Happy 2012. It's been nice knowing you.
Haven't you heard? The world is supposed to end this year — at least if you're prone to a misinterpretation of the Mayan calendar, Nostradamus, or remain a never-say-we-won't die-hard follower of debunked doomsday cleric Harold Camping, who, with all due respect, is so 2011.
For the remaining 99.9999 percent of us, 2012 will likely last until, well, 2013. And while the apocalypse may hold off for a bit, there will be enough changes taking place over the next 12 months to rock our world, from Richmond and the state to the nation and the planet.
In 2011, we saw everything from regime change in Egypt to primetime TV lineup changes on CBS, inspired by the drug-fueled meltdown of "Two and a Half Men" actor Charlie Sheen.
Closer to home, there was a magnitude-5.8 earthquake near Mineral that shook central Virginia and beyond, and a political eruption that shook the state Republican Party, when Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli said he would challenge Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling to be the GOP nominee for the top job in 2013.
Marine biologists said the blue crab population in the Chesapeake Bay appeared to have bounced back, while the Richmond Flying Squirrels soared to the Eastern League Double-A baseball championship series, almost making us forget about Washington's Nationals, Redskins, Wizards, and, well, Washington in general.
This year promises more of the same in politics, entertainment, sports and the environment. Here's a sampling of what we might expect in 2012.
And the GOP nomination goes to … : 2012 is a Super Bowl of politics — a presidential election year. President Barack Obama will run for re-election for the Democrats. As for Republicans, we consulted the "Crystal Ball," a political forecasting blog run by Larry Sabato of the University of Virginia's Center for Politics. Here are his predictions:
"As the primary season begins, and after a year when the polls looked like a multidimensional roller coaster, we are back where we started in January. We see Mitt Romney as the strong favorite to be the 2012 GOP presidential nominee," Sabato wrote.
"This outlook is the result of two factors: the weakness of the other Republican candidates in this underwhelming field, as well as Romney's considerable advantages in money, organization and establishment support. But we forget at our peril that a large percentage of Republicans have never been sold on Romney and would much prefer a different nominee. Will a single, strong anti-Mitt emerge?"
Our prediction: It won't be Herman Cain. In a surprise move, the Godfather's Pizza CEO and GOP presidential contender, who late last year suspended his White House bid after accusations of sexual misconduct, will emerge from seclusion to endorse "Papa John" Schnatter and his running mate, Little Caesar.
McDonnell and the VP spot: Can't we all just get along?
A 20-20 party split in the Virginia Senate, with the tie-breaking vote cast by Lt. Gov. Bolling, a Republican, makes it likely that numerous pieces of legislation previously killed by the Senate Democratic majority will now sail comfortably through the General Assembly and land on the desk of Gov. Bob McDonnell.
Already, women's-rights advocates predict that new rules regulating abortion clinics like hospitals, recently signed by McDonnell, will lead to the closing of some of the state's 21 first-trimester abortion clinics. A couple of other things we expect to become law as of July 1: repeal of Virginia's one-gun-a-month restriction, and repeal of the "triggerman" statute, which would allow accessories to murder to be tried for capital murder.
Ken Cuccinelli and the Supremes: By not scheduling the Virginia attorney general's case against Obama's health care legislation, it appears likely that the Supreme Court will decide the constitutionality of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act in 2012 based primarily on a Florida case and not the commonwealth's.
Despite the fervor by some states against the legislation, particularly its insurance mandate provision, a number of experts say the law could emerge from Supreme Court review largely intact. Consider that four members of the nine-member court are appointees of Democratic Presidents Bill Clinton and Obama.
Here's the take from University of Richmond law professor Kevin Walsh: "Predicting the outcome of Supreme Court cases can be a fool's errand, particularly in big-issue cases like the Texas redistricting, Arizona immigration law and federal health care law cases currently on the docket," he said. "One safe prediction is that Supreme Court rulings issued by the end of June 2012 will play a prominent role in the race for president."
Our prediction: Cuccinelli will be in Washington for the case, but he'll be on Fox News.
Occupy City Hall: Richmond elects its mayor and City Council this year. City Hall observers expect Mayor Dwight C. Jones to run for re-election. First District Councilman Bruce W. Tyler — should we say "a vocal opponent of Jones"? — has been mentioned as a possible challenger.
Our prediction: Ground is broken on a new city jail, and Sheriff C.T. Woody Jr. announces the department has a budget surplus following the removal of all of his relatives from the payroll.
Arts and culture
The screen age: Noted national trend forecaster Marian Salzman said in an interview that she sees everything from education to psychotherapy moving further from the office and classroom to the computer monitor in 2012.
But Salzman, the CEO of Euro RSCG and author of "The Big Little Book of Trends," also predicts a move toward "Digital Detox" — where people take time and space to decompress and detach without the assistance of their digital devices.
Organic vs. non-organic: In 2012, concern over healthy foods will see more families discriminate between the two, Salzman said. "Maybe not at the workplace, or a house of worship or the Little League field, but whether they let their kids go over to a neighbor's house."
Our prediction: The turkey leg as stadium concession item will fade away.
VMFA: Building on its success with the Picasso exhibit, the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts will announce this spring that it has landed another blockbuster show for debut in 2013. Officials are playing it close to the vest, but we're told the exhibit is 20th-century American with a global flavor and impact.
Lincoln lands: The disruption from Richmond's takeover by Steven Spielberg and hundreds of cast and crew members will pay off in late 2012, when his movie based on Doris Kearns Goodwin's book "Team of Rivals" is released.
He'll be back: Just like it was nearly impossible to kill the Terminator, don't expect former California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's love-child infidelity with his maid to keep him from the big screen in 2012. Schwarzenegger is slated to appear in "The Expendables II," which comes out in August, and has two other films on tap this year — none of them the sequel to "Nine Months."
Our predictions: Taylor Swift will find a new celebrity boyfriend, they'll break up, and she'll write a song about him. Kim Kardashian, fresh off her 72-day marriage to New Jersey Nets player Kris Humphries, will announce her engagement to the New York Knicks. And in a desperate effort to stay in the media spotlight, Donald Trump will change his grow-and-throw hairstyle.
Tiger Woods: With a new caddie, a relatively new swing, new shoes, a reconstructed knee and, as far as the tabloids know, no new mistresses, many think Woods will have a big year in 2012 that could recapture some of the glory of his 14 major championships from years gone by. But Golf.com's Gary Van Sickle says the breakout may just come from a new kid in town:
"I like Gary Woodland, a good all-around athlete who's still getting better at golf," Van Sickle writes on his blog. "He quietly finished in the top 20 on the money list, hits the ball forever and teamed with Matt Kuchar to win the World Cup recently."
Will Squirrels fly? The Richmond Flying Squirrels have rejuvenated baseball in the Richmond region, but there's trouble brewing. The minor league affiliate of the San Francisco Giants wants a new stadium to take the place of the deteriorating Diamond, but the team will need the approval of the Richmond Metropolitan Authority, which represents the cash-strapped city and the counties of Henrico and Chesterfield.
Officials have said a new stadium is unlikely before 2015, but the RMA could make its furry tenants happy in 2012 by tweaking its $150,000-a-year lease or giving the team permission to sell naming rights to the stadium.
Bryce Harper: The Nevada teen prodigy who has Nationals fans dreaming of the postseason will get a chance to compete for a roster spot on the team in 2012, said Nationals manager Davey Johnson. But with the Phillies holding onto their pitching talent and Jimmy Rollins, and the Miami Marlins' acquisition of free agents Jose Reyes, Mark Buehrle and Heath Bell, postseason may have to wait until 2013 or so. At least they'll be better than the Mets.
Washington Redskins: With 29th-ranked quarterback Rex Grossman, who is tied for the NFL lead in interceptions (19), a 26th-ranked rushing attack (there are only 32 teams), and a middle-of-the-road defense (ranked 16th), don't worry about saving for playoff tickets even after the 2012 season. On the plus side, the team's cheerleading squad, the Redskinettes, turns 50 this year.
London Olympics: Record-setting American swimmer Michael Phelps is back in the water, though the golden boy from Baltimore is expected to have stiff competition in the 200-meter events from Ryan Lochte.
As for overall achievement, USA Today is predicting that China, not the U.S., will come away from the Summer Games with the most medals, 93 to 89 for the Americans. Sports Illustrated's Nick Zaccardi says swimming will be the key: "The U.S. out-medaled China 31-6 in the Beijing Games, but at the 2011 world championships, the gap narrowed to 26-12."
Eee-ore: A cautionary report from the National Academy of Sciences on a Pittsylvania County uranium ore deposit makes it unlikely that lawmakers this legislative session will lift a 30-year moratorium on uranium mining in the commonwealth, despite tens of thousands spent by Virginia Uranium on lobbying and junkets to France and Canada for lawmakers.
Shake, rattle and roll: Will there be another earthquake in Virginia in 2012? You bet — though it won't necessarily spill your latte downtown, or shut down nuclear reactors like the magnitude-5.8 quake last August.
Consider this from the Virginia Tech Seismological Observatory: Since 1977, Virginia has had "an average of one earthquake … every month, with two felt each year."
You can always (water) ski: According to the Farmer's Almanac, in 2012, most of Virginia is expected to have above-normal temperatures but be stormy and wet this winter.
The end of the world as we know it: Despite what you may have read, NASA says that "there are no credible predictions for worrisome astronomical events in 2012."
Additionally, the Mayan calendar does not end in December 2012.
"It is merely the end of the long-count period, but then, just as our calendar begins on Jan. 1," NASA explains, "another long-count period begins for the Mayan calendar."
Our prediction: Looks like we'll have each other to kick around for another year, at least.