Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Hero Of The Week

Navy Hospitalman Chadwick T. Kenyon
Age:  20
3rd Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion
1st Marine Division
I Marine Expeditionary Force
Died 20 August, 2006
Rawah, Iraq

Monday, August 18, 2014

The South IS Different

So my step-son and I had some time to kill while our wives were shopping.  We spotted a gun and archery store and since he's interested in bow hunting, we stopped in to look around.  While he was talking to the owner about bows and test shooting one, I sat on a stool in front of the gun case to chat with the other owner.  I glanced down and in the case was a pistol fitted with a silencer next to a sign that read "we sell silencers".

I forgot to mention this happened in Florida.  I have never seen a silencer in a gun shop in Ohio.  I actually thought silencers were illegal in the U.S.  Wrong.  The woman explained that the sale of silencers is legislated on the state level.  She also said that, when it comes to gun regulation, Florida is the most lenient in the country.  Well, duh.

About this time a detective with the local force walks in.  So I decided to ask him why anyone would need a silencer.  His response was that you might want to target shoot on your property and not disturb your neighbors.  Or you might want to go hunting with your handgun and not want the discharge to scare game away and anger other hunters.

Hunt with a handgun?  Are you fucking kidding me?   Must be a Southern thing.

The Gaza Crisis Summed Up In One Sentence

If Palestine were to lay down their guns tomorrow, there would be no war. If Israel were to lay down theirs, there would be no Israel - Benjamin Netanyahu.

Friday, August 15, 2014

I've Made Napping An Art Form

One of my greatest pleasures in life is taking a nap.  This is not something that has come to me in my old age; I was a practiced napper in my twenties.  There is no better feeling in the world than crawling into bed in the middle of the day for a 2-3 hour snooze.  Perfect conditions are when the outside temps are in the 60-65 degree range so windows may be left open, creating a wonderful, cool cross breeze.  But even on 90 degree days I'm not deterred, the ceiling fan providing breeze enough.

That's one of the fine points of napping for me.  The conditions have to be cool.  Digging in under the covers in a dark, cool room is just a great feeling.  When I nap, I do nap in bed.  I've fallen asleep on the couch, but I'll usually awaken and drag myself to the bed.  It's the most comfortable place to nap.  That's what it's made for, sleeping.

When I was single I would often get home around 4:00 p.m. (totally ignoring my employer's mantra of making that "one more call") and nap until around 6:00 before getting around to working on dinner.  Sometimes I'll nap in the mornings after Mrs. Grumpy leaves for work; sometimes in the afternoons.  It just depends on when the mood strikes and how well I slept the night before.

There was a recent study that supposedly shows that napping may shorten your life span.  That's total bullshit.  Probably conceived by some Type A nimrod who thinks everybody should be full steam ahead and productive at all times.  If you told me that I would live two years longer by forsaking naps, I'd tell you to screw off. 

When my faithful companion, Abby, and I lie down together for a nap, it's pure bliss.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

The Refugees — Next Part

By The Big Guy
Senior Contributor

Quick refresher: Last week I mentioned, with some trepidation that I was off to a cousins’ reunion. Seven of a complete set of thirteen first cousins along with assorted spouses, children and a limited number of the generation that brought them all into the world were having a get together which didn’t involve a funeral.

Well, I survived, not that I was worried about it. I’m pretty sure that none of my relatives are felons or a part of the witness protection program. While I haven’t seen most of them for dozens of years I am reasonably certain I would have heard if someone had done three to five downstate for bank fraud or something.

All of us out-of-towners, five of the seven actual cousins who were in attendance along with our significant others, wound up spending most of our time together. We were also five of the oldest and therefore the ones who spent most of our time together as kids. We spent the first evening at dinner talking about the birthday parties we all attended as kids, the games we played, our parents and grandparents. After a few hours I began to realize that for our spouses at some point this whole weekend had to approach waterboarding. They said what made it worthwhile was learning things they never knew about us, things they would use to get even at a later date, which somehow seemed only fair.

Later in the evening the discussion turned to childhood mysteries, which uncle or uncles or aunt had an affair, why one cousin decided to disappear himself from the rest of the family, things we never knew and continued not to know because it was speculation then and remained speculation. Any corroboration had been lost with the passing of members of the previous generation and we were not looking to open up forty year old wounds. The weekend was going to remain light and happy rather than become a script for a Lifetime Movie Network feature presentation. Besides that, it was more fun to speculate. The truth could turn out to be a disappointment or worse yet, boring.

The next afternoon we took the neighborhood tour: the houses where we grew up, the schools where we attended, the shopping centers where we hung out. I think the malls got the worst of it. Individual merchants were gone and replaced by the various chains that you see in every single mall in the country. One of the elementary schools sat shuttered and looked like it would be better off torn down than sitting there in its dilapidated condition. The houses though were in good shape. Both remained in stable well kept neighborhoods. The cousins’ house was pretty similar to the way I remember it. The house I grew up in, which I’ve seen a number of times over the years, looked identical, absolutely identical to the way it did when I lived there all those years ago.

Dinner that night with all of us together was very nice, very casual with lots of catching up. After a few hours the locals returned to their homes, the out-of-towners to the hotel and eventually many goodbyes and promises to keep in touch. It really was wonderful seeing these people. I liked them, well most of them, as kids. And now the best part is that I like them even more as adults, their spouses, too, and I hope the feeling is mutual. Now we’ll have to see where this goes.

I couldn’t help but think of those off-site company meetings when people get together for two or three days and participate in those workshops to open your eyes to possibilities of which you never dreamed. Everyone leaves energized, promising a whole new level of excitement, creativity and growth to make the company a better place and within a few weeks everything is forgotten and it’s back to the same old grind. Hope the refugees can do better.

By the way, still can’t find that picture that illustrates why we’ve called ourselves the refugees all these years. Still looking, so I decided to put that picture up top just because I like it.  

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Hero Of The Week

Army Cpl. James M. Hale
Age:  23
978th Military Police Company
Ft. Bliss, TX
Died 13 August, 2008
Baghdad, Iraq

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

If you weren't aware, Sarah Palin has her own TV channel or YouTube channel or something.  Here she responds to a comment by Sen. Elizabeth Warren.  This is truly cringe worthy.  Good luck making sense of this goobledygook.  Remember, this isn't live; these segments are taped.  She could have done this as many times as necessary to get it right and this is the best she could do. 

Gotta admit though, the woman is a constant source of amusement.

Monday, August 11, 2014

More Security, I Hope

After the latest data breach, in which some Russians stole billions of email addresses and passwords, I decided to look into the fast growing world of password protection.  These protection companies operate on the basic premise that they will store all your passwords in one place, where they are supposedly not only encrypted, but constantly being electronically shuffled.  The end result, as the president of Last Pass put it, is " only need one password, your Last Pass password."  Whichever service you choose, you better remember that password because they all claim to not keep a record of it.

I did some research and they all seem pretty similar.  Based on some consumer reviews, I chose Last Pass.  It's basic service is free on desktops; if you want to sync to all your devices the charge is $12 a year.  After downloading, set up was easy.  After giving it permission, Last Pass imported many of my user names and passwords.  They also give you the option of entering those manually for any web site or will even ask you if you want to save the info when you log into a site not already in their system.  Or they even give you the choice of them picking a complex password.

So far, and that's one day, I like the ease of the whole thing.  For instance, when I go to my bank's site, there is an icon next to the user name field.  Click on it and it gives you the choice of user names associated with that site, allowing for multiple users and multiple passwords.  After picking the user name you want, Last Pass then enters the encrypted password.  Pretty neat. 

Now I just need to take the leap of faith necessary to shred the list of all of our passwords and count on Last Pass to get me in anywhere I go.  Before I do that I'd like to know if any of you have used password protection services and your experiences.

Friday, August 8, 2014

Farewell To Our Little Friend

If you've never owned a parrot you most likely think they are just "dumb birds".  They're not only not dumb, they are wonderful pets.  Birds will generally bond with one person in the household.  In our case, our little Sun Conure, Kramer, bonded to me.  He was loyal to the point of trying to physically attack anyone who came near me.  He basically hated everyone but me, so I'm biased in how I view him.  He would retreat to the back of the cage when Mrs. Grumpy came to give him fresh food and water; he would eat out of my hand.  Many nights I would sit on the couch watching TV with Kramer lying on my chest, one of my hands over his body while he closed his eyes and dozed, content just being close.

Monday night he was acting normal, squawking at the dog when she came into his room, running to the front when he saw me, hoping for a peanut in exchange for saying "hello".  Suddenly, everything changed.  Around 9:00 p.m. I went into his room to watch TV and he was lying on his stomach on the floor of the cage.  I picked him up and he didn't have the strength in his legs to even stand on his own.  We put a blanket on the floor of his cage and laid him on it overnight.  After taking the dog out at 6:15 a.m. I immediately checked on him.  He was still on the floor of the cage, but responded to my picking him up.

When our vet opened at 8:00 I was waiting at their door with Kramer in his little cardboard travel carrier.  They told me their avian specialist was out for the day and gave me the numbers of two other vets that specialized in birds.  I drove back home to re-group and try to get into another vet.  One said to bring him right in, so off I went.  At every light I would open the carrier to check on him.  When I touched him he would open his eyes, but I could see that his condition was getting worse.  Before getting to the vet, one such check revealed that he had died.  I returned home, held him for awhile and then buried him under the bird bath in our back yard.

Kramer turned 17 in May and the consensus of the vet and the biologists who work with animals at the Newport Aquarium is that he died of old age.  That's how birds go.  If they are sick, they will mask it, a behavior that in the wild protects them from predators.  When they can no longer mask their illness, they will just lie down as their organs shut down.  I feel better knowing that there is likely nothing we could have done; he was old and his time had come.

I miss his squawking, his shrill yelling if the dog approached his cage, the sound of him moving around in his cage, the soft feel of his feathers and the contentment of him sleeping in my palm.  Godspeed, little buddy.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

The Refugees

By The Big Guy
Senior Contributor

I’ve got this picture of the refugees. I wish I could find it. It’s a classic. No, not those refugees. It’s a bunch of kids in the late fifties. That’s about fifty-five years ago. It’s late in the year and they’re all bundled up against the cold. They look like they all just got off a boat from Europe, which is why somebody nicknamed the picture “The Refugees.” If I remember the picture correctly there’s eleven of them in a group that would eventually number thirteen. Their moms or dads are siblings, which makes them all cousins. I am the oldest.

Throughout my childhood I would see my cousins on a regular basis. We would get together on the occasional Sunday with all of the parents to celebrate each other’s birthdays. And then there were holidays, summertime picnics, etc. So we played together a lot. As the oldest, I came up with the rule that once you turned thirteen you were allowed to opt out of the birthday parties and surprisingly the rule took hold. As each of the cousins turned thirteen their party went away and so did they. We were teenagers and preferred to spend our time with friends instead of cousins. For the most part our parents understood.

Then life kicked in. People moved. I moved. Before you knew it fifty-five years passed and seeing cousins came down to an occasional wedding and lately, the all too frequent funeral. One of the remaining members of the generation that preceded us thought it would be nice for the cousins to get together again for something other than a funeral. And so, very soon we will be gathering together for what I presume will be the first and last non-funeral reunion of The Refugees.

Not much is planned for the weekend. It’s sort of a play it by ear kind of thing. For whatever the reason only seven of the thirteen in the original group (all of whom are still breathing) will be in attendance but the gathering will be filled in by spouses/partners, a few children and some of those surviving members of the previous generation. The out-of-towners will all be at the same hotel. There is a dinner reservation for Saturday night and Sunday will feature a trip to the cemetery. Funeral or not, guess we just can’t walk away from the losses in our lives. It will be interesting to see what winds up filling out the rest of our time together.

I’ll have to find that picture. I know it’s around here somewhere. I’ll post it next time because I’m sure there will be a part two to this story.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Hero Of The Week

Marine Sgt. Jay M. Hoskins
Age:  24
2nd Battalion
3rd Marines
3rd Marine Division
III Marine Expeditionary Force
Died 6 August, 2009
Farah province, Afghanistan

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

The End Of An Era

I'm not much of a golf fan.  Except on Sundays when Tiger is in the hunt.  Like many of those who watch golf on TV, I only tune in on Sunday if Tiger has a chance to win.  Between 1997-2009 there was nobody better.  He was the best during those years; it seemed he would easily break Jack Nicklaus' record for wins in Majors.  Watching him play was exhilarating, a word not often associated with golf.  He was charismatic, in control, intimidating to opponents and seemingly able to take over tournaments.

Now the window seems to have closed.  Age and injuries have caught up to him.  On good days he is still one of the best, but no longer dominates, no longer inspires fear in opponents.  It happens to many great athletes, their seemingly invincible bodies begin to break down.  Repeated surgeries take their toll, life tugs at them in ways it didn't when they were 23.

Is Tiger the greatest golfer of all time?  I'm not competent enough to answer that question.  I know that for many years he got this non-fan to tune in, watching him stride the fairways on Sundays in that red shirt, confidence in every step as he combined talent and willpower to dominate the game.  I'd love to have one more Sunday like that.

Monday, August 4, 2014

I Have Proof They Are Watching

I want to put a new battery in my car sometime before winter.  The current battery is 5 years old and I don't like to take chances with the heartbeat of my car.  So Saturday afternoon I was surfing around the internet to compare pricing on the new battery I need.  Comparing not only pricing on those that fit my car, but also things like cold cranking amps and reserve capacity.  I looked at Advance Auto, Autozone, WalMart, Sears and a couple of tire places.  I made a list of specs and prices and set it aside, not planning on taking any action until October.

Later that evening I checked into Facebook looking for cute cat pictures.  Any of you on Facebook know that there are always ads in the right sidebar.  I've noticed before that they are somewhat targeted to my interests, but I usually pay little to no attention to them.  But this time I couldn't help but notice a large picture of a car battery staring back at me from the ads.  It said "Get $40 off your next battery at Advance Auto".  I click on it and it opens a new browser window with a $40 off offer on any battery and a Promo Code to use at checkout.  Another click and I'm on their website.  Entered my car info, picked the battery I wanted, entered the Promo Code and bingo, $40 deducted from my total.  So they got me to buy now by making me an offer I couldn't refuse.  And it was ready for pick up at my nearest store in 30 minutes.

I'm happy to save the money and I'll wait for a cooler day to install the new battery, but I'm now a little paranoid about that ad popping up.  I know we're tracked, targeted, spied upon and followed online every day, but how did it happen so fast.  Facebook or some tracking company knew I was looking at car batteries and the next time I sat down at the computer there was a great offer on a battery.  I kept $40 in my pocket; I'm just not sure I didn't lose something else.

Friday, August 1, 2014

We're Going On Vacation, Fuck The Country

What, me worry?
In a way it's a fitting end to the congressional session before Congress goes on its summer break.  Like all of the previous days in this session the Republican controlled House did nothing that would benefit the country or we the people.  They spent one of their last days in Washington continuing to ignore any number of problems, say immigration reform or a crumbling infrastructure, and instead chose to play political games and pull off their biggest stunt thus far.

Again pandering to the baser elements of their constituency and egged on by Speaker Boehner, the House voted to sue the President of the United States.  It's been done before; the Democrats once sued President George W. Bush, and it was pointless then too.  But this time the irony is delicious.  They are suing the president for not properly enforcing the Affordable Care Act.  That's the law they have tried to repeal over 50 times, wasting millions of dollars and time that could have been spent being productive.  The law that they abhor and are convinced will end Western Civilization.  You know, the law with rationed health care and death panels.

Think about it again.  They are suing the President of the United States for NOT (in their minds, anyway) properly enforcing a law they don't want to be the law.  They keep pulling these stunts, apparently thinking the American electorate are stupid or not paying attention.  I actually hope they stay on this track and try impeachment next.  Watching it all blow up in their faces will be fun.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

And So It Begins

By The Big Guy
Senior Contributor

Forgive me. In the state of Illinois we’re sort of new at this. I suppose that’s something for which I should be thankful.

Here’s the situation from just a few days ago. An 86 year-old gentleman, long time resident of suburban Chicago, considered by friends, neighbors and law enforcement to be a “model citizen,” approaches an AT&T store near his home. He notes there is a robbery in progress. He remains outside and warns fellow citizens not to enter, thus protecting them from harm. When he sees the robber escaping out a back door, our 86 year-old model citizen runs into the store following the suspect out the back door, pulling his concealed-carry Glock semi-automatic pistol from his person and fires two shots at the escaping suspect. One police officer already in pursuit of the suspect, not knowing where the two shots were fired from, is forced to temporarily suspend his pursuit and seek cover. Eventually the 17 year-old suspect is captured by police, charged with armed robbery and is currently being held in lieu of a million dollar bail.

Mr. 86 year-old Model Citizen (and I call him that because law enforcement officials refuse to identify him) is free to go. No charges will be filed against him. He had a properly registered gun, properly purchased. He had a proper concealed-carry permit from the state, having completed all the proper target testing and classroom instruction. That would be the classroom instruction that, as Mr. Grumpy has advised us on many occasions, would have taught Mr. Model Citizen that HE IS NOT A POLICE OFFICER! It would have taught him that he is not to pursue someone he believes is breaking the law. It would have taught him that the only appropriate time for the use of deadly force is as a last resort, when you believe your life is truly in danger. I don’t believe that anyone would judge a fleeing suspect not firing a weapon of any kind as life threatening. Classroom instructors would have said that you let him flee and call 9-1-1.

There is a pretty healthy list of very dark “what ifs” that goes along with this situation. What if Model Citizen shot an innocent bystander causing bodily injury or even death? What if Model Citizen shot the police officer pursuing the fleeing suspect? What if the police officer assumed Model Citizen was an accomplice of the suspect and shot him? After all, he did exit the phone store shortly after the robbery holding a semi-automatic weapon. And why did a state’s attorney choose not to press charges? Why were the local police willing to walk away from this situation? And since it’s a no harm, no foul thing I suppose our 86 year-old model citizen gets to keep his concealed-carry permit and go about his business packing heat under his shirt in public places. That’s just great.

What I’ve learned from this whole thing is that now there’s an even more urgent reason to run, as fast as possible, from the scene of a crime. You never know when your neighbor, the one the police will describe as a “model citizen” is going to accidentally plug you full of lead.