Better And Better

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

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Halloween.

  • --On September 13th this year, I turned off the word verification Turing test on my blog. I've put most of the spam that I've gotten into a folder on my email. As of today, there are 444 such spam messages in there. The majority of my email now regards this blog, from "Anonymous," and exhibits one of three different characteristics:
  1. It will compliment me as being such an extraordinary writer and providing such a useful blog.
  2. It will be full of sentences mined from the net or just put together its own sentences with subjects, verbs, adverbs, adjectives, and such pushed together to make a sentence that almost makes sense. Reading a paragraph of such sentences and trying to determine content will drive a person mad. End of line. Jump.
  3. It will simply be full of links. Actually, they ALL have links. But this third variety will have nothing but.

  • --I propose new legislation banning any October advertisement that includes any variation of the sentence: "[Nouns] so [adjective], it's scary!!!"  EG: "Prices so low, it's scary!!" "Food so good, it's scary!!!" Pull the advert; they're done for the month.
  • --My high school freshman is making a mask to go roaming trick-or-treating tonight. She's taking her 10 year old sister, who is making some kind of raggedy witch costume. She makes pretty good costumes. Check out her dead bride costume from last year:
The dress was a costume dress that she'd picked up at a Goodwill for three dollars. The blood was some of her daddy's stage blood left over from graduate level blood spatter experiments.  She's miserable in that pic, because the stage blood, having been left in the garage, was about 55 degrees, and she was made to stand out in the fresh Halloween air to let it dry. She was cold.

  • --Kids over 11 who arrive at my door tonight out of costume get no candy. Kids under 11 may get some candy, but they'll be told we disapprove, and that they need to sing for their supper. Also? They get the crappy candy, like Dumdums, or Good-n-Plenty.
  • --I will actually be working an off-duty gig this evening for a couple of hours, controlling car access to an affluent community. Seems that the rabble locally less-affluent have discovered that their high-rolling neighbors give out the Good Stuff, and they all like to bring their kids. Problem: left to their own devices, man parents won't walk the sidewalks with their little kids; they will drive along beside them. This results in the hazard of people driving the streets while looking out their passenger side window, on the very night when there is the highest likelihood of a sprog darting out in front of their vehicle. My job will be to direct such parents to park their cars at the convenient lot near the entrance to the 'hood, and invite them to take a stroll with their costumed charge.  Such service will be rendered with a big ol' Officer Friendly grin. I have been assured that I am to be compensated quite well for this.
  • --It's to be 73 degrees at 6:00 PM today, with a dry 5 mph breeze from the north, and not a cloud in the sky. The moon is only waning two days past full. It will be a delightful evening for a stroll with friends.
  • --When I was about 13, my best friends' parents attended a church that taught that Halloween was evil. I was invited to a Halloween party with their youth group, and found to my dismay that they were all praying for the souls of all those kids who were caught up in the Satan-worshiping that surely accompanied the act of dressing up and unintentionally celebrating dark arts. The television show 20/20 had just done a big exposé on the apparent rampant spread of Satanism and people were wringing their hands all over. In retrospect, I think that there could have been no greater reward for the mullet-wearing teens with cans of spray paint and hopes of getting the townsfolk all scared, than that they would receive such coverage.
  • --When I was 12, I was on a Boy Scout camp out on a fall night, when I went for an unsanctioned midnight walk with a friend*. I can't recall now if it was a Friday the 13th, or a Halloween night, but we came across a group of older teens in the woods who clearly were trying to work themselves into a tizzy. They had a girl screaming, and shouted. It was midnight. At one point, one of the young men stepped onto the dirt road near where we crouched and yelled the refrain to "Shout At The Devil!" I don't know about my companion, but I was rather impressed. It was right at midnight. I was pretty certain that if we were detected by the revelers, we would be murdered. I sharpened a large stick and we sat in the shadows, about 80 yards away. I suggested to my friend that we should go rescue the girl. My older friend pointed out that such an attempt would be foolhardy. I permitted him to persuade me. Later, we heard her talking and laughing. We crept away. To quote Robert Earl Keen in "Shades Of Gray": "...these are just some sorry kids/ They ain't the ones."*
  • --I've just had that crappy Mötley Crüe song playing in the background while typing. It's no longer scary, nor does it sound that hard (it was mostly unlistenable to teen aged Matt G). It just sounds kind of crappy. Also? The metal umlauts are dumb. Yeah, I know-- I'm getting old.
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*I had seen him get up and walk out of the campsite, and I hopped up and ran to catch up. He was a couple of years older and a minor hero of mine, but I was aware that he also had a naughtier streak, too. To this day, I have no idea if he actually had a destination in mind. I think maybe he was hoping to get the two miles to the highway and get to a convenience store for some cigarettes.

**Yeah, this is the Richard Shindell version with Cry Cry Cry, but I think that the lyrics are clearer than the original Robert Earl Keen, Jr version. Also, yes, I'm aware that the song was written later in 1997, about some kids who almost got implicated for the 1995 Oklahoma City Bombing, but the phrase has resonated in my head many times throughout my career, when I have run across some light-runnin' malefactors who distracted me from my search for real evil-doers.


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Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Because weather is awsome.

Check out the wind map.

It would be even more awsomer if it could be tweaked to display changes over a given period of time.

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Sunday, October 28, 2012

Mussels.

I'd never eaten mussels before my partner ordered a dozen sent with a pizza we got earlier this year, while drinking beer. They were great.

Today, while at the Big City Asian Market, we picked up two pounds of live wild Maine mussels for $2. On the way home, my wife watched a brief video on prepping them on her iPhone (living in the future is fun), and when we got home, we de-bearded them, discarded a few that were slightly open or cracked, and then she steamed them in a pan with wine, garlic, parsley, onions, and cream. We served them with slices of crusty baguette fresh from the bakery, which we used to sop up the sauce of them.

Friends, this is one of the best cost-to-pleasure ratios that I've plated in a long time. When you do it? Grab an extra baguette. Trust me.

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And we get us some autumn for Halloween.

I worked a couple of extra duty Halloween gigs this weekend, and found myself in the weather a bit. Some of my compadres were under-prepared, having not put on long underwear. No, the temperature didn't get much below 45 while we were out, but the wind kicks up out here on the plains.  We saw long durations where the wind did not flag below 15 mph, and mostly kept up over 20.

As I was watching the parents taking their kids to get some candy, I lamented the cool weather, a bit. Look, I may be extremely married, but I am permitted to ogle the young mothers who often like to put on risqué Halloween costumes each year. Sadly, when the wind blows this fresh, they are suddenly reminded of their need for propriety.

That's not to say that I didn't see a few costumes that made me furrow my brow a bit. I saw no less than three girls under 10 that were wearing bustiers, on Friday. Hey, mom? An 8 year-old slutty pirate is NOT a good costume.

I saw several little boys wearing police costumes with badges appointing them officers of the jurisdiction of Toyland. One of them had a toy '03A3 Springfield, which I thought was interesting. I saw three little boys wearing gangster outfits, and two had little plastic M1921 Thompsons without cooling fins, one in black, and the other in white.

I saw a little boy in a western sheriff costume with his double buscadero rig turned backwards, so that he would have to cross-draw his silver SAA capguns, Rex Allen style. I wondered if the kid kid's parents kid's grandparents had been fans of the singing cowboy, and decided that it was more likely that his rig just slid around on him while he was getting into and out of the car.

Firefighter costumes with plastic axes were quite popular this year. Iron Man was still a draw, as were Batman, Superman, and the ever-popular ninja, in all colors. I saw girls be fairies, cheerleaders, unicorns, kitty cats, Supergirl (in all-pink), and witches. I saw no cross-dressing, and saw no crossing of traditional roles, which was kind of sad, but not unexpected; our little town is pretty provincial.

My elder daughter went to marching band competition, and I sent along a bunch of Hot Hands for her to put into her pockets. I sent some extra to give to some of her friends, if she wanted. They were apparently a hit.

The leaves are still largely on the trees outside. Due to the freeze warnings this weekend, I brought in the Meyer lemon tree that we had growing on the back patio, and put it in the sun room. Given that the pot that it is in is ceramic, and that the ~60 gallons of dirt in it is moist, my estimate is 400 lbs of very fragile load that I had to bring in. I panted a bit. We put some rocks in the dirt around the tree to keep it from appearing attractive for the cats.

The leaves outside are still mostly green and on the trees. It's a beautiful day.


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Monday, October 22, 2012

Micro climate.

I've always been impressed with how, even though the Official Weather Station for our area may report temperatures of, say, 39 degrees, I could have frost on my lawn. Or how when the weather station shows dry and still just a mile away, it's raining and gusting at my house.

Climate is what you expect. Weather is what you get. Micro climates personalize what you get on a regular basis. Maybe your house is near a creek, in the shadow of a hill and in the lee of the wind? You'll find that your house is dank in the cool months and muggy in the warm months, despite your local predictions of dry and fresh.  Maybe you live next to a major heat sink, like a large concrete parking lot and between large low brick and concrete structures? In such a case, your first impression out the front door will always be that a sweater or jacket is less necessary than the rest of the people in your zip code.

I also like to watch weather come through, and see the reactions by the weather stations. For example:

Click to embiggen.
 
Check out what's going on there. The two weather stations on the map on the right show vastly different temperatures despite their proximity. But also you'll note that the higher temperature station still shows a wind from the south, while the western one now shows a brisk wind from the northwest. On the bottom graph, you can see that the change in the wind brought some rain that ramped up quickly, and the top graph shows that the temperature and the dew point dropped rapidly in concert with the changing wind direction (fourth graph). All in minutes.

I have GOT to get a decent digital-compatible reporting weather station.
For I am a weather geek.

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Thursday, October 18, 2012

Femtophotography.

I've always been impressed with the 1/millionth second photography. Bullets through apples, milk splashing, stuff like that. It's still amazing.

But it hadn't occurred to me how we could use lasers and digital cameras hooked up to serious computer processing to take faster pictures.

We can view images of light passing through small semi-transparent substrates in realtime perceptible time.

Watch this video, and be awed:

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Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Aw, come ON, guys!

So on October 14th, to honor Chuck Yeager on the moment of the 65th anniversary of his record-setting supersonic flight, the Air Force gave the retired general a joy ride in an F-15.
"I really appreciated the Air Force giving me a brand new F-15 to fly," Yeager told CNN.

Seriously? I think a cub CNN reporter got duped and missed the irony of that statement. The McDonnell Douglas F-15 Eagle went operational in 1976. Thus that "brand new F-15" may actually have been first flying at a time closer to Glamorous Glennis' historic flight than this commerative one.*

Stop down for a second and think about that. In 29 years we went from dropping an experimental rocket plane from a B29 to break the sonic barrier on its 50th try, to a third generation supersonic jet fighter being operational. Since then, we've made some advances in fighter technology, but nothing like that technical leap.

But if I'm Chuck Yeager, I'm saying, "It's 900 miles to Roswell. How about we check out a F35B, pop the sound barrier and super-cruise over to Roswell, and then hover while we watch Baumgartner do his falling trick?"

THAT's how you treat a living legend of aviation, folks. Oh, and give him an Aim 9 to make a final kill on a rogue balloon after Felix's jump, too.

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*Which is really impressive, when you consider that the Eagle is still considered a viable fighter. Imagine using Sopwitch Camels or Fokker Dr. I's as fighters in Korea. Or Mustangs and Lightnings in Grenada. Or F86 Sabres during, uh, something else in the early 1980s... (Look, Grenada was already a reach.)

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Saturday, October 13, 2012

Things that taste good.

Antelope Shoulder Roast.

Procure the shoulder of one adult pronghorn antelope.*
Briefly sear it in a very hot large pan of olive oil.
Coat lightly with flour.
Place in turkey roaster (mine wouldn't fit in the crock pot).
Pour in a cup of hot beef broth.
Put in some bay leaves.
Put in some garlic cloves.
Put in a bunch of carrots and potatoes and onions and some celery.
Salt.
Pepper.
Cayenne.
Cover, place in oven at 225. Roast for 10 hours.

Eat.

Enjoy with a glass (or two) of the greatness that is Left-Hand Milk Stout.

Edit: Also enjoy with some of Alton Brown's recipe for polenta.

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*In my case, I loaned a pre-'64 Winchester Featherweight Model 70 .243 to Ambulance Driver, who shot a nice pronghorn doe and brought me the shoulder.

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She's good. You should go read.

Normally, when I send folks to a URL, I mean for you to read their online stuff.*
For the past couple of days, I've been formulating in my head a book report on Kathy Jackson's book The Cornered Cat: A Woman's Guide To Concealed Carry, which I've been reading.

Kathy Jackson and I both posted a lot on TheFiringLine.com, and were co-moderators at TheHighRoad.org. She is a superb writer. She's also been training men and women to shoot in the Northwest for years. She has a lot of experience, and has thought about the issue in some new ways that I hadn't seen before.

While I was talking to Kathy at the NRA Convention in St Louis this April, Rob Pincus told me that Kathy's book is something anyone interested in concealed carry should read. I noted that, because Rob is not a girly man, and he was endorsing a pink book with a kitty cat on it.

After returning from St. Louis, the book lived in my suitcase for a few months, and when I was getting ready to head to Blogorado last week, the book came out. I've been reading it, and am half done. It's great. Seriously. Kathy points out some superb points about mindset, early on, which I will use for myself, and will pass on to others. I believe that it is Chapter Three which is called "Dying Of Embarrassment", and points out how people often permit their lives to be endangered out of fear that they will break a social more.

The book is written to be appealing to women. But that doesn't mean that it's not valuable to men. This is not a Secret antiperspirant advertisement-- it's a strong endorsement by a man who carries guns and advocates responsible self-defense. Guys, if you have to tell yourself it's for the woman in your life, then buy it, read it, and give it to her. But don't miss the chance to read it before you pass it on.

People that know me know that I don't give false compliments, ever. I wouldn't have written this if I didn't mean it.


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*But on that note: good news! Kathy Jackson has a blog, and is blogging on it lately.

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Friday, October 12, 2012

"The Obligatory Cow Reference."

I had forgotten how well Stingray had written up a certain humorous-and-yet-tense moment, a couple of years ago, at Blogorado.

I just read it again, and laughed for a minute straight.

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Blogorado 4-- why I suck.

I suck because I didn't spend enough time talking to FarmDad, or FarmMom.

I suck because I didn't get all that ammo that I brought out properly for people to use.

I suck because I never got around to sighting in OldNFO's rifle, as I had promised on the phone to do.

I suck because I didn't get ANY pictures for you.

I suck because I never shot the .50 BMG this time. Nor the muzzle-loaders.

I suck because I didn't do enough to set up nor tear down the range.

I suck because I didn't get more face time time chatting with Jay G, or Sal, or FarmGirl.

I suck because, having chipped it into the waxing madness I didn't leave any cash for expenses for our gracious hosts. And that I forgot this year completely. (I suck so sorrowfully for that one.)

I suck because I still owe the Nerds for a second hot/red/steak/cheese New Mexican burrito.

I suck because I didn't spend more time with my dad and Holly.

I suck because I didn't manage to keep my footing when a Stingray jumped on my back.
I suck because I didn't chat more with GayCynic.

Or Weer'd and his wife. Or SciFi. Or Mrs. SciFi. Or Speer's friend (and ours, too, now) Jason. Or Rennaisance Man, or Wing. Or Evyl Robot, or Jennifer. (No, WeeBot, I didn't forget you. It's just that I got enough time with you. ;) )

I got in some good chatting with Ambulance Driver, whom I roomed with and drove up with in caravan.

I got in some good chatting with Tam, whom I insisted ride with me a couple of times, and whom I sat with at breakfast a couple of times.

I suck because I don't remember some of the more memorable lines that caused literal spit-takes around the campfire, to share here. But I remember the reactions.
I suck because one of the only ones that I do remember laughing at was kinda dark, and kinda harshing a friend's mellow, and because I just grinned at it again. ("Hey! The sun is shining!" "Oh, you have wondered over to the wrong group, here.")

I suck because I did not remember Farmgirl's brother T's name right off. And he's a good guy.
I suck because I didn't chat more with Christina LMT more. Nor with AEPilotJim.

I suck because I didn't have more one-on-one chats with LawDog, and Phlegmmy-- some of my best friends. We spoke in groups, and that exchange was awesome. But sometimes you feel like you miss out on one-on-one chats.

I suck because I've missed someone, here.

Three days among my friends is not enough. 




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Tuesday, October 09, 2012

Band nerds.

I wasn't a band kid. My daughter is. I probably wouldn't have watched this video if I weren't a band dad.

Holy. Crap.

Even I knew that the Ohio State marching band is teh awesome. They're famous for their flamboyant drum major leading the band in their perennial "Script Ohio" number.

But this was something else. Apparently, the theme was simply Video Games.

Some of these games I didn't play (Halo, for instance). But I played me some Space Invaders, and Nintendo Super Mario Brothers, and Tetris, and even some PacMan. I didn't even get what the homage was to, when they showed a running, then rearing horse. But if you refuse to watch the entire 9 minute video, AT LEAST go to the 6:00 mark, and watch that. I promise you that you'll watch the rest.
 
Pretty cool.

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BR4 The Road Trip.

My departure was not well-planned. I threw some stuff into the car haphazardly, and forgot some things, and brought some things that I didn't need. Fortunately, when one takes a Subaru Outback station wagon all by himself, good packing isn't really necessary. Ambulance Driver came by the house on the afternoon, and we convoyed all the way to Sooper Sekret Site together.

Passing through some construction on the outskirts of Amarillo, I thought about how there was a helium plant nearby, and idly wondered, as a volunteer firefighter, if there were any special considerations for first responders there, with regard to what was basically an inert gas. I began giggling as I imagined the 911 call there:
         Dispatcher: "911, what is your emergency?"
         Caller: < Lollypop Guild voice > "Come quick, there's been an accident
                at the helium plant!" .< /voice >
 Well, it cracked my sleep-deprived ass up. I started to call A.D. in front of me, when we topped a hill, and drove through a scene of carnage.

Clothes all over the road. Debris. I swerved to miss what looked like a body. Already a silver SUV was parked on the right shoulder, with no lights on. I stopped, backed up carefully, and pulled in behind the SUV. I could see someone inside it. As I backed, I called Ambulance Driver, and told him that I was investigating and calling 911. He said that he was turning around and coming back.

I called 911 while looking over the car. No apparent damage. I've seen some cars roll pretty badly and still be drivable after the wreck, but you could see something that indicated that it had seen a wreck. I could see nothing. The female driver looked at me in her rear-view mirror as I made contact with Potter County 911. "What is your emergency?" she asked, causing my recently giggling mind to stop down for a beat with self-inflicted deja vu.

"Road blockage. Possible 10-50, unknown type. Copy out-of-state 28." I gave her the tag number and the location.  

"Oh, that. We've already had a call about that vehicle" the dispatcher said. 

"Well, send me a deputy again anyway, please. There's a bunch of debris in the road just beyond the crest of a grade, and someone is going to have a wreck avoiding it. At least one pile of clothes looked like a body in the road," I said. "It's not, though. I don't know what I've got. I'm going to make contact with the driver, and I'll call you back."

The driver was recoiling within her car, away from the window, as I approached. I could see a dog inside, and hear it barking through the cracked open rear window. I badged her and identified myself as a peace officer, and asked how I could help her. She flung open the door and began yelling at me. Without quoting here, I will tell you that she told me that she had been there for two days and that no one had stopped to help her. She said that her car was dead, and her cell phone was dead. She said that she had no food and no water during that time, and that her poor dog's stomach was rumbling from lack of food. I put my hand to the little dog's nose, and found it very moist. The dog licked my hand (I had been eating beef jerky as road food). Its tongue was very moist. That dog wasn't missing water. No food is bad, but it's water that I worry about.

We were on a significant highway, just outside of a city of more than 120,000 people, in a metro area of about a quarter million people. It wasn't like she was in the middle of the boon docks.

I interrupted her to ask about a traffic accident. She said that there had been none. I asked about someone else in the car. No, just her and her pooch. I asked her how all the clothes and debris got in the road. She got evasive and looked away as she told me that she didn't know how they got there. She amended her statement to say that they were like that when she got there. I looked at the SUV packed full of boxes like the emptied one on the ground. I looked at the slender women's clothes that were at a rough guess appropriate for a woman like the one that I was talking to.

I listened to the woman rail on a bit more. At about this point, Ambulance Driver came forward. He had his tactical light out (where was mine? Didn't I tell you that I packed poorly?), his hand was back behind his hip, and he gave me an eyebrows-up questioning look. I could tell that he had already at a distance been able to deduce what I had figured out: This woman was disturbed. She wasn't making sense.

I asked the woman if she was hurt or ill. She said no, and then said, "Well, I'm not feeling too well, right now!" I almost referred her to a paramedic that I knew nearby. But here's the thing: She was physically fine. She'd been moving around* just fine in that SUV. She gave NO indication of any kind of physical injury or trauma. She might have been emotionally disturbed, but she had made no indications that she was going to hurt herself or other people. She was clearly not telling the truth about it having been two days that she had been there, or of her having no clue about the clothing and stuff in the road.

"Ma'am, I'll get help. Stay in your car." I told her, and muttered to Ambulance Driver that she was 10-96.** I went to the back of her car, called 911 back, and updated them on what I had. They told me that a deputy had already been there, and left. "Well, send a deputy back here, please. She seems to have strewn things in the road, probably to get people to stop. You have a road blockage and a disturbed person here," I said.  I looked over to Ambulance Driver. "But we're leaving." He nodded. I hung up.  I hollered to the woman that a deputy was en route, and we proceeded on.

Back in the day, I would have stayed on scene until the deputy got there. I would have involved myself more. Possibly hours of my life I would have devoted to a person that didn't specifically ask for my help, when it wasn't my job to provide it.

As it was, I alerted the local authorities. I checked on her welfare, and on that of her dog. And I disengaged. It was my vacation.

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*Some might say that she was gesticulating.
**Although he nodded at that statement at the time, A.D. later told me: "I didn't know that 10-code before, but figured, given the context, that it meant 'Crazy Person.'"

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