Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Identical infants dancing in unison

This video of identical twins gettin' down in their high chairs as daddy plays the guitar in their Kansas City home has gone viral in cyberspace.

It's easy to see why. I'm a twin, though not identical to Steve, yet I totally understand their reactions.

I love how their faces light up when their dad first starts strumming the guitar. Methinks they'll marry guitar players some day.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Who's going to win the English Premier League?

The Premier League kicks off the 2012-13 season today, and let's get one thing out of the way immediately: Don't expect to top last season's finish.

Two goals by Manchester City in stoppage time not only stole the trophy from Manchester United (the New York Yankees of English football, for those unfamiliar with the Prem), they gave City its first championship in 44 years.

Granted, that's not as long as fans of the Chicago Cubs or the Cleveland Indians over here in America have endured in baseball, but when you've been second fiddle to your arch-rivals across town for more than a generation, and the legendary coach of United crows City won't wear the crown in his lifetime, it's a sweet title nevertheless.

The question everyone is asking now is whether City can repeat or Sir Alex Ferguson will reclaim the crown for United. Considering the teams finished even on points and City won on goal difference alone - the first time that's happened in the history of the Premiership - there clearly isn't much of a gap between the two teams coming in.

I don't claim to be an expert on world football, but that won't stop me from offering some here we go.

1. Manchester City: The blue half of Manchester hasn't spent much to strengthen its squad this summer, but it's still the most talented - and deepest - team in the league. I'm convinced they'll be even better this year because a team that saw numerous changes in each of the past few seasons will benefit from continuity. Players know each other better, and that'll shine on the pitch. Plus, petulant Carlos Tevez sounds settled for a change, and he was gone for so much of last season it's almost like adding a new striker. City is vulnerable in defense, and if YaYa Toure in midfield or GK Joe Hart or defender Vincent Kompany go down with injury the title may be beyond them. But they're well-positioned to repeat.

2. Manchester United: Buying Robin van Persie lands Alex Ferguson the leading scorer in the Premiership from last season, weakening hated rivals Arsenal in the process. It also gives United the most prolific striker partnership in the league. But will Wayne Rooney flourish with RVP in the side? Can the notoriously fragile RVP stay healthy? I like the addition of Shinji Kagawa from Borussia Dortmund, but United's midfield creaks with age and the back four is a question mark as well. Nemanja Vidic returns from a serious knee injury. Can he be the force he was before he was hurt? How much does an aging Rio Ferdinand have left? Sir Alex is the best squad handler in the league (perhaps in Europe), so he'll find a way to threaten. And if City slips up much at all, he'll claim yet another title.

3. Chelsea: Some familiar faces have departed London - Didier Droga, Jose Bosingwa, Solomon Kalou, even Nicolas Anelka. But the Blues have dipped into Russian billionaire owner Roman Abamovich's pockets and spent heavily to bring in some impressive replacements, and how well Eden Hazard, Oscar (Brazilians only need one name) and Marko Marin settle in and begin to contribute will say much about Chelsea's success this season. Has the mercurial superstar Fernando Torres finally shaken his status as an under-achiever? We'll find out this season. But the Blues finished 25 points behind the Manchester clubs last season, and that's a massive deficit to make up in one year.

4. Arsenal: Iconic manager Arsene Wenger is taking a lot of heat for selling his top scorer to Arsenal's bitter rivals. But RVP wanted 29 he won't be at his peak for much longer.....he has a history of being injury-prone....and Wenger can use the money splashed out for RVP to strengthen his club. He's already made some wise buys in Olivier Giroud from Montpelier in France and Santi Cazorla from Malaga in Spain. Lukas Podolski, coming over Cologne in Germany's Bundesliga, could thrive in Arsenal's flowing brand of football. But the Gunners need shoring up in defense, as well as someone who can control the midfield. RVP money could make those buys more possible.

5. Tottenham: Losing midfield maestro Luka Modric will hurt, but the diminutive Croat wanted out so badly he was becoming a distraction. How the Spurs replace him will be key to whether they can challenge for a top four finish and the lucrative Champions League competition that comes with it. Andres Vilas-Boas will be out to prove his short-circuited tenure as Chelsea boss was merely a blip, but he needs to boost the team's firepower and find a replacement in defense for the talismanic Ledley King, whose troublesome knees finally said "no more." Frankly, the Spurs appear more likely to fall behind Newcastle or even Liverpool than threaten the top of the table.

6. Newcastle: One of the Prem's most pleasant surprises last season, Newcastle managed to hold onto its most influential players over the summer. A few more astute buys - particularly in defense - could see Newcastle threatening for a top four finish. Demba Ba and Papiss Demba Cisse were revelations last season, but the strikers must learn to thrive together on the pitch to lift Newcastle up the table.

7. Liverpool: This legendary club of English football had its lowest point total in the 20 years of the Premier League last season, and new manager Aaron Rodgers will find it challenging to stamp his brand of football on a team whose fan base is not used to rebuilding. These are going to be bumpy days at Anfield, but with Steve Gerrard, Luis Suarez, Glen Johnson and (for now) Andy Carroll still on roster, the cupboard's not exactly bare.

8. Everton: The "other club" in Liverpool finished above their hated rivals in the table last season, and if David Moyes' club can avoid its typical slow start the Toffees may well do it again. If Nikica Jelavic can continue his goal scoring form, you may see the threadbare Evertonians threaten for a place in the Europa League. For the uninitiated, that's a European competition for clubs that didn't win titles but finished high in the table the previous season. To high profile teams, playing in the Europa League is a disappointment. For smaller clubs on smaller budgets, it's still an achievement.

9. Fulham: This London club has become a Premier League mainstay by managing to finish in mid-table mediocrity year after year. The one exception came when the Cottagers made it all the way to the Europa League final a few years ago. Dutchman Martin Jol is a solid coach, and he'll steer this club to a decent season even though Fulham appears destined to lose Clint Dempsey. The American was the team's top scorer last season but wants to move to a team playing Champions League football. The problem is, no one has put in a bid of note for him yet, and the transfer window closes in less than two weeks.

10. West Bromwich Albion: This small club in England's midlands used to be known as one of the yo-yo clubs that would earn promotion to the top tier only to be sent straight back down through relegation. But West Brom has found stability in the Prem over the past few years and looks poised for another strong season. I really like Romelu Lukaku, on loan from Chelsea, and Shane Long's speed and the sniper's touch from strikre Peter Odemwinge gives the team firepower. The Baggies' big problem last year was a leaky defense, and how well new manager Steve Clarke patches that up will determine how high the team climbs the table. I don't think relegation will be a worry this year, though.

11. Stoke: Everyone thought Stoke would drop right back into the Championship after they were promoted in 2008, but the Potters have defied skeptics with a run to the FA Cup final and a deep run in the ensuing Europa League campaign. Goals look to be an ongoing struggle for Coach Tony Pulis' side, but as long as the stalwart defense holds up, it'll be another solid season.

12. Swansea: Losing two or three of its best players and Brendan Rodgers, the coach who brought them into the Premier League, sounds like a recipe for relegation. But new coach Michael Laudrup has brought some nice players into the team, among them Jonathan de Guzman and Miguel Perez Cuesta from Spain - a league he knows well from his storied playing career with Real Madrid and Barcelona - and he favors the brisk passing game that made Swansea a delight to watch last season. So the Swans may not suffer as much as some prognosticators think.

13. Sunderland: It's been an uninspiring off-season for Sunderland, Newcastle's near neighbors and bitter rivals, and I'm picking them this high primarily because of Coach Martin O'Neil's ability to get the most out of teams with limited squads and small budgets. That and the fact that the teams beneath them have more holes than the Black Cats.

14. Queens Park Rangers: Another London club with a wealthy owner, QPR barely avoided relegation last season with some late wins and Bolton's inability to win its last two matches. More players have been bought as the chop-and-change continues, and expect Rangers fans to suffer a bumpy ride this season as the team slowly tries to gel. Fingernails will not grow long at Loftus Road this season, but I expect Coach Mark Hughes to pile up enough points to stay in the Prem again. It will be close, though.

15. Aston Villa: Once upon a time, Aston Villa was a mainstay in the top half of the table. But the Villans dangled near the relegation trap door most of last season, and they haven't done much to strengthen this year. Paul Lambert parleyed his success at penny-watching Norwich to land the Villa job, and he'll need all of his coaching nous to turn this club around.

16. West Ham: This London club returned to the Premier League on its first attempt, and has the best chance to stay here of the three teams promoted after last season. They have a number of players with talent and experience at this level, as well as a coach - Sam Allardyce - who can bring home points against difficult opposition. But if the Hammers struggle in front of goal, it could suck them right down the relegation trap door.

17. Norwich: The Canaries held onto Grant Holt, but lost Coach Paul Lambert. It's much the same squad that managed two consecutive promotions and survived its first season back in the Prem, but they're not likely to surprise folks this season. If Wigan pulls off one of its great escapes again, the Canaries could be headed down.

18. Southampton: The Saints scored goals in bunches last season in the Championship, but how much of that will play in the Premier? Another team that used back-to-back promotions to reach the Prem, the Saints are counting on much of the same squad to survive. I just don't see it, though, because asking players from the third tier of English football to thrive at the top level is difficult at best. Like Blackpool before them, the Saints will be plucky and spirited, but fall short.

19. Wigan: The Latics have been "locks" for relegation virtually every year since they reached the Premier League for the first time ever eight years ago. They're still here, though it took remarkable rallies late in the last two seasons. Shorn of their best attacking talent, the Latics look destined for another battle against the drop - especially if Victor Moses moves to Chelsea as expected. Houdini has nothing on Coach Roberto Martinez, but even Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid eventually ran out of bullets.

20. Reading: The Royals went on an amazing run to close out the Championship season and earn promotion. With new owners, Reading even has more financial punch at its disposal. But the defense that was the stingiest in the Championship last season will find the Premier League a challenge altogether different, and the strikers don't have a track record to suggest they'll have the success needed to keep Reading in the top flight.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

What should you do if a gunman opens fire at your job or your school?

It's not just a hypothetical question these days. Aurora. Texas A&M. The mosque in Wisconsin. The Family Research Council in Virginia.

Even a Burlington Coat Factory store in Wichita.

The Department of Homeland Security paid to have this video produced by Houston police. It's gone viral in cyberspace. Give it a look. It may just say your life.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Longtime teacher: Who to blame for education's failure? Students

A longtime Utah teacher wrote a provocative column in the Salt Lake Deseret News recently in which she said it's not the fault of the teachers, the systems or the tests that so many students are failing these days.

Most of it, she says, is the students themselves. Read her column, and let me know what you think.

I believe her declaration has a lot of merit. Too many kids today don't want to work. Heck, a large percentage of 20-somethings won't even read a comment on Facebook if it's more than two lines long. "Too much effort," several have told me in one way or another.

I'm convinced parents play a significant role in this as well, in that too many aren't involved enough - or take the steps necessary - to get their kids to complete their assignments.

But shifting societal trends is like trying to turn around a battleship - it takes time...and a lot of room.

With technology available today to do so much for us, how do we teach our children to solve problems....when Siri can do so many of those tasks for us? With movies and television programs clipping through scenes and story lines so fast the brain can barely keep up, how do we teach them to build patience and attention to detail?

I'm not asking "How do we turn back the clock?"

It's more, "How do we drive home the significance of learning in this new environment?"

Because it's not just that they're failing in the classroom that's significant. This failure to learn will cripple them once they enter the world of employment. And that, in turn, will cripple our economy as well as our society.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Here's why I prefer summer --- even with all these 100s

I loathe winter, and this video clip offers several reasons why.

There's something wrong in Frisco

They're taking their football entirely too seriously, as this Rick Reilly story on shows.

I'm a big football fan, but.....seriously? Whatever happened to having fun? What is that kind of physical punishment doing to still-developing bodies? What long-term damage to the brain is occurring?

All for a few wins that will be forgotten in five years at most? (and perhaps because the player has had multiple concussions by the time he's 15)

It's pathetic....and it would be a joke except for the fact that these are real children being placed in danger.

Wake up, Frisco.

It's pee-wee football, not the invasion of Normandy.