An Open Letter to Speaker Boehner

Mr. Speaker,

I am writing as a life-long Republican who recently voted Democrat for President for the first time in my life. I would like to share with you some of my key reasons for my decision and my disappointment with the Republican Party and your leadership.

Quite frankly, if the party cannot do better than Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan as national candidates, I don’t think I will ever vote Republican for a national office again. The sheer lack of integrity, experience, and personal characteristics of these two gentlemen were appalling. Here are just three examples. It was reprehensible for Mr. Romney to personally profit from the auto bail out only to condemn it later during the campaign. Additionally, Mr. Romney’s overseas trip during the campaign was an embarrassment to our great country and demonstrated that he was in no way prepared to handle the demands of foreign diplomacy. As to Representative Ryan, his relationship with the Koch Brothers was enough in and of itself to dissuade me from voting for Mr. Romney. The fact that politicians can be bought and paid for by the wealthiest in our country is inexplicable.

These are just a few of the reasons I have lost faith in the party that I once believed in. I now consider myself a staunch independent with one objective: to simply see that we all do what we can to make decisions that are correct and just. Included in this definition is a presumption that we work together to solve the important issues of our day. Please trust me when I say that I am not pointing my finger only at you and the Republican Party. I can find many similar examples across the aisle.

The fact of the matter is, however, that you personally set the tone for the current work (note I did not say debate) on resolving the spending issues related to the debt cap that is being done at the moment. Your comment on election night about the fiscal cliff and your immediate reaction to draw a firm line in the sand is the antithesis of what great leadership can be. I do not wish for a return to some illusory Golden Days in politics, for I don’t think one ever existed. I do, however, hope for a day when we can collectively work together to solve the issues facing our country.

Unfortunately, your current posturing prevents this from happening. These actions have a direct impact on our economy, the lives of all Americans, and our international stature. It is my sincerest desire that we put aside political and personal agendas. Honesty, sincerity, respect, and collaboration should take their place.

Only then, I believe, will our great nation begin to move forward in a way that truly benefits all Americans.

Very respectfully yours,
Dr. Scott Cunningham, PhD

Facebook Acquires Grim Reaper

In a surprise announcement after the close of trading today, Facebook revealed that it has purchased the Grim Reaper. Initial analyst reaction was generally positive, saying the move into the afterlife could help prop up sagging share prices since the company went public last week.

Facebook has yet to make any further comments, but sources close to the company say the bold move by Mark Zuckerberg is part of the company’s overall strategy of being involved in every aspect of peoples’ lives. The move into the afterlife is seen as a virtually untapped market.

With the purchase, Facebook essentially doubles their client base, as existing customers can continue to use the service after their passing. Speaking on condition of anonymity, a Facebook executive said that “the new service will allow loved ones to remain in contact with the deceased after passing.” She noted that the merger will lessen the grief experienced by loved ones, as they will soon be able to receive status updates from the great beyond.

The executive declined to comment on specifics of the plan, especially how deceased individuals will be able to geo-tag their updates and check-ins beyond the mandatory check-in at the Gates of St. Peter.

Reaction from other companies was swift and harsh. Hasboro, the maker of Ouija Boards, issued a statement condemning the move, saying it would essentially kill a product line that has been in existence since 1890. Mystics and fortune-tellers also denounced the purchase, expecting a steep drop off in business. Others, though, expressed optimism that they may be able to increase market share by providing technical support for the new service.

Numerous other technical obstacles are in store for Facebook as the company gradually assumes the Grim Reaper operation. Ms. Carry Graves, a spokesperson for the Grim Reaper, made a brief statement after the announcement concerning the transition. “In order to facilitate the acquisition, Facebook will begin by assuming Reaper operations in the Western United States, before gradually expanding to other continents,” Ms. Graves said. The merger is expected to be complete by Halloween 2013.

When asked about why the Grim Reaper decided to sell his company after several millennia of highly profitable operations, Ms. Graves simply said that the Reaper was experiencing the effects of aging and was growing increasingly bored with a mature business model. Additionally, the Reaper is expecting to be able to settle down once and for all with a family, after having been married 273 times previously, each marriage ending in the death of his then current wife. The Guinness Book of World Records says that if the number of marriages can be verified, the Grim Reaper will hold the record for the most number of marriages ending in widower status.

In order to support the mass Reaper operation, Facebook will have to initially hire several hundred workers specially trained in graveyard shift work. Network administrator experts said that Facebook will have several challenges in front of them. For those who go to Heaven, server loads are not expected to be impacted. However, for individuals going to Hell, servers there will have to operate at several hundred degrees above normal loads. Cooling these servers could be problematic. More problematic, however, will be providing uninterrupted service to those in Purgatory as no one is quite sure where they are located.

Mitt Romney, the presumptive Republican nominee for President, was asked at a campaign stop this evening about the merger. “Although I am not a user of Facebook at the present time, I may reconsider my position in the event of an untimely accident.” Mr. Romney then went on to ask reporters a rhetorical question, stating, “I could still be President using only Facebook, right?” Democratic operatives were quick to call the statement another potential flip-flop in positions by Mr. Romney.

President Obama declined to comment as he and the First Lady gathered vegetables from the White House garden. However, one high-placed official in the Social Security Administration expressed alarm at comments that presumably originated in the Romney camp. “From what we’re hearing, if elected, Mr. Romney would immediately move to privatize SSA by shifting all functions to Facebook. He sees a natural fit between issuing a social security number to newborns and opening up their Facebook accounts.”

In after-hours trading, Facebook shares were up 8.3% on the news. Analysts cautioned, however, that this gain may be short lived, as both Congress and the Securities and Exchange Commission will have to review the purchase of the Reaper’s monopoly. Anti-trust concerns may loom in Facebook’s future as the company will have almost exclusive control over all information for individuals in perpetuity.

In a related development, LinkedIn, the popular professional networking service hastily announced that they will soon be launching a new service named DugIn for those who have passed. Integrating these new services with Facebook’s great beyond experiment will take time, said one industry official.

Copyright 2012 by Scott Cunningham

Welcome to the 2010 Edition of The Ben Times

It certainly has been a busy year here in the Cunningham household. From Ben’s perspective, the highlight of the year has to be passing Donna in terms of height. He is now a good 2-3 inches taller than she is and has his eyes set on passing Dad next. Read on for all the highlights from the year, pictures, and stories from the road. We hope you enjoy this year’s version and wish you all the very best.

Busted: Dad finds himself once again in the doghouse

When it comes to taking care of the grass, Dad is usually pretty on top of things, unless (of course) little garter snakes might be lurking about. Sunday was a terrific day here in the Northwest for lawn care, not too hot and a little overcast. So, it was with great gusto that the fam headed outside to do some chores.

Donna and Ben dove into picking apples off of our tree in the backyard while Dad jumped in to mow the grass. All was going really smoothly until Dad finished the back and was moving the lawnmower to the front yard. He stopped to chat with the neighbors for a minute, but that was quickly interrupted with a shriek from inside their house as their daughter called out for them: she had just gotten engaged and wanted to show here parents the ring. Congrats to Lindsay!

Well, back to our story. It just so happens that the annual Hillsboro Airshow was going on this weekend. As we all know, when airplanes are a flyin’, Dad is looking up at the sky. Donna had taken the wagon and a cooler around the block to pick apples from the tree as it overhangs the fence in the backyard.

About this time, Dad hears the roar of jets off in the distance but is frustrated that he can’t see much. It is about this time that he had what seemed to be at the time a stroke of genius: with no one around to supervise him, the roof seemed to offer a great vantage point to view the airshow. So, he drags the ladder out of the garage, grabs his aviation radio, and heads up to the peak of the house for a better view.

Unbeknown to him, Donna had returned from apple picking to find a lawnmower sitting idly by in the driveway and a ladder leading up to the roof. She grabbed a camera and proceeded to document his loafing in order to share it with the rest of the world.

For the record, Dad would like to point out, though, that the yard did get finished that day and looks marvelous. He is still in the doghouse, though.

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Ben turns 12: Parents in shock

In a stunning feat of child development, Ben turned 12 on Tuesday. Strangely enough, this was 12 years to the day that he was born back in Indianapolis.

We had quite the small, family-oriented celebration for him. He got to choose the menu and went with steak, noodles with Italian seasoning, and chocolate lava cake. As you can see from the pictures, Donna had to get slightly creative in order to place the 12 candles, as the lava cake wasn’t supportive enough to hold them upright, thereby creating a fire hazard. In a stroke of genius, she placed the candles in a hot dog bun and presented the bun to him. Needless to say, he was quite surprised. He did manage to blow out all of the candles on the first try, thereby ensuring good wishes for the coming year.

He once again cleaned up in the present department. His biggest wish was for model rocket materials that would be compatible with the rocket he built at Space Camp this year. He now has a total of three rockets, the largest of which will shoot some 1,100 feet into the air. He also received some cool books out of the fantasy realm, a computer game, an Apollo Lunar Module model, and a very cool marble solitaire game from the grandparents.

All in all a great day. Except for the sleep: for two days in a row now he has woken up before 6:00 a.m. and has stayed up late. Mom and Dad are looking forward to a peaceful evening tonight since he should crash sometime in the next 11 minutes or so.

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Southern Nights by Allen Touissant

Most folks associate Southern Nights with the Glen Campbell version that hit #1 on the charts in 1977 off the album of the same name. What is less known is that the song was actually written by Allen a few years earlier. In an interesting twist, Allen will tell people that he never really knew how to play the song until Glen Campbell showed him how.

Here’s Allen’s version as played on Austin City Limits. At 14 minutes or so, it comes in kind of long, but is well worth it. The intro is terrific, as he tells stories from his youth while lightly playing the first several bars of the song underneath.

Watch the full episode. See more Austin City Limits.

We Are American / Yes We Can by Allen Touissant

The legendary (not sure if that sums it up) Rock and Roll Hall of Fame artist and composer Allen Touissant performing on Austin City Limits. Very uplifting song.

Watch the full episode. See more Austin City Limits.

Wylie Coyote sues Acme Company

Wylie E. Coyote

Startling new developments today in the opening statements of Mr. Coyote’s lawsuit against Acme Company. The opening statement of Mr. Coyote’s lawyer is reproduced here in its entirety. As dangerous products should not be manufactured, we hope that that Mr. Coyote’s legal team prevails.

Coyote V. Acme
Wile E. Coyote, Plaintiff
Acme Company, Defendant

Opening Statement of Mr. Harold Schoff, attorney for Mr. Coyote:

My client, Mr. Wile E. Coyote, a resident of Arizona and contiguous states, does hereby bring suit for damages against the Acme Company, manufacturer and retail distributor of assorted merchandise, incorporated in Delaware and doing business in every state, district, and territory. Mr. Coyote seeks compensation for personal injuries, loss of business income, and mental suffering causes as a direct result of the actions and/or gross negligence of said company, under Title 15 of the United States Code, Chapter 47, section 2072, subsection (a), relating to product liability.

Mr. Coyote states that on eighty-five separate occasions he has purchased of the Acme Company (hereinafter, “Defendant”), through that company’s mail-order department, certain products which did cause him bodily injury due to defects in manufacture or improper cautionary labeling. Sales slips made out to Mr. Coyote as proof of purchase are at present in the possession of the Court, marked Exhibit A. Such injuries sustained by Mr. Coyote have temporarily restricted his ability to make a living in his profession of predator. Mr. Coyote is self-employed and thus not eligible for Workmen’s Compensation.

Mr. Coyote states that on December 13th he received of Defendant via parcel post one Acme Rocket Sled. The intention of Mr. Coyote was to use the Rocket Sled to aid him in pursuit of his prey. Upon receipt of the Rocket Sled Mr. Coyote removed it from its wooden shipping crate and, sighting his prey in the distance, activated the ignition. As Mr. Coyote gripped the handlebars, the Rocket Sled accelerated with such sudden and precipitate force as to stretch Mr. Coyote’s forelimbs to a length of fity feet. Subsequently, the rest of Mr. Coyote’s body shot forward with a violent jolt, causing severe strain to his back and neck and placing him unexpectedly astride the Rocket Sled. Disappearing over the horizon at such speed as to leave a diminishing jet trail along its path, the Rocket Sled soon brought Mr. Coyote abreast of his prey. At that moment the animal he was pursuing veered sharply to the right. Mr. Coyote vigorously attempted to follow this maneuver but was unable to, due to poorly designed steering on the Rocket Sled and a faulty or nonexistent braking system. Shortly thereafter, the unchecked progress of the Rocket Sled brought it and Mr. Coyote into collision with the side of a mesa.

Paragraph One of the Report of Attending Physician (Exhibit B), prepared by Dr. Ernest Grosscup, M.D., D.O., details the multiple fractures, contusions, and tissue damage suffered by Mr. Coyote as a result of this collision. Repair of the injuries required a full bandage around the head (excluding the ears), a neck brace, and full or partial casts of all four legs.

Hampered by these injuries, Mr. Coyote was nevertheless obliged to support himself. With this in mind, he purchased of Defendant as an aid to mobility one pair of Acme Rocket Skates. When he attempted to use this product, however, he became involved in an accident remarkably similar to that which occurred with the Rocket Sled. Again, Defendant sold over the counter, without caveat, a product which attached powerful jet engines (in this case, two) to inadequate vehicles, with little or no provision for passenger safety. Encumbered by his heavy casts, Mr. Coyote lost control of the Rocket Skates soon after strapping them on, and collided with a roadside billboard to violently as to leave a hole in the shape of his full silhouette.

Mr. Coyote states that on occasions too numerous to list in this document he has suffered mishaps with explosives purchased of Defendant: the Acme “Little Giant” Firecracker, the Acme Self-Guided Aerial Bomb, etc. (For a full listing, see the Acme Mail Order Explosives Catalog and attached deposition, entered in evidence as Exhibit C.) Indeed, it is safe to say that not once has an explosive purchased of Defendant by Mr. Coyote performed in an expected manner. To cite just one example: At the expense of much time and personal effort, Mr. Coyote constructed around the outer rim of a butte a wooden trough beginning at the top of the butte and continuing downward around it to some few feet above a black X painted on the desert floor. The trough was designed in such a way that a spherical explosive of the type sold by Defendant would roll easily and swiftly down to the point of detonation indicated by the X. Mr. Coyote placed a generous pile of birdseed directly on the X, and then, carrying the spherical Acme Bomb (Catalog #78-832), climbed to the top of the butte. Mr. Coyote’s prey, seeing the birdseed, approached, and Mr. Coyote proceeded to light the fuse. In an instant, the fuse burned down to the stem, causing the bomb to detonate.

In addition to reducing all Mr. Coyote’s careful preparations to naught, the premature detonation of Defendant’s product resulted in the following disfigurements to Mr. Coyote:

1 Severe singeing of the hair on the head, neck, and muzzle.
2 Sooty discoloration.
3 Fracture of the left ear at the stem, causing the ear to dangle in the aftershock with a creaking noise.
4 Full or partial combustion of whiskers, producing kinking, frazzling, and ashy disintegration.
5 Radical widening of the eyes, due to brow and lid charring.

We now come to the Acme Spring-Powered Shoes. The remains of a pair of these purchased by Mr. Coyote on June 23rd are Plaintiff’s Exhibit D. Selected fragments have been shipped to the metallurgical laboratories of the University of California at Santa Barbara for analysis, but to date no explanation has been found for this product’s sudden and extreme malfunction. As advertised by Defendant, this product is simplicity itself: two wood-and-metal sandals, each attached to milled-steel springs of high tensile strength and compressed in a tightly coiled position by a cocking device with a lanyard release. Mr. Coyote believed that this product would enable him to pounce upon his prey in the initial moments of his chase, when swift reflexes are at a premium.

To increase the shoes’ thrusting power still further, Mr. Coyote affixed them by their bottoms to the side of a large boulder. Adjacent to the boulder was a path which Mr. Coyote’s prey was known to frequent. Mr. Coyote put his hind feet in the wood-and-metal sandals and crouched in readiness, his right forepaw holding firmly to the lanyard release. Within a short time Mr. Coyote’s prey did indeed appear on the path coming toward him. Unsuspecting, the prey stopped near Mr. Coyote, well within range of the springs at full extension. Mr. Coyote gauged the distance with care and proceeded to pull the lanyard release.

At this point, Defendant’s product should have thrust Mr. Coyote forward and away from the boulder. Instead, for reasons yet unknown, the Acme Spring-Powered Shoes thrust the boulder away from Mr. Coyote. As the intended prey looked on unharmed, Mr. Coyote hung suspended in air. Then the twin springs recoiled, bringing Mr. Coyote to a violent feet-first collision with the boulder, the full weight of his head of forequarters falling upon his lower extremities.

The force of this impact then caused the springs to rebound, whereupon Mr. Coyote was thrust skyward. A second recoil and collision followed. The boulder, meanwhile, which was roughly ovoid in shape, had begun to bounce down a hillside, the coiling and recoiling of the springs adding to its velocity. At each bounce, Mr. Coyote came into contact with the boulder, or the boulder came into contact with Mr. Coyote, or both came into contact with the ground. As the grade was a long one, this process continued for some time.

The sequence of collisions resulted in systemic physical damage to Mr. Coyote, viz., flattening of the cranium, sideways displacement of the tongue, reduction of length of legs and upper body, and compression of vertebrae from base of tail to head. Repetition of blows along a vertical axis produced a series of regular horizontal folds in Mr. Coyote’s body tissues—a rare and painful condition which caused Mr. Coyote to expand upward and contract downward alternately as he walked, and to emit an off-key, accordion-like wheezing with every step. The distracting and embarrassing nature of this symptom has been a major impediment to Mr. Coyote’s pursuit of a normal social life.

As the Court is no doubt aware, Defendant has a virtual monopoly of manufacture and sale of goods required by Mr. Coyote’s work. It is our contention that Defendant has used its market advantage to the detriment of the consumer of such specialized products as itching powder, giant kites, Burmese tiger traps, anvils, and two-hundred-foot-long rubber bands. Much as he has come to mistrust Defendant’s products, Mr. Coyote has no other domestic source of supply to which to turn. One can only wonder what our trading partners in Western Europe and Japan would make of such a situation, where a giant company is allowed to victimize the consumer in the most reckless and wrongful manner over and over again.

Mr. Coyote respectfully requests that the Court regard these larger economic implications and assess punitive damages in the amount of seventeen million dollars. In addition, Mr. Coyote seeks actual damages (missed meals, medical expenses, days lost from professional occupation) of one million dollars; general damages (mental suffering, injury to reputation) of twenty million dollars; and attorney’s fees of seven hundred and fifty thousand dollars. Total damages: thirty-eight million seven hundred and fifty thousand dollars. By awarding Mr. Coyote the full amount, this Court will censure Defendant, its directory, officers, shareholders, successors, and assigns, in the only language they understand, and reaffirm the right of the individual predator to equal protection under the law.

Ian Frazier, The New Yorker, February 26, 1990, p. 42–43.

The Summer of Fishing

With Ben continuing to get bigger, he’s within a quarter-inch of being taller than Donna, he’s old enough to go on some different kinds of outings. One of our neighbors has been kind enough to let us borrow his canoe (actually, his brothers) and we’ve been hitting Henry Hagg Lake pretty hard for the last month. The lake is heavily stocked with trout, but we haven’t had much luck catching them so far.

However, we’ve had some good experiences with other fish. Ben was able to catch a 3-lb smallmouth bass a few weeks ago. Since we have been using ultralight gear, the pole doubled-over on him and he had a blast reeling it in. The lake has produced something like the last five state records for smallmouth, so there are some pretty large ones in there. We can only hope to catch more!

On Saturday (June 5), we hit the lake in search of crappie and weren’t disappointed. We managed to bring home six in the 10-12 inch range and let several others go.

We are both looking forward to the end of school and being able to spend more time on the water this summer (being sure to wear adequate amounts of sunscreen). Be sure to look for us out on the water in a red canoe.

Crappie caught on June 5, 2010

Ben with his very impressive smallmouth bass

Ben enjoying the fish of his labors

6 Miles Up: World Debut

As many of you know, we threw a big fund-raising benefit concert for a friend of the family over the weekend.  The event was a Mardi Gras themed party and, of course, you can’t have a Mardi Gras party without authentic New Orleans music. So, Scott brought in the 3 Twins, comprised of John Magnie, Steve, Amedee, and Tim Cook, along with their guitar player Jay Clear. John, Steve, and Tim are members of the subdudes and all have long ties to NOLA music.

Scott really wanted to send out a special song for our guest of honor, Kelli, and came up with the idea of using a song that he has written that has an appropriate message in the song. He selected 6 Miles Up, a song written about a flight attendant. Scott had the lyrics and music written for the song, but hadn’t shown it to the band yet. So, we all sat down on Friday afternoon and put together the arrangement for the song, led by the brilliance of John and his lead on vocals and the accordion. At John’s suggestion, we ended up taking the chorus out of the song and performing it at the show. A BIG shout out to John and the guys for lending a hand putting this together.

The song ended up being a great hit and everyone enjoyed it.  Scott is looking forward to getting the song finished and watching it climb the charts. To listen to the song, click on the link below:

6 miles up

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