Saturday, October 31, 2009

A View From India

An editorial in The Times of India contemplates the disintegration of Pakistan; here's a brief excerpt:

Which brings up a third scenario: A year down the road, US president Barack Obama capitulates to mounting domestic pressure, much of it from his own party, and decides to wind down the American presence in Afghanistan. The ISI tells the Taliban to wait quietly till the infidels have gone. And then move in. Bingo! We can all move back to September 10, 2001. The Taliban, with guidance from the Pakistani forces who are perpetually seeking strategic depth against India, gains effective control over Afghanistan. The Lashkar-e-whatevers and the al-Qaeda are delighted. The Pakistani army is happy that the security of the western flank is outsourced once again to proxies while it resumes directing its low-intensity conflict against India.

Unlikely? Perhaps. Improbable? No. Many Americans
are busy comparing their involvement in Afghanistan to Vietnam and asking whether it is worth any more time and effort. There are, however, others who are calling such comparisons nonsensical, since the two situations are entirely different, and are insisting that the stability of both Afghanistan and Pakistan is vital for the world to gain a respite from terrorism. New Delhi can only hope that the latter group wins the argument.
The other two scenarios in this editorial are just as chilling, if not more so. And note the final sentence in the quote above.  The Indians aren't alone... significant numbers of Americans feel the same way.  Let's hope the folks who think Pakistan and Afghanistan must be saved have The One's ear.  And that he listens.

RTWT, as we bloggers say.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Bachelor Cooking...

... or: when in doubt... fix breakfast. Ya can never go wrong with a Big-Ass cheese omelet slathered with El Pinto, bacon, and toast. Never.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Right Now...

Well... a few minutes ago, anyhoo.  Something we rarely do: Indoor Happy Hour.


Note that we've got a start on the Annual Winter Facial Hair, too.  Just sumthin' we do... every year.

This Is a Good Thing

Even though this photo is more symbolism than substance... a Good Thing, nonetheless. Symbolism IS important in these matters.

That said... I'm of the same mind as Lex, when he says:
Showing respect for those who have made the ultimate sacrifice in this country’s defense is a right and proper thing to do. But, personally, I’d prefer a little less symbolism and a little more substance.

After all, the loony left have fallen strangely silent. And unlike his predecessor, this president’s political opponents stand more ready to endorse a surge of forces than try to make political hay out of it. The military are lined up behind him.

It’s time to do some broken field running.
Yup.  And The One could begin by answering the phone:


Dontcha think?

Update, 1430 hrs 10/30/2009:  Lotsa discussion in comments about whether The One's Dover visit was a cynical manipulative photo-op... or not.  I was giving the man the benefit of the doubt, but no more.  Mudville Gazette has a fascinating roundup of events surrounding the reporting of this photo op and one simply has to believe Obama wasn't just rendering honors to the fallen.  My feelings towards The One  are REALLY starting to verge from medium dislike and disagreement to outright loathing.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Bitch, Moan, and Complain

I'm not handling the change of season well this year. Four out of the last five days have been miserable, weather wise... unseasonably cold in three instances and the wind makes things chilly today.  We've only had one Happy Hour during this period as a result and we won't be doing one today as it simply is NOT nice outside. It's gonna be a long damned winter unless I get my mind right... and quick.

Conservatives, Liberals, and Libertarians... Oh My!

This lil blurb by David Boaz, writing at Cato@Liberty (Gallup’s Conservatives and Libertarians), caught my eye:

The word “libertarian” isn’t well known, so pollsters don’t find many people claiming to be libertarian. And usually they don’t ask. But a large portion of Americans hold generally libertarian views — views that might be described as fiscally conservative and socially liberal, or as Gov. William Weld told the 1992 Republican National Convention, “I want the government out of your pocketbook and out of your bedroom.” They don’t fit the red-blue paradigm, and they have their doubts about both conservative Republicans and liberal Democrats. They’re potentially a swing vote in elections. Background on the libertarian vote here.

And note here: If you tell people that “libertarian” means “fiscally conservative and socially liberal,” 44 percent will accept the label.

From my Blogger profile, first published in 2005:

Politically moderate, I'm conservative on foreign policy and national defense issues (surprise!) and liberal on social issues. I've voted Republican since 1980 but if the Libertarian party were viable I'd support them.
It looks like I'm more mainstream than I thought… but not in the Republican Party. And nothing brings this more to the fore in my feeble lil mind than the current brouhaha concerning the self-destructing GOP that is unfolding in Upstate New York… I'm speaking specifically of the special election in NY-23 for the US House.  That election is garnering a LOT of attention among those who follow politics closely. Let's quote The Other McCain, writing in The American Spectator:
In the past six days, Hoffman has been endorsed by former House Majority Leader Dick Armey, former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, Sen. Jim DeMint, Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, former National Republican Congressional Campaign chairmen John Linder and Tom Cole…

The complete list of Hoffman endorsers is a long one, and seems to include nearly every Republican except Newt Gingrich and Dede Scozzafava, the later (sic) of whom is Hoffman's opponent, and the former her only prominent supporter. According to the two most recent polls, the liberal Republican Scozzafava is now in third place, while Hoffman has pulled ahead of Democrat Bill Owens.

It's fairly unusual for an off-cycle special election to attract this much attention, let alone candidate endorsements from Party luminaries like Palin, Pawlenty, and Gingrich, et al. But if you (a) haven't been paying attention to this issue and (b) followed the link to The Fix above (which is highly recommended), you'll note the NY-23 election amounts to a serious litmus test of conservative bona fides. It's also quite troubling. Here's an excerpt from Ben Smith's blog at The Politico, where he quotes Gingrich (appearing on Fox News):

GINGRICH: Well, I just find it fascinating that my many friends who claim to be against Washington having too much power, they claim to be in favor of the 10th Amendment giving states back their rights, they claim to favor local control and local authority, now they suddenly get local control and local authority in upstate New York, they don't like the outcome.

There were four Republican meetings. In all four meetings, State Representative Dede Scozzafava came in first. In all four meetings, Mr. Hoffman, the independent, came in either last or certainly not in the top three. He doesn't live in the district. Dede Scozzafava...

VAN SUSTEREN: He doesn't live in the district?

GINGRICH: No, he lives outside of the district. Dede Scozzafava is endorsed by the National Rifle Association for her 2nd Amendment position, has signed the no tax increase pledge, voted against the Democratic governor's big-spending budget, is against the cap-and-trade tax increase on energy, is against the Obama health plan, and will vote for John Boehner, rather than Nancy Pelosi, to be Speaker.

Now, that's adequately conservative in an upstate New York district. And on other issues, she's about where the former Republican, McHugh, was. So I say to my many conservative friends who suddenly decided that whether they're from Minnesota or Alaska or Texas, they know more than the upstate New York Republicans? I don't think so. And I don't think it's a good precedent. And I think if this third party candidate takes away just enough votes to elect the Democrat, then we will have strengthened Nancy Pelosi by the divisiveness. We will not have strengthened the conservative movement.

VAN SUSTEREN: What is it that they have identified as why they think the independent candidate...
GINGRICH: Well, there's no question, on social policy, she's a liberal Republican.

VAN SUSTEREN: On such as abortion?
GINGRICH: On such as abortion, gay marriage, which means that she's about where Rudy Giuliani was when he became mayor. And yet Rudy Giuliani was a great mayor. And so this idea that we're suddenly going to establish litmus tests, and all across the country, we're going to purge the party of anybody who doesn't agree with us 100 percent -- that guarantees Obama's reelection. That guarantees Pelosi is Speaker for life. I mean, I think that is a very destructive model for the Republican Party.
(Bold emphasis by Smith) I chose Smith's blog for the quote above because the comments thread is VERY interesting for us political junkies. And I happen to agree with Gingrich… what's happening in NY-23 sets a dangerous precedent… which is to say an opening for knee-jerk Third Party candidacies whenever and wherever a significant minority of conservatives disagrees with the mainstream GOP. As Newt says: this sort of fragmentation almost guarantees The One's reelection. Newt and I also seem to be in the minority on this issue, as well. I'm not that much of a political junkie to claim I know what's going on in NY-23 but I know enough to see things don't look good for us Libertarian-type conservatives… and the GOP, as a whole. Shorter: What are we doing in this handbasket? And where are we going, anyway?

(Just as an aside: if you read blog-bud Morgan regularly you know that he and I have been sparring on this exact issue since last year's Republican primaries and well before. It all began when he backed Fred Thompson and I supported Giuliani; the discussion has continued full-tilt boogie since he's become a serious Palinista. Which I'm not.  See "libertarian," above.)


My Buddy Ed in Florida sends this along...

Heh. I'm afraid I'm just not that quick... but I sure as Hell wish I were.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Just... ummm... Checkin' the Box...

... when it comes to Sunday posting. Check out the lower right hand corner of this Google image search:

Yup. "Famous Photographer" R Us!  This, of course, is me following up a Site Meter hit.  The things people click through on never cease to amaze me.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

OK, So I Lied

I said blogging would be light but I can't resist posting this, coz it's just too cool for school:

The h/t goes to Blog-Sis Alison... who falsely claimed in EIP's comments a day or so ago that her blogging mojo had disappeared.  NOT.

Snippets From the AOR IV

It's Saturday... it's football... it's posting-light. But, that said... this pic graced my in-box this morning:

That would be (left to right) SN1, CMSgt Roznovsky, and CMSgt Lowe... all three of whom are maintainers. The occasion was the Official Opening of a CARE package sent by DIL1. Our troops DO love their boxes from home!

Friday, October 23, 2009

Snippets From the AOR III

Excerpted from a recent e-mail from SN1, and posted with permission (the CH-47 photo was obtained from the web):

So there I was: Afghanistan, climbing into the back of a British first helo ride ever! We all had our "battle-rattle" on and our 3 day bags packed. We were traveling down to check on our Rescue maintainers and the British are SO much more  practical about travel. Our own beloved USAF makes us show 3 hours prior to take-off, everywhere in the world, while the British will process you up until about 15 minutes prior to take-off. They recommend an hour prior, but talk about a huge difference! SO...we're on the helo and we taxi less than a hundred yards and lift...a short ride to the other side of the airfield to the FARP (Forward Area Refueling Point) and off the helo for the refuel op. A couple of pics while we're waiting and back onto the helo...alright! Now we're headed out...or maybe not? We fly back across the airfield and taxi back to the same spot. While the MX officer part of my brain tries to ascertain all the possible flight malfunctions that would cause us to return...via a short hop, but airborne none-the-less(?) becomes apparent the other helo won't make this trip and they start cross
loading the packages of mail and parts for our FOB. 5 minutes later we're airborne again, this time for real.

So we're skimming along, not too high above ground and I'm trying to see out the bubble windows...15 minutes into the flight and a WTF? moment! We popped off a couple of flares...naturally one might get a bit excited we go into a hover...felt like forever, but can't tell you how long, and next thing I know we're dropping into the FOB. Never did find out why the flares went..

The FOB is a bit more "challenging" than Kandahar. Dust is mass quantities. We toured both the British controlled camp and took a trip over to Leatherneck, the Marine FOB. Big differences. The British side was the Force-protection guys dream...the Marines take a different approach. I think it's almost a challenge: Yeah, we're here...bring it!

As for our operations down there, the facilities we have aren't quite as nice, but the guys/girls are taking care of them. The distance between where they stage and where the helos are is significant. The Alert mission is alive and well...and in demand. They scrambled MANY times while we were there. Brings the war front and center yet again when you know we don't launch unless someone is really hurt and needs to be taken to the hospital...NOW. Lots of activity, many moving parts, and lots of "work-arounds" in place, but the morale is high because the sense of mission is higher than anywhere I've ever been.

Towards the end of the day we sat around and made the "grocery list" of things we'll shop for here to get to our maintainers down there...the crazy little things that annoy the hell out of you in austere locations:
Trash bags, light bulbs, a decent printer, more comm equipment, etc. That accomplished we began the process of getting home. We confirmed a couple of our party on a British helo back, but not our entire group. We then went to the USAF terminal and got the obligatory "space a" sign-up and report NLT 3 hours prior!! Annoying! We planned all along to try as a group to get on board the British helo...and we got lucky. Last minute we ended up boarding the two helos headed back. I was the last guy on one of them. I sat next to the open door for take-off and watched as the gunner scanned his AOR, sitting on an ice chest...low-tech, practical solutions to problems! Thankfully uneventful ride back in the dark...

Good trip!

And so it goes...

Me Too

Once again, Pat Condell is making the rounds of the right-o-sphere and I'll post his latest, as well:

There are just SO many bon mots herein I simply don't know where to begin.  But a good place to start is where Mr. Condell avers that the United States' constitution is the bedrock... an anchor, as he puts it... for western civilization.  Watch the whole thing... and if you don't nod your head north-south while viewing this then there's something seriously wrong with you.  I really mean that.

h/t: memeorandum 

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Today's Happy Hour Soundtrack...

I remember the good old days,
Stayed up all night gettin' crazed.
Then the money was not so good,
But we still did the best we could.
Ooh baby, that's hard to change
I can't tell them how to feel.
Some get stoned, some get strange,
But sooner or later it all gets real.
Oh, yes... "sooner or later it all gets real."  Truer words, and all that.  "Walk On" is from "On the Beach," one of Neil's more obscure and least successful albums (in sales terms), yet that album is one of my favorites and one I sorely miss... seeing as how I've never bought the CD to replace the vinyl copy that's in SN2's custody. And then there's this, from the same album (a live version):

The music in "For the Turnstiles"... and I'm speaking of the guitar riffs... is some of the best stuff Neil ever did, IMHO. YMMV as ever, Gentle Reader.  And now it's back outside to soak up what remains of this Fall afternoon's fading sunshine.

Rock Star

Well, not yet. Technically. But the term is true in other usages. That would be Grandson Sean above, noodling on his new Telecaster. We never did get to those Beatles tunes yesterday; it was more fun for me to listen to Sean pick out a lil bit of 12-bar blues and other such things, and he was quite alright with that. Sean also spent a bit of time picking my brain about rock 'n' roll and r'n'r guitarists... what did I listen to most, who's my favorite, what did I think of this guy and that guy, and so on and so forth.

It occurred to me... and we discussed this at some length... just how lucky kids are today. Sean has access to a WORLD of music on YouTube. Name a guitarist, any guitarist, and one can find clips of that guy's work... and lots of 'em, too... just sitting there waiting for you to come by and take 'em. It wasn't so when Townshend, Clapton, Santana, and SRV first picked up their guitars, now... was it? We DO live in such wonderful times...

Wednesday, October 21, 2009


Yesterday was a weird sorta day. We began our day by vanquishing our insomnia demon and rolled out of bed at 0900 hrs, assisted in no small part by an insistent cell phone which does double-duty as the only alarm clock I'll ever own from now until the Dirt Nap. We ran through our morning rituals and got ourselves all psyched up for what we thought was gonna be the Final Chapter in our Adventures In Modern Dentistry… the installation of our implants… which was scheduled to go down at noon. Most of the psyching up consisted of visions of a huge slab of rare, bleeding beef … either prime rib or perhaps a big-ass Noo Yawk steak my self-promised reward once the light at the end of our dentistry tunnel appeared. We have waited over a year and a half for this, oh yes we has!

And we will wait a lil bit longer, too, coz I was confused. I thought I was getting my new teeth yesterday, but I didn't. Instead... I got what are called "healing caps" installed, which seems to be some sort of euphemism for more slicing and dicing of my gums and the installation of yet MORE hardware in my head. And sutures... lotsa sutures. So: No rare bleeding beef. No Happy Hour or cigars either, for that matter. It was lotsa Aleve and an extended nap… or more like a bunch of serial naps, interspersed with a lil light reading.

So... three more appointments and then we're done: suture removal in two weeks, "impressions" for the prosthetic implants in five weeks, and final installation on 12/17/2009. (sigh) It's always sumthin'.


 Ummm... Yeah, I have done that... why do you ask?

Blogging will be light today, as I'm going to spend the entire day over at Daughter-In-Law Number One's house doing laundry. I'm free at last, free at last, Thank God Almighty! I'm free at LAST! … from the frickin' Laundromat, anyway, if only for a few months. (With apologies to both Buck and Erma for making light of the current situation.)

And Boy Howdy do we ever have laundry to do… I've exceeded even my normal slothfulness, procrastination, and inertia where this odious chore is concerned, what with exhausting ALL my tee shirts (including the vintage tee shirt supply), ALL my sweatshirts and polo shirts, and actually dipped into the sole remaining shirt supply in my wardrobe: those with actual buttons and collars. And my laundry bag is literally overflowing; I'll need to find something to stuff the overflow into. I'd take a picture but that's erring on the TMI side of things. There are some things you simply don't need (or want) to know, Gentle Reader.

So. Today is laundry, Beatles tunes with Sean, and mayhap even a beer or two if we feel up to it. I think we might.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009


There are war stories and there are sea stories... and then there's this. Do your fine self a favor and go... and then grin. A LOT.

Impulse Buy

So... we were in Wally-World yesterday, doing a mini-resupply run (beer and such) when this caught our eye:

We DO like Dan Brown and $17.50 seemed like a small price to pay for several hours of page-turning entertainment. I picked up "The Da Vinci Code" a couple o' years back when the ex-girlfriend and I were off on a long weekend in Dallas and was enthralled. That book made it through me, the ex-GF, her family, and mine before I lost track of it. And everyone said the same thing, to wit: "Wow! What a page-turner THAT was!" Yup. And we can only hope there's more of the same lurking within the pages of his latest...

All that said, I should note I read Mr. Brown because of the way he writes... and NOT out of any belief there's hidden truth or any such other "deeper meaning" in his plot lines, which is to say I ain't buying into the various alternate Gospel theories and such.  He just tells a damned good story.  Period.  End of report.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Cheesy Videos XV... Or: I Need a Video Capture Card

What we're watching this evening:

That would be a lil over two minutes of the 2009 Isle of Man TT, and more specifically the Super Sport race. The video is just TOO damned cool in high-def... it's almost like being there, and I kid thee not.  There are on-board cameras giving you the racer's eye view, aerial shots from helicopters, and roadside views... and it's ALL amazing stuff, this!

So... what we're watching: The IoM TT lasts a whole week in June of each and every year and there is racing on alternate days during TT week. I went for the entire week in 1982 and that was my PEAK motorcycling experience... something I doubt I'll ever be able to match, let alone exceed. If you chased the link above you'll note the reference to "Mad Sunday:"

The future of the TT is always in doubt with regards to the safety, especially "Mad Sunday" when any member of the public can ride the mountain section of the course which is open one way from Ramsey to Douglas.
What The Wiki fails to mention is there are no speed limits on Mad Sunday.  Which means I rode across the top of Mt. Snaefell well in excess of 100 mph... two up... and laughing all the way.  I also rode every inch of the rest of the course while (mostly) observing the posted speed limits, and more than once at that.  And knocked back more than a few pints of Okells while watching the racers speed by, mere feet from where I was enjoying my pint.

Ah, memories.


A friend sends along a link to this...

...and the tone... NOT the content... sounds strangely familiar.

Well, Now! How About THIS?

We were sorta perplexed when The Brown Truck O' Happiness pulled up in front of El Casa Móvil De Pennington this afternoon, as we were most certain we hadn't ordered anything of late... or at least nothing that would be delivered by one of Our Favorite Ladies In All the World.  Said Lady inquired as to what sort of goodies she was bringing me today as she put the package in my hot lil hands.  I shrugged my shoulders and said "I dunno!"  "Well, it's from Albuquerque," said she.  And so it is... and it is this:

Six jars of the best salsa in the Free World... El Pinto...  specifically two jars each in three different flavors, including a special Balloon Fiesta Commemorative variety, which I've never seen before.  And all of it courtesy of long-time reader Bob Reese.  

Wow... Thanks, Bob!  There WILL be Mexican food for dinner tonight, you can count on that.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Today's Happy Hour Soundtrack...

We're actually doing all of "Blood On the Tracks" today... doing a semi-deep dive into our musical archives, as it were... and this track above is about the best rendition of the song as I can find on YouTube. The fact that the lyrics in the vid are somewhat modified can be overlooked as we have the real deal here at El Casa Móvil De PenningtonAnd said Real Deal is good, indeed.  For your edification:  

T'was in another lifetime, one of toil and blood
When blackness was a virtue and the road was full of mud
I came in from the wilderness, a creature void of form.
Come in, she said,
I'll give you shelter from the storm.

And if I pass this way again, you can rest assured
I'll always do my best for her, on that I give my word
In a world of steel-eyed death, and men who are fighting to be warm.
Come in, she said,
I'll give you shelter from the storm.

Not a word was spoke between us, there was little risk involved
Everything up to that point had been left unresolved.
Try imagining a place where it's always safe and warm.
Come in, she said,
I'll give you shelter from the storm.

I was burned out from exhaustion, buried in the hail,
Poisoned in the bushes an blown out on the trail,
Hunted like a crocodile, ravaged in the corn.
Come in, she said,
I'll give you shelter from the storm.

Suddenly I turned around and she was standin' there
With silver bracelets on her wrists and flowers in her hair.
She walked up to me so gracefully and took my crown of thorns.
Come in, she said,
I'll give you shelter from the storm.

Now there's a wall between us, somethin there's been lost
I took too much for granted, got my signals crossed.
Just to think that it all began on a long-forgotten morn.
Come in, she said,
I'll give you shelter from the storm.

Well, the deputy walks on hard nails and the preacher rides a mount
But nothing really matters much, it's doom alone that counts
And the one-eyed undertaker, he blows a futile horn.
Come in, she said,
I'll give you shelter from the storm.

I've heard newborn babies wailin like a mournin dove
And old men with broken teeth stranded without love.
Do I understand your question, man, is it hopeless and forlorn?
Come in, she said,
I'll give you shelter from the storm.

In a little hilltop village, they gambled for my clothes
I bargained for salvation and they gave me a lethal dose.
I offered up my innocence and got repaid with scorn.
Come in, she said,
I'll give you shelter from the storm.

Well, I'm livin in a foreign country but I'm bound to cross the line
Beauty walks a razors edge, someday I'll make it mine.
If I could only turn back the clock to when God and her were born.
Come in, she said,
I'll give you shelter from the storm.
Yup.  And shelter is what we got... for a time.

Weekend Update?

Well. A slow sort of weekend, this. Yesterday was consumed with the usual, customary, and reasonable college football orgy, with some grins (we're talking about the outcome of the game, not the significant injury therein) and one groan... although I have to admit the groan was highly entertaining and not the blow-out that some of the pundits predicted. ND was all set to tie on the final play of the game, but alas... it was not to be. We ended the evening by watching Game Two of the ALCS and went to bed somewhat satisfied with the outcome of the day's sporting events. I'm not a big besbol fan but I do enjoy the playoffs... even if I don't have a dog in any of these fights. The spectacle is entertaining as all get out.

One other sporting note and then we'll move on to other things: the Beloved Wings lost to Colorado last evening in a shoot-out. The Wings are off to a miserable start this year, quite unlike the Avs. The Avs didn't make the playoffs last season and finished dead last in the Western Conference. But this year? They're on TOP of the West... Numero Uno... leading the conference in these early days. Who'd a thunk it?


So... we were making our blog-rounds earlier today and we came across a post by blog-goddess Daphne wherein she makes the offhand comment that she finds the quality of her writing  depressing compared to that of some folks she reads.  I suspect know Daph ain't alone in this regard; Hell, even Lileks questions his ability at one time or the other... we ALL do.  Well, those of us with a normal amount of humility, anyhoo.  There are exceptions.  

Which brings to mind this lil screed I put up on the subject of writing last year, which I'll repost below.  But first:  The fundamental purpose of writing is to communicate; style, grammar, and basic spelling... while important... ain't the be-all, end-all of writing.  I can cut some people a lot of slack in this space if they have good ideas or good stories to tell.  You might get the opposite impression from what follows (insert a "heh" here), but that ain't my intent... not at ALL.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Lessons in Writing Humility

(OK… I was saving this post for tomorrow. But My Bud Dan’s comment to the post immediately below cut me to the quick. He’s right. I’ve been phoning it in of late. So here’s something that contains a lil bit more “substance.” Not a lot, mind you…just some.)

Apropos of not much…but, by way of introduction, this: I’m often struck by the quality of writing I encounter in my wanderings around these here inter-tubes. Or, more better, the absolute dismal state of most of the writing I encounter. Present company excepted, of course. All y’all write well, for the most part. There are exceptions…and all I can offer is: “if the shoe fits…” But in most cases it won’t fit. Mainly coz I have little or no tolerance for poor writing, there being some exceptions. I’ll leave it at that… criticizing others is not what we’re on about in this post.

The Second Mrs. Pennington and I, the both of us being professional writers (of a sort) and more to the point… she being an English teacher (of a sort)… used to have this on-going argument discussion as to whether good writing can be taught, or not. My position has changed back and forth over the years and still isn’t firmed up to this very day. On the one hand, the mechanics of writing most certainly can be taught… which is to say grammar, punctuation, subject-verb agreement, and the like. Anyone with half a brain can go out and buy a copy of Strunk and White’s “The Elements of Style,” study it intently, absorb all the lessons therein, and call himself a writer. And a lot of people do just that. On the Other Hand… good grammar and punctuation doesn’t begin to make what we know as “good” writing. It’s a start, but only a start.

Once upon a time I considered myself a “good” writer. I’d taken several undergrad courses in English and composition, I had a fairly extensive writing background acquired as an additional-duty Public Affairs Officer (NCO, actually, but the title was “PAO”), and was recognized by various and sundry Air Force supervisors and such as a “go-to” guy when it came to putting words on paper. So, it came to pass (in my post-USAF career) I was assigned to a proposal writing team sometime in 1986 or thereabouts. And here for your illumination, Gentle Reader, is my very first effort in this space, as returned “for corrections” by my proposal editor:

(click for larger, if you have the inclination)
Bloody. Literally dripping with blood, in the form of the dread red editor’s pen, and this is but four of 14 pages, all similarly deeply scarred and dripping red. Including all 14 pages in this post would be overkill, not to mention boring beyond belief. My draft was returned with a post-it attached that said “Good Work!” (the post-it has gone missing after all these years). I scanned my draft, bloody as it was, and immediately went to my proposal manager/editor and said words to the effect of “You think this is Good?”… to which she replied “Yeah. I didn’t tell you to re-write it, did I?” Well, OK, then.
So... I returned to my desk, made the corrections and re-submitted my draft, which was accepted without further edits. Things got progressively better for me (and my editor) as time went on. At the end of the six-month pursuit cycle I came out a much better writer than when I went in. My first proposal was a learning experience of the first order.
I became very, very close to my editor… a woman by the name of Mary who later went on to become an EDS corporate VP, and I had the delightful opportunity to work with her on a couple of other proposals while she was still doing that particular gig. I learned nearly everything I know about writing today from that woman… lessons that are much too detailed to repeat here but had a lot… nay, everything… to do with word-choice, economy of language, what to leave in your writing, and… much more importantly… what to take out. Another thing Mary emphasized is one needs to recognize good writing before one can even begin to emulate it. In other words: good writers are voracious readers. Mary was also of the opinion that the best writers read a wide variety of “stuff…” fiction, non-fiction, op-eds, soup cans, cereal boxes, and (she emphasized) poetry. Mary maintained poets are all about economy of language, which, to her way of thinking, is the very essence of communication.
Mary was a wise woman indeed. My only regret is I failed to keep in touch with her. So... take what you will from this, and leave the rest. Such as it is.

Committed to The Inter-tubes by Buck on 4/25/2008 07:19:00 PM 17 Astute Observations
So... one point I didn't make in the post above is any tendency towards flowery, "poetic" language I may have had in the past was bred out of me during my short career as a technical writer.  We're mostly about "short and to the point" these days, and that serves me well.  And you, Gentle Reader?  Mebbe not so much.

Friday, October 16, 2009


Sometime right around or just before my 50th birthday I made a vow to myself, on the order of "I'll never get stuck in the past… at least where music is concerned." This "getting stuck" phenomenon is something I had noticed quite a long time ago, beginning in my mid-30s or so. My peers and contemporaries seemed to be stuck in the '50s or '60s and most had a tendency to listen to those damned Oldies stations that played lotsa doo-wop, Motown, and Elvis songs at the time… not that there's anything inherently wrong with that music — I love it to death and have a LOT of it — but as a steady diet?  No. Not us.  Not ever. We wanted to keep up, keep current, and keep discovering new stuff.   And for the most part we managed to do just that.

It was sorta easy to keep up when I was that young, given I was living in London during my mid-30s (which had the BEST frickin' music scene in the early '80s, bar none), and continued to live in major metropolitan areas when I returned to the US of A. Even Oklahoma City… where I first landed after living in London… had a great college radio station out of Norman and at least one or two "progressive rock" stations. Moving right along… I was in Dee-troit as I approached my 50th birthday and while you may not think of Detroit as a musical hot bed it did have its share of progressive radio stations and a decent club scene. It was pretty easy to keep current and the music was also pretty danged good at the time… think REM, Soul Asylum, Toad the Wet Sprocket, Cranberries, yadda, yadda… and hip-hop wasn't dominant quite yet, either. Ascendant, yes, but not dominant. We probably added four or five CDs to our music collection each month and went to many more than a few concerts, as well.

So… we remained "unstuck" through the mid-'90s and a lil bit beyond. I remember quite well when my musical life took a turn for the worse: it was in 1999 and the aftermath of  The Great Divorce Crisis. I went off pop music entirely at that time and moved to jazz, country, and classical. I simply couldn't stand to listen to pop (be it current or from the near-past) and nearly all of my music collection: too damned many memories, too much pain. We diversified our tastes and managed to remain "unstuck" as it were, given there was all this great music I was discovering (or rediscovering) for the first time. That went on for about five or six years… or so. And then we slowly but surely began to return to our pop music collection and what was once familiar and comforting.

And here we are today, and the strangest thing has happened: I'm stuck. I noticed I'm mostly listening to Pandora these days, and the stations I've defined are all from my past: Van Morrison. Joni Mitchell. Neil Young. Rolling Stones. Santana. J.J. Cale. Roxy Music. James Brown. Warren Zevon. Dylan. (There are more, but they're all in the same vein.) And most recently: The Beatles, driven by my acquisition of the first two re-mastered albums. I racked my brain and tried to come up with new artists I've bought over the last two years and can only think of a few: Jet, Norah Jones, and Diana Krall (who isn't really new… just new to me). We are well and truly stuck.

So… perhaps getting stuck in the past was inevitable but I had always hoped it wouldn't be so. Dang. I hate it when this happens.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Today's "Happy" Hour Soundtrack

It's a fallen situation
When all eyes are turned in
And a love isn't flowing
The way it could have been.

You brought it all on
Oh, but it feels so wrong
You brought it all on
No, no, no, I don't believe this song
You brought it all on.

It's a sad communication
With little reason to believe
When one isn't giving
And one pretends to receive.

You brought it all on
Oh, but it feels so wrong
You brought it all on
No, no, no, I don't believe this song
You brought it all on.

Pardon my heart
If I showed that I cared
But I love you more than moments
We have or have not shared.

You brought it all on
Oh, and it feels so good
You brought it all on
When love flows the way that it should
You brought it all on.

It feels so good
It feels so good
You feel good.

And there might be more to this... but later.  I've gotta think on it.  In the meantime: "it feels so good." Sorta.  And there's your cryptic comment for the day...


Yesterday I hinted at some sort of story behind the addition of HD teevee to my entertainment portfolio. Well, there is a story (albeit not much of one) and said story involves my extreme Luddite tendencies. Which is another way of saying I'm remarkably inept for a former techie; "would-be techie" being perhaps the better term, now that I think on it. Anyhoo, it came to my attention a couple of months ago that HD teevee finally arrived in our dusty backwater burg. And since hockey season just kicked off, and since Versus gives us hockey in HD, well… it just seemed like the thing to do. I went down to Comcast day before yesterday and signed up… even after discovering that Versus HD isn't available in these parts, which was a disappointment but no BIG surprise. There are 20 channels in the local HD line-up, including History, Discovery, PBS, NatGeo, and A&E, all of which I watch with great regularity, and the prospect of seeing the "National Parks" re-runs in HD was just too tempting… so I put my money down. 

So… the kind Comcast lady asks if I'd like an installation appointment, or would I rather hook up the required digital cable box myself, which she can hand over to me right this minute? "Hmmm," thinks I… "I can handle this." So she gives me the box and a few cables, I sign the paperwork, and we're off on the return trip to El Casa Móvil De Pennington. Fast-forward an hour: it was more than I could handle, and it had everything to do with getting the complete package… DVD/VHS player, teevee, and cable box… integrated into a functioning whole. I gave up and called Comcast, who scheduled an appointment for me on the morrow (which was yesterday). After a couple o' phone calls to resolve scheduling misunderstandings the techie arrives and spends all of about 20 minutes successfully hooking everything up. And we now have HD teevee, which is a wonderful thing.

It hurts to admit it publically, but I'm technically incompetent. In my defense… our technical friend told me the component video outputs from my DVD player can't be hooked up along with the cable box… it being one or the other but not both… and that was what defeated me in the first place. But it makes no nevermind anyhoo, since my DVD player isn't high-def to begin with. So, I'm semi-incompetent. Still: embarrassing.

The great good thing about springing for HD is I get the "enhanced" digital service, which means I get a whole helluva lot of channels I didn't used to get. Which also means I get to watch the Isle of Man TT races this coming Monday evening. In high-def. Ooooh! And Ahhhh!

Today's political content:

Well, the Good Senator from Maine had a classic comment on her defection, dint she?  But I especially like Ramirez today. I'd check that frickin' box in a heartbeat.

Credit:  The usual source.