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Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Rock Chalk, Jayhawk!

University of Kansas basketball fans (me included, of course) are excited that this year's team has made the Final Four of the NCAA tournament. For KU, this is a familiar spot. Per Wikipedia, Kansas has previously participated in the Final Four in these years: 1940, 1952, 1953, 1957, 1971, 1974, 1986, 1988, 1991, 1993, 2002, 2003, 2008, and 2012. I started watching Kansas basketball around 1970, which means they've made the Final Four about once every five years during my lifetime as a fan. None of those appearances occured during my four years at Kansas, 1979-1983.

Kansas won the NCAA tournament in 1952, 1988, and 2008, but the school also claims two "mythical" championships from the era prior to the NCAA tournament: 1922 and 1923 (the "Helms championship"). Since the Jayhawk is a mythical bird, rest assured that many other schools count mythical championships awarded by the Helms Athletic Foundation, including Purdue and Stanford.

Meanwhile, University of Kansas students also have a strong history participating in the intercollegiate National Debate Tournament (NDT). Indeed, late Monday March26, the team of seniors Quaram Robinson and Will Katz won the 2018 national championship. This was the sixth time a team from Kansas had achieved this feat, having previously won the NDT in 1954, 1970, 1976, 1983, and 2009. Yes, I was on campus for the 1983 title.

Here's a picture of the latest winners:



Congratulations to these students!! I attended the 2017 NDT in Kansas City last year and met both of them during a reunion hosted by KU. Their accomplishment is truly impressive and undoubtedly reflects a tremendous amount of hard work. Congrats also to coach Scott Harris!

Incidentally, this was the 16th time a Kansas team had been in the Final Four of the NDT: 1948, 1954, 1959, 1970 (2 teams*), 1971, 1973, 1976, 1977, 1979, 1983, 1994, 1999, 2009, 2016, and 2018. The NDT allowed 2 teams per school for many years. It now allows three.

So, it appears 1971 was the only other year Kansas had teams in the Final Four of both basketball and debate. It's a rarity that should be celebrated. More on 1971 below.

Even more rare would be a double victory. The NDT has been won 15 times by Northwestern, 7 times by Harvard, and 6 times by Dartmouth. Neither Northwestern nor Harvard has ever appeared in the NCAA Final Four. Dartmouth did twice, in 1942 and 1944, but lost in the championship game both times. Those appearances occurred before the NDT existed.

Thus, my quick perusal of the list of past winners of these tournaments yields these findings:

In 1962, Ohio State won the NDT, but lost the NCAA tournament championship game.
In 1989, Michigan won the NCAA tournament, but finished 2nd at the NDT.
In 2000, Michigan State won the NCAA tournament, but finished 2nd at the NDT.

Based on my quick perusal, it appears UCLA in 1971 is the only school to win both tournaments in the same year.

Kansas has an opportunity to duplicate that feat this weekend. Rock Chalk!



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Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Snow day

The region was socked with about 7 inches of snow last night. The public schools and University of Louisville were both closed. This morning, I tweeted this photo of our back deck -- look at the depth of the snow piled on the railing:


This afternoon, I tweeted a picture of Jim Patterson Stadium as it never is on March 21:


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Monday, March 12, 2018

Robey

In December 2016, our dog Robey (nickname for Darrowby), was diagnosed with bladder cancer. The veterinarian noted that he was in good spirits and fairly good health, but that the prognosis was likely 6 to 18 months of remaining life. Given his age and the nature of the disease, surgery or other potential treatments did not seem like good options.

It's been 15 months since that initial diagnosis and Robey's health has definitely declined. He's much thinner now -- partly a result of the flu bug he and his sister Paddy contracted last summer at the kennel. There was a particularly horrible day in the first week of their quarantine when I feared he would not survive the flu. However, an emergency trip to the veterinary hospital provided an infusion of fluids and drugs that helped him turn the corner and recover much of his strength. His sister recovered much more quickly from the illness and is now far more energetic and healthy.

For the last few months, we've battled his occasional mild incontinence with a male doggie wrap lined with baby diapers. His mood has been good and I think he really enjoyed recent visits from our two daughters.

Sadly, the last two weeks, Robey has shown much less enthusiasm for his daily walk. About 10 to 12 days ago, he walked very slowly several steps behind me as his sister Paddy charged ahead as she almost always does. He has repeated that lethargic behavior on several other walks since then. Yesterday, my wife cut the walk short for him and I took his sister for a longer stroll around the neighborhood. He was walking so slowly that we caught up before they made it back home.

Robey has also stopped eating regularly -- effectively skipping breakfast on most mornings the last week or so and sometimes barely touching dinner. Twice in the last few days we have served him canned dog food at night, which he really enjoys and he has quickly consumed it mixed with the typical dry food. The past few days, however, he has had trouble keeping any food he consumes down. This morning, he vomited his medicines and it was obvious that last night's dinner had not been digested.

Twice over the weekend, he remained indoors behind the dog door when I parked the car in the garage in the alley and entered the backyard from there. Paddy was outside at the garage door to greet me, as she always is, but her brother clearly decided to continue resting indoors on the floor 75 feet away.

In sum, Robey is ticking all the boxes for a dog near the end of his life. He has been a great dog and we're going to miss him very much when he's gone. This is a photo from this morning -- after a freak March snow shower in Louisville last night:




Update: Robey stopped going on walks and stopped eating. RIP old friend.
~ July 4, 2005 to March 16, 2018.


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Wednesday, March 07, 2018

Trump on War: Korea edition

I'm compiling some statements and tweets from President Donald Trump concerning various alleged threats to US (or international) security.

This post focuses on North Korea. I may add to it as I find additional material. Note: I'm not currently compiling all the stories based on leaked reports, which claim the administration has seriously considered war with North Korea. The administration withdrew its choice for ambassador to South Korea, reportedly, because he was opposed to so-called "bloody nose" strikes against North Korea.

This is from Trump's remarks prior to a briefing on the Opioid crisis, August 8, 2017:
Q    Any comment on the reports about North Korea’s nuclear capabilities? 
THE PRESIDENT:  North Korea best not make any more threats to the United States.  They will be met with fire and fury like the world has never seen.  He has been very threatening beyond a normal state.  And as I said, they will be met with fire, fury, and, frankly, power, the likes of which this world has never seen before.

More from Trump's speech to the UN on September 19, 2017:
North Korea’s reckless pursuit of nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles threatens the entire world with unthinkable loss of human life. 
It is an outrage that some nations would not only trade with such a regime, but would arm, supply, and financially support a country that imperils the world with nuclear conflict.  No nation on earth has an interest in seeing this band of criminals arm itself with nuclear weapons and missiles. 
The United States has great strength and patience, but if it is forced to defend itself or its allies, we will have no choice but to totally destroy North Korea.  Rocket Man is on a suicide mission for himself and for his regime.  The United States is ready, willing and able, but hopefully this will not be necessary.  That’s what the United Nations is all about; that’s what the United Nations is for.  Let’s see how they do 
It is time for North Korea to realize that the denuclearization is its only acceptable future.  The United Nations Security Council recently held two unanimous 15-0 votes adopting hard-hitting resolutions against North Korea, and I want to thank China and Russia for joining the vote to impose sanctions, along with all of the other members of the Security Council.  Thank you to all involved. 
But we must do much more.  It is time for all nations to work together to isolate the Kim regime until it ceases its hostile behavior.
The President spoke in Seoul, South Korea on November 7, 2017. The speech sounded much like the ones George W. Bush used to give about Iraq back in 2002. This is a long excerpt, but it is telling:
The North Korean regime has pursued its nuclear and ballistic missile programs in defiance of every assurance, agreement, and commitment it has made to the United States and its allies. It’s broken all of those commitments. After promising to freeze its plutonium program in 1994, it repeated [reaped] the benefits of the deal and then — and then immediately continued its illicit nuclear activities. 
In 2005, after years of diplomacy, the dictatorship agreed to ultimately abandon its nuclear programs and return to the Treaty on Non-Proliferation. But it never did. And worse, it tested the very weapons it said it was going to give up. In 2009, the United States gave negotiations yet another chance, and offered North Korea the open hand of engagement. The regime responded by sinking a South Korean Navy ship, killing 46 Korean sailors. To this day, it continues to launch missiles over the sovereign territory of Japan and all other neighbors, test nuclear devices, and develop ICBMs to threaten the United States itself. The regime has interpreted America’s past restraint as weakness. This would be a fatal miscalculation. This is a very different administration than the United States has had in the past. 
Today, I hope I speak not only for our countries, but for all civilized nations, when I say to the North: Do not underestimate us, and do not try us. We will defend our common security, our shared prosperity, and our sacred liberty. 
We did not choose to draw here, on this peninsula — (applause) — this magnificent peninsula — the thin line of civilization that runs around the world and down through time. But here it was drawn, and here it remains to this day. It is the line between peace and war, between decency and depravity, between law and tyranny, between hope and total despair. It is a line that has been drawn many times, in many places, throughout history. To hold that line is a choice free nations have always had to make. We have learned together the high cost of weakness and the high stakes of its defense.
America’s men and women in uniform have given their lives in the fight against Nazism, imperialism, Communism and terrorism. 
America does not seek conflict or confrontation, but we will never run from it. History is filled with discarded regimes that have foolishly tested America’s resolve. 
Anyone who doubts the strength or determination of the United States should look to our past, and you will doubt it no longer. We will not permit America or our allies to be blackmailed or attacked. We will not allow American cities to be threatened with destruction. We will not be intimidated. And we will not let the worst atrocities in history be repeated here, on this ground, we fought and died so hard to secure. (Applause.) 
That is why I have come here, to the heart of a free and flourishing Korea, with a message for the peace-loving nations of the world: The time for excuses is over. Now is the time for strength. If you want peace, you must stand strong at all times. (Applause.) The world cannot tolerate the menace of a rogue regime that threatens with nuclear devastation. 
All responsible nations must join forces to isolate the brutal regime of North Korea — to deny it and any form — any form of it. You cannot support, you cannot supply, you cannot accept. We call on every nation, including China and Russia, to fully implement U.N. Security Council resolutions, downgrade diplomatic relations with the regime, and sever all ties of trade and technology. 
It is our responsibility and our duty to confront this danger together — because the longer we wait, the greater the danger grows, and the fewer the options become. (Applause.) And to those nations that choose to ignore this threat, or, worse still, to enable it, the weight of this crisis is on your conscience. 
I also have come here to this peninsula to deliver a message directly to the leader of the North Korean dictatorship: The weapons you are acquiring are not making you safer. They are putting your regime in grave danger. Every step you take down this dark path increases the peril you face.
And Trump's State of the Union address on January 30, 2018:
North Korea’s reckless pursuit of nuclear missiles could very soon threaten our homeland.
We are waging a campaign of maximum pressure to prevent that from happening.
Past experience has taught us that complacency and concessions only invite aggression and provocation.  I will not repeat the mistakes of past administrations that got us into this dangerous position.
We need only look at the depraved character of the North Korean regime to understand the nature of the nuclear threat it could pose to America and our allies.
Otto Warmbier was a hardworking student at the University of Virginia.  On his way to study abroad in Asia, Otto joined a tour to North Korea.  At its conclusion, this wonderful young man was arrested and charged with crimes against the state.  After a shameful trial, the dictatorship sentenced Otto to 15 years of hard labor, before returning him to America last June — horribly injured and on the verge of death.  He passed away just days after his return. 
Otto’s Parents, Fred and Cindy Warmbier, are with us tonight — along with Otto’s brother and sister, Austin and Greta.  You are powerful witnesses to a menace that threatens our world, and your strength inspires us all.  Tonight, we pledge to honor Otto’s memory with American resolve.
Some key tweets, arranged chronologically:





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Friday, March 02, 2018

Oscars for 2017 Films

Rialto Theatre, Edmonton
Source: Provincial Archives of Alberta
The Academy Award ceremonies are Sunday night and my wife and I have again been spending some of our leisure time viewing nominated films and acting performances. Regular readers may recall that we actually managed to see three of the films nominated for best picture during the 2017 calendar year. That was partly because two nominees were out in the summer and were not year-end releases. Still, thanks to various bad weather days in January, we saw six of the nine best picture films prior to the announcement of the Oscars -- all of them in the theater except for one of the early-year movies!

Even though I have seen a fairly good sample of the films and performances, I will as usual update this post as we watch more of these films. Note for future readers: Films and performances shaded in yellow below will indicate additions/edits after the Oscars are awarded (and the original blog posting).

Moreover, as I do each year, I'm going to rank-order the films and acting performances. Obviously, this is my completely subjective perspective -- and hardly an ideal way to think about art. Plus, obviously, I can only rank the performances I watched.

Keep in mind that these are not my predictions about winners in each category. Go to the Hollywood Stock Exchange or other sites if you want predictions based upon betting markets. Spoiler Alert: The Shape of Water is a slight favorite for Best Picture and its director (Guillermo Del Toro) seems to be one of the biggest favorites in a major category.  In other categories, Darkest Hour star Gary Oldman and Three Billboards star Frances McDormand are strongly favored to pick up best acting awards. Sam Rockwell (Three Billboards) and Allison Janney (I, Tonya) are also now highly favored in the supporting roles.


Best picture

The Shape of Water **
Lady Bird **
The Post **
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri **
Dunkirk **
Get Out
Darkest Hour **

Call Me by Your Name
Phantom Thread

Comment: I would have put "I, Tonya" in this category as it was an excellent film. My oldest daughter saw "Call Me By Your Name" and really liked it. My spouse and I think "Phantom Thread" looks like a rental at home.

Best director

I saw four of these films prior to the Oscar announcements:

“Dunkirk,” Christopher Nolan **
“Get Out,” Jordan Peele
“Lady Bird,” Greta Gerwig **
“The Shape of Water,” Guillermo del Toro **

“Phantom Thread,” Paul Thomas Anderson

Best actor in a Leading Role

Gary Oldman, “Darkest Hour” **
Daniel Kaluuya, “Get Out”

Timothée Chalamet, “Call Me by Your Name”
Daniel Day-Lewis, “Phantom Thread”
Denzel Washington, “Roman J. Israel, Esq.”

Comment: This actually seems like a weak crop compared to the women. Day-Lewis and Washington are frequent contenders in this category, but neither of their 2017 films made a big splash. Washington's film is on DVD, but we watched "The Florida Project" and "Mudbound" when facing the choice recently.

Best actress in a Leading Role

Remarkable, especially when compared to last year, I also all of these performances prior to the Oscar announcements! This is one tough category as I could see a case for any of these women:

Sally Hawkins, “The Shape of Water” **
Frances McDormand, “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri” **
Saoirse Ronan, “Lady Bird” **
Margot Robbie, “I, Tonya” **
Meryl Streep, “The Post” **

I'd probably vote for Hawkins because she gave a remarkable and fearless performance that included very little dialogue. Yet, I knew exactly what she was communicating at all times.  McDormand was very good, even excellent, but she's virtually always very good. She won an Oscar for "Fargo" in 1996.

Best Actor in a Supporting Role

Sam Rockwell, “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri” **
Richard Jenkins, “The Shape of Water” **
Christopher Plummer, “All the Money in the World”
Woody Harrelson, “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri” **
Willem Dafoe, “The Florida Project”

I'm not sure about how well Rockwell's character was written, but he was excellent in his performance. Harrelson and Jenkins were also very good, as was Dafoe. This is a strong category.

Best Actress in a Supporting Role

Allison Janney, “I, Tonya” **
Laurie Metcalf, “Lady Bird” **
Octavia Spencer, “The Shape of Water” **
Mary J. Blige, “Mudbound”

Lesley Manville, “Phantom Thread”

Both Janney and Metcalf were fantastic playing mothers of young women coming-of-age. After seeing "Lady Bird," I was convinced Metcalf was a lock for this award. Then, I saw "I, Tonya." Wow.

Best Documentary Feature

I failed to see any of these before the Oscars:

Abacus: Small Enough to Jail
Faces Places
Icarus
Last Men in Aleppo
Strong Island

Comment: Netflix had Icarus, Last Men in Aleppo, and Strong Island available to stream prior to the Oscars and Abacus is on Amazon Prime. This is a category that I should have given more attention weeks ago.

Best Foreign Language Film

And I haven't seen these and none seem to be streaming for free on Netflix, Hulu, or Prime:

“A Fantastic Woman” (Chile)
“The Insult” (Lebanon)
“Loveless” (Russia)
“On Body and Soul (Hungary)
“The Square” (Sweden)


** I saw these films or performances in the theater.



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