Top of the Slide

Forty years after the fact is a fine time to wonder if maybe that murderous freak Charles Manson had a point, after all. This is a savage disappointment to me, having been carefully schooled in racial tolerance since about the time that my mother nearly kicked off an epic family fracture when she requested that my paternal grandfather please tone down his expressions of racial denigration in front of us kiddies. She might also have asked the same of Dad, back in the day – he was, after all, raised by Grandpa Al, who – by his talk – couldn’t abide Negro-Black-African-Americans, or whatever the current socially correct term is – and Grandma Dodie, who couldn’t stand Jews. That their favorite entertainer of all time was Sammy Davis, Jr., was just one of those amusing ironies – that and the fact that they were always perfectly cordial to those of my parent’s friends and mine who were Jewish, and/or not by any stretch of imagination white Anglo-Saxon protestants was another one.

I optimistically assumed that more than half a century of civil rights being the law of the land had put an end to Charlie Manson’s sweaty fantasies of racial war. I honestly did … in spite of knowing that there were neighborhoods in most large American cities where a person of Anglo pallor like myself did not want to be caught, alive or dead, in broad daylight or the dark of night. I also knew at a remove of the existence of a university sub-culture of grievance studies and residual pools of racial resentment lovingly maintained like rare orchids by professional race-mongers (yes, I am looking at YOU, Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson). My generally optimistic assumptions regarding race relations were based on personal experience and first-hand observation in academia and the armed forces, despite the occasional lapse – say, after the OJ verdict and the riots after the Rodney King beating. I served with commanders and first sergeants who were black – and finer, more decent and patriotic people could hardly be found. I served alongside others, some who were close enough and good enough friends that we could speak honestly about black/white relations and the general history of race relations in America. I also had friends who were partners in interracial couples – in all possible combinations and variants. Indeed, some of my own daughter’s regular dates would have had Grandpa Al revolving in his grave like a Black and Decker drill. This is supposed to be the ne plus ultra when it comes to judging racial tolerance – in that “Would you want your daughter to marry one?” Content of character came way ahead of race for me, every time.

And then there came election of The First Black President Evah! Such was my happy state of innocence in 2008 that I assumed that a page had been turned; the one positive development leading from the election of a completely inexperienced local community organizer was that we might confidently expect to have heard the very last of the USA being the most raaaaacist nation ever! Alas, even that small hope has been cruelly squashed over the six years since – chiefly because this administration’s public affairs branch, or the traditional print and broadcast news outlets as we used to call them – mostly insist on attributing any objection or doubt regarding Obama’s legislative or administrative goals as being motivated by racism. This is as tiresome as it is untrue, but the absolute and unvarying insistence has taken a toll. What is even more dispiriting is the knowledge that black racism is more overt, more in-your-face and more threatening – witness the ongoing riots in St. Louis; it’s as if the election of Obama unleashed something malign, rather than putting it away like an outworn security object. Discuss.

(Cross-posted at chicagoboyz.net)

Dense Pack Incoming

I honestly do not know if all of last weeks’ horrific headlines and those of the week before are a cunning plot to serially distract the body politic and public by dropping everything on us all at once, without a chance to analyze or begin fighting back, or if it indicates that the wheels are coming off the Obama administration once and for all. Either way … there is a lot to write about, just at the time that I don’t have the time or inclination to muse upon it all at leisure in a way which would give my venom full justice; all in good time, my one or two regular remaining readers. Among other things, I am fighting a god-awful summer cold and cough, a return of the chronic cough I had last year, which took about eight months to throw and on several occasions had me coughing so hard that I threw up. And another thing of a personal nature; Alice, whom I bought the Tiny Publishing Bidness from early this spring, passed away early in June. She was tended by her family and Blondie, and a series of very professional and compassionate home-hospice-care nurses for the last three weeks before that. She had been given six months last October when she was proscribed aggressive chemotherapy … but she detested chemo and refused it after two rounds, and lasted for three months longer than forecast at the time. She actually did pretty well, with Blondie doing her housekeeping and errands … until the last three weeks.

Just as all this was happening, of course I had two books projects to juggle, and Alice’s last book for an old friend of hers, a local poet who brings out a small chapbook of his writings every year or so. She kept his most recent book back from the sale, intending to work on it herself, but her memory and her health was failing catastropically, and so I inherited it as well. So – three books to juggle at a time; isn’t commerce grand? And I still have two books of my own to work on (The Golden Road and Lone Star Sons), plus reviews, four websites (three of them being my own) and little chores like the garden, housekeeping, walking the dogs and cooking regular meals.

By the way – we found another dog this week; a small boxer-colored female, who may be part lab, possibly boxer with a bit of small pit and Wiemeraner, as she has rather lovely golden-green eyes. She looks, if anything, like a quarter-sized version of Calla-puppy, my daughter’s Boxer mix. We are resisting the allure of keeping her, but caved on turning her into the county shelter. She is very people-oriented and very, very affectionate. Onward with the chore of finding her a permanent home and not with us; anyone in the South Texas area want a new dog; 25 pounds, about half-grown that we can tell, just having cut her permanent teeth, still catching on to that house-breaking and obedience thing, but tolerant and affectionate, and OK with other dogs and cats. Let me know in comments – we can provide pictures and delivery within reason.

I did a book event in Sisterdale, the first weekend in June – and it was born upon us that we need a shed in the backyard, first for the garden tools and supplies, and second for the various items that we have acquired for doing events … like the pop-up pavilion. You may say, as Mom did, ‘But you have a garage!?’ Alas, it is full of Blondie’s furniture and various other gleanings from yard sales, against the day when she has an establishment of her own, or I have my Hill Country retreat/country cottage. We can not fit another blessed thing into the garage, or find it if we did … so. Shed; for the storage of items of professional gear in – the pavilion, the tables, the weights, the display racks, et cetera; likely we will go with a local small enterprise which does bespoke tin sheds for a price competitive with the big box places. The backyard being so small, the shed must and will be attractive, since we will be seeing it from the back porch and two of the three windows at the back of the house.

And that’s what I’ve been working on, these last two weeks, but I promise that regular vicious commentary will resume as soon as the bile reservoir has replenished itself.

How To Tell If It’s A Really Bad, Bad Monday

1. Unhappy cat who gets bullied by other cats and looses bladder control when frightened by other cats is frightened by another cat while I am out running … and pisses on bedding. While out walking the dog – having put unhappy cat in locked bathroom, another cat pisses on bedding in another place.

2. Car does not start. Have to borrow Blondie’s Montero to pick up prescription at Fort Sam Primary Care Clinic.

3. Get speeding ticket from SAPD for doing 54 in 45 MPH stretch of road in the Montero. Didn’t notice that I was going faster than anyone else. Suspect this stretch of road is now a speed trap.

Any questions?

2-Minute Hate

I guess that I must still be an astonishingly naïve person – for although I fully expected riots in inner cities across the US in the wake of the jury in the Zimmerman trial coming to the decision that they did – I did not expect the veritable tsunami of calculated hatred and willful ignorance washing over the mainstream media, four days later. I was astonished that the six jurors stuck to their guns, so to speak, and delivered what I consider a just verdict, although that might just be my own inner white bigotry speaking. Given what was gone over in painstaking detail in the courtroom, I can’t see that they could have come to anything else, but I guess that logic and obedience to the letter of the law are all constructs of racial superiority, and it’s all the fault of those jurors that they couldn’t bring themselves to do the will of the mob.

That mob, of course – and I include a number of black celebutards and so-called intellectual lights among them – believe with the faith of holy writ everything which was first put about in the national media regarding the case. And everything which was first put about with regard to George Zimmerman and Trayvon Martin and their fatal encounter on a rainy Florida evening – turned out to be wrong. Wrong, wrong, wrong – so wrong that it can’t possibly be anything but a deliberate attempt to mislead on a grand scale. The professional black activists pushing the matter as they have are promoting what a propagandist like Josef Goebbels called ‘the big lie’ – no matter how outrageous the falsehood is – just repeat it often enough and from the mouths of as many as possible – figures of authority especially – and eventually the lie is accepted as the truth.

It has been educational to see ‘the big lie’ in action this last year. It is also interesting and educational to see a high-tech lynch mob gearing up, and to realize that the color of the faces involved don’t seem to make it any more or less ugly and bigoted.

The Elephant in the Room Manifesto

Or, An Open Message to one Karen Lewis, the president of the Chicago Teacher’s Union, a body (hah!) most particularly noted for inability to actually educate those inner-city students to the point where they might be mistaken by the charitable and understanding observer for being literate, responsible and well-spoken citizens of a republic …

Where to start? Oh, better get the sophomoric taunts out of the way, first. Dear lady, asking when someone is going to address the elephant in the room is – considering the evidence of your person – extremely risible. Obviously, you have not missed too many meals in the last couple of decades. I myself am not the glass of fashion or in perfect Pippa Middleton shape of late, but I daresay that if I arrayed myself in tasteful garments of black and white in hue, I would not be mistaken for Orky the Killer Whale by the casual observer. And I can still hike three or four miles easily at a steady walking pace, whereas I doubt the same can be said of your considerable person. Or as a crueler comment posted at the inestimable Rantburg had it – “Did she rescind the bounty on Han Solo, yet?”

As for blaming the crisis in Chicago schools on rich white people thinking they have anything to do with the education of black and Latino children … I’m just not seeing the connection there, unless it’s something to do with the fact that it’s rich white people, or at least middle-class white people paying for that education through their tax dollars. Karen, sweetie, you never heard the axiom, “They who pays the piper calls the tune?” Apparently not. OK, some home truths, here; the state of public education in those large cities historically controlled by a certain kind of big-city political machine is indeed disgraceful, but certainly not for lack of money poured into them. Parents who do not value the advantage of a good education, or are too strapped trying to keep above-water economically to ride herd on their kids, appallingly low academic standards, unqualified and incompetent teachers, a lack of actual physical security for students, coupled with the exodus of practically everyone who wants a good education for their kids and is tired of beating their head against the system all contribute to the rancid compote that is public education in too many machine-controlled big cities. And as a matter of fact, Ms. Lewis, teacher unions themselves contribute a fair amount of dysfunction to the public school junction, so at the very least, I suggest looking into the mirror.

Finally, blaming rich white people, poor white people, or white people of any socioeconomic strata for those woes of the black community which are largely self-inflicted is getting to be pretty tired. Whipping the race card through the dispenser for another round of sweet creamy white guilt to slather over your shortcomings … well, I never felt much racial guilt anyway, as hard as the diversity drones tried to make me. I suspect a lot of other persons of similar pallor are feeling the same exhaustion. Which may be why you are trying so hard to squeeze out just a little bit more, before Chicago starts sinking like the Titanic. Which major American city will hit bottom first, I wonder? Gary, Indiana, Detroit, Michigan … or Chicago, Illinois.

On the Defense of Free Speech

OK, so call me retrograde, old fashioned, a bigot or the ever-popular ‘raaaaacist’ but I actually believe in free speech and free thought; for everybody, not just the ones that I agree with.
There is the caveat to this, of course. If you depend upon the larger public finding your persona, your manufactured or intellectual output appealing enough to purchase it … well, there might be potential customers disenchanted and disinclined to do so, should they find your exercise of free speech insulting or offensive. They are perfectly free to refrain from partaking in your product or purchasing it … it is still, so I have been assured, still mostly a free country. Buy Chick-fil-A, or not. Listen to the Dixie Chicks … or not. Read the New York Times … or not. Watch Game of Thrones… on not, depending on how much you feel strongly about personal opinions. The right to speak is, has been, and ought to still be paramount.

Concurrent with that is the understanding that others disagree, or even be offended … but they do not have any right to silence the offending speech. Not with threats of violence, or the law, or even a faux-appeal to manners or to the perversion known as political correctness. The deity knoweth that Christians, Jews, Mormons, Baptists and all have taken their various lumps from comedians, artists and movie-makers in the last decades, or more. Why should the ever-offended elements of the Religion of Peace get a pass? Oh, yeah – because they go rabid, and blow up stuff and cut people’s heads off, and burn embassies every time someone looks at them cross-eyed. Look, this just won’t do, and it’s a serious problem, but it doesn’t look like going softly-softly is getting us anyway. If free speech can be abrogated by threats … well, then, it isn’t free speech any longer.

I find it bloody appalling that certain pundits, politicians and high military officers have had the bare-faced gall to suggest that in order to placate Middle Eastern mobs that criticism and mockery of Islam by free citizens of an independent and democratic republic should be off the table entirely … and in fact should be prosecuted legally. Again, are we, or are we not a free people? Do we surrender one of our founding principles that easily? Some years ago, in considering the Affair of the Danish Mo-toons O’Doom, and the alacrity which which our advocates of a free press declined to publish a set of relatively inoffensive cartoons, I wrote this:

There is an old saying, to the effect that the most binding chains are the ones we put on ourselves. And the most insidious and effective censorship is that kind that we also put on ourselves, the censorship that strangles the question before it can even be asked … thoughtful people, earnestly wishing to be polite, tolerant and sensitive of others, began moving down that path that eventually ends— if we are not aware— with our wrists humbly held up for the manacles of imposed censorship to be firmly snapped on. A drift that began with good manners ends with limits imposed by maladroit legislation or a baying mob, maybe even both, and all the important issues of the day, which ought to be discussed— vociferously, noisily and with all the thrown crockery at our disposal— are removed from the arena where they ought to be, to fester and simmer away in odd corners. What has been more insupportable in recent years, is that our courtesy in this respect is not even reciprocated: the vilest sort of caricatures and insult imaginable regarding Westerners, Christians, Jews, Americans and others too varied to mention have free and frequent circulation in Muslim and Arab-oriented and funded media.

That most of our print media outlets punted on the question of publishing the Mohammed cartoons told me all I really needed to know about how deeply they really felt about their much-vaunted principle of ‘freedom of the press’. Now, our government and media are telling us how really, really deeply they are attached to ‘freedom of speech.’

Look well, oh wolves!

(Cross-posted at Chicagoboyz.net)

Derb and All

So – the blog kerfuffle du jour is John Derbyshire and the internet essay that he wrote for another obscure blog-magazine, the topic of which has raised such a general ruckus among the right-thinking side of the blogosphere, that it got him dumped over Easter weekend from the National Review and has the Breitbart conglomerate all in a twitter, and many of the rest of us on the libertarian/conservative/free-thinking side of the spectrum appear to be thinking thoughts pretty much split three ways between cringing and thinking ‘oh, s**t’ or ‘about damn time’ and ‘ ‘OK then – if representatives of the capital ‘B’ Black community can witter all over the print media and the intertubules about their worries about their children running afoul of the 21st century version of the KKK – can those of us from the race of pallor worry frankly and openly about getting lost in certain neighborhoods, the odds on survival on taking the wrong exit off particular interstates in big urban areas, of the wisdom of going to certain sports venues without being armed to the teeth?’

To judge from news dispatches by the legacy media, our worries on that score are inconsequential. However, bald experience (not that you’d ever see it reported in the national media and in the local only with an effort akin to pulling out wisdom teeth with a pair of pliers) suggests that such ventures are indeed a pretty dicey proposition, when ventured by a person of pallor. Continue reading

So, Whither Occupy What Street?

As a terribly scarred and battle-hardened first gen Tea Partier, I am following the fortunes of the OWS with mixed emotions; those motions mostly being a combination of disbelief and horror. Your leaderless insurgency just sort of decided to get together, camp out in a public place and make enough of a spectacle for the media and general public to take notice. Well, that’s a goal of sorts, but didn’t anyone do any serious advanced event planning? Organizing skilled volunteers with specific skill-sets to see to billeting, portapotties and their maintenance, security, law-enforcement coordination, clean-up, outreach and education? Nobody gave consideration about yourselves and your main message (whatever that message may actually be) from pervs, rapists, assorted unappetizing/potentially embarrassing freelance whackos and a collection of thievish and destructive blights on the activist community. Was there no guidance considered to urge protest participants to make nice with business owners and members of the general public who have varying degrees of concern about the space you have chosen to take over for your purposes? Was there any prior planning (which prevents piss-poor performance, as the old military saying goes) in advance of these momentous decisions to take to the streets? No confabulations, through social media, no focused meetings of intensely interested volunteers, no hours-long conference calls, thrashing out the basics?

Sigh – it appears that the answer to these questions is not.

(As an aside – you will never get 100% consensus among rational adults about anything. Settle for 2/3rd majority, respect the dissenting 1/3rd, and move on. Give way to the minority on something else: it’s called negotiation, my dears – or in vulgar parlance: horse-trading. Prioritize what is important and which you will not compromise upon, and work out what lesser principals you will trade off to achieve that. It’s what adults in a functioning democracy do. People who have real lives and real jobs, those who do not live the Great and Shining Cause 24/7, 365 days a year, will not have the patience or endurance for epic meetings deciding upon minutia . . . however, I have noticed that a certain kind of career activitist/community organizer does have stamina sufficient for meetings of the endless and ultimately pointless sort. I’d advise you to avoid that kind of person, but it probably is a bit too late. )

I do have to hand it to the Occupy Whatever Street – the major national news media are already giving the various protest events the warm sloppy tongue-bath, even to the point of serving your public relations functions. It took the SATP a good six months of outreach and conferences with various local TV news directors and newspaper editors to get any respect at all. But, as a sort-of PR professional, I have to say that this good-will towards the OWS probably will not last, and may already be shriveling. A long-established protest site in the heart of a big city can only be made to seem cool, subversive, and glamorous for so long, in the face of ongoing noise and vandalism, reported harassment of local residents and law-enforcement personnel, and just the general rat’s nest appearance of the average OWS protest camp. This will not go over well in the long run with ordinary, hard-working, peace-loving citizens, even those in general sympathy with some of the stated goals. There are a fair number of new reports indicating that your immediate neighbors in your various venues are growing sick and tired of your presence. This is something that you should pay attention to; bad optics, from a public affairs point of view. Which brings me to my next point –

A street protest is just a starting point for a truly broad-based and ground-up political movement. Getting together in a public space all those who are moved enough to be unhappy about things as they are . . . my dear people, that is only the first step. The next one is to go home, to fully understand the issues and the various options that would perhaps alleviate those of most concern, and to continue the outreach, the consultations, the epic convention calls, the even-more-epic meetings among the most dedicated and skilled – the formulation of email lists, the cultivation of donors . . . all of that. It’s much more of a job and not as attention-catching as a simple temporary event. It’s work, and it’s hard and dedicated work. It is not fun – hardly a romp in the park, if I may be so kind as to draw that analogy. It’s work. Hard work and it will almost always take a lot more temporal and psychic energy than you might think at first. Been there – done that, ever since working to resettle Vietnamese refugees in 1975-75.

Unless you are all willing to do that work, then you are merely dilettantes in protest, having a public temper-tantrum.

I remain most sincerely yours and this entry is posted as my best professional advice

Sgt. Mom

Forty Centuries Look Down

So – been following what happened/happening in Tunisia, and now in Egypt . . . that’ll be one for the history books, I’m sure. Egypt much more than Tunisia, I’m afraid, what with the Suez Canal and all. Tunisia’s a nice country and all, lovely Roman relics, coastal aspect on the Mediterranean, ancient culture, spectacular if arid scenery and I am sure the people there want and deserve the best they may get for themselves, but Egypt – oh, my, talking about balancing on a knife edge, when it comes to throwing out an entrenched and despotic dictatorship. Egypt’s got all of our attention, whereas Tunisia seems to have had only that of those aficionados of drastic unrest in exotic foreign countries. But access to the Suez Canal does tend to draw a higher level of interest, not to say concern. With umpty-ump percentage of world-wide ship traffic going through the Canal – the Suez Canal, not the Panama – that will tend to make political administrations sit up and pay attention. It may even teach Chris Matthews a little geography. The Suez is still a strategic choke-point, and that has everyone’s attention. With Mubarak Junior and his kithn’kin and various prominent members of Egyptian high society all departing at speed, extraneous Americans also being urged to depart at similar speed, the Egyptian military going over to the protestors, cutting off internet access, and citizens of every rank and stripe turning out into the streets . . . well, at least as near as we can make out from this distance and through the filter of time, distance and the various credentialed and un-credentialed news media . . . something momentous is happening, will happen, or might even have happened already. (Oh, wow- I see that our old camera-hound Dr. Zahi Hawass has gotten in front of them once again . . . Jees on a cracker, is the most dangerous place in Egypt that between Dr. Hawass and the nearest news camera? Up until this week it probably was . . .)

So far in this crisis, the absolutely funniest thing that I read on Open Salon was this comment “Been picking up hints on NPR of this broiling Mideast situation. Thank goodness Obama is president. Can’t begin to imagine the scenario we’d be facing with McCain.” on a post by this OS writer who otherwise is relatively sane – although the Stellaaaaaaa that she refers everyone to for further education is . . . well, why bother with her if you have Rantburg at your fingertips. Nice people at OS, many of them. High percentage of bat-shit crazy libs, though. Have to take them one by one, and refrain from pushing their particular buttons and they’re OK. There are also more libertarians and veiled conservatives among them than is apparent at first glance from the front page. Anyway, where was I? Oh, yes – Egypt.

Sorry, the pooch is probably screwed now matter what we – that is the Obama Administration does or doesn’t do. Whatever happens, we will be blamed, solo and chorus. Support Mubarak, or support the right of the Egyptian people to protest, or support whatever leaders eventually emerge, knowing that whatever shakes out, the best-organized faction will probably come out on top. Odds seem to be on the Muslim Brotherhood organization, much as the Ayatollah Khomeini came out on top in that little ruckus in Iran thirty years ago. In that case, the good side to that outcome is that the Egyptians are guaranteed to get good and tired of a strict theocratic rule, just as the Iranians have. Downside – it will take thirty years. In the mean time, the Egyptian tourism industry will be totally napalmed, ship traffic through the Suez Canal ditto, and the odds of a mob of protesters attempting to take over the American Embassy and holding all the staff hostage seem to be pretty good. Second verse, same as the first, just a little bit louder and a little bit worse. On the up side? Can’t think of one, actually . . . except that Jimmy Carter can heave a sigh of relief; there exists now an administration with the potential for karking up an international crisis even more disastrously than the Tehran embassy-hostage affair.

Depressed enough already? You’re welcome – I live to serve.

Saturday Morning Grumbles (100327)

Sorry it’s taken so long, life’s been busy and about to get busier. Sometimes I have things to say that are longer than what Facebook allows.  Most days that’s a good thing.

What I do know is that I’m getting more worried for our country as I watch President Obama and his merry band take away more freedoms and take over more private industry.  The banks and car companies were bad enough.  The current Health Care Bill, while not as bad as we first saw it, is still bad enough and now we’re talking very personal information in the hands of the people who bring you the post office.  It’s a cliché I know, but have you had to deal with a front line Federal Customer Service Rep lately?  In any department?  OMFG!  I swear sometimes I think that all those mental health patients that were released years ago, all went to work for the Feds.

What truly creeps me out, what sends an icy chill down my back, is that all my wanna-be hippie friends from high school in the 1970s who were all about “freedom from the man” and “man, read “Animal Farm” and “1984” before the Republicans take over” are now telling me to calm down and just listen to Obama.  Things are fine.  Relax.  Don’t panic.  Everything is fine.  It’s for the greater good.  I’d like to gather them all into a room and Leroy-Jethro-slap each and every one of them.

I work in Agriculture for the state where we retired.  In just the past year and a half, I’ve learned that we’re basically getting more and more of California’s “Happy Cows” because their regulation on dairies has become so restrictive, the farmers have picked up and moved over here.  We’re expecting an influx of their egg farmers here soon as well.  California’s animal rights people don’t like how egg farmers coop their chickens so…the egg farmers will move out and come over here and our state will get all that tax base goodness.  Ya see, if you make things too hard for a business, if you add too much regulation, they’ll just move away and not come back.  Especially if the people doing the regulating have NO clue about what they’re talking about.  You want to make a farmer’s eyes go blank?  Start talking about the individual rights of an egg layin’ chicken.  Hell, I’ve just met chickens casually and I’ll look at you like you’re a fool if you speak about their rights.

Now people…I’m sorry, but people have rights.  Life, liberty, the pursuit of happiness.  They’re not just words to me.  I’m very fond of those rights.  Liberty is “a big fucking deal” to me.  It’s not just some “concept” or “catch phrase left over from the 1700s.”  When I was in the Air Force I signed over some liberty.  Can’t have a military that’s “too” free.  Nothing would get done.  I’m not in the Air Force any longer and there are things I can say about the Commander in Chief that I wouldn’t have said in uniform.  First and foremost, I believe that he believes that he’s doing the right thing.  I’m absolutely serious.  And at first glance, I’m right there with him.  Dammit, we’re a wealthy nation, everyone damn well SHOULD have health care.  The problems are, and this is where my high school chums get lost, that the government should NOT be able to dictate what that health care is going to look like.  They should NOT be able to dictate who my doctor will be.  They should NOT be able to dictate what a doctor can charge for his services.  They also should damn well NOT be able to dictate how much I need to spend on a plan that’s going to take my money away without any input from ME.  And yes, I use the word “dictate” to redundancy because it’s important that we understand what’s happening.  The Federal Government, in the past year, in the guise of “the common good,” has begun to dictate.  They’re taking over the banks, they’re taking over industry, they’re taking over health care.  And again, I’m absolutely positive that the President believes he’s doing the right thing.  I’m absolutely positive that he’s wrong.

Burning Question for Today

Ummm… ok, so I just saw this picture on another site, and went to find the link…

And, although I myself am now a lady of certain age and think it very bad taste to make fun of people’s looks, especially the somewhat aged and never-terribly-dishy… (glass houses, stones, and all that.)

Can anyone tell me when the heck Helen Thomas began to look like the Emperor Palpatine in drag?

Lawmaking in Haste

…and repenting at leisure, or so it would appear with a new consumer product safety law, which will go into effect in about twenty days. Yes, indeedy, Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act of 2008, or HR 4040 which is supposed to take effect February 10th, was supposed to strike a mighty blow against the forces of evilness and icky lead contamination in children’s toys, but instead looks fair to bankrupting all sorts of micro-and home businesses in the US, instead – and to plunge a dagger into the hearts of all kinds of well-meaning handicrafters, thrift-stores and various enterprising individuals scrounging a living by selling stuff on e-Bay. Not to mention any parent on a budget, hoping to save some of their diminishing funds by purchasing second-hand clothing, books, toys and accessories for their children.

And I am not about to be frivolous about the problem of lead contaminates in children’s toys, although the temptation is there.

(Hey, did you hear the one about the shipment of lead from China that was turned back at the port of entry because it was contaminated with children’s toys?)

Yes, lead is not healthy for children or other growing things, and frankly, those manufacturers knowingly or unknowingly contaminating their export crap with lead, arsenic or any other dangerous substance ought to be taken out and have their pee-pees whacked with iron bars. Repeatedly – so yes, there ought to be a law. But oh, what a lesson in unintended consequences there is in the hurried and apparently careless formulation of this one! No lobbyists around who speak for the thrift shop industry, I guess, or the little workshops making this or that specialized product, or all the little church ladies across the US, piecing quilts or knitting baby-clothes. The law as written flatly mandates a level and degree of safety-testing which – it may might be argued and probably already has – is appropriate to a large manufacturing industry. Say, something that churns out product by the box-car load daily, weekly, or even hourly.

What got overlooked until the last few months, what with all the good intentions about ‘protecting the cheeeeldren’ was that all those mandated testing of all the elements of every product meant for the use of those under the age of 12 also applied to just about every body who makes stuff for kids, either for sale or charity. Everyone from the guy with a small woodshop making high-end traditional wooden toys, to the lady with the small business making ornamented hair scrunchies, those little businesses making doll-clothes or children’s clothes will fall under this law. Even the POD publisher who designed and printed my own books – they do children’s books; Or they will, up until February 10th. Heck – this law might even apply to me; I made clothes for my daughter, and now for my niece. Once upon a time, I also made bespoke doll-clothes and stuffed toys for sale at church bazaars and craft shows; I still have several boxes of finished outfits in the den closet, which is where they will remain, now. I’m not out all that much, for this was a hobby for me a good few years ago, but serious crafters who depend on small retail sales of their output are stuck with an inventory that they can’t sell legally, or even give away, after having invested in their raw materials and done the work. According to the scattering of news stories (linked here, here and here) second-hand and consignment stores are already feeling a pinch; how can they possibly test every garment or toy, according to the letter of the law? They are either refusing donations or consignments of those items, and very likely making plans to dump those stocks already on hand into landfills or into the market in the next couple of weeks. The fines are insupportable for an individual or a small business; practically no one wants to risk being charged with a violation of the act. Assurances that ‘oh, no – boutique handicrafters and second-hand stores will not be prosecuted under this act, everyone knows it’s really meant for the big mass-producers’ are falling flat among those most concerned. And rightfully so – for what is a law that is on the books, but enforced by bureaucratic or prosecutorial whim? It is a suspended weapon, to be used selectively against people who have drawn the unfavorable attention of the state upon themselves.

And it is purely ironic, that just as the economy is in dire straits, with businesses large and small going through tough times, and individual entrepreneurs doing their best to stay above water, and people who are desperately trying to economize – a consumer safety law is about to wallop those very same small businesses and entrepreneurs whose hold on economic security is least secure. It’s almost as if the captain of the Titanic called for another iceberg to crash into the other side of the ship – just to make sure the whole thing sinks on the level.

Today’s Weather Forecast

Currently 34 F. High today 49 F. Good chance of rain/snow showers throughout the day.

And it’s the 10th of October.

It’s going to be a lonnnnnnggggg winter.

On the plus side, I haven’ t had any nicotine for the past 60 hours, and I’m no longer a walking nerve.

That May Have Been the Most Boring Debate I’ve Ever Seen

Actually gave up watching after the first hour. Nothing new from either of them. Spouting their stump talking points. They pre-empted “House” for that.

I’d say McCain probably won it but it didn’t matter. There’s no excitement left in this race. Everyone’s still in shell-shock from watching the economy crash. Lots of folks are going to vote for Obama just to get the Republicans out. And I don’t think I’m telling anyone anything they don’t already know.

A pro-Obama person at work told me yesterday, “Don’t worry Tim, back in Chicago, Obama was primarily a social workder.” Yeah, thanks, I feel much better now.

The Bandar-Log

Here we sit in a branchy row, thinking of beautiful things we know;
Dreaming of deeds that we mean to do, all complete, in a minute or two
Something noble and wise and good, done by merely wishing we could

In following the current twists and turns of the current election season, with particular attention to the hackerish little creeps who think it is an excellent thing to break into email accounts tell me, why is it a Good Thing and entirely justifiable for people in sympathy with the Obama campaign to break into Governor Palins yahoo account, looking for incriminating evidence of dark plots and deeds but it was a Bad Thing for Richard Nixons cabal of plumbers to break into the Watergate looking for incriminating evidence of dark deeds and plots? Oh yes, that was before you were born, probably. But they made a movie about it, so you must have heard about Simply Teh Greatest Political Crime EVER!!!! Just sit down, and think about this real hard. And look up the definition of hypocrisy, while you are at it.

Bottom line, for those of you whose moral sense is situational if it is a crime for free-lance or paid operatives to break into another partys HQ, operating office, personal email account whatever, on a fishing expedition than it is a crime all the way around, no matter how justified you think you are in your motivation. Those of your friends, teachers, college professors and fellow Kossacks who may have been insisting otherwise? They are wrong. I would advise you to stop listening to people like that.

I would also stop paying much attention to our Major Media Creatures and those who keep popping out of their ol golden rolodex to screech about Sarah Palin. Just a quick look down some of those crazier rants (especially the ones by foreigners) about the suddenly front-and-center Governor of Alaska her relative inexperience, all around tackiness, blue-collar-ness, lack of capital-F feminist credentials, religious beliefs, et cetera gives cause for serious head shaking. Jeeze, people, get a grip! Take a valium. (In the case of Heather Mallick, take a lot of valium. In the case of Sandra Bernhard, a lot of valium, a lot of scotch and please review a basic human anatomy text.) Pouring all this vitriol on someone you probably didnt even know about three weeks ago seems kind of I dont know, unbalanced? Shes only been front and center on the major American political scene for three weeks, and she is already attracting a degree of odium usually reserved for someone who has been around for a bit, and done some bad things. Like a reckless, grandstanding, philanderer with a taste for shady friends. But enough about Bill Clinton.

And then there the not-terribly-surprising discovery by Rusty Shackleford at The Jawa Report that certain alleged and dubious factoids about Governor Palin which suddenly began sprouting like toadstools after a rain were actually planted by the minions and employees of a well-known and well-connected publicity firm, in the sure and certain knowledge that the howler monkeys of the KOSsacks left would fall on them as if on a tasty treat and repeat them incessantly.

All the talk we ever have heard, uttered by bat or beast or bird
Hide or fin or scale or feather Jabber it quickly and all together!
Excellent! Wonderful! Once again! Now we are talking just like men!

Of course, once this precious little piece of Astroturf was tracked to its originating point, everything got yanked, with the speed of a cartoon character at the end of a long piece of elastic band. Note to self every time I start to notice the same poisonous little factoid appearing spontaneously and simultaneously in blog entries and blog comments, from out of the mouths of the dumber Hollywood celebs and the sort of TV commenter who goes from rational to spittle-fleck rant in thirty seconds flat, I will assume that some busy little astoturfers have been at work, behind the scenes. And that someone like Rusty or another enthusiast will be able to track it back to the originating source. Its not like you can launch damaging rumors without leaving any marks, people. The internet never forgets. The tracks are always there, especially when someone does a screen-capture or downloads a file.

Finally, the recent request from the Big O for his minions to really get out there and go all righteous in confronting those of us who are less than fully enamored great idea! Yeah, people just love getting hectored and bulled, and called names like racist and hater. My suggestion put on a leather teddy, spike heels and fishnet stockings. Brandish a leather crop, too. You might not get anywhere politically with that scenario, but at least that part of the audience who is into playing kinky submissive games will get some cheap thrills, while the rest of us look on in amusement.

Damn, did this election season get interesting all of a sudden. Whod a thunk it possible, back in January, 2008.

The Persistence of Plastic Turkey Memory

A running gag at Tim Blairs blog over the last five years or so has been reports of the appearance of the eternal bird in the dribblings of various writers, entertainers and columnists. That is, a sneering reference to the pictures of President Bush holding a supposedly plastic turkey, in a series of pictures taken at his surprise Thanksgiving visit to troops in Iraq five years ago. Explained and debunked over and over again by eyewitnesses that it was a real turkey, for display at the steam tables where the main entre was being dished out, put together by the mess-hall staff and that such displays are actually commonplace at military mess halls the plasticized version of this meme appears yet again, unscathed, rather like a turkey-shaped Freddy Kruger. The bird is not only the word, it is eternal. (Spotted yet again this very morning, as I contemplated this essay while being dragged around the block by the dogs.)

Obviously, this is a convenient short-hand for the people who enjoy sneering at George W. Bush and are too damned lazy to rustle up something a little more current than the old plastic turkey story. Tim Blair and his commenters get a lot of mileage and a lot of hearty chortling – but the fact that the meme is still current after five years and a ton of energetic debunking is kind of depressing. It proves that Joseph Goebbels was on to something when he observed the effectiveness of telling a big lie and sticking to it even at the cost of looking ridiculous. If a story is repeated often enough, it will be believed by a depressingly large number of people: 9/11 was an inside plot by the Bush Administration, Mayor Ray Nagin of New Orleans was completely blameless in the Hurricane Katrina disaster, the 2000 election was stolen, the Swiftboat veterans claims about John Kerry were all debunked, that US government were Saddam Husseins biggest supplier of military equipment oh, add your own favorite here, the list is practically endless.

Such memes persist because they are repeated incessantly by all sorts of people, against all available evidence to the contrary. The most depressing aspect is that in a lot of cases they are repeated by media figures that once I would have expected better from – and applauded by audiences that I also expected better of. (Garrison Keillor being a particular offender. I can barely stand to listen to Prairie Home Companion these days, and I used to love that show.) Now I only hope for better. Sad to say, that hope is growing fainter and fainter by the hour especially over the last two weeks. As if it wasnt bad enough to suspect our very own dear media folks of being lazy and careless in vetting stories in the last election cycle, as if it wasnt bad enough that 60 Minutes could air a blatant hit piece just before election day, based on shaky fact-checking and dubious memos in an attempt to throw the election to John Kerry as if the hurricane of vitriol this time around didn’t reach a new and unexplored depths with the Palin-faked-pregnancy story, now it looks as if mainstream media has moved solidly into place as a propaganda arm of the Obama Democrats.

Not just the dirt-digging on Governor Palin its the asymmetrical dirt-digging. Plus the final edit of her interview with Charles Gibson, with her answers judiciously edited to put the worst complexion on them (sample of it here) plus the staging of it in the studio, plus his hectoring manner, so very different from his interview with Senator Obama. Really, it does give one pause. Then consider the cover shoot of Senator McCain, for the Atlantic Magazine, with such very artistic and well-considered outtakes doctored by the photographer.

Just some examples from the last couple of weeks but still, very revealing ones, about the various aspects of the current political scene. I wouldnt go so far as to make a blanket insistence that the whole lot are in the tank for the Obama campaign but I sure as hell wouldnt assume anything about their impartiality, either. Were I a media advisor to a Republican nominee to high office, Id certainly be advising a quick pre-interview google-search of the interviewer’s name and for the nominee to bring along his or her own own camera crew.

(Thanks Sigivald – corrected!)

Burning Questions of the Moment

How come Oprah Winfrey is on the cover of every issue of her own darned magazine? I mean, even Martha Stewart gives it a rest.

Why does it have to be so bloody hot in Texas in the summer? And how long will summer last this year? How many more months of running the AC night and day will we have?

How come we were supposed to be moving beyond race with the nomination of the Fresh Prince from Chicago and yet here we are again, having the same old discussion! But with the added frisson of being called a racist it we dont vote for him. (Oh, yeah, and can we have a break from his entitlement-addled BAP of a spouse moaning about how hard it is to get along on a yearly salary of more than I will ever make in the next decade? Or two or three? Thanks.)

How deep are major media in the tank for Obama, actually? Deep enough to need a snorkel? A deep-sea divers suit and something to pump down oxygen to them?

How come anyone cares what celebrities think? About anything other than their next professional appearance, that is.

Who the hell cares about Paris Hilton? And why?

Which one of the dogs or cats threw up a strangely reddish patch of vomit, and please god, let the red color be from the reddish chunks of stuff in the dog food.

What’s Madonna’s new remaking of herself going to look like? Anything age-appropriate? She’s pushing 50, you know.

Will the price of gas go down? Would it be a little cheaper to run the car on milk? Its at about the same price per gallon this week. How soon will the owners of all those big honkin SUV and pick-up trucks replace them with something smaller and fuel efficient. I remember the 70s, people I remember this happing once before, and yes, Id like to be able to see past the vehicle waiting next to me at a stoplight. Instead of looking at the step that allows them to climb into the cab of their big honkin SUV, which is at my eye level, thank you very much.

When those SUVs and pick-ups get to expensive to run will they wind up in the hands of people, who I dont know live out in the country and really need a big, sturdy, 4WD vehicle with space to stuff a couple of Angus cows in the back?

How badly am I going to hate the part-time and regular job that I start next week at Enormous National Call-Center Which Shall Remain Unnamed by the next of six months? One year? Can I stick it out long enough for some of my books and on-spec writing jobs to pay off so that I can turn in my employee badge of servitude and shake the corporate dust off my feet again.

Stay tuned well know the answers to most of these in a couple of months. Or a year, tops. All but the one about Paris Hilton. That’s a mystery for the ages.

The gift that keeps on giving……..

Pocket Taser Stun Gun, a great gift for the wife.

A guy who purchased
his lovely wife a pocket Taser for their anniversary submitted this:

Last weekend I saw something at Larry’s Pistol & Pawn Shop that
sparked my interest. The occasion was our 15th anniversary and I was
looking for a little something extra for my wife, Julie. What I came
across was a 100,000-volt, pocket/purse-sized taser.The effects of the
taser were supposed to be short lived, with no long-term adverse
affect on your assailant, allowing her adequate time to retreat to
safety.

WAY TOO COOL! To make a long story short, I bought the device and
brought it home. I loaded two AAA batteries in the darn thing and
pushed the button. Nothing!

I was disappointed. I learned, however, that if I pushed the button
AND pressed it against a metal surface at the same time; I’ d get the
blue arc of electricity darting back and forth between the prongs.
AWESOME!!! Incidentally, I have yet to explain to Julie what that burn
spot is on the face of her microwave.

Okay, so I was home alone with this new toy, thinking to myself that
it couldn’t be all that bad with only two triple-A batteries, right?

There I sat in my recliner, my cat Gracie looking on intently
(trusting little soul) while I was reading the directions and thinking
that I really needed to try this thing out on a flesh and blood moving
target.

I must admit I thought about zapping Gracie (for a fraction of a
second) and thought better of it. She is such a sweet cat. But, if I
was going to give this thing to my wife to protect herself against a
mugger, I did want some assurance that it would work as advertised. Is
that wrong?

So,there I sat in a pair of shorts and a tank top with my reading
glasses perched delicately on the bridge of my nose, directions in one
hand, and taser in another.

The directions said that a one-second burst would shock and disorient
your assailant; a two-second burst was supposed to cause muscle spasms
and a major loss of bodily control; a three-second burst would
purportedly make your assailant flop on the ground like a fish out of
water. Any burst longer than three seconds would be wasting the
batteries. All the while I’m looking at this little device measuring
about 5′ long, less than 3/4′ in circumference; pretty cute, really,
and (loaded with two itsy bitsy triple-A batteries)thinking to
myself, ‘no possible way!’

What happened next is almost beyond description, but I’ll do my best!
I’m sitting there alone, Gracie looking on with her head cocked to one
side as to say, ‘don’t do it, dip shit,’reasoning that a one second
burst from such a tiny little ole thing couldn’t hurt all that bad. I
decided to give myself a one second burst just for heck of it. I
touched the prongs to my naked thigh, pushed the button, and… HOLY
MOTHER OF GOD…WEAPONS OF MASS DESTRUCTION…WHAT THE HELL!!!

I’m pretty sure Jessie Ventura ran in through the side door, picked me
up in the recliner, then body slammed us both on the carpet, over and
over and over again. I vaguely recall waking up on my side in the
fetal position, with tears in my eyes, body soaking wet, both nipples
on fire, testicles nowhere to be found, with my left arm tucked under
my body in the oddest position, and tingling in my legs!

The cat was making meowing sounds I had never heard before, clinging
to a picture frame hanging above the fireplace, obviously in an attempt
to avoid getting slammed by my body flopping all over the living room.

Note: If you ever feel compelled to ‘mug’ yourself with a taser, one
note of caution: there is no such thing as a one second burst when you
zap yourself!

You will not let go of that thing until it is dislodged from your hand
by a violent thrashing about on the floor. A three second burst would
be considered conservative!

SON-OF-A-BITCH!!! THAT HURT LIKE HELL!!!

A minute or so later (I can’t be sure,as time was a relative thing at
that point), I collected my wits (what little I had left), sat up and
surveyed the landscape. My bent reading glasses were on the mantel of
the fireplace. The recliner was upside down and about 8 feet or so
from where it originally was.

My triceps, right thigh and both nipples were still twitching. My face
felt like it had been shot up with Novocain, and my bottom lip
weighed 88 lbs. I had no control over the drooling. Apparently, I shit
myself, but was too numb to know for sure,and my sense of smell was
gone. I saw a faint smoke cloud above my head which I believe came
from my hair. I’m still looking for my nuts, and I’m offering a
significant reward for their safe return!!

P.S. My wife loved the gift, and now regularly threatens me with it!

‘If you think education is difficult, try being stupid.’

The Empire Continues to Rise

This post over at Kate’s place actually has me wondering if John Kerry would have been so bad.

At an employers request, the FBI will retain employee fingerprints and notify the employer if a worker has an encounter with law enforcement. As Wired points out, thats the kind of service youd expect from a private company, not from a tax-funded agency. Not even the courts or police bother to notify employers if their workers are charged with criminal activity, and yet the FBI is offering to perform this service regardless of whether someones been charged, much less convicted.

I have my fingerprints and my DNA stored in some government computer somewhere and I know that if I were ever to commit a crime, the chances of law enforcement finding me would be pretty darn good. However, I’m no longer employed by the government, I’m employed by a private company. Does this mean that if I get a speeding ticket, I may be called into my boss’ office and talked to? If I buy a firearm will that background check also flag in my employers’ files? Is my “good conduct as a citizen” now going to be part of my personnel record?

I was used to this type of scrutiny as a member of the military. As a private citizen, I’m not very happy that the government is willing to provide this kind of “service” to employers. It’s one thing to outsource and privatize certain functions of the military, it’s another for a Federal office to act like a private contractor.

Am I going to get a tax break for this? I’m assuming the FBI is charging for this service. That wouldn’t make me feel any better about this, but if the Government is going to provide services like this, I sure as hell don’t want to pay for it too.

For the rest of you mil retirees out there: Is it normal to resent the government sticking it’s nose into your life more and more as your time out of the military increases? I find that I simply want to government to do its job and leave me alone.

Dear Fox News,

Is it really that slow of a news day that your lead story at the top of every hour involves dissecting a speech by Bill Clinton? Is it really news that Bill Clinton did one thing in the 90s and then has changed his story today? This surprises…hands…anyone? It’s like slapping your forehead realizing the Donald Rumsfeld may not have been a strategic genius after all. It’s like thinking, “Hmmm, I think that Fox may not be “fair and balanced.”

Power and Control

Well, so much for active-duty Army mil-blogging, if the Army Powers-That-Be have their way. Talk about shooting yourself in the foot, public affairs-wise but color me fairly unsurprised by this latest move to constrain active-duty Army bloggers. Frankly, if I am surprised at anything, its that milblogs by active-duty troops managed to escape the clammy clutches of the Public Affairs office for as long as they have. For a long while, I thought that someone up in the higher-echelons was actually being rather clever; in taking the hands-off approach. Milblogs got the word out, without being tainted by association with military propaganda; about the war, about the military, provided expert commentary and feedback, under no particular censorship other than that of good sense and op-sec as practiced by the individual.

For surely the military public affairs world must have known about military bloggers, fairly early on (say at least by 2002). I myself made a long slog up to the PA shop at BAMC about that time, offering to pass on any appeals they might have on behalf of injured troops. This was when Blondie was over in Kuwait, and our readers at the time were overwhelmingly generous to her unit to the point where I wanted to see it shared with other troops. I talked to a civilian PA type, who at least had heard of military blogs, and promised to pass on my e-mail and URL to his superiors, and that was the last I ever heard. Id have thought, based on my own experience, that as interested as the Public Affairs was in traditional media coverage of the military Id have seen a little more interest. Unless they were total boobs about this newfangled internet thingy. That wouldnt have surprised me much, but assuming some sort of hands-off policy at least gave credit for intelligence and creative thinking at the highest military PA level.

But and that is the industrial-sized, multi-purpose, all-wool-and-a-yard-wide but (Hey, who let Rosie ODonnell in here?). But the military is an authoritarian institution. Top down and paved wall-to-wall with regulations for most things. As a rough rule of thumb, those in charge are supposed to have an idea about what the lower ranks are up to yes, even you, General Karpinski. And those in charge prefer that those lower down the chain of command are doing what they have been told to do. Personal initiative is all very nice, and even lauded from those who have proved they can exercise it wisely and responsibly. For everyone else, there are rules. And it is one of those lamentable realities of the military world that almost the first reaction to a new situation or set of conditions is to make a rule or regulation about it. Leopard, spots, cant change. Reaction, knee-jerk, officers for the use of.

I thought the Army was about the most extreme in this regard; the Air Force generally operated on the initial assumption that their personnel were intelligent and responsible, and only descended like a ton of bricks when an individual decisively proved the contrary. The Army seemed to operate from the opposite set of assumptionspossibly because it either saved time or was just easier. I saw a perfect example of this during my year in Korea, at Yongsan Garrison. Out of the clear blue, the Army Powers-That-Be suddenly forbade uniformed personnel to consume food from street-vendors, unless it was something like a sealed soft-drink can, or something in a package. Probably some poor troop got a tummy-ache from a bite of bad bulgogi at a street stand, but after a great deal of vociferous complaint and requests for clarification (what constituted the sort of food that was forbidden, what exactly was a street vender? Some of the open-air vendors were pretty permanent establishments!) the Powers-That-Be grudgingly clarified their purpose; which was that they didnt want us to be eating food prepared by unlicensed vendors. Well, asked we at AFN wouldnt it be more logical just to tell people to not eat from unlicensed vendors maybe, perhaps, maybe teach our audience what a Korean Department of Health food-vendors license looked like, and how to request it politely?
Certainly not, returned the Army Powers-That-Be, rather grumpily that was not how the Army did things.

Ah, said we, in resignation Of course; it was just the easy way. Not the most thoughtful way, or the way that encouraged peoples own sense of self-preservation, or the way that preserved the livelihood of those hard-working and licensed local national food vendors, or the way that might truly protect uniformed personnel from bad food. It was just the easy way. Make a rule.

In the Interests of Pure Research

In the interests of pure research, over the last couple of days, Blondie and I have ventured into deepest, darkest downtown San Antonio and also to a point well beyond the city limits. I can report that I have returned with a dozen pages of notes indecipherable to anyone but me, and Blondie came close to having her leg humped by a wolf. OK, so a wolf-dog hybrid. About fifteen percent dog, eighty-five percent wolf, said the owners and proprietors, who also said that he was very friendly. Yep, we figured out that much right away. He was chained outside a vendor of frontier clothing and accessories at a re-enactors event, on the grounds of a ranch in the Hill Country. Some people we talked to at the event said that something set him off howling, night before last, which was a sound enough to make your skin crawl. We figured that any coyotes in the vicinity must have been a) scared out of their next years growth and b) decided after careful consideration, that discretion was the better part of valor and removing to the next county was therefore an excellent career move. For the duration of the event, of course.

This all came about because I emailed The Fat Guy a couple of weeks ago, asking if he (as an enthusiast and Texas history buff) could put me in touch with any collector in San Antonio who owned an 1830s model Colt Paterson revolver and who would be kind enough to show me how it was loaded, sighted and broken down for maintenance. So he gave me a link, which led to an e-mail addy, which led to a club-wide appeal from a certain organization, which led to some contacts which led to the owner of a matched pair of replica Colt Paterson revolvers, the only person in San Antonio who possesses such, apparently. We set up a meeting at his place of employment on Friday afternoon, and Blondie drove me there after her classes. We spent a very informative hour or so, in a locked and windowless conference room. This is not exactly the sort of event where one welcomes the casual kibitzers. Even in Texas, someone walking in and discovering three period revolvers and the necessary tools are spread out over the conference table is obligated to make a comment to the building management. The fact that there was no ammunition involved would not have ameliorated the resulting excitement.

So, I was actually able to examine very carefully, all the resulting broken-down bits and pieces of a period revolver. It was necessary for the plot and character development to do this, so that I could write about it with authority and attention to tiny detail, and I am extraordinarily grateful for having had the opportunity to do this all hail the power of the fully functional internet! It was rather a curious experience, because I had been able to write about it and get things mostly right, just from looking at diagrams and reading but still, nothing beats the experience of actually holding the real thing.

Oddly enough, it was a rather small weapon, dull matte metal with a polished wooden stock. It fit my hand comfortably, and I have rather dainty hands. Blondies fingers are about half an inch longer than all of mine, when we match hands for comparison; when I did M-16 training, and side-arm training, I found that my hands were too small to grip and still reach things comfortably on the issue M-16 and the Beretta. And the Beretta was hard for me to hold steady after a while, even with two hands. So, the revolver that made things equal in a fight between Jack Hays Rangers and the Comanche was actually rather small, especially in comparison with the next iteration, the Walker Colt. The collector who generously took time from his workday to show us all this told me he has a pair of those, as well. The Walker Colt is a massive weapon, weighing about four and a half pounds. After expending all six shots, anyone armed with one would have still had a dandy club/brass knuckles. No wonder they were immediately popular. But after wearing a pair of them on a gun-belt for a whole day of re-enactor events, he really, really felt every ounce of them, in a considerably painful way.

And after the re-enactor event, we went on up to Fredericksburg, where I bored the heck out of Blondie at the Pioneer Museum, talking about the early Fredericksburg settlers. I wanted to take a look at the various household implements on display. And the wooden trunks they brought them in. And the corner town-lot that I willfully assigned to the fictitious family that I am writing about, at the corner of San Antonio and Adams. There is a one-story, stucco professional building on that particular plat but strangely enough, I described my fictitious family as leaving two trees on their townlot, shading the back of their house and there are two trees, shading the back of that building.

Really, sometimes I do scare myself. Its scarier than Blondie wanting a wolf-dog hybrid well, one that doesnt try to hump her leg.

Donations being accepted, via the Paypal button, to the left, underneath the ad for the memoir. They will be used to set up a website to market the books, and if I dont get an agent and a traditional publisher, I plan on doing a POD book of Truckee Trail and the Adelsverein Trilogy. I just listened to a story this morning on NPR about how best-sellers are decided upon by the publishing industry, so I am feeling particularly sour about the whole literary-industrial complex.

MICROSOFT – THE EVIL EMPIRE

I spent a couple of hours this afternoon trying to reactivate Windows XP on Red Haired Girl’s Mac. It ran fine when I installed it, but because it is on a differant machine than what it was originally installed on, it went dark after a period of time. Because I did not set it up with capability to access the Internet, a phone installation was required – just as well because I knew that explanations would be required about the entirely different hardware footprint. According to Microsoft, the purpose of requiring activation is to prevent “casual copying”, and that the minor inconvenience will actually save consumers money through the prevention of piracy.

Well, the truth is a bit more complicated. According to the customer service rep and his supervisor (Bill Gates was unable to come to the phone), their policy is not to activate preinstalled versions of Windows, regardless of the circumstances. I asked him what would happen if I had fried a motherboard (which requires activation), to which he replied that it would be a warranty issue with Gateway. I asked what if the warranty is expired, he told me that, in that scenario, the license dies with the computer.

The issue is supposed to come down to one license, one computer. I can live with that. All they needed to do was give me a 45 digit number (really – 45 digits) and RHG would be playing Nancy friggin’ Drew and I would be happy, but nooooo. They want a war, and that’s what they are going to get. The first thing I am going to do is carve up the computer that the software was originally installed on and send it to Bill Gates with a signed affadavit attesting to the fact that it is no longer in service. Any other ideas would be appreciated.