Tuesday, December 09, 2008

New Dharma Station on "Lost"?

Looks like there's a new Dharma station waiting to be discovered on "Lost".

Here's the logo:

This is from the producers' latest webcast.

At first glance I thought it was a lighthouse, but now I'm thinking it looks more like a lamppost. I'm also willing to speculate this will be the first Dharma station, facility or property found off the island - i.e. somewhere else in the world where Dharma exists.

They also mention Ben will be reading at some point in the season from Joyce's Ulysses and somewhere in the text is the word "hurley". Could be a coincidence, but who knows.

Friday, December 05, 2008

The Top 9 Indications Your Plans for World Domination Are Not Going Well

I just like this:

The Top 9 Indications Your Plans for World Domination Are Not Going Well

9> First step: keep American public distracted with World Cup

8> Your minions built your secret base in a *live* volcano.

7> Every time you get a great world-domination scheme brewing, a
tattered, beaten future version of you comes through another
dimensional doorway and says "Dude! Don't do it!"

6> You notice that the company printer keeps spitting out
Henchman resumes.

5> No matter what you do, some people still insist on using

4> Lengthy conversations with your mother as to whether or not
there will be time to make the rulers of all nations grovel at
your feet AFTER your room is clean.

3> Everybody's laughing at you and apparently not because of your
fiendish Laugh Ray.

2> "Ha! They said it was folly to try to create an army of highly
trained and disciplined housecats, but now we'll show them!
March my feline warriors!! Boots, get back in line! Mr.
Whiskers, where do you think you're going? DAMN!"

and the Number 1 Indication Your Plans for World Domination
Are Not Going Well...

1> The planet you're trying to take over: Earth. Your weakness:
Any exposure to a rare element called "oxygen".

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Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Still Vulcan After All These Years

You just can't keep a good Vulcan down...

Our first glimpse of Leonard Nimoy, playing elder Spock again for the first time since the 5th season of TNG and "Star Trek: The Undiscovered Country" in 1991. From the newly updated Star Trek trailer.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Former Knoxville TV Anchor's Son Fights Brain Cancer

Former WBIR-TV 10 anchor Ted Hall's youngest son has brain cancer, but continues to fight it every day.

So far the prognosis looks very hopeful that he will continue to live a normal life.

Ted is now at a TV station in Atlanta, and the recently did a story about the little boy's battle against the odds.

Watch this, and be inspired by the young man.

Social Symphony

Frank Murphy informs us it's time again for Blogger Night at the Knoxville Symphony Orchestra!

Be the first 50 49 48 local bloggers to email Stephanie Burdette at the KSO and, assuming you promise really nicely to blog about the concert the next day, she will give you a pair of tickets to the January 15, 2009 performance free!

The KSO will perform selections from Bach, Mozart and Mendelssohn that night, and the featured soloist will be pianist Navah Perlman (daughter of violinist great Itzhak Perlman - or as my kids know him, "that guy with the violin that introduces the whale segment of "Fantasia 2000")

Friday, November 21, 2008

Peter Pan opens tonight at the Oak Ridge Playhouse

Think lovely thoughts and join the mischievous Peter Pan and the Darling children on a magical tuneful trip to back Never-Never Land, an exotic place of pirates, crocodiles, and the dreaded Captain Hook.

Based on the play by J.M. Barrie
Lyrics by Carolyn Leigh, Betty Comden and Adolph Green
Music by Mark Charlap and Jule Styne

November 21-December 7
Oak Ridge Community Playhouse
227 Broadway in
Historic Jackson Square
Oak Ridge, TN

Purchase Tickets

In case anyone's wondering, I'm Musical Directng this production, which means I teach all the vocal music to the cast, play piano for the show and lead the orchestra.

Come see us!

Thursday, November 13, 2008

You're Welcome!

TVA power rates going down 6% as 2009 starts
Utility rates will go down about six percent as 2009 begins, Tennessee Valley Authority officials announced Thursday.

The amounts people save on their monthly bills will vary, depending on how much energy they use. However, residential consumers can expect a decrease of about $4.000 to $8.00.
Well, your plaudits and congratulations to me and my family for this rate decrease can start coming in any moment now. It's because of us that TVA has decided to cut back its rates!

That's because our house has been sans heat and heating system for, oh, going on about 3-4 weeks now. The gas heat system's been broken and between getting two different companies to take a look and give us estimates for repair and replacement, we've finally decided to get a whole new system to replace the 18-yr-old dual unit that's been on the house since it was built. And it finally does get replaced tomorrow.

That means no more shivery nights, thank goodness, and no more freezing hands and feet under the covers. I hope.

But anyway, because of our incredibly lower demand for energy this past month - we like it warm - TVA obviously noticed and adjusted its rates.

We'll take tributes in $50's and $100's if you please...

Real Evidence of Shoddy Journalism and Blogging

A Senior Fellow at the Institute of Nonexistence
It was among the juicier post-election recriminations: Fox News Channel quoted an unnamed McCain campaign figure as saying that Sarah Palin did not know that Africa was a continent.

Who would say such a thing? On Monday the answer popped up on a blog and popped out of the mouth of David Shuster, an MSNBC anchor. “Turns out it was Martin Eisenstadt, a McCain policy adviser, who has come forward today to identify himself as the source of the leaks,” Mr. Shuster said.

Trouble is, Martin Eisenstadt doesn’t exist. His blog does, but it’s a put-on. The think tank where he is a senior fellow — the Harding Institute for Freedom and Democracy — is just a Web site. The TV clips of him on YouTube are fakes.


[The comic creators of Eisenstadt] say the blame lies not with them but with shoddiness in the traditional news media and especially the blogosphere.

“With the 24-hour news cycle they rush into anything they can find,” said Mr. Mirvish, 40.

Mr. Gorlin, 39, argued that Eisenstadt was no more of a joke than half the bloggers or political commentators on the Internet or television.
This is part of what I meant by how bloggers take any tidbit of dirt they find that shows their opponent in a bad light and run with it.
But most of Eisenstadt’s victims have been bloggers, a reflection of the sloppy speed at which any tidbit, no matter how specious, can bounce around the Internet. And they fell for the fake material despite ample warnings online about Eisenstadt, including the work of one blogger who spent months chasing the illusion around cyberspace, trying to debunk it.
This past election, bloggers and the media took small pieces of stories and ran with them, gleefully, without worrying about whether they were true or even really plausible. If there was a nugget of truth, or even a hint of plausibility, as long as it made the other guy (or gal) look silly, stupid, uninformed or evil, it was repeated and expounded on.

This is why it was almost impossible to separate fact from fiction in the blogs this year. First the opinions are biased - they're backed up by facts from biased sources that were themselves researched with biased intent. Then the comments to these articles, where supposedly the great internet strength of fact-checking is supposed to come into play, revealed refutations and defense by people who had equally biased "sources" on the other side. There was no way to tell, short of personally talking to the candidates face to face, what was right and what was exaggeration, distortion, and outright lies.

I do want to take a moment to comment about my friend Rich, of the blog "Shots Across the Bow. He took exception to me in this post and on this site for painting him and his site with the same broad brush I did with a lot of other political blogs. I actually counted on his site a great deal for some well-researched commentary and it was one of the exceptions I noted in my post. I apologize for not spelling it out more completely to him before-hand, but I just didn't want to get into naming specific sites either way out of fairness.

After the post and commentary were reprinted in the Knoxville Sentinel this past Sunday, I thought some more about it and wanted to respond to his concerns publicly.

One thing I do wish Rich had done - I would have liked to have seen more posts - any posts, in some cases - dealing not with they Obama should not be president, but why McCain should be president. Or any reasons he could find that signaled positives he could see in an Obama presidency. I know I saw pluses and minuses all over the place for both candidates throughout the election, and the positive aspects of either candidates (and their VP's) deserve to be highlighted - even more than the negatives, in most cases. But that's just me, and maybe reflects more on the lack of such posts elsewhere. It's not fair to expect one person to cover the whole spectrum of political discussion - that's everyone's responsibility.

I've seen several interviews with Sarah Palin this past week where she refuted and explained - over and over, it seemed - some of the "charges" made against her. I can't imagine they're all true, but it seemed to some they were, or must have been, because of who she was and what she represented. To start with the conclusion and work backward...that's just kind of sad.

But that's politics.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Post-Election Thoughts

1) Congratulations to Obama and his supporters. I won't say it was an honorable, well-fought race (because national races haven't been like that in decades, if ever) but the man with the most votes won. Cleanly. And decisively. At least this time there's no controversy.

2) However, for anyone to think he (or McCain, had he been elected) is going to now "unite the country behind a wave of bipartisanship and unity" is sadly mistaken. The United States is still almost equally divided between conservative Republicans and liberal Democrats. Looking back at the venom thrown back and forth between supporters of both candidates convinces me that it's going to take a lot more than this election to bring Americans into a unifying consensus.

3) The more rabid Obama supporters remind me of the giddy newlywed couple - all in each others' faces, in love, giggling, holding hands, continually kissing and generally making those around them a little nauseous. Guys, just FYI - the euphoria's going to fade, and fade soon. Be prepared for it, and be prepared when all your newlywed buddies don't continue to share your enthusiasm a few months down the road.

4) I was impressed with Obama's acceptance speech last night. That's the first time I've heard one of his speeches where he seemed to be speaking from the heart, and not just saying what people wanted to hear. If he'd done more like that over the campaign, he might have just swayed me.

5) I was also impressed with McCain's concession speech. I was horribly unimpressed with the people in the supporter crowd there in Arizona booing when he mentioned Obama and congratulated him. Grow up, people.

6) The popular vote wasn't as close as I thought it would be. The Electoral vote was about what I thought.

7) The biggest losers of the election cycle? The blogosphere. For an information and communication medium that purports to be a haven for free thinking, friendly, informative and factually-based expression of views and opinions, I never saw for one moment the portion of the 'sphere I inhabit give me any information I could trust. That goes for the rest of the internet as well, really, but the partisanship was so rampant, and the innuendo- and rumor-based blogging never produced any good, truthful, reliable, factual and defensible information that I could trust. On either candidate.

With very few exceptions, there were hardly any blog posts I read from either side that said to me, "This is information I can trust, or opinion based on facts that were either verifiable or recorded and accessible." One post would have a fact, and 15 people in the comments would refute it - often pointing to another post or "source" that proved otherwise. I would go to the other posts hoping for perspective and the comments on those posts would do the exact opposite. They'd prove equal and conflicting "facts" to support their own premise. Often, researching topics back to an original source revealed not much more than a rumor or obviously partisan site. I went back and forth on particular issues so many times, looking for information I could actually trust, it made my head spin.

Nothing was proved. Nothing was verified. Stories about Obama's past and McCain's connections were put out as fact, disproved, discounted, ridiculed, re-proven with new facts, those facts disproven, the facts disproving the facts reinterpreted to mean the opposite...

What it boiled down to was two groups of people who'd already made up their minds who were each bound and determined to use any means necessary - true or otherwise - to show their opponent in a bad light. It didn't matter if the story was true, only that they believed it. But the irony was each side had no hope of changing the others' position - it was just a battleground to show how smart and righteous each of them were. The ones caught in the middle, the truly undecideds and truth-seekers out there, were the ones that suffered under excessive pride, misinformation and deception.

Nothing was learned. No great truths were uncovered. Nobody came out of the process truly educated in the actual strengths and weaknesses of the candidates. We all lost, really. Obama may have been elected, and he may turn out to be a good or even a great president (I hope so!). But he was not elected by an informed populace and he was not elected by a populace that truly cared about making a decision that was for the good of the country.

And for me, it started and ended with the blogosphere. The people I trusted to help me make a good decision. I'm sad, disappointed and disillusioned.

8) When Bill Clinton was elected, he was given 8 years of hell from Republicans over health care, Bosnia, Monica Lewinsky, and just generally being a Democrat. Rush Limbaugh built a career out of bashing the President of the United States. In return for that treatment, as well as how he won the 2000 Election, the war in Iraq, the economy, and generally just being a Republican, the Democrats have given George W. Bush 8 years of hell. Will Republicans immediately begin their next salvo or retaliation for 4 or 8 more years against Obama for little more than him being a Democrat? Or will they man (and woman) up and break the cycle, try to work with him and keep the criticism to the levels a civilized, democratic society needs to be?

Doubt it. But we can hope.

9) LOCAL ELECTIONS - I'm surprised Charter Amendment 3 passed and 4 didn't, because I considered #4 the bigger no-brainer than #3. I've pontificated for years to all who would listen that several current county elected positions had no business being electable. Every year citizens of Knox County elected people to offices they have no idea what they do, nor is there any discernable difference in the people they elect. They were, and are, skill positions that require skill people to be hired (or appointed) for. Ah well, at least now we've trimmed the county commission down to a manageable level. The fewer members, the less chance for corruption and less chance that corruption will rise to a critical mass level. Those thinking one commissioner is not enough to represent his or her district, and still hold a full-time job, doesn't hold water. So good for that at least.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Irony: A Tale of Two Coaches

Fulmer to resign as UT's coach

Not that, in this part of the country, you haven't heard yet but there's the link.

What's amazingly ironic - and I called it, incidentally, last week:

Previous UT football coach Johnny Majors had a disastrous year in 1992, personally and professionally. He had heart problems and surgery, which led him to step down for a few games early in the season. Offensive Coordinator and Asst. Head Coach Phil Fulmer stepped in and led the team to a miracle victory at Georgia which debuted the ascendancy of QB Heath Shuler. A couple victories later and UT's the toast of the country. Seeing the writing on the wall, Majors struggles back from his deathbed and returns to the sidelines in a bid to save his job. A loss to newly minted SEC team Arkansas in mid-October dashed UT's title hopes, and finally at the end of the month they lost calamitously to South Carolina - another newly added SEC team, at South Carolina. Days after the lost, Majors resigned effective immediately and Fulmer was hired as UT's full-time head coach soon after.

Sixteen years later Fulmer will resign after his own South Carolina debacle, although he will coach out to the end of the season (as he should). Who will take over for him? No interim this time around, so we're saved from a John Chavis-coached team...

Senator Ascendant

Tomorrow, we will elect the third person to move directly from the United States Senate to the Presidency. Both McCain and Obama are sitting US Senators (as is Biden. Palin is a governor.). The last time a sitting US Senator or Congressman was elected president was John F. Kennedy in 1960. At the time he was second term Senator from Massachusetts in his 8th year of office.

As of today Barack Obama is in the third year of his first term as Senator from Illinois, and John McCain is in the fourth year of his fourth term as Senator from Arizona. Joe Biden is in the sixth year of his sixth term as Senator from Delaware and is currently running simultaneously for a seventh term while running with Obama as VP. Sarah Palin is in the third year of her first term as governor of Alaska.

All the other presidents between JFK and today were governors or VP's immediately prior to election (Johnson: Kennedy's VP; Nixon: Eisenhower's VP; Ford: Nixon's VP; Carter: GA Governor; Reagan: CA Governor; Bush I: Reagan's VP; Clinton: AK Governor; Bush II: TX Governor).

Before Kennedy, you have to go back to Warren G. Harding to get the next most recent member of Congress who became president. (Eisenhower was General in the US Army. Truman was FDR's VP. FDR was Governor of New York. Hoover was Coolidge's Secretary of Commerce. Coolidge was Harding's VP.) He was in the sixth year of his first term as Senator from Ohio when elected president in 1921. According to Wikipedia, he was the first sitting US Senator elected president.

James Garfield was a sitting US Representative from Ohio, having served from 1863 - 1881 before being elected to the presidency in 1880. Andrew Johnson was Lincoln's VP for one month before the assassination; prior to that he was Military Governor, US Senator from and elected Governor of Tennessee. Lincoln served one term as US Representative from Illinois before spending many years as a lawyer.

And so it goes, back into the murky history of the US presidency.

What does this mean? Well, in the 220-odd years of the US presidency, only 2 sitting US Senators have been elected president. A few more sitting US representatives have been elected. The vastly greater majority have been sitting governors or most recent Vice-Presidency (with a few military generals thrown in here and there).

Tomorrow there will be a third sitting US Senator elected to be President of the US.

Not that we have any choice about it now, but I think it's telling that by and large the people of the United States trust their governors and VP's - those who have had national administrative experience, rather than legislative experience - to lead our country. Or experience leading a military unit. Or experience in a cabinet position, even.

We'll see how Obama or McCain do, translate their legislative experiences into administrative. When dealing with military decisions, the last post-Senatoral president, JFK, had the Bay of Pigs and the Cuban Missile Crisis. Harding's presidency was rocked with scandal in the cabinet with several members and assistants sent to jail for taking bribes.

Interestingly, both Kennedy and Harding died within a couple of years of taking office, Kennedy from assassination and Harding from a heart attack. So no sitting US Senator elected president has ever served out his full first term.

(By the way: Grover Cleveland, a man the US citizens voted in to office as president twice, in non-consecutive terms, was at the time of his election in his third year as first term governor of New York. Prior to that he was Mayor of Buffalo for one year. Just thought that was interesting, in light of all the flak thrown at Palin - not that it's warranted or unwarranted, just that it's not unprecedented.)

The Impossible Wish

A East Tennessee man was fishing on the shore of Tellico Lake, when he saw bobbing in the water a bottle. Wading out a bit, he snagged the bottle and brought it back to shore.

The bottle was ornate and decorated, and as such bottles do, when the man opened it a big puff of smoke poured out and a genie appeared.

The genie stretched and yawned as the fisherman gaped. Finally the genie said, "Thank you sir for freeing me from a thousand years imprisonment in that bottle. To show my gratitude, I will grant you One Wish."

The man thought for a moment, scratched his head. Finally he said, "You know, I've always wanted to go to Hawaii. But I've always gotten seasick in big boats, and I'm afraid to fly. I wish that you could build me a bridge from right here in this spot to Hawaii - that way I could come and go as I pleased."

The genie frowned and rubbed his beard, pondering. "Well," he mused, "I suppose I could do something like that - but you know the Pacific ocean is a mile deep in spots... I don't think the supports would handle that kind of weight. Not to mention all the hurricanes, typhoons, and tsunamis. Shipping would have to be altered around it, and I can't even guess the effect on marine life all along the bridge. No, I don't think that's at all practical. You'll need to pick something else."

The man sighed and thought again - suddenly a smile lit up his face. "Ok, genie, I've got it. I wish that the University of Tennessee Volunteers would win another national championship!"

The genie stared at the man for a moment, then gazed west. "Let me ask you this. Do you want that bridge one lane or two?"

(Due credit goes to the guest minister at our church for that joke yesterday morning)

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Either Or

I'm confused: are they talking about police tickets from red light cameras, or tickets still available for the UT/Wyoming game next week?

Tickets won't go away

Monday, October 13, 2008

Great Spam Scam

I got this in my email today - the latest I've received in the old "Nigerian bank" scam that are so transparent nowadays to be useless. However, they excel now in either creativity or utter mistranslated confusion that I think it should be considered a new internet art form. Here it is (copied directly):

From: Mrs Judith Williams.

Dear Friend,
My name is Mrs Judith Williams am 75yrs old of age, i stay in new york city, USA.I am a good merchant, I have several industrial companies and good share in various banks in the world.I spend all my life on investment and coporate business. all the way i lost my husband and two beautiful kids in fatal accident that occur in November 5th 2003.
I am a very greedy woman with all cost i dont know much and care about people, since when I have an experience of my it difficult to sleep and give rest.

later in the year 2004 Febuary i was sent a letter of medical check up,as my personal Doctor testify that i have a lung cancer, which can easily take off my life soon.I found it uneasy to survive myself, because a lot of investment cannot be run and manage by me again. I quickly call up a pastor/prophet to give me positive thinking on this solution, as my adviser.He minister to me to share my properties ,wealth, to motherless baby/orphanage homes/people that need money for survivor both student that need money/ business woman and man for their investment and for future rising. So i am writing this letter to people who really need help from me both student in college, to contact me urgently.
so that i can make available preparation on that.especially women of
the day, who are divorced by their husband, why they cannot survive the mist of feeding theirself.

please contact me and stop weeping. probably let me now what you really need the money for, and if you can still help me to distribute money to nearest orhanages homes near your town. now am so much with God, am now born again. May you be blessed, as you reach me,please to remind you, dont belongs to scammers or any act of fraudlent on internet. I will give more information to you as i await your response immediately.

Best Regards
Mrs Judith Williams
I kinda feel sorry for them that they can't translate well enough into English to even pretend to be real...

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Same Song, Fourth Verse

Thoughts on Tennessee's 26-14 loss to Georgia this afternoon:

1) Nick Stevens appears to be about as good as any other QB we've had lately in their 2nd game starting, so I've been happy with his progress to this point. So far - no INT's, so that's a plus no matter what else. No major overthrows, underthrows or bad decisions - some questionable throws into coverage and not very mobile, but still head and shoulders above Crompton. I wonder how good the other guy, B.J. actually is that we've never seen? He could be even better, who knows.

My standard answer whenever anyone on the radio gripes why we're not using Lennon Creer - like it or not, he's still the 3rd string tailback. If he were better, he'd be the 2nd string or 1st string. That's how they're ordered, and it doesn't make sense to think Creer is going to run better than Hardesty and Foster just because he's there. That's why we don't see him as much, it doesn't make sense to play your 3rd string guy except in special situations when your 1st and 2nd string guys are out.


As we've seen with Stevens, obviously the coaches have no idea how to grade their players 1st string, 2nd string, etc. We went through four games with an obviously inferior QB and just now found the real starter. THere's probably no real reason to think he should've been 1st string and Stevens riding the bench. In the same way, who knows who among the 3 RB's is really best? I think it's obvious that it's not Foster anymore, and it should be a competition between Hardesty and Creer. But they don't pay me to make decisions...

3) I am beyond blaming the defensive guys for bad tackling and being out of position (or continuous "busted plays" as Bob Kesling kept alleging). I hang the Defense's bad play solely on John Chavis and the defensive coaches for the most haphazed defensive scheme in the SEC. Every down we play off the receivers, allowing them to get 5-10 yards on the sides at will. That's all coaching, and it's inexcusable.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008


(Debate transcript found at Commission on Presidential Debates (CPD)

Senator Obama said last night, regarding national security:

I don't understand how we ended up invading a country that had nothing to do with 9/11, while Osama Bin Laden and Al Qaeda are setting up base camps and safe havens to train terrorists to attack us.

That was Senator McCain's judgment and it was the wrong judgment.

When Senator McCain was cheerleading the president to go into Iraq, he suggested it was going to be quick and easy, we'd be greeted as liberators.


And the strains that have been placed on our alliances around the world and the respect that's been diminished over the last eight years has constrained us being able to act on something like the genocide in Darfur, because we don't have the resources or the allies to do everything that we should be doing.
Obama echoes the key disagreement that the Democratic Party has had with the invasion of Iraq since Day 1 - that it had nothing to do with 9/11, that there was no connection between Iraq and global Islamic terrorism, that it wasn't in our national security interests, and that it did nothing but inflame opinions of the US and its policies throughout the Middle East and around the world.

While those points are still in contention on both sides, he also doesn't seem to want to admit that what we did did some good for the Iraqi people. That they are undoubtedly, undeniably incalculably better off now than when they were under the regime of Saddam Hussein. We all know the things Saddam did, to his own people and to his enemies. We know the kind of country he ran, the ways he controlled his populace. We know what a place Iraq was like for years and years before we went in and liberated the country. So how can one equate Obama's previous statements with what he said just after?

When asked about what his approach to an "Obama Doctrine" might be in regards to using military force to solve humanitarian crises with no national security implications, he said:

Well, we may not always have national security issues at stake, but we have moral issues at stake.

If we could have intervened effectively in the Holocaust, who among us would say that we had a moral obligation not to go in?

If we could've stopped Rwanda, surely, if we had the ability, that would be something that we would have to strongly consider and act.

So when genocide is happening, when ethnic cleansing is happening somewhere around the world and we stand idly by, that diminishes us.

And so I do believe that we have to consider it as part of our interests, our national interests, in intervening where possible.

But understand that there's a lot of cruelty around the world. We're not going to be able to be everywhere all the time. That's why it's so important for us to be able to work in concert with our allies.

Let's take the example of Darfur just for a moment. Right now there's a peacekeeping force that has been set up and we have African Union troops in Darfur to stop a genocide that has killed hundreds of thousands of people.

We could be providing logistical support, setting up a no-fly zone at relatively little cost to us, but we can only do it if we can help mobilize the international community and lead. And that's what I intend to do when I'm president.

That's going to change when I'm president, but we can't change it unless we fundamentally change Senator McCain's and George Bush's foreign policy. It has not worked for America.
That is exactly what we did in Iraq. There was a humanitarian crisis, a crisis of a dictator exacting cruel treatment and subjugation on the people of his country. It's still the same kind of situation that exists or existed during the Holocaust, in Darfur, in Kosovo, in Rwanda... The people may be different, the situations may be different, but when bad people are preying on good people and when innocent people are caught in the crossfire between warring factions that don't care who they hurt, that's when the US has historically intervened.

And Obama agrees with that policy, as he should. As we all should. But for some reason, it doesn't apply when considering Iraq - the past, present and future.

Millions of Iraqi civilians - Muslims, Christians, Arabs, Kurds, and others - were in dire need of humanitarian intervention. The US did, and rid them of their oppressive government. No, we may not have been cheered in the streets as valient liberators, but I have no doubts that the people that it mattered to the most, the ones in the most desperate of straits, were very happy Saddam was gone.

Now, the intervening years of security and rebuilding have undoubtedly been a mess but that has nothing to do with the initial action of intervention that Obama advocates for other places around the world, but does not allow for Iraq.

In fact, it's not even Obama's fault, really. I don't blame him for having this position. It's the common position of the Democratic Party that the invasion of Iraq was a mistake (see his list of reasons above). The Democractic Party has, from March 2002 onward, opposed everything President Bush has done in Iraq. They've done everything they could, from protests to talk shows to blogs to national campaigns to make their opinion known, the opinion that it was all wrong. Was it purely our a disbelief in all the reasons for the invasion - national security, terrorism, WMD's, liberation, humanitarian, etc? No, I really don't think it was.

I think they opposed him, as a group, for one reason and one reason only - the fact that they didn't believe he was elected president legitimately. That he and the Republican Party stole the 2000 election from Al Gore and the Democratic Party. And that he should be punished for it, and that his presidency and all the decisions he makes should be marginalized as much as possible.

Listen, I was as upset as anyone about Al Gore losing. I thought the whole result of the election was bogus, myself. I think Gore should've been president in 2000, not Bush. But to oppose the policies, and the man, because of the result of that election has bought this nation six years of domestic turmoil and conflict that have done more to harm us, overall, than 9/11 did (emotionally). I have no doubt there are Democrats that do oppose the war under pacifistic, legal, and other reasons - and there some legitimate arguments to be made - but the overwhelming evidence -- and Obama agrees with the reasonings for humanitarian intervention, but refuses to apply them in Iraq - suggests what was done was the right thing.

Obama will not admit this, because the Democrats won't admit it. And they won't take responsibility for the disruption that their opposition to Iraq has caused this country for six years because they can't let go of that resentment and anger. That's what caused me to turn away from the Democratic Party and become an Independent. I surely can't embrace the Republican conservative ideology, and the liberal philosophy still resonates with me much more than any other. But as a matter of public policy and practical application, it has been misapplied.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Random Thoughts

I know I don't update the blog nearly like I used to. Part of it is Twitter, where some of my brief thoughts and opinions now end up that I used to post here. Another part is lack of current events that I either a) understand enough to blog about, or b) care enough to blog about. Or c) want to keep good relations with online friends and relatives so I keep quiet about certain topics. Regardless, I hope to get back on the ball, soon. Here are a few thoughts I've had lately.

UT Football
  • It was very, very much Arian Foster's fault for the fumbled exchange Saturday. When one runs, it's natural to pump the arms up and down. Foster took a step, pumped the right arm up and the left one down. He took another step, started to bring the right one down and the left one up, in which to form the "basket" to receive the handoff. At the last millisecond, he changed his mind, stopped his right arm from descending and lifted it up again to put it on top and the left on the bottom. Unfortunately he chose too late and in the midst of moving the right arm back up, hit the ball in mid-handoff, knocking it out of Crompton's hand before he was ready. Now, was the handoff too early? Was Foster not expecting it so soon? Should Crompton have held on to the ball tighter? Those are questions only the coaching staff would know, who designed the plays and coach them. And they're the ones also saying it's Foster's fault. So why think different? Oh yeah... Crompton = scapegoat. Sorry.

  • Is our defense an average defense with flashes of greatness (Lowest rushing and passing yards for Tebow ever, only 6 points given up to Auburn and held them practically motionless in the 4th quarter, 6 INT's)? Or are they a good defense with flashes of mediocrity (Bad, bad tackling on D and special teams, made average QB and receivers at UCLA look like All-Pros, missing assignments)? I think the former.

  • Dave Clawson's "new" offense still hasn't had the time or personnel to run correctly. But the time is running out.

  • Fans should never, ever, ever boo. Ever. Never. None. Too boo is classless, regardless who you're booing (ok, if you boo a ref for a bad call, that's different). But to boo a college player who could be taking classes with your son or daughter... no sir. I don't care if you pay $500/ticket to see UT play, you have no right to boo. Paying money for a ticket entitles you to see a football game, period, end of sentence. It does not entitle you to a good football game, or even a mediocre one. It gets you in the gates to watch A game, and if you don't like what happens on the field, that's your own gamble you've lost. Unless you have to Pay Per View you can always stay at home and watch the game, and boo to your heart's content. Don't ever confuse purchase of a ticket with assured quality performance. It differs in this respect from purchasing a ticket to a play or a concert - you assume a promise of some kind of quality based on the performers' talent and skill. But, unlike a sporting event, there is no random element of other performers working to keep them from achieving greatness. So live with your choices, and if you don't like the product don't buy the ticket. But don't boo.

    More Later...

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Monday, September 22, 2008

Some Actual Level-Headed Analysis of the UT-Florida Game

Tennessee / Florida Thoughts and Analysis (Link Fixed)

Last year's game was a disaster for UT; a year of cooling off has only confirmed that feeling. This year's game, however, shows very significant improvements:

* Play Balance Even considering the late hole, UT didn't end up as a pass-only team.
* Plays/Drive Largely due to the balanced playcalling, UT managed 2 plays per drive more. Florida also managed an extra play per drive, but a large part of that was not allowing the 1-play TD type drives. In both regards, UT actually did better.
* Yards/Drive UT improved their average drive distance by a full ten yards. Much of that was from the two drives with turnovers within 10 yards of the end zone. Florida's distance was actually decreased. Much of that decrease was due to some short-field plays and a rather bad UT punting game. But the defense performed much, much better.


Despite our initial read, UT played a much better football game than appearances would indicate. Florida deserved the win because they (a) have vastly superior special teams play (b) didn't have fatal miscommunications in their playcalling, and (c) effectively used the new clock rules to eliminate any possibility of a comeback. UT does deserve a lot of credit, though, for playing a hard-fought game and not giving up. Everything broke against them, but they did not "quit".
I would also add that in the first half (when we were not so far behind yet) we had an 11-play drive and and a 14-play drive. Yes, they both ended badly but it's a far cry from the 3-and-outs we seem to typically pile up in droves against Florida.

Also our defense held Tebow to 96 yards passing (a CAREER low) and 26 yards rushing (a 2nd place CAREER low). While overall not perfect, it's still an improvement over recent UF expectations.

Just like against UCLA (if the punt had not been blocked, or if they'd called a safety as they should've) there were several instances in this game that might've swung the game around - unlike last year when the rout was on early and often, and there was nothing UT could do about it.

It means that there are major problems, yes, but there don't seem to be whole-scale fundamental problems. The offense can move the ball through the air and on the ground, the defense can stop the pass and the run - it just doesn't follow through to their conclusions.

One big glaring thing, though - to essentially blame the loss on the punter is inexcusable. Chad Cunningham, 2nd string sophomore punter, pressed into duty because the starter is sitting out for DUI, had a 37-yard net punting average against Florida. While he admits he didn't place his kicks very well, keep in mind one of those kicks was returned 78 yards for a score, and another for 14 yards. The other two I believe were fair-caught. The point is that poor, poor coverage and tackling are what created that low average and not the punting of Chad Cunningham. To talk about replacing a kid who probably isn't supposed to be on the field punting for Div. 1 in the first place, and incidentally doing probably about as well as he could be asked to, is ridiculous. It also seems I remember 56 yards in 2 kickoff returns that weren't handled too well. Lay off the punter and concentrate on learning to tackle.

The Only Story Today Where You'll Find the Words, "Volunteers Improve"

Helping hikers' havens: Volunteers improve Appalachian Trail shelters
Fourteen years ago, while hiking the Appalachian Trail in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Mike Crabill and his 12-year-old son stayed at the Double Springs Gap trail shelter. It rained that night, and the shelter was packed with 17 people.

Last week, Crabill returned to the Double Springs Gap shelter, this time as part of a volunteer construction crew that spent 10 days making extensive improvements to the three-sided stone structure built in 1963.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Fantasy Football - A Metaphor for Voting?

It's a fairly well-known rule of thumb in Fantasy Football that, when drafting a running back you should also draft his backup. This is called "handcuffing". If you are lucky enough to draft LaDainlian Tomlinson of the San Diego Chargers (arguably the best back in the league) you should also draft fellow Charger RB Darren Sproles and "handcuff" them together. That way if Tomlinson ever goes down with injury and has to sit out a game or two, you already have his backup ready to fill in his spot in your lineup.

Now, I've always found this practice a little odd since you never know if their backup is any good - if Tomlinson goes down, the Chargers could go to a more pass-oriented offense in his absence and Sproles may not do squat. I've always simply drafted the 2-3 best RB's available in the league at that moment and assumed one of them would always be playing. That way your 1-2 combination are always 1st string backs.

Of course, choosing this way handcuffs yourself because you miss out on some options for decent back-ups. If, say, Jonathan Stuart of the Panthers were available when your turn came around wouldn't you be much better off drafting him as a backup to Tomlinson than his real-life one, Sproles?

But some people do that, and the only reason I can figure out is they expect their top RB to be injured sometime in the season and want to make absolutely sure they have a replacement in the wings ready to take over. So instead of choosing a top RB for his full skill-set, they handicap themselves assuming he's going to check out for a while and fall all over themselves ensuring the backup is right there and ready to take over.

Ok, long, long football analogy to explain this. A lot of people criticize the choice of Sarah Palin as McCain's VP choice because, well, to put it bluntly McCain's an old dude and might die in office. They don't believe Palin's ready or qualified to step in and be president in the event of McCain's death. I have no quarrel with anyone's opinion of Palin's readiness to take over (although you have to admit being governor of a state - any state - at least has provided a good deal of administrative experience. So she wouldn't be going into it cold at least). Still, the point is they seem to be taking it for granted that McCain's going to kick it a year or so into office and Palin needs to be a quality back-up to go in and lead the team to victory. But they don't think she's a Jonathan Stuart. Or even a Darren Sproles. They think she's the equivalent of the 5th string rookie RB on the practice squad that should never play in a real game because he fumbles all the time. And that's fine, too, as I said everyone is entitled to their opinion of Palin's qualifications and experience.

I just don't think you decide to choose against someone as the next leader of the free world because of what "might" happen to them. You choose them because of their qualities and ideas, and for what they will attempt to do while in office. To choose otherwise is foolish.

I don't care if the Second Coming of Abraham Lincoln was running as McCain's VP. You don't write off a presidential candidate based on the possibility they might croak in office and force the VP to take over.

Nor do you choose against a presidential candidate based on his age, unless you have seen ample evidence to convince you either his mind is not quite sharp enough, or his health is so bad that it's likely he won't live another four years. I think if we'd known about Reagan's mental decline in his second term (1985-88) like we do now, we wouldn't have been so quick to re-elect him to office. But again, that was a decision we would have made based on his ability to lead while in office, not what might happen if he died.

I'll try to wrap this up by putting this into football terms again. I see McCain as like LaDainlian Tomlinson from the Chargers. He's been the league a long time (for a RB) - drafted in 2001. Had his ups and downs, not the best back in the league anymore but has been pretty solid for San Diego over the years. His backup would be someone like Felix Jones - a rookie RB for the Cowboys, but toe-to-toe co-RB for Arkansas with Heisman Trophy winner Darren McFadden. Not quite as good, but still and excellent RB coming out of college.

Obama, by contrast, is Reggie Bush - 3rd year man out of USC with the Saints. Flashy, glitzy, lots of potential but still young and inexperienced. He's had trouble finding his groove with New Orleans and has been erratic (though this year looks promising for him). Biden would be like Edgerrin James of the Cardinals. Had some glory years with the Colts, been in the league since 1999, an aging once-star that's found some good years with Arizona.

So would you rather draft LaDainlian Tomlinson/Felix Jones or take your chances with Reggie Bush*/Edgerrin James? Depends on if it's very likely Tomlinson won't last the season and Jones has to take over, even though Tomlinson's potential point total will likely be much higher than Reggie Bush.

You have to be confident in the man (or woman) you elect and elect them for what they will do, not what might happen to them.

There's another analogy lurking there for those who fear Obama, if elected, is a prime target for white supremacist assassination. Not sure there's a good football analogy there, but there are some who choose against him for that reason as well. Both are good to take into consideration, but neither are good for making a final decision.

* Sorry - I just that moment realized I'd matched Obama up with a guy named Bush. That's pretty funny.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Holes in the Space-Time Continuum

I've got it figured out.

Yesterday, I kept having some odd dizzy spells. I'd turn my head, and about a second later the world would turn to meet me. Needless to say, it was quite disconcerting.

I'd be tempted to blame it on stress, or simply the fact I've had a head cold the last week or so I'm still getting over.

But I have deduced the real reason I was dizzy yesterday - the Swiss particle accelerator/atom smasher/supercollider/doomsday device went online yesterday. And I'm convinced it's altered the fabric of the universe in some way that is causing me to have dizzy spells.

See, yesterday there were three earthquakes - one in Iran that destroyed, like, 200 villages, one in Chile and Indonesia. Today there was another one near Japan. Coincidence? I wonder...

I also have made a startling realization...

Somehow...somehow...this black-hole creating machine somehow opened a rift in the space-time continuum, causing a rip in the reality fabric to happen about a week ago. Across the world in southern California. I'm convinced that that rip allowed the UCLA defenders to jump ahead 1-2 seconds in time, and let them block our punt. Also make all those miraculous catches in the 2nd half by conveniently blinking about 10 steps ahead of our defenders. It caused the ball to disappear out of Arian Foster's hands and reappear on the ground ahead of him. It also moved the ball ahead of Daniel Lincoln's foot on all his missed field goal tries.

So see, it wasn't us - blame the scientists!

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Is Hope All It's Cracked Up to Be?

I've tried to stay away from this as much as possible, but... :)

Missy encountered an elderly black man the other day that was impressed she (a white lady) was supporting a black man for president. She said:
And even today I’m still thinking about that man, and that hug, and the feeling of unity that I got with someone who I have nothing in common with. A feeling of hope that our world can change. And that’s why I’ll vote the way I will on Nov. 4th. Not because of Barack Obama’s color and misplaced white guilt. Because of his message of hope.


I’m just a housewife, in a suburb, and I want to believe that there is hope for everyone. For me and for that elderly Black man who crossed all kinds of lines to say thank you. Oh, sure, I’m glad that I’ve made that man happy. But he’s not the reason why I believe the way I do. I believe in hope. I believe in change. Because I’ve lived it. And I want my country to live it too. More of the same or something new. It’s up to you. Believe in hope, or don’t. It’s your decision.

I replied, in comments:

...I consistently fail to understand how a promise of “hope” - no matter how strong, no matter how pure, no matter how well-intentioned - tips the scales on whether a man is qualified to be President of the US? In a national security situation, how does “hope” make the correct decisions that safeguard the lives of millions of Americans and others around the world? How does “hope” come up with solutions to the dozens of crises that will require a President’s attention daily? What exactly is this power that you, and others believe, “hope” bestows on Obama that will give him these answers?

I am a very hopeful person, I always have been. I am deeply grateful that in many ways the racial divide is shrinking between blacks and whites. I also believe there is hope for everyone, even those who we look on as hopeless. But “hope” is a philosophical concept that requires no practical support, no nuts-and-bolts solutions. In this case it’s a magi wand that will seemingly be waved above all problems to make them go away.

Anyone - anyone - can promise hope. Anyone can promise change. Faith and hope are great ways to choose a religion, but not at all good ways to choose a human leader.

So, Missy, can you tell me how the “hope” that Obama offers translates into a successful, productive and unifying presidency?

She wrote back:

...No, I don’t think that everything wrong with our country and our world will be magically solved instantaneously at Obama’s inauguration....

...and continued to detail several policy differences between Obama and McCain that she supported.

I then said:

I don’t think that you believe the magic wand of “hope” will solve all the world’s ills, but I do think more than a few Obama supporters do believe something like that. That because Obama promises “hope”, he will do something…not sure what, but something….to cure the world. They won’t naively admit that they base their faith on this simple concept, but I see it a lot.

...that still does nothing to support the notion that Obama can be a good president. Can he? Sure. But I haven’t seen anything in your post that tells me why Obama - above all others - is the right choice.

If Joe Schmoe were to get up there and run for president, and offer you “hope” and “change” - would you vote for him? Probably not. If he offered to figure for more exploring energy alternatives before any new drilling, would you vote for him? That’s the same thing every Democrat offers. Same for several of the other platforms and talking points you mention. What is it about Obama, specifically, as a human being sets him apart so strikingly from all others that he is the man for you?

And it can’t be “hope” or “change” - anyone can promise that. We all know in today’s Washington that any and all campaign promises, by either side, are likely to be watered down, compromised, altered or simply forgotten when office is reached.

Where is this ability you believe he has to actually institute this “change”, how do you feel he has the best chance to bring them to fruition, and from where in his background (Senate, Congress, etc) does he draw the common sense and wisdom to lead us through national security and disaster crises?

At this point she hasn't responded, so I'd like to open the floor for debate.

What about Obama, specifically and personally, inspires you to believe he's the better choice for president on a practical level? It can't be in any way compared to McCain, Palin or any opposition, it has to be something detailing what about Obama in his history, experience, philosophy, wisdom, honor, whatever.... says to you, "Yes, this man will make the correct and wise decisions as Commander in Chief" and pull that lever.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Way to Go, Erik!

Not Favre, but Ainge leads Jets
With Favre sitting out, fourth-string rookie quarterback Erik Ainge led the New York Jets to a 27-20 victory over the Philadelphia Eagles in the preseason finale Thursday night.

Ainge was 10-of-16 for 131 yards.

Favre’s backup, Kellen Clemens, alternated series with Brett Ratliff until Ainge took over for the two-minute drill at the end of the second quarter.

The former University of Tennessee standout drove the Jets 67 yards for the go-ahead score on their first possession of the third quarter. A 39-yard catch-and-run by Jesse Chatman started the drive. Ainge then tossed a 6-yard TD pass to David Ball to give the Jets a 17-13 lead.
Congrats to Eric, even though he probably just saw the only playing time he'll see all season.

Funny, I didn't know there was a 3rd string guy ahead of him. I never heard of Jesse Chatman being on the team - I thought it was just Ainge, Clemens and Pennington when Favre came on board. He's farther down the depth chart than I thought.

Maybe this performance will move him up a bit in the coaches minds.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Well, Thanks for the Marvelous Insight

Lord knows, I hate politics. I find no real good in the party system and especially the divisiveness and "us vs. them" mentality each of the two parties in this country take at every single opportunity. I haven't quite decided who I'm voting for this November (or if I'll even vote at all) but I wanted to comment on something.

I don't remember where I got the link (hat tip to whoever it was) but I read an article from a fellow POW of McCain's, Philip Butler, who wrote why he wouldn't be voting for McCain:

Why I Will Not Vote for John McCain

I take issue with, not necessarily his opinions of the character of McCain, but the way he arrived at them and the way he presents them. I think this is telling of the whole spectrum of political criticism - ideally one should begin with a question or premise, relate facts that support the premise, then end with a conclusion that's arrived at based on those facts. Butler knows what his conclusion is already and gathers various facts and opinions that sort of sound shaky and, when combined together, somewhat support his conclusion. Kind of. If you look at it with cynical, already-decided-against-McCain eyes. Anyway, here are some examples (I've broken them up somewhat because the anecdotes are long but these are the gist):

When I was a Plebe (4th classman, or freshman) at the Naval Academy in 1957-58....John, a First Classman (senior) and his room mate lived directly across the hall from me and my two room mates....

John was a wild man. He was funny, with a quick wit and he was intelligent. But he was intent on breaking every USNA regulation in our 4 inch thick USNA Regulations book. ...On one occasion he took me with him to escape "over the wall" in the dead of night. John had a few beers, but forbid [sic] me to drink (watching out for me I guess) and made me drink cokes. I could tell many other midshipman stories about John that year and he unbelievably managed to graduate though he spent the majority of his first class year on restriction for the stuff he did get caught doing. In fact he barely managed to graduate, standing 5th from the bottom of his 800 man graduating class. I and many others have speculated that the main reason he did graduate was because his father was an Admiral, and also his grandfather, both U.S. Naval Academy graduates.

First off, the author describes in particular one antic he and McCain participated in together. Of course, he neglects to admit he was just as at fault as McCain for "going over the wall" but that doesn't seem to matter. Nor does he seem to find any worse anecdotes than them sitting together drinking beers (and cokes). He hints at "other midshipman stories" but if they were much worse, why not relate one that actual has some meat to it? I will give him the part about McCain graduating near the bottom of his class being significant, but truly one's academic past only really matters when you're trying to move forward to the next step. If you've succeeded in spite of academic failings, I don't think they're too significant. The bit about his father and grandfather getting him through school is, as he says, "speculation" and not worth mentioning without it being an actual fact. He could have as easily "speculated" that McCain ran drugs, cheated on his exams or spied for the communists if he'd liked, and it would have pulled as much weight in the final analysis. Basing an argument on an "everybody knew" supposition is very weak.

People often ask if I was a Prisoner of War with John McCain. My answer is always "No - John McCain was a POW with me." The reason is I was there for 8 years and John got there 2 ½ years later, so he was a POW for 5 ½ years.
So...my suffering was worse than your suffering, so you're not fit to be president? That doesn't track at all, though he's beginning to build to a point later. However this inclusion, while factually irrelevant, continues to serve as an emotion-builder toward the reader to hold McCain in disfavor, as if to say if he'd really wanted to be president, he should've suffered more as a POW. Nice.

Was he tortured for 5 years? No. He was subjected to torture and maltreatment during his first 2 years, from September of 1967 to September of 1969. After September of 1969 the Vietnamese stopped the torture and gave us increased food and rudimentary health care.... But my point here is that John allows the media to make him out to be THE hero POW, which he knows is absolutely not true, to further his political goals.
Sure, politicians control media messages in some cases but not all and while McCain may be the highest profile former POW I know of, I don't think - and neither does anyone else - that he was necessarily THE hero POW at all. Everyone who was a POW suffered, everyone who was a POW died a little over there, and all should be afforded our respect at least for that. If the media wants to portray McCain as THE hero POW, that's their prerogative. It still doesn't mean he is or is not a good candidate for president, so that argument doesn't wash either way.

John was badly injured when he was shot down. Both arms were broken and he had other wounds from his ejection.... Because John's father was the Naval Commander in the Pacific theater, he was exploited with TV interviews while wounded. These film clips have now been widely seen. But it must be known that many POW's suffered similarly, not just John. And many were similarly exploited for political propaganda.
Does the author believe that those who saw McCain on TV (which, admittedly, I was much too young to see at that time so I have no first-hand knowledge of how it was presented) truly believed he was the only POW? Or the only one that suffered? Again, just because the media treats or presents a person in a certain way does not qualify or disqualify them for the presidency in any way. The author just comes off as bitter of the treatment one POW got over the others in the media.

John was awarded a Silver Star and Purple Heart for heroism and wounds in combat. This heroism has been played up in the press and in his various political campaigns. But it should be known that there were approximately 600 military POW's in Vietnam. Among all of us, decorations awarded have recently been totaled to the following: Medals of Honor - 8, Service Crosses - 42, Silver Stars - 590, Bronze Stars - 958 and Purple Hearts - 1,249. John certainly performed courageously and well. But it must be remembered that he was one hero among many - not uniquely so as his campaigns would have people believe.
Same song, second verse. No kind of indictment against McCain's time as a POW - indeed the author goes out of his way to point out that McCain served and endured honorably - yet is unfit to be president because of the way the public perceives him and his service time. I've never seen any McCain ads or publicity that paint him as the only POW to suffer, or the one who suffered the most. It's a case of someone reading context into something that just doesn't really exist the way he thinks it does.

I furthermore believe that having been a POW is no special qualification for being President of the United States. The two jobs are not the same, and POW experience is not, in my opinion, something I would look for in a presidential candidate.
That's a perfectly well and good argument. I personally thinks it does go to show a person's resilience and courage but hey, that's just me. And I'm sure a lot of people feel the same way. No, being a POW doesn't qualify you to be president. But it sure doesn't hurt your credibility to have gone through something like that in your life and emerged alive.

Most of us who survived that experience are now in our late 60's and 70's. Sadly, we have died and are dying off at a greater rate than our non-POW contemporaries. We experienced injuries and malnutrition that are coming home to roost. So I believe John's age (73) and survival expectation are not good for being elected to serve as our President for 4 or more years.
A very valid concern that I have no argument with. One of the more serious concerns about McCain being president, and for choosing a VP candidate well. This is really the author's first point of concern that makes sense as a valid reason to NOT vote for McCain.

I can verify that John has an infamous reputation for being a hot head. He has a quick and explosive temper that many have experienced first hand. Folks, quite honestly that is not the finger I want next to that red button.
This can also be a valid concern for those who know McCain personally. A personal connection is always an opinion I would welcome and give some weight to. But there needs to be more character insight than, "he's a hot head with an explosive temper." From all reports, Hillary Clinton certainly has a temper (and so did Bill. And Ronald Reagan, I believe. So did Nixon. And I don't think Teddy Roosevelt was a meek little lamb (although admittedly he didn't have quick access to nukes). I would have liked to heard more first-hand reports of McCain's temper, however, and it would take more than "an infamous reputation" to sway me one way or another.

It is also disappointing to see him take on and support Bush's war in Iraq, even stating we might be there for another 100 years. For me John represents the entrenched and bankrupt policies of Washington-as-usual. The past 7 years have proven to be disastrous for our country. And I believe John's views on war, foreign policy, economics, environment, health care, education, national infrastructure and other important areas are much the same as those of the Bush administration.
Well, personal opinions of the war aside...he is a Republican. And it's not a huge stretch to believe that in some of the larger issues facing the country, he might have similar views to the current Republican administration.

And I have news for everyone who thinks there are actually "outsiders" in politics. There are no outsiders in politics, especially national politics. "For me John represents the entrenched and bankrupt policies of Washington-as-usual", well, every single politician running for national office is Washington-as-usual. He might have you think that "Washington-as-usual" means Republican, but it means all politics. When you get to the national stage, the philosophical differences disappear to any meaningful degree and they all become the same more or less. Are there philosophical differences between the Mets and the Yankees (outside of their respective fanbase)? No. They're just two major league teams playing baseball, and that's how it is when you get to Washington. You can stop using that as an attack plank, because none of them are any different in that regard. Jed Bartlett or David Palmer aren't coming to our rescue any time soon.

I'm disappointed to see John represent himself politically in ways that are not accurate. He is not a moderate Republican. On some issues he is a maverick. But his voting record is far to the right. I fear for his nominations to our Supreme Court, and the consequent continuing loss of individual freedoms, especially regarding moral and religious issues. John is not a religious person, but he has taken every opportunity to ally himself with some really obnoxious and crazy fundamentalist ministers lately. I was also disappointed to see him cozy up to Bush because I know he hates that man. He disingenuously and famously put his arm around the guy, even after Bush had intensely disrespected him with lies and slander.
That entire paragraph could've been written by any Democratic writer, and the author completely abandons any pretense of objectivity. Thus he loses his credibility as one who had a personal relationship with McCain and was going to provide character insight. You don't have to be a fan of either party to understand the conventions of how things work - Democrats support Democrats and Republicans support Republicans. When one on either side of the aisle does so, the other aisle always expresses shock and outrage.

Senator John Sidney McCain, III is a remarkable man who has made enormous personal achievements. And he is a man that I am proud to call a fellow POW who "Returned With Honor." That's our POW motto. But since many of you keep asking what I think of him, I've decided to write it out. In short, I think John Sidney McCain, III is a good man, but not someone I will vote for in the upcoming election to be our President of the United States.
So there it is - the author lays out little to no real character reasons that would convince anyone not to vote from McCain, other than the Democratic Party talking points in the previous paragraph. Which tells me....nothing more than I already knew.

Ok, so what does the author decide he won't vote for McCain as president, and wants us to know? a) McCain was a ne'er-do-well in college, and graduated near the bottom of his class, b) he wasn't a POW as long as some others, c) the media exploited his status while he was there because of his family connections, d) the media continues to exploit his POW history, e) he has a bad temper, and f) umm... ummm.... umm.... well, he's a Republican and has various Republican traits.

Yeah, that's about it.

What started as an possibly intriguing look into the past and character of a presidential candidate devolved into a political attack that was little more than a repeat of political talking points. And we learned nothing.

Way to further the public discourse. Now if you'll excuse me, I have to get back to ignoring the Democratic and Republican conventions.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Media Fail

Friday morning on NewsTalk 100's Hallerin Hill Show this past Thursday, Hal interviewed the widow of the vice-principal who was shot in Cumberland County last year. It was an emotional interview in light of the Central High shooting that had happened the day before.

The interview concluded, Hal went to commercial.

The sponsor?

Frontier Firearms.

And the kicker?

They did it again later that afternoon.

Listen, I don't care that they are a sponsor for the station. They're a legit business, buying legit advertisement on a local radio station. But WNOX should at least have the forethought to know when their ads are running on a local political/news-based talk show and ensure things like this shouldn't happen. And if they don't have the ability to know exactly when the ads are running, they should figure out a way to be able to.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Back When Gas Was Cheap

Oh, for the good old days...

Merry Christmas, Barry! Or, say, Happy Birthday, Barry! Or even, Happy Groundhog's Day, Barry! As Long As It's One of Them...

Take command of your living room
According to CBS the life-sized chair is a "fully operational replica" of the captain’s chair from Star Trek The Original Series using "expert measurements and the highest quality durable materials." This replica is actually a real piece of furniture, complete with lights, sound effects and built in phrases from the original Captain Kirk himself.

The sound effects included are:

* Intercom Hail
* Phaser
* Photon Torpedoes
* Buttons SFX
* Battle Damage SFX
* Warp Speed
* Bridge background noises

The phrases included are:

* Full “Space: The Final Frontier” prologue
* “This is Captain James T. Kirk of the USS Enterprise”
* “Lt Uhura, Open a channel to all decks”
* “Security alert to all decks”
* “Kirk to engineering. Scotty Report!”
* “Position Report Spock”
* “Prepare for attack all hands Battle Stations”
* “Chekov, Arm photon torpedoes”
* “Resume course to our next destination Mr. Sulu”

It'll only set one of you loyal readers out there back about $2000 from Diamond Select Toys. But think of it as an investment in the happiness of your humble blogger. BOM, I'll even let you sit in it!

Oh, and don't forget - you can still get me this, too.

Friday, August 15, 2008

The Great Olympics Scandal List

The list of embarrassing and interesting facts about Beijing, China and their Olympics continue to mount (with my rating on a scale of 1-10 on their seriousness):

  • The unending man-eating pollution that permeates Beijing - (6/10) Although feared to be a serious respiratory problem before the games, it doesn't seem the smog is having that much of an effect on the athletes. And most every outdoor shot I've seen of competition (beach volleyball, cycling, the Today Show's ratings) the sky has been crystal clear. Must be like those mysterious "Orange Alert" days we keep having in Knoxville which seem to neatly coincide with our nicest, low-humidity days.

  • Fake fireworks in the Opening Ceremonies - (2/10) The fireworks actually happened, they just showed a CGI-enhanced version to the audience and on TV because it was unsafe for a helicopter to film them live in the air. This is something that was blown up a bit out of proportion.

  • Lip-synching kid in the Opening Ceremonies - (5/10) This is more of an embarrassment for the host nation than the fireworks, in that the real little girl who sang the nice anthem was judged "not cute enough" and "didn't present the appropriate face of the country" by some high-ranking yahoo of the Chinese Politburo. When in fact I and most everyone I've talked to thought both little girls were quite sweet-looking. Kids aren't supposed to be beautiful, they're supposed to look like kids (I know, I know, see "Lu, Libby") The Chinese Government's Propaganda Department surfaces in full force.

  • Conscripted performers from Chinese Military in Opening Ceremonies - (7/10) If this is true, and I've just heard it in passing and haven't confirmed it as yet, it's deplorable that the Chinese government required their soldiers to participate. Maybe it's more scary than deplorable, seeing the precision of those drummers and box-stamp-thingy-ers in such lockstep precision. But if true, and these participants were forced to perform...well, maybe they enjoyed it and were proud to do so. Still. Leaves a bad taste in my mouth. Bad form, China.

  • Ineligible Female Chinese Gymnasts - (8/10) Chinese officials apparently scrubbed the actual birthdates of some of their female gymnasts, making them "officially" older than they actually wore and thus above the minimum age limit allowed to compete. Even when asked about their age, the little girls (some 12-14 passing off as 16+ year-olds) they are forced to lie. The cover-up is blatantly bad, since documents and publications from even earlier in the year have been found that specified their true age. Come on - listing a 13-yr-old girl's birthday as Jan 1, 1992? How obvious can you get, guys? I mean, there's arrogance and then there's arrogance.

  • The Souped Up Pools - (4/10) The Chinese construced their swimming pools to increase performance by all competitors. From larger depth to enhanced lane dividers and gutters, all these should serve to raise the tide and affect all boats, as it were. So this is not so significant in affecting the competition as it is causing World and Olympic Records to fall. The new NASA swimsuits worn by the Americans may seem to be a more significant advantage not available to all other competitors. But the relative wealth of your country plays in to all training and equipment advantages, so that's just more of the same. Not a major deal, but very visible.

  • Michael Phelps' Freakish Build - (5/10) He's 6'4", has an armspan (or "wingspan" as the media keeps calling it) of 6'7" (normal humans' height almost always matches their armspan. His upper torso is the equivilant length of someone 6'8" and his legs are the average length of someone who is 5'8". All of which add up to a massively proficient swimmer. Good thing he wasn't a bobsledder or something and decided to take up swimming. He was so born to swim competitively had he been born with webbed fingers and flippers he wouldn't have been much more suited to it. Still, kind of freakish. I smell an 80's era genetics experiment gone horribly wrong here...

  • Canada still hasn't medaled - (5/10) C'mon you guys up north, there are summer games - remember?

  • Where's the Georgia Team - (1/10) I haven't seen a team from the Republic of Georgia (our motto: "Oh I Really, Really, Really Wish I Was in Dixie"). I think the Russian team killed them in the tunnel before their entrance. No seriously, I heard some of their athletes want to withdraw to return and fight for their country. I wonder if there will be any conflict between them and the Russians at the games?

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Danger, Will Robinson

Just passed a convoy of four trucks from The Washington Group on Pelissippi Parkway, headed south. I guess toward the airport.

Among many other things, they are in the business of nuclear and hazardous waste disposal services. Which was pretty much confirmed by the big yellow "RADIOACTIVE" stickers on the sides of all the trucks.

Yikes. I thought about taking a picture with my cell phone but was afraid some security goons would force me off the road and rough me up.

Monday, July 28, 2008

I Hatez Libruls

So now it's being reported the church shooter hated liberals
The shotgun-wielding suspect in Sunday’s mass shooting at the Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church was motivated by a hatred of “the liberal movement,” and he planned to shoot until police shot him, Knoxville Police Chief Sterling P. Owen IV said this morning.
That struck a chord with me, but not for the reason you might expect.

There's a local radio station in town that broadcasts a show hosted by a husband and wife team. I don't want to name the show or link to it because I don't want to give them publicity.

Occasionally I will tune in while in the car, mainly when one of my sports shows is at commercial, and also mainly to hear what they have to say about local issues (county government, schools, etc). But a lot of what I end up hearing (and fascinated with, in a watching-the-accident-as-you-pass-on-the-highway kind of way) is a lot of deep-seated contempt toward liberals.

Now, I know you're thinking, "What? A conservative local talk show? In Knoxville??? Who whoulda thunk?" And as we all know there's nothing conservatives love better than bashing liberals (and vice-versa) so it's nothing really new here. Rush Limbaugh and Jeneanne Garafalo have turned this sort of thing into an art form.

But there's always been something a little over-the-top about this particular radio show in its discussion style. There's haughty, and then there's haughty. There's contempt, and then there's contempt. Substitute the word "black" for "liberal" and you'd think you were listening to something from the 50's in Mississippi. In fact, they and some of their callers don't simply call them liberals - they're "Libs". "The Libs" say this, and "The Libs" do that. Insert your own racist-derogatory terms to understand the tone and bias that comes across on this radio show.

And, to top it off, there's always a taste of Christian apologism that they bring to their broadcasts. They publicly avow their religious convictions (which I happen to agree with) yet their actions betray their beliefs.

Here's the thing: they're perfectly free to broadcast whatever they like. Just because some of it rubs me the wrong way, that's my own thing to deal with. I can turn them off anytime I like. If they want to say how much they hate liberals - fine. That's totally their right to feel, and right to say. If they want to broadcast their opinions of whether gays might be immoral deviants (a policy they also seem to espouse) that's fine and totally within their rights as well.

But people listen. And people learn. And people follow. And people act.

The media's reach is wide and their influence is vast. People's capacity for tacking onto a movement or belief and letting their flames be fanned by those they listen to in the media is well-documented.

When you speak publicly how much you hate certain groups of people, how certain groups of people are contemptible, and stupid, and how some barely deserve to exist in our society - the message I get from this radio show - then you have to understand that some people will be listening to you, and some people may agree with you.

And no matter how well intentioned you may be, some evil people may energized to act. I have no idea if the shooter listened to this radio show (his hatred of Christians makes me doubt it), but he likely listened to something like it. Or he talked to and associated with people who do listen to it, or read literature about it, or frequented websites or blogs that mirror it, and it increased his hatred. To a point where he felt he had to act. When groups of people are marginalized in the media, it become much easier for these evil people to find targets for their hatred. "Didn't get a job? Must've been the libruhls! Or the gays! Lost my food stamps? Must've been those Muslims! Or the blacks! Or the ________'s!" (again, you fill in the blank of the favorite compartmentalized labeled group of your choice)

And here we are, a day after, dealing with the aftermath.

Be careful what you say. Children Will Listen.

What's Left to Say?

One of the things I find hard about writing a blog and keeping it fresh is thinking of something interesting to say.

There are plenty of bloggers that can always find a unique or noteworthy commentary to make about, well most anything.

I've thought a good while about the shooting that happened here in Knoxville yesterday morning at a local church. At this point, 2 people have died, about 5 more are in serious or critical condition in the hospital, and the shooter is in custody. Signs are pointing to some kind of hate crime, whether against the church or Christianity or gays or whatever is still uncertain.

I could have joined in the number of local blogs yesterday and "reported" on it but I didn't. I could have at least posted an "our thoughts and prayers go out to the victims and their families" post but I didn't. There wasn't anything new I could add that hadn't already been covered elsewhere, and sometimes to me the "thoughts and prayers" messages fall a little flat. That's just some of the dark cynicism I find in myself peeking out, I suppose.

But I still felt I would be remiss if I didn't say something about it. I wouldn't be a proper Knoxville blogger. People might thing I was cold and heartless or uncaring.

Let me tell you how I found out about it. During our 11 o'clock service yesterday at a Methodist Church only a few miles from Tennessee Valley Unitarian, our minister told the congregation. I was in the middle of a (discreet) conversation with a fellow sitting next to me and missed most of what the minister said. During the offertory, I pulled up local news on my cell phone and read what had happened.

Still, the full impact didn't hit us until we got in the car after the service and listened to the local news-talk radio station, and got home and watched coverage on local TV. I logged into Twitter to follow local reaction, cruised around my Bloglines news feeds to see if any eyewitness accounts were being reported and then tried to put it out of my mind.

Laura and I watched the finale of The Next Food Network Star, of which I already knew the outcome.

Last night we attended our weekly small group session and discussed several points of the incident. Before my son went to sleep we prayed for the victims, their families and I especially included the shooter in the prayers.

When I woke up this morning, I realized I'd been having disturbing dreams - I felt physically ill waking up - and upon reflection I think I'd been trying to make sense of everything while sleeping. Why? What if he'd come to our church? What would I have done? What systems are in place in Knoxville and Knox County by the government to warn local churches instantly that one man and maybe more could be targeting their Sunday morning worship services? How does this affect my views on guns? What can we do to make things safer? How do we forgive, how do we forget, how do we continue to live our lives in the shadows of gunmen?

I don't know if my sleep will be any easier tonight. It certainly won't be for those involved and especially those kids. I can't imagine what would be going through my kids' heads if they'd witnessed something like that. Would I have had the courage to stand up and take a shotgun blast to protect my family and friends like Greg McKendry?

Someone asked last night at small group - if you had the opportunity to live your life over again, would you do it? Do the high points outweigh the low points enough to make you want to do it all over again? I go to thinking about what a great childhood I had - I would live it over in a heartbeat.

Now some kids, because of what happened yesterday, have an indelible stain on their childhoods. Something that hopefully a lot of love, attention, caring and maybe therapy may be able to soften. But it will never be erased.

Thanks, mister, for proving to us once again it's a Hard Knock Life.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Food, Glorious Food

I am obsessed.

Actually, my whole family is.

Most of the time the TV is on in our living room. Sometimes we're actually home to watch it. While occasionally we actually sit down to watch a show, most of the time it was just some necessary white noise to our daily routine. But to have a consistent, non-offensive, bland-as-vanilla-pudding TV white noise, we had to pick a channel. Something non-controversial and one nothing would likely come on our kids couldn't see. And that maybe had some interesting shows. We chose HGTV - Home & Garden Television, produced by our own local near and dear Scripps Networks.

Well, that went on for a while. We never really got into any of the shows, but it was nice to have something on the TV to just plop down, watch a few minutes of someone designing a deck or patio we'd never own, or refurbishing a rundown one-bedroom shack into a 10-bed, 9-1/2 bath McMansion. But we didn't really have a lot invested in it.

Then one day, somehow...someway... the channel changed. I don't know how it happened - maybe I pressed the wrong button on the remote. Maybe little elves invaded. Maybe the kids went too far looking for Nickelodean. All I know is now, for the last year or so, we have found a new household obsession that sucks out all the hours of our day, dominates our evening, and has even....yes even caused me to break out the pots and pans, shop for fresh Thyme, and contemplate the finer points of preparing quiche...

Food NetworkThe Food Network has taken over our lives.

Oh! Glorious, the possibilities. The varieties! The worlds of culinary sophistication and innovation! Me, who for 40 years has barely been able to make more than a basic cheese sandwich without burning it have now realized that cooking could be....could be..... FUN?

I've made the aforementioned quiche for a gathering of friends. I made Autumn Potato Gratin with cream and sage for Thanksgiving last year. I've been given cookbooks for Christmas, and made a fettucine with sausage tomato sauce, for goodness sake... I may just be getting good at this.

But anyway, in honor of the season finale of our favorite Food Network show, The Next Food Network Star (airing this Sunday at 10pm EDT), I want to share with all of you the amazing shows we love to watch.

Final ThreeKelseyThe Next Food Network Star - For weeks, 10 contestants have cooked, presented, dished and prayed their way through a competition of food smarts, personality, and likeability in order to be awarded next year their own cooking show on the network. My personal favorite, Kelsey, was eliminated 2 weeks ago, and the finale is between actor and improv comedian Adam, big talker Aaron and closet Romulan Lisa. I'm pulling for Aaron because he has the right combination of cooking skills and personality to make a good show. Two years ago the winner of this reality show was a guy named Guy, who now hosts:

Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives - Guy travels the country, profiling off the path, hole-in-the-wall restaurants with the best roadside food in the country. Not long ago he profiled a place on Magnolia Ave. in Knoxville that serves to die for onion rings, which I'm totally going to have to check out.

30-Minute Meals and $40 a Day are Rachel Ray's shows, and she of course is too perky for words. You just want to squeeze her cheeks. You pick which ones. Ahem. Anyway, she's friendly and enjoyable to watch (if she doesn't annoy you too quickly).

Throwdown with Bobby Flay - Bobby Flay competes with other chefs to see if he can best their own signature dish. I've seen him do macaroni and cheese, cheesecake, pulled pork, cakes and other items. At the end of the episode, someone judges to see whose version of the particular dish is best. Bobby usually loses, which is good because goodness knows we don't need this guy to get too cocky...

Good Eats - I want to be Alton Brown. I want to host this show, and I think I'd be pretty darn good at it, too. I may start my own web version of this show, or something like it come to think of it. Anyway, Alton takes a particular aspect of food or cooking each episode and dissects in until you know its history, lineage, background, varieties, molecular structure, DNA sequencing and any other obsessive detail you can think of to say about, like, carrots. Or mac & cheese. Or pasta. Or tacos. Or whatever. This guy is great, and seriously, if I can find a topic I am so doing what this guy does as a vidcast on the web.

Unwrapped takes a food product such as processed cheese, margarine, "comfort food", candy, cereal or other commercial product and shows how it's conceived, manufactured, and brought to the store's shelves. This one can be a little dry at times, but when it finds a subject that's really interesting it can be engrossing. Particularly something like candy bars.

Dinner: Impossible - This season there's a new host, one of the Iron Chefs Michael Symon. I'm not totally sold on the new guy yet (he's only had one episode) but the concept of the show is fun. The host is given a task, obstensively by a "Mission: Impossible"-type voice, to prepare a huge meal for a large group of people in a set amount of time. He draws out the menu and is provided with a kitchen, the necessary food material, and a staff of chefs to help him out. It's the time limit and the setting that makes the show exciting - in the past the previous host (Robert Irvine, who was kicked off the show because it turned out he lied about his training and experience background) had to cook at a Renaissance Fair like they did in the past, cook for a Pixar gathering, passengers on a cruise ship, and more. The first new episode Michael cooked a huge meal for the workers on a Boardwalk, and had to "gourmet" up Boardwalk food for them. Good fun.

Food Network Challenge - A competition between three-five chefs, usually pastry chefs, to create the best themed dish. Most of the time I watch this show, it's about cakes. Several chefs and their assistants have nine hours to completely create a cake based on, say, Disney villains, Pixar characters, classic cartoons, "most extreme", etc. Then they're judged on originality and style and the winner gets $10,000. The big challenge in these competitions is to not get too ambitious and try to do too much. One time Scar's (from "The Lion King") head fell off. And Mike and Sully from "Monsters, Inc." collapsed. You never know what's going to happen.

Finally, my personal favorite:
Ace of Cakes - Ah, Duff, you big lug. The bald, goateed baker who frequently sports a backward baseball cap or toboggan in even the most formal of settings. He and the staff of Charm City Cakes (a real, honest-to-goodness special-order bakery in Philadelphia) spend every episode making all manner of cakes for $1,000 minimum order customers. Guitar-shaped cakes, cakes that look like the set of the play "Avenue Q", a cake of Hogwarts castle for the premiere of one of the Harry Potter movies, a Super Bowl Cake for Colts vs. Bears, armadillo cakes, shipping depot cakes, roulette wheel cakes, cakes that move, cakes that explode, cakes that look like Corvettes. But what makes this show great is the cast - Duff is the main guy, Geof is the soft-spoken and dry-witted main assistant. There's the red-headed receptionist that is the smart-alec, and several other young assistants that each have their own personalities. This is a winner.

A couple of other shows on Foot Network I don't care for. I don't like Iron Chef America at all, nor can I stand anything with Paula Dean's face (or *shudder* voice) in it (sorry, mom). Emeril Live! was one of our favorites until his contract ran out and it went off the air.

So check it out. If you already have an interest in cooking, or just the sociology of food in general, you may get stuck there. And if you have no interest in cooking, well watch it anyway!

UPDATE: In researching links, I came across the site for The Next Food Network Star and they spoiled the finale! Interviews with the two people that didn't win are already up on their personal pages! So now I already know who wins... :( Bad form, Food Network.com.

UPDATE II: Looks like they've taken down the videos that spoil the finale. It's safe to view the finalist pages again!