The Essence of Alpha

Sixteen years ago I became a member of the Rho Nu Chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc. At that time, most of the gentlemen featured in the short clip below were in preschool. While almost two decades separate our respective pledge experiences, watching this video brought back so many of the powerful emotions that made and make Alpha dear to me. Coincidentally, if you ask a Man of Alpha why he pledged or what the fraternity means to him, chances are he will struggle mightily to find the right words to convey its essence.

Spring 2011 – Beta Gamma Chapter from John Ledbetter on Vimeo.

Alpha is more than the pledging, the stepping, the strolling, the chanting, the signs, the gear, the partying, the debauchery, the brotherhood, the service, the academics, the secrets, the history. Yet, it is all those, too. I share this video because it captures the essence of Alpha better than I can and does so with no words. Now you know.

In the process of preparing to write this post I realized it is quite conceivable that, in sixteen years, Owen could be that skinny kid, standing with his line brothers in the rain, Alpha Phi Alpha emblazoned on his chest. How powerful would that be?

How many countries have I seen? (2010)

It has been three years since my original “How many countries have I seen?” post. I thought it would be fun to update the list to get a sense of how much of the world I have yet to see. This is also a good way to get TB thinking about places we might visit in 2010.

As of April 2010, the tally comes in at 29, nine more since March 2007. This puts me at a mere 15% of the 193 countries in the world or +5% in 3 years. At this rate, it will take me about 50 more years to cover the globe.

Below is the updated list including links to the relevant blog entries.

  1. Argentina
  2. Australia
  3. Austria
  4. Barbados
  5. Belgium
  6. Brazil
  7. Canada
  8. China
  9. Czech Republic
  10. Dominica
  11. England
  12. France
  13. Germany
  14. Hungary
  15. Italy
  16. Japan
  17. Malaysia
  18. Mexico (Cancun, Puerto Vallarta, Cabo San Lucas)
  19. Monaco
  20. Mozambique
  21. The Netherlands
  22. New Zealand
  23. Scotland
  24. Singapore
  25. South Africa (Kruger National Park, Cape Town, Plettenberg Bay)
  26. South Korea
  27. Spain
  28. Sweden
  29. USA

As before, these are all places I have actually visited so airport layovers do not count.

In the previous post I expressed a desire to visit South America and mainland Asia. I covered both with trips to Argentina & Brazil in October 2007 then China & South Korea in April 2008. Cape Town still reigns supreme as my favorite city but Rio de Janeiro is a close second. Kuala Lumpur maintains its rank on the bottom rung.

What’s next on the to-do list? Central America, India or the Middle East would be nice but we may have to wait until Owen is a little older before taking on those last two.

Two feet high and rising

We took Owen to Kirkland City Hall today to apply for his passport. TB had me complete and print the online application beforehand and we both got a good chuckle while reviewing the section regarding his physical appearance.

Owen's passport application

His passport photo is even funnier.

Owen's passport photo

We heard smiling in passport photos has been forbidden due to limitations in the facial recognition scanners used by security agencies worldwide. We knew not to worry since Owen is so serious in almost all his photos.

Dallas Cowboys release Terrell Owens

It is a sad day for me as a Dallas Cowboys fan. It is no secret I place greater emphasis on all the good T.O. brings to the teams he has played for during his career than the bad. This was as true while he was in San Francisco and Philadelphia as it was in Dallas. I think Dallas has made an enormous personnel blunder.

Call him a ball-dropping, loudmouth, cancerous, crybaby distraction but you must acknowledge he is a competitor and winner. How else do you explain over the last five seasons teams he has played on are 48-20 (.706) with him and 2-10 (.167) without him? Coincidence?

I don’t know what Jerry Jones is up to but keeping head coach Wade Phillips while cutting T.O. is a quick-and-easy recipe for missing the playoffs again next year. You don’t rebuild a winning franchise by cutting the guy who, in week 12, racked up the most franchise single-game receiving yards since 1979 while keeping the entire coaching staff after, in week 17, getting embarrassed 44-6, just missing the playoffs.

Cardinals over Cowboys? Jerry Rice is the only receiver in NFL history with more touchdown receptions than T.O. Jerry can no longer play the game but T.O. can. I hope Cowboys quarterback (Tony Romo), tight end (Jason Witten) and offensive coordinator (Jason Garrett) know who to blame when T.O.’s absence from the roster results in more team absences from the playoffs.

I hear the Arizona Cardinals bandwagon is accepting late arrivals. There is a lot to like about Kurt Warner, Larry Fitzgerald and Anquan Boldin. They find ways to win while the Cowboys find ways to whine. Hmm…

The Animal Kingdom, Part 3

Travis the chimp I have been giving fair warning for over two years now yet people still haven’t learned. A 200-pound, “pet” chimpanzee attacked and severely mauled a woman today in Stamford, Connecticut. You know you’re in for it when you have a pet that weighs 200 pounds and you can only bench, say, 30 tops.

To me, it’s still not clear who won that battle. The chimp is dead, sure, but not before he bit off both his victim’s hands, completely disfigured her face, got shanked a few times with a butcher knife by his owner, chased a policeman into his cruiser after being stabbed AND took “several” rounds, close-range, from the cop’s firearm. And, if that weren’t enough, the chimp then retreated to his living quarters to die. Brings a whole new meaning to “Live free, die hard."

Similar to my previous Animal Kingdom post, I allocate points as follows:

Travis (the chimp): 1
Sandra Herold (the owner): 1
Charla Nash (the victim): 0.5
Policeman: nil

Jack Bauer has nothing on Travis the chimp. Ms. Herold gets a point for her quick-wittedness and knife work that saved her friend’s life. Ms. Nash gets half a point for surviving the brutal attack. The police officer must have had both eyes closed to fire several rounds close-range and not kill Travis immediately.

All that said, the silliest part of this whole story is the photographer (or Fox editor?) who decided to whiten Travis’ teeth in the photo of him above taken in 2003. Was he auditioning for a Crest Whitestrips commercial?