Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Now Drudge Can Retire

In his never ending searching for embarrassing pictures of Hillary Clinton Drudge has found his Hope Diamond. I bet he cried when he found this photo.
Drudge's Wet Dream
Red Tail Hawk

Every year at the Festival in the Park the Raptor Center has on display a couple of birds they saved. This year they had a blind barred owl that had been hit by a car and a red tail hawk with a damaged wing. The hawk was beautiful and I am very happy with the picture below. The lady from the raptor center said the beak is especially yellow because of the color of the hawk's food, chicks.
Red Tail Hawk

Monday, September 27, 2010

Why there is Hope

According to sportswriter Darin Gantt the Carolina Panthers offensive numbers are in the toilet. They rank 31st in the NFL in total offense and 32nd in points scored. However, as he shows, they are ranked 15th in total defense and in points allowed they rank 21st. Not bad, really, when you consider how much time that unit has spent on the field in the first three games. On average this season we have had the ball for 25 minutes and our opponents average 33.

All the Panthers have needed to do in these games was generate some offense and score a few points and we would have a winning record. Games like yesterday were essentially won by our defense and the offense threw the game away. A rare fumble by Stewart in the middle of the 4th quarter took the team out of the game yesterday. I think they had the game won at that point. We were down 13-7 and they were moving the ball. Clausen was throwing strikes all over the field. Steve Smith caught a pass and was fired up and they were running the ball well. Stewart's fumble was not indicative of a failing team but just the result of a good hit.

You cannot have watched that drive and the rest of the fourth quarter and witnessed the composure and leadership of Jimmy Clausen and think that this season is lost. Our defense can hang with anybody and as Clausen gets comfortable as the starter this will be a team that can compete. Clausen is the best pure quarterback this team has ever had. We have not had a player at that position you could call a franchise player that you could build a team around until now. That is, to me, very exciting.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

More Golf

Chris and I head out to Sunset Hills Golf Course yesterday afternoon to play 18. I played nine there a couple of weeks ago and wanted to give 18 a shot. Chis hadn't played and was reluctant because he had heard that it wasn't a very good golf course. I had found it to be rough at spots but overall in pretty good condition considering it's a county owned public course at the end of a very hot and dry summer. It's no Emerald Lake but I'll play at Sunset again and, after yesterday, so will Chris

What I really like about Sunset Hills is that it's a pretty easy course. There aren't that many hazards and the hazards you do encounter are more of a psychological threat rather than being in play. For example, on the 4th tee there is a pond right in front of you but in order for it to really be in play you have to essentially whiff on your drive and hit a dribbler into the water. It's the same with the bunkers. The bunker around the green at the 4th hole isn't really in the way. You can play around it pretty easily. It's a bad shot, not a risky shot that will get you in trouble there. Another good example is the par three you encounter on the back nine. You have to hit over another pond but it's not near the green and it's never in play. It's just there to mess with your head which is good enough to challenge my golf game.

The fairways are wide open also. It's a course that allows you to really take a healthy hack with your driver knowing that it takes a shot that is so bad it might possibly kill another golfer for it to really penalize you. Both Chris and I hit a couple of monster drives yesterday because we didn't have to worry too much about where the drives landed. It's freeing. There are even a couple of holes, holes seven and nine come to mind, that seem to be designed to encourage you to hit an iron or a fairway wood off the tee. Hole 7 doglegs to the right and I drove my drive off the fairway into the woods because I got greedy. I didn't mind too much because I smoked that drive.

Not all holes are a gimme with the driver. There are two that are especially challenging. Both #9 and #18 offer you options at the tee. Nine offers you a fairly wide fairway that gives you nice landing area for a conservative tee shot that will give you a fairly easy shot to the green. But if you are a gambling man both fairways are long and tapered and bordered by thick rough that will reward a long straight drive with a very easy shot to the green but will penalize any drive that is not perfect. It's simple but effective design.

I am looking forward to another trip to Sunset Hills. There's something to be said for a course that allows a duffer like me to feel like he has a chance at a par at each hole.

Chris taking his approach shot on 18. I forgot my camera so I took this one shot with my communicator.
Why I am a Liberal

You can see why when you compare the philosophy of Justice Scalia and Justice Breyer. One is thoughtful and true to his ideals and the other is full of shit and does not believe what he publicly claims as his ideals. I'll let you decide which is which.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Jupiter Sure is Bright

Because Jupiter will be closer this week than it has and will be for a while I went out with my camera tonight to see what I could see.

Jupiter on the left and the moon in the upper right

A little further down the street, Jupiter in the upper right corner

Jupiter and the Galilean Moons

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Dan Fouts

I love this picture of Fouts with his bandaged broken nose and bloodied jersey. It looks like this happened in September of 1986.


Thursday, September 16, 2010

Second Second Skin

Saturday night Wendell, Melanie and I went to a shop called Pura Vida on Central Avenue to see Deanna Lynn Campbell and Danna Pentes perform together for the first time in about ten years. Initially I thought this was going to be a solo show by Deanna which is exciting enough on its own and then I saw that Danna was going to be performing with her. Quick history (I apologize if I get some facts wrong): Deanna and Danna each spent time in two separate bands that are each now considered if not seminal then influential in Charlotte. Deanna was in the Blind Dates and Danna was in Fetchin' Bones. In the early 90s they teamed up as a duo called Second Skin. Deanna played acoustic and sang lead vocals and Danna played bass, various forms of homemade percussion, backing vocals and kick drum. They then hooked up with guitarist Jay Garrigan and drummer Clay Richardson (who was also in Fetchin' Bones) and recreated Second Skin as a rockin' four piece. Their shows at the Milestone in the early 90s are some of the best live music I have ever witnessed. Like a million other bands, some better and many worse they didn't reach that next level and they eventually disbanded. What made those few shows at the Milestone so special was that you knew that you were seeing something early that had the potential to be big. It was exciting because someday you might be able to sniff and say, "Second Skin? Yeah I saw them at the Milestone in Charlotte, NC in front 100 people back when they were nobody." Who knew that the one band I would actually be able to say that about would be Southern Culture on the Skids?

Before the band broke up they called themselves Violet Strange for a while and you can still purchase their album Stray on CD Baby. Well worth $10.

The venue Pura Vida is a clothing and art store on Central Avenue that I had never been to before. It will be moving to the NoDa area of Charlotte in October. It must be a nice place because Melanie was having a good time exploring the store while the Deanna and Danna were setting up. They played in the back room of the store. There were maybe thirty people there which was fine because this wasn't about attendance, it was about getting on stage and playing.

Those of us in attendance witnessed one of those musical events you hope for when you see a group perform together for the first time in ten years. It was intimate and a little awkward initially but as the hour-long set progressed it was obvious that the connection between the two ladies was still there. The set consisted of mostly older Campbell compositions but did include a few newer songs. They played Deanna's "Black Holes and Quasars" and her beautiful song about the 9/11 terrorist attacks called September Snow worked perfectly as Second Skin songs. "September Snow" is a unique song because, as she described it Saturday night, rather than try to capture the whole event she chose to share her small view of it. It's a view most of us had, through our televisions and that is the song's power.

It's still amazes me anytime I see two or more musicians that gel like Second Skin. I see it whenever Lenny and Michael Federal do an acoustic set together. I see it when the Drive By Truckers hit the middle of their second encore. I saw it in 1998 when Page and Plant played at the Old New Coliseum. I saw it again Saturday when Second Skin lost themselves in their music. That is what is special about them. They lose themselves in their music. They put on a show without showing off.

The video below is the last song of the night, "Walt Whitman," which is on the CD I mentioned above. As you can hear from the response of the crowd they had brought us all in to their personal space and for a little while we were all going for a ride. I'm still not sure if I should know who Phillip is or not.

Restrictor Plate Racing Sucks

Monday, September 13, 2010

Short Summary of the Panthers/Giants Game Yesterday

Giants: Here you go Panthers, why don't you go ahead and win this game?

Panthers: Thanks fellas, but we'd really rather not win today. Here, you can have the ball.

Giants: No really, we insist. You guys deserve a big win with your new quarterback after last year's tough season.

Panthers: That's mighty kind of you but we would rather see you have a win in your new stadium. Here, take the dang ball.

Giants: Look, we like you guys and we are going to give you one more chance to make a game of it. Go ahead, we want you to give us a good game.

Panthers: OK, we'll give it a shot. Look, we're moving the ball, we're gaining confidence. Never mind. Here take the ball.

Giants: Thanks. Tell you what, we're just going to kneel down and run out the clock so we can all get the hell out of here.

Monday, September 06, 2010

An Armed Society is a Polite Society

“An armed society is a polite society” is the Robert A. Heinlein quote I see used often by conservatives and gun enthusiasts. That and “Tanstaafl! (There ain’t no such thing as a free lunch). The quote is from his novel “Beyond this Horizon” which was first published in 1942. Interesting fact: he finished the novel the day before the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor. The full quote is spoken by a character called Mordan Claude who is an administrator for the office of genetics. He befriends the novel’s main character, Felix Hamilton, while attempting to persuade Hamilton to mate in order that his superior genes may pass on and enrich the species. Felix is reluctant to create progeny because he feels life has no purpose. That is the crux of the story, that and a revolution by inferior radicals who feel they are being repressed when they’re really not, they’re just stupid and selfish.

This quote is an interesting example of how taking a quote from a work of fiction out of context can be tricky. Heinlein addressed the nature of fiction when answering a question in 1973 about his famous character Lazarus Long, a man who has lived over 2,000 years. The interviewer asked him what a man that old would know that we don’t. Heinlein replied, “I haven’t the slightest idea; I’m not even a hundred, yet! Remember, this thing’s a work of fiction.”

Here is a more complete quotation: “Well, in the first place, an armed society is a polite society. Manners are good when one may have to back up his acts with his life. For me, politeness is a sine qua non of civilization. That’s a personal evaluation only. But gunfighting has a strong biological use. We do not have enough things to kill off the weak and the stupid these days. But to stay alive as an armed citizen a man has to be either quick with his wits or with his hands, preferably both. It’s a good thing.”

When quoting from a work of fiction to make a point I think you hit some quicksand when the quote is coming out of the mouth of a character. This quote is a good example of this problem because, although this is a very polite society, it’s also a violent society. The reason everyone is so polite is not because the presence of armed males (only males generally go armed) has brought a mutually assured head wound type of peace; everyone is so polite in a Victorian way because one slip of the tongue will likely put you in a situation where you will have to defend your life. Maybe this fulfills some kind of Wild West macho fantasy for those gun enthusiasts but if the frequency of violence that is apparent in this novel existed in today’s world it wouldn’t be the gun rights utopia they are dreaming of. I doubt most that adopt this quote are aware of the nature of the society Heinlein created for this novel.

There is a scene where Felix Hamilton is eating dinner in a pay restaurant with his friend, Monroe-Alpha Clifford. Food is free in this society, by the way, spending money at a restaurant is considered a good way to flaunt your wealth. They are dining in the balcony of this restaurant and Clifford, because he’s a clumsy and dorky math whiz, while attempting to crack open a crab leg flips it into the crowd below. Hamilton, because the dinner was his idea, “assumes the honor” and negotiates an apology with the alpha male of the offended party and what could have been an offense that resulted in a duel if the offended party didn’t feel satisfied is resolved peacefully. After their parlay ends a third party interferes and insinuates that the two men are candy asses for not having a shoot out in the middle of a public place. Felix then resolves this dispute by putting a slug from his pistol into the chest of the offending loudmouth. If that is not frighteningly enough it turns out the lout was attempting to insult the gentleman on the floor in order to coerce him into a duel. We later learn that it was an assassination attempt. In this society it is acceptable to resolve simple social offenses in public with firearms and no one bats an eye when it is revealed that one man was attempting a political assassination in broad daylight with an insult that would be expected to force the other to resort to deadly violence. Also in this society young men that go armed in public are called “braves.” Polite? Oh yeah! Violent and deadly? You betcha!

Another problem with this quote is that the idea of an armed society is a polite society did not come from Heinlein. It was a theory that science fiction editor, John W. Campbell, had asked Heinlein to investigate. So, if a quote you find supports your views comes from the mouth a character in a novel, a novel that is exploring a concept that is not even necessarily supported by the author is that quote still relevant to the person using the quote to promote his agenda? I say no. Taking a quote from any document and taking it out of context without considering the work as a whole is lazy research.

Here is an example of how to quote a work of fiction properly. Back in 2004 I read this column in the New York Times by Verlyn Klinkenborg about global warming and how an issue this large will not get addressed until it is an emergency:

In a way, the true puzzle of global warming isn't the mechanics of man-made climate change -- the feedback loops, the damage to the ozone layer, the shift in oceanic oscillations, the melting of the ice-caps, the desertification of formerly productive agricultural lands. Those can be studied and understood. The true puzzle is human nature. In every one of these accounts of climate change and environmental degradation, the authors note the inertia of the global system, whether they're talking about economic or climatic models of the future. But there's another kind of inertia built into the system too, and I know no better account of it than a passage from Isaac Asimov's ''Foundation,'' the opening novel in his classic series about a science called ''psychohistory,'' which combines psychology and statistics. ''The psychohistoric trend of a planet-full of people contains a huge inertia,'' says Hari Seldon, the ancestral hero of the foundation. ''To be changed it must be met with something possessing a similar inertia.''

This is a way of saying we live as we have always lived. Sometimes -- like now -- nearly everyone is aware of dramatic changes in the world. Yet we continue to live in the assumption that we can ride out the changes without changing ourselves, coasting, as we have always coasted, on the historic wave of human development. What it will take to wake us up is a wave of equal size traveling in the opposite direction. That wave is already on its way

As you can see, a little context goes a long way.

What bothers me most when I see these Robert Heinlein quotes used to support causes is that he was a thinker who could hold opposing ideas in his head at the same time. He isn’t the hippy idealist people see in the novel “Stranger in a Strange Land” and he wasn’t the militarist people see in “Starship Troopers.” He can’t be pigeon holed that easily. He’s too complex for soundbites.

Saturday, September 04, 2010

Charlotte Skyline Panorama

Yesterday I went to northwest part of town to golf nine holes at Sunset Hills Golf Course. I had a weird day of golf. I easily made par on the first hole and then stunk the place up for the rest of the day. On the way back home I noticed a good view of downtown from an angle I hadn't seen before. The picture below is a stitch of three photos which I converted to black and white. I'm very pleased with how this turned out.
Charlotte Skyline

Thursday, September 02, 2010

Still My Favorite Concert Video

Ever since it first came out on the remastered audio tape back in the late 80s, Jimi Hendrix's breakout performance at the Monterey Pop Festival has been my favorite live recording/video/performance I didn't see. I was watching a bit of it tonight and the first 30 seconds of the opening song, Killing Floor, is still jaw-droppingly intense. I can't remember where I read this great summary of the performance, it was a long time ago, but it has still stuck with me. The writer essentially said that here is a young guy full of talent who had to leave his home country just get noticed and now he's back home and he's angry, hungry and just ready to explode and he does. Below is a still I took using VLC Media player right after Jimi just played a lick while introducing his seminal version of Bob Dylan's "Like a Rolling Stone." It's the smile of a guitarist who has just nailed his riff. I always liked how Jimi loved Bob Dylan. I find the respect Primus has for Tom Waits similar.


Here is the opening song from this night, Killin' Floor