Monday, September 5, 2016

Venue Review - The Bowl at Sugar HIll

The Bowl at Sugar Hill - Third Eye Blind peforming
The Bowl at Sugar Hill on Sept. 3, 2016.
I'd never heard of Sugar Hill, Georgia until recently. About 40 minutes northeast of Atlanta, my wife and I spotted the mostly popular in the 1990's band, Third Eye Blind was playing over Labor Day weekend and we made the trip south to check it out.

Map showing the bowl at sugar hill relative to atlanta

The Bowl at Sugar Hill is located immediately behind Sugar Hill's City Hall building and all indications are it is run by the City of Sugar Hill, which may be where this concert went wrong, but I'll get to that in a moment.

The Bowl at Sugar Hill

As we pulled into Sugar Hill, we mistakenly stopped at an ATM expecting to need cash to park. However, that wasn't an issued. Without too much trouble, we quickly spotted a spot in a city parking lot that offered room for free. We were off to a good start.

As we walked past what appeared to be a brand new, golden guttered city hall building my wife was delighted seeing all the people lounging with coolers, blankets, etc. It was a nice little vibe. Obviously not a resident myself, you could get the sense that these events could play a role in building a community feeling. Also, the fact that you could carry-in your own alcohol may also explain why everyone seemed to know everyone else so well!

Outside the "Bowl" there were about a half dozen vendors set-up with a couple food trucks with the standard sort of fare. We didn't eat at the show but can attest that The Diner at Sugar Hill is worthy of the top spot it occupies on Trip Advisor for restaurants in the area.

Grandstand at the Bowl at Sugar Hill
The grandstand at the Bowl in Sugar Hill

We had reserved tickets that were about 5 rows from the stage. There are various levels of grassy terrace in the primary grandstand. For the show, they line what my wife jokingly referred to as "wedding chairs" for seating. Not necessarily uncomfortable and the set-up seemed just fine for something like this.

Who Sucked Out The Feelin'?

After an opening band that my wife and I agreed must have just been crowned king of the Sugar Hill High School's talent show the previous week (I didn't catch their name but thought they said something like "Cock Guard" --- which is probably not correct) there was about a half-hour pause while the stage was remade for the main event.

Then, Third Eye Blind took the stage and the night got weird.
Third Eye Blind frontman Steven Jenkins at The Bowl at Sugar Hill
Third Eye Blind's Steven Jenkins.
As lead singer Steven Jenkins started singing, it was as if his microphone hadn't been turned on. No lyrics, no  real sounds coming from it. Eventually, it started to play over the house speakers at faint levels but it was clear either we were all being pranked by Jenkins or something was messed up.

The band never explained exactly what was wrong. They simply played their first song (minus any audible lyrics) and then quietly left the stage.

Moments later, the band would re-emerge as Jenkins explained there were some technical issues that caused the problem and could continue to wreak havoc on their set. Paraphrasing Jenkins, it could happen at any moment and could impact just about everything they used to make music. (I'm no audio expert but I wonder if it wasn't a board issue of some kind).

Near the end of Third Eye Blind's set.

Throughout the night, the band clearly ran into technical issues at a few different points but to their credit they took it all in stride. At one point, Jenkins came on stage with just a guitar and performed a few songs. They're not a negative lot so Jenkins put on a mostly happy face and even seemed to poke fun at some of the culture of pop music today.

"There are no synthesizers, we're not a DJ band," Jenkins joked at one point.

All-in-all, I'd estimate the band played for just shy of an hour and a half. I'm not sure if Sugar Hill has any sort of noise ordinances in place that would have prevented them from going longer. 

Wrap-Up & Video

Of course, it was frustrating to have set-aside a holiday weekend to take in a show that was hit by technical issues that clearly sucked the energy out of the concert. We'd seen Third Eye Blind less than a year before at the Tennessee Theatre. Plainly, the bar was set high and my wife was delighted by the show in our hometown. 

In this latest case, the show was alright but the false-start clearly detracted from the overall experience. You can get a taste of what we experienced with the video below that highlights about a minute of what appeared to be technical glitch-free goodness.


Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Re: Trump's Fundraising Request

Mr. Trump,

Thank you for reaching out to me with the opportunity to help fuel your campaign.

It probably comes as no surprise to you, I'm not in the position of giving things away. In fact, as I age I'm doing all I can to get better at making really good deals. Because of that penchant for making good deals, I'm learning to discern between winning investments and losers --- but also getting adequate compensation for the amount of risk I'm taking.

While it seems clear you find your offer to match my contribution 1:1 is generous, I disagree. You see, you own the campaign and I have no real upside financially if I help fund your campaign on its way to victory. 

While some might be tempted to point to your enormous personal wealth as a reason a middle-class American should not feel any obligation to donate to your campaign. I don't think this is the proper tact. Rather, I insist that we look at campaigns the same way we would look at any investment - through the lens of return on investment and best alternative to a negotiated settlement.

In fact, a good case can be made that you're a long-shot at best right now. It seems that the 1:1 ratio you suggest is not even close to being a winning deal for my camp.

That said, I won't be funding your opponent either. In fact, I consider the time I've invested in learning about both you and Mrs. Clinton a sunk cost that I will never recoup. While I wish you the best in your efforts, your offer at this point is just not intriguing enough to have me reaching for my wallet.

Thank you for the opportunity and I certainly look forward to any counter proposals you see fit to make.

On Jun 21, 2016, at 11:00 AM, "Donald J. Trump" <> wrote:


This is the first fundraising email I have ever sent on behalf of my campaign. That's right. The FIRST ONE

And, I'm going to help make it the most successful introductory fundraising email in modern political history by personally matching every dollar that comes in WITHIN THE NEXT 48 HOURS, up to $2 million! 

XXX, this means any donation you make between $1 and $2,700 (the maximum allowable contribution) will be matched, dollar-for-dollar. 

Help make history by giving one of the amounts below:

Even without this match, this initial effort would have been the most successful first fundraising email in history. I am certain of this. But let me tell you why I decided to match your donations. 

The Democrats are desperate, and they're throwing everything they have at me. They just keep failing and losing. 

Now they've sent out a very nasty email attacking me, all to raise a measly $250,000. They even promise that a group of "all-star Democrats" will match every dollar raised. 

They will say and do anything to elect Hillary Clinton, but I am standing in the way. 

We can't let her back into the White House ever again. 

The bottom line – Crooked Hillary has been a DISASTER for our country, and we must win against her XXX. 

Let's make history again, and keep winning, by making this the most successful first fundraising email ever

Let's show the liberals, the professional pundits, and the Washington establishment that this campaign IS NOT ABOUT ME. It's a movement of hardworking, patriotic people who want to MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN.

Best Wishes, 

Donald J. Trump
Candidate for President of the United States 

P.S. Help me make my first ever fundraising email the most successful fundraising email ever sent in the history of modern politics. Remember, I will PERSONALLY match your donation, but we must receive it WITHIN THE NEXT 48 HOURS

Monday, June 20, 2016

Stupid Quotes From Monday's Senate Gun Debate

If you missed it (and unless your remote control was broken with the TV stuck on C-SPAN2, why would you catch it?) the Senate debated a number of gun related issues Monday. (HR-2578 is the official bill if you're into that sort of thing).

I thought it'd be fun to take notes because I'm a glutton for punishment. Without further ado, here's how things played out.

Harry Reid - (D - Nevada), Senate Minority Leader

3:12 p.m. First highlight of the day was when Harry Reid called Newtown, Connecticut, "Newton". Nevermind that the Newtown tragedy is central to the Dems' talking points today, how does any American not recognize the city involved with the Sandy Hook shootings?

3:14 p.m. Reid just did it again, "Newton". How do you sit on a soapbox of respect for those "victims" when you can't even learn the city they lived in?

3:15 p.m. Reid continues to call it "Newton". Isaac Newton is proud and I could use a beer.

3:16 p.m. Reid on a 30-round AR-15 magazine, that he of course called a "clip":  "It would take 3-4 seconds to empty it"  Based on his language, he seems to have a semi and fully automatic rifle confused. (common theme among liberal politicians).

Patrick Leahy (D - Vermont)

3:20 p.m. It sounds like Sen. Leahy just wanted to get out of writing a letter. He read his response to a 15-year old who is concerned about guns. At least saved taxpayers a stamp by reading his response on the Senate floor rather than mailing it.

Barbara Mikulski (D- Maryland)

3:33 p.m. "I'll tell you why I support a filibuster, guns, guns, guns, guns!"

3:40 p.m. "40% of gun sales are unlicensed, they are sold online or at gun shows. That means 40% of the gun sales have no background check."   - How is this stat possible? Without a background check, how does the government know about it to count them?

It turns out this stat is based on 1994 data that Hillary Clinton has used extensively. The stats are derived from phone interviews conducted with just 251 people. In that survey, about 24% indicated they received their firearm as a gift or via inheritance --- which would be lumped in with the 40% number Dems love to tout. I'd say there's a pretty big difference between getting Grandpa's World War II M1 and lurking in the shadows trying to buy a firearm "off the grid" to do something nasty with it.

Richard Blumenthal (D - Connecticut)

4:14 p.m. "AR-15's are weapons of war and mass destruction."   I guess we found what we were looking for in Iraq post-9/11 then, huh?

Bill Nelson (D - Florida)

5:25 p.m. (Paraphrasing) "There are only 5,000 people on the terror watch list. Who cares if we restrict their rights with no due process."

5:35 p.m. - Close of Debate

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Reliving the NRA AM

I was hoping to get to this sooner but, alas, life.

On a scale of 1-10, I'd give this past week's NRA Annual Meeting a 7.

Great attendance, solid political speeches and a great turnout on the show floor by the industry as a whole. That said, the show itself had a few logistics-related issues that got in the way of a better score and something beyond anyone's control, the weather created even more problems.


I was a bit surprised the National Rifle Association was willing to extend a direct endorsement to Trump so soon. I don't think anyone who is familiar with the organization and gunnies in general would be surprised at the number of self-identifying "libertarians" among the ranks. Because of this, I thought the NRA might allow a bit more time for Trump's candidacy to breathe and allow the same time for Gary Johnson to make his case and see if he'd get any traction.

Furthering my concerns, Trump said a few things to the NRA that I wouldn't think he'd want public in that setting. Especially his remarks about the number of rifles his sons having as "being scary" [not his exact words but close enough].


I had a good chat with Chris Hodgdon from Hodgdon Powder in Louisville He seems like a genuine guy and doesn't know me from Adam so I was impressed with his willingness to chat with an "average joe".

I did pick up a couple pounds of the Titegroup Hodgdon Powder from Widener's and will be hopefully trying some reloading in the next few days. This isn't my first go - but my first reloading effort in a long time. (Yeah, I'm the idiot that waits until ammo is nearly free to start playing with a reloading press again).


I'm pretty bummed I didn't get more of a chance to check out more of Louisville's local food scene. I'm not a foodie but felt like there was probably more to offer than the CVS Pharmacy meal I bought for myself Saturday night! Sorry, not much insight here!

Next Year

I should have a chance to get down to next year's NRA AM in Atlanta and I think that'll be another good one in terms of attendance. Georgia is about as gun friendly as it gets (minus the Governor) and I think a couple months after Hillary or Trump's election, the political climate will be a hot one. 

If your'e headed to the show - hit me up.  Have a good one.

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Caldwell The King is Dead: Cigar Review

We finally got a brief reprieve from the cold and I took full advantage today.

Have a couple sticks from Caldwell Cigars that I picked up that I'd been dying to finally toast.

Up first, The King is Dead Premier, a 5.5x50 robusto that has garnered rave reviews all over the web from cigar reviewers with palates far more sophisticated than whatever I have in my mouth and sinuses.
Caldwell the King is Dead Premier Robusto cigar
Just getting started with this guy...
Before the light, I was taken aback by the gritty wrapper on this cigar. It's a Negrito wrapper, which is fairly unique to the industry.

In terms of a sheen, the stick was a bit drier than I'd expected. But then again, this isn't some slick maduro. My experience with Negrito wrapped sticks is limited but I think that drier sheen fits what I was about to enjoy.

Caldwell Cigars - The King is Dead Robusto review
Getting to the second-third of this stick...
The first few draws brought in what I would recognize as a musty-earth notes followed by a bit of cedar and maybe even a few other wood tones. Many other reviewers have called this a medium-bodied cigar. I found it a touch stronger than that and would classify this as a medium to full cigar.

Heading into the second-third, things started to smooth out a bit. I wouldn't say this cigar starts to get creamy, per se but that gritty Negrito feel I mentioned before lighting is definitely present in the first third of the cigar. So, as it fades, get ready for a more smooth finish and really what develops into a very nice smoke.

Heading into the homestretch, I should mention the filler tobacco in these cigars. Caldwell is exceptional when it comes to telling you exactly what you're about to smoke. In the Premier, you're looking at a blend that consists of: 50-percent 2010 HVA 20/20 tobaccos, 30% Dominican Corojo Ligero (2006) and 20% Dominican Negrito Visa leaves (2008).

As I make my way into the final third, the cigar is starting to mellow out a bit. The pseudo-creaminess still occupies my palate and I'm starting to settle in with this stick. I wish it weren't almost over.

Then, I start to pick up notes of tomato, cheese and maybe some grain.
robusto from caldwell with pizza
This robusto lasts longer than the pizza guy takes to deliver...
Well, at this point my palate is blown so I'll leave it here.

Thanks to the folks at for the Caldwell - definitely something I will be toasting again.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Apple's Stand on Privacy

If you've been around to the social media sites at all today, you've probably seen this.

The link is a letter Apple's CEO, Tim Cook, wrote. The company is standing up to the Federal Bureau of Investigation and will essentially be protecting the phone records of the couple involved in the San Bernardino.

"The implications of the government’s demands are chilling. If the government can use the All Writs Act to make it easier to unlock your iPhone, it would have the power to reach into anyone’s device to capture their data. The government could extend this breach of privacy and demand that Apple build surveillance software to intercept your messages, access your health records or financial data, track your location, or even access your phone’s microphone or camera without your knowledge." - Tim Cook, Apple

There is a part of me that's conflicted, but largely I agree with Apple's position on this. If the government isn't smart enough to break Apple's encryption - shame on them. Further, the potential for government power to be abused is incredibly high if Apple were to bow down to the FBI.

So what part of me is conflicted?

If Apple has the technology to outsmart our government and protect what most of us once assumed to be private information - what the heck took them so long to stand up to the government.

I use an iPhone exclusively for my telephone conversations. Can the NSA hear my conversations? I assume so, since it's a Verizon network I'm calling through. My text messages and internet activity? Probably the same.

If privacy matters then let's make it matter for everyone who has a right to it.

If it doesn't, let's not showboat with a letter pretending it does.

Monday, February 15, 2016

Deadpool: Van Wilder in Spandex

As I tend to do on occasion, please allow me to share my thoughts on Deadpool after going to see it as a Valentine's Day event with my wife.

In a nutshell, I enjoyed Deadpool and it kept my attention throughout the film. It's a roaring success if you're looking for a popcorn movie that meets all the storyline stereotypes you've come to expect from these comic book franchise films.

Disclaimer: I Don't Do Comic Books

I'm treading on dangerous ground even discussing the film here because I'm not a comic book guy. In fact, a lot of the X-Men and other Marvel movies that have been released in past years, I haven't even seen. I used to watch the X-Men cartoons as a lad but the live action films never drew much of my interest. Always seemed very far-fetched to me. 

I know a lot of you online have a pool of depth into the Deadpool character that's far deeper than mine, so please proceed knowing this critique comes from not a Comic-Con attendee but as a guy who likes movies.

The Setup [No Spoilers]

Ryan Reynolds (whom I understand to be quite attractive, thanks to my wife) plays the role of Wade Wilson. Wilson has a checkered background at best as a dishonorably discharged special forces veteran credited with 41 kills in the service. The circumstances of his discharge aren't clear in the film but you learn Wilson as a character who fights for the little essentially acting as a less than lethal hitman for hire. In other words, he intimidates people who need intimidating for cash.

Deadpool and Cab Driver Karan Soni from the filmIt didn't take more than a few minutes of the film for me to immediately draw comparisons between Wade Wilson and another snide, quick-witted character Ryan Reynolds played, Van Wilder. In fact, I think it would be quite reasonable to just say this movie is Van Wilder wearing Spandex. 

Heck, Deadpool even has a pseudo-prodigy in the film that drives a cab and also happens to be an Indian with women-trouble... just like Van Wilder. (I had to look, the Indian actor is not the same from Van Wilder. The intern in that film was played by Kal Penn. In Deadpool, the cabbie is Karan Soni).

Wade Wilson falls in love and appears to have his life on the "right track" but is diagnosed with late stage terminal cancer. The first act breaks with Wilson making the decision to explore a treatment program he knows little about. This treatment program would introduce him to Francis/Ajax, the villain in the film played by Ed Skrein.

Ryan Reynolds and love interest

What Works

I like Ryan Reynolds in these crass, smart-ass type roles. Of course, I'm a young-to-middle aged guy so many of his previous roles aren't exactly targeted for me. The Change-Up, Definitely, Maybe, and Just Friends were typical Hollywood Rom-Coms that my wife will watch endlessly on basic cable for years to come. I won't be joining her.

The humor and storyline fit well. Unlike many of these superhero movies that tend to overplay the internal struggle of the main character, Wade Wilson never takes himself too seriously which helps keep the audience engaged without making the Wilson character break from what you'd expect from a young male --- he puts up walls and keeps them up. 

What I Question

Deadpool and X-men's Collossus

1.) I had no idea Deadpool was related to the X-Men franchise in some way. I guess this sets up the character for a myriad of appearances across the franchises and will mean billions of dollars for Marvel but the interconnectedness of all these characters is getting a bit ridiculous. (Queue the Batman vs. Superman film due out later this year...)

The bits about how Deadpool got his "powers" is a bit foreign to me. As I stated above, I have a casual knowledge of the X-Men series and the idea of mutants with super powers. 

[Proceed with caution - about to explain how the mutation happens - not exactly a spoiler but don't want to ruin for you].

Wade Wilson rolling on a gurney to the operating area where his mutation occurs

2.) In the film, Wade Wilson gets his Deadpool regenerative powers by being exposed to extreme trauma and torture. According to the film, the trauma will cause his dormant mutant genes to "kick on" and no longer be dormant. Is this a break from the way the X-Men traditionally got their powers? It was my understanding that the X-Men were simply "born that way". 

Plus, Deadpool's powers aren't all that impressive. He is basically Wolverine without cool claws. Is that really worth an entire new character? (I guess this complaint is on Marvel more than the film). 

3.) I struggled to understand the timeline in this film after Wilson becomes Deadpool. There is a period of time before Wilson's character is reunited with the love of his life. In the film, it seems like it was just a few weeks or possibly a couple months but she makes mention at one point that it had been "years". 

If, it was to be years, that leaves me with a ton of questions about the life of Wade Wilson. One of the funnier points in these super hero movies is the real life alter-ego and how they adapt to live in our society. Clark Kent was a newspaper reporter. Bruce Wayne was a multi-million/billionaire. What does Wade Wilson do for money since he is essentially an outcast once the mutation occurs?


Deadpool movie poster that says "Sit On This"

I enjoyed the film and think it's definitely worth seeing. Based on the hype and early reviews on Twitter, I certainly wasn't alone. It is what it is - don't overthink it and don't be easily offended. Prepare for a lot of frat-house jokes and double entendres.