Friday, October 30, 2009

Ducks, Ohio, U2, Canada, Sounders - All in One Week

I've had quite the week ! Football, flying at 37,000 feet, Ohio, Canada, a concert and a soccer game...all in the space of five days. (All pictures below taken by me.)

My action packed roll started last Saturday when Diane, some friends of ours and me attended the Oregon vs. Washington football game in Seattle.

Being a Duck alum, the big win was really exciting. I posted some info on this game here.

The next morning, I was off to Ohio for a couple days of business, arriving back home late Tuesday night.

The next morning, Diane and I hit the road for Vancouver, BC where we had dinner at the great Chambar restaurant and saw the U2 show Wednesday night.

I am not a big fan of concerts in huge venues like football stadiums, regardless of who is playing. However, U2 did try and bridge the gap between the stage and the masses with a huge video screen and their passionate performance. All in all, it was a good show. Opening band Black Eyed Peas exceeded my expectations too by throwing down a compelling set.

On Thursday morning we met some friends at Cafe Medina for breakfast...a really, really good breakfast...and hit the road home.

Arriving home in the late afternoon, I turned around and headed out to meet friends at the Seattle Sounders FC playoff game vs. the Houston Dynamo at Seattle's Qwest Field. Our seats were great and there was a lot of action on the pitch. The game ended in a 0-0 tie. This means that the squad that wins game two of the series moves on to the next round of the MLS playoffs.

And then I went home.

Good times.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

String of Excellent Foottball Weekends Continues

Well, it was a very good weekend in my private little football land.

As a reminder, I graduated from the University of Oregon, was born at the University of Iowa, and as a long-time resident of Seattle I keep tabs on the Huskies and Seahawks.

This past weekend, my Oregon Ducks (6-1 overall, 4-0 in Pac-10 play and now #10 in the AP and BCS standings) trounced rival Washington (3-5 overall, 2-3 in Pac-10 play) by a score of 42-19.

Let me count off the ways this is so good:

First, Diane and I attended in person. Sitting in the visitor’s section we didn’t have a great view of the action, but good enough – and we were surrounded by fellow Duck fans. Better still, on this beautiful fall day, we and some friends from out of town traveled to the game on one of the Argosy “Husky Boats.” We’d never done that before and so this was a real treat. Everybody on board proved good natured and up for a good time. Husky fans exhibited restrained, good natured ribbing…nothing harsh. Standing on the front deck of the boat watching the Seattle views go by was really great.

Second, the Ducks won! At Husky Stadium! Sure, the UO has won 11 of the last 15 in this series to take a bit of the bite out of the rivalry, but winning one up in Seattle is still a fairly rare thing. It’s also something that when I was attending the UO (1988-1992) was pretty much unthinkable. So, I’m pleased to have witnessed another victory here in Seattle.

Third, the Ducks looked really good and QB Masoli appears back in good form after his knee injury a few weeks ago. After the first two series in which their offense sputtered, Oregon caught fire after blocking a Husky punt and recovering it for a touchdown. After that, everything seemed to click. And, not just on offense. The Duck D showed up yet again with goal line stands, intercepting Jake Locker twice, sacking him four times and managing a decent UW running game enough.

Fourth and finally, the win keeps the Ducks in first place in the Pac-10 and sets up a HUGE game next week against an all-of-a-sudden-looking-beatable USC at Autzen Stadium in Eugene. The winner of that game will have a strong position to winning the Pac-10 and getting to the Rose Bowl…at minimum.

The Iowa Hawkeyes beat Michigan State on a last second touchdown pass. This keeps them alive for the Big-10 championship and, because they have not lost any games, technically in the hunt for the national title game. I’m enjoying Iowa’s success, but the more they and Oregon win, the closer we get to a major college football fan conundrum – namely, a Oregon vs. Iowa Rose Bowl. Of course I’d root for Oregon to win, but it would be a strange situation.
Luckily for the Seahawks, they play nobody this week as they have a bye. Ironically, they’re putting about the same effort this week vs. nobody as they did last week vs. the Arizona Cardinals.

The other football kicker...

The Seattle Sounders (MLS Soccer) won its final regular season game and are now off to the playoffs.

Friday, October 23, 2009

A Well Regulated Militia...

I recently saw a few articles and blog posts about the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. That got me thinking about something that I've long wondered about and I'm hoping someone might be able to provide some thoughtful, unemotional and logical insight.

First, here is the text of the amendment:

"A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed."

What I've always wondered is why that first part "A well regulated Militia,..." never gets talked about or factored into legal, political or personal discussions of the amendment? It is there. It's just as much part of the amendment as anything else. It seems that there is a clear linkage between the creation of a "well regulated Militia" (presumably to defend the country at a time when having a militia would be a strategic help to an army that may not be able to reach far flung and rural areas quickly) and the right to have and bear arms.

Yet, it's only the last part of the amendment "the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed" that gets attention and has for pretty much the beginning of the U.S. Our nation grew up and now resides in the modern age with the persistent interpretation being that the amendment simply gives any citizen the right to have a gun. That's it. Get your's in the Constitution.

Why the disassociation of the sections of the amendment? Where is the "well regulated" part in legal or intellectual discussions? What about a militia?

I know - believe me I know - none of this line of questioning makes a difference in anything that will ever happen with the amendment. And, no...I'm not suggesting "the government should take your gun," or anything similar but, it is something that I've always wondered. Why is that "well regulated militia" part so consistently and systematically ignored?

Any dispassionate responses welcome.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

My Football Weekend Recap

Here's my weekly take on the football teams I follow...

The Oregon Ducks did not play as they enjoyed a bye week between their win at UCLA last week and the upcoming game in Seattle vs. UW on Oct. 24. The team is 5-1 overall and 3-0 in the Pac-10 and despite not playing a game, moved up to #12 in the rankings. Injured players are on the mend, and the Ducks should be ready to go for the Husky game. I'm looking forward to this one for obvious reasons, but also because we're having some friends come into town for the that should be fun too.

The #10 Iowa Hawkeyes took care of Wisconsin on the road to extend their record to 7-0 overall and 4-0 in the Big Ten. Who would have thought that Iowa would be the lone unbeaten team in the Big Ten this far along in the season? Having already beat Penn St. and Michigan, the game next week against Michigan State would seem to be the only hurdle to get over to force a show down with Ohio State to determine who wins the league.

Instead of winning on a last second miracle play as they did last week vs. Arizona, Saturday the UW Huskies lost on a last second miracle play by their opponent - Arizona State. I think this was one of those games that the Huskies needed to win if they want to make a bowl game. Getting to six victories now becomes a bit trickier with only the WSU matchup truly favoring UW from here on out. But you never know...and that's what great about college football. The Dawgs are now 3-4 overall and 2-2 in the Pac-10. Next up, as mentioned, the Ducks.

The Seahawks...well, the Seahawks are just not very good. Oh, and they apparently can't be bothered to try too hard either. The were worked over with clinical precision by the Arizona Kurt Warners Sunday and I think this may be the last of their games I pay much attention to this season baring a big turn around. You call that "fair weather?" Ok, I'll accept that. I just have better things to do on a Sunday than watch crappy, uninspired football.

And finally, in the other kind of football, I'm excited to see the Sounders clinched a spot in the MLS playoffs. This is pretty impressive considering it's the Sounders first year in the league. You hear that Seahawks? Yes, a pro team in Seattle clinching a playoff birth.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

A Great Football Weekend

Another really good college football weekend, at least from my humble perspective.

The Ducks won again, this time down in L.A. against UCLA to run their record to 5-1 overall and 3-0 in the Pac-10. The 24-10 score was a result of an explosion of plays early in the second half in which the Ducks scored 21 quick points in, like, less than three minutes. Good news: The #13 Ducks got a road win without their starting QB, the Oregon running game was on fire against a good defense, and the Duck "D" is playing great this season and only gave up 3 points in this game (the UCLA touchdown was a freak interception by their defense in the Oregon end zone). Bad news: While OK with second stringer Costa at QB, the Ducks aren't the same threat to put up 40 points a game without starter Masoli. Next week is a bye.

The #12 Iowa Hawkeyes won a good game against Michigan to go to 6-0. Looking good for a showdown with Ohio State later in the season.

The UW Huskies won in dramatic last minute fashion against Arizona with two very late 4th quarter touchdowns. Sure, the Arizona offense worked the UW defense pretty much at will, but hey, you gotta say that the Dawgs hung in there and, as unlucky as they were last week vs. Notre Dame, the suddenly became very lucky in this week's game right at the end as the football miraculously bounced off an Arizona player's foot and into the waiting arms of a Dawg defender who raced the ball into the end zone for the winning score. UW is now 3-3 overall and 2-1 in the Pac-10. This win works for me in two ways: 1) They knocked off one of the other Pac-10 teams previously without a league loss...helping propel my Ducks into sole possession of first place in the Pac-10. So, thanks Huskies! 2) The win elevates the stakes of the annual rivalry clash between UO and UW. That game is coming up in two weeks. If the Dawgs can take care of ASU next week, well, the game in Seattle on Oct. 24 will be a "big-un." That should be fun!

As for the Seahawks, well, they finally figured out who they can beat - Jacksonville. Can we schedule them and St. Louis from here on out? Good to get the win. Perhaps 3-3 after next week and then the bye week to get healthy?

Wildcat Offense Explained

OK all you football fans out there...

Ever wonder just what football teams are doing when they run "The Wildcat" offense you hear so much about these days?

Well, click here for an an excellent article from the NY Times that breaks it down in easy terms.

Good pre-NFL Sunday reading.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Obama and the Nobel Peace Prize

As we all know by now, President Obama has won the Nobel Peace Prize - an award that has in the past been conferred upon such giants as Martin Luther King, Jr., Gandhi, Lech Walesa, Desmond Tutu, Nelson Mandela, Elie Wiesel, Linus Pauling, George Marshall, Woodrow Wilson, Teddy Roosevelt and other esteemed peacemakers.

This is a major honor and I'm glad an American has won this award again. Congratulations President Obama.

However, there are some questions about this one. The primary issue is, well, what has Obama actually accomplished to merit the honor? Where are the results? Which people or nations have ceased killing each other and now live peacefully as a result of Obama's actions? What has he invented or championed that has brought peace?

To his credit, Obama himself was surprised and even said that he felt that he did not deserve to be grouped with previous winners.

In any case, the Nobel organization cites Obama's election and foreign policy moves as having given the world new hope and improved the image of the US globally - both of which they believe are significant elements needed to seed and spread peace globally.

OK, well, that's nice, but I'm not too convinced by that. Yes, I'm an Obama supporter. Yes, I think he's doing things well. And yes, I think that if followed through, his foreign policies may indeed mean peace in war-torn areas and better relations internationally. But has that really come to pass yet? The US is still in Iraq, the Afghan war is heating up, and Israel and the Palestinians are still going at it just to mention a few big-time conflicts where the US is involved. Where's the peace there?

With this all being the case, one wonders why the Peace Prize committee decided to honor Obama so early in his tenure of president? The answer to this leads into another area of some controversy.

Specifically, the speculation that giving the prize to Obama is a slap at the previous Bush administration. While I certainly have no way of knowing, I'm going to say...yes, sure, but of COURSE it is a slap at W and the way he ran the US and impacted the world. Think about it. Under the leadership of Bush and the Republican Congress, we went from a respected nation in with a thriving economy, healthy federal budget (and therefore able to be more helpful around the world), peacemaker in the Balkans and engaged heavily in the Israel/Palestinians negotiations to a despised nation with a failing economy, massive budget deficit, contempt for the UN, pulled out of international global warming treaties, adopted a "go it alone" approach and, oh yeah, we decided to invade Iraq despite and against all evidence that we needed to or should. So yeah, I think there's something to the notion that giving the prize to Obama is a signal from international circles that they're glad we have new leadership.

Also, I think there may be something to the idea that the Nobel team gave the award to Obama exactly to elicit controversy and conversation about their organization and award. This would not be the first time they've done so. For example, the Nobel Peace Prize has in the past been granted to people whose credentials of "peacemaker" are highly questionable such as Henry Kissinger and Yasir Arafat.

Why do that? Well, it keeps the Nobel name out there, ensures conversation and helps keep the award in the forefront of media coverage. And that may be what we're looking at here today...certainly in a more positive light, but in principle the same thing.

At any rate, the prize came as a surprise. They're not taking it back and Obama will certainly collect it in December. Therefore, regardless of the reasons for the award, I think the best thing we can hope for is that Obama - inspired and buoyed internationally by the award - transacts and accomplishes the peace that the world sorely needs.

Monday, October 5, 2009

My Top 10 Viewed Pictures + Observations

Now that we're in Q4 of 2009, here's an update on the most viewed pictures on my Flickr Photostream and some observations on what might be driving the traffic to these pictures.

Before getting started, you can click on the above link to see my full Photostream or you can click here to see the Top 10 set...or click here to access all my photo sets.

OK, first up, the Top 10...
  • Overtaking the #1 position as most looked at is my picture Close Up of the Taj Mahal Detail with 410 views.

  • The #2 most viewed is the Beijing "Birds Nest" Olympic stadium. Another very similar picture I took of the stadium clocks in at #10. If combined, views of these pictures would make the Bird's Nest the #1 viewed picture.

  • #3 and #8 are pictures of participants from the 2009 Seattle Gay Pride parade. Below is the one that came in at #3.

#4 is a picture of the aircraft carrier USS Yorktown that I took in Charleston, SC.

Here are a few observations about the top 10...
  • Although it's only been on my Photostream since May, the picture I took of a "Don't Tread On Me" flag in Charleston, SC has shot up and into 7th place with 261 views. While I'm sure there are any number of reasons for this, one that I'm pondering is that this iconic Revolutionary War symbol and saying have been adopted by right wing "tea-baggers" as part of their real?/fake?/ignorant? protest against all things Obama and all things to the left of Glenn Beck. Hence, perhaps there are people out online looking for examples of this symbol.
  • Six of my top ten most viewed pictures are from Asia - specifically Vietnam, China and India. So, people are interested in that area of the world it would seem.
  • Two of the top ten are from a set of shots I took at the 2009 Seattle Gay Pride Parade. Diane and I went to the parade, I took pictures and posted them later that day. Well, over the next 48 hours I got thousands of views - in fact, my #1 most views in one day occurred as a result of that set with 2,954 views on one single day. The fact that two of these made the overall top ten is just a testament to how many people viewed the pictures.
  • The fact that the the Bird's Nest stadium is still clocking in at #2 and #10 on this list a year after the 2008 Games concluded certainly speaks to how popular the Beijing Olympics were and how many people wanted to see a picture of this magnificent structure.
OK, that's it for now. I'll be back right at the end of December to report on a full year 2009 Top 10 Most Viewed list and observations associated with them.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Quick Football Weekend Re-Cap

My quick football re-cap from this weekend...

Ducks win big over WSU as expected. Nice! 4-1 overall, 2-0 in the Pac-10, moving up in the rankings. Bring on UCLA next week.

Hawkeyes win in unimpressive fashion vs. Arkansas St. Oh well, a win is a win. Huskies play well, had every chance to win vs. Notre Dame, but somehow came up short in OT. Great effort but no win. However, this team is getting better.

Seahawks? Oh boy. Not good. "Iceberg straight ahead!"