Shots Across the Bow

A Reality Based Blog

Thursday, October 28, 2004

I Won The Lottery!

Woo Hoo! Powerball is all mine baby!

No, I'm not lying. I matched the Powerball! That's $3 to me, baby!

And he said you can't win. What does an accountant know about money, anyway?

Wait. Strike that.

Of course, the bad news is that now I've used up all my luck and will never win the grand prize since the odds of winning twice (matching 1 and then matching all 6) are 1 in 4,218,436,950.

But who's counting? I won my $3!

Posted by Rich
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The Qa Qaa Has Hit the Fan And Kerry is Downwind.

Oh No! There are hundreds of tons of high explosives (that the Iraqis never had, right? No WMD here folks. Move along) missing from bunkers in Iraq! How could President Bush be so careless?

This story is falling apart faster than the forged memos, partially because the media is actually doing their job. NBC was first to jump in, with contemporary reports that verified that the explosives were missing when the troops arrived. Now ABC is piling on, using IAEA memos that indicate that the amount of high explosives there was on the order of 3 tons, not 300 tons. Since IAEA moron in command el Baradei was the source of the original charge, how ironic is it that memos from his own organization are now showing it to bw a lie. Wizbang and NZ Bear have the full details, but, put simply, it appears the Russians (you know, part of the "real" coalition Kerry plans to build) working with the Iraqi army, may have moved the explosives out of Iraq into Syria prior to the war, and there may be satellite imagery to prove it.

This story is falling apart so badly that now there are some liberals claiming, as they did over the memo flap, that it was a flase story planted by Karl Rove to embarass the media and democrats.

At least those clowns are smart enough to know they should be embarassed. They should be ashamed.

Posted by Rich
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Wednesday, October 27, 2004

Attacking the System III: I’m Angry!

Ok. It's bad enough that the New York Times decides to recycle a 19 month old story prior to the election. It's worse when they then hype the story as a new factor affecting the election, even as it is thoroughly debunked, not just by bloggers, but by NBC news, who had reporters on the scene at the time.

But the worst thing is hearing that CBS had the same story, but wasn't going to run it until the Sunday before the election.

It's time for us to decide if we want our news organizations to be reporters, or propagandists. Jeff Fager said that CBS had the story, but wanted to hold it until Oct 31, and the $64 question is "Why?" Now usually, in television, the "why" is about sweeps and ratings.

But Oct 31 isn't a sweeps period.

The answer that leaps to mind is that it is only 2 days prior to the election, giving the story time to build, but not be debunked, maximizing the impact on the Bush campaign. I'd rather not believe this explanation, but it has been a consistent pattern over the last few election cycles.

But this time, there's a difference. Before, the "story" came from the other campaign, and the media could claim that they were just reporting a valid story, not manipulating an election. But this time, Fager has admitted that the media, CBS at least, is in the business of manipulating the news to affect the election.

He admitted it! Not in so many words, but can you think of any other reason for holding the story? The story linked above gives the impression that the reason the story was being held was that they couldn't get enough taped interviews. But there are problems with that story as well. First, the article distorts the truth. The missing explosives were noted as missing when US forces first took possession of the base, as reported by NBC news at the time. Nowhere does the LAT piece mention that particular fact. Second, and more damning, it appears that 60 Minutes never intended to go with the story on the 24th. Based on the LAT piece, it was always scheduled for the 31st.


Damn it people, I don't care whether you're conservative or liberal; do you want your news organizations in the business of tampering with our system of government? Where's the outrage? A news organization was deliberately managing the news to affect the election of the President! It's unthinkable!

I'm betting even Water Cronkite is having trouble with this one.

The broadcast networks are licensed some very valuable chunks of the spectrum and as part of that license, they are required to operate in the best interests of the public. That has always meant that their news organizations had to be unbiased, and report the news.

Clearly, CBS has abandoned that standard, instead seemingly deciding that the public good is best served by making sure John Kerry gets elected. Even if you support Kerry, is that a role you want your news organizations to take on themselves?

Tailoring the news to gain a specific outcome?

In my opinion, CBS has violated their charter, and as far as I'm concerned, should have their broadcast license revoked. You can scream about freedom of the press all you want, but along with that freedom comes a responsibility to play by the rules, and CBS has made it abundently clear that they no longer intend to do so. They are misusing their influence.

Shut 'em down.

As for me, well, I will be informing CBS that as of today, I'll no longer be watching any of their programming, and I'll let their sponsors and my local affiliate know the same thing. If any of you out there are troubled by this whole mess, and even the most ardent Kerry supporter must feel somewhat uncomfortable with the media manipulating the flow of information in an attempt to sway the election, you're welcome to join me. But whether you do or not, I will be comfortable knowing that I am not supporting a network that has decided to tell me what they want me to know, instead of what I want to know.

Posted by Rich
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Tuesday, October 26, 2004

Attacking the System II:  It’s Worse than I Thought

As I said below, my hope was that the sickness was confined to the fringe of the Democratic Party.

I just heard John Kerry bragging that he had 10,000 lawyers standing by to make sure every vote is counted.

Somehow, I don't think you can identify the chosen Presidential candidate as a member of the fringe. The madness has gone mainstream.

I have a question for my readers who are Kerry supporters: Is this election so important to you that you are willing to win it by any means necessary, including fraud? Given the widespread reports of voter fraud, including multiple districts with more registered voters than residents (Neat trick, that one, and they're all in swing states. Imagine that.), does unquestioned acceptance of a Kerry win implicitly accept that fraud?

Again hard questions, but these are hard times.

Posted by Rich
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Peace and Serenity

or a reaonable facsimile thereof. Yes, it's time for another aquarium post.

So far, so good. Water chemistry is fine, although salinity is a bit high. BUt the cube looks great. I've added a few critters since the last pictures, a featherduster worm and a polyp rock.

I'll put most of the picks in the extended section, but here's a couple:



The rest of the pictures show the featherduster coming out of his tube. It's pretty cool.

Posted by Rich
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Monday, October 25, 2004

Attack Politics: Attacking the System

I was writing a detailed takedown of the Metro Pulse's endorsement of Kerry when it hit me that it really doesn't matter. Those who are going to vote for Kerry are going to vote for him regardless of what I or anybody else says. The same goes for those who are voting for Bush. There may be some true undecideds out there still, but I don't know any of them.

And this election will not be decided by the undecideds anyway; heck, it's probably not going to be decided by the voters at all. This election will be decided by the courts, and the party with the better lawyers. The contest has shifted; where politicians used to attack each other, we are now treated to the spectacle of politicians attacking the electoral system itself. And that's a damn shame, and quite possibly a tragedy.

While it is primarily the Democrats that are involved in this all out assault, that is only a function of circumstance. While I'd like to believe that the "win at any cost" currents running through the present election are mostly a liberal phenomenon, honesty compels me to admit that the same currents would be flowing on the conservative side if the situations were reversed. In fact, it can be argued that the entire Lewinski/Kenneth Starr mess was an example of the same passions expressed through a different outlet. (Yes, Clinton lied under oath and yes, that's a big deal, and should have been treated that way. But Starr backed into it; If there hadn't been a mentality to "get Clinton" we would never have heard of Monica.) At best, all I can truthfully say is that these attitudes might be confined to the fringe, rather than permeating the mainstream, but even there I have my doubts. But if Republicans started it with an attack on the systems in place for removal of the President, Democrats have targetted another system, more precious and fragile; the electoral process itself.

Already, phalanxes of lawyers are setting up shop in battleground states, ready to contest results unfavorable to Kerry. And you can be sure that Republican lawyers are massing as well, to counter them. Massive "get out the vote" campaigns have resulted in unprecedented numbers of invalid registrations, virtually insuring that the nuumber of people turned away at the polls will be higher than ever before, triggering more legal action. Laws that guard our system against fraud and abuse ensuring a fair count are being ignored, countered or removed completely in the name of fairness. This two pronged attack, stuffing the ballot box with a flood of invalid votes while fighting any attempt to have them discarded attacks the very foundation of our government.

The right to vote is a precious thing, yet it is also fragile because it rests on trust. We believe in our government because we believe in the process that put them in power. We trust that the reults of the election accurately reflects the will of the people. "We the People" is nowhere more evident than on election day. By exercising the franchise, we ensure, insomuch as is possible, that our government remains of, by, and for the citizens of this country.

But what happens if that process breaks down? What happens if we don't believe that the election accurately reflects our will? Take a look at liberal America for that answer. I've watched formerly rational people lose all sense of perspective, vecoming almost caricatures of themselves in their desire for payback. Cruise through DU or some of the other strong left sites, and check the mood.

Bitter, hateful, spite-filled, and angry.

Right or wrong, they feel like they were disenfranchised, and they are willing to go to almost any lengths to make sure it doesn't happen again. In fact, many have gone a step further, and want to ensure that their side wins, regardless of the cost, hence the attacks on our electoral system, the fraudulent registrations, the attacks on GOP campaign headquarters, etc. This election will be a close one, of that, there is little doubt. And, convinced that they were defrauded last time, there are those willing to use fraud and deceit in order to win this one. Thankfully, I was recently reminded that not all Democrats support or condone this kind of activity; many are as worried as I am about this issue. I just wish there were more of them and less of the fire eaters.

So, Nov 2 is coming up soon, and it is sure to be a firestorm of controversy, particularly in the battleground states. Allegations of voter fraud are sure to fly, no matter which candidate comes away with the initial victory. If it's Kerry, it will only be microseconds before challenges and recounts are called for based on the stories of fraud and inelegible voters being registered. Kerry's lawyers will counter with claims that the votes were all legal and should be counted, then go on to make claims of organized disenfranchisement carried out by Republicans on minorities.

So here's my question, and frankly, I don't think there's a good answer to it: If Kerry comes away with a victory based on very slim margins in Ohio, Minnesota, or other battleground states where there are documented instances of election fraud, what would be best for America? Should the Republicans allow a potentially fraudulent election to stand (think JFK and Illinois in 1960), or should they fight for the integrity of the electoral process, with the attendant damage to the electorate and to the electoral process itself?

There's simply no good answer to the question. You either have to accept possibly fraudulent results, or risk weakening the foundation of our government.

Which would you chose?

Posted by Rich
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Tuesday, October 19, 2004

Heaven’s Clocks

From my email:

A man died and went to heaven. As he stood in front of St. Peter at the Pearly Gates, he saw a huge wall of clocks behind him. He asked, "What are all those clocks?"

St. Peter answered, "Those are Lie-Clocks. Everyone on Earth has a Lie-Clock. Every time you lie the hands on your clock will move."

"Oh," said the man, "whose clock is that?"

"That's Mother Teresa's. The hands have never moved, indicating that she never told a lie."

"Incredible" said the man. "And whose clock is that one?"

St. Peter responded, "That's Abraham Lincoln's clock. The hands have moved twice, telling us that Abe told only two lies in his entire life."

"Where's John Kerry's clock?" asked the man.

"Kerry's clock is in Jesus' office. He's using it as a ceiling fan."

Posted by Rich
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The Party of Open Minds?

Oliver Willis:

I would vote for a single celled amoeba over George Bush, as long as the amoeba was a Democrat.

I'm not sure John Kerry would be flattered by the comparison, but hey, if he's all you have...

Posted by Rich
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Sunday, October 17, 2004

Annan Says the World isn’t Safer after Iraq War

I've got news for Koffi.

Making the world a safer place is his job.

President Bush's job is to make America safer. And he has.

Posted by Rich
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Setting the Record Straight

The Kerry campaign must sense that it is in deep trouble, since John Kerry is out campaigning on what can only be characterized as outright lies.

  1. President Bush has banned embryonic stem cell(ESC) research.
    This is absolutely untrue. In fact, this is so wrong it can't even be considered a distortion, but is a bare faced lie.

    Let's set the record straight. On August 10th of 2001, President Bush issued an executive order that for the first time authorized federal funding for embryonic stem cell research, but only on 78 existing lines of stem cells. Until he issued that order, there was no federal funding of embryonic stem cell research.


    Not only did he not ban the research, he initiated funding for it. And if researchers aren't satisfied with the pre-existing lines, they are welcome to produce new lines, but with private funding. If ESC are as promising as Kerry/Edwards claim, then surely the big drug companies will be falling all over themselves to realize those promises, and the profits that go along with them.

  2. ESC are a sure fire cure and the best avenue for treating a myriad of conditions from Alzheimers to spinal cord injuries.
    Since Kerry/Edwards are lawyers, not doctors, I'll give them the benefit of the doubt on this one and call it a misunderstanding.

    Let's set the record straight. To date there are no successful therapies based on ESC, and the most optimistic researches say we are decades away from any any therapies. In the one clinical trial using ESCs for Parkinsons patients, the results were a worsening of the patients' conditions, including one death.

    ESC adaptibility and flexibility come at a price. They are hard to control, and quite often result in cancers in test animals as they grow out of control. There are other therapies that hold much more promise for the future of Alzheimer treatment and spinal cord repair.

    Ironically, adult stem cell(ASC) therapies do exist, and have a proven track record at helping the body heal itself. Additionally, ASC therapies can be autologous, negating any rejection issues, and neatly sidestepping the entire issue of distroying an embryo.

  3. If you elect President Bush, you increase the chance of a draft.
    Well, either Kerry is lying, or he's calling the President a liar. In both of the last two debates, President Bush stated flatly that there would be no draft while he's President.

    Let's set the record straight. There was a bill introduced into the Senate to reinstate the draft. It was co-authored by two Democratic Senators as a stunt. When it came to the floor for a vote, even they didn't vote for it. There are not now, nor have there been any announced plans to reinstate the draft, and in fact, every official associated with the Selective Service System from the President on down has stated that there will be no draft.

    Having settled that, I do want to take the opportunity to once again point out that, as Sen Kerry says, our military is stretched thin right now. Does it bother anyone else that we have to stretch to the limit to take out a third rate military power? Apparently it does bother Sen. Kerry, because he has a plan to ease that by expanding the Army by two more divisions.

    I wonder where he plans to find the bodies to fill those slots...

Posted by Rich
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That Does It!

Whoever called the plays in tonight's game against Ole Miss should be fired tomorrow morning.


2 possessions, two touchdowns, then the offense pulls into a shell and darn near loses the game. That's not the players' fault; that's coaching. I sat here at home on the couch and predicted 5 plays in a row, including the screen pass that was intercepted for a touchdown. If I can do that, you know darn well that Cutcliffe and his staff can do it.

I don't care whether Sanders or Fulmer made the calls; whoever it is doesn't play to win; they play not to lose, and that'll kill a football team.

SUNDAY MORNING UPDATE: Ok, we won the game after all. NOw, in the light of day, I've had the chance to calm down a bit and reconsider my hasty and intemperate words of last night. And after careful and sober reflection;


No disrespect to Ole Miss, who played their guts out, but had we played any team in the top 25, we would be 4-2 and wondering what the heck happened to our season. Everyone in the stadium knew that on first down, Riggs would be running off tackle.

Hey Randy or Fulmer, a quick hint for you. If you run the same play on forst down for 2 frakin' quarters, it doesn't matter if you run it out of 57 different formations, you're not going to fool anybody.

Except maybe for Vandy.

The first two series showed that you had the players and the plan to whip Ole Miss. The rest of the game showed you didn't have the heart. A football team feeds on emotion; you coaches durn near starved your team last night.

It's a good thing I waited until I was calmer to write this.


Ok, I'm calmer now. No, really, I am. LAst week, after our thrashing of Georgia, I was disappointed by how the polls reacted, particularly the coaches poll, which bumped us from 17 to 14 while leaving the Bulldogs in the top 10, 6 places above us. That is patently ridiculous, right? Consider a similar situation ion the Big 10, where Wisconsin beat Purdue. Wisconsin jumped 5 places in the poll while Purdue dropped 7.

That's more like it.

So this is more proof of the bias against us at ESPN, right?

Wrong. ESPN and the folks in the coaches poll know our coaching staff, and accounted for it in their rankings. And when we played that horrible game agqinst Ole Miss, we confirmed their judgment. Don't cry about ESPN being biased. Look a little closer to home for the problem.

Posted by Rich
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Thursday, October 14, 2004

Debate, Rd 3

I just spent the last several hours in the company of the gracious and lovely Katie Granju, who invited me to her debate watching party. I was a little hesitant about going since I haven't exactly endeared myself to the left side of the political spectrum over the last few weeks, and I knew I would be outnumbered, but in the end I decided that if I was going to watch the debate anyway, I might as well watch it with other passionate politicos, even if they were on the other side.

I arrived to a warm welcome as Katie introduced me to the seven folks who preceded me, and I sat back a bit to just listen and take in the general mood. It was very obvious that I was in pro-Kerry territory, but it was refreshingly different from most internet discussions as none of the folks there were moonbats, either of the barking or the shrieking varieties.

And I was the only wingnut.

It was actually a welcome reminder that unlike the blogosphere, which naturally attracts the most extreme/passionate partisans, there are folks out there who can disagree with each other, often strenuously, without assuming that anyone who disagrees with them is a drooling idiot or a raving lunatic. There were occasional whiffs of a little condescension as the debate went on, as one youthful observer commented that most people didn't want the truth, preferring to hear that everything was going well instead, but that kind of thing was the exception, rather than the rule.

One of the guests was a reporter for one of the local television stations, and I introduced myself to her as "one of those pajama-clad ankle-biters. Unfortunately, she didn't see the humor in the reference, which I guess I should have anticipated since it was probably still a sore spot. But I believe that was my only social gaffe of the evening, and it did give me an opening to let everyone know that I was a conservative.

As for the debate itself, both candidates came in for their share of ribbing, as they dodged and evaded the difficult questions, and worked like mad to score points off of each other. When either candidate came out with an exceptionally bad diversion (trial lawyers are to blame for the lack of flue vaccine? Give me a break!), the groaning was truly bipartisan.

The debate was so engrossing and entertaining that I took a short break at about hour 47 of one of Kerry's responses and chatted with the baby sitter about brands and flavors of hummus. She showed an excellent command of the subject, and recommended an eggplant flavored version that I will have to look into, although she said it was very difficult to find. So it's off to the Fresh Market tomorrow.

As the debate went on, it was very clear that there were major differences in the philosophies of both candidates, a pleasant change from 2000. John Kerry obviously believes that it is the government's job to fix people's problems. George Bush believes that the government's role is to help people fix their own problems. One clear example of this difference in approach was their discussion of outsourcing. John Kerry favors legislation to make outsourcing a less attractive option, a solution which will lead directly to inflationary pressure as the cost of manufacturing and services increase. George Bush's plan is to help retrain workers for new jobs, a solution that works to improve the workforce without introducing legislation that disrupts normal market forces or introducing inflation. This dichotomy dovetails rather neatly with a pre-debate conversation I listened in on, where one individual said, regarding recycling, that if people wouldnít voluntarily do whatís good for them, then legislation was a viable alternative.

Incidentally, this is why the President addressed the jobs issue in the context of education, a swerve that caused some groaning among the debate watchers. Rather than making work, a function the government has very little to do with, and can accomplish best by staying out of the way of the entrepreneur, Bushís philosophy is to make better workers. Where government can play a productive role is in making sure that an educated, trainable workforce is available to fill those jobs as they are created.

A couple of things that bothered me about the debate;

  1. How can you discuss domestic issues and never talk about the Patriot Act? To me anyway, that piece of legislation is one of the most dangerous aspects of the Bush Administration simply because of the power it gives the government, and the liberties it takes with our liberties. I would have liked to hear a discussion about it, especially since the only defense the administration has advanced regarding potential abuses of the sweeping powers contained in the Act is "Trust us. We wouldn't do that."

    Trust me; if they have the power, sooner or later, they will use it, then abuse it.
  2. In a related question, did anyone else note Sen. Kerry saying that he'd like to use the Reserves and National Guard in Homeland Defense? I mentioned this, and one watcher immediately answered, "They're the militia; that's the militia's job, to guard the Homeland." The problem is that Homeland defense goes much further than that.

    With the Homeland Defense Department and the Patriot Act, these Guardsmen and Reserves could quickly come to constitute the worst parts of a national police force and domestic spy agency combined.

    And that, friends and neighbors, is a bad thing indeed.

Now, before you start showering me with tin foil top hats, I'm not suggesting an Illuminati-like conspiracy where Bush and Kerry (who, cue the ominous music, are both members of the same secret society) are actually working together to put all the elements in place for a tyrannical takeover of our government. What I am suggesting is that through the well intentioned efforts of both men, the pieces are being put into position, and I'm not going to be the only one who notices.

After the debate, I had an interesting conversation with one of the folks there that I thought shed an interesting light on the difficulties inherent in the liberal philosophy, albeit completely inadvertently. This man had tried to help his brother-in-law out of what he presumed was a tight financial spot by cutting his lawn for him. Sure, it only saved $50 bucks or so, but sometimes that's all we need to get through one of those squeezes we all seem to go through from time to time.

The problem was he soon saw his brother-in-law driving around in a brand new minivan. He was understandably irritated at this, since he was working for free to try and help out, and here the brother-in-law was going out and buying a new car. What I found interesting in the story is it points out a nearly universal flaw in the human character, one that makes the liberal philosophy tenuous at best.

When we are given the things we need, we come to expect that it will always be that way, and then progress on to the idea that we are entitled to these things by right. Instead of seeing them as a temporary gift to help out, we come to see them as permanent, and take that help for granted. I'll even take it a step further and suggest that charity can be corrosive to the human spirit. Give a man a handout, and you start to create a dependency. My problem with liberalism is not just that it is very expensive, but that, as currently practiced, it creates a cycle of dependency that is very difficult to break.

As I listened to the folks talking about the debate last night, it struck me how they all felt like they had the right to expect certain basic needs, and some not so basic ones, to be met by the government. One was concerned about the increase in tuition. Another, the cost of healthcare. Both took it as axiomatic that it was a function of the government to supply those things cheaply. Somehow, weíve lost perspective. These things are not rights; they are the privileges of living in a wealthy society.

Unfortunately, it appears that Iíve already lost this argument, since even the Republican Party has bought into the notion that the government must insure that each citizen has his basic needs met, rather than insuring that each citizen is capable of meeting his own needs. The battle now consists of trying to lessen the deleterious effects of entitlements by requiring some sort of payment, whether in dollars or service. If a man feels heís done something to earn what heís given, it goes a long way towards maintaining his pride, enabling him to strive towards self sufficiency. If he puts back into the system more than he takes out, even if itís at a much later date, then the system will thrive. Itís when people routinely take more than they give that we have a problem.

As we were leaving, Katie asked who we thought won the debate. As I said after the last one, I donít think thatís the point. It isnít, or shouldnít be, a competition to see who crafts the better soundbite, or scores the most points off the other. It should be a forum for each candidate to express his plan for the next four years, and convince the electorate to vote for them. I think this debate worked well in that regard, as we heard several clear differences between the candidates, who did make several clear stands tonight. But if I have to pick someone for the best performance during the debate, my vote goes to the babysitter. She had a much better command of her material than did the President, and was more engaging than Sen. Kerry in her presentation.

Posted by Rich
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Wednesday, October 13, 2004

My New Hobby


This is a 12 gallon NanoCube, an all in one aquarium. We've got a freshwater tank, with 6 African Cichlids, and two of the kids have betta's in tanks, but I decided I wanted to try something different, a Nano reef. (For those non tech geeks, "nano" in scientific notation means 10e-9. (Man, I wish I had one of those 1972 typewriters that did superscripts. Those were the days! I'm sure there's a text formatting code for superscripts, but I don't know it. 10-9 Found it.) Used here, it just means very small.) The stuff you see in the aquarium is called live rock. It's got lots of critters like tiny shrimps and a few small snails and god only knows what all else growing in it. It makes a great base for corals and other invertebrates, and acts as a natural sort of filter, keeping the aquarium water clean.

Right now, I jus finished cycling the tank (allowing the water chemistry to stabilize due to the living, dying, and scavaging of said critters and other micro-organisms) and added a few snails and a couple of hermit crabs to start eating the algae. Once the water stabilizes again, I'm going to add a coral or two, or possible some feather duster worms if I can find some.

Posted by Rich
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A Nuisance?

I'm a nuisance. Just ask my ex-wife.
Fleas are a nuisance.
Mosquitos are a nuisance.
Those guys who slide flyers underneath your windshield wiper blade while you're shopping for groceries are nuisances.
The loud-talking cell phone guy at the next table is a nuisance.
The beautiful woman who won't go out with me is a nui...probably has a very good head on her shoulders.

A guy who blows up kids to make a political point qualifies as something other than a nuisance.

My god, is Kerry trying to throw this election or what? He gets a bit of a bounce from the debates and then comes out with this?

He wants to go back to a time when terrorism was just a nuisance. Just when was that, exactly? I really want to know, when was terrorism just a nuisance? I guess I could understand it if he said he wanted to reduce terrorism to a nuisance, but he said he wanted to go "back" to such a time. What time could he have meant, I wonder?

Was it when those sailors were blown up on the USS Cole? Was that a nuisance? How about the marines in the Khobar towers? Were their murders just a nuisance? Maybe Kerry was tlaking about 1993, when the terrorists tried to take out the WTC the first time, and barely failed. I guess since they parked in the wrong spot, they were just a nuisance. How about the flight over Lockerbee Scotland? Was the murder of all those people just as nuisance?

I wasn't planning another political post, but Jeebus! How damned arrogant can one man be?

And I'm sorry, but I don't think I can ever look at terrorism like prostitution or gambling. I mean, maybe I'm not nuanced enough, but somehow, I think there's a clear difference between some shmoe paying for sex and some Islamofascist blowing up a school bus for Allah.

Call me crazy.

By the way, how well can this play for Kerry internationally? After all, his basic point is that terrorism is only a real problem if they're hitting us on our soil. Isn't that in essense a big "Screw You" to the rest of the world? Kinda makes it tough to build alliances, wouldn't you think? You know, for a guy who's claiming he should be president because he can build true coalitions, he sure is ticking a lot of folks off.

Posted by Rich
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Tuesday, October 12, 2004

Friday Night Lights

Short Version: Every football coach, assistant coach, and football parent should see this movie.

Friday Night Lights is a football movie that takes the spotlight off the gridiron action and shines it on a culture that makes heroes out of 17 year old kids playing a game on Friday night. It asks the question "How do you deal with knowing that your life has peaked at 17"

The answer is "Not very well" for most residents of Odessa, Texas, the town that provides the setting for this movie. As one character tells members of the current team "Enjoy this while it lasts, boys, because after it's over, all that's left is babies and memories."

A bleak picture indeed.

The movie, which is based on the book by H.G. Bissinger, follows the Permian High School team through their 1988 season. In the beginning of the movie, Coach Gaines, played brilliantly by Billy Bob Thornton, sets the tone.

"We're in the business of defending this town..."

He's completely serious; there's no sense of hype or exaggeration, because it is the simple truth. As seriously as we take football here in east Tn, we're casual fans in comparison to the folks of Odessa. When UT struggled in the 70's, Bill Battle came home to find a moving van in his yard. After Permian loses a game, Coach Gaines comes home to find "For Sale" signs in his yard from every agency in town, and you get the distinct impression that the signs weren't put there by hooligans.

What really impressed me about this movie is that, even in the midst of all the football hysteria in the town, and the graphic depiction of its effect on the lives of the kids who play the game, I still got caught up in the football. Somehow, directer Peter Berg and writer David Aaron Cohen manage to capture the spirit of the game in a way that movies very rarely do. Despite all the bad things happening off the field, injuries, sick mothers, and abusive fathers, once these boys step onto the field, they become the heroes the town needs them to be.

But there's a price to pay. Lucas Black plays quarterback Mike Winchell, a very quiet kid who rarely looks anyone in the eye, and almost never smiles. He's an intensely private kid, forced into the spotlight by a key injury to another player. Garrett Hedlund plays Don Billingsly, a fullback whose father won a State Championship and demands nothing less from his son. The father, well played by country singer Tim McGraw could easily become a caricature, but McGraw invests him with just enough humanity that we recognize him, possibly a little more closely than we're comfortable admitting. And Derek Luke plays Boobie Miles, star running back, who's so certain he's going to the NFL, he doesn't bother with school work.

It's Billy Bob Thornton, though, who makes this movie work. He plays Gaines as a very intense, controlled man who rarely tells us what he's thinking, instead showing us through his body language and facial expressions. He says almost nothing in a scene where an injured player wants to come back and play, but you can see the hope, doubt, and ultimately, an almost fatalistic resignation in his eyes as he realizes he has to let the kid play. I thought Kurt Russell's portrayal of USA hockey coach Herb Brooks was about as good as you could get, but Thornton really raises the bar here.

One final word: the movie is filmed in a documentary style, lots of quick cuts and shaky camera work. It reminded me of the opening 20 minutes of Saving Private Ryan. If you're susceptible to motion sickness, you might want to sit in the back of the theater.

Posted by Rich
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