Saturday, March 30, 2013

First Quarter In The Books...a Review

The first quarter of 2013 is now in the books. I’ve had over 100 appointments, conducted 52 annual reviews, completed 29 separate transactions, and ended the quarter with a barrage of business that made all the numbers look nice. On the home front, we’ve entertained thirty supremely talented singers from Belmont for a weekend, completely overhauled the upstairs of our house, suffered the loss of Matthew Crawley, and banished Molly to the uncarpeted rooms of the downstairs at night to deal with her rare but disgusting bouts of incontinence.

I have enjoyed my wife’s amazing cooking every night as we watch Frazier reruns, DVR episodes of Person of Interest, Nashville, Parenthood, and Pioneer Woman. I have looked on with proud fascination as my daughter writes her Master thesis at Wake Forest; I’ve listened to the incredibly beautiful music that my son has composed at Westminster. I’ve watched two friends endure extreme personal trials with grace and dignity, one which ended poorly, one which ended with deliverance. My Dad spent three weeks in the hospital and recovered stronger than before. It gave me the chance to spend twenty nights with him and listen to more great stories and if possible have my opinion of him become even more worshipful.

A Super Bowl was played and I can hardly remember who won. Our political leaders have spent most of their time warning us of coming disasters that never seem to come. President Obama seems always to be either leaving for a vacation, on vacation, or returning from vacation, which I’m totally fine with. Matter of fact, I think all of them should go on even more vacations, since they will be much less likely to do us harm from the slopes in Vail.

This blog continues to accumulate more readers; I’m halfway through a novel I started writing in January, and I was able to survive a recent attempt at offering an opinion on the subject of gay marriage, all in all, an eventful three months.

Now, we will have Pam’s family over for Easter Sunday complete with an egg hunt for the kids. Then Pam and I have planned a little 4 day escape to catch our breath in Myrtle Beach.

Life could be a whole lot worse.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Gay Marriage Debate...Part Two

I start part two of this gay marriage discussion by providing a link to a similar debate I had with myself last May during the Presidential campaign, just to prove to you that I have given my views on this topic a lot of thought. I have never lost sight of the very real possibility that I could be wrong on much of this. However, rereading the post from almost a year ago does remind me of just how contentious an issue this is.

One thing that I've noticed is that people have a very difficult time separating the legal issues of gay marriage from the religious issues of gay marriage. Some think it is impossible to do. I disagree. To me they are two entirely different discussions which I explain in relative detail in the above blog post. to illustrate this point I will bring up an argument that I hear all the time that baffles me, to wit, if gay marriage is elevated to legal equality with traditional marriage it will somehow devalue the institution of marriage. In my opinion, this is a misunderstanding of the marriage vows. When Pam and I got married, I stood at the front of a church and recited my vow to her in front of God and man. As I recall, no representative of the government was present. All the benefits that I receive from the tax code etc.. and all other approvals that flow my way for being legally married are a function of law. But my vows were not made to the state, they were made to my beloved and God. So, how can the fact that two gay people happen to get married down the street alter the sanctity or the holiness of MY vows? I believe this to be a specious argument.

So the question then becomes, if the sanctity and by extension the holiness of the marriage covenant comes from it's religious underpinnings, how can we make an argument that gay people should not be able to be married under the LAW? What does the one have to do with the other? My marriage isn't made sacred because I get to file a joint tax return, it is sacred because it is a holy institution to start with. I can find no compelling reason to deny gay people the right to marry that doesn't begin and end with religious conviction. I have plenty of them, as I explain in the above referenced blog, but as a purely legal matter, I suppose I have come to the point where I can find no reasonable objection.

The one thing that gay and straight people have in common is the fact that we are both sinners. As a result, I believe that gay people will have just as difficult a time as straight folks have had honoring those wedding vows.

The hardest part of this issue for me is how do we move forward? How do the two sides of this come to an understanding that allows us to live together in peace without all of the bitterness and acrimony? Maybe the kids were on to something all along, we need to learn how to love each other despite our differences, to overcome the heat and fury of this debate will require superhuman effort. Both sides of these barricades are manned by human beings with beating hearts. To paraphrase Shakespeare, if you cut them, do they not bleed? Surely we have more in common than the issues that divide us, right?

The Gay Marriage Debate

Yesterday the Supreme Court heard oral arguments in the case of California’s Proposition 8, a ballot initiative which changed the California constitution to prohibit gay marriage. The people of that state passed the initiative in 2008 with 52% of the voters agreeing that the historical definition of marriage as between one man and one woman should not be changed. The verdict was immediately challenged and overturned by the 9th circuit court and was then appealed to the Supreme Court for review.

If I had any brains I would simply let this go without comment. The issue is a minefield of accusation. Words like “bigot” and “fag” are being thrown around like hand grenades at anyone stupid enough to go public with an opinion. Well, there has never been any doubt as to whether I am stupid enough, the evidence showing that I am stupid enough for practically anything, so here goes.

Facebook yesterday got lit up with these small red squares which I later learned were indications of support for gay marriage. The back and forth was quite awful, as I have come to expect on that medium. I know and understand the basic arguments on both sides and many, though not all, of the tangential ones. I am left confused and torn.

On the one hand, if a society decides to change the 4000 year old understanding of what marriage is, it better have a damn good reason for doing so. Marriage is a foundational relationship of human interaction, serving as it does as the primary organizational unit of civilization,( notice the links I am willing to go to avoid the ghastly term “building block”!!).  But I also know that slavery was a foundational relationship of human interaction for something close to 4000 years too, and still is in many areas of the world. The fact that we grew to value the dignity of human life enough to stigmatize and outlaw human bondage was a high water mark in our development. The question then arises, does prohibiting gay marriage equate logically with abolishing slavery? Proponents have very eagerly picked up the civil rights banner, cloaking their cause as the natural next step in personal freedoms and claiming the rhetorical high ground that that association brings. As a side benefit, this strategy also allows those on the other side of the debate to be breezily accused of being bigots, the natural descendants of Bull Conner.

For most of my younger friends the issue seems to be a simple one summarized by a simple question, “Why shouldn’t people be allowed to love whoever they choose?” It’s all about love. Why can’t we all just get along? Of course this binds the issue of “love” to marriage in ways that are not consistent with history. The close relationship with romantic love and the institution of marriage is a very new one historically speaking, a relatively modern construct. For centuries before ours marriage was much more often of financial, political, or even self preservation origins. Marriages were entered into to strengthen tribes, alliances and other forms of human organizations, but most importantly to provide the safest vehicle for the formation of families, the propagation of the species, child rearing, for lack of a better term. Now, I admit, this understanding doesn’t do well on a Hallmark Card, but nonetheless it is a fact of history sometimes lost in our modern obsession with romantic love. So, getting back to my young friends and their argument for gay marriage…if love is the issue, then why prohibit any two people who “love each other” from getting married? Why shouldn’t a 35 year old man be able to marry a 15 year old girl, or a 15 year old boy, or a 15 year old dog? It’s all about love, right? Or how about that strange place where love truly abounds, our 35 year old man and his 6, 35 year old girlfriends? Love conquers all, or so I’m told on Facebook.

The burden of proof should be on those who propose a redefinition of marriage. What will be the results down the line of this redefinition? Will the legal precedent be set for future redefinitions like I describe, and if so, how do these changes benefit society, and are those benefits without risk?

I have not here introduced religious convictions into the debate. I have some on this issue, but they are not germane to the legal argument. However, religious issues still abound. If gay marriage is made the law of the land, what is to become of churches who teach the traditional view( Catholics, Baptists, etc.)? If they refuse to conduct such marriages, will they be held in contempt, stripped of their tax free status? Will their priests and ministers be sent to jail? And what is to become of the millions of people who still hold to a 4000 year definition of the institution of marriage? Are they to be magically transformed into bigots and shamed from polite society?


There is much more to discuss here, but I must go to work. I have many sympathies with the pro gay marriage argument which I will detail in tomorrow’s blogpost.


                                      TO BE CONTINUED  

Tuesday, March 26, 2013


Imagine for a moment that you are a middle class citizen of Cyprus. You work, pay your taxes and keep your nose clean, like most patriotic Cypriots. Your government has its share of incompetent boobs but in no larger supply than any other country. You put up with it because…what are you gonna do? You live on a beautiful island with mostly great weather, live and let live, right? Well, one day you wake up, head into Nicosia for some lokum and coffee. Then you stop by the ATM of your Cyprus Popular Bank to withdraw a few Euros when you notice an unusually long line. You think to yourself, “Damn Turks” and wait patiently for your turn. Soon the people ahead of you start to get agitated, a frenzy of Greek and Turkish epithets start to fly. It is only then that you discover that the machine is out of money, not only out of money, but closed indefinitely. You hurry home and fire up your laptop and discover that the 165,000 Euro balance in your savings account that you’re so proud of shows only 99,000 Euros. What in the name of Glafkos Clerides is going on here, you shout at the computer screen!?

It takes days but you finally piece it all together. The Cyprus Popular Bank has apparently been run by people so inept, they make Bernie Madoff look like Warren Buffett. They have made millions of ill-advised loans that would have bankrupted them long ago had it not been for huge infusions of cash from insanely wealthy Russian mobsters who picked your bank to launder all of their drug money through. Well, now your bank is in dire straits, needs to recapitalize, but the Eurozone beaurocrats wanted something in return. So, over the weekend, literally in the dead of night, the boobs in your government worked out a deal with the Boobs of the European Union where anyone with over 100,000 Euros in savings would have their accounts reduced by 40%. The money would be transferred to Brussels immediately, in exchange for a bank bailout, without your permission or consent.

Welcome to the New World Order.  

Monday, March 25, 2013

Visit From Some Old Friends

Easter week dawns amidst schizophrenic weather, the day trying to decide if it should clear off and warm up, melting the snow off the trees or get colder and send more snow/sleet/ rain down upon us. What a hot mess. Usually, Easter week is when I clean up the golf clubs, and start thinking about maybe going to a driving range or something. I mean, it’s been 7 months since I last played; maybe it’s time, but, not today.

This week is crammed full of end of quarter business activity, a frenzied five days of review appointments, bill paying and the endless assessment of numbers. There is a light at the end of this tunnel however, since I will celebrate the end of the 1st Quarter by taking a few days off next week and going on a trip somewhere with Pam. The to-do list this week includes an item, “PLAN TRIP”, so there’s that.

There’s also a special treat on the agenda of this Easter week. Many of you long time Grovers will remember Greg and Deena Greer, veterans of the famed McMath Sunday School Conglomerate, which dominated GABC back in the day. They moved to Knoxville, Tennessee years ago, Greg leaving a perfectly great job to pursue the ministry, and more specifically to get involved in some start up church. Of course, it was a ridiculous career move for Greg and I questioned his sanity. But, as is often the case when it comes to God’s will, I was wrong and Greg was right. The church has thrived; the Greer family did not wind up on public assistance, and God has blessed Greg and Deena with a wonderful life. Part of that life is a 6’5”, 270 pound offensive tackle named Chandler Greer, who is being heavily recruited by a long list of big time college football programs, among them, the University of Virginia. So, they will be staying at our house one night this week, having dinner and then heading up to Charlottesville for their recruitment visit the next morning. I can’t wait to see these wonderful friends again. Incidentally, what does one feed a 6’5”, 270 pound high school senior who has been riding in a car all day? We were thinking of making him an entire meat loaf for his appetizer, and taking it from there.

My NCAA brackets are still intact, although they were leaking oil at one point over the weekend. La Salle? Pacific Gulf Coast? Puh-leeze. 6 of my elite 8, and all of my final four are still alive and kicking.

My book is rocking along. Chapter 17 has hit a plot device that will require writing skills that I’m not sure I possess to pull off. So much fun though, I must admit.

Ok, you’re all caught up.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Harvard Wins. Revenge of the Nerds.

Ok, there I was feeling rather smug about my bracket. I picked 3 out of four winners in the play-in games, then proceeded to get 13 out of 15 of the first round contests. Then I wake up this morning and see that Harvard beat New Mexico late last night. Seriously?

I am here to tell you that if Harvard University has now become a basketball power, we are in serious trouble as a nation. What’s next, MIT putting a beat down on Alabama in the Sugar Bowl? Forget testing for steroids or illegal drugs, I demand to see the full academic transcripts of every man on the Harvard roster. I want SAT scores, GPA’s and I want the NCAA to demand that each of them translate two chapters of The Odyssey into English before their next game. If their starting five can’t explain the central importance of the Pythagorean theorem to Euclidian geometry in less than two minutes then I want a full investigation into their eligibility. What are we to make of this? Here we have the premier academic institution in all of America going out on a basketball court and defeating a State university who won 29 games this year and who many thought should have been seeded even higher than a 3. New Mexico’s coach, Steve Alford had been interviewed more times than Hillary Clinton in the days leading up to the tournament. Many wise prognosticators of college hoops had declared New Mexico as their pick to make it to the final four. So, I’m supposed to believe that a bunch of scrappy eggheads who lost to mighty Columbia by 15 points in February, just waltz out onto the floor and beat the Lobos? Color me skeptical.

So, now the West Regional has been transformed into Revenge of the Nerds. Wonderful.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

The End Of Awards Assemblies??

There’s a story making its way around the interwebs about a principal of a middle school in Massachusetts, who allegedly cancelled an honor’s assembly because it caused too much embarrassment to underachieving students. Since the story originated with Fox News, the intelligent consumer of news must perform the necessary due diligence to make sure the facts weren’t selectively cherry-picked and only half the story told. Upon doing so I discovered that the real story isn’t quite as damning as made out to be by Fox. What actually happened was that the principal rescheduled a private “honors-only” assembly to a later assembly where the entire school would be present. Still, we do find a letter that he wrote to the parents explaining his decision that I would like to discuss. Principal David Fabrizio of Irswich Middle School opined:

“ The Honors Night, which can be a great sense of pride for the recipients’ families, can also be devastating to a child who has worked extremely hard in a difficult class but who, despite growth, has not been able to maintain a high grade point average.”

There are so many things wrong with this sort of thinking it is difficult to know where to begin, but the obvious place would be…if Principal Fabrizio believes this, then why not keep the Honors Night Assembly private? By opening up the Honors assembly to the entire school won’t he be deliberately exposing under achieving students to devastation?

When I first read his quote I thought back to my days in Middle and High School. I remembered my horrible study habits, my nonchalance, my determined refusal to bring books to class, my spotty record turning in homework. I also remember all the fun I had skipping my last class of the day to go swimming off the horseshoe bridge about a mile from school,(a record of 27 absences for the year, which I believe is still the school record). My long suffering guidance counselor, God rest her soul, would daily harangue me for my indifferent scholarship, accusing me of wasting God-given talent, with little or no regard for how these criticisms might affect my self esteem. Finally, by the middle of my junior year, I was able to right the ship, although too late to salvage a respectable GPA. I share all this to say, that I was never once “devastated” when I sat through the awards assemblies where I would see my contemporaries receiving one plaudit after another. What I was, was bored, and annoyed, but far from “devastated”.

What are middle school students made of nowadays that an awards assembly would be an occasion for such humiliation? I must say that I was very disappointed the day I realized that I didn’t have enough athletic skill to become the starting short stop for the New York Yankees, quite pissed, in fact. It was just the latest in a long line of painful; sobering bouts of self discovery that each of us must endure. No, I wasn’t the best looking guy in school. No, my 1966 VW Beetle wasn’t the hottest ride in the senior lot. No, I wouldn’t be getting that free ride to Harvard after all. But along the way I discovered skills and gifts that I possessed in abundance that many of my class mates did not. My ability, for example, to charm my way out of detention, to convince the assistant principals to look the other way when one of my practical jokes went awry, contributed mightily to my self-confidence.

We are a culture who values self esteem in our children above practically anything else. This fixation on feeling good about ourselves is what produces confused Principals like David Fabrizio. It was my Parents’ conviction that my self-esteem would grow once I learned to do something well, not before I learned to do something well. Why would my parents want me to feel good about being an under-achieving, wise-cracking  charmer? “You want to feel better about yourself? Stop acting like an idiot,” they would say. “And while you’re at it, sit still and pay attention during the awards assemblies. You might learn something!”

Once I entered the real world I learned rather quickly that my guidance counselor was right. In business, they don’t hand out participation trophies; you have to actually accomplish something. If I had actually applied myself back in school, it would have benefitted me in ways large and small. Lesson learned. If the David Fabrizios of the world have their way, we will be sending young people out into the world totally ill-equipped to deal with its inherent unfairness. Coddling kids and giving them a false sense of their own value is educational malpractice and only produces a generation of self-deluded narcissists.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

A Job Opening

In my line of work, I am something of an anomaly, since I have always been able to run a successful practice without any full time help. There are many reasons for this, primary among them being the fact that I’m cheap. That salient fact aside, I have always been able to manage my business just fine with part time secretarial and administrative employees. Now, I’m aware of all the arguments about how much more productive I would be, how much more money I could make, how much faster my business would grow if only I would hire this person and that person to help my business to that ever illusive “next level”. But the fact is I have never had a burning desire to get to the next level. What’s wrong with the level I’m on? After 30 years in the business, I do quite well. With each passing year, I’m able to work a little less than the year before. My income is just fine, most of the time. Besides, with more employees come more complications, more responsibility, and more complexity. As I get older, I want less of all three.

Anyhow, I say all this because I have recently lost my assistant, so am once again in the market for a unique individual to fill the position. I’m looking for a bright, energetic woman with computer and secretarial skills, who doesn’t want to work a ton of hours, and wants those hours to be flexible. Perhaps a mom whose kids are now in school and wants to make some extra money but still be there when they get off the bus in the afternoons. I need someone who can work between 10 and 15 hours a week. Having a good telephone voice would help, experience in the investment or insurance fields would be a huge benefit, but is not a must. I am flexible as to which days of the week would be involved, they can even vary from week to week if need be. The benefits of the job would be flexibility, pretty decent pay ( between $10 and $12 an hour depending on skill level to start ), and most of all, the chance to work for an awesome boss. I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the fact that my office is sometimes a place of rampant practical joking and adolescent high jinks are quite common, so a sense of humor and a thick skin are sometimes required.

If you’re reading this and think that I am writing about you, please call me or contact me in some way. I will not give out my number or address for obvious reasons. Besides, the person I am looking for will be resourceful enough to find me.


Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Writing A Book

For the past two months I’ve been writing a book that has turned into an obsession. It’s more than just a story, but to call it a novel sounds pretentious. But at 16 chapters with no end in sight, I suppose it qualifies. Every time I try to summarize what it’s “about”, it ends up sounding ridiculous. Let me try again…

It’s about a man who has a prodigious ability for winning games of chance, a gambling savant, who meets and falls in love with a woman who is his total opposite in every way that matters and who happens to be clairvoyant. Eventually they end up hating each other and getting a divorce, about as ugly a divorce as can be imagined since it involves, infidelity, bankruptcy, and a suicide attempt. After the protagonist’s parents pass away, he moves back into their home whereupon he starts getting nightly visits from his ex-wife in his dreams. Unknown to him, his ex-wife is seeing him in her dreams every night as well. After a while it is difficult to differentiate between reality and dreams, as the two of them try to deal with issues of forgiveness, the possibility of redemption, and the spectre of loss.

See what I mean?

But here’s the cool thing, writing a story is a little like being God. You create these characters, endow them with personality, then turn them loose to interact with each other. Sometimes you are pleased with them and the decisions they make, other times you want to smack the hell out of them. I imagine that God feels the same way looking down upon us. The big difference obviously is that I can write my characters out of trouble. In the real world, what’s done is done. Still, it has been great fun creating an entire universe of people whose fate is in my hands. I spend half my time researching details. What exactly was the color of the steel in that great big arch bridge on I-95 leading into Maine? Google Earth to the rescue, green! Then I write a couple thousand words a night, and when I’m not writing, I’m thinking about writing.

Two things I’ve come to understand over these past two months. First, I fully understand why so many novelists are crazy. Writing changes you, transforms you into someone else, a not entirely pleasant experience. Secondly, it is great fun. Creating something, no matter how amateurish, is an exhilarating experience. Although my story is not auto-biographical by any stretch, it does contain much of who I am. I can only write what I know, so my experiences inform my characters. I have no idea how it will all end. I feel as though I’m about half way done.

I’ll keep you posted.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Wonder What It's Like In Key West Today?

It is March the 18th. I wake up this morning at 6:10 to the sound of ice pellets ticking against the windows. I stumble out into the hallway; walk over to the big Palladian window that overlooks my front yard. My heart sinks. My chin drops to my chest. There’s an inch and a half film of slush covering the world, and now a mixture of sleet and freezing rain is adding to the misery. There is not one single sign of life, no dogs, cats, birds or even squirrels to be seen. Where do they go at times like these? I trudge into my office and check out the weather radar map. It shows a band of green and pink running directly through Short Pump, with an ominous blue band to the north and west. It is 33 degrees. This is not the day that the Lord has made; this day comes directly from the pit of hell courtesy of Lucifer himself.

I slump back in my chair. I grab my cell phone and open the weather gadget that shows the 7 day forecast of some of my favorite places. I flip over to Key West. Just as I suspected, the forecast for the entire week shows bright sunshine and 79 degrees, all seven days, into infinity. I remember when I was younger I used to brag about being from Virginia. Specifically, I would champion the fact that in Virginia one gets to enjoy all four seasons, and about how the changing of the seasons brought with it charm and variety. Lies, all lies.

I have a birthday coming up. I will turn 55. Seasons have become overrated. The only season that appeals to me on mornings like this is the monotonous 79 and sunny of places like Key West and San Diego. I’ve been warned about global warning for over 15 years now and, well, it can’t get here soon enough for me.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

What Is The "Good Life"?

Yesterday was our day to take dinner out to my Dad. It was the day before St. Patrick’s Day, so Pam decided to plan an Irish dinner. By 3 o’clock the kitchen was alive with activity. There would be her famous meat loaf, with a raw sliced sliver of carrot, coin-shaped hidden inside one serving. Whoever got the orange “coin” would be blessed with good luck throughout the year. There would be mashed potatoes, green beans, and homemade Irish Soda bread with raisins. For dessert she had made bright green Pistachio pie. In honor of the day, she renamed all of these dishes to suit the occasion. Meat loaf became “Blarney Stones,” dessert became “Shamrock Pie”. Then she went out and bought special green shamrock paper plates to serve the pie on, along with matching four leaf clover napkins. For Ezra she bought Irish themed stickers featuring Snoopy and Woodstock dressed up like Leprechauns. She even wrote his name at the top of a piece of green construction paper so he would have a place to stick them. The dinner was a rousing success. Everyone cleaned their plates. There were six “Blarney Stones” in the dish and only 5 of us, so in keeping with the famous Dunnevant luck; the lucky coin will appear in dad’s leftovers today.

As I watched Pam flitting about the kitchen preparing this meal, it occurred to me that a life well lived is not heralded by screaming headlines in the newspaper, rather it comes in the form of a thousand daily graces. It doesn’t come from wearing the right clothes, living in the right house or driving the right car, it comes from sharing your life with people who take care of the details with tenderness, people for whom the little things in life aren’t little at all. The “good life” is the sum total of these tender moments. My wife’s talent for transforming the routine into something extraordinary has made for me and our family a remarkable life. Even after nearly 30 years together, her loving kindness still astonishes me.

Want some marital advice? Marry the right woman.

Friday, March 15, 2013

I Have A Problem

 Dear Compassionate Reader,


I have a password problem. I love technology as much as the next guy. Seems like every week I discover some new urber-cool app that I just HAVE to have.(Not really, I am 54 after all). However, what with my business needs, personal finance demands as well as the occasional entertainment app, I am constantly being asked for a username and password to gain entry into the glorious world of the World Wide Web. So, what’s the problem, you ask? The problem is that I can’t keep up with them.

All of the cyber security folks out there are constantly encouraging me to come up with original, difficult to hack passwords. Apparently, the internet is populated with nefarious geeks bent on world domination, whose goal in life is to gain entry into my Spotify account and wreak havoc. Ok, I get it. But the more in decipherable my password is, the less likely I will ever remember it without adding it to my dog-eared password and username cheat sheet. Yes, that’s right sports fans; I have a single sheet of paper with all of my usernames and passwords written out. Now, I’m painfully aware that it would be better if I had them in some encrypted file somewhere on my computer, but I’m not savvy enough for that. So, I carry around my trusted cheat sheet. It’s like my digital keychain. It has passwords for 19 different websites and apps. If ever I were to lose this thing, my life would be over.

In addition to that potential nightmare, there’s the related problem of all the places I go where I have established a username and password, failed to write them down, so I can’t gain access.( Hello, Twitter, GoodReads and Soundcloud). I’m aware that admitting my failures in this regard will open me up to howls of laughter from my young tech-savvy friends, but so be it. I need help. I would ask my wife for help since she is the All-Knowing, Strikingly Gorgeous, Internet Goddess in my house, but I’m thinking it would less humiliating to be schooled by a twenty-something know it all than Pam. Just sayin’.

So, hit me up with the sarcastic jabs, and then offer some guidance for your old friend.


Clueless In Cyberspace,


Thursday, March 14, 2013

NOOOO!! Is That Meeting Today?? NOOOO!!!

I was awake before the alarm went off this morning. Today is one of the two or three days of the year that I dread the most, the day I meet with my accountant and give him my 6 inch stack of paper so he can prepare my tax return.

The very idea that I should have to save these scraps of paper in my tax shoe box all year, then pay my guy $750 bucks to construct my 50 page return galls me like nothing else in this world. Less you think I’m some 1% billionaire, think again. I am only a reasonably successful small business owner. However, because of the complexities of the tax scheme under which we labor, I began employing accountants over 25 years ago to fight my battles for me. When I sign off on the thick volume of forms, schedules, and summaries that he produces, something inside me becomes enraged. Why should I be forced to do this? How can filing taxes have become such an arcane exercise so hopelessly beyond the capabilities of mere mortals?

The worst part is I don’t even know how to help my kids file their own taxes. When you’ve had it done for you for longer than either of your children has been alive, you become worthless to them, unable to answer even the most basic of questions.

So, my meeting will go something like this:

Accountant: Ok, Doug, I see you’ve got all your receipts. Good. What kind of year did you have in 2012?

Me: Terrible.

Accountant: Sorry to hear that. So, you made less money?

Me: No, a little more, which means I’ll probably lose the ability to deduct something and end up having to pay more.

Accountant: Ha! Doug, you are so funny!


Accountant: Doug, I see here that you only sent the IRS $2500 in December, not the $4000 that we had agreed on, any particular reason?

Me: A very good reason…I didn’t have enough money in my account to cover a $4000 check, so I gave them what I had.

Accountant: I see…. Well, my preliminary calculations indicate that you will probably owe a bit more this year, but it might not be too bad.


Accountant: I’ll have this return back to you in a couple of weeks.

 “Not too bad” turns out to be an outrageous lie. I owe an insane amount of money to the Feds and the State. I scrape together the money and pay what I owe, since the last person on earth you want to have as a creditor is the Internal Revenue Service. I survive to fight another day.

This nation once had the stones to put a man on the moon, whip the Germans twice in 30 years, and invent Jazz, but can’t figure out how to tax its citizens in a way that doesn’t involve a 67,000 page tax code.


Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Do You Need Some Nanny-ing?

The modern, Welfare State is sometimes referred to by its critics as the “Nanny State”. The term “nanny” can, of course, refer to either a hired nanny who serves as a substitute for the mother too busy for work so mundane as raising children, or it can also refer to one’s grandmother. In either case, we all understand what the roll of a nanny is, ie…to force us to do unpleasant things that left to our own devices we would not bother to do, like eat our vegetables, brush our teeth, do our homework, take out the trash, pick our clothes up off the floor, make our beds etc..

Renowned British-born and seldom watched talk show host Piers Morgan recently objected to the nanny State criticism, saying that he thought most people needed a little nanny-ing every once in a while, so why shouldn’t the State provide it? Now, let’s think this concept through.

Do I ever need “ nanny-ing” ? The honest answer is, yes. Nowadays, I get a little nanny-ing from my wife now and then, since she is the one most likely trying to get me to do stuff that’s good for me. She might shoot me a nasty look when I pick up that 7th cookie from the plate thirty minutes before dinner and say something like, “What, are you like in fifth grade?! Stop eating those cookies before dinner! It will ruin your appetite.”  I drop the cookie and slink away before she realizes that I have two more in my pocket. But, now, let’s examine how this example of nanny-ing is different from government provided Nanny-ing.

Pam’s nanny-ing costs me nothing, except temporary embarrassment. Government Nanny-ing costs all of us plenty. Government would seek to prevent me from eating seven cookies and pilfering another two by limiting the amount of raw sugar my wife is allowed to purchase at the grocery store, which in turn drives up the cost of sugar, creates a black market for cookies and turns the Cookie-Monster into public enemy number one, severely crushing Sesame Street’s ratings resulting in ever higher government subsidies for Public television. It’s the Iron-Clad law of unintended consequesnces.

Mayor Bloomberg sees New Yorkers with huge beer bellies everywhere he looks, so in his roll as Nanny-In-Chief decides to arbitrarily reduce the size of fountain drinks sold within the city. So now, Joe the Plumber can’t get his Big-Gulp, so in frustration, goes to his local bar instead where there are no intake restrictions, which results in some of the shoddiest plumbing work seen in New York since the great toilet scandal of 1916, increased alcoholism in the Plumbers Union resulting in a new government study into why Plumbers drink so much.

The lesson should be clear, even for third rate British television personalities. Although nanny-ing may be a minor annoyance in your own home, it doesn’t result in higher taxes for your neighbors, which makes it profoundly more desirable than the government kind.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Baptist vs. Catholic

I must confess that I know very little of the history of the Catholic Church. I couldn’t name 5 Popes. Oh, I know something of the Vatican, the incredible art that lives within its walls etc. but as far as the business of the church, I am clueless. But on the rare occasions when it’s time to elect a Pope, I become fascinated.

First there’s the red-robed Cardinals walking around in circles chanting stuff and looking terrible solemn. Then there’s the walk over to the Sistine Chapel where the security detail guards dressed in the coolest uniforms ever lock the doors, shielding the 115 cardinals from the outside world. Once inside these fine feathered gentlemen will take 4 votes a day until there’s a two thirds majority agreement. Once agreement is reached on the next infallible man, a hastily erected chimney on the top of the chapel will belch white smoke as a sign to the faithful that a new Pope has been chosen. Now, let me tell you, these Catholics can teach the rest of us a thing or two about drama!

Can you imagine the Southern Baptist Convention going through these histrionics to elect a new…what do you even call the head of Southern Baptists anyway? First of all, you probably couldn’t get 115 Baptists to agree on a building to be locked away in, besides which, it would take two years to pick the 115, for fear that some annoying moderate might slip through the cracks. And, can you imagine those 115 Baptists being able to keep a secret long enough to start a fire to break the news to the world? Half of them will have tweeted the results within 15 seconds of the vote! Oh, I think the head guy is called the President.

Anyway, the Catholics have always done pageantry better than anyone. The most dyed in the wool atheist alive would feel some sense of reverence upon entering the Sistine Chapel, for example. Regardless of one’s theological proclivities, there’s something overpowering about the profound reverence one feels upon entering a Catholic church. They’re all so dimly lit, so magisterial, so quiet. What, with the flickering candlelight, stained glass, and people kneeling all over the place, it makes you check yourself to make sure you look presentable.

Now, I couldn’t take a steady diet of all that formality and ritual, but I have to say as a Baptist, that I do long for a more serious, humble experience in church every once in a while. Our services more resemble a Kiwanis club luncheon with all the glad-handing, laughter, and jokes flying around. “Greet someone around you who you haven’t met before, church!” the pastor extols while lively music rings from the rafters.  For all of Baptist rhetoric about how God is so Holy and such a righteous judge, we sure do a lot of shucking and jiving in his presence. Most of the folks I’ve seen in the pews of a Catholic Church look like they are so deep in thought that the last thing they want to do is shake hands with a stranger. Of course, it’s always difficult to be glib and informal by candle light.

Don’t get me wrong, I have no desire to convert to Catholicism. It’s a theological mess for one thing, biblically incoherent and just plain creepy at times, but whenever it’s time to elect a Pope, I do envy them their seriousness, their sense of history, purpose, and the grandeur of their style. They do the Glory of God better than anyone on the planet, and in 2013 there are worse things a church can be known for.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Three Movie Reviews

Pam and I watched three movies that had Oscar nominations over the weekend. The first was Anna Karenina, then Hitchcock, and finally Argo. Here follows three brief reviews:

 The great Tolstoy book was placed on screen in an almost surreal way with the heavy use of 3rd party dream sequences that were a bit confusing at times, but I would sit down and watch Keira Knightley for two hours in practically anything, her of the beguilingly crooked teeth but amazing beauty and talent. Jude Law is terrific as Anna’s faithful husband, while the dude who plays Count Vronsky is positively dreadful. His only qualifications for the roll seem to have been his striking blue eyes and the fact that he “looks Russian”. Karenina is a great story of infatuation, temptation and the wages of sin, great book, mediocre film. The costumes and photography were amazingly well done, and the despite its 2 and a half hour running time, the story moves right along. Still, when Knightly wasn’t on camera, I was bored.

 I love Alfred Hitchcock. I’ve seen all his movies multiple times. I believe him to be one of the few real geniuses in cinematic history. I also love Anthony Hopkins, who may be one of the two or three best actors alive today. So, what was not to like? Enjoyed every minute of this film, which essentially tells the story of the making of Psycho, of how Hitchcock was considered old and over the hill, and couldn’t get Paramount to approve the movie so he financed it himself by mortgaging his house in exchange for 49% of the profits. Of course, the rest as they say is history. Great performance by Hopkins. I especially loved the 98 minute running time, as if the ghost of Hitchcock was in charge of editing!

 Finally we watched the 2012 Best Picture winner…Argo. Terrific picture. Suspenseful, great pacing, amazing actors. In short, it deserved its awards. The fact that Affleck didn’t receive a Best Director nomination just proves how screwed up is “the Academy.” I lived through the 1979 hostage crisis with Iran. I remember it very well. As I watched the film I kept thinking, here it is 34 years later and we have learned absolutely nothing. We’re still hip deep in Iran’s business, still getting our guys killed in Afghanistan, still rubbing shoulders with towel-heads from Jordan to Yemen, WHY??? Nothing good has ever come from fooling around in the Middle East. Can we just develop our natural gas reserves here and tell the whole lot of them to hit the road?! I say Frack, Frack, Frack and then Frack some more until we have to buy ZERO barrels of oil from the Abdul’s of the world, then we’ll see what becomes of their “civilization”. But, I digress. Argo was amazing. Who knew that Ben Affleck had actual talent?

Friday, March 8, 2013

Justin Bieber's Gas Mask...As Predictable As The Tides

What do the following people have in common?

Lindsay Lohan, Britney Spears, Whitney Houston, Charlie Sheen, Rihanna, Michael Jackson, Elvis Presley, and now Justin Bieber?

They are all American entertainers who burst on the scene with All-American charm and good-looks and a certain naïve innocence, only to be transformed into raving lunatics. Three on the list are dead by their own hands, the other five, not yet.

This morning in my round up of the morning news I am treated to a picture of Justin Bieber wearing a gas mask, and a headline informing me that the 19 year old had collapsed onstage and been taken to the hospital. The sad truth is that nobody in America is surprised. This is what happens here, this is what we do to famous people.

It probably doesn’t help keeping one’s own self-image in perspective when at age 19 you already have your own line of designer toothbrushes. Must be difficult to maintain humility when before you’re even old enough to take a drink, you have enough money to buy the brewery. So, seeing Bieber’s boyish face covered with a gas mask surrounded by body guards and paparazzi seems the most normal thing in the world at 7 in the morning. TMZ will have all the details tonight, but the story will be so old hat, it will probably end up third in the queue behind Rihanna’s latest porn video or Lindsay Lohan’s latest court appearance.

Fame in America has become a ticket to insanity, a cycle as predictable as the tides. First we discover the latest fresh face on America’s Got Talent or American Idol. We fall in love with the voice, the style, the possibility of greatness. Then our new hero has hit after hit, sells a billion records, and before they know what has hit them, there’s an “Inc.” at the end of their name. Then come the endorsements, the round the clock exposure, the superhuman schedule, magazine covers, televised interviews. Before long rumors swirl about wild parties, drunkenness and drug use. Then pictures surface of violent clashes with cameramen. A sex tape emerges as sure as the sun rising in the east. They develop a reputation for being “difficult” to work with. Showing up 2 hours late for everything becomes commonplace. Then we’re treated to a series of hook-ups with other equally young, rich, and ungrounded celebrity types. Eventually there will be run-ins with the law, DUI’s, and the unavoidable paternity suit/ unplanned pregnancy. The cycle most likely ends with our hero hold up in a Xanadu of their own making wasting away into madness. The nation mourns at the inevitable news of their tragic and untimely end.

Momma’s, don’t let your babies grow up to be famous.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Snow Day, And Some "Epic" News

Dave Tolleris, the bloviating know-it-all meteorologist of Facebook , spent the better part of two weeks hyping the snow-storm of the century, and calling the TV guys who disagreed with him idiots and morons. Then, yesterday morning, he confessed on the radio that he had blown the forecast and we weren’t going to get anything. So I go to bed last night with zero expectations.

I wake up this morning and it’s snowing like crazy, with 2 or 3 inches on the ground with more coming. I go into the office only to find that my 10:30 appointment has been rescheduled. I grab some paperwork that I can do at home and returned to a warm house and the smell of freshly made homemade blueberry pancakes. Life is good, especially when arrogant spotlight hogs get their comeuppance.

So, today, I will spend the day at home with my wife, do a little paperwork, and spend the rest of the day writing. Then by around 3 or so in the afternoon, I will start to feel the famous Dunnevant personality disorder...claustrophobia.  Pam will roll her eyes at me and say, “Go ahead! There’s nothing I can say to stop you anyway, you strange man,” and I will head over to AMFAM for a workout, partly because today is Wednesday and it’s time, but mostly because if I don’t get in the car and drive somewhere, I’m going to pull my hair out or force Pam to, one or the other. It is one of several personality disorders that she has so ably learned to live with over the past 29 years.

Oh, and one more thing. Since most of us are at home doing nothing but surfing the net, just thought I’d share this news item. I beat Kim Davis at Words With Friends, actually “beat” is an insufficient modifier, more like humiliated. Anyway the score was 517- 290, and no, you read that right, 517 points. If I didn’t know better I would suggest that maybe Elle had played me instead of Kim. Be that as it may, now that I have broadcast this epic triumph over these interwebs, I guess I should let it go and not keep bring it up every time I see her.

Or not.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013


As a Preacher’s kid, I feel uniquely qualified to speak on the following subject, to wit, preacher-speak, that annoying foreign tongue employed in the pulpit and nowhere else on planet earth. I recently heard a sermon that could have served as a primary source for someone writing a Doctoral dissertation on the subject of preacher-speak. First, a definition:

   Preacher-speak is the strange collection of arcane phrases, verbal tics, and butchered syntax that comes forth from the mouths of preachers, and then gets repeated on Saturday Night Live every time they do a skit making fun of religion.

Now, a few examples:


1.     The magic word that transforms any simple declarative sentence into a question demanding a reply, the word “AMEN”.  For example, “ It sure was cold this morning, AMEN?”, to which the audience feels compelled to either laugh, or answer back with “AMEN’s” of our own. This is a perfect example of a phrase that I have never heard uttered in a non-clerical conversation in my life, but am treated to ad-nauseam on Sunday mornings. Imagine sitting around with your friends watching Downton Abbey, and saying, “That Thomas is one conniving snake, AMEN?” I prefer my preachers to get their “”AMEN’s” the old fashioned way, by earning them! Say something profound, inspiring, illustrate an eternal truth with zeal and poignancy and you’ll get your AMEN. Otherwise, stop begging for them!


2.     The word “church” being used instead of “ladies and gentlemen”, or “folks”. This is a relatively new construct first used by ministers of music,” Sing with me, Church”, but now co-opted by preachers. I understand that we, the body of believers are sometimes referred to as THE church, but to drop the pronoun makes the term sound corny and forced resulting in some tortured sentences, “It’s 2013, and I say it’s high time that the CHURCH act like the CHURCH, right CHURCH…AMEN?”


3.     The famous, three syllable pronunciation of the word…BELOVED, or be-love-eddd. Again, when is the last time anyone has ever used this word, pronounced this way outside of a church building? “I call this meeting of the board of directors of XYZ company to order, and BE-LOVE-EDDD, we are losing money hand over fist!”


4.     Then there’s the plethora of words and phrases meant to convey the familial quality that the church is supposed to have but often does not. Among them are, Brethren, church-family, and a new one I stumbled upon recently, loved ones. My personal opinion is that of you throw these types of descriptive words around about your church, you are compensating for something. And, BRETHREN? Seriously? What about SISTREN?


So, anyway, God bless all of our preachers out there who have a terribly difficult job. There exists no amount of money that would induce me to take their job. But, guys, do yourselves and the rest of us a huge favor. Lose the corny formulations and talk like normal people…AMEN?

Monday, March 4, 2013

What A Weekend!

The Belmont University Chamber Singers stormed through Short pump over the weekend. Their humongous charter bus rolled into our unsuspecting neighborhood around 4 in the afternoon Saturday. As they spilled out of the bus with characteristic collegiate energy and enthusiasm, I was reminded of that old Keystone Cop gag from the 20’s where an endless stream of cops keeps pouring out of the same paddy wagon. They kept coming and coming and coming. Our house isn’t small by any definition, but once all 29 of them had filled the place, it felt very tiny. While Pam and her invaluable helpers, Linda and Donna scurried about preparing to feed this invasion, they began what would be an hour long rehearsal in our living room, amazing pre-dinner entertainment, from some supremely talented kids and their manic director, Dr. Deen Entsminger.

Then they all sat down for dinner, served by the most unqualified and poorly trained wait staff ever assembled…ie, er, ME. I took drink orders from three different tables, then promptly lost the order sheet, whereupon chaos broke out and several patrons didn’t get their drinks until chocolate éclair cake was being served. But the kids were so amazingly patient and gracious, not to mention well mannered that it didn’t seem to matter. They ate like they hadn’t had a decent meal in weeks. Afterwards, they all showered us with “thank-yous”, and hugs all around, making it such a pleasure to serve them. After dinner, our wonderful group of volunteers arrived to pick up their assigned kids. It took seven separate families to step up for this assignment, none of whom know any of these kids are have any connection to Belmont University, and yet, here they were with smiles on their faces, opening up their homes for three nights. The four girls that stayed here were about as lovely and adorable a group of young ladies as we could possibly have hoped for.

The four song set they performed yesterday at church was beautiful, and extremely well-received by the folks at Grove, even though it’s not the style of music that we are accustomed to. The weekend couldn’t possibly have gone any better.

When I read the news reports out of our nation’s capital every morning, and bear witness to the colossal mess that my generation and others have made of our world, I am encouraged beyond words to see that we have a very strong bench. Maybe we should just step aside and let them at it, since it’s hardly possible that they could do any worse, and very likely that they would do much better.

So, our thanks to Belmont University, Dr, Deen Entsminger, and the parents of these students for giving us the chance to borrow your kids for the weekend. Well done.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Preparing For Some Great Music And Some Great People

At the Dunnevant estate we are currently bracing for the arrival of the Belmont University Chamber Singers. We have been preparing for this day for over a month now. My wife very deviously used this occasion as an excuse to unleash a fevered redecorating blitz that has consumed our energies and the balances of our bank accounts. Thanks to Dr. Deen Ensminger, Pam’s co-conspirator, I have been forced to hang a hundred pictures, assemble bookcases, and hang new hand towel racks and toilet paper dispensers. We have sanded, painted, scrubbed and scraped every nook and cranny of this house, all so that the Belmont Chamber Singers will feel properly cared for, a choir in which our Son is no longer a member, from a university he no longer attends. Such is the depth of the love and devotion we feel towards this amazing collection of young people and their inspiring leader, Dr. E.

Tonight, all 30 of them, bus driver included, will gather here for a dinner prepared mostly by my wife with substantial help from several friends who were overcome with compassion for our plight. Then we will all go hear them make amazing music at their first concert of the weekend at a location that I can’t recall. Then four of the girls will come back here to spend the first of 3 nights as our guests.

This whole thing brings back a flood of wonderful memories for both of us. For nearly ten years, this was our life, cooking for, entertaining, and caring for hordes of hormonally ravaged young people who would descend upon us with no warning. Somehow, there was always enough food and drink to make it all work, and amazingly enough, we never tired of them. To have the privilege of influence in the life of young people, no matter how small or great is a reward beyond price. Of course, the reason so much money and effort had to be spent to fix the place up for the Chamber Singers was because of the great devastation brought on by ten years of Grovers.

They should arrive in 5 hours or so. Everything is about ready. How lucky are we?

Friday, March 1, 2013

HEADLINES!!!! Coming Soon To A Newspaper Near You

On this, March the first, the first day of Obamageddon, it’s time to gird our loins for the next big calamity. Yes, my fellow Americans, there is always a next big calamity and this one comes at the end of March. It concerns something called a “continuing resolution”. That’s the contraption that this particular Congress of misfits has fashioned together to replace what we’re supposed to have in its place…a budget. Well, this continuing resolution thing expires at the end of March, and without either a budget or a new continuing resolution, the entire government will shut down, making the debt ceiling fight, the fiscal cliff kerfuffle, and the sequestration battle seem like child’s play. Of course the bigger problem for Washington might be the crisis-fatigue of the American people. We have been dragged to the edge of so many cliffs over the past 10 years or so, at some point when something truly horrible is about to happen we’re going to have ignored the warnings out of sheer exhaustion. So, as a public service, I have taken the liberty of designing the headline page for the next crisis. Newspapers like the New York Times and the Washington Post should consider my suggestions, they can even use them word for word without attribution. Consider it my civic duty.


 Government Shutdown Looms!!!

This Time, They’re serious!!

These aren’t just cuts, this is the real thing, no government checks of any kind!

Women and children hardest hit!

Suicide rates expected to soar!

Honest To God…this is the big one!

We’re not screwing around this time!

Entire U.S. Army to be placed on leave

Planes will fall from the sky

Raging fires to spread due to lack of first responders

Welfare checks to dry up March 1…NAACP scared shitless

Wall Street veterans contemplate getting “real Job” once Government freebies end

Maxine Waters, Jesse Jackson, and Al Sharpton call government shutdown “racist”

Obama said to be “really, really pissed”

Mitt Romney having the time of his life on huge Romney family vacation in Branson, Missouri