Green Cougar Red Archive:
August - October 2005
October 20, 2005The Astros are going to the World Series.
I'm still having a hard time wrapping my head around that one. It's eight in the morning, about ten hours after Cardinal catcher Yadier Molina popped out in the bottom of the ninth to assure the Houston Astros of their first ever World Series appearance, and I'm still a bit stunned. As a long-suffering Houston sports fan, it really is hard to believe.
Especially after Monday night's game. When Pujols hit that monster homer in the ninth inning to send the series back to St. Louis, I really thought the momentum had shifted in the Cardinals' favor and that this would wind up as another one of those painful Houston sports memories I mentioned last week.
But not this time. Roy freakin' Oswalt is the man.
Now the Astros go on to face the Chicago White Sox in the World Series. The White Sox have had their share of suffering as well; their last World Series appearance was 1959, three years before the Astros (who were then known as the Colt 45s) even began playing. Although both teams would certainly like to win the World Series, the fact is that the 'Stros and the Chi-Sox are just happy to be here. Both teams are going to have fun, and for that reason I expect a loose, celebratory World Series. I really don't care who wins at this point. As far as I am concerned, the Astros have already won.
Anyway, on to Japan. I'm not looking forward to the long flight over, but I am looking forward to seeing a country I've always wanted to visit and seeing my brother, whose been gone since April of last year. I'll be sure to take lots of pictures and I will try to post them on his site once I return Halloween evening.
October 12, 2005
I've added a couple of new sites to my Links page. Don't say I never update my website!Last weekend was a good weekend for Houston sports teams. Well, except for the Texans, and let’s face it, who really cares about them?
The Astros outlasted the Atlanta Braves in an amazing and historic National League Divisional Series Game Four and made it to the National League Championship Series for the second year in a row, where they will once again meet up with the St. Louis Cardinals. The eighteen-inning marathon set a new record for the longest postseason game ever played. The previous record, the sixteen-inning Game Six of the 1986 NLCS, also featured the Astros.
Although the Astros were not technically facing elimination in Sunday’s game, I really didn’t like their chances in a possible Game Five, since they would have had to travel back to Atlanta and face Braves hurler John Smoltz, who has historically owned the Astros in the postseason. For much of the game, however, it looked like a return trip to Atlanta was indeed on the agenda, as the Astros trailed 6-1 going into the eighth inning. However, a grand slam by Lance Berkman in the bottom of the eighth, followed by a just-barely home run by Brad Ausmus with two outs in the bottom of the ninth, tied things up. The tie would remain for the next nine innings of what essentially became a doubleheader. The extra frames were excruciating to watch, as neither the Braves nor the Astros could put any more runs on the board, and by the sixteenth inning the Astros had run out of bullpen relievers and had to resort to Roger Clemens, who made only his second relief appearance in his long career.
I remember all too well the aforementioned Game Six of the 1986 NLCS. I remember Kevin Bass striking out in the bottom of the sixteenth inning. I remember the New York Mets, who would go on to win the World Series that year, celebrating their 7-6 victory on the Astrodome turf. And I remember crying my eyes out. A lot of people believe that Game Six of the 1986 NLCS is the greatest game ever played. One guy even wrote a book about it. For me, it’s just another painful memory as a Houston sports fan, much like Jimmy Valvano’s wild celebration after his North Carolina State team upset the Houston Cougars on a last-second dunk in the 1983 NCAA basketball championship game or the Houston Oilers’ spectacular 32-point choke to the Buffalo Bills in the 1993 AFC Wild Card game. And as I watched the agonizing extra innings last Sunday, I kept having flashbacks to that NLCS moment, nineteen years ago. Would this be yet another in a long line of bitter, painful Houston sports memories?
Fortunately, Chris Burke assured that it would not. Instead, his magnificent game-winning home run in the bottom of the eighteenth instantly became one of a much shorter line of Houston sports highlights.
As a Houston sports fan, I am accustomed to watching the local teams fail. So when a local team succeeds, especially as amazingly and improbably as the Astros did last Sunday, it's always a pleasant surprise.
So now it’s on to the Cardinals. Will this be the year that the Astros finally make it into the World Series? Probably not; the Cardinals are just as good as they were last year and the Astros don’t have Carlos Beltran or Jeff Kent in the lineup this year. But after Sunday's game, as well as the remarkable fact that the Astros made the playoffs after being fifteen games below .500 at one point this season, I'm really not complaining. The Astros beat the cursed Braves two years in a row, and that's always something to celebrate.
It was also a good weekend for the Houston Cougars, who currently have a winning record after beating the Tulane Green Wave 35-14 at Cajun Field in Lafayette, Louisiana. I had not planned on attending any UH road games this season, but once I discovered that the game would be played in Lafayette I decided to make a day trip to Acadiana. It was a journey through an area hit hard by Hurricane Rita just a couple of weeks ago to see a game that had to be relocated because of Hurricane Katrina, and I saw plenty of signs of both hurricanes' devastation.
I-10 east of Houston is a very congested highway right now, in both directions. It seemed that the majority of vehicles on the highway, even on the Texas side of the Sabine River, had Louisiana plates. There were lots of U-Haul and Budget rental trucks. Lots of trailers. Lots of pickups, SUVs and minivans packed with people and belongings. I wondered what all their stories were and where they were all going. Some were probably returning to their homes (or what is left of their homes) in New Orleans (now that much of the city has reopened to residents) or other parts of Louisiana that were evacuated as Katrina / Rita approached. Others were probably going home only long enough to gather whatever they can salvage and return to what has over the past several weeks become their new homes. On the way back home, I passed somebody towing a mud-covered car that had obviously been underwater in New Orleans. I guess the vehicle had sentimental value to somebody.
Abandoned cars were everywhere alongside the highway. They had all been tagged for towing by Texas or Louisiana troopers, but I didn’t see any tow trucks actually removing any cars. They were probably the cars of Katrina and Rita evacuees which for whatever reason stopped working; as with all the people and belongings moving back and forth along the highway, I wondered about the stories behind all these abandoned cars as well.
The Ford Park special events complex just outside of Beaumont had been converted into an emergency logistics and distribution center, full of eighteen-wheelers, military vehicles and tents. Signs in front of the venue directed cars into lines for ice or drinking water distribution.
Things looked really bad between Beaumont and the Sabine River, where the eye of Rita moved across. I saw two churches - one in Vidor, one in Orange - with their roofs completely ripped off. Trees were still laying on top of houses, two weeks after hurricane Rita. I saw several piles of debris that used to be mobile homes, and many gas stations with their canopies torn away. Tarps over roofs were a common sight. Billboards were knocked down, highway signs were flipped over, and downed and splintered trees were everywhere. There were a lot of tree-trimming crews out along the interstate that day. I saw repairs being done to electrical lines as well. On the way to Lafayette, in fact, I passed a convoy of probably 20 electrical line trucks from Kansas.
Harrah's in Lake Charles is going to be out of commission for a while. Isle of Capri and the new L'Auberge du Lac, on the other hand, had just reopened and, from the number of cars in the Isle of Capri parking garage, appeared to be doing a brisk business. I didn't know whether to be amused or disgusted by the fact that gambling has become as important to the Lake Charles economy as oil refining, but it's clear that getting the riverboat casinos back on line was a local priority.
I reached Lafayette about an hour before kickoff and made my way down Ambassador Caffery Parkway to Cajun Field. Lafayette itself didn't seem to be any worse for wear after Hurricane Rita, but like other cities such as Houston and Baton Rouge its population has been swollen by the Katrina diaspora. Something like 1,400 evacuees from New Orleans still living at the Cajundome; they all wore tags that had their pictures on them and read "CAJUNDOME RESIDENT." Many of them attended the game - they got in free of charge - and naturally cheered for Tulane.
There were probably about 500 UH fans at Cajun Field, including a good portion of the UH band, which I thought was a decent turnout considering that this game's status was unsettled as recently as three weeks ago and there were virtually no hotel vacancies in Lafayette. Tulane probably brought about 1,500 people (it was technically a home game for them), and ULL students, evacuees, national guard members, relief workers and others made the rest of the crowd of about four or five thousand people. I don't know where the 15k attendance figure in the boxscore comes from - perhaps tickets Tulane sold to this game before the hurricane?
The first half was probably the worst half of football I have witnessed in a long time. Neither the Cougars nor the Green Wave were particularly impressive on offense, and the score was 7-7 at the half. However, the Cougars made adjustments at halftime and scored 21 points in the third quarter by keeping the ball on the ground and wearing away the Green Wave defense. Tulane simply could not stop Cougar running backs Jackie Battle and Ryan Gilbert. The Houston defense stepped up as well, forcing a turnover and allowing the Green Wave to reach the endzone only once more, during garbage time late in the fourth quarter. As an added bonus, the Cougars made no special teams mistakes and had no turnovers. Dare I say that improvement is being made?
My friend Amy also happened to be in Lafayette that weekend, visiting her family, and she and her son came out to the stadium to meet me and watch part of the game with me. She even brought me a link of boudin from Comeaux's Grocery. Cajun hospitality! Otherwise, I spent the game sitting with fellow UH fans watching the Coogs notch their second consecutive victory on the road.
After the game, it was time to return home. It was evident from the interstate that there are still several neighborhoods in Lake Charles, Orange and Beaumont that still do not have electricity. Roadside services are available along I-10, even in the area hit by Rita - I got gas at a station in Sulphur, outside of Lake Charles - but from the interstate it's hard to tell if gas stations or restaurants are open at night because all of the high mast signs have been blown out.
I returned to Houston around midnight. It had been a long trip, and seeing firsthand the physical destruction of Rita and the social upheaval of Katrina was a very sobering experience. But the watching a critical UH victory over a divisional rival definitely made the trip worthwhile.
Next up for the Coogs is Memphis. This Saturday's game will be their first home game in a month, since September 24th's home game against Southern Miss had to be rescheduled due to Rita.
Meanwhile, up in Denton: things aren’t looking good for the Mean Green, whose 26-game conference winning streak was snapped by Troy last week. North Texas has been outscored 121-19 in its last three games and, at this point, prospects of UNT’s fifth consecutive Sun Belt championship and bowl appearance look increasingly slim.
Not that a Sun Belt championship would be anything to brag about this season, anyway. It has traditionally been the weakest of the eleven Division I-A football conferences, but this season it's particularly awful.
How bad is the Sun Belt Conference this year? Put it this way: six weeks into the season, no Sun Belt school has an overall winning record and only two have an in-conference winning record. In fact, the Sun Belt’s out-of-conference record against Division I-A schools is currently 1-21, the one win being Middle Tennessee’s upset of Vanderbilt.
My brother Dave has started his own blog, chronicling his life in Japan. I'll be joining him in Osaka in less than two weeks. More about that trip in my next post.
September 27, 2005
Lori made it home safely late last night. She was exhausted, physically as well as emotionally drained from her week-long absence, but glad to be home nevertheless. She left Kirby in Temple with my mother and my aunt; mom will probably bring him home sometime today.
Things in Houston are quickly returning to normal. Gas stations are being resupplied, grocery stores are busy restocking shelves, businesses are reopening and streets and highways that were eerily deserted last Friday and Saturday are once again full of cars.
An article in Monday's Chronicle regarding the evacuation process reflects my feelings about the ordeal. As the subtitle says, "The evacuation shows more need to stay put, and all lanes should be outbound."
Hurricane planners have a
little ditty that goes, "run from the water, hide from the wind."
As I've said, a lot of people got caught up in a (mostly-media-driven) frenzy and left when they probably would have done just as well to stay where they were, and that exacerbated the evacuation chaos. It also absolutely amazes me that, before last Thursday, there was no contraflow evacuation plan in place - it was all done ad-hoc as the interstates leading out of town became hopelessly clogged with people.
Hurricane Rita is a learning experience for everybody: residents, local planning and law enforcement officials, elected officials, and, hopefully, the local media.
September 25, 2005
I finally went to sleep around
7 am yesterday morning, once the winds had begun to die down and the
radar showed that the storm was on its way out. Later in the afternoon
I went to my folks' house and helped my dad cut and clear fallen limbs
from the front yard (it's the same sickly ash tree that lost most of
its limbs during Alicia 22 years ago; it probably just needs to be
removed altogether and replaced with a stronger species). Damage to
this neighborhood has been confined to tree limbs and branches. The
streets were a mess, littered with leaves and branches, but that was
the extent of destruction - no roof damage or broken windows, from what
I could see. Thankfully and amazingly, we never lost power or
cable/internet service here (Danny and I were even chatting with my
brother in Japan over the computer early Saturday morning, as the winds
howled outside), although other parts of this neighborhood did; my
parents' house was without electricity until late this afternoon so my
dad spent last night here.
instead of rational, calm discussion of the hurricane, the
uncertainties inherent in its projected path, the effects of wind on
areas several dozen miles inland, and the like, what we got were a
bunch of blow-dried local television anchors and weather-guessers
orgasmically screaming about a monster category five hurricane heading
our way and bringing with it certain death and destruction to the city
of Houston. The media also focused on the evacuation story, which in my
opinion created a very clear implication of "everybody else is getting
out why they still can, and you should be getting out, too."
September 24, 2005
It's now 2 am, and amazingly enough I still have electricity. I expect to lose it at any moment, however, as the wind continues to pick up. Otherwise, things are going as well as can be expected. No structural damage or falling tree limbs yet, and the rain hasn't even been too heavy thus far.
The rain and gusting winds we're experiencing here are being generated by a system whose center is well over 100 miles to the east of here. It really makes you understand just how massive and just how powerful hurricanes are. They are awesome in every sense of the word.
September 23, 2005
It's about 8 pm, and the outermost rainbands of the hurricane are now reaching my neighborhood. The rainfall is really very mild at this point and the winds are still rather gentle. This will not remain the case for long, however; heavier rainbands are quickly approaching and I expect the really nasty stuff to start hitting in another two or three hours.
Yesterday Rita's projected area of landfall moved to the other side of Houston and it now appears that it's going to hit Port Authur. That puts Houston on the so-called "dry" side of the hurricane. This is not to diminish the weather we're going to get here - hurricanes are dangerous no matter what side of them you're on - but being to the west of a hurricane is better than taking a direct hit or being just to its east.
Danny and I are staying where we are. I think we'll be okay, although I'm worried about the tree in front of the house.
I'll try to provide another update in a few hours if I still have electricity.
September 21, 2005
Hurricane Rita: Lori took herself and the kid to Dallas, but I've decided to ride the storm out here at the house as long as the predicted landfall location remains south of Freeport. My brother-in-law Danny will be here with me.
I expect there to be some wind damage here, especially to trees, and there might even be some street flooding like this neighborhood experienced during Alison, but at this point in time I feel that I am far enough inland and the storm's projected path is far enough to the south that I do not expect major structural failure to occur.
If the situation changes (i.e. the projected storm track moves significantly northward) then Danny and I will probably relocate to to his and Lori's parents' house on the northwest side of town.
I will try to post updates, although I expect to lose electricity at some point. Wish me luck.
September 14, 2005
the Coogs notched their first win of the season by defeating the Sam
Houston State Bearkats 31-10 at Robertson Stadium. Some might say that
a win over a I-AA school is meaningless, but I’d have to
in this instance because, let’s face it, wins of any kind
been hard to come by for the Coogs lately. Besides, Sam is a pretty
good I-AA squad, having gone all the way to the I-AA semifinals last
season (a football playoff! What a concept!), and they always give the
Coogs a good game. So I’ll gladly take it.
What the city of New Orleans is really up against, however, is the set of economic, historic, social, technological and geological forces that have shaped fixed settlements for 8,000 years. Its necessity is no longer obvious to many stakeholders with the money to rebuild it, from the oil industry, to the grain industry, to the commercial real estate industry, to the global insurance industry, to the politicians.
is among those (such as myself) who suggest that New Orleans, with its
population scattered across the nation – “the
resettlement in American history,” according to Rice
Stephen Kleinberg in this Christian
Science Monitor article
– might end up much like Galveston did after the 1900
“Galveston today is a charming tourist and entertainment
destination, but it never returned to its old commercial
he writes. “In part, that’s because the leaders of
took one look at what the at what the hurricane had wrought and
concluded a barrier island might not be the best place to build the
major metropolis that a growing east central Texas was going to
While Baton Rouge residents worry the boom may be temporary until New Orleans is rebuilt, the aftermath of another deadly hurricane may point to a different outcome.
A devastating 1900 hurricane in Galveston, Texas, forced a massive exodus of people and businesses to what was then a small community: Houston. Now, Baton Rouge is competing head-to-head with Houston, the fourth-largest city, with a population of 2 million, for businesses that are thinking twice about returning to New Orleans.
Hurricane Katrina will be
remembered for a lot of things, from its unspeakable
devastation to its horrific
human toll to its virtual destruction of a major American
city to the miserably
bungled federal, state and local response
in its wake. But it will also be remembered for the profound
demographic, economic and social changes it created – not
along the Gulf Coast but nationwide – as it scattered
thousands of displaced people across the country in a matter of weeks
and permanently altered the urban hierarchy of the region, as cities
like Baton Rouge, Jackson, Shreveport and Houston absorbed the people
and businesses of New Orleans.The true effects of Katrina can only be
accurately evaluated in retrospect, but its hard not to believe that
this disaster will go down as one of the most monumental and pivotal
events in US history.
September 8, 2005
The future of New
the floodwaters are pumped out and the decomposing bodies are
collected, the slow and difficult task of rebuilding this ruined city
will begin. Amid the wall-to-wall media coverage of the aftermath of
Katrina – an event which will almost certainly go down as the
worst natural disaster in this nation’s history – a
deal of discussion regarding the future of New Orleans, and by
extension the entire Gulf Coast, is occurring. What will a rebuilt New
Orleans look like? Will it be able to retain its unique culture in the
wake of this calamity? How many people will return to the city? Should
the city, which sits below sea level, be rebuilt at all? These
questions have spawned numerous articles in numerous publications, from
Globe to the Chicago
Tribune to the Dallas
Morning News to USA
Today. Even local
bloggers are engaging in the discussion.
Most fundamentally, does it
make sense to spend billions of dollars to rebuild the flooded city at
all? Jack Shafer at slate.com says "no" while George
Friedman at stratfor.com
says “yes.” Friedman’s argument is that
“is a terrible place for a city to be located, but exactly
place where a city must exist” due to its location at the
of the Mississippi River. There needs to be a place where the river
barges carrying goods and materials from the Great Plains and the
Midwest are offloaded onto ocean-going vessels, and
The Port of New Orleans is critically important to our
economy, and for that reason the city that supports it will return,
“because it has to.”
Houston’s future, likewise, will almost certainly be different. A New York Times article (reprinted in the International Herald Tribune) declares that “no city in the United States is in a better spot to turn Katrina’s tragedy into opportunity” and notes that corporations are already moving their headquarters from New Orleans to Houston, even if only on a temporary basis. Added to this is the influx of tens of thousands of evacuees from New Orleans, many of whom are likely to stay. There will be a short-term economic boost as evacuated businesses fill vacant office space, evacuated residents fill empty residential space, and millions of dollars in federal aid for the displaced flows into Houston. The long-term economic, demographic and cultural effects of Katrina on Houston are less clear but are nonetheless likely to be positive. And the positive coverage Houston has received from the media regarding the city’s generousity and compassion for the victims of Katrina is likely to boost the city’s national image as well.
More lunacy from Randal
favorite libertarian nutcase from the Northwest has used the disaster
in New Orleans as an excuse to once again attack the bane of his
existence - urban rail systems. In his latest screed,
O'Toole points out that a large number of people were trapped in New
Orleans because they did not have access to an automobile and therefore
unable to evacuate before Katrina hit. He then goes on to argue that,
for the money New Orleans spent on its Riverfront and Canal streetcar
lines, a car could have been purchased for every impoverished, car-less
family in New Orleans instead.
There were a lot of areas of concern going into the season, and I am pleased with the play of at least one such area, the offensive line. While they weren't able to run block very well against Oregon's bigger and stronger defensive front, they did provide UH quarterback Kevin Kolb with ample protection. Towards the end of the game, when Kolb finally got sacked, I joked, "hey, there's the old Cougar o-line we know and love!" That old, fat, bald, ugly, buck-toothed, sanctimonous asshole who sits a few rows in front of me turned around and started bitching at me. Hey, moron, I was being FACETIOUS!
Too many dropped passes, however, and too many penalties. And the defense still needs to work on the fundamentals of tackling. But the season is young, this loss wasn't unexpected, and the Coogs' next opponent, Division I-AA Sam Houston State, shouldn't be as difficult.
August 30, 2005Yeah, so I've done a very poor job of updating this site. I've been busy. I'm hoping to use the Labor Day weekend to finally put up pictures of Kirby's first birthday party.
I really don't have anything to say about the carnage wrought by Katrina that hasn't already been said. The devastation is surreal. All of it occurred within a few hundred miles of my house. I haven't been able to wrap it around my mind as of yet.
Football season begins in a few hours. Given the events of the last few days, it's really very trivial by comparison, but I'm looking forward to kickoff regardless because football represents normalcy. I don't really expect the Coogs to upset Oregon this evening, but I'm at least hoping to see improvement where it is needed most - the offensive line, defense, special teams...
Links to Steve Casburn's blog and The Oil Drum have been updated. Given the fact that so much of the nation's refining capacity is offline and a gas crisis looms, the latter link is worth a frequent read.
August 1, 2005
I'm finally in the process of making some updates to this site; for example, I've updated several of my light rail system maps. This process will continue as I have time.
One item I usually put up on this site et about this time every year is my prediction for the upcoming University of Houston football season. But I'm having trouble trying to predict how well (or how poorly) the Coogs will do this year. Their schedule is a lot easier than last season, and that alone should indicate that they'll do better than the 3-8 record they posted in 2004, but they were such a disappointment last fall and there are so many problems plaguing the team (a weak o-line, a bad secondary, horrible special teams) that I really don't know to expect from the Coogs this time around. Hence, I probably won't try my hand at predicting the season this time around.
Lori has a dream: get this house in presentable condition so that we can host Kirby's 1st birthday here on August 21st. It will be a challenge; Lori and I really haven't done much work on this house since we moved in last spring and the place is still a mess. Wish us luck...