x-ray came back clear and there were no masses found. After meeting with an internist we were told that Chale had been misdiagnosed with cancer. The high dose of prednisone that he had been given to prevent tumor growth had actually masked the real problem, a blood clotting disorder likely caused by an auto-immune disease. It was a blood clot that had made his leg swell up and brought us to the emergency room. If that blood clot had not developed and we continued treatment for cancer it is possible that Chale would have bleed to death.

As if we weren't already pissed off enough at that point, the internist went on to say that he thought Chale had been misdiagnosed with Lyme disease a year ago, that his seizures (which started 5 years ago) seemed to be linked to an under active thyroid that went undetected and that the urinary tract infection that he developed earlier this year should have been recognized as a symptom of the auto immune disease. So essentially, our baby has been treated for the wrong illnesses for at least a year and a half now and these incompetent vets could have prematurely ended his life.

The only comfort that I can take in all of this is that Chale has not been suffering. We have been living our lives normally and he is his normal perky self. His quality of life has never been compromised. I think the worst part of all of this is the feeling of helplessness that we felt at the hands of so called experts. How were we to know that the vet missed something when they tested him in the past? Why would we ever question someone when what they say makes complete sense to us, the naive pet owners?

Chale has not had a seizure since March 2008. But it would have been better to add thyroid medications to his diet rather than raising the doses of the two anti-seizure drugs to the high dose that he is on now. The anti-seizure drugs are known to cause kidney and liver damage over time. While Chale's liver and kidney tests show that there has been some damage he is still in the high end of the normal range for a geriatric dog. I credit this 100% to the holistic supplements that we added to his diet to support his liver and kidneys at the same time that we started the seizure medications. Thanks to awesome support from some great alternative vets.

The high doses of antibiotics and steroids that Chale has received for Lyme disease, Cancer and the urinary tract infection essentially allowed the outward symptoms of the real problem to go dormant. If the blood test results would have been looked at more closely or additional tests performed to confirm the diagnosis, who knows what we could have avoided. But I'm not going to torture myself by thinking that way.

Chale is currently on a low dose of prednisone (an eighth of the dose that he started on) and ideally will be weaned off it completely over the next several weeks. We no longer see any of the side effects of the steroid since he is at such a low dose. The doctors have not clearly determined what has caused the blood clotting disorder but they are leaning towards ehrlichiosis, or another tick-borne illness, that should have been diagnosed and treated in 2008 instead of Lyme disease. Unlike cancer, Chale's body produces plenty of fresh white blood cells like it does in a healthy dog but the disease uses them up, resulting in the consistently low platelet count. Chale's platelet count has been in the normal range since we started him on azathioprine when we went to the emergency room. We still have the possibility of adding a blood thinner and thyroid prescription to his life but that is the least of our worries.

Chale will be 9 years old at the end of 2009. I understand that he is an old dog and even a health German shepherd doesn't live much longer than 10 years typically. But I cannot accept him dying prematurely from something preventable. So no, we won't be getting a new fence this year because of the thousands of dollars that we have spent on Chale this summer but I'd much rather have another year with my dog than a fence any day.

My only recommendation to my pet loving friends is that if your dog has a Lyme positive test, make sure it is actually Lyme disease. A Lyme positive test just means there has been exposure to an infected tick. That doesn't mean that the disease was passed from the tick to your dog. It can actually mean that the tick passed a completely different disease to your dog or that while your dog was exposed he did not contract the disease. Chale showed not symptoms of Lyme disease and had a very low positive diagnosis. According to our new vet these results should have lead to additional testing before treatment. He indicated that Lyme disease is commonly incorrectly diagnosed so before you get those antibiotics don't be afraid to ask questions! I hope no one else has to go through what we've been through this summer.

There is an episode of Mystery Diagnosis on TLC where a person went through our exact misdiagnosis. It explains all of this technical stuff much better than I have.

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Breaking Up is Hard

Phil, my boyfriend from 9th grade. I'm a jerk. I'm sorry I wrote you a note and broke your heart. But you had to know that you were just the rebound boyfriend from Jared and that I was just using you to boost my self esteem. Because of you, I put up with people's crap much longer than I should because I fear that they to will accuse me of being a liar and quitting without really trying. Steve, Adam, Christian, ditto. Just insert a different ex-boyfriend's name.

Shortly after Phil, there was Lisa. My best friend in intermediate school. We definitely went in different directions in high school but she still told everyone we were best friends. It wasn't hurting me and really, I was no where near as cool as I thought I was. So why did I have to write you that note spelling it out, sending you crying from the lunch room. To this day her family hates me even though Lisa and I made up just a couple years later. Popularity is fleeting. I wish I were a better person back then. It is because of you that I will never turn down a friend request on Facebook no matter how brief my interaction was with the requester.

Sure, I told my freshman college roommate that I would room with her again sophomore year and then went to the housing office and changed my preference but that sort of passive break up is much easier on the soul. For most of my late teens and 20's I just let relationships get to the point that they were complete crap and then the other person ended them. I would always be surprised when they ended the relationship like it was some tragic loss. I was sad because I had lost something familiar, not something that was valuable in my life. A couple days later I always realized that the relationship had been gone for a long time and that I'd been wasting my time for years. Then I was angry at myself for being the victim and not taking the initiative to end it myself. Of course, I repeated this cycle over and over again. I'm sure a therapist would have a field day with this.

Lately, the people I have collected would best be described as acquaintances. These are people that you meet by chance or circumstance that you don't really consider your friends but they somehow find a way to weasel themselves into your life. The girl at the gym who always says hi to you who one day asks if you want to sit together when you bump into her at the food court. You say yes because it seems harmless and then spend the next 4 years of your life trying to unfriend her. Or better yet, the woman who you meet at a business conference who finds out that you both have dogs and like to run and is suddenly planning play dates and races. One week later you find out that you have nothing in common with this girl (seriously, how many people in the world have dogs and run, that's really not the basis for a friendship) but somehow find yourself going to parties at her house and dragging your husband to dinner with her and her miserable husband for an uncomfortable evening of bad conversation and nervous laughter.

Is there a target on my back that says "Please become excessively clingy to this woman and feed on her like a parasite"? The funny thing is I'm really not a nice person. Sure, if we're friends I am nice and compassionate but to the outside world I am bitchy, sarcastic, opinionated, obnoxious, inappropriate and loud. But that seems to be what attracts people. "Oh Denise you're so funny" or "You are crazy" are said to me on a regular basis. No really, I meant it when I told you to go away and I can't stand you. It wasn't a joke. How can I let my guard down when I meet new people without worrying that I'm going to end up with another leech? It's almost impossible not to be mean to these hangers-on because they just don't get the subtle comments. But I probably won't be mean. I'm all talk at this point. Maybe two out of every 10 leeches will get released. I'll just deal with it until one of us moves or they get the point.

Oh John, you were a horrible personal trainer. That's why I kept cancelling our appointments. You are a total meat head who spent more time looking in the mirror and flirting with the skinny girls than you ever spent on me. You never even listened to me talk. I'm glad that you no longer work at Bally's so I don't have to worry about hiding from you when I'm in the mall. Just because I'm not skinny doesn't mean that I've never worked out before. You talked down to me and made me feel like crap and I hope that someone tells you this before you ruin someone else's self esteem.
Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Sunday, September 13, 2009

There is an "I" in Favre

I don't know about everyone else but I'm sick of Brett Favre. I was never a Green Bay Packers fan but I always respected Favre as a player and recognized him as one of the best quarter backs of my generation. He has lost that respect over the last several years.

First there was the flip-flopping every year at the end of the season when he was with the Packers. The physical beating that his body took year after year, not to mention the time away from his family had weighed on him. For the first couple of years we all gave Favre a pass. He lost close family members to long term illnesses. His wife had breast cancer. Of course he had a lot of things that were bigger than football to think about. If one of the best quarterbacks in football needed a couple extra months to determine what was best for him and his family then fine.

Well a couple years became the last 5 years of his career with the Packers. The Packers drafted Aaron Rogers to lead the Packers after Favre retired only to have him sit on the bench. Poor Rogers ended up being a very expensive back up for several years while Favre continued to play, leading all of us through the emotional roller coaster of his retirement. When he finally retired after the 2007-08 season we were all relieved (especially Rogers and the rest of the Packers). His tearful retirement press conference was difficult to watch. You could tell that he was leaving something that he really loved. Conversations immediately started about where Favre ranked on the list of the greatest quarterbacks of all time. There were debates on whether or not he would be a first ballot hall of famer or not.

So imagine our disgust when he signed with the Jets just a few short months later. Apparently Brett didn't want to retire, he just didn't want to go through off season conditioning and training camp with the rest of the football players. He had moments of brilliance last season but nothing close to his heyday. And if one thing was clear last season it was that Favre was no longer fit enough to be productive for an entire NFL season, not to mention the playoffs. And maybe Favre realized that too because he retired at the end of the 2008-09 season.

No surprise when a couple months later he announced that he had signed a two-year deal with the Vikings. The Vikings are the main rivals of his former team the Packers. Favre wanted to go to the Vikings in 2008 but Green Bay wouldn't allow this so he went to the Jets. By going to the Vikings by way of the Jets he sticks it to his former team and they can't do anything about it. None of the restrictions from Favre's Packers' contract exist any more. Favre has signed a two-year deal with the Vikings so I suppose we are spared the retirement roller coaster for at least one year.

The worst part of all of this is how he has thrown the New York Jets under the bus. He claims he was injured last year but they made him play. He says they weren't comfortable with their back up quarter back. He confesses that they didn't list him on the injured reserve list, etc. Whatever. So the young head coach of the Jets who had what 2 years of experience being in a charge of a football team bullied this 16 year veteran of the NFL? I don't think so. What kind of turncoat completely rips his former team apart in the national media for no reason? The Jets organization embraced Brett when no one else wanted to deal with him. They defended him while everyone else was putting him down and this is how he thanks them. Are we all supposed to believe that Favre is suddenly going to be back to his form of over a decade ago when he lead the Packers to a Super Bowl win? Are we supposed to blame the Jets for his lack of productivity last season? Gimme a break.

I have selected the Vikings to lose to the Ravens in the Super Bowl this season. You see the Vikings were very good last year and I think they will be even better this year with their younger players being more experienced. I don't expect Favre's body to last an entire season. In my dreams Tavarus Jackson, the Vikings young starting quarterback from last season, will lead the Vikings to the Super Bowl while Brett sits on the sidelines watching.

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Friday, September 11, 2009

Are You Ready for Some Football?

I know I am ready. The off season seems to take forever. Last night was a great way to kick the season off with the game between the Steelers and the Titans. Both teams were great on both sides of the ball. It was one of those games that I just knew would come down to who had possession of the ball last. And it did. The Steelers won with a field goal in overtime.

The way overtime is managed in the NFL is a complete disaster. In an evenly matched game like last night's game you know that whoever wins the coin toss is going to win the game. It's not about skill at that point. Its about luck and it devalues both teams. The Steelers know that Tennessee would have won the game if they had possession of the ball. The victory doesn't mean anything.

I'm not suggesting that the NFL adopt the same overtime rule as the NCAA. Playing on a shortened field makes it feel like pee wee football. But at least both teams get a chance on offense which makes it more fair than the NFL rules. Realistically, college athletes in the best physical condition of their lives should be able to play on a regulation football field for a few more minutes but that rule is never going to change. With a progressive commissioner like Roger Goodell, I think the overtime rule might actually change in the next few years. The NFL needs to do one of two things: require that a team score 6 points to win or give each team a chance on offense.

People who argue that both teams have an equal chance of winning with the current format are wrong. With some kickers able to boot the ball 60 yards, getting halfway down the field puts a lot of teams in field goal range. Even if you have a great defense, it would be difficult to hold a team that is your equal to less than 40 yards between the kick off return and yards gained over three downs. Sure, sometimes the kick gets blocked but this isn't' something we should count on to even up the game. I paid $185 dollars a ticket to see my Dallas Cowboys play against the Buffalo Bills last season. If that game had gone into overtime I would have been pissed off that I had spent that much money to see a game decided on a coin toss.

In regulation, if a team scores a field goal instead of a touchdown the announcers praise the team on defense for holding the line. Then they change their tune in overtime and praise the offense for getting into scoring position when they get a field goal. Come on. If Tennessee had a possession after the Steelers' field goal in overtime I suspect they would have scored at least 3 as well but it would have been nice to see it. The possibility for multiple overtime periods exists if you let teams play for an additional 10 minutes with each team getting at least one possession. But if you had to score 6 points to win, two field goals or a touchdown, then every possession would actually mean something. The outcome of the game would be decided fairly and it would be much more enjoyable to watch.

This debate comes up every year but not usually after the first game of the season. I think Commissioner Goodell is great for football and like many of the changes that he has already made since taking over. I hope that he fixes this rule after this season so football games can be decided on skill and not luck.

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Day After Labor Day Is the Best

Goodbye summer.

Goodbye to the children running and riding their bikes aimlessly at the park, getting in the way of the people trying to work out. Goodbye to their parents talking on their cell phones and not disciplining their children.

Goodbye to the tram that drives lazy people who don't want to walk the paved fitness trail around the lake loop. Goodbye to swerving into the grass to avoid getting run over. Goodbye to able-bodied people sitting on their butts, staring at people working out.

Goodbye to malls and stores full of children with nothing to do but run around in circles. Goodbye to their parents who seem to think Target is a day care center and sit at the Starbucks in the front of the store for 2 hours complaining about how difficult their lives are while their children make life for shoppers and employees miserable.

Goodbye to the county sponsored morning fitness program at the park that offers free yoga classes to local residents every summer. Goodbye to the hundred people who stand around and chat on the path and socialize while blocking the rest of us from working out. Goodbye to the elderly people who shouldn't be allowed to drive anymore who almost kill people in their quest to attend a free yoga class.

Goodbye to RVs and out of state license plates. Goodbye to state fair traffic.

Hello to school buses and children in the morning when I'm walking Chale and in the afternoon when I get home from work.

Hello to increased morning traffic from college students and teachers going back to work.

In a couple months, hello to the 200 inches of snow that we get every year. Hello to trying to work out when you have limited sunlight and it's -10 degrees and icy out.

Who am I kidding? I will wear a reflective vest and walk Chale an hour earlier. Even on the worst days, my 10 mile commute will never be that bad. I love winter and all the hot chocolate and campfires that come along with it. I have a treadmill and snowshoes, I can still work out. The day after Labor Day is the official beginning of the good life for adults and I love it!

Monday, September 7, 2009

Black Cat Rescue

I heard a horrible statistic on the radio this afternoon. Three to four million cats enter shelters every year. Of those only half will be adopted and the rest will be euthanized. White cats are the easiest to adopt out followed by tabby cats. Black cats are the least popular with only 20% being adopted.

Most rescue groups blame this disparity in adoptions on the superstition that black cats will bring bad luck. That's just crazy. When I went to my local shelter to adopt a cat 10 years ago I was looking for a black cat. Unfortunately, all the black cats that were available for adoption were very skittish and nervous. I ended up adopting a large orange tabby cat because he was very vocal and was purring and rubbing his head against the cage as I held my hand against the bars. If I had known this statistic then, I might have been more diligent in my search for a black cat and come home with two cats that day.

In some countries black cats are considered good luck. I can't believe that a developed nation like ours would be so full of stupid people that they wouldn't adopt an innocent cat just because of the color of his fur. Well I guess I'm not that surprised. There is discrimination against people of different races, sexes, social class and sexuality along with biases against certain breeds of dogs so why not cats too.

I can understand shelters holding on to black cats around Halloween because of the cruel things that some idiots do to them to "celebrate". But that month of not adopting out black cats shouldn't result in such low adoption numbers for the rest of the year. A lot of shelters are setting up special events to bring attention to the black cat population to try and encourage adoptions. I have heard of the following events taking place to try and increase black cat adoptions: Black Cat Friday (day after Thanksgiving), In the Black (tax season), Black Tie Love Affair (held in some Petsmart locations one weekend a year) and Black Christmas. I have heard of black cats being available for 50% off at some of these events. A lot of people that come to these events are looking at the black cats first because they are on sale. While a lot of these people leave these events with non-black cats these events bring people out to the shelters and increase the likelihood of more cats of all colors being adopted. Any event that brings visibility to the high volume of cats that are available for adoption, particularly black cats, is a great one in my book. Please check your local rescue organizations and pet stores if you are thinking about getting a cat and consider adopting a black cat.

If I didn't have a 12 year old angry tabby cat in my house, I would be adding a black cat to our household. I hope that Tiger lives to be a very old cat but when he passes I know the following: 1. We will adopt two cats at once next time and 2. One of those cats will be black. Happy Labor Day. Don't forget to spay and neuter your furry friends so we can try to control the animal population.

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Sunday, September 6, 2009

The Biggest Loser

I am totally obsessed with all forms of weight loss, make over and surgery reality shows. My perfect show would start with someone losing 100 lbs, then having plastic surgery to remove the excess skin and then have a fabulous style and life makeover to fit their new healthy body. When the Biggest Loser first came out I was obsessed with the show. But, like most things, I have found that I don't enjoy it any more and the show has definitely lost its purpose.

What I don't understand is why people have to be kicked off these shows. What would be so terrible about letting everyone stay in the house and benefit from the expert advice for as long as they can? You have a better chance of teaching these people how to lead healthy lives if you have them for 12 weeks rather than 1 weeks. Then they can take what they've learned home to their families. If I got kicked off the first week on the show and still had 100 lbs to lose I would feel like I was no better off then when I first started. What had they taught me? That I wasn't fit or popular enough as the other fat kids so I needed to go home? Well that's a great self esteem boost. These people know they are a mess. That's why they come to the show. And you just confirm that they are not good enough by kicking them off and telling them to go it on their own. Well if they could go it on their own they wouldn't have needed to sign up for the show!!

If no one got kicked off, the show would still reward the person with the most significant weight loss but it would get rid of the popularity factor. Alliances are formed every season and people are often kicked off the show because people don't like them or are threatened by them. These are people who have been ridiculed for most of their lives and feel horrible about themselves and all this show does is turn contestants into the same jerks that used to ridicule them. I find myself routing against many of the contestants by the end of the show because they have become such miserable people.

I remember in the earlier seasons that everyone was pulling for the success of all of the participants. Yes, it was still a competition but more importantly it was about not being morbidly obese and taking control of your life. Even the trainers have turned into children, forming cliques with certain contestants, talking about other contestants behind their backs. It is just sad. And the overly staged product placement is completely out of hand. Clearly you are making a ton of money off endorsements. You don't have to shove it in our faces so shamelessly.

And why isn't there a therapist on this show? No one gets to be morbidly obese and doesn't have any emotional issues that caused it. By treating the symptom (being fat) and not the cause you are just setting that person up for failure long term. I remember seeing an Oprah Show several years back about people who had developed new addictions after having gastric bypass surgery. There were sex addicts, alcoholics, compulsive gamblers, etc. The bottom line was that whatever had caused their food addiction or emotional eating in the first place had not been cured. I've heard that you're not ready to tackle any diet plan unless you can truthfully answer these three questions: Why are you overweight? Why do you want to lose weight? and Why haven't you been able to maintain weight loss in the past? Without showing the contestants and the viewers at home that losing weight is more than just starving yourself and working out they are setting everyone up for failure.

The saddest part of all of this is that many of the former winners and contestants who lost a lot of weight have gained the weight back. Because the show didn't teach them how to maintain a healthy diet and exercise program for life. It taught them how to eat much less most normal people eat and then has them work out for 4-8 hours a day. There is no job, no family, no responsibilities to schedule your eating and workouts around. No taste of any of the factors that derail us in the real world. They don't talk about these failures on the show. They just keep bringing back the successful losers to motivate the current losers with the illusion that what they are doing at the Biggest Loser ranch will translate to real life. It's not much of a reality show at this point.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

My Love Hate Relationship with My Hair

This is nothing new. I hear tons of black women complain about their hair on a regular basis. This is my own personal story. It only represents me and not the millions of other women who may love/hate their hair more/less than I do for different reasons.

I have very thick hair. I have all of my life. I inherited it from my mother. My mother will tell you that her hair is the only thing that she ever got from her father. Most of the women on my maternal grandmother's side of the family have thin , shiny black hair. I remember my grandmother calling this Indian (Native American) hair when I was little. I was always so jealous of this Indian hair because it seemed so easy to maintain. It wasn't until I was older that I realized that most of my relatives wore wigs because they hated having thin, delicate hair and felt they had few style options. The grass is always greener I guess.

As a child, I would sit on the floor while my mother parted my hair into four sections and put my hair into 4 thick braided ponytails. I remember the rubber band like hair accessories with large globes on each end that my mom used at the base of the ponytail. It looked like I had gumballs in my hair of all different shapes and sizes. And then at the end of each ponytail, there were these little barrettes that were alligators or fruit or some other crazy design. I looked like a Christmas tree. This was the standard little black girl hair style in the 80's (it is still pretty common). Depending on how thick your hair was or how creative your mother was you may have more of less braids but it was still the same basic style. I remember feeling sorry for some of the other girls whose parents split their hair into 8 or more ponytails. I'm sure if the parents knew their children were teased with the nickname of Medusa at school they would have changed the hair style but kids are so evil they probably would have found something else to tease them about.

I attended private school until 7th grade. I can remember being one of only a handful of black children in my school and I was almost always the only one in my class. I remember people would frequently touch my hair or pull my ponytails sometimes out of cruelty but usually out of ignorance. Like most black women I know, my mom greased my hair every day to prevent my scalp from becoming too dry and to keep my hair healthy. So in addition to the unwanted attention that I was already getting for being different there were usually the yells of "Eew what's in your hair" that made me want to disappear. I was paranoid that if I leaned against a chair or laid back completely in the doctor's office I would leave behind a greasy mark (because sometimes I did) . I was always careful not to lean back too far or to wipe any where that I sat after I got up before anyone could see.

On special occasions my mom would straighten my hair. This involved placing a hot comb on the burner for 10 minutes and then slowly combing my hair with it to make my kinky hair straight. I can still remember the sound of the hair grease sizzling as smoke rose from my head. The smell of burning hair is a very common memory from my childhood. This step was followed by using a curling iron to curl the ends under so my hair wouldn't stick straight out from my head. I loved having my hair straight because I looked more like my white friends. My hair appeared to be thinner and longer and it moved when my head moved. I loved whipping my head around fast when people called my name because it felt like my hair moved just like the white women in the TV commercials. Unfortunately a little bit of rain or sweat was all it took to ruin my hair. I used shower caps, swim caps and coats with hoods to try and protect my hair but inevitably it would get wet and return to it's naturally kinky state.

My mom washed my hair once a week so we had to deal with the wet hair party on a regular basis. After washing my hair, it usually takes 20 minutes to comb all the tangles out and then another 60 minutes to blow dry it. Then it's back to hair grease and ponytails or on to the curling iron and straightening comb for another hour of styling. My mom started having my hair put in cornrows in the summer when I was swimming multiple times a week and maintaining my hair was too much to deal with. This drew even more attention because of the Stevie Wonder beads at the end of each braid that clicked every time I moved my head. Inevitably I would lose a line of beads on the school bus or in the middle of class. I would try to sink as low in my seat as possible as the beads clanked loudly on the floor.

I got my first relaxer in 4th grade. A relaxer is chemical hair straightening that you have to do every 6-12 weeks to fight the naturally kinkiness of your hair. It makes the hair much easier to maintain and eliminates the need for a straightening comb. The hair is less kinky when its wet but still a pain to deal with and the blowdry and styling time are virtually the same. The attention that I got when I went from the globed ponytails and the cornrows was nothing compared to the attention that my new hair do received. Imagine a 9 year old girl with Oprah Winfrey's early hair style at a mostly white upper middle class private school in Virginia. I looked like a young professional. Most of the comments were "Is that your real hair", "What happened to your hair" or just plain laughter. For some reason this hair style made my classmates, teachers and complete strangers feel like they had the right to touch my hair even more. Because I was different and they wanted to focus on how different I was I suddenly became an exhibit at the zoo. The "Eew what's in your hair" comments were still there along with the "Oh your hair is so soft/coarse/thick" comments. Did people really think that comparing my hair to steel wool, a horses tail and doll hair wouldn't permanently damage me?

My worst memory is a sleepover at my best friend Lisa's house. I think I was about 8 years old at the time. Me and five other girls went swimming and ate junk food and fell asleep watching stupid movies. I remember Lisa's mom struggling to do my hair in the morning and eventually just giving up and pulling the frizzy air-dried chlorinated mess into a very bushy ball at the top of my head. She didn't have the tools or the knowledge to deal with my kinky hair. My mom was mortified when she picked me up. It took twice as long as normal to tame my hair. It was around that time that I learned how to manage my hair on my own.

Imagine my surprise when I entered public school in 7th grade and found that there were hundreds of people who looked just like me and had the same hair issues as I did. That seemed to be the only thing I had in common with most of my black classmates. I don't remember it being a conscious choice but I would assume that my early education or my social class or a combination of the two lead me to go through life with most of my friends being white. So I continued to be one of only a handful of black people in my advanced placement classes, in the marching band, in the honor society, on the lacrosse get the point. Luckily most of my peers had grown up around people of different races in public school so the ignorant comments were less frequent but they were still there and I can still vividly remember ever single incident when someone said something.

I spent most of my life living with relaxed hair with the occasional months of cornrows with hair extensions in the summers because it was easier to maintain. By my sophomore year in college I was starting to gain a better sense of who I was as a person and I realized that I didn't have to wear my hair like everyone else. During my freshman year in college I had let go of my high school boyfriend and many of the labels that people had placed on me over the years. I felt reborn so at 19 I cut off my shoulder blade length hair so pixie length. My high school friends and ex-boyfriend freaked out. "You were so much prettier with long hair" actually became a common phrase among people who had known me for years. But I noticed that my newer friends loved my short hair and I got lots of compliments on how great it looked. For the next 10 years I would alternate between letting my hair grow back for 2 years and then cutting it all off. The shock value of cutting off a foot of hair was fabulous because each time there was a new group of friends who never saw me with short/long hair and each reacted to the changes differently. The main thing for me was that I had control of my hair and did whatever I wanted whether society thought it was appropriate for me or not.

When I was 21 I stopped relaxing my hair. I started braiding it when it was wet so that I would have big wavy hair when it dried, almost like it was crimped all the time. The years of relaxing my hair had destroyed it so, to truly go natural, I had to cut it all off. I loved how curly my hair was naturally. I couldn't believe that I had spent years killing what I was blessed to have naturally. Of course, natural hair is just as different to many people as my ponytails, cornrows and relaxers were in my childhood. People think its okay to touch my hair all the time and I get really pissed off when they do. How would you like it if every day someone pointed out what makes you different by patting you on the head like a dog and making ignorant comments? How would you feel if something that was part of who you are was all some people could focus on whenever they saw you? I wish I could say all this ignorance came at the hands of white people but many black men seem to think this is an acceptable thing to do as well and it pisses me off.

The problem with short hair is that you have to do it every day. If I put on a baseball cap or bandanna I was often mistaken for a boy from behind. I missed being able to put my hair into a ponytail or being able to straighten it for special occasions. So I have let my hair grown since 2005 without a significant hair cut. At this point my hair is near the middle of my back when its straightened but is typically right around my shoulders when wavy. If I'm feeling really motivated and really do my hair the curls can tighten up to make my hair chin length. This of course leaves the none-curly haired folks to think that I have gotten a hair weave or am wearing a wig which leaves people to touch and pull my hair to check if its real.

I have no idea how to style my hair because no one ever taught me. I usually wet it and then put in conditioner or defrizz serum and then let it air dry. Of course this continues my aversion from sitting back all the way in chairs or leaning back at the doctors office for fear of leaving a wet spot. It takes a few hours for my hair to dry if I wear it down. If I wear my hair in a ponytail it will still be wet by the end of the day. If I lean back against my hair before it is dry it will ruin my style and my hair will be flat on that side. The problem with having thick hair is that it quickly takes shape so the 10 minute drive to work is long enough to ruin my hair if I lean all the way back in my seat. I have been keeping chiropractors and massage therapists in business for years because of my chronically sore shoulders and neck from leaning forward for half of my life. I have yet to find a hair stylist who specializes in natural hair and often get the recommendation that I should relax or at least blow dry my hair on a regular basis. I have only recently discovered Curly Nicky's blog and and am starting to experiment with different styling options. I wish that I could get the fabulous waves that I see on celebrities like Mariah Carey or Alica Keys but am reminded by my friends that these women are of direct mixed race (white mother, black father or vice versa) where as my mixing is dispersed through previous generations and the kinky hair gene is apparently too dominant to overcome. So the only way to get nice waves is to get a relaxer and then have rod curlers put in every week (like Oprah wears her hair these days) and go back to the miserable days of blow drying and styling my hair or to change my DNA. Neither are very likely.

I consider myself low maintenance and have no desire to go back to the high maintenance lifestyle of long relaxed hair or the frequent trips to the salon and daily styling that are required for short hair. I am happy to see so many black women around me have embraced wearing their hair naturally so I don't stand out so much. Just like everything else in life I'm sure I'll figure it out eventually but please, don't pet me. I'm not a dog. And I have so many years of baggage built up that I just might punch you.

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

44 seconds

So my recent visits with friends who have successfully lost tons of weight definitely dinged my self esteem. Not one of my friends noticed that I had lost weight because they were focused on planning their weddings and having babies. And realistically, my body hasn't changed that much even though I've dropped 15 pounds. A size 14 is generally still too tight and a size 16 is too big so my clothes still don't fit me quit as well as they should.

My husband and some of my co-workers notice because they see me every day but that's not enough. I guess I was expecting people to be like "Omigosh you look so good, have you lost weight?!?". But there was no mention of my weight or any questions about how well my diet is going even though some of them knew I started Nutrisystem back in May. I think that hurt my feelings more than anything else. Even if no one noticed a difference they could have asked me how things were going. That's what I would have done. I went out of my way to tell them how good they looked (and truly they all look great) and to compliment them on sticking to their programs. I just wish they were being as supportive a friend to me as I feel like I have always been to them. And yes, I'm jealous that they were successful and I wasn't.

So imagine my surprise when I ran a 5K this weekend in 34:19. That's 11:04 pace. That's 44 seconds faster per mile than my pace at the 5K that I did in June. At first I thought maybe the June race was an off day but that wasn't the case. Looking back at my previous race times, I haven't run at that pace in more than 3 years. Three years ago I was probably around 185-190 lbs (5-10 lbs lighter than I am now) so that made me feel really awesome.

I started running road races in 1992 and have kept a record of my finishing times for most of the races that I have run over the years. Initially I would randomly sign up for local races but once I graduated from college in 1998 I started running in road races more frequently and eventually started the trend of running one race a month. I miss a month here and there but I definitely run 8-12 races consistently every year. My goal when I started signing up for these races was to become a serious runner. It thought I would be forced to stay in shape and keep running between races. Sometimes that's what happened but, more often than not, I would show up for these races not having run much since the last race and huff and puff my way to the finish line. I have had bursts of motivation before big races where I ran 3-4 times a week consistently over a month or two but this usually fizzled out after the race.

So what is different this time? For one thing, my husband is running these races with me and we keep each other motivated. I have gotten used to being a solo runner over the years. Signing up for most races by myself and then heading straight home after ward. It's nice to have someone there with me rooting for me and commiserating with me. We have also befriended a uber-fit couple who run marathons. They sign up for a lot of the same races that we sign up for and occasionally want to meet up to run together. Not wanting to hold them back or embarrass ourselves every time we see them is keeping both my husband and I going on days when we might want to be be lazy.

I think the most important thing that has changed is that we are setting mini goals and milestones for ourselves. Either running a certain pace or a certain number of miles per week by a certain date. So we are always striving to get better and achieve that next goal. I am becoming a serious runner in a very healthy way and my body is responding to that. I am getting stronger and faster even if it doesn't show that much in my appearance.

In a perfect world, I will get down the to 9:40 per mile pace that I ran my very first road race in back in 1992 but that is more of a long term goal. Right now I am focusing on consistently logging 15 or more miles a week (even if I have to walk some of it) and getting my pace down under 11 minutes (even during the longer runs). And whether I lose 15 more lbs or maintain the weight that I'm at now, I know that I will continue to grow as a runner and that just rocks!