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On Ducks, Phil, the 1st Amendment, and the Cable Business

December 19, 2013

ku-mediumLet me start by saying that I am, in fact, a fan of ‘Duck Dynasty’. I appreciate it for it’s light-hearted entertainment value, for how much it reminds me of all my hunting-season friends back in Bama, for how closely the members of the Robertson family resemble many of my in-laws and cousins, etc. I am a fan of ‘Duck Dynasty’, and in fact, have slowly cultivated my wife and father-in-law into fans of the show as well. So I think I have some credibility as I launch into this discussion. With that put out as the palate cleanser, here we go . . .

As most people are aware now, Phil Robertson was suspended from ‘Duck Dynasty’ indefinitely for comments he made in a recently published article in GQ (published only on the internet – the print edition won’t hit till next month). In the article, Phil spoke at length about his biblical beliefs, how strongly his faith ties to his personal actions and his views of the state of the United States at this time in history. Much to the chagrin of the A+E Networks (the home of ‘Duck Dynasty’), he focused several comments on the homosexual community. Now, as someone who grew up in the South around men like Phil, nothing was surprising. He made the usual links to the book of Corinthians, to overall sin, to not understanding why a real “man” would want to be gay, etc. He also linked homosexuality to other sins, including bestiality (which may have been where A+E felt that had to do something).

Again, having grown up in the South, none of this shocked me. That does not mean I agreed with it – it just means that when I look and listen to Phil, I’m not looking for a fount of progressive politics or knowledge. I understand that Phil is a product of his upbringing and culture, and that he has decided that he does not agree with where many of the views of contemporary America have gone in terms of beliefs and values. While I don’t personally agree with Phil, I believe Phil has a right to speak those values . . . and this is where I start to have a problem with the backlash.

Much of the COMPLETELY FORESEEABLE backlash against A+E’s decision to suspend Phil has been targeted at what people see as some kind of “oppression” of Phil’s 1st Amendment rights to speak his mind. This drives me crazy. Let’s be very clear. A+E is not the government. Phil was not stopped from giving that interview, and A+E did not pressure GQ to not run the interview. He gave it, they ran it, and then A+E Networks decided to suspend him for espousing a viewpoint that they felt did not lineup with their cultural values. Phil was not arrested. Phil is not going to jail. Phil is still a millionaire several times over, and will still reap millions of dollars going forward based upon the empire that’s been built by both the Duck Commander and ‘Duck Dynasty’ brands. He is also completely free to keep giving interviews and to keep espousing the exact same view that he gave in this article. So, please, enlighten me – where were his 1st Amendment rights trampled upon?

People seem to have conflated a right to freedom of speech to a right to freedom of speech FREE OF ANY REPERCUSSIONS IN THE PRIVATE SECTOR. That, my friends, is both not how the 1st Amendment works, nor is it the way the real world works. If you join the KKK and get on the local news spouting your specific beliefs and it gets a lot of attention, don’t expect to get back to work and have everything hunky-dory if your workplace has significant contracts with minority-owned businesses. They’re going to realize that your continued employment might impact their brand, and they will handle you accordingly. A+E Networks is not just A+E, but also Lifetime, Lifetime Movie Network, Lifetime For Women, and a shit ton of the History Channel offspring. Don’t you think they know that their networks interact significantly with the gay population in America, and they’d rather protect their overall brand than one particular (though wildly popular in the moment) show?

This actually gets me to my last point, and this is a bit more conspiratorial. Many people are saying that A+E has set itself up for a significant backlash. One blogger pointed to the stand that GLAAD took against Chick-fil-A, which simply helped pushed Chick-fil-A’s sales even higher during the period of GLAAD’s boycott. The Machiavellian prince in me can’t help but wonder if A+E thought about this and wondered, “There’s no wrong move to make here.”

Seriously, think about these two scenarios:

Scenario A) A+E doesn’t suspend Phil. They catch flack from some minority groups, but the core constituency of DD viewers applaud A+E for not giving in, and they continue to watch the show.

Scenario B) A+E suspends Phil. DD faithful rally to the DD cause, including buying even more DD products and encouraging all their friends to continue watching the show, along with letter and email campaigns that get attention on the interwebs, all pushing the DD brand into even higher public recognition. DD ratings continue to grow.

See what I mean? A+E Networks was in a no-lose situation, and may have even positioned themselves to GAIN viewers, either by simply continuing to broadcast the show, or possibly even by bringing Phil back at a later date.

From a business standpoint, A+E, much like Parker Lewis, CAN’T LOSE!

So again, in summary – I disagree with Phil’s specific comments, but I agree with his right to say them. I also agree with his private sector employer, A+E, in that they have the right to act how they sit fit to manage their overall business brand. Finally, I think it might possibly be one huge conspiratorial scheme, and everyone is going to be richer by New Year’s Day. Quack quack.

Race Review: Sacramento Spartan Beast

October 30, 2013

imagesFor years, I’ve been a runner. I’ve run 3 full marathons, 2 half-marathons, and a variety of 10Ks, 5Ks, and the like. At this point, I’ve got my running routine down pretty well, and my body is accustomed to the rigors of a race. In the spring, I decided to run the Bay 2 Breakers race here in San Fran. It’s only a little over 7 miles, so I didn’t feel the need to put in too much training; I knew I could easily nail that distance. At the conclusion, I looked at my time and was generally pleased. It was a little slower than I might have preferred, but nothing I thought I should worry about too much.

Then the official race pictures became available. Holy. Cow.

What I saw in those photos from Bay 2 Breakers killed me. What I saw was a fat guy running. Yes, I ran at a solid pace. Yes, I finished in the top 20% of racers in my overall/age/gender brackets (which, honestly, wasn’t hard at an event like B2B since most racers treat the event as simply a drinking experiment). The truth, though, was that I saw a guy with a very large, noticeable spare tire. That’s when I had to face up to some hard facts: I was not in shape.

Despite my consistently running for the past decade, I had spent the last year or two letting my physical shape deteriorate. From the time my daughter was born in March of 2012, I used every excuse: “I’m sympathy eating with my pregnant wife”; “I can’t really go exercise, I have to watch the baby”, etc. The cold hard truth was that I had gained at least 10 lbs since my daughter was born, and that was from a starting point that was probably already 15lbs heavier than what I should have been.

So in May, I made up my mind that I needed to get in serious shape. To facilitate that, I knew that I needed something to motivate and drive my workouts. However, I knew just running wouldn’t do the trick (I already knew how to run and still eat unhealthy). So, I started looking at the latest trend: obstacle races.

The cry of Sparta

I started out doing a general search of upcoming obstacle races. I looked at Tough Mudder, Warrior Dash, and other smaller outfits. Soon, though, I came upon the Spartan Races. There was something uniquely appealing about the description of their events, and the videos alone already had me wanting to pound my chest. I looked at the calendar and saw that their would be a race in October near Sacramento. The location was right, the timing was good (it would give me about 5 months of training/weight loss), and the distance was what I was looking for to really push me. This specific race was to be a Spartan Beast, the longest of their three main races. A Spartan Beast is at least 12 miles, and at least 25 obstacles. That meant I had to train to run at least a half-marathon, but would also have to really focus on developing my upper body and muscle stamina. I signed up almost immediately.

What followed over the next 5 months was nothing short of a blessing. The next day, I started receiving Spartan WOD (Workout of the Day) emails. Each one was a perfect mix of upper body development combined with 2-5 mile runs. Within a few months, I had already lost 10 lbs. By the time September rolled around, I was down 20lbs+, and for the first time in my life, I had a noticeable six-pack. That wasn’t to say I had attained perfection, not by a long shot. The entire process, though, had been exactly what I had hoped for; it had motivated me to get into actual shape. However, that left one checkbox to still be marked . . .

Race Day in Sparta

The actual day of the race was at times exactly what I expected, and at other times much more than I could have imagined. The race event was held on a sprawling ranch to the southwest of Sacramento. It was, for all intents and purposes, in the middle of nowhere. Compared with other big marathons I’ve run, the facilities and vendors around the race were . . . well, Spartan. I was checked-in in a manner of minutes. This left me about 20 minutes to mill about and start getting mentally ready. I watched two waves of races start ahead of me. Seeing them be lead in a kick-off cheer by the MC, I started getting excited. Soon, I was crossing over the start wall myself. At 9:15 a.m., my wave was released from the starting gate, and my race began.

The first couple of obstacles were what I had expected – walls to climb, walls to crawl under, monkey bars to swing from, etc. I was immediately caught off guard, though, by just how much emptiness lay between the obstacles. Having mostly run city races, I wasn’t prepared for the long stretches of lonely, cracked earth between each obstacle. However, in the early stages, I was handling everything pretty much as well as expected.

About 45 minutes in, I hit the first challenge that really mentally pushed me – the first barbed wire crawl. You see, I expected a stretch of mud under wire; what came before me was a seemingly 20-yard stretch of gravely rock-filled pools of water. I was soon scraping myself against rocks, trying to keep the muddy water out of my mouth, and hoping to stay low enough that I didn’t snag my clothes (or skin). By the time I was done, I was soaked and cut from head to knee (my long socks and shows would save me a few times that afternoon). The race proceeded in much the same way, with each obstacle seemingly getting harder and harder.

One pleasant surprise was the rope climb. While I hard done arm and upper-body workouts, I had never found a rope to train on. So I approached the rope climb with some trepidation. However, I was happy to find that I was able to quickly ascend the rope and hit the bell. “Was that the hardest thing the course had to throw at me?”, I wondered, stupidly. Of course it wouldn’t be.

One of the toughest obstacles was a suspended rope crawl, upside down, over a large pond about 4-feet deep. thanks to my socks, I was able to hit the bell in the middle and finish the obstacle; however, you still had to drop down in the middle of the lake and paddle the rest of the way to the other side of the pond. Again, I was drenched. My shoes alternated between dry and concrete throughout the race.

I was motivated to finish each obstacle because of fear of the penalty for obstacle failure: 30 penalty burpees. Burpees can drain the energy from you quickly, and so I didn’t want to do them if I I could avoid it. At the end of the day, there were 29 obstacles, and there was only one that forced me into the penalty box. On a obstacle called the “Hercules Lift”, you were required to use a rope and pulley to elevate a 20 galled paint bucket filled with gravel all the way to the top. I approached it in a haphazardly manner, and soon I had dropped the bucket well short of the goal. Oh well, 28/29 ain’t bad on your first go round.

In the end, I finished the race just a few minutes of my own personal 4-hour goal. At 4:08:08, I finished my first Spartan Race in the  top 13% overall, and the top 15% in both my age and gender brackets. Considering some of the in-shape, chiseled, obviously Cross-Fity types that I was running the race with, I considered this a huge personal victory.

I am now addicted to the Spartan Races. I’ve already talked Hol into running a Spartan Sprint with me in January, and my goal for 2014 is to complete a Spartan Trifecta (completing a Sprint, and Super, and a Beast in the same calendar year). Better than that, though, is the feeling that at 31, I am in the best shape of my life, and i don’t ever want to turn back.




A Voyage Home & The Great Mobile, AL Instagram Challenge

August 13, 2013

Mobile-park-downtownWhen I was but a wee lad, maybe one or two years old, my parents took a vacation from our home in Indiana down to visit some relatives living in Mobile, AL. On that trip, at some point, they visited one of Mobile’s most famous tourist attractions, the USS Alabama. A picture was taken during that trip of my father climbing the stairs of the ship, with me strapped to his chest. This is one of my favorite pictures, because it was a foreshadowing. It was a marker in time in which my soul was rooted partially to the city that would eventually become my home at the age of six, the Azalea City of Mobile.

I lived in Mobile until I graduated from high school, when I moved off to Montevallo, AL for college. being only three hours away, though, I still took plenty of trips back home. It wasn’t until I graduated from college in 2004 that my links to Mobile became more tenuous. By that time, most of my closest friends had become my fraternity brothers and other college friends. After I moved to Indianapolis for work, I came back to Alabama alot, but mostly just stopping in Birmingham and Montevallo. The trips back to Mobile became more and more infrequent.

Last year, before we moved to California, we took a road trip to Mobile. That was my first trip back in almost two years. Now, again, it’s been over a year since I’ve been home. Yet, that’s the key word, isn’t it – home. I wasn’t born there, and I haven’t lived there in over a decade now. Without a doubt, though, Mobile, AL is still my hometown.

On August 23rd, I’ll be boarding a plane for Indianapolis. After a quick stop at a friend’s wedding reception that Saturday, I’ll begin a roadtrip down to Mobile, AL. I won’t be alone, either; GVH will be my roadtrip partner for this voyage home to the motherland. It will be a great week for her to reconnect with her grandma and grandpa from her Daddy. A few weeks ago, I started thinking again about that picture of me as a baby aboard the USS Alabama. Thus, the idea for The Great Mobile, AL Instagram Challenge was born.

I want GVH, years, from now, to feel a similar link to my hometown. So for the week of August 26th – August 31st, I plan on taking GVH to as many landmarks as possible, and taking her picture there. Those pictures will be kept on my phone, but they will also be posted to Instagram and Facebook. Why? Because as we’ve learned, memories live forever now on the Internet, and I want GVH to be able to look back on a journey that she surely won’t remember, seeing as she’s only 17 months old.

It’s not just landmarks that we’re going to hit, though, and that’s where you all, my social media connections, come in. You see, when I look on Facebook, I have hundreds of “friends” on Facebook in Mobile. These are people who, through social media, know most everything going on in my (and GVHs) life. Yet many of you, I haven’t seen you in the flesh or talked to you in years. So whereas Part I of this Challenge involves landmarks and landscapes, Part II involves people. As many people as possible. I’m going to try and take as many pictures of Mobile people in my social media network as possible, all with GVH included. Some of you I’ll reach out to personally, and some of you I may just stalk at work (that’s your fault for posting your place of business on Facebook, sucka!).

Where you can help in this Challenge is simple – simply ping me on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram that you’re up to being a small bit player in this Challenge. Your message need be no longer than simply “I’m in.”. I’ll then arrange with you a time and place. Don’t worry – I’m not going to take up hours of your life (I’ve got a baby in tow, after all). It may be as simple as a five minutes break at Starbucks near where you work or live, maybe it’s a lunch, whatever you have time for that week. However, I want GVH to be able to look at this album 20 years from now and think, “Wow, I really met a lot of people in Mobile. That must be an important place for me just like it is for Dad.”

So now, the question is simply this – who’s in?

Thoughts at the Closing Bell:

  • Miguel Cabrera won the Triple Crown and AL MVP last year. That was historic. And yet, he’s actually SURPASSING his numbers from last year this season. This guy is a first-ballot Hall of Famer, and I’m just happy he’s in a Tigers uniform while he’s doing it.
  • Drafted my fantasy football team this past Sunday, using an iPad while on the beach in Santa Cruz. Here’s an indicator of how I feel about my team – the highlight of the day is that I got a sunburn on my back.
  • Just finished reading “Drift” by Rachel Maddow. If you have any interest about the current state of the US military and the future of the American military, I advise giving it a look. It’s a quick but great read.
  • So Sydney Leathers, Anthony Weiner’s sext mistress, officially cashed in and filmed a porno. Soooo . . . good for her??
  • Orange is the New Black on Netflix; worth your time on a binge this weekend, I promise.
  • Breaking Bad on AMC; worth ALL AND ANY OF YOUR TIME WHENEVER.

You Live With Your Parents? That’s Cool. No, Really . . . Good Move.

August 5, 2013

images (2)When I was 18, I couldn’t wait to move away from home and off to college. When I graduated at the age of 22, I couldn’t wait to move out of the dorms and into my first apartment. My first job out of college was three states away from home. At no point when I was getting ready to graduate did I ever even contemplate moving back home. Most of my friends felt the same way. The few friends that did move back home usually received the same “you’re moving back home?!?!” line of questioning from our crew.

However, since the economy tanked in 2008 and took down its fair share of Jacks and Roses with it, more and more millennials have been presented with just that decision. A new pew research study has found that, at 36 percent, more young adults aged 18 – 31 are living at home than at any time in the last four decades. This shouldn’t be surprising, given that this group has also been one of the hardest hit in the Great Recession, with unemployment  spiking to almost 7% for recent graduates in 2010. Even more depressing, though, is the underemployment – those recent grads that can find jobs are mostly finding them as baristas and shelf stockers. Underemployment for recent grads is at nearly 45% (compared with slightly under 35% for all college graduates).

So with that kind of information, we obviously shouldn’t be shocked that so many people are moving back in with their parents during and after college. For me, the bigger question is this – should we have ever been shocked? Notice that the 36% rate is the highest in four decades; this means that it was at least that high just as recently as the late 1960s. When we look at the statistics, we see that we’re still not as high as the numbers coming into the 1940s.

What’s changed, though, is the way we perceive and talk about living at home. The economics of the country forced many young adults to stay at home just as long, if not longer, for much our country’s history. More regular economic “shocks” like the Great Recession saw many family’s living together until a young adult married, and sometimes even after that; multi-family homes were not uncommon, especially in larger cities like NYC, in the late 1800s and early 1900s. However, that all started changing in the 60’s and 70’s, when there was more pressure to illustrate your success and “independence” as an adult by moving into your own home or apartment. By the early 80’s, the percent of young adults living at home hit an all-time low.

What was won by having all those young people living on the own so early? People weren’t able to save as much because they were taking on rent or mortgages earlier in life, families were forced to make longer-term commitments to homes then they weren’t potentially ready for, etc. By the 90’s and 2000s, the amount of money in savings and retirement accounts was in the negative.

If I hear now that a person just out of college, or still in college, is living back at home, I don’t scoff or laugh like I once did. Now, I say, “Hey, man, that’s not the worst idea, save some money.” The trick is to get the rest of society, particularly the older members of society, to see the benefits of this shift as well (headlines like, “Millennial moochers” don’t help).

Thoughts at the closing bell:

  • The last week of August, I’ll be going home to Mobile, AL with GVH in tow to visit my parents and just visit home. I haven’t spent more than a long weekend in Mobile in forever. I’ve actually come up with what I think will be a fun and interesting social media experiment around that trip, which I’ll likely unveil later this week or next.
  • The Tigers made a great move at the trade deadline, in my opinion, and are now poised to fight off Cleveland and Kansas City as we head to the end of the season.
  • Football is almost back. My fantasy team, the California Cobra Kai, will be polished and ready.
  • Last week, 2016 GOP hopefulls Chris Christie and Rand Paul got in some early pot-shots at each other. However, Christie has his work cut out for him. While his favorables within the GOP are strong, his unfavorables are almost the same, which isn’t good when you’re thinking about the primaries. Oh, and the majority of the GOP thinks that the party needs to get more conservative . . . so there’s that.
  • Saw the first couple episodes of the new Netflix original series “Orange Is The New Black” this weekend, and now I’m excited to binge watch the rest of the season. Great show, just really well done.

That’s all for now, kids. One love to you all.

This Is The Move That Never Ends, Yes It Goes On and On . . .

July 25, 2013

970627_t607At the ripe old age of 31, I have moved many times in my life. Some have been short moves; some have been long moves. Some have been “sweet Jesus, how are we supposed to get over there?!?!” moves. At this point in time, you would think that I would have this moving this down to a science. Here is a brief history of my move:

  • 1982 – I moved from my mother’s womb into a small two-bedroom house in Evansville, IN with my parents. I didn’t have much to pack at that point. My only luggage, a placenta, was taken away from me immediately upon vacating my studio apartment in the womb.
  • 1984 – We move from Evansville, IN to a small house in Bridgeport, IL. Again, at 2, I don’t help a lot. Bridgeport has one stop light and possibly one horse.
  • 1988 – We move from Bridgeport, IL to the thriving metropolis of Cottage Hill, IL, a suburb of St. Louis. A little more involved in the process, but still not much to move.
  • 1989 – My first big move, we make the journey from Cottage Hill, IL to the historic city of Mobile, AL. My life is forever changed, as I become a Southerner for the formative years of my life.
  • 1993 – We move from our apartment in Mobile to a new house. This is my first “cross-town” move, but again, I was too young to pick up many lessons from the journey.
  • 2000 – This is the first move that is really all about me, as I move from my house in Mobile, AL to my first dorm room in Montevallo, AL. This is the first time I move furniture all by myself (albeit, it was a couch I was helping another friend from High School going to the same college as me move to her dorm room).
  • 2000 – 2004 – There are at least three dorm room moves during college, but considering my “furniture” was never more than one huge couch and about 8 boxes, I can never claim it was that taxing.
  • 2004 – This is my first truly big move on my own, as I rent a U-Haul trailer to pull behind my truck as I make the move from Montevallo, AL to Fishers, IN, a suburb of Indianapolis, for my first job out of college. I handle this move like a boss.
  • 2006 – I make the move from my apartment in Fishers, IN to my new apartment in downtown Indianapolis, IN after exchanging these things called “wedding vows” with Hol.
  • 2009 – After Hol decided on residency in Cincinnati, OH, we make what is truly the first back-breaking move of my life, as we have to get all of our apartments worth of furniture to the new home we bought in Cincinnati. This is the first time I had to rent a full moving truck, though I didn’t have to drive it since my father-in-law was available.
  • 2012 – This is the move, chronicled on this blog last year, from our home in Cincinnati, OH to our new apartment, almost 2000 miles away in Cupertino, CA. Trying to get all of our stuff out of that house in about 72 hours was the first time I realized just how much work moving could be, especially if not organized.

So after our last moving experience, you’d think I’d have been ready this year, right? Having made the decision, scouting locations for weeks, and then finally finding a new rental home in the area approx 15 minutes from our apartment, you’d think I’d have planned the move down to the last detail, right?

Wrong. So wrong. Oh, so wrong.

Our move out date from our Apartment was July 11th. On June 28th, we began our earnest effort to begin boxing things up. “We can take our time”, we said. “We can move a couple of boxes a day”, I smiled stupidly. By July 6th, I realized the leisurely pace I had set for us wasn’t going to work. Couple this with the fact that I hadn’t rented a truck, but had made the decision to just make the move using my brother-in-laws Ram Nitro, and I quickly realized that I’d made a horrible mistake.

From July 6th – July 10th, I spent every night at the old apartment boxing things up and moving boxes and furniture to the new house. By July 11th, I was frantically trying to get the last few straggling pieces of our life out of our apartment and Cupertino and trying my best to clean the place up. At that point, when then apartment company did a final walk-through of our place, I had averaged three hours of sleep a night for the past six days. Thus, I was a little grumpy when the inspector informed me that we were likely going to have to pay for the carpet to be replaced, based on a few spots caused by our recently deceased Golden Retriever, Karley, as she lost control of her stomach more often. No deposit back? Oh, cool story, bro. I hate money, anyways.

After all that, we still weren’t even done. On July 12th, I realized that what we had now at our new place was currently just a garage slammed full of boxes. At times, I couldn’t even walk through it to get to the washing machine. Thus, the “move” continued even after we were officially “moved”. There are still boxes in the garage, staring at me, taunting me, laughing at me. Screw you, boxes. All of you.

In the end, though, it was worth it. Our new home in Mountain View, CA feels in many ways like we’ve finally regained some of what we lost after leaving downtown Indianapolis. We are right downtown, and so we can once again walk to everything we could want: shops, restaurants, theater, grocery, parks, etc. Living in a walk-able, livable neighborhood is all we ever really wanted, and so in many ways, I’ve already fallen in love with the new place. Oh, and we shaved several hundred dollars off of our rent, so, win-win!

The Measure Of A Man

In a young boys life, there are many people who will influence him. They can be men and women, but often times, men will make some of the biggest impressions. There is usually no bigger role model than a boy’s father. After his father, though, there could be any number of men who will play a role. Who will provide an example, who will teach additional lessons, and who will guide and influence that boy.

For me, one of those men was Pete Poulos. When I was a kid, I was in an organization called Royal Rangers (think Boy Scouts, but with more Jesus). From the age of about 7 until about 13, I was spending a lot of my free time learning about the symbolism of the Ranger emblem, about surviving in the outdoors, about this history of frontiersman (especially after I was accepted into the elite Frontiersman Camping Fellowship). For the majority of that time, Pete Poulos was one of my commanders.

I’ll readily admit, like most young boys, I probably didn’t know a lot about Pete’s personal life. What I did know is that Pete was a stern yet caring man. I knew he cared about me and wanted to help me. I knew he wanted to see me be honest, hard-working, and wanted to see me achieve everything to the best of my ability. Those things were important to him, and so they were important to me as well. I knew he was strong as an ox, despite his smaller stature (he couldn’t have been more than 5’5, but he could take a punch in the stomach from a man twice his height). He was proud of his heritage (Greek) and his adopted heritage (Native American). I knew he loved his wife and his family, and that those were things to be cherished as well.

Over the weekend, Pete Poulos passed away. Because of my infrequent trips home, I hadn’t seen him much in recent years. When I had gone home, though, he made sure to tell me he was proud of the man I’d become. You paid a role in that, Commander Pete. Enjoy your well-earned peace with the Lord. I can only hope to leave a legacy behind like you have, one day.

Thoughts at the Closing Bell:

  • The In-laws are in town, which means we become tourists in our own city again, which is nice since we don’t actually do that on our own. We took them down to Ano Nuevos State Reserve over the weekend, and today we’re taking them up to Muir Woods.
  • The Tigers are on fire right now . . . but Miguel Cabrera is currently out with a sore hip. Let’s all take a moment to send him good vibes and healing power.
  • Speaking of baseball, Braves pitcher Tim Hudson had his ankle broken last night. The warning – the video might make your retch a little bit.
  • Still trying to use cords to hook up your computer to your TV for Netflix? Still thinking of paying $100 for Apple TV or some other device? Chromecast is calling, and it’s changing the game for only $35.

That’s all for now, kids. One love to you all.

It’s Not The Race Card; It’s The Cowboy Card

July 16, 2013

stand-your-ground-statesLike most of America over the last few months, it has been impossible for me to avoid coverage of the George Zimmerman trial. For those who have lived under a rock, here is a synopsis: George Zimmerman performed “neighborhood watch” patrols regularly around his gated community. On February 26th, 2012, Zimmerman noticed an individual in a dark hoodie walking around the neighborhood (this would later be revealed to be Trayvon Martin, a 17-year-old walking back from a convenience store to a home he was at with his father). Zimmerman called the police, and told them he was following the individual and believed he was up to suspicious activity. The police informed Zimmerman that they would handle it, and that he should stop pursuing the individual. When Zimmerman noted that he would possibly pursue the individual on foot, the police explicitly told Zimmerman that he should NOT pursue the individual. Ignoring this, Zimmerman eventually got out of his vehicle and began pursuing the individual (Martin) on foot. At some point, and this is the gray area of the facts, Martin realized he was being followed, and after approx 4-5 minutes, turned around to confront Zimmerman. An altercation ensued, and during the altercation, Zimmerman pulled out a gun and fired at Martin, killing almost instantly.

After a jury-trial, Zimmerman was found not guilty of 2nd-degree murder and not guilty of manslaughter. Many people were outraged at these verdicts. However, many people had already steeled themselves for this outcome. Why? Because the law was on Zimmerman’s side from the minute he started potentially losing the fight. And this is not in a “on his side because Trayvon was black” kind of statement (though you could certainly find evidence to that if you wanted to, but I don’t here); it was on his side because this ridiculous law was written specifically for people in Zimmerman’s position. Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” law is part of Florida Statute 776.012. At it’s base is a idea that many people sympathize with – the idea that you should be able to protect your home, your property, and your body with any force available is very “American”. Most gun users are echoing this statement when they say things like, “As an American, I have a right to protect myself and my family by any means necessary!”

Look, I get this. The idea that if an intruder is coming into your home, or if a mugger attacks you on the street, that you have the right to blast them into oblivion seems fantastic. We as American’s have this romanticized view of the Wild, Wild West (wiki wiki), where men were men and they protected their own by any means necessary, including a piece of cold steel in their hand!

The reason these laws are usually called “Stand Your Ground” laws, is because that in most of American legal history, there has been an idea that if you CAN reasonably retreat from a fight or altercation, that you SHOULD retreat from a fight or altercation. With these laws, that duty to retreat is thrown out the window, thus giving you the right to “stand your ground” if you feel you are in danger of losing your life, or at least in danger of great bodily harm.

However, Florida’s SYG law (and many of the other states in the US with matching laws) enters almost immediate shaky ground towards the end of the law. That’s where we get to 776.041, which states:

Use of force by aggressor. —The justification described in the preceding sections of this chapter is not available to a person who:

(1) Is attempting to commit, committing, or escaping after the commission of, a forcible felony; or

(2) Initially provokes the use of force against himself or herself, unless:

(a) Such force is so great that the person reasonably believes that he or she is in imminent danger of death or great bodily harm and that he or she has exhausted every reasonable means to escape such danger other than the use of force which is likely to cause death or great bodily harm to the assailant; or

(b) In good faith, the person withdraws from physical contact with the assailant and indicates clearly to the assailant that he or she desires to withdraw and terminate the use of force, but the assailant continues or resumes the use of force.

So right here was the turn, ladies and gentleman, and why everyone pretty much knew that Zimmerman was going to walk. According to these laws, even if you are the aggressor in an altercation, as long as you can get someone to “reasonably doubt” that at some point the fight turned out of your favor, your free to start shooting at will. In case I have to spell it out for you, THIS IS BANANAS.

Now some would argue, “Look, this was a bad situation for Trayvon, but overall, the law is good and it works!” No, no it’s not. Even if the Zimmerman case had never happened, this law is a disaster and is being abused right and left. Don’t believe me?

The Tampa Bay Times, in the wake of the Zimmerman case, began in investigation in June to review as many “Stand Your Ground” cases as possible. They reviewed around 240 cases dating back to 2005. The results are mind-numbing. In review, here are just a few of the most choice findings:

  • In the cases where the victim was killed, 70% of the victims were completely unarmed. In comparison, in the cases where the accused murdered the victim, 63% of the accused were armed with a gun.
  • In 53% of the cases, the defendant’s could have clearly retreated at some point before the killing (or attempted killing in the “lucky” cases) occurred.
  • In 51% of the cases, the defendant clearly pursed the victim, eventually leading to the altercation.
  • In 68% of cases, the defendant is not punished at all.
  • In 73% of the cases, the victim was NOT committing a crime or even coming close to committing a crime before the altercation.
  • When a black person was killed, the accused walked free 73% of the time. When a white person was killed, that freedom ratio drops to 59% of the time. That’s a 14% freedom swing based on race, kids.

If these stats alone aren’t enough to help you see the immense flaws in the way this law is written, then I simply point you to this case. Or this one. Or this one. Or, sweet lord, this one. The common thread with all of these is that they paint a very different picture than the one defenders of the law try to paint, of the proud American man defending his home from robbers. This law is ridiculously flawed, and deserves some fairly massive overhaul in how and when it can be applied.

But it won’t. It won’t be changed. It won’t be altered. Because, as recent attempts at gun reform on a national level have shown, nothing is going to prevent us from retreating to our wild, wild west ways. We are a society driven crazy by the notion that there’s ever a wrong time to have and use a gun, as long as we personally feel justified.

Thoughts at the Closing Bell:

That’s all for now, kids. One love to you all.

It’s Summertime, and you need a playlist!

June 25, 2013

summertime-prlrDoes anything beat driving around in the summer, windows down, hands (and maybe feet, if you’re a passenger) out of the window, feeling the breeze? When you’re on the perfect summer road, whether it’s in the sticks of Alabama (like much of my teen years), or driving down Pacific Coast Highway 1, and all you feel is the warmth of the sun guiding you to your destination – isn’t that near perfection? Well, it becomes full perfection with one addition – the radio.

Frankly, like some people have a deep love of Christmas music in December, I am a sucker for music that pulls at the emotional connections to Summer time. Friday was the official first day of Summer, and with that in mind, I invite you to look over my “Perfect Summer Playlist”. These are songs that either have Summer in the title, or are so specifically about Summer that you can’t help but smile while you roll down the windows. These are also songs that were crowning hits in the summer time, and thus are always linked to summer fun. Without further ado:

Andy’s Summer Playlist (Spotify Link):

  • “Summertime”, DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince – This song came out when there was no one, I repeat, NO ONE, cooler than Will Smith. At the height of TV fame, with ‘Independence Day’ just a few years around the corner, Big Willie came out with the song that every child of the 90’s IMMEDIATELY starts singing when they hear the words “summer time”. (this song samples another Summer classic, “Summer Madness” by Kool & the Gang)
  • “Summertime”, Kenny Chesney – While Will Smith’s ‘Summertime’ will always invoke my childhood, Kenny Chesney has somehow managed to invoke how I remember my teenage and early college years. So many of those years were spent driving out to friends houses on Dog River in Alabama, to Dauphin Island and Orange Beach, or to friend’s houses from Montevallo who lived in countless small towns in Alabama. The picture Chesney paints of just driving down some random country rode is enough to make me want to get in a rental car now and head to Montevallo.
  • “Cruel Summer”, Bananarama – Let’s not even talk about how this was in pretty much every summer “scene” from any movie in the 80’s and 90’s. This song is summer for me because it was in a key scene from “The Karate Kid”. As a kid in Alabama who was basically locked up in my apartment all summer in elementary school, I watched my VHS of “The Karate Kid” at least 100 times each summer, and thus I heard this song 100 times+ each summer.
  • “All Summer Long”, Kid Rock – For those who don’t know already, I have a deep, unabashed affinity for one Mr. Bob Ritchie, a.k.a. Kid Rock. I own every Kid Rock album, and so I was already predisposed to like his take on Summer. Then he gives me a song that combines “Werewolves in London” and “Sweet Home, Alabama”? Game over; you’re on the list, Bob.
  • “Summer Nights”, Rascal Flatts – I’m not usually a huge fan of Rascal Flatts ( a bone of contention in the Heaton household). Damn, though, if this song doesn’t make you happy and make you wish you were at the bon fire from the video. Somehow, country music does Summer better than other forms of music.
  • “Summer Love”, Justin Timberlake – Oh, you wanted a Summer song you could dance to? DONE. Of course it came from J. Timbo.
  • “The Boys of Summer”, Don Henley – How many movies has this song been in? Too many to count. Why? Because it’s “The Boys of Summer”!
  • “Summer of ’69”, Bryan Adams – Songs that make you realize that high school might have been the best time of your life aren’t alwasys the best as you get older. Yet they also become ever MORE important as you get older, because, well, they really might have been the best years of your life.
  • “I Get Around”, The Beach Boys – Our first entry that doesn’t have Summer in the title. Appropriately, it’s The Beach Boys. They don’t need to put Summer in the title. Summer exists wholly within their sound. You hear a Beach Boys song, and you’re already in the water.
  • “Walking on Sunshine”, Katrina & the Waves – I mean, seriously, if this song doesn’t make you immediately happy and ready to sing out loud with the windows down, you might not have a soul.
  • “Steal My Sunshine”, Len – Ok, so Len is the definition of a one-hit wonder. That being said, this was a summer-dominating blast of a song when I was in high school, and I can’t hear it without thinking about summer. (also see LFO below in the HMs)
  • “Crazy in Love”, Beyonce – Just like Len dominated my middle school summers, Beyonce took over the summer during college. It’s crazy to think that this song is TEN YEARS OLD now. Jebus.
  • “Surf City”, Jan and Dean – I hate that most people hear Jan and Dean and just assume they’re The Beach Boys. Jan and Dean, for a certain generation of Americans, are the soundtrack to summer in and of themselves.
  • “California Gurls”, Katy Perry – I didn’t want to. I really didn’t want to . . . but you can’t deny the dominance this song held on summer at the beginning of the decade.
  • “Thong Song”, Sisqo – It’s almost quaint to listen to it now, but I remember the song and the video just feeling amazingly scandalous as a junior in high school. Also, this song was EVERYWHERE that summer, and thus just feels like summer.
  • “Umbrealla”, Rhianna – This song killed everything in it’s path the summer of 2007, the summer before I started law school. Thus, it’s got a sentimental place in my heart. Also, it’s made Rhi-rhi’s conquering of the known world possible.
  • “Glory Days”, Bruce Springsteen – So this song by itself doesn’t really conjure up summer. However, when you tie in the theme of whistful remembrence of high school, baseball, and times gone by, and you get a perfect song to sing-a-long to as your on the long summer drive home.
  • Honorable Mentions on the List: “Long Hot Summer”, Keith Urban; “One Summer”, 2 Skinnee J’s; “Summer Nights”, Olivia Newton-John & John Travolta; “Endless Summer” Aaron Lewis; “Summer Girls”, LFO; “Summer in the City”, The Lovin’ Spoonfull; “California Girls”, The Beach Boys; “In the Summer Time”, Mungo Jerry, “Hot in Herre”, Nelly; “Summer Breeze”, Seals & Crofts; “School’s Out”, Alice Cooper; “We Like To Party!”, Vengaboys; “Bootylicious”, Destiny’s Child.

Thoughts at the closing bell:

  • Had my first ever annual review last week? The synopsis? Nailed it. Taking this job at Fenwick & West has been one of the best career choices I’ve ever made.
  • After weeks of scouring Craigslist, going to numerous showing, we’ve FINALLY found a new place to rent. While we love our apartment in Cupertino, Cupertino itself is just too far from both our jobs for our liking. So we have found a BALLER place in downtown Mt. View, and we sign the lease tonight! More details to follow.
  • The Tigers are still in first. I think they cruise to the pole at this point, seeing as Cleveland just can’t match us in power or pitching, and neither can the Sox.
  • Today, SCOTUS struck down Art. IV of the VRA, essentially rendering the whole Act useless. Tomorrow, though, is the big enchilada – Marriage Equality.
  • Videos like this one are the only reason the internet should exist – Bandz a Make Stephanie Tanner Dance.

That’s all for now, kids. One love to you all!


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