Friday, March 31, 2006


I am leaving tomorrow for a weeklong vacation with my brother and his family. We are renting a houseboat on Lake Mead which is between Nevada and Arizona. I am looking forward to getting away for a while because work has been unbelievably busy lately and this will be my last break before the election in November.

This trip will be different than most of my other adventures because I will actually be traveling with other people. Usually I go alone and have gotten used to that feeling. Now I will be with 7 others on a boat all week. What's really nice is that my Brother and I don't often vacation together and I look forward to spending some time with him and beating him in race for the whitehouse. It will also be good to spend quality time with my nephews who have been wrestling with a lot of teenage stuff lately. I wish I lived closer to them so I could see them more often but this week I will be living especially close to them.

I am taking my laptop but I don't know if they will have wi-fi out there or not. My guess is I may be dark for a few days but I will try to post if I get a chance.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

American Idol

I hate to admit it but I have become a fan of American Idol. This is the first year that I have actually followed the show from tryouts until now. I used to make fun of my friends who had to rush home to watch it but I have become one of those people. So far this is how I rank all the contestants: Katherine, Elliot, Mandisa, Chris, Paris, Taylor, Lisa, Bucky, Ace and Kelly.

Tonight's show was just okay with the best performances from Mandisa, Elliot, Paris and Katherine. But by and large I thought the performances were below average and that the contestants looked tired. I think part of the problem was that they had to sing something from this decade and unfortunately they didn't have much good to choose from. Today's music industry is more about marketing and performance than about the actual integrity of the music. And that showed today as each contestant tried to put their own spin on songs that were written for very specific artists. Compared to last week, it was obvious that Barry Manilow's efforts really helped the contestants and they could have used his help again this week.

Another revealing part of tonight's show was how critical the judges were of Mandisa. It was obvious that they have no interest in Christian music. In fact Simon admitted that he just doesn't get it and he is right. If someone isn't a person of faith then Mandisa's song might not come across well. But to those of us who are Christians, the song was really powerful. I guess the judges contempt for Christian music is similar to my disdain for country music.

Anyways, I think that Lisa is going home tomorrow night. I hope I am wrong and that Kelly is voted off. But apparently she has a lot of fans that must be as dumb as she is to keep voting for her. I also wouldn't mind saying goodbye to Ace who is only in the contest because of his good looks. It certainly isn't for his singing ability.


A thought came to me over the weekend regarding faith. I was praying for a family member and in the middle of my prayer I realized that I often want God to demonstrate his power and then as a result of that demonstration my faith will be increased. The reality is just the opposite. When my faith is increased that is when his power is more fully demonstrated in my life. This is not a new concept to most of us but it is something that I continue to wrestle with. I forget all the works God has done for me already and judge him by what he has done for me lately. I want to have faith but I want God to prove himself first. And then I wonder why he doesn't provide the answers that I want. I am reminded of James, Chapter 1 when it says that if a man lacks anything he should ask God who gives generously to all. But when he asks he must believe and not doubt or he is like the waves of the sea tossed and blown by the wind. Lately I feel more like the waves then I prefer. So I guess I am going to try out this new approach of believing first and receiving second. Accordingly, I am expecting big things to happen in my life.

Monday, March 27, 2006

A Great Sports Weekend

I love weekends where all I have to do is watch sports. Friday night I went to the Nuthouse which is local watering hole and watched a really good game between Villanova and Boston College. Then the next day, I went to my parents to do laundry and watch the basketball games on the big screen. I actually flipped back and forth between the LSU-Texas game and the Golf Players Championship. Both were highly entertaining. LSU has some unbelievable athletes and I love Big Baby Davis. Not only is he big and very quick for his size but he seems like a smart, funny guy in the interview. Could we have the next Charles Barkley?

As for the golf, I love the last two holes at Sawgrass. Hole #17 is an island green par three and 18 is the hardest par 4 on the PGA tour with water down the left hand side. This guy named Olberholser who I had never heard of before went to 17 with the lead but plunked his tee shot into the water and made a triple bogey. Then he hit his drive on 18 into the water and double bogeyed that hole. It was one of those times when I could totally relate to a professional athlete.

Then Sunday came and I watched little George Mason play Connecticut. I have to say I have not liked Connecticut all year because they play with no heart. Tons of talent but no heart. George Mason played the game of their lives including knocking down 6 straight three point shots to begin the second half. The game went down to the wire and when they let Connecticut tie game and send it to overtime I told my friend Jason that the Connecticut was going to win. But George Mason played great in overtime and held on to win. They now tie the 1986 LSU team as the lowest seeded team to advance to the final four. Since my bracket is now in shambles I am officially on the George Mason bandwagon. And on the subject of brackets, in my office pool with just under 200 people only one person has two final four teams and only 17 have one team left. What a crazy tournament.

To me there is no better time than March for sporting events. Basketball, Golf, the start of baseball season and even the NFL draft is just around the corner. For sports fans this past weekend is as good as it gets.

Saturday, March 18, 2006

What the heck is wrong with Yale

I was recently reading a couple articles on-line about what is happening at Yale University. For some inexplicable reason Yale has recruited a former Taliban official named Sayed Rahmatullah Hashemi to attend their university. Rahmatullah was the spokesperson for the Taliban before their fall in Afghanistan and to this point he has not apologized for their legacy of brutality and murder.

His acceptance to the university, coupled with his lack of repentance, has caused quite an outrage among Yale alumni. Some of these alumni have formed a group that is encouraging donors to send press on nails to Yale instead of donations. The nails are a symbolic gesture in reference the Taliban's pulling out the nails of women that wore nail polish. I hope this protest works but so far it has only served to infuriate Yale officials.

Apparently, after reading about their efforts the assistant director of giving at Yale sent an email to one of the alumni behind the group's efforts. Here is the text of that email:

"What is wrong with you? Are you retarded? This is the most disgraceful alumni article that I have ever read in my life. You failed to mention that you've never contributed to the Yale Alumni Fund in your life. But to suggest that others follow your negative example is disgusting."

Let me get this straight, at Yale they feel it is disgusting to protest the school by not sending money but they don't find it disgusting that they recruited and admitted a totalitarian thug who contributed to the torture of women. It's hard to believe that such a shocking attitude could come from one of America's most prestigious universities. But then I remembered this is the same school that sued the federal government because they didn't want ROTC recruiters on their campus.

Somewhere along the way Yale has gone seriously adrift and lost all sense of moral clarity. It's sad that our country's best and brightest minds are submitting themselves to learn in this type of environment. I pray that these future leaders are innocuous to Yale's repugnant view of right and wrong.

One last thing, if you want to join the protest against Mr. Rahmatullah , you can send a nail to the following address:

Yale University
Office of Development
P.O. Box 2038
New Haven, CT 06521-2038

Footnote: I borrowed information for this post from Clinton W. Taylor and John Fund whose articles appeared on and

Discipline Schmiscipline

I was talking to my friend Aaron last night and we got on the subject of discipline. We both agreed that we need more discipline in our lives but we didn't come up with an acceptable answer for accomplishing that. For those that know me well, it will come as no surprise that I have almost zero discipline spiritually, physically or financially. And usually I don't mind that because being undisciplined allows for a lot of free time and temporary enjoyment. But lately, I feel a bit a drift and wonder if that's because I don't have that structure and focus in my life. However, the mere thought of adding discipline makes me just want to crawl back into bed and forget about it. How does one get discipline if they have none to begin with? It seems like the old adage about money; it takes discipline to make discipline. So I guess I am asking for some advice, preferably from other slackers who were able to overcome their lack of discipline.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

March Madness Part 2

I know the games have already started but I wanted to get my final four picks on record. Thankfully none of them have lost yet. Picking the bracket was a big challenge and I have no feel for what I am doing this year. I am in two pools and ended up with two completely different final fours which is not something I normally do but I think it might help spread the risk. In the pool at work which is actually for money I have Connecticut, Duke, Kansas and Ohio St. I picked Ohio St over Kansas in the final game. In my online pool with friends and family which is just for pride and bragging rights I have Memphis, Texas, MSU and Villanova. In this pool I picked Villanova over Memphis in the final. I know that most people are picking Duke and Connecticut to win so I wanted to be different. But don't trust my judgment. This morning, a friend of mine with limited basketball knowledge emailed me his picks to look them over and make sure they weren't way out there. I wrote back that they looked good except that he picked Montana to beat Nevada and I told him to change it. Well, Montana did beat Nevada earlier today in the first real upset of the tourney. Well, half time is almost over and I have half a dozen more games to watch tonight.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

First Date

Last night I had my first date since August. It went very well and I am already looking forward to a second date. I met Amy through work and soon discovered that we have similar interests. A couple weeks ago, I called her to ask her out but she had other plans and took a raincheck. Last night I was finally able to cash in that raincheck and took her out to dinner.

The night didn't start out as planned, as she had to work later than expected. Then, I discovered the restaurant I wanted to take her to was out of business. I guess there isn't much of a market for French food in Lansing. I ended up calling my ex girlfriend in a panic to come up with a backup restaurant. Finally, at 7:00 p.m. Amy and I ended up at some hole in the wall Mexican place which turned out to serve good food. But better than the food was the conversation and companionship. Amy is particularly bright and witty and I really like that in a woman. We spent much of the night in playful banter discussing all things from religion to politics to books we were reading. I enjoyed having someone who shares as many common interests. The last woman I dated flunked the political test I give to all new dating interests by not being able to identify her US Senator. Amy is a welcome change and I appreciate that.

We stayed at the restaurant for a long time. They actually closed the place and started turning up the music in the background as a hint that it was time us to leave. The one awkward moment was at the end of the night as I wasn't sure how to end it. So we simply said goodbye and drove away. No hug, no handshake, no nothing. I am not sure really what happened. All I know is that it was going well up to that point and then "see ya".

Today I am trying to figure out my next step. I sent her a short email telling her how much I enjoyed the evening but now I would really like to call her. But I don't want to come on too strong or seem too desperate. So I guess I will wait to see if she writes back tomorrow. When she does write back, I need to have a plan in place to ask her out for a second date. I don't want to rush things but I also don't want to go so long in between dates that she forgets how charming I am. Plus, the second date is always a very important date for me because I can usually tell if there is any long term potential or interest by the end of the second date. It's usually by the fourth date that I begin to regret having gone on the second date. Let's hope that is not the case this time.

You know I have to say it feels nice to go on a date again. I've missed it and forgot how much fun they can be. I like the butterflies in my stomach. I like the nervous anticipation of waiting for her to call. I liked sharing and laughing at the restaurant. Although I have no pretenses for this relationship other than enjoying her company it's refreshing to be excited at the possibility of a relationship.

I'll keep you posted. That is, unless she finds out that I am writing about her. In that case, you will probably have to call me to get the scoop.

Monday, March 13, 2006

Weekend Update

Since my last two posts a few things have happened. First Bill frist won the Republican Presidential straw poll which is somewhat expected since it was held in his home state. What wasn't expected was Mitt Romney placing a strong second. Maybe there were a lot of Mormons at the conference. The supposed front runner John McCain finished a distance fifth. So the race goes on and on and on........

As for college basketball, I was not shocked that Michigan didn't make it to the tournament. Maybe they will do well in the NIT. What did surprise me was how poorly the committee did seeding the tournament. Gonzaga, Pittsburgh and George Washington all got screwed while the committee somehow rewarded teams like Tennessee, Syracuse and Indiana. For the record I am picking against all three in the first round. I am not sure about the rest of my picks yet but if you want to fill out a bracket, go to The league ID# 57015 and the password is freckles.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

March Madness

Today is selection Sunday and one of my favorite days of the year. It's like a holiday. I love that we now have the internet because back in the 1980's I used to have to tape record CBS and then watch it over and over to write down all the brackets or wait until the next morning for the newspaper. Now I can go on-line and read about the macth up of every game. It's so cool.

I have been staying up late this week watching crappy games like Pacific vs Long Beach State trying to determine who my sleeper will be in this year's tournament. This year I like Nevada, San Diego St, UNC Wilmington and Wintrop as my uspet specials. Having said that they will probably all lose on day one.

What I love most about the brackets is that everyone plays, including people who are not big basketball fans. Every year I think I have an edge on those people but every year some 20 year old college girl who is an intern wins our office pool by choosing her favorite colors or something crazy. This year, I am going to go with my initial gut instincts when filling out my bracket instead of second guessing myself and overthinking every possible match up.

Thursday and Friday are the best two days in all sports because there are 16 games that start at noon and run until midnight. It's like binge drinking for basketball fans. It's fun to check the results throughout the day and compare my bracket to others. We will all huddle around the TV in our office to watch the last 2 minutes of an early round game because one of our final four team is down by 3 to some team we've never heard of and we are hoping our bracket is not completely screwed. I also love picking the right number 12 seed to upset a number 5 seed. It happens every year and sometimes I get it right and sometimes it bites me in the butt. I especially like to call my friends as soon as their final four pick loses so I can rub it in.

Without further ado, here are my top four seeds:

1 seeds Connecticut, Duke, Villanova, Memphis
2 seeds North Carolina, Texas, Gonzaga, Ohio St.
3 seeds Kansas, Illnois, UCLA, Pittsburgh
4 seeds LSU, Florida, Iowa, Boston College

One last thing; Michigan may or may not get in the tournament but regardless, they do not deserve a bid. They have played awful over the past month and will lose in the first round if they do happen to get in. I like Tommy Amaker as a person but it is time to make a change at coach.

Friday, March 10, 2006

Let the race begin

This weekend the Southern Republican Leadership Conference is being held in Memphis Tennessee. This conference includes important movers and shakers in conservative southern politics and is also drawing a lot of interest from presidential hopefuls. John McCain, Mitt Romney, Bill Frist and George Allen are all attending and giving speeches. The most important part of the event is the straw poll where the delegates get to vote for their favorite candidate. As I was watching hardball which is broadcasting live from the conference, it got me thinking about the 2008 race. Here are some questions that need to be answered before we get a clear view of how the race will shake out.

1. Will conservatives be so afraid of Hillary that get behind a mainstream secular candidate like John McCain or Rudy Guliani? These two both poll among the leaders in every internet poll but neither are trusted among conservatives. McCain rankled a lot of feathers by pushing through campaign finance reform and by striking a compromise to avoid ending filibusters on judicial nominations. Guliani is both pro choice and pro gay rights. Both issues are anathema in republican primaries. We are already seeing McCain gaining support especially among conservative senators in the south including Trent Lott and Lindsey Graham.

2. If conservatives don't support a moderate candidate will they be able to coalesce around one conservative candidate or will they end up splitting their vote and give the nomination to a moderate anyway? The two most likely persons to rally the true blue conservatives are George Allen and Sam Brownback. Allen is good looking and from the south. He is currently a Senator from Virginia. Brownback is a conservative Sen. from Kansas and he speaks aggressively to traditional evangelical issues. Allen has the better chance of winning the nomination but Brownback really connects to the base.

3. Will conservatives overlook the character or theological flaws of Newt Gingrich and Mitt Romney? Romney is Governor of Massachusetts so he obviously can win in supposedly blue states which makes him appealing. I have seen Romney speak in person and he is good on the campaign trail. He is solidly against gay marriage and is becoming a lot stronger on the prolife issue. Having said that, he is Mormon. Evangelical Christians may not want to put a Mormon in the Whitehouse even if they agree with him on the issues. Newt is the most well spoken of all the candidates and has obvious political skills. The more I listen to him in interviews the more I like what he has to say. The problem with Newt is that he cheated on his wife with a staffer and left the speaker's office in disgrace. Will conservatives overlook his personal shortcomings? Another thing against Newt are his extremely low poll numbers in the 1990's. Will Americans give him a second look or have they already made up their mind about him? Between the two I like Newt better but Romney has the better chance of winning.

4. Will Condi Rice run? Dick Morris has been talking her up for President for a long time. She has a great resume and is probably the smartest person in the running. She should help bridge the gender and racial gap that have hurt Republicans in the past but it is not clear just how much she will cut into these key constituencies. In addition because she is from California she can bring that state into play which would create big problems for Democrats. My guess is she just likes the attention and is not a serious candidate. Having said that she would certainly be open to being the VP.

5. What role will Bush/Cheney play? Usually the sitting VP is the presumed front runner but that is not the case with Cheney. I have heard recent rumors that he may retire after the mid-term elections and if that is the case, Bush could pick who he wants to win the nomination. It would be almost impossible for the party to not nominate his handpicked successor. Under this scenario it is likely that he would pick Rice because he certainly trusts her and she would continue his legacy. But the chances of Cheney resigning are only about 20% and Bush will stay on the sidelines and wait for his brother Jeb to run in 2012.

6. What issues will take center stage? If same sex marriage is the hot issue, that benefits Romney who has the led the fight against it in Massachusetts. If immigration is the issue, that helps a darkhorse named Tom Tancredo, an outspoken Colorado Congressman. If the war is the key issue, that helps McCain, Guliani and Rice. Of the three it helps Giuliani the most because of his 9/11 cult status. If abortion is the issue, it helps Brownback the most but basically hurts all the moderate candidates more than it helps a specific conservative. Keep an eye on the South Dakota anti abortion law because that could be going to the Supreme court during the nomination process. If winning is the issue, it will again help McCain and it probably helps Allen because he is seen as the most electable of all the conservatives. Rice could capitalize on this as well. Finally if the issue is about the recent scandals and election reform, this definitely helps McCain. My prediction is that immigration will be the dominant issue.

7. Will the lower tier candidates stick around or will they get in line behind the leaders? I would put Bill Frist and George Pataki is this category. Both are good Republicans and have impressive enough resumes but neither is going to win the nomination because they are both kind of boring. They represent different regions and wings of the party and could drag support away from other legitimate candidates. The longer they stay in the more they hurt Allen and Guliani. If they drop out they could swing their support behind their preferred candidate. But both will probably stay in the race much longer than anyone wants them to.

My early odds on the race are as follows:

McCain 3-1
Allen 8-1
Romney 15-1
Guliani 20-1
Gingrich 25-1
Rice 30-1
Brownback 35-1
Frist 50-1
Pataki 60-1
Tancredo 100-1
The field 30-1

Saturday, March 04, 2006

Buffalo Cheese

Every once in a while I learn something new at work. This week, we had a couple of constituents come to Lansing to explain a project they are working on in our district and to see if the state could provide any incentives. The project is to bring water buffalo to Newaygo County and process the milk from the buffalo into high quality cheeses. Supposedly there is a growing market for this type of product. I had no idea. In fact, I didn't even know you could milk a buffalo until they told me. They tell me this is very common in parts of Europe and Italians don't consider mozzarella cheese real unless it is made from Buffalo milk. I imagine somewhere in Italy some youngster is shocked to learn that milk can also come from cows. How funny, that we only know what we are familiar with.

Buying Votes

I was recently watching Fox News and they were running a story about a ballot proposal in Arizona that would create a voter lottery. The plan would be to enter each person that votes into a drawing to win $1 million from their state lottery. The story claimed that most people interviewed supported the proposal. Of course they do, but I wonder if it will actually pass and if it does pass, what that means for the rest of the country.

While it is a creative idea to get more people to vote and participate in Democracy, I am not sure this is the right approach. I would like more people to vote and am usually shocked and saddened when I speak with friends who are not voters. The problem is that by turning voting into a lottery you could end up getting a lot of uninformed voters to participate which would sway the results away from voters who actually are informed.

There was a recent survey taken that found out more Americans could name the characters from the Simpsons then could list the rights protected under the first amendment. Are these the people we want picking our President? Do we really want to encourage and reward ignorant voters by giving them a chance to win a million dollars? Shouldn't participating in democracy and choosing your own leaders be reward enough? Many people around the world live under the rule of crooks and despots. My guess is they would love to vote for their leaders and they wouldn't need money as an incentive. Just look at the Iraqi voters who risk their lives just to go the polls and vote.

If this proposal does pass, I fear that other states will soon feel the pressure to offer their own incentives and gimmicks to lure voters to the polls. I hope the people from Arizona choose to maintain the integrity of the current system. Turning the election into a get rich quick scheme only serves to cheapen the process.