Month: November 2012 (Page 1 of 2)

Favorite Songs Of 2012

I wonder how many songs I listened to this year. Thing is, despite using multiple tools to track what I listen to and how often I do so, I purge so many tracks after sampling them a time or two, that I would imagine the majority of the songs I screen are buried deep in a virtual pit of 1s and 0s. So there’s no real way of knowing exactly how many individual tracks I listened to over the past 12 months.

Which means, I guess, it takes a lot to impress me and not get relegated to my digital trash heap. This year was full of epic singles and fantastic albums that comforted me, helped me pass time, and served as a soundtrack to the events of my 2012.

I always like to look at my favorites list and see if there were any trends for the year. Based on the 20 songs I’ve selected for 2012, it was a year that rocked. It was a year that fell heavily under the influence of the 1980s. It was a year full of dream pop. And it was a year in which women pleased me more than they’ve pleased me in the past1. Ten of the 20 songs feature women on vocals, and an 11th is by a group that has male-female co-lead singers; it just happens to be one of the guy’s songs. To put that in perspective, only once in the last seven years, the years I’ve posted my year-end favorites, have female artists had more than five of my top 20/25 songs.2

So here is the raw list of my favorite songs of 2012. Over the next few weeks I’ll be sharing them individually, with videos (when available) and longer comments on why I loved them.

20 – “Star Machine” – Bob Mould
19 – “October” – The Helio Sequence
18 – “Peacemaker” – Jesca Hoop
17 – “Goundhog Day” – Corin Tucker Band
16 – “Lafaye” – School Of Seven Bells
15 – “Answering Machine” – Scout
14 – “You Kill” – Eternal Summers
13 – “Capricornia” – Allo, Darlin’
12 – “Broken Arrows” – Francisco The Man
11 – “State Hospital” – Frightened Rabbit
10 – “Watch The Corners” – Dinosaur Jr
9 – Sixteen Saltines” – Jack White
8 – “Wrist Rocket” – Wussy
7 – “Endless Shore” – Melody’s Echo Chamber
6 – “The Rifle’s Spiral” – The Shins
5 – “Sinful Nature” – Bear In Heaven
4 – “Serpents” – Sharon Van Etten
3 – “Myth” – Beach House
2 – “Season In Hell” – Dum Dum Girls
1 – “The House That Heaven Built” – Japandroids

  1. Holy double entendre! 
  2. I’ve varied the amount over the years, although 20 is the most common number. 

That Old Time Gospel

M. took another step in her religious life last night when she had her First Reconciliation. I’m told this is a big deal if you’re Catholic.

In the van after school yesterday, C. asked her what it was that she would be doing later in the evening. As best as I can remember it, here is M.’s response:

Well, later, next spring, there’s this big thing called First Communion. And it’s about getting closer to Jesus or whatever. But you get to dress up in really fancy clothes for it! Some people even wear veils! I’m so excited for it! But First Reconciliation is something you have to do before you can do that. Everyone lines up, and we take turns talking to someone, telling them all the things we’ve done wrong. Well, not all of them. It’s ok to forget some of them. But just the big ones, I guess.

I’m pretty sure C. got distracted by the fancy clothes part and stopped listening after that. And I was quietly laughing at M.’s understanding of the high points of Catholic second grade.

I realized, while she was explaining the process, that this is a whole part of her life I’m never going to be able to understand or relate to.1 There are going to be plenty of these moments, to be sure. She’s a girl. She’s growing up 33 years after me. I will never be able to relate to all of her experiences. But as I was raised a heathen, and have chosen to continue my heathen ways into adulthood, I really have no common ground with her when it comes to her Catholicism.

When she asks me questions about it, I have no answers and can only say, “Ask your Mom/Grandfather/Aunts/Teacher.” When she’s sharing the insider details of her various religious education sessions with C., I have no idea what she’s talking about.

Like I said, there are going to be plenty of moments like this as the girls grow up. But this is the first, concrete moment when I feel one of my daughters going off in a direction that I can’t really help her with. Sure, I can support her and do my best to share what little knowledge I have on the subject. I did a fine job helping her learn the Ten Commandments last month, for example. But it’s a path that if she needs a guide, it will be someone other than me.

  1. Sure, I could dive into the faith myself. But I’m pretty comfortable in my agnostic ways and don’t plan on joining any church any time soon. Pray for me, friends. 

Holiday Wrap Up

It was a fine Thanksgiving weekend for the B’s.

As I mentioned last week, we hosted the family get-together this year. We had 16, which for our family is small, but still takes some work to prepare for. I did the bird and stuffing. I narrowly avoided disaster with the bird. My thermometer wasn’t working correctly so I guessed on when to take it out of the oven. Turns out I left it in a little too long. Fortunately, I’ve always cooked my birds in oven bags, and that saved me. The meat literally fell off the bone, and the dark meat was too done. But the rest of it was fine, thanks to the bag. Remember, kids, before you put your bird in the oven, put a bag on it. And Giada’s stuffing1 was a huge success. Instant add to the holiday go-to list.

All the rest of the food was great and we had a fine little gathering. It was a gorgeous day, pushing into the mid-60s, so the girls abandoned the parade to play with the neighbors for awhile. They made it back inside in time to see Santa, though. Which initiated a long argument about whether that was the real Santa or not. M. and C. insisted it was not, as his beard wasn’t long enough. C. added that he was busy making toys and couldn’t make the parade. I tried to convince them otherwise, but they weren’t having it.

It’s become a bit of a tradition in our house to watch Elf on Thanksgiving night, mostly because USA has shown it the last 2-3 years. USA no longer has the rights, and ABC Family isn’t showing it until next week, so we popped in the DVD after dinner. I’ve probably said this before, but the “Pennies From Heaven” scene, when Buddy first hits New York, is one of the great scenes in all of American cinema. Everything about it is perfect. I’m sure we’ll be watching Elf many more times over the next month.

In an odd twist, my other traditional Thanksgiving viewing event always gets pushed late into the evening. So, as in the recent past, I watch the “Thanksgiving Orphans” episode of Cheers after I had watched my first Christmas movie of the year. Even after 26 years it’s still my all-time favorite TV episode. And as much as the parade or Thanksgiving dinner or watching Elf, my holidays officially begin when I pour some scotch, or Jameson this year, and sit down with the gang from Cheers for half an hour.

Friday was tree day, and we ran to our local nursery shortly after it opened to claim our 2012 Christmas tree. As usual, we went with the 9′ Frasier Fir, and it’s a beaut, Clark.

I have no idea why, but we never test our lights a few days before Thanksgiving to make sure they’re all working and so we can replace any that don’t light. Naturally of our four strands, only two were 100% functioning. We swapped some bulbs around, got a third one to light, strung them around the tree, and when we plugged them in, that third string was now refusing to work. Great.

I decided to run up to Lowe’s, thinking it would be less crowded than Target or Wal-Mart. That was true, but the lights section was also very picked over, as I feared. I found four packages of plain, clear bulbed lights, checked out, and raced back home. I pop open the package and saw that while I checked the bulb color, I did not check the cord color. And I had four packages of lights with white cords. Greater.

So I explained to the girls we wouldn’t be decorating the tree until Saturday, when Target calmed down and I could get the lights I wanted. That all worked out fine and the tree was done by lunchtime on Saturday. We got our modest outdoor lights up, the rest of the house decorated and now we’re good to go for the holidays.

That was the extend of our shopping over the weekend. Well, the UPS truck brought a bunch of packages on Friday, which was about as close to Black Friday as we ever get. Several other orders were placed Sunday night, and I believe our shopping is done.

We had some big news for the girls, and I did not know if we were going to save it for Christmas morning or not. We decided not to wait, so Sunday, at the dinner table, we told them we had a surprise to share with them. M.’s eyes lit up and she shouted, “ARE WE GOING TO DISNEYLAND?!?!”

S. and I looked at each other, smiled a little, and said, “No,” together.

“Because we’re going to Disney WORLD.”

M. started shrieking and C. and L. looked around, blinking, not sure what the difference was. But yes, we’re finally taking the Disney leap in late January. I’m sure it will be great. And I’m sure I’ll need blood pressure medication before our three days there are complete.

The girls barely made it through a five day school break. Or rather the parents had trouble tolerating the noise and activity our three girls created over five days. I’m not sure what’s going to happen over Christmas break, but I better schedule some playdates and outings if we all want to make it to 2013.

Another important moment when I know the holidays have begun: the first time I play air drums to Phil Collins’ parts of “Do They Know It’s Christmas.”

The weather here crashed Friday morning, so after spending some time outside Thursday, I pretty much stuck to the living room TV the rest of the weekend. With all the rivalry weekend games in college, I got to explain the concept of rivals to M.. I’m pretty sure she didn’t get it, but she was interested and asked several questions.

Finally, by the time you read this, I will likely be done putting my Holiday Ale into bottles. I’m looking forward to being able to taste it in a week, but I really can’t wait to reveal the name I’ve chosen, and the label I’ve created, for it. I’m pretty proud of my work!

I hope your Thanksgivings were excellent, too.

  1. I learned that putting the words Giada and stuffing in the same sentence gets a positive response from most men. But that was probably obvious. 

(First) Season’s Greetings

I might be slipping.

You’ll probably recall how I’ve generally been militant about Christmas preparations not starting until after Thanksgiving. That meant no trees up, no holiday music, no exterior decorations, and profound head shaking each time I saw a Christmas commercial before we’ve carved the first turkey of the season. This year, though, I’ve been looking forward to the Christmas season since September.

In early October I found myself spending far too much time examining the holiday lighting section at Lowe’s. I would occasionally start humming holiday classics unprovoked. Instead of looking forward to Halloween and Thanksgiving, I was thinking ahead to the days after Turkey Day, when we could put the tree up and transform the house for five weeks. Each Monday this month, on the way to school, I’ve scanned through the FM band looking for a station playing Christmas music. Not because I wanted to listen to it yet, of course. Just so the girls could hear it and know that Christmas was getting closer. I even recorded a couple holiday shows over the weekend, even though each of them will be on several times over the next month.

Why this change? I’m not sure I have an easy, obvious explanation.

I would imagine some of it is because the window for tiny tots Christmases is closing in our house. If last year was the perfect year, with L. old enough to understand what’s going on and M. young enough to still dive in with full belief, that balance is slipping a little. With M.’s personality, I see her as someone who is going to hang on a long time, even after she’s figured it out. But each year, makes it more likely she’ll give us a knowing look when we talk about Santa to her sisters. Or, as she gets moodier1 an outburst could involve her shouting that Santa isn’t real when we remind her that her behavior is being watched.

This has been an odd year for me, which I think explains some of it, too. This was the year L. became self sufficient in 90% of matters. On days she’s not in school, I can just turn her loose and she entertains and occupies herself. The days of me having to monitor her activities 24/7 are over. And I will admit, like generations of full-time parents before me, it’s been an unsettling shift. You operate in one mode for seven years, your kids grow up, and you feel a bit unmoored. I know that 2013 is going to be a year where I have to not just think about the future but begin taking steps to set up what I’ll be doing for the next 10 years. Which freaks me out a little.

I think that combination of changes has me looking forward to this holiday season a little more. It’s something concrete, something with set routines, something that ties to the past. Good grief, I’m becoming a 50-something housewife, aren’t I?

So anyway, I’m going to try to dive in and really enjoy the next 48 hours of Thanksgiving, and push the Christmas thoughts off until Friday, when the decorating-holiday tunes-making merry orgy will begin. We’re hosting a small, for our family, group of 16 Thursday. I’m responsible for the bird and am giving a new stuffing recipe a spin.2 It looks like we’re going to have terrific weather, too, so perhaps there will be time to toss the football with my stepdad or nephews at some point.

Happy Thanksgiving to all of you who read this. May your travels be safe, your bellies be full, and your family reunions follow the rule I established when we began hosting big get togethers a few years back: no crying and no F-you’s!

  1. Man is that girl moody lately. I keep reading about girls who start puberty at 9 and worry she’s right on the verge. 
  2. Giada’s! 


How I Became a Famous Novelist – Steve Hely
I knew when I picked this up that it was a novel, a satire of our current pop culture where anyone can become famous regardless of how much (or little) talent they possess. But I’ll admit, I just might have been hoping to find the secret to getting published while making my way through it.

If only it was as easy as the title suggests.

Angry after getting an invitation to his college girlfriend’s wedding, Pete Tarslaw decides that he must do something to upstage her on the big day. His best idea? Becoming a famous novelist. He quickly develops a formal, based on careful review of what is on the Best Sellers list, that is guaranteed to accomplish just that. He cranks out a novel that ticks all the spots on his checklist, and, thanks to some good fortune, gets published. So far, so good. More good fortune finds Tarslaw and soon he is, if not the toast of the literary world, at least a famous author with a best selling novel to his credit.

As you would expect, it all unravels quickly and hilariously.

Hely, who has written for David Letterman and The Office, nails the vapidity of our entertainment world. Even when Tarslaw’s world is falling apart, his book climbs the Best Seller list. We are more interested in spectacle, controversy, and train wrecks than true art.

Maybe he did figure out the secret to writing success.

Last Night at the Lobster – Stewart O’Nan
Perhaps this is the book Pete Tarslaw wanted to write. Slim, less than 150 pages. Brief, taking place over a 16 hour day. And tidy, set in a single restaurant with a brief foray across the parking lot.

But this is Stewart O’Nan writing, so there’s nothing cheap or manufactured about it. As always, he somehow builds a group of deep characters with the barest of brush strokes. I wish I knew his secret.

This time it is the crew running a Red Lobster in Connecticut, four days before Christmas, in the midst of a blizzard. It also happens to be the store’s final day of operations before the corporate office shuts it down for poor performance. That doesn’t sound like much, but O’Nan weaves his magic and turns it into a beautiful little tale.

This is the fourth O’Nan book I’ve read. With one exception, they’ve all been exceptional. And the fourth was very entertaining. He has a way with language and pacing and stories that is unmatched, in my mind, by any other current author. I think one of my reading goals for 2013 might be to complete his collection.

Weekend Chaos

An oddly busy Monday, with a couple appointments in the morning and the need to squeeze some leaf collection activities in before St. P’s lets out for the day. So I’ll try to crank out some notes here.

A mixed bag of football action for me over the weekend. The two teams I care about, the Jayhawks and the Colts, got thrashed. But the games I didn’t have a vested interest in, particularly the K-State-Baylor and Stanford-Oregon games, were terrific to watch.

KU’s loss was frustrating after a month of them playing better and twice coming close to beating ranked teams. Fortunately it was over early enough that I was able to concentrate on the more interesting games elsewhere.

That Stanford-Oregon game was tremendous. All of a sudden the wide-open Pac-12 turned into the rough-and-tumble SEC. I have a hard time liking Oregon for a variety of reason, mostly because Chip Kelly seems like a real dick. I should like them, with their crazy offensive attack and pure speed DNA. But he kind of ruins them for me. So I enjoyed Stanford shutting them down an sneaking out with the win.

I always root for chaos in college football, so between Stanford winning and K-State going down1 in Waco, it was an awfully fun night. Shame that it’s letting Notre Dame and an SEC team to be named later take the two front seats for the BCS title game.

My other thought for a football post last weekend was a cautionary note to all those who were penciling the Colts into the playoffs. It seemed awfully early, especially for a team that lost two more defensive starters a week ago, to assume they would make it, especially with a game at New England and two with Houston left.

I should have gone ahead with it, as the Patriots made that seem painfully obvious yesterday. I don’t think the loss is that big of a deal. The Colts ran into an excellent offensive team, had a few breaks that went again them, and it snowballed into a rout. It happens. We’ll see if/how they shake it off going into next weekend. They’ve already overachieved this year, and GM Ryan Grigson seems to know what he’s doing in acquiring talent through the draft.

Yesterday’s American Top 40 was from 1984, and Tina Turner’s “Better Be Good To Me” was in the top 10. I had never made the connection before, but as Sunday Night Football began last night, I wondered how old Faith Hill was. As though she was reading my mind, my wife said, during Hill’s SNF intro, “Huh, she’s 45.” I laughed, as I was about to look it up, too.

I quickly looked up Tina Turner. In 1984 she was 45. Hmmm. Remember what a big deal it was that Tina looked how she looked in 1984? As if she should be sitting at home in pantsuits like a grandma. Faith Hill looks fantastic, too. I commented to my wife isn’t it interesting that while we acknowledge that she’s got it going on, it doesn’t seem like that big of a deal that a 45-year-old woman can pull off tiny skirts on national TV these days. There are dozens of women like that in the entertainment industry, and if you go to your local gym, you’re sure to find plenty of “middle aged” women who can show a lot of skin.

Sure, some of it is thanks to the wonders of plastic surgery and injections that hide the aging process. But a lot of it is that an entire generation of women has been working out for decades. It shows. And it’s a good thing. And Tina deserves a lot of credit for being one of the first women to tell the aging process to piss off.

  1. Sorry for the jinx Friday, K-Staters. I wish I had that kind of power. If I really did, I’d spendd more time in Vegas. 


I am sooo reluctant to write this, but I can’t put it off any longer: the Kansas State Wildcats are the best story in sports right now.


Who, even among the most optimistic of K-Staters, saw this coming? With two winnable games left, the Wildcats are almost certainly going to play in the BCS title game. If they luck out, it will be against a good, but not ready for prime time, Notre Dame team. If that happens I might just have to take a trip out of the country the night of the championship game. I don’t think I could deal with that matchup.

Anyways…I know I wasn’t the only one who thought it was more than a little sad when Bill Snyder came out of retirement to try to get K-State back on track after the Ron Prince experiment. Sad that the program was so toxic that Snyder felt he had to come clean it up. Sad that he couldn’t say no just three years after retiring to “be with his family.”

But almost immediately he turned it around. If there was any doubt, the old man is a witch. And now he has them in the driver’s seat for a title game appearance. No pesky conference championship game to get in the way, as it did in 1998. No top 10 team to close out their schedule. Just a couple soft teams from Texas that won’t be able to stop their offense. Nutso.

And then there’s Collin Klein. I hate to say it, but I really like watching the guy play. He’s not lightning fast. He doesn’t have a cannon for an arm. But he makes play after play, bouncing off tackles, hitting the hole at the right time, taking the proper angle to avoid a tackler and get another 10 yards. Nothing he does is fancy or screams can’t miss NFL star. Yet he’s the turbine that makes a 10-0 team go.

Perhaps it would be different if I was still living in Kansas City and had to deal with obnoxious K-State fans, but I’m finding it hard to hate this team. That doesn’t mean I’m pulling for them. On the contrary, I’d love it if Baylor or Texas spoiled their shot at the title. Or if they make it that far, Oregon, Notre Dame, or some random SEC that sneaks in destroys them in the BCS title game.

There. I said it. I don’t know that I feel any better, but I had to get it out.

Young And Gifted

I planned on posting some pre/early season thoughts on KU basketball yesterday, but got distracted by one thing after another, and decided to watch last night’s game against Michigan State first.

The game confirmed everything I was thinking about this year’s squad: they are immensely talented with some glaring weaknesses and are certainly overrated now, but have the benefit of everyone being in love with KU/Bill Self after last March’s run and people ranking them based on where they think they’ll be next March.

For 35 minutes last night they out-Izzoed the Spartans. But, after going up 5 with 5:00 to play, the Spartans took control of the game and made the big plays in the final minute to get the win. It was reminiscent of the last time these teams played, in the 2009 Sweet 16 here in Indianapolis. This time it was Keith Appling making the ridiculous plays late instead of Kalin Lucas.1

No matter, these early season games don’t mean what they used to.2 When I was a kid, these games weren’t played until the first week of December, when teams had been practicing for nearly two months. These early November games just don’t have the quality those games had. And while I think the players want to win, everyone knows they’re going to be playing in the tournament. Throw in the tepid atmosphere inside the cavernous dome and it ain’t like it used to be.

The larger point, though, is that the game was just a warm-up for all that is to come. It’s a good win for Michigan State, a good loss for KU. And will be forgotten when each team gets to conference play.

What did we see, though? KU, built around three core seniors, will be a stout defensive team. That was the most positive thing from the game: the newcomers seem to understand the intensity needed on the defensive end and willing to bring it. Well, most of the time. When they lock in, it’s going to be tough to score on them.

Two areas of concern, though, are offense and inside depth.

Who is going to score consistently on this team? Elijah Johnson will pick up his game, as he did last March. But I don’t think either Jeff Withey or Travis Releford are guys you can count on for 15+ points every night. They’ll both have nights where they touch 20 points, but they are defensive specialists who seem more likely to be in the 10 ppg range. Ben McLemore is going to be very, very good. Practicing during the second semester last season really helped his game. But he’s still a freshman, and no matter how talented, will have torrid nights and frigid ones.3 Perry Ellis is going to be a solid player, but again, he’s still a kid. He looked overwhelmed last night. Remember that in March when he looks like a man.

And on and on. That’s the common story for most of this lineup. Aside from McLemore, there’s not a pure scorer in the current rotation. Which increases the pressure on every player to chip in what they can.

The post is a concern because Jeff Withey is still a very limited offensive player. I think Jamari Traylor is going to be great, but like Thomas Robinson, it’s going to take him a couple years to be consistently good on the offensive end. I can’t wait for him to be on the court most of the time, though. For now, Ellis isn’t strong enough to be a true inside force against other teams with size. As he gets stronger, and learns more about the game, that will change. But he’s not a guy who will make things easier for Withey right now.

It’s interesting that Bill Self seems inclined to red-shirt Landen Lucas. He must really not be ready for D1 ball, because the team needs another body down low, and with Zach Peters potentially out for the year, Lucas is that guy. It was one thing to only go three-deep down low last year when you had a first team All-American filling the 4 spot. It’s another with this mix of players.

I was also surprised that neither Rio Adams or Andrew White III got any minutes last night. The team needs a third point guard and Adams seems like that guy. Both he and White arrive with reputations for putting points on the board, too. In the two exhibition games and the season opener, both had mixed moments. I guess Self wanted to play with a short rotation and look to get them minutes over the next month.

Anyway, that was a solid loss against a team that will go deep into the tournament in March. This year’s KU team is going to have nights where everything clicks and they look great, and nights where they can’t hit a shot and lose ugly. Last night was a little of both.

I think this team will be quite good before all is said and done. They’ll get through those rough patches and have a high seed in March. And then it will all come down to who they play. All season I’m going to remind myself that this is a bridge season, connecting the last seven seasons to the next 4-5-6 seasons. That’s a little unfair to the guys on this year’s team, but when you look at their strengths and weaknesses, I think it’s a reasonable statement. That doesn’t mean they can’t play deep into March or provide a bunch of special memories. But it does mean that despite the various prognosticators who are putting them in the Final Four, I see this as a year where getting to Atlanta is just out of reach.

But the young guys are going to learn a lot and next year will begin another cycle where Final Fours will be expected by many, and anything less seen as a failure. This is a year to embrace the shift of expectations, enjoy a bunch of young pups learning and growing, and be thankful that at KU, rebuilding seasons are still pretty damn good.

Rock Chalk, bitches.

  1. Why does EVERY Michigan State player seem like they’ve been there forever? There’s always the joke about player X or Y being a 19th year senior, but it seems like every MSU player makes an impact as a freshman then hangs around for four years. 
  2. Cue Old Man Rant. 
  3. Sucked having Indy native Gary Harris, also a freshman, be the leading scorer for MSU. McLemore is very good, but Harris is freakishly good. And given his size, I expect him to be in Lansing for at least three years. 

Tip Time

There was snow on the ground, briefly, here in Indianapolis today. Which means its time for what the Hoosier state does best: high school basketball. The girls season kicked off last week, and I had two games.

I lukced out and got to see both the teams that are probably our best and which are coached by my favorite coaches.

Thursday I had our biggest school, CGHS. This is a school that is very good in almost every sport. But for some reason their girls basketball team is never great. Part of it is playing in a brutal conference. Then, if they get through sectionals, they almost always run into one of the 2-3 teams that are favorites for the state title in a given year in regionals.

Anyway, they have a very talented but young lineup this year and were facing an inferior opponent Thursday. They got out to a 14-2 lead and that was pretty much that. They won by 22, which was a solid start to the year. Two other wins last week have them at 3-0 going into this week’s county tournament.

I like their coach because he talks a lot, so I can ask him a couple questions and get plenty of material to pull quotes from. Plus he is always super friendly. When I walked up to him Thursday he greeted me with a big smile, Hey, man, how are you? Great to see you!” When we were done he asked if I would be doing anymore of their games this year and again said it was great to see me. I’m sure he’s like that to everyone, but it’s nice to get that treatment when a few of our other coaches are about as terse and impersonal as can be.

Friday I had ICHS, a 3A school that features the best player in the county. She had scored 37 in their opener and did not disappoint in game two. She had 34 points, 12 rebounds, and five steals. She only missed three shots from the field. I’ve been watching her for four years, and it’s been fun to watch her grow up. She was really good as a freshman and has gotten steadily better each year. She’s already committed to a small D1 school and is trying to win the county player of the year award for the second-straight year. ICHS has a really good team again this year and coasted to a 29 point win. They did lose to a 4A school Saturday, though, so go into the county tournament with a loss.

My stat keeping was a little rusty, and this was my first basketball game on the iPad so I had a few moments of panic when my stat spreadsheet wasn’t doing what I wanted. But the stories got filed and hopefully the rust is gone.

As I did last year, I’ll be keeping track of the Total Margin Factor of my games; basically the cumulative margin of victory or loss by the teams I cover. You may recall I was deep in the hole last January but a few big blowouts in February left me positive for the season. I start the 2012-13 season with a nifty +51, which won’t change this week as any games I will be doing will be between county teams at the tournament.


Despite my moratorium on political postings, it is a bit of a tradition for me to wrap up the general election. So here are some observations, thoughts, musings, and what-have-yous.

In 2004 I watched the results in our basement, scribbling down thoughts in a notebook and occasionally running upstairs to check things on the computer or send IMs to friend of the blog Dale S. as we tried to figure out how the hell the numbers weren’t breaking our way. Over the next several days I wrote thousands of words that both put my political science degree to use and served as catharsis after that crushing loss. If memory serves, I published two of my three epic pieces but was too exhausted to post the final entry.

In 2008 I watched from our living room, sending emails from my laptop while constantly wiping my nose as I fought a vicious cold. I recall the joy of the west coast states coming in and, shortly after, Ohio getting called and what had seemed likely for several weeks finally coming true. I also remember getting out of bed at 4:00 AM to give then month-old L. a bottle, checking my phone, and being amazed at Indiana dropping into the blue column for the first time in over a generation. For the first time in my life, my presidential vote counted.

This year I returned to the basement, which I realized was tempting fate as the fundamentals of the race seemed awfully similar to 2004. But that’s where the good TV is now, plus it’s warmer there and closer to the beer and scotch. No running list of thoughts in a notebook or on the iPad this time. I mostly watched MSNBC, occasionally switching over to NBC and Fox. I texted constantly with John N. And I had Safari tabs open to Daily Kos and Andrew Sullivan to see numbers not being reported on air. And I toughed it out until 2:30 to catch the two big speeches of the night.

Things That Pleased Me:

  • Obviously Obama being reelected. His first term was far from perfect. But when you look at the economic/fiscal mess he inherited, I think he deserves a second term just for the chance to sink or swim on his own. I think that was what really turned the election. Not the auto bailout or Mitt’s difficulty connecting with the masses or Sandy. While I don’t think the core of people who decided the election necessarily blame the Great Recession on George Bush, I do think they realize that it wasn’t Obama’s creation and he warrants a chance to govern without the weight of it on his back.
  • Richard Mourdock going down in defeat. I think Joe Donnelly was a fine candidate, and will be a fine senator for the great state of Indiana. In fact, he is much more likely to carve out a role similar to Richard Lugar than Mourdock ever was. And he seemed to be slightly ahead in most polls before Mourdock offered his views on rape/misspeak horribly on rape.1 But Mourdock was a jackass before those comments and needed to lose. I’m not confident there’s going to be much cooperation between parties in the Senate, but having one fewer person who stated his goal was to obstruct continuously gives me a glimmer of hope. Mourdock was no Dick Lugar but he certainly was a dick.
  • The end of the culture wars as wedge issues. There will always be wedge issues; ways of frightening the base to get out and vote in large numbers. But over the last eight years, the tide has turned on many of the core issues the GOP has been pushing since 1980. Various gay rights issues in swing states were credited with helping George W. Bush win in 2004, as the evangelical Christian vote turned out in droves to make sure those measures were defeated, and pushed him past John Kerry in the process. Each year since then, gay rights have advanced. The pro-gay rights side won all four ballot initiatives Tuesday. Abortion rights are now an area for defense rather than offense for Republicans. I think these issues are going to fade away and the parties will have to find new ways to scare their bases.
  • The many jokes relating to Colorado passing personal possession and use of marijuana. Lots of people tweeted either their belief that CU will soon have great teams in every sport or their understanding of why Peyton Manning signed up to give away two million pizzas. Humor unites us!
  • Steve Schmidt, former McCain strategist who served as the lone Republican on the MSNBC set, a tough seat to fill. He’s definitely an MSNBC Republican, meaning he’s far from an ideologue and socially moderate. But he served as a good counter to the rest of the panel and offered a good look at what was going on inside each campaign on Election Night.
  • Rachel Maddow. She’s just the best.

Things That Annoyed Me:

  • Fucking Florida. Are you kidding me? Twelve years to fix your voting system and it’s still a total disaster. Forget about the whole voter suppression angle, I wonder if politicians don’t want to fix these messes because it will always give them an out to claim the election was somehow stolen from them if they lose. I probably offer a list like this every four years, but there are a few easy fixes for our electoral woes:

1 – Federal elections should be run by the Federal government. A common ballot and voting system across all 50 states. If the states want to fuck up their own races, let them. But if you’re going to vote for president, a US Senator, or US Representative, it should be a level playing field for every voter.
2 – As a sub-point to that, either make Election Day a Federal holiday where everyone gets off work, move it to a Saturday, or expand and standardize early voting options. It should not be hard to vote. Waiting an hour or two to vote is reasonable, especially if you don’t have to worry about getting back to your job. But it should not take eight hours to cast your ballot in the most technologically advanced time in human history.
3 – Give people options on where to vote. Here in Indiana you can check the BMV’s website and see how long the wait is at various branches and can pick the site where you want to renew your plates or whatever. Do the same with voting. Allow people to check wait times and then pick from one of several places to vote.
4 – And stop screwing people in poor and minority neighborhoods. Give them equal access to voting places and voting booths within those places. As the President said last night, we have to fix this.
– The Republican war on facts. I don’t live in a bubble. I have lots of Republican friends. And the overwhelming majority of them are completely reasonable folks who are reminiscent of what the Republican Party was 20 or 30 years ago: social moderates, or even liberals, who favor laissez-faire economic policies. We might disagree on how to do things, but these are generally people I can talk to. And I hope they feel like they can talk to me.

But increasingly some of the loudest voices in the party, and thus more and more of the rank and file, have decided to treat everything that displeases them as false, fabricated, and dismiss it out of hand. I don’t think any of my friends fall into this category, thankfully.

Overwhelming evidence of climate change? It’s not real, it’s made up, it’s all part of some grand conspiracy to hold America back. The polls don’t reflect how you think the race should go? Again, they’re made up, they’re biased, and we’ll massage them until they say what we want and treat those as fact. A non-partisan congressional office that has been trusted by both parties for generations releases a set of statistics that don’t fit your narrative for the election? Denounce it, force it to be recalled, and then act like it never happened.

Rachel Maddow had a terrific rant about this late in the night in which she suggested this attitude isn’t just bad for the party going forward, it’s dangerous to our democracy. It’s one thing to battle in Florida in 2000 to make sure the votes are counted correctly. It’s another to say numbers that are scientifically proven and based on reviewable evidence are certainly wrong and likely created out of thin air. Sticking your head in the sand is not a winning political strategy. And it holds us back as a nation when one of our two political parties continues to do it. This is 2012. It’s an odd time to be denouncing science.
– The rush to lay out the next X years in politics based on one campaign. This always bugs me. Sure, you can infer some things from an election by looking at demographics, etc. But the fact is we have no idea what will be important in two years, in four years, or beyond that. Islamic terrorism certainly wasn’t on the tips of our tongues in 2000. In 1964 it looked like the Republicans were toast for the foreseeable future. All it takes is one catastrophic, or heroic, event. A once-in-a-lifetime candidate who trumps every issue we expected to be important.2 Or a confluence of seemingly innocent events that change the political tide.

While there are some important signals that would lead a rational person to infer the Democrats appear to have the advantage going forward, Obama is now on the hook for the economy. If he fucks it up, all those demographic trends won’t mean a thing.
– Too many cooks in the kitchen. MSNBC really didn’t need six people at the main desk, especially when they were constantly throwing it to others in the studio or at the campaigns’ headquarters. Al Sharpton had a couple good cracks, but he lost his fastball a few years ago. Ed Shultz was a waste of space. I like Lawrence O’Donnell, but he didn’t have much space to offer his thoughts.

So, anyway, finally, it’s over. No more ads, at least until your next local elections. As someone on Twitter wrote, we can get back to Cialis and Viagra commercials. But for awhile, I won’t cringe at each commercial break expecting to hear some group from outside Indiana tell me how horrible candidate X or Y would be for Indiana. Although I’m sure we’ll start hearing about 2016 hopefuls spending time in Iowa and New Hampshire soon enough. Jeb Bush v. Hillary just to make everyone want to shoot themselves?

And now, instead of checking my batch of political websites 100 times a day, I can go back to worrying about important things like whether I should get an iPad mini or not and who is going to score for KU this season. Forward!

  1. I’m willing to give him a little benefit of the doubt. He’s not a great public speaker and maybe he just got tongue tied. But holy crap, why can’t people just say, “Listen, I’m against abortion no matter what. Rape is an awful thing, but I’m against abortion,”instead of going down these disgusting semantic sidebars where they try to decide what rape really is? 
  2. Trumps, small t. Not Trump, capital T. 
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