Memorial Day Bits and Pieces

What is a conservative?

Will’s perspective here has resonance for me, especially because I agree that TR was the progenitor of the modern Presidency.  I have always thought, since law school anyway, that Taft deserved better placement in history, but Wilson, quite a bit worse.

I will be reading McCain’s final book as soon as it is in paperback.


Our Adriatic cruise was the first pleasure cruise longer than eight hours for me.  Plusses:

  • we got a taste of several different “go to” destinations – the ruins at Delos, the ruins at Minos, the UN historical site at Alborello, the mountain views on Corfu, the surprisingly [to us] inviting old Dubrovnik, and Venice.
  • a decent amount of walking at each destination.
  • perfect May weather, 70s, no rain.
  • relatively low cost way to “sample” several destinations.
  • comfortable and efficient cabin on ship (MSC Lirica)
  • talented entertainers nightly in big production staged music, magic, dance, and acrobatics.
  • a world of travelers and a core crew fluent in five languages; mix of ages, families, singles.


  • Cruise ships are apparently studies in captive audience selling – massages, youthful skin treatments, yoga, dance lessons, photos, duty free inflated priced jewelry, and much more.
  • The shipboard food is plentiful but uneven in quality –  e.g.; great fresh fruit but beef like shoe leather no matter how you order it.
  • Public spaces are superficially glitzy, like casinos – visually tiring after a few days.
  • People past middle age in bikinis and skinny briefs flaunting beer guts and worse.
  • Bad lounge singers in the bars – remember Bill Murray’s parodies?
  • Ping Pong on the deck of a ship making 20 knots.


I had never intended to cruise anywhere except perhaps a river or the Inner Passage from Alaska to Vancouver.  I am still of that mindset.  We did this trip because my brother in law arranged it for his wife’s 60th birthday. Thus there were three siblings and their spouses traveling together.  We all get along well so Rosanne and I were willing to join in.

My bucket list is long and my time may not be.  Too many National Parks left, plus Australia, New Zealand, more UK, more Canada, and more Italy.  Cruises are not the way to do that.  And Corfu may be pretty, but it isn’t spectacular like the American west and northwest, or many stops on the Canadian Pacific route from Vancouver to Banff.


First Amendment as a Successful Defense and an Unsuccessful One

The 9th Circuit’s description of the matter:

When Transportation Security Administration (TSA) officers at Portland International Airport told John Brennan that he needed to undergo additional security screening because he tested positive for explosives, Brennan, in the middle of a TSA checkpoint, stripped naked. When TSA officers told Brennan to get dressed, he refused — three times. After TSA officers had to close down the checkpoint and surround Brennan’s naked body with bins until the police arrived to remove him, the TSA fined Brennan $500 for interfering with screening personnel in the performance of their duties. See 49 C.F.R. § 1540.109 (“No person may interfere with, assault, threaten, or intimidate screening personnel in the performance of their screening duties under this subchapter.”).

Brennan’s core contention is that stripping naked in the middle of a TSA checkpoint is expressive conduct protected by the First Amendment. But Brennan fails to carry his burden of showing that a viewer would have understood his stripping naked to be communicative. See Clark v. Cmty. for Creative Non-Violence, 468 U.S. 288, 293 n.5 (1984). Therefore, his conduct is not protected by the First Amendment.

Meanwhile, OR prosecuted Brennan for public nudity. Acquitted by the Judge, as follows, according to The Oregonian:

The judge sided with the defense, which cited a 1985 Oregon Court of Appeals ruling stating that nudity laws don’t apply in cases of protest.

“It is the speech itself that the state is seeking to punish, and that it cannot do,” Circuit Judge David Rees said.

Are both results correct? Neither? One, but not the other?

Breaking the Seal 1/20/17

Trump should troll the world and replace Hail the Chief with some Johnny Cash

Holiday Wish List


For that special someone in your life that you really wish wasn’t in your life.


We’re # 4!

Germany’s “Heritage” ranking alone justified labeling this post “Goofy”.

Beethoven, Mozart, and uh…

College Football Playoffs and the remaining good bowl games

Such interesting possibilities.  Stoopes and the Land Thieves are 3-0 against ‘Bama, and Austin native Baker Mayfield is lighting it up at QB for the Sooners.  However, Brent Venables, who for a decade under Stoopes was the defensive guru of the Big 12, is now at Clemson.  Stoopes dumped Venables so that he could hire his brother, Mike Stoopes, who had been fired from his HC job.  Mike is a downgrade from Venables.

Michigan State was consistently the best coached defense in the nation under Dantonio and Narduzzi, but Narduzzi is now deservedly a HC on his own.  Nevertheless, MSU has not forgotten how to defend.  Twist for the ‘Bama – MSU game is that Saban used to coach at MSU.

Could ‘Bama grind out a victory against any of the other three?  All of the other three are better than every team that ‘Bama faced, but there are many truly NFL capable studs in the Tide’s lineup. Crucially, I would rate all three of the other starting QBs in the playoffs well ahead of ‘Bama’s Jake Coker.

Could MSU score enough to beat OU or Clemson?  Could either Clemson or OU  score four TDs against the MSU or ‘Bama defenses?

The Playoff Schedule:

No. 1 Clemson faces No. 4 Oklahoma on Dec. 31 in the Orange Bowl.

No. 2 Alabama will face No. 3 Michigan State on Dec. 31 in Jerry World, the Cowboys’ stadium, mislabeled the something Cotton Bowl.

For OU, Arlington TX would have been a home game, so it was a sure thing that OU would be ranked #4, although that ranking is certainly “reasonable”, regardless.

While I would not predict the results of a game between 19 YOs without inside information on injuries, grades, drinking habits, and girl friends, I will guess that styles will produce more TDs in the Arlington game, and that the final will provide a true contrast.  Here is a statistical model, taken without benefit of the “model information” I consider crucial:

In the other Bowl games of note, the truly outstanding teams that fell short of the Playoffs will be butting heads.  TCU and ND had so many injuries that they were not the same teams by midseason as they were in early September.  They remained very tough squads, and if they heal before their bowl games, they will be as good to watch as the playoff teams.

Stanford, Ohio State, Iowa, Florida State, UNC, Okie Lite, and Baylor (if it has its first or second string QB back), are all highly competitive teams.  In fact, there was no single dominant team this year, and I am not inclined to believe that Clemson’s record set it apart.   I find ACC competition suspect, below the top three teams.  By contrast, the very competitive PAC has some good multi-loss teams, as does the western half of the SEC.

Only one non-power conference team is worth a mention: Houston.  Not having played even a fruit blender schedule there is no comparable way to measure them.  They do have talent and are very well coached by Herman, however, who was previously OC at tOSU.

So these are the best of the remaining bowl games, but remember when there is nothing on the line, either team may show up or not, depending in part on how much they want to party over Winter Break:

Dec 29
Citrus Bowl NKA as something else
UNC v. Baylor (but one of BU’s two best QBs must return for this or it will not be worth watching)

Dec 31
Peach Bowl
FSU vs UH (classic who wants to be there game)

Jan. 1 –

Fiesta Bowl
Notre Dame vs. Ohio State (injuries for ND and no incentive for tOSU?)
Rose Bowl Game
Stanford v. Iowa (Stanford has a great RB who will set many records)
Sugar Bowl
Oklahoma State vs. Ole Miss

Jan 2 –
Alamo Bowl
Oregon vs. TCU (another injury bowl – but these are exciting teams)

Jan 11 – National Title Game from Glendale, AZ

FWIW, do not bet on these games.  19 YOs, girlfriends, drinking, injuries, passing finals, arrests in New Orleans…you cannot know the outcome.  That is why we watch.

And – GOOD LUCK to Michigan State!




My Big Jewish Lesbian Vegan Wedding 6/26/15


Last weekend I was fortunate enough to be invited to the wedding of a childhood friend of my son. She was marrying a woman she had met in college during a course in Feminist Theory and Criticism. They became loser while sitting on the campus safety awareness committee. After some long distance relationshipping, they started dating and moved in with each other about a year ago. I have been looking forward to this wedding for months ever since we got the “save the date” announcement.

It was a milestone for me in JLVWedding-3that I had never been to a Jewish wedding and had always wanted to go to one. Bride A (as I will call her) was Jewish and a woman of deep faith. She is now in rabbinical school. Bride B, my son’s friend, converted to Judaism for her despite being raised lightly pagan. It was NOT a coincidence that the wedding took place on the summer solstice. There was even a solstice altar set up just outside the ceremony area to honor that part of her heritage.

Bride A was dressed in a homemade ivory linen dress with pink flowers in her hair to match her cateye vintage style glasses. Bride B wore gray slacks with a matching vest over a light blue shirt and pink tie. Over her shortly cropped hair she wore a large leaf reminiscent of a yarmulka. The male members of wedding party (the entire wedding party was described as Friends of Honor as oppose to the more common groomsman/bridesmaid designations) had full beards and wore suspenders making them look like hipster artisanal pickle merchants. Even the band had a certain turn of the century look. In some respects the whole event had the vibe of a community theater production of Yentl.

The wedding program included lots of little notes on the elements and traditions of a Judaic wedding which were very helpful. I could

tell that some portions of the ceremony were being altered to accommodate the fact that two women were being married rather than a man and a woman. There was prayer after prayer in both Yiddish and English. There were two large artistically rendered marriage contracts which included their vows. There was a lot of laughing with a touch of tears.

The ceremJLVWedding-2ony was outdoors in a small park with a gorgeous old stone building on the grounds but except for the food service line, all the events were outdoors or underneath a tent. Predicted thunderstorms never arrived and weather stayed clear if June hot. Restroom facilities were two single occupancy bathrooms in the building which, as the program declared, had been “liberated from the gender binary.”

The guests were the usual mix of older relatives, mostly from Bride B’s side since the ceremony was in her hometown, and college friends of the brides. They were dressed in a variety of styles ranging from traditional to formal to casual. One person had both a beard and a dress and I told my wife I’d be disappointed if there hadn’t been.JLVWedding-6

As with all weddings, the reception is where the heavy partying began. Fortunately beer and wine are vegan and were available in abundance. In addition to red and white wine there were two brands of craft brews and PBR available. This gave my son, a professional brewer, a great opportunity for conversational gambits with the guests his age.

The food, as I feared, was the greatest disappointment. In anticipation, I had taken my family out for a Father’s Day barbecue lunch just in case I wasn’t going to get a full meal. The hors d’oeuvres were tasty but disappeared quickly. I was not quick enough to get the tofu spring rolls but the corn fritters and the potato knishes were delish. The main dishes were bland and, as the joke goes, the portions were small too. The best dish was some parpadelle with basil, spinach, artichoke and zucchini. The wild mushroom and tarragon seitan (whatever that is) was also fairly tasty. But overall, I thought a family of vegetarians could have found a more adventurous caterer.

For the wedding reception the band quickly ran through a whirlwind of the presumably standard traditions including ring dances and chair dances and jumping rope. It was all a bit confusing to me but the largely Jewish guest roster seemed to go at them with great gusto.


As with most weddings, the toasts from the fathers were very touching. The father of Bride A was delighted to be gaining a future lawyer as a family member and made a plea that Bride B give corporate mergers a chance for decade or so before going into public advocacy. Father B waxed nostalgic over the childhood memories of teaching Bride B which sports teams to follow and why. (I was told that her vest was lined with silk fabric covered in Orioles logos.) The deepest divisions amongst the families and guest were opposing loyalties to Red Sox, Yankees, or Orioles, although I suspect plenty of Phillies fans were in the crowd as well.

I’ve been to a wide variety of weddings but this one was definitely one of the most festive I have ever been to. It was a day full of prayers. And food. And dancing.

And love.




Figured Michi might appreciate this one…

An open letter to Michigan football fans:

Dear hated rival,

As a Buckeye fan, let me offer my congratulations on the Harbaugh hire! It really is great news. It makes Michigan football immediately relevant, boosts the Big Ten’s profile, and gives Buckeye fans like me a team – and a rival – that’s worthy of respect. When Michigan is strong, everyone wins: Michigan, Ohio State, the Big Ten; college football.

Sure, watching you guys suffer a seemingly never-ending variety of painful humiliations over the last several seasons has been a rare joy. Not to mention the sweet taste of winning 12 of our last 14 games. But the truth is, it’s hard to get excited about The Game when Michigan is so damn mediocre, even downright bad.

At least in the 90’s, when you were having your way with John Cooper, the Buckeyes often arrived as one of the nation’s top ranked teams, only to see their season ruined at the hands of a multi-loss Michigan squad.

And while those games added to the rivalry’s intensity and mystique, the deeper truth is that they helped mask a trend that became all too clear these last seven years: that Michigan football was in serious, steady decline.

To wit: over the last 22 seasons, Michigan’s average record is 8-4 (184-90). They’ve won just four Big Ten titles, and have only two serious national title runs, converting once in 1997. During that same time, Ohio State has averaged ten wins per season (224-54-1), won 11 Big Ten titles, the 2002 national championship, made three national title game appearances, earned a spot in the first College Football Playoff, and finished in the top-five 13 times.

The comparison is stark, and leads to an inescapable conclusion; that for more than two decades, Michigan has been a second-tier power.

After the debacles known as Rich Rod and Brady, the thought of spending years in the wilderness, maybe never returning to true prominence, had to look not just horrifyingly possible, but feel almost inevitable.

One person, and one person only, could save you from this tragic fate: Mr. James Joseph Harbaugh. And wouldn’t you know it, just when you’d reached a nadir of despair, the numbskulls in San Francisco were kind enough to throw you a bone; a huge, meaty, gravy-slathered bone.

Dumb f-ing luck!

But do you know the last school the football gods blessed so generously? Why, The Ohio State University, who just happened to have one Urban Francis (Frank really, but Francis sounds better) Meyer III, tanned, rested and ready to work, just as we were staring into our own personal abyss.

So what’s that tell you? Well it tells me that Woody and Bo have had enough. It tells me they’ve been busy at work, pulling angelic levers so that our shared corner of the college football universe can once again be in proper alignment.

It means no more Earle and no more Coop. No more Lloyd. No Rich Rod nor Hoke, or Fickell for that matter (though he’s fine as an assistant). No, the time has come for giants to face off in battle. We offered mighty Tress, but the call went unanswered. But this time, Michigan, you picked up the phone, and have bellowed back in a clear, prideful voice, “We are Michigan. We are tired of sucking, and shall suck no longer!”

To which we say, welcome back.

Star Wars: The Force Awakens (The Special Edition)

Surely, you’ve seen the new trailer for the new Star Wars movie. A little bland, sure, but fortunately George Lucas is already hard at work at improving it with his own Special Edition:

Now, that’s going to be awesome!

Visualizing US Air Traffic

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