Thursday, January 9, 2014

2013 Top Posts

We had a fantastic first year.

While our blog posts on the political machinations of the day came and went, the stories that garnered lasting and substantial interest are -- well -- stories. 2013 was our first year (save for a handful of posts in 2012) of blogging. We blog to crystallize our thinking and reduce our views to writing, and hopefully, every now and again, entertain and inform. You, our readers, show what you are most interested in and informed by what you click through and read.

So here are your top 25 posts from 2013.  Among the posts are advice, satire, nostalgia and personal and family history, as well as occasional serious political or financial and economic analysis and commentary. Check out what you missed or review an old favorite -- whatever your pleasure -- and enjoy.

The Golf Channel: Spouse's Guide To Sanity (Special Guest Post)

Teresa wanted to give me a day off from blogging on Father's Day. Boy, did she! She contrived to write the all-time most popular post on Along the Gradient. Her post is jam packed with advice for the links-free crowd on how to watch golf, understand golf, ignore golf and tolerate someone who is addicted to golf. Along the way she reviews the styles, the wines, the nicknames and the personalities on the PGA tour. When she wrote the post Henrik Stenson was still best known for something quite different from lapping the field on the PGA and European tours. Click to find out what.

Jon Tester Supports Truck Control

Single vehicle rollover accidents kill. Ford F-150 pickup trucks are a much more dangerous instrumentality in Montana than semi-automatic weapons, which gave rise to this satire, poking fun at the junior Senator from Montana.

Growing Up in Morton Grove

This post was inspired by the "We Grovers from Morton Grove" group on Facebook where us baby boomers wax nostalgic about youthful experiences and exploits growing up in the northern Chicago suburb. The schools, the parks, the river, the woods, my first job, influential teachers, and the old haunts are the grist of this personal look back.

On the Road to Bathgate Act 1: "Fargo" the Movie

When the research starts, a blog post can take surprising turns.  My father was born and raised in Bathgate, North Dakota. His father and grandfather homesteaded claims in the township and founded the town. I was writing the first post of the popular Road to Bathgate series as a family history post but it turned into a pop culture paean when I learned that snow abundance led to the iconic Paul Bunyan statue scene from "Fargo" being shot in Bathgate. In the words of the local barkeep, "You should have seen it right after they put it up," "It was foggy, and people couldn't see it until they got right up to it. Then, it says, 'Brainerd,' and they thought, 'What the hell?" Now we know when "Fargo" is playing on any of the movie channels because the post accumulates hits.  And it will no doubt experience renewed popularity when "Fargo" the television series, premieres on FX thjs spring.

Student Loan Accountability: Put College Skin into the Game

Student loan debt load has grown exponentially. Over a trillion dollars of student loan debt is outstanding. Many of the debtors are unemployed, or under employed in jobs that don't require a college degree. Student loans cannot be discharged in bankruptcy or by returning to live in the parents' basement. The flood of student loans has driven a tuition bubble not unlike the real estate bubble whose deflation led to the 2008 financial meltdown. Higher tuition begets greater debt which begets increased tuition. It's a circular trap and a situation that calls out for serious reform, while financial and economic incompetent progressives like Elizabeth Warren can only seem to come up with solutions that involve lending more money to more students.

6. On the Road to Bathgate Act 3: I Am a Cubs Fan

The Chicago Cubs, the New York Yankees, a World Series and an empty freight car brought my father from North Dakota to Chicago, Illinois in 1931. Dad said Babe Ruth didn't point -- the Bambino was indicating the count. Dad passed along his Cub fan bug, which bit me the biggest in 1969. "Hey, hey, holy mackeral.  No doubt about it. The Cub are on their way.  Hey.  Hey."  "They got the hustle, they got the muscle." "The Chicago Cubs are on their way." Least ways so we thought until September when the Miracle Mets intervened to trample the best Cub team ever assembled.

7. Yes Virginia, There Is a Caddie Scholarship

In the movie Caddyshack Noonan may or may not have deserved it but there actually is a caddie scholarship. Bill Murray and his brothers caddied at a country club up the road from Glen View Club where I caddied and was fortunate enough to win the actual caddie scholarship. Caddyshack is real. When the kids learn that dad actually got a caddie scholarship they'll believe most anything else he tells them too. We try not to take undue advantage.                                         

8.  On the Road to Bathgate Act 5: Founding and Early Years

The founding of Bathgate, its early years and the lead role of the Foster family are described in this historical review. Like many small farming town on the Great Plains, Bathgate peaked in the early 1900's and was decimated in the Great Depression.  It is still there. While a shadow of its former self, the town stands broad and tall in our family heritage.

9. The Caddies Thank You Dr. King!

There is nothing quite like a group of 100 caddies breaking the solitude of an early Sunday morning with shouts of "Strike!" and marching onto the driving range singing choruses of "We Shall Overcome". We struck, we were fired, we negotiated and we were rehired -- all in a period of three and one-half hours.  

10.  On the Road to Bathgate Act 4: Introducing the Foster Family Offspring

In our fourth piece on Bathgate, North Dakota we finally got around to systematically identifying my father's family of 13.  He was the youngest of 11 children. Click through to the post -- he's the little guy on the right.

11. Politidumb of the Week

In this occasional feature I highlight the dumbest things said by politicians and public figures the preceding week. This post awarded the week to U.S. Representative Barbara Lee, who claimed that global warming is a scourge against women. If so, why were so many female teeth chattering this last week when the polar vortex dropped down from northerly climes?

12. Mainstream Media -- Handmaiden of Government Distortion and Deception

During the course of a year, there are hundreds of lead AP stories with deceptive and misleading spin. In this post I dissected just one, an AP page 1 lead that said not to worry about the $17 trillion U.S. government debt bomb because it is not held by foreign meanies; instead the largest chunk of debt is the government owing money to the government.  Dudes, in any other context, that kind of accounting is called a Ponzi scheme. Sooner or later these schemes collapse upon themselves. There is everything to worry about.
13. Happy 45th Big Mac

My father's employer printed the first packaging for McDonald's Big Mac, which led to my consuming a double decker months before they were introduced to the general public.  Welcome to a Forrest Gump moment.

14. Senator Jon Tester Invokes Constitutional Right to Mail Delivery

Sadly, this was not satire. Jon Tester actually did invoke a constitutional right to mail delivery to block needed reforms to put the Postal Service on sound financial footing. This type of progressive idiocy is bankrupting the Postal Service and our nation.

15. The Masters

When Jock Hutchison told me "Laddie, I used this mashie to win the British Open" I didn't believe him. Back in the day we didn't have the internet where I could have looked it up. If he had told me he was an honorary starter at The Masters, I probably would not have believed that as well, and would have been just as wrong.

16. Government Shutdown Activities: Colonial Williamsburg

We assisted tourists stranded in the DC area during the government shutdown by recommending interesting and informative historical sights they could visit that were privately owned and unaffected by the shutdown.  Colonial Williamsburg is a fantastic site, a restored and recreated town that was once colonial Virginia's capital where notables like George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison and Patrick Henry served. It is now operated with period actors, sponsored tours and historical talks, and special events. Williamsburg is a must see, shutdown or no shutdown.

17. My 2013 Predictions

Predicting is dangerous, writing down your predictions even more so and actually publishing them, well, that's positively insane. We are more willing to take the risk than most, if for no other reason, that our job with the Postal Service for many years carried an economic and business forecasting portfolio. We had more than a modicum of success. In this post, which should have been more properly titled "Predictions for Barack Obama Second Term Upon His Inauguration," we looked into the crystal ball on matters, political, economic and diplomatic. Look for a retrospective come January 2017.
18. Keystone XL Is Swell

Montana will have an on-ramp to the Keystone XL pipeline.  Build the damn thing and maybe there won't be so many of Warren Buffett's trains blowing up and threatening house, home, limb and life. Okay. End of rant -- at least this one.

19. Global Cooling?

Just about everything that currently is attributed to global warming was attributed to global cooling back in the 1970's when I was being educated by scientists who were much humbler and less doctrinaire than today's crowd. The Al Goreacle panic is somewhere between overblown and nonexistent.

20. We the Feds Part II – Special Interest Rates for Federal Employees

Federal employees have access to an extremely attractive variable interest rate investment vehicle that Uncle Sam uniquely offers to Club Fed. This unfairness comes with a huge price tag on the order of $70 billion over the standard 10-year budget horizon, a burden that is being passed along to our children and grandchildren in this era of deficit spending.  Wake up, little sheeple, wake up.  

21. On the Road to Bathgate Act 6: Norval Baptie Champion Skater

There is a lot more to Bathgate than the Fosters. Norval Baptie hailed from and is buried in Bathgate, North Dakota.  He was world record speed skater, a world record barrel jumper, and a professional figure skater and promoter who founded the modern ice show. Besides that, he didn't accomplish much.  Read about it here.

22. The Washington Monument Game

In the year of the Sequester Barack Obama raised the Washington Monument Game to a high art. In this post we laid out the origin and strategy that Obama played out so vindictively all year long in an effort to secure unlimited budget and spending authority. 

23. Mildly Painful, Painful and Very Painful -- Texas Cactus

This is Teresa's second guest post.  In the Lone Star state, watch where you run, watch where you sit and watch where you hide because you never know where cactii may lurk.

24. Green Jobs?

One of our old friends back in Arlington, and a rare sane political and economic observer thereabouts, explains the Obama administration's phony accounting for green jobs.

25. During the Shutdown Go to Mount Vernon

George Washington's Mount Vernon is conveniently located down the Mount Vernon Parkway and the Potomac south of DC. It is owned and operated by the Mount Vernon Ladies Association which meant it was not affected by the government shutdown -- we thought. In a bizarre and lawless twist the National Park Police attempted to use easements that had been granted to the National Park Service as a basis for Barrycading Mount Vernon parking lots. The ladies told Obama's police to go stick it.

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