Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Odd . . .

. . . Very odd, indeed. I went out to the patio to toss a steak on the grill, and noticed this bird sitting on my neighbor's roof. Now, birds on a roof are not all that odd, but . . .

. . . ducks? This is the second time this week I've seen a duck sitting on the peak of a roof. I was not aware that ducks perched in high places. Web feet don't seem to be that good for gripping.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Sometimes, you just want to . . .

. . . raise the WTF flag.

Mexico's deputy attorney general thinks that the U.S. should put more security on the border to halt the flow of guns into Mexico.
Reacting to a vote by U.S. lawmakers to trim an aid package for the drug war, Mexico's deputy attorney general, Jose Luis Santiago Vasconcelos, said an alternative would be to keep the cash in the United States and use it to curb illegal arms trafficking across the border.

"Some of us were talking, remarking that, well, this (sum of money) is all very well, but why don't we tell the Americans they could spend it on their (border security forces) to stop the flow of arms to Mexico," Santiago Vasconcelos said in remarks on local radio distributed by his office on Saturday.

Dude! It's your border also. Maybe Mexico has a little responsibility there too. Oh, and while you're about it, how about shutting down that avalanche of illegals that you actually ENCOURAGE to slip into the U.S.?
I'ts Memorial Day Here . . .

. . . so, thank you to:

My Father
U. S. Navy, 1943-1946
WWII - Guam
My Grandfather
U. S. Army, 1908

My Great-Great-Grandfather
Co. K, 7th Illinois Infantry
American Civil War
Andersonville Survivor

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Everybody's an expert . . .

. . . and half of them are idiots. I've mentioned before that Naval Air Station Oceana is nearby, and the pilots based there fly FA-18 Super Hornets. The Navy is looking for an outlying landing field (OLF) so the pilots can practice aircraft carrier launches and recoveries.

Because the airplane is so loud, nobody wants an OLF in their county. So, our local experts dimwits are making suggestions.

First, it was "anchor a retired carrier in the ocean, and let them use that." Yeah, right! Lets have our pilots execute what is probably the most difficult maneuver in military aviation in real time with no practice, and no room for error. Thanks for the suggestion, dumbass.

Now, another deep thinker lamebrain suggests that our pilots don't need to fly airplanes to learn. "Let's just let them learn in simulators. After all, that's how airline pilots learn." Sure. That's the ticket. I'm just raring to hop on a 747 with a pilot who learned to fly a computer, and who's never been off the ground. Sign me right up.

Question of the day: Where do these people generate the number of synapse firings to required to walk and breathe at the same time?

Friday, May 23, 2008

In an earlier post . . .

. . . I mentioned opportunities. Nothing may still come of it, but an inspection trip appears to be in the offing. Mrs. B and I are applying for passports tomorrow.
Subtle hints may be found in this post, if you look hard enough and are very careful in evaluating what you see.
I guess . . .

. . . she tagged me.

Click on this link. The title of the page is the name of your band.
Click on this link. The last four words of the final quotation on the page are the title of your album.
Click on this link. The third picture is your album cover.
Take the pic, add your band name and album title.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

High school yearbook . . .

. . . destined to be a collector's item.

McKINNEY, TX -- (excerpts) A photo company says it's taking full responsibility for altered pictures that ruined a high school yearbook and will pay to have the publication reprinted before the seniors graduate.

Students at McKinney High School were stunned to get their yearbooks this week and see that some heads had been put on other people's bodies, sometimes of the other sex, and one girl appeared to be nude.

A spokeswoman for Lifetouch National School Studios Inc. said Saturday that the company sometimes touches up photos to cover blemishes and the like.

The high school in a Dallas suburb had required Lifetouch to make heads the same size and eyes at the same level in all student photos. Rollin said the request was "unusual and definitely very particular, but that's not to suggest what happened here is acceptable."

More than 30 students had their photos altered in the yearbooks that were handed out this week. Several heads were atop bodies wearing the same clothes. Some students' necks were stretched, one girl's arm was missing, and another girl's head was placed on what appeared to be a nude body, with the chest blurred.

Does anyone think the requirement to make all the kids' heads the same size and their eyes at the same height is a little anal retentive?
I absolutely LOVE this . . .

Opportunities . . .

. . . come at the strangest times, and from the oddest places.

I am being rather actively recruited for a position that would pay me approximately 3X my current salary. It would also provide for housing, a car, medical insurance and an allowance for daily living expenses. Most of my salary - less taxes - could go straight to the bank.

It has some downsides, and is not a sure thing. However, I think I can pull it off. It will take some time to develop.

This came, totally unsolicited, out of the blue from a source that I never expected. One blogger knows the details, but she is sworn to secrecy.

Stay tuned . . .
Tree frog redux . . .

H. cinerea apparently thinks our house is a tree. I had a treehouse once, but this isn't it. A week or so ago, I took these photos:

Today, as I was returning from the store, I noticed a little green thingy behind the trim next to the front door. I guess there are a lot of bugs that hang around our front porch light. The light has a motion sensor, and various people, cars and other beasties wandering by turn it on.

Friday, May 16, 2008

A PhD should be . . .

. . . smarter than a fifth grader. But he wasn't. Missed the first question. Walked away with the grand total of $0.00. Shouldn't a PhD in ANY discipline be able to do third grade math?

The question that was beyond the PhD's math ability:

If a pound of peanuts costs 48 cents, how much does 5/8 of a pound cost?

Now, no cheating, no pencil and paper. Do it in your head. What's the answer?

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Babbling . . .

. . . because it's all I have today.

On "The Tudors," Anne is starting to rub Henry the wrong way - which is diametrically opposite to her approach last year. I'm starting to fear for her safety.

Rummy. No, not gin rummy. The Donald of Rumsfeld. The exiled SECDEF. The ex-Bushie. He engineered the start-up of a pay-for-performance payroll system for Federal Department of Defense employees. Now, I'm all for pay-for-performance, but this is the $10,000 toilet seat of personnel systems. I don't have enough employees in my department to do the work as it is, and just adhering to the system is going to take from 10% to 25% of our collective work time just to work the system. Great idea. Pay them according to the amount of work they do, but cut the time they have to do it. My logical, engineering brain does not compute this.

Monday, May 12, 2008

A three day weekend . . .

. . . and it's rained for two. Oh, and the area has a tornado watch, high winds and thunderstorms right now. It's raining sideways, and I had to bring the grill in to keep it from blowing away.

All is not lost, though. It's still strawberry season, I picked another gallon yesterday and Mrs. B.
went all artistic with berries, angel food cake and whipped cream.

Friday, May 09, 2008

A wagon train . . .

. . . and a sad story about my 5th great grand aunt, Jenny Laughridge.

Taken from a handwritten sketch of the Trimble and McClure families by Louisa Smith, a grand-daughter of John and Mary Trimble, handed down by her mother, who was Elizabeth Trimble, born in 1803 and died in 1860. This sketch was written in about 1910.

In the early settling of Kentucky several families started to move from Virginia to Kentucky. There were several covered wagons, and at night they would "round up" and part of the men would keep watch for fear of the Indians.

They had kept watch for several nights and were not molested and concluded they would lie down and rest. Very soon they were awakened by a cry from the Indians. They were overpowered and scared so they could not defend themselves. The Indians took the feather beds, ripped them open and scattered the feathers all over the ground. The women ran and hid themselves, but one Mrs. Jennie Laughridge, a sister of John McClure and Elizabeth McClure Trimble, tried to conceal herself and children in a hollow stump.

One of the children crying betrayed their hiding place and the Indians seized them, took them by the feet and knocked their heads against a tree and killed them. Then they tied her on a horse and compelled her to follow them. They ran leading the horse and it would rear and plunge but she was tied on and had to go with them. She thought she was doomed to be separated from her people but as she rode along she broke off a weed as often as possible to guide anyone who might follow to rescue her.

After riding all night and all day the Indians untied her and let her walk. About dark she hear guns firing and some one shouted "come on boys". She knew it was her friends after her. She made a desperate effort and sprang away from her captors.

The Indians were afraid of the guns, although there were only two of them, but they fired their guns and rushed on them so it scared the Indians. She ran to her friends, they helped her on a horse and her brother got on with her and galloped away. they rode all night expecting to be overtaken by the Indians.

They had to hunt their way and got back next morning about daylight. She was so tired and hungry she was almost exhausted. She was never like herself again. Her mind was almost ruined. She lived for several years but was never well nor able to work again.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Random Thoughts for Wednesday. . .

The same two folks who are claiming that they can help lower gas costs and gain energy stability [coughbarrackandhillarycough] have consistently voted against nuclear power, construction of refineries, offshore drilling and drilling on federal land. In the world of logic, how does that compute? For gawd's sake, even FRANCE knows how to use nuclear power.

If all the illegal immigrants are expelled from the U.S., what are we going to do with the millions of discarded leaf blowers? (Calm down folks - it's a joke)

I agreed to a mortgage I can afford. The government is jumping through it's own six* to provide a bailout (read: money) to those who did not. WTF? Why is their overextension my problem? Answer: It's about the ballot box, baybee.

When my children complained that something wasn't fair, I produced their birth certificates and asked them to show me where I might find the word "fair."

Jeopardy Answer: I never heard that. Well, I heard it but I don't agree. Oh, that's reprehensible, but I can't disavow the man. Okay, what he said is untrue and inflamatory. All right, that's enough. I'm out of here. Question: How does a superficial politician resign from the Trinity United Church of Christ ? My follow-up question: Should moral decisions be iterative so you can choose the easiest one?

I agree that the injury to Eight Belles was a tragedy. I do not agree with PETA that the jockey should be executed.

If our elections aren't about race, please explain why 90% of the black vote in North Carolina went to Obama and 65% of the white vote went to Clinton. You got some 'splainin' to do Lucy.

The Virginia Beach Police Department had to reduce the passing grade from 70% to 60% on the math section of their qualification test. I can see why, with difficult questions like this: "On Tuesday, Officer Jones worked the 3 p.m. to 11 p.m. shift. At 10:55 p.m. he was called to the scene of an accident where he remained until 1:30 a.m. How long past his regular shift did Officer Jones work?" My follow-up question: Shouldn't a professional police officer be able to understand 6th grade math? BTW, that IS the difficulty level of the exam.

I understand that "Are You Smarter than a fifth-grader" is not accepting applications from Virgina Beach.

*six is Naval aviator slang for six o-clock - or right off your tailpipe. The analogy should be obvious.

Monday, May 05, 2008

Our trip to Natchez . . .

. . . wasn't just a vacation. It was a bit of a trip back in time to my roots.

My 5th great-grandfather, Richard Swayze, Jr., (yes, it's THOSE Swayzes) and his brother Samuel were among the original English settlers in the area. They purchased land known as the Ogden Mandamus in 1773, and moved to Mississippi in 1773. The primary reason for the move seems to be rooted in the looming dust-up with the Brits. The Swayzes were loyalists (they are now forgiven) and decided that New Jersey might not be the best place to hang out for the next few years.

They moved to Adams County, MS, near Natchez and formed a new town called Kingston. They also founded the first Protestant church in the territory. This was not considered friendly, since the territory was controlled by the Spanish at the time.

Every year since 1940, there has been an annual reunion of the "Descendants of the Jersey Settlers" held in Natchez and Kingston. Mrs. B. and I had attended three of these reunions, but hadn't been back since 2002. So, we combined a bit of vacation with a chance to see some of (very) distant cousins, and to reacquaint ourselves with some fine southern cooking.

For those not familiar with the American south, there are some things you need to know. First, they are very proud of their rebel ancestors, as evidenced by numerous statues commemorating those who fought for the South in the "War of Northern Aggression." This statue is in Port Gibson, MS. I have no problem with the statues, since I had approximately equal numbers of relatives on both sides.

Confederate Memorial, Port Gibson, MS

Natchez suffeed little harm during the Civil War. The city was captured by Federal forces under ADM David (Damn the torpedoes) Farragut in 1862. This is evidenced by the large number of antebellum homes remaining in and near the city. Stanton Hall is probably the queen of the lot, although Rosalie and Dunleith are near the top.

Mrs. B and I had dinner in Stanton Hall's carriage house, which is now an excellent restaurant, specializing in Southern fried chicken and the most delicious little biscuits imaginable. I ate there the first time in 1958, while travelling to Baton Rouge, LA with my parents. Coincidentally, my first date with Mrs. B was in 1958.

Stanton Hall, Natchez, MS

When they arrived in Mississippi, my ancestors navigated up the Homochitto river and stopped near this spot to set up their new lives. They had a streak of good fortune, since a recent fire had cleared the land, and abundent rains that year gave them good crops to make it through the winter.

Presumed Landing Point on the Homochitto River Bank

They began church services in individual homes while posting a lookout, since the Spanish were not tolerant of Protestant folks. Legend says that they hid the scriptures in a hollow tree so that no one would be caught by The Spanish Inquisiton, although no one really expects that. The church below is not the original, but dates back to the early 1800s. It is now a Methodist congregation.

The Kingston Church

One of the Cousins Lecturing as
Rev. Samuel Swayze

The widow of one of our dear cousins still owns Oakwood Plantation, which was built in 1836. It was restored in 1986.

Oakwood Plantation

Mrs B. and I chilling out on Oakwoods' front porch

Sunday, May 04, 2008

Top twenty songs . . .

. . . mine, at least. And they'll change by next week. If I had all of these on one disc, I'd be happy for a while. In no particular order:

  • The Loadout/Stay - Jackson Browne
  • Nights in White Satin - Moody Blues
  • Key to the Highway - Clapton & cohorts
  • Crazy - Gnarls Barkley
  • Smooth - Santana
  • Piano Sonata #14 ( the Adagio Sostenuta) - Beethoven
  • Bonny Portmore - Loreena McKennitt
  • Sweet Child O' Mine - Guns N' Roses
  • Harlem Nocturne - Earle Hagen
  • California Dreaming - Mamas & Papas
  • Wind of Change - Scorpions
  • Unchained Melody - Righteous Brothers
  • Exodus - Ferrante & Teicher
  • Brothers in Arms - Dire Straits
  • Georgia on My Mind - Ray Charles
  • Under the Boardwalk - The Drifters
  • Dust in the Wind - Kansas
  • Comfortably Numb - Pink Floyd
  • Bridge Over Troubled Waters - Simon & Garfunkel
  • String of Pearls - Glenn Miller

Saturday, May 03, 2008

Night Visitor . . .

. . . I was on the phone when Mrs. B. asked me what was stuck to the large window over our front door. At first, it looked like a tidy green package that may have been left by one of the birds that try to nest in our eaves.

Closer inspection revealed some little feet. By the time I retrieved my camera he was gone, but I found him outside clinging to the trim. I suspect it's a type of H. cinerea.

Friday, May 02, 2008

Strawberry Fields Forever . . .

. . . No, not the song. The real thing. We just picked up a gallon of them on the way home today. Have one. :o}

We live south of "The Green Line" at the very southeast corner of Virgina Beach. Development is very limited in this zone, and most of the area south of us is farmland. It's also prime strawberry territory, with plenty of rain and sandy soil.

The strawberry harvest has already started, and you just don't find better berries than the ones picked - fully ripe - from the vine.

Every Memorial Day weekend, there is a strawberry festival at a little crossroads named Pungo - about five miles south of our home. It is truly just a crossroads, (check the photos) but about 120,000 visitors show up during the two day festival. We never fight the crowds, but we have at least a month of yummy hand-picked strawberries. Then it's back to the cardboard versions shipped from wherever.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Politics is war without bloodshed . . .

. . . while war is politics with bloodshed (Mao Tse-tung)

The United States is not the only country that has weathered a civil war. Ours cost more than 600,000 lives, including those buried in the National and City Cemeteries in Natchez, MS. I was reminded of this on our recent holiday in Natchez.

It remains strange to me that the cause of the war is still vehemently argued. While the majority opinion is that slavery was the cause, a vocal minority still lays the blame on tariffs or the right of succession or the concept of states' rights in general.

Although I had relatives on both sides, I am a firm believer in the majority opinion - particularly because the articles of succession of most of the Confederate states make strong statements about "our peculiar institution."

143 years later, there are still arguments, but these men have had their say. Every marker says "Unknown Soldier," but sometimes the unknown are the most eloquent - in numbers, if nothing else.

National Cemetery, Natchez, MS

City Cemetery, Natchez, MS

The battle flags are placed on the graves of Confederate soldiers on Confedreate Memorial Day, a day still recognized by 13 Southern states. In Mississippi, Confederate Memorial Day falls on the last Monday in April, which coincided with our visit.

This practice is taken as highly offensive by certain segments of our society. I do not agree. I do not fault the common soldier fighting under either flag. POLITICIANS fought for or against slavery. The common soldiers fought and died because POLITICIANS could not resolve their disagreements in a civilized manner. Condemn the politicians, but allow the commons soldier to rest in peace.