Friday, October 17, 2008

I reek of gasoline. I mean, I am trailing a plume behind me. I am soaked in the stuff.

Why? Because the legislators in this state are smarter than me (so they think) and have forbidden normal gasoline cans in favor of the so-called "safety can". I have spilled more gasoline over the past five years using the "safety can" than I have cumulatively in 40+ years of using normal gas cans with a spout.

The "safety can" has a spout that you have to stick into a tank and depress in order to dispense the gas. Sounds good in theory, but there is no air inlet, so immediately the can starts to pull a vacuum. The gas then begins to sputter and splash. You have to repeatedly pull the can out of the tank, depress the gas-soaked spout with your bare hands to introduce air pressure into the can and then stick it back into the tank. Then repeat.

So far the environmental safety can has caused me to dump more gasoline than the Exxon Valdize.

Someone went to the legislature and took some people golfing, to a restaurant; all the while talking about this wonderful invention that is going to save lives, the environment and all.

Well, it's a piece of junk and like I said, I've spilled more gasoline with it than I have over a lifetime of "normal" gas cans.

Monday, May 26, 2008

As I've done for some time now, a couple of thoughts for Memorial Day. Not my thoughts, but those of a man much more intelligent and articulate than I, United States Marine Corps Chaplain Denis Edward O'Brien.

Before I get to Father O'Brien's writings, a couple of thoughts--We (my wife, two children and I), never, ever miss a Memorial Day parade. We just don't. I served ten years in Special Forces and put my wife through hell in the process. But she has her own job and has spent almost thirty years knowing she has been saving lives, but she can't say who or where. It's a sort of double-dose of hell for her. She's never worn a uniform, but she's contributed every bit much as I have (more, actually) without recognition. She bears no medals, but knows that she has prevented some deaths.

When the Cadillac convertibles with the 90-year old men pass by tomorrow, I'll draw to attention and salute. It may seem sort of pretentious or as though I'm drawing attention to myself, but none of the above applies. It will be a sincere gesture to men and women better than I.

Here are Father O'Brien's thoughts:


Some veterans bear visible signs of their service: a missing limb, a
jagged scar, a certain look in the eye. Others may carry the evidence
inside them: a pin holding a bone together, a piece of shrapnel in the
leg - or perhaps another sort of inner steel: the soul's ally forged in
the refinery of adversity. Except in parades, however, the men and women
who have kept America safe wear no badge or emblem. You can't tell a vet
just by looking.

What is a vet?

He is the cop on the beat who spent six months in Saudi Arabia sweating
two gallons a day making sure the armored personnel carriers didn't run
out of fuel.

He is the barroom loudmouth, dumber than five wooden planks, whose
overgrown frat-boy behavior is outweighed a hundred times in the cosmic
scales by four hours of exquisite bravery near the 38th parallel.

She - or he - is the nurse who fought against futility and went to sleep
sobbing every night for two solid years in Da Nang.

He is the POW who went away one person and came back another - or didn't
come back AT ALL.

He is the Quantico drill instructor who has never seen combat - but has
saved countless lives by turning slouchy, no-account rednecks and gang
members into Marines, and teaching them to watch each other's backs.

He is the parade - riding Legionnaire who pins on his ribbons and medals
with a prosthetic hand.

He is the career quartermaster who watches the ribbons and medals pass
him by.

He is the three anonymous heroes in The Tomb Of The Unknowns, whose
presence at the Arlington National Cemetery must forever preserve the
memory of all the anonymous heroes whose valor died unrecognized with
them on the battlefield or in the ocean's sunless deep.

He is the old guy bagging groceries at the supermarket - palsied now and
aggravatingly slow - who helped liberate a Nazi death camp and who
wishes all day long that his wife were still alive to hold him when the
nightmares come.

He is an ordinary and yet an extraordinary human being - a person who
offered some of his life's most vital years in the service of his
country, and who sacrificed his ambitions so others would not have to
sacrifice theirs.

He is a soldier and a savior and a sword against the darkness, and he is
nothing more than the finest, greatest testimony on behalf of the
finest, greatest nation ever known.

So remember, each time you see someone who has served our country, just
lean over and say Thank You. That's all most people need, and in most
cases it will mean more than any medals they could have been awarded or
were awarded.

Father Denis Edward O'Brien, USMC

"It is the soldier, not the reporter,
Who has given us freedom of the press.
It is the soldier, not the poet,
Who has given us freedom of speech.

It is the soldier, not the campus organizer,
Who has given us the freedom to demonstrate.

It is the soldier,
Who salutes the flag,
Who serves beneath the flag,
And whose coffin is draped by the flag,
Who allows the protester to burn the flag."

=A9Father Denis Edward O'Brien, USMC

Thursday, April 03, 2008

SSG Matt Maupin's remains have been recovered and identified by US Forces.

SSG Maupin was declared missing in action after the fuel convoy in which he was driving was ambushed outside of Baghdad.

After that he was seen in a film in which he was forced to the floor while masked Islamic terrorists stood around him. After that, he wasn't seen again until last week.

Get captured by western forces and you go to Guantanamo, where the guards put on gloves to handle your (provided free of charge) copy of the Koran and every detainee gains weight. Or, at worst, you go to Abu Ghraib where you will still get the same treatment, but where once upon a time some stressed out kids who had friends that died on the streets of Iraq took it on themselves to play silly games with the detainees.

OR--you can get captured by the Islamists, in which case you have two options. You can either get shot in the back of your head, or you can get your head sawed off with a pocket knife. Oh, and only God and the Islamist bastards know what ensues between the capture and the execution. Somehow I'm thinking it's not like a stay in Guantanamo.

It literally, and I do mean "literally", keeps me awake nights pondering what SSG Maupin and others went through at the hands of those who claim to be acting on behalf of the "religion of love".

I can only wish SSG Maupin Godspeed.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

I have some more nominations in the "Hometown Heroes" category.

Trail's End Popcorn is a company that, as far as I can tell, exists solely as a supplier of fund-raising popcorn for the Boy Scouts. Popcorn sales are a big event every year, sort of the equivalent of Girl Scout cookies, though not nearly as tasty. Each troop even has a popcorn chairperson, dubbed the "Popcorn Colonel". Corny, indeed (pun intended), but it works.

Well, Trail's End donated $25,000 worth of popcorn to the Iraqi Scouts. Good for them.

I worked my way up to the job title of Associate Scientist, but after getting hurt and getting discharged from the Army, I started out as a shipping/receiving guy at a biotech firm. I learned all sorts of things about the various shipping companies such as FEDEX vs. UPS (go UPS) and then a small company called DHL. DHL doesn't go everywhere on the planet, but they do one hell of a job with the places they do go. A real class act. Well, guess who shipped the popcorn to Iraq free of charge...

And then there's Minnesota state representative Bob Dettmer. Rep. Dettmer was there for the guys and gals on the Vets for Freedom National Heroes Tour. That alone makes him a hero in my book. Representatives, both state and federal, are notoriously difficult to get in touch with if you're not in their district. I wrote Rep. Dettmer an email thanking him for his support of the tour and not only did he get the email, but he replied to it personally, even to the point of including my name in his response. A great guy.

So, three more heroes: Trail's End, DHL and Minnesota Rep. Bob Dettmer.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

One of my umpire shirts from a few years ago has "Hometown Heroes" embroidered on the Little League patch. I'm not so sure that umpires are heroes--we just show up for a game and shout--but the men and women who put in hours and hours coaching youngsters, teaching them skills and hopefully sportsmanship--they're true hometown heroes.

There's no shortage of heroes in the global war on terrorism, but now we have a new and rather unexpected breed: Scout leaders in Iraq.

In a bit of a departure for an Islamic country, Iraq had a Scouting program for many years. Needless to say, under Saddam Hussein the movement was corrupted and was expelled from the World Organization of the Scout Movement.

Some dedicated people from Allied Forces have resurrected the Scouts in Iraq to great success. There are now over 1,000 Boy Scouts and Girl Guides in the Green Zone Council.

There's some history and a photo of the new circular Scout patch here.

Better yet, you can read their blog here.

They have a "wish list" for contributions. Anything would be welcome, but if you know someone who is trying to achieve Eagle in Boy Scouts or First Class in Girl Scouts, they could definitely make a service project by collecting and delivering supplies.

They are selling the round "Green Zone" patch depicted on the Wikipedia page as well as a "Green Zone Council" shoulder patch. If anyone is interested email me at

Sunday, February 17, 2008

The kids asked me tonight what Billy Clinton's title would be if his wife were to get elected president.

First Gentleman?

Well, I had to tell them that he'd be first something, but "gentleman" wasn't in the running. This is a guy who kept a girl under his desk doing you-know-what (Billy seems to crave that particular) while he was on the telephone with a Senator and later Yassir Arafat---and bragged about it. That's demeaning. Not gentlemanly.

I'm much younger than Billy, and yet my generation says that you don't stuff girls under your desk while you have high level conversations and think that's a cool thing. Actually, it's misogyny.

Misogyny means it's all about you. Women are objects with certain (I don't want to get gross) attributes. And that's Billy (and the woman who puts up with him so she can ride his coattails). Suzanne Fields once observed that Bill regards women in the same manner that a cigarette regards an ashtray. I can't think of a more apt analogy. And the "strongest woman in the US" puts up with that. It's all about power--her husband is a misogynistic a$$hole, but she sticks with him just to draw on the Clinton charisma. If she were truly a strong woman she'd have dumped his body in a reservoir.

Friday, February 15, 2008

My pirate name is:

Captain Sam Vane

Even though there's no legal rank on a pirate ship, everyone recognizes you're the one in charge. You tend to blend into the background occaisionally, but that's okay, because it's much easier to sneak up on people and disembowel them that way. Arr!

Get your own pirate name from
part of the network

Friday, February 08, 2008

The all-time greatest music video.

And Then There Was One

Harry Landis passed away this past Monday. Landis was one of the last two surviving US WWI veterans.

The last German veteran passed in January.

There are now three known surviving veterans of that war. Frank Buckles, who served with the US Army; John Babcock, who lives in the US but served with Canadian Forces; and Harry Stone of the UK.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

What military aircraft are you?

A-10 Thunderbolt II

You are an A-10. You may not be the prettiest or swiftest, but you're tough as nails, and everyone knows not to mess with you!

Personality Test Results

Click Here to Take This Quiz
Brought to you by quizzes and personality tests.
I'm curious.

Two Palestinian murderers went into a strip mall in Israel the other day wearing explosives. Dumbass #1 blew himself up, killing a woman and slamming Dumbass #2 to the ground, rendering him incapacitated. Really, guys, if you're to plan something like that, work it out so you don't blow each other up in the process (sorry if I'm leaking new information to the terrorist murderers).

Anyway, while Dumbass #2 laid on the ground he started digging around in his pants looking for the trigger to his bombs, so an Israeli policeman averted the explosion by planting five bullets in where most people have a brain.

So my question is, does Dumbass #2 get his 72 virgins, or did he forfeit it by being stupid and getting shot before he could kill any infidels?

Monday, February 04, 2008

Oh, and I find it...well, amusing, that Billy Bubba Clinton just "needs" the public spotlight so much that he practically jumps in front of his wife as she campaigns for a position that she seems to think that she simply deserves.

Before you vote for his wife (I refuse to go with the "rock-star" thing of just calling her by her first name), think what a disaster he'd be as first man. "Look at me, Look at me". "Hey, everyone, I was president--look at me, look at me". Or worse--"Hey, baby..."
Now here's a company that deserves some kudos. Big time.

Blackfive reported that Carhartt has donated 750 sets of thermal underwear and 5,000 pairs of socks to paratroopers in the 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team.

Everyone knows Carhartt. They make those brown overalls and jackets that guys who work outside wear. They make a lot more, obviously, but everyone has seen the overalls and jackets.

I went to Carhartt's web site and sent them a note thanking them for the donation. The very next day I got a personal reply.

Now there's a company that gives a rodential posterior about the troops and its customers. I need a new winter jacket--I love the one I have, but I've had it for 15 some years and it's getting a bit thin. Guess what brand my next jacket will be...

Saturday, February 02, 2008

I am so G*DDAMN SICK of the "war on science" thing that people who simply hate President Bush carry on with.

Facts, people, facts.

The only thing that Bush has done in his alleged "war on science" is to mandate that the US will continue funding research on existing fetal stem cell lines, but it won't provide government funds for any new cell lines. Got that? Research will continue. For Democrats, I'll repeat myself. Research will continue. The "war on science" thing is bull.

Now for those of you who don't know, fetal stem cells are an absolute, 100% dry hole. Nothing has ever been solved using fetal stem cells. I've been in the biotech industry for almost 20 years now. I read the publications, I've done the research, I've spent hours in labs pipetting things. I've done work on a possible cancer therapy (I won't go so far as to call it a cure, yet) and I did some work of which I'm especially proud which involved a device that I hope will be on the shelves of hospitals very soon and will deal with septic shock.

But fetal stem cells have done squat. Nada. Zero. NOTHING.

Grow up, Teddy Kennedy and Nancy Pelosi--if fetal stem cells were the wave of the future, you'd have biotech and pharmaceutical companies piling over each other to grab the prize. Am I clear? If fetal stem cells were the be-all and end-all, 25 pharmaceutical companies would be all over it.

Ever noticed how they aren't?

There have been some really interesting studies involving stem cells. In one study scientists severed the spinal cords of mice and then injected stem cells and the spinal cords were actually repaired. But they were adult stem cells. Not fetal.

And in one study scientists injected fetal stem cells into people with Parkinson's and the subjects deteriorated rapidly. Worse than if they hadn't gotten the treatment.

For all that is wished, fetal stem cells ain't the be-all-end-all. They've been likened to a piece of sheet metal that can be hammered into any shape, but it turns out that's apparently not the case. Now, one place I worked cultivated cells from adult tissue and achieved remarkable results. A Belgian woman who was basically invalid was injected with cells cultured from an adult heart and recovered something like 70% heart capacity. And we also developed cell growth media which has been used to grow cartilage. But none of this involved fetal stem cells, and yes, we had them.

The whole thing with fetal stem cell research can be broken down into two issues. The first is abortion. People apply the broad brush and say "Those who oppose fetal stem cell research do so because they are opposed to abortion and IVF". And a lot of scientists have wussed out on the whole thing and won't tell the truth lest they be painted by the radicals as anti-abortion. And reason number two is that a lot of scientists are milking it big time: "Just keep throwing money at me and I'll cure everything". Well, hell, everyone wants things cured, so people grasp at it like someone grabbing a life ring. But it's BS.

But the believers built an artificial construct around it. "If you oppose it it's because you're a Luddite or you're one of those extreme right-wingers". So everyone cowers.

As I cited above, cell therapy works. And I am a huge fan of cell therapy. I saw the results of the Belgian woman, I did some really neat work which involved turning certain cells into "hunters" of cancer cells.

But this "war on science" meme is BS. First--Bush didn't defund stem cell research. Not at all. He simply said "No new cell lines will be funded by the government". And second--and this is how you know the "war" thing is BS--if the things worked private companies would be all over them.
Oh, and as far as the inner geek thing, I do have an R-390 receiver that I actually found in a dumpster. All I have to do with it is put a plug on the end of the electrical cord--for some reason somebody cut the plug off before pitching it in the dumpster--and hook it up to an antenna of some sort. I've already used window screens as antennas for receivers, so that's no big project, and attaching a new plug is easy. I'll have to rig up a speaker, too, but again, that's not a big deal.

The R-390, for what it's worth, was the absolute best AM receiver of its era. Suffer through an anecdote--I was in the National Cryptologic Museum a few years ago (there's the "inner geek" thing again), looking at one while a kind of loud and braggart sort of guy was showing a friend of his around and proceeded to lecture about how he had used this radio to do this and that. Only problem was that he called it something else (I forget), and the R-390 doesn't transmit. It only receives. I used the R-390 and have one in my basement, so I knew full well what I was looking at. I kept my mouth shut, but he reminded me of the guy I once listened to at a ski resort who was talking loudly on his cell phone and said "Let me pull off to the side of the slope" while he was sitting at a table eating a burger.

Things have changed with the advent of satellite communications, but there used to be a whole lot of neat stuff to listen to on the AM band--merchant ships and so on--and I'll bet there's still a lot going on.

Only problem is the R-390 weighs about as much as a small elephant, so just dropping it on the kitchen table for an evening of plying the AM spectrum isn't really an option. Not if I want to stay married.

I'll have to give this one some thought. Might be a good thing to work some of the Scouts through radio merit badge, though.

And this whole train of thought led me back to Morse Code. I've made two unpleasant discoveries in the last 30 days--neither playing clarinet nor listening to Morse Code are like the proverbial riding a bicycle. I used to good at both, and I currently am horrendous at both.
I just haven't had much interesting to say lately.

I have no shortage of things to say, but as far as interesting, well, I'm a bit short on that.

But I saw something tonight that brought back memories. Proof, I guess, that you can be a graduate of Special Forces school (it ain't easy), and still sort of a geek.

When I was at the former Ft. Devens, which was a great place to be stationed but exists no more, we decided to try and make a radio shot to the then-new special operations command in Florida. Using a 15-watt radio.

Listen to the radio on your morning drive and at some point they'll say something like "30,000 watts rolling across the countryside", but by the time you get to work you can't hear them any more. That's because they send their signal 360 degrees. By putting up antennae that were very directional (and knowing which antenna fit a particular situation and a bit about the atmosphere--E and F levels, for example), we could send low wattage signals in a straight line over great distances. The whole idea behind that is that it minimizes the chance of having your signal intercepted by bad guys--low signal strength, very directional--you get the idea.

I can't remember why we wanted to make the shot from Massachusetts to Florida, but we decided to go for it with an AN/PRC-74 radio and an AN/GRC-71 Coderburst. The AN/PRC-70 radios were coming into service, but the AN/PRC-74s, though older, were a much better radio. Everyone hated the AN/PRC-70 which the Marines had the good sense to dump. We laid out a five-wavelength wire and tied one end of it to a 34-foot tower and the other end to my Ford EXP. The wire was hundreds of feet long and just too heavy to tension by hand, so I actually drove the car until the wire achieved something resembling tension.

And damned if we didn't make communications from Massachusetts to Florida using a radio that doesn't have much more power than those things they sell now as "family radio service".

That was probably the most dramatic of my radio shots, but I also made consistent communications from Minnesota to Mississippi one very cold January--also using the AN/PRC-74.

To this day, while I have no idea what I'd do with it, I'd like to buy a PRC-74. What a radio. And the GRC-71 Coderburst was a hoot. Theoretically us enlisted swine weren't supposed to actually decode incoming transmissions--that was for the officers--but in ten years I never once met an officer who didn't say "Just decode the damn thing and give it to me".

I wanted become a medic, but the Army needed radio operators (this was when the Army did things Army-wide and didn't regard SF as a sub-entity, which they do now). I'd have liked to have gotten the medical training, but the radio training fitted my inner geek. I could go on at length about "E" and "F" layers and terminating resistors and wavelengths...I'll spare you.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Al Gore is truly pathetic.

He's a big guy--we saw that when he advanced on George Bush in a threatening manner during one of their debates. I'd say that lowered my opinion of him, but actually I already regarded him as benthic, and it doesn't get any lower than that (the Benthic Zone is where you find whale sh*t and Democrat politicians). But big guy or not, he's diminutive in the political arena.

Gore basically flunked out of politics when he pitched his hissy fit about the election that he lost. Say what you want, call in all the markers that you want--Gore lost the election. Plain and simple. The bull about "stolen election" and all that hasn't held up to to the light of day. Gore lost.

Anyway, knowing that he has flunked out of politics (he also flunked out of divinity school, and that has got to be hard to do), he has embarked on a "LOOK AT ME" campaign. It's a given that politicians are largely driven by ego, and Gore, despite the fact that he's not the brightest bulb in the chandelier, has managed to take the "Hey, I'm still relevant" thing and run with it.

Yeah, he got a Nobel prize, but the Nobel committee has a bit of history involving "statements". They gave Yassir Arafat a Nobel prize, and Arafat spent his career ordering the executions of Jews and other people. The guy (I won't call him a 'man') was a mass murderer, plain and simple. Puts Gore's Nobel prize in perspective. The committee has revealed itself as a bunch of senile old men with a hard-on for the US.

Anyway, it occurs that this is Gore's gambit now. He has ceased to be relevant as a politician (as though he ever was), so now he crosses the globe in his fossil fuel burning private jet and preaches the religion of global warming. "Hey everyone, check me out. I'm still relevant".

Friday, January 11, 2008

Philip Agee finally croaked.

Agee is a scumbag who worked for the CIA for 12 or so years and then wrote a book exposing dozens of covert operators. He then approached Soviet and Cuban officials and began feeding US secrets to Cuba (which in turn went to the Soviet Union, of course). People died.

Agee kicked off in Cuba while undergoing what would have been routine surgery in any country that has caught up with, say, 19th century technology.

Agee was a traitor to his country and his family. He claimed his "Roman Catholic conscience" caught up with him and forced him to sell out his country. To a system that routinely suppresses human rights and bans religions. He said he was turned by hearing the moans of torture victims in Venezuela (yeah, right). I guess he never heard of Lubyanka or the Cuban prisons.

Rot in hell, bitch.