F*** Metallica

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

I blame Metallica for this:

PROTECT IP / SOPA Breaks The Internet from Fight for the Future on Vimeo.

In all seriousness, of course I don't.  It's the entertainment industry as a whole.  And before anyone whinges about this vid being laden with hyperbole ("can go to jail for 5 years even for just singing a pop song"), it's actually true.  It's in the bill.

This bill is the end of social media, and I believe that's exactly what the entertainment industry wants.  They want to be the sole source of information, not the much more democratized internet, and this is their salvo.  This bill allows them to shut down site for just one single link that is subjectively offensive or in violation.  What will YouTube and Facebook do?  What will I do as a user?  If I see a cool piece of artwork, take a pic of it, and send it to my buddies saying "get over to this gallery; this is awesome," will I look at a fine?  Not massively likely, but Facebook will be forced to close my account (umm...on second thought...).

Call or write your Congresscritter.


Beer Deer Camp

Monday, November 21, 2011

For the first time in several years, I donned my hunter's orange and hit the woods in search of The Prize Buck. My Buddy Dave and I went to a friend's property just a hair outside of Cadillac. We ate and drank at Lakeside Charlie's; I remember a buffet, I remember steak, I remember gallons of Guinness and Two Hearted Ale. But this post isn't about Lakeside Charlie's awesome atmosphere or all the beers we had. Nor is it about the lovely Cadillac Sands....ahem...resort.

You see, despite expert effort, Buddy Dave and I returned to Lansing...buckless.

Let me explain. 

With full stomachs and Fred Bear-like spiritual zen in our hearts, we prepared for our hunt. This wasn't some tawdry gun-cocking, sight-checking scene in an action flick moments before The Big Climax. No, this was a solemn ceremony; a gentle and respectful rite that paid homage to our ancestors and their early struggles to fend for and feed their families, including:

  • The Loading Of The Massively-Accurate Weapons;
  • The Donning Of The Ceremonial Tree-Like garb (better camouflage than even our armed services are issued);
  • The Ruining Of The Ceremonial Tree-Like Garb With Eyeball-Piercing Orange;
  • The Deployment Of Dirty Tricks
You know.  Just like our forefathers.

With confident, knowing glances, we crunched-off with all of the subtlety of twin freight trains carrying coal and glass bottles colliding. We spoke the language of The Hunter at only mere decibels above a yell. It was late afternoon. Overcast. Windless and chilly. Perfect conditions for deer to come out of hiding and into the targeting reticle of my rifle.

We first set up my ground blind, some 50 yards from a previously-laid pile of bait: apples to be specific. Yummy, irresistible, crunchy, sweet apples. We set my blind with a minimum of racket (somewhere in the ballpark or "wrestling with a tent made out of candy wrappers in a library"), and there I sat, feeling the Great Outdoors seeping into my veins as I reached a deep connection with the earth. Or perhaps I was just cold. Buddy Dave crunched-off, apparently with "just married"-style cans attached to his boots.

I felt at one with Aldo Leopold, noticing all the sights, sounds, and smells of the woods. The shifts in leaves on the ground. The scurrying of animals. The duck or perhaps elephant in my bowels stomping around. Nature.

Around 5:40 pm the sun began to set dramatically, casting a gray pallor over daylight's vivid fall colors. Shadows grew until detail was obscured, bringing with it new sounds as evening grew. As my eyesight failed in the growing dark, my ears heightened to take in more of my surroundings. Suddenly, I received a sophisticated series of signals (via...you know...iPhone) from Buddy Dave. The blue glow from my phone lit the growing evening darkness.

Buddy Dave: Dude. There is a deer feeding at my bait pile. But it's too dark to shoot.

Smitty: Too dark? Just aim center-mass. Take the shot.

(Smitty, to himslf: he won't take the shot; he'll use the trust he's building with the bait pile to...)

BOOM; apparently, a grounded Aegis-Class cruiser fired a bank of missiles.  I didn't see this battleship when we first walked into the woods, but Buddy Dave is nothing if not resourceful.

Smitty: Huh. He took the shot. 

I began to pack my blind and equipment, given that after firing his nuclear-powered gauss cannon, deer for miles scattered like cockroaches. In the distance, I saw what at first appeared to be a burning meteor moving through the woods, but later revealed itself as Buddy Dave's flashlight. We converged, conversed, and bulldozed our way through the woods to the bait pile to look for what must surely be gouts of blood. But alas, given that the bait pile was 100 yards from the blind (pretty much the maximum range for a shotgun) and it was dark, there was no blood.

So to recap: the guy with a shotgun sat 100 yards - too far - from his optimal kill zone, and the guy with the high-powered rifle sat 50 yards - far too close, given ballistic dynamics - to his optimal kill zone.

Back to the Sands...resort. Change. Lakeside Charlie's; beer, dinner, beer.

At 1,000,000:00, my alarm went off. We packed ourselves back into our ceremonial garb and headed back to the hunt site. This would be our day. This would be our hour. The plan was fool-proof: trade weapons. Buddy Dave would take the rifle to the rifle-worthy blind he was in. I, in turn, would take the small artillery piece to my spot. Perfect. He had range to reach the further target. I had a small tactical nuke with which to vaporize my target at much closer range.

Night passed. The stars faded, one by one according to its lumens, as the slowly-rising sun turned the world a pale, ghostly gray. The chill in the Northern Michigan air, a mere 18 degrees, sank into our bones. But we sat still in our blinds, each merely making a small-town zoo's worth of noise as we shifted, grunted, coughed and hocked loogies for 3 hours in which we still became one with nature. A pissed-off chimpmunk chattered threateningly at me; Buddy Dave reported a similar angry diminutive rodent and remarked how ironic it would be to have to go to the hospital or die in the woods from a rabid chimpmunk bite.

Suddenly, movement. I froze. I stared. It was undeniable. Something was moving. I grabbed a pair of binoculars, and looked. It was a deer. About 150 yards away.

Oh yeah. Remember? I gave the rifle to Buddy Dave.

I decided to stalk this deer. With the subtle skill of a drunk, arthritic ninja, I extracted myself from my blind. The deer, clearly fucking with me, waited for me to get all the way out of my seat. He hung out, possibly out of pity, for me to take 3 steps in heavy boots across what was in actuality frozen, frost-covered leaves but to my ears was ground cover made from Captain Crunch before he turned tail and ran. I think I heard it laugh. I texted Buddy Dave that my effort was fruitless. He commented that since the ground he wished to hunt was still scorched from firing the cruise missile yesterday, he too was finished. With heads held high at the connection we re-established with nature and the shared experience of the thrill and blood-lust of The Hunt, we left our woodland paradise; batteries recharged for our foray back into civilization.

But just you wait, deer. We'll be back. With an assortment of weapons.


Heady Times

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Short of the birth of my children and my marriage, one of the top days of my life was last Thursday as I attended a bill signing. Being a lobbyist, these are not new for me. I average 1 every other month or so. So the novelty of attending the bill signing isn't what made this special.

It wasn't a bill that ends hunger or homelessness.

It wasn't a bill that cured a social wrong or helps veterans open businesses or guarantees treatment for mental illness.

No, it was a bill for home brewers. And that is why it was so special.

The signed bill, with Special Pen!
It turns out, the massive home brew competitions I have adjudicated, with hundreds of entries covering every style recognized by the Americans Brewers Association, we're technically violations of Michigan's liquor control code. Fortunately, for the last 2 decades, nobody though to check or enforce this provision...but it was time to fix it.

And fix it we did! Breweries and restaurants with enough space and time can hold a homebrew competition either with clubs or statewide entrants with a simple written agreement, including that none of the beers are to be sold or distributed. In other words, pretty much what's been going on for years!
I am on the left, the Guv's right
Look!  The Governor is a leftie!

Home brew competitions are key; not only is it good for hobby home brewers who use the results and feedback from judges to motive their recipes and processes, but it's good for pro brewers who are entering test beers from small batches to see how they do. Today's gold medal is tomorrow's new brewery in your hometown. Today's silver medal is tomorrow's new release at your favorite brewery. HB 4061, now Public Act 219 of 2011, may just open the door for my Maple Syrup Porter (in dire need of a real name, by the way) to hit The Big Time!
Left to right:  Me, Phil Wilcox (owner of the brand new
Local Pub & Brewery in Jackson), Chris Frey (AHA)
Rep. Doug Geiss (homebrewer!).  The Guv is seated.


The Worst Generation

Monday, November 14, 2011

Over at Streak’s place, he links to a great essay written by an Iraq war vet and published at the Washington Post.   In the essay, Thomas L. Day  says:

Think of the world our parents’ generation inherited. They inherited a country of boundless economic prosperity and the highest admiration overseas, produced by the hands of their mothers and fathers. They were safe. For most, they were endowed opportunities to succeed, to prosper, and build on their parents’ work.

For those of us in our 20s and early 30s, this is not the world we are inheriting.
Day says what I have been thinking for a long, long time. If the WW II generation was the greatest, the one that followed was the worst. The greatest generation paid the taxes that built our roads and infrastructure that created an economic boom. They went to school on the GI Bill and sent us to the moon. They were patriots, who paid their fair share. The generation that followed failed us. They greedily squandered what their parents built, because they selfishly wanted cuts to their taxes and favored benefits of the individual over the collective prosperity of our nation.

This is what the Occupy Wall Street protests are all about.

Read it.


Happy Carl Sagan Day!

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Today is Carl Sagan Day, in honor of Carl Sagan's birthday!  He'd be 77 today.

I love this particular line, as it kicked-off his famous Cosmos series:

There are so many quotable quotes from Mr. Sagan, but my favorite is this:

Consider again that dot. That's here. That's home. That's us. On it everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives. The aggregate of our joy and suffering, thousands of confident religions, ideologies, and economic doctrines, every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilization, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every mother and father, hopeful child, inventor and explorer, every teacher of morals, every corrupt politician, every "superstar", every "supreme leader", every saint and sinner in the history of our species lived there - on a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam. The Earth is a very small stage in a vast cosmic arena. Think of the rivers of blood spilled by all those generals and emperors so that, in glory and triumph, they could become the momentary masters of a fraction of a dot. Think of the endless cruelties visited by the inhabitants of one corner of this pixel on the scarcely distinguishable inhabitants of some other corner, how frequent their misunderstandings, how eager they are to kill one another, how fervent their hatreds. Our posturings, our imagined self-importance, the delusion that we have some privileged position in the Universe, are challenged by this point of pale light. Our planet is a lonely speck in the great enveloping cosmic dark. In our obscurity, in all this vastness, there is no hint that help will come from elsewhere to save us from ourselves. The Earth is the only world known so far to harbor life. There is nowhere else, at least in the near future, to which our species could migrate. Visit, yes. Settle, not yet. Like it or not, for the moment the Earth is where we make our stand. It has been said that astronomy is a humbling and character-building experience. There is perhaps no better demonstration of the folly of human conceits than this distant image of our tiny world. To me, it underscores our responsibility to deal more kindly with one another, and to preserve and cherish the pale blue dot, the only home we've ever known.
That makes me tingle every time. So today, bake an apple pie from scratch, as is customary on this day, or at least eat one (I hear GT Pie Co makes a killer pie...). If you're making one, though, you better get on it. I hear it takes more than 13 billion years to preheat your universe.


Veterans Day

Friday, November 11, 2011

Thanks to all who served before, who serve now, and who served along-side me.

A single battalion stood between a regiment strength Japanese Sendai Division and a vital airstrip at Guadalcanal. Providentially, the 1st Battalion, 7th Marines was commanded by Lieutenant Colonel Lewis B. Puller nicknamed “Chesty” for his barrel torso. The Japanese force suffered over 1400 killed in action and the airfield was held by the battalion with the Americans sustaining 70 casualties ...

All right, they're on our left, they're on our right, they're in front of us, they're behind us ...we've got 'em right where we want 'em. They can't get away this time.

— Lieutenant General Lewis Burwell "Chesty" Puller, (1898-1971), USMC


Michigan's Proposed Anti-Bullying Law

Monday, November 07, 2011

There is a good discussion over at Streak's Blog on "religious" exception. In looking at the rest of the law, I see some potential problems, but before I get on my soapbox, I wanted to see what other people thought. Here is the main portion of the Bill.

SB 137, Section 10:

(b) "Bullying" means any written, verbal, or physical act, or any electronic communication, by a pupil directed at 1 or more other pupils that is intended or that a reasonable person would know is likely to harm 1 or more pupils either directly or indirectly by doing any of the following:
(i) Substantially interfering with educational opportunities, benefits, or programs of 1 or more pupils.
(ii) Substantially and adversely affecting the ability of a pupil to participate in or benefit from the school district's or public school's educational programs or activities by placing the pupil in reasonable fear of physical harm.
(iii) Having an actual and substantial detrimental effect on a pupil's physical or mental health or causing substantial emotional distress.
(iv) Causing substantial disruption in, or substantial interference with, the orderly operation of the school.

Does anyone see any potential problems with the language of this bill?


The Tea Party Peasants.

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

As the so-called Occupy Wall Street (OWS) protests have grown, many people, including President Obama, have compared the groups to the Tea Party protests. While both groups seem to like dressing up in funny costumes, it seems to me that only two or so substantive factors energize both groups:

1) The stagnant economy.
2) The banking crisis/bailout.

This is where the similarities end. The TPer’s blame the Government for creating the mess through too much Government. The OWS crowd blames the mess on not enough government: "Wall Street"* is the problem and government is not regulating/punishing them enough.

What are the TPers answers to our problems? Less oversight, less government, less economic justice and more regressive taxation. In other words, the Ayn Rand fantasy world that Wall Street loved, right up until they needed a bailout. The two groups might be pissed about similar problems, but their solutions could not be more different. OWS wants policies not seen in a generation. TPers want more of the same stuff that got us into this mess.

Take it from a Conservative:

The tea party stands for a series of propositions that don't meet the reality test: that deficits matter more than jobs, that cutting deficits and tightening credit will accelerate economic growth, that high taxes and over-regulation are the most important reasons that growth has not revived, and that America still offers the world's best opportunity for the poor to rise. Tea party plans call for a radical shift in the burden of taxation from the rich to the poor -- and promise big reductions in government spending without touching any of the benefits of current retirees.

If put into practice, the tea party platform is a formula for political and economic crisis.

David Frum, the author of the above piece at CNN is no lefty.  He worked for President George W. Bush. He might not be calling for a return the Glass-Steagall Act but I think he makes it clear whose side these fools are really on.  He admits that an American Laissez-faire economony does not lift all boats.

If the Tea Party advocates for all that corporate America wants, are they really a populist movement of the right as the MSM has made them out to be? I think not. In reality, they are a mislead group of peasants, carrying water for the ruling class.

They sure aren't patriots.  It's time to call them what they are:  peasants advocating for the landowner.  They are like a sharecropper running to the Government for more land for the landowner.  They are the slave fighting for the confederacy on behalf of the plantation owner. 

The TPers are just too ignorant to realize who is pulling their chain. Between Freedom Works, a lobby firm, funding their operations and Fox News giving them marching orders, I have little confidence they will figure it out.

*For purposes of this article “Wall Street” is shorthand for the international corporate overlords in the Financial, Insurance and Real Estate (FIRE) Sectors and other paper-pushers who make a boat load of cash at the expense of everyone else.



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