Saturday, October 11, 2008

Of Hogs and Tigers

After a season of misery, the Arkansas Razorbacks finally did something right -- the Hogs went to Auburn and beat a ranked team.

Sure, the Auburn Tigers might have been beaten up and in the middle of turmoil (head coach Tommy Tubberville fired his offensive coordinator just a few days before the game), but I won't dwell on any of that too much. Auburn was the 20th ranked college football team in the country and my struggling Razorbacks beat them at home, 25-22.

Yes, Arkansas went on the road, beat a ranked team and got a much needed victory. That win over Auburn put the hogs at 1-2 in the SEC and 3-3 overall. Honestly, two of those victories don't really count as far as I'm concerned because they came against rotten, out-of-conference teams.

So, this was a quality win for Arkansas for a lot of reasons. For one thing, it's a confidence builder. Arkansas has been rotten this year and has been embarrassed in games against Alabama, Texas and Florida. Fortunately, the team has been improving all year long and there were actually some streaks of real talent on display last week against Florida.

Against Auburn, those streaks of talent were converted in to honest-to-goodness drives. Running back Michael Smith rushed for 176 yards and a touchdown while quarterback Casey "Shaky" Dick passed for 222 yards and even managed to catch a touchdown pass on one of those sneaky plays that head coach Bobby Petrino likes to throw in from time to time.

So Petrino got his first SEC wins as the head coach for the Razorbacks and it came at the expense of Auburn, the very team of which Petrino used to be the offensive coordinator. That was a sweet victory, indeed.

Were there some problems for Arkansas? Yes, there were plenty. The defense still looks less than confident and blown coverages are common -- Auburn's receivers were left wide open more than a few times. Also, there's a running bet in this state. Which will happen first -- will the Chicago Cubs win a World Series or will Arkansas actually manage to kick a field goal?

Still, this Hogs team is very young and the players are learning. That's a good sign.

By the way, we Arkansas fans are insane. My dad was telling me he heard two old fellows at a bar and grill the other day and they were ranting and raving about the Hogs.

"You just wait," they said. "Next year, this team will go undefeated! They'll win the SEC and a national championship!"

Dad suspects those two were stinking drunk. I think he may be right.

Honestly, I figure we've got at least one more season of bad football to sit through after this one. Former head coach Houston "Fat Bastard" Nutt did a lot of damage in his 10 filthy years here and it'll take some time for Petrino to clean up that mess.

By the way, Houston Nutt sucks. I can't emphasize that point enough.

Here in the Natural State, the Arkansas-Auburn game was a big deal. The biggest college game on Saturday, of course, was the Red River Shootout -- #1 Oklahoma vs. #5 Texas. Texas won that one, 45-35, and I was glad to see it. Yes, I'm weird for an Arkansan -- I've got too much kin in Texas to hate that state too much.

Our waiter at the Rib Crib today is a student at Benton High School. He and I were talking about the Texas-Oklahoma game because it was on in the restaurant during lunch. He's from Dallas and was telling me that he is a Texas fan and that's gotten him in trouble from time to time.

How much trouble? He was wearing a Texas Longhorns t-shirt at school and was given so much hell by the other students that he went to the school office and got a new shirt to wear. We Arkies are conditioned to hate Texas, see?

So he was glad to visit with someone who was rooting for Texas today. He wrote "Go, Longhorns!" on our bill. I tipped him well.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

My cat has a job and she does it well

This is Pico. She's a mean cat. A grumpy cat. An angry cat. A difficult cat.

How rotten is Pico? A few years ago, we wound up with Pico because one of my mother-in-law's friends had developed an allergy to cats. So she desperately wanted to find a home for her dear, sweet Pico.

A couple of years after the cat came to live us, I noticed that same friend lived in a house with four cats in it. She didn't want Pico back.

I, The Hawg, was duped.

However, Pico has an important job around my house and she earns her keep. I'll get into that in a minute.

I was reading a post earlier on Monkey Fables and Tales about the joy of insects invading homes in the fall. We get a lot of bugs here in central Arkansas, and that's particularly true in my case as I live near the Saline River. We get all manner of assorted critters here, in fact, but our rat terrier takes care of the snakes in the yard while Pico murders the insects that manage to get in the house.

If they fly, crawl, hop around or anything else, Pico is there to catch them and eat them. Got spiders? No problem -- Pico slaughters those, too. Some of you folks may think its nasty that the cat eats the bugs she catches, but that's fine with me. I don't care if she eats the bugs or crushes them, opens the front door and tosses them outside -- I just don't want to deal with the things. She's a full service bug killer, see?

So Pico is a meanie-head and doesn't get along with our kids or our other pets. So what? She does her part to cut down on the bugs around here and that makes her OK in my book.

Besides, my wife likes her and the cat does have her charms. There's something to be said for a cat that shows up, gets petted for about five minutes and then hides for the rest of the day.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

(Almost) Wordless Wednesday -- nothing but fun

After a week of stewing over my health, fuming about that $700 billion bailout and generally being in a rotten mood, it's time to lighten things up a bit.

A lot, actually.

So, I'm taking advantage of this Wordless Wednesday by posting two videos from bands that are guaranteed to make you smile -- Shonen Knife and Cub.

First up is Shonen Knife with 1997's "It's a New Find." What's not to love about these Japanese secretaries-turned-rockers who adored the Ramones and sang about everything from banana chips to sushi? What's not to love a band that has enough of a sense of humor to cover the Rutles' "Goosestep Mama" and contribute a song -- "Buttercup (I'm a Super Girl)" -- to a Powerpuff Girls soundtrack?

In this particular video, the ladies in Shonen Knife even utilized some Elvis Presley imagery. The Hawg loves Shonen Knife. You will, too.

Next up is Canada's own Cub with "My Chinchilla," from 1993's Betti-Cola album -- the band's first LP. How cool was Cub? Cool enough to have Dan DeCarlo illustrate the cover of the Betti-Cola album. DeCarlo, of course, is best known for creating the "look" of the Archie comics series.

Here's a little trivia. In the early days, Cub guitarist Robynn Iwata had to use cheat sheets on stage because she was busily learning how to play guitar and needed to look at the chords for each song. Let's hear it for the enthusiastic amateurs!

My seven-year-old daughter loves this particular song and that's reason enough to like it. Cub was a great band that called it quits too soon (the group disbanded in 1997).

I hope y'all enjoyed those. I always do. For more Wordless Wednesday goodness, click right here.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

The wife gets jury duty

My wife, the lovely Marci Kay, found out today that she gets to serve on a six-day, civil trial in circuit court here in Benton.

That'll teach her to register to vote. Actually, I'm wondering when it will be my turn to serve on a jury. I'm dreading it. I'm also annoyed that Marci won't tell me anything about the case because the judge has prohibited her from doing so. I'll have to be nosy later on, I suppose.

Marci was telling me this evening that she had some fun at my expense during voir dire -- the process through which attorneys attempt to sort through members of the jury panel in hopes of finding 12 people they can manipulate.

"Do any of you have a relationship with anyone in the legal community?" a lawyer asked.

Marci raised her hand and said that I, The Hawg, used to be a lawyer. The attorney asked her what kind of cases I handled and if I ever discussed them with her. She said, "No, he quit practicing before we got married."

"Why did he quit practicing law?" asked the attorney.

"Because he hates lawyers," she said.

And a good time was had by all.

So my wife got stuck with jury duty. She didn't follow my advice. Want to know how to get out of jury duty? Just say, "I've been following this case closely and I have some strong opinions about it."

Keep that in mind the next time you get jury duty. Had my wife used that answer, she wouldn't have to sit through a six-day trial. At least she gets her full pay at work, $25 a day and a coffee mug with the judge's seal on it. No, I'm not kidding about the coffee mug.

Speaking of lawyers, here's one you can use in the winter months. You'd better be sitting down. This one's a corker. A real knee slapper.

"Man, it's cold out there today. So cold, in fact, that I went downtown and the lawyers had their hands in their own pockets."

Tell that one to an attorney you know and love (or loathe).

Monday, October 6, 2008

That woman at the doctor's office was mean

Sadly, Casa de Hawg has been full of illness as of late.

I've harped time and time again here about my pesky ulcerative colitis flaring up and I wound up with some nasty sinus infection over the weekend, to boot. Both of my kids are nursing strep throat and my wife tells me she's not feeling too great, either.

My wife took our 11-year-old son to see the doctor today and I knocked off work early to take our seven-year-old daughter to see a different doctor. Why didn't they both go to the same doctor? I have no idea -- my wife set it all up and I've been married long enough to know when it's best to do what I'm told and ask no questions.

Now, my daughter's visit to the doctor was awful. Her doctor is in an office that's in a complex connected to Saline Memorial Hospital here in Benton. The place is dingy and has all the charm of the county revenue office -- the place where one has to go to get a driver's license, register new vehicles and all those pleasant things.

Like the revenue office, the doctor's office was packed full of people who looked mad about being there. Upon walking in, I knew it was going to be a bit of a wait. I wouldn't have been surprised if someone had removed all the hands from the clocks in there as that office (like most medical offices) is one of those places where time just has no meaning.

So we checked in and settled down. After only 10 minutes, one of the women behind the counter called my daughter's name! Yes, I was excited. It appeared the trip would be a short one, after all.

So I got my daughter and went to see the lady as I was sure we'd be called back and we'd get out of there in a hurry. She asked me if I had my insurance card. I started to dig for it in my wallet and she said, "Oh, never mind. It's right here in your daughter's file."

We were then smugly instructed to wait some more.

I realized right then why that woman was hiding behind a thick pane of glass. I'm convinced she was messing with us -- that she's the type who gets bored and likes to make people suffer. That, folks, is what I call mean.

So we waited for another 40 minutes. We got called back to see the doctor and waited another five minutes and visited with the doctor (who was very nice and my daughter declared upon leaving that she liked her) for about five minutes. So, the visit took about an hour and the payoff was about a five minute visit with a very nice doctor and a prescription for antibiotics.

So, nice doctor. Mean staff. OK.

While waiting in the doctor's office, a nasty thought occurred to me. I've got some kick-ass insurance -- my employer pays the premiums and I have no deductibles. That's right -- 100 percent coverage. Add my wife's AFLAC supplemental to all that and it's a pretty sweet deal.

All this talk of universal health care coverage worries me. Why? Since I started working, the government has found a way to deprive me of a lot of good things. For example, I've watched more than a few raises bump me into a higher tax bracket, resulting in a net gain of about nothing for my family and me.

I'm a bit worried, then, that the very government that seems hell bent on defining "justice" as that which makes us all suffer equally will be targeting my benefits before long. Throw in my long-held belief that those who rely on the federal government for anything will likely be disappointed and I do believe we're heading for a mess.

Getting the feds even more involved than they are in medical care will likely make those miserable trips to the doctor even worse.

Want some real health care reform? Start with a healthy dose of tort reform to keep the sue-happy lawyers in line and medical costs should drop accordingly. Then concentrate on those efforts that allow small businesses and individuals to "pool" and take advantage of the group rates that corporations enjoy. Those two measures, taken together, may help everyone in need of affordable, quality insurance.

Oh, and as for the pooling, here's little article about the Small Business Health Options Program (SHOP) that's kicking around in congressional subcommittees. Arkansas' own U.S. Sen. Blanche Lambert Lincoln, a Democrat, is one of the cosponsors of that legislation and has been a cheerleader for it all year long. She's one of those Democrats that I'm inclined to listen to as she's learned the difference between representing her constituents and representing her political party. By the way, Republicans and Democrats who are more interested in pushing the national agendas of their respective parties than representing the people who put them in office aren't worth a damn.

While the feds messing around in the free market often leads to disaster, that legislation may well represent a reasonable approach to dealing with the very serious problem of affordability of health insurance. It's worth considering, at the very least.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Christmas with the King!

My wife, the lovely Marci Kay, is just plain nuts about Christmas.

She enjoys the holiday so much, in fact, that we'll have three trees in our house this year. Of course, with that many trees around, you've got to have plenty of ornaments, right?

We got the third tree on sale last year (we use artificial stuff around our house -- haven't cut down my own Christmas tree in ages) and Marci has been running around picking up ornaments since then. I was with her the other night when she was buying ornaments and had to buy something appropriate to a Christmas tree that is within Casa de Hawg.

So, yes, I found the very Elvis Presley ornaments pictured above. What could be better than Christmas with the King? Marci has objected to my suggestion of opening presents while listening to the Blue Hawaii soundtrack, so I'll take what I can get.

Now, I should point out that I have two strict rules about Elvis ornaments. First of all, none of that jumpsuit, Vegas Elvis stuff. That's just wrong. Give me either Elvis the rocker or Elvis the cheesy movie guy. Second, no ornaments depicting Elvis singing "Blue Suede Shoes." That, my friends, was a Carl Perkins song that gained Elvis a lot of popularity by accident.

What accident? Perkins was on his way to sing that very song on the Milton Berle Show when he got in a serious car wreck. Perkins, while in the hospital, got to watch Elvis singing "Blue Suede Shoes" on that very show and the rest is history. Yeah, Perkins should have gotten more notoriety than he did, and it's widely believed that television appearance would have gotten him the recognition he richly deserved.

Honestly, I think Elvis is just a hoot and who doesn't want a bit of levity around the house at Christmas? My Elvis ornaments will look great next to ornaments immortalizing the Denver Broncos, Arkansas Razorbacks and Benton Panthers.

Yeah, I know what some of you folks are thinking -- what about Christian-themed ornaments? We've got plenty of those. No worries there. We're not heathens here at Casa de Hawg.

Now, if only I could talk Marci into that ornament featuring Elvis riding a motorcycle and singing about how he misses some woman or another over a fairly heavy blues track. The motorcycle lights up, the wheels turn and it's all just cool-o. Yeah, that's Christmas!

A funny Christmas story

Marci Kay just loves those "Black Friday" sales after Thanksgiving. She heads out around 5 a.m. and does battle all morning long with other folks wanting to find bargains.

A couple of years ago, she went to Target to pick up a digital camera that was available for a great price. She said their was a crowd of people gathered around as the Target folks were handing out cameras, six at a time.

There was a lot of pushing and fighting involved and Marci got shoved.

"The next person who shoves me gets punched!" yelled my ex-Army wife. "You people are being ridiculous. Happy holidays."

Yeah, I do love that woman.

Will the credit card companies have their hands out next?

While a lot of people have been concentrating on the $700 billion bailout that is supposed to benefit mortgage companies, what happens when the credit card industry starts asking for cool, free money from the federal government?

According to this story right here, we could be looking at a looming credit card crisis as banks are expecting to charge off $96 billion in bad debt next year. That, of course, could lead to some trouble for the wonderful folks in the demonic credit card industry.

Should they come calling, I hope the federal government lets the bastards rot. Those people deserve absolutely no sympathy and we'd be better off as a nation if we were rid of a bunch of companies that are predatory by nature.

Before I get into all of that, I'll allow myself a small rant about the bailout. Frankly, it's shocking how willingly the people we elected to represent us have embraced this big, stinking pile of socialism and have attempted to convince us that a bailout was necessary.

The federal government set mortgage companies up to fail, starting with the Community Reinvestment Act, a nasty bit of legislation pushed for by Jimmy Carter that "encouraged" banks to give mortgages to people who probably shouldn't have had them. Bill Clinton expanded the government's freewheeling pressure on banks to hand out junk mortgages. Ah, and we can't just blame Democrats here -- that idiot George W. Bush and his gang of morons looked the other way as Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac fulfilled their goody-goody low income housing goals by purchasing subprime mortgages.

So the government helped create this mess and this bailout nonsense is the ham-fisted solution the feds have come up with the solve it. The most obnoxious thing here is that John McCain suspended his campaign to rush to Washington and join in the chorus of the rest of the pinheads braying for socialism.

It's no surprise that Barack Obama voted for the thing as he has Marxist leanings anyway. He may have come across as a moderate as of late, but he's just another leftist out to expand the government and screw the middle class to the wall. Remember, kids -- it's just downright patriotic for all of us to head to work every day and do our part to support an ever expanding, increasingly intrusive federal government. Everyone with a functioning brain understands that Obama is a fan of big government, so his mamby-pamby embrace of this bailout was no shock.

McCain, on the other hand, is supposed to be a Republican. Perhaps true conservatives really don't have a party that represents our interests anymore, thanks to the influence of both George W. Bush and his worthless father. There were a lot of us who hoped McCain would show up in Washington for the purpose of joining other congressmen who were fighting this bailout mess. Instead, he let us down and went right along with it. Thanks, Johnny!

So, McCain, Obama and that lunkhead Bush joined the chorus of people who have decided that free market capitalism doesn't work and have allowed the feds to get their filthy hands on a larger chunk of the economy. Again, Obama's actions didn't surprise me. Hell, Bush's didn't either as he's a full-bore lunkhead who delights in making the completely wrong decision on most major issues presented to him. McCain's part in this mess, however, is disappointing.

How does this relate to credit cards? The precedent has been set for begging for help from the taxpayers whenever a segment of the financial industry gets in trouble. I hope the government tells the credit card industry to go to hell if they come begging as letting a number of those companies fail would amount to little more than justice.

My wife and I refuse to carry credit cards, due in a large part to the years I spent practicing law. I filed a lot of bankruptcies back then and most of them had to do with too much credit card debt. That's not a shock, seeing how someone who was 18-years-old and breathing could get a card back then (and probably still can) regardless of whether they had jobs and could demonstrate they could repay their debts.

When lenders are that irresponsible, they pretty well deserve whatever calamity heads their way. That's particularly true when the goal of credit card companies is to keep people in debt forever through high interest rates, the easy ability to raise credit limits and the nonstop encouragement to carry revolving debt. Throw bankruptcy reform in the mix (some nonsense bought and paid for by the credit card industry and signed into law by that Bush fool) and you've got an industry that's just begging to get hammered.

When their irresponsible lending, filthy habits of doing things like cranking up interest rates on a whim and everything else finally bites them, we ought to let them face the consequences. I seriously doubt the feds will, however.

That's just pitiful.