Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Tuesday Wrap...

Here’s an interesting editorial on blogging by Jason Fry of the WSJ. A key graf:

The latest word from Dave Sifry, CEO of the blog search engine Technorati, is that there are some 28.4 million blogs and the blogosphere is doubling in size every 5.5 months. Eye-popping figures like that have been thrown around a lot recently, but folks making revolutionary claims about blogging won't like other Technorati numbers: Less than half of those blogs are still getting posts three months after their creation, and less than 10% -- just 2.7 million -- are updated at least weekly. That means of Technorati's blogs, more than 90% are either abandoned or updated too rarely to merit the name -- nothing kills reader interest or visits more quickly and thoroughly than a stale blog.

The Dave Sifry link is worth following in itself, with lotsa “gee whiz” facts and a few charts. Seeing the growth rate of the blogosphere charted is interesting, to me. YMMV.

Yeah, I did have to run the AC today, but only for a couple of hours…from around 1500 until 1700. Our high yesterday was 82, a record for February 27th. Doubtless today’s high will be a record, too. I don’t know what our actual high temp was today, but it sure felt like nearly-90. I (and you, assuming you drop back by) will know tomorrow. And I will report. Trust me.

So I did the major shopping run out to the base today. Successfully – everything I needed was on the shelves. Noted in passing: the limes at the commissary are just slightly smaller than tennis balls (really), cost 16 cents apiece, and are juice-eee! The limes at Wally-World, on the other hand, are about half the size of commissary limes, cost 22 cents apiece, and may as well be semi-dehydrated when it comes to juice. Somehow I thought you just needed to know this.

I also stopped by the base library and picked up that inter-library loan of The Last Lion by William Manchester. I’d requested the book a couple of weeks ago and the librarian said she’d e-mail me when it arrived. When I asked about the e-mail (coz I never got it), she said they had tried to e-mail me twice. And tried to phone once. And had documentation to prove it; she showed me. Damn! I’ve been incommunicado and didn’t even know it… The Last Lion is a hella big book – 883 pages of narrative, 16 pages of “source notes,” four pages of acknowledgements, and a whopping 32 page index. And it only covers Churchill’s life between 1874 and 1932. Take note: You should be prepared for Churchill quotes for the next week or so. Just sayin’.

Your tax dollars at work… While I was at the base I popped by the Base Hospital clinic to pick up a prescription. The pharmacy is located about as far as away from the main entrance as possible. This means I walk by waiting areas for the Family Clinic, the Lab, X-Ray, and a couple of other waiting rooms, on my way to and from the pharmacy. I had to wait in line for just a few moments at the pharmacy and in so doing I’m watching CNN on the waiting area’s TV. Then it dawned on me: the last time I was here there was a 21-inch CRT TV hung on one of those wall-mounted shelves in the waiting area. Today I’m looking at a spiffy new flat-screen Sony that may or may not be HDTV...but for sure it’s wide-screen format and at least 30 inches wide. So, I pick up my prescription and while exiting the area I note that every TV in all the waiting rooms mentioned above have been replaced with new flat-screen TVs. It ain’t gonna break the Federal bank by any means, but buying those TVs had to cost a pretty chunk o’ change. Support the troops, indeed.

Song of the Day

Song: You Can’t Resist It
Lyle Lovett
Live in Texas (and the self-titled first album)
Year: 1999 (1986)
Source: My stuff.

Makes Me Think of & etc.: And you can tell your story, and you can swear it's true; but you can save your lying for some other fool. It is ever so.


She was old enough
To know better
And she was strong enough
To be true
And she was hard enough
To know whether
He was smart enough
To know what to do

And you can't resist it
When it happens to you
No you can't resist it
When it happens to you

And you can tell your story
And you can swear it's true
But you can save your lying
For some other fool

And you can't resist it
When it happens to you
No you can't resist it
When it happens to you

She was old enough
To know better
And she was strong enough
To be true
And she was hard enough
To know whether
He was smart enough
To know what to do

And you can't resist it
When it happens to you
No you can't resist it
When it happens to you
And you can't resist it
When it happens to you
No you can't resist it
When it happens to you

See ya tomorrow!

Another One of Those Memes...

Barb over at Bitchin' and Stuff tagged me with this...

1. Black and White or Color; how do you prefer your movies?

I’m not a movie guy, so I have no opinion on this one. Just to be contrarian, I’ll say B&W.

2. What is the one single subject that bores you to near-death?

“Lemmee tell you about my operation.” Oh, please, no, don’t.

3. MP3s, CDs, Tapes or Records: what is your favorite medium for prerecorded music?

CDs in the present, vinyl in the past. Vinyl nearly always sounds good. I also have a collection of 100+ reel-to-reel tapes, most of which are poorly recorded due to my being uh…under the influence of various and sundry substances.

4. You are handed one first class trip plane ticket to anywhere in the world and ten million dollars cash. All of this is yours provided that you leave and not tell anyone where you are going: Ever. This includes family, friends, everyone. Would you take the money and ticket and run?


5. Seriously, what do you consider the world's most pressing issue now?

A nuclear

6. How would you rectify the world's most pressing issue?

I’d re-target about three Minutemen sitting in those
North Dakota silos, give Ahmedjani a call, and say “Catch!” Seriously, though, this is a tough one. I’m not sure there is a solution that doesn’t involve a lot of stuff getting broke and a lot of people getting dead.

7. You are given the chance to go back and change one thing in your life; what would that be?

I’d have never lit that first cigarette.

8. You are given the chance to go back and change one event in world history, what would that be?

I have no friggin’ clue.

9. A night at the opera, or a night at the Grand Ole Opry. Which do you choose?

Grand Ole Opry.

10. What is the one great unsolved crime of all time you'd like to solve?

Once again, I have no friggin’ clue.

11. One famous author can come to dinner with you. Who would that be, and what would you serve for the meal?

Winston Churchill; dinner at Claridges; we’d eat well, get famously drunk and I could die happy. If we’re limiting the choice to living authors, it would be Tom Robbins.

12. You discover that John Lennon was right, that there is no hell below us, and above us there is only sky. What's the first immoral thing you might do to celebrate this fact?

Depends on Alexandra Steele’s availability and willingness to participate.

Pretty boring, eh? I'm supposed to tag two people. All y'all can self-select. Play 'em if ya got 'em!


One pays a heavy price, at my age, for staying up all night and half-way into the following day. And what might that price be, Buck? Tell us! Tell us! (says the imaginary audience in my head) OK, since you asked… Fee Number One: You must repeat the process, i.e., you stay up all night, sleep most of the following day and stay awake into the wee hours again. Fee Number Two: Persistent lethargy on the day following your excess. And that was the story yesterday. I was up until 0500 Monday morning, slept until around 1100 and went through the rest of yesterday listing to port about six degrees. I think I’m all better now. I awoke at 0900 or thereabouts this morning and felt pretty good. I will get something meaningful accomplished today. And finally…there was a time when I could (a) stay out all night getting riotously drunk (or righteously, you decide), come home, shower, change clothes and go to work and put in a credible performance or (b) pull a succession of all-nighters at work towards the end of a project and (c) feel no pain on either count, relatively speaking. Ah, nostalgia.
So, I’m listening to Radio Paradise this morning at the exact moment they met their February fund-raising goal. The goal was pretty ambitious, too, as they successfully raised $62,000.00 during the month of February. Good on ‘em. I can rest assured the current soundtrack to my life will continue unabated for a while. But that’s not what I wanted to say… After announcing the goal had been met, followed by the de rigeur thank-yous, Bill plays the following set (chronologically reversed, as indicated):
I haven’t put up a song of the day recently. And that’s because I haven’t been doing much listening these last few days; it was all-hockey, all weekend. And then there was the post orgy let-down, as described above. Life will be getting back to normal now. One item on my agenda today is to bring in all the CDs currently in the car, review, and re-stock. Restocking the car with music will probably result in at least one musical re-discovery. It happens all the time, to me, at least. I’ll let ya know…
It’s the last day of February and there’s a much better than even chance I’ll have to run the air conditioning this afternoon. Our forecasted high, believe it or don’t, is 88 degrees. It’s 76 as I write and it’s decidedly warm inside El Casa Móvil de Pennington. The balmy temps are accompanied by brisk winds (23 mph steady, gusts to 30 mph) unfortunately, and that means lotsa dust, and that, in turn, means I keep the windows and roof vents closed. More’s the pity. A warm day without the freakin’ wind would be much appreciated. S’funny how I can find something to complain about, ain’t it? I definitely should keep my mouth shut, coz the WX Channel’s web page tells me it’s 19 degrees, wind chill of 6, with light snow in Ra-cha-cha at the moment. I’ll take the wind and be glad about it, thank you.

Monday, February 27, 2006

A Couple of Fun Time-Wasters

Are you a bubble-wrap popper? Have you ever been without bubble-wrap and really, I mean REALLY, needed to pop something, anything? That sort of impulse isn’t healthy. Bookmark this page for future bubble-wrap droughts. Or go there right now for a few satisfying pops. Few, Hell! Do as many as you want…go into Manic Mode!! (And don’t thank me, thank Dr. Sanity.)

If you’re in need of something more challenging than bubble-wrap, there’s always Falling Sand. Becky introduced me to this game and beware! It’s seriously addicting! When I’ve had enough I simply burn the whole thing down…

Real? Or Rove?

Gerard Van Der Leun started it, Dr. Sanity weighs in, but Neo-neocon sez it best, I think. Neo also has many good links to other children’s books, some in the same ridiculous vein as this one, others not. You really should check out the sample pages of “Why Mommy is a Democrat” at the publisher’s web site. The illustrations are over-the-top and quite funny. I don’t think the humor’s intended, but they sure made ME laugh! The whole concept of a book such as this makes me gag, however. And be sure to check out the comments at Gerard's and Neo's places. They are quite good.

It’s interesting this lil book should pop up hard on the heels of the “enlightening” conversation I had with my nine year old last week. I know Bobby is way too old for this type of propaganda, but something tells me there are similar tomes in his family library. TSMP never threw away a book, to my knowledge. Just sayin’, of course.

Sunday, February 26, 2006

Sunday Wrap-Up

Well, now. Today was certainly wasted, hockey game excluded. I fear I’ve succeeded in screwing up my circadian rhythms for good this time. I opted to stay up all night to ensure I wouldn’t miss a single minute of the Gold Medal game, which was scheduled to begin at 0600 this morning, Mountain Time. There was a slight delay in the start of the game on my local NBC affiliate, but I kept my cool (this time). In the mean time, I made the coffee and settled in to watch what I’ve already told you was a great game. I paid a price for drinking that pot of coffee during the game. I put the post below up around 1030 or so and stayed awake until noon. Sleep doesn’t come easy for me in the middle of the day. I slept fitfully until about 1600 or so, got up, cleaned up a bit, and went out for a short while. Made dinner and took a “nap.” And here we are: nearly midnite and I’m wide-awake.

I called The Captain near the end of the second period of the game to see if he was watching. He told me it was over and he was, in fact, watching the medal ceremony as we spoke. I blurted out “Don’t tell me! Don’t tell me!” and he laughed. Turns out he missed the game, opting instead to go for a three-mile run. SOS is already having an impact on his life. Good or bad? Run or hockey? You decide!

So. Today’s major accomplishments, other than hockey? Took out the trash. Made a quick run to the store. Checked the mail. Received and hung my new Service Flag. Pics of the flag as displayed may follow; but first I have to wash El Casa Móvil de Pennington before putting her on public display. Don’t hold your breath.

Tomorrow it’s laundry, really and truly. Assuming I’m not up all night and asleep all day. Big assumption.

Sweden 3, Finland 2

I thought about titling this post “Detroit 3, Finland 2” but decided that would be disrespectful to the Swedish team. Nonetheless, all of Sweden’s goals were scored by Red Wings: Zetterburg, Kronwall, and the game winner by Nick Lidstrom, the world’s BEST defenseman. This game was about as even as it gets. Finland had the edge for shots on goal, 28 – 27. The key difference in the game? Finland took five penalties in the second period, allowing Sweden to convert on two of their five second period power plays. And that was the essence of Sweden’s win.
This was about as good as hockey gets. What a GREAT game!
I can go to bed now…

Saturday, February 25, 2006

Do I Miss It?

In the comments to one of my previous posts, Laurie sez/asks:
Tonight low 18, winds 15-25. Alberta Clipper coming through. Tomorrow, high 19. Don't you miss it here?”
"Here" being Rochester, NY. It’s said a picture is worth a thousand words; if that’s true, then my 2,000-word essay on snow is just above this paragraph. Those two pictures aren’t of the highest quality, to be sure, but that’s my car stuck in my driveway, waiting for the tow truck after about 30 minutes of me trying to dig it out. And that’s my deck, too. January 19, 2000. 24 inches. Draw your own conclusions.
Today’s hockey game was OK. Just OK. Congrats to the Czechs, who were nothing like the team that lost to Sweden yesterday. They completely dominated the Russians, who end the tournament with two straight shut-outs. Today’s score was Czech Republic 3, Russia 0. The last goal was an empty-netter. As a side note…I surprised myself today. Although I was sorely tempted to go to the Olympics web site and check the final score before the televised game was over, I didn’t. Watching the first period was hard, because I already knew who did what, and when they did it.
Tomorrow’s Gold Medal game begins at 0600 MST. I can’t decide whether to (a) go to bed very early (an unnatural act if there ever was one) or (b) go to bed after the game, which is more my style. I don’t own an alarm clock, or any other sort of timing device other than my bread pantry, which does double duty as a microwave. I’m undecided at this writing.
NBC’s hockey analysts are split on tomorrow’s game. Ray Ferraro is predicting the Swedes will win, 3-1. Bill Clement says the Finns will win, but declines to predict the score. Clement has been consistently wrong in his predictions throughout the tournament; so much so it’s embarrassing, actually. I’m going to subject myself to some potential embarrassment, right now. It’s an old NHL adage: Defense wins Cups. I don’t see how it’s any different in the Olympics, and the Finns have the best defense I’ve seen during this tournament, bar none. I predict Finland will win, 2-0.


So, a change in plans. Seeing as how the weather will be MUCH better tomorrow and my back-up coffee ain't all THAT bad, I decided to stay home and watch the Bronze Medal hockey game. Just one lil problem, however.

My NBC affiliate isn't televising the game. Neither is USA or MSNBC. Shut out, I am. What do we get instead? The freakin' men's biathlon. Oh, how very exciting...watching guys ski through a snowstorm and do a lil target shooting. O, the excitement! Watch how quickly Ollie manipulates the bolt on his rifle...will he shoot ALL the targets? I can't frickin' contain myself. OK, I'm a hockey fan, you all know that. It's really hard for me to see just how the biathlon can match a good hockey game, and even though we're talking Bronze here, it's STILL Olympic hockey, which by definition is GREAT.

It's times like these that make me want to learn how to construct fire-bombs...

Update 2/25/2006 1330 hrs MST: The game WILL be televised, albeit not in real-time. I'm watching the pre-game hoopla right now. In real-time, the score is 1 - o, Czech Republic, with Russia's Kovalchuk taking a game misconduct penalty in the second period. KOB-TV's studios in Albuquerque are safe for the moment, at least from me.

It's the Weekend!

(For those of you who care about such things, which, I'm sure, is most of you.)

We got some significant rain
last night, the first rain or precip of any form in about a month, as far as I can remember. There are large puddles still standing in the street. Rain in February isn’t unusual, but a thunderstorm is. Lots of lightning, lots of thunder. I don’t sleep well in those circumstances; my place of residence is a tornado magnet, after all. And today? It’s windy (what’s new?) and a little bit chilly. We’ll be in the low 60s today.

There was great hockey yesterday! The FinlandRussia match was the best hockey I’ve seen in the Olympics so far. I don’t think anyone expected the Finns to be so dominant; as the 4 – 0 score indicates, the Finns completely shut down Datsyuk, Kovalev, Ovechkin, Kozlov, et al. The Russians didn’t have very many quality scoring chances, and when they did, Finn goalie Nittymaki made the saves. I thought the game was in doubt until mid-way through the second period when the Finns scored their third goal and the Russians failed to convert on a 5-on-3 power play that lasted nearly a full two minutes. To say the Finns’ defense was awesome is an understatement. The Finns were physical, too. Powerful yet clean checks kept the Russians just a little off-balance. And the Russians gave as good as they got in that department, too. The Finns, however, were much more disciplined…taking four penalties to Russia’s eight. The Finns’ special teams excelled, too, converting two of their four power plays. It’s hard to see how they can lose in the gold medal game.

Which brings us to the SwedenCzech Republic game. That game was never in doubt; the Czechs looked lethargic and more or less unmotivated, while Sweden was firing on ALL cylinders, to mix a metaphor. The game was all Sweden, 7 – 3. The Swedes are formidable now that Forsberg is back and obviously healthy.

I believe tomorrow’s gold medal game is a toss-up; one could make a case for either team. One thing is certain: hockey fans will be the winners. This should be a GREAT game. As for me, I’m just slightly disposed towards Sweden…but only slightly, and mainly because there are five Detroit players on the Swedish squad. On the other hand, Finland has never won a gold in hockey, Sweden won the gold in 1994 on a Forsberg penalty shot. Despite Finland’s dominating performance in the tournament so far, I have to think they are the underdogs. The sports lines I checked this morning has the two squads even. As I said, this will be a great game.

I think I’ll pass up the bronze medal game. Hockey is intruding on life…I have to go to the commissary as I’m out of one mission-essential substance: Foglifter coffee. I have my emergency back-up in place, but it would be nice not to go without my favored morning drink. My shopping list is fairly long, so it’s time to go do “major shopping.”

It’s also time for another periodic chore I dislike: Laundry. The laundry bag is nearly full; I only have about five clean tee shirts left, and of those three normally go un-worn. I’m also down to back-up socks, too. It’s hard to convey in mere words how much I hate doing laundry, or for that matter, housework in general. Have I ever mentioned that I HATE…oh yeah, right. I have. Once or twice.

Friday, February 24, 2006

An Excerpt...

...from a conversation with my nine year old son.

I wrote a week or so ago about the travails I had finding suitable note cards on which to write my son. It all came out fine, except for the fact the note cards were rather plain. I dressed up a note card in my last letter by affixing an old 523rd Fighter Squadron sticker to the front of the note card (the unit emblem pictured). Bobby, my son, received the letter yesterday and called me last evening. He began the conversation by saying “That sticker is familiar! I remember that!” And so he did, from previous visits to New Mexico and to Cannon AFB, home of the 523rd and the former squadron of his older brother. From that opening intro we went on to talk about Crusaders and The Crusades, the historical variety. Bobby, like a lot of nine year olds, is fascinated by knights and all things medieval. I asked how much he knew about the Crusades, and this is where we’ll pick up the conversation.

Bobby: The Crusaders fought to recapture Jerusalem.

Me: Yeah, that’s right. But they also fought to capture other Holy places from the Muslims, too.

Bobby: But they lost.

Me: Yes, they did. Some people say that war is still being fought.

Bobby: It was over hundreds of years ago.

Me: That’s true, but Muslims have very long memories; they don’t forget.

Bobby: The war in Iraq is for control of the oil.

Me: (pause) Uh, what?

Bobby: The war in Iraq is being fought for oil.

Me: Bobby, that’s not true.

Bobby: Yes it is.

Me: Let’s talk about something else.

Nine years old and already indoctrinated. I worry.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

The Danger Within

Via Sissy Willis' blog, Armed and Dangerous gives us one of the best essays I've read on the dangers of trans-national progressivism. The piece is full of excellent links on this particular subject and contains thought-provoking points about the origins of anti-western thought and just how far these memes have penetrated the culture, particularly in the Academy. If you choose not to follow the link, give these points some thought; it's as accurate a list of the Liberal Canon as I've ever seen:
  • There is no truth, only competing agendas.
  • All Western (and especially American) claims to moral superiority over Communism/Fascism/Islam are vitiated by the West’s history of racism and colonialism.
  • There are no objective standards by which we may judge one culture to be better than another. Anyone who claims that there are such standards is an evil oppressor.
  • The prosperity of the West is built on ruthless exploitation of the Third World; therefore Westerners actually deserve to be impoverished and miserable.
  • Crime is the fault of society, not the individual criminal. Poor criminals are entitled to what they take. Submitting to criminal predation is more virtuous than resisting it.
  • The poor are victims. Criminals are victims. And only victims are virtuous. Therefore only the poor and criminals are virtuous. (Rich people can borrow some virtue by identifying with poor people and criminals.)
  • For a virtuous person, violence and war are never justified. It is always better to be a victim than to fight, or even to defend oneself. But ‘oppressed’ people are allowed to use violence anyway; they are merely reflecting the evil of their oppressors.
  • When confronted with terror, the only moral course for a Westerner is to apologize for past sins, understand the terrorist’s point of view, and make concessions.
The bullet list above reads like the bizarre core beliefs from some sort of alternative universe. But one encounters these beliefs EVERY DAY when one reads the writings of the Left, particularly Lefty blogs. There are a substantial number of people in our society who fervently, and I mean fervently, as in "religious zeal," believe this stuff. And they are oh-so-wrong. It's up to us to fight back, rationally, and with facts. The first step is understanding the source of these beliefs. I encourage you to read the whole essay. Enlightening, it is.

Update, 2/23/2006 1340 hrs: The Armchair Philosopher examines the quoted bullet list of liberal memes and comes up with interesting observations. There ain't no black and white, only shades of gray. I'm not sure I agree with TAP, but his essay is definitely worth a read.

Sure Happy It's Thursday!

The title is an acronym, ya know.

Here’s a fun little thing I got from Lex, who got it from Argghhh!, who got it from Cassandra (who, btw, has the most deliciously retro 40s-style pin-up logo on her blog)… Lex ran the app and found out the Number One Hit abroad in the land was pretty bad on his children’s birthdays. I, and my kids, are substantially better off. The one notable exception is my nine-year old. Number One on his birthday? “Wannabe” by Spice Girls.” Can I get an OMG?

For the record… Me: "Rum and Coca-Cola" by The Andrews Sisters

Number One Son: “Summer in the City” by The Lovin’ Spoonful

Number Two Son: “Hey Jude” by The Beatles

TFMP: "Paper Doll" by The Mills Brothers

TSMP: "The Wayward Wind" by Gogi Grant

Fun stuff, especially if you’re into music. Don’t bother with the link if you were born before 1940, the info doesn’t go that far back. Ageism in action, for those of you who need additional outrage in your life.

Spent a bit of time last night reading Canadian blogs on the subject of “Russia 2, Canada 0.” Poor Wayne Gretzky. I’ve never read so many bad things written about The Great One, ever. Pat Quinn, Team Canada’s head coach, also received a great amount of negative criticism, and, as expected, individual players got the Hell beat out of them, too. One post title I found particularly illuminating (and true): “The Olympics are Now Officially Over in Canada.” There are some pretty knowledgeable hockey fans blogging out there. Good stuff, on the whole!

I’m semi-watching the Senate Armed Forces Committee hearings on the UAE port management deal. “Semi-,” as in the TVs ON but I’m only occasionally paying attention. It’s interesting to note the right side of the blogosphere is back-tracking on its initial, highly critical, position on this deal. Jim Geraghty of NRO has about the best and most succinct right-side retrenchment. Lileks took the highly unusual action of putting up a clarification to his ScreedBlog on the subject, which I linked, and quoted from, yesterday. It’s noteworthy The Usual Suspects (Senators Levin, Kennedy, and Clinton) remain highly-critical of the administration’s actions in reviewing and vetting this transaction. You maybe expected something else?

Spring is on the way! I’m heartened to see we on the High Plains of New Mexico are supposed to have our first (I think!) 80 degree day in the coming week. And it’s also good news to see we’ll remain above freezing overnight for the next ten days. This has a most favorable impact on my budget!

Got my annual love-letter from the Social Security Administration yesterday and I’m very gratified to see their calculations agree with mine, re: my benefit. I’ll submit my application for benefits in about 13 months. SS benefits will raise my net income by about 40%, which in turn means I’ll be able to either stop outright or seriously reduce the draw-down from my 401k; which in turn means the children will actually inherit something more than a pittance after paying the final expenses; and finally, it means a new Miata ain’t far behind that first Social Security check. For the first time in recent memory I’m actually looking forward to getting older.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Song of the Day

Song: Oh Canada
NA – The Canadian National Anthem. Composed by Calixa Lavallée
Year: Designated the Canadian National Anthem on July 1, 1980 (Canada Day)
Source: NA.

Makes Me Think of & etc.: In memoriam. Flags to fly at half-staff for the remainder of the week. RIP Gold Medal hopes - Torino, 2006.


O Canada! Our home and native land!
True patriot love in all thy sons command.
With glowing hearts we see thee rise,
The True North strong and free!
From far and wide, O
We stand on guard for thee.
God keep our land glorious and free!
O Canada, we stand on guard for thee.
O Canada, we stand on guard for thee.

Russia 2, Canada 0

So Россия wins. 2-0. (Россия is MUCH better than “CCCP,” donchya think?) Wow. What a game! Great skating, very physical, excellent goal tending. Nabokov, of the Sharks, played brilliantly in getting the shut-out and the win. Brodeur was simply excellent and it’s a shame he has to lose this game. Brodeur had NO chance on Ovechkin’s goal, and the set-up pass from Kozlov to Ovechkin will be a feature of any Olympic highlight reel yet to be produced. Speaking of Ovechkin, there’s absolutely NO justice in this world if Alexander Ovechkin doesn’t win the Calder Trophy. I know we didn’t get to see Crosby in the Olympics, and that’s too bad. Given the way Team Canada played (dismal power-play, general lack of offense), perhaps Crosby should have been on the team. Oh well, it is what it is, on that count. But Ovechkin has played superbly, and he got the game-winner today.

The last minute theatrics in this game were excellent. Canada pulled its goalie with about a minute left and then Malkin (Russia) gets a game misconduct in front of the Russian net while Canada was swarming in front. It looks like Canada can tie it up at this point, what with a man advantage for the rest of the game, but then Chris Pronger takes a stupid, stupid penalty and Canada’s man advantage is gone. Brodeur returns to the net as the face-off is in the Canadian zone after the penalty. Ten seconds later Kovalev puts it in the net to clinch the game…with 23 seconds left. And the clock runs out. Russia gets Finland next…

Oh my, the Canadian women’s Gold ain’t gonna come near enough to smoothing down the ruffled feathers when Canada goes out in the quarter finals. Ignominy!

And now I get to watch the last period of the Czech Republic vs. Slovakia. The Czechs are ahead, 2-0.

Miscellaneous Thoughts

The Captain phoned last evening to let me know he arrived safe and sound in Alabama, sans “banjo on his knee.” He doesn’t even own a guitar, let alone a banjo. I was worried, in that typical non-sensical parental way, about the weather along his route, especially after he called on Sunday morning to announce he was delaying his departure from Dallas due to ice-encrusted everything. I kept one eye on the WX Channel throughout the extended weekend and it seemed his entire route was covered in pink, indicating ice. And you know there were all sorts of gruesome video clips of overturned vehicles, accompanied by horrendous accident statistics. I’m glad he’s safe.

It’s gonna be another Hockey Day in Portales. Some great match-ups on tap: The Czechs against the Slovaks. The Canadians against the Russians. The US against the Finns. I definitely want to watch all these games, the first two because of the rivalries involved, which always increases the intensity of play, and the third because…well, because it’s the US, innit? I think we’re doomed. The Finns are a veritable hockey MACHINE and they’ve shown no mercy to anyone in this tournament. I think the Finns are a good bet to take the Gold, the second best bet would be the Slovaks. I just finished watching Sweden disassemble those plucky Swiss, 6-2. I was rooting for the Swiss because they are the ultimate underdogs. I was surprised when they beat the Czechs, I was stunned when they beat Canada. But alas, their run is done. It’s pretty hard to beat a team with some of the best players in the world, especially now that Peter Forsberg is back in the line-up. And, apropos of nothing, why is the word “plucky” only used to describe losers with incredible heart? I’ve never seen it used otherwise.

Gotta go out to the store for consumables and this is the perfect time, what with a short delay in between hockey games. Yet, here I sit, tap-tap-tapping away at the keyboard instead of getting my tired ass down to the store before I miss anything in the world of Olympic Hockey. And yeah, all the muckety-mucks are still calling it “ice hockey.” Even the commentators, who come from the NHL, are doing it. Without exaggerated facial expressions, too. I’ll give them credit for that, because I KNOW the terminology is a real hot-button for serious hockey fans. But, ya can’t fight City Hall, even when you should.

Update 2/22/2006, 1118 hours: Damn! I missed the first two periods of US - Finland by watching the Swiss and the Swedes! How frickin' STUPID of me. The US is down, 4-2, and the third period has just begun. All isn't exactly lost, but it ain't looking good. And the audio feed sucks, again.

Update 2/22/2006, 1142 hours: Team USA scores on the power play: Brian Gionta takes an impossible pass from Drury to put it in the net. Drury made the pass while prone on the ice, a real highlight-reel play! It's a one-goal game with four minutes left.

Update 2/22/2006, 1152 hours: Finland wins, 4-3. The last two minutes were intense...The US pulls its goalie with about a minute and 20 seconds left and the play was exclusively in the Finnish end for the last 1:30, puctuated with two icings and two US face-off wins. All for naught, however. Finland holds on for the win. Team USA is done; more's the pity. Now I really will head out to the store.

On the Ports Flap

I’ve not written about outsourcing US port management to a company owned by the government of the United Arab Emirates. There’s a reason: I don’t write on subjects about which I have little or no knowledge. Well, hardly ever, anyway. And I’ve not taken the time to read the arguments and counter-arguments on this decision. But I will say this: it certainly feels wrong to outsource management of the majority of our largest ports to an Arab nation. Lileks has a Screedblog up today on this subject, and he says, in part:

It’s remarkably tone deaf. It’s possible that the Administration did some quiet polling, and asked the question “How much Arab control over American ports are you comfortable with,” and misinterpreted stunned silence as assent. It’s possible the Administration believed that this would be seen as outreach, an act of faith to solidify a Key Ally, and didn’t think there’d be much hubbub – but if that’s the case, it’s the best example of the Bubble Theory I’ve heard, and I’ve not heard much convincing evidence. Until now. The average American’s reaction to handing port control over to the UAE is instinctively negative, and for good reason. There are two basic reactions: We can’t do this ourselves? and We should trust them, why?

I suppose I’m “an average American,” because James sums up my reaction very well. I realize the Brits ran these ports previously, and I realize the purchase of P&O (the British port management company) is a completely legal and above-board transaction, supposedly vetted by all The Powers That Be in the US government. I don’t know the details of the vetting process, I don’t know exactly who participated, and I don’t know how long it took. What I DO know is the Republican congressional leadership and the Democrats are in agreement: this is a bad idea. When those folks are in agreement on something, anything, it should make one take notice.

I watched a segment on this issue on PBS’ The News Hour last night. I wasn’t particularly impressed with the fact the administration sent some minor functionary like the Third Assistant Under-Secretary of the Treasury (not an exact title, obviously) to explain its position. And the explanation certainly wasn’t convincing; at least I remain unconvinced. On the other hand, the arguments put forth by the spokesman for the anti- crowd (a Democratic congressman) seemed jingoistic to me. The truth is somewhere in between, I suppose.

I understand one option the administration has would be to put this transaction on hold for a period of time and allow Congress to review the decision. I think that would be a wise move on Bush’s part. His immediate threat of a veto in the face of proposed legislation to block this transaction is NOT wise, it’s arrogant. And the LAST thing Bush needs right now is further evidence to support the Democrats’ argument that he and his administration are both arrogant and power-mad.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006


I did a semi-live blogging exercise here...wrote in Word as the game progressed, cut 'n' paste when the game was over. So, now...hockey!

Watching Team USA lose to the Russians… The US came out smokin’ in the first four minutes of the game, skating hard, taking it to the Russians with play mostly in the Russian zone. And then things went all to Hell. Russia scores on a breakaway as a US power play expires. Three minutes later, with the US on the power play, the Russians get a two-on-one shorthanded goal. An odd-man rush by Russia on a freakin’ US power play? Things look bad. Very bad…

The NBC audio feed SUCKS. The static is so bad I have to watch the game with the audio muted. One would think the techs could (a) realize the audio is bad and (b) FIX IT! And this at 17 minutes into the game.

Team USA gets a power play goal at 18:38 of the first, resulting from a scrum in front of the Russian net. Ugly goal, but…we’re on the board. End of the first. USA out shot the Russians, 8-6. Audio feed still sucks, but the commercials are as clear as a bell. Imagine that!

Second period under way. Audio is finally fixed. Ovechkin LEVELS Chelios behind the US net…hardest hit I’ve seen in the game so far. This game is physical! Team USA kills off a penalty 3:30 into the second. The US is looking better. Russia makes a bad change at 7:30 and takes a too-many-men on the ice penalty. The US doesn’t convert, but gets at least three shots on the power play.

Markov scores on a beautiful cross-ice pass from Datsyuk at 15:00 in the second. Russia, 3-1. Goal under review—I don’t know why—the puck was clearly in the net. Review complete: Goal. The US goes on back-to-back power plays at 16:16 minutes into the second. And the US SCORES at 19:01! Another scrum in front of the Russian net, with Brian Gionta tapping in a rebound. Russia, 3-2. End of the second…a one-goal game. The US needs to score even-strength. You can’t count on the power play exclusively to win. The US looked a LOT better in the second period, however, outshooting the Russians 19-13 through the end of the second. Hope springs eternal…

Team USA scores on the power play, again! Schneider holds the puck in at the blue line, takes a shot and Gomez, who is parked in front of net about a foot outside the crease, deflects the puck into the net at 5:00 in the third. Tie game! USA is putting VERY good pressure on the Russians…the momentum may have changed to the good. A flurry of US shots after the PPG, all the sticks are aligned… Russia gets its FIRST shot on goal 13+ minutes into the third… The US had 13 unanswered shots on goal up to this point.

Russia scores on a give and go, Ovechkin from Malkin, at 9:55 of the third. Russia, 4-3. The US comes back and scores its first even-strength goal at 10:38…Eric Cole on a wrap-around from behind the net. Sweet! Kovalev puts a rocket from the blue line past Esche at 11:52, assist from Datsyuk. Wow. Three goals on three shots in less than three minutes. Russia, 5-4. The action is fast and furious!

Russia goes on the power play at 15:34. Nail-biting time. The US kills the penalty, but not without the Russians getting several good scoring opportunities. Two minutes left.

Esche leaves the net with a minute left. Russia misses an empty-netter by about six inches just seconds after Esche gets to the bench. Icing. Team USA takes the face-off but immediately surrenders the puck. A Russian empty-net goal is avoided by a penalty for a hand pass. A flurry of shots by the US in the final ten seconds of the game, but for naught. Russia wins, 5-4. A much better game than I thought this would be.

Finland tomorrow…and I think that will be it for Team USA. Great match-ups in the quarter finals: Russia v. Canada and the Czech Republic against Slovakia. I hope the US - Finland game doesn’t conflict with the Czechs and the Slovaks…THAT’S the game I wanna watch!

Monday, February 20, 2006

What Can You Do?

Laurie over at Soldiers’ Angels New York has a post up about a new 501(c)(3) organization called Vets for Freedom. Since Laurie is a straight-shooter, I surfed on over to Vets for Freedom and checked out their mission statement and read the letter from their Executive Director. This letter says, in part:

The Global War on Terror is being fought on two fronts. Our troops are performing magnificently in Iraq fighting a tough and dirty enemy. We are winning in Iraq through a combined military, political, diplomatic and economic effort . However, we are losing the war for the will of the American public to see this conflict through because of the distorted means by which it is too often portrayed.

Inaccurate or politically inflamed media reports and policymaker statements based on rumor, speculation and even nonexistent events place an almost singular focus on negative aspects of the conflict versus any attention to many successes that take place almost daily. Those of us from the frontline have a much different view, but for reasons beyond our understanding, our perspective has been largely ignored. Vets for Freedom seeks to change this environment, providing viewpoints both positive and negative on what will be needed to achieve victory.

Enough said. One cannot argue the points made by Vets for Freedom Exec Director Wade Zirkle, a former Marine who served in Iraq. I agree with everything he says in his letter, and more to the point: I signed up.

There’s a couple of other things you could do, too.

If you’re a Mom with a child in service, consider joining Blue Star Mothers. Their official site is here. And here’s a DoD Press Release about the Blue Star Mothers. From the press release:

Membership is at an all time low. “We have about 1,200 members nationwide,” Naill said. “There were about 30,000 members during World War II and several thousand during the Korean War and Vietnam War.”

“You can find support, the joy of giving and also find people who will understand if something
happens,” Naill said. “Even in peacetime they don’t always come back as they left. We have strength in our sisters. We also feel a kindred spirit to our Gold Star Mothers.”

The point about the membership of Blue Star Mothers being at an all time low may not be accurate. The press release is well over five years old, and, hopefully, membership in this fine organization has grown.

If you have a son or daughter in service, consider buying and displaying a Service Star Flag. You say you never heard of a “service star flag?” Well, follow the link! And here’s a brief history:

Display of the Service Star Banner first came about during World War I. During WWI and WWII most flags were hand made by mothers across the nation. One of the most famous flags was that of the five Sullivan brothers who all perished on the U.S.S. Juneau.

Each blue star on the flag represents a service member in active duty. A gold star is displayed if a service member is killed in action or dies in service. If several stars are displayed in one family the gold star takes the honor of being placed at the top.

Display of a Service Star Banner is done during times of war. Once again families are displaying banners at home. Banners may be purchased through the internet, at stores, or made by hand.

I don’t think I’ve seen a single Service Star Flag displayed, ever. I’ve seen them in windows of homes depicted in World War II movies, but never in real life. I ordered my flag (at the Service Star Flag link above) this evening and it will be displayed proudly in the front window of El Casa Móvil de Pennington. It’s the least I can do.

A Lil Military Humor

(click for larger)

Sent this off to The Captain last week and thought it was worth sharing with everyone. The F-22 is the USAF's latest and greatest air superiority fighter, and it went operational late last month. The comparison above was probably put together by a "trash-hauler," an AF euphemism for cargo aircraft pilots. Or maybe a disgruntled wanna-be F-22 pilot stuck in/on another platform, like, say an A-10. Just sayin'.

Now playing: Grateful Dead, "Bertha"

Letters, We Get Letters...

In the in-box today...

Frequent commenter Barb sends along these late-night quips (two of many)…

"Cheney's defense is that he was aiming at a quail when he shot the guy. Which means that Cheney now has the worst aim of anyone in the White House since Bill Clinton." --Jay Leno

"On Friday night, at the opening ceremonies, all the Olympic athletes marched into the stadium. When the French team saw all those people marching in, they immediately surrendered." --Jay Leno

And occasional reader and long-time friend Ed in Florida sends this:


A driver is stuck in a traffic jam on the highway. Nothing is moving.

Suddenly a man knocks on the window.

The driver rolls down his window and asks, "What happened?"

"Terrorists have kidnapped Hillary Clinton, Ted Kennedy, Jesse Jackson,and
Al Sharpton. They are asking for a $10 million ransom. Otherwise they are
going to douse them with gasoline and set them on fire. We are going from
car to car, taking up a collection."

The driver asks, "How much is everyone giving, on average?"

"About a gallon."

Hmmm. I’d give the ENTIRE contents of my gas tank…(just kidding. Really. No, REALLY!)

Sunday, February 19, 2006

So Good...

My water came back on around 1:00 p.m. or so. The City might have turned the water back on around midnight, as promised, but my water lines were frozen solid until noon. The temperature rose above freezing around 11:00 a.m. for the first time since Friday afternoon and my water lines unfroze a little over an hour later. Bottom line: it’s good to be clean again, both personally and household-wise! And I also have three liters of emergency water stored for future insanities. Or inanities. You decide.

I watched the US men lose to Sweden in hockey this morning, 2-1. I don’t think the US men’s team is gonna come anywhere close to a medal. This team just doesn’t have near enough offense. And our goaltending is just average, by Olympic standards. In the shocker of the day yesterday, the Canadian men’s team lost to Switzerland, 2-0. The SWISS, fer Gawd’s sake. I’m sure there’s a national crisis of confidence rampant in the Great White North today.

In the Telegraph (UK), Alasdair Palmer quotes one Dr. Sookhedo as saying ‘The day is coming when British Muslims form a state within a state’. Dr. Sookhedo, a former Muslim with a PhD in Islamic studies, spent a significant amount of time surveying Islamic leaders and Muslims in general in the UK. He finds a lot of support for separatism, and most of that support is in keeping with a long-term strategy to turn Britain into an Islamic state.
Dr Sookhdeo adds that he believes that "in a decade, you will see parts of English cities which are controlled by Muslim clerics and which follow, not the common law, but aspects of Muslim sharia law.

"It is already starting to happen - and unless the Government changes the way it treats the so-called leaders of the Islamic community, it will continue."
Dr. Sookhedo takes issue with the approach and strategy of Mr. Blair’s government vis-à-vis the radical imams and, as he puts it, the “so-called Islamic community leaders.” Scary article.

And then there’s this, also in the Telegraph: Poll reveals 40pc of Muslims want sharia law in UK
Four out of 10 British Muslims want sharia law introduced into parts of the country, a survey reveals today.
The ICM opinion poll also indicates that a fifth have sympathy with the "feelings and motives" of the suicide bombers who attacked London last July 7, killing 52 people, although 99 per cent thought the bombers were wrong to carry out the atrocity.
David Davis, the shadow home secretary, said: "It shows we have a long way to go to win the battle of ideas within some parts of the Muslim community and why it is absolutely vital that we reinforce the voice of moderate Islam wherever possible."
A spokesman for Charles Clarke, the Home Secretary, said: "It is critically important to ensure that Muslims, and all faiths, feel part of modern British society. Today's survey indicates we still have a long way to go… [but] we are committed to working with all faiths to ensure we achieve that end."
I wonder if Mr. Blair’s Home Secretary and the loyal opposition read the other Telegraph article? It is definitely a time to worry.
Song of the Day
Song: Private Idaho
Wild Planet
Year: 1980
Source: Radio Paradise.
Makes Me Think of & etc.: This is just a great party song. It doesn’t really make me think of anything specific, except England, perhaps, which is where I was living when the album came out.
Hoo Hoo Hoo Hoo Hoo Hoo Hoo Hoo Hoo
You're living in your own Private Idaho
Living in your own Private Idaho
Underground like a wild potato.
Don't go on the patio.
Beware of the pool,
blue bottomless pool.
It leads you straight
right throught the gate
that opens on the pool.

You're living in your own Private Idaho.
You're living in your own Private Idaho.

Keep off the path, beware the gate,
watch out for signs that say "hidden driveways".
Don't let the chlorine in your eyes
blind you to the awful surprise
that's waitin' for you at
the bottom of the bottomless blue blue blue pool.

You're livin in your own Private Idaho.
You're out of control, the rivers that roll,
you fell into the water and down to
Get out of that state,
get out of that state you're in.
You better beware.

You're living in your own Private Idaho.
You're living in your own Private Idaho.

Keep off the patio,
keep off the path.
The lawn may be green
but you better not be seen
walkin' through the gate that leads you down,
down to a pool fraught with danger
is a pool full of strangers.

You're living in your own Private Idaho,
where do I go from here to a better state than this.
Well, don't be blind to the big surprise
swimming round and round like the deadly hand
of a radium clock, at the bottom, of the pool.

Woah oh oh woah oh oh woah oh oh
Ah ah ah ah ah ah ah ah
Get out of that state
Get out of that state
You're living in your own Private Idaho,
livin in your own Private....
See all y’all tomorrow!

Saturday, February 18, 2006

Water, Water Everywhere...

...and not a drop to drink.

It’s been more than 12 hours since I posted about the Portales Water Event and I’m still without water. As a matter of fact, I gave you what was probably the first (albeit drunken) notice that there actually WAS a Water Event around 1:30 a.m. this morning. In the interests of full disclosure, I edited that inebriated post this morning to change my “two feet deep” water in the streets hyperbole to a more realistic “one foot deep.” And it was at least a foot deep in some places last evening…er…early this morning. If you didn’t follow the link above, here’s what the Portales News-Tribune says, in part, on the subject:

Shortly after midnight Saturday a major water main in Portales broke causing flooding and necessitating that city crews shut down water to the entire city.

According to City Manager Debi Lee, the broken line was a 24 -inch water main near First and Avenue O, behind Taco Box.

Lee said that for a time city water tanks were losing three feet every 20 minutes. Water in the streets rose fast enough along Avenue I that sand bags had to be brought in because of the danger of homes flooding.

There were a couple of other things I didn’t tell you this morning, too. Like the fact the City is pumping water from the broken main directly into the streets. This isn’t unusual, because like a lot of western towns, Portales has no storm sewers. Run-off from rain is channeled directly into the streets and it all winds up, eventually, in one of the city’s main thoroughfares on the southwest side of the city. This street has a channel for accumulated rain run-off engineered/built into the center of the street. During heavy or moderate rain storms I’ve actually seen kids paddling small boats down the center of this street/channel. It’s an amusing sight. The street/channel funnels the accumulated run-off from most of Portales into an arroyo outside of town. Cheaper than storm sewers, and entertaining for kids with small boats.

So, back to pumping huge volumes of water into the street. In this morning’s update, I mentioned I ran down to the convenience store to buy bottled water. I also mentioned the fact it was 12 degrees outside. What I didn’t tell you, Gentle Reader, was about the asshat in the jacked-up 4x4 pickup who thought it was funnier than Hell to drench my car in the bow-wave created by his pickup doing 40 mph through a foot of standing/running water. In warmer weather this would be simply annoying. Being deluged with supercooled water in 12 degree weather instantly created a sheet of ice on my windshield, and friends, that was frickin’ dangerous. In a blink of an eye I couldn’t see a damned thing, flipping on the windshield wipers made things worse. All I could do was frantically lower my window and stick my head out to see where I was going. Not a fun experience in those temperatures, even at my greatly decelerated rate of travel. Not to mention the fact there was still a copious amount of water and ice shavings streaming off the windshield and on to my face. It’s a good thing I wasn’t armed at the time.

So, while a whole town being without water for an extended period of time is pretty tame as far as disasters go (more of an inconvenience, rather), it’s still no picnic. No shower today. Sandwiches for lunch and dinner. Washing my hands and face from water in a saucepan, warmed on the stove. Just minor inconveniences that make good blog-fodder. I managed to get through the day on six liters of water and still have enough left for a full pot of coffee in the morning, assuming I’m still water-less in the A.M.

Laurie, in the comments to this morning’s post suggested having a couple of pop bottles filled with water for emergencies. That’s a great idea, and I used to keep a gallon jug of water on hand just for emergencies and Acts of Incredible Stupidity, like having my water lines freeze up because I forgot to leave a tap dripping overnight. And then there’s this: Since I live in an RV, I have a 30 gallon fresh water tank. Unfortunately I drained the damned thing about a year ago and left it empty since I’ve been docked in this same space for an extended period of time and have no plans to hit the road anytime soon. A better strategy would have been to fill the tank up completely. If I had done that I would have been one of the few Portales residents with running water today. Coulda-shoulda-woulda, and all that. {sigh} And they say wisdom comes with old age. Inquiring minds wanna know: Where the HELL is it and what's taking it so long to get here?

Mission Accomplished

Prolly shouldn’t do this…but…I will. It’s never a good idea to post when you’re…uh…intoxicated. Nonetheless: Mission accomplished. A great night out, all told. The Captain bought dinner after we ran a few errands he had to run in Clovis (concerning a malfunctioning car stereo power amp, fixed). Dinner was a low-level, but good, affair at Chili’s in Clovis. Our entrees were too salty by half, but dessert was awesome: a chocolate cake concoction topped with vanilla ice cream, which, in turn, was topped with chocolate syrup. Oh my. SO good.
We proceeded to the Portales VFW after dinner for a few beers and a lot of pool...eight ball, to be precise. Nine-ball is a hustler’s game, eight ball is between friends. Eight-ball—call your shot, no slop—to be precise, once again. We DO have some rules. I won the first four games, but then the tables turned. Buck won the next few, and then we alternated. When the night was finally over I think we were about even, but who’s counting, really? Not I. All that really counts is we had a great time. It’s hard to beat the VFW for friendly folks and good times.
We had to ford a couple of streams on the way home from the VFW. It looks like Portales has had a serious, and I mean SERIOUS, water event, as in a water main break of catastrophic proportions. When I say we had to ford streams, that's exactly what I mean. The streets between my RV park and downtown are completely flooded, big time. Flooded to the extent that the water is a foot deep. And I have no water in the RV as I write. One hopes the issue will be resolved by the (later) morning, otherwise I'll have to go out and buy bottled water to make coffee. [sigh] It's always something.

And so to bed.

Update 2/18/2006 0920 hours: Still no water. Just got back from a run to the convenience store to buy bottled water. They were sold out of gallon jugs of water, so I paid $1.00 per liter bottle to buy water to flush the damned toilet (and make coffee). Lots of activity downtown, with all sorts of City employees and pick-ups running all over the place. And there's frickin' water everywhere (except coming from my faucets). It's 12 degrees outside, with a wind chill of three. Not a nice day to be working on a water main break.

Friday, February 17, 2006


The US women’s team will not play for the gold medal in hockey; the best they can hope for is bronze. Team USA was up 2-0 in the second period; Sweden came back to tie the game and ultimately win it in a shoot-out. What a disappointment for the American women. What made Sweden’s win impressive, aside from the two goals they scored in the shoot-out (vs. none for the US) was the fact the Swedes killed off a full two minute five-on-three penalty in the middle of the third period. The American women’s failure to convert on a five-on-three of such duration killed their chances of winning the game. You could literally SEE the momentum swing in favor of Sweden after that penalty-kill. Oh, well. CanadaFinland should be interesting; the game begins in about an hour. And I was SO hoping for another CanadaUSA final…
Big weather swing here on the High Plains, from 75 degrees yesterday to 27 degrees as I write. Pretty damned cold last night, too…19 degrees with a wind chill of 9. Had to top off the propane tank this morning, all this cold weather means the furnace runs overtime trying to keep me from freezing to death.
We’re awaiting the arrival of The Captain. Big steak dinner tonight, followed by pool playing and a few beers at the VFW. He’s on his way down to Maxwell AFB in Alabama to attend Squadron Officer’s School in residence (as opposed to completing it via correspondence). One of those “check the box” career requirements. Gotta do it!

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Weird Scenes Inside the Gold Mine, V

Runnin’ Blue

Ko Kha Ban Nong Soong (ed: corrected on the authority of a Gentle Reader who was there. Memory ain’t what it used to be), Thailand; British Crown Colony of Hong Kong; Yokota AB (Tokyo), Japan. Fall, 1976.
Runnin' scared
Runnin' blue
Goin' so fast
What'll I do
When the tasking came down the job seemed simple enough: take a team of four guys and minimal equipment, load up on a C-141, head out to an Army Security Agency monitoring site in northern Thailand via Clark AB in the Philippines, de-install an MSC-46 satellite uplink, pack it up, load it on a C-5, and ship it back to Japan. Nothing complex, just a lot of disassembly work, inventory all the components, pack, load, and get out of Dodge. No systems installation, alignments, testing, or certifications; just a lot of grunt work. A short-duration job and then back home—just the type of job we all liked.

I was the Team Chief. I had three other guys on the team, plus we were assured there would be Army augmentees from the MSC-46 maintenance organization to assist us with the de-installation. We had two weeks to complete the job. Piece of cake, really. The team consisted of my buddies Barry and Bill, plus a new guy to the shop, a young buck sergeant named James Johnson, who, of course, went by the name of JJ.

The load out at Yokota went according to plan. We flew into Clark AB, spent the night and then caught another C-141 the following morning to Utapao AB, Thailand. Once we got to Utapao we went through a couple of days of mandatory briefings required of all personnel newly arrived in Thailand, along with sufficient time off to explore the local area. We immediately headed out to Pattaya Beach for a little fun in the sun before heading up-country to Nong Soong. All told, we were at Utapao for two days before we caught a C-130 that flew us up to Udorn AB, an AF base near the Laotian border. We then took a bus from Udorn to Nong Soong.

Ramasun Station, near the town of Nong Soong, was an Army Security Agency monitoring site; its main system was the AN/FLR-9. The MSC-46 satellite terminal we were tasked to remove was the principal communications up and down link for the base. Ramasun Station was being deactivated because the Thai government had terminated the Status of Forces Agreement with the US in 1975; nearly all US Forces had to be out of the country by the end of 1976. When we arrived at Ramasun Station nearly all of the permanent party cadre had already departed, leaving only a combination de-installation, removal, and caretaker force in place. In other words, the place was pretty much a ghost town.

I reported in to the Army captain in charge of satellite operations, was introduced to the maintenance superintendent, an Army Master Sergeant, got the team billeted, and we set to work. The major part of the job was disassembling the antenna, which was in a fixed configuration on a large concrete pad about 30 feet in diameter. The remainder of the system was in air-transportable vans, so the main effort there was securing all the equipment racks, performing an inventory, and affixing customs seals on the vans once they were ready for shipment. Taking down that antenna was a pure bitch, however.

The ambient temperature during the day was in the high 90s, as was the humidity. We were working on a blazingly hot white concrete pad, which acted as a hellish solar reflector, intensifying the heat and making working conditions all but unbearable. You literally couldn’t touch the metal pieces of that antenna without wearing gloves, it was that hot. We worked 20 minutes outside, then ten minutes inside the air conditioned shelter, then 20 minutes back outside again, eight hours a day. It took us an entire week to disassemble that damned antenna and pack it up. I must have sweated off ten pounds, and for a light-@$ed guy like me, that’s a lot.

Our nights, though, were quite different. While it was hotter than blazes during the day, the nights were warm and balmy. The restaurants were quite good in the local area, and there were plenty of bar girls left in town who hadn’t flown the coop when the major part of the base’s population left, about two months prior to our arrival. The team and I partied-hardy, as the saying goes, spending our evenings in casual conversation with the ladies and each other in open-air watering holes. Quite pleasant, it was. Well, almost all of the team. All except for JJ, who had brought his girlfriend up to Nong Soong from Bangkok. The lady was also his fiancée and seemed like a really nice girl. JJ disappeared every afternoon to places unknown to be with his woman and didn’t show up again until the following morning. And that was OK. What you did after hours was your business; I only cared about what you did during the duty day.

So, the work proceeded according to schedule and we got the job done. We had received a couple of messages while at Ramasun about a follow-on assignment requiring two radar guys in the Philippines. Barry and Bill volunteered for the job, JJ and I decided to get back home as soon as we could. We caught an over-night bus from Udorn down to Bangkok and left Bangkok via commercial airlines two days later. We couldn’t get a direct flight to Tokyo; the best we could do was a flight from Bangkok to Hong Kong, layover in Hong Kong for the night, and catch a flight to Tokyo the following day.

I felt bad the morning we left Bangkok and so did JJ. We agreed it was probably the flu and didn’t think too much more about it. Once on board the aircraft, we asked a flight attendant to get us some aspirin, which she immediately did. We took the aspirin and went to sleep, sleeping the entire duration of the flight.

We arrived in Hong Kong in the early afternoon, went through customs and caught a taxi to our hotel. Even though I still felt pretty rough I wasn’t going to miss a night out on the town in Hong Kong, given that I might not ever pass this way again. I told JJ we should head up to our rooms, shower, change clothes and meet in the lobby in about an hour. JJ demurred, saying he felt really bad and was going to go to bed and try and sleep off whatever-the-Hell it was we had. Nothing I could say or do would change his mind. I told him I would see him in the morning, went up to my room, showered, changed, took more aspirin and headed out on the town.

It wasn’t a good evening. I didn’t have much of an appetite and picked at my dinner. I took more drugs and decided to ride the ferry across the harbor to Kowloon and back. I got seriously sick on the ferry; the return trip was miserable. Since I felt like death warmed over, I decided to call it a night and headed back to the hotel thinking “what a waste.” My only night in Hong Kong, perhaps, and I was sicker than a dog, too sick to enjoy myself.

The following morning JJ and I met up in the hotel restaurant, had breakfast and headed out to the airport. JJ looked bad, really bad. I felt as bad as he looked. And I don’t remember much about the flight. I do remember landing at Haneda. The Second Mrs. Pennington (who was my intended, not my wife, at that point in time) met me at the airport. Reunion is a wonderful thing when you’re young and in love, but I won’t dwell on that. Suffice to say it was good. TSMP, JJ, and I got on the train and headed back to Tachikawa, where TSMP and I lived; JJ continued on to Yokota. It was the last time I ever saw him.

When we got back to our place I told TSMP I felt really bad and just wanted to take more drugs and get into bed, alone. That got her attention, because we’d been separated for nearly three weeks and all I wanted to do was sleep. She insisted on taking my temperature and it was high, probably 101 or so. I took more drugs and went to bed. It was a bad night; I was up and down all night, violently ill, with a severe headache, and chills.

TSMP took my temperature again in the morning and it was 103. She got me dressed, went out to the phone box down the street, called a cab, put me in the back seat, and we were off to the base hospital at Yokota. I waited for about a half-hour to see a doctor, who examined me and told me he was going to admit me for “observation.” By that time I didn’t care, I just wanted someone or something to take away the chills and headache. I filled out the admissions paperwork, was put in a wheelchair and taken up to the ward and put in a private room, which was highly unusual. The doctor sent TSMP home, telling her he would “be in touch.”

About an hour later the door to my room opened and in walked a gaggle of medical personnel…the doctor who initially checked me out, another full-colonel doctor, still another doctor, and a couple of nurses. They all looked very grim. The colonel introduced himself as the flight surgeon and began asking me questions. After he determined I had been in Thailand, had returned the previous evening via Hong Kong, hadn’t taken any illegal drugs, and other assorted medical and non-medical questions, he asked “Do you know a Sergeant James Johnson?” “Uh, Yes, Sir.” I replied. “Why do you ask?” “We admitted Sergeant Johnson last night, he died early this morning, we don’t know what killed him, and we suspect you have what he had.”

Oh, Shit.

I don’t remember much about the next 48 hours. I was in and out of consciousness, had an IV in each arm, and was poked, prodded, injected, and generally harassed every hour, on the hour. I do remember hearing TSMP screaming down the hall at the ward nurse, demanding to be let in to see me or she was going to call her congressman, and right now. I don’t think it worked; I didn’t see her again, or don’t remember seeing her again, until two days later when I was out of the woods. The military is pretty inflexible when it comes to rules, especially when one is sick with an unknown disease and is in isolation.

Eventually we convinced the flight surgeon, who was handling my case personally by now, that it was OK for TSMP to be allowed to visit me. She came every day, without fail, bringing me magazines and books, and smuggling in food fit for human consumption.

I think it happened on the fifth day I was in the hospital. TSMP was lying next to me on the bed, I was under the sheets, and I was definitely feeling better. And she could tell, too. She whispered something to the effect of “let’s get comfortable,” (but a helluva lot bawdier, and I loved her for that) but I stopped her, pointing toward the door. The door, while it was shut, had a rather large window with a full view of the room. This would never do. But…

I pushed her off the bed, hopped off the bed myself, grabbed my IV pole in one hand and her hand in the other, and led her to the attached private bathroom. The bathroom had a door, and once closed, no one could see in, period. She grinned.

It was good. Even while standing up, attached to an IV pole.

And that’s when I knew I was going to live, even though I spent a few more days in the hospital, just so the medical staff could “make sure.” That little experience also qualifies as the strangest place I ever “did it.”

And what did I have? The AF says it was extreme viral pneumonia. I think it was Legionnaire’s Disease, but I can’t prove it. But I’m alive to tell the tale, which is better than the alternative. I still feel bad for JJ, to this day, even though I didn’t know him that well. And I feel worse for his girlfriend; I have no idea if she was ever told of his death. How do you contact someone in Bangkok, address unknown, whose name you don’t know? You can’t. Life just isn’t fair, sometimes.

Updated on May 18, 2008. Corrected the name of the town near Ramasun Station and added a pic of the installation. (Image credit: the person or persons who run this site.)