Monday, April 30, 2007

For Starters...

Hoo Boy…Is He EVER Gonna GET IT!!! Gerard writes an essay that’s just bound to draw withering fire from The PC Police…about The PC Police. Excerpt:

Short form of the correct political position: "Obama's race doesn't matter except when it does."

A strange position to take when you reflect that Obama's race and standing as an African American of no little poise and intellect is the single most powerful thing he has going for him. Indeed, to be clear, Obama's race is the only reason he's doing as well as he is at all. If we had a junior Senator from Illinois with a shade more than 2 years of experience in the Senate and with the name Ole Swenson running for President, he'd be running neck and neck with Dennis Kucinich and Kucinich would be kicking his ass.

Of course, you're not supposed to notice Obama's race except when noticing it causes you to adulate wildly and attempt dancing in the streets while writing big checks from your bottomless account at The National Bank of White Guilt. If this gets you off and tickles your fancies, get down. And while you're at it, write one for me. My account is overdrawn.

The subject of Gerard’s missive is the outrage! The Usual Suspects are affecting vis-à-vis Rush Limbaugh’s insensitive parody of Senator Obama. I use the term “insensitive” only because that’s how the Usual Suspects have categorized labeled Limbaugh in their current attack mode, when not shouting “Racist!” at the top of their metaphorical lungs. Mr. Van der Leun has the big brass ones required to even broach the subject of perceived racism, let alone discuss it at some length, and I recommend his essay to you. Highly recommend it, even.

Oh…and by the way…I stole the vid just below from Gerard. He uses it to introduce his screed on the housing bubble, also highly recommended. Ya get the feeling I like Gerard, do ya? You’re right…

On hockey today: My Sentiments, Exactly…

The Red Wings might just do something they haven't done in 10 years: Pull off a playoff upset.

Yes, upset. I know: The Wings are the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference. They came into this series with home-ice advantage. And they are the Red Wings. How can the Red Wings be the underdog? Was it an upset when King Kong beat Godzilla?

But through two games, San Jose looks like the better team. It would be really hard to argue otherwise. We still need to see another game or two before we can reach a definitive conclusion, but at the least, the Sharks are the Wings' equal.

You might have a tough time seeing the Sharks as the bully, but think of it this way: the NHL has changed so much that San Jose's teal sweaters almost seem like classics.

The Wings fell behind 2-0, which seems to be company policy these days, and the way they played, it felt like 4-0. But they came back and gutted out a 3-2 win. It was far from a dominant performance, but the Wings probably won't dominate a single game in this series. They aren't that kind of team any more, and the Sharks are too good.

Read the whole thing, if you’re into hockey. If you’re not, well… you don’t know what you’re missing tough luck. I almost turned Saturday’s game off when the Sharks scored their second goal to go up 2-0. Detroit looked demoralized, The Joe was silent, and my heart was beginning to break. But, I stayed with it and I’m glad I did. SN2 rang me up about 20 seconds after Cleary (my new best-est hero) scored his second short-handed goal of the play-offs. After Sam and I compared notes and exchanged superlatives (re: Cleary) I told him about being depressed about the Wings and their chances… up until that point in time…and he replied something to the effect of “I figured as much, which is why I didn’t call until now.”

A lot will be revealed tonight in the Shark Tank. If the Wings are blown out it’s as good as over. If they lose and it’s close, it’s still a series. If they win convincingly in their first game of this playoff season in San Jose’s house…where the Sharks play exceedingly well…then it’s an upset in the making, as Mr. Rosenberg notes. I’d be tickled pink if the last possibility comes to pass.

Today’s Pic: A Blast From The Past…SN3’s first haircut, nine years ago this month. This is but one of the eleven pics I took, being the Proud Papa I was. Here he is perched upon Mom’s lap, on the wise recommendation of my barber, whose name I cannot remember. It has been nine years, after all.

April, 1998. Perinton, NY.

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Rainy Day...Dream Away...

Turks Protest Islamic-rooted Government and here: “More than one million rally in Turkey for secularism, democracyThe situation looks ripe for a civil war or a coup d'état. I don’t agree on the Civil War thing, but I DO agree about the coup d’état. The Army has issued a warning to Mr. Gul, and their track record is such that Mr. Gul had best take their warning seriously. Those guys simply don’t play around. As long as things (political things) are going well…read that as a secular government, as Atatürk intended…the Army stays in the background. But let things get out of hand, as the current situation has all the signs of doing, and the Army will move in… suddenly and over night.

The military has had a record of intervening in politics. Indeed, it assumed power for several periods in the latter half of the 20th century. It executed coup d'etats in 1960, 1971, and 1980. Most recently, it maneuvered the removal of an Islamic-oriented president, Necmettin Erbakan, in 1997.

The wiki doesn’t talk about the coup of the mid-to-late 50’s. The first time I ever saw tanks in the street was when I lived in Turkey (in Ankara, the capital) as a teen-ager, around 1958. It was a sight that was simultaneously intimidating and confidence-inspiring. And it’s a sight one never forgets…believe me.

The Army is a much better alternative than Shar’ia…and the secular Turks know and understand this. Let’s hope the Islamists do, too.

IP Address (Unknown Organization)
Time of Visit Apr 29 2007 3:15:06 am
Last Page View Apr 29 2007 3:15:06 am
Referring URL
Search Engine
Search Words aieeee

IP Address (NIB (National Internet Backbone))
Time of Visit Apr 29 2007 6:15:03 am
Last Page View Apr 29 2007 6:15:03 am
Referring URL
Search Engine
Search Words solutions of aieee 2007 helded on 29 april 2007 Sunday

Time of Visit Apr 29 2007 7:44:32 am
Last Page View Apr 29 2007 7:44:32 am
Referring URL Search&meta=
Search Engine
Search Words aieeee

India. Therein lays the answer. Aieeee, in its other incarnation, isn’t an exclamation at all…it’s an acronym that stands for “All India Engineering/Architecture Entrance Examination (AIEEE).” Ya just gotta follow those links! But a minor mystery remains: Why four “e’s” in all the searches and not three?

And by the way…if you’re interested in what these folks are testing for, the syllabi for the entrance exams are here. The mathematics syllabus is particularly interesting. Can you imagine your average American high school grad taking that test? Me neither.

No motorcycle riding today…thunderstorms and high wind are the orders of the day. I’ll stay in and watch the weather. After all, discretion IS the better part of valor.

Speaking of motorcycles and stuff…I’ve been popping lots of Aleve since Friday. I evidently pulled a muscle in my lower back while righting the bike in that San Jon parking lot. I absolutely, positively hate this feeling…due in no small part to the fact that I slipped a disk back in April of 1998, with back surgery as a result. Ergo, any time I get back pain I think catastrophic thoughts. I don’t want to go through that experience ever again…and that’s the understatement of the day!

More On Wind-Generators

Dame Jenny of Floyd sends along these pictures of wind generators taken near Elida and House (both small communities to the south and west, respectively, of P-Town) just to illustrate the size and scale of these wonderful machines. Pretty cool, eh? And by the way...that's a Saturn Vue parked under the tower in the first pic. These towers are massive in height!

The first pic reminds me of those old joke post cards from the Southwest (in color and setting) that were everywhere during the 40's and 50' know, the ones with the gigantic outsized rabbits, jackalopes and the like. Except this pic is REAL.

We were talking about the size of these things in the comments yesterday and my “best guess” was the height of a wind-generator “…is at least 50 feet.” Well, so much for my best guess…which was waaay out of the ball park! As Jenny notes, that would be the diameter of the typical prop in the installations around here! The towers themselves are hundreds of feet high…General Electric manufactures systems with tower heights from 200 feet and up. Their larger systems have a rotor diameter of 104 meters…that’s 338 feet! Imagine the tower height for that baby!!

I’ll be back later…assuming the line of thunderstorms advancing on P-Town doesn’t knock me off the air. It's Sunday...and Yucca Telecom is slow to restore service outages on the weekend. A lightning strike on one of their towers could knock me off the air for hours and hours....

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Putting Our Wind to Use

Today’s Pics: Yesterday was the first time I’d been up San Jon way in about two years or so. Normally there’s little or no reason for me to head in that direction as there are other, more direct routes to places I want to be, such as ABQ or Santa Fe. So it was with a great deal of surprise I noted the “sudden” emergence of a large-scale wind farm right there on the edge of The Cap. “Large-scale” means there are perhaps 50 of these towering wind generators…which is my best guess, as I didn’t do an actual count. Construction is continuing, also. I noted several large cranes in the area and more wind generators in the process of rising above the New Mexico plains.

Actually, I’m a bit surprised the installation didn’t begin sooner, as there are few better locations in the US of A for a wind-farm. We DO have a lot of wind in this part of the world…to state the obvious.

Wind farms fascinate me. I think they’re beautiful in a geeky sort of way…an array of towering, largely silent, electricity producing giants standing watch on hill sides and escarpments. As I said, beautiful in a "form and function," geeky sort of way.

Yesterday, near San Jon…which is visible five miles in the distance in the second pic.

Friday, April 27, 2007

The Mom of ALL Embarrassment

That’s my fairing in the photo above. Asphalt is much harder, and rougher, than plastic. And plastic is expensive ($150+, per side), as are turn signal assemblies ($51). So, a parking lot tip-over runs you (me) over two hundred Yankee dollars. I was afraid this was gonna happen, eventually. Just after buying the bike I noted that my 30-inch inseam and the bike's 32-inch seat height weren’t exactly a good fit. Today it came to pass in a large gas station/convenience store parking lot in San Jon, in front of God and everybody at least 15 people.
I was astride the bike, backing it out of a parking space and lost my balance as I began my turn to straighten the bike out and ride away. And then…Ker-rash. Sprawl. Two guys came out of literally nowhere and helped me pick the bike up, each asking repeatedly “Are you OK? Are you OK?” Well, yeah, I am…physically. Now could you please help me find a large rock to crawl under? How utterly frickin’ embarrassing. My pride is hurt a helluva lot more than my wallet will be, lemmee tell ya. I haven’t dropped a bike like that since 1969, but I’ll save that story, which was much more embarrassing (and funny, in retrospect), for another time.
The rest of today’s ride was mediocre, at best. The winds got quite a bit …uh…brisker the further north I rode, and by the time I dropped off The Cap they were quite strong. Just before my lil parking lot adventure happened, a guy walked by and said “pretty windy day to be riding, isn’t it?” Well, yeah, now that you mention it, it is. But it wasn’t as bad as this past Tuesday. I was able to hold a steady 70 – 75 mph, with the occasional burst above 80 (or so…actual speeds have been redacted to protect the guilty). The ‘Zuki makes a wonderful sound on her way to red line…mostly induction noise (what with noise laws stifling the exhaust sound of each and every stock bike), but undeniably a V-Twin sound. I love it. It’s seriously addictive, that sound. Not to mention the acceleration. So I won’t.
Just two brief hockey notes…The Wings lost their first game of the second round…at home…last evening. Shocking. More shocking: San Jose scored two goals in 24 seconds during the second period, and that was it for the scoring. The vaunted Red Wings offense was somewhere else Thursday night, even though they outshot San Jose, 34-19. {sigh} Yet another hot frickin’ goalie for the Wings to solve. But it’s the playoffs, and the playoffs are just full of hot goalies.
Wow. I never thought I’d read something like this:
There were thousands of empty seats at Joe Louis Arena on Thursday. The Wings gave the official attendance as 18,712, but I suspect they meant limbs.
It was the worst environment for any pro playoff game I have ever attended in this state, for any sport. It was so quiet you could hear the puck drop -- and that was before the Sharks took a 2-0 lead. It was a mid-January atmosphere at the end of April -- and the Wings gave a mid-January performance.
Between the second and third periods, I went online to find tickets to Game 2. Just my luck: I could get 12 seats together in Section 225B. Unfortunately, I can't possibly find 11 friends who want to spend $90 a pop to sit in the corner of the upper level (and pay a $5.75 "convenience charge" for the privilege).
Of course, if my buddies don't mind standing, they can pay $77 each -- plus that same $5.75 convenience charge. (Whoever heard of a convenience charge to stand up?)
Ninety-frickin’ dollars for nose-bleed seats? Seventy-seven for standing room? No wonder there were “thousands” of empty seats (just a slight exaggeration). I wouldn’t pay those prices, either. Not even during my salad days. Come to think on it, I didn’t pay those prices…not even close. Of course it’s been over ten years since I attended a game at The Joe. But, still…
UGGG-GLLEEE! That’s the only word to describe these Forgotten Jerseys. Another phrase that comes to mind is “What WERE they thinking?” And to think Wayne Gretzky almost wore one of these (that putrid purple Kings jersey). Actually, I think The Great One saw those jerseys before he was traded from Edmonton and told LA “Change the uniforms or I’ll retire rather than play for you.” The Kings had new uniforms that very same year. Thanks, Wayne.
And believe it or don’t, I’m not watching any of tonight’s games. I’m just not in the mood.

All in the Family...

Today’s Pic: The first pic was purloined from SN1’s blog…Grandson Sean astride Buck’s new ride, which is really red, not orange as one might could think by looking at the pic. SN1 tells me his digital camera didn’t fall immediately to hand yesterday when it was time to take Baby’s First Picture… so the cell phone camera was deployed, necessity being a Mother, and all that. The bottom pic is more color balanced, what with being taken by Professional Photographers With Expensive Equipment.
Nice looking scoot, eh? It’s one of Rusty Kowalski’s famed Ninjas, in the budget-friendly 650cc size. It’s powered by a water-cooled, fuel injected, parallel twin and is much more ergonomically correct than full-bore sporting Ninjas. It’s received great reviews, too.
The inevitable question(s) will soon arise, since both SN1 and I just bought bikes in the 650 class: Which is faster? Which handles better? And so on… Answers just might be provided in June, as I’m planning on riding the Suzuki up to Utah for granddaughter Monique’s graduation. Buck and I just might go riding together, once or twice. There are some pretty kewl roads in his neck of the woods.
Speaking of riding…today is a LOT better, weather-wise, than yesterday. The wind came up yesterday afternoon while I was finishing up the chores, i.e., giving El Casa Móvil De Pennington and the Suzuki wash jobs. El Casa Móvil is bright and shiny and all ready for a fresh coating of bird poop. Such are the hazards of being docked under a large tree. But I digress. The ‘Zuki is all bright and shiny, too, and whispering to me through the window…”Let’s ride…Let’s RIDE…”
So…It’s off to San Jon and the only respectable twisty-turnies within two hours of here…about six relatively tight turns in a 1.75 mile stretch. I’ll ride about an hour an a half to get there, all for about three minutes of sporting riding. But I’ll do it two or three times. Up and down. Rinse. Repeat.
More about that after I return…

Thursday, April 26, 2007

An Explanation and Other Stuff

So. After putting up that out-of-focus quasi-biker pic yesterday I said “I may be back later with News of the World. And I may not.” “Not” won out, as you can plainly see. There are reasons for this and, not so coincidentally, the dearth of political-oriented posts at EIP these last few. Firstly…I’ve been a bit…um…pre-occupied with the new acquisition. Second, I’ve been having great difficulty reading and digesting the news coming out of Washington, Iraq, and other points around the globe. Not because the concepts are difficult to absorb and understand, but because it’s all so danged depressing. Enter Lex (from yesterday):
In my heart of hearts, I want to believe that all of the politicians that the American people have in their wisdom elected to offices of great national prominence have the best interests of the Republic at heart. That, while they may disagree from one side of the aisle to the other on the “how” of the national enterprise, the “what” is consistent. That we might disagree upon means but not ends. That the country comes first, especially in a time of war, especially beyond our borders.
This is a dream I have.
Sometimes it’s hard to sustain.
It’s that list bit about the difficulty in sustaining the dream that’s infected me and caused me to withdraw from the fray. I read the news these days and my immediate reaction is “Whiskey-Tango-Foxtrot??” followed nearly instantaneously by “What are they THINKING?” And then I shake my head slowly from side to side, literally, and move on to something less heart-rending, like hockey (less heart-rending for the moment, I might add). Because there are only so many ways one can disagree (politically) and express that disagreement, and I’ve just about used them up…all of them. And Mom always said “If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all.” That’s me and politics, of late.
I should add that, in spite of all the doom and gloom inferred in the foregoing, I believe we’ll survive and even prosper. The news is forever bad, catastrophe is just around the corner, and the next corner, and the next, and it has always been so…will ever BE so. The country and I survived both the Cold War and Vietnam, minor miracles if one believed the apocalyptic news and dire predictions of those by-gone days. Somehow we muddled through.
But today’s crises seem different, more existential, than those of yore…as if the possibility of incineration via a tit-for-tat exchange of nuclear warheads launched from North Dakota and Kazakhstan wasn’t existential (it was), or the falling dominoes of South East Asia wouldn’t somehow relegate us to Third World status (they didn’t). Nukes in the hands of terrorists is another ball of wax entirely; Iraq as the locus of global terrorism is a distinct possibility should we fail in our efforts there, as is Afghanistan, Pakistan, Lebanon, Syria, Iran, and so on…ad nauseum.
And our the Democrats answer is to withdraw? More to the point, the Democrats’ political posturing and egregious displays of Bush Derangement Syndrome, while simultaneously offering us nothing substantial (or even trivial…because there’s…well…nothing) in the way of strategy or tactics to replace what they so stridently oppose is worrisome. To the frickin’ MAX. Sometimes it’s very hard to see how we’re gonna muddle through this one, especially given the terminal ignorance, willful obstructionism, and lack of alternatives offered up by the “loyal opposition.”
But I’ve said all that before. And now I’ve said it again. I get tired of saying it. And so I’ve withdrawn from commenting on the madness. Just thought you’d wanna know.
Now…all that said…here’s some politics, in a way…
As a commenter at LGF sez: “Wow! A flying pig moment for sure.” And what’s that “When pigs fly…” comment all about? Just this: "The Israeli-Hezbollah War of 2006: The Media as a Weapon in Asymmetrical Conflict." The title is a bit innocuous but the content is incendiary, saying outright that the media became a “fiery advocate” for Hezbollah.
Of course, the Right pointed this out all along…this blog (a minute point of light in the ‘sphere, to be sure) is filled with examples and links from that time…and I was especially critical of the Beeb’s reporting, which insulted my intelligence while simultaneously turning my stomach. No mean feat, that. All ya gotta do is read the archives from summer of last year. But now Harvard, I repeat…HARVARD… has given its imprimatur to a report that essentially vindicates what the Right has been saying all along: that the media has been cheerleading for the terrorists. Hell, it’s beyond cheerleading. According to Marvin Kalb, the media were part and parcel of Hamas’ war effort. It’s not that big a leap to further extend the thought that the media support other terrorist organizations and states, such as Syria and Iran, if you so desire. It ain’t that hard to do. And I’m not talking about al Jazeera, either. Can you spell N-Y-T? I thought you could.
Full text of the report, in pdf format, is available here. It will be interesting to see/hear what the Left is gonna say about this, if it says anything at all. I’m predicting crickets.
Hockey…The conference semi-finals began last evening, with easy-looking victories going to Anaheim and Buffalo (emphasis on the “looking;” nothing is easy in the play-offs). Both the Ducks and the Sabres are heavily favored in their series, what with being the number two seed in the West and the number one seed in the East, respectively. Detroit and San Jose begin their series tonight, as does New Jersey and Ottawa. Just for grins and giggles, here’s how the major sports guys predict the Wings will fare (hat tip to Kukla’s Corner for the links)
Canadian Press: Sharks in six.
ESPN (Buccigross): Sharks in seven.
Toronto Globe and Mail (Eric Duhatschek): Sharks in six.
Toronto Globe and Mail (Tim Wharnsby): Wings in seven.
NBC Sports (Clement): Wings in seven
NBC Sports (Hull): Wings in seven.
NBC Sports (Ferraro): Sharks in six.
The Hockey News: Two analysts…one sez Sharks in seven, the other says Wings in seven.
TSN (Canada): Maggie the Monkey (Det), Bob McKenzie (SJ), Darren Dreger (Det), Darren Pang (Det), Jeremy Roenick (SJ), and James Duthie (SJ)
I think I have enough fingers to get this right…eight say San Jose, seven say Detroit… six if you exclude Maggie the Monkey, who went 9-6 in her predictions last year (which was FAR better than YrHmblScrb did). Exclude Maggie at your peril. ALL say the series will go at least six games; ALL agree that the Wings – Sharks will be the most entertaining series in the second round.
The bad news is Detroit is suffering from injuries to two KEY players…Tomas Holmstrom and Brett Lebda. Helene St. James:
The Wings drew admirers headed into the playoffs because of their depth -- but six games in, that has dwindled. Holmstrom is nursing a cut left eyelid, and while he's officially day-to-day, that can mean anything from a Game 2 return to missing two weeks. Brett Lebda is dealing with a sore right ankle, though he should return during the series. His injury further depletes a defense that saw Niklas Kronwall suffer a fractured sacrum in his pelvis March 30, which will keep him out through mid-May. That has left Kyle Quincey to play on the third pairing.
Hard to say which is the greater loss…Lebda is sorely (no pun intended) needed on the blue line, what with San Jose’s potent offense (Thornton and Cheechoo, just to name two). The Freep’s columnists are split on the outcome of this series: Four (including Mitch Albom) say the Wings win; one (St. James) says Sharks. All predict six games or more.
Wow. This series looks to be one for the ages… Here’s hoping that (a) my heart holds up to the end and (b) it won’t be broken again. It begins this afternoon at 5:30, my time. Fat Tire, popcorn, and the aspirin are ready!
Wow, again. It’s calm outside, as I type. Perhaps the day will be right for riding. Or performing long-neglected RV maintenance, such as washing the danged thing. And the bike needs a wash, as well. The day looks like it has potential for all three of these things. Let us pray…
Today’s Pic: Grandaughter Angelina (AKA, affectionately, Goo Goo) and Argus, the longtime canine companion of The Family Sam. Argus desperately wants in the kitchen, Angelina can’t make up her mind whether to let him in, or not. He eventually made it in…
Brunswick, Maine. June, 2006.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

I Lied...

I said I wouldn’t…but…what the Hell. Me. Leathers. Yesterday morning after returning from The Big(ger) City TM.

For some strange reason the auto-focus didn’t work all that well (read that as: not at ALL) when I took the pictures, of which there were four; three have since been deleted. That just NEVER happens, but in this case it’s good for you, Gentle Reader. Soft-focus is an old trick aging movie stars and us lesser-lights use to conceal the ravages of time upon our once oh-so-beautiful visages. Or, in my case, an “interesting” face that Mom, for one, loved.

I disassembled myself before I transferred the pics from camera to computer and I wasn’t gonna re-assemble myself to get an in-focus pic. It’s more work than you might think to get into this get-up. And it was getting hot.

And now I must go out to Cannon Airplane Patch. I’m out of key consumables and need to make a commissary run. In the car. The Winds From Hell are still upon us.

I may be back later with News of the World. And I may not.

Kinda-Sorta Interesting

The strangest link I’ve ever gotten…Linguistics Division. I chased up a “Referring URL” link in Site Meter this morning from the “ee” domain, thinking “ee?” Where’s “ee?” Turns out it’s Estonia, and the link is to last night’s post. Screen shots below. (While we’re on it, ain’t babelfish grand?)

It doesn’t take much to get a link out of this blog…as far as I can tell, the sole reason I’m linked is I included an oh-so-brief reference to the Baltic Sea last evening when I mentioned the color of the old Beemer. Must be a bot...but a pretty sophisticated bot, especially for a blog.

But…I wish I could read the blog. Lotsa news articles about Estonia, a country which intrigues me for their amazing and rapid economic success, world-class IT infrastructure and famously-beautiful women (work safe—unless your work place has something against bikinis).

Now there are a few reasons to link me. Beats talking about the color of my old car.

Back in a bit…

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Better Late Than...Well, Late

Beautiful. I stumbled across “New Mexico,” by photographer Philip Greenspun (whose home page is worth a look, too), while I was chasing a Site Meter link from another googler looking for pics of Portales. Excellent photography…and the comments are illuminating. There are a LOT of folks out there that wish they were where I am. Well, in the same state, anyway!

Oh, My…yet another quiz.

What wise quote fits you?

Your wise quote is:"Fashion is a form of ugliness so intolerable that we have to alter it every six months" by Oscar Wilde. You are a very sarcastic person with a sharp tongue. You may not be the one always talking, but your mind is nevertheless criticizing. You tend to have a cynical view on life itself and be somewhat withdrawn with who you really are. Society now is in your eyes corrupted and you wonder how the world will survive. And people are in your mind very ignorant and blind to the reality.
Take this quiz!

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| Make A Quiz | More Quizzes | Grab Code

I like the results of this one! Oscar Wilde? Not so much. But the gestalt of the thing IS the thing, nu?

This one just might be the closest yet. I tend to be just a lil bit sarcastic at times, yet try to keep it in check. And yeah, the world is going to Hell in a hand basket and most people don’t see it. Come to think on it, the Ol’ Man felt the same way. I’ve become my father, sorta. Same attitude, but without his accomplishments.

Just a little quirky thing I meant to blog, but forgot until just now. My new bike doesn’t have a petcock on its gas tank. This is the very first bike I’ve owned without one, and that fact drove me nuts the day I took delivery…I looked all over the bike for the danged thing and came to the conclusion that it just wasn’t there. The bike does have a gas gauge, though. Petcocks have become an anachronism, I suppose. I’m not sure if this is a good thing, or a bad thing. Oh, and another thing…the bike is fuel-injected. Another first, for me.

While I’m on the subject…taking delivery of the bike was an “interesting” experience. After signing all the paperwork I was accompanied to the service area by the sales manager. She attached the temporary plate to the bike and then watched as I did my walk-around. I checked various nuts and bolts for tightness, inspected the oil filter area for leaks (and tightness), eyeballed the wheel alignment, checked the chain tension…and, to keep the litany down to a manageable level, just performed a general inspection. I only asked one question: “How do I open the seat?” The answer wasn’t obvious, and the sales lady didn’t know. I figured it out, noticing there was a key receptacle just below the tail light. Insert key, twist, seat pops up. Simple. The sales lady thanked me once again for my business and walked away after that, leaving me and my new bike alone together for the first time. I suited up and rode off…

I couldn’t help but contrast this non-ritual with the most amazing delivery experience I ever had, and one that’s not been matched since. That most amazing experience was at BMW’s Delivery Center in Munich. The Second Mrs. Pennington and I took delivery of a 1983 320i there in the fall of 1982. In Baltic Blue…just like this one. Yeah, it looks gray. I thought so, too. But if you've ever seen the Baltic Sea, you understand. Most accurate, those Teutons!

After presenting ourselves at the front desk of the delivery center (where we were signed in), we were escorted into an office where a BMW employee… fluent in English… walked around from behind his desk, introduced himself, and then sat back down behind his desk after we were seated. He verified our identities (passports and other assorted sales and delivery-related papers) and finished processing our paper work. This took all of about 15 minutes and was quite pleasant and efficient. The signing of the paper was concluded with a crisp “So, are you ready to take your new car?” Hell, Yes! Let’s GO!

We were escorted out of his small office and across a rather large area resembling a showroom, with various Beemers sitting around in all their glory. On the far side of the showroom were two sliding glass doors that opened into a spotlessly clean garage area, where our new baby was sitting, along with several other cars. We were met at the door by a middle aged man in a white lab coat. The paper processor introduced us, by name, and informed us Mr. Herr I-Forget-His-Name was going to “introduce” us to our new car.

And introduce us he did. He demonstrated every feature on that car, and I mean every single one…including popping both hood and trunk, showing us where the dipstick was, just to cite one example… demonstrating the oil level was indeed full, in the process. He showed us the fuse box. He showed us the spare, and the jack, and demonstrated how to remove and replace each. He showed us how to tune the flippin’ radio, how to operate the sun roof, adjust the seats…in short, everything imaginable. And then he asked if we had any questions. I had none: the briefing and walk-around, which lasted the better part of 45 minutes, had been more comprehensive than any I’d ever had, before or since. TSMP, honor-bound as she was to never let an opportunity to ask questions pass her by, had a few, which were handled politely and with aplomb, even the one or two eye-rollers (on my part and my part alone).

The ritual ended with the signing of a delivery form, we were handed maps and detailed instructions on how to reach the autobahn (after being discreetly asked if we were leaving Munich right away), and we were out the door. Literally, accompanied by hand waves of good-bye and shouted exhortations to “Enjoy your new Beh-Emm-Vay!!” And we did…from that moment on and for ten years hence.

I marveled about that experience for months, if not years. It was extraordinary. And that was for a bottom-of-the-line Beemer. Lord only knows what hoops they jump through if you buy an expensive one… It’s been a while since I thought about that experience, but taking delivery of my bike brought it back into focus. Bright, sharp focus.

Desolation Row

Just a quick placeholder post… I have to get ready to go over to The Big(ger) CityTM as I have a service appointment for the ‘Zuki this morning. It’s not gonna be a fun ride; the temp is 46 degrees (with a wind chill of 40) as I write. I hate riding in the cold…but at least it ain’t raining.
Back later this morning or early this afternoon, depending. “Depending on what?” you ask? “Mostly on when I feel like it,” sez I.
Today’s Pic: Another shot of that abandoned bar, this time from the rear. What a sad sight, eh? Dylan’s “Desolation Row” kept playing in my mind as I wandered about the premises on Sunday. Not all that appropriate, I know, but kinda-sorta…

Monday, April 23, 2007

A Minor Disappointment

My leathers arrived about 20 minutes ago…and they’re too big, as I feared they would be. Not waaay too big, as in "return them for a smaller size" too big, just a lil bit big… geeky-looking, in other words. I don’t quite swim in them, as Mom used to say, but there’s definitely room for my street clothes under the leather. And that’s my habit, anyway. I’ve always worn street clothes under my leather. Leather is HOT, especially in the summer. I shed it immediately after getting off the bike, and it just wouldn’t do to wander around nekkid, now, would it? The authorities frown on that sort of behavior.

The things are heavy, too…both in construction and weight. There’ll be no road rash should I unload while wearing them. And they have built-in armor, which is nice. The wonders of modern technology never cease!

So, anyway. I suppose, in a perfect world, I should send them back and get the next smaller size. But…one has to balance the hassle of waiting two weeks (or more) to return the product and receive a replacement vs. the benefits of a better fit. I’m opting to skip the hassle. Just don’t laugh if you see me on the road.

No pics. I can’t compete with SN2 in that category…I’m not even gonna try.

Old But Not Dead, Like Some Things

So. I put 200 miles or so on the bike yesterday, riding down to Roswell and back…the ostensible purposes being (a) to put miles on the bike; (b) have lunch in Roswell; and (c) do a little “styling and profiling” on the Main Drag in Alien-Town. Mission Accomplished.
I woke up this morning feeling old…quite old. I’ll spare you the detailed litany of complaints; suffice it to say I’m sore. My back hurts. The fleshy area of the thumb on my right hand is sore. My left thigh feels like it spent a few hours with Saddam’s rubber-hose wielding thugs. (ed: I thought you were gonna spare us? Oh, shaddup—you know there’s more.) I’m obviously out of riding shape; the corollary to that thought is “getting old really sucks.” I digress.
Not only am I not in great physical riding shape, my general riding skills need a bit of buffing, too. Not the safety-related skills…those are fine, thank you. Head on a swivel, front brake covered in traffic, situational awareness A-OK, and all that. Nope…it was in those rare moments (twice, I believe) when I had to set up for a corner that I found myself being a bit tentative… having to adjust my line once or twice while in the corner, experiencing a bit of difficulty judging the appropriate entry and exit speeds, and all that. Not that there are all that many corners in this part of the world to begin with. I need to head north on my next trip to reacclimatize myself with riding in the twisty-turnies. I’m rusty, and that’s putting it mildly. Once again, I think age may be rearing its ugly head. I’m a lot less bolder than I used to be.
But it was great fun. I’ve reached the magic 500-mile threshold; after I get the bike its 500-mile service tomorrow (hopefully. Another story, that.) I’ll be free to see what it feels like to wind that sucker out all the way to its 10,500 rpm red line. One thing I will tell you: the bike will do 100 mph, and easily, too. It was still pulling hard at a little over 7,500 rpm when I hit 100 (briefly, very briefly) on one of those lonely “you can see forever” stretches of road between P-Town and Roswell. It should go without saying the weather cooperated yesterday. It was a little breezy, but not the life-threatening sort of gales we experienced this past week.
Today’s Pics: New Mexico used to have a patch-work of wet and dry counties in the way-back. One of the fixtures from that day and age is the county-line bar…and there are numerous examples —all dead now— of that phenomenon dotting the New Mexico landscape. Here’s one such…the county-line bar about a mile over the Roosevelt-Chaves County line on US 70 south of Kenna, NM.
I’ve been by this deserted old road house at least 20 times and never stopped to take pics until yesterday. As you can see, the most prominent feature is the B – A – R mounted on a 40-foot (or so) tower over the building. That sign, which I imagine was done up in bright red neon back in the day, is visible for miles before you get to the bar. And…not to put too fine a point on it…this unnamed bar is literally in the middle of freakin’ nowhere, about 30 to 35 miles south of P-Town.
I can also imagine what it must have felt like on a summer Saturday night back in 1958 or so…cruising south from Portales in your ’55 Chevy convertible with the top down, warm breeze in your hair, laughing, telling bad jokes, anticipation building, seeing the B - A - R sign glowing in the distance and then… Pulling into the crowded parking lot…getting out of the car…walking into the bar… hearing Hank Williams (Senior, thank you) on the juke box… watching the heads turn to see who just arrived. Shouting "Hey!" to your Buds, and the odd girl or three. Dancing. Brawls. Marriages made, marriages broken. I could almost smell the beer and the Crown Royal as I walked around the sadly-broken premises. Ah…the stories…the stories!
(Didja read the caption to the bike pic? Yes, that fairing/tank combo does make you look fat. Don’t ever let anyone photograph you from that angle, ever again.)

All Hockey, All the Time...

…for the moment, anyway. Indulge me.
Let’s quote Alanis Morissette: And isn't it ironic... don't you think…
On an innocent-looking play at 4:23 of the second overtime, the Wings' Johan Franzen ended a dramatic game by skating into the Flames' zone, moving across the middle and catching goaltender Miikka Kiprusoff leaning the wrong way, with an overpowering slap shot to the top corner, glove side.
Up until then, Kiprusoff was brilliant, stopping 52 of the first 53 shots he faced.
Franzen's goal gave the Red Wings a 2-1 victory and a 4-2 win in the series.
The Red Wings, the Western Conference's regular-season champion, move on the second round to play against either the San Jose Sharks or the Dallas Stars. The Flames go home after dropping out in the first round for the second consecutive season.
So…where’s the irony, you ask? Franzen was the recipient of those ugly slashes by Calgary back-up goalie Jamie McLennan at the end of Game Five. And then he (Franzen) gets the OT game-winner the very next night. OK, it’s not irony…it’s poetic justice. I’m getting ahead of myself by jumping to the end before I’ve even begun.
What a game!
Scoreless at the end of one. Iginla scores at 3:09 in the second and my heart sinks…the team that scored first in this series had won every game up to this point. Play continues, the Wings literally pepper Kiprusoff with shots but none go in the net…until Lang finally connects with just a little over three minutes left in the second. Game tied, my heartbeat goes down to a more reasonable 95 beats per minute. Third period…up and back, up and back. Brilliant shots and more brilliant saves, on both ends. Cleary rings one off the post with a minute and 18 seconds left in the period…and I mean rings it: CLANG! …and the game should be over. But it’s not…we go to the first OT.
Six minutes and change into the first OT Calgary’s Conroy draws a double-minor for high-sticking Tomas Holmstrom. Holmstrom is cut and helped off the ice…and doesn’t return to the game. (Note: The CBC announcers said he’d been taken to the hospital. The high stick was dangerously close to Holmstrom’s right eye, but there’s no additional info available today. I certainly hope he’s OK. Even though I was saying "Bleed, Tomas...Bleed!" immediately after he was hit. You understand, if you're a fan.) Detroit fails to convert on the resulting four-minute power play. The Saddledome goes nuts and Big Mo seems to shift in Calgary’s direction. And then Lang takes a penalty and my heart beat accelerates to a scary pace. The Wings kill the penalty. Calgary’s Langkow coughs up the puck to Datsyuk in the Calgary zone with four seconds left in the period…Datsyuk takes a point-blank shot in front of the net, Zetterburg swoops in and pokes at the rebound, the puck edges toward the goal line… and Kiprusoff makes another other-worldly save. Once again, it should have been over. But it’s not.
Second OT… Franzen ends it with a beautiful shot over Kiprusoff’s shoulder four minutes and 23 seconds into the OT. And I’m in shambles, but happier than I’ve been in a long, long time. SN1 and I celebrate over the phone. I’m too stoked to go to sleep and stay awake for the next two hours.
What a game!!
And now for something completely different: I’ll be rooting for Dallas tonight. The reason(s) should be obvious.
A follow-up on the Calgary team ugliness at the end of Game Five in Detroit…Christy at Behind the Jersey has everything you need to know about that. And I do mean everything! The bottom line(s)… Calgary back-up goalie Jamie McLennan gets a five game suspension (moot point, eh?), coach Jim Playfair is fined $25,000.00 (US), and the team is fined $100,000.00. Here’s Christy:
It’s not that $125,000 will make a difference financially to those involved, but at least it sends some sort of a message (even a weak one) that the play Calgary displayed late in the game yesterday was not acceptable and will not be tolerated by the NHL.
It’ll probably hurt to write those checks…but I’m sure the first-round exit hurts a helluva lot more. Couldn’t happen to a nicer bunch of guys. Snark aside, Kiprusoff played exceptionally well. There may not be a hotter goalie in the play-offs so far. From that Globe and Mail story linked above:
The Red Wings out-shot the Flames by a two-to-one margin in the series (it was 237 to 113 after regulation ended Sunday night); Kiprusoff kept games far closer than they had a right to be.
And ya gotta respect him for that. If not for Kipper the series would have been over in four.
Back in a bit…
(Photo credit: The Detroit News)
Update, 1333 hrs: You really should read this column from the Calgary Herald, singing the praises of Nick Lidstrom. That's the Calgary Herald...
While Miikka Kiprusoff dragged his Calgary Flames around for six playoff games, a much more subtle, equally impressive show of domination was being exerted by Nicklas Lidstrom.
The Detroit Red Wings captain was matched against Calgary captain Jarome Iginla throughout this Western Conference quarter-final series.
Apart from the fact Lidstrom's team won four times and Iginla's side twice, there's a small mountain of evidence that supports the quality of Lidstrom's performance.
Read the whole thing...

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Bad Weather; Bad Sportsmanship

It was a hard night in the Texas Panhandle. From the Amarillo Globe-News:
Wes Reeves, spokesman for Xcel Energy, said that at 9:15 p.m., 14,000 customers in the Texas Panhandle were without power "and that number is likely to grow."
Jose Garcia, meteorologist in charge at the National Weather Service in Amarillo, said his office received "easily a half a dozen and probably more" reports of tornadoes.
Tornado reports began in Deaf Smith County and that same line moved north-northeast into Hartley County, where twisters were reported near Channing and west of Dumas in Moore County.
"Those same storms have moved to the north-northeast, producing tornadoes in Hartley County near Channing," Garcia said.
The NWS also received reports of heavy rain, high wind and hail as large as baseballs in various spots in the Panhandle.
I just happened to tune in to Amarillo’s Channel 7 yesterday afternoon after the hockey game and spent the next four hours or so watching the superb real-time weather reporting by young meteorologist Nick Bender. I haven’t seen such high-quality and useful severe weather reporting since I left Oklahoma City back in 1985 (think: the legendary Gary England). Mr. Bender was on-camera for about four hours straight, delivering updates, warnings, and advice in a most professional manner. Portales is on the fringe of Channel 7’s viewing area and it’s a comfort to know these guys are this good.
Oh…we got not a single drop of rain in all that heavy weather. Again.
Speaking of hockey… Wings win, 5-1. Game six is in Calgary tonight, and it will be a doozy! But…about yesterday’s game… This past Friday I wrote:
The Wings simply need to get their special teams into the game and quit giving Calgary the gift of the power play, which is the SOLE reason the Flames have tied this series.
The Wings did just that yesterday afternoon, and Boy Howdy were the special teams ever effective! Calgary was 0-8 on the power play, while the Wings scored not one but three power play goals…and added two short-handed goals, one of which came on Daniel Cleary’s beautiful penalty shot. Penalty shots are rare during the regular season and almost unheard of during the playoffs. Cleary’s goal was the Wing’s first-ever successful penalty shot during the playoffs, and the first playoff penalty shot taken by the Wings since 1988. Chris Chelios scored the other short-handed goal. Not bad for a 45 year-old guy appearing in his NHL record 22nd playoff season.
The game got very ugly late in the third period. From an AP report:
When the Flames knew they'd fall behind 3-2 in the first-round series, they weren't satisfied with just some scrums and trash talk.
The lopsided game took an ugly turn with a few minutes left when Calgary backup goalie Jamie McLennan slashed Johan Franzen in the midsection.
"It doesn't belong in hockey," said Franzen, who said the slash shocked him more than it hurt.
The slash might lead to a stiff suspension from the NHL, which gave the Islanders' Chris Simon a 25-game suspension for viciously swinging his stick last month.
McLennan didn't talk to reporters after the game.
"I think the league will take a look at a few things that happened," Zetterberg said.
Flames star Jarome Iginla got into the act, with hooking and cross-checking penalties with 43 seconds left with aggressive stick work.
"It was really about getting some fights going at that point to keep our energy up and carry some anger into the next game," Iginla said with several new stitches over his left eye. "We're not going away."
Further… The comments thread to this Toronto Globe and Mail article are telling:
Fast Eddie from Lakeshore Ont., Canada writes: As a Calgary fan, I am totally embarassed of their conduct in todays game. Phanouf, McLennan and Iginla should hang their heads in shame for the show they put on at the end of the game. If you cant beat Detroit fair and square, and lose like sportsmen, then you deserve to be put out of your misery fast. Now I hope Detroit ends it on Sunday. Shame on the Flames.
Mike Mike from Calgary, writes: Man... Flames did let down their fans not only on a scoreboard but also with their conduct. I don't mind hard hits, good old fight... but trying to injure other players with your stick, elbows or sucker punches (Langkw) is totally disgraceful. And for anybody saying that Crosby whines a lot - take a look at Iginla. Hope Wings can wrap it up tomorrow.
Those are Calgary fans commenting, and they are absolutely, positively correct. I’ve never seen a team lose their composure and discipline so quickly and so completely. And while the AP politely referred to Iginla’s “aggressive stick work,” the reality was Iginla used the butt-end of his stick in a blatant attempt to injure. The NBC play-by-play guys opined that (a) if the NHL reviews the tapes and, (b) assuming the butt-ending is visible, then (c) Iginla should be suspended as well. I agree, once again. There is NO room for behavior like that in the NHL or any other sport, for that matter.
I imagine the Wings are just totally p!ssed off. Iginla’s tactic has backfired, and a fired-up Wings team should end the series this evening. This is gonna be interesting…
Today’s Pic: More bad skies, taken mid-afternoon yesterday. As noted above, it was all show and no go in P-Town, but Hell On Wheels in the Panhandle. The view is looking NNW, towards Amarillo. The pic is deliberately under-exposed to capture the cloud detail.


Blue Angel down… From the Beaufort (SC) Gazette:

A Blue Angels pilot was killed Saturday afternoon after crashing during an air show at Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort.

Witnesses said the F/A-18 Hornet appeared to be in control before it plummeted below the treeline at about 4 p.m., crashing near a heavily populated area off Laurel Bay Road near Shanklin and Pine Grove roads. Parts of the plane hit several houses, according to witnesses.

Witnesses said it was Blue Angel No. 6 that crashed. The No. 6 plane was piloted by Lt. Cmdr. Kevin Davis of Pittsfield, Mass. Authorities wouldn't release the pilot's identity, but a friend of the Davis family confirmed the Massachusetts native had died, according to The Berkshire (Mass.) Eagle.


"It would be inappropriate to speculate what might have caused this incident," said Lt. Cmdr. Anthony Walley, the squadron's right wing who flew in the No. 2 jet in the show.


Former Blue Angels pilot and Pensacola City Mayor John Fogg called the Saturday afternoon crash of a U.S. Navy Blue Angels jet a "tragedy," according to the Pensacola (Fla.) News Journal.

"The whole nation is impacted by something like this," said Fogg, who flew the No. 3 slot and No. 4 slot in 1973 and 1974 for the Navy's precision flying team, according to The Journal.

More information and Blue Angels background information here. Commander Davis was the 24th Blue Angel killed either in training or during an air show since the team was formed in 1946.

Our prayers and condolences go out to the family, friends, and team mates of Lt. Cmdr. Davis.

h/t for the Beaufort Gazette link to Lt. Col. Patrick.

Update, 0908 hrs. Fixed my bad reference. Thanks to the anonymous commenter who pointed this out.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

The Short Saturday Post

A link… I’ve been waiting for quite some time now for a “killer” Air Force blog to pop up in the blogosphere…someone to give Lex a run for his money when it comes to writing about the ins and outs of military aviation, well-told war stories, and just high-quality writing, in general. Perhaps I’ve set the bar too high, because if there’s one thing I know about life it’s this: most people can’t write. That may be especially true about the military. I digress yet again. But here’s an Air Force blog candidate: chic[k] pilot. Chick Pilot riffs on Tantor’s rant about the (sorta) new USAF Memorial and the difference between the Blue and Green Air Force(s). Both are good reads. Tantor, by the way, works in the Puzzle Palace, is ex-USAF and an ex-aviator, to boot.

Good Buddy Michele took me to task in the comments yesterday about failing to mention Danny Wegman’s Famous Food Stores has won another award…this time from the Food Network. As I told Michele…Wegmans is the one thing I miss most about Ra-cha-cha, aside from my friends. This statement isn’t arguable: Wegmans is the best damned supermarket chain in the entire world. Just in case you didn’t chase that Wiki entry, here are just a few fun facts about Weggies:

· Wegmans won the 2007 Food Network Award for Best Grocery Store.[5]

· In March 2007, Wegmans was ranked No. 5 in the BusinessWeek Top 25 list of "Customer Service Champs".[6]

· Wegmans has been named one of the "Top 100 Companies to Work For" in America by Fortune magazine every year since the inception of the list in 1998, ranking No. 1 in 2005 and No. 2 in 2007.[7][8][9][10] The 2007 list brought Wegmans up to No. 2 from No. 5 in 2006.[11]

· Consumer Reports magazine ranked the chain as number one in its survey of the top 54 supermarkets in the United States for 2006.

As if having their own Wikipedia entry isn’t enough, Wegmans also has a local wiki in Ra-cha-cha. Here’s an excerpt:

Wegmans is not just a supermarket, it's an experience. Open 24 hours a day, with shuttle service to and from your car, it offers fresh local and worldwide produce, a pharmacy, florist, enormous deli, wood fired bakery, patisserie, submarine sandwich shop, fromagerie, organic/health food sections, butcher, fish monger, and sushi chef- as well as a plethora of delicious pre-cooked meals. Depending on the location there might also be a full Chinese food bar, salad bar, chicken wing bar, pizza shop or Godiva. The store specializes in delivering a wide selection of high quality goods at low prices. You can find $399.00/lb truffles and vine-ripened tomatoes to star fruit and plantains; Camembert to aged cheddar; orange roughy to king crab legs; bagels to Foccacia; Budweiser to Speights; egg rolls to filet mignon; Ceasar salad to rotisserie chicken; fruit tarts to organic yogurt. In short, if it isn't stocked by Wegmans, it isn't worth buying.

Now there may be a specialty market somewhere that comes close to Wegman’s in terms of service, selection, quality, and all that stuff; it’s possible, maybe even probable. And…don’t even mention Whole Foods, puh-leeze. WF is over priced, over-trendy, and over-patronized by the Birkenstock crowd. Wegmans is for real people, not frickin’ fruit-and-nuts organic hippie wanna-bees. (Hmmm. Did I over do that last?) I only wish Wegmans didn’t limit themselves to the Northeast, coz P-Town sure could use a one. Understatement, that.

There, Michele. And yeah…I think you should start your own blog, while we’re on it. You have a…uh…rather unique point of view, Girl!

Bad weather in store today…at least according to the WX Channel:

Southwest winds will continue to increase through late morning to 25 to 35 mph with gusts to 50 mph starting over the higher terrain of the central mountains and adjacent east slopes and over the lower Rio Grande valley. The strong winds will then spread over the eastern plains by early afternoon. By late morning and early afternoon wind speeds could reach 30 to 40 mph with gust of 55 mph especially over the central mountains and adjacent east central high plains. Wind speeds will decrease during the evening.

With thunderstorms!! The dry line is sitting right on top of the NM – Texas state line, or right on top of us. Oh, Goodie.