Saturday, October 31, 2015

Halloween, past and present.

Halloween. It's a day filled with very mixed emotions for me. I love watching the little ones and their costumes. I love the sound of their little voices and the wide-eyed expressions on their painted faces. But I despise the older teenagers with their ironic non-costumes holding out their pillow cases for free candy. Although I do for the most part enjoy the fun of it all, there's always that neighbor that seems just a wee bit too fond of the festivities. You know the one...nary a candle in sight at Christmas, but on Halloween, his house looks like the set of Psycho.

When my kids were young, Pam insisted on no scary costumes, which often meant she ended up making them herself, with amazing results:

Just look at the year of the Dalmations! Whenever I see that picture I want so badly to travel back in time to relive that moment. It was magical. But then I remember another Halloween that featured my single biggest failure as a parent, an ill-conceived threat made to a tantrum-throwing child to not let her go Trick or Treating if she didn't get ahold of herself...which I foolishly and stubbornly enforced to the very much not make believe horror of my wife! Needless to say, that's a night I'd like to have back!

Twenty years ago there was a faction of friends in our church who were very much in the anti-Halloween camp. It was their view that the holiday conflicted with Christian teaching, and was dangerous because of its glorification of demonic themes and such. I always thought they were nuts. Watching my adorable children walking around the neighborhood dressed like Pooh Bear and Tigger was about the most wonderful thing ever. Besides, my kids thought that the alternative fall festival at church had lame candy....or maybe it was me who thought that. It was a long time ago and I'm easily confused.

Tonight, Pam and I will sit on our front porch and hand out the goodies, hoping that Lucy doesn't lose what is left of her mind at the spectacle of it all. I will compliment the children on their costumes, and try my sarcastic best to shame the free-loading and humorless big kids. Then, we will have our first fire pit of the year, and roast some hotdogs for our Liberty nursing students. 

It's going to be a fun night!

Friday, October 30, 2015

Who Cares, right?

In case you happened to miss it, during the dead of night, our courageous Congress just rushed through a new spending plan that adds a trillion more dollars to the National Debt. In the process, the happy spenders in both parties finally rid themselves of the accursed sequestration limitations that they themselves had imposed to force discipline on themselves, since they were rightly convinced that neither party could be trusted to stop piling on to the debt without it. Now, everyone is happy. The Republicans get more military spending, the Democrats get more welfare spending, and the American people get another trillion of debt piled on their backs. Everyone is happy. Everyone, that is, except Senator Rand Paul, the reluctant Presidential candidate from the State of Kentucky. Last night he took to the floor of the Senate to give the shortest filibuster speech in history, a twenty minute stem winder that included this nugget:

"This filibuster will go on to about 1:00 in the morning and then we will find out who the true conservatives in this town are!"

It turns out that there are about eight of them.

The establishment Republicans were quick to point out that this was in no way an abandonment of conservative principles, since all the new spending was totally offset by reductions in other spending. What they weren't as eager to point out was that these offsets are scheduled to kick in ten years from now when, hopefully, most of this current crop of spenders are dead! Oh, and just to make this deal even more perfect, it features that most time honored tradition of Washington budgetary quackery, it speeds up by one month a 2.3 billion dollar payment from November to October to make the numbers add up.


So, once again, the wheels of leviathan grind on. Politicians pay lip service to balancing the budget and reining in the debt while doing the exact opposite. But at this point, will an extra trillion here or there really matter? What the heck? Let's just pretend that none of this budget stuff matters. Let's believe in the growth fairy, let's keep letting the Federal Reserve print more money. As long as we keep building more weapons and dreaming up new entitlements, who really cares? 

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Who's at Fault in Columbia?


And this, ladies and gentlemen, is at the root of what happened in Columbia, South Carolina. We have all seen the video by now, a school police officer dragging a student out of a chair and then throwing her across the room. We see twenty seconds of a confrontation and must fill in the rest of the story with our imaginations. The battle lines have already been drawn. Some are lining up in full support of the cop, others are blaming the school teacher and administrators for failing to maintain order. Others are blaming the cop and are ascribing to him racist intentions. Many fewer are blaming the student for her insubordination. So, once again, thanks to a cell phone video, we find ourselves in the midst of another divisive social tinderbox. But all I can think about is my many encounters with teachers and administrators during my time in the public schools. Times have changed.

Two incedents come to mind, one from Elementary school and another from Middle School. I should state up front that I was the sort of student who had a habit of finding trouble. I was generally well liked by my teachers, but caused them mountains of trouble since I had ADHD before anyone even knew what that was. My parents were called in for conferences so often, they were on a first name basis with everyone in the Principle's office. But, the vast majority of my misdeeds were house, and mostly by my teachers. For example...

My fifth grade year, I had a giant of a black man for a teacher...Mr. Northington, tall, impeccably well dressed and movie star handsome. He was the kind of teacher who you could never pull a fast one on. It was as if he had eyes in the back of his head. Anyway, one day, out on the playground during recess, I happened to see one of the school bullies knock one of the smaller kids down on the ground and then start to kick dirt on him. This particular kid was a truly obnoxious bully, a fourth grader, I think. For some reason, this particular episode riled me up to the point that I took it upon myself to confront the bully and before long the two of us were wrestling on the ground and drawing a crowd. Of course, Mr. Northington saw us and came over to break it up, but only after waiting until I was on top of the kid. Then he sat us both down and gave us the "violence is never the answer" speech and sent us both to the Principle's office where I received a days suspension, which was waived in exchange for me staying after school to help the janitor clean out the toilets every afternoon for a week! But the next day, Mr. Northington sat me down and told me that he was proud of me for taking up for the kid who had been bullied. Apparently, he had been watching everything from beginning to end and waited as long as he could before breaking up the fight. It never occurred to me until later that both Mr. Northington and the little kid who got pushed down into the dirt...were both black.

Later, in Middle School, me and a buddy of mine decided that we would play a trick on another bully, this one too big and mean to confront physically. We had gym class together and this dude was constantly harassing all of the skinny, unathletic kids. So my friend and I came up with the brilliant plan of sneaking into the locker room, stealing his pants and flying them up the school flag pole while he was busy playing four square outside. Somehow, our gym teacher instantly knew it was me who was responsible so that afternoon we were called to the Principle's office over the loud speaker. Our principle was a beast, big and loud with a marine's haircut and a highly polished wooden paddle hanging from a nail on the wall behind his desk. He lets my buddy off on a technicality then turns to me..."Dunnevant? How come everyone knew that you were the one behind this? Have you ever wondered about that?" Then he laid out my choices for punishment..." Three licks, or three days?" I always chose the licks, that way, my parents didn't have to find out about it. But, just before administering the blows, he says to me..."For what it's worth Doug, Tommy deserved it, and I liked your style!"

I relate these stories to illustrate the seismic shift that has occurred in the classroom over the last fifty years. When I was in school, the teacher was the law! If I ever came home complaining about one of my teachers, my parents always took the teacher's side. They always assumed that the teacher was right, and if I was having trouble with her or him it was because I was a knucklehead. Consequently, I always was a little bit afraid of my teachers, because I knew that they had the power to make my life miserable. Today, teachers and administrators have to call in police officers to remove defiant students from class, because they are prohibited from laying a hand on a student. Students know this, and behave accordingly. 

Do I approve of the heavy handiness of this particular police officers' tactics? No. But, it never should have come to this. It's past time to restore the authority of teachers and administrators to discipline disruptive students. And while we're at it, how about we ban cell phones from inside the classroom?

Can't Believe I Fell Asleep!

Game one of the 2015 World Series is in the books, and I'm kicking myself for falling asleep after the Royals tied the game at 3 in the bottom of the 6th. While I slept another eight pressure packed innings were played, complete with a game tying home run by Alex Gordon in the bottom of the eighth, a Buckneresk error by first baseman Eric Hosmer, stellar relief pitching, and then Hosmer gaining redemption by ending the game with a sacrifice fly to give the win to the Royals in the bottom of the 14th. Holy Crap.

And, if all that wasn't enough, I learn that after his 6 innings of work, Royals starter, Edison Volquez, having gone to the clubhouse to watch the game on TV, is informed by his wife that his Dad had passed away earlier in the day. He sent his teammates a group text to congratulate them on their amazing comeback victory and to tell them about the loss of his father. Volquez became the third Royal to lose a parent this season.

I know that the quickest way to lose readers of this blog is to write about sports in general and baseball in particular. In The America of the 21st century, baseball has lost a lot on it's fastball. To many it seems slow and old. When a game goes extra innings and lasts over five hours, the long knives come out for the baseball haters out there. But for me, this the most "team" of all team sports, which features a series of one on one match-ups, still captivates. Despite my shameful decision to get some sleep before a long day coming up, it was the very first thing I looked up at 6 am this morning. Who won the game?? When I read the news, I vowed to watch every game through to it's conclusion the rest of the series, even though I have no rooting interest one way or the other. I suppose, if pressed, I would prefer that the Royals win, since, well...New York. But for me and a rapidly declining legion of people like me, what matters It's the series, it matters not who the teams are. It's a best of seven match-up between the American and National League champions, slugging it out after a 162 game season, the lightening round sprint to the finish of a grinding marathon. I will not miss another inning.

When I discover that a new acquaintance is a baseball fan, it covers a whole host of sins. I can overlook a person's communist affiliations, their strident atheism, even their vegan eating habits once I learn that they are passionate about the game. We then become friends, no other questions asked. What unites us is just greater than what divides least while the game is on. And that's a start, right?

Long live baseball.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Things Could Get A Lot Worse

I see that the world didn't magically fix itself while I was away. No matter how often or how long I remove myself from the daily grind of life, when I return the world is just as screwed up as it was when I left. But, at least it hasn't gotten worse, and yes, things could get a lot worse. How, you ask?

A stock purchasing algorithm malfunctions, causing a 2000 point drop in the Dow Jones industrial average, the ripple effects of which cause a global financial panic, wiping out the retirement savings of a half a billion people.

One of the refugees pouring into Europe from the Middle East carries with him an exotic bacterial infection that spreads like wildfire throughout a camp outside of Berlin, killing thousands and causing the German people to rise up against their government, killing Angela Merkle and establishing the Fourth Reich.

On his first day on the job, a young North Korean lieutenant inadvertently initiates the launch code for a nuclear attack on Seoul, South Korea. The only person who can stop the launch sequence is the supreme leader, Kim-Jong-un, who has left explicit instructions not to be disturbed while he spends an afternoon pulling the wings off of butterflies. Three million people are wiped out in the ensuing inferno.

Nick Saban dies of a sudden, massive heart attack, setting off an unprecedented wave of suicides throughout the State of Alabama.

The entire political landscape in the United States is blown up when it is revealed by the National Enquirer that George Soros and Charlie Koch have been involved in an ongoing sexual relationship for the past ten years. 

See? Things could get a lot worse!

Monday, October 26, 2015

A Rock and a Hard Place

There is a dark and ominous cloud on the horizon of American political life. It's off in the distance, bleak and menacing, and for the moment at least, a year away. But make no mistake, it's out there, large and getting larger with each passing day, gestating into a level five storm of epic proportion. I know it's coming, despite the mind games I play inside my head trying to pretend it isn't there. I know...that as sure as night follows day, in November of 2016, I will walk into a voting booth and be asked by my country to choose between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. It will be the political version of Sophie's choice, the mother of all conundrums, a rock and a hard place of galactic difficulty, the devil or the deep blue pantsuit.

Not very long ago, it would have been unthinkable that someone as boorish and superficial as Donald Trump would be considered presidential material; he of the orange hair, the serial trophy wives, the limited vocabulary, and slimy business dealings. Generally speaking, reality television has not been considered the preferred career path for someone who aspires to become the leader of the free world. But this is 2015 and apparently anything is possible. When my finger is poised, trembling, over the lever a year from now, I will try to imagine The Donald sitting across the table from some dignified head of state saying, "By the way, you do know that I'm way richer than you, right?" A more appropriate slogan for his campaign would have been, Make America Groan Again.

Then my eyes will be diverted to the name beside the capital D...Hillary Clinton. At this point drops of sweat will be forming on my brow as I contemplate the hole in the space time continuum that might open up if I actually pull the lever for this fiendishly clever, real life Lady Macbeth. The specter of such an accomplishment-free, pathological liar running lose in the White House for the next four years is surpassed in horror only by the specter of her husband becoming first dude. The promise of a smooth transition to Chelsea in 2024 will be of little comfort to me as I consider rubber-stamping phase two of the Clinton Oligarchy.

It's usually at this point of my recurring nightmare when I wake up soaked in sweat, clutching my pillow in a death grip. But in November of 2016, I fear that it won't be a dream. I will actually have to decide between these two. Of course, I could always boycott the election altogether, or write in someone else, but I've never liked either of those options. Both of them seem like abdicating my civic responsibility. So, I will choose. As surreal as it sounds, I would vote for Hillary, basically because a Trump v. Clinton ballot is a Hobson's choice. The world is simply too fragile a place to entrust to a man like Donald Trump. The Presidency isn't a trophy that one places on a mantle right next to the gold framed photograph of Mike Tyson. It's a deadly serious job meant for someone who is, well...deadly serious. Hillary is at least deadly. Perhaps wearing the weight of being the first female President might temper her more foolish tendencies. Maybe actually having already lived in the place for eight years might have given her a respect for the White House and a finer appreciation of it's limits. Or not.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

What a Trip!

Just got back from the Smoky Mountains. It's at these times when you wonder how it is that three days with your kids goes by in a flash, but a 7 hour car trip home seems like an eternity. It's after the trips when you miss them even more than you did before you left. Odd, that.

Anyway, it was a wonderful three days. There was a lot of this sort of thing going on...

Even more of this...

And this...

An plenty of this...


I surprised all present, (especially myself) when I opted out of the Zip-lining. It occurred to me that since the braking system of this particular activity required primarily only one thing...a strong right shoulder, I might not be the ideal candidate at this particular time. As soon as I announced my intentions not to participate, Pam immediately checked my forehead to see if I was running a fever.

So, the fastest three days of the year are over. We are back home, and Kaitlin and Patrick are back where they belong. We will see them again over the Holidays, then there will be the long absence that always begins on Janurary the 1st and ends some time during the summer. Hopefully someday, we will become accustomed to it. For now, I'm just grateful that I am able to bring everyone together for these sort of trips. I am never more proud of my kids and what they have made of themselves than I am after seeing them up close for a few days. 

One month until Thanksgiving. Sigh....

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Friday Rocked

Friday was absolutely stellar. Patrick and Sarah arrived around 10:30 and we finally got to meet THIS guy

He is beautiful and very, very large. His front paws are as wide as my fist and he towers over Jackson who adores him and follows him all around the cabin. Adorable. 

After our burrito breakfast we decided to head into town to take on the toboggan ride. We pulled into the parking lot, bought our tickets and walked right in. Pam didn't have a thirty minute line wait to screw up her courage, so she was thrown off stride. Great fun. Faster than I remembered. Sarah survived.

Then it was off to the go-kart races. Despite my clear instructions to the field to wreck the new girl, no one did, and she survived unscathed. If I had two more laps I would have caught Patrick, but there's no point crying over spilled milk. 

Then it was back to the cabin for some relaxing and coffee. Everyone except Kaitlin, poor girl. Every spare minute she can be found grading papers and entering grades. She is a phenom in the classroom but the work never ends. So proud of her, I don't know what to do.

The afternoon also featured me getting beaten by my son and his girlfriend at cutthroat. I'm not sure what it says about her that she is so efficient with a pool cue. 

After a fabulous dinner of sausage, apples and potatoes, it was back to the Alpine Coaster, for our nighttime ride. It was during the wait in line when I noticed THIS...

Ok...sure, for the average person with pending shoulder surgery and bulging disks, this is probably a legitimate warning. But I am the exception, since I am blessed with superior metabolism and abundant charm that make me immune to these sort of one-size-fits-all edicts. Today brings zip-lining, which I'm sure will have similarly worthless warnings.

Meanwhile, I'm smelling Pumpkin spice French Toast.....

Friday, October 23, 2015

It's All Good

This is the view that greeted us when we arrived at our cabin yesterday afternoon. Pam just had to have iced coffee.

This morning, it's still beautiful, and my coffee is hot.

We had the day to ourselves, the two of us. We went out to dinner at the same Mexican joint we went to on the same arrival night last year. Then we bought groceries and came back home. All the while we were getting text updates from Jon and Kaitlin, keeping us updated on how many times Jackson had vomited in the car...four. They finally rolled in around 11:00 last night. Two birds in the nest.

Patrick, Sarah and Oliver are in route at this hour and should arrive in a couple of hours.

It is impossible to explain just how happy it makes me to be able to do this for my kids. Words are insufficient. We only all get to be together in the same place and time a few times a year. So these times are precious. Many words and pictures will follow here in the coming days. I will do so not for you, but for me, so that I can look back and remember it all in a few months and years when these times might become even more rare.

But for now, all I care about is breakfast burritos which I believe are on this morning's menu.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Here's an Idea!!

When the subject of politics comes up in life I have always had many more questions than answers. Instead of knowing, with anything approaching certainty, what should be done to alleviate poverty, I wonder why it is that the 22 trillion dollars we have already spent fighting the War of Poverty declared by Lyndon Johnson fifty years ago hasn't done the job. Lots of questions, precious few answers.

But today, for the sake of argument, let us suppose that Progressives are right when they assert that the real problem is that the government doesn't spend enough. Let us assume first that every social pathology that currently plagues us in these United States, in fact, has a workable remedy that can be brought to bear if only we had the resources to proceed. Then, the question much money would be enough, and what will have to become of tax rates in order to provide enough?

Much is made among the left about the 90% top tax rate during the booming 50's. The question is often posed, "The economy boomed when the rich had to pay 90%!! That proves that it's possible to soak the rich!" What isn't mentioned is the fact that virtually nobody actually ended up paying 90%, because rich people could afford to hire very clever accountants who found loopholes in our impossibly complex tax code to avoid the best intentions of policy makers. Not much has changed in that regard since the 50's. When the state of Maryland tried a millionaires tax a few years back, proponents promised it would raise 100 million dollars in revenue. In fact, it resulted in a decrease of 257 million instead, since the specter of the new tax reduced the number of Maryland's millionaires from 8,000 to 6,000. Apparently, rich people aren't complete idiots.

So, if Progressives really want more revenue with which to solve our problems, they need to offer up some sort of workable plan of how much they want and how they plan to collect it. Their answer can't involve the words, "raise taxes on the rich", without some guarantee that the rich won't merely avoid those taxes with world class accounting. In my opinion...there is only one way to accomplish this and that is with a complete ellimination of our tax code and the adoption of a flat tax with no deductions for anyone. We can debate what that flat rate should be. We can even debate whether to include everyone or carve out exceptions for people under the poverty line etc..., but our current Rube Goldberg contraption of a tax code is beyond repair and any attempts to wrangle more revenue from the rich from it will be futile. 

But here is my hunch. Even if it could be proven beyond debate that a flat tax rate of say...17% would increase revenue beyond the wildest dreams of every big government leftist alive on this planet, they would still be against it. My hunch is that the only thing more important to the left than more money for government is their desire to punish the rich. What's the point of taxation if it cannot be used as a cudgel against the "winners of life's lottery" as President Obama likes to call them. The existence of income inequality in America requires the leveling hand of wealth redistribution by a benevolent state. The only trouble is, under our current tax system, nothing is getting leveled except economic growth.

In my opinion, a flat tax with no deductions solves two big problems. First, it gets the government out of the business of dispensing favors through tax policy, and secondly, if done right, will increase revenue to the Treasury...which should satisfy the left and the right. Would I be willing to pay more in taxes under a flat tax? In a New York minute, primarily because while my tax bill might go up, my accounting bills would disappear...sorry Carl. But more importantly, Washington would no longer be a magnet for lobbyists. And that would be worth it, no matter the cost!

Monday, October 19, 2015

Is the glass half full, or half empty?

Optimist or pessimist? Is the glass half full or half empty? Is that a light at the end of the tunnel or a train?

Last night, Pam went out into the garage to take her car to the grocery store to shop for our big trip to the Smoky Mountains this week. We have been looking forward to our little fall family reunion for months now, all of our kids...and their dogs, together for three days in a beautiful cabin in the hills outside of Gatlingburg, Tennessee. Only her car, our chosen vehicle for the trip, wouldn't start. Not only that, a couple of days ago some strange warning light on the dash lit up furiously to inform us that the Anti-Lock Brake system was not functioning properly. What the heck?? Her car hasn't given us any trouble in forever and suddenly three days before we're planning a 600 mile trip...THIS? What horrible timing!

Umm, actually it's fantastic timing. The timing could not possibly have been better. Can you imagine how panicked I would have been if the Anti-Lock Brake system warning light had flashed for the first time while I was navigating one of those hairpin turns in the Smoky Mountians? How horrible would it have been to wake up at 3000 feet of altitude with failing brakes? Or even worse, try discovering that your battery is dead on the first night of your vacation?? So, this morning my trusted mechanic will go over the car with a fine toothed comb before I leave for Tennessee. 

This is how life works sometimes. Things happen that at first glance seem poorly timed or unfair, but upon closer inspection prove to be beneficial. Whether the twists and turns of life are good or bad are largely dependent upon our attitude. Car trouble is just an example of a thing that happens, and is neither good nor bad. The older I get the more I find myself dividing things that happen into two categories...eternal or temporary....

TEMPORARY.                                                                                            ETERNAL.

Car trouble.                                                                                My wife
Shoulder surgery.                                                                        My kids
Stock market fluctuations.                                                          My family and friends
Bad weather.                                                                              Music
Finances.                                                                                    Faith 
Politics.                                                                                       Baseball

If something falls into the temporary category, I try not to lose too much sleep over it, because in the grand scheme of things, there's not much I can do about it anyway. Stuff in the eternal category demands my attention, blood sweat and tears, because these are the things that matter. If something goes wrong there, my job is to move heaven and earth to make it better. Well, maybe not baseball...but I just can't put the most eternal of games in the temporary column, it just wouldn't look right!

So, I choose to see the glass as half full. I'm able to fix the car before we leave, saving me from plunging headlong over a cliff to certain death because of a break failure. 

Definitely half full!

Saturday, October 17, 2015

All In For Autumn


Today is the day when I finally get around to getting rid of the summer plants and replace them all with mums and other more seasonally appropriate stuff. As you can see, Pam has already taken care of the inside of the house. This morning it was 42 degrees outside when I came downstairs so I fired up the fireplace. Maybe if I'm lucky Pam will whip up some pumpkin spice pancakes at some point over the weekend. In the Dunnevant house, we are all in for autumn.

We are also less than a week away from our much anticipated family cabin adventure in the Smokey Mountains which can only mean one wife is in full organization mode. A couple of days ago all of us received an e-mail with an attached Google-Doc, asking us to make comments/suggestions/vote  in reference to the attached menu offerings for the weekend. Here were our choices:

Breakfast A
-Pumpkin Stuffed Oven Baked Pumpkin French Toast, syrup
-sausage links

Breakfast B
-Breakfast Burritos
-hash browns
-fruit--oranges, bananas...?

Lunch A
-Hawaiian Ham&Swiss Rolls with poppy seeds
-tomato soup

Lunch B
-Reuben dip
-rye bread
-apple slices

Dinner A
-White Chicken Chili(bring frozen)--or Slow Cooker Beef Chili
-Cheddar Biscuits
-Dessert: Apple Crisp w/ice cream

Dinner B
-Grilled Smoked Sausage w/ onions and peppers
-cheesy hash brown casserole
-panned apples
-Dessert: Cappucino Brownies w/ ice cream

Sweet Treats for Coffee/Tea a time or late night snacks:
-Molasses Crinkles?
-Oatmeal Cinnamon Chip Cookies?
-Pumpkin seeds( make these together after carving Pumpkins)
-Pumpkin Cranberry Bread

.......I love my wife.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

The Democrat Debate

So, I didn't watch the first Democratic debate live because, But, yesterday I waded through a dozen or so highlight videos and read a handful of analysis pieces about the event. So, just like I did for the first two Republican debates, I will now offer up my take. It can be summarized with this statement...If anybody out there actually believes that someone besides Hillary Rodham Clinton will be the next President of the United States, think again.

There she was on a stage surrounded by Bernie Sanders and the three dwarves. The Bern looked every single day of his 74 years, literally yelling at everyone, as if he assumes that everyone is as hard of hearing as he is. His message hasn't changed for fifty years and it's the sort of political world view that one would expect from someone who chose the old Soviet Union for his honeymoon destination. He seemed to be running for President of Denmark, so fond is he of small Scandnavian Socialist countries. But I knew he wasn't going to be a serious rival to Hillary the very second he rushed to her defense over her "damned e-mails." He is just another vanity candidate, albeit a lovable one. Sanders has one thing that no other candidate has...the courage of his convictions. But he ain't winning the nomination, not after that kid's glove treatment of the only democrat currently standing in his way.

Then there was Martin O'Malley, the buff, handsome former Maryland governor who finally got his chance in the national spotlight. It was clear fifteen minutes in that he is running for Vice-President, practically screaming,"Pick me! pick me!!" He was polished and well spoken, and he seemed to think that his number one job as President would be to take everybody's guns away except for a handful of hunters in western Maryland. But he too treated Hillary Clinton like you treat someone who possesses explicit photographs of you having sex with farm animals, and knows how to use them.

Jim Webb, former Senator from the Old Dominion, is the kind of democrat candidate who could really have given Harry Truman a run for his money in 1948. This guy sounded more Republican than half of the Republicans candidates. My son made the pithy observation that he half expected Webb to pull out a 38 caliber handgun from his vest pocket to demonstrate the virtues of conceal carry laws! But I never much cared for Webb when he was my senator, he seemed too brutish, carried around too many grudges for my taste. By all accounts he is a smart, brave patriot, but what the heck was he doing on that stage?

Whatever he was doing, it made more sense than anything that Lincoln Chaffee was up to. Ahh yes, good old Lincoln, former Republican, former Independent, now nascent Democrat, running for the highest office in the land so he can usher the country safely into the bosom of the metric system...or something.

Which brings me back to Mrs. Clinton. She was the winner, or so I am constantly being told by the gushing coverage at CNN. She famously never sweats, and you wouldn't sweat either if you had the Clinton machine at your disposal. She looks for all the world to see like a woman who knows that she is going to be the first woman President of the United States, Benghazi or no Benghazi. She knows everyone's secrets, knows where all the bodies are buried, and thanks to an extremely weak democrat bench, her nomination is a lock. She also knows that there isn't a Republican who can beat her, despite what all these generic polls are saying. When it's time to actually vote, with the northeast and California already in the bag, she will ride the same coalition that swept Barack Obama into office...blacks, Hispanics, and women, and thanks to our newly minted immigration capitulation, there will be plenty of them to pad her margin of victory.

Generally speaking, the democrat party on display in Las Vegas wants:

1. Gun control
2. More immigration, lots more.
3. Free college education for all
4. Higher taxes on the rich
5. Nationalization of big banks, or something...
6. Get money out of politics, ( but not until after Hillary wins)
7. A new pledge of allegiance that acknowledges that only Black Lives Matter
8. Cabinet status for Planned Parenthood

This debate was Hillary's show and the next one will be too. All of us better get used to it.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

My Shoe Buying Adventure

I bought these shoes from Shoe Carnival a little over two years ago. I liked them because they were discretely black, and therefore could be safely worn with anything, and they were only $65.99. The bright orange box they came in said that they were running shoes. In two years I've put close to a thousand miles on them either on the road or the treadmill, so it was time for some new ones. And since lately my feet have started to hurt the morning after a run at the gym, I thought perhaps I should consider some real running shoes. In other words, maybe it was time to stop buying my footwear at a store with the word Carnival in the name.

So, a couple days ago I set out to buy my first pair of legitimate running shoes at a store called Fleet Feet.I was the only customer in the place, so I had the undivided attention of the blade-thin marathon runner type who bounded from behind the counter to tell me the fascinating story of the evolutionary journey of the tennis shoe. After the history lesson, he guided me towards two tall racks of fluorescent colored running shoes, all of which seemed to have been painted by Jackson Pollock on a very bad day. Lots of blaze orange, lime greens and electric yellow. I owned not one piece of clothing that these shoes would work with except black work out shorts. Perhaps this is intentional on the part of the manufacturers. Maybe they only want the consumer to use their product for its intended purpose, so they make them so hideously ugly that you would never dream of doing any such thing. I stared at the tower of shoes before me searching for even the smallest patch of grey, hoping to find one without a giant angry slash splashed across the side. I finally settled on the least provocative pair...

For $126.99 I was the ambivalent new owner of the very latest in running shoe technology manufactured, no doubt, by a factory full of Chinese middle schoolers. The good part is, they are light as a feather. The bad part is, after my maiden voyage, a four-miler, my feet hurt every bit as much the next morning as they used to when I wore my old, boring black ones from Shoe Carnival. Maybe it's like the salesman said, that the souls of my feet needed to "get to know the cushion of the shoe" first before I will notice any improvement. Whatever. All I know is, for what I paid for these babies, I could have bought two pair from the Carnival and had money left over for a Pumpkin Spice Frappaccino from Starbucks.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Can You Google an Education?

Thanks to search engines like Google, there's no point in wondering about anything anymore. If a question pops into your head..."I wonder why there's a loop sewn into the back of my dress shirt," you can just Google it, and in less than thirty seconds, you'll find the answer. This raises the question, have search engines rendered traditional education obsolete? I suppose I could Google that too.

Younger people have become especially enamored with this fascinating technology, as you will discover if you ever get into an Internet argument with one of them. Suddenly, a kid who under normal circumstances couldn't write a single sentence without three grammar mistakes is suddenly pummeling you with brilliant paragraphs of information making your views on the designated hitter seem woefully ill-informed. You marvel at the speed and grace with which this generation has learned to cut and paste. Who knew that opposable thumbs would not only be the key to our dexterity as humans, but our ability to access information as well?

When I was getting my formal education, the place where all of this accessing information business took place was at the library. Now it's done at the local Buffalo Wild Wings on your cell phone between beers. The lucky kids when I was growing up were the ones who's parents had bought the complete set of encyclopedias from that door-to-door salesman from Brittanica. Now, they gather dust on the bookshelf, their leather bindings in perfect condition and the gold leaf paper still shiny and new like some sort of ornamental relic.

Lest anyone think that I believe this is all a bad thing, think again. Search engines have made my professional life so much easier. I benefit greatly from having information instantly available, and would hate to have to function without this awesome technology that we all now take for granted. But I'm troubled by my reliance on it nonetheless. Are human beings educated when they learn and know things that have been burned into their memory, or are they educated simply by knowing where to find information? Is reading Dostoevsky the same thing as Googling The Brothers Karamazov? Is having your father show you how to tie a Windsor knot better than Googling "How to tie a tie?"

How's this for a dystopian nightmare? Thirty years from now after an entire generation of humanity has been educated by search engines, a freak solar storm fries every circuit on Earth, wiping out the Internet. Will the knowledge base of humanity also be wiped out? How much will our collective memory be able to reliably recall? Since rote memorization went the way of the dinosaur, will humanity, after having its umbilical chord to the Internet severed, be rendered intellectually impotent? In the new internet-free world, will all of those dusty encyclopedias become the new Holy Books? What would become of civilization if we woke up one morning and there was no app for that?

Hopefully there will still be some folks around who went to the trouble of memorizing poetry. And that weird guy back in college who memorized the entire book of Hebrew? He'll be the only employable religion professor on the east coast.

Monday, October 12, 2015

Ten Days and Counting

Waking up to 45 degrees is quite the beautiful thing. When what follows is clear, blue skies with the high topping out at 72, well, it doesn't get any better. This is the kind of weather that makes you want to hit the ground running, eager to discover what's in store. For me, it's a lot. In less than two weeks I'll be in a cabin in Gatlinburg, Tennessee with all of my kids for three days. The name of the place is "It's All Good." Indeed.

Preparations must be made. For Pam that means planning out the menus, buying as many of the ingredients as possible here, mixing together pancake mix ahead of time and putting it in clearly marked ziplock bags for assembly later, that sort of thing. That's just how she rolls. For me it means, planning out the itinerary. When will be the best time to go zip-lining? Go-Carts? The toboggan ride? Then, I have to get things at work to a place where it can be left for a while without any ensuing chaos.

This year, our Smokie Mountain getaway will feature two dogs, neither of which will be named Lucy. Our cabin is pet friendly, but allows only two dogs. Considering Lucy's rather poor performance a few months ago at the beach, she has been benched in favor of Jackson and Oliver. Jackson is Kaitlin and Jon's adorable English Cream Golden Retriever puppy. Oliver is Patrick's loaner dog, a ginormous brute of a Golden Retriever who he has been keeping for the past six months or so while his owner is doing lights on tour with Taylor Swift.( ahhh, Nashville life!) We've never met him, only seen pictures and videos. Patrick is smitten with the big guy and I believe it will be a difficult day when Oliver's owner comes back home to claim him.

So, we are all looking forward to three days together in this big honkin' cabin. The television won't get turned on the entire time unless we want to watch a movie, which means I won't have to listen to either Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton running their pie-holes...always a good thing.

Ten days and counting!

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

My Family

This is my family. Every other summer all of us vacation at the beach together, and this is the picture we took from this past summer's trip. This isn't all of my family. My brother and all of his kids and all of their kids weren't there, which would have added another eight people to this picture. The family photographer is Matt, the guy standing all the way to the left. Great photographer, really slooow sharer of photographs, which explains why I'm just now getting this picture, three months after the fact. 

The first year we did one of these family beach vacations was the year when my son Patrick was about the size of Evelyn, the adorable red-haired baby in this picture. It seems astonishing to me that it was 26 years ago. I had two good shoulders back then. 

Oh yeah, in case you haven't heard, I've been scheduled for surgery on my right shoulder for November 4th. That's a classic good news/bad news thing. The bad news is that I'll have to endure a second shoulder operation and all of the wretchedness that such a procedure visits upon its victims. The good news is that Anthem will be presented with the bill and will not be able to hide behind my deductible as their excuse not to pay, and, I will not be able to rake leaves this fall. That job will fall to my son and his able assistant, my son-in-law when they are here for Thanksgiving. I'll be the one taking pictures and posting them on this blog along with snide comments. If Patrick brings his girlfriend, maybe I'll put her out there too since I wouldn't want to be accused of sexism. What about my daughter Kaitlin, you ask? No, she's a teacher. She'll be grading papers.

The Knife Awaits

The Doctor swaggered into the examining room glancing down at a chart, shutting the door behind him. "How you feeling, partner?" 

"Better, actually." I answered. "The shoulder hasn't been as painful for the past couple of weeks. That's good, right?"

"It's always good when it stops hurting." 

My shoulder surgeon is my kind of doctor, direct and to the point and doesn't seem to like hearing himself talk. "Ok, your MRI shows two small tears in the same tendon, one on top and one under the bottom, and several bone spurs. The good news is that it doesn't look as bad as your left shoulder was two years ago, but the bad news is, at some point you're going to have to have it fixed. I would suggest you getting this done before the end of the year. That way you won't have to have another MRI and since you've probably met your annual deductible by now, your insurance will pay for all of it."

"But, I might could just live with it for a while if it's not hurting, right?"

"You can live with it as long as you like partner, even if it's hurting. I'm just telling you that those tears aren't going to fix themselves, and if unattended will probably become bigger and harder to fix the longer you wait. But, hey...suit yourself."

That's about as high pressure as this guy gets. Another reason why I like him.

Driving home, memories of my last shoulder surgery came back in vivid black and white, since color would have been too optimistic, the pain, the ice packs, but mostly the torturous rehab. By the time I got home, I was feeling pretty sorry for myself.

But this morning has brought with it a new perspective. In this I have been aided by this girl, who decided to come downstairs to sit with me while I write this. Perhaps she has sensed that I was troubled by something and couldn't be trusted downstairs all alone!
       "OK, what are you whining about now??"

With Lucy's help I have realized that things could be much worse. It's not like I was given a cancer diagnosis, for goodness sakes. Yes, it's shoulder surgery, my second in three years, but you know why? Because I live an "active lifestyle" which means I'm not a couch potato. I do stuff, physical stuff and that's very good. But sometimes when you work out a lot and do things like swing golf clubs, lift weights and take out the occasional frustrations with a trip to the batting cage, it messes with your joints once you reach a certain age. So what am I going to do...give up having fun? Not a chance. So, if this sort of thing is the price I must pay in order to stay in shape, then so be it. I'm a long way from being ready for a sedentary lifestyle.

So, sometime over the next 90 days or so, I will submit to going under the knife. Being right handed, this one will seem more inconvenient, but hopefully since I fully know what to expect it won't seem as difficult.

That's my story, and I'm sticking to it!

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

1000 Posts??

My Blogger stats inform me that this is my 1000th post. Somehow, since I started the Tempest nearly five years ago, I have come up with something to write about 1000 times. That's not the same thing as saying I came up with something interesting to write about 1000 times, rather that I wrote...something. The stats also tell me that I have written slightly over 600,000 words, or about 3000 more than can be found in War and Peace, only without all of those miserable Russian peasants. Before the Tempest, I kept handwritten journals, fourteen years worth of them. So, I think it safe to say that I'm obsessive about writing and perhaps a little crazy on the subject of having an opinion and sharing it.

One advantage of writing down every cock-eyed idea that crosses your mind is that there's a record of your idiotic ramblings. To some of you that might sound like a liability, but for me it's more like a history book, a manual that allows you a place to look up your mistakes. It's humbling but very instructive to read something you said four years ago that ended up being very wrong. It reminds me of my limitations. Of course, a journal or a blog also documents your prescience, a more rare phenomenon.

This blog has also served as a place I have come to argue with myself, to flesh out what I think about things and why. Sometimes, I'm sure, that is a source of frustration to the reader, since a writer who contradicts himself isn't always reliable. But, there's nothing I can really do about that. I'm an inconsistent thinker, when I think at all!

But 1000 posts? How did that happen? 

Monday, October 5, 2015

When Do You Stop Worrying About Your Kids?

This past weekend saw Pam and I accomplish something that is the dream of parents everywhere. We have now sent both of our children off to live in a city that has experienced 1000 year floods! First it was the Nashville flood of 2010 when a sudden rain storm inexplicably stalled directly over that city one afternoon dropping a deluge of water that quickly overwhelmed downtown sending guitars and banjos floating into the streets, (not really, but it should have). My son was there, 9 hours away, leaving his parents with nothing to do but worry.

Now, it's my daughter's turn to horrify us with video's of real restaurant chairs bobbing up and down in a raging river barreling down a street just a couple of blocks around the corner from her apartment building. They have no power and a tiny creek close to their building was transformed into the Nile River by the relentless rains that have been coming down for three days. Once again, our job has been to worry and sigh heavily when she doesn't respond to one of our texts within thirty seconds. 

So, here's the deal. The answer to the question,"When do you stop worrying about your kids?" is...never.

Saturday, October 3, 2015

The End of Sports?

Watergate whistle-blower, Deep Throat, famously advised, "Follow the money."  Investigators of great business, political or personal failings will agree that Deep Throat was right. Money might not be the root of all evil, but it's certainly in the top three. The Bible refers to the corrupting power of money as the "deceitfulness of riches." The deception part comes with the knowledge that nobody gives the stuff away and if they did, all of us would be standing in line with our hands out.

I have a famous aversion to big things, big business, big government, big box stores, primarily because  I'm suspicious of how they got that way. Generally speaking, the more money any organization swims in, the greater the probability of corruption. Of course, I normally make an exception in my case, since the amount of money I have is always just a few bucks less than what I need. But, hypocrisy aside, as a general rule, huge amounts of cash can and often leads to problems...big problems.

Witness the meteoric rise of the DFS industry in America. In less than five years companies like Fan Duel and Draftkings have gone from meager start-ups to the single biggest spenders on television advertising in the United States. In 45 states, these two daily fantasy sports leaders, are raking in hundreds of millions of dollars from online players. How is this possible when online gambling is mostly illegal in this country? As usual, it comes courtesy of a loophole in the law which carves out an exception for fantasy sports as a game of skill, not luck. By the time our glacially slow government gets around to closing this loophole, it will be too late because the five year old industry is already too powerful and too rich to be outlawed. So, what's the problem? Well, nothing if you subscribe to the belief that billions of dollars of new wagers and tens of millions of new wagerers won't have any negative impact of sports in America. However, if you line up more in the deceitfulness of riches camp, you might worry that eventually with all this new money on the line, somewhere, someday, somehow somebody is going to start fixing games. Some may suspect that games may already have been fixed, we just haven't discovered it yet.

Maybe I worry too much. Maybe all of this betting on games and players is a perfectly harmless form of entertainment with virtually no social downside. Maybe Gamblers Anonymous will experience a decline in the need for their services in the coming years. Maybe lower paid professional athletes won't be tempted to accept duffle bags of cash to fix games. Maybe the introduction of online fantasy gambling will help Major League Baseball attract more and younger fans. I mean what are the odds that a brand new 6 billion dollar sports book business will have any negative impact on sports if America?

I got 20 bucks that says that within two years the New England Patriots will be accused of changing play calls to manipulate the point spread. Wanna bet??

Friday, October 2, 2015

Another Classroom Becomes a Tomb

There's been another mass shooting in America, this one at the Umpqua Community College in Roseburg, Oregon. At this hour there is still much uncertainty about the facts on the ground, much that we don't know. The shooter is dead, along with ten of his victims. Many others are in the hospital.

The President made a statement soon after the news broke. He looked much the same as he did a few years back when he stood in the same spot after the Newtown shootings, heartbroken and powerless. Sadly, it's after these catastrophic visitations of evil when our President is most compelling. The pain on his face, the exasperation of knowing how very little power he has to prevent the next one, strips him and all politicians of their conceit that they control events. What remains is empathy and simple humanity. Obama was never better than he was in his remarks to the nation at the Gabby Gifford funeral. If you've forgotten, Google it, easily the best speech he has ever made, beautiful and inspiring.

There are stories coming out of Roseburg of great courage, of an ex Army man who was shot seven times trying to protect others. There are reports that the killer demanded to know the religion of his victims before administering their sentences; if they answered Christian they were shot in the head, if they answered anything else, they were shot in the leg. Those reports aren't fully confirmed, so probably the less said the better. For me, it matters not what the killer's motivation was. Anyone willing to do something like this is simply a psychopath and unworthy of explanation. If he had instead asked his victims what their favorite color was before executing them, would that have made the act less reprehensible?

There are calls for tougher gun laws, although at this point we don't know how the killer obtained his guns, whether legally or illegally, consequently it isn't known whether tougher gun laws would have made a difference. There are calls for more and better mental health services, although the killer's mental health history isn't known either. There's nothing wrong with calling for either of these things. It's natural for people to appeal to the law for a remedy when such a tragedy happens. It feels better than throwing your hands up in despair.

There will be much prayer in the coming days. There will be vigils and candles, much talk about spiritual things, even more about the Constitution. Presidential candidates will give us their views. Celebrities will chime in with hashtag campaigns. 

My biggest regret is that the killer is dead. I want to see him face the families of his victims. I want the justice system to rigorously pursue his life and influences, to help all of us come to grips with his motivations. Then I want him to spend the rest of his miserable life paying for his cowardice. Yes, vengeance is the Lord's. I just wish he would share it every now and then.

While the rest of us debate and argue, the families of the dead begin the rest of their lives this rainy morning with a hole in their hearts that nothing will ever fill.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Looks like a Joaquin Weekend.

Hurricane Joaquin has at this hour been upgraded to a category 3 storm with sustained winds of 120 mph as it barrels its way towards the mid-Atlantic coast. If only Donald Trump were President. There's no way he would allow a storm with such a Mexican-sounding name into the country. But we're stuck with Barack Obama who'll let anything in, so we all better batten down the hatches.

Looks like we can expect anywhere from 3-8 inches of rain between now and Saturday night. Depending on where this thing makes landfall, it might even be worse. Regardless, I'm facing three more days of rain soaked dashes into the street so my terrified dog can do her business. With high winds and sideways rain, we can also expect Lucy to spend the next 72 hours with her face buried under Pam's arms.

Most likely, Pam and I will use these next three days to clean the house and binge-watch Longmire.

At some point over the weekend some climate scientist will say that hurricane Joaquin is the result of global warming. No reporters will ask the logical follow up question, "Wait, I thought the eight year absence of hurricanes was the result of global warming?" But, if I've learned one thing over the past decade or so about climate science it's questions are always stupid and the answer is always, "climate change."

On an unrelated note, which of the following things is harder to believe...that some of the most conservative guys I know are now speaking fondly of a Russian head of State, or that the Chicago Cubs will be playing post season baseball?

So, Vladimir Putin takes over the roll of Middle East power broker, drops a few bombs in Syria, and suddenly hard core conservatives are longing for a leader with a spine? Umm...does anyone remember that Putin made his bones as a ruthless KGB dirtbag? Listen, I get it that Putin is playing our guy for a fool and all. I understand that he always seems three moves ahead of our very French-looking Secretary of State. But, take a breath people. Maybe this will prove to be a blessing in disguise. Maybe it's true that God looks after orphans and idiots, and our clueless administration's ham-fistedness will result in Russia getting drawn into the never ending abyss of violence and retribution which is the modern Middle East. I, for one, can't think of a country who deserves it more than the former Soviet Union. How about we let the Russians waste billions upon billions of dollars and sacrifice their blood and treasure trying to keep those barbarians from killing each other for the next fifty years. We've been there and done that, and except for the occasional Nobel Peace Prize, we've got nothing to show for it. Have any of you noticed how beloved we are in the region, how so many people over there really appreciate what we've done for them? Yeah, me neither.