Thursday, June 4, 2015

I just can't stand it...

Okay, deep breath...

So Ted Cruz made a very mild jab at Joe Biden this last week.  "Joe Biden... no punch line necessary"

And now has apologized since Joe recently lost his son to brain cancer.


The jab in no way denigrated the son, brain cancer, or Joe's loss.  It took aim at a legitimate public figure.  (MY first thought when I heard the son died of brain cancer was, "the kid must have inherited that organ from his mother...")

Moreover, Joe himself has NEVER wasted a chance to capitalize on a political opponent's misfortune in his entire political career.  This guy is the definition of "creepy old guy," and regularly makes tone deaf remarks along the lines of Marie Antoinette's "let them eat cake."

Remember during the post 9/11 scares, when then VP Cheney was at a 'undisclosed location' to protect from terrorists?  After the first scare when Joe was Veep, he told a dinner party where the location was.  HE ENDANGERED HIS OWN LIFE, along with those assigned to protect him, and forever removed that site from such use.  This cost taxpayers millions because Joe had to be the big man at the party.  He is just clueless.

This list goes on and on, ranging from the inane to the plain stupid ("[when attacked by an intruder,] get a double barrel shotgun, and shoot both barrels into the air from a balcony"  Which disarms the home owner, is illegal in most municipalities, and assumes the EVERYONE HAS A BALCONY to retreat to)

BUT because Biden is a Demo-rat, and we no longer have real journalists in the Main Stream (liberal) Media, Ted must apologize.

Had the remark gone the other way, no apology would have been necessary.  No one would have cared that a conservative was smeared, unfair or otherwise.

Monday, June 1, 2015

The Crime of Banking While a White Republican, and how Race is involved

Everyone know the story of former Speaker Hastert, who was being blackmailed for something in his past that may or may not be a true crime in the state of Illinois.  

He is under indictment for... uhm, taking his own money out of his account in amounts our federal overlords do not approve of, and not telling the FBI why when asked.  Note that this occurs while the Clinton openly are taking huge bribes while nothing is said.  

In fact, this obscure law seems to be invoked as a gotcha today, for when the government want to a) take a citizen's money when no crime has been committed other than making deposits or withdrawals from your own bank account, or b) pursue a political opponent.  For examples, google 'civil forfeiture abuse' and read a few stories for option a), and google 'Tom DeLay campaign finance trial' for option b).  

What I cannot believe is that no one has played the go-to card of the day.  The media is discussing this story based in the context of the Patriot Act expiring, and because he is Republican.  No discussions about the blackmailer, or his possible crimes that led to the blackmail.  No talk about motives or anything.

So how did we just have a discussion without throwing in any reference to race? I thought ALL topics were related to the race and bigotry of the parties (white ones, anyway) involved.
Well, we can’t have this. Someone has to point out the elephant in the room.
IF any minority was involved, the answer is self evident.
However, Hastert may or may not have perpetrated whatever acts he committed only on white people. It is to be assumed that these victims benefited in some way, since they did not rat him out (except for the one enterprising citizen to whom he paid millions, that is)
But IF minorities were EXCLUDED from the benefits being a victim of Hastert’s ‘indiscretions,’ that makes him a (wait for it……)
Gee, visiting the mindset of the race baiting crowd makes me feel scummy… now I need a shower!

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Tinfoil Hat or Common Sense?

So my daughter got flu this spring.  The doctor said that the flu shot is only 23% effective this year in North America.  The 'NORTH' part intrigued me.

I research things routinely on the Internet.  Last night I read up on what the CDC has on flu strains and how vaccines are created.  It turns out that vaccines are regional, based on flu strains expected in that region.  So if type A strain H1N1 ("swine flu") is expected in in North America, that will be included in three or four strains included in that vaccine.

The problem is that the predominant strain showed up in late August and September, after production started.  This is a H3N7 variant, which can cause more deaths statistically than the ones in the vaccine, 'extra' deaths.  Not only that, it suddenly appeared in geographically diverse locations at the same time.

This variant is well know to scientists, and has been tracked for years.  In fact, it WAS included in the cocktail for another region... Central and South America.  In other words, this deadlier strain was expected this year in that region, but not here.

So how did it get here?  In the late August and September time frame? 

Who came to this country at that time from that region?  The illegal immigrant children!  They were then dispersed across the fruited plain by the Administration.

Does this mean that the extra deaths from this flu season can be traced to the politics of the regime?  

Or did I just qualify for my tinfoil hat?

Thursday, May 14, 2015

The Chevy Chevette Clutch

Growing up we did not have lots of ‘extra’ money: we were not starving (dad was a public school teacher in Texas, which is still today not a get rich scheme) and did not consider ourselves poor, but we did not eat out every night, or have expensive electronics like today.  I wore Sears Rustler jeans, when Wrangler and Jordache were the style.

My first vehicle was an old 1968 Chevy pick up.  This truck was two tone: algae green and rust.  Zero to sixty in 50 seconds, if you pushed her.  But made of steel and relatively safe for an inexperienced rural driver.  I was allowed to sell this truck to get cash for a new(er) used car.  I also borrowed most of the money from my grandmother (thanks Mimi!) who did not want interest on her investment.

I bought a 1979 Chevy Chevette 5 speed manual transmission much like the one shown above.  This car had literally been used by the proverbial little old lady to go to church on Sunday, and had the scratches on the passenger side door where her lap dog rode.  The scratches were there because the dog put its head out the window.  Why was the window down?  This car did not have an air conditioner.  My truck did not have AC either, so I was used to riding with the windows down anyway.  This car had the smallest domestic engine to date: a 1.6 liter 4 cylinder.  This all meant I would get 35 miles per gallon, though.

I installed a heavy duty stereo system (I could not outrun anyone to the party, but the party started when the music and beer showed up anyway, and I was the music.) and had a very efficient form of transportation that fit my minuscule budget.  I also worked every day from before dawn to after sunset to pay that car off between my junior and senior years.

Being a teenager, though, I still lacked the brain cells to avoid many stupid stunts in my new car.  While I might be outclassed on the highway by the average soccer mom (I could offer to race the Amish in their horse drawn buggy, but that would be rude), on dirt county roads too much engine was a liability.  Like European rode rallies, control is more important than horsepower.  In fact, my friends with the horsepower did not need to learn control (they thought) and thus visited the ditches of rural roads regularly, allowing my little modest granny mobile to carry the day.

I learned the roads in our county, planning out the possible race courses in advance.  I learned where I could ‘drift’ around a turn to keep my momentum high, and where it was better to slow down instead.  I even learned how to manipulate the hand brake, the clutch and gas to spin a 180 degree turn around (a ‘drug runner’s turn’) so that I could meet my opponent on the way back (that always got to them).  I am not saying that I won every time, but I should not have won at all given the disparity in vehicles.

This turn involved hard breaking, working the clutch, steering wheel, and hand brake together to make the car spin, then counter spinning the steering wheel and shifting into first while feathering the clutch to move the other direction.  Gravel goes everywhere, and you are moving the other way faster than if you used the brakes to stop your suddenly reversed momentum.  That point is important later in this story.

Now, the things we did on the roads give the parent in me chills today, and today is a different world where such antics would land you in jail, but in that time and place the local law practiced a ‘no harm done, no foul’ policy as long as they did not see us with other (adult) witnesses.  If we took out a fence, we fixed it.  Most of my friends were kin to almost every land owner so no one even thought of not owning up to property damage of that sort.  (We used to say that our parents would know where we were if we traveled through town on the highway at midnight going 60 miles per hour with the windows rolled up: that was how efficient the gossip network was)

My friends without cars would (of course) ride to parties with those who did.  Since I had the least cool ride, I often traveled alone.  However, several friends got curious as to how they could see me take the turn ahead, then be coming the other way so quickly.  I explained that I did not stop to turn around.  So one of them rode with me to see what I did.  He was impressed enough to talk it up at the next party.

That was how I got talked into loading five big teenage boys into a car made for three (two front seats and a tiny back seat) to show how this stunt worked. (Did you feel those chills?  Parents reading this all just cringed, and childless dead physicists rolled in their graves)

You see, I had not taken several variables into account (those undeveloped brain cells, no doubt).  I had never done this stunt with more than one other person and they were always in the front seat.  High school physics did not cover the concept of center of gravity, leaving me ignorant of my folly.  I had also never done this on a paved road.  You see, the skid I was to induce depended on the dirt and gravel under my wheels; oh, it could be done on pavement, but I had never tried before, a little fact which escaped me in the heady high created by peer pressure (never underestimate the stupidity of teen boys in small groups.)  I did not have a ‘feel’ for the surface, which is important to timing the required maneuvers.

Let me digress a moment to describe the road we were about to attempt this upon.  This was a paved county road, going down a gentle grade into a cross roads.  The crossroads widened enough to make such a turn, and was my target area.  The cattle fences on each corner of the crossroads were braced at 90 degrees, to support the fence in both directions, and to survive careless drivers who might miss the turn and destroy the fence.  These corners were stout: railroad ties with angle iron bracing, sunk deep into the earth by ranchers who wanted to be sure the malefactor did not drive away from a wrecked fence.

So I picked up speed down the hill, being goaded by my friends in the timeless manner of all teens raising a hoorah, and therefore hit the intersection with a bit too much momentum.  When I started the skid, I immediately knew I was in trouble.  The tires did skid, leaving rubber behind, but the three 180 pound boys in the back seat threw off my control.  NOW the fight began.  We passed the first 180 and continued into a 360, followed by another 180 degree spin.  I managed to regain control enough to stop the spin facing the right, reverse direction, but doing so used up all my cushion, and that fence corner loomed large in my rear-view mirror.  I jammed the car into first gear and popped the clutch, causing the transmission and tires to howl in protest as we left the road and crossed the right of way (thankfully there was no ditch) and drifted to a stop with the rear bumper kissing the fence.  Rubber smoke was laced with another peculiar smell I had encountered during road racing but never so strong.  The car was very quiet (the extra spin scared my passengers) as I attempted to head back up the road.  The car kind of leaned forward and refused to move.  This identified the new smell: burned clutch plate.  No clutch, no motion.  I explained to my friends that they were pushing and I was steering back to their cars, and that I needed a tow to Alvin’s shop, our local mechanic.

Not sure what my dad thought about a burned out transmission, but he did not say much: I paid for the repair, and these things had to be replaced every so often anyway, so maybe he figured it was just time.  I was out a car for two weeks, since Alvin worked tractors first (he knew who paid his bills with steady work, and it was not a 17 year old with a granny mobile!)

I lost that car on my 18th birthday when I was broadsided by a semi-tractor trailer, but that is another story.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

ISIS and Texas

ISIS came calling to Texas last weekend... it did not go well for them

What I find interesting is that ISIS is claiming this utter failure, making the point that ‘they thought we could not reach them in Texas.’

First, ISIS did not reach into Texas; two SJS wanna-be AMERICANs did this.

Second, the reason this conference was in Obscuresville, Texas (and not the group’s home state, NY) is THAT TEXAS DOES NOT PUT UP WITH THE BS that, say, New York or California would. We had armed police protection with the right attitude in place. We have armed citizens who remember an incident in a Luby’s several decades ago, and have vowed never again. (no offense to Garland… I used to live near there and think it is a great town)

Third, this was stopped by a 60 year old traffic cop with a pistol. The terrorists (and make no mistake about what they were) had rifles, body armor, the element of surprise, and a car to hide behind which would have stopped most pistol rounds… and were dead within 15 seconds. Garland Police are serious about gun range training… they tend to hit what they shoot at. Notice the low crime statistics in Garland (and most of Texas) to see if criminals are aware of this as well.

Fourth, rifles against pistols, and you lost that bad? I HOPE jihadis from ISIS are all this brain dead stupid. ROTFLOLWMP

Fifth, if this does become a thing, I will be dipping my bullets in lard, just to make sure they are disqualified from an afterlife on their own terms.

The moral of the story, is send more ISIS troops to Texas. We can take care of their need to see the afterlife.

Monday, April 20, 2015

BB Gun Wars (or "Why my wife is overprotective of our kids")

As I have written about before, my cousins, brother and I were somewhat unsupervised in rural Texas in the early 1980s.  Our parents worked several miles away, and we were watched, in the early years, by teen babysitters who were, shall we say, less than motivated to execute their assigned observational duties in the strictest sense of the term.  We frequently wandered the country side to entertain ourselves, with whatever came to hand.

One thing that was ‘at hand’ was our little brothers.  These kids were only guilty of wishing to tag along, to join us in our tree house, and bask in the ultimate levels of cool pre-teen older brothers exude in the eyes of younger siblings.  And as we became good at giving them the slip, they annoyed the babysitter enough to bring down parental edicts to ‘play with the little kids.’  This is how it came to be that one of our babysitters was labeled with the nick name ‘sandwich.’

Sandra was a typical teen girl, likely 17 or 18 at that time (‘old’ from the viewpoint of 10 and 11 year olds) who stayed with us during the day on summer vacation.  My aunt’s house sported a window unit AC in the living room, which usually could drown out a reasonably sized thunderstorm, and thus let us make all the noise we wished.  One favorite activity was the awesome tree swing at Jerry’s house, with a rope that went up 20 or 30 feet.  Of course, another parental edict was to share a tree swing with the siblings, so we took turns pushing each other on the 20 foot high rope swing.  The goal, of course, was to see how high you could go.  

One sweltering Texas day in July, Jerry’s little brother Bo refused to give up the swing.  After tiring of attempting to reason with someone of obviously diminished mental capacity, Jerry and I thought up a cool twist on the game: we took a one by eight and ‘paddled’ him on each pass of the swing.  See, he was standing up in the swing to keep it going (against yet another parental edict; but to be fair, he was not the first to do so) and so presented a great ‘target of opportunity’ on each pass.  If he leaned his nether regions out to gain momentum, we got in a swat, never mind that our contact was limited by the fact that our swing had to catch up to him as he went by: he presented no target on the return arc.  This was brilliant on our part (so we thought): we got to paddle him unless Bo stopped swinging.  

Meanwhile, Bo was caterwauling at the top of his lungs for quasi adult intervention.  Did I mention that it was a hot day?  That the window unit was blowing like a jet engine, drowning everything from the yard into the house in white noise?  That we took that into account in our nefarious plan?  So Bo was yelling “Sandraaaaa!” and “OW!” every pass, we were laughing so hard we really could not land a solid blow, and Sandra continued watching ‘The Young and the Restless.’  At one point Jerry got a particularly good hit and Bo yelled for “SANDWICH!!!” which pretty much broke up the party, as none of us could stand up, being helpless on the ground gasping for air.

Anyway, a few years later we were no longer supervised at all (!) and had heard of the concept of Paint Ball.  As you can imagine, this captured the imagination of 13 and 14 year old boys: running around the woods, setting ambushes for the enemy, and shooting each other.  The problems were a) paintball guns and ammo were very expensive, b) it required safety equipment we did not have, and c) we were broke.  

Not to worry: we had baseball catcher’s equipment and BB guns.  However, we soon discovered how hot running through the woods in catchers equipment was, so settled on just the BB guns.  What could go wrong?

Another problem was lack of arms.  Jerry had his pump up BB/Pellet rifle, and I had a Daisy Red Ryder BB gun.  Note that I quickly learned to keep my distance from Jerry, as his gun hurt on the rare times he hit.  This advantage was negated by the fact that my Red Ryder could shoot much faster (if less powerfully and accurately: it still stung), which precluded a rush attack from Jerry.  For all of the ammo we expended, we never did hit each other much.  

One exception was at the old cattle tank.  A cattle tank, for you urban readers, is what you might call a pond, if a muddy hole in the ground infested with turtles, frogs, snakes, various bugs and random thirsty bovines meets that definition.  This particular tank was ‘seeded’ with fish which were hand fed by Jerry’s father, in the futile hope of catching fish one day.  Why futile, you ask?  You see, one of the wonders of BB guns and glass bottles (everything was in glass bottles those days: mayo to shampoo to ketchup) is that bottles float, and you can sink them with said BB guns.  Aluminum cans were harder targets requiring Jerry’s rifle, but they too offered sport.  Sometimes almost empty cans or jugs of household chemicals fished out of the trash substituted when glass or soda cans were scarce, having already been sent to a watery grave.  My uncle never could figure out why that fishing bit never seemed to take off…

Jerry got peeved at me one day when I did not go along with whatever plan he had just dreamed up (by age 13 I was learning about Jerry’s plans, and the consequences I paid that he somehow escaped) so he took a shot at me with his rifle.  He missed and I quickly was on the other side of the tank, which he would not cross (we knew what was on the bottom of that tank, and it was chest deep).  So he shot at me across the tank.  And the BB went plop into the water by my side of the tank.

Time to digress.  Texas boys in those days learned many useful things from their fathers: how to skin a deer, squirrel or dove; not to urinate into the wind; not to talk back to their mother; the finer points of college football; and how to skip a flat stone across a body of somewhat still water.  You take a relatively flat rock (think deck of cards or thinner) between the size of a fifty cent piece and the palm of your hand, grip it like you would a hand gun (trigger finger around the curve of the rock) and sidearm throw it at a low trajectory angle to the water.  If the angle and power of the throw combined with the spin imparted to the stone just so, the stone would bounce off of the surface of the water, more than once if you were particularly skilled.  We had contests to see how many skips a single throw would produce (no smart phones in those days).

So when Jerry’s shot fell short, I realized my lower powered gun would never reach him.  Unless I could skip the BB! Surprisingly, this worked better than I could have dreamed.  Physics dictated that all my shots were between his ankle and the middle of his calf, but they were bona fide hits.  Jerry also had to reload (22 shots to my 600 plus) giving me time to pour it to him.  He left the field of battle that day a bit the worse for wear, having worn deck shoes, shorts and no socks on our outing.  

My aunt never did figure out where he got all of the tiny bruises, and nowhere but on his lower legs.  Much to my delight, she made him go to his room to strip for a health inspection while I almost vibrated off of the couch with suppressed laughter.

Nor did she understand why he wore a long sleeve shirt in the late summer after another such encounter.  On an unsupervised weekend (!) Bo insisted on joining the action, and prevailed in his petition with the threat of parental disclosure of the (supposedly unsanctioned, who was gonna ask?) BB gun combat.  His terms specified staying in the yard (Bo had learned not to get alone in the woods with Jerry without some means of defense) and equal time to shoot.  I observed that Bo did not have a BB gun, which seemed to nullify his argument until Jerry threw me under the bus.  Since my Red Ryder shot faster, Bo and I could be on the same team. 

NOW I had motivation to shoot Jerry, and a highly motivated ally with which to do so.  So we began the stalk.  Bo and I had to stay together, which at first limited cover possibilities until we started baiting traps for Jerry.  This involved presenting Jerry a target to induce him to revealing his position to the armed comrade.  Bo got popped a few times before we abandoned that strategy (you did not think I was gonna be bait, did you?).  

Then Bo got a great idea: we could climb up the TV antenna to the roof of the house, and shoot down on Jerry anywhere on the yard, as long as we used the peak of the rook for cover.  This violated yet another parental edict, but if you are already doing what you suspect any sane adult would frown on, you might as well chuck all the rules. This worked until Jerry holed up on top of a long unused dog house against the trunk of a large oak tree, where he could punch through the leaves while our lower powered gun could not.  We countered with hiding behind the chimney, which gave us an unimpeded shot.  We were now well within the ‘ouch’ range of Jerry’s gun (his shots nicked brick dust and shrapnel onto us) until I realized that he had a delay between shots, to pump up his rifle.  

At his next shot, I jumped out and nailed him there on the dog house, causing him to take refuge behind the tree trunk.  At short range I was a crack shot with my Daisy, and could fire several times in succession.  So we traded shots for a while, Bo and I waiting for his shot and him ducking back behind the tree to power up.  

Then I made a discovery: the tree was too small to cover his arm while pumping the rifle.  Between his shots his arm was briefly visible from the other end of the chimney!  So I timed my next shot to his pumping and got him on the elbow from my new vantage point.  In the heat of battle Jerry did not think, just adjusted his position so he was covered… and exposed his arm to Bo who had remained in our original position. Bo quickly got the Daisy from me and plinked Jerry from that angle, again around the elbow.  This went on for quite some time, as Jerry was convinced he had us pinned while we gleefully nailed his arm once or twice between his shots.

Thus it was that the next day, Jerry insisted on wearing a long sleeve shirt to church (to cover the bruises), telling my aunt he was cold (in 80 degree weather.)

And Jerry got back at me years later by telling my future wife of our exploits as kids, during those unsupervised summers.  My kids rarely get to do anything good outdoors.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

How times have changed

I had a thought on how our society has changed. Or perhaps the change is in me?

My grandfather grew up on a farm, using a homemade slingshot during the depression era (in Texas, that era lasted from 1920 to 1945, it seems). They had guns, but could not afford bullets as much. He wandered pretty much where he wanted and no one minded.

My dad grew up around farms and in rural areas, and ran around unsupervised with a .22 rifle. He shot bullfrogs, turtles, and probably anything else he wanted to aim at. We are talking about a pre-10 year old, if I understand the stories right. And it was okay at that time: low population density, lots of space and lingering pioneer attitude, I guess.

I grew up with BB guns. We did not buy pellets very often, and the first BB guns did not fire them anyway. (But my dad did not let me have one myself pre-10 years old: Jerry’s dad did <wink>) We shot anything that moved, and quite a few things that did not. Including each other, when the best gun we had was the Daisy Red Rider spring gun. I’ll get into those stories another time. We also wandered wherever we could walk to.

When my son turned ten, he had never, to my knowledge, fired a sling shot, a BB gun, or a Pellet gun, much less run the countryside with one. (He HAD fired a .22 and various pistols, rifles, and shotguns, but never unsupervised) The only gun we left to his discretion is a water pistol, and not in the house!

Is it me, or have we gotten so protective that some great experiences are now lost? Sure, society is more crowded, and in this era when anyone sues for anything we have to be more careful, but why do I have a vague sense of loss about this, for his sake?

Yes, I was considering giving him a pellet gun for Christmas, but it would be locked away unless he is supervised. It is to teach him proper gun range technique and safe gun handling, not for him to range the woods like I did at his age. Of course, we do not have access to land like I did growing up (not that small matters like property ownership, vicious dogs, barbed wire fences, or armed residents ever slowed my cousins or me down…)

Maybe I simply know what CAN happen now, and that stops me from telling him to run free. I dunno. I just have a vague sense of loss over the whole situation.