Clemson Football Championship Parade

The parade starts at 10:00 a.m.  The parade starts between 9:00 a.m. and 10:00 a.m.  The parade starts at 9:30 a.m.  The parade starts at 9:00 a.m. 

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Okay, is it worth traveling from Atlanta to get there, park, walk to the parade route, and spend the majority of a day celebrating the accomplishments of others?  Well, yes.  It’s been 35 years since Clemson has won it all in football, and it just felt right.  As it turned out, it felt right to about 65,000 other people as well.

Coach Dabo Swinney revealed the night of the Championship game that the parade had already been planned.  And why not?  Last year, after a narrow loss, over 2,000 fans greeted the team upon their late night return home.  Poor Alabama.  Their current team came within a second of finishing #1, and to show their lack of appreciation, all but 12 of them shunned the team’s return.  It’s definitely time for a party.  Only, what would this parade look like?  Well, there it begins, below.

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This guy had a pretty funny poster, a mostly hated nemesis for Clemson fans as Steve Spurrier formerly coached an undistinguished state school in Columbia.  That said, he was kind of funny, and it turns out he and Swinney are decent friends, and Spurrier even argued that Clemson beat Alabama this year rather than taking an opportunity to say Alabama, a 6.5 point favorite, blew it.  Happy to have you in the club, Steve.

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The parade began with the flags, followed by Tiger, the Kid Tiger, The President of the University, Clemson’s Mayor, members of the Board of Trustees and their families…  Anyway, one such was Dan Radakovich, widely credited for stepping up Clemson’s financial ability to build a gigantic football operations center and other improvements.  Great.  Good job, Dan.  That said, maybe you should lose the jacket your wore at your former job as AD at Georgia Tech.  I know, it’s difficult to find a sports coat to match orange so, don’t.  Just stick with orange.

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Then, of course, comes the Swinneys.  Dabo, wife, and three sons.

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They get two pictures because they’re ROYALTY.

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Dan Venables, the Defensive Coordinator, was next.  He looks just as intense enjoying himself as he does coaching from the sideline.  In a good way.

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Other coaches, including the offensive co-coordinators, position coaches, and strength coach also had their chariots – a mix of antique cars, jeeps, trucks and… whatever was volunteered I guess, including an orange fire truck for the kids of coaches to ride on.  Other floats had… a fairly good showing of members of the 1981 Championship football team.  Only a few wore their numbers, though.  Then groupings of players from the pre 1980’s, the 1990’s, and the 2000’s followed.   Then came the evidence of what it takes to run a major football program.  Recruiting staff and helpers, a horde of video editors (likely that cut and splice “film” for player study prior to each game, a surprising number of sports medicine staff, and then strength/power/speed conditioning and nutrition staff, football operations and… they’re all a part of it, just unknown to the average fan.  Then comes the star power.  Quarterback Deshaun Watson and linebacker Ben Boulware were first up.  Watson will earn more when he signs a professional contract in a few months than I’ve earned in my career.  I’m okay with that. 

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Part of being a fan is “following” a team.  Swinney allows certain players, presumably with the maturity and speaking skills, an ample spotlight for interviews with the media after each game.  These are posted on line and over the course of seasons, you get to know some of the players in a sense.  One of those is Jay Guillermo, the offensive Center.  Funny, good communicator, and great Dabo impersonations.  With him is tight end Jordan Leggett, who made some key receptions in the game. 

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In any case, Christian Wilkins and Hunter Renfroe broke the zipped up form of the rest of the team with the Orange Smurf warm-up suits.  It’s a parade, but it looks like they’re on the bank of a river fishing.  Both played huge roles in the victory.

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After the parade, the crowd headed for the stadium for a planned program of speeches.  My wife and I took a few moments to shop for awesome gear in the relaxed environment and… yeah, stand in the middle of the street.  Because I could.

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Meanwhile back at the stadium, people were on the field, the lower section was closed off, and many others went to the upper decks.  Tiger Rag, played by the band and… it gets the crowd pumped.

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What followed were… speeches.  I’ll skip the details.  It was worth it, despite all the obligatory “Thank you” extended to everyone and their father and mother.  Coach Swinney spoke for about 30 minutes, offering a couple sermons worth of Christian and football messages.  Philippians 4:13 “I can do all things through him who strengthens [us].“  To which he added, “And I don’t think it’s a coincidence that number 4 threw it to number 13 for a touchdown.”  And regarding the forecast rain?  “You show up in January and get a day like this?  You tell me God ain’t a Clemson fan?  Come on man – come on!”

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And, there was the presentation of American Football Coaches Association trophy, presented by Amway.  This is the crystal trophy that used to be “it” before the playoff system began a few years ago.  I guess it’s nice to have both in the cupboard.  Swinney hoisted both during the ceremony.

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And, if you have 15 seconds… try this.

Boccerball Bracket Replacement

Back possibly in the early 1990’s, a former Ohio State football player invented Boccerball.  It’s a game room table (due to its approx. 4’ length) where a small soccer ball is placed in the middle and players at opposing ends drop steel balls down chutes across the width of the table trying to  1) direct the soccer ball into the opponent’s goal or 2) stop the ball from entering their own.   It’s fun, though quite noisy, requiring players to simultaneously gather balls returned to a discharge tray while keeping an eye on the table and putting balls in play.  It’s fairly frenetic and… the collecting trays break due to relatively rough play.

Boccerball broken tray  hinge bracket

Boccerball broken tray  hinge bracket

The first time this happened, I found the manufacturer, Regent Sports, online and ordered replacement parts.  The second time (years later)… I found their website, now a division of Ball, Bounce and Sport, Inc.  Squirreled away in their “Customer Support” tab, there’s a notice:
“… Regent Sports Corporation… the company that formerly manufactured all of the Halex table games, went out of business in December, 2012.”  To cut it short, the new company bought “certain assets and licensing rights” that did not include the Boccerball table.  “From what we gather, the former Regent Sports Corporation, due to its financial condition, did not order replacement parts to satisfy service requests.”  Blah blah and “Additional internet research may be the only way to discover [replacement parts].”  Great.

So I searched and found several forums where people like me would search for answers to no avail.  And then, I remembered My Blue Robot, a 3D printing diversion wherein I convinced my daughter to show her dad how things are done in the 21st century.   So instead of Google searching “Boccerball parts” in all sorts of variations, I searched “Boccerball bracket 3d print” and there it was at Thingiverse.com, the same site that had my robot print instructions.

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So, thank you, Jack Marshall, whoever you are, for thing:63416.  Not only did my buddy Jack create a straightforward replacement part, but he either had the same unfortunate breaks that I had or he had excellent foresight into how else it might fail.  In my case, the bracket on one side broke, but the spindle, a part of the tray mold, snapped off in the bracket on the other side, the remnant of which can be seen below.

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So he designed brackets for both situations.  In my case, one was a straightforward replacement, and the other required drilling a 1/4” hole into the collection tray where the spindle used to be, so that the new spindle on the bracket could stick through.  My daughter, conveniently a new owner of a 3D printer, made both designs with mirror images, not certain on which I needed on each side.   Below is a print of a replacement bracket that’s been trimmed and the other, including the spindle, prior to trimming.

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After a very minor mess, here’s the completed installation, completely functional and otherwise inconspicuous.

Boccerball broken tray  hinge bracket

So, I thought I’d put this “out there” for other table owners to access, knowing others are suffering similarly, if they kept their tables this long…   You just need to find someone with a 3D printer, or perhaps your local Tech school/college has one.

Butch Trucks Band–Live at City Winery

One bright spot about the holidays ending was a concert after my first day back at work.  Even better when its a fairly intimate venue, there’s a bluesy kick ass band, and you’re sitting next to the stage.

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Butch Trucks and the Freight Train Band kicked off their set with “Hot ‘Lanta,” an Allman Brothers instrumental.  This is appropriate, because this is also a blues/rock band, and Trucks was the original drummer for that band.  He’s touring in his second year, I think, with a gradually shifting set of players both since its inception and through the evening. 

One hope when attending concerts is that the artists interact with the audience, adding personality beyond what can be heard in recordings or even observed while they play.  Trucks has no issues in that regard.  A drummer, he took center stage to chat, and it’s clear that the warmth and authenticity of the performance starts with its founder.  From an entertaining band T-shirt, to music trivia, to singing a Dylan cover – never mind the drumming – it was great to see and hear the joy that he maintains in performing.  Hearing the band is a joy as well.

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Keyboards were tended by former Gregg Allman bandmate Bruce Katz, who added a somewhat jazzy organ vibe throughout the night.  The front of the stage included three guitarists, which might be about what it takes to night after night on a variety of Allman Brothers and other blues music.  These included Chris Vitarello, Damon Fowler, and 22 year old Heather Gillis, who is already making her presence known in the blues community.  Each handled solos more than capably, because that’s what’s required for blues/southern rock musicians.  Rounding out the stage were percussionist  Garrett Dawson and new (to the band) bassist Matt Walker.  A little research after the concert shows that about everyone has or had their own band and has earned their way to play with a number of blues legends such as Allman Band subsets and John Hammond.

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That, I think, is the core band, but it’s hard to tell when people rotate through.  The performance not only seemed to have the affection of a family affair, it actually was.  Butch’s son Vaylor played guitar several times, and Vaylor’s daughter sang on a couple of songs as well.

Highlights included pretty much all of it.  I particularly enjoyed the cover of the Allman’s “Dreams” sung by Lamar Williams, Jr., who suited the vibe of the song perfectly, augmented by Gillis’ tone and fluency of her guitar.  I also enjoyed the cover of Jeff Beck’s “Freeway Jam” and the Allman’s “Statesboro Blues.”

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I’d like to say I enjoyed “Elizabeth Reed” and “Whipping Post,” but it was a work night with miles to travel before I slept.  I don’t actually know if they played those songs, as a venue hand seemed to be encouraging them to wrap things up.  When we left, it was apparent that others had already done the same, unfortunately.

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Which leads me to the opening act, Donna the Buffalo – their name resulting from a misheard “Dawn of the Buffalo.”   The best thing about this band was the opening comment, “It’s Tuesday night.  Let’s treat it well.”  Otherwise, it was pleasant but not for me… and too lengthy a set.  This is a Grateful Dead-ish band, with a feel good, jam/dance vibe with an occasional Americana influence.  I don’t mind any of those things, and I credit them for building a following called “The Herd” which were amply present during the show.  That said, I’d have traded all of their set for the extra two songs by the Freight Train, in part but not wholly due to the fact that if I hear an accordion, I’m 99% certain not to like it.  It takes an instrumental foil of Sonny Landreth proportions to make me tolerate that for any length of time…

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Click here for complete set of photos.

Set List:

Hot ‘Lanta (Allmans)
Trouble No More (Muddy Waters)
Freeway Jam (Jeff Beck)
Subterranean Homesick Blues (I think) (Dylan)
Up the Line (Little Walter)
Dreams (Allmans)
Jessica (Allmans)
Everyday (Allmans)
Statesboro Blues (Allmans)
Hippie Song (original)
Stand Back (Allmans)
Ophelia (The Band)
Goddammitt (original)
In Memory of Elizabeth Reed (Allmans)
Whipping Post (Allmans)

Rollin’ Golden Pub – 2016

It’s year three and the Rollin’ Golden Pub (RGP) is getting some serious mileage, literally and figuratively.  The RGP takes residence in a nearby parking lot, and we thank the property owner and its patrons for being mostly oblivious to Captureour rather public activity, not to mention the tell tale signs of our passing - cooler ice dumped onto the asphalt and various puddles of bottle rinse.  That said, the RGP has tacit permission to carry on, as one manager of the property pointed out in passing that “We do sell beers inside.”   Duly noted, and when we’re in a pinch and forced to settle for peasant beer, we’ll… well, actually, no we won’t.  But thank you for your support!

We’re proud to produce our 2016 Annual Report, which provides suitable detail to warrant the astonishment and jealousy of our admiring public.     For a detailed listing, click the logo above.

  2014 2015 2016
# of Pub Visits 12 15 16
# of Beers Sampled 34 63 65
RateBeer Avg 98.5 97.1 97.9
BeerAdvocate Avg 94 91.7 95.2
# of RateBeer 100’s 10 17 31
# of BeerAdvocate 100’s 4 5 9

We tend to select our beers primarily on BeerAdvocate ratings, which provides an objective summary of so many subjective opinions.  This requires a fully charged smart phone when exploring beer aisles, but it’s worimageth it.  In any case, we draw your attention to BeerAdvocate Avg row in the table above.    Our 2015 beer ratings suffered in comparison to 2014 due to almost doubling our output input as well as our focus on sampling a beer from each of the 50 States.  In 2016, however, we kept the pace in consumption while surpassing our 2014 BA average, setting a remarkable new benchmark of 95.2.  In BeerAdvocate’s words, “world-class.”

For those that may desire to model their own RGP or equivalent in other locales (you know who you are in Chattanooga, Raleigh, Hartford, Portland ME…) we’re not so exclusive that we can’t at least share our secrets for qualitative and quantitative success:   Head to Massachusetts.  Tree House Brewing and Trillium Brewing provided 21 of our beers this year, almost a third.  We love Californian beers (nine this year), but comparing geographical size and the number of breweries, MA is clearly our brew state of the year.  Add in Vermont and Maine, and the Northeast is a significant contender as the beer lover’s paradise.

We were pleased to complete our pursuit of beers from each State, which required product from WY, NV, AR, and SD.  The first three of these States offered beer of surprising quality given the relatively limited choices of breweries and known people who might travel somewhere that those beers are distributed.  South Dakota’s Pile O’Dirt Porter, on the other hand, was adequate for its purpose, but we forgive it for its exclusivity.  In other words, we thank all of our beer mules heartily!

Metrics aside, it’s also important as a tasting group to express our opinions about the various beers sampled.  We do this regularly.  “That was good.”  “That was great.”  “That was outstanding!” “The more I drink it the more I like it.” “That was my favorite of the day.”  You can see we’re verbose about our beer.   Sadly, we lack the diction, patience and time to remark “Hazy unfiltered orange color with no head.  The nose shows intense and juicy orange and grapefruit without any bitter or heavy citric edge.  The palate is full bodied and somewhat pulpy with moderate carbonation.  Juice and intense flavors of blood orange, grapefruit and mango.  Light zesty bitterness on the finish but extremely harmonious.  Mouthfeel is almost like pulpy orange juice with light carbonation.  Extremely drinkable, refreshing.  This is damn near perfect.”  Thank you online reviewer jc1762…

Now, I can read that description, and I understand what is being said.  I can even relate, because if I had to hire a writer to describe Tree House Brewing’s Julius, that would fit the bill perfectly.  But it’s not our words.  We’re three years into this folks.  We know we can do better, especially when the stars and beer mules align for a Hall of Fame assembly of beers, rated 100 by both BeerAdvocate and RateBeer.  Yes, it’s the makings of a blind tasting:

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Of these, Tree House’s Julius garnered unanimous votes for best of the bunch, with Pliny the Elder, the venerable Californian legend, a consensus second place.  We expected more from Heady Topper, an early favorite of the group in 2014, but… that’s why you have a blind tasting.  So, we’ve now contributed in some way to beer lore, for whoever may discover this writing.  Tree House.  Julius.  Get some. 

As you’re observant folks, yes, we’re also proud of our recent upgrade to the RGP, a veritable bar surface providing a steadier pouring platform for our enjoyment (and less chance of offending a Mrs. who may otherwise detect slight stains or absorbed goodness).  Only a couple of weeks after the tasting, we enjoyed a “Who’s Who” from Tree House Brewing:

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Old Man, an English Bitter and newer effort by the brewery, was the outcast of the bunch.  It’s decently rated, but probably due to reviewer’s favoritism for the brewery.  Even with  86/66 ratings by the different sites, it didn’t dent our average scores.  Otherwise, well, we’re just bragging about sampling five beers from a brewery who only sells four days a week, from their brewery in Monson, MA, and typically with no more than two canned styles at a time.  Yes, we’re bragging.

This relates to the (beer) trade of the century:  We appreciate beer mules, products of careful  manipulation cultivation, instruction and/or pleading.  The key is to groom those who regularly traffic in highly rated and narrowly distributed beers.  We try to treat them fairly, but sometimes… sometimes you just have to take advantage of a situation, such as our key mule in Hartford, CT.  His wife loves Sweetwater Blue, a blueberry ale that is commonly available in Atlanta.   For this, he trades rarities from Vermont (The Alchemist’s Crusher and two cans of Focal Banger) as well as, I think, a Tree House beer and a CT favorite.  It’s clearly a “Win – Win” right out of negotiation class, but we know who’s winning more.  (Thank you, sir!)

Lastly, a word on sediment or solids that settle into a bottle.  We haven’t noticed a difference in taste, but after some reading, it’s possible that these may adversely affect the brewer’s intended flavor.  The Alchemist’s Focal Banger can specifically instructed that the beer should be poured without these for the best flavor.  They’re commonly called “Floaties” and occur regularly in unpasteurized or unfiltered beer.  Yeast and protein particles fall out of solution over time, so these can be considered an indication of the beer’s age in most cases.  The yeast is full of B vitamins, so it’s not a health issue to drink them.  At other times, a brewery will bottle condition a beer where sugar or wort are left in the bottle intentionally.  This creates CO2 and helps extend the shelf life.  That said, we’re from the South, so we call them “chitlins” and consider them good drinking.

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In case you missed our last outings, here’s the links to those.  Note that last year’s epistle contains handy by-laws for a group such as ours, which is Holy Writ except for an unstated but understood “margin” on the 72 ounce limit.  Bottle ounces don’t always add up to exactly that, now do they?

2015 RGP
2014 RGP

Merry Christmas!

I was recently reading a Brent Weeks fantasy novel, one that often borrows from biblical theology, essentially taking many of the ideas and applying it to a different world and different gods.  One godlike presence says something similar in response to the question of his identity – “I am.”  

When Moses asked for God’s name, his answer was, among most translations, “I Am that I Am.”   There is significance among the capital letters for theologians, and I’ll skip all that.  Whether one views the old and new testaments as holy writ, mostly true, oral traditions, fanciful stories, useful for instructing children or a means of societal control (or insertiPhoneJan2015-152 your other view), it has always struck me that if there is one god, creator of all, what a marvelous answer that is.  “I Am.”   I don’t know that man is creative enough to have invented something so rich, elegant and comprehensive in so few words.

I have a number of favorite Christmas songs, sadly now lacking in the Atlanta airwaves when driving around…  In any case, one of those is “Mary Did You Know?”  First, it’s a very pretty song, but lyrically it relates.  It doesn’t question faith but neither does it stridently state it.  It speaks to the our wonder about Mary and the virgin birth, but also in very human terms, her intimacy with God.  Not coincidentally, the song essentially closes with the “I Am” affirmation.

Mary did you know that your baby boy will one day walk on water?
Mary did you know that your baby boy will save our sons and daughters?
Did you know that your baby boy has come to make you new?
This child that you've delivered, will soon deliver you

Mary did you know that your baby boy will give sight to a blind man?
Mary did you know that your baby boy will calm a storm with his hand?
Did you know that your baby boy has walked where angels trod?
And when you kiss your little baby, you have kissed the face of God

Mary did you know, Mary did you know, Mary did you know

The blind will see, the deaf will hear and the dead will live again
The lame will leap, the dumb will speak, the praises of the lamb

Mary did you know that your baby boy is Lord of all creation?
Mary did you know that your baby boy will one day rule the nations?
Did you know that your baby boy is heaven's perfect Lamb?
This sleeping child you're holding is the great I am

Mary did you know, Mary did you know, Mary did you know

Written by Buddy Greene, Mark Lowry • Copyright © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC, Warner/Chappell Music, Inc, Universal Music Publishing Group

Jesus also claimed that title when being asked by the Jews he was:  “Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, before Abraham was, I am.”  (John 8:58)  Note that the repetition of “Verily” was a Herbrew form of emphasis.  He claimed other titles as well: I am the Bread of Life, the Light of the World, the Door, the Good Shepherd, the Resurrection and the Life, the Way and the Truth and the Life, and the Vine – each has its meaning and import, but none match the defining “I Am.”

While Christmas is the celebration of his Christ’s birth among believers, the holiday offers an opportunity for people to reflect on who he was and claimed to be.  The answer one comes to defines in many ways the course of our life.  The question is larger than a fact check; it’s the question that everyone comes to: Is there a god?  If there is or is not, how does that inform a person about questions as to the origin of life, the nature of morality or the relative presence of evil and good, the meaning of life, and our destiny.  Christianity answers those in a cohesive worldview.   If you’re undecided, decided against, too busy to consider it… my closing is the same:  Merry Christmas!

I don’t know that the definitive version of this song has yet been recorded.  This is a good one, though. 

In Defense of the Electoral Vote

One nice thing about Facebook is that I get “Feeds” on things I like.  Clemson football news, new releases or concerts by favorite music artists, and funny/interesting things that friends choose to post.  But then there’s election season, when a good number of my friends become stridently liberal or conservative, as opposed to pleasantly mute on the subject.  Their offerings – videos, articles and the like – aren’t meant to persuade.  They’re efforts to say “The election wasn’t fair.  The wrong person won.” I’d hoped that these would disappear, but two persistent threads remain – Russian hacking affecting the vote and the popular vote margin, either or both of which should cause Trump Electors to change their votes in favor of another candidate. 

I get that most everyone had reasons to vote for either candidate, and I get that most everyone had reasons to vote against either candidate, including both policy preferences and character issues.  But this is the system, and, for the losers, no.  Participation trophies are not handed out. 

The hacking argument is shell game hoping the audience loses track of the ball.   The argument essentially opines that if the Russians hacked/obtained damaging emails about Clinton, then Trump is implicitly guilty of winning by outside influence.  Eh, sorry.  The email releases on Wiki and elsewhere document deceit and collusion among Clinton, her staffers, the DNC, and the media – ensuring Sanders finished second in the primaries, coordinating protests and confrontations at Trump rallies, arranging media talking points…  Talk about an inconvenient truth.  The truth is there are consequences to actions, and Clinton assuredly suffered just that in the general election.

As for the electoral system, there are actually two parts with traction.  The first is that Trump is unqualified to lead.  He’s got some unpleasant baggage and observable gaffes in public discourse via Twitter.  That said, the other candidate had a lot of baggage too, stating that half of Trump supporters were deplorable which reinforced a persona focused on political gain rather than actual concern for the American voter.   The strongest point against Trump may be the allegations of his treatment of women, but as he adroitly pointed out, liberals had no problem with Bill Clinton among allegations that were much worse.  It’s an unpleasant result regardless of who won.  That said, post-election, many may not like Trump’s Cabinet choices, but they do reflect well on his campaign priorities.

The second aspect was that the majority should have a voice, that the net 2.9 million people weren’t “heard” in the outcome.  That makes sense to people who don’t pause and consider things in context.  If Clinton had won, then 63M voters for Trump wouldn’t be “heard” either. 

This was a good time to revisit and see if I could find unbiased information about its origins and intent, actually, not the easiest thing to do among all the recent decrying of the system.  Here’s one, though, that seems factual and absent opinions.  One notable quote from this article – not a Constitutional citation by any means – is that absent an electoral system, “the choice of president would always be decided by the largest, most populous States with little regard for the smaller ones.”   Well, that doesn’t seem fair, either, does it?  Let’s test the theory.

“Battleground” States.  FL, OH, PA, WI, VA – only in Florida did Clinton record more votes than President Obama in 2012.  If 800,000 or so of those 2.9M votes were spread across four States, Trump would have been steamrolled.

Then look at the States with large cities – New York, Illinois, California.   Clinton gained fewer votes than Obama in these Democratic strongholds as well.  She wasn’t nearly as popular with her own party, even in a campaign where many were likely to vote if only to keep Trump out of office.

  Obama 2012 Clinton 2016
CA 7,854,285 7,362,490
FL 4,237,756 4,485,745
IL 3,019,512 2,977,498
OH 2,827,709 2,317,001
NY 4,485,741 4,143,874
PA 2,990,274 2,844,705
VA 1,971,820 1,916,845
WI 1,620,985 1,382,210

 

But here’s the clincher, given that the most recent reports show that, again, Clinton is ahead in the popular vote by 2.9M votes.  California: The difference between Clinton and Trump, as of the time of this writing, is 3,446,281 votes in favor of Clinton.  The total votes in the other 49 States therefore give Trump, who gained more votes than any other Republican candidate in history, a majority elsewhere else.   Is it still fair that Clinton should win? 

 

Results by state, shaded according to winning candidate's percentage of the vote 2016.svg
Image by Ali Zifan -2016, CC BY-SA 4.0, Link

 

 

Sources:

Earthside – A Dream in Static

One day I wake up and I’m listening to Prog Metal.  I’ll blame Spotify for the introduction just as much as I’ll credit them for their algorithms.  There was a time not too long ago that I thought my music tastes were softening – a sudden embrace of Frank Sinatra’s 50’s and 60’s albums, a warming return to 70’s MOR pop, a growing appreciation for Americana…  earthside

But progressive rock still draws me.  Fairly bored with 2016 music, Spotify’s “Discover Weekly” playlist places music in front of me based, apparently, on songs that I indicate I like or that I otherwise sample.  Sadly, there is no reset button, because I’m being deluged with prog rock or variations thereof, even though there’s another James McMurtry out that I’ll have to discover elsewhere.

Here’s the thing.  I used to identify with a certain amount of rage in some of the music I listened to.  The Who.  King Crimson. Music was an outlet for so many things that at the time frustrated or fascinated me to no end.  Contemplating distant death.  Future relationships and current crushes.  Anticipation of leaving home.  The desire for autonomy.  The God question.  Jerks in school.  Whatever those teenage angsts begat.  Now, years later, I can multitask on the computer, drink a double IPA, and find myself in a similar place but with entirely different frustrations… and they’re not even related to politics.  Somewhere in this blog, I tried to explain that music is what sorts my nerves and/or soothes my spirit.  I feel better having listened to it, absent any other factors.  My music collection continues to grow not just because I’m a “collector,” and not because I’m searching for something new or even for the joys that come with appreciating artists and their art – that curious creative outworking that often reflects societal values as much as it’s informed by them.

Anyway, Earthside, a band based out of Connecticut, that apparently taps the Moscow Studio Symphony Orchestra, records in Sweden, and borrows vocalists from a number of other prog-metalish bands… all on their debut release.   Their music is aggressive, certainly, consistent with the genre, unrecognizable as a descendent of classic rock, but rather an outworking of early 70’s progressive rock that taps rage, in power chords, guitar flash, and a style of vocal delivery that works for a narrow slice of the public.  Yet the music retains the velvet glove of surprising musicality and instrumental and even orchestral varieties.

Earthside describes themselves as “cinematic.”  I’ll buy that, the shifting moods, the reach for… enlightenment, we’ll say.  And, in fact, this CD’s lyrics do a comparatively fine job of exploring metaphysical questions and doubts, fairly linear in thought as opposed to obtuse approaches favored by so many.  That said, the problem I have with this CD is with every song on which lyrics are sung.  The genre seems to demand that singers scream their angst, switch to falsettos for a lighter stanza, then find a guttural croaking when words build to something that really matters.  I guess it works.  People buy this stuff, and now so have I.

But the four songs without vocals are awesome.   Varied, reminiscent of Porcupine Tree, smartly put together, the stuff that modern progressive rock should aspire to.  For the remainder, the music is generally just as good, but not a whit of it supports a melody, a chorus, or anything other than singers extending a word over multiple bars because the genre demands that tone and lung capacity trump any clear association between the words and the way they’re expressed.  This CD would actually be stronger with prose offered for audience consideration as they listened to the the music without vocals… cinematic, right?  I guess that doesn’t sell or entertain concert goers.

Ah, well. I’ll enjoy the music and hope that they noodle over, if not Lennon & McCartney, then Genesis, Kansas, King Crimson or any other group that either planned melodies or created space for them in their instrumental passions.

Oh, and as this clocks in at just over an hour, I’m still left with over 40 minutes of music that hits the spot. 

4 of 5 STARS_thumb