Better And Better

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

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Fifteen Years Ago Today.

Fifteen years ago today, I got up with a little bit of a hangover, and went to play a miserable game of golf with my two best friends, Scott and Bill. Y'all may have noticed that I don't talk much about golf on this blog. That's because it doesn't interest me to talk about. But it's a pleasant walk with a pair of good friends, and occasionally hand-eye coordination pays off. Also, it's an excellent way to polish your judgement of distance and wind.

After putting up a score well north of 100 (I never have seen the point in fudging my score, or adjusting the way my ball lies without taking a penalty. What's the point?), I went back to my house to get showered and changed. My fiancée was at the hairdresser's, getting ready. I was to meet her at the church.

We were getting married that afternoon.

I was muddy, and sweaty, and probably non-too-savory from the toxins that I was sweating out from the shindig that my friends had thrown me the night before. I got in the shower and drained the water heater, and then had to wait for the water to heat back up to shave.  Finally, I glanced at my watch as I put on my tuxedo. Ooh-- 3:20pm. Cutting it a bit close, for a 4:00pm wedding, with a 15 minute drive.

This was when I discovered that the vest was a size Small.

I'm not a Small. I'm not even a Large. I'm more in the range of XXL.

They had gone on and on about how the groomsmen had matching vests in one color, and the groom had another colored vest that complimented them but was distinctly different. I thought about where the tux place was-- 3.8 miles away, through town. I got my keys, and left at 3:30pm. Driving through town, there wasn't much of a way to speed up the drive. I arrived at about 3:40pm. I dashed in, told the girl at the counter the problem, and demanded a larger vest. She searched and found one, and then removed, if I recall correctly, about 19 straight pins from it before adjusting it to me. I was impatient, and told her that we'd have to make do with how it was. I fled the store, and hopped into my pickup, at about 3:53PM.

Google Maps claims that the 8.5 mile trip from the mall to the church takes 13 minutes to drive. Under normal conditions, I would have to agree, and on weekdays at drivetime, you can double that. But this was a Saturday, and I was wearing my wedding tuxedo and was en route to my own wedding. I decided that I would never in my life have a better excuse to speed.

The 1989 Ford F-250 extended cab pickup with full-length bed was a big old beast, somehow the same length as the King Cab that year. It's heavy, and handles like an ocean liner. Mine had dual tanks and a 7.3 liter International diesel engine, that put out stupid amounts of torque, and seemed to want to give me 12.5mpg no matter how I drove it. The speedometer only went up to 85, but playing around with a GPS, I had learned that it would do 103mph before the governor kicked in. I jumped the median from the access road, and floored it.

While en route up the hill to the church, I saw a slow-moving car tapping its brakes, as if the driver were lost and checking the house numbers. I blew past my friend Bryan and his wife, parked at the church, and walked in. It was 4:00:30 PM by my watch. My dad, who was standing in the lobby and looking anxious, laughed and shook my hand.

I joined the pastor and my two groomsman in the anteroom, off the side of the church. We sent someone to inform the bride that we were ready. And we waited. And we waited. For over 20 minutes, we waited. It turned out that my mother in-law, not content with the professional hair-do that my wife had just gotten, wanted to mess with her youngest child's hair some before sending her down the aisle.

Finally, the music played, and the pastor (a retired military man) led the processional to the alter. Interesting training kicked in; we all began on our left foot, and marched at 120 steps per minute in 30 inch steps to our places. Such is the so-called Quick Time march, which my friends and I had learned in high school JROTC. Thus, in very short order, we were in place, and watched the woman who presently would become my bride be escorted up to us by her elder brother. It seemed like that their march took several minutes.

The rest is kind of a blur. The pastor used his opportunity to give a sermon that I didn't want. We picked up candles and used them to light a single candle together, and I found that the candle wasn't really a 24" taper, but was actually a white-painted metal tube with a spring pushing up a small insert candle, to keep the "tapers" the same height. I grabbed the thing, and the spring shot out the bottom, and I somehow caught it, shoving up the wax insert just before it went out. I managed to light the communal candle without burning down the old church.

Then, it was over. I kissed the bride (as such she now was), and we turned to meet our future. A friend caught this moment with her camera. It was murky in that old church, so I hope you'll forgive the poor picture. (I think she only had 100 speed film.) 
The vest really doesn't matter much, does it?

We retired to my amazing friend Paula's house, and took some more pictures. My friend Blake served the most amazing barbecue and beans and smoked ham that I've ever eaten. My friend Kevin served the beer that he and I had brewed using his grain sparge system. (I got rave reviews on it, but of 10 gallons, I only got half a plastic cup. Figures.)

I removed my wife's garter, and flung it to the waiting bachelors before an amazing sunset. An hour or so later, I was told that it was time for us to leave. Apparently, the bride and groom are expected to leave while everyone else is still there, so that they can throw rice at the couple.

Friends, this makes no sense at all. Here I was, at a party with everyone that I gave a damn about in attendance, and I had to leave it early. What we SHOULD have done was go back to our house, changed out of our finery, and re-joined the party in blue jeans and flannel shirts. If you're getting married, do that, friends.

We went to a lovely bed & breakfast place that my best friend and his wife had provided for us, took care of a necessary formality, and watched Rowan Atkinson performing a stage bit, on the televisor. In the morning, there were chocolate banana muffins, and strada.

And we went home, a married couple.

My bride has borne me two amazing children. She has my love, and my loyalty. This is just the first multiple of 15 years.

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One does not simply walk into Moscow...

...and kick the Russians' butts, playing their own music, during the Cold War.

But that's just what a modest gay kid from Louisiana and Texas did. A graduate of Julliard, Van Cliburn had always wanted to go to Russia. In 1958, the 24 year old went there to compete in the first International Tchaikovsky Competition.

Consider the era. The Soviets had just launched Sputnik, and felt that they were on a roll. They started this competition to show the world that the U.S.S.R. was not only technically advanced, but culturally the world leaders, as well. And, frankly, when it comes to virtuoso pianists, the Russians have a long and proud history.

Cliburn played Tchaikovsky's Piano Concerto No. 1, and Rachmaninoff's Piano Concerto No. 3.


And he blew them away.
He won first prize, in an upset that in some ways was akin to Jesse Owens excelling at the 1936 Berlin Summer Olympics.

Give the Soviets this: They reportedly applauded him for eight minutes, and then gave him the prize. He came home to a ticker tape parade, and a family friend presented a check for $10,000 to begin a piano competition in Fort Worth, TX, named in Van Cliburn's honor.  This was one of the things that has made Fort Worth a significant artistic destination.

Cliburn quit performing publicly in the '70s, when he felt that he couldn't give the quality that he believed that he should, anymore. But he continued to act as a cultural ambassador, acting as a servant of music. He lived in Fort Worth, TX until he passed away at 78.

We lost an icon, yesterday.

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Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Overheard at breakfast.

Wife: "Hey, does federal law say that I have to get a lunch break after only six hours at work? I've got a doctor's appointment, and would rather just work straight through before leaving early, than to go to lunch, come back for an hour, and go to the doctor."

Me: "You know what? I don't know, for sure. I've had it presented to me one way, but I've never laid eyes on the black letter labor law, myself."

Wife: "Well, how was it presented to you?"

Me, looking up the applicable web page: "Nope, I'm not going to be that guy who just quotes what he heard. Back in police academy, our coordinator would teach us Penal Code . . ."

Wife: "Heh."

Me: ". . . by making us read each law aloud in class."

Wife: "So she made sure that y'all had a good handle of all things penal?"

Me: "Oh, she felt we would know the long and the short of it if we dealt with it orally."

Wife: "There's something about having it come out of your mouth that just..."

Elder Daughter: "You two are gross."

_________________
I live for these moments.

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Because some things need to be ridiculed.

A family member works in a large state agency, and showed me this email, which was sent by the regional supervisor to everyone working under him. The man is known to be impressive in his arrogance, and in his lack of understanding how human beings work. Jokes that are funny to him are not to others, and conversely. Also, he takes offense at things no one else can find fault with.*
I was in an office recently and noticed the attached sign next to the office copier. The copier was not in public view; however, that is not a consideration. The sign conveys a message we all need to adhere too, but WE CANNOT post this type of signage in an office as it could be construed as offensive by an employee and result in a complaint against the supervisor(s) in which there is no defense.
 
DO NOT TAKE THIS MESSAGE LIGHTLY!!!
But, hey, at least he's trying to prevent a hostile work environment, right? That's good, isn't it? If it protects one worker, this email will totally have been worth it. So, prepare yourselves, gentle reader, because a screen capture of the scanned offensive sign** follows:
I apologize for the crass material that I have posted here.  But sometimes, to get internet hits, you've got to work blue.


_________________________
*Yes, I am aware of the condition that these symptoms point to, but am tired of hearing that label applied everywhere, lately.

**I work so hard for you people.

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Weather post 2-25-2013

Mostly just a bookmark of what the weather has been doing, the past few hours. It's howling, and those two bad shingles on the windward side have been heavy on my mind, lately.

 
Last night at about 19:00 hrs, they seem to have had a singularity point up in McAlister, OK.

That low spot is moving east, and the winds at the periphery are even stronger, now:

Still breezy, here. But worse in the Panhandle.
 

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Monday, February 25, 2013

Record blizzard

No, it's not a big deal for Amarillo to get a blizzard. It's just that this one is particularly heavy, and for the second time in two weeks.

Meanwhile, in Corpus Christi, TX, it's only getting up to 72, and might be too chilly to swim. 15 years ago this week, I swam on the beach at Corpus Christi. The water was warmer than the air around me.

And if I hear the term "blizzard-like conditions" again, I'm going to make some noise. (That's a blizzard.)

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Friday, February 22, 2013

Smart.

Google is releasing The Next Big Thing, called "Glass."

The idea of wearable computers has been around for a while, but no one has really fielded a worthwhile model. (Oh, I know that Apple tried it, but this is completely different.)

IF this works (and eventually, someone will get it right), this will be a bigger deal than broadband was to the Internet.

Google is thus far kind of hit or miss on some new apps, and their branded hardware has never set a benchmark, to my knowledge. But this is a new device that hasn't really been fielded before, and their marketing strategy is pretty smart.

See, you have to apply to get the right to pay $1500 for one, right now. That will of course change, later, but right now, your price of admission is a grand and a half, and an application that includes an essay, and perhaps a video.

Why? Because genius, that's why.

They're beta testing. You want your beta testers to be invested in the product, or they'll put it down without input.They must have some confidence in it, to be trying this. But maybe some design guy sold it to marketing with:
"Hey, we can't fail! We get to claim that we're beta-testing, not generally releasing the product, and each enduser is paying us to do the research. Worst case scenario is that it's back to the drawing board. Best case: we send a service pack module upgrade, and proceed with production as is."


The weak point isn't going to be the shaky video; it's going to be in the speech recognition. It needs to NOT fire off some app, just because you left it on while walking through a noisy crowd, or while watching a movie.
To quote my friend Ed: "You know it's only a matter of time before people start using Google Glass to make their own pornos."
He's probably right, but there have been wearable cameras for a long time. I think that it's the integration that will be the big deal. Google is pretty good at taking existing technology, and integrating it. Look at the excellent job that they did with Google Maps integrating with their search engine, with their one-of-a-kind StreetView, and their superb Earth. (You haven't downloaded Google Earth to your machine? I don't even know you, anymore.)
 
Some worry that it moves us a little further down the slippery slope of not having to interact with human beings around us. I submit that it will pull our heads up. Right now, when I want to interact with the Internet, I sit down and face a computer screen, in a corner. I am effectively sequestering myself from the world.  Something like this could permit the easy give and take of data, while out and about.

In a year, we'll know if this one took or not.  Given the proliferation of 4G smart phones out there (with which it will pair), I reckon that it's got a fighting chance. Eventually, someone will get us there.




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Thursday, February 21, 2013

Fangurl.

"Do you know what today is?" asked my elder daughter.

"Uh, not really, beyond that it's 21 Feb 2013," I responded. "And a Thursday."

"No, it's more than that," she responded with teenaged smugness.

She took out a marker and a sheet of paper, and explained thusly.

So what's a father to do? Beam with pride? Deny paternity?

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Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Another opportunity, missed.

Dammit, how often does an opportunity like this present itself? A world-famous Olympic athlete, known specifically for being a contender despite having no lower legs, is charged with murdering his girlfriend, and he fields a lame alibi.

So we get this:
That's what we get when cowards are placed in editorial positions. Clearly, it should have been run thusly:

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Sunday, February 17, 2013

Amazing article in the Huffington Post.

Radley Balko does a very nice job of presenting the readily-obtainable facts from the FBI's U.C.R., which are easy to digest and which clearly refute our vice president's contention that police today are outgunned.


"There were fewer police being murdered, fewer police being outgunned when the assault weapons ban, in fact, was in existence," Biden said.
That last sentence simply false, on both counts. So is Biden's general premise.


Go read. This is a very clear, very easy-to-understand article, with simple graphs.


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Thursday, February 14, 2013

The beauty of Valentine's Day.

Not my idea, but I'd buy that shirt.

Look, we can't all express our love like Glenn Campbell did, when he sang,

"And I need you more than want you.
And I want you for all time."

. . . . . But suppose that I just expressed my love for my wife, in the manner of Professor Elemental*.

I shan't quote it here, but it's worth pointing out that few things are funnier than a geeky man rapping in Received Pronunciation, punctuating his over-the-top similes with low moans that Barry White --and only Barry White-- could ever pull off.

The lyrics are greatness.

Happy Valentine's Day, you romantic slobs out there.


_______________________________________
*Look, I posted classical musicians playing blue-grass the other day; I can post parody steampunk chap-hop today, if I wish.

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Friday, February 08, 2013

By the way, Los Angeles PD? We're distancing.

As with the Rampart scandal, and with the Rodney King thing, the vast majority of us police are distancing from the Los Angeles Police Department's actions.

I would LOVE to read that report, in which the officers shot two paper delivery ladies, who happened to be driving a pickup similar to the one that  a former-LAPD-officer-turned-rogue-murderer had been driving.
You read the story, and you understand that things are tense in LAPD right now. But that doesn't excuse violating The Four Rules:

Click to embiggen.
Rules 2 and 4 of this list are applicable. But mostly Rule 4.
We don't shoot at sounds in the dark. We don't shoot at the BoogieMan. We don't shoot someone because he MIGHT be dangerous. And I'll throw you one more bombshell out there: We don't even shoot positively-identified murder suspects to apprehend them, absent imminent threat to human life.

Perhaps Tennessee v. Garner (1985) rings a bell? The use of deadly force to apprehend a fleeing felon is not a constitutional seizure.

Now, I realize this guy (I still hate to use his name, because he's gone nuts putting out a manifesto, in which he gives shout-outs to Joe Biden, Ellen Degeneres, Tim Tebow, and Martin Sheen. Unstable, much?) has said some scary stuff, such as:
"The Violence of action will be HIGH. I am the reason TAC alert was established. I will bring unconventional and asymmetrical warfare to those in LAPD uniform whether on or off duty. ISR is my strength and your weakness. You will now live the life of the prey. Your RD's and homes away from work will be my AO and battle space. I will utilize every tool within INT collections that I learned from NMITC in Dam Neck. You have misjudged a sleeping giant. There is no conventional threat assessment for me. JAM, New Ba'ath party, 1920 rev BGE, ACM, AAF, AQAP, AQIM and AQIZ have nothing on me. Do not deploy airships or gunships. SA-7 Manpads will be waiting. As you know I also own Barrett .50 s so your APC are defunct and futile."


He describes various groups within the LAPD that he declares high-value targets. He mentions knowing their routes to and from work.

So, scary, right?

That's part of the job. We get threats. It sucks. You go to work, and you do the job professionally, and you try to protect the citizens. And if your number comes up, then it sucks, but that's the job.

If there was ever a time to NOT oppress the citizenry, this is it. There are people that will actually take this kook seriously, and question everything about the LAPD, and declare that the LAPD is now trying to assassinate him to suppress "the truth." And if you gun down occupants of a similar pickup, they'll use that for fodder.

I remember looking for the participants in the Texas Seven gang, who murdered Officer Aubrey Hawkins about 30 miles down the road from where I was working. I remember how tense that was. I remember how we who worked deep nights checked the backs of vans, and trailers, and trucks, working alone.

I have felt that tension.

And still I say that we must now more than ever function with complete professionalism. It is at these times when it is most called for.

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Thursday, February 07, 2013

Something to take the ear worm off.

Yo-Yo Ma, Edgar Meyer, Chris Thile, Stuart Duncan play bluegrass. The quartet, plus singer Aoife O'Donovan, are extraordinary. I bought the album after watching this.

Meyer and Ma are unquestionably the best in the world at cello and bass, respectively, and like to branch out from their classical stuff on projects like this.

Thile plays the mandolin like a rock star. Literally. And he sings with O'Donovan in the classically bluegrass song "Here And Heaven" (which starts here), which is full of bright notes that are moving.

Lost in it all is Duncan, who switches effortlessly between banjo and fiddle.

I may have linked to it before. I don't care.

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Thursday is thirsty.

--After staying up until 4:45 this morning watching Netflix videos to keep myself on my night shift schedule, I got a call at 10:00am from an assistant district attorney, who wanted to discuss a family violence case that I had filed. She was shocked that I had put my cell phone number on the cover sheet, and apologized for waking me. I told her that I would much rather be awakened by an ADA with a question than have the question go unanswered, and have the case suffer. I don't think she fully believed me.

--I woke up with a completely stopped up nose. I took a Zyrtec (well, a store brand cetirizine HCL, anyway), and feel so much better, now. I think that pill cost me a bit less than 50¢. It's good for 24 hours. No side effects. I like living in the future.

--Slate is putting up a graphic depiction of deaths by gunfire since the Sandy Hook shooting. Even though I'm politically opposed to the editor, there. I find the map pretty interesting to look at. Looks like Chicago has a problem.

--Speaking of graphic depictions, check out the weird wind here in north Texas.









Depending upon which end of US Hwy 82 you're on, the wind may be blowing briskly at 20mph from the north in Wichita Falls, or freshly from the south at 10 mph in Gainesville, which is about 80 miles to the east.

--It's really nice outside. I'm going to do some outside work today. To believe the East Coast-obsessed newsies, though, the Only People Who Matter will be buried in a blizzard today.

--This past weekend, my good friend Joe Speer, proprietor of Jackalope Rifle Company, was coming through town, and dropped off my elder daughter's custom Mossberg Chuckster model 620K .22 WMRF single shot bolt rifle. He had done it as a project rifle, starting with a heavily used old rifle, and did some lovely things. The barrel and receiver are reblued, the stock was refinished, a purple heartwood stock end tip was put on, an ebony pistolgrip cap was put on, and a buttpad was installed. He filled the wallowed-out sling swivel holes, and the hole where the tang sight (sadly not to be found!) had been ripped out. You can just see the wood plugs, but you cannot detect them by touch. The inletting is very good. The trigger is quite good. My daughter has something that I'd never had given me: a custom rifle.

Joe and I and my dad all went over to Big City to Cabella's, and found that there not only wasn't a round of .22 WMRF to be had, but due to panic buying, there was almost not a single round of any common caliber. But Joe, a rather strident fan of the .30-'06, happily reported that there were decent stocks left of his favorite caliber, even in the Remington Core Lokt 150g and 165g load-- arguably the single most popular load for that caliber. Smirking, Joe said, "That's because a man with a .30-'06 doesn't panic."

--I need to order a part from Numerich for my daughter's best friend's Ruger Mark II safety. Her dad bought it, took it apart to clean it like the good former Marine he was, and put it back together and couldn't get it to work. He gave to me to fix. Oops. We've got Missing Parts Syndrome. He's a great guy, and his daughter's like family for us, so I'm happy to buy the part for him.

--While we were running around, we let Joe's dog Butcher run around in Mom's back yard. Mom got home and texted me that the dog was gone. We bailed out of Cabella's and began the not-insignificant drive home, slightly panicking. Mom called me back. Butch was sitting on my front porch, patiently watching Joe's vehicle to make sure that he didn't go anywhere without his companion. I called off the search party, and we stopped and got some Whataburger. Apparently, they don't have those everywhere. Odd. Here, they're on every corner, seems like.

--My beloved burr grinder broke. We're getting another. In the meantime, I'm drinking coffee that came pre-ground, out of a big can. Huh. So this is how you people live, is it?

--I watched Shooter last night on NetFlix. It's almost unrecognizable as an adaptation of Stephen Hunter's great thriller Point Of Impact. I'm still amazed at how Hollywood flouts the rules, and lets a violent felon like Wahlberg handle every gun that they've got in their inventory. I'm amazed that BATFEIEIO gives him special dispensation to do so. But it's okay; he's on the side of the angels now*.  I could stand to see that Kate Mara chick a bit more, though. As learned in Starship Troopers, if you're going to completely stray from the book which the movie is based upon, you might as well put some hawt chicks in the flick.

--Speaking of the Robert A Heinlein novel Starship Troopers, someone has put up the unabridged audio book of it on YouTube, and it's a guilty pleasure to listen to while tending to other things around the house or while driving.  It won't last very long; someone will cry copyright violation**.

--It was getting kind of late last night when my wife and I decided upon pork loin for dinner. We thawed the three-pound hunk of meat in about 13 minutes, split it sagitally, dusted it with salt, pepper, thyme, and garlic powder, and coated it with olive oil. Then we put it into the oven at 350 for an hour, and programmed the oven to turn itself off. Then we went to the store. We returned to a fantastic dinner, with which we prepared mushroom gravy and peas and carrots. Total prep time for everything couldn't have broken 20 minutes. Again-- the future? She is tasty.

--When I learned that a DWI Third Or More case that I had filed got a conviction, I was pleased. When I saw that the driver got several years of prison time, I was impressed. The driver had been represented by a very good attorney, and the evidence, while solid, was circumstantial. This was a first felony DWI for the driver, and no one saw the driver actually driving. However, the investigator did a fine job. :) I sent an email congratulating the prosecutorial team for excellent work. I don't know if it makes their day to hear praise from a lowly street cop, but it makes my day to get positive feedback from them. Believe it or not, I don't believe that most of those people are in it for the money, nor the power.

--My wife and the girls have infected me with an earworm. Those Walk Off The Earth people, who got internet fame for doing a superb version of Somebody That I Used To Know using five band members and one acoustic guitar, have put up a new song. It's one-take live acapella dubstep version*** of Taylor Swift's "I Knew You Were Trouble".  I have never taken anything remotely beatbox to be a serious artistic style, but dang if their visiting artist ("KRNFX") doesn't actually kinda impress me as having a talent.
I stress that this normally would not be my cup of tea. Uh, it's just something the kids had on. :rolleyes:

_________________________________________
*By which we mean to say, he wants to ban all guns.

**And well they should. The people who produced and published that audiobook deserve to get paid for their work. I'm a fan of defending intellectual property rights. But, yeah, I listened to the audiobook all the way through. Does that make me a hypocrite?

***Does that even make sense?

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