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11:42 pm EST        28°F (-2°C) in Quinter, KS

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I intended to drive about another 90 miles tonight and get out toward the Kansas/Colorado state line, but freezing rain put the brakes on that plan by creating very icy road conditions. About four miles short of this exit, I started seeing numerous cars off in the ditch or median, and then seeing emergency flashers ahead, I knew I would have to slow down. Knowing that the brake pedal is only to be touched very lightly in bad conditions, I gently pressed the pedal down; even with next to no air pressure being applied, I felt the rear end of the tractor starting to get sideways on me. Releasing the brakes and putting the transmission into neutral straightened the rig out; at that point, I went to grab a lower gear and rely primarily on engine braking (not the Jake, because that’s just as dangerous — I’m talking about high engine RPM with zero throttle) to slow the truck down. Eventually, I got it down to 15 mph, and stayed at that speed until I approached the exit ramp at this interchange. I have literally all day tomorrow to make 300 miles from here, and the icy conditions will likely be taken care of by morning, so I’ll just finish the trip tomorrow.

I don’t have any Internet access from here — T-Mobile’s cellular coverage area does not include Interstate 70 between Hays, KS and Denver, CO. That being the case, I’m actually typing this update at the time shown above, but it won’t be uploaded until I approach Denver some time on Monday. For those of you who might have questions about this type of access, the coverage area is great along many Interstates — literally anywhere you can get T-Mobile cell phone service, you can get wireless Internet as well — but on the down side, speed is roughly what you would expect from dial-up or old ISDN lines. The service is cheap at $30 per month, but the PCMCIA card required to pick up the service will lighten your wallet by $350 in the absence of some rebate promotion. I have the advantage of being able to surf the ‘Net from inside my truck, instead of having to find some truck stop with a 20-cents-per-minute open phone jack; I think that’s the best part of the deal. One of these decades, WiFi will be everywhere, but until then, road warriors such as myself will have to rely on cellular-based solutions.

I made my lunch stop for the day along the Kansas Turnpike just east of Topeka, the state capital. Due to the holidays, my beloved USA Today did not publish a Friday, December 31 edition, and I was starting to suffer from a case of “newspaper withdrawal.” (I am a news junkie, in case that’s not already obvious.) I proceeded to pick up Sunday’s edition of the Kansas City Star, and as I was making my way through the paper, an op-ed piece written by a Kansas City woman for the weekly “Midwest Voices” column caught my eye. In the piece, entitled “Christians deserve free speech,” the woman trotted out the same old “victim” mentality that so-called “fundamentalist ‘Christians’” employ to win popular sympathy for their satanic causes. Her claim that “Christians are oftentimes muzzled” was especially hypocritical in light of the article prominently featuring James Dobson, a leading “fundamentalist” and the head of the virulently homophobic group that hides its agenda behind the false name “Focus on the Family,” in the front section of that very same edition of the Star!

I was angered enough by the lies and hypocrisy in this woman’s piece that I e-mailed a letter to the editor of the Star. It remains to be seen if it will be published, but I will quote the full text of my letter here:

In her piece “Christians deserve free speech,” Vicki Palatas implies that Christians find themselves “castigated and oftentimes muzzled” in the public square. However, her opinion can’t possibly be any further away from the truth. Those who call themselves “Christians” have flexed their free-speech muscles in many states, Missouri included, by promoting and working to secure passage of hateful anti-gay constitutional amendments. She also claims that the Boy Scouts’ total exclusion of gay people, both as Scouts and leaders, represents “Judeo-Christian values” — but hatred and exclusion are certainly NOT Judeo-Christian values.

Jesus associated with tax collectors and lepers, the most shunned and hated people of His time. Gays and lesbians are the “lepers” of the 21st century, and Jesus’ perfect example of love is clearly not followed by Christians-in-name-only who represent much of the 85%-of-Americans figure Ms. Palatas quoted. If Jesus were here today, He would spend much of His time associating with gay and lesbian people and demonstrate His perfect love to them.

I do not believe that “anyone who believes in God is by definition an idiot,” to use Ms. Palatas’ own words, but such people seem to do a lot of idiotic things that fly in the face of God’s instruction to love our neighbor as we do ourselves. Such hypocrisy is evident in the statement “we will no longer silently endure the intolerance and maligning of our faith,” when in truth, it is Christians who demonstrate intolerance of gay and lesbian people!

In other news, I caught most of Saturday’s Rose Bowl on the radio; needless to say, I was quite disappointed in Michigan’s inability to play any kind of effective run defense. I don’t know what it is — recruits, schemes, coaching, or something else — but the last Michigan team to have a rock-solid defense was the 1997 national-championship squad, which featured upperclassmen recruited primarily by Gary Moeller. Is Lloyd Carr not getting the same quality defensive recruits? Does Jim Hermann need to draw up some new plays? Does Carr, a generally soft-spoken and easygoing man, need to do a better job of instilling a killer instinct into the Wolverines? Ordinarily, when a team holds a 10-point lead early in the fourth quarter, it does everything in its power to increase that margin; instead, it seemed that Michigan started going very conservative (mostly running plays on offense, and nickel packages and no blitzes on defense, allowing the short-yardage stuff in hopes of preventing large gains), and that allowed Texas to get right back into the game.

I give the Longhorns, especially quarterback Vince Young, a ton of credit for playing a great game themselves, but as a Michigan fan, I am tiring of watching all of these self-destructions and poor coaching moves that have easily cost Michigan at least one loss per year since the 1998 season. For example, Michigan had far better talent at most positions than Notre Dame and Ohio State, the two teams who beat the Wolverines this past regular season; yet Michigan managed to lose both of those games, thanks in large part to turnovers the Buckeyes and Irish turned into scores, and overly conservative coaching strategies. I’m not directly suggesting Lloyd Carr should be fired, but I am starting to wonder if his best coaching years are behind him.

After I complete a few other tasks, I’m off to sleep. Cross your fingers that KDOT will have salted the hell out of the roads by morning. wink