Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Hump Day Already?

Haditha: Although I’ve been following the issue, I’ve been reluctant to comment for exactly the same reasons Cassandra expresses here. Cassandra, however, has decided to break her silence and offers up insightful commentary (with great links) on the issue and the process of military investigations, in general. Which, by the way, also serve to indict Congressman Murtha’s premature and inflammatory comments on Haditha. One questions the congressman’s motivations and, most especially, the language he uses in condemning the Marines specifically and the administration, generally, where the Haditha incident is concerned. Mr. Murtha’s pronouncements, to my way of thinking, have served no useful purpose whatsoever. I believe his motivation is to “mobilize” public opinion against the war, pure and simple. And I’ll leave it at that.

If you haven’t seen it yet, a CNN reporter writes of Haditha and the Marines in al Anbar province:

I know the Marines that were operating in western al Anbar, from Husayba all the way to Haditha. I went on countless operations in 2005 up and down the Euphrates River Valley. I was pinned on rooftops with them in Ubeydi for hours taking incoming fire, and I've seen them not fire a shot back because they did not have positive identification on a target.

The article is here.

Reprieve: From the heat, that is. We’re only going into the mid-80s today, and I’m grateful, because we’ve had approximately ten consecutive days of mid-90s heat. Yes, it beats cold by a country mile. The heat does get a bit old after a while, though. There’s also t-storms in the forecast and hopefully we’ll get rain. We need it.

Hockey: There will be a Game Seven in the East! Buffalo won last night, 2-1, in overtime. Even though it was a low-scoring game (usually equal to “boring”) there was plenty of action. Tomorrow night’s game should be a classic. Bring it ON!

A week from today at this exact time I’ll either be in the air or hanging around the Minneapolis airport waiting for my connecting flight to Manchester, NH. I’m looking forward to my visit with Son Number Two and family at his home in Maine, but I am most definitely not looking forward to the “getting there” (and back) bits. Flying these days is inconvenient at best; it’s low-level torture for some of us. My day will be long: I’ll leave ABQ at 0830 (MDT) and arrive in Manchester at 1641 (EDT), where I’ll await the arrival of Son Number One and TFMP, who get in sometime around 2300. We’ll load up and drive to Brunswick in a rental, arriving in the wee small hours. A very long day, not looked upon with great anticipation. But…flying is better than driving! And I should be able to completely consume a book or three going and coming.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Back to Normal

Well, now. I hope all y’all had a safe and pleasant Memorial Day weekend and you’re getting a little rest, now that you’ve got your collective noses back on the grindstone and are pulling in the traces… to mix a couple of metaphors. I’m only half-jesting. Not infrequently did I heave a sigh of relief to be back at work, back in the day. Yeah… time off was good, much anticipated, and thoroughly enjoyed. But. Fun can be exhausting, especially if one tries to see, do, or be too much during the brief time allotted for fun. Somehow, work was much more structured and just as, if not more so, rewarding. Yeah, I’m weird. Or perhaps I’m being just a bit nostalgic for the ol’ nine-to-five.

My weekend? Quiet, in a word, and you can equate that with “good.” I did get to speak with all three sons over the course of the weekend, and that was good. And there was hockey, of course, where I’ve been totally remiss at keeping you updated on things you don’t care a whit about. Edmonton closed out Anaheim, in Anaheim. The Oilers deserved to win that series; they dominated the Ducks, pure and simple. The Oilers will now take an earned and well-deserved rest as they await the winner of the Sabres-Hurricanes series. The Hurricanes took a 3-2 lead over Buffalo Sunday evening; Game Five is tonight, in Carolina. This series is turning out to be one of the best of the play-offs so far; each and every game has been close…well, except for Game Two when Carolina just creamed the Sabres. Other than that, it’s been close. I’m looking forward to tonight’s game. There’s your update.

“I Was Hoping They'd Give It a Rest But They Just COULDN’T” Dept: The Loony-Left post I was hoping I wouldn’t see on Memorial Day. Dr. Sanity says it’s sheer denial personified. But the title says it all: “Memorial Day Truth: There Is No ‘War on Terror.’” And therein lies the problem. It takes national will to win a war, and when a large percentage of the population rejects the very idea that we are at war…well, it makes it a Helluva lot harder to persevere, let alone win. No, The Person Known Only as Pachacutec (I just love these oh-so-creative Lefty nom de plumes) sees the issue as criminal acts perpetrated by a nasty few, not as a war. TPKOaP does, however, make its case that ChimpyMcBushitler and His Pals have declared war on the constitution. It’s all about fear, paranoia, greed, oil, power, money, ad nauseam. But, I digress.

Like The Good Doctor, I agree the war has been poorly named. Terror is a tactic, not an adversary. We are at war with radical Islam, if not with Islam as a whole. I’ve read powerful arguments in favor of the latter proposition, but, as noted in the past, I’m not ready to go there yet. I’m more than ready for the Left to acknowledge this war and support its aims and objectives. Yes, you can criticize the methods and tactics used to prosecute this war, but support the objectives, dammit! Kinda like what this Major is saying. Which, in my eyes, makes a lot more sense than denying we’re in a war at all. The major’s timing couldn’t have been better, either. I wonder if TPKOaP read the major’s editorial. Nah, I doubt it. And even if s/he did, my gut tells me the major’s thoughts would be dismissed as just so much propaganda from a Chimp apologist. There appear to be many who agree with TPKOaP. God Help Us.

Monday, May 29, 2006

Memorial Day

Near the Tomb of the Unknowns, Arlington National Cemetery

Memorial Day 2005, Arlington

USAF Funeral, Arlington

Spend a silent moment today to honor the fallen. God Bless them all.

Saturday, May 27, 2006

Flying Tigers

2005 Wreath-Laying Ceremony

AVG P-40 close encounter with a Japanese Betty Bomber. oil on canvas, by Lou Drendel
I saw an item on CNN’s Headline News this morning…a brief video of a wreath-laying ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery by members of the 14th Air Force Association, better known as The Flying Tigers of World War II. The photo above is last year’s ceremony…I couldn’t find a photo of this year’s event anywhere on the web.
ARLINGTON -- World War II ended six decades ago. Veterans are now dying at a rate of more than a thousand a day.
Survivors of one group and their loved ones gathered at Arlington National Cemetery Saturday to pay tribute to those who've passed away.
Ron Witsford came from Citrus Heights, California to honor his grandfather Master Sgt. Lawrences Kimes.
"He was in World War II and I think that's probably what I'm most proud of," Witsford said.
Kimes was one of 118 members of the legendary Flying Tigers who died last year.
He said his grandfather, like many veterans, didn't talk much about his wartime experiences. He was simply too modest.
World War II era Air Force Secretary Donald B. Rice offered more detail.
In a Presidential Unit Citation, Rice wrote that between December 7, 1941 to July 18, 1942, the American Volunteer Group Flying Tigers: "displayed exceptional valor in compiling an unparalleled combat record. Although never manned with more than 70 trained pilots nor equipped with more than 49 combat ready P-40 fighter aircraft, this volunteer unit conducted aggressive counter-air, air defense and close air support operations against numerically superior enemy forces occassionally 20 times larger, members of the American Volunteer Group destroyed some 650 enemy aircraft while suffering minimal losses. Their extraordinary performance in the face of seemingly overwhelming odds was a major factor in defeating the enemy invasion of South China."
"He was able to make it back," Ron said of his grandfather. Kimes died at age 89.
(Story by Washington area TV station WTOP)
The story of the American Volunteer Group is but one of many illustrious pages of Air Force history and tradition. Military aviation buffs are familiar with the AVG’s history and accomplishments. Those of you who are younger may not know of them, or are only vaguely aware of who they were and what they did. Here’s a starter, from the Official USAF 14th Air Force home page (history):
The Beginning-the American Volunteer Group
Preceding the establishment of the 14th Air Force, there was a slow build-up of American air strength in China. In 1937, Claire L. Chennault, a retired officer in the United States Army Air Corps, accepted the gigantic task of reorganizing the Chinese Air Force. In 1941, President Roosevelt signed a secret executive order which permitted Chennault to organize assistance. A group of volunteers (approximately 100 pilots and 150 support personnel) formed the American Volunteer Group (AVG). The AVG was trained by Chennault in Burma on innovative combat tactics. Later, one hundred crated P-40 aircraft, rejected by the British as obsolete, were shipped to China. To enhance esprit de corps, aircraft noses were painted to symbolize the grinning mouth, flashing teeth and the evil eye of the tiger shark. Subsequently, journalists used the tagline "Flying Tigers" which rapidly caught on worldwide.

Fighting against numerically superior forces, the AVG compiled one of the greatest records of the war before it was discontinued in 1942. According to official Chinese statistics, confirmed losses to the enemy by the AVG were 268 enemy aircraft destroyed and another 40 aircraft damaged against 12 losses for the AVG. In a separate report, Chennault credits the AVG with 294 enemy aircraft shot down.
There’s much, much more. A better place to learn about the AVG is here—everything you should know about the Flying Tigers, including photos, war stories, and “unofficial” history. These men are passing from our company rapidly. Memorial Day weekend is the perfect opportunity to reflect on their glory and remember them.
While I was searching for information about the AVG and the wreath-laying ceremony at Arlington, I came across this article. A short, yet amazing, OIF story from 2003 and one I hadn’t read before. Perhaps it’s new to you, too. The first three grafs:
LAS VEGAS -- Three weeks into the fighting in Iraq, American ground troops were under intense enemy fire near downtown Baghdad when the call went out for air support.
One of the aircraft dispatched that dreary, gray morning was flown by Air Force Captain Kim Reed Campbell, a fighter pilot known by the call name "Killer Chick." Campbell, 28, is 5 feet 6 inches tall and weighs barely 100 pounds.
Within minutes, Campbell dropped her A-10 Warthog from the clouds and was staring into the firefight on April 7. On Campbell's final pass her jet took a crippling hit, most likely from a surface-to-air missile, which disabled the plane's controls and put the pilot to the test. She managed a dramatic, safe landing.
“Killer Chick.” I don’t know about you, but I think the captain (probably major, by now) has a wonderful sense of humor. I think I’d like to have a few beers with this woman. On me.

Friday, May 26, 2006

Long Weekend Ahead!

Iowahawk is on to something. Here, as a public service for my occasional (very occasional…rare, even) Left-Wing readers, is a link to 1-900-REALITY. Don’t spend it all in one place, all y’all.

Are you bored? Sitting at home alone, scouring basic cable news for impeachment updates? Well now you don’t have to wait for the 3 am rerun of Keith Olbermann for the hottest, juiciest, blockbuster scandals that will finally bring down the illegitimate BushCo cabal! Because now there’s 1-900-REALITY!


Call now and join our reality-based party! Provocative leakers are standing by to give you an earful of shocking facts, just the way you like them… hot, heavy, and weeks ahead of the news cycle!


For just $5.95 and $1.95 per minute, you’ll be connected with one of our information insiders who is aching to fulfill your every fantasy of governmental overthrow!

Hi, I’m Mary. Dial extension CBS and let me show you my private collection of shocking Texas Air National Guard documents. Stay on the line and I’ll show you how I can do things with Microsoft Word that Bill Gates never dreamed of!

Oh, yeah…you know there’s more. And be sure and check out the guest blogging from Jesse MacBeth, that intrepid anti-war, former US Army Ranger. And I’m the Pope, too.

It seems like I’ve been reading stories about the imminent demise of Air America for over a year now. I’m still waiting for that other shoe to drop. It seems inevitable, doesn’t it? Especially when the organization has been directed to slice 20% from its budget.

Air America Radio's acting CEO has been ordered to either cut millions from the bloated network's budget or condemn the left- wing talk radio experiment to the ash heap of history, the Radio Equalizer has exclusively learned.

Taking marching orders from RealNetworks CEO Rob Glaser, who also oversees and often funds Air America parent Piquant LLC, interim head Jim Wiggett is in a surprisingly tough position.

If at least $5 million can't be sliced away soon, it could finally be curtains for Franken & Co.

There’s more, of course. While I’m not shedding any tears over this turn of events, it does make me wonder why the Left doesn’t seem to be able to replicate the success of right-side talk radio. Given the success of Lefty blogs (dKos has the highest number of daily hits in the political ‘sphere; other Lefty sites have good numbers, too) you’d think there would be a rather large audience for this sort of thing. But apparently there isn’t: the market has spoken and it doesn’t speak well for Air America.

There’s good reason to wish the Left some success, however. If there were a viable, visible, and successful Left-Wing voice on the radio, perhaps we’d hear less of this drivel:

The most extreme change (ed: since the demise of the Fairness Doctrine) has been in the immense volume of unanswered conservative opinion heard on the airwaves, especially on talk radio. Nationally, virtually all of the leading political talkshow hosts are right-wingers: Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Michael Savage, Oliver North, G. Gordon Liddy, Bill O’Reilly and Michael Reagan, to name just a few. The same goes for local talkshows. One product of the post-Fairness era is the conservative “Hot Talk” format, featuring one right-wing host after another and little else. Disney-owned KSFO in liberal San Francisco is one such station (Extra!, 3–4/95). Some towns have two.

When Edward Monks, a lawyer in Eugene, Oregon, studied the two commercial talk stations in his town (Eugene Register-Guard, 6/30/02), he found “80 hours per week, more than 4,000 hours per year, programmed for Republican and conservative talk shows, without a single second programmed for a Democratic or liberal perspective.” Observing that Eugene (a generally progressive town) was “fairly representative,” Monks concluded: “Political opinions expressed on talk radio are approaching the level of uniformity that would normally be achieved only in a totalitarian society. There is nothing fair, balanced or democratic about it.” (ed: except for the fact that it’s THE MARKET, Stupid!)

Bringing back fairness?

For citizens who value media democracy and the public interest, broadcast regulation of our publicly owned airwaves has reached a low-water mark. In his new book, Crimes Against Nature, Robert F. Kennedy Jr. probes the failure of broadcasters to cover the environment, writing, “The FCC’s pro-industry, anti-regulatory philosophy has effectively ended the right of access to broadcast television by any but the moneyed interests.”

The above is an excerpt from “The Fairness Doctrine; How We Lost it, and Why We Need it Back,” a Lefty Cri de Coeur for government intervention in the marketplace. Which is entirely typical, of course. And another reason NOT to stay home in November, as if you needed one more. Never hurts to point these things out, though.

Charles Krauthammer, in today’s WaPo:

All of a sudden, revolutionary Iran has offered direct talks with the United States. All of a sudden, the usual suspects -- European commentators, American liberals, dissident CIA analysts, Madeleine Albright -- are urging the administration to take the bait.

It is not rare to see a regime such as Iran's -- despotic, internally weak, feeling the world closing in -- attempt so transparent a ploy to relieve pressure on itself. What is rare is to see the craven alacrity with which such a ploy is taken up by others.

Mark my words. The momentum for U.S.-Iran negotiations has only begun. The focus of the entire Iranian crisis will begin to shift from the question of whether Tehran will stop its nuclear program to whether Washington will sit down alone at the table with Tehran.

Mr. Krauthammer is correct. There will be more pressure on the US to “negotiate.” He is also correct in stating Tehran’s overture is a very transparent ploy. We’ve had well over two years of negotiating with Iran and the results have been all-too-predictable: nothing, nada, zip. The Russians, the Brits, the French, and the Germans were all spectacularly unsuccessful in their attempts to solve this problem, which leads one to the inescapable conclusion: Iran isn’t interested at all in what the rest of the world thinks or desires. They have stated their goals and objectives and they are Hell-bent on achieving them, the rest of the world be damned. Other than buying more time for Tehran to accomplish its objectives, what earthly good would unilateral negotiations achieve? Nothing, just like all the other attempts to resolve this issue. Time, and options, are running out. The only way to avoid a military solution to the Iranian nuclear problem is to enact and enforce economic sanctions with teeth. I’m not hopeful about that possibility; as a matter of fact, I’m downright pessimistic.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

A Couple of Silly Things

I’d like to know who the people are that write these things, and how they do it. I was amazed at the results of this test, coz it fits my self-image to a tee. “The occasional bloody civil war,” indeed. The second time I took the test I came out as Einstein; and by the way, I suggest you use the 45-question takes all of about 45 seconds to answer the questions...provided you know the answers, of course. See all the leader types here. Hat-tip to Rodger.

Speaking of Rodger…I stole this from him, too. Made me LOL!

Hillary, Voices, RVs, and More

The obligatory political post (brief as it is): Hillary endorses a return to the 55 mph speed limit.
"The 55 mile speed limit really does lower gas usage, and wherever it can be required and that people will accept it, we ought to do it," Clinton said.
Key words: “…that people will accept it…” OK, Hill, you’re on the record. Now please be quiet about that ridiculous idea. Two words: Sammy Hagar. Beltway insiders and denizens of the Upper West Side (who probably don’t even own a car) may think this is a spiffy idea, but those of us who live in Fly-Over Country don’t. And, I’m late to the party on this one…Morgan was all over Hillary yesterday on 55, and more.
Here’s an amusing l’il article in the WaPo that takes all of about 90 seconds to read: The World's Snappiest Comebacks. No article on this subject would be complete without a mention of Winston Churchill or Dorothy Parker, probably the two most devastating masters of the snappy comeback the western world has ever known; they are both quoted. Churchill’s comeback to “Winston, if you were my husband, I’d poison your coffee” is included, but my favorite Churchill comeback is not, to wit:
One night in the House of Commons, Churchill, after imbibing a few drinks, stumbled into Bessie Braddock, a corpulent Labourite member from Liverpool. An angry Bessie straightened her clothes and addressed the British statesman.

"Winston," she roared. "You are drunk, and what’s more, you are disgustingly drunk."

Churchill, surveying Bessie, replied, "And might I say, Mrs. Braddock, you are ugly, and what’s more, disgustingly ugly.

But tomorrow," Churchill added, "I shall be sober."
Supposedly true. I’d like to think so.
I was watching Washington Journal this morning and it struck me that one can easily and immediately recognize elderly callers, simply by their voice. And I wondered just how and why this happens, of course. Well, The Aging Voice is a highly technical article that explains just why this is.
There is acoustic evidence of age-related changes in vocal resonance patterns in both men and women. Lowering of formant frequencies (more pronounced in women) suggests lengthening of the vocal tract. Altered vowel formant frequency patterns (more pronounced in men) suggests centralization of tongue position during vowel production. Altered resonance patterns in elderly speakers may result from growth of the craniofacial skeleton, lowering of the larynx in the neck and/or degenerative changes in oral structures that reduce articulatory precision.
I told you it was technical. It’s also fascinating.
Yahoo News, via the AP, has an article this morning titled “RV Ownership at Record High.” Well, of course that caught my eye, and I went right to the article. Here’s the lede:
ORLANDO, Fla. - Russ and Jean Glines have picked the theme music to herald their transition from living in a 3,000-square foot country club home to full-time roadies in a 400-square foot recreational vehicle.
The Glines, 43-year-old mortgage brokers, are among a growing number of Baby Boomers who have pushed the number of RV owners to record levels, including some who hit the road full time while continuing to pursue their careers.
Thanks to Wi-Fi, satellite Internet hookups, e-mail and cell phones, the Glines will continue to run their California-based mortgage company from their Country Coach Intrigue.
"We're looking forward to sitting in the Keys in Florida with our satellite dish hooked up and working like we were in our office in San Jose and going out for walks on the beach at night," Russ said.
Ah. A Country Coach Intrigue…top of the line, diesel-pusher, big-ass Class-A motorhome. I mean BIG, as in the smallest version (there are three) of this RV is 40-foot, the largest is a 45-footer. Think “Greyhound Bus.” And these things are expensive. Expensive to buy, expensive to operate. Imagine filling that 135 gallon tank with diesel at $2.89 a gallon for the first time: $390.00. And with mileage averaging between 7.9 and 8.2 mpg…well, you get the picture. How expensive are they to buy?
The base price of the 2006 Intrigue 530 Jubilee is $451,165. The as-tested price of the coach I reviewed came to $541,710…(ed note: with a LOT of options)
More of a “If I won the lottery…” fantasy than a lifestyle option for most folks, eh? It’s interesting that the AP would choose to profile people who spend half a million bucks on an RV to illustrate “record high” RV ownership levels. You see a few of these things in RV parks (more than one would expect, actually), but these RVs are hardly typical. It’s sort of like saying “automobile ownership is at a record high” and then profiling a Bentley owner. Still, if I won the lottery…
Here’s a picture of my lil rig, car-hauling trailer not included. As the title indicates, the picture was taken in the Oakland Hills above... strangely enough... Oakland, although the East Bay might be more appropriate and descriptive. The pic was taken in December of 2002, in a beautiful little (and largely unknown) RV park operated by the State of California.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

VA Compromise Update

I just received the following from the Air Force Association:

VA Record Theft Update

The Secretary of the VA has charged the VA Inspector General with launching a full scale investigation into this matter. The Secretary also has asked the FBI to conduct an independent investigation. We also expect that various Congressional committees will conduct investigations and make recommendations to the President. You are affected by this compromise if you ever served more than 180 consecutive days on active duty in the military services of the United States. You should immediately contact banking and financial institutions with whom you do business and advise them of the fact that you are a Veteran. We will keep you posted on the status of this issue. As we recommended previously, go to for details. (ed: emphasis mine)

So, I was wrong. It doesn’t matter whether or not you’ve touched the VA…they’ve touched YOU. Words to the wise, and all that.

Not Your Father's Air Force and Other Stuff

I’m posting kinda late today, for some of the usual reasons. First, and foremost: I slept in. No matter how hot it gets during the day here on the High Plains, it’s always cool at night. I opened up all the windows in El Casa Móvil De Pennington sometime after midnight last evening when the temp dropped down to 70 or so. Our overnight low was 60, so upon the first awakening this morning I rolled over, pulled the light blanket up around my ears, and caught another 40 winks. Perfect sleeping weather, it was. I’ve written about this phenomenon before; it’s still true and will be ever so.
Secondly, I took my morning coffee on the verandah, so to speak. By the time I rolled out and the coffee was done the temp had reached 80 degrees or so. So I parked my old butt in my comfortable camp chair outside El Casa Móvil and reveled in the gentle High Plains zephyrs and balmy temps. What a wonderful start for the day! I came inside when it hit 86 (I checked the WX Channel for that) and began my morning reading…several hours later than usual.
Yesterday I noted the Air Force Association sent me a “heads-up” about the VA privacy issue. Well, later in the day I received a routine e-gram from AFA with various newsy notes. Here’s one that caught my eye:
New Service Dress Prototypes Pique Interest
Based on feedback received during visits with Airmen across the Air Force, the Air Force Uniform Board is reviewing several concepts that Airmen have suggested regarding the appearance of the service dress uniform. Some of the informal feedback about the current service dress includes Airmen wanting to revamp the service dress to look more military, like the other services. Click here for story.
“More military,” indeed. Like this?
As Lileks would say: Jeebus Crow! OK… the Billy Mitchell look is definitely more military, but the “Back to the Future” aspect of these uniforms simply rubs me the wrong way. I can’t imagine going out to the base and seeing folks walking around looking as if they’ve stepped out of a 1929 Howard Hughes aviation epic. Boggles the mind it does. And it’s part of a disturbing trend. A couple of years ago USAF’s senior leadership decided the old (unofficial) Hap Arnold logo was passé. I ask you, just what is wrong with this?
Especially compared to this abomination:
The new logo was “sold” using this logic:
As the Air Force continues its transition to an expeditionary aerospace force, it is focusing its identity to help with recruiting and retention in the new millennium. As part of this effort, officials are establishing a single, compelling theme and symbol to represent the Air Force to its members and the public. The proposed symbol updates the Hap Arnold wings and star with a more modern, angular design.
Have you ever read anything more “corporate” than that blurb? Forego well over 60 years of proud tradition for “a more modern, angular design.” (Squids, Ground Pounders, and Jarheads: don’t laugh. Yeah, you have a couple of hundred years on us, but our traditions, short as they are, are still traditions.)Yeah, right. I shook my head in disgust when I heard about that one. And then there was last year’s new, improved Mission Statement. I loved that one, too. As you can tell.
I don’t like what’s happening to my Air Force. But then again, “plus ça change…” I remember my father saying the exact same things to me, early and often. I’m sure Son Number One feels the same.
Well, now that we’ve gotten the Old Fart rant out of the way… Lileks is pretty good today, as usual. I’m not the first, nor will I be the last, to say one of the best reasons to read Lileks are his parenting tales. He closed today’s post with this:
“I’m going to be an adult in the future,” Gnat said from the back seat, apropos of nothing, “because I was born in the past.”
“I’m in the future now,” I said.
“When I was a kid, today was my future.”
She thought about that for a while, then smiled, and honest to God, she laughed and said:
“You thought you were going to have flying cars!”
I almost drove off the road.
“Oh nothing. That’s just a thing in the future on shows, cars in the skies. But it’s really not real.”
True, but you can get close. I rolled down the windows and punched the button on the steering wheel to change to the techno station. YEAH! she said from the back. The light turned green; I punched it. Daughter and dad on a spring afternoon, laughing and bobbing our heads to the music, wind in our hair. Flying.
I read that rather wistfully, thinking of things that might have been. Life can be cruel at times.
Hockey, briefly. Great game last night. “Great” is an understatement. Anaheim was down 1-0 going into the third period; the final score was Edmonton 5, Anaheim 4. To say the action was fast and furious in the third period is classic understatement. And the game got off to a flying start…a fist-flying start.
The game was filled with penalties and was particularly ugly early. There were three fights in the first five-and-half minutes. The two teams combined for 16 penalties for 44 minutes in the box in the first period.
“Ugly” is subjective. You had to be there, of course, either in the arena or via TV. What was left out of the blurb above is the fact that there were three individual fights and one big-ass brawl involving everyone but the goalies. Hockey fans understand what’s up with that. I won’t go further; you either get it or you don’t. Anyway…the Ducks are in a big, big hole. The Western Finals just might be over tomorrow night.
No politics today. I haven’t even looked at the news, let alone thought about it enough to put my scribblings on the record. For what that’s worth…
Update, 5/24/2006, 1218 hours: Forgot the hat tip on the Darth Vader photo: courtesy of Son Number One. I also forgot to mention General Hayden's nomination was endorsed by the Senate Intelligence Committee, 12-3. Dissenters? The usual suspects: Feingold, Wyden, and Bayh. And that's yesterday's news, by the way. Gen. Hayden is expected to be confirmed by the full Senate before Friday...which is Porter Goss' last day as DCI.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Google on the Left, Google (not) on the Right, Google on the Firing Line!

Where do you get your news? If you answer “the internet,” then my next question is “how do you get the news?” If you use an RSS feed for regular updates to sites you’ve bookmarked, that’s one thing. But what if you want to get the latest on a specific topic, say “radical Islam?” Chances are you’d search the news aggregators, such as Yahoo News or Google News. That’s what most of us do. But if you search Google News, you may not get what you’re looking for, or you may only get what Google News wants you to see. At the moment, Google News does not want you to see what’s posted at The New Media Journal, The Jawa Report, or And there may be more. Why? Because, according to Google, these sites contain hate speech. Is it hate speech, or is it something else?

In the case of Google, there is some evidence that its employees lean strongly to the left. According to a February 2005 USA Today article on the subject: “As it claws for greater power, the Democratic Party has found a newly rich ally in one of the fastest-growing U.S. companies: Google.” The article stated that of the over $200,000 Google employees gave to federal candidates in 2004, “98% went to Democrats, the biggest share among top tech donors.” And, with a largely successful public stock offering making “scores of millionaires among [Google’s] 3,000 workers,” “Democrats now have a potentially potent source of cash as they fight to retake the White House and Congress.”

Potentially more telling, a May 15 “Washington Prowler” piece at The American Spectator disclosed a link between Google and the ultra-left wing

Google has become the single largest private corporate underwriter of MoveOn. According to sources in the Democrat National Committee, MoveOn has received more than $1 million from Google and its lobbyists in Washington to create grassroots support for the Internet regulation legislation [“Net Neutrality”]. Some of that money has gone to an online petition drive and a letter-writing campaign, but the majority of that money is being used to fund their activities against Republicans out in the states.

Beyond this, Google appears intimately tied to former vice president and potential 2008 Democratic presidential candidate Al Gore.

Newsbusters has more, a lot more. Read the whole thing here. In the recent past I have noticed when I was looking for what bloggers were saying on a specific topic (using Google’s Blog Search, not News Search) that Google seemed to favor Left-wing blogs. By “favor” I mean the first two or three pages of hits were all Lefty blogs, and I knew there were posts on the subject at one or more of the conservative blogs I read. Sometimes, the conservative posts I knew existed couldn’t be found at all, no matter how deep you went into the Google search results. I have since changed my search habits to include Yahoo! Search, Ask, and Answers. Riehl World View, a site I linked as recently as this past Sunday, has been removed from Google (see Dan’s comments here). Outside the Beltway has more, as does Wizbang. This ain’t just paranoia; even the Left is commenting on this subject. As the old saying goes “You’re not paranoid when the bastards are really out to get ya!”

Identity theft risk. In the WaPo. This broke yesterday afternoon. The Air Force Association was kind enough to send me an e-mail message within minutes of this hitting “the wire.” I’ve never touched the VA, nor has the VA touched me, so I think I’m OK. But 26 million other American vets may not be so lucky.

Peter Wehner, writing in Opinion Journal, has a good piece on the Left’s Iraq war myths.

Iraqis can participate in three historic elections, pass the most liberal constitution in the Arab world, and form a unity government despite terrorist attacks and provocations. Yet for some critics of the president, these are minor matters. Like swallows to Capistrano, they keep returning to the same allegations--the president misled the country in order to justify the Iraq war; his administration pressured intelligence agencies to bias their judgments; Saddam Hussein turned out to be no threat since he didn't possess weapons of mass destruction; and helping democracy take root in the Middle East was a postwar rationalization. The problem with these charges is that they are false and can be shown to be so--and yet people continue to believe, and spread, them. Let me examine each in turn…

And he takes those myths down quite convincingly. Read it all here.

Hockey, briefly. The Eastern Conference Finals are now tied. Carolina won convincingly last night, solving the Sabres brilliant rookie goalie Ryan Miller in a 4-3 victory. If you just looked at the score, you’d think the game was close. Not so. Carolina dominated throughout the game, and although Buffalo rallied late in the third period, it wasn’t enough. I mentioned in a previous post that Barry Melrose thinks Carolina will win Lord Stanley’s Cup. I’m not so sure. Buffalo is tough, and if they do go down, they will go down fighting. I think this series is too close to call. By the way…I’m rooting for Buffalo, due to my previous geographic connection to the area (I lived in Rochester, NY for four years) and its team. It would be good to see the Sabres win The Cup. Tonight we’re in Edmonton, where (hopefully) Anaheim will play with urgency. They better. Otherwise the Western Finals will be over in short order.

Apropos of nothing…Today’s the day Bonnie and Clyde bought the farm.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Monday's Potpourri

USAF Photo
My new wall paper, from’s “Week in Photos,” hat tip to Murdoc. The full effect is only realized by seeing the original, high-res pic, photo number eight at the WiP link. Three words come to mind when looking at this photo: “Sound and Fury.” One can only imagine how breathtakingly loud it must have been in the cockpit of that B-17, what with the syncopated racket of those four big-ass Pratt &Whitneys, coupled with the scream of the B-52’s eight jet engines. B-52s are LOUD! So are B-17s, for that matter, but it’s a different, anachronistic, kind of “loud.” Apropos of nothing: My father flew in B-17s in Big Bang II. Also at’s “Week in Photos,” a cool pic of the Thunderbirds celebrating their 4,000th show, performed on May 13, 2006.
A brief follow-up to yesterday’s rant…the WSJ has a piece on the same subject, and you can read the speech John McCain gave at The New School here. The speech is quite good, and the content is rather ironic, given the Moonbat epistle that preceded Senator McCain. The title of Senator McCain’s speech? “Let Us Argue.” Indeed.
Those of you who read the comments to yesterday’s post know some anonymous moonbat posted a link to’s May 13th story that Karl Rove has been indicted. (Note: post a comment anonymously and I’ll call you a moonbat. Use your name and I’ll be more respectful. Just sayin’.) You also know I posted a link to truthout’s “partial apology.” Well, there’s a lot of chatter on this subject in the ‘sphere today, including a WaPo article about Rove’s attorney being highly irritated over the original May 13th indictment claim. The Commissar has a good round-up of the brouhaha. This is interesting only because of the dramatic juxtaposition in claims. Someone is horribly, terribly wrong here. It remains to be seen who…
Fifth Column: the Council on Arab-American Relations (CAIR). Frontpage Magazine has a detailed essay on this organization that ostensibly exists to improve dialog between Americans and Muslims. Bullhockey.
Hockey. Whoo-Boy, the Oilers definitely are for real. They took last night’s game in Anaheim and go back to Edmonton with a 2-0 lead in the best-of-seven Western Conference Finals. While I’m not ready to count the Ducks out, they certainly have their work cut out. And it’s not encouraging, if you’re a Ducks fan, that Anaheim has lost 14 games in a row to Edmonton. That’s some serious history to overcome. The Ducks – Oilers series has come down to a battle of the goaltenders. Anaheim goalie Ilya Bryzgalov, who had that incredible shut-out run of 229 minutes, 42 seconds earlier in the playoffs, hasn’t played badly at all. But Dwayne Roloson has played better, and there’s the story. The Ducks outshot Edmonton, 34-25, but Roloson was a frickin’ wall. If Anaheim is going to do anything in this series, they have to solve Roloson. Detroit couldn’t do it, and neither could San Jose…both of those teams have very high-powered offenses. I don’t give Anaheim much of a shot (pun intended), unless Roloson undergoes a major collapse. Fat chance. Tonight it’s Game Two in the BuffaloCarolina series…
Hot Hot Hot! P-Town’s heat wave continues. We’ll be in the mid-to-high 90s all week. Yesterday we were supposed to hit 99 degrees, but a mid-afternoon thunderstorm took us from 95 down to 85 in a matter of minutes, while also knocking me off the air for six hours. Which, while we’re at it, explains my “late” post yesterday evening.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Ya Got One More Left in Ya, Old Man?

Six years ago next month — June, 2000 — El Casa Móvil De Pennington was parked in the suburban Detroit driveway of my good friend John. Son Number Two, his family, and I were spending a few days with John and his family during our month-long, coast-to-coast, northern U.S. tour. The second day we were there, John and I were sitting in the living room of El Casa, quietly discussing John’s upcoming career move. He was leaving his, and our (before I retired), current employer to take a corporate officer position at a small start-up in San Francisco. It was a good opportunity for John. I listened carefully, asking the odd question here and there, as he laid out his upcoming duties and responsibilities, talked about the company and its niche in the IT business, and so on. At the end of his talk he looked at me and said “I’m going to need some help. You got one more left in ya, Old Man?” I smiled and said “Sure,” knowing full well I was signing up for another run of long days and longer nights. But, What the Hell. I was still fairly young. A month and a half later I was out in San Francisco, working my butt off.

And all that by way of introduction. I got up fairly early this morning (0600) because I was in bed before midnight last night. I turned on the TV, as is usual for me, switched the channel to C-SPAN after checking the weather, and proceeded to make the coffee. First thing, and I mean the very first thing, I’m inundated with whiners and complainers calling in to C-SPAN’s Washington Journal…Republicans and Democrats. Not good. As recently as two weeks ago it was just the Democrats doing the whining, and I could handle that, because that’s what they do. Predictable, and all that. It seemed Dubya had damned few, if any, defenders today. The main topic? Immigration. {sigh}

So. The coffee gets done, I pour my first cup, fire up the browser while mentally tuning out the C-SPAN rabble, and what’s the first thing I read? This self-indulgent excuse for a severe lapse in decorum aggravated by total, almost willful, ignorance, as in: being completely clue-free. What follows are the final paragraphs in a speech given by the author of the HuffPo post linked above. The occasion was commencement ceremonies at New York City’s New School. The author immediately preceded Senator John McCain, who was invited to give the keynote commencement speech.

What is interesting and bizarre about this whole situation is that Senator Mc Cain has stated that he will be giving the same speech at all three universities where he has been invited to speak recently, of which ours is the last; those being Jerry Falwell's Liberty University, Columbia University, and finally here at the New School. For this reason I have unusual foresight concerning the themes of his address today. Based on the speech he gave at the other institutions, Senator Mc Cain will tell us today that dissent and disagreement are our "civic and moral obligation" in times of crisis. I consider this a time of crisis and I feel obligated to speak. Senator Mc Cain will also tell us about his cocky self-assuredness in his youth, which prevented him from hearing the ideas of others. In so doing, he will imply that those of us who are young are too naïve to have valid opinions and open ears. I am young, and although I don't profess to possess the wisdom that time affords us, I do know that preemptive war is dangerous and wrong, that George Bush's agenda in Iraq is not worth the many lives lost. And I know that despite all the havoc that my country has wrought overseas in my name, Osama bin Laden still has not been found, nor have those weapons of mass destruction.

Finally, Senator Mc Cain will tell us that we, those of us who are Americans, "have nothing to fear from each other." I agree strongly with this, but I take it one step further. We have nothing to fear from anyone on this living planet. Fear is the greatest impediment to the achievement of peace. We have nothing to fear from people who are different from us, from people who live in other countries, even from the people who run our government--and this we should have learned from our educations here. We can speak truth to power, we can allow our humanity always to come before our nationality, we can refuse to let fear invade our lives and to goad us on to destroy the lives of others. These words I speak do not reflect the arrogance of a young strong-headed woman, but belong to a line of great progressive thought, a history in which the founders of this institution play an important part. I speak today, even through my nervousness, out of a need to honor those voices that came before me, and I hope that we graduates can all strive to do the same. (Ed: emphasis mine)

Well, now. It’s hard to imagine how any one individual could possibly demonstrate greater ignorance in such a brief communication. She’s just so wrong on so many levels. I won’t present counter-arguments to the points I highlighted above; all four of you Constant Readers are on the same page as I am. If you’re a drop in and are curious, all you have to do is scan the archives—I’ve gone on at some length on each of these points elsewhere. But I will say this: Her words do, in fact, reflect the arrogance of a young person; moreover, her words reflect a basic misunderstanding of the realities of this war. I’m not surprised. Her attitude and outlook is most certainly the learned “reality” of the academic Left. Key words? “…a long line of progressive thought.” Progressive thought is fine in polite circles, but doesn’t wash with tinpot dictators, throat-cutting Jihadists, or Islamic fundamentalist mullahs. You might get a laugh out of them as they cut your throat, or worse.

So, anyway. Those are just the last two paragraphs of the author’s short speech. To get the full effect of this woman’s absolute cluelessness, you have to read the whole HuffPo article, but not necessarily the 11 pages (as of about 0730 this morning) of “Huzzahs!” “Right-Ons!” and “You GO, Girls!” that follow. Depressing.

I followed the HuffPo piece by reading several rebuttals to, and comments on, this woman’s speech — here, here, here, and best of all, here. I felt a bit better after reading those pieces, but I still wasn’t, shall we say, “right.” I sighed and quit reading political stuff. By this time, about 0800 or so, Washington Journal was over and C-SPAN began a re-run of General Hayden’s DCI confirmation hearings. To make a long story short, I watched the entire six hours of Gen. Hayden’s statement and the subsequent give and take with the members of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence. Yeah, I took a break or three, but for the most part I paid attention the whole time. And I came away impressed. Even the Democrats, with the exception of Senators Wyden (D-OR) and Feingold (D-WI), seemed to get it. The CIA will be in good hands with Gen. Hayden as DCI.

What does this have to do with that opening digression about my buddy John, San Francisco, and going back to work? Just this: it would be easy, very easy, to throw up my hands and “retire” from all things political. The constant onslaught of media distortion and misreporting, willful ignorance, attack-dog commentary, political point-scoring, defeatist rhetoric, and manifestations of Bush Derangement Syndrome from Lefty blogs wears one down after a while. But after watching Gen. Hayden I have a renewed feeling of confidence. Where politics are concerned, if the question is “You got one more left in ya, Old Man?”, the answer is “Yes.” Most definitely yes. I’ve got at least one more in me.

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Sporting News

Hockey: OK, I guess they’re for real. Edmonton wins the first game in the Western Conference finals, beating Anaheim 3-1, in Anaheim. I watched a little bit of SportsCenter last evening after getting home from the bar (yeah, I watched the game on the Big Screen), and Barry Melrose is calling it for Edmonton. He doesn’t think they’ll win The Cup, however. He predicts Carolina will win sports' oldest and hardest-to-win trophy. But back to the West...I wouldn’t count the Ducks out just yet, however. Perhaps this just ensures an Edmonton victory given my hockey prognostication skills and track record, but I’m gonna call it for the Ducks in six. This series looks to be pretty damned interesting and quite physical. Whichever team survives the West Finals will go into the Cup Final bruised and bloodied, if last night’s game is any indication.

And, in other sports news…is America ready for this?

If you could take a drug to become aroused -- not just to facilitate the hydraulics of arousal, as Viagra and other vascular sex aids do, but to actually make you horny -- would you?

I ask because MSNBC is reporting (ed: some other interesting unrelated links there!) today that New Jersey-based Palatin Technologies says it is developing an aid that does just that. Bremolanotide, as the wonder potion is currently known, "stimulates the brain, rather than the genitals," or so the company says. The drug, which is a fast-acting inhalant rather than a pill, seems to work on men and women, but it's presented as being primarily for women, as a counterpart to Viagra et al. and as a potential cure for so-called female sexual dysfunction.

Since whole news story seems to be based on a Palatin press release, there's no way to know at this point whether the project will pan out as promised. But if it does, the drug could hardly come at a weirder time for women's health and sexuality in America. The country can't agree on such apparent no-brainers as access to emergency contraception and vaccines for sexually transmitted diseases; how will we cope with a female mojo maker? Will women have to be diagnosed as dysfunctional to get it? (Hello, hysteria.) Will it be covered by insurance? Will it be available to teenage girls? What happens when 1 million doofy teenage boys get the brilliant idea to spray girls in the face with it? (Answer: Given how inhalants work, probably nothing, but this seems like just the kind of "Saved by the Bell"-type scenario that the religious right would freak out about.) Or when Tommy swaps Susie's albuterol inhaler with a Bremolanotide inhaler right before volleyball practice?

Given this drug is targeted for women, and given our society’s strange and not-wonderful-at-all attitudes towards sex, I don’t think it’ll fly. On the other hand, it just might wind up hidden in the frilly underwear drawer, right next to that battery-powered small appliance no one talks about. That said, remember my prognostication skills. Interesting thing to think about, though.

Oooo-Eeee! The forecast is for 99 degrees today. It’s already 85, as I type. I told you summer’s here!

Friday, May 19, 2006

Baby, Bathwater

OK, you may consider this to be just so much…uh…“self-abuse.” And you’d probably be correct in your assumption. However lame the whole debate is (and I submit the basic premise is pretty damned lame), there seem to be a lot of folks on the right that are buying into the argument. What argument, you ask? Well, it all started with this, authored by Mark Tapscott, a well-respected conservative thinker. Basically, Tapscott speculates a Republican loss in this year’s congressional elections wouldn’t be all that bad, and that some real good could come of it. And thus a firestorm was born. Thankfully, many on the right have risen to Tapscott’s bait and said, in no uncertain terms, a Republican defeat in November wouldn’t be good at all, it would be catastrophic. Here’s part of the Anchoress’ May 17th post (which I linked, previously):

Professor Bainbridge writes: I’m with Tapscott, subject a qualification.

Suppose 2006 is as bad as 1974, when the Senate went from a Democrat majority of 56-42 (with 2 independents) to 61-37 (ditto) and the House went from a Democrat majority of 242-192 to 291-144. Six years later we got Ronald Reagan in a landslide. Granted, I don’t see another Reagan on the horizon, more’s the pity, but the larger point is that the country managed to muddle along. Maybe partisan politics just doesn’t matter as much as those of us in the blogosphere like to think it does.

(!) “the country managed to muddle along…” Egad! I’ll tell you what, I’m getting a little scared, now, if anyone seriously thinks that we can risk a “muddle along” these days. This is NOT 1974! I cannot forget that in that time Jimmy Carter was elected, interest rates went sky high, we had endless gas lines (remember, back then we were going to end our dependance on foreign oil!) we had dim, short-sighted policies, the same spineless gasbags we have now in both houses, but now they’re older and more spineless, more afraid of the tiniest raised eyebrow from the press. We had hostages, etc, etc…communications are different and instantaneous. Weapons are different. Democrats are talking regulation of free speech! I’m not willing to take that chance and “lose to win.” The press that exists today is not the same press it was 30 years ago; they are now a wholly-owned subsidiary of the left, with taste for mendacity and a demonstrated willingness to remain patently uncurious about any Democrat misdoings, and a further willingness to carry their chosen one on their shoulders with many puffball questions and nary a doubt, which will invite nothing less than tyranny.

She’s right. And if the foregoing isn’t enough, the other recurring memes in this debate are the clinchers, to wit:

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid
Chairman of House Judiciary Committee John Conyers

How’s that for starters? I don’t know about you, but the thought of those three useful idiots in charge of anything (beyond the minority, where they’ve done enough damage, thank you) scares the BeJeebus out of me.

Stay home in November? Throw the bums out? I don’t think so. While there's a lot not to like about the current "conservatives" in Congress, the alternative is worse. Much worse. Baby, bathwater. QED.

Thursday, May 18, 2006


...from Rodger. That's not a bad idea, ya know, the Franken books bit.

My Back Pages

I’m experiencing more network “issues” this morning; my connection speed is about half of what one expects from a dial-up connection. So, I’m going to put up a text-only post this morning and add photos later on today when my network gets back up to speed. Literally.
The following post is from this blog’s predecessor, The Trailer Trash Report, an e-mail newsletter I wrote and sent to friends from 1999 – 2000. This particular entry is about Houston’s Museum of Fine Art and a war story about government bureaucracy. Photos will be added later.
April 8, 2000
The local media is all agog at Enron Field, the Houston Astros' brand-new, state-of-the-art, sliding-roof ballpark. Although the Astros played three exhibition games in the new park last week, tonight's the regular season home opener and is supposedly the hottest ticket in town this week. A night out at the ball park costs a family of four well over $70.00 (I had the exact number, but threw the flipping paper out this morning...). For less than $20.00 a family of four can spend ALL DAY wandering through the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston (Click here: Museum of Fine Arts, Houston). OK, it ain't baseball. There are people that would rather watch paint dry than go to a museum, and there's not a few folks that would rather do the paint thing than go to a baseball game, too. I'm gonna weasel out and claim I like both. I'm definitely partial to museums over baseball, though...I've seen a helluva lot more museums than major league baseball games.
I spent six hours in Houston's world-class fine arts museum Friday. I'm impressed. The MFAH is the nation's sixth largest art museum and has a very large and diverse collection...well over 40,000 works of art representing a multitude of cultures, geographies, and periods. The collections are divided into Ancient and European art; American painting, sculpture and decorative arts; African art; Asian art; Pre-Columbian art; Native American art; Oceanic art, 20th century art; and photography, film, and video. The museum also has a large sculpture garden and collections of furniture, textiles, and costumes. Something for everyone, in other words!! The MFAH celebrates its centennial this year and it opened a new building last month. The Impressionist and Post-Impressionist collections are great. All the major impressionist artists are represented, and there are multiple works from Monet, Renoir, Cezanne, and Manet. (Unfortunately, photography was prohibited in the major impressionist exhibit. I didn't quite understand the photography restrictions in some of the galleries...most were open to picture taking, provided you could disable your flash.)
Renaissance Gallery
Impressionist Gallery

Stone Circles

Giant Soft Fan
I went for the Impressionist galleries, but I was seriously blown away by the contemporary stuff! The contemporary galleries are physically very large open, and airy. The contemporary galleries need these qualities, given the scale of the works on display. I spent quite a bit of time in these galleries, and once again, I was impressed. I hope the attached photos illustrate my point adequately. My absolute favorite contemporary work was a "light sculpture" commissioned for an underground passageway between the two main museum buildings. This is art that makes you grin, makes you say "Wow!" right out loud when you walk into it. From the MFAH guidebook: "The work turns the walls of the tunnel into vessels for conducting light. The walk between the Beck and Law buildings becomes an exploration of color and space." The colors change every three minutes or so...from red, to purple, to blue, and so was a very popular place! The artist is James Turrell.
Purple Tube
The Artist Formerly Known as Buck
OK, enough culture. Time for "Bureaucracy In Action!!" This is a horror story. A week ago this past Tuesday I initiated the process of getting my Texas motorcycle license. I went to the local motor vehicles department (local in the sense it's the closest one to me, nine miles away), which is known in Texas as the Department of Public Safety, Drivers License. A DMV by any other name is still a there I the DPS, in line for about 15 minutes. I get to the head of the line, explain why I'm there, and am told I have to take both a written and driving test to get my license. OK, I can do that. I'm given a choice of taking the written test on computer or on paper. I opt for the computer, take the test at a terminal, am done in six minutes and get back in line to get my results. Six or seven minutes later, I'm told I aced it (it wasn't that tough). The clerk asks me if I'd like to take the road test or take a motorcycle safety course first. This is a real no-brainer for someone who's ridden off and on for over 35 years, I opt for the road test. "The next available appointment is Tuesday, April 4th at 1:36 p.m." the clerk sez. I said "Hunh?" (Today is 3/28, remember.) She sez "April 4th, 1:36." "That's the earliest you have?" "Yep." "OK, I'll take it." Then she tells me I have to bring a car and a driver for the examiner. My jaw drops, panic sets in. I don't KNOW anybody here, let alone anyone I can ask to waste an hour or so in the middle of the day to follow me around with a public servant in their car while I take a road test! I try to explain. The clerk is less than interested in my personal problems. "That's our process, sir." This is the most ridiculous thing I've ever heard. When I took riding tests in CA, OK, and MI, they were held in parking lots, on a cone-course. That works, and it's easy for all concerned. Furnish a car and driver? Ohmigod... I withdraw, thinking I have a week to work this out.
To make a long story somewhat shorter, my neighbors in the RV park agree to follow me down to the DPS and follow me around during the test, after much laughter and incredulity on their part (they're a retired couple from North Dakota, and nice folks). At 1:36 p.m. on April 4th, Artis (my neighbor) and her son Mike are there at the DPS in their Ford, and I'm on my bike. The examiner does a safety check on my bike, drills me on the bike's controls, verifies my insurance, then goes back to Artis and asks for her license and proof of insurance. Artis can't find her insurance card. Oops...the test is over! No proof of insurance for the "follow-car," no test. I have to reschedule. I go back inside and get in line. Artis leaves, profoundly embarrassed. The next available appointment is a week from today. That's unacceptable, I neighbors are leaving town Thursday. The clerk says "Well, you can come in at 6:30 tomorrow morning and take the first available cancellation, there's always cancellations." I ask why she can't assign me a time for tomorrow RIGHT NOW if there's always cancellations. "That's not our process, sir." {sigh} I withdraw, again.
Wednesday morning I arrive at the DPS at 0630 and am shocked to see I'm 43rd in line (I counted). The doors open at 0700. Me and the 42 people in front of me (and the horde behind me, too) are herded into a line at Window 9 (Reschedules). By 0750 I get to the head of the line and I'm offered an 0900 test. I nearly fall over from shock, but I take it. I phone Artis, who says "no problem, I'll be there at nine...see ya then." Just after 0900 the bike and I are in line for the test, talking to my examiner when another examiner walks up and asks "How big is that bike?" "225 cc," sez I. "Hmmm..." she sez. "I don't think you need a Class M license for anything under 250cc." My examiner asks her "Are you sure?" "No," she sez, "I was just pulling your chain." I heave a sigh of relief. We go through the same drill as yesterday, and motor on off for the test. One beep from Artis, I turn right. Two beeps, left. Three beeps, stop. We go through a residential neighborhood for about a six minute ride, beeping all the way, then we get on a four lane boulevard and return to the DPS. I ace the test. The examiner and I shake hands, I go inside to complete the paper work and pay the fee. When I get to the head of the line, my examiner and a supervisor come over. They tell the clerk to cancel the transaction. I say "WHAT???" "We can't give you a Class M license because your bike is only 225cc," the supervisor sez. "You don't need a Class M license for bikes under 250cc. We checked the book." "WAIT!" I say..."This may not be the only bike I'll ever ride, I aced all your tests, I went through Hell to get here, and I WANT MY LICENSE!!" "Sorry, you'd have to take the test on a bike that's 250cc or larger...your bike is too small to qualify for a valid test." I see the handwriting on the wall. I withdraw, again, beaten, seriously demoralized, and thoroughly disgusted. It's only 10:30 a.m., far too early to hit the bar. Sometimes it's easy to understand why some people snap...and why DPS supervisors wear pistols (They're uniformed officers, actually.). Oh, well...
Random Notes: Free concert in downtown Jones Plaza Thursday night, Warren Zevon...acoustic and solo (remember "Werewolves of London?" That's Warren.). The opening act is "Drop-Kicked Chihuahuas" (no kidding...they have a web site, too...just add "dot com" ed note 2006: may or may not still be there, didn’t check). Warren plays all the hits, the opening band does a kick-ass show, and it's all free, sponsored by Budweiser. Cheap (inexpensive) beer. I love this place. "Thank You, My Dear, You Made My Day" Dept: "You're an artist, aren't you?" says the woman who took my picture in the light tunnel today, as she hands my camera back. Must have been the low light, or else I really DO look like a derelict lately. We go for coffee and chat...confirming the fact I'm NOT an artist... "Imagine That!" Dept: The MFAH has an EXCELLENT cafe, with good food, an espresso bar, a beer/wine bar, and reasonable prices. (Get the idea I like this place, yet?) "For What It's Worth, and It Ain't Worth Much" Dept: Rain makes a helluva racket in an RV. Hail is much worse. Thunderstorms are scary in a tornado magnet, there's nowhere to go if a funnel cloud bears down on ya...