Better And Better

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

Monday, May 31, 2010

Remember.

Look, I'm not asking you to join the military, or throw a party, or have a parade, or offer your first-born virgin daughter to a serviceman. I'm not asking you to even go find a serviceman, current or former, and thank him. (Although that would be a nice gesture.)

All I'm asking you to do is this:

Remember, for just a few seconds, that you enjoy the rights and privileges and whatever leisure you have* in this country, through the actions and the sacrifices of men and women wearing the uniform of this nation's armed forces. Wearing that uniform has few privileges attached to it, beyond the opportunity to have served this nation. With few exceptions, everyone who puts that uniform on is subject to being put into harm's way for their country.

If you will remember that for the next little while before enjoying the rest of your day, then I believe this Memorial Day has served its purpose to this nation.


________________________________
*And/or the right to gripe about their absence.

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Sunday, May 30, 2010

Where only the criminals go armed.

Falcon Lake is an international lake, straddling the Texas-Mexico border. The fishing there, I've always heard, is spectacular. Due to the agreement, a fisherman can fish from one shore to another, but down the center of the lake is the international border. One shore it Texas, and the other is Mexico.

Lately, some Mexican gang members have been boarding anglers' boats by force, robbing the fisherman at gunpoint. They at first claim to be federales, but they get spotted for the gang members they are, pretty quickly. They are criminal predators.

So, here's the interesting part-- the attacks are ALL taking part on the Mexico part of the lake. Not in Texas.

Why?

Because the pirates know that it's against the law to carry guns or ammunition into Mexico. It's almost universally illegal for Mexicans to carry weapons of their own in Mexico, as well. Thus, if the gangsters attack people on the Mexican side, they will receive no armed resistance. The Mexican law protects the robbers.

Of course, it's against the law for the gangsters to have guns, too. But seeing as how they're engaged in organized crime, conspiracy, and armed robbery, just to name a few, they're not really worried about breaking a little weapon law. You know who worries about that? Law abiders. A.K.A.: their prey.

We would do well to point to this superb example of the unintended consequence of gun control, the next time someone suggests that it would be safer if you would just pass another gun law to protect the populace.

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Saturday, May 29, 2010

My Memorial Day starts right now.

Today I'll run the family over to my partner's in-laws' place. From what I've been told, skeet-shooting, horseback riding, and bass-fishing, swimming, and barbecue are promised. My girls are stoked. My partner, an accomplished wine connoisseur, promises to break into the Good Stuff before the evening is through.

Sadly, this means that I'm going to have to miss the weekend night shoot match put on by our local Larger P.D. Some burdens must be borne.
_ _ _
In the meantime, please remember the meaning of Memorial Day Weekend, which I guess started yesterday. Remember that good men died so that we might live free.

Men like Lt. John W. Finn (Rtd.), who won a Medal Of Honor defending Pearl Harbor while my parents' parents were just kids. Lt. Finn passed away 05/27/2010.

"Thus evermore shall rise to thee
Glad hymns of praise from land and sea."

Fair seas, Lieutenant Finn.

"Lt. Finn said he found his occupation peaceful, and above all was pleased to have 'a place to ride my motorcycle, shoot my guns on my own property, and collect my junk.'"

Sounds like Lt. Finn found heaven on Earth at his 93 acre ranch outside San Diego, before dying at 100 years of age.

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Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Might wanna pick other friends, meth head edition.

Suppose you're a multi-time loser. Suppose you've committed scores of felonies, been arrested for dozens, and been convicted and served time for a good half dozen felonies, each of a different flavor. Some are for stealing. Some are for hurting people. Some are for doing drugs. Some are for selling drugs. You're an equal opportunity felon. Now suppose you're going to go do some more drugs, in a town 25 miles from home, and you pick up a buddy to do those drugs with. So far, the one good decision that you've made in life is that you haven't gotten inked while in the joint. You're unmarked. You're polite to the cops when you're stopped for a minor infraction. The cops might let you go with a warning or a ticket, without snooping. But not your friend. But your runnin' buddy has prison tats on his arms. And on his neck. And on his fingers. White power tats. White supremacy gang tats. All are clearly the work of an amateur prison tatooist. This causes the cops to sniff a little more into both the histories of your buddy, and yourself. This inquiry into your colorful past, heretofore unknown to the cops that just stopped you, causes a closer look at you and your car, which leads to your methamphetamine being found.

Protective camouflage fail*.

_ _ _ _
Now suppose that you're another multi-time loser. You've done some time for beating on your old ladies, and for different drug offenses. Your most recent wife, whom you've lately divorced, has moved back in with you. When you get irritated at her for not making you dinner, you slap her upside the head. She runs out and calls the cops. They see that she's been smacked, and take a statement. She mentions the methamphetamine that you so like to do. She gives the cops a detailed description of its location. She then, as a rent-paying resident of that apartment, gives the cops consent to look through her apartment, shared by your own wife-beating self. The cops go up, knock on the door, and arrest you for the assault, and for the meth that they find handily.

Relationship fail.*

Does it seem to you that you might want to associate with different people? I'm just sayin'.

____________________________________
*Of course I'm not speaking about anyone specific, here. I'm just talking figuratively, you know?

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Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Empowered kids.

"Dad, can you help me with my bike tires?" asked my 11 year old daughter. This gets me moving pretty quickly. I don't much care for requests that I do it for her. But help her? You bet.

I was surprised that I'd never worked with her on her bicycle.

First, I had her get the compressor, plug it in, and try to air up the tires. The back one took pressure, but the front one was a no-go. The valve stem had partially separated. I had suspected as much, and my wife had purchased a new inner tube the week before, after I gave her the tire specs.

I showed her how to stand the bike on its seat and handlebars, because we didn't have a bike stand. I showed her how, when working on low projects, it's worth the time to seek out a stool. (I procured for us each a 5 gallon bucket to overturn for that purpose.)

I asked her first what she thought we should do. She thought that we should take the wheel off. I told her that sounded like a good idea, and said to do that. She looked at the nuts on the axles for a few seconds, and went to the garage, coming back with a crescent wrench. She adjusted the wrench until it fit to the flats of the nuts, and removed the nuts and washers from the axle, and then pulled the tire, being careful as it came through the caliper brake.

I asked her how she thought we could get the tire off the wheel. She wasn't sure. I asked her to fetch me two large screwdrivers. She did so. I showed her how to pop the tire from the rim, twice. We took the tube off. She took out the new tube, noting how much heavier it was than the old tube-- about 3 or 4 times heavier. This new one was "thorn resistant." We put the tube on, and I showed her how the tire just pooped on with finger pressure, without tools.

At about this time, a 9 year old neighbor boy came by, with a dead snake in a box. He had been retrieving eggs from the henhouse, and found the chicken snake in the hen house. I asked him how he killed it. "I brained it with a rock," he said with a grin. "Got 3 others, yesterday." I admonished him not to just kill all snakes, as they keep down the rat population. He claimed he didn't.

Both my girls poked at the recently-dead snake with interest, and then the neighbor boy and my younger daughter fed it to my chickens. The omnivorous birds pecked at it, cheerfully.

My elder daughter put the wheel back on the bike and bolted it back on, before airing up the tire to 60 PSI. She flipped the bike over, hopped on, and rode away, with a quick "Thanks, Dad."

I should have told her to come back and put the tools away. But I didn't. I put them up myself. It was my pleasure.

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Friday, May 21, 2010

Time to wax jingoistic?

Look, I'm not one to get our country into unnecessary wars, but it seems like we're spread out a bit, already. Lets head one off.

Iran is rattling its sabres and working on nukes. Pakistan is playing dirty, and has nukes, and seems to be auctioning them off to the highest bidder.

It's time to make a bit of a statement. But to and at whom?

Well, for as long as I can remember, North Korea has been making ridiculous threats to anyone who can hear them. We threaten to cut off aid, or do anything to displease them, and they threaten to nuke us. They've been waving that particular sword about since before they even were confirmed to have it. Lately, N. Korea has been dabbling with further acts of war on our allies. I'm not just talking about a street fight in the DMZ, either.

What say we explain to China that we're not interested in getting into a pissing contest with them, but that we just need to demonstrate to Kim Jung-Il that he's simply not cut out to play these games?

After all, we have a new bunker buster that really, REALLY needs testing.

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Thursday, May 20, 2010

I beg your pardon for the profanity...

...but I believe I'm about to post a link up on the right, to ShitMyDadSays.com.

I could drink a beer or a cuppa coffee with this guy's dad. I laughed aloud repeatedly.

Note: EVERY SINGLE POST is profane.

Okay, wait: I found this one, which again made me laugh:
"We're out of Grape Nuts... No, what's left is for me. Sorry, I should have said, 'You're out of Grape Nuts.'"

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Sunday, May 16, 2010

The spatter of matter.

The new theory, supported by some radio and X-ray astronomy that even I can sort of grasp, is that black holes spit out quite a bit of energy in the form of twin jets from their poles. This is easier for me to understand than just the Hawking radiation that we first were hearing about in the late 1980's and early '90's.

It makes the superdense things seem less of a curiosity, to me. We always wondered where matter might go. I know. It's foolish to think such things.

But it brings to my mind that old question about recycled mass. I've heard various speculations about how, given the way that water evaporates and then gets redistributed, we all have likely molecules of water in us that ran down Jesus Christ's (or Herod's, or Moses, or David's, or Muhammad's) throat. What of interstellar matter that gets split off and spat out by a black hole, only to feed a nearby galaxy, then be pulled into the ever-growing black hole? Surely there's a chance that some of that matter will be recycled and spat out again. Some even again.

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Power Tools

It's easy for me to quip about how we in the emergency response field are defeating natural selection, but the things aren't so jovial, when I park in someone's front yard and run past a girl that's crying because the paramedics are working on GramPaw, who just had a heart attack. As I came into the living room the other day, said grandfather wasn't looking good, as the EMT, who had just finished hooking up a five-lead monitor, began compressions. The paramedic calmly but efficiently began getting out his heart drugs. This looked like a dog and pony show for the family.

As I moved furniture to make access to get the guy out, I watched the paramedic get out a pretty nifty little red power drill. I'd never seen one, but my buddy Ambo Driver had told me about them before, so I recognized it for what it was: an intraosseous infusion power driver. He drove a trocar right into the patient's tibia. As he did so, I could hear the light little power driver motor bogging down as the threaded insert drew down tight to the patient's shin, enough to make the skin pucker just a bit. The paramedic then screwed in a line, and began squirting drugs into that line. Quite a lot of drugs. It hadn't struck me before how big a guy Gramps had been. Wow. More drugs?

They boarded him. C-collared him (why? WHY? He had a heart attack and fell to the floor. No evidence of neck trauma.), and then began to try to get him out of the house. two of us had the head, and the paramedic had his feet. Like many houses, this one was not designed to make it easy to get a gurney in or out of, so we brought he board out to the gurney. At the turn in the hallway, I just took the head, in time to realize that GramPaw had been a big ol' boy. We got him down the stairs, into the box, and I stood by with a deputy, trying not to look at the growing crowd of family members, crying and hugging each other, talking about GramPaw.

This man was loved. But I really didn't feel like GramPaw had a chance.

Later that night, the paramedic dropped by the P.D. GramPaw was stable when they left the hospital, and at last check had a room at the ICU.

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Irritating, that.

This year, Toyota aired a big ad campaign admitting that they screwed up big-time. Well, they did-- they installed a whole mess of faulty throttle controllers. Well, a few.

But that needed recalling. The device that controls your engine's power output should work. Absolutely.

But this business of the car with the messed-up throttles being unstoppable is proven to be poppycock. Even if your brakes wouldn't stop the horrendous power of the engine propelling the car, simply shifting to neutral would stop the power from getting to the wheels. Turning off the engine would stop the power from getting to the wheels. ("But that cuts the power steering!" Oh, grow up! A moving car is steerable in a straight line without power steering. )

But the fact is, the brakes DO stop the car. Car & Driver found that, with the throttle wide open and the brakes stomped at 70 mph, the Camry stops shorter than a Ford Taurus with the throttle closed.

Then we come to the single most famous case of the throttle sticking, which now looks like simple fraud in the worst light, and gross driver error in the best light. The problem wasn't the hardware in the Prius-- it was the software between the driver's ears. He's either inept, or a swindler, or, possibly, both.

But if you still are terrified of your Toyota, and don't trust 'em, I'll take one off your hands. Especially if you've got a Tundra that's been threatening to kick in your front door, eat the children, and crap on your rug. I've got a deck to build.

_______________________
Hat tip to Les Jones.

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Thursday, May 13, 2010

Never ceases to amaze me.

"I've got the line in," announced the paramedic. Thank Gawd. He'd missed the first time. Understandable, really, what with the way Charley was flailing around on the water bed. I struggled to wrestle him into stillness. It was difficult to get a grip on him. As hypoglycemic as he was, his metabolism was in free-fall, and he was sweating buckets. Damned too if he wasn't strong, as he struggled while out of his mind. Charley's lips bubbled foamed saliva, and his eyes rolled in their sockets. The paramedic had just found Charley's blood sugar to be 28.

"I'm just so scared," his new wife said. "I've never seen him like this."

"Well prepare to see Charley come back to his senses," I said, watching the para medic screw in the huge syringe of dextrose to the I.V. line. Once he had it squirted in, he nodded smartly to his helper, who was holding the bag of saline. His helper opened up the drip. "This will be like a magic potion."

I was holding Charley's arms down, so I couldn't watch my watch to time the reaction, but I would put it at 30 to 45 seconds before he was fully aware. Fortunately, he bypassed that period that so many go through, where they wake up confused and swinging.

In four minutes, his sugar was over 200.

Charley's wife didn't know what to do, but she called 911. That ended up being enough. But why hadn't he ever discussed exigency plans with her?* Why didn't she know his baseline blood sugar level? Why wasn't there a log of his blood sugar? Why did she have to look for his medicines?

Being prepared is more than just having a loaded gun where you can reach it when the baddies come along. A frank discussion with your loved ones can save their lives.

It's still fun to watch 'em come back.
_________________________________
*She told me that she had been about to try to give him orange juice. He was completely unconscious. For the record, friends, don't pour liquids into unconscious persons' mouths. Aspirated sticky stuff in the lungs just creates a much bigger complication.

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Tuesday, May 11, 2010

I don't think I can say it any better than that.

My friend LabRat, over at Atomic Nerds, is more than just "bright." I got to meet her at a little get-together in SE Colorado, last November, and she's not one of those poor folks (like me) who is pretty inarticulate without a keyboard in front of them. She's a quick wit, but some of the things that she says have the weight of words spoken after heavy thought as been put into them.

Go read her very brief take on the current illegal immigration situation in our border states. I'll wager that she wrote that in a few scant minutes, while distracted by two other stimuli at minimum, yet I'll sign off on everything she said there as Truth.


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Saturday, May 08, 2010

Help us find this revolver.

Dad's helping a lady find a legacy gun. Now, I know that the chances are thin, but the world is amazing, at times.

What we're looking for is an older (1930's, 1940's or 1950's vintage) Smith & Wesson .38 revolver with 4" barrel, inscribed "PA STATE POLICE 1933-1956 JOHN J BURKE."

Help us find this old revolver. The current possessor would doubtless like to at least know the family, and might be interested in reuniting the gun with the descendants of the man it honors.

I believe that Dad has contact info, but more info is here.

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Friday, May 07, 2010

Lemme get this straight:


TSA screeners get paid about as much or more than city cops on the street.
They receive the same protections and authorities under the law as real police.

Friends, the security theater isn't working. What we should have done, September 12, 2001, was require secure doors on the cockpits of common air carriers, allow the pilots to go armed, and gone on with business as usual. Because we did not, the terrorists have won in ways that they never imagined.

______________
Hat tip to Unc, by way of Tam.

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Thursday, May 06, 2010

Don't forget to live.


A friend asked me recently why life was worth living. I told my friend, quite honestly, that it gives us the opportunity to love, and be loved.
_ _ _ _
On May 5, 1995, my best friend's little sister, Tina Minke, lost her life.

She was crossing the same railroad crossing that her brother Scott and I had crossed hundreds of times together while going to school or pretty much anywhere. The crossing had no crossing guards, and the brush along the tracks was so grown up around the crossing that you couldn't see a train coming until you had driven to the top of the steep incline at the tracks crossing. As the road there was gravel and dirt, one would spin one's wheels trying to take off again if one had stopped just short of the apex of the hill, at the tracks. So it was that we routinely would play a risky game of rolling up to the top of the crossing, glancing back and forth quickly, and then proceeding across without ever stopping. There was not a stop sign present, and it was inconvenient to stop simply for safety's sake. Tina lost that little game that the rest of us had played, and her little car was struck.

Her body was virtually unscathed, but "virtually" just means "not quite." Her neck was snapped to the side, instantly cutting her brain stem internally. Although she was CareFlighted to a quality hospital quickly, she was pronounced brain dead.

Tina had wanted to be a surgeon. She had been working through high school as a nurse's aide. She had a couple of scholarships waiting for her at Texas A&M, where she planned to go Pre-Med. As an honor student, no one doubted that she would be successful. She was driven. She was 18. She had just 4 weeks of high school left.

I didn't go to the hospital to see off the only sister that I had ever known. I knew that her family had many, many friends, almost all of whom would be converging on her house. I called in sick (trust me: I was physically ill) and went to her house, where I had spent about half of my life in my teens.

The house was empty. The family was saying their goodbyes at the hospital.

Like many of us, this was a disaster that occurred right in the middle of everything. May is a busy time in any high-school senior's household, and the Minkes ran a business out of their house. Despite the fact that Tina's mother Donna is a well-known neat freak, the house was in the same bit of disorder that 99% of our houses are, when we're not expecting company. And company was coming. I knew that this would be one more stressor to Donna.

I let myself in and started work. I started working the phone, which was ringing off the wall. Literally hundreds of people called from the community and from surrounding states, offering help. Each person, I genuinely believe, would have moved Heaven and earth if I could have given them a part of the task to do. For the mean time, I and others who showed up set up a schedule for them to come by. They all wanted to bring food.

I started mowing the lawn, then passed if off to a neighbor who insisted. Others showed up, and started cleaning, doing laundry, and such.

I can't convey how much love flowed from these people, these friends of my extended family. They loved the Minkes, and they loved Tina. We who were present worked together in a frenzy, not because the house looked bad (it actually looked great in about 30 minutes), but because it gave us something to do. I resolved to let no phone call be left unanswered, especially when I realized that it was Tina's voice on the answering machine. This meant juggling a lot of Call Waiting beeps.

My father got through. "Son," he said, "Call the Minkes. Make sure that they're not lingering around the parking lot of the hospital. There's a really ugly storm doing bad things there in Fort Worth. It's bad."

I called them. They were just leaving. I begged them not to go. They left anyway, just missing an enormous hailstorm that injured several people in that very parking lot. Softball-sized hail, it was reported. The Minkes made it home. That night, one of the worst thunderstorms that I've ever seen railed. It seemed like the end of days. It felt appropriate.

The next morning, a local gravel merchant, unbidden, arrived with gravel trucks and paved the Minkes' hundred-yard long dirt driveway with gravel and Flex Base. The storm had softened the driveway so that only quality 4X4 trucks could have made the ascent to the house, otherwise. Now, visitors could come pay their respects without getting stuck. (You may be sure that this would have weighed heavily on the Minkes, too.)

I've never seen such an outpouring of... ham.

For whatever reason, North Texas folk bring ham when a friend passes away. Smoked ham. Spiral-cut honey ham. Picnic ham. Boned and boneless ham. Whole and pressed ham. Sliced and otherwise. Boiled ham. Lunchmeat ham. We started freezing it. We started asking next door neighbors to freeze it. Then we started sending it home with visitors. If there wasn't 200 lbs of ham there, I'll kiss your butt... right on the ham of your choosing.

It turned out that Tina had signed up as an organ donor. Her parents were a little iffy on the whole thing, at first. It's hard to think of your daughter, whose shell is right there in front of you, breathing with the assistance of a machine, having her organs harvested and distributed to other people.

But they did just that, and have NEVER regretted it for an instant.

I've met the recipients of several Tina's organs. I've met the recipient of her liver. I've met the recipient of her heart. Her kidneys were used. Her blood was used. Her eyes were used. Tina led a clean living, and was healthy. She never got to be a surgeon, but she got to save a few lives with her 18 year-old organs. Parts of her live on, literally.
_ _ _

The funeral was emotional, and I left with a rose from her graveside. Crossing the fatal railroad crossing a half hour later, I placed the rose on the tracks. No one saw me.

But a few minutes later, a photographer saw the rose, and he published this picture of the same rose in the paper.

It had been a perfect rose, even if it had been picked just a little too early.

I miss my friend, and family member, who died 15 years ago yesterday.

Tina Marie Minke
November 24, 1976 - May 5, 1995




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Wednesday, May 05, 2010

"A day which will live in infamy."

I've not looked, but surely someone has put together a list of the top 100 or even top 1000 most important battles ever fought. It's a fun game, to look at history and weigh a crucial event of conflict against all others.

Gettysburg.
Waterloo.
Pearl Harbor (hardly a battle. But important.)
Normandy.
Agincourt.
Chapultepec.
San Jacinto.

Oh, the list can go on and on.

But it's unlikely that the Battle of Puebla would land very high on the list, if it would even make the list at all.

A year after the Mexicans won that battle, the French seated Maximillian I of Mexico as emperor of Mexico. He wasn't actually relieved of his throne for 4 years, until pressure from the United States Of America assisted his overthrow.

What a strange thing for Americans to celebrate.


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May is Zombie Awareness Month.


Have you got your gray awareness ribbon?



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Monday, May 03, 2010

Repackaging.


My wife and I sometimes talk about "the best ________ in the world." She has been known to go on at length about "the best Coke in the world," after getting over-heated in Cozomel, once. I have always liked real Coca Cola, but had pretty much given up on the stuff in favor of un-sugared drinks about 20 years ago, in deference to my waistline, the fact that diabetes runs in my family, and the fact that spilling is not a maybe thing for me: it just happens. Spilt diet drinks are a lot less of a hassle to clean up.

But sometimes, just a quick little taste of real* Coke really hits the spot.

Coke has started marketing their flagship soft drink in eight-packs of 7.5 ounce cans. I've got to say, they hit me right where I live. At 90 calories, I ain't skeered of the hit to the diet. Individually sealed, you'll never get a flat sip of beverage. And with that massive can-to beverage surface area ratio, they chill in minutes. Though I've not tried them as such, I would imagine that they'd be the bee's knees for bar mixing, too. One of these and a shot of Bacardi in a tall glass of ice would make a perfect rum Coke.

It's a smart thing, managing to get a bit more market share by just changing the package. My hat's off to the guys in Atlanta. Now, one wonders if they'll keep it, or if this is just a test marketing thing that they'll decide is not panning out?

In the meantime, they're a lot more fun to play "imagine that I'm a giant" with than are Brussels sprouts.


__________________________
*Yes, I know it's corn syruped, and has no cocaine. But you know.

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I'm back.


You may have noticed a slow-down in posts. My home computer has been down with a virus, and a major re-install was effected. Drivers were lost in the re-install, and had to be hunted down. Boring stuff that interests me as little as it interests you, but there it is.

In the mean time, I've been working on the house. Finally, my portion of the garage has been marginally organized. As my wife's studio takes up 2/3 of the original garage, the remainder with the tools and detritus of life has been rather packed and full of miscellaneous boxes. We killed those boxes yesterday, and sorted most of the miscellany into boxes marked with their contents. ("Electrical parts," "Plumbing," "Screws and nails", etc.) These were put onto three good-sized rolling shelving units, to be pulled out of the way to get to my work bench, in the far corner. It doesn't look like much, but trust me: this is a huge improvement.

Ah, yes, the work bench. Soon it will sport a mounted bench grinder, very large vise, and a small drill press. Above it will be mounted heavy duty shelving, and soon will be added a single-stage reloading press. It's time to get this show on the road, and get some home reloading done without having to head to Dad's every single time I need to load some rounds. I'm looking at putting the standard table-height work bench up on cinder blocks, to give me a more comfortable height to work from. Peg board still needs to be mounted. A fluorescent work light needs to be mounted over the bench.

I'm considering running connections for the air compressor between the studio and the garage/shop. Can anyone give me a good reason to go to the trouble of plumbing black pipe, as opposed to just running HP hose lines with splitters and valves? The hoses would be out of the weather, and obviously carry nothing more deadly than compressed air.

I've got to admit that this is first time that I've actually properly set up a garage workspace.

We've just installed a portable cooling unit in the studio, and it shares air space with the garage/shop. I may look into the cost of insulating the garage door.

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