Venezuela, July 1990 Travelogue

Avensa

Airport at Baraquisimeto, Venezuela

Back in the summer of 1990, I traveled to Venezuela with some friends whose close friends lived there. These friends lived in a remote sleepy province Southwest of Caracas.  There wasn’t much to do there so we traveled quite a bit to various spots from Merida to Caracas.  It’s all a bit of blur for me now and I don’t have many surviving pictures to remind me of the adventure, but I did stumble across a travel journal I kept on the trip.  Some of my notes are unintelligible, and some, silly and immature, but what the heck, I thought I would post a few of my musings of nearly 25 years ago, lightly edited. 

  • There is a town close to San Felipe called Moron.  I wonder if the locals are called Morons?
  • Altura maxima permitida 3.9m – I’m not sure if that means duck, or no worries. I should have learned the metric system.
  • The buses here look like customized bread trucks. 
  • Everywhere I look, green, green, green, everything is green and they say it’s winter here.
  • Many tree trunks are painted white to protect against bugs.  Back home, I thought painting trunks was some kind of patriotic display.
  • The sun is more intense closer to the equator, make no mistake about it – we are closer to the equator. 
  • For $50,000 U.S. dollars, a person could buy a mansion here.
  • The Texas Rangers are called the Texas Rancheros.  And Philadelphia is spelled phonetically – Filadelfia, the way it should be. 
  • Hours after watching the World Cup championship match in which Alemania defeated Argentina 1-0, 4 of us were sitting around a table talking and out of the blue, one of Juan’s friends said. “You look like Klinsmann!”  (Jurgen Klinsmann, the West German footballer). I wasn’t sure if it was an insult or compliment.
  • The backs of all trucks read: Carga Larga.
  • Juan bought a sack of empanadas de pescado for 100 Bolivares, or about $2.00 U.S. Dollars.  Had there been more, I would have eaten more than 2.
  • Polar is the Venezuelan champagne of beers; Belmont Extra Suave, the Venezuelan Marlboro Light.
  • There sure are some nice arboles along these roads with curvas peligrosas.

Ribbie on Evolution, Student Loan Debt, Women in Politics and Other Issues

IMG_1437

Ribbie recently appeared on the Joel Hibernia show, a fictional radio broadcast featuring obscure bloggers.

JH: What do you think about income inequality?

Rib: I’m not a fan.  The government should increase the tax rates on the wealthiest, close corporate loopholes, raise the minimum wage, allow the IRS to do the filer’s taxes for free if the filer so pleases and allow people to pay higher taxes if they wish.  Last, I would cut military spending significantly even beyond the scheduled sequester cuts.

JH: Students are drowning in student loan debt.

Rib: This is true. Some of those loans should be forgiven if a student enters the field of public service upon graduation. This would include teachers, social workers, government workers, counselors, librarians, musicologists, ethnographers, anthropologists, bloggers, writers, birders, wine critics, environmentalists and all English majors.

JH: English majors?

Rib: Sure.  They should be drowning in literature, not debt.

JH: Is climate change a hoax?

Rib: Only to those who don’t believe in science. I happen to believe in science.

JH: What are your thoughts on the polar vortex?

Rib: I like it actually.  I have a coat made out of polar vortex and I tell you it’s much warmer than goose down or thinsulate.

JH: On the issue of science and religion, should creationism be taught alongside evolution?

Rib: Creationism is a religious question, so I would say that only evolution should be taught in science class.  I think creationism should be discussed in Sunday school or in an elective course on creation myths.  In high school, I would recommend that the play, “Inherit the Wind” be taught in English class and the questions of religion and science be critically discussed and debated.

JH: Is America ready for a woman to be president?

Rib: Well, we should be.  And I don’t know why it has taken so long.  As we speak, 19 women are presidents or prime ministers of countries, countries such as Germany, Chile, Argentina, Brazil, Bangladesh, South Korea, Norway, Jamaica, Malawi, Denmark and Thailand.  And many more countries in the past have elected or appointed women as heads of state like Panama, England, Iceland, Ireland, Nicaragua, Switzerland, India, Indonesia, and Liberia, to name a few.

JH: What would you do about Vladimir Putin?

Rib: I would broker a deal so that Russia would withdraw from Ukraine in exchange for its pledge not to join NATO.  And Putin would be invited to be a guest host of Saturday Night Live with special musical guests, the band, Pussy Riot.

JH:  That would be a riot.

Rib: And that was a joke.

JH:  Putin doesn’t like jokes.

Rib: True, in his way of thinking, jokes are a sign of weakness and designed to disarm, something he is not likely to do anytime soon.

JH:  What do you think about the world cup?

Rib:  Not much.  A sport in which hands are not permitted strikes me as odd.

JH:  Well, it is called football.

Rib: It is true to its name, except that you can also use your head.

JH: Good point.

Georgetown Wins the NDT…AGAIN!

Here’s a trivia question you might not be able to answer.  What is the fastest “sporting” competition in the world?  Ping Pong? Wrong.  Formula 1 racing? Not even close.  Here’s a hint.  500 per minute.  Do you give up?  Try speaking 500 words a minute.  No, it’s not a spelling bee of auctioneers.  The answer is college debate, policy debate to be exact.  Unless you are part of the debate community at the high school or collegiate level, you may never have heard a “proper” debate.  They aren’t televised very often if at all.  You’ll not hear one on the radio dial.  And they are nothing like the presidential debates, in fact they are far more demanding and intellectual stimulating if you can follow or as debaters might say, flow the arguments.  The problem isn’t that an average educated American couldn’t understand the arguments, although they are often nuanced and developed.  The problem is that the average American could not understand someone speaking 500 words a minute.  Yes, 500, that’s not a typo. That’s some Fast Talk indeed and I’m not sure which is more impressive – someone who can speak that fast or someone who can understand someone speaking that fast.  In any event, it’s not gibberish – debaters make sense to one another and the judges evaluating the rounds, who most often are debate coaches who themselves once debated competitively.

So, what’s up in the debate world these days? Well, this:  the Georgetown team of Andrew Arsht and Andrew Markoff (the Andrews as they are called), also known as Georgetown AM, won their second National Championship in the last three years at the National Debate Tournament, the most prestigious, invitation only, collegiate tournament in the United States.  Who did they beat? A formidable opponent from the University of Michigan – Ellis Allen and Alex Pappas, who earlier in round 7 of the prelims defeated Georgetown AM.  These teams were evenly matched and had each defeated the other in their two previous meetings.  Georgetown AM defeated Michigan AP in quarters at Georgia State University and lost to them in prelims at Dartmouth.

Like the NCAA basketball tournament, the NDT has brackets, seedings and the like, only they start with 80 teams and play more games or rounds as they are called.  In fact, preliminaries consist of 8 rounds over the course of two days.  The teams with the best records advance to the break rounds  where it is one and done from there on out: doubles, octofinals, quarterfinals, semifinals and the final round.  This year, the debate final four consisted of teams noted for their research and prowess at the podium:  Oklahoma, Harvard, Michigan and Georgetown.

With three teams qualifying for the tournament, team Oklahoma dominated in the preliminary rounds.  The tandem of Rashid Campbell and Chris Lee went 8-0 in prelims, actually beating the eventual champs, Georgetown AM, in Round 8. Rashid Campbell went on to win the top speaker award of the tournament and earned a perfect score of 30 points on three of the 24 ballots awarded during prelims.  Campbell and his partner, George Lee, advanced to the semifinal round. By the way, a ballot is the judges scorecard of the debate. There are three judges in each of the prelim rounds.  Campbell and Lee won 23 of 24 ballots in their first 8 rounds, a fairly spectacular feat.  To put the perfect scores in perspective, each of the 160 debaters in the tournament receive speaker points from each of the three judges in each of the first 8 rounds.  All told, there were approximately, 3,840 scores given to all the competitors and there were only 7 perfect ones awarded.  Vida Chiri from Liberty earned 2.  She finished as the 27th best speaker and she and her partner advanced to the first break round after preliminaries. Eric Lanning of Houston received a perfect score too in one of his rounds. He was recognized as the 7th best speaker of the tournament.  He and his partner advanced to the quarterfinals.  And Ameena Ruffin from Towson, earned 1.  She finished as the number 13 speaker and with her partner Korey Johnson, advanced to doubles, the first break round. Impressively, Ruffin and Johnson won the Cross Examination Debate Association (CEDA) national championship earlier in March becoming the first all-female African American team to do so in CEDA history.

Back to Oklahoma domination.  Get this: they had three qualifying teams that won more debates in preliminary rounds than any other team – 18 and won 53 judges ballots. Harvard also had three teams in the tournament and won 16 debates in prelims and 46 ballots; Northwestern had 16 wins and 45 ballots.  Georgetown qualified only two teams but won 12 rounds in prelims and 36 ballots.  One could argue, and I will,  that they were the most efficient and effective squad in the tournament with a team advancing to Octofinals and another winning it all.

Dartmouth qualified 2 teams and only won 3 debates in prelims and just a total of 12 ballots.  Dartmouth last one the NDT in 1993 and had a Copeland winning team in 2001-2002.

Factoids:

  • John Spurlock, top speaker and winner of the 2013 high school Tournament of Champions (TOC) finished as the 22nd best speaker of the 2014 NDT tournament, debating for Cal Berkeley.
  • Liam Hancock, one half of the 2012 TOC winning team from Iowa West, finished as the 85th speaker as a sophomore debating for Iowa.  Iowa advanced to Octos.
  • Michigan’s Ellis Allen, 2014 NDT runner up won the TOC in 2010 and 2011 with partner Daniel Taylor, who debates for Harvard and advanced to Octos with partner Anna Dimitrijevic, the top TOC speaker in 2010.

 

 

 

 

 

Blood Moon and Mushrooms

BloodMoon

I looked for the blood moon this morning, but all I found was an orange sky, which could have been a product of industrial pollution and not the lunar eclipse.  So I went back to bed.

Blood moon.  Makes me think of a blood orange, which I didn’t even know existed until just a few years ago.  My first encounter with one left me bruised and traumatized.  I thought someone had injected the orange with blood.  I threw it away as if it were medical waste and repeatedly washed my hands.  On the subject of oranges, I like them ok, but don’t much like peeling them.  You know why?  The juice from the orange peel gets inside my finger nails and stains them, making me look like a heavy smoker or a man with a fungus issue.

Speaking of fungus, I used to despise mushrooms, but I have room for them now that I’m a little more cultured.  I especially like them stuffed or marinated.  I’m not a shroom snob though.  I couldn’t tell you much about the morel, or a truffle other than they are deliciously expensive.  But I do know that some mushrooms can kill you and others can make you fly and at least a few have medicinal properties.

The blood moon, the blood orange, and the mushroom that the Spanish speaking sometimes refer to as el champinon or simply el hongo, are on my mind this rainy tax day morning.

2014 Fairly Fun Final Four Facts For Fans

You may be wondering which team has had the easiest path to the Final Four.  Or you may not be wondering which team has had the easiest path to the Final Four.  Either way, Florida has had the easiest path by far coming out of the South region.  Kentucky, out of the Midwest had the roughest trip to the big dance, followed by CT out of the East and Wisconsin from the West region.

From Smooth Sailing to Turbulent Skies

  • FL combined total of seeds to victory out of the South: 40 – Albany (16), Pitt (9), UCLA (4), Dayton (11)
  • WI combined total of seeds to victory out of the West: 29 – American (15), Oregon (7), Baylor (6), Arizona (1)
  • CT combined total of seeds to victory out of the East: 19 – Saint Joseph’s (10), Villanova (2), Iowa St. (3), Michigan St. (4)
  • KY combined total of seeds to victory out of the Midwest: 16 – Kansas St. (9), Wichita St. (1), Louisville (4), Michigan (2)

Who gave Whom Fits

  • Some teams simply had the others’ number during the 2013-14 season.  SMU beat UConn twice.  Louisville beat UConn three times.
  • Arkansas gave Kentucky fits, beating them twice in OT.  The Gators devoured the Wildcats three times during the season.  The last game was a one point squeaker in the SEC championship game.  They could meet again in the NCAA championship game.

The Edge

  • Home town/state advantage:  Kentucky.  Lexington is closest to Arlington and the Wildcats have three players from Texas.
  • Home court advantage:  Connecticut.  Even though Storrs is the farthest from Arlington, the Huskies are the only team that has played a game this year near Arlington in a loss to SMU in Dallas.
  • Battle tested team:  Kentucky who beat a 1 and a 2 seed and the 4th seeded Louisville Cardinals that beat UConn three times.
  • Underdog:  Kentucky – unranked in the AP Top 25.
  • Toughest Team Nickname:  Wisconsin Badgers.
  • Latest championships: KY (2012), UConn (2011), FL (2007), WI (1941)

 

More Obscure 2014 Final Four Facts

  • Number of states players represent on Final Four rosters: 19
  • State breakdown:  FL (8); KY (6); WI (6); IL (5); NY (4); TX (3); CA (2); CT (2); MA (2); NC (2); NJ (2); OH (2); TN (2); IA, KS, MD, MI, MN, VA (1)
  • Number of players under 6 feet:  2
  • Shortest player: 5-9 Brian Long of Kentucky
  • Number of players from Brooklyn, NY: 4
  • Number of players on rosters from an opposing team’s state:  1 – CT player from Wisconsin
  • The Final Four was last held near Arlington (in Dallas) in 1986.
  • Number of Kentucky players from Texas: 3
  • Connecticut lost to SMU in Dallas on January 4, 2014.

2014 Fun Final Four Team Roster Facts

 

 

Final Four appearances by coach.  Bold = championships:

  • John Calipari: 5 (1996, 2008, 2011, 2012, 2014)
  • Number of teams Calipari has taken to the Final Four: 3 (UMass, Memphis, Kentucky)
  • Number of appearances vacated by NCAA violations: 2 – (1996, 2008)
  • Billy Donovan: 4 (2000, 2006, 2007, 2014) all with Florida
  • Bo Ryan: 1 (2014) Wisconsin
  • Kevin Ollie: 1 (2014) UConn
  • Number of 7 footers at the big dance:  4 – Kentucky (2), Wisconsin (1), UConn (1), Florida (0)
  • Team with most homegrown players:  Florida (8)
  • Team with most International players:  UConn 4 (Ghana, Jamaica, Germany (2))
  • Teams with no international players: Kentucky and Wisconsin
  • Team with 3 players from Brooklyn:  UConn
  • All American team: Kentucky with 9 players from different states.
  • Only team to finish 1st in conference play:  Florida (SEC)

Let the dance begin!

 

And Then There Were 4

And then there were 4:  WI (2), FL (1), UConn (7) and KY (8).

  • Only two Final Fours in history have had more than 1 of the 2014 group competing.

2011:  UConn, Kentucky
2000: Florida, Wisconsin

  • Number of times the SEC has had 2 teams in the Final Four: 2 – 2006 (FL, LSU); 1994 (Ark, FL)
  • Number of championships by team: KY (8), CT (3), FL (2), WI (1)

Last Kentucky championship: 2012
Last Connecticut championship: 2011
Last Florida championship: 2007
Last Wisconsin championship: 1941

  • Team Records against Final Four opponents:

Wisconsin: 1-0 against Florida
Kentucky: 0-2 against Florida
UConn: 1-0 against Florida
Florida: 2-0 against Kentucky; 0-2 against WI, CT

  • # of times Final Four has been in Dallas: 1 – 1986 (Louisville, Kansas, Duke, LSU)
  • Distance of Schools to Dallas/Arlington area:

Lexington: 880 miles
Madison: 989 miles
Gainesville: 990 miles
Storrs: 1,686 miles

  • Home court advantage:  Kentucky (8)
  • Underdog:  UConn (7)

 

 

 

 

28 Points – Frank “Wassily” Kaminsky

Points - Kandinsy

Points – Kandinsy

I had Arizona advancing to the Final Four, not Wisconsin.  In fact, I had the Badgers losing to Creighton (Barrel) in the Sweet 16.  When I made my picks for the West region, I did so without having seen any of the teams play during the regular season.  So I went by hunch and history.  The last time Wisconsin won a championship was in 1941, when the field was just 8 teams, one of the 8 included Creighton. My parents were just 2 years old. 1941 was the year FDR began his third term and WWII was heating up in Europe and Africa.  The last time Wisconsin made the Final Four was the year 2000 when they danced with the eventual champion Michigan State, runner up Florida and North Carolina.

Had I known just how good a team Wisconsin had, I might have picked them to take the crown this year.  They exemplify what it means to be a team – great passing, solid defense, consistent shooting and dominant center play.  And DOMINANT is the word to describe 7’0 Wisconsin center Frank Kaminsky, the Junior from Lisle, (the crocodile) Illinois, a Western suburb of Chicago.  And he was the difference maker with points, and lots of them, in Wisconsin’s OT victory over Arizona, a victory that provoked riots where the streets have no name in Arizona.

When I first heard the name Kaminsky, I thought it was Kandinsky.  I was thinking that it was kind of neat that Wisconsin had a player who might be the great grandson of the Russian painter, Kandinsky. I remember as a young lad, not much older than Frank Kaminsky himself, I visited NYC for the first time and went to the Guggenheim Museum to pay tribute to its architect, Frank Lloyd Wright. While I was impressed with the odd building that looked like something Sun Ra might have designed, a cross between a parking garage and a concrete UFO, I was equally impressed with the Kandinsky exhibit.  I remember buying a postcard of one his works and posting it on the wall of my off campus apartment in Fayetteville, Arkansas.  One of his most interesting works, “Points”, is an apt description of Frank Kaminsky’s contribution in last night’s victory – 28 to be exact – after which he was named the West Region’s MVP.

And then there were 8

From the cluttered Sports Desk of Ribbie’s Weblog:

Highlights from the second group of Sweet 16 games and a few other oddities:

  • In a losing effort, Tennessee had fewer turnovers, more rebounds, more steals and more blocked shots (8) than Michigan
  • Michigan outperformed Tennessee in all the shooting categories.
  • Louisville went only 13-23, 56.5% at the free throw line; KY, 22-27, 81.5%.
  • UConn shot a better 3 point percentage, 47.4%, than Iowa State’s field goal percentage, 46.4%
  • UConn made 91% of their free throws – 20-22; Iowa State 40% – 6-15.
  • UConn is 3-0 at Madison Square Garden this season.
  • The Big Ten reigns supreme with 3 teams left:  WI (2), MI (2) and MI State (4); SEC has 2:  FL (1), KY (8)
  • Last #8 National Champion: 1985 – Villanova.
  • Big Ten record – 9-3; SEC – 9-1.
  • The Lowest seeded teams in the Elite 8 are: Dayton (11), KY (8) and CT (7)
  • # of Elite 8 match ups between teams that have played before this season: 0
  • # of teams that have not faced an Elite 8 team this year: 1 – Dayton
  • Place Dayton finished in the Atlantic 10 conference: 6th.
  • Number of 11 seeds to reach the final four:  3: VCU (2011); Geo. Mason (2006); LSU (1986)
  • Kentucky’s record against Elite 8 teams:  0-3, losing twice to FL and once to MI St.
  • Florida’s record: 35-2.  # of losses to Elite 8 teams: 2 – UConn, WI
  • Most games against Elite 8 teams: MI – 6; record 3-3: Wins – WI, MI St. (2); Loses – AZ, WI, MI St.
  • Number of coaches in the Elite 8 with one or more championships: 3 – Billy Donovan (2); John Calipari (1); Tom Izzo (1)
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