Sunday, December 21, 2008

Christmas Tree, O Christmas Tree

We had grand plans for this weekend, but they were frustrated by sickness and bad weather. So we stayed in town and had an even better time than we bargained for. We got Friday off from work and school, as the NYCC campus was closed due to a big snow storm. Saturday was my birthday so we ventured out for breakfast and a Christmas tree. We went to a local Christmas tree farm and cut one down. We were in snow up to our knees, but had such a good time!

And as a present to me, the Duke basketball team decimated Xavier. Thanks guys :)

We had another snow day on Sunday - church was canceled due to the wind blowing around the freshly fallen snow - and making it impossible to see the roads. We stayed home, decorated and made sugar cookies.

All in all, a wonderful 3-day weekend! Finals are over for Cory and it was wonderful to have the entire weekend to spend time with him, without studying and papers looming over us. We're all ready for Christmas and can't wait to see my family!

Friday, December 12, 2008

My musings on the BCS ... Take 2

My comments to your comments:

My friend Andrea came up with a very good comment, saying: "In order to make it so all 150 Division I teams have a shot at the national title you set up a 16 game playoff system that either a) takes the top 16 teams in the country or b) takes the top team from each conference with a few outliers. That way in years like this, Texas, Texas Tech, and Oklahoma would all be satisfied."

Props to you, Andrea. A playoff system certainly would take care of much of the BCS controversy. I whole-heartedly agree. For example, pit unbeaten Utah against 1-loss Texas, and see who wins. Winner gets to move on - loser gets to go home.

The problem I have with a playoff system is that it would make college football less exciting during the regular season. It would become a lot like college basketball. Now don't get me wrong - I love college hoops. But March Madness is undeniably the best part of the season. Set up all 64 teams to play each other, single-elimination style (though how much does it suck to be that #16 seed who gets to play the #1 seed?). Keep winning and you keep playing.

Yes a similar system would undoubtedly work for college football ... but ... it wouldn't be nearly as thrilling to watch the regular season. With the current system, every week you play means a shot at that elusive championship is on the line. I know, it sounds melodramatic, but it's really not. Every game you play has a huge impact. Not as much so in college hoops ... not to say that it's not important to win, since obviously, it is. But you lose 1 or 2 games - so what? You'll still get a good seed and get to play in the Big Dance.

You lose one game in college football ... and either you are out contention for the national championship game (Texas) or you have to claw your way back into contention by pulverizing everyone you play (Florida). Every game matters so much! That's the beauty of watching college football. It's breath-taking, heart pounding, with big implications. I would miss that element if college football went to a playoff system.

Can't something just be done to eliminate the "elite" teams in the BCS? Who cares if you come from the Mountain West, or the SEC? That seems to me to be the best way to fix the BCS. No more rules that say the SEC automatically sends 2 teams, while the MWC sends 0 (unless they have a stellar season, like the U, then we call them 'BCS Busters'). If you're in the top 10, you get a BCS bowl game - regardless of what conference you come from. Doesn't this make more sense?

Of course, we'd still have to deal with ranking teams, and deciding who gets what bowl game. #1 can play #2, #3 play #4, etc, etc. Rankings are determined by your record ... and maybe your strength of schedule? Perhaps if there's a tie, then a playoff system could be introduced, preparatory to the BCS bowl games.


Wednesday, December 10, 2008

My musings on the BCS ...

If you're not a fan of college football, you aren't going to find this post very interesting. However, if you are a fan, read on ...

I'll be the first one to admit that I don't know the inner-workings of the BCS. I have an understanding of how it works, but I don't comprehend all the finer details (nor do I care to learn). However, in light of the recent announcement of who gets to play where, I have been musing on the BCS. That it needs some tweaking is true. Would a college play-off system do a better job? I have no idea ... but something needs to be done.

Here's why ... Texas Tech had a really good season, they've got a good team, but they were blown out by Oklahoma, and ended up being ranked #7 in the BCS polls. I don't think #7 is anything to snub your nose at ... but they totally got the shaft. It's not a very fair system. Of course, I think the Big 12 has some problems independent of the BCS (like the way they choose the team that gets to play for the Conference championship). Texas got screwed too, particularly since they beat Oklahoma. Now, I'm not partial to any team down there (Texas, Texas Tech, Oklahoma) - I love college football in general - but I do think some of them got hosed, and that's not really fair. Of course, life isn't fair, but I think a better system could be dreamed up.

And who are they kidding? I think the Texas/Ohio State game is going to be a joke! Personal opinion, though - I may be wrong. If Texas brings it (which I think they will), then they're going to blow out Ohio State (who isn't really that good this year - again, personal opinion). Poor Ohio State - they got beat the last 2 years in the championship game, and now they get to play Texas in the Tostitos Bowl. Losing 3 BCS bowl games in a row can't look good ... then again, maybe that will provide them the necessary motivation ...

And 'Bama/Utah? Hmmm ... the Utes are really going to have to bring it! 'Bama is good. I think the Ute defense (and the offense) is going to have to step it up, and if they do, it could be a mighty good game. The Utes are one of the few undefeated teams left ... but since they play in the Mountain West conference, they get to play in the Sugar Bowl instead of the national championship. Fair? Not really. Same thing with Boise State ... they're undefated, but play in the WAC, so they get the Poinsettia Bowl ... though I will say, Boise State and TCU is at least intriguing.

If I was in charge and I got to pick, out of the top 10 teams, I would pick: 'Bama/Texas, Ohio State/Utah, USC/Texas Tech, and Penn State/Boise State. USC/Penn State doesn't seem that exciting to me, and I would love to see USC's defense take on Texas Tech . I think Oklahoma and Florida is a good match up - I really think they are the best 2 teams out there (sorry Ute fans).

Somebody tell the commissioner of the BCS that I should be in charge ... I've got great ideas. And a statistics degree that I would love to put to use in the college football arena!

Monday, December 8, 2008

Go Gators

Go Gators! They earned a date with Oklahoma on January 8th. In Miami. In the championship. YEAH baby!! They beat the previously undefeated, used-to-be ranked #1 team, 31-20. And now, ironically enough, that team (Alabama Crimson Tide) gets to play the University of Utah in the Sugar Bowl. Good luck Utes ... 'Bama is one good team. Go Utes, Go Gators!

Last night, I attended the Fayette Ward, 2nd Annual Interfaith Fireside. This was the missionaries' brainchild last year, and I'm so happy they organized it again for this year. They invited choirs from all the faiths in the area, along with the local high school's chamber choir (similar to Viewmont's madrigals) to our chapel in the Fayette Ward, for a fireside of Christmas music. Last night turned out better than anyone dared hope. Lots of non-LDS people came to the fireside. The songs that were performed were just lovely. The Spirit that was present was fabulous. So many non-LDS people filled out referral cards, while everyone chit-chatted over cookies and punch (we're Mormons - gotta have refreshments! :) Many even stayed to hear the First Presidency's Christmas Devotional. Such a great night!

For all you fellow Twilight fans: watch this link. It's too awesome!

Monday, December 1, 2008

Thanksgiving weekend

Our Thanksgiving was lovely. For the first time in years we didn't travel very far. This was our 3rd Thanksgiving living on the east coast, and it was our first one staying in town. It was quite nice not to travel long distances or fight with traffic and weather. We had a very low-key weekend. We had traditional turkey dinner with friends on Thursday, which was quite pleasant. We slept in a lot - trying to make up for weeks of missing sleep. We shopped, and went to dinner and a movie. Since Cory was such a good sport about seeing Twilight with me last week, he got to pick the movie for this weekend ... and so we went to see James Bond: Quantum of Solace. I really liked it - definitely action-packed. I want to watch it again, only with closed captioning this time, so I can catch everything that everyone says.

I was reflecting on how much I have to be thankful for, and it's quite a lot. I won't list everything ... but I do have plenty to be thankful for. I'm grateful for Cory, the best husband in the entire world. I'm grateful for my family, both immediate and extended. They're the very best! I'm grateful for awesome friends who are wonderful examples and always uplifting. I'm grateful for my good health - and the health of people that I love. I'm grateful for education - my own, and Cory's ever-increasing knowledge in the health care field. I'm grateful for parents (and teachers) who taught me to love books, at a very young age. I'm grateful for the Gospel of Jesus Christ, for the truth I have, and the values and principles it teaches.

On a less serious note ... I'm grateful for TV, which brings me awesome college football games. I'm grateful for Target, which makes me happy for no reason at all. I'm grateful for Stephenie Meyer. I'm grateful for ColdStone ice cream (now with a store only 45 minutes away)! I'm grateful for musicals, hot chocolate, Christmas music & lights, homemade jam, opportunities for travel, great memories, Bath & Body Works, missionaries, and donuts.

Happy December! Christmas countdown officially begins today!

Monday, November 24, 2008

Twilight ... the movie

Well, since people are asking me ... yes, I loved Twilight! We saw it Friday afternoon and I really enjoyed myself. I even took my camera, hoping to get a picture of me and a cardboard cutout of Edward ... but no luck. Sometimes New York theaters are so lame.

I thoroughly enjoyed the movie. You all know how much I LOVE the book and so when I went to the movie, I went with the idea that I wasn't going to compare every piece of the movie with the book - that's a sure way to set yourself up for disappointment. I thought they did a pretty darn good job of getting all the key elements from the book into the movie ... let's face it ... it can't be easy turning such a large novel into a 2 hour movie.

I loved the baseball scene - I thought it was perfect. And I thought the scene in the ballet studio at the end was pretty good - the actors all did a good job of playing their parts without coming off really cheesy. I did think the flashbacks of Carlisle biting Edward and Esme were a bit cheesy ... but other that that, I thought all the actors did a tremendous job bringing these beloved characters to life. I loved Charlie - thought he was perfect. Bella was really good too. I wish we could have seen more interaction with the Cullen family - but I'm sure they'll put more into the next movies (YEA!) I thought Jessica was also perfect - she sounded just like she did in my head, when I was reading the books. Prattling on and on ... oh, and Mike was pretty good, too. And Edward playing Bella's lullaby on the piano ... aaaaah! So good! I liked the prom scene, too. And how Edward "sparkled" in the sunlight was pretty well done, too (thought it did kind of look like he spilled glitter on his chest).

I thought Edward was a bit too intense at times ... he needed to lighten up a little more, like when he put his arm around Bella and they were walking through the parking lot with him wearing those shades. Just a little less angst would have been good :) We didn't get to see too much of the relationship between him and Bella develop, since a lot of their dialogue from the book was cut and things there seemed a little rushed. Still, there was a lot to fit in, and they did get some of the book's most famous lines in there ... like "You are my life now"... my personal favorite line from the book. Could you get any more romantic? Yep, I swooned at that one.

Oh, and just a little bragging ... I have the best husband in the world :) He went with me to the movie, which was really special for me, getting to share something that I was really looking forward to with him. He's listened to Twilight and New Moon on CD, so he's familiar with the story. I didn't have to drag him kicking and screaming, either. He was looking forward to going (granted, not as much as me) and enjoyed the movie. Probably not his favorite movie ever, but he liked it and I got to share it with him. He's the best!

So yep, I really liked it. Twilight (the book) has this magical quality that just sweeps you away when reading it, and you get totally sucked into the story and the characters. The movie didn't quite pull that feeling off ... but they did a pretty awesome job. I definitely think I am going to re-read Twilight ... and definitely see the movie again.

Thoughts from you guys?

Oh yeah, and it made about $70.6 million ... wow! (see here)

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Mawiagge ... is whut bwings us togehduh today ...

I come home from Utah and this is what I find – snow! Agh! Apparently, winter has finally made it to New York. It’s COLD. And snowy. And beautiful. And I’m sure I’ll be tired of it within 24 hours, since New York hasn’t yet figured out how to plow the roads.

My cousin got married over the weekend, so I jumped at the chance to go home for the weekend. Cory wasn’t as fortunate as me, and had to stay in New York to attend class on Saturday and Sunday. Sometimes this school thing sucks, and this was one of those times. It was hard to leave him here, but it was awesome to be home for a break.

Surprisingly, I didn’t take many pictures – I was too busy having an awesome time. My dad took a million, and he’s promised to share with me. The wedding was absolutely beautiful and it was wonderful to hang out with family and friends. I do miss all the fun we have as a family when we all get together, so it was nice to have a full weekend of together-ing. Mom and I spent lots of time together making all the flowers, and they were beautiful.

We got the chance to take some of the younger cousins out to dinner and to see Madagascar 2: Escape to Africa. It was so much fun!

And now my focus turns to the event I have been looking forward to for months: Twilight!! That’s right, I’ve got my ticket for Friday afternoon and I’m stoked. Beyond stoked. Thrilled.

And, not be outdone by Twilight, there’s some really good football games on Saturday. BYU takes a trip to the U of U and it’s going to be HUGE – and when I say HUGE I mean so much excitement that I am going to end up watching half the game with my eyes buried behind my fingers – and Texas Tech takes a trip to Oklahoma with Big 12 implications. Man, I love this time of year. Woo wee!

I’ll be expecting phone calls (or emails) from you fellow Twilight fans, so we can discuss the movie in lots of detail. Seriously. Can’t. Wait.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Proposition 8

I know, it's all everyone is talking about ... Proposition 8. I normally don't post 'political' stuff here on our blog, but since I use the posts on this blog as a family scrapbook, I wanted to post this. It's been mildly disheartening to see all the protests aimed directly at the LDS church (since Prop 8 gained a lot of interfaith support ...), though definitely not unexpected. Here's a letter from the Deseret News that expresses what I think rather well.

Kevin Hamilton's Letter on Proposition 8 and the Mormon Church

Dear Friends,

In the aftermath of the recent election, we may find ourselves oddly on the defensive regarding our support for the Yes on Proposition 8 cause. Our young people have been especially subject to mean-spirited comments by high school friends and teachers. We have nothing to be ashamed of. We did nothing wrong. In fact, we did everything that a civic-minded American can and should do. I have put together a few facts that help me to appreciate our position better. For example:

1. Mormons make up less than 2 percent of the population of California. There are approximately 800,000 LDS out of a total population of approximately 34 million.Mormon voters were less than 5 percent of the yes vote.

2. If one estimates that 250,000 LDS are registered voters (the rest being children), then LDS voters made up 4.6 percent of the yes vote and 2.4 percent of the total Proposition 8 vote.

3. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons) donated no money to the Yes on 8 campaign. Individual members of the church were encouraged to support the Yes on 8 efforts and, exercising their constitutional right to free speech, donated whatever they felt like donating.

4. The No on 8 campaign raised more money than the Yes on 8 campaign. Unofficial estimates put No on 8 at $38 million and Yes on 8 at $32 million, making it the most expensive non-presidential election in the country.

5. Advertising messages for the Yes on 8 campaign are based on case law and real-life situations. The No on 8 supporters have insisted that the Yes on 8 messaging is based on lies. Every Yes on 8 claim is supported.

6. The majority of our friends and neighbors voted Yes on 8. Los Angeles County voted in favor of Yes on 8. Ventura County voted in favor of Yes on 8.

7. African-Americans overwhelmingly supported Yes on 8. Exit polls show that 70 percent of black voters chose Yes on 8. This was interesting because the majority of these voters voted for President-elect Obama. No on 8 supporters had assumed that Obama voters would vote No on 8.

8. The majority of Latino voters voted Yes on 8. Exit polls show that the majority of Latinos supported Yes on 8 and cited religious beliefs (assumed to be primarily Catholic).

9. The Yes on 8 coalition was a broad spectrum of religious organizations. Catholics, evangelicals, Protestants, Orthodox Jews, Muslims -- all supported Yes on 8. It is estimated that there are 10 million Catholics and 10 million Protestants in California. Mormons were a tiny fraction of the population represented by Yes on 8 coalition members.

10. Not all Mormons voted in favor of Proposition 8. Our faith accords that each person be allowed to choose for him or herself. Church leaders have asked members to treat other members with "civility, respect and love," despite their differing views.

11. The church did not violate the principal of separation of church and state. This principle is derived from the First Amendment to the United States' Constitution, which reads, "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof?" The phrase "separation of church and state", which does not appear in the Constitution itself, is generally traced to an 1802 letter by Thomas Jefferson, although it has since been quoted in several opinions handed down by the United States Supreme Court in recent years. The LDS Church is under no obligation to refrain from participating in the political process to the extent permitted by law. U.S. election law is very clear that churches may not endorse candidates, but may support issues. The church as always been very careful on this matter and occasionally (not often) chooses to support causes that it feels to be of a moral nature.

12. Supporters of Proposition 8 did exactly what the Constitution provides for all citizens: they exercised their First Amendment rights to speak out on an issue that concerned them, make contributions to a cause that they support and then vote in the regular electoral process. For the most part, this seems to have been done in an open, fair and civil way. Opponents of 8 have accused supporters of being bigots, liars and worse. The fact is, we simply did what Americans do -- we spoke up, we campaigned and we voted.

These are my personal opinions and thoughts; any errors are mine and in no way reflect official church policy or doctrine.

Kevin Hamilton

For a nice breakdown of election results county by county, check out this link. (Thanks Carly!)

Monday, November 10, 2008

Just the two of us

For 12 of the past 14 weeks, we have either:
(a) been out of town,
(b) had company in town,
(c) Cory's had weekend class or weekend seminars,
(d) a combination of b & c.

Yep, it's been an insane past few months. Our summer was crazy, with school and travel taking over ... and I naively thought that once summer was over, things could calm down a bit. It now seems that I was mistaken :) I'm not complaining though, since we promised ourselves (when we moved out east) that we would take full advantage of all the cool things to do and see out here. And boy, have we ever! We've also had some of our favorite people in town for a visit, which was really nice. We've got more stuff planned for this weekend, next weekend is Twilight (AAAAHH!) and then it's Thanksgiving. Sometimes it amazes me how quickly the time is going!

Anyways, this was our first weekend in more than 3 months where we could stay home and it be just the 2 of us. Cory had lots of homework to catch up on, tests to study for ... and I had to clean our house and watch college football (rough, I know :) Still, it was a nice weekend.

This was us, practically the whole weekend:

Yep, we pretty much spent the whole weekend on the couch. Cory got lots done and I watched some great ball games. Go Gators! And at the risk of offending all my BYU fans ... Go Utes! What an amazing finish over TCU! Now, I consider myself impartial when it comes to the whole BYU/U of U thing ... I went to Utah State, and loved my time there, since it was a perfect fit for me (though their football team leaves a lot to be desired). But I'm now cheering on the Utes, since I think they've got the best chance to bust the BCS (again) and show the rest of the the college football world that some of the non-BCS conferences (aka the Mountain West) can really play football!

Monday, November 3, 2008

Sleepy Hollow Country

When we told people that we were going to Sleepy Hollow for Halloween, many asked "that's a real place?" Yep, it's a real city, about 45 minutes north of New York City. To prepare myself for our trip, I went to the library and checked out The Legend of Sleepy Hollow by Washington Irving. The story about the headless horsemen is fiction, but the city and some of the characters were based on real places and real people that Irving knew in his time.

We had an awesome time! I had a hard time narrowing down my favorite pictures, so I am just going to post quite a few of them. (click on a picture to make it bigger so you can see more detail)

Brett and Erin were kind and let us crash with them. This is Ariana, their daughter. She looked soooo cute in her costume; I had to take a picture!

We went to Sunnyside, home of Washington Irving. He built it right on the Hudson River and it was very pretty. We went on a tour of the house (sorry, no pictures allowed) and it was neat to see all of his little inventions.

A Scarecrow Invasion. There were over 400 scarecrows!

Lyndhurst Castle. Who knew there were castles in Hudson Valley? Not me. The tour through the inside was cool.

My goofy husband, on the grounds of Lyndhurst Castle.

The view from the backyard of the Lyndhurst Castle. That's the Tappan Zee Bridge that we drove across.

Lyndhurst Castle from the front.

This is Philipseburg Manor. It was built in the 1700's and the Philipse family originally owned 55,000 acres! Eee gads! Nowadays, the foundation only owns about 25 (thank goodness).

A pond on the property - so pretty!

Cool black and white shot of the bridge.

They actually still use the mill on the property - Cory is grinding up some corn. We bought freshly ground wheat flour and corn meal - it's going to be yummy!

Pretty in the fall - the building on the far left is the mill.

The Hudson River at sunset.

The Great Jack O'Lantern Blaze. Pretty much the whole reason we went down for the weekend. Volunteers and artists carve between 4,000-5,000 pumpkins for the event (held 20 something nights in October). It's held at the Van Cortland Manor, and it was SOOOO COOL!! Really, the pictures do not do the coolness justice.

"Thriller" pumpkins. They had the Michael Jackson song playing in the background.

The Manor House.

Dinosaurs - all made out of pumpkins! AMAZING!

Gigantic spider web - again, made entirely out of pumpkins.

Stonehenge pumpkins

This is the same place (Van Cortland Manor) only it's during the day. You can see the Thriller pumpkins behind me.

Michael Jackson. He's even wearing a white glove.

The Manor House, now in the daytime.

How they made the pumpkin dinosaurs.

The giant spider web.

Pumpkins everywhere!

We got a lesson on weaving. They actually still use the loom to make scarves, throws, etc. Cory is hands-on learning how to make a weave pattern.

View of the Manor House from down below.

The Sleepy Hollow Bridge - where Ichabod Crane galloped over in his haste to escape the Headless Horseman ... or so the story goes ...

Sleepy Hollow Cemetary, famed to be the resting place of said Headless Horseman. Alas, we did not see him.

Washington Irving is buried in the Sleepy Hollow Cemetary - his grave is the bright white one you can see in the background.

Yeah, we had a great time!! For any of you fellow east-coasters, you should definitely make plans to attend "the Blaze" next year. It was soooo cool! We're glad we made the choice to go down and have such a great weekend, seeing some cool historical places.