Saturday, December 1, 2007

Congratulations, Larry Correia!

No cubicle can hold hold him.

Larry has now officially escaped corporate America. He's off to sell machine guns and write best-sellers about monsters . . . living the dream.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

That's Not What 911 Is For, Kiddo


Very often, I think I've had a long, hard day until I talk to my wife. Then I find out that SHE has had a hard day.

Take today, for instance.

Work was of course hectic and exhausting. She's understaffed and doing the work of several people. No surprise there; that's what she's famous for. That's why they pay her the big . . . well, anyway, that's normal.

Her first inkling that today would be worse than usual was when she picked up the baby and pulled out in front of the babysitter's house to wait for the boys' school bus to arrive. It did not arrive. She waited some more, and then yet more, and still there was no cheerful yellow bus growling along the street to spill happy pups into her lap. That can't be good, right?
While she waited, she called the school. She called every school number she had, but nobody was there to answer any of the phones. She began to worry. She left the babysitter's house and headed back to ours.
We live a few miles from the babysitter's house, but only about 5-10 minutes' walk from the school. The boys could actually walk to school every day, if only we could trust them alone in the house for an hour after I left for school each morning. But we have the Hyena rule in my house; if I wouldn't trust two wild Hyenas to do something alone, then there's no way I can trust those boys to do it, either, and for similar reasons.

So mama bear pulled into the driveway to find, to her relief, Kane standing in the driveway. With the telephone.
"Here, mom," he said mildly as he held the phone out to her, "This lady wants to talk to you." Still processing, she took the phone and put it to her ear while asking him where his brother was.

"Ma'am, this is Macoupin County 911, we're calling back because we had a hangup from this number. What is your name and address?"

The boys had signed up to help set up band stands after school. Apparently they did mention it to mama bear before I got home from meetings last night, but it must have been en passant. Since they were staying late, they couldn't ride the bus, so they needed mom to pick them up from school. I don't get out of school early enough to do that, but she does--IF she knows she's supposed to do it! Technically, she's allowed to leave school that early, but it means she doesn't have time to set up the room for the next day.
In any case, the boys found themselves standing around the empty school yard and increasingly concerned that mom might not be coming. They had no phone, something we're rethinking now, but they say they didn't know our cell numbers anyway. So they did the logical thing; they set off to walk home. Ten minutes later they were at our house, which is not bad when you consider that they had to walk past the park with the biggest playground and a skate park to get here. But when they got home, there were still no parents in sight. This was perplexing and unusual; what to do?

Kane decided that the simplest solution was to call 911 and report that his parents were missing. He inquired as to whether we had been involved in car accidents. When the nice lady said something about an emergency line, he panicked and hung up on her. Problem solved!
When the 911 lady called back, he was beginning to think he might be in trouble, but then MOM pulled into the drive and it became clear what must be done: let mom handle it!
(He's watched me for years and obviously learned my approach to problem solving.)

In the end, we all got the chance to be scared with no permanent harm done. The boys now have their little cards with every phone number they could ever need. They know they have permission to walk home if anything like this ever happens again, and their bus driver will no longer allow them to skip riding the bus home unless they have a signed note from us. I actually think they handled this incident pretty well aside from the 911 call. Momma's beating herself up, but I'd pay good money for a recording of the conversation where they claim they "told her all about" staying after school and asked for a ride. They certainly could be telling the truth, but, you know, fool me 1,000 times, shame on me, amirite?

Bleg: Pick My Video Card

Awhile back, I mentioned that I need a new computer.

Then Tigerdirect had a pretty good sale the weekend after Thanksgiving. They called it "Pink Friday." YOu didn't have to spend the night in the freezing cold with stupid people on a sidewalk, which I like, and they gave $100,000 to the Susan G. Komen foundation to kill breast cancer, which is good, too.

Plus, they sold this barebone kit with case, motherboard, a gig of ram on one stick, and an Athlon 64 3500--for $100 after a rebate. One hundred dollars. Plus, the processor and motherboard use the AM2 socket, so if I ever need to upgrade to one of the dual-core X2 Athlons, I can drop it in.

This seemed like a great deal to me, so I picked it up and threw a processor cooler in too. I've got a 160GB hard drive just sitting around unused, and I've got a fast DVD burner sitting in an external case that never gets used, either. That leaves a few sundries more or less, depending on whether I scavenge from my current machine. It's outmoded, but it still works.

The main reason for upgrading to the new machine is to edit home video and burn DVD discs that I can send off to grandparents. I want to be able to create reasonably nice videos, and I want to be able to burn them to a DVD format that will play in most standard DVD players.

What video card and what software do I need, here? I'd like to keep things cheap on the video card, but I want good performance. I don't play games, so video editing is my only concern. I was thinking something like a GeForce 8500 Ultra Silent (just because it's under $100 and I want something quiet.) I don't know anything at all about video processors or what I should be looking for. I think I want PCI-Express and lots of video RAM, right?

As far as software goes, I just want it to be dummy-proof. I don't need to do anything fancy, just add a title here and there, maybe music, and edit things right.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Governor Rod Blagojevich Is Still a Jackass

"JCAR's role is merely advisory - it does not have the constitutional authority to suspend the regulation," Abby Ottenhoff said in an e-mail.
Right. Which is why your guy spent millions of taxpayer dollars trying to bribe them--because they don't matter? It is to laugh.

OK, let's see if I can explain this without rambling. Remember when Rod Blagojevich decided he was going to put the hurt on all the Illinois legislators who pissed him off? And so he cut all their earmarked projects out of the state budget, calling it $500 million worth of "pork?" You have to keep in mind that Illinois hasn't had a capital spending plan for years, so all the stuff your state government probably spends money on, like roads, bridges, and schools, really only gets funded in our budgets through these earmarks. We're not talking about legislators building memorials to themselves or the International Museum of Allergies.

Anyway, Blagojevich thought he would kill two birds with one stone. See, while he wanted to punish and hurt most legislators, especially the House members from his own party, there were a few legislators he knew he needed. These were the members of JCAR, the Joint Committee on Administrative Rules. You see, Blago wanted to implement a radical state health-care plan designed to cover everybody in Illinois. While that's a nice thought, the legislature was swayed by the fact that we've been running billions in deficits in Illinois and are teetering on the brink of ruin. Apparently, imminent bankruptcy is all the excuse they needed not to spend huge amounts of money they don't have. Quitters!
That being the case, they refused to implement the Governor's plan, and they even had the gall to refuse (by a vote of 107 to ZERO) to implement the massive value-added-tax scheme he'd counted on to pay for it all by multiplying our taxes. These people aren't exactly heroes, mind you, but they can count votes, and they know what an angry phone call means. They told Blago to sod off. His one big hope was that he'd be able to implement the plan anyway by using the money he'd cut from the "pork projects" to pay for it.
The only problem is that he doesn't have the power to do that under the state constitution, but Blago doesn't let details distract him from the big picture. He just needed JCAR to look the other way and declare that his unconstitutional actions were constitutional, and he'd be home free. The feds do it all the time with the Supreme Court, so how hard can it be?

Well, to that end, he put all the funding for the "pork" projects belonging to members of JCAR back into the budget. It was a bald attempt to curry favor with absolutely no guile or apology. He was so open about it that he actually approved the funding for JCAR member projects that couldn't go forward without the funding he'd vetoed for another legislator; the most famous example was the "half-a-bridge" in St. Charles.

All was somewhat quiet on this front until last week, when JCAR met. They considered Blago's case and decided that since what he wanted to do was unconstitutional, he wouldn't be allowed to do it.
Now, at this point, Blago has actually failed to bribe Illinois politicians. That's like going to the petting zoo and finding that the geese and the goats don't want the feed you just bought out of the machine. People have been feeding these animals pellets for decades, but they just turn their noses up at you. How is it even possible?

Blagojevich fell back on what he knows: schoolyard taunts.
"Governor, your plan is unconstitutional. You don't have the power to take money from . . ."
"Nuh-uh! You're unconstitutional!"
"Yes, but . . . wait, what?"
"You heard me! Unconstitutional! Your whole committee is unconstitutional, so you can't even tell me that what I'm doing is unconstitutional! You're unconstitutional more! You're unconstitutional first! All your decisions are null and void, so I can go ahead and do whatever I want! I'm the boss! Me! Boss! See? Boss!"
"Is there . . . . is there someone else we could talk to, Governor?"

Governor Rod Blagojevich Is Equal to FAIL

I have to go to work (where Blogspot is banned, thank whatever, so I sometimes get work done) and I just don't have time to explain what Governor Rod Blagojevich has done now. Suffice it to say that this guy is literally too dumb to bribe Illinois politicians. I'll let that sink in and maybe I can explain it tonight for those of you from outside Illinois.

Klutzo's Autopsy Holds No Surprises

So, they did the autopsy on the evil clown who died in Sangamon County Jail the other day, and to my complete lack of surprise it turns out that he had a "pre-existing heart condition." I'm guessing that this must be the same heart problem that was mentioned to the public when he was arrested--the same one causing the classing cardiac symptoms before he was hit with a Taser. Of course, the local media is still playing this as a story about whether the Taser is a lethal weapon or not, and local idiots are calling the radio station as fast as they can dial to proclaim that the deputies should have just locked the cell door and left him in there until he calmed down (this while he was showing signs of cardiac troubles capable of ruining his whole day!) Maybe they Tased him too quickly. I don't pretend to know that. But what I don't believe is that a guy with heart problems should be able to jump into a brawl with multiple young cops and expect that his heart will hold up to the strain.

The best part of the morning TeeVee news report today was their attempt to sound somewhat unbiased while giving Amnesty International airtime for their "study" that purported to "prove" that Tasers are deadly weapons. "The study is not scientific, but Amnesty International says that they have gathered cases in which people died after being shocked with the devices."

Oh, well then. A "not scientific" study of anecdotes, that assumes that correlation is causation? Why didn't you say so in the first place? I'm TOTALLY on board with you now. Let's go back to shooting people and beating them with sticks right away before someone gets hurt!

Monday, November 19, 2007

In Other News: Robyn Ringler Still Irrelevant

You know, when Robyn Ringler started deleting comments, then announced that she wouldn't accept comments anymore because gun owners are just too mean for "reasoned discourse," some of us just failed to get the message. A few of us even persisted in being mean (defined here as pointing out what Robyn said and giving our opinion of her thoughts.) I joked at the time that Robyn was taking her ball and going home.

Today I checked back in with Robyn when I logged in with my wife's laptop and noticed that Robyn's RSS feed is still there. You will share my amazement that she hasn't posted anything since the lame joke she put there in September when she told everyone to sod off:

To those of you wondering—yes, I did write the blurb under my photograph. Sorry I told you. I just couldn’t let some poor innocent hack take the blame! As you continue to read my blog, you’ll just have to decide whether I could really be so arrogant or whether there just might be a small possibility that I have a wonderful sense of humor!

But, Robyn, what if I can tell you're joking and I still see no evidence of a sense of humor?

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Le Clown Est Mort.

It is with the heaviest of hearts that I bring you sad, sad tidings:

Klutzo the Klown, the man who brought terror and disgust to children from Illinois to the Philippines, is dead.

Yes, yes, I know, it's terrible news. And it is certainly [i]not[/i] funny. I'm talking to you, Lawdog. Wipe that smirk off your face.

Even worse is that this misunderstood man died after being shocked with a TASER by minions of the state just because he was fighting them. Can you imagine such a thing? Amnesty International is apparently not happy about such shenanigans and goings-on. You have to hand it to these people--it's not easy being the pro-clown-child-molestation lobby, but I guess they figured that if they didn't do it, who would?

All joking aside, the rest of us are less concerned. This is the second time Klutzo has had to be restrained because he was fighting the deputies in the jail. They don't get paid enough to put up with his nonsense. I don't know what Amnesty International expected the deputies to do (the guy HAD to be put into the chair, because he was having medical issues and had to be transported to the local hospital. EMS response was apparently pretty prompt, because the ambulance was already en route to transport him to the hospital--and they were called and told to respond signal one when Klutzo's distress became clear.
Just to make it clear, I don't think you can say honestly that the deputies killed this guy by tasing him on his leg. Is it possible? Maybe. Could he have gotten asphyxiated positionally or something? Could be, certainly, but nobody seems to be suggesting that at this point. What we do know is that this guy was not in good health and probably wasn't in shape to be struggling with a mob of cops. But then, that was his choice, wasn't it? Somebody out there is apparently making a big deal out of the fact that the deputy with the TASER said in the report that he fired the TASER into Klutzo's leg, while information "downloaded from the TASER" indicated that it was pushed into the leg and used in the hand like a traditional stun gun. I confess I don't see the significance; as far as I know, the effect on the body should have been exactly the same either way. The voltage is the same, the amperage is the same, and I believe the duration is the same, so why does it matter where the unit was? Since no one is alleging that he wasn't tased in the leg, I'd guess that the marks from the probes bear that part out. I don't know why the deputy would say he was further back if he wasn't, of course, unless it was a simple mistake. What would he have to gain by lying about that?

For now, I'm not shedding any tears. Clowns deserve to be tased, and child molesters deserve death. Klutzo made his choices in life, and the consequences came, just like they always do sooner or later.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

A Place for Everything, and Everything In Its Place

Our beloved former Governor, His Gubernatorial Highness King George Ryan, is finally in his place.

His place, it nearly goes without saying, is in federal prison with the rest of the felons. Schadenfreude is a terrible thing, it is true, but is it as terrible as knowing that you have committed a whole bunch of crimes and gotten some good people killed in the process?
Well, George says he may be going to prison after being convicted of racketeering by a jury of his peers, "but my conscience is clear." In other words, he claims to feel no remorse. Well, whatever. You don't have to feel sorry as long as you have to do your time, big man.

Monday, October 29, 2007

My New Man-Purse Is Unstoppable

Apologies and all that.

More to come later, but I wanted to drop a note here to say that the new bag is good kit. Right now I carry a SIG P220, two loaded magazines, a knife or two, a light, keys, wallet, phone, EMS pager, some papers, and often a can of soda in the bottle pocket. Yesterday I took Melissa to the mall (her one birthday wish--she thought my idea was too expensive) and walked about 500 miles around that place. It was a whole lot more comfortable than the fanny pack, and although neither is exactly cool, nothing is as uncool as a fanny pack. If anyone gave the bag a second look, I didn't see it.

It'll be even more awesome with my MHI patch on the big flap.

I've been practicing with it a little,and it's not bad, although the fanny pack was actually a faster access--if the fanny pack is "Six Seconds to Safety," this rig is 12-15. It would be hard to draw the gun with one hand and a magazine with the other, as I did with the fanny pack, so with an unloaded gun things are slower. Of course, it's not designed for an unloaded gun, but that's Illinois law and there's not much I can do about it for now.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Happy Birthday, Esperanza!

Today is the birthday of Esperanza, la Luz de Mi Corazon (my wife, whose name is not Esperanza.) I will of course not divulge her age, but if you know her, you would be shocked. SHOCKED, I tell you. She looks ten years younger.

Seriously, honey, I love you very, very much. I could not live my life if you weren't here. Thanks for the family and the home and the love.

And hurry home so we can have cake. I have prepared a chocolate suicide device. Although the amount of chocolate in it could easily be fatal, I am confident that it will only make you stronger.

(Artists' rendition of Don with birthday cake)

Monday, October 22, 2007


Our babysitter is a great guy. Stay-at-home dad, blacksmith, CPR instructor . . . . he's got my life, basically, and he's great with our kids, which is not something just anybody can accomplish.

But last night, his wife was in some sort of traffic accident. I don't know any details, because he didn't know all the details when he called. He did mention "ambulance" and "broken leg." We'll just hope it's one of those "nice, clean breaks" I always hear about--from the way people talk, I assume those don't hurt. We can also be allowed to hope that's all that was wrong and there are no nasty surprises.

For today, though, Dave's not open and I'm home with the Bubba. I shall put on a brave face and struggle through somehow . . . . while the poor people go to work.



You know, I've thought about tattoos several times over the years, but I've never pulled the trigger. Every time I think of something I think would be good, I get tired of it eventually, and end up thinking "Glad I didn't have that inked permanently onto my body." When I was a kid, guys were getting football numbers tattooed on themselves, high school mascots, college mascots . . . . here I am, ten years out of high school, and I can't imagine what possible use a tattoo of a big paw print with a "72" in it could be to me. I mean, I've managed to remember which schools I played for, and I even remember my number (it was carefully chosen--the same number as William "Refrigerator" Perry.) I don't have a lot of use for that information anymore, but it's there if I need it, and having it tattooed on my bicep with some awesome barbed wire wouldn't make much difference at this point.

Just about the only idea that has lasted has been to get "TANSTAAFL" marked somewhere. There's a concept I don't think is going anywhere. Similarly, the research scientists who sent in pictures of their cool science tattoos to Carl Zimmer at The Loom are probably not worried that the Periodic Table or a strand of DNA or velociraptors are going to look stupid in ten years. The guy with F=MA on one arm and E=MC^2 on the other is pretty safe, too. I can see how those mean something--that's their work, not someone else's idea of cool. It's what they've chosen in their lives. I guess I could have Bloom's Taxonomy tattooed on my chest, but it doesn't seem worth it.

At the other end of the spectrum are my in-laws. If you've ever wondered if you ought to get your tattoo changed because your favorite NASCAR driver has a different number now, you MIGHT be a redneck.
(But you know I love ya, Tom!)

Thursday, October 18, 2007

A Trailer Park Full of Child Molesters . . . . Well, Hmm.

It has finally happened: Tam has been left snarkless. It turns out that there's a trailer park in Florida that specializes in housing sex offenders. Well, they've got to live somewhere, and now that they're registered and being chased out of neighborhoods with torches and pitchforks, I guess something like this was inevitable.

The whole thing sends me on a walk down memory lane, back to the days of long discussions with Shazaaye Puebla, self-appointed crusader for sex offender rights. He showed up on trying to sic us on another "Apache martial artist" with a fraud investigation . . . . but he spent a lot of time talking about:
  • peyote
  • downloading belief systems
  • deadly Apache knife-fighting
  • peyote
  • blending Apache and Celtic cosmology to form the ultimate woo-woo power in the galaxy
  • the bitter injustice in how society treats child molesters
  • peyote
  • how no one understands that the sexual molestation of children is caused by society, not the offenders
Our keen investigative minds immediately switched on. There was humming, buzzing, and more than a few sparks, and then a thought came floating forward through the ether, dimmed and waving as if it were being viewed through murky waters:
"Hey, this guy might not be legit."

Hilarity ensued.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Too Late; I Bought the Purse

I got some good comments on the purse post, but you're all too late. I ordered the bag yesterday.

Less was nice enough to post a link to another bag he thought would work well, but from my point of view, it doesn't match up to the Versipack. I won't really know until I have it in my hands, of course, but I had three major problems with the "Suarez Rifle Fighting Bag."

  • Contrary to the description on the website, I think it looks very much like a piece of military equipment. I don't think you'd fool anyone with it any more than the Versipack--unless you got the black, and pretended to be carrying a camcorder.

  • It doesn't seem to have nearly the functional utility of the Versipack--it doesn't hold the same stuff, and I don't see how it wears, but it looks like it's just a strap at each end. I like that the Versipack is angled to ride as flat and unobtrusively as possible.

  • This may seem petty, but . . . well, it's the "Suarez Rifle Fighting Bag." It sounds like I'd be putting money in Gabe Suarez's pocket,and frankly I'd rather not.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

I Could Be Manly With a Purse, Right?

I think I want a purse.

Don't get me wrong; not like a girl purse, with flowers and Hello Kitty on it. A Tactical Purse in a Tactical Color with a holster and a magazine holder inside. You know, manly and stuff.

What I'm actually looking at is a Maxpedition Versipack Jumbo, and you'll notice if you click through that Maxpedition does not use the P-word to describe their product--ever. But I've concluded that I basically want a piece of equipment to do what a purse does for a woman--and if you define a thing by its function, that makes this thing a purse, at least when I'm using it. Hear me out, now, and let me see if I can explain why I want one.

I really need a better way to carry a gun. In Illinois, the only legal way to carry a gun on one's person is to have it unloaded and completely enclosed in a case, box, bag, "or other container." If you want to comply with the wildlife code, the container must also have been designed to carry a firearm. Under the criminal code, you could carry your GLOCK tupperware in a real piece of Tupperware if you wished, as long as it was unloaded.
This means you can't carry in a standard holster; it doesn't completely enclose the handgun. Good people have done brave things to establish that it is at least arguably legal, under this standard, to carry a handgun in a fanny pack designed for the purpose.
Fanny packs, however, are clumsy, slow, uncomfortable and slow to put on and take off. I have a black one that holds my P220 and a magazine--barely--in the gun compartment, but I hate the thing. And frankly, I end up just carrying it in my hand when I'm going into a car, which essentially makes it a clutch purse.

In addition, I've lost my wallet several times in the last week alone. I have to change clothes at least twice on a normal day so I can dress professionally and still work out, and it seems like the wallet, keys and phone are always getting lost in the shuffle. I notice that my wife always knows where hers are, because they're always in her purse. I'd put up with a lot more than a few wisecracks about carrying a purse if it meant I'd never lose my wallet again. I realize it won't, but I have hope that it will help. I'm hoping it will also make it easier to carry a few other useful items, like a granola bar, light, CPR mask, and gloves. And the Jumbo model has a carrier for a water bottle on the back, which might come in handy.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Clowns Are Not Our Friends

So anyway, there I am getting dressed at 6:00 in the morning, and the morning news bubblehead was mentioning that the local man recently arrested did business as "Klutzo the Klown." That sounded pretty familiar.

"Missy . . . . where do I remember the name 'Klutzo' from? Have you heard of this guy?"

"Uh . . . . OH! OH! Hey . . . hey . . . oh!" and with that, she bolted from the room. I vaguely wondered whether I had insulted her, caught her wetting her pants, or what, but she was back before I could finish wondering. Triumphantly, she thrust a card under my nose.

The front was a picture of a very creepy clown posing with a very creepy female clown. It was like terror and madness had gone over to the K-Mart to get they family photos took. Instantly I remembered. A month or two ago . . . out to dinner with some of Melissa's friends . . . . we encountered a creepy old clown monster having dinner in full clown regalia. I took a deep breath and put my knife back into my pocket, and that momentary loss of focus cost me. Not only did I not beat up the elderly clown in the middle of a crowded restaurant (which clearly would have been the best course of action in this case) but he had time to give my son a business card.

Creepy and weird. And yes, the guy who chatted up my son was the one I call the Bad Klutzo.

So it turns out that a local man has put Springfield briefly on the map . . . . by being a child molester. People are interested in his case because of the jobs he's held. He claims that he was once a Springfield police officer, but as far as I know the SPD hasn't confirmed or denied that yet. He has been a daycare teacher, a Big Brother, a bunch of other jobs that give him access to children, and . . . . well . . . . he's also Klutzo the Klown.

No kidding.

Now, as you may be aware, I HATE CLOWNS. Clowns are bad. They are not funny, they are not endearing, and they are not entertaining. They paint themselves up like monsters and then dance around in your face. And yet, if you clinch with one and start throwing knees, suddenly you're the criminal. Disgusting.

Anyway, this particular clown is worse than most. Most just scare me and make my trigger finger itch; then they're gone and I don't have to think about them much. This guy is accused of possession of child pornography and of molesting children, specifically children he flew all the way to the Philippines to victimize.

It has now even come out that there's another Klutzo the Clown up around Chicago somewhere, who has been forced to retire the persona because people hate him now, too. I should feel sorry for that guy, but let's face it: he's a clown. He therefore deserves what he gets.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Can't Stop the Signal. . . .

We're BACK, baby! Hey, kids, are clowns scary? Sure they are! I do not heart clowns.

Watch this space for my total, terrifying vindication. . . and welcome back.

Also--does anybody know what's going on with Chris Muir over at Day By Day? Here's hoping it passes.

Ritual Tribal Warfare Is Fun When You Win

The Chicago Bears just came back from a 17-0 deficit, forced five turnovers and scored 27 points to beat the Green Bay Packers.

In Green Bay.

You could actually see the suffering on the faces of the cheeseheads with the best seats.

Now, this means the Bears are 2-3 instead of 1-4, and it could very well be the turning point in their entire season. They're not totally out of the playoff race, for instance. But let's be perfectly honest: that isn't what matters here.

What matters here is that the Bears have beaten the Packers. The rest is just details.

Ladies and gentlemen, the starting offensive line for your Green Bay Packers.

(And of course, the dorks on NBC have to explain how it doesn't really count because "the score at halftime should have been 31-7. Without the turnovers, that's the score at the half!" Are there still people alive who think turnovers against the Bears defense--the Chicago Bears--are some kind of accidents? How many seasons do they have to produce consistent, game-changing turnovers before people get it? Just several years' worth of lucky flukes, I guess.)

What Do You Think This Button Does?

Hmm. You know the old sitcom trope where a character wants to help and he hits one little button on his friend's laptop? And inevitably, invariably, it turns out that you can completely delete the entire document the guy was working on with one little push of one little button?

Well, it really can happen. I know because my idiot friend apparently tried to delete a new blog I had toyed with, but logged in to the wrong one and deleted The Armed School Teacher. By "deleted," I mean wiped out completely--nothing left.

And by "my idiot friend," of course, I mean me.

So this is just a place holder to let people know what's up until I find out whether Blogger still has any of my old data from which to restore the blog. (I have no faith in that possibility, but it's worth asking.)

If they don't, no big deal. I'll start over.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Unions, Riots, Cemeteries, and Job Fairs

It's been a rough couple of weeks here in V-Town. First, not too long ago, Freeman-United sold the mines that employ several hundred people in this little town, and the new buyers closed the Crown II. Coal mining has a long history in Virden; when I was in college, my Socialist history professor was very excited to learn that I was from this area. (She really was a Socialist, which she used to say she thought was pretty mild compared to her British history-professor husband, whom she identified as a Communist.) In 1898, when Virden was still a company town and the mine head was right in the center of town, the miners struck.

The company responded by locking them out and advertising nationwide for hundreds of "good colored miners" (no kidding--apparently they didn't want to send white guys to get shot?) and putting them on a train to nearly-beautiful downtown Virden. The trains were full of company "security" men and "detectives." When the train entered Virden, the miners opened fire and the company men fired back. Miners were killed, "detectives" were killed, and by some miracle, not many of the "good colored miners" were killed, which is pretty impressive considering that the were between the two factions AND they were the only ones unarmed. The miners even killed the company storekeeper before they were done.

The company was so incensed that it wouldn't allow the dead strikers to be buried on company land--which, at the time, meant anywhere in Virden or the surrounding township. That's why there's a large Miner's Cemetery in Mount Olive, IL, to this day. The miners' union bought the land and built their own burial ground.

Ever hear of Mother Jones magazine? The lefty rag? Well, the real Mother Jones--who would probably spit on her granola-sandal-wearing "heirs of the movement" if she encountered one today--is buried beneath a small monument in that little graveyard on the edge of Mount Olive, Illinois. She said she wanted to be buried with the miners of Virden. Ironically, that meant she couldn't be buried in Virden.

It wasn't so many years after that that the mine unions split into factions and were close to open bloodshed among themselves. In fact, last year a local scholar found a few old miners who recounted the story of almost shooting one of their own in that same aforementioned cemetery in Mount Olive. You see, Mother Jones' monument was almost finished and had been covered with a tarp. It seems that a miner was headed home after a late shift and cut through the cemetery. He walked up to the monument and stood looking at it for a minute or two, then headed on his way. He never realized, apparently, that several miners from one union were lying in wait for members of a different union in the cemetery that night. They had been warned of a plot by the opposing union to dynamite the Mother Jones monument and had set up an ambush with shotguns. Each had a shotgun pointed at the lucky late-shift miner when he approached the monument, and the surviving member told a local reporter that if the man had lifted the cloth off the monument, that would have been the end of him with pellets tearing into him from all directions. But he didn't, and so he lived to see the next day--and as far as anyone knows, he never knew how close he came to dying over union politics.

Now, Freeman United has sold their two mines, Crown II and Crown III, to a new local company. One is still operating; the other is closing. I question whether it will stay closed. It may be that the new owners want the miners to get a feel for what sort of career opportunities are out there for retrained coal miners, then renegotiate the labor contract based on that knowledge. After putting in applications at Hardee's and Wal-Mart, a pay cut and a mine shaft might start to look good. Either way, it was clear that the F-U company wasn't doing well with these mines. Their biggest customer was the independent power generator for Springfield, City Water Light and Power. CWLP tries to adjust the price of F-U's high-sulfur (thus high-pollution) coal downward every time the contract comes up, but F-U has always managed to get them to continue paying higher than market value. I suspect a lot of lobbying of Springfield officials was done and it was probably theorized that CWLP was helping stimulate the Springfield economy by helping float the Virden economy, since we all shop there. In any case, that sort of thing is at best a temporary deal. Your long-term business plan can't be based on the forlorn hope that market forces will be suppressed forever.

Were I a young guy in those mines, I'd do whatever I could think of to avoid going back no matter who the manager is. The mines are doomed until the high-sulfur coal is economically viable. The only way I see that happening is if this "coal gasification" thing gets off the ground. The problem with the high-sulfur coal is that it gives off sulfur oxides when burned, and those create sulfuric acid which falls in our rain--acid rain. Remember when acid rain was going to be the end of the world? I do.

Anyway, coal-gasification involves somehow converting coal into a gas that burns efficiently, but also pumping the exhaust underground to seal it away from the atmosphere. This is being proposed now in order to sequester Carbon Dioxide away from the atmosphere and thus avoid killing cute baby polar bears with greenhouse gases, but it would (I think) also mean that sulfur emissions wouldn't matter much.

Now, is there a downside to pumping all that exhaust gas underground? Other than dead mole-people and lavatorr-creatures? Probably, but I don't know what it is.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Hmm . . . Ironical.

You just never know what you'll find hidden away in a little prairie town.

I was looking for something fun to do with some of the kids as we talk about the Clovis, Monte Verde and Topper sites when I stumbled across the Lithic Casting Lab. How cool is that? You can get inexpensive castings of authentic stone-age artifacts delivered to your doorstep. They're not the real thing, but then, you won't have a stroke when you drop one on the sidewalk (and you know you're going to drop one on the sidewalk.) You can also get cool posters and prints that show all three sides of an artifact, but I think the "collection" posters might be the coolest. The one pictured at left is "Stone Age Artifacts of the World" It spans 2 million years of human history and comes with its own illustrated guidebook . . . that's cool. Supposedly, there's a blade on this poster that no modern craftsman has been able to reproduce. How awesome is that?

The poster below is the "Artifacts of Cahokia Mounds" poster. The Cahokia Mounds are the remnants of a stone age "mound builder" city just across the river from St. Louis, Missouri. In fact, from the top of Monks' Mound, the largest mound on the site, you can look across the river and see the St. Louis skyline. I highly recommend the experience of standing on the top of that thing with the wind blowing over your scalp (for some of you, through your hair.)

But why is that ironical? And is ironical a word?

Well, at first glance, Troy is a sleepy little place with a lot of fast food restaurants and a couple of truck stops, about 20 minutes outside St. Louis on I-55. But if you look to your left as you pass by on the interstate, you'll see a small white building with a blue roof sitting all alone on the frontage road. The sign on the front looks insignificant next to the giant fast-food eyesores, but when I go to St. Louis, that's where I go.

That's Grand Prairie Knives. GPK is by far my favorite knife shop. They specialize in collector Case pocketknives because, frankly, that's what the owner collects. But they sell just about everything from United Cutlery and Cold Steel to real knives from Camillus, Spyderco, Benchmade, TOPS, Chris Reeve, Mad Dog, Busse, and more custom makers every year. I can kill a LOT of time in that place. Even worse, there's not one piece in the displays that they won't cheerfully hand over for your inspection, which only makes it take longer. Melissa doesn't even come inside anymore; she settles into the car with a book.

Anyway, what could be more perfect than one sleepy little town on the edge of the prairie where you can get a Clovis point, a Sebenza, and a full tank of gas in one afternoon?

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

More Whining

Remember the other day, when I complained about all the crazy stuff that happened to me, and a few of you thought I'd completely lost it? And Matt wanted people to give me a car?

Well, yesterday didn't go quite that well.

However, yesterday ended on a positively hopeful note, so don't alert the suicide hotline or anything, you bunch of mother hens.

I probably won't post details; it's pretty personal. I just didn't want to leave this space empty.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Where Were You When The World Stopped Turning?

Everybody has been writing about where they were when the 9/11 attacks were reported, so I suppose I might as well get mine off my chest, too.

I was actually teaching 8th grade English in a small Illinois town when it happened, and I missed it. School there started promptly at 8:00 a.m., and although we had televisions with cable in every classroom, we didn't use that particular feature much.

I didn't find out that anything was wrong until my 2nd-hour students began filtering in; a few came straight to my desk.

"Mr. Gwinn! You have to turn on the TV! This guy just crashed into the twin towers!"

"Twin towers?" (I was a country boy from Illinois--I honestly had no idea what they were talking about.)

"In New York! These huge buildings--this guy flew an airplane right into the building!"

"All right, guys, that's really not funny. If that really happened, people would really die. Let's get to our seats and get to work--we've got a lot to do."

That's right--when 9/11 happened, I was pretty sure it was a hoax my students were playing on me. When they convinced me to turn on the TV, there were the towers, with smoke billowing and the news crawl on the bottom of the screen. Even then, I remember wondering whether this was really an accident; actually, I remember several students saying they thought it was probably a deliberate attack. We left the news on, intending to watch a few more minutes, shut it off, and get on with our day.

Then the second plane hit, and I knew there would never be any way back to the old world.

We toggled between FOX and CNN all day. I tried to discuss what was going on with the students, but I didn't have any answers for them. We talked a little about Bin Laden--we had actually talked a bit about him when we discussed the bombing of the U.S.S. Cole--but remember, we weren't at all certain for awhile whether he'd actually done it. Nobody was taking responsibility that day, and I remember being puzzled by that.

A few things I remember that I don't see many others talking about:

1. I remember that there were reports that 50,000 people worked in the towers . . . and many of us were trying to think what 25,000-45,000 casualties would do to the world. We didn't think that was unlikely at all--frankly, we had no idea how amazingly well the evacuation would go. 3,000 dead is a figure that gets bandied about a lot now. It's real, and it's horrible. But I don't want to forget how bad it could have been.

2. I remember reports on CNN and FOX of car bombs, truck bombs, hostage situations, and terrorist sightings all over. We (as in, all of us--America) were frantic and convinced that there were terrorists around every corner.

3. A new (and as it turned out, short-lived) sense of unity between rural and urban dwellers emerged almost instantly. Where I live, New York City is not held in high esteem by many. But when we watched their buildings burn, their people screaming in the blinding clouds of dust and smoke, blood caking the dusty remnants of their city's greatest monument to their faces . . . they were just Americans after all. We wanted to donate our blood (remember the rush to donate barrels of blood, even though it was really too late to donate in time for the blood to help with the immediate trauma in NYC?) And we DID give. It helped somebody, after all, and what else could you do? What we wanted to do was shoot the motherfuckers who hurt our friends in New York and Washington in their faces, but we couldn't really do that either.

4. The public perception of New York City changed in a week or two, turning around 180 degrees. It's true that New York had been getting safer for years under Giuliani (whether he made it happen or not, it happened.) But the general perception, at least around here, was that New York was a city of pimps, thieves, murderers and looters; the decent people living in New York were the ones who couldn't afford to move out or the "elites" in Manhattan who liked living in their version of Sodom on the Hudson. At some point after 9/11, it became clear that the rampant looting, murdering and generally disgusting behavior we all expected were not coming. I don't know anyone who didn't have a grim prediction that riots and looting were right around the corner. I predicted it, too.
I wonder whether anyone else out there remembers an unaired episode of the old NBC cop show "Third Watch." The show starred the psychic guy from Heroes as a gruff NYC cop, but it portrayed cops, medics, and firefighters on the third watch. Pretty good show. Anyway, right before 9/11 happened, they were advertising a multi-episode "mini-series event." The plot was to follow the cast through the night of a power outage in NYC. In accordance with the assumptions of the time, a power outage in New York inevitably led to rioting. The money scene in the previews was the older cop and his younger partner sitting in a police van with a bunch of other officers in full riot gear, gripping nightsticks. There were no windows, but something outside was clearly rocking the van's body back and forth. The younger cop was breathing in and out in ragged spurts, staring at the ceiling, desperately trying to master his fear. His older partner shouts at him over the sound of the riot outside, "Keep your back against mine no matter what happens!"
Then the cut to darkness.

After 9/11 . . . . that episode would have caused riots everywhere but New York. You couldn't say a bad word about New York, and you certainly couldn't get away with saying that New Yorkers would seize any excuse to riot. As far as I know, those episodes simply never aired.

Sunday, September 9, 2007

Foxworthy Rip-Off, Part II

If you've ever heard a trained firefighter/EMT say "Gawddammit, that's the last time I ever wear flip flops on a rescue call!" then it's possible that you might be a redneck.

. . . and if you're not, you're probably outnumbered.

That Seems About Right.

Notice that Sci-Fi is my lowest area . . . . all their sci-fi questions were about Star Trek with some Star Wars thrown in--and one of their Star Wars questions seemed to imply that you'd score higher for owning a Jar-Jar Binks t-shirt!
No questions about Heinlein, Asimov, Firefly . . . . I question the true sci-fi credentials of the authors of this so-called "test." By what right do they dare question the sheer sci fi nerd power of a man in a homemade Jayne Cobb PCH? They also underestimated my awkwardness, but what can you do? says I'm a Nerd King.  What are you?  Click here!

Friday, September 7, 2007

With Apologies to Jeff Foxworthy:

. . . if you've ever had to drive your pickup because your Camaro wasn't running, you might be a redneck.

. . . . if your baby son has ever tried to snatch the froggy tattoo off his grandmother's back, you might be a redneck.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Aw, Hey, Look . . . Nobody Likes a Whiner, OK?

See, this is sort of my vanity spot. I just post whatever comes to mind here, more or less. I don't troll the news sites looking for stuff to snark about, for instance. I have a job. A job with dedicated IT personnel who have no sense of humor about YouTube, gun forums, or Blogspot.

Anyway, when I get to ranting and raving and expressing all the pity I feel for myself, feel free to skip that one and read something else if you want.
Seriously, folks, don't let me get too maudlin on you.

Yesterday sucked. In fact, most of my long weekend sucked and this entire week has sucked. But that's the universe for you; sometimes it's your turn to be the guy everyone can look at and think, "Well, this is humiliating, but at least I'm not that poor bastard over there."

Tomorrow I'm on duty and therefore get to attend the local high school football game for free. I have a pickup truck, a mulletastic Camaro complete with T-tops, a bitchin' minivan with cool remote-controlled doors, and a 100-year-old Victorian farmhouse within walking distance of DiCarlo's Pizza, China House, Radio Shack, True Value hardware, TWO bookstores and the public library. I've got a beautiful wife and two strapping sons and a baby you'd have to see to believe. I've got two big dogs. I've got more guns than I really need and money in the bank. I teach kids about reading and the battle of Thermopylae for a living (Thermopylae is not in the offical curriculum, but everybody's got to have perks.) Hell, I get two weeks off in the summer to do another job or travel or take classes or whatever I want. Life is good on balance.

It's interesting to me, because I actually wrote about a day where everything seemed to go right a couple of months ago, and there were zero comments about that.

My biggest problem in life, and I'm being deadly serious now, is that there are so many things I want to do that I fear there's no way to do them all in one lifetime. So many ideas, so many opportunities. This is a good problem to have. The average guy living in a village in India would laugh at my "problems."
"Oh, it is very sad that you have to pick up your kids in your slightly older car because your new and shiny car is in use, sir! It makes me ashamed of the way I carried on when all my sons left for the city to find work in call centers and they couldn't write to me because I never got to learn to read--hearing about your struggle of owning too many automobiles and being too fat from eating delicious and plentiful food has really put the recent pandemic in the village into perspective. Yes, my entire family is dead and I live under a piece of corrugated tin in the mud, but imagine how sad I would be if my third car would not start?"

Don't look at me like that. They're a sarcastic bunch. Oh, and I'm going to solve my biggest problem tonight: I'm going to finish posting this and go to bed. There I will sleep for hours, baby willing.

I hate everything.

I'm not kidding.

I just got back from jumping the battery in a Buick and then pushing it two blocks up a very slight incline. That was almost invigorating, except that it's 1:00 A.M.

I spent the day trying to keep my eyes open but desperately wishing I could sleep for about 15 minutes. That wasn't going to happen, and nobody cares if you have the flu.

The Love of My Life had the van, and I had the truck. The 1986 Chevy with the butterflies on the carb wired open to let it start in warm weather, and a highly efficient 2-55 air conditioning system (ask your dad.)

Somehow I got through the school day without either falling asleep in the middle of a lesson or leg-kicking anybody into submission, and that was good. Then the school day ended.

The Love of My Life had to do Parent/Teacher night at her school tonight, and so the plan was that I would go to her school and we would trade vehicles. I would take the van home so that I could pick up the twins and the baby from the babysitter on time.
It was a good plan. Simple, solid. I liked it. I believed in it. Then I got to her building and found that she wasn't there. Neither was the van, and it was at this point that I began to find it worrisome that I had left my cell phone and wallet in her van the night before. I attempted the old school payphone call, but I had only fifty cents, and the local call costs a buck. You can't make a collect call to a cell phone, either. I could have made a credit card call, but my wallet was in the van, remember?

I had a choice to make. I could wait there, hoping she came back, or I could take off toward home on the assumption that she'd changed her mind and decided to make the hour-long round trip before Parent Night. I decided to head for home on the theory that I had only about an hour before I had to pick up the kids anyway, and since I was at least half an hour from home, I couldn't wait at the school for long.

(Later, I found out that The Love of My Life had simply forgotten all about trading cars and gone out for dinner with her coworkers to our favorite Thai place.)

So, I book it home, and I find . . . an empty driveway. This is not good.

I am now confronted with another choice, like a MUD player. You see, there are two vehicles at the house. The van is with my wife (somewhere.) The Camaro is at the dealer because I didn't have time to pick it up last night after they told me it needs over $1000 worth of work. That leaves me with a 1986 pickup with seat belts for three people, or a Buick with a transmission that comes and goes, often leaving the engine revving up towards 6,000 with no discernible power to the wheels.
This is what the kids call a quandary. I elected to use my lifeline. I used the home phone to call my lovely wife, who informed me that the Thai was good, she'd be home by ten, and our son's teacher called to say that he's got six (6!) zeroes in Social Studies already. I make a mental note to kill him later and hang his head from the swingset as a warning to his brothers, then resolve upon my course: I will take the Buick and hope for the best. It is now 5:00, time for me to be at the babysitter's house picking up my kids so the babysitter doesn't fire our asses, but first I have to toss the house like Rex Kittenstompen, Hero of the BATFE, because I need the base for the baby's car seat so I don't splatter him across the windshield. I mean, he doesn't have any zeroes in Social Studies.

By 5:20, having literally growled through the house and called my wife again, I locate the baby seat and install it in the Buick. I leave. I get about a mile and a half before losing all impetus on the highway in town. I pull over onto a side street, but I can't get out of traffic. I'm pretty sure I'm about to die. I put it in neutral and get out to push, and before I've made it the twenty feet to safety, four people have stopped to help. I pushed the car myself, but I gratefully accepted a ride. Jim, if you ever read this, thanks, man.

Jim and his son drop me off at my house, and I run to the pickup. I drive it to the Buick, transfer the baby seat base, and take off to the babysitter's house. I enter the house with head bowed and wrists displayed for beating; my apology is accepted.

I herd the twins into the truck, allowing them just this once to share a seatbelt because frankly it beats putting them in the bed. Those 1986 bench seats were not designed for modern baby seats, I'll tell you that. Mucho crammo.

It's now almost 5:50. I drop off one twin at home to get his homework started, but Social Studies boy and I need to have a talk. He was supposed to be at football practice at 6:00. He's terrible at football, afraid to get hit and afraid to hit anyone, but he always wanted to play and I wanted him to have the chance. The thing is, we told him that if he didn't do his homework and keep his grades up, there'd be no football. There's also the small matter that he told us last week, and over the weekend, and last night that he was all caught up. Hell, last night I took him to his football game, then out for ice cream, because both twins told me they had "NO HOMEWORK!" Yay!
Well, that was all just a tissue of lies, and by now I am in no mood. I interrogate him briefly; he admits he has one zero, then three, then back to one. Then he says he has no idea how many zeroes he has. I inform him that his teacher says it's six; he informs me that she is a notorious liar. Apparently all the kids know that she just makes this stuff up. By now we're pulling up to the football field. I send him to walk across that field and tell his coach two things:
1. He won't be practicing tonight because he didn't do his homework, and
2. He's off the team unless he turns in all the missing assignments by Friday afternoon.

The coach has never impressed me, being of the Yelling At Children Builds Character school, but he has the good sense to say "School comes first, buddy." Maybe he can feel my eyes on him.

Then it's off to the old homestead for a few hours of being screamed at by the young delinquent, feeding the baby (who, judging by his expression, is enjoying all this immensely, the little sadist) and basically being tired, angry, hot, angry and tired.

At 8:50, just when I've gotten the baby to sleep, The Love of My Life walks in and I take off to recover the vehicle.

Did you know that the emergency flashers will kill a battery in less than six hours? I didn't.

So I jumped the fershlugginer thing and, in a fit of optimism, thought maybe I'd drive it home and walk back to the van. It's a nice night, right? Sure.

Only, as any chimpanzee could have predicted, when I DO get the thing into forward motion, it doesn't last. I am forced to ditch it again. This time I determine to push it to a safe place so I can leave it until morning. I push it two blocks away from the main drag, to a quiet spot the local tow-truck driver will know. We went to high school together, but we didn't really bond until he started towing my POS cars.)

There it will stay for tonight. In the center console is a blank check made out to Wiseman's Towing Service, along with the keys to the car. The doors are unlocked. I almost hope somebody even dumber than I am tries to steal it; that should be good for a larf.

Now, if you'll excuse me, thunderstorms are predicted and I have to go push my piano back into the garage.

No, I am still not kidding. I 'll let you know if I start. I did have to leave some stuff out, though. It didn't all go that well.

Monday, September 3, 2007

Robyn Ringler Takes Her Ball . . . .

. . . . and goes home.

Robyn opened her "blog" a few months ago with big plans. She was going to bring us all together to find reasonable compromises on common ground.

Her compromises were as follows:

1. Ban all .50 caliber firearms immediately.
2. Require waiting periods and background checks for all gun sales, private and public.
3. Ban handguns, or, if that's not possible, don't let them anywhere near cities or minorities.
4. Ban assault weapons. After that, get right to work figuring out what an assault weapon is.
5. Hunters can keep some of their guns for hunting, but they'll have to be locked up. We'll need a law for that, too.
6. It would be nice if all the gun owners left the NRA and it folded, because the NRA tends to lie to the gun owners and tell them that they aren't all hunters and they won't like the aforementioned compromises--and we can't have that.

You see, Robyn understands the American gun owner, because she lives out in the country on 30 acres in upstate New York. This has apparently taught her that the American gun owner is a hunter who hates .50 rifles, "assault weapons," handguns and minorities. I'm really not sure who her neighbors are, but my guess would be that they make a lot of money and moved to the area to escape the big city.

But she soon hit a few bumps in the road. For one thing, American gun owners seemed to be strangely resistant to "compromise." It was almost as if they wanted to get something in return for giving something up, but any good gun control activist knows that just isn't the way compromise works. Gun owners don't seem to want to accept a ban on handguns, even though she told them it was for the children. They didn't want to ban .50 caliber rifles, even though she told them all about the heartbreaking tale of a woman who was shot with a 7mm. They didn't even want to ban assault weapons, but that wasn't the worst of it--some were so rude, they demanded to know what assault weapons were before they would discuss whether they should be banned!
(Everyone knows assault weapons are like pornography--you just know them when you see them.)

I call it her "blog" because it's not what a lot of people would consider a blog. You see, a blog is interactive; usually, it allows readers to comment on what the blogger writes. This idea clearly made Roby deeply nervous. It wasn't long before she announced that she would be deleting insulting comments; unspoken, but clearly demonstrated in deed, was that only pro-gun commenters would have insults deleted. But perhaps that was only fair, since pro-gun commenters usually outnumbered anti-gunners by at least 10 to 1. Ya gotta be sporting.
Later, Robyn became so alarmed that commenters were using the word "gangbanger" to describe criminals who were members of street gangs that she banned the term. It's racist to call a kid a gangbanger just because he's a Crip or a Latin King, you see.

Now Robyn has exercised the Brady Option and simply done what she wanted to do all along--she's closing the comments and she's just going to write her column. The four or five anti-gunners who actually read her may actually enjoy the column more than the blog; the rest of her readers will probably disappear. I know I have no reason to look at her ramblings if I'm not allowed to comment.

This is a tiny event in the overall scheme of things, but the pattern appears to be holding:

1. Anti-gun blog announced amid much fanfare.
2. Anti-gun blog filled with embarrassingly misinformed misinformation.
3. Anti-gun blog closed for comments.

Well, here's the deal, Robyn. You can decide what to do with your blog, but you've chosen the path of the closed mind. You have zero credibility and no one to blame but yourself. Enjoy your vanity column. If your ideas can only survive in an environment where no one will examine them critically, they're useless.

If that sound harsh and mean, that's only because I tend to be harsh and mean.

And Proud of It, Sally.

Don Gwinn.
School Teacher.
Volunteer EMS.
Proud LIFE member of the Triangle of Death.

Pound sand, Brady bunch. It's an honor to be slandered by you.

Monday, August 27, 2007

It Is Shameful That I Call Myself a Man . . . .

. . . . on the same continent as Randy Couture.

I'm not going to mince words; I love this man. I'm a nutrider. I admit it. I've enjoyed watching Randy since he was a Heavyweight in the "old" UFC--the "banned from TV because John McCain is dumb" version.
But when he beat Chuck Liddell at Light Heavyweight, I jumped on board with both feet and never rooted against him again. Sometimes he wins, rarely he loses, but he is always a giant among men. Now that he is Heavyweight champion again, in a division that now includes Cro-Cop and Fedor, we will see fireworks.

Nobody gave Randy credit for beating Tim Sylvia because the "experts" all think they can increase their cred by finding new ways to disparage Tim Sylvia. Well, that's DUMB, kids. Sylvia is a monster. He's not on the level of Randy, Cro-Cop, Barnett, Nog, or Fedor, but guess what, big guy, neither are you. Sylvia was in the top ten in the WORLD when Randy dominated him without mercy, and to pretend otherwise is stupid.

Here's the quick breakdown of the link:

1. Randy Couture beat Gabriel "Napao" Gonzaga to retain the UFC Heavyweight Championship of the world this weekend. Gonzaga was coming off a shocker in which he knocked out Mirko "Cro-Cop" Filipovic with Cro-Cop's own signature left high kick. Cro-Cop is the closest thing to James Bond you'll find in real life; the world was shocked.

2. Randy accidentally broke Gonzaga's nose with a head butt during a takedown. This would be illegal if you did it on purpose, but it was clearly an accident and I've never seen Captain America cheat. Gonzaga is a badass, so he just ground out the rest of the fight against one of the best heavyweight fighters on the planet with a broken nose.

3. Gonzaga broke Randy's left arm with a kick (a legal kick, although he didn't aim it at Randy's arm--Randy was blocking the kick.) Randy is an ultimate badass, so he ground out the rest of the fight against one of the best heavyweight fighters in the world. He even finished Gonzaga by throwing left hands. The arm might have been numb by then, but it takes a lot of pain to get to numbness.

4. After the fight, Randy made a point of mentioning that he felt the head contact and felt Napao's nose break, which was amazingly honest. He didn't have to do that.
He also made a point of not mentioning that he'd fought through having his own arm broken. A whole lot of fanboys like me are saying that having his arm broken means that Randy didn't get an unfair advantage from breaking Gonzaga's nose with his head--but that's not true. Head butts are illegal, therefore nobody defends against them, therefore it's not exactly fair to score damage with a technique your opponent isn't defending. It was an accident, and accidents happen in this sport, but that doesn't mean it's good that it happened, and it was big of Randy to apologize when he could have said "Screw him, life's a bitch."
Not Randy. Randy simply says it happened and he's sorry. He offers no excuses. That's rare in MMA, where the normal procedure after every loss is to explain that you were just about to win when the sun got in your eyes, or your opponent farted, or the ring girl winked at you, or whatever. Alternatively, it is permissible to explain that you have had dysentery for six weeks and could barely walk to the cage, but you didn't want to let the fans down, and that's why you got pasted. Some guys have been known to explain that they would have won, but they didn't train very hard. (?!?)

For a school teacher who's also a fan of MMA, sometimes it seems like life is one long stream of poor excuses. You will not hear excuses from Randy Couture. I didn't even have to mention that the guy is 44 years old and dominating guys half his age, did I? Good thing, too. This post is already too long.

Definitely Time For That New Computer

If you can't read it, that's Penny Arcade trying to play an embedded video. It's not going well. The red underlined section is Task Manager, showing that Firefox was using 89% of the processor's resources.
I'm no expert, but I don't think it's supposed to take 90% of processing power to surf the web. Another clue might be that I can type entire lines and even paragraphs into blogger's post window and then walk into the kitchen for a soda--and not all of the stuff I just typed has appeared yet when I get back. Thank whoever for Notepad!

Hey Buddy! Ya Wanna Buy Half a Bridge?

I think maybe Rod Blagojevich is just trying piss people off now.

You may remember that my fair state operated without a budget for a LONG time. In fact, the state has now missed two annual payments they owe the public schools, leaving many schools unable to hire their new staff even though my school, for instance, has been in session for over a week.

Well, His Highness Princess Rod has now deigned to sign the budget. However, he's still upset that his socialized medicine scheme (free health care and bunnies for every Illinois resident!) died an ignoble, 107 to ZERO death in the Illinois House. So he decided that he would cut $500 million in "pork" and civic projects, and then use that money to pay for the medical scheme.
Some of you are probably wondering whether he has the power to change the budget to fund a project that the legislature has already refused to fund. The consensus answer from the law professors seems to be that this is blatantly unconstitutional in Illinois, but he'll probably get away with it. Color me shocked.

Anyway, Blagojevich doesn't really get the concept that there are other elected politicians in this state, so he tends to steamroll them and simply demand what he wants. If he doesn't get it, he tells a lie or throws a tantrum. But not this time! This time, Rod decided, he was going to be a classic Illinois politician. He would punish his enemies and reward his friends, and he would Make Friends and Influence People. He would be a uniter, not a divider.
To that end, he cut funding only from projects sponsored by legislators he figures he doesn't need. Incidentally, this actually hit people from his own party the hardest; he seems determined to punish the House Democrats in particular. Again I feel compelled to point out that party affiliation is only a small part of what makes a politician on the state level in Illinois.
At the same time, Princess Rod decided, he would reward the people he's going to need later by funding their projects. It's almost as if he read Boss or some other book about the old Chicago machine and thought, "How hard is that? I can do that!"
Wrong, Blago. Machine politics only looks easy, which is why so many waves have crashed into mist against the rocks of the Daleys over the last 50 years or so.

You see, Blago made some amateurish mistakes:

1. He was absolutely, totally transparent about what he was doing (which is normally OK in Illinois politics.) However, in this case, Blago didn't give rewards to his allies. He doesn't have many allies besides Emil Jones. Instead, he "gave rewards" to people who are on a committee he's going to need in the future, because for his schemes to work, they'll have to look the other way. The problem is that these people are NOT currently his allies. In fact, many of them really dislike him, and others know that publicly disliking him is good for their political careers. Moreover, none of them are stupid enough to think that toadying to the Governor because he "gave" them something is going to get them any votes at home with their constituents, who clearly hate Blagojevich and are going to hate him more before it's all over.

2. Why is the word "gave" in quotation marks? Because Blago is actually too dumb to give a bribe. He didn't "give" these people anything they need a Governor to get. Their pet projects were already in the budget as passed by the Legislature. All he did was refrain from cutting their projects out of spite. For this, he expects gratitude and loyalty? That doesn't seem likely.

3. He apparently didn't arrange these bribes ahead of time, but sprung them on the recipients so that they seem to have learned about them from the Associated Press:
"It's so transparent what the governor's doing, what his motives are. I don't think I've ever seen anything quite so political."
That's Senator Burzynski, a Republican--and he's one of the people whose projects were NOT cut! Wouldn't you think a simple phone call would have avoided that kind of humiliation?

4. Blagojevich was so incautious that he really, truly, no fooling, approved half the funding for several projects, especially bridges. You see, often a bridge or other big infrastructure project takes more money than one legislator wants to spend, so two or more will put in for part of the money. In several cases, Blago found obviously went down one legislator's list and approved everything (that would be everyone who sits on JCAR, the committee that he wants to pretend he has the power to fund new projects.) In other cases, he clearly cut everything without checking. How can we tell? Because on several of those shared projects, half the financing got cut and half was approved! Congratulations, St. Charles, you can repair half the bridge over the Fox River. Good luck with that.

5. I think most of the JCAR members are going to agree with Maggie Crotty, who is only the Chair of JCAR:
"That, to me, is so insulting. I don't think I have ever, ever felt so embarrassed,"

That says it all, doesn't it? I don't think people are supposed to be humiliated when you try to bribe them, Rod. Perhaps a different tack would have worked out better. You could have tried something crazy like negotiating the budget in good faith in January, for instance.

Naw, that would never work.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Renowned Oscar-Winning Actress Comments Publicly On Matters She Doesn't Understand

I don't know what Jodie Foster could be thinking, unless maybe she's thinking that the Brady Bunch needs a popularity infusion in a hurry and this is a job for . . . a celebrity!

So Jodie Foster thinks we need gun control because, and I quote,
"I don’t really believe that a human being who feels [things] should have the option at their fingertips."
Uh, OK.

So, vulcans still have the right to keep and bear arms, though, right? Also robots. But not them touchy-feely Speilberg-style robots, mind you--just the real, honest, Asimov kind--the ones with three rules and zero feelings. And also:
"Hunting, I get that – let’s protect hunting. But . . . "
Now, class, when someone says such a stupid thing, it tells us three things about her. The first is that, obviously, she thinks the gun control debate is about hunters vs. educated people from cities. That in turn tells us that she doesn't understand the most basic principles of the debate and is therefore unqualified to comment. The third thing we learn, because a celebrity told us she "gets" something, is that she doesn't get it. I know it probably seems less than generous, but could we just stop and consider what Jodie Foster's qualification to judge these matters might be? What is her expertise when it comes to guns? Is she a shooter? Collector? Competitor? Police officer? Soldier?

Oh, there it is, right in the Brady press release:

"Ms. Foster started her career at the age of two. She received an Academy Award nomination in the "Best Supporting Actress" category in 1976 for Taxi Driver. In 1980, she graduated as the best of her class from the College Lycée Français and began to study English Literature at Yale University, from where she graduated magna cum laude in 1985. She received two Oscars before she was thirty, her first for her part as Sarah Tobias in The Accused (1988) and the second one for her performance as Clarice Starling in The Silence of the Lambs (1991)."
You have to admit, if she'd expressed an opinion about acting, that would be damned impressive. Besides, that last bit was kind of funny--
Clarice Starling would eat her custom .45 with the skateboard tape if she knew who played her in the movie.*

Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm up for the role of Lenny in Of Mice and Men and I think I'll head down to Birds 'n Brooks and see if ol' Dale has a box of .45 and some advice on finding myself in the moment and fully expressing the character. He doesn't have any training in acting, but he's got opinions (mostly revolving around John Wayne) and he's been selling guns longer than Jodie Foster's been acting, even though he didn't start at the age of two. Seriously, Brady Campaign, you used to be cool. It used to be trendy to hang with you. Have you been reduced to begging for scraps like this? What's next? Nicole Richie gonna write a white paper on assault weapons?

*It's been a long time. If I got the gun wrong, mock me in comments.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

No, I Will NOT Respect Your Privacy

I'm sometimes a little distressed at how cool everyone else is. I hadn't read Skywriter before today, but she's got a neat life going on over there from what I can see. If nothing else, she's a pilot. People say that casually, but think about it--these are people whose job or hobby it is to sever all physical connection to Earth (that's the planet on which we live, people, except for pilots) And soar off into the atmosphere so high that they can't even see you or me.
And yet I wave every time.
She also gets to shoot a lot more than I do (but who doesn't) and is a much better shot, too. My wife is a little jealous of my open admiration of Tamara, so it's probably best that I not mention my discovery that there's a gun-toting pilot who looks like Dana Scully out there somewhere.
(Relax, honey, I don't want to date Tamara; I want to be Tamara. You know, when I grow up.)

Anyway, this is the part where I pretend briefly that there's a coherent point to this essay before rambling about Cuban special forces and Mantis Kung Fu. Don't worry; it'll be seamless from where you're sitting. Skywriter says she's added me to her blogroll and asked if that's OK with me. Of course it is, but it raises a question that buzzes around my head sometimes when I should be working.
I sometimes wonder why people ask--honestly, I don't ask anyone for permission to put their link up. My thought is that YOU went to some trouble to post these words on the widest information-distribution network in the history of the human race, so you must be OK with people seeing it.

It wasn't that long ago that a troll on an internet forum,, thought he would bluff me by telling me that I had invaded his master's privacy because I posted photographs of his beloved master doing some silly things--things like a gun disarm technique that involved pointing your opponent's pistol at your own face while hitting him with it! Now, I agree that having such photos of yourself posted on an internet forum could be embarrassing. So how dare I post them?

His "master" had already posted them on the internet, on his own website, in an attempt to drum up business. Those pictures actually have been removed now, but it was too late--they're archived at if you know how to find them. The internet never forgets.

This is what I had to say at the time. I haven't changed my opinion.

I am endlessly amused at the people who publish information about themselves on a gigantic, global, world-spanning digital information network and then act offended because someone dares to comment on it. Standing in the middle of Yankee Stadium during the season opener carrying a sign with your martial arts claims in flashing lights would be a far more private affair than posting them on the internet. It's the internet, for the love of Pete. It has no purpose whatsoever except to distribute information to the greatest number of people across the widest geographic area possible. MY face is posted here as well, you know, along with my very unimpressive sparring videos. I post as Don Gwinn on every forum I visit with the exception of and Glocktalk, where I am still called Gwinnydapooh. I've got nothing to hide.
As for Julio Garcia, Alonzo Jones, and all the rest, if they've got something they want to keep private, fine. Just keep it private. Don't post it on the internet. When you do, it's up for discussion. Period.

And because I'm such a disrespectful and dangerous guy, here are the two photos I posted which showed [GASP!] Mr. Garcia's face. That's right, I'm posting them again, so if you internet stalkers have been frustrated at trying to find out what he looks like from the twenty photos on his own public gallery, here you go.

Here we see Mr. Garcia demonstrating the feared WTR Front Kick (named for its chief exponent, Walker: Texas Ranger.) From the expression on the uke's face, I derive some hope that this was just goofing around and he doesn't actually mean for people to do this.

And here we have the deadliest of the Cuban special forces hand-to-hand techniques: striking a hard object smartly with a pistol while aiming it at your own face. Now, again, he could be goofing off here, but somehow I don't think so. He also could be advocating, not striking the opponent, but pushing the pistol into his cheekbone to get compliance. Frankly that wouldn't make things much better; his attacker's other arm is free and that would amount to giving him back the gun.

I'm still working on tracking down some evidence that Mr. Garcia's biography and martial arts claims are true. He has quite a story; he says he was a Lieutenant in the Cuban special forces and personally guarded Fidel Castro before coming to the U.S. So far, I can't find any information on a personal bodyguard to Fidel Castro defecting to the U.S., which seems odd to me, but what do I know? It's not like he's a baseball player or a boxer or something important, just a bodyguard.
If this guy's story is true, it's the equivalent of a member of the Secret Service's Presidential Detail defecting to China. It's hard to believe that sort of thing didn't make the news, but absence of evidence isn't evidence of absence, so the investigation continues.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

More Free Advice for the Savvy EMS Consumer

1. If you're too drunk to pronounce the word "ambulance" when you ask to ride with your husband, you're too drunk to be in my rig. But cheer up! As drunk as you are, you stand a good chance of injuring yourself severely before we leave, and then you can have your own ambulance.

2. I don't really need to know the whole story of why your brother pulped your face. There was a LOT of ETOH poured into each family member and a fight broke out. It's not rocket science and it doesn't really affect my end of things.

3. No sense telling the cops you know the law. They don't have to prosecute you, so your legal strategems won't really be an issue for them.

4. If you got punched in the face a lot, you probably won't need a Foley Catheter, and believe me, it's just as well. Try not to sound like you're half hopeful about it, OK? The nurses are going to think you're weird, and we wouldn't want that.
We don't put those in anyway, and finally (and the very most important lesson for tonight, so let me see everyone's eyes up here) nobody, but nobody at this scene has any need to know how many "peeholes" you have, nor do we wish to know their locations.
(Hint: value "Peeholes" > 1)

Oh, For Pete's Sake.

I've had an item entitled "I've Got Your Guy Buyback Right Here, Genius" posted for awhile now.

It's, uhm, it's . . . not actually about a guy buyback. I don't think they have those, but I'm afraid to Google the term. No, it's actually about the recent Chicago "Gun Buyback" at which Guns Save Life of Champaign, IL sold the antis a collection of 17 unsafe antiques, pellet guns and starter pistols for $100 each, then used the money to fund youth shooting sports.

The buyback . . . .
The NRA Youth Shooting Camp Partially Funded by the Buyback. . .
And Part II . . .

So, anyway . . . is fixed.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Illinois Gun Law Primer, Part 2

In Illinois, there are several very unusual problems for the pro-gun activist, and one of the most unusual is this: We have no protection for the right to keep and bear arms in the Illinois state constitution. None.

Most states not only have an item addressing the RKBA in their bills of rights, but actually have much more forceful and direct wording than the federal version. Language like "in defense of themselves and of their community" don't leave any wiggle room at all for the "collective rights" theorists who posit that the 2nd Amendment actually protects a right of states to raise militias. Clearly, if you have the right to keep and bear arms in defense of your self, that can't be anything but an individual right.

In Illinois, we have no such protection. Our constitution was last rewritten in 1970, and the question of the right to keep and bear arms was a thorny issue. Then, as now, the delegates from Chicago and East St. Louis insisted on leaving the field open to gun control, and then as now, the representatives from rural areas knew they'd be sacked and replaced with llamas if they went home having openly sold out to those darn gun banning city folk. I have the transcript of the debate and passage of our current RKBA amendment sitting on my desk right now, and it comes to 30 pages of almost playful sparring back and forth. The anti-gunners were on a roll at the time; remember that this was 1970. The FOID card had been introduced in Illinois only two years earlier, and the deaths of the Kennedy brothers and Martin Luther King were still fresh in the memory. JFK's assassination was about as far in the past for them as the 9-11 attacks are for us today.

What they came up with was a classic gun-control "compromise." A gun-control "compromise" differs somewhat from the standard defnition of the term. Normally, compromise means both sides get part, but not all, of what they want. In a gun-control "compromise," the anti-gun side gets part or all of what they want (although usually only part of what they openly asked to get.) The pro-gun side gets nothing and may lose quite a bit, but there is sometimes an attempt to give the pro-gun leaders an appearance of triumph to save face.

You see, Illinois' constitution states in Article I, Section 22:
Subject only to the police power, the right of the individual citizen to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.

Is there a problem there? Not after the comma. Before the comma, we find the phrase "Subject only to the police power," so what does that mean? Well, the "police power" was a term of art. It referred to the inherent power of any political unit to create and enforce law within its borders. In other words, you could rephrase this Section as follows without changing the meaning at all:
"Unless the Illinois Legislature passes a law to the contrary, the right of the individual citizen to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed."

In contrast, here's what Indiana has to say on the subject:
The people shall have a right to bear arms, for the defense of themselves and the State.
or Maine:
Every citizen has a right to keep and bear arms and this right shall never be questioned.
or Delaware:
A person has the right to keep and bear arms for the defense of self, family, home and State, and for hunting and recreational use.

Wow, those slippery gun banners really pulled a fast one there, didn't they? How dare they?

Except that they didn't. Some of them actually stood up on the floor and flatly called the whole process stupid--why even bother forcing us to include any mention of firearms at all, they asked the "pro gun" side, when we've completely neutered it with the police power clause anyway? They were right; it was a farce. I can only guess that the reps who insisted then went home and told their constituents that they'd gone to war with the Godless Communist City Folk and preserved their right to hunt possums with shotguns (not kidding at all, that's in the transcript) without explaining the inconvenient fact that the guarantee is absolutely meaningless.

We're coming up on the next chance to hold a Constitutional Convention, what Illinois calls a ConCon, in the coming year. It looks like there may be a real push on to do it this year, because so many people are fed up with the Governor and his games with the budget (we still don't have one, by the way, 46 days after the old budget ran out and 15 days after the emergency short-term budget ran out) if only so that some requirements for the budget process can be added--along with a recall option, perhaps.
I've been hearing that some gun rights activists are worried about this--they think that the RKBA protection could be removed from the constitution. If you read the post above, I think you know why that's not really a concern. There is absolutely nothing that the Illinois state government cannot do to gun owners, up to and including a total ban on all guns, under the constitution as it is written today. We literally have nothing to lose.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Hey, Dumbass!

Yes, you . . . you know who you are.

I don't care how cool it looked in the movies, jumping off moving freight trains is dangerous and stupid and causes exactly the kind of road rash and injuries you incurred tonight. Also I'm pretty sure you're supposed to wait until the train slows down before you jump off it, ass-for-brains.

Having managed to survive jumping off the train, don't lie to the cops. It pisses them off. A
And don't lie to the EMT's, because that pisses us off.
And don't EVER lie to the paramedics, because they get really pissed off and they have needles. Did you wonder why the needle they put in your arm in the ALS rig looked like a McDonald's soda straw? I don't pretend to know, but it looked uncomfortable to me. But then, you did tell them you had suffered a major trauma and lost consciousness for a long period of time.

By the way, the cops know what it looks like when somebody gets hit by a car, and they knew when they walked up to you that you had not been in a 1050 unless as an occupant.

Me? I'm just pissed off in general, for three reasons:

1. You dragged me out of bed at midnight for this bullshit.
2. You lied in the most obvious and least believable way, and I hate that. I'd rather be fooled than have some dumbass show me that he thinks I'm stupid.
3. Although I pegged the lying, I was lucky I didn't make any bets tonight, because I'd have lost. I assumed we were dealing with a simple beating at the hands of Sumdood. Never would have guessed "railroad disembarkation-related traumatic injuries."