The Pi-Rate Ratings

December 15, 2014

PiRate Picks–Conte/Dawn Are Champions Of Their League

Filed under: News & Views — Tags: , , , , , , — piratings @ 8:36 pm

If I told you today I was going to editorialize on a subject living in the San Francisco Bay area, and I gave you 100 guesses you would not figure out what this editorial would cover.

Some of you know my wife and me from our touring of Route 66, so you would maybe guess I was going to discuss the terminus of the equally famous Lincoln Highway, a trip we shall one day take from Times Square to Lincoln Park. You would be wrong.

Most of you that know me might incorrectly guess I was prepared to discuss whether Jim Harbaugh’s 2015 paychecks will be deposited in a bank in Oakland, CA, Ann Arbor, MI, Miami, or possibly East Rutherford, NJ, maybe even Storrs, CT, home of ESPN.

When given the clue to think professional entertainment and something that has meaning to me, you would quickly guess I was prepared to discuss either Festus Ezeli of the Golden State Warriors or Sonny Gray of the Oakland Athletics, two former Vanderbilt athletes that I covered as a Vanderbilt sports beat writer when I returned briefly for a three-year fling in print journalism following a career in construction.

If I told you this editorial would include something tied to the Stanford Cardinal, you would quickly but incorrectly believe this was an editorial dealing with Vanderbilt football coach Derek Mason, who was the Stanford defensive coordinator prior to coming to Vandy.

If I further gave you the clue to think Stanford and music, you would still guess incorrectly, sure that I was going to discuss their infamous marching band, be it their numerous controversies through the years, or “The Play,” which prevented John Elway from ever appearing in a bowl game and the Cardinal from facing my Commodores in the 1982 Hall of Fame Bowl in Birmingham, AL.

Yes, this is definitely the last editorial you would ever expect me to publish. A certain place has indeed frozen over today. Many of you reading this know me, the founder of the PiRate Ratings. If you don’t, then here is a little something about me that is pertinent to today’s contribution.

I live in Music City, U.S.A., otherwise known as Nashville. I am the outcast of this burg, as I cannot play an instrument, not even a kazoo. Vocally, the song “Hot Cross Buns” is two musical notes outside my singing range. In other words, in a town with a metropolitan population of 1.9 million, I am number 1.9 million when it comes to musical talent of any kind.

I am a math-nerd, ex-coach, sports and financial “stathead,” and maybe number one when it comes to sports trivia prior to the year 1970. You won’t stump me on naming the starting lineup of the 1953 Brooklyn Dodgers, or even the 1909 Pittsburgh Pirates. I can look at a picture of any Major League baseball park taken between 1904 and 1960 and tell you the name of the stadium and the dimensions of the foul lines, power alleys, and center, even in a place like old Braves Field in Boston, which sometimes changed annually or weekly. When others hung posters of the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, or other bands, I hung posters of The Polo Grounds, Griffith Stadium, and Forbes Field.

So, what am I doing writing an editorial about an independent music group based out of the San Francisco Bay area?

For starters, my wife is the polar opposite of me in musical talent and knowledge. She has a beautiful soprano voice and has played percussion and keyboard instruments in her past, performing on stage in some big-time locales. She once co-owned a punk rock record label, published a music industry newspaper, and studied sound-engineering in London with Nick Lowe, working in the studio while Elvis Costello’s band, The Attractions, recorded their solo album.

My sweet soul mate has also worked for some country crooner named Garth, so she knows what she is talking about when she comments on music. She also knows what goes into making it financially in the music business, “warts and all.” You could say she would qualify as an expert witness.

Let’s start in autumn of 2010. Autumn is the time of the year where you dare not turn a television set on if you loathe seasonal retail commercials being shoved in your face, even if you only watch news, weather, and sports. By December 1, it is enough to make the average person with a modicum of intelligence ill, or what I call Christmas/Chanukah “ad-nauseum.”

In the past 20 years, I can only think of two commercials where I did not mind being bombarded with seeing it repeated 10-20 times a week. One was the old Norelco Shaver ad where Santa Claus slid down the snowy slope riding on the shaver. The other was this very unique set of three Hyundai automobile ads with the cutest TV couple singing and playing instruments and showing incredible stage presence with Q-ratings that had to be at the top of the profession (unlike my Q-rating which was lower than the old test pattern.)

Three separate ads aired four years ago and featured different Christmas carols—“Up on the Housetop,” “Deck the Halls,” and “Jingle Bells.” Each ad was a breath of fresh air, the anti-establishment auto ad. Normally, both my wife and I would not glance at a TV ad, but we not only watched the 30-second mini-cinemas with total attention, we wanted more. We were sad to see the campaign end.

Thinking the two actors in this ad could not be so incredibly talented and also be the actual artists performing the music, we did what any inquisitive person does in the 21st Century; we did a search online and discovered that this couple was indeed a real couple and had performed the music. What a talented duo these two were!

Jack Conte and Nataly Dawn make up the band known as “Pomplamoose.” Pomplamoose is an Americanized spelling of the French word “pamplemousse,” French for grapefruit (see I did pay attention in Francais 404, Madame Stewart).

We discovered that the boyfriend/girlfriend duo had a couple other interesting videos and played in a few venues near their home on the West Coast. And, then we sort of forgot about them by January.

As the “season” returned again in October of this year, I turned to my wife and noted that it was sad that Hyundai did not use that cute young couple to do their Christmas ads again. So, being old enough that I could no longer remember their names, I searched online to discover Conte and Dawn again.

Here is where good ole PiRate bad luck struck yet again. I performed this search to rediscover Pomplamoose, mostly for my wife, only to find that Conte and Dawn had performed in Nashville the night before! Oy Vey, such a poor Schlimazel I am! It would have been the perfect early anniversary gift to bequeath to my utmost.

Nashville received a dose of early rotten weather soon after, and we stayed indoors a lot. My wife proceeded to find everything Pomplamoose and then what Conte and Dawn performed separately.

Her highly qualified opinion: Pomplamoose is a work of pure genius combined with supreme talent! Dawn’s voice has no equals in the genre. To be more exact, since she sings all her back-up music as well, Dawn has the five best voices in the genre.

Conte and Dawn are the 21st Century equivalent of a combination of Bach, Mozart, and Beethoven. Their mastery of electronics gives their music a unique flair with this incredible ability to borrow from multiple songs and sew them together into what sounds like an original composition. Their own original music is even better than those they cover.

Conte is not satisfied with music alone. He is also part Mark Zuckerberg, part Perry Chen, and part Rob Kalin. He founded “Patreon,” the newest and easiest to use online crowdfunding site.

Let’s return to the present. Since re-acquainting ourselves with Pomplamoose, yours truly, the least musically talented and until recently the least musically knowledgeable resident of Nashville, has become as competent in “Pomplamusic” as he is with Ebbets Field and the Polo Grounds.

I can recognize “Get That Body Back,” “Fight Back,” “Centrifuge,” and “Bust Your Kneecaps,” in three notes. Their songs are hypnotic; they dominate your subconscious, so much so that you might wonder if the two Stanford grads might know a bit about Neuro-linguistic Programming, as Stanford excels in all fields of psychology.

This 100% analytical-thinking PiRate normally arises most mornings wondering if the line on the Packers-Bears game needs to be adjusted by a half-point based on the weather forecast or whether Ted Williams was better than Stan Musial, or whether his aged bladder going on its sixth decade will hold out long enough to make the 30-foot dash to the bathroom. Since October, Ted Williams and Stan Musial have been replaced by all the exceptionally creative videos put out by Conte and Dawn.

How talented are these two? They create and construct all the props for their videos. They produce and direct themselves, showing you warts and all. They are incredible actors, better than most of the non-talents in Hollywood today. In fact, their videos are comparable with Silent Movies, and Conte and Dawn could be compared to Buster Keaton and Clara Bow, as Conte can pull off all facial expressions, and Dawn certainly has “It.”

This editorial is not an attempt to throw sugar all over the joint. I chose to write this not because Pomplamoose is a breath of fresh air in the music world; to paraphrase one of their mashups, “It’s all about the cash, no profits.”

As many of you know, I am all about the stats, and the business of music grabs my attention more than the music itself. When Conte recently published an account of their recent tour and how it financially lost money but could be treated as the best possible advertisement for their business as well as a gift to their fans, the music critics of the world piled on their contempt of his breaking down the fourth wall and letting the public know “the inside” of their business.

For what it’s worth, Pomplamoose is part of a new breed of performers relying on the Internet to generate revenue. This is their business, and they are in this business to make money, just like my wife creates and designs jewelry to sell in order to make money so she can then purchase songs online, among other things.

I find it an utter outrage that the music critics believe there is something wrong with letting your patrons know exactly where you stand. I believe it is a wonderful act on Conte’s part to reveal this. Whether they want to be or not, Conte and Dawn are mentors for hundreds if not thousands of aspiring independent artists wishing to use the same protocol to become successful at their craft. They are more than artists; they are also leaders by example. Conte and Dawn could easily put all their supportive information that the public can use into an e-book and charge $25 to learn what they are revealing as a courtesy, while also further placing themselves deeper in the hearts and minds of their fans.

Music critics differ from me in only one way. We both have no musical talent. However, I admit my insufficiencies in this realm, while most of the critics try to impress you with their knowledge and make you believe they know what’s what, when in reality, all they want to do is find whatever negative things they can find and retaliate against those that do have the talent they believe they deserved to have and didn’t have bequeathed upon them by our creator, while attempting to make the public believe they actually know what they are talking about.

Because I can in some offbeat way commiserate with Conte and Dawn, I will try to explain why I believe Pomplamoose received all this undeserved consternation from the negative nabobs of the meaningless part of the fourth estate.

Several years ago, while I was a working member in sports radio, I aired my ratings and picks against the spread, performing about as successfully as I do now—picking every college and NFL game and hitting around 75% winners and 55% winners against the spread. A couple of weeks in 1981, when I happened to hit a hot streak and extend that success to hitting around 90% straight winners and 75% against the spread, it was assumed that I was making money hand over fist and milking Las Vegas dry. In truth, I did not then nor have ever wagered actual money on any football game. The only sporting events I have ever wagered real money on were horse races—and then just claiming and allowance races, none of which would ever excite you the reader to develop an interest in reading.

So, in early 1982, I made a remark in passing on air that I loved radio but hated empty refrigerators. You would have thought I admitted to being the man behind the Grassy Knoll in Dallas on 11-22-63. It was just assumed that I was as wealthy then as Jimmy The Greek or today’s Billy Walters. How dare I claim poverty, when I was so successful giving out winners in advance on a clear channel flamethrower AM radio station that reached 28 states plus Ontario, Quebec, and Manitoba at night and could even be picked up in Buenos Aires, Argentina, if conditions were cooperative? It was assumed I was making money as fast as Vegas could put out the odds.

To be like Mr. Conte, in 1982, I made exactly $5 an hour working in radio. I made an additional $35 per game serving as a spotter and statistician for the Vanderbilt University football and basketball telecasts, which in those days were on late at night on tape delay.

While I would soon leave the field which I loved to become a general contractor for the next two decades, when I made this quick reference on the radio, I was accused of laundering money, spending the money on a mistress, and many other options of vice. It was 100% truthful; my refrigerator was more empty than full.

The music critic ogres automatically assume that because Pomplamoose has a prior five-year track record that includes successful nationwide commercial advertisement success; millions of hits on their Youtube sites; a loyal following of thousands; and the creation of a large crowdfunding site, they must be quite wealthy.

Wealthy or not, why does it matter if Pomplamoose profits or loses 10 grand on a tour? Let’s look at some facts. First, tickets were quite affordable. In Nashville, I discovered that they only cost $12 for a really nice venue, where everybody in attendance was as close to the stage as the field box seats at Dodger Stadium are to home plate.

Let’s compare this to the cost of the Grand Ole Opry. This Friday, December 19, the Opry will make its annual trek back in time and return to “The Mother Church,” the historic Ryman Auditorium. The Ebbets Field of Nashville is equally cozy, and there is not a bad seat in the house. The special guest Friday night is Clare Bowen, the Australian muse who plays Scarlett O’Connor in the ABC TV show “Nashville.” Her voice is angelic, maybe second to Ms. Dawn’s voice. If you want a ticket to this show, the cheapest you could theoretically find if tickets remained would be $30. If you want to sit close enough to see Bowen’s eyes, it will cost $70. Bowen is quite an entertainer, but Pomplamoose is better.

Pomplamoose spent a lot of money on quality lighting for their show. In Youtube clips where I have seen their concerts, this lighting was an excellent addition, and it served as an excellent catalyst in the success of the shows.

Pomplamoose hired musicians and other crew members to work on this tour and paid them a weekly salary. What I cannot understand is why this caused the music critics to cry out like they had committed a major felony. I know nothing about operations of the music business, but wasn’t slavery outlawed by the 13th Amendment just prior to President Lincoln’s assassination (yes, I also paid attention in American History 505 Ms. Teaff)? The last time I checked, in this country, one is not allowed to contract labor and not compensate them. Yes, there are things called internships, but in reality, interns are compensated in non-monetary ways.

Still, what does it matter if the band profited or lost money on this tour? The critics should shut up and comment only on the performance, the only part of the business for which they are semi-qualified to judge. Maybe Bloomberg TV could break down Conte’s financing and Trish Regan could explain where the tour might have been able to eke out a small profit, but who is Bob Lefsetz to criticize anything in the financial world? His MBA and PhD from Harvard, Wharton, The University of Chicago, Stanford, or my beloved Owen School at Vanderbilt University does not seem to exist. Am I missing something? This bottom of the barrel critic with fewer readers of his blog than my no-frills sites has the chutzpah to try to denigrate the wonderful breaking down of the fourth wall that Conte has allowed us to enter and see the entire process, warts and all?

My conclusion: Jack Conte and Nataly Dawn are superiorly talented in multiple facets of the Independent music production process in the 2010’s. As Conte reports, Pomplamoose has not “made it,” but they are “making it.” There have been numerous successes in six years, and it has allowed Pomplamoose to tour and lose 10 grand without sinking their incredible ship. Think of it as a gift to their fans, or almost the price of one of those 2011 Hyundai Elantra’s that to this day, I can remember thanks to their most unique television ads.

I have but one piece of criticism to offer Mr. Conte—get thy right knee on the Earth and ask for Ms. Dawn’s hand in marriage. It is a myth that becoming betrothed to your beloved ruins the relationship. On the contrary, it takes something great and makes it even better. On this, I can attest to being the expert. I proposed to my soul mate 15 years ago, and it has now been 15 years of bliss. She is the 99.9% that completes me, and I am sure you feel that Nataly must do the same for you.
Find Pomplamoose at:

http://www.pomplamoose.com

https://www.youtube.com/user/PomplamooseMusic

https://www.facebook.com/musicpomplamoose

https://twitter.com/pomplamoose

http://instagram.com/pomplamoosemusic/

http://www.patreon.com/pomplamoose

Reminder: The quarterfinal round of the computer simulated college football playoffs will be published Tuesday at this site.

The PiRate College Football Bowl and Playoff predictions, and the current NFL ratings and prediction for week 15 and the NFL Playoffs will be published at our website Tuesday afternoon— http://www.piratings.webs.com

Chanukah Sameach &
Merry Christmas
From the PiRate Family

April 21, 2013

Another Way To Motor West

Filed under: News & Views — Tags: , , , , — piratings @ 8:11 pm

Today, the PiRates are on dry land.  We have an interesting route for you to discover.

When you think of a famous old highway of major importance, you might think of the Mother Road, Route 66.  Made famous by books, songs, movies, maps, a TV series, and even a cartoon, Route 66 runs from Lake Michigan in Chicago to the Santa Monica Pier in Los Angeles.

Before federal highways were numbered, they were given names.  There was the Dixie Highway, the National Old Trails Highway, the Bankhead Highway and many others.

The most important of these highways was the Lincoln Highway, our nation’s first coast-to-coast highway constructed in America.  It covered more than 3,000 miles in its journey from Times Square in New York City to Lincoln Park in San Francisco.

The Lincoln Highway will turn 100 years old this year, on Halloween.  The project came about by the leadership of Carl Fisher, of Indianapolis.  Fisher was one of then country’s early automobile dealership owners, and he played a huge role in the development of the Indiana Motor Raceway, where the Indianapolis 500 is held.

Fisher saw the important future of the automobile, and he knew the nation needed roads so that people would buy cars and drive rather than ride the rails.  Through diligent work and bending of arms of very important people, he formed a highway through New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Iowa, Nebraska, Wyoming, Nevada, and California.  Later realignments included a jog through West Virginia.  For a brief time, an official spur headed southwest from Big Springs, Nebraska, to Denver, and then north to rejoin the main route in Laramie, Wyoming.

Some of the first paved roads occurred as “seedling miles” in many cities along the route.  These one mile improvements provided the impetus for cities to pave additional roads.  Additionally, in some areas in the Midwest portion of the route, the highway was bricked.  Some of these brick sections still exist and can be driven today.

Since I am writing this from my head without research materials, I cannot go into great details.  It is better that this should just pique an interest in you.

Unlike Route 66, where I know basically every mile of what remains and can be driven, as well as the dirt sections, I know very little about the Lincoln.  I have only travelled a couple dozen miles of the road in Indiana, Illinois, and Wyoming.  I plan to learn more and travel more on this prestigious important cross-country route during its centennial year.

The Lincoln Highway Association provides all the information you need to get started in your journey.  Visit their website at: http://www.lincolnhighwayassoc.org

The PiRates are enjoying some R&R on dry land for Spring and the first half of summer.  We may post some additional stories on the Lincoln Highway and our more familiar Route 66 if we get the chance.  We will return with football coverage in August.  Due to prior commitments, there will be no Kentucky Derby coverage this year.

lincoln-highway-logo

September 14, 2012

PiRate Ratings Look At The 2012 Presidential Race

Filed under: News & Views — Tags: , , , , , , , , , — piratings @ 9:15 am

Before getting into the meat of this document, we at the PiRate Ratings are not political pollsters.  We do know how to look at the data of others and make educated conclusions based on a decent sampling of data.

 

We look at more than a dozen different national polls recognized as legitimate and accurate from past elections.  We purposefully monitor one pollster that skews his polls to the GOP and another polling company that tends to skew toward the Democrats.  Those two polls serve as outliers for our predictions.

 

We do not look at national polling numbers.  We do not elect a President on popular vote, so it means very little to know this information.  Only the state by state polls with the electoral votes allocated to those states matter.  The only number that is important is the number “270,” which is the number of electoral votes needs to win the Presidential election.

 

We will present this data to you in different views.  The first view is our look at how the race would turn out if today was Election Day.  We will show this race with no tossup states, allocating all 538 Electoral Votes.

 

Our second look is the same “if today was Election Day” criteria with all tossup states not allocated to a candidate.  If the race in a state is 6 points or less, we consider that state a tossup at the current time.

 

Our third look is a trending poll, using a four-week moving average, much like stock market analysts look at the stock market.  This moving average is calculated from multiple polls taken weekly.

 

Our fourth look is our own take on where the race is headed.  We use past experiences using several tendencies we have noticed over the last 11 election cycles.  Some of these tendencies include: how the undecided vote tends to lean toward the underdog after Labor Day; how long the convention bounces last; how likely voters are to actually vote; and how accurate the polling data has predicted the actual elections.

 

It is our opinion, and many others, that the voting public has mostly aligned with their candidate of choice.  There are very few undecided voters at this point in the cycle, and an inordinately high number of voters are 100% sure that they will vote for their candidate of choice.  Our current Congress has been an excellent microcosm for our national divide—the public is divided more than it has been since the Civil War. 

 

In most other election years, the polling data would be harsh for the incumbent.  When economic troubles have been this prevalent in the past, there has been a sweeping out of the party in control.  In 2010 and 2011, the possibility for a repeat of the elections of 1932 and 1980 were strong.  The Republican Party needed to find another Ronald Reagan, and they might have been looking at a landslide victory much like the GOP won in 1980. 

 

During the early primaries, we issued a special entry detailing the trouble the GOP would have if Mitt Romney became the nominee.  We went into detail relaying how an Eastern elitist would fail to rally fence-sitters in several crucial states that Republicans must win.

 

Romney will definitely not carry his home state.  He will probably not carry his state of birth.  He is in serious trouble in the state that absolutely must be won to have any chance of winning the election.

 

An interesting factoid was e-mailed to us this morning.  The last time a candidate lost his state of residence and his state of birth but won the election was back in 1844 (42 elections ago) when James K. Polk lost in his state of residence (Tennessee) and his state of birth (North Carolina) and won the election.

 

 Romney is going to need one if not two major events to occur if he is to pull out a victory in less than eight weeks.  Remember also that several states conduct some form of early voting, and some will begin issuing ballots in less than five weeks.  A lot of voters have made up their minds, and they will vote early.  The psychology here is that by voting early, these voters can tune out the onslaught of constant media advertisements, political pundits telling them how to think, robocalls, and even social media and socializing.

 

Okay, now for the numbers.  Let us first look at our PiRate mean based on more than one dozen polls.

 

I. If the Election Was Today

President Obama would win reelection with an average electoral vote victory of 333-205.  Obama would win: California—55, Colorado—9, Connecticut—7, Delaware—3, DC—3, Florida—29, Hawaii—4, Illinois—20, Iowa—6, Maine—(all 4), Maryland—10, Massachusetts—11, Michigan—16, Minnesota—10, Nevada—6, New Hampshire—4, New Jersey—14, New Mexico—5, New York—29, Ohio—18, Oregon—7, Pennsylvania—20, Rhode Island—4, Vermont—3, Virginia—13, Washington—12, Wisconsin—10, and the Second Congressional District in Nebraska—1 (Nebraska is one of two states that splits its electoral vote.)

 

The outlier margins for an election held today would be: Obama 374 Romney 164 and Obama 270 Romney 268.

 

II. If the Election Was Today with Tossup States

National pollsters have deemed anywhere from eight to 12 states as battleground states where the polls could switch from one candidate to the other.  The consensus shows Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Michigan, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Ohio, Virginia, and Wisconsin are where the race will be won or lost.  We concur for the most part, but looking at the actual data, we will alter this list of eight.

 

Obama has picked up enough support in Michigan to take it off the table for now.  We no longer agree that this is a battleground state.  That lowers the number to seven.  To this group of seven, we are adding these states where the current polls show Romney holds a 6% lead or less: Missouri, Montana, South Carolina, and South Dakota.

 

Removing these battleground states drops Obama’s number under 270 to 238.  Romney’s number drops from 205 to 174.  At 238-165 with 135 electoral votes still up for grabs.  If we give Romney South Carolina, Montana, and South Dakota, three states where the GOP should win almost every time, this brings Romney up to 180.  Romney leads in North Carolina, and we will give him the 15 votes to bring his count to 195.  While we are at it, let’s give Romney Missouri, where the President is not all that popular, and their Senatorial race would have given the GOP a pickup had it not been for possibly the dumbest politician ever opening his mouth.  Add 10 votes to Romney, bringing him back to 205.  That leaves 95 electoral votes in states where Obama currently holds the lead: Colorado—9, Florida—29, Iowa—6, Nevada—6, New Hampshire—4, Ohio—18, Virginia—13, and Wisconsin—10.

 

III. The 28-day Moving Average

Factoring in multiple polls taken with a weekly snapshot over the most recent four weeks, Obama leads Romney 316-222.  There has not been that much movement since the two conventions, with Obama picking up an average of 17 electoral votes in that time.

 

IV. The PiRate Ratings Look At November 6

We preface this category by telling you that there are psychological and historical factors being applied here.  These numbers are not based 100% on current statistical data.

 

Prior to the debates in October, which could greatly affect the outcome if one candidate makes a remark similar to: “Poland is not under the Soviet Union’s dominance;”  “I asked my daughter what the most important issue in this race was, and she said it was the nuclear bomb;” or a candidate’s refusal to seek vengeance if his wife had been brutally raped.  This debate season looks to be anticlimactic to us.  We don’t think either candidate will be able to deliver any major blows.

 

That said, we do believe that Obama will not garner much additional support.  He will maintain or lose a little bit of supporters as voters vote for change.

 

How much support will Obama lose?  At the moment, we do not see how he can lose enough to fall beneath the magic number of 270.

 

We start at 333-205, which is today’s number.  Let’s flip Ohio, Florida, and Wisconsin, where we think Romney still has a decent chance of winning.  That changes the vote total to 276-262 in favor of Obama.  Maybe Nevada could switch as well, which would make the race 270-268 in favor of Obama.  We do not see New Hampshire flipping to Romney, as all of New England will go with Obama.  That leaves one crucial state—Virginia.  Romney must saturate the state known as the “Mother of Presidents.”  He needs to spend a lot of time campaigning in the parts of Virginia not in the DC metro area, where tens of thousands of government employees want to keep government as big as it can be.

 

At the same time, Romney must sink millions of dollars in Ohio, Florida, Missouri, Colorado, and even Wisconsin.  President Polk won his Vice President’s state in 1844.  George Dallas hailed from Pennsylvania, and in 1844 the Keystone State was the second largest and carried 26 electoral votes.  No candidate has ever won the election when he lost his current state of residence, his state of birth, and his vice-Presidential candidates state.  As of today, Romney will lose in Massachusetts and Michigan as well as Paul Ryan’s Wisconsin.

 

If this were a football game, we would list Obama as a 14 1/2-point favorite.

 

 

February 6, 2012

PiRate Ratings Look At The 2012 Presidential Race

Filed under: News & Views — Tags: , , , , , , , , — piratings @ 1:13 pm

The PiRate Ratings step outside the sporting world today to take a look at the 2012 Presidential Election race.  We look at this race in a mechanical manner; in other words, we attempt to handicap this race much like a horse race, using back-tested information as a guide.

 

Our conclusion: The Republican Party is in big trouble at the present time!  When the race began to heat up last summer, it looked like the GOP had as much chance of unseating President Obama as the Democrats had of unseating Herbert Hoover in 1932.  They needed to isolate on the one candidate that could unite the party and come off as the next Ronald Reagan.  Find a great communicator with executive experience that hailed from a Southern state, the Industrial Midwest, or California.

 

Only one Governor from the South decided to run, Rick Perry.  He proved to be not up to the task, and he was finished before the first caucus vote was cast.   Jeb Bush never threw his hat in the ring, and Bobby Jindal peaked four years ago.  The only Republican ex-governor of California was not eligible, and his exit from office left him in a bad scandal anyway. 

 

The Midwest had the ideal candidate, one who would have become a heavy favorite to win in 2012.  Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels chose not to run, citing the desires of his family. 

 

Tim Pawlenty, former governor of Minnesota, briefly entered the race, but he dropped out following the Iowa Straw Poll last summer.  Had he known that almost every candidate that did not fare well in that straw poll rose to the top of the polls at one time, maybe he would have remained in the race long enough to win the Iowa Caucus.  We will never know, and besides, we do not include Minnesota as part of the Industrial Midwest.

 

Note: The Industrial Midwest is merely a descriptive name for a group of states that relied on industry for decades as the chief means of employment.  Almost all industries have now deserted the United States for cheaper foreign labor markets. 

 

Here is the major problem for the GOP.  Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich are unelectable for different reasons!  Gingrich is considered a lone wolf, even though he is really one of the global elite.  However, he has enough ego to try to make numerous changes, and that is not supported by the inside elite.  They will not allow him to become President.  Rick Santorum and Ron Paul have no chance of winning the nomination, so we will not consider either in this submission.  Of course in National polls, both candidates are in dead heats with the President, while Obama has a comfortable lead over Gingrich and a considerable lead over the fading Romney.

 

Romney is still the apparent front-runner with a very large chance of winning the nomination, so let us concentrate the rest of this submission on why he cannot beat President Obama in the general election.

 

We at the PiRate Ratings are political junkies.  We have political maps for every Presidential election in US history.  These maps paint an excellent picture of the philosophy and psychology of the American public.

 

If somebody would have had this information in 1802, they could have forewarned President Jefferson of the impending divide in the country.  Most elections from Jefferson through Lincoln showed the great divide between the states; they could have seen the split between the region that would become the Confederate States of America and the region that would stay loyal to the Union.  The upper Atlantic states and New England States voted one way, and the South and West voted another.  Most elections then were decided in the Midwest, where half a dozen large states swayed the elections. 

 

After the Civil War, the South remained solid Democrat, believing that the Republican Party was responsible for Reconstruction, carpetbaggers, and scallywags.  The South remained a solid Democrat voting block for many years.  Then, President Johnson brought forth his Great Society in the mid-1960’s, and with it, his Civil Rights Act turned the South around overnight.  Beginning in 1968, the Democrats were finished in the South.  George Wallace won a handful of Southern states campaigning on a segregationist agenda, but Nixon won the rest.

 

Since 1968, it has been relatively easy to determine the outcome of elections.  The Republicans needed to hold onto their Southern base, winning almost every state from among Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, Tennessee, Arkansas, and Texas.  We do not include Florida in this list, because this state has a large number of non-Southerners residing within its borders.  A high number of Northern retirees, many from the Upper Atlantic and New England, and a large number of Hispanics, give Florida a unique position, making it a swing state.

 

The Republicans have two options for winning the White House.  The first option is to take California and its 55 electoral votes, better than 20% of the needed 270 electoral votes to win.  By taking California and the South (not including Florida), that gives a GOP candidate 186 electoral votes.  Add 51 more electoral votes from western states that almost always vote GOP (Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, Utah, Arizona, North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, and Oklahoma, and this brings the total to 237.

 

From there, only 33 more electoral votes are needed for a GOP victory.  Florida has 29 electoral votes, and if a Republican takes Florida, he only needs a state like Iowa, Colorado, or Indiana to go over the top.

 

The second option for a Republican is to win a majority of the Industrial Midwest.  Look at the riches available in this swing area:  Ohio (18), Indiana (11), Michigan (16), Illinois (20), and Wisconsin (10) add up to 75 electoral votes.  We will add three states to this list that have similarities to this group.  Pennsylvania (20), Missouri (10), and Kentucky (8), bring the total in this area to 113. 

 

So, if the Republican does not carry California and its 55 electoral votes, he can still win by taking half of the Midwest.  Ohio, Indiana, Kentucky, Missouri, and Wisconsin add up to 57 electoral votes, two more than California.

 

So, how does this apply to Mitt Romney and the race in 2012?  Plenty!  In the entire history of the Republican Party, only two candidates from New England and the Upper Atlantic have ever become President of the United States.  However, and this is big, both candidates were already President when they ran for President.  Calvin Coolidge, from Vermont, was the Vice President when Warren Harding died in office in 1923; he won in 1924.  Theodore Roosevelt, from New York, was the Vice President when William McKinley was assassinated in Buffalo at the World’s Fair in 1901; he won in 1904.

 

Looking at nominees that were not already President, there have been just two elections involving one GOP candidate from the New England/Upper Atlantic area.  Thomas Dewey hailed from New York.  He lost to Franklin Roosevelt in 1944 and Harry Truman in 1948. 

 

In 1944, FDR carried the entire South, as Southerners would not support an Eastern Elitist Republican, when the opposition was an Eastern Elitist Democrat.  In 1948, Dewey won in California, which had half the electoral votes as it does today.  He won in Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Indiana.  Truman carried the entire South as well as Michigan, Illinois, Ohio, Wisconsin, and Kentucky.

 

Romney will have major trouble in the South.  He is looked on as an Eastern elitist, a Yankee, a carpetbagger, etc.  His numerous gaffes and flip-flops will hurt him in any swing state, but in the South, words tend to mean a lot more to voters.  Let us take a look at six of those liabilities:

 

1. During an Iowa debate, he stated that he could not have a lawn service that hired illegal aliens continue to work for him because he was running for President.  This infers that had he not chosen to run, he would not have had a problem.

 

2. He stated that he didn’t make all that much money on his speaking engagements, only between a quarter and half million dollars per speech.  A majority of Southern Republican voters believe that a quarter million dollars is “all that much.”

 

3. He likes firing people.  In fact, he repeated how quickly he would fire someone just because that someone came to him with a business idea.  He has not stated a love for hiring people.

 

4. He doesn’t worry about the poor, because there are safety nets for them.  This infers that he supports the current Welfare system, which a majority of GOP voters in the South do not support.

 

5. He has flip-flopped on both abortion and gun rights. 

6. He openly vowed to be as liberal as Ted Kennedy when he ran against Kennedy in a Massachusetts Senatorial race, and he ran away from the Republican philosophy of Ronald Reagan.  That is why the Reagan family has endorsed Gingrich.

 

Any single one of these six facts is enough to harm him greatly all over the country, especially in the crucial Southern states.

 

Now, concerning Romney’s other liability in the South–his Mormon religion:  People in the South may be quiet about this issue, but a great deal of Southern White Protestants will not support him, even against President Obama.  As a Southerner who is not a Protestant, I have personally witnessed 21st Century religious bigotry.  I am not a member of the Church of Latter Day Saints, and I do not wear my religion on a sleeve.  I don’t advertise my beliefs publicly.  Yet, many Southerners do. 

 

I have heard enough GOP voters talk about how they cannot support a candidate that belongs to a Church that believes their savior returned to New York State and spoke to one man in the 19th Century.  For many in the South, there is still the stigma of polygamy, even though this has not been the case for over 120 years.  While religious bigotry has no place in the 21st Century, the 21st Century Southern conservative voter may decide it still does.

 

The mechanical data does not work out for Romney.  The last Massachusetts Republican that had a chance to become President was Henry Cabot Lodge.  He even made it to the GOP ticket as a Vice Presidential running mate for Richard Nixon in 1960.

 

Cabot Lodge’s political ideology was similar to Romney’s.  A disciple of two of the most influential and elitist families in New England, Cabot Lodge was also a hero.  He was the only United States Senator to resign from office to join the military to fight in World War II.  Many political experts believe Cabot Lodge hurt Nixon’s chances in many states in 1960 and even cost Nixon the election.

 

Let’s take a look at the political map of 2012.  If Romney is the nominee, then barring a major catastrophe, like a total collapse of the Stock Market or a major war that our country appears to be losing, Obama will stand a much better than 50% chance of defeating Romney for reelection.  If the country is thrust into a Mideast war through an enemy provocation, then Obama’s chances will increase all the more.

 

Let’s start our mechanical look by concentrating on the South.  Obama beat John McCain by a score of 365-173.  In 2008, Obama won in North Carolina and Virginia for 28 electoral votes.  He also took the swing state of Florida and its 27 votes (Florida has 29 electoral votes in this election).  McCain needed a sweep in the South, and he could not get it.  Had he swept the South, it would have given him 228 votes, still 42 shy of what he needed.

 

Obama won California and its 55 votes.  McCain, from Arizona, did not offer anything to swing the biggest prize his way.  Had he won California and the three Southern States he lost, he would have won the election.

 

Of course, there is a second avenue for a Republican if he cannot sweep the South and take California.  He must win several states in the Midwest.  Obama won big here in 2008, and he will do well enough in 2012 to win reelection if Romney is the opponent.

 

Obama will win his home state of Illinois and its 20 votes.  He will win Pennsylvania and Wisconsin for another 30 votes.  Romney should win Indiana, and he should win Michigan, because the Romney name still means a lot in the Wolverine State.  However, a heavy turnout in Detroit could tilt the state’s 16 votes his way.

 

You would expect Romney to do well in New England, but that is not necessarily the case.  He will lose his home state of Massachusetts, and that speaks volumes.  A little known fact is that when Romney chose not to run for gubernatorial reelection, he did so because he was going to lose by a large amount.  He won in 2002 with a slim plurality of the vote, falling short of 50%.  Had Green Party candidate Jill Stein not run, then Democrat Shannon O’Brien might have won the election.  Romney’s favorable ratings as Governor were never high, and when he chose not to stand for reelection, the favorable percentage was in the 30’s.  He left office as the 48th most popular governor after his legislation led to much higher taxes.  It is estimated that he raised taxes on many corporations by almost 100%!  He also added a heavy number of fees to run businesses, and he lost a great deal of his Republican base by 2006. 

 

Obama will win Massachusetts; he will also win Connecticut, Vermont, Rhode Island, New York, New Jersey, Delaware, and Maryland.  Romney cannot count on his own area for major support.  He may take New Hampshire, and he could still lose there.

 

Let us break down this race into safe Republican and safe Democrat states.

 

We are going to assume that Romney can keep the Southern states McCain won in 2008, but as you read above, this is not a sure thing.  We will give him Georgia, South Carolina, Alabama, Mississippi, Tennessee, Louisiana, Arkansas, and Texas for 103 electoral votes.

 

Romney will carry most of Flyover country as all GOP candidates do.  That gives him another 11 states, but only 54 more electoral votes—Oklahoma, Kansas, Nebraska, South Dakota, North Dakota, Montana, Idaho, Wyoming, Utah, Arizona, and Alaska.  That brings his total to 157 votes in these 19 states.

 

Kentucky, West Virginia, and Indiana will go for the Republican candidate in this race, regardless of the name of that candidate.  These three bring Romney’s total to 22 states and 181 electoral votes.  We will call this his sure thing states with the caveat that one or two of these states could go against him for the reasons described above.

 

Obama has fewer sure thing states, but they carry more electoral votes.  Start with the West, where he will sweep the Pacific Coast.  California, Oregon, and Washington plus the always Democrat Hawaii gives him four states and 78 electoral votes.

 

In the Midwest, he will carry his home state of Illinois as well as the liberal state of Minnesota.  That increases his totals to six states and 108 electoral votes.

 

We will not give Obama the two Southern states he won in 2008, even though he stands a good chance of taking both Virginia and North Carolina again.  So, his total stays the same.

 

It is in Romney’s own area where Obama will hit his opponent hard.  Give the President Washington, D.C., Maryland, Delaware, New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, Vermont, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, and Maine.  That brings his total to 15 states plus DC and 196 electoral votes.

 

The remaining toss-up states are: New Hampshire (4), Pennsylvania (20), Virginia (13), North Carolina (15), Florida (29), Ohio (18), Michigan (16), Wisconsin (10), Iowa (6), Missouri (10), New Mexico (5), Colorado (9), and Nevada (6).  That adds up to 161 electoral votes.  Obama would need 74 of these electoral votes, while Romney would need 89. 

 

As of today, if we had to call these swing states, we would give Obama New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, Virginia, North Carolina Wisconsin, Iowa, New Mexico, and Colorado.  This adds 82 electoral votes, bringing his total to 278 and securing the victory.

 

We will give Romney Florida, Michigan, Ohio, Missouri, and Nevada.  This adds 79 electoral votes, bringing his total to 260. 

 

We must admit that we gave Romney the benefit of the doubt in several states, where he is not guaranteed to win.  In fact, with his favorable numbers sinking quickly, we believe that 260 is the absolute maximum number of electoral votes he can win.  In all honesty, he could lose 30-40 of these electoral votes.

 

The GOP needs to hope for a brokered convention where they can appeal to Governor Daniels to become the new great compromise.  Daniels can win 300-350 electoral votes by cutting into Obama’s popularity in the Midwest, and he can sweep the South.

 

 

 

October 31, 2011

A True Halloween Story

Filed under: News & Views — Tags: , , , — piratings @ 6:36 am

Halloween 1970

 

This is a true story.  One part of it was left out to protect the identity of someone who is still alive and does not want to be mentioned in this story, ever.

 

It was October of 1970.  My maternal grandfather had passed away in Chattanooga, Tennessee, a year earlier, and my mother took our family to visit our grandmother for weekends quite frequently for the next couple of years.  It was Halloween weekend, and we were going to go trick or treating in Chattanooga with my grandmother’s neighbor’s children, and then spend the rest of the evening at one of their homes.  Some of the parents on the block were going to supervise the kids.  My parents, grandmother, and some of her friends were planning to spend that Saturday Halloween night at a dinner club, The Panoram, on Lookout Mountain.

 

Plans didn’t come off as expected.  It began to rain heavily, and a windy cold front moved into Chattanooga.  Trick or treating would not happen due to the elements.  So, at the last minute, arrangements were made for a baby sitter for my 5-year old brother and me (then 10 years old).  A teenage girl from the neighborhood came over to stay with us.

 

About an hour after the adults left for dinner, the power went out in East Ridge, where my grandmother lived.  The rain continued to fall, but now there was thunder and lightning.  On top of that, there were some weird sounds emanating from outside my grandmother’s house.  Her house was located on the right side bottom of a hill where the road curved sharply to the left.  When cars came down the hill, their lights shone into her den and kitchen.  About once every 5 to 10 years, a car came down the hill too fast and couldn’t negotiate the turn.  The driver would run off the road into her front yard.  There was a huge crabapple tree preventing cars from potentially hitting the house.  Just beyond that tree was a three-foot deep ravine separating her house from the next one.  When it rained, the ravine became a rapidly flowing creek that spilled into the large creek, which was at her back property line.

 

When we heard one of the loud sounds outside, our first thought was that a car had come down the hill and couldn’t make the sharp curve in the very wet street.  The sound wasn’t loud enough for it to have hit the tree, but it could have gone off the road, into the ravine, and been carried into the creek behind the house.

 

It was pitch black dark, except for the occasional bolt of lightning.  With the temperature dropping outside and no power, the house began to get a little chilly.  Our sitter went to the linen closet to get some blankets to put around us, as I sat on the den couch.  She also went hunting for candles to provide a little illumination; the house was as dark as the outside.  We had one little flashlight, and she took it to find her way. 

 

As she went into the other room, I peeked the through the translucent sheer in the den to look outside toward the street and glanced over toward the tree and ravine where I thought I had heard the sound.  There was nothing there.  The streets were as empty as if it were 3 AM on a weekday.  There was no visible candlelight coming out of the other houses on the block.  For a 10-year old, this was not the most comfortable of situations. 

 

Things became a little tense, when the babysitter returned from the hall with the blankets.  She had let out a tiny shriek as she walked through the kitchen into the den.  I asked her why she made the sound, and she told me she had looked out the breakfast room windows toward the back yard and thought she had seen someone near the large creek.  The image was visible during a brief flash of lightning.  But, on the next bolt, just a second or two later, the image was gone.

 

You can figure out what was racing through my mind at that moment.  No adults were in the house.  My little brother was sleeping on the den couch, and I was with a 15 or 16-year old stranger who wasn’t the brightest light bulb in the chandelier.  I decided to call my grandmother’s next door neighbor, a former minor league baseball player with the Chattanooga Lookouts and former football player at Auburn.  I figured he could protect us.  Unfortunately, he was not at home.  Neither was the family that lived on the other side of my grandmother.  I remembered that no other light seemed to be coming out of any of the houses on the block.  We might have been the only people on the block at home at that moment.

 

Nothing happened for the next 30 minutes.  It was eerily quiet and still quite dark, since we could not find any candles and had to preserve the flashlight batteries.  My brother slept, not knowing what was going on.  Had the drapes been closed and not just the thin sheer, we would have been unable to see anything and would not have looked at the door every time the lightning struck.  It was the lightning that occasionally illuminated the den and preserved our flashlight.

 

It was approaching 10 PM, when a huge flash of lightning lit up the entire front yard.  I was looking toward the sliding glass door that led from the den to the driveway at the precise moment the lightning struck.  The sitter was doing so as well.  We both saw the outline of a large body trying to peer into the den through the door.  The image looked like it was a large man over 6 feet tall and bulky.  He was wearing a large floppy hat and possibly a rain slicker.  His hands and face were on the glass door in a position helping him in his attempt to see through the semi-transparent sheer.  We couldn’t see his face, just his outline through the sheer.  Luckily, the sitter didn’t scream this time, and I was too scared to move much less say anything.

 

The next bolt of lightning came about 15 seconds later.  The image was gone.  The sitter started to panic not knowing what to do.  I knew we had to call the police ASAP.  The phone in the den was at the end of the room nearest that sliding glass door, so there was no way I was going to go near it.  Then, the thought struck me:  the door was unlocked!  Back in those days, people didn’t always lock their doors.  In fact, people frequently left their homes with the doors unlocked.  Times were different, or at least people were naïve enough to think so.

 

I told the sitter the door was unlocked.  She had no intention of walking over to it and turning the lock.  So, in my best G.I. Joe impersonation, I crawled on my belly to the den door.  I peeked out the drapes from the opening in the very bottom.  The image wasn’t there, so in Speedy Gonzales fashion, I jumped up, locked the door, pulled the thick drapes shut, and ran back to the couch next to the sitter.  She hugged me tight enough to feel her breasts hitting my face.

 

She was still too scared to use the phone by the door, and by this time, the sitter realized she needed to contact the East Ridge Police.  She went into the kitchen to use the phone in there.  As you might have guessed, the image was now in the backyard visible from the breakfast room window (a window that also had only a translucent sheer).  She let out a huge scream, and the image ran away.  This time she got a better look at the image and knew she had seen a real, live human male.  She quickly picked up the receiver.  The line was not dead, but it was cracking and on the verge of going dead.  Several inches of rain and hours of lightning had taken its toll on the primitive phone lines of that day.  By this time, I was in the kitchen trying to find out what the commotion was.  She told me she had seen a large man in the back yard, and I told her to call the police immediately.  She was now scared that lightning would strike the line and blow off her ear.  So, I picked up the phone to call the police.  The line wasn’t dead, but I could hear a faint voice on the line.  It sounded like a man talking in a low, dull, quite ethereal voice.  I couldn’t make out exactly what he was saying, and he could not hear me or at least didn’t acknowledge hearing me.  It was obvious to an adult that the lines were crossed due to the storm, but of course, I immediately put two and two together and got five.  I immediately thought it must be that image outside tapping into the line and keeping us from calling out.

 

For the next few minutes, I picked up the phone in 15-second intervals trying to get an outside line.  The voice on the line was gone, but I couldn’t dial out.  The sitter had gone back in the den to look after my brother, who was sleeping through it all.  Finally, I got a live line.  40+ years ago, 9-1-1 did not yet exist.  I had to dial the operator and ask for the East Ridge police.  She connected me, and I began to explain what had happened and the situation with us being alone with a panicking sitter.  Luckily, they didn’t consider this a prank from a kid, and within two minutes, a patrol car came by with a huge search light shining into every yard.  They stopped between my grandmother’s yard and the house to the left.  I watched from a tiny side window as they apparently spotted something in the neighbor’s side yard and got out to investigate, but at a very slow speed.  It appeared as though they didn’t want to confront whoever it was that was running around in the dark on a cold rainy Saturday Halloween weekend night.

 

The officers walked back to their car and drove off.  They never came to our door nor called.  So, at about 11 PM, the sitter called them back.  They told her that they had seen somebody run behind the neighbor’s house and disappear around the area of the large creek or possibly run up the hill through the small patch of woods.  By the way, those woods ended at an old cemetery. 

 

The police drove around to the street on the other side of the creek, but they could not locate anybody there.  They said a squad car would periodically patrol the area on either side of the creek for the rest of the night and for us to keep all our doors locked and drapes closed. 

 

About a half hour later, the adults returned from their night out.  We told them what had happened, but they thought we were making it all up as part of a Halloween prank.  The next morning, my dad called the police just to make sure this was all a joke.  He found out to the contrary.  Several people on the other side of the creek had also seen the person and called the police, which was why they took my call seriously.  It was not the first rainy night, nor the first Halloween that they had received this call.

 

For the next few years, other people saw this person in the area of South Chickamauga Creek late at night, especially when it was raining.  Nobody ever caught him or got a picture of him.  Then, after about 1975, nobody ever saw the image again.

 

I do not believe in paranormal phenomena.  I believe there was a rational explanation like someone trying to pull off a prank, maybe someone from that neighborhood who knew where to cross the creek on the two little wooden pedestrian bridges or where the roads crossed it.  He moved away, stopped doing it, or died.  Many people in the neighborhood joked that it was the ghost of a man who had been hit by a car in 1959.  He supposedly had been walking in the rain late at night and had been knocked into the creek with his body never being found.  I don’t know if that accident actually every happened, but I do know a few people drowned in that creek in the past without the aid of a car hitting them.

 

My grandmother passed away in 1992 in that same house.  When we went back for the final time to clean out the house prior to its sale, I walked into the back yard toward the creek.  Things had changed, as the once five or six feet body of water was now a dry rocky ravine.  Only an occasional puddle of water was visible.  I walked down the creek for a few hundred feet, and lo and behold, I found an old, floppy, faded yellow rain hat, in a state of disrepair like it had been there for several years.  Might it have been THE HAT that the image was wearing that night?  We’ll never know.

 

June 10, 2008

A Wonderful Tourist Stop Must For Midwest Travellers

Filed under: News & Views — Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , — piratings @ 5:52 pm

On May 23rd, 2008, my wife and I spent part of the day driving on Route 66 in Illinois.  Many times in the past, we had thought of stopping in the tiny burg of Funk’s Grove, but due to time constraints, we bypassed the little hamlet about eight miles southwest of Bloomington-Normal.

This trip, we scheduled the time to stop in Funk’s Grove, and it was the best half-day we have spent on the road in many years–maybe our best tourist stop together ever!

First, we stopped at Funk’s Grove Maple Sirup.  You read that right–SIRUP!  The Funk family retained the original spelling of the word.  My wife grew up in Northwest Wisconsin, an area where many people believe the best maple syrup is made.  As we entered the shop just off Route 66 in a nice wooded area, we were greeted by a friendly woman.  Her name was Debby Funk.  She represents the current generation in the family business.  Funks have been selling maple syrup for decades.  Upon entering the shop, Ms. Funk poured for us samples of their magical liquid.  My wife tasted it first.  Being the cynic who believed that Northwest Wisconsin Maple Syrup was unbeatable, I was totally floored when I witnessed her reaction.  She was speechless.  I waited for a second to verify that her astonishment was from a positive experience, and then I took my taste.  The only way I can describe the tastes is that of fine scotch without the alcohol.  This is the absolute best pure maple syrup there is! 

Inside the shop, there was a small Route 66 gift shop.  We purchased some Route 66 coffee mugs, the Route 66 (Campy) map series, and some additional presents for others.  Yes, we unloaded a bundle of money for the syrup.  It was a bundle not because it is expensive, but because we purchased a tree’s worth of syrup.

After the stopover at the store, we drove across I-55 to the Funk Prairie Home and Rock Museum.  We had 1 PM appointments to take the tour of this 19th century oasis.  Once again, we were not expecting all that much because this tour’s admission was FREE.

We were greeted outside our car by Mr. Bill Case.  Before we could even get to the back steps of the mansion, he began the tour by giving us interesting information.  For the next 90 minutes, Mr. Case lectured on the history while showing us through the house.  I have no idea how many times he has given this tour, but I would guess it would run well into the thousands and to groups as large as several dozen at a time.  This tour was just for the two of us, and he acted like he was doing it for the first time.  If all my college professors had been this interested in their teachings, I might have become a perpetual student.  Mr. Case is without a doubt the best history teacher I have ever learned from in my nearly 50 years.  My retention rate from his monologue still approaches 100% nearly three weeks later.

The second half of this three-hour tour was adjacent to the building at the rock museum.  If you combined the greatest purveyors of prose in world history, they could not adequately describe the next 90 minutes.  Without ruining the experience for those who want to visit here with no idea what they will witness, let me just sum up our feelings in a few sentences.  My wife is a jewelry designer, and she has sold her jewelry in upscale retail establishments such as Bloomingdales.  Art critics have applauded her designs and one newspaper art reporter coined her creations, “wearable masterpieces.”  She is an expert in rocks and gems, and she has even mined Canadian amethyst.  She knows her stuff.  Well, again, she wasn’t expecting too much.  Before we even entered the rock museum, once again the exterior had many interesting works.  An array of petrified wood and a bevy of heavy rocks were there to observe.  Mr. Case had me take a hammer and hit a piece of wood; it felt like hitting solid iron and sounded like a xyzolophone.

Once inside, it is a total, but extremely pleasant, overload of optical and audial information.  Gemstone rocks of every type and sub-type on many rows are there to observe up close.  A room of petrified objects including dinosaur feces, mushrooms, a dragon fly, and many others accompanied a multitude of fossils.  Maybe most impressive, there is an intact saber-tooth tiger skull.

In separate rooms, there are 19th century-dated carriages, saddles, a one-horse open sleigh, and several other interesting objects. 

When we finally departed a little more than three hours after we arrived, my wife was so overwhelmed, she had tears of joy running down her cheeks. 

I give the town of Funk’s Grove my highest endorsement and highly recommend all who read this to investigate it further.  Visit www.funksgrove.org for more information.  We will definitely return for another visit.

A PiRate Extra–Two Weeks Of Freaky Weather In The Midwest

Filed under: News & Views — Tags: , , , , , , — piratings @ 2:24 pm

From May 22 until yesterday, my wife and I were in Wisconsin.  We experienced over a half dozen tornado warnings and witnessed my deceased father-in-law’s homestead suffer a direct hit.  The dairy barn in the tiny town of Ridgeland, Wisconsin, suffered a direct hit from a tornado.  It is a total loss.  Luckily, this farm no longer raises cattle for dairy purposes, and none of them were in the barn.  Unbelievably, a heifer from a neighboring farm was blown through the air and deposited unharmed on their farm. 

The day after the tornado, this area of NW Wisconsin suffered a late May freeze with temperatures dropping below 32 degrees and daytime highs failing to reach 50 degrees. 

Following the winter-like weather, another warm front met up with the cold front, and the area endured more tornado warnings, with hail, high wind, and several inches of rain.

From June 3rd to June 8th, we were in Milwaukee for the Bead and Button Show, and in four days, the area received more than 11 inches of rain.  Added to this was dense fog on two of those days, and on three successive days, the city was under tornado warnings.  More tornadoes touched down near us, and suburbs on both sides began to flood.  Upon our drive to Tennessee Monday, June 9th, we passed through Indiana on I-65 and witnessed mile after mile of flooded fields.  This area has been enduring economic hard times more than the average area in the country, and now many of these people will be struggling to survive finacially.

Many of these fields under water are corn fields.  The crop is ruined, and there will be far less corn available this summer.  Much of this corn is livestock feed, so the problem will spread throughout the beef industry.  Expect beef prices to reflect the added cost of finding suitable feed. 

A less, but significant amount of this corn is grown for bio-fuel.  This loss will obviously mean there will be less available bio-fuel this season.

The insurance companies are going to be doling out several claims from yet another weather catastrophe.  Unlike Hurricane Katrina, the flood covers several thousand square miles.  While only some properties flooded and many others were okay, the logistics of inspecting and submitting reports for the claims filed will cause these insurance companies a lot of money.

This flood may not have affected you directly, but you will be affected indirectly. 

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