Shots Across the Bow

A Reality Based Blog

Monday, September 23, 2002

Blogger question

Blogger question Blogger is announcing several new services for a premium price. Do we have any reason to expect better performance and support for the premium? I'm still getting the template errors, bad permalinks, etc. If you can't fix what you have, why I should I pay for more stuff that won't work?

If Blogspot Pro and Blogger Pro work more reliably then the free versions, then the upgrade will be worthwhile. Anybody out there using the premium services? Are they any more reliable? Let me know.

Posted by Rich
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It’s always something.

It's always something.
My modem at home just died. Fortunately, it's still under warrantee, but for the next couple of days, I'll be off-line, which is unfortunate because Tuesday morning, I'm off to Chicago for a management seminar. I won't be getting back until late Saturday afternoon, which means I'll miss the Rutgers game. I'm sure it will be a nail biter.

I'll see y'all Sunday.

Posted by Rich
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The Iceman melteth

The Iceman melteth
Forget the bad calls.
Forget Gator offensive linemen tackling pass rushers.
Forget another phantom touchdown.
Forget stolen playbooks and rookie head coaches.
Forget ESPN pigs and Lee Corso crooning Rocky Top.
Forget the weather forecast.

The reason a low pressure system stalled over Neyland Stadium Saturday afternoon was that the Vols sucked!

Letís talk about 16 missed tackles in one quarter.
Letís talk about lining up with 12 men on the field.
Letís talk about an offensive line that couldnít open a hole in a wet paper bag.
Letís talk about a starting fullback who couldnít pick up a blitzing linebacker if his life depended on it.
Letís talk about a hothouse rose of a quarterback whose game falls to pieces if the wind blows wrong.
Letís talk about a wide receiver who can run his mouth, but canít run away from a badly burned safety.
Letís talk about a defensive secondary that couldnít cover two receivers with 5 defensive backs.
Letís talk about an offensive coordinator calling the worst game in SEC history. Since when do you make the fullback your featured running back without moving him to the tailback position?
Letís talk about a head coach who mortgaged the future of his program on a quarterback who simply canít get the job done when the chips are down. Anybody remember the names Ratay, Suggs, Matthews? Can anybody name our current backup QB?

On second thought, letís not talk about it. Itís too sickening.
Bright spots, and there were darned few of them:
The defensive line on the whole played well, rattling Grossman several times. Unfortunately, when your secondary plays 25 yards off of the receivers, the lineís efforts are usually wasted.
Jason Witten was Mr. Reliable, catching everything that came near him, and punishing would be tacklers.
I just saved $200, because I certainly won't be going to the Miami game.

My prediction, UT will lose to Georgia, Miami, and either Bama, South Carolina, or Kentucky, going 8-4 for the season, not including the Motor City Bowl, where, in a preview to next year, they will lose to the perenniel MAC 10 champion, Marshall.

I think I'll root for the Commodores for the rest of the season. They may suck, but they don't quit. They nearly pulled the upset over Ole Miss.

UPDATE: Casey Clausen has just announced that he is switching from football to boxing, where his "hands of stone" will be an asset.

UPDATE again: OVERRATED. The Vols, who were wildly overrated at number 4 are still overrated at number 11. 16 or 17 is more appropriate.

Posted by Rich
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Thursday, September 19, 2002

Also in the pulse

Also in the pulse

Katie Allison Granju has a new essay in the Metro Pulse that's worth reading.
But as pleased as I am with my work-family balance, I sometimes wonder if by structuring my days primarily around my children's schedules rather than an employer's time clock, I am betraying the sacrifices and hard work of the previous two generations of women who paved the way so that I could pursue a professional life. I mean, did Sandra Day O'Connor, Geraldine Ferraro, and even my own grandmother and mother, highly successful journalists who blazed their own trails, work as hard as they did just so that I wouldn't be too tired after a long day at the office to read bedtime stories to my toddler? I have decided that they did.

Feminism is all about the power to choose. Half a century ago, it is likely that my current stay-at-home status wouldn't have been mine to accept or reject. Instead it simply would have been the way it was.

Now that's a feminism I can agree with. Both choices are validated.

Posted by Rich
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A little local fisking

A little local fisking

I was reading through the August 29 issue of The Metro Pulse, Knoxville's alternative weekly paper, when I came across the latest writings of Massimo Pigliucci. Mr. Pigliucci, a member of the Rationalists of East Tennessee, and a professor at UT, writes a column published in Metro Pulse called Rationally Speaking. A quick read shows that there is no truth in advertising for this column. While the Pulse doesn't maintain an on-line archive, Mr. Pigliucci does, and has granted permission to reproduce his articles, so let the games begin!

First, let's look at his version of utopia:
The world some of us would like to see, and are fighting to help bring about with our actions and writings, is one in which more people will use reason to make their decisions; fundamentalist religion will be seen as silly at best, and profoundly misguided and dangerous at worst; the environment will be thought of a real priority; war will not be possible because of a truly civilized international system of police and tribunals (you know, just like modern societies are an improvement over the law of the jungle?); and human beings will engage not in the search for profit or shallow consumerism but in the pursuit of true happiness and fulfillment.

This is rational? OK, let's start by looking at the contradictions implicit in his utopia. First he elevates modern society over the law of the jungle, while denigrating every relevant aspect of those societies.

Religion? "Profoundly misguided and dangerous," not to mention "silly." Never mind that religion, regardless of the wrongs wrought , has been the single most civilizing influence on mankind. Yes, wars have been fought in the name of god, but hospitals have been built, charities founded, art sponsored, lives cherished in the same name. Religion has had a far more beneficial influence on the developement of man than it has a negative, a fact which is easily demonstrated. Religious thought is the first example of man applying some intrinsic value to life. In addition, the presence of an after life, with it's attendant restrictions on behavior, provided the first curbs on mankinds animal instincts, and provide the foundation for Mr. Pigliucci's "civilization." It may be that we have outgrown the need for religion, that we can approach life with reverence without the need ofr a supernatural presence. Looking at the world today, I don't think that case can be made, but even if it could, it does not in any way lessen the critical role religion played in getting us to this point.

Profit is also a bad thing, which distracts from true happiness and fulfillment. Never mind that the motivation for profit springs directly from our animal heritage, and as such is completely in tune with our evolutionary origins. Never mind that the desire for profit has created more prosperity and a higher standard of living for the entire world, not just the US. Yes, poverty still exists. But is it just coincidence that those countries with the highest poverty rates are also those countries with the most regulated economies? Is it an accident that every experiment in socialist economy wound up bankrupt? Or that North Korea is starving while South Korea is prospering? A rationalist would look for causality with this many coincidences. Mr. Pigliucci doesn't even consider the question.

He also takes to task our current systems of criminal justice and international law, the systems that brought security to a larger portion of the globe than ever before, implying that they are not "truly civilized" and comparing them to the law of the jungle.

Which brings me to the contradiction inherent in most rationalist philosophies. Mr. Pigliucci is a strict evolutionist. He allows for no religion, no moderating influences, no supernatural forces, no higher mode of being. As such, the only ethical system open to him, without engaging in blatant hypocrisy, is the law of the jungle. The only indicator of success in the evolutionary scheme is the ability of the organism to pass on its genetic code. Any ethical system that compromises that success will die out and be replaced by one that improves the chances for success. Over several million years of evolution, the "law of the jungle" has proven to be the most effective ethical system. Remember that through evolution, we too are the end result of the law of the jungle, and holding ourselves apart from it, in the absence of some other operative force, is sheer hubris.

If we look honestly at our global society today, we see, in fact, that the law of the jungle, regardless of what thin veneers of ďcivilizationĒ we may have enacted, rules us. The ultimate arbiter of conflict continues to be the application of force, up to and including physical violence. Whether that force is carried out by an individual, or the collective will of the people is immaterial. We still live in a world where might makes right. Unless of course you subscribe to a supernatural system of absolutes. Which, of course, is silly, and might even be dangerous.

I won't hold Mr. Pigliucci's failure to provide any specifics against him. He may have done so elsewhere, and that wasn't the thrust of this article. I'll just note that it is easy to say you are for a "truly civilized international system of police and tribunals." The devil is in the details. What is "truly civilized?" Is there a base package of values, some core of ethics upon which all nations would voluntarily agree? If so, what is the basis for those ethics? Could a body organized around those ethical principles use force to compel compliance from those who have a different set of core values? If so, aren't we back to the law of the jungle, supplemented with the rule of the herd?

Just as an example, Muslim culture directly incorporates religion into their political structure. Mr. Pigliucci would view this as "silly at best, and profoundly misguided and dangerous at worst." Would his international tribunal system force Muslims to renounce or modify their beliefs? Would they be allowed to use violence to do so?

Moving a little further in his article we find this:
To make it even worse, now we have a president who was not elected democratically (hey, I thought that happened only in Third World countries!), who keeps showing a callous disrespect for the environment and an equally abominable close tie to big business, and of whom (for some reason) most people keep approving because he has ďcharacterĒ (by which they must mean that he is able to lie about his past better than Clinton did).

A rationalist? Not by this passage.

First, President Bush was elected in accordance with the laws of our nation, as has every president before him. He is not the first to win the electoral vote while losing the popular vote, nor will he be the last. This in no way illegitimizes his presidency, or means that he was elected undemocratically. The character slur at the end is totally without foundation, and stands as a vacuous attack on a man he doesn't like. What lies about his past has Bush told, and how were they more successful than Clinton's? Both were elected in spite of their pasts. Apparently they were equally successful. Maybe President Bush is seen to have more character because he appears to have learned from his mistakes. While Clinton carried his lying, womanizing ways with him into the White House, President Bush left his wild oats behind him.

Next comes this howler:
Letís not forget that the Soviet Union and the Berlin wall crumbled in front of our eyes after having been apparently unfaltering symbols of oppression for decades. Equally surprisingly, Nelson Mandela went from political prisoner to head of state in South Africa, and the Milosovic government in the former Yugoslavia disappeared. These things donít happen if we leave the field entirely to conservative and regressive forces.

Hmmm. Who was President in 1990 when Nelson Mandela was released? And in 1991 when he was elected President of the ANC? And who challenged the Soviet Union to remove the Wall, and who was President when it came down? And who's policies, widely opposed by the left, contributed directly to the economic collapse of the Soviet Union? Why, it was none other than the demon himself, Ronald Reagan. To claim these events as victories of the left is sheer balderdash, unless you want to claim Reagan as a fellow liberal. Or maybe you want to claim that these things happened in spite of Reagan and the Republicans, that when President Reagan said, "Mr. Gorbachev, Tear down this Wall!" he didn't really mean it. Maybe the fuss kicked up by Tip O'Neill and the Democrats in the Congress trying to prevent the President from carrying out his agenda was all a smoke screen, designed to sow confusion among the American people. Maybe Reagan was a tool of the left all along.

In a pigs eye!

Mr. Pigliucci does not present a rational argument anywhere in this article, preferring instead to rely upon personal attack, unfounded accusation, and a rather embarrassing mistatement of recent national and international history.

But he does type well...

Posted by Rich
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A Musical Note

A Musical Note
Since Lionel Hampton died a few days ago, tonight I pulled out an old movie from my collection, A Song is Born, which featured Hampton, along with many jazz legends, including Benny Goodman, Mel Powell, Tommy Dorsey, and Louis Armstrong. The movie itself is a little lame, but the music, mostly in the first half, makes all of Danny Kaye's stumbling and stammering worthwhile.

I also listened to Hampton's set on Benny Goodman's Carnegie Hall concert. A lot of musicians achieve competence through sheer hard work, perserverence, and dedication. Others achieve fame through luck, good marketing, or having the right sound for the times. But only a rare few are born to play. Lionel Hampton was one, as was Charlie Parker, Goodman, Miles Davis, among others. They take their music to a new level, not so much playing their instruments as speaking through them. It's the difference between playing music and being a musician.

Posted by Rich
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Monday, September 16, 2002

New additions

New additions I've just added a few new links to the list on your left. First up is the Home page for the 172 Detachment 1 group, currently operating in Afghanistan in Enduring Freedom. Yep, they have a page, and a blog on the page. Check 'em out and give them your support.

Next up are two Tennessee bloggers, Say Uncle, and William Burton Welcome to the fray, folks!

Posted by Rich
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Wobbly?  Like hell!

Wobbly? Like hell!
I was working out at the gym on Saturday and was listening to Pres. Bush and his press conference with the Italian Prime minister. Not only did he challenge the relevance of the UN, he compared that organization to the League of Nations! This after verbally bitch slapping the General Assembly with their own complacency. Their lack of reaction to his challenge only shows the depths of their decadence. Think about it for a minute. Bush detailed how Iraq is flouting 16 different UN resolutions, and the concensus of the General Assembly so far has been to suggest, you got it, another resolution. I'm sure Saddam is losing sleep over that prosepect.

"Oh no! The UN is going to pass another resolution! I had better let those inspectors back in right away!"

Yeah, right.

I know this may not be a popular course of action with liberals, and maybe even some conervatives, but all the President is saying is that the UN must act to enforce it's resolutions or those resolutions become irrelevant, as does the UN itself. This is not a radical position to take. Every parent knows that if you set a rule for a child, you must enforce that rule consistently, otherwise not only will the kid disobey that rule, he will begin to break all the rules. Enforcement of the rules entails the use of force, and that force must be administered appropriately. Like I was saying below, diplopmacy is powerless without a credible force to back it up. The UN is rapidly squandering whatever credibility it once had by failing to enforce its dictates appropriately. Isn't it ironic that the UN is spending far more energy trying to prevent the US from enforcing the resolutions against Iraq than in trying to get Iraq to comply?

Listening to the President speak before the UN, and again on Saturday, I was struck by the impression that he is laying the ground work for a US withdrawal from the UN.

Posted by Rich
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Thursday, September 12, 2002

It’s called a double standard.  You might want to look into it.

It's called a double standard. You might want to look into it. OK. Find the logical flaw in this argument:
Lawyers for Natallie Evans and Lorraine Hadley filed papers in the court as the first step to challenging a law that says both parties must consent to the storage and use of frozen embryos. The women argue the law violates their human rights because they are now infertile...Muiris Lyons, the women's lawyer, said the case would affect everyone in Britain undergoing in vitro fertilization treatment.

"The law as it stands gives their respective former partners a complete veto. They say that is unfair and discriminatory," said Lyons....Lyons said lawyers would argue that if Evans and Hadley had become pregnant naturally and the embryos were in their bodies, their partners would have no say at all.

So, according to Lyons, it's OK if the mother gets a complete veto, but not the father.

I'm not a lawyer. but the reasoning seems a little fishy to me. First, the whole argument for giving the mother unqualified control over the destiny of her fetus is the fact that it is in her body, or as some put it, "My body; my choice." If the embryo isn't in her body, that reasoning no longer applies. The fact is that they didn't become pregnant naturally, the embryos have never implanted in their uterus, so why should they have any more say in the outcome than the fathers? It follows that if both have an equal say, and they can't reach an agreement, then the embryos should not be implanted.

Posted by Rich
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A Different Perspective

A Different Perspective
I watched some of the coverage this morning after I got home from work. I've read a lot of the blogs covering the coverage, including those that say we're carrying on too much about it. Apparently some folks see this as a healing catharsis, a way of gaining a little closure and moving on, while others see it as picking at a scab, rather than letting it heal. I see it a little bit differently. I see a people standing together, mourning our dead, saluting our heroes, and saying to the world "NEVER AGAIN!" We are commemorating an event that, God willing, will remain unique in American History. We remind ourselves that the price of freedom is eternal vigilance, and complacency leads to tragedy. We remind ourselves that Evil does exist in the world, and it can't be appeased or ignored. There are people who are opposed to our very existence, and will use any means at their disposal to hurt us. The history of man is a bloody tangle of war and destruction, and the last few decades of relative peace and stability is the exception, rather than the rule. We forgot that for awhile, getting lost in a morass of moral relativism and wishful thinking. We said to the world, "Can't we all just get along?"

The answer was,"No."

I remember that the nuns at school used to teach us that fighting never solved anything. Tell that to the slaves freed during the War Betwee the States. Or to the American Indians. Or to the Carthaginians, if you can find any. The use of force has solved every major question throughout history. We pretend to be civilized now, and tell ourselves that we solve our problems with diplomacy rather than armies, but diplomacy doesn't mean a tinker's damn without the army to back it up. Just as an example, let's look at Iraq. They have violated the agreements which ended the Gulf War, and have faced no repercussions from the international community or the UN. Hussein knows that the UN will not act, and therefore he ignores their 'diplomacy.' He makes the right noises, but does nothing. The only diplomacy a rogue will accept comes at the end of a rifle barrel, and only if he thinks you have the will to pull the trigger.
Of course, the nuns also told us that it takes two to make a fight. Wrong again, Sister. Or partially right, at best. It's true that you need two sides to make a fight, but if one side refuses to fight, that doesn't eliminate the fight; it just makes it a lot shorter, and grants the aggressor an easy victory. Look at WWII. Had the Allies not fought back, would the world be a better place now?

Bottom line is there comes a time when war is necessary. Now is such a time. We can wait longer, let our enemies grow stronger, let them hit us again, let them strike at our citizens, our families, our children, but why? Hussein has declared war on the US, and never rescinded that declaration. We have evidence that he is seeking the capability to inflict great harm to our nation. Do we have to wait until another 3000 people die before we act?

I don't think so. You don't let a rabid dog bite your kids before putting him down.

Posted by Rich
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Wednesday, September 11, 2002

America, What a Country!

America, What a Country!

They were a young couple in their mid twenties, just starting out. He worked in construction, or maybe as an auto body mechanic. He had close-cropped hair, and wore a Smith and Wesson muscle shirt. She was plump, but not overly so, and was on her lunch break from the Dollar Store. They both had the harried look of a couple for whom income almost precisely matched expenses, leaving precious little margin for error. He made 10 dollars an hour or so, and she chipped in 6, and they were making it, not living high and fancy, but there was a nice double wide that would be theirs after another 236 payments, and the requisite pick up truck out in the parking lot with 85,000 miles on it that he had bought back when he was still single. You could see that the day was coming soon when the pick up would be traded in for a minivan, or a used SUV if he had a good year. Just getting by and dreaming of the days when they would do more than get by, and might even get a little ahead. There was a bass boat with his name on it, as well as some new living room furniture to replace the hand me downs they got as a gift from her parents when they got married.

They had decided to eat out for lunch today, maybe to celebrate a promotion, or to enjoy some time together, or maybe because she was too busy or tired to cook. He brought their daughter, a cute little girl about 5 years old with him to see Mommy. They had come to the local buffet, because the food was good, and cheap. With an ease born of experience they traded off watching the little girl as plates were filled; she watched the little girl while he got his salad, then she got her daughterís food. Then while they ate, she went back for her food. Dad got their daughter for the second round, and so on. They talked all through lunch, sharing their days and laughing with their daughter.

The buffet was impressive, steam and refrigerator tables loaded with food. There was fried chicken, mashed potatoes and gravy (itís required by law that all buffets serve fried chicken). There was lasagna, taco salads, grilled chicken breasts, pork cutlets, baked fish, fried okra, lima beans, spinach, corn on the cob, baked potatoes, sweet potato wedges, several relishes, pizza, spaghetti, sandwich fixinsí, a full salad bar with spring onions, lettuce spinach, tomatoes, sliced, or cherry, diced ham and turkey, shredded cheese, real crumbled bacon, several dressings. Off to the side was the dessert bar, with puddings, gelatins, cakes, pies, and ice cream. He made three trips and she made two, and the little girl made four (two to the dessert bar).

The price for this magnificent feast for three?

Under $18.00 including tip.

Think about that for a minute. For basically one hourís labor, this blue-collar family was able to eat a meal rivaling Bacchanalian banquets. What a country!

At the same restaurant, there was a girl named Amy waiting tables. She was a pretty little thing, in her early twenties, and sporting a gaudy engagement/wedding ring. She was well dressed, with expensive jewelry, and there was an innocence to her expression that told she had never had to struggle for anything. She had a nice smile as she greeted her customers, and rushed to fill their drink glasses while they headed to the buffet. She carried a little of that smile with her as she worked, like she had a small secret she found amusing. Around 2:30, her husband showed up in their new Audi with their son, a 5-year-old tyke just out of pre-school. Her husband was neatly attired in slacks and a dress shirt, tie pulled loose at the neck as he led his little boy towards the back of the restaurant. He said hello to his wife as she moved to hug him, then stopped at the barely perceptible shake of his head. He wasnít one for public displays of affection; it just didnít fit his image.

The little boy pulled up a chair to one of the tables in the back, crossed his legs on the seat, and began coloring as his dad said goodbye and went out to the car, straightening his tie as he headed back to the office. Amy gave her son a quick hug and went back to waiting tables. The little boys eyes followed her hungrily as she moved around the restaurant, refilling drinks, seating new customers and bussing tables. Every now and then, she would look over at her boy, and when their eyes met, his face lit up with a huge grin. Eventually her shift would end, and she would take her little boy home to the suburb, make dinner, then plop down in front of the TV for a few hours of mindless entertainment before going to bed. Her husband would stay at work late, working to pay for the Audi, the house, the second car they planned on getting soon, and to put money away for his sonís college fund. The little boy would play video games in his room until bedtime, then come downstairs to kiss his mommy goodnight, and go to bed. Tomorrow, the story would play out again, and again, as Daddy got ahead, and Mommy got her pin money, and the little boy got...what?

What a country!

Posted by Rich
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A prediction

A prediction There will be no terrorist attack on American soil today, although there might be one on one of our embassies in Europe or Asia. BAsic strategy says you attack while your target is not looking.

We're looking.

Also, when you're a mosquito biting a bear, it's a bad idea to wake the bear. The US has not slipped back into complacency yet. An attack now would ensure the destruction of the Middle East

Posted by Rich
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A new addition

A new addition Ladies and Gentlemen, please welcome the latest addition to my links, The Talking Dog, who growls from his den in Brooklyn NYC.

Posted by Rich
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Sunday, September 08, 2002

An Explanation

An Explanation I haven't been blogging much lately, but I have a really good excuse. One of my regular readers suggested that I write a book.

So I am.

I don't know if it will go anywhere or not, but I didn't know whether this blog would go anywhere or not either. I'm not going to quit blogging entirely, but I am going to blog less, maybe three times a week or so, just to keep you up to date on everything. Between work, keeping house, chasing kids, wood turning and building furniture, I'm running out of time to eat and sleep, much less blog. Of course, if anything major happens in the world or in my life, you can be sure I'll write about it here. There is an immediacy to blogging that you don't get while writing a longer project.

Anyway, wish me luck, and I'll let you know how it goes.

Posted by Rich
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Tuesday, September 03, 2002

With apologies to Lennon and McCartney

With apologies to Lennon and McCartney

Tennessee Tourons* (to the tune of Eleanor Rigby)

Ah, look at all the silly people
Ah, look at all the silly people

Gatlinburg tourist looks up the road to see how long this nightmare goes on
All hope is gone
Trapped on the highway, hearing the cries of the kids in the back, "Are we there?"
"No, we're not there."

All the silly tourons
Where do they all come from ?
All the silly tourons
Where do they all belong ?

Gatlinburg locals feeding their dreams from the cash that the tourons will spend
Let it never end
Creeping down back roads, avoiding the traffic that always slows down to a stall
Laughs at them all!

All the silly tourons
Where do they all come from?
All the silly tourons
Where do they all belong?

Gatlinburg tourist swears that he never will come back to this place again
It drives him insane
Gatlinburg local grins as pockets the cash that the touron left here
Y'all come back, ya hear?

All the angry tourons
Headed for home on Sunday
All the angry tourons
Stuck in the traffic again.

**Touron is a portmanteau word combining tourist with moron.

This song was inspired by watching a line of traffic that stretched for about 5 miles on Hwy 66 headed into Sevierville on Friday, and a similar line of traffic that stretched for 2 miles headed out of Seveirville on Monday.

Posted by Rich
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