San Diego Money

Walked San Diego’s Balboa Park today. Minus the traffic and smoke from Mexican fires, this land is freakin’ gorgeous. I’ve always wondered what excitement those in early 20th century California felt for the titanic levels of commerce and riches they knew would be coming along with the flood of émigrés.

And museums at Balboa Park were a good place to indulge this curiosity. See, Balboa Park housed the 1915 Panama-California Exposition. 1915 was the year the Panama Canal opened, and San Diego was trying to establish itself as a port competitive with San Francisco, which was California’s biggest for the longest time.

The Exposition was a smashing success, and so was the one in 1916. These expositions put San Diego and its beloved Harbor on the map, as evinced by the population explosion from 1910 to especially after WWII, which would forever change the face of the city for the Navy’s use of San Diego as THE Pacific Port.

Thus, I could not help but to wonder what sort of return the philanthropists who put up the money for the Balboa gardens and Spanish Colonial Revival buildings really made. I wonder what discussions they had about canals and railroads and plotting the streets of their new Jewel whose land they owned. I wonder how interesting it was to live there then…


My Happiest College Football Memory: Rice vs. Texas 1997, Part II

I took so long for Part II because I am a little lazy…

Now, first, let me back up…

During the 1997 season, I was selected as a 2nd team All-American by the Sporting News and other publications.  That’s partially due to the fact the Rice Owl offense averaged 332 yards per game rushing (and some felt that at least one offensive lineman should be recognized).  We Owls were  the second most potent rushing offense in NCAA Division I-A, after the Nebraska Cornhuskers, and this, to no small degree, was due to running an offense very different than what most teams saw throughout the season: the triple option.


Double option outside.  OT reaches DE.  FB blocks LB.  SS is optioned.   If the DE is playing very tight to the tackle, so as to give himself an advantage in tackling the FB, you call this double option, because he is now more easily reachable, and thus force him to not play so tight.

Now, let me explain briefly why this offense gave the undertalented Rice Owls such an advantage.  It’s based on deception.  On any given option play, no one knows who’s getting the ball.  For example, on our double option, we attacked the field outside of the defensive end (DE).  The QB ran the ball outside the DE who was supposed to be reach-blocked by the offensive tackle (OT), causing the front-side LB to pursue the QB.  As the LB  or SS went to tackle the QB, the QB could pitch the ball to the RB following the QB, who would thus be free to run upfield.  If the LB is hesitant to tackle the QB, because he is afraid of the pitch to the RB, the QB can run up the middle, and gain yards.  Essentially, you’re forcing the defense to make a choice, and executing soundly always make their choice wrong.  This confuses defenses, especially if they don’t see this offense all season from other teams.  Thus, we had an advantage.

Now, the heart of the triple option, or wishbone, offense is the triple option itself. Unlike the outside double option described above, in which either the QB or RB will end up running the ball, on a triple option play, the QB will either hand off to the fullback, keep it himself, or pitch to the RB.  Three potential runners!  Three options!  Deception.

On this triple option, the OT “veers”, or bypasses blocking the DE (unlike on the double option), and blocks the front-side LB.  The DE is the first man optioned.  The QB reads the DE.  If the DE tackles the FB, the QB pulls the ball from the FB’s arms, and runs outside to execute what is very similar to the outside double option, either keeping the ball himself, or pitching it to the RB.  (Our QB Chad Nelson from Lewisville, Texas had been running this offense since 7th grade, and could have led Sooners and Huskers to National Championships, I think.)

But defenses must first respect the fullback!  If  a wishbone offense cannot average 4 yards every time the QB options to the FB, the defense will not respect this inside threat.  They will overcompensate defending the outside, thus effectively destroying the remaining QB/RB double option threat.

That’s where I came in.  My job was to push my DL a yard or two off the line of scrimmage (LOS).  And I was good at this.  Yes I was strong, but, more importantly, my technique was very sound.

It was sound because of footwork.  Feet are everything on OL!  You must concentrate on stepping correctly, from the point of initial contact, to the end.  Correct stepping allows you to maintain strong positioning throughout the progression of your block.  No base on


Triple option right.  OG and OT combo block to the LB.  DE is optioned.  SS is optioned.  Isn’t my handiwork sexy?

your face!  If your feet come together at some point, you lose your strength; you lose your block; and you look like a big wuss!

Keeping your base is unnatural.  It takes a ton of practice.  That’s why you take practice seriously!  Yes, I hated football practice.  One of the most miserable sensations I’ve ever known was putting pads in my pants at 2 o’clock on a Tuesday.  Sweating profusely by 3rd period also sucked.  But, it was important.  Bench warmers only survive practice.  Starters come to get better.  Word to your mother!

Thus, because defenses did respect our FB, our outside game opened up magnificently all season.  We had other plays too: midline options, counter isolations, fullback leads, so on and so forth.  We did well with them.  But, again, it all started with attacking defenses with a power and execution that no scheming could stop.  And I would be an arrogant fool not to give credit to all other OL, the tight ends, the FB, the RB’s who blocked, and the RB’s who muscled extra yards after contact.  Everyone worked together to make a beautiful machine that destroyed the wills of defenses, especially up the middle, and then outside. Man this season was fun…

So, getting back to the game, after that kickoff at 11:50 on the 27th of September in the year of our Lord 1997, with the sun shining, and the crowd roaring for their Longhorns at Rice Stadium, the butt-kicking began.. for both offenses…

Now, I won’t recount the whole game.  You can look at all the statistics here.  You can watch the Ken Hatfield show for this game here.

I really just want to recount some sensations…

We got the ball first.  We ran 9 plays for 66 yards and a touchdown.  We were up 7-0.

After watching the highlight video, I remember something on that play vividly (at 1:00 of video).  The call was 18.  18 was our outside double option. Guard and tackle were supposed to reach-block their targets, securing the perimeter for the outside attacking QB and RB.

I had a 1 – easy block.  The right tackle had a 5.  Reach the 5!  But, Mark the Right Tackle didn’t.  Mark ran 19.  He thought he was on the backside of the play, and tried to scoop the front-side LB.  You can see Mark’s missed assignment – his CRITICAL ERROR – easily here at 1:00.   But, it so confused the outside LB out of position that he missed the tackle.  Chad pitched the ball to Michael Perry, who ran his butt off forty yards for the first score.  Rice 7 Texas 0.

Texas punted on their first drive.  We got the ball again.  We scored again.  14-0 Rice Owls.

We knew how to win.  We knew we could run all over these Longhorn primadonnas, these look like Tarzan play like Jane’s.  They knew we weren’t intimidated by the Burnt Orange.  They knew we’d run up some serious yardage against Tulane and Northwestern, and it was happening to them right now!  My gosh we were jacked!

But the Longhorns had an Ace-in-the-Hole.  They had the #1 college football running back of all time: Ricky Williams.  And they racked up some yardage on this day too…

Horseshoe Bend on the Colorado

213“All winter long snow falls on its mountain-crested rim, filling the gorges, half burying the forests, and covering the crags and peaks with a mantle woven by the winds from the waves of the sea.  When the summer sun comes this snow melts and tumbles down the mountain sides in millions of cascades.  A million cascade brooks unite to form a thousand torrent creeks; a thousand torrent creeks unite to form half a hundred rivers beset with cataracts; half a hundred roaring rivers unite to form the Colorado, which rolls, a mad, turbid stream into the Gulf of California…”

These words are from a book called The Exploration of the Colorado River and Its Canyons.  A man named John Wesley Powell published it in AD 1875.  It details his boat journey through the last swath of Terra Icognita in North America, which started in Green River, Wyoming, and ended close to the Colorado’s confluence with the Virgin River, where Lake Meade now is.  Though, at times, the language is technical to the point of boring, and though he refers to many land features across Wyoming and Utah I’m  not familiar with, as you can read above, there is a clarity and poesy to his words that, overall, I found most stimulating.  It filled with my mind images that will, eventually, motivate me to see far more of the Canyon Country along the Colorado.

But this post isn’t a book report.  I just wanted to share these words – and the photos – to stimulate imaginations about this river, because I like rivers, especially the Colorado…

And Horseshoe Bend is one of the best overlooks of the Colorado.  Where is it?  It’s 5 river-miles downstream of Glen Canyon Dam, which is the second tallest dam in the United States, with a height of over 700′.  Glen Canyon impounds the Colorado River to create Lake Powell, which has slackwater for 186 river-miles upstream into Utah, where most of the lake is.  Below the dam the Colorado River runs clear and cold, because the water discharges from the 500′-deep of Lake Powell, where the sun never has the chance to heat.

Those tiny lines in the river at the bottom in the photo are caused by boats.  Those are the pontoon boats that take you from the dam to Lee’s Ferry, a 15-mile journey that serves as one of the most enjoyable things I’ve done in life.  The water throughout that 15-mile journey is smooth.  There are no rapids.  Beginners can kayak down the river from the dam with relative ease.  However, don’t go past Lee’s Ferry.  You’ll go past the point of no return, and enter the inescapable, high walls of Marble and Grand Canyons where some of the most treacherous rapids in North America await.

I’ve not been through those rapids.  But, if God is so willing, one day I will.  It’s on my bucket list, which seems to get longer the longer I’m in Arizona, and that’s a good thing.

Wanting to go up Wilson again…

The top photo is from May 2017. The air was still cool.  On a whim I decided to hike up Wilson Mountain above Sedona.  Wilson Mountain was named after a man from Arkansas, who was killed by a grizzly bear in AD 1885, as grizzlies did roam over Northern Arizona until the 1930’s, when the last one was shot.


As per this top photo, from this vantage point, on the far north side of Wilson, the elevation is roughly 7,000′. Ponderosa pines, some alive, some burnt from the Slide Fire back in 2014, cover most of the nearly flat – and thus easily explorable – top of Wilson.  Though, my partner tree on the right is a douglas fir – the other prolific tree that colors the mountains of the American West green as they rise above deserts.

Though all snow by mid-May had melted atop Wilson, you can still see snow on the San Francisco peaks – those mountains in the background.  The Peaks are north of Sedona, at the top of the Oak Creek Canyon, and tower over Flagstaff.  The highest peak is Mount Humphries.  It tops out at an elevation of 12,633′.  It is the highest point within Arizona, and there is no higher mountain further south within the United States (though Mexico has 12 higher peaks.

I look forward to going up Wilson again.  But, it’s hard now.  One, it is busy season.  Days off are limited.  Two, it is Monsoon Season.  The North American Monsoon Wind blows moisture from the Gulf of California, and sweeps it up the plateaus and mountains of Arizona to create afternoon thunderstorms in summertime.  Lightning strikes in high elevations.  Lightning killed two young men on the Peaks last year.  I don’t want to be a statistic.

But Fall is coming!   Cooler temperatures are coming.  The storms will wane, and the temperatures at 7,000′ will become heavenly by October, when Arizona is gold.  I want to look down upon Sedona from a point atop Wilson that I’ve not been to before.  After all, it is from the mountain tops where our feelings of the horizons that surround most of our days change, and those are good feelings.


I can be excitable.  Sometimes it’s because the world doesn’t conform to my understanding like it should.  Sometimes it’s immaturity.

CaptureBut sometimes it’s passion!  Sometimes it’s a mix of good and bad.  Regardless, no other situation seems to conjure the mix more than visiting one of America’s National Parks for the first time.

Figuring out where to park, where to camp, where to hike… and all I want to do is see the canyon!  All I want is to look down upon the colors and shapes manifesting as the renowned hoodoos of Bryce Canyon National Park in south-central Utah!

So I went recently…

Left Sedona on Wednesday morning, the 19th of July AD 2017.  The sky was blue and hot.  Had my air conditioning blasting while driving north on 89A to Flagstaff, and then north on US 89 towards Page.  Continued on 89 as it first veers west towards Kanab, Utah, and then veers north towards Panguitch.

I’ve driven to Page – on the central Arizona/Utah border – countless times.  There is some monotony to the red and orange sandstone that marks the western edge of the Navajo Reservation. But that is placated by views of Vermillion Cliffs and the massive valley housing Marble Canyon that’s bordered by the Kaibab Plateau rsing over 4,000 feet 30 miles to the west.  Pure Arizona!  The bridge 700 feet above the Colorado River at Glen Canyon Dam is neat too.


Then you enter Utah.  The land     can certainly speak of desolation, as in Arizona.  But, there is wonder.  Crazy red rocks forming plateaus eroding into crags and canyons unfold scores of miles into the far horizons where junipers and pines speckle below blue.  That hot sky shining through the windshield is mitigated by billowing cumulus clouds of thunderstorms that streak downward, cool skin and make you appreciate the intricate design of the Southwest Summer.

Got to Kanab.  That little town is clean!  Prosperous even.  But that is due to the industry of the Mormon people, who have made quite an aesthetically pleasing civilization in a land that nobody wanted 150 years ago.

2At Kanab US 89 veers north.  There you slowly ascend through the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, wherein, from Kanab northward, rise red cliffs, then white cliffs, then pink cliffs, which all tie in to the geological formation of Grand Canyon to the south, and I have no desire to explain why now.

Regardless, as you ascend the Staircase, you get into higher elevations.  The higher the elevation, the higher the chance of rain.  Cliffs, plateaus and mountains are literal ramps for moisture to be blown into higher elevations by the North American Monsoon Wind, where that moisture can condense into clouds and storms.  This phenomena is called orographic lift.  That’s why land rises are greener than valleys below.

And there was greenery!  US 89 straddles first the East Fork of the Virgin River, and then the Sevier River.  Both were flowing nicely.  Both were surrounded by seeping cliffs and broad fields with tall grass for cattle and horses.  Distant barns and cabins dotted the landscape whose cultivation and cleanliness reminded me of Switzerland.  More storms1 showered gray and black upon the green and red land as they slowly drifted.

The temperature was pleasant too.  The turnoff from 89 onto Utah 12, the road I took eastward into Bryce Canyon, is at roughly 7,000′ above sea level.  Yes, there was some humidity.  Yes, the solar radiation at that altitude can be fierce.  But, it’s 7,000′.  All these elements come together to make one heckuva’ summer vacation spot.

Then I got to the Park.  Of course I’d lost my America the Beautiful Pass, which allows you to get into virtually all federal recreation lands for a year.  Of course it cost me another $80 (but I’d used well over $80 worth of passes since buying the lost one in February… and I’ve almost recuperated this second $80 by now).

And then… where do I camp?  Where do I park?  Where do I access the rim?  Where are the trailheads for going down into hoodoos?

14But, after not getting too pissy, it all worked out.  Camped in the park.  The rim was a quarter mile away.  Trails going down into the Amphitheater were right there.

And it was fantastic.  I’d certainly go there again.  Like the cliché I hear over and over again, usually from people who have NO IDEA how to compose a photo, “pictures just don’t do justice.”  True.  But that’s the fun of photography.  That’s the challenge.

Anyway, I hiked for 5 hours on Wednesday, from Sunrise Point down into the Queen’s Garden and up to Sunset and Inspiration Points before before eating and sleeping.

Woke up at 6 on Thursday, and hiked the Fairlyand Trail and along the Rim for about 8 miles.  Thereafter, showered and drove to Rainbow Point, which is the furthest south point at the Park, with an elevation of over 9,000 feet, and some awesome views to the south of the Grand Staircase and the Kaibab Plateau.

Thereafter, headed back to Arizona.  Stayed the night at Lee’s Ferry.  Went to the boat ramp and remember how majestic that Marble Canyon is at the bottom with that Colorado River flowing hard and cold.

Friday I headed back to Sedona, but not before driving through some of the Hopi Reservation, which I’ll talk about later…

Regardless, I love it out here.  You’d have to offer me something fiercely tempting to head back to Texas…



Why atheists can only consider themselves purposeless slime

First, I’m not saying “Atheists are slime!”  They are men and women of flesh and blood. They have souls and spirit.  God loves them as much as anyone under the sun, as Jesus’ parable of the Prodigal Son beautifully conveys.

But, if they truly believe there is no Creator, if they truly believe there is no eternal part to our beings that is also created, by their own beliefs, they can only believe their lives are purposeless slime.  This is not exaggeration.  Let me explain why…

Now, I must be clear with my language.  So I will posit this definition of God: God is the self-existent and eternal Creator and subsequent sustainer and ruler of life and the universe.  An atheist is one who rejects the existence of God.

Without a Creator, life can only be a freak accident.  Think about that.  Without a  Creator molding the milieu of unknowable substances that became you and the universe, life could only be the result of chaotic forces of nature.  How can there be an alternative?  Either life was created by an Intelligent Creator, or it is the product of chaos.  Period.     

The Material that became the universe (whose origins no scientist can explain) would have had to morph into a form of life (a process no scientist can prove or replicate) from which you and I and EVERY SINGLE LIVING THING descend.

Now, you can believe this possible.  You can accept the astounding improbability of life coming from non-life.  You can accept the improbability of a print shop exploding, and, from the chaos, coming 10,000 perfectly-worded King James Bibles –  a complete impossibility in reality. 

But, for those who accept this impossibility as reality, you MUST also accept life as a mere extenuation of this chaos.  It’s just a freak accident.  Sperm and egg are accidental.  Heartbeats are accidental.  Birth, childhood, adulthood, epiphany, depression, exultation and death are the random play of the same primordial elements still unfolding as mere chaos, without the intelligent direction of God. 

Yes, you have a conscious mind.  You are aware of your own existence, feelings, thoughts and external circumstances.  But do you have control over them?  If you’re just a random amalgamation of elements, consciousness is no different than fire, or rain, or insects mating.  It is just another random force of nature that you think you have control over, but you don’t.  You are just some Pavlovian dog.

“Oh, that’s bull crap, Charles.  I can choose to eat at Burger King or McDonald’s.  I can choose to read your stupid words or not.  I do have free will.  I am not some Pavlovian dog because, unlike a dog, I can choose to heed my impulses and desires or not.”

But what is it that does the choosing?  Because your life would only be the result of a freak amalgamation of elements, that of your mind which does the choosing is not fundamentally different than the reaction of a dog.  Granted the degree of perception and choice is more evolved than those of a dog, but such a difference in degree does not constitute any real difference in the fundamental nature of a mind with life.

After all, both would be soulless.  Both would be bereft of that rational, emotional and volitional faculty that comes from outside the body.  You’re only flesh.   You’re only material evolved from the chaos of some random Big Bang a long time ago.  You think you’re choosing?  You think you have free will?  That’s impossible.  You’re just chemicals.  Because all the universe is just some freak accident, you are too.  Free will is illusion.

And the point I want to make to atheists is really a question: what purpose could your life really have if you are a freak accident?  You say want to provide for your loved ones?  You say you want to change the world for the better?  Good.  Those are noble aspirations. 

But the good and bad you render is as purposeless as you.  Again, it’s all just some freak accident that no eternal aspect of you can ever know.  You have no soul.  Your sense of self, your consciousness, will go into nothingness after you stop breathing.  It will be as if you never existed.  So why care about anything in the first place?  What purpose could your glimpse of chaos really have?

Of course I don’t believe this.  I do believe in a Creator God.  I do believe he is the God revealed to us through the Old and New Testaments of the Bible.  I regard Genesis 1:26 as a sacred truth, and I believe God created us all for a purpose that transcends our lives, whose full force and character we will one day come to understand perfectly, in this life or the next.

But, atheists, do tell me where my reasoning breaks down.  Tell me how the purpose you feel can be anything but an illusion if we are born of chaos?  Seriously, I would really enjoy a level-headed exchange on the nature of our existence.  I would love to learn a new slant to this thinking.

Remembering my father on Lake Powell

Ralph-TorelloMy father was born June 2nd, 1938.  He would have been 79 today.  But, after fighting for his life, he passed on Wednesday August 17th of last year.  His obituary is here.

What does this have to do with Lake Powell?

I think my dad would have liked Arizona.  He would have liked Sedona, Grand Canyon and all the other Southwestern landscapes that have brightened my days.

I was thinking about him a lot this past Wednesday on Lake Powell.  I wished he was with me.  It would have shed more light on what makes me come alive.  It would have helped him understand how important seeing these Wonders are to me, and why I rarely made money top priority.

But that didn’t happen… and that’s ok because I told him I love him many times, and he saw how similar I was to him in so many ways – especially our shared love of GOVERNMENT – which is the ultimate form of respect.

But it would still have been nice to share the time.

Lastly, I have no idea where life is going.  There is some force dragging me from place to place that I’ve yet to be able to resist.  I’m not lazy, dispassionate or unfocused.  But when I see what I saw Wednesday, which my photos do no justice, well, I just wonder, and wanna say to hell with plans.

Make sense?  No?  Ok.  I think my dad would’ve understood.

And if you don’t know where Lake Powell is, click here.