Monday, February 23, 2015

It's still winter, but my tomato plants didn't get the memo

My little gardens have been producing throughout the winter. This was yesterday's harvest:

It really is amazing, considering that, other than some minor weeding and pruning, I really haven't tended to the gardens in several months. But the tomato plants weren't killed by any freezes (can't say the same for the basil, though...), and I guess the otherwise mild winter, along with the rain, have caused them to bear copious amounts of fruit.

I can't complain.

2015 UH Football schedule released

Last week, the 2015 University of Houston Cougar football schedule was released:

     Sat Sep 05     Tennessee Tech
     Sat Sep 12     at Louisville
     Sat Sep 19     off
     Sat Sep 26     Texas State
     Sat Oct 03     at Tulsa
     Thu Oct 08   SMU
     Fri Oct 16     at Tulane
     Sat Oct 24     at UCF
     Sat Oct 31     Vanderbilt
     Sat Nov 07    Cincinnati
     Sat Nov 14    Memphis
     Sat Nov 21    at UConn
     Fri Nov 27    Navy

Kickoff times have yet to be announced, but the Thursday home game against SMU and the Friday game at Tulane's new stadium will obviously be evening kickoffs for ESPN or ESPN2.

There's a lot to like here, especially when compared to the previous season's schedule. There are two schools from "Power Five" conferences on the slate, including a Halloween matchup against Vanderbilt. There's the revenge game against Texas State in late September, and a Black Friday matchup against Navy which ought to be interesting. There's only one set of back-to-back road games and a three-game homestand towards the end of the season. The only thing I don't like is the bye week, as it comes so early in the season. But all in all, this is a decent schedule.

How will the Coogs do against this slate? I honestly have no idea; I have high hopes for new head coach Tom Herman and his staff, but Houston lost a lot of talent off of last year's team, especially on the defensive side of the ball. Some of these games: Louisville and Central Florida on the road; Vandy, Cincinnati and Memphis at home - are going to be very physical and tough. And let us not forget that Texas State and Tulane beat the Coogs last time they played.

This isn't to say that the Coogs won't have a winning season this fall, but Herman and his staff definitely have their work cut out for them between now and September.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

The Hell of unrequited love

Today, the 2015 edition of my least favorite holiday, I find myself between girlfriends, and pondering all the the things I dislike about love and relationships. The worst is unrequited love. As Elizabeth Shore explains, it is absolute Hell:
There’s a curious thing about unrequited love that I’ve never really understood. Why in the world is it considered so romantic? Untold poems and novels have been written about it, countless movies have made us shed sympathetic tears. But if you think about it, the admirer, the one whose heart is filled with love for another who doesn’t feel the same, is in a f**k ton of pain. Deep, intense, debilitating pain. The kind that robs you of the ability to sleep, or eat, or sometimes even breathe. Anyone who’s suffered the hell of a broken heart can sympathize. So again I wonder, why for time immemorial has unrequited love been considered romantic?
It's not noble or romantic or otherwise desirable to continue to be in love with somebody you cannot be with. In fact, it is pathetic, stupid and illogical. Part of the Hell, in fact, is exactly because it's so stupid and illogical. The object of your affection is never going to love you. And you rationally, conciously understand that, but your uncontrollable, irrational desire for them continues to claw at your brain. So why is this concept considered to be so admirable or appealing?

Perhaps the appeal is the idea of someone loving us so deeply and so completely; an all-consuming attachment to just one person. The pursuer is relentless, devoting endless time and effort toward the object of his affection. The ideal of utter devotion being directed toward us could certainly be flattering. Think about someone obsessing over little ol’ you! Except here’s the thing: for me romance is and always will be a two-way street. You love me, I love you. It’s gotta go both ways. And sure, there are obstacles and conflict and challenges along the way. If there weren’t we romance authors would have butkus to write about. Smooth sailing doesn’t make for a compelling read. But to have someone possess intense feelings of love toward someone else, and for that love to be unreturned or even shunned … well, that’s just sad.

(the physical heart does not really control one's emotions, but you get the point)
I'm reflecting upon this due to my most recent interaction with She Whom I've Fancied Since High School. I had this crazy idea that since we were both available, and since we had an otherwise close friendship, I ought to test the waters with her one more time before wading back into the larger dating pool. "Maybe her feelings towards me have changed over time," I rationalized. "Maybe the fact that I've been so loyal to her for so long will cause her to re-evaluate our relationship."

Alas, no such luck. The “no way, no how, you're nothing more than a friend to me so just stop it!” response I received back from her caused me to burn with embarrassment. I went from “well, if I’ve thought about her this strongly for this long, I should at least give it one more try” to “wow, how could I still be such an idiot, especially after all these years?!" It was a humiliation that I richly deserved, because I let these long-simmering emotions for her get the better of me. But it also left me - yeah - heartbroken.
An interesting article in the New York Times talked about the fact that the admirer in a one-way love situation isn’t the only one who suffers. Findings by researchers published in The Journal of Personality and Social Psychology revealed that the rejector sometimes feels as deep or even more emotional pain than the admirer. Curious, right? Apparently, after a period of initial flattery, the rejector feels bewilderment, guilt, and eventually anger at the relentless efforts of the admirer.

Hence, the frustrated tone of She Whom I've Fancied Since High School's response. She knows how I feel about her, but she will never be able to feel the same way about me and it upsets her so she wants me to quit bugging her about it. If only it were that easy, after 25 years!

I can relate, to a point, because of my most recent relationship: for whatever reason, I could not love my ex-girlfriend with the same intensity that she loved me. It's not that I didn't want to or didn't try; it's just that something didn't work: again, love is not logical. Over time, it became very stressful for me. "What is wrong with me?" I wondered. "Why can't I love her the way she loves me?" It got to the point that every time the phase "I love you" came from her mouth, I bristled with guilt and resentment. When I finally told her that I just didn't love her and it wasn't going to work out, a great weight was lifted from my shoulders, even though I know it hurt her deeply.

It's easy to rationalize myself into feeling better by saying "well, at least I gave a relationship with my ex-girlfriend an honest try, unlike She Whom I've Fancied Since High School, who won't even give me a chance." But the pain of loving yet not being loved in return is the same, as is the hopeless realization that the feelings are not something you can easily, rationally control.

So this Valentine's Day, as those couples who are happily in love with each other celebrate, let us also recognize those whose love, real and valid as it might be, is not being returned. These are people who are literally in pain, and they cannot easily make it go away. They deserve compassion and support, because they truly are in Hell.

Help coming for the monarch butterfly

By now I've beaten a dead horse butterfly about the fate of the monarch: its population is collapsing, putting the insect on the bring of being endangered. The Washington Post is going so far as the call it "the monarch massacre." Fortunately, help is on the way:
Texas' state insect faces demise, so the feds are stepping in. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced Tuesday a plan to revitalize the Monarch butterfly population, which has fallen by more than 90 percent in the last two decades.

Last month, the Chronicle reported that the butterflies were being considered for a place on the endangered species list. Experts said the main culprit of the monarchs' devastating decline is the use of genetically modified, herbicide-resistant crops that allow farmers to drench fields in weed poison, prohibiting the growth of native plants the butterflies use to eat and lay eggs.

"We've been aware of the plight of the monarch butterfly in North America for some time and we have been looking at ways that we can go about reversing the situation, and I think it was decided that what we needed was really immediate on-the-ground action," said FWS spokesman Gavin Shire.

The service pledged $3.2 million to monarch revival, most of which will fund habitat restoration projects. Texas will host 10 of 24 scheduled projects, with in more than $700 thousand in funding. The main goal: plant more milkweed.
I certainly hope this effort isn't too little, too late to make a difference. There was recently a little bit of good news from Mexico, where the overwintering monarch population, based on colony size, seems to have increased from the previous winter's record low:

However, the trend line is obvious to anybody who looks at this graph. As Monarch Watch cautions:
Although this figure represents an improvement from the 0.67 hectares recorded last year, it’s the second lowest population on record and the third low population in as many years.
The FWS is collaborating with two private conservation groups, the National Wildlife Federation and the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, on this campaign to save the monarch. It is also working with state governments. Because of its location on the monarchs' migration path, Texas is key:
The FWS will form a "Texas Native Pollinator Initiative" with hopes of gathering local partners from across the state to spread native milkweed seeds and monitor the monarch population. Other projects involve partnerships with the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department and the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

Shire called Texas, especially the Interstate 35 corridor, a "critical breeding, wintering and migration corridor for the monarchs," which is largely why Texas will see so many of the federally-funded restoration projects.

It's also why the Texas Legislature named the butterflies the state insect in 1995. Then, a billion of the regal bugs flew through the Lone Star State on their way to Mexico each year. Twenty years later, about 30 million remain. Texas used to herald the sight of tens of thousands of butterflies nesting on a single, but it's seen less often today. However the plight of the monarchs has garnered significant attention in just the past month, and promising efforts could bring the fragile creatures back from the brink of extinction.
Plant. That. Milkweed.

Sunday, February 01, 2015

Ecuador ran a Super Bowl commercial

I never expected to use the words "Ecuador" and "Super Bowl" in the same sentence, but...

I guess the oil crash is causing them to really hurt for tourist and retiree dollars. But lots of respect to the Correa administration for "going big" and advertising during the Super Bowl.

With this buy, Ecuador became the first sovereign nation to advertise during the Super Bowl.

And yes, it's time for me to get my ass back down there.