Archive for July, 2008

Outsider Out

“I came here to completely destroy you, to bury you,” my Opponent said as we walked together down the 10th fairway.

His comment confused me. Was this an attempt to intimidate me or get me off my game? Was he making small talk? Was he letting me know how surprised he was that I was leading after nine holes? I don’t know.

Not knowing how to respond I answered, “If that’s not how you felt, I wouldn’t want to play you.”

:::

A couple of hours prior, I was in the locker room with Rock looking at the brackets for the Club Championships. The Club Championship Tournament is a single elimination, head-to-head event. The brackets were set up with a 36-hole qualifying tournament. Last year’s Club Champ automatically gets the first seed and a first round bye.

Rock has the first seed. I’m the 5th seed.

Rock and I are on the same side of the brackets. If he wins one match and I win two, we play each other. Rock realizes this and smiles, “I can’t wait to kick your ass.”

I smile back and say, “I hope you get the opportunity.”

:::

The two conversations are almost exactly the same, but I take them completely differently. Rock is an Insider; my Opponent is an Outsider.

Rock and I are good friends. There was a complete lack of intimidation in his comment. Oh, he wants to kick my ass but in a completely friendly way. If we get to that point, our match will be good humored and friendly all through.

In contrast, I don’t really know my first round Opponent. I’ve played with him twice. He’s cocky, but hasn’t been able to back it up.

He is a little outside of our group; he’s trying to get in. His conversations are hopeful but strained. His one-liners are uncomfortable. He can’t say, “I want to kick your ass” the way Rock does and not expect a dozen guys to think he’s an asshole.

And, my god, does he. play. slow. Brutally slow. Pull your hair out slow. We Insiders hate slow players. If you play slow, you’d better play top-of-the-food-chain golf. Doc, an Insider (but doesn’t play top-of-the-food-chain golf), can play slow; lovable guy, ex-boxer, not right in the head. If Doc only has $5 in his pocket, he’s going to treat you to coffee and a danish with it.

I don’t share my Opponent’s comment with the rest of the Insiders. They wouldn’t take it well.

:::

After the round, my Opponent says, “I thought we played pretty even. If I hadn’t had a couple of screw ups, I’m right there the whole match and maybe we’re going into sudden death.”

Politely I agree and later speak to one of the guys we were playing with, “Do you think we played even? I thought I was in control of the whole match. I never felt he was in it.”

My playing partner agreed.

Even when my Opponent went eagle-birdie on the 6th and 7th holes to bring the match back to all-square, I never thought he grabbed control from me. After those holes I did think, “I hope I’m not underestimating him.” But I kept with my plan, “Make pars and he’ll fold.”

After an unfortunate three-putt on the 8th hole, I parred the next four holes winning three of them. He folded. The match was over.

And I moved one step closer to giving Rock the opportunity to kick my ass.

The Buck Stops Here

It is obvious to me that the reasons that we were told that our armies needed to invade Iraq and depose Saddam Hussein were wrong. Iraq was not in cahoots with al Qaida. Iraq did not have weapons of mass destruction and weren’t poised to use them against us. Iraq was not actively building nuclear weapons. Iraq was not harboring terrorists.

We sent our troops into war against a foreign nation for the wrong reasons — at least not for the reasons cited. At best, we’ve made a horrible mistake. At worst, we’ve committed murder.

Either someone screwed up royally or someone is lying to us. I believe the latter.

Now over 4,000 American servicemen and women are dead. Over 100,000 innocent Iraqis are dead. A horrible precedent of unprovoked war has been created. The United States’ moral foundation has been compromised; our stead as world leader squandered. The Constitution has been circumvented. And no one has taken responsibility for it.

“The Buck Stops Here,” said a sign on President Harry Truman’s desk. He was responsible for the decisions his administration made. The current administration, I fear, won’t even admit that there is a “buck.”

The House Judiciary Committee is holding a hearing today imploring Congress to find the administration responsible for sending us to war under false pretenses. And then find the administration responsible for all ramifications and fall-out of sending us to war.

Here is the outline of the resolution being presented to the Committee:

Article I
Creating a Secret Propaganda Campaign to Manufacture a False Case for War Against Iraq.

Article II
Falsely, Systematically, and with Criminal Intent Conflating the Attacks of September 11, 2001, With Misrepresentation of Iraq as a Security Threat as Part of Fraudulent Justification for a War of
Aggression.

Article III
Misleading the American People and Members of Congress to Believe Iraq Possessed Weapons of Mass Destruction, to Manufacture a False Case for War.

Article IV
Misleading the American People and Members of Congress to Believe Iraq Posed an Imminent Threat to the United States.

Article V
Illegally Misspending Funds to Secretly Begin a War of Aggression.

Article VI
Invading Iraq in Violation of the Requirements of HJRes114.

Article VII
Invading Iraq Absent a Declaration of War.

Article VIII
Invading Iraq, A Sovereign Nation, in Violation of the UN Charter.

Article IX
Failing to Provide Troops With Body Armor and Vehicle Armor

Article X
Falsifying Accounts of US Troop Deaths and Injuries for Political Purposes

Article XI
Establishment of Permanent U.S. Military Bases in Iraq

Article XII
Initiating a War Against Iraq for Control of That Nation’s Natural Resources

Article XIIII
Creating a Secret Task Force to Develop Energy and Military Policies With Respect to Iraq and Other Countries

Article XIV
Misprision of a Felony, Misuse and Exposure of Classified Information And Obstruction of Justice in the Matter of Valerie Plame Wilson, Clandestine Agent of the Central Intelligence Agency

Article XV
Providing Immunity from Prosecution for Criminal Contractors in Iraq

Article XVI
Reckless Misspending and Waste of U.S. Tax Dollars in Connection With Iraq and US Contractors

Article XVII
Illegal Detention: Detaining Indefinitely And Without Charge Persons Both U.S. Citizens and Foreign Captives

Article XVIII
Torture: Secretly Authorizing, and Encouraging the Use of Torture Against Captives in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Other Places, as a Matter of Official Policy

Article XIX
Rendition: Kidnapping People and Taking Them Against Their Will to “Black Sites” Located in Other Nations, Including Nations Known to Practice Torture

Article XX
Imprisoning Children

Article XXI
Misleading Congress and the American People About Threats from Iran, and Supporting Terrorist Organizations Within Iran, With the Goal of Overthrowing the Iranian Government

Article XXII
Creating Secret Laws

Article XXIII
Violation of the Posse Comitatus Act

Article XXIV
Spying on American Citizens, Without a Court-Ordered Warrant, in Violation of the Law and the Fourth Amendment

Article XXV
Directing Telecommunications Companies to Create an Illegal and Unconstitutional Database of the Private Telephone Numbers and Emails of American Citizens

Article XXVI
Announcing the Intent to Violate Laws with Signing Statements

Article XXVII
Failing to Comply with Congressional Subpoenas and Instructing Former Employees Not to Comply

Article XXVIII
Tampering with Free and Fair Elections, Corruption of the Administration of Justice

Article XXIX
Conspiracy to Violate the Voting Rights Act of 1965

Article XXX
Misleading Congress and the American People in an Attempt to Destroy Medicare

Article XXXI
Katrina: Failure to Plan for the Predicted Disaster of Hurricane Katrina, Failure to Respond to a Civil Emergency

Article XXXII
Misleading Congress and the American People, Systematically Undermining Efforts to Address Global Climate Change

Article XXXIII
Repeatedly Ignored and Failed to Respond to High Level Intelligence Warnings of Planned Terrorist Attacks in the US, Prior to 911.

Article XXXIV
Obstruction of the Investigation into the Attacks of September 11, 2001

Article XXXV
Endangering the Health of 911 First Responders

You can read the details of the resolution here (pdf file).

This is heady stuff. In my opinion, the hearing today is among the most important news item of the year. I don’t understand why it’s not being covered that way.

I think Congress needs to investigate this deeply. I think that George Bush and his administration should have the opportunity to respond to the investigation.

The most appropriate forum is probably an impeachment hearing. Bush should embrace such a hearing to prove that he did the right thing. He won’t.

Hell, we’re not even going to get a full impeachment hearing.

Still, this is important.

Is anyone listening?

Rush To Rock Band

Some one was a genius to film this. It’s Rush playing the video game Rock Band to their own song.

I wanted to be embarrassed by it, but who the hell am I kidding, I don’t get embarrassed by anything. And everything is funny.

The Fuck Moment

“There was only one time that you showed you were frustrated,” Ronnie said. “I believe you yelled ‘Fuck!’ or something like that.”

It was probably “Fuck.”

Ronnie, my brother-in-law, was caddying for me in the qualifying tournament for the New Jersey State Fourball Championship. The Fourball Championship gathers some of the best amateur golfers in the state. It is the most important round of golf I’ll play all year.

My partner and I weren’t hitting the ball very well. I was inconsistent off the tee, never quite knowing where my ball was going to end up; and I was hooking many of my irons. My partner had his own problems. Still, we were playing well enough on and around the greens to put up decent scores.

In general, I don’t let my emotions run too low or too high. On the golf course, I make a point of not being elated after good shots or letting the bad shots upset me. I find that the best way to play golf is with a certain amount of apathy and detachment.

Which brings me to “The Fuck Moment.”

We were halfway through our back nine when I hooked a ball under a tree (see “A” below).

While I had a swing, Tree B was between me and the green (see D). So I had to aim at Tree C and try to intentionally hook the ball on or near the green.

I had an about 1-in-10 chance of pulling this off. Long odds, but I gave it a try.

The ball was still in the air when I yelled, “Fuck!” My ball headed straight for Tree C and came to rest underneath it. Dead. Well. Fuck.

I didn’t get mad because I missed the shot. Golf, especially at my level, is a game of who can play their miss-hits best. Ben Hogan, one of the best ball strikers ever, said that he only hit about seven perfect shots in a round. What chance do I have?

No. I readily accept my miss-hits. However, I have a strong logical mind. And the moment the ball left the club and didn’t turn, I woke up and realized that I didn’t use my mind very well. Fuck.

Here’s what my mind told me:

  1. “You’re dead. Punch the ball into the middle of the fairway inside 100 yards, probably inside 50 yards. And take your chances getting up-and-down for par. Your chances at that point are probably 50/50.” (Smart mind. Right play.);
  2. “You only have a 1-in-10 shot of hooking the ball onto the green, maybe even less than 1-in-10. The Rule of Thumb is to only play shots that you know you can pull off 9-in-10 times. Punch the ball into the middle of the fairway. (Smart mind. Right play.);
  3. “Don’t let your last thought be even vaguely negative or positive at a negative target. When setting up at the tree (C above), don’t let that be your last thought or your target. Your body is dumb, you’ll say, “Aim at the tree and hook it” but your body will only hear “Aim at the tree.” You know it happens all the time. (Smart mind.)

As I said, the ball went right at Tree C. Never curved. The body did what it was told. I never listened to my mind.

Fuck.

FUCK!

:::

Turns out we missed the cut by one stroke. Just like last year. That shot was one of the turning points. If I make the smart play, we have a chance to go on. The round has a half-dozen pivotal moments like that. Sometimes I made the right decisions; sometimes I didn’t.

High Muckety-Muck

I don’t like groups of people. Groups become all uppity and self-righteous. They form associations, make rules, and wave their private parts at Others that don’t know their Secret Handshakes.

The next thing you know these groups are telling the Others who they can hang with, which god they can talk to, and who they can have sex with. Groups will desperately try to make everyone else follow their Secret Handshake Rules.

Sometimes when Others don’t follow their rules, the groups try to force the Others to live by their rules. They might even threaten the Others with a pointed sticks or fondle their women if they don’t give lip service to the Secret Handshake Rules.

(These Others sometimes form their own groups just to have enough Molotov cocktails to hurl at the first group. Things always get out of hand. The next thing you know Rodney King is pleading on television, “Can’t we all just get along?” And, of course, the answer is “No.”)

A lot of people have been lost or killed because they didn’t comply with the Secret Handshake Rules.

Hell, I’m only a member of one association: the Bey Lea Golf Association. Even that makes me nervous. We wave our private parts at people who get tee times after 8 o’clock in the morning and don’t play winter golf. We haven’t fondled any of their women yet; we do ogle at them though.

I hate groups. I haven’t met a group I’m really comfortable with.

Individuals, well that’s a different story.

There are few people that individually I don’t get along with. I only ever really hated one guy, but I got along with him. He did, however, get decapitated in a highway accident — so I’m very cautious about who I really hate. I might have some sort of super power; I’ve got to be careful.

So I don’t do “community” well. Not in the meat-world. Not in the cyber-world.

I’ve joined several cyber-groups over the years. Usually I just get to the sign-up page and then my participation rapidly peters off after that.

That said, I joined a cyber-community yesterday. Well, it’s not so much a community as it is a … umm … discussion group? … err … virtual hangout? … well … I don’t know. There’s only a few of us there and nothing has happened yet.

I think I was the first to sign up. I signed up with two demands requests:

  1. I’d like a seat in the back under a dim light near where the bar back hangs. I prefer it be reserved for me — which shouldn’t be too difficult, because no one else will want to sit there; there’s a draft.
  2. I want a cool title like “Key Master.” Maybe “Supreme Potentate” or better “High Muckety-Muck.”

Both of my requests were granted. I think I’m an ahem Administrator.

Go check it out. I’m going to give it a shot. I hope you will too.

Stop by The Pub. Tell Harry I sent you.

First beer is on me.

:::

LATE ENTRY: In keeping with the pub theme over at The Pub, I requested the title Bar Back.

I got it.

Okay. This One Made Me Snort.

Men and Women

I’m not in the habit of reading jokie-jokes that are forwarded to me. I tell friends, “If I see that you blindly forwarded something to me, I delete it without opening it. If you think that something is so funny that I need to read it, take the time to copy-and-paste it, and attach a personal note like, ‘Hey, Jim. You’ll like this.’”

This was emailed to me in the above fashion. Likewise, I’m passing it along.

Hey, readers of of KINGS and carnies, you’ll like this:

Differences Between Men & Women

NICKNAMES

  • If Laura, Kate and Sarah go out for lunch, they will call each other Laura, Kate and Sarah.
  • If Mike, Dave and John go out, they will affectionately refer to each other as Fat Boy, Godzilla and Four-eyes.

EATING OUT

  • When the bill arrives, Mike, Dave and John will each throw in $20, even though it’s only for $32.50. None of them will have anything smaller and none will actually admit they want change back.
  • When the girls get their bill, out come the pocket calculators.

MONEY

  • A man will pay $2 for a $1 item he needs.
  • A woman will pay $1 for a $2 item that she doesn’t need but it’s on sale.

BATHROOMS

  • A man has six items in his bathroom: toothbrush and toothpaste, shaving cream, razor, a bar of soap, and a towel.
  • The average number of items in the typical woman’s bathroom is 337. A man would not be able to identify more than 20 of these items.

ARGUMENTS

  • A woman has the last word in any argument.
  • Anything a man says after that is the beginning of a new argument.

FUTURE

  • A woman worries about the future until she gets a husband.
  • A man never worries about the future until he gets a wife.

SUCCESS

  • A successful man is one who makes more money than his wife can spend.
  • A successful woman is one who can find such a man.

MARRIAGE

  • A woman marries a man expecting he will change, but he doesn’t.
  • A man marries a woman expecting that she won’t change, but she does.

DRESSING UP

  • A woman will dress up to go shopping, water the plants, empty the trash, answer the phone, read a book, and get the mail.
  • A man will dress up for weddings and funerals.

NATURAL

  • Men wake up as good-looking as they went to bed.
  • Women somehow deteriorate during the night.

OFFSPRING

  • Ah, children. A woman knows all about her children. She knows about dentist appointments and romances, best friends, favorite foods, secret fears and hopes and dreams.
  • A man is vaguely aware of some short people living in the house.

Bully

We all know Richard Simmons, right? He’s the guy who promotes fitness, sells diet cards and exercise tapes, and specializes in the really, really obese?

I heard him interviewed on the radio yesterday. He’s going to testify in front of congress about why schools need to keep their physical education programs. I agree with Richard.

Actually, whatever you think of Simmons, his weight-loss/fitness strategy is simplistic but sound: “Don’t eat too much! Small portions! Move your body!”

But that’s not what I wanted to talk about. What got me was Richard was talking about being bullied while he was in school. Almost in tears (Richard Simmons is almost always almost in tears), he recounted the events. Events, he said, that still leave scars today.

Richard went back to sixth or seventh grade. He was chubby. His first name was Milton (since changed to Richard). Every day after school, Moose would hit him in the head with a baseball bat until young Milton fell to the ground.

“Every day?” asked the interviewer.

“Every day.”

“A wooden baseball bat?”

“Yep. Wooden.”

“On the head? You’re lucky your not dead.”

“I have a hard head.”

Young Milton eventually stood up to Moose. Reasoned with him, “I’ve never done anything to you and you’re hurting me.” Not Jerry Mitchell in 3 O’Clock High, but the kids cheered him and Moose stopped using Milton’s head as a baseball.

I understand this would follow Milton Teague Simmons forever. I too was bullied one year. Seventh grade, just like Milton.

Seventh grade was the first year of Intermediate School. No longer did we pal around as a class in one classroom with one teacher as our leader.

We travelled from class to class and from teacher to teacher. We were on our own. Instead of a desk and classroom closet to keep our coats, lunches, and books, we had a lockers.

My locker was on the other side of the school. Everything I did, except for gym — my classes, the bus — was on one side of the school; my locker, the other.

After the last bell rang, I had to run all the way from class to the other side of school, drop my books off in my locker, collect my coat, and run back to catch the bus. This had to be executed with the timing of an NFL wide receiver’s out pattern; if the timing is off, incomplete pass. Or, in my case, I missed the bus.

Mike.

His name was Mike. He was twice the size of the average seventh grader. He was so large he had two satellite students orbiting around him — their names are lost in time. But, like the moon, they were always there saying things like, “Yeh. What are you going to do now? Huh? Tell him, Mike. Tell him what he’s going to do. That’s right. Tell him, Mike.” And they’d laugh. Yellow curs.

Somehow Mike, this dimwitted toad, figured out that I was on a tight schedule. The focus for his seventh grade year became, “Make Jim miss the bus.” His tools: physical blockaids, knocking books from my hands, slamming my locker closed the moment I opened it, taking something of mine and not giving it back, throwing me to the ground, verbal harrassment, and other assorted bully crap.

I didn’t go Jerry Mitchell’s route, nor even Milton Teague Simmons’ route. I didn’t stand up  to my tormentor. No, I went the weenie route. I stopped using the locker. Like a homeless middle schooler, I carried everything I had in a huge duffle bag. My books, all of them. My coat. My lunch. My gym clothes. Baseball cards. Superball. Everything.

Mike. The toad.

I’ve told my wife, and I’m serious, if we are walking down the mall and suddenly you turn toward me and I’m not there. And you look back and I’m on top of some fat, tub-of-goo of a person, flailing my fist at his head. I’m on top of Mike. Don’t try to stop me. He’s getting everything he deserved.

I’m Still Alive

I disappear from the cyberworld from time-to-time. I don’t mean it. Real-life and interests get in the way and I seem to fade away …

So what have you been doing?

Well, it’s summer. So I’ve been summering.

The sun stays up longer, so I’m outside longer. The kids are off from school, so we’re out longer.

We’re in the middle of golf season. The Club Championships are coming up; I’ve been practicing. For the second year in a row, my partner and I will be playing in the New Jersey State Golf Association Fourball Championships; we’ve been practicing.

I’ve also been creating a yardage book for Trenton Country Club using Google Earth for the upcoming Fourball Championship. Since this is a one-shot deal, I’ll probably post a pdf version of this when I’m done.

My interest in jiu-jitsu has renewed. A couple of times per week I pull the mats out and “roll around.” This always eats a couple of hours of my time. And in the evenings, my usual decompression time where I read, research, and write, I’m watching jiu-jitsu videos. Or I’m reading jiu-jitsu books.

Oh. I’ve been writing. But usually in my Jeep at lunch time in a notebook (I don’t journal). I’ve been thinking of taking those notebook entries, which I consider writing practice, and turning them into blog posts.

And I’ve been reading, slowly because I want to retain the information, Vincent Bugliosi’s The Prosecution of George W. Bush For Murder. The information in the book has gotten me a tad out of my mind; I’m angry. While Mr. Bush may not be guilty of murder or conspiracy to commit murder, I do think his actions leading up to the Iraq War ought to be legally investigated. I think his actions and the actions of some of his top advisors (Cheney, Rice, Rove, et. al.) may have been criminal. One day I’ll write a post about it; Bugliosi wrote a book.

The Spansh Inquistor has a decent review of the book here: The Prosecution of George W. Bush For Murder. Give it a read.

Birthdays. Mini-dates with the wife. Movies with the kids (Wall-E is fantastic). Fourth of July parties. Frequent visits to Lake Sierchio. Six Flags Great Adventure.

Life.

Fighting Words

Yesterday, I was almost in a fight. An honest-ta-goodness fist fight. An old-fashioned scuffle. A bare-knuckle brewhaha.

Almost, but not quite. Damn.

You see, yesterday I was playing a quick nine holes after work with a few buds – my regular, weekday foursome – when some young knuckleheads thought we’d purposefully hit into them. Two of our drives crossed a blind dogleg and almost hit these guys. We thought they’d moved on. Our bad. Sorry.

These guys grudgingly accepted our apologies, but thought we should have been more careful. Okay, maybe. Like I said, our bad. Sorry.

“Just do it again and we’ll see what happens,” threatened the guy with the impress-the-girls tan and tattoos as he pulled away. Oh boy. I don’t take kindly to threats, and I have a big mouth.

I laughed at him, “C’mon. Don’t threaten me; I’m a grown up. If you want to do something, do it now. I’m right here. Why do we always have to wait for later?” I was smiling because this, believe it or not, just got fun for me.

I don’t think I threatened the guy. I’m not the threatening-type — I’m middle-aging and have the spread and graying goatee to prove it; I’m not big and don’t even have a tattoo. But I think I confused him and he moved on.

That said, I wasn’t done. In my head I needed him to know three things: 1. No one in my group hit golf balls at him on purpose, 2. Threatening people outside of his normal social settings is silly and, 3. If he wants to roll, I’m game.

I rushed to catch up to him on the next tee and extended my hand, “Dude (that’s right, I use the word “Dude”), again I apologize for almost hitting you with my golf ball. We really didn’t see you. We thought you moved on.”

He shook my hand and sincerely accepted my apology, “Look, I didn’t want to start any trouble …”

“It seemed like it to me when you barreled 250 yards down the fairway, raised your voice, and then threatened us,” I answered.

One of his buddies answered, “We’re good. Just a misunderstanding.”

My friends thought they were assholes. I thought they were just goofy kids. I also think that they’re used to intimidating their way around problems. Bullies? Maybe.

“Good enough for me. But if you change your mind, I’m right behind you.”

The rest of the round was uneventful. But I think if I followed them into the bar, they would have bought me a beer.

:::

Something that I don’t think I’ve ever written about is that I’m a student of Brazilian Jiu-jitsu. By now, you’ve probably heard about it. It’s the grappling stuff all those “Mixed Martial Artists” use.

I started studying before there was “Ultimate Fighting” and before the term “Mixed Martial Arts” was even coined. My first instructor was Royce Grace; the guy who won 3 of the first 4 UFCs — this was before judges, rounds, and weight classes. In many circles, he’s a household name; when I met him, he was a skinny kid from Brazil.

Royce once told me, “You know how to fight.” Kinda cool.

My second instructor was the first American black belt in Gracie/Brazilian Jiu-jitsu, Craig Kukuk. (Craig has pissed off so many Brazilians that he’s retreated to teaching in Boise, Idaho.) Since then, I’ve studied on-and-off by myself and my brother-in-law (who is a Brazilian jiu-jitsu instructor), and another brother-in-law who has just recently started training. (There, my pedigree is complete.)

Whether I know how to fight or not is immaterial. It’s my belief that I know how to fight and defend myself that means everything. It’s this belief that allows me to laugh at people who threaten me. I mean really laugh. And that confidence is confuses them to the point of not pushing things to another level.

Several years ago, I was involved in a bit of a bench-clearing near-brawl in a softball game. There was a lot of dust and squaring off, but nothing of any import. As I walked away, a guy grabbed me around the waist.

“You got the wrong guy,” I said without looking back. “You have one shot, one punch, and that’s it. Make it good because you’ve got the wrong guy.” I already had him set up for an armlock that I’ve done a hundred times against fully resisting opponents. “You’ve got the wrong guy,” I told him one more time.

Just like the golfer above, something inside me was joyous that maybe – just maybe – I’ll get another shot to see if this shit still work. (I say “still” because I got in a real fight nine or ten years ago and it worked. But that’s another story for a different day.) It’s this little bit of joyousness and supreme confidence that is disarming.

The guy just let go of me and walked away, just like yesterday.