Shots Across the Bow

A Reality Based Blog

 
Sunday, December 26, 2004

Our Prayers are with the Victims

Approximately 8000 dead from a series of tsunamis triggered by a large quake off of Sri Lanka.

May their souls and all the souls of the faithful departed through the mercy of God Rest in Peace. Amen

Posted by Rich
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Saturday, December 25, 2004

Merry Christmas!

Whether you celebrate Christmas, Channuka, Festivus, Saturnalia, or any one of the dozens of other winter holidays I've left out, please take a moment to remember the young men and women who are far from home, doing what they believe is necessary to insure that we will remain free to celebrate these holidays next year, and every year.

Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, and Marines, you have my deepest gratitude and I wish you a speedy return home with a job well done.

Merry Christmas everybody!

Posted by Rich
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Wednesday, December 22, 2004

Christmas Shopping

Today is December 22nd and I just started my Christmas shopping. And finished it.

Mostly finished, that is. There are still a couple of details I have to take care of tomorrow, but for the most part, Iíve finished shopping for 6 kids, my mom, my brother and sister, my in-laws, and assorted friends, relatives, and acquaintances.

I've got a system.

See, Christmas is a holiday for folks who thrive on a challenge, who live for the pressure that high stakes and looming deadlines bring. If you arenít a pressure junkie, you might want to stick to easier holidays like Arbor Day, and leave Christmas to the professionals.

Thereís no thrill like going out on December 23rd with nothing but a list and attitude, looking for the perfect gifts for everyone on your list. It challenges your initiative, your flexibility, your creativity, and your stamina. The last Xbox sold yesterday? No worries, substitute with a DVD player and the complete Monty Pythonís Flying Circus and all will be well.


It all starts with the list. If you donít have a list, your kids are liable to get snorkels and sand buckets in December, which makes for an unhappy Christmas for you and expensive therapy bills for them later in life.

Now the kids donít make putting the list together very easy. There are two kinds of kids; type one kids will submit the FAO Schwarz catalog with every item circled. (Would you believe they sell a gold plated Slinky? Believe it! And they recommend that they be given to kids 5 years old and up! Hereís the scariest part; theyíre sold out of Ďem!) Yeah, that list is really going to help narrow things down. My kids are type two kids; when I ask them what they want for Christmas, they say ďI donít know.Ē Or they ask for very strange things. One of my sons asked for new brake rotors for his car.

That just screams Yuletide spirit now, doesnít it?

Iím sorry, car parts simply donít cut it as Christmas gifts. Christmas is for things you want, not things you need.

Anyway, since the kids never tell me what they want, I have to be a little devious; I listen to them when they talk to me. They never expect that one.

Throughout the year, I pay attention to the things they like, and keep track of things that keep their interest more than a week or so. Then, as December approaches, I lay these out in a grid bounded on one side by order of preference as determined by a combination of the child's statements and my own evaluation (Is it noisy? Does it need batteries? Does it require a litter box or frequent walks?); bounded on the second side by expense, and bounded on the third by availability, resulting in a 3 dimensional matrix of choices, each ranked according to three criteria. This matrix is then folded through space-time, resulting in a unidimensional array, AKA a shopping list.

I knew Iíd use that high school physics one day!

I repeat this process for each child, finishing up with six comprehensive yet organized lists, subdivided by the destination of the presents (Tree or Stocking). Armed with these lists, I head to the local shopping mall, and prepare to do battle. Online shopping is for rich lawyers, those with weak hearts, and agoraphobics. Those of us who truly love the season want to be down in the trenches, going elbow to elbow in the quest for the last Tickle Me Elmo. Itís what Christmas is all about, you know.

Speaking of Tickle Me Elmo, Iím going to let you in on a little piece of shopping strategy. Now this is advanced stuff you wonít get in Combat Shopping 101, so use it wisely. The big ďtoy of the yearĒ can make or break your Christmas. Usually, whatever it is, itís over hyped while the supply is kept low to artificially create a huge demand. While people are screaming and yelling, fighting to get the latest version of the Cabbage Patch kids todays before Christmas, 2 days after Christmas, those dolls will wind up broken and abandoned on the floor with the rest of the toys, while the kids play in a fort they built out of empty boxes and torn up wrapping paper.

Donít waste your time and money on the trendy stuff. If your kid absolutely has to have it, pick it up half price at an after Christmas sale. Now that's all pretty basic stuff, but hereís the advanced part. If you happen to get your mitts on one of these high demand items, it's like winning the lottery. Youíre not going to give it to the kid, that's a rookie move; instead, wait until Christmas Eve, then head to the parking lot of your local Toys R Us, and scalp it. That one $49.95 investment can pay for your entire Christmas with a little left over for next year if you play the deal right.

A word to the wise, eh?

So anyway, now Iím at the mall with my carefully sorted lists, and itís time to go on the attack. Hereís where the real fun begins. Shoppers on the 23rd are usually exhausted from the ordeal of weeks of shopping, and are easy pickings for a refreshed seasoned professional like myself. I move quickly from store to store, checking off item after item, filling my hands with bags and boxes of gifts, each carefully considered yet quickly chosen thanks to the extensive preparation of the lists. I almost feel sorry for those less prepared, and thatís one of the reasons I write this piece now, to give some hope and help to those less organized.

Once the shopping is done, itís time to head home and begin wrapping the gifts. Itís kind of an ironic trade off. When the kids were younger, and Santa did all the gifts, I didnít have to wrap anything, but I spent many a Christmas Eve up until the wee hours assembling bicycles, train sets, and slot car tracks, or putting 1.73 million stickers on a ďReal Western Play Set,Ē complete with 8 town buildings, all of which need the stickers applied. I dreamed of the day when this would no longer be necessary, and now that that day has arrived, Iím up until the wee hours wrapping the presents instead of putting them together.

And Iím not very good at it. How can scissors, paper, ribbon and tape be so difficult to manage? And can somebody please tell me how you wrap a football? I guess you could just roll the thing up in paper and tie off the ends with ribbon, but that would kind of spoil the surprise wouldnít it? It took me several years of wrapping before I realized that you could buy boxes to wrap odd things in. Even so, Iím too cheap (I prefer Ďfrugalí but itís just us here. I can be honest with you.) to buy them as often as I should. Instead I try to improvise. One year, I built a framework out of leftover straws to try and disguise a baseball bat.

It will come as no great surprise to all of you that that particular plan failed miserably.

I did good last year though. I bought my son a drum kit, and so he wouldnít know, I left the drums in the garage and wrapped the drumsticks. Then I put them in a durdur and wrapped that. (A durdur is the cardboard tube that paper towels are wrapped around, so named because thatís the sound you make when you use an empty one to pretend youíre trumpeting the arrival of the King: dur dur de durÖdu dur!) Then I put the durdur into a poster tube and wrapped that. Then I put the poster tube in an old TV box filled with a cement block and lots of foam popcorn.

Now you might think I was going to too much trouble, but son #1, who the drums were for, has an uncanny knack for guessing his presents beforehand. He can pick up a wrapped box, shake it briefly, weigh it, listen to it, maybe sniff it twice, and tell you whatís in there. One year, he guessed that he was getting a sweater, named the color, and told us it was too small.

And he was right.

I got him last year though. He thought it was a brick instead of a concrete block.

Anyway, wrapping is the last stage and I get through that with a minimum of fuss, and Christmas is ready to go.

Thatís not so tough, now, is it?

This is one of Richís kids. Donít believe a word of what he wrote. He goes and gets us gift certificates and leaves those under the tree. Thatís how he gets it done so easily. Not that Iím complaining. When he used to really shop for us, well, letís just say it wasnít pretty.

Posted by Rich
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Monday, December 20, 2004

First Rule of the Beauty Parlor…Nobody Talks About the Beauty Parlor

Guys, this column is for you in particular, as I have just had a major revelation.

I have a talent. (No, that's not the revelation.)

I can be invisible.

Not literally of course, but I can almost drop completely off the human radar screens. I am something of a social chameleon, and can blend into almost any group. In fact, if I concentrate, I can actually blend into the background; it almost becomes like I'm not there at all. While this ability is something of a drag when at a party or going clubbing, it's perfect for a chronicler of the human condition. It's a talent that came in handy for Sir Richard Burton on his Pilgramage to Mecca, and came in doubly so for me as I ventured deep into forbidden territory to bring you this column.

Sometimes, I have to fight and strain to bring you the latest news and information on our twisted human existence; other times, like today, these stories just fall into my lap like hair from the barber's shears. Which brings me to the beauty parlor, a realm heretofore unpenetrable by men.

Oh sure, you can go there and get your hair cut, but as any woman will confirm, the actual haircutting is the smallest part of what goes on inside those hallowed walls. Similar to the afternoon golf game, or the business lunch, male rituals we are all familiar with, going to the beauty parlor is the place where women can let their hair down while they, er, let their hair down. I mean, come on, you guys didn't think that your ladies really need to get their hair professionally washed, cut, dried, combed, and curled once a week, did you? After all, they've been doing it themselves for most of their lives, right?

Nope, the big attraction is that they can get together and talk about us and all of our shortcomings in excruciating detail. It's very similar to the "going to the bathroom in pairs" phenomena that's left countless men staring off into space, waiting for their dates to return. Now this isn't really a well kept secret, having been discovered and reported to us two decades ago by Martin Wilson of Bethchester MA. (May his poor soul rest in peace.) The true secret is the one I inadvertantly discovered last week.

The circumstances were somewhat harrowing, and it is with fear and trepidation that I've decided to relay it to you now. I also note in passing that I have no plans of suicide, taking up any dangerous hobbies, or going on long trips in the near future.

Just in case I disappear, I want the truth to be known.

Now, normally, I get my hair cut by a local lady who cuts hair for our whole extended family, but she was busy last week so I got an appointment at a salon in Sevierville. Yes, a salon; it's too hard to find an honest to goodness barber shop anymore. In fact, the only one I know of is up in Erwin, and I don't plan on making that drive again ever. I made the 3 hour round trip 5 times a week for almost 4 years and brother, I don't care if I never see those roads again.

Anyway, I went to Chez Gertrudina's for a quick haircut so I'd be reasonably presentable for the Christmas pictures later this week. (That's another important tip for you daters, by the way. Most men make the mistake of getting a haircut the day of the date. They think they can impress the girl by showing her that they went to great lengths to look good for the date. But the smarter dater gets his hair cut a week before the date. He impresses his date by showing her that he always looks this good.)

For a man, there's something vaguely intimidating about a salon. When you first walk in, something just tells you that you really don't belong, and that if you aren't on your best behavior, dreadful things may happen to your hair. Most people don't know this, but the mullet was invented as a punishment for Billy Bob Hoedecker who loudly passed gas while in the salon.

Twice.

Sadly, this was one case where the plan backfired. Who knew that he and his redneck buddies would actually like looking like the north end of a southbound mule?

I don't know what it is that makes the place so forbidding; maybe it's the smell of the chemicals, or the pictures of androgynous models on the walls with impossibly perfect hair. Maybe it's just an instinctive respone, brought on by centuries of evolution; when a man walks into a woman's salon, he's on enemy ground, and he knows it.

When I walked into the place, I was pleased that it was just two stylists and me. Ginni took me back to begin the cutting, and I leaned back in the seat, and just tried to blend in. I succeeded, because after a few minutes, Ginni and Bunni (Ever noticed that stylists names always end in a vowel, and it's usually "i"? A trait they share in common with exotic dancers, I do believe. Hmmm. I just may have found the seed for another column. The things I do for you people...) began talking as if I wasn't even there. Apparently, Ginni was having a hard time dealing with her son, who was getting out of hand. She tallied up his offenses, which were long and mostly minor, but the sheer volume was incredible. Bunni allowed that her youngster was a bit of a rapscallion as well, and that she was having to take harsh actions to reign in her hellion.

They went back and forth for a bit, sharing their sad tales when Bunni suddenly spoke with real venom.

"You know what the worst part of the whole thing was? Frank said I was going too easy on the kid and he was right! I hate that!"

Ginni echoed her, saying that her husband had also said the same thing, and now that they were following his plan, her kid was straightening up. Ginni said she was mad at her husband for three weeks simply because he was right.

"Men are right," she spat, "and that sucks!"

Well folks, truths like this don't come without a heavy price, and I don't mind telling you I was a bit nervous, because it was about that time in the conversation that Ginni, who was trimming my eyebrows with some very sharp scissors, realized that there was a man in the room, and they'd just revealed more than they should've.

An oppressive silence descended over the room, as Ginni continued to move the scissors ever closer to my eye, trimming my eye brows.

"Listen buster, and listen good. What's said in the Beaty Parlor stays in the Beauty Parlor, got it? If I find out you blab any of this to anyone, well, let's just say that your next haircut will be your last. And don't think I can't make it happen, bubba. I have connections in salons and barber shops from here to the California coast. Cross me and there'll be no place for you to hide! Sooner or later, you'll need a haircut, and when you do..."

Her words trailed off in an evil sounding laugh, accompanied by her drawing the business end of a comb across my throat.

I quickly began to assure her that I'd fallen asleep and hadn't heard a thing she had said, and further that if I had heard anything, which I hadn't, then it obviously fell under stylist/client privilege, and even further, that even if it wasn't privileged, which it was, and if I had heard something, which I hadn't, that I was totally taken by her beauty, grace, charm, and capacity for violence, and I wouldn't think of crossing her.

My sincerity and obvious fear must have convinced her, because she let me go with my remaining eyebrow. If she'd have known about this blog, I don't think I would have made it out of there a whole man. I left a big tip on my way out and have spent the last week, deciding whether or not to share this story with my fellow man. At long last, I decided that this knowledge was too important, that no matter what the personal cost, I had to come forward and share what I know.

So fellows, if you come home to your wife, girlfriend, or significant other, and she seems pissed for no discernible reason, rest assured, she's just coping with the agonizing realization that, once again, you were right.

And if you see me coming down the street with a ragged haircut and only one eyebrow, just realize that cutting my own hair for the rest of my life is a small price to pay for your peace of mind.

Anybody know where I can find a FlowBee?

Posted by Rich
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Thursday, December 16, 2004

Happy Holidays!

There's a lot of stress surrounding Christmas, and I think it's time we did something to dial it down a notch. I read the other day that more people die of heart attacks or natural causes during the holidays. The bright boys who did the survey suggested it was because folks having the heart attacks were having too much fun partying to go to the hospital. I've seen 3 people having heart attacks; one at the horse track during the Preakness, one out on Ft Loudon Lake while boating, and one trying to make a flight in Atlanta's airport. None of them looked to be having much fun, and each appeared grateful for the trip to the ambulance.

No, I'm pretty sure it's the stress of the holidays that gets 'em. After all, from Thanksgiving through New Years it's almost all one big blur of celebrations, vacations, and parties. Productivity in the office goes to hell, except for the poor schlub in cubicle 24 who has no social life and winds up carrying the entire office for 5 weeks while everyone else exists in a fog of calories, alcohol, and the never ending orgy of rampant consumerism. Christmas means six weeks of trying to maintain good cheer 24/7 and as if that wasn't hard enough, the stores are working overtime to extend the season.

When I was a kid, Christmas started the day after Thanksgiving. Now, there are Christmas decorations up 2 weeks before Halloween. What's up with that? In October, I'm thinking vampires, skeletons, and witches, not Kris Kringle and snow angels. So now, the holiday season extends almost 9 weeks and therein lies the problem.

The shopping, the traffic jams around the mall, the wads of cash that evaporate during the month of December, dealing with other harried parents with desperation on their faces as they square off over the last Cabbage Patch Kid, or Sponge Bob Electric Door Guardian on the shelf (And no, Patrick is not an acceptable substitute; darling little Annalisa simply must have Sponge Bob! Get it for her Phillip!*) none of that really causes trouble. We're used to dealing with that kind of stuff every day of our lives.

What makes us crazy, and drives poor old Uncle Elmer to a heart attack is the unrelenting pressure on us, forcing us to enjoy all this madness! On any given day, you have a little bit of that pressure. "Have a nice day!" Every clerk, waitress, shopkeeper, even the perky weatherwoman on TV who just informed you that a blizzard is on the way that will bury your car in an eight foot snow drift as well as raise your electric bill to roughly the size of the National Debt of a third world country just prior to a military coup will urge you to have a nice day, burdening you with the obligation to try and fulfill their wish. After all, weíre Americans, that's what we do, try and give people what they want. But that's OK, we all deal with that, and we know that despite our best intentions or their best wishes, into every life a crappy day will fall, and it's no big deal.

But now it's Christmas, and they order us to "Have a Happy Holiday" and the holiday is now 9 flipping weeks long! There isn't that much happiness on the planet, folks, and we're trying to hog it all for Christmas! So I decided that this year, I wasn't going to be responsible for a happiness shortage in Budapest just because the night clerk at the mini-mart wished me "Happy Holidays." I refused to take more than my fair share of happiness.

But that left me with a quandary. I know how to work at being happy; how do you work at being unhappy? It usually came so naturally to me that having to work at it proved to be a bit of a mystery. I tried hanging out at funeral homes, and that kinda worked, until I was arrested for trespassing. Incarceration was a bit more unhappiness than I was prepared to deal with. After all, while I didnít want to hoard happiness, I didnít want to run a delight deficit either. Finally, I decided the best way to moderate my misery was to watch the UT Notre Dame game once a week until Thanksgiving. The frustration I felt watching Rick Clausen throw that pass costing us the game nicely countered all the cherry wishes of the minions of mercantilism. (Iím in an alliterative mood tonight!) Fortunately, November 25th eventually arrived, and I was free to be the happy camper you all have come to expect without feeling guilty for hovering happiness. (That was the last one. I promise.)

Now, yíall donít have to go to the extremes I did; just realize that you donít have to be happy all the time, and youíll cut holiday stress in half, which paradoxically makes it more lkely that youíll actually be happy.


*Iíve always felt sorry for the cartoon sidekicks; while it is nearly impossible to find anything with Sponge Bob on it right now, there's shelf after shelf of Patrick merchandise gathering dust and destined for that mysterious warehouse where unwanted toys are left to decay away in a sad silence.

Posted by Rich
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Tuesday, December 14, 2004

A Double Standard in Knoxville

Back in '96, the Inner City Church in Knoxville was firebombed and vandalized. The instant assumption was that this was a hate crime because the church had a primarily black congregation, and racial slurs were left painted on the walls.

OK, fair enough.

Sunday morning, a statue of the Virgin Mary holding the Baby Jesus was vandalized at Sacred Heart Cathedral. Specifically, an inverted cross was painted in red on the statue, and the Baby was decapitated, and his arms broken off. The pieces were thrown into the Cathedral. Despite the symbolic nature of the damage, this is being treated as vandalism, not a hate crime.

Go figure.

VAndalizing one church is a hate crime, but another is just vandalism. The only real difference here is the makeup of the congregations. I guess this just points out the silliness of hate crime legislation to begin with. It's the act itself that is punishable, not the thought behind it. Arson is arson, and I'm not real sure, but I've never heard of anyone burning down a church because they liked the place. It seems to me that hate is involved in there somewhere.

Posted by Rich
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Dating Tips

Katie Granju posted recently about how dating sucks and listed some of the offenses committed by some of her recent dates. Reading through the list, it's pretty clear that there are a lot of guys out there who could use some dating advice. Now I'm not the greatest at dating; in fact, I wasn't very good at it in high school, and my skills haven't improved after 10 years of neglect during my marriage. (Which, come to think of it, might have something to do with why I'm no longer married, but I digress.)

But there are a few things I'm clear on and I guess I need to share them with those of you who are worse off than I am, and you know who you are. And so, here's a quick list of first date tips for those returning to the dating scene after a long absense, or those who just haven't gotten the hang of it yet.

  1. A pre-date shower is not optional; it's required. Yes, manly men engaged in manly pursuits like playing football and fixing cars do sweat, and there are women who like to see a bare chested sweaty man, but only if it's Mel Gibson or Tom Cruise. And I can guarantee you aren't either of them, because you wouldn't need this advice if you were. A woman wants a man who smells like a man, not a draft horse.

    Clean it up, fellas. While you're at it, brush your teeth, comb your hair, and wear clean underwear. Oh, and check your fingernails as well. Chewing them off on the way to pick her up is not good enough. Trim those bad boys.

  2. Go easy on the cologne. Yes, most women like it when you smell nice, but they don't want to smell you from 3 blocks away. If she opens the door and tears come to her eyes, chances are that she's not weeping with joy at your mere presence; you went overboard on the Brut. Speaking of Brut, find a scent that works for you. Old Spice and English Leather may have worked for your dad, but unless you want to date your mom, you might want to invest in something a little more current. Your best bet is to have a female friend help you find a scent that suits you. Your other option is to ask the clerk at the store, but be careful with that; try to find a clerk in the same age range as the women you'll be dating. What smells good to a 20 year old youngster may not smell good to a 35 year old woman. Remember too, a good cologne reacts with your body chemistry; it smells different on you than it does coming out of the bottle.

    Once you've found the right cologne, put it on early, 30 minutes before the date. That gives it time to blend with your skin, and lets the excess evaporate. Less is more; if she likes the way you smell, and has to be closer to you to appreciate it, why, that's good for everybody, right?

  3. Wear clothing appropriate for the date. Attending a symphony in ragged jeans and a tye dyed tee doesn't make you a rebel; it makes you look ridiculous.

  4. Clean out your car! No old McDonalds bags on the floor, dried up french fries in the ash tray, or melted crayons on the seat. She's not going to see your house on a first date, so her only impression of how you live will be your car. It doesn't have to be fancy, just clean.

  5. Flowers are nice, but optional. If you do bring flowers, skip the roses and go with a seasonal arrangement; roses are for later. Tell the person at the flower shop (not Wal Mart) that you want a small bouquet for a first date, and they'll set you up. Mums, daisies, or wild flowers work well. Forget the chocolates until the second date. Too many women are weight conscious, and will not react well to box of empty calories. After the first date, you should know her well enough to know whether chocolates are a good thing, or on the forbidden list.

OK, that's enough for the prelims. Let's move on to the date itself. You've picked her up; you're on your way to dinner or lunch.
  1. Forget fast food. On later dates, it may fit in with your plans, but you don't want her to think you're cheap. You don't have to go to the Regas, but choose a nice place where you can sit and talk for awhile, and get to know each other. The last thing you want her to associate you with is screaming kids and a manic depressive clown.

  2. Remember the manners your momma taught you. Open doors for her, take her coat, seat her first, treat her like the lady she is. Even if she happens to be an "exotic dancer" at Th' Katch, there's no excuse for bad manners. Now, this may cause a problem if she's a radical feminist, but chances are, if she's going out on a date with you, she isn't. And if she is, it's good to find this out early on in the date.

    Eat using the proper utensils. Mashed potatoes is not a finger food. Use your napkin. If you have a moustache or beard, keep them food free. Calling your moustache a "flavor saver" may have been funny to the fellows when you were out at sea, but you're on dry land now, sailor. Keep it clean.

  3. You're buying. Now this rule is negotiable, because some women feel pressured unless they pay their own way. If you are dating one of these women, then when she raises the issue, accept her wishes gracefully. An exception to this rule is if she asks you out. Rule of thumb is whoever asks, pays, unless you discuss other arrangements.

  4. Talk to her. This doesn't mean going into your last hernia operation in gory detail, including photographs and an exploration of the scarred area. That can wait until the third date.

    Find interests you have in common and explore them. After all, you're there to get to know more about each other; talking about the last UT game may interest you, but she won't know anything more about you.

  5. Listen to her. Let her talk to you. Encourage her to talk about her interests, and actually pay attention. Show her that you're interested and ask questions. After all, if you aren't really interested in her, why are you there? (For all you smart aleks who instantly answered "To get laid", email me for directions to Hillary's House of Hillbilly Love (and Bait Shop). You'll find what you're looking for there.) Leave the ladies alone.

  6. Pick an activity that encourages communication and closeness. Dancing is great, but if you or your date have two left feet, a movie works as well. Even though you spend two hours not talking to each other, you have a built in topic of conversation afterwards. What's most important is to pick something that interests you, and share that interest with her.

OK, now the date is winding down. You've had dinner, gone dancing, to a concert, or a show, maybe had a cup of coffee or a drink to wind down, and you're taking her home. How do you end the date successfully, i.e. goodnight kiss or hug?
I'm going to say that 99% of the time, if you've followed the tips above, a good night kiss will be welcomed; after all, we aren't in high school anymore. But you must watch her signals throughout the date. If she's affectionate, if you are both touching frequently, if you share space comfortably, then go for the kiss. On the other hand, if she's tense or standoffish, or if she's been very shy, forcing the issue won't work. Settle for hug, and go on your way.

If all she'll do is shake hands, well, there probably was no chemistry between you, and it's time to move on.

The tricky part is the middle ground, where you've had a good time, but don't know if she kisses on the first date. In this case, your best bet is to give her a hug, then pull back slightly and look at her. If she meets your eyes, go for the kiss. If she's looking away, that's a sign that she feels like you're invading her space. End the hug and say goodnight. If you go for a kiss and she turns her head, you misread the signals, but she's giving you a graceful way out. Don't force her to use the head bump to stop your overly amorous intentions. Just kiss her on the cheek and say goodnight.

If you do get the kiss, now is not the time for tonsil hockey, Pedro; unless of course she initiates it, in which case, participate with enthusiasm and hopefully skill. Here, as in cologne, less can be more.

If she invites you inside, well, I hope you can take it from there, because this is a family blog, after all.


Now the date is over. What next? What do you do to see her again, or let her know you don't want to see her again?
Call her within a couple of days (3 at the most), whether you want to see her again or not. Thank her for the date, let her know you had a good time, and if you want to see her again, ask her out. If not, let her know that while you had fun, you aren't interested in going any further. Be polite, but firm. (This is the area I have the most trouble with. I hate making people feel bad.)

If you do get a second date, now would be a good time to send a gift. At this point, roses are still a bit much, but depending on how the first date went, they can be appropriate. Make sure to have them sent to her home, not her place of work. Surprising her at work is a romantic gesture, but could get her into trouble. On the other hand, if she happens to be maried, sending them to her home might also get her into trouble.

Try and be a little creative on the gift thing. A box of chocolates is nice, but kind of boring. How about Godiva chocolate ice cream and two spoons? Or a trip to the Marble Slab Creamery instead? Put some thought into it; it'll pay off later.

Finally, a list of dating dont's.
  • DON'T talk about your last relationship. She will ask, because she wants to make sure that you have dated before (this let's her know you aren't a complete jerk) and that it's over. A 30 minute rant about how the %$&^*$! ruined your life will result in an early end to your evening. Just mention that you broke up, grew apart, went your separate ways, or some other generic comment to let her know that it is over, and that you are no longer obssessed with hunting the %@*&! down and killing her.
  • DON'T tell an endless stream of dirty/racist/sexist jokes. Unless of course, you met via a Klan dating service, in which case, you deserve each other.
  • DON'T fart out loud. Again, unless you met at a Klan meeting, since that's liable to be the most intelligent conversation the two of you will share all evening.
  • DON'T expect sex on the first date. Yes, you're both adults, and chances are both of you have 'done it' before, but tonight ain't necessarily the night. And if it is, then let it be a surprise to you. This has probably been the biggest surprise in my return to dating. What used to take weeks, and tremendous amount of pleading and persuasion now may occur within a few dates. Just don't expect it. Treat her like a lady, and she'll let you know if she's amenable.
  • DON'T discuss religion unless it is primary to your life, and you absolutely must (or absolutely will not) date a Catholic/Jew/Muslim/Mormon/Zorastrian Buddhist or whatever. Same with politics. After all, if Carville and Matelin can make their marriage work, why let politics get in the way of a first date?
  • DON'T get drunk. Don't even get tipsy. In fact, try not to let her drink too much either. You don't want to be tomorrow's regret. Even if the date is totally miserable, you have nothing in common, and you'd rather be getting a root canal without anesthetic than spend another moment with your date, don't do it. Only bad things can come of it. Either you'll tell her the truth, leading to an ugly scene, or the beer goggles may kick in and you'll wake up the next morning in bed with her. And married.

    Yikes.

  • DON'T eat ribs on a first date. There's no way to eat ribs and maintain any kind of cool, so avoid it at all costs. Spaghetti is another good one to avoid.
  • Finally, DON'T ask if her breasts are real! (I'm amazed I even have to say this.) A real man knows without asking, and a gentleman will find out for himself in the fullness of time.


And there you have it. Some of these should be common sense, but after talking to some of the women I've dated, it's painfully clear that sense isn't as common as it used to be.

Ladies, feel free to add to this list, make comments, corrections, or clarifications where needed. Part of the burden of having a good first date falls on you as well. Most of us guys out here want you to have a good time with us; we're just not always certain how to accomplish that.

Posted by Rich
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Saturday, December 11, 2004

A Rare Weekend Update

Joe Lieberman for Homeland Security!

I like it!

He has credibility, and I think he'd do a good job.

Plus it would be very interesting to see how the dems would react. Would they welcome a sign of inclusiveness from the White House, or would they call it a cheap ploy and attack Lieberman if he goes along with it?

And would they be right?

Forget for a moment Lieberman's qualifications for the job; consider that he is a Democratic Senator in a state with a Republican Governor. I don't know how they play in Connecticut, but if they're like Tennessee, if Lieberman left the Senate to take the Cabinet post, the governor would get to appoint a replacement to serve the rest of his term, and would undoubtedly pick a Republican, increasing their hold on the Senate. This of course would be bad for the democrats, particularly in light of the upcoming, and sure to be contentious, Supreme Court confirmations.

More stategery from the White House, no doubt.

So, now let's remember that Lieberman is a qualified candidate in his own right, and that it would be a good bi-partisan gesture for President Bush to nominate a Democrat to his Cabinet. Given the aforementioned drawbacks for the Democrats, it'll never happen.

Unless...

Just for the sake of supposing, totally hypothetical and all, what if the President urged Gov. Rell to appoint a qualified Democrat to serve the remainder of Lieberman's term, and the governor agreed? President Bush would get a well qualified candidate as well as a solid gesture of reconciliation and bipartisanship at a net cost of zero.

But it's just a fantasy; there are no politicians on either side who are capable of that kind of leadership.

Posted by Rich
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Monday, December 06, 2004

More Upgrade News

While I was off-line, I didn't just do a software upgrade. I did a little work on the home PC, including some small changes to increase ease of use. I thought y'all might like to see the new Shots Across the Bow command center.


Posted by Rich
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When is a Loss Better than a Win?

It's an odd feeling.

For the last two weeks as I watched the Vols beat Vanderbilt and Kentucky, I was mildly disgusted with the level of play. Yeah, we came away with wins, but damn, they were ugly. We made Vandy look good, and before that last interception, we were lookinf another L in the face.

And the game against Kentucky was no better.

I'm not trying to knock either program, because they came ready to play on game day, while the Vols went through the motions, but there was no reason for Tennessee to let those two teams stay that close through 4 quarters. Tennessee simply played uninspired football, and if they played like that in the SEC chamionship game, it would be another blowout, maybe even worse than their first meeting. Auburn needed to thrash Tennessee, not just beat them, in the hopes of gaining a little ground on Oklahoma in the BCS polls.

But the Vols didn't co-operate; the team showed up like they did against Georgia, full of fire and determination. Unfortunately, for most of the game, they were outplayed by a better Auburn team. The offense never really settled in until the second half, and while the defense front managed to contain the potent Auburn rushing tandem of Carnell "Cadillac" Williams and Ronnie Brown, the secondary was ravaged by the pinpoint passing of Jason Campbell, who had the game of his career just when he needed it most.

In the first half, Tennessee managed only 20 plays, 2 first downs, and 7 points. Rick Clausen's game was much better than his stats, as several nice passes bounced off of receivers' hands and chests to hit the turf. I counted 4 drops in the first half, one of which would have gone for a touchdown.

The second half started with Tennessee again taking advantage of an Auburn miscue, recovering a fumble that lead to Tennessee's second touchdown. The defense was fired up by the score and stopped Auburns next possession after a single first down. Then Tennessee had it's first big play of the season. Gerald Riggs broke up the middle virtually untoouched as he raced for 80 yards and the tying touchdown.

In the middle of the rout, a football game had broken out.

But Auburn didn't go undefeated through an SEC season by packing it in at the first sign of trouble. They answered with a 6 play 85 yard drive of their own, taking the lead back. They added a field goal to their lead early in the 4th quarter, but Tennessee answered the call again with their own 5 play 80 yard TD drive to cut the lead to 3.
But that was all the fight the Vols had left. Auburn scored once again to make the score 38-28, and that's the way the game ended.

So why do I like the loss better than the two earlier wins?

Because they played the game as hard as they could. Rick Clausen played better than he did in his previous three games, making good throws and better decisions. He threw for one touchdown and had his first interception free game. The offensive line showed signs of the dominence they had early in the season, allowing both Riggs and Houston to break off 80 yard runs, although Houston had his called back on a penalty. All season long, Auburn had given up only 1 rushing touchdown; Tennessee scored 3. Randy Sanders called a good game, showing me that he can do it when needed. The running game showed some imagination and some new wrinkles that resulted in success.

In short, Tennessee played like they diserved to be there, and they played to the best of their abilities, and that's what I want to see in a team. I would have loved to have won the game, but Auburn was the better team, and deserved the win. But I'm proud of our guys; they gave it all they had, from the coaches to all the players.

Next up is a tough but winnable game against Texas AM in the Cotton Bowl.

Posted by Rich
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Friday, December 03, 2004

Why Do They Wear Shoes?

Here at Shots, I try to deal with all of the burning issues of the day, including the classical dilemma's that have puzzled mankind for centuries, like "Which came first, the chicken or the egg?"

I worked on that particular question for weeks, querying evolutionary biologists, paleontologists, archeologists, and even a couple of Creationists, gathering as many facts as possible in order to unriddle this conundrum. Eventually, after a long night of contemplation while watching a Family Bonds marathon on HBO, I heard the sound of one eye blinking and achieved a Zen-like state of satori and the answer came:

It was the rooster.

Having solved that one, I moved on to one that was even more puzzling. Why do strippers wear shoes?

I mean, they're getting naked and dancing on a stage, leaping and whirling around on poles, gyrating and crawling on all fours. Why do they need to wear 4 inch heels? Is it a law? Is there some requirement that they must keep on one article of clothing to avoid a charge of lewd conduct? I can tell you from experience that many of these women could be

Now I've sampled the swankiest gentlemen's clubs and sleaziest nudie bars in 11 states and 6 countries; this is not something I'm proud of, but I must establish my credentials, you know. After all, I am a serious journalist. Just like it took the TBI and local law enforcement tens of thousands of dollars and 3 years worth of visits to discover that massage parlors in East Tennessee were actually fronts for prostitution (gasp!), so too it took me years of study and untold numbers of dollar bills to acquire a basic familiarity with the ecdysiast in her usual habitat.

But I'm willing to make any sacrifice, no matter how painful, in order to seek out the truth and bring it back to you. No, you don't have to thank me; it's all part of the job.

So, in search of the truth, I went out to The Katch, the classiest local strip club, to conduct some field research. I observed the dancers for a couple of hours, only in order to verify that each and every dancer did in fact maintain her shoes on at all times. In some instances, I observed from a very close range, so close that one might even call it intimate. However, the close range observations were hampered due to the fact that the dancer's position relative to my sight line combined with her natural...er...talents, kept her feet totally out of focus. I was forced to repeat my observations several times, but with no success.

Darn the luck.

However, I bravely pressed on with observations from a more conducive distance and did manage to ascertain that the girls do always wear shoes. Having nailed down the facts of the matter (and having blown through my supply of singles) I moved to the next phase of my investigation, the personal interview. In order to determine why they wore shoes, it was necessary to ask them. The scientific method demanded it. Who am I to go against the dictates of science?

I chose a lovely little blonde named Bambi for my first interview. (It never ceases to amaze me how many parents name their daughters Bambi, Autumn, Mercedes, and the like. How did they know so early on that their daughters would choose to strip for a living? Maybe that's the next issue I'll investigate. Volunteers to assist in this research may apply by email. The requirements are simple; a ready supply of dollar bills and no jealous wife who'll berate me for corrupting their husbands.)

I asked Bambi why it was that the girls always wore shoes when they danced naked. Her answer incorporated advanced thermodynamics, nuclear physics, basic meteorology, and a smattering of chaos theory. She must have noticed the dull glaze in my eyes and took pity on me, simplifying her answer so that I could follow. According to her, they wear shoes for temperature control. Similar to the old saying, "Cover your head to keep your feet warm," she said that since dancers were mostly bare, they kept their feet covered to keep their heads warm.

It made sense to me at the time.

As we were discussing the issue, a brunette named Diamond eased by. Overhearing our conversation, she said "Huh! And I thought we wore them to make our asses look better!" and walked on in search of her next tip.

Nonchalantly, Bambi said "Well that's another good reason!" and proceeded to hit me up for a couch dance. Having accomplished my mission, (and blown all my cash) I regretfully declined and headed for home.

So there you have it folks, two explanations for the price of one. Which is ironically appropriate when you think abou tit.

Posted by Rich
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Wednesday, December 01, 2004

Michael Savage is a tactical moron!

Why is it that folks without a speck of military training or education feel competent to criticize military strategy and tactics. The same folks that would never think of questioning a brain surgeon on his technique feel perfectly comfortable ripping the military to shreds over their tactcs, and are as ignorant of military tactics as they are of the anatomy of the brain.

I was listening to Savage today as he ripped the Pentagon a new one for their tactics in Fallujah. According to General Savage (sounds like a comic book character, doesn't it?), we shouldn't be engaged in street fighting, but should have leveled the place from the air. In one respect, he's right; levelling Fallujah would certainly have ended the terrorist threat there, but it would have equally as certainly allowed most of them to escape unharmed, and equally as certainly set back our primary mission, helping the Iraqi people achieve independance, possible permanently. It would be like advocating amputation of the arm to cure a hangnail. Sure, it would work, but the resulting problems would be even worse than the original one.

Our goal in Fallujah and in the entire Iraq War has been to achieve our objectives while minimizing the collateral damage, including civilian casualties. Whats most remarkable about this is that we are the first nation in history to have the technology and the capability to make this a reasonable goal. There is still a cost associated with it, however, a cost that will be paid by our soldiers in increased casualties.

Is that a fair trade? Michael Savage doesn't think so. He thinks that an American soldier's life is worth more than a hundred Iraqi civilian lives. Ironically, the 9/11 terrorists performed a similar human calculus with disastrous results.

The hard truth is that a soldier is a combatant, and our all volunteer military means that each soldier has chosen to go into battle, knowing that completing the mission may cost him his life. He has made that commitment. Non combatants and civilians have not. When they get caught in the crossfire, the only civilized response is to take all possible measures to protect them, even if that results in higher combatant casualties. It's not that their lives are more valuable; that's an invalid way of looking at things. But their part in this scenario requires extra protection; if we have the ability to avoid killing them, we are ethically bound to do so.

On a more basic level, air power alone has never been enough to end a city's resistance. Britain never fell, despite tens of thousands of pounds of Luftwaffe bombs. In fact, no city has ever been taken without ground troops.

Except Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Posted by Rich
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I’m Back!

And so is Chris Muir! Purely a coincidence I promise.

Did you miss me while I was away? Did you even notice I was away? On second thought, don't answer that.

As you've no doubt noticed, there have been some cosmetic changes around here, with more to come. Let me know if you like them, or if you like the old look better.

I finally got around to going through my links and deleting the bad ones and updating the ones that had moved. I was pleasantly surprised at how many of these folks are still actively posting, considering that many of these links are almost 3 years old. It a medium that sees a huge burn out rate, it was nice to see so many of the folks who first noticed me when I started out still going strong.

Before I go any further, I want to single out one link on my roll and that's Basic Training It's written by TJ Buttrick, another early blogger and one of the first ever commenters I had here at Shots. TJ is a remarkable person, not because he's a blogger, but because after 9/11, when so many folks talked a good game, he acted on it and joined up. He went through training, and is about to deploy to the Middle East after completing his training in Arabic. His blog covers each week of basic training and while recent posting has been spotty, undoubtably due to higher priority items like training and nubile young females(check his blog; you'll understand), once he finished training, he promises to post more regularly. I'm looking forward to it.

Anyway, not all the changes here are just cosmetic. I upgraded Moveable Type, removed a bunch of accumulated garbage from my templates, installed MT Blacklist to cut down on comment spam (Over 1600 blocked in 3 days!), and added a biography page since I just realized I didn't have one. There's still a ton of behind the scenes stuff to do, like finishing putting all my past posts into catagories, (of course, fist I have to finalize the catagories, and some other housekeeping, but a deadline is a deadline, even if it's self imposed. I promised you content by today, and by golly, I delivered!

So, whether you missed me or not, I'm back and ready to play some more.

I plan on a few new additions to my standard topics of conversation. For one, I just started keeping a nano reef, so you can expect regular updates on just how expensive 12 gallons of salty water can be. Also, I have a couple of woodworking projects on tap, the first of which is to rebuild a squirrel box my mom commissioned from some guy who clearly had no business calling himself a carpenter. I'm sure I'll have plenty of stories about that to pass along. I'm reading several differnt books right now, and I'll let you in on whether they're worth the price or the time.

The last few months have been very intense, leading to all politics all the time, and while I'm still a political junkie, there's more to life than that, and I want my blog to reflect that, hence the new subtitle, "A Reality Based Blog." Obviously it's also a not-so-subtle dig at my liberal buddies, but it's more than that.

Several decades ago, a group of fairly nasty people appropriated the COnfederate battle flag and distorted its meaning to serve their own ends. At the time, nobody stood up and did anything about it so now, if I have the desire to fly the 3rd National Flag of the Confederacy, I'm forced to defend myself against charges that are more correctly leveled at those who perverted my southern heritage.

In a way, something similar is going on today. Many prominent liberals and liberal bloggers are referring to themselves as part of the "reality based community." While they're playing off the faith-based initiatives that President Bush is backing, they're also implying that reality excludes a conservative viewpoint. So, rather than wait 2 decades, or allow them to frame the debate, I'm drawing the line in the sand now.

I'm saying that reality has room for liberal and conservative ideology, that the facts are there to support a range of opinion, that binary logic is inadequate to describe human affairs, and that it takes a multivalued approach to even com close to capture the complexities of our society. The difference in the two sides comes from assigning different values to the same variables, resulting in different solutions. I tend to weight conservative values higher, leading me to one set of solutions; liberals do the opposite.

The only way to determine the proper weighting is to try different solutions and see what works and what doesn't. There's no way that anybody can make the case that conservatism is an abject failure just as nobody can make the case that liberalism is an utter failure, although there are those on either side who will try. The reality is that each philosophy has areas of strength and weakness, and it is a synthesis of the two that is required.

This is not to say that there won't be conflict; it is conflict that leads to synthesis. But when either side holds the other as totally without value or meaning, then trouble soon follows. Right now there are those on either side who believe that way, but fortunately, they are in the minority. As some have pointed out, we aren't red states and blue states, but purple states, magenta states, and violet states. And that's a good thing.

That's reality.

UPDATE: SKB let me know that I'm at least partly off base in this post. Ron Suskind wrote an article for the New York Times in Oct (reg req). which has the following passage:
The aide said that guys like me were "in what we call the reality-based community," which he defined as people who "believe that solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernible reality." I nodded and murmured something about enlightenment principles and empiricism. He cut me off. "That's not the way the world really works anymore," he continued. "We're an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you're studying that reality -- judiciously, as you will -- we'll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that's how things will sort out. We're history's actors . . . and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do."


That's outrageously arrogant, and I really hope that it's not reflective of the attitude of the administration, although Suskind builds a good case for just that thing. That makes it even more important that I stick to my guns; reality comes from us, the people, right, left, or lost somewhere in the middle.

However, the thrust of Suskind's piece is to set up the false dichotomy between faith and reality, which dovetails into my reasons for using the term in the first place. The arrogance of the administration spokesman just gives me another reason to use it.

My thanks to Bubba for pointing out the real origin of the "reality based community."

Posted by Rich
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