Thursday, July 31, 2008

Genetics Redux

Not quite two years ago I published a post entitled “Genetics,” which was a brief pictorial essay on the flower bed just a short distance from my door. The blooms in the flower bed were of great interest to me, especially where the color permutations on the blossoms were concerned. Now fast-forward a few months (or so) from the referenced post… whereupon some clue-free folks hired to maintain the grounds here at Beautiful La Hacienda Trailer Park came by and literally ripped out the entire flower bed… flowers, weeds and all… being completely unable to differentiate between weeds and flowers. “Well, there goes the neighborhood,” or so I thought. And it was true…as there were NO flowers in the bed whatsoever last year.

But I misunderestimated the power of Mother Nature. The flowers are back this year… in abundance. There are changes, though. The blooms don’t seem quite so vibrant, and the colors of the flowers are different. Slightly different, to be sure, but different still. Here are a few shots I took earlier this morning…

The last photo shows the flower bed in a longer view. The interesting thing about these flowers is they only open up fully in the morning. And then they close up tight as the heat of the day intensifies. You’ll also notice, Gentle Reader, that I’ve refrained from calling these flowers by their proper name. There’s a good reason for that (aside from the fact we’ve not been formally introduced): I don’t know what they are. Your assistance would be most appreciated if you know their proper name.

Finally… I really ought to get out there and weed the damned bed myself this year…before the onslaught of the clue-free “gardeners.” But… OTOH… I haven’t seen those folks around the park at all this year. Perhaps they’ve moved on to bigger and better things. One would hope.

Update: I went and read the comments to my original “Genetics” post... and found that Original Reader Becky informed me the flowers are called “Four O'Clocks.” It's a good thing my... um... fingers (yeah, that's it) aren't as short as my memory.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

A Couple of Things from The Onion...

…which is really good of late. Dunno which is funnier… this:

EARTH—Former vice president Al Gore—who for the past three decades has unsuccessfully attempted to warn humanity of the coming destruction of our planet, only to be mocked and derided by the very people he has tried to save—launched his infant son into space Monday in the faint hope that his only child would reach the safety of another world.


In the final moments before the Earth's destruction, Gore expressed hope that his son would one day grow up to carry on his mission by fighting for truth, justice, and the American way elsewhere in the universe, using his Earth-given superpowers to become a champion of the downtrodden and a reducer of carbon emissions across the galaxy.

"Perhaps he will succeed where I have failed," Gore said.

Despite the child's humble beginnings, experts predict the intergalactic journey may have some extraordinary effects on Kal-Al's physique, eyesight, and, potentially, his powers of quiet, sensible persuasion.

"On his new planet, Kal-Al's Earth physiology will react to the radiation of a differently colored sun, causing him to develop abilities far beyond those of mortal men," political analyst Sig Schuster said. "He will be faster than a speeding Prius, stronger than the existing Superfund program, and able to leap mountains of red tape in a single bound. These superpowers will sustain him in his never-ending battle against conservatives, wealthy industrialists, and other environmental supervillains."

Or this:

MACON, GA—Linens-N-Shit, the nation's largest retailer of bedsheets, tablecloths, and a wide assortment of other shit, will open its new location Tuesday morning at the Macon Mall.

"We are excited to open our first store in the Macon area, and we encourage shoppers to arrive early and check out all of our great linens and shit," said Robert Barlow, the company's senior vice president. "We're proud to offer the local community the best selection of the name-brand shit you want at the prices you love."

I really, really, really can’t make up my mind. So… it’s on you to decide, Gentle Reader.

A Couple of Things From Inside the Beltway

I think it’s safe to say the love affair is over. From Dana Milbank, writing in today’s WaPo:

Barack Obama has long been his party's presumptive nominee. Now he's becoming its presumptuous nominee.

Fresh from his presidential-style world tour, during which foreign leaders and American generals lined up to show him affection, Obama settled down to some presidential-style business in Washington yesterday. He ordered up a teleconference with the (current president's) Treasury secretary, granted an audience to the Pakistani prime minister and had his staff arrange for the chairman of the Federal Reserve to give him a briefing. Then, he went up to Capitol Hill to be adored by House Democrats in a presidential-style pep rally.


The 5:20 TBA turned out to be his adoration session with lawmakers in the Cannon Caucus Room, where even committee chairmen arrived early, as if for the State of the Union. Capitol Police cleared the halls -- just as they do for the actual president. The Secret Service hustled him in through a side door -- just as they do for the actual president.

Inside, according to a witness, he told the House members, "This is the moment . . . that the world is waiting for," adding: "I have become a symbol of the possibility of America returning to our best traditions."

As he marches toward Inauguration Day (Election Day is but a milestone on that path), Obama's biggest challenger may not be Republican John McCain but rather his own hubris.

And it’s about freakin’ time, innit? A lot of the things I’m reading in the MSM today is simply repetition of stuff that’s been said in the right-wing blogosphere for quite some time now. The upshot of all this is The Candidate is beginning to believe his own press, apparently, and that’s a great good thing for Senator McCain. “Pride goeth before a fall,” and all that.

Heh. Couldn’t happen to a more deserving guy, methinks.

Ah… but wait. There’s more. Even Maureen Dowd is smacking The Obamanon around. I got a chuckle out of this:

I asked him what presents he takes home to his daughters. “Anytime I make a stop, Sasha gets snow globes and Malia gets key chains,” he said. “Somebody is assigned to that.”

“You have a snow globe aide?” I marveled.

Now there’s as unlikely a job title as I’ve ever seen: “Chief of Snow Globe Procurement.” Or whatever it is the aide is officially called.


Eye candy for political activists. Hell, it’s eye candy for the REST of us, too! I’m speaking of The Hill’s annual “50 Most Beautiful People on Capitol Hill.” Here’s an example:

Name: Brecke Latham
Hometown: See explanation below
Political party: Republican
Dating status: Single

Dang. Her politics are correct, too. What more could a guy ask for? In case you’re wondering… the piece has pulchitrude for the distaff side of the house, too. This IS America we’re talking about, ya know. Equal time, and all that.

And apropos of nothing… if you’ve never laid eyes on Mrs. Dennis Kucinich, you should… as she makes the cut at Number Four. That’s all and everything I’m gonna say on the subject. Except for perhaps… Yowza!

(h/t: memeorandum)

Les Frères Allman

Lots to do today, so blogging will take a back seat… priority-wise… until later today. In the meantime, here are a couple of my favorite Allman Bros tunes for you to enjoy… beginning with Statesboro Blues.

And now that we have your toes a tappin’, let’s slow it down:

Midnight Rider” is one of those tunes that got me through a LOT of hard times in the past, and it’s a song I still turn to…frequently. I looked (however briefly) on YouTube for Gregg’s solo version off of “Laid Back,” but couldn’t find it. This particular cut is the original track from “Idlewild South,” and would probably be classified as “definitive” by those who know a lot more about music than I do. And speaking of “Idlewild South”… I could go on and on about how that album changed my life… but I won’t.

Lucky you (yet again), Gentle Reader.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Now That's A Fine Mess... A Couple of 'Em, Actually

OK, it’s from the Daily Report… but it ain’t about the Air Force, as such.

For Those Who Love McPeakisms: The Oregonian has published an ode to retired Air Force Gen. Tony McPeak, a former USAF Chief of Staff, who has opted--against what some would say is conventional wisdom for a military man--to support Barack Obama vice Vietnam War veteran John McCain in the upcoming Presidential race. The article touches on anecdotes from McPeak's early life and on his days as a Misty FAC (forward air controller) during the Vietnam War. There's more about McPeak on the campaign trail with the Obama crowd, who he says calls him to make an appearance with "about' five minutes' notice" McPeak left the Republican party, but as he describes it: "I was tossed out. I was tossed out by foolishness in Washington." Of Obama, McPeak says, "He has gut-fighting sidewalk smarts that have allowed him to prevail when people said he couldn't."

I subscribe to the “conventional wisdom for a military man” and I most certainly don’t love McPeakisms. As a matter of fact, I think Gen. McPeak might just be USAF’s worst chief of staff, ever. But The Oregonian article was interesting, if nothing else. I think the best part was in the sidebar, however, and I’ll quote:

Political: "Veterans for Bush" Oregon co-chairman, 2000; foreign policy adviser to presidential campaigns of Gov. Howard Dean, Sen. John Kerry and Sen. Barack Obama.

Note the highlighted bits; I think that’s a good sign. Let’s hope Gen. McPeak goes oh-for-three in his foreign policy advisor role, eh?


This is about the Air Force, and I think it’s a great idea:

Wynne, Rethink Split Tanker Buy: The Department of Defense should consider awarding both Boeing and Northrop Grumman contracts to build new tanker aircraft for the Air Force, former Air Force Secretary Michael Wynne told the Daily Report yesterday. Wynne said in an interview having each contractor supply tankers at a rate of about 15 per year--equal to the amount that the winning bidder would provide under the current winner-take-all scenario of the Air Force's KC-X tanker recapitalization program--would be worth the extra cost. And it offers a way past the current legal impasse caused by Boeing's successful protest of USAF's contract award to Northrop in February. "I think a split buy right now is something that we have to examine," said Wynne, who stepped down June 20 amid disagreements with Defense Secretary Robert Gates. Keeping two suppliers would strengthen the industrial base, replace the Eisenhower-era KC-135 tankers more quickly, and maintain competition "well into the future," he said. The latter point is not trivial since the Air Force intends to procure about 500 new tankers overall to replace the KC-135s. Wynne said, when asked, he would support applying some of the $5 billion in added procurement funds that the Air Force will reportedly receive in Fiscal 2010 to cover the higher costs of supporting two tanker lines. "I would be willing to do that provided that the Congress supports that," he said. (For more Wynne comments on the KC-X tanker program, read Come Together by Splitting)

This is an interesting potential solution with at least two benefits. First, one would think both Northrop and Boeing would be satisfied if USAF decides to buy tankers from both companies (I have NO idea what the Europeans—read as EADS— would think about this, nor do I particularly care). Second, USAF speeds up the tanker recapitalization program, which is already something like five frickin’ years behind schedule.

But… reality tells me SecDef Gates or John Young, the point guy for the tanker re-bid, are unlikely to take the advice of a recently sacked, newly-minted former Secretary of the Air Force. Especially given the fact it was Gates hissownself who fired Mr. Wynne. One can hope, though.


Quote of the Month (so far): Kinky Friedman, on Bill O’Reilly last evening: “I’m too young for Medicare and too old for women to care…” Said pearl of wisdom was just a throw-away line Friedman used to describe himself as “an older American.” And Boy Howdy, is he ever correct on the “too old for women to care” bit. Painfully so, I might add.

I really, really like Kinky. So much so I actually voted for him when he ran for guv’nor of Texas a couple of years ago. Why? Coz I like his politics. Yeah, I know… I threw away my vote, and shame on me for it. Don’t go drawing any parallels between the Tejas gov’nor race and the current presidential election, though. It’s apples and oranges, if there ever was such a case.


Today’s Pic: Something that didn’t make the cut last week: a right-royal mess. Pictured above is two pics of the aftermath of an exploding can of Dr. Pepper, and the clean up took me the better part of half an hour. You’d be amazed, Gentle Reader, at just how far pop/soda/coke can travel under pressure. I found Dr. Pepper inside my shower (how it squirted from in front of the fridge all the way into the bathroom remains something of a mystery) about a half an hour after I thought I’d finished the clean-up, and found a streak of same on the kitchen ceiling the following day. I previously cleaned the entire kitchen space but neglected to look up. Silly me.

So, how did that can explode, you may ask? I dropped it on the floor…the carpeted floor… while opening the 12-pack to put it in the fridge. I was holding the package on the back of the banquette (pic 001) while attempting to remove the perforated end of the box… and then…the package burst and ten of the 12 cans tumbled to the floor, one of which exploded. This was probably something of a freak accident, and it’s small beer in the general scheme of things. Which, of course, is why these photos didn’t make the cut last week when the event actually happened. This week, though, I’m scraping the bottom of the photo barrel. Lucky you, eh?

And now I think I’m gonna try and get some sleep. I’ve been up all night, yet again.

Monday, July 28, 2008

How in God’s Name Did I Miss This?

In the process of cruising around these inter-tubes I came across a piece by Byron York in today’s NRO (Go Ahead, Laugh at Obama). Excerpt:

Just a few weeks ago, it seemed nobody could make a joke about Barack Obama. The New York Times published a front-page story declaring that “there has been little humor” about Obama because “there is no comedic ‘take’ on him, nothing easy to turn to for an easy laugh.” Television comedy writers fretted that audiences didn’t want to hear anything even slightly negative about the Democratic nominee. The political press corps went nuts over a satirical New Yorker cover that wasn’t even directed at Obama.

And this was about a man who made up his own pretend presidential seal and motto, Vero Possumus; a man who, upon securing the Democratic nomination, said, “I am absolutely certain that generations from now, we will be able to look back and tell our children that this was the moment when the rise of the oceans began to slow and our planet began to heal”; a man who has on a number of occasions seemed to forget that he is not, or at least not yet, the President of the United States, who has misstated the number of states in his own country, who has forgotten on which committees he serves in the U.S. Senate. Professional comedians — and their audiences — couldn’t find anything funny about any of that?


Last week, Jon Stewart on The Daily Show got an enthusiastic reception from his audience with a routine about Obama’s media entourage. Stewart tossed to the team of reporters who were said to be traveling with the Obama campaign, some of whom had abandoned John McCain to cover the more exciting Democrat. They were positively giddy about Obama.

“The commander-in-chief,” said one.

“Did you see when the president hit that three-pointer?” asked another.

“Nothing but net,” said a third.

Stewart interrupted. “He’s not the president.” Pause.“Barack Obama’s not the president.”

A confused silence. “Are you sure?” the reporters asked.

Oh, and it just gets better and better. Mr. York wrote a truly great piece with this one, and that’s not unusual at all. But, that said, the absolute BEST part of Mr. York’s article was a tip about a Gerard Baker op-ed that appeared in the July 25th edition of The Times (UK). And this lil bit of satire is a must-read for anyone and everyone who’s even the least lil bit skeptical about The Obamanon. Here are a few paragraphs:

And it came to pass, in the eighth year of the reign of the evil Bush the Younger (The Ignorant), when the whole land from the Arabian desert to the shores of the Great Lakes had been laid barren, that a Child appeared in the wilderness.

The Child was blessed in looks and intellect. Scion of a simple family, offspring of a miraculous union, grandson of a typical white person and an African peasant. And yea, as he grew, the Child walked in the path of righteousness, with only the occasional detour into the odd weed and a little blow.

When he was twelve years old, they found him in the temple in the City of Chicago, arguing the finer points of community organisation with the Prophet Jeremiah and the Elders. And the Elders were astonished at what they heard and said among themselves: “Verily, who is this Child that he opens our hearts and minds to the audacity of hope?”


He travelled fleet of foot and light of camel, with a small retinue that consisted only of his loyal disciples from the tribe of the Media. He ventured first to the land of the Hindu Kush, where the

Taleban had harboured the viper of al-Qaeda in their bosom, raining terror on all the world.

And the Child spake and the tribes of Nato immediately loosed the Caveats that had previously bound them. And in the great battle that ensued the forces of the light were triumphant. For as long as the Child stood with his arms raised aloft, the enemy suffered great blows and the threat of terror was no more.

From there he went forth to Mesopotamia where he was received by the great ruler al-Maliki, and al-Maliki spake unto him and blessed his Sixteen Month Troop Withdrawal Plan even as the imperial warrior Petraeus tried to destroy it.

And lo, in Mesopotamia, a miracle occurred. Even though the Great Surge of Armour that the evil Bush had ordered had been a terrible mistake, a waste of vital military resources and doomed to end in disaster, the Child's very presence suddenly brought forth a great victory for the forces of the light.

Those excerpts might be a lil bit more than “Fair Use,” but I wanted to give you maximum encouragement to go read, assuming you haven’t read this already. Mr. Baker’s piece is new-to-me, but I’m so far behind the political power-curve I may never catch up. Or not.

We’ll see. But in the meantime, do yourself a favor and go read Mr. Baker. You could do a lot worse.

It's Just Another Manic Monday...

I’m not sure exactly what this says/means, but the AFA Daily Report is quickly becoming my major source of blog fodder, replacing my ol’ stand-bys memeorandum and Real Clear Politics… not to mention the papers. Here’s one such item, with interesting local impact:

Green Machine: Air Force officials last week signed four memoranda of understanding with the governor of New Mexico to pursue renewable energy projects that would yield up to 245 megawatts of power in the state for use at Cannon, Holloman, and Kirtland Air Force Bases. New Mexico state agencies and the cities of Alamogordo, Albuquerque, and Clovis will work with the Air Force on new clean energy projects, the service said in a release on July 25. The agreements deal with: USAF's intention to purchase green power in the state; a solar power initiative for Holloman; the creation of a plant to utilize New Mexico's abundant dairy waste; and a wind power project. Bill Anderson, USAF's energy czar, said these agreements are the first of their kind between the service and a state. The Air Force is already the largest purchaser of renewable energy in the federal government, buying nearly 900 million kilowatt hours of green power annually. Already it operates the nation's largest solar photovoltaic system at Nellis AFB, Nev.

If you followed the link to the July 25th press release, you’ll note that two of the four memoranda of understanding are between USAF and the city of Clovis, to wit:

2. An agreement with Air Force, Southwest Biomass Cooperative, city of Clovis, and New Mexico state officials to pursue the creation of a plant to utilize New Mexico's abundant dairy waste. This may consist of a cogeneration project to generate electricity, and a bio-methane pipeline-quality gas project.


4. An agreement between Air Force, city of Clovis, New Mexico state officials to pursue a wind energy project.

I’m tempted to ask the rhetorical question… “Where were the P-Ville City Fathers when all this was going down?” But I won’t. Clovis is more than three times the size of Portales and has more resources to devote to such projects. Interestingly:

The agreements did not include any details of proposed projects nor outline any financing options. Those would be developed later, as part of business plans that are due in four months, officials said.

That’s from the Clovis News-Journal. As usual, the devil’s in the details. But, that said, the renewable energy projects are great good things. And Lord knows we DO have us some diary waste that could be put to some use other than offending my nostrils as I motor by the many diaries in the area.

Oh… and have I ever mentioned we have a lil bit of wind in these parts? I have? Nevermind…


Yet another Daily Report item…

Rethinking UAV Operations: Gen. Norton Schwartz, nominee to be the next Air Force Chief of Staff, said last week he would "quickly" make a decision whether the Air Force will continue its policy that pilots of unmanned aerial vehicles--the larger sized platforms that perform at medium and high altitudes and carry weapons--must be rated officers. "It may well be that a blend of rated and non-rated operators makes the most sense," he told members of the Senate Armed Services Committee in the written responses to the panel's advance questions for his July 22 confirmation hearing. The Air Force has both non-rated and rated personnel flying its diverse family of UAVs, depending on the platform. Small-sized UAVs that operate at the local level are flown by non-rated airmen. However, USAF's stance to date has been that larger multi-mission, theater-level UAVs, such as the MQ-1 Predator and MQ-9 Reaper, are complex systems that often involve real-time command and control and time-sensitive decision-making for the delivery of ordnance under demanding battlefield conditions. "Qualified rated pilots generally have the training and experience that is crucial to the success of this effort," Schwartz said. Further, aircraft like the Predator, Reaper, and RQ-4 Global Hawk fly in and through airspace that requires positive control of the assets based on FAA and ICAO rules. Those rules require an instrument-qualified pilot, Schwartz noted, adding that he would assess the arguments before rendering his choice. USAF has cited the availability of trained pilots as a limiting factor in accelerating the fielding of UAV assets. That said, it is still surging additional assets to support operations in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Part of the continuing debate over UAV pilots is the fact the Army uses enlisted pilots for their UAVs and the Air Force most certainly does not. I found the term “non-rated airmen” to be an interesting sort of dodge, in that USAF often uses the generic term “airmen” to describe both enlisted and officers as a group, much the way the Army uses “soldiers.” I can see USAF’s point about conforming to FAA/ICAO airspace rules when it comes to platforms like the Global Hawk and to a lesser extent, Reaper and Predator. The increase in the numbers of these platforms and their sharing airspace with commercial aircraft, particularly in the US, is bound to cause debate among “interested parties.” The points about “command and control” in the AOR (most especially the release of ordnance) aren’t lost on me, either.

This is a very interesting subject… in some quarters, at least.

(UAV operator console image from


So… it was a year yesterday when I put that lil “Visitors by Country” widget at the bottom of my sidebar, and it remains my favorite. That ain’t sayin’ a whole helluva lot, though, seeing as how I have exactly two widgets… the McCain vid and the Neocounter. But…as of just before midnight last evening we had 31,847 visitors from 137 countries. Or, visitors from places where I didn’t know there were places. I’ve had great good fun looking up the origins of some of the more esoteric places (like: Brunei Darussalam. Or Burkina Faso.), seeing as how I’m something of a geography nut. And yeah, I’d heard of Brunei before. But I didn’t realize it’s official name was Brunei, Abode of Peace. A single soul in The Abode of Peace can lay claim to something no one else in the entire country has done, not even the Sultan: they visited EIP. As can a certain resident of the Faroe Islands, Eritrea, Macau, Moldova… and so on. Fascinating stuff. As noted elsewhere here at EIP… I’m easily amused, Gentle Reader. I’m a cheap date, too.


And finally… your crass sexist exploitation moment of the day:

Guinness makes some GREAT ads, nu? (It’s a one minute vid, for those on dial-up.)

Friday, July 25, 2008

A Few Things USAF

L'enfer gèle
While We Have Your Attention: Lawmakers took the opportunity during the July 22 Senate Armed Services Committee confirmation hearing for the Air Force's two prospective senior leaders to air their views on the KC-X tanker battle. Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), whose state the Northrop Grumman/EADS team has elected as an assembly site for its tanker, reminded Michael Donley and Gen. Norton Schwartz of the service's five-year tanker quagmire, urging both nominees to pursue a fair and speedy resolution. Donley acknowledged that DOD acquisition czar John Young, who has assumed the mantle of KC-X source selection authority, would "have all the support he needs and wants from the Air Force." Sessions also asked for assurance that the new tanker would be a flexible "game changer" that would swing from refueler to airlifter, a role for which the Northrop team contends its aircraft is well-suited. Schwartz replied, "Its primary mission will be air refueling, but we can no longer afford to have platforms that are sort of single-mission, point-mission focused." Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y.) maintained that USAF's original award of the KC-X contract to Northrop was at odds with Title 10 considerations that require DOD to consider the impact of every major program award on the US industrial base. Donley said he must "defer to the acquisition experts on the issues of foreign content," but he added that "we live in a global economy in which most" US companies "have international connections." Clinton asked for a "specific answer" to her question in writing, noting that she is "very well aware that we live in an international economy, but I'm also extremely conscious of the impact of decisions ... that undermine our competitiveness for the long run and eliminate jobs and thereby undermine technical skill acquisition in a way that I think will come back to haunt us."
My opening line… loosely translated… is French for “Hell freezes over” (“frozen Hell”), about which: note the highlighted bits above. It IS the proverbial “cold day” when I agree with Her Hillaryness about anything, but I agree with her on this. It’s not about the job losses, although that stings. It’s the erosion of our industrial base that worries me. We can outsource the production of underwear, Mattel toys, and even cars to the Chinese and others with little effect on our safety and well being, lead paint aside. But outsourcing your military procurement is a whole ‘nuther ball o’ wax. Aircraft production lines and the people that work on them just don’t materialize over night. Our aerospace industrial base is a complex system of people, processes, and physical plant… which must either be used or lost. You don’t keep production lines in “stand-by” mode; when the last aircraft rolls off the line that line (and sometimes the whole plant) is shut down and the people either move to another line or are released to seek other “opportunities.” “Opportunities,” such as they are, tend to be rather limited these days.
Additionally, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to grasp the fact that people who aren’t exactly “in tune” with the nation’s foreign policy just might threaten to withhold aircraft production, or spare parts, or support, or whatever… should significant disagreement between gub’mints over something like, say Iraq, arise.
(h/t: AFA’s Daily Report)
Remember that recurring bitch (Or moan. Or groan.) I have about medals-and-ribbons creep in Today’s Modern Air Force? Well, Doc weighed in on my most recent rant on this subject last evening, and I wanna make sure everyone sees what he has to say:
Wasn't sure I'd find this still on the front page, but glad it is. Thought of it yesterday as I was walking down the hall in the admin bldg at the Academy yesterday. Pictures from yesteryear adorn the walls (ancient history being about the time my class came through). What suddenly struck me was the ribbon racks of the colonels in the photos with my classmates. One, two, or three rows, maybe. Seriously, one O-6 had about two--ribbons, not rows. An airman gets two ribbons for living through an induction physical these days. And these guys, I thought with amazement, probably flew in Korea and the Nam. People who think "ribbon inflation" doesn't exist need to see those photos.
You may or may not know this, Gentle Reader, but when Doc says “the Academy,” he’s talking about the USAF Academy in Colorado Springs, where he was Deputy Inspector General until a week ago today. So his comment carries a lot of weight with me, even though it’s his personal opinion and not that of the Newnited States Air Force. It’s good to know I’m not just some addled ol’ geezer who rants and raves about stuff changing for the worse. Although it’s been brought to my attention I have tendencies in this space… ahem.
Oh. And why is Doc no longer the Deputy IG at USAFA, you ask? He retired last Friday… after 27 years of service to the nation. Drop by his place and congratulate him, won’t you?
And finally… some Good Stuff. Three minutes and 26 seconds on what it means to be a Thunderbird, including some pretty cool aerials:
I’ve seen the PBS show referenced in the trailer and it’s very, VERY good. As are the Thunderbirds. But ya knew that, Gentle Reader.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

A Quickie

My friend Lori in SFO sends along the following:
An email from Ireland to all of their brethren in the States...a point to ponder despite your political affiliation:
We, in Ireland, can't figure out why you people are even bothering to hold an election in the United States.
On one side, you had a pants wearing female lawyer, married to another lawyer who can't seem to keep his pants on, who just lost a long and heated primary against a lawyer, who goes to the wrong church, who is married to yet another lawyer, who doesn't even like the country her husband wants to run!
Now...On the other side, you have a nice old war hero whose name starts with the appropriate 'Mc' terminology, married to a good looking younger woman who owns a beer distributorship!!
What in God's name are ya lads thinkin over in the colonies?!?
Damned good question, eh?

Farewell, Raider 21

From the Air Force Association’s Daily Report:

All Perished in Bomber Crash: The Air Force yesterday announced it had formally declared that all six airmen had died in the B-52 crash off the northwest coast of Guam on July 21. Search and rescue crews found the bodies of two airmen on July 21, and by July 23 they shifted from round-the-clock rescue operations to recovery mode. Five of the six airmen on board had deployed to Andersen AFB, Guam, from the 2nd Bomb Wing at Barksdale AFB, La. The sixth was a flight surgeon assigned to the 36th Medical Group at Andersen. The Barksdale airmen were: Maj. Christopher M. Cooper, 33, aircraft commander; Maj. Brent D. Williams, 37, navigator; Capt. Michael K. Dodson, 31, co-pilot; 1st Lt. Joshua D. Shepherd, 26, navigator; and 1st Lt. Robert D. Gerren, 32, electronic warfare officer. From Andersen was Col. George Martin, 36th MDG deputy commander. The massive rescue operations covered a 7,000-square mile area and included Air Force, Coast Guard, and Navy search teams and Guam emergency services personnel. "Losing this bomber crew has been a tragedy felt by everyone here and across the Air Force," said Brig. Gen. Douglas Owens, 36th Wing commander, and added, "I extend our sincerest gratitude to the men and women involved with this [rescue and recovery] effort." The 2nd Bomb Wing commander, Col. Robert Wheeler, said in a subsequent release, "We appreciate the military and civilian organizations who are continuing recovery efforts to bring our airmen home."

The downed B-52 flew using the call sign "Raider 21." You can view portraits of the airmen of Raider 21 at each individual link: Maj. Christopher M. Cooper, Maj. Brent D. Williams, Capt. Michael K. Dodson, 1st Lt. Robert D. Gerren, 1st Lt. Joshua D. Shepherd, and Col. George T. Martin. There’s more on Raider 21 at the Barksdale AFB web site.

Farewell, Gentlemen, and God Speed.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Satire, In Two Flavas

Well, there’s satire…

And then there’s satire:

From Vanity Fair:

We had our own presidential campaign cover in the works, which explored a different facet of the Politics of Fear, but we shelved it when The New Yorker’s became the “It Girl” of the blogosphere. Now, however, in a selfless act of solidarity with our downstairs neighbors here at the Condé Nast building, we’d like to share it with you. Confidentially, of course.

Illustration by Tim Bower.

But… but… you can only destroy a document once, to the best of my knowledge. And hasn’t Dubya already shredded the Constitution? Or used it as TP? Or to serve as “just a piece of paper” for jotting down notes to hisownself? So how come McCain gets to burn it? How does that work? Oh, yeah. I forgot. It’s satire

(h/t: Morgan.)

Reapers Operational in Iraq

From the Air Force Association’s Daily Report:

Reapers Enter Ops in Iraq: The Air Force's newest unmanned aerial vehicle, the MQ-9 Reaper, on July 21 started operating in Iraq, offering increased weapons capability, longer dwell time, and larger intelligence-surveillance-reconnaissance payload than its smaller brother the much-in-demand MQ-1 Predator. USAF sent the Reaper first to Afghanistan, where, since last fall, it has flown some 480 sorties for more than 3,800 hours, according to a July 22 release. It dropped its first precision guided munition for Operation Enduring Freedom in November 2007. Lt. Gen. Gary North, who leads the Combined Force Air Component for US Central Command, said that Predator has proved the value of "persistent stare" for gathering intel, but the Reaper close air support asset "expands beyond the concept of persistent stare to one of persistent strike." The MQ-9 provides the capability to react with precision weapons "at the exact point where the ground commander wants the desired effect," stated North and added, "It's an incredibly powerful and flexible capability."

And here’s the aircraft itself:

I haven't seen one of these yet, and I'm not sure I will anytime soon. Although the Reaper looks like an overgrown Predator, they're two different animals. We'll have Predators at Cannon, but I don't think we'll get Reapers. OTOH, I really don't know, Gentle Reader... I'm just speculating.

Back in a bit…

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

That "Hand-Colored" Thing...

Much of the comment on yesterday’s post had to do with that hand-colored portrait of my sister and I. I got to thinking… is hand-colored portraiture still available these days? The answer is “yes.” And here’s a lil blurb on the art I found:

About Hand Painting

Also known as hand-coloring or hand-tinting, this process has been around since the mid-1800's and for many years was the only way you could have a color photograph. The technique involves applying oil based, transparent paints directly on to a photographic print. The paint is normally then 'rubbed down' with cotton swabs until a desired effect or density is achieved. Though the use of cotton is common, there are a variety of techniques used by different artists to achieve different effects. Today, you can use digital technology to hand color images on your home computer, but most purists (like me) prefer the old fashioned method.

That’s from Ontario photographer Patrick Brown’s web site. He doesn’t publish his prices, preferring instead for you to contact him if you want a hand-colored portrait done. And… seeing as how Google Is My Friend… there’s more:

Handcolored photographs are making a big comeback lately. While the process of handcoloring photos has been around almost since photography itself, now we have many more options available to us.

The time-honored way to do this is to print photos on fiber-based paper, not photo paper, and tint with photo oils. There are a couple of sites with excellent information, and other books on this subject, so I'm not going to go into the process further. It's still a good way to do this, but my book, "The New Way to Handcolor Photos With Pastel and Other Media," is about new techniques.

With advances in technology, and the new ways in which we print, including what we print on, you now have a nearly unlimited palette with which to work. The book is about photography, but I think it will be useful to scrap bookers, collage artists, fine artists, hobbyists, and digital artists, as well.

The above was taken from Marlena Montaney’s web site. Ms. Montaney owns Smiling Dog Studio and works primarily in pastels.

I only went two pages deep into my google search, but that was more than enough to confirm the art form is alive and VERY well. I’d seriously consider having a hand-colored portrait done, were I still in the family-raising bid’ness.

As parting shots on this subject… check out these four 100-year-old Russian hand-colored photos. Simply amazing stuff, then and now. And this site has a collection of Russian hand-colored post cards titled “Moscow – 1890.” Here’s one such… a shot of the Kremlin and St. Basil’s cathedral.

I’ve stood beneath that tall white tower on the quay overlooking the Moskva river, Gentle Reader. And ya know what? Aside from the motorized traffic, that scene looks pretty much the same today as it did 100 years ago. Amazing, that.

Monday, July 21, 2008

All Over the Map

So… I mentioned this past Friday I remembered two addresses from my childhood, and I put up a post about one of them… 3 Rue Mozart. The other address I remembered was 41 Bahçelievler Yolu, Ankara, Turkey. And I spent literally hours yesterday with Google Earth and Google Maps, unsuccessfully looking for that particular address. It doesn’t exist, to the best of my knowledge, and I suspect the street was renamed at some point in the nearly 50 years since I left Ankara.

I had some clues to work with. First, my house was about a ten minute or less bike ride from Anıtkabir (Atatürk’s Tomb, pic on left... click for larger), which is arguably the most recognizable landmark in Ankara. Second, my house was across the street from a major university…which I believe was Ankara University. But, my…oh my… how things have changed! Back in the day, the house I lived in… an apartment building, actually… was one of about four apartment buildings on “our” side of the street, the rest of the neighborhood was empty lots. The university was still in the process of being built (or added on to), and there were no trees to speak of, except for very young saplings. There was lotsa brown grass, though… Looking at the Google Earth pictures one can see that’s certainly not the case today, 50 years later. My neighborhood, which was expanding rapidly back in 1957, is now established. There are large trees on the university campus, and not many vacant lots can be found in the general vicinity of where I lived. Which is not surprising, given the population of Ankara was only 453,000 in 1955; it’s up to 3,763,591 today.

The Google Earth screen-shots:

Metropolitan Ankara (overview)

My neighborhood (red arrow; the profusion of blue dots is Anıtkabir)

I was nearly 12 when my father was transferred directly from Paris to Ankara, without passing Go. “Go,” in this case, meant a trip back to the US before continuing on to my father’s new assignment. The family had just spent three years in Paris and Mom was homesick. She desperately wanted to go home before we went to Ankara, but that was not to be. I strongly suspect my father bribed her into acquiescing to the direct move, sweetening the deal with a promise of an extended vacation on the Riviera and northern Italy. He delivered on his promise, and we spent two weeks in Nice/Cannes and vicinity (including Monte Carlo) before driving down to Livorno to turn the car over to the Navy for shipment to Istanbul. In the meantime we toured northern Italy, including Pisa and Florence. My best memory of Italy was climbing the Leaning Tower of Pisa, which is almost guaranteed to give one vertigo. My father and I climbed half-way up the tower, but he didn’t want to go all the way to the top, unfortunately. Mom and my sister stayed on the ground…

So. We turned the car in to the port people in Livorno and took the train to Rome, where we spent a few days doing all the touristy stuff one does in The Eternal City… including being blessed by Pope Pius XII… our family and about 15,000 close friends others gathered in St. Peter’s Square when the Pope made his weekly appearance to bless the crowd from his balcony. From Rome we flew to Athens, where we spent another few days with Air Force friends of my father… and did more touristy things. I’m pretty sure Dad did a little bit of work while we were there, too, but my memory is hazy in this space. From Athens we flew to Istanbul and then on to Ankara, which would be home for the next two years.

And what a home it was! If you think Paris is exciting, Gentle Reader, you should have been in Turkey during the mid- to late-‘50s. Everything, and I DO mean everything, seemed exotic to my parents, my sister, and I. The language. The food. The clothing. The architecture. Every-freakin’-thing. And the BEST part was the fact Americans were generally and genuinely well-liked. There was no militant Islamic movement, and no terrorism…at all. For me... as it was in Paris, so it was in Ankara... when it came to “getting around.” Except for the fact I rode my bicycle to most places I wanted to go, or rode the bus. And I had a lot more freedom, too, in the sense my parents allowed me to go further a-field, as long as my journeys were in some sort of group… usually friends.

Today’s Pic: My sister Norma and I. This photo was taken by a Turkish portrait photographer during the family’s stay in Ankara, and is hand-colored in the style prevalent at the time. The artist got the colors wrong, too, as my shirt was tan, not green. Mom blew a gasket over this lil detail, but she bought the pictures anyway. (Yeah, the pic is a re-run. I originally posted it in March of last year.)

Friday, July 18, 2008

One of My Boyhood Homes

I got this idea from (ed: a former blogger friend with whom I've fallen out), who posted Google Earth pics of the street where she grew up… as background to one of the strangest dream stories I’ve read in quite a while. The idea, such as it is, that occurred to me was “could I even remember the addresses of my childhood homes, and if so, would the house(s) still be there?”

Well… I remembered two addresses right away, the first being “3 Rue Mozart, Sceaux, Seine, France.” This is the house my parents and I lived in for about three years, give or take a couple of months. My father was stationed in downtown Paris… in a small non-descript sort of building on Avenue Kléber, just a stone’s throw from the Etoile, aka L’Arc de Triomphe. His workplace was in keeping with his mission, as he was in the USAF’s Office of Special Investigations (OSI). His building was actually an apartment house, and there were no signs or other indicators that the building was an Air Force installation. “Air Force office” would probably be a more appropriate term than installation, come to think on it. But, I’m digressing. What my father did has no bearing on what we’re on about here, other than the fact his being stationed in Paris was why I was in Paris. But, then again, that’s everything, ain’t it?
So… what you see in these Google Earth screenshots (as always, click for larger) are…

Metropolitan Paris.

You can see a placemark over my neighborhood, which was on the south side of the city. The actual city of Paris is within the boundaries of the ring road, which is quite visible in the screen shot. I went to school at Orly Field, which you can see in the lower right quadrant of the screenshot. I lived in Sceaux, but one street over was the village of Bourg-La-Reine, which was where the metro stop was. More on that, in a moment.

Second, my neighborhood.
Sceaux and Bourg-La-Reine.

The salient feature of the neighborhood is the Parc de Sceaux, which I’ve talked about a little bit here. The park is quite large, as you can tell from the screen shot, and was only about a six minute bike ride from my front door. I spent many, many hours riding my bike through that park and playing “cowboys and Indians” sorts of games… which were mostly Americans vs. Germans, Big Bang Two style. Keep in mind, this is around 1955 or so, and World War II wasn’t something a kid read about in history books. World War II was recent history back then and my father, and all my friends’ fathers, fought in it. There was also physical evidence of the war that hadn’t been cleaned up completely in the intervening ten years. Not so much in Paris, which was relatively unscathed by the war, but certainly visible in London (where we’d moved from) and MOST certainly visible in Germany, where the family vacationed. Digressions ‘R’ Us…

And finally, the house I lived in:
3 Rue Mozart, Sceaux. Second house on the left, with the three cars parked in front.

The amazing thing…for me… is that I recognize the street quite well. Even MORE amazing is the fact the vacant lot across the street from my house is STILL vacant, even though 50+ years have passed. That “vacant lot” isn’t as vacant as it seems, or at least it wasn’t when I was a child. The lot is (or was) actually a very large garden, with vegetables and fruit trees, and it looks like the garden is still tended today. The garden was owned and tended by my boyhood friend Christian’s grandparents when I lived on Rue Mozart, and my family was the recipient of a lot of goodies that came out of that garden. Christian, a young French boy my age, was one of my partners in crime. My two other closest friends, Tommy Wallace and Skipper Amey, were the sons of US military families that lived in the area… and there were only three such families, including my own.

I mentioned above that I would say more about Le Metro. The metro was my friends’ and my ticket out of the ‘burbs and into The City. Now, being as how we…all of us boys… were only ten years old, we had limits placed upon us by our parents. We were free to ride our bikes all over the neighborhood(s), and were allowed to venture as far as the Parc de Sceaux. Everything else was “off limits.” But… we were boys. Very imaginative and a lil bit daring boys, too. Tommy, Skipper, and I figured out how to read the metro maps, locate the places we wanted to go (this being our favorite destination), save money from our allowances for train tickets, and actually travel into the city for the day… and get home by mid-afternoon. Without ever being caught. Which we did about once a month throughout my final summer in Paris. Years later I told my parents about our adventures and they were suitably horrified. Well, Mom was, anyway. Dad just kinda smiled a little bit, and I can’t help but feel he thought “That’s my boy!” But he would never have said something like that in front of Mom. And he would of beat the livin’ daylights out of me, had I been caught back then. But, Hey! I wasn’t.

Those clandestine trips into Paris are the things I remember most about living there. There are other things, true, but one never forgets one’s very first taste of independence, no?

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Yet Another Purloined Vid...

... this time from Phlegmmy. Here's “Western Spaghetti.” You might wanna jot down the recipe for your next soirée.

I particularly like the post-its butter. Pretty cool, eh?

If it seems like I’m incapable of creating content of my own of late, you’re more right than wrong. I may be back later with (as Jim sez) “more better stuff.”

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Chair Porn

NOT work-safe, IMHO, and that's mainly because of the soundtrack (which is sure to draw attention, should you have your volume turned up). There's no human nudity involved, but there is some violence... if ya wanna call it that. But it IS funny. (You may not think so, Becky.)

The hat-tip goes to Blog-Bud Morgan, once again.

Random Notes

OK, I’ll admit it…they ARE cute. At times. Here’s nearly four minutes of cat-cuteness:
See, Gentle Reader? I may not like cats, but I CAN appreciate them in situations like this. As long as they stay in other people’s houses.
Life intruded on blogging yet again today, helped in no small part by the fact I didn’t roll my tired ass out of bed until after 1100 hrs. Well, that’s not entirely true… I got up at 1030 to light off the coffee pot. But I went right back to bed for another forty winks until such time as the coffee pot was done doing its magic. I poured that first cup, answered the overnight mail, and hit a couple of my daily reads while the caffeine oozed into my system. I swear to The Diety At Hand that I can actually feel myself getting mentally sharper as that happens…almost on a minute-to-minute basis. Or as sharp as I ever get, anyway. (coffee cup neon sculpture available here)
I had to cut the morning routine short, however. I poured my second cup, drank half of it and then hit the shower. I finished that second cup while getting dressed and then was out the door and off to my appointment with Dr. Thompson. It’s always such fun to go visit with Dr. Thompson and staff…and I mean that seriously. Everyone (and I DO mean everyone) in the office is so very friendly, the doctor’s two youngest children are playing quietly around about the place (while being oh-so-cute), and the idle banter back and forth between all concerned is just very pleasant. Quite unlike any other dentist’s office I’ve ever been in, anywhere.
Today’s appointment was for a follow-on MRI, which was done expeditiously and professionally. I continue to be amazed at the level of technology employed by dentists these days, and the MRI machine is just one example. Dr. Thompson’s technician and I spent a few minutes reviewing the images after the process was complete and she took the time to explain to me exactly what we were looking at. As I said, amazing stuff! And then I was gone… in and out in about half an hour, all told.
I ran out to the base after leaving Dr. Thompson’s place to do a little light shopping (beer-run!) and to pick up a scrip at the base pharmacy. The folks at the Class VI store are beginning to irritate me… they’ve been out of Trippel for well over two weeks now and I bought their last sixer of 1554 today, as well. Apropos of nothing, you should chase that “1554” link, Gentle Reader. There’s quite a story behind this beer, which is better than good… it’s excellent. Not quite the “beer of choice” these days (Fat Tire remains King at El Casa Móvil De Pennington), but good enough that I drink at least six a week.
The line at the Class VI was pretty long, so I struck up a conversation with a captain in a flight suit who was in line in front of me. He remarked on my “USS Monterey” hat, saying the Navy has done a good job of updating their organizational ball caps. I agreed, we chatted a bit about the Navy (his father was Navy), and then I asked if he flew C-130s. “No,” sez he, “I’m a Predator pilot.” “Wow!” sez I… “You’re the first Predator pilot I’ve ever met!” I told him I’d read Pred-pilots are having a hard time of it these days, what with the stress, pressure, and all. He waved it off, saying he really enjoyed his job and the things one reads about Predator pilots these days are exaggerated. By that time he had paid for his two cases of Mountain Dew (no stress, eh?) and we said our good-byes. One can learn a lot in a three-minute checkout line conversation, Gentle Reader.
So. Back home. It’s nearly 1600 hrs as I finish this and I’ve yet to make the rounds. Guess I better get started, eh?

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

"This is How We Roll in India"

NO comment... other than this is a 51-second video, so even people on dial-up can enjoy. I use the term "enjoy" rather loosely, of course.