Blog Soup 11/21/3013

Happy November and Happy Early Thanksgiving, everyone! I have a few moments and thought I would share a few thoughts and bits of news before I go tackle the huge pile of leaves in my front yard.


Since Facebook prematurely outed me (darn you, Facebook! ::shakes fist::), I’ll go ahead and share some house news. Once Jenny finishes school in May 2015, we are tentatively planning to move to Grand Prairie near Joe Pool Lake. There are two main reasons for the move:

  1. Family – We’ll live near my sister (currently 30+ minutes away) so our kids can go to school together. Instead of being 45 minutes from Jenny’s family, too far to see them very often, we’ll be 15 minutes away. It won’t put us too much farther from my parents and maternal grandparents, either.
  2. More Space – When we moved into our current house, we had nine-month-old Brenden and no Jonathan. Now that our family is complete and we have two very active boys, we’d like to have a bit more space, including a big game room upstairs where they can play, a study downstairs, and a media room where I can watch movies or play games late at night without worrying about waking anyone up. We can get a lot more house for the money in south Grand Prairie/Mansfield compared to the Mid-Cities.

With that plan in mind, we have been updating our current house to get it ready. I might share some more details in another post if that would interest you.

Things That Make Me Go Hmm

A few interesting observations:

  • I recently sent my ex-fiancee a babysitter recommendation. We are friends on Facebook, and when she posted a request for a good babysitter, I had one to offer. It was a bit odd, but it’s nice that we don’t hate each other despite the breakup.
  • A friend of mine got a bachelor’s from a private school, worked a bit, got a master’s in a really specialized field from another private school, and probably financed everything through student loans. Now she is married and staying home with her kids, but they are so strapped for cash that they’re selling every spare possession they can on Facebook to reduce their debt. I’m all for staying home with the kids if that’s what’s right for your family, but I don’t understand taking out massive loans for private colleges if you don’t plan to work.
  • Some people say you should rake and bag your leaves because they choke off your grass, blocking air, water, and nutrients from reaching your lawn. Others say you should mulch the leaves back into the soil. For years I’ve been mulching them, but I’ve had problems with thatch development. This year I’m going to compost the leaves instead of mulching them. Wish me luck. I need it!


As you probably figured, I am greatly enjoying the Bears’ football season. Jenny and I went to the Baylor-Oklahoma game in Waco earlier this month and had a blast. I’ve thought all along that our toughest test would come this Saturday in Stillwater, OK, against a tough Oklahoma State team. If we can win this, and Bama loses to Auburn or Mizzou, we have a chance at the national title game. That. Is. Crazy.


I held out high hopes for Obamacare despite my eventual decision to support Medicare for All instead. I defended it. I explained it to people. But now that the exchange website has experienced so many problems, and so many people are getting their policies canceled despite Obama’s foolish promises that “if you like your policy, you can keep your policy,” I have little appetite left for defending Obamacare. I love the new requirements – expanding coverage to the uninsured, no ban for preexisting conditions, keeping your children on your plan longer, coverage for contraception, etc. – but the overall scheme is too complicated to work well and isn’t going to draw in enough healthy young people to make it financially feasible. So in a sense, maybe the Republicans were right on many points. However, the answer isn’t going back to the old crappy system. The answer is expanding Medicare, a system that already works well for tens of millions of older Americans, to cover every single American, much like most other civilized countries do. But I fear that after the disaster of Obamacare, the country will have little appetite for further health care reform.

Blog Soup 11/19/2012

Happy Thanksgiving, in case you don’t hear from me again this week. I wish you all mountains of sweet potatoes. With marshmallows. And no nuts. Here is today’s Blog Soup (r).

  • My Baylor Bears have had a disappointing season. When you combine one of the best offenses in college football with one of the worst defenses, you get a mediocre, .500-level team. So this weekend’s matchup between Baylor and BCS #1 Kansas State should have been a walkover for the Wildcats. Apparently, someone forgot to tell the Bears. Our offense took care of business as usual, and our much-maligned defense finally showed up. Final score: 52-24 Baylor, the first time we have ever beaten a #1-ranked team. SIC ‘EM!
  • I’m disappointed by the huge amount of media attention that the General Petraeus affair is getting. Yes, he made a mistake and owned up to it. Yes, affairs are bad news for all concerned. However, don’t we have more important issues to discuss than a guy who was cheating on his wife, even if that man happens to be in a high-level position? It’s like every newspaper in the country has turned into National Enquirer. The French are laughing at us.
  • Also on the Petraeus scandal…although I like to think that I am a strong person with high morals who can resist temptation, I’m only human. As such, I’m very glad that I am fortunate enough to live in the same home with my wife and kids instead of being stationed on the other side of the world for months at at time in a hostile environment. My freedom to do so results largely from the members of our military who volunteered to serve. I can only imagine how difficult a long deployment must be on our military personnel, especially those with spouses and children. A long absence certainly doesn’t excuse cheating, but in my mind it makes cheating easier to understand.
  • It was interesting to see a company (Hostess) cease operations due to a worker strike. Yes, I’ve laughed at the Twinkie memes circulating on Facebook, but the death of Hostess means thousands of people lost their jobs. Apparently the bakers found the struggling company’s contract proposal so unpleasant that the job just wasn’t worth it anymore. If your employer was trying to force pay, benefit, and work rule concessions on you, at what point would you choose to walk out? Would it make a difference if walking out meant burning down the entire company?
  • I can’t remember the last time I ate a Twinkie. I like Zingers, though. My coworkers run an honor-system concession stand in our office called the Recession Concession that sells various snacks and soft drinks. The day Hostess shut down, there was a run on Zingers, and I didn’t get to pick up a final package of them. I’ll bet I could find some on eBay. UPDATE: Recession Concession now has a limited supply of Zingers. Due to the shortage, the price has climbed from $0.75 to $8.00. I call shenanigans.
  • The U.S. government might stand with Israel, but I do not. Most Americans, particularly American Christians, seems to blindly support Israel because they view it as God’s chosen people. I disagree. The Jews might be God’s chosen people according to the Bible, but the modern nation of Israel was created by Western powers after World War II by, in many cases, displacing a people-group that had been on the land for generations. Yes, that is greatly oversimplified, but that’s basically how it went. The displaced people were robbed of their land by the West because they weren’t strong enough to resist. After the initial allocation, Israel gradually seized more of the Palestinians’ land, as shown here. As a result, the two sides have been fighting ever since. Both the Israeli government and the Palestinians have performed terrible acts that could be defined as terrorism. Both sides have rivers of blood on their hands. Yet our government props up one side with billions of dollars, military equipment, and other aid because we think we need an ally in the region. That support is one reason that many Muslim extremists hate our nation. As for the modern nation of Israel’s being God’s chosen people, also note that the nation today is not exclusively Jewish, partly because some of the displaced Arabs decided to stick around. It’s a melting pot, like most countries in a sense. I hurt for the millions of people caught in the crossfire on both sides, especially those who have been injured or have lost loved ones in this senseless, decades-old conflict. I wish our nation were energy independent so we didn’t feel the need to be involved in the Middle East. And I wish our government could understand a simple truth: we cannot fix the Middle East. Want to end anti-U.S. terrorism? Withdrawing all troops and foreign aid from all Middle Eastern countries would go a really long way toward that goal.
  • If the people (not the word I originally used, but I’m trying to be nice) who are petitioning for Texas to secede somehow win, which is impossible without a civil war, Jenny and I would be tempted to move. Likely destinations include Missouri, Washington, or Oregon. The biggest problems would be leaving our friends and family and giving up my awesome job. As tempting as Seattle or Portland might be to me, I hope this doesn’t happen.
  • I downloaded the latest album by British indie-rock band Florence and the Machine called Ceremonials. It is fantastic. You should buy it.
  • On a related note, do people still buy CDs anymore? I don’t buy much music, to be fair, but I really cannot remember the last time I bought an actual CD rather than simply downloading it. It might have been a few years ago when I picked up something on clearance at the Virgin Megastore (remember that place?) at Grapevine Mills.

Blog Stew 9/27/2012

Hmm…Blog Stew…I think I’ll make that a new category for my random thought posts. Sounds tasty! Blog stew is great for those days when I don’t have the idea, time, or motivation to write a long, thoughtful post on a specific topic. Those do take a lot of work, and no matter the topic, it’s sure to only interest some of you. It’s much easier to throw a bunch of different things together in the old Crock Pot and let it simmer. I hope you will find a few interesting morsels.

  • Don’t get too excited yet since we haven’t played any big-time schools, but so far the nation’s top college quarterback in total offense per game attends a little school in Waco, Texas. Sic ’em, Nick Florence!
  • Today will be my final long run (13.1 miles) before the 25k in Tyler on October 13. This will only be the second time in my life I’ve ever attempted this distance, the other being the Cowtown half marathon back in February. But my legs feel great, and I’m excited to get out there this afternoon. Next week I’ll taper, or cut back on mileage to rest up for the race.
  • You Obama-haters can rejoice…briefly. I’m strongly leaning toward going Green with Dr. Jill Stein. I like many things about Obama and will be happy if he wins in November, but he’s also done some things I don’t like and broken some important promises (not closing Guantanamo Bay, not punishing the business execs who nearly destroyed our economy, keeping troops in Afghanistan when victory is impossible, etc.). I don’t agree with Stein on everything, but she and the Green Party seem to have the platform that the Democrats don’t have the guts to pursue, largely because the Greens don’t have corporate sponsors. Unfortunately, that also means they have very little chance of winning anything, much less the Presidency. Romney will carry Texas regardless of how I vote, and Obama will probably get reelected regardless of how I vote, so maybe I’ll just use my ballot to dream big.
  • The pilot-management standoff at American is interesting but sad to watch. I read a comment from one AA pilot that the slowdown isn’t exactly an organized, concerted effort to destroy the operation. It’s more a matter of being extra careful to protect their jobs. Until the judge tossed out their contract a couple of weeks ago, that contract backed them up in the event of an small deviation from the hundreds of company procedures they have to follow when flying the plane. The company can now fire them at will for any mistake they make. I’d be a little more careful, too. Is the pilot’s statement true? I’m not sure, but it made some sense to me. However, with so much anger over there, I’m sure that some of them don’t mind making their employer look bad. I hope both sides can work out a deal soon. And I’m still very grateful to work where I work.
  • You know my son Brenden doesn’t feel well when you have to drag him out of bed in the morning. He is definitely a morning person.
  • Jenny has been accepted at UTA and will start classes there in January. She did awesome on her nursing school entrance test as expected. The only question now is when she’ll be able to take her remaining UTA-specific nursing prerequisites. She meets with a nursing advisor next week who should be able to help.
  • I know it was unnecessary and expensive and irresponsible and all that, but my iPad is awesome. I use it more than my phone or laptop. Blogging on it is a bit more difficult compared to a laptop or desktop since it doesn’t have a separate keyboard or mouse, but it’s easier to carry around than the laptop and has a 4G Internet connection.

Thank you, come again.

Highlights from the US Open

Over the weekend I flew to New York with my mom and aunt to see some of the world’s greats play in the U.S. Open. As expected, we had a blast. Here are some of the highlights:

Players Seen in Action: Roger Federer twice, Djokovic, Roddick (the day after he announced his retirement after this tournament), both Williams sisters, Sharapova, Murray, Azarenka, Vinci, Cilic, Nishikori, Stephens, Ivanovic, Tomic, Isner, Huber, Raymond, Blake, Kerber, Verdasco, and more.

Favorite Match: Sloane Stephens vs. Ana Ivanovic on Arthur Ashe Saturday night. Not only did this match feature two of my favorite players on the women’s side, but it also provided one of the most dramatic and entertaining matches we saw all week. Although I sided with nearly everyone there in pulling for the young American, Ivanovic was simply too tough and experienced that evening. We couldn’t be mad at Ana, though. She’s too nice and very gracious in victory, with sincerely kind words for Stephens. She also spent a surprising amount of time signing autographs after her win and finally had to be ushered off the court by a tournament handler.

Second Favorite Match: Andy Roddick vs. Bernard Tomic Friday night on Ashe. As you tennis fans know, the last few years have been hard on Andy. He hasn’t been able to play on the same level that carried him to a U.S. Open title and the #1 ranking, and his decline has frustrated him greatly. After he announced his plan to retire after this tournament, Friday’s match took on a whole new level of significance. We could have seen his final professional match. Fortunately for everyone except Bernard Tomic, Roddick played outstanding tennis that night and blew Tomic off the court with a fantastic serve, strong and gutsy groundstrokes, and great touch at the net. Normally, blowouts aren’t as exciting to watch as competitive matches, but in this case, we loved getting to see Roddick return to his old form and the clear joy that the match was giving him.

Non-Player Celebrity Sightings:

  • Ralph Macchio, sitting in a suite Saturday night in Ashe
  • Keith Urban and Nicole Kidman, sitting in the first row court side. Urban seemed happy to be spotted by the cameraman and played along, even planting a big kiss on Kidman. She seemed embarassed by all the attention. I wonder if celebrities prefer the high-end seats largely because the people in those areas know not to bother them. Macchio didn’t seem thrilled about being spotted by the camera, either.
  • John McEnroe, Mary Carillo, Justin Gimelstob, Martina Navratilova, Jim Courier, and Brad Gilbert, all in the broadcast booth except for McEnroe, who was heading there in a hurry and trying not to be noticed.

Pleasant Surprises:

  • Execucar, a prearranged car service that drove us from LaGuardia to the hotel and back. It was a bit more expensive than a regular cab or Super Shuttle, but it was much nicer and more convenient. Our driver met us at baggage claim (a bit late, but at least we weren’t waiting outside in the heat at the taxi stand) and led us to a sweet black Escalade. I felt like Ludacris only whiter and less talented. On the way back, our driver showed up early and drove us in a nice black Suburban. All payment including tip was done in advance, so we didn’t need to worry about fumbling with cash while lugging bags around. I’m definitely spoiled now.
  • Wingate Midtown Manhattan, a tall and skinny hotel just a few blocks from Times Square and Penn Station. Although expensive like all hotels in the area, it offered a fantastic location, a nice room, free hot breakfast, and good staff.
  • Long Island Rail Road, an alternative to the subway that provides the best way to get from Manhattan to the tennis center. It’s a bit more expensive than the subway, which meant most of the riders were tennis fans, and it felt very safe and ran on time.
  • Court 17, a new showcase court that the USTA added this year. With a capacity of 2800, it’s big enough for fairly popular matches but still keeps the fans close to the action. It features the Hawkeye call-review system, beautiful design, and a nice video board.

Flying American: Overall, flying American Airlines was a good experience despite its current financial troubles. Nearly everyone was pleasant and helpful, the planes were comfortable and clean, and our outbound flight left on time. The onboard wifi worked pretty well and offered a nice flight tracker, but I only used the free features since I didn’t want to play $15.95 for full access.

Our only problem came on the way home. Just after starting our takeoff roll, the crew noticed a problem with one of the engines and aborted the takeoff, which damaged the nosewheel tires. Maintenance decided to change the tires and then test the engines, which meant a 60-90 minute delay or so on the tarmac followed by deplaning for the engine test. In all, we left about 3:00-3:30 late. However, the crew took very good care of us during the tarmac delay (food and water around 60 minutes after we initially pushed) and gave us frequent, detailed updates so we would know what was happening.

Travel Buddies: As expected, my mom and aunt made great travel buddies. We got along well, respected each other’s goals for the trip, made plans but remained flexible, split up when necessary, shared some good talks and good laughs, and managed not to get into too much trouble.

Except for the flight delay coming home, it was a very smooth and enjoyable trip that we’ll all remember for years to come.

Want to see pictures? Sure, you do! Here you go.

The Good Times Are Not Over Yet

The coming weeks are full of excitement in the Box house. I work two more shifts, and then I’m off for almost two weeks via trades and vacation. So we’re going to live it up. Here are some of the highlights:

  1. Hotter’N Hell 50 – It’s finally here! Jenny and I are heading to Wichita Falls Friday afternoon and having dinner with some of my cousins. Then we’ll get up early Saturday morning with Chuck and Jeff for the Hotter’N Hell race. Our 27-mile Goatneck warm-up race last month went great. Due to various issues, I haven’t been able to do any rides longer than 35 miles, but Jenny has done 40, and I’m confident we can finish the 50-miler on Saturday. We launch at 7:05am and hope to finish by 10:30am, averaging 15-16 mph.
  2. Beach Trip? – This is still in the discussion stage, but we might try an overnight trip to the beach with the boys on Sunday to somewhere on the Texas Gulf Coast, probably Galveston. This trip has two main purposes – 1) a test flight with both the boys in their car seats to prep for Disney World, and 2) to let them experience the ocean for the first time. The flights to Hobby are so open that we could each have our own row, the hotels are cheap, and the beaches shouldn’t be crowded.
  3. Back to School – The boys are off school this week, and they return next Tuesday. Jonathan is getting new teachers, but Brenden will keep the same one he had this summer. I guess technically Brenden will be in pre-K? Jenny starts her final prereq for nursing school on Monday, a microbiology class with lab that she’s really excited about. Like before, she’ll be in class Monday and Wednesday nights. In a related note, both boys will get promoted to new classrooms at church as well. Jonathan moves from the blue hall to the green hall. Brenden moves from the green hall to Zone Jr. Weird!
  4. US Open Trip – My mom, aunt Kathy, and I are flying to New York a week from Thursday for the US Open Tennis Championships. We have tickets for three night sessions and two day sessions, which should consist of second- and third-round action. Mom and I went to the Open in 2006 and had a blast even though the entire second day got rained out. Kathy is a big tennis fan like us, and we are thrilled at the chance to return for this year’s tournament. I hope to catch Clijsters, Sharapova, Djokovic, and Federer, among others. I also hope to sneak in a morning run in Mecca, aka Central Park (we’re staying just to the south), with the countless other runners and cyclists who work out there. Many thanks to my loving and patient wife Jenny for watching the hooligans for the weekend while I go play! (don’t feel too badly for her – I’m making it up to her in November when she goes to Vegas on a girls’ trip)
  5. Refocus on Running – After the bike race, I’ll need to shift my focus back toward running as I prepare for my next footrace, the Whispering Pines 25k trail run at Tyler State Park. It’s been difficult to run much this summer due to the heat, a whiny hip flexor, and most of all my cycling for Hotter’N Hell. But I just did an eight-miler on Friday with no pain anywhere, so I have hope. The temperature is dropping. My hip is growing stronger and tougher. If I can increase my long run by about 1 mile per week between now and October 13, I should be ready to rock.

The Olympics are Coming!

After living for a couple of years without cable TV, and missing quite a few shows and sporting events we wanted to see during that time, one event finally convinced us to sign back up for AT&T U-verse TV with DVR service:

The London Olympics.

I’ve always enjoyed the Olympic Games. For me, it’s not so much about American patriotism or the different countries involved. It’s the fascinating, amazing opportunity to watch the best athletes in the world face off in dozens of different sports during the same two-week span. Many of these sports get little coverage or attention outside the Olympics, but for two weeks this summer, millions around the world will suddenly get reacquainted with gymnastics, swimming, track and field, rowing, archery, weightlifting, and fencing.

In 2008, I stressed out following Michael Phelps’ quest for eight golds, marveled at Usain Bolt’s unbelievable speed, and admired the US women’s beach volleyball team. (it’s ok – Jenny is allowed to admire the male swimmers, so we’re even!) This year, my focus will be a bit different since I’m (sort of) an athlete again and actually participate in some of the events. Of particular interest are the distance running events (5K, 10K, and marathon), track, and cycling road race. I can’t look at a boxer or fencer and fully appreciate how good they are. But when I see a Kenyan marathoner post a 2:04 or Bolt break 9.7 seconds in the 100m, I know those athletes are ridiculously fast in a way my body couldn’t possibly be. And I love that. has already posted the schedule of events for your planning purposes. The Olympics start July 27 and end August 12. I’ve already targeted my top events. Unfortunately, I’m working throughout the track and field week, but my new DVR should let me record some of the events I can’t watch live.

Which event is your favorite? Vote in my new poll on the right.