Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Sound wars . . .

. . . or, rap vs rock.

Pardonnez-moi if you're a rap fan. I am not. I suspect there is some measure of talent in composing and recording rap, but it's lost on me. In general, I find the artistic quotient of rap on about the same plane as Serrano's Piss Christ. Belay that. Rap is a level or two lower. I particularly hate the thumping bass and rattling sheet metal on the cars driving by with the amp set on 10.

Bear in mind that this intemperate rant was just to set the parameters of what follows.

Since the gas gauge in my car was bouncing near the "E" level, I pulled into a service station do-it-yourself gasoline dispensing place and began filling the tank. Then, a young lady pulled in beside me at the adjacent pump with the above-mentioned music junk blaring, woofers woofing, sheet metal rattling, and Snoop Dog railing about Obama and Bush.

Not only did she pull in and stop, she left the car with engine running and music on full and went into the office. I thought about reaching into her car and turning it off. Not worth being arrested for, I decided.

So, while my tank was filling, I sat in my car and turned on the radio. Aha! Creedence Clearwater. Born on the Bayou. I lowered my windows and cranked it to 10 just as she walked back to her car. Parry and riposte. Bose trumps Toyota every time.

Juvenile? Maybe. But didn't I mention that I really hate rap?

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Opportunities . . .

. . . that don't happen.

Back Here, I mentioned - rather obtusely, I might add - that there may be an interesting opportunity lurking around.

In 2001, the company I worked for hired a new CEO. Anxious to make his imprint, he instituted a profit improvement plan. For the uninitiated, that's corporate code for we need to cut expenses, and the easiest way is eliminating jobs.

Most of the corporate vice-president jobs were cut, and unfortunately mine was one of those. Adding to the "that sucks" column of the ledger was the fact that I would probably have been able to retire about now if I had been able to stay.

After sitting out six months, on my on volition, Mrs. B and I moved to the beach, and I started a new career in military planning with the U. S. Navy. This is a great job. Not only do I have the chance to work at the largest Navy base in the world, what I do is in direct support of our military men and women.

In an unexpected turn of events, in May I received a call from my old company - the CEO, in fact. He was inquiring whether I might be interested in a project manager's job overseas. The benefits are substantial, including 3x my current salary, health insurance, a house, car, phone and living expenses abroad. The net would amount to a little over 4x what I make now.

It wasn't risk-free, however, because the location of the project is Tel Aviv, Israel. From all I hear, Tel Aviv is a great city, and is probably the least risky part of the country.

Mrs. B. and I anticipated a trip to Israel to look things over before committing. However, the opportunity is not likely now. An European company that was looking to exit from the project change it's mind and renewed.

The opportunity is not dead . . . but it at least has a very bad limp.

Sigh . . .

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Conversations . . .

. . . with Ian.

Well, sort of. Lisa was talking to Ian via Skype, and this followed - not word-for-word, mind you, but the gist of it:

Lisa: Would you like to talk to Ian?

Me: Sure. {short conversation about gearboxes, driving yellow hotrods, etc.} Due to apparent blue screen of death on my computer, conversation ends.

Lisa (intending to fix my computer): Would YOU like to talk to Ian?

Mrs. B: Sure

Lisa (40 minutes later): Can I talk to Ian . . . PLEASE?

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Lisa, the gearhead . . .

. . . drove my hotrod today.

I was not locked in the boot, as someone suggested.

This is not an easy car to drive. It has manual steering, manual brakes, and a fairly obscene amount of horsepower. Somewhere north of 430, I believe.

She did more than fairly well at it, except for shifting the transmission. Although it is an automatic, it does have seven different detents: Park, Neutral, Reverse, and four forward speeds. It also has a separate grip lever to prevent inappropriate shifts - like second to reverse. The grip lever has to be operated in a certain sequence which she did not have time to learn.

She negotiated through the neighborhood and down a rather winding rural road. I never felt the slightest concern.

There was a brief flashback, though, when she asked about a turn. I said "turn right here," and suddenly remembered the first time I said that. On that occasion, Right here happened to be between a lamp post and a mail box and into someone's front yard.

The "Mystery Shifter"

Saturday, August 09, 2008

Nagasaki, Japan . . .

. . . 09 OCT 1945, 1110 hours.

Fat boy most likely saved my father from a trip from Guam to Japan.

It also gained freedom for J. S. Gray, the husband of my cousin Aylene Swayze Gray. J. S. survived the Bataan death march, imprisonment at Cabanatuan, a hell ship trip to Japan, and several years as a slave in the Yokkaichi copper mines. He weighed 202 when captured, 108 when released. His POW number was 260, and that was how his captors addressed him.

When he and his fellow prisoners were told to destroy their American flag, each one of them took a star. When the Yokkaichi POW camp was liberated, they took the stars they had kept for almost three years, and reconstructed the flag.

Footprints . . .

. . . are important to me.

Many people leave footprints, too many leave none. Some are vivid, some are faint. Most footprints add to the common good. Unfortunately, others do not. Some even detract from that common good.

Artists may consider their paintings or sculptures to be their footprints. For writers and poets, it's books, poems and stories. For parents, it may be children. For engineers, it may be buildings, highways, bridges or pipelines. I guess that's why I became an engineer. I always hoped to leave footprints, and I have. I now have one more.

When I began working for the U. S. Navy in 2002, my assignment was to plan for the facilities for five new helicopter squadrons. That's ALL facilities. Hangars, training buildings, parking aprons, runways, helipads, fueling stations, armories, warehousing.

Since Uncle has very detailed planning and execution processes, it takes a while to results that you can touch and feel. After six years, my first footprint at Naval Station Norfolk is a reality. This building houses flight and weapons simulators, classrooms and offices for the folks who train our helicopter pilots.

To most who drive by, it's just another building. It's not. It's a piece of me.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Iron Chef Bulldog . . .

. . . requires harmony in the kitchen.

Tonight, I'm cooking Mandarin orange beef with vegetables for Mrs. B, Lisa and TLK. I've also gathered rice, sushi springrolls and a touch of FuKi plum wine.

To ensure harmony, the ingredients are becoming acquainted before preparation. The beef is excluded to prevent diversion of the karmic flow . . . either that, or I forgot to set it out.

Nihonto and hachimaki are not required for Chinese cuisine.

Baconjutsu sensei to yondekure . . .

. . . or words to that effect.

Lisa, Mrs. B and I had BLTs for dinner this evening, and there was simply no other way to prepare them. TLK had, well, whatever TLKs eat, plus watermelon.

Saturday, August 02, 2008

Window peeper . . .

. . . pun intended.

This little guy was staring in our back window last evening. We don't have nearly as many songbirds hanging around as we did in Kansas City. That's probably because the subdivision developers around here clear-cut the trees, and we live in the middle with only saplings in the yards.

Since Jane asked, I chased him down on Google. He's a male Carduelis tristis, aka the American Goldfinch, wearing his summer breeding plumage.

We also have some hummingbirds hanging around, but I haven't been able to capture them on film . . . er, I mean chip yet.