Mike Spath points out that doing an interview for the official site is a pretty good indicator he'll be back.
Matthews (NC) Butler wide receiver Uriah LeMay is off to a fast start in his recruitment, garnering over 20 scholarship offers and being named to the ESPN 150 Watch List, and his latest offer came from Michigan last week. LeMay, who stands at 6'2", 188 pounds, also has notable offers from Arkansas, Auburn, Clemson, Florida, FSU, Georgia, LSU, Miami (YTM), Mississippi State, North Carolina, Ohio State, Penn State, Tennessee, and Virginia Tech, among several others. According to his Scout profile, the junior had 43 receptions for 842 yards and 14 receiving touchdowns to go along with 38 rushes for 397 yards and 5 rushing touchdowns in the 2011 season. I caught up with Uriah this evening, and here's a full transcript of the interview:
ACE: First of all, how did you find out about your Michigan offer, and how does it affect your recruitment going forward?
Really I'm just staying the same course that I have since the summer, just evaluating each team and giving everybody a shot. The Michigan offer, when it came in, was a big shock. I was just sitting there in English class and Coach Montgomery pulled me out. It really got me excited and there were a lot of Michigan fans in my English class at the time, so it was a big discussion later on during the day.
ACE: Is Coach Montgomery your main recruiting contact at Michigan?
ACE: What other teams have been contacting you the most in your recruitment? Do you have an early list of favorites or is it wide open right now?
URIAH: It's pretty wide open right now. [My recording cut out here, unfortunately, so I didn't catch the next sentence, but he doesn't have any favorites at the moment. He did say to 24/7 that Alabama, Arkansas, and LSU are recruiting him the hardest as of last week ($).]
ACE: Just to go back and recap your junior season, how would you say that went for you, and what kind of numbers did you put up?
URIAH: Number-wise I did pretty good. I think I had 1,000+ all-purpose yards and 19 touchdowns. As far as the season went we came just short of the goal, we lost in the third round of the playoffs, I think two games before states, which is not something you want to do, but it wasn't too bad a way to end number-wise and it was a good development year.
ACE: Your older brother [class of 2011 QB Christian LeMay] was recruited by Georgia, correct? [Uriah: Yes.] Has he given you any advice in terms of going through the whole recruiting process?
URIAH: He's been really helpful for me going through the process. Any time I have a question I can always give it to him. Most of the time what he'll tell me is, if I like a school, if I visit, or if I have a conversation with one of the coaches, make sure your conversation is open, make sure you go back and visit the school, just to get a different and second opinion and evaluation on it, because anything can look good the first time you see it. He'll tell to make sure that everybody and the coaches are open with you, to be open with them about yourself, and to make sure you make the best decision for yourself when it comes down to it at the time.
ACE: In terms of making that decision, do you have an idea for a timelime right now?
URIAH: For right now, the way things are going, it looks like I'll be committing at one of the All-American games. But if not then, definitely around signing day. [UPDATE: I talked to Uriah's father, and he says that they're looking at a summer decision date instead of waiting until the All-American games to make a choice, so this one could wrap up sooner than initially expected.]
ACE: If you had to scout yourself, what would you say are the biggest strengths in your game, and what are the areas that you're working on for your senior year and then on to the next level?
URIAH: My strengths would have to be size, physicality, aggression, and hands, as well as the ability to stretch the field and make plays at random times. Things that I'm going to want to be working on are just the fundamentals, that's one thing you can't really ever get enough of doing, back to the basics—footwork, speed drills, hands drills, all that kind of stuff.
ACE: In terms of setting up your summer schedule, are you planning on making any junior days or visits, and are you looking at Michigan as a possible visit destination?
URIAH: Yes, after the offer we're starting to put into the planning to make it down there. I'm trying to visit schools on the East Coast and then go out to the Midwest and visit some of those schools if we can. But then after that, that'll probably be it for this summer.
Before we dive into the details, here are some things that you should know so that you can understand what’s below better:
1. * : When you see an asterisk by a number, know that it means that I included at least 1 Jr who I am projecting or has said that they will leave in those numbers. When you see a * by a name, it means that the player is a Jr projected to leave or is leaving.
2. 17 starters is the number that you want to return if you want to have at least the same amount of wins as the previous year. So the greatest number of starters that you would want to leave would be 5. After 5 starters leave, you expect to lose more games than the previous year. (Note: That number is from memory, I could not find the diary with that number so if someone could link to that in the comments, that would be great.)
3. I used the depth chart from each team’s Rivals site and the NFL draft projections from http://www.cbssports.com/nfl/draft/prospectrankings. If a player was around the top 3 at his position, I projected him to leave unless, obviously, he’s already said that he’s coming back.
Now for a chart, keep in mind that the numbers are in terms of players lost. Remember, losing more than 5 total starters is not a good thing. The chart breaks it down into lost starters on offense, defense and then total.
Continue on for a more in depth look at each team. This includes starters lost by position, list of each starter lost, some notes on back ups, notes on new coaches or leaving coaches, and other general observations on each team. After the draft, I will break down each team in terms of percentage of yards, TDs, tackles, interceptions, forced fumbles, etc. lost with each starter.
**If I didn't include a leaving starters, leaving/new coachs, or if someone I've included has said they're coming back to school, please let me know so that I can fix it.**
5 Starters lost: 1 RB*, 2 WR, 1 TE, 1 C
*Trent Richardson, RB
Darius Hanks, WR
Marquis Maze, WR
Brad Smelley, TE
William Vlachos, C
Quick Notes: Replacement TEs will be a true sophomore. Richardson is a top 5 pick and was a Heisman candidate, he’ll be tough to replace.
8 Starters lost: 1 NT, 3 LB*, 2 CB, 2 S*
Josh Chapman, NT
Jerrell Harris, LB
Courtney Upshaw, LB
*Dont’a Hightower, LB
*Dre Kirkpatrick, CB
DeQuan Menzie, CB
Mike Barron, S
*Robert Lester, S
Quick Notes: The talent Alabama will be losing is ridiculous. Everyone they’re losing will be playing in the NFL. At least half of them are ranked in the top 3 at their positions. Yeah, Alabama will replace that talent, but there is no way that the talent coming in is greater than the talent going out. 2 possible LB replacements will be JRs. The rest of the possible replacement LBs will be true sophomores.
Offensive Coordinator is leaving.
13 starters lost.
8 Starters lost: 1 QB, 1 RB, 2 WR, 1 TE, 1 C, 1 RG, 1 RT
Tim Jefferson, QB
Asher Clark, RB
Jonathan Warzeka, WR
Zack Kauth, WR
Joshua Freeman, TE
Jeffrey Benson, C
A.J. Wallerstein, RG
Kevin Whitt, RT
Quick Notes: Back Up QB is graduating too.
9 Starters lost: 2 DE, 1 NT, 3 LB, 2 CB, 1 S
Zach Payne, DE
Harry Kehs, DE
Ryan Gardner, NT
Jordan Waiwaiole, LB
Brady Amack, LB
Patrick Hennessey, LB
Anthony Wright, CB
Josh Hall, CB
Jon Davis, S
No Changes. (Note: These guys are going on to do something greater than playing football, a thank you to all of them and to everyone else serving.)
17 starters lost.
5 Starters lost: 1 RB, 3 WR, 1 TE
Jonathan Hernandez, RB
Tom Gilson, WR
Julian Talley, WR
Jesse Julmiste, WR
Emil Igwenagu, TE
3 Starters lost: 1 DT, 2 LB
James Gilchrist, DT
Tyler Holmes, LB
Shane Vivieros, LB
New head coach (Former ND OC). Also first year in the FBS.
8 starters lost.
4 starters lost: 1 WR, 1 OT, 1 OG, 1 C,
Michael Floyd, WR
Taylor Dever, OT
Trevor Robinson, OG
Mike Golic Jr., C
Quick Notes: You all know about the talent of Michael Floyd, and no, I’m not talking about drunk driving. Losing him is a huge, huge, huge loss for ND, especially with the QB questions that they have. It looks like the replacement OT and OG could be true sophomores.
6 starters lost: 1 DE, 1 LB, 2 CB, 2 S
Ethan Johnson, DE
Darius Fleming, LB
Gary Gray, CB
Robert Blanton, CB
Harrison Smith, S
Jamoris Slaughter, S
Quick Notes: Manti Te’o is returning. That’s huge for ND.
New Offensive Coordinator, RB coach, OL coach, and QB coach. Also Brian Kelly is still there.
3 Starters lost: 1 WR, 1 OT, 1 OG
Justin Siller, WR
Dennis Kelly, OT
Nick Mondek, OG
4 Starters lost: 1 DE, 1 LB, 2 S
Gerlad Gooden, DE
Joe Holland, LB
Albert Evans, S
Logan Link, S
7 starter lost.
4 Starters lost: 1 RB, 1 WR, 1 OT, 1 OG
Jason Ford, RB
A.J. Jenkins, WR
Jeff Allen, OT
Jack Cornell, OG
Quick Notes: A.J. Jenkins is a pretty big loss for Illinois.
4 Starters lost: 1 DE*, 2 LB, 1 CB
*Whitney Mercilus, DE
Trulon Henry, LB
Ian Thomas, LB
Tavon Wilson, CB
Quick Notes: Mercilus is the #3 DE, if he leaves, which is likely, it’ll be a huge loss for Illinois.
You know the deal with Zook, he’s gone so there’ll be a new HC and a new coaching staff.
8 starters lost.
6 starters lost: 1 QB, 2 WR, 1 OG, 1 FB, 1 RB*
Kirk Cousins, QB
B.J. Cunningham, WR
Keshawn Martin, WR
Joel Foreman, OG
Todd Anderson, FB
*Edwin Baker, RB
Quick Notes: Replacement QB will be a Jr or Sr. B.J. Cunningham is a beast, losing him really hurts. Replacements will be Arnett, providing the NCAA grants a waiver, or will be a Jr or a few sophomores. Losing Baker is another hit to MSU’s offense
2 starters lost: 1 DT*, 1 S
*Jerel Worthy, DT
Trenton Robinson, S
Quick Notes: Worthy’s back-up is graduating too. Robinson’s replacement will be a Jr or sophomore. The defense looks to be much the same as it was last year.
As of the time of this writing, rumors of Narduzzi to Texas A&M continue to run rampant. Losing him is huge.
8 starters lost.
2 starters lost: 1 OT, 1 C
J. Hardrick, OT
Mike Caputo, C
Quick Notes: Offense looks to be as potent as you can be with a QB who throws like a girl.
4 starters lost: 1 DT, 1 LB, 1 CB, 1 S
Jared Crick, DT
Lavonte David, LB
Alfonzo Dennard, CB
Austin Cassidy, S
Quick Notes: Nebraska loses their top 3 players on D. Tough to replace losses like that.
New DL coach.
6 starters lost.
7 starters lost: 1 RB, 1 WR, 1 FB, 1 TE, 2 OG, 1 C
Duane Bennett, RB
Da’Jon McKnight, WR
Eric Lair, FB
Collin McGarry, TE
Chris Bunders, OG
Ryan Orton, OG
Ryan Wynn, C
Quick Notes: Ouch.
6 starters lost: 2 DT, 1 LB, 1 CB, 2 S
Anthony Jacobs, DT
Brandon Kirksey, DT
Gary Tinsley, LB
Troy Stoudermire, CB
Shady Salamon, S
Kim Royston, S
Quick Notes: Ouch again. Minnesota looks to stay Minnesota.
13 starters lost.
6 starters lost: 1 QB, 2 RB, 1 WR, 1 OT, 1 OG
Dan Persa, QB
Jacob Schmidt, RB
Drake Dunsmore, RB
Jeremy Ebert, WR
Al Netter, OT
Ben Burkett, OG
Quick Notes: Losing Persa is pretty big but Colter filled in pretty well for him this year.
3 starters lost: 1 DT, 1 CB, 1 S
Jack DiNardo, DT
Jeravin Matthews, CB
Brian Peters, S
9 starters lost.
4 starters lost: 1 WR, 2 OT*, 1 OG,
Marvin McNutt, WR
*Riley Reiff, OT
Markus Zusevics, OT
Adam Gettis, OG
Quick Notes: Losing McNutt is pretty big for Iowa.
6 starters lost: 1 DE, 2 DT, 1 LB, 1 CB, 1 S
Broderick Binns, DE
Mike Daniels, DT
Thomas Nardo, DT
Tyler Nielsen, LB
Shaun Prater, CB
Jordan Bernstine, S
Quick notes: Defense looks to worsen with the loss of 6 starters and the DC.
New DL coach. New DC.
10 starters lost.
5 starters lost: 1 RB, 1 WR, 2 OT, 1 C
Dan Herron, RB
DeVier Posey, WR
Mike Adams, OT
J.B. Shugarts, OT
Michael Brewster, C
Quick Notes: New offense, new schemes, new plays, etc. Remember the offense without Posey and Herron? Couldn’t score if they were playing a middle school football team.. Remember the offense without Posey? Not much better. Now they’ll have a new offense without 3 new starters on the OL and without their 2 biggest playmakers on offense.
0 starters lost.
Quick Notes: The defense that we owned this year looks to be the same next year.
New HC, mostly new coaching staff.
5 starters lost.
(Click the image to view full size)
Today the Blockhams are attending services at East Pneumonia Lutheran Church, and youngest son Desmond has recruiting on his mind. It won't be long before he heads back to the South Quad for spring classes. Sitting beside him is the middle child, Chalmers, better known as 'Bump'... who we'll get to know better on Thursday.
As stated before, THE BLOCKHAMS™ will run every Tuesday here at MGoBlog, and every Thursday on its official home page. And as we saw last week, don't be surprised if they make a few unannounced appearances from time to time as well.
Follow THE BLOCKHAMS™ on Twitter at @theblockhams.
The recruiting rankings return after the dead period and a New Year's Day siesta. Despite the dead period, there were a fair amount of commitments since the last rankings, including the Wolverines picking up Jehu Chesson (yes, it's been a while since I did one of these). Action since last rankings:
12-18-11: Ohio State picks up Noah Spence. Steffon Martin decommits from Purdue.
12-19-11: Indiana picks up Ryan Thompson. Illinois picks up Mason Monheim.
12-20-11: Nebraska picks up Mohammed Seisay.
12-21-11: Michigan picks up Jehu Chesson. Indiana picks up David Cooper. Ryan Frain re-committed to Illinois.
12-22-11: Indiana picks up Antonio Marshall.
12-26-11: Purdue picks up James Prince and Jason King.
12-29-11: Notre Dame picks up KeiVarae Russell. Penn State picks up Jamil Pollard. Purdue picks up Ryan Watson.
1-3-12: Iowa picks up Greg Garmon. Keith Brown decommits from Illinois. Nebraska picks up Jared Afalava and Avery Moss.
1-4-12: Sebastian Smith decommits from Indiana.
1-5-12: Illinois picks up Teko Powell.
1-7-12: Notre Dame picks up Elijah Shumate.
UPDATE 1-8-12: Ronald Darby decommits from Notre Dame (to answer your question: no, he is not considering Michigan, or at least they're not among his planned visits—Clemson, Florida State, and possibly LSU).
|Big Ten+ Recruiting Class Rankings|
|Rank||School||# Commits||Rivals Avg||Scout Avg||ESPN Avg||24/7 Avg||Avg Avg^|
*ESPN doesn't rate JuCos, so they are counted as unranked recruits for the sake of consistency (trust me, it makes sense when you look at the spreadsheet).
^The average of the average rankings of the four recruiting services (aka the previous four columns). The figure is calculated based on the raw numbers and then rounded, so the numbers above may not average out exactly.
On to the full data, after the jump.
*programming note, got busy during the holidays, sorry if anyone was looking for scouting reports. Things have slowed down now, so expect a Nebraska game wrap next week, or the week after, depending on if I feel like writing anything about the SEC non-championship exhibition game.
Winners find a way to win.
It started as a joke, but now no one can deny the awesome power that is Brady Hoke's magical golden poop. Everything he touches turns into roses. When he walks through a forest, flowers bloom in his wake. Youtube is sadly lacking in good golden poop videos, so a unicorn farting rainbows of destruction was the best I could find. I hope it's not too disturbing.
Our ND friends gave us the wonderfully self-fulfilling cliche' "Winners find a way to win, losers find a way to lose." But we'll just focus on the first half of that, and they can focus on the 2nd half, thank you very much.
Was Brady Hoke lucky that Tressel was caught lying? Maybe. Maybe he pulled a Peter Wiggin and dropped a few well placed emails. Was it luck when we fumbled on the 1 yard line against ND and Denard scooped and scored a walk in? Maybe. Maybe Hoke used his secret telekinesis.
I don't know, I don't care. At this point I'm just happy to be along for the ride.
But how else can you explain what happened?
How does a sure INT on a fake FG where no receivers went into pass patterns end up in the arms of the long snapper for a first down? How does what looks like a TD to 80% of the twitterverse get reversed in OT? How have all the great things that have happened this year happen to one team, in one year? It boggles the mind.
They say you make your own luck. They say that "Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity." But whether it's luck, or karmic retribution, or a secret plot by an undercover invisible agency from the future, it can't be sustained at this high of a level. So let's just enjoy it while we can.
On to the pics.
Al. Al? ALLLLLLLLL!!!!!!!
This week's love-hate relationship status with Al Borges is .... .... Love? That's odd, because during the game there were times when the needle was strongly tilted towards hate. But after a second look at the game film, the final analysis, just like the outcome of the game, is slightly positive.
Much like the Iowa game, the lack of production on offense wasn't really his fault so much as it was a combination of a lack of execution, personnel limitations, and a darn good defense.
Oh sure, there's plenty of things he could have done better and a few stinkers that make you want to pull out your hair... hmmm....nevermind. And I'll get to those in a moment, but overall, we did what we've done all year. And many of the plays should have worked.
I mean, Molk getting injured and having this
happen on two consecutive plays to kill the first drive can't really be blamed on Al. Maybe it would have been better to go under center with the backup playing, but after we've been crying all year for more shotgun, you can understand why he didn't. Luckily Molk came back in, but wasn't at 100% which probably put a dent in our selection of play calls.
And give VT credit. They played a lot of Man-Free forcing Denard to make tough passes to the outside, which frankly, we all know is not his comfort zone.
Yes, the manball mentality is frustrating especially when VT is putting 9 men in the box.
(It's 8 because Denard going backwards is not a threat to run.) But it's there to setup big plays.
With both safeties up like this, the thing you have to do is make them pay for it.
But with two defenders beating their blockers, Denard has pressure right up in his face resulting in this jump pass.
It's not Al's fault that Denard threw to the wrong guy. Roundtree had a step on his man and Jr. was getting interfered with. Despite the interception, you can't argue that it wasn't the right play call.
[ED: More after the jump.]
So we'll just go right in from the last diary.
First Off, Ear Wax
So yes I talked about the metal or wooden spike thing. As others in the thread comment there are all kinds of tools. My wife actually has little leather cases with arrays of tools in them. However allow me to present the Cadillac of Ear Cleaners from Japan.
We own one of those. We also own one that you can plug into your TV. That one only has a 720p camera on it though, so I'm told at some point we'll be upgrade to the 1080p model which hit the shelves recently. I have come home and found my wife and other Asian girls sitting in front of the TV talking excitedly in Korean about ear cleaning. I think they might record the video and break it down with some kind of UFR ("Here the ear hairs prevent this wax from moving deeper into the ear canal. Red shirt freshman ear hair almost loses contain but in the end forces it to cut back where the larger senior ear hairs are waiting. +1").
Now I want to cover some basic use and safety for the device:
First off, if you ever get drunk and go "Hey, I always wondered my sinus cavity looked like in 720p on a widescreen TV", let me stress: THIS IS A BAD IDEA. BAD! The tip irrates your sinuses and causes you sneeze with a giant metal spike in your head. Sometimes I'm amazed I lived long enough to make it to adulthood.
Second, while you may think it is a wonderful idea to stick the device in your wife's mouth so she can see the result of her wisdom teeth removal, she will not agree. You will get in trouble. Some people just don't appreciate scientific pursuits like they should.
Finally. While these devices do have many potiental uses (like checking to see if your keys ended up behind the stove), when your wife comes home and finds you dangling the thing she uses to clean her ears behind your fridge, you get in trouble. You also get supervised for 45 minutes while you sterilize it. The moral to this story (at least the lesson I learned) is wait until your wife is away at her 90 minute seminar class, then check behind the stove. Turned out I had some Legos back there.
As a side note, I showed this to my cousin who is a police officer. The police have little snake cameras they can slip through vents and stuff to monitor hostage situations, but the ones they have aren't even 720p yet. The Asian ear cleaning industry is higher tech than the American paramilitary industry. Go figure.
However when we're doing each other's ears will use the traditional cleaning methods (the cameras are so she can check my work or something). So one day I'm lying there on my couch with a spike in my ear and hear the words "Honey, why don't we go visit my family?". Now I'm confused. I like visiting Korea. My now wife's older sister is some kind of burgeoning model and has a bunch of model friends. They all like how I'm taller than the average Korean and they can wear heels and dance with me. So I end up going out to the club and dancing with a bunch of Korean girls. Just to be polite of course.
I have alarm bells going off in my head, since normally she only asks for things that might be objectionable when cleaning my ears. For the record she isn't trying to threaten me with a spike in my ear canal. Ear cleaning time is supposed to be relaxing, so she's just trying to get me in a good mood and then ask.
As it turns out, Korean workers in Mongolia are fairly come. The RoK and Mongolia get along fairly well, have a lot of shared hertigage (they're both Altaic people and lack the Austronesan genes that Han Chinese have). Plus the Korean monarchy had a lot of intermarriage with Mongolia (everyone just ignores the fact that Mongolia invaded Korean 6 times, killed off most of the Korean nobles and then intermarried with the survivors).
So after Mongolia got rid of its pesky Soviet and Chinese Communist influences they've been to hire in skilled Korean engineers to help with them national development projects, which is currently where a cousin my wife is really close to (as a side note, you never marry an Asian. You marry their family, and not just their nuclear family.)
So I'm going through the airport in Mongolia and standing there at customs as two customs officers are going over my paperwork. One of them speaks English and looks at me:
So you're American?
Yes sir, I'm from Michigan.
I have heard many Americans says they're Canadian because people don't like Americans. Here in Mongolia though we love Americans! Tell everyone you are American! Maybe some day together we'll fight the Chinese!
At this point I notice the guy is actually staring past me and I look over my shoulder. Turns out there are some Chinese businessmen right behind me in the line and judging by their facial expressions they speak enough English to catch what he said. (China currently controls Outer Mongolia, which many Mongolians are unhappy about.
I ended up in Ulaangom, a province capital on far western Mongolia that is a mere 75 miles from Russia. It's a scenic kind of place. A city nestled at the bottom of a mountain with a river on the other side. It also 22,000 people and its airport runways that do not appear to be regularly plowed.
Actually that isn't fair, they do plow it. The issue is that at our time of landing (2 pm, one of the warmer parts of the day), the temperature was -15 F. The low for that night was -35 F. So the runway is cleared, but at such low temperatures things to melt snow don't work. So the wind blows fresh snow across the runway. At the end of the day the pilots just learned to take off an land with snow on the runway.
On our trip to Ulaangom, the Mongolian businessman in front of me explained how during his last flight they skidded past the runway, but luckily for them there was a snowbank. See Ulaangom is also in a desert, so normally there is only enough snow to make the runway fatal to land on, not enough to plow into a snow bank. However they'd just recently had some snow, so they were saved from continuing on and slamming into a parked Russian cargo plane thanks to the snow bank.
This was also the time I discovered that Aero Mongolia does not server hard liquor (at least on this flight).
He also told me about the pre 2009 days when the runway wasn't paved. Those days were apparently when the real fun happened. After s 2009 rebuild though the airport now has indoor toliets and a paved runway.
My wife's response to all this was a dissimive wave of her hand "What? The Chinese have safety standards like this and there are 1.6 billion of them. Clearly not that many are killed. We'll be fine...".
We did land and walk away from the landing. Although there was some fishtailing and we had to turn around because we overshot our parking space. Ulaangom of course does not have a fancy airway thing that connects from the plane to the airport. They roll up some stairs to the plane, open the door, and smite you with the fist of a frozen god as -15 degree air comes into the passenger cabin.
There is something to be said for this approach. Unlike in America were everyone dicks around and takes 45 minutes to get off the plane, our Fokker empted fast. It's grab your stuff and haul ass out of there before you freeze to death.
The Bar Scene in Ulaangom
In Ulaangom in the winter there appear to be two major activities. Getting drunk and trying to get warm. The first one is possible, the second one is impossible, so most people on the first one. Bars are popular because heating costs are expensive, so people tend to congregate in public areas for as long as possible and go home to sleep.
What passes for booze in Mongolia is airag, which is fermented mare or cows milk. It's like what they'd made in jail if they trying to make bootleg Bailey's Irish Creme. It's nasty and has a sour "spoiled milk" aftertaste. When it is -28 though (and the mercury is falling), you drink it and are thankful for it.
I was an instant celebrity because I was white (or a snow demon as one little girl dubbed me. Best nickname I've gotten so far). So at the bar I'd often end up with a crowd of people around me. I educated them about America. Some key facts I taught them were:
"Your entire city would fill up about a fifth of my school's football stadium." I actually took my laptop to the bar and showed them all pictures of Michigan Stadium and the campus. One night we all crowded around the laptop and watched a copy of the Gator Bowl against Florida since they didn't have any soccer matches to show.
The worst part of America is Ohio. You should never go there, or if you ever get another Genghis Khan you should go there and raze it. We won't mind, really.
I own guns, however not every American own guns. I personally am okay with this, since the people who do not own guns will be lootable in the event society collapses.
I also met an officer in the Mongolian Army. Mongolia is a partner in the War on Terror and has troops to Aghanistan. The officer I spoke had a few interesting stories.
First off, you know all those talking heads on TV that talk about how the British and Soviets both failed to conquer Afghanistan. Well way back the Mongolians showed up the Afghans did their traditional retreat into the mountains thing.
The Mongolians, being from places like Ulaangom, were rather unphased by this (perhaps even excited. "Hey we can to climb mountains in temperatures that aren't subzero, hooray!"). They burned three cities and destroyed most of Afghanistan's crop land. Massive numbers of people died in the resulting famine. Tribes viewed as playing a key role in the resistance were exterminated. Afghanistan would remain under Mongol rule until the Timurids rose and took control of the region. So next time a talking head says you can't win in Afghanistan, you can. You just have to commit a bunch of war crimes.
According to this office, the Afghans still remember what happened last time they got the Mongolians angry and go out of their way to avoid picking fights with the Mongolian contigent. The officer remarked how much nicer the base in Aghanistan was than one he'd trained at in the Gobi Desert.
The more amusing story was how the Mongolians train Americans on using old Soviet equipment. The Mongolian military has a lot of 1970/80s era Soviet hardware, which is what Taliban also rolls with. All of which is low tech and sometimes hard for Americans to understand. For example he had this conversation with an American Marine:
Mongolian: So this is a RPG. You look through this eye piece and shoot it.
American: How do you aim it? Does it have a laser scope?
M: No. You just look at it, adjust the sight here and shoot it.
A: What if I miss?
M: You take 50 dollars to the local market place and buy a new crate of rockets.
He also had an American tell him that the RPG had to have a laser range finder on it because all the ones in the video game he played did. I now worry about our troops abit. Overall though he had good things to say about military, but it seems like some people just can't grasp lowtech.
It seems American troops who recently arrived in country are famous though for deciding to go out on mountain combat patrols with massive amounts of gear and you can "track them by following the trail of discarded gear as they hike up the mountain".
Life A Mongolian Nomad
The most interesting and surreal part of the this entire experience was my wife had somehow arranged for us to spend a weeked at a nomad camp. A fair percentage of the population is still nomadic. In the winter most of the nomads now move in to town, but some cling to the old ways and still settle in gers for the winter. (Yurt is a term of Turkic origin and was used by the Russians, so it is unpopular in Mongolia). They supplement their income by letting Western tourists hang out with him.
This means I spent three days in a ger with 10 Mongolians (three generations of a family) and my wife. The kids were great and know some basic American phrases to which I added "Hail To the Victors". I also left all my Michigan gear behind we left, so some where in Mongolia a little girl named Oyunbileg is running around in a Michigan hoodie and "Michigan Alumni" cap that are way too big for her.
In the winter livestock are let out briefly to graze and then herded back in to barns before it gets too cold. As part of my stay I got to help herd the goats, yaks, and camels. For this job I was given a horse and a rope pole (uurga) to capture the livestock.
At first I'm useless in this task. I can't get the rope loop around anything and mostly manage to piss my horse off by bumping him in the head with it. Much to the amusement of the Mongolians of course.
Finally after an hour or so of swearing and futilely chasing various livestock, I manage to get the rope pole around the neck of a yak. The yak prompty hits the gas and yanks me out of my saddle. Thankfully I let go of the pole and manage to land on my hands and knees without face planting into any large rocks. At this point my horse decides he's had enough of getting hit in the head with a pole and bails out on the process as well. This leaves me in the middle of a pasture as various animals stampede (luckily way from me). In the end the pros managed to catch my yak and my horse. I was demoted to riding around as a passenger on a horse though while our host's wife handled it. She'd go galloping around the herd and leave me hanging on for dear life. The entire time its subzero of course (a high of -11 that day).
The other fun fact is cameras don't work in subzero temps. In the trek from Ulaangom to the nomad camp all my batteries froze. So I dragged a DSLR and telephoto across Mongolia only to slap in a battery and have the camera fail to turn on. A camera pro later explained to me you keep the batteries in an insulated bag and tossed in hand warmers to keep them from freezing.
I also got to take part in traditional Mongolian wrestling and managed to redeem myself there. That's mainly because I have 5 inches and a good 40 pounds on most Mongolians so I was able to wrestle down in weight class. The yaks kicked my ass though.
One other thing to note is no these camps do not have running water. That means two things. You're living in a smokey ger with 11 other people who don't shower. There also are not heated bathrooms. It's an unheated shelter with a hole. If you wake at 2 am (temp -33) and have to go, you figure out a way to hold it until the sun comes up. Three days of this is about enough for anyone. If you're going to go, go in the summer, not over the winter.
From Mongolia we'd fly over to the Yanbian region of China to see some other family and annoy the North Korean border guards, which is a story for another time.
At the end of all this, I do have to recommend Mongolia as a tourist destination. It will cost you an arm and both legs to fly there and you'll definitely be roughing it, but the scenery is amazing, the people are awesome, and you can annoy yaks by poking them with poles.