Better And Better

If you don't draw yours, I won't draw mine.

Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Hope you got a saddle for Christmas.

Because in 3 weeks, we're all promised a pony.

In a fit of irritainment, I just got done listening to an entire radio column in which NPR's senior news commentator Daniel Schorr describe this as "the worst of times," and claims that our deus ex machina --the god who swoops down to rescue imperiled heroes from their plights-- is Barack Obama.

Now, it is true that I know in advance that I will get this when I listen to Schorr. For the last eight years, he's been disgusted with all things Republican, and before that, he expressed disgust with Democrats only when they failed to utilize an opportunity to crush the Republican opposition. (Oh, how could they?!?)

I've rolled my eyes a lot over the last few months, when hearing about how Barry O' is going to Save Us All. But seriously-- it's unseemly when an educated nonagenarian who has been reporting on politics for more than 15 terms utters such silliness. For pay, no less.

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Wish for the new year.

Tonight, I'm going to patrol around my little town, and do what I'm able to do to keep the peace.

On this, the last evening of 2008, I wonder how many others are considering doing the same, for themselves? For, instead of a contemplative pint and perhaps a celebratory kiss of the neighbor near them, it's pretty common to see folks who take this passage of the year as a challenge to remove reason from the equation, through the magic of ancient biochemistry.

Why are we so very reluctant to be alone with our own thoughts?

Even sober, we demand to be distracted from ourselves. Car radios and iPods while driving (with DVDs and video games in the back for the kiddies). Perhaps a quick cell call to someone. If worse comes to worse, even a book on the highway. (Done it. Seen it done.) At home, there's the TV, the DVDs, the music, the InterWeb, the books, magazines, and whatnot. We feel the need to be outside of our own head.

Peace is a damned hard quality to find, within. Yet we claim to hope to find it, or even enforce it (!) without. Interesting.

Hamas is firing rockets into Israeli kindergartens even as the Israeli cabinet meets to discuss the immediate cessation of airstrikes in Gaza, and then claims that the Israelis refuse offers of peace and truce. This isn't even particularly good theatre; Hamas doesn't want peace. Firing rockets 28 miles into a town over the horizon isn't tactically very useful, but it certain pisses off the folks that you'd like portray publicly as your oppressors, eh wot? Very much the same as walking a bomb into a marketplace. It causes retaliation, which is actually what you want. Even that rather ineffective idjit Che Guevara knew that.

I'm drinking today, but only coffee, and lots of it. The warmth and the pleasant buzz of the caffeine go well with this sunny, bright, cool and breezy winter day.

I have regrets from this past year. I regret getting B's in graduate classes that I could certainly have obtained A's in. I regret putting on about 15 pounds that I shall have to cut this spring. I regret some things I've said, and some opportunities that I missed. I've yelled at my kids louder than I should have, and I've failed to give them time when I should have done so.

But I have some things that I'm glad of. I still look down at the daisies, rather than up at 'em. I bought, renovated, and moved into an old house that looks fairly decent these days. I've advanced myself to within two classes and a thesis of my Masters degree, while working. I put a few bad guys in jail, as well as some good guys who just weren't acting right, and I treated them all professionally. (Every one. Even the ones that potentially endangered my family.) I've watched my kids grow, and have taken a pretty strong part in making them grow. My elder daughter can do 25 perfect push ups (she's beginning to practice fingertip push ups), can disassemble and reassemble firearms, and reads voraciously, sometimes in the quiet company of her surprising array of friends. My younger daughter has learned to read, calls her best friend daily, and shows manners. I had something to do with all of that. That gives me peace, friends.

My new year's resolution will be to obtain more peace. Eliminating regrets is one way. But my friend John Shirley says that eliminating desire is another. That's a tall order, right there. And my need for an early Webley .455 is great.

May you have a happy new year. And may peace be with you.

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Monday, December 29, 2008

I'm Number 4!

As in, I'm the fourth-ranked hit on Google for "Hammer Bite."

Maybe I'd be proud, if I weren't so embarrassed.

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Saturday, December 27, 2008

Doctor, please, some more of these.

Just a friendly reminder that, just because your Mother's Little Helpers came in a bottle from a pharmacy that took a doctor's script to release to you, doesn't mean that you're on solid ground when
[Outside the door, She took one more]
you double up on your dosage, mix pain pills with your Xanex and your Valium, and fire up the family wagon to go get a pack of smokes. No, when you put it into the ditch and cause callers to dial 911 on your driving, the simple virtue that they were prescription meds doesn't get you out of hot water. You're DWI, kiddo.

So, instead, why not just stay home, call your friends and family and beg off as sick and impaired on your medicine, and... just relax, stay inside and listen to some music, Okay? Do you have any Allman Brothers?

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Thursday, December 25, 2008

Santa has left the building.

Long shift this evening. Got home and made tamales.

Then wrapped presents and put stuff under the tree.

Stuff is wrapped. Tree is stocked. Stockings are stuffed. Tamales are steamed.
Santa is pooped. It's time for bed.
Prol'ly won't make it 8:30 AM.
That's why the percolator is loaded and on the stovetop, too.

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Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Reconsidering.

We have decided to get a cat for the family --most especially the kids-- this Christmas.

My wife and I have been cat owners in the past, all of which lived to ripe old ages and died happy. We do not believe that all people are only "cat people" or "dog people." We simply have more means to keep a cat with less investment in new responsibility, now. We don't have a surrounding fence, and don't want one, and don't care to do the full-time indoor dog thing. So a cat it is. It shall be a short-hair, keeping in mind my wife's allergies. It shall be an outdoor cat, mostly, with a pass-door to the garage for inclimate weather. We want a young one, so that it will more quickly acclimate to our household.

I've called around. Pounds. Rescue groups. Crazy cat ladies.

These people are crazy.

Why can't a person just be one of those folks who takes in a few animals on occasion, coordinates foster care for orphaned pets and the like, and then lets it go at that? Why do they all have to be crazy?

Their emails are crazy. Well, crazed, at the least.

Their phone calls are nothing less than manic. They will go on and on and on about aspects of this that you just don't give a damn about. I don't care about your views on how evil shots are, lady-- my cats are getting them. I don't care that your long-haired Maine Coon (tell me that that doesn't sound like a made-up name for a breed) is the brightest, most clever, most loving kitteh in the world, but you wouldn't give her up for the whole wide world ("no I wouldn't, would I?!? No! Mama would NEVER do that, would she...?"). I want to hear three simple questions answered: 1. Do you have a young cat available to adopt? 2. Is it short-haired? 3. When, where, and for how much may I adopt the cat?

Those three questions should not take me an hour --an HOUR!! --to answer.

Kids ain't gettin' their cat until after Christmas. If I talk to this last lady again, I'm pretty sure that my colleagues will be calling on me.

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ER Docs Use Inappropriate Means, Causing The Death Of Their Patients.

See? I, too can spout off about something that I'm not qualified to discuss.

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Tuesday, December 23, 2008

In which I admire Labrat's and Stingray's cookies.

It's no secret that I'm a fan of the Atomic Nerds, right? So I was charmed when StingRay told me that he was sending me some "baked goods." What landed on my doorstep last night was a large box from the Big Brown Truck Of Happiness, loaded with two very high-end ziplock bags (seriously-- if there's one place where it's worth paying for quality, it's your ziplock bags. These had double closures, which impressed me.), packed very professionally in bubble wrap and Styrofoam peanuts. In one of the stretched out bags was about eleventy-hundred peanut butter cookies, perfectly formed and striated by a New Mexican fork.

In the other ziplock baggie was a brown powder that was clearly too powdery to be heroin, and smelled.... chocolate. I dug some more and found some instructions: Fill mug a third to half-way full with the mix, top with boiling water, mix, mix, mix until dissolved. Okay, got it. It's just hot chocolate, right?

Wrong. I note that they tried to warn me: "We recommend you don't gulp-- this stuff is a little more aggressive than Swiss Miss."

This stuff has more than just the tiniest hint of cayenne. It will, not maybe, will warm your arse right up.

The verdict from he kids, who got cups before I had even had a sip:
10 year old: aghast and upset.
6 year old: Nursed it right down to an empty cup.
Me: Wow. Knocked back the first one, decided to wait for tomorrow for a second. It's rich. Ring left in coffee mug is auburn.

Thanks, StingRay and LabRat! You're the best!

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Monday, December 22, 2008

Santa writes me back:

Click to embiggen.



(Hat tip to Claire. )

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Adventures in multiculturalism.

We're a funny lot, we Americans. Most of us speak a single language, and a good portion of us who are monolingual are actually disinterested in speaking a second one. I've got a smattering of Spanish, and can rattle off, with apparently perfect pronunciation, the phrases necessary to conduct a traffic stop. Open-ended questions are pretty much futile, though.

In Heinlein's book Podkayne Of Mars, the narrator notes that it is incredibly useful to simply be able to utter salutations, thanks, and goodbye, in any language you might encounter. People want to like each other, and hearing that another has taken at least that much trouble lets us like each other. My friends are amused that I can say howdy in Korean, and then say thank you when I get extra donut holes with my sausage roll. Sometimes using a phrase in an immigrant's home language starts interesting conversations.

A few weeks ago, I got a call to a citizen's house, regarding what would eventually turn out to be a civil issue. When I arrived, her land lady, an older Vietnamese woman, was there. My caller, who herself was quite American, had strangely decided that the very few minutes between calling for the police and my arrival (Perhaps 7 minutes? It was a low priority call.) would be the right time to wash her dogs. When I arrived and was let into the house, she was on her knees, scrubbing a pair of very nervous little useless fluffballs of some unknown breed. I tried to talk to her about why I was there, but was having trouble hearing her because: the water in the tub was running full blast, the echo in the bathroom was terrible, she was facing away from me and grunting as she scrubbed the little mutts, and she was mumbling and slurring her words from her dose of pain meds and anti-anxiety meds. I caught something about a family member having stolen a very large check that she had inexplicably written and left at the house. I told her that the first thing we needed to do was cancel the check. She murmured "Mmm hmmm..." and kept scrubbing her dog. Never so much as looked over her shoulder at the cop she had summoned to her house.

At this point, the elder little Vietnamese lady brushed past me into the bathroom, and began berating her: "You stop washin' doggies righ' naow! Stop it! Policeman is heah. You talka policeman, righ' naow!" She shouldered her way between my caller and the dogs, muttering, "Stupid dogs no needah bath righ' heah, anyhow! Usa hose in back yard! Mo' bettah!"

I could have readily kissed that little Indochine lady on the mouth. Damn, but she cut to the chase.

_ _ _ _

My online pal Stingray has unfortunately not enjoyed such pleasure, in his meeting persons from the Near East via the telephone. If you ask me, he's clearly a xenophobe. (A frickin' funny xenophobe.)

“Ok so yes you check out want to on ?”

“No, that’s backwards, and would involve time travel.”

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Dear Kirby:

I grew up pushing one of your well-designed and well-made vacuum cleaners all over my family home's wall-to-wall carpeting. Your upright was a cast-aluminum dinosaur, which was easy to maintain when it occasionally did break, even by a dumb kid like me. Purchased in the 1960's, that vacuum cleaner still runs. I've since operated several other models of your upright machines, and was similarly impressed by their quality.

Today, I don't use a Kirby, mainly because the plastic Dirt Devil that I have has on-board attachments, a HEPA filter, weighs less, and cost about $100. But I respect the product that you've made for many decades.

What I don't understand, however, is your business model.

First, the whole door-to-door thing. People in this day and age don't really enjoy having their dinner hour interrupted by some kid that they've never met, trying to sell them a vacuum cleaner for $500 or more.

Second, the method of your recruitment is puzzling, for two major reasons:
A: You recruit people from Kansas and Chicago to come sell your vacuum cleaners in N. Texas.
B: From my experience, the majority of your sales staff have criminal records. Of those that do, about one out of every four, in my own experience, is a convicted felon.

Now, I'm not one of those people who believe that felons should never get a break in life. Lord knows, too many crimes these days have been made into felonies, and I certainly want to see folks out making an honest living. But I just have to wonder-- doesn't it seem to you that hiring dead-eyed ex-cons (who are CLEARLY ex-cons) to go door-to-door to represent your product is a poor way to represent your company? You're asking the good people of my town to open their homes and give their credit card numbers to these guys, people!

Finally, might I suggest some kind of name badge for your employees? We're getting a lot of "suspicious persons" calls about them, because the homeowners genuinely question whether they actually work for you.

That is all. Hope your sales are stellar!

--Matt G.

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I just fired off a late Christmas card

...to Hannah Garman. Read about her here. (Scroll down a little.)

You certainly don't have to do this, but it's a small thing to do for a sick kid.

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Friday, December 19, 2008

Today's earworm: Gold.

Specifically, "The Ecstacy Of Gold."

Originally I heard it in The Good, The Bad, And The Ugly, but later heard Metallica's cover of it. (This struck me as amusing in a similar manner as when I heard their cover of "Whisky In The Jar.")

Just now, while looking to hear it, I found this live version of Ennio Morrione directing a full orchestra and choir to perform it in its most traditional manner.

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How do the rules go, again?

Seriously-- I don't have a dog in this hunt.

But when I read this story about cops and SPCA agents (!?!) raiding a house where a woman was selling "goth"* kittens with piercings, I began to wonder: why did we decide that she broke the rules?

Indignities aside, we can breed all manifestations of bizarre animals, without hassle. When they're born, we crop their ears, dock their tails, cut off their nuts, and give them tubals. We put in chip implants, rings through noses of bulls, and we cut out the claws of our cats. Let's not even begin to get into the ridiculous haircuts we give these animals.

I've walked past the mall ear-piercing kiosks more than once to see mothers comforting screaming little girls as they coax them into a chair to have their ears pierced. Human children. Babies.

Tell me why we give a damn if this woman wants to fluff up her kittehs to make 'em more sellable on the open market? I just want to know the rules, here. Because it seems like we could find more important things to focus on.




______________________
*Intentionally left lower-case, as it seems that the original meaning of the word has long since flown.

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Devices.

As a youngster, if you had asked me to define "device," I would have uttered a definition that was synonymous with "contraption." And indeed, Merriam-Webster agrees with me. Sort of.

Definition 1 for M.W.'s entry for Device includes: "a piece of equipment or a mechanism designed to serve a special purpose or perform a special function," which meets the contraption-concept that I had in mind back when.

But I ran into two other uses that vary greatly from that view, in my mind.

The first is with regard to symbolic devices on uniforms. They are mentioned in the last definition listed in Merriam Webster: "3: an emblematic design used especially as a heraldic bearing." Get a bronze star with a V for valor? That gold V is a device. Even though it's simply gold thread sewn into a ribbon, it's a device.

Then I started work as a cop, and found that *I* was a device, when I wrote a citation for TRC §544.004, (Compliance With Traffic Control Device), the device most often disregarded was me. Whenever I directed traffic and pointed one way and traffic went another way, that was my cite.

Felt funny, being a "device." Then I thought about it: I had always known that a tidy uniform was important to convey professionalism and any possible sense of authority to the public that I was serving. Indeed, a well-pressed uniform and polished boots did as much for my job's credibility as all the training and professionalism that I could utilize. Once I got that through my head, it was a whole lot easier to think of myself as a "device." Go back to "emblematic design used especially as a heraldic bearing." I may not be that, but many times I'm surely a symbol, when in uniform, more than I am perceived as a man. This symbolic status allows me to serve better, I think. I've known for a long time that lots of folks can't see beyond it and thus can't perceive me as a person beyond the empty shell of my office, to my detriment.

But there can be some favorable outcomes of this; most people, when coming to an intersection with a recognizable cop in it with his hand held up, palm out toward them, will stop without questioning who the hell he thinks he is to tell them to do that. Thus, traffic can get redirected, accidents get avoided or cleared, and people again move smoothly about their daily lives.

I'm tempted to launch into further riffing on the social mandate for government authority, but I just bored myself a little, and I even bore me, then you've got to be snoozin'. 'Sides. Plato and Hobbes said it first and better, anyway.

Want a giggle? This weekend I found a 5 page paper that I submitted to my Philosophy 301 class, my first semester of my freshman year at U.T. at Austin. The title: "Life Sucks And Then You Die." I got an A on the paper, and the course, and changed my major to Philosophy. It would have been so much better for me if Dr. Papas had just flunked me. :)

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Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Early Christmas Present.

A citizen wanted me to enforce access to an easement which he swore that he had, which people parked in front of. Although his otherwise landlocked property plat has another easement to another street, he told me that he thought that his deed gave him a new easement to drive his cars out to this street. He wanted me to make these people quick parking where they had thought that they were doing so legally.

Hm.

I researched the issue. I looked up CAD drawings of the plats, and saw the other easement, plain as day. I didn't see the one the citizen wanted me to enforce.

I went to the City Zoning Clerk.

Pretty much my only dealings with this woman have been in her capacity as a municipal court clerk. And frankly, she's been having to train herself to do that, and the learning curve has been steep, causing both of us to be a tad frustrated, at times.

But now I got to see her in her element. Not only did she have some training as a zoning clerk, but she was interested in it. She briskly took me to a very large cabinet full of site drawings and blueprints, standing in a room full of them. She went right to the subdivision after consulting a rather ingenious index that correlated to a city map on the wall-- her own invention. She pulled out B&W CAD drawings, and blue print CAD plots in both blue-and-white and white-and-blue, and then pulled out original graphite-and-vellum pencil-drawn originals. She had a semi-grin on her face, as she pointed to three generations of maps that proved that n0 such easement had been registered. Actually, four generations, when you included the online view of the county appraisal office.

I knew that grin. It had nothing to do with whether the man's easement was a figment of his imagination, or not. It had to do with the fact that she had solid, irrefutable proof that no civil engineer or surveyor or whatnot had registered such an artifact with her office or the county in 70 years.

"You love this stuff, don't you?" I asked.

"Yeah, I really do. I love maps," she grinned.

"I'm kind of a cartographile, myself," I said.

I asked her what the city code was on driveways, and she rattled off from memory the prima facie dimensions for driveways and the minimum distance that they had to be from property lines.

She zapped me a quick couple of copies for my citizen to see, and we came up with the contact info for registering such items on the deed with the county and herself. The citizen was going to have to use his other easement, until such time as his other one was recognized.

As I started to leave, I said, "Hey, lady, you're pretty good at this."

She responded, "Thanks..." and looked up from the maps that she was re-filing, and smiled. She just picked up on what she had gotten from me: My genuine respect for her ability.

I don't know what it means to her. I just know that it means something to me.

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You have the right to free speech.

And they have the right to refuse service.

Friends, again, I feel compelled to point out that your right to free speech does not include the right to force others to support your right.

It would seem that a ShopRite decided that they didn't want to make a birthday cake that spelled out three-year-old Adolf Hitler Campbell's full name. They similarly had refused on previous occasions to make a cake with a swastika on it for them.

That's okay-- Wal Mart was happy to oblige them. Before y'all all jump on the boycott bandwagon, remember that ol' Sam Walton probably put out a dictum before he passed on, to the effect of "Don't you dare let a paying customer leave unshucked, just because of a stupid-assed name."

Good on ShopRite. Okay on Wal Mart. A pox on the idjit Campbells.

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Monday, December 15, 2008

Climate is what you expect; weather is what you get.

I'm a minor weather geek. Minor, in that I simply can't bring myself to turn on the Weather Channel and leave it on. Geek, in that I want more than the National Weather Service forecast that most of the media use, which is too regionalized.

I've taken to checking most of my raw data from various local personally-owned weather stations that are online through the disturbingly-named WeatherUnderground.com (and who the hell thought that was a good idea for a site name?!?). You put in your zip code, and it spits out, on the bottom, a list of privately-owned weather stations, and their rapid-fire updated history, so that you can see your micro-weather around you.

Yesterday, we had started the day kind of muggy, with a strong south wind blowing up warm moist air from the Gulf. I went into the P.D. last evening to finish preparing an accident report and type in a few call sheets. After an hour, I stepped out to my car to get my clipboard, and was blasted by cold air coming in twice as fast from the north. When my partner came in at 9pm, he looked baffled. "What just happened here?" The temperature had dropped 22 degrees in an hour. I mentioned that the wind had turned.

"Well, it's been windy all day," he said. "That's not the problem." He was shivering in his chair.

"It's not that the wind is blowing-- it's from where it's blowing," I said, and showed him this graph:



I love graphs. They spell out everything for you. Right at 8:00 PM, the wind turned from due south to NNW, and the temperature dropped through the floor. It always surprises me when other people don't notice the direction of the wind.


This morning, it was only down to 21 degrees farenheit, but with a steady 21mph wind gusting to 35 mph, it was brisk, of the like that most folks don't associate with Texas. I've GOT to better insulate this old place.

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Friday, December 12, 2008

Economy.

I've mentioned plate matches, right?

Five stages. Each stage has 5 randomly-arrayed steel plates at ranges from about 5 yards to maybe 20 yards. Most would fall in the 7-10 yard range. At the buzzer, you draw your pistol, and shoot each plate. If you miss, you may shoot as many shots as you desire to hit each plate. In the Stop Plate matches that I like, the time is stopped when you shoot the plate with the red metal stem stand. Misses count as 5 seconds off your time.

Each stage is shot 5 times, with the worst string thrown out from each stage.

At five stages times five strings times five plates, that's 125 rounds if you shoot it clean. It's fast, and a good opportunity to shoot a lot.

Lots of guys bring race guns, with comps, super sights, and race holsters that hold their pistols by magnets. Many shooters don't even carry their pistols in their competition holsters, and carry their pistols up to the line in a carrying case, because they don't trust their holsters to hold their pistols securely. (When I'm king, there'll be some changes made. If you don't trust your holster to safely carry your firearm, you shouldn't put your firearm into it. ) Some have enormous pistols in minor calibers.

Then there are some that use it as an opportunity to train with their carry guns. Dad and I usually take 1911 .45 acps. I have taken my 1930's vintage Colt Officer's Model Special 6" to that match a couple of times, and that's a duty-worthy gun. (I've also taken that pistol hunting, and have killed a ouple of javelina with it.)

I told Dad yesterday that I wanted to load some ammo for the next match. What caliber? .38 Special.

I'm going to take my 2" Chief's Special Airweight. Under a pound? Check. Short sight radius? Check. Capacity of just 5? Bobbed hammer spur? Double check. No room to miss and still be competitive.

Let's be honest with ourselves-- I'll NEVER beat those machine-gun like guys with the gamer-guns. NEVER. I can practice and get good, but some of those guys shooting poofter 9mm through 3 lb comped pistols are just scary good. So I'll need a calender to measure my times.

But if we're also honest with ourselves, we'll note that I carry that little Chief's Special M37 more than my 1911. I carry it WAYYY more than my big-framed, heavy-barreled 6" Colt .38. Thus I'm far more likely to actually need to show proficiency in the Real World with it. Harder to shoot? Sure. But that just means that I need to practice more.

Why not shoot 125 rounds, against time?

Today Dad and I set up the Dillon Square Deal B for a light 158g LRN load over a little Unique.

Now I need to get some more speed loaders. I guess I'll order some of those SafariLand Comp1 loaders. :)

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Well if you HAVE to ask....


...the answer is "yes."

We note with glee in my household that Bratz dolls are going to be discontinued after Christmas, after a court ruling that the creator of the attitude-ridden little dolls designed them while working for Matel. So Bratz go. Right direction; wrong reason.
I'm all about free market forces, and it disturbs me that market forces haven't crushed dolls that depict bitchy little girls dressed like strumpets, with sneers on their faces. Worse, they've got their own animated telivision show, and their arrow was pointed up.

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Lost an icon.

We lost the best pinup girl who was ever pinned up, yesterday.

Bettie Page's appeal, to me at least, was not in her portrayal as a dominatrix or such. It was the fact that she genuinely appeared to be having fun. Nothing is sexier, to my simple mind, than a lady having fun. Whether or not people judge her for the rather pedestrian act of taking her clothes off before a camera, it's indisputable that the most stable point in her life was when she was employed to do just that.

Some might have a chicken/egg quandry as to whether that period drove her later unsettled life or if her troubles drove her to posing. I wouldn't bother. In a time when models were already attempting to melt cameras with sultry glares, Bettie was smiling. You get the feeling that you would have liked this person.

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Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Getting a glimpse of the big picture.

I've been going to the Hubble Space Telescope Advent Calender 2008 every day this month. And let me tell you-- petty problems melt.

BTW, for those of y'all who don't think about these things a lot, a light year is the distance that light travels in a year.

The speed of light is c, which is 186,000 miles per second.

That's about 5,869,713,600,000 miles. Getting on toward six trillion miles, for just one light year of distance. Makes our little 8.5 light-minute A.U. of 93 million miles seem pretty insignificant, doesn't it?

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Tuesday, December 09, 2008

It's Istanbul Not Constantinople.

What do we call Burma now? Myanmar.
What do we call Pretoria, South Africa now? Tshwane

I can't keep up with them all. I grant that new African countries would have new names, or re-use old ones. I get that Yugoslavian subdivisions got renamed. That figures. Likewise with the former USSR districts, regions, and states.

Recent events in India underscored that some of their better-known towns just flat changed their names without asking us:
Calcutta to Kolkata.
Madras to Chennai.
Bombay to Mumbai.

Lots of geographic geekery to be found here about name changes.

But here's a question I've had for a while, which I've never had a satisfactory answer to:
Why do we still call Bangkok "Bankok," when everyone in Siam Thailand calls it Krung Thep?

8 million residents there call it that. It's short for "Krung Thep Mahanakhon Amon Rattanakosin Mahinthara Yuthaya Mahadilok Phop Noppharat Ratchathani Burirom Udomratchaniwet Mahasathan Amon Piman Awatan Sathit Sakkathattiya Witsanukam Prasit," which could really cost you to utter, when the meter's running on the cab you just hailed. ______________________________________________________

Click above to embiggen.[ate.][(ify.)]

Speaking of a practical use for knowledge of geographic name changes, my wife picked up a Replogle 12 Inch Starlight Globe fairly recently, at an auction. She seemed surprised at how happy this little $5 purchase made me, and said "I'm sure that it's not anywhere near current." Almost 11 years of marriage, and this woman still doesn't really know me fully. Of course it's not current! That's its charm! I was tickled to find that it didn't have a visible copyright date near the legend in the S. Pacific (where they put pretty much all the legends on globes, right?). Finding out when the map or the globe was made is half the fun of an old globe. Usually the answer is most easily found in Africa, specifically toward the south of that continent. But I started with the Middle East:
Click to embiggen.
See that place where Oman should be? It's listed as Muscat & Oman. That puts it as being prior to 1975, and probably earlier. See that pink area where Yemen should be? That's the Aden Protectorate. See the orange area listed as "Yemen"? That's North Yemen, which declared itself a republic in 1962. The Brits withdrew from the Aden Protectorate in 1967. Aha! We're getting closer. Let's see... does it help that Abu Dhabi isn't listed? Nah-- we wouldn't have seen it before '68 or the U.A.E. creation in '71. The Somali Republic had gained its independence from Britain in 1960, and Djibouti (French Somalia) didn't gain independence from France until 1977, so that's no help.

Let's check west Africa-- Western Sahara was still Spanish Sahara. Guinea-Basseu was still Portuguese Guinea. These do nothing to help me-- they still went by those old names in the early 1970s. Togo was no longer French Togoland, which put it later than mid-1960. Benin was still humorously named Dahomey, but that would last until 1970. Equitorial Guinea was still called Spanish Guinea. The Gambia got indepenence in 1965, but never changed its name.
Well, it's time to cheat, and go down to south Africa:
South West Africa hadn't yet re-invented itself Namibia, which they did in 1968. Aha! South Rhodesia hadn't yet changed its name to Zimbabwe in 1964.

And the clencher: Northern Rhodesia was a British protectorate from 1963 to 1964, when it became Zambia. (Well, it was also a British protectorate from 1924 to 1953, but we've already established that this globe's not that old.)

So, neat globe from the early Johnson administration. 1963. The world was really changing back then.

As I noted up above, it still changes even now, as well. Hour by hour.

But back then, the changes came so fast and furious, they would make you dizzy:

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Can't wait

...to read my pal Don Gwinn's take on his state's governor Rod Blagojevich being taken into federal custody on corruption charges.

My palms are quite warm, from being rubbed together so.

Blagojevich's response, I'm quite sure, will be: "Well pardon me! Seriously. Barry? Can I get... can I get a little love here? Please?"
The Obama transition team is aware that Blagojevich is in federal custody, but has no comment, according to a senior Democratic source.

Oh, I'm sure that they're VERY aware of it, and are choosing not to speak on the issue until they've talked equally to their spin doctors and their attorneys.

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Monday, December 08, 2008

Mo' meme.

1. Started your own blog. (Do I get a medal, or something?)
2. Slept under the stars.
3. Played in a band.
4. Visited Hawaii. Never crossed an ocean.
5. Watched a meteor shower.
6. Given more than you can afford to charity. I've never seen the sense in becoming a charity case.
7. Been to Disneyland.
8. Climbed a mountain.
9. Held a praying mantis.
10. Sang a solo.
11. Bungee jumped. Well, I've been released from a crane that had pulled me back from a tower with a bungee cord. Not the same, though.
12. Visited Paris Never crossed an ocean.
13. Watched a lightning storm at sea.
14. Taught yourself an art from scratch.
15. Adopted a child.
16. Had food poisoning. Who hasn't, eventually? Chicken tacos. Oof.
17. Walked to the top of the Statue of Liberty.
18. Grown your own vegetables.
19. Seen the Mona Lisa in France. Never crossed an ocean.
20. Slept on an overnight train.
21. Had a pillow fight.
22. Hitch hiked.
23. Taken a sick day when you’re not ill.
24. Built a snow fort.
25. Held a lamb.
26. Gone skinny dipping.
27. Run a Marathon. -no thank you!
28. Ridden in a gondola in Venice. Never crossed an ocean.
29. Seen a total eclipse.
30. Watched a sunrise or sunset.
31. Hit a home run.
32. Been on a cruise.
33. Seen Niagara Falls in person.
34. Visited the birthplace of your ancestors.
35. Seen an Amish community.
36. Taught yourself a new language.
37. Had enough money to be truly satisfied.
38. Seen the Leaning Tower of Pisa in person. Never crossed an ocean.
39. Gone rock climbing.
40. Seen Michelangelo’s David. Never crossed an ocean.
41. Sung karaoke.
42. Seen Old Faithful geyser erupt.
43. Bought a stranger a meal at a restaurant.
44. Visited Africa. Never crossed an ocean.
45. Walked on a beach by moonlight.
46. Been transported in an ambulance.
47. Had your portrait painted
48. Gone deep sea fishing. I don't think bay fishing counts, does it?
49. Seen the Sistine Chapel in person. Never crossed an ocean.
50. Been to the top of the Eiffel Tower in Paris. Never crossed an ocean.
51. Gone scuba diving or snorkeling. Briefly. Nevery anywhere fun.
52. Kissed in the rain.
53. Played in the mud. Note affirmative to #52. [/leer]
54. Gone to a drive-in theater.
55. Been in a movie. Extra for Necessary Roughness. Scott Bakula was a walking phallus.
56. Visited the Great Wall of China. Would love to. Never crossed an ocean.
57. Started a business.
58. Taken a martial arts class.
59. Visited Russia. Never crossed an ocean.
60. Served at a soup kitchen.
61. Sold Girl Scout Cookies.
62. Gone whale watching.
63. Got flowers for no reason.
64. Donated blood, platelets or plasma.
65. Gone sky diving.
66. Visited a Nazi Concentration Camp. Never crossed an ocean.
67. Bounced a check.
68. Flown in a helicopter.
69. Saved a favorite childhood toy
70. Visited the Lincoln Memorial.
71. Eaten Caviar. Other kinds of roe, yes. Never sturgeon roe.
72. Pieced a quilt.
73. Stood in Times Square.
74. Toured the Everglades.
75. Been fired from a job. Well, basically. Never was told "You're fired." But when you're gone, you're gone.
76. Seen the Changing of the Guards in London. Never crossed an ocean.
77. Broken a bone.
78. Been on a speeding motorcycle. You've either been on a speeding motorcycle, or you've never really been on a motorcycle at all.
79. Seen the Grand Canyon in person.
80. Published a book.
81. Visited the Vatican. Never crossed an ocean.
82. Bought a brand new car.
83. Walked in Jerusalem. Never crossed an ocean.
84. Had your picture in the newspaper.
85. Read the entire Bible. Straight through? Nah.
86. Visited the White House.
87. Killed and prepared an animal for eating.
88. Had chickenpox.
89. Saved someone’s life. Hard to say. Maybe. Probably. But which one?
90. Sat on a jury. They always get me at voir dire.
91. Met someone famous. Holding the door for Mikhail Gorbachev probably doesn't count as "meeting" someone.
92. Joined a book club.
93. Lost a loved one.
94. Had a baby.
95. Seen the Alamo in person.
96. Swam in the Great Salt Lake.
97. Been involved in a law suit.
98. Owned a cell phone.
99. Been stung by a bee.
100. Read an entire book in one day.

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Look at the colors.


The red gum tree out front is rather stunning against the dusk sky, I think.

Also impressive is how my daughters, clowns that they are, will get in front of any camera to... uh, clown around. Yes, I know they are blurred; they are in constant motion.

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Monday Wikipedia Safari.

I've got a Statistics final on Wednesday. So of course it makes sense that I would use this morning off to, uh, put off studying that wearisome subject.

Tamara mentioned the 1914 Battle of the Falkland Islands between German warships and British warships, which naturally led me to re-read the entry on the 1982 Falklands War, in which Maggie Thatcher reminded the Argentinians that Great Britain still had teeth. For a while, at least. (Sadly, hers may last longer than her nation's.) The British made long-range bombing raids against the Argentinians in Operation Black Buck, during which they flew early 1950's vintage Avro Vulcan bombers 8000 miles from Acension Island. Ascension Island was designated the stone frigate "HMS Acension".

Backing up to look at the delta wing Vulcans a little closer, I noticed that an incident was mentioned in which a Vulcan landed hard at an airshow in New Zealand in 1959. The cheeky New Zealand Air Force fixed it up, but applied their own kiwi roundels to the plane. No word if they kept it. Looking at the various roundels of the world, it would seem that there is often a disconnect between how cool a country is and how cool its roundel is. Somalia's roundel is pretty cool, but one wonders if there are any flying aircraft in their air force. (Also the color looks faded, like a bumper sticker on the back of a 1982 Buick Regal Ltd.) Kyrgyzstan's is striking. On the other hand, Malta's is pretty neat. I would definitely suggest to Latvia, Turkey, and Peru to get visibly different ones, for their ships of war. Or at least demand that Target Corp. sponser them.

And then I needed to make a new pot of coffee.

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Thursday, December 04, 2008

Want!

New takes on the DeLisle: Suppressed SMLE .45acp rifle.

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Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Revisiting Miami, 1986.

In my reading today, I had occasion to look again at the Miami shootout of such notoriety. And I came to a couple of conclusions:

After the famous 1986 Miami FBI shootout, there was a lot of fallout. Contrary to the opinions of many who know little about the event, the United States Federal Bureau of Investigation did NOT sweep the issue under the rug. In fact, they made a major investigation of the incident, piecing together who among the 9 participants in the firefight had fired which of the 129 rounds in that shootout. You can read about it here, or here, if you'd like. I don't have personal knowledge of any facts that would conflict with the FBI findings, or the facts presented above.
What we do know is that the aftermath was controversial. How, wondered many, could two crooks beat a whole squad of FBI men?

Well, first off, they didn't. Both bad guys died, right there on the scene. Unfortunately this occurred not before they killed two and seriously wounded two other FBI agents trying to arrest them. In fact, only one agent managed to avoid injuries.

But that's not good enough.

Well, no, it wasn't. Platt and Matix, the bad guys, almost managed to get away from the shootout scene, with an agent's car.

What were the major problems hindering the FBI? Was it that their guns were insufficient?
Well, no.
Or yes.
Yes and no.

One of the major rules in gunfighting is to have them, if at all possible, using a long gun. Both Platt and Matix adhered to this rule, and the FBI failed pretty badly in this regard. Platt fired 42 rounds of .223 out of his Mini-14 rifle at the agents, and scored lots of hits for effect. No concealable body armor would have stopped those rounds, and only two agents were wearing body armor. Platt was varsity. He had practiced a lot with his Mini-14, and knew how to use it. He had military training, and when the agents ducked behind cover, he advanced on them shooting. Matix fired a 12 gauge shotgun at the agents, getting off only one round. He was shot early on, by one of the agents (McNeil), and that fact likely saved lives. The first order in operations when faced with two such hostile armed men up close is to take out the shotgunner.

Yet the rounds that stopped both men were .38 Special +P lead semi-wadcutter hollow points. These were fired by one of the gutsiest lawmen ever to clank when he walked, Edmundo Mireles.

Mireles deserves special mention. After he was wounded in his left arm, he used his one good arm to cycle and fire his Bureau 12 gauge shotgun 5 times at the two men as they struggled to drive an FBI sedan away. He then advanced on them from the front, killing both men by firing through the windshield with his S&W revolver.

Fiat that the stop was going to happen when and where it did, with that number of agents. What should we have done to equip them differently? Well, shotguns all around would have been nice. Rifles would have been nice. (Notice: LONG guns.) These both would have improved the good guys' hit ratio, but just as importantly would have improved the likelihood of stopping the bad guys with their hits. Matix was hit three times before Mireless made his heroic charge, and Platt was struck at least 9 times before that charge.

How else could we have equipped them better? The FBI decided that the day had dawned when agents should be issued auto pistols of bigger and better calibers. They went through a bizarre process of obtaining 10mm S&W auto guns, then requesting a lighter loading, then ditching the whole 10mm concept altogether and getting .40s, a round that arguably could trace its lineage to the lesser 10mm loadings, which arguably stemmed from reactions to this shootout.

I submit that, while a good auto pistol of a caliber starting with a "four" is a decent start, they would have done better in getting every Bureau car outfitted with a quality auto shotgun.
I have NEVER heard anyone make this argument, and it surprises me. Listen to The Gun Zone's description of the only use of a shotgun by any agent in that gunfight:

"As Platt entered the FBI's Buick and his partner appeared out of nowhere to slip into the passenger's seat, Mireles carefully supported his Remington 870 on the right rear bumper of McNeill's Olds, and fired a round of 00 Buck at Platt, hitting him in the feet. As the man slumped into the driver's seat and sought to restart the car, Ed deliberately pulled the 12 gauge shotgun down between his thighs in his sitting position and with only one hand, worked the action to rearm his weapon, then painfully rolled out and somehow managed to fire at Platt. Four times Mireles did this."
I submit that a shorty Remington 1100 with an extended magazine and 6 shots of anybody's brand of buckshot in each car could have ended that fight fast. I would certainly submit that Mireless sure would have appreciated one that day.

Oh, other lessons? Have backup guns. Have reloads. Only center hits count. And never, ever, ever give up.

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Marko's awesome... but he's holding out.

My pal Marko puts down *your* favorite guns.
But he conveniently leaves out all of *his* guns, in his list of heresy.

Yeah. That's right, Munchkin Boy-- I'm callin' you out! You talk about our mamas, but you leave your own alone? That ain't fittin'. ;)

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A good morning.

"Can you help me with the kids?" my wife asked me this morning. I hadn't bothered setting my alarm, as I had today off. I sat up. It was 07:00.

"Sure," I said. I had meant to get up earlier to help get them going. When you have the day off, you can take it a little easier with the getting ready, and everybody has a better morning.

I padded into my 10 year-old's room, first. She's notoriously hard to get up, and takes the longest. I grabbed her feet, yanked her toward me, and pulled her blanket off of her, expecting the battle. She began responding much faster than usual. I sat her up, gave her a hug, and asked her to stand up. She did so, and smiled. Whoa.

I went to the 6 year-old's room, and asked her if she could wake up. Eyes still shut, she smiled, nodded, and stretched. I sat her up as she opened her eyes and wished me a good morning. We hugged, and I told her to brush her hair, which she had neglected to do before going to bed with it wet last night. This is usually an onerous task in the morning, entailing much screaming on her part as the tangles are brushed out. She smiled and said, "Okay, Daddy," and proceeded to go brush it without a word of protest. Whoa.

I went to the kitchen, got the coffee going, and decided that the kids needed breakfast. I made up a very bland migas for 'em, with only eggs, corn tortillas, fresh garlic, and salt. The young one wanted toast with jam, the elder wanted hers wrapped in a whole wheat flour tortilla. I plated their breakfast 8 minutes later, with milk. They ate their breakfasts without protest, and washed their faces.

Because of the route my wife takes to work, I took the 10 year old to her school while my wife took the 6 year old to her school. En route, I drilled my daughter on the Four Rules, a few rapid-fire multiplication tables that made her roll her eyes out of disgust for lack of challenge, and a quick verbal run-down of the proper method to field-strip a 1911. (She can do it, but verbalizing it is harder than you might imagine, for a kid. I think that saying it aloud is good, because it allows her to understand what the parts actually do.) We got through proper unloading and removing the recoil spring plunger before we were interrupted by her getting out to run in; she was almost late for school.

"I love you. Be careful," I said as she took off.

"I love you too!" she called, running in.

I watched her run and thought how utterly fantastic it was that I had hit the lottery. My little girl, running in, is bright, interested in the world, polite, tender-hearted, talented, and beautiful. "I made that," I said aloud, watching after her.

I grinned, and as I drove home I passed my wife, later than me, driving our younger daughter in. She saw my grin, and smiled back, saying something that I knew amounted to "there's your daddy" to my 6 year old. She waved furiously at me as we passed, with a big smile on her golden face. Golden.

That lottery? I hit it twice.

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Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Confession of ignorance.

I don't *get* the obsession with Andy Warhol.

I regularly see many superb artists, who are about as obscure as any homeless person on the street. Then there's Warhol, who for about a quarter century had undue sway over what and who were considered artistic-- especially in New York.

Maybe I've just got so much hayseed in my hair that I just can't see. Hell, I've never even been to NYC. (And I could carry a pistol there, so I don't have that excuse going for me not having gone.)

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