Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Stranglehold 2007

More like sleeperhold.

Since I'm typing here, you can guess that Austin emerged from Ice Storm 2007 (heretofore, IS2K7) unscathed. IS2K7 was the second of two largely overhyped events on my radar screen since the year 2007 began.

On Tuesday morning, I was told there would be snow. I stayed home from work for snow. Something snowlike fell from the sky for five minutes. It stopped. And then there was ice.

It took me, my wife, and two tiny ice scrapers about thirty minutes to get my truck out of this mess so I could get to work on Wednesday. Hardly any of my coworkers showed up, since the roads were still a bit icy. I think I worked about four hours that day.

Most of the ice was melted by Thursday, and Austinites slowly returned to business as usual. IS2K7 is history.

Thursday was the only 8-hour day I worked, last week.

Friday was Confederate Heroes Day [?], an optional state holiday for Texas state employees. So I exercised that option and spent most of the day at the auto shop while my truck was getting new brakes and other routine vehicle maintenance. I thought about states' rights while I waited in the "customer lounge."

The 140-day Texas legislative session began about 15 days ago, with overhyped event of the year #1--a contested race for election of the Speaker of the Texas House of Representatives; Republican vs. Republican, with the challenger looking like he had a good chance to unseat the incumbent. It was the most drama I've witnessed on the first day of the legislative session since I've been in the biz, and there was a palpable buzz all around the Capitol that day. The House gallery was packed with spectators. Folks at my office kept their eyes and ears peeled for any news on which candidate was gaining ground: we watched as long as we could on the House cable channel. And we waited and waited as the House members debated for hours just on the method by which they would nominate and vote for the Speaker candidates. At the end of the day, the challenger went down [in flames?], and that seemed to kill the momentum I felt was already building so early on in the session [generally, absolutely nothing happens on the first day or even the first week]. The Capitol complex was a ghost town, the next day. And our office lost all of it's buzz--and maybe we were hungover--not necessarily because folks wanted to see the incumbent Speaker to lose, but maybe because we just liked the idea of a "shake up" at the Capitol. As it turns out, there is still some political fallout that has yet to completely surface, and that should be quite enough drama to fuel the little political soap opera that keeps us entertained while we work many long days and late nights on less sexy legislative matters [e.g. the budget].

In the meantime [as we wait for that fallout], there haven't been many newsworthy goings on with the Lege. So the press has decided to pick up and roll with the story of Ted Nugent's gig at Governor Perry's inaugural ball, at which the Motor City Madman donned a shirt emblazoned with a Confederate battle flag and allegedly spouted some insensitive comments regarding non-English speaking immigrants. The Nuge proudly defends his right to display the rebel flag in shirt form but denies having uttered the alleged insensitive comments. At worst, he may have tried to lobby for crossbows for school children. But critics are still trying to make a big scandal out of Perry associating with a crazy, bow hunting, gun toting, rebel flag wearin' mofo. [I didn't know this, but apparently Rick and Ted are tight bros from way back]. The negative press should fizzle by the end of this month when the Lege starts taking up serious issues.

Personally, I think the zebra-striped cameltoe is way more offensive than the rebel flag getup.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Ice Storm 2007

Last weekend, local weather forecasters predicted that freezing temperatures and wintry precipitation would hit Austin by Monday evening or early Tuesday morning. The forecast held true, and, today, Austin has shut down.

So, first thing in the morning, I checked my work e-mail to see if my office was closing. The Texas Legislature convened, last Tuesday. So for the following 140 days, there wouldn’t be any likely circumstance under which my office would “officially” close. But almost all school districts and state agencies had announced that they would be closed due to the icy road conditions. However, I received no official notification that my office would be closed, today. I only received an e-mail encouraging me to use my best judgment in deciding whether or not to come in to work. My best judgment told me to stay home. I’m fairly certain only a few fearless [crazy] souls showed up to work, today.

The Governor’s inauguration and celebration still went on at its scheduled time but was held indoors in the House chamber rather than on the south steps of the Capitol as originally planned. An outdoor barbecue lunch was also planned to follow the inauguration. Apparently, they still had it outside but moved the event into some heated tents.

It’s hard to believe anyone in their right mind would schedule an outdoor event in the middle of January in most parts of the country. But 9 times out of 10, you’re going to have decent weather in Austin. That’s why the city shuts down almost completely when we have weather like today’s “Ice Storm” [read: light to medium sleet/very light snow]. Austinites are just not prepared for these conditions. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been out in wintry weather and seen someone wearing a jacket, knit cap, and flip-flops! [Note: I’ve also seen young hipsters wearing fashionable knit caps when it’s 70+ degrees outside in January—because it’s winter, yo!] And almost no one here knows how to drive on ice. So most employers just shut down business and take one day of zero productivity, now, rather than having a few weeks of low productivity, later, because most of their employees’ cars are in the body shop.

The day off of work has been nice [second day in a row after the MLK national holiday]. I’m amazed how quickly it’s gone by since I haven’t really done anything. I woke up; made breakfast; watched the Governor’s inauguration on TV; stared out the window at the sleet and snow; made lunch; stared out the window some more—only sleet this time; checked e-mail/surfed the web, and now I’m blogging. But it’s been the most relaxed day I’ve had in months, and I’m soaking it up. In a couple of weeks, work is going to be balls to the wall and will probably continue that way until the end of May. [I think I worked over 300 hours of overtime during the 2005 session.] This impromptu holiday is a welcome surprise.

From what I’ve read on the local news and blogs today, it appears that at least half of the Texas Legislature made it to town for the inauguration, and they intend to stay put due to the icy conditions. The question is whether or not they plan to get back to work at the Capitol, tomorrow. And what does that mean for me? The weather forecast calls for the sleet and snow to continue overnight and through noon on Wednesday, and road conditions will likely be worse than today.

Bring on the 5-day weekend!


Sunday, January 14, 2007

Be good to your kicker, and your kicker will be good to you.

This weekend's NFL divisional playoff games turned out to be more exciting than I had anticipated: three of the four games were decided by three points. In all four contests, the kicking game was crucial.

I was predicting a Chargers vs. Saints superbowl at the beginning of the week, but the Patriots came to San Diego and really gutted one out. Tom Brady probably played the worst playoff game of his career [mostly due to the Chargers agressive D], but he was able to pull out one last drive to get the Patriots in position for Stephen "Vinatieri Who?" Gostkowski's game winning field goal. Players of the game: Gostkowski [obviously]; Troy Brown for stripping the ball and forcing the fumble immediately after a San Diego interception to regain the Patriot's posession; and Marty Schottenheimer for challenging the official ruling on the obvious Troy Brown strip and blowing a time out that would have come in handy later. With the game tied and time running out, that allowed the Patriots to play it safe--run down the clock to about 1 minute left and attempt the field goal with the worst-case scenario being a missed field goal and going into overtime. The kick was good. Maybe if the Bolts had one extra time out, they could have put their kicker in a better position to tie the game [less than 54 yards out would have been nice]. I feel bad for the Chargers' loss after having such a great season. At the same time, I couldn't have been more thrilled with the Patriot's upset win. Sometimes you wonder if that team is really ever an underdog.

Now the Patriots will head out on the road, once again, to Indianapolis to play the Colts, who just upset the Baltimore Ravens by the grace and glory of Adam Vinatieri's leg [formerly property of the New England Patriots]. Wouldn't that be something if this AFC championship were to be decided by a game winning field goal?! My prediction: it's anybody's ball game.

What about the NFC side? Weather permitting, I think the Saints should be able to handle the Bears at Soldier Field. The lukewarm Seahawks offense was able to move the ball on the vaunted Bears' D. The Saints' offense has way more weapons than the Seahawks, and their defense should be able to force the Bears' Rex Grossman into making some bad QB decisions. But...the Saint's showed against the Eagles that they can give up some big plays. Still, I think the Saints should prevail.

Superbowl: Saints vs. ??????


Sunday, January 07, 2007

Romo is bleeding.

In the most spectacular fashion, the Cowboys snatched defeat from the jaws of victory [yet again]. Going into last night's wildcard game versus the Seahawks, I had already decided that I was okay with a Dallas loss. My attitude: let's just put this season out of it's misery. So...why did I even watch the game? I didn't watch the 'boys last two regular season games due to my own dashed hopes for the team. I guess I was just hard up for some football on Saturday evening, and Cowboys vs. Seahawks was the only gig in town.

Damn it if the Cowboys defense didn't play just good enough to rekindle a faint glimmer of hope. And late in the game, the offense started to click with some big runs from Julius Jones. But the Seattle D dug in their heels, forcing the Cowboys to go for the "chip-shot" field goal in the waning minutes of the fourth quarter. I turned to Mrs. Coda and said something like, "I don't feel too good about this field goal attempt." And the rest is history the way only the Cowboys could make it.

Laces OUT!!!!
Bloop goes the hold, and the 'boys turn it over on downs.
Just over a month ago, Romo seemed to be ascending quickly to complete the Cowboys holy trinity -- Staubach, Aikman, Romo[???]. Then December got really ugly when the 'boys lost their last three home games, including a loss to the lowly Detroit Lions with three Romo turnovers. Now he's responsible for the bobbled snap that will live in infamy. Sure, it wasn't all Romo's fault the 'boys lost, last night. But all he had to do was take the snap and put it down--just as if it was an extra point attempt! Ouch! It'll take a while for that sting to go away. The trip to Hawaii probably won't help.
On the bright side, I'm looking forward to some good football in the next few weeks. Patriots @ Chargers! Eagles @ Saints!