Monday, December 29, 2008

Highways of the future

I recently stumbled across this fanciful Disney cartoon from 1958 which describes the "highways of tomorrow" that, looking fifty years back, really tells us more about the mindset of the past than the infrastructure of the future:

The cartoon doesn't say when "tomorrow" is supposed to be, but fifty years on it's pretty clear that very little progress has been made towards the concepts depicted in the cartoon. The highways of 2008 look much like the highways of 1958, with the only changes being some improvements in design standards and construction techniques. The sweeping cantilevered bridges, self-guided vehicles and massive construction machines depicted in this cartoon are no closer to reality today than they were fifty years ago.

Interestingly, the cartoon clearly does not anticipate the one thing that, in retrospect, has been the biggest shortcoming of the highway: ever-increasing traffic congestion. The cartoon's animations generally depict highways that are practically deserted; of course, in 2008, our highways are anything but. Nor does the cartoon foresee air pollution, dependence on increasingly-scarce foreign fossil fuels, skyrocketing obesity rates or other negative automobile-related externalities as being problems in the easy-motoring future.

The cartoon also makes some predictions that, in retrospect, are spectacularly wrong. It claims, for example, that "advances in technology will give us more time for leisure in tomorrow's living." Of course, we know that the opposite has happened. It also depicts father going to work while mother and son go shopping: a family dynamic long-since disappeared in today's two-income world.

However, I can't help but enjoy the 1950s spirit of optimism conveyed by this cartoon: a belief that all things are possible through technology and that its advances can only bring us a better way of life. Today this view seems rather naive. Perhaps that's why it feels so refreshing.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Christmas Monarch

By this time if year, most of the world's monarch butterfly population has completed their migration to their overwintering sites in the mountains of central Mexico. However, places with mild winters, like Houston, serve as overwintering areas as well.

In spite of the periodic blasts of cold weather we've received over the last several weeks, we still haven't gotten a freeze severe enough to kill the milkweed plant in the front yard or the monarch caterpillars that feed upon it. Kirby and I continue to collect mature caterpillars, put them in a container to watch the pupae form and the adults emerge, and, on warm days, release the mature butterflies.

One butterfly emerged from his chrysalis today and decided to explore our Christmas tree:

Merry Christmas, everyone!

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Scary moment

One of Lori's cousins and her two children were on the Continental fight that skidded off the runway at Denver International and burst into flames last night.

Fortunately, neither Jennifer nor her two kids were among those injured during the crash and subsequent evacuation.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

AFL cancels 2009 season

The Arena Football League, which has operated continuously since 1987, has announced the cancellation of its 2009 season:

The AFL's owners voted against playing next year during a conference call Sunday night. It was unclear what had changed since the league issued a statement Wednesday night that said the 2009 season had not been suspended "despite rumors and reports to the contrary."

The league said in Monday's statement it was "developing a long-term plan to improve its economic model."

"Every owner in the AFL is strongly committed to the league, the game, and, most importantly, the fans," acting commissioner Ed Policy said in a statement. "Owners, however, recognize that, especially in light of the current unprecedented economic climate, the AFL, as a business enterprise, needs to be restructured if it is to continue to provide its unique brand of this affordable, fan-friendly sport."

Whether this means the end of Arena Football remains to be seen; the league is emphasizing that it is not folding, but other than the NHL (which was certainly more established when they wrote off their 2004-05 season than the AFL is today) I'm hard-pressed to think of any other sports league that has survived after canceling an entire season.

I'm sure that some football "purists" out there are gloating about the possible demise of the AFL (not that they were ever forced to watch indoor football, or anything), but the fact is this: however much of a "niche" sport that Arena Football might have been, the fact that its league is canceling an entire season cannot be good news for professional sports in general.

It's not just that another "niche" league, the WNBA, lost one of its premier franchises a couple of weeks ago; it's that, given the current economic situation, even the strongest sports leagues are feeling the pinch: the NHL is in a hiring freeze, and NASCAR, the NFL and the NBA are laying off workers as well. Depending on how bad the nation's economic situation becomes (and 2009, by all accounts, is going to be very, very bad), professional sports in general could be in for a rough ride, as fans become less-inclined to buy expensive tickets and corporate sponsorships dwindle.

I can't say I was a huge fan of Arena Football; I'd watch a few of their games every so often, but never got into it the way I'm into, say, college football. But if I were a professional sports fan, I'd take the cancellation of the AFL's 2009 season very seriously. It could very well be a harbinger of things to come.

Throwdown at the pizza parlor

Are you one of those people that goes looking for trouble? Are you the type of person that likes to start fights? Well, there appears to be a venue suited to your tastes: Chuck E. Cheese's:
It isn't clear exactly how often fights break out at Chuck E. Cheese's 538 locations. Richard Huston, executive vice president of marketing for the chain's parent company, CEC Entertainment Inc. of Irving, Texas, describes their occurrence as "atypical," saying he has heard of "four or five significant adult altercations" this year. But in some cities, law-enforcement officials say the number of disruptions at their local outlet is far higher than at nearby restaurants, and even many bars. "We've had some unfortunate and unusual altercations between adults at these locations," Mr. Huston says. "Even one is just way too many."

Fights among guests are an issue for all restaurants, but security experts say they pose a particular problem for Chuck E. Cheese's, since it is designed to be a haven for children. Law-enforcement officials say alcohol, loud noise, thick crowds and the high emotions of children's birthday parties make the restaurants more prone to disputes than other family entertainment venues.

The environment also brings out what security experts call the "mama-bear instinct." A Chuck E. Cheese's can take on some of the dynamics of the animal kingdom, where beasts rush to protect their young when they sense a threat.

This is probably the same psychological dynamic that causes parents to get into fights at their childrens' little league games or soccer matches. If somebody feels that their kid has been slighted or mistreated, their instinct is to rush to their child's aid, even if that means they have to become violent towards the parents of other children.

Of course, it might also have to do something with a portion of the clientele of this particular chain:

Police officers and company officials say alcohol isn't always a factor in altercations at Chuck E. Cheese's. Mr. Huston says the chain's "broad demographic appeal" means that it has restaurants in what he described as "tougher areas" where there is more potential for crime.
Yeah: when some of Chuck E. Cheese's restaurants, like the Milwaukee franchise mentioned in the article, has to post a sign at an entrance decreeing a dress code prohibiting "gang-style apparel," then that store probably isn't operating in a high-end neighborhood. I'm not saying that there's anything inherently wrong with Chuck E. Cheese's business model - that of an inexpensive, family-oriented food-and-entertainment chain - but the fact is that such a business model tends to attract customers who, for whatever reason, might be more prone to the antisocial behavior described in the article.

It's sad that kid-themed places like Chuck E. Cheese's have to be associated with bad behavior among grown-ups - what a great example these people are setting for their children, after all - but, sadly, such is the world we live in today. So my advice for those who take their children to parties at Chuck E. Cheese's is as follows: be prepared to have a good time amidst your child and his or her friends and their families.

But also have that right hook ready, just in case.

Hurricanes and snowfall in Houston

You have to love (or hate) what passes for "winter" in Houston. Last Wednesday, it snowed. A few days later, we had temperatures in the 70s. Yesterday morning, with early AM temperatures in the 60s and with the understanding that a cold front wouldn't arrive until the evening, I took Kirby to school wearing a t-shirt and shorts. Oops. Last night temperatures dipped into the 30s. By Thursday, we'll be back in the 70s again.

Many Houstonians perceive a relationship between a hurricane in the summer and snowfall in the winter; I, myself, have wondered if there is a connection between the two. Following last week's snowfall, KTRK Chief Meteorologist Tim Heller noted this relationship on his blog:
Yet, if you look at the weather records it seems that every time a big hurricane hits the Houston-Galveston area it snows during the month of December following the hurricane. It snowed in southeast Texas after Hurricane Carla in 1961, after Alicia in 1983 and after Jerry in 1989. Now we can add Hurricane Ike to the list as well. Furthermore, the December following Hurricane Jerry in 1989 was the coldest on record! The second coldest December on record was in 1983, following Hurricane Alicia.

Is there a connection between southeast Texas hurricanes and snowstorms? I don't know. But I do know there are larger patterns within the atmosphere that we don't completely understand. If someone had a lot of time and a lot of money, this would be an interesting weather connection to investigate.

See the graphic that accompanied his entry.

Correlation is not causation, of course, and it's worth mentioning that there are instances where December snowfalls in Houston were not associated with hurricanes; the White Christmas snowfall of 2004, for example, was not preceded by a hurricane making landfall that summer. Hurricane Rita's landfall in 2005, moreover, did not produce a snowfall that following December (even though Rita did not technically make landfall in the Houston area, it certainly affected the city). It should also be noted that 1989's Jerry, unlike Carla, Alicia or Ike, was not a major hurricane; I remember that it had such little local impact that schools weren't even closed, as they were the previous year when Gilbert threatened (Jerry was one of two weak hurricanes to make landfall in the Houston area in 1989; Chantal was the other).

With all that said, there may be more to this than just mere coincidence. As Heller says, there is a lot about larger weather patterns that meteorologists still don't understand. Tropical cyclones are enormous engines that transfer massive amounts of energy from the tropics to temperate latitudes, and in so doing could potentially affect the weather patterns of those regions long after the cyclones themselves dissipate. As Heller suggests, this is definitely a topic worthy of further study.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Some local sports thoughts

Not that you'd know by watching, reading or listening to the local sports media, but there really is some local sports news worth mentioning aside from high school football playoffs, the Rockets (whose loss to the Los Angeles Clippers - seriously? - earlier this evening puts them at a good-but-not-great 15-9 for the season so far), and the Texans (who are struggling to match their 8-8 campaign of a year ago):

Bowl matchups have been set, and the University of Houston Cougars, coming off their 7-5 regular season campaign, will face off against Air Force in the Armed Forces Bowl in Fort Worth on New Year's Eve.

I'm normally not a big fan of same-season rematches in college football, but in this case I'll make an exception. As I've said before, last September's "home" game against Air Force, which was moved to Dallas because of Hurricane Ike and was played before a couple of thousand people in poor weather conditions, should have simply been canceled. The Cougars now get an opportunity to redeem themselves against the Falcons, this time hopefully in front of a better crowd and under more ideal playing conditions. Time to give my aunt and uncle in Plano a call and see if they have room for me in their New Year's Eve plans...

Rice, meanwhile, will stay in town and play Western Michigan in the Texas Bowl, which is their second bowl appearance in three seasons. The Rice Owls have won nine games for the first time since 1953, when they won the Southwest Conference and defeated Alabama in the Cotton Bowl, 28-6, in a game that featured this memorable, um, play.

Last week, it was announced that the Houston Comets would cease operations.

The Comets, who began life as the "sister" franchise of the Houston Rockets, won four consecutive WNBA titles from 1997 through 2000 and became the first true dynasty in womens' professional sports. However, the Comets couldn't sustain their winning momentum: they lost in the first round of the WNBA playoffs after the 2001, '02 and '03 seasons, and suffered their first losing season in franchise history in 2004. They managed to make it past the first round of the playoffs in 2005, but got swept in the conference finals that season and were one-and-done in the playoffs once again in 2006.

Crowds dwindled, and Rockets owner Leslie Alexander decided to unload the team after the 2006 season. Head Coach Van Chancellor, who had been with the team since its inception, saw the writing on the wall and resigned in January 2007, just weeks before furniture dealer Hilton Koch purchased the franchise. Koch, who aspires to be to I-45 South what Jim "Mattress Mac" McIngvale is to I-45 North, probably meant well, but he had no experience in owning a professional sports franchise and was unable to reverse the team's sagging fortunes. After a disappointing 2007 season - the Comets' second losing season in team history - Koch announced that the team would leave Toyota Center and play the 2008 season in Reliant Arena, adjacent to Reliant Stadium.

That was the nail in the coffin for the Comets. Reliant Arena is a dilapidated, 34-year-old facility whose main purpose is to serve as a venue for livestock judging and cutting horse competitions during the annual Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo. In spite of its location next to a gleaming new NFL stadium, it is simply not a venue that is familiar to local sports fans. Kuff, rather presciently, expressed his concern about the situation after attending a Comets game last May.

(Quite frankly, Reliant Arena seems to be the place where local sports franchises go to die; the Houston Hotshots indoor soccer team was reasonably successful in the mid-1990s but folded in 2001 after moving from Compaq Center to Reliant Arena.)

Koch, realizing that his investment was a loser, sold the franchise back to the WNBA last August. The WNBA could not find another buyer for the team, and folded the franchise last week.

There is some concern that the failure of the Comets could be a "canary in the coal mine" for the WNBA in particular and womens' sports in general. I'm not prepared to go that far just yet - the Comets' demise could be due entirely to local issues such as lackluster fan support in a fairweather sports town or erratic ownership - but as the nation's economic crisis continues to worsen, it's no stretch to say that "niche" leagues like the WNBA could be in trouble.

While I'm sad to see the team go, I must admit that I could just never get into the WNBA. This isn't because I don't like womens basketball - I follow the Lady Cougars and plan to see some of their games at Hofheinz this season - but I've just never gotten interested in the professional version of the game. Apparently, too many other Houstonians felt the same way.

More bad news: the Houston Dynamo are trading my favorite player to Toronto.

To be fair, Dwayne De Rosario is a Canadian national and never made secret his desire to end his career with the Toronto franchise. But he, along with Brian Ching, were the face of the Houston Dynamo for these last three seasons and he was a big reason for the team's success, which included back-to-back MLS titles in 2006 and 2007.

Reading the reaction of local soccer fans, a lot of people seem to think that, while De Rosario's departure was inevitable and that his departure gives the Dynamo more room under MLS salary cap restrictions, what the Dynamo got from FC Toronto in return - a young defender and some money - wasn't worth the trade. A few others view the trade more ominously: that Dynamo management are upset about the lack of a stadium deal here in Houston and are jettisoning their star players as they prepare to relocate the team.

I'm not sure that I believe that De Rosario's departure has anything to do with the ongoing stadium issue, but I do believe that, the longer we go without a finalized stadium deal, the more likely it seems that the Dynamo might look for greener pastures in other cities. I'm not convinced that the Dynamo really need their own stadium here in Houston - Robertson Stadium is a perfectly fine soccer venue - but the MLS wants soccer-specific venues for their teams, and after endless months of talk no real progress seems to have been made on that front.

Anyway, now I have to get a new Dynamo t-shirt; the one I have right now has De Rosario's name on the back of it.

And finally: if the Texans do manage to defeat the Tennessee Titans at Reliant Stadium tomorrow, I hereby promise to stop talking about how much they suck.

At least for the rest of this season.

I will say this for the Texans, however: with Vince Young riding the Titans' bench, and Reggie Bush having a lackluster, injury-plagued season in New Orleans, the team's decision to draft Mario Williams ahead of these two players keeps looking better and better.

UPDATE: I hereby make good on my promise: the Houston Texans no longer suck. On the other hand, Titan coach Jeff Fisher's bizarre playcalling on 4th-and-three (i.e. throwing a deep pass when the Titans were already within game-winning field goal range) really did suck.

Which state is more corrupt:

Illinois or Louisiana?

The stylistic differences between Illinois and Louisiana can be described as David Mamet vs. Walker Percy. The corruption culture in Illinois tends to be mingy, pedestrian, shameful. State legislators who sell their votes for $25 cash in an envelope (a scandal of the 1970s) do not tend toward braggadocio. When former House speaker Dan Rostenkowski was caught filching postage stamps from the House post office, he pleaded guilty and apologized.

Louisiana's culture of corruption, by contrast, is flamboyant and shameless. Earl Long once said that Louisiana voters "don't want good government, they want good entertainment." He spent part of his last term in a mental hospital, where his wife had him committed after he took up with the stripper Blaze Starr. When Sen. Allen Ellender died in office in 1972, Governor Edwards didn't try to auction off his seat. He appointed his wife, Elaine, possibly to get her out of town. When Edwards ran for governor again in 1983, he said of the incumbent, "If we don't get Dave Treen out of office, there won't be anything left to steal." Raised among figures like these, Louisianans tend to accept corruption as inevitable and to forgive it easily.

The article suggests that, due to the scandal surrounding Governor Rod Blagojevich, who among other things attempted to auction president-elect Barack Obama's Senate seat to the highest bidder, Illinois might outlast Louisiana in what the author calls "the NCAA finals of American political corruption."

Let's see... Chicago versus New Orleans. The Daleys versus the Longs. Rep. Dennis "Prairie Parkway" Hastert versus Rep. William "Cold Hard Cash" Jefferson. It's a tough call, but I'm going to say that Louisiana wins, albeit in double overtime. Perhaps I'm a homer - I do live two hours away from the state, after all - but when it comes to corruption, I think Louisiana outdoes Illinois. The Pelican State still leads the nation in the number of federal corruption convictions per capita, after all, and, as the article notes, Louisiana's culture of crookedness has historically been much more, eh, artistic than that of Illinois. And corruption, like anything else, is an art form: if you're going to do, it, do it right.

Illinois does it. But Louisiana does it right!

States cracking down on slow left-lane drivers

It's about time.
In these days of longer commutes and simmering tempers, nothing seems to set off already-testy motorists like the left-lane camper -- the guy or gal who drives in the passing lane and bars faster drivers from easily passing. Web sites have cropped up to educate other drivers, or to vent. There's a (somewhat painful) YouTube song called "Keep Right."

Even bigwigs get frustrated. Pennsylvania Gov. Edward Rendell, weary of having his limo slowed down by such left-lane pokies, ordered an aide to have the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission install signs a few years ago reading "Keep Right, Pass Left. It's the Law."

And now some states are cracking down on left-lane campers, both to keep traffic moving and to tamp down the road rage that goes from zero-to-60 faster than ever before.

That's not just a pretext. Last year, a driver was arrested on Interstate 79 outside Pittsburgh after allegedly brandishing a semiautomatic pistol at a driver who was on his tail.

Some states didn't allow left-lane lingering but didn't enforce the law. Now they are.

At the start of the summer, the Washington State Patrol began pulling people over for violating the state's left-lane law, which prohibits "impeding the flow of other traffic."

When it comes to rude and dangerous driving habits, motorists who drive slowly in the left lane rank right up there with motorists who wait until the last possible second to merge. I'm glad that some state law enforcement agencies are beginning to crack down on this behavior (although, as the article notes, laws vary from state to state); hopefully, we'll start to see the DPS here in Texas join them.

It's really a rather simple concept: slower traffic should stay to the right. It doesn't matter if you're traveling at the speed limit, or even over it. If you're in the left lane and the guy behind you wants to pass you, move over and let him pass. Aside from the fact that it allows traffic to flow better, it's just common courtesy.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Pollo Feliz!

I discovered this particular Mexican roasted chicken franchise when I was in Puerto Vallarta last year. And I liked it; the food was inexpensive and pretty damn tasty.

I know that the Pollo Feliz brand has been making its way northward; the first Houston restaurant appeared on the west side of town last year. So you can imagine my excitement when I discovered their newest Houston location while driving down Wayside a couple of weeks ago:
This particular restaurant is only a couple of miles away from my house. Given my fondness for pollo asado, I fear I'm about to get a bit fatter.

Snow night!

As everybody who lives in Houston knows, last night we were treated to a rare snowfall. Kirby was rather impressed:
It snowed for several hours, and we probably got about an inch of snow once it was over. The entire front yard got a dusting, including the Elektra Tree:
Needless to say, Kirby and his father spent a lot of time outside, enjoying the wintry spectacle:
This is the first snowfall here since the amazing White Christmas snowfall of 2004. Apparently, this evening's flurries tie a record for earliest recorded snowfall in Houston.

Whatever accumulated in yards, on cars and on rooftops melted away pretty quickly after the snowfall ended late last evening, and warmer weather is expected to return today. But that's okay. It was fun and beautiful while it lasted.

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Kirby and the Giant Christmas Tree

This thing was $20 at Ikea. I can hardly believe it, either.

Coogs end regular season with 7-5 record

Right now I'm watching the Conference USA Championship Game between Tulsa and East Carolina. And I'm annoyed.

I'm annoyed because, not only does this game have to run opposite the ACC Championship game on ABC and the Army-Navy rivalry on CBS (Army's camouflage helmets and pants look cool, by the way), but ESPN couldn't even have the decency to put it on their primary network; this game is on ESPN2 so that they can show a meaningless game between Pitt and UConn on their main channel. The chauvinism of the Bowl Championship Series strikes again!

I'm also annoyed because these two teams are playing in the C-USA Championship Game even though the University of Houston Cougars beat them both. Both teams were ranked when they played Houston, no less.

But I'm most annoyed because the Cougars have nobody but themselves to blame for not being in this game. Had the Coogs taken care of business against Rice last Saturday, in fact, at this very moment I'd be at Robertson Stadium along with thirty thousand other people watching this game. All the Cougars had to do in order to host today's Conference USA Championship was to beat Rice last Saturday.

They didn't. The last two games of Houston's regular season, in fact, were rather frustrating and the Cougars really didn't deserve to win either of them.

The only reason they notched a 42-37 victory over Texas-El Paso at Robertson Stadium two weeks ago, in fact, is because they mounted yet another one of the season's amazing come-from-behind rallies to win the game. The Cougars spent most of that game playing some of their sloppiest and most uninspired football of the season. The offense couldn't get untracked, the defense was porous and let the Miners score at will, and special teams were a disaster, missing two field goals and an extra point in the first half alone. At one point, the Coogs were nineteen points behind; I spent the first three quarters of the game sitting in the stands asking myself why I flew all the way back from Dubai to watch this crap.

It wasn't until late in the game that the Cougars finally got it together. They battled back and, with 4:54 left in the game, QB Case Keenum (who actually had a good afternoon, completing 41 of 51 for 480 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions) completed a 16-yard touchdown pass to Kierrie Johnson to make the score 36-35, Houston's first lead of the game. But this was one of those games where everything seemed to go wrong for the Coogs, and on the next play - with the Coogs up by only one, the coaching staff decided to go for the two-point conversion - Keenum, in a decision that he will readily admit is the worst of his quarterbacking career, threw the ball across his body and across the field and right into the waiting arms of UTEP defender Josh Ferguson, who took it 100 yards to score two points for the Miners and put them back up by a point.

But on the next possession the UH defense, which wasn't able to stop the Miners or mount anything resembling a pass rush all afternoon long, finally stepped up. Phillip Hunt flew in on third down and shoved UTEP QB Trent Vittatoe to the ground, forcing a three-and-out for the Miners and giving the ball back to the Coogs.

During that series my cousin-in-law, who was watching the game with me at the time, directed my attention to the UH sideline. Keenum was behind the bench, pacing back and forth. Even from a distance, his body language was clear: he knew he had just made one of the stupidest mistakes of his football life, and he wanted to redeem himself. Thanks to the defense, he got his chance. Keenum methodically marched the offense down the field and to the goal line, where he, with 41 seconds remaining, called his own name on a one-yard touchdown run. The Miners then got the ball back, but with mere seconds on the clock and no time outs, there was little they could do. Vittatoe's desperation hail mary was intercepted in the endzone as time expired.

With that improbable win - the Coogs' 19-point comeback was the greatest in school history - the table was set. Beat crosstown rival Rice, and Houston would win Conference USA West and host the championship game with a conference title and a trip to the Liberty Bowl on the line.

Unfortunately, it seems that this fact was lost on the University of Houston defense as they went into last Saturday's rivalry game at Rice Stadium. They simply got torched by the Owls, surrendering six touchdowns and almost 600 yards of total offense. The only thing they seemed to do successfully was to keep star Owl receiver Jarett Dillard in check, limiting him to four receptions for 41 yards. But that didn't matter, because Rice QB Chase Clement simply had too many other options available to him, notably receiver James Casey, who finished the afternoon with 12 receptions for 172 yards and three touchdowns. When Clement, who was 28-of-41 for 381 yards and five touchdowns, didn't feel like throwing the ball, he simply ran it, gaining another 58 yards and one touchdown on 13 carries. Houston's run defense was equally as ineffective against Owl RB C.J. Ugokwe, who carried the ball 18 times for 110 yards. The defense could not mount a pass rush, they could not tackle, they could not cover their receivers and they simply were no match for Rice's offense.

With the defense's inability to be a factor in this game, it was up to the Cougar offense to match the Owls score for score. Any while they weren't horrible by any means - they did manage to score 42 points on Rice's defense, and usually 42 points should be enough to win a game - the fact that they made a handful of mistakes - a fumble, an interception, bad plays that killed a few drives - meant that they were unable to keep up. Once the Cougars fell behind by 28 points early in the fourth quarter, it was clear that there would be no miraculous comeback this time.

Rice went on to win the Bayou Bucket, 56-42. Houston's loss, along with Tulsa's victory over Marshall that day, assured that the Golden Hurricane would host today's conference championship game against ECU.

Thus concludes Houston's regular season. They ended their season with a 7-5 record, which is precisely what I predicted they'd accomplish back in August. Their record is good enough to get them to their fourth-consecutive postseason bowl game this holiday season; the Coogs should know which game they're going to sometime later today or tomorrow. I'll post my 2008 season review after that game.

The Bayou Bucket's all-time series record is now Houston 25, Rice 10.

And... In spite of the fact that they got to host the Conference USA title game, Tulsa just lost to East Carolina, 27-24. The Pirates win their first conference title since they were members of the SouCon back in '76, and head to the Liberty Bowl. Congratulations are in order for Skip Holtz and the Pirates; my Coogs, meanwhile, can only watch and wonder what could have been.