Happy first birthday…

..as in, the very first, as in she is one day old today.
Zoe Catherine Hahn Smith was born just after noon on the 12th, earlier than expected but just in time for Christmas. At last check, baby and mommy are breathing normally without help; hopefully daddy is too by now. =)
My first niece. This is a new development after 7 years of nephews…

well, here we are again…

I feel really bad for Mike Shula. He did exactly what he needed to do under very adverse circumstances – hold the rope and not embarrass the program, and he did that. However, he also managed to only break even in wins, with the exception of last year’s hot run (which was accomplished with the aid of a soft non-con schedule and a down year for the SEC). And Alabama expects better than six wins a year and doesn’t apologize for those expectations – nor, in my opinion, should they. I do think Shula should have been given a chance to add a new offensive coordinator and try one more year, but reports are that he rejected that option…so it’s sad all around, but it’s time to move on.
Thing is, though, it’s not that Alabama is some sort of trap door for coaches – Shula is the first coach to be dismissed by the school for his on-field performance since Ears Whitworth was fired at the end of 1957. Every other coach who left short of retirement did so of his own volition, although some were pushed harder than others (Mike Dubose’s NCAA issues and public marital indiscretions did him in, and Mike Price was just stupid for not signing a contract before getting into an embarrassing scrape). And Dennis Franchione had the enthusiastic support of the entire Alabama community before deciding that Texas A&M was easier than working through probation at Alabama – but then, he’s an ass, so never mind.
Meanwhile, there’s nothing wrong with the BCS system that couldn’t be fixed by blowing it up and going back to the way things were in 1990. Although if they insist on keeping it, there should be some minimum standards for not playing 1-AA opponents and having a minimum number of non-conference games against BCS conference foes (I would say that at least 10 of your opponents should be from a BCS conference and at least 5 of them be road games every year).
I don’t think Vandy’s ever going to see a winning season again, by the way…

Giving Thanks

I’m thankful that, in 34 years, I have gotten almost everything I ever wished for. I didn’t get it all at once, and I have since lost some of it, and I didn’t get some things I thought I wanted but ultimately didn’t (Vice-President of the United States, anyone?) and I got some things I didn’t realize I wanted until I had them.
But all in all, what the hell, I’m thankful anyway.

OK, stay with me here…

This weekend:
* Cal beats USC, giving them their second loss.
* MIchigan upsets Ohio State, becoming #1 and leaving Ohio State with one loss.
* West Virginia, Rutgers, and Louisville all win, staying one-loss.
The next week:
* LSU wallops Arkansas, giving them their second loss (but only 1 SEC loss).
* USC beats Notre Dame, giving them a second loss.
* Maryland beats Wake Forest, giving them a second loss.
* Georgia beats Georgia Tech, giving them a third loss.
The week after that:
* West Virginia beats Rutgers, giving the Big East three teams with one loss.
* Arkansas beats Florida, giving them a second loss and sending Arkansas to the BCS.
All of these are entirely feasible, if not outright likely. The result:
* Undefeated Michigan #1.
* Ohio State and Wisconsin, both of whom have one loss to Michigan, along with the three Big East teams, are the only 1-loss teams.
* Boise State is undefeated.
Who goes to the national championship game against Michigan? A team they’ve already beaten once (and how to you pick between them), or a one-loss team from a soft conference (and how do you pick between the three of THEM)? Or do you give it to Boise State, whose could become the first BCS participant to lose by triple digits?
I am pulling for this scenario (or something like it) the whole way, with apologies to the fans of all the teams involved, because it would once again demonstrate the utter futility of the BCS system. After Dec. 2, I’ll go through and figure up the bowl pairings if we were in 1990 instead of under the BCS regime, and we’ll see what gives the better matchups.

No politics here.

In case you forgot, I do have two degrees in political science, with an especial focus on American institutions in the 20th century and the Southern influence on same. Once you’ve seen how they make the hot dogs, you kind of lose your taste for them.
I will say this: I think the problems of our participatory democracy could be improved a lot with a better class of participant. On both side of the ballot box.

Football Roundup

FLORIDA 25, VANDY 19: Moral victories aren’t getting it done anymore. In a game where we hit the QB four times and pick him off 3 more, we ought to win. That’s 3 winnable SEC games we could have had.
MISSISSIPPI STATE 24, ALABAMA 16: Alabama has lost their way; they are simply incapable of converting from the red zone. If Mike Shula is going to stay at the controls, he needs to hire a capable offensive coordinator to run things, because it’s not working anymore. Shula was the right man for his time, and it’s not a lock that Croom would have been any better (even though he was my choice), but the sad fact of the matter is that we had 10 wins last year, and now we have all our scholarships and bowl eligibility again. It’s time for a coaching staff that’s more about success than survival.
UCLA 24, CAL 38: Any win you can walk away from is a good one. Two garbage-time TDs from UCLA made this one look a lot close than it was, but so did a punt return from Cal that, while electrifying and backbreaker, over-inflated the Bears’ success against one of the tougher defenses in the conference. Longshore moved the ball pretty much at will, though…so it looks like the game against USC will go to whoever has the ball last.
PETERHEAD 2, MORTON 4: The Ton comes back from their first loss of the year and hangs four unanswered goals to stay nice and clear at the top of the table. First Division, here we come!

So far so good…

…although it seems that my speedometer registers as five mph faster than I’m actually going. In all other respects, though, the car is very very nice and did everything I asked of it on a shakedown cruise up 280 and back down Skyline Drive. Only downside of the drive was the revelation that Sirius really does not do well with complete overhead foliage – but Bama was up by three touchdowns the whole time anyway, so it’s all good.
The temperature appears to finally be breaking – I don’t think there’s a forecast high over 70 for the next week. That is a good thing. I need autumnal conditions – cold nights, crisp cider, leather jacket, the works.

Things continue to develop…

Company just gave us the whole week off at Thanksgiving. This is helpful – but at some point, I’m going to have to burn some of this leave. The tendency to get an entire week at Thanksgiving and Christmas means that I don’t have to use leave for a trip home for a major holiday, and it’s not like I have to fly to California to see my sweetie four and five times a year – so annual leave, for me, tends to get used around Decoration Day and that’s almost it. Well, I also use some on the annual trip to Yosemite, but that’s never more than a couple of days. And I suppose if we go to a bowl game this year, I’d need it then…and hell, let’s be honest, I’d love to take time off and go to New York or New Orleans for a week, or even just back to DC for a trip to the public house formerly known as the 4P’s.
The new car has been pretty good, by the way – day 4 and I’m still getting used to it. I think this weekend pretty much demands an all-day ridearound, hopefully with Bama or Vandy on the radio, so I can get used to the feel of the thing up on Skyline Drive and down around Half Moon Bay. The feel is good, and the new car smell is oddly reminiscent of spring 1993, the last time I took a new car out for a spin…

When it happens, it happens fast

Same story as ever. This time it’s the car – after the first couple of Rabbits fell through, I went looking for another one with even fewer options – and just when I was ready to give up, Jennie threw herself into calling around. What she discovered in 20 minutes was a vehicle in San Rafael with all the options I wanted save one, an option to have that one installed upon delivery, and (even more important) nothing I didn’t want and would be stuck paying for just to get the car.
So this weekend, I’ll be picking up a new gray Rabbit, with sunroof, ESP, eight air bags, and an Alpine stereo system with integrated Sirius sat-radio, an iPod connector in the center console, and ten speakers. For invoice, plus a little extra for the aftermarket radio. Home run. Thanks, sugar. =)

How many chickens is that again?

Looks like the VW guy overestimated his ability to do a deal with the dealership up north. Now it doesn’t look like I will be able to get a Rabbit to spec before January, barring a miracle swap of some sort (which itself would not deliver a car until about December 1). Now that the Dodge Caliber is on the work discount program – at invoice less one percent, no less – I could spec it up and get out for $17,500, with 28 MPG city to boot. I think it may be time to open up the bidding again.
Actually, right now I’d just settle for windshield wipers that wipe properly.