Better And Better

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

Sunday, May 29, 2011

A Worrisome Gap, Indeed.

I didn't serve.

I should have. I regret that I didn't. I believe that I would have made a good serviceman. But for whatever reason, I did not.

I now attempt to serve my little community as a patrolman. I don't kid myself about what the job is, and I get paid, so I refuse to accept praises beyond my actual worth.

But every serviceman who signs up for the armed forces of this nation puts himself or herself at risk of being put in harm's way. Yes, even the pogues and the REMFs and the supposedly non-combat support personnel. All may be sent into a hostile country, wearing our nation's uniform. And in truth, our D.O.D. is famous for taking a physicist or an engineer, handing him a rifle, and telling him to march in the front of the line instead of plying his preferred trade. Guys that sign up for easy duty might not get it. That's the risk. They've all got that in common.

But we who do not serve don't often think about those who do, unless someone close to us is in the military. Even now, with our servicemen and women scattered around the globe on two and a half fronts, we forget. Yes, we do.

So I find that the words of Admiral Mike Mullen (head of Joint Chiefs Of Staff) hit home when he describes a gulf between our military and the nation that it serves. He said that we who are on the outside are more and more failing to grasp what those on the inside are experiencing, and what their needs are.
"This is important, because a people uninformed about what they are asking the military to endure is a people inevitably unable to fully grasp the scope of the responsibilities our Constitution levies upon them," he said.
Our jobs on the home front are varied, but we all have a duty to this nation. The first duty, it would seem, is to remember.

Maybe, in between the pouring of drunks back into their houses or into jail cells this three-day weekend, I can remind one or two citizens of why we have the holiday weekend. Because frankly, it's easier to forget than it should be.

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Wednesday, May 25, 2011

I've always wanted to know that.

Falling under the "science that we're not real sure we can use, but darned if it isn't interesting" category, some Harvard boffins with good high-speed video and X-ray motion cameras have answered the question of how a dog's drinking mechanics works.


This footage shows that as the tongue touches the surface of the water, the liquid adheres to it, creating a water column as the tongue is drawn back towards the mouth. The dog then snaps its mouth closed just as the water begins to fall backwards towards the bowl.

Go click on the short video-- it's pretty cool.

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Monday, May 23, 2011

...And other duties as assigned.

(Minor gore warning: a dead snake is pictured in this post.)

Another snake call.

I was taking a fraud report at the PD when I was notified of an Animal Complaint. I clarified that that it was a snake in the back yard. Big deal. Probably a rat snake or something. I finished taking my report.

My partner came in. I briefed him on the day's events, and mentioned that we had a snake call holding. He handed me the catch pole, and we drove to the house. The call was now half an hour old, so I didn't expect to find anything.

We were ushered through the house by the residents, who mentioned that their dog had been barking at a snake on the back porch. They sensibly brought the dog in, and called us. When we looked, the snake was gone from the back porch. We checked under and around shrubs, bushes, barbecues, a lawn mower, and pretty much everything in the back yard. The yard was surprisingly big, considering the suburban housing development that it was in; call it a third of an acre for the back yard alone. There was tall thick brush growing along the fence line, which I walked through, poking with my four-foot snake pole. The residents were in the back yard, with my partner with them, and the dog came out with them.

"Uh, Matt! The dog seems to be alerting on this lawn mower!" my partner told me. Unpossible. I had rolled it back and forth about a foot, and nothing had come out. I was sure that there was nothing under it. But it sometimes pays to check again. The mower was pushed up under some brush, almost to the chain link fence that separated their yard from the neighbors' back yard, in which another dog was very excitedly barking.

I pulled the mower back, and found a coiled cottonmouth water moccasin. He let me see his white mouth, while I tried to grab behind the head with the catch pole. Problem: The catch pole was about four feet long. The snake was a bit longer. The snake struck, turned, and fled through the bracken toward the fence, with the now very excited dog dog behind it. Just before the head probably got to the fence, I made a blind grab at the snake, and caught it on the tail. I caught it.


Note the orange paint on the pole. Through the magic of foreshortening, it really doesn't look like it, but trust me when I say that the snake was able to reach that painted portion. This view nicely shows the pits behind the eyes. Click to embiggen.

The snake was unhappy at these events, as I pulled it out of the brush line. Hissing and striking, it made clear that it was impressively strong (it could strike up the length of the pole straight at my hand, with only the last few inches of tail being held), and that it was very urgent in its desire to bite me. The head stopped just a few inches from where my hand held the pistol grip of the catch pole.

Now what? No garden utensils around. I pulled my ASP expandable baton, but didn't feel like I had a reliable method of killing the snake without risking my precious skin being pierced by fangs, as the baton only extended to 26".

My partner went to get his 870 and some bird shot from his car.

So I took a couple of pictures.

When he got back, we reenacted a scene from Cool Hand Luke, and only THEN did I find out that they had a sharp shooter shovel. I buried the head, and put the snake body in a grocery bag.*

That hole in the turf on the right side of the picture shows where the load of 7.5 shot from a Winchester Super Speed dove load went into the grass that my partner was using as a backstop as he fired at a downward angle. He did a good job; just a bit of skin holds the head on.

I tell you, no cuppa coffee ever got my nerves strumming as tightly as having that snake repeatedly strike at me did.
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*Note: I don't hate snakes. I regularly move them to safer places. But there wasn't a way to do that here, and there were dogs all around. Dogs get curious and sniff at snakes, and get bitten near the airway, causing swelling that kills them. We have no shortage of cottonmouths in Texas. If I could have moved it safely, I would have.

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The continuing saga.

The copper lines are now silver-soldered on.

Note: on a Sunday evening, it's dammit hard to find real silver solder. And the guys that they've got answering the phone at Lowe's and Home Depot will tell you that they have it, 4 oz for $13. Given that silver is currently sitting at $34.84/Troy ounce, that didn't make sense. "I mean elemental silver! Ag!" I growled into the phone. "Comes in sticks, not rolls of wire!" They insisted that it was silver (in color, I'll grant), and that I should make the 20 mile drive to get it.

Bullsh.

I texted an AC man that I know, and offered him double price for 5 sticks of silver solder. 20 minutes later, I was handing him $40 for five little sticks.

We barely got it done before the rain hit. This is good, because silver solder doesn't like water, when you're asking it to stick to copper.

I got the plennum adaptor built out of that aluminized foam board stuff. It seems too cheap and flimsy to do any good, but it's easy to cut in the shape that you need (in this case, a weird prism with a turn in it, to go from the AC cabinet to an off-centered (in two axises) plenum sticking out of the ceiling), and it stiffens right up with the application of enough aluminum tape. And really, it only has to withstand the stress of air moving through it, and some temperature gradients. The board actually has some R value to it.

I'm not very good at this, but I will say one thing-- every bit of air that flows through this system is going through that filterbox first. I caulked every joint (filterbox to new false floor, false floor to walls, filterbox to furnace, furnace to AC coil box) before using rolls of alluminum tape.

I'm about $2600 in, but I think that all the costs are sunk.

Today we pump out the lines with a vacuum pump for an hour and a half, and if they hold a vacuum, we'll charge them with the 13.5 lbs of super-duper new freon that the outside Puron unit is precharged with . Then we'll hook up the power and thermostat wires, and see if this thing will run.

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Sunday, May 22, 2011

Air conditioning project.

Supposedly, the hardest part of the project is behind us. I ran the ridiculously-expensive 7/8" copper freon lines ($259 plus tax) and a3/8" partner (~$60), which I coated in the best insulation that I could buy (~$120 worth), through the attic last night. They barely reach the utility closet without an inch to spare, which is good, because they only sell the copper A/C lines in 50 foot lengths at my local A/C supply house. This was particularly arduous because the attic was very warm, and I had about 24" of blown-in insulation covering the joists that I was trying to walk on so as not to fall through the ceiling, while directing a very delicate pipe through the attic around ducts and trusses and such. Whot phun.

Today, I need to build out the ducting from the coils to the plenum, reconnect the stovepipe to the heater (need more stove pipe. Why do the sections keep coming apart? It's not supposed to be this hard.), connect the copper to the outside compressor and the inside evaporator, and connect the electrical, and see if it turns on. We shall see.

Total price tag thus far for a new 5 tonne gas furnace and 5 tonne a/c unit is about $1900, but I reckon with the cost of incidentals like fuel to and from the store, some tools, and such, I'll be well over $2k.

By the way, the Shark Bite water connection devices, which simply push onto the pipe to connect copper to copper, or even copper to PVC, are pretty nifty. They made the re-installation of the hot water heater take less time than it took to even cut one of the copper pipes that originally connected it to the house water system.

My partner's dad needs a special thank-you when this is done. The guy is working like a dog for me, for free, because he apparently just wants to. I can't express my gratitude to the guy enough.

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Saturday, May 21, 2011

Demolition man.

Two leaks ruined my hardwood living room floor. That's been pulled up, and is in the back of the van to go to the dump.

The old AC unit that leaked all over my living room floor is pulled out. It's on my lawn. The furnace is still good, and I'll probably Craig's list that old thing.

My living room floor has a 6 foot trench that I jackhammered into it, to replace the rusted drain pipe from the washing machine to the main house sewer line. That was the second leak: a slab leak. Of course I managed to hit the supply lines whilst hammering out the concrete and digging out the drain pipe. The plumber only charged me $251, which I actually was grateful for.

I'm currently in the processes of removing the floor from the utility closet that the updraft AC/Furnace was in; it's been waterlogged. I've pulled the gas hot water heater, and the furnace and AC and jerry-rigged plenum adaptor, this evening. This would have been a LOT easier if the SawzAll hadn't died on me today. I didn't know that they did that. I've never seen one do that. Poor old SawzAll. It served me well. This is the first time it's given me reason to cuss it.

I'm painting the new floor (made of doubled 3/4" CDX) with exterior "oops paint" that I bought at Home Depot for $5. It's brick red. Whatever.

The new A/C, new furnace, new exterior unit, and new copper lines are all at the house, ready to install today. My partner's dad is generously helping me for free.

Gotta get back to it.

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Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Occasionally, NPR comes through.

To toughen their image or something, the other day they interviewed the moderator of the blog "Badass Of The Week."

Very entertaining. Profane, but entertaining.

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Wednesday, May 11, 2011

"Hey, she said she was 18!"

North Texas attorney Richard Gladden is trying to get the statutory rape law repealed. His argument is that if an adult didn't know that the juvenile was under-aged, then it shouldn't be a crime for him to have consensual sex with that juvenile. The stories told by the reporter are very compelling*. Innocent servicemen, preyed upon by sexually-advanced teens with women's bodies who claim to be full adults. Their lives ruined by felony convictions and lifetime sex offender registration.

They showed some pictures of girls with developed figures and their faces blurred out, as evidence that you just can't tell. How were these men --properly the victims themselves-- to know that these little seductresses weren't adults?

Hey, I know that the average age of the onset of puberty has dropped remarkably in the last 100 years or so, but this sounds the same as those morons who whine, "How can you even tell if she wanted it? I mean, I was getting mixed signals from that bus driver..." The fact is, if you're grown up enough to have consensual sex, then you need to be grown up enough to know who you're potentially making a baby with, or trading your next infection with.


If you can't tell that this kid isn't 18, you're not doing any kind of due diligence between your ears.

The funny thing is, I think that we've got too many felonies, and I think that it's pretty dumb that there's no graduation between "illegal, but not a felony," and "wholesale felony."

Just this month, I had to turn down a complainant's case of Sexual Assault Of A Child, which the victim's mother had brought to me. It seems that her kid, at 15, was having sex with an actor who was 18. Sexual Assault, right? Well, Texas Penal Code provides an affirmative defense if the actor is not greater than 3 years older than the victim. In this case, the actor was 2 years and 9 months older than the complainant's kid. Had the kid been 4 months younger, then I would have had a third degree felony case to deal with. Just 100 days one way or the other made the difference between a felony and no crime at all in this state. Can't we graduate it a little bit, like Theft and Criminal Mischief?

What bugs me about this is that, should Counselor Gladden's proposed legal change be made, every dadgummed pedophile with a van, a bag of candy, and a map to the parks and elementary school bus routes in the state is going to claim "Hey, I didn't know! She said she was taking classes at State U when I complimented her tricycle and offered her some Jesus Juice!"

________________________

*You've got to laugh at the graphic, though. When they mention that the Marine was arrested with the girl in Yuma, AZ, the screen filled with a map showing the location of Yuma. Not that this had any real bearing on the story. They just thought that you might want to know where Yuma was, apparently.

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Thursday, May 05, 2011

A happy ending.

Yesterday, I did some checking. I came across a phone number for the landlord of the now-empty rent house across the way where the little dog used to live. I called but couldn't reach the landlord. I left a message with several contact numbers for me, and why I wanted to speak with him or the previous tenants. No call.

I have of course already left a letter on the door of the house, with my number and address. No call.

Today, my wife took off of work. I woke up to find her sleeping beside me late this morning after she had taken the kids to school. (I had gotten off late last night.) Later I woke to hear her puttering about the house. The little dog yipped. I hoped that my wife had let her out to pee. (We've been slowly training her to be housebroken, and she really does prefer to go outside. ) I went back to sleep.

A few minutes later, my wife walked into the bedroom to announce, "I just made a puppy deposit!"

As my last thoughts on the dog were concerning its need of house training, I of course immediately thought that she was referring to a deposit, from the puppy. Look, I was sleepy.

"Huh?" I asked.

"The girl who owned the puppy just knocked on our door. She asked for her puppy. I gave the perrita to her, and she said 'thanks' which seems to be about the only English that she knows. The puppy is gone!" my wife gushed.

I sat up quickly. "She's gone? And we didn't have to let those vile thieving children have her? The communists and terrorists don't win? Huzzah!"

To celebrate, we walked to the diner, and ordered the specials. I had meatloaf. She had chicken-fried steak. Hers was better. The tea was strong, the coffee was fresh, and the terrorists hadn't won.

A good day.

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Wednesday, May 04, 2011

The cute dog on my day off.






The neighbors across the way have a cute little brown puppeh. Really cute. No, even I can't handle the cute. They work all the time, and are almost never home. The puppy runs loose. While this is a violation of our city ordinance, I don't care; she's adorable, and she's harmless, and when I'm home, I'm off-duty. And since she runs across the street to play with my family and the other neighbors, it's like having a puppy dog on time-share. Remember how it used to be-- the neighborhood dogs that everyone knew? That everyone petted and even fed, but at day's end, they went home? That's kind of how this is amounting to be.



We are after some thought growing a little afraid that the puppy would get run over in our street.





Friday, some girls come by my house and ask me if they can take the puppy, because it's not being taken care of. I look at the dog's taut little belly, and silky coat, and look across at the pan of food and pan of water, and tell them that I don't see how the dog's being mistreated, though it would be nice if she were kept in an enclosure for her safety. They say that she will get run over, and beg my permission to take her. Hey-- I'm just an off-duty cop. Who made me that dog judge? No, I tell them. That dog belongs to those people. Leave her alone. They point out that she is sooooo cute. I agree. I go back inside.





Sunday, we learn from my other neighbor that they came and took the dog Saturday night.





My wife is FURIOUS. "You don't just come take someone's dog!" she complains. "That's not right!"



I happen to agree, but it's not my call. Perhaps there was an agreement made with the neighbors across the street, who are NEVER home. Maybe they put the dog out for someone to take. Maybe they were hoping to leave it, as I hear that they're about to move. I look for the chance to talk to them. They're never home. Finally I see one man loading up a car. He's clearly nervous about talking to me, and I gather that it's because he's not technically legally here. He's full-on south-of-the-border Mexican. I make myself approachable, but he says nothing, and leaves. Well, I hoped that someone would say something. I got nothing. I go inside.





My wife is madder than ever. If only I had a complaint? I have checked at the P.D. twice to see if they had made a complaint about the dog missing or stolen. Nothing.



Then my mother calls. A note was left on her door Monday night when she was asleep. The girl who owns the doggy wants her back. She's moving, she says, and thinks that maybe my mom has the dog. (Mom lives next door to me, and the kids played with it in her yard a lot.)


Finally, this is the request for help that I've been looking for! I grab my daughter and put her in the car, to guide me to which house the girls reside. It turns out that they live in a multi-family dwelling about 4 blocks away. I park well away so that my daughter can't be seen, and make contact. I keep it informal, but explain that they can't just take a person's dog, and now the owners think my family has it. Five minutes later, I have the dog, and I take it home. I'm a minor hero with my wife and kids.





Mom wants to buy the dog. The people who stole it want to buy the dog. I put a note on the dark front door of the neighbors explaining the situation. Mom calls me over to put HER note on the front door. I put my phone number in the note, asking them to call to get their dog.





They don't call.





The dog pees on my rug and sets to chewing things, and barking at the cats.





Turns out that this pitch of dog bark resonates quite well on ceramic and stone tile. Ow.





I put the little bitch into a dog kennel and put her in the laundry room. (Ceramic tile.) I cover the kennel with a large rug. I go to sleep.





This morning, still no call.





It's possible that I moved too late.


It's a cute dog and all, but it's still a puppy, and needs training, and Mom's house needs better fencing. I don't have a fence. I don't feel like signing on for this.



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Sunday, May 01, 2011

"So now what?"

A suggestion, Mr. Nobel Peace Prize-Winning President.

What do you do, after you announce that the most powerful nation in the world finally just knocked off a third-world-living thug, 9.5 years after he masterminded an effective attack on our nation?

You tell your military to pack up, come home, and stand down. We're in a recession, and we need to save money.

Announce the following, and note the respect that you can engender:

"We just focused the reach of our angry nation on killing one man who attacked our nation. Having killed him, we bring our troops and resources back home. My suggestion: Don't become the next target of our ire."

Then dismiss the TSA.

You might be amazed at the votes you find in the next election.

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