Monday, December 31, 2012

Two Nights

Two nights of un-sleep.   Toss, turn.  "Why does my heat pump sound funny?" Toss, turn.  "Perry, stop walking on my head!"  Toss, turn.  "Ow. Why does my bum shoulder have to be on the side I sleep on?"  Toss, turn.  Humph.  The upside being that I have all-night duty at the homeless shelter tonight and trying to sleep on an inflatable mattress amongst a chorus of snores, farts, flailing, and sleep-talking/shouting won't be any worse by comparison.


Saturday, December 29, 2012

Rewind

It was supposed to be another icky, stormy day today, and other than laundry I really didn't have that much that absolutely need to be done.  The biography of Millard Fillmore that I just finished made me aware of what I had forgotten about some of his predecessors in office, particularly James K. Polk, president #11.  So I decided to rewind history a little and re-read my biography of Polk before moving on.  As it turned out, we got very little of the system that is now hammering New England with a nor'easter.  I spent the day on the sofa next to the Christmas tree reading anyway.

Polk is another president who contributed enormously but is largely ignored.  The diaries he meticulously kept during his presidential term are available, but at $130 for the set and only covering the period of his administration they weren't a good introductory option.  Maybe if I ever have one of those Kindle/Nook thingies I'll read them.  Today was spent on the same biography I read a year of so ago - a 150 page, rather condensed biography from the American Presidents series.


Polk was a Tennessee protege of Andrew Jackson - "Young Hickory" to Jackson's "Old Hickory", and he was the first "dark horse" candidate to emerge from a presidential nominating convention.  Ferociously political, considered dour and lacking in social skills, he declared that he would run for one term and one term only, and he kept his promise.  He entered the presidency with a declaration that he had four goals to achieve in the four years of his term:

1) Obtain full control of Oregon (which covered what is now both Oregon and Washington) from the English with whom we were sharing it.

2)  Obtain California from Mexico, whose government was still unhappy about Texas.
 

3) End financial control of federal funds by private banks by re-creating President Martin Van Buren's independent treasury.

4)  Lower tariffs, which were placing heavy burdens on  the non-industrial, agrarian areas of the U.S.

He accomplished all four between 1845 and 1849, changing the geography and economy of the country profoundly.  Yet because of his flawed and quirky personality, his accomplishments are barely acknowledged.  In the end, the author concludes:
Arthur Schlesinger, Jr., has compared Polk's standing among presidents to that of Harry Truman:  "Neither Polk nor Truman was one of those creative presidents who make the nation look at things in a new way...But both had the intelligence and courage to accept the challenge of history.  History might have broken them, as it broke Buchanon and Hoover.  Instead it forced them, not into personal greatness, but into the performance of great things.
He did great things. That is a powerful epitaph.


Friday, December 28, 2012

Scrape Scrape Chip Chip

Two storms in a row, both having as much of the Dreaded Wintry Mix as snow in them. 

I love having a garage connected to the house.  But of course when I bought the place I didn't think about what winters would bring.  The top of my driveway slopes sharply down, then it makes a 90 degree turn to the right to go into the garage.  And even when I get my driveway clear at the top (in competition with plows that periodically re-block the entrance), that whole thaw-freeze cycle happens and the water that seeps down off the road freezes into a lovely ice slick at night - even AWD can't get me over that at an uphill slant.  So I have to move the SUV to my front yard in order to be able to use it when the weather gets bad. You know, that bad weather that would make being able to park in a garage so nice. 

I just finished chipping the driveway out enough that I got the Sante Fe up into the front yard so tomorrow's storm can coat it with snow and ice.  Fa.


Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Reading Season

Some time ago I decided that I really needed to read at least one biography of each of our presidents.  I would do it in order, which would help re-enforce historical context as their lives overlapped. The overlap would also help counter the fact that every biography is going to have a bias, for good or ill.  Different authors covering same periods at least would give a broader perspective.

I've run into some problems in pursuing this goal and I haven't gotten very far.  First, it's doggone hard to find good biographies of some of our presidents.  Really, there are more biographies available about Elvis than about Martin Van Buren, yet we were having a bit of a problem with Canada during Van Buren's administration:  among other things they burned one of our ships and sent it over Niagara Falls.  Granted, if Washington is is your hero, as he is mine, there is an abundance problem rather than a dearth problem; it's hard for me to not to pick up a new Washington biography when I see it.  More importantly, and an added complication, our history isn't made up of just our president, or even of just the events of our own country's history.  You can't read about Washington without adding biographies of Franklin and Hamilton.  And George III and and Lafayette.  A biography of Jefferson also means exploring Napoleon.  And then there are other legends who are worth reading about just for fun:  Daniel Boone, Francis Marion.    Things percolate elsewhere:  the French Revolution.  Revolutions in Europe in the mid-1800s.

We are at president # 44 in our history now. I've just finished reading about # 13, Millard Fillmore.  Not the best biography in the world; rather like, as one reviewer commented, an extended information pamphlet.  And you rather wonder where the editor was at times:  this guy might know history but he is not a good writer, and his grammar and punctuation can be annoying.


But I've learned a great deal from it, and I ended up giving it 4 stars over at Amazon.  Fillmore was vice president when President Zachary Taylor died in 1850 after just over a year in office.  He has been largely ignored, yet he served during a time of enormous turmoil over slavery and issues surrounding it, and his handling of several explosive situations kept the country stable enough that it was able to hold off civil war for another decade.  He was a man of integrity, and whether you agree with his decisions or not, it's clear that he made them with the Constitution and the good of the country uppermost in his mind.

Now I'm glad it's the season for stretching out with a book, because I can't go any further without delving into John C. Calhoun, Henry Clay, and Danial Webster, the political giants of the era. I've opted for a threefer that I hope covers them sufficiently for me to feel that I can move on:


I've also dredged up biographies of # 14, and # 15, Franklin Pierce and James Buchanan, who reside at the bottom of the barrel as far as presidencies go.   Then I have to make a decision:  which biography of Lincoln should I read?  That's going to be one of those where dearth is not the problem.  But maybe by the end of this reading season I will have made it at least through president # 16.


Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Merry Christmas!

From myself, Bronwyn, Dwight, Baby Girl, Rosie, Chessie, Blu, Blackberry, and Perry.


Thursday, December 20, 2012

I Really Don't Get It

It's been a few days now, and people are still in turmoil.  It's expected for the politicians:  they are holding their fingers up and trying to gauge how to jump in order to insure that they'll win the next election. It's expected for the media:  they are holding their fingers up and trying to gauge how to jump in order to insure that they'll get the most viewers/listeners.

But I really don't get why the every-day, run-of-the-mill liberals are in such a frenzy.  Friday was simply a very public example of exactly what they have been demanding for decades:  choice.  Adam Lanza took it on himself to define the worth of a human life, many human lives.  Since, for whatever reason, they didn't have worth to him, he destroyed them, and then he destroyed his own. 

That statement will cause spluttering, anger, huffing, and puffing.  Tough.  Every person who has declared themselves "pro-choice" owns Friday, December 14, 2012.  This culture runs around demanding freedom, demanding choice, declaring that absolutes of truth and right and wrong do not exist, that the worth of a human life is based on its usefulness, or on its generating a warm fuzzy.  Well, that attitude walked up and gave its supporters a big, wet kiss on the lips on Friday.

Mentally ill or not - and since the media are just making it up as they go we really don't know - Adam Lanza absorbed the culture around him.  The culture that says that choices are just words used to advertise something, that we should be able to do what we want, express ourselves how we want, avoid consequences, avoid pain.  And he acted on it.

And the same day he executed 20 children in Newtown, more than 3,000 were legally executed in various places around the U.S.  The only difference being that in their case the cowardice of "choice" allows the supporters/advocates of their deaths to avoid looking at their faces.  They don't have to imagine their pain or terror.  They can just look away, scream "something must be done" when violence spills into their own world, and continue to live their lives and give their support to exactly the attitudes that breed the exact same disdain for the value of human life that allows people to abuse and destroy.  All that is happening is that people are making choices.  Somebody doesn't like that choice - tough.  It's just a choice, one among many that people make, and it's been made perfectly clear that "choice" is something that is neutral in morality.

And the men who say "I would never try to tell a woman what to do with her body." need to  reclaim their testicles.  It can't be proven that a woman isn't carrying a separate human being - nobody can prove it because it's not true.  A man says he would have tried to protect those on the killing floor of Sandy Hook?  If he can't pry this generation of women's fingers off his genitals enough to stand up for the lives of children whose faces he will never have to see on the news, then it's just talk.  That's all it is, and they are as much a part of the problem of our culture as anybody else.

This child may not have given people the warm fuzzies any of the victims of Newtown do:



But he had as much right to live as this one did:


They are both dead babies, and liberals are as much complicit in the death of the one as they are in the other;   really, any pro-choicer who didn't personally know any of the dead in Newtown should just quit their wailing.  They were good with these kids dying 6 or 7 years ago in some abortion mill, and a cute smile, a missing front tooth, or a childish lisp doesn't change a thing. 

Oh, and P.S. - You don't know me, you don't know what I've been through in my life, or what has gone on in the lives of the people around me over the years.  So before you start giving me crap about not knowing what people go through, bugger off. I don't have the patience anymore.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Horse Hocky

I have to say, this article made me smile.  You can read the whole thing at "Sea Level Rise Data Based on Shoddy Science", which discusses how sea level changes are monitored, the difficulty of long range predictions, and other related subjects.  What made me smile was one particular example:

While examining tide gauge records from Atlantic City's Steel Pier, Mr. Galvin discovered a remarkable effect apparently caused by spectators who came to watch horse-diving between 1929 and 1978. From old photographs, it was estimated that there must have been about 4,000 spectators who would come to watch. Given that this crowd probably weighed about 150 tons, the pier was subject to significant loading and unloading cycles. The initial 1912-1928 data showed the sea level rising at a rate of 0.12 inches per year. The rate tripled around 1929 when the horses began diving. When the shows were suspended from 1945 to 1953, sea level fell at a rate of 0.06 inches per year. When the diving resumed, the sea level rose again at a rate of 0.16 inches per year.


Horses produce various things: in this case sea level change. It occurs to me that there are a lot of Chicken Little's that are full of something else horses produce.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Toss a Bit Extra In

The thought police are at it again.  In between demands for understanding and tolerance, several gay groups are organizing against the Salvation Army because of its support for traditional marriage, with Berkley leading the way.  Note that the Salvation Army does not discriminate in hiring or in who it helps, nor does the organization lobby.  But their beliefs about marriage are enough for radicals to try to block donations to them this Christmas season.  Better fewer people have food on the table than people fail the test of Proper Belief.

So I say, let's each toss more than just a bit of pocket change in the bucket as we pass it by this week.


Nothing

Nothing but disgust.  And resolution.

The politicians and the media have been so contemptibly irresponsible since Friday morning that I don't even have words.  I'm frustrated way beyond words.

So here's what it boils down to:  No.  You can't have them.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Some Say...


... that Satan doesn't exist. I say he does, and he paid a visit to an elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut, today.


Unfortunately, he left a lot of the living in Hell when he finally walked away.  My heart is broken for them.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

School Daze

This is something I would have expected from Washington, D.C., maybe not Washington state. 


I know this is the fault of the editor of the publication.  But still, it does make one think "Homeschooling, anyone?"

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Been Distracted

By the annual Christmas project.  It was finished today, except for the whole moving stuff back in, and I am absolutely delighted with it.

As I noted in an earlier blog, my place had started smelling like the crazy cat lady's house due to a kitty pee problem.  No matter what I used, the downstairs stank, so the carpet had to go.  I saved myself some money by ripping up and disposing of the carpet myself.


I found mold and mildew under it.  I rather suspect that stirring that up without wearing a mask is the reason I spent the next 2 weeks feeling draggy and coughing my head off at times.


The guys who came out to do the job were great, and they moved the project right along, with conversation about Gene's paratrooper M-1 and other fun toys mixed in.



Even just putting down the underlayment made it look better.


In the meantime, the cats expressed their opinion of the commotion.


I started getting really excited when they unrolled it, since all I had had before was a sample piece.  Yeah, it still looks like vinyl at this point but I could begin to see what the color and grain would look like in the whole room.


End result - gorgeous!  I love it!  It even feels like wood planks to the touch.



No more kitty pee smell, and spills will just wipe up.  Now I have to put all the books back.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Clever Rendition

'Tis the season, and although "The Messiah" was actually written for the Easter season, the "Hallelujah Chorus" has become a Christmas staple.  These high school students suited up as monks who have taken a vow of silence to give their unique rendition of the piece. 


Crank up the sound.   And watch the feet as well.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Up, Up, and Away!

A beautiful day and an invitation from Murphy's Law to take a sky ride - yeah boy, sounds good to me!  So up to the Eastern Regional Airport, where such toys are stored.

A little pre-flight checking:


And topping off the gas tanks:


It never occurred to me to consider the implications of gravity feed as opposed to a fuel pump for a plane.  Yeah, I can see where a fuel pump crapping out while in flight would be ...unfortunate.

While waiting, we heard one of the big boys the WV Air National Guard flies out of there revving up for take-off, so I fumbled around and found the video on the camera.  Takes a few seconds before the C-5 comes into view - I started filming when the sound of the engine said it was heading down the runway.

video

Then it was our turn.


Up, up, and away, chased by our shadow.



I haven't been in a small plane for a gazillion years, amazing how different everything looks from 1500 ft.  Outbound took us over Summit Point and its race track.  I've never actually been there - didn't realize what a set up they have. Pretty impressive.


The leaves are off, so we could spy.  Our first destination involved exactly that - a bit of spying.  Our range, 340 Defense, is suddenly closed.  Says it's for work.  Web page is down. Facebook page just says closed temporarily for work. Nobody answering phone or e-mails.  Worrisome.  So an overflight to see if we could see any activity that might ease our worry about losing a great shooting range.  Unfortunately, the answer is no - not a vehicle in sight, no sign of any activity at all.  VERY worrisome.


Then north and  east to the mountains.



Our own little lake on the mountain:


There was an Adirondack style lodge in the club complex on the lake until just a few months before I moved up here.  Unfortunately, it burned to the ground.  You can make out the stone skeleton on the point if you zoom close.  A lot of different ideas about the hows and whys of what happened float around but the incident remains an unsolved mystery. 



 Our community.  We live somewhere down in there but dang that plane skims over fast.


The roads around here periodically suffer from split personality disorder.  First it's one road and then it's another and they've cut a piece out of Rt. 9 and named it something else because now there's a Rt. 9 bypass to Leesburg and I keep ending up crossing that new bridge down there without wanting to because once you get on that stretch it's a good ways before you can turn around and actually go where you want to go.  And the first time I crossed it involved a long wait stuck on it due to a truck full of hay bales being on fire. 

 

At least I know where I'm going on the Harper's Ferry bridges.  The one crossing the Shenandoah is on the right of the picture, the one crossing the Potomac after the two rivers join isn't easily visible without zooming in on the picture.  Word to the wise - don't be in traffic between the two when an accident blocks the Shenandoah one.  


 There are also the train trestles at Harper's Ferry.


And a straight down view of Maryland Heights shows that nobody is on the overlook today.



Harper's Ferry under the wing.


A single boater on the Potomac today.


I didn't know about this quarry near Bakerton. Note the mine tunnels going in the sides.


On up to Shepherdstown and across into Maryland.  A train decorated the trestle for us as we passed over.  Note the Rumsey monument on the right near the end of the bridge.  James Rumsey made a successful demonstration of a steam engine driven boat on the Potomac near there on December 1787.


And over across the battlefields of Antietam, familiar places like Bloody Lane and Burnside Bridge.  Murphy's Law and I had relatives fighting on opposite sides there.  Fortunately he didn't kick me out of the plane because of that.
 


Then home again  and down we go after a beautiful flight.






Thanks, Murph!  Nice toy ya got there!

A Few Smiles


Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Who Got What

You may have heard that Hostess Bakery plants shut down due to a workers' strike.
But you may not have heard how It was split up.

The State Department hired all the Twinkies;
The Secret Service hired all the Ho-Hos;
The generals are sleeping with the Cupcakes;
and the voters sent all the Ding Dongs back to Congress.
 
h/t Charlie G.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Gack!

No! No no no no!  Bad enough the clothes and hair are coming back!