Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Religion in North Alabama, Simplified

There's really three major points to remember:

1.  Jews do not recognize the divinity of Christ.

2.  Protestants do not recognize the Pope as the Head of the Christian religion.

3.  Baptists do not recognize each other in Hooters'.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

When Florence Went Wet

It was about this time, thirty years ago.

Previously, the legal sale of alcoholic beverages was voted on by individual counties; and this pattern prevailed:  a small marjority of voter within Florence voted "wet"; but an overwhelming number of Lauderdale County voters outside of Florence voted "dry."  This effectively kept Lauderdale County "dry."  But, really, about as dry as a bar rag.

You see, bootleggers were commonly known to be in operation; additionally, you could get beer in neighboring Lawrence County in Tennessee.  As a matter of fact, the beer store on the state line had the largest beer cooler I've ever seen.  If you wanted liquor, that was legally available in Huntsville, sold in the state package stores.  [How about this socialism, Alabama-style]

But the Bible Belt loosened in the early 1980's.  Nearby Colbert County voted "wet" and made it more convenient to purchase alcohol.

But in 1981 the State Legislature passed an act allowing municipalities of over 10,000 residents to vote independently on whether alchol would be sold.  Florence voted by itself.  There was a lot of money spent on the campaign.  Some individuals darkly suggested that the bootleggers were bankrolling the "drys'" campaign -- plausible, in my book.  Anyway, the "wets"won -- in a few weeks we had the sale of alcohol, but with a chastity belt set of restrictions.  The City Council did not want saloons, nosiree!  Therefore, the only establishments who could sell alcohol were restaurants!  Beer could be sold in convenience stores.

Still, happy days finally came!

The significance of the "wet" vote was that the issue became a symbolic campaign.  It was over what kind of community Florence, Alabama was to be.  Prior to the vote, the churches (or at least the Baptist Church and the Church of Christ ran things and effectively policed morality.  It was the radicals who ventured to the movies on Sunday night, and blue law closings were the rule for stores.  And bluenoses felt free to criticize what people or their children wore!  And the dead hand of an oppressive rectitude was felt in a variety of ways.

But no longer!  Florence joined Huntsville and Colbert County as islands of relative permissiveness within the Bible Belt.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Deriving a Heuristic for Predicting NCAA Tournament Results

It's not an althorithm,

Since the inception of the 64-team tournament in 1985, each seed-pairing has played a total of 108 first-round games, with the following results:
  1. The #1 seed is 108–0 against the #16 seed (100%).
  2. The #2 seed is 104–4 against the #15 seed (96.30%).
  3. The #3 seed is 92–16 against the #14 seed (85.19%).
  4. The #4 seed is 85–23 against the #13 seed (78.70%).
  5. The #5 seed is 72–36 against the #12 seed (66.67%).
  6. The #6 seed is 72–36 against the #11 seed (66.67%).
  7. The #7 seed is 65–43 against the #10 seed (60.19%).
  8. The #8 seed is 51–57 against the #9 seed (47.22%).
Therefore, when you fill out your NCAA Tournament bracket, always choose the higher-seeded teams in the first round, with possibly the #8 seed. 

Later on, go with a higher-seeded team.  It's not perfect; after all, how many tournaments ended with the Final Four lacking and first-seeded teams?

    Friday, March 9, 2012

    Practicing Medicine or Bartending Without a License

    Back when I was in high school, I sometimes had to answer the phone for other family members, especially my Dad, who practiced medicine.  Anyway, one night I did so, and it was a religious brother who was teaching at another school on the line.  This is approximately what transpired:

    "Hello, I'm constipated, and I need something to relieve my problem."

    "Gee, my Father's not home now.  Can I take a message from you?" as I was repeatedly instructed to say.

    "Well......I'm really blocked up.  Is there anything I can do?"

    "I'm not sure when he'll return; but I'll be sure to give him your message."

    "Well, that's not good.  Tell me, what would you do?"

    This high school teacher is asking some smartass 15-year-old about relieving constipation.  It confirmed my opinion that teachers were often full of shit.  Anyway, he seemed desperate, and kept at it, so I gave him a suggestion.

    "Why don't you put two jiggers of vodka in a water glass over ice, and fill the glass with prune juice!  Oh, yes.....keep on pushing!"

    Which was new territory in smartassdom, as I could see.

    Anyway, I was back for several hours of watching crappy westerns, the tee vee fare of the times.

    My Dad returned, and I told him the Good Brother had called.  He nodded and went off to play with his radio.

    Soon the Brother called, and said that my advice worked!  And apparently he was feeling no pain.  My Dad was impressed.

    I guess this could be construed as a violation of the Medical Practice Act.  And I was underage for being a bartender.

    I found out later that this drink is called a piledriver!

    Tuesday, March 6, 2012

    Ravings from a Superannuated Flatus

    It's one of those things.  You find yourself unceremoniously dumped into an unpleasantly-named category of people without any real offense, just convenience.  Not this is not the same category as being branded with an unpleasant racial or ethnic slur; but it is mildly annoying.  Just sayin'.

    When I turned 50, I started getting letters from the AARP soliciting my membership, although I didn't feel old and was nowhere near retirement age.  And I found myself often categorized as a "senior."  Now, I was not some big shit fourth year student in a high school (I'm a Senior, hear me roar!), I was seen as over the hill.

    You know, I'd rather be referred to as an old fart!

    Or, even better, a superannuated flatus.

    At least no one has yet called me a keen ager!  That bit of dog vomit was actually used by Highland Baptist Church about 20 years ago to refer to their old folks' group.  Baptists should never try to be cute. 

    And I don't do cute.

    Not Needing Anything

    Shih-tou Hsi-chien (700-790) was a very well known Chinese Ch'an master.

    As a young monk, he was one of the disciples of the Sixth Patriarch Hui-neng.
    After Hui-neng passed away, Shih-tou continued his pilgrimage...

    He paid a vist to the Great master Hsing-szu at the Ching-yuan mountain.

    Hsing-szu asked: "Where did you come from?"

    Shih-tou replied: "From Tsao-chi [referring where Hui-neng resided]."

    "What did you get at Tsao-chi?"

    "Before I was at Tsao-chi, I was not lacking anything."

    "If so, why were you there?"

    "If I were not there, how could I know I did not lack anything?"

    Sunday, March 4, 2012

    The Vice-Presidency

    An overused cliché in American politics is that the Vice-President is only a heartbeat away from the Presidency.  But, that's real. 

    And, yet, we have an amazing recurrence: Too often the person that the Presidential nominees select for their running mates is a political or intellectual nonentity, or someone with no proven track record.  Take 1996, 2000, 2004, and 2008 as examples.  We were subject to having the following choices:    Al Gore or Jack Kemp, Dick Cheney or Joe Lieberman, Dick Cheney or John Edwards, Sarah Palin or Joe Biden.  Deuces are apparently wild.

    The process is at fault.  Unless the candidate is running for a second term (like Obama this year), the potential pool of running mates also included persons who ran for president against the candidate, and gored the nominee in the process.  Also, the Vice_Presidential nominee is selected by the nominee personally to fit certain ethnic, regional, or other strategies.  So they invariably go with relatively safe nonentities.

    But nobody seems to deal with the reality: four of our Presidents were assassinated, and several have been to some degree incapacitated to some degree while serving.  Woodrow Wilson comes to mind for sure; but others could be good bets as well.

    Wouldn't it be better if the choice for Vice-President be left open at the Conventions?  There's no guarantees; but maybe the delegates could come up with better choices.

    Or, even better, we vote separately for the President and Vice-President, even if it means they might come from different parties.  And why is that so bad?