We still have freedom of choice in America, and that’s a blessing

We still have freedom of choice in America, and that’s a blessing

As more news of ongoing crises in Syria and Sudan has pushed itself to the forefront of both my social media pages and my mind in recent weeks, a thought struck me. It’s one that, unfortunately, I take for granted all the time in my Katy and Houston bubble, and one that an upcoming holiday gives me a chance to reflect on.

In this country, as counties and cities, for all our black eyes, we have the ability to choose our leaders. We’re not at the beck and call of a ruthless dictator or have one-size-fits-all laws that do their best to bend our will or break our spirit. If we don’t like how someone is running Sugar Land, Missouri City or Stafford – or feel a different direction is needed – we simply nominate and select another.

Those in Syria, Sudan and other countries around the world are fighting for this freedom and others, but it’s a luxury they do not yet possess. So it’s not one any of us should take lightly or forget as we shoot off fireworks this weekend.

The Freedom in the World 2018 study by Freedom House found that, “Democracy is in crisis. The values it embodies—particularly the right to choose leaders in free and fair elections, freedom of the press, and the rule of law— are under assault and in retreat globally.”

According to the study, those countries experiencing a decline in the democratic process outnumbered those that registered gains, which has happened consistently for more than a decade. The report stated that 88 countries were classed as “free,” while 49 were classed as “not free.” Sudan and Syria were found by the study – which evaluates the state of freedom in 195 countries and 14 territories, assigning a score between 0 and 4 in a series of 25 indicators to give a maximum final score of 100 – have been two of the worst-rated countries with regards to civil rights and political liberties just about every time. These scores are used to determine two numerical ratings, for political rights and civil liberties, with a rating of 1 representing the most free conditions and 7 the least free.

The full report and explanation of its methodology can be viewed at freedomhouse.org/sites/default/files/FH_FITW_Report_2018_Final_SinglePage.pdf.

The Fourth of July, which commemorates the signing of the Declaration of Independence of the United States on July 4, 1776, is fast approaching. This is the time we have set aside to remember the Continental Congress declaring the 13 American colonies were no longer subject (and subordinate) to the monarch of Great Britain and were free and independent states.

Nowadays, we celebrate the occasion with fireworks, outdoor grilling, carnivals and events such as the “Red, White, and Boom” celebration in Sugar Land or the Freedom Rings Concert at the Stafford Centre, which are just two of many events taking place in our local neighborhoods.

Having participated in and hosted events on this holiday myself, these are wonderful opportunities for fellowship, fun and relaxation that I wouldn’t trade for anything. But at times, I also fear we aren’t thankful enough for the freedom that we have that even allows us the chance to host such events.

Following three decades of dictatorship in Sudan, Omar El-Bashir was forced to step down from power in April. In the aftermath, Sudanese people have wanted to ensure that the political party elected next is a civilian-run government. Originally, military council and civilian-opposing groups agreed on a three-year transitional period to hand the government back to democracy. However, talks of a pro-democracy country began to break down earlier this month, according to media reports. In response, the military killed dozens of protesters during a crackdown on a protest camp, bringing the death toll to 118 people as of June 11, and reports have hundreds more injured.

So say what you will about our leaders past and present. There is no perfect one. Every leader, from those before Bob Hebert to current Fort Bend County Judge KP George, likely has decisions they would like back in hindsight. Sugar Land Mayor Joe Zimmerman, Missouri City’s City Manager Anthony Snipes and those before them are not immune to errors in judgement or completely above reproach.

But though the dynamics of each area under these leaders’ charges vary widely, one thread connects them all – the ability of the people (or a nonpartisan council in the case of Snipes and Missouri City) to select or elect them. If a majority of voters do not like them, they can simply be voted out or replaced by a council at the next available opportunity.

That luxury is one that unfortunately too many still do not have around the world. Even having one country or area going through what Sudan, Syria and others have endured is far too many. These people have been forced to fight back, because they haven’t had a voice for so long.

I cannot imagine a situation like that ever occurring in modern-day America. Despite our issues and varying opinions, I can’t ever recall a time when anyone even considered the thought of a military coup – or its equivalent – being necessary on our own soil.

Why? Because we have a voice and the ability to choose our leaders, through a fair and democratic process, which so many do not. And that’s thanks in large part to the American patriots that came before us.

So let’s take a moment on this Fourth of July to reflect on our liberties, and pray and fight for those who don’t yet possess them that they might experience the freedom we now have.

The day Man Utd get their pick of five Juve midfielders…

The day Man Utd get their pick of five Juve midfielders…

Catalogue of errors
Now this is delicious…

Not the ‘scaredy cats’ thing, because that is bollocks, but Neil Ashton’s claim that ‘PENNY-PINCHING Arsenal have made a derisory £40million bid for Wilfried Zaha – with Argos-style payments over FIVE YEARS’.

The Crystal Palace fan is right that £40m is a ‘derisory’ bid, but there are a couple of issues with his opening paragraph. And crowbarring a couple of issues into just 19 words is quite some feat.

Firstly, quite a lot of transfer fees are paid in instalments (Moussa Sissoko to Spurs for one) but secondly – and most bloody importantly – you cannot pay for things in Argos over five years. It’s not the 1980s and Argos are not the Kays catalogue.

Mediawatch would love to see Ashton walk into an Argos store and try and pay for a new laptop over five years. Indeed, we would pay (in instalments) to watch that – presumably short – conversation.

At least somebody on The Sun online realised in time to expunge all mention of Argos from Ashton’s copy. But it does raise the question of how many people read that back-page copy from Ashton but were too scared to make a change before it went to print.


More from Planet Sport: England v New Zealand: All you need to know


 

Shoot!
Talking of The Sun online, their big story on Tuesday morning is culled from GQ and their interview with Raheem Sterling.

‘RAHEEM STERLING has promised to be the father figure to his kids that he never had.

‘The Manchester City forward has spoken of his agony after his dad was shot dead at the age of two.’

Surely you mean ‘allegedly’ shot? It’s little over a year since The Sun implied that Sterling’s dad – if he ever existed at all – was never shot.

 

Crowbar
You know the one problem with all the talk of Wilfried Zaha and Arsenal? The one problem is that it does not really involve Manchester United or Liverpool, and everybody knows that nobody really clicks on anything that does not involve Manchester United or Liverpool.

Thankfully the Daily Star have solved that problem:

‘Why Arsenal deal for Wilfried Zaha could help Man Utd afford Harry Maguire’

Fixed.

 

Life through a LANS
Sound the ‘like a new signing’ klaxon for the Manchester Evening News have gone early:

‘Manchester United player Fred could be like a new signing next season’

Well he could be.

 

Good news bible
When you work for the Manchester Evening News on the Manchester United desk, you have to a) make every story about Manchester United b) give every Manchester United story a positive spin.

So that means Fred could be ‘like a new signing’, while ‘Juventus signing Adrien Rabiot could still be good news for Manchester United’.

Sorry, what? Are we supposed to believe that one of football’s most talented players joining Juventus is A Good Thing for Manchester United? Oh yes we are. Now this we have to see

Obviously, it’s important to note that Manchester United never really wanted him anyway; there was only ‘tepid interest’.

‘The news will not come as a huge blow to Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, he himself has other targets to consider, and for fans it could well be a blessing in disguise.’

Yep. Why would he chase Adrien Rabiot when he could be targeting Sean Longstaff?

‘Rabiot’s fiery temper coupled with his lack of playing time might well have warranted caution from United in their approach, and regardless of his lack of transfer fee, it remains to be seen if he has the right attitude which Solskjaer often alludes to.’

Bullet dodged.

‘United fans do have a right to feel jealous, mind. Not necessarily because of Rabiot’s unquestionable ability, but the fact the Italian champions have added both he and Aaron Ramsey to their squad this summer without the need for any transfer fees. Yet, the deal for Rabiot could turn out to be good news for United.’

We’re listening…

‘Juve’s tendency to deploy three men in the centre of midfield means there will likely be less playing time for a numbers of players who would be welcomed at Old Trafford.

‘Miralem Pjanic, Blaise Matuidi, Sami Khedira, and Rodrigo Bentancur will all be eager to play regular football next season and if there chances are limited then an exit might suit them.

‘Throw former Liverpool midfielder Emre Can into the mix and United could potentially have five new central midfield options to consider as a direct result of Rabiot’s move to Turin.’

That word ‘potentially’ is doing an awful lot of work in that sentence.

But we really should stop being so cynical and simply say well done to Manchester United for cleverly avoiding free transfer Rabiot and basically giving themselves the choice of five world-class central midfielders who would all jump at the chance of giving up a challenge for Serie A and Champions League titles to join United’s battle for fourth and the Europa League.

 

Wages day
The Sun exclusive, June 16: ‘MANCHESTER UNITED may be forced to pay Marcus Rashford £350,000 a week to fend off Real Madrid and Barcelona. The striker is negotiating with Old Trafford bosses as he enters the final 12 months of his contract.’

The Sun exclusive, June 23: ‘MANCHESTER UNITED will trigger their 12-month extension option in Marcus Rashford’s contract to KO any plans of an immediate exit. The England striker has stalled on signing a new deal as he demands a staggering £350,000-a-week from the club.

The Sun, July 2: ‘MARCUS RASHFORD aims to get Manchester United “back where they belong” after signing a new four-year contract worth £200,000 a week.’

It turns out that they were exclusively writing nonsense.

 

Dumb and Ndombele
This happens everywhere – and complaining sees us slipping precariously into ‘old man shouting at the clouds’ territory – but seriously, this is a rotten headline on the Daily Express website:

”That’s going to be a problem’ – Tottenham boss Pochettino told of Tanguy Ndombele issue’

They know what they are doing; the suggestion is that those quotes come from Mauricio Pochettino on hearing about an actual problem/issue.

Only when you click do you find out that Pochettino has been ‘told’ by Steve Nicol – on ESPN – that he does not believe that Ndombele and Moussa Sissoko can play together.

And now it’s too late and we are sobbing.

 

Leslie Molinaro-Craven returns to running the Half Marathon

PARKERSBURG — Leslie Molinaro-Craven is constantly on the go.

If the 41-year-old runner isn’t helping her husband Shawn at Anytime Fitness in Vienna, she’s transporting her 14- and 10-year-old sons to baseball games and being a soccer mom to her 7-year-old daughter.

“I’m very busy — here, there and everywhere,” smiled Molinaro-Craven before starting out on a River City Runners and Walkers Club-guided 9-mile training run at 5:30 p.m. June 24 at City Park.

When Molinaro-Craven laces up her running shoes, and goes out for a training run, it’s almost like a break from all of the other activities she’s involved in during the week.

“It’s good to run with other people on Monday,” Molinaro-Craven said. “It keeps me going, and plus there are water stops along the route.”

Molinaro-Craven said she also has trained solo and competed in local road races.

“I try to run four or five days a week,” she said. “And, I just ran the Chick-Fil-A 10K and before that I did the Vienna 5-miler. I’m trying to get back on the running circuit.”

And, on the circuit, of course, is The Parkersburg News and Sentinel Half Marathon on Aug. 17.

“Last year, I said that this year was my year, and I’m going to do it,” Molinaro-Craven said.

Actually, Molinaro-Craven is no stranger to the Half. She’s run in several of them but not since 2010 when she covered the 13.1-mile distance in 2 hours, 15.16 minutes.

“I’ve actually run it in 1:40,” she said. “But I can’t do that now.

“Hey, I’m just getting back into it. I’m not pushing for any goals. I used to be competitive, but now I just want to finish.”

A 1996 Parkersburg High grad, Molinaro-Craven ran cross country and track for Big Reds coaches George Angelos and Susan Gardner, respectively. Both Angelos and Gardner later became Mid-Ohio Valley Hall of Famers.

“My dad (Lou Molinaro) got me interested in running, and I started in junior high,” recalled Molinaro-Craven. “I started running cross country in the 10th grade. I loved cross country, a lot more than track. It was just fun with different races and trails.”

After graduating from PHS, Molinaro-Craven was good enough to run cross country at West Virginia Wesleyan College.

“I was OK,” she said. “I mean, I think I actually got better as a runner as I got older.”

Molinaro said before marrying Shawn, she ran in the Marine Corps Marathon in Washington, D.C.

“It was 15 years ago before I had kids,” she said. “And I’ll never do another one. I hit the wall at mile 18 but I finished.

“That was my one and done. I can say I did one.”

As for the Parkersburg News and Sentinel Half, Molinaro-Craven knows from past experiences that the 13.1-mile course can also be very challenging.

“It’s a tough one,” she said. “It’s got a lot of rolling hills. And, it never fails to be hot and humid every single year on that week.”

Molinaro-Craven paused.

“It’s kind of a love-hate relationship,” she added. “You know, you kind of hate it, but you kind of love it. It’s a really good course, and there are a lot of people out on it on Gihon Road, cheering with signs.”

Molinaro-Craven said that she’s expecting her older brother Mike Molinaro and older sister Lisa Thackrah to also run this year’s Half.

“They usually run it every year,” Molinaro-Craven said. “I might run with my sister for a little bit if we’re on the same pace.”

Ron Johnston can be reached at [email protected]

‘Bark’ a big success

‘Bark’ a big success

One of the attractions at Saturday’s event at the Hillsboro Dog Park was this “kissing booth” staffed by Rob Holt and a friend. Lauren Walker and the team at the Hillsboro City Administration office created what she said will be an annual event to raise awareness and support for the Highland County Humane Society Animal Shelter and Highland County Dog Pound, two separate organizations located close to each other east of Hillsboro on SR 124. Walker thanked the community, local businesses and the vendors for making the event such a success, saying that “we had some pretty amazing dogs and owners.” The dog park is located in Liberty Park on Hillsboro’s north side.

One of the attractions at Saturday’s event at the Hillsboro Dog Park was this “kissing booth” staffed by Rob Holt and a friend. Lauren Walker and the team at the Hillsboro City Administration office created what she said will be an annual event to raise awareness and support for the Highland County Humane Society Animal Shelter and Highland County Dog Pound, two separate organizations located close to each other east of Hillsboro on SR 124. Walker thanked the community, local businesses and the vendors for making the event such a success, saying that “we had some pretty amazing dogs and owners.” The dog park is located in Liberty Park on Hillsboro’s north side.
https://speaktoacoachnowdec2018.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/33/2019/07/web1_Dog-kisses.jpgOne of the attractions at Saturday’s event at the Hillsboro Dog Park was this “kissing booth” staffed by Rob Holt and a friend. Lauren Walker and the team at the Hillsboro City Administration office created what she said will be an annual event to raise awareness and support for the Highland County Humane Society Animal Shelter and Highland County Dog Pound, two separate organizations located close to each other east of Hillsboro on SR 124. Walker thanked the community, local businesses and the vendors for making the event such a success, saying that “we had some pretty amazing dogs and owners.” The dog park is located in Liberty Park on Hillsboro’s north side. Submitted photo

Posted in Uncategorized
Dylan Carlson making a big impression on the Texas League for the Cardinals

Dylan Carlson making a big impression on the Texas League for the Cardinals

By Kary Booher (For OzarksSportsZone.com)
Photo courtesy Mark Harrell

All the attention could be overwhelming, perhaps even go to his head. That’s the natural fear.

After all, in the past few weeks alone, let’s see: two big-league sports writers with a combined 55 years’ experience on the MLB scene have come calling, while Cardinals fans of the Ozarks – either chasing autographs or just his time — have dropped knowledge about his backstory, not solely his impressive stat line.

“And we had a kids’ camp the other day and the kids were saying, ‘I love watching you play,’” prospect hitter Dylan Carlson explained, his eyes opening wide as his head shook in disbelief. “I was like, ‘That’s really cool.’”

Truth is, what’s cool is that, despite it all, Carlson has handled the attention like a seasoned veteran, not a 20-year-old.

Which helps explain why all eyes should be on Carlson as the Double-A Springfield Cardinals charge through the second half of the season. In short, he has solidified his place as arguably the organization’s top prospect and certainly its top hitting prospect (as a switch-hitter).

But more on all that in a second.

Maturity from the journey

For media looking to see a prospect who thumps his chest or creates unnecessary headlines with outrageous quotes, keep walking elsewhere. But for those hoping for a nice conversation – with some smiles about the funny moments of life in the minors, about the seriousness of fine-tuning his craft and a straightforward journey – Carlson checks a lot of boxes.

Credit the Cardinals’ scouting department, which traditionally has found high-character players – not simply those with talent. (Carlson was the 33rd overall selection the 2016 draft and signed for $1.35 million, according to Baseball America.)

For instance, just before the recent TL All-Star break, during a TV interview, it was as if movie character Durham Bulls catcher Crash Davis had found his way to Springfield and sought out Carlson as his disciple to shepherd through the season.

Asked about his sensational burst through the first half of the summer, Carlson deflected to teammates. Asked about highlights, he pointed to others who had enjoyable moments.

Then again, perhaps it’s to be expected. You see, Carlson is the son of a California high school baseball coach and, just as important, counted older players as mentors, such as big-leaguer J.D. Davis (Mets).

“I was really fortunate growing up because I was around great high school players in the Sacramento area,” Carlson said. “Luckily for me, my parents brought me up to be a hard worker and appreciate all of my blessings.”

However, unlike many other California players, Carlson refused to specialize. He played three sports in high school and didn’t play much travel ball – which now makes him all the more intriguing.

That’s not to say he arrived to the farm system overly raw. After all, he’s a coach’s son.

“For me, just being able to be around the game and to be around people who played the game the right way – and to lean on somebody who knew about the game – I’m really grateful,” Carlson said. “And we had that coach-player relationship.”

Season so far

It’s probably no surprise that Carlson has won over Springfield manager Joe Kruzel.

“In spring training (in a big-league game), he popped up straight to the catcher and I told Shildt,” Kruzel said, referring to St. Louis manager Mike Shildt, “that he was going to have a big year.”

Why?

“It was the way he went about it,” Kruzel said.

Carlson has supported Kruzel’s theory, despite being one of the youngest players in the Texas League, a cutthroat circuit where prospects can fade.

For instance, Carlson reached the recent Texas League All-Star break leading all of Double-A baseball – that’s 30 teams covering the Texas, Southern and Eastern leagues – with 53 runs scored.

This is where he ranked in other categories in Double-A:

Tied for fourth-most in extra-base hits (31) and total bases (132), eighth in hits (75) and 13th in RBI (42). Additionally, he his .493 slugging percentage and .856 OPS are 17th and 18th, respectively.

Overall, he was batting .253 with 10 home runs, 15 doubles and six triples. He has struck out 58 times in 275 at-bats.

Scouts have said, however, that Carlson needs work on handling secondary pitches.

“He just needs to go play,” Kruzel said. “And in all fairness, he’s handled it all well.”

Carlson says he’s benefitted from mentoring under Jim Edmonds, Willie McGee and St. Louis center fielder Harrison Bader during spring training and also has gained valuable insight from Brandon Allen, the Springfield hitting coach who played four seasons in the big leagues from 2009 to 2012 with the Diamondbacks, Athletics and Rays.

That said, don’t discount Carlson’s recent experience of the Texas League All-Star Game. Edmonds, McGee and Bader’s words came months ago. Playing the All-Star Game will serve as inspiration, too, especially after approaching several other all-stars.

“I just picked their brains to see what they look for in their game,” Carlson said. “It does get your juices flowing and gives you something to look forward to in the second half.”

Across the Nation: Louisiana VBS marketplace, New England longtime ministers and more quick takes

Across the Nation: Louisiana VBS marketplace, New England longtime ministers and more quick takes

Across the Nation is our monthly rundown of news briefs, links and quotes from Churches of Christ across the U.S. Got an idea for this column? Email Bobby Ross Jr. at [email protected]

Featured photo (above)

VBS marketplace a hit in Louisiana: Children pick out colorful yarn as part of a Vacation Bible School marketplace experience offered by the Forsythe Church of Christ in Monroe, La.

“About 40 members of our church pulled together to bless 65 children,” minister John Dobbs said of the four-night event.

Associate minister Daniel Kirkendall organized the VBS, which featured Bible stories as well as shops and crafts tied to Old Testament stories. 

The full photo, as published in the July 2019 print edition of The Christian Chronicle, can be viewed below.

Children enjoy Vacation Bible School at the Forsythe Church of Christ in Monroe, La.

Spotlight

Special honors for longtime New England ministers: More than 300 Christians from nearly a dozen states gathered for the recent New England Lectureship, which featured the theme “Understanding New Testament Leadership.”

At the annual event in Marlborough, Mass., ministers who have served the New England area for 20 or more years were recognized.

David Tarbet, John Kurpriel, Mark Craigwell, Park Linscomb, Mike Mullen and Herschel Walker

The honorees were:

David Tarbet of the New Milford Church of Christ in Connecticut;

John Kurpriel of the Lawrence Church of Christ in Massachusetts;

Mark Craigwell of the Roxbury Church of Christ in Massachusetts;

Park Linscomb of the Manchester Church of Christ in New Hampshire;

Mike Mullen of the Fall River Church of Christ in Massachusetts;

• Herschel Walker of the Blue Hill Church of Christ in Dorchester, Mass.

The 2020 New England Lectureship will be May 1-3 in Mansfield, Mass. For more information, call Maurice Davis at (617) 274-2409 or see newenglandlectureship.org.

Quick takes

ALABAMA

ATMORE — A man convicted of using a sword and a knife to kill a rural Church of Christ preacher in 1991 was executed recently.

Christopher Lee Price, 46, was killed by lethal injection, The Associated Press reported. Price was convicted of killing Bill Lynn in Fayette County on Dec. 22, 1991.

DECATUR — Two Churches of Christ with about 150 members each have decided to consolidate. The Austinville and Grant Street congregations will meet together as one body starting Aug. 4. They will be known as the Decatur Church of Christ, evangelist Tony Edwards said.

“Grant Street was about to spend a large sum of money on building a new building, and they were questioning within themselves what would be the best use of the Lord’s money,” Edwards said. “The options were to build a building or consolidate with a sister church and use that money to reach the lost.

Tony Edwards

He said the merger will bring together two strong congregations: “We both had a large contribution and steady membership. This was all based on how much more good we could do if came together.”

NEW MEXICO

PORTALES — Domingo Reyes, minister for the Greenbank Church of Christ in Wilmington, Del., served as the keynote speaker for the first Living Jesus Bible Conference.

The conference, hosted by the Third and Kilgore Church of Christ, aimed “to engage as many people in our community as possible in Bible classes, hearing committed Christian speakers and keynote addresses centered around the theme of living as Jesus lived,” member Lora Chandler said.

“We all feel that Jesus was lifted up, and people were encouraged.”

About 150 to 200 people participated.

Chandler characterized the conference as a first-of-its-kind effort in eastern New Mexico and said church members did “whatever they could to make it a success.”

“We are located in a rural community, and that may have contributed to smaller numbers in attendance,” she added. “However, for a first-time effort, we all feel that Jesus was lifted up, and people were encouraged. Next year, we’re confident that more will come. People are hungry for the truth Christ offers!”

TENNESSEE

MT. JULIET — How can Christians show the love of Christ to single mothers?

The Mt. Juliet Church of Christ does so with an annual Single Mother Car Care Clinic, said deacons Joe Cowan, Daniel Johnson and Clay Bailey.

Update: Our spots have all been filled! Thank you for spreading the word!

Posted by Mt. Juliet Church of Christ on Wednesday, April 24, 2019

The clinic offers each mother a vehicle inspection, oil change, wash and detail, Cowan said. The recent event involved roughly 100 volunteers, ranging in age from 8 to 80, who served about 25 to 30 mothers.

“While the cars are serviced, mothers are treated to snacks, manicures, massages, a bag of home goods and a bag of groceries,” he said. “Ladies from the congregation use this time with the mothers to review available church programs, talk about Bible classes and the youth program, provide an opportunity to sign children up for VBS and work to establish a time to conduct a Bible study or additional follow-up time.”


Kenneth Hearrell, right, is the “disaster deacon” for the Crosstown Church of Christ in Tulsa, Okla. He’s pictured with Mark Guilds, an American Red Cross volunteer from Albany, N.Y.

Quote of the month

“I do it because I can.” — Kenneth Hearrell, 87-year-old “disaster deacon” for the Crosstown Church of Christ in Tulsa, Okla., on why he feels compelled to help. Read the full story.

After UFC Minneapolis, Francis Ngannou attributes renewed success to having fun again

After UFC Minneapolis, Francis Ngannou attributes renewed success to having fun again

MINNEAPOLIS – After back-to-back losses to Stipe Miocic and Derrick Lewis, some fans and analysts were uncertain if Francis Ngannou could bounce back. It turns out they may have been wrong.

Ngannou (14-3 MMA, 9-2 UFC) has three straight knockouts in a row in a combined fight time of just 2:22. On Saturday, he took out former heavyweight champion Junior Dos Santos at the 1:11 mark of the first round of the UFC on ESPN 3 main event in Minneapolis. It’s safe to say he’s back.

So what’s the secret to his recent success? Ngannou said he’s simply having fun again.

“The difference for the last three fights was maybe me having fun, finding myself,” Ngannou told MMA Junkie at the post-fight news conference at Target Center. “Because after my two losses, I was trying to figure out why I was doing this. Then I realized at the beginning (of my career), I didn’t even want to do MMA. I didn’t expect to do a professional career in MMA. But since I was having fun training, I was like, ‘OK, let’s do it – it’s fun.’ So that’s why I started.

“Then at some point, I kind of forgot that. So in the last three fights, I put that in the line and tried to focus on it – just to have fun.”

Ngannou took some criticism after his two losses, most notably from UFC president Dana White. He gassed out in his title fight against Miocic and put on a lackluster performance against Lewis, which is not what people have come to expect from the knockout artist.

Ngannou however, said he thinks it was more mental than a lack of effort.

“There’s nothing more frustrating and painful than getting out in the octagon and feel like you didn’t give it your all,” Ngannou said. “I think that’s the biggest loss ever.”

Since his most recent three fights all ended by first-round knockout, some wonder if there still are unanswered questions about Ngannou’s ground game.

But two of his three recent wins have come over standout wrestlers in Curtis Blaydes and Cain Velasquez, and Ngannou said he thinks that should prove enough.

“I don’t need to convince people, I just have to go out there and fight,” he sai. “How did I convince people that I beat Junior tonight? The only thing that convinced people was the result.”

For complete coverage of UFC on ESPN 3, check out the UFC Events section of the site.

Sailor Jenny Bienaime-Williams credits success to upbringing

Sailor Jenny Bienaime-Williams credits success to upbringing

Hamilton’s Jenny Bienaime-Williams, serves aboard the aircraft carrier USS George Washington.

A Hamilton native is serving in the U.S. Navy aboard the aircraft carrier U.S.S. George Washington.

Petty Officer 2nd Class Jenny Bienaime-Williams is a religious program specialist aboard the carrier stationed in Newport News, Virginia. As a Navy religious program specialist, Bienaime-Williams is the chaplain’s assistant, responsible for community relations, setting up volunteer opportunities for the ship and services for the chapel.

Bienaime-Williams credits success in the Navy to the lessons learned growing up in Hamilton.

“I was taught to stay focused and be humble,” said Bienaime-Williams. “In the Navy, you have to look out for the people around you. There is always a job at a hand and you have to put the mission first. It’s one team, one fight so you have to be humble. Regardless of personal feelings you have to put that aside for the mission.”

Named in honor of the first president of the United States, George Washington, the carrier is longer than three football fields, measuring nearly 1,100 feet. The ship weighs more than 100,000 tons and has a flight deck that is 256 feet wide.

George Washington is currently undergoing a four-year refueling complex overhaul at Newport News Shipbuilding, a process that includes refueling the ship’s nuclear reactors and modernizing more than 2,300 compartments and hundreds of systems. The carrier is expected to leave the shipyard in 2021 and return to Yokosuka, Japan, as the Navy’s only forward-deployed aircraft carrier.

Though there are many ways for sailors to earn distinction in their command, community and career, Bienaime-Williams is most proud of being promoted to second class petty officer after serving two years.

“I doubt myself a lot,” said Bienaime-Williams. “To see that my chief and my chain of command sees something in me was great. They put me in to get promoted and it’s a good achievement.”

Serving in the Navy is a continuing tradition of military service for Bienaime-Williams, who has military ties with family members who have previously served. Bienaime-Williams is honored to carry on the family tradition.

“My older brother is a chief in the Navy and my uncle is also in the Navy,” said Bienaime-Williams. “They pushed me to join so that I would be a part of a better cause.”

As a member of one of the U.S. Navy’s most relied upon assets, Bienaime-Williams and other George Washington sailors know they are part of a legacy that will last beyond their lifetimes providing the Navy the nation needs.

“Serving in the Navy means giving back to my community, my country and my family,” Bienaime-Williams said. “My parents are from Haiti. My brother and I were born here and all of our family immigrated here. Serving means doing something for them and giving back.”

What Do Elon Musk, Frodo Baggins, & Luke Skywalker Share In Common?

After reserving a Model 3, I streamed every video about Tesla and Elon Musk I could get my hands on. As the information regarding Mr. Musk’s background and career came streaming in, it suddenly dawned on me that the man had completed the classical tale of “The Hero’s Journey.” Are you familiar with the myth? If you don’t think you are, you actually are. You just haven’t gotten around to reading any Joseph Campbell and putting a name to it. If that is the case, may I fill you in on the myth and how well Elon fits into it?

Mythologist, writer, and teacher Joseph Campbell popularized the idea of “myth” for his generation back in the middle of the 20th century. In his early 20s, sometime after graduating college with an MA in Medieval literature as well as a number of athletic awards for track and field events, Campbell decided that the next chapter in his life would be about going up to Woodstock, NY, to live alone in a shack for five years … and read.

When Campbell emerged from the woods, he brought with him a deep knowledge of ancient civilizations and their mythologies. Campbell had discovered that there are certain stories … tales … myths … that are common to all societies. Even remote civilizations having no contact with the outside world shared in these archetypal stories. One of the most popular of these myths is the tale of The Hero’s Journey, which Joseph relayed in his first book The Hero with a Thousand Faces.

The gist of the story is that a child growing up in the village is not entirely content with the world, and in fact is a bit of a misfit. The individual is not cut out to follow the path pursued by most others in the tribe, and at some point answers a calling to depart from home and embark on a journey of self-discovery and transformation. The departure of the hero often occurs at a time when the community has been exposed to a great danger. The hero steps into a new, seemingly magical world, meets many people, and has many adventures. During the journey, the hero undergoes a life-threatening ordeal in which great suffering is experienced. Ultimately, the hero not only survives the test (often with the aid of supernatural forces) but discovers a treasure, or what Joseph Campbell termed an “elixir” of great value. The hero returns home with the elixir and uses it to free the village from danger.

We see The Hero’s Journey played out repeatedly in classic literature, with tales such as Beowulf, Odysseus, Alice in Wonderland, The Wizard of Oz … as well as in modern mythological tales such as with Frodo in The Lord of the Rings, Neo in The Matrix, and Luke Skywalker in Star Wars. George Lucas was a fan of Joseph Campbell and credits the scholar with inspiring the Star Wars saga. Luke goes through the entire cycle of the hero myth: a darkness overshadowing the land, Luke being called to service, declining at first, being forced from his home to pursue an adventure, finding the courage to follow his path, and even receiving assistance from a “wizard” who saves his life (“You don’t need to see our identification” and “This little one’s not worth the effort… come, let me get you something”) and later urges Luke to victory (“use The Force, Luke”). Luke survives his ordeal to triumph over evil and free his people from tyranny.

Star Wars

But The Hero’s Journey is not just a template for storytelling. It plays out in life. Elon Musk’s life story fits into the myth amazingly well. In a Bloomberg “Risk Takers” documentary, Elon commented on his youth, describing himself as a misfit: “I was this this little book wormy kid, and probably a bit of a smart-aleck… so, this is a recipe for disaster… so I read a lot of books and tried to stay out of people’s way during school.” (Editor’s Note: There’s even a story told elsewhere of Elon being almost killed by bullies who threw him down some stairs and beat him unconscious.)

In the same documentary, his brother Kimball Musk commented: “When Elon was 10 years old he got tested by IBM, and he was found to have one of the highest aptitudes they had even seen for computer programming.” (The force is strong in this one.)

With conscription into the evil empire of apartheid looming, Elon chose to skip military service and leave home at the age of 17 in search of his own path. So began his journey. After a few years, he found his way to Silicon Valley, the place where he would discover his fortune. Elon has shared that before ever seeing Silicon Valley he had thought of it as much an idea as an actual place, stating: “I didn’t even know where it was… it sounded like some mythical place.”

There are several points along Elon’s path where the notion of facing death plays out. At the physical level, there is the instance of contracting Malaria, and later the near-James-Dean-style high-speed crash of his beloved McLaren F1. There’s the staircase story mentioned above. In a metaphorical context, a number of his extreme business enterprises (where virtual death is easy to come by) faced almost certain termination at some point. In fact, the challenges came to the hero lumped together in a mega-failure setup in which SpaceX, Tesla, and SolarCity were all on the verge of being ploughed under amidst the financial Armageddon occurring on Wall Street. Not to mention that Elon’s eight-year-old marriage was running out of gas. In a Hollywood-style climax, Musk puts the very last of his fortune into play, going all-in on a gambit to save Tesla. Venture capitalist Steve Jurvetson, who knew Elon from when the inventor first landed in California, characterized the move as an “act of heroism” that incited others to follow him into the abyss (with further funding). Elon characterized the late 2008 events as “facing imminent death.” He’s also spoken of the notion that entrepreneurs must “eat glass while staring into the abyss … if you don’t chew the glass, you’re not going to be successful.” This can be construed as a euphemism for stepping into the path of danger and facing whatever comes.

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