Just Amazing

It’s a sad commentary on what we, as a country, focus on.  Since Tuesday, you can barely turn on a news channel or visit their website without seeing some sort of mention of the “fake” sign language interpreter at the Nelson Mandela memorial.  It’s everywhere.

What is lost, however, is an amazing and heartwarming display of actual sign language.  I briefly, and I mean briefly, saw a clip of the story on TV today and had to fire up a search engine for more information, but what I saw was downright amazing.

You can, and I encourage you to do so, read more and watch the video by clicking here, but I will summarize it for you.

The video shows a kindergarten student named Claire Koch performing in her school’s Christmas program.  More importantly, it shows her both singing audibly with the rest of her class, and signing the songs so that her parents can enjoy the show.  While her mother can lip read, her father cannot and only understands ASL, and Claire made sure that both could enjoy the production, along with the parents in the audience who could hear the performance.

Well-done, Claire Koch.  Well-done.

Just Win

“Just Win Baby.”  It’s a simple motto, and one that has been associated with the Oakland Raiders for as long as I can remember.  Late owner Al Davis had the right approach when his Raiders adopted the motto.  Just win.  In football, that is all that matters.  His team, the other NFL teams, and college teams, are judged by how many games they win.

Which brings me to this.  In the wake of Auburn’s thrilling victory over Alabama this past weekend in the Iron Bowl, there is already talk that the winner of the SEC Championship Game this weekend, should leap-frog Ohio State and into the National Championship Game in Pasadena, assuming Ohio State wins.  The winner would take on Florida State, assuming the Noles win this weekend.

Make no mistake about it, I am no Ohio State fan, and I find very few opportunities to defend them, but in this case, it is warranted.  Contrary to what the Auburn AD might have people believe, it would not be “un-American” if a team from the SEC was not in Pasadena.  Not one bit at all.

Winning is what matters, and Ohio State and Florida State have won all of their games thus far.  They are the only two to be able to make that claim.  If they both win this weekend, they both deserve to be in Pasadena.  Period.

I don’t want to hear about strength of schedule or how tough a conference is.  I want to hear about what matters.  Wins.  Last I checked, both teams in the SEC Championship Game have one loss.  It does not matter to me at all that Missouri lost in double overtime; they still lost.  Auburn lost by 14 to LSU.  Lost.

I doubt that I am alone in my thinking on this.  I also think that a team should not be able to play for the National Championship without having first won their conference, and a few years ago, a team from the SEC made it to the National Championship without even winning their division.  That’s right, they did not even win their division, conference be damned.

I guess while I am at it, I should point out something else that I find ridiculous:  people who will rant and chant “SEC-SEC” about how great their conference is.  I have had friends of mine who are Florida fans rub in my face that the SEC has won the last 7 BCS Championships; they brag that Alabama has won the last two and three of the last four.  Cheering for how great your conference is is sort of like a Red Sox fan hoping the Yankees can win the World Series for the pride of the American League East.  Stupid.  And not going to happen.

I honestly care only about one team’s chances of going to Pasadena, and that is Florida State’s.  Who they play does not matter to me one bit.

Still Waiting

For those of us who live in Tallahassee, or who are fans of FSU, the last two weeks have been rather interesting to say the least.  Not because the ‘Noles continue to dominate on the football field, but for another reason altogether.

It has been right at two weeks since the crack media outlet TMZ “broke” a story involving star QB Jameis Winston and his potential involvement in a sexual assault or sexual battery (I distinguished these for a reason).

As of today, and according to reports just this morning, it might be another two weeks before State Attorney Willie Meggs announces whether or not there will be charges filed against Winston.  In other words, the holding pattern will remain in place, and that means that additional rumors and leaks are bound to come to the surface.

I have been talking with co-workers since this story broke, and the consensus seems to be that we are going to withhold judgment for right now.  If anything, that should be the track that everyone takes, but that is rarely the case.  Take, for example, the recent cases involving Casey Anthony and George Zimmerman.  In both instances, the media decided that they were guilty as charged, but the jury that decided the case for each came to a different conclusion.  I don’t use them as an example in order to give them a ringing endorsement, but just to offer perspective; you can bet that I won’t be asking Casey Anthony to watch my daughter anytime soon and I won’t be hopping in the car with George Zimmerman, either.  In this current situation with Jameis Winston, too many people have rushed to judgment and convicted him already.

Above, I made note how I separated the terms “sexual assault” and “sexual battery,” and there is a good reason for my doing so.  The legal definition for each follows:

Assault (source):

an intentional act by one person that creates an apprehension in another of an imminent harmful or offensive contact.

Battery (source):

an intentional unpermitted act causing harmful or offensive contact with the “person” of another.

Why do those definitions matter?  I guess the most important reason they matter is because the terms “assault” and “battery” are not interchangeable; they have specific legal meanings.  For people to use them as replacements for each other is disingenuous at best.  With respect to the current Jameis Winston investigation, the initial report was the he was being investigated for sexual assault, meaning that he could have made a comment toward someone referring to some sort of sexual act he wanted to perform with her.  I don’t mean to dismiss that as nothing, but it is a far cry from what is being reported now, and that is that it is a sexual battery investigation.  To expand even further, even if he crossed the line from words to actions, that still does not mean that he raped the woman who is accusing him; a sexual battery can be something like him grabbing her backside.

With regards to Jameis Winston, I believe that he, like everyone, has the right to be treated as innocent until such time that he is proven guilty.  Right now, he has not even been charged with a crime, so I will continue to lend my support to him.  If there comes a time when he is charged, and he makes his way through the legal system and were to be convicted, I believe he should be punished appropriately.  My position on this has less to do with my support of him as a Seminole than it does with my support of him to being entitled to be treated as an innocent person until such time a jury decides otherwise.  I am a firm believer in the legal process.

Lest I be accused of forgetting the accuser in this piece, I can assure you that I have not.  She has rights in this case, and any attempt to abridge said rights is plain wrong.

It’s Hard To Take People Serious Sometimes

On occasion, I have been known to come on here and complain about people’s grammar, etc.  I do so not because I am some sort of self-appointed “grammar police,” but because I like to point out how foolish people make themselves seem when they cannot even use proper grammar.

I especially got a kick out of a comment I read on a thread for an article about sending kids to public versus private schools (for the record, my own daughter goes to public school and is doing just fine, thank you).  The comment, which I will share below, is of what I have noticed is becoming a typical talking point by so many who espouse private education over public, and that is the supposed “liberal indoctrination” of students in the public school setting.  Anyway, here is the comment that prompted this entry today:

“If public schools were not “government schools” I’d say yes. But who wants there children being taught by LIBS!”

It was posted by a user by the name of “Sandy Anfang.”  Now, what in that comment would prompt me to write today?  If I am to make an assumption about the commenter, it is that either they went to private school, send their kid(s) to private school, or both.  It just makes the most sense when looking at the context of what they wrote.  But, if I were to follow that assumption to its likely conclusion, I would hesitate to steadfastly promote the value of a private school education, if only because it is clear that proper use of words does not seem to be emphasized at whatever school this person attended.

To answer the commenter’s question, which was, “But who wants there children being taught by LIBS!,” the answer would be that I would.  Here is why:  In the public schools I attended, and in the school my daughter attends, we learned that the commenter’s question should have been phrased as such, “But who wants their children being taught by LIBS?”  Those darn liberal teachers I had taught me the difference between “there” and “their,” with one being a place (there), and one being a modifier associated with people (their), and they also taught me to end a statement that is intended to be a question with the proper punctuation, the question mark.

It really is hard to take people seriously when they cannot even seem to use proper grammar in their comments.  I get that sometimes mistakes happen (I have made my fair share in things that I have written), but if you are going to comment on an article about education, and you are going to tout one as being better than the other, the least you could do is proofread before submitting your comment.  It was two freaking sentences, it is not that hard to proofread to make sure that it is correct; it is not like the person was having to read War and Peace to try to find a misplaced comma or period.

As President George W. Bush once said, “As yesterday’s positive report card shows, childrens do learn when standards are high and results are measured.” (source)

At Least Try To Think, Please

I was browsing my Twitter feed the other day, and something that MSNBC host Rachel Maddow shared caught my eye.  At first, I could not believe it, so I just had to dig a little deeper.

She shared a little nugget about Hurricane Katrina, and that is probably what it got my attention.  Not because I am from Louisiana or live there now, but because it has been 8 years, and what new information could there possibly be?

Apparently, I have a lot to learn.  It would seem as though some in the state want to blame President Obama for the response to Katrina.  That’s right, they want to blame President Obama, who, if you do not recall, was merely Senator Obama back in 2005.

You can check out the poll for yourself here, but here are the nuts-and-bolts of it:
*Of the 274 people polled, 29% (79 or 80 respondents) blamed President Obama for the slow response to Katrina.

My first thought was, “You have got to be kidding me.”  To echo what Rachel Maddow wrote, do Republicans in Louisiana really despise President Obama that much to where they feel the need to blame him for the federal response to Hurricane Katrina, forgetting the fact that George W. Bush was in office at the time?  I don’t understand the rationale or reasoning, if there is any, behind that line of thinking.

If you were to browse the archives of this blog for entries where I have written about President Obama, it is pretty clear where he stands with me.  I voted for him in 2008, and I voted for him in 2012.  Do I think he has done an amazing job?  There is room for improvement.  Do I blame him for Katrina?  Nope.  What about Hurricane Andrew, since I grew up in South Florida?  Nope.  I try to be realistic when it comes to what I expect from elected officials, and I try to do a good job in remembering who was responsible for a disaster response if and when I discuss said disaster.

If you want to criticize President Obama for the job he is (or isn’t doing), go right ahead.  But, please, at least try to think a little before you go an criticize or blame him for something that happened before he was even elected for his first term.

Where Are They Now?

When Trayvon Martin was shot and killed by George Zimmerman, Al Sharpton and Jessie Jackson could not get their faces on TV fast enough to decry it as a “racist” act.  They shouted from the rooftops at anybody who would listen and those who tried not to that it was a racially motivated killing by a white man (Zimmerman is of mixed heritage) of a black teenager.  When Zimmerman was acquitted, Sharpton called for sit-ins and protests over the decision.

Fast-forward to this week, and I have to wonder where Al Sharpton and Jessie Jackson are on these stories:

In Oklahoma, a college baseball player was randomly shot and killed by three teenagers, two black males and one white male.  It has been reported that they killed him “because they were bored” and were caught a few minutes before possibly killing someone else.  The only thing that Christopher Lane did was to go for a run one afternoon, and he ends up being shot and killed.

In Washington, a WWII veteran was brutally beaten and killed this week by two black teenagers.  It has been reported that this beating was also random.

So, I bring up the question again, where are Al and Jessie?  Why are they not classifying these attacks as senseless and racist?  To them, is it only a racist attack when a black person is the victim?  Are white people (and mixed race people like George Zimmerman) the only ones who are racist?  To me, it is people like Al and Jessie who fuel the racial attitudes and tensions that are bubbling to the surface in not holding everyone accountable for their actions.  If they were serious about protecting civil rights, they would call out the racist thugs who shot Christopher Lane and beat Delbert Belton for what they are.  Instead, there has been silence from them, and that is beyond sad.

If you want to know my honest opinion, Al and Jessie are the epitome of hypocrites.  When something happens to a black person, there is not a camera they won’t get in front of to scream about “racism,” but when it comes to the senseless murder of a white college baseball player or white WWII veteran at the hands of black teenagers (and the one white teenager who was involved in the shooting), they remain silent.  Why is this ok with anybody?  To me, racism in any form by anybody is sick, ignorant, and wrong; there is no place for it in my view.

If Al Sharpton and Jessie Jackson want to really tackle the issues of racism and civil rights, the best place to start would be with the person they see in the mirror every morning.  Once they eliminate their racist attitudes and view of the world, only then should they jump in front of the nearest camera to decry racism in this country.

It’s A Short List

It is a rare thing for me to admit that I hate anything.  Hate is such a strong emotion with such a powerfully negative connotation that I do my best to not even let it enter the lexicon of who I am.  But I do have a short (and I stress short) list of things that I hate.

At or near the top:  Cancer.

When you are young, you have the feeling that you and your friends are invincible.  I know that my friends and I had that way about us; it’s not that we thought we could do not wrong or we could be completely reckless in our behavior, we just had the youthful ignorance that there some things that we would have a chance to experience later in life, when we were more mature and capable of handling things.

That all changed, for me at least, in October 2001.  I checked my email one Sunday, after a weekend of having a good time with friends and FSU football.  In my inbox was an email that a friend (and former girlfriend) from high school had sent to a bunch of people en mass.  In it, she disclosed to us that had cancer.  Esophageal cancer to be exact.  It was a tad more difficult back then to research it, but I found enough information to not like what I was reading.  I called my friend that night, and, respecting her request, refrained from making the conversation into a pity party for her.  She was determined to face her cancer head on, and she was going to win, and she was only going to talk to people about it who shared her positive outlook.  I was that guy.

Throughout the fall and winter, and into the spring, I kept in close touch with her.  We hung out when I was in our hometown, and during those months, I saw and knew that she was getting better.  In April or so, we got another email telling us that she was on the road to recovery; less than a month later, her mom let us know that the prognosis was not good.  I had known her family for a long time by this point, and, as May went on, her mom let everyone know that the family would no longer be accepting phone calls from her friends, but for some reason, she continued to talk to me every night.  During those weeks, she knew that I was going to be in a wedding toward the end of the month, and she knew that I was considering bowing out in order to spend time at their house; she was not about to let me do that, so we made a deal.  For the entire week leading up to the wedding, I was to call at a designated time each evening for updates, and I did just that.  The Sunday after the wedding, I drove the 2.5 hours from where I was to visit my friend.  I spent several hours at her house that following Monday, holding my friend’s hand and watching her struggle to breathe, knowing that it would be the last time I would see her alive.  She passed away the following day.

In the years since, cancer would sometimes come up among people I know, and each time it would, I could feel myself being consumed with hate.  I was overwhelmed with hate for cancer in early 2012 when I lost an aunt to it.

I had only found out that my aunt was sick not more than a week or two prior to her passing, and that was by design (it was a secret that only she, my uncle, and my cousin knew up to that point).  I knew when my phone rang randomly one Saturday morning in February, and I looked down and saw that it was my mom, that my aunt had passed away.  I wish I could say that going to her funeral was some sort of therapeutic thing for our family, and maybe it was for some, but it was not for me; I hated cancer even more.

Over the past few months, we learned that another friend of ours is battling cancer.  We saw him last week, and his spirits were high and he said the outlook was good.  If, he said, he makes it to the two-year mark cancer free, he will be as in the clear as you can get when it comes to that disease.

For the last month or so, Amber has been sharing with me that someone from her work has been battling cancer, too.  Last week, she found out that the prognosis was not as good as he had been letting on.  And that sucks.  From what I understand, he has a child who just started kindergarten this week.  I hate cancer.

I wish I knew more about cancer, and I wish that it is something that can be completely eradicated.  Until then, it remains one of the few things that I hate.