Wednesday, August 18, 2010

The Summer of 2010 !

The summer of 2010 was pretty spectacular. We started the summer with a "100 years of living" extravaganza/party in May celebrating our respective 50th birthdays. The party was highlighted by our daughter Rachel singing a couple of songs with the band which was comprised of 2 current members of the Long Players. The bartenders were our son, Houston,  and his college age friends. It was a very memorable evening complete with great food and great people.

Shortly thereafter, we set out on a week long sailing "barefoot"  cruise in the Caribbean on a 46 foot yacht captained by our good friend Kemper Harr. Our two families met up in Atlanta and flew down to St. Thomas, then picked up our boat in Tortola. What a spectacular week--waking up on board, raising the sails, and cruising to different spots---where unusually personable restaurants and bars awaited us around the islands. The water and weather were perfect for early June.

After settling back into Nashville for a few days, we were off again to Baton Rouge to support Houston's final club soccer tournament with KFC (Knoxville Futbol Club) in the Regionals. This trip was a bookend on a fabulous club soccer career for our son. He played ten years, and was the recipient of many awards, honors, and accolades. Not many kids make it to the U-19 level, where competition is fierce. In fact, only 12 boys from the entire state of Tn made it this far. Club soccer paved the way for Houston to received a full scholarship to play soccer at the collegiate level Division One--at the University of Richmond.

So it was with some emotion that we exited this tourney after 3 games, thus ending the club soccer years. Our "Shaggin Wagon" Ford Van rolled into Nashville with over 110K miles. Rarely used for anything other than family soccer (and SGI) trips, we wonder what will become of that old van. Tons of memories.

As July 4th approached, we packed up again and made our annual pilgrimage to our cabin on Center Hill Lake for the fabled Smithville Jamboree weekend with our good friends Alice and Sammy Taylor and family. We had all of our toys, the 21 ft. Sea Ray, the Sea Doo, and all the extras for our dock just below our place. We are fortunate to have one of the few docks on the lake whereby we can assemble, and distribute according to age, interest, and what not. Plenty of activities abounded, as other friends would come and go on their boats as well. The Jamboree was highlighted by plenty of gospel singing in back of the Courthouse away from the stage.  I missed the 5k this year, but others ran it on Saturday morning. The Hurricane Marina folks put on a great fireworks show to cap off the 4th.

Not too long thereafter, our final official trip of the summer commenced towards St. George Island, where we co-own a house with our good friends, Chip and Mary Loch Smith. This was to be an Oldham/ Smith reunion, as our two families had not traveled together for at least 2 years. The trip got off to a rough start, as we had to put down our beloved dog of 10 years, Emma, the great Golden, on the morning of our departure. Things just weren't totally right for several days after that, but because of the great understanding and empathy of the Smiths', they made our trip fabulous as usual to this special area of Florida. The wildlife and nature that exists in this cozy spot off the coast of Apalachicola is simply amazing. We were visited daily by an Osprey about 5 pm looking for dinner and flying peacefully up and down the coast. Tons of dolphin each day. And plenty of freshly caught grouper and snapper. We took our bikes this year and did a 30 mile ride from one end of the island to the other. Good stuff. And we had 7 kids/ young adults on this trip, so there was always something happening around Angel Wing. We ended our trip to SGI with our annual "Beach Olympics", highlighted by beach volleyball, beach soccer, and beach football, all played back to back with frequent trips to the oil free Gulf.

Other fabulous tidbits from the summer included watching almost every World Cup game with Houston and an assortment of his friends and cheering on the USA, who ultimately folded in an incredible line up snafu against Ghana.  "Monday Funday" became a staple around our house with Houston's college age friends showing up to play beer pong on Monday nights. We had to call of this epic night of fun eventually as high school kids would wander in, eager to find a parent friendly alcohol is okay zone. Sorry guys. Rachel and her friends had many sun filled days around the pool and listening to loud music, thanks to the newly installed outdoor rock speakers around our oh so cool patio and deck. Houston is becoming quite a chef and cooked dinner frequently for us and his friends.

Finally, the summer of 2010 faded and as we made plans for school, we picked up and rescued two puppies to join our family and to try to replace the hole left by Emma's quick demise. So we welcome "Indie" and "Leo" in mid August. The emptiness of the house with kids back in school will hopefully be offset by these two little hell raising puppies.  What a great summer. Thanks be to God.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

I could not have said it better myself--commentary by Dan Le Batard

Did you see that? Did you call your friends? Did you hug strangers? Did you share?This is why we love games. This is why we invest and care and cry and scream and get angry -- for the one breathtaking moment that Landon Donovan gave us Wednesday, when a little balding guy summoned the strength to lift our big country and give the United States a 1-0 victory against Algeria to advance in the World Cup.
There is nothing better in sports than patriotism. But hope is pretty close. And winning, too. And they all merged with that soccer ball in front of an empty net in the 91st minute over in South Africa. The feeling Donovan's foot then produced, in a blink, was so enormous that you could feel the ripples of reverberation from a world away.
Over here, bars and offices erupted with joyous noise, and grown men wept. Most of life is not lived in this arena, of course. Most of life is bills and responsibilities and bosses and oil spills, and we need vacations from all that. But games, in moments like this one, allow us to exist and emote on a different and higher plane, living vicariously through that team's bond, which can grow so large that it allows us to wrap even something as big as our entire country in something as small as a single flag.
It is why America spends so much money and invests so much more emotion on sports -- to escape, to vacation from life in this magical paradise. How often does anything outside of sports make you scream at a television or dance around your couch or jump up and down? Think about that for a second. You scream if you win the lottery or dance when your children are born. But you do it all the time in sports, from quarter to quarter, game to game, season to season, with something that isn't even really yours. Donovan won the lottery Wednesday, not us. Donovan's teammates are his joyous family, not us. But that's the beauty of sports in moments like this: It can make all things feel so much larger, turning ``us'' into ``U.S.''
It doesn't last, of course. Heck, real life flooded in, too, immediately on Wednesday, the news of Lawrence Taylor's underage-rape indictment breaking with urgency into ESPN's joy coverage before the fans had even left the stadium. Locally, the talk was the unfair firing of Marlins Manager Fredi Gonzalez. But chasing this kind of moment -- hoping, praying, believing it will come -- is what keeps us coming back to the arena even though there is always this kind of garbage strewn around it.
The lows, believe it or not, can be pretty good, too, and make the highs all the better. That's why Pat Riley always returns to coaching -- because Game 7, even when you lose it, makes you feel more alive than you ever can behind a desk. For 91 minutes Wednesday, you could feel the low that was coming -- jokes and mockery and anger about how dreadful soccer is for never producing a goal. This tournament was about to be a disaster for American soccer (not just this team but this movement), and its endless quest to lure the ADD sports fan who wants more florescent scoring. We were going to be eliminated from this tournament with a third consecutive tie -- and a 0-0 one at that. That's right. Playing three games without getting a single win or loss. So lame.
But then, just like that, in the one breathtaking moment we all visit this arena to chase, anger and frustration and disgust evaporated into an uncommon and sudden and shared joy. That doesn't happen very often in real life, not outside the arena, not like that. After so much boredom and 0-0, against the odds and the refs and the other countries, keeper Tim Howard threw the ball from his own box, and the panicked and desperate American team blurred down the field, and the game was broken open like a heart loving for the first time. From one second to the other, we went from being eliminated from the world's largest tournament to being one of only 16 countries promised more life just like this.
And here's the coolest thing of all:
This isn't the finish line.
It is merely the starting point.
Now is when this thing starts getting good.
Because we already have all the coolest things in sports -- patriotism and hope and winning.
And now we have the underdog, too.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

USA Wins in Stunning Fashion in Stoppage Time!

As a huge fan of the 2010 World Cup with a particular love for the boys in the Red, White, and Blue, today's game will be forever indelibly marked in my mind as the most tense, gut wrenching, dramatic, and ultimately fabulous match I have ever watched in my life. Our guys played a great game in every phase, and had another good goal called back around the 20 minute mark. We passed well, defended well, and had great energy on the ball. We could just not find the back of the net. And so the minutes kept ticking by....One great play after another would end with a great shot, a great save, or a goal kick. We could not convert on our corners or free kicks. The frustration kept mounting. We dominated the contest. Algeria was a formidable foe though, and their hearts were in at as well to play spoiler. They really didn't play to win, as much as they played to not lose. There were several yellow cards, and the game became increasingly physical. Dempsey had to sit out for a few with a bleeding cut on his lip from an errant elbow. The 70th minute ticked by, then the 75th, already the 80th minute and our World Cup dreams were starting to dim. Because England was beating Slovenia, our hopes to go through would be dashed if our game ended in a tie. We master minded drive after drive, still no score. 85th minute, 87th minute and I could not sit down any longer. My stomach was in a knot, I paced the floor. Stoppage time. 4 extra minutes. In the 91st minute, Tim Howard stopped a nice header from Algeria and literally threw the ball across the half line to a sprinting Landon Donovan, who passed to Jose Altidore. Jose dished it back off and in comes a sprinting Donovan who nails the ball in the back of the net! GOOOOAAAALLL!  No offsides, no errant call! USA WINS. WOW

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

Drilling for Oil must go on--

Regular readers of this blog know that I have been a proponent of offshore drilling for oil and natural gas for many reasons while we collectively (both private industry and government) continue to invest in  alternative sources of energy.  The main reason is that our country runs on oil. Period. No, make that an exclamation mark. We continue to fund rogue governments and to create political instability by enriching nations that do not like the USA--when buying their oil. Anything we can do to stop or reduce our dependence on imported oil should be a high priority of this administration, future administrations, and every state where there are proven oil reserves.

Environmentally speaking, this stance is very unpopular right now given the absolute unfolding disaster on the Gulf Coast, which is near and dear to all of our hearts here in the SouthEastern USA. How incredible that the Horizon well blew out on April 20th, 2010, Earth Day. How amazing that that just 3 weeks previous to the Horizon disaster, President Obama actually increased permissable oil drilling off our shores. Is that not just absolutely incredible ? Does the USA just not have any luck when it comes to becoming energy independent? How long will the Gulf Coast disaster impede drilling? Will the oil slick ruin tourism, the seafood industry, and destroy estuaries? All of us sincerely hope not for many reasons on many different levels.

I call to your attention an article written and posted by the Governor of Alaska, home of the 1989 Valdez accident. His state wants to do more drilling and to do more for our energy independence. This article is very important in that it shows how resilient we are in this country and how this too shall pass in the Gulf. Not to take away from the fact that this is a major environmental disaster in the making and I am very disturbed for the people on the Gulf Coast, and for me, a homeowner on the Gulf Coast.  But we knew the risks. We knew there could be a disaster. Now we have to deal with it. But drilling for oil must continue. Please read this article posted in the Wall Street Journal:

The Gulf Spill and Alaska

We see signs that the Obama administration wants to use the disaster to shut down oil production even in the safest areas.

Juneau, Alaska
In Alaska we empathize with residents of the Gulf states who are watching with trepidation as the potentially catastrophic oil spill continues unchecked. This tragedy reminds us of the fallout, both financial and environmental, that we still feel here from the 1989 Exxon Valdez spill. State and federal studies still find lingering subsurface oil, for example, and the herring fishery has yet to fully rebound. But just as Alaskans did not abandon our belief in responsible petroleum exploration and development after that disaster, Americans cannot afford to take their eyes off the ball now.

As I noted in these pages last year, responsible offshore oil and gas production, particularly off Alaska's coast, has to be a critical component of our long-term energy security strategy—and so too does responsible onshore domestic production. Yet there are troubling signs that the Obama administration is attempting to stifle—particularly in my state—the critical onshore component of America's ability to produce its own energy.
The coastal plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) holds up to 16 billion barrels of recoverable oil. While this area was set aside by Congress in 1980 for later consideration of whether to permit oil and gas production there, a federal agency is now undertaking a "review" of the management plan of the refuge—a review that seems aimed at laying the groundwork for a wilderness designation that would bar production.
But it is not only ANWR that the Obama administration seems intent on locking up. Federal agencies are also now blocking oil development in the National Petroleum Reserve—Alaska.

Although familiar with ANWR, most Americans are less likely to know about NPR-A and how vital it is to our energy security. Given recent developments, it's time to elevate the position this area holds in our national discourse.
NPR-A, a 23 million acre stretch of Alaska's North Slope, was set aside by President Warren Harding in 1923 for the specific purpose of supplying our country and military with oil and gas. Since 1976 it has been administered by the Department of the Interior, and since 1980 it has been theoretically open for development. The most recent estimates indicate that it holds 12 billion barrels of oil and 73 trillion cubic feet of natural gas.
In addition to containing enormous hydrocarbons, NPR-A is very close to the Trans-Alaska Pipeline, which means that there would be relatively little additional infrastructure needed to bring this new oil to our domestic market.
But even here, progress has been stalled.
For more than five years, the state of Alaska has worked closely with major energy companies, local communities and Alaska Native corporations and tribes on a balanced development plan. To back this project, these entities have formed a rare coalition and made significant compromises, often at the behest of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, to clear regulatory hurdles for development on a site in NPR-A known as CD-5.
But this February the Corps reversed course and denied the issuance of a critical permit for CD-5. Specifically, the Corps denied ConocoPhillips's request to build a bridge over a river to accommodate a pipeline and vehicles that can access the company's existing production facilities at the nearby Alpine field. The Corps decreed that the bridge shouldn't be built and that the pipeline should proceed under water, a course of action that would significantly undermine the economics of the project while posing a greater risk to the environment.

Alaska stands ready to help move the nation closer to energy independence, and it's a shame that the federal government is standing in the way. The Corps's own regulations emphasize that state and local governments have primary responsibility for land-use decisions and that their views should be given due consideration. But not only has the Corps rejected a critical permit, it did so without consideration of our concerns—on the overly technical grounds that the state's comments were not made under my signature and that my oral comments to Corps officials were not in writing.

After years of cooperatively trying to move this critical NPR-A project forward, such a backhanded dismissal of a state's position is troubling enough. But what we really fear is that this is part of a much broader agenda at play (directed by the antidevelopment Environmental Protection Agency) to shut down increased domestic oil and gas production even in places like the NPR-A. As Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski stated in a recent address to our legislature, "For heaven's sakes, if we can't drill in the National Petroleum Reserve—an area specifically designated by Congress for oil and gas production—where can we drill?"

The state of Alaska is seeking to join an administrative appeal of this misguided federal decision. If we are not satisfied with the outcome of this proceeding, we will pursue other means, including suing the federal government to ensure that it abides by its own regulations and does not make arbitrary and capricious decisions at the expense of state sovereignty and wise energy policy.
America, particularly in Alaska, has vast reserves of onshore and offshore oil and gas. The crisis in the Gulf should not be used to implement a misguided strategy that shuts down the opportunities to develop these resources and that further endangers our nation's long-term energy security.
Mr. Parnell, a Republican, is governor of Alaska.

Thursday, May 06, 2010

For Flood Relief, Help a friend or friend of a friend

For those of us who live in southwest Nashville, close to the Harpeth River, it shouldn't be difficult to find a friend or a friend of a friend in need of help or assistance. We have many friends who suffered water damage particularly in Bellevue, but also up and down Hillsboro Rd towards Franklin. Even our church, Harpeth Presbyterian, suffered water damage through out the building and into the sanctuary. I've heard about the telethons, the radio-thons, and the foundations being started for flood relief, and I support those who wish to give to those organizations. But for me, this natural disaster hit very close to home and so finding someone who needs financial help or a helping hand has not been difficult. However, at the same time, I wonder where and how the telethon funds are distributed. From ground zero, people need new walls, flooring, carpet, and furniture. There is no flood insurance for many victims of this disaster.

A friend of mine in the insurance business said that in 2009 there were $250,000 total claims for flooding in the greater Nashville area. Early estimates by Mayor Dean predict at least $1.5 billion in damages from the Great Flood of 2010.  My friend's company is very prominent locally, and admittedly, he and his staff are having a hard time getting up to speed on processing claims, and the nuances of what is covered and what is not covered. Most policies cover the dwelling but not the contents. So structural repairs are covered, but nothing else like appliances, furniture, and anything else considered "content". One of the telethons is benefitting the Salvation Army.  A fine organization, but how can they help homeowners in Franklin or Bellevue? And as a Board member of Second Harvest Food Bank, I love SHFB! But the problem is not food oriented here in these areas, it's home oriented.  Personally, I donate generously to Second Harvest year in and year out, but as for these telethons, I believe that giving of your time, and your resources to help a friend recover or to help a homeowner in need of buying new items for his or her home after flooding is the best way to help.

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

How Bad is the Gulf Oil Spill? This may surprise you

Sorry about my recent slant towards re-printing or rather, re-posting of articles without blogging much about them. Sort of defeats the purpose of blogging, no? If someone has the resources to investigate and to write an article that is this comprehensive, however, I applaud them and really can't add much to the conversation I'm having with myself (and you). So anyway, credit this article to the New York Times and Leslie Kaufman in New Orleans.

The oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico is bad — no one would dispute it. But just how bad?
Some experts have been quick to predict apocalypse, painting grim pictures of 1,000 miles of irreplaceable wetlands and beaches at risk, fisheries damaged for seasons, fragile species wiped out and a region and an industry economically crippled for years.
President Obama has called the spill “a potentially unprecedented environmental disaster.” And some scientists have suggested that the oil might hitch a ride on the loop current in the gulf, bringing havoc to the Atlantic Coast.
Yet the Deepwater Horizon blowout is not unprecedented, nor is it yet among the worst oil accidents in history. And its ultimate impact will depend on a long list of interlinked variables, including the weather, ocean currents, the properties of the oil involved and the success or failure of the frantic efforts to stanch the flow and remediate its effects.
As one expert put it, this is the first inning of a nine-inning game. No one knows the final score.
The ruptured well, currently pouring an estimated 210,000 gallons of oil a day into the gulf, could flow for years and still not begin to approach the 36 billion gallons of oil spilled by retreating Iraqi forces when they left Kuwait in 1991. It is not yet close to the magnitude of the Ixtoc I blowout in the Bay of Campeche in Mexico in 1979, which spilled an estimated 140 million gallons of crude before the gusher could be stopped.
And it will have to get much worse before it approaches the impact of the Exxon Valdez accident of 1989, which contaminated 1,300 miles of largely untouched shoreline and killed tens of thousands of seabirds, otters and seals along with 250 eagles and 22 killer whales.
No one, not even the oil industry’s most fervent apologists, is making light of this accident. The contaminated area of the gulf continues to spread, and oil has been found in some of the fragile marshes at the tip of Louisiana. The beaches and coral reefs of the Florida Keys could be hit if the slick is captured by the gulf’s clockwise loop current.
But on Monday, the wind was pushing the slick in the opposite direction, away from the current. The worst effects of the spill have yet to be felt. And if efforts to contain the oil are even partly successful and the weather cooperates, the worst could be avoided.
“Right now what people are fearing has not materialized,” said Edward B. Overton, professor emeritus of environmental science at Louisiana State University and an expert on oil spills. “People have the idea of an Exxon Valdez, with a gunky, smelly black tide looming over the horizon waiting to wash ashore. I do not anticipate this will happen down here unless things get a lot worse.”
Dr. Overton said he was hopeful that efforts by BP to place containment structures over the leaking parts of the well will succeed, although he said it was a difficult task that could actually make things worse by damaging undersea pipes.
Other experts said that while the potential for catastrophe remained, there were reasons to remain guardedly optimistic.
“The sky is not falling,” said Quenton R. Dokken, a marine biologist and the executive director of the Gulf of Mexico Foundation, a conservation group in Corpus Christi, Tex. “We’ve certainly stepped in a hole and we’re going to have to work ourselves out of it, but it isn’t the end of the Gulf of Mexico.”
Engineers said the type of oil pouring out is lighter than the heavy crude spilled by the Exxon Valdez, evaporates more quickly and is easier to burn. It also appears to respond to the use of dispersants, which break up globs of oil and help them sink. The oil is still capable of significant damage, particularly when it is churned up with water and forms a sort of mousse that floats and can travel long distances.
Jacqueline Savitz, a senior scientist at Oceana, a nonprofit environmental group, said that much of the damage was already taking place far offshore and out of sight of surveillance aircraft and research vessels.
“Some people are saying, It hasn’t gotten to shore yet so it’s all good,” she said. “But a lot of animals live in the ocean, and a spill like this becomes bad for marine life as soon as it hits the water. You have endangered sea turtles, the larvae of bluefin tuna, shrimp and crabs and oysters, grouper. A lot of these are already being affected and have been for 10 days. We’re waiting to see how bad it is at the shore, but we may never fully understand the full impacts on ocean life.”
The economic impact is as uncertain as the environmental damage. With several million gallons of medium crude in the water already, some experts are predicting wide economic harm. Experts at the Harte Research Institute for Gulf of Mexico Studies in Corpus Christi, for example, estimated that as much as $1.6 billion of annual economic activity and services — including effects on tourism, fishing and even less tangible services like the storm protection provided by wetlands — could be at risk.
“And that’s really only the tip of the iceberg,” said David Yoskowitz, who holds the endowed chair for socioeconomics at the institute. “It’s still early in the game, and there’s a lot of potential downstream impacts, a lot of multiplier impacts.”
But much of this damage could be avoided if the various tactics employed by BP and government technicians pay off in the coming days. The winds are dying down and the seas are calming, allowing for renewed skimming operations and possible new controlled burns of oil on the surface. BP technicians are trying to inject dispersants deep below the surface, which could reduce the impact on aquatic life. Winds and currents could move the globs of emulsified oil away from coastal shellfish breeding grounds.
The gulf is not a pristine environment and has survived both chronic and acute pollution problems before. Thousands of gallons of oil flow into the gulf from natural undersea well seeps every day, engineers say, and the scores of refineries and chemical plants that line the shore from Mexico to Mississippi pour untold volumes of pollutants into the water.
After the Ixtoc spill 31 years ago, the second-largest oil release in history, the gulf rebounded. Within three years, there was little visible trace of the spill off the Mexican coast, which was compounded by a tanker accident in the gulf a few months later that released 2.6 million additional gallons, experts said.
“The gulf is tremendously resilient,” said Dr. Dokken, the marine biologist. “But we’ve always got to ask ourselves how long can we keep heaping these insults on the gulf and having it bounce back. As a scientist, I have to say I just don’t know.”

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Gulf Oil Spill

For those few of you who read this blog, just recently I posted about how oil exploration should be expanded and enlarged through out the Gulf Coast region. The premise was that our way of life is in jeopardy as the world's supply of oil recedes and is in decline. We need to continue to explore just to maintain our way of life in our 21st century culture. At the same time, I advocate for alternative energy research and development, while decrying activists who demonstrate on beaches, while forming "hands across the sand" in opposition to off shore oil exploration.

Score one for the activists. The Transocean (RIG) contracted by BP that caught fire and is leaking 5000 barrels of oil into the Gulf is a natural disaster of immense proportions.  The State of Louisiana just declared a "disaster zone" on the coast line. The slick is expected to hit land tomorrow or Saturday and to impact beaches, seafood breeding grounds, and the coastline in general.

What awful timing just as President Obama announced 3 weeks ago his plans to expand offshore drilling for oil. However, I still strongly advocate offshore drilling---these are the last known reserves of oil out there, and we need to find oil in this hemisphere---and stop relying on the Middle East and other politically unstable areas of the world.

While I am sensitive to wildlife and the ocean ecosystem, it will take a lot more than this to dissuade me from advocating offshore oil drilling. Granted, we took a chink in the armor this last week, and I am watching the updates and reports carefully. All week, the news of the oil spill was not top of the list in any on line or printed pub. Look for that to change over the next few days.