Saturday, March 31, 2012

Salvation Lies Within*

Let me tell you something my friend. Hope is a dangerous thing. Hope can drive a man insane. – Red, The Shawshank Redemption

Yesterday, tens of millions of Mega Millions ticket buyers had hope.  Hope drove them to travel by car and by foot to their nearest Mega Millions lottery retailer to buy as many $1 chances at hope as they could afford.  Hope helped them ignore the fact that they were 2,000 times more likely to be hit by falling space junk during that trip to the store than they were to hit all of the numbers.  For that $1 (or more), they got what they paid for – a few hours of hope.  I hope it was worth it while it lasted.

From the people that I have spoken to, it was worth it.  The fantasy and hope of winning put a spring in their step and a twinkle in their eye.  For a few days or hours, the dream of collecting the massive jackpot caused them to evaluate their own lives and priorities in a positive light.  “What would I do with my time?  What would I change?  What groups would receive my generous donations and volunteer time?  Who would fall off my Christmas card list the next day?”  Everybody thinks about it, and there is nothing wrong with that, assuming ‘thinking’ doesn’t morph into ‘obsessing’.
These are all good questions to ponder.  But why do we wait until the mirage of millions is waved in front of us to consider how we want to spend our lives?  “What would I change?” should be a regular question we ask ourselves. 

“Get busy living or getting busy dying.” – Red, The Shawshank Redemption 

As I eyeball my 50th birthday on the horizon this week, and I wallow in midlife reflection and self-examination, I think about these life choices without the lottery as motivation.  I don’t need to wonder anymore about what I would do “if”.  According to the calendar, I have less time than I did a week ago.  I need to act on my answers to those questions now while I can still hear, see and move without discomfort.  Just because I didn’t win the lottery doesn’t mean I can’t still achieve those dreams on a slightly smaller scale.      
No one changes much after hearing the news that they will not be retiring immediately and buying an island.  For a moment after the numbers are announced, there might be disappointment, but for most, it passes quickly.  Life goes on.  My birthday will come and go, and for a moment, there might be disappointment that I am this old.  For most, it (the disappointment) should pass quickly, and life will go on.  Perhaps I won’t change much either after I come to grips with my chronological age.

Red was correct.  Hope can drive a man insane.  Almost three quarters of a billion dollars will do that.  I will keep the Mega Millions lottery in perspective in the future and hopefully my friends will too.  My 50th birthday, however, I cannot keep in the same perspective.  The odds of my reaching 50 are better than my odds of winning the lottery, although those two events might be more similar than I realize. 
Turning 50, I realize that I have already won the lottery.  So now I can answer those burning questions: What will I do with the time?  What will I change?  What groups will receive my generous donations and volunteer time?  Who will fall off my Christmas card list the next day?

Remember Red, hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things, and no good thing ever dies. – Andy, The Shawshank Redemption

Salvation Lies Within* - what the warden of Shawshank Prison told Andy Dufrense about the Bible, and what Andy quoted back to the warden in his inscription of the Bible he used to hide the rock hammer that helped him dig the escape tunnel.

Friday, March 30, 2012

Time Passages

With 4 days to go before the Big Birthday, I thought it time to recall how old I really am.  I feel young in many ways, but based on the music, sports, religion and politics that I can remember from my lifetime, I could be wrong.

Here’s a small collection of snippets of memories from as far back as I can reach:

M - Music
  • I remember buying 45 RPM records at the 5 & 10 store, and occasionally springing for that 45 record accessory - the little plastic insert so record would fit on the spindle.
  • I remember when The Beatles Let It Be and Hey Jude were new songs on the radio (although I don’t remember the big break up announcement).
  • I remember watching first run episodes of The Monkees
  • I remember coming home after a grueling day of 1st grade and putting Iron Butterfly’s In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida on the turntable.  17+ minutes of psychedelic heavy metal is good for an 8 year old.  It has one of the few drum solos I can stand.
  • I remember hearing about the Jim Croce and Lynyrd Skynyrd plane crashes on the radio.  Could have been my first brushes with mortality.
  • I saw the first concert ever staged at Giants Stadium…a stadium that was razed last year and replaced because it was too old and outdated.  I can relate.
  • I remember when Cher was Madonna before Madonna was Madonna, and before Lady Gaga became Madonna.
S - Sports
  • I remember watching the first World Series night game ever played.  In that 1971 Series, the Pirates beat the Orioles in 7 games, and Steve Blass became as star.   The next year, losing all pitching ability inexplicably became known forever as Steve Blass Disease.
  • I remember watching Super Bowl V
  • I remember watching the Steelers-Raiders Immaculate Reception game.  To this day, I still can’t believe Harris caught that ball.
  • I remember the hype over Ali-Frazier I.
  • I remember the Olympic heroics of Olga Korbut and Mark Spitz, but not the tragedy in Munich during those same games.
  • I remember the 1972 Canada vs. USSR hockey series
  • I remember that all my friends had those colorful ABA basketballs.  They were cool.
  • I saw O.J. Simpson play.  I saw Willie Mays hit a home run.  I saw Joe Namath play for the Jets in Shea Stadium.  I hounded Phil Esposito for his autograph after Ranger games.  I got to see the Big Red Machine – Bench, Rose, Morgan, Perez, and Bench – at the height of their powers.
R - Religion
  • I remember a lot of guitar masses in the 1970s.
  • I remember the introduction of the option to accept communion in the hand instead of the mouth.  I was all in favor of the change.
  • I remember that First Communion and Confirmation preparation involved memorizing the answers to a list of questions.  That was pretty much it.  If the priest didn’t call on you to answer one of the questions, you passed.
 P - Politics
  • I remember when stamps were $.06 and gas was $0.36 per gallon.  Those are political mileposts, aren’t they?
  • I remember RFK’s funeral, but not MLK’s.
  • I remember watching the Watergate hearings on TV after school, and enjoying it. 
  • I remember staying up late to watch the 1972 Republican convention, and listening to the crowd chant “4 more years!” for Nixon.
  • I remember the 1968 Presidential election.  I wanted Nixon but the rest of my family wanted Humphrey.  I think that was the last Republican candidate for President I ever supported.
  • I remember that our school was a nuclear fallout shelter, and I remember practicing nuclear preparedness drills.  Heads down, sitting in the hallway – like that would save us.
  • I remember our elementary school teachers rolling TVs into the classroom (black and white of course) so we could watch Apollo missions in progress during school hours.
Other Cultural Touchstones
  • I remember riding my bike everywhere, rarely with permission from an adult.
  • I remember when Sesame Street debuted on PBS.
  • I remember seeing The Dirty Dozen in a drive in movie theater with my family.  Pretty sure I fell asleep before it ended.  It was a double feature.
  • I remember that we owned one of those vibrating belt that supposedly would shaking the weight right off of you.  Jack LaLanne must have been too hard to follow (although I did watch his program as a kid).
  • I remember milk being delivered to the front door, twice per week.
  • I remember when color TV was what the rich families had.  I remember when cable was a futuristic fantasy to a kid who had rabbit ear antennae wrapped in tin foil for improved reception on his 19” Magnavox in the kitchen.
  • I remember when copy machines dispensed that curly thermal paper.  Copy machines, not fax machines.
  • I remember that cars only had lap belts.  We never used them, but cars did have them.
What I don’t really remember is growing old.  Guess that hasn’t happened yet.  I’ve got a few more days.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Outside Looking In

I am not following the Trayvon Martin situation.

I know that probably places me firmly in the minority (no pun intended), but I am not paying full attention.  It is not easy to avoid the story.  As we all know, it is everywhere, all the time.  The story has infected every media outlet from cable news to sports talk radio to daily Facebook updates.  Whereas I began as a passive observer of the virus, I now must try consciously to avoid being bitten by the story.  I am working hard to remain an outsider and not become sickened by the entire escapade.  Full exposure sounds like it will make you sick inside.

I know a little about the story by osmosis.  I know about the hoodie controversy (full disclosure: Every member of my family owns a hooded sweatshirt).  I know about the danger that Skittles represent.  I have read some headlines about the Stand Your Ground laws and George Zimmerman’s 911 call and his injuries or non-injuries.  These sound bites have seeped inside, but they lack cohesiveness in my mind.  I haven’t drilled down for more information.  It’s just stuff I know. 

As far as meaningful details of the episode as it unfolded, I am happily ignorant.  From what I gather, I am in good company.  No one really knows what happened since the salient details are being sorted out via rumor, assumptions and innuendo, along with the occasional grainy surveillance tape and the customary scratchy 911 recording.  Only two people know all the facts and one is deceased.  That doesn’t stop everyone else from claiming with certainty that they know what happened that day, or what it means to us.

Some things are clearer from a safe distance, like a forest.  It is clear to me from this distance that Left and Right partisans are actively using this tragedy to support their preordained positions on race issues.  It is an interesting way to approach a sociological inquiry.  First, settle on a conclusion.  Then, find a public incident that involves all of the major characters required to frame and justify that conclusion.  Finally, insist that the incident supports your conclusion without reservation and beyond a reasonable doubt.  The scientific method suggests that the conclusion should come after the investigation, but in our 24/7 culture, that is asking too much.  We’re busy.

The Left is arguing that this shooting proves racial animus in America persists because of deep seeded prejudices that must be exposed to the light of day.  The Left believes that this is now proven beyond a reasonable doubt, thanks to Trayvon’s martyrdom.  The Right is arguing that the Left deliberately brings up race in these instances to gin up momentum for their radical welfare state agenda, and that racial discrimination in America ended on January 20, 2009.  Highlighting race perpetuates the discrimination the Left says it wants to eliminate.  The Right believes that this is now proven beyond a reasonable doubt, thanks to…well, because they said so.  Isn’t it obvious? 

The Right thinks that any mention of race is racist, unless you are detailing the systemic victimization of white males in our modern society.  The Left thinks that not mentioning race is the same as ignoring systemic discrimination, thereby providing silent assent to its practice.  It seems to me that both sides are making a very real issue a bit too hot to handle.  Friction causes heat, and the issues of race, crime, and guns generate a heck of a lot of friction.  I’ll stay ‘cool and aloof’ for as long as I can by not adding my voice to what is already a hot, noisy situation.

Besides, while this controversy simmers through the spring, this is the story that I will be following:

 A WV college student is suing his fraternity alleging that he fell off a deck when a drunken frat brother fired a bottle rocket out of his own anus.  Louis Helmburg III alleges that Travis Hughes’ bottle rocket startled him causing the fall.  The lawsuit states that “firing a bottle rocket out of one’s anus constitutes an ‘ultrahazardous’ activity.” (from The Week)

Now that trial I will follow closely.  It is the penultimate brother-on-brother battle, and I look forward to remaining engaged in all of the proceedings.  It is racially neutral, but still has the sizzle of explosives to spice it up.  And what can be more patriotic than brotherhood, beers and fireworks?
A tale of a bottle rocket being shot from someone’s anus is a once-in-a-lifetime case.  The Trayvon Martin case, or one just like it, will be repeated in this country many more times in my lifetime, I fear.  Maybe I’ll catch the next one.  I can say beyond a reasonable doubt that another one is right around the corner.  (Full disclosure:  I wrote this conclusion before I wrote the supporting paragraphs.)

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Vacation Announcement

Special to MSRP:

John Calipari likes to stay one step ahead of his competition, and today he took one giant step to get ahead his greatest nemesis, the NCAA Compliance Committee.

In anticipation of being caught for multiple recruiting violations in the near future, the University of Kentucky men’s basketball coach has decided to voluntarily vacate the 2012 NCAA National Championship title that his Wildcats are sure to win on Monday night.  The move to vacate a national title that has not yet been won is unprecedented, but so are the dozens of violations that have yet to be uncovered at Kentucky this season.

“I’m a realist”, said the successful coach and serial cheater.  “They caught up to me at the University of Massachusetts when I knew about Marcus Camby’s dealings with an agent that made him ineligible.  They caught up to me at the University of Memphis when I helped Derrick Rose cheat on his SATs.  It would only be a matter of time before the NCAA investigators discovered that we funnel thousands of dollars in cash from avid Rupp Arena boosters to my top recruits.  By vacating the title now, I’ve beaten the NCAA at its own game.”

“I am self-vacating.”

Rumors have swirled since Calipari’s arrival in Lexington in 2009 that his history of leading basketball programs that consistently ignore the rules of the NCAA would continue and ultimately stain the proud Lexington institution.  While no proof has been presented as of yet that Calipari arranged for cars, vacations, and jewelry for players, and no proof exists that high school recruits were allowed to watch the team cheerleaders shower after a game last fall, Calipari’s proactive announcement would seem to provide all the proof that is necessary to the governing body of the so-called ‘amateur’ sport.

The NCAA responded quickly.  “We applaud Coach Calipari’s announcement to vacate the 2012 National Championship title because it saves thousands of dollars and countless investigative hours looking into allegations that we all know are true.  Those savings can be put back into our programs that support student-athletes across America, and into our annual royalty payments to David Barrett, one-hit wonder composer of the tournament’s signature tune, “One Shining Moment”. 
The player-victims on Calipari’s team vowed to play hard this weekend, despite knowing that their all but certain victory by double digits over Louisville and the Ohio State/Kansas winner would be expunged from the records books.

Projected first round draft pick Anthony Davis spoke for his teammates.  “Having the championship be in a book somewhere that no one would ever read would be cool and all, but we need to stay focused on the task at hand and not worry about the distractions.  We’ve got to play hard.  America and Nike will be watching to see what we’re made of.  That’s what my agent tells me, and he’s right.”  Davis then sped away in his 2012 limited edition Ferrari Enzo to prepare for the upcoming weekend.

“Regardless of what the record books will say, we still get to keep the money, right?” asked Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, starting forward.  Kidd-Gilchrist is currently studying Applied Gaming (AG) at the University, and he spoke to reporters during a break from preparing for his X Box 360 final.

“Did they find out about the hookers yet?”

Calipari believes that this preemptive move demonstrates a valuable lesson in honesty to his young players.  “If you come clean early, you might not have to change jobs right away.  That kind of lesson will help them during their brief stints as ESPN-U college basketball analysts.” 

Louisville head coach Rick Pitino was surprised by the announcement coming so close to the Final Four weekend.  “Paying players is wrong?  I’ll get back to you.  No comment.”

Kansas coach Bill Self and Ohio State coach Thad Matta, representing the other 2 teams in the Final Four, issued a joint statement reminding fans that neither team had a chance to win the title on the court, so the Calipari announcement was a welcome diversion from that disappointing reality.  “Perhaps the analysts will stop comparing us to the Washington Generals for the rest of the week.”

CBS announced that the games will be played despite Calipari's admission, just in case.  

Sunday, March 25, 2012

The Brain Behind the Operation

This is another reason why I am not a paid political commentator for any network (the first reason is a tendency to squint).  I never would have thought to add this Palin nugget to the daily discourse.
Ah, Sarah, we miss your hockey mom sensibilities.  You have again reminded us that in the race to the bottom, you are a true leader.  Thankfully, you appear tanned, rested and ready to assume your rightful place atop the bottom of civil discourse.

Earlier this year, former Tina Fey impersonator Sarah Palin chided New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie after he referred to GOP presidential candidate Newt Gingrich during an interview as an "embarrassment to the party".

Here was Sarah Barracuda’s take:

"Poor Chris. This was a rookie mistake. He played right into the media's hands.  Here's a host that asked Chris, 'Does Newt embarrass the party.' I think he asked him twice, and there Chris played right into it and spewed that about Newt embarrassing the party."

"Sometimes if your candidate loses in just one step along this path, as was the case when Romney lost to Newt the other night and of course, Romney is Chris Christie's guy, you kind of get your panties in a wad (emphasis added) and you may say things that you regret later."

Somewhere, Daniel Webster just threw up a little in his mouth.  The Great Orator had not foreseen the literary beauty of “panties in a wad” when crafting his floor speech about The Great Compromise of 1850.  Such a missed opportunity to inject the image of women’s undergarments into the Congressional Record.

Only Sarah can one-up herself.  Weeks after her “panties in a wad” moment of maturity, she came to the defense of Rick Santorum for his comments about Satan’s role in destroying America.  The half-term governor condemned “lame-stream media characters” for getting “all wee-weed up about” Santorum’s past remarks. 
·         Panties in a wad.
·         Wee-weed up.
·         You betcha.

Kinda makes Biden sound like George Bernard Shaw in comparison.

Yes, the woman who ran for the Vice Presidency of the United States, the woman whose foreign policy bona fides include seeing Russia from her kitchen window and who quit the governorship of her state to protect her loyal constituents from her unwelcome far right advances, is afraid that Christie might embarrass the GOP.  If you Google GOP embarrassment, there is a video of Ms. Palin speaking without first consulting a script…or a full length video copy of HBO’s Game Change.

While cautioning a sitting governor not to get his “panties in a wad” or the media not to get “wee-weed up” may be low brow schoolyard material, it does resonant with a majority of Americans. 
·         Arnold Schwarzenegger based a movie career on reading simple sentences, like “I’ll be back” and “Hasta la vista, baby”, but his oratorical legacy to politics is defined by his insult accusing the Democrats of being “economic girlie-men”.  The crowds roared.  Housekeepers’ hearts were aflutter.
·         My former University of Delaware classmate and governor with wadded panties, Chris Christie, can aim low himself.  He referred to Reed Gusciora as a “numb nuts”, school teachers as “thugs”, a former Navy Seal as an “idiot”, and the cast of Jersey Shore as “losers” (OK, he got that last one spot on).
·         Do I have to relive Rush’s “slut” commentary?

In the spirit of bipartisanship, while Obama has declined to join in general 4 letter name calling, he can join in playing to the lowest common denominator.  His 2012 State of the Union address was rated at an 8th grade comprehension level on the Flesch-Kincaid readability test — the third lowest score of any State of the Union address since 1934.  This continues a downward trajectory that appears to have no floor.  If the SOTU doesn’t have at least three catch phrases that would fit into a Schwarzenegger or Stallone action feature, you’re not going to reach your target audience.

"The Flesch-Kincaid test is designed to assess the readability level of written text, with a formula that translates the score to a U.S. grade level. Longer sentences and sentences utilizing words with more syllables produce higher scores. Shorter sentences and sentences incorporating more monosyllabic words yield lower scores," the University of Minnesota's Eric Ostermeier explains.

You can drone on for hours, but keep the sentences short.  Just do it.  Lean forward.  You’re in good hands.  Hasta la vista, vocabulary class.

Shock replaces thoughtful commentary.  Emotional impact trumps reasoned arguments.  Repetition beats analysis.  The dumbing down of America has long been recognized and measured, and it is comfortable for me to blame the Far Right.  I think they tend to be sillier (Exhibit I: the 2012 nominating process).  If that is true, the Far Left at a minimum appears to be a willing accessory to the crime after the fact.

In an era when Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader? is in syndication and the Kardashians are household names, no one party can be blameless.  I’ll call it 75% the GOP’s fault, 25% the Democrats’ fault.  After all, it’s the Democrats that are populated by snobbish college grads and elitist book-reading college professors.  I know that’s true.  I heard it on O’Reilly, right before he called the sitting Vice President of the United States a “pinhead”.

The greatest weapons in the war on thinking - not sticks and stones, just words, and those words are getting shorter and meaner.  Apparently, that's the way we like it.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Pre-Crime and Punishment

Steven Spielberg’s futuristic Minority Report explores the benefits and in the end, the fallacy, of systems that predict future crimes in order to prevent them.  In the 2002 movie, a Pre-Crime Bureau utilizes the powers of the 3 humanoid Pre-Cogs to read the thoughts of those preparing to commit murder or other violent offenses.  Their predictive powers work pretty well, and Pre-Crime is wildly popular with the public.  The general populace happily forgoes any privacy concerns in exchange for physical security.  In the end, the hero (Tom Cruise) is targeted by a power hungry bureaucrat who exploits a flaw in the system to masks his own guilt by shifting the blame for a murder onto Cruise.  The lesson is learned.  Pre-Crime isn’t foolproof after all.  When humans design systems, there are always vulnerabilities.

Last week, Attorney General Eric Holder announced that his perfect Pre-Crime task force sees no legal issue with terminating suspected terrorists who may commit a crime in the future.  The Obama administration has ramped up the Predator drone program in the hills of Afghanistan and Pakistan over the last 3 years with great operational success (except for that one rogue drone on involuntary loan to Iran).  The program’s increasingly deadly success has caused some bleeding hearts obsessed with “justice” and “collateral damage” to question the legal underpinnings of assassinating people, including U.S. citizens, based solely on reasonable and classified suspicion.  Last week, Holder performed his best kabuki dance for the public.

He borrowed a page from the standard issue GOP presidential candidate playbook, and pretended that the Constitution was clear, and open to a single interpretation - his.  The Founding Fathers acquiesced to the killing of U.S. citizens abroad under the “we can do whatever the hell we want – we’re Exceptional” clause.  It’s right there in black and white. 
George W. Bush started this program and first debuted the legal dance moves that gave Holder some cover.  The Bush Doctrine of pre-emptive war was the Pre-Crime philosophy on a global scale, and it was brilliantly marketed to a public taught to fear a “giant mushroom cloud” in the imminent future.

While the rationale behind Pre-Crime may be bipartisan, it was Obama who campaigned to end this nonsense.  Instead, he has escalated it and instructed his AG to continue the pretzel logic.

The liberal silence is deafening.  Had the Attorney General for George Bush stood at a podium and explained that placing terror suspects on a so-called kill list is subject to “robust oversight” but should not and need not involve the courts, the Left would be apoplectic.  They might even invoke Hitler.

The secrecy behind the proceedings that precede an attack or assassination decision should give anyone committed to “robust oversight” some pause.  Holder has not revealed who participates in the process for approving the use of deadly force.  He has not disclosed the role of the CIA in running drone operations. He has not said whether Congress would be notified in advance prior to an effort to kill an American.

Today, Holder’s defense of the administration’s policy is a Page 4 story, below the fold.  Why?  Let’s look beyond the Right wing knee jerk “It’s the Elite Media” excuse.

There is no denying that victory in November 2012 is paramount to liberals and victory takes priority over the lives of some folks in a faraway place who, let’s face it, even if not guilty are probably bad actors anyway.  No sense in weakening the fall prospects of Obama over a few dead people that will never make the 6 PM news.  We need to protect the Affordable Care Act, they rationalize. 

The outcry is only a whimper in the public square because the Wild Terrorism Fears strategy (the WTF strategy) of the last 10 years has worked.  Even since 9/11, we’ve been told that we are in danger through color coded alerts, tales of exploding underwear, and protests over suspicious mosques in suburban neighborhoods.  Remember when shoes were going to be telephones, a la Maxwell Smart?  Now shoes are weapons of mass destruction, and we all don slip on footwear for air travel.

Part of the silence and its unspoken assent from the public for killing without accountability comes from legitimate fears.   I am sure that I am not the only American a little more skittish after September 11th.  It did happen, and it shook us to our core.  “Never Again” is not just a slogan to us on the East Coast.  It’s a solemn vow, moral high ground be damned.

The most compelling reason for the lack of protest over the use of drones to kill those suspected of committing murder in the future is desensitization.  Our kids see autopsies being conducted on prime time shows every day.  If we stop them from watching the program, they see the corpses in a commercial preview.  If we turn off the TV, they can play Modern Warfare III online with their friends, and kill from their keyboard while drinking Mountain Dew and piping in Black Sabbath for atmosphere.  Killing in the abstract is a learned skill in our culture.

Layered on top of our desensitization to military mayhem is the safe distance provided to us from the results of our government’s actions.  The drones are unmanned, so none of our troops in directly in harm’s way.  The attacks occur on the other side of the planet, and we never see the result of the attacks up close in 1080i HD on TV.  We read about assassinations, we read that the victims were U.S. citizens, but we believe implicitly that the government must have known something we don’t know.  They could tell us, but then they’d have to kill us.

Post 9/11, we have certainly ramped up our trust in the military and national security branches of government while simultaneously ramping up our distrust of every other part of government.  Given U.S. history, I think it is fair to aggressively question these kinds of programs that operate under dubious authority and under the cover of secrecy.

Then again, maybe we really don’t want to know.    

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Welcome to Hell

The trade of Tim Tebow from the Denver Broncos to the New York Jets was finally completed today after Jets owner Woody Johnson agreed to financial concessions with the Broncos late in the day.  The trade was temporarily on hold after it was first announced yesterday when word leaked that Tim Tebow was a devout Christian.  It was feared by many within the Jets organization that Tebow’s Christian beliefs and values would negatively impact locker room unit cohesion with the franchise that revels in its reputation as a godless, immoral haven for sinners and atheists.  Once the players and ownership received verbal commitments that Tebow would tone down his proselytizing and set a less positive example for kids next season, the deal was signed.
Pro football insiders viewed the addition of Tebow to the Jets roster as an attempt by Woody Johnson to bring traditional Christian values to a franchise that is more closely identified with Satan than the Savior.  Johnson denied the assertion.

“We wanted Tim Tebow for his athletic ability, his pinpoint passing accuracy, and his pocket presence.  It is true that we hesitated when it was reported that Tebow signed a pledge never to score before marriage.  Frankly, we need a quarterback who will score as often as possible, like Joe Willie Namath did during his heyday.  Once we received assurances that Tebow will do everything in his power score while a member of the Jets, we moved forward and we couldn’t be happier.”

Tebow steps into a locker room steeped in a rich and colorful tradition, filled with ex-cons, sexual deviants, and hedonistic characters.  Assuming he can ignore his moral compass and his impulses to act in a responsible, mature manner, it is hoped that he can thrive in the heat of New York.

His new teammates sound ready to step up and help.  Jets cornerback Antonio Cromartie, a father of 9 children from 8 different women, says he is excited to help Tebow acclimate to the pressures of living and working in the Big Apple. 
“T-Bone says he’ll score when he gets here, so we’ll help him score.  [Expletive], not like that [expletive] Tom Brady.  That [expletive] has only one bastard kid. Not much of a man if you ask me.   Christ, I rather lose 45-3 then be subjected to that sort of embarrassment.  [Expletive].” 
Center Nick Mangold and offensive tackle D’Brickashaw Ferguson said they heard on Twitter that Tebow doesn’t believe in protection, so they offered some friendly advice to their new quarterback.
“He may not have used protection in Denver, but here in New York, he can’t score without it.  We’ve seen the film.  If he is under pressure, he pulls out and takes matters into his own hands.  I’d rather he be a man and stay in there.  Tim, don’t worry.  We’ll give you enough protection so you can stay inside [the pocket] for a long, long time.”

Convicted felon and star wide receiver Plaxico Burress has agreed to resign with the Jets to be Tebow’s roommate on road trips.  “The first thing we do with new players before we even give them a playbook is to buy them a hooker and a Glock.  Hope he’s cool with that.”

Last year’s 3rd round pick, Kenrick Ellis, also sent words of encouragement to Tebow.  “Man, the girls in New York will knock you out!”   Ellis is busy this offseason preparing for a July trial date for a malicious wounding felony charge, and he plays football when not honing his legal skills.

When it comes to succeeding in The City That Never Sleeps, it appears that Tim Tebow will have more than a prayer.  He will have a loyal gang of players to support him.

The coaching staff however was caught by surprise by the addition of a 3rd quarterback to the team depth chart that already includes Mark Sanchez and Drew Stanton.  When he was informed of the trade, fiery Jets coach Rex Ryan was quoted as muttering, “What the [expletive]?” 

Ryan, well known for his bombast during game preparations, his creative defensive schemes, and his sexual predilection for women’s shoes (as plastered all over You Tube), eventually came around to embrace his new player. 

“We can tolerate the grandstanding, we can tolerate the commercial pandering, hell – even the virginity thing can be cool.  But one thing I know for sure – God in the locker room of the New York Jets is the first ingredient for the coming of The Rapture, and I for one say ‘Bring It On!’  The J-E-T-S Jets will kick its [expletive] [expletive]”.

New York Jets assistant coach Sal Alosi, who was suspended for intentionally tripping a Miami Dolphins player who was running along the sidelines while covering a punt, was also positive about the new quarterback.  “He already knows how to win the right way.  We’ll teach him how to win like a Jet.”

Not every Jets player was upbeat about Tebow leaving Denver.  Cornerback Darrelle Revis was one player saddened by the news. 

“Man, I will miss playing against Tebow.  He was my favorite opposing quarterback.  Now I’ll have to wait ‘til we play Rex Grossman to pad my stats.”

Tebow was mobbed by reporters in Denver as he left a Rick Santorum campaign rally, and made a few remarks. 

“It’s still a shock, but this is the Lord’s Plan for me.  I was humbled that former Jets players, like Brett Favre, were kind enough to text me congratulations.  Mr. Favre even sent me information on his local personal contacts in the city.  I appreciated that, because like he says, there is nothing like a good massage after a tough game.  You definitely don’t want to stiffen up.”

Tebow admitted that he has a lot to learn about his new destination, and he has some trepidation.  “Is there really a place called Hell’s Kitchen there?”

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Stall Tactics

Image of my proposed back shoulder tattoo.

I have always preferred to work under deadline pressure.  I find that I can be most focused and most productive when time is short.  This is not the recipe for success that I preach to my children, but for me, it has worked to some degree.  I cranked out quite a few medium quality term papers in a 24 hour period in my day.  That Smith-Corona was smoking, baby!  Therefore, it is not surprising that I am approaching my upcoming 50th birthday with the same sense of comfortable procrastination followed by a rush of irrational urgency that guided me through higher education.  I have so much to do before the big day and so little time.  But, as I said, I work better that way.

Procrastination followed by intense bursts of productivity doesn’t always work.  Some life projects take time to mature and bear fruit.  I wanted to run a marathon, but that took 6 months of training.  I wanted to see New Hampshire during primary season, and that took 8 months of planning.  I wanted to write a book, and that took…wait, there’s a Twilight Zone marathon on cable.  I’ll get to the book later.  Not everything can get done in 2 weeks, no matter how much coffee I drink.

So I have a campaign, a personal campaign that I dubbed 50 for 50.  February 13th marked the countdown to 50 days before I hit, reach, achieve, turn the tender age of 50.  It feels like the halfway mark, it sounds like the halfway mark, but short of amazing medical breakthroughs, I recognize deep down that halfway might have been a few years ago.  No matter.  I plow ahead with eternal optimism and whatever remaining energy and enthusiasm I can muster.  The plan was to complete 50 tasks before my birthday, one thing each day.  Very doable.

50 for 50 should not be confused with a Bucket List.  Bucket lists should have more ambitious menu items, like bungee jumping over the Snake River, tipping a cow, or streaking at a major league baseball game (just to get tasered).  My 50 for 50 plans were more modest as fitting my advanced age and rational demeanor.  Unfortunately, my plans were not modest enough.

Today, I decided to rename my plan 50(ish) within 13. 
As you may have guessed, I chose the more comfortable path of procrastination instead.  So now I have less than 2 weeks to finish up a few projects.  I need to paint the basement.  I need to establish all of my monthly bills for electronic bill payment.  I need to exercise every day for 24 hours each day to replace my custom designed, beer inspired six pack with a standard issue underwear model six pack.  I need to get arrested once for an act of civil disobedience and I need to finally get that Devo tattoo.  Painting the basement will be tough, but I am confident about the rest.

No worries.  I got this.  If I can write a term paper on a manual typewriter without notes or research in 12 collegiate hours of caffeine induced haze, I can do these things.  After all, I’ve got plenty of time. 
49 and 352/365th is the new 49 315/365th.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Work Hard, Play Safely

A new play set has been erected in our community.  The old one was made of prehistoric wood and used car tires, and had contributed too many splinters and not inspired enough imaginative fun to survive any longer in the world of competitive home subdivisions.  It was worn out. 
I took my youngest to visit it this weekend.  I sat like a retiree on a nearby shaded bench and read a book while she test drove the amenities.  The parents who obviously started their families at a younger age than me stood and followed their charges, patiently explaining to the kids the correct way to play.   I was worn out.
The neighborhood kids were swarming like bees on a can of Coke.  They would buzz around the plastic and metal structure, settle briefly on one spot before quickly and randomly buzzing to another section.  They had to experience it all at least once.  They ignored their parents, not out of disrespect.  The parents simply didn’t exist in their field of awareness.  The parents kept their distance, not wanting to be stung by a hyper-excited toddler.

A new play set in my day would have consisted of 3 swings and a free standing set of monkey bars.  If it was an amusement park, it would have included a slide and a merry-go-round.    Any accidental falls would be cushioned by concrete, asphalt, or rock hardened earth.  It’s no wonder my generation coined the phrase “work hard, play hard.”  We played hard on hard surfaces. 
“Play set” is too pedestrian a name for this new jungle gym.  In fairness, this new addition to the neighborhood is so much more than a play set.  Play set does not do it justice.  The primary colors were chosen by Einstein to ignite the firing of young cerebral synapses.  The climbing apparatus was designed to test gross motor development, and the built-in manipulatives were selected to challenge fine motor skills.  The feng shui was inspired by Dr. Spock, the technology by Mr. Spock.  The only safety feature not installed in this particular model was an air bag at the termination point of the circular dragon slide.  That’s probably only available on the Version 3.0 Turbo.

Safety was paramount, as much for the peace of mind of the parents as for legal compliance.  The mulch depth on a public play set facility is required by law to be 12 inches.  At such depth, little Johnny’s buttock will be uninjured by a fall from the dizzying height of 5 feet.  Why didn’t we think of that in 1973?  Have we experienced global gravity change since then?

The play sets of my day were not designed for safety.  They were not designed for learning, at least not positive learning.  Learning, if it happened at all, was of the negative variety.  We learned via skinned knees, broken bones, and calluses that bled.  Nothing taught a kid not to go down a slick metal slide backwards more than watching a friend suffer a massive head injury from trying it without a spotter.  Now THAT is going to leave a mark.

On this particular space age play set, I watch a boy of approximately 5 years of curiosity come halfway down the slide that doesn’t provide any speed or momentum, come to a complete stop in the middle, and disembark over the side, dropping like a precious egg onto a pillow of soft, triple screened mulch so clean you could eat off of it.  This kid learned nothing.  The adult designers of these play sets obviously learned something from their childhood experiences on the concrete.  Play can really hurt sometimes, and wouldn’t it be nice if we could disassociate pain from play.

I think the adult play set designers learned something else over the years of skinned knees and broken bones.  Play sets need to provide a feeling of safety and security to the helicopter parents hovering over their little ones as much as provide physical safety to the carefree kids. This set seemed to accomplish that. 

One more thing became apparent to me.  Kids will do irrational things on a play set, like stop halfway down the slide and climb over the side at their peril.  I hope these kids don’t leave here thinking that they can never get hurt.  That could really hurt them later on.

Work hard, but play safe.  That slogan just doesn’t carry the same power, does it?  That might be the real danger with this play set.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Can't Win for Losing

When the media gets a hold of a specific narrative, it is hard to let go.  I would not be surprised to read the following analysis at the conclusion of the 2012 Presidential Election:

November 7, 2012

Romney Loses Expectations Game Again

...But Wins Plurality of Electoral College Votes

Mitt Romney may have won the math in last night’s Presidential election, but he failed to put away his competitor, Barack Obama, who vowed to continue the campaign. 
Election Day 2012 was expected to be Romney’s best opportunity to finally break through with voters skeptical about his core convictions and unenthused about his candidacy, but like so many spring and summer primary nights before, Romney missed his chance to seal the deal with the pundit class.

Team Romney was incredulous with the evolving media narrative.  “We won the election.  Mitt Romney is now President-Elect of the United States.  What more do you people want?”

While it is true that Romney won the necessary electoral votes to be inaugurated on January 20th as the nation’s 45th President, an analysis of his vote totals spells trouble for his aura of inevitability.

The national press regurgitated an on-going narrative.  A New York Times editorial today said, “Governor Romney again showed that he cannot win in the areas he needed most.  He could not carry the coastal states, his vote totals within the evangelical community were suspect, and he lost Massachusetts, the state that knows him best.  We’re not sure how he can move forward in this campaign given these results.” 

Team Obama pushed back on the Far Right voices that point out that in order to become President of the United States, you need a minimum of 270 electoral votes, and Romney finished the evening with 275.  Campaign manager David Axlerod said, “Relying on math alone is no way to win an election.  Campaigns have to be about big ideas.  The fact is that people don’t know what Mitt Romney stands for, and that doubt gives us the opening and the rational to fight on.”

This theme that Romney cannot close out his competitors began during the GOP primary season, and has dogged him throughout the summer and fall.  On Super Tuesday in March, he won the majority of delegates, but it was reported that he did not deliver to expectations.  That same month on another multi-primary night, he collected the majority of the delegates at stake while at the same time losing the popular votes in Alabama and Mississippi.  Instead of focusing on his growing insurmountable delegate lead, it was reported that he did not deliver to expectations and was in trouble.  Head to head against Obama finally, the story remains the same.

“Once I deliver the State of the Union and throw out the first pitch at the Nationals’ home opener, this will all be forgotten”, vowed a confident, yet gaffe-prone Romney.  “I’ll bet you $10,000 that I win this thing yet.  It’s all about the math.  The Obama camp is just filled with envy.”

Obama was not the only politician retrenching after last night’s apparent election of a man who still hasn’t honed his message into a vision that resonates with the middle class.  Newt Gingrich has scheduled a meeting with his wife, Callista, to plot his next campaign move.  It is rumored that he will also continue his campaign until Romney can prove that he can win more convincingly with “true” conservatives in the South. 
“The election night results are clear.  The voters are still looking for an alternative to the liberal former governor of ‘Taxachusetts’ and the socialist, anti-colonial Kenyan currently in the Oval Office.  If Romney cannot win in my home state of Georgia, then how can he claim a legitimate electoral victory?” Gingrich thundered during his election night victory address to Sheldon Adelson, his lone contributor.  “This is fundamental.”

Gingrich used the occasion to roll out his latest campaign slogan, “I’m With Stupid 2012”.  The slogan will appear on t-shirts and posters, with arrows pointing outward at all non-Gingrich supporters.  “We think it is fundamentally the right slogan for this campaign season since we are consistently right while everyone else is consistently wrong.”

The next scheduled test for Romney’s electability will be in 2016. 

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

March Mandate Madness

“Individual mandates are anti-American” I am told, and one of my readers takes exception to the most egregious individual mandate of all – child support payments.

To the Editors of MSRP:

Finally, we are having a national conversation about women taking responsibility for their actions! I do not want to be forced to pay for their sexual activity. I have watched and listened with great interest while the media that is not elite and liberal points out the hypocrisy of the media that is elite and liberal on this important defining cultural issue. It’s high time we discuss this out in the open.

Women need to own up to their economic responsibilities when it comes to contraception. Rick Santorum SuperPAC supporter, Foster Freiss, said it best. “Back in my days, they used Bayer aspirin for contraceptives. The gals put it between their knees and it wasn’t that costly.”

Exactly. We have allowed the gals to believe that the product of sexual activity is a shared responsibility, and this entitlement mentality has led to a massive government reach around. I am talking, of course, about state mandated child support payments that discriminate against men.

As I recently fumed over the onerous wage garnishment from my weekly paycheck, Rush Limbaugh helped to crystallize my thinking on this critical assault on freedom and accountability. “What do you call a woman who wants to be paid to have sex?”, he asked. I knew the answer rhymed with ‘attitude’. I thought dinner, a movie and a cheap box of wine was payment enough, and it probably would have been if not for the long reach around of the government.

Without question, everyone I have ever listened to on the radio agrees that all government mandates are necessarily bad for freedom. Mandatory conscription, mandatory sales taxes, mandatory hunting licenses, mandatory secularism – where does it end? Mandatory child support payments are just the beginning, and they laid the foundation for the next nail in freedom’s coffin – the unconstitutional health insurance individual mandate.

The purpose of the child support mandate is clear. Obama has a plan to redistribute wealth. The child support mandate takes wealth from men like me and gives it to women and children, two groups most likely to vote for Democrats. This is so transparent as to be silly! Put another way, women make an irresponsible choice to sleep with me, and then I am punished.

Beyond illegality and immorality, child support mandates do not make economic sense in a time of rising budget deficits. Tracking me down takes valuable resources away from other more pressing and legitimate government concerns, like national defense, highway repairs, and the targeting of American citizens abroad for termination based on suspicions of terrorism. There are administrative and court costs, payroll costs, tax accounting costs associated with the child support mandate. These dollars could be better spent in the marketplace instead of being used to support children who should be out learning the value of a dollar.

Once women become aware of their blessed condition, the Good Lord provides several months preparation time for women to spend getting their own fiscal houses in order. It is not as if the baby is thrust upon them in the dark of night. The average gestational period of a human being is 9 months (source: Wikipedia). They made their beds. Now they can lay in it, and buy their own queen sized sheets and blankets, too. They already have taken the best parking spaces. Now the government thinks they deserve my money too.

I may choose to help with a voluntary donation. Local faith based community groups may choose to help. The difference here is choice. No one is mandated. The government stays out of this private matter, and the woman is not rewarded financially for her decision to enjoy my company for a few brief, heated, and ultimately unfulfilling moments. That’s called “tough love”, and it works with kids (source: Mr. Spock, famous baby doctor).

I can understand the argument for mandating child support in the case of rape or incest. That’s wrong and those dirt bags should be punished. But when one of my gals refuses to accept personal responsibility for her impulsive actions and refuses to plan appropriately, I should not be the victim. That’s what’s wrong with America – the victimization of victims.

Once the individual health insurance mandate is ruled unconstitutional, the child support mandate should be aborted from the books next. A mandate that targets only men is not viable. The time has come for women to be responsible for their own actions and the consequences of those actions.


Shawn Kemp, Official Donor and Aggrieved Victim
Address withheld at request of the author

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

The South Poll

According to Wikipedia, the Law of Diminishing Returns states that “in all productive processes, adding more of one factor of production, while holding all others constant, will at some point yield lower per-unit returns.”  My example of this economic law at work would be that adding more teams to the NCAA March Madness tournament at some point will dilute interest in the entire enterprise (like it has for me this year).  You can’t continue to expand a major sports league without eventually diluting the product on the field/on the court/on the rink.
Wikipedia suggests this example: “The use of fertilizer improves crop production on farms and in gardens; but at some point, adding more and more fertilizer improves the yield less per unit of fertilizer, and excessive quantities can even reduce the yield.”  Too much manure can ruin the entire garden.  I am beginning to think that too many public opinion polls are smothering the political process with mountains of manure.  Can’t you smell it?

I think polls are becoming less predictive of voter behavior.  I don’t think it is because the science of public opinion polls has gotten worse.  You would think that technology has improved the statistical analysis.  I think it is because the sheer volume of polls and the infinite number of variables at work have created a diminishing return.  The more frequently they poll, the more companies that conduct the polls, the more segmented the results of the polls, the less likely they are to have any objective meaning.  On top of that, I am sick of hearing about the results knowing that their ability to predict future events becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy at some point.  Enough!

This particular poll put me over the edge.  Here’s a poll that I know in my heart must be flawed.  I know it is flawed because to believe the results is to accept that ignorance is an American Value:

According to an automated survey by Public Policy Polling (PPP) taken this weekend, 52% of Mississippi Republicans and 45% of Alabama Republicans believe that Barack Obama is a Muslim.  Only 12% and 14% respectively believe that he is a Christian.

First of all, who cares?  The Congress shall set no religious test for office.

Second of all, I would wager a guess that many of these same voters who believe that Obama is a Muslim are equally upset that he spent 20 years listening to Rev. Wright in a Christian church.  He’s one open-minded Muslim if he went to a Christian church for 20 years just to fool  some folks in the future if he happened to beat the odds and become President. 

In the same poll, 29% of Mississippi Republicans believed that interracial marriage should be illegal, and Alabama, that bastion of liberalism, had only 21% of the GOP electorate that believed it should be illegal.

I know that my roots are in the Union, but can this be possible in the year 2012?  Maybe the Mayans were right.  Maybe the world is ending this year. 

The good news is that automated polls are less reliable than live interview polls, and the margin of error is plus/minus 4%.  I would sleep better at night if I knew that the margin of error was plus/minus 29%, but perhaps it is.  The poll didn’t ask registered Democrats the same questions and perhaps they are also against interracial marriage and believe Obama is a Muslim.  Maybe these results are a net improvement since 2008, and the trend would show people becoming more tolerate and aware.  Maybe Keith Olbermann fixed the results to embarrass the GOP.  Maybe...

These poll results can be explained.  People lie to pollsters.  People respond differently to questions depending on who asks the question and how the question is phrased. 

I bombed out of Probability in college so maybe I am wrong.  Maybe these surveys accurately reflect modern America in Mississippi and Alabama.  If so, that smell isn’t manure coming from down South.  It’s ignorance.

Polls in moderation can provide meaningful benchmarks and help us determine what matters to Americans.  Polls in excess exist to reach a singular goal – sensationalism, shock, and profit for the polling organization. 
It’s the law of diminishing returns.  The more I hear these and similar polls, the less I believe them. 

Monday, March 12, 2012

Rust Never Sleeps

On Thursday morning, I began the preparations for my upcoming 50th birthday.  The first order of business was a guarantee that I would make it through the next few weeks to reach the milestone.  There are no guarantees, of course, but a clean bill of health from a qualified physician would at least ease any irrational anxiety about my odds.  Since I am not much of a gambling man, I needed some extra reassurance before planning any celebration.  I needed my pre-50 physical. 
Just making the appointment was a step towards maturity since a younger man would have procrastinated indefinitely.  Getting my car oil changed every 3,000 miles seems prudent.  Getting my pre-50 physical seemed like nothing more than a pain in the…let me rephrase.  It was not something I was looking forward to.

The good doctor got right up under my hood (so to speak), and it looks like I am cleared for another 50,000 miles.  Some wear and tear, some chipped paint, a few squeaks, but all in all, it was a successful visit.  I probably won’t be back to see him until something breaks completely, or until I require a full system flush – whichever comes first. 
My initial prognosis was positive (blood work still pending).  My sitting pulse was at the world class athlete’s pace of 46, which coincidentally might also be my Wii Fit age.  Since it is typically a net negative that things slow down metabolically as we age, it’s nice to know that a slower pulse is a good sign.  As Father Time’s clock speeds up, I need to employ the Dean Smith 4 corners stall as a counterbalance.  A slower heart rate should extend the game, although I am aware that my ultimate competitor, The Grim Reaper, is an impressive 25,000,000,000,000 – 1.  Not a bad winning percentage.
The nurse who took the reading asked if I worked out.  That was almost as much fun as being asked for ID when purchasing a six pack of beer, something that happens less and less each year.  It is infinitely better than being asked, “Is there any blood in your stool?”  Once you get that question, the pride in the healthy pulse rate goes right down the toilet (so to speak), and you’re one step closer to pureed meatloaf and strained succotash for Sunday dinner.  That question also raises the sitting pulse rate to the point where it sounds much like the percussion intro to Van Halen’s Hot for Teacher.   Not healthy.

The good doctor asked plenty of other emasculating and humbling questions about my condition, habits, and general dysfunctions.  He probed about my sleep patterns, my frequency of urination, and the appearance of any new bumps, lumps or skin tags.  There were a few more inquiries from the doctor that I’ll spare my loyal readership, lest you think that you may ask me for my answer.  Not asking will save me from invoking my 5th Amendment right against self-humiliation.  Thank you, Founding Fathers!

I took the good health diagnosis as a sign that I was capable of chasing down kids half my age for several hours, so I spent Friday night playing inline hockey against kids born in the 1990s.  I participated in the final Iron Man tournament at my rink. 
Here were the rules:

·         Start at 9 PM.
·         Guaranteed minimum 4 games plus playoffs.
·         Each team has 4 skaters, 1 goalie, no substitutions.
·         Each game is 12 minutes running time.
·         Round robin format, then single elimination playoffs.

Since I was medically cleared to be an athletic stud within 36 hours of the tournament’s first face off, I must blame the officiating for our poor showing Friday evening/Saturday morning.  It couldn’t have been that the competition was younger, faster, stronger, smarter and “did I say younger already?” than me.  Not possible.  Once we lost in our first round playoff game at 2:30 AM**, I was thrilled to lose and go home.  But I survived.

On Sunday night game, I repeated the Iron Man feat, but not by choice.  My regular team suited up without any bench players, so we Chosen 4 had to skate the entire 44 minute game.  No substitutes and only a 60 second intermission, enough time for a drink of water.  Thanks to my resting pulse of 46 and the will to not let those young punks show me up, I survived. 

On top of all of this sports excitement, I lost an hour this weekend.  I have no idea where it went, but hopefully will gain that hour back at the end of my road by staying in shape.  It was a long (albeit shorter) weekend, but I survived.

I am full of youthful arrogance that I will continue to thrive and remain indestructible.  The doctor thinks so, those punks on the other teams think so now (I hope), and the Wii Fit thinks so.  I am not a gambling man, but I am liking my odds that I’ll make it until the 3rd of next month.  The betting window is closed after that.

That arrogance could fade over the next couple of years of course.  I am a little more tired on this Monday than usual.  I am craving a nap.  I sure need it.  As I sleep and recover, however, I am keenly aware that rust never sleeps.  That may be true, but rust doesn’t have a sitting pulse rate of 46.  So there.
**  - I would have been out of the rink and on my way home by 2:15 AM, but Pat screwed up the scheduling.  There you go, Pat.