Saturday, December 31, 2016

Blog in Review: Top 10 Posts of 2016

Longtime readers may already have realized this, but the blog was different this year than it has been in the past.  I made a conscious effort to write less D&D and less fantasy in general and to spend less time promoting my fiction, and I spent more time talking about the news and Army Football.  As a result, average readership per post went up by 25% to 50%.  Total readership, however, has been substantially lower.  To put that another way, I had quite a few more regular readers in 2016, but the blog is now much less appealing to strangers.  Readership on this blog has always been governed by the 80/20 Rule, i.e. 80% of our readers come for just 20% of our posts, but since the most widely read posts have uniformly been Dungeons & Dragons posts, doing less D&D has hit my bottom line.  
That’s okay.
It's a picture from 2 years ago, but still one of our favorites.
The changes in the blog reflect changes in our lives.  I wrote several short D&D adventure modules last year, mostly for our kids, and those continue to be among the most-read posts in the blog’s history.  By comparison, the most popular post this year was about QB Ahmad Bradshaw’s decision NOT to leave West Point.  It did decent numbers, but it still pulled in at most 20% of the interest that something like The Fall of Cahokiantep generated in 2015.  However, we really like Army Football, and we plan to continue as an Army Football Season Ticket Holders, and that makes watching the team an integral part of what we do as a family.  At the same time, it’s been about a year since the kids and I last sat down to play D&D.  Considering the numbers, though, I really should make time to do more Cahokiantep.
2016 top ten posts are listed below.  These are not necessarily the ten most widely read posts of the year.  Instead, they are my favorites, and in many cases the most successful examples of various ideas I tried in 2016.  The numbers in parentheses indicate how many readers each post earned.

Friday, December 30, 2016

5 Things on a Friday: Still Celebrating

I don’t know about you, but I’m still celebrating Army’s season.  Or maybe waiting for next season.
As of this writing, there are 241 days until kickoff at Michie Stadium, and yeah, I think college football withdrawal is gonna be a bitch this year.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Quick Thoughts: The Heart of Dallas Bowl

Army just pulled out a squeaker at the Heart of Dallas Bowl in a rematch against the North Texas Mean Green.  An exciting win caps an exciting season.  To say the least, I was certainly not expecting a 38-31 shoot-out that went to overtime.  But despite a few mistakes, I'll certainly take this result.

Some thoughts are below:

Monday, December 26, 2016

Freedom '90

My favorite George Michael song is Freedom '90 off the album Listen Without Prejudice, Vol. 1.  Michael's not even in the video, and the idea that he's burning his own success and former image could come off as hackneyed as Hell.  Instead, it's a brilliant piece of art about declaring independence from the expectations of others.

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Quick Thoughts: The Armed Forces Bowl

First off, that was one Hell of an entertaining game.  It featured Navy's triple-option against the pass-happy spread-offense of Louisiana Tech, not much defense, lots of scoring, and Navy lost.  What's not to love?

Navy is probably getting tired of seeing scenes like this at the end of games:

Some thoughts on the game itself:

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Army Football Preview: The Heart of Dallas Bowl

When last we left the Army Black Knights, they were celebrating on the field at M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore, victorious over Navy for the first time since 2001.  Army played an excellent first half, lost focus with multiple turnovers in the third quarter, allowed the Middies back into the game, and then closed the door with authority using a strong performance in the final quarter.  Since then, Army fandom has run wild while the cadets themselves have suffered through Term End Exams and—presumably—begun refocusing for their last game of the season, the Heart of Dallas Bowl against mid-season foe North Texas.
December 27, 2016, at noon on ESPN. 

The Heart of Dallas Bowl is a fitting final game for Army for two reasons.  First, it’s a bowl game to honor first responders, a natural extension of the patriotism and selfless service at the heart of the Academy’s professional ethos.  Second, Dallas is in Texas, and as anyone who’s served already knows, half the Army is from Texas.  Between Ft. Hood, Ft. Bliss, Ft. Sam Houston, and a few others, quite a bit of the Army is currently stationed in Texas as well.  North Texas is technically the home team for this game--their campus is about a forty-five minute drive from the stadium--and I expect that they will have plenty of fans in attendance.  However, I expect Army will put some people into the stands as well, especially after that big win over Navy.  
The Bowl Committee itself is looking to put some 7,500 first responders into the stands as honorary fans as well, a group I expect will split at least 50/50 in Army’s favor.  The game is being played in the Cotton Bowl—cue the irony alert for Navy fans—and all things considered, this game might very well become a raucous affair.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

College Football Preview: Bowl Week 2

You guys will have to excuse the shortened preview today.  My interest in a lot of this week’s bowl games is limited, and I have a full Heart of Dallas Bowl preview coming out tomorrow.  There are other bowls worth watching, of course, but most of the really good ones aren’t until after Christmas.  
Graphic goes here.

If you absolutely must read about everything, I recommend the Football Outsiders link below.  Speaking personally, I want to talk about two—the Popeyes Bahamas Bowl, featuring Eastern Michigan vs. Old Dominion (-4), and the Armed Forces Bowl, featuring Louisiana Tech and Navy (+3.5).

Friday, December 16, 2016

5 Things on a Friday: InfoWar Becomes a Thing

Strange news week.  I feel like there’s a lot going on, but I still had trouble finding this week’s articles.  Here’s what I’ve got.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

College Football Preview: Bowl Week 1

Army’s not playing this week, and with the Army-Navy game in the rearview, I can’t help feeling a little lost.  The Streak is over, Army’s got a winning program again, and we’re headed to a bowl game in which I expect the Black Knight to play pretty well.  There’s not a lot of tension in the air.  True, we’ve got Rogue One: A Star Wars Story to look forward to, and I suppose that’s something, but man, I really enjoyed this season of college football.  
It’s been the best in years.
I needed a graphic here.
Well.  We’ve still got some forty bowl games ahead of us, enough so that there’s gotta be something on the docket for pretty much everybody.  This week’s preview is a look at the weekend’s bowl games and their potential implications for Army fans.

Monday, December 12, 2016

Support This Blog!

I hope it's not too crass to casually remind you fine folks that I don't just write about West Point and the Army Football Team.  I also write fiction.

Start with Sneakatara Boatman & the Priest of Loki.  It's a novel in three parts, each a short story that I wrote for my kids for successive Christmases a few years ago.  For what it's worth, everyone who's read the book has liked it, despite the handful of typos that my humble editing skills left in the manuscript.

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Quick Thoughts: Army-Navy

Wow!  What an exciting night!  A great, great game.

You could sense something different about this team from the very start of the season.  The 2016 edition of Army Football has never been the most precise football team in the history of college sports, but man, they do play with a lot of heart.  In the end, this was what mattered.

Some thoughts, in no particular order.

Friday, December 9, 2016

5 Things on a Friday: Army-Navy is Back!

It’s a lot of military-related stuff this week, not so much because of the Army-Navy game but because that’s what’s going on in America.  Or maybe I’m just more tuned into the military stuff because of the game.  Regardless, these are the things to which I want people to pay attention.

Happy Friday, folks.  Let’s get after it.

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Army Football Preview: Navy

Army first played Navy in football in 1890.  With rare exceptions, the nation’s leading service academies have met annually on the fields of friendly strife ever since.  The Army-Navy Game not only tests the mettle of the teams on the field, it also celebrates the service of America’s soldiers, sailors, and Marines.  

Saturday’s match-up is the 117th meeting between Army and Navy, and if the midshipmen have enjoyed the advantage over the last decade plus, it must also be said that this season has seen a return to form for the Army team that has been in the works since 1999.  Though we don’t know who’s going to win this weekend, the contest pits two (relatively) evenly matched teams against one another for the pride of America’s military.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Army Football Preview: How Did We Get Here?

It’s Army-Navy week!

Army comes into this weekend’s Army-Navy game as an eight-point road underdog.  That sounds about right based on performance, but in many ways, this year’s game marks the first creditable Army Football team since 1999.  Though the Black Knights have just sixteen firsties (seniors) on their roster, that small leadership group came into their final year at the Academy with a singular mission.  They would make Army Football great again.  
This has been a monumental undertaking.

Monday, December 5, 2016

It's Navy Week!

Go Army!  Beat Navy!!! 

Friday, December 2, 2016

5 Things on a Friday: Catering to Your Personal Dystopia

Happy Friday, folks.

Not much witty banter this week, but if you’re wondering, I’m almost through with the first re-write of my memoir, tentatively titled Swim, Bike, Run, Live, Love, Repeat: A Story about Swimming, Family, & Belonging.
So yeah, that’s a mouthful.  Probably not a great sign for the rest of the book.
My buddy Chris, the poor bastard, has had to read every chapter of this fantastic literary masterpiece over the course of the past few months--and often discuss what he just read over the phone immediately afterwards.  I like to check his reading comprehension!  Heh.  No seriously, he's been a HUGE help.  He was my roommate Yearling (sophomore) year at the Academy, but I'll bet if he knew then what he was getting himself into way back when...
Eh.  What can you do?
My daughter Hannah's been enjoying the project more than anyone, and she's been a pretty good test-reader, too.  In that respect, I feel at least partially vindicated.  My kids are often my best target audience.  The whole thing still feels like a vanity project, but if it's a vanity project that my kids are enjoying, then it's gotta be worth something.  Right?

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Army-Navy 101 (Part 2): Mascots & Symbols

We started talking a little about the Army-Navy rivalry last week in advance of the Army-Navy football game on December 10th.  This week we’ll introduce the Academies’ symbols and mascots and talk a little about a few of each school’s most accomplished graduates.  Army and Navy have both put a ton of super-successful flag officers into national service; listing them all would be impractical in the extreme.  I am therefore making different comparisons, comparisons that I hope will appeal to casual fans and those new to college sports’ greatest rivalry.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Saturday Workout with Hannah

I've been working this week to get back into the gym with my daughter Hannah.  This is something of a switch.  Hannah is a dancer and a gymnast while I am a swimmer and a triathlete.  We spent a lot of time earlier in the year working out together to help Hannah improve in gymnastics, but because of school and work pressures, we haven't been working out together as much lately.  Hannah had to put more focus on her schoolwork and on ballet while I decided to double-down on swimming.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Thanksgiving Notes and Memories

I had a dream this morning.  In it, I was taking a road trip with my grandparents, as I did innumerable times over my summers as a kid.  I woke, remembered that it was Thanksgiving, and thought about how much I wanted to talk to my grandparents.  I made a mental note to call them later.  I thought about this for several minutes before I remembered that my grandparents are gone, that they died several years ago, along with my parents and pretty much all of the rest of my family save my wife and my kids.

Sally, Hannah, & Emma at a New Hampshire wedding this past summer.
I rolled over and put my arms around my wife, let the light of early morning comfort me for the few minutes we had before it was time to get up.  Sally taught an early fitness class this morning, and I went with her and put in about forty-five minutes in the pool.  I can't say that I swam particularly well, but even mediocre swimming is often enough to put me back on an even emotional keel.  Such was the case this morning.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Army's Bowl Bid Projections

Army Football dropped two truly egregious games this season, at Buffalo and against North Texas at home.  They lost to Buffalo on a pair of (very) makeable field goals, the first of which would have put the game away in regulation.  Against North Texas, Army played a fine game and won perhaps 85% of the total snaps but also threw seven interceptions and had seven fumbles.

We can't win like that to say the very least.

So here we are.  Army is 6-5, and they've got a team that probably ought to play in a bowl, that the national media has been following pretty closely over the course of the current season, but because the Athletic Department scheduled two FCS games, we don't have six bowl-qualifying wins.

Last year a handful of teams made it to bowls with five wins based on Academic Progress Rate (APR), or as we say in English, team grades.  Beat writer Sal Interdonato published a very good post yesterday updating Army's chances and correcting the record from CBS Sports.  CBS Sports had projected Army to play Houston (9-2) in the Military Bowl in, of all places, Navy-Marine Corps Stadium on the grounds of the U.S. Naval Academy.  That, however, seems extremely unlikely.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Army-Navy 101: The Basics

Army Football is on a bye for the next two weeks.  Navy plays Southern Methodist University this Saturday, and they have the Atlantic Conference Championship game after that.  Army-Navy is the next week, December 10th, traditionally the last college football game of the regular season.
It’s too early to start previewing the game itself, but it’s never too early to talk about the rivalry in general.  This blog series, then, is meant to introduce casual fans to the greatest rivalry in college sports.
Welcome to Army-Navy!

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Quick Thoughts: Army vs. Morgan State

I'm not sure what we were supposed to learn from watching Army smash historically black college Morgan State.  Morgan State is the largest HBCU in the state of Maryland, and it must surely be one of the nation's oldest in that it dates all the way back to 1867.  Important cultural significance notwithstanding, however, MSU is still an FCS program that just finished its season 2-8.  Reality is that this game was never going to be much of a contest.

Sunday, November 13, 2016


With the election over and Army Football seemingly out of bowl contention, I'm going to take a few weeks off from the blog to finish the first re-write of my memoir.  Tentatively titled "Swim, Bike, Run, Live, Love, Repeat," it's the story of my swimming career, my family, and my personal relationships.

It's about ambition, self-image, and belonging.  At least, that's my hope, anyway.

I grew up in a Marine household, moved around incessantly, and wound up becoming a successful competitive swimmer despite living everywhere.  This was only possible by the grace of God, a shit-ton of hard swimming, and the unflinching support of my parents in the face of adversity.

If that sounds interesting, then good.  I'm still looking for test-readers.  Let me know.


Saturday, November 12, 2016

Strolling Thru Twitter: Still Picking Up the Pieces

Good morning, everyone.  Sally's away on business, & I don't start teaching swimming for a couple of hours.  The kids are still asleep, and coffee's on.

Let's see what's on Twitter.

Friday, November 11, 2016

5 Things on a Friday: Templating Trump’s America

I didn’t get what I wanted on Tuesday, but I’m still an American, and what I want more than anything is for this country to come back together to find some common ground.  We need to move forward.  In reading the coverage since the election, however, it seems that we’re more divided now than we have been at any other time in my entire life.  I honestly don’t know what to do with that.
Protesting doesn’t help.  You had your chance at the ballot box, and you failed.  That’s life.  The question is—what do you do now?
Jim Webb's signature issue turned this election.
As I’ve watched people melt down this week, I’ve wondered if maybe this isn’t the first time some of these folks have lost an election in which they had an actual stake.  For me, it’s not.  I watched helplessly as George H.W. Bush lost to Bill Clinton in the immediate aftermath of America’s most successful overseas conflict just as the economy was turning around following an extremely minor recession.  In that case, America turned away from a guy who left Yale as a teenager to fight the Japanese, who’d served as Ambassador to China and Director of the CIA, in favor of a mildly successful serial philanderer from Arkansas.  We were still dealing with the aftereffects of that disastrous decision up until the polls closed Tuesday night.  America then re-elected Clinton over war hero Bob Dole, elected George W. Bush over Al Gore, who had at least served with Combat Camera in Vietnam, and then again over John Kerry, who won a Silver Star.  We picked Obama over John McCain, and this past year we wouldn’t even give Democrat Jim Webb—Marine Corps veteran, bestselling author, and former Sec. of the Navy—so much as a hearing in the primaries despite the reality that his signature issue was the plight of America’s rural poor and working classes.  
I don’t know if you noticed, but that became kind of an important issue.
The takeaway?  Americans may put bumper stickers on their cars to support veterans, but they don’t give half-a-shit about their leaders’ commitment to service.  Hell, today is Veterans’ Day, and most Americans don’t even have the day off.  My kids both have school.  And here we are.  All these years later, our nation’s wanton disregard of service has come home for all of us.  
I hope you’re happy with how that’s turning out.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Army Football Preview: Notre Dame

After a disheartening loss at home, Army travels to the wilds of Texas this week to take on the Fighting Irish of Notre Dame.
Why is this game being played in the Alamodome?
Who knows?
What we do know is that Army’s ticket allotment is sold-out, and with Ft. Hood only a few hours away, it’s a good bet that Army fans will be out in force.  Whether they’ll be enough to drown out the inevitable legion from Notre Dame remains to be seen.  Deep in the heart of Texas, however, this remains at least a theoretical possibility.  
The Shamrock Series: Army vs. Notre Dame
This game is being billed as part of the “Shamrock Series”.  I think that means this is technically a Notre Dame home game.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Quick Thoughts: U.S. Election

Wow.  To say that I am surprised is the understatement of the week.  Ladies and gentlemen, your president-elect is Donald J. Trump, like it or lump it.

Speaking personally, I can't fucking believe it.

Monday, November 7, 2016

Strolling through Twitter: It's Almost Over

Our long national nightmare is almost over.  The election is tomorrow, and with it, God willing, this divisive political season will come to a close.

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Quick Thoughts: Air Force

Up until now, I've felt like Army lost because it made mistakes, giving away games that the team could have won.  It wasn't like that yesterday.  Yesterday, the Black Knights played a team with bigger, faster players, and that's why they lost.  There were several times when Army had the right defensive call, when linebackers got into the backfield to bring Air Force QB Arion Worthman down for a loss, but they just could not make the play because Worthman had too much speed.  He beat linebackers to the corner, forced coverage to drop to defend his scrambles, and he threw with great accuracy on the run.  He was the best player on the field--by quite a bit--and there's no shame in admitting it.

Friday, November 4, 2016

5 Things on a Friday: Air Force Week!

It's Air Force Week, and tomorrow is the Air Force game.  Army hasn't beaten Air Force since Trent Steelman was the quarterback, way back in 2012.

via @DrunkOldGrad & Twitter.
I'm excited to say the least.

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Army Football Preview: Air Force

It’s Air Force Week!
Yes, this week cadets from the nation’s #3 service academy travel to Michie Stadium to take on the Army Black Knights.  
Henry "Hap" Arnold, a West Pointer,
was the first General of the Air Force.
Though they are perhaps best-known in the modern era for sending remote-controlled airplanes into combat in support of America’s valiant ground forces, the United States Air Force has a distinguished history.  Men such as Henry “Hap” Arnold and Benjamin O. Davis Jr., both West Point graduates, led this nation’s air forces through the early days of American Combat Aviation, establishing a standard of excellence that the U.S. Air Force Academy today struggles to uphold.  More recently, the Air Force has deigned to fly the A-10 Warthog in actual close air support missions against real live foes despite the fact that Air Force leadership stands squarely against the airframe on account of its lack of speed and overall “sexiness”.  Indeed, the Air Force has shown time and again that it will meet any challenge presented, so long as there’s air conditioning.  U.S. News and Forbes rarely agree on how colleges should be ranked, but both magazines put the cadets of Air Force solidly into the bronze in the military academy competition, relatively closely behind only the cadets of Army and the midshipmen of Navy.  Indeed, Air Force leads the way in both sexual harassment claims and the use of internal secret police.
Bravo Air Force!  Well done!

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Summer Reading List: Marvel Cinematic Universe

Let’s start with the obvious.  I’m not writing about Army Football this week.  Army sucked last Saturday against North Texas, losing a game in which they gained nearly a hundred more yards and dominated time-of-possession by almost fifteen minutes.  
How do you lose like that?
You by letting your quarterback go 7-21 passing with no TDs and 4 interceptions, and add 3 more fumbles-lost.  
I have therefore had it with Army this week.  Until they play a little better, I am on strike.
The Summer Reading List project started last spring.  We’ve had three installments to date through which I:
 -- introduced my Summer Reading List,
 -- and gave feedback on my initial selections.
In anticipation of Dr. Strange’s release next, it’s time to turn the page.  The following works are my essential Summer Reading List guide to what’s happened up to now in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU).  Your mileage may vary, so if you additions, please feel free to leave them in the comments.

Monday, October 24, 2016

To My Wife, Who Woke Up Tired

Sally woke up in a bad mood on Friday.  It was my fault; there was no denying it.  She asked me to write her a haiku, so she'd feel better, but the idea came out a little longer than that.

It's speed poetry.  Read on at your own risk.

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Quick Thoughts: Army vs. North Texas

I thought Army was going to go into Michie Stadium yesterday and win a close game in tough conditions.  That's the second time I've thought that, only to watch them lay an egg.  The team ran pretty well early, but QB Ahmad Bradshaw was off target with his passes for the first three quarters of the game, giving up a pick-6 on a very high pass that his receiver tipped to a North Texas DB.  The defense played well enough to keep the team in the game for a half, but we still headed into the break down by four.

Friday, October 21, 2016

5 Things on a Friday: Hooked on a Feeling, Vol. 2

I discovered last week that 5 Things is a lot less work than the NFL picks pool I was running previously and has at least twice as many readers.  I still feel like the series may ran its course during the primary season, but who knows?  Maybe with election itself coming to a close, we’re almost ready to move on.
Anyway, there’s plenty to talk about this week.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Army Football Preview: North Texas

Army fans saw one of the best games in the history of Army Football this past Saturday, and that’s really saying something.  But honestly, what more could you ask?  We had a glorious mid-60° day without a cloud in the sky, Homecoming in front of a sold-out crowd at the height of the fall leaf season, and Army putting fully nine touchdowns on the board while allowing only one.  This was a great game in what has become a very exciting season, and fans everywhere are feeling it.

This week, the Black Knights host their second home game in a row, taking on the Mean Green of North Texas.  With the way this season has shaken out, this weekend’s game has become arguably the most important game remaining on the schedule aside from the Navy and the Air Force games.  If Army wins on Saturday, then the Black Knights have an excellent shot at making a bowl appearance.  If they don’t win, the path to the postseason becomes much, much more difficult.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Basic Statistics: Army Football & P-Wins

Before we talk football, I should note that both the Army Men’s and Women’s Swim Teams opened their seasons 1-0 last week with wins against UMass.  Army has an outstanding plebe breaststroker named Ty Dang who put up a mind-boggling 1:58.7 in his first dual meet, just a second off of John VanSant’s iconic NCAA-winning Academy record of 1:57.65 from way back in 1984.
Swimming has gotten amazingly fast over the past twenty years, to the point where I hardly know what to think of it anymore.  Nevertheless, Army has two very good swim teams, and that makes the future an exciting time.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Quick Thoughts: Army vs. Lafayette

It's hard not to like a game like that.  Army put up 671 yards of offense including 537 yards rushing.  They won 62-7.

Check the scoreboard.

Friday, October 14, 2016

Update: Junior High Election

Some of you may know that my daughter Hannah ran for President of her junior high school, following up a year in which she served as VP. It turns out that she lost--by ONE VOTE.  This was particularly painful because one of her best friends was out on Election Day, meaning that if that friend had been allowed to vote, the final tally would have resulted in a tie. She wanted to bring this up to be teachers, essentially to contest the result. 

"No," I told her, "you have to respect the integrity of the process. Don't take that away from your classmates. It stinks, but now you have to support the winner, bring your class back together, and serve as a Representative-at-Large to the best of your ability. That's what makes Democracy work, the orderly transition of power."


Friday Mad Science: On Star Wars & the Nature of Rebellion

The last trailer for Rogue One: A Star Wars Story dropped yesterday, and it looks impressive.  Most impressive...

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Army Football Preview: vs. Lafayette

The Black Knights return home this week following a tough three-game road trip.  I said before the season that I would be delighted if the team somehow finished the first part of this season 3-2, but after Army knocked off Temple in Week 1, expectations changed.  Now we’re back, and the team is indeed 3-2, but it feels like the season has opened with some disappointment.  I don’t know that this is necessarily fair.  Yes, Army dropped a pair of winnable games, but they have also shown obvious improvement.  We still have a young team, but they are definitely moving in the right direction.  

This week, the Black Knights are back at Michie Stadium for the Homecoming game, and it’s become a game in which they badly need to reestablish their dominance and their identity.

Wednesday News & Notes: Hacks and Movie News

Some stuff that caught my eye today.

Clinton campaign chairman ties email hack to Russians, suggests Trump had early warning (Washington Post)
Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign chairman, John Podesta, said Tuesday that the FBI is investigating a "criminal hack" of his private email account, which he blamed on Russia and suggested that the campaign of Republican Donald Trump could have known what was coming.

"I've been involved in politics for nearly five decades, and this definitely is the first campaign that I've been involved with in which I've had to tangle with Russian intelligence agencies, who seem to be doing everything they can on behalf of our opponent," Podesta told reporters aboard the Democratic nominee's plane as it returned here from campaign stops in Florida.

What astonishes me about this is not that it happened but that people are going to blow it off like it's no big deal, and that those same people will later claim to "support the troops".  What exactly does that mean these days?

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Quick Thoughts: at Duke

That was such a disheartening game.  As the recap said, Army outplayed Duke after falling behind 13-0, but in tough conditions, this wasn't nearly enough.  The offense couldn't sustain drives because they either let Duke's defense get penetration up the middle, or they put the ball on the turf.  I really thought they were going to come out and play sharp football in tough conditions, that Army's superior esprit de corps would should show on a day when no one really wanted to be playing football.  Instead, they lost this game in exactly the same way they lost all those games last season--on turnovers, especially fumbles.

Saturday, October 8, 2016

It's ironic because so many Trump supporters say that their support is primarily *against* Sec. Clinton. But Trump is not going to win. So a vote *against* Clinton should really go to either Jill Stein or Gary Johnson. If you've not noticed, the country could BADLY use a refresh on the two-party system, though this would require lots of ballots to 3rd parties. Granted, this 3rd Party thing will not create a quick fix.  It *is* a recipe for real change, though.

A vote for Trump is a vote for the status quo, no matter how bad it gets. Almost no one actually *likes* the guy, and yet here we are.  Voting for Trump signals that you will eat the Republican shit, no matter how bad it tastes.

If the shoe fits, I guess you better wear it.

Saturday News & Notes: The "Surprised You're Surprised" Edition

The man is a pig.  This is news?

Friday, October 7, 2016

5 Things on a Friday: Special Edition

Slowly decomboobalating...
5 Things on a Friday is back this week because I got frustrated with the NFL, and in particular, with the New York Giants.  I just can’t dump two hours into thinking about professional football in a week where my own team is in the midst of tearing itself apart for reasons that are entirely self-inflicted.
I quit.  I’m just not going to do it.
I have to note, too, that I’ve spent most of this week working on the first rewrite of my memoir, tentatively titled Swim, Bike, Run, Live, Love, Repeat.  This is the story of the interaction of my family and my swimming career, with my daughter Hannah and my good buddy Chris serving as my primary test readers.  This particular rewrite has been particularly satisfying not only because Hannah has been hanging on every word, but also because she’s been a very helpful source of feedback as well.  Her insights into the book’s second chapter, detailing my family’s move to New Bern, North Carolina, helped me reframe that part of the narrative and, as Chris later said, make my parents into “real characters”.  Of course, my parents *were* real people, but that doesn’t mean that writing about them in a way that authentically captures their personalities has necessarily been an easy thing to do.
5 Things takes much less time than does Friday Follies, which is why I’m running it this week.  Fact is, I’m loathe to take a day off from rewriting when I feel like I’m doing good work.
I know we’re all tired of politics, and I apologize for dipping my toes back into those waters.  Thankfully, the election is almost over.  Perhaps afterwards we can start trying to rebuild a cohesive society.

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Army Football Preview: at Duke

If you’d told me in August that Army Football was going to start the season 3-1, I would have been ecstatic.  I expect this is true for most Army fans.  Army’s win at Temple, however, and their dominant performance against UTEP served to raise expectations significantly.  Army still has young team, however, and they remain subject to all the highs and lows inherent in the kind of massive rebuilding project which, at the very least, seems finally to be underway at West Point.  
#GoArmy! #BeatDuke!!!
If statistics count, then the truth is that Army played reasonably well against Buffalo, even in a loss.  The offense gained over 400 yards on the ground and 21 first downs.  The defense held firm for three quarters, and even once things started to change, the team still had a chance to kick a chip shot field goal to win at the end.  Yes, the penalties were bad, we had two turnovers, and special teams ultimately cost us.  No, that doesn’t doom the season.  It does, however, mean that this team is still searching for the kind of lock-down focus that marks championship caliber squads.
Army travels to Duke this week for its second major road test of the season, a game that many people believe will show fans once and for all what this team really has.  This week’s game is indeed a significant and important test, but each game is its own story.  That is especially true for a team that remains very much a work-in-progress.

Friday, September 30, 2016

Friday Folies: NFL Picks League (Week 4)

Wow.  That was some week.  Pretty much everybody that picks games professionally got creamed, including our very own Sharona (from Inside the Pylon andSports by Sharona).  Chris, Ben, and I all broke even, but considering that I started the week down four, I’m still in no better shape than I was when last week ended.  
What I’ve learned is that this competition is all about your Lock of the Week.  If you get your Lock right, then the worst you can do is break even.  If you screw your Lock up, then no matter what else happens, you’re not going to help yourself.
Let’s review.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Army Football Preview: Scouting Report

Army is on a bye this week.  While the team resets for the next part of the season, let’s turn our attention to some of this week’s critical match-ups.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

The 9/11 Memorial and Museum

After some debate, Sally and I decided to take the girls to the 9/11 Memorial and Museum as a last family outing before the end of the summer.  The Memorial is, of course, located on the former World Trade Center site in Lower Manhattan just a few blocks north of Battery Park.  We went to Battery Park immediately before touring the memorial; the walk north went maybe ten blocks and took no more than fifteen minutes.  I hadn’t been down to that part of the City in ages and was amazed by all of the bike lanes and open space that now exists in Lower Manhattan.  It’s become a truly beautiful part of the New York.
The new World Trade Center building as seen from Battery Park.

Monday, September 26, 2016

Review: Marvel Masterworks Ms. Marvel (Vol. 1)

Volume 1 of the late-70’s era Ms. Marvel is an odd choice for a Marvel Masterworks hardcover collection.  On the one hand, it’s obvious because Marvel is putting out a Captain Marvel movie sometime in 2018, starring Oscar-winning actress Brie Larson as Carol Danvers, the current Captain Marvel.  Danvers got her superhero start as Ms. Marvel, a kind of accidental protégé of the original Captain Marvel, Captain Mar-Vell of the Kree imperial military.  Publishing some kind of collection of Danvers’s old adventures therefore seems a logical step in the Marvel/Disney hype process, but unfortunately, it’s not quite that simple.  Reality is that most of Ms. Marvel’s old-school adventures represent some of the worst, most sexist execution of an otherwise good idea in modern comics’ history.  Considering where comics were as recently as five or ten years ago, that is really saying something.
Marvel Masterworks: Ms. Marvel (Vol 1)

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Quick Thoughts: Army Crashes Back to Earth

Ugh.  I don't want to kill this Army team too badly because last night's game was still a better performance than they put in at any point last season, but it was nevertheless extremely disheartening to watch.  At 3-0, Army came in on top of the world, only to revert to form, allowing the problems from yesteryear to rematerialize in a heartbreaking loss to a team they were expected to beat in fine style.  After three wins, I think a lot of fans had forgotten that this is still a very young team.  They have talent, but they are also prone to the kinds of mistakes and streaky performances that are the hallmark of youth in sport.

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Friday, September 23, 2016

Friday Follies: NFL Picks (Week 3)

Oh man, what a shit week.  I went 0-3, which puts me down four units thanks to our mercilessly punitive scoring system.
Let’s review.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Army Football Preview: at Buffalo

In my preseason preview, I broke Army Football’s season down into thirds.  At the time, I thought Army would go either 2-3 or 3-2, with an eye towards finishing this first five-game stretch above .500.  This, I thought, would set the team up for a potential seven-win season and a bowl berth, a legitimate goal given last year’s performance, the team’s maturation, and the current schedule.  It had been clear for some time that Army was an improved program.  We had no way of knowing just how much the team had improved, however, until they started playing games.

Fast-forward to mid-September, and Army hasn’t just improved, it’s turned expectations upside down.  With three games in the books, the Black Knights of the Hudson already have more wins than they had all last season.  The over/under on wins has gone from six to something like nine—or even ten!  The team is playing with a level of confidence and precision that we haven’t seen in decades.  It’s truly been a joy to behold.

Monday, September 19, 2016

D&D 5e Homebrew: The Bard College of Ballet

My daughter Emma gave me this idea a few weeks ago when she told me that she has become a Level 1 Ballerina.  I asked her what happens when she levels-up, and she replied, “I learn more tricks and stunts and stuff.”

Okay.  I can work with that.

Friday, September 16, 2016

Friday Follies: NFL Picks League (Week 2)

Week 1 was not overly kind to most of us, nor was our—rather vindictive—scoring system.  One of us made some money, though.
I should note here that our scoring system mirrors real betting.  When you win, you win.  If you push, i.e. match the spread exactly, you neither win nor lose.  That’s zero points.  When you lose, however… then you lose.
Let’s review:

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Army Football Preview: at UT-El Paso

Army Football beat Rice in its home opener, 31-14.  This week the Black Knights travel to Texas to take on the Miners of UT-El Paso.  Despite getting off to their fastest start since 1996, the Army team faces perhaps its toughest test so far this season on Saturday, playing in conditions that add a significant degree of difficulty to a game that was already going to be tough.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Swim Workout: Impromptu Racing

Our family has gotten busy of late.  My girls are in 6th and 8th grade, respectively, and if they don't have quite the same level of commitment to their sports that I had at their age, they nevertheless have a lot going on.  Both girls take multiple sessions of modern dance/tap, ballet, and gymnastics weekly, and on top of this, they're both in the local church youth group.  I've also been teaching Hannah to run and lift weights for the past few months.  My wife Sally works most nights teaching various fitness classes, so especially of late, it seems like our house is as more a way-station at times than it is a working family home.

Nobody was home again last night, so I went to the pool to grab a workout.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Remembering Brandon Jackson

I was iffy on telling this story this morning because there's no way to disaggregate my favorite memory of watching Army CB Brandon Jackson from what was going on in my life that day.  In the end, I decided that there's never a wrong time to celebrate a young man's life after he's taken too soon, so here goes...

Friday, September 9, 2016

Friday Football Picks: NFL Week 1

I had an idea for an NFL picks league for the blog.  Alas, I had it yesterday afternoon, which didn’t leave me enough time to create an actual league.  Instead, this is more “picks with a couple of friends.”  Hopefully it’s worth your time.
I'm a Giants fan.
The idea was this:

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Random Access

A stroll through the morning's Twitter feed.

First off, you have to choose a career out of a very narrow field:

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Army Football Preview: Rice

The Black Knights of the Hudson thrilled their fanbase with a strong win against a stout opponent last week.  Army’s win over Temple was the program’s best result since 2010.  Now the team looks to start 2-0 for the first time since 1996.

Army fans, it’s been a long time since you’ve had reason to feel this good about your program.  Enjoy it!

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Yesterday's Workout (or "How to Swim Stupid")

I got in the water late yesterday morning for a belated long swim.  I'd intended to do some open water swimming while we were camping over the weekend, but that didn't happen, leaving me to try to cram it all in on Labor Day.  

Results were mixed.

Monday, September 5, 2016

Still Celebrating

We're still celebrating the start of college football season and Army's opening win.  If you haven't seen it, here are the highlights.

Saturday, September 3, 2016

Quick Thoughts: Army vs. Temple

First off, that was a terrific win!  It was a brilliant effort against a worthy opponent in a stadium that had previously been a House of Horrors. 

We said before the game that if Army could limit Temple's running game and force QB P.J. Walker to try to win with his arm, that there might be some opportunity there.  Temple actually ran well, especially between the 20s, but Army's defense stiffened near the goal line, forcing fields goals--and one turnover--and that was the difference in the game. With Army scoring touchdowns while Temple kicked field goals and punts, the Owls eventually had to shift to a hurry-up offense, and that's when we the the Black Knights' defense really come up big. LBs Andrew King and Kenneth Brinson both had picks late, icing a fifteen point road win against what had previously been an emerging college football powerhouse.

Friday, September 2, 2016

Friday Mad Science: How to Meet Women

Friday Mad Science is back!
The Internet blew up earlier this week with talk of “pickup artists” and “How to talk to a woman wearing headphones.”  Folks have spent the week running down men for wanting to meet women, and in the long run, I do not think that this is in anyone’s best interests.  The problem is not that men and women do not need to meet and even get together, it’s that there is a right and a wrong way to do everything, and right now, dudes are reading a shitload of bad information.  Blame technology, the PC police, the Baby Boomers, or whomever you’d like.  Whatever the reason, what we have now is an entire class of people who have no clue whatsoever how to speak to the opposite sex.  
It’s become a serious problem, apparently.

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Battery Park, NYC

Battery Park is a large, open access green space and public park located at the southern tip of the island of Manhattan.  It's a common tourist destination and the site of may of New York's modern day war memorials.  Sally, the girls, and I visited Battery Park as part of our recent two-day vacation to New York City.
Sally and the girls in Battery Park.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Story Re-Write: Centurion Six (Opening Only)

Sketch in My Notebook
This is the "revised" opening for "Centurion Six," tentatively scheduled for part of the short story anthology I've been working on.  I feel like I've been struggling it, though.  I am therefore hanging it out to ask for a couple of opinions.

Centurion Six

In the near future, genetic mutation has become the weapon of choice in an increasingly chaotic world.  Easier to hide and cheaper by far to develop and control than the nuclear and chemical weapons programs of a previous era, soon every tin-pot dictator, cult-leader, and agenda-based non-state actor on the planet begins developing “ultra-human” capabilities.  Against the proliferation of politically violent “supermen”, mundane humans--so-called ”mundies”--can offer little defense.