Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Wordless Wednesdsay -- bring your daughter to work day (sort of)

This post is part of the esteemed Wordless Wednesday event. Click here to see the other entries (or submit something of your own).

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

It’s really hard to defend health insurance companies, isn’t it?


Like a lot of other Americans, I absolutely hate the idea of the federal government wandering in and taking over the nation’s health care system.

But I’ll be damned if the insurance companies don’t make us understand just why some people are claiming the health care system is broken and is in need of radical repair. Here’s the problem – health care insurance companies are simply brimming with some of the most impersonal and money-grubbing decision makers to be found anywhere. Indeed, it’s hard as hell to cozy up to them and argue – with a straight face – that they’re out to do little more than collect premiums and deny as many claims as possible.

It’s rather like being bullied by a mean, fat kid in school. Everyone hates the mean, fat kid who pushes people down, takes their lunch money and generally makes their lives hell. If a fatter, meaner kid shows up and promises to beat up the bully, then it’s no surprise that the newcomer has his share of fans.

Of course, it could be that the fatter, meaner kid will simply depose his rival and make everyone more miserable than they already are, but the hope is there that things will somehow improve. People might be better off with the original bully, but who the hell wants to rush and defend him?

Those of us who oppose the health care reform being shoved through Washington right now face the same dilemma. Sure, we can argue all day long about the erosion of freedoms, the questionable constitutionality of having the government force everyone to have some kind of insurance, etc.

But we’re really just defending a despicable bully. Yes, we may be better off letting that fat bastard continue to bilk the American population instead of letting the feds hang us out to dry, but that’s not the kind of argument that resonates with people, is it?

It’s hard not to understand why a lot of folks hate the health insurance industry as it is today. Let me tell you folks a story.

Last year I had the greatest health insurance plan on the planet. We’re talking about something that covered everything with no co-pays. A fairly high deductible was part of that package, but my company paid the deductible, meaning I had one hell of a benefit. Health care insurance that treats everything and costs absolutely nothing is more than appealing to a cat like me who has ulcerative colitis and spends a ton of cash on medication every month.

Ah, but that former plan is expensive. With businesses cutting back everywhere, the office started looking for less expensive alternatives to the plan we had.

Arkansas Blue Cross and Blue Shield slimed its way into our office one day and promised to offer the same plan for a lot less money. Yes, it would be great! We were assured that all would be well with the company’s wonderful plan – we’d save money and everything would be covered just as it had always been.

I’ve got two prescriptions that I’m supposed to take until (I suppose) I drop dead or they jerk my colon out due to cancer or something equally vile. I refilled them and went to pick them up tonight. My pharmacist told me that Blue Cross – the company that promised us the moon, of course – had denied one of my medications and recommended some over-the-counter garbage. I'm actually surprised the wise folks at Blue Cross didn't suggest buying a bottle of Tums and hoping for the best.

There are two things fascinating about all of that. First of all, it appears that the Blue Cross rep who sold us her particular bill of goods was lying through her teeth. She was told what my medications were when we signed up (I’ve saved an email through which her company asked about some particular information about those drugs) and I was told all would be well under the wonderful Blue Cross plan. Unless things have changed dramatically since I quit practicing law 10 years ago, one can make the argument that she bound her company to the promise she made to me. I’ll take that up with her (very loudly, I imagine) in the morning.

Second, we’ve heard a lot about how one of the problems with the government running the health care industry is that the days in which medical decisions are between patients and their doctors will come to an end. When an insurance company interferes with that process the way they’re trying to do in my case, couldn’t we argue that those days are already dead and gone?

For folks wondering about the illustration at the top of this post, that’s BlueAnn Ewe – the cute and cuddly mascot of Arkansas Blue Cross and Blue Shield. BlueAnn Ewe. Like “Blue and you.” Get it? Yes, Arkansas Blue Cross has presented itself as our partner in good health by dreaming up a cutesy sheep.

Beware of companies that hide behind cute mascots. They tend to have a lot to hide.

At any rate, defending jackals like Blue Cross and Blue Shield is hard to do. Whether we wind up with the same rotten system we’ve got or some federal-run monstrosity, I figure most of us folks who work for a living are still going to take a beating. We’re ultimately just arguing over whether to substitute one misery causing bully with another – an uncomfortable situation that should be painfully familiar to anyone with presidential elections since 1988.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Music Monday -- “White Girl” by X

Christmas is over and that absolutely stinks. What better way to cheer up than listen to one of the finest songs from X (and, yes, that is Ray Manzarek from the Doors producing)? Enjoy!

X - White Girl

W.T. Morgan | MySpace Video
Come join Music Monday and share your songs with us. One simple rule, leave ONLY the actual post link here. You can grab this code at LJL Please note these links are STRICTLY for Music Monday participants only. All others will be deleted without prejudice.

PS: Because of spamming purposes, the linky will be closed on Thursday of each week at midnight, Malaysian Time. Thank you!

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Tell me Thursday – the kids get ready for Christmas


For my Wordless Wednesday submission yesterday, I submitted the photo over there on the left.

Those are my kids – 13-year-old Michael and nine-year-old Brenda – posing in the sanctuary of Parkview United Methodist Church here in Benton, Ark. That photo, in fact, is the one we used for our Christmas card this year.

Yes, I’ve mentioned my kids time and time again on this blog. They’re not the subject of this post. Well, that’s kind of true. Let me explain.

Earlier this year we joined the aforementioned church. That’s a fairly big deal as I’ve spent most of my adult life going to church here and there. Finding a church where I feel comfortable is a significant event, indeed.

And I’m proud of our little Methodist church. The folks there spend a lot of time raising money for – and donating their time to – efforts that help people in this community that need it. Thanks to their efforts, a lot of families have been fed and more than a few people have received a helping hand when they’ve needed it most. And those efforts don’t stop after Christmas is over – people are in need all year round and the good people at Parkview stand ready to help out where they can.

That – in my view – is exactly what Christians ought to be doing.

At any rate, merry Christmas to all of you fine folks out there.

Oh, and make sure to click on the Yogi Yorgesson YouTube video below to really get into the Christmas spirit!

This post is part of the grand Tell Me Thursday event – a chance for Tell Me Wednesday participants to tell the story behind their posts. Click here to see the other entries or (better yet) submit something of your own.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Wordless Wednesday – Merry Christmas, Michael and Brenda…


This post is part of the famed Wordless Wednesday fun. Head on over and get involved!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Court-approved obnoxiousness

Go ahead and take a look at that abomination over to the left.

What is it? Why it's the Winter Solstice display put up on the State Capitol grounds by some group of malcontents calling themselves the Arkansas Society of Freethinkers. I do believe the group was originally called the Arkansas Society of Crybabies Who Got Their Asses Kicked too Much in High School, but that was overly long.

Now, all you have to do to be a freethinker is be an atheist. Atheists, as a matter of course, run around thinking freely while we Christians are dogma-addicted imbeciles who lack the capacity to string two original thoughts together.

At any rate, the requirements to become a freethinker in this state are incredibly low. All you have to do is declare God to be a lie and be looking to join a group of freethinkers so you can all think freely together. Oh, it also helps if you adore the idea of engaging in antics that get a good number of Arkansans pissed off at you.

At any rate, our free thinking friends tried to put up a Winter Solstice display last year on the Capitol grounds as a way to (let's just admit it) irritate people. They were allegedly trying to make a point, seemingly, about the fact the state has displayed a Nativity Scene at the Capitol for years while Christian beliefs aren't represented. Their request was turned down. It got turned down again this year, so our freethinking chums filed a lawsuit and won.

It's no surprise the group won, of course -- Secretary of State Charlie Daniels' policy on temporary displays on the Capital grounds is so vague that just about anything can be made to comply with it. The fact that something that looks like a gaudy port-a-potty now shares the limelight with a Nativity Scene is evidence of that.

It's fascinating, by the way, that freethinkers all over the place have chosen to celebrate Winter Solstice. While it might appear to be a dead, pagan holiday to some, the more cynical among us view it as a convenient kind-of-holiday to adopt by those who simply want to spite Christians. It's worth mentioning that one enterprising fellow out to make a point about the freethinkers' got permission from Daniels' office to put up a Festivus pole. Read about that by clicking here -- that display was not to be taken seriously, of course, as it wasn't intended to belittle anyone or mock religion.

So, what's on the freethinking monument to Winter Solstice? Click here and have a look to be treated to a history of Winter Solstice and quotes from a bunch of people who are defined by their comments against organized religion (Einstein would be thrilled with that -- to hell with his theory of relativity and all that, he questioned the existence of God, man!) It's particularly interesting that Bill Gates is identified as a freethinker on the display (apparently, he once said something to someone that atheists like). His company's shoddy products have caused more than a few people to take the Lord's name in vain over the years -- maybe that is actually why he's a featured freethinker on the free thinking monument to Winter Solstice and free thought.

At any rate, the monument is trashy, horrid, laughably cheap and looks like it was an art project slapped together by a disgruntled junior high kid. Regardless, it's on display at the Capitol because a federal judge rightly applied the law and ordered the state to allow it. Take that, non-freethinkers!

During the middle of their "nyah, nyah, nyah" celebration, the predictable happened -- an Arkansas legislator filed a resolution objecting to the court ruling allowing the freethinkers to put up a display that openly mocks Christianity. Now the freethinkers have both the privilege of annoying people and being able to do what they do best -- collectively whining about a mean ole society that wants to deny them the ability to think freely and be all individualistic-like.

Here's the thing -- I absolutely hate it when Christians run around bashing people over the heads with their beliefs. It's obnoxious and, at times, does more harm than good -- people who aren't religious don't want to hear about how they're going to hell and will feel much better if they fall into the "converted" camp.

Similarly, it's obnoxious when atheists run around howling about how nonreligious they are. By sticking a hideous display up on the Capitol grounds, they're doing just that and annoying people, to boot. Apparently, it's not enough for the Society members to get together and free think into the wee hours of the morning -- they've got to go out of their way to pester people with their enlightened ways, too.

Want some respect, freethinkers? Take your trashy display down and go home. Y'all may be right in a legal sense, but you've managed to turn a lot of people who may have been neutral to whatever you're up to solidly against your free thinking group. The only thing you've proven is that you folks are a collective nuisance.

Twisted Sister -- “Oh Come all ye Faithful”

Why? Because I think it’s funny (the band just turned “We’re Not Gonna Take It” into a Christmas song and it actually works – that’s comedy). Enjoy, and merry Christmas!

Come join Music Monday and share your songs with us. One simple rule, leave ONLY the actual post link here. You can grab this code at LJL Please note these links are STRICTLY for Music Monday participants only. All others will be deleted without prejudice.

PS: Because of spamming purposes, the linky will be closed on Thursday of each week at midnight, Malaysian Time. Thank you!

Monday, December 21, 2009

Best Christmas presents ever


So I went and posted something yesterday about how much I hate those plastic, see-through candy canes full of M&M’s.

People used to give me those things in spite of the fact that I’ve always resented them.

Well, that all seemed a bit whiny to be posted this close to Christmas. Hey, Christmas is supposed to be fun and light, right? I can take up my crusade against M&M’s and the fascists who fling them at us another day.

During this time of year, however, we ought to be thinking of something a bit more positive. To that end, I’m going to mention some of the best Christmas presents I’ve received through the years.

First up is a plastic, pedal car Jaguar I got when I was five-years-old (it was much like the one pictured above, only red). I absolutely loved that thing and pedaled it all through my neighborhood when I was but a lad. Sadly, I outgrew it, got a Schwinn Stingray bicycle and haven’t seen my beloved plastic Jaguar in over 30 years.

That was the Christmas of 1975. The following year, I got another  treasured gift – a Wolverine Race-o-Rama pinball machine. In theRaceORama pinball mid 1970s, what was cooler than owning your very own, standup pinball machine?

There wasn’t a whole lot that was cooler than that, folks. I played that thing until I flat wore it out. It took a few years to tear up the pinball machine, but I managed it – playing with a fairly complicated toy on an almost daily basis will wear one out, seemingly. Truth be told, I wish I still had one of those things around the house.

About the only thing cooler than a pinball machine in the 1970s was,  of course, an Atari VCS (later Atari2600wood4dubbed the Atari 2600). My parents absolutely hated the idea of having one of those around the house. They were worried it might tear up the television or turn me into a video game-playing zombie.

Oh, I begged my parents for one of those starting in about 1978 when a friend of mine got one for Christmas – it was the Sears version of the 2600 and, as such, came packaged with Target Fun (the Sears-branded version of Atari’s Air-Sea Battle). The notion that you could buy new cartridges and play different games on the thing was intriguing, particularly since the only real video games available for homes prior to the Atari were various versions of Pong – you got one, hardwired system and a bunch of black and white variations of a very simple game.

All of my begging fell on deaf ears, sadly. Well, it fell on deaf ears until the Christmas of 1980 when I finally got an Atari. I was the happiest kid in town and wasted countless hours playing Asteroids, Space Invaders, Activision’s Tennis and a slew of other games.

It may have been a good thing that I had to wait a bit for the Atari. My original system died years ago, but I’ve got two working ones at my house and about 200 cartridges to go with them. By the way, head on over to Atari Age sometime – people are still making and releasing Atari games and will probably be doing so for some time. Long live Atari, huh?coco1

By 1981, computers were all the rage and I wanted one. My parents  got me a TRS-80 Color Computer (CoCo) as they had read that the Microsoft BASIC in those things was the programming language of choice. They were right and I spent hours making up programs for that TRS-80 or copying them out of magazines and books catering to Color Computer fans.

The system was more than a bit primitive – you got an eight-bit, Motorola 6809E CPU that ran at about 1 MHz (that speed could be doubled with a simple command line or programming instruction, however). Most owners hooked them up to their television sets and stored programs on a convention cassette tape (yeah, reading programs was as fun as it sounds).

Regardless, I had a lot of fun learning to program on that thing and owned a lot of games that were loaded in to the computer’s cartridge slot (the famed ROM port that made the CoCo very expandable. The computer came with 16 kilobytes of RAM but I ordered a set of 64 kilobyte chips and soldered them in the system. Two years later, the CoCo went in the closet because I had a more sophisticated machine.

ibm_pcYes, for the Christmas of 1983 I received an IBM-PC. Believe it or not,  that system cost my parents $4,200. What did you get for that price? One 360 kilobyte, 5.25” floppy drive; PC-DOS 1.1, with Microsoft’s advanced BASIC,  EasyWriter (the word processor); an Epson 9-pin, dot matrix printer; 128 kilobytes of RAM; a color monitor; a color graphics adapter; and a big, clicky keyboard.

The IBM-PC was the big deal back then and Big Blue really stuck it to consumers. A box of 10 floppy discs cost $100 at the time (how insane in that?) and anything with an IBM label on it cost and arm and a leg. It seems some people thought the PC represented the wave of the future – it turns out they were right.

I used that system all the way through high school and left it with my  parents when I went to college. TheMaleMachineWhy? Mom used the computer for her office and – understandably – wanted to keep it. So I turned traitor and got an Apple //e in 1987. The funny thing there is that my parents gave me a choice – I could either get a 1981 Pontiac Firebird I had my eyes on (I dubbed the vehicle the “Male Machine” because it was more than a bit over the top and I thought that was cool) or take their 1981 Cutlass Brougham and an Apple //e. I went for the Oldsmobile and the computer. I still regret that a bit, even though the Apple served me well in college.

Oh, there have been some other great gifts through the years – a set of golf clubs from my parents when I was in college, a quilt my grandmother made when I was in law school and a good number of other dandy presents. I still get great gifts but they meant considerably more to me when I was a kid.

Why? When you’re a kid, you can’t just run out and buy whatever you want – you have to ask you parents for things and hope they pick them up for you. When you’re an adult making a decent living, you can pretty well spoil yourself by picking up items you want when you want them.

Hopefully, some of the gifts I’m giving my kids these days will be as fondly remembered as the ones I received for Christmas all those years ago.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

The worst Christmas presents on the planet?


The thing that’s horrible about being a kid is that people make assumptions that may or may not be correct.

Take Christmas, for example.

“Oh, it’s Christmas,” people will say. “Kids love chocolate. What could be better than a cheap, plastic tube full of M&M’s?”

That line of thought, apparently, led to people giving me horrible tubes of NastyCandy® during my childhood. Yes, I’d often wind up with one of those plastic tubes full of rancid milk chocolate covered with the same candy shell that is sprayed on Drixoral tablets.

The chocolate mess that’s in the tube may carry the Hershey’s or M&M’s label. It really doesn’t matter – it’s all pretty much the same filthy slop.

I well remember the first time I got one of those things. I was about four-years-old and was pretty happy to have a huge tube full of red and green candies. In my young mind, color meant flavor when it came to candy. Red could be anything from cherry to peppermint while green could be anything from a cool lime to a pleasant mint.

So I ate one of the candies (it was either red or green – can’t remember). It tasted like cheap chocolate covered by a hard, sugary shell. I ate one of the other color and it tasted like – cheap chocolate covered by a hard, sugary shell. There was absolutely no difference between the two colors. Yes, I had been given a tube of lies.

I’ve hated M&M’s ever since.

Friday, December 18, 2009

It’s office photo time…

JohnnyRamoneThe folks in charge at my office went and decided that we should post bios and photos of all the folks in the business to our blog.

I established and maintain that particular blog. That being the case, I figure my photo should be extra special.

Now, I’m a former reporter, recovering lawyer and current public relations guy. In other words, I tend to only consent to my photo being taking when it’s necessary – like when I’m being interviewed by a local television station or something along those lines.

So my first choice for a photo of me is the one at the top of this post. That’s right – it’s Johnny Ramone. Not only was the man one of the founders of the Ramones, he was instrumental in defining what punk rock sounded like and he was a diehard Reaganite, to boot.

There’s a lot to respect there.

It seems my idea was rejected, sadly. The photo must actually be of me rather than just someone who is undeniably great. Fair enough. I’ll play ball.

So I came up with two more photos to post. Here they are:


EthDestroyerNow, the first one shows my unwavering dedication to organizations as a whole. I figure that any company would be thrilled to have an employee who acknowledges the delights associated with slavish obedience to the selfish whims of the powerful.

Should someone be offended by the Hitler photo, I’ve put the second one together. Why? Because KISS is cool.

I wonder if either photo will be accepted. I doubt it.

Now, just for fun, here are the mighty, mighty Ramones in action:

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Tell Me Thursday – hair cut and a rifle


For my fantabulous Wordless Wednesday entry this week, I posted the photo over there on the left.

Yes, I know exactly what you’re thinking – this photo was taken in my beloved Arkansas, right? No, no it wasn’t. Not as far as I know, anyway.

The thing about this barber/gun shop is that it kind of reminds me of the type of thing one might see around here. Arkansans, it seems, just love to blend businesses that – on paper – just don’t look like they should be paired.

A great example of what I mean can be found in Fayetteville at this place called Soap-N-Suds. It was a laundromat and bar all rolled into one. Yes, when I was a student at the University of Arkansas, I enjoyed heading down there, doing some laundry, knocking back a few brews, shooting pool, playing video games and just generally being distracted from the drudgery that comes with washing clothes.

Now, a laundromat/bar might look odd on paper, but it worked well. Perhaps the same is true of a barber who also sells guns.

On a somewhat related subject, there was this place here in Benton called Popplo’s Pizza (or something like that) that went out of business years ago. It then became kind of a tamale and cheese dip restaurant and that didn’t last long.

Once the tamale place failed, it became a taxidermy shop. That closed a few months ago and the place is now a barbecue joint.

Yeah. That’s right. A former taxidermy shop is now a restaurant. Ick.

I don’t think I’ll be eating there. It would be as bad as ordering up a meal in a restaurant that was once a funeral home. It might actually be worse, in fact.

This post is part of the grand Tell Me Thursday event – a chance for Tell Me Wednesday participants to tell the story behind their posts. Click here to see the other entries or (better yet) submit something of your own.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Are they on hard drugs in Philadelphia?

RubenAmaroWell, it’s official – the Philadelphia Phillies rewarded ace pitcher Cliff Lee by trading him to the Seattle as part of a complicated deal involving four MLB teams.

“Dude, this deal is like way, way complicated,” said Phillies General Manager Ruben “Shaggy” Amaro Jr. at a press conference after the deal was finalized." I mean, whoa! You know? Hey – did you ever think when they mean space was infinite they meant, like, a whole universe could be in my fingernail? The Solar system looks a lot like an atom, you know? Man, we could all be living in someone’s toenail! Dude!”

Lee – a good Benton, Ark., boy – headed to Philadelphia after a trade with Cleveland in July. He won four games in the postseason for Philadelphia and was credited with the team’s only two wins in the World Series against the Yankees.

Philadelphia rewarded Lee by trading him to Seattle for three minor league prospects and a case of Milwaukee’s Best. By the end of the day, the Phillies still had the three prospects, the case of cheap, swillworthy beer and ace pitcher Roy Halladay after a trade with Toronto.

Yeah, there’s some reward, huh? You work hard to get your team to  the World Series, wiCliffLeen a couple of games for them when they get their and then you get traded for three scrubs and a case of cheap beer. Yes, they’re either ungrateful bastards in Philadelphia or they’re smoking hard drugs.

I prefer to blame drug use for the rotten treatment Lee received. Why? Because that’s funnier.

At least Philadelphia got something out of the deal. The real loser in the trade was Toronto. That team got three minor leaguers from Philadelphia, lost one heck of a pitcher and – to add insult to injury – sent $6 million to the Phillies.

Oh, Toronto sent one of those prospects – Michael “Who?” Taylor – to the Athletics for Brett “King of the Minor Leagues” Wallace.

Toronto, in this instance, played the part of the Pittsburgh Pirates – a team known for trading great players in exchange for some prospects. The hope, of course, is those prospects will amount to something. In Pittsburgh’s case, the prospects that don’t pan out become franchise players while the ones that turn out to be pretty good get traded off for more prospects. Hopefully, Toronto isn’t wandering down that sad path.

The team that is in great shape here is Seattle. They get a heck of a great pitcher in Lee and get to team him with Felix Hernandez, another outstanding pitcher.

Sadly, all the talent in the world won’t send the Mariners to the World Series. There’s a club that seems to figure out creative ways of dashing any hope of heading to the World Series in spite of the number of great players who have played there.

It’s all just too bad for Lee.

Wordless Wednesday -- hair cut and a rifle...

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Tuesday, December 15, 2009

"Because you suck..."

My wife is a wacky, wacky woman.

We've got this office Christmas party planned for this week at work. I called my wife today and told her about it.

"I need to get a gift," I said. "Our limit is $10."

"OK. I'll pick something up for you," she replied.

"Why don't I just go buy something?"

"Because you suck."

Yeah. You read that right. Mean!

However, she explained what she meant. Bear in mind that my idea for a gift was to frame a photo of a former coworker who "retired" last year and throw it in the gift pile. Last year I got lazy and brought in a six pack of Woodchuck Cider (I think I just left it in that black, plastic bag the liquor store put it in and stuck it under the Christmas tree -- can't remember).

My wife, then, said she would buy an "office appropriate" gift because most of the ones I've purchased in the past have been horrible, inappropriate or downright mean. This year she's assumed responsibility for sending me off to work with a gift that (I suppose) doesn't suck.

Perhaps this is why she makes sure to drop hints about Christmas presents she'd like throughout the year.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Music Monday – Peanuts Christmas

Relax and enjoy…

Come join Music Monday and share your songs with us. One simple rule, leave ONLY the actual post link here. You can grab this code at LJL Please note these links are STRICTLY for Music Monday participants only. All others will be deleted without prejudice.

PS: Because of spamming purposes, the linky will be closed on Thursday of each week at midnight, Malaysian Time. Thank you!

Christmas shopping like a champion


Back when my wife and I first got married, we were poor.

We were so poor we couldn’t afford to pay attention. We were so poor we should have described ourselves as “po” because that “r” and additional “o” were just too darned expensive.

In short, we were broke. As such, we had to plan our budgets carefully. We adopted the habit of shopping throughout the year so tackling buying Christmas presents wasn’t such an ordeal – it was spread out rather than concentrated in the space of a couple of weeks.

Thankfully, things have improved financially for the two of us. Still, we have hung onto that tradition of shopping throughout the year. If we see something in March or July that we know someone would love for Christmas, why not just pick it up then and store it somewhere until December?

So, here it is Dec. 14 and our shopping is all but finished. Oh, sure, there are a few odds and ends to pick up here and there, but we’re not going to be rushing out right before Christmas and fight crowds to get everything at the last minute.

We have the luxury of sitting back and enjoying the season.

That shopping early bit is highly recommended. It really does take the stress out of the holiday and let’s us concentrate on what’s important – making plans with family, getting involved with our church’s observation of Christmas and that kind of thing.

Ah, a relaxing Christmas season. There’s a lot to be said for it.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Hey! Where’d my banner go?


Way on back in July 2008, I started this here blog and my friend, Dave, went and designed a banner for it.

Ah, it was a thing of beauty, that banner. You could throw hyperboles at it all day long – great, nifty, dandy and dope stupid, to name a few.

Now it’s gone. Why? I’m not really sure – I just noticed it wasn’t gracing my blog as usual for some reason. According to my control panel in Blogger, the thing never existed at all.

So I put together a new banner – one that certainly conveys the fun and frolic that have become synonymous with this blog. I rather like the new banner, in fact.

But that’s not the point, is it? Where the heck did my old banner go?

All I can figure is that Blogger is owned by Google – a company that just seems to go out of its way to hate me from time to time. A few months ago, my Google PageRank dropped from a healthy “3” to the pitiful “0” it’s at right now.

I shouldn’t be surprised, then, that the Google reached at and took a swipe at me – friendly ole The Hawg – once again. It might have something to do with the fact that I revealed the truth about evil cell phones yesterday (they’re of the devil, you know).

Google, of course, has lately been working on dominating the cell google-phone-2 phone market with various applications. You can’t escape Google on the Internet, so why shouldn’t the same be true of cell phones, right?

Clearly, Google doesn’t need smart-aleck folks running around suggesting that people should smash their cell phones and live simpler, happier lives.

Of course, maybe I should have just backed up the old banner.

It’s more fun to blame Google for my mistake, however.

At any rate, enjoy the new banner. Who can resist wacky stick figures and a line drawing of a Russian boar? The Russian boar, by the way, is the critter that the University of Arkansas actually uses as a mascot – Razorbacks are rather hard to come by in these parts, so the live pig that sits in its cage at games is the more common boar.

Useless trivia – I know tons of it.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Stop the evil! Smash your cell phone today!


Believe it or not, I’m annoyed over something.

What’s got me worked up today? Cell phones. Hate the things. The world would be better off without them. I figure that Satan developed them to torment us poor humans, anyway. That’s just the kind of thing that devil would do. Damned pest.

Actually, I wouldn’t be too worried about lobbying against all cell phones if I could just be rid of mine. Since my wife and employer won’t let me get away with refusing to carry one, I figure I’m stuck until I complete a successful campaign to get rid of all of the nasty things.

In other words, I’m irritated and intent on making everyone suffer. So there.

Anyway, I started thinking along these lines around 1997 when I was driving back from a friend’s funeral. I was practicing law at the time and my cell phone rang – it was an angry client who figured I ought to be in my office working on his something-or-other instead of wasting my time at a funeral.

I responded by pitching my cell phone out of my car window when I was driving about 75 MPH. I immediately got angry for two reasons. First of all, that phone cost around $400 and I reduced it to a pile of garbage that was scattered down the Interstate. Second, I wanted to call my secretary and yell at her for giving some lunatic my cell number.

I couldn’t call her, of course. I had just pitched my phone out the window of a speeding car.

So I didn’t carry a cell phone for years. Oh, I was a happy, happy The Hawg! People could reach me at work only when I was actually at work. I could be alone from time to time and not have to worry about a nasty ringtone shattering my solitude.

Ah, but then I got married and my wife made me carry a cell phone. Sure, that one got destroyed after it went through the washing machine and my wife got me a new one. I gave that one to her after I started my current job and my office bought me yet another phone.

I got rid of the phone my office bought me when I threw it up against a wall a few times, kicked it for good measure and stomped on it for the sheer hell of it. My employer rewarded me with yet another cell phone.

I can’t get rid of the things, seemingly -- I'll destroy one and wind up with a new phone. Furthermore, I’ve got to leave it on in case there’s an “emergency” and someone needs to get in touch with me. Emergency? There are some other things I could carry in case of an emergency – a shotgun, a life preserver, road flares, rope, a canteen, SCUBA gear, etc. I don’t carry any of that junk around with me constantly, but I am required to carry my cell phone in case some phantom emergency pops up and I have to deal with it.

Do I get any emergency calls? Hell no. What I get are work-related calls when I’m at home or on vacation from people who always ask me if “it’s a bad time to talk.”

Well, yeah it’s a bad time to talk. A good time to talk is when I’m in my office during working hours – not when I’m at my mother-in-law’s house on a Thanksgiving vacation.

I also get calls from my wife while I’m weaving through rush-hour traffic because she wants to know if I've left the office yet. You know, one of those calls could cause an emergency...

You’d think mankind hadn’t managed for centuries before the advent of the cell phone. How could people get in touch with each other if an emergency popped up? What on earth did they do?

Oh, yeah. They managed just fine.

I’m convinced there are few of those “cell phone” emergencies to which people like to refer. That fellow surfing the Internet on his iPhone in the middle of a movie theater I was at a few weeks ago didn’t have an emergency. That freaky chick I saw texting away while driving down the road a few weeks ago wasn’t dealing with an emergency. Those cell phone gabbing maniacs who lollygag around while getting in my way on the freeway during my morning commute aren’t in the middle of emergencies.

No, we’d all be better off by simply taking up our cell phones and running them over with our cars a few times, thus freeing ourselves of that demonic evil. Just imagine a world where lunches with friends aren’t ruined by cell phone calls, people actually pay attention to the road while driving, obnoxious ringtones are unheard of and crumbs don’t wander around in a haze while checking their Facebook accounts on their phones.

I do believe my dad has the right idea about how to carry a cell phone. He resisted one until my mother finally convinced him he needed one with him. What’s my dad’s cell number? I have no idea.

Why? He doesn’t want to be bothered and he’d rather talk to me in person, anyway.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Redneck Christmas float -- my 'Wordless Wednesday' entry explained

For my Wordless Wednesday submission yesterday, I posted the charming photo on the left.

Since then I've got a decent story about the origin of this photo -- perfect since I figured on writing something about it for Tell Me Thursday, anyway.

My wife sent me that photo the other day and I figured I had to use it. I figured it just came from somewhere on the Internet (the source for all things random) and got sent to her because, well, we're Arkansans.

I asked my wife where the photo came from and she said it came from a lady she works with. The photo, apparently, was taken at the Grant County Christmas parade in Sheridan, Ark. Yeah, that's right -- this is the kind of thing that goes on here in Arkansas.

Frankly, that's absolutely fine with me. Here we've got a fellow with a fantastic sense of humor who went and made a float that is as hilarious as it is grim. I mean, think about it -- gathering up the deer for that thing took a lot of hours in the deer woods and (I'll assume) a decent amount of cash (taxidermists don't work for free the last time I checked). Building a "sleigh" and mounting in on a four-wheeler was a bit of an exercise, too. And how much time does it take to secure a spot in a parade?

This guy went all out with his idea. Notice how the deer representing Rudolph even has a red nose. I appreciate the heck out of that.

Really, I do. I'm not even a hunter (that takes too much effort and I've got a butcher's shop not too far from my house) and I appreciate that photo. Why? It's an absolute hoot and that's good enough.

At any rate, I hope everyone has a great Christmas. I bet dude in the photo is going to wind up with something hunting-related and I hope you fine folks get what you want this year, too.

By the way, if you're a Wordless Wednesday participant, I strongly urge you to check out Tell Me Thursday. That gives you the chance to tell the world the story behind your Wordless Wednesday submission. That's a heck of an idea.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Wordless Wednesday -- could be from Arkansas...

This entry is part of the Wordless Wednesday wackiness. Click that link to see the other entries or submit something of your own.

Monday, December 7, 2009

White lights or something more colorful?


Being from the South, I sometimes find it hard to talk about Christmas lights.

Why? Well, talking about “colored lights” here in the South just sounds somehow wrong, doesn’t it? Brings up memories of the rants that Ku Klux Klan member in town used to engage in from time to time. Ugh. Distasteful.

At any rate, I’ve noticed that a lot of folks around here are going for white lights this year. White lights all over their trees, outdoor decorations and everything else.

We’re more confused around my house, really. We’ve got two Christmas trees here that have all white lights while our largest one – the centerpiece of the entire living room – is brimming with red, blue, orange, green and even pink lights. The lights on our roof are of the multi-colored type (and they’re of the beautiful, ceramic 1970s era, too). We’ve got a wireframe, animated grazing deer in the yard that covered with white lights and three miniature trees that are very colorful flank it.

So, we rather like both that stark white color scheme and something with a bit more whimsical zing to it. The only thing I hate are those horrible flashing things on which half of a tree just goes dark all the sudden. Yuck. The lights here have to be solid – no horrendous and confusing flashing here.

What’s the point to all this rambling? I’m curious – is everyone out there using colorful or all white lights this year? A mixture of the two? Yes, Christmas decorations fascinate me…

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Tell me Thursday – hearing aid


For my Wordless Wednesday submission yesterday, I posted a photo of my nephew, Willie, wielding a decorative paddle that his parents own.

What’s it all about? I’ll explain it all for Tell Me Thursday.

My wife snapped that photo of 16-year-old Willie and it pretty well sums up the lad. He’s a hoot, that one, and just tends to do stuff like that, you know?

I’m actually a bit envious of young Willie. He seems to be making plans to head off to the Coast Guard Academy after high school and is obsessed with one day owning a classic muscle car from the 1960s. I hope he succeeds on both counts. He’s at an age that’s perfect for coming up with obtainable goals and figuring out how to achieve them.

My wife took that photo last week when we were visiting her family in northwest Arkansas for Thanksgiving. It turns out that’s about her favorite holiday as she has a large family and they all get together for Thanksgiving. There are no gifts to buy, no real pressure and we all set a day aside to catch up with each other. Fun stuff.

I prefer Christmas to Thanksgiving, but I do see Marci’s point. Christmas is expensive and requires a ton of work – shopping, putting up decorations and everything else. Fortunately, my wife generally shops through the year for gifts and trimmed down our list further by hitting the “black Friday” sales after Thanksgiving. So we can just sit back, relax and enjoy the season (I’ll get my shopping done for her this weekend, but that’s not big deal – I know what I’m getting her and know which stores to visit, so it shouldn’t take long).

I wonder if that “hearing aid” paddle is something that will be passed down from generation to generation…

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Wordless Wednesday -- hearing aid

This post is part of the Wordless Wednesday fun.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Music Monday -- A Flock of Seagulls

An almost perfect pop single. Man, I do miss the 1980s...

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The Hummer is back?

During our Thanksgiving break in scenic northwest Arkansas, I noticed something odd going on up there -- a lot of ads for the Hummer.

"The Hummer is back," declared an ad from some car lot in the part of the world as some announcer spoke excitedly about the virtues of owning one of those nasty things.

Wait a minute. I thought the Hummer had become as outdated as the pet rock and the AMC Gremlin. I figured the Hummer had one foot in the grave and the brand's vehicles had been relegated to used car lots around the country.

Here in Benton, Ark., the Hummer lot in town is little more than a parking lot for econo-boxes offered up by Chevrolet.

The Hummer is back? The symbol of everything that was wrong with the U.S. auto industry is making a comeback? People feel confident enough in the economy to blow thousands on vehicles that burn gas like it's still $1 a gallon? Really?

I'm not sure if that's true or not, but here's the truly ironic thing -- GM is in the process of selling Hummer to Sichuan Tengzhong Heavy Industrial Machinery, a Chinese company (of course).

Actually, that makes sense. China is in the process of buying everything else (and holds more U.S. government debt than will ever be repaid in my lifetime (if at all)), so why shouldn't it own Hummer, too?

Sunday, November 29, 2009

The Christmas season kicks off in earnest at Casa de Hawg

Go ahead and take a close look at that photo.

Well, it's not a very good photo. Take a look at it anyway. And I know there's a gap in the string of lights on the roof -- a bulb went out and I've replaced it. So there.

Anyway, that's my 13-year-old son and me celebrating our hard work.

"Look! Look what the men have done," we're boasting. "We've hung up Christmas lights."

That's right -- The Boy and I strung up 125 lights around about half of our roof. We've hung up those mini-light, blue icicle things for the past couple of years but went with those big, ceramic colored bulbs this time. I think we'll stick with the big lights.

Ah, yeah! C-9 bulbs all the way. It's like Christmas in 1975 with all those huge, bright bulbs on our house. It took us a couple of hours but The Boy and I did the hustle and got it done.

Yeah, let the games begin. We love Christmas around here and my wife goes absolutely crazy right after Thanksgiving. We've got three Christmas trees in our house (two in the living room and one in the dining room), a lighted garland for the fireplace mantle, a four-piece ceramic tree that my wife painted, a slew of Christmas candles, a train running around the base of one of the trees and assorted odds and ends. All we're missing, really, is some of those animated yard decorations and a lighted runway for Santa on the roof.

Some people might claim Christmas has become too commercial, but I say phooey on that. In my house, we view setting aside a day to recognize Christ's birth as something to celebrate with gusto. If Christians can't be joyful, then what's the point?

Besides, most of the shopping is done so we can relax, look at our decorations and enjoy the season.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Those Black Friday folks are crazy

Let me start off by saying that not all of those Black Friday fans are nuts.

In fact, my wife gets up bright and early every Friday after Thanksgiving and hits the stores. And who can blame her? Some of the prices are incredibly low and everyone wants to save money, right?

No, the Black Friday shoppers I'm talking about are of a special breed. A crazy breed. A perhaps dangerously insane breed.

Who are the insane Black Friday shoppers? I saw a report on the news the other night about people who started camping out in store parking lots on Tuesday. That's right -- Tuesday.

So, some people went and missed out on Thanksgiving entirely so they could sit in a parking lot and save a few bucks when all hell broke loose on Friday morning. What would drive someone to do that? I honestly don't know. Well, perhaps I do know -- it's insanity that drives some people to such lengths.

My wife, I think, did it the right way. She enjoyed Thanksgiving and made a list of items she wanted in advance. She got up at around 3:30 a.m. (far too early for me, I'm afraid) and hit the stores. While she didn't camp out overnight, she did manage to grab everything she wanted except for one item -- a new HDTV set for our bedroom.

That's not a bad deal. She got to enjoy Thanksgiving with family and will have to make do with the 20" tube television set in our bedroom until we get around to replacing it. Meanwhile, our Christmas shopping is now all but finished. Not a bad day's work.

By the way, we spent the Thanksgiving holiday in northwest Arkansas with my wife's family. The news outlets were all covering Black Friday shopping. My brother-in-law was out with the Black Friday shoppers and he got interviewed by two different television stations. My mother in law recorded the broadcasts on her DVR and, sure enough, he was all over television today.

How cool is that?

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Cornpone and Mud Flap revisited (Tell Me Thursday submission)

For my Wordless Wednesday submission yesterday, I posted a photo of my two nieces.

Yes, Cornpone and Mud Flap (nicknames made up at random by me) are 13-month-old twins. Thanks to the inspired folks over at Tell Me Thursday, I feel compelled to mention a little bit about my nieces.

My family and I are spending the Thanksgiving holiday in northwest Arkansas with my wife's family. Young Cornpone and Mud Flap (yes, I'm sticking with those nicknames because I think they're funny) are the daughters of my wife's youngest sister. My sister-in-law and her husband have five children to raise and, as such, they have my sympathy.

While my sister-in-law was at work the other day, my wife, mother-in-law and I got to take care of Cornpone and Mud Flap. It seems they like their Uncle The Hawg, but it is obvious to me that Mud Flap likes me better than her sister does. Regardless, they're fun kids.

Now, we took the twins to the store the other day. My mother-in-law was carrying Mud Flap while I was toting Cornpone. A clerk came up and made a big fuss over Cornpone and got to the point where she asked the question I dreaded -- "What is her name?"

"I'm not really sure," I replied.

The clerk just looked at me.

"Look, they're twins," I explained. "I'm just the uncle. I can't really tell them apart yet, you know?"

She gave me a look that said "you're terrible" all over it. Fine with me. I'll learn to tell them apart one day, I'm sure.

Still, we had a good time with young Cornpone and Mud Flap. It'll be a hoot when they're young enough to come stay with my wife and me down in central Arkansas one of these days. We can spoil the heck out of them and send them back home to their parents so they can raise five kinds of hell.

We've had that happen to us enough when our kids stay in northwest Arkansas for awhile. Turnabout is fair play, right?

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Wordless Wednesday -- Cornpone and Mud Flap

Check out the other Wordless Wednesday participant or submit something of your own by clicking here.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Against all logic, health care debate advances

After a drama-filled week, the Democrats bought enough votes (60) to move the health care debate forward.

The final holdout was our own Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark.) Another holdout -- Sen. Mary Landrieu -- sold her vote for hard, cold cash. It doesn't appear that Lincoln got a thing for voting to move the bill into the debate state.

That's too bad. Landrieu can at least claim she sold out in exchange for $100 million (at least) in federal dollars for her district. Lincoln is left saying she voted to debate a bill she's against so that the Senate can have the opportunity to change it and stuff. Or something like that. She could have at least held out for a few bucks for Arkansas, a cool car or something else of value.

The concern here, of course, is that the latest Rasmussen poll shows that only 38 percent of the country supports the current bill. The bill has already passed the House in spite of the fact an awful lot of congressmen have claimed they are against it and wouldn't vote for final passage if the bill is similar to the one they voted to pass.

Work your way through that logic if you dare. Meanwhile, senators like Lincoln are currently using similar logic, meaning that it's not altogether impossible to suspect the very senators and representatives claiming to oppose this thing will eventually pass it.

It's worth pointing out that the Landrieu example stands as evidence that votes are totally for sale on this bill and proponents of the bill are more than happy to buy them. We saw the same thing with that dreadful bankruptcy reform a few years ago (the credit card industry spent millions buying votes for that piece of slop) and that does appear to be the way business is done these days (just ask General Motors). Shameful. These folks can be bought and it doesn't matter one whit what the people who elected them want.

How did our Arkansas congressional delegation fare? Not surprisingly, that mustache-mumbling Rep. Vic Snyder (D-2nd Dist.) voted to pass the bill in Congress. Rep. Marion Berry (D-1st Dist.) somewhat surprisingly followed suit. Rep. John Boozman (R-4th Dist.) voted "no" as did Rep. Mike Ross (D-3rd Dist.)

In the Senate, Sen. Mark Pryor joined Lincoln in voting to move the bill to debate. That's no surprise, really -- Pryor would vote for legislation authorizing nun beating if the Democrat leadership told him it was a good idea. Rumor has it the man had an original thought 30 years ago and decided he didn't much like it.

It appears there may be some merit to what the Republicans opposing this bill said -- voting to move it to debate is really a vote to pass the bill. These folks are for sale, seem to disregard what their constituents want and are amazingly prone to pressure from leadership. The American public might not want this bill but, by God, we may get it. How's that for representative government?

Monday, November 23, 2009

Music Monday – the Pretenders

Great song from a great band…

Come join Music Monday and share your songs with us. One simple rule, leave ONLY the actual post link here. You can grab this code at LJL Please note these links are STRICTLY for Music Monday participants only. All others will be deleted without prejudice.

PS: Because of spamming purposes, the linky will be closed on Thursday of each week at midnight, Malaysian Time. Thank you!

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Great commercials of 2009


The other day I posted something commercials that have made me sick or angry this year.

A friend of mine, Jay the Newspaper Guy, read that and suggested that I post something about commercials that I actually liked.

That was a good idea. Most commercials either suck or just plain don’t interest me. There are some, however, that cause me to pause and watch instead of simply skipping over them with my DVR.

That’s the hallmark of a good commercial, isn’t it? I mean, if you can get someone to actually sit down and watch the thing, then you’re more likely to sell whatever junk you’re trying to unload on the public.

So, Jay the Newspaper Guy, these are for you:

1. Miller High Life crusades for common sense. The Miller delivery guy has been depriving the snooty of his beer for a couple of years now. He made his way to the Kentucky Derby in this ad. Great stuff.

2. Castrol Edge reminds you to "think with your dipstick, Jimmy." What’s not to love here? A deranged fellow runs around beating on people with a dipstick. Once you stop asking yourself just what the hell is going on here, you’ll laugh yourself silly.

3. Sonic -- my little tater tot. Raise your hand if you’re married, male and have said something stupid that got you into a lot of trouble. I sure have and that makes this commercial all the funnier – better that cat than me, right?

4. Apple makes fun of Windows 7. Microsoft advises an upgrade? That’s just fine – why not upgrade to a Macintosh? Laffs aplenty…

5. Verizon takes a swipe at Apple. I’ve talked to a number of people who have iPhones who are irate about the limited 3G coverage. Verizon capitalizes on this and beats up on Apple like Apple beats up on Microsoft. Isn’t competition wonderful?

Thursday, November 19, 2009

‘They drop turkeys out of airplanes? Really?’


It’s odd how you can live in a state for all your life and be completely ignorant about some of the more colorful history in the region.

Such is the case with me and the Yellville Turkey Trot that’s been going on since 1946. Every year that particular Arkansas town celebrates it’s abundant wild turkey population by holding the Turkey Trot festival on the second Friday and Saturday in October.

The biggest – and least talked about – aspect of the Turkey Trot is the unofficial Turkey Drop. I’ll talk more about that in a minute.

This evening I was talking to my wife about various WKRP Thanksgiving/Christmas things when I mentioned that famed episode on WKRP in Cincinnati in which doomed turkeys were hurled out of airplanes. It seems turkeys don’t fly all that well and splattered on the ground, much to the horror of gathered Thanksgiving celebrators.

“That’s based on a real event, you know,” my wife said. “That started in Yellville.”

“No it’s not,” I protested. “Throwing turkeys out of an airplane would be insane.”

I continued to claim that my wife was pulling my leg, so she dug up this story for me. It seems people started tossing wild turkeys of the courthouse roof in Yellville early on and then started dropping the poor things out of low-flying planes in the 1960s. That practice continued until national attention was brought to it by the aforementioned WKRP episode, a story in the National Enquirer and pressure from groups against animal cruelty.

The city got away from the annual “Turkey Drop” around 1990 but, evidently, the practice still continues unofficially. I’ll have to go see that one day. Apparently, some turkeys still fall to their deaths while others survive and either run into the woods or get chased all over town.

Strange, strange, strange.

Take that, peladophobiacs!


Dave the Tech Guy gave me some great news while we were at work the other day – there are people in this world who fear bald people.

Yeah. That’s right. Bald people. Click here if you don’t believe me.

That fear of bald people is called peladophobia and, apparently, those afflicted with it can suffer from “breathlessness, dizziness, excessive sweating, nausea, feeling sick, shaking, heart palpitations, inability to speak or think clearly, a fear of dying, becoming mad or losing control, a sensation of detachment from reality or a full blown anxiety attack.”

And it seems that peladophobia is fairly widespread. As a man who is going bald I couldn’t be happier.

Why? Because the whole thing is just plain funny. Yes, the very notion that my balding head could cause people heart palpitations, filling them with the fear of dying, etc. seems both ridiculous and fair.

Fair? Yes, fair. Going bald is downright annoying and distinctly unfair. Those cocky folks with healthy hairlines are uppity and they deserve getting a heart palpitation or two when they run across some of us who aren’t so blessed.

Peladophobia, then, is just nature’s way of letting some of us get even. We balding men have power and it’s high time we stepped up to the plate and used it.

By the way, is a peladophobiac goes bald, is he scared of himself? I wonder…