Friday, April 30, 2010

BP and their Environmental Disaster

Last week a BP owned oil rig exploded off the coast of Louisiana. Over ten people were killed or are presumed dead, but sadly that's not even the biggest concern. The oil rig eventually sank into the ocean uncapping its main oil line stemming from the ocean floor. The result: possibly the biggest US environmental disaster in our short history.

Just yesterday, nine days after the rig exploded, I saw a BP representative asking for help from the government and other oil companies. This means two things. 1 - they have not received additional help from the government or other oil companies and 2 - nobody (the oil company, other oil companies, the government or other parties) were prepared for this. Now, believe me, I am a huge fan of Barry Obama, but why the hell has it taken ten days for the White House to be hugely concerned about this situation? Hurricane Katrina anyone?

That very same BP representative told CNN that the oil could continue pumping out of this line for up to 90 days. That's three months! That's 5000 barrels of oil a day. That's completely unfathomable. How can they be this unprepared?

To me, it's the same as Big Coal. Big Oil has buddied up with politicians and allowed for relaxed regulations. It makes zero sense to me that we have no immediate solution to a problem that's not that unlikely to occur. Somewhere, somehow, a lot of people have dropped the ball and this time, wildlife is going to pay the price.

So, pray, hope, meditate, cross your fingers or do whatever it is you do when you want a certain outcome to the future, that "officials" are able to turn off this destructive line of environment hating, United States sludge in the very near future. It isn't that hard to figure out just how devastating this could be. 90 days of this and we'll be worrying about much more than the Louisiana and Florida wildlife.

Please, someone, start overreacting.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

It's kinda hard to blog...

...with a cat on your computer.

Monday, April 19, 2010

The Cats

The Big Cat.

The Little Cat.

Hillbilly Hotdogs

Let me just start out by saying that this place is absolutely absurd.

Hillbilly Hotdogs sounded like a good Idea. After all, Guy Fieri from the Food Network visited this joint while filming an episode of Diners Drive-ins and Dives. Trust me on this, though, the place lives up to its name.

This is a view from inside the... the... dining room? Yeah. It's inside a school bus.

We ate outside.

And this is the outside. Much better, eh?


This was lunch. It was a Taco Dog topped with lettuce, onions, tomatoes, sour cream, salsa and jalapenos. It was good, but it wasn't drive 45 miles to the biggest shithole on the East Coast good.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

The Upper Big Branch Disaster

As my wife and I sat down to watch the NCAA Championship on Monday evening, the news scrolled across the top of our TV screen. "Seven miners killed and 25 trapped in the Upper Big Branch Coal Mine located in Whitesville, WV." It's a sinking feeling that I've felt in the past, but it's never something I've gotten used to.

We immediately tuned in to CNN and there were live broadcasts from the scene. There were emergency vehicles all over the place, reporters scrambling and family members trying to hold themselves together. It was a terrible scene that's still playing itself out at this very moment. At this point, 25 miners have passed and four are still missing. The missing four are not expected to be alive, but rescue efforts are still being made despite numerous setbacks caused my high concentrations of methane gas in the mine.

Don Blankenship, CEO of Massey Energy (the company that owns the Upper Big Branch Mine), has provided an extremely unsafe working environment for the people of this mine. In 2009 the Upper Big Branch Mine had over 500 safety violations. That's more than one a day! How could this mine still be operating with that many problems, you ask. When a mine violates a regulation, they're slapped with a fine instead of being made to fix the problem. IT'S CHEAPER TO CONTINUALLY PAY THE FINE THAN FIX THE PROBLEM.

How is this possible? Can't the government do something about this and shut a mine down? Hahaha... the government. You mean the guys that are afraid of Don Blankenship? You mean the people Don Blankenship helped get elected by contributing to their campaigns? The government is an enabler purchased by Big Coal. Scary, huh?

What's even scarier is the lengths some people will go to defend Massey and Don Blankenship. Some "Friends of Coal" defend the man and his company like a god. They back him when he says disasters like this are an "act of God" and it's just part of coal mining. Their constant ridicule of "tree hugging liberals" on local commercials in West Virginia only back up my point. Local media is another accessory to Big Coal.

Like I said before, I've followed this story closely on CNN and our local network affiliates. Numerous times CNN has stated how many violations this mine has had. The local affiliates... not so much. It's almost like they're afraid to criticize Big Daddy Don Blankenship for his ruthless, money grubbing, coal over human safety ways. Coal controls everything in Appalachia.

So how do you beat Big Coal? I know it's a difficult assignment, but I think it can be done. It's gonna have to start with education. People in rural West Virginia and Appalachia are going to have to open up to knowledge and accept outsiders. You don't have to work in a mine if you get a good education. So many times I hear about what a great work ethic coal miners have. Well, have that same work ethic growing up in school and learn. Instill this value in your children now. Learning will get you away from Big Coal. You'll learn it isn't the only answer.

Like I said, death in a coal mine isn't something that I have gotten used to. It's extremely frustrating and it just doesn't have to happen. Stand up to Big Coal. Show them that these jobs aren't the only way to make a living. Do not accept this tragedy and move on. West Virginians are proud people. Be proud in the face of Big Coal.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

One Shining Moment

This year CBS changed things up a little bit and had Jennifer Hudson sing the NCAA tribute video instead of Luther Vandross.

Things to watch for...

1. WVU cheerleaders

2. WVU players Casey Mitchell and Wellington Smith chasing a University of Washinton player

3. WVU forward Da'Sean Butler hitting a three and pounding his chest against Kentucky

4. WVU point guard Joe Mazzulla running the offense in Syracuse

5. WVU forward Devin Ebanks holding up four fingers after defeating Kentucky

6. WVU forward John Flowers doing the "John Wall Dance"

7. WVU head coach Bob Huggins comforting Da'Sean Butler after his injury against Duke

Anyway, here it is.

Monday, April 5, 2010

The Final Four and What it Meant to Me

By reading the captions of the pictures in the last post, you can probably tell I'm still bitter about WVU's loss to Duke in the national semi-finals on Saturday, but should I be?

The Mountaineers had an amazing season. They finished the year with a 31-7 record, a Big East Championship, a berth in the Final Four and countless buzzer-beaters that will be etched in my mind forever. It was a college basketball season that I've never experienced in my lifetime and I'm not sure how many more like this one can expect. It's more than anyone can ask for.

So why am I and so many other Mountaineer fans down in the dumps on the Monday mourning after?

With that last sentence I'm eluding to the injury of Da'Sean Butler. With just over nine minutes remaining in the second half of Saturday's game, Da'Sean drove the lane, planted his left foot and kaboom...

Being there, I didn't really get it. I saw Da' fall, grab his knee and writhe around in pain. Bob Huggins made his way on the court, leaned over Butler and hugged him. It was clear he said something to Da'Sean, but nobody could tell what it was. Butler was helped to his feet and then carried off the court. Moments later he was picked up by a golf cart and wheeled to the locker room. The cart exited the arena directly under our seats giving us a close-up of Da'Sean... this would be the last time anyone would ever see him in a WVU uniform and perhaps the last time anyone will ever see him in a basketball uniform... period.

Da'Sean Butler tore his ACL and severely sprained his MCL. This is bad news for any basketball player, let alone one that might or might not be selected in this June's NBA draft. Da'Sean has carried this state on his back for the last two months and has played his heart out for it for the last four years. If anyone deserves the NBA, it's him.

That's why when I think about what Bob Huggins said to Da'Sean while he laid on the court crying, my eyes well up ever so slightly. After the game Butler told reporters Huggins said, "Don't cry. Don't worry. I love you."

In the toughest of moments, from the toughest of coaches, it's awesome to know that a man who portrays the hardest of attitudes could be such a warm person when it mattered most.

It's an extremely sad story for Da'Sean. It's sad for all those who were hoping for a national championship. But, in the end, I hope everyone remembers the strong bond between player and coach that was displayed in Indianapolis Saturday night.

Take a few days. Get over the loss. We'll begin to enjoy the memories of the previous four wins. Root for Da'Sean's recovery until he finally gets a crack at the NBA. He will do that. He's that kind of guy. Be glad, however, that Bob Huggins showed the entire country what it's like to be a Mountaineer.

Our Trip to the Final Four

Here's a newspaper on a table at our hotel. Basketball was in the air and we were stoked to be in Indianapolis. Dreams of championship trophies danced in our heads.

Too bad this was the only one we were going to see. This NCAA Championship Trophy was on display at Bracket Town... a family/fan center located inside Lucas Oil Stadium.

Now was the time.

Downtown Indianapolis was covered with Final Four signage. Here's a billboard listing finalists for the most outstanding senior of the year. WVU's Da'Sean Butler won the award.

We were a little too late the WVU pregame tailgate party (WVU fans start early). We ended up having a few beers at the Butler Bulldog tailgate inside the Ram Brewery instead. Seriously, we were only two of the four Mountaineer fans in the building. No matter, however. The Bulldog fans were super nice and we even invited a few of them to sit with us at our table. In all honesty, this was probably the highlight of the day.

Outside Lucas Oil Stadium.

View from our seats inside Lucas Oil Stadium. We sat directly above the WVU/Butler tunnel so we got a great view of the teams entering and exiting the court. Oh yeah, the court... if you look in the very middle of the picture, you can almost see it.

Here's Brad Stevens, the head coach of the Butler Bulldogs.

Tom Izzo, head coach of the Michigan State Spartans.

How about that guy? Yep, that's Peyton Manning. He was sitting just a few rows behind us.

Coach Asshole, Duke University.

Huggs raising hell inside a WVU huddle. They deserved it at this point.

What could have been.