Thursday, December 25, 2008

The Vols Visit Philadelphia

One of Rachel's pet peeves is leaving Christmas decorations up past New Year's Day (I personally think Christmas should be in our hearts year round, so we might as well display its symbols for more than the 5 weeks between Thanksgiving and New Years Day). She has given me quite a lashing for leaving the Christmas tree picture posted on the blog past the deadline. I apologize for my absence from the blogging world for a few weeks. I really have no good excuse other than enjoying spending time with family and friends during the Christmas season.

I am once again several blogs behind, so I will be working to catch up over the next couple of weeks.

Before Christmas break, the UT men's basketball team visited Philadelphia to play the Temple Owls. The Friday evening before the game, the local chapter of the UT National Alumni Association hosted Coach Bruce Pearl at a reception at The Ugly Moose (isn't that a great name for a pub) in Manayunk.

Coach Pearl did not disappoint. It amazed me how down to earth he is. He came into the bar, ordered a drink, and then socialized with the rest of us, like he was just another guy there. He did not come to talk to us; he came to talk with us. He asked us as many questions in one-on-one conversations as we asked him. He was very pleasant to talk with.

After socializing for 45 minutes or so, he addressed the group for 10-15 minutes and then allowed us to formally ask questions about the team. In his opening comments, he spoke about some of the frustrations of coaching a team this young and inconsistent. He also stated that "This team is not the #8 team in the country." Unfortunately, he was right.

Coach Pearl really impressed me, as he discussed his coaching (teaching) philosophies. It is obvious to me, after his talk, that he is not only a superior basketball mind, but also a sensational teacher. We all know that he is a tremendous motivator.

Saturday, Tim and Nicole Callahan, Rob and Jack Jeter, and Brian Albright attended the game with us at the Liacouras Center. Again, Kevin Davis, President of the Philadelphia Alumni Association, came through by getting us a hospitality suite at halftime (with refreshments). We were able to get great seats through the Temple Athletic Dept.

Although we had a great day, the game did not go our way. The Vols kept it close at halftime, but in the second half, Temple pulled away, as Dionte Christmas, their All-American Guard got as hot as any shooter I have ever seen in person. He lit up three-pointers from all angles with defenders in his face. If you ever have the chance to watch him play, do it. It is a treat.

REFLECTIONS - Infomercial Personalities

As many of you know, Dow Chemical Company is in the process of acquiring The Rohm and Haas Company, my employer. This transaction brings about a fair amount of job insecurity for me and many of my friends and coworkers.

During the long drives over the Christmas holidays, I had time to reflect a bit. If I had it to do all over again, would I have made a different career decision? Would I have chosen a path that would have delivered more job security? Unfortunately, few positions, other than judges or Penn St. football coaches, who are both obviously appointed for life, deliver certain job security.

So, then I thought, "What career path would make me the most money with the least amount of work or talent required?" Most careers require both work and talent to make money - doctors, professional athletes, engineers, etc. Actors don't have to work that hard, but they have to have talent (some pro athletes also fit into this category). Devoid of any obvious talents, I moved forward in my thinking. Watching TV one night between Christmas and New Years Eve, the perfect job hit me. This job requires no talent nor work ethic and produces good $$$. All I need is a "schtick". These two gentlemen are now my hero. Who is your favorite? (Send in your answers, and I will publish results in a future blog).

The Champion - William "Billy" Mays - born July 20, 1958 in McKees Rocks, PA. He is best known for his well manicured beard and yelling at people, encouraging them to buy cleaning products, such as Oxi Clean and Orange Glow. Famous line, "Hi! Billy Mays here for [insert product name]!"

The Challenger - Vince Offer (no I did not make up his name). No stats available. The new guy on the block is famous for his ShamWow commercial and now the SlapChop (apparently one of his schticks is "advertising products containing only two compound syllables"). He actually demonstrates the products in his commercials and is, as one review put it, "entertainingly annoying". Famous line, "You're gonna love my nuts!" - SlapChop commercial

Merry Christmas From the Kennedy's

Merry Christmas Everyone!!!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

The Army Navy Game

The first weekend in December, Rachel and I had the opportunity to attend the Army vs. Navy football game in Philadelphia. Thanks to Dave Ash, a friend of mine who works for the Haas, who got us tickets (his two sons both attended the Naval Academy). This game is steeped in tradition and is a venue that I would recommend any football fan attend, if they ever have the opportunity.

Lines were long to enter Lincoln Financial Field (home of the Philadelphia Eagles) due to tight security. President George W. Bush attended the game, so everyone was subjected to a bag search and had to pass through a metal detector.

This game is on a five year renewing contract. Four years, the game is played in Philadelphia, which is half way between Annapolis, Maryland and West Point, New York. On the fifth year, the game rotates to Baltimore, MD or the Meadowlands in East Rutherford, NJ to be closer to the host school. (The Army Cadets are pictured here. You may want to click on the picture to enlarge it.)

Three hours before the game, the cadets from both academies march into the stadium in columns. Unfortunately, it was such a cold day, Rachel and I did not make it for the cadet march. One of mine and Rachel's favorite parts of the event was seeing all of the cadets in their uniforms. (Naval Cadets pictured here. Again, you may want to enlarge it to see the uniforms better.)

An hour or so before the game, the Army Knights jump team parachuted into the stadium, followed by a Navy Seal jump team. The Army Knights are recognized as one of the best jump teams in the world. Let me tell you that the Navy Seals are crazy. Two sets of jumpers locked legs with their parachutes open an glided into the stadium linked up, before releasing to land on different ends of the stadium. The video below shows the last Navy Seal jumper entering the stadium with the American flag in tow.

Following the National Anthem, the U.S. Navy flew over 4 F-18 Hornets. As you can see at the end of the video, they were in an extremely tight formation. They were also at relatively low altitude.

Not to be outdone, the Army flew in 4 helicopters at very low altitude.

The game itself was not very competitive. Navy has been superior to Army on the gridiron for the past few years, and this year was no different. Navy won the game 34-0.

Another neat event of the day was that cards circulated throughout the stadium, giving fans the opportunity to sign a Christmas card that would be mailed to Iraq or Afghanistan for service- men and women, who will not be able to come home for the holidays.

We also had the opportunity to watch another awesome tradition. When the Commander in Chief attends the game, he or she sits on one side for the first half and then switches sides at half-time. Below is President George W. Bush being escorted through an Army Cadet column by the Commandant of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. He is greeted by the Vice Admiral in Charge of the U.S. Naval Academy at midfield and escorted through a column of Navy Cadets.

This is a special rivalry. The day is filled with traditions celebrating our great nation. There are no drunks or rude fans around (all rose to their feet and cheered a President with an approval rating hovering at 20%). Only the cadets themselves, who are well-represented throughout the stadium, overshadow the fanfare of the day. They truly represent one of the reasons we all live in the greatest country in the world. Merry Christmas!!!

REFLECTIONS - Mixed Signals

As Rachel and I were doing some of our Christmas shopping during the holiday season, we wandered by Linens-N-Things to take advantage of some of the bargains available from a bankrupt store. Before going into the store, we encountered one of the funnier oxymorons I have seen in a while. Rachel summed it up best, when she uttered, "Really???"

If you blow up the picture by clicking on it, you will notice that in addition to the clearly marked "Going out of Business" sign, Rachel is pointing to another sign that says, "Now Hiring". Now I am by no means an employment expert, but I am betting that there isn't a lot of job security at this location. I advise against taking this position unless they just throw money at you. I certainly would argue against a vestment period.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Mark Clark Visits Philly

A few weeks ago, Mark Clark visited us for a few days in Philadelphia. He began his authentic Philadelphia journey by participating in something natives experience on a frequent basis - delays at the Philadelphia International Airport. The great thing about Philadelphia airport is that it can delay you coming in, and it can delay you getting out.

After a relaxing day of Guitar Hero World Tour on the Wii (weather was horrible,not that it would have changed our Saturday plans that much), we drove down to Chickie and Pete's near the Sports Complex. Here, I actually had to defend average Philadelphians, as we had the worst server I have ever experienced. I didn't want Mark chalking this one up to the stereotypical attitude that most southerners view big city northerners as having. This guy went well beyond that, as he essentially chastised Mark for politely requesting a separate tab. He received the tip he earned (I would like to note that this is perhaps the first time I have stiffed someone on a tip since Rachel and I moved away from Knoxville almost 5 years ago).

From Chickie and Pete's, we headed over to the Wachovia Center to see the Philadelphia 76ers play the Oklahoma City Thunder. I am not a big fan of NBA basketball, but I wanted Mark, Rachel and I to experience a 76ers game. It was some of the most uninspired basketball I have ever seen played. When the most entertaining aspect of the game is the announcer, you have a serious marketing problem. This marketing problem is evidenced by the absence of butts in seats. Don't waste your money on seeing the Sixers, if you visit Philadelphia.

On Sunday, Mark, through comments a UT Ag alumnus had made, asked that we visit Longwood Gardens.

Longwood Gardens is the premier botanical gardens in the United States. Based on this description, my enthusiasm for visiting was about as great as my enthusiasm would have been for attending another Sixers game that afternoon. Once I arrived and began walking around, that view quickly changed.

Longwood Gardens resides on 1000+ acres of land originally owned by William Penn, namesake of Pennsylvania. In the 1700's, he sold the land to the Pierce family, who began planting various species of trees on the land by the late 1870's. Longwood Gardens was purchased by Pierre DuPont in 1906 to prevent the trees from being used by lumber mills. At the time Pierre was CEO of DuPont Chemical Company. He would later run both DuPont and General Motors as CEO simultaneously.

The DuPonts continued to add to the collection of trees and flowers. They also built a massive greenhouse that is quite spectacular and designed several massive European-style fountains on the ground. All of these additions make the grounds breath-taking.

While we were there, they had a glass pumpkin display shown here. These pumpkins are hand-crafted and blown and are absolutely beautiful. They are actually made locally in a nearby county.

They make changes to the greenhouses seasonally. I want to go back sometime when everything is decorated for Christmas. I would also like to go back for the Fireworks shows with the fountains on Independence Day.

Enjoy the pictures of the greenhouses contained below.

Reflection - Tim Tebow

I write this reflection somewhat tongue and cheek, as I am a big believer in positive role models, like Tim Tebow. I am also a believer that when someone, like Timmy, is raised on a pedestal, the media, society in general, and jerks like me, try to bring them down. My purpose here is to more poke fun of ESPN's and others' handling of "St. Tebow". I think he is a great guy, and I truly believe that the world would be a much better place if there were many more Tim Tebow's... as long as none of them went to Florida, Georgia or Alabama.

The Tebow family truly is remarkable. His parents are missionaries, and Tebow has spent a lot of his life ministering outside of the country. His older sister is also a missionary. Even now, Tebow takes time to visit prisons and minister to inmates about Jesus.

If you watched the ESPN football awards show the other night or halftime coverage of any Florida game this season, you know exactly why I might make fun of the coverage. They constantly show the "Tim Tebow Humanitarian Special" as I like to call it (it disturbed me greatly that ESPN used the exact same footage for his award the other night that was used during the half-time special at each game this season). The film is absolutely OVER THE TOP. They can't just report on the work that Tebow did as a missionary with his family in the Phillipines while on spring break. They have to go into detail on how he, with the help of a medical assistant, performed circumcisions on Phillipino babies (he also did this to several SEC defenses,including ours) while there. They go on to show the little kids saying despicable things, like "Go Gators". In the interviews after the film, Corso and others absolutely fall all over Tebow and the family with "oohs" and "aahs". And, of course, they have to refer to him by his "Superman" nickname.

According to ESPN, he is all powerful, all knowing and omniscient. Here are a few recommendations for future undertakings for Superman St. Tebow (in addition to the fact that you can accurately plug his name into any Chuck Norris reference):

1) Lead the auto-bailout. Who could possibly be more qualified to be the Car Czar than Tim Tebow. Toyota and Nissan would shutter with fear.
2) Take Jay Leno's spot. I know, I know... which one? The answer is both. He could take Leno's new spot in Primetime and fill his Late Night Spot, too. Sorry Conan. "Conan" is no longer as tough of a name as "Tim Tebow".
3) The Bachelor - this would allow him to hold ESPN's parent company - ABC's ratings high. Plus, no more boring dates of ice cream, movies and hot tubs. Tim could see how well they perform minor surgical procedures in third world countries or talk to inmates at San Quentin.
4) Coach - who is that guy Auburn just named head coach? Didn't he have a losing record at Iowa St? Why did you fire Tommy Tubberville for that?
5) Hedge Fund Manager - through his sheer will, Tebow could boost sectors of the economy.

You could go on and on, as there appears to be nothing that Tebow cannot do.