Better And Better

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

Friday, June 29, 2012

Friday afternoon this and that.

--I bathed a cat today. He didn't care for it. I didn't care for it. But we put up with the necessity of it, without hurting each other. Call it a win.

--My fire chief called me in for a meeting. I kind of thought that I would be receiving an ass-chewing about something that I did at the structure fire that I had gone to with him a couple of weeks ago. Instead, he just took me around to show me different types of structures and ask me what I saw about their construction that could cause problems with firefighting. He seemed pretty happy with my knowledge of construction. Thank you, high school Industrial Arts teacher.

--The fire chief loaned me a book on understanding construction for fire fighters. I believe that I'd like to get pretty good at this. Maybe, down the road, there's an arson investigator in me waiting to get out.

----T is for Tom Waits. That's good enough for me:

I will never think of Tom Waits the same again. MAYBE I can see Cookie Monster the same.

--My partner, who has become one of my dearest friends, resigned to start his career with a much larger agency. His opportunities for advancement will be rife. He will succeed. But I've mixed feelings about it. Mostly selfishly. He rode shotgun with me his last couple of shifts. Someday I'll go ride out with him, too.

--I would absolutely watch this movie. If you've never watched an entire episode or two of Dora The Explorer, this is probably going to be lost on you.

--I remember hearing this on the local public radio station about 18 years ago. It introduced me to Le Mystere De Voix Bulgares ("The Mystery Of Bulgarian Voices", the national choir of that old country), which is good cultural music. It is terrible that THIS is the song of theirs that stuck in my head. But there it is. Earworm warning!!!


When they're speaking of "Ramaya," they are referencing a 1975 hit by a Mozambiquan artist named Afric Simone, who toured in the Communist Bloc countries during that time. He was a very early beat-boxer, and it is his music that is sampled at the end of this.

--I know of no good method for selectively killing dallis grass other than digging it up. That's a shame. Oof.

--My old college roommate Bill was doing training in Colorado Springs. He ended up a refugee from the Waldo Canyon Fire. He told me to check the weather at Garden Of The Gods National Park the other day. 40 mph sustained winds, 101 degrees temperature, 2 percent relative humidity. A perfect storm for wildfires. I feel for those guys putting out the fires up there; it's a tenderbox, in an oven, packed with accelerant. And they put on protective clothing (hopefully not full bunker gear!) and climb mountains with heavy tools, to work 16 hour days, cutting, raking, and such. Thanks to them. No thanks, if I were offered the job. Not even in my prime.

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Monday, June 25, 2012

Wink-wink. Nudge-nudge.

One rule that I was taught early as a peace officer writing probable cause affidavits is the Four Corners Doctrine. Simply put, if the information is not put within the four corners of the sheet[s] of paper that the affidavit is written upon, the judge may not consider it.  If I charge Mr. Smith with Assault Causes Bodily Injury With Prior Conviction, I had darned well better mention his prior conviction for Assault CBI in that PC affidavit. I know of a judge who fairly recently threw out a PC on this doctrine, when the officer charged the defendant with Dischage Firearm In Certain Municipalities, but forgot to mention that the city was over 100,000 people. (Everyone knew that town had over 100,000 people, but the officer didn't mention it.)
It makes sense, though-- if it hasn't been testified to, the judge may not consider it.

Looking at the Arizona law SB1070 (which empowered Arizona law enforcement to make on-view warrantless arrests of individuals where there illegally, for violation of the new state law against being in Arizona illegally), we see that, first shake out of the box, it forbade enforcement based on ethnicity or race in black letter law. Yet concerns about harassment of people based upon race and ethnicity were exactly what got its opponents upset. A cynical person might also say that some were concerned that, even without harrassment based on race or ethnicity, some opponents were simply concerned that the law might actually be effective, in detaining and eventually deporting people not legally in this country.
But when the feds challenged the state law and brought it to the Supreme Court of this nation, the racial/ethnic issue wasn't brought up.
Although some critics of the law have contended that it would inevitably lead to targeting of Latinos simply because of appearance, speaking Spanish, or having a Spanish accent, Verrilli told the justices on April 25 “We're not making any allegation about racial or ethnic profiling in the case."
When the federal attorneys challenging a state enforcement law bring no allegation about race or ethnic oppression to court, that's because they haven't got any evidence supporting that issue.

But the law was struck down in all ways but one: state-appointed police are still permitted to enforce the federal immigration laws. The new provisions that it be illegal on a state level to seek work as an undocumented alien, and that that aliens must register with the state, and that Arizona law enforcement may make warrantless arrests of undocumented aliens for violation of the state law-- these were struck down.

The reasoning given by Justices Kennedy, Roberts, Ginsburg, Breyer and Sotomayor, was that the state must not usurp the federal authority. We already have laws about that. Huh. We have federal laws about drugs, and bank robbery, and a thousands of other things that are redundant on the state level. But this one, we must see overturned. But it's not about race or ethnicity.

The dissent given by Thomas and Scalia and Alito (all notably conservative or libertarian justices) is that there is state sovereingty to consider. The Arizona governor strangely claimed this as a victory for the 10th Amendment.

But it's not about race or ethnicity.

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Monday, June 18, 2012

Minor parenting challenge.

My younger daughter just got back from a week with her aunt. Her aunt is really into eastern cultural knickknacks, and she gave my daughter a cute little figurine display with the critters of the Chinese zodiac affixed to it. "What Chinese sign are you, Daddy?" I was asked. Damfino. I've never bothered to look it up, because my disdain for the whole astrology and zodiac business is pretty deep and broad. But what the hell, let's see.

Oh. Apparently I'm a pig. Oh ho! How ironic.

I'm on record for taking any opportunity to fisk the concept of astrology, so I shan't belabor that theme again here today. (But maybe later, we can point and laugh at astrologists.)

My challenge here is to make clear to my children the stupidity of believing that a person will be imbued with certain traits merely by virtue or damnation of the time of their birth... while not causing them to feel that there is disrespect toward adults in their lives that follow it  (such as a wayward auntie).  Worse, if I push the issue, it becomes an opportunity for rebellion. I don't care to consider a world where my offspring consult their zodiac, be it Chinese or occidental.

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Friday, June 15, 2012

Man love.

It's no secret that I like Yo-Yo Ma's cello playing, and that I thought that Morricone's "Ecstasy For Gold" was an inspired work.

I don't cry for beauty much. My eyes were wet after listening to this version.

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Tuesday, June 12, 2012

A time to kill.

Down in the wooded coastal plain of Lavaca County, TX, we're pretty proud of the Spoetzl Brewery that's been making Shiner beer for over 100 years. Also, there's a kind of old school wisdom that supports an interesting point in Texas law:
(a) A person is justified in using deadly force against another: (1) if the actor would be justified in using force against the other under Section 9.31; and (2) when and to the degree the actor reasonably believes the deadly force is immediately necessary: (A) to protect the actor against the other's use or attempted use of unlawful deadly force; or (B) to prevent the other's imminent commission of aggravated kidnapping, murder, sexual assault, aggravated sexual assault, robbery, or aggravated robbery.
Texas Penal Code Section 9.32

I've always wondered if I would see such a case. Dad walks in, finds another man molesting his daughter, and kills that man. The especially compelling part about this new case in Shiner, TX is that the alleged molester (now deceased) was with a 4 year old girl, and that the father used his bare hands to kill the man.

They'll trot it before the grand jury to get the dad acquitted, but it looks like everyone is willing to sign off on it, due to the above Penal Code reading.

If it happened the way that it is alleged, I'm fine with it, too, in my heart. But you know, the story reads that the father "stopped him by striking him in the head several times." How many strikes to the head were rendered after the effective cessation of the aggravated sexual assault?

I think back to the 2009 case of OKC pharmacist Jerome Ersland, who shot and killed a robber that he had just incapacitated, and was convicted of murder. There was even video of the whole stick-up.  But this was a little girl being raped, and this is Texas, and there's no video of the father's final swings, so I guess it's his story to tell.

I sincerely hope that, if it all went as he says, it all works out for the father and his daughter.

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Caption FAIL.

(Click to embiggen.)


Hey, Mr. Associated Press or MSNBC News Editor? While it's quite possible that the responding police did have some "automatic weapons," and it's likely that you consider most semiautomatic firearms to be "automatic" weapons, that does not accurately depict what is seen here. In the center of the picture (which generally is where the subject of the picture lies) is a man holding a bolt-action sniper rifle. Although I can't tell the make or model of the rifle, I can see that it is in a Choate Ultimate Varmint Stock, and would put good money on it being either a Remington M700 or a Savage M110, both of which require that the bolt be manually lifted and pulled back before chambering a new round, each time the rifleman fires. I say again: manually. This is the opposite of automatically.

There is no other firearm visible.

If you're wrong about such a basic fact, what else are you getting wrong, that I can't check at a glance to see?

Here's why I'm irritated. I hear all the time about the militarization of the police. How the cops are turning into strike teams and the like. But what I see is a couple of officers in blue jeans and body armor, who obviously got called out on their time off, to come respond to a shooting. "Automatic weapons" is a favorite buzz term for those who like to say that the police are black-fatigue pants-bloused-in-boots-wearing, goose-stepping, jack-booted thugs. While I don't have a problem with their proper use (which is usually to move the selector to "semi-auto" when shooting, and no further.),  I find them generally unnecessary in my field, as do most thoughtful cops.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Martini

No, I'm not talking about the 19th century British service rifle. Maybe later, though.

Really, this is a poll. Scroll down to the last paragraph if you just want to answer that question.

I speak of that quintessential cocktail, which we the occasional drinkers generally have tried, but only some have liked.

The first martini that I ever thought to try was after my best friend Scott's wedding. Some of us who were in the wedding party went to a bar afterwards. As I was still in a tuxedo, I decided to try one. The bartender, a douchey frat boy, eagerly suggested that I try it "dirty." I was familiar with the concept, though not the results. After an exchange of too many dollars, I was handed a glass with so much olive brine poured into it that one of Scott's bartender friends thought that I had a margarita. It was undrinkable.

Over the years, friends [well, mostly Marko but others, too. (My liver needs new friends, maybe.)] had suggested that I give the drink a try again, and in its original format. I've never been a fan of gin, really. I've seen it as a case of vodka ruined with juniper berries. But then, the concept of vodka has always seemed silly to me, too: it's highest quality if you can't taste it?!? What the heck?  If you're going to claim to enjoy a drink, rather than the buzz, then you need to taste the dang thing. Also, my memory told me that gin was the original.  That the concept was for the vermouth (a sweet fortified wine) to have something bitter to work against. Kind of like how the best sugar cookies have some salt in them. If it's just vodka and vermouth and an olive, you're going to get a sweet drink with an olive in it.

So it was that I tried them again. I went out to have a drink with Scott, about 4 years ago. I ordered a standard  martini from the bar. NO, I didn't want some special flavored liqueur in it. No, I most assuredly didn't want it "dirty." No, I wasn't asking for a "top shelf" martini. Just serve it as it comes, sir. I got two sips into it before realizing that it had no gin in it. I asked the bartender, who looked at me like I was a fool. "Yeah, it's a vodka martini. That's how we make 'em. You have to ask for gin," he told me.

I was astounded, but my best friend, who had worked his way through college as a head bartender at Bennigan's  in College Station (and due to that being the location of Texas A&M University, that particular bar turned in the highest sales receipts of any Bennigan's bar in the country), assured me that this bartender was exactly right. "A martini comes with vodka. Not gin. That's how we made them, always," he said. Scott was pretty adamant about this. Maybe I was wrong? (I mean, it could happen, right?) Others pointed out that James Bond ordered a vodka martini, with the usual admonition about the method of concoction. I personally believe that it was Ian Fleming's character's love of the drink that caused the popularity of the vodka martini (a.k.a. "Kangaroo.") in the '60s and '70s..

I have sampled some martinis at some nice hotel bars and better lounges, and have found that the nicer the joint is, the more likely it will be presumed that you mean gin when you order one. Most bartenders take care of the issue by inquiring which liquor the patron desires in the cocktail. I have learned something: the fourth ingredient to a martini is cold. It should not be permitted to get above about 38 degrees Fahrenheit. If you have to put it into a freezer between sips, so be it. But the drink loses a lot of its charm at 45 degrees and higher. The place to play with the drink seems to be in the garnish. Spear once showed me how he made one once garnished with a pickled okra. Stingray reportedly makes a dynamite one with pickled hot pepper as garnish.

So on this last Friday night, after having seen a movie with Scott, we had a beer or two at a bar, and the old topic came up. He insisted that he's shown me in a bartender's guide that the martini should be prepared with vodka. I insisted that the correct classic fashion of preparation was with gin. We both agreed that the man-child behind the bar that we were at would be an inadequate reference source.

So I put it to you, dear readers: How should a classic martini be prepared?  I'm not asking you how YOU like it. I'm just inquiring what ingredients should be presumed to be found in a martini glass when it is served you at a classic establishment.

Please respond in comments here.

Saturday, June 09, 2012

The Lost Week.

Occasionally, we have a week that went away with little to show for it, and little regret for that, either.

Two or three months ago, I made reservations at the local hostel near Phlegmmy's, to enjoy a weekend at her now Almost-World-Famous Phlegmfest. Either my calender or my reckoning was off, because I was scheduled to work that weekend, which I only realized a week or two before the date. I had just gotten a memo from my Human Resources person at work, informing me and my boss that I was no longer accruing vacation time, as I had maxed out at 360 hours. Also, I still had 56 of my 80 use-it-or-lose-it holiday hours left on the books, to be burnt no later than September 30th. This gave me some leverage to get a weekend off, and my supervisor was kind enough to make it happen.

As we were down to one car for the weekend, and that one sans air conditioning, my bride declined to attend the event. So it was that I called Ambulance Driver, en route from Louisiana, and caught a ride with him and Katy Beth.

It was remarked upon by someone that the 120 year old renovated B&B that some of us were staying at during the weekend may have quaint and rustic, but also seemed to be designed (with its hardwood floors and tin ceiling and transoms and brick walls and such) to magnify the acoustics of amorous endeavors. Thus it was rather ironic that I should have drawn the most remote of the upstairs rooms for my solitary chaste self.

We shot at LawDog's club range on Saturday (a write-up of the Mustang Pocketlite later), and discovered that some fathers don't parent their kids at the range. Another patron of the range, intent on showing off to his buddy, corralled his 7 year old son only once, that I saw... when the boy ran some 15 to 20 feet forward of the firing line during a hot range. The boy then continually ran among us as we unpacked firearms, spraying us with volleys from his very real-looking electric MP5K sub machine gun toy. This made us twitchedy. In fact, Stingray found himself raising his voice at me about TIME TO GO! YOU SAID AN HOUR! IT'S BEEN AN HOUR AND A HALF! And pointed at his watch, inquiring if I in fact knew how to use one of these. Stingray is not a noted fan of juvenile humans. (Katy Beth is a noted exception.)  We left, and enjoyed good cheer again for the departure.  (It's a decent range. But Annoying Kid was Really Annoying.)

While I was driving us back, I whipped into the drive-through a Braum's for some ice cream for AD, KB, and me. This of course was the only thing that made us immune to this beautiful piece of marketing by Dairy Queen, just moments later:
(Click to embiggen.) (Photo Credit: Ambo Driver.)

Well played, Dairy Queen. 

The next day, I went to training in Addison, TX, for a silly court officer class. In our small department, all the patrolmen have to do a monthly or bi-monthly rotation as bailiff, and we all serve municipal warrants. I was NOT looking forward to this school, even though it was held at a rather nice hotel. Actually, the classes were pretty good, and I got some ideas for skip tracing and for grants that I'll import to my regular job. The food was superb, too. I called my wife and asked her to take a day off of come join me. When I got out of class the third day, she and I went to a movie. Moonrise Kingdom, which I'd never heard of before, was actually a nice dry comedy that gave some nice tastes of what summer Scout camp was like. It's set in 1965, and even though it's got some big names, it seems to be something of an art house flick.  My wife and I gave it two thumbs up. 

When I got home on Wednesday evening, it was storming. I got the fire page that a house was burning, and I went in and suited up, still wearing my business casual work outfit from training. We fought that fire for hours, but we lost it. 
Though I crossed the threshold of it pulling a hose to attack flames within, I certainly wouldn't claim that I made an "interior attack" on a fire, because there was blue sky above me while I did it.

The next day, I had lunch with Mr. Fixit, a firefighter and Texas lawman his own self, whom I'd spoken with on the phone several times before, but never met. It's embarrassing to be late to meet a guy for the first time. It's more embarrassing to discover that you've forgotten your wallet for lunch and have to beg off of him. It's MORE embarrassing to afterwards discover that your best slacks were badly split open, from the events of the night before.

Friday, I went with my partner to do some work on a grant that we received, and assisted my coworkers in the briefest possible way on a warrant that they put together on a child molester. (Always a satisfying thing to do.)  Then, leisure man that I am, I went to go see Promethius. I was very impressed. Go see it in 3D. Go see it in the theater. Do not do any research about it. Don't let anyone tell you anything about it. I will only say that it is a science fiction flick with an easy-to-follow plot, that it is visually stunning, and that it has some scary scenes in it.

After the movie I had some beers with Scott, and we debated yet again the issue of the contents of a classic martini (which neither of us drank).

Today, I dropped off my elder daughter to go on her youth mission trip (she was so excited that she couldn't sleep last night) and my wife took my younger daughter to stay with her grandmother down in Austin.

Beers tomorrow night with my partner. One might almost wonder if I ever work. :)

What a great week.

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