Don’t Tread On Me: Benjamin Franklin And The Power Of Images

September 30, 2011

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Although images were scarce in the early days of American colonialism, they became more and more important as the colonies became increasingly sophisticated, both socially and economically. Printed material was necessary for the spread of money and ideas throughout the colonies, and eventually became an essential component of the idea of breaking from Britain and establishing an American nation.

Benjamin Franklin, one of the best-known “Founding Fathers” was, among his other accomplishments, a prolific printer. He was inordinately proud of this position, so much so that he wanted his epitaph to read merely, “Benjamin Franklin, printer.” Franklin learned the art of printing from his brother James, and during his lifetime published the infamous Poor Richard’s Almanac, as well as a newspaper: The Pennsylvania Gazette. It was in the latter that one of the most iconic images of the American Revolution was first published.

Benjamin Franklin, Join or Die, The Pennsylvania Gazette, 1754

This image of the snake, first published in 1754, was directed at the Albany Congress of the colonies. Seven of the thirteen original colonies met in Albany during the summer of 1754 to discuss, among other issues, Franklin’s “Albany Plan” of a union between the colonies. This plan is made quite clear through Franklin’s simple, evocative image. Franklin was one of the first people to use the image of a snake to represent the colonies, and such was the power of the image that the practice soon became widespread. In the eighteenth century, the northeastern United States was home to both the timber and eastern diamondback rattlesnakes, and Franklin first associated America with them when he suggested that if England continued sending convicts to the colonies, the colonies should send rattlesnakes to England. In addition to imparting a local flavor, the snake was a well-known sign of the motto, “Don’t Tread on Me,” a not so subtle hint to colonial enemies (which at that time, depending on diplomatic moods, could include France, England, and various Native American tribes) that not-quite-yet Americans were not to be trifled with.

In “Join or Die,” Franklin’s assertion that the colonies must band together or be destroyed is conveyed with a segmented snake – each segment marked with the initials of one of the colonies that attended the Albany Congress. The image is dramatic yet uncomplicated – easily replicated. Ease of replication would become important as more and more people began to call for the unification of the colonies. Images like Franklin’s helped the dissemination of such ideas, indeed, Paul Revere himself (also a printer!) used the image in his protest of the Stamp Act just a few years later in 1765.

Although Franklin’s Albany Plan was not passed by the Albany Congress, it went on to provide vital groundwork for the 1777 Articles of Confederation and 1787 United States Constitution. “Join or Die,” however, was arguably much more powerful than any political agenda. The simple image of the partitioned snake explained the cause of the colonies more clearly and effectively than words ever could.

What I like About My Kindle

September 29, 2011

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In the span of about a year, I’ve gone from thinking I would never use an e-Reader to being an owner of a Kindle.  Much of this was spurred by the ease of deploying Kindle books.  I currently have 3 Kindle books listed on Amazon – perhaps it was time to take the plunge myself?

In July, I bought a Kindle.  At the time, I thought it was a second hand model.  It turns out that I was actually the third owner of the device.  It was a second generation model, but this didn’t bother me much.  The third generation models have more storage space, but if you run out of space on a Kindle, you have a serious reading problems (also, you can always delete and re-download).  Sure, the new generation had the sexy new version of e-Ink, but I decided to be economical and went the used route.

What do I like so far?

Experimental Web Browser

OK, so it’s the tail wagging the dog.  The Kindle’s browser is not going to put the iPad or Android tablets to shame.  If you have a smart phone, your experience will probably be better on your phone.  But for those of us who pass up smart phones for reasons of economy and battery life, the Kindle is a serviceable option.  Currently, Kindles that use 3G allow you to surf the web with no monthly fee.  That could change at any time, but it’s a nice fringe benefit.

The Classics are Free

I loaded the Kindle up with Dracula, Journey to the Center of the Earth, The Count of Monte Cristo, and much more.  All for the price of NOTHING.  There are a couple of organization who are working to make public domain works available for Kindle.  This list will get you started, or you can go to Project Gutenberg for an easy-to-browse selection.  During this process, I came to the startling conclusion that  Daphne Du Maurier’s works are not in the public domain – for some reason, I thought she was born much earlier than she actually was.

Exclusive Content

My favorite author, Lawrence Block, began releasing short stories and novellas for bargain basement prices.  Many of these had not seen the light of day in many years, while other had been included in his omnibus Enough Rope.  He even cobbled together the after words from his books into Afterthoughts.  I’m not sure how many people would storm the doors of a store to pay $19.99 for a hardcover version of Afterthoughts, but at 99 cents, it’s hard to pass up (and Block will surely reap profits as people realize that there are several of his books they have neglected to read.

I Read More

I seem to be reading more since I bought the Kindle.  Part of that is the fact that I’m reading Block, whom I’ve always found hard to put down.  Then again, I’m reading the dead-tree edition of The Girl Who Kicked The Hornet’s Nest, and I also am entranced by Stieg Larsson.  Perhaps it’s the fact that the Kindle is a one handed device, while it’s a bit awkward to read a book with one hand.

Those concerns I had about battery life?  Completely unfounded.  I probably charge once a week, just to make sure I don’t run out of battery power – but I’ve never had the Kindle below half.

What About You?

Have I sold you on the Kindle?  Swing over the Kindle Store at Amazon, where you can buy a Kindle and fill it with eBooks in time for the cold of winter.

The Future Of The Big XII

September 28, 2011

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There have been many columns and many opinions published about the future of the Big XII conference. The focus primarily has been on the football angle of the configuration. As a Texas graduate and fan, I want to see the conference survive, with Texas and Oklahoma still part of the group. I feel that the conference was really hurt by the departure of Nebraska, but not so much by the departure of Colorado or the future departure of Texas A&M. True there is a good rivalry between Texas and Texas A&M, but that is really the only thing that was brought to the table with Texas A&M. If we break it down by sport we can see that this is a strong conference. You probably notice that there is only discussion of splintering during football season.

Football has a number of perennial bowl team – Texas, Oklahoma, Nebraska (☹), and a number of contenders most of the time – Oklahoma State, Kansas State, Texas Tech, Missouri. Even this year, Baylor and Texas A&M are ranked.

Men’s Basketball has perennial NCAA teams – Texas, Kansas, Missouri, and a number of contenders most years – Oklahoma, Kansas State, Texas A&M.

Women’s Basketball has perennial NCAA teams – Baylor and Iowa State recently, Texas in the past, and contenders – Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Kansas, Kansas State.

Baseball we have Texas, Texas Tech, Baylor, and Oklahoma almost every year and Texas A&M Oklahoma State showing well recently.

Softball there is Missouri, Texas, Baylor each year.

Wrestling we have Iowa State and Missouri (and Nebraska) showing well every year.

There is swimming, track and field, and rowing. There are very few sports that the big XII is not represented at the tournament levels. Beyond that, every team is successful in at least one sport.

It seems that most writers are concentrating on the demise of the conference and the assumption that Oklahoma and Texas will leave for a “better” deal. What is so unbelievable about the Big XII finding good teams (Big East or unhappy other teams) to make a super conference? Bringing in a West Virginia or UConn or even an Arkansas would strengthen an already strong conference.

In the final analysis, none of the authors who have expressed their opinions actually know what is happening behind the scenes at the conference. I, as a fan, can only hope that the financial and other issues can be worked out to establish the Big XII as a dominant permanent conference in all of the NCAA sports.


2011 Solheim Cup

September 27, 2011

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Two years ago I attended the Solheim Cup in person at Rich Harvest Farms Golf Course in Illinois. This year it was time for the 12th installment of the Solheim Cup Matches.

These are patterned after the Ryder Cup matches and were first organized and sponsored by Karsten Solheim, of Ping Golf Club manufacturing fame. The matches were held for the 12th time this year and as always alternating between the United States and a European venue. This year the matches were held in Ireland at the Killeen Castle Golf Course.

Europe has not won the Cup since 2003 but turned the tide against the Americans winning by the narrow margin of 15-13. There will be a lot of controversy in the matches this year as there is always is for the losing side.

But this year is way more about courage than any shortcomings of the players this week.

It basically came down to the match with Michelle Wie versus Suzann Petterson. Wie made a birdie on 15 to go 1 up in the match, but then Petterson birdie each of the last 3 holes to secure a 1 up win basically gaining the cup.

One of the picks of Captain Rosie Jones was former Big Break participant and UCLA collegiate golfer Ryan O’Toole. She played extremely well up until a month or so ago on the LPGA tour, routinely being in contention, but had disappeared like the Dodo Bird recently in tournament play.

Jones took a lot of heat for putting O’Toole on the team, and she held firm, never losing a match. She did however fail to close out a match she had under control eventually ending up with a half of point for the tied match with Caroline Hedwall after losing the last 2 holes. This on the heels of the Petterson win, and this put the final verdict as the best the Americans could do would be to half and share the cup.

At that point the Europeans need just one more half at that point to get the cup. Spain’s Azahara Munoz birdied the 17th hole to go 1 up on Angela Stanford and guarantee Europe’s victory.

More heat will be sure to be on Captain Rosie Jones for not sitting American stalwart Kristie Kerr. Kerr who had an injured write played in all 4 matches on Friday and Saturday was unable to go for the singles matches on Sunday, giving the European team an automatic full point. Kerr taped her write and tried to gut it out all week, but was just flat unable to play and really even hold a golf club as she attempted to warm up on the range for Sunday singles play.

Kerr is a gamer, no different than a basketball or football players saying to their coach “tape me up and get me back in there” But everyone has point where they can no longer breach the pain threshold.

Paula Creamer seemed extra nice for the TV camera, but failed miserably getting boat raced 6-5 in the pole position match of the day against Catriona Matthew. That set a poor tone for the American side, which coupled with the WD from Kerr ended up being too much to overcome.

The train wreck twosome of the day ended up being Juli Inkster against Laura Davies. Davies is somewhat the LPGA version of John Daly – she can bomb it anywhere and often does, but when the lady is getting up and down from parking lots and trash cans, opponents beware, and she had one of those days on Sunday. Inkster on the other yipped short putt after short putt allowing a match to end in a half that should have been a definitive USA win.

To me the biggest news of the week was seeing Sophie Gustafson doing her first ever television Interview. I have always been a fan of Gustafson, but I did not know what most anyone now knows that watched the Solheim Cup. Gustafson has a severe stuttering issue. She did a sit down interview with prepared questions on note cards for the Golf Channel telecast. The first opening when she was explaining her issues with stuttering you could tell that she was exceedingly nervous which just enhanced the stuttering. After taking some time to gather thoughts and just talk about golf, she seemed much more at ease and did pretty well in my opinion.

You could tell the video was edited in points but I am sure this was much more of a daunting task for Gustafson than any 4 foot putt she ever had to make to win a golf tournament.

Most people don’t know that long time CBS golf announcer and US Open Champ Ken Venturi also struggled with stuttering issues in his youth.

Here is hoping that the take away we all have from this sporting event is not to bicker and moan and look at the decision coaches made, or the play of individual players but instead look at the courage that occasional shows itself in the world of sports.

Until next time, Stay Classy Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida!

Congress Needs To Do Their Job

September 26, 2011

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Yet again this last week, congress considered a funding bill. This one was to provide continuing budget to the office of emergency management. There was a great deal of talk, for anyone still interested in listening, about how there could be no opposition to this bill as it was to help the poor people suffering from the flooding in the north east. The bill failed, mostly because it was not just funding for the stated problem, but also because the flooding was minor compared to other disasters that have not been addressed by the federal government, notably the fires in Texas.

The problem is not that this bill failed. It is not even that this bill was proposed. The problem is that congress has failed to address a fundamental duty of that body. They have not passed a budget. This is now coming up on two years and two separate congresses that a budget has not been established.

Why is a budget so important? The budget establishes what the government will spend. Any new projects have to find funding. It allows the various contractors who support government programs plan staffing and activities. The largest of these that the press reports on is the military, but that is now less than a third of the budget. There are a large contingent of non-government workers supporting social and infrastructure programs as well. Without a budget, governmental departments are supposed to continue to spend at the level established the previous year, but some things, such as the medical program known as Obama Care, have never been baselined and are therefore not under any fiscal control.

What about the continuing resolution that was passed last month? Actually, that was a basic duck and roll. It was more about raising the debt limit than providing budgetary guidance to the departments. It was as surrender to the cry of imminent disaster. In fact, if the continuing resolution had not been passed and the debt limit had not been approved, the government would have continued pretty much without effect on 99% of people. There would have been mandatory reduction in all departments, social security would have continued without interruption (it is a separate tax) but the big effect would have been zeroing out spending on all non-baselined activities. Obama Care and any remaining funds I the bailouts would have been deleted. Basically, everything that the last two congresses have passed but not budgeted, would have been halted.

I am not going to discuss whether these projects should be funded, that is the debate that the congress has to have. What I am condemning is the apparent abdication of responsibility of the congress to pass a budget and hold the government to some sort of spending control.


Should We Get Rid of the Death Penalty?

September 23, 2011

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The recent focus on the case of Troy Davis has made me think about the death penalty and its place in the American justice system.  I won’t comment on whether or not I feel Davis is guilty, because I haven’t paid enough attention to his case to justify having an opinion.

Capital punishment is a controversial issue in the United States.  Fourteen states have abolished it (Alaska, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Dakota, Rhode Island, Vermont, West Virginia and Wisconsin), while other states (notably Texas) execute prisoners with some regularity.

Are there crimes worthy of capital punishment?

The first question I ask myself is whether there are crimes that are worthy of the death penalty.  I do feel that there are some crimes where the death penalty is an appropriate punishment.  I believe that capital punishment is an appropriate punishment for cases of premeditated murder in which the perpetrator acted in cold blood.

While there is a segment of the population that advocates the death penalty for some sexual crimes, specifically those against children, I do not agree.  While I am the father of two young children, I believe is necessary to consider what is just in these cases, rather than what I would prefer for the punishment.  I truly believe that at some point down the road, medical science will discover a treatment for sex offenders.  The high rate of recidivism among offenders make me believe that an underlying mental defect contributes to the behavior.  However, I do realize that this is a controversial opinion and don’t want to get sidetracked too much.  The article is about capital punishment, not sex offenders.

Should we use capital punishment?

So I agree that there are crime worthy of capital punishment.  Do I agree that we should actively use the death penalty?  No.

There are a number of arguments that are made against the death penalty.  Amnesty International and other organizations argue that capital punishment is cruel and unusual, and often are joined by world leaders such as the Pope and Jimmy Carter.  Others argue that the cost of the nearly inexhaustible appeals a death row inmate is allow are a huge burden upon the taxpayers, and that it would be cheaper to simply incarcerate the person for life.

Those aren’t my reasons.  I’m opposed to the death penalty because it’s irreversible.  Our entire criminal justice system is biased toward the accused person, in an effort to prevent wrongful convictions.  For example, the burden of proof in a criminal case is beyond a reasonable doubt, as opposed to the civil burden of proof, which is a preponderance of the evidence.

What I worry about is one wrongful execution.  If you imprison someone for life and discover that they were wrongfully convicted, you can set them free, pay a settlement, and let them begin the rebuild their life.  Things will never be the same as they were before their imprisonment, of course, but they’ll still be able to hear the birds sing and catch a game at the stadium.

If you execute someone and realize later that they were wrongly convicted, there’s not much you can do other than apologize and cut a check to their family.

Can’t happen, with all the safeguards in the system?  I disagree.  It would only take a few dirty cops working in concert to plant evidence and frame someone.  While I believe that the vast majority of cops are dedicated public servants, it’s no secret that a small number are corrupt.  But even if those involved in the investigation conduct themselves professionally, evidence can sometimes be misleading, especially when dealing with newer scientific methods which are still being refined.

It’s my belief that one wrongly executed person is one too many.  I’d rather have a hundred serial killers doing life in prison (instead of on death row) than one innocent person executed.  I don’t want that “one too many” to be me.

The Fox News / Google Debate

September 22, 2011

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Now that the fall weather is here The Angry Squirrel has headed south to New Mexico. Or as I am also putting it, early preparation to quickly hop the border in the event of a Rick Perry Presidency.

All kidding aside, I am actually here for a job interview. So here is to hoping all goes well on that front. Although I am going to be missing the next all important debate today.

You know the one that Fox News is teaming up with Google to have people submit and vote on questions. Which in turn Fox News will completely ignore most of the top questions and just ask whatever it wants and make up shit as it goes. Kind of like their news coverage.

The more pressing issue for me though will be what will the Republican base show themselves to stand for this time around. Two debates ago it was cheering the execution of more people under any Governor in recorded history. Then last debate the death is something to cheer about continued with screams and yeahs along with thunderous applause when the question of society allowing a man without insurance to die. This was after Ron Paul had already referred to this situation as being what freedom is all about. Who knows maybe this time around they will cheer about grandma dying when her Medicare and Social Security are done away with by a President Perry.

Anyways, to conclude this months post I am gonna do something different. Let’s open the comments to ask and talk about questions we would like to see asked of the participants in tonights debate.
I’ll start off.

Newt, Why the hell are you pretending to be in this race still?

Or I could just do some joke with Santorum and Google since they are the co hosts after all.

Fall Observations

September 21, 2011

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Fall (or Autumn) begins this week. Officially it starts at 9:04 UTC (3:04 AM Eastern time in the U.S.) on Friday Morning. That is the moment of the Autumnal Equinox or the point at which day and night are exactly equal. During the barbaric (pre-Christian) period of Europe and in some areas of Africa today, the Equinox (both vernal and autumnal) and the Solstice (Summer and Winter) are significant holidays. Although the Christian church did supplant the vernal equinox with Easter and the Winter Solstice with Christmas, the autumnal equinox has been left, not so much superseded, but ignored. Oh sure, some astronomy buffs may make a big deal about it, but most people do not even know that it is the true separation of summer and fall.

Science and technicalities aside, what does the transition from summer to fall actually mean? In most of the United States, school started almost a month ago. College football is already in its third week and professional football is in its second. There is still a month of baseball left. Politicians no longer wait for fall to start campaigning, you could actually say that this cycle began the day of the last presidential election. The new car models use to be released at the end of October, now they start in the spring. Halloween candy and decorations at one time went on sale at the start of fall, now they are on the shelves right after the school supplies are pulled. It seems that modern commercialism had done a better job of minimizing the importance of an old pagan holiday than the church.

Regardless of what importance Man puts on the seasonal transition, nature will continue as it always has. Nights will get longer, days will get cooler, the crops will mature. All this will happen whether there is a celebration or no, whether there is a sale or no, and whether you even notice the weatherman announce the fact of the equinox or not. Canadian geese are starting to head south. Some animals and insects will go into hibernation. All of these natural events will occur even without our acknowledgement.

I hope you do recognize this event. I am not asking anyone to participate in a pagan rite, just an observation of the beautifully cyclic dance of our world. Day to day, month to month, season to season and year to year, we get to experience miracles and spectacular displays. Take at least one opportunity to experience our world.

Should Players Be Allowed To Return After An Injury?

September 20, 2011

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After the game this Sunday against the San Francisco 49ers, it was discovered that Dallas Cowboys Quarterback Tony Romo not only had a couple of cracked ribs, but that he had also suffered a partially collapsed and punctured lung.

The NFL has tried hard to crack down on head injuries and neck injuries in the past couple of years. Mainly in an attempt to control the amount of players trying to come back too early due to concussions.

At what point do team doctors need to step in? Or should injured players just not be allowed back in the game at all?

When a player blows a knee out (see Jamaal Charles for the Kansas City Chiefs this week) or breaks dislocates a shoulder (well I guess Matthew Stafford did come back into a game two years ago with one) the injury is pretty evident. The players are not able to perform at all and are in high degrees of pain.

Over the years in the NFL – – and most colleges would be my guess – – you head to the locker room, get shot up with some Novocaine, and then head back out there.

But…Playing with a collapsed lung?

Although the level of competition is completely different, I remember playing baseball in my little league days. There was a rule in place that if you came out of the game due to injury you were not allowed back into the game no matter what. I was playing 2nd base in a game and had a guy come in on a steal attempt and by left ankle conveniently got right between his cleats and the bag.

I was pulled from the game and not allowed to return. My guess is with children and athletics league organizers want to be extra careful and make sure that injuries are checked out completely.

Shouldn’t we take the same stance with athletes making millions of dollars a year? Is the risk of playing a few extra snaps or innings or an extra half or quarter worth the risk of a long term injury?

Most players will tell you they will do anything possible to get back into the game as long as they are able to walk. Lie to doctors, gut it out, take the “shot” etc.

More needs to be done to prevent longer term effects that will linger well after the playing days are over. After all, at the end of the day it is JUST a game.

Until Next Time

Stay Classy New London Connecticut!

Will The Big 12 and Big East Merge?

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Members of the Big XII conference have been scrambling for the exit door for more than a year.  Nebraska and Colorado have already exited for the Big 10 and Pac 12, respectively.  Texas A&M is actively trying to exist, and Texas, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, and Texas Tech are exploring their options.  If those schools all leave the conference, only five teams would remain.

Our neighbors to the Atlantic side of the country, the Big East conference, is also facing more defections.  Syracuse and Pitt will be leaving, dropping the number of football schools to six.

There has been talk of a merger between the leftovers of the two conferences.  Here’s how it would break down for football.

Old Big 12
Iowa State
Kansas State


Old Big East
South Florida
West Virginia


All of those schools have had some degree of football success in the last decade, but none of the teams are fighting for a BCS bid on a regular basis.  This conference would have three teams in the current AP Top 25 (West Virginia, Baylor, and South Florida in the 16, 17, and 18 spots).  Maybe the new conference could even snag BYU to get to 12 teams.  Twelve is a magic number, as conference are allowed to have title games if there are 12 teams, and Kosmo loves title games.

I do think that this conference would be stronger on the football field than it appears.  The lack of a historically dominant program could lead to an arms race among the other schools in the conference.  Do big boosters at Baylor and South Florida come forward with big donations in an attempt to push their team to the top of the conference and into the national spotlight?  Perhaps.

Where it would get very interesting is on the basketball court.  Assuming that BYU joins the conference, here’s what it could look like:

Old Big 12 + BYU
Iowa State
Kansas State


Old Big East Football Schools
South Florida
West Virginia


Old Big East Basketball-only
Notre Dame
St. John’s
Seton Hall


The result here is a step up from the existing 16 team Big East basketball conference – a 20 school behemoth that would snare a tremendous number of NCAA tournament bids.  The prize for the Big East, of course, would be the addition of Kansas to the mix.

I’m a graduate of Iowa State University and a longtime support of the Big XII conference.  The implosion of the conference has been a great disappointment to me.  As of a few days ago, my preference was just to become a 1-A independent if the conference dissolved.  This would allow the leftover teams to pick their own schedules and form new rivalries.

The rumors of a merger, however, have made me re-consider.  I’m jumping on the merger bandwagon.

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