Thursday, September 28, 2023

Four Corners

I have never been to Four Corners, where four states (Arizona, Utah, Colorado, and New Mexico) meet. I was close to it once on a trip through the American Southwest, but didn't have time to detour to see it.

Where I have been is the four corners of the continental US. These are:

  1. Blaine, Washington
  2. San Diego, California
  3. Aroostook County, Maine
  4. Key West, Florida
Blaine, Washington is just south of the U.S.-Canada border in western Washington State. I would go there for a business conference when I was working in the corporate world. I stayed at a lovely place call Semiahmoo. It was so close to Canada, that I sometimes got billed for making cell phone calls from our neighbor to the north. 

Blaine is about a five hour drive from where I live. But it's worth it.

I've also been to Point Roberts, which could be argued as the northwest corner of the continental US. Except it isn't connected to the continental US. You have to go through Canada to drive there. There's no ferries, either.

I wasn't too impressed with Point Roberts. Mostly casinos for Canadians.

I've been to San Diego a couple of times. Once I caught a cruise there. But my niece used to live there and my wife would want to go visit. I once drove from San Diego to Vancouver, WA (where I lived at the time) in a day. That was a long drive.

I went to Aroostook County on business. There's really no other reason to go there. I caught a puddle hopper in Boston and flew there. There's not much there but potato farms. I saw people digging potatoes by hand and thought about the huge potato harvesters they use in Eastern Washington.

And, finally, Key West, Florida. I had a business conference in Miami. When it was over, I rented a car and drove to Key West, not realizing how far it was. I did this out of curiosity and to do research for my novel, Agent of Artifice. Key West is quaint with lots of old, beautiful houses and great beaches. But it was about 160 miles from Miami, a lot of it had slow speed limits (only part of Florida I've been where people follow the speed limit). I wanted to see the southernmost point of the continental US. I stood where my character did in the book.

Southernmost point in Continental US, Key West

Have you been to any of these places? What did you think? Let me know in the comments below.

Thursday, September 21, 2023

Chuck Jones

From What's Opera Doc?
A person I admire is Chuck Jones.

"Who?" you might be saying.

Chuck Jones was, in my opinion, the best director/animators of cartoon shorts ever. He worked for Leon Schlesinger productions where the first Looney Tunes shorts were made (exactly six minutes long). Later, Leon Schlesinger productions was bought by Warner Bros. According to his filmography on Wikipedia, he made 209 shorts (if I counted correctly) for Schlesinger/Warner Bros. before he left them in 1962. He is responsible for the creation of the Road Runner/Wile E. Coyote cartoons and many amazing shorts starring Bugs Bunny, Elmer Fudd, Daffy Duck, and the whole Looney Tunes gang.

I was listening to the commentary for What's Opera Doc? (probably his best cartoon) and they said at Schlesinger/Warner Bros. the animators were expected to make ten cartoon shorts a year, working five weeks on each (and then two weeks vacation). Which explains his productivity.

Chuck Jones's cartoons made me laugh after I discovered Looney Tunes on Saturday mornings as a child. Now, at 63 years old, I still love them. I can still sing the song from those Saturday morning shows ("Overture, hit the lights...").

One thing I admire about Jones is that, until I read his autobiography, Chuck Amuck, I had no idea of his politics. He kept them completely out of his work and only hinted at in it his book. So I had no clue that he was actually an FDR Democrat. I admire people who can keep their personal opinions out of their art (I can't).

How do you feel about Chuck Jones and his work? Let me know in the comments below.

The above photo is being used under Section 107 of the Copyright Act: fair usage.

Thursday, September 14, 2023


 I pride myself on thinking scientifically. Or at least trying to. It's hard because that's not how human minds are wired to think. It's hard to only look at objective evidence and not let your prejudices or preconceived notions get in the way. And I know I do that, but I try to minimize it.

But when it comes to sports, and my beloved University of Washington Huskies football team, I can be unscientific. In fact, I am downright superstitious. 

For example: In 2021 I dyed my hair purple to show my support for the team. I thought it would be fun and a cool way to show how much I love the team. So this is how I looked:

And, I got a little beef about it living among Washington State Cougars supporters. Some people, however, thought it was neat.

But in 2021, the Huskies had a horrible year. They were 4-8. They lost to FCS team Montana (I was in the stands). They lost the Apple Cup!

So I'll NEVER dye my hair purple again. Why? Superstition. I don't want my Huskies to have another awful year. I know that's not at all scientific (how does my hair color affect the team?). But I'm still not dying my hair purple again.

(I did talk to my wife about dying my hair green so that the Oregon Nike Ducks have a horrible year.)

Do you have any superstitions that you keep practicing despite knowing they aren't really working? Let me know in the comments below.

Thursday, September 7, 2023

Are College Football Coaches Overpaid?

College football has had their first games last weekend. I'm looking forward to the rest of the season a lot. I think my beloved University of Washington Huskies are going to have a great year.

But there is a large controversy in college football and that is what the coaches are paid, at least in Power 5 conferences. For example, Kalen DeBoer, the coach at the University of Washington, is being paid a $26.7 million base salary over six years (or $4.45 million a year). If he stays with the program through 2025, he'll get a total of $10 million in bonuses (spread out over the years).

And DeBoer is considered a low-paid coach (I'm sure if he has another season like last year, that will change). Alabama's head coach, Nick Saban, is the highest paid college head coach at $10.7 million a year that will increase to $12.7 million by 2029. 

That's more than a lot of corporate CEOs make. But less than Taylor Swift.

(Pete Carroll, head coach of the NFL Seattle Seahawks, makes $15 million a year, in comparison.)

Then there's all the other coaches such as offensive and defensive coordinators, quarterback coaches, offensive line coaches, etc. They have to make a lot of money, too. Husky offensive coordinator Ryan Grubb just got a pay increase to $2 million a year because someone was trying to hire him away from UW.

The reason why these coaches are paid so much is that a good, winning coach is in high demand (just like CEOs that can make a company prosperous and like Taylor Swift concert tickets). You have to pay them a lot to keep them at your school.

And, yes, the coaches are often the highest paid state government employee.

Are they worth it? 

Yes! Because a winning program will make more money for the schools' athletic departments. That profit the football program makes goes to paying for sports, including women's sports required by Title IX, that the school otherwise couldn't afford. Plus, a winning football team has been shown to increase donations to the school for scholarships and other things.

So, yes, college football coaches are paid a lot. But they are worth it. (This is probably true of winning college basketball coaches, too, but they don't seem to make as much.)

How do you feel about coaches' salaries at the college level. Let me know in the comments below.