The voyage back from Dubai was long and boring but otherwise free of hassle. Remembering the long lines at the ticket counter and the security checkpoint that I endured the last time I flew out of Dubai, I made sure to get to the airport early this time. It must have been a wise decision, because neither the lines at the counter nor the security checkpoint were long and I ended up with plenty of time to kill before my 12:30 am departure to Amsterdam. The plane was delayed in its departure, but I didn't mind because it just meant there'd be less time for me to wait at the Amsterdam airport.
The time at the Amsterdam airport actually passed quickly - I befriended a soldier on leave from the Middle East who was also flying to Houston and the two of us killed time discussing college football and drinking draft Heinekens (nothing like a beer or two at 8:30 am!) at a bar across from the gate. We finally boarded the 747 to Houston, and after another long and boring flight arrived safely at Houston's Bush Intercontinental Airport and made our way through the nice new customs and immigration facilities at Terminal E. Lori and Kirby were in the arrivals area, waiting for me. A nice, long nap was waiting for me once we got back to the house.
I don't think I'm exaggerating when I say that at least a third of the people who were on the flight from Dubai to Amsterdam were also on the flight from Amsterdam to Houston. Most of these people were related in one way or another to the effort in Iraq.
Much of Saturday was spent on the computer sorting through the 1,000-plus e-mails I had accumulated during my absence or in front of the TV watching football games. Later in the afternoon, Lori, Kirby and I met my parents and my brother at the Rice Stadium parking lot for some pregame tailgating before heading into the stadium for the 8 pm kickoff.
As for the game itself: like I keep saying, a win over Rice is never a given. Luckily, the Coogs were able to squeak by with a one-point victory, but they had to climb out of a 16-point hole in order to do so. Certainly, making such a comeback is a which is a huge confidence builder for the team, but the question remains: why did the Coogs, after putting fourteen quick points on the board, allow the Owls to run off four unanswered touchdowns and get into a 16-point hole to begin with? To the credit of Briles and his coaching staff, they did make defensive adjustments that shut the Owl offense down in the second half. And there were no turnovers on the part of the Coogs. But there were still way too many penalties, and special teams, well, let's not go there.
A lot of credit has to be given to the Rice Owls and their new coach, Todd Graham. They came out ready to play and they used the "surprise" factor of a brand-new offense, of which the Houston coaches had no game film to study, to their advantage. I wish them luck for the remainder of the season, especially as they make their way through their ridiculous non-conference schedule of UCLA, Texas and Florida State. As for the Coogs, hopefully this too-close-for-comfort game was just the result of opening-day jitters and next week's game against Tulane will be a better indicator of how good this team really is. There are definitely some concerns that the UH coaching staff needs to address quickly, but the main thing is that the Coogs are 1-0.
On Sunday, Lori, Kirby and I ran some errands, went up to her parents' house to visit, and went to the palatial and bustling Kim Son on Bellaire for a retirement dinner being held for my dad by several other professors in his department. As of last Friday, the Old Man officially became Professor Emeritus, although there's still one more retirement party being held for him later this week.
The Labor Day holiday was spent around the house, being lazy and unproductive. Today it was back to work. I'll be in Houston all this week, Dallas for most of next week, and will return to Dubai on Sunday the 17th.
And finally, a few quick thoughts:
- Okay, so I'm just as saddened by the death of Steve Irwin as everybody else, but let's face it: is this really a surprise? We all knew it was going to happen, sooner or later; you can only mess with deadly animals for so long before one of them finally gets you. The only surprise, I guess, is that the Crocodile Hunter met his end from the barb of a stingray rather than from the fangs of a snake or the jaws of an alligator.
- The Houston Chronicle now has two University of Houston sports blogs. UH beat writer Michael Murphy began blogging about the Coogs last week and joins UH journalism student Ronnie Turner on the chron.com website. They've also just added a blog for Rice sports as well. Between these three blogs you'll find plenty of discussion about last weekend's nailbiter at Rice Stadium.
- Speaking of football, the Texas Longhorns have moved into second place on the AP poll after their 56-7 drubbing of North Texas in Austin last weekend. This sets up a 1-versus-2 showdown in Austin this weekend as Ohio State comes to town. There's not a great deal of movement between the preseason AP poll and this week's poll; no schools were added or dropped and rarely did any school move more than a few sports. However, Miami of Florida and California both dropped several spots after their season-opening losses to Florida State and Tennessee, respectively. The Vols made the biggest jump of the weekend, and Oklahoma was demoted following their less-than-impressive victory against UAB.
- A potentially huge discovery of oil in the Gulf of Mexico could boost US petroleum reserves by a whopping 50%. It still remains to be seen exactly how much oil exists in this deep-water field, and it will be many years and billions of dollars in drilling rig and pipeline investments before any of this oil makes its way into our tanks. The discovery could, however, suggest that the looming "oil crunch" of high prices and scarce supplies being predicted by "peak oil" theorists might not be at hand just yet. As an oil analyst remarks, "it should remind everyone that before they buy into the reckoning of $100 a barrel oil that all those estimates don't take into account tremendous amount of money can be spent on exploration when prices are at these levels."
- Whew! A succession crisis in Japan has been averted. Princess Kiko gave birth to a baby boy earlier today, apparently putting to rest the debate about what happens if the imperial family does not have a male heir to inherit the throne once Emperor Akihito, Crown Prince Naruhito, and his brother, Prince Akishino all pass away. However, while this regal crisis might have been resolved with this baby's birth, Japan still has a baby crisis of its own: the country's low birthrate is causing the island nation's overall population to decrease, and that trend could have disasterous societal and economic consequences in the future.