Monday, March 24, 2014

Pork neck bones were only item on the old meat rack, so I'm using the meat in a lentil soup

    I did a quick swing by Kroger this morning in hopes of finding some deals on the old meat rack. The only thing they had was pork neck bones marked down to 50 percent off, so $3.56 for 3.5 pounds.
    I've never cooked a pork neck bone before. They look a little like some of the ribs I've seen, so I thought maybe I could barbecue them. I got on my phone and did a quick Internet search and found where someone suggested I could simmer them for several hours and the meat would fall off the bones. The meat could then be used to make a lentil soup.
    So I came home, chopped an onion fine, sauteed it and some mushrooms in a quarter-stick of butter, added 12 cups of water and a couple of big teaspoons of beef base along with rosemary and other spices, and then added the pork neck bones to simmer. They are simmering at fairly low heat even as I type.
    I've never cooked lentils before, but the package says they only need about 20 minutes. So late this afternoon I'll fish out the pork neck bones, remove any remaining meat and continue to simmer the broth until suppertime. I'll throw in the lentils 20 or 30 minutes before it's time to eat. Some recipes call for a can of diced tomatoes. I'll let Lucy decide on whether or not to add any.
    Check back late tonight and I'll report on how it was!

    UPDATE: I promised an update on how dinner turned out. It was good, and the neckbones had a lot of meat on them. However, I had to dip out the bones and sort through the meat and mushrooms by hand. Even then some little bones got through.
    Next time I will use smoked pork rather than fresh and strain it. I'll lose the meat doing this but still get all the flavor. While straining I'll saute the onion and mushrooms, pour the liquid back in and let it simmer for an hour. The mushrooms do add a lot of flavor, but have to be simmered.

Friday, March 21, 2014

College friend, housemate, and fraternity brother shares letter signed by both of our fathers.

Click to enlarge
    At some point I seem to recollect coming across a quote that said "Mississippi is not so much a state as it is a private club." I thought Faulkner said it, but numerous Google searches for the author have proven fruitless. If I can't find anyone to attribute it to I guess I'll claim it.
    The point of the quote is that Mississippi is a relatively low-population state in which people from all over seem to share friendships and a common history.
    Joe Guyton, a fraternity brother and former housemate recently emailed me a copy of a letter to the national Democratic Committee that was signed by both of our fathers back in 1948. It urged the committee to name a slate of electors to support the re-election of Harry Truman as all of the state's leaders were supporting Strom Thurmond and Fielding Wright.
    A Google search found reference to this (unsuccessful) effort in a biography of Mississippi Congressman Frank Smith. It was apparently encouraged by Ole Miss professor Jim Silver, who was my father's favorite professor.
    My father was unable to attend a ceremony honoring Silver three years ago, so I went in his stead. I was disappointed when Chancellor Dan Jones and others used the event to suggest that those who wanted a new athletic director for Ole Miss were like those who drove Silver from the Ole Miss campus. It was a disgraceful act of incivility outside the bounds of the Ole Miss creed, yet Jones has still not apologized.
    In any event, what are the odds that two of 24 people who signed a letter back in 1948 would have sons who would later become friends, fraternity brothers, and housemates? My guess is that in Mississippi such things are more likely than in most states.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

USAir's Choice Seats offer little more than a chance to give airline more money

    Delta Airlines offers a few rows of "Economy Comfort" seating on most of its planes. It's a coach seat with extra padding and about four extra inches of extra legroom. Sometimes it's only a few dollars more, and I've bought it before and found it well worth the money. On International flights Delta throws in free hard liquor.
    United Airlines has "Economy Plus" seating, which is the same thing as Delta's Economy Comfort, with a few inches of extra legroom.
    And then there's USAir, which offers "Choice Seats." The airline's website describes these seats as follows:
Be among the first to board (with Zone 2) and among the first to leave when you land. ChoiceSeats are mostly window and aisle seats toward the front of Coach and may include exit row seats. You'll find the same leg room as other seats, but you'll be closer to the front of the plane.
    So on USAir you pay a big premium for a Choice Seat with the only reward being getting on and off early. That's a pretty weak reward. Extra legroom and free whiskey I'll pay for, but I'm not paying a big premium just to get off the plane two minutes before everyone else.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Oxford students all atwitter after discovery of new anonymous social media app

    The newest social media app, Yik Yak, has arrived in Oxford, or more precisely at Oxford High School. It was apparently unknown to most students before the school bell rang Tuesday morning, but by 3 p.m. virtually every student with a phone had downloaded it.
    The Twitter-like app, designed for college students, allows anonymous posts which are only visible to those in roughly a five-mile radius. Then high school students found out about it. What works okay for college students doesn't work so well for high schoolers trapped in the same building together all day. The app has been a nightmare for school administrators around the nation, who say that it has been used for bullying.
    Yik Yak's developers disabled the app at all Chicago schools earlier this month, and went on to apply a GPS block at all U.S. middle and high schools. Of course, Oxford High has only been in its current location a few months and it apparently isn't in the database. So Oxford students spent Tuesday anonymously spouting off about things or students they didn't like.
    Yik Yak is essentially a digital version of the "burn book" from the movie "Mean Girls." Hopefully school officials will contact the app's developers and request to be included in the school-exclusion database.

    Below is the clip from the movie that shows the aftermath of a burn book gone viral.

Friday, March 14, 2014

When patients fail to pay their Obamacare premiums health care providers are left holding the bag

    The important thing to understand about Obamacare is that virtually everything is broken. It's a bad, poorly thought out law.
    It had to be, by the very nature of it. The Democrats rammed it through Congress as part of a reconciliation bill. Even the people supporting it had little idea what they were voting for. Nancy Pelosi made headlines when she explained that the bill would have to be passed before people would really understand what was in it.
    The American people are starting to understand and many simply do not like it.
    One little feature of Obamacare is that anyone purchasing subsidized insurance is automatically covered for four months after making a single payment. In other words, there is a 90-day grace period before policies are cancelled.
    I suppose that is something that can be priced into insurance. But what happens next is the shocker.
    During the first 30 days of the 90-day grace period insurance claims will be paid and processed. Any claims during the next 60 days simply will not be paid unless the premiums are paid.
    So doctors and hospitals will be told that a patient is insured, only to find out later that they aren't going to be paid.
    Obamacare already has really low reimbursement rates for doctors. In California, for example, a majority of doctors are simply refusing to see those insured through exchanges. They can't afford to. Refusing to pay doctors and hospitals for services provided is going to make them even more loathe to accept exchange insurance.
    Failure to pay premiums is a big problem with Obamacare. The administration has been trying to hide the numbers, but roughly 20 percent of those who signed up never paid their first premium, and that may be a low number. So instead of 4.2 million being enrolled through the exchanges the number is more like 3.3 million or fewer. If 20 percent of this number eventually defaults on their insurance payments, then roughly 600,000 people will be able to run up doctor and hospital bills under the guise of being insured. Providers will be falsely told that their patients are insured only to find out later that they are being stiffed.
    No doubt many people are going to be upset over the fact that they've paid for insurance and can't find a doctor to accept it. How bad is the problem? Well, it depends on the state. Forbes did an analysis of the availability of specialists and found substantially fewer participate in Obamacare.
    The chart at right shows specialist availability offered by Athen in its PPO plans versus its Obamacare Bronze plans. In some cases the differences are extreme. For example, Anthem PPO customers in Indiana have a choice of 1055 cardiologists to choose from in their plan. Obamacare customers have 74. In other words, only one in about 14 doctors in its regular PPO plans are willing to accept Obamacare patients.
    Anthem was chosen for the comparison because the data was readily available, and its exchange plans tend to be as good or better than most.
    Understand that President Obama has declared policies which don't cover things like maternity care for senior citizens junk. But most Americans would prefer to pay less for their insurance, forego the free birth control they don't need, maternity benefits they don't want, and so forth, and instead have a wide choice of doctors who would be glad to see them.
    Roughly half of American doctors aren't going to accept Obamacare, and that number is likely to rise after they don't get paid.
    Even worse, because of all the money being spent on Obamacare there is no money to pay for the annual Medicare/Medicaid "doc fix," which increases reimburse levels for these programs. Doctors are about to take a 24 percent pay cut and many will respond by refusing to see Medicaid patients.
    So the problem isn't limited to just purchasers of junk Obamacare policies. Soon Granny won't be able to find a doctor, either.
    Thanks Obama!

Thursday, March 13, 2014

A single chart shows how doomed Obamacare relies on the victimization of young males to succeed

This chart shows what a really bad deal Obamacare is for males of almost any age. Roughly 50 percent of the premiums paid by young males go to women and wealthy older insurance customers. Note the bottom portion of the chart, which shows that older customers receiving giant subsidies are signing up at roughly twice the expected rate while young people have signed up at about half of what was expected and needed.

    It should be apparent by now that the government's attempt to take over and micromanage one-sixth of the American economy is a complete and total flop. Obamacare will fail, and it should fail. The chart above, from the ACA Death Spiral website, shows why.
    One of the myriad faults with Obamacare is that it limits or outlaws all insurance ratings, save for those based on geography. Age ratings are permitted in part. Older patients cost as much as five times as much to insure as younger ones, but Obamacare imposes a 3:1 maximum premium differential. In other words, young people just starting out in life are forced to subsidize their wealthier elders.
    Oddly enough, liberals don't seem to care about premium differentials when it comes to auto insurance. The differential is often huge: young males pay premiums several times those of older females. If we are going to limit age differentials in insurance, shouldn't we do so for all types of insurance? Shouldn't we require all citizens to purchase auto insurance, whether they own a car or not?
    The chart above shows that roughly 50 percent of premiums paid by younger males will go to provide free insurance coverage to other groups, a subsidy being a form of free care. Consider the fact that 20 percent of insurance benefits are actually overhead costs and young males as a group will receive only 40 cents of medical care for every dollar in premiums paid.
    But wait there's more! I'm operating on guesstimate here, but we've all observed that in any group the bulk of medical costs are incurred by a relatively small number of individuals. Using a proper rating system I dare say that out of a group of 100 men I could identify 10 up front who would be likely to consume 50 percent of the group's medical services over the next year.
    Technically insurers are allowed to charge a smoker's premium under Obamacare. But those who lie won't have their policies cancelled or coverage denied. With Obamacare, those who engage in risky health behaviors now have their costs passed over to the healthy. So the Type 2 diabetic who weighs 300 pounds, drinks like a fish, and chomps on pork chops and pies all day won't have to pay a dime in extra insurance costs. His costs are covered by gouging vegetable-eating joggers.
    I suspect that when you factor out the costs of the intentionally or unfortunately ill, you'll find that young, healthy males will receive less than 20 cents in health-care benefits for every dollar paid in premiums. For young males -- and males of most ages really -- Obamacare is a sucker deal.
    The Obama administration has been in an all-out effort to get young people to sign up for Obamacare. And many administration officials have been up front about why these younger signees are needed: to subsidize health care for those being sold discounted health plans. The president is actually making (bad) comedy videos in an effort to woo the young.
    But these Obamacare shills have a terrible sales pitch. It's essentially, "Hey young people, come sign up for insurance so we can charge you four times as much as we should and use the money to give free coverage to people who are older and wealthier than you!" Many young people will qualify for health-care subsidies when purchasing low-quality policies through the exchanges, but unless these subsidies equal 75 percent of their premiums it's a bad deal.
    Suppose you were to go to a restaurant and be told that your $25 meal would cost $125 in order to provide everyone with unlimited fine wine with dinner. This might be a good deal, except for those who are satisfied with a $5 glass of wine, or no wine at all. Soon such a restaurant would find that teetotalers and cheap-wine drinkers would stay away, and it would quickly go broke as its changing customer base slurped down vast quantities of Cristal, Ch√Ęteau Petrus, Opus One, etc., for the low price of $125 per meal. Would you go to such restaurant? I wouldn't.
    Of course, with the Obamacare mindset such a restaurant needn't go broke. The government would just agree to cover the tab of any patron who drank too much expensive wine and pass on the costs to the taxpayers. But is this a rational government policy?
    Should young males buy health insurance? Perhaps. They should base their decision on their own best interests and not on some stupid comedy skit by the president. If they are dreadfully ill, of course they should buy the now-partially-free insurance. If they have a substantial estate, yes. But for the average male with a modest estate a better choice is probably to buy plenty of accident coverage on one's auto policy and hope for the best.
    Yes, bad things can happen, but uninsured young people can get emergency health care. If a chronic condition should surface they can wait a few months and enroll in Obamacare. And if their bills are just impossible to pay off they can declare bankruptcy and get a new start. This is the best choice young males have under Obamacare, and it's the one most are taking.
    Maybe more young people could be persuaded to sign up, if only they could be shown videos like the one made by Richard Simmons, as part of the "Tell A Friend -- Get Covered" campaign (shown below). Please watch this video, young males of America! Doesn't it make you want to pay four times as much as you should to "Get Covered"?

Thursday, March 6, 2014

The College Board trumpets SAT changes, but final outcomes will remain almost unchanged

    The College Board has announced that they are revamping the SAT. Once called the Scholastic Aptitude Test, SAT now stands for nothing.
    The SAT used to be an almost-perfect IQ test, and until 1995 it did the job so well that a high score was accepted by Mensa, the high-IQ society. It measured aptitude, not the ability to work hard, nor kindness, nor collegiality, nor a host of other factors that go into making one a success in life or in college.
    But the fact remains that all other things being equal someone with a high IQ is going to outperform someone with a low IQ. All other things being equal, a student with a high SAT score will outperform a student with a low SAT score. The best predictor of college success isn't high school grades alone, nor entrance examinations alone, but grades and exam scores used in tandem. Work ethic matters. A good work ethic combined with an above-average IQ matters even more.
    Americans hate the notion of IQ, particularly when expressed in its two-letter formulation. New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman recently gushed all over the pages of his newspaper with praise for comments made by a Google executive, who said his company no longer used IQ in the hiring process and now hired primarily based on cognitive ability. Friedman saw this as a wonderful change.
    Is Friedman, who is supposed to be an American opinion-shaper, too dull to understand that IQ and "cognitive ability" are exact synonyms? If this executive had declared that "Our employees no longer drive trucks to work; they now use pick-ups," would Friedman have the sense to understand that the man was speaking complete gibberish?
    Back to the SAT. The idea of changes made back in 1994 and 2005 were designed to muffle the test as a measure of mere IQ and to reward those students who work hard mastering certain skills. The thought was that this would reward hard-working students with lower IQs at the expense of high-IQ slackers. It hasn't worked out that way.
    A test which rewards hard work is going to help high-IQ students who work the hardest. Thus Asians, whose propensity for academic work is no secret, have tended to do quite well on the SAT. Highly intelligent students from a non-competitive academic environment have fared poorly. By attempting to measure hard work rather than merely IQ the makers of the SAT actually skewed it further in favor of the brightest students from the best high schools.
    The College Board claims that the changes to the SAT are designed to more closely align the test with current schoolwork. In reality the changes will likely increase the importance of IQ as a determining factor of SAT success.
    That's essentially the only two choices these test-makers have. They can test achievement and hard work and the winners will be those bright students who prepare the most. Or they can just test IQ and include some kids without a great work ethic or without access to a quality school.
    In the end, achievement is the handmaiden of intelligence. Changing the SAT will alter scores a bit, but the final message is going to be one that society simply does not want to hear:
    Some students are smarter than others, some students will work harder than others, students who prepare for any type of test will outperform those who don't, and some students will do well on virtually any test designed to measure intelligence or achievement.
    The College Board can change the SAT, but insofar as outcomes are concerned, little will change.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Soon-to-be Democratic nominee for Congress releases ad of him sitting on toilet

    The disaster known as Obamacare, combined with the sheer ineptitude and abuse of power by our executive-in-chief, has Democrats running for cover.
    Some of the biggest Democratic names on Capital Hill are bowing out, fearing rejection from voters in the upcoming mid-term elections. For many it was just time to go, but I suspect some didn't want to face the prospect of a nasty election campaign that they just might lose.
    Add to this the fact that many Congressional districts really aren't that competitive any more and you end up with some pretty weak Democrats taking their party's nomination. Thus you had South Carolina Democrats giving the 2010 Senate nomination to one Alvin Greene. The day after his nomination it came out that he was facing federal obscenity charges. Amazingly enough he still got 28 percent of the vote in the general election.
    The latest Democratic star is Erick Wright, the only candidate for the Democratic nomination to Alabama's Second Congressional District House seat. The filing deadline has apparently passed, so he's the winner. He faces incumbent Republican Martha Roby, who took 63 percent of the vote in her last outing. She was first elected in 2010 in a squeaker over Bobby Bright, a very conservative Democrat, a once-formidable group that has essentially disappeared from Congress after suffering election defeats from both left and right.
    Alabama's latest Democratic nominee, like most candidates, likes to place political ads on Youtube. It's a great way for candidates with a low budget to still get their ad out there. One of his ads is called "Politics From the Throne," and features him giving a political oration while sitting on the toilet. Yes, you've read that right. The Democrats have nominated a man for national office who videotapes political advertisements of him sitting on the commode!
    This ad has now been scrubbed from Youtube, but I managed to get a copy of it.
    Congress is more polarized than ever, and regional urban vs. suburban/rural differences have increased. The Voting Rights Act required the creation of as many "safe" minority districts as possible, and the result of moving all of the mostly liberal minorities into safe districts has been to create "safe" districts for both parties. Packing a substantial percentage of the nation's most liberal voters into minority districts has ended up creating a lot of very conservative districts. Few people want to be a sacrificial lamb, especially in a year like 2014, and so you end up with folks like Alvin Greene and Erick Wright getting nominated to a seat they cannot win.
    Now as sure as the sun will rise in the east tomorrow I can guarantee that some Republican congressional nominee will say something incredibly stupid during the upcoming campaign season. Just as surely all of my liberal friends will go to Facebook as fast as their little fingers will run to claim said stupid statement represents all Republicans.
    And just as surely you can expect me to simply share this blog post. I'm sure the Republicans will have some less-than-stellar nominees, but to date none of our guys are filming campaigns from the toilet.

h/t Yellowhammer

Monday, March 3, 2014

My cousin posts a photo of his great-grandfather on Facebook and solves charcoal drawing mystery

Photo of John Gideon Hurdle and his wife Jessie Inez Bunch
Charcoal drawing of
John Gideon Hurdle
found in attic
    More than 10 years ago I found a charcoal portrait in the attic of what was once my grandparents' house. The portrait is of a young man of perhaps 20. I asked my dad and various other people and no one had any idea of who it was; no one had even a clue.
    In fact, I asked a cousin less than a week ago if he had any idea whatsoever who our mystery man was. He didn't. At some point the drawing was at risk of being thrown away, because there is just so much stuff one can keep. We're trying to clean out my dad's office and there isn't a big demand for drawings of unknown people.
    Along comes my cousin, Michael Hurdle, with a new Facebook page called "Hurdle Descendents," to be used to share old photos and stories. Two of the photos he posted were of his great-grandparents, John Gideon Hurdle and Jessie Inez Bunch Hurdle, of Taylor. Although he died before I was born, John Gideon Hurdle, was or is my great-uncle.
    I think Uncle "Gid," as the family called him, moved from Marshall to Lafayette County some time right after 1900. My grandparents lived in Lafayette County for a few years before returning to Marshall County. I'm pretty sure my grandfather worked with Uncle Gid in some fashion.
    As soon as I saw the photographs that my Cousin Michael had posted I knew I had found the identity of our mystery man. What's interesting is that Michael posted a copy of a heavily damaged photograph. The charcoal drawing I have appears to have been drawn from that very photograph. Either that or Uncle Gid always wore his tie flipped over to the right.
    Our charcoal drawing is a bit worse for wear, but I'm going to try to clean it up a bit and perhaps stick a frame on it to hang along the photos of other ancestors and relatives I've never met.

They erased this Tripadvisor review, but not before I was able to get a copy

    The following review was left on the Tripadvisor website for Craggs Hotel in Callandar, Scottland. The owner's response has gone viral; however, the review itself has been scrubbed from the Tripadvisor site. I was able to retrieve this through the use of Google Cache.

Eileen S. of Glascow, Scotland, wrote this, which is her only Tripadvisor review:
Stay clear of this hotel was the worst experience ever. Very poorly managed extremely disappointed:( Was a nightmare from very beginning as they double booked our room and continually lied to us about the booking. Our friends came all the way from England and were very disappointed as their booking was wrong also......will stay clear of this hotel and advise everyone else to!!!!
    The owner, one Alex Scrivenor, responded:
    Valentines day has always held a special place in my heart… it was the day I first kissed my last girlfriend… who I then proposed to three valentine days later... and since she became my wife we have systematically, and quite deliberately, forgotten to mark the occasion.
    However from henceforth I will remember Valentines as the miserable day that I had the misfortune to meet you, your husband and your friends from England!
    And the 16th Feb will now be called ‘Hatchet Sunday’ in memory of the review you left us.
    Before I reply I should make something clear...My doctor has told me that I must control my anger levels... he has told me that I must visualise my anger as a wicked demon that lives in a deep dark pit, and there the demon must stay. Instead of giving free reign to my anger, I have been attempting to be more understanding... less 'Basil' like... so I will attempt to be as understanding as possible… I am getting quite good at it… at my last appointment my doctor called me an 'empathy machine'!
    So, in spite of my desire to rage against this review, I will attempt to be balanced…let me try and set the record straight…
    I understand that you are angry with me... To arrive at a hotel and be told that you can’t have the room you booked is frustrating! I get that! That is why I gave you a free bottle of wine… and £15 off the room… and a free night’s stay in March! (I was contemplating also throwing in a wee hug for you both... but I felt there might be health consequences!)
    You see I understand… I appreciate that having been given a different room you then felt the need to lock yourself away in your room and become incoherently drunk… it’s not my choice of behaviour… but needs must.... Horses for course, etc!
    However, here is where things become difficult for me... I have struggled to understand why you then felt the need to go on a drunken rant through the hotel, threatening customers and shouting abuse… (hmmmm)… I also… have tried to understand why your husband wanted to drag me outside for a ‘kicking’, as he put it… (hang on a sec, do I really need to try and understand this sort of behaviour)… and the massive hole in the wall of my hotel? The one you kicked with your size 7 clodhoppers… must I try and be understanding that (I feel the anger rising... ).
    And the crowning cherry on the ‘Cleveland Steamer’ that was your visit… was the fact you gave me fake credit card details… so that when I tried to process payment for your outstanding bill of £400 it was declined…
    (I feel myself crumbling under the injustice of it all! My grip on reality is loosening… I am teetering on the edge of the great pit… and there, below, in the inky depths… lies… the demon!... he is coming!)
    Do you know what… I think my empathy jet is flying on vapours!!! I think ‘Mr understanding guy’ has just been told to pack his bags and leave the building... escorted by the police! In... exactly... the same... way... that you and friends were escorted by the police out of my hotel! Must I still try to empathise with you?
    No… no no no no no no no no no no no no I don’t understand any of it! Do you not think that there are one or two teeny weeny details that you omitted from your review… did you fail to recall 'twixt the instance of your arrival and that of your department that you and your husband went on a criminal rampage through the streets of Callander the like of which we have not seen wince William Wallace had a 'city break' in Carlisle! (however, to your credit you did refrain from rape, for which the menfolk of Callander thank you) Did it really slip your memory that your husband was charged with threatening behaviour, criminal damage and breach of the peace?
    You wrecked valentines day for my customers and staff.. you wrecked my hotel room… you tried to attack me… you refuse to pay your £400 bill … the police charged you with crimes, which will no doubt be dropped…
    And then… you write this review…
    One star out of five for location? … What did Callander ever do to you?
    One star out of five for rooms? Well, now that you have kicked all my walls down, I probably agree!
    One start out of five for value? May I courteously remind you that you didn’t actually pay a single, tiny penny! Despite having sat in our restaurant, gorging yourself on wild boar and pinot grigio at my expense! £400 of my money which I will never retrieve… pursuing you for recompense through the small courts would be as fruitful as pursuing a turd down a toilet!
    In conclusion… you have ruined me! You have set my therapy back some six months...You have stripped me of my greatest strength… my compassion... I will be, forever, a 'Basil'.
    One last thing… in reference to the last line of your review ‘we will stay clear of this hotel’... I think the restraining order will ensure that remains the case!

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Joe Hurdle's early 1980s speech describes qualities of a good field trial judge

This photo is of Uncle Joe and Misty Morn. I'm guessing it is after winning some minor field trial, and judging by the truck, some time around 1955.

    My uncle, the late Joe Hurdle, used to take all of us young-uns hunting back in the 1970s. This was an era when deer were truly scarce, and I never killed one. I could kill one a day with a bow if I was willing to hunt off my back deck today; but then I'd have to clean it.
I don't know the dog or the man in the
middle,  but Uncle Joe is on the left and our
 good family  friend Hamlet Yarbrough is on
the right. Perhaps this is a National
Field Trial winner.
    I always appreciated the things Uncle Joe did for us, and over the years I told him so frequently, which is unusual. Usually we fail to thank people who are kind to us.
    Uncle Joe was an avid sportsman, and for a number of years was the chief judge for the National Field Trials held at Ames Plantation at Grand Junction, Tenn. He was named to the Field Trial Hall of Fame in 1989. He died in 1993.
    Back in the early 1980s Uncle Joe was asked to give a speech to a field trial judge convention in San Francisco, and he asked me to type up the handwritten speech he had written. So I went to my dad's office and with some effort converted his speech to typewritten text. Because of this I was able to make a copy available to my dad, who stuck it in his desk drawer, and that's where it remained until we cleaned it out the other day.
    I grabbed it up and decided to reprint Uncle Joe's speech. I know the average person really doesn't care about this sort of thing, but the way of the Internet is that for those who do, here it is.
    Oh, and the 2014 National Championship Field Trials just ran at the Ames Plantation. Bobby McAlexander, who is Joe Hurdle's son-in-law, was one of the three judges. And Shadow Oak Bo, a setter, won for the second year in a row. The double-win is even more amazing given that setters almost never win.
    And so, for the record, here are my Uncle Joe's view's on field trial judging:

Some Thoughts on Judges and Judging, speech by Joe Hurdle

    To properly bring this subject into focus, there are many aspects worthy of discussion. I will endeavor to knit these various facets together in this discussion.
    Exactly what is a field trial judge, his duties and responsibilities, and the clubs' responsibilities regarding the judiciary?
    A field trial judge is in a unique area of responsibilities, his opinion is paramount, along with that of his fellow judge, in the determination of the winners of the stake. A judge is not a referee, or an umpire, or a linesman as in tennis. He and his judicial partner assume a mantle of complete responsibility as the term judge implies.
    In going about his highly responsible job, his demeanor is all important as the example he sets should always be above reproach. At all times he must conduct himself as a gentleman, whether in the field or at social functions which accompany most trials. His behavior is always under scrutiny by each and every contestant. Respect begets respect. A judge must be in excellent physical condition, be always alert, have keen eyes, and above all an objective mind, capable of analyzing situations as they occur. He must also be a diplomat as sooner or later the occasion will arise, when he and his partner don't agree on the winners, and each must be capable of arbitration and analysis.
    During the running, the conduct of the trial is entirely in the hands of the judges, therefore other factors also come into play. Each should set the pace of the event and should be thoroughly versed in what the pace should be. Marshals should confer with judges unfamiliar with new grounds, so that all dogs are afforded the opportunity to run their courses at proper pace to prevent overlaps. If a judge allows a handler the liberty of setting the pace, the end result will be unequal as each handler differs in pace. The judges should direct handlers as to their responsibilities to properly show their entries to them, not the judiciary chasing ever forward to glimpse a fleeting speck on every horizon. It is, however, a judicial responsibility to maintain an always forward of gallery posture, aloof but not oblivious to amenities with gallery or club officials during the running. A 100 percent span of attention is deserved, and should be afforded every brace that runs.
    Two judges should discuss, prior to the running, what they are looking for in a winner, what they judge to be an unproductive, directing scouting activities, etc. They should meet unobtrusively at the end of both morning and evening runs to compare notes and should carry their top dogs in a timely fashion, day to day. Once a dog is dropped from consideration it should no longer ever enter into decisions again; this only leads to confusion and mistrust between judges. Mutual respect and trust between the judges is a must and in keeping with this each should be able to quickly and concisely describe to the other what each has seen during a separation period when covering birdwork, etc., and it should be done as it occurs, not trusted to memory for a later session. Accurate notes by each judge are always a must, and times of occurrence should be jotted down.
    A judge should be above average as a horseman, as his responsibility is to be able to get to a find without mishap. Apprehension in the saddle also takes away from the concentration on the dog's performance.
    One of the premier rules for a judge is positive judging, he should always accent the positive attributes of the dogs in arriving at a decision. Negative judging is merely looking for faults to throw a dog out on. All dogs have faults.
    Let's discuss an example of positive judging, using an All Age brace, to wit:
    First and foremost, a dog should run an all age race to be a contender, without this no amount of birdwork should be considered. If the race is of all age scope, did the dog complete his all age casts without excessive scouting, had a lofty gait, moved attractively and had letter perfect birdwork twice. Each find was clean and the result of a well defined forward cast showing hunting desire. The dog had an unproductive where his manners were good, stylish and in a birdy place, but none were put to air. At the hour's end, he showed a strong forward cast to finish ahead on the course. This dog had a group of positives and is in contention. His one negative is a lone unproductive. At this point in the running, after due discussion both judges agree this is their top dog. Later, another dog runs an equal in scope race, is over-handled, over-scouted and many times out of control, but he too has two cleanly handled finds of equal value with the top dog, but no unproductive. Now, how negative is an unproductive when weighed against the criteria of an erratic race, over-handling and excessive scouting? After discussion the unproductive is the lesser evil and there being no other dogs close, the winner is the original top dog because of accentuating the positives to eliminate the negative.
    This is a formula example for not just for an all age dog, but a shooting dog or a walking shoot to the kill trial also, and is a basic for judicial decision. Again, only by timely discussion and comparison of judicial notes can two judges make such decisions. Remember, when judging, you the judges must be satisfied that you have named the best dog you've looked at as the winner. Again I stress, there are no hard fast engraved rules; opinion of the judges is what determines the outcome, and beauty is in the eye of the beholder.
    Each trial is a new contest, and a judge must constantly guard against predilection. Too much exposure to judging is usually the cause of this judicial fault. Remember every dog, even the worst outlaw, can have one of those spectacular performances. Never have a bias from a prior trial; guard against this at all costs.

What each club owes its entrants and judges.

    After selecting judges, they should be contacted at the earliest possible times, and once committed should receive details, dates, accommodations, flight schedules, etc. as soon as possible, and the judges’ names should always be included in the American Field ad. Six months ahead is not too early to get the above done. Judges to be announced, in a field trial ad usually indicates a lack of organization by the sponsoring club or a derelict secretary. This should be eliminated.
    Clubs should select judges with experience, wherever possible, but at minimum have an experienced judge with a new man on the scene, who possesses attributes previously discussed. The club secretary should converse with the experienced judge and ask him to counsel with and help begin training the new judge. There is always a shortage of new judicial blood in this game, and the old heads are usually most cooperative in grooming aspiring new judges. It should always be remembered by judicial aspirants that the social aspects are merely sidelights, the running is always paramount. A thick hide is a looked-for attribute in a judge, as criticism is always a happening; only the winner is happy and sometimes the judge’s placement is his wrong dog. In most cases, judging is a thankless job. Therefore, a judge must always satisfy himself with his decision.
    The club owes its judges decent lodging, nourishing meals, good horses, and should never allow any form of impuning to occur without a reprisal to the offender. All amateur events have hard fast rules in this regard. Open stakes should take a same stance, if not more forceful.
    In recent years it has become the vogue in most sporting events to question the ref, boo the umpire. John McEnroe of tennis fame cusses linesmen. This has no business in our sport. Remember, your judges are the supreme authority during the running of your particular trial. Mistreatment of these judges should never be tolerated or unpunished. Bearing in mind the above, no judge worth his salt ever takes offense at a properly put inquiry as to dog placements, or why they didn't place; but both judges should be asked in a polite manner, at the same time and this should not be in front of a crowd, but private.
    Once the trial is over, decisions made, etc., placements named, and all gone home, it is a judge' s responsibility to his fellow judge to never discuss their decision in other than a mutually agreed-on positive manner. One-on-one discussions with a disgruntled handler should always be avoided, as words can be twisted and hard feelings created between judges .
    In summary, judges should be ever alert, knowledgeable (not just well read) but of practical working knowledge, bird-hunter background, work his own dogs or with his professional handler enough to gain experience. They should be in good health, possess stamina, maintain a high moral stature, and be known for their integrity. They should be average or above horsemen, and in the case of trials of long duration, should be expected to be in shape to make day after day in the saddle. Availability is not the prime consideration, but once committed, a judicial assignment should never be taken lightly. Only a major occurrence should create a cancellation, and once on the job, time should never be of paramount importance. The trial should be run in an orderly and timely fashion by the judges, but a weather delay due to unfair conditions for dogs should be taken into consideration, and time should not prevent a callback, if agreement between judges requires one to determine the best of the lot.
    When one accepts the judicial responsibility, one must first, last and always satisfy himself that he and his partner have given every dog their undivided attention and after due process, have chosen the best performances which suit their (the judges) criteria to be named winners, runners-up, or third.
s/Joe Hurdle

    For anyone still reading I will share one more story. Men's Journal magazine did a story on the National Field Trials and Uncle Joe was featured in the article. The writer wrote about the shock that one experiences when a phrase that one has heard for a lifetime is suddenly used in the proper context. As it was when Uncle Joe, astride his horse, urged onlookers not to crowd the dogs: "Hold your horses, boys, hold your horses." The author had never heard anyone say "hold your horses" when that was literally what they meant.
    Later in the interview the writer asked about dogs which had surprised the judges, both by underperforming and overperforming. In giving a reason for one poorly ranked dog's victory, Uncle Joe said, "Every dog has it's day."
    Indeed they do!