Saturday, January 31, 2009

The Elections

As captioned in the New York Times: Humvees of the Iraqi Army on Friday patrolled the streets of central Basra ahead of Saturday's vote. Security in Iraq has improved considerably, but the campaign has not been without violence. Three Sunni candidates were assassinated Thursday -- one in Mosul, one in Diyala and one in Baghdad.
Photo: Matt Cardy/Getty Images

Quietly hopeful… this in the WaPo about the Iraqi provincial elections:

BAGHDAD, Jan. 31 -- Iraqis streamed passed police cordons and barbed wire as they went to the polls on Saturday to vote in their first elections in four years, widely seen as a test of Iraq's stability as the U.S. role in Iraq diminishes.

The all-important provincial elections are viewed as a key indicator of whether the nation can build upon fragile security gains and address imbalances in power that still plague many areas. More than 14,000 candidates are running for 440 seats to lead councils that are the equivalent of state legislatures in the United States.

Aljazeera has a short fact-file on the elections and it ain’t too shabby. So does the New York Times, in addition to their Iraq blog, which has on-the-scene narrative, video, and photos. There’s a whole helluva lot to choose from on the ‘net regarding the elections… Google News listed 2,066 articles on the subject (many of them duplicates) at 0830 hours MST.

Friday, January 30, 2009

My Hero Today

That would be Commander Kurt Lippold, USN (ret). For this:
The former commander of the USS Cole, the American war ship that was struck by a suicide boat in Yemeni waters more than eight years ago, on Thursday slammed President Barack Obama's orders to close the Guantanamo detention center and reassess the prisoners being held there.

''We shouldn't make policy decisions based on human rights and legal advocacy groups,'' retired U.S. Navy Cmdr. Kurt Lippold said in a telephone interview. "We should consider what is best for the American people, which is not to jeopardize those who are fighting the war on terror — or even more adversely impact the families who have already suffered loses as a result of the war."

The Commander is absolutely, positively correct. But the lunatics appear to be in charge of the asylum these days. I don't doubt for a frickin' nanosecond there's more such madness from the Obama administration in the works. Hell, I know there is. It's spelled S-T-I-M-U-L-U-S. Among other things. But we digress.


Fresh out of both time and ideas, but Blog-Bud Barry and YouTube come to my (emotional) rescue:

Hey... this was Austin. And I've heard there really ARE zombies there. On Sixth Street. I've even seen a few likely suspects just after 0200 hrs.

More here... including this blurb:

Before leaving, the vandals reset the password so the city could not easily change the sign. The sign's humorous warning stayed up for several hours before the manufacturer of the computer could reset the password.
The password re-set was a nice touch, dontcha think?

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Irony... Much?

Via a tweet from Blog-Bud Cynthia... a screen-shot of PeTA's "Sea Kittens" site:

This is just too danged rich for words. All I can muster is a hearty LOL! (Omaha Steaks apparently sponsors the main PeTA site, as well. I just clicked over there from the Sea Kittens site... and the banner stayed put. Selling one's soul for advertising bucks... it's the American Way, innit?)

Sighted: Project Liberty Aircraft

I went out to the base yesterday to do the bi-weekly commissary run (and play with ATMs, in my spare time) and noticed a significant amount of activity on the flight line… much more so than in weeks and months past. For the better part of a year now there have been only one or two C-130s on the ramp, rarely more. But yesterday I counted five C-130s on the ramp and one in the pattern, shooting touch ‘n’ goes. One of the cute lil buggers you see below was shooting touch ‘n’ goes, as well. About which:

More than Just An Aircraft: The Air Force plans to deploy an expeditionary air support operations group of about 100 airmen to Southwest Asia later this year to support its new fleet of MC-12W intelligence-surveillance-reconnaissance aircraft. These airmen, operating out of sites throughout the theater, will analyze, disseminate, and process the full-motion imagery and signals intelligence data collected by the aircraft's sensors. The airmen will help to pass on this information as quickly as possible to the ground troops at the tactical level who need it most. "Heretofore, intelligence was largely centered at high levels," Brig. Gen. Blair E. Hansen, director of ISR capabilities on the Air Staff, told reporters in the Pentagon Jan. 23. He continued: "Now we have the ability to flatten it. We've made it immediately consumable … and this system is one of those systems pumping information into that picture." The first of the MC-12Ws is expected in Southwest Asia in April. The aircraft themselves will be equipped with such tools as the remote operational video enhanced receiver to pass live video streams directly to the airmen on the ground who call in air strikes. (For more, read Project Liberty Heads Downrange)

One normally sees King Airs hanging around municipal airports, the executive sections of our major hub airports, and only rarely at USAF bases. While the Air Force has long flown military equivalents of executive aircraft for VIPs and such, I find it interesting that the service is taking the King Air and fitting it out as an ISR platform… all in the space of about a year from concept to initial operational capability (IOC). From that “Project Liberty Heads Downrange” link above:

The genesis for LPA came last April when the Office of the Secretary of Defense task force sought a quick means to address the seemingly insatiable demand for ISR capability in Southwest Asia. Virtually all MQ-1s and MQ-9s deploy to the fight as soon as they arrive from the factory, yet the demand keeps growing.

“That curve is as steep as it can get right now,” said Hansen of the Air Force’s UAV efforts in theater. Currently there are 33 combat air patrols of MQ-1 and MQ-9s flying in Southwest Asia.

After weighing concepts, Defense Secretary Robert Gates last July signed an order for the Air Force to proceed with its proscribed (sic) solution: procurement of 37 specially configured C-12 twin-engine aircraft based on the Beechcraft King Air 350. Thus was born “Project Liberty,” named after the World War II effort to quickly press commercial ships into the fight in Europe.

“The concept was, ‘What can we do in an additive fashion that would get extra capability?” said Hansen. The need was simple: FMV and Sigint in a multi-sensor package. And, getting it to the war zone soon.

Now is that cool, or what? There’s precious little in the media about the MC-12 and I have NO idea if there will be a permanent MC-12W presence at Cannon in the future. But it was great seeing that lil guy buzzing around the airplane patch yesterday.

Update, 05/04/2009: Correction to this post published here, along with a photo of an actual MC-12W. The C-12 I saw zooming around in the pattern at Cannon AFB the day I wrote this post was NOT an MC-12... it was a garden-variety C-12 operated by AF Special Operations Command. My apologies.

(Links and photo from the Air Force Association's Daily Report, which is linked in my sidebar.)

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

A Marx-ism

55 seconds or so.

Heh. This could very well be my theme song.

Apropos of this post... I happen to be watching "Make 'Em Laugh" on PBS and the above ran not five minutes ago. Ya just gotta love YouTube. No ifs, ands, or buts. Love.


I learned something today: automatic teller machines have time-limits. As in... one swipes one's card in the slot, keys in his transaction, the machine whirs and beeps, and money appears in the slot. Then the clock starts. If, at the end of the specified time limit...which appears to be about 30 seconds... you haven't retrieved your money from said slot, the machine EATS IT. The money returns from whence it came and you're left standing there, going "WTF?"

So. To make a long story short: I'm temporarily out $200.00. A quick call to my credit union and the kind folks working there tell me "not to worry" and my account will be credited immediately (and provisionally) for the missing two hundred bucks. A permanent credit will be issued once they hear from the financial institution that owns the machine and get their money back.

Let us pray this isn't the first shot in what could be a long war.

But... who knew, eh? I've been using ATMs for about 25 years and this is the very first time anything like this ever happened to me. You can bet it will be the LAST time, though.

You Inflated My Stimulus! No... YOU Stimulated My Inflation!

So… the new day dawned bright, clear, and cold. But it was such a joy to fill the coffee pot from the tap, wash my face with hot running water, yadda, yadda. The simple joys of indoor plumbing that works!


New folks to follow… From The Hill:

Audiences usually treat presidents to a round of polite applause, but when President Obama addressed House Republicans on Tuesday, they started Twittering.

Just a week after being inaugurated and becoming the most powerful man in the world, Obama strode into the Republican redoubt on Capitol Hill, whereupon its denizens started texting accounts of the proceedings into cyberspace.

There could be no clearer demonstration of the way politics has moved into an age in which technology trumps formality.

While Obama implored Republicans behind closed doors to consider supporting his economic stimulus bill, GOP thumbs worked overtime, tapping updates onto the microblogging website for thousands to read.


The Republicans commended Obama throughout the meeting, but were quick to note their continued disagreement with the president and the House Democratic leadership after conservative blogs pounced on the friendly rhetoric. (Pundit Michelle Malkin, a frequent Twitter user herself, directed a message toward Burgess during the meeting: “You Tweeted during Obama [meeting]: ‘Sharp differences are muted.’ That’s exactly what’s wrong [with] the Republican Party!”)

This, of course, presupposes you care enough about politics to have your congress-critter tell you how his day is going via tweets. Imagine: “In the limo and off to Heidi’s place! Wish U wur me?” I’m not so sure that’s such a great ideer. But I’m considering it.


In today’s PoliticoThe Case for Doing Nothing. The lede:

Most of Washington has reached quick consensus: Government must do something big to shock the economy, and it should cost between $800 billion and $900 billion.

But dissident economists and investment professionals offer a much different take: Most of Washington is dead wrong.

Instead of fighting over what should go in the economic stimulus bill, pitting infrastructure spending against tax cuts and contractors against contraceptives, they say lawmakers should be fighting against the very idea of any economic stimulus at all. Call them the Do-Nothing Crowd.

“The economy was too big. It was all phantom wealth borrowed from abroad,” says Andrew Schiff, an investment consultant at Euro Pacific Capital and a card-carrying member of the stand-tall-against-the-stimulus lobby. “All this stimulus money is geared toward getting consumers spending and borrowing again. But spending and borrowing were the problem in the first place.”

Washington has a habit of passing legislation in a crisis and suffering from morning-after regrets — the Iraq war, the Patriot Act and last year’s original bank bailout plan come to mind. So we thought it would be wise to air the views of the naysayers toward Washington’s latest consensus approach.

I don’t have any regrets about Congress’ vote on the Iraq war OR the Patriot Act, but all this frantic bailing out worries me. Don’t get me wrong: I support certain types of bail-out activities when the failure to “do something” would result in catastrophe… the “too big to fail argument,” in other words. I also supported the relative pittance given in the form of $17.4 billion in bridge loans to the auto industry… a pittance, that is, compared to the currently proposed $800 billion stimulus package. Another case of too big to fail, not to mention the domino effect of GM et al going under, massive unemployment, and so on.

But the stimulus has me worried, not because of the reasons highlighted in the Politico article, which tend to focus on the superficial and specious. Reasons such as a recession that’s “weeding out the weak (companies),” and “shocking Americans into reducing their debt,” while (very) arguably good things, aren’t necessarily good reasons NOT to spend nearly one trillion taxpayer dollars. Nope. I disagree on two counts. First is the way the proposed stimulus monies would be allocated. The WSJ has a few highlights in this space, including the graphic on the right that I purloined from this article, which says, in part…

Most of the rest of this project spending will go to such things as renewable energy funding ($8 billion) or mass transit ($6 billion) that have a low or negative return on investment. Most urban transit systems are so badly managed that their fares cover less than half of their costs. However, the people who operate these systems belong to public-employee unions that are campaign contributors to … guess which party?


Another "stimulus" secret is that some $252 billion is for income-transfer payments -- that is, not investments that arguably help everyone, but cash or benefits to individuals for doing nothing at all.


As for the promise of accountability, some $54 billion will go to federal programs that the Office of Management and Budget or the Government Accountability Office have already criticized as "ineffective" or unable to pass basic financial audits. These include the Economic Development Administration, the Small Business Administration, the 10 federal job training programs, and many more.

Oh, and don't forget education, which would get $66 billion more. That's more than the entire Education Department spent a mere 10 years ago and is on top of the doubling under President Bush.

Pet-projects that have languished on the Democrats’ back-burner for years, in other words. Only about ten percent of the projects in this bill are worthy investments in infrastructure, power grid improvements, and broadband projects, by the WSJ’s accounting.

But it’s the Financial Times (UK) that identifies my principal objection to this latest boondoggle… the humongous deficits we’ll incur. Excerpt:

The US debate over the fiscal stimulus is remarkable in its neglect of the medium term – that is, the budgetary challenges over a period of five to 10 years. Neither the White House nor Congress has offered the public a scenario of how the proposed mega-deficits will affect the budget and government programmes beyond the next 12 to 24 months. Without a sound medium-term fiscal framework, the stimulus package can easily do more harm than good, since the prospect of trillion-dollar-plus deficits as far as the eye can see will weigh heavily on the confidence of consumers and businesses, and thereby undermine even the short-term benefits of the stimulus package.


What we need is a medium-term fiscal framework, one that lays out an anticipated schedule of taxes and spending consistent with the needs of the economy and government functions. Rather than soundbites about ending pork-barrel projects or scouring the budget for waste, or about the relative multipliers of tax cuts versus spending increases (both of which depend on expectations about the future, a point mostly overlooked in the debate), we should be reflecting on certain basic fiscal facts, the most important of which is that the US government faces huge and potentially debilitating structural deficits as far as the eye can see.

In rough numbers, the US federal tax system collects about 18 per cent of gross national product, while the total of just five categories of public spending – Social Security (retirement and disability), health (Medicare, Medicaid), veterans’ benefits, defence and homeland security and interest payments – eat up about 18 per cent of GNP. Yet government has more to do – for example, providing the justice system; help for the poor and unemployed; science and technology research; energy systems, transport and other infrastructure; diplomacy and international aid; natural hazards mitigation; training; and the future costs of financial clean-up. Let us add in the fact that state and local governments are broke and need increased federal transfers, and that America’s ageing population, broken healthcare system and growing underclass all require increased fiscal attention. We currently pay for all of this, if we do so at all, by borrowing from China and from the future.

Does the foregoing scare you? It sure scares ME. At some point in time the Chinese will either decide to quit lending us money, or they’ll do something much more nefarious… they’ll begin attaching strings to the money they lend us… as in “you can spend it on this, but not this…” and so on. Not up front, of course… T-Bills and Notes don’t come with contracts. But the Chinese could wield influence in policy decisions, like no aid for Taiwan, discontinuing anti-ballistic-missile defense programs, or the setting of tariffs and duties. Couldn’t happen? Think again. And remember: “money IS power.”

But I feel our Chinese lenders are the least of our problems. A government cannot simply “print money” without underlying value without suffering consequences… terrible consequences. A lot of folks are too young to remember hyper-inflation, which plagued Argentina as recently as the 1980s and currently rages in Zimbabwe. But the classic case is the Weimar Republic From an article at

Concerns about the global financial system and economy are increasing and now there is a dawning realization that the cheap money, irresponsible lending practices, trillions of dollars of derivatives, massive leverage and government profligacy of recent times may lead to hyperinflation in some countries internationally. Due to the prodigal money printing and creation of fiat currencies in order to bailout much of the banking system and a continuing meltdown in the asset backed securities market and derivatives market, the threat of Weimar Germany is being mentioned more often, including on the front page of the Financial Times.


There is now a real risk of Warren Buffett’s “financial weapons of mass destruction” leading to what some have termed the neutron bomb of a meltdown in the out of control derivates market which now has a value in the hundreds of trillions ($40 trillion credit derivatives alone). The US Treasury is backstopping some $600 trillion in derivatives and the Fed and the Treasury are doing the same for the entire ‘structured finance’ segment.

These figures are of a magnitude far greater than the World War I war reparations that the Germans had to pay which led to their hyperinflation. It is worth remembering that Germany was one of the, if not the, strongest powers that the world had ever seen at the end of the 19th century and many saw Germany surpassing the British Empire which was in decline, as a superpower. Germany was one of the strongest nations in the world – culturally, scientifically, militarily and economically and a superpower of the time.

Enter hyper-inflation and misery on a scale unknown to ALL Americans living today. One would think the specter of hyper-inflation would be enough to make our politicos think long and hard about the stimulus Obama is proposing. But apparently not… Obama himself, when asked about the inflationary aspects of the stimulus and the ballistic trajectory of federal deficits said “we’ll deal with that later.” Famous last words, and all that.

Here’s a good primer on the concept of stimulus plans in a White Paper published by the Council on Foreign Relations. More doom and gloom here, here, and here.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Entering Day Two...

… of nineteenth century living. We were sitting here waiting for our water hose to thaw when last we left you… but alas, Gentle Reader, it did not. Our temp rose to 33 for about an hour yesterday afternoon but that wasn’t enough to free things up and we remain a water-free zone this morning. Yesterday’s principal activity of import was to saddle up Ol’ Bessie and head into town to fetch water.

It’s neutered brass monkey cold this morning… 12 degrees when I awoke and seriously overcast, which reminds me for all the world of Detroit during the dead of winter. One of the more depressing things about winter in those latitudes… and by that I mean the swath of territory stretching about a hundred miles south of Detroit all the way east to the Atlantic… is the oppressive grayness. I can remember going for what seemed like weeks without seeing blue sky during winters in Detroit and Rochester, NY. But that’s NOT the norm here on The High Plains of New Mexico, as it’s usually one bright beautiful day after another, even in the dead of winter. Such is not the case today, though. But we’ll look on the bright side as is our wont and toss out the de rigeur “things could be worse.” As in a mere ten miles or so to the east and/or south of us:

Or worse yet… as in certain parts of Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, and Missouri:

The WeatherHeads are ALL agog about the World Class ice-storm that’s in progress as I type, and it most certainly DOES look rather grim, both on my teevee and in the radar picture. I’ll take a temporary water outage… measured in hours… over power outages and freezing temps that last for days. I just hope we hit our forecasted high of 41 today. Because heating water on the stove for bathing and doing dishes went out of fashion well over a hundred years ago.

Update, noon-thirty or thereabouts: The WX Channel revised today's forecasted high temperature downward... from 41 to 33... which means no water yet again today. {sigh} And still MORE {sighs}. It's easy for me to remain philosophical about "stuff" when events are well and truly out of my control, but it's MUCH less so when I'm a victim of a self-inflicted wound. I sincerely hope this latest trick of mine fills 2009's quota for Teh Stupid. I kinda doubt it, tho.

Update, 1800 hrs: Boy, do we EVER feel better now that we're clean! The water started coming back just after 1700 hrs with a drip every three or four seconds, which increased steadily until full flow was restored around 1730. I then did something quite out of character... jumped in the shower and ran the hot water heater entirely out of hot water before I got out. It was that good...

Monday, January 26, 2009


I did it again. I failed to set a drip before retiring last evening, lulled as I was by our near-70 degree temperature yesterday. And I'm froze-up yet again... for at least the second time this winter. So here we are... nearly half past noon and only 26 degrees outside. The WX Channel's web site still insists we'll make it up to 47 degrees today but I'm beginning to have my doubts. Serious doubts.

Thank God for the emergency water supply. The coffee was made without issue this morning and that's really the ONLY mission-essential item on the daily check list. All else can wait for the thaw, when it comes. But I really would like a shower...

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Zen. Sorta.

Prompted by an off-line conversation with a friend, recently concluded...

The Wheel

The wheel is turning and you can't slow down,
You can't let go and you can't hold on,
You can't go back and you can't stand still,
If the thunder don't get you then the lightning will.

Won't you try just a little bit harder,
Couldn't you try just a little bit more?
Won't you try just a little bit harder,
Couldn't you try just a little bit more?

Round, round robin run round, got to get back to where you belong,
Little bit harder, just a little bit more,
A little bit further than you gone before.

The wheel is turning and you can't slow down,
You can't let go and you can't hold on,
You can't go back and you can't stand still,
If the thunder don't get you then the lightning will.

Small wheel turn by the fire and rod,
Big wheel turn by the grace of God,
Every time that wheel turn 'round,
Bound to cover just a little more ground.

The wheel is turning and you can't slow down,
You can't let go and you can't hold on,
You can't go back and you can't stand still,
If the thunder don't get you then the lightning will.

Won't you try just a little bit harder,
Couldn't you try just a little bit more?
Won't you try just a little bit harder,
Couldn't you try just a little bit more?
From Garcia's oh-so-excellent 1972 album titled simply "Garcia." Our theme song today.

Let's Begin With a Memory or Three

As captioned in the NYT: Russo and Steele managed to get $49,000 for a 1961 Triumph TR3A.
I might not have read the article in the New York Times on collectible cars at auction (from whence the pic above was taken) had it not been for that TR-3 you see above. Well, that’s not entirely true… as I’ll read most anything automotive, most especially about sports cars, muscle cars, and other such automotive erotica. But I loves me some Triumphs!
I have a soft spot in my heart for TR-3s, as the second car I owned was a beautiful 1957 model TR… which differs slightly from the ‘61 pictured above. My father and I spent many a weekend working on my TR. I exaggerate more than slightly when I say “my father and I,” because it was HIM and one of his buddies who did the lion’s share of the work. I helped whenever I could, usually — always — on weekends when I wasn’t working and could catch a ride from Vandenberg AFB down to the ancestral home in El-Eh to help out. The car was finally finished and in reasonable condition (albeit without a heater, working or otherwise) sometime during the summer of 1965 when I took it “home” to Vandenberg. There are no surviving pictures of the car, alas.
(Side note: Here’s a GREAT pic of a 1957 TR-3. Mine was identical to this one, down to the mirrors on the front fenders and the pressed steel wheels… no “wires” for me. And mine wasn’t white/cream… it was painted 1964 Falcon Gold, a rather flashy color available on 1964 Ford Falcons that went quite well with the (stock) blue leather interior.
Apropos of something… Jay Leno owns one, too.)
I have lots of good…no, GREAT… memories of that car and two very bad ones. First the good: I met The First Mrs. Pennington while dragging Main Street (Ocean Avenue, actually) in Lompoc, California in that car. Briefly: I had an old desk phone sitting on the transmission tunnel in the car. One evening while a buddy of mine and I were “doing the cruise” I pulled up next to The First Mrs. Pennington and a gaggle of her friends at a red light, with the phone up to my ear. I looked over at her, took the phone away from my ear, held it out and said “it’s for you.” She took the receiver without thinking… not realizing (a) the phone didn’t work and (b) that was about as tacky a come-on line as there ever was. But it worked, Gentle Reader. The rest, as it’s said, is history. (Keep in mind… this was in 1965 when only the VERY rich had car phones. As a young airman with only two stripes on his sleeve I was barely in the “solvent” category, let alone rich.)
The bad: I threw the car off a 50-foot embankment one frosty morning in January of 1966 when I hit a sheet of ice on my way up the mountain to work. I rolled it three times, once laterally and twice end-over-end. The TR was totaled; I walked away with only a scratch on the little finger of my left hand… that from maintaining a death-grip on the steering wheel while flying through the air and down the embankment. Wrecking the car was bad enough… but having to call my father to tell him I’d wrecked it was probably worse, as he loved that car as much (if not more) than I did. He got over it, though… as did I. I walked for the next few months until The First Mrs. Pennington and I were married. But Dang! That car sure was fun… while it lasted.
Good news for us caffeine junkies coffee drinkers:
After controlling for numerous socioeconomic and health factors, including high cholesterol and high blood pressure, the scientists found that the subjects who had reported drinking three to five cups of coffee daily were 65 percent less likely to have developed dementia, compared with those who drank two cups or less. People who drank more than five cups a day also were at reduced risk of dementia, the researchers said, but there were not enough people in this group to draw statistically significant conclusions.
Dr. Miia Kivipelto, an associate professor of neurology at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm and lead author of the study, does not as yet advocate drinking coffee as a preventive health measure. “This is an observational study,” she said. “We have no evidence that for people who are not drinking coffee, taking up drinking will have a protective effect.”
Well, I suppose the news is sorta good, as there wasn’t a category for people who drink ten to 12 cups a day. That would be me, Gentle Reader. That’s been my habit for almost longer than I can remember… going back to at least 1964, when I first hit “the field” in the Air Force. I hope there’s no “excess” effect… but then again, is there such a thing as “excess” when it comes to coffee? I think not… not for YrHmblScrb, anyway.
Remember earlier this week I remarked on just how quickly the White House web site changed? And how a lot of people, myself included, wondered what happened to the “old” WhiteHouse-dot-gov? Wonder no more. You can access the old White House site through the George W. Bush Presidential Library site. There is a disclaimer, though:
To preserve the historical record of the George W. Bush administration's presence on the web, the White House took a "snapshot" of the web site. This is historical material, "frozen in time." The web site is no longer updated and links to external web sites and some internal pages will not work.
Well, yeah. We kinda figured that would be the case… but it IS nice to know the information has been preserved. And where to get it.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Apropos of Nothing, Yet Again

Posted on Laura Bush's Facebook page:
Tuesday, January 20, 2009 at 10:42pm

To all of my friends and supporters, I want to truly thank you on behalf of George, myself, and our children for your love, support, and dedication to the United States over the past 8 years. Together, we have been through a whirlwind of a time, but our citizenship has held us together, and kept us strongly united as friends, family, and as Americans.

It is with great pleasure that I pass the torch onto Michelle Obama, whom I have every confidence will fill the role with grace, compassion, and integrity.

It will be hard to leave the memories of the White House behind. But I know that this is only a new beginning for us. George and I will take some time to reconnect as a family, to spend time on the ranch where we are now "home" again.

I have every confidence that you will all take pride in this transition, and look up to our new President as your President. Barack Obama wants to better this country, and we all owe him the task of standing behind him within our borders, abroad.

This page will stay up as a way for me to keep you updated on my trips and projects. Please do feel free to leave your comments. I may not be able to respond to them all, but I do read every one that comes across, and I thank you all so much for your kind words.

May God bless all of you, and God bless America.

Farewell, but not goodbye,


Friday, January 23, 2009

My Latest Wet Dream

The mo'sickle above is a replica of the bike Steve McQueen used to race in the way-back. A blurb:

Steve McQueen was well known as a motorcyclist and, as anyone who has seen him in the film ‘On Any Sunday’ will know, a capable dirt bike racer too. What is perhaps less well known was that he had a great deal of personal input into the bikes he rode and raced. One such bike, and allegedly his favorite was a Métisse Mark III Desert Racer imported from the UK in kit form.
The Métisse brand, originally established by the Rickman brothers, Derek and Don who were famous for their road racing frames, is now owned by Gerry Lisi who has gained approval from McQueen’s son Chad to produce a limited edition run of replicas of the bike his father rode.
Oh, My. Talk about Lottery Fantasy Number Frickin' ONE... Well, maybe Number Frickin' Three. There would have to be a suitable garage to put the Métisse in. And a suitable house attached to said suitable garage. Dang. I sense we're going down a rat-hole here, and quickly at that. More detail on this exquisite machine, if'n you're interested, here.
Update, later that same day: Speaking of moto-dreams and such... The bike pictured above, a 1953 Vincent Black Shadow, is currently being auctioned off on eBay. Only three bids have been received so far (current: $45,200.00, reserve not met) and the bidding is open until February 2, 2009. Apropos of nothing... I had the opportunity to pick up this Vincent's little brother (a 1950's vintage 500cc single) when I was stationed in England in the '80s and passed on the offer. I STILL kick myself for that move... or non-move, as the case may be.
Anyhoo. I hope the Vincent above finds a good home. Hopefully with someone who thinks "red hair and black leather" is his favorite color scheme.

Public Service Announcement

This is where I'll be at the times indicated. About which...I'm of the opinion that the skills competition is just as good as the game... if not better.

I could go off on a rant here about this year's "voting" for the All-Star teams, but I'll resist the temptation. Most of you wouldn't give two hoots in Hell about that, anyway... with the possible exception of perhaps three of you Gentle Readers who drop by occasionally. And I'm sure all three of you know what I'm talking about.

Update, 01/24/2009: Susan, in comments, sez: "
Don't forget, the US Pond Hockey Championship Game will be streamed live on Sunday as well :)"

Ah, yes. Hockey in its purest form. And didja know there's a movie about pond hockey? You can see the trailer for the movie here. The folks who own the Pond Hockey web site provide code for embedding the trailer but Blogger doesn't seem to like the code, unfortunately. I tried, Gentle Reader... I tried.

Thursday, January 22, 2009


I made a rather left-handed reference in times past to that huckster Billy Mays, a guy whom I hold in utter contempt. There isn’t a single solitary soul on my teevee who makes me dive for the remote faster than Billy. The guy set the Obnoxious Bar at what I thought was an impossibly high level… one that would never be topped. But the impossible has been done. Mays has been exceeded… and by a margin so wide as to be unbelievable... by this guy and his freakin' headset:

Yanno what’s worse? “Vince” is now doing MORE ads for other crap no one needs, too. Nothing succeeds in America like excess... tacky, tacky excess.

Just for grins and giggles… Here’s Billy in a rather clever mash-up. I hate actively dislike Billy Mays, but I found this amusing…


There is good news here on The High Plains of New Mexico...

There most certainly WILL be a Happy Hour today!

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Just a Rant

(re: the title. I'm posting this coz there just ain't a whole helluva lot that interests me on teevee tonight. At least one of you Gentle Readers may take what follows personally. Please don't. OTOH... you MIGHT wanna examine your attitude if you think the shoe fits.)

So… I encountered a WHOLE lot of comment on Tuesday’s Main Event whilst cruising around these here inter-tubes over the past 24 hours or so.
Doubtless you had the same experience, Gentle Reader. But grant me some forbearance here, please, while I cut ‘n’ paste excerpts from three such missives. First… Mr. Lileks:

Picked up daughter from the bus stop. What did you do in school? They watched the inauguration all day, in every class, including music. I wish I knew whether they watched it in 2000 or 2004; I’m reasonably certain no one set up projectors in the coffee shop last time. Of course, this was different, to state the screamingly obvious, and setting aside a few differences of opinion on policy matters, the inauguration and the address was a great moment. A great and good thing.

I never thought America wouldn’t elect a Black president. The fact that it finally did happen, however, brought a remarkably satisfying array of emotions. This wasn’t the placement of the cornerstone; the building is never finished. This was a stone in the wall that will be built as high as we want it to go. This stone fit. This stone belonged with the others. A hundred years from now, the stone will take strength from the one laid today, just as this stone relies on the ones laid before. And upward we build, until the metaphor collapses from overwriting -

Sorry. Anyway. I’m glad my daughter saw it in school. Some days history is made, and she got to see it. I wish I could find a way to say more without a parade of banalities and ecumenical cliches, but it’s been a long day, and any attempt to embellish the simple dignity of the event seems misguided, and hanging caveats off the bones of the day seems churlish. Just this, then: What a remarkable nation. We were remarkable the day before, too. But we’ve one more reason now.

Now Lex:

Anyway, the man didn’t get my vote, but he’s my president nonetheless. I’ll pray for his success, and I hope you all do as well. Our fates are conjoined.

Uncle Jimbo, at Blackfive:

I made this video about a month ago and repost it now as President Obama takes the reins of government. Unlike the left, I will not claim he is not my President, or his actions are taken not in my name. He was fairly elected, just like W, and as such he is the American President...period. I hope he does well because we all have a stake in this game. That does not mean I have to support policies that I disagree with. I consider myself part of the loyal opposition and if he puts forth bad ideas I will do just that and fight against them. But again without the bitter hate that has made the left such an embarrassment to themselves for most of the past 8 years.

Lex and Uncle Jimbo both served, Lileks did not. I only mention this fact because there was a recurrent theme in the posts the milbloggers I read put up yesterday, and that thought is… “Mr. Obama is MY president, regardless of whether I voted for him or not.” The attitude is both recognizable and understandable to anyone who’s ever served, mainly because the president is also the Big Boss when you wear the uniform. As such, respect for the Commander-in-Chief isn’t just desirable… it’s mandatory… and that respect is something that is instilled in every person who wears the uniform from Day One.

I’m beginning to think Universal Service isn’t such a bad idea, after all. But then again, some people just can’t be taught manners… which includes respect… no matter how hard you try. And don’t feed me any ifs, ands, or buts about someone, anyone, who serves in a position of authority not deserving your respect. I’ve worked for a whole helluva lot of people in my life I didn’t like, including a couple of CinCs, but I damned sure respected their position and authority. It’s all part of being an adult, yanno?

Further on the subject, sorta… One thing you may have missed during yesterday’s festivities, if you watched 'em. The President’s military aide escorted him and Mrs. Obama to the limousine as the inaugural parade began yesterday. Mr. Obama stuck out his hand towards the colonel (or general, the shot was too long for me to see the officer’s epaulets) and the officer refused it, raising his hand in salute instead. The president, to his ever-lasting credit, quickly withdrew his hand and returned a credible salute. The man is learning…

Update: Old Chuck Norris.

Wife Potential

Blog-Bud Lin sends along the following... captioned "Subject: How to spot a good wife."

Lin is MOST definitely on to something here.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

They Didn't Waste Any Time...

A screenshot of the new

Congratulations, President Obama. Best of luck to you.

Now that that's out of the way... I really wanted to hit the White House web site precisely at the stroke of noon, or as soon as 44 said "So help me God." Not to be. My internet connection went down at 0900, I called my ISP at 0930 and was told the entire city was out due to a cable cut between Clovis and Lubbock. Service was restored around 1415... so I missed ALL the 'net possibilities during the ceremonies. {sigh}

It's always something. But Thank God for the Fox News Channel -- they were great.

Farewell President and Mrs. Bush

Thank you, Sir and Madam.
You were magnificent.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Us and Them

You may or may not have heard something about the dinner The One had with conservative columnists last week in the home of George Will. The event was “off the record,” and precious little mention of it… or, more importantly, the things said at that dinner… have trickled out into the media. But there has been some mention. Here’s David Brooks, conservative columnist for the NYT, giving a tantalizing peek at the goings on:

JIM LEHRER: Now, David...Moving right along. You were at a special dinner with -- you and a few other right-wing fanatics... went to this off-the-record dinner at George Will's house.

I'm not going to ask you what was said. But what was the feeling that came out of that, from you? How did you feel?

DAVID BROOKS: Well, he was carried in by cherubs with Oprah Winfrey spreading rose petals at his feet.

DAVID BROOKS: And he said, David, which sort of wine would you like me to turn your water into? That was...


DAVID BROOKS: No, I -- we can't talk about what happened. But I will say a couple of things.

The one thing that comes across -- first of all, the one thing I will say is, it's a bunch of conservatives, mostly, and him. There was no sense that there were ideological sides. It was just a bunch of people sitting around talking about policy.

And there was no sides. And then I think the things that comes out of the whole series of interviews he did -- he did one with conservatives and the next day with liberals, and then The Washington Post editorial board, and I think...


DAVID BROOKS: USA Today. And I think CNN.


DAVID BROOKS: But the thing that comes out, a couple things. One is the intense pragmatism of the guy.

I really think he's a Democrat. And Mark will be fine with him. But he really is empirical. And I think he sees himself as a very empirical person, data-driven, no grand philosophy of what the role of government should be, just what works.

And, second, I think a real sense of stability and order, which will be of comfort to conservatives. And he's emphasized this quite a lot this week, that we are going to be spending a lot of money over the next couple of years on the stimulus package.

But, over the long term, he's aware of the deficit, the possibility of fiscal imbalances. And he's very serious about Social Security and Medicare reform, entitlement reform, to get the long-term budget in line. And, so, if he's really going to be serious about entitlements, if he's going to get a commission that will help us solve it, then he can spend a lot of money in the next year or two -- I don't care -- because that's the real fiscal issue.

And -- and he stressed that this week in his public interviews, that he really wants to take care of that issue.

Quoted from The News Hour’s web site. And then there’s this from Bill Kristol, writing in yesterday’s NYT:

Barack Obama will assume that just and rightful authority at noon on Tuesday. After a dinner with him that I attended last week, as we said our goodbyes, I overheard one of my fellow conservatives say softly to the president-elect, “Sir, I’ll be praying for you.” Obama seemed to pause as they shook hands, and to thank him more earnestly than he did those of us who simply — and sincerely — wished him well.

The incoming president is the man of the moment. He deserves good wishes and sincere prayers. But I’ve found myself thinking these last few days more about the man who has shouldered the burdens of office for the past eight years, George W. Bush.

Kristol’s op-ed is worth the read, btw, focusing as it does on 43 and NOT 44. But we digress... my point is Kristol was at Will's house for the dinner and seems impressed. More, from today’s Financial Times (UK):

On his last night of freedom – so to speak – Barack Obama on Monday chose to host a dinner for John McCain, the man he defeated last November after a rancorous campaign. Monday night’s forgive-and-forget banquet followed an equally eyebrow-raising dinner last week at the home of George Will, the conservative columnist, whose guests included Bill Kristol, the viscerally anti-Obama neo- conservative.

In the build-up to probably the most feverishly awaited inauguration in history, the president-elect has been assiduously courting conservative enemies. Most supporters of Mr Obama accept the logic of winning over as many Republicans as possible in order to get maximum support behind the emergency bank bail-out and fiscal stimulus that he needs to push through Capitol Hill in his first few weeks.

In contrast to George W. Bush, whose political “boy wonder”, Karl Rove, said the support of 51 per cent of Americans was all they needed to accomplish their agenda, Mr Obama wants to build a bigger tent that enables Americans to transcend partisan differences.

The only people left scratching their heads are the liberals, who thought the incoming president was one of their own. Instead of appealing to the “better angels of our nature”, as Abraham Lincoln did in his inauguration speech in 1865, many want Mr Obama to take the fight to the conservatives, whom they believe got America into a mess.

Which, of course, is precisely the WRONG thing to do, assuming we… the American people… want our gub’mint to actually DO something, rather than continue the political posturing that’s gotten us exactly nowhere over the last few years. There’s a reason Congress’ favorable public opinion ratings are the lowest in history, and it ain’t due to the wonderfulness of our culture-warriors carrying their flags into battle. Yet some on both sides of the aisle want to perpetuate the madness.

I’m NOT saying conservatives should roll over and buy everything The One is selling… far from it. We should remain the “loyal opposition” and oppose policies and legislation that are in contravention to our core values, e.g., fiscal responsibility, small government, a strong military. What I AM saying is similar to what Maggie Thatcher told President Reagan all those years ago about Mikhail Gorbachev: “This is a man we can work with.” Put another way: becoming “the party of NO” like the Democrats did during Dubya’s first six years in office ain’t exactly smart, yanno?

The initial indications about The One being a politician Republicans can work with are good. After all, one would be hard pressed to find someone who was more anti-Obama than Mr. Kristol. In the mainstream, that is, we both know there are nuts on either side of the wire, Gentle Reader. I’m cautiously hopeful about The One… and I think he’s gonna be a whole helluva lot easier to work with than those old culture warriors on the left… like Algore or John Frickin’ Kerry. The trick will be convincing the old culture warriors on the RIGHT this is so, tho.

Never forget: politics is ALL about compromise. T’was ever so.


I've always felt uncomfortable saying "Happy Martin Luther King Day." I don't say "Happy Presidents Day," or "Happy Columbus Day," either, and I could go on about other holidays in this same space. It just doesn't seem fitting to my eyes or sound comfortable rolling off my lips.

This holiday also didn't mean a whole helluva lot to me
in years past. MLK Day wasn't a holiday while I was still in the military and I worked every MLK Day after it was designated as such... the Feds and State gub'mint employees are about the only ones off today... nearly everyone else works. My only observance of Dr. King's birthday in years past was to occasionally re-read his "I Have A Dream" speech, and I performed that small act only after the the internet came into being. (I was busy being inducted into the Air Force on the day Dr. King delivered the speech at the Lincoln Memorial, so I missed it.)

But this year is different, innit? Tomorrow the first African-American man in our history will be sworn into the highest office in the land. We should ALL be proud of that fact, regardless of our political views or loyalties. While Dr. King's dream hasn't been fully realized by any means, tomorrow's inauguration of Barack Obama at the West front of the U.S. Capitol marks the biggest symbolic step in that direction I've seen in MY lifetime. It makes me proud to be an American... so VERY proud.

Happy Martin Luther King Day.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Someone Else I'll Miss

I've gone on a bit over the last few about how much I'll miss President and Mrs. Bush. But I'll miss this lady, too:

I've watched a lot of White House press secretaries come and go in my time. This woman, IMHO, was among the very best. Ms. Perino is blessed with a sharp mind, quick responses, and an even-tempered "grace under pressure" demeanor that even her detractors have to admire. And she ain't hard to look at, either.

Ms. Perino is simply the best at what she does... especially considering that Tony Snow was such a hard act to follow. I'll miss her.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Cool. To Say the VERY Least.

Taken from Earth, observed:

The setting sun glints off the Amazon River and numerous lakes in its floodplain in this astronaut photograph from August 19, 2008. About 150 kilometers of the Amazon is shown here, about 1,000 kilometers inland from the Atlantic Ocean. This image was acquired on August 19, 2008 by the by the Expedition 17 crew of the International Space Station. (NASA/JSC)

More breathtaking images at the link. I NEVER get tired of this sort of stuff. Ever.

With a Hat-Tip to Blog-Bud Kris...

"I never make promises lightly..."


A Kia car ad featuring a clone of The One... flogging Kias in some un-named American city. "Yes you CAN buy a new Kia!" OMG.

Stolen from
Phlegmmy... who is just as amazed and mystified at this as I am... and NOT in a good way. I'm assuming she's revolted, as well, but she didn't come right out and say so. I'm semi-speechless.

Friday, January 16, 2009

My Old Brand

Or rather the brand I began with. Cue up lotsa wistful sighs here. And a hack or two.

The biggest bennie about Luckies (and Camels) was you could carry the pack rolled up in in the sleeve of your tee shirt, like all the Kool Kidz did. Think Brando in The Wild One. Or maybe Fonzie. I'm not even sure if Fonzie smoked on teevee. But I'm sure he... the character, that is... did in Real Life. All those guys did.

h/t: Lileks

This, That, and the Other

One of the more interesting things about g-mail is the lil snippets you get at the top of your in-box… things like a “quote of the day,” abbreviated news headlines, links to magazine articles, and not a lil bit of weirdness. Today’s quote-of-the-day led me to “Brainy Quote,” a site I sometimes frequent when I’m looking for a quote from someone. There’s quite an interesting collection of stuff from one Robert Orben, not a few of which made me smile. Examples:
To err is human - and to blame it on a computer is even more so. (Facebook, anyone?)
Every speaker has a mouth; An arrangement rather neat. Sometimes it's filled with wisdom. Sometimes it's filled with feet.
And so on. Folksy humorous stuff. Right up my alley.
Lotsa folks read blogs through an RSS feed; I don’t. I like to visit my Daily Reads personally, which may or may not be due to my not-so-well-suppressed Luddite tendencies. That said, I DO use Google Reader to keep up with Kukla’s Korner, my favorite hockey blog. KK is a collective blog and the folks there write a LOT about hockey, oftentimes about teams I couldn’t care less about (like the Coyotes. and nearly EVERY team in the Eastern Conference). So it makes sense to use a reader in this case… I can skip the stuff that’s essentially meaningless and read what really matters, i.e., things about the Beloved Wings.
All the foregoing is a long-winded introduction to a minor shock I received before I was fully caffeinated this morning. I was absent-mindedly scrolling down through the KK feed while the coffee was brewing when I came across an item that surprised the living HELL out of me: a link to a post written by a Certain Someone I used to know. THIS was a serious “WTF?” moment! KK is linking to this Certain Someone? KK… the hockey blog? Linking to someone who doesn’t give two hoots in Hell about hockey and never did? I didn’t believe my eyes.
And well I shouldn’t have. This Certain Someone created a blog about two years ago (or so) but never posted anything. I put the blog link in my RSS feed… just in case. Certain Someone began writing recently and I just noticed that today. The fact Certain Someone’s blog is in my RSS reader didn’t occur to me until I was well into KK’s second page, thinking… “where the Hell is that post?” Then I remembered I’d added Certain Someone’s link to my RSS reader. And felt really stupid. Doh!
Today’s lesson: NEVER try to do anything… no matter how mundane it may be… until your caffeine levels are stabilized and restored to normal.
Today’s public link to stuff I’m putting up at Facebook: Mo'Sickles Past and Present. A collection of 23 photos of motorcycles I’ve known and loved over the years… just as the title would indicate, strangely enough. Literal ‘R’ Us. If you think I’m using Facebook like other people use Flickr… you’re right. Facebook doesn’t give you the option to view photos in other than the one size you’re given, and that’s a drawback. Sorta like what Ol’ Henry said about the Model T: “You can have any color you want, as long as it’s black.” I know: get a Flickr account. But remember: Luddite tendencies.
Have you noticed? I’ve been off politics of late. I’m just sick to death of it, generally speaking. My Tribe isn’t doing anything significant these days and really doesn’t have much of an opportunity to do anything significant anyway, what with Dubya on his way out the door and the GOP being in the minority in Congress. That said… I enjoyed Dubya’s Farewell Speech last evening.
There is legitimate debate about many of these decisions. But there can be little debate about the results. America has gone more than seven years without another terrorist attack on our soil. This is a tribute to those who toil night and day to keep us safe -- law enforcement officers, intelligence analysts, homeland security and diplomatic personnel, and the men and women of the United States Armed Forces.
Our nation is blessed to have citizens who volunteer to defend us in this time of danger. I have cherished meeting these selfless patriots and their families. And America owes you a debt of gratitude. And to all our men and women in uniform listening tonight: There has been no higher honor than serving as your Commander-in-Chief.
Like all who have held this office before me, I have experienced setbacks. There are things I would do differently if given the chance. Yet I've always acted with the best interests of our country in mind. I have followed my conscience and done what I thought was right. You may not agree with some of the tough decisions I have made. But I hope you can agree that I was willing to make the tough decisions.
Agreed, Mr. President. I hope your successor has but half the conscientiousness and dedication to principles you’ve displayed during your time in office. It takes a BIG man to disregard the folks who “go with the flow” and do the right thing, in spite of what other people might think. And that’s the main reason I worry about your successor. It remains an open question: “Will he do the right thing?” I don't get warm and fuzzy feelings when I mull that question over in my mind...
I'll miss ya, Mr. President. Godspeed.