Friday, December 31, 2010

Review of the Year

This has been a very interesting year.

My oldest has graduated high school and is off to college.  So far so good on that front.

The day job continues apace.  Some changes, but still the same basic job.  There are enough people out of a job nowadays that I won't complain.

Irish Woman's job has been chaotic, but things are evening out.  She still labors at making doctors happy with technology, which is still the most thankless job I've ever seen in IT.  She also labors with the madness that is life with me and my hellions, so she has more steel in her soul than most.

Girlie Bear is starting to show symptoms of teenagerhood.  She continues to enjoy doing stuff with her old dad, but frilly dresses, lip gloss, and boys are creeping in.  She's discovered science fiction and is reading it as fast as I acquire it for her.

Little Bear is doing very well in school, and has started looking forward to high school.  In 4 years, I'll be halfway through getting my kids through school.

BooBoo has firmly ensconced himself as the apple of his mother's eye, and his dad thinks a lot of him too.  Parenting is becoming easier as I learn to understand what he says.

The other pets are still crazy.  We have gone an entire year without gaining any mammals in the household, which is pretty amazing considering our track record.

Over the last year I've met a lot of good folks through the #GBC, and I hope that this year I will actually meet them in meatspace.  I plan on going to a bloggershoot or two, and am trying to figure out finances to make it to the NRA convention in Pittsburg this May so I can meet the cool kids.

I hope this year has been as good for everyone else.  I really appreciate the feedback y'all give me in exchange for my brain droppings.  I hope everyone has a safe and happy New Year!

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Today's Musing

There appears to be a direct relationship between how bad I feel when I'm sick and how many cats cuddle up with me while I try to get some sleep.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Monday, December 27, 2010

Christmas Recap

Well, the yearly global period of madness is almost over.  My faith in humanity is returning.  We at Case de Oso had a good Christmas, but I was reminded again why my ancestors spent the winter huddled around a fire drinking. 

As I mentioned earlier, Boo had a solid case of the ick, but antibiotics and prescription strength decongestants are kicking strep throat's butt.  By Christmas Eve at 7 PM, he was ready to take on the world.  By which I mean he was ready to enact flying headbutts to my thighs in order to get me to wrestle with him.

Christmas Eve evening found me starting to not feel well, and by bedtime on Christmas I was well and truly sick.  A quick trip to the doc in the box on Sunday found me with a raging case of strep throat (hooray for parenting a sick kid!) and a sinus infection.   I'm not surprised.  The treatments I get for my arthritis work by suppressing parts of my immune system, so I'm quite susceptible to whatever bugs come down the pike.  Also, having at least one family member sick is a family Christmas tradition.  I'm on a pretty strong antibiotic to kill whatever is at work.  In order to feel human while the immune system does its magic, I decided to get some good cold medicine at the pharmacy.  After going through the criminal background check to get sudafed, I am reminded again why I hate meth.  The paperwork to get Aleve Cold and Sinus pills was almost as onerous as the one I fill out to buy a gun.

Christmas Eve afternoon found Little Bear, Girlie Bear, and me in Walmart doing their Christmas shopping.  Boo was given a talking Woody doll from Toy Story to match the Buzz Lightyear he got for his birthday.  He was also given a Viking combat kit, which consists of a horned helmet, a war axe, and a shield.  He took to that like a duck to water.  It's good to see that some of the ancestral memories live into the next generation.  The kids picked out a purse for their mom, and found a very nice flannel nightgown for Irish Woman.  Now I don't normally purchase clothing for any woman.  Finding something that A.  looks nice on them and B fits is too much of a mine field.  But I figured it's a nightgown, what could happen?

Christmas Eve dinner at our home is traditionally Swedish Meatballs.  Been that way since before I was born.  This year we broke tradition and made pasta and marinara sauce with spicy Italian Sausages.  Why, you might ask?  Well, when one wishes to make Swedish Meatballs and goes to the store to buy groceries for said meal, it is usually a good idea to actually purchase the meat for said meatballs.  But the Italian food was good, and no-one complained. 

That evening, we let the kids open the bulk of their presents.  All of the presents from parents and to each other were opened on Christmas Eve, while stockings and "Santa" gifts were opened on Christmas morning.  The older kids had already been given their big Christmas present, so they mostly got books and clothes.  I gave Little Bear his first Heinlein novel, The Green Hills of Earth, and Girlie Bear got the "Olympians" trilogy, which she squeed over.  Apparently I'm a cool dad for letting her read sci-fi that doesn't include sparkly vampires.  As a side note, I'd like to thank all of you who made suggestions on what to get a young girl to get her into sci-fi.  It worked.

Irish Woman was very happy with the nightgown the kids bought her.  That is, until she tried to put it on for bed.  Apparently we bought it two sizes too small.  Ooops.  And this children is why DaddyBear doesn't buy women clothing.  She was a good sport about it, but I could tell she'd rather be wearing a new nightgown rather than the sweats she changed into.

BooBoo, being the only Santa believer in the house, made out like a bandit on toys.  He got himself an easel for arting, oodles of books, both reading and coloring, and a Radio Flyer tricycle.  To say that the trike is a hit would be an understatement. He climbed on it first thing Christmas morning, and had to be coaxed off of it to open his other presents.  I'd like to put a shout out to the engineers at Radio Flyer: Thank you so much for not messing with a good design.  In an age where I budget three hours to put together stuff on Christmas Eve, that little trike went together with a hammer, a crescent wrench, and a screwdriver in less than 20 minutes. 

After taking the two older kids over to their mom's for the rest of Christmas break, we trundled over a friend's house for Christmas dinner.  Our friend provided the hall, drinks, sides, and dessert.  We provided Beef Stroganoff.   A good time was had by all, and Irish Woman was able to imbibe since I didn't feel up to drinking.  She sampled a new product our friends had found, which was Woodford Reserve Maple Finish Bourbon. Basically, Woodford Reserve took several barrels of their single barrel bourbon, and after appropriate aging in oak barrels, let it sit for a few months in a maple barrel.  Irish Woman reported that it had a very snappy finish, and the maple really came out in the end.  I will have to try it next time we're over.

Yesterday was spent doing not much at all other than cleaning up the inevitable mess of dishes and such.  I did get to take a nap for almost an hour, and that luxury reminds me how precious sleep is.

Today, it's back to the old grind, but it's a short week, and I hope to be well enough to have a few drinks to bring in the New Year. 

I hope everyone had themselves a good Christmas!

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Thursday, December 23, 2010


No snark here today, sorry.

To the receptionist who was able to squeeze BooBoo into an appointment today, thank you.
To the adults who shared a waiting room with us for almost an hour and a half, I'm so very sorry.  Thank you for your patience while I tried to keep a cranky two year old entertained.
For the nurse who took us back to the smaller interior waiting room and put on cartoons for BooBoo, thank you oh so much.
To our wonderful family doctor who gave up half her lunch break today to see BooBoo, thank you.

Today I was reminded why I love going to a small practice in our neighborhood.  Turns out Boo just has the ick, and will be fine in a couple of days.  We were just worried it was something that would get worse over the holiday weekend.

Zombie Cadence

When I was in the Army, one of my favorite marching cadences was "The Army Colors".  This is slightly different.

The zombie colors
The colors are red
To show the world
That we're undead

The zombie colors
The colors are black
To show the world
We'll eat your back

The zombie colors
The colors are blue
To show the world
We shamble on through

The zombie colors
The colors are white
To show the world
We own the night

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Combat Preparation

The old warrior slowly ran the stone down the length of his sword.  This weapon had been made for his grandfather, and he was planning on passing it along to his own grandson.  He could be buried with some of his lesser weapons, but this piece of family hardware would pass down the line along with the strong bodies and tough minds that had set him and his brothers apart during the wars.  Once the edge was sharp enough to shave with, he ran an oiled rag down its length to protect it from the elements.

Next came the shield.  He polished the leather, wood, and iron of it lovingly.  He noted every chip and dent, remembering the blows that had made their mark over the years.  He would need this old friend's protection again today.

Next came his war kilt, chain mail shirt, and helm.  He strapped his sword across his back, and attached his long dagger to his ankle where it would make a good back up weapon.

Bowing his head before starting his march to battle, he prayed to the gods, both old and new, to protect him as he faced the ravening hordes he was sure to encounter today.  He thought of all the old comrades who had gone before him, and the young men who had come home half mad from the sights he was heading towards today.

Once both his body and spirit were armed and armored, he stepped out onto the black plain that lead to his goal.  He squared his shoulders, but knew that today might be his last.  Too many gray hairs graced his head, too many battles over the years ran through his memory for him to expect to see the sun set on this day.

As he walked forward to battle, the sights and sounds of this day burned into his soul.  The high pitched ringing of a bell, the soft music that filled the air, the old warrior knew they would be the sounds that would take him to Valhalla.  The red and black clad herald of  the madness within greeted him as he walked through doors that magically opened for him.  The noise of the horde immediately pressed on him like a wave.  Undaunted, he waded into the lair of the enemy, intent on his purpose.

The last thing he heard before the noise drowned out all sanity was the merry calling of the door keeper:

"Merry Christmas!  Welcome to Walmart!"

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Military Christmas Memory

So no kidding, there I was.

Just prior to Christmas 1991, I was assigned weekend duty as the driver/runner for our battalion's Staff Duty NCO (SDNCO).  Basically, a Staff Sergeant and I  spent Friday night and Saturday sitting in the basement of our battalion's barracks, answering the phone, signing personnel in and out of the unit, and making sure that the revelers in the Op Stop battalion bar didn't get too rowdy.

Yes Virginia, my battalion operated a bar in the basement of our barracks.  Our commanders made the sensible decision sometime in the 1970's that it made more sense to fill the unit's morale fund by selling beer and well drinks to the soldiers in the barracks than by holding bake sales and car washes.  Also, this kept that group of burgeoning alcoholics out of the bars and off the roads.  This kept the SDNCO and the battalion leadership from having to bail soldiers out of jail for fighting and DUI.  As a matter of fact, prior to the Op Stop being shut down in 1993, our unit went 12 years without a DUI.  Considering that the majority of the battalion was aged 20 to 25 and were being set free in a country where alcohol in all its forms ran freely at periodic festivals designed specifically for drinking them, that's quite an accomplishment.  The weekend after we pulled down the bar in the Op Stop, we had 4 DUI's.  That's probably something to consider when you try to keep people from doing things you don't approve of. They'll probably still do them, but probably won't do them in as safe a place as you've just taken away.

Anyway, that December weekend saw our valiant troops doing their best to drink Bavaria dry, and I was sent down the hall several times to turn down the music and the drunks.  About 3 AM the sergeant I was working with went down and shut the lights off.  A crowd of about 50 rather inebriated, highly trained, and motivated soldiers then tromped upstairs.

It had been snowing all evening and into the night.  I went out every so often to sweep the snow from the walk in the front of the building and the front steps.  I planned to shovel the parking lot after breakfast on Saturday.

Saturday morning came with a brilliant winter's sunrise, and was followed very closely by the battalion's Command Sergeant Major.  This senior NCO was feared and loved by us all.  He was what we called a Tusker.  He was an old elephant who had come home to Augsburg to finish out his career.  He had probably lived in about half of the barracks on our little post over the course of his 30 years.  Only the occasional inconvenience of being sent back to the States for a year or so had kept him away from Augsburg. He was also one of the few people I ever met with an Army Security Agency combat patch.

After checking in with us and chatting about how bad the roads were and how glad he was that he lived within walking distance to post, the Sergeant Major walked upstairs to his office on the third floor.  Moments later, the phone rang.

"What the !#$!@# is going on down on the battalion square?" this normally calm, composed old soldier was yelling into the phone.  A quick look out the back door let me know that my Saturday was going to be long and difficult.

After leaving the Op Stop that morning, the dedicated warriors of our battalion had neither walked home nor gone upstairs to their rooms.  They had taken advantage of the cover of darkness and the newly fallen snow to erect an erotic winter wonderland in the battalion square.  Every conceivable sexual position had been crafted in snowpeople.  They must have worked at it for several hours, because there were about 25 snowpeople engaging in a frozen orgy.

The SDNCO gave me charge of the desk and ran upstairs to wake up everyone he could find.  Over the next hour or so the still drunk and hung over soldiers of our little intel unit obliterated their works of art under the watchful eye of an irate Command Sergeant Major   While no pictures were taken that morning, I later saw several Polaroids of the figures as they were being constructed. A military operation of such stealth and social worth has not since been accomplished.  While there was some grumbling about innocence and being made to knock down such fine works of sculpture, there was also quite a bit of giggling as the obscene statuary was destroyed.

In memory of this wonderful holiday memory, I give you this:

On Finances

Yesterday afternoon the United States Postal Service dropped a week's worth of bills, junk mail, mail-order boxes, and Christmas cards in my mailbox.  It's the first mail we've had since last Tuesday, but I digress.

Amidst the Christmas packages and credit card offers was a small envelope from the bank.  It contained the title transfer document for the van.   We recently paid it off, which means that we paid off all three vehicles early.

I took a moment to think about that.  For the first time in a decade, I do not have a car payment.  The truck, the Irish Woman's little beep-beep, and the minivan are all paid off.

It feels very liberating to be able to look at my budget for January and see that nice chunk of a few hundred dollars that can be directed somewhere else.  My plans are to put about a third of it into the general budget to ease up some of the restrictions I've put on our expenditures.  The rest will be used to pay off other debt we have run up over the years.  If I play my cards right we will be debt free except for a mortgage in twelve to eighteen months.

This makes me think about our government and its seemingly endless inability to stop spending money like water.  Every year it seems there's another reason to borrow an even higher level of debt.  One year the Air Force wants a whole new fighter fleet, the next it's a president's pet social project.  My grandparents' generation set up a basic social safety net in the 1930's.  This was expanded greatly in the 1960's, and President Obama is doing his best to expand its scope beyond even FDR and LBJ's wildest imaginations.

Look, I have compassion for poor people and old folks. But I'm also a realist.  Unlike my parents, I fully expect to pay into Social Security and Medicare my entire life and never see a dime for it when I finally stop working.  Unlike the Baby Boomer generation, I understand basic economics to some degree.  I realize that we as a nation can't continue to spend the money our grandchildren will be making and expect for there to be anything left in a few years, much less the two to three decades I plan to continue to work.

Austerity is needed.  Across the board, the government needs to at the very least stop the growth in spending.  Every program that takes money from the public kitty needs to be scrutinized and pared down or eliminated.  The military, as much as it pains me to say this, needs to swallow hard and cancel programs that replace systems that are still serviceable.  There probably needs to be a needs test for Social Security and Medicare.   The money being spent on the wars on drugs and terrorism needs to be evaluated.   All of those nice pet project earmarks in legislation need to be stripped out. Even normally untouchable popular expenditures like student aid need to cut back for the good of the country.

Austerity programs are rarely popular, and usually hurt some more than others.  Life's tough, and it's rarely fair. We've been on a drunken bender of spending for two generations in this country.  We need to wake up, sober up, and grow up.  Until our financial house is in order, we need to be honest with ourselves and stop spending money on things we can live without.  Some will suffer, but we will all benefit.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Puerto Rico has a National Basketball Team?

Local basketball coach and Italian restaurant trawler, Rick Pitino, has been selected to coach the Puerto Rican national basketball team as it tries to qualify for the 2012 Olympics.

Congratulations to Mr. Pitino.   Coaching at the Olympics would be an honor to anyone, and working with these athletes to get them there will be a feather in his cap even if they don't make it.  Good luck to all of you!

But this begs the question:  Why does Puerto Rico have a national basketball team?  Last I checked it was still a territory of the United States.  Heck, they've had several votes to either try for statehood or go on their own during my lifetime and decided to stay right where they are.

For some reason, the fact that there is a Puerto Rican national basketball team seems to catch in my craw.

The United States provides the people of Puerto Rico with the protection of our military.  Our laws, including NAFTA, have special provisions giving some industries tax breaks for setting up shop on the island.  Heck, when goods are imported onto the island from other countries, the import duties are paid to the territorial government, not the U.S. 

By some economists Puerto Rico's economy is considered somewhat fictitious. Puerto Rico has very few natural resources of economic value and its economy relies mainly on Federal Aid from the United States Government, which depends on the industrialization programs and the tax incentives that U.S. offers.

In 2002, the Federal government sent $4,793,333,000.00 to Puerto Rico in the form of direct aid to the Territorial government.  To put that in perspective, Puerto Rico received five times as much from the Federal government as all other U.S. Territories combined.  Another thing to consider is that Puerto Rico received more federal aid than the District of Columbia.  DC is almost fully supported by the Federal government, and it still didn't get as much money as this one territory.

Apparently Puerto Rico wants to have their cake and eat it too.  They want the money and safety of being part of the Land of the Round Doorknob, but don't want the responsibility of being a state.  They want the ability to act like a sovereign nation but don't want to take the responsibility of feeding themselves.

I'm not sure if the United States has the power to tell a territory that they're on their own, but if we do, then maybe it's time to pat the Puerto Rican Territorial government on the butt and watch them leave the nest.  No more tax breaks.  No more free military protection.  No more monthly check from Uncle Sugar.  You want to have your own treasury, laws, culture, and national basketball team?  Go ahead.  Good luck in trying to drag yourself up from being a Caribbean backwater.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Mental Note

When writing a note to your Congressman, using the salutation "Dear Thieving Bastard," is probably not conducive to getting cooperation from your elected official.

Random Christmas Verses

'twas the night before Christmas
And all through the house
Everyone was pissed
Including my spouse.

All I want for Christmas is a two bore rifle
A two bore rifle
A two bore rifle
Yes all I want for Christmas is a two bore rifle
So I can keep those kids off my lawn!

I saw the agent frisking Santa Claus
Over at the terminal last night

(I didn't write this one, but it's one of my favorite Christmas carols)
In the village there is a commie
Walking with an AK in his arms
Maybe he's thinking of his mommy
And hoping we won't do him any harm
Later on, we'll conspire
To lock, load, and fire.
Lock and load a round
Commie hits the ground
Walking in a sniper's wonderland

I still want a hula hoop earworm

Friday, December 17, 2010

Thought for the day

When the Christmas season in general, and the local news in particular have you in a funk, sitting on the couch and watching Finding Nemo with your youngest is the best medicine.

Today's Christmas Earworm

Someone had a lot of time on his hands.  Seizure warning on this one, either from laughter or blinking lights.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Repost: Happy Bill of Rights Day!

Yesterday was the anniversary of the final ratification of the U.S. Constitution and the Bill of Rights.  This is a repost from a couple of years ago.  Enjoy!

On this date in 1791, the first 10 amendments to the United States Constitution were ratified.
For those of you who took a hit of blotter acid prior to civics class in high school, these are the ones that say what the government isn't allowed to do to you. These are rights, not privileges. They're not granted by the government. We grant power to the government so that these rights can be safeguarded. Sometimes we forget that.

Here are all of the amendments to the constitution and my interpretation of them. This is a long one, but I think you'll like it. H/T to Wikipedia on this one.

Amendment # 1
The government can't force you to have religion, and the government can't force you not to express your religion. It's none of their business. You can say or print pretty much anything you want to and the government can't do much to stop you. This right will not, however, keep your ass from getting kicked due to what you say or print. We can all get together to do something as long as we're not hurting anyone, and we can complain to the government any time we want to when they screw up. Some people make a living doing this. What a country.

Amendment # 2
We have to defend ourselves, sometimes from the government itself, and the government can't take away our guns or stop us from getting them. And it's no one's business but my own what I have.

Amendment # 3
The government can't force me to put up and feed soldiers during peacetime, although I can pay for their beer if I want to, and during time of war, they have to actually pass a law forcing me to do this. But all they'd have to do is ask nicely, and I'll sleep on the couch so a couple of paratroopers can get a good nights sleep and a good breakfast.

Amendment # 4
Got a warrant? No? Then come back when you get one. Please put that thermal imaging system away. And thanks for being a cop.

Amendment # 5
The government can't just drag me into court. You have to convince people just like me that I've actually committed a crime. The government only gets to try to throw my fat self into jail for doing something once. The government can't force me to testify against myself, and I'm not saying anything until my lawyer gets here. The government can't take my land to build a strip mall unless you actually pay me for it. And that better be a really nice strip mall.

Amendment # 6
The government has to let me have a lawyer. Hopefully one with a clue. The government can't throw me into jail for a few years before they get around to actually accusing and trying me. I can't be arrested in Kentucky and tried in Minnesota for something I did in New Mexico. I have to be told what I'm being accused of, and the government can't stop me from trying to prove that their witnesses aren't lousy stinking lieing rats who should be thrown in front of a truck.

Amendment # 7
We have to take our arguments to be decided by 12 people who couldn't get out of jury duty.

Amendment # 8
The government can't hold you on $2 million dollars bail for spitting on the sidewalk, and they can't fine you that $2 million for said spitting. As satisfying as flogging a child molester or hanging a multiple murderer up to his neck in pig droppings would be, some panty waisted loser would have his feelings hurt, and we can't have that.

Amendment # 9
Just because we didn't think of it in here, doesn't mean it's not a right. This must be where that right to choice is.

Amendment # 10
The federal government only gets those powers that are given to it in the Constitution. If it's not in here, they don't get it. All of that stuff goes to the states, or better yet, the actual people who pay taxes and keep the train rolling.

Amendment # 11
The Federal courts can't be used by anyone to sue a state unless the state agrees to participate. So you have to have their consent to try to sue them. Good luck with all that.

Amendment # 12
Way too long to put the text in here, but basically, we vote for electors, the electors vote for President and Vice President, and if you can't be President for some reason, you don't get to be Vice President. From the length of the amendment, you can see that the lawyers had already taken over by 1804.

Amendment # 13
You don't get to own other people. And the government can pass laws to make sure you don't. As a transplant to Kentucky, I can tell you there are a lot of people who either have a problem with this one, or haven't heard about it yet.

Amendment # 14
Again, the lawyers must have eaten their Wheaties when they wrote this one. Way too long, but they were trying to cover a lot of bases with one amendment. First, if you're born in the United States, you're a citizen, even if mama came across the border only to have you in the ER in San Diego. Second, every person in a state is counted as a whole human being when figuring out how many electors the states get for electing the President. No more math in figuring out what 3/5th's of a person is. Third, if you made an oath to the Confederacy, you don't get to be a part of the government. No kidding? You can't be an officer of a government you tried to overthrow? We actually had to write that down? Fourth, we're going to pay our debts, but I'll be damned if we'll pay off the debts of the Confederacy.

Amendment # 15
Ex slaves get to vote, and Congress can pass laws making sure they get to. We passed this on in 1870. Only took 80 or 90 years for this one to be enforced at all.

Amendment # 16
Congratulations, the government figured out a way to punish you for making more money than it takes to keep your family at the poverty level. And there's nothing you can do about it.

Amendment # 17
Another wordy one. We get to directly pick our Senators in an election, instead of the former manner, which involved something resembling the "Twit of the Year" contest.

Amendment # 18
Yet another one that was written by a committee. You can't be trusted to drink alcohol, so it's illegal. Everywhere. Unless you happen to be a Kennedy.

Amendment # 19
Women get the vote. Whoopee. Pants suits for everyone.

Amendment # 20
For the love of God, were they being paid by the word? The President and Vice President have to show up to work in January, and the Congress actually has to show up once a year.

Amendment # 21
18th Amendment? We don't need no stinking 18th Amendment! You have to believe in something, and I believe I'll have a beer.

Amendment # 22
You only get to be President for two terms. Not 4, just 2. No President for life. At least not again.

Amendment # 23
The District of Columbia gets to actually have someone represent them in the Presidential election. They just don't get a Senator or Congressman with an actual vote.

Amendment # 24
You can't be denied your right to vote because you can't pay a tax. You should have to pass an intelligence test, but we haven't passed that amendment yet.

Amendment # 25
The Vice President gets to be President if he bumps off the President.

Amendment # 26
18 year olds get to vote. Still can't buy a beer, but they can at least vote for the guys who keep them from drinking.

Amendment # 27
The accidental amendment. Proposed in 1789, ratified in 1992. If a Congressman votes himself another unearned raise, he has to go through another election cycle before he starts to rake it in. This one is also a monument to that great American motto "I'll get around to it".

So that's it. 27 amendments to the document that has governed the country since its founding. Not bad for a bunch of oppressors, or as we who actually deserve to be protected by the Constitution would call them, the illustrious geniuses who designed and founded our Republic.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

The Closing of the Year

This song always touches me because it reminds me of when I first heard it, which is a story for another time.



Her name was Marina, and she taught me conversational Serb.  Or at least she tried. For the most part the three young soldiers who met with her for two hours every morning just let her talk.  It was better to watch her and listen to her birdlike voice talk to us about life in Bosnia, how things were said, and how different groups said the same thing in different ways.  She had no English, but spoke enough Russian that when we didn't understand her she could explain herself to us.

She was a couple of years older than me, and was beautiful in an all-American Bosnian girl kind of way.  She had green eyes, a creamy white complexion, and had dyed her hair that reddish purple color that European women seemed to favor in the early 1990's.  The difference was that she made it look good in the semi-unruly just-tumbled-out-of-bed she was able to pull off day after day. 

I didn't talk much, but she didn't mind doing most of the talking.  You sit across from a goddess for two hours a day and try to speak in a foreign language.  I was lucky to be able to speak English, let alone Serb, to her.

She came from a small village near Mostar, and had gone to university in Sarajevo.  Her family was Muslim, but wasn't religious.  She had studied to be an engineer of some kind, and hoped that after her gig with the U.S. Army that she could find a good job with a German company.   Her refugee status didn't allow it, but her husband (damn the luck, and my own wedding ring) had applied for a work permit, and things were looking good. 

She had married her university sweetheart, and moved with him to a small town near Tuzla.  When the Bosnian war broke out, her husband and all of his male relatives had ended up in one militia or another under the Bosnian government's umbrella.  She had stayed home until the night her Serb neighbors decided it would be nice to live in a Muslim free area.  That night she, her mother-in-law, and young sister-in-law got out just ahead of the mob.  Her neighbors who didn't leave everything they couldn't carry and run endured gang rapes and worse. 

Marina ended up in Sarajevo, staying with friends from her university days.  When the Serbs encircled Sarajevo and cut it off from the rest of the country in order to starve it out, she and her mother-in-law became responsible for a small group of younger children whose parents were either fighting, dead, or missing.  She endured the first winter in Sarajevo, where all of the trees in that beautiful city were sacrificed to survival.  Food was in short supply.  She liked to joke about how fat she'd become in Germany after being so wonderfully skinny in Sarajevo. She would sometimes tearfully talk of the children who she was responsible for.

Eventually, she and her little group were evacuated to Germany.  The children were distributed out to the NGO sponsored foster programs that had been hurriedly put together.  She and her in-laws were eventually able to find her husband, who had his own adventure making his way out of Bosnia through Croatia and Austria. Her husbands uncles, father, and brothers weren't quite so lucky. 

The Americans found themselves with their pants down when it came to Serbo-Croat speakers, so she found a job teaching us bluntskulls who already spoke one Slavic language or another how to speak Serb. After a few months of failing to teach people Serb in 21 days, the Army moved the language program from Augsburg to Garmisch and extended the program to 16 weeks.  This put the Serb teachers under the wing of a proper language school, since the Army's European language training center was there.  It also gave them proper jobs, and I've heard that many of them were able to use their work there to get permanent residence in Germany. 

Marina was the first Bosnian I ever got to know, and when I think of Bosnians, hers is the face that pops to mind.  For the most part, she didn't care about ethnic differences prior to the war.  She was ethnically Muslim, but in that country all that meant was that her ancestors had decided to stop being Catholic or Orthodox and start going to the mosque.  If you put her next to the Croat teachers, other than the fact that she made them all look drab and plain, there was not real difference.  But somewhere in the collective psyche of the Serbs, Croats, and even the Muslims, a difference was found and exploited. 

We find a lot of differences between ourselves here in the United States.  A lot of vitriol is exchanged between left and right, black and white, rich and poor.  I have heard Baptists insult Catholics, Christians spew hate about Muslims, and atheists ridicule them all.  For the most part, I let all of this flow past me.  I make the occasional pithy remark, but I try to stop short of personal attacks against individuals or groups.  A lovely young woman with sparkling green eyes once taught me that neighbors can rise up against neighbors in horrible ways, and my greatest fear is that our wars of words, ideas, and talking heads will turn into wars of bullets, rapes, and burning.

Thought for the Day

That RealTree Hardwoods camouflage pattern bra and panties set may feel good and look really snazzy under other circumstances, but wearing it under a semi-opaque white dress to the office just doesn't look right.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Blessed be the Peacekeepers

This morning, Richard Holbrooke died.  Throughout his career, he indirectly touched my life in a number of ways.

He served in Vietnam during the time when my father fought there.  As a child, the lives of my Air Force friends were impacted by his work in the State Department.  When I was serving in Germany, he was the American ambassador.  His work with NATO and the rest of Europe on the Bosnian War led directly to me learning Serb (sort of anyway), and his efforts to bring about the Dayton Peace Accords sent me to Bosnia.

Throughout his later career, he has worked for humanitarian causes to either draw the international community together or to make life better for the poor people of the world.  His politics and mine probably didn't sync up much at all, and he was no saint.  But I believe that he worked for the betterment of humanity his entire life.  His work to end the Balkan War alone should be enough for him to be remembered, but his accomplishments in Europe, Asia, Africa, and the Mid-East will have positive ramifications for years.

Rest In Peace, Ambassador. 

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God - Matthew 5:9

Monday, December 13, 2010

Thought for the Day

The sensation of having a static discharge from a cat travel through your iPhone, through the earbuds, and into your auditory canal is one which will wake you up instantly.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Sunday, December 12, 2010

My Hero

Musings on Winter

It's snowing outside again.  We got about 1/4 of an inch of rain/ice last night, and now there's about 1/4 to 1/2 of an inch of snow on top of that.  I can't complain though.  My relatives in North Dakota and Minnesota are reporting 20+ inches of blowing snow, and wind chills hovering around 0 Fahrenheit.  Winter has really begun at last.

I've always loved winter.  When I was in North Dakota or Minnesota, winter was the best time of year.  If you went outside, you could entertain yourself for hours with just a small shovel to dig a snow cave or a cardboard box to make a toboggan out of.  The equipment heavy summer sports of baseball and fishing pale next to this simplicity.  If you and a bunch of friends got bored with this, we could climb to the top of the 3 story piles of snow from the roads and play King-of-the-Hill for hours.  We'd come in soaked from snow melted into our mittens and snowmobile suits and sit in front of the TV wrapped in quilts to warm up.  Some of my favorite memories of childhood are of laying in a sunbeam on that avocado green shag rug during a sunny winter day.

I would sometimes dig a small depression in a snow bank, and then crawl in for a good sit.  With my head just below the crust of ice on the snow, all noise would be gone, and the world would be silent, if only for the few minutes it took my brothers and sisters to find me and jump in the hole on top of me.  Living with four loud siblings made these stolen moments of silence and solitude golden.

When I went to Russia, the summer and fall were pretty, but the pollution and just plain trash that littered the countryside made what was once beautiful forest and farmland a smelly mess.  After the first few snows and a good freeze, once you got past the road itself, everything was white and clean.  Even the soot covered monuments to communism in Saint Petersburg and Moscow had a whitewash of ice and snow for a few months.

Winter in Arizona was amazingly beautiful.  It would get down below freezing for a few weeks in December and January, and we would get a few snow storms down in the valley every so often.  Our post sat in the foothills of the Huachuca's, and there would almost always be snow on the mountains after October.  Those with four wheel drive could go up high enough to sled, and our children who had grown up in warm climates found the experience alien until they saw the joy on the faces of their parents after the first run down a hill.

Here in Kentucky, it gets chilly around Thanksgiving.  We usually get a cold snap for a few days in December, and we may even have a white Christmas on occasion.  January and February turn cold and gray, and Irish Woman starts to turn inward in an attempt to withstand the lack of solar stimulation. This is the time of year when our cooking begins with "Take a stick of butter and half a pound of bacon".  Comfort foods seem to bridge the sunlight gap that many here experience once the Winter Solstice swings around.

Winter to me will always mean clean, unbroken snow stretching out as far as the horizon on the prairie.  It will mean listening to a blizzard whine across the front of our house in Minot, or the feeling of my tears freezing as I sit in the front of an iceboat on the lake.  It means hot cups of cocoa and peanut butter toast after sledding.  It means standing at the bus stop with Girlie Bear listening to heavy Kentucky snow hiss as it hits the ground and grinds against what has already fallen.  These memories are what gets me through the heat and mugginess of summer. No season brings me alive like winter.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Utterly Amazing

H/T to FarmDad on this one:

An 86 year old cancer patient decided he wanted to hunt, and he was able to take a deer from the comfort of his chair:

It wasn't long before a huge 8-point buck emerged from the woods, the biggest that Mr. Warner or his son had ever had the opportunity to take. They marveled at their good fortune. A hunter can go days without seeing a buck.
"Well, shoot it," Mr. Warner told Brian.
"No, you're gonna shoot it," his son replied.
Mr. Warner stood up from the recliner and took aim. The buck bolted. He followed it for 80 or 90 yards. Then, as it slowed down, he pulled the trigger.
A perfect shot.
This determined man, along with a loving family, was able to bring something he enjoyed all his life to the way he ended it.  

My only hope is that when my time comes that I will be able to spend it surrounded by my family and doing something that means as much to me as the yearly deer hunt means to this man.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Speaking of Intel

Brigid over at Home On The Range gives some hints to women on the aspects of men that they may not understand.

My favorite:

So when you just surprise your mate with "honey would you go to the store and get eggs and milk" and he's sent into battle with no time for preparation, bombarded by countless displays that make no ergonomic sense and people shoving food and products at him "want to try the new Kiwi/Persimmon Pop Tart, now with antioxidants" he just wants to escape and as quickly as possible. Which is why he comes home with a case of beer, a bottle of olives and a birch tree.
Go have a read.

Today's Christmas Earworm

Yes, it's a bunch of rich British singers exhorting the rest of us to give to charity, but it's still a good message.  Enjoy.

On Wikileaks

Warning:  This is a long one.  I may ramble on a bit.  You have been warned.

The other night a fellow GBC'er, Attila, asked some very pointed questions about Wikileaks that helped me verbalize my gut feelings on the subject.

For those who've been under a rock for the past year or so, Wikileaks is a website and organization that takes documents that are normally kept under a cover of secrecy and places them out for all the world to see.  They have been criticized for releasing information that puts American soldiers and human intelligence sources (read people who give us information) into danger.

Some have asserted that a lot of data is classified to cover up crimes.  While this does happen, it's illegal and unethical to do so.  Basically, information is classified for two basic reasons:

  1. Operational plans and information - Data that shows what U.S. and Allied forces are going to do, have done, or are doing.  This can also mean data that can be used to find the strong and weak points in our technology, our people, or our procedures.  For example, the plan for a unit in Afghanistan's activities is classified, as are a lot of the capabilities of our radios, weapons, and vehicles.
  2. Intelligence data, sources and methods - Information that we know about our worldwide adversaries, or data that can be used to figure out how our intelligence staffs find out what they know, or the methods they use to find and interpret information. 
Wikileaks has let a few cats out of the bag on operational data, but their information was mostly older military information, which is less damaging and dangerous than publishing the plans for on-going or future operations.  Apparently they have published the worldwide location of high-value targets such as communications and logistics hubs that the U.S. government compiled a few years ago, which to me needs to be kept under covers.  That kind of information is a shopping list for those who want to do us harm.

The more damaging information that I've seen in the news is that which deals with intelligence sources.  This information is kept secret so that these sources continue to produce.  The method an adversary would close to eliminate a source varies with the source.  If it's a signals or imagery intelligence source, then the enemy can just change the way that information is kept hidden from us, such as putting up better aerial camouflage or using encryption.  If it's a human intelligence source, the most likely method is the application of a few grams of lead and brass to the brain stem of the source and his immediate family.  That's right, children.  When Wikileaks gives away the identify of a human source, even if they redact the actual name, they are probably sentencing several people to death.

Some of you may remember the name Aldrich Ames.  Ames was a counter-intelligence agent in the CIA.  He became an agent of the Soviet Union, and betrayed several people who were providing our side with information.  At least 10 of these people were executed. Wikileaks does the same thing when it describes an intelligence source closely enough that that source can be identified and eliminated.

Some have asserted that Wikileaks is nothing more than a journalistic organization that is passing along inside information to shed light on underhanded government dealings.  I can sort of see where that point comes from.  The press is a part of a functioning democracy that points out when the government is doing wrong and is using classification of data to cover it up.  But very little of what Wikileaks has released shows malfeasance, and in my honest opinion, none of  what I see should have been released to the public.

But for the sake of the argument, let's say that the individual who passed along the latest dump of information  to Wikileaks thought that at least some of the information was classified only to cover up crimes and bad behavior.  Such use of classification is prohibited and is an abuse of information control procedures, so our intrepid leaker takes copies of the information to the press, hoping that something will happen to fix the situation.  My response to this is to ask why he did not go through the appropriate channels to report illegal or unethical activity?  Was the Inspector General or the Criminal Investigations Division not interested?  What about his Congressman?  I'm sure that if an intelligence analyst calls his Congressman's office and reports that he has evidence of a crime that has been illegally classified to cover up the crime and does not feel comfortable going through his chain of command that the congress critter would make time to look into what was being asserted.

In this instance, I believe that Manning took as big a bite as he could out of the classified information he could get to on the classified network, regardless of what it contained, and deposited it in Wikileak's lap with no thought that he was doing something noble.  This is the action of a poseur who wants cred, not a conscientious whistle blower who goes to the press in order to stop a cover-up.  The Pentagon Papers may have been damaging to the U.S. war in Vietnam, but they did not lead directly to the death of U.S. troops and Vietnamese allies, and did show unethical activities by the Johnson administration.  Deep Throat gave light to a situation that had no hope of coming out of the dark without his efforts. Manning was looking for a way to count coup on Internet chat boards.

Yes, the government really dropped the ball in allowing a low-level intelligence analyst to get access to as much information as Manning did. Some have questioned the usefulness of classifying information that three million people have access to.  I'm hoping now that the cow is out of the barn that the government is doing what it can to make it harder for the rest of the herd to bolt.  But that's beside the point.  When Manning signed for his clearance, he agreed to only access data that he had a need to know, and he promised to protect classified information of all stripes from exposure to non-cleared personnel.  The data could all have been in one big, wide open directory and he should have still left the data he didn't need to do his job alone and kept the data he used safe.

And if Wikileaks is a news outlet, then maybe they should be vetting their information before putting it out for the world to see.  Is it newsworthy to out the 'secret' that diplomats make reports on what they observe when they meet with representatives of other countries.  The location and identification of critical infrastructure facilities, along with the impact of their loss or degradation, is not something that should be shouted from the Internet roof tops.  I'm not a journalist, but I would think that some journalistic ethics should kick in when you're giving definitively identifying information about human intelligence sources to the New York Times.

So to summarize, Wikileaks and organizations like it do have a place in our society.  If we look at them as part of the press, then their job is to give whistle blowers a place of last resort to report bad governmental behavior.  But if all they do is produce volumes of documents meant solely to embarrass governments, then they lose that role and become a conduit for damaging information to be given to enemies.

As to what should happen to Julian Assange and the rest of Wikileaks, I leave that to the courts.  They may be able to argue that they were acting as journalists and beat the rap, assuming that they will be indicted.  But for those who feed them from inside the government without trying to follow other paths to justice first, I feel no remorse in saying that I hope they are punished severely and publicly.  If the information that they leak is used to track down and murder people who are helping our war effort, then the leakers should be executed.  At the least, they should be made to spend a large percentage of their lives looking at the sky through bars.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

I did not know that

Massad Ayoob talks about his memories of the day that John Lennon was killed.  He mentions how Lennon was a big supporter of the NYPD, and how the officers involved made sure that the investigation was done well and that protection was provided at no cost to Lennon's family.

Color me surprised.

My mental image of John and Yoko was of anti-establishment drug addled hippies. Having heard how my mother the unrepentant hippie and some of her friends talked about the police, I just assumed that Lennon, one of her heroes, had the same attitude.

Turns out John Lennon cared more about the welfare of the police than the city government of New York did in some ways.

Two things occur to me in this:

  1. I made the mistake of assuming that because someone in the 1960's/1970's leaned to the left they would be automatically anti-police.  I'm sure there were a lot of people on the political left during that time who recognized the need for police and supported them.  It just didn't occur to me until now.  I need to remember that politics does not absolutely rule attitudes towards other areas of life.
  2. The current political left leaning glitterati, as an aggregate, seems to be more hostile to the police and other sheepdogs than Lennon appears to have been.  Can you imagine Sean Penn paying for body armor for patrol officers in Los Angeles?  I certainly never expect to see Drew Barrymore holding a benefit for the local FOP Widows and Orphans fund.  Our current crop of neo-hippies need to learn from their forebears and show some respect and compassion towards those who protect them from things that go bump in the night.
I was 9 years old when John Lennon died, but his music has been an influence on me for my entire life.  Since it's Christmas time, here's your John Lennon earbug for today.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

The end of one world, the beginning of another

At the moment that I am typing this, 69 years ago a world was dieing.

The United States had climbed back into its shell after World War I. We had sparred diplomatically with the Japanese for a few years, and had been almost a belligerent in the European war that sprang to life in 1939.  But for the most part we were insulated in our sea to shining sea fortress. 

At this moment 69 years ago, soldiers and sailors in and around Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, were preparing for another day in a peacetime military.  Maybe they were on duty, maybe they were on pass.  Either way, they were in paradise, and probably looked forward to a quiet Sunday.

Some, such as crewmen of the destroyer Ward, had an inkling that something was about to happen, as they dropped depth charges on a submarine that had been sighted earlier.  Radar operators had already seen a cloud of fighters and bombers on their way in to Pearl Harbor and alerted their superiors to the presence of what was the first wave of Japanese attackers.

But for the most part, Pearl Harbor and its environs are enjoying a peaceful, quiet Sunday morning.

Within an hour, all of that would be gone forever. 

By the end of the Japanese attack on the American fleet at Pearl Harbor, along with nearby Army and Navy installations, over 3000 Americans were dead or wounded. By the time the war was over, more than 16 million Americans had put on the uniform.  By the time the Japanese emperor signed the surrender documents in Tokyo Harbor in 1945, 416,000 Americans had been killed.  America was shocked out of her isolation, and has spent the intervening 69 years trying to be a liberator, protector, and provider to the rest of the world.

Today we stop to remember the soldiers, sailors, and Marines who fought during those morning hours 69 years ago.  We mourn those who fell defending that island paradise, and we honor both their memories and those who survived.  May we live up to the sacrifices they made.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Thought for the day

Remember that movie from the 1990's called "Falling Down"? The one where a middle-class guy has one heck of a freak out because he's had one too many gut shots in life in too short a time?

On bad days, I start to think it's a documentary.

On really bad days, I start to believe it's a comedy.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Good Advice

Chuck Zeigenfuss over at From My Position, On the Way! has some great advice on how to deal with the Zombie Apocalypse.  

Like they say over at the Zombie Squad:  If you're ready for the Zombie Apocalypse, then a hurricane is just a stiff breeze.

Are you bloody kidding me?

In December of 2008, four teenagers took a ride with another teenager after a youth event in Louisville because the provided vans were all full.  As they drove, a policeman noticed that the car they were driving in was stolen, and attempted to pull the driver, Herbert Lee, over.  Rather than pulling over, Lee floored it, leading LMPD on a chase.  Eventually he crashed the car with enough force to break it in two pieces, sending half of it through a fence and wrapping the other half around a tree.

All four of his passengers died.

Prosecutors charged him with murder, but the jury decided to convict on manslaughter.  While I don't agree with that finding, the jury was given that option, and the jury system is what it is.

It's the sentence Lee received that I have a problem with.  He was given one year in juvenile detention.  Read that again.  This guy killed four young men by fleeing the police in a stolen car and he will serve one year in juvie.  For this, I blame the state legislature for putting weak sentences into the juvenile manslaughter laws.

Additionally, he's supposed to do a year of probation after that, but his lawyers say the judge can't do that to him, so they're going to appeal.  They sincerely believe that their client doesn't deserve the inconvenience of another year of supervision after the unbelievable light term of one year in jail.

Whiskey Tango Foxtrot, over!

Yeah, I know, I know, the judge should take into consideration this fine, upstanding pillar of the community's upbringing in a rough home, or maybe how he was trying to turn his life around when he stole a car to go to a community event.  Look, I came from a pretty messed up home. My mother was a drug addict, my father disappeared, alcohol and drugs were a major factor in the home, we moved around a lot, and some would say it was an abusive home.  But as screwed up as I am, I didn't grow up to steal cars and kill teenagers.  He'll get no sympathy from me.

When I took an introductory law class in college, the instructor hammered in the concepts of legality and justice.  Normally that means that the state can take into account mitigating circumstances when applying the law. Someone can have broken the law, but in the name of justice, the state can choose to not prosecute.  This is the reverse situation, in my opinion.  Lee and his lawyers are complaining that the judge has exceeded his authority, even though Lee is basically walking away from causing the deaths of four teenagers.  A sense of shame should require that they look more at the justice of the additional year of probation they are planning to appeal rather than it's strict legality.

Even if the probation isn't specifically stated in the statutes, Lee should take the sentence as a godsend and live the next 24 months under state supervision.  The families of his victims will be under a cloud the rest of their lives; he can at least give up two years.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Fanboi-ness notched up a tad

A few weeks ago I realized I had the oldest computer in the house. My daily use computer was a first generation Mac Mini that I ordered the day they announced the line. It was speedy enough when I bought it in 2005, but it was really showing it's age when I tried to use Open Office or open a lot of tabs in Firefox. Since it's a G4 Mac, a lot of newer software flat won't run on it.

Yesterday I rectified that situation. Girlie Bear and I went to the Apple store and walked out with a new MacBook. 2gb of RAM, 250gb hard drive.  It's definitely got the horsepower to do the word processing, web surfing, and IRC chatting that I use a computer for 95% of the time, and should do just fine with the other 5% too.

So early Merry Christmas to me.

Thought for the day

No father hath love like he who braves a McDonalds Playland on a Friday night for the sake of his son.

Hell hath no wrath like a toddler who has been promised chicken nuggets when he sees the car passing a McDonalds.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Where are my 72 Virgins?

Or, "DaddyBear gladly gives his life to defend Jihadistan, a little known region of Kentucky just to the southwest of Louisville".

Last night, I made my way back down to Fort Knox and spent the evening and early morning as a role player at the Military Operations in Urban Terrain (MOUT) site.  I was one of the aggressors against a group of U.S. soldiers who are preparing to deploy overseas.  While I did MOUT exercises when I was on active duty, I've never done it as a role player, and it's a totally different experience when you're the one who's being attacked.

I was garbed up in a daishiki, keffiyah, hearing protection, paintball helmet, and a paintball gun. After a safety briefing we were bussed out to one of several 'villages' that have been set up for units to train on several different missions.  Due to OPSEC considerations, I won't go into too many details on the scenarios or the layouts of the training areas, but here are a few of my thoughts on the experience:

  • The soldiers I fought against were highly trained, extremely professional, and very good at expending ordnance in a very focused and efficient manner.
  • When sitting in a conex in 28 degree weather for an hour, you cannot wear too many layers.
  • Flashbang grenades, when thrown into said conex in multiples, are extremely loud and will definitely get your attention.
  • Up-Armored Humvees with turrets are cool enough to make this cynical veteran geek out.  Also, green paintballs will not penetrate the windshield, but will mess up the driver's visibility.
  • A vehicle that's been used as an IED will burn for quite a while and makes a good place to warm up in between training scenarios.
  • Being captured, flex-cuffed, and placed on your knees facing the wall for 45 minutes sucks.
  • 60 rounds of 5.56mm wax bullets, when fired into ones head, torso, and extremities hurts like a mother.  
My one war story from last night deals with that last thought.  In one of the scenarios, we defended a building and the soldiers trained in assaulting and clearing a building.  Everyone in my group but me went upstairs, while I was the lone defender of the first floor, or as the old hands called it "Flash Bang Central".  Remember, I was the dumbass newbie, so I cheerfully ensconced myself in one of the rooms.  The room had a main area and a closet/bathroom just off of the door.  I set myself up in the closet, and waited for the soldiers to make their way down the hallway to me.  As the pair of soldiers made their way down the hallway, I could hear them kicking doors and slinging grenades.  My hope was that they would be running low on flash-bangs by the time they got to me.  NO SUCH LUCK.  When they got to my room, their grenade flew past the closet and into the main room.  Two soldiers came behind the explosion to check the room, and I opened up with my paintball gun.  I must have startled them, because they turned and unloaded on me from about 3 feet away.  I'm pretty sure they both went through a 30 round magazine because I was hit everywhere they could hit me and they both had to reload after I put my hands up and dropped the gun.  I did manage to get a few shots off and hit them in the legs, but I'm pretty sure they got me.  My multiple layers of clothing helped to make most of the hits to just stinging, but this morning, I have several bruises the size of a dime on my arm and thigh.  If those had been real bullets, it would have been very messy.

This morning, I'm tired, sore, bruised in a couple of places, and fired up to go back.  I hope that being shot, grenaded, and cuffed last night gave these soldiers experience that will help them complete their missions and come home safe.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Go. Read. This.

AD has put up one of the most powerful things I've read in a long time. 

Go read it. 

Sometimes there just isn't enough hot water and soap.

We Shoot Mad Dogs, Don't We?

Apparently the sick bastard that kidnapped, drugged and raped 14 year old Elizabeth Smart is suffering from psychotic episodes and seizures.  This is the nutball that took her from her family at knifepoint in the dead of night, hid her appearance when she was in public with him, and kept her on drugs and alcohol while he raped her so he could breed a new race. His family is reporting that he's had mental issues his entire life.

And my compassionate response is "So what?".

Full disclosure - I'm a father of four, including a 12 year old daughter.  I have a visceral desire to see this scum torn limb from limb and the parts nailed to the fence outside of a prison as a reminder to its residents.

Look, I understand that people who have psychiatric problems can do things that they believe are right and the rest of think are horrific.  I know they don't know they're doing wrong, and punishing them does nothing to either correct their behavior or heal the victims.

But this waste of protoplasm clearly knew that he had to hide what he was doing.  He came as a thief in the night to steal a little girl from her family.  He covered her up while in public so that others wouldn't recognize her.  He doped her up to make her pliable and to keep her from running away or talking to anyone else.  If he truly didn't think that what he did was despicable, then why take these precautions?  Why not grab her in broad daylight where the world could see?  Why change her appearance in public?  Why control her with drugs? If he truly believed that he was doing as the Lord wanted him to, he would have had no reason to cover up his crimes.

This piece of filth needs to be punished quickly, publicly, and savagely.  Any other hairball who thinks it might be a good idea to grab a child to use as their own self-warming sex doll might think twice if this ignorant bastard was forced to dance a jig at the end of a rope.

Couple of changes

I tried to add a few new entries to the blog roll this morning, and that was made of fail. Yes, I know, my blogroll is huge.  Yes, I look at all of the updates to all of those blogs.  Thank Cthulhu for aggregators.

I tried for a long time to sort out the Fun, Gun, Politics, Tech, and whatever kind of blogs I felt they belonged to. Problem was, a lot of my gun blogs talked about politics, the political blogs were a heck of a lot of fun, and everyone mentions technology every so often.

So I give up.  I'm lumping y'all into one long mother of a blogroll.  Makes it simpler to make sure everyone I read gets listed, and stops me from pigeon-holing y'all.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Earmark, anyone

This morning, the U.S. Senate voted down a measure which would have dropped the use of earmarks to add local projects to larger spending bills.  An earmark is an amendment to a bill that provides federal money or tax breaks to a cause, group, or project. A member of Congress attaches these to spending bills that he knows will be passed in order to bring home a little more of that Federal smack.  Over the years, earmarks have been the death by 1000 cuts that have packed our laws with pork spending.

There has always been an oily feeling about the whole process.  It's not hard to imagine someone making a campaign donation in exchange for an earmark.  Even if all of the earmarks ever passed were wholly virtuous, there is the perception that they are part of a quid pro quo. Caesar's wife must be beyond reproach, and so should our Congress.  The Tea Party made earmarks an issue in the 2010 Congressional elections, and Republicans in both houses have foresworn their use.  The Senate bill would have made it a matter of procedure to not attach earmarks to bills.

I don't believe that earmarks are a sure sign of corruption.  I don't even believe that most members of Congress are corrupt.  But there is a virulent minority in both houses of Congress that use their power to bring home the pork spending as a club to wring every available penny for their re-election or retirement out of their constituency.  I support efforts to remove earmarks from legislation, if for no other reason that it forces dishonest people to find a new way to steal from us.

But if Congressional Democrats, who I must give some credit to for making modest reforms to the process of earmarks, want to continue the practice, then how about we have a Federal Earmark Consolidation And Legitimization (FECAL) bill during every session of Congress?  Each addition to the bill should list which member(s) of Congress requested it, who it will benefit, and what it will be used for.  The bill will need to be passed by both chambers and signed by the President, so everyone can know exactly who is creating FECAL material in our legislative process.  You want a few million federal dollars for a highway or bridge project?  Just put it in the FECAL bill.  Want to give a tax break to the largest employer in your congressional district?  Put it in the FECAL Bill.  It's so easy even a corrupt Congressman can do it.

If we must have an unsavory, possibly corrupt process for taking my hard earned money and passing it out to our congress critters' pet projects, Congress should at least have the decency to put all of their special appropriations into one place where we can have a good look at them.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Product Review - Garmin Foretrex 301 GPS

For our anniversary this year, Irish Woman got me a wristwatch GPS, the Garmin Foretrex 301.  
I asked her for either this or the upgrade, the Foretrex 401, because of its small size and ease of use. 

This diminuitive GPS is about the size of two boxes of matches stacked one upon the other, and straps to a wrist or backpack strap using an included velcro strip.  It gave me a 10 meter resolution in locations and checkpoints under heavy tree cover at Fort Knox during the hunt.  The 301 is powered by two AAA batteries, and one set of batteries were less than halfway used up after two days of use at Fort Knox. The 301 weighs almost nothing, and I carry it in my pocket without a thought.

The unit was very easy to figure out, and can mark checkpoints, establish routes, show paths already taken, and a lot more.  When you drop a checkpoint, you have the opportunity to give it a specific symbol, such as a deer shape for hunting or a house for shelter.  You can edit the name of a checkpoint on the unit, and also the location of a checkpoint to preload.  All of this is done using up and down buttons, a select button, and a back button.  The power button also controls the back lighting for the display, which came in very handy while trying to find our blind location in the dark.  The back lighting is amber, and is soft enough that it didn't mess up my night vision too terribly.

The Foretrex 301 does not work with GPS software to pre-load checkpoints and routes, and does not have an on-board mapping feature like more advanced models.  The unit is, however, compatible with the Garmin Connect web site.  I haven't used it yet, but will try it out and post a review later. There is a mini-USB port on the unit to allow connection to a Mac or PC.  When connected, it shows up as a removable storage device, and you can back up and navigate through the files it uses for its software and configurations.  There is an XML file that contains all of the routes, checkpoints, and such that can be edited.  I am going to edit the file later to see if features can be added that way, saving time in the field.   I'll update later on how editing the XML file worked and on my experiences with Garmin Connect.

The only other limitation of the unit was that it could not get a satellite lock while in the truck.  It locked in seconds once I stepped out and stood still.

If you're in the market for a basic GPS, and don't mind reading a paper map, this is a great unit for you.  If you're not ready to use a map to figure out where you are, then one of the more advanced GPS units may be for you.  This unit is small enough for me to put into a pocket along with a paper map and have to find my way in the dark or unfamiliar territory.

FCC Disclaimer - The hardware I reviewed here was purchased with my household's own funds.  No-one, including Garmin, offered me anything in exchange for this review.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Banana Bread Recipe

While cleaning up the kitchen tonight, I noticed a bunch of bananas that seemed about on the brink of organizing a communist takeover of their area of the counter, so I thought I'd make some banana bread.  Here's the recipe:

Dry Ingredients:

3/4 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 cup whole wheat flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp each of cloves, ginger, and nutmeg

Wet ingredients:

1 egg
3 to 4 bananas, thoroughly mashed
3/4 cup sugar
scant 1/4 cup of cooking oil.  Less if you add an extra banana
1/2 cup finely chopped walnuts or pecans, if desired
1/4 tsp bourbon, almond extract, or vanilla extract

Sift all of the dry ingredients into a bowl and mix well

Mix all of the wet ingredients into a bowl and mix well.

Slowly add the dry ingredients and mix well.  Scrape the side of the bowl as necessary.  Once the mixture is even and lump free, pour into a greased loaf pan.

Bake in a 350 degree Fahrenheit oven for 45 to 60 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the loaf comes out clean.

Allow to cool for 15 minutes on a rack before removing from pan and finishing cooling.

Wonderful with butter.

Mental Rambling

OK, I'm a nerd.  I admit it. 

I was doing some thinking today while I was cutting up and splitting wood for the fireplace.  Try to follow this:  (Remember, I'm not a real historian, just a putz who likes to read about history)

  1. France and England fought numerous wars in the Americas, Europe, and India during the 17th and 18th centuries.
  2. After losing her colonies in North America, France stuck a thumb in England's eye and helped the Americans in their revolution.
  3. France went into an economic depression that was caused at least in part by the money it spent on the American Revolution, bringing about the French Revolution
  4. The great powers of Europe declared war on France following the revolution, which gave rise to Napoleon.
  5. Napoleon fought a series of wars with the rest of Europe.  These wars started the disintegration of the Austro-Hungarian and Ottoman empires.  They also started the ball rolling on Italian and German unifications.
  6. Europe created several multi-lateral mutual defense accords, at least in part to keep a balance of power on the continent and keep another country from creating a new Napoleon.  These agreements also ushered in a united Germany and Italy.
  7. These interlocking mutual defense pacts led almost directly to the escalation of an assassination to the beginning of the First World War, with new empires (Germany and Italy) fighting against old empires (France, Austro-Hungary, Russia, Britain).
  8. Russia's lack of ability to fight a long war with the Austrians and Germans led to the conditions that Lenin used to hold the October Revolution, establishing Communism in Eastern Europe.
  9. The aftermath of the First World War and the Versailles treaty created the conditions for the Second World War.  It also destroyed the large stabilizing influences of the Austro-Hungarian and Ottoman empires on Eastern Europe and the Mid-East, contributing to the problems we have in those areas to this day.
  10. The aftermath of the Second World War put the final nail in European colonialism, which pretty much died in Africa and Asia within 30 years of the end of the War.  
  11. The Soviet Union and the United States faced off in a stalemate in Europe, but fought a series of proxy wars in other parts of the world, such as Asia, Central and South America, the Mid-East, and Africa.
  12. After the fall of the Berlin Wall, the stabilizing stalemate between the United States and the Soviet Union disintegrated, bringing fights that have simmered for a long time back to the forefront in much of the world.
  13. The United States has strived to remain a relevant stabilizing force in world that is rapidly returning to the fragmented semi-chaos that ruled throughout the 18th and early 19th centuries.

So basically, I somehow came to the conclusion that the issues we are facing today are directly related to wars that France and England fought 300 years ago.

Sometime my mind wanders. I'm just surprised it finds its way back.

Friday, November 26, 2010

A good sign

The Russian Duma recently publicly admitted that the Soviet Union, under direct orders from Josef Stalin, was responsible for the massacre of Polish soldiers at Katyn Forest.  For decades, the Soviets blamed this horrific incident on the Nazi's.  After the fall of the wall, evidence came to light placing the blame squarely on Stalin and the NKVD.  This has been a bleeding sore in relations between Russia and her neighbor, Poland.

Over the past couple of years, Russia has been moving closer and closer to admitting its role in the massacre and the cover-up.  With this declaration, most of the darkness surrounding it has been shed.

Russia seems to be learning, at least in part, from what Germany has done since the end of the Second World War:  Admit everything, hide nothing, apologize profusely.  If Germany had not completely come clean about what happened in Germany and Nazi-occupied Europe during WWII, then I cannot see how Germany could have become as central to Europe as it is today.  Countries that now ally themselves with Deutschland economically, politically, and militarily could not do so in good conscience if the Germans denied the camps, the ghettos, and the massacres.

Likewise, as Russia reaches out to Europe for integration and influence, it must admit to past abuses.  Mending fences with Poland over Katyn is a good first step.  I see several more years of Russia admitting to how badly it treated the members of the Warsaw Pact for 45 years.   As sunshine cleanses the history of Russia and her neighbors, hopefully it will allow Europe to truly heal from the World Wars and their aftermath.

Blue Eyed Devil

I just got back from running Girlie Bear and Little Bear to their moms house for the weekend. I was gone about an hour, give or take.

During that time, BooBoo was able to accomplish the following:

- Carry one small cat around by the tail
- Carry the other larger cat around with a two hand carry around the neck
- Drive the Siamese to higher ground

- And last but not least, discovered aerosol whipped topping. Irish Woman was putting away the leftovers from dinner, and heard him giggling. She came out to find him with a spray can in one hand and a handful of whipped cream in the other. She was able to talk him out of using it as hair gel or finger paint, but apparently it was a close call.

It's a good thing he's cute. And yes, we do live on the edge of madness.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Self Declaration

According to this (H/T to Uncle), I guess I can be described as a domestic extremist.

So I'm just going to confirm it.   My views on personal privacy, government inefficiency, and how transportation security are being done run right into that classification, according to DHS Secretary Napolitano.

As for whether or not I'm inciting others to make life difficult for TSA agents who want to check out what you look like under your clothes either by eye or by feel, let me be perfectly clear:  I believe that it is every American's patriotic duty to resist this stupidity to the utmost they can do without breaking the law.  That means forcing TSA agents to glove up.  That means slowing down the line.  That means reminding the sheep that the sheepdogs don't have the power to 'help them over the fence'. 

And you know what?  My words here are protected speech.  I invite any government goon who disagrees with that statement to pucker up.  I am going to keep ranting, complaining, and trying to persuade my fellow citizens to politely obstruct these ridiculous 'security' measures until they go away or until my fingers can no longer type.

So DHS can put me on whatever list they want.  Here's my contact information:

Mr. Daddy Bear
1234 KisMiAce Drive
Louisville Kentucky, United States of America.

Thanksgiving Thoughts

It's Turkey Day again campers, and I thought I'd share some of the things I'm grateful for:

  • I'm grateful that my family is together and healthy.
  • I'm grateful for all of the friends that I've gained over the past year.
  • I'm grateful for all of the old friends who've put up my grouchy butt over the years.
  • I'm grateful that in this time of uncertainty, both Irish Woman and I both have good jobs.
  • I'm grateful that good men and women in the armed services, police, fire, and EMS are giving up their holiday to make sure that me and mine are OK.
  • I'm grateful that my ancestors chose to leave their home countries to come to America.  

If you're traveling for the holiday, stay safe.  It's better to be late than to be a statistic.  I need every reader I can get.  If  you're flying, turn your head and cough.

I list a few cop blogs in my sidebar.  I really don't want to recognize anyone in their entries about this weekend.  I'm the designated driver this year, so there may be funny tipsy Irish Woman quotes on Friday. 

Everyone have a Happy Thanksgiving, and remember how fortunate we all are.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Pictures from the hunt

View from the Blind, Saturday Morning

Girlie Bear seems to be enjoying herself

Next year, she won't have to borrow Dad's gun
Our view, Sunday Afternoon

Hunting Report

This weekend was our annual hunting trip to Fort Knox.  Girlie Bear accompanied me again this year, so she's officially part of the tradition.  My hunting/shooting buddy also brought his daughter, and they hunted in the same area as us.

Saturday morning was clear, brightly moon-lit, chilly, and had almost no wind.  After finding our way to our hunting area and checking in, Girlie Bear and I picked a place on the map and hiked in.  We were assigned the area next to where we hunted last year, so the terrain was pretty similar.  We were at the top of a ridge, with multiple draws and spurs running down to very steep valleys.  This area had been spared the fires at Fort Knox last month, but was relatively clear of the heavy undergrowth and blown-down trees that we ran into last year.  After a quick hike into the woods, we found a small spur looking down to the convergence of two small creeks and set up our blind.  We settled in about 45 minutes before shooting light, which gave time for things to quiet down.

About 10 minutes before shooting light at 7, I noticed two small spike bucks pawing and huffing at one another in a patch of scrub about 50 yards from us.  They were too small to shoot according to the rules at Fort Knox, but it was fun to watch them for a few minutes.

About an hour later, I heard some noise in the woods behind us.  Girlie Bear looked out and quietly but excitedly told me it was a doe, and she was coming our way.  I took a quick look, and she was coming down the creekbed to our left.  If I waited, she would pass about 30 yards or so from us.  I eased myself out of the front of the blind to try and get a broadside shot on her, and Girlie Bear watched her from the blind.  Just as I was able to see her and bring the scope up to my eye, Girlie Bear made a small sound of excitement.  The doe noticed both my movement and the noise, and off she went. 

Girlie Bear was almost in tears, but I comforted her and got control of my own emotions.  Remember, this is only the second time she's been hunting.  Luckily, she learned her lesson. Unfortunately, that was the last deer we saw all weekend, unless you count the doe we almost hit half a mile from home on Sunday morning at 3 AM.

Saturday afternoon we left the blind at the truck and went a little further back into the area.  We set up under a huge old oak and watched a couple of game trails for several hours, but no soap.  While we were sitting there, I noticed a difference between our area this year and the one we hunted last year.  Last year the area was covered up in rubs and scrapes.  This area, less than a mile from where we were last year, had none.   There were lots and lots of trails running through it, mostly running east to west. 

Sunday morning was markedly warmer, and even more brightly lit by a full moon.  We set up at the same draw/spur we were at on Saturday, but didn't see anything.  At about 10, the wind really started coming up, and it got warm enough that we started to sweat.  We packed up and had lunch at the truck.  Hunting Buddy and his daughter decided to call it a day after lunch.  Girlie Bear and I walked down the road a piece and climbed to the top of a knob to watch a different part of the area.  It was warm enough that we took off all of our jackets and extra shirts.  I never thought I'd hunt in late November in a short sleeved shirt.

The afternoon was a bust, but Girlie Bear enjoyed herself by using my binoculars to spot along the multiple trails that led to the meadow we were watching.  She especially enjoyed watching a pair of huge red squirrels play tag across several oaks and hickories.  We packed it in at about 2 and took a long route back to the truck.  I made sure to make a lot of noise, but we didn't even see deer to spook. 

When we were checking out, the Fish and Wildlife representative said that no-one had gotten anything on Sunday, but Saturday he'd checked out a lot of does and two bucks that he estimated would score 140 or better on the Boone and Crockett scale.

Again, I love going out to Fort Knox.  It's a treat to hunt such well-kept land that's not crowded.  The staff is very professional and the area guides were, as usual, very friendly, informative, and helpful.

One change this year was that before being drawn to hunt on-post, we had to submit to a criminal background check.  Our guide told us that so many long-time hunters were eliminated for prior DUI's, domestic violence, or whatever that everyone who applied and passed the check got drawn for the hunt.  My guess is that this security procedure will bring in a lot of new hunters.  I also feel bad for the hunters who lost a chance to hunt in a wonderful environment because of something they did years ago. 

As for the area we were in, I think that we were sandwiched between a bedding area and a feeding/nighttime activity area.  All of the deer that people saw in our area were moving to the west in the direction of where we were last year, with a lot of bedding areas, rubs, and scrapes.  The area to our east was rich with oaks, hickories, and what appeared to be some sort of persimmon tree.  Maybe with the abnormally warm weather and nighttime illumination from full moon got the deer to move through our area to their bedding area.  Since they could move easily at night, my guess is that the three we saw on Saturday were the stragglers, and we missed the last of them on Sunday.

Girlie Bear has begun to learn how to walk in the woods without sounding like the pachyderms on parade and to sit quietly and listen, or at least read her book quietly.  I plan on getting her a muzzleloader of her own for next year.  Maybe she'll get a deer at Knox before her old man does.

One last thought:  Technology rocks.  Saturday morning, after our incident with the doe, I got the iPhone out and saw that I had 3G coverage.  I was able to email and Facebook with my hunting buddy and other folks who were hunting 6 states away.  I didn't even know how to imagine doing that 5 years ago.
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