Wednesday, November 30, 2011

When Everything is Special, Nothing is Special

During a recent episode of his radio show, Bryan Suits gave his opinions about the children who have been raised on praise for each and every thing they've ever done.  His opinion, and it's one I share, is that by making every baby step in maturing and growing a cause for celebration, children never learn to grow on their own without that celebration.  Here's an example he points out of the result of that kind of upbringing:

As I grew up, effort and results were expected, with results being more important than the amount of effort you put in.  A's were rewarded, but B's were expected.  There was no "you tried really hard!  Yeahhh!".  This carried over into my adult life very well.  A professor, a boss, or anyone else in the real, adult world is going to reward me because I had good intentions, or I tried really hard, or if I was just a good person.  I get rewarded for results, and children should be raised the same way.

I reward my children when they achieve important milestones, but not for everything they do.  The first time Girlie Bear made her bed and cleaned her room without help or prompting, she was taken out for breakfast.  Now, it's expected, and it's not even listed as part of the chores she does to earn her allowance.  Boo is still at the stage where he needs lots of reminding and encouragement, but I don't make a big deal out of each and every thing he does.

I don't believe in graduation ceremonies after 1st grade.  I don't believe in telling children that they're smarter/prettier/more talented than anyone else, especially if they truly are.  I don't give an allowance that isn't earned through manual labor, and I don't plan on buying anyone a car just because they survived to the age of 16.  I wholeheartedly believe in the truth of TANSTAAFL, and strive to instill its wisdom into my kids.

What we are dealing with now are people coming into the work force who expect to be infantilized and praised by everyone in their life.  They want the security of a corporate job, but demand the perks of working for themselves.  It is becoming harder and harder to find talented people who have a work ethic good enough to do work that is hard, boring, and dirty.  But that's the kind of work that new workers are expected to do, and they usually get paid dirt to do it.  Yeah, it sucks, and it's not what kids are told to expect, but that's the way it is.  Either accept it, find a way to make money, or learn to live with vastly dimished monetary requirements.

I guess this is one of the reasons that Junior Bear and I clashed so much while he was in high school.  His entire life, he'd been praised for doing things that I expected him to do without anyone noticing.  While his teachers would tell him he did a good job getting a C in a subject because he "worked really hard", I would accept the C, but not tell him he was doing an exceptional job.  I refused to be a helicopter parent, and he was shocked to the bone when I followed through on a threat to pull him out of his band program if he didn't start performing in his other classes.  Even the band director, who seemed to be an early product of the "Everyone gets a trophy" generation, was aghast as I signed the paperwork to put Junior into a health class instead of marching band.  Over time, Junior's inability to deal with my high bar for excessive praise was corrosive to our relationship.  Everyone else in his life was telling him he was the next best thing to Einstein, while I was the one who expected him to perform because that was the right thing to do, not because someone was patting him on the butt for it.

Take a good hard look at the individual in that video folks.  That is an example of the people who are going to be running this world in a couple of decades.  We've got our work cut out for us if we're going to get them to accept that the world doesn't care about your effort or intentions before they take over management.

News Roundup

  • From the "No Backsies!" Department - A man in prison for kidnapping has sued two people he held hostage because they broke a promise they made under duress to not call the cops and to help him escape.  I don't support this at all.  If I could be held liable for breaking promises made under threat of bodily harm, I'd still be in debt to my ex-wife.
  • From the "Roadside Garnishing" Department - A truck full of Marmite, a tasty condiment popular in British cuisine, crashed recently, dumping 22 tons of the stuff on the roadway.  Authorities plan on making a report later this winter as to whether or not yeast extract makes a good coating for asphalt in the winter.  No-one tell Og.
  • From the "Deja Vu" Department - Great Britain has closed its embassy in Tehran and told Iranian diplomats to get not let the door hit them on the ass as they depart the country.  This comes after a mob of 'students' attacked the British embassy in Tehran recently, with the Iranian government doing nothing to stop them.  Personally, I hope they turn the Iranian embassy into a public toilet, but that's just me.
  • From the "Naturally Slick" Department - Petroleum pollution in Los Angeles that has been blamed on industry and other human sources has been traced back to the La Brea tar pits.  Local environmental activists are being offered counseling and a hug as they try to come to terms with the fact that you can't sue Mother Gaia into oblivion or sick the EPA on her. 

Quotes of the Day

  • I haven't a particle of confidence in a man who has no redeeming petty vices whatsoever.
  •  It [the press] has scoffed at religion till it has made scoffing popular. It has defended official criminals, on party pretexts, until it has created a United States Senate whose members are incapable of determining what crime against law and the dignity of their own body is—they are so morally blind—and it has made light of dishonesty till we have as a result a Congress which contracts to work for a certain sum and then deliberately steals additional wages out of the public pocket and is pained and surprised that anybody should worry about a little thing like that. 
  • Reader, suppose you were an idiot. And suppose you were a member of Congress. But I repeat myself.  
  • To put it in rude, plain, unpalatable words — true patriotism, real patriotism: loyalty not to a Family and a Fiction, but a loyalty to the Nation itself!
    ..."Remember this, take this to heart, live by it, die for it if necessary: that our patriotism is medieval, outworn, obsolete; that the modern patriotism, the true patriotism, the only rational patriotism, is loyalty to the Nation ALL the time, loyalty to the Government when it deserves it."
  • It is curious that physical courage should be so common in the world, and moral courage so rare. 
-- Samuel Clemons, AKA Mark Twain, November 30, 1835 – April 21, 1910

We need better options

Herman Cain is staying in the race despite another woman coming forward to accuse him of being a hound dog.  Apparently this is the straw that breaks the camel's back for several supporters, including crucial people in Iowa and New Hampshire.

I'm disappointed.  I was beginning to like Cain. He's a real person, not a career politician.  He's held jobs and led companies.  If anyone could look at the balance sheet in Washington and take to it with an Exacto knife, it was him.

But even if I can look past personal foibles and vote for him, I may not get the chance, or it might not matter.  Cain has probably been mortally wounded, either by his own inability to keep his zipper up, or by personal attacks from his opponents, or both. 

So who's left? 

First we have Rick Perry, who I'm more and more convinced is an empty suit.  No, it's not because he vapor locked and couldn't remember all of the government agencies he would cut.  I have the memory of a frog, so I'll forgive someone else for the same malady.  He just reminds me of the executive that reads the first few pages of a report then moves on.  He can recognize the subject, but doesn't have a lot of depth of knowledge.

Michelle Bachmann?  Yeah, not gonna happen.  I like her Tea Party leanings, but she has begun using the crisis of the day as a campaign topic.  Her raving about Gardasyl causing retardation, even after being told the facts, just put me off.

Romney?  I think I've made my opinion of him quite clear, so I won't bore you with a repetition.

Gingrich?  Sorry, but I lived through the 1990's and I remember just how screwed up the government was when he was 3rd in line for the presidency.  Love his books, would love to take a history class he's teaching, but not convinced he ought to be president.

I have to admit that I like Ron Paul, if for no other reason than that he knows what he believes, is honest about it, and doesn't change because of the political winds.  Problem is, even if I agree with a lot of what he says, what I don't agree with is too far out of my comfort zone.

I heard an interview with John Huntsman the other day, and to be honest, I was impressed.  He's a conservative, he seems honest, and he's consistent from one week to the next.  The problem is that most people don't know he's running.  If he's going to have a shot at the candidacy, he needs to get out and start getting people to notice him.

As for the rest, I don't really give them much thought, which I guess speaks for itself.

Here are the traits I'm looking for.  A candidate doesn't have to have all of them, but they ought to be have most of them.
  • Fiscal conservative, to the point of being willing to hold a budget bloodbath to bring spending down.
  • Veteran. If the president is going to be dealing with a war, I'd prefer that he or she at least have some personal experience to draw from.
  • Not a lifelong politician.  I don't think your first elected position should be the presidency, but if you've spent most of your adult life running for office, you're going to have a hard time knowing what your decisions do to the rest of us who work and pay your salary.
  • Squeaky clean personal life, or the ability to be open and honest about your failings.  Hey, I'm as human as the next guy, and everyone's got a skeleton or two in their closet.  But if you're a serial adulterer, or you have a problem with alcohol, you need to be honest about it.  Having a problem isn't necessarily a problem, but lying about it is a game stopper.
  • Be consistent in your core beliefs, and actually have something we can look at to figure out what they are.  If you change your mind as often as you do your socks, move along.  And I'm not going to support a blank slate like we got in 2008.  Obama got elected because no-one knew what he stood for.  He got that way because he told everyone what they wanted to hear, and everyone projected their own values on him.  I'm not going down that road again.
That's it.  Honestly, it doesn't sound like too much.  If someone can satisfy 4 out of 5, he or she will probably get my vote.  Be able to know what your decisions are doing to those that are impacted by them, be careful with my money and the money my children and grandchildren will earn, don't lie to me about scandalous behavior, and don't change your mind because you think it'll help you get elected.

If anyone knows of such a person, please speak up.  We desperately need this person to run, because the current slate isn't impressing me.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Thanks, but no thanks

Dear Guy at the Gun Store,

Yes, I know you saw me looking at that SKS, and just knew that I'd be better served with an AR-15.  Yes, I know that an internal 10 round magazine just isn't going to cut it against hordes of looters and such. And yeah, I know I can't reload the steel-cased ammunition the SKS shoots.  And yeah, I know that the AR platform is one of the finest infantry rifles ever used.  And I know I should take your advice because you're in the Guard, and you grew up around guns.

But son, listen up:

I was messing around with AR platform rifles while you were trying to figure out how to balance on a bicycle with training wheels.  I've shot M-16-A1's and A-2's, and even messed around with an M-4 once or twice.  I've carried that style of rifle over mountains and rivers, across deserts, and through jungles.  I've spent more time than I care to think about scrubbing, wiping, scraping, and lubricating AR's in one form or another.

I used to teach men and women your age how to shoot M-16's with better technique than "Point it generally downrange and pull the trigger".  Please don't equate your basic training experience with my knowledge of the gun, how to shoot it, and its capabilities.

Now, I know that the AR platform has pretty much been perfected, and a modern example of this design fed good ammunition, kept reasonably clean, and using magazines in good working order will work pretty well under all but the worst conditions.  I also know that a well trained marksman with an AR-15 can blow the balls off a gnat at 300 meters.  I'm also not going to poopoo the 5.56 bullet it fires.  Yeah, it's no .308 or .30-06, but I wouldn't volunteer to get shot with it either.

You see, I don't like AR's for a couple of reasons.  First one is psychological:  I spent way too much time dealing with malfunctions of all types and trying to keep the thing clean to relish the thought of actually owning one.  Second is physical.  It's just not comfortable to me.  You see, I'm a freak with big hands and large arms.  Holding an M-16 to my shoulder just never felt right to me.  And if I'm not comfortable, I'm not going to shoot as often as I ought to with the gun, and I won't enjoy it as much.

And finally, I've just become enamored with older rifles such as the SKS, Mosin-Nagant, and M-1 Garand.  Nothing against the AR-15, which can be a very slick looking gun, but I just like walnut and beech furniture on my guns nowadays.

So I'm going to take the Matthew Quigley approach to this gun type:  I can shoot it, just don't have much use for it.

But please, I didn't mean to offend you when I told you I wasn't interested in the AR.  If that's what you like, be my guest.  What works for me might not work for you, and I'll be the last to try to discourage you from shooting a gun that you like and you can shoot well.  I've just lost interest in the AR-15 for my own use.   But don't let my prejudices against a technology lead you to believe that I'm a Fudd and don't think your platform of choice is any less valid than mine.

Have a good one, and again, thanks for the advice,


News Roundup

  • From the "Put Up or Shut Up" Department - Gun rights advocates in Tennessee are letting it be known that if the Republican controlled state government doesn't come across with some strong strides in gun rights after making noises about supporting the 2nd Amendment, there'll be hell to pay in the next election.  I support my brethren in the Volunteer State.  Every Republican candidate, and a good chunk of the Democrats, puts a "I support the 2nd Amendment" bullet on their nice shiny fliers.  It's high time they either crapped or got off the pot.  Local and state laws that impeded the peaceful, lawful exercise of civil rights, any civil rights, need to be done away with.  If those who have benefited from trumpeting their support for our rights won't do something, we need to elect someone who will.
  • From the "Now He Tells Us" Department - Terry Nichols, the co-conspirator behind the Oklahoma City Bombing, told a penpal that he didn't think that Timothy McVeigh would set off the truckbomb during the daytime or in a place that would harm anyone.  Hey, dickhead, here's a hint:  If you want to do a bombing as a demonstration and make sure that no-one gets hurt, then take a lesson from the IRA and CALL SOMEONE.  Let them know where the bomb is and tell them why you set it.  Don't just park it anonymously and hope there isn't a daycare somewhere close, you dolt.  Nichols also says that he grieves daily about the bloodshed and damage that he helped cause.  Personally, I hope the spirits of the men, women, and children he helped murder haunt his every breath, and he lives a long time.  This jerk and his ilk gave us who think the government has lost its way and needs to be reformed a bad name for decades to come. 
  • From the "Rule 4" Department - A woman in Sweden has been charged with manslaughter after the bullet she used to shoot an elk killed a nearby skier.  Remember, you are responsible for that bullet and everything it hits.  Once the gun goes bang, you can't take it back.
  • From the "Stay Classy" Department - The place kicker for the San Diego Chargers apparently had to answer a call of nature during Sunday's game against Denver, and relieved himself next to his team's bench.  I'm not sure how often something like this happens, but something tells me he could have gone somewhere else to do it, maybe somewhere the cameras couldn't capture the moment for posterity.  Well at least he was hydrated.  I do have some issues with the TV station not cutting away once they realized what he was doing.  Apparently it was a great laugh for the commentators.  
  • From the "Play Stupid Games" Department - A Pennsylvania man is recovering after being bitten by his pet rattlesnake.  The man apparently owned several poisonous snakes, along with other reptiles, including an alligator.  Personally, I prefer pets in my own taxonomic class, but to each his own.  If you want to cuddle with something cold and scaly with the ability, will, and desire to kill you, be my guest.  I divorced my companion that fit that description in 1997.

Fighting the Good Fight

A lawsuit against the postal service for their policy that does not allow firearms in post offices and their parking lots has been given the green light to proceed by a federal judge.   The post office had asked for a dismissal of the case, opining:

"Large numbers of people from all walks of life gather on postal property every day. … The Postal Service is thus responsible for the protection of its employees and all the members of the public who enter postal property,"
I regularly carry a pistol for self defense, either openly or concealed.  I wear it to the grocery store, the hardware store, and to the big-box department stores, and I'm not the only one.  I'll bet that more people go through the average Walmart in an hour than go through your average post office in a day.  Somehow, all of us law abiding gun carriers seem to keep it together with few problems. It's almost as if those who legally carry guns are the type of people who can be trusted to not do illegal or stupid things with their guns.

The postal service and other government offices need to stop punishing the 99.99999% of people in the country who live well within the threshold for being called 'legal' and leave us alone to exercise our rights without the hassle of trying to not run afoul of their fear-induced policies.

Today's Earworm

Yeah, it's that time of year.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Thoughts for the Day

  1. You never know how truly loved you are until you try to strain the bones out of an extra large batch of turkey broth in a home with three cats.
  2. Cats are true socialists.  What you have, they want, be it food, personal space, or body heat.

Okey Dokey

The Pakistani Prime Minister has expressed the opinion that after the accidental bombing of Pakistani border post by NATO forces that Pakistan should require a more equal, read expensive, footing with the United States.  He feels that the United States does not respect Pakistan.  Imagine that, he believes that we don't respect a country that harbored the architect of the mass murder of our civilians, regularly supports the Taliban, has spread nuclear weapons knowledge and technology to North Korea and Iran, and has soaked us for billions in money over the past decade.

My interpretation:  We are unhappy because you shot up a border post that we were letting bad guys use to shoot at you, so we want more money or we'll keep the beans and bullets sitting at the border crossing until the tires rot, you pay up, or the entire load is stolen.

My response:  Go for it.  Shut down those supply routes and continue to support the guys who are killing civilians along with our soldiers.  We'll just shut down the money pipeline (bribe is such a harsh word, isn't it.  So is blood money) and y'all can go piss up a rope.  Hey, just to show that we're good guys, we'll go through the files of the Defense Department and the CIA and publicize all of the messed-up things y'all have done for the past 50 years that you really don't want your "masses" knowing about.  We'll, of course, sanitize the documents and indemnify our own people who took part in them so that the only people drug through the street by their heels will be someone from Pakistan.  How about we publicly identify members of your intelligence service that have provided support to our enemies since 9/11/2001 and we'll put a nice price on their head.  How's that sound, sparky?

I'm sure that we can come to some sort of mutually agreeable deal with the 'Stans to the north of Afghanistan, and if we chip in enough information and money, Russia would be more than happy to work with us on transhipment of cargo.  I'm sure that if we gave them information on all of the Chechens and other douchebags, they'll let us push trains of supplies right across the Rodina.  Honestly, I'll pay a premium to do it just so that we can quit messing with your little paradise.

Good luck, guys.  Hope to see you on the History Channel soon as a "What Happens When You Try To Play Both Sides Of The Fence" show. 

Is that cheering I hear

coming from the VolksRepublik?

Longtime Massachusetts Congressman Barney Franks has announced that he will not be seeking reelection next year.  Franks has been in Congress since 1980.  For reference, I was in the 4th grade when he was elected for the first time.  So much for the ideal of a productive member of society going to Washington for a couple of terms of service to the nation and then returning to society to be productive again.  I honestly wonder if we can use Congressman Franks as an example of "He went into Congress worth X dollars, and he's leaving Congress worth X dollars".

I look forward to another open election in a heretofore locked up office next year.  Those are always good for viewing, preferable with popcorn.

Chuck's Having a Bad Day

Chuck Z. is over in Afghanistan, and apparently he's had a run-in with one of our 'allies' in the fight to bring medieval tribesmen into the 17th century.

I had to be pulled out of the combined TOC after I used "fuck-stick" "slap-nuts" and "If you know so much, how come Afghanistan isn't occupying FOBs in The US?" in one long tirade that (thankfully, in retrospect) wasn't translated.

Go on over to his place and give him a little encouragement.

Today's Earworm

Greetings from Seattle on the Ohio!

Another One?

Syracuse University has fired an assistant basketball coach after a third person has come forward claiming to have been sexually assaulted by him as a child.  After the first two accusations, the university placed Bernie Fine on administrative leave, and I guess the magic number with Syracuse was "3".

Now, these accusations are still under investigation, so nothing is known for sure.  But I have to ask this:  Is collegiate sports going to be the next place we find a subculture of pedophiles?  After what appears to have happened at Penn State, this latest set of allegations has me asking whether or not the process for vetting coaches and staff at college sports programs is thorough enough.  Assuming that most universities have programs that bring young people into the sports programs in some way, what are the policies and practices of the NCAA to ensure that the adults who have access to these children are vetted and monitored?  If there aren't adequate policies, they need to be drafted.  If there are, then they need to be more rigorously applied.

The NCAA needs to go through these programs with a fine toothed comb, and get rid of coaches and staff who are placing children in danger.  Failure to do this risks the spread of such atrocities and the loss of a reputation for trust and ethics the NCAA tries to espouse and preserve.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Thoughts on Wizard Combat and Other Geek Thoughts

OK, bear with me.  Geek talk ahead.  This is important only in that it gets a series of thoughts out of my head that have been swishing around and around for a while.

Like I mentioned yesterday, I just finished watching the last movie in the Harry Potter series.  It's a good yarn, and the writers and directors did an excellent job in entertaining me.  But some things have been nagging at me.

The finale of the entire series is a huge battle between the hordes of evil Voldemort followers and the small, but plucky band of good wizards centered around Harry Potter.  The good wizards are holed up in Hogwarts and are preparing for a battle to the death.  The entire scope of their protection is to put up some force fields, mine a bridge, and banish the untrustworthy students to the dungeons for the duration.  Once their protection spell on the castle is defeated, the battle pretty much falls down to a large series of single combat encounters.  Individual wizards face off, with the winner living and the loser becoming something to be squeegeed up.  The battle doesn't go well for our intrepid heroes, and they win only because Harry Potter defeats Voldemort in single combat.

Basically, the wizards are conducting combat in the same way that ancient barbarian warriors and medieval knights did:  single combat between heroes.  There is no magical version of the phalanx or the maniple.  There didn't seem to be the wizard version of the archer or crew served weapon, and there certainly wasn't any use of the castle as an urban warfare trap.

Now remember, the good guys have spent several years demonstrating that they are stronger because they depend on each other and work together.  But when it finally comes down to the big battle, they dissolve into little one and two man fighting teams.

Remember, these are beings who have the ability to turn ordinary substances into deadly explosives and poisons, are armed almost exclusively with ranged weapons in the form of spells, and with the aid of brooms can fly like birds.  Where was the "You guys on the Quidditch team take these flasks and start dropping them on all of those bad guys.  Don't get caught up in the vapors from the explosions."  or "You guys go down to the owlery and lay down a base of fire with the "Mess a Guy Up" curse while we draw them into the halls of the castle so we can ambush them."?

This also brings me to something that bothered me about an incident in "The Half Blood Prince".  Harry Potter learns a pretty effective spell, sectumsempra. Basically, it's a "Cut that guy into little pieces" kind of curse.  He uses it once, then is so shocked by its effectiveness that he gets rid of the book he found it in.  As far as I can see, he never taught it to anyone else, even knowing that a battle was coming and that his friends would need as many tricks in their bag as they could in order to survive.  This mentality seems to run through the entire story.  "Let's do the minimum necessary to defeat Voldemort, but let's never do anything we might have regrets about later."   Again, the attitude of individual combat and personal limits on how to fight peaks through.

And what do the good wizards do once the battle is won?  Voldemort is dead, and so are a lot of his top lieutenants.  But a lot of bad guys are still around, and what are the victors going to do about them?  Also, the Ministry of Magic is probably still controlled by a Voldemort toady, so what was done to reform the government?  Since we know that Harry's family is alive 19 years later, we can infer that something was done so that he could show his face in public without someone trying to burn it off, but what?  After the last wizard war, they seem to have held Truth and Reconciliation hearings, where sins were forgiven for all but the worst criminals.  After seeing how badly that worked, can we assume that the good wizards then went on a hunt for the bad guys and exacted some justice in a rather sticky and smoky manner?  If you've tried just forgiving and forgetting and got another war as soon as the bad guys could find one, isn't the next logical step to start putting a whole bunch of people against a wall?

What bothers me about all this is the message it conveys to the young readers.  The bad guys in this tale are basically a gang of bullies and thugs.  The good guys are good ladies and gentlemen.  The good guys fight as gentlemen; the bad guys pull out all the stops.  What I teach my kids is that when faced with a bully, you hold nothing back.  Kick, bite, scratch, grab whatever is handy as a weapon, but the final goal is to stop the threat.   The good guys in these stories seem to be willing to only go so far in fighting, but no further, which seems to be the reason they tend to get their heads handed to them until some hero comes along to save the day.

Anyway, I'm putting way too much thought into a children's book and movie, but things like this tend to get stuck in a loop somewhere in my cranium, and this is the best way to get them out.  Y'all got any thoughts?

Today's Earworm

An old friend just found out what a dog her ex was.  I've been humming this little ditty ever since I talked to her.

Mister Smith Goes To Jail

A man was arrested at Boston's Logan Airport after passengers on his flight reported that he was looking at child pornography while seated on the airplane.  No comment from the alleged hairball on the matter as yet.

I used to fly quite a bit, and I was 'lucky' enough to do it as things like laptops and such were coming into the mainstream.  It is amazing what people will watch or listen to on an airplane.  There's nothing like being seated next to the guy who watches X-rated videos from Frankfurt to Dulles.  That had nothing on the flight with the screaming baby, let me tell you.   Then there's the gangsta rap fan who listened to the latest version of "cuss and swear with a rhythm and talk about women as if they were disposable napkins" on his laptop speakers during a flight between Austin and Phoenix.   I feel embarrassed if someone can hear my music coming through my headset, and these people are watching porn, playing lude music, and sometimes a lot worse where everyone else can get an eyeful.

Usually being a big guy with a bad haircut worked in my favor.  Most of the time a polite "Can you knock that off before I knock it off for you?" stopped the bad behavior.   Yes, my people skills are legendary.

This dimwit alleged pedophile decided to indulge his sick kink while in the first class cabin of a trans-continental flight.  Imagine what it's like at his house.   Hopefully he's already been identified by the family as Uncle Badtouch and no-one goes over to his place for Thanksgiving.

Let's hope the wheels of justice to a good job grinding him into sausage.

Thought for the Day

When asked recently why I carry a pistol, my answer was that the bayonet on my Mosin-Nagant kept getting hit by ceiling fans.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

News Roundup

  • From the "Brilliant!" Department - A ballot initiative in California could cause the shuttering of two nuclear power stations.  Analysts estimate that the stations provide 16% of the large states electricity, and their shutdown would probably cause rolling blackouts and higher energy costs, which would do a lot to encourage businesses to go somewhere else to employ taxpayers.  The proponents of the initiative point to an existing law that requires nuclear power stations to shut down if there is no permanent centralized place to store nuclear waste, such as the now defunct Yucca Mountain project. In replying to the analysis of the impact on California consumers and the states economy, supporters of the ballot initiative stated "Nuhuh!!!" and "Lalalalalala I can't hear you!".  As a side issue, I would like to express my thanks to those who influenced me earlier in life and kept me from returning to California.  It's very much appreciated.
  • From the "Meat Popsicle" Department - A British woman has begun a solo ski trip across Antarctica because.... well, honestly, I can't understand why.  Skiing solo across the South Pole seems to be either slow suicide or a pointless attempt to create a place in history for someone.  Maybe it's both.  Trips across the poles early in the last century could at least be done in the name of discovery and exploration. With the advent of reliable air transport and satellites, you don't have to get there on foot in order to learn and explore.  But I wish the intrepid lady luck and good health as she tries to accomplish something no-one has ever done.  Hopefully she's successful, or at least is still alive when she's found.
  • From the "Heavy Metal" Department - Congress is considering new rules that would allow cargo trucks to carry 97,000 pounds of freight, up from current limits of 80,000.  Proponents of the new rules claim that it will mean fewer trucks on the road to carry the same amount of cargo, which will increase safety and decrease pollution and fuel use.  Opponents suggest that larger loads will increase wear and tear on roads that weren't designed for such heavy vehicles and that heavier trucks will cause more harm in accidents.  I must point out that I work for a large corporation that has a huge fleet of cargo trucks, so take my opinion for what it's worth, and my opinions in no way reflect the position of my employer.  What I see happening here is that the new rules will be passed, but they won't save that much money.  Large unionized trucking companies aren't going to see a lot of cooperation from labor in downsizing truck fleets and their attendant driver and mechanic workforces.   Additionally, unless entire new fleets of semi trucks are purchased to haul the new heavier trailers, drive trains that weren't designed to pull 90,000 pounds of cargo are going to need more fuel to do it, will require more maintenance, and will have a much shorter lifespan.  Finally, with states being able to opt out of the new rules, it will be hard for network planners to find cost effective routes for these large loads if a large number of states don't allow them to use their highways.  Either way, unless most states and labor agrees to the changes that these new large trucks bring to trucking, this isn't going to change the business much at all.
  • From the "Aw Crap!" Department - Pakistan has closed supply routes to NATO forces in Afghanistan and is reportedly asking the United States to vacate a base in Pakistan that has been used for drone attacks against Taliban and other insurgent groups after a Pakistani border post was attacked by NATO aircraft.  Pakistan is reporting that upwards of 23 soldiers were killed, with several wounded.  Now is not a good time for the supply of fuel, ammunition, and food to take a hit.  Also, giving our Pakistani 'allies' another excuse to up the price of their continued cooperation isn't going to be helpful in finding a way to continue the fight without increasing costs.  Hopefully an investigation into what happened will be quick, the payoff will be swift and generous to get Pakistan to re-open the supply routes, and our forces in Afghanistan won't suffer because their supplies will be lean for a while.

Movie Review - Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part II

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part II has been sitting on our shelf for a couple of weeks.  Girlie Bear saw it in the theater, but Irish Woman and I had just watched Part I last weekend.  I read the book when it first came out, but Irish Woman was going in blind.  After we put Boo to bed last night, we gave it a watch.

If you are looking for a family movie, look elsewhere.  This movie has very little language, little blood, but it is quite violent, and the action scenes are probably too intense for young children.  If you've watched the rest of the series, you'll have noticed that each book and its accompanying movie has become darker and more intense, so this should come as no surprise.  I would not suggest this movie for children under 12, even if they have read the books.

That being said, I was impressed with this movie.  The acting, cinematography, and special effects were very good.  For those aspects, I'd say that Parts I and II of the Deathly Hallows will go down as the best of the series.  It is good to see that the talent that was glimpsed in the child actors during earlier movies has come to full flower as they have matured.

The pacing for Part II did not drag as much as it seemed to in Part I, but if you consider that Part I was setting the scene for Part II, then it can be excused for a large amount of plot exposition with some action while Part II was mostly action scenes with some plot advancement in the spaces between duels and daring do.

One quibble I have with the story, and this is a minor one, is that a lot of the  Dumbledore's back story was cut out.  In the book, this explained a lot of this pivotal character's motivations, but the writers and directors can be forgiven for leaving this out of what turned out to be a six-hour, two-movie adaptation of a long book.  I wouldn't be surprised if that part of the story was brought out in the inevitable director's cut or collector's edition or whatever they call the next attempt to shake the money tree.

Summing up, I'd recommend this movie, along with the entire series of books and movies, to anyone who is mature enough to understand the subject matter.  I think one of the smartest things that J.K. Rowling did was to make each chapter in her saga a little more mature, which kept her audience interested as they in turn matured.  As a parent, I will work with Boo to space out the books and movies so that he experiences them just as he becomes old enough to understand the story.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Must be something in my eye

North brings us something so simple and beautiful that I can't describe it.  Go read it.

News Roundup

  • From the "Hockey Stick" Department - A study by the National Science Foundation has concluded that the planet is indeed warming, but the impact of human activities has been, shall we say, overstated.  No word yet on whether or not we can expect to see a dime of the money we've spent on 'green' technology and reducing our carbon footprints returned to us.  But I'm a starry-eyed optimist, so here's hoping that the Obama administration will admit errors and publicly shame Al Gore on the Washington Mall.
  • From the "Cut Out the Middle Man" Department - Pakistan and China recently finished a joint military exercise.  Let's see, we're borrowing money China to give to Pakistan in foreign aid so they can give the money back to China to pay for weapons and exercises.  Why don't we just ask China to give the money directly to Pakistan and save on the interest payments?  Seems to me that would be more honest on the part of our Pakistani "allies" too.
  • From the "Government Efficiency"  Department - The Russian government has budgeted $8 million for the construction of a website for young people.  The site will be used to teach them about Russian history.  For that much money, couldn't you just hire a few teachers to go around Russia and talk to students about history?  For 8 million, it ought to be designed and executed by Pixar.  Then again, this is the same government whose idea of a snow plow was 10 guys with shovels and a dump truck, so what do I know?
  • From the "Fox News is Hiring" Department - A Russian news anchor has been fired after she flipped the bird at the camera while talking about President Obama.  I don't think she should be fired for this.  Honestly, I've flipped the bird at my TV when the president is being discussed so often I'm worried that Boo might pick up the habit.  Why should she be penalized for doing it on the supply side of TV when I do it so often on the consumer side?

Market of Destruction

Now, let me tell you tales of high adventure......

DaddyBear the Minivandian looked up from his scroll of wisdom as his mate approached him.

"Mate of mine, I tire of the flesh of the semi-flightless bird.  The children and I would like to eat meat pies made in the style of the Italians tonight." Irish Woman purred as she laid her delicate hand upon his shoulder.

"Of course, love of my life.  Do you wish to prepare this delicacy yourself or should I purchase them from one of the merchants in town?" the Minivandian answered.

"I have contacted a merchant, the Hut of Pizza, who has agreed to have several pies ready for you in a few minutes." she replied, her Celtic green eyes shining in the lamplight.

"Then I shall go hence, and fetch our dinner from the good merchant.  Do you wish for me to get anything else for you, my love?"

"A flask of the bubbly concoction of Atlanta to mix with my corn liquor tonight.  Oh, and your son, the last scion of my house, requires milk and eggs.  He has been eating as if he were a horse in the field.  I fear that he is about to sprout like dragonbane under the June sun."

"I shall stop at the Walled Market to get these items on my way to fetch dinner, then.  I need to pick up a few things for myself."

"Do you think that wise, my lord?  This is the day after the day of Thanksgiving and the heralds have sung songs of bedlam at all of the markets this morning."

"I shall not go unarmed, and the rioting should be over by the time I arrive."

"Go carefully, my love.  I would not wish to lose you to a harpie of the Soccer clan because she thought you might have eyes for the same gadget she lusts for."

"So I shall, my darling.  I shall be back within the hour."

DaddyBear armed himself with Vaslav, his mighty Czech pellet thrower, and Gnarlthing, his blade of sharpness and stabbiness, then made his way to his trusty steed, Silverrust.  Driving through the countryside to the Walled Market, he could see evidence of the horde that had descended upon the market district.  Metal carts, normally kept neatly lined up by the store owners, were strewn throughout the lot of parking, and refuse from the boxes of gadgets were blowing across the ground like brightly colored tumbleweeds.

As he approached the entrance to the market, he saw that the signs and handbills that were normally affixed to the windows had been ripped down in a crush of humanity.  The young lady who normally greeted him on entering the store was sitting on the floor, hugging her knees, and crying softly.

DaddyBear made his way to the food area, and found the milk, elixir, and eggs that were required by his lady love.  The shelves of food were in disarray, and several work crews were making heroic efforts to reorder them, but DaddyBear could tell they would be working through the night to bring things back to normal.

Out of curiosity, DaddyBear took a walk through the aisles of the magic elf boxes.  He wished to see if any remained, and to see if prices had come down.  He found to his surprise that all of the magic elf boxes, be they large or small, were gone.  The leader of the group that cared for this area was walking through the lane of the portable magic elf boxes, his blue shirt rumpled and torn.  He had a look as if he could not see what was in front of him, instead focused on something thousands of yards away.  DaddyBear heard him speaking, and leaning in found that he was mumbling "I'm sorry, we only have two of those.  Please get back in line." over and over.

Leaving the poor wraith to his fate, DaddyBear hurried to the front of the market to pay for his items.  There he found things mostly in order, but the young man to whom he gave his items and money wore one arm in a sling and looked as if he had warred against the foulest of trolls that day.  Inquiries as to his state only brought a blank stare and a growled answer of "Black Friday".  DaddyBear made a sign against evil behind his back at those words, and prayed to the gods of his ancestors that he would never meet a Black Friday, which must be a curse upon whatever land it decides to ravage.

DaddyBear walked back to Silverrust, looking back over his shoulder at the devastation, but also watching those around the lot of parking.  The horde that had done so much damage might still be in the vicinity, and he had no wish to be mobbed for his milk, eggs, and bubbly elixir.

Upon reaching the Hut of Pizza, DaddyBear found the same shell-shocked faces, and was amazed at the number of meat pies that were waiting for others to pick up and take to their homes for dinner.  The wizened crone who waited upon him whispered at how they were almost out of cheese, and had made an urgent call for help from their supplier.  DaddyBear thanked his ancestors for bringing Irish Woman to him, she with the foresight to order dinner before the hordes decided on Italian pies for dinner.

Thus did DaddyBear acquire the food his family required, and upon returning to his freehold, he thought long and hard about his decision to stay close to home that day.  Had it been an angel that told him to stay away from the markets this day, or had one of his ancestors joggled his mind into staying home with the Young Prince instead of trying to find a new boomstick or the magical brass talismans needed for them to create fire and smoke?  In the end, he imbibed a dose of bubbly elixir of Atlanta mixed with the fine corn liquor of Kentucky and just thanked his luck that the horde had stopped at the Walled Market and not his village.

Showing Appreciation

H/T to JayG on this one!

Jack Daniels Distillery has announced a program to assist soldiers from Fort Campbell in getting home for the holidays.  Soldiers who are cash-strapped will be given vouchers for either airline tickets or gas and lodging so that they can go home to their families.

Looking back at my time in uniform, I guess I was very fortunate in that I was home for the holidays most years, but a lot of my friends weren't so lucky.  Being away from home on a post that's mostly deserted because everyone else has gone home for Christmas is depressing in a manner that's hard to articulate.  It's good to see a company recognizing that and putting their money on the line to help out these soldiers and their families.

Our family is going to support this campaign with a small donation, and I'm going to support the company that put this together with a purchase of their product.  Jack Daniels is owned by Brown-Forman, who makes something for every taste.  If you're not a JD fan, I'm sure they make something you'll like.   I've also reached out to Brown-Forman and Jack Daniels and let them know how much I appreciate their efforts, and I encourage you to do the same.

Let's do something good for a company that's doing something good!

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Thanksgiving Giggle

Thoughts on the Day

  • Mental note - Do not store the chili powder and cinnamon in identical receptacles next to each other.  Although chili powder french toast might have tasted OK.
  • I have a very talented wife.  She was somehow able to burn her lips on a hair dryer.  No, it wasn't intentional contact.  No, I don't understand it either.
  • Thanksgiving math - a 21 pound turkey + 4 adults + 2 college students + 1 teenage girl + 1 Boo = 1 pound leftover turkey stripped from the carcass.
  • Bourbon - It's not just for breakfast anymore
  • It is a great compliment when your friend tells his wife that your roast turkey and gravy is better than hers and she agrees with you.
  • It is truly amazing how quickly a day of house cleaning can be ripped to shreds.
  • When you ask your daughter what she's thankful for, and she says "My Dad" your allergies can act up something fierce.


Size - 21 pounds
Activity - Roasting
Location - Kitchen
Unit - 321st Guards Gobbler Regiment, 3rd Shock Poultry Army
Time - 4 to 6 hours at 300 degrees
Equipment - Butter, salt, pepper, garlic, onion, apple

Target was last seen being probed with a temperature monitor and being covered.  Sources indicate a link up sometime this afternoon with mashed potatoes, gravy, cranberries, dressing, and pumpkin pie.

What They Said

I was going to write up something about the Occupy Wall Street movement in general and the pepper spraying incident at UC Davis last week, but Barron and Robb did it sooner and better than I could have.  Thanks for being so eloquent, gentlemen.

News Roundup

  • From the "Born to be Wild Turkey" Department - The Wild Turkey distillery, which by the way is a great place to hold a meeting,* has offered to take the turkeys President Obama pardoned recently to use as an attraction and as spokespoultry.  I support this idea.  Nothing tastes better than a bird that's been fed distiller's grain for months, then slowly smoked using the wood from old bourbon barrels.
  • From the "Shocked Face" Department - The NYPD is reporting that several make-shift weapons and large knives were found in Zuccotti Park after the Occupy Wall Street people were cleared off.  The kitchen knives I can understand because they were actually running a kitchen there for a while, but pipes wrapped in cardboard?  I guess it all went for nothing since the crowd left after the police showed up in force, but it doesn't take much for some bozo to turn a tense situation into a riot when he starts swinging for the fences against Officer Friendly. But of course, the peaceful protesters of OWS would have nothing to do with the injuries or property damage.
  • From the "Bunnies on the Boulevard" Department - Authorities in Colorado are looking for the person who dumped between 40 and 70 rabbits on the side of the road the other night.  My gut tells me that someone got few pet or meat rabbits and forgot to get two of the same sex, and they just got away from them reproduction-wise.  Of course, putting hutch or home raised bunnies in the wild is only good for the coyotes, so I certainly can't support the decision to set them free.  The rabbits were gathered up and are being taken care of by an animal rescue group.  The group is asking for community support in the form of donations of carrots, celery, potatoes, onions, red wine, and flour.  
  • From the "That Could Have Ended Badly" Department - The Swedish government is investigating an incident in which police mailed a loaded rifle to a forensics lab.  Apparently someone forgot to tell the good officers that dropping the magazine and clearing the chamber before boxing a gun up is a good idea.  Swedish authorities are planning on holding training to make sure that everyone knows that a loaded gun doesn't go in the post.  In related news, the Norwegian government has purchased 2000 surplus septic tanks from Russia, which they plan to use to invade Sweden as soon as they can figure out how to get the darned things started.
*I am blessed to live smack dab in the middle of bourbon country, and all of the major distilleries have meeting halls that different groups can rent out, hold a meeting, and have a 'tasting'.  

Today's Earworm

OK, folks, just hold your water until tomorrow and you can start the yearly Festival of Insanity.  But you have to wait until tomorrow, OK?

Giving Thanks

Here in the U.S., today is Thanksgiving.  This is the day we set aside to gather together, celebrate a good harvest feast, and remember to be thankful for the things we should be thankful for every day.

Here's my list for this year:

  • I'm thankful that my family is together, safe, and healthy.
  • I'm thankful that Irish Woman and I have been able to stay employed this year, when so many have not been so fortunate.
  • I'm thankful that I've been able to meet so many great people in the blog world this year, both in person and on-line.
  • I'm thankful that I've been able to contribute back to the soldiers that are protecting my family.
  • I'm grateful that, while things are tightening, my family has everything it needs.
  • I'm grateful that my ancestors didn't settle for what they were given, and gave up everything in order to come here and try to have more, both for them and for me.
  • And finally, I'm grateful that all of you humor me while I rant, go off on tangents, and tell bad jokes.  

I hope that all of you enjoy your holiday, and I look forward to doing this for a long time.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Thought for the Day

One good thing about taking Boo to the EENT is that there is no drawer of speculums for him to get into.

A Commercial Interruption

He once drove the entire family from Louisville to Columbus, just so he could walk around a zoo for two days.
When women see him walking around with a bag, they know it contains a change of toddler clothes and baby wipes, not his dancing shoes.
When he packs up to go to the range, he has to take the car seat out of the minivan to make room for the gun cases and target stands.
His most memorable morning was spent trying to figure out how to get baby puke out of a dress uniform prior to an inspection.
When visiting an auto dealership, he walks past the new sports car so he can get a better look at the latest incarnation of minivan or station wagon.
He takes a vacation day prior to a major holiday so that he can spend the day doing housework and taking the kids to McDonalds for lunch.

He is DaddyBear, the most domesticated wild man on Earth.

I do not drink often, but when I do, it's to get blind drunk and sleep in until 7 AM.  Stay whipped, my friend.

Morning Agenda

This morning I have:

  • Made Breakfast
  • Done dishes
  • Done laundry
  • Chased a three year old
  • Scrubbed the kitchen from top to bottom
  • Picked up the dining room and living room
  • Mopped floors
  • Scrubbed the bathroom from top to bottom
  • Chased a three year old
  • Picked up Boo's room, with his help
  • Put dinner in the crockpot
  • Chased a three year old
  • Taken the trash out
  • Taken the trash cans out to the curb
  • Begun preparing Thanksgiving goodies
  • Chased a three year old
  • Done more dishes
  • Done more laundry
  • Brought the trash cans back in
  • Chased a three year old
Specialization is for insects.  I think I could do the stay at home Dad thing for a while.

Go For It

Russian President Medvedev has threatened to deploy missiles to Kaliningrad and other parts of Russia with the mission of destroying NATO missile defense sites in the event of war.  Russia objects to the sites in principle, and seems to be peeved at the fact that NATO won't agree jointly running the sites with the Russians.

I'm not going to get into the usefulness of the anti-missile effort, or what its effectiveness would be in the event that Iran decides to launch missiles at Europe or North America.  That's a debate for another time.  And I think we all agree that the anti-missile program wouldn't be very useful in the event that Russia launches everything but the kitchen sink against the West.  By the way, I see that situation as being less and less likely the more that Russia and the West integrate politically and economically.

If Russia wants to station missiles of any kind on their soil, so be it.  Far be it from me to tell a sovereign nation what to do with their openly declared weapons.  But the Russians should remember that the policy of Mutually Assured Destruction still applies.  A fusillade of Iskander missiles launched against Poland will be treated as if they were launched against Wisconsin.  Rattle your saber all you want, but unsheath it, and we will have a problem.

Oh, and someone needs to remind the Russians that pointing missiles at the people who are making Russia rich buying their petroleum and natural gas isn't the smartest thing in the world to do.  Something tells me the Poles won't have any second thoughts about buying their energy from the Scandinavians if the Russians make aggressive moves against them.

Welcome to the Club

A 'performance artist' in New Hampshire is suing that state's government because park rangers at Mount Monadnock are requiring him to get a $100 permit and a $2 million insurance policy in order to dress up as Sasquatch, scare hikers, then ask them questions on camera.  His argument is that the permit requirement is an infringement of his 1st Amendment rights, and he's gotten the ACLU to agree and represent him.

I wish him luck, and I'd like to remind him that membership in the "Government Permit Required To Exercise Your Rights" club is cost free, and we have jackets and tee-shirts on the website.

Gun owners have dealt with this kind of thing for decades.  In most of the country, in order to exercise the "bear" part of "keep and bear", you have to pay for a training course, a background check, and a license to do so.  In some parts of the country, you have to go through that to just exercise the "keep" part, which is even worse.  While things are getting better, a lot of the country is "may issue", meaning that either someone who wants to carry a gun with them as they go through their day must prove to local authorities that they have a "need" to do so, or be politically connected to these authorities so that they can exercise their rights.

I guess now the government is telling this guy that he has to show a "need" to exercise his 1st Amendment rights.

So to the newest member of the "We get to exercise our rights when the government tells us we can" crowd, I say welcome.  We're considering having a get together in one of the freer states sometime, where we will create art, make political speeches, walk around safely with our guns, hold tent revivals, and a bunch of other things the Bill of Rights tells the government to keep its nose out of, but are still regulated in some way.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Product Review - Caldwell Emax Low Profile Hearing Protection

I absolutely hate in-the-ear hearing protection.  They're not comfortable to me, and I just can't use them if I want to speak to someone or hear what they're saying.  Yes, they're ubiquitous and cheap, but they're just not for me.

This past spring, I decided to take the plunge and get a pair of electronic earmuffs for shooting and high noise work.

Caldwell Emax Low Profile Earmuffs
Photo from Midway, USA website

I pretty much stumbled on electronic earmuffs by accident.   A friend of mine had an older pair and seemed to really like his.  I thought for $30 a pair, I could get these and try them out to see if a more expensive pair was worth the time.  I bought a pair of the EMax Low Profile Earmuffs and took them to the range.  After trying them, I've bought another pair for use when working with Girlie Bear or a new shooter at the range.  Their comfort and aid in hearing while wearing ear protection makes a huge difference over plain earmuffs or foam earplugs.

These electronic earmuffs feature a microphone on each ear, an adjustable headband, and a volume control that takes the sound from normal to very amplified depending on your needs and preferences.  One advantage I saw about these over some of the other models I've looked at is that access to the two AAA batteries is through a compartment on the outside of the earmuffs.  Other models required taking the cushion and internal electronics out in order to access the batteries.  The over-the-head band extends far enough that I could wear these comfortably over a hat and still place them securely over my ears.

There is a bit of hiss that is quite noticeable in a low-noise environment, but isn't distracting.  They cut off the microphones quite well when hearing a loud noise such as gunfire or a chainsaw motor, with little to no delay before going silent.  I have worn these doing yard work, at the Knob Creek machine gun shoot, to the range, and to the Lucky Gunner shoot with no ringing in my ears or other hearing issues afterwards.

I also wear these earmuffs when I'm out at Fort Knox doing volunteer work as a role player, and they have done an excellent job both in keeping my hearing safe from flash bang grenades and other nearby explosions and in staying on my head while I'm running and jumping around.  I cannot say the same about the Peltor earmuffs that are stocked at the range for role players.

One quibble with these is that since the padded cups are covered in plastic, you will sweat underneath them, necessitating taking a break occasionally to wipe them out.  However, the covering makes for an excellent seal between the cups and your skin.  Also, the vinyl covering has no cracking or deforming after several months of regular wear in both hot and cold conditions.

Overall, I'd say that these electronic earmuffs are a good value for someone who is a recreational shooter or needs good hearing protection while working around noise sources that cut in and out.  The sound quality from the microphones and speakers is good, and the ability to talk at a normal tone on the range and still hear is great.

Disclaimer - I received nothing for this review.  I paid for the product myself.

News Roundup

  • From the "Play Stupid Games" Department - Fox News is reporting that three American citizens have been arrested in Egypt after being accused of throwing Molotov cocktails during recent unrest in Cairo.  Here's a pro-tip from someone who's lived and travelled in a lot of places:  When overseas, you are probably wrong in an epic manner if you start taking part in local politics, especially if those politics are expressed with the exchange of rocks and gasoline-filled bottles for tear gas grenades and 7.62x39mm rounds.  These three knuckleheads should have stayed in their apartment, made sure their family knew they were OK, and kept their noses out of Egyptian politics.  Now they get to learn what real police suppression and brutality is all about.  
  •  From the "Foreign Entanglements" Department - Apparently, trying to figure out how we're going to get our own fiscal house in order isn't enough.  The Federal Reserve has opened up lines of credit for European banks in an effort to help them stave off their own disaster.  So we are not only going to be paying off debt we ran up to buy bread and circuses for our own people, now we're going to be paying off debt we're running up to make sure the bread and circuses keep flowing in Paris, Rome, Athens, Dublin, and Madrid. Brilliant!
  • From the "Manny, Moe, and Jack" Department - Carjackers in California were stymied when they found that they were unable to drive the car they had stolen, which had a manual transmission.  Kids these days, I tell you.  Time was when a teenager could hotwire a car, drive it with a clutch, steal the tires, and sell it to a chop shop all by himself.  Now we have three knuckleheads who have to hold up the owner for his keys, then abandon the car because they don't know how to drive a stick.  I blame the educational system.  Why aren't we teaching the children to be honest, self-reliant criminals like we did when I was growing up?
  • From the "Dictators Ain't What They Used To Be" Department - Russian Leader-For-Life Vladimir Putin tried to get in the spotlight at an MMA match the other day, was booed by thousands of people for his efforts, and was visibly shaken by the experience.  This just goes to show how far Russia has slipped in the past 50 years or so.  If Stalin had gone into the ring of a boxing match and not had the entire stadium clap and cheer for him until they all passed out from the effort, the NKVD would have surrounded the stadium, arrested, tortured, and executed everyone present, then arrested their families and deported them to Kazakhstan, then arrested and killed all of the agents involved so that all memories of the incident were wiped out.  In this case, the bloggers are having a flame war on the Internet.  Vladimir, I've studied Stalin, I've listened to Stalin, and you're no Josef Stalin.

Today's Earworm

This one's been going through my head since Irish Woman told me I should sleep with one eye open last night.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Thought for the Day

I think Boo might be a wizard, in the vein of Harry Potter.  He seems to only know one spell at the moment:  "Accio Crap My Father Doesn't Want Me To Have".  No matter what I take away from him, how high I put it, or how well I hide it, he always manages to have it again within minutes.  He's not able to overcome locks yet, so the gun safe is still secure, praise be.

I live in fear of the day he starts turning the cat into a teacup, though.

Surprise, Surprise, Surprise!

The 'Super Committee' is reporting that they won't be able to agree on which Chinese buffet to hit for lunch, much less how to cut $1.2 billion out of the budget over the next decade, and now Congress is scrambling to find a way to not enact the across the board cuts that were the stick meant to get the Committee to actually do something other than posture.

Please excuse me if I don't rend my clothes and rage at the gods in disbelief on this one.

When the Republicans blinked this summer and kept the government running so that this collection of thieves could get together for a few months to fiddle while Rome burns, I knew we were boned.  The truth is this:  Our spending, including the military and entitlement programs, is going to be cut.  We can either cut it voluntarily and in a way that softens the blow, or we can let the bond market dry up and then fight over the scraps.  Either way is going to suck, but the path of inaction chosen by Congress pretty much amounts to people on the side of a volcano going out to watch the fireworks as the lava flows inexorably closer. 

So what do I expect to happen?

For one, the stock and bond markets are going to start swinging wildly, but with a general downward curve for the near term.  The prices of real things, like gold, are going to restart their steady climb upwards.  Look for our national credit rating to take another hit.  In order to get suckers, I mean buyers, to purchase government bonds to continue to pay for the bread and circuses, the government is going to have to offer higher and higher interest rates, which will drive up the cost of credit for everyone.

In the long run, I see a general slump in the economy as raising prices drive most of us out of the non-essential markets, meaning nothing other than food, clothing, energy, and housing.  Hardest hit will be what's left of our manufacturing industries.  It's cheaper to repair an old car than it is to buy a new one when you're worried about whether or not you'll be able to afford groceries this week.  I see unemployment going nowhere fast, and a lot of people will drop off of the unemployment tracking as they just give up. 

Doom and gloom?  Yep.  Accurate?  I hope not, but then again, hope isn't a plan.

It's past time we accepted that we can't cash all the checks we've written in this country since 1934.  We have to cut back, way back.  $1.2 billion over a decade wasn't going to adequate, but at least would have been a good start.  Now we get to make popcorn and watch the thriving economy our grandparents created grind itself into the dust.

Thoughts on the Hunt

  • Fort Knox is a beautiful place to hunt, as always.  There is little to no activity in a lot of the areas except for Army training, so it's not a park.
  • Having limited access to your hunting area before the day of the hunt means lots of work done with maps and satellite images.  
  • Pro-tip - Maps and satellite images are not a substitute for good scouting.  What looked like a hay field in 2006 turned into 6 foot high brambles and brush by 2011.
  • Driving into your hunting area and seeing "Impact Area" signs off the side of the road gives you a good excuse to have the "If you didn't drop it, leave it alone" discussion with the kids.
  • A friend goes hunting with you.  A good friend changes his plans to come and pick you and Girlie Bear up when your truck refuses to start two days before the hunt.
  • It's called hunting, not harvesting.  I saw precisely one deer all day, and that was a buck that was too small to shoot.  Hunting Buddy's daughter saw a doe, but her dad didn't get a shot off.  All of us still had a good time.
  • Animal count for the day:  1 buck, 27 bluejays, 4 cardinals, and 27 squirrels the size of a Yorkshire terrier.
  • Sitting in the woods and listening to an armor unit go through a tank range a couple of miles away is pretty cool, actually.
  • Doing a full day at the urban warfare center followed by a full day of walking up and down hills then sitting still for several hours at a stretch makes for a very sore DaddyBear come Sunday morning.
  • Getting your daughter away from the TV, radio, little brother, older brother, friends, and homework for a day to just sit in the woods and talk quietly is worth more than any amount of meat in the freezer.

Good for her!

A mother here in Kentucky came home with her two children to find an uninvited guest helping himself to a few of her possessions.  Confronted with an intruder, the lady didn't choose to cower or to run away from danger.  She defended her home and her family:

According to police, she went to the basement and confronted someone who was in the process of taking items, including her shotgun.
"There was a struggle over that weapon," Said Sgt. Armstrong. "The struggle led to the suspect and the homeowner fighting over the gun all the way out to the driveway of the home where the suspect was shot."
Like Kathy Jackson says, if you have to fight, fight like a cornered cat.

The troglodyte in question is now in the hospital after taking a shotgun blast.  While I won't shed many tears over the death of someone who makes a habit out of breaking into homes and scaring women and children, I hope he survives.  I want him to go to prison and tell the story of how he ended up with such pretty scars.  Maybe his example will knock some sense into a couple of other knuckleheads.

Update - The scumbag in question later died of his wounds.  While I don't relish the death of another human being, this one was pretty much self-inflicted.  Don't want to get shot by an homeowner?  Then don't break into houses.  Notch another one up for the DGC.

Community Organizer

Sung to the tune of "Sweet Transvestite" from "The Rocky Horror Picture Show", with apologies to Richard O'Brien.

How do you do? I
See you've met my 
Lapdog media men
They're just a little overwhelmed
Because covering my butt
Is becoming too much for their acumen

Don't get too mad
About the way I govern
Don't judge a man by his actions
I'm not much of a leader
By the light of day
But by night 
I lead one heck of a faction!

I'm just a community organizer!
From socialist
Chicago, Illinois!

Let me lead you around
Your property we could impound
You look like you've already got enough
Or if you want to argue about it
Or call my VP a twit
I can have the IRS start to play rough

I'm glad we caught you at home
You elitist drone
You're usually out on vacation
I'm glad that you finally made par
Now we'll go live in our car
And try to find a new vocation

Well, the economy's flat!
Well, how 'bout that?
Well voters, don't get cranky.
I'll sleep on it tonight
And if the unions say it's all right
I'll get you money from Ben Bernanke!

I'm just a community organizer!
From socialist
Chicago, Illinois!

So why don't you come over from the right?
I don't want to fight
I would rather take your favorite possessions
I've been forming a compromise
With obfuscation and quite a few lies
And that's good for the next election

I'm just a community organizer!
From socialist
Chicago, Illinois!

So, come up to the Hill
And choke down a bitter pill
I see you quiver with exasperation
But maybe your pain
Is just for my gain
So I'll do it all for the cause
But not the citizens!

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Joke of the Day

A tourist to North Dakota was bragging to Ole Peterson about all of the things he'd seen.

"Why, Ole, I've been to the Grand Canyon!  It's so big that if you stand at the edge and yell "Peterson" down into it, it takes 10 seconds for it to say "Peterson" back to you!"

Ole thought about that for a minute, and then said "Oh, dat's nuttin! Ve got a lake up near Minot so big that if you stand on the edge and yell "Peterson", it takes about 10 seconds for you to hear "Vich Peterson?" come back at you!"

SCADA, SCADA, Shedoobie

Borepatch puts up some good points about IT security in general, and SCADA systems in particular, when he discusses the damage done by vandals using the controller for a water pump to disrupt operations at a water plant in Illinois.

I sort of tongue-in-cheek talked about IT security a few months ago with my 4 Rules of IT Security, and Borepatch added a 5th:  Boot it and they will come.

He couldn't be more right.

Any system, be it a gaming console, a laptop, a smartphone, or the controllers for a nuclear power plant, can be compromised given access and time.  The ideal is to make it hard enough for someone to get in that they can't do it before you notice and shut them down.  The least you can do is to know they were there so that you know what was damaged or stolen after they're gone and you notice it.

So what do you do?

If you're in IT, you bake security into the cake when you're designing new software, systems, or products.  You balance user requirements against security best practices, with the scales always tipped towards protecting the information and business that your system services.  You patch early, and patch often, and double-check to make sure that your systems aren't vulnerable to new vectors of attack.  You retrofit security into existing business processes and systems as much as you can, and you always watch your systems for early signs that someone is doing something nefarious.  And for Cthulhu's sake, if you're taking care of SCADA systems, start jumping up and down on your vendor's desk to get them to do something about the abysmal state of their systems.  Do that about 3 minutes after making sure it's hard as heck to get to your SCADA from the Internet, of course.

At work, if you're not in IT, pay attention to the excruciatingly boring security briefings and policies that you're regularly asked to attend and read.*  You think about what you're using your computer for, and try to not do anything that will compromise it.  You keep yourself educated enough that you recognize someone trying to trick you into giving up the keys to your particular kingdom.

At home, you are probably your own IT guy, so act like it.  Educate yourself about the technology you have in your home the same as you do about the technology under the hood of your car.  Keep your systems patched the same as you would change the oil in your car.*  A quick pro-tip here:  If the company that produced your operating system announces that there won't be any more patches to your system, replace it.  They're not announcing that there isn't anything left to fix, they're announcing that they're giving up for financial reasons. Also, use firewalls, both at the point where the Internet comes into your home, and on your systems.  I'm a Unix and Mac guy, and it pains me to say it, but Microsoft has come a long way in the security realm, so if you're using Windows, use the built in and bolt-on security software to your advantage.

What else can you do?  If you use USB keys, be wary of putting information that can harm you on something so easily stolen or lost.  If you have to keep your financial or personal information on a USB key, then encrypt it.  Stay out of the seedier areas of the Internet, and always be on the look out for Nigerian princes who want to give you money.  Watch your credit cards, bank accounts, and other business dealings so that you know if someone has compromised your information.  Regularly check your credit report to make sure someone hasn't gotten hold of your identity and opened a bunch of new accounts in your name.

Basically, take care of your information security the same way you would take care of your physical security. Lock your computer the same way you would lock your doors.  Use the most high-powered technology you can handle to protect your information the same way you would carry the most powerful handgun you can handle to protect your body.

*We enjoy writing and presenting them almost as much as you do going through them, trust me.

**If you don't know much about the engine in your car or change your own oil, you should probably pay to have someone to regularly service your computer the same way you do your car.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Product Review - New Menu MRE's

Since today was hunt day for Girlie Bear and me, I decided to have a treat for lunch and grabbed two MRE's out of the camping gear.  These are from the new menu, and I haven't tried them, so I thought I'd try them out.

Girlie Bear got Beef Stew and I got Beef Brisket.  Here are my impressions:

  • Beef Stew - Dinty Moore quality.  'Nuf said.
  • Beef Brisket - For those of you who remember C-Rats, it was almost identical in taste and texture to Beef in Sauce.  It did, however, come with a tear-open packet of pretty good barbecue sauce to mix in.  This, however, made the meal almost soupy enough to drink.  It also came with a 'biscuit' that when mixed in made it a bit easier to eat with the included spoon.
  • Garlic Mashed Potatoes - The side dish for the Beef Stew meal.  These weren't too bad, actually, but garlic mashed potatoes in field rations?  Really?  These must have been what the packet of Butter Buds in the accessory pack was intended for. 
  • Desserts - The Beef Stew came with a spiced pound cake, which Girlie Bear reported was quite yummy. The Beef Brisket came with what I call a "M&M Cookie", but is described on the package as a "Cookie with Pan Coated Chocolate Disks".  Both Girlie Bear and I gave this a thumbs up.
  • Hot Drinks  - The Beef Brisket came with hot cocoa, and the Beef Stew came with vanilla cappuccino.  Apparently, the days of mixing your instant coffee, cocoa, sugar, and creamer to make a poor man's mocha are over.  These came in a new container, which is basically an hourglass shaped mylar envelope with a closer like a Zip-Loc bag on it.  The powder is in the envelope already, allowing the soldier to tear open the top, add water, re-close the envelope, shake to mix, then drink.  If hot water isn't available, cold water can be used, and the drink can be heated using the meal's heater packet.  Not sure how these taste or how easy it is to drink a hot liquid from a mylar envelope, but I'm going to give one of these a try tomorrow.
  • Accessory Packet - The coffee, creamer, and sugar are no longer included, at least not in these meals.  To me, this would be a problem, as one of my favorite tricks when I absolutely had to stay awake through exhaustion was to either put the instant coffee between my cheek and gums like it was chewing tobacco or to place it a granule at a time under my eyelids.  Either way, the pain and caffeine being absorbed directly into the blood stream would keep me awake for at least a few hours.  For those not that psychotic or self-hating, the ability to make a quick cup of coffee after gathering the fixings from several MRE's was a lifesaver.   The Beef Brisket included a miniature bottle of Tobasco sauce, as was usual after the First Gulf War.  However, the Beef Stew instead had the Butter Buds flavoring for the potatoes instead.  Again, I see this as a problem.  The stew, while OK in flavor, definitely needed something added, especially if a soldier is going to be eating this item once every few days.
Overall, the two meals were pretty good, especially when compared with some of the other MRE's I've eaten (Shelf stable omelet, anyone?).  My main quibbles are with how practical I see the hot beverage container and the lack of instant coffee and Tobasco in the accessory pack.  That being said, I would much rather spend several months eating this fare over the meals I regularly got in the 1990's, even when the first menu changes came along in 1996 and 1997.

Disclaimer - I didn't get anything for this review.  I paid for the product with my own money.
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