Poetry Wednesday #42

The one that got away is a state, not a girl and the topic of “A Lonesome Star” for today’s Poetry Wednesday

“A Lonesome Star”

Let me drink the quenching taste of Dr Pepper and Big Red

Enchanted by her skies full of beauty in my dreams of Guadalupe and Big Bend dance in my head.

My highest ideal of Texas has blue eyes and auburn hair

Like a twister, she is an unescapable love affair

Her birth was marked by voluntary American bloodshed

 

From those humble beginnings, she has grown great and strong and free

Her midwife during this hard labor was then-heralded General Lee

See the faces of her first lovers, their stories told in San Antone

Building on her foundation thence—the Alamo her remembrance cornerstone

An untamed country and nation, for ages undiminished is her core espirit

 

Beaming bright, the stars at night beset her gilded heart — The Yellow Rose

Spanned first by azure stream of the Rio Brazos, and later the asphalt stream  I-Twenty

Somewhat half-hearted I wander here, but she promises a land of freedom plenty

Now, like The Pass abutting the land of Aztec magic — her farthest point, this poem come to a close

 

© Ryan Stroud 2019

 

History Monday #43

In addition to my birthday, it’s also an important day in Black History Month

Today is a bonus for historical events on this day for #HistoryMonday. First, from a purely self-indulgent point of view I was born on this day 34 years ago. Of course, I view this as significant but I know other far-reaching events are more worthy of mention. As part of Black History Month, it is worth celebrating Hiram Rhodes Revels on this day.
 
In Hiram Rhodes Revels, a Republican from Natchez, Mississippi, is sworn into the U.S. Senate, becoming the first African American Senator to serve in the Congress. Sen. Revels was sworn in two days after Mississippi was readmitted to statehood in the Union after Secession.
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Sen. Hiram Rhodes Revels
On January 20, 1870, the Mississippi legislature elected Revels to fill the Senate seat once held by Jefferson Davis, the former president of the Confederacy. The swearing in ceremony was the last step in the election process.
 
Revels attended Beech Grove Quaker Seminary in Indiana and Darke County Seminary in Ohio in 1844. Although his education was incomplete, he was ordained into the African Methodist Episcopal Church, at Allen Chapel, Terre Haute, Indiana, in 1845. Worth mentioning, the Church still stands and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. I first remember learning about Revels and his connection to Allen Chapel while in African-American Studies class at Indiana State University in Terre Haute. Props to Rev. Terry Clark and his approach to teaching African-American Studies.
 
Revels was appointed to preach to congregations after his stint in Terre Haute. Revels made stops in Illinois, Ohio, Kansas, Kentucky, Missouri and Tennessee as a pastor. Revels was arrested and imprisoned in Missouri in 1854, “for preaching to negroes.”
 
Revels spent much of the Civil War helping form African American army regiments for the Union cause. He also plied his trade as a chaplain for the Union army given his theological training. After the War ended, Revels was assigned to Mississippi and became active in Reconstruction-era Southern politics.
 
Revels served one year in the Senate and accepted a position as the first president of Alcorn Agricultural and Mechanical College (now Alcorn State University), a historically black college located in Mississippi.
 
fast forward
 
Sen. Revels along with other African-Americans during the Reconstruction Era were able to make progress in the House and Senate but never came close to proportional representation compared to the percentage of African-American population determined by census records. African-Americans elected to Congress in the South during the early days of the Ku Klux Klan and poll taxes was still counter to the culture. A few years after Sen. Revels left for Alcorn State University, Blanche Bruce became the first African-American Senator to serve a full term. Sen. Bruce was also from Mississippi. While many of us may consider The Magnolia State as lagging in terms of race relations, at one point it was a leader in positive race relations.
 
Even in modern times, only 10 African-Americans have served in the Senate—6 Democrat & 4 Republican. Included in this list of Senators is Pres. Obama and 2020 Presidential hopefuls Kamala Harris and Cory Booker. The House has had some more success than the Senate with 153 members.
Have you ever heard about Sen. Hiram Rhodes Revels?

Current Event Friday #47

A wild week in NCAA Basketball is the focus of today’s #CurrentEventFriday

The weekend is upon us and that means for many a time to sit in their favorite chair and put their feet up and relax after five days of laboring. Much of that time will be spent watching NCAA basketball or if you’re like me watching NASCAR. For a few noteworthy NCAA basketball people this will be a strange weekend and they’ll need to rest their feet. Zion Williamson, the top player on the Duke University and Jim Boeheim, coach of Syracuse University are in need of the weekend to come and go with little fanfare. First, for Coach Boeheim because he was involved in a fatal accident with a pedestrian just after his team’s win against the University of Louisville. Williamson will need some time to rehab a sprained knee after his team’s loss to hated rival the University of North Carolina. It’s the Williamson injury that leads to this edition of #CurrentEventFriday.

Now, as I believe I have previously admitted I am not a scholar or what can generously be described as a fair-weather fan of NCAA basketball. Honestly, I am not a huge fan of basketball at any level. I’m odd in that way. Regardless, the injury to Williamson calls into question the worst-kept secret in college sports: the players are playing as professionals at amateur pay.

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Duke’s Zion Williamson after his shoe fell apart and caused a knee sprain

Williamson figures to be a one-and-done player at Duke like many top-level NCAA Men’s basketball stars. The NBA changed its policy to align with other Big 4 sports and require one year of collegiate play or 19 years of age as a prerequisite to play in their league. So cunning NCAA coaches like John Calipari of Kentucky, Mike Krzyzewski at Duke began recruiting high-school players to come play for their programs for the necessary one year in college before leaving to go pro. This one year gives pro scouts a chance to evaluate the players and it usually doesn’t risk injury that will hurt their draft position. Although players like Kevin Ware and others do find themselves in that position.

The problem with the system for the NCAA is that it also spills over into baseball and football as well. Student athletes in these programs are supposed to play at the collegiate level before being drafted. For the football players this does take on more risk given the inherently violent nature of the game. We’ve seen as more years go by, the number of former football players suffering from CTE from repeated collisions on the gridiron. NCAA rules require longer tenure than in basketball before professional being drafted into the NFL.

Sportswriters and commentators are suggesting Williamson shut down play until the end of the season and wait to be drafted that there’s little incentive to rush back to playing for free. Essentially that is what he would be doing. His compensation is that he is given room and board along with a scholarship for what amounts to two semesters of classes. Williamson and other collegiate athletes are at the schools in class for less than what an associate degree would amount to and they are primarily there for their athletic ability. While their names and stats are featured in promotional material by the universities and of course sports networks, the players don’t receive proportional compensation for their likenesses being used like a professional athlete could do. For the unaware, any NCAA video game is required by the NCAA to remove the names of players from the rosters of each team and usually replaces it with the position and number of the respective player. Yet, most fans know exactly who the players are on their favorite teams are by number and can rename the player with the correct name.

NCAA competition in football and basketball in particular are a uniquely American quality. Most foreign visitors are surprised at the level of intensity, pageantry, and excess that are part of even a mid-level rivalry game among amateur players let alone games like The Game, The Iron Bowl, or the Tobacco Road Rivalry.

All this to say, I don’t know if you can or should pay collegiate players like they are professionals since it obviously would take away money from already strapped programs on campus like wrestling, hockey, and most women’s sports. I also do not see any way to reign in the fervor and money made of the teams either. Too many fans of a particular university can’t tamp down their expectations overnight. There should be some way to not punish athletes for finding ways to earn money for their likeness since the universities have a monopoly on that. That would require changing NCAA Rules and of course the universities don’t want competition or to admit that as non-profit institutions the amount of money they are accruing from the talent of others for free. I do think it’s a step that needs to be taken and more progressive and aware universities need to work to find a helpful solution. It would also stop the booster clubs that find loopholes to fund the athletes and cost these athletes their reputations. Many of the kids playing sports are from less than adequate neighborhoods and are punished when money is given to them that could help support their impoverished families back home.

Much of this requires attorneys, former athletes, and athletic directors to make all these decisions. Since I have no experience or degrees to be any of those people, I’ll admit it’s above my pay grade and watch the sports along with others and cheer for my teams and against their rivals.

Should NCAA athletes be paid? Should the draft age for the NBA & NFL be lowered?

Poetry Wednesday 41

A poem dedicated an historic mode of transportation, “Ode to the Railroad” is the latest entry for Poetry Wednesday

“Ode of the Railroad”

Straightway riding, running along the rails

Blessed be these lumbered, numbered, binding ties

Steel and Wood married on the bed with nails

Interests and powers supported its rise.

“All aboard!” bellows the head Engineer

Nation gridded by the Locomotive

Whistle blowing, the engine’s all I hear

Once the only way, now seems Primitive

Chugging and choogling cars atop the tracks

Sitting here, just waiting at the station

Nothing to do but Frankie says relax.

Got time for a little conversation

St. Andrew’s cross upon a yellow sign

Go on train, roll on ahead down the line

🚂

® Ryan Stroud 2019

I Don’t Get the Sensation

Chocolate is not meant to be ruined by mint.

Can I make a confession? I don’t get the sensation of mint and chocolate together. Today is National Chocolate Mint Day. Normally, these obscure holidays I celebrate whatever the topic is and give information but chocolate and mint are IMHO terrible combination.
 
I will admit that much of my aversion to this flavor combo is that I’m not a big mint fan anyways. I like spearmint and wintergreen mint flavors but the peppermint flavor isn’t one of my favorites. I’ll occasionally eat peppermint candy canes at Christmas but I prefer the cherry flavor.
 
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First, does anybody eat these? I see all the commercials for York® Peppermint Patties on TV but I hardly know anyone who eats them in real life. I seem to vaguely remember when I was very young that Dad would enjoy them but I haven’t seen him eat them in forever. I want to say that when he was eating York® candies it was shortly after he quit smoking cold turkey. So, maybe it was part of the usual eating to replace cigarettes phenomenon.
 
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I know several people enjoy Andes® mints after eating at Olive Garden® or other meals but I don’t get it. After pizza and I-talian food I will eat a spearmint breath mint or chew spearmint gum. I’ve also eaten chocolate after eating those same foods but never chocolate and mint together.
 
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I like the Junior® Mints version of caramels but not the confection that started it all. Lots of people do enjoy these and they became part of pop culture due to their centrality in a particular episode of Seinfeld.
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Please stop ruining cookies with flavors nobody wants. These are almost as strange as the anise-flavored cookies Europeans enjoy. Licorice and Mint-Chocolate flavored cookies are not good. Stop making them. Every other flavor of Girl Scout cookies are acceptable but my favorites are Tagalongs and Samoas.
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Like the Thin Mints—stop making Ice Cream flavors nobody wants. Vanilla, Caramel Swirl, Chocolate-Peanut Butter, Butter Pecan, Chocolate, Cookies and Cream, Cookie Dough, and all kinds of other flavors are so good. We don’t need mint ruing the flavor of chocolate ice cream.
 
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If I ever run for President, my first act will be to declare a national emergency for chocolate and ban mint from infecting it. Imagine the rallies with ardent supporters chanting “No more Mint!” as I whip them into a frenzy.
 
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Photo by Mareefe on Pexels.com
 
To be clear, I like other mint-flavored things. I will eat spearmint stuff. I like mint leaves in Mojitos. I like the contrast of mint with all the other flavors in Greek foods like Tzatziki sauce. Leave it out of chocolate. Chocolate has several other friends it gets along with well—peanut butter, cinnamon, vanilla, and chili pepper. It doesn’t need nor should it want mint. Keep them away from each other and everything will be good.

History Monday #42

The saddest day in NASCAR is the topic of #HistoryMonday.

It’s the start of a new week, and thankfully for many sports fans like me the start of a new season. As the NFL season ended a few weeks ago and MLB hasn’t started, at least NASCAR began yesterday. What’s remarkable about NASCAR, is that their biggest and most hyped race begins the season at Daytona International Speedway with the Daytona 500. It’s that race and a tragic ending that is the focus of today’s #HistoryMonday.
 
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Nearly two decades ago, in 2001 in the closing lap of the race a multi-car crash cost the life of one of the sport’s most popular drivers—Dale Earnhardt, Sr. Multi-car crashes at Daytona are not uncommon with these crashes being labeled ‘The Big One’ due to the fact that the cars are packed and sometimes involve a quarter to a third of the field. Yesterday’s running featured several ‘Big One’ crashes as drivers were attempting to improve their positions.
 
The last lap was being led by Michael Waltrip, driver of the no. 15 car owned by Earnhardt was leading the race followed by the number 8 of Dale Earnhardt, Jr in a second car owned by Earnhardt, Sr. and in third, the owner of said cars trying to hold off the rest of the field and help insure that the rest of the field might not reach them and place in the top three positions as owner and driver.
 
As Earnhardt, Sr. in his No. 3 Chevrolet ran in the middle lane of the pack Sterling Marlin in the No. 40 Dodge, moved from behind Earnhardt to the lower lane of the track. Close by, Rusty Wallace drove his No. 2 Penske Racing Ford behind Earnhardt, and Ken Schrader ran in the outside lane driving the No. 36 Pontiac. as the field headed into turn 4, Marlin came into contact with the left rear on Earnhardt’s car, causing the No. 3 to slide off the track’s steep banking onto the flat apron. Trying to correct at speed, Earnhardt sharply turned it up the track toward the outside retaining wall. Although it briefly looked as if he was going to avoid hitting the retaining wall, Earnhardt went right into Schrader’s path and Schrader rammed into him behind the passenger door causing Earnhardt’s car to snap, rapidly changing its angle toward the wall. As Schrader came into contact, Earnhardt crashed into the wall nose-first at an estimated speed of 155–160 mph. Both cars slid down the steep banking off the track and into the infield grass.
Impact of Earnhardt’s car with the wall
 
Per NASCAR rules after a crash, Earnhardt was extricated from his car and was transported by ambulance to the nearby Halifax Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead at 5:16pm EST, reportedly surrounded by his wife Teresa, his team owner and closest friend Richard Childress, and his son Earnhardt, Jr. The official announcement of Earnhardt’s death was made at about 7:00pm EST by NASCAR president Mike Helton.
 
fast forward
 
Dale Earnhardt Sr.’s death in 2001 was the 4th NASCAR driver to die in 9 months and drew much attention to NASCAR’s safety efforts and how this crash caused his death in light of his previous crashes. Earnhardt previously suffered a gruesome crash in the 1997 Daytona 500. The car he was driving flipped upside down on the backstretch. By a miracle, he was able to escape serious injury in this running of the Daytona 500.
 
After Earnhardt’s death, NASCAR began an intensive focus on safety that has seen the organization mandate the use of Head-And-Neck-Safety (HANS) restraints, oversee the installation of SAFER barriers at oval tracks, set rigorous new inspection rules for seats and seat-belts, develop a roof-hatch escape system, and the Car of Tomorrow—which eventually led to the development of a next-generation race car built with extra driver safety in mind. Since Earnhardt’s death, no Cup series driver has died during competition even in the midst of other crashes. In particular, the SAFER barrier uses foam padding and tension-springs between concrete panels surrounding the track has reduced serious injury. This innovative approach to creating a barrier allows the car to distribute momentum and causes the wall to absorb the energy rather than remaining in the car.
 
Besides the safety innovations, Earnhardt’s legacy was even further enhanced posthumously. While Earnhardt was already famous and well-regarded by the fans, the memorial efforts have established a near-canonization of him. Additionally, Earnhardt’s son became as legendary as his father. Since fans of the elder Earnhardt were unable to cheer for him, they transferred their fandom upon his progeny. Other fans shifted allegiance to the driver tabbed to replace Earnhardt at Richard Childress Racing—Kevin Harvick.
 
While NASCAR does not retire car numbers like the other Big 3 sports, the No. 3 was retired for several years by Richard Childress Racing until 2013 when team owner Richard Childress’s grandson Austin Dillon was announced to be driving the No. 3.
 
Earnhardt’s death also resulted in two feature motion pictures detailing his life. The first was a 2004 made-for-tv movie entitled 3: The Dale Earnhardt Story produced by ESPN. This featured Barry Pepper playing Earnhardt. The second was a 2007 documentary entitled Dale and narrated by Paul Newman. This film featured archived footage and interviews from fellow drivers about Earnhardt.
 
Earnhardt’s legacy can still be seen at the racetrack with throwback paint schemes. Several Richard Childress Racing entries have featured paint schemes resembling historical paint schemes driven by Earnhardt. Dale Earnhardt, Jr. also has ran throwback schemes to honor his late father and even his late grandfather.
What do you remember of Dale Earnhardt, Sr. and his career in NASCAR?

Current Event Friday #46

Oh man, there’s a problem with Rep. Omar

I’m back with another edition of #CurrentEventFriday after taking last week off thanks to schooling. This week has been full of several news stories that clamored for attention and that challenged me to hone in on one particular event. I know I often note and comment on what’s going on politically and that’s because much of politics really grinds my gears. Having said that, recent events have made me concerned with both sides of the political spectrum. Much of these events are due to one of the freshmen Democrats in the House—Ilhan Omar. I chose to ignore Alexandra Occasio-Cortez because she draws media attention for everything she says and intends to do.

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Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN)

Anyways, back to Rep. Ilhan Omar of Minnesota. Omar’s heritage is of Somali origin. She was born in Mogadishu, Somalia and migrated with her family as refugees during the Somalian Civil War to the United States. Now, all of this sounds commendable as her family escaped persecution and legally migrated to America for better opportunities.

Now for the rest of the story, Omar along with other freshmen Representatives Alexandra Occasio-Cortez and Rashida Tlaib have drawn attention for their actions and speeches upon being elected. Both Tlaib and Omar are the first Muslim women elected to Congress. These three representatives could easily be the Three Musketeers. All three women have called for dramatic and radical initiatives in their first month on the job, the most noteworthy being the abolition of Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Rep. Omar drew criticism earlier this week for tweeting about the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) lobbying politicians to hold pro-Israel positions. Omar and Tlaib have also called for an end to foreign aid and other support to Israel. Additionally, they have also advocated a movement favored by pro-Palestinian supporters known as Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions. These efforts are hoped to thwart Israel’s progress and draw attention to the situation being experienced by Palestinians.

Rep. Omar was roundly criticized by Conservative pundits and politicians and was reprimanded by party leaders on the Left as well. After receiving these rebukes, Omar half-heartedly apologized but seemed to indicate she was not completely sincere and still appeared to harbor anti-Semitic feelings. Many have called for Omar to lose her position on the Foreign Affairs Committee given her seemingly biased opinion, but no such change has been made. As if that wasn’t enough, Omar enraged conservatives for questioning a former official in the Reagan administration for his involvement in the Iran-Contra affair. Omar was attempting to link U.S. involvement in Venezuela recently to promote democracy as congruent to an isolated incident of soldiers massacring Central and South Americans during the Iran-Contra Affair. The official rebuffed the attempted grandstanding by Omar and refused to accept the premise of the question. Omar again pushed back and asked the official to say yes or no to whether he agreed with her assessment. While she was trying to push back to the official, he did answer ‘no’ that he saw no parallel, but Omar was still pushing for an answer and ignored the official and assumed his answer was a yes.

Admittedly, as I watched this clip along with the oversight committee hearing last Friday with the former acting Attorney General, I am not surprised by Omar’s grandstanding efforts and her continued anti-Israel sentiments. Her calls for a boycott of Israel are nothing new and are supported by her other Islamic cohort Tlaib.

Now, here’s where I offend my side of the spectrum. While I disagree with Omar and Tlaib on their views about Israel, ICE, and The Green New Deal. It’s their prerogative to believe what they believe. I also disagree with them about their faith and how their religion regards Issa (JESUS). While I believe He is the Son of God and Messiah, Muslims like Omar and Tlaib view Him as a great prophet of the God of Abraham. Again, that’s their prerogative, just as it is for anyone who doesn’t have the same Christian faith as me. I have seen several friends on Facebook calling for Tlaib and Omar’s resignations since both women were sworn in on The Koran instead of the Bible during their swearing-in ceremonies to Congress. I’m not a Constitutional scholar, but I don’t remember learning that Congressional Representatives had to use the Bible only.

Prohibiting a Muslim, Sikh, Jew, or Atheist from serving in Congress based solely on their faith or not using the Bible isn’t really a road I want to see us go down. Compulsory Christianity is lazy and likely won’t lead to true faith in its namesake. It’s also surprising to see so many calls for Omar and Tlaib to resign given Andre Carson of Indiana is also a Muslim serving in Congress and embattled former Rep. Keith Ellison who was Omar’s predecessor was the first Muslim member of Congress. I also think that it seems hypocritical to pigeonhole an entire religion and demonstrate at best prejudice and at worst hatred. If you are mad at Reps. Omar and Tlaib for hateful rhetoric towards Jews, it seems wrong to dislike them as Muslims. I don’t think it is helpful for anyone to be anti-Semitic or Islamophobic either way.

I’m surprised at what Tlaib and Omar are advocating, along with Women’s March co-founder Linda Sarsour. All three women are powerful outspoken American Muslim women. Yet, only in their country of residence could they make such bold claims let alone be governing. Majority Islamic countries, especially those who follow Sharia law don’t permit women to hold office or appear in public like Sarsour, Tlaib, and Omar. So, for all those who fear these women will usher in Sharia law, it’d be counter to these women’s aspirations and achievements. I’m not certain they will actually advocate for Sharia law.

For what it’s worth, it might be more apropos to cede Minnesota to Canada so we can remove them from serving in office in the U.S. The state has given us Al Franken in the Senate who resigned in disgrace after sexual assault allegations, as mentioned Keith Ellison is facing sexual and physical abuse allegations, Ilhan Omar is making troubling statements about Israel and ICE, and who can forget Jesse ‘The Mind’ Ventura who formerly served as Minnesota’s governor. I mean that makes as much sense.

Should Ilhan Omar be removed from her committee assignment? Can Muslims serve in Congress?