Sunday, December 29, 2013

The Hobbit--Desolation of Smaug

Last year around this time, I reviewed the first of the three Hobbit movies, and while I enjoyed it, my review had a bit of negativity about it due to the majesty of the Lord of the Rings series and the inability of this movie to stand up.

So yesterday I drove my Mom and two youthful nephews to the theater in Garner NC (that's GAR-NER, not GARD-NER) to see the second of the three movies.  My verdict?  Better than the first, and nudging its way up into the greatness of the LOTR movies--maybe even better than "The Fellowship of the Ring".  Here's why:

1.  The Dwarves are less focused on than in the first movie.  I don't like dwarfs as much as some, and I like them less than others.  I find Elves fetching, and the return of Legolas to this movie is a great innovation.  Best of all though, is the introduction of the ravishing Evangeline Lilly as "Tauriel" to the mix.  She kicks ass like Legolas and looks better than Arwyn.  Additionally, the character "Bard" is sympathetic, brave and human...all of which play to the favor of this movie. 

2.  Gandalf.  Gandalf is featured more here (again, to the detriment of the dwarfs)  and he remains one of the most interesting characters of the series.

3.  The Necromancer/Sauron.  We're beginning to see more of him in this movie, which is another strong tie to the LOTR series.

4.  Smaug.  The dragon is a pretty damn good character, and his back and forth with Bilbo is good stuff.

I still find it hard to think that the book "The Hobbit" can occupy three feature length movies, but this one did a great job of convincing me that it might pull it off.  There is a lot of action left for the third movie, and if it continues this trend, it will be a great one.

Resolutions: 2013 Assessment, 2014 Debut

Here are my 2013 New Year's Resolutions and a brief assessment of performance:

1.  Eat better.  Low carb all year--I did eat better, but not low carb and not all year.  Only really took to this in August while simply counting calories vice low-carbing.
2.  Take my vitamins and supplements, daily--Did not do.
3.  Exercise more.  Even a little bit is better than nothing.  Good record of accomplishment
4.  Curse less.-- Probably, but only a little less.
5.  Be nicer, smile more.  Probably, but only a little more.
6.  Do more professional writing.  Done.
7.  Be there for my family more---especially for The Kitten.  Meh...probably not.
8.  Stop expecting things to happen around the house--do them, take ownership.  Here too, probably not
9.  Breathe.  Count to five.  A little better.
10.  Be more charitable--sort of.  I gave almost nothing to politics this year, and put some of that toward charity.  But I also started a new business and watched my income go down--so this one is a sort of.

2014 Resolutions:  Several repeats.

1.  Be there for my family more---especially for The Kitten.
2.  Stop expecting things to happen around the house--do them, take ownership.
3.  Find some kind of volunteering opportunity that interests and energizes me.
4.  Be nicer and smile more
5.  Continue to exercise regularly
6.  Continue to count calories and manage what I eat
7.  Take at least one vacation of not less than two full weeks.
8.  Institute a "Shabat-like" avoidance of electronic media on Saturdays. 
9.  Read more (probably on Saturdays)
10.  Improve the state of the ManCave.

Predictions: 2013 Review, 2014 Debut

Attempting to avoid very important paid work, I turn instead the the pleasures of unpaid blogging, and my annual predictions post.  Here are the ten I made last year and the assessment:

1.  Chris Christie will be re-elected in NJ---CORRECT
2.  Republicans will lose the VA Governor's race--CORRECT
3.  UVA's 2012/2013 Basketball Team will make the NCAA Tournament--INCORRECT
4.  UVA Football will return to a Bowl Game with 8 wins or more.--INCORRECT
5.  The Atlanta Falcons will win the Super Bowl over the Denver Broncos--INCORRECT
6.  Barack Obama will be above 58% approval on 12/31/2013--INCORRECT
7.  John Boehner will not be the Speaker of the House on 12/31/2013--INCORRECT
8.  I will weigh less than 175 lbs on 12/31/2013 (currently 192)--INCORRECT
9.  "Lincoln" will win the Best Picture Oscar--INCORRECT
10.  Barack Obama will replace 2 members of the Supreme Court--INCORRECT

That's right, folks, only 2 of 10 correct predictions!  Down one from last year's terrible performance. I can't say that I'm disappointed that my Obama popularity prediction did not come to pass...

Here are my 2014 Predictions

1.  Republicans will pick up at least 23 seats in 2014
2.  Republicans will win back the Senate
3.  Nancy Pelosi will resign from her leadership position in the House Dem Caucus
4.  The strictures of Obamacare as applied to Employer provided plans will achieve full fetch this year, as tens of millions of people find out that their current plan is "non-compliant" and that the new menu from which they can choose includes only more expensive options.  This dooms Democrats in 2014
5.  The stock market will be above 17,500 on 31 December 2014.
6.  I will weigh less on 31 December 2014 than I do today (29 December 2013--178).
7.  The Kansas City Chiefs will win  Super Bowl 48.
8.  UVA Football will win seven games or more in 2014
9.  UVA Basketball will make the NCAA Tournament
10.  UVA Basketball will lose in the second round.

There you have it folks.  You heard it here first!

Friday, December 27, 2013


Brother Sean, likely having just passed gas.
Today begins the 18 month countdown to my 50th Birthday.  Mark your calendars.  I know this, primarily because it also happens to be my brother Sean's 50th, and I was born exactly 18 months after him.  Sean is the brother I am closest to in the pecking order, and he was the one who pretty much lead-blocked for me for the first 18 years of my life, a role he was quite good at both literally and figuratively (who can forget South Jersey's best Pulling Guard #64?).  A very, very happy birthday to you, Brother Sean.

I am about an hour from "putting her in the wind" as my Dad would put it, heading south to Clayton, North Carolina where I will visit my parents and oldest and youngest siblings.  It looks like quite a bit of rain over the weekend, so I've got that going for me.  Also on the agenda is dinner with The Hammer on Sunday night, a chance to enjoy in-person conversation with one of the best dinner companions I know. 

You might note a paucity of weight data lately; I have been naughty over the holidays, but have gotten myself back on track this very morning, and will post weight data next week. 

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Happy Christmas

Time to shut things down for a couple of days.  I've got a few chores around the house to do before the Christmas Eve Feast.  We'll be stuffing our gullets with lobsters, crab cakes, and twice baked potatoes before taking our place at 1900 Hrs. in the stern pew of All Faith Chapel down the road in Tunis Mills, where I will manfully try to avoid falling asleep as a result of the gluttony.  Upon returning home, we'll read a few Christmas books before heading off to sleep, much earlier this year now that the mysteries of Santa Claus are fully revealed.

A Happy Christmas to all who read this and your friends and families.

From Luke 2: 1-20
And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus, that all the world should be taxed. (And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.) And all went to be taxed, everyone into his own city. And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David) To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child. And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered. And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.
And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying,
"Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men."
And it came to pass, as the angels were gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another, Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us. And they came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger. And when they had seen it, they made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this child. And all they that heard it wondered at those things which were told them by the shepherds. But Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart. And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told unto them.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Free Speech, Gay Rights, and Duck Dynasty

Some trends completely escape me, either because I was not paying attention (generally youth phenomena) or because I choose to ignore them.  The national fascination with Duck Dynasty falls into the latter category.  I am aware that it is a trend, and I am aware that some people watch the show and enjoy it.  I do not, nor do I wish that my day included sufficient time to do so.  I am sure that I have friends who enjoy the show, and I am certain there are readers of this blog who are avid fans.  That my political ideology is somehow mixed up with the hirsute denizens of the Louisiana swamp leaves me no closer to them personally, nor any more interested in their lives or their business.  All that is a very long-winded way of saying I don't give a crap about Duck Dynasty.

Quite near Duck Dynasty on my "give a crap" scale is the gay rights lobby/movement/jihad.  I generally tend to believe that what we do with our privates is, um, private, and I do not like the idea of people not being able to do things that others can simply because of what they do with their privates.  I have no affinity for the actual mechanics of what gay people do with their privates, but that is neither here nor there.

That these two trends/interest areas have come in conflict lately has been somewhat amusing, with the right taking to their ideological ramparts to defend "free speech" and the left taking to theirs to decry "gay bashing".  I write this today only because several readers have asked me my views on the subject, and I thought it would be a way to kill a little time.

Let's face it folks, the system worked.  A private citizen employed by a non-governmental, capitalist corporate entity, expressed his personal opinions, influenced though they were by his religious beliefs.  Presumably employed at will, the corporation made a decision to disassociate itself from him.  No one's free speech was abridged.  Mr. Duck Dynasty said what he wished, and the corporation did what it wished.  Everyone wins. 

Did A & E make a good decision?  I really don't know.  What I do know is that they made a business decision, and time will tell whether it was a good one or not.  Did Mr. Duck make a good decision?  I don't know.  What I do know is that he expressed a personal opinion that his employer--one beholden to an audience--believed was anathema to its corporate goals.  Should Mr. Duck's contract have been abridged in an actionable way by the employer, I would support his filing suit.  But I suspect his contract was at will, or at the very least, contained language which appropriately empowered his employer to terminate him. 

The Freedom of Speech we enjoy under the first amendment applies to the CONGRESS specifically and government generally, and their inability to make laws abridging the same.  A &E is not the government. 

Monday, December 16, 2013

Random Thoughts From Redneck-Nation

This is what poverty looked like in the fifties and sixties (and before). It wasn't "statistical" poverty like now where if your income is two standard deviations below the mean you're deemed by government to be poverty stricken (and entitled to all sort of goodies). No it was a real "I can't feed my young-uns and Rhonda-Jean is getting pissed" kinda poverty. Most of the really pervasive white poverty was in Appalachia, extreme rural areas down South and parts of New Jersey near Philadelphia. Black poverty was in the same areas but included the Northern cities.

Now, a reasonable person could understand the anti-poverty initiatives of the sixties considering, but how do we explain it now? Poverty these days is more likely represented by someone with basic cable and a weight problem, or guys like this California surfer dude who freely admits he gets foodstamps etc. and has no plans to get a job. And let's not forget the two Jihadists in Kentucky who hadn't been here a New York minute but were busily working away transporting while being supported on the welfare rolls by the American taxpayer. Call me a stupid, half-drunk cracker bastard, but I have to say, this is bullshit.

Hey whatta ya think about the Pope sounding off like Hugo Chavez (re)incarnate? Well I think it's a smart move actually. The Church of Rome has been badly damaged the last few years and he needs the press on his side, at least for a while. Heck even MSNBC is saying good things about him. I sincerely hope it's just rope-a-dope because we don't need no stinking commie Pope, nope nope nope.

Old Speaker Newt was on one of the Sunday shows and when discussing the Ryan/Murray budget deal said that if he were a back bencher he'd raise hell and if he were the Speaker he'd ram it through. Must keep the focus on Obamacare he said. Ok fine. It ain't like we're not in deep do do to our eyeballs already. One more year of this insanity probably won't make any difference so what the hell, have at it. But sooner or later we're going to have to stand our ground. We can only take so many Dunkirks assuming it's not too late already.

A lot of folks are counting their chickens when it comes to these supposed vulnerable Senate races. We've got a dozen or so Democrats in "red" states (who decided conservative was red and leftist was blue(?)...these people can redefine anything!) who were swept into office in '08 and voted for Obamacare.  Well maybe so, but in my state Kay Hagen has already had 2 million spent on her behalf partly to position her opponent as unacceptable. And friends that will be the strategy. Harry Reid was VERY unpopular in Nevada but he threw so much crap against the wall that some of it was bound to stick, and he won. This will be an election of disqualification. In other words "I may suck, but my opponent is crazy/dishonest/criminal/whatever". The Dems ain't giving up the Senate easily and this is a tried and true strategy. Get ready for blood!

That's all I got. As Charlie Tuna used to say, that cans it, stay tuna.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Big Fat Friday Free For All

What's got you down, Chum?  Your chances at closing down the government slipping away?  Too many selfies with the hottie from the North? 

Share your pain.  We're here for you. 

Today's Weigh In:  175.8
Last Friday's Weigh in: 177.2
Diet Start (8/11):  198

Thursday, December 12, 2013

The Budget Deal

By a vote of 332-94, the House has passed the Ryan/Murray Budget Deal.  Of the Republican Caucus, 169 voted for, and 63 voted against. 

The best rundown on why this was worth doing is by Peggy Noonan

Why am I in favor of this?  Because I want NOTHING to get in the way of the continuing failure of Obamacare.  No "shut down the government" crap.  No "extend unemployment insurance at Christmastime" fight.  Nope.  Nothing gets in the way of the continued implosion of a bad system.

My Twitter feed is aflame with rantings of some Conservatives who yet again wish to take to the barricades and try and bring down the government.  They are of course hurling around the phrase "RINO" without any sense of irony in the fact that their members were outvoted in their own caucus by 73% to 27%. 

We are winning, friends.  The country does not want another self-inflicted wound, with Republicans firing the shot.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

The Hammer Goes Topless (in a good cause)

This may be the one (and only) photo you will ever see of me. This photo was taken of yours truly in hospital almost 30 years to the day. As you can see my animal magnetism and virility was still overwhelming for most of the nurses (especially the 40 something chubby ones) even while lacking a proper nose, with an atrophied muscular system and in desperate need of a barber etc. In this photo I am 9 weeks into a three and one half month stay and about 2-3 weeks away from getting out of bed and starting physical therapy. In the "accident" I suffered extensive life threatening internal injuries plus a crushed hip (literally), an absolutely destroyed elbow, broken ankle, finger, nose, cracked jaw and I must report my sense of humor was also severely impaired.
This was all the result of what I can only deduce was a drunk driver. You see I was driving home from work one evening (very late) and was hit head-on. The (ostensible) owner of the offending vehicle (who was unlicensed due to several DWI convictions) stated to police he had met a girl at a bar and that she was driving the car at the time of the accident and unfortunately he did not know her name. The ever conscientious State Trooper therefore entered "driver: unknown" on the accident report. As it turned out the actual owner of the car was the "unknown" driver's father who had bought the car for his wayward son in the hopes that a 20 year old land-yacht of a car may dissuade his son from getting drunk and high and hanging out in bars night and day. His largess was apparently misguided. And although I was very nearly killed suffering severe, debilitating and permanent injuries costing hundreds of thousands of dollars to treat, with my life in tatters in so many ways it would be impossible to relate and although I was clearly wronged by an out of control, criminally irresponsible addicted maniac, I was offered no solace by the criminal justice system whatsoever. The system failed least part of it.
But what did not and has not failed me is the healthcare system in these United States. At the time of the accident I was one year out of college. I had nothing, apart from Prudential Comprehensive Healthcare Insurance. My life was saved by two Harvard educated surgeons. My hip was initially operated on by a Georgetown educated orthopaedist and I've had operations at Duke and hip replacement at Johns Hopkins. I can honestly say I have never been denied the absolute best care on this planet, and all for some guy with no money and no connections. And the thing is my experience was the norm, not the exception. That my friends is what we lose with Obamacare. The access, the choice, the quality and the options will all be taken away with the so-called Affordable Care Act. We will all be at the mercy of the government. And when I hear someone badmouth insurance companies I can only think "you damned idiot" because I've been let down by government, but my life was saved by an insurance company.

Monday, December 9, 2013

The REAL Rules of Engagement

Did you see 60 Minutes last evening? There was an interesting segment by that babe-magnet Anderson Cooper about a Seal team in Afghanistan back in 2005. Their mission was to seek out and kill a local warlord who had become too much of a pain in the ass. Now these guys were full-blown special ops troops pretty much on their own out in the bush, real commando stuff. So anyway they're in hostile territory doing their thing and literally a bunch of goat herders stumble over their position. Now, they've got a problem. The rules of engagement say you can't attack unless you yourself are attacked. But these guys are in bad country and they know very well these goat herders are not friendly and will rat them out at first opportunity. And they also know this warlord has several hundred experienced fighters and they can expect hell to rain down if he gets wind of the operation. So, what to do? You can follow military necessity and prudently execute these (three I think it was) people thereby risking murder charges from some military lawyer/pencil pushing dickhead, or you can obey standing orders and almost certainly compromise the mission...oh yeah, and die. Of course the team leader, a Lieutenant tries to call home for instructions but the mountains of Afghanistan aren't in Verizon's coverage area so he does what any good officer would do...obeys the damn orders. So they let the goat herders go and SURPRISE SURPRISE, in an hour or so they come under heavy small arms and RPG fire in some of the roughest country this side of the Sea of Tranquility. It all goes ass over tits and one guy comes out alive, our interviewee. All in all 19 brave American died so three illiterate Afghani goat herders could live. Our politicians have funny priorities.

CW is fond of pointing out that I'm an old guy and perhaps there are some "generational" differences in our experiences and attitudes. That's all true. And one experience I had that CW didn't was living through the Vietnam conflict and seeing how that war was conducted. The same bullshit that went on in Vietnam resulting in the US losing that war (and millions upon millions of unnecessary deaths) is being repeated again in Afghanistan. I am personally against even being in Afghanistan. I think it's was a lost cause from the git-go (unlike Iraq which Obama screwed up and lost to the Iranians). But if there are murder charges to be brought in this stupid war, the indictment should have the Secretary of Defense's name on it for even instituting such an insane, imprudent and reckless policy. I'm not advocating a Red Army in Germany or Sherman's March to the Sea anything goes situation, war crimes are war crimes, but our ridiculous "rules of engagement" are no less than malfeasance by Pentagon lawyers, bureaucrats and politicians. These standing orders jeopardize the lives of good Americans who are willing to endure untold hardship in the service of our/their country. Their job is dangerous enough, they deserve at least the opportunity to survive.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

The Hammer's College Football Review: BCS Saturday Edition

Well, the Duke bubble got busted yesterday as was expected. Thank God I've reformed my wicked ways because 25 years ago when I had a couple of bookies on speed dial I woulda taken the 29 points and bet the farm on Duke. Praise be I'm no longer a drunk with a gambling habit...just a plain drunk. But I have to say Duke looked pretty decent the first quarter before the roof fell in. Second quarter on it was all FSU all the time with Duke finally scoring with a minute to go in the game (well done boys). But hey, now that it's happened I'm not at all surprised. If you take granddaddy's Impala to Daytona I don't care how good a driver you are you ain't winning. These are both very well coached football teams but all things being equal talent win out.

Oh, one sidebar, the rape allegation against FSU quarterback Jameis Winston is starting to attract some national attention. Geraldo Rivera (aka Jerry Rivers) was on O'Reilly complaining that the local prosecutor in Tallahassee (relax, I'm not going to say it) is dragging his feet due to being an FSU grad etc. And I personally think there's something to that. FSU hasn't been top notch for a while and Seminole Nation is in no mood for a scandal. Stay tuned, I don't think this is going away...I just hope the girl is black otherwise he'll probably get away with it.

Did you see Ohio State/Michigan State? Man what a game! I must admit I haven't seen much of Mich. St. this year but gents this is an outstanding football team. There offense ain't off the charts or anything but they don't make a lot of mistakes. Now their defense that's another story, they are VERY GOOD! Their secondary and linebacker corp may be the best in the country. But what impressed me was their mental toughness. The Spartans went up 17 zip in the first half and as usually happens against quality competition the Buckeyes came roaring back with 24 unanswered points. And we all know one of the toughest things in sports is to go up big early, lose the lead and then try to regain focus and momentum. Well Michigan State did it scoring two TDs in the fourth quarter to ruin Urban Meyer's day (year). This game illustrates how antiquated the BCS system is. Wouldn't you love to see Auburn or Alabama's offense go up against Michigan State's defense? Sorry, ain't gonna happen this year. State is off to Pasadena to play 11-2 Stanford (Big Friggin' Whoop!).

Speaking of Auburn they put up some incredible numbers against the second best defense in the SEC (having whipped the best defense just last week). The War Eagles ran up 677 total yards against Missouri with Tre Mason accounting for 304 yards on the ground. Folks Missouri is not an ACC team. These guys are for real and they can play with anybody. And for Auburn to hang almost 700 yards on a team like this, well Katie bar the door---->Jimbo Fisher. FSU had damn well be ready to rock 'n roll because Auburn has no offensive weaknesses.

So, Auburn and FSU are in but let's look at the one and two loss teams that are out: Ohio State, Alabama, Baylor, Michigan State, Northern Illinois, Central Florida, Louisville, Fresno State, Missouri, Oklahoma State, Stanford, South Carolina, Oregon, Clemson and Oklahoma. Now considering the Div 2 playoffs consist of 24 teams (see bracket below) do you think just maybe we could put together a similar tournament for Div 1? Does anybody really believe Alabama or Ohio State or even a lesser respected team like Louisville don't deserve a shot? The BCS system sucks but this four team playoff next year sucks only marginally less. Look 24 teams may be a bit much but come on, 4 is ridiculous.

Well that might be it for this year. I might post some thoughts on the bowl games if something strikes my interest. It's been a pleasure informing you dolts and NFL fans (not to be redundant) about the wonders of college football. CW's Cavaliers stunk up the joint this year only surpassed by by own NC State Wolfpack so that was disappointing. But all in all we've seen some pretty good football so I can't complain too much. Catch you on the flip-side and Go Panthers.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Chili, I need your address

To my friend in Colorado, Chili, whose email I have only through his previous employer and who does not participate in social media outside of this blog--please email me your home address and phone number. 

Where Are The Republicans?

News today of yet another "campaign style" undertaking from the White House designed to convince America of the goodness of Obamacare.  Every day until the 23rd of December, some kind of singular messaging emphasis will emanate from the White House through its friends in the Bought and Paid For Media to the waiting ears of an American public who has apparently not yet been lied to enough. 

Apparently, lefty commentators have been ramping up the din that the Obamacare website is beginning to work, gleefully predicting a wave of support from the public when they are finally able to grab hold of the brass ring of Affordable Care through the flow orifice that is the website.  Yet the website was never THE PROBLEM with Obamacare; it was really just a problem of corporatism run amok with sweetheart contracting, ridiculous timelines and insufficient specification.  No, the problem with Obamacare is Obamacare.  And I need to hear Republicans saying it over, and over, and over again.

Let's face it.  Many of the "uninsured" were uninsured by choice.  They looked at what was available on the individual healthcare market and determined that it was economically unwise to buy insurance given their financial state.  Now, the decision is made for them.  They will have to get insurance.  Whatever they were paying for their healthcare before will increase--as they will now have to buy actual insurance or pay their fine.  If they choose the fine, they still have to pay full price for whatever care they receive at the point of sale.  These folks will now have to go online to the apparently working better site, in order to do what they deemed economically unwise to do last year, now at the point of a government gun (metaphor alert). 

Next are the folks who already HAD individual policies, the ones we've heard so much about, the one's whose policies have been cancelled (or not subject to renewal) because they are "noncompliant" with the standards of the ACA.  We have been hearing some of their stories.  They liked their old coverage.  They can't understand why they need maternity or mental health coverage.  They don't like the premiums, or the deductibles, or the premiums and the deductibles. 

Next year, we will see a wave of unhappiness that makes this year's individual market stories look like a pittance by comparison. This is when employer based plans begin to drop people because 1) it is cheaper to drop them (and pay a penalty) and send them to the exchanges 2) the plans are non-compliant and will therefore be more expensive.  In either case  many more millions will find that their premiums and or deductibles have increased, and their choice of doctors has disappeared. 

All of this sets the stage for Republicans to capitalize; not only by continuing to pound home the fact that this monster was created by Democrat Dr. Frankensteins (only), but also by coming forward with a series of legislative proposals that are conservative and market based that help make things better.  It will not be sufficient to simply sit back and watch the house burn.  Republicans will pay a devastating price if they are seen to be playing this game.  No matter how many times the Senate fails to vote on House Republican measures, they should continue to vote for them.  The American public needs to see Republicans TRYING TO SOLVE PROBLEMS in order to trust that they CAN solve problems.  We cannot simply repeal Obamacare--we must replace it with something better. 

But this is not what is happening.  What is happening is the legislative calendar, wherein our House Republicans scooted out of town for an extensive Thanksgiving break, followed by a scant few legislative days, followed by an extensive Christmas break.  All  momentum is being lost, and the vacant playing field is being occupied by the President as amplified through his media.  The plain truth of the matter is that whatever Republican leadership there is in this country has to stop acting like a run-of-the-mill Congressman and more like a leader.  They need to stay in Washington, where the press is, and where the action is.  This is where the battle is being fought and right now, there is only one Army in the field--the President's.  The RNC has got to get WHITE HOT in supporting leadership with a countercampaign that shows Americans EVERY SINGLE DAY what a mess Obamacare is.  Not the website.  The program. 

This is an existential moment for the Republican Party.  If we seize it, we can increase margins in the House and even take the Senate.  Every day that Mr. Obama squirms on his own petard is a day that plays to the advantage of Republicans in 2016.  But we are blowing this.  We are blowing this by not being active, and by not relentlessly pursuing better ideas. 

Sunday, December 1, 2013

On Shooting (at) a Deer

I arrived home from Mudge's place yesterday afternoon and have been contemplating since, this post on our hunt. 

First, for those who do not know it, Mudge and Mrs. Mudge are two of the very best people.  Anywhere.  They have settled on Virginia's Eastern Shore, and though I've known their estimable qualities for over 20 years, what drives it home for me is the manner in which the two of them have become intertwined with even the longest term residents of a part of the country that does not see a lot of strangers move in, at least not ones not associated with the agriculture industry.  Folks from Onancock to Cape Charles know and love the Mudge's, and the affection is heartily returned.

I showed up a little early on Friday.  I was supposed to show at 2PM, but got there around 1:15 to a sight that bore some explanation.  As I knocked on the door, all I could see were the Mudge's splayed out on the floor in what appeared to be an amorous pursuit.  As my knock was coincident with the shocking sight before me, I reasoned quickly that my early arrival had caught them in flagrante delicto, and began slowly to turn away.  Mrs. Mudge got up and greeted me warmly, explaining that she and her mate had been using their bodies to press the remaining air out of an air mattress.  Whew.  I could have been scarred.

Mudge and I set out for the hunting ground.  He has acquired a decent bit of land around him, and on one of the plots he has worked over the years to create a veritable playground for local deer--and hunters.  Some really wide paths and a number of very comfortable (and safe) deerstands adorn the land, and after gearing up, we walked to my stand and I climbed up, loaded up, and began the wait for the inevitable hapless quadruped to meander past my stand to meet his buckshot hastened end.  On this day (Friday), only bucks were allowed to be shot.

It was a cold afternoon, not frigid, but cold.  I was less prepared than I should have been--only one pair of socks, not enough layers, and no gloves.  But it was only a few hours until sundown, and so by the time Mudge came whooping toward me (a way of making sure he was not shot at--along with a light on his head and the required blaze orange) at around 5:30, I was cold, but not frigid.  Neither Mudge nor I saw any deer Friday afternoon, but it was a great day to be outside.  We packed up and went back to his house.

Within about 30 minutes of sitting my big butt in a recliner, the dinner bell rang.  A delicious venison chili was served, which required a second bowl for me to be quite sure I had had enough.  Delicious cookies were served as a follow-up, and the Mudge's and I sat amidst their three Dachshunds to discuss the world, our common friends, and our lives.  By 9PM, both Mudge and I were exhausted, with the prospect of a 0430 wakeup in order to meet our friend Nevin the following morning at 0500 at the hunting ground.

We were there on time, as was Nevin and his son.  After exchanging pleasantries, we took our places in our stands to await the rising sun.  There are few places in the world quite like the woods on a cloudless, cold night.  It was still quite dark, and sitting in one's tree without much to do (except keep still) the thought of heading back to sleep never quite leaves one's mind.  A few years ago, we had been up quite late the night before, and I definitely nodded off a few times.  Not this time, though.  I manned my post efficiently from 0530 until 0800, when the influence of the prior evening's Chili could no longer be ignored.  I had feared that my venison-chili induced flatulence might scare away deer, but then realized that perhaps they might recognize the remnants of one of their old friends in the waft.  I climbed down to head back to base, there to grab Mudge's truck for the two mile drive to his house for a sanitary break.  Once at the camp, I saw Mudge and Nevin's son near where we hang deer for cleaning.  I had heard three shots earlier, but not knowing from whose stand they came, it was great to see them there, thinking that they had one hung.  But the closer I got, I realized there was none there.  They had looked quite a while for it, but had not found what Nevin Jr had shot at.  When I told Mudge that I was heading back, he decided he'd come to and grab one of his Dachshunds to see if they could get on the scent of the deer Nevin Jr. shot at.  After the necessary trip, I headed back to my stand.

Once up there, for some odd reason, I had a sense that something big was coming my way.  My senses sharpened.  I knew I only had about an hour and a half left before we'd conclude the morning hunt and head to breakfast (I would be leaving, they would be returning for an afternoon hunt), so I had to make the last bit of time count.  Though the picture below was taken Friday afternoon, by 1000 or so on Saturday, it was lit similarly. 
The view from my stand

As if on cue, about 80 yards down the path a buck slowly moved onto the path from the right.  I could tell he had antlers, but not how many points.  Here was the moment I had waited all my hunting life (4 years) for--a shot at a buck.  Truth be told, I had gone over this moment scores of times in the previous two days, even going as far as practicing slowly and silently picking up the gun from the resting position, shouldering it, aiming and firing.  I had no idea how I would perform.  Would I simply get overexcited and rush my way through?  Would I take too long trying to be too quiet and lose the shot?  I got the weapon at my shoulder as he meandered across the path, sighted him in and pulled the trigger before the tip of his nose went out of view on the left.  It was definitely a long shot--again, about 80 yards.  After shooting, the buck turned a full 180 and bounded back across the path in the direction from which he came.

I really couldn't be sure if I hit him.  As I sit here typing this today, I tell myself that next time, I won't take that shot, because he was too far away.  Mudge got a buck a few weeks ago about ten yards further away with muzzle loader (scope equipped), which he paced at 91 yards.  We put the dog on the trail.  There was no blood where he pivoted or where he entered the woods, and no blood along the way.  He also didn't piss himself, as the dog would have picked that up too.  No, I just plain missed him--and for that, I am glad.  Better to miss and not wound, than to hit and only wound--leaving him to a slow and painful death.  

What did I learn? I learned that I didn't act like a fool and rush things.  I learned that I need to be a little more patient and let him get closer.  I learned that I one should avoid chili the night before deer hunting.  And I (re)learned the value of a wonderful friendship.

The Hammer's College Football Roundup: Rivalry Week.

WEEEEEEE DOGGIE, what a Saturday! College football fans could not ask for a more entertaining day than yesterday. Why it was like being in a German sex bar with a company credit card.

Alabama/Auburn was just awesome! This of course is one of the great rivalries in American sports and an especially big deal this year what with 'Bama being 'Bama and Auburn 10-1 (0-9 in the SEC just last year). Auburn needed the Tide to have a few breakdowns to have a shot and they got 'em. Alabama's kicking game was atrocious missing four field goals the last resulting in a 100 yard return for the Auburn win. It's a sad day in Tuscaloosa (another word Yankees can't spell) and it blows the whole championship thing wide open.

Not to nit-pick or anything but Coach Saban made some pretty lame decisions yesterday (e.g. not going for a 30 yard field goal that would have put the Tide up two scores late) but oh boy, so did Michgan's Brady Hoke (he's FROM Ohio you know). After playing Ohio State toe to toe through the first half Big Blue had a tough third quarter with the Buckeyes going up by two touchdowns. But Michigan fought back and had a chance to tie the game with about half a minute to go. BUT NOOOOOOOOOO! With the Wolverines playing in front of a fired up home crowd Coach Genius decides now's the time to go for broke with a two point conversion. So rather than take the point and go into overtime with the momentum, Michigan is now in a position (to paraphrase Woody Hayes) where three things can happen... and two of 'em are bad. So, as one might expect Ohio State stops a Michigan two yard pass (into double coverage) and makes it out alive 42-41. NICE CALL COACH!

In other action Florida State kept rolling along (at least until the arraignment) whipping a despondent Gator squad. Clemson lost again to South Carolina (#5 and counting) and Duke kicked Tar Heel ass in Kenan Stadium in a very exciting game. In my opinion Coach Cutcliffe should be coach of the year.  

Let's talk a little Heismann shall we? According to ESPN the top candidates are:
1) Jameis Winston, Florida State.
    Not a chance, he's a rapist.
2) Andre Williams, Boston College.
    Eh, good back but he padded his numbers by playing the likes of NC State (300+ yards), Army,
    New Mexico State and Villanova.
3) A.J. McCarron, Alabama.
    Probably my choice but his receivers didn't help him any yesterday.
4) Johnny Manziel, Texas A&M.
    He won it last year but this year A&M didn't beat anybody they weren't supposed to beat. Not
    gonna happen.
5) Jordan Lynch, Northern Illinois.
    Forgetaboutit! The school is off the radar. Remember Gordie Lockbaum at Holly Cross in 1988?
    Me neither.
6) Ka'Deem Carey, Arizona.
    The Wildcats are 7-5 and 4th. in the Pac-12. He can't be THAT good.
7) Derek Carr, Fresno State.
    They just lost to San Jose State. The end.
8) Marcus Mariota, Oregon.
    Oregon underachieved this year. The Heisman is all about OVER achieving!
9) Tajh Boyd, Clemson.
    Jesus, even Clemson people want to forget this guy.
10) Braxton Miller, Ohio State.
      Teddy Bridgewater at Louisville and Brett Hundley at UCLA have better numbers and OSU's
      schedule this year ain't exactly been SEC caliber (having played only one top ten team) so
      don't see it happening. But Ohio State is a big name so who knows?
11) Bryce Petty, Baylor.
      If he could run 15 yards without tripping over his own shoelaces that would be a plus. But he
      started slow and his football IQ is questionable.
12) David Watford, Virginia.
      AHHH HAAA! Got ya! This bum will be selling timeshares in Daytona Beach this time next

That's it, c-ya when I c-ya.

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