26 December 2010

Christmas post-mortem

Urrrr. Ate too much.

A very nice Christmas day for yours truly, and it sounds like most of you did OK as well.

TBH and I went to my Mom's house for Christmas dinner. She did a credible job considering her not-so-great physical condition and middlin' poor eyesight. She always liked cooking big dinners and it's hard to tell her not to bother. She lives alone and likes the company as much as anything. We had turkey (delicious!), green bean casserole (which is required serving at Thanksgiving and Christmas by federal law), coleslaw, and mincemeat pie. Not a twelve-course repast but certainly a great plenty for all of us.

She gave us some mail-order fruitcake and baklava. Baklava is always good whether mass-produced or handmade by Mrs. Papadopoulos down the block. And I may be the only one in the world, but I like fruitcake. Now, I do understand the bad rap it gets-dry fruitcake is really only good for using as a doorstop or a convenient home-defense weapon. When I was young, Mom made a fruitcake every year, 'round about the middle of November. She'd pour rum over it and keep an eye on it and let the rum soak in and the cake was invariably heavy and moist and probably not to be eaten in great quantities before driving home. And the moisture (and corollary alcohol) content is the key to a good fruitcake. Seriously. Try making one early, treat it with tender loving care and a good quality rum or brandy. Trust me-it's nothing like the mass-produced stuff.

After that, off to my brother's digs. Shot the breeze, watched some Britcoms off Netflix (Father Ted and The IT Crowd-both good shows). Supper of that great traditional Christmas staple-sloppy joes-and snacks, and board games afterward.  We use the Christmas get-together as game night and we don't exchange gifts. It saves a lot of hassle for all of us and we have a good time and that's what the day is in part supposed to be about.

After that, TBH and I had our Christmas together. Scored some gift cards for Barnes & Noble and Borders, which is good news for authors and magazine publishers everywhere. I like gift cards over receiving stuff I'll never use. I can remember when giving gift certificates was considered a bit gauche, but I like them. I'll do my own shopping.

Now we have to get ready for TBH's sisters arriving. They'll be here for most of the next few days. The holiday just goes on and on here!! I've only got one day of work this week. I have two days of vacation left to burn.

Hope all went well with you regular readers here!

yankeedog out.

18 December 2010

The Small Peace of 1914

Around this time of year, one of the great stories of the season (at least for me) are the tales of the Christmas Truces on the Western Front during the winter of 1914. To me, those stories are something of a triumph of the human spirit.

These stoppages in fighting happen in many wars in Western history. The American Civil War and Spanish Civil War had similar truces, where both sides' soldiers met, exchanged news and goods, and maybe played some sport.

I did a post on the 1914 truce back in the JS days, but it's time for a retell. We'll combine it with a little 'theatre of the mind', though, to perhaps make it more interesting.

Picture if you will, a farmhouse. Picture it being wintertime: snow on the ground. Think of something like this:

It's Christmas Day. All of the regular readers here, past and present, are all gathered together in the living room by the fireplace, sated after a huge Christmas dinner. Some of you are watching the NBA game on TV, others possibly nodding off, drinks in hand. Might be the rest of you are outside in the snow chucking a football around.

Eventually, everyone comes in and gathers around-for it's time for a revered holiday ritual. Glasses are refilled.

Barnesy: "Grandpa Yankeedog, are you going to tell the story of the Christmas Truces of 1914?"
Doc: "Yeah, tell us the story!"
Havock: "Just TELL us the FKN story, you old BASTARD!"

YD (in the 'old man' voice) "Alright, everyone, come on closer while I tell you the story."

Everyone: "YAYYYYYY!"

YD: "Now, all this happened right around the beginning of the last century. This was before TV, them interwebs, and oranges. Why, the question mark hadn't even been invented yet! People then, just like now, got to fussin' and fightin' over all kinds of stuff. Kinda like at dinner today when Bangar hit Moko with a chair leg for eating the last of the sweet potatoes, or when Tricia stuck her tongue out at Natalie during the prayer..."

Mayhem: "SHE started it!"

YD: "You kids hush! Now where was I? Oh yes. I was in Teddy Roosevelt's Cavalry, riding a war-moose up San Juan Hill..."

Therbs: "1914..."

YD: "Yeah, I know! Young punk. Anyway, this all happened during WW One, what everyone called the Great War, because it was great if you were lucky enough not to be in it. Well, in that first autumn of the war, all them politicians told the boys that they'd all be home by Christmas. Winter started to kick in, and still no sign of the war ending. So the troops settled in to the trenches all along the Western Front, from the Channel to where the Swiss live..."

Bangar: "They fought in Wisconsin?"

YD: "No! That was the Cheese Conflict of 1896. If you all are going to keep interrupting me, I'll let you hear the story as the men themselves told it....

On December 7, 1914, Pope Benedict XV suggested a temporary hiatus of the war for the celebration of Christmas. Though Germany readily agreed, the other powers refused.
Even without a cessation of war for Christmas, family and friends of the soldiers wanted to make their loved ones' Christmas special. They sent packages filled with letters, warm clothing, food, cigarettes, and medications. Yet what especially made Christmas at the front seem like Christmas were the troves of small Christmas trees.
On Christmas Eve, many German soldiers put up Christmas trees, decorated with candles, on the parapets of their trenches. Hundreds of Christmas trees lighted the German trenches and although British soldiers could see the lights, it took them a few minutes to figure out what they were from. Could this be a trick? British soldiers were ordered not to fire but to watch them closely. Instead of trickery, the British soldiers heard many of the Germans celebrating.
Time and again during the course of that day, the Eve of Christmas, there were wafted towards us from the trenches opposite the sounds of singing and merry-making, and occasionally the guttural tones of a German were to be heard shouting out lustily, 'A happy Christmas to you Englishmen!' Only too glad to show that the sentiments were reciprocated, back would go the response from a thick-set Clydesider, 'Same to you, Fritz, but dinna o'er eat yourself wi' they sausages!'
In other areas, the two sides exchanged Christmas carols.

'They finished their carol and we thought that we ought to retaliate in some way, so we sang 'The first Noël', and when we finished that they all began clapping; and then they struck up another favourite of theirs, 'O Tannenbaum'. And so it went on. First the Germans would sing one of their carols and then we would sing one of ours, until when we started up 'O Come All Ye Faithful' the Germans immediately joined in singing the same hymn to the Latin words 'Adeste Fidéles'. And I thought, well, this was really a most extraordinary thing - two nations both singing the same carol in the middle of a war.

The Christmas Truce
This fraternization on Christmas Eve and again on Christmas was in no way officially sanctified nor organized. Yet, in numerous separate instances down the front line, German soldiers began yelling over to their enemy, "Tommy, you come over and see us!" Still cautious, the British soldiers would rally back, "No, you come here!"
In some parts of the line, representatives of each side would meet in the middle, in No Man's Land.
'We shook hands, wished each other a Merry Xmas, and were soon conversing as if we had known each other for years. We were in front of their wire entanglements and surrounded by Germans - Fritz and I in the centre talking, and Fritz occasionally translating to his friends what I was saying. We stood inside the circle like streetcorner orators.
Soon most of our company ('A' Company), hearing that I and some others had gone out, followed us . . . What a sight - little groups of Germans and British extending almost the length of our front! Out of the darkness we could hear laughter and see lighted matches, a German lighting a Scotchman's cigarette and vice versa, exchanging cigarettes and souvenirs. Where they couldn't talk the language they were making themselves understood by signs, and everyone seemed to be getting on nicely. Here we were laughing and chatting to men whom only a few hours before we were trying to kill!'
Some of those who went out to meet the enemy in the middle of No Man's Land on Christmas Eve or on Christmas Day negotiated a truce: we won't fire if you won't fire. Some ended the truce at midnight on Christmas night, some extended it until New Year's Day.
One reason Christmas truces were negotiated was in order to bury the dead, many of whom had been there for several months. Along with the revelry that celebrated Christmas was the sad and somber job of burying their fallen comrades. On Christmas day, British and German soldiers appeared on No Man's Land and sorted through the bodies. In just a few rare instances, joint services were held for both the British and German dead.
Yet many soldiers enjoyed meeting the un-seen enemy and were surprised to discover that they were more alike than he had thought. They talked, shared pictures, exchanged items such as buttons for food stuffs. An extreme example of the fraternization was a soccer game played in the middle of No Man's Land between the Bedfordshire Regiment and the Germans. A member of the Bedfordshire Regiment produced a ball and the large group of soldiers played until the ball was deflated when it hit a barbed wire entanglement.
This strange and unofficial truce lasted for several days, much to the dismay of the commanding officers. This amazing showing of Christmas cheer was never again repeated and as World War I progressed, the story of Christmas 1914 at the front became something of a legend.

YD: "Now, all those officers and politicians knew that if the troops refused to fight, peace might have broken out. So after the first year, they scheduled artillery barrages and trench raids right around Christmas to keep everyone all riled up, and the Christmas truces along the trenches, well, they petered out and by the end of the war were just memories.

...and that's the story of the Christmas Truce of 1914, which is why you kids shouldn't be out messing with my tools in the shed, or monkeying around with the bandsaw!"

Moko: "I don't get what the Truce of 1914 has to do with using your tools..."

YD: "That's because you have no respect for your elders! Maybe instead of yapping, you'll go get me another glass of eggnog. Now you kids go about your business, and leave Grandpa alone to drink his eggnog and watch his favorite holiday movie-Emmanuelle At The North Pole."

BigBadAl: "Can I watch, too?"

YD: "No, you can't! Go outside and sled down the hill on the piece of cardboard I got you for Christmas. When you come back, I'll tell you the story of the First Christmas, where Baby Jesus was born in Allentown..."

Natalie: "Bethlehem. Baby Jesus was born in Bethlehem."

YD: "Wherever. It was somewhere out in Pennsylvania. Anyway, kids, we're now going to play a game called 'Leave Grandpa YD Alone'. The object of the game is to leave Grandpa YD alone. So go outside and play in the snow. And don't angry up my chickens!"


The actual passage of the Christmas Truce came from About.com-thanks for letting me 'borrow' it. There are numerous stories and articles about it on the 'net, most of which are worth a read. Astounding that people could put a world war aside for one day and get along. It gives one a bit of hope for the human race after all.

But on a lighter note, I know about all this because of Great-Grandpa Yankeedog's experience in WWI. They even wrote a song about it. Like to hear it, here it goes:

yankeedog out.

12 December 2010

That was the week that was...

...which is to say, not much of a week.

The big company feed on Friday went over well. After the dinner, there was a company meeting regarding plans for 2011. Looks like the company is trying to get back to full strength. We're going to hire another fabricator for the shop (which we need). Also, they'd like to hire a mech engineer type to run the design area (us), which would be good. I've been Team Rimmer long enough. It wouldn't hurt us to have a degreed engineer on staff to check some of the concepts the sales guys get sometimes. I can usually tell by look if a given device will pick up a given load, but it isn't the same as having numbers to back it up. Overall, it looks like we're on the way up. Now, if we can get the brass to pony up for an X-Y plasma cutter so we can cut our own shapes and not send out to have them done, we'll be golden. We figure we could have the thing paid for in 6 months at present rates-and have stuff in ten minutes instead of (at best) 4 hours.

It's been cold here over the past week-no surprise since it's winter. The weather people promised us a blizzard this weekend, which fortunately for the most part failed to materialize. We had plenty of wind, but nothing like the amount of snow they thought. I'm getting tired of the meteorologists going on the news, yammering on about 'DEATHSTORM 2010'. Someday we will get a big storm, and no one will pay any attention. It gets around 0 F out and I have no great desire to go outside in it any more. Winter is a kids' season-all the sledding one can handle, school snow days, and a big cup of hot cocoa at the end of the day. I rather wish I could curl up tomorrow instead of heading off to work. Ah well...

Around the NFL, cold, windy, horizontal snowing days are called 'Bear Weather'. At one time it was perceived that the Chicago Bears had an advantage over their opponents in the cold as they played in it all the time. Evidently no one told the New England Patriots this since they beat the Bears 36-7 this Sunday, and the Bears looked dazed and confused. Could be worse-the Vikings lost a home game since the inflatable roof at the HHH Metrodome collapsed due to snow and wind. The Humpdome looks like a souffle gone bad. Who'd've thought an inflatable fabric roof in a city that gets heavy snow and weather extremes was a bad idea?

TBH rolled in last Friday from a week in KC, all full of database management knowledge. Nice to have her back home.

Today we actually went to the local mall to pick up a few final items for Christmas. Granted, the weather wasn't great-but it wasn't terrible, either-but you could have shot a cannon through there and not hurt anybody. Looks like online shopping might be the death of the shopping mall in the not-too-distant future. There are things one needs to physically go shop for-dress clothes, for example, but for a book or a sweatshirt? Screw it-why bother trudging around for those items?

That about wraps it up for this past week and weekend. Not much to report. Cruising as normal. Hope it's the same for you all.

yankeedog out.

08 December 2010

The no-party system

Friday afternoon will see my company throwing a Christmas potluck in the break room. Looks like  everyone's contributing some pretty good nosh and I suppose we in the design cave won't get much done in the afternoon, since we'll be filled up like a python that just devoured a goat. I plan on bringing a big bowl of coleslaw. My recipe is quite similar to what you'd get at Kentucky Fried Chicken. Eerily, uncannily similar...some would say, well, identical.

When I started at this company, they had regular off-site Christmas parties. The place I worked at before had Christmas parties.

I've never been to a company Christmas party, and, God willing, I'll never have to go to one. It sure seems to me like holiday parties with open and free access to alcohol are a minefield, to be treaded around carefully-or not at all. I'm not sure that anything good can come from them, and possibly a lot of bad. Things like employees infused with liquid courage giving their thoughts to the president of the company on how the company should REALLY be run; Bill in Accounting settling with Ken from Sales on who should get the parking space closest to the door by means of drunken fisticuffs; Hal from Engineering doing his terrible rendition of 'Let It Snow'; and Mike from Manufacturing drunk on the floor. I won't mention Dave from HR and Julie the secretary leaving early together-her dress looked painted on, and Dave's married, and they both hit the Christmas cheer a bit hard. Things happen.

It seems like companies in this country are steering away from big holiday extravaganzas for a lot of reasons. The economy is still sluggish, and the Christmas party is an expense that can be done away with. Stuff like what I described above can and does happen at parties, which cause hard feelings and awkward moments in the workplace that most bosses would rather not deal with. It's one less excuse for drinking and then getting behind the wheel. And I think a lot of employees (and company brass, for that matter) would rather not deal with spending a night with people they see for 8 to 10 hours/day. That cuts into precious time for family and getting ready for the holiday crush.

The first company I worked at provided a Christmas gift every year of a canned ham and a box of fruit. I for one was glad to get both. I don't figure any company has to provide big cash bonuses or lavish parties for its workers at the end of the year-but at the same time, a business owner can't go far wrong by giving a little something to the employees if it was a good year.

If any of you enjoy holiday parties, that's fine-have at them! Just give me the potluck in the company break room. I'm good with that. If there's a hundred extra dollars in the paycheck, that's even better.


It was thirty years ago today...

...and it doesn't seem like it. December 8, 1980-the day John Lennon was shot. Only forty years old when he died. That seemed so old to me at the time. Now- hell, he was just a young punk of forty, but he got a lot out of his life.

One wonders what Lennon would think of this world we have today, had he survived. I suspect he'd be a bit disappointed that the peace he wanted us to have would be as far away as ever. Maybe he wouldn't be all that relevant to the contemporary music scene. He'd probably still be stirring the pot on a lot of the issues and causes he held dear. Quite possibly, if he'd lived, he'd even realize that Yoko's singing really is, well, godawful.

I'll leave you with one that you can hear on most any classic rock station. It's one of Lennon's last hits before he died, but it's one that I still like a lot.

Someone send us a bit of sunshine!

yankeedog out.

06 December 2010

To KC and back and along the way

It appears winter has settled in here in my part of the country. It's going to be down around 0 Fahrenheit (in Celsius, that's, let's see...9/5...carry the 3....damn cold!) tonight. Ah well, tis December, after all. I just put on some good wool socks and made a nice hot cuppa of YogiTea India Spice herbal tea. Good stuff!

We made the quick trip to Kansas City so TBH could start her class down in Overland Park. Unfortunately, we got snow here on Saturday and weren't able to get on the road until Sunday. We weren't able to meet clan Murphy for BBQ since we didn't get in late and I didn't want them waiting until late for me to fumble around downtown KC. Maybe next spring or summer when the weather gets warmer, I can get back down there. Sometimes plans fall together; other times they don't. Such is life.

I did drive through North Kansas City, though, and saw the Ameristar casino and the big coal-fired power plant as described in Birmo's After America. It's always fun to see places that get mentioned in books like this. When I lived in Dixon, IL, I enjoyed reading the mention in the beginning of Harry Turtledove's Worldwar series. HT got the area right as he described the long retreat into Chicago and Patton's drive through Central Illinois. Mind you, this was back in the old days, when Turtledove used to care about his writing...

I drove back this morning, since I don't have a lot of vacation time left for the year. It's about exactly six hours from KC to here, and there isn't a whole lot to see. Slate-gray skies, shorn cornfields, vegetation in various shades of dry khaki instead of summer's verdant green.

A couple of areas that are interesting along the way are the Amish enclave in southern Iowa and the Amana Colonies closer to home. I was filling the tank at a gas station off I-35 at a junction with a state highway. All of a sudden, here comes one of their little one-horse wagons clop-clopping down the highway like it was 1920 or something! A lot of people poke fun at the Amish avoidance of electricity and modern technology-but you can't help but admire them. They're keeping alive skills and knowledge that we've lost or long since discarded. Might be if something caused our tech-heavy society to falter or collapse, they might be teaching those of us (that are left) how to use all those neat 19th-century farm implements and household gear lying around in the museums.

The Amana Colonies were founded by a German religious sect 'round about 1840 or so. In the 19th Century, a lot of communities in the young United States were created as social experiments. In religious communities, this usually meant they were trying a communist society ('communist' in it's true, pre-Marxian context) where all would work and all would share equally in the fruits of the labor. In addition, these communities attempted to be as economically self-sufficient as possible. The Amana Society formed a cluster of seven small villages and for the next ninety years managed to live their ideal. They raised their own food, started their own wineries, and created woolen and calico mills which turned out goods to be sold to the outside world. In addition, they generally lived a communal existence, eating together in large halls like a giant family, and attended worship and prayer services-up to 11 times per week!

But the Amana Colonies suffered from the same problem that nearly every communist/socialist society hits-there becomes a (real or perceived) notion that there is an inequity in the labor being done and the rewards being reaped by the members. In addition, the world was changing and becoming smaller and members wanted to live like people in the rest of the country and be able to eat in their own homes.

To make a long story short (Too late!!): in 1932 the Amana Colonies voted to change from a communist/socialist system to what is essentially a joint-stock corporation. It seems to be working well for them. Today the Amanas are largely a tourist area of small shops, famous around these parts for fine woolen goods, wineries (I can recommend the dandelion and rhubarb wines-flavorful with a decent kick) and family-style dining on good German-style cuisine.

Oh, yes-and they came out with the first mass-produced microwave oven (the Amana Radarange of the late 1960's and 1970's), and they built a mountain of good quality refrigerators until Maytag bought the Amana Manufaucturing Company and then sent a lot of the appliance manufacturing south of the US border-thanks, Maytag management. Hope your bonus checks cleared. Bastidges.

So that's your lesson on Iowa culture. Hope you paid attention. There may be a test.

Stay warm, Middle America.

yankeedog out.

02 December 2010

Midwest sortie

Next week The Better Half has a week-long class in Kansas City. We'd hoped for Chicago (which is close) or Cincinnati (where her sister lives) but it appears the company running the courses didn't have enough people enrolled for those two classes. KC it is, then.

We're supposed to leave on Saturday afternoon, but we're supposed to get a snowstorm, so we'll see. We did build a day's leeway into getting there. If we leave at the crack of dawn Sunday we'll make it OK-it isn't that far. We're driving there-by the time we get to the airport (90 min early), fly to Chicago to catch a connector to KC, and get out of KCI, I can drive there.

I'm coming back Monday-too much stuff to do around here, and at any rate Kansas City isn't my idea of a vacation spot. I would check out the World War I Memorial Museum there, but it's closed on Monday. Well, piss on them, then.

We're going to see if we can wangle a gen-u-ine Kansas City barbecue dinner (Arthur Bryant's-supposedly the best barbecue in the Free World. We'll see.) out of Mr. S.F. Murphy and his lovely sig other. It'll be an extremely small version of all those Burger get-togethers made famous down in Australia.

A good weekend to all! I'm going to Kansas City, Kansas City, here I come...

I'll be standing on the corner

On the corner of Twelfth Street and Vine...
I'm gonna be standing on the corner
On the corner of Twelfth Street and Vine...
With my Kansas City baby
And a bottle of Kansas City wine.

yankeedog out.

29 November 2010

Fixing a leak

Interesting times.

A new week, and a new pile of stuff for Wikileaks to publish to the world at large. This latest batch consists of diplomatic cables and State Department documents that covers the gamut from impressions of world leaders, to what to do about Iran, to discussions with Yemen and Pakistan regarding the effects of gravity, rocketry, and explosives on various and sundry scumbags.

Part of me isn't surprised by some of the 'revelations'. Missile attacks on terrorists in Yemen? I rather thought that fell into the 'open secret' category. The Arabs and Israel want us to Do Something about Iran? The Arabs and Israel could do the job themselves together. It's the Middle East. A backalley deal could be cut there. Israel could provide the hardware and the Arabs could have convenient radar malfunctions. Plus, the desert is a big place and the sneaky Zionists could always 'steal' a supply depot or create an airfield in the emptiness. The German chancellor is 'unimaginative'? She grew up a functionary in East Germany's communist system. What would you expect? Spying on the diplomats in the UN? Please. That's what people do there. I suspect every nation with spies better than Maxwell Smart has databases and dossiers on every major world leader and senior diplomat squirreled away somewhere. How else are you going to 'convince' the Supreme Leader of Bugfuckovia to give you basing rights it you don't have pictures of him in flagrante delicto with a platypus?

Nor do I have a particular axe to grind with Mr. Assange, the founder of Wikileaks. I do think that his days on this planet are becoming numbered. If he's hidden away, he might want to stay that way. To be honest, he looks like a little twerp who thinks it's cute to twist a few tails. Now, I'm not saying that anyone in this country would order a hit on him. I'm also not saying they wouldn't. He has, however, brought to light activities of leaders of nations that aren't so picky on the legal niceties and wouldn't be above sending a couple of gentlemen to visit upon him the usual array of punishments reserved for little twerps who don't realize they're not pulling a prank on the university dean. This is the big leagues. Oh well...

I do, though, have issues with the alleged leaker of many of the Iraq/Afghanistan/Diplomatic documents, one Specialist Bradley Manning, US Army and possible disgrace to the uniform. Born to an American father and an English/Welsh mother, he was able to obtain an intelligence analyst billet, making him privy to all sorts of interesting information.

The Army plainly screwed up when doing the background check for Specialist Manning. His dual nationality should have made him ineligible for any kind of intelligence job-too easy to be co-opted by the other country. He is supposedly homosexual. That should also be a down-check due to the perceived 'shame' and 'dirt' another nation's intel assets could dig up on him or her. One could argue that a change of official policy regarding gays in the military would negate that, but that's a topic for another time.

I'm not sure if Spec. Manning got all of this material himself. I suspect a lot of people contributed (knowingly or unknowingly) little bits and pieces, which were assembled like a jigsaw puzzle to arrive at the complete document. I AM sure that I'm tired of the culture of leaks that seems to be the norm in this country.

I could argue that Specialist Manning committed espionage by divulging confidential documents to a foreign entity. You might say 'That's your opinion, YD.'

Read on. This is from the United States Code of Military Justice:

906a. ART. 106a. ESPIONAGE

(A) (1) Any person subject to this chapter who, with intent or reason to believe that it is to be used to the injury of the United States or to the advantage of a foreign nation, communicates, delivers, or transmits, or attempts to communicate, deliver, or transmit, to any entity described in paragraph (2), either directly or indirectly, any thing described in paragraph (3) shall be punished as a court-martial may direct, except that if the accused is found guilty of an offense that directly concerns (A) nuclear weaponry, military spacecraft or satellites, early warning systems, or other means of defense or retaliation against large scale attack, (B) war plans, (C) communications intelligence or cryptographic information, or (D) any other major weapons system or major element of defense strategy, the accused shall be punished by death or such other punishment as a court- martial may direct.

(2) An entity referred to in paragraph (1) is--

(A) a foreign government;

(B) a faction or party or military force within a foreign country, whether recognized or unrecognized by the United States

(C) a representative, officer, agent, employee, subject, or citizen of such government, faction, party, or force.

(3) A thing referred to in paragraph (1) is a document, writing, code book, signal book, sketch, photograph, photographic negative, blueprint, plan, map, model, note, instrument, appliance or information relating to the national defense.

Hmm. The UCMJ seems to be fairly comprehensive on this.

And what is the punishment for espionage under the UCMJ?

(b) (1) No person may be sentenced by court-martial to suffer death for an offense under this section (article) unless--

(A) the members of the court-martial unanimously find at least one of the aggravating factors set out in subsection (c); and

(B) the members unanimously determine that any extenuating or mitigating circumstances are substantially outweighed by any aggravating circumstances, including the aggravating factors set out under subsection (c).

(2) Findings under this subsection may be based on--

(A) evidence introduced on the issue of guilt or innocence;

(B) evidence introduced during the sentencing proceeding; or

(C) all such evidence.

(3) The accused shall be given broad latitude to present matters in extenuation and mitigation.

So Spec. Manning will get a long stretch in Leavenworth making sand out of rocks. But if the court-martial board thinks the situation requires it:

(c) A sentence of death may be adjudged by a court-martial for an offense under this section (article) only if the members unanimously find, beyond a reasonable doubt, one or more of the following aggravating factors:

(1) The accused has been convicted of another offense involving espionage or treason for which either a sentence of death or imprisonment for life was authorized by statute.

(2) In the commission of the offense, the accused knowingly created a grave risk of substantial damage to the national security.

(3) In the commission of the offense, the accused knowingly created a grave risk of death to another person.

(4) Any other factor that may be prescribed by the President by regulations under section 836 of this title (Article 36).

The possibility does exist that Specialist Manning could swing from the end of a short rope. The conditions under which the capital punishment can be inflicted are a bit more arbitrary under the UCMJ.

'But what about his civil rights, YD? His right to free speech?'

My understanding is that when one signs the papers to join the service, one signs away some of the rights one enjoys as a civilian. Military law applies, and it's a bit more strict.

I remember reading about Oleg Penkovskiy. He was in the Soviet GRU (Foreign Counterintelligence Service) and passed along information about the USSR's nuclear arsenal and that the USSR was going to place missiles in Cuba. He may have provided President Kennedy enough information to stare down the bad-mannered hillbilly fucking Ukrainian in the Kremlin (sorry-learned about Soviet minorities from a fellow from Leningrad a few years back). He may have saved the world from destruction in those dark days of 1962. His motives were good. It didn't save him from a trial for treason and espionage, a probable round of beatings in Lubyanka, and a 7.62 x 39 headache/forced retirement (or cremation alive, if you believe certain accounts). Brutal. But it is a deterrent to those who think that spilling secrets is 'cute'.

Personally, I think it might be necessary for some of these leakers to suffer the ultimate price for shooting off their mouths indiscriminately. The country needs to learn the difference between what needs to be exposed for the national good and what needs to be left quiet for reasons of security or diplomatic confidentiality.

But I'm not the President. And you ought to be glad of it.

I dedicate this song to all the Julian Assanges and Bradley Mannings of the world. Enjoy.

yankeedog out.

28 November 2010

The assault of charity

Ah. Another Thanksgiving weekend done and time to get back into the swing of things. Everything went surprisingly well-kind of busy and kind of quiet. And the Bears held off the Eagles 31-26 this week in what I consider to be a test of how good the Orange and Blue are. The Bears actually managed to look like an NFL team this week and go to 8-3 on the season. OK. I'll bite. Bears to win the NFC North and (possibly) sneak a playoff win. You heard it here first.

With the onslaught of the Christmas season comes the onslaught of charities. We get it here in the States and I'd bet you overseas readers have the same thing. Every disease that has a fund sends mail or calls during supper or during the last two minutes of a close basketball game. You can't help but run into the Salvation Army kettles and bell ringers in front of every store (the Salvation Army is easy to ignore-the Salvation Marines, now, they're tough and don't take 'I have no cash' for an answer!). Disabled vets, stray animals, dysfunctional countries, churches-they all want a piece of your time and your paycheck. I think this may be part of why the holidays are depressing to some. If you think about it, there are a lot of worthy causes, but only so many spare dollars in pocket. Trying to fix everything is like trying to move Lake Michigan one eyedropperful at a time. It can't be done, and about the best you can do is pick a few causes your heart is close to (and have organizations that are accountable) and do what you can for them.

A dilemma I just can't seem to work out in my mind is giving to and for children-and not because YD hates kids. I've seen a lot of little boys and girls wandering around in the winter dirty, in ragged clothes and lightweight coats that aren't even close to being good enough to keep the Midwest chill away.

The part I have a problem with is that their older relatives-some would call them 'parents' but that certainly doesn't seem to be appropriate considering most of them couldn't train hamsters-always seem to have money for smokes, beer, and a fancier cell phone than mine, all the while collecting aid from the government.

Bloody sucks. We're all supposed to sacrifice a bit so you lazy bastards can game the system because you know no one wants to see children go without.

Don't get me wrong. There are people who are down on their luck. In this economy, we've got a lot of that going around. There are people who are making just enough on some job to keep their head above water with some assistance. Fair enough. Those aren't the ones I'm talking about. Those are the ones I'd prefer to help given a choice.

But that doesn't help the kids who can't help who their older relatives are, does it?

I'd be satisfied if someone would provide me a sock filled with sand. I'd give all those kids a decent meal, a good outfit or two, and a toy or two for Christmas. Then we should be able to whack the older relatives on the head with the sock full of sand and tell them to get with the program and try raising their kids instead of letting all of us do their job for them. I'd feel a lot better, and I'd bet most of you would too.

That's my holiday Catch-22 moment. I seem to be accumulating some topics for the week, and I reckon I'll get to them.

yankeedog out.

23 November 2010

Just half a week this week

Not much to say here of late-something of the calm before the Holiday storm.

Spent the weekend on a bit of R&R, culminating in going to the theater to see Monty Python's Spamalot. It's something of a musical takeoff on Monty Python and the Holy Grail, and it was an enjoyable enough show. The cast had studied a lot of the Pythons, I'd guess, because they nailed most of the accents and mannerisms of the troupe. Recommended seeing if you can!

Getting ready for Thanksgiving here. As usual, TBH and I will take her mom and her mom's fellow out for a buffet dinner. By 2:30 pm we'll be done and I can watch the NFL and digest. The rest of the weekend appears to be packed. I'm NOT, however, going out shopping on Friday. Screw that. We'll go see my clan that day.

Welp, reckon that's about it for now.

yankeedog out.

16 November 2010

You want HOW MUCH?!?

Interesting bit of off-season Cubs news. Seems new Cub owner Tom Ricketts wants to add improvements to Wrigley Field. I have an idea on how to improve the place, and it involves a B-52 and a stick of GPS-guided bombs. Clear out the debris afterward and build a decent ballpark with parking.

Seriously, though, the place was built in 1914 (I know this because the last hot dog I bought there may have dated from that very year) and desperately needs work to provide decent facilities for both the players and the fans. I've toured the park, including the player clubhouses, and I know they've shoehorned in about everything they can into the place.

The Ricketts family have a list of things they want and/or need to do, and the bill comes out to a cool $300 million dollars. They want the State of Illinois to float a bond issue to raise money to do this.

Say what?

Tom, have you not seen the state's budget? Did you not watch any of the election commercials? We're $15 billion in the hole! Where's the state going to come up with any dough?

Governor Quinn, on the strength of his 9,800 vote 'mandate of the people' (out of the million or so votes cast-that ain't a 'mandate' unless only 10,000 people vote) has already promised tax increases for all of us here, so I think the Rickettses picked precisely the wrong time to ask for a handout.

And why should everyone in Illinois pay for renovations to what is essentially private property, anyway?

Did the Ricketts family not walk through Wrigley Field before they bought the Cubs? Geez, anybody buying a house knows enough to do that. I could've told you all you needed to sink a boatload of money into the place to get it into the 1980s, let alone the 21st century! Maybe you should have negotiated a few hundred mill out of the Tribune when you bought the Cubs to help pay for the work.

And when did sports franchise owners take to going hat in hand to the state governments any time they want a new stadium or upgrade their old one? Well, I know the answer to that-why spend your own money when you can spend someone else's?-but, really, this is getting old. I'm not sure how many times an owner can say 'We'll leave town if you don't give us what we want.' If that team has been bad forever, I'd say 'Don't let the doorknob hit you in the ass on the way out.' The old-time owners spent their own money to build their parks.

I hate hearing the owner of any major sports franchise cry 'poor'. Way I see it, if you can't afford a team, get out of the game. And I'll say it here to the Ricketts clan: 'You guys bought a Major League Baseball team that generates a lot of money. Most of you went to college here in Chicago and spent time at Wrigley as students. Didn't you see the park was a dump? You had nearly a billion to invest in this team. If you can't afford the necessary reno's, then sell the team to someone who can.'

Maybe they could-and this might be a dumb idea-actually go to one of big banks in Chicago-there are several-and borrow the money to make the improvements! That's kind of the way all the rest of us have to pay for home improvements, after all. I bet a big bank might even give you a favorable interest rate if you offered them naming rights to the renovated stadium.

The state government, in a fit of sense rarely seen here, is somewhat lukewarm to spend money they don't have for something they won't get much return on. Finally.

One wonders if raising ticket prices isn't the way to go. That way, only the fans have to pay for the big fix, instead of everyone in Illinois. I personally would hate to see ticket prices go up $10 each, but it's my choice to go to the game.

We'll see how this plays out. I suspect not well for Cubs ownership.

yankeedog out.

13 November 2010

Interesting interests

I was walking through the bookstore the other day and came across the latest issue of Model Railroader. The cover caught my interest so I picked up the mag to read more about the featured layout. It's a pretty detailed layout, based on a large Eastern city in the immediate postwar era. I found a few pictures around the 'net, so I thought I'd post them here:

Good work, yeh? Very nearly like photos of, say, the 1948 version of New York or Chicago. Quite a lot of detail-and details set apart the good layouts from those of us who nail the store-bought train set tracks down to a 4'x8' sheet of plywood.

I removed the color from this railroad yard scene, and it looks just about like the real thing. It would be exactly like the real thing if there was coal smoke coming out from some of those steam engines.

Turns out this is the Three Rivers City Railroad, belonging to one Roderick D. Stewart.

Yeah, that Rod Stewart.

It seems that in addition to being a former glam-rocker turned crooner with a storied list of hot-and-cold running women, Mr. Stewart is an avid model railroader. I read the article, and he really does know his stuff about studying light patterns, architectural styles, and how they interact. He built a lot of the buildings in the layout himself, and I have to say he's really done a damn good job in portraying the late '40s setting.

Now, he does have some advantages given that he's sitting on a lot more money than most of the rest of us. He does have plenty of help with the construction, wiring, and rural scenery, and it appears he has an informal 'club' (most likely of fellow celebs with the same desire to run the trains), so it isn't a complete solo effort. But what he has done himself is impressive work.

I don't know why, because I don't really care all that much about celebrities, but I find that seeing a megastar that has the same dumb hobbies and interests that a lot of us great unwashed have is kind of refreshing. You always hear about the rockstar lifestyle, so I never really gave much thought to the idea that, yeah, down inside, some of the big stars aren't any different than the rest of us.

I'm not a huge fan of Rod Stewart's music (not the worst, just not quite my taste for the most part) and I'd probably not pay to see him if he came to the I-Wi for a concert.

It wouldn't matter, because I'd probably see him in the local hobby shop buying building kits for his railroad.

Some celebrities are as well known for their offscreen interests as their movie or TV work, of course. We all know about John Travolta's airplane collection and piloting skills. Most of us might at some time get a minute or so of stick time if we know someone that has a Cessna. Travolta has a four-engine Convair jet all done up in 1960s QANTAS markings (and QANTAS may need to lease his bird if they keep blowing gaskets on those A380s) and he's rated to fly multi-engine commercial. Same with Bruce Dickinson of Iron Maiden. Jay Leno has a car collection most auto museums would love to get their mitts on, and from everything I've read, he knows his way around most automotive systems.

Another example of a celebrity with an 'incongrous' hobby is actor Vin Diesel, action movie star. And as a teenager, a Dungeons and Dragons player. One pictures Diesel with a bunch of pudgy, pockmarked budding grognards: 'My Level 2 Deodorant Grenade negates your Spell of Stinkiness, Riddick!' It just doesn't quite seem right, but there it is.

Can't forget Alice Cooper. In the 1970's, the master of shock rock. Now, golf fanatic. And from all I've ever heard from interviews on the radio, he sounds like just 'one of the guys'-a rare commodity these days.

Former major league pitcher Curt Schilling is a World War II history buff and wargamer, with a fondness for the old paper wargame Squad Leader. Not as nice a guy as Alice Cooper, from what I've heard.

King Abdullah of Jordan. Star Trek fanatic. He was actually on an episode of Voyager in a non-speaking role.

Tom Hanks' hobby is collecting old typewriters. Ohhh-kay...

A lot of celebs go to sporting events in LA, Chicago, New York, and Miami, mostly, I'd guess, To Be Seen. Drew Carey still can be sighted watching his hometown teams back in Cleveland, Ohio. That's a real sports fan, kids, to sit through the Indians, Browns, and Cavaliers games!

So that's this week's issue of 'Celebrity Hobbies'. There are a bunch of others I haven't gotten into. Anyone famous that you know of with a hobby or collection or interest that you wouldn't picture them having? Sound off!

yankeedog out.

11 November 2010

11/11 thoughts and ponderings

First, as is the tradition here on Veteran's/Remembrance day, thanks to all the vets, past and present, American and allied, all who served in peace and war. Without your efforts the world is a much darker place.

Also as usual, the Armed Forces Medley. You can watch it or not as you wish.

And a piece from north of the border. A bit long, but I think it captures something of the feel of the day.

But as I look around the nation today, I wonder if we didn't sell our vets out. The place is a mess. $14 trillion in debt. A weak economy. Not a lot of decent jobs out there for people to make a living. Two political parties, one thinking we need to adopt the socialist system, the other thinking George Washington climbed Mount Katahdin and received the Constitution from God Himself. And for the most part, I wouldn't let most of our leadership run a hot dog stand. We have a surfeit of politicians, and an appalling lack of statesmen (on both sides).

The power and influence we used to have in the world seems to be a pale shadow of what it once was. Yes, we have enough firepower to remove a good portion of life on Earth, but we've become a nation that most nations generally ignore. We're the biggest foreign aid donor on the planet ($66 billion of direct government aid in 2007, I don't know, maybe $15 billion in private aid and who knows how much volunteer time), giving vast sums to people that by and large I think would rather see us gone.

It almost feels like we're drifting aimlessly as a nation. We have no goal-no frontiers to conquer, no race to the moon, no Axis to defeat. We have plenty of things we could do, and no political will to do them.

I miss my country, the place that once was or maybe never was. I miss the America where a man could get a decent job and provide for his family. I miss the America where people could worship how they wanted and let others worship in their own way. I miss the America where people valued hard work, self-reliance, and thrift, and hated to take charity. I miss the America that wasn't fueled by greed. I miss the America where a person could start his own business and not have it regulated to death by those who never had to make a deadline or meet a payroll. I miss the America where people could walk around at night, and criminals were punished instead of their victims. I miss the America that could dream, build, and create.

In many ways I feel like I'm part of the last generation of Americans. I have the sick feeling that I'm watching the beginning of the end of this nation. It might be that this is the Chinese Century after all. Perhaps they'll be kind enough to us to let us fade like the British empire did, and not repossess the country.

I don't know, really. I'm just a simpleton Midwest river rat who in all probability has a very small and parochial worldview. Quite possibly in addition to thanking our veterans, we should apologize to them for screwing up the land that they fought for. I wonder if there were any Romans that scribbled something on parchment a couple of millenia ago that might have been similar to this?

yankeedog out.

07 November 2010

Got a spare locomotive lying around?

A few weeks back, I posted pictures of a tricked-out, civilian version of the Soviet BRDM light armored car.

I think it's been topped by a project that any of us could do. All you need is a few dollars, a little ingenuity, some duct tape...and a surplus locomotive.

The above is the Izaak Walton Inn, near Essex, Montana. The inn was built in the late 1930s by the Great Northern Railroad as a stop and destination hotel to Glacier National Park in northern Montana. It's still a full service resort, and a stop for Amtrak's Chicago-Seattle Empire Builder-the track, after all, is only a few hundred feet from the front door. A beautiful locale in winter and summer, it would appear. I've never been there. I must remedy that sometime.

The big blue and white engine started life as an F45 on the Santa Fe railroad, 'round about 1970. The F45s served on freight service, and its sister FP45s were used on the last of the pre-Amtrak passenger trains. The '45s were mostly out of service by the end of the decade on the big roads. Cowlbody units are a maintenance nightmare, with no room in the engine compartment to do any heavy work, and not good ergonomics for the locomotive crews. My dad was a machinist on the Milwaukee Road, and he used to cuss every time an F or FP came into the roundhouse. Try removing a broken crankshaft-as those engines were prone to do-with limited access. It can be done-anyone who ever served as a machinist's mate or chief engineer on a diesel-powered submarine has done some heavy work in a small space-but it isn't much fun.

Seems one of these were found on a short line railway in Utah serving out its last days. So what does one do with a well-used, fuel-guzzling, third-generation, diesel locomotive?

Simple, really. Make a cabin out of it.

I read the story of GN 441 in the latest issue of Trains magazine, and that article went into a lot greater detail of how the engine started out life in the Southwest on the ATSF, and ended up in a luxury resort in Montana. If you want to read more, look it up.

The locomotive was stripped out and repainted in the snazzy black, white, and Big Sky Blue of the Great Northern before the 1970 merger that created the Burlington Northern. I remember seeing some of these go through town, pulling the old Empire Builder up the Burlington along the Mississippi. It was an eye-catching scheme, quite classy.

So the big, troublesome 16-cylinder diesel was removed, the interior stripped to the structure and cowl panels, and a new interior was designed:

And what does it look like inside, you ask?

Not too shabby, I think. I could spend a weekend here easily enough. And at $230/night and a two night minimum, it should be top-flight.

The control cab was cleaned up and left in, along with the old electrical panel. I'd bet the kids have a great time playing with the throttle and pushing all the buttons and switches. A nice touch-

-though I've never, ever, seen a locomotive cab that clean! Everything on a railroad has a quarter-inch of grease on it and smells of diesel fuel.

Finally, a view out the picture window where the old engine access doors were:

Cool, eh? And for a half-mill or so, you could do the very same thing! I have to say that I've seen cabooses (that's 'guard vans' for you Oz folks) turned into homes and cabins, and a school bus can be converted into a portable tailgate party bus or rolling hunting/fishing camp,  but this is a first-a locomotive into a luxury cabin!

The pictures are courtesy of Railpictures.net and the Izaak Walton Inn website.

I now know where I'm going to spend a few days-once I win the lottery, that is.

Speaking of railroads-got a question for the Australians/NZers that visit here.

On a two-track line there, do the trains run in the same direction as your highway traffic, as shown below?

Just curious. Here the rail traffic flows like our highway traffic (the arrows would be flipped), except for the part of the Union Pacific that used to be the Chicago and North Western RR, where the trains run like the picture shows. I've heard this is because British interests helped fund the CNW in the 1800s, but that could be a load of crap. Though I did read it on the 'Net, so it must be true.

yankeedog out.

04 November 2010

Yarrr! Here be pirates...

Our temp designer's little boy likes the old 1966 Batman TV series (and really, who doesn't. Great camp series.), so our guy's been trying to find the series on DVD. After a look around online, he found a store that did indeed have it. Ordered it up and waited for UPS to send some classic comic book superhero TV.

And waited. A check of status indicated that his order shipped from Beijing, China.

Uh oh. That hint of scarlet is the first red flag being run up the flagpole.

He got his Batman boxed set. 16 discs-in what appears to be a videocassette box. The box cover looks like it was done by a five-year-old and run off on a mimeograph. The DVDs have cheap decals glued on them, and someone actually wrote the disc number on with a ballpoint pen! The store does say that the DVD sets are 'custom crafted'.

They also say that the DVD's will work equally well in all regions. This is true. They don't work on ANY DVD player. He got one to run from his DVD burner and he snapped a picture of the title screen for us to see. The screen has a picture that honest to God looks like someone ripped out of a Batman comic. Special features? Noooo. Just a 'Play All' button.


I got a good laugh out of this, but not at our guy for getting taken. Rather, it was the just horrible quality of this particular bunch. Good God on a bicycle. You pirates, take a little pride in your work! Turn out a product that has a little bit of production value. At least make the DVD case look good. Even a crap computer would help you do better than what I saw.

I'd love to see these people try to do counterfeit money. They'd probably run off an enlarged copy of a Monopoly dollar, stick a picture of Bill Clinton on it, handwrite 'THE UNTIED STATES OF AMERICA' (that was the spelling I meant) on the top, and call it good.

I hope he can get his money back (if he did the transaction with Paypal, he might. Fat chance from the store). Hell, I hope this bunch don't steal his credit/debit card number to clean him out. Of course, the website has no physical address, just a page to request an email response.

Amazing places countries like India and China must be. High-tech factories making electronic stuff that we buy, right alongside several hundred million people turning out complete and utter and in many cases illegal crap in their hutung factories. One hopes their military equipment is built by the latter and not the former.

I don't know it I should use my blog to be a consumer advocate. It probably isn't my place to say anything good or bad about someone's particular enterprise. So I won't strongly advise you to steer clear of Epic DVD Store if you should run across it in your travels and shopping in cyberspace. And I don't know any of the parties involved with the company, so I can't really in good conscience call them a bunch of minor-league copyright pirates. Did I say pirates? I meant parties. Damn dyslexia... And I don't speak Latin, so I'm not quite sure I know the meaning of caveat emptor.

Just another reason to be doubly careful when doing online shopping, especially with the holidays coming up.

yankeedog out.

31 October 2010

The night of sca-a-a-a-ry monsters...

Halloween here tonight. The day falling on Sunday I think puts a damper on the festivities, since tomorrow is a school and work day, football is on, and the World Series is going full swing.

We helped TBH's mom with handing out sugary goodness. 73 kids came to the door, so it was a bit below average. At least here, most cities and towns have prescribed trick or treat hours (usually on the order of 5pm-7 or 8pm) and the little urchins tricksters are only supposed to go to houses where the porch light is on. Usually the kids come in wolfpacks to the door, their parents watching from the sidewalk. That's a far cry from when we were young, when we went out by ourselves, without parents, banged at everyone's door, and went out-get this, everyone-after dark! No, really.

I saw a lot of adults out in their driveways, fire going in a burning barrel, and a big tub of treats alongside the lawn chairs. We should've done that-got a little fire going and roasted some hot dogs. It was a beautiful night out, for the end of October.

I have to say that whatever Halloween lost as a day where a youngster could go out by him-or-herself, it's gained in quality of costumes. Kids these days have a lot of great homemade costumes. We saw enough mini-zombies this year to give Barnesy the jitters! One girl had a football outfit with a Bears Jay Cutler jersey. I think the trick for her would have been to throw the football to someone in the same color jersey she was wearing. Even Cutler has trouble doing that...but I digress.

When I was really little, we had the cheap crappy nylon suits with the vacformed plastic masks. What a waste of money those were! When I got older, we could all go to the Army surplus store or sporting goods store and pick up some old ODs or camo clothes. Then we'd go out looking like a raggedy-ass bunch of militia-or child solidiers. Little, pudgy, candy-craving child soldiers. After that we discovered eggs, toilet paper, underage drinking, and the fundamentals of stealth, cover, and concealment. Now we pass the traditions along to the younger generation. Some of the traditions, anyway. As for the others...well, some things you just have to learn from your friends and peers.

So in honor of the day just passed, the anthem of Halloween, courtesy of Somerville, Massachusetts' very own...Bobby 'Boris' Pickett. You know the tune. Sing it loud.


I've had a severe earworm this weekend, courtesy of my coworker Brad, the game Fallout: New Vegas, and Kay Kyser and his Orchestra. The only thing I can do is pass it along to the rest of you.

Never played any of the Fallout series, but I have to think it'd be great fun to break people and things in a postapocalyptic retrofuturistic Las Vegas, 1952-era soundtrack going in the background! Might have to think hard about getting this one.

yankeedog out.

26 October 2010

YD for (insert office here)

Oy. Only a week until the midterm elections. Good news. We're going to get bombarded with political ads and commercials for the next week. Bad news.

In all the ads, I've yet to hear anyone come up with any ideas on how to fix anything in this, my beloved country and state. I HAVE heard a lot of mudslinging. And what a crop of candidates here. I wouldn't let any of them run the deep fryer at McDonald's because I think they'd turn the french fries into carburized stumps, let alone give them the keys to the country.

Seems to me our first priorities are to a) get some jobs here, and b) get the debt paid down before the Chinese decide to repossess us. I'm for tax breaks for companies that keep jobs here and for tariffs on imported products equal to the average cost of the same item built domestically. Compete on a level field. We've had plenty of free trade. We need fair trade. On the other side, unions have to realize that their members can't make $60,000/year to put lug nuts on wheels. Maybe some give-and-take here. The way I see it, more workers=bigger tax base=less burden on both corporations and individuals. Could be wrong, because God knows, what I know about most things you could stick in your eye and not cause too much irritation.

As for getting the national debt paid down, there's more fat in government spending than in a whole season of The Biggest Loser. My brother worked in government. I've seen it. Things like buying 1000 wire nuts where 10 are needed. Small stuff-but all that 'small stuff' would add up pretty quickly-and the government would run just as good. Likely a whole lot better.

And maybe, just maybe, we don't need to be the world's policeman. Some places, they've been fighting since the Bible was three books long, and they'll be fighting long after we've left the scene. Actually, if the Defense Department spent like the average household does (that is, with a modicum of sense), we wouldn't lose a whole lot of capability to defend ourselves.

If I were running for office, I might be inclined to put a five-year moratorium on all foreign aid and slap that money on the national debt. If there's a disaster, someone else can help, or our private sector agencies can be first responders. They'd probably do a good job. Besides, why give money and food to nations that likely as not would try to shaft us the first chance they got. We don't HAVE an obligation to help everyone else in the world. Someone else can step up and spend the cash and take the abuse for being 'meddling'.

Ahh, who'm I kidding? None of that's going to happen.

Dreamer...Yankee is a dreamer...

I feel very fortunate that our local PBS is showing Yes, Minister and Yes, Prime Minister. Not only are they entertaining (old, but still funny), they provide an invaluable translation guide when our political wannabes and alreadytheres speechify and run commercials.

But instead of ideas from our politicians, no matter how stupid or outlandish, we get stuff like this:


'Harlan Veeblefetzer says he has a plan to bring jobs to the 71st District. But did you know that Harlan Veeblefetzer believes in cutting pizza in squares?

I have a plan to introduce legislation that would require pizza to be cut in wedges-the way God ordained that pizza be cut-not the 'liberal' square.

Harlan Veeblefetzer claims to be a veteran. But in reality, his 'service' consisted of watching every episode of M*A*S*H. He even said he liked the preachy episodes filmed after Alan Alda took creative control of the show.

Harlan Veeblefetzer says he's in favor of family values. But did you know he once drove a car with underinflated tires?

Do we need two more years of Harlan Veeblefetzer?

I'm here to offer you an alternative to the current regime.

If I'm elected, I'll fight for the 71st District. I'll vote 'yes' on the Netherlands Rock Band Quota Act. Dutch rockers shouldn't be cluttering up American classic rock airwaves.

I'll vote for the Cryptozoologic Fair Trade Agreement. Our jackalopes and hodags will be able to better compete with imported drop bears and chupacabras.

If you believe that America needs more drop bears listening to Hocus Pocus, then vote for my opponent, even though he fancies conjugal relations with farm animals, and doesn't gargle.

If you want real change in Washington-change based on my interpretation of the Constitution-change you can believe in-then vote for me on November 2nd.'


I'm Yankeedog, and I approved this message.

yankeedog out.

24 October 2010

This post needs a title

I should've gone to work, but it's Sunday. Screw it. The work will still be there tomorrow. I'm getting an infusion of NFL. Unfortunately the Bears wasted 3 hours of my life in a piss-poor effort v. a very average Washington Redskins squad. This Bears team may quite possibly be the stupidest team that ever put on the Orange and Blue. No football sense whatsoever from the front office on down to the players. They are who I thought they were. That's a shame.

Congrats to the Texas Rangers and the San Francisco Giants, who'll be playing in the World Series. The Rangers have never gone in their history, which goes back to 1961 and the Washington Senators Version 2. The Giants have been to the series but haven't won since I think 1954. It's good to see someone other than the Yankees in the Championship. I think ESPN SportsCenter will lead with 'Yankees finish Second to some team we've never heard of...in a place called Tex-as, out near the edge of the world.'

As for the National League representative, all I can say is:

The Giants Win The Pennant! The Giants Win The Pennant! The Giants Win The Pennant! The Giants Win The Pennant!

This morning, The Better Half and I participated in the Pumpkin Dash, which is a 4K/8K run/walk around the perimeter of Credit Island Park in Davenport. Usually it's kind of frosty this time of year-perfect for a little morning exercise. Today felt more like early September-about 60 F and that cool, clammy humid. That's infinitely preferable to summertime oppressive muggy. TBH did the 4K run (once around the island). I, not being in a hurry and terribly out of shape, opted for the 4K walk. Now, I don't flap my arms and walk like I have a hot poker in my kiester, but I do try to get into a march-type rhythm that will eat up yards.

At the end of the day, TBH got 7th overall in the 4K and yours truly snagged the 5th of 5 male walk awards. We both got-and this makes it all worthwhile-an aluminum sports bottle! Yay. These are becoming popular for race awards. I'm not sure we need more than a couple of them floating around here, though. The big prizes go to the 8K runners-trophies and cash awards for the overall winners. Again, the post-race refreshments were good-fruit, coffee/cider/hot chocolate, cookies, water, and beer-the perfect Sunday morning drink. Any race that has beer afterwards is good in my world. Nothing like burning up a couple hundred calories in exercise and putting back 300 cals at the post-race.

At any rate. a hearty well done to TBH for her finish. Also a belated hurrah to our Nautilis/Bignaut for his finsh in the recent Melbourne Marathon. Anyone who even finishes 26 miles 385 yards is a better person than I am (at least in the running department). I believe the US Marine Corps Marathon in Washington, DC, is coming up here in a week or so. What say we raise a 26-person relay team? A mile (1.5ishK) should be doable for everyone.

For the runners I know and love so well...you know what music is coming up.

I'll be right behind you all-far behind-in march time. Singing the quick march of 5th/RAR:

Really? Dominique? Belgian nuns march to that one. Oh well...

Dominique, inique, inique

S'en allait tout simplement,
Routier pauvre et chantant
En tous chemins, en tous lieux
Il ne parle que du bon Dieu.
Il ne parle que du bon Dieu.

A l'époque où Jean Sans Terre
D'Angleterre était roi,
Dominique, notre Père,
Combattit les Albigeois.

And The Saints Go Marching In? I'd guess the lyric was changed to 'When The 5th/Goes Marching In...'.
The RAR band does a good rendition. I'll bet the RAR doesn't have the likes of ol' Satchmo The Great to sing and play the trumpet, though.

And that, kids, is how you start with work and end up with Dixieland jazz.

yankeedog out.

21 October 2010

Aw, bitch, bitch, bitch...

I drink a lot less water than I should. This may be a good thing, since it seems like someone put stupid chemical in it-and not just here. It's all over the country.

Fer example:

We have 5 bridges over the Mississippi River here in the area, and it seems like two of them are being repaired at any one time. One of the other three has a breakdown sitting on it on the afternoon rush. Usually it's a 1980's vintage minivan with a tie rod that snapped and a large woman calling for help on a cell phone. It isn't the same vehicle, of course, but the preceding description always seems to fit. Add to that several road blockages with bits of pavement in various stages of completion.

Maybe, and I know this is a radical idea-start a project and FINISH it, then move on to the next one! Don't tear up a piece of road and leave it for a month. Same with the bridges. And maybe do some of the work at night when you're not backing up traffic for a mile or more.

Some of the drivers here having been drinking the eau de stupid as well. There's a right lane closure coming up. Everyone is trying to merge, except for one nimrod in a pickup two cars in front of me who's driving down the middle, clogging both lanes. Oh, for a roof-mounted 40mm grenade launcher...

The genius who designed the approaches to the I-74 bridge put two on-ramps within 200 feet of each other right before gettinng onto the bridge. This set-up is the same on both the Illinois and Iowa side of the river. About 3:30, the traffic clogs up with all of the after-work people trying to merge. It slows to a crawl for an hour or so until things clear up. Things go good if the merging traffic alternates with the traffic on the interstate.  Unfortunately, there are very few people who seem to have mastered this. One guy merges and two others try to sneak in. Somebody's going to get into a sideswipe sometime. And they'll both probably hit the minivan stuck on the bridge anyway.

Finally, my last driving hint. You don't HAVE to come to a complete stop to make a right turn onto a side street or driveway, just slow down enough to do the turn safely. It's not steering an aircraft carrier through the locks of the Panama Canal. You're holding up the traffic. Let's go-while we're young!

We also have the midterm elections coming up-all of the House and 1/3 of the Senate. There's been a barrage of commercials for the various candidates, all saying the other guy's going to raise taxes, he buggers horses, and voting for him will cause the demise of the Republic. All they're proving is if you're an absolute failure at doing anything out here in the world, you maybe should consider running for an elected office. Shrill bunch on both sides. Somebody humor me and tell me it's the same where you're at. One of the things on the ballot this year that will get my vote is the proposed amendment to the Illinois Constitution that would allow the people to recall a governor should it become necessary. Not yes but hell yes on that. Our governors on both sides have been caught with their hands in the cookie jar. I'd be in favor of recalling ANY elected official that isn't doing his or her job.

Oh, yes, almost forgot. A while back I wrote about the prospect for Amtrak passenger rail service coming through here. Today we got $10 million to go ahead and build a depot. The pollies are all gaga because that'll provide 750 jobs building the station.

Problem is, I haven't seen where anything has come through to actually FUND the line. Why do I have a vision of a shiny new Amtrak station alongside the Iowa Interstate Railroad, waiting for a train that wasn't funded? What is it that I smell?  Oh, yes...the smell of pork. This has all the characteristics of a classic Boondoggle (Boondoggilus politicus maximus).

Oh, piss on it. Reckon I've bitched enough for one night.

We're going to play YD's Wheel of Fortune now. The theme is "Australian Musicians Named 'Young'".

Who will come up on the Big Wheel? Will it be George Young? Angus? Malcolm? Someone step up and give it a spin!


Awww! You hit the one spot with the Disco Young...John Paul!

No, you don't get to spin again. Nothing to be done for it except dust off the platform shoes and practice your basic hustle, samba, or merengue.

Better luck next time!

yankeedog out.

17 October 2010

Communications restored

Last Tuesday, I went to fire up the old laptop and got a black screen and nothing else.

Uh oh. Fortunately I don't keep of lot of anything valuable on the machine. I'm old and don't believe in just having all of my records on computer, and I pay bills the old-fashioned way-barter. Trading chickens for access to electric power and all that.

I'm typing this on a brand new Dell Inspiron with Windows 7 and 4 glorious gigabytes on the hard drive. I'll bet these words even smell new! Might have to get my coworkers' version of World In Conflict, where the Soviets invade the US. Should run on this beast right nicely.

In the interim, I read a copy of Judith Heimann's The Airmen and the Headhunters, a nonfiction work about a B-24 crew shot down in late 1944 over Dutch Borneo and crash landing in the heart of what was at that time a largely unexplored island. They managed to survive for several months with the help of a sympathetic District Officer and several groups of the native people, the Lun Dayeh, who hid and fed them and taught the airmen the ways of their own people. Eventually the American flyers were rescued by a group of Australian special forces who were paving the way for their army's landings on Borneo in mid 1945.

Somewhat reminiscent of Peter Ryan's Fear Drive My Feet, I thought it was an interesting read. Worth a look if you find it in a bargain bin or at the local library.

Time to get some of my programs and Twitter back online. Later.

yankeedog out.

12 October 2010

The Personals Translation Guide

...courtesy of Uncle John's Bathroom Reader.

We've all read personal ads or at least seen a dating website. Personally, I'd rather be by myself than get into the blind meat market. Your mileage may vary. Maybe you had a good experience on a dating site! At any rate, the staff at UJBR put together this handy guide for translating those personal ads. I'm posting it here as a Public Service.


When they say-What they mean is

Exotic Beauty-Will frighten your dog
Free Spirit-Substance abuser
Loves animals-Cat lady
New Age-Loaded with body hair
Spiritual-Involved in a cult
Seeking A Soul Mate-Stalker

Don't yuk it up too much, gentlemen. We have our own codewords. Read on:


When they say-What they mean is

Athletic-Sits on the couch and watches ESPN
Average-looking-Over-average hair growth on ears and back
Educated-Will treat you like an idiot
Employed-On management track at Radio Shack
Free spirit-Will sleep with your sister
Huggable-Overweight and hairy (Oops!)
Professional-Owns a white button-down shirt
Stable-Stalker, but never convicted
Thoughtful-Says 'please' when demanding a beer

Upon reviewing these last ten, I guess I have to say....

....Yeah. They're probably right.

yankeedog out.

11 October 2010

Wild birthday celebration

This weekend saw The Better Half's mom's 92nd birthday. The big present was that she passed her driver's test (after 87, Illinois drivers have to take the actual driving exam with an instructor. Makes good sense to me.). She doesn't have the best eyesight, but she only drives to church and a couple of other civic functions that she knows how to get to. We drive her for shopping and any big trips out of town.

The 'wild celebration' consisted of dinner out at a local family-style place with just me, TBH, her mom, and her mom's boyfriend/companion, Bob. He's a relative youngster at 88 (bloody cougars!) and in many ways he's a bit more frail than she is. They still go to senior citizens' dances and functions. Bob got off the music train about 1946 and is not a big fan of recorded music and music with them noisy, newfangled guitars, so it's getting harder for them to find functions to go to. The people in their 60's these days cut their teeth on the first acts of rock n' roll on 45rpm platters, so the music and atmosphere at a lot of the places they go to are changing.

See what we all have to look forward to?

Bob is one of those types who pretty much tells the same stories every time we see him. Most of you know the type because most of you probably know someone like that or, even better, have somebody like that in the family. He's done an arseload of interesting stuff and been a lot of places in this world. The problem is that I've heard all of these stories at least half a dozen times, so it doesn't really catch my interest any more. TBH is really good at acting like it's the first time she's heard a particular story.

But what to do with someone like that? Really, the only thing you can do is let them go on. Again, we're all going where they're at, and we'll want the respect from our youngers.

He does delight in telling us that he's never applied for a job. He grew up in a time when a person could get a good job right out of high school, and he managed to become the youngest apprentice machinist at Rock Island Arsenal when the Arsenal was gearing up for WWII. He got drafted into the Navy, showed better aptitude at math and basic electronics than his instructor, and when most of his class headed off to the Fleet, he and a cadre were sent to Texas A&M University for advanced training, then he made the big time.

Massachusetts Institute of Technology-Radiation Laboratory, the birthplace of American radar, where projects like radar-controlled guns and proximity fuses were being developed. Big stuff. When in Boston, his group was shunted away to a nondescript downtown location. Real spy-type stuff, with secret entrances, a guard, and a warning to Keep His Mouth Shut-in the days when talking too much could earn a person a comabt assignment of the court-martial board was feeling generous, or a stretch at Leavenworth or Yerba Buena if they weren't. When there, these guys developed, built, and did manuals for the first Airborne Early Warning aircraft-Project Cadillac and Cadillac II. These were Avengers and B-17 Flying Fortresses with big, tempermental, cumbersome long-range radar sets, used to detect large kamikaze formations heading for our and our allies' ships. Those first planes were the ancestors of today's E-3 and Hawkeye AWACS craft used by our armed forces and those of our allies today.

Pretty cool, huh? Actually, it's a fascinating tale and should be put in a book. That bunch contributed in no small way to our winning WWII and are responsible for an important, no, vital, part of our air defenses today.

After the seventh or eighth time hearing this, though....well, not so interesting to me. And if I were you, gentle reader, I wouldn't laugh-for I might trundle this post out as a repeat a few dozen times. I have to hear the story, so do you! But I suspect many of you could relate a story you've heard from some older friend or relative, and relate it by heart because you've heard at every holiday or get-together. It's one of those things-you get tired of hearing those same tales, then the person dies and you say 'Remember when Uncle Dave (Aunt Sue, Grandpa Tom, whoever) used to talk about...'. I suppose out of such things mythologies are created.

And that, kids, was my weekend. Got a story you hear at every family event? Bring it on!

yankeedog out.