Monday, December 31, 2007

Happy New Year's Eve!

No matter how you celebrate the arrival of 2008, please be safe. Get wild, get crazy, get insanely drunk, dance yer a$$ off...whatever. But if you do imbibe, get a taxi...or a designated driver. I wanna see your smiling face here throughout 2008, Gentle Reader.

Political cartoon by Lisa Benson, at

Sunday, December 30, 2007


…on that Rooshian hat, among other things. Pictured immediately above is a detail shot of the hat insignia, which, as I indicated in the original post below, is Russian Navy. The enamel on the Red Star is coming undone, if you look closely. The good news is it was that way when I bought the badge (hat and insignia sold separately, see vendors for details), the better news is that the deterioration doesn’t seem to be getting any worse after these 15 or so years.

Pictured immediately below is another souvenir from the Moscow trips: a gen-u-wine Red Army belt and brass belt buckle. The buckle is in dire need of polishing and I was gonna do just that for you, Gentle Reader. Until I retrieved my can of Brasso from under the sink, only to find its contents have long since evaporated into the ether and beyond.

So: gig me.

I lusted after one of these belts since the first time I saw one back in the late ‘60s or very early ‘70s. I was assigned to USAFSS (at Wakkanai AS, more about which…here) in 1968 when I saw my first Red Army belt… or three, or six. USAFSS was a fairly insular org for some career fields back in the day, especially the Russian linguists. These linguists would shuttle from assignment to assignment at “listening” sites we had around the periphery of the old USSR. One such site was the 6912th Security Group in Berlin. There were three ways to get to Berlin at the height of the Cold War…one could fly, drive in convoys from the West German border to Berlin on an approved route (with NO deviations allowed!), or one could take the “Duty Train.” And the Duty Train was where most of the guys I knew got their belts.

To cut right to the chase… the Duty Train stopped for “inspection” at multiple locations during the transit from West Germany into Berlin. These inspections were mostly performed by the East German Border Guards, but there were always contingents of Red Army (read: Russian) troops hanging around…either participating in the inspections (“Show us your papers!”) or observing. Those Red Army troops just loved Playboys, American cigarettes, and American whiskey…and were more than willing to trade the shirts off their backs, or their hats, or their belts… for same. That’s how 96.9% of the guys I knew got their belts. The going rate was a carton of cigs for a belt...straight across. A fifth of whiskey would buy you a belt and additional treasures, as well, but I digress. And you couldn’t buy one of these Red Army belts/buckles from the guys that had them at any price…the belt buckles were among the most prized souvenirs of the times.

Fast-forward to the ‘90s and my first biz trip to Moscow. One can imagine my absolute delight at finding all SORTS of Soviet military memorabilia for sale in the biggest danged flea market I’ve ever seen. One could literally buy entire uniforms, including boots and all the appropriate insignia, there. Not to mention actual military equipment (but no weapons were visible) being sold out of the back of Russian Army trucks, and I kid thee not. One member of my team bought fully-functional night-vision goggles for around $200.00 at the same flea market where I bought my hat and belt. I wasn’t ready to go that far, Gentle Reader, what with being concerned I’d get ripped off (how do you know they work, in broad daylight?) and a great deal more concerned about an out-going customs officer finding them in my luggage as I was leaving the country (My friend got away clean, however, sailing through the departure customs inspection.). The prospect of an espionage trial just didn’t appeal to me…at all. I limited my purchases to the hat, belt, various pins and such, and other, non-military souvenirs.

And lots of vodka and caviar, of course.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

C'Mon...Get Serious!

One interesting factoid about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan has been the reluctance of the military to focus on “body counts,” reflecting one of the lessons our military learned in Vietnam. CENTCOM does report enemy KIAs, as anyone who subscribes to CENTCOM press releases knows full well. But there have been no Vietnam-style weekly or monthly summaries of the numbers of al Qaeda, Taliban, and/or other enemy combatants who’ve bought that lil farm outside of Baghdad, Diyala, or Kandahar. As a matter of fact, it’s somewhat difficult to find the total numbers of terrorists presented with virgin chits by our soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines. Unless you’re reading Terrorist Death Watch. From TDW’s “About This Site” section:

This is the Terrorist Death Watch. It will always show the total to date since January 1, 2006, and have the current month’s activity. Prior months may be found in the links in the sidebar.

For data and analysis of American losses in Iraq, please visit this page.

The site will be updated as additional information is found, including past months’ totals. The military has not been consistant (sic) with its press releases, resulting in small numbers in several months such as June 2006. No press releases were issued by MNF between June 15 and June 30, 2006. The editor of this site would suggest that dead terrorists are still dead even if they have not been counted in a press release.

While there may no strategic value in publicizing body counts, I submit the information is still “good to know.” Terrorist Death Watch provides a public service by keeping running totals of dead terrorists. I like the concept.

Oh. The reason I’m posting this? The US armed forces killed the 20,000th enemy combatant in Iraq on or about December 27th.

So…I read on memeorandum this morning that the NYT is hiring Bill Kristol as a regular columnist in 2008. And the Left-O-Sphere goes nuts. Randomly-selected examples of said nuttiness:

6 dadams Says:
looks like a massive subscription cancellation is needed here.
if they want to be a reichwing pundit pulp rag, then it’s time to show them what it costs.
i am canceling my subscription now.

28 jfr Says:
Can’t we flood the NYT with emails to cancel subscriptions if he is hired?

42 Stuart Shiffman Says:
I have e-mailed the times that my subscription will be canceled should he be hired. I will follow through on this promise.

48 Maddy Says:

Russ Mason UK @ 45:
Huffington Post has banned comments for this story, looks like it’s getting nasty.

It can’t get nasty enough, that walking twit, filled to the brim with shit is not qualified for anything without his daddy’s money, and I would venture to say that I could write a better column for the NYT than he could ever hope to, I am smart, intelligent, and filled with the wisdom of 66 years, but the dagger falls because I have no money or influence, just one of thousands who could do a better job than this incompetent chickenshit hawk sans balls.

collapse tecpatl
As per Chomsky, I try to read a wide variety of media, both progressive and conservative, but I simply will not be able to read the NYT after this recent hire. This man is pure evil. He and his Straussian buddies are killing this country.
| posted 08:22 pm on 12/28/2007

collapse Meah
I too cancelled the L.A.Times because of Lucy's little smarmy boy. Kristol with the NYTimes. So much for them in my book. Another one bites the dust. Pathetic. Go ahead, hire him. Those such as Kristol will be the undoing of the news business in this country. People are sick of the neocon puke machine. And people are sick of Kristol.
The internet and Olbermann for the truth.
| posted 08:27 pm on 12/28/2007

MarkC December 29th, 2007 at 7:36 am 23
Well, that’s like giving Idi Amin’s justice minister a social work job.
I don’t mind, as long as he is described thusly:

William Kristol is the the child of prominent Straussian Irving Kristol. Irving was a founding member of the empirically seditious Neo-Conservative Movement and fellow at the Bush-fellating American Enterprise Institute. WIlliam himself co-founded the Project for the New American Century, a group that laid the groundwork for the war crimes of George W. Bush and Richard Cheney, atrocities for which William served as the most prominent apologist and media cheerleader. His hollow laugh and shit-eating grin have long served to distract viewers from the copious amounts of blood dripping from his hands and seeping from his very pores. He is writing this opinion column because the very rich are increasingly afraid that they have overplayed their hand, and are worried that without elaborate misdirection, the downtrodden majority might begin to realize that their children’s futures have been sold to pay for William Kristol’s diamond tie pins.

Kinda makes ya feel sorry for the NYT, don’t it? First the conservatives cancel their subscriptions over the NYT’s outing and publicizing numerous classified government programs and tactics being used against our enemies. And then the Left gets their knickers in a twist and say they’ll cancel their subscriptions over the hiring of a columnist? Aside from the Left having their priorities completely and totally screwed-up, one just has to ask: Whatever happened to dialog and debate? Oops. Sorry, lost my head there for a moment. There is no debate when it comes to true-blue Lefties…they’re right correct, and you better believe it.

And as for the NYT? See also: “petard, hoisted by one’s own.”

Betcha thought I was never, ever gonna be serious again. C’mon…you did, didn’t you, Gentle Reader? Well, I fooled ya. My mojo returned sometime this morning, albeit in greatly diminished form. I’m still “not right,” but as noted elsewhere and earlier…t’is the season. Some of us get jolly, some of us go the Humbug route. I opt for humbug. And as also noted: this, too, shall pass.

And besides that…the entire freakin’ collection of inter-tubes is off for the holidays. Hadn’t you noticed?

Today’s Pic: Apropos of exactly nothing…YrHmblScrb striking a pose while wearing a gag gift at his retirement party (from EDS, not the USAF). Being as how I'm the type of person who’s never been all that shy about his political leanings, my coworkers thought I’d appreciate this tee shirt. Well, I did. Sorta. Keep in mind…this was 1999. And I never did hide my affection for Perot, who was my first post-USAF boss. In the same sense that the Chief of Staff was my last USAF boss...

And to compensate for the foregoing offense to your eyes... here's another pic from the same event, with two co-workers who are…ummm …much easier on the eyes. (Along with some other guy (Ethan), who is arguably better looking than I.) I miss these guys.

October 1, 1999.

Friday, December 28, 2007

For Doc...

... a pic of my Rooshian hat. In case you're wondering, Gentle Reader, Doc's profile photo shows him in a hat of similar design and origins; I told him I'd post a pic of mine. And so I have.

I bought the hat in a flea market while on one of my business trips to Moscow in the early '90s. I wanted a Russian air force hat for what should be obvious reasons...but, alas, there were none to be found that day. So...I bought the hat you see here, in Russian Navy Blue, which... all credit to our Russian comrades... is actually blue (the leather bits, not the fur)...unlike US Navy "blue," which we all know is black. Those of us with unimpaired color vision, anyway.

Being the anal-retentive stickler for accuracy that I am, the hat emblem is also Russian Navy. I could have put Russian Air Force insignia on the hat and no one... I repeat, no one... outside of Russia would have been the wiser for it. Except me.

Psst....wanna read a good blog? Go here.

Once More Into the Breach Archives, Dear Friends, Once More...

Today's Pic: One of those patented New Mexico pastel sunsets...this time it's on US 84, somewhere south of Las Vegas and north of the US 84/I-40 interchange. I think the yard needs a lil work. Or not.

May 8, 2004.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

American (Il)Literacy

Today’s Pic: Another dip into the archives. Here’s the cake that was the centerpiece for the party celebrating SN1’s return from the UAE in February, 2004. There was no time to “send it back” because the cake was picked up on the day of the party. The cake was pretty good, flavor-wise. The spelling, OTOH, was not. Three words and one contraction...with either a 75% (three of four correct) or 66% (two of three correct) grade for spelling, depending on your interpretation. We all had a good laugh.

But…it’s NOT funny.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Dipping Into the Archives for...

...Today’s Pics: A couple of snow pics from three years ago, taken in the ex-girlfriend’s back yard during a medium Clovis. I attempted, somewhat successfully, to capture snowflake details in these pics. I say “somewhat successfully” because I’m not at all satisfied with the results. We are our own worst critics.

As ever, click for larger.

Tip o’ the hat to Lin for the inspiration. She’s been paying close attention to snowflakes of late…and has had ample opportunity to do just that!

Inspiration, sad to say, is sorely lacking in almost every other area of life today.

This, too, shall pass.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

A Tale of Two Cities...

Posted only to annoy amuse* Good Buddy Dan, who’s always going on about Florida WX. I might go for a ride with the top down today. Maybe.

You, Dan… on the other hand…better bundle up. It’s COLD down there!

* - It IS Christmas. Good Will Toward Men, and all that.

USAF Santa Support

The folks (all volunteers) in the NORAD "Track Santa" boiler room, last year.

Santa arrives via F-15

Santa arrives in yet another F-15

Santa's Own F-16?

Santa in his A-10

Santa arriving via C-130

One wonders how the ol' guy manages to stay qualified in all these various airframes, not to mention passing his annual flight physical. But then again, there's probably a lil bit of Santa Magic at play here...and he does have the requisite flight experience. You cannot disregard the thousands upon thousands of multi-engine hours he has in his log book, eh?

(all official USAF photos)

Merry Christmas... you and yours.


Monday, December 24, 2007

Tonite's the Night!

Track Santa! And this year you can use Google Earth (be SURE you don't miss the cool videos embedded in/on the map at the NORAD site)… ain’t technology grand? Santa appears to be making his rounds looks like he's already hit New Zealand, Australia and most of the Far East. At the time I put up this post he was delivering goodies to the good kids in Kirov, Russia. (I wonder what Tsar Vlad is getting this year? Stuffed ballot boxes, one would presume... but that sort of thinking doesn't belong in a "Happy Post," now, does it?)

From my December 2005 post on this subject…edited to add a lil more detail:

Back when I was in the radar biz we used to do this sort of thing locally for the families of the guys at the radar sites where I was stationed. Back in the day every USAF long-range aircraft control and warning (AC&W) radar site had a video mapping device that fed programmed exercise video to Operations; the normal output from the video mapper was "canned" and consisted of video blips simulating actual aircraft. The video mapper was used to train ground-control intercept controllers and technicians during the course of “normal” business, but we put that video mapper to a much different use at Christmas. On Christmas Eve we'd load up a special video overlay and route it to the intercept control scopes in Operations. While "exercise" video consisted of fake bogeys (simple blips) and tracks to train intercept controllers and technicians, the special Santa video showed a sleigh and reindeer on the scopes, and of course the sleigh moved…traversing our radar coverage area. Not nearly real, but real enough for the kids that saw it! (And for the adults, too…those willing to “suspend disbelief,” as it were.)

The kids always got a big thrill out of the radar displays. Doing the Santa video was one of the most fun things I ever did while I was a radar guy.

Ah…memories. We had us some fun at Christmas, we did!

(Photo: NORAD)

Update 12/24/2007 1530 hrs: Still not tracking Santa, are ya? Here's one of those cool lil vids you're missing. There's a new one about every hour or so. It's all about the kids... and the vids are pretty well done, IM (Not So) HO.

Sunday, December 23, 2007


This is me…all over the place.

You see that plump lil redheaded gal at 1:13 1:05 into the vid? She should be all over me. And vice-versa.

{sigh} All the good trashy women are taken.

Ooh La La

Further on one of yesterday’s posts…specifically the Faces’ “Ooh La La” vid/song. Two folks commented as to how weird that video is, and I suppose they’re right. What didn’t occur to me yesterday is not everyone…hardly anyone, actually… would “get” the video if they had little or no context within which to place it. And context is key, nu?

Here’s the album cover and a picture of a couple of post card inserts that came with the album back in ‘73. That cardboard cut-out gentleman “singing” Ooh La La was on the album cover and came as you see in the video…meaning you could manipulate his jaw up and down like some 19th century toy, which was the whole idea…IIRC. And it was great good fun to play with when one was off in some other “altered state.” Keep in mind: this is 1973 we're on about here.

And just in case you didn’t get the lyrics, here they are:

Poor old granddad
I laughed at all his words
I thought he was a bitter man
He spoke of women’s ways

They’ll trap you, then they use you
Before you even know
For love is blind and you’re far too kind
Don’t ever let it show

I wish that I knew what I know now
When I was younger.
I wish that I knew what I know now
When I was stronger.

The can cans such a pretty show
They’ll steal your heart away
But backstage, back on earth again
The dressing rooms are grey

They come on strong and it ain’t too long
Before they make you feel a man
But love is blind and you soon will find
You’re just a boy again

When you want her lips, you get a cheek
Makes you wonder where you are
If you want some more and shes fast asleep
Then she’s twinkling with the stars.

Poor young grandson, theres nothing I can say
You’ll have to learn, just like me
And that’s the hardest way
Ooh la la

I wish that I knew what I know now
When I was younger.
I wish that I knew what I know now
When I was stronger.

Ah…that chorus. It’s an old person’s lament, but none the less true for it. As for the rest of the song, specifically about women’s ways…well, if the shoe fits...

Ooh La La.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Obscure and Oblique

This is a confused post, but bear with me. I begin at some obscure point, digress to something just as obscure, and come around full-circle to where I began, in a sense. Just trying to be “obscure and oblique,” as it were.

So…I went looking on YouTube for a small treasure of a song from Pete Townshend and Ronnie Lane’s collaboration album “Rough Mix” (cover on the right). I was unsuccessful, and more’s the pity…coz I really, really wanted to share it with you, Gentle Reader. But I found this little gem while looking unsuccessfully for the song I wanted. And this will have to do:

That would be The Faces, a band that was an outgrowth of The Small Faces. As noted above, the song is another minor gem from a band that doesn’t get near the credit it deserves, but (the band) was in constant rotation in MY small corner of the planet, wherever that small space happened to be, in the ‘70s. Good stuff. Or, another way to put it: Ronnie Lane and Rod Stewart (and a gaggle of other fine rockers…click the “Faces” link and be amazed), in their prime.

But. Back to what I was looking for. The track is “Misunderstood,” and you can hear an all-too-brief sample here (scroll down, Track #7). The lyrics:

Just wanna be misunderstood
Wanna be feared in my neighborhood
Just wanna be a moody man
Say things that nobody can understand

I wanna be obscure and oblique
Inscrutable and vague
So hard to pin down
I wanna leave open mouths when I speak
Want people to cry when I put them down

I wanna be either old or young
Don't like where I've ended up or where I begun
I always feel I must get things in the can
I just can't handle it the way I am

Why am I so straight and simple
People see through me like I'm made of glass
Why can't I deepen with graying temples
Am I growing out of my class

I always feel I should be somewhere else
I feel impatient like a girl on the shelf
They say that I should live sera sera
But I am such an ordinary star

Coolwalkingsmoothtalking, yeah

Just wanna be misunderstood
I wanna be feared in my neighborhood
Just wanna be a moody man
Say things that nobody can understand

Coolwalkingsmoothtalking, yeah

Pretty cool, eh? Or then again, maybe ya had to “be there.” I still wanna be obscure and oblique…to this very day. Some would say I’ve succeeded, but I don't think I'm even near the level of obscurity and obliqueness I desire. But, Hey! Everyone needs a goal in life.


Christmas, 1950. Another Place, Another Time.

From Sippican Cottage, via Gerard:

I find it difficult, if not impossible, to imagine going to the local Cineplex (12 screens!) and seeing something like this today. Wait. It IS impossible to imagine. Yes, you might see something like this in church. But in a theatre? Not likely…not possible, in this day and age.

What have we lost? Much. And what have we gained? You tell me, Gentle Reader, coz I really want to know.

Merry Christmas... and Thanks.

Here’s yet another excellent video posted by Cynthia at Gazing at the Flag.

You should go check out Cynthia’s post…because she has text of the original poem narrated in this video, and its back-story. Which is way-cool.

I’ll admit: this video made me a bit “misty,” for at least two reasons. First and foremost, it made me think of all the troops spending this Christmas in the war zones, and of those troops serving in other lands this Christmas but not in Iraq or The ‘Stan. Those other guys are just as far from home, both literally and metaphorically.

Secondly…the video made me stop and think about my own Christmases-Past when I was deployed or stationed outside of the US. And ya know what? I’d trade this Christmas for any one of those Christmases I spent overseas…straight across, no questions asked. It’s a sort of “you had to be there” kinda thing, but the thought revolves around my Buds, my comrades-in-arms. We took care of each other, especially during this time of the year. And we always made the best of what we had, which, in the great grand scheme of things, usually wasn’t much. It may be a stretch to describe those Christmases-past as “good,” for we were separated from our loved ones, including the kids…most especially the kids. But they were memorable, in their own very special way.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Miscellaneous Bitches, Moans, and Complaints

So. A number of things conspired to mess up my daily routine today. First and foremost…I remain upside down as far as time goes. And, ya know what might be the worst thing about being “up all night?” The absolute and total suckage of late nite teevee. All the news channels go into re-runs after the midnite hour, my local PBS outlet runs “educational” programs targeted at freshmen college students (some of that stuff is interesting, most isn’t), and the History Channel, the Discovery Channel, yadda, yadda, all go into extended infomercials…and there hasn’t been a word minted yet to describe that level of suckage.

Oh, there’s marginal entertainment value in some infomercials, like those from Time-Life flogging zillion-CD collections of stuff like “Best of the ‘70s!” and the like. Once. The ones that really get me, tho, are the get-rich-by-working-at-home infomercials. Aside from making ludicrous claims, these type of programs prey on the ignorant and unsuspecting. I suppose that’s always been so…after all, that famous quote misattributed to P.T. Barnum has always been in play and will remain so. Still and even, I wish the FTC would take some of these idjits down, if only because they’re a public nuisance, not to mention insulting to anyone with an above-room-temperature IQ. Major digression here. Sorry. Well, scratch that…I’m really not.

Where was I? Oh. Yeah. The daily routine…

Aside from getting up around the crack o’ noon, I absolutely, positively had to make a premature supply run, as the WX is forecasted to go rapidly downhill this afternoon and remain bad until at least Sunday. And then there are the approaching holidays, which will lock things down tighter than the Lil Drummer Boy’s drum. We can’t afford to run out of consumables during this particular time, now, can we? So…out to the base… with visits to the commissary, the liquor emporium, and the hospital clinic to re-supply the meds. And we are now re-supplied and ready for both the weather and the holidays. Do your worst…I’m prepared.

The Holiday Blahs are affecting me in other ways, too. I checked my mail box on the way out of Beautiful La Hacienda Trailer Park and was shocked to find at least two weeks worth of mail stuffed into that tiny box. Could it be I’ve not checked snail-mail in two weeks? Why, yes. Obviously, judging by the sheer quantity of “stuff” in the box. In my defense, all the “important mail” (read that as: bills) comes during the first week of the month. After that, aside from the weekly mailings from my mail service in Texas (a holdover from my “on the road” days) all I usually get is ads and other junk mail. So…mail is checked weekly, at the most. But I never go two weeks without emptying the box. Until today. Gah! Thankfully there wasn’t anything time-sensitive in the accumulated stuff.

Today’s Pic: A shot of today’s afternoon sky, looking south-southeast, taken about 45 minutes ago. While the predicted front that will move in later this evening with all that snow and ice and wind will come out of the northwest, this particular cloud formation caught my eye. And it's completely gone as I type this post up… so you’re seeing a fleeting moment in time, Gentle Reader. Speaking of fleeting time…

I was only able to take one picture of this sky, however, before my battery died with NO warning what-so-ever. I’ve been preparing for this, though. The signs of impending battery-death have been persistent and numerous for the past two weeks…so I ordered a new battery at the same time I bought the scanner. And the new battery is in the camera…charging away…as we speak.

My camera uses a proprietary Canon battery, which I hate. First and foremost, the things are expensive…like 50 bucks. Second, they last about 14 months, tops. That’s much too short-lived, in my opinion. I don’t believe I’m a “heavy user” when it comes to my camera and I further think the battery should last longer than it does. This is the only thing I don't like about my camera.

Just sayin’ bitchin’.

Lou to the Rescue!

(The title of this post is simply a reference to the decided lack of timely postings this week.)

Checked my mail today and was oh-so-pleased to find Lou’s Christmas card in my box, along with various and sundry other things, more about which in the post above. Isn’t this painting just lovely? Long-time readers know one of the reasons I really like this pic. Check out the photo that accompanies this post… and then come back to this illustration. Does Lou have a good eye and great talent, or what!?!

As ever, click for larger.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

I Lied

Well, not technically, Gentle Reader, as the existence of this post testifies. But I don't have anything meaningful to say (ed: As if you ever did...). It's the lack of meaningful content that prompts me to say "I lied." But sometimes it bees that way. I've yet to complete making "the rounds" and don't have the first clue as to what's going on outside of my little corner of the world. I haven't even looked at the news, but that's probably a good thing.

It's a strange and crazy sort of existence when one finds oneself still drinking his "morning" coffee after the sun has set. Upside down, we are.

'Tis the season.

Yet Another Placeholder

A previously unseen pic from this year's road trip...a view of Arches National Park, taken this past June while at the Fiery Furnace, looking southwest.

And it was a fiery sort of day, temp-wise (mid-90s), which made tromping about the countryside in full road-racing leathers jes a lil bit uncomfortable. But relief was just a blast away astride the Zuki... with all the zippers unzipped and the cuffs of the jacket turned up to allow the wind to penetrate. Evaporative cooling, and all that. But I sure did get some strange looks from other folks while I wasn't on the bike. You'd think people had never seen a biker before.

Would you believe, Gentle Reader, that I've just now poured my second cup of coffee? At 1410 hours? Another one of "those" nights, in which I watched the sun come up this morning from the wrong side of the bed. Not good, methinks.

Back in a bit...

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Johns, Explained

Dunno exactly why an article that’s over a year old would appear on the front page of today’s (web) edition of The Times (UK), but there it was. And here it is: Who pays for sex? You'd be surprised… More and more young men are choosing to visit prostitutes. One writer asks them why.” Excerpts:

Volumes of research have been published on trends among sex workers across the globe — studies on drug use, on the spread of STDs, on the impact of prostitution on society. Yet as a study published in the British Medical Journal in 2005 pointed out, “far less is known about the men who pay for sex”. That study found that the proportion of British men who reported paying for heterosexual sex had increased from 5.6 per cent in 1990 to 9 per cent in 2000. Of these, the largest group were in their mid-twenties to mid-thirties, living in London and either single or divorced.

I realised that, as a single woman in her late twenties living in London, I am surrounded by this demographic. And given that a small but significant proportion of the men identified in the study were apparently upstanding types who slept with prostitutes in secret, I decided to see if I could persuade a few of them to confess.


The cold truth is that many men today, regardless of how eligible, rich and dashing they may be, don’t go to prostitutes because they can’t get laid. They go because, frankly, it’s an easier way of getting laid.

So, would I mind if my future husband admitted that in his past he had spent weekends in Amsterdam and Prague seeing prostitutes before we met? Probably. But again, is it really any worse than picking up a girl in a bar and lying his way into her pants simply because he was horny? Having been that girl, now I’m not entirely sure.

I jumped quite a bit in my selection of excerpts from the article, from early on in the piece to the author’s final conclusion. There’s a lot of interesting stuff in between, believe me. One should keep in mind that the article is primarily about British men and I suppose there may be differences, however slight, in the sexual behavior of British and American males. The first thing that comes to my mind is the Brits are generally much better-traveled than we Americans are, and are likely to have more opportunities to encounter the pay-for-play phenomenon. There are many references, for instance, of “adventures” in Amsterdam, which is only about a 45-minute flight from London…or a six to eight hour train/ferry/train ride. And, as we all know…Amsterdam is, or just might be, the World Capital of Professional Sex. And there isn't another city in the world that compares...with the possible exception of Bangkok (which is literally world's away from London. And the USofA.).

We Americans have a somewhat “unique” view (read that as: “puritanical”) on sex in general and prostitution, specifically. Having seen the way other cultures handle sex I’m of the opinion we could learn something from them…especially the Dutch. Control, and by that I mean the licensing, registration, and mandatory health check-ups for prostitutes, goes a long way to eliminating or minimizing the ills we traditionally and correctly associate with prostitution. Things like STDs, violence towards sex workers, and various and sundry other associated crimes and bad stuff (for lack of a better term). But that will never happen in America…at least not in MY lifetime. Well, outside of Nevada, anyway, which is our own lil great big Amsterdam (in terms of area, not volume or variety), as it were.

There’s always an exception to every rule.

More Media Lies

I read the following blurb in a column by Rich Galen on (on the frenzy of Christmas house-cleaning currently abroad in the land):

A visitor from a future time might think this activity was to make the home neat and orderly should Jesus decide to do a drop-by. Or, for those with a more secular bent, so that Santa would think "nice" (not "naughty") when he dropped down the chimney and picked out presents to leave under the tree.

Nothing could be further from the truth.


Substitute BROTHER, SISTER, NEIGHBOR, BOSS, or any of the many flavors of IN-LAW and the theory works equally well.

No. No, it doesn’t. “Mom Clean,” is largely a phenomenon associated with young married women, and is most prevalent in the first ten years or so of a marriage…any marriage. Getting to “Mom Clean” rivals the preparation of a surgical amphitheater for open-heart surgery. And the results are just as sanitary, too. Not a single solitary thing is out of place. There is NO dust behind the refrigerator and one could eat off the floor under the refrigerator without fear of getting bubonic plague. The inside of the refrigerator… including the freezer… is also cleaned to the OR level. No mold-encrusted science experiments remain inside, nary a one. The year-long accumulation (or the accumulation since the last time Mom visited) of National Geographics get hauled to the basement…or the curb. And that’s just the first day. Let’s not talk about refinishing the floors (actually happened, once) or washing down all the walls. Or the disappearance of nearly every single ashtray in the house. (Where did they go, anyway? They reappeared, miraculously, after the visit was over.)

I never did any of that stuff for my boss or other assorted guests, including relatives of every stripe. Normal everyday cleaning sufficed and some times not even that, in the case of impromptu drop-ins. But there IS good news. Mom Clean, as a phenomenon, sorta disappears in women with the onset of middle age.

That was my experience, Gentle Reader…YMMV.

My. How Time Flies.

This is kinda cool, eh?
What the Hell IS this, you might ask? Well…the complete answer is here (and includes still photos, if the video is too quick and/or disconcerting), but basically, it’s…
Eight Years of Aging on Video
What does growing older look like?
A video from New York artist Jonathan Keller gives you a glimpse. Every day for more than eight years he has taken a photo of himself. The result is a striking time-lapse video depicting a man in his 20s turning into a man in his 30s.
Which, from my point of view, simply validates the fact we don’t change all that much in early adult-hood, aside from transitory things like hair styles, glasses, and all that. Now I’d like to see a similar time lapse video documenting the changes one goes through between…say… 45 and 55. Male or female, makes no nevermind to me.
OTOH, maybe not. I keep forgetting: “Be careful of what you ask for. You just might get it.”
(h/t: the NYT)
Today’s Site Meter Moment…With or Without Chickens?
Heh. The English majors amongst us cringe.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Dark Days

This is a hard post to write…mainly because it will be perceived by some as whinging, although it is most assuredly not that. This is also neither a “cry for sympathy” nor a plea for “I feel your pain” sorts of comments.

It simply is what it is: a statement of fact. Some of us get depressed during the holidays. A lot of us, as it turns out. Google it if you don’t believe me…you’ll get about 133,000 hits on the subject. The search term I’ve offered up is just one variation on many potential search terms, as Google will kindly suggest other terms that yield even MORE hits. A google blog-search, on the other hand, yields significantly less returns (approx. 11,774) and the great majority of those links have to do with the ins-and-outs of “beating” or otherwise curing the depression. Precious few accounts exist of living with it, but I only went four pages deep into the blog links. This is something we rarely discuss in the first-person, mainly because it’s uncomfortable for us (both of us: sender and recipient) to do so and, ultimately, it IS the holidays, after all. We should all be decking the halls and such. This isn’t the time to be unhappy. Quite the contrary: tis the season to be jolly!

What set me off down this lil path was reading Lex’s “tidings of comfort and joy,” which had something of an opposite affect on YrHmblScrb. On the one hand, I can SO relate to Lex’s tale of domestic bliss, the joys of tree shopping, tree-decorating, and holiday familial togetherness, because, well…I’ve had my share. But the hand I’m currently playing is completely lacking in these simple joys and I wish it were not so. Emphatically.

Christmas, to me, is all about the kids…and the grand-kids. Speaking as a father of a ten year old, it pains me greatly not to share Christmas with my youngest son as it “should be,” which is to say: as a family. I’m also reminded that, as the patriarch of what is becoming a rather large extended family, Christmas would likely as not be celebrated in my home with said extended family if things had worked out in the manner I wish(ed). But, as you can well imagine, Gentle Reader, it does one absolutely no good… no good at all… to wish for things that can never be. Still and even: how do you block these thoughts, exposed as we all are to “tidings of comfort and joy” at this time of year… whether it’s in a blog post, a stroll through the mall (enduring the never-ending, sotto voce [or louder] Christmas carol Muzak), or in the messages that bombard us 7x24 on the small screen? Answer: you pretty much can’t.

So. We endure, those of us so afflicted. We smile, we wish our friends “Merry Christmas,” we go on about our lives as best we can, we conceal the sadness beneath the surface of our merry faces. And a great many of us wish nothing more than to be left alone during this time. It is a true fact (to Yr HmblScrb, at least) that happiness experienced during the holidays cannot be shared unless both parties are of a like-mind. It does me no good to be wrapped in the warm embrace of another’s good cheer if I’m not feeling it. Selfish? Perhaps. But once again, Gentle Reader, it is what it IS. And no amount of effort on your, or any other sentient being’s, part will change it. Best just to leave it alone. Because, in the end the sadness passes along with the holidays…for most of us, at least.

I’m done unburdening. I wish you and yours a Merry Christmas…and I mean it. Consider yourself blessed if you’re having happy holidays. As Lex suggested:

Another one of those moments, another of those days that I would have preserved in amber if I could, and kept someplace safe. To bring it out like the phial of Galadriel - to be a light for me in dark places, when all other lights go out.

As Promised…

…the first pics of young Taurean, including his first portrait and poses with (in order of appearance) Aunt Ava and Aunt Angelina, aka Goo-Goo.

Cute, eh?

Back in a few…

Sunday, December 16, 2007

BIG News...

…in a small package. At precisely 1621 hours yesterday afternoon in Omaha, NE, Taurean Christian Easter entered this world. He weighed seven pounds, seven ounces and was 20 inches long at birth. Taurean is the son of granddaughter Amanda. Mom, son, Grandfather Sam, and Grandmother Alisa are all doing fine.

GREAT-Grandfather Buck is elated at the news in one aspect (the most important one), and befuddled in at least one other. The befuddling aspect, of course, is all about being a great-grandfather. At such a young age. Ah, I’m only kidding myself. I’m old, and I should wear it with pride. Isn’t that what great-grandfathers are expected to do?

I’ll post pictures when I get ‘em…

The pic above is of a younger Amanda, flanked by SN3 on the left and Grandson Sean on the right.

Two years ago… June of 2005... taken in a diner just across the street from Bath Iron Works, Bath, ME.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Is It Warm in Here? Or Is It Just Climate-Change?

Via Blog-Bud Morgantake the (short) global warming quiz! It’s pretty cool; I especially like the verbiage associated with each answer. Example:

That is correct!

How did you know that? Tom Brokaw or Dan Rather certainly didn't tell you. You are obviously up on your climatology!

Heidi didn’t tell me that, either. Just for the record: I’m 9/10. And I didn’t answer any of the questions falsely-on purpose. I suppose this means I’m as qualified as any other layman to pontificate about Algore and other fellow-traveling eco-nuts. Not that I needed justification and/or support in any way, shape, or form. But it’s nice, I suppose.

I wonder if Algore took the test?

(pssst. While you’re over at Morgan’s place, check out the best idea for a political ad I’ve seen, ever. Way-cool.)

More on climate-related stuff… Semi-good news from the Bali conference on climate change…

While accepting the need for a new agreement, in the end the United States retained the flexibility that it had sought at the outset, fending off European attempts to set binding commitments on emission reductions. American negotiators said this was vital to gain global consensus.

That success, though, was bemoaned by some observers.


In Bali, European delegates threatened to pull out of those talks unless the Bush delegation agreed to keep some semblance of concrete targets in the outline for the talks.

Those targets remain in the agreement — including a possible cut in emissions of up to 40 percent below 1990 levels by rich countries by 2020, and a 50 percent cut in emissions globally by 2050 — but they are now a footnote to the nonbinding preamble, not a main feature of the plan.

In all of this, the Bush administration did not, in the end, have to shift substantially from its most staunchly defended goal, which was that a comprehensive new accord would maintain flexibility, allowing nations to agree on a rough goal for global emissions, but using any mix of means at the national level to get there.

Translation for “some observers:” Those members of the IPCC that drank the kool-aid. There’s good news buried in the article, but you have to read ALL the way to the end to get to it... being as how it is the NYT, after all. And note that it wasn't "the US delegation" in Bali, it was the "BUSH delegation." I’ve quoted most of the good stuff above, anyway. But the Euro-Weenies, the Chi-comms, and other anti-US elements are already banking on a change of administration here in the USofA…to one that is less-protective of our national interests and more in-tune with eco-dogma as flogged by the Church of Global Calamity.

Keep that in mind as you decide which party’s candidate will get your vote. Just sayin’.

I’m not going to go into great detail… but the primaries are really beginning to get interesting at this point, eh? Especially the Democratic primary races, which seemingly have turned a one-horse contest into a dogfight, to mix my metaphors thoroughly. Ya gotta believe the Hillary camp is burning the midnite oil while asking themselves “WTF!?! I mean…WTF!!? A lot of Hillary’s angst is the result of a self-inflicted wound (IMHO), which the Obama camp deftly turned into an opportunity…of sorts. And Obama seemed to have the support of both the MSM (no surprise) and the General Public (BIG surprise!) on this issue. Which leads me to believe We, The People may have grown up a just little bit in our attitudes towards recreational drug use. But I’ll stop right there, as I feel a major rant coming on.

On the Republican side of the house, Mike Huckabee’s surge is getting a lot of press, but I think his lofty place in the polls will be rather short-lived once the other candidates begin their serious Huckabee-bashing, which has begun in earnestas we speak. Someone call the clean-up crew, coz there’s lotsa blood on the floor in here. More coming, too.

I go on more than I should about google-weirdness resulting in atypical visits to EIP… visits with prurient intent, more often than not. But this is the sort of thing that warms the cockles of a blogger’s heart:

One visit, featuring a dozen discreet views of photos I’ve posted. Yes! Someone cares! Even if they choose to not leave a comment…

You can’t have everything, I suppose.

But Hey! Everything still isn’t “sweetness and light.” Note the Number One search term resulting in hits/EIP visits. Still.

{sigh} I need to develop some sort of variation on “It’s better being pissed off than pissed on!” Or something like that. While I’m on the subject: Thanks, Phlegmmy. You’ll note your comment about certain “-ectomies” has garnered me four hits. (Insert whimsical smiley-face thingie here.)


Via SN1a quiz about one of my Hot Buttons…

You Scored an A

You got 9/10 questions correct.

It's pretty obvious that you don't make basic grammatical errors.

If anything, you're annoyed when people make simple mistakes on their blogs.

As far as people with bad grammar go, you know they're only human.

And it's humanity and its current condition that truly disturb you sometimes.

Now I could have cheated and taken the quiz over (object: perfect score), but we’re all about honesty and integrity here at EIP. I knew which question I got wrong when I chose the answer, but chose falsely just to see what would happen. (Ed: I thought you said something about “honesty?” Oh, Shaddup.)

Whatever. Still and even, you’d think otherwise intelligent folks would learn to use apostrophes correctly, though. To quote one of my favorite grammar sayings: “The purpose of an apostrophe is NOT to announce the imminent arrival of the letter ‘s.’” Or, in other words…don’t frickin’ use an apostrophe to indicate the plural, OK?

/irritated school-marm voice

Further on Wreaths Across America a video, produced by the Worcester Wreath Company, that explains why the company’s owner does what he does.

(h/t to Cynthia @ Gazing at the Flag, who did a much better job on her “Wreaths Across America” post than I did on mine.)

One more thing before I put this lil bit of rambling up and finish making the rounds… We had the (nearly) full gamut of all possible December weather last night. A fairly strong storm blew over The High Plains last evening, visiting us with a significant amount of rain, sleet, ice, and snow. And thunder. I counted at least four lightning flashes last evening just before the freezing rain turned into full-blown sleet. Now I’ve heard and read about thunder-snow but don’t believe I’ve ever experienced it…until last night. And it’s a strange-bordering-on-weird sort of phenomenon, too. I mean ya just don’t expect to hear thunder when it’s 26 degrees outside now, do ya?

I awoke this morning to about an inch of fresh white snow on the ground…which was beautiful. Even more beautiful since I’m secure in the knowledge it will ALL be gone by about 1600 hours today. The best sort of snow: Saturday morning (no place to be), not much of it (an inch…or less), and a guaranteed half-life measured in hours. It could be worse. A LOT worse.

Back in a bit…

Friday, December 14, 2007

Reading The Times

Take The Times (UK) lager quiz (in the right sidebar on this page)…and see how much you really know about beer. I scored 7/10. And I consider myself knowledgeable about beer…not a connoisseur, by any means, but knowledgeable. So, I suppose 70% is about where I should be. There are some fairly esoteric questions in this quiz, so don’t go laughing or making fun of me because of my relatively low score.
There’s a lot to interest beer lager drinkers on the linked page. I tend to drink ales almost exclusively, but even speaking as a non-lager lover, I spent more than a few minutes here.
How’s your taste? Are you tasteful? Or tasteless? Read the Brit definition(s) here… “Does your taste suck?” Excerpt:
Another word for this phenomenon is “grotesque”. That’s what a lot of our purchases, even our bodies, are becoming. Our cars have ballooned, our garages doubled, our houses have been extended, our muscles bulked up, our breasts inflated and our lips beestung. At the end of that we’ve had our teeth bleached bunny-rabbit white and hopped onto a sunbed. Is this new Texan-style sensibility necessarily bad taste, though? Definitions of good taste are notoriously difficult. It could be argued that the whole idea of good taste is in bad taste. Why do we need to be prescriptive? Isn’t that pretentious, divisive and arrogant? Well, yes, but it’s quite good fun.
Hmmm. What’s this “Texan-style sensibility” stuff? I assume the author is going for the “ever thang’s bigger in Texas!” stereotype. But he’s British, so one never knows. Good article, though, and I pretty much agree with all that’s said. But then again, I would. After all, I’m a man of remarkably good taste. (ahem)
Another passing…Art Arfons, who was something of a childhood hero of mine, died on December 3rd. And I didn’t see a single obituary in a US paper. How sad. But, as for Mr. Arfons…he had a major impact on my young life. The stuff he did, and the way he did it, made him a role-model for gear heads everywhere, especially young ones. That and the fact he was in the pages (if not on the cover) of Hot Rod, Popular Hot Rodding, and the like throughout the 50s and 60s. There was just something about The Green Monsters…in all their incarnations, but most especially the jet-powered ones…that captured the imagination of the pre-adolescent Bucky Pennington. And the young man that followed, too.
In 1952 he and Walt built their first proper vehicle, a three-wheeled dragster with an Oldsmobile engine, splashed with green tractor paint. The commentator at the drag strip called the creation “the green monster”, a name that adhered to all Art Arfons's projects thereafter, whatever their hue. The green monster proved somewhat slow at 85mph, but the brothers raised their game by switching to aircraft engines. The Green Monster 2 had a 2,000-horsepower Allison V1710 aircraft engine as used on the Lockheed P38, six wheels and a top speed of 145.16mph on the quarter mile, a drag-racing world record. It won the first drag racing World Series at Lawrenceville, Illinois, in 1953. Green Monster 6 was the first dragster to exceed 150mph; Green Monster II reached 191mph.
Both hungry for glory, the Arfons split up to duel amicably with each other on the drag strip. Walt was the first to develop a jet-engined dragster, for which he was required to invent the parachute as a stopping device. Art later refined a means to fire the parachute with a shotgun mechanism, and created a Green Monster with a J97 static thrust engine from a Lockheed F104 Starfighter, bought from a scrap dealer in 1967. A request to General Electric for a repair manual resulted in a government agent turning up to confiscate the engine, telling Arfons that components for the Starfighter — which had held simultaneous world records for speed, altitude, and climb rate — were still top secret. He was horrified that Arfons had repaired the engine without assistance.
Whatta guy, eh? Obituary here.
Photo credit: The Times.

It’s Been A Long Time Since They Rock ‘n’ Rolled….

…and a few folks think it should have been longer…like forever. First there was this sort of sour grapes carping from Diana West:

As for Mr. Plant himself, The New York Times said: "He was authoritative; he was dignified."

OK. I'll pretend I haven't seen concert pictures of Mr. Plant, his face contorted over his hand-held microphone and under his disheveled perm. In fact, maybe "authoritative" works, at least in the way a street person yelling at a bus is authoritative. But "dignified"?

No doubt "dignified" is in the eye of the beholder -- in this case, the concert audience, some 10,000 strong. Among them was the Washington Post's reviewer, a self-described attorney "staring down the barrel of 40," who wrote of the "palpable sense of community" in the crowd around him, and more. "It appears that all the tickets to this concert went to couples who care about each other deeply," he wrote. "Fathers and sons. Mothers and daughters. Lifelong friends who bonded all those years ago to the music of the men onstage." I can hear the old song now: "Should auld acquaintance be forgot, woman, you need it!"

I say “sour grapes” because one suspects Ms. West was among the 19,990,000 unsuccessful souls who participated in the ticket lottery. Or not, if you tend to believe her hippie-bashing. Which, of course, is the thing to do these days.

The Brits do snark the best, however. From Mick Hume, writing in The Times (UK):

So how come, long after they were buried, Led Zep can suddenly create “the longest ticket queue in history”? This is the age of the reunion, from the Spice Girls to (sadly) the Sex Pistols. It must say something about how tame youth music has become that the year's most talked-about gigs star a “girdle power” group and boring even-older farts who had a nice cup of tea afterwards.

Nostalgia clearly ain't what it used to be. Once it was the preserve of old people, focused on big events in their lives and times. Now we have middle- aged men, seemingly with guitar-shaped holes in their souls, banging on about the meaning of Zep or Floyd as their parents talked about the war.

Most depressing is the apparent desire of young people to be retro Zep-heads. A Facebook group entitled “And God said, Let there be rock. And there was Led Zeppelin” has 30,500 members; one called “Led Zeppelin SUCKS!” boasts just 49. Youngsters interviewed with their parents at the O2 gig were breathlessly excited about seeing “real” rock music and smug about their jealous mates.

Tip o’ the ice berg, that. Short, but sweet. Still and even, a very cursory look tells me they’ve still got it…

The fact that a bunch of guys in their early 60s (OK, Plant is 59) could take the stage and even attempt what is a young man’s game is cause enough for admiration. The fact that they succeeded (according to most accounts, the above are exceptions) is simply amazing.

More power to ‘em, more often.