Friday, December 30, 2011

The Tempest is One year old....Thanks!

One year ago today I began The Tempest. I have offered up 112 opinionated rants on everything from parenthood to politics, from college football to religion, which in some parts of the country are the same thing. Amazingly, this space has generated over 8,500 page views. In the great blogosphere, I’m sure that amounts to a pimple on the backside of Jabba the Hutt, but to me it’s amazing. What’s even more amazing is the number of those page views that have originated in places like Russia, Bulgaria, and Macedonia. Really? I would think that my brand of humor would get lost in the cultural mileau of the Balkans, but what do I know. There is no accounting for taste.

Anyway, Just thought I would make note of this literary anniversary, and thank those of you who have bothered to read what I have written. It has been therapeutic for me to publish abroad a small fraction of the chaotic thoughts ricocheting back and forth inside my head. Perhaps some of them should have been left up there, but this format comes without the one thing it surely needs the most…an editor. I will continue writing in 2012, hopefully about the many happy surprises to come. If 2012 proves that the Incans were right and it IS the end of the world, you can read about it here first since I won’t be participating in any end time scenarios that don’t involve Jesus.

Thanks again for reading and have a nice day.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Top Ten Movies of All Time

Today I’m taking the family, along with a bunch of other great people to see the War Horse. I am so pumped. Expectations are high because it’s Spielberg, and because I’ve read so many great reviews..etc. Anyway, it’s gotten me to thinking about the answer to this question…”What’s the greatest movie of all time?”

It is an entirely unfair question, on par with…”which of your children do you like best?” Movies come in all shapes and sizes, comedies, action films, historical dramas, so it’s an almost impossible question to get to the bottom of. However, it’s also a question that involves opinion, and I’m loaded with opinion. So, for your reading pleasure, I have compiled my list of the top ten movies of all times. I’m cheating in one respect since they will appear in random order. The best I can do is the ten best, picking one of these as the best of all time would cause me severe intestinal distress. Feel free to rip my picks and think that I am a total idiot for leaving out one of your favorites. And yes, a list of one’s favorite movies does reflect well on one’s intellectual and personality bearings, so feel free to judge me.

Again, in no particular order…

Casablanca 1942 Humphrey Bogart

12 Angry Men 1957 Henry Fonda

Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid 1969 Paul Newman, Robert Redford

The Godfather 1972 Marlon Brando

Rear Window 1954 James Stewart, Grace Kelly

Saving Private Ryan 1998 Tom Hanks

The Searchers 1956 John Wayne

Vertigo 1958 James Stewart

Patton 1970 George C. Scott

The Godfather Part II 1974 Al Pacino

Honorable mention: Sleepless in Seattle, The Sound of Music, 3:10 to Yuma, Schindlers List, The Shawshank Redemption, and A Beautiful Mind

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Cynicism is no fun

I just finished reading a 5000 word article about the inbreeding going on between Washington and Wall Street. It details the ugly relationships that first led to the financial crisis of 2008, and now continues in the Presidential race of 2012. Why, you might ask, would I read such a long and depressing story of political corruption? Primarily, as an investment advisor, it’s my job to gather as much information as possible in order to make sense of it for my clients. But on a deeper level, I suppose I just can’t help myself. I feel inexorably drawn to this sort of story. It validates what I intuitively know to be true, that is that the “system” is broken, and that a small group of people at the top who pay $25,000 for a bottle of wine have rigged the game.

So, you might also ask, does that make you an Occupy Wall Street believer? Hardly. The kids in New York want the politicians to fix things, to level the playing field with some redistributive scheme. What they don’t get is, the people at the top sipping $25,000 cabernet sauvignon ARE politicians. It’s like flipping the keys to your brand new Bentley to your drunk teenage son and saying, “be careful.” The election of 2012 will present America with a choice between probably Mitt Romney, he of Bain Capital and a Wall Street contact list a mile long, against the incumbent President Obama, whose 2008 campaign was financed heavily by Goldman Sachs, and whose entire administration is populated by Wall street veterans from William Daley, Rahm Emanuel, and Michael Froman, to Tim Geithner. We have to decide between the guy who is already bought and paid for, and the guy who is about to be.

So, what does this belief make me? At the moment it has succeeded only in making me a cynic. I realize that cynicism has no logical future as a belief system. I also know that nobody likes a cynic. But right now it’s all I’ve got. I survey the political landscape of our country and see little cause for optimism. The Tea Party’s heart was in the right place, but it got taken over by too many weirdos, the sort of people who think that the John Birch society was on to something, the sort of people who confuse the gift of gab with eloquence, the sort of people who think Glen Beck should run for office. The Occupy people are just plain creepy, with their public defecation, silly sloganeering about being the 99%, and personal hygiene issues, it’s hard to take them seriously. And any political movement which has as it’s preferred solution a further and more radical empowerment of government, has badly judged the historical moment.

I believe that everyone in Washington has been corrupted, everyone in Congress, everyone in the White House and everyone on K Street. At this point we couldn’t possibly do any worse if we sent all of them home , stripped them of their pensions, and replaced them randomly from the phone books of each congressional district. I now quote from William F. Buckley..” I would rather be governed by the first 500 names from the Boston phone book, than by the entire faculty of Harvard University.” How’s this for a campaign slogan…” I have no government experience and I promise to leave Washington forever once my term expires. But I’ll work as hard as I can to figure out what’s wrong with our Country and fix it if I can. If I can’t at least I’ll do no harm.”

He’s got my vote.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

My Walmart Experience

My Dad just turned 87. He has gotten to the point where tying a tie is problematic. Recently, he has resorted to wearing mock turtlenecks with a sports coat to church on Sunday, and that’s fine. But for a man born in 1924, going to church in a turtleneck doesn’t feel quite right. It’s kind of like going to a funeral in a Hawaiian shirt. So yesterday I set out to find my father a couple of clip-on bowties. First stop, Men’s Warehouse.

My go-to place for clothes had a very limited selection of clip-on bowties, that is, they had one color…black.. and shiny tuxedo black at that. The sales guy pointed out their tremendous selection of regular bowties, all the latest designs and colors. But each of them came with a 5 page instruction manual in three languages explaining how to actually tie the thing. If I couldn’t figure it out, an 87 year old man with arthritic fingers had no chance. From there I drove to Khols and then Dillard's with no luck. A perky sales girl in Dillard's pointed out that she was sure that Walmart would have plenty of clip-on bowties. “They’re a clip-on sort of place,” she explained. I thanked her and headed out to the parking lot vowing that there wasn’t enough money in the world to make me go to Walmart on December the 22nd. My Dad was just going to have to get over his Turtleneck issues. But, as is always the case with everything concerning my parents, guilt soon attacked me with rude menace. For the first time since the great Christmas light emergency of 1996, I would shop at….Walmart.

At the front door I was greeted by a kindly old man who called me “Champ” and asked if I needed any help. I nodded nervously and asked where the men’s clothing section might be. “ Easy..walk ‘bout two football fields down this aisle and when you get to the Snuggie display turn right. You can’t miss it.” Walking down the aisle was like being transported to the mail room at the United Nations. There was an adorable Thai family, an angry looking Mexican woman with two screaming children in tow, a stunningly beautiful Russian girl with fingernails longer than my fingers. Mixed in were an eclectic collection of white people, the kind that you see in the funnel cake line at the state fair. It was as if Bob Geldof decided to reshoot the “We Are The World” video using all living members of the Blue Grass hall of fame.

The men’s clothing section featured a staggering display of camouflage jackets, and blaze orange baseball caps. After I plowed my way through the blue jean racks I finally found a small display of ties. The clip-on bowties were all in a grab bag box marked with the everyday low price of $9.99. Unfortunately there were only three colors, velvet pink, uranium yellow, and toxic waste green. About the time I had decided that the bowtie thing just wasn’t meant to be, I felt the presence of a large man who smelled of bacon and had no regard for the American concept of personal space. “ $9.99!! Can you believe that?? One of the many reasons I hate this store. No wonder Bob’s Bowtie Emporium had to shut down. This place is sucking the very life blood out of America!!”

There’s a reason that the kids up in New York decided to Occupy Wall Street instead of Walmart. In New York all they had to worry about were a few over anxious cops. At Walmart, you get between a shopper and the $5.99 clearance box, you better be wearing shoulder pads and a protective cup. You can get cussed out in three languages before you make it out of the parking lot. Walmart in America is that crazy place where commerce meets the melting pot. They have dinner, go dancing, then commerce picks up the tab. But then, just before they head back to his place they have a raging knock down drag out right there in the 15 items or less line. I made my way slowly and cautiously back to the front door, and out through the parking lot, glancing right and left for stray felons. No bowtie, but I did survive to shop another day.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Two Christmas Memories

Every Christmas, I always recall the memories of Christmas past. I can’t help myself. For me, Christmas is nothing if not for the retelling . Maybe it’s because my memories are so hazy and so few. I remember nothing specific about Christmas, other than special presents I received, like my first bike and the genuine Colt45 cap-guns with leather holsters. But other than the occasional transcendent boyhood dream-gift, Christmas is all a blur. Except for two memories that remain bright and alive in my mind.

The first one happened around the time that I was 10. There was a family that had recently moved in down the road from us. I believe they were from St. Louis. They had three kids who I had never met. Actually I had never seen any of them. My Dad was the pastor of the local Baptist church and he talked about them at dinner one night. He told us that the father had lost his job back in St. Louis and had moved to Virginia to go to work someplace in Ashland but had soon lost that job as well. Now he was broke and looking for work, and didn’t have enough money to head back to St. Louis. Someone observed that they wouldn’t be having much of a Christmas.  I can’t remember who came up with the idea, probably my Mom, but we all decided that we would do Christmas for them.

  These people didn’t go to our church. Dad had just visited them and found out about their story. Before long my Mom somehow had gotten all of the kids’ clothes sizes and other important information like what kind of toys they would like. There has never lived a woman who was better at finding out important and secret stuff than my Mom. The CIA could learn a thing or two from Betty Dunnevant. Next thing you know we drove into Ashland on a shopping spree with our own money and some from a couple of other families who had gotten in on it. While we were in town we stopped by Western Auto and picked up a big cardboard box that had once held a washing machine. When we all gathered to wrap the presents,  I remember being so incredibly happy with it all, the joy of it, the feeling that I was in on something grand and holy.

  Once we wrapped everything, we then wrapped the huge box, stuffed all the other presents inside and then sealed up this miracle Christmas with a big tacky red ribbon. Then it gets hazy. I remember talking about how we should give this to them. Someone said that we shouldn’t present it to them in person, that we wouldn’t want to hurt the man’s pride, something about not letting the left hand know what the right hand was doing. I didn’t really understand it very well at the time. All I knew was, the plan that we came up with was the stuff of which dreams are made. At 10 years old on a bitterly cold Christmas Eve, I found myself in Fred Schwartz’ pickup truck backing down a dirt driveway with the lights off right around midnight. We quietly carried the box to their front porch and left it there with a note that said..”Jesus Loves You….Merry Christmas”. We never heard from them as far as I know. But that Christmas day was unlike any other for me. We spent all day with smiles on our faces, wondering what it must have been like when that poor, homesick family opened their front door.

The second memory was from a couple of years later. My Mom had stumbled upon a family that lived in a shockingly poor community called “sawdust lane”. I knew that the people unlucky enough to live there were the poorest of the poor in our county, but I had never actually met anyone from sawdust lane, let alone visited anyone there. But one December day my Mother took me with her to visit this family. I remember nothing about the visit other than the most disturbing thing I had ever seen up to that point in my life. The house had a dirt floor and the two little boys who lived there were barefoot outside in the middle of winter with feet that looked as dirty as rusted iron. My Mom and some other lady from church gathered the boys up, put them in the back seat with me and drove into Ashland. There we bought each of them a winter coat and two pairs of shoes. When the boys tried the shoes on they stumbled around awkwardly, falling and giggling until we realized that they had never worn shoes before. I remember the looks on their faces and the strange lump in my throat as I watched them delight in a package of three pairs of socks. In my world, I knew no one who was rich. We didn’t have much at home, but I had never seen poverty before in all of its ugliness until that moment. Mom never told me what she was thinking by taking me with her that day and she never asked me about it. But it made an impression that changed how I viewed the world and especially Christmas. I don’t ever think I’ve been as grateful as I was that year.

I enjoy Christmas every year. My first Christmas as a husband, the first Christmas with my children, they were all magical and glorious. But nothing has stayed with me like the two years over 40 years ago when I learned the joy and wonder of giving.

“ O, lay aside each earthly thing,
And with thy heart as offering,
Come worship now the infant King.
‘Tis love that’s born tonight.”

Alfred Burt

Sunday, December 18, 2011

NEWS FLASH!! This just in.....

Browsing through the Wall Street Journal the other day I ran across a headline that caught my eye. "Study finds risky sexual behavior tied to heavy alcohol use." An institution of higher learning somewhere in the United States had just completed an exhaustive study of the sexual practices of males and females who drink alot. Shockingly, they found that increasing levels of inebriation led to increasingly bad decisons like "leaving the bar with someone who they normally wouldn't" and even "a greater likelihood of unprotected sex"................(crickets chirping).


What would we do without institutions of higher learning? The less enlightened among us might think that there was already a consensus going back, oh I don't know,...4 thousand years, that heavy drinking leads to bad decision making. Even those not well versed in human history have probably noticed that the theme of alcohol-fueled nitwittery has been a major plot device in movies and televisions shows since each of these mediums have been around. But sometimes it takes scientific studies to reveal these truths to the modern mind.

So, if I remember enough about the scientific method, I suppose there was a "control group" in this study. These were the 50 or so couples who were put in a bar and served water or ginger ale. I can also assume that the physical makeup of this control group was equal to the study group, ie..there were equal numbers of hot chicks and dogs, equal numbers of GQ guys and nerds. Then I suppose their behavior was closely monitored. When the study group got good and hammered I suppose that the scientists began to notice surprising couplings. Reasonably attractive men choosing decidedly ugly women for instance, providing confirmation of that country song lyric.."all the girls get prettier at closing time". Imagine the lyrics that could have been penned by Hank Williams had he had access to the findings of this study!


I did a google search of other ground breaking studies to come out of academia and found an impressive list:


"Study finds alarming connection between bike riding and skinned knees among elementary school students"


" New study finds connection between eye-rolling and heavy ironic sighing and teenagers."


"Study discovers that politicians do not actually deliver on many campaign promises"


" Study finds that men who tell their wives, when asked, that the dress does actually make them look fat, reported a marked decline in sexual activity."


......Oh, and this just in..."Women get really pissed when their husbands cheat, a new study suggests."

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Blink

Heading to Nashville in the morning to see Patrick graduate. After this weekend I will no longer have kids in college. Kaitlin is in grad school and Patrick will be in 8 months or so, but their undergraduate days are over. For the past 6 years I have been writing large checks made payable to either Cedarville or Belmont and counting the days until the financial hardship would be over. Well, now its over and I'm relieved, but a little sad. One more stage of life comes to a close. Time to move on to the next thing. The pace of change has grown steadily faster recently, it seems. Just yesterday, we drove Kaitlin to Ohio and dropped her off in a cornfield to attend school 475 miles from home. Then a few days later we drove 600 miles away in a different direction to leave Patrick in Nashville and returned to an empty house. Now they're both all grown up and smart as whips. I blinked and it was over.


Pam and I will drive down with Vi and Jessica. Then we will meet Kaitlin and Jon down there, who are driving straight from Winston-Salem. Looks like its going to be rainy and cold. But it will be fun. Pam will cry. I will feel like crying but hold it together because, thats what I do. Then we'll head home and get ready for Christmas and more changes that I'm sure await us in 2012. Molly will be waiting for us when we come home. She will jump up and lick us and bring us a ball and act like she hasn't seen us in 10 years, just like she always does. Then I'll blink and there will be weddings and then grandkids someday. It's all good and right. Except the blinking.

Monday, December 12, 2011

My Tim Tebow Take

Like everyone else in America, I have watched the story of Tim Tebow unfold over these past 8 weeks. Each week it’s the same thing. The kid looks woefully overmatched for three quarters. Then in the fourth quarter he becomes something else. It’s as if his body gets taken over by the ghost of Johnny Unitas. Then he gets an infusion of Joe Namath from 1969 and Joe Montana from 1989, and the next thing you know, the Broncos have won another game.
The camera pans to a shot of John Elway looking awkwardly flabbergasted. Afterwards, all the football talking heads are left blubbering on and on about his terrible mechanics, horrendous stats, and the annoying kneeling and praying on the sidelines. Internet chat rooms then ignite into flames with apoplectic rage at his sermonizing, at his goody-two-shoes corn-pone personality, and especially at his virginity. Then across the virtual street another universe of chat rooms are positively gushing over his wholesomeness, impeccable manners and humility. The battle lines have been drawn. If you’re a Christian, you’ve gotta love him and if you’re a heathen, you’ve gotta hate him. It’s tremendously fun and must see TV.

What I find most compelling however, are his press conferences after the games. I’ve watched four of them now and they are amazingly consistent. So, in keeping with the latest trend in journalism, I will now run a Fact-Check on his remarks to determine whether Mr. Tebow is, in fact, honest. Each week he makes essentially the same comments as follows:

“Our defense played great the entire game and if not for them we never could have staged a comeback at all.”

FACT CHECK: TRUE

“ On those last two drives, my offensive linemen were amazing. Their blocking made me look much better than I am.”

FACT CHECK: TRUE

“ I was so proud of ( insert running back, wide receiver, or kicker) on that last drive. He really stepped up and made great plays all over the field and I couldn’t be any happier for him because he’s such a great guy.”

FACT CHECK: First part true. Hard to corroborate claim of “great guy” but at this point I will take Tebow’s word for it.

“I’m just working as hard as I can in practice every week and trying my best to get better”

FACT CHECK: TRUE

“We got a few breaks there in the last few minutes that sure helped us”

FACT CHECK: Like opposing defenses going to the prevent and guys fumbling the ball and running out of bounds for some inexplicable reason?? VERY TRUE


What’s my view of Tebow? Well, he looks more like a tight end to me. I don’t think he’s a great quarterback, not even sure he’s a good quarterback, but I do think he’s a great football player. He has the leadership ability and charisma required to inspire his teammates and that counts for a lot. There is something comforting about seeing a guy succeed at something that all the smart people told us he couldn’t possible do. The reason it’s a comfort to me is because it reminds me that the “smart people” aren’t always right. When I watch him fail for 3 quarters and keep pushing and pushing and working and striving and then finally breaking through to victory it helps me not to give up when I’m struggling. I also like seeing an athlete demonstrate humility in front of a nest of microphones for once.

Why do so many people loathe Tebow? Some may resent his constant public affirmations of faith. For many people faith is a private matter. Some may resent his success, his good looks, because most of us are neither. Some may just suspect that he’s a hypocrite who hasn’t been caught yet. In the era of Joe Paterno, Anthony Weiner, and Tiger Woods, this is an understandable reaction. A better explanation may be that in 2011 America, we don’t know what to make of 1950’s character when we see it. It strikes a discordant note in our public psyche to observe a rich, good-looking, athletic ,young man who isn’t a womanizing, self-absorbed, egomaniacal brute. We don’t know how to deal with our past come back to life, for if Tim Tebow lived in the 1950’s he would not be the subject of such cultural fascination, he would simply blend in. Now, we parse his every utterance looking for evidence of phoniness. Soon, teams of TMZ employees will be combing through his trash looking for used condoms. It just can’t be true. He cannot really be that nice, can he? Is it possible for a young man to take Christianity seriously enough to bet everything on his faith, to live out the teachings of Jesus not just at church but in every corner of his life, even the NFL?

Watching him these past 8 weeks, I wouldn’t bet against him.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

The "On Your Own" Economy

The other day our President went to give a speech in Kansas in which he once again railed against the 1%. In the midst of the speech he constructed an impressive straw man, referring to those of us who disagree with his understanding of finance as “simplistic” and then blamed our current woes on this “ you’re on your own” brand of economics. Question: who out there throughout the fruited plain feels left alone by our government? Seriously? 9% unemployment, 15 trillion dollars of debt and 1.5 yearly budget deficits as far as the eye can see is the result of negligent government? Our government isn’t involved enough in our lives…THAT’S the problem? We should be so lucky.

Let’s see. The government enjoys a monopoly on public education, spending more money per student than any country on the planet with the exception of Switzerland. This largesse has resulted not in ever improving test scores. It hasn’t produced legions of first class scholars and it hasn’t resulted in lower and lower delinquency rates. What it HAS produced is a gigantic bloated education bureaucracy and a public sector teachers union that fights any attempt to reverse these catastrophic trends. If a graduate of this system desires to attend college he is forced to borrow huge amounts of money from the government monopoly that took over the student loan business, thereby subsidizing and artificially boosting the cost of higher education.

  Once the lucky scholar gets his degree and by some miracle gets a job, he will soon want to purchase a home. The chances are better than 50% that his loan will be obtained through Freddie Mac or Fannie Mae, the two government sponsored institutions that helped bring us the mortgage crisis of 2008.

 If our aspiring American Dreamer ever gets sick and needs to go to the doctor, he will be served by a government who determines how much treatment he can receive and at what price.

  If this bright guy ever gets it in his head to start a business he will be forced to run the gauntlet of federal and state agencies , boards and commissions with each of their licensing fees and mountains of paperwork.

 If somehow he makes it through the many hurdles put in his way and actually starts his business, he better hope and pray that no one slips on a banana peel in the lunch room , because the lawyers at OSHA will be on him like white on rice.

If, against all odds he produces an evil profit at the end of the year he better hire himself three accountants to prepare his tax returns, because if he makes a mistake, the boys at the IRS ( the most negligent of ALL government agencies ) will show up with swat teams from the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms to raid his business looking for illegal profit making stuff.

 When our hero leaves the office after the raid and walks the streets of downtown, his every step will be monitored by video surveillance cameras. If he stops at the ATM to withdraw money to get drunk the transaction will be monitored by his friends at Homeland Security.

 If he does get drunk and makes the mistake of revealing to his bar mates ( one of whom is a government social services worker)that he has three young children waiting for him at home, his kids will soon be plucked from his home and transferred to the custody of the state.

 After his wife leaves him and he is forced to sell his home at a loss, he will sit down and write a soul-bearing letter to the editor of his local paper telling his cautionary tale only to have the letter lost by the government run monopoly that controls mail delivery.

This is an “on your own economy” ?? One wonders what Obama envisions as an energetic, and involved government?

Friday, December 9, 2011

My Customer Service Experience

9 days ago the hard drive on my 18 month old laptop computer died, emitting  a metallic scream seconds before spitting out the dreaded blue screen of death. With smug confidence that it was covered under warranty, I drove over to BestBuy and dropped it off with the Geek Squad where I was informed that it would be ready in 3-5 days and if something unforeseen came up, I would get a phone call. 7 days later, having gotten no such call, I dropped in on the Geeks to check the status of my repair. A sad faced young man, with emo glasses and unwashed hair hanging across his ironic face, informed me that they had tried repeatedly to reach me to tell me that a restore disk needed to be provided to them so that they could re-install Windows. If I didn’t have said disk, I could order one for $28.30 from my computer maker by calling a 1-800 number.

“That’s strange," I said. “I haven’t gotten any calls from you guys.”


“says here that we called twice…”


“What number did you call? When I dropped it off you guys asked for the best number to reach me and I gave you my cell number.”


“Yeah…but we lost it and so we used the number on file which I think was your home number”


“You lost my cell phone number?”


“Yeah..it sucks, I know man..”


So this morning, day nine without my computer, I called the 1-800 number to order the disk. The phone was finally answered by a human after 3 exchanges. This particular human sounded like an innebriated Pakistani with a mouth full of marbles. After taking 10 minutes to confirm that my first name was in fact..DOUG, we proceeded to the problem at hand. At minute 26 of this call I was transferred to another department. Ordinarily this would have caused me raging gastro-intestinal distress, but I was actually encouraged when my new customer service technician came on the line. Robert’s melodious Scottish accent informed me that I had three choices:


“If you want the disk by December 13 it will be $28.30. If you want it by December 15 it will be $21.50, but if you can wait until December 20 it’s only $14.00”


“Robert, is it?” I replied, “I have been on this phone for 31 minutes trying to order a restore disk for a computer that you guys manufactured a short 18 months ago, and whose hard drive couldn’t even last 2 years. Now you’re telling me that the soonest I can get this disk is 4 days from now? How about you guys overnight the thing to me for free and we can call it even.”


Apparently the customer service technicians at HP don’t understand sarcasm when they hear it. A long silence followed. Eventually I was forced to add…"Just kidding…” After finally taking all of my credit card info at minute 39 Robert asked me if I wanted to participate in a “brief 10 question
survey concerning my service experience." This time, the awkward silence was all on me.

If anyone wants to know why the United States is losing its status as the most powerful economic country in the world, they would have to look no further than my 40 minute call. 

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Virginia Tech Football.....Sigh...

Living in the State of Virginia, there is only one school that matters nationally when it comes to division 1 football and that’s Virginia Tech. Their fan base is rabid. They sell out every game, and every home game is a great college football environment and experience. They are justifiably proud of the program that Frank Beamer has built. Each year they send multiple players to the NFL. But many of us here in Virginia look at Tech fans as an anthropologist might look at a newly discovered tribe of three-eyed giants in New Guinea, with perplexed fascination.

Each year it’s the same story. Virginia Tech is ranked absurdly high in pre-season polls for some unknown reason. Might Frank Beamer have incriminating photos of key sports journalists? Anyway, then they plow through their cupcake schedule of Appalachian State, Arkansas State, East Carolina and Marshall, steadily climbing in the polls even while beating absolutely no one. Then they get to feast on the pathetic ACC competition of Duke, N.C. State, Boston College etc.. But eventually, even Tech has to play a quality opponent. This year it was Clemson. And every year it’s the same thing. Whenever Tech is faced with a big important game against quality competition, whether it’s a bowl game or just in the regular season, they get rolled. This year the two games against Clemson were lost by a combined score of 61-13. And yet….

Just three days ago, facebook was aglow with Tech fans advising the world of how it was going to go down, the many scenarios that would no doubt produce a national championship matchup between the Hokies and LSU. I kid you not. Hokie nation never doubts the justice and inevitability of Tech playing for a national title. Put aside the fact that the team they would have to beat to get their mauled them on their home field seven weeks earlier. Put aside the fact that nothing that Tech has accomplished in the last 20 years would make any sane person believe that they could stay on the same field as a LSU. It simply doesn’t matter to Tech loyalists. The delusions of grandeur that infect Hokie minds is something to behold. Yes, the Hokies are the best football team in the State of Virginia, they could beat the Cavaliers with both hands tied behind their backs, and yes, moving their program to the ACC was a stroke of genius all those years ago, as it has allowed them a ticket to national prominence by being the best of a terrible conference….but PLEASE….enough with the national championship contender crap!! Until your record against top 10 ranked teams improves from 2 wins against 19,000 losses or whatever it’s up to now, just leave it alone guys. Enjoy your place as big dog in the Old Dominion.

Friday, December 2, 2011

My 2011 Christmas List

As I have mentioned before , the Dunnevant family takes a very 21st century, high-tech approach to the business of Christmas. the “Christmasistas “of the family, ( and you know who you are), generally start asking everyone for their Christmas lists the day after Halloween. Slowly but surely the lists start trickling in to my wife who then downloads them to the Dunnevant Christmas Central website. Once posted, everyone can check to see who has bought what for whom, the idea being that this will prevent the dreaded “double gifting” plague of Christmas’ long ago. One particular year Nanny received 4 glass tea pitchers, all of which she was “thrilled” with and each indispensably unique that they couldn’t possibly be parted with. “You never know when 20 people might show up for dinner,” she said. “ You can never have too many glass pitchers!” However, the problem with the website, I mean the problem BESIDES the over the top Target-Ladyesque nature of it all, is the fact that everyone is on the honor system. We are all trusted NOT to click on our own names to see what people may have bought for us. Now, I’m not making any accusations here, but let’s just say that over the last few years we are either getting awfully predictable in our gift buying or this family needs to take some acting lessons…

Matt: Wow!! Look everybody…it’s a Canon EF 50mm f/1.4 USM lens ! Doug, how did you know that this was what I’ve always wanted??
Doug: Just a lucky guess! Even though the 1.4 USM lens was 3 times as expensive as the 1.8 version, something told me that you would LOVE it!

So once again this year, I am the last Dunnevant to turn in his list. For this I should get a lump of coal, no doubt. But in my defense, it IS only December the 2nd. There are still 22 shopping days left until the big day, so hopefully I haven’t inconvenienced anyone too badly. Without further delay, here is my 2011 Christmas List:


• A special edition Santa PEZ dispenser. I happen to know that they are readily available at the checkout counter at Ben Franklin and are very reasonably priced
• Gift certificates in any denomination ( even Methodist) to Barnes and Noble
• a cut in the capital gains tax
• world peace
• money…that I can donate to Nanny’s give-away fund
• Titlelist Pro-V1 golf balls
• Gear from the UR bookstore ie..coffee mugs, long sleeve shirt (red) large or anything cool that you think I might like…surprise me!
• tax free bailout money from my fellow citizens via the federal government since I am clearly too big to fail
• Season one and/or two of Parenthood
• switches…..I used to worry every Christmas Eve that I would get them but I never did so a part of me has always wondered what it would be like
• A book of great April Fool’s ideas ( for the office)
• Sunglasses, not the real expensive and pretentious ones …but not the Walmart specials either, something in the middle. Black and sinister if available.
• a big honkin’ bag of Dunkin Doughnuts regular ground coffee
• an online subscription to the Wall Street Journal


Feliz Navidad