Monday, February 28, 2011

Still Stuck On Stoopid, Part Trois

I bought a new shampoo during my most recent re-supply run, a two-in-one combination shampoo/conditioner.  I recently discovered the benefits of using a conditioner in this ultra-dry climate of ours, the main bennie being conditioner keeps my hair from standing straight up after my well-meaning barberess takes waaay too damned much off the top, despite my repeated instructions to "leave it longish on top, please."  But we digress and we're supposed to be talking about shampoo.  I noticed my hair just doesn't seem as clean since buying that new stuff and, further, it takes a lot of shampoo to produce what passes for lather.  And I like a LOT o' lather.

So... there I was... standing in the shower today, getting ready to wash my hair when I look closely at the label on my new shampoo only to find it's NOT a two-in-one product, it's just conditioner.  Period.  Full stop.  No damned wonder this stuff doesn't lather up like my previous brand and no damned wonder my hair doesn't feel as clean as it used to.

I amaze myself sometimes.  I'm beginning to think I really need a maid.  Or a minder.

Wherein We Talk About Creepy-Crawlies (A Re-run)

Blog-Bud Jim, aka Suldog, put up a couple o' posts a couple o' weeks ago (or mebbe less) illustrating his rather unique manner of dealing with household pests... like mice, spiders, ants, and other sorts o' creepy-crawlies.  Jim would make a good Buddhist, seein' as how he buys and uses those "Havaheart" violence-free mousetraps and favors "catch and release" operations for other creatures that are found in places where said creatures have no bid'niz bein', like in the kitchen, or in your closet, the bathtub, yadda, yadda, yadda.  These posts generated a lot o' comment, as might be expected, and in one comment Jim said something to the effect that he didn't mind people killing bugs, as long as they ate what they killed.

Which brings to mind this old post, of course.  I've massaged it a lil bit from its original form and added graphics.


I’m putting the final touches on dinner last evening (read that: taking the last of three grilled cheese sandwiches out of the frying pan) when, from literally out of nowhere, a medium sized daddy longlegs drops on to the counter in front of me. I quickly put that grilled cheese on the cutting board and take a swipe at the spider. I miss. He’s a quick little bugger! There’s only one escape route available to said spider and he takes it, leaping on to the cutting board, heading straight for my dinner. I take a couple of stabs at him with my finger, again. Miss. Miss. Now that bold little SOB is actually ON my dinner, so I sweep him off the sandwiches with the flat of my hand, surgical precision be damned. I succeeded in sweeping him off the cutting board back on to the counter from whence he came. He was terminated with extreme prejudice and the remains deposited in the trash.

Fifteen or 20 minutes later and we're done with dinner.  Those sandwiches were good! As I’m clearing the table I look down on the cutting board to see what are clearly two tiny little legs amongst the remnant crumbs. Which, of course, raises the question: “How many spider legs did I actually eat?” After a brief “ewww” moment I realize this ain’t the first or the last time I’ll consume a bug, in whole or in parts. The government has standards for “acceptable” amounts of insect parts and other filth in our food, ya know. And here they are. I’m glad I didn’t have any fig newtons for dessert.

Which brings to mind another bug story. In the last installment of “Weird Scenes Inside the Gold Mine” I told you about my mid-70s trip to Ramasun Station in Thailand and associated events. During that trip I became very good friends with a young lady that worked in one of the local bars in Kho Kha. One evening after work I’m sitting at the bar, nursing a Singha and minding my business when my lady friend slides on to the stool next to mine. We exchange greetings, and she says: “I bring you present.” “Cool!” sez I.

She reaches into her (very large) purse and pulls out this little cage made out of woven palm fronds or something, about three inches in diameter by two inches high. She then opens the top of the grass cage and dumps out this VERY large beetle-looking insect on to the bar. The beetle is about the size of an Almond Joy piece, which is to say it’s a really big bug.  It's alive... and crawling ponderously around on the bartop.

“That’s nice,” I say. “What am I going to do with this?”

“You eat!” she says.

“You SHIT, too!” sez I.

She looks at me in a mildly offended way, shrugs her shoulders, picks the bug up off the bar,  bites off the bug’s abdomen, and chews it up with exaggerated smiles of delight. I almost threw up.
It turns out she had offered me a Rice Bug, a particular form of beetle found in rice fields. This beetle eats rice, “processes” it, and stores the resulting paste in its large abdomen. A real Thai delicacy, so I’m told, even if the bugs are normally deep fried or steamed. My friend ate this one raw (and ALIVE, fergawd's sake!), though.  It was a day or two before I kissed her again.
Well, that last sentence isn't entirely true; it was more a matter of hours. True lust conquers all.

The image comes from a Thai travel site, along with a description of the bugs, the going rate for same, and the various ways they're consumed.  If'n you're interested, of course.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

It's Another One of Those Days...

... 51 mph wind gusts ain't a whole helluva lot o' fun but at least it's warm.  I tried to capture the billowing clouds o' dust whipping by my window but wasn't successful in my photographic endeavors.  Rest assured the dust is most impressive, Gentle Reader, albeit not in a good way.  We'll have some major cleaning to do... as in wiping down ALL the horizontal surfaces in El Casa Móvil De Pennington... when it calms down later on.

But Hey!  Better than ice.


And then there's this...

Not only Iran a couple o' years ago but Tunisia, Egypt, Bahrain, and Libya, too.  And just in case ya missed it, Hitch takes the piss out o' The One with the bitingly funny and accurate "Is Barack Obama Secretly Swiss?" in Slate.  The first couple o' grafs:
However meanly and grudgingly, even the new Republican speaker has now conceded that the president is Hawaiian-born and some kind of Christian. So let's hope that's the end of all that. A more pressing question now obtrudes itself: Is Barack Obama secretly Swiss?

Let me explain what I mean. A Middle Eastern despot now knows for sure when his time in power is well and truly up. He knows it when his bankers in Zurich or Geneva cease accepting his transfers and responding to his confidential communications and instead begin the process of "freezing" his assets and disclosing their extent and their whereabouts to investigators in his long-exploited country. And, at precisely that moment, the U.S. government also announces that it no longer recognizes the said depositor as the duly constituted head of state. Occasionally, there is a little bit of "raggedness" in the coordination. CIA Director Leon Panetta testified to Congress that Hosni Mubarak would "step down" a day before he actually did so. But the whole charm of the CIA is that its intelligence-gathering is always a few beats off when compared with widespread general knowledge. Generally, though, the White House and the State Department have their timepieces and reactions set to Swiss coordinates.
There's much more at the link and it's great good stuff, too.  When it comes to the Wisconsin brouhaha you should be reading Ann Althouse.  Her comments, observations, and videos are simply priceless.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Yet Another "Broadening Our Horizons" Post, This Being Part XVI

We're red today... what with drinkin' another new-to-me Sammy Adams brew and smokin' a not-new-to-me Drew Estate Tabak Especial Red Eye.  First the beer, and we'll quote one of the Alström Bros yet again:
Minimal head, and it's lacking a bit in retention, though there is a ring of lace that does not waver even after a few hearty gulps. Slight haze in the deep amber brew--we thought this beer could have been a shade darker, with a tinge of red to it. Buttery, fruity, malty, faint caramel aroma--so we definitely know the yeast worked on this beer. Smooth with a medium body. Buttery on the palate, tending toward the sweet-malty side, with a quick draw of modest hop bitterness. The buttery character is hard to shake even with its toasty and caramel malt backbone. Finishes a little dry.
Mr. A likes this beer even less than the Rye Ale I drank yesterday, giving Irish Red a "C."  I'd give it a slightly better grade than that, but then again I'm easy.  There are precious few real beers (as opposed to mass-produced swill like Bud Light and the like) I've met and didn't like, when ya get right down to it.  I did notice the head on this beer was a lil thin for my tastes and it dissipated almost immediately.  There's no lacing to speak of as you drink the beer, either, and that's not a good sign.  It does go down easy, tho, and I'm almost ready to pour another as we speak.

The cigar is a different story.  I not only like this cigar, I LOVE it.  I received a couple of these in a sampler pack from SN1 as a Christmas gift and I was most impressed... enough so that I ordered a resupply earlier this week and received 20 of these little jewels in today's mail.  I've gone on about the Tabak Especial Café Con Leche in the past (since 2009, to be precise) and have bought quite a few of those marvelous sticks.  The Red Eye is gonna give the Café Con Leche a run for its money in popularity here at El Casa Móvil De Pennington.  This is a wonderful little cigar!

Discovery Goes Up and a War Story

Occasional Reader Rob sent along a link to this video of Thursday's Space Shuttle launch...

Pretty cool, eh?  Watching this video fired off some long-dormant synapses about other such launches I saw in the way-back.  From my reply to Rob:
Today's (very short) war story...  The video reminded me of watching missile launches at Vandenberg AFB, where I was stationed for a lil over three years.  I arrived there as a jeep two-striper back in '64 and moved into the barracks, as all young troops do.  The first week I was there I was awakened around 0200 hrs by some violent shaking, accompanied by a dull rumble-roar.  Now, I'd been in a few earthquakes as a child and recognized the feeling...  I lept out of bed and literally ran out of the barracks on to the lawn in my underwear, yelling "EARTHQUAKE" at the top of my lungs to wake up the other guys who might be sleeping through this.  And all I got for my concern was angry shouts of derision (and worse) from my fellow airmen, who were NONE too kind.
One of the guys did take pity on me as I walked back in, extremely red-faced and about to fuckin' DIE from embarrassment.  "That was a Titan," he explained.  "You won't feel the Minutemen or even hear 'em until long after they're gone, and the Atlas launches aren't nearly as bad... but yeah, a Titan launch feels just like an earthquake."  The launch pads were about three or four miles from our barracks.
I saw hundreds of launches over the course of the next three years and was also involved in a project to see if our air defense radars could pick up ballistic missile launches (they couldn't and didn't, but that was long ago and radars have changed, along with the times).  That was pretty cool because I was tied into the Vandenberg launch control center in order to start my scope camera three minutes before launch.  I then got to step outside and watch the missile go from our mountain top, which looked exactly like the shuttle launch from that airplane.  Pretty cool, in other words.
You can't possibly imagine how embarrassed I was about that "earthquake" thing, Gentle Reader.  Military guys ain't supposed to panic, for starters, and we're supposed to know every-damned-thing about our service, on top of that.  I betrayed both principles in that episode and it took me quite a while to live that down.

Discovery launch photo from the Daily Mail link, above.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Broadening Our Horizons and In the Mail

First... the broadening bits, which would be a Sammy Adams Revolutionary Rye Ale.  About which one of the Alström Bros has this to say:
Reddish brown, a bit hazy with a creamy tiny bubbled head on top. Hint of spicy bready rye with cooked oranges in the nose. Very smooth and creamy, that trademark oily feeling and slick thicker body is there as with most beers from Boston Beer Co. Oily hop, faint alcoholic esters, sweet maltiness with a spicy kick from the rye and hops. Orangey herbal hop flavor is pretty substantial but the toasted grain and rye are still able to break through.
Mr. A only gives the beer a C+ and given the rest of his comments (not quoted here) I'm thinkin' that he might have sumthin' against the Boston Beer Co. in general.  As for me?  The beer has much more hoppiness than I like but it's generally pretty pleasant.  I'd buy it again.  Mebbe some day I'll develop a palate sophisticated enough to write beer reviews, but I kinda doubt it.  I mean if it hasn't happened yet...

The yellow and black card is part of what was in today's snail mail, addressed to "resident," of course.  I find "resident" two clicks more friendly than "occupant," for what that's worth.  But as far as "life's three most basic questions?"  Dang... those are easy!  In order:
(1)  The SFO Bay Area.  Wally-World if you're talkin' immediately.
(2)  For the beer, dummy.  Why are YOU here?
(3)  "To hell if I don't change my ways."  That's what Mom always said when I asked her that question.
See?  Easy.  Mebbe I should look into this seminar gig.  I smell easy money if those are the kinda things people really wanna know.  Financial planning is the hard stuff.

This Is GOOD for America...

... and the USAF.  From today's AFA Daily Report:
Boeing Wins KC-X Contest: Boeing is the winner of the Air Force's KC-X tanker competition, Air Force Secretary Michael Donley announced Thursday. The service chose the Chicago-based aerospace giant's 767-based NewGen Tanker over the A330-based tanker model that EADS North America offered in the high-stakes competition. Boeing has received the initial development contract, valued at more than $3.5 billion, to provide the first 18 new-build tankers by 2017. The Air Force intends to buy 179 of them to replace its oldest KC-135s. Donley said the new tanker's designation will be the KC-46A. While he said both companies had submitted a proposal that was "awardable," Deputy Defense Secretary Bill Lynn said "Boeing was a clear winner" during the same Pentagon briefing. Lynn said he believed that the evaluation process was "transparent and open" and would not provide grounds for EADS to file a legal protest. But he noted that the company has the right to do that if it thinks it was treated unfairly. For more, continue to Air Force Picks Boeing Tanker.
Boeing Comments on Tanker Win: Boeing is "honored to be given the opportunity to build the Air Force's next tanker and provide a vital capability to the men and women of our armed forces," said Jim McNerney, Boeing chairman, president, and CEO, in a release Thursday after the company triumphed in the Air Force's KC-X tanker contest. He added, "Our team is ready now to apply our 60 years of tanker experience to develop and build an airplane that will serve the nation for decades to come." Boeing said its winning 767-based NewGen Tanker design, now designated the KC-46A, features "the latest and most advanced technology" and is "capable of meeting or exceeding the Air Force's needs for transport of fuel, cargo, passengers, and patients." Manufacturing the tanker "will fuel the economy," supporting approximately 50,000 total US jobs spread across more than 40 states, stated the company.

EADS Disappointed over KC-X Decision: EADS North America officials expressed disappointment on Thursday after the Air Force chose Boeing's 767-based tanker aircraft over their own A330-based KC-45 tanker to replace the service's oldest KC-135s. "This is certainly a disappointing turn of events, and we look forward to discussing with the Air Force how it arrived at this conclusion," said EADS North America Chairman Ralph Crosby in a release. He did not indicate whether the company would challenge the Air Force's decision. "With a program of such complexity, our review of today's decision will take some time. There are more than 48,000 Americans who are eager to build the KC-45 here in the US, and we owe it to them to conduct a thorough analysis," stated Crosby. The Air Force is expected to provide EADS officials with a briefing sometime in the next week or so to explain why service officials deemed Boeing's bid to be better.

Congress Reacts to KC-X Decision: Boeing supporters on Capitol Hill greeted Thursday's KC-X decision. "Today's long-awaited decision by the Pentagon is the right one for our military, our taxpayers, and our nation's aerospace workers," said Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.), in whose state Boeing manufactures the 767, upon which the KC-46A is based. Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kan.), whose state also has a sizable Boeing presence, credited the Air Force in his statement for choosing "the most highly-skilled, experienced workforce to build the tanker." The tone was different from Alabama lawmakers, whose state would have hosted EADS North America's KC-45 assembly site. "EADS clearly offers the more capable aircraft. If this decision stands, our warfighters will not get the superior equipment they deserve," said Sen. Richard Shelby (R). "Unfortunately, the best tanker for our military was not selected. I intend to demand a full accounting as to why," stated Rep. Jo Bonner (R) in a release.

See also:
Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) statement
Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz), SASC ranking member, statement
Sen. Jerry Moran (R-Kan.) statement
Rep. Adam Smith (D-Wash.), HASC ranking member, statement
HASC leadership statement
And just why is selecting Boeing to build the Air Force's new tanker good for America?  Two words: industrial base.  You'd think Senator Shelby and Rep. Bonner would know that, wouldn't you?  But noooo... it's politics as usual for those asshats.  I'm glad I don't live in Alabama.

Cross your fingers and pray EADS doesn't protest the award.

This Is REALLY Bizarre

So... I was amusing myself by checking Site Meter hits this morning and came across this bit, which caused a visitor from Deutschland to spend a lil time with us today:

What you see are pages one and two of a search for "motorman's friend."  Note that ALL the images on page one (except the first four) are from EIP, as are the entire second and third pages, some 50 images, all told... NONE of which have a damned thing to do with a motorman's friend (I've used the term in a post before, but only once).  Pretty damned strange, if you ask me.  But you didn't ask, so I had to offer.  Full disclosure:  I don't even make it to page 13 on a US google image search for the same term... which adds to the weirdness.

Apropos of not much... titties are good for traffic.  (who'd a thunk it, eh?)  I chased up another three or four hits this morning resulting from google searches for "topless beach."  We appear on page one of that image search at (Holland), page two at (Poland), and page seven of (Spain).  Our US ranking is page three for that particular term.   Google is most mysterious, eh?

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Mood Enhancement

I watched Discovery blast off from Cape Canaveral this afternoon with beating heart and more than a tingle of pride in country.  I felt a twinge of sadness, too, as the FNC guys wouldn't let the audience forget this is Discovery's last mission and the penultimate mission for the Space Shuttle program as a whole.  Discovery has led a remarkable life, as evidenced by this article at FNC's we site.  Excerpts:
143 million: The number of miles Discovery has traveled so far, with one flight remaining. This is a distance record unmatched among NASA's space shuttle fleet. The miles traveled by Discovery could have carried it to the moon and back 288 times, or on 1 1/2 trips to the sun.
1984: The year Discovery blasted off on its maiden space voyage. Discovery's first flight was NASA's STS-41D mission, which launched on Aug. 30 carrying three communications satellites and an experimental solar array wing. The mission was commanded by astronaut Henry Hartsfield.
Dang... 1984 seems like SO long ago, doesn't it?  I guess it was a long time ago... I was still wearing the blue suit to work every day and contemplating putting in my retirement papers, which in fact I did later on that year.  And Discovery is still soldiering on.  There are many more "gee whiz" facts at that FNC link above.  Pretty danged cool.

Godspeed, Discovery.  See ya on the back side.

Don't You WISH...

Today's Get Off My Lawn moment, courtesy of the usual source.   I seem to be overwrought with cynicism today, as every-gotdamned-thing is pissing me off.  Well, not every thing... Moogie put up a feel good post today and that sorta saved me, but only for the briefest of moments and then it was back on my head.  I think it's the weather.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Just Briefly...

I was forced to buy the expensive brand o' half & half when I made my latest re-supply run to Wally-World earlier this week, mainly (and ONLY) because Mr. Walton's heirs were out o' the house brand.  Land O' Lakes is pretty danged proud of their flavor o' half & half, charging a dollar premium over Wal-Mart's house brand.  I often wonder how Wal-Mart manages to pull their pricing tricks off; a dollar savings on a quart of half & half is pretty danged significant... and their house brands generally undercut the pricier stuff by up to 25% across the board.

All that said, I only buy "Great Value" milk and half & half.  I won't substitute Dr. Thunder for Dr. Pepper or replace my Viva paper towels with "Great Value" paper towels that have wood chips and bark embedded in each sheet.  Nor will I eat Sam's generic soups or bread.  I'm funny like that.


In other grocery news... we made a slew o' BLTs for dinner last night... frying up half a pound o' bacon in the process.  The "T" portion o' my sandwiches was pretty sad, resembling real tomatoes in only the vaguest sorta way.  I always buy Roma tomatoes this time o' year but even the Romas were the palest of red in color... more like orange, actually... and had nearly no fragrance at all.  But they were juicy, I'll give 'em that.

I suppose I should quit bitchin' and be grateful I have any produce at all in the dead o' winter, even if it's trucked up from Mexico.  Our modern logistics systems are indeed a thing o' wonder.  It wasn't all that long ago when fresh fruits and vegetables were pretty much unobtainable at any price in winter, unless you lived in the tropics.  I can remember a time in my own life when fresh produce was pretty rare... which is to say once a week, if then.  But then again, that was in Westby, Montana in the '70s... about as close to the end o' the earth as you could get in the Lower 48 at the time.

Pretty Cool

Here's an interesting article about the Air Force flying flags... usually US flags, but not always... on missions over The AF.  A couple of excerpts:
KANDAHAR AIRFIELD, Afghanistan - Whether a unique thank you, patriotic souvenir, or solemn reminder more than 3,000 flags have been flown over the skies of Afghanistan by the combined aircraft of the 451st AEW over the past six months.

The wing, through its Operations Support Squadron, carries flags on routine missions over Afghanistan. It's an additional duty that aircrew have willingly accepted and anyone can submit any flag to be flown.

"We've had Boy Scout flags flown along with team flags," recalled Airman 1st Class Joshua Williams, a knowledge operator who is now the manager the flag flying program and whose office is packed with boxes full of American flags.


A large number of flags are requested by soldiers, many on a second or third deployment, said the colonel. Many, he described, credit the A-10 or one of the other 451st AEW aircraft with having saved their lives. When the soldiers drop off their flags and paperwork, they'll sit down and tell their story.

"They'll say, 'I want it flown on the A-10. That was the plane that saved me last time'," he recalled.

Airman Jones was struck by the story of a group of soldiers from a mounted division, who had fallen under attack while on a patrol. The group was almost out of ammunition and being fired on from several sides when a single airman in their group called in an air strike. Within 10 minutes an A-10 screamed overhead and destroyed the insurgents. Airman Jones claimed each of the soldiers requested flags from the A-10s.
Pretty cool, eh?  Long time EIP readers know the Air Force had a similar program during Operation Iraqi Freedom.  And how do you know this?  Coz ya saw mine:

(click for larger, as always)

SN1 got mine for me when he was at Balad AB in 2008.  As I said back when I received the flag:  Best Present Ever.  I'm bettin' those guys who have a flag flown in an A-10 feel pretty much the same way, only MUCH more so.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Google Loves Me! Well, Sorta.

Our illustration to yesterday's "Presidents Day" post made the front page of Google's Blog-search function, thusly:

(Click to embiggen)

Yet if you clicked on the "all 41 blogs" link you wouldn't have seen EIP until you got to the bottom of page two.  (sigh)  That's OK... I'm used to conditional love.

BTW: today is Washington's birthday.  And you're prolly at work.


Completely unrelated to the above, but "interesting," none the less:

I put "interesting" in scare quotes coz while the concept is intellectually stimulating it's also off-putting to those of us who used to live... translated as eat, breathe, and sleep... mo'sickles and kinda-sorta still do, if only vicariously.  Bikes should be fire-breathing manifestations of mechanical soul, not some whirring, whining, eco-nut's wet dream.  Yeah, you can file this in the "get off my lawn" category.

I'm beginning to think I've lived too long. 

Monday, February 21, 2011

In Today's Mail

Occasional Correspondent Lin sends along a video of the Royal Norwegian Guard performing at a Nordic military tattoo and the rifle handling sequences are simply amazing.  Witness:

I never thought I'd say this, but... those dudes give the Marines -- no slouch at rifle drill... a run for their money.  Anyone who's ever handled an M-1 Garand would have to agree, I'm sure.  Amazing, to say the VERY least.

Plane Pr0n

Via a link from Lex... whose post you should check out for some REAL (and organic) aerobatics... here's a pretty cool LockMart vid of the F-35B, the STOVL variant of the F-35:

A commenter at Lex's place wonders how well all those moving parts will work once they've seen some wear and tear or exposure to a hostile environment (read as: sand).  Or shrapnel.  That's a fair question, methinks.

Presidents Day? Bah. Humbug.

Depiction by John Trumbull of Washington resigning his commission as commander-in-chief (Wikipedia)

I liked the holiday better when it was Washington's Birthday, which was actually celebrated on... Washington's Birthday!  How weird is that?  I find it obnoxious and irritating Congress bundled such luminaries as Ulysses Grant, Warren G. Harding, and Jimmy Carter... who should be "celebrated" only for their mediocrity and general uselessness... in to a holiday that formerly honored the Father of Our Country.  And the worst part?  Used car salesmen shouting at me to "come on down to Ralph Spoilsport Motors for our PRESIDENTS DAY SALE!"  From The Wiki:
Today, the February holiday has become well-known for being a day in which many stores, especially car dealers, hold sales. Until the late 1980s, corporate businesses generally closed on this day, similar to present corporate practices on Memorial Day or Christmas Day. With the late 1980s advertising push to rename the holiday, more and more businesses are staying open on the holiday each year, and, as on Veterans Day and Columbus Day, most delivery services outside of the U.S. Postal Service now offer regular service on the day as well. Some public transit systems have also gone to regular schedules on the day. Many colleges and universities hold regular classes and operations on Presidents Day. Various theories exist for this, one accepted reason being to make up for the growing trend of corporations to close in observance of the Birthday of Martin Luther King, Jr. However, when reviewing the Uniform Monday Holiday Bill debate of 1968 in the Congressional Record, one notes that supporters of the Bill were intent on moving federal holidays to Mondays to promote business. Over time, as with many federal holidays, few Americans actually celebrate Washington's Birthday, and it is mainly known as a day off from work or school, although many non-governmental workers do not take the day off.
Sigh.  OK.  It's yet another case of "Get off my fuckin' lawn!", admittedly.  But doesn't it irritate you too, Gentle Reader?

Related:  Which president was best?  Worst?  Here's what The Wiki has on that.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Kinda Like the Playoffs...

... or any given Saturday in the Fall -- that's what my day feels like.  It's been non-stop hockey since 1030 hrs this morning and I'm lovin' it, mainly because each and every game I've watched has been most excellent.  It helps matters that my Beloved Wings won their game in a shoot-out (so did the Blackhawks, as if I give a big rat's ass about THAT) (Well, I sorta did, as it's always satisfying to watch the Flightless Birds lose).  It's been a great day of great hockey.

We're in the second intermission of the Heritage Classic and that game has been pretty satisfying, too.  I love outdoor games but I don't think I'd go to one... especially not in Calgary where it's only ten degrees Fahrenheit (with a wind chill of five below) as we speak.  No-no-no-no.  Yet the Calgary stadium doesn't appear to have a single empty seat.  Ya gotta be tough to live up there, that's fer shure.

That said, I'm getting a kick out of watching the Flames jet around the ice looking for all the world like a swarm of psychedelic bees.  They're wearing "throw-back" uniforms in honor of the 1920s Calgary Tigers of the old Western Canada Hockey League... and they look like this:

See?  Bees.  Psychedelic bees.  Gimmee drugs.

Weird... But I'll Take It

The strangest thing happened this morning.  The NHL has billed today as "Hockey Day In America" and NBC is carrying three games nationwide... Washington-Buffalo, Philly-Rangers, and The Beloved Wings-Minnesota Wild... beginning at 1230 hrs EST.  So I dutifully tuned in and was chagrined to see BOTH the Amarillo and ABQ NBC affiliates were carrying the steenkin' Caps-Sabres game.  Shit... that sucks now, don't it?  But something happened about three minutes into the game when BOTH affiliates switched to the Wings game.  YES!  We'll take it!

So now we're at the first intermission in the Wings game and the second period period has started in Buffalo, so NBC is back to the Sabres-Caps.  I have NO idea if NBC will go back to the Wings game but I can truthfully say this ain't no way to run a frickin' railroad.  Or a network.  

Ah, wait.  An announcer just said "We'll get you back to the second period of the Wings game in just a few minutes."  I stand corrected.

Let's Go Red Wings!

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Today's Happy Hour Soundtrak

When all else fails there's ALWAYS Neil....

Out of the blue
and into the black
You pay for this,
but they give you that
And once you're gone,
you can't come back...
When you're out of the blue
and into the black.
Interesting.  The lyrics are a variation on the age-old theme of "you can never go home again" yet remain hopeful when one considers the premise that "rock'n'roll will never die."  Such were the thoughts that ran through our mind today... but let us not get TOO deep with those.  It's enough that we had moderate temps and blue skies for today's (outdoor) Happy Hour, along with an appropriate soundtrack.  We shall now thank The Deity At Hand for small favors.  Srsly.

And that Enero was every bit as good as we thought it would be, and then some.  We might do two of 'em; life's like that when the humidor is FAT.

Another Example of Elegant Packaging

This time it's from Partagas:

The box is reminiscent of fine Japanese lacquer boxes in that the construction of the piece, including the slide-off lid, is precise and the finish is lacquer-shiny (note the reflection of the sink corner on the side of the box).  This will be my first experience with the limited-edition Cifuentes Enero blend but a quick google search turned up only rave reviews.  I'm thinkin' Happy Hour will be pretty good today.

TED: Hans Rosling Shows the Best Stats You've Ever Seen

A couple of days before Christmas last year I posted Hans Rosling's  "200 Countries in 200 Years" video when it went viral on these inner-tubes.  Last night I happen to catch Chris Anderson (the curator of TED) on Charlie Rose and he told what he described as the "remarkable story of Hans Rosling" to illustrate the value of the TED talks.  Which sent me off to Google, of course, seeing as how I recognized Dr. Rosling's name from the "200 Countries" association.  I found this (best viewed full-screen):

Fascinating, and there's more of Dr. Rosling on the TED site... all ya gotta do is google his name.  I'm the sorta guy that always found statistics and data rather boring, even though I mucked about with the subject during my IT operations career.  Dr. Rosling certainly changed MY perception of stats and here's an excerpt from his bio on the TED site:
What sets Rosling apart isn't just his apt observations of broad social and economic trends, but the stunning way he presents them. Guaranteed: You've never seen data presented like this. By any logic, a presentation that tracks global health and poverty trends should be, in a word: boring. But in Rosling's hands, data sings. Trends come to life. And the big picture — usually hazy at best — snaps into sharp focus. 
The data DO sing and I sure as Hell wish I had had the operational analysis tools to create presentations like Dr. Rosling's back in the day. 

Friday, February 18, 2011

About Last Night

The three or mebbe four of you Gentle Readers that are hockey fans prolly took notice of my bit in one of yesterday's posts about the Wings playin' at Tampa Bay last night.  Well, I'm pleased to report the Beloved Wings took it to the Lightning in NO uncertain terms last evening, winning by a 6-2 margin.  Stevie Y HAD to feel bad about that, no doubt.  But it was most definitely a weird scene inside the hockey goldmine last night... and here's just a sample:
Come to think of it, there was a little bit of weird for all involved throughout the evening, beginning with an ovation for Yzerman himself, shown briefly on the LightningVision scoreboard, that seemed almost like a “Thank you” from longtime Detroit fans and bested anything in recent memory from the home crowd in appreciation.

Journey may have fabricated “South Detroit” in their overplayed anthem “Don’t Stop Believin’” but it sure seemed like that was a very real location for last night’s game – and the temporary mailing address for the St. Pete Times Forum. 

A formidable sea of red is expected any time Detroit is in town but last night’s crowd was overwhelmingly pro-Red Wings. It wasn’t completely unreasonable to expect the goal horn to blare each time the Wings scored – not with the roar of the crowd that came along with each tally. At one point, there was an audible chorus of boos toward a Lightning logo flashed on the screen that the home fans were not able to drown out.

Just weird.

But bizarro-world truly came to life when the octopi began hitting the ice. Yes, Detroit’s time-honored tradition of tossing dead mollusks onto the playing surface to celebrate Red Wing successes apparently travels well too, as three octopuses made their way to ice level on Thursday. [Note: In researching for today’s piece, it has become clear that both octopi and octopuses are acceptable plural forms of octopus. Learn something new every day…]

All in good fun, one must suppose. Until, that is, a member of the Tampa Bay Lightning ice crew did his best Al Sobotka impersonation when cleaning up one of the fallen cephalopods, picking it up from the ice and twirling it over his head as he skated off, much to the delight of the invading, already frenzied Red Wing portion of the crowd and incensing Lightning fans and fellow employees alike.
Yup... I heard that bit about the Big Al imitation (I won't explain: if you're a Wings fan you geddit, if not... well, explaining would just take too long) while listening to the game last evening on My Very Expensive Radio, whereupon one of the play-by-play guys (a Detroiter) commented "that's not a career-enhancing move."  Indeed.

But one should NOT be surprised.  There's always a large contingent of Wings fans at each and every Dee-troit road game, thanks to the bad economy and emigration from Michigan for that, in part, but ONLY in part.  The NFL's Dallas team (ptui! on several counts) may bill themselves as "America's Team," but it's the Wings who have a truly NATIONAL fan base, especially so among older Michigan expats.  And we KNOW from whence we speak on THAT count.  BTW... you Steelers (ptui!) fans can suck it in this space, too.  Just sayin'.

This is gonna be the Year O' Cup Number Twelve.  I feel it in my bones.  Let's Go Red Wings!


Occasional Reader Rob sent along this sequence of pics...

I just LOOOVE Hillary's expression in the last frame... coz I've seen that look before.  Kinda reminds me of this:



Yup. It's Gonna Be HARD.

The federal deficit is obscene but the states are in worse shape... which is no big secret to anyone who's been paying even the slightest bit of attention.  While California and New York garner the most attention as the poster children for the states' fiscal woes, things blew up yesterday in Wisconsin.  From the WSJ:
MADISON, Wis.—Democratic lawmakers fled the state in an effort to torpedo a closely watched vote on what would be the nation's first major overhaul of union laws in years, as government workers flooded the statehouse for a third day seeking to block passage of the bill.

Surrounded by thousands of tightly packed protesters, including teachers who had been encouraged by union leaders to show up in force, state senators gathered around 11 a.m. to vote on Republican Gov. Scott Walker's proposal to limit collective-bargaining rights for most state employees. 
The governor's proposal, part of a bill aimed at overcoming a $137 million deficit in the current budget and a projected $3.6 billion hole in the next two years, would allow collective bargaining on wages, but not pensions and health care. Workers would be required to pay more for both. And raises would be limited to the inflation rate, unless voters approved steeper boosts.
All that sounds pretty reasonable to me... and there's more detail at the link... but not to the public employees unions, most specifically the teachers unions, who are engaged in Academy Award level histrionics worthy of a "Best Performance By Spoiled Brats" Oscar, if there were such a thing.  And they're doing so on the taxpayers dime, too, and that's the most sickening part of the whole thing.  The WSJ, again:
The drama disrupted schools across the state, as thousands of teachers called in sick to attend the protests. Public schools were closed in Madison, La Crosse, Racine and Wausau.

Patrick Gasper, a spokesman for the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction, the state's education agency, said he didn't have a statewide tally of closures among the state's 424 school districts, which educate 872,000 students. But he said, "They're all over." 

He added that some districts could have to add days at the end of the year to meet state requirements for days and hours of instruction. School officials in Milwaukee said missing work without a valid excuse would "leave teachers open to disciplinary action." 
"Disciplinary action" prolly means a letter of reprimand or a similar slap on the wrist.  I'm thinking wholesale firings, a la Reagan/PATCO would be more appropriate, but that's just me.  I read elsewhere that an estimated 60% of the teachers in some Wisconsin districts called in sick in order to attend the protests.  That is nothing short of despicable and speaks to the self-serving nature of teachers unions.  But, Hey.  They're entitled, not to mention privileged.  Check out these figures: 
In May 2009, preschool teachers in Wisconsin earned an average salary of $23,460, elementary school teachers earned $51,240, and secondary school teachers earned $49,400. (2) Education and experience level also make a difference in teacher salaries: secondary school teachers in the 90th wage percentile earned $69,550, while the entry-level teacher salary is generally in the $30,000s. (3)

Geographic location is another significant reason for variation in Wisconsin teaching salaries. Areas that have a higher cost of living often pay correspondingly higher salaries. Below are average annual earnings for secondary school teachers in five of the largest metropolitan areas in the state: (4)

  • Green Bay: $55,110
  • Kenosha: $68,400
  • Madison: $50,770
  • Milwaukee: $54,620
  • Racine: $49,710
I got those numbers from Wisconsin Teaching Salaries, via a link from Michelle Malkin.  That's pretty good money for folks who only work nine or nine and a half months out of any given year and receive benefits in excess of what private sector employees receive, yet they turn out by the thousands to protest.  On school time, no less. 

Just briefly: note the civil tone of the protesters (the image I used above is NOT from the WSJ).  A lot's been said about THAT, and I'm one of mebbe thousands of bloggers on the right to post this:

So, yeah... fixing our fiscal situation is gonna be very, very difficult if this is any indication of the sort of resistance the states will face.  And you KNOW it is.  Unions,  especially public-sector unions, have most definitely outlived their usefulness and have turned into left-wing organizations who have a "Fuck you, I got mine and I'm gonna keep it" attitude.  Who'd a thunk it?

Much, much more at memeorandum.  The link contains all articles on the subject as of 2230 hrs EST Thursday evening.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Here and There

I was there... Cannon Airplane Patch... for to refill my meds, of both the prescription and the non-prescription sort.  So now I'm back here and the medicine chest and the fridge are both well-stocked, as we speak.  We are enjoying the fruit of our labors as we speak, too.  It was yet another top-down sorta day and we cruised there and back in a most jaunty manner, as befits a Gentleman o' Leisure.  The trip out to Cannon and back is just perfect for a one-cigar burn; it's funny how that works.


There's this in today's "Get Off My Lawn!" category:  I live amongst pigs.  Not one single gotdamned day goes by where I don't have to pick up someone else's trash off of my lawn weeds, be it pop cans, fast-food wrappers, or worse.  Not one.  What IS it that makes some people act like the world is their personal trash can?  Litterers make me hope I'm wrong about the afterlife, in that I can visualize these bastards consigned to walking around for all eternity picking up dogshit and then being forced to eat it as their only sustenance... nicely wrapped in Mickey Dees paper, of course.

About that image:  I don't agree.  I think littering should be a capital offense.  On some days, anyhoo.


I REALLY wish tonite's Wings game was on my teevee.  Why?  This:
After transitioning from a Hall of Fame playing career to the Detroit Red Wings' front office and then assembling Canada's gold-medal winning Olympic team, Steve Yzerman having the ability to turn the Tampa Bay Lightning into a contender wasn't in doubt.

Few expected him to do it this soon.

The Lightning are atop their division with 74 points -- just like the Red Wings -- heading into Thursday night's showdown at the St. Pete Times Forum, the clubs' first since Yzerman left Detroit to become Tampa Bay's general manager.
I can't imagine what tonite's game must be like for StevieY.  On the one hand, he's a professional and he will do everything in his power to ensure the Lightning win, especially when this game is being played in their barn.  On the other hand, how do you root against a team you played your entire career with, won three Stanley Cups with, and one that still contains a handful of players you played with for years and years?  Wow.  It sucks to grow up sometimes.

That said... and as much as I love Stevie (he IS in the B-rank of my heroes)... Let's Go Red Wings!

Update, 1415 hrs:  Wow!  How did I miss this?
YORKTOWN HEIGHTS, N.Y. — In the end, the humans on “Jeopardy!” surrendered meekly. 

Facing certain defeat at the hands of a room-size I.B.M. computer on Wednesday evening, Ken Jennings, famous for winning 74 games in a row on the TV quiz show, acknowledged the obvious. “I, for one, welcome our new computer overlords,” he wrote on his video screen, borrowing a line from a “Simpsons” episode. 


Watson, specifically, is a “question answering machine” of a type that artificial intelligence researchers have struggled with for decades — a computer akin to the one on “Star Trek” that can understand questions posed in natural language and answer them.
Blog-Bud Jim, who recently tried out for Jeopardy! (again), will NOT be pleased.  Here's a lil sumthin' from an off-line between us:
No, I didn't see it. The contest between the machine and Ken Jennings (and one other player) is airing next week on Jeopardy, and I didn't want even the slightest hint of a spoiler.
(That means don't YOU send me one, either!)
In a message dated 2/10/2011 1:32:58 P.M. Eastern Standard Time, Buck writes:
Buck has left a new comment on your post "Jeopardized":
Hey! Apropos of not much... didja watch Nova last night?
Heh.  I hope Jim doesn't have to play Watson if he passes the test.  It would really suck to be beaten by a machine... even if your name happens to be Ken Jennings.