30 May 2011

Three-day weekend post mortem

Here 'tis-Monday night, and another Memorial Day Weekend in the books.

Generally the weekend went well. TBH and I carted ourselves off to the Amana Colonies (about which you can review) on Saturday. There was a Renaissance Festival going on in Middle Amana Park, which, to be honest, had a lot of minor league talent. We made a circuit of the grounds and left. A visual arts school had a pretty cool glassmaking demonstration-molten glass has some amazing properties and workability. Other than that, meh. We walked through some of the shops, loaded up on various and sundry culinary items, and picked up a couple of bottles of the Colonies' renowned wine. They make wine out of about anything there. The Mark I Model 0 Grape is good, at least in my estimation. I tried the rhubarb wine, which wasn't bad. The dandelion wine (yes, that common nuisance in your lawn ferments up nicely. My great-aunt used to make some of the best dandelion wine around.) was a little TOO sweet for my liking.

Supposedly the microbrewery in the Amanas puts out an award winning beer. I'd like to have bought a sixer for the summer, but the place didn't offer samples. Sorry-but I've had some excellent microbrews, and some that needed to be put back in the horse. I'd like to try before buying, thank you. Ah well. All in all, a good day out.

Sunday, we got Mom's sit-down tub connected up. My brother got the tub plumbing dead on-not a leak or drip anywhere. When we did a test run, Mom was delighted and showed it by saying 'Don't waste all my water.'

You're welcome.

Evidently 'please' and 'thank you' aren't in her vocabulary-perhaps dead in a murder/suicide thing. My brother and Mom were estranged for several years. He says he's done with her after he gets this all completed. Can't blame him in a way. It wouldn't have killed her to put in a kind word for the effort. Me? Fairness and $1.50 will buy you a cup of coffee. I don't expect a lot from most people. What is it they say? You can pick your friends. Family you're stuck with. Something like that.


Monday we trekked on up to Clinton to see the LumberKings play Beloit. We got a bonus game-since Saturday's game was rained out, we got a doubleheader. Two games for the price of one! Such a deal!

Davenport and the River Bandits are the closest Midwest League team to me, but when I grew up, it was summer nights watching the old Clinton Giants play down at Riverview Park. Even now, the stadium in Clinton is more comfortable, smaller,and a little more 'old school' baseball, than our Modern Woodmen Park is.

The LumberKings are currently residing in the cellar of the Midwest League West with a less-than-stellar 14-38 record so far this year. True to form, they lost the first game 7-1 and the second 2-1 in extra innings. I can see why. The team couldn't catch a cold, their errors cost them games, and they can't capitalize on the other team's mistakes. I didn't see anyone on the roster that really struck me as future major-league material. Looks like a few more lean years for the parent Seattle Mariners. Beloit isn't light-years better, but there a couple of position players which I wouldn't be surprised if they showed up at Target Field in Minneapolis in Twins uniforms in a couple of years. One Beloit player I will have to follow is Wang-Wei Lin. You know everyone calls him 'Wrong-Way' and he'll be stuck with that moniker for the duration of his American baseball career.

The 'Kings got swept, but it was still a great time. How better to spend Memorial Day than watching a ball game or two? And, to top it, the 'Kings did score a run in the 3rd inning of the second game. That was the Arby's Winning Inning-good for a coupon for a couple of roast beefs sometime. Also, we scored a coupon from the Candlelight Inn (a local restaurant known for its Chicken George) due to a young lady catching (in a big bucket) two of three rubber chickens slingshotted into the air in a between-innings contest. Got a big discount on a carry-out order of same Chicken George. Supper's done tomorrow! I rarely leave a LumberKings game without a coupon for something or another. Nice way to take care of the fans!

So mostly a good weekend, with a hint of sour. Reckon I can live with that.

yankeedog out.

26 May 2011

Sometimes the universe rolls your way...

I took Wednesday off to do some work on the bathroom renovation. We're just a few connections from Mom having a working sit-down bathtub. Should happen this weekend, God willing and the creek don't rise.

Unfortunately, I missed the dustup at work. Seems our boy Rimmer finally got told 'no'. And well overdue it is.

Rimmer came up with this idea for a rotator device to pick up a casting. The designer had his doubts but drew the lifter up anyway. The guys in the shop built the lifter, and during the test lift....voila! It doesn't rotate the part and doesn't actually want to pick up the part safely.

Anyone who knows anything about an unmachined casting knows that dimensions of features can vary significantly-that's why faces and features get machined to precise dimensions. In addition, most surfaces have a draft, or slope, to them to allow the part to come out of the mold. These variances and features make large castings a bit of a challenge to handle and manipulate.

So Rimmer was out in the shop trying to come up with little additions and gadgets to add to the lifter. Our new Chief Design Poobah told him that his basic concept was wrong. Evidently that didn't sit well with Rimmer, since he launched into his 'I've had 14 years of experience' spiel. Then he said that this would be a decision for the general manager. The Big Guy heard them both out and said 'I have to go with the Chief Design Poobah. We hired him for his engineering experience.'


I was informed that Rimmer was pouty for the rest of the day. I for one couldn't be happier! He wasn't in the office today. Rather a shame.

My thought would have been 'You've been doing this for 14 years, and your concept sucks, like a good portion of your concepts do, since we rework a good portion of them.'

I've also been designing lifting equipment for 14 years. I've got big-boy lifting equipment in factories and mills from Ontario to Australia and places between. And one thing I've learned is that I don't know every-fucking-thing, and I can listen to other people's ideas. Actually, the amount of stuff I find I don't know is truly astounding at times. I reckon Bangar probably learns something new about the electrical trade most days. Birmo and Flinthart and Murph would probably say that they don't know everything about authoring. Rhino probably learns something new every day in his quest to be a supergenius. Same goes for the rest of you in your respective occupations. Rimmer, for being a salesman, has an inflated sense of his design knowledge and can't be told anything. That is a bad combination. My advice to him from afar would be to stick to selling stuff and stay away from where the adults are trying to work. He's been allowed for far too long to have his nose in every detail of design and fabrication there. All he needs to do is give us a rough concept for a lifter, then go away and sell something else to other customers.

Don't get me wrong-I screw up more than my share of stuff. But I'm not in the shop trying to manage work flow or telling the other designers how they should do their drawings.

Rimmer is a perfect walking, talking, real-life personification of the line 'A man's got to know his limitations.'

Wish I could have seen the whole exchange, though. The really interesting stuff always happens when I'm not there!


Memorial Day weekend is coming up fast.

First, of course, to all the veterans, American and Allied, thanks for your service, and well done! A popular and fitting verse for the day, is In Flanders Fields, written in the terrible aftermath of the Battle of Ypres in WW I.

In Flanders Fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

Well said, Lt. Col. Dr. McCrae.


On a lighter note, Memorial Day weekend is the unofficial beginning of summer here, and there'll be a lot of people enjoying a bit of downtime.

 TBH and I have a day trip to the Amana Colonies planned for Saturday and if we get back early enough, there's a fastpitch softball tournament in a nearby town this weekend. Might take in a game or two during the evening. Sunday will be working at construction, and Monday if it's decent out might see a trip up to Clinton for the LumberKings/Beloit Snappers baseball game.

I intend to have a good weekend. Your assignment, should you choose to accept it, is to do the same!

yankeedog out.

22 May 2011

Singing kids at the ball park

For the past few weeks, TBH has been planning an outing for youth and families at our church-a trip to the River Bandits v. Cedar Rapids Kernels baseball game.

We've been sweating the weather. It was supposed to rain a bitch today, with high winds and hail. Indeed, as I write this, Joplin, Missouri, looks a bit like someone popped a nuke on it-tornadoes hit them hard a few hours ago. Minneapolis got hit as well. Seems as I watch the incoming footage that the rest of this entry might be a bit incongruous. Going to be a long next few weeks around the Midwest getting cleaned up and repaired.

Well. At any rate, at least the first wave of storms went north and south of us. We had a surprisingly nice afternoon, weatherwise. Clouds and sun and a hefty breeze blowing across the field.

The children were to sing the national anthem before the game:

TBH is the one in the red T-shirt running the kids through their singing paces.

And here they are on the infield belting out the Banner.

Our church doesn't have a formal children's choir. These are mostly the sons and daughters of the members, but the young ladies and gentlemen did a good job with the tune and tempo. The Star-Spangled Banner is a tough song to sing well (would that the anthem were America The Beautiful, or Columbia, The Gem of the Ocean-much easier to perform) and ideally a singer should only take 1 minute 5 seconds to 1 minute 20 seconds to sing it. Anything longer is being a camera hog.

The kids did well. Each family got tickets for their party and some Bandit Bucks (tickets good for food and merchandise at the park). After the singing, most of the children made for the play area with all the jumpys and inflatables and the parents scattered around the park. TBH obtained tickets for the Family Section of the seats (where no alcohol is allowed) but once the ticket is in hand, no one cares if people move out to general admission or the berm to have a beer. Fair enough. I got us tickets in box because I like being away from everybody else. I suppose everybody else doesn't like being around me. Also fair enough.

As I said, we ended up with some pretty decent weather today, judging from this shot out to the left field berm:

Someday I have to pack the blanket and catch a game from out there. Looks like a pretty decent place to watch the action and maybe snag a home run ball. Here the Bandits had the bases loaded but couldn't push a run across in this inning. A couple of guys appeared to be running on contact and got caught in a double play. Gotta make sure those line drives go past the infielder, because the double play ends innings quick!

The Bandits did score earlier in the game, though, and pulled off a nice 4-1 win over the Kernels. Looks like the Anaheim Angels may not have a lot of good pitching coming up anytime soon if today's pitchers for Cedar Rapids are any indication. Too much standing around on the mound and lack of control on pitches.

The three guys in front of me are most likely players or assistants for the Kernels. One has a radar gun to check the velocity of his comrade on the mound, and the fellow with the computer is likely charting tendencies of the Bandit hitters and where they're hitting the ball. Come July, the section I was sitting in will be full of scouts for the Major League teams, as they try to pick out prospects to trade for, trade away, or possibly promote to the next level.

Some of our kids got to be in the between-inning games and those with birthdays got their name on the scoreboard screen.

I reckon in the end everyone that went had a good time. TBH spent a lot of time in organizing and planning the event, so it was great to have the weather cooperate here. Also, the River Bandits staff did their usual great job with making sure big groups are taken care of. It pains me to say anything good about any facet of the St. Louis Cardinals organization, but they do take care of their fans at all levels of the game. The Cards, much like the Cubs, know how to market their teams.

Again, it was an event paid for by our church, and I think promoting fellowship in a family atmosphere is a better use of resources compared to the bunch were going around gathering funds and prattling on about an end of the world that appears not to have happened on schedule. But that might just be me.

yankeedog out.

19 May 2011

I missed Top Gun Day!

I think it was last weekend sometime-the 25th anniversary of the movie 'Top Gun'.

To be honest, I've seen the movie maybe twice. It really wasn't my favorite film. There were some good flight scenes in it, as I recall. And one scene in it was true-the old F-14's, especially the early models, were prone to flat spin flameouts. The -C model had more powerful engines which drastically reduced the incidence of flat spin. The rest of the film? Meh. I wasn't impressed with the use of F-5 Tigers as the fictional 'MiG-28' (which in the NATO parlance would have made it an attack aircraft since 28 is an even number, but I'm probably one of the few who noticed). Also, I'm not a big Tom Cruise fan. And I guess I never noticed the alleged homoerotic undertones, possibly for the same reason that I knew that  MiG-28 wasn't a fighter designation. Naval fighter pilots are a generally cocky bunch (if I was catapulted off a pitching carrier deck, only to perform a controlled crash for a landing later, for a living I'd be full of myself as well) and there was of course a massive amount of Hollywood in the movie as well.

Top Gun, though, did become quite the cultural icon in the mid 1980's. I'd bet most people of age back then had a bomber style jacket with the all the patches, or the Ray-Ban aviator glasses, or could quote endless lines from the film. (Yes, I had a jacket with all the patches-but to a milgeek, it's really nothing special). The movie was made with the full support of the US Navy, and indeed the Air Force and Navy saw spikes in recruiting as Top Gun grew in popularity. I suspect all those prospective kids eager to hop in a Tomcat were disappointed to be chipping, painting, swabbing, and being appointed Captain of the Head. Such is the military life-some soar with the eagles, others clean up after them.

At work, we've given each of our salesmen a callsign name from the film. This came about because one of our salesman is actually named Tom Cruise (no kidding-he looks nothing like the actor but has met him). Naturally he's only been called 'Maverick' about fifty billion times since 1986. So we've got a 'Viper', 'Jester', 'Maverick', 'Cougar', and 'Hollywood'. Why we had to go with those I don't know-I'd've rather used the names from Full Metal Jacket. For that matter, there were five Stooges in the run of The Three Stooges. That would fit much better.

But here 'tis, 25 years later. A decade of conflict has taken a lot of the 'luster' out of the being in the military. People are a little bit more wise to what war is about-not high-tech, sterile air battles, but small ground units slogging around scrub looking not to get blowed up by a roadside bomb. Hard to make that palatable for the big screen. The great old F-14s are out of the service now (before their time, in my opinion), being turned into gate guards, museum exhibits, and scrap aluminum. The big bad Soviet Bear has been replaced with various bearded nutcases with 21st century weapons and 12th century attitudes.

As for the main actors, Anthony (Goose) Edwards got middle-aged and bald, Val (Iceman) Kilmer grew to the size of a Tomcat, and Kelly (Charlie) McGillis got a bit mannish. Fortunately Tom (Maverick) Cruise stayed the same level-headed guy he always was....

And at TOPGUN school, the Navy now teaches the fighter jocks to also (shudder) do s-s-str-str (say it)...strike missions! Moving mud for the grunts? Oh the horror... In addition, instead of being at NAS Miramar outside of beautiful San Diego, California, Fighter Weapons School's been moved...to NAS Fallon, smack in the middle of Nevada, with the rocks and sand and UFOs and the Air Force bastidges doing their Red Flag School nearby. The times, how they changed.

That's the whole Top Gun story as I recollect it. But for a great Naval Aviation movie, I'd rather see the classic The Bridges of Toko-Ri, with William Holden, Grace Kelly, and Mickey Rooney. It has some great shots of early jets and a much better story. Or give me The Final Countdown, where the USS Nimitz is thrown through a time warp to December 6, 1941. If only some author would write about a modern carrier task force getting tossed back in time, I bet he'd sell a lot of books. I'll even watch Hot Shots, featuring a pre-meltdown Charlie Sheen!

I think my favorite homage/spoof of Top Gun is the first appearance of Ace Rimmer in Red Dwarf. We're introduced to the intrepid Space Corps pilot, part Maverick, part James Kirk, and a bit of James Bond, in the episode Dimension Jump. Catch it here-they even put in a 'Take My Breath Away'-ish theme for our hero. What a guy!

But if you feel the need...the need for a callsign to paint on your helmet, or on the side of your car or boat or lawnmower, just click on the Top Gun callsign generator and get yourself a moniker! Share it with the class.

yankeedog (Wizzard) out.


15 May 2011

So long, suckers!

You know, I've been a bit busy of late and I don't seem to find the time to write too much about anything. And I guess it doesn't really matter, since according to one Harold Camping, the much-awaited Rapture will take place next Saturday.

Camping, the founder of Family Radio (a network of Christian radio stations) and a former civil engineer, sat down and did some ciphering and came up with May 21, 2011. How'd he do that? Here's the formula (courtesy Wikipedia):

  1. According to Camping, the number five equals "atonement", the number ten equals "completeness", and the number seventeen equals "heaven".
  2. Christ is said to have hung on the cross on April 1, 33 AD. The time between April 1, 33 AD and April 1, 2011 is 1,978 years.
  3. If 1,978 is multiplied by 365.2422 days (the number of days in a solar year, not to be confused with the lunar year), the result is 722,449.
  4. The time between April 1 and May 21 is 51 days.
  5. 51 added to 722,449 is 722,500.
  6. (5 × 10 × 17)2 or (atonement × completeness × heaven)2 also equals 722,500.
Thus, Camping concludes that 5 × 10 × 17 is telling us a "story from the time Christ made payment for our sins until we're completely saved."

There you are. Welp, been fun knowing y'all, but I intend to be in that number come next Saturday. Enjoy the eternal torment of the lake of fire. Write when you find work!

Now, Camping also made an 'irrevocable' statement that the world would end...in 1994!

C'mon, man! You should only get one chance to predict the exact date of the end of the world. I'd think if you miss, you lose some credibility. That might just be me, though.

I have no idea how Camping came up with numerical 'values' for atonement, completeness, and heaven, nor why you square the equation in step 6. I'd think you'd cube step 6 (the cube, or third power, representing the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit). I suspect Mr. Camping either missed his meds or took too many on the day he was coming up with the equation. His mathematics are correct, though, for what it's worth.

As my coworker, Brad, who studied physics in university, pointed out-the chances of the Rapture happening are not zero-which can be a matter for concern. However, the chances of a black hole appearing in the Earth's core, or a gamma-ray burst hitting the planet, or the Cubs winning a World Series this year, are also not zero-but the odds are overwhelming enough that I wouldn't lose any sleep over it.

It's going to be interesting for Mr. Camping come next Sunday and everyone's still here. My guess is he'll either say 'Obviously God is a God of love and has seen fit to give humans a little more time to get right' or 'Did I say Saturday would be the Rapture? I meant to say that 30 years ago Blondie released the song 'Rapture' and I have given up eating cars and bars and now I only eat guitars' or 'Someone wipe the Cream of Wheat off my chin'.

Really, how many thousands of people need to make false predictions of the end before we all say 'enough'? The answer from the Second-in-Command is clear. He said:

'Of that day and hour knows no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but my father only.' -Matthew 24:36

And what Jesus might have also implied was So don't spend all of your time on Earth worrying about it. Live each day like it were your last. Someday you will be right!

I'm in the Methodist denomination, and as a body, we don't spend a lot of time fretting over the supposed 'End of Days'. There's life to be lived and work to be done here. And I'd hate to be in a sect or denomination where the End Times prophecies are the main focus of the church. Doesn't sound like those people would get a lot of enjoyment from life. Each cat his own rat, though. As long as they don't strap on the Brooks Brothers tailored TNT Vest and blow up themselves and a market, I don't care. Actually, if they put on the vest and just blow themselves up, I don't care.

At any rate...the end comes for all of us eventually. A great English philosopher once said 'You come from nothing, you go back to nothing. What have you lost? Nothing!!'

Will the world end someday? Yes. Will humanity's reign on earth end? Almost certainly (It might be good if we found some relatively cheap way to colonize some other rocks in the universe). I personally don't believe a vengeful God will destroy mankind, since we're big boys and girls and are quite capable of doing ourselves in if we put a bit of thought to it. But pinning down the exact day of the End? I'll leave that to the nutcases-and laugh at them and live a little along the way. I once saw a bumper sticker which may apply for this week.

'In Case of Rapture, Can I Have Your Car?'

yankeedog out.

10 May 2011

First night on the diamonds

We went to our first River Bandits game of the year, although the Midwest League season is a month old. Tonight's tilt was versus the upriver Lumber Kings from Clinton.

For a couple of weeks, Modern Woodmen Park was surrounded by floodwater from the nearby Mississippi. The ballpark is now 'watertight' (they built berms and walls to keep the water out), unlike the old days when the place would have been under four or five feet of Big Muddy. But the nearby parking lots were underwater, and now they have the delightful aroma of dehydrated river. Ah well-price you pay when you do business along the river.

The River Bandits, as usual, have done a great job with marketing and creating 'special nights' for this season. Tuesday nights are 'Economic Stimulus' Nights-2 tickets, any section, for the price of 1, and kids eat free (1 hot dog, chips, and drink). Really, that's a damn hard deal to beat if you wanted to take the family out for an evening. A mere $10 got TBH and I 2 box seats right behind home plate. The Bandits have front office people who realize that getting a slow nickel is better than a fast dime, and just getting people into the park is a win for the organization and the concessionaires. And we all know, kids, that if you must invest in a sports organization, concessions are where the money is.

It was a nice warm night, more like July than May. We got a couple of Bandit Dogs-a hot dog with chili, cheese, and bacon. Never had one before and to be honest will probably forgo that culinary delight in future for just a plain old dog that I can stack with kraut, mustard, and onions. Add a Great River Brewery Pale for a cold beverage and I'll tell you, one can produce a belch in the low kiloton range. I'll likely be paying for this tonight with heartburn.

We had to leave in the middle of the 5th-work night and all-with the Bandits up 3-1 due to erratic control by the Clinton pitcher walking the bases loaded and giving up a couple in the 2nd inning. I saw a couple of players on the Clinton nine not really hustling on the basepaths. Lack of hustle is a real good habit to lose in Class A ball. I've sat next to scouts from major league clubs, and things like that get noticed-and commented on, in rather blunt language. Far better to play hard and screw up the mechanics than dog it on the bases or in the field. The scouts will put in a blistering report either way, but work ethic is important for most teams in any sport.

Still, a fun (and cheap) night out this evening. Such small yet great things to experience, like kids playing goofy promotional games between innings for prizes; watching young men trying to get to the big show someday; old folks who you know have been going to the games forever because they know everyone in the ballpark; the singing of 'Take Me Out To The Ball Game' in the 7th inning; a cold beer on a warm night; the smell of grilled onions; the bark of the umpires, the crack of the bat when a solid hit gets past the diving third baseman. Great times. Now I'm not saying that baseball is necessarily better than, say, cricket or rugby. I suspect a cricket match has a lot of the same 'feel' from a fan's standpoint as a baseball game. I bet it's still a good time.

Good to be getting into the 2011 Midwest League season. I'll definitely get up to Clinton for some LumberKings home games, and maybe over to Cedar Rapids for the Kernels games. Might even get over to Des Moines for an Iowa Cubs game. That's Class AAA ball-just one step from the Show. Usually at Triple A games you'll see someone who's got a few major league games under their belt, along with the team's hot prospects. We don't have a Class AA league in these parts but a lot of times the really good prospects start there instead of A ball.

Finally, if you weren't sure (and pay attention because there may be a quiz sometime), the hierarchy of professional baseball goes as follows: Rookie League, low A, high A, AA, AAA, Major League. In addition, college baseball can be a substitute for a year or so in the minors for a player so inclined. It's a lot of different leagues and levels-but baseball is the one sport here that has its own player development system and doesn't necessarily depend on colleges and universities, with their charade of 'amateur' and 'student' athletes, to develop their future talent. Perhaps more thoughts on that another time.

Anyway, first night out at the ballgame, and a good time was had by all.

yankeedog out.

08 May 2011

Planes, trains, and automobiles...

...will be big in the area this summer.

We've got the Quad City Air Show in June-the 25th annual already. I can remember going to the second show back in 1987. Doesn't seem like that long ago. Although they have about the same stuff every year, I still enjoy seeing the old and new birds, both civil and military. The featured performers are the Blue Angels. The Blue Angels or the Thunderbirds are a must-see at any show, as are most nations' aerobatic teams.

We've got Train Festival 2011 here in late July, which should draw a lot of people. There are supposed to be several steam engines here for the festival. The Iowa Interstate Railroad (the descendant of the Rock Island Railroad) is quite steam-excursion friendly and will be hosting several small and a couple of all-day trips over their lines. One of the short trips involves taking the railroad downriver to Muscatine and riding the Celebration Belle excursion boat back to the QCs. That might be an enjoyable trip. There's nothing like riding the river on a warm summer's day, especially with access to a cold one and no responsibility for actually driving the boat.

Automobiles? Ok-I don't know of any major classic car show in the area, but I do know that around these parts we can find a car show or cruise night most any weekend. Last year there was a show in downtown Moline that had vehicles going clear back to the very early 1900s. Good stuff! Now, if we count the Trucker's Jamboree in the middle of July, then we do have a major automobile event here. There are some great old rigs out at the Jamboree-well worth a look. Those vehicle owners have put a LOT of cash and sweat in their machines! In addition, they're serving that staple of Midwest festivals-the grilled pork chop sandwich. Done properly, an unequaled culinary delight!

We're going to take in Cubs v. Reds in August at Wrigley, and hopefully some Vintage Base Ball (the game as played with the original 1850s and 1860s rules) games as we run across them. Many Civil War reenactments and living history museums have vintage base ball or cricket (yep, we used to play cricket up until around the 1860s). Fun to watch and definitely different from the game today.

Looks like the summer here shouldn't be boring. There's plenty of stuff happening for a change. Add in the occasional family emergency or crisis, possible overtime, and finishing renovations, and it'll be right busy 'round these parts.

yankeedog out.

05 May 2011

Thoughts on the latest

Hmmm. Reckon it's past time I gave my spin on the recent demise of Osama bin Laden, now that we're well into the news cycle on it, and it's been well covered pretty much everywhere else.

First, as has been stated in so many other places, Well Done to the SEAL team involved. They almost certainly pulled off the kill of the decade. There'll be a few guys with 'black' medals in their service jackets, and probably one guy who has a hell of a story that he'll most likely never be able to tell. Big thumbs up to the Navy on this one.

Big thumbs down to the post-kill handling by the Obama administration. The last few days have been a flurry of contradictory comments and actions. First, they're going to release the death photo, now they aren't. First, bin Ladin was armed, then he wasn't, the house was full of weapons, then it wasn't. On and on.

I'll be honest-I don't care if they caught him in bed watching The Dukes of Hazzard and eating Pringles potato chips. This guy has been responsible, either directly or indirectly, for the deaths of thousands of people over the past few years. It might make a better story if he died with guns blazing, but in truth that really isn't how most of that type ends up dead. Most of the time criminal types get caught coming out of a restaurant, or a theater, or simply offed in their sleep. Why give someone a chance to fight when you can catch them unawares?

There has been talk that, in reality, President Obama ordered an assassination against a head of state, which is against US law. I wasn't aware that OBL was the leader of a foreign state. He was a criminal-no better than a mob boss, really. And I'd call it a 'hit'. It is what it is. And will President Obama try to use this to his political advantage? Certainly. Who wouldn't? I won't fault him for that. I do fault him for the handling, though. Maybe the information cycle and gathering is such these days that it's nearly impossible to keep things under wraps. I'd bet most politicians think 'Oh, for the good old days before umpty-hundred news channels of all slants, when it was just a handful of newspaper guys in the Press Room'. Also, there's been talk that the hit comes at a convenient time for President Obama. It's a good way to divert the nation's attention from the continued sluggish economy and all of the other domestic issues plaguing the current administration. Anything's possible-but there are times when events happen when they will. It looks convenient only in hindsight.

Then there's the whole matter of OBL's burial at sea. The conspiracy whackjobs I guess wanted his body put on tour in all the major cities of the country so that they could actually see that it was him. I'm satisfied that he is, in fact, fish food somewhere in the Indian Ocean. None of the Muslim nations wanted his body, figuring, rightly I suppose, that his gravesite would become a shrine for the wannabes. Cremating him is supposed to be against the rules in Islam, more so than burial at sea. If someone said an Islamic prayer for him before he got dumped over the side, OK by me. It's up to God to judge the man now. And I'm sure he's dead, because he'd certainly have made a video or recording by now saying that he was still alive and the infidels missed him by that much (holding a thumb and finger a millimeter apart)!

And then there's the matter of the celebrations here after OBL's death. I suppose these things crop up anytime a major event like this happens, but I didin't feel his death warrants a replay of all the events post 9/11. I'm glad he's gone. If I knew anyone involved in the mission, I'd certainly buy them a steak dinner and a beer. They did good. But I also feel that 'celebrating' his death gives him a stature that he really isn't worthy of. Hitler, now-there was a guy whose defeat deserved the party that was thrown on V-E Day. Bin Laden? Not really in the same league. A simple thug who died in a fitting manner. I know I woke up on Monday morning and gas prices were still rising, the unemployment rate was still high, and all the other problems in the world were still here. His death didn't change anything on that front.

There have been those who wanted to see him in the International Court of Justice and put on trial for his crimes. After all, they only have the word of the United States that he actually did anything-and that he never claimed responsibility for 9/11. I don't know about that and I don't care. He was responsible for planning, aiding, and financing several attacks on Western interests throughout the late 1990s and early 2000s, including an attack on USS Cole in Yemen. That in itself warrants the action from last week.

We here in America know that a lot of people don't like us and what we stand for. Fine. In truth, it's mutual in a lot of cases. The popular notion here in the States is that International Court of Justice is stocked with people who would enjoy nothing more than taking us down a peg or two, and would be quite pleased with putting on a verrrrry protracted trial, followed by a few months in some Belgian jail as punishment. We all remember the trial of Slobodan Milosevic. Five years long and the old bastard died in prison without the court ever rendering a verdict. That's just what we need. OBL with a court-appointed lawyer and a decade-long trial. No doubt someone on the court would notice that President Bush or Obama didn't dot an I or cross a T somewhere and would have let OBL out on a technicality, though I suppose one could argue that spending the better part of a decade in a courtroom is a cruel and unusual punishment of its own. The more I think about it, maybe we did OBL a favor by giving him a quick bullet in the noggin.

And that, kids, is what we think of the ICJ.

In the end, I don't suppose OBL was all that relevant to any major terrorist group any more. That doesn't make him any less culpable for past acts he took part in. Now he's dead-and he died in a much cleaner way than most of the victims of his crimes did. He got more dignity in the end than he likely deserved.

One can hope that the recent revolutions in the Middle East might be followed up with a general liberalization in the culture and religion. The era of the strongman might be starting to end there, and with luck and some adroit help (which probably leaves us out, what with our occasional ham-handedness), maybe the likes of Qaddafi and bin Laden will fade into irrelevance, which would also be a fitting end as well.

I dunno. My head hurts trying to deal with the conspiracy types and knuckleheads that are out there (of all flavors). All I know is, a madman's dead and won't be creating any more misery, either in other countries or in his own land. I'm good with that.

yankeedog out.

01 May 2011

Comic relief?

Old days/Good times I remember
Fun days/Filled with simple pleasures
Drive-in movies
Comic books and blue jeans
Howdy Doody
Baseball cards and birthdays...

-'Old Days', Chicago VIII, Chicago, 1975

As we've worked on the renovation at Mom's, I found a few old comic books that my late stepfather must have had-some Marvel westerns from the early 1970's. They look to be in OK shape and a check of our friend the Net shows a possible value of around $2.00 each. I'm going to take them to the local comic shop and see what Comic Book Guy will give me for them. I'd take 50 cents to a buck each-I don't want the things and anything for them is better than nothing.

There's some great titles: The Western Kid, Two-Gun Kid, Rawhide Kid, Ringo Kid (the saga of an outlaw-son of a traveling drummer from Liverpool, no doubt), and Kid Colt, Outlaw. There's a theme running through all of those titles, I think-but I suppose 'The Middle-Aged Outlaw of Buffalo Chip County' doesn't have much zip.

Now, I'm not much into the comic book scene anymore. I think the last comic (oh, excuse me! Graphic Novel! La-de-da!) I bought was the adaptation of Harold Coyle's Team Yankee from the mid 1980s. But when I was a kid, I read a lot of them. Mom would go uptown and pick up a pack of four comic books for a dollar-mostly Gold Key funnies type. I personally was a big fan of DC's Sgt. Rock of Easy Company. Rock and E Company fought all over Europe during WWII and I think must have been responsible for tying down nearly 15 German divisions all by themselves. Second was Marvel's Sgt. Fury and his Howling Commandos. I believe ol' Fury is still around after nearly four decades, reinvented as Nick Fury, head of some bunch in Marvel's superhero universe. The last third of the triad was DC's Weird War Tales, which was a series of military-fantasy-sci-fi-supernatural-Twilight Zoneish stories. Great stories and art and I might buy a compendium of these if DC were to ever release one. I never cared much for any of the superheroes and never read them.

These comics I found dated from around the early 1970s, when I was in my big comic reading era. I looked through a few of this find and got a kick out the ads splattered throughout the mags. Great stuff, like the 'clubs' where a company got some kid to sell seeds or greeting cards to their unfortunate relatives in order to receive great prizes, like walkie-talkies (long before cellphones, remember), or a flash camera (again, long before cellphones), or an electric football game (long before Madden 2011 on the PS3). Or the companies that sold novelties like joke pepper gum, the infamous 'X-Ray Glasses' (only 95 cents!), and Sea-Monkeys (which, as you may or may not remember, were simply brine shrimp, freeze-dried or some such). Or the 'record clubs', like the Columbia Record Club. Such a deal-14 LPs for only $2.98. Never mind the small print. Let's see what they have. Led Zeppelin III-OK. Mountain's Nantucket Sleighride. Not so bad. Procol Harum's Broken Barricades. Like them. The Partridge Family. The Carpenters. Bobby Sherman. Well, that train went off the tracks quick. But definitely a cross-section of the early 1970s pop music scene! I'm surprised they don't have the option to get these on 8-track or them newfangled cassettes.

As I remember all the ads, I remember thinking how super neato some of that stuff would be to own, but my tyrannical mother wouldn't allow it. Said I had enough stuff as it was. As I look at the ads now, I think 'What ingenious ways those companies had of parting hard-earned nickels, dimes, and dollars from gullible seven-to-ten-year-olds!' This must have been before we got all of the consumer protection bureaus and laws and people lived by the old saying 'caveat emptor' (That's 'Let the buyer beware' for all of you who slept through Latin, Rome, and the Romulans).

Like I said, I fell out of the comic book scene when I got to be of an age where girls started to look all soft and curvy, and I don't know much about the genre today, except that I gather adults buy comic books, never read them, and stuff them in envelopes in the vain hope that they might be worth something someday. Given the sad shape of the economy, who knows? Postwar Brazil used aspirin tablets as currency for a time, and the cigarette was the universal currency of Europe in the late 1940s. So maybe the comic book is as good an investment as buying stock in a company whose idea of raising share value is to move the factory overseas.

Most of you readers are of course from Australia/New Zealand, and I have no idea what comics were big down there. But I'd bet a lot of the ads and content were similar, and for much of the same crap that was peddled here. It should have been cheaper for younger kids there since it wasn't so far to ship the stuff from Hong Kong.

Fill me in, citizens. I'll trade old issues of The Two-Gun Kid, The Western Kid, Ringo Kid, and Rawhide Kid for your Kookaburra Kid, Kid Boomerang, Dropbear Kid, or The Eucalyptus Kid!

yankeedog out.