Thursday, March 27, 2014

The monarch butterfly is facing a crisis

Last week, Eric Berger posted a sobering visualization of the dwindling monarch butterfly population:
One of the best ways that conservationists have to measure the overall health of the Monarch butterfly population is by the size of the area they occupy in tight clusters during the winter in Mexico. In the 1990s this area averaged about 15 acres. In the 2000s it was about 9 acres.

This winter the Monarchs occupied less than 1.7 acres in Mexico.

It's also worth mentioning that we've reached the end of March and the migration is underway, but I have yet to see a single monarch here in Houston. Things are not looking good for the beautiful and iconic insect right now.

I've said it before and I'll say it again: plant that milkweed! The survival of this species depends on it. I went to Houston Garden Center a couple of weeks ago and got a couple of large plants, which are now in my front yard. I might get another couple of plants this weekend.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

2014 UH football schedule released

NOTE: This schedule has been updated.

The Cougars' 2014 slate was finally released earlier this week. It is, quite frankly, the lamest, weakest and most embarrassing schedule the Cougars have played since I've been following the program:

     Sat Aug 30 Texas - San Antonio
     Sat Sep 06 Grambling State
     Thu Sep 11 at BYU (ESPN)
     Sat Sep 27 Tennessee Tech
     Thu Oct 2 UCF (ESPN)
     Sat Oct 11 at Memphis
     Sat Oct 18 Temple
     Sat Nov 1 at USF
     Sat Nov 8 Tulane
     Sat Nov 22 Tulsa
     Fri Nov 28 at SMU
     Sat Dec 6 at Cincinnati

So let's count the reasons why this schedule sucks:

1. No games against any schools from the so-called "Power 5" conferences (for the second season in a row).
2. Two games against FCS (Division I-AA) schools. Only one of them can count toward bowl eligibility.
3. No "marquee" opponents at home. Fiesta Bowl champion Central Florida is the biggest "name" the Cougars host, and that's on a Thursday night.
4. Back-to-back games on the road to end the season.
5. The only road game I was interested in attending - against BYU - is on a Thursday night. That makes travel next to impossible for me.
6. The disjointed, momentum-killing schedule: three off weeks, two Thursday games, and one Friday game with the possibility of another:
UH opens its season and new stadium against UTSA on Aug. 30, although there is a possibility the game could move up one day for TV.
Seriously? Our first game in our brand new stadium on a Friday night? That's going to suck for people who have to work or are traveling in for the game. It's going to suck for tailgating, too. In fact, if last year is any indication, all of these home games are probably going to suck for tailgating because they will be 11 AM kickoffs for ESPNNews.

So why is this schedule so bad?
Mack Rhoades, UH's vice president for intercollegiate athletics, said the Cougars prefer to have only one FCS opponent on the schedule but "were put in a tough situation" when a Football Bowl Subdivision non-conference opponent decided not to play "10 months before the start of the season." UH did not name the team, but sources indicated it was Rice.

Rhoades said UH reached out to every FBS school that had an opening or the ability to play 13 games next season - even offering to play on the road - but was unable to receive a commitment.
I don't know how much of this is true and how much of this is cover-your-ass spin by Rhoades; there are rumors on UH athletics message boards that Rhoades never had a signed contract with Rice and that this dispute has something to do with the sudden decision to move the Cincinnati game from Rice Stadium to BBVA Compass Stadium last November. And, no offense to the Owls, but even with Rice in place of Tennessee Tech this schedule wouldn't have looked much better; again, why no "Power 5" opponents?

At any rate, it's clear that Rhoades and the UH Athletics Department expects the novelty of the new stadium to sell tickets this fall, because this schedule alone certainly is not going to get the casual fan interested.

If there's anything good about the schedule, it's that it's so weak that the Cougars should be able to win nine or ten games this fall. Aside from that, I am pretty disappointed.