Friday, January 22, 2010

How do you pass the time when school is delayed? BLOG!

We have another school delay today ... not everyone in Frederick County - just us mountain folks!

The blog is committed to posting more regularly ... the problem is the blogger.

Let's catch up on what's up and what's down:

My poor Ravens ... all of the bad habits that they extinguished in the Patriots victory were re-ignited against the Colts. Not enough running plays ... turnovers ... penalties ... and Ed Reed being spectacularly good and bad on the same play.

We watched the game in Delaware - for a few reasons. Primarily, we wanted to go and hang with Pam's father who was home recovering from knee replacement surgery. It was a long weekend due to the MLK holiday, so we could relax and stay for a while. Raven QB Joe Flacco attended the University of Delaware, so we thought it would create good karma to watch the game in "The First State." Lastly, I wanted Grotto Pizza. Mission accomplished.

Colts vs. Jets? I'll pull for the guys in green, but my head says the Colts are headed to the Super Bowl. I see New Orleans winning against the Vikings, and a subsequent media frenzy about Brett Favre and retirement. Deja vu.

I'm working on plans to head to Florida for a Spring Training "guys" weekend in March. I haven't been to Spring Training since a spring break during college - the year was 1993 (1996 was a cruise; 1995 was a trip home; 1994 was a roadtrip to Florida). Tentatively, headquarters will be Tampa, which provides a central location to take in home games for the Yankees, Phillies, Tigers and Blue Jays. There will also be plenty of March Madness action on TV that weekend, so sports will rule the days and the nights.

We spent a good deal of time this past week working on "the book project." The "we" refers to my work buddy / co-assistant-principal Meg ... and yes, she puts up with me voluntarily. Update - the book project (related to education, but I'll keep the specifics under wraps so no one steals our millions) is now two books. We plan to roll out the book ideas in the form of magazine articles, and then see if that leads to commercial publishing or self-publishing. So, even if we don't become rich and famous, we'll enjoy the smell of duplicator fluid as we hand-crank book pages from an old-school ditto machine.

In case you hadn't recovered from holiday shopping yet, there are two big birthdays right around the corner - Marty and Lilly. I'm February 12, while Miss Lilly is February 16. We haven't posted our gift registries yet, but stay tuned. Oh, and you have permission from your husband / wife / boyfriend / girlfriend to take the money you were thinking about spending on Valentine's Day and get Marty and Lilly something nice.

To quote the Bartles and James team, "Thank you for your support."

Pitchers and catchers report in 27 days - Go O's!

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Blogging about Football ... and Life?

Forgive me in advance for the very football-centric theme of this post, but the Ravens game was compelling, and it really got me thinking.

The Ravens surprised everyone, except perhaps themselves, with today's 33-14 defeat of the New England Patriots. There were just too many factors for the Ravens to overcome to win the game - Tom Brady's mystique, playing a Patriots team that had not lost at home this season, the genius of Patriot coach Bill Belichick, the Ravens' habit of losing games because of penalties and/or turnovers.

And then the game started. On January 10, 2010, the Ravens looked like the team from January 2009. On the road, against a division champion, the Ravens rolled on to a lopsided win on the strength of a running game and defense. The irony is this ... for much of the 2009 season, the Ravens preferred to pass the ball. Why?

The team that achieved an 11-5 record in 2008, plus two playoff wins, ran the ball 592 times and passed the ball 433 times (1025 total plays). This year, the team finished 9-7. The team ran the ball 468 times, and passed the ball 510 times (978 total plays). Coincidence?

As the 2009 season began, the Ravens returned Pro Bowler LeRon McClain, Willis McGahee, and Ray Rice. Rice was injured at the end of the 2008 season. In addition to the runners, the Ravens added Matt Birk and Michael Oher to the offensive line. Yet the team's run attempts decreased by 124, and the passes increased by 77.

Today, in the biggest game of the year, against seemingly insurmountable odds (not to mention a whole league and its officials, who paranoid Raven conspiracy theorists believe want the Patriots to win and the Raven to lose), the Ravens reverted back to their old formula. The Ravens ran the ball on 52 of 62 total plays. There was not one fumble on a run attempt. The 52 carries led to 234 yards. All three running backs scored a touchdown (Rice had two).

Teams that run the ball successfully can affect a game in this way - it keeps a defense rested, it keeps the opponent's offense off of the field, it takes up more time (making it easier to protect a lead), and it takes the wind out of the other team's sails. When a team gives up lots of yards on running plays, it becomes deflated, and deflated teams are often defeated.

The Ravens ran their way to an improbable appearance in the AFC Championship game a year ago by running the ball. The team lost its way a bit this year to the tune of 9-7, but when the bright lights of the playoffs went on, the team reined in Joe Flacco and let the three-headed-monster running back trio win the game.

And then there's the defense. Folks thought the defense was in deep trouble for the Patriots game. People assumed that Tom Brady, Randy Moss and friends would have their way with a unit that sorely missed Rex Ryan, Bart Scott and the injured Samari Rolle, Fabian Washington and Lardarius Webb. The defense had quite a day - 4 turnovers, 3 sacks, 6 tackles for loss, allowing only 64 rushing yards, and limiting Randy Moss to 48 yards receiving.

This is where football and life begin to reflect one another. The Ravens reminded me of an important lesson - be yourself. The Ravens are, and have always been, a team that runs the ball and plays defense. So while it was nice to see the team try to sling the ball around this year, to thine own self be true.

I'm real big into books on tape these days. I was listening to an author named Parker Palmer. He talks about a person living an "authentic life" - that is, we need to present to the world on the outside, what we are on the inside, and that in order to do this, we should be true to ourselves.


In real life, that means don't be someone that you are not. Don't be a phony, a fake, a fraud. People see through the false exteriors. When you say something out of character, or do something out of context, you cause raised eyebrows. I don't mean the surprise bouquet of flowers, or buying bagels for the folks in the office at work. Just be consistent. Mean what you say, keep your word, and be sincere.

In football, it means RUN THE BALL. Run the ball until they can stop you. And when they decide to position all of their defensive players in such a way to stop the run, throw it, and score points. Simple.

Defensively, the game plan from the first Colts game was a good one. The Ravens held the Colts to 17 points - and the Ravens held a 15-14 lead with 10 minutes remaining. With just under 3 minutes remaining, the Ravens trailed 17-15 but were in field goal range. But a costly interception ended the drive. The question on everyone's mind - why weren't the Ravens running the ball?

Side note - a key play that game was Ed Reed attempting a lateral after an interception. The play resulted in a fumble, and the Colts took a knee to end the game. Ed was up to the same tricks again today ... the lateral was successful, and the play helped set up the Ravens' third touchdown.

Wow, that was a long blog, and mostly about football.

Other stuff that happened recently:

A snow day on Friday ... looks like we're in for quite a winter, with most of January and all of February waiting in the wings.

Our new favorite family TV show is "Man vs. Food." I went to college with the host, Adam Richman. The show is a riot - check it out on the Travel Channel.

I'm looking for an idea for a mini-vacation - Pam and I have a credit with Southwest Airlines that we'd like to use toward a long weekend getaway. Feedback welcome.

School tomorrow - I need to iron, make lunches and get my beauty rest.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Blogging ... Twitter-Style

So what is this Twitter thing all about? After doing some reading and research, I think I may be on the verge joining the revolution.

Sure, Facebook is cool, but I do not turn to Facebook for videos, pictures, games, quizzes or just trying to check out who's doing what. I use Facebook to pose a random thought / joke, and to see what other silliness people are up to. Facebook works this way for me - there are some folks whose updates I look for, and other folks who I expect to comment on my updates. Then there are the people who seek you out - people from the old neighborhood, or from grade school, or from college, or from work, or from camp, etc. We'll exchange a few notes, and then it's back to "out of sight, out of mind." No ill will ... there's just too much going on to keep up.

I view it like this - Twitter is a way to send a text message to a whole bunch of people, and see what they fire back at you.

Blogging requires a bit more intensive writing than Twitter ... as in way more than the 140 character limit that Twitter enforces. I like the Blog platform ... sometimes I want to say a bit more than just posting things like:

"The Ravens are in the playoffs - not Pittsburgh, not Washington."

"I had a 2-hour delay for school on Wednesday - you didn't."

"Gilbert Arenas ... NRA member?"

Then again, posting those kinds of things are kinda fun.

So, if you start to hear from me via Twitter, don't be scared. I'll keep up the blog, and I'll pop in and out of Facebook.

Some quick blog updates:

My Ravens ... tough loss in Pittsburgh, good win in Oakland, Foxboro here we come. I think the Ravens stick with the running game / hard-nosed approach and win a close game. They played New England close in the Patriots' run toward perfection in 2007, and then again earlier this season. The first loss was due to penalties, the next loss was due to choking in the clutch. Third time is the charm. Then, a trip to Indy for a rematch? I won't venture down that road ... until Sunday.

My father-in-law ... had knee replacement surgery. He's doing fine now, recovering and being a model patient. I slipped the doctor a few extra dollars to give Jim a mega-knee ... the Ravens need a reliable place kicker.

My family ... on the Rochlin side is excited to be returning to Bethany Beach this summer. After taking a year off to adjust to life with Isabella, we're all heading back to Sea Colony on July 31. I can taste the Grotto pizza already.

Maybe more snow on Thursday night ... could be a long weekend.


Friday, January 1, 2010

Ringing In - and Blogging In - the New Year

It's good to be back ... I was down but not out ... and now, I'm ready to make up for lost time:

The Great Snow of 2009 (or was it a Blizzard, or Snow-pocalypse, or something else?) not only shut down most of the state of Maryland, but also the Blogger. What started as a bit of a chest cold and cough on Friday became a full-fledged commercial for Nyquil - you know, the coughing, aching, stuffy head, fever thing by Monday. Along the way, I tried to push around a little of the snow on Saturday (so our deck would not collapse), which seemed like a good idea at the time until I felt how my body crashed on Sunday. Thanks to Dennis, we managed to get shoveled out. Before I gave in to the illness, we managed to sneak over to the Albrights to watch the Ravens - Bears game ... on a field that amazingly looked like snow had never landed on it.

Beginning Monday AM, Pam and Lilly took advantage of the cleared-out driveway and the extra time off of school to stay far away from me.

Left to my own devices, I can report the following:

1. The doctor determined via my Monday 12/22 visit that I had a bronchial thing, or the beginnings of pneumonia. She called in an RX to the store, and in the meantime, I headed to Waffle House. I never realized that the road to medical recovery begins with a waffle, scrambled eggs with cheese, and hashbrowns.

2. Watched a few good movies - Star Trek, Grand Torino, and the latest Harry Potter movie (which I had seen most of in the theater, but had to leave it early). I hope the Star Trek crew returns for a sequel or two.

3. I have a new appreciation for hot tea. While I was sick, I had no interest in coffee. Hot tea, with some honey stirred in, hit the spot and helped suppress the chills.

Mostly healed (thanks, Z-pack and cough medicine), we headed to Lewes, DE for Christmas with Pam's folks. As usual, a lovely time was had by all - Lilly loves to set up cookies and carrots for Santa and the reindeer, and Pam flips through her parents' basket of holiday cards with wide eyes and a steady stream of questions / comments. I love my time in Jim's recliner, nursing cup after cup of Flavia coffee and just relaxing.

On Saturday, the McDonalds from New Jersey joined in for Christmas round two- we spent the day and the night tinkering with Natalie's iTouch, Lilly's DS-lite, and Nick's PSP and DJ Hero. And don't think that the grown ups weren't involved in the tech toys as well ... I helped Jim to set up his new flat screen TV, which made our viewing of "The Polar Express" and "Happy Feet" just delightful.

There is still one more week of the Rochlin family vacation to share, but we'll save that for another blog over the weekend - including a trip to Easton for a Ravens party, an outing to the Gaylord National Resort, Avatar, more snow, New Year's Eve, and more.

Until then -