A look back at the first half of the year

Saturday, July 2, is the middle day of the year. You can sit around all day long and think back on the first 182 days of the year and then look forward to the last 182 days of the year. I prefer doing the former, because it's easier to get things right. In the interest of accuracy, I'm writing this in late June, so I'm actually looking forward to looking back.

It's been an OK year so far. George W. Bush hasn't invaded any new countries and has even backed off his longstanding policy of making empty threats against Iran and North Korea. His overall ratings are in the toilet, and somewhat amazingly, the American public saw right through his Social Security scam and opted not to help make the mega-rich that much richer.

A substantial majority of Americans now believe it was wrong to invade Iraq. That number arrives a few months late to do the country any good.

Still, considering the mood of the country (and the direction in which it's heading), if we could just get Howard Dean to shut up, we Democrats might make a nice little comeback in next year's midterm elections.

Overall grade in political matters: A surprisingly good B.

The events and grades on other fronts include:

· UA SPORTS. The UA men's basketball team didn't just lose to Illinois in the NCAAs; they ripped the heart out of every Wildcat fan in attendance, watching on TV and listening on the radio. You know how you hear heartwarming stories about how coma patients will awaken after years, just by hearing a sports broadcast of their favorite team? Well, this game put otherwise-healthy people into comas.

The baseball team finished a strong second in the tough Pacific-10 Conference and was at least even money to make it to the College World Series for the second straight year. But it wasn't even money that did them in; it was the odd $30,000 that the Athletic Department couldn't come up with so that the Cats could host the regionals and super-regionals, facilitating their much-deserved trip back to Omaha. Arizona won the regional tournament far from home and won the first game in the super-regional at defending national champion Cal State-Fullerton before losing its last two games and being forever saddled with a "what if?" season.

The softball team had a rollercoaster season, which was actually kinda fun after watching them dominate nationally for 15 years. They finished in a four-way tie for first in the Pac-10 and made it back to the World Series.

Overall grade: B- (based mostly on what could have been).

· WEATHER. The weather's been great. The best way to judge the weather in Tucson is whether those who still have swamp coolers had to turn on their stuff before May 1. There may be a few warm days in March and April, but as long as any sample week goes 82, 90, 90, 78, 72, 68, 75--that's money. It didn't get hot here until mid-May, and then it got super-hot. But if it's 100 degrees from May 15 until Sept. 15, that's fine. It's the desert. It's only a drag when it shows up too early or stays too late. Plus, we got a lot of rain in January and February.

Overall grade: A.

· MY E-MAIL. I saved the big one for last. While the bulk of my e-mail still falls into the two main categories of Home Schoolers and Home Schoolers with Especially Atrocious Spelling, Grammar and/or Syntax, others are coming on strong. There has been a recent surge in correspondence from people who live together and are apparently unable to read English. After I wrote a column in which I said that it's not right for heterosexual couples who live together to receive the same benefits as married couples, I was deluged with e-mails from people claiming that I attacked the practice of living together.

I'll use small words to help ease the con-fu-sion: Nobody cares if you live together. I think you should all go out and get bumper stickers that read "I'm a Maverick." I'm not a right-wing Christian fundamentalist; I'm a left-wing Catholic. And I think that couples who choose to set themselves apart from married people should be adult enough to do so in all situations and not try to tiptoe under the married umbrella when it'll save them a few bucks. Rebels are rebels aaalllll the time.

Grade: A.

A final note: Chris Limberis correctly pointed out that former Tucson High Coach Barry Wilson didn't file a lawsuit; he went through a grievance process. Chris knows the difference between those things. To me (and most other laymen), it's all the same. If it involves a lawyer, it's a lawsuit, because the law's going to get twisted, and somebody's going to be wearing a suit.

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