Wednesday, December 30, 2009

New Year's resolution: Stop breathing

CPAs and financial planners have been joking about what would happen in 2010 for several years now. In the most morbid tax planning context we’ve ever seen, 2010 is the year for rich people to kick the bucket.

You see, in 2001 Congress changed the exemption schedule for estate taxes, increasing the exemption to $3.5 million in steps over the decade. The final increment was to get rid of estate taxes altogether starting in 2010.

No one, and I mean no one, thought that Congress would allow estate taxes to disappear, particularly after the Democrats wrested control of both houses and the presidency. But here we are on the cusp of 2010 and Congress, perhaps distracted by health care and Fox News, has not extended the current $3.5 million exemption into next year.

That was my expectation—that Congress would extend the current rule and keep it at that level for the foreseeable future. The other looming change is that the estate tax exemption is scheduled to return in 2011 at the old $1 million level. This sunset provision of the Bush tax cuts was never expected to come about, but now we’re all starting to wonder.

So what is the practical aspect of estate taxes vanishing in 2010? If you’re rich—meaning that you are worth more than a) $3.5 million if you believe Congress will eventually reinstall that exemption limit, b) $1 million if you believe Congress will do nothing and we’ll go back to the old law, or c) pick a number you think Congress will settle on—then you’ll want to die during 2010 in order to save your heirs hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions of dollars in estate taxes.

It has been reported that gravely ill rich people are being kept alive by every means possible with caring family members cheering them on, hoping to share that last drop of the ball in Times Square. After the champagne is sipped and everyone kisses each other under the confetti falling from the hospice room ceiling, the heirs will gather their coats and gloves, pull the plug on grandma, and head home.

This will be playing out all over America tomorrow night. Hey, who wouldn’t be motivated to hang in there a few more hours just to screw Uncle Sam?

Copyright 2009 Randy Hunt

Monday, December 28, 2009

Information and freedom go hand in hand

Information is at the root of freedom.

Freedom of the press is a fundamental ingredient to our democratic republic. And, as much as right-wingers want to point out that the mainstream media sleeps under the same tent as President Obama, there are other media available for an opposing voice.

The Internet has essentially eliminated the barriers-of-entry for those espousing a different viewpoint. This panacea of open debate brings with it some challenges as well.

When Jay Rockefeller implied that we would be better off, from a national security standpoint, if the Internet didn’t exist, I took his comments in the context they were made; that is, our nation’s security is vulnerable from a new front: cyberattacks.

The senator produced a bill, Senate 773, that would allow the president to take whatever action is necessary to counter a declared cybersecurity emergency, including taking control of nongovernmental computer networks.

This is where balance and cool-headed reasoning is necessary. To shut down private sector use of the Internet in a declared cyberemergency should require nearly apocalyptic circumstances before such an emergency be declared.

In my opinion, we should put our resources into chasing down or staying ahead of the cybercrooks, just like we always have when it came to more earthy criminals, like Al Capone and Richard Nixon.

In fact, rather than to propose limits on the Internet, I think we should follow the Radio Free Europe model and come up with a way to bombard nation states like Cuba, Iran and North Korea with WiFi.

Imagine the transfer of power to the people of Iran, some of whom are demonstrating in the streets right now and being slaughtered for it, if we could make the uncensored Internet available to everyone in that totalitarian country. I’m imagining that laptops with the requisite wireless cards would somehow arrive to meet the demand of the Iranian people.

You see, information is power. And information in the hands of the right people can bring about sweeping change. The corollary to this is equally true and efforts by our government to limit the access to information can also lead to sweeping change.

Change we don’t want.

Copyright 2009 Randy Hunt

Wednesday, December 23, 2009


Mary and I treated ourselves to a Keurig Single-Cup Coffee Brewer for an early Christmas present. It’s a bit of an extravagance, but really quite handy for our clients who might want a cup of coffee or tea. You hate to brew a whole pot and just pour one or two cups.

Not having worked one of these things before, I was fascinated with how you can control the strength of a brew, make iced tea, and not have much of anything to clean up. Pretty cool.

Last night, we went to Kohl’s in Wareham to pick up some last minute Christmas gifts. I wanted to look at men’s gloves and Mary wanted to look at women’s pocketbooks, so we started to head in different directions. Mary called to me and said, “I’ll meet you where they sell the K-Cups.”

I picked up a pair of gloves and went to meet Mary. Now I know that selecting a pocketbook is on the same order as choosing a vendor to manufacture an F-22 fighter plane, but after ten minutes I was a getting a little antsy.

I was standing there tapping my toe and singing along with the Muzak Christmas carols under my breath, smiling at the women who sashayed by me.

Finally, Mary walks up and asks, “Where have you been?”

“Where have I been? Where have you been?”

“I told you to meet me at the K-Cups.”

“Hello… I’ve been standing here for fifteen minutes.”

“This is the lingerie department.”

Oh, I thought to myself. Even for one with as fertile an imagination as I have, the thought of a K cup size did seem a little extreme, if not frightening.

“So… What kind of coffee did you get?”

Monday, December 21, 2009

DIY around the house

When we bought our house in June and moved our office into it in August, I made a pledge to handle as much of the maintenance as possible. Not only does it save money, but it’s generally good for you to get outside and do stuff.

[This paragraph is not to be read by my wife Mary. The other cool thing about doing stuff yourself is buying the equipment and tools. So far, I’m up one miter saw with a laser guide, a Kreg pocket hole jig system, and a power washer.]

Our first project was to extend the railing on the front porch to include a hand rail for the steps. This is very important for a number of our clients and something that was missing at our old office.

With a new miter saw and a half dozen trips to the hardware store, we had the parts and gear necessary to assemble the railing. Mary painted it and we sank the bottom post into 75 pounds of Sacrete. It looks nice and improves safety.

Lawn maintenance was a tougher thing to do. Although I’ve cut lawns since I was a kid, it seems like more of a chore than most other tasks. Our lawn is too small for a riding mower and that would defeat the exercise aspect of DIY (do-it-yourself). I did get a new fertilizer spreader out of the deal though.

Then came the fall. And the leaves. And more leaves. And even more leaves. My leaf blower doubles as a leaf vacuum, which was very handy for getting leaves out of the places they tend to accumulate, like in corners and behind planters.

I decided the best strategy for the leaves on the lawn was to simply mow them up. I did that five times by the time the last leaves came down. I found a leaf vacuum by DR Power Equipment that is going on my wish list for next year. See it here.

With the leaves off the trees, gutter cleaning time was upon us. When I saw the amount of sediment in the gutters, I decided to try something different. Up I went on the ladder carrying my pressure washer hose. I aimed it down the gutter, pulled the trigger, and two inches of muck and leaves blew out of the gutter. Each blast cleaned about eight feet of gutter.

Of course, the muck didn’t just vaporize, but the clean up wasn’t that bad. What fell on the driveway, I just power washed onto the lawn and mowed it up the next day after it dried.

That brings me to this past weekend’s snowstorm. I’ve been waiting anxiously for the first decent snow to put my snow blower to work. We picked it up as part of the deal when we bought the house. It has an eight-horsepower motor with a 27-inch wide, 19-inch tall scoop, six forward gears and two reverse gears.

By Sunday morning, we had about 16 inches of snow on the ground with some drifts a lot deeper than that. I was in snow blowing heaven. It took me three hours to clear our 200-foot driveway and parking area and it was stilling snowing a little when I came in to watch the not-so-mighty Patriots beat the hapless Bills for the twelfth time in a row.

This morning, I went back out to clear the area around our mailbox. There was an eight-foot wide, three-foot tall berm of ice and snow between the street and the mailbox created by the plow trucks. I contemplated shoveling it then imagined keeling over from a heart attack, being covered up by a passing plow, and not being found for a week. Hey, it’s happened before.

So I pushed the snow blower into the snow bank and tunneled until the roof caved in. I then backed it out and blew the rest of the snow out of the way. Repeating this process for about a half hour, I was able to create a pull-off for the mail carrier.

The final task was to clear a path for the oil delivery guy around to the back of the house. These guys do appreciate not having to trudge through knee deep snow dragging their filler hose to a spout that’s buried under a four-foot snow drift.

Most of that snow was at the top of the snow blower scoop, which means we got a total of about 19 inches from this early winter storm. Correction: The Winter Solstice wasn’t until today, making this big east coast storm technically a really late fall storm.

To all of our friends in Florida: Eat your hearts out. What did you do this weekend? Golf? You’re missing all the fun.

Copyright 2009 Randy Hunt

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Christmas letter 2039

After sending Christmas cards all these years, we decided to join the “annual Christmas email” gang. At the tender age of 82, I can hardly see to address an envelope and I can never remember where we put the stamps.

A friend showed me how to blow up these letters in Microsoft Word 2035 so Mary and I can see what the hell we’re typing. It makes life easier, but you have to scroll a lot.

We tried the darned fool voice recognition thing, but it still gets half the words wrong. We can send a man to Jupiter, but my computer still can’t make heads or tails out of my shaky voice.

It’s like those dad blamed cell phones. I remember thinking back at the turn of the century that they’d fix the connection problems, but they still drop calls like an oil soaked juggler.

Well anyway, another year has passed by and I can hardly believe it. Modern medicine is responsible for keeping me breathing, eating and crapping. At my age, it’s the crapping part that seems most important.

Mary and I visited some of the kids during the summer. No, that’s not right. I think some of the kids came up here to Cape Cod. Hold on a second…

I was right on both counts. We flew down to Dallas to see Chris, Bryan and Jeff and their families in June. Then Sarah, Gayle and Dan and their families came to see us for the Fourth of July. It was on a Monday this year and the parade was as good as ever. U.S. Senator Jeff Perry was there and delivered a great speech.

The kids want me to quit driving. That’s silly, of course. The only thing I’ve taken out this year is the mail box. (Twice.) Last year’s pin ball machine accident in the grocery store parking lot was not my fault. If they’d clearly marked the gas and brake pedals, it never would’ve happened.

We installed an elevator to make it easier to go upstairs to bed. We had one of those chair lifts for years, but Mary always got mad at me for not sending it back down after I rode it up. It’s like leaving the toilet seat up, I suppose, except that I can’t use the toilet that way anymore. Too much lateral spray these days, Mary says. Probably more than you needed to know.

The Christmas tree looks great. We got one of those that extends like a telescope and unfolds the branches automatically. It’s got all the lights already attached and they run on a battery hidden in the trunk. You charge it for one night and the LED lights are good to go for 21 days. It comes with a remote on/off button and it plays Christmas carols. I had it on the wrong setting and it was playing Sivivon, Sov, Sov, Sov for the first three nights.

Here's a picture Mary took of me on our anniversary in October. I'm still quite the handsome devil, don't you agree?

That’s about all I can think of for this first email Christmas letter. Merry Christmas to all and may 2040 be a wonderful and prosperous year for everyone.

Randy & Mary

Copyright 2009 Randy Hunt

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Amber Alert: America has lost its innocence

Hamptonville, Michigan—Reports of several missing children jammed the 9-1-1 emergency lines in the small town of Hamptonville, Michigan, last Thursday. State police followed up quickly by issuing an Amber Alert, identifying four children, all of whom reside on the same north side street.

A mother of one of the missing children discovered that her son and three other neighborhood boys left her front yard only minutes after she went inside to prepare an afternoon snack for them.

She used her cell phone to quickly call the two other mothers and the three of them met in the street, frantically calling for their kids. Other parents came out to see what was going on and, after a minute or two, 9-1-1 calls were being made by more than a half dozen people.

Hamptonville police initiated the request for an Amber Alert after learning that one of the neighbors witnessed a large man leading several children south. He was described as tall, white, middle-aged man wearing disheveled clothes, black boots, and a hat.

State police confirmed that abductions in broad daylight are not unusual, most happening in the vicinity of schools at the end of a school day. “This case did not fit the normal M.O.,” Sgt. Brian Mallory said, “both on account of it being a holiday and the fact that more than one child was involved.”

About an hour after the Amber Alert was broadcast, a police officer radioed headquarters that he had spotted the man and four boys in downtown Hamptonville and requested back up units. He told the dispatcher that the man was carrying what appeared to be a rifle.

Two additional Hamptonville police officers and a state police unit arrived within a five minutes, taking up positions at the perimeter of Downtown Square. Because the suspect and children were in the mostly open square, approaching the armed man without endangering the four boys was tricky.

Local police officer, Darrell Townshend, was eventually able to move closer to the group by darting from one bench to another, staying low to remain undetected. When he was within 10 yards of the suspect, one of the state police officers on the far side of the square hollered “Stop!” which gave Officer Townshend the opening he needed to put himself between the man and the children.

“At that moment, I saw that the suspect was not carrying a rifle, but rather a broomstick. He bolted out of the square and headed down Elm Street, the only street we hadn’t been able to cover,” Officer Townshend recounted. “By the time our backups made their way across the square, the man had disappeared around the corner.”

In a little town like Hamptonville, there is no police helicopter and only 25 police officers, three of whom are on duty at any given time. The abductor is still at large and, to date, no additional leads have been developed in this case.

One of the boys reportedly told his mother that the man had promised “Don’t you cry, I’ll be back again some day.”

Retired police chief, Keith Caruthers, recalled an almost identical situation that took place 59 years ago in Hamptonville when he was a rookie traffic cop. Lamenting the loss of innocence that his small town and the country as a whole has experienced since then, he picked up his guitar and sang a song about that long ago event:

Frosty the snowman was a jolly happy soul,
With a corncob pipe and a button nose
And two eyes made out of coal.

Frosty the snowman is a fairy tale, they say,
He was made of snow but the children
Know how he came to life one day.

There must have been some magic in that
Old silk hat they found.
For when they placed it on his head
He began to dance around.

O, Frosty the snowman
Was alive as he could be,
And the children say he could laugh
And play just the same as you and me.

Thumpety thump thump,
Thumpety thump thump,
Look at Frosty go.

Thumpety thump thump,
Thumpety thump thump,
Over the hills of snow.

Frosty the snowman knew
The sun was hot that day,
So he said, "Let's run and
We'll have some fun
Now before I melt away."

Down to the village,
With a broomstick in his hand,
Running here and there all
Around the square saying,
Catch me if you can.

He led them down the streets of town
Right to the traffic cop.
And he only paused a moment when
He heard him holler "Stop!"

For Frosty the snow man
Had to hurry on his way,
But he waved goodbye saying,
"Don't you cry,
I'll be back again some day."

Thumpety thump thump,
Thumpety thump thump,
Look at Frosty go.

Thumpety thump thump,
Thumpety thump thump,
Over the hills of snow.

(Music and lyrics by Steve Rollins and Steve Nelson, 1950. A more innocent time.)

Copyright 2009 Randy Hunt

Saturday Night Live - Salahis

You have to appreciate the fact that the SNL writers take no prisoners.

Friday, December 4, 2009

It’s not easy being green

We’ve been striving to be greener lately.

We’ve got separate containers for recyclable things. At one time, I thought the list of recyclables was rather short; just the things that have that circular arrow logo on them.

Recently I saw an ad for the ultimate recycling system. You dump nearly anything, short of spent nuclear rods, into a barrel mounted on a giant rotisserie. Turn the crank every day and, in a few months, voilĂ : compost.

Dual Chamber Compost Buddy

Compost is good for your garden. Especially your vegetable garden. And what could be more perfect? Garbage in, soil out. Beautiful red ripe tomatoes grown from the rotten tomatoes that hid out in the back of the crisper for three months.

At around $700, the dual barrel deluxe composter with a special sifter and polyester cover is a little steep. People have told me that you need nothing but an area to use for a compost pile. Enclosing it with a short wood wall is a nice addition, but not a requirement.

Of course, this inexpensive composting system comes with some extra work. Rather than strolling out in your Sunday suit with white gloves on and turning the crank a few times, you have to turn the pile with a pitchfork and suffer the release of methane gas.

Next spring, we’ll make a decision on which way to go. If I can hook up an electric motor attached to a timer, I may go with a totally automated version of the Dual Chamber Compost Buddy. How cool would that be?

Today, however, I learned about another composting system that requires no work. You don’t have to feed it. You don’t have to turn it. It’s completely hands off.

It’s called a rain gutter. In a short three or four years, you too can have compost. Perfect for a garden, yes. But why go to the trouble scooping it out of the rain gutter? Just toss in some seeds and start a vegetable garden ten feet off the ground.

It has the additional benefit of being out of reach of typical garden pests, like rabbits, skunks, and most deer. When those tomatoes and cucumbers are ready for picking, pull out the extension ladder and harvest your dinner.

For more gardening tips, you may want to try a different blog in the future.

Copyright 2009 Randy Hunt

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

2009 trip to Texas: Day 13, final day

We’re back and it’s nice to be home.

What a nice time seeing all six of our kids and five grandkids, not to mention a number of nephews, nieces, grandnephews, grandnieces and, of course, by brother and sister-in-law. Did I note that we had 33 for Thanksgiving dinner?

On the flight back, I was reading Freakonomics by Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner. It’s not a new book (2005), but I’ve passed it over for other reading material for several years. It is chock full of analyses on how incentive systems drive people’s behavior. Some of the analogies are interesting, such as comparing realtors to KKK members and sumo wrestlers to schoolteachers.

We arrived on time and rode the P&B bus back to the Sagamore commuter lot. A very wise and wonderful gentleman picked us up and drove us home.

Tomorrow we’re back at it. Must remember: Debits on the left, credits on the right.

Copyright 2009 Randy Hunt

2009 trip to Texas: Day 12

Monday morning was taken up locating all of the things that escaped from the suitcase and shoulder bags and getting them back in our luggage for the trip home. Our daughter, Sarah, was also heading out for a week long training class in Orlando for new managers at Ernst & Young, so we agreed that she would drop us off at a hotel close to DFW.

Our other daughter, Gayle, was flying with Sarah to act as nanny for baby Charlotte while Sarah attended classes. We stopped for lunch and then said our goodbyes at the Westin Hotel.

Later we were joined by Dan and Bryan at the hotel bar for dinner. Planted right in front of the big screen TV, we suffered through the first half of the Saints/Patriots game. The boys took off and we retired to our room to watch the hapless Patriots try to corral a (quite literally) perfect Drew Brees.

There is a chance that two undefeated teams could meet in the Super Bowl. That would be unprecedented, of course, but it would have an interesting side effect: Mercury Morris would have no choice but to keep his flap trap shut.

Copyright 2009 Randy Hunt

Monday, November 30, 2009

Thanksgiving Day 2009

Here are some of the many photos I promised to upload when we got to a broadband Internet connection. These are from Thanksgiving Day 2009 (and a few from the night before).

You can download any of these shots from Flickr at a variety of resolutions. For printing, download the “original” size. For viewing on a computer, “medium” or “large” should do the trick.

To download a photo, start playing the slideshow then pause it by clicking the || icon. Select the photo you want in the filmstrip at the bottom then click on the photo in the viewer. (Use the left and right triangles to move left or right in the filmstrip.) Select “All Sizes” (just above the photo) then select the resolution you desire and click download.

For a full screen slideshow, click on the icon at the bottom right hand corner that has the four arrows pointing out. Hit the Esc key to return leave full screen mode.

Copyright 2009 Randy Hunt

2009 trip to Texas: Day 11

Sarah, being on the east side of Dallas, and Bryan, being on the west side of Fort Worth, makes for an hour-long trip between them. We prayed and hung rosary beads from the rear view mirror, hoping that our rented Chrysler would make the trip without disintegrating on Interstate 30.

We arrived at Bryan’s without incident and he gave us the nickel tour. Typical of a bachelor’s pad, everything was arranged to maximize ergonomics rather than to promote esthetics. Mary went to the bathroom, flipped on the light switch, and on came the boom box located on the toilet tank lid blaring country western music.

Bryan took us to the Kimball Art Museum in Fort Worth which is currently hosting an exhibit featuring privately owned 18th and 19th century European paintings. The museum also is home to an excellent permanent exhibit.

Original works by Matisse, Manet, Monet, Van Gogh, Picasso, Munch, and many others almost seem out of place in this city made famous by its reputation as a cowtown. All of the privately owned artwork was loaned to the museum right out of people’s living rooms in Fort Worth, Dallas, Houston and other nearby towns. Hey, what else are you going to spend your oil fortune on?

Kimball’s centerpiece is Michelangelo’s first painting, The Torment of Saint Anthony. Painted in 1487 by a twelve-year-old budding artist and sculptor, the museum paid an undisclosed sum for it this year. I was intrigued by the way Michelangelo took a German artist’s sculpture of this biblical event, painted his own version of it, changing some of the aspects of it but staying true to the original piece.

A little culture in Texas. Who would have thought?

Copyright 2009 Randy Hunt

2009 trip to Texas: Day 10

Saturday morning was cool and partly cloudy. We packed the Chrysler POJ (piece of junk) for the drive back to Dallas.

Never Buy This Car

My cousin Cathy and her husband Ronnie from Victoria made the long drive to the ranch to see us. She’s an ICU nurse and had worked the night shift Friday night, so I really appreciated her making the effort to come see us.

Ronnie commented to me before they left that Cathy would probably be snoring by the time they got to the main road. He paused, thinking about that, and then said “Better than me snoring.”

Here’s another idea for you that we came up with while discussing a possible family reunion for next year. I set up a group on Facebook called Hunt Family Reunion. Only family members can join the group and nothing that we share is visible to nonmembers.

There we can post pictures, videos, announcements, reminiscings, and start discussion threads. When we have enough family members signed up, it will also be a resource for the extended family. From trying to figure out where some family heirloom ended up to requesting information about a genetic disease, this Facebook group could prove valuable.

If you’re a Hunt family member, search for Hunt Family Reunion on Facebook and request to join. If you do not have a Facebook account, you can create one while providing only a bare minimum of information. There’s no need to share your life story just to join Facebook.

Tomorrow we meet Bryan in Fort Worth.

Copyright 2009 Randy Hunt

Saturday, November 28, 2009

2009 trip to Texas: Day 9

The day after Thanksgiving is all about the leftovers and how creative you can be with them. I had turkey quesadillas with cheese, green chile salsa, and a dab of cranberry sauce.

In the evening, Alan and I went out to look for hogs. We took the Kawasaki Mule to a neighboring property and set up at a high point to monitor a couple of large hay fields. By “large” I mean 35 to 40 acres for one and about 25 acres for the other.

We had nearly a full moon, so there was enough light to see large, contrasting objects like hay bales in the field, but not enough light to see animals more than a couple of hundred feet away.

Of course, we were equipped with Alan’s night vision equipment and, with the aid of the moonlight, we could see like owls. The goggles intensify the available light up to 60,000 times, so making out deer at 500 yards was no problem.

In fact, we watched as a buck and four does grazed, moving closer and closer to us until they were no more than 100 yards away. We weren’t interested in deer, however, as they pose no threat to anyone’s ranch or livestock. They were fun to watch and were certainly vigilant, looking up every few seconds to scan for predators.

In the end, after two hours of surveillance, we only spied deer, a few coyotes, and plenty of cattle. By the way, these cattle don’t stop eating at dark. It seems that they just can’t get enough of that coastal grass.

I drove the four-wheel drive utility vehicle back to the ranch with the aid of the night vision goggles and we hung up and stowed away our gear for another time.

Copyright 2009 Randy Hunt

Friday, November 27, 2009

2009 trip to Texas: Day 8

We had platoon to feed on Thanksgiving and everything came together beautifully. Turkey (baked or deep fried), ham, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, two styles of dressing, green beans, cranberry sauce, cobblers, pies…

The ranch took on a look more like a Good Sam Club gathering than its much quieter, normal setting. My nephew and his wife brought their travel trailer for additional sleeping and an extra kitchen.

Kids were everywhere. One of my nieces brought a bounce house. There were plenty of other things to do, including taking rides in the cattle tank on a peddle boat, riding the Kawasaki Mule, and tossing footballs, baseballs and Frisbees.

Alan and I took several bags of salt feed out to the feeding troughs, which was a lesson on the natural order of things. The donkeys get first dibs at the trough because the horses and cows are afraid they’ll get kicked. Then the horses take their turn followed by the cattle. Even the cows have their own pecking order.

It’s a very interesting dynamic to watch. I’d want to be a donkey, given what I saw, but I imagine that if Alan had a few elephants on the ranch, they’d probably get to eat whenever they felt like it.

Copyright 2009 Randy Hunt

Thursday, November 26, 2009

2009 trip to Texas: Day 7

To all of my friends who don’t realize that “animal rights” is an oxymoron, rest easy. All the feral hogs are safe today. We scouted the ranches that Alan has permission to hunt on and we didn’t see any bacon on the hoof.

More kids arrived and more will join us for Thanksgiving, upping the official crowd estimate to 33. There will be a 19-lb turkey baked the conventional way and a second turkey that will be injected with Cajun spices, then deep fried in peanut oil. My nephew, Pat, is a licensed deep fried turkey expert and has yet to burn a house (or doublewide) down preparing one. (Just google “deep fried turkey fire” to see what I’m talking about.)

Here is a list of typical ranch activities that my brother, Alan, and I participated in on Wednesday:

1) Breakfast
2) Chipping golf balls onto his front yard practice green
3) Driving golf balls over the front yard fence into the cow pasture
4) Taking the four-wheel drive Kawasaki Mule into the pasture to recover golf balls
5) Starting to build a hog trap, but stopping ten minutes later because one of the acetylene torch hoses cracked and needs to be replaced
6) Lunch
7) Target practice with his S&W .40 caliber M&P pistol
8) Snack
9) Greeting more kids who arrived in the late afternoon
10) Dinner
11) Bitching about all things Obama
12) Scouting for hogs
13) Bedtime

I’m bushed.

P.S. I have taken lots of pictures and will post them when we get back to Dallas and have a faster Internet connection.

Copyright 2009 Randy Hunt

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

2009 trip to Texas: Day 6

We drove down to Alan and Mary’s ranch, a relatively short 4½ hour ride from Rockwall. Interstate 35 passes by Killeen, home of Ft. Hood, and that brought up thoughts about the Islamic terrorist and how that will play out over the next year or so.

We arrived mid-afternoon in our rented POJ (piece of junk) after listening to the unbelievably loud transmission and wheel whirring. The POJ was, you guessed it if you have been following this blog for awhile, a Chrysler.

I’m not even sure what this thing is. Apparently, they’re too embarrassed to put a label on the car to identify it, but it’s kind of a 1930’s looking car with a hatchback that holds far too little luggage and drives like a sailboat.

We unloaded the POJ of everything we could get into it; Sarah and Mark will bring the rest of the stuff on Wednesday.

After dark, Alan and I went on a reconnaissance mission for feral hogs. He loaned me his night vision goggles, which are the same model that is used by the Army in Iraq—they even came with the Army manual. (By the way, pictures of all this stuff will come later. I’m somewhat limited regarding what I can upload via the telephone Internet connection here.)

These things light up the night like you’re watching a black-and-white movie shot in the daytime. We drove several miles down the dirt county roads surrounding the ranch a scoured the fields for sounders of hogs.

Alan had his .308 caliber rifle equipment with a night vision scope and laser targeting light. I was packing a .44 magnum revolver with a laser targeting light built into the grip.

Good for the fields, but bad for hunting, we spotted nothing but a couple of skunks.

We’ll keep trying. Stay tuned.

Copyright 2009 Randy Hunt

Monday, November 23, 2009

2009 trip to Texas: Day 5

What to do with a two-year-old and a one-and-a-half-year-old?

We pushed a twin stroller from Sarah’s house over to Home Depot to look at tile and paint for my daughter Gayle’s house. Fun for the adults, not so much for the kids.

After a quick stop at Michael’s, we headed for a sure thing: Chuck E. Cheese’s. It’s the perfect place for antsy toddlers and doting grandparents.

I’m pretty sure that “Chuck” is a rat, though it’s lost on me why a restaurant chain would pick a rodent for a mascot. Seems dumb…

I have to say that it’s quite different to be able to stroll over to all of these places on sidewalks with curb cuts. Our off Cape trips to Lowe’s and JC Penney are planned days in advance, especially since the Sagamore Bridge has been tied up with construction. By the way, I heard that it’s open again until next spring. That’s a relief.

Tomorrow we head down to my brother’s ranch.

Copyright 2009 Randy Hunt

Sunday, November 22, 2009

2009 trip to Texas: Day 4

Last night, Sarah made chicken enchiladas and they were great. With sides of Mexican rice and refried beans, it was a perfect “welcome to Texas” dinner.

But with refried beans comes a well known side-effect. It was time to teach little Timothy the “pull my finger” game. Dan, Jeff and Sarah’s husband Mark take no prisoners when doing guy things.

Mark offered his index finger to two-year-old Timothy, instructing him to “pull my finger.” The result was predictable and everyone laughed, though Timothy’s was more of an I’m-not-sure-why-I’m-laughing laugh.

Then Jeff told Timothy to “pull my finger.” Timothy complied, followed by the same outcome. Everyone laughed again. This time Timothy was laughing because he’d figured it out.

Looking to step it up a notch, actually a lot more than just a notch, Timothy directed Uncle Jeff to “pull my hand.”

Well, when you’re the only participant who’s wearing a diaper, I suppose anything’s fair game.

They’re all still laughing today about Timothy’s invention of Extreme Pull My Finger Game.

Tonight, Gayle joined us. She flew in from El Paso with our second youngest grandchild, Troy. Troy is one of our son Chris’ three kids and we’ll meet Chris, his wife Celina, and their other two kids down at my brother’s ranch next week for Thanksgiving.

My last thought for today came to me while I watched Sarah parading around with Charlotte in her arms to keep her happy while she* (Charlotte) worked on passing some gas.

I wonder if Sarah has tried pulling Charlotte’s finger…

Sarah & Charlotte


Jeff & Gayle

Mark & Dan


* To Sarah: Sorry, I felt compelled to clarify who "she" was.

Copyright 2009 Randy Hunt

Saturday, November 21, 2009

2009 trip to Texas: Day 3

We went to the zoo today.

I have mixed feelings about zoos. Most zookeepers justify their existence by claiming that, without zoos, many species of animals would disappear. That their efforts bring us closer to nature. That their research somehow benefits the world.

I really doubt that. I consider it pure entertainment. Nothing wrong with that, of course. It’s a step above the circus, but entertainment, nonetheless. When you see the looks of some of the animals on display, you detect a lack of energy. A sadness. A complete loss of free will. Dependence.

So, with that in mind, off we went to have a fun day at the Dallas Zoo. As zoos go, it’s a pretty good one. And, if you go, bring a kid with you. Half the fun is watching kids marvel at the animals, laugh at the monkeys, and recoil into their parents arms at the sight of crocodiles, snakes and lions.

My favorite exhibit was the children’s zoo, which featured an aviary where you could feed the birds. They landed right on your shoulders and arms and impatiently waited for you to hold your seed coated popsicle stick where they could peck at it.

There were also watercolor painting pigs. I can’t even think of something clever to say about that…

The award for the most entertaining animal was a monkey that swung from limb to vine to limb with grace and athleticism that would be hard to match. He finished his incredible gymnastic performance by swinging onto the twine fence in front of us and then… whizzed in the direction of the awestruck observers. I know he’s planning to improve his range by next summer in order to give the crowd an experience they’ll never forget.

Here’s the slideshow. Click the icon in the bottom right corner with the four arrows pointing out if you want to see it in full screen.

Copyright 2009 Randy Hunt

Friday, November 20, 2009

2009 trip to Texas: Day 2

Timothy is two years three months old, talking a bunch, and testing his limits (more like testing Sarah’s limits). One of his favorite treats is a banana, and therein lies the problem.

Nana Mary is now officially Banana Mary.

Could be worse. My nephew, Pat, at the same age used to call his grandpa (my dad) “dumpah.”

It was about 60 degrees today and it rained all day. I looked up the weather in Sandwich. Also 60 degrees and rain. The good news is we’ll be sans rain for the next week or so.

Tomorrow, it’s the Dallas Zoo.

Above: Charlotte with Banana Mary.

Right: Jeff holding a football.

Below: Sarah & Timothy.

Copyright 2009 Randy Hunt

Thursday, November 19, 2009

2009 trip to Texas: Day 1

Mary was thrilled with the P&B bus ride from the Sagamore Bridge commuter lot to Logan Airport. I’m not being sarcastic here. She was really excited about it. It turns out that she’s only had to ride a bus maybe once or twice in her entire life. Yes, my princess, this is how lots of people get around.

Just to make it easier for those unfamiliar with our family, our six kids are:

Chris – 27
Sarah – 27
Bryan – 26
Dan – 25
Gayle – 22
Jeff – 20

We arrived at Logan with enough time to enjoy a leisurely lunch before boarding the 4½ hour flight to Dallas. Bryan (2001 Sandwich High School graduate, known to his friends there as “Tex”) picked us up at DFW. He starts a new job Monday after tying up a number of loose ends at his current job this week.

We’re staying at Sarah and Mark’s place in Rockwall (just east of Dallas) until we drive to Alan and Mary’s ranch next Tuesday. Tonight, we were joined by Jeff, who drove up from Austin. He’s at the University of Texas. Bryan graduated from Texas A&M, so the game between the two schools on the 28th will generate some intra-family trash talking.

The precious grandkids are the focus of our trip.


Sarah & Charlotte

Copyright 2009 Randy Hunt

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

2009 trip to Texas: The day before

We’re flying to Dallas tomorrow to see the newest addition to our family, Charlotte Gayle.

Like I did last year, I’ll post a daily diary entry to the blog to keep everyone apprised of our progress. We’ll be heading down to my brother’s ranch on Tuesday to help them prepare for the 30 some odd relatives that will storm the place on Thanksgiving.

Last night, I priced some options for getting to Logan Airport and it’s unbelievable how much it costs to park a car there. We’ll be leaving Thursday and returning Tuesday, December 1st, which amounts to 13 parking days.

Limosine service – The advantage of this option is skipping the parking fees and it’s door-to-terminal. Cost: $320 round trip plus tip, which at 15%, adds $48 (some people say 20% is the proper tip for a limo driver). Here’s a tip: Keep the limo washed and polished for someone else.

Even a limo can get to and from Logan twice on less than a tank of gas. We’ll say $40. Wear and tear on the car? Maybe 20 cents a mile times 300 miles, or $60. That leaves $220 for the driver (without the tip) and profit.

It takes about four hours to make the round trip once, so figure eight hours of time for the driver. What does a driver pull down? $15 an hour plus tips? I don’t know. Say it’s $15 an hour.

That’s $120 for the driver, leaving $100 profit for the owner, before paying for insurance, workers comp, social security, Medicare, the mortgage, property taxes, utilities, telephone, lawyers, CPAs…

Okay, I can see why it costs so much.

Drive to Logan and park in Central Parking – This has been our regular M.O. when flying out of Logan. Cost: $312 to park plus about $25 of gas. Not cheap. Next alternative please.

Drive to the Park & Fly in Braintree – I haven’t tried this, but I know several people who like this option. Cost: $176 to park and ride the bus to Logan plus about $20 of gas. Now we’re entering the realm of reasonableness.

P&B bus from the Sagamore Bridge commuter lot – This one entails talking someone into dropping us off at the commuter lot because I really don’t want to leave my car sitting there for nearly two weeks. Cost: $82 for two round-trip tickets to Logan. Bingo!

Is anyone interested in dumping us off at the Sagamore commuter lot tomorrow morning around 9:30? I can rake a few leaves for you when we get back.

Copyright 2009 Randy Hunt

Monday, November 16, 2009

To shoot or not to shoot

I’m wrapping up the editing on a program that’s a story about South Texas ranchers and how they deal with a variety of threats to their livestock and land.

Of primary concern are the millions of feral hogs that roam the open expanses of Texas and destroy hayfields by rooting for wild onions and nut grass. Another threat comes from coyotes preying on calves and other small farm animals.

I was fortunate to capture a few kill shots during the videoing of the program; two feral hogs and one coyote. Yes, animals were injured (actually worse) during the filming of this program.

So here’s my quandary. Do I include the kill shots or not?

By showing these animals being killed, it’s an opportunity to bring the raw reality of ranching to the viewer, bringing home the seriousness of the threats and how ranchers deal with the problem day in and day out.

Leaving the clips on the cutting room floor removes the shock of seeing an animal being hit by a rifle bullet, but also takes the edge off the video, making it suitable for viewers who think the only sacrifice to produce a steak dinner is made by the chef sweating in the kitchen.

Now it’s your turn to log your opinion by commenting on this post and voting in the survey at the top right of this page.

Here is my rough cut of the coyote clip. Don't watch it if you can't handle it.

Copyright 2009 Randy Hunt

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Barack Obama: Actions speak louder than words

Guest editorial by Jim Killion

At some point in our lives we have heard the expression that “actions speak louder than words” and it stems from the fundamental belief that talk is in fact, cheap. This basic rule of modern behavior has never been more prescient as we try to peel the layers off of Barack Obama. We discovered during the campaign that the man is a gifted speaker, but now nearly eleven months into his presidency, his leadership skills leave much to be desired. In fact, besides breaking the bank with a massive government expansion bill which was deceptively portrayed as economic stimulus, he has accomplished very little and continues to compromise our security.

However, in the past few days we got a glimpse at what makes BHO tick and it wasn’t necessarily anything he did or said but rather what he chose to avoid. This week marked the 20th anniversary to the end of communism and Soviet rule in Eastern Europe yet despite an invitation to join with them to celebrate and speak on the occasion, BHO declined. He claimed that he was too busy to make the trip, but honestly, is anyone really buying that story? Somehow, he found the time to fly across the Atlantic to try and work his magic on the Olympic Committee in an attempt to line the pockets of a few cronies, but now he’s completely booked? Nice try.

I am one who believes that the demise of the Soviet Union and communism was one of the greatest American achievements of the 20th century. Despite the fact that Europeans have decided to write Ronald Reagan out of the history books, this great American president was responsible for ending the cold war and freeing millions when the iron curtain fell two decades ago. So why is it that President Obama, who adores sycophantic European crowds almost as much as he adores himself, would choose to take a pass? There has been great speculation as to where his ideology may lie but perhaps he truly laments the demise of communism. Maybe now that he is the first President of the World, Obama feels that the United States had no right to put the Soviet Union out of business.

The jury is still out as to whether President Obama has any ideological leanings toward socialism or communism but it has become perfectly clear that he abhors capitalism and believes in big government control. Where does he plan on taking America in the next three years? I suspect as far left as he possibly can. But I’m guessing that the only way we’ll know what he’s scheming is by turning down the volume and paying very close attention.

Jim Killion
Sandwich, MA

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Making sense of Medicare cuts

I was watching the countdown to passage of PelosiCare, hosted by Geraldo Rivera, with a running commentary by Michael Steele, chairman of the Republican National Committee.

Something Steele said caught my ear and reminded me of a TV ad that was airing a few weeks ago. He said that Medicare is bankrupt and the Democrats’ plan will cut $400 billion out of it. He went on to say that that doesn’t make any sense.

On August 24, 2009, Steele wrote this in a Washington Post op ed: “But [the president] and congressional Democrats are planning to raid, not aid, Medicare by cutting $500 billion from the program to fund his healthcare experiment.”

I’m not sure why the $100 billion difference between his two statements, but these days it’s considered chump change anyway.

In the ad that ran recently, Dr. Ami Siems used a similar line: “Washington already controls Medicare and Medicare will be bankrupt in eight years. Despite this looming bankruptcy, some want to pay for health care reform with $500 billion in Medicare spending cuts.”

Let’s step back for a minute and ask ourselves what is being said here. Steele and Siems are arguing that reducing expenses of a program that is headed for bankruptcy doesn’t make sense.

Did I miss a class when I was in business school? I always thought that cutting expenses was essential for a company heading into bankruptcy. Hopefully, with enough cutbacks and restructuring, a company could avoid a bankruptcy altogether.

Apparently, all logic and common sense gets turned on its head when dealing with the government. Or should I say politics?

Copyright 2009 Randy Hunt

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Texting while driving worse than billboarding while driving?

I saw this Verizon TV ad cautioning against texting while driving.

It seems a bit ironic to me that Verizon would be erecting giant billboards, which are in and of themselves a source of distracted driving.

I’ve been sending text messages to all my friends warning them not to read billboards while driving.

Copyright 2009 Randy Hunt

Thursday, November 5, 2009

We will not cut local aid (trust me)

I’ll have to file this in the “you can’t trust him as far as you can throw him” category. I know. I know. What in the world was I thinking, when Governor Deval Patrick said to a Worcester audience on October 29, 2009, “We will not cut local aid,” that he meant “We will not cut local aid?”

I even reported that he had made this commitment at our board of selectmen meeting last Thursday night. What a relief that the $600 million in cuts would not be on the backs of the towns and cities of the commonwealth.

Here’s Deval’s exact comment about local aid cuts: “We will not cut local aid. Local communities are the front line of both our economic and our social life and they are struggling as it is.”

On October 30th (the next day), he filed H4303, which includes local aid cuts and made requests to the legislature to cut PILOT funding and the Quinn Bill (both elements of local aid).

Dear Governor Patrick:

Local aid, as well as assessments, are reported to the towns and cities by the Department of Revenue via what is commonly called the Cherry Sheet. The Cherry Sheet even has its own 56-page manual called the Cherry Sheet Manual. So far, so good.

From page three of the Cherry Sheet Manual:

Named for the cherry-colored paper on which it was originally printed, the Cherry Sheet is the official notification from the Commissioner of Revenue of the upcoming fiscal year’s state aid and assessments to cities, towns and regional school districts.

When you say “local aid,” that means the stuff listed on the Cherry Sheet. Everyone, except you, seems to know this.

For reference, we’ll use the Town of Sandwich’s fiscal year 2010 Cherry Sheet.

Now let’s look at some of the cuts you’re proposing:

1) 50% reduction of Quinn Bill payments – That would be Line 4 under Section B of the Cherry Sheet (aka “local aid”).

2) 39% reduction of PILOT – PILOT stands for payments in lieu of taxes. In this case, it refers to the payments made by the state to cities and towns that host state-owned property. Here in Sandwich, we have quite a bit of state-owned land, the biggest piece of it being the Massachusetts Military Reservation. We were scheduled to receive $551,137 of PILOT. A 39% reduction would correlate to about $215,000. Now, let’s see… Is that on the Cherry Sheet? Yes. Here it is. Line 8 under Section B.

3) You want to cut budget line 7000-9501, Public Libraries Local Aid, by $284,000 (statewide). Do I even need to bother to see if Public Libraries Local Aid might, in fact, be considered local aid? Just so you know, it’s Line 9 under Section B.

4) It gets better. Next, you want to shave $5,174,307 off the Charter School Reimbursement budget line item (7061-9010). You know what’s coming next. There it is. Line 4 under Section A of our Cherry Sheet.

5) Finally, you’re going to lop $18 million off the Regional School Districts Transportation budget (7035-0006). Well, guess what? Sandwich and four other towns pay for Upper Cape Tech, so where do you think the school is going to be forced to go to make up for their transportation budget shortfall? Really. Do I need to answer the question for you?

So, Governor, when you said “We will not cut local aid,” what did you think you were saying? Are you and your staff so unfamiliar with how our budgets work that you didn’t realize that these are all local aid accounts? Or did you think that we wouldn’t notice?

It’s incredible that we can’t trust even the simplest, most straight-forward things that you say. (I’m shaking my head.)


Incredulous and Stunned in Sandwich

Here’s a fuller analysis of the governor’s proposed cuts: H4303 – Governor’s FY10 Fiscal Solutions Supp

Copyright 2009 Randy Hunt

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Yankees' curse, an update

Oh yeah, that thing I was saying about a Yankee's curse...

Never mind.

Copyright 2009 Randy Hunt

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Tagliabue's Socialist NFL

A half dozen years ago we were talking about parity in the NFL. Paul Tagliabue, former commissioner, seemed to think that a league filled with 8 and 8 teams would be best for maintaining fan interest. Perhaps they should consider not keeping score and giving everyone a trophy for trying hard.

The rules have always given losers the top picks on draft day, but the trading of draft positions and players has gotten so sophisticated that Wall Street is jealous.

Salary caps were adopted in 1994. It was another attempt to create parity in the league, though many believe that the real intent was to control owners’ costs, thus boosting their profits. Ooooo, those evil profits being made by those evil owners. Bad, bad profits. Bad, bad owners.

So what happened to Tagliabue’s socialist dream? A league where, not only can any given team beat another team on any given Sunday, but every team accomplishes this exactly half the time? A league where the playoff teams are selected by the fourth and fifth tie breakers?

Fortunately, the NFL is chock full of competitors. From the owners to the coaches to every player on every team, the goal is to win. This is capitalism and competition in all its shining glory.

After week eight, we still have two undefeated teams (the Saints and Colts) and two others with only one loss (Vikings and Broncos). This is generating huge fan interest. Peyton, Drew and Brett are in a battle for best quarterback. The skilled position players on these teams are plastered on kids’ bedroom walls and admired by all serious fans, trash talking aside.

On the other hand, there are six teams either winless or with only one win. How exciting was it when the Lions finally won their first game since the 2007 season? You would have thought they were headed to Disney World.

And the Tampa Bay Buccaneers? It’s been a bad year for pirates all the way around. Can they lose it all this year? We’ll be glued to the TV wondering just that.

Perhaps one of the most interesting games this year will be played on November 22nd at 1:00 p.m. Eastern time. Depending on what happens over the next two weeks, it is possible that the 9 and 0 Saints will be playing the 0 and 9 Bucs. Wouldn’t an upset on that day be awesome?

That would never happen in Tagliabue World.

Copyright 2009 Randy Hunt

Thursday, October 29, 2009

PelosiCare unveiled

PelosiCare was released today. The first thing you’ll notice about it is that it’s even bigger than HR 3200, weighing in at an eye-popping 1,990 pages. This should guarantee that no one in congress reads it.

I did run a few searches through the pdf file:

“Tort” – The word comes up twice, first on page 1,452 in relation to “Community-Based Collaborative Care Networks.” “Nothing in this section shall be construed to expand medical malpractice liability protection under the Federal Tort Claims Act for Section 330-funded Federally qualified health centers.” I think that means this bill doesn’t address tort reform, at least as it may apply to Community-Based Collaborative Care Networks.

The second reference to “Tort” shows up on page 1,949 in a section titled “Hospital Privileges for Practitioners.” Now we’re talking. Wait… Nope. Never mind. This section bestows the existing federal tort protections on practitioners who treat Indians (the bill’s word, not mine) while on the government payroll.

“Malpractice” – This word shows up six times in the 1,990 pages, but not in the context of proposing any changes to the current malpractice laws.

“Public Health Insurance Option” – Thirty-three instances, starting with page 4 where the bill “creates a new Health Insurance Exchange, with a public health insurance option alongside private plans.” This was promised, so no surprise. You’ll recall what Barney Frank said on July 27, 2009: “I’ve been a co-sponsor of single payer for a very long time. We don’t have the votes for it. I wish we did. I think if we get a good public option, it could lead to single payer and that’s the best way to reach single payer.”

“Tea Party/Bagger” – Doesn’t appear.

“Nazi” – Nope.

“Death Panel” – No again.

“Euthanasia” – Occurs twice in the context of not promoting “suicide, assisted suicide, euthanasia, or mercy killing.” (See page 130, “Prohibition on the Promotion of Assisted Suicide.”) The escape clause, however, is on page 131, where it says “Nothing in this section shall be construed to preempt or otherwise have any effect on State laws regarding advance care planning, palliative care, or end-of-life decision-making.” Oregon, you’re good to go with your assisted suicides.

“Citizen” – This comes up four times in the context of denying benefits to people who are not “lawfully present in a State in the United States (other than as a nonimmigrant described in a subparagraph, excluding subparagraphs (K), (T), (U), and (V) of section 101(a)(15) of the Immigration and Nationality Act).” I don’t know what that means, but it does appear that the only application of a “legal status” test is in relationship to Individual Affordability Credits (page 225), which are available to low income individuals. There doesn’t seem to be anything preventing access to the Public Option for illegal immigrants as long as they pay the premium.

“Salad Bar” – This appears on page 1,513 and is one of the exceptions to the requirement that all menus in restaurants with 20 or more locations disclose calorie content and other nutritional information for each of their offerings. It’s hard to count calories when the customer is dishing out his own grub, but salad bars and buffets will still have to comply with the mandatory display of “suggested daily calorie intake,” as promulgated by your health conscious federal government.

I can’t wait to see the look of horror on the faces in the next booth when I order the 12-inch BLT, Super Stacked Grinder at Blimpie’s. Hey, the place is named Blimpie’s. Does anyone not get that?

Copyright 2009 Randy Hunt

Monday, October 26, 2009

Yankees into 9th year of an 86-year curse

The Red Sox came to New York City on October 20, 2004 with an 86-year curse and went home with a pennant. Where did the curse end up? In the Bronx Bombers’ clubhouse, of course.

The Yankees most recent World Series win was in 2000, culminating an incredible four World Series wins in five years. That goes to show what modern medicine can do for an overpaid team.

With the curse successfully passed over to the Evil Empire, their next World Series victory will be in October 2086. It will be a life-long wait for many fans, but the years of disappointments will be character builders for these stalwart supporters, making the victory in 2086 that much sweeter.

So here’s to you, my Pinstripe loving friends: May your wait be long and exasperating.

Copyright 2009 Randy Hunt

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Did we just legalize marijuana?

Last week we had numerous federal laws that make possessing and distributing marijuana a crime. This week the laws are still there. Nothing's changed on that front.

What has changed is that our U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder has directed federal prosecutors not to go after possessors and distributors of marijuana who are complying with state medical marijuana laws. He said, “It will not be a priority to use federal resources to prosecute patients with serious illnesses or their caregivers who are complying with state laws on medical marijuana, but we will not tolerate drug traffickers who hide behind claims of compliance with state law to mask activities that are clearly illegal.”

Seems fair enough, but I question whether the Justice Department's directive will go unchallenged by those who use and distribute marijuana for medicinal purposes in the 36 states where it is still illegal under state law.

Can the federal government choose not to enforce federal laws in selected states? Is there a requirement that the Justice Department apply the principles of justice evenly across all states? Could the lack of evenhandedness be grounds for a Supreme Court case? Did we just legalize marijuana?

Copyright 2009 Randy Hunt

Saturday, October 17, 2009

To my best friend: Happy Anniversary!

I know plenty of people who have been married for many years and who, by all accepted criteria, have successful marriages. They enjoy longevity in their relationship, kids and grandkids, financial security, and the love of each other.

On the other hand, I don't know many people who can honestly say that their relationship is based on friendship. It's different from companionship. It's different from love. You can love someone and be their companion without being a true friend.

Being a true friend is the feeling that you can never be together too much; that you can share absolutely everything with confidence; that you can't wait to see each other to continue your conversation; that you're inspired simply by being in the presence of the other person.

I am very fortunate to be married to my best friend.

I love you, darling. Happy Anniversary.

Whatever happened to freedom of speech?

I’m not a U.S. Constitution historian, so forgive me if I don’t know why freedom of speech was apparently an “afterthought” and became the first of the amendments rather than to be integrated into the main document.

Nonetheless, freedom of speech is a fundamental thread in the fabric of our democracy. We innately understand it and don’t think twice about exercising it. We criticize our governments—local, regional, state and federal—without fear of retribution.

We began eight years of high decibel criticism the day the U.S. Supreme Court overturned the Florida Supreme Court’s decision on how to handle the 2000 presidential election recount. That opened the door for Katherine Harris, Florida’s secretary of state, to declare the winner, which started claims of a stolen election and an illegitimate president.

I have been publicly critical of certain of Bush's positions as well, such as his personal vendetta against Saddam Hussein which, I believe, drove his decision to invade Iraq, and his laissez faire approach to immigration control.

Remind me if I’m wrong, but I don’t recall the George Bush White House enlisting the public to report the names of people who oppose the administration’s policies via the White House website. A few days after this attack on free speech, the Obama White House found itself in a pickle. It was likely that collecting these names was illegal, but the act of destroying these public records was also against the law. What to do?

I also don’t recall the Bush White House going after an insurance company, demanding that it stop distributing its assessment of a government program via a newsletter and, furthermore, to purge anything it had posted on its website relevant to the issue.

Nor do I recall any administration since Nixon that so publicly went to war against a news outlet. Nixon nixed the New York Times over their insistence to tell the truth about the deteriorating situation in Vietnam.

I’m starting think that freedom of speech is taking on an entirely new interpretation: It’s only free if you agree.

Here are some links to interesting commentaries on this topic:

Attack on Humana

Freedom of speech under attack

Anita Dunn goes after Fox News

White House battle against free speech grows

Copyright 2009 Randy Hunt

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Massachusetts needs to reduce spending

An article today from the AP describes Governor Patrick's plan to deal with overspending by state government. He is contemplating laying off up to 2,000 state workers.

Shocking, you say?

Here's what's really shocking: Since Deval Patrick became governor, he has hired more than 4,800 state employees. Read the report here.

Governor Patrick, how about leaving the cities and towns alone this time and focusing on the real problem?

Copyright 2009 Randy Hunt

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

I've got chills, they're multiplying...

This was our band in 1977, the year Saturday Night Fever was released. From the left, Mike Duva (saxophone & Lyricon), Gary Hollis (guitar & vocals), Randy Hunt (bass guitar & vocals), Bill Montoya (guitar & vocals), and Mike Wyatt (drums & vocals).

Mike Wyatt had suggested we call the band The Randy Hunt Combo or The Randy Hunt Experience or something like that. I nixed that idea, but we used my initials in the name and quickly became the darlings of the pathology and obstetrics crowd.

I recount one of our more memorable gigs in Hey, you in the wheelchair. Stand up!
Yes, we sunk to the level of John Travolta with our polyester leisure suits and giant collars, but it was fun, fab and phat.
Copyright 2009 Randy Hunt

Sunday, October 11, 2009

My new favorite radio ad (Coors Light Monday Night Football Song)

What a great idea. Draftfcb, the international advertising agency, put words to the Monday Night Football theme for Coors Light, sung by what sounds like an Ivy League men's glee club. It was recorded by Comma Music.

Click here to hear it.

Here are the lyrics in case you want to sing along:

This Monday night
Football, weeknights
You’ll need some cold beer
Cold beer, that’s right
How ‘bout a frost-brewed Coors Light?
Frost brewed cold Coors Light
World’s most refreshing beer

Monday night, best weeknight
Tuesday night, not so much
(Repeat previous two lines under the following half-tone ascending scale)
Beer tastes as cold as the Rockies
Coors Light
Monday watching, screaming
Coors Light

It’s the beer on Monday night
Cold Coors Light

This Monday night
How ‘bout a frost-brewed Coors Light?
Official beer sponsor of the NFL

Monday, October 5, 2009

Handicap spaces being abused (by the handicapped)

This is the first time I've ever noticed a "handicapped person" (replace with your favorite politically correct phrase of the week) abusing a handicap parking space.

I was walking into the post office when a minivan pulled into one of the handicap parking spaces. The van was placarded appropriately so I didn't think much of it.

Then a person, half the age of the driver, jumps out of the passenger side door and skips into the post office, dropping off mail and checking a PO box. Out goes this obviously not handicapped person, jumping back into the van and off they go.

Can we not ALL simply respect the spirit of the law instead of trying to grab some personal gain by searching for loopholes?

Copyright 2009 Randy Hunt

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Shoot your parents today

If you don’t own a camcorder, you should buy or borrow one for a project that you’ll treasure forever.

The project?

Record your parents reminiscing and recounting the major milestones and crossroads in their lives.

I did this 21 years ago, in November 1988. My parents, Frank and Alice Hunt, didn’t really want to do it. I had to persuade them over a period of weeks to sit down in front of my Sony Betacam and I’m grateful they finally capitulated.

My dad died eight years after that video was made and my mom is now in the advanced stages of Alzheimer’s.

At $1,300, that Sony camcorder was quite the investment back then. Today, you can buy a camcorder with a better picture, complete with software to upload your videos to YouTube, for around $200.

I copied the original beta tape to VHS about ten years ago. That transfer, along with storing the tape in less than optimum places, has degraded the video quality significantly, but it’s still pretty good and is, by far, my favorite video.

My suggestion to you? Don’t put it off. Shoot that video now. You’ll be glad you did.

Part 1: Siblings and Parents

Part 2: Alice's Siblings and Growing Up

Part 3: Alice's Parents and First Cars

Part 4: Frank Enlists and How They Met

Part 5: Marriage and Pre-Deployment Training

Part 6: Deployment to North Africa

Part 7: Italy, End of War, and Reuniting

Part 8: Kenedy, Alaska, Ft. Bragg and Japan

Part 9: Camp Drake, Japan, and Ft. Bliss

Copyright 2009 Randy Hunt

Saturday, October 3, 2009

101st Post! (New look.)

Now that I've gotten past the 100th post thing, which I have been furiously planning for a couple of weeks, it's back to my regular routine: Alienating my remaining friends.

You'll notice a new look for the blog. It's readable. That's my primary concern. I hate these red-print-on-black-background blogs that sacrifice legibility for effect.

You might also notice a couple of new gadgets in the right-hand column:

1) Search Randy's Blog - You can search the blog for anything you like. For example, if you're worried that I might have mentioned you (or are preparing your lawsuit), just search on your name.

2) Recent Comments - The most recent seven comments are listed here. This is helpful for people following some of the older posts that continue to accumulate comments.

3) Share It - This gadget allows you to share your enthusiasm for this blog by clicking a button. (I wouldn't want you to go to any more trouble than pressing your mouse button once. I mean, you must already be exhausted just having surfed your way to this blog in the first place.)

4) Index of All Posts - This isn't new, but it's the quickest way to peruse the blog. Try it by clicking here.

Copyright 2009 Randy Hunt

Friday, October 2, 2009

100th Post! (Wheeee!!)

I couldn't decide what to write for this milestone 100th post.

Copyright 2009 Randy Hunt

IOC gives Obamas and Oprah the Olympic finger

The bad news: The Obamas wasted over a million taxpayer dollars on this boondoggle.

The good news: Losing out on the 2016 Olympics saved us billions of taxpayer bailout money that Chicago would have received for the cost overruns.


Not so happy

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Windows 7 house party

If you haven't seen the latest effort by Microsoft to join the hip crowd, you must watch the following two videos. The more of the first video you watch, the better the next one will be. It's sort of like staring at a red sheet of paper for five minutes, then looking around the room. If you give up after only one minute, the effect isn't nearly as good.

Copyright 2009 Randy Hunt

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Concert review complete with crowd effects

At the outset, it should be known that I have few, if any, of the credentials necessary to review any kind of concert, much less a classical music concert performed by an orchestra. Of course, having a deep background in your topic area is generally overkill when it comes to blogging.

I have, unlike many bloggers, struggled to read trombone parts written in tenor clef while participating in my high school and college symphonies. And I pride myself for being able to identify out-of-tune horns (French, English and car).

One more caveat before diving into my review of today’s Cape Cod Symphony Orchestra concert at the Barnstable High School: This is a humor column. No one who plays in the symphony orchestra, is employed by the symphony orchestra, or is a supporter of the symphony orchestra should take any of my negative observations as a serious critique of the symphony orchestra, its employees, or its supporters.

To make things a little more interesting, I’m going to insert the same crowd noises into my review [DRY COUGH] that occurred during today’s matinee performance (which tends to attract an older, phlegm-challenged audience). And, because I am a consummate professional, like Conductor Jung-Ho Pak and all of the orchestra members, I will ignore [HACK] these crowd noises and plow through my review, not showing the least sign of how distracting [THROAT CLEARING AHEM] they are.

This opening concert of the symphony’s 48th season started with the Star Spangled Banner. A lady behind me with a beautiful, though fff voice, belted out the words with more confidence than anyone opening a game at Fenway this year. During that highest note in the bridge, “glare” I believe, my left ear shut down, going into that tinnitus tone reminiscent of a television at 1 a.m. before broadcasts went 24/7.

Autumn was the theme of the concert and, appropriately, the first piece was Autumn from Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons for Violin and Orchestra. The orchestra [SNEEZE] trimmed down to the string section plus harpsichord and was joined by Lindsay Deutsch, guest violinist. Lindsay was [WET COUGH] emotive, a master technician, and had a very robust lower register. The string ensemble is much improved over what I remember from several years ago; more like one person playing fifteen violins than fifteen violinists competing for the same open space.

Autumn was followed by an original piece written for solo violin by Paul Salerni who, by an amazing coincidence, just happened to have bought a ticket for today’s performance and was sitting a few rows back from center stage. An arrangement based on Autumn Leaves, the classic jazz tune from the 1940s, Lindsay tore it up, transitioning from [ODD NOISE SOUNDING LIKE A CANADA GOOSE BEING CHOKED] the simple melody to an increasingly dissonant series of variations in differing styles.

Lindsay also led the next composition by Astor Piazzolla, The Four Seasons of Buenos Aires. A modern piece, meaning that the melody is incapable of being whistled, it featured a variety of unusual sounds, including clacking, scratching and plucking [LOUD BELCH HARDLY NOTICEABLE AMONG ALL THE CLACKING, SCRATCHING AND PLUCKING]. Seriously, this was a challenging piece and the orchestra was up to the task.

The first set finished with The Seasons, by Alexander Glazunov. With several beautiful melodies and motifs, the string sections [HISSING OF AN OXYGEN HOSE THAT SLIPPED OFF ITS NIPPLE] showed off their rich, sonorous tones and were complemented by a superb performance by the winds.

Free cough drops were handed out during intermission. Perhaps flu shots would be a welcomed addition in the lobby at next month’s concert.

With Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 4 in F Minor on tap for the second half, I was wondering if the orchestra would be up to it. It’s a huge piece, with the strings delivering blistering runs and sixteenth-note intervals, looking like fifty carpenters with fifty reciprocating saws running in unison.

I’m happy to report that [PHLEGM DISLODGING COUGH FOLLOWED BY STEREO DRY HACKS] the orchestra was more than up to the challenge; they absolutely kicked the door down, sounding better and playing together better than I’ve ever heard them. The audience was so impressed with the first movement that even seasoned concert goers applauded enthusiastically.

The pizzicato movement can easily turn into a train wreck, but it was executed with utmost timing and musicality. Most impressive. In case anyone was lulled into an alpha state, the percussion section put a stop to it in the allegro movement. The bass drum and cymbal crash had many people reaching for their volume controls.

Throughout the night, but especially in the Tchaikovsky piece, the wind sections were outstanding. The double reeds and clarinet were pristine [ANOTHER GOOSE HONK MIXED WITH THE GROAN OF A CATHETER BEING REMOVED], nary a cracked note emanated from the horns, the flute and piccolo were dead on, and the trumpets, bones and tuba were flawless.

The Symphony No. 4 finale brought the entire crowd to their feet and, although a few seniors raced (if you want to call it that) for the exits during the applause and well-deserved bows, most of us savored the new mark of excellence set by our Cape Cod Symphony Orchestra.

Congratulations! [WHEEZE]