Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Which President was born in your state of birth?

Da Prez, originally uploaded by mightymerk.

Some things I found interesting:

#1 - Only 20 States have 'produced' Presidents of the United States.

#2 - Only 7 Presidents were born West of the Mississippi River.

#3 - Virginia is the "Mother of Presidents" because eight were born there, but none since Woodrow Wilson.

#4 - Six Presidents with the first name of James

#5 - Two father and son Presidential 'teams', John (2) and John Q. Adams (6), George H. (41) and George W. Bush (43). One Grandpa and Grandson 'team', William H. Harrison 99) and Benjamin Harrison (23).

Trivia time: The President gets to live in the White House, but do you know where the Vice President lives? Answer is at the bottom of this post (and for the record I never knew myself)
States that produced Presidents and in no particular order

Vermont - Chester A. Arthur, Calvin Coolidge

New Hampshire - Franklin Pierce

Connecticut - George W. Bush

Massachussets - John Adams, John Quincy Adams, John F. Kennedy, George H. Bush

New Jersey - Grover Cleveland

New York - Martin Van Buren, Millard Fillmore, Theodore Roosevelt, Franklin D. Roosevelt

Ohio - Ulysses S. Grant, Rutherford B. Hayes, James Garfield, Benjamin Harrison, William McKinley, William H. Taft, Warren G. Harding

Virginia - George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, James Monroe, William H. Harrison, John Tyler, Zachary Taylor, Woodrow Wilson

North Carolina - James K. Polk, Andrew Johnson

South Carolina - Andrew Jackson

Kentucky - Abraham Lincoln

Illinois - Ronald Reagan

Pennsylvania - James Buchanan

Arkansas - Bill Clinton

Missouri - Harry S. Truman

Iowa - Herbert Hoover

Nebraska - Gerald Ford

Texas - Dwight D. Eisenhower, Lyndon B. Johnson

California - Richard Nixon


Trivia Answer: The Vice President's House is on the grounds of the U.S. Naval Observatory in Wasington, D.C.

Posted by mightymerk, 6:29 PM | link | (1) comments |

Saturday, February 18, 2006

Losers Like Bryant Gumbel Keep Americans Tripping Over Themselves

Loser, originally uploaded by mightymerk.

Race in America is Topic-A once again.
OK, I didn't see this during its initial broadcast, so I was not one of those folks who were immediately offended. After reading/hearing about it for a full 24 hours now I have some comments.

For those of you who are not aware of the controversy, let me provide you with some details.

Bryant Gumbel (pictured above) is the host of a TV show on HBO, Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel. During his closing monologue about the Olympics he had this to say:

"Finally, tonight, the Winter Games. Count me among those who don’t like them and won’t watch them ... Because they’re so trying, maybe over the next three weeks we should all try too. Like, try not to be incredulous when someone attempts to link these games to those of the ancient Greeks who never heard of skating or skiing. So try not to laugh when someone says these are the world’s greatest athletes, despite a paucity of blacks that makes the Winter Games look like a GOP convention. Try not to point out that something’s not really a sport if a pseudo-athlete waits in what’s called a kiss-and-cry area, while some panel of subjective judges decides who won ... So if only to hasten the arrival of the day they’re done, when we can move on to March Madness — for God’s sake, let the games begin."

More than offended I am truly insulted that such a public figure, on a sports show of all places, finds yet another opportunity to race bait and political bash the American people. Yes Bryant Gumble has a history of this.

What was the purpose of such comments? Are the Winter Olympics just a waste? Is he bashing the winter olympics because they are primarily (though far from exclusively) white athletes? Is he bashing the GOP? Is ther any justification for any of it?

The bottom line is that this was not simply social commentary from Mr. Bryant. They were inflamatory statements that once again spark racial tensions and attempt to polarize Americans. Fact is that I enjoy watching the sport of snowboarding (primarily dominated by white athletes) as much as I do the the sport of American Football (primarily dominated by black athletes). Unless of course there is widespread discrimination within the sport I see no reason to discriminate between the racial component of each sport. Most Americans are like me Mr. Bryant.

In proper context, what could have been discussed quite possible is the reason why there are fewer African-American athletes on the U.S. Winter Olympic team as opposed to the Summer Olympic team. Of course though, Mr Gumbel would not be able to get in his biased views quite so easily as one would find that many African-Americans may not participate in Winter Sports (at the moment) simply out of racial/cultural preference. I also find it hard to believe that such a charge against the GOP is being made in this day in age, when
BY FAR the past 6 years has seen more African-Amerians work at the highest levels in government in the history of our nation. What some proof? Check out the members of Bill Clinton's cabinet (some call President Clinton the 'First Black President') versus that of George W's cabinet. Never before has there been as diverse a cabinet as there is today. Then there is such recent news as Lynn Swann for Governor.

This isn't to say that the history and struggle of Black in America should not be continually discussed. But it must be done so constructively and in proper modern context.

While Bryant Gumbel continues to live a fantastic life, by in large the due to non-racist whites,
his recent commentary, much like Rush Limbaugh's comments about Donovan McNabb, keep Americans focused on sparring with one another rather than being productive citizens. Good Job Mr. Gumble...you once again have helped no one other than yourself.

My advice to all is to recognize Mr. Gumbels
bumble for all it is worth, and move on. In the grand scheme he doesn't really matter to any of us anyway.

Posted by mightymerk, 6:46 AM | link | (5) comments |

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Happy Valentines Day!

anns-valentines, originally uploaded by mightymerk.

According to the legend, St. Valentine was beheaded on Feb. 14, at Rome, under Claudius. The old notion was that birds began to couple on that day, and hence arose the custom of young persons of both sexes choosing each other as 'Valentines' for the ensuing year by a species of lottery, and of sending love missives to each other.

One legend runs that Claudius II, believing that single men were better soldiers, forbid young men from marriage -- a decree that Valentine flouted by continuing to marry young lovers. Another version has Valentine rescuing Christians from Roman prisons, getting caught, falling in love with the jailer's daughter, and before being executed, sending her a love letter "from your Valentine."

No matter what the actual orgination is,l I have been a better person since allowing myself to love someone, to be selfless and not be be embarassed for it. Valentines Day for me is a warm experience and one that I treasure.

UPDATE: OMG, I just listened to Tina Turner's 'The Best' straight through on the way to work today!! Damn Cupid's Arrow!!

Posted by mightymerk, 4:21 AM | link | (0) comments |

Saturday, February 11, 2006

Life's Little Battles - The Weather Forecast

I was at the gas station earlier today. Filling my tank in expectation that the weathermen actually get it right and my area does in fact get dumped on by snow.

While filling up I was chatting with the gut at the pump which I normally do. He is a fellow from Egypt and is a very nice guy and goes by the name Avri (sp?). Folks like Avri are quite common where I live, as I have discussed in a previous entry; Of Yeah-mans and Yemens.

In any case we were discussing the pending snow and he asked me how much I thought we would get. Given the fact that I was born, bread and spread in New Jersey, having spent the last 25 years of my life at the Jersey Shore area I felt fairly qualified to make a prediction. The sky, the air and the 'feel' was that we would in fact get somewhere between 6"-12". After providing my prediction, Avri, went on to tell me that he felt we would not be getting any "real" snow, only a dusting. Perhaps feeling a little too comfortable or sure of himself, he went on to say that all the hysteria was created by "your corporations and business". "People go out and buy shovels and things for no reason, It is only to help business".

In some other context I might have been taken back by what he said but given the nature of the conversation, and the light heartedness for which it was said I can comfortably focus on the issue at hand. While it is certainly true that companies like the Home Depot, Wal - Mart etc. do benefit in the additional sales of snow shovels, road salt and de-icers (to name a few products), I am not quite sure how connected these companies are to the Weather Channel, the local weathermen on TV. Also, while such dire weather predictions are being made, does the increase in sales of these items outweith the potential in loss revenue? Does someone hold off from buying the new ourside door, lamp or paint because of such looming conditions?

We all have our conspiracy theories and Avri is no different (though in the back of my mind the genesis of his thinking would be a bit interesting). In reality there is no telling and I am not sure what the point of such a debate would be, so I disengaged from the conversation by saying "well let's just see, we will have to talk about it in a few days when I see you next". We both shook hands on it and I went my way.

With the snow expecting to arrive at approximately 4Pm time we both sit anxiously awaiting. If I am right, it's another imaginary feather in my cap for always being right. If Avri is right, well he just proved a local yahoo wrong and he has (perhaps) a working example to support his theory.

In any case I plan on locking myself up in the house after dinner, working the pot belly stove and sucking down the hot chocolate's. I also plan on taking measurements every few hours. That's just the way I am, especially when I engage in one of Life's Little Battles.

Check for periodic updates!

At about 2:45PM we began to get a wintry mix. Things were looking good and I was preparing my back for some serious shoveling.
At 5:25PM Though (the time of this entry), it now is mostly rain and I begin to remember some of the other things that Avri said. Something about how the birds are not huddling together. Some type of frontier meteorology? My pajamas are lined up on the bed. Of course if need be I shall wear them inside-out tonight. *thinking in my head that I can't possibley lose*

UPDATE #2: It is 7:30PM...Rain Rain Go Away, Come Back Some Other Day!! Could it be that there will be no snow? no snow men? no snow angels? no snow ball fights?
The best in the business are still backing mighty merk and predicting major snow...but at 0" accumulation...boy the fella from Luk Oil is sitting pretty! *thinking in my head how I could set myself up for such public embarassement?*

UPDATE #3: 10:00PM and all is wet! Accumulation is still at 0". Is Avri a Shaman of some sort?

UPDATE #4: 4:00AM on Sunday and It's On Baby!! After having gone to bed at 12:00AM with no snow, I woke from my sleep to see the Winter Wonderland outside. Official measurement at this point is 3", but it is still coming down fairly heavily. It appears that the pajama thing may have worked.

UPDATE #5: 10:15AM. Official measurement is anywhere from 6.5-8.5 inches (taken from several spots on my lawn (though after just getting done doing some shoveling my back says that it feels more like 20".) In any case it is still snowing fairly heavy and a full foot of snow still seems very much possible.
Posted by mightymerk, 9:21 AM | link | (1) comments |

2006 Olympics Begin

Agence/Zoom Getty Images, originally uploaded by mightymerk.

The XX Winter Olympics in Torino, Italy have begun. The opening ceremony took place last night. (the YMCA, Pavarotti and Yoko Ono all in one sitting).

The American squad has become more and more competitive in the Winter Games. The 2002 Olympic Games turned out the best performance ever for America, having won a whopping 34 medals (just one behind overall leader Germany).

While I will focus a more on hockey and skiing, my wife shall focus a little more on the figure skating, I have the additional treat of watching our daughter (who just picked up snowboard) anxiously staying up a little later each night to watch the snowboarding events. Those are her

May the games be competitive and clean, and may I somehow resist the urge to check the internet for results before they are broadcast on TV!
plans at least.
Posted by mightymerk, 5:28 AM | link | (0) comments |

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Presidential Pledge!

Elect me President and I will make "Zillion" a real number!

Are you endlessly frustrated, like me, that such a cool word has no actual monetary value?

Posted by mightymerk, 6:48 PM | link | (0) comments |

Monday, February 06, 2006

Happy for Harry

photo from Harry Carson.com, originally uploaded by mightymerk.

First, I just want to congratulate the Pittsburgh Steelers, the 2005 Super Bowl Champions!!

Speaking of Champions though I would like to comment on some equally significant football news that has a personal impact on me. I am speaking about the election of Harry Carson to the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

I have to give some background here:

I am a New York/New Jersey Football Giant fan. For those of you that might be confused as to why I also included New Jersey on that...well you would have to be a Giant fan to understand. Though it sounds very much like a cliche, Giants fans are truly the most devoted, passionate, loyal yet brutal fans in the world and yes, I am proud to be part of such a tribe. That said while the stories of today are about Eli Manning, Tiki Barber, Jeremy Shockey and Plaxico Burress, my foundation was laid with the likes of Lawrence Taylor, Phil Simms, George Marshall, Phil McConkey, Carl Banks, Joe Morris, Mark Bavaro, Gary Reasons, Lionel Manuel, Brad Van Pelt, Leonard Marshall and Harry Carson. At 32 years of age I know I am dating myself with some of these names, but when you have so many great memories attached to them, well you just never forget and in reality never stop reflecting on those times.

I was 'born' into the Giants. My father watched them religously. That meant every game, no exception. Giant Football was the only reason as to why on Sunday's we were able to watch TV while eating dinner. As I understand it my uncle was a co-founder of the True Blue, Giant Fan club. (stilly trying to verify this though). In fact when my uncle retired, Bill Bellicheck (just an assistant with the Giants) was at his retirement party in 1987. This same Uncle held season tickets, Jersey Gold as some call it, and would take me and my father to a few games over the course of my childhood. He would also take my middle brother to a few Giant vs. Cowboy games (somehow, despite the rich blue blood in the family, mine somehow squeaked out a Cowboy fan).

In any case I watched those games with my father, and looking back, more importantly I watched my father watch those games. I was born in 1973, but only have memories of professional football from about 1980 on. Those were some hard years for the Giants and their fans. I remember my father getting excited at the most meaningless touchdown. Meaningless because the game was often out of reach and the season long lost. When you are young your father is a god to you. And while watching those games with my father, I saw my father's gods. I remember the playoffs leading up to the Giant's first Super Bown win in 1986. Any real Giant would tell you that we knew this was going to be the year (we didn't just hope it was as we did in 1985). I went to work with my father (I was 13 at the time) and on the way home we stopped at the gas station where my father got his ritual after work coffee. There was a Giant's T-Shirt hanging over the register. The words BIG BLUE WRECKING CREW over a picture of the Giants Football helmet. Though my family was far from poor, my family also didn't have enough for little extras such as an 'impulse' buy of a Giants T-Shirt. My father bought me that shirt anyway (perhaps sacrificing a few future coffee's in the process). You could't punch the smile off my face and to this day I don't think I ever felt closer to my father. I am teary eyed thinking about this now.

The Giants went on to win the Super Bowl and my whole family (the Cowboy fan included) was in fantasic spirits. I saved the News Paper clippings about the win for years (only tossing them after some water damage). While I know my father would tell you that the happiest moments in his life were when he met my mother and had us (his children), I know this Super Bowl Victory meant a lot to him. In a way, life was complete for him.

Why I am Happy for Harry Carson:

I can't sit here and tell you that Harry Carson was my favorite Giant. No, like most of my time Lawrence Taylor my favorite, the guy I always tried to emulate when playing in the neighborhood. He was the headline guy.

What I will say is that NO Player has meant as much to the organization than Harry Carson. I repeat NO Player. Often times Harry Carson Lou Gehrig to Lawrence Taylor's Babe Ruth in terms of media and fan adulation, but never where it really mattered which was on the football field. When Harry was passed up for the Hall of Fame in years past he always handled it in a dignified manner, even when he began to dislike the process itself. When he criticized it though, he did so with great purpose. When it was announced to him this week, that yes in fact he was inducted he continued to handle himself as a champion and a person of great spirit by acknowledging right away he would in fact accept his induction into the hall.

A Pro Bowl selection for 9 out of the 13 seasons he played Harry Carson was always respected by his peers. To this day I can't see 53 without thinking of Harry Carson. I can't see Harry Carson without seeing my own jubiliant father. And while my father has since passed away, i still get that call from mom asking how the Giant's are doing. Some habits are hard to break. But that is probably because of all the great memories that came with those habits. Those memories of the New York Giants and Harry Carson.

Congratulations Harry!
Posted by mightymerk, 6:06 PM | link | (1) comments |

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

GW - Far from a Lame Duck President!

GW - Far from a Lame Duck President, originally uploaded by mightymerk.

I got to watch GW's speech in full last night. I purposely did not read any of the advance clippings of the speech, and given that there was some drama right before the speech, I though the President might have been in for a rough time.

To my pleasant surprise the President was at his best.

While many Americans will only focus on the failures of the administration (real or otherwise) I sat and listened to the speech as if I was a visitor from another country. As an active listener, I found the speech full of hope, vision, passion and
surprisingly very well articulated.

Appropriately so, he started the speech with a recollection and tribute to Coretta Scott King. I thought this line was particularly moving:

Tonight we are comforted by the hope of a glad reunion with the husband who was taken so long ago, and we are grateful for the good life of Coretta Scott King.

With regards to Iraq and the War on Terror and to answer his most damaging critics he quipped:

"hindsight alone is not wisdom and second-guessing is not a strategy"

Discussing the fact thatDemocracy is spreading throughout the Middle East, further in difficult to swallow doses such as the Hamas vitory in Palestine:
"Elections are vital, but they are only the beginning. Raising up a democracy requires the rule of law, and protections of minorities, and strong, accountable institutions that last longer than a single vote."
The Palestinian people have voted in elections. And now the leaders of Hamas must recognize Israel, disarm, reject terrorism, and work for lasting peace.

Some surprising agenda items that while however limited they have been, are certainly relevant and more importantly part of a vision of things to come:
"So tonight, I announce the Advanced Energy Initiative -- a 22-percent increase in clean-energy research at the Department of Energy, to push for breakthroughs in two vital areas,"

"To change how we power our homes and offices, we will invest more in zero-emission coal-fired plants; revolutionary solar and wind technologies; and clean, safe nuclear energy,"

Bush also announced what he called the "American Competitivness Initiative":
"to encourage innovation throughout our economy, and to give our nation's children a firm grounding in math and science."

"This funding will support the work of America's most creative minds as they explore promising areas such as nanotechnology, supercomputing and alternative energy sources,"

This was very much welcomed by yours truly. With two children of my own I do know that Americans have become far too comfortable with just being 'good' at math and scinence. Just 'average' engineers. We need to lead the way and our children need to be encouraged to do so at an early age. This was also welcomed warmly by the semi-conductor industry.

Of course a little humor that made everyone, sans Hillgary Clinton, laugh:

This year, the first of about 78 million baby boomers turn 60, including two of my Dad's favorite people -- me and President Clinton.

Other than the speech he gave post 9-11, I thought this was his best offering. He was mostly firm, relaxed and most importantly positive and upbeat. As opposed to being in a purely defensive posture, he explained the rational behind his thinking and actions. This was especially true when addressing the thinking behind his authorization to conduct warrantless 'wire-taps' and with the administrations evolving strategy in Iraq.

The most comforting sign was the fact that the President is still very much thinking about the future of Americans, especially young Americans and the world in general. While 'thoughts' of how he will be funding the building of his post-Presidential library may be in the back of his mind, at least he is still cutting a path for ALL Americans to follow.

Posted by mightymerk, 7:32 AM | link | (6) comments |