Wednesday, November 30, 2005

The Doctor is IN

Please read "In Denial." And the included links, too. Damn, but this gal is GOOD! She's a real doc, too.
I (Heart) Technology!

I probably shouldn't write this because it's somewhat premature. Lotsa things could, and may, go wrong before all is said and done. But I've always been one to tempt fate.

My laptop is dying. I know this. I had the motherboard replaced a year ago. The touchpad quit working last week. The box won't boot if there's a CD or DVD in the CD drive. Bad signs, all. So, I took the plunge and ordered a new box. My laptop was new back in June of 2002; the industry standard is to replace a computer every three years. I'm overdue.

I did my homework...research on C-Net and PC Mag's web sites, plus various other places. Thought about it for a bit (more like a week), then made my decision. I decided to buy my fifth Gateway box.

I ordered the new box from Gateway this past Monday evening, by phone. I got off the phone after placing my order with an incredibly competent CSR at 8:30 p.m. I received my order confirmation via e-mail at 9:45 p.m. On Tuesday at 8:09 p.m. I received a shipping notice (e-mail) for the monitor from Gateway. Today I received another shipping notice confirming the box and peripherals had been shipped. Both shipping notifications contained clickable links which are the UPS tracking numbers. Click just one more link when you get to the UPS site and you get a detailed history of exactly where your package is at the moment and where it's been, and, wonder of wonders, a scheduled delivery date! Delivery is scheduled for Friday. My excitement builds...

OK. Stuff happens. Trucks are late, the PC may be DOA, yadda, yadda, yadda. But the fact remains: order Monday, delivery Friday. And this isn't an off-the-shelf buy: I added this, that, and the other. I am so impressed! Ain't technology grand?

Much better than my repair experience with Gateway last year. I went without my laptop for over a month, more like six weeks. One week of that wait was because G-way shipped the box to my old address in California, despite my three attempts to update my address. I feel lucky I actually got the laptop back. Lesson-learned: buy the on-site service. And I did.

Now. Let's see if I jinxed the deal by writing about it.

Update, 12/02/2005 11:38 p.m.: FedEx wins the shipping derby. Monitor cable shipped via FedEx, arrived yesterday. Monitor shipped via UPS, arrived today. Both items shipped the same day. The box itself arrived today, too. It's up and running fine but I HATE the keyboard...such TINY little keys, and all in the wrong places! (Just kidding.) I'm going to have to get used to a full-sized keyboard again after 3.5 years on a laptop. Paradoxically, the laptop had much bigger keys. This keyboard seems like it belongs in an elementary school. But the box is fast. New computers are so much fun!
C'Mon Guys (and Gals)...

...we're behind! WAY behind! Must be all us Red Staters with good family values.

(h/t: OxBlog)
It's One of Those Days...

...where you should be able to see our monstrous dust-storms from space. I'll have to check the NOAA site tomorrow for photographs. The wind is high, 30 mph constant with gusts to 40, and the sunlight is red-brown. There are huge, high-altitude dust clouds visible out my window. I love the weather here! Seriously. It's interesting but not often life-threatening.

The Speech

My evaluation: Good speech. We need more speeches like this from the President, Mr. Cheney, Secretary Rumsfeld and other leaders. I feel the administration hasn't, up to this point, articulated our national strategy clearly, and more importantly, often enough. I also believe the President was speaking directly to the military with this speech, and as a former military member, I approve. Were I still on active duty I would be motivated.

The White House web site has not, at this moment, provided the full text of the speech. The site has, however, provided a strategy document referenced in the post below.

Highlights. The President:

  1. Unequivocally rejected the notion of a "timetable for withdrawal." This is good. His words included the premise (not a direct quote) that withdrawal will be based on conditions "on the ground in Iraq, not by artificial timetables set by politicians."
  2. Acknowledged (tacitly) mistakes had been made and our tactics in Iraq are changing, based on lessons-learned. He described our tactics as "flexible and dynamic."
  3. Provided examples of progress made by Iraqi forces, e.g., "30 Iraqi battalions are in control of Iraqi territory."
  4. Pledged the US "will not run in the face of car bombers and assassins as long as I'm the Commander in Chief."
  5. Acknowledged the current debate on the war and stated "we should not fear debate - debate is a great strength of our democracy."
  6. Drew parallels between our victories in WW II and the Cold War to victory in Iraq.
  7. Defined "victory." See the White House web site.
  8. Quoted Joe Lieberman (did you think he wouldn't?) on Iraq. Lieberman wrote an editorial in the WSJ yesterday. Lieberman's editorial is good and should be read.

I'm watching the Democrats' response to the speech right now. Senator Kerry* opens with a snarky comment about how Bush's speech, given the backdrop of the Naval Academy, is "reminiscent" of a "certain 'Mission Accomplished' speech given on the deck of an aircraft carrier" and goes on to say the President "always speaks in front of the troops." My reaction? Best categorized as "STFU, Kerry." It's the same ol', same ol'. Kerry is now taking questions. Doubtless there will be a transcript of this krep published somewhere. I'll link it later.

*(that haughty, French-looking politician, who, by the way, also served in Viet Nam)

Update 1: Full text of today's speech here.

Update 2: News report on Democratic response to the speech here. Summary of Democrats' carping: "More of the same." Uh, here's a news flash for Kerry, Pelosi, et al: You keep asking the same questions and expect different answers. That's pretty damned close to "stuck on stupid" in my book.

Watching the Prez...

...give his speech at Annapolis. Dubya just mentioned the White House web site has The National Strategy for Victory in Iraq. And so it does. More later.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Steyn Skewers Hollywood

As if it needed skewering...we all KNOW the PC nature of film making these days. Still, I got the link from Lileks (who's pretty good in this area, too) and was off to the races. A sample:
...I stopped to buy the third boxed set in the ''Looney Tunes Golden Collection.'' Loved the first two: Daffy, Bugs, Porky, beautifully restored, tons of special features. But, for some reason, this new set begins with a special announcement by Whoopi Goldberg explaining what it is we're not meant to find funny: ''Unfortunately at that time racial and ethnic differences were caricatured in ways that may have embarrassed and even hurt people of color, women and ethnic groups,'' she tells us sternly. ''These jokes were wrong then and they're wrong today'' -- unlike, say, Whoopi Goldberg's most memorable joke of recent years, the one at that 2004 all-star Democratic Party gala in New York where she compared President Bush to her, um, private parts. There's a gag for the ages.

I don't know what Whoopi's making such a meal about. It's true you don't see many positive images of people of color on ''Looney Tunes,'' but then the images of people of non-color aren't terribly positive either (Elmer Fudd, Yosemite Sam). Instead, you see positive images of ducks of color, roadrunners of color and tweety birds of color. How weirdly reductive to be so obsessed about something so peripheral to these cartoons that you stick the same damn Whoopi Goldberg health warning on all four DVDs in the box. And don't think about hitting the "Next" button and skipping to the cartoons: You can't; you gotta sit through it.
And I mentioned Lileks. His take on the same subject is hilarious as only James can be. One just can't skewer (I like that word!) Political Correctness enough...it's impossible. If there's any one thing I can point to that's destroying America, it's the pervasive, stifling influence of having to be Politically Correct In All Things. Feh.
Timetable?

President Bush is scheduled to make a speech at the Naval Academy tomorrow evening and there's speculation that he will begin to prepare the American public for troop withdrawals from Iraq. Fred Kaplan, writing in Slate today about such a withdrawal scenario , says:

The political beauty of this scenario is that, even if Iraq remains mired in chaos or seems to be hurtling toward civil war, nobody in Congress is going to call for a halt, much less a reversal, of the withdrawal. The Republicans will fall in line; many of them have been nervous that the war's perpetuation, with its rising toll and dim horizons, might cost them their seats. And who among the Democrats will choose to outflank Bush on his right wing and advocate—as some were doing not so long ago—keeping the troops in Iraq for another five or 10 years or even boosting their numbers. (The question is so rhetorical, it doesn't warrant a question mark.)
The general consensus among the pundits is that Dubya won't announce a "timetable" tomorrow night but will emphasize, instead, that the Iraqis are increasingly capable of providing for their own security. This is in keeping with his oft-repeated "as the Iraqis stand up, we will stand down" statement when questioned about US withdrawal from Iraq. On the one hand, we don't want to give the terrorists a concrete date they can plan their operations around (i.e., we're out by, say, June 2007). On the other hand, the Iraqis won't accept the burden of providing for their own security while we're still around in force. Why should they do the heavy lifting if we will?

There's much more on this in the WaPo, the NYT, and at Defense Tech. The extensive comments at Defense Tech are interesting.

I'll be watching the speech tomorrow evening. Much hangs in the balance here.

Monday, November 28, 2005

Cope India 2005

From the Christian Science Monitor:

For now, US Air Force officials are saying only that the Cope India 2005 air exercises were a success, and a sign of America's growing appreciation for the abilities of its newfound regional ally.
But there are some signs that America's premier fighter jet, the F-16 Fighting Falcon, is losing ground to the growing sophistication of Russian-made fighter planes, and that the US should be more wary about presuming global air superiority - the linchpin of its military might.
The CSM gets a couple of things wrong...such as...the F-16 isn't "America's premier fighter jet," the F-15 is. And the F-15 will be superseded by the F/A-22. The F/A-22 will guarantee US air supremacy, assuming the fighter is bought in requisite numbers. Which brings us to...

The USAF flew the F-15 against the Indian AF in Cope India 2004. The official USAF report on the outcome of Cope India 2004 is classified, but the Defense Tech article has a pretty good report on the outcome.

Update: The F-15 image link didn't work, fixed.
Now THIS is Useful!

Hate Interactive Voice Response Systems (IVRs)? (OK, who doesn't hate 'em?) Want to talk to a real, live human being when you call FedEx or Bank of America? Here's an extensive list of IVR "cheat codes" that will connect you directly to a human. Now that's a PUBLIC SERVICE!

h/t: Volokh Conspiracy.
Required Reading

Got the link from Instapundit. Here's the lede:
As hard as it is to think of Ted Kennedy as a political visionary, his April 2004 statement that "Iraq is George Bush's Vietnam," was way before its time. In the last presidential election year Kennedy started down a path that would have been political suicide for Kerry. But Kerry's approach -- feigning support for real action against terrorism -- lost. The Dems will not make the same mistake in 2008. The architects of our defeat in Vietnam have dusted off their old plans and are adopting them to Iraq. They are working hard to make Kennedy's statement come true.
That's just the opening. What follows is a cautionary tale about our collective will to win in Iraq. Things aren't looking good for the "good guys" these days. I hope it changes.

But wait! There's more! One could, and should, add NBC, ABC, CBS, MSNBC and CNN (in addition to the Op-Ed columnists of the NYT) to the unrelenting drum-beat of "Bush Lied!" and so on, ad nauseam. Makes me flipping sick at heart.

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Coincidence?

Draw your own conclusions.

Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, quoted in the New York Times:

"Who do you think you are in the world to say you are suspicious of our nuclear activities?" he asked. "What kind of right do you think you have to say Iran cannot have nuclear technology? It is you who must be held accountable, and you have no right to ask questions. You act as though you are the lord of the world."
(Emphasis mine) Well, we are. Deal with it!

Also from the Times:
An earthquake measuring at least magnitude-5.9 shook a sparsely populated area of southern Iran on Sunday, flattening seven villages and killing 10 people, officials said. The temblor was felt as far away as Oman and the United Arab Emirates.
Dodged Bullets Dept.

From The Telegraph (UK):

In a historic break with the past, Poland's newly elected government threw open its top secret Warsaw Pact military archives - including a 1979 map revealing the Soviet bloc's vision of a seven-day atomic holocaust between Nato and Warsaw Pact forces.
The whole thing. And previously.

Makes one shudder, it does.
Dayum!

These are the women behind the men of Deuce-Four. What? You haven't read Michael Yon? Go!

Saturday, November 26, 2005

Heavy Stuff

I've been thinking about this subject for a long time. "Long time" is relative, but in this case, my thoughts go back to at least the beginning of the Current Unpleasantness, i.e., Spring of 2003. Number One Son and I discussed the subject at some length as I was trying to form an opinion I could live with, an opinion that meshed with my sensibilities, my morality, and my desire for us to win this war we're in.

The subject is torture.

There's certainly no lack of discussion on this subject. Some of the best exchanges are occuring in the comments at Protein Wisdom, and to a lesser extent at Steve Green's place. I'll not link to Kos, even though I've read a lot of threads on the subject in that cesspool. There's no debate there, it's all "Rethuglicans" and the like. Typical. But, I digress.

It seems, to me, the biggest issue is defining "torture." Webster says, in part:

transitive verb: to punish or coerce by inflicting excruciating pain
noun: the infliction of intense pain (as from burning, crushing, or wounding) to punish, coerce, or afford sadistic pleasure
Webster only speaks of physical pain. But let's take it a little further. The UN Convention Against Torture says, once again, in part:

Article 1
1. Any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person for such purposes as obtaining from him or a third person information or a confession, punishing him for an act he or a third person has committed or is suspected of having committed, or intimidating or coercing him or a third person, or for any reason based on discrimination of any kind, when such pain or suffering is inflicted by or at the instigation of or with the consent or acquiescence of a public official or other person acting in an official capacity. It does not include pain or suffering arising only from, inherent in or incidental to lawful sanctions.
We've now introduced mental pain or suffering into the equation. Let's go further still.

In 1978 in the European Court of Human Rights trial "Ireland v. the United Kingdom" the facts were not in dispute and the court published the following in their judgement:
These methods, sometimes termed "disorientation" or "sensory deprivation" techniques, were not used in any cases other than the fourteen so indicated above. It emerges from the Commission's establishment of the facts that the techniques consisted of:
(a) wall-standing: forcing the detainees to remain for periods of some hours in a "stress position", described by those who underwent it as being "spreadeagled against the wall, with their fingers put high above the head against the wall, the legs spread apart and the feet back, causing them to stand on their toes with the weight of the body mainly on the fingers";
(b) hooding: putting a black or navy coloured bag over the detainees' heads and, at least initially, keeping it there all the time except during interrogation;
(c) subjection to noise: pending their interrogations, holding the detainees in a room where there was a continuous loud and hissing noise;
(d) deprivation of sleep: pending their interrogations, depriving the detainees of sleep;
(e) deprivation of food and drink: subjecting the detainees to a reduced diet during their stay at the centre and pending interrogations.
It referred to the above as "the five techniques" and ruled:
167. ... Although the five techniques, as applied in combination, undoubtedly amounted to inhuman and degrading treatment, although their object was the extraction of confessions, the naming of others and/or information and although they were used systematically, they did not occasion suffering of the particular intensity and cruelty implied by the word torture as so understood. ...
168. The Court concludes that recourse to the five techniques amounted to a practice of inhuman and degrading treatment, which practice was in breach of [the European Convention on Human Rights] Article 3 (art. 3).
Big disconnect between items 167 and 168. Nonetheless, I'll interpret the above as meaning our current interrogation practices would land our interrogators and their chain of command in prison if they could be brought to trial in the International Criminal Court. (Aside: I think it's a good thing we didn't sign on, but that's another story. The Brits may live to regret signing the ICC treaty. See the ICC link.)

So much for precedent and legalities. The question still remains: what to do? I don't like the McCain Amendment. Why? The definition:

(d) CRUEL, INHUMAN, OR DEGRADING TREATMENT OR PUNISHMENT DEFINED.--In this section, the term ''cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment'' means the cruel, unusual, and inhumane treatment or punishment prohibited by the Fifth, Eighth, and Fourteenth Amendments to the Constitution of the United States, as defined in the United States Reservations, Declarations and Understandings to the United Nations Convention Against Torture and Other Forms of Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment done at New York, December 10, 1984.
I'm no lawyer, but it seems to me this definition rules out coercive techniques of interrogation, as detailed in one of my quotes, above. Further, some detainees have alleged they were "tortured" by being wrapped in an Israeli flag, or smeared with fake menstrual blood. How far do we go before we're completely "stuck on stupid?"

Our enemy does not fear torture. Al Qaeda training manuals specifically instruct enemy combatants that we do not use torture, yet on the other hand, they also instruct captives to make false claims they were tortured. I believe there should be sufficient doubt in the minds of our enemies as to what sort of treatment they will, or will not, be subjected to while in captivity. The McCain Amendment removes all such doubt. This is NOT a good thing.

So this is where I come down. I oppose the practice of "rendering." (Take the linked article with a grain of salt.) I oppose torture, and I'll use the "I know it when I see it" definition. I don't ever want to see formal "torture warrants" issued by my government. I support the use of coercive interrogation techniques. I'll leave the codification of acceptable interrogation techniques to legal minds and the Congress. I'll be watching this issue closely. And I will be heard.
That Damned Bush!

As if lying us into a war in Iraq isn't enough, now he's going to start an intergalactic war!

"The United States military are preparing weapons which could be used against the aliens, and they could get us into an intergalactic war without us ever having any warning. He stated, "The Bush administration has finally agreed to let the military build a forward base on the moon, which will put them in a better position to keep track of the goings and comings of the visitors from space, and to shoot at them, if they so decide."

Hellyer's speech ended with a standing ovation. He said, "The time has come to lift the veil of secrecy, and let the truth emerge, so there can be a real and informed debate, about one of the most important problems facing our planet today."
No kidding! Here's how you can help! Time is of the essence! Save E.T!

Friday, November 25, 2005

Politically Incorrect Thought of the Day


I would. Even, and maybe especially, if I were 14. Just sayin'.

Good, Bad, and Ugly

I probably watch too much TV. An indication of that would be my irritation with many of the advertisements I'm subjected to. I recently convened a Focus Group of One (tm) to evaluate the current crop of TV ads, and the results follow. Here are the criteria for the three categories:
  • Good ads are either clever, creative, funny, informative, or interesting. Ideally, a good ad is all of the foregoing and leaves you with a positive impression...or makes you want to buy the product or service advertised.
  • Bad ads either insult your intelligence, are preposterous in their presentation, or simply annoy the Hell out of you (me).
  • And the Ugly? These are ads that are damaging...either to a class of individuals or society at large.
The Good

  1. IBM's "Help Desk" and "King Arthur" series of ads. Funny and entertaining, with a kernal of truth, these ads would make me want to call IBM if I were a CEO or CIO.
  2. Boeing's current "Dreamliner" ads. Come to think of it, I've never seen a bad Boeing ad. Great voice-overs and brilliant images.
  3. DHL's "Customer Service" ads. Are these true, or what? Taking on FedEx will be difficult, but DHL makes a valid point about customer service. Maybe I'll call them the next time I have to send a package.
  4. A.G. Edwards' "Nest Egg" series of ads. Nearly all advertisements for financial services are bad, but Edwards' stuff are the exceptions to the rule. Clever.

The Bad

  1. Ditech. Everyone in America who has had a mortgage for over 18 months has refinanced. Ned used to be funny, now he's just annoying. Stop it, already!
  2. Ameriprise (We're the new financial consultants from American Express!). Oh-so-wrong, on so many levels. Blatant pandering to the overly-absorbed-with-themselves Boomers, what with the kitschy 60s video clips and "oh weren't you COOL" voice-overs. And they ripped off the Spencer Davis Groups great "Gimmee Some Lovin'," an unforgiveable sin.
  3. Audi. That ad where the Audi motors up the ski jump. Most car ads are pretty good (and this one isn't all that bad), but after seeing this ad repeatedly I'm always left thinking "Git 'R' DOWN!"
  4. Best Buy. Not too bad, but they ripped off The Cars "Just What I Needed." Cadillac falls into this category, too, what with their Zep-Abuse. Co-opting rock 'n' roll automatically lands you in the "Bad" category.
  5. Viagra, Cialis, Levitra. How many awkward conversations have there been in America when an eight year old asks "Mom (Dad), what's EEE-DEE?" For God's sake, why don't they run half hour soft-porn infomercials on CNBC at 2:00 a.m. or advertise in Golf or Field and Stream magazines? Not suitable for prime-time. Ever.

The Ugly

  1. James Sokolove and Other Ambulance Chasers. "$253 MILLION Vioxx Award!" Doing their bit for the litigious society. Despicable.
  2. "Work From Home." Those ads for websites where you can "make $7,000.00 a month working part-time!" Pretty people standing in front of shiny cars and beautiful estates. The woman who sez "I made so much money I bought a new house!" Honey, you need to make a LOT more than $84K a year to afford a crib like that...
  3. Blue Hippo. "No Credit Check!" "Bad Credit OK!" Call this 800-number and pay $1,500.00 for a $500.00 PC. Caveat Emptor.

And the BEST ads I've seen lately? Those "Thank You, America!" ads from "The Other Iraq." See 'em here.
Now THAT'S Unusual!

Wow. Christopher Hitchens really IS eeee-vil, just like George Galloway says! How do I know? I saw Chris in an extended interview on TV yesterday, and he was smoking. On camera. Actually inhaled and exhaled. We all know only bad people smoke. I can't remember the last time I saw anyone smoking on-camera. That used to happen all the time, back in the day. Not any longer. I'm shocked, really.

So, do I remove Chris from my official Heroes List? Not bloody likely. Hitchens is my absolute favorite ex-socialist. I try to read everything he writes and agree with most of what he has to say. And I love the way he says it! Here's a recent Hitchens column; here's an older one.

(Full disclosure: I smoke.)

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Been There, Done That...


Oh, the map? (click for larger, if you're interested) I've been to all the red countries. You can create your own "countries visited" map here. They have a U.S. "states visited" map generator, too. In a perfect world, the entire US map would be red. In my world, it is!

Happy Thanksgiving!

I'll give thanks today for my family, (what's left of) my health, and the fact that I'm a citizen of the United States of America.

Spare a kind thought today for the thousands of families who will set a place at the table for loved ones far away. And include the soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines, and coast guardsmen serving all around the world...not just those in Afghanistan and Iraq...in your thoughts and prayers. I'm particularly thankful for those dedicated men and women who serve.

Oh yeah...and I'm thankful that the weather will be 68 degrees and mostly sunny here on the High Plains of New Mexico!

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Going to London?



Feel like splurging a little? Want a taste of what life would have been like if you were to-the-manor-born? Then try Danesfield House, a hotel in Marlow that will pamper and please you to an extent you wouldn't think possible. My buddy John and I stayed here for a few days while on a business trip to the UK back in 1996. We knew we were in for a wonderful time when we drove up the graveled drive way into a courtyard illuminated by flaming torches. I've never had a more dramatic arrival experience in my life! The rest of our stay was just as impressive as our arrival. The accomodations were wonderful, breakfast on the verandah overlooking the Thames was indescribable, and the "small" bar has (or had, it's been a long time, now) an excellent selection of single-malts and Cuban cigars.
I was going to suggest a tour of the Brakspear brewery in nearby Henley-On-Thames, but I find the brewery closed in October, 2002. More's the pity! I did find that Brakspear Ale lives on, however. Ummm...Brit beer. A subject for another post on another day!

Images of New Mexico

(click for larger)

Flightline, Cannon AFB, NM. Left to Right: Major (now Lt Col) Heatherington, pilot , 1Lt (now Capt.) Ivan (Buck) Pennington, and Your Humble Scribe (still a retired MSgt). Number One Son isn't a pilot, he was honored as Cannon AFB's Junior Officer of the Year Quarter (see the comments) back in 2003, and an F-16 incentive flight was part of the award package. This was his second incentive flight, the first was in an F-111 while he was stationed at RAF Lakenheath, UK.

Two flights in a front-line combat aircraft. Jeez, I'm jealous! I spent 22 years in the USAF and the only aircraft I flew in were the C-47, C-130, and the C-141. What's that you say? C-47? Yep, C-47. We had a few left in the inventory during my early days. I'm old, ya know.
P.T. Barnum Would be Proud...

In life's "There's a sucker born every minute" category, Yahoo reports:
EBay said the average price for consoles, including those sold with games and other add-ons, was $660. However, the company said some console packages were selling for as much as $2,500, with bidding and sales prices varying widely.
Sold out. Go figure. I thought $300.00 for the basic XBox 360 and $400.00 for the "deluxe" version was highway robbery. But, in America ya just gotta have the latest and greatest, right? Me? I'd wait for the price cuts, if I were a gamer. But I'm not. Thank God.
Peace and Quiet in the Public Square

Relatively speaking, now that Congress is in recess. Hopefully, we'll all take a break from the acrimonious debate about the war and enjoy Thanksgiving. Here's hoping that next year we'll be victorious and the majority of our troops will be home for the Holidays. There's hope.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Images of New Mexico


The Very Large Array, one of the world's premier astronomical radio observatories, consists of 27 radio antennas in a Y-shaped configuration on the Plains of San Agustin fifty miles west of Socorro, New Mexico. Each antenna is 82 feet in diameter. The data from the antennas is combined electronically to give the resolution of an antenna 22 miles across, with the sensitivity of a dish 426.5 feet in diameter. Techie "gee-whiz" facts aside, the site is visually impressive beyond belief. Did you see the movie "Contact?" Then you've seen the VLA.
Hard Times for Detroit

Yesterday's big news came from GM...30,000 people will lose their jobs in multiple US and Canadian auto plant closings. It's worse than it looks:

Through October, the U.S. auto industry, including car manufacturers, supplier and auto dealers, announced 89,016 job cuts. With the latest reductions at GM, and 4,000 salaried job cuts announced Friday at Ford, the industry is on track to meet, or possibly surpass, the 2001 record of 133,686 job cuts in one year, said Challenger, Gray & Christmas, an employment consulting firm.

Forbes was somewhat predictable in its response, their lede was "General Motors is finally getting real." Fortune was pretty snarky...their Street Life columnist asks "Why does GM still exist?" And the UAW was predictable in its response: "It's not our fault."

The press, both general and automotive, have consumed millions of barrels of ink and acres of forest over the years offering up solutions to this problem. The answer, when you come right down to it, is pretty simple: product. The US auto industry will continue to experience decline until such time as they offer cars that people want to drive, at a cost they can afford. GM only offers three vehicles I want to drive right now (here, here, and here), and two of them are out of my price range.

The situation is just so sad. GM is still the world's largest auto manufacturer, but one wonders "For how long?" The hour is getting late...

(Full disclosure: I lived in Detroit for ten years. I worked for Electronic Data Systems (EDS), once a wholly-owned subsidiary of GM. A lot of my friends work for GM.)

Monday, November 21, 2005

Boy, Is He Ever on a ROLL!

Lileks: Kurt Vonnegut has passed from the realm of silly old man to pernicious fool. Screedblog.

Kinda like one of my old heroes, Hunter S. Thompson. It's hard for me to think HST would ever praise suicide-bombers. But, I dunno. Maybe he did. I quit reading HST after his middle period expired and he became just another moonbat ranter, albeit one with much more colorful language.
This Just In...

...via Fox News, but not on their web site (yet). The Global Language Monitor has just released their Top Politically inCorrect Words for 2005. My favorite:
6. Deferred Success as a euphemism for the word fail. The Professional Association of Teachers in the UK considered a proposal to replace any notion of failure with deferred success in order to bolster students self-esteem.
So...you wouldn't get an "F" if you failed a course. You'd get a DS. Sounds like BS to me. But wait, there's more. Much more.
More Good Stuff...

...from the WSJ. If you're so inclined.

  1. Why We Went to War. What if people start believing that "Bush lied"?
  2. Washington Retreat. Congress sends the wrong signal to the Iraqis. "There are many lessons of the Vietnam War, but two of the biggest are these: Don't fight wars you don't intend to win, and while American troops can't be defeated, American politicians can be. "
  3. Chaps in a Tangle. "But for a depressing number of professors today, history is about jamming a finger in the eye of traditionalists. Here's a game plan for academic advancement: Reinterpret the past according impossible-to-meet modern standards, take apart a hero, trash an iconic event, then jam it all into a paper or book, usually in prose so painful it can actually cause spontaneous hair loss, and voilĂ --respect, publication, tenure."

Damn, but I miss my daily WSJ. There's no WSJ local delivery in Portales, the paper comes via USPS and is therefore a day late. I've thought about subscribing to the on-line edition, but haven't got off the dime. There's a huge difference between flipping the pages of the dead-tree edition and reading in a browser window. I prefer the paper...and journey to the library once or twice a week read it.

"A Very Bad Idea"

Today no organization or government controls the Internet. The mechanics of participation--domain names, suffixes like .com and .org, and technical codes--are supervised by the independent organization Icann, an acronym for Internet Corp. for Assigned Names and Numbers, based in America and loosely overseen by the U.S. government. Much of the rest of the world, gathered last week in Tunisia for the U.N.-hosted World Summit on the Information Society, wants to take over that responsibility, or as European Union spokesman Martin Selmayr put it, the U.S. must "give up their unilateral control and everything will be fine." Perhaps as fine as it is in China, where, according to the New York Times, "major search engines . . . must stop posting their own commentary articles and instead make available only pieces generated by government-controlled newspapers and news agencies."

"If the U.N. establishment believes free speech is arrogance, we can be confident that U.N. control of the Internet would be calamitous." Indeed. Read the whole thing...
One of Our 50 is Missing...

...is the title of a humor column that makes up the end-matter of New Mexico Magazine. New Mexicans get no respect, sometimes. If you see a car with NM plates, notice that the plates say "New Mexico USA." (Emphasis mine, of course.) There's a reason for that. I've read and heard stories about illiterate cops in New England (or other places far removed from NM) saying words to the effect of "You're in the USA now, we have laws against..." after being presented with a NM drivers license during a traffic stop.

It's happened to me. I was on the phone with Gateway last year trying to arrange expedited shipment of my laptop after an overly-long repair job. The service rep on the phone, after dutifully recording my new address, said "Hold on, I'll transfer you to another department." "Why?", sez I. "Because we have a separate department for international orders." I then tried to explain US geography to this person, but she was adamant NM wasn't in the US. Seriously. I wound up talking to her supervisor, who got it. Gateway still shipped the laptop to California. But that's a whole 'nuther story...

Just for the record, I'm a resident of the Lone Star State and I carry a Texas drivers license.

Images of New Mexico

New Mexico is a beautiful state. One would never appreciate this fact if you gleaned all you know about NM by traversing I-40 or I-10. I suppose the same could be said about a lot of places. Anyhoo! From time to time I'll post a picture or two of interesting people, places, and things I've seen in my travels around NM. All pics are my own, unless otherwise noted.

This is Shiprock (click image for larger). This photo was taken this past June during a break in a series of thunderstorms moving rapidly over the countryside. Shiprock (near the town of Shiprock, strangely enough) is in the NW corner of the state, in the Navajo Nation.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Bachelor Cooking in the Convenience Age

Man, am I ever glad to be a party-of-one in the 21st century! My last foray into singleness was between 1973 and 1978. What a world of difference, then and now. I just finished dinner, which took all of, oh, maybe 40 minutes from "what's in the freezer?" to "dishes done!" "What didja eat, Buck?" you may ask, certain in the knowledge I'm gonna tell you. Well, OK...I had Chicken Parmigiana & Penne, plus a large green salad with sliced tomatoes and cucumbers. And it was good. The salad (save the tomato and cuke) came out of one of those salad bags, and aren't they great? So many varieties! I like the Spring Mix, which is essentially edible weeds plus radicchio. Mmm-mmm-good!

If this were 1977 the best quick meal I could have hoped for was a Swanson's TV dinner, a can of soup, or the perennial favorite...fried egg sandwiches. When it came to frozen entrees, the brand name was immaterial; they were all pretty much the same. Back in those days you could flip a coin...heads - the box, tails - the contents...and the taste would've been the same. Probably equal amounts of nutrition value, too, but I'm sure the box has more fiber. Today one is overwhelmed by choice when strolling the frozen food aisle. Even here in the provinces, where we have excellent frozen Mexican food produced by a specialty outfit in Albuquerque.

In large metro areas a single guy can whip into his local grocery emporium on the way home from work, and likely as not, buy a complete hot meal (or sushi, if that's your thing). Dinner's done the minute you walk in the door. I did that a LOT when I lived in Rochester (Wegmans!) and SFO. Beats the HELL out of Mickey-D's, although that ain't saying much.

Damn, but I love technology! And lastly...don't get me wrong, I can cook, and I do it well. It's just not much fun doing it alone. Compliments! You need compliments!
New Rules for Ol' Farts, 2006 Edition

A friend sends along this extensive list of New Rules and I thought I'd share a couple or three. I've done a little light editing to remove "strong language."

New Rule: The more complicated the Starbucks order, the bigger the ass. If you walk into a Starbucks and order a "decaf grande half-soy, half-low fat, iced vanilla, double-shot, gingerbread cappuccino, extra dry, light ice, with one Sweet-n'-Low and one NutraSweet," ooh, you're a huge ass.


New Rule: Just because your tattoo has Chinese characters in it doesn't make you spiritual. It's right above the crack of your butt. And it translates to "beef with broccoli." The last time you did anything spiritual, you were praying to God you weren't pregnant. You're not spiritual. You are, or were, just high.


New Rule: No more gift registries. You know, it used to be just for weddings. Now it's for babies and new homes and graduations from rehab. Picking out the stuff you want and having other people buy it for you isn't gift giving, it's the white people version of looting.


New Rule: Stop giving me that pop-up ad for Classmates.com! There's a reason I haven't talked to some people for 25 years: Because I don't particularly like them! Besides, I already know what the captain of the football team is doing these days: mowing my lawn.

I'd say those are pretty close.
Football, Redux

Well, USC survived a scare that would have made a MESS of the BCS. That must have been a wild game, given the final score! Too bad I couldn't see it. I had to content myself with watching Miami lose to Georgia Tech, which sent me to bed with a big smile on my face. I know it's irrational, and the language is probably too strong, but I hate Miami. One should reserve strong negative emotion for things that really matter, like Salafists, or maybe moonbat Democrats (just kidding about the Dems! No, really! Seriously!). But, I really do dislike Miami.

Best game yesterday, of the ones I watched: Michigan - Ohio State. Penn State - Michigan State gets an honorable mention, if only because Joe Paterno has been vindicated. My favorite senior citizen, he is! And the Miami game provided huge emotional rewards, as previously mentioned.

Saturday, November 19, 2005

It's Football, so this Must be Saturday

Ohio State 12, Michigan 7, at the half.

Today must be a slow day in the Big 12. One of the drawbacks about living where I do is, like all Americans, I get regional games. In this region it's all Big 12, and that's not good for me. I prefer Big Ten, PAC 10, and SEC ball over the Big 12 variety. After living in Detroit for ten years I still get a kick out of watching Big Blue play, although I have to say I'm not a fan. I'm a fan of those guys who play home games under the benevolent gaze of Touchdown Jesus. I do believe they're off today, resting up so they can CREAM the guys from The Small Boat and Barge School. (Hi, Sam!) (Oh, and don't even mention the F-4, umm-kay?)

You know what's great about being old and unencumbered? I can, and will, watch football ALL damned day and (a) won't be nagged or (b) feel guilty about it! And I'll drink beer, too.

Update: Looks like ND is playing Syracuse today. My bad.
Update 2: Michigan loses another squeaker, 25-21, in the last 30 seconds of the game. Big Blue had a bad year. On to Penn State - Michigan State. Why not ND, you ask? Coz ND will beat Syracuse like they'll beat Navy, which is to say mercilessly. It won't even be close.
Update 3: Red-faced is what I am. Totally. ND beat Navy last week. Like a step-child. Where was I?
Citizen Soldiers-Lawyers

I read a couple of interesting articles this morning. The first, by Kate Thornton Buzicky, a U.S. Army First Lieutenant currently attending Harvard Law School, is titled "Don't Serve / Don't Tell, The limits of liberal tolerance at Harvard Law School." The second is commentary on Lt. Buzicky's article by Tom Smith, a professor of law at the University of San Diego Law School (bio here). Professor Smith has this to say, in part:

On the one hand are these people who get paid barely enough to stay off food stamps, spend months and years away from their families and comforts such as edible food and air conditioning, and do a job that involves the risk of getting your limbs blown off, the flesh seared from your body, your sight and/or hearing permanently destroyed, and your psychic peace forever shattered, among other things worth mentioning. They do it so people like yours truly can live in beautiful San Diego and worry only slightly about some deranged fascist from some rathole in Butwhuckistan setting off a radiological bomb at a Padres game in the service of some bizarre religious fantasy.

...

That's on the one hand. On the other we have various law students and faculty who believe it is wrong for the military only to admit gays on the condition that they not be openly gay while in the military. The various law students and professors believe in this so strongly that they do not want military officers recruiting on their campuses, which they probably would not want in any event, because they don't like the military. In general, they find the military icky.
This brouhaha is all about the Solomon Amendment, more discussion about which may be found here. Basically, the Solomon Amendment requires federally-funded universities to open their doors to military recruiters at the risk of losing federal funds. Personally, I believe the Solomon Amendment is a "good thing," and I support it. Most liberals don't support the amendment, under the guise that the military's "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy on gays violates civil rights. I'm not gonna go there.

I'm concerned about the general public's, and more importantly, the "opinion makers" perception of the military. We see thousands of cars with "Support Our Troops" bumper stickers on them these days, but I'll bet if you asked a random sample of 100 mothers at your local mall if they would approve of their sons or daughters joining the military, the answer would be a resounding "no." You don't believe me? Consider this (source):

After twenty-seven years of the all-volunteer force, the majority of such elite civilians as government leaders, university professors, and corporate CEOs have never served in the armed forces, and many don't personally know someone in the military. At Duke, for example, the majority of students and faculty today haven't had a relative or a friend in the active-duty military. For some students in Feaver's seminar class, a year-end party screening of Saving Private Ryan was the closest they'd ever come to understanding military experience in combat. In this case, at least, lack of familiarity has bred misunderstanding, if not outright contempt. In the TISS study, 21 percent of the civilian non-veteran elites nationwide said they would be disappointed if one of their children joined the armed forces. Only 7 percent of military officers felt that way.
Troubling. America has, or had, a great tradition of citizen-soldiers. That tradition is disappearing, to our detriment. We can remedy this situation by increasing genuine support for the military, not by just delivering lip-service and bumper sticker support. And that support includes campus access for recruiters, ROTC detachments at every college with the enrollment to support the activity, and genuine approval of the military as a career choice.

Enlist today!

Friday, November 18, 2005

And Speaking of La France...

There was this bit on Brit Hume's Grapevine, day before yesterday:
Flaming automobiles have become a symbol of Muslim outrage in countless television reports on the French riots. But it turns out that burning cars is nothing new for French youth. Police say nearly 9,000 vehicles have been set ablaze since the riots began three weeks ago, but 30,000 cars had already been torched since January.
The president of the French Crime Commission says burning cars to mark the New Year has become a French tradition and that suburban gangs have long burned cars to mark their territory. And the head of one police union says cars are accessible and easy to burn, adding, "little by little it has become a sport."
We all know the Quebecoise revel in their Frenchness. Does this mean that if, in some unlikely turn of events, the Canadiens win The Cup we'll see an epidemic of burning cars in Montreal? Just sayin', ya know...
OK, I'll Admit It...

I'm a Lileks shill. Proud of it, too. Here's an excerpt from the latest ScreedBlog (on Burning Citroens and the like):
So the rioters will not be bought off with job training. They know they have a brie-spined enemy, filled with doubt. Chirac, after all, spoke of a national “crisis of meaning, a crisis of identity.” Hardly a call to the barricades, especially when ordinary Frenchmen are thinking about a crisis of flaming cars. He also used the deadly word “malaise” to describe the French mood, and if history is any judge this means that Ronald Reagan will be elected President in a landslide.Unfortunately, he is unavailable for the task. Too bad for Europe. Their modern vision – a post-national multiethnic welfare state linked by nothing but the language in which people curse one another – is fatally flawed. The rioters can’t be dispelled with Brussels-based regulations specifying the number of cars one can burn per night. But the ruling class will accept no alternatives, brook no heresies. The revolutions of ’68 brought to power the romantic leftists who despised the old order, its sense of tradition, its bourgeois values, its confident (if unexamined) sense of cultural coherence. They built a new order based on dorm-room bong-fest ideas, and now they face the future unmanned. They can’t even revert to the hypernationalist models of the 30s, either - Le Pen only drew 300 people at a recent rally. Fascism is too much work these days. Even for the old pros.
My God, there's a scary thought: Ronald Reagan as president of La France. Go. Read the whole thing.
Public Service Announcement

My buddy Ed in Florida sends me stuff. A lot of the stuff is trivial, but given all the attention Avian Flu has been getting, I felt it important to share this:

The Center for Disease Control has released a list of symptoms of bird flu. If you experience any of the following, please seek medical treatment immediately:
1. High fever
2. Congestion
3. Nausea
4. Fatigue
5. Aching in the joints
6. An irresistible urge to shit on someone's windshield.
I think point #6 is a dead give-away.

Household Hint

I hate housework, and life has been hard in that area since the maid quit. These cool little thingies on the right make cleaning tasks a LOT easier. I hesitated putting this up because I thought "Hey, everyone knows about these things, they've been on the market for over a year, why bother?" Not true. When I Googled the subject I found a household hint forum with an entry dated 10/31/2005 that sang the praises of The Magic Eraser, and the author had just bought her first package.

They really do work! I use 'em to clean my shower and nothing, repeat, nothing takes down soap scum like these thingies do. But be careful: something this good just has to cause cancer. You've been warned.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Aspirations

Do you read Lileks? You should. I'm not the first to sing James' praises; Hell, I'm not even the 5,000th. I read somewhere "The Lileks, he writes for me!" Maybe on Lex's blog? Whatever. I can't say it better. If you don't read James, here's a sample of what you're missing:

Because it was miserably, punitively, uselessly cold. Gnat slipped on the ice on the steps on the way to the bus. I slipped on the ice on the steps on the way back from the bus stop. Jasper ran out the back door, hit a patch, did a blurry little jitterbug that should have been accompanied by a Hanna-Barbera sound effect. The house was cold; the bathroom tiles were cold, the bathrobe was cold, my clothes were cold, my coat was cold when I took it from the entryway closet, which itself was cold. The car was cold when I started it up to pick up Gnat.
Precisely why I'll never, ever, live in a northern clime again. I can visit snow, but I damned sure can't live with it. But I digress.

I aspire to write like James, but I'm never gonna get there. There's lotsa stuff I can't do. I can't throw a 98 mph fast ball, can't hustle a motocross bike around a course like Joel Roberts did (now that statement dates me!), can't wow the wimmen with snappy repartee like any number of men. But I'll keep on trying...with the exception of the MX thing. I know my limitations.

My other blogger inspiration (model) is the lovely, talented, and witty Ann Althouse (link on the sidebar). And now you know. When I grow up, I wanna be like Ann and/or James. Or maybe Lex.
Color Me Pale Green

A long-time friend who's an expat currently living and working in New Zealand writes to tell me he's getting ready for his vacation. And where's he going? Here.

Now THAT'S a vacation! Envy, thy name is "Buck." Even if I'm not a diver. And, yeah, my Bud is (a diver).

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

So let us not talk falsely now, the hour is getting late...

I've been watching the Congressional Democrats rant and rave about BushCo "Lies," "Taking us to war under false pretenses," "doctored intelligence," and the like for some time now. This meme started at the fringes (MoveOn and People for the American Way, let's say) and was easy to ignore while it was a fringe activity. But somewhere around two or three months ago, mainstream Democratic pols began to fall for the "say it loud enough and often enough and people will believe anything" theory. The Democratic chorus that increased in volume with the Libby indictment reached a crescendo late last week and is continuing almost as we speak (so to say).

They obviously don't understand there's a war on and words have meaning, especially to our enemy. Or maybe they DO understand. I remember Viet Nam vividly, and the loudest of the limo-liberals do, too. We're the same age, after all. Glenn Reynolds recently murmured "treason." Radical-right voices have been shouting it for a long time. I'm not ready to go that far, yet. I've been waiting for rational moderate voices, e.g., the Gang of 14, to step up and say "Enough! There's a war on, fer Crissakes!" I'm beginning to think it ain't gonna happen.

Another thing I've wondered about is why have the Republicans just sat on their hands and let Howard Dean, Ted Kennedy, Nancy Pelosi, and Harry Reid rave on unanswered. Well, the gloves came off this week. Dubya gave two great speeches in the past week, one on
Monday. But tonight Cheney gave a corker! The first three paragraphs lay it out (emphasis mine):


Let me thank the good people of Frontiers of Freedom - George Landrith, Kerri Houston, Al Lee - for bringing us all together this evening. I see many good friends in the room, including current and former office holders. It's a pleasure to see all of you. I'm sorry that we couldn't be joined by Senators Harry Reid, John Kerry, or Jay Rockefeller. They were unable to attend due to a prior lack of commitment.

As most of you know, I have spent a lot of years in public service, and first came to work in Washington, D.C. back in the late 1960s. I know what it's like to operate in a highly charged political environment, in which the players on all sides of an issue feel passionately and speak forcefully. In such an environment people sometimes lose their cool, and yet in Washington you can ordinarily rely on some basic measure of truthfulness and good faith in the conduct of political debate. But in the last several weeks we have seen a wild departure from that tradition. And the suggestion that's been made by some U. S. senators that the President of the United States or any member of this Administration purposely misled the American people on pre-war intelligence is one of the most dishonest and reprehensible charges ever aired in this city.

Some of the most irresponsible comments have, of course, come from politicians who actually voted in favor of authorizing force against Saddam Hussein. These are elected officials who had access to the intelligence, and were free to draw their own conclusions. They arrived at the same judgment about Iraq's capabilities and intentions that was made by this Administration and by the previous Administration. There was broad-based, bipartisan agreement that Saddam Hussein was a threat ... that he had violated U.N. Security Council Resolutions ... and that, in a post-9/11 world, we couldn't afford to take the word of a dictator who had a history of WMD programs, who had excluded weapons inspectors, who had defied the demands of the international community, who had been designated an official state sponsor of terror, and who had committed mass murder. Those are facts. What we're hearing now is some politicians contradicting their own statements and making a play for political advantage in the middle of a war.

It's about time. I just hope the Republicans haven't waited too long. It remains to be seen if we'll achieve unity, which is a polite way of saying "if the Democrats will shut up," but the stakes are higher than I've ever seen in MY lifetime. And I'm old.

Update: Lots more in the same vein here, and better said, to boot.
So... I Should Maybe Switch?

Watching the news earlier this evening, kinda out of one eye while reading with the other. The words "tax cut extension" and "fierce debate" caught my attention. There's a talking head Democratic Congressman on screen and he says something to the effect "...and these tax cuts benefit only the wealthiest Americans, those making over one hundred thousand dollars."

Whoa. Say what?

I didn't catch this guy's name (I should start taking notes if I'm gonna write about this krep), and a search of Fox News didn't yield any hits, other than the ubiquitous Charlie Rangel. I did find a short article on the story, and the money grafs are:

"Middle-income families lose under this Republican tax cut bill," said Rep. Charles Rangel of New York, the panel's top Democrat.

In the House, the tax writing committee kept alive reduced tax rates on investment income, capital gains and dividends, in 2009 and 2010. If left alone, the maximum 15 percent tax rate would increase after 2008 to 20 percent for capital gains and regular income tax rates for dividends.

In the Senate, lawmakers would prevent the alternative minimum tax from pinching millions more taxpayers next year through a change that reduces that tax almost $32 billion. Invented as a mechanism to prevent the most wealthy taxpayers from evading taxes, inflation expands its reach every year unless lawmakers stop it.

Thomas said he opted to extend tax cuts for investment income rather than address the alternative minimum tax because it could help more taxpayers of all incomes.

"I did not want to put the wealthiest people getting a tax benefit in the package," he said. "There are far wealthier people, and fewer of them, who would receive the benefit under the alternative minimum tax."

Specifically, about 14 million would benefit from an alternative minimum tax change, but 62 million people would benefit from reduced rates on investment income, Thomas said. Households paying taxes on capital gains and dividends include older retirees, he added.
Damned Straight! (emphasis mine, of course) "Thomas" is House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Bill Thomas, R-Calif.

If I were still working, I'd certainly be siding with the Republicans, and with the Senate's version of the bill. No one wants to get hit with the AMT. But, my tax bracket has changed radically since I retired (you may read that as "genteel poverty"). So, as a member of the low-income class, aren't the Dems talking to me? Shouldn't I be all for soaking the rich? Should I switch parties?

Not exactly. My 1099-Rs (pension income) make up about 85% of my total income, dividends and interest on non-IRA investments, plus what portion of my IRA principal I withdraw, make up the rest. Granted, my particular tax break is small, being only the difference between the current 15% tax and a 20% tax if the cuts aren't renewed. There's other differences, as well, but once again, they're small. It's a matter of principle, not principal. I already paid taxes on the money I'm being taxed on. This irritates the Hell out of me, and lots of folks like me, especially those investors smarter (or luckier) than me with brokerage accounts a lot fatter than mine. Still, I'll take whatever bone I'm thrown.

The Republicans don't get off my hook, however. I want taxes on dividends and interest eliminated completely, and those spineless ersatz-fiscal conservative Republicans have been totally cowed by the Dems. The tax cuts I want are dead, dead, dead. Why I'll never know. But if this kind of krep keeps up I'll be looking for a viable third party to vote for in 2006. Can you say "Libertarian?"

Where in the World...

...is Portales? What's it like? What does one DO there? So many questions, so few adequate answers!

The map above gives you an idea where P-Town is, relatively speaking. Portales would be the bottom left-hand point of a easterly-tilted equilateral triangle, with Amarillo, TX at the apex and Lubbock, TX on the right. Or, in other words, smack-dab in the middle of nowhere. It's a two-hour drive to both Amarillo and Lubbock, and a three-plus hour drive to Albuquerque or Santa Fe, NM. I've done all those drives quite a few times.

You want demographics? Go here. If you're pressed for time, here's the Executive Summary:

College town.
Portales is a city in Roosevelt County. It is the county seat. The latitude of Portales is 34.186N. The longitude is -103.333W. The estimated population, in 2003, was 11,078.

Median household income:
Local (Portales), $24,658
National, $41,994
Source: 2000 census, U.S. Census Bureau

OK. All that said, the principal industry is diary farming...there are over 20 times more cows in Roosevelt County than people. There's also peanut farming, along with two large peanut processing plants, which surprised me. Cannon Air Force Base, 11 miles NW of Portales, is responsible for 30% of the local economy. "Local" includes both Portales and Clovis, a city of approx. 30,000 people.

I really like it here. Portales is quiet, safe, inexpensive, and above all, uncongested! I can drive 80-flipping-miles-an-hour everywhere I go, and most people drive that way, too. Nice.

I'll add more about my adopted home as time goes by. This should be enough to answer a couple of questions, and perhaps spark a few.

That's the sign you see as you approach P-Ville from the north (i.e., on US 70, from Clovis). I'm one of the "three or four' individuals named on the sign.
Life is Messy. Clean It Up!

I am, as the French might say, TRES cheesed-off. I awoke this morning to a flooded bathroom. I've been having trouble with my toilet; there's a water valve that sticks, alternately either open or closed. When the valve sticks closed, I have no water flow...inconvenient, but not a real problem, coz I can flush the toilet using a coffee cup. And I have been doing so, coz RV toilets ain't cheap, and I am (cheap. and easy.). If the flipping valve sticks open, then water runs into the black-water tank until such time as the tank fills up, the water continues to run, backs up into the toilet bowl and then proceeds to spill out onto the floor, all in a sort of rapid drip-drip-drip fashion, not a steady stream. It's all "clean" water when it backs up, thanks to the guillotine-like valve at the bottom of the toilet bowl that separates the toilet from the black-water tank. (Are all y'all clear on that? Both of you? I didn't think so. Unless you're familiar with RV or marine toilets.)

Thank GOD I emptied my tanks yesterday afternoon, other wise it would have been REALLY ugly this morning. We had our first hard freeze last night (18 degrees). I emptied both black and gray water tanks last evening in preparation for the freeze, and left the outside valve open on the gray water tank so I could leave a faucet dripping to avoid hose and pipe freeze-up. RVs are a lot more susceptable to freeze-ups than houses...it's happened to me more times than I can count, and it's a real PITA when it freezes. So. I've been putting off buying a new toilet, but it looks like I'll have to pop for a new one real quick. And did I say they aren't cheap? {sigh} It's always flipping SOMETHING! But at least the floors got mopped. Before the coffee was made. Before my eyes were fully open. Sometimes it bees like that!
Fall

It fell. Overnight. Just like that. Yesterday afternoon the trees were glorious in their yellow-green livery, this morning they've been denuded. Naked, with branches lifting to the sky as if to say "Why ME, Lord? Why now?" Well...because that's apparently the way it works here on the High Plains.

S'funny...coz I don't remember Fall being an overnight event last year, or the year before. It could have been that way, I just don't remember it. But then again, at my age, I don't remember a LOT of things!

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Gorgeous!

TV ads normally drive me crazy, but this one is...well...gorgeous! There's some hoops to jump through here, but if you haven't seen the ads on TV yet and you love cars, it's worth it! Follow the link, click on "gorgeous" at Jag's web site, and then click "View the film." The rest of the site is worth a browse, too.

Almost makes one want to go back to work. Almost.

For the Record

My sig:


The ribbons, in order from left to right, top to bottom:  Meritorious Service Medal, Air Force Commendation Medal (with one Oak Leaf Cluster), Air Force Outstanding Unit Award, Air Force Good Conduct Medal (w/5 OLCs... should actually be seven), National Defense Service Medal, Air Force Overseas Ribbon (Long), Air Force Service Longevity Ribbon (w/5 OLCs), NCO PME Graduate Ribbon, Small Arms Expert Marksmanship Ribbon.  I also qualify for the "Air Force Overseas Ribbon (Short)," but in my day the regulations specified you could wear one or the other, not both.  That has since changed.

The command patch is the emblem of the now defunct Air Force Communications Command, the MAJCOM in which I spent my final five years of service.  I also served in Air Defense Command (ADC, later Aerospace Defense Command), USAF Security Service (later Electronic Security Command) and VERY briefly in Tactical Air Command (when ADC went away).

And those are "old" Master Sergeant stripes.

Wind. Dust. Ugh!

It's 37 degrees outside, with a steady 28 mph wind and gusts to 45 mph. So sez the Weather Channel. The northwest horizon is dirty tan, and this is gonna keep up all day. (sigh) I'll be doing some serious cleaning this evening or tomorrow!

Did you know you can see our dust storms from space? The photo below (click to enlarge) is of a particularly nasty storm I was caught in two years ago. Portales is just below the white band of clouds, just west of the Texas - New Mexico state line. I got the pic here.


I Didn't Leave MY Heart in SFO

I know I'm late to the party with this, but the blog is new, so the news will be old for a while. What to make of this? Bill O'Reilly has gone ballistic (whats new?) on the issue, but this time I think he has a point. Notice that the ballot measure doesn't outright ban recruiters from San Francisco campuses, it just says San Francisco should "discourage" recruiters. An outright ban would mean the schools lose whatever federal funds they're getting. Wouldn't wanna lose your place at the trough, eh guys?

This ballot initiative passed with 60% of the vote, according to the Yahoo article linked above. The vote doesn't surprise me, although I do find the results, or even the fact the measure made it to a vote, offensive. Why am I not surprised? I lived and worked in the Bay Area from July of 2000 until October of 2002. I have first-hand experience with SFO's "progressive" political climate, and I didn't like it. Most of the stereotypes are true. New York Times readers outnumber Wall Street Journal readers on BART by about 20 to one. Hell, NYT readers outnumber readers of the Chron, for Pete's sake! I won't go on and on... Anyway, I voted with my feet and left SFO. Couldn't take it any longer.

SFO is a beautiful city, arguably the most scenic city in the US. The restaurants are wonderful; I defy you to name a cuisine you can't get in that town. The voting public, on the other hand, need a refresher course in Civics. They are just so damned wrong.

More here, here, and if you must...here.

And don't get me started about the guns.
What the Hay, eh?

I posted the photo below as a means of getting a photo into my Blogger profile. I was gonna delete the photo, but then I thought "just leave it." Makes a nice introductory post. The original title of the pic was "Republican Terrorist," and I sent the pic to a lot of my friends as a joke. The pic was taken in February of 2004 at Number One Son's house...the occasion was a homecoming party, celebrating his safe return from a temporary duty (TDY) assignment to the Gulf. Being the good kid he is, he brought me back a new kaffiya to replace my ten-year-old tattered rag. I think the kaffiya wrapped around the Bush-Cheney hat makes some sort of statement, but I'm not exactly sure what sort of statement!

Republican Terrorist


Me