Monday, June 30, 2008

Blocked

So…how was your weekend? Things were low and slow around El Casa Móvil De Pennington this weekend, but there’s absolutely nothing unusual about that. It’s always low and slow around these parts and it’s news when it isn’t. Low and slow.

I am experiencing something rather unusual, though… a massive case of writer’s block (WB). Every so often I’ll get a minor case of WB, events where my words just don’t look right to me, or instances where I’ll pound out three drafts of the same post and ultimately reject all three before moving on to something else. It happens to everybody, in greater or lesser degrees. But this case of WB is different, in that I look at my usual sources and don’t see a damned thing I think is worth commenting on, or posting about. Or, to be somewhat clearer, I don’t have anything to say about the things I see. There are alternatives to musing over the news and one of my alternatives is the usual, customary and (sometimes) reasonable re-telling of a war story. But that doesn’t seem to be working, either. My fickle Muse has apparently decamped and left me wondering what the Hell is going on here. Maybe she (my Muse) hooked up with Lin’s Muse and the two of them are out gallivanting around dusty northern New Mexico honky-tonks, flirting with the cowboys, showing a little leg, and getting said cowboys’ hopes up. But she sure as Hell has left ME high and dry… the bitch.

There were times past when that ol’ bugaboo WB would literally scare the livin’ BeJeezus out of me, times when writing was my rice-bowl, I was on deadline, it was 0230 hrs in the morning before a big piece was due and… nothing. That kinda thing is really scary, Gentle Reader, and the current case of WB is a nit by comparison. We’re not talking about continuing employment here, after all. It’s just a blog.

But I miss my Muse.

―:☺:―

Here’s one small item, just to save this post from being a pure whine. Today is June 30th, and such is the title— “June 30th, June 30th” — of one of my favorite books of poetry by Richard Brautigan. Here are two examples of the 77 poems you'll find at the “June 30th” link:

"Cat in Shinjuku"
A brown cat lies
in front of a Chinese restaurant
in a very narrow lane
in Shinjuku.*

The window of the restaurant is
filled with plastic models
of Chinese food that look good
enough to eat.

The afternoon sun is pleasantly
warm. The cat
is enjoying it.

People walk by, very close to the cat
but the cat shows absolutely no fear.
It does not move.
I find this unusual.
The cat is happy
in front of plastic Chinese
food with real food
waiting just inside the door.

Tokyo
The middle of May, 1976


*a large district in Tokyo

"Taking No Chances"
I am a part of it. No,
I am the total but there
is also a possibility
that I am only a fraction
of it.

I am that which begins
but has no beginning.
I am also full of shit
right up to my ears.

Tokyo
June 17, 1976

Brautigan wrote “June 30th, June 30th” while in Japan in 1976 and the book was published in 1978. There are multiple coincidences in play here… first of all, Brautigan and I shared the same geographical space (Japan generally, and Tokyo, specifically) when he wrote these poems. Second, The Second Mrs. Pennington and I met during this time frame, and Brautigan published this book the year we were married. Third, TSMP and I shared a love of most things Japanese, so Brautigan’s observations were of great interest and brought joy to both of us, even given the fact he was (still is) one of my favorites. And finally… Brautigan’s been dead for quite some time now… as has my love affair with Japan, among other things.

It’s still nice to remember, though.

―:☺:―

Today’s Pic: TSMP and I in a Tokyo sushi bar, December, 1991.

Friday, June 27, 2008

A Few Good Links...

There’s more comment than you could possibly stand on memeorandum today about yesterday’s Supreme Court decision on the Second Amendment. I think Althouse and Volokh (and Volokh, again) have the best takes, but your mileage most certainly may vary. Pick and choose, at your leisure.

―:☺:―

The best thing I’ve read today… so far: Cheer up. We're winning this War on Terror; Al-Qaeda and the Taleban are in retreat, the surge has worked in Iraq and Islamism is discredited. Not a bad haul. That’s the title to a piece by Gerard Baker in today’s Times (UK). Mr. Baker’s lead grafs:

"My centre is giving way. My right is in retreat. Situation excellent. I shall attack!”

If only our political leaders and opinion-formers displayed even a hint of the defiant resilience that carried Marshal Foch to victory at the Battle of the Marne. But these days timorous defeatism is on the march. In Britain setbacks in the Afghan war are greeted as harbingers of inevitable defeat. In America, large swaths of the political class continues to insist Iraq is a lost cause. The consensus in much of the West is that the War on Terror is unwinnable.

And yet the evidence is now overwhelming that on all fronts, despite inevitable losses from time to time, it is we who are advancing and the enemy who is in retreat. The current mood on both sides of the Atlantic, in fact, represents a kind of curious inversion of the great French soldier's dictum: “Success against the Taleban. Enemy giving way in Iraq. Al-Qaeda on the run. Situation dire. Let's retreat!”

Since it is remarkable how pervasive this pessimism is, it's worth recapping what has been achieved in the past few years.

And the recap is good. Most EIP readers will nod their heads north and south while reading this piece because we know the things Mr. Baker enumerates are true, particularly this:

The second great advance in the War on Terror has been in Iraq. There's no need to recapitulate the disasters of the US-led war from the fall of Saddam Hussein in April 2003 to his execution at the end of 2006. We may never fully make up for three and a half lost years of hubris and incompetence but in the last 18 months the change has been startling.

The “surge”, despite all the doubts and derision at the time, has been a triumph of US military planning and execution. Political progress was slower in coming but is now evident too. The Iraqi leadership has shown great courage and dispatch in extirpating extremists and a growing willingness even to turn on Shia militias. Basra is more peaceful and safer than it has been since before the British moved in. Despite setbacks such as yesterday's bombings, the streets of Iraq's cities are calmer and safer than they have been in years. Seventy companies have bid for oil contracts from the Iraqi Government. There are signs of a real political reconciliation that may reach fruition in the election later this year.

I find it oh-so-interesting that The Obamanon is still running on a platform that highlights “ending the war.” He also refuses to acknowledge the progress that’s been made during the past 15 ~ 18 months and continues to focus on “George Bush’s failed policies.” Obama might be correct if he’s speaking of the earlier missteps and outright bad decisions made by the administration during the war’s early days and those decisions, viewed with the luxury and clarity of hindsight, really DO look abysmal. But that was then, this is NOW. The president changed his strategy and the results speak for themselves, as Mr. Baker and many others have noted. Except for those on the Left, who would rather change the subject at this point in time. As far as I can tell, Obama and his supporters still think withdrawal and defeat are our best options.

This, of course, is yet another reason NOT to vote for The Obamanon… unless you really believe it’s in the best interests of the United States of America to concede the war in Iraq to al Qaeda. I don’t. And I don’t believe the majority of Americans do, either.

―:☺:―

Remember that “show us your workspace” meme? Well… you just gotta go see Morgan’s place o’ bidness, Gentle Reader. Waaay-cool, it is.

―:☺:―

Today’s Pic: An F-101 Voodoo interceptor, sitting quietly on the grounds of the Air Force Armament Museum at Eglin AFB in the Florida Panhandle. I had a “close encounter” with an F-101 back in the day… an encounter that left me jes a lil bit wobbly in the knees. I was lucky I didn’t have to go home and change my pants, actually.

(First-generation digital pic taken in November of 1999. The usual, customary, and reasonable disclaimers about quality apply.)

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Decisions, Decisions...

Interesting… From the Air Force Association’s Daily Report:

Putting Money Down: Following BRAC 2005, Gov. Bill Richardson of New Mexico has made good on a pledge to provide money to ensure the Air Force can improve and expand operations at Cannon Air Force Base--and keep the new western base for special operations off any potential future base closure lists. In a June 24 release, noting the state's $5 million investment, Richardson said, "We are fulfilling a promise I made to modernize Cannon Air Force Base and increase its military value to the Air Force." The money is to go toward transfer of state land to the Air Force to expand the Melrose Bombing and Gunnery Range, which was one of the prime features that attracted Air Force Special Operations Command to select Cannon for its western base. New Mexico Finance Secretary Katherine Miller signed a memo of understanding with Air Force installations chief William Anderson this week. The land has yet to be identified, according to the release, but Miller said state offices would "work diligently" to identify "potential land that meets Air Force requirements." Base officials planned to begin using the existing range for AC-130 gunship training earlier this year. In addition to the AC-130, AFSOC plans to place the new CV-22 and a proposed light gunship, in addition to other SOF aircraft with the 27th Special Operations Wing at Cannon. (Read Special Operators Head West)

OK… the money’s there, but expansion of the Melrose Range may take some time, as the land required to expand the range hasn’t actually been identified yet. That apparently isn’t stopping USAF from bedding the Special Operators down at Cannon, though. Last week while I was out at the base I counted five C-130s on the ramp, as opposed to the one or two I usually see. Which doesn’t mean a danged thing in and of itself… the planes and their crews could have been TDY to Cannon for training. Still, I like it when I see lotsa aircraft on the ramp. That’s a good sign.

―:☺:―

This just in (via the WaPo), and it’s good news from the Supremes, for once in this term:

The Supreme Court, splitting along ideological lines, today declared that the Second Amendment protects an individual's right to own guns for self-defense, striking down the District of Columbia's ban on handgun ownership as unconstitutional.

The 5 to 4 decision was written by Justice Antonin Scalia, and went beyond what the Bush administration had counseled. It said that the government may impose some restrictions on gun ownership, but that the District's strictest-in-the-nation ban went too far under any interpretation.

Scalia wrote that the Constitution leaves the District a number of options for combating the problem of handgun violence, "including some measures regulating handguns."

"But the enshrinement of constitutional rights necessarily takes certain policy choices off the table," he continued. "These include the absolute prohibition of handguns held and used for self-defense in the home."

The Court “split along ideological lines” yet again. And I’ll repeat my Presidential Election Mantra yet again: “It’s all about the Court!” And dead terrorists too, of course.

―:☺:―

Today’s Pics: Three more items from Mr. Dalley’s windmill collection. One of the more interesting things about Mr. Dalley’s windmills is the variations in the fan designs one sees in the collection. The first picture is a close-up of the “classic” windmill, and by that I mean the most commonly seen version; the second is a more aerodynamic fan; and the third is two more variations on fan design.

One has to think the “classic” fan won out because it’s basically a simple design that would cost much less to manufacture. And lower manufacturing costs always translate directly to lower sale price. I’d also assume there wouldn’t be much, if any, gains in efficiency with the more esoteric designs. But those other designs are aesthetically pleasing, aren’t they? If you have other thoughts I’d love to hear ‘em…

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Beer in Russia

Blog-Bud Pat sent this vid along via e-mail as a stand-alone wmv file and I thought it was cute. So, I searched for it... thinking there's not much out there that ain't already on YouTube. And yep... there it was. And here it is:



Those sexist Commie Pigs. Shouldn't they have a lil bit more respect for people of the female persuasion? No? You don't think so?

Me neither. I kinda really miss the days when Male Chauvinist Pigs ran wild in our advertising industry. It seems the Euro-Weenies have it ALL over us when it comes to mildly titillating and humorous eye-candy. I don't think there's a single solitary thing wrong with that, ya know. YMMV, especially if you're a woman. But hopefully not.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Yet Another One of Those…

…apropos of nothing moments, sparked yet again by Pandora. I’m listening to the “Bob Dylan” station this morning as I make the rounds, and this just finished playing:

Understand, Gentle Reader, that I’m not telling the entire truth whenever I post these “nothing” moments. Something about these songs I put up strikes a chord (ahem…) in me, and this tune is simply one of the most beautiful and poignant songs about inter-generational strife that’s ever been penned… or sung.

Hell, “Tea for the Tillerman” is just packed with little gems of song and this is but one. TftT is one of my all-time favorite albums, actually, from a period in my life that was also one of the best....and that would be 1971 and thereabouts. Too bad Cat Stevens Yusuf Islam went over to the Dark Side. That seems to happen a lot, doesn’t it?

Lotsa Rain Last Evening...

… for an oh-so-brief period of time. The two shots in this post were taken within two or three minutes of each other last evening, around 1945 hrs. It had been raining for about ten minutes before I decided to throw the door open and shoot a few pics from inside. About five minutes prior to the time these pictures were taken it was raining so hard you couldn’t see across the street... there were literally sheets of water descending from the skies. It had slacked off quite a bit when I took these shots:

35% re-size

100% - cropped detail from the pic above

And then… just normal rain:

35% re-size

100% - cropped detail from the pic above

And this is what the radar picture looked like over and around P-ville around this time:

We really needed it… and it was fun to watch, too. There's nothing like a good rainstorm, and most especially its immediate aftermath. That's when things smell SO fresh and you can go outside and stomp in the puddles...

Monday, June 23, 2008

Socialist Art is Alive and Well, Thankyouverymuch

From Reuters:

People drink wine at the unveiling ceremony of an enema syringe in a sanatorium in the southern Russian spa town of Inozemtsevo June 18, 2008. A health spa in Russia has unveiled a bronze monument of three cherubs carrying an enema, a design inspired by the 15th century Renaissance painter Sandro Botticelli.

I was gonna post this straight up, without comment. But one just knows Botticelli is spinning, not rolling, in his grave. Good Grief.

(h/t: Barry)

New Life Triumphant


Back in March I posted a photo of one of those instances where I dodged a bullet… or, more specifically, El Casa Móvil De Pennington dodged a bullet when this old forked tree came down during one of our better windstorms this past winter. The tree wasn’t old, actually. It was relatively young (at about 15 feet tall) but was most certainly diseased; the fork that came down had been dead for quite a while. The other half of the tree, however, looked pretty healthy and provided me with shade in the summer.

Well, that went away when the caretakers at Beautiful La Hacienda Trailer Park came out and cut the whole danged tree down in the process of hauling away the dead fork. I wasn’t home when the crime was committed and I would have objected (strenuously, even!) to losing that tree, had I been home. But…new life triumphs, as you can see… and what you see is about four feet worth of new growth sprouting out of the stump. I won’t get any shade to speak of this year, but in two years time? Should be good, methinks.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

A Brief Comment on the FISA Deal... and Color!

The first sentence of this op-ed (“The Intelligence Deal”) in yesterday’s WSJ is right on the money:

The best news about yesterday's White House-Democrat deal on overseas eavesdropping is that the ACLU and the anti-antiterror Internet mob are apoplectic. This can only be good for U.S. national security. Too bad the compromise also comes at the cost of a further erosion of Presidential war powers.

The deal would extend the 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act to cover eavesdropping on terrorist communications overseas. A six-month extension – the Protect America Act – expired earlier this year and surveillance authorization on al Qaeda targets will start to expire in August. The new deal – assuming it isn't defeated by liberals on the House floor – would last for six years. It is thus a gift to the next President, who won't have to spend capital battling those who think that letting our spooks read al Qaeda's email inevitably means that Dick Cheney is bugging your bedroom.

The moonbats are literally wetting their pants over this… while ignoring the stuff that “benefits” their side (read as: hamstrings, to a limited extent, monitoring efficacy)…and none more so than that idiot Glen Greenwald.

This scandal began by revelations that the President broke the law -- committed felonies -- when spying on our calls and emails without warrants, because he believes he has the power to break the law. The scandal all but concluded yesterday, with the Democratic Congress (a) protecting the President, (b) permanently blocking the lawsuits which would have revealed what he did and would have ruled that he broke the law, and (c) legalizing the very illegal spying regime that he secretly ordered in 2001. Only in the twisted world of Washington can that be described as a "compromise."

Note my highlights. There’s more BDS on display in Greenwald’s rant, as in Bush “committed felonies,” than cold hard facts. But the rich part? Those were “our” calls and e-mails that the gub’mint was monitoring and/or recording, not the calls and e-mails of frickin’ terrorists. I dunno about you, Greenwald, but I’m not in the habit of phoning up or e-mailing AQI, Hamas, Hezbollah, or any others of their ilk.

There’s some good news in all this leftist gnashing and thrashing, though. I read LOTS of comments to the effect of “I’ll never vote for these Democrats again! I’m going Green/Libertarian/Whatevah…” There’s a lot of Rage Against the (Dem) Machine out there (and a lot of it is illiterate, too… such as this, posted as found).

Well that tear’s it, Obama is 3 strike’s your out in my book..First he’s for the continuing war. back’s Israel all the way and now the fisa bill..No way will my vote go there..Remember when I said there wasen’t a dime’s worth of diffrence between him and Hillery…Atleast with her and I wasent for her BTW but with her we would of got a twofer..Her and old Bill..Ha!

I’m gonna go with write in’s and the green party..Kucinich is still my guy…..No more Dem’s except the handful of good one’s…Gonna go be a puppy now, anything I don’t like gonna piss on it…Blessings

Good. I hope you and your comrades-in-arms put your money where your mouth is. That’s all I ask.

―:☺:―

Today’s Pics are, predictably, of another of Mr. Dalley’s windmills. This particularly colorful example must have come from one of those “New Age” farms I’ve read about. Who else woulda thunk of a tie-dye-inspired color scheme? I'll bet this thing was simply mesmerizing in a stiff breeze... Psychedelic, Maaan! But it's pretty danged cool, too. I must have some hippie left in me…

Friday, June 20, 2008

The Dalley Windmill Collection



Anyone who’s traveled on the American Great Plains knows that the landscape is dotted with windmills... most of which are still functioning, drawing water for cattle and other livestock. In some parts of the country the standard joke is the windmill is the Unofficial State Tree. That’s probably true here on The High Plains of New Mexico, as trees of any sort are in very short supply.

One of Portales, New Mexico’s minor claims to fame…and they’re ALL minor, come to think on it… is The Dalley Windmill Collection. From Southeastern New Mexico (The Arts, Museums, and Must-See Sites):

The Dalley Windmill Collection
One of the residents of Portales has a collection of 75 windmills from around the world. You can drive by and see all of the beautiful windmills. On a good and windy day they will be turning and charming the eyes of viewers.
Address 1506 Killgore St., Portales, NM
Phone (505) 356-6263

“A good and windy day” would be nearly any day in P-Ville, except for today. I took a ride out to the Dalley’s place earlier this afternoon to take the pictures you see here. I had hoped to talk to Mr. Dalley and get some background on his collection but no one was home…alas and alack. I was able to take pictures, though… and this post contains three such.

This is the first of what may be many windmill photos. I also put up more (and different) photos of Mr. Dalley’s windmills at The Summer Photo Project 2008. And, apropos of nothing… You’ll be able to tell when The Muse goes off to wherever it is she goes from time to time… coz there’ll be more windmill photos.

As always...click for larger.

Après le Déluge

We got a lil rain last night, finally. It rained pretty violently for about ten minutes, 15 at the most, but it was enough to leave some good sized puddles all over Beautiful La Hacienda Trailer Park this morning. We also got some penny-sized hail in the bargain, along with the usual, customary and (un)reasonable wind. I stepped outside after the worst of it had passed (around 1945 hrs or so) and snapped some pics. Here are a few…

These ain’t mammatus clouds, but they sure look like they wanna be. This was taken from behind El Casa Móvil De Pennington, looking NNW.

The view looking ESE.

And the view looking SSW.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Piece O' Cake

(Click for larger)

You can’t beat me… but you can tie me. Take the quiz here.

h/t: Blog Bud Morgan.

Workspace

Jenn, the proprietress of new-to-me blog “I Hate Whine!” posted a pic of her workspace with the oh-so-intriguing title of “Now Show Me Yours!” Well, OK. Here it is:

This is a pretty quick, easy, and fun sort of meme…so play along if ya want. Jenn has only stipulated one rule: Don’t clean up first. Let’s see it, warts and all. My warts include an exhausted blister pack of Nicorette gum (still on it, better than cigarettes), my Swiss Army knife, a couple of paper towels, miscellaneous Very Important Papers (under the monitor and on my treasured “Directors Bitter” ashtray, which was purloined liberated from an Oxford, UK pub on New Years Eve of 199x and is now a catch-all for various and sundry things), my magnifying glass (on top of the pile under the window) for reading the oh-so-small print in my new camera manual (behind the coffee cup, on the left), a couple of pens, q-tips, a can of office implements, canned air for dusting, yadda, yadda, yadda.

Not too bad, I guess. It could be worse. ;-)

Update, 06/19/2006 1910 hrs: Not to worry, Jenny. Delicious!

The Plot Thickens

Yet another black eye for USAF and its senior leadership… Yesterday the Government Accountability Office (GAO) issued a three page press release titled “GAO SUSTAINS BOEING BID PROTEST; Agency Recommends Air Force Reopen the Bid Process,” which upheld Boeing’s protest over the Air Force’s award for the multi-billion dollar next generation tanker aircraft to Northrop-Grumman/EADS. This is not good news following the cashiering of the Secretary of the Air Force and the Chief of Staff, let alone the fact this is the second major procurement program that has been successfully protested in two years (see: CSAR-X. Boeing lost that one.). From the Air Force Association’s Daily Report:

Back to the Drawing Board: The Government Accountability Office yesterday (July 18) recommended that the Air Force throw out its selection of the KC-45 aerial tanker contract to Northrop Grumman and seek revised proposals from that company and Boeing, which protested the choice in early March. The GAO cited seven "significant errors" (see below) in the Air Force's handling of the $40 billion contract award and determined it would be unfair to let the award stand. "We recommend that the Air Force reopen discussions with the offerors, obtain revised proposals, re-evaluate the revised proposals, and make a new source-selection decision," the GAO said in a three-page release articulating its ruling. Furthermore, it said the Air Force should pay Boeing's legal and administrative costs in bringing the protest--potentially tens of millions of dollars. The GAO suggested that if the Air Force doesn't think the original solicitation "adequately" states the service's needs, it should re-write the document prior to beginning new talks with the two competitors. A similar ruling in the Air Force's combat search and rescue helicopter competition has led to a two-year litigation delay in getting that program under contract, suggesting that the launch of the tanker program could be delayed at least that long, as well. A GAO official told the Daily Report that the recommendations do not suggest that the Air Force "start over," that is open the competition to other bidders, but rather refine the way that it asks for information and evaluates the answers it gets. The GAO said that it also denied some of Boeing's complaints--without saying which ones--because records failed to show that the Air Force had done anything wrong "with respect to those challenges." Further, the agency pointed out that its ruling shouldn't be construed as a comment on the relative merits either of Boeing's KC-767 or Northrop Grumman's KC-30 tanker models. The GAO's decisions focused only on the process.

Further:

Air Force Response to GAO Decision: Air Force acquisition executive Sue Payton issued a statement late yesterday saying USAF "will do everything" it can "to rapidly move forward" now that the GAO has recommended that it reopen the KC-X tanker contest to revised bids from Boeing and Northrop Grumman (see above). "As soon as possible, we will provide the Air Force's way ahead," she said. "We appreciate the GAO's professionalism and thoroughness in its assessment of the protest of the KC-45A source selection." USAF is currently reviewing the GAO's decision and, once that process is complete, it said it will be in a position to determine the best course of action. The service has 60 days to respond to GAO's findings of June 18, which sustained Boeing's legal complaint. Looking forward, Payton said, the Air Force "will select the best value tanker for our nation's defense, while being good stewards of the taxpayer dollar."

While the GAO’s decision isn’t legally binding, the atmosphere in Washington at the moment, coupled with the Air Force’s seeming incompetence at running major procurements, makes a re-evaluation of the bids likely…at least according to the majority of the defense analysts I’ve read on this subject. This is not good news for our war-fighters, as it’s likely the AF will kick the tanker can into next year (as noted above, too):

Loren Thompson, a defence analyst at the Lexington Institute, said it was important to realise that the GAO was challenging the process, not the result of the competition, a point also made by Louis Gallois, the chief executive of EADS.

Mr Thompson and other analysts suggested that the result of the GAO assessment was that the decision over which tanker to finally choose would be up to the next administration.

This being an election year, we doubt whether any decision will be made rapidly,” said Rob Stallard, an analyst at Macquarie Securities. “Political support for both sides is vocal and entrenched, and in our opinion we would not be surprised if the DoD [Department of Defence] ultimately buys both Airbus and Boeing tankers.”

Emphases mine. It’s clear this fight will continue for some time, and the political ducks are already lining up, as we speak.

It’s a damned shame the Air Force couldn’t or wouldn't comply with its own acquisition process and left itself open to so much criticism by making fundamental errors that could and should have been avoided, assuming I’ve read the GAO’s critique correctly. What’s worse, though, is the fact the program is going to experience significant delays, regardless of whether Boeing or EADS wins. The KC-135 airframe’s (USAF’s current strategic tanker) average age is 47 years… and that’s simply too damned old for any machine, let alone a military aircraft.

This whole ugly story stretches back to September, 2001… and Reuters has provided a timeline with all the significant milestones in the tanker saga. What with unethical conduct involving military-industrial-complex “revolving door” issues, investigation upon investigation, prison terms, the downfall of a Fortune 50 CEO, and one high-level USAF acquisition official’s suicide, this reads more like a frickin’ soap opera than a military procurement. Or a high-tech version of the Keystone Cops, at the very least.

Dang. What’s happening to my Air Force?

(image by Northrop-Grumman)

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Testing, Testing... 1... 2... 3...


This has been a test. If these were real photos being posted to these here inter-tubes you would have derived pleasure from them…rather than shock and dismay. Be that as it may, the instrument has landed. I returned from the dentist’s office about an hour ago (where everything was hunky-dory, thanks for asking), worried that FedEx just might have come by in my absence. But… nothing attached to my door, so I assumed they had not.

Ha.

I decided to check FedEx’s tracking site and Lo! My package was “left by the front door.” And so it was, tucked unobtrusively behind my lawn chair and in front of the RV’s rear wheels. Big and immediate sigh of relief!

So: I assembled the instrument, figured out how to turn it on and such, set the self-timer, pressed the shutter, and assumed the pose. What you see above is my first picture, shot in full-auto mode. The original sized photo is cropped in the second pic to show only my ugly mug. The whole image was re-sized to 30% of the original in the first. Big files, to put it mildly…3.68 Mb for this one... and this is a jpeg, not a RAW image.

It’s too danged hot outside to go play, so you and I will both wait for more interesting stuff…which will come later rather than sooner.

In the meantime, I’m gonna play around with the thing and try and get more of an intuitive feel for the controls and such. I was dead-wrong when I said I didn’t think “the learning curve will be all that steep” in my post this morning.

Ha. Yet again.

While I'm Sitting Here... Waiting...

Further to Monday’s post about the AP/copyright flap… In what might be a first for EIP, I’m going to link Markos Moulitsas Zúniga with no reservations, qualifications, and/or disparaging remarks:

Lots of blogs are calling for boycotts of AP content. Not me. I'm going to keep using it. I will copy and paste as many words as I feel necessary to make my points and that I feel are within bounds of copyright law (and remember, I've got a JD and specialized in media law, so I know the rules pretty well). And I will keep doing so if I get an AP takedown notice (which I will make a big public show of ignoring). And then, either the AP -- an organization famous for taking its members work without credit -- will either back down and shut the hell up, or we'll have a judge resolve the easiest question of law in the history of copyright jurisprudence.

So Kos has a law degree, eh? I knew that. But I didn’t know he specialized in media law, but that’s neither here nor there. I agree with his approach: keep quoting the AP…consistent with Fair Use… and let ‘em come on down. Seems like the appropriate thing to do.

It’s been noted elsewhere today that this is one of those all-too-rare moments in the ‘sphere where the Left and Right are united on an issue. Everyone agrees the AP is being absolutely stupid, and James Joyner of Outside the Beltway has screen shots of just how stupid they actually are. I’d really be interested in knowing if someone… anyone has plunked money down for the privilege of quoting the AP. I sorta doubt it, yanno?

―:☺:―

One of the recurring themes sounded by ALL of the Democrat candidates during their primaries… and one of my favorite peeves, as well… is the economy is going to Hell in a hand basket. We’re ALL suffering, doncha know. Most of us are unemployed and for those of us who remain employed, well…it’s just a matter of time before our jobs are outsourced to India, China, or Mexico. Hell, the Great Depression (Part Deux) is just around the corner, right?

Wrong.

Ask Americans how the economy is doing, and their answer is stark: It is not just bad, it is run-for-the-hills terrible. Consumer confidence is at its lowest level in almost 30 years. Only 12 percent of Americans think the economy is in good shape. On the Internet, comparisons to the Great Depression are widespread.

But the reality is different. According to most broad measures of how the economy is doing, it's not all that grim.

Soft? You betcha. In recession? Quite possibly. And a crisis in the financial markets has rattled nerves for months now. But so far, the economy is holding up better than it did during the last two recessions in 1990 and 2001. Employers haven't shed as many jobs, the unemployment rate is still relatively low, and gross domestic product has kept rising. Things are nowhere near as bad as they were in the Great Depression, or even during the severe recession of 1982-83. The last time consumers were this miserable, in May 1980, the jobless rate was 7.5 percent and inflation was 14.4 percent. Now those numbers are 5.5 percent and 4.2 percent respectively.

Even the article quoted above (“Why We’re Gloomier Than the Economy” by Neil Irwin in today’s WaPo) only gets it half-right by saying we’re “quite possibly” in a recession. We’re not, if one observes the generally-accepted definition of recession… which is two consecutive quarters of negative growth in GDP. We haven’t quite hit that point, yet. Mr. Irwin goes on to list his reasons why we feel so bad about the country’s economic prospects and cites the real risk of self-fulfilling prophecy… as consumer spending drives the greatest portion of the economy.

I’ll add there’s yet another, greater danger: people will begin to believe what Obama’s saying and…worse yet… that he’ll be able to fix our tired-ass economy (he sez) with Change! and Hope! McCain can’t do the job, coz his Buds in the White House are putting the final touches on “Great Depression, Part Deux” and McCain is nothing but BushCo’s third term, right? That’s the bit that worries me. YMMV, of course.

―:☺:―

So… my new camera body arrived yesterday, my lens is supposed to be delivered today, and the memory card is due to arrive tomorrow. Not a bad delivery sequence, that. If the lens arrives on time, and IF it arrives while I’m not at the dentist (I have another follow-up early this afternoon), I should be able to begin playing with my new toy today. I’ll just take the memory card out of my G5 and drop it into the XTi… and Walla! I’ll look like a photographer!

I’ve charged the camera battery, loaded the bundled software on my PeeSee, and given the owner’s manual the once-over, so I’m basically good to go. I don’t think the learning curve will be all that steep with the new camera. There’s a lot of consistency between the new camera’s controls and menu functions and those on the old one. That’s to be expected, as both cameras are Canons. My old G5 wasn’t exactly a “point-and-shoot,” either. One of the reasons I bought that camera four years ago was its versatility… it has aperture and shutter speed priority modes, plus full manual control of all exposure parameters and focus. It just wasn’t an SLR.

But anyway. Cue up Tom Petty, eh? With Eddie, too!

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Something Happened...

… 30 years ago today. Here are the two prime movers in that event:

That would be The Second Mrs. Pennington and I on our wedding day. And don’t we look oh-so-very ‘70s? Well, the groom does, anyway…dressed as he is in an off-white tux (“cream” is the proper term, methinks) with brown velvet (!) trim. That get-up is the ONLY thing I regret about that day. But, being the perceptive sort of individual I was and still am, I rolled with the flow… said flow controlled by TSMP, who thought that tux was The Cat’s Meow. Who was I to disagree, especially after my initial outburst (something to the effect of “I’m NOT wearing that thing!”), to which TSMP replied “Oh yes you are, assuming you still wanna get married.” End of objection.

We were married in the backyard of TSMP’s parents’ house on the Lake Huron shore in Harbor Beach, Michigan. What follows are a few shots of the setting. TSMP came out of the French Doors (underneath the awning) on her father’s arm and joined the wedding party under the large tree on the right (in the second pic), where the ceremony took place. The front of the house is in the last picture. That’s TSMP crouching in the flower bed (she’s actually sitting on the doorstep).
Here are a couple of interiors. The first is TSMP in the dining room (which has a magnificent view of Lake Huron); the second is my Best Man and Good Bud Chip at the piano, probably noodling out Wagner's “Bridal Chorus.” Or not.

 
It was a beautiful wedding… aren’t they all? The marriage was pretty good, too, all things considered. We had at least 22 good years together... 20 of them married... and one year of absolute Hell once the handwriting was on the wall. I refused to acknowledge that handwriting then and kinda-sorta still do today, albeit at a much lower level.
 
It's said “time heals all wounds,” but I don’t agree. Some wounds just refuse to heal, even when you wish with all your might they would. But, Hey! I’m not dead yet, so there’s still hope.
comments off

Monday, June 16, 2008

Small Stuff

So… the rounds have been made and I was gonna put up one of those typical “I got nuthin’” posts today (coz I really didn’t have anything…), but decided to give memeorandum a glance to see if there was any blog fodder lurking therein. And yeah… there is. Something that’s near and dear to my heart, as it were:

The Associated Press, one of the nation’s largest news organizations, said that it will, for the first time, attempt to define clear standards as to how much of its articles and broadcasts bloggers and Web sites can excerpt without infringing on The A.P.’s copyright.

The A.P.’s effort to impose some guidelines on the free-wheeling blogosphere, where extensive quoting and even copying of entire news articles is common, may offer a prominent definition of the important but vague doctrine of “fair use,” which holds that copyright owners cannot ban others from using small bits of their works under some circumstances. For example, a book reviewer is allowed to quote passages from the work without permission from the publisher.

Fair use has become an essential concept to many bloggers, who often quote portions of articles before discussing them. The A.P., a cooperative owned by 1,500 daily newspapers, including The New York Times, provides written articles and broadcast material to thousands of news organizations and Web sites that pay to use them.

Last week, The A.P. took an unusually strict position against quotation of its work, sending a letter to the Drudge Retort asking it to remove seven items that contained quotations from A.P. articles ranging from 39 to 79 words.

On Saturday, The A.P. retreated. Jim Kennedy, vice president and strategy director of The A.P., said in an interview that the news organization had decided that its letter to the Drudge Retort was “heavy-handed” and that The A.P. was going to rethink its policies toward bloggers.

The quick about-face came, he said, because a number of well-known bloggers started criticizing its policy, claiming it would undercut the active discussion of the news that rages on sites, big and small, across the Internet.

[…]

On Friday, The A.P. issued a statement defending its action, saying it was going to challenge blog postings containing excerpts of A.P. articles “when we feel the use is more reproduction than reference, or when others are encouraged to cut and paste.” An A.P. spokesman declined Friday to further explain the association’s position.

After that, however, the news association convened a meeting of its executives at which it decided to suspend its efforts to challenge blogs until it creates a more thoughtful standard.

“We don’t want to cast a pall over the blogosphere by being heavy-handed, so we have to figure out a better and more positive way to do this,” Mr. Kennedy said.

OK. I’m the smallest of small fry in the blogosphere, yet still… it is to worry, no? Not yet, perhaps, but one wonders just what sort of guidelines the AP will come up with. I consider EIP to be under a pall, for all that.

I’ve always tried to stay within the bounds of “Fair Use” (ill-defined as it may be) and rarely, if ever, post anything in its entirety when just a snippet will do. And I always link. The one area where I might be vulnerable is in the use of photographs. But if the AP, or any of its members, wanna come after me for my postings, well then…come on down. Coz there’s always Reuters, AFP, Auntie, and the NYT, of course. The AP ain’t the be-all and end-all in the news biz. Big, yes. But there are alternatives.

Much, much more on memeorandum… and 99.2% of it reads like “Go jump in the lake, AP.” That’s being quite kind as far as characterizations go, Gentle Reader. And some of the best is here… including this: “One last bit of advice for the AP before I get on my plane: Back off.”

What he said.

―:☺:―

And then there’s this… in the “Suspicions Confirmed” Dept:

Three horrors await Americans who get behind the wheel of a car for a family road trip this summer: the spiraling price of gas, the usual choruses of "are-we-there-yet?" -- and the road rage of fellow drivers.

Divine intervention might be needed for the first two problems, but science has discovered a solution for the third.

Watch out for cars with bumper stickers.

That's the surprising conclusion of a recent study by Colorado State University social psychologist William Szlemko. Drivers of cars with bumper stickers, window decals, personalized license plates and other "territorial markers" not only get mad when someone cuts in their lane or is slow to respond to a changed traffic light, but they are far more likely than those who do not personalize their cars to use their vehicles to express rage -- by honking, tailgating and other aggressive behavior.

It does not seem to matter whether the messages on the stickers are about peace and love -- "Visualize World Peace," "My Kid Is an Honor Student" -- or angry and in your face -- "Don't Mess With Texas," "My Kid Beat Up Your Honor Student."

Dunno if I agree with that last paragraph. I give a clear berth to vehicles with bumper stickers which clearly illustrate someone of the moonbat persuasion is driving said vehicle. Simply because it’s my experience that moonbats seem to exhibit a LOT more passive-aggressive behavior than your average bear. One good thing, though: Chances are they’re not armed. And that’s a Great Good Thing.

Along these same lines…and those lines would be road safety… Fire Fox has a good post up today about watching out for bikers while you’re off on your Great American Vacation this year, or even if you’re just driving around town. Good stuff it is, and…speaking as a biker who was victimized by a clue-free 17-year old in the waaay-back… I hope you go give it a read. Someone’s life might be saved for it…and that life just might be mine.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

A Very Good Year

From Bucky Gleason, writing in today’s Buffalo News:
How long has it been since the NHL enjoyed a season like this one? The NHL hasn’t been this appealing — this right — since the early 1990s, when Mario Lemieux and Jaromir Jagr were winning the Stanley Cup with the Penguins and Wayne Gretzky was resurrecting the Kings.
[…]
It seemed the only dent in this season was the one suffered on the Cup itself after Lord Stanley’s trophy was dropped last week in Chris Chelios’ restaurant in downtown Detroit. No problem. It was smoothed out and sent on its merry way. It’s how the season played out, a series of minor bumps and immediate repair.
Here are five reasons you should have enjoyed the NHL in 2007-08:
• The right team won it all. Detroit became the first team since the 2001-02 Red Wings to win the Presidents’ Trophy and the Stanley Cup. If it happened every year, it would become tiresome. But every now and again, it’s nice to see the best team in the league confirm as much in the playoffs. The Red Wings for years have had the best organization. Their players earned the Cup in the end.
• Sid the Kid. The NHL couldn’t have asked for much more than Sidney Crosby and the Penguins reaching the finals. Crosby is the face of the new NHL, and he was brilliant in the postseason while showcasing the league. The Pens play an exciting up-tempo style that the NHL has been trying to push since rewriting the rule book following the lockout. Sid sells the game to kids.
And there are three more reasons in the linked article, all good. I can’t vouch for the regular season, being as how P-Ville is the very definition of “hockey wasteland.” I think I saw six games…at the very most… until the playoffs began. And, not to be redundant or anything, the 2008 playoffs were literally the best I’ve seen in years. That’s not only because The Beloved Wings won it all this year (which was THE icing on the cake, Gentle Reader), but because of the very high quality of the games… from the first round knock-down, drag out battles between Calgary and San Jose, Anaheim and Dallas, and the Habs – Bruins… all the way to the Final. And it only got better. And better yet, as we moved through the second and third rounds on our way to what was acknowledged by all the hockey pundits as the very best Final in years.
Yep… 2007 – 2008 was a banner year for hockey; let's hope the sport picked up a few new fans. The NHL deserves that, at the very least, after this brilliant season. Let’s also hope next year is just as good, and there’s simply no reason to think it won’t be…

Fathers Day

Whether you call him Dad, Da, Daddy, Papa, Pop, Pa, Pater, Father, or simply “The Ol’ Man…” today’s his day.

So…Happy Fathers Day to the Dads out there. Here’s to ya!

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Flag Day

I'd forgotten, at least until I visited Cynthia's place and took in her remarkable post titled Flag Day - Flags Across America. Some wonderful photos there... do go.

As for me... Ill give you a re-run of one of my favorite flag pictures:


That's Old Glory on the stern of USS Mason... one of SN2's former rides. So to speak.

Shock...and A Cautionary Tale

Shocker: Tim Russert died yesterday… at age 58… and that’s waaay too young to leave this mortal plane. He died with his boots on, so to speak, collapsing at work while editing voice-overs for this Sunday’s Meet the Press. It was very clear yesterday just how respected…if not loved… Mr. Russert was. Both my “must-see” news programs (Special Report with Brit Hume and The News Hour) ran touching tribute segments on Mr. Russert, his career, and his considerable impact on American political journalism. Not everyone is conceding the media’s right to eulogize one of their leading-lights, however:

MSNBC has been running nothing but a 5 hour (and presumably it will go until 11 pm or beyond) marathon of Russert remembrance. CNN has done their due diligence, and Fox news has spent at least the last half hour talking non-stop about him.
But let’s get something straight- what I am watching right now on the cable news shows is indicative of the problem- no clearer demonstration of the fact that they consider themselves to be players and the insiders and, well, part of the village, is needed. This is precisely the problem. They have walked the corridors of power so long that they honestly think they are the story. It is creepy and sick and the reason politicians get away with all the crap they get away with these days.

Tim Russert was a newsman. He was not the Pope. This is not the JFK assassination, or Reagan’s death, or the Space Shuttle Challenger explosion. A newsman died. We know you miss him, but please shut up and get back to work.

Yeah, and MS-NBC’s tribute lasted only a few hours on the very day Mr. Russert died, too. You’re a small, small person to begrudge them their grief and their tribute, Mr. Cole. But that’s entirely in character for you. Frickin’ moonbat.

RIP, Tim Russert. You’ll be missed.

―:☺:―

Sound familiar?

WASHINGTON — Thanks in no small part to Justice Antonin Scalia’s dire warning that granting Guantánamo detainees access to habeas corpus “will almost certainly cause more Americans to be killed,” the Supreme Court finds itself on the verge of becoming something that it has not been for many election cycles — a campaign issue.

Senator John McCain, the presumed Republican presidential nominee, opened a town-hall-style meeting in New Jersey on Friday morning by telling the crowd of 1,500 people that the Supreme Court “rendered a decision yesterday that I think is one of the worst decisions in the history of this country.”

Mr. McCain’s initial response to the court’s 5-to-4 ruling in Boumediene v. Bush had been considerably milder. The decision “obviously concerns me,” he said on Thursday afternoon.

But overnight, the prospect of using the decision as a rallying point seemed to occur to many conservatives simultaneously. The ruling has “teed up the Supreme Court issue nicely for the G.O.P.,” Curt Levey of the Committee for Justice, a group that advocates for Republican judicial nominees, wrote on his blog. The Wall Street Journal’s editorial page quoted Justice Robert H. Jackson’s famous observation that the Constitution is not a suicide pact and added, with reference to the author of Thursday’s majority opinion, “About Anthony Kennedy’s Constitution, we’re not so sure.”

Well, it should…assuming you’ve been reading EIP for a while. The war on Islamic Fascism is the defining issue, as far as I’m concerned, in this year’s presidential election…or, to put it another way… who’s gonna bring me more dead terrorists, McCain or Obama? But filling Supreme Court vacancies is my second defining issue, for reasons that should be entirely obvious now, even to the clue-impaired. From the WSJ:

The court split along typical ideological lines, with Justice Kennedy, the maverick conservative, writing the majority opinion joined by the four liberal-leaning justices, Mr. Souter along with John Paul Stevens, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen Breyer. Chief Justice John Roberts dissented, joined by Justices Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito.

[…]

The two senators running to succeed Mr. Bush had different reactions to the ruling, reflecting the differences they have with the president's detention policies. The ruling may highlight to voters the president's role in appointing Supreme Court justices.

Republican John McCain, who supported the Military Commissions Act provision struck down Thursday, said of the ruling: "it obviously concerns me. These are unlawful combatants, they are not American citizens." He added that since the court had spoken, it was time "to move forward. As you know I always favored closing Guantanamo Bay and I still think we ought to do that."

Democrat Barack Obama praised the ruling as "an important step toward re-establishing our credibility as a nation committed to the rule of law, and rejecting a false choice between fighting terrorism and respecting habeas corpus." The Illinois senator said he had opposed the Military Commissions Act in part "because its sloppiness would inevitably lead to the court, once again, rejecting the administration's extreme legal position."

One of these two men… Obama or McCain… depending on the outcome of this November’s election, will nominate at least one, if not three, members to the Supreme Court. Justice Stevens is 88 years old, Justice Ginsburg is 75, and Justice Kennedy is 71. At least two of these three have mused about retiring in the very recent past. All three sided with the majority in Boumediene. If the tea leaves are correct and the congress becomes overwhelmingly Democratic, Obama’s nominations will sail through virtually unimpeded. We’ll survive a single-term Obama presidency, if push comes to shove. But will we survive a liberal Supreme Court that will last at least one generation, if not more? I’m not willing to roll the dice on that one.

Americans have a God-given right, enshrined in our Constitution, to vote for whomever they please. Americans have a God-given right to be stupid, too. I’ve read a LOT of stupidity...and there's no other word for it... emanating from the mouths of so-called “conservatives” of late…stupidity in the form of “I’ll vote Libertarian” or “I’ll vote independent” or “I’ll stay home, rather than vote for McCain.” Any one of those actions is nothing more than an Obama-enabler, coz that’s the way our system works… like it or not. And by enabling Obama, you enable a Liberal Court.

Think about that… long and hard. You have a God-given right to be stupid, but I hope you choose not to exercise it. To say “there’s a lot at stake in this election” belabors the obvious.

Further: Lex put up a good post yesterday on the impact of the Boumediene decision on the war and the military, specifically.

The fact that two co-equal branches of government co-operated to create the Detainee Treatment and Military Commission Acts does not in itself overthrow the principle of judicial supremacy. Justice Kennedy gets to be The Decider.

The fact that of the many detainees who challenge their detention in court, some will be released and some of those find a way back to the killing fields is neither novel, nor, really any barrier to those who interpret law: If you cannot prove forensically that a terrorist committed a crime, you may not legally restrain him for what he might do. So, tighten up those chain-of-custody procedures, soldier.

The fact that the Supremes have decided, having offered the President and Congress the opportunity to get it right, that they hadn’t after all does rather smack of a hubristic declaration that, “We don’t actually have a plan, we just know that we don’t like yours.”

It just sucks.

Good stuff.