Friday, October 31, 2008

Friday . . .

. . . wanderings.

I promised not to blog about politics, but traffic, law and math are still fair game.

Item the first:
It's Halloween, so I wore a Union Army uniform to work today. I walked into my commander's office and told him that General Grant ordered me to relieve him of command. He was more than willing to comply.

Item the second:
Obama has promised a tax refund to 95% of Americans. 46% of Americans don't pay federal income taxes. Does this mean that the 46% will get 100% of zero back?

Item the third:
Mrs. B went to the hospital for pre-surgery tests to day. We were informed that they were open between 6:30 a.m. and 6:30 p.m. We arrived at 6:30. Paperwork was promptly taken care of, but the nurse doesn't arrive until 8:00 a.m. That would have been good information up front, wouldn't it? How can you be "open" if the key person isn't there to do the work?

Item the fourth:
I was late getting home last night because our bus (and all other traffic) was stopped for the Obama motorcade. He came to Hampton Roads to lie like a rug hold a rally at 5:45 - right in the middle of the rush hour. He just lost my vote. Wait . . . I already voted. nevermind.

Item the fifth:
- An empty noose gets kids expelled from school.
- Two people are arrested for hanging Obama in effigy in Kentucky.
- Palin hanged in effigy in California. Everyone giggles.
Explanations abound. Logic does not.

Item the sixth:
My bus is full in the morning because of the cost of gas. There are two men who get aboard at the first stop. They sit in the aisle seat, plop their lunch bags or backpacks in the window seat, and bury their noses in a book or newspaper. Every morning, someone has to ask them to move over. Arseholes.

Item the seventh:
The U.S. government spent something north of $150,000,000 installing a pay-for-performance system for civilian employees. What has it done? It was the brainchild of Rumsfeld and Wolfowicz, so that might give you a hint. Answer: not much. Management didn't like the ratings, so we're forced to change them, and everyone is getting pretty much what they would have gotten before. Amazing.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Horror movies . . .

. . . rules of engagement.

- If you hear a noise in the basement, you MUST go investigate. "I can't imagine why that blood-curdling scream came from downstairs. It must be the cat. I'll go look. Darn, the lights don't work . . ."

- If your door is open and there are bloody footprints, you MUST look inside to see what's going on. "That looks like red paint. Those twelve people lying over there must have slipped in it. I better check . . ."

- If you are being chased by a madman in a car, you MUST run down the center of the street. "If I just stay on this yellow line, Christine won't be able to run me down!"

- If you go into a spooky house with a partner, you MUST split up. "Ill take the basement, you look upstairs . . ."

- If you have a party with friends, it MUST be in a dark place with a spooky reputation. "Hey, let's get some beer and go out to the Johnson place. You know, where that kid killed 27 people with an axe. It'll be a blast . . ."

- If you kill the monster, you MUST turn your back . . . so he can rise up and attack you again. "I pushed him down the steps, so even though I've shot him, hacked him with an axe, and immolated him with gasoline, the fall MUST have killed him. I'm glad that's over . . ."

- If you're lost and almost out of gas on a lonely road, you MUST stop at a run-down motel or an old house in the middle of the woods to ask for directions. "Norman, can you direct me to the nearest gas station?"

- If you shoot the demon six times and bullets don't hurt him, you MUST throw your gun at him.

- If you have escaped the monster, but found you have left your high school class ring in the house, you MUST go back for it. "My grandmother bought that ring, so I don't care if there are 19 bodies hacked to death inside . . . I'm going back for my ring."

- You can drive for hours, but when you must escape from the monster, your car WILL NOT start. "I don't understand. This is a brand-new, $150,000 BMW. It started the last 500 times . . ."

- While you are being chased around the house by the monster, NONE of the doors or windows will open, the lights won't work, and the phone will be dead. "I'll just click the phone 20 or thirty times. That'll make it work."

- You can have enough evidence to convict Charles Manson, including photographs, witnesses and bloody body parts, but the police/parents/neighbors WILL still not believe you. "Sorry, son, but all those photos of bodies in the basement look like a prank to me - and that stuff on your shirt, shoes, pants and face must be spaghetti sauce."

- If you are at a party in a strange place, you MUST NOT BE the hot chick/macho guy. They will be the first victims.

- If you're making out in a car on a lonely road, that noise you just heard WASN'T the wind. "Honey, what was that scratching that sounded like steel fingernails being dragged across the car fender? Don't worry about it, it was just the wind. Now why can't I get this unhooked?"

- If you're in a dark place, your flashlight WILL NOT WORK.

- If you've had sex, you're GOING TO DIE.

- You CANNOT run faster than the bad guy can walk.

- If you're a cheerleader, you're GOING TO DIE.

Happy Halloween!

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

A haunting . . .

. . . or not?

Gemmak's strange dream (Sunday, October 26, 2008: Weird or what!!! ) - particularly the Jack Nicholson photo - reminded me of a trip to Colorado.

I stayed in the historic Brown Palace hotel in Denver, which opened it's doors in 1892. The hotel is in downtown Denver, so there's no real mountain setting. However, parts of the interior remind me of the Overlook in Steven King's book, "The Shining." I had just finished reading "The Shining" on the airplane into Denver.

Here's what seemed to happen:

As I was drifting off to sleep, I heard footsteps outside my door. My opened and shut. More footsteps, seemingly in my room. Then, the side of the bed near my feet sagged, as if someone just sat on it.

Here's what really happened:

Someone in the room next to me walked down the hall, opened their door and let it slam. Barely awake, I heard them walk across their room. Then, I had one of those little episodes where you jerk awake and feel like you just fell into your bed.

At least I hope that's what happened.

The Brown Palace is reputed to be haunted.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Digging through old stuff . . .

. . . I found this magazine.

I was one of those kids who found a Lionel train set under the Christmas tree many, many years ago. In the '70s, I built a layout for the boys, hoping they would catch the railroad bug. They never did, but it rekindled my interest. I kept building and building on my own until 1989, when we moved and I had to tear it all down.

On a whim, I took some photographs of some locomotives I had built, wrote an article on the construction, and sent it all to Railroad Model Craftsman magazine. Several months later, I received a check in the mail for several hundred dollars, along with several proof copies of this cover.

RMC not only accepted my article, but they paid me for it, and put one of my photos on the cover. There were several more photos printed inside, but because of the half-tone print, I can't scan them. The three yellow Union Pacific diesels are mine. It took several hundred hours to modify existing locomotives, add details, and complete the paint.

One day when I was picking up the photos, a gentleman standing next to me asked me where I took the pictures. When I told him "in my basement," he didn't believe me. It turns out that he was a Union Pacific engineer, and had delivered the first locomotive of that type to U.P. in Omaha. Coincidences . . .

This photo is of two other diesels I built. They're sitting on the layout that I sadly had to tear down when we moved. I either hand-built or modified everything in the picture - from the locomotives to the chain link fence.

Courtesy . . .

. . . unrequited.

I took two packages to FedEX today. I forgot something, so I went back out to the car.

When I returned, a woman was walking up with two arms full of packages. Being a proper Eagle Scout, I opened the door for her. She promptly thanked me - a response of more rarity today than it should be.

I guess she thought I not only opened the door, but allowed her to pass me in line. So, I sat there for 10 minutes while she went ahead of me and processed all seven of her packages without so much as a by your leave.

After I woke up from my nap finally had my turn, I was halfway through the process of sending my packages when a delivery man interrupted the clerk, and they discussed where some paperwork should be processed.

Obviously, opening a door for someone grants the admittee full license to control and superiority.
Equally obviously, the FedEX paperwork was more important than the customer . . . who happened to be standing there envisioning all means of torture, and contemplating to which ring of Hell the woman, the clerk and the delivery chap should be committed.

Soto Voce: I have decided that insead of railing at people who aggrivate me, I shall mitigate that aggrivation by determining their proper place in Hell.

As the old bromide says, no good deed goes unpunished.

But, it was a nice day. Warm with a light rain.

And the offences were such that no bodies now need be disposed of.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Politics . . .

. . . has simply gotten too nasty.

I have contributed to the muck, so I pulled down a few posts.

I have decided that minds are made up, the country is equally split, and both halves are continuing to lob (figurative) grenades at each other.It's been going on for sixteen years straight. Thanks to Bubba and the Devil With the Blue Dress On (thank you Mitch Ryder) and to those warped individuals who think atomizing themselves will grant them 72 virgins instead of a place on the Outer Ring of the Seventh Circle of Hell. I don't see much chance of it abating for another eight or so.My little blog stands no chance of making a difference, so I'm cooling it for a while.

There won't be another political post until the day after the election - when I will either post "YAY!" or "SHIT!"

Since the French and Iranians have already chosen Obama, what would my opinion matter anyhow?

Friday, October 24, 2008

The Volga Ruby . . .

. . . a novel by Peter Jobes

Peter Jobes is a software engineer who wrote this book in 27 days for National Novel Writing Month last year. I saw an introduction to the book on Violet's blog, and decided to buy it. That was a bit of an adventure in itself. Amazon (US) didn't have it listed. Amazon (UK) had it listed, but it was not available. I finally ordered a copy on LULU.

In 1907, James Fitzhugh, a British officer of the 13th Hussars, is serving with the British Ambassador in St. Petersburg at the court of Tsar Nicholas II. A treaty between Russia and Great Britain is being negotiated to offset the power of the Triple Alliance among Germany, Austria-Hungary and Italy. While visiting Natasha, the sister of a Russian schoolmate from his days at Eton, Futzhugh learns that Natasha's stepfather, Count Berovsky, appears to be in league with a group of discontents bent on revenge for the ill-fated 1905 Russian Revolution. How will an outsider, with little proof and no real authority, derail this intrigue? To find out, you have to read the book. No spoilers here.

The good: The book is a quick read. The setting is exotic, and the storyline is interesting - a version of the "stranger in a strange land" plot. The author cleverly sets up the story with a link to an event more than 200 years earlier, and neatly returns to that link at the end of the story with a resolution that I never saw coming.

The superimposition of fictional characters over a particularly historic time always makes a good story. This was a time of change, danger, and international intrigue over most of Europe. It's an excellent setting.

The not so good: Character development is spotty. When I read a book, my reading translates to a movie in my head. I can visualize people, places and events. I could see Fitzhugh and St. Petersburg in my "movie." The other characters just didn't show up. I couldn't form a picture.

The really not so good: Grammar, syntax, word usage and sentence construct.

Jobes has a disconcerting habit of stringing sentences, fragments and phrases together with comma after comma after comma - and not in a Faulkner-eske manner. I had to stop many, many times and re-read sentences just to understand the context.

Particularly distracting was the continuing use of statements like "Had the duel went much further . . ." That jarred me out of the storyline every time. I don't understand the splitting of compound words such as step father, guard rail, crew men, head ache. Is this common usage in the UK?

Finally, the language is a bit too modern for the era. Speech was much more formal in 1907. I doubt that high society at the time spoke in contractions - I've, he'd, you're. Can you imagine a Russion nobleman using a phrase like "Mother would likely lose it?"

Maybe I'm too picky, but I am a voracious reader. Errors and anomolies break my concentration like commercials on television. Jobes has talent. With character development and serious review by a good editor, The Volga Ruby could have been a great 400 page book. There was simply too much of a story to tell in 210 pages.

Historical notes:
Those of you who studied history or English literature in school should recognize the 13th Hussars from Alfred, Lord Tennyson's poem. Half a league, half a league, Half a league onward . . .

Also, Sir Robert Baden-Powell, the original Boy Scout was a colonel in the 13th.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Worshipers at the Church of Heather . . .

. . . need not read further.

But you can if you want.

I see by the Rasmussen poll that President Bush's approval rating is now at 34%. If you think that's abysmal, I agree. Although I am an unabashed centrist-leaning Republican, I truly believe that Bush has squandered all of the party's gains from Reagan forward. I think he picked and trusted incompetent people. Rumsfeld was probably the worst.

That being said, here's what you get if you elect Obama, and swing the Senate and House further blue in tint:

A congress with an approval rating of 9%, led by the most liberal current member of that august 9% body.


I don't know about you, but that's not my definition of trading up.

Just sayin . . .
For someone who thought . . .

. . . the author of this blog was female.

I'm the one on the left. Really.

BTW, this photo was taken outside Kingston, MS on the porch of Oakwood, a restored plantation house dating back to 1835. As I have mentioned before, my ancestors were the first English settlers in Adams County, MS.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

OK, I lied . . .

. . . about no more politics.

However, my intent is not to argue McCain/Obama, but to make a general statement of what I believe in government, and to my friends abroad, it is not the European Model. Sorry. This is the list of "Cannots" oft quoted by both Abraham Lincoln and Ronald Reagan.

"You cannot bring prosperity by discouraging thrift.
You cannot help small men by tearing down big men.
You cannot strengthen the weak by weakening the strong.
You cannot lift the wage earner by pulling down the wage payer.
You cannot help the poor man by destroying the rich.
You cannot keep out of trouble by spending more than your income.
You cannot further brotherhood of men by inciting class hatred.
You cannot establish security on borrowed money.
You cannot build character and courage by taking away man's initiative and independence.
You cannot help men permanently by doing for them what they could and should do for themselves."

- Rev. William J. H. Boetcker

Apply that to candidates as you will . . .
Aptronyms. . .

. . . or, the name fits the job.

Funeral home owners in Norfolk, VA: Bryan and Frank Graves.

OB/Gyn MD in Omaha, NE: Dr. Dennis Beavers.

Dentists in Omaha, NE: Thomas and Terrence Fangman

There are many of these on the Internet, but I only listed the ones I personally have seen.

I had nothing better to do . . . apparently, I need to get a life.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

My Amazon credits . . .

. . . built up, so I bought this.

We no longer have reruns via the BBC here in the colonies, and none of the PBS stations see fit to run it. Withdrawal symptoms had built up to an unbearable level, so I cashed in some chips.

The set consists of 17 DVDs, and covers the entire Diana Rigg era. Mrs. B has refused to watch any of them - at least so far. It didn't help when I reminded her that she used to have a Mrs. Peel catsuit. Yep, she really did.

The catsuit went out of service when a slightly tipsy friend* spilled Kahlua on it . . . or when common sense returned. I forget which. (Photo? I wish to heck I had one.)

Well, it was the 70s, after all.

*Clue for Lisa: He was a mutual acquaintance of ours, and the initials were WAK.

Monday, October 13, 2008

You'd think . . .

. . . I lived in the UK.

Punctuation was discussing UK English pronunciation, and it reminded me that some county, city, street or road names around here are repeats of UK place names.

Either the original settlers were homesick - or they had absolutely no imagination.

We have Norfolk, Hampton, Suffolk, Portsmouth and Surrey to name a few.

The names are the same, but the pronunciations wander a little from the UK. For example, there are at least four common pronunciations for Norfolk.

NOR folk - From visitors or TV announcers that have never visited here.
NAH f'k - From southern people trying to get it right.
Norfik - From someone trying to get it right, but who thinks the correct pronunciation is obscene.
NORf'k - From people who have a clue.

Strangely, in Nebraska, Norfolk is most often pronounced Norfork. Ask Lisa.

Or, here is the "official" explanation:

The name "Norfolk" is traditionally pronounced "Norfork" by Nebraskans. When the city was incorporated (as a village) in 1881, it was named after the "north fork" tributary of the Elkhorn River on which it lies. The United States Postal Service assumed that "Norfork" was a mistake and changed the name to "Norfolk". This became the official spelling, but the local pronunciation did not change.

As usual, the government bollixed it up.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

A story about my mother . . .

My mother was a social worker. She started working in the local department of public aid - commonly called the "relief office" - when my grandfather became ill. She did well enough there that she was hired by the State of Illinois to work out of the county office.

When I was about twelve years old, my mother brought a young lady home with her. For privacy, I'll call her Mary.

Mary did all of our cleaning, laundry and most of the cooking. I asked mom why Mary was living with us, and she told me that she needed help around the house because she and dad both had full time jobs. Besides, mom had to spend extra hours at work because her cases ranged all across the county.

It looked to me like Mary was pregnant, and I finally asked mom if that was the case. It was, and about six months later, Mary had a little girl. I can't for the life of me remember her name, but I remember Mary rocking her in a little room next to mine. Eventually, Mary left, and I didn't think much about it. I just assumed she got a different job and moved on.

It must have been twenty years later, when Mrs. B and I were visiting home, that I remembered Mary and asked mom why she lived with us for a while.

Here's the real story: Mary and her husband moved to Illinois just a few months before. When her husband realized she was pregnant, he abandoned her and disappeared. Mary had no family in the area, and no family to go back to. Because she lived in Illinois such a short time, Mary was ineligible for public aid. My mother couldn't find any way for the state to help her, so she brought Mary home to live with us until she met the residency requirements.

I think of that story now and again, and it's just one of the hundreds of reasons why I've always been proud of mom.

The rocking chair . . . all three of our children were rocked in it, including Lisa. Lisa rocked TLK in it also, and it's sitting in Lisa's living room.

Friday, October 10, 2008

No roses . . .

. . . but more guns.

Do you realize how many common sayings derive from firearms?

Lock, stock and barrel. From the major parts of a rifle.

Going off half-cocked. Old muskets had a half-cock notch for the hammer - the old version of a safety. If that notch was worn, the musket could fire from the half-cock position. That was not a good thing.

Flash in the pan. Flintlocks had a covered "pan" near a hole leading to the powder charge in the barrel. A very sensitive powder was dribbled into the pan so that the flint would ignite it and fire the gun. If the gun was dirty, the primer powder would "flash" without igniting the musket.

A scattergun approach. Scattergun is slang for a shotgun, which shoots a wide ranging pattern.

Shot in the dark. Used to be you couldn't aim in the dark, so you took your chances.

He has a hair trigger. A trigger takes a certain amount of pull to fire the weapon. Some folks lighten that pull until (exaggerated, of course) the weight of a hair will fire it.

Loose cannon. A cannon that is not properly secured can shoot just about anywhere - including places you don't want to shoot.

He has a short fuse. A cannon with a short fuse will fire before you want it to.

A smoking gun is easier to identify than one that has not been recently fired.

You can read this or not, but don't shoot me down . . .
Guns N' Roses . . .

. . . latest album will be released on 23 NOV.

Title: Chinese Democracy. It's only 15 years late.

Their last was "The Spaghetti Incident," which bascially sucked.

Their other albums ranged from very good to outstanding.

1987: Appetite for Destruction
1988: G N' R Lies
1991: Use Your Illusion I
1991: Use Your Illusion II

Why do I care?

I first saw the GNR crew in cameos in "The Dead Pool" with Clint Eastwood. "Welcome to the Jungle" was included in the soundtrack. After that, I became a big GNR fan.

Mrs. B and I even had tickets for the 1991 GNR show in Kansas City. It didn't work out. The previous week, Axl started a riot at the St. Louis show, and there was an arrest warrant for him in Missouri. Knsas City was cancelled. I was seriously bummed.

GNR Lies is in the stereo in my car. I was listening to it yesterday.

Axl was (is?) a head case. Slash, Izzy, Duff and Adler were serious alcoholic druggies.

Regardless, they could really rock. Usually.
Dooce's Hypothetical question . . .

. . . reminded me of something that happened two summers ago.

As I was leaving a grocery store, I was approached by a young lady I'd guess to be about 35. She looked to be tired, and more than a little distressed. She told me she was embarassed to ask, but had spent her last money on food for her kids, but hadn't checked her gas gauge and was afraid she couldn't make it back home. She pointed to a beat-up old car. I could see a baby seat and some toys, but no kids were in the car.

Now, I don't give handouts to everyone who asks for them, but this lady's story just seemed believable. I gave her a ten, and she thanked me several times, and there was a tear in the corner of her eye.

After she left, another lady who had been watching decided to butt in:

Her: Boy, she really took you in.
Me: Pardon?
Her: How stupid can you be? She's just going to buy drugs with that.
Me: Maybe, but at least she isn't a nosy BITCH who can't mind her own business.

As I pulled out of the parking lot, I saw the woman I gave the money to pulling up to a gas pump across the street. . .

Sunday, October 05, 2008

Absolutely my last post . . .

. . . on politics, that is.

I'm sick of it. The campaigning, that is.

Issues have taken a back seat to sound bites.

Most of the folks who claim to be journalists are nothing but party flacks. They deny, deny, deny, but it still comes across in their reporting.

There's little discussion about how good one's party is. It's all about how bad the other is.

Debates are all about answering questions that weren't asked. More sound bites.

What's worse, based on the comments from "Joe Citizen" in blogs, on TV, and in the news, I'm convinced that at least 50% of the people who will mark an "X" in November are either too ill-informed, or just too freaking stupid to vote.

And, not because they prefer a different candidate than I. Because they can't articulate a coherent reason.

I'm done. I'm done blogging about it. I'm done discussing it. I'm done watching debates. I'm done watching the Sunday news shows.

I've studied the issues. I've identified my political philosophy. I know where the candidates stand.

Mark the "X" for whomever you choose. You'll deserve what you get.

So will I.

Friday, October 03, 2008

I don't usually get this coarse . . .

. . . but, TOUGH SHIT!

NEW YORK (Reuters) - New York Gov. David Paterson on Friday pledged not to raise taxes, even as he predicted an increase in the state's budget deficit to $2 billion amid fallout from the credit crisis and recalled the legislature for a special session next month to address the economy.

Paterson, a Democrat, said he feared Wall Street, which accounts for one out of every five tax dollars in the state, could slash bonuses by 60 percent and capital gains tax collections could plunge by about 50 percent.

Paterson said Wall Street bonuses generate 30 percent of the state's taxes in the January to March quarter.

Considering what's been going on in the financial markets, doesn't this fall in the category of poetic justice?

And, since poetry was mentioned . . .

Poetry . . . shows what should or must occur, rather than merely what does occur.
- Aristotle

That also seems relevant to the topic does it not?


Thursday, October 02, 2008

Embarrassing situation . . .

. . . from a while ago.

Brennig's blog today reminded me of one of those situations. Years ago, I was sitting on the side of the pool with a couple of friends of mine. These friends had just been introduced to each other.

Friend #1, upon seeing a rather very curvaceous young lady slide into the pool: "I wonder what it would be like getting into her pants."

Friend #2: I'm the guy to ask . . . she's my wife.

Friend #1 pushed off the edge of the pool and slowly sunk from sight. I assume he eventually came up for air, because I saw him at work the next Monday.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Fair and balanced?

. . . possibly, but I'm not sure.

Gwen Ifill, the PBS moderator of the upcoming VP debate is publishing a new book. The title, you ask? "The Breakthrough: Politics and Race in the Age of Obama. "

OK, so now the Age of Aquarius is done, the Quaternary Age is over, and it's the Age of Obama? The Quaternary lasted for 2.588 million years, which causes me to ask . . . WTF are we in for?

Whatever . . .

The real question, though, is how can this woman appear to be objective considering that book title? Notice I said "appear." In certain positions, it is not only required to be impartial, the appearance of impartiality is also important.

In an online video promoting her book, she is enthusiastic about "taking the story of Barack Obama and extending it."

If Obama loses, her book tanks. If he wins, her book is a best seller.

She does not clear that bar, and should recuse herself.

She won't.