Shots Across the Bow

A Reality Based Blog

 
Thursday, November 24, 2005

Happy Thanksgiving!

When you read this, it better be tomorrow (Friday). If you're reading this on Thursday, get up out of your chair and go hang out with your family/friends. If you're all alone, and in the neighborhood, come on over and share some leftovers; Thanksgiving is a time to get together and enjoy each other's company, not sit behind a monitor and type away to the pixel people. (And despite the date and time on this post, I'm actually typing on Wednesday, while two pumpkin pies and a chocolate pecan pie bake in the oven.)

I'm thankful that/for:

  • My kids are all healthy, smart, and reasonably happy, even the ones going through adolescence and driving my into the nut house.
  • My ex and I can get along well enough that our kids have not faced more stress than necessary.
  • My entire family, brother, sister, aunts, uncles, cousins, nieces, nephews, in laws, former in laws, are all healthy, happy, and safe.
  • My mother; she's found the strength to carry on.
  • My father; right or wrong, weak or strong, he made me the man I am today.
  • My children, who make me proud to be their dad.
  • Living in the freest country in the world today, if not in all of history. A country known for:
    • Tolerance, where my neighbor and I can disagree about religion, politics, or the price of a cup of coffee without feeling the need to shoot one another.
    • Freedom of speech, where one can criticize the government in the harshest possible temrs without fear of being fed into a paper shredder, or being "disappeared"
    • Generosity, where no tragedy is too large to handle; where the average citizen will give the very shirt off his back to help victims of disaster.
    • Opportunity, where anyone can improve themselves, regardless of race, ethnicity, or social background.

  • The men and women in our military, who defend the freedoms many of us take for granted, even while some use those very freedoms to attack, harrass, or denigrate them or their mission.
  • My friends, who enrich my life by allowing me to be a part of theirs.


I know there will be those who will look at this list, and want to disagree with one or more items, but they are missing the point. I'm not saying that things are perfect, or that everything is as good as it can be. But on this one day of the year, it might do us all some good to take a look around and realize just how good we have it here in the US. Even the harshest critics must admit (unless they've lost all touch with reality) that America is the best place in the world to live. Heck, just look at the immigration numbers, both legal and illegal. The world knows that America is the place to be if you want to improve your life and your family's life.

What we consider poverty, most nations consider great wealth. We complain about the lack of health care, yet very few people live more than an hour away from a hospital where they will get more health care than most people in the world dream of. We worry about hidden racism within our nation while other nations carry out genocide and ethnic cleansing campaigns within theirs We worry about 5% unemployment while Europe routinely deals with double digit unemployment numbers. By any measure you care to use, we are lucky to be living in America.

Sure, there's room for improvement in many areas, and lots of work to be done. But today is a day to count our blessings and appreciate what we have. So Happy Thanksgiving Day to each of you!

PS: I'm also very thankful to all of you who read these words. I'd write 'em anyway, but it's a lot more fun knowing that folks are reading and even enjoying this stuff.

Posted by Rich
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Sunday, November 20, 2005

Last Words on Saturday’s Game

Congratulations to the Commodores. Y'all played a heck of a football game and deserved the win.

You know, 22 years of futility would be enough to make any team forget how to win. When a team loses that often, it becomes easier to make excuses for losing, and actually grow to accept it.

But not the Commodores.

When the Vols came back, scoring 17 straight points to take a 3 point lead in the 4th quarter, a lot of teams with Vandy's history would have folded.

But not the Commodores.

They quietly went about their business, drove the ball down the field and scored the winning touchdown. They knew what they had to do, and had faith in their coaches, their quarterback, and each other. No player felt like he had to win the game on his own; instead, they trusted each other to do their jobs and knew they could win as a team.

That's character, something the Vol teams over the last few years have lacked.

Posted by Rich
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Saturday, November 19, 2005

A Few Words About the UT Vols

Embarrassing.
Overrated.
Poorly Coached.
Underachieving.

I could go on, but you get the point. When Coach Fulmer said that the Vols were just "a few plays away from a great season" during his press conference acknowledging the resignation of Randy Sanders, I knew he was in bad need of a reality check. Sadly, the check must have bounced since he just said, "Before you start building back anything, you have to hit rock bottom. This is rock bottom."

Message to Coach Fulmer: When you're ranked number three in the preseason, that is not a team that should be found at the 'rock bottom'.

Now, the cheerleaders masquerading as journalists on "The Sports Animal" have all vocally supported Fulmer, (I guess the 'animal' must be an ostrich) saying he should be given a chance to turn the team around. Of course, they have to say that. If they tell the truth about the futility of Fulmer's program, they may lose access to the athletes, and since their network is all Vol, all the time, that would be the equivalent of broadcast suicide. So instead of being honest, they'll make excuses for the coaches, and remind us of the National Championship from 7 years ago, or blame it on the players.

But here's the thing: Why should the man who brought us from a National Championship to these depths be given the chance to bring us out? And more to the point, what has he done to make anybody with half a brain think he can turn this thing around? After all, it's been his decisions that have led us to where we are.

Remember this post from Oct24th? Check out the charts and the stats there. Philip Fulmer has coached the Vols from excellence to mediocrity (or worse) all while placing more players in the NFL than just about every other program in the nation. Not to mention spending considerably more than all the other Division I schools.

What the Sports Ostriches won't tell you is that it isn't just about results; it's about meeting or exceeding expectations. Here's an example. Vandy is going to finish the season with a losing record again. But, they took Florida to double overtime, stretched Georgia, and beat Tennessee for the first time in 22 years. They'll finish 5-6 and be ecstatic about it, because nobody expected them to be that successful. Tennessee on the other hand will finish 5-6, if we're lucky, but because we expected to go 10-2 or maybe 9-3 at the worst, we're not going to be ecstatic about it.

Now that's a gross example (very gross actually) but what the radio pundits refuse to acknowledge is that the same arithmetic applies when you expect to go 10-1 but you go 8-3, and this has been par for the course under Fulmer. His teams consistently fail to meet expectations based on the talent he has available. So while Jimmy may crow about all the 8 or 9 win seasons, he's forgetting that they should have been 10 or 11 win seasons. In effect, Fulmer needs his teams to be more talented than opposing teams in order to break even, and significantly more talented in order to win.

This is not a recipe for a winning program.

Sadly, I have to remind you of the prediction I made on Oct 24th:
Upset lock of the millennium Take Vandy and the points against Tennessee on Nov 19. The 'Dores are about to end the streak and win outright.


For all of you out there who still think we can't fire Fulmer, let me ask you two questions:

How many times has a team ranked in the Top 5 finished the season with a losing record?

Of those teams, how many kept their head coach?

Posted by Rich
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Thursday, November 17, 2005

Crunch Time

OK, it's here; the inevitable has happened. If you've been keeping track of my numbers on the NaNoWriMo you've noticed that they haven't moved at all in a while. That means I'm behind. Actually, behind is too mild of a word. I'm deeply, catastrophically, buried under a pile of words that do not exist except in my head. I figure I have 13 days to spew out 45,000 words, and the only way for that to happen is for me to write nothing else and dedicate all my spare time to the project.

So, expect very little posting here until Dec 1. To make it up to you, I'll post at least a portion of the final product, probaby the entire first section of the book.

The only question will be whether y'all will like the book better than the silence that will precede it.

Posted by Rich
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Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Does Everybody in Washington Work for Karl Rove?

Now, Bob Woodward, Mr. Watergate himself, has testified that he was told about Plame well before Scooter Libby told Judith Miller whatever he told her. (Remember, we still haven't learned who told the only reporter that published the information, Bob Novak. Curious omission, wouldn't you say?) And Woodward continued, saying that his source not only told him that Plame was a former CIA analyst, but that he didn't think the information was classified or secret.

So, while Mr. Fitzgerald hammers away at Scooter, saying that he was the first administration official to leak Plame's identity (somewhat odd, since he chose not to charge Libby with that act) now we find out that another reporter was very familiar with Plame's assignments well before Libby talked to Judith Miller, lending credence to the defense's argument that Plame's role in the CIA was well known among Washington insiders.

Could this be the insidious hand of Karl Rove, once again manipulating liberal Democrat politicians into making asses of themselves?

Or is it that they are quite capable of performing the job all by themselves?

Posted by Rich
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Saturday, November 12, 2005

Pot Kettle Part 374

John Kerry is unhappy, accusing President Bush of using the Iraq War for political purposes, and he's right to be angry. After all, it was his idea first; he based an entire Presidential campaign on it.

Posted by Rich
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Friday, November 11, 2005

Veteran’s Day

Days like today, I feel like a bit of a fraud. Yes, I did serve in the Navy for almost 9 years. Yes, I deployed during Desert Storm and have the South East Asia Service Medal with a Star to prove it. Yes, I'm eligible to join the VFW, American Legion, and the other Veteran's organizations. Yes, I am a Vet, and I am proud of my service.

But there are Vets, and there are Vets.

I never faced combat, and given my job as a nuclear reactor operator, the chances of me facing death were slim in any reasonable scenario. And in the event of the unreasonable scenarios, most likely I would have had a hot meal, rack time in a real bed, and a shower withing the last 24 hours.

The guys on the ground during both Gulf Wars couldn't claim that.

So on days like today, I take a back seat to them, the guys that really put it all on the line for their country. Yeah, I served and will again if it comes to it, bit today, I just want to say "Thank You" to all those who served, especially those who sttod on the front lines and placed themselves in harm's way in service for their country. You make me proud to be an American, and honored to be included in your company.

Posted by Rich
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Thursday, November 10, 2005

Anatomy of a Morning Show (Radio Edit)

The preceding post is a bit wordy for radio usage, so here's the Reader's Digest Condensed version:
Marc is not an ogre.
Kim is sweet.
Frank knows people.
The show is funny.
The blogger may have farted.(I'll never tell.)

Posted by Rich
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Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Anatomy of a Morning Show

The alarm clock went off at 4AM Wednesday morning, three hours before I normally get up and about the same amount of time after I went to bed last night after finishing the post below. My eyes didn’t want to open, but I forced myself out of bed; I had a big day ahead of me.

I had the privilege of sitting in on the morning show at STAR 102.1 with Marc & Kim and Frank. I see Frank regularly at the Einstein Simplified show, and the bits that he’d drop about the morning show aroused my curiosity, so I wanted to know more about how it was put together, what kind of people it took to work such a strange schedule, and most importantly:

Why in the world would ANYONE get up at 4AM every morning!


Posted by Rich
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Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Why Do They Do It?

In a time when violent crime rates are actually falling, why is it that tales of school shootings are becoming more common? I'm not an expert on teen violence, like Dr. Smith and I'm pretty sure she'll have a different take on this than I do, but the question of why kids are killing teachers is something I want to address as a parent.

Why are kids taking guns to school and shooting up the place? I know when I went to school not too many years ago, this wasn't an issue. You may have not liked a teacher or two (I had a fifth grade teacher I couldn't stand) but you never even dreamed about shooting them. Well, I didn't at least, and even if there were kids who thought about it, they never did it.

Why not?

What was so different then?

First, let's eliminate all the usual suspects. It's not rap music, or violence on television, or violent movies, or books, or any of these thing. These are all symptoms of the same underlying phenomenon, effects, not causes. It's not right wing conservatism or liberal permissiveness, it's not atheism or religious dogmaticism. The true culprit is a profound and pervasive lack of respect for the value of life that has become integral to modern culture. A product doesn't sell unless there is already a market for it. Movies, music, books, and games don't make out culture; they are reflections of it. They are indicators, not instigators.

Instead of placing a value on life itself, we've shifted over the years to placing a value on the quality of life, as if that is something that can be measured, when in truth it is an unmeasurable and intangible quality that can never be quantified; it's subjective. But by pretending that we can assign a value to the invaluable, we allow room in our ethics to do things previously considered beyond the pale and still call ourselves ethical.

Abortion. Capital punishment. Euthanasia. Assisted suicide. Fetal research. Eugenics. What do these all have in common?

All of these practices reduce the value we place on life, yet each and every one is ardently supported by one group or another. Some of them are claimed as rights, some treat life as a commodity, while others are said to be duties of the state in taking care of the general welfare. (And if you don't think that eugenics belongs on the list, then you haven't been paying attention to debates over mandatory sterilization for the mentally handicapped, among other issues.) When the leaders of a society signal so clearly and consistently that the value of life in no longer an absolute, it should not be surprising that some mebers of that society will show a decreased reverence for life, making it more likely that they will kill for lesser reasons than previous generations.

So that's the first factor; kids are more likely to kill today than 20 years ago because we've told them that life is less valuable.

The second factor is that we as a society have deliberately become less judgmental and more permissive. Morality has been replaced with behavioral norms. An action is no longer wrong, it is "inappropriate." While many folks feel that this is a step forward, it also enables those who do not share the cultural norms increased freedom to act outside the bounds of those norms. While listening to callers on the radio today talking about the shootings, I heard one caller blame it on the principals for being to strict. I heard several others claim that the shooter was just as much a victim as those who were shot.

We are no longer comfortable passing judgments on actions regardless of how extreme they are. When Andrea Yates drowned her five children, family and supporters wanted to blame her husband, her preacher, her doctors; everyone had blood on their hands except for the hands that held the babies under the water. She was a victim.

When actions are no longer good or bad, or even normal or abnormal, but merely appropriate or inappropriate then there is less of a societal restraint on those actions because the consequences are reduced.

These are the twin engines driving the school shootings. Combine a reduced respect for the value of life with a more permissive society, and increased violence is the logical result. We don't see this in the adult community because most of us were raised differently, in a society where life had a higher value, and where there were real consequences for our actions.

Like I said, these are the things I see as a parent, and they are things that I've worked at combatting within my family. I've tried to teach my kids, not by words, but by actions, that all human life has an innate value, that right and wrong are concepts with real meaning and are not relative, and that there are consequences for their actions.

Unfortunately, society rarely takes the hard path; more than likely, all we'll see come out of this is a renewed push for more restrictive gun laws, metal detectors in the schools, and clear plastic back packs.

Posted by Rich
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The French Fight Back

After two weeks of rioting and thousands of cars firebombed, Chirac and the rest of the French government have announced their plan to end the rioting.

They're sending the rioters to their room.

If they persist in their unruly behavior, the next step is to send them to bed without supper, although Amnesty International has already lodged complaints about the brutality of starvation as a disciplinary tool.

Posted by Rich
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Sunday, November 06, 2005

Raised on Radio

One of my favorite scenes in the movie American Grafitti is when the Richard Dreyfuss character meets Wolfman Jack in a deserted radio station out in the middle of nowhere. The studio is filled with record albums filling shelves that stretch from wall to wall. As the scene ends, we see the Wolfman working the mic while starting a record on the turntable.

Fast forward a decade or two to the mid 70s. My dad, who seemed to know everybody who was anybody in Knoxville at the time, was friends with the late great Claude "The Cat" Tomlinson, the morning DJ on WIVK. For those of you younger that I am, (depressingly too many of you) Claude may have actually originated the entire Morning Zoo type show, albeit with one important difference. Instead of relying on pre-recorded bits and having an entire crew of people to perform the show (like the John Boy and Billy Big Show, for example) aside from a news anchor and a traffic reporter, he did the show solo. He created characters like Lester Longmire and Old Man Shultz, and performed them all in real time. No pre-recorded scenes for this man; he did it all live.

One morning on the way to school, my dad took us into the studio to watch Mr. Tomlinson work. The studio didn't look anything like what was in American Grafitti; there were still some albums, but it looked like most of the music was on tape cartridges, sort of a cross between a cassette and an 8 track. Again, for you youngsters, ask your parents. We went in to the studio during a commercial, and Dad introduced us to Mr. Tomlinson, who kept moving while talking to us, putting new commercials into the tape player and getting ready to go back on the air. He signaled us to be silent, then his voice changed and he went from Mr. Tomlinson to Claude the Cat. He started doing a commercial for some restaurant I think it was, when all of the sudden, his head jerked to the side and the voice of Lester Longmire was coming out of his mouth. He and Lester had a 30 second conversation about breakfast at whatever the restaurant was, and Claude's head moved back and forth as he changed voices. It was an amazing and somewhat creepy performance, especially if you were a 11 year old kid.

After the bit, he went back to a pre-recorded commercial, and started talking to us again. We thanked him and left the studio to go to school.

So, y'all are all asking yourselves "Why is he telling us this?"

I'll let you know soon.

Posted by Rich
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Saturday, November 05, 2005

Well, That Worked Out Just Great, Didn’t It?

Another spectacular meltdown by Fulmer's choice for quarterback, Eric Ainge.

Two 4th quarter interceptions that cost us 10 points and any chance of winning.

A delay of game penalty on the last drive.

Intentional ground penalties.

A drive killing fumble.

At least 4 overthrown balls for potential touchdowns.

Hell, the only receivers he could hit reliably had on dark blue jerseys.

But you know, it's not all his fault. It's clear to even the casual fan that the kid is not ready for the big time. So what would you say about a coach who keeps putting him into situations he's not prepared for?

And how about good old Rick Clausen, Cotton Bowl MVP, relegated to signalling in plays with Jim Bob Cooter from the sidelines? Yes, I'm sure he's happy with the situation.

You know, he's the second good quarterback we've watched Fulmer destroy before our very eyes. Remember Joey Matthews? Yeah, Fulmer benched him for winning his only start. And who did he bench him for? Well, let's see, he had Brandon Stewart and Peyton Manning in reserve. Who would be the best pick? Hmmmm. Let me think. Why, Stewart of course!

Actually, given the mental pounding Ainge is taking, let's make that three good quarterbacks destroyed.

And for all you radio pundts who claim that it isn't coaching, because it;s the players themselves that fumble, drop balls, miss blocking assignments whatever; let me remind you of two well known sayings in football.

You play like you practice.

You practice like you're coached.

It IS the coaches you dunderheads! They're job, they're only job, is to get these players ready for game day. Can anyone seriously make the argument that, defense excepted, UT has been ready for any game this season?

Ahhh, to heck with it. I'm not watching another game until the Vandy game. I want to see them break the 23 year losing streak.

By the way, if by some chance Rick Clausen is reading this, I just want you to know that there are a lot of UT fans out there that think what's been done to you is a damn disgrace. You've done everything this program has asked of you and gotten nothing but the shaft from Fulmer. Keep your head up, and I know that wherever you go, you'll find success.

Posted by Rich
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My Buddy Frank

My friend Frank Murphy just made a commercial. You can see it here. (requires Internet Explorer. May not work for Mozilla users.)

As you might guess, my Mom's not real thrilled that I hang out with him.

Posted by Rich
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Friday, November 04, 2005

Update on the Novel

It sucked. In fact, it sucked so bad, I junked it. Yep, the whole thing, every word I'd already written is now trash canned and I've started all over from the very beginning.

And I think it's going to be worth it.

Not only was the first one bad, and I mean really bad, it was hard as hell to write and was going very slowly. In three days, I wrote just over 2000 words. Today, after junking the original and going in a completely different direction, I reeled off 3300 words, and they don't suck!

Well, they don't suck quite as badly.

Now all I need are 9000 more words by Sunday night and I'll be back on track! Or if I completely refigure, I need 2180 words per day to hit 60,000 by the 30th, and that gives me a little cushion.

Yeesh!

Posted by Rich
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