Sunday, June 29, 2008
Friday, June 27, 2008
Following the Heller decision, there have been some wild claims made by some rather, uh, strident gun control advocates. Note all of the media attention that they've been getting. It reminds me a little of 1995, when Texas passed the first Concealed Handgun License law in the history of the state. Claims of impending violent encounters were made so often, I wouldn't be surprised to find out that the sales of boat shoes went up, to keep people from slipping in the coming river of blood in the streets.
A river, of course, which never came.
Here's an odd concept to chew on: that Sarah Brady, Chuck Schumer, Richard Bradey, Diane Feinstein, and their ilk are now hoping that the rate of murders goes up in D.C., to bolster their position.
Here, we have a very few seconds of really spectacular footage, as Chicago Mayor Richard Bradey learns of the outcome of the Heller decision, and comes to realize what this means for his similar Chicago handgun restriction.
And here, you can watch Diane Feinstein as she, too, realizes what this ultimately will mean, for the fate of the citizens of San Francisco.
"My God! They'll all be... free!"
Thursday, June 26, 2008
Follow-Up To: ""Baby, the sun is over the yardarm early today.'"
At about 2:15 PM, I showed up at Dad's and poured us each about a finger's worth of The MacAllan 18 Year Old Scotch Whiskey. If you're a fan of Scotch, or even if you're not, and you haven't tried the pride of Craigellachie, Moray, of the Speyside region of the highlands of Scotland, than I submit that you've never really given good Scotch a chance. This particular bottle was casked in 1979 and bottled in 1997, and was presented to me by my friend Bill (thanks, Bill!) on the occasion of my birthday, some years back.
I don't drink from it often. In fact, I've had that bottle for a decade, now. Most drinks I've taken from it, I've also poured one for my father. Just before retiring on a good hunting trip, or on momentous occasions, usually.
Today was a day worth pouring from that bottle.
Having had a short dram each, and a spot of conversation, we picked up a Garmin Nuvi 200W GPS at Cabella's. I was HIGHLY impressed at how easy it was to use, on our ride back home. Very intuitive to use. Dad and I bought a Garmin 12 GPS in 1997 for an elk hunting trip, and the state of the art has come a long way. At $169, it's a hella good deal.
I also bought some factory .380 acp ammo, and some factory .38 Special ammo, to feed my P3AT and my Airweight Chief during upcoming quals. I was shocked to find that UMC .38 Spl was more expensive than Remington Express. I've always thought of UMC as the bargain brand for Remington. Huh.
You might have heard of it, Dick.
"They can have all the guns we want in the fed building," Daley said. "They can have all the guns. But why should we as a city not be able to protect ourselves from those who want guns in our society?"Well, because of a little thing called The Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, as ratified in 1789, and upheld by SCOTUS on this date, per Heller.
See, municipalities can get more restrictive, so long as they aren't violating the Constitution of the United States.
Maybe I should make this easier for you, Mr. Daley:
Your city also can't decide which religion people follow.
Your city can't stop the redress of grievances against the government.
Your city can't stop peaceable assembly.
Your city can't stop free travel.
Your city doesn't get to compel people to testify against themselves.
Your city doesn't get to search people's homes without probable cause or a warrant issued by a magistrate.
Your city doesn't get to assess unreasonable bonds, or impose cruel or unusual punishment.
Your city doesn't get to deny due process.
Your city doesn't get to deny equal protection under the law.
Your city doesn't get to deny any non-felon individual of majority age the right to vote.
Your city can't compel involuntary draft for military service.
Because the Constitution of the United States says you cant, you knob.
Court to DC: "'Because We Said So' Isn't Good Enough."
When I arrest a person, I temporarily intervene with their rights. It's true. Sadly, it's a necessity. Freedom of travel is restricted, by definition. Your right to peaceable assembly may well be interrupted. And your right to bear arms will be temporarily withheld. Privacy basically goes out the window. (This last right being a "penumbral right," under Griswold.)
I'd better be able to show a compelling reason why I (as a very minor agent of the state) am denying a citizen his or her rights.
In the case of the 2nd Amendment right to bear arms, my reason is that prisoners may not carry arms because they will be in a jail. In a jail, the issue is one of officer and inmate safety. It's just a plain fact that most people don't want to be in jail, and that a higher percentage of people in the jail will use arms against each other and against their jailers, if they have them. Impulse control is notably low among the inmate population.
So there you are-- a compelling reason by the state to deny one's second amendment right. Jail time. Or Prison time. Or temporarily detained while the cops on scene try to figure out who's the good guy and who's the bad guy time.
In the case of Washington D.C., the reason that was put forth to deny all non-law-enforcement persons in the District to even possess a pistol was "Because there have been a lot of murders." Uh, come again? It's really, really dangerous to live there, so you're going to take away the people's right to defend themselves? Their Constitutional right... you're just going to take it upon yourselves to deny it, completely, on the idea that it would make the city safer.
The fact is, the murder rate in the District of Columbia climbed:
See that drop in the mid-nineties? It reflected the national crime trend toward dropping crime that reflected the economic situation. But note-- gun laws didn't do a damned thing to change the crime rate in Washington DC.
In fact, in July of 2006, the mayor of Washington D.C. declared a crime emergency in the district.
For 33 years, the District has enforced this ban on a Constitutional right. (Oh, I know-- they could still keep their long guns. Disassembled and locked up.) And every year, the question would be raised again-- how is this making the nation's capital city safer?
I am not going to say that, across the board, the murder rate* will decrease when citizens in DC are allowed to exercise their rights.
I will say that, across the board, the amount of freedom will increase. If there is no empirical harm to a person's exercise of freedom, then how can anyone justify restricting the rights of that person?
Finally, enough was enough. A group of Washington residents sued the District on the basis that their rights were being infringed. Heller v. D.C.
The federal district court dismissed the suit.
The appellate court overturned the dismissal.
Today, the Supreme Court of the United States upheld the appellate court, and held that the right to keep and bear arms is an individual's right. In so doing, it struck down the Firearms Control Regulations Act of 1975, and made the first definitive 2nd Amendment ruling since Miller in 1939.
While the 5-4 margin is uncomfortably tight, I've still got to agree with my friend Tamara: "Baby, the sun is over the yardarm early today."
I believe a dram of Scotch is in order.
*Note: The FBI UCR considers all "Non-negligent homicides" to be worthy of inclusion to the murder stat. That means that every time a good guy zaps a bad guy who was threatening his life, the murder rate goes up. Talk about a stacked deck.
Tuesday, June 24, 2008
This is going to hurt you more than it hurt me.
An intoxicated prisoner got frisky with me, and kicked me, twice.
Rather than striking the prisoner, or even using any pain-compliance techniques, I did what was necessary to:
A: Make sure I wasn't kicked again, and
B: Better secure the prisoner.
My initial reactions were: "Ouch." and "Matt, you need to watch out for those flying feet, boy."
Once the prisoner was put away and properly secured, I got to writing. I collected statements from all witnesses, including officers and nearby witnesses outside of law enforcement. I asked the prisoner why I had been kicked. "I don't like cops" was the answer.
I sent a probable cause affidavit over to the jail (it hadn't even been my prisoner), for the arresting officer (also a witness) to add to the growing list of charges.
The next day, I looked up the kicking prisoner, and found that the arraigning magistrate had found that there was certainly sufficient probable cause to set bond for Assault (On A Public Servant), a 3rd degree felony under Texas Penal Code 22.01(b)(1). Moreover, the judge had set bond for TWO offenses. Huh? Oh, yeah-- I was kicked twice.
Hope those kicks felt good to give. While I felt some significant pain at being kicked, I'm doubting that it hurt me as much as it's going to hurt a certain other party, at $10,000 bond per kick.
Cover your butt.
I've been taking a lot of Identity Theft cases lately.
A family member who works in the Driver's License Bureau of the D.P.S. has recently been railing about the issue of lost identification documents.
If there is a major flood or disaster or you are well-and-truly ripped off, and you have not identification documents, how are you going to prove that you are you?
May I suggest something? Make backups. NOW.
First, go to your most easily-available photocopy machine (I'll suggest the library, but I know most of y'all will use the machine at your job) with your documents, your cards, and a pocketful of change. Make photocopies of your credit cards, front and back. Make copies of your identification cards, front and back. (It's okay to put more than one on a scan.) Make copies of your identification documents, front and back (and inside, as the case may be.). Make copies of your vehicle titles, front and back. Make copies of your long-term insurance polices-- car, house, personal injury, whatever. Make copies of your insurance ID cards.
Stack all of this nicely, put a date on the stacking showing when you copied the documents, and put it into a one-gallon ziplock freezer bag. Seal it.
Now zip that bag into another ziplock bag.
It's a little bulky, but not too bad. It should probably be about the size of my daughter's thinner spiral-wound notebooks for school.
Now, put it in a very safe place, off the ground. Suggestions include:
In the back of a cabinet, behind the Tupperware. In the bottom of the sugar/salt/flour bin in the kitchen.
Between the pages of a large reference book on a shelf.
Inside a safe.
Behind the padding of your gun cabinet.
Inside a can or book safe.
In the back of your freezer. (Note, if a disaster sweeps the area, this may well protect your documents, but it will probably be unpleasant retrieving them.)
NOT in your car. I say again: NOT in your car.
Best is a really secure off-site option. Consider a safe-deposit box. Do you have a close friend or family member who is Utterly Dependable and trustworthy? Consider storing this packet with him or her, in their safe place.
Now, in the TRUE spirit of redundancy ("two is one, and one is none"), make TWO copies of those documents while you're merrily hitting "Print" on
Now, you're going to need some real backup ID. Oh, that other stuff I just talked about? It's important, but do this: go to your local license bureau, and get a state-issued ID card, in addition to your driver's license. Yes, it's a little bit of expense, but trust me, it's easier than dealing with the hassle of not being able to prove who you are. You don't have to do it today-- you can do it the next time you have to go to the licensing office.
Now go get an extra copy of your birth certificate.
Got a school ID you no longer use? Get it.
Got an old expired driver's license in a drawer? That's actually worth something as a secondary (and for a few years, as a primary) form of identification.
Have you gotten a passport, yet? Too expensive? Well, consider the new Passport I.D. card.
You're not one of those people who carries around his or her Social Security Card on their person, are you? STOP that.
Put two or more of these items (I.D. card and Birth Certificate, Social Security Card and Birth certificate, passport and S.S. card) into your identity packets, double-sealed.
You understand that these are important, right? You understand how important it is NOT to leave this stuff out where it can be found, right?
Don't put it in your car.
Oh, and if you're like me, you like to carry a line of credit that you'll never use or even carry on your person. Thus, it makes perfect sense to toss a real (activated, but not active) credit card into the bags, too. I'm tempted to suggest putting some cash in there, but then it starts to become too attractive to raid occasionally, or for the lucky petty thief to take. Yes, this is a type of survival gear, but it is an extremely specific type.
About every six months to a year, you're going to have to update your packets with new copies of expired documents. Sorry. That's just business.
I hope that this most boring task is the most unnecessary one that I suggest you ever do, just like putting on your seat belt, carrying personal insurance, locking your doors, and arming yourself appropriately.
The Streamlight Stinger rechargable flashlight is a very tough, very bright flashlight that easily can be worn on a belt and puts out about as much light as most duty flashlights.
It seems, however, to annoy people when you use it as a make-shift lantern, in your search for truth.
Look, if I believed that everybody --or even most people-- lied all the time, it would annoy me far less when I ran across a day when seemingly everybody did so.
Maybe it's just that time of year, again.
Sunday, June 22, 2008
You're shy of the mark, pal.
Among those things which cannot get my cool are fresh arrestees who, even when they were sober, were stupid, but who are most decidedly not sober as they hurl insults at me.
While wearing handcuffs.
Which they earned through incredible acts of dumbassitude.
My favorite, most recently: "You sum' bitches better be glad these cuffs are on me, 'cuz as soon as I get 'em off, I'm gonna kick your sorry asses!"
Then, five minutes later: "Hey! I need to pee! Lemme over to the side of the road, and take these cuffs off, so's I can pee! C'mon, guys! Please!"
He never got the complete insult that he was being issued, when the smallest cop present took him to go relieve himself, and the rest of us saw no real need to provide close support.
Friday, June 20, 2008
Lately I've been waking up with clear memories of my vivid dreams. And, unlike before, they're actually pretty decent. Mostly B movies, but with happy endings that don't fill me with dread. Uh, that's a switch.
I don't know what all these dreams mean. Oh, I certainly don't believe that dreams are foreshadowing of anything to come-- that's bollocks-- but I surely do know that our subconscious minds will chew on stuff a lot when we let our guards down. It is more remarkable to me that the dreams are ones that I can recall than that they are generally happy-ending dreams.
I suspect that it's just that I've recently changed my sleeping schedule.
For the most part, I tend to think of dreaming as sleep's in-flight-movie, and nothing more. Sometimes it's good, sometimes it's forgettable, sometimes it's terrible, and sometimes you can't hear the dialogue because the kid behind you keeps singing, over and over, the chorus to "Tiny Dancer," using the wrong lyrics. (Ever awaken from a nightful of earworm? It's a particularly nasty form of nightmare.)
At any rate, even though last night's dream did involve the ever-present 200 lb Trigger Pull and the Hammer Dropping In Slow Motion, Failing To Detonate The Primer (two themes so common in my dreams that I swear my REM is interrupted by my rolling of my eyes at the recurrence, these nights), I still persevered.
Wednesday, June 18, 2008
Ugly = Fascinating.
Courtesy of Breda, I find Ugly Overload.
I had to go back, following each link, watching each video....
I have to link this site. It's too amazing.
Think of what an amazing world this is, beyond what we know and think of. Species are like names. After a while, we get used to the Matts, Chrises, Johns, Marys, Jameses, Lisas, Davids, etc, and we get to where names like Ausanat and Adirake sound strange and bizarre to us. Even "wrong."
But it's something we haven't encountered before, and nothing more.
Unsurprisingly, most of the best finds are from deep under the ocean, which is the last place which we haven't really explored thoroughly. To me, beauty is as beauty does. Creatures that live 1000m under the surface, have enhanced abilities to pull oxygen out of the water, have iridescent countermeasures to stop attacks, and go mostly undetected are pretty damn cool, in my book.
Tuesday, June 17, 2008
Inside of the vest is like a sauna. Some idjit at the NIJ decided that their standards needed to include that the vests be waterproof, because Kevlar no workee so good when it's wet. Well here's a clue, y'all-- I don't workee so good when I'm wearing a plastic bag. The idjitry continues, as the People at Point Blank decided to put their 4" X 6" ID tags with bar code and size and level and name and serial number on the back side of the vest panels. Not on the outside, but on the side facing me. So what material did they decide to use?
Oh, yeah-- that's plastic, baby. Not noted for its breathability. And look! The ink on it runs. How special.
I'm washing the vest carrier every day, now. During the winter, I can get a couple of weeks between swapping carriers out for washing. Bah.
But the good part of summer is that we've got vine-ripened tomatoes. The sleepy kids sitting at the fresh veggie stand on the corner are doing land-office business, supplementing garden truck tomatoes, due to some perceived danger from commercial tomatoes. (The flavor of the week seems to be salmonella.) Our garden is well underway, with most of the plants having survived my 6 year-old's attempt to help the cause by spraying them with OFF! bug spray last month. It stunted the plants a tad, but they seem to have recovered.
My wife has been making sourdough bread boules, with crisp crusts. Sandwiches made with lightly-salted thick slices of vine-ripened tomatoes, slices of Cabot's Vermont extra sharp white cheddar cheese, a smear of Kraft Mayonesa (it's just their regular mayo, with lime replacing the lemon, and it's tasty), and a dusting of fresh-cracked pepper are worth eating.
So good are such sandwiches, in fact, that I find myself considering how lucky I am to live in a hot clime where we have such an abundance of vine-ripened backyard truck. At least the hot winds keep the salt shakers from clogging.
Monday, June 16, 2008
End of the school year duties.
My elder daughter had an awards thingy at her school, the other day. I hadn't really monitored how she was doing, because, frankly, as long as she's able to do the math, reading, history, and science at the level that I expect, she's doing fine. Oh, sure, she'd better pass, but that's not a real issue. I knew that they had some kind of reading achievement chart that they expected her to keep up with, and occasionally my wife and I would sign off on, but it's a pain in the butt, and I pretty well gave up on it some months ago, because it was silly-- nobody was tracking 1/10 of what she was reading. Seriously. I figured I'd give her $20 and another trip to big used book store, instead of whatever baubles and trinkets they award at the school.
So I was kind of impressed when the teacher kept handing her stuff at the podium:
--Free ball pass bowling for a free game every day this summer
--Gift card at a local restaurant,
--"A" Honor Roll All Year
--Six Flags Read To Succeed free ticket
--*Field Day Participation Award ("We're All Stars On Field Day!")
--*Outstanding Effort In Physical Education
--*Certificate of Participation in the TAKS Pep Rally." ("Tackle The TAKS")
You see those asterisks on those last three? Everyone got those. And that's not hyperbole. EVERYone. Not a single kid went without one. Not a single kid had to remain seated. What is the worth of an award that everyone gets?
It turned out that documenting less than 1 in 10 of my daughter's readings was sufficient to more than double the requirement to win a free ticket to Six Flags Over Texas. By being the top reader, she got the gift certificate to the restaurant. Somewhere in there came the bowling pass. Hey, why not?
She didn't win the Perfect Attendance award. I'm utterly fine with that. Missing that meant that she was able to take three-day weekends to visit her grandmother, aunt and uncle, and cousins in Austin. That's representative of family time that's incredibly important, in my estimation. I've nothing against Perfect Attendance; it shows diligence, and I'm all for that. But it can seriously be over-rated.
She didn't win the award for running the most laps on their running day. The girl who did ran 44 laps on a quarter-mile track. She's NINE.
Friend Ashley Emerson related to me about how he went to his daughter's Open House, and asked her about how she felt about the recent achievement test battery. "It makes my head hurt," she said. He pursued the matter, concerned. She elaborated: “Whenever we finish the test before the end of the provided time, we have to put our heads down. I keep finishing early, and my neck always hurts from laying it down on the little short desk tops. I end up getting a headache.”
So I made sure my kid took a book to read. Well, crap. Maybe I distracted her by that.
After the awards thingy, this school, like so many schools do, had a talent show. And I've got to say, I'm very uncomfortable with 4th grade girls singing songs with lyrics that include: "If you want to be with me, baby there's a price to pay..." "I'll make every wish come true."
More uncomfortable, even, than I was while watching boys break-dance to “My God Is An Awesome God.” And that's saying something... especially when their dad breaks out of the audience and joins them up on stage.
I wish I were kidding.
Friday, June 13, 2008
Aerial photos from the 1920s
Surrealist Compliment Generator.
Thursday, June 12, 2008
We tend to associate the term with autumn, but it's now harvest time on the north Texas prairie. Quarter-million dollar combines churn through the fields, taking up to 45 bushels an acre of golden grain. In an area where wheat fields are routinely several hundred acres apiece, there's some serious Wonder Bread potential going on around here.
I stopped a grain hauler for a minor equipment violation, and as men who are a little bored of an afternoon will do, we got to chatting.
"What're y'all doing with all that wheat straw that I'm seeing baled out in the fields?" I asked him. "Surely there's no nutrition in it for hay?"
"Naw-- it wouldn't make very good feed," he guffawed. "It's the damndest thing, though-- we're getting $22 a large square bale for it, plus $12 just to haul it!"
"Okay. . . what are they using it for, then?" I pondered.
"Two things: they use it in mushroom farming, so long as it's clean and never rained on, like this straw," he said, gesturing toward the field of giant square bales next to the road.
"And they've got this plant --you're never gonna believe this-- where they make insulation out of it," he said.
"For what?" I actually was surprised.
"Mobile homes and trailer campers," he said. "Now I know what you're wondering, and I asked the same thing."
"Yeah: isn't that about the most flammable insulation a person could put in their walls?!?" I asked.
"Like I said, I thought the same damn thing. Apparently, they've got this process where they compress it into wafer boards, and affix a fire-proof coating on it, and if a spark ever does get inside, it's so starved for oxygen, it can't burn. They claim that it can last for 8 hours to a wood flame and not catch," he said.
"No kidding. I never would've guessed," I proclaimed.
"Me neither. And for us, it's like selling trash off the ground. This stuff was just cast aside or tilled under, before, and now it's a supplemental crop," he said.
"Does it make any difference with the quality of the earth, now that it's not being tilled under?" I asked.
"Naw. We quit tilling, anyhow, " he said. "We've got this new method that drills the seed in and covers it up. That way, the soil holds water better when it's dry out."
You can learn a lot from a farm trucker, if you'll take the time to listen. I'd never heard this stuff before.
Monday, June 09, 2008
Coffee Cup MeMe
Well, a LONG time ago, my new pal Breda tapped me out for her little coffee cup meme. I told her at the time that I had taken the picture. I just now stumbled across it. Sadly, this is exactly the kind of coffee cup that I drink about a pot of coffee a night with:
Let's see what JPG is drinking out of. Oh, and John Shirley. And my pal Tamara. And, uh, LawDog, who's got hot tea in his mug. (But he seems to avoid clotted cream in it.) No fair picking a special mug-- this is a come-as-you-are party. (Or in my case, come-as-I-was.)
Sunday, June 08, 2008
Four Simple Rules.
I feel it necessary to repeat again the Four Rules of Firearm Safety:
RULE I: ALL GUNS ARE ALWAYS LOADED
RULE II: NEVER LET THE MUZZLE COVER ANYTHING YOU ARE NOT WILLING TO DESTROY
RULE III: KEEP YOUR FINGER OFF THE TRIGGER UNTIL YOUR SIGHTS ARE ON THE TARGET
RULE IV: BE SURE OF YOUR TARGET AND WHERE YOUR BULLET WILL LAND.
If you're ever to be around (not just own or possess) firearms, you need to learn these rules, and be able to recite them upon demand. Following any one of these rules at all times may not prevent embarrassment, but will probably prevent a tragedy. So practice all of them, always.
I have taught these rules to six year-old girls.
If you cannot comprehend and exercise the tenets of the Four Rules, please --I beg you-- stay away from firearms, forever.
That is all.
Thursday, June 05, 2008
Blow me away.
For the last three days, the average wind speed hasn't dropped below 20 mph. Yesterday, it was gusting up to 45 mph, with sustained winds of 35. A significant increase in "Prowler" calls is evident-- with wind like that, houses creak and rock a little. The majority of the calls say that there's someone in the attics of these houses, because brick veneers go up to the soffits, and no further. The roofs themselves are just composite shingles tacked to thin decking, nailed to a 2X4 or perhaps a grid that's toe-nailed to the frame of the house. (In truth, the rafters and trusses found in most houses actually provide a superstructure that strengthens the house, and thus are part of the frame, itself.) When wind of this velocity its thin decking on a frame that way, it shifts it a bit. The result is a creak or thump upstairs. And when you're in a single-story house, that means that a cop is about to get sweaty.
See, the wind may be blowing, but the temperature is still running between 95 and 100 degrees Fahrenheit. And those attics are heating up, despite the wind outside them. And someone seems to have forgotten to install our ballistic vests with their integral cooling systems. And fibreglass dust and regular dust stick very, very well to sweat.
Garbage cans are in the street or across and down the street from their original locations on the curbs. The wind blows grit that gets into every crevice of your skin. Words are lost on the wind, making people ask each other to repeat themselves. On the radio, dispatchers are calling officers again and again, to no avail.
Inside, there's a nervous feel, even when the house isn't rocking-- there's a constant rush and roar, with the occasionally hiss of light things hitting the house, and thump of heavier things hitting the house, which sounds exactly like someone on the doorstep.
I know that, before this summer is through, I shall regret that I said this: I wish the wind would die down.
Tuesday, June 03, 2008
Well good morning, class.
I know, I know-- by the time most of you all read this (but for those well west of me), it's Post meridiem, but I just got up, and any time I did so, it's morning. See? The coffee's brewing. What's that you say? "Matt, you brew coffee any old time you feel like it, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, thrice on Sundays." Well, yes, that's technically true. I like coffee. And breakfast. I think that the best part about working deep nights is that I get to have breakfast twice a day-- once when I get up, and once when everyone else thinks it's breakfast time.
My schedule just changed, and I get a couple of evening shifts, from which I get off at 1:00AM. Last night, I was in bed by 3:30AM!! The difference of getting to go to bed in the darkness is astounding. I slept through all four stages of sleep, without an antihistamine to help. I dreamt, vividly.
I woke up feeling quite refreshed, and with my attitude --which was rather surly last night-- reset.
I've got to run to the school to see my daughter win awards for her academic prowess, and such, and I'm actually pretty tickled to do it. We're all in our places, with bright shining faces. This is the way / We start out our day.