Better And Better

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

Friday, August 31, 2012

Random stuff.

--Last night, we drove my mother and my newly-minted 14 year-old to dinner last night for their respective birthdays. We went to a French bakery and cafe that, while a chain, still puts out some really great food. Mom got a Sacher torte, and moaned: "This is as good as the one that I had in Brussels." Mom had gone on a tour of Europe after graduating from SMU in the mid-'60s.

My brother's eyes shone. "My mother has been waiting over 40 years for just the right opportunity to say that!" he proclaimed. I laughed so hard the excellent coffee that I was drinking almost came out my nostrils.

--While checking out some city property on duty last weekend, I got stung in the right earlobe by a wasp. After finishing what I was doing, I found some Windex to spray on my ear, the ammonia in which actually did quell the pain somewhat. For the next several hours, my ear lobe was bright red and swollen, but it went down within the day. But for the next several days, there was a seriously sore nagging kind of itch behind my jawbone in the neck, ranging up to the ear. The venom must have managed to get to the mandibular nerve, and sat there.

Back in police academy, they taught us how to use the mandibular nerve as an effective pressure point for pain compliance techniques.  One technique was to place the thumb into the notch behind the jaw to activate the mandibular nerve, and the stiff blade of the hand rolled firmly into and across the philtrum to activate the infra-orbital nerve. This is called the "C-Clamp," and is pretty effective at getting an uncooperative person (especially if they are sitting, as in an automobile) to move where you want them to go, without causing injury. We practiced it on each other repeatedly in class, and the soreness behind my jaw felt a lot like it did after those pressure point classes, but with an extra kick. Today it finally feels better.

--The Subaru Outback that we bought had a lot of road noise in the rear. The salesman that demo'd the car to me assured me that it was a tire that needed replacing, with a broken belt in it. I didn't think so, and took it by my mechanic. He rode in the back seat, and pronounced the problem to be the right rear wheel bearing. He then got out his laptop, and I bought a new bearing for $79 and had it sent to him. I took the car to him yesterday. He chatted with me as he swapped out the bearing over a leisurely hour in his driveway. We hopped in the car to road test it, and it was silent. Success. I picked up some cash from the bank to pay the guy. This was undoubtedly why no one else had bid even $7k on a car that was about $30k six years ago. Success! The wife is happy (it's her car), which means that I'm happy.

-- The Outback has heated front seats, with a rheostat for each seat. This will be really useful for that weekend when the temperature drops below 30 degrees.

--I've signed up for a Public Administration graduate class this semester. Three hours. $1370. Good gawd.

--My old roommate Bill needs a gun to shoot his CHL class with. I'm borrowing Dad's Glock Kit, which is a .30 cal ammo can stuffed with a Glock 19, a loaded magazine, two spare magazines in a carrier, a Fobus paddle holster, a box of 9mm, and usually an oily rag to keep everything from rattling around. Dad keeps it as a quick and easy loaner kit, and frankly, I think that it's a great idea. It also would make a great car gun set, in its almost indestructible O-ring-sealed steel box. I need to set up something modular like that, myself.

--My 14-year-old daughter doesn't much want her picture taken. She's okay with her Dad, but she's aloof. Hugs are rare. The 10-year-old still loves to come hug Daddy. But I know that the time is coming when she'll be too cool for that, too. I expect these things. But it still makes my heart ache a bit when they come to pass.

--This weekend, I have to do some work on a state grant, and get a hunter's license, and get my text book, and install a new porch door for my mom, and get Bill his loaner gun, and speak to my university adviser, and... I better get moving.


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Wednesday, August 29, 2012

It's almost like they're trying to communicate with you.

Since taking down the word verification Turing test, I've been having to delete a LOT of spambot crap, each with a link to something that they want to hit higher on the search engines. Some of them use an algorithm that pieces together various nouns and verbs and adjectives. This was the most recent:
Should your buddy likes shopping you can create a band using a buying bag bead having a donut and a espresso pot to incorporate an appropriate touch. People acquire new interests and leave old ones behind. Borse Dubai formerly found myself in a sale struggle by using Market across OMX.

Except for that first noun-verb agreement problem, it really comes close to being a coherent paragraph about nothing.

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Sunday, August 26, 2012

It really doesn't hold up.

When I was 5, I would get out of kindergarten and go to a lady's house for after-school daycare. She kept a lot of kids, and liked to plunk us down in front of a television set. Sometimes, I got to see my favorite show, the "Banana Splits." Now, the main part of that show was terrible. Adults in plushy animal costumes, making dumb jokes. The reason that I wanted to watch it, though, was because of the serial melodrama that the Banana Splits showed, called "Danger Island."

Danger Island was great stuff. Guys punched bad guys in the nose! The good guys fought with pirates and head-hunters. There was a doctor and his lovely niece. There was some speechless wildman named Chongo, who was summoned by the call of "Uh-Oh, Chongo)

Watching this episode, tough, I may not have been a very good motion picture critic.

And why does the good doctor not employ his Remington 600 to good effect, when confronted with savage headhunters with tomahawks?

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Saturday, August 25, 2012

And so we lose another.

In a week where people are all worked up about one Armstrong's continuing problems, we lost another Armstrong altogether. Frankly, we fared poorly in that deal.

It seems odd that the first man to walk on the moon, who was a superbly-fit specimen of humanity in the most powerful nation on the planet, and who was an international hero without notable vices, should pass away at 81. I know-- 81 isn't exactly young, but the overall life expectancy for a United States citizen is now 78 years old*.
"I am, and ever will be, a white socks, pocket protector, nerdy engineer," he said in 2000
Yeah, and you flubbed your line, too. But we forgive you for that, Neil. You gave us more than a soundbite.

Hot jets, rocket man.

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*Yes, I know that's for one born now, but the average life span goes up for people who survive to a certain age. Also, I get that I used the combined male/female average. Work with me, here.

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Music: Disregard the way he looks.

I've heard of Patrick Watson down at Austin's South By Southwest (SXSW) music festival. I never have gotten to see him. Apparently he's one of those performances that needs to be seen live. And he picked a helluva backing band.

Look, I know he looks like he was a weirdo even before he got high to show up for the gig. I do. But they do that stuff live, without production. And the guy in the back uses a bow to play a brass trophy, before playing a musical saw.  They do some fun stuff with very simple miniature modulator amps, too.

Worth a listen*.

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*Note: The first one's the best, then the second one. The third one's okay.

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23 years gives some new perspective.

Back in 1989, John Cusack starred in a movie called Say Anything...
It is largely remembered for its scene with Cusack's character Lloyd Dobler serenading Ione Skye's character (Diane Court) with a boom box held over his head playing "In Your Eyes". It's also remembered for this scene, when the father of his valedictorian, fellowship-winning girlfriend asks him what he wants to do with his life.

The father (John Mahoney as Jim Court) has an incredibly open relationship with his daughter, and when he expresses his concerns about her underachiever boyfriend, Diane breaks up with Lloyd Dobler to be around her dad more before she goes to her fellowship in England. This breakup is trumped by the serenading by Dobler, and Diane and Lloyd somehow work their relationship out, in spite of everything.

My 14 year-old honors student daughter was watching that movie in her bedroom last night when I came home for lunch. I watched a few minutes of it with her. And man, has that movie changed.

First, I seem to have misremembered that it was called a "romantic comedy." No. There is nothing funny about this movie. It is a tragedy of epic proportions. The real hero of the story, the father Jim Court? He gets locked up for tax evasion. The sweet valedictorian ends up with the villain of the tale, that shiftless Lloyd Dobler.

At least, that's how it looked to me, now.

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Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Just that easy.

A commenter in my previous post suggests that I could probably get the best loan rate from a savings and loan. I sure don't dispute it, though we don't have an S&L in my community.

Perhaps I could have shopped around and gotten a better rate. But I think I'd have ended up within a 1/4 percent of what I'm getting, and in this case, the banker saw me walk in, called me by name, offered some services that will permit me not to make a round trip into the Dallas area and which will hurry things up, and also permitted me to not have my wife come in from work to do some paperwork during the business day.

Small town banks and honest small town bankers are part of what makes things happen. This guy bent over backwards to grease the wheels for me, because he knew that I was a member of his community, a patron of his bank, and a good risk, even when I got out of a 15 year old Honda and walked in wearing a bad haircut and a rumpled shirt. He also knew that I needed to hit that coffee machine before sitting down.

The last time that I'd seen him, he'd been sweating over a grill, selling cheap burgers and hotdogs at a community event to raise money for the community youth activity fund, in this town that he grew up in.

I'll pay that extra quarter percent, I think, and never look back.

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Well, dang. I gotta get a loan.

We at Chez G have been living mostly within our means. This means that, when it was time to start looking at newer cars, we enjoyed the hilarity of driving up in our POS worn-out commuter cars, dressed in day-off grungy, and getting very little interest by the car salesmen. When we inquired about test-driving cars on lots, they then would reasonably ask to see our driver's licenses, and go "to make a photocopy." During that 10 minute photocopy, they also quickly checked our credit rating. All of a sudden, the car salesman would literally be jogging back up to us. Big smiles. Very friendly, as he suggested perhaps that we might prefer to look at this higher end model over here? 

Break 800 on a credit rating, and that kind of thing happens. But there's a reason that we do all right in the credit rating, and it doesn't come from spending money that we don't have. In fact, we've not made a car payment in eight years, because that's when we paid off our newest car. We know that moving to a car payment is going to hurt.

We decided to buy yet another used car. My wife wanted a Subaru Outback. That was not incompatible with my own criteria for a car. Thus if she wanted it, I wanted it. We ended up finding a decent deal for and '06 Outback on eBay Motors. We bid on it, and won the auction.

Apparently, we then had to get them $2,000 within 24 hrs. Done.

Now, I've got to go get a car loan. This is basically a foregone conclusion that I'll get it. but I HATE applying for loans. I break out in hives at the word "lien."

So, here we go. Sigh. This is me, getting up.

And we're off.

To get a loan.

Okay.

Bye.

Oh look, is that coffee? Just one more cup.

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Monday, August 20, 2012

We'll see how this works.

My friend John Shirley had trouble getting past the Blogger security devices to make a comment, and that's not acceptable. (Maybe the lag from down range was the problem. It's not a user error, I don't think.) So I'm disabling the Turing Test. I will still keep Comment Moderation on, so though I may be dealing with more s p a m, hopefully no one else will.

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Friday, August 17, 2012

Haiku #N+1: Observation In A School Parking Lot

I see three Scope jugs
In teacher's car, and I wonder:
To hide the vodka?

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The militarization of law enforcement.

In comments on the previous blog entry, Greg mentioned "the increasing militarization of law enforcement in this country."

I think that it's a concern worth having, but I also think that, by and large, our concerns are about issues more theoretical than practical.

We all shake our heads at the pictures of NYPD cops in full tactical gear (BDUs, tac vests, M4s, helmets) standing out front of their city administration buildings, and at cops going full-on dynamic entry on what should be a simple warrant service. We grimace upon learning that yet another federal agency has a SWAT team.

How about letting the U.S. Marshal's Service do the SWAT gig, and let the other agencies work with them for the most part? Oh, I can see having a Special Response Team within the Secret Service, perhaps. But the rest? They need to farm it out if for no other reason than economy. We don't require the silly redundancy. But more importantly, when you have a SWAT team, you tend to feel like you need to use it. The already unnecessary Department Of Education doesn't need to be looking at their jobs and saying, "How could we put our SWAT team to work solving this issue?"

But the fact is, those stories and pictures are in the news because they actually are news. The norm is not news. Sure, we definitely need to keep a weather eye on those guys and prevent them from becoming the norm, but day in, day out, the vast, vast majority of us never tac out, almost never pull the black rifle out of the trunk except for routine administrative purposes, and have never put on a helmet.

That said, giving a patrol officer some gear to deal with exigent circumstances as the first responder is NOT militarizing the police departments. Sure I've got a tac vest in the back of the car. I've put it on once in the past year, while setting up a perimeter around a mentally-ill armed man's house, and we took that guy into custody by knocking on the door and talking him into stepping outside. Yes, I've got a short AR in the patrol car. It's a damned sight better way to deal with an active shooter than trying to get lucky with my pistol.  Just because the military also use an AR-pattern carbine doesn't mean that having one in my patrol car is making me militarized. It's just an overlap in gear. I promise you that Marshal Dillon would have had one if he could have. I'll further point out that his Winchester lever rifle (which model? M.1892?) was pretty much the assault rifle of that era. (Yes, I am aware that I'm speaking of a fictional law enforcement officer, but I promise you that most people critical of militarization of law enforcement would probably like to see Matt Dillon. Well, that or Andy Taylor, but if you can't see the foolishness of that fictional rarely-armed Sheriff employing an inept family member deputy, then I can't help you.)

When you see that your local cop pulls a shotgun from his cruiser to answer a robbery call, you may notice that it's likely to have a black synthetic stock on it, these days. That's not a militarization issue-- it's a practical one. These days, you pay extra for wood over synthetic, and frankly, the synthetic is more durable, usually is lighter, is is less susceptible to water or oil soaking into it, and doesn't look bad when it's been scratched by daily patrol tours. When he pulls a carbine out of the car, consider that a single round of .223 into the bad guy is a LOT better than throwing stray rounds of pistol around a neighborhood (believe it or not, the .223 won't over-penetrate as badly as a duty pistol round will.) or a load of .36 caliber buckshot pellets that start off at 1300 feet per second. And make no mistake, if a cop has to fire on a bad guy, I WANT him using a long gun. A properly-used long gun will end a fight far faster than a pistol. If it's time to shoot a threat, I want that threat shot well. I want the least number of shots taken. If a gun fight looks likely, I want that police officer picking up a long gun.

That's not to say that I believe in the "show 'em you mean business, so they won't mess with you" school of law enforcement, because I don't. If a cop is on routine patrol, I want that rifle or shotgun secured. I don't like balaclavas, even on raids. I don't like cops wearing leather gloves when they're out on patrol unless it's cold or they're about to perform a pat-down. (This goes double --no, triple-- for fingerless gloves.) While I'm fine with cargo pants, I find fatigue type uniforms to be distasteful. I hate drop thigh pistol holster rigs. If a cop is wearing a tactical vest, he'd better be doing something tactical, like serving a warrant. (I almost wrote "high risk warrant," but a lot of people don't want to go to jail even for a misdemeanor, so I'll put up with being somewhat tactical on any arrest, so long as we're not kicking in doors on no-knock warrants.)

The last time that I put on a tac vest and grabbed the carbine on a call, we were responding to a call of a heavily-armed mentally ill person who needed to be taken into custody and who had proven he was dangerous. We talked him out, and cuffed him, and got him some help, as police officers, not as a tactical unit. But we were damned happy to have the long guns, and the extra ammo, and the extra protection that the tactical vests provided, as we first responders from different rural agencies performed that role, that night. Then we put the gear back up, and went back on patrol.

Because we're not soldiers; we're patrolmen.



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Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Day of pictures, stream of consciousness.

I woke up this afternoon to find that my younger daughter had made a mocha:


Somehow I just knew. Don't ask me how. A father knows these things.

Then I made a run with Dad to Ray's Hardware in Dallas for speedstrips and other stuff. Ray's is really a gunshop. Legend has it that, back in the day, Ray's took in a .22 in exchange for a washtub, and sold the rifle later that day for a handsome profit. This caused more swapping, then dealing, then an FFL, and now they're about three generations into it. Their selection of ammo is pretty wide in cartridge calibers, but not so wide within each caliber. For example, they had about 10 boxes of .41 Long Colt when I checked (I always do, for my buddy LawDog. Sorry  bud-- though it was that same Winchester white box stuff from that run that they made in the '70, I couldn't go $85 a box.), but only two brands of .357 Sig, and only ONE flavor of .22 Hornet.  I got a box of Remington Express.38 S&W 148g LRNs, the only flavor of that caliber they had in stock.

Ray's has a bumper sticker that is seen around Dallas that says "Follow Me Across The Bridge To Ray's Hardware!" It has a picture of the catenary arch central to the Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge in the middle, which is visible from the front porch of Ray's on Singleton. After we left, we drove across the bridge, and I took a picture of the new-ish structure, built across the Trinity River in 2007. I daresay that it's destined to be thought of as an identifying characteristic of the Dallas skyline. It's pretty striking:


When I got home, Dad gave me one of his Bianchi Speed Strips, some .357 Sig ammo that he had graciously brought for me, and the .38 S&W ammo that he had bought while I was looking at MTM boxes. I gave him all the MTM boxes I had gotten. (two 50-round .38 boxes and two 100 round boxes.)  He had gotten the .38/.357s, and also the .44/.45 type speedstrips.

This of course made me combine my acquisitions:

The result is adorable.

Reaching in my pocket just now to pull out that strip of ammo, I found something in my pocket, a momento from taking my younger daughter shooting:
When I asked my younger daughter if she wanted to go shooting last week, she wanted to grab three things: Her rifle, her hearing protection, and her last remaining Barbie. I guess she wanted to be like her big sister. I found this in the trash yesternight, and grabbed it out to look for holes. The hair is matted from bullets pulling at it, but the head had popped off from a neck shot.

Oh yeah, that reminds me. She got to shoot her grandfather's 1928 Thompson submachinegun. Here's her first burst:
  video
Then she set to rolling a milk jug.
video
Which reminds me, I need to get milk for my wife's coffee in the morning.
Maybe she'll make a mocha.

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Weather crime doesn't pay.

Maybe you weren't aware of it. Maybe I wasn't aware of it.

But the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration* apparently has gun-toting cops, and they need ammo. Bunches of it.
‎"The ammunition is standard issue for many law enforcement agencies and it will be used by 63 NOAA enforcement personnel in their firearms qualifications and training."
NOAA has "enforcement personnel"??

"That's right, buddy-- it doesn't pay to pad your drought by pouring out your rain gauges every night. Book'm, Danno."



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*The very agency from whom for years I've been getting the spectacular sat/radar composite weather images, like the one on the previous blog post.

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Just right.

With those storms moving west to east, we've been getting thunderstorms for the last three hours. A LOT of lightning and attendant thunder. That kind of action is expected at the end of a day where the temps got to 103.

The thunder has my head lolling. Lots of needed rain. It's my night off. I'm for bed.

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Wednesday, August 08, 2012

Thunderhead

While talking on the phone with Northwestern Free Thinker this past afternoon, I snapped a picture of this nice thunderhead. I checked NOAA radar and found that it was about 50 miles away. I'm guessing about 30+ thousand feet high? Maybe 40k?  Pilots, help me out.

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Monday, August 06, 2012

Goodbye, old helper.


Last year, I bought a '94 Dodge van with a bunch of miles on it, for $500. We brought in flooring, and moved out old flooring, and pulled trailer-loads of topsoil, and moved friends and relatives. Today, I sold it online for $500.

The guy who bought it drove it around town, and talked me down from $550 because the battery was about shot (it needed jump-starting), and we went inside to do the paperwork. He shook my hand several times. You know, I actually believe that he and his buddy really will start a carpet-cleaning business, and not use it as a child-abductor van.

I wish him luck.

In the meantime, the House Of G will probably be purchasing a new vehicle pretty soon.

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Saturday, August 04, 2012

I don't much care for this.

My elder daughter recently got back from high school band camp, up in Oklahoma. She had a great time, and has a lot of stories to tell, and some T-shirts. One of them was supplied by the local high school, just as freebies to the visiting school's band, which was nice, I thought.

I looked at the back, and there seems to be a pretty major lack of separation of church and state:


Keep in mind that the shirts were given to my kid while she was at a school-sponsored trip, and were provided by another school band. My school district and theirs subsidized this.

Not a problem, you say? Would you be as fine with it if it was like this?

No.

Religion is fine, if that's your gig. But please don't use taxpayer money to put your religion onto my kid's back.

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Fireman stuff.

I ended my patrol shift at a structure fire, and wrote my first "Crossing Fire Hose" ticket. I knew my brethren in the red hats* would give me hell if I just let it go, and I hadn't gotten to help with the fire, proper. (Always a bride's maid, and never a bride.)  We had to run a 5" line diagonally across a major intersection, and it's harder than you'd think for one car to stop down all traffic and let them understand that they have to turn around and go elsewhere. I will make a guess that every state in the Union has some kind of law about this, so that we don't have to have a man guarding fire-hoses from each direction; the law says don't cross it without permission.

I am perpetually reminded that people are creatures of habit. If I throw a roadblock in the way of their routine, a surprisingly high percentage of the population simply cannot conceive of an alternate course of action to take. I have commented before on how people suddenly taken out of their comfort zone in expect to be told where to go. I kept having people drive up to a blocked intersection in the middle of a downtown (admittedly, a small downtown) grid of streets, asking me how they were supposed to get to work, and then still not figuring out the answer when told that this was the only intersection being blocked. They literally had to be told to make a U-turn, make three lefts, and a right, to perform the detour. Sure, if I'd had the manpower, it would have been great to have blocked the streets a block away in each direction. But I didn't, and the blocked intersection was visible from blocks away in each direction. I worry about our future, and the people that I serve.

I had one man tell me, quite upset, that this would cause him to miss his morning coffee at the convenience store he wanted to get to. When I pointed out that there was another one conveniently located along his route to work, he dismissed that as an impractical option, because he didn't know right where the coffee-maker and cream and sugar all were at the other convenience store. Mind you, we're talking about another store in the small rural town that he lives in, which he drives by almost every day. Not an option, to him.

One of the other cops that came over to help me chatted about the fire stuff we saw. He mentioned that he heard a lot of fire alarms going off, and I wondered about that, having heard none. Then I realized that he was hearing the PASS alarms on Scott SCBA air packs. The PASS alarm has a sensor on it that detects if the pack has not moved in about 20 seconds, and sets off a pre-alarm, and then goes into full-alarm. When the firefighter hears the pre-alarm, he does a little duck-waddle shimmy with his butt, to shake the pack and tell it that he's fine. Occasionally, when the pack is doffed, the alarm is not turned off properly (the bottle has to be turned off), and they'll go off.

Earlier this week, I did a shift at the FD, and practiced getting better at engine pump operations. Yes, I still need to attend the official classes, and no, I don't think that I'm qualified to be an engineer. But if there's a structure fire, I can get your engine placed pretty well, get it into pump gear correctly, prime the pump and get it up to the pre-set RPM or pressure (we are spoiled with a high-end pump system), crack open the water re-circulation cooling system, get water from the tank to the correct hose (front, rear, or two cross-lays, or deluge), and open the intake valve for water from the tanker we'll have come out to nurse from.***  I can also throw out a portable pond to draft out of. That will get us out of 90% of our problems, in our fire district.  Areas that I need to work on: actually drafting, and putting on 5 inch hydrant supply hoses (we've got two different kinds of adapters, and while I can figure it out, I need to get proficient, so that becomes a task that I perform without really having to think about.)  I drive that engine pretty much where ever we go when I'm on duty, and I perform the check-off's of the engine when I work a shift. (Others do it in 10 minutes. I generally take more than half an hour.)

It still amazes me a bit, sometimes, that it is common practice to let an unpaid volunteer get into a quarter million dollar piece of apparatus and go to work. Even more impressive was that I did it just a couple of months after starting with them. This is why they vet the firefighter applicants, and why one of the biggest reasons to dismiss an applicant is for traffic violations and accidents.

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*Figuratively speaking. Actually, in our fire department, the color of the helmet denotes the rank of the firefighter. The Chief's is white. A captain's is red. A lieutenant's is black. Mine is yellow**. I just think of the "red hat" as the firefighter, and the "blue hat" as the police officer. There are two of us who are on both departments, currently (the other guy is a full-time firefighter).  I'm seriously thinking about making us red and blue hats that have both logos split down the middle, just for the fun of it.

**Even though it's the basic brand and not really mine, per se, that Morning Pride yellow helmet tricked out with goggles, an LED light, and blast shield runs north of $300, making it the most expensive headgear that I've ever had.

***One thing that I really didn't know as a cop was that one of the first rules of the firefighter is to not use that 1000 gallons on board the engine, if you can possibly avoid it. That's to be kept in reserve, in case there's a problem with the water supply when the firefighters are fighting. There have been instances of engines arriving on the scene of structure fires, putting maximum output out of their deluge gun, and then being unable to do anything even after the tanker arrived, later, until the engine tank was refilled. Or so this rookie is being told.

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