Rollin’ Golden Pub – 2016

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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:


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:


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 “giblets” and consider them good drinking.


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

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Merry Christmas!

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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. 

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In Defense of the Electoral Vote

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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




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Earthside – A Dream in Static

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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


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Steven Wilson–Live at Center Stage

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This was my third time seeing Steven Wilson in concert, the first time with his group Porcupine Tree featuring fine musicians that he creatively controlled, and twice as a solo artist, with accomplished musicians that contribute musically.  A bit backwards, eh?  In any case, this is the Hands.Cannot.Erase tour, in support of his last album of that name, and a generous 3 hour show. 


Generous, as the last stop in town supporting The Raven that Refused to Sing, included the entirety of that album, plus a handful of songs afterwards.  Also, both of the past shows had a very formal feel – Wilson set the tone that everyone be gathered for a presentation by the band, rather than a participatory environment.  This night, Wilson acknowledged that his “heart sank” when he saw the venue had seats – this was to be a rock show in a venue perfectly designed for his previous visits, with tiered rows even.  In any case, it was perfect for me. 


The sound quality was a smidgen short of excellent, with Nick Begg’s bass sometimes rumbling through too much.  But otherwise, the instruments were well defined, and Wilson’s voice was clear.  Absent was female vocalist Ninet Tayeb, who accompanied the band for an earlier segment of the tour.  Her voice appeared courtesy of a Mac,  but I had hoped that she might have contributed to other songs, adding a warmth or, at times, an operatic quality that benefits Wilson’s music.


Highlights included anything with Tayeb’s voice – “Routine,” “Ancestral,” and the reworking of Porcupine Tree’s “Don’t Hate Me” – as well as “My Book of Regrets,” and “Index,” a very creepy song that conjures Silence of the Lambs.  Also, Wilson was chattier than other shows, talking about Bowie, Prince, and the modern challenges of pop music… There was self-deprecating humor as well, given his generally depressing themes – something along the lines of music is his way of working them out, then putting them onto his audience…


Instrumentally, I was most impressed with former Miles Davis sideman Adam Holzman on keyboards, adding retro prog sounds regularly, and watching Nick Beggs play a “Stick” bass is always interesting.  In any case, the band was excellent.  The presentation was as well, with frequent videos or animations featured with songs, and an ever changing light show.  A drop curtain at the front edge of the stage added a nice visual from a distance capturing projections interestingly – it had annoyed me during the last tour, distorting the view as I was closer to the stage. 


The crowd was varied in all the right ways – various ages, many sporting their requisite black concert T-shirts of favored progressive rock bands.  A surprising number brought dates, and one gentleman brought his wife, daughter and son-in-law – the latter two apparently uninitiated to Wilson’s music.  Also, I’ll call out my concert buddy for failing to pay for sufficient parking time, thus having to exit early.  Really?


The opener, John Wesley, who toured with Porcupine Tree when they were active, was disappointing.  While the guy can play great guitar leads, he focused on songs from his newest album, a significant step down from his previous release.   Any nuance in vocals and guitars was obliterated in a aural wall of pedal effects, sadly.   It’s just not necessary.

Set list:

First Regret
3 Years Older
Hand. Cannot. Erase.
Perfect Life
Home Invasion
Regret #9
Happy Returns
Ascendant Here On


Dark Matter
My Book of Regrets
Harmony Korine
Don’t Hate Me
Sleep Together


Sign of the Times (Prince)
The Sound of Muzak
The Raven That Refused to Sing

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Black Rebel Motorcycle Club–Live at Masquerade

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I guess email marketing works.  I’ve been reminded of this upcoming concert several times a week from the various events/tickets/entertainment emails I get.  Absent my concert buddy, my son leapt at the chance once he heard that Death From Above 1979 was playing with them.  I thought that they were opening for BRMC, but it’s more of a co-headlining deal as evidenced by a good sized crowd when we arrived and the amount of merch they bring with them.  This doesn’t usually happen for an evening with three bands on the slate.   We arrived in time to catch a few songs by Deap Valley (not misspelled), two female rockers and the true opener.  I quickly understood that the volume level would be high and that the lyrics would be unintelligible, even standing behind the mixing booth.

We moved closer to the speakers in time for DFA, which turns out to be two guys, one playing bass like it’s a guitar, and a drummer/singer.  Loud, hard, aggressive – self-described as a dance-punk duo – my son informs me that there may be a mosh pit.  There wasn’t, but I wouldn’t have been surprised.  I didn’t see or hear much of the dancing variety, but the band had the punk vibe down.  I was entertained to a degree, but those who enjoyed it most knew the words before they arrived.   Giving selected songs a listen in arears, I like their recorded work better, and I’d probably like some of their songs live in a better venue.  It was an 11 song set, of which two managed to resonate a little, “Black History Month” and “Trainwreck 1979.”  Why?  Because they had some semblance of a tune, as opposed to just a riff.


So, with a warmup band and two headlines, the expectation is for a 4.5 hour bout of standing (no seats in this venue).  After moving to the middle and finding ourselves standing behind giants, my son was agreeable to a reasonable wall space where we could lean for the duration.  Ah, a wall to lean on – shifting feet, bending… good things.  BRMC finally came on and rocked the night away, especially compared with their 2013 show, with only 8 songs overlapping.  Regrettably, they didn’t choose to play “American X” this night, though they have a couple times on this tour.


Of course, I came to see BRMC, so it’s no surprise that I could fathom some of the words, particularly the choruses due to the repetition.  It’s unfortunate that such a revered venue sucked this night on their overall sound.  They only have about three weeks left to get it right as they’re moving to Underground Atlanta due to real estate pressures on the current property.  In a way, this is unfortunate, because the Masquerade has a very unique atmosphere, with three different floors and an aged building that looks aged.


The band played two new songs, “Bandung Hum” (“This is the fast one”) and “Haunt” which I favored by quite a bit.  I’ll have to wait for the next album to hear what they’re actually about… 


Overall, it was a good outing – exposure to a different band that I otherwise would not have heard, and confirmation that BRMC belongs in my music collection when the mood strikes.  Maybe next time they’ll play at Variety Playhouse, or perhaps Masquerade will hire professionals for outfitting their new venue. Oh, and 10 points off for not playing an encore.


Set lists:

Death from Above 1979 Black Rebel Motorcycle Club
Always On Beat the Devil’s Tattoo
Right On, Frankenstein Rival
Virgins Ain’t No Easy Way
Cheap Talk Shuffle Your Feet
Black History Month Hate the Taste
Trainwreck 1979 Berlin
Little Girl Bandung Hum
White is Red Haunt
Romantic Rights 666 Conducer
Government Trash Conscience Killer
The Physical World Awake
  Red Eyes and Tears
  Six Barrel Shotgun
  Spread Your Love
  Whatever Happened to My Rock ‘n’ Roll

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2016 Presidential Prediction

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This will be my third Presidential Prediction, but just when I thought of applying for a patent on The Methodology, it appears the effort would be wasted as its 100% reliability is likely to be disproved.  But, hey, speaking of 100% wasted, that’s pretty much the guarantee this particular November.  The despicable (no one is calling liberals that) and the deplorable (someone is calling Republicans that) face off on whether the Corrupt or the Crackpot will take the Oval Office . 

I’ve been incredibly non-partisan, I think, my last two times at bat, and even looking back at prior elections to test The Methodology.  As a quick reminder, here ‘tis:   Liberals vote Democratic, Conservatives vote Republican, and the soft gooey center of the populace (the undecided) votes for the candidate that they would invite to a backyard BBQ.   Please understand, gentle reader, that backyard BBQ’s do not include discussion of religion or politics.  That limits the subjects under discussion, happily.  Your friends are visiting, there’s a cooker bellowing smoke with your favored meat, a couple coolers full of beer sit adjacent to the recycling bin, plenty of lawn chairs are spread around the deck/porch/yard, and there’s maybe a few kids running through a lawn sprinkler because someone’s babysitter didn’t show.  Got it pictured?  Well, let’s get to it! 

First up, Hillary Clinton!


Oops.  Wrong Secretary of State.  Drat!


Ah, here we go.  Hillary Clinton. 

Well, I can’t find a single hobby, activity or generally fun thing about Mrs. Clinton that would suggest she’s good company.   Her defining presence in public USA has been “the first woman to be elected President of the United States,” a role for which she’s been preparing for over 20 years.  Her experience as a New York State Senator and as Secretary of State uniquely qualify her as a person who cares.  Well, caring worked for her husband, and it’s a smart tactic when you haven’t actually accomplished anything (positive) during your decades of public service.   In BBQ terms, we’re nowhere. 

What works against her, well, I’ll trim the list.   1) Often reputed by former White House staffers and Secret Service personnel to have a temperament that varies between striking the fear of God in lackeys (duck in doorways if you see her coming, folks) and 2) the condescension that comes from identifying and surviving every Right Wing Conspiracy since before her husband was even elected.   Her “Let them eat cake” moment is coming, and her adoring followers love it because someone else will pay for it.  Oh, wait.  Keeping this in BBQ terms.  Well, condescension… boredom… longsuffering… Benghazi.  Libya.  Whatever.  She’s no fun.


I’d be remiss if I didn’t consider the risk of inviting her into my home as well.  It could get awkward arguing that any furnishings she took a fancy to were not intended as gifts.

Which brings me to The Donald:


Look at him, not even a politician yet, and  he’s already handing out treats.  The hat though… definitely a need.



What would work at the BBQ for the Donald is… the company he keeps!


And it’s not a big deal!  Twenty or thirty women, and, look at ‘em,  it’s not like it’s going to cost me more to feed them.  They don’t eat!  On the other hand, they’re overdressed, and the only photo I can find with the Donald in casual mode is:


And you know what?  That’s okay.  Guys like to talk golf.  And, maybe he’d bring some of these friends also.  Joe Torre for baseball, Billy Krystal for jokes and, heck, Bill Clinton for how to pick up women and piss Hillary off at the same time!

Now, before anyone gets offended, let’s restate the scene.  This is a BBQ not chosen by me, but by the “undecideds.”  This term doesn’t include those reasonably intelligent people who loudly declare that they’re independent thinkers and not mindless lemmings falling for Party platitudes (and who always vote for the same Party).  No, no no!  This is a BBQ party by those people who vote only if the polling station doesn’t detour them their weekly lottery buy, if it doesn’t interfere with bowling league, and/or if they don’t need to rush home to Entertainment Tonight to see what a plastic surgeon says about a Kardashian’s latest look.  As such, they’re not going to be bothered by “He said he did what to women?” or otherwise question if Trump actually agreed with any of the words coming from his mouth.  Just keep those PBRs coming!

So, then. The Methodology speaks, loudly.  Your next President:



Now, normally, I’d leave it right there, because I trust the Methodology (and it hasn’t actually failed yet, has it?).  But reality suggests it will, and this aggravates me severely, not because I prefer a Trump outcome, but because just when I figure my Methodology is ready to be patented, I get stuck with this abomination of an election as my base presumption is found in error.   I’ll explain, and maybe I can garner an asterisk for 2016 and look for a more compliant 2020.  Liberals are doing their part.  They’re voting Democrat.   Conservatives though… The Methodology says conservatives vote Republican.  I think they did… in the Primaries, where their votes were sliced and diced among any number of candidates who would otherwise now be leading the polls.  But that is not the case because just enough of those gooey “Deplorables” (Hillary’s word for a sizable group of American citizens) actually voted in the Primary, for a non-conservative, in high enough numbers!  They really have no place voting in Primaries.

So, where do conservatives turn?  If they decide that four years of Trump is a lesser evil than a decidedly liberal Supreme Court for the next 20 years… they hold their nose, mute their conscience, detour around any public admission, and select the (R) candidate… and cross their fingers for four years.  Gun rights advocates really have no choice but to vote Trump.  Otherwise, the only other conservative choice is Evan McMullin, a write-in candidate… a noble gesture and and concession that 12 years of liberalism is bound to bring better things next time (and in doing so place their trust in an inept Republican Congress while praying that the Supreme Court justices enjoy their good health and find retirement objectionable.)

In any case, the non-Methodology prognostication is that for at least the next four years, our Pravda TV networks and newspapers will remind us regularly that the nose continues to grow as we age.


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Stone Mountain Highland Games

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My wife and I decided to go explore the 44th Annual Stone Mountain Highland Games and Festival.  These events are apparently held all over the nation now, but Stone Mountain’s has proven some endurance.  There was much that we didn’t see, for example competitions for Highland dance, harp, fiddling, piping and drumming, as well as various musical performances and sheep herding (done the next day).  But here’s the summary.

First, there’s the story teller, looking and dressed for the role.  He’s  reviewing breakfast foods and whatever else that might either interest people or, better, persuade them to visit Scotland.  With a face like that, there’s dozens of movies he should have been in.


The opening ceremonies had various people who are the head of clans or otherwise hold some sort of official status in Scotland or here.  Aside from the kilt and requisite wardrobe, it seems a walking stick is a requirement.  Clan shepherds, I suppose.


Once ensconced in their Officials booth, the music was queued with drums, fifes and, of course, bagpipes.  How do you tell one bagpipe tune from another?  By the titles.


The drummers use tenor drum sticks, essentially small balls at the tips, but with a handle wrapped so that they can spin them in the air when they raise their arm.  It’s not done in unison, but, hey, it was something to watch.


After they had marched in, there was speaking and… Hey, with everyone watching, it’s a good time to grab a bite to eat!


We didn’t get our food from this vendor, but let it be known that I could have had haggis and was not man enough for it.  Instead, we went to a vendor who had this:  Fish and Chips, Meat Pie, and a Scottish Egg (located in the back of the photo).  The egg is boiled, somehow wrapped in sausage, coated in bread crumbs, and deep fried.  Eh, when in (almost) Scotland… why not?  I had the Scottish Egg.


Not bad, but next time, it’ll be the fish and chips.

The main program interest for us was the athletic events.  Participants are divided into men and women, and on the men’s side, at least, further divided into Professional Masters, Professional, and Amateurs A and B.  Sunday would host the women’s division and a competition between clans.  But first, it wouldn’t be a legitimate event without Renaissance Fair-looking flags:


Ok, must be legit.  First observations were some amateurs taking some reps with the Stone of Strength.  It’s 28 lbs. and made of granite.  I have no idea how far they threw it, but it wasn’t far.  The record is almost 40’ for the Stone Mountain competition.  Each competitor gets three turns, with the farthest toss counting for their score.


Next up was The Weight – divided into two competitions using 56 and 28 lb. weights, attached to  a short chain.  There is a stick on the ground which is not a foot fault limitation but rather a hand fault – which should not pass the line before releasing the weight.  Professionals seemed to take full two revolutions as they approached it for release.




The 56 lb. weight is also tossed for height in a separate competition.  The records for distance are 48’ 10” and 95’ 5” respectively.  Next up is the Sheaf Toss, where a 20 lb. sheaf of hay in a burlap bag is thrown using a pitchfork over a bar.  The competitor fits the fork, and most took a couple of back and forth swinging motions before releasing it over their shoulders and hoping for the best.  We saw a few clear the bar.






I don’t think that particular toss made it.  And, lastly, there was the Caber Toss.  The goal is to toss it end over end with the small end falling directly away from the competitor’s feet as it is released.  A judge follows the competitor to essentially judge the fall somewhere between 10:00 and 2:00 on a watch face, with 12:00 being perfect.  Most observed “tosses” failed to make it past the vertical, and a side judge would at least judge the angle that it reached.  Helpers would place and hold the caber vertically while the contestant fitted it against his shoulder.  He then has to measure the balance and get his hands under it unassisted.  The judge can call for the contestant to drop it if it appears he’s losing control – as the referees, other contestants, and observers could be hurt.  Several tended to waver around a little after the initial lift.  How long they held it or with what speed they were walking when they made the toss didn’t seem to matter.  The timing of the toss appeared to be the critical element, with the heavy end of the Caber already in motion as gravity does it work.  Here’s a series of an almost perfect toss.  The Caber was over 19’ and weighed about 150 lbs.





And, then there was people watching.  Here, a gentleman wears his Scottish baseball cap and some standard American apparel.


I have no idea what authentic Scottish headwear is, but maybe this guy has it.  It also begs the question of shoes – laced dress shoes or hiking sneakers… Hmm.  I’d guess the latter when carrying the walking stick.


Wearing a kilt doesn’t mean that you have to go full-Scot, though.


This was the only sword I saw, but, hey, it’s a nice one, and otherwise it just sits on the den wall, right?


And, some people just wear whatever.  But that’s okay.


Clan reunions are like family reunions, so many wore their respective Clan shirts.


My wife noted that there was no small number of red-headed children, so it seems as if some belong.  Otherwise, there was a sense that the various clans, staked out in tents, are happy to have anyone join who has a name reasonably similar to the Clan name, if willing to join their club for a fee.


And, once you’re part of the family, you should go buy the clan plaid, right?   It was definitely for sale (and, I believe, anyone can officially apply for a registered pattern for their family name for a fee as well).


There were other things for sale.  Gargoyles and other creepy things:




Kilts. Here, a Georgia fan is probably looking to switch his allegiance to something more enduring.


As we were leaving, we watched a few more Caber tosses.  The “pitch” had a slope to it that we hadn’t noticed earlier.



Cool stuff, but at $20 per person admission plus a $15 park admission, this was a “one and done” event for us.  Still, it was a beautiful fall Saturday and a good outdoor experience.

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