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."

Friday, August 10, 2007

Love Your State, Hate Your Government

Here we go again.

The Illinois House of Representatives passed a budget today. Yay, right?

Well, maybe. See, now that the annual budget ran out, AND the emergency 30-day overrun budget has ALSO run out, and the State of Illinois has been operating without a budget for-what's today? The tenth?--ten days, it seems that we may get a budget.

But then again, we might not. See, Our Beloved Governor (Long May His Hair Wave) says the budget still isn't good enough, because it doesn't have the things he wants. Chief among those things are universal health care, lots more state education spending, and huge spending increases in general with no way to pay for it. OBG wanted to increase Illinois taxes massively a few months ago with a Value-Added-Tax scheme that would have made a lot of sense to a French Communist party member, but the legislature said "NO." Unanimously. Undaunted, OBG decided that if he couldn't have massive spending increases AND massive tax increases, he'd settle for increasing spending with no revenue.

Anyway, OBG says he's "willing to wait as long as it takes" to get what he wants. And even if the Senate passes the budget, which they may very well do, he can still sit on the bill for 60 days without signing or vetoing it.

The irony is that Blagojevich says he's doing all this so that education will be better funded. The flaw in his master plan is that by delaying the budget, he's prevented the state from making one of two annual payments that constitute the schools' share of state tax money. My district is OK, because frankly they get a lot from local property taxes and do not rely on state money in the short term. In a lot of districts, though, especially very rural areas and the inner cities, local property taxes amount to nothing much and they rely on these state payments to stay in business. These places haven't hired any new staff for the new year because the money isn't there. And what's Blagojevich's solution?

"Interest-free loans." No kidding; he proposed giving the school districts interest-free loans in the amounts they're owed for the coming year. The state OWES the districts this money. They're obligated to provide it; they promised it. But now the districts can get loans. This is like your boss telling you that he's not legally allowed to pay you your wages, but he'll give you a loan instead and promise to forgive the loan--AFTER you agree to pay it back. It's just odious.

There is also the minor detail that Blagojevich doesn't have the authority to offer those loans in the first place, so now he's changed it to "low-interest loans." I don't know about you, but I can't think of an interest rate low enough to entice me into accepting a loan instead of my paycheck.

There's almost not enough room to detail this man's buffoonery . . . . on Monday, Illinois Comptroller Dan Hynes warned that if there were no budget by Wednesday (two days ago for those keeping score at home!) then state workers would miss a paycheck and other bad things would happen. Blagojevich told the press that Wednesday was "just an arbitrary deadline."

The man just doesn't care. And why should he? He's got our number. We knew what he was, and we elected him twice. We are now getting exactly what we deserve.

As the redoubtable Bill Dauterive once said: "Hank hears us. He knows we're here. He's leaving us to die in this tractor trailer to punish us.
Deservedly so."

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Good Knives, Bad Puns

The Focus Group of One demands discussion of knives. Well, I've been pretty broke, so I haven't gotten a knife since Christmas--for me.

But I did get one in from Grand Prairie Knives yesterday that I rather enjoy. It's just that I bought it for someone else, so I can't keep it.

You see, my friend Scott was my very bestest friend for many years. We shared many life-and-death experiences in that time; I truly don't want to know what the odds would have been on both of us surviving to graduate from high school. Then Scott went off to Illinois College to major in five or six things over many years, while I went to Monmouth College (Home of the Fighting Scots! And Don't Forget, Knuck Fox!) to become a schoolteacher on the four-year plan. Eventually, Scott developed an interest in botany, and then began to specialize in orchids. Before he got his BS in Biology, he had found a way to grow orchids in captivity that had never done so before (something about a specific fungus that has to be in the soil?) He published and was briefly famous in a mild way, and then it was off to Florida to become a Doctor of Botany. Somewhere along the way he married a girl who couldn't stand me (no appreciation for explosions, fire, or fiery explosions, and especially hated guns), and when he lived days away, well, I'm sorry to say we drifted apart a little. He divorced the succubus and remarried a couple of years ago to a great girl, and now he's graduating with his Ph.D and moving to Kansas.

He invited me to his graduation in Florida, but there's no way in the world I can get down there right now. I still wanted to get him a graduation present, but what?

Well, what do I get everyone? Knives, of course. I wanted him to have something classic and understated, something he could carry absolutely anywhere, but I wanted it to have some meaning. That's how I ended up selecting the Case Doctor's Knife:

A long, long, long time ago, doctors on house calls frequently had to crush pills. Accordingly, W.R. Case and sons and a few other manufacturers made "Doctors' Knives" with flat, squared ends suitable for crushing powdered pills. Many also came with a "spatula" blade next to the drop-point, used to divide and mix powders and pills, but I don't think Scott will have need of that.

Get it? A Doctor's Knife? For graduating with a Doctorate? I kill me sometimes.

What Is Love?

Matt's bustin' my chops in comments because I don't write about love and guns and knives enough anymore.

Well, I haven't bought a gun in--literally--years. Too broke, too many commitments. Maybe someday.

But love?

Let me tell ya about love, Grawp.

I just gave my baby a bath and handed him off to my wife. Now she and the kids are in bed in the one air-conditioned room in this house because the heat index here is 93 degrees Fahrenheit at 9:45 P.M.
I, however, am going back to scrape drywall mud, paint the ceiling, and probably do some carpentry in the new bathroom.

You know why I'm doing that instead of sinking into bed with a grateful sigh?


Monday, August 6, 2007

Eureka! I Have Found The Perfect Toilet!

. . . . and I can return that smaller vanity, too. I should be able to fit that big bookshelf, now. I wonder what it would cost to do the walls and floor in stainless diamond plate?
Besides, this one is "suicide resistant" and presumably a difficult base from which to produce quality shanks.

Sunday, August 5, 2007

The Quest for Perfection Continues . . . .

The new bathroom vanity has to go back. I loved the colors, the old-fashioned faucet, the nickel finish, the size . . . . . but I've talked it over with my wife, and we've agreed that it's important to us that the shower door open more than ten degrees.

Damn, she's picky.

Thursday, August 2, 2007

Promised Pictures--Clumsy Home Renovations

OK, here's roughly where I am right now, about two weeks before school starts:

Coming up the stairway, we find the landing effectively blockaded by doors and drywall. You can get a glimpse of the twins' room here, along with one of our woefully overloaded bookshelves. When we're done, there will be built-in bookshelves in literally every room in the house except possibly Kane's bedroom. To the left, the entrance to what used to be another bedroom, and beyond that, the entrance to the master bedroom. That banister is beautiful oak and looks like it was made by a master, but people have painted over it with three different ugly colors over the years. One day we'll have to strip it.

Turning left, we enter the hallway. This was all one room before, but we framed in that "T" shape to divide it into two rooms and a hall. Notice the bare wall is framed with 2x8 lumber; that lets us fit two pocket doors into one wall. By making them overlap, we save a ton of space.

Looking up, you can see the trapdoor attic stairs I just installed. Originally I planned to use decorative tiles like the ones you see around here in old stores. Those are "tin" or copper, but Owens-Corning makes paintable fiber tiles that can be made to look like metal or plaster. Now I'm thinking I probably won't try to do that where the hatch is, but we'll see. What I am doing is shoving sheets of half-inch particle board into the attic while I have the opening; I want to floor the entire attic. There's usable attic over most of the house that's completely empty, while the living space is hopelessly cluttered. The hope here is to concentrate on quality of life improvements over cosmetics for now.

At the end of the hall is the door to what will be Kane's room. You can see the problem--the roofline cuts right across it. I can just about stand up straight in the center of the room. On the other hand, this room has its own stairway down to the dining room with no such issues. We'll leave this doorway, though, so he can have quick access to the bathroom we're building. Besides, if we can pass through, we can leave from the front or back stairs during a fire, for instance.
The bottom line, from Kane's point of view, was that he desperately wanted his own room, and his brother wasn't crazy about separate bedrooms at all--much less getting kicked out of "his" room! Kane proposed that he take the back room as a way of compromising, and it worked. He really is progressing.

Looking to the left, you can peek into little Sean's new room. The light fixture looks odd because the fan blades have been removed so I can paint the trim piece on the fan (plus the ceiling) before I put it all back up--and the light piece is hanging by one screw. That window was a royal pain; the old one was a foot and a half longer, but I'd rather a toddler have a window he can see through but not easily tumble through. The old windows are wood-framed, single paned, and dry-rotted beyond repair, so every time we do a room, we do the windows. The ceiling is pine tongue-and-groove; we'll paint it, but I liked that it's not standard--and that I could install it alone with a stepladder.

And a few steps further in, we come to the new bathroom. This is basically what the nursery looked like a few weeks ago--you can see where I've begun the insulationg process with expanding foam. I LOVE that stuff! This was taken before I installed the pocket door frame for the bathroom; you can see it there. It doesn't look big enough to turn around, but I'm determined that it's going to fit a 36" corner shower comfortably, with a few luxurious touches. The current "bathroom" is one floor down and on the other side of that wall on your right. The new master bath will be below this room, taking up a room the size of the one we originally subdivided to make these three spaces. The current "bathroom" will be totally gutted, the floor replaced with an actual level tile floor with its own floor drain, and the washer and dryer will be in one end of it; the other end will be the office. One cool thing about this (besides the fact that it will free up a tone of kitchen space and hide the laundry area and muffle noise) is that there's just enough room under the roofline for a laundry chute from the upstairs bathroom over and down into the laundry area. I have hope that my dirty clothes will no longer be piled in a corner of my wife's bedroom. Our bedroom is one of the things I hate most right now; my wife deserves a comfortable, romantic bedroom. What she has is cracked plaster, peeling paper, one working outlet, and ruined windows.

I Got Your Gun Buyback Right Here, Genius!

Xavier posted the letter from John from Guns Save Life (formerly Champaign County Rifle Association) the best pro-gun organization in the state, bar none. I've said many times that I wish these guys were in charge of the movement statewide, and in the last year or two they seem to be moving in that direction.

GSL literally sends officers to gun "buybacks" in Chicago, Rockford, Peoria, etc with bags of junkers donated by members. These are turned in for cash or, if no cash is offered, for the prizes which are then offered for sale to members. The cash is then used to finance pro-gun activities for GSL! This time, they're spending money on .22 rifles to give away to kids. In the past, I believe they've put the money toward more "Burma-Shave" propaganda signs along the highways. It's a long read, but it's well worth it. You owe it to yourself to read at least far enough to see a young Chicago cop explain that WWII snipers used pump-action .22lr rifles.

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

I Think It's Awesome That You Think I'm Awesome

Matt G. shared his story about getting a little well-earned praise and what it can mean, and I can't let anyone tell a story without telling one of my own. It's my OPD (Obnoxious Personality Disorder) acting up again.

Here's my story:

Last year our reading specialist was retiring. I only worked with her that one year, but I knew her a little before that; her husband was the superintendent in my first district, so he was the guy who fired me after two years when they downsized (multiple jobs to cut, and I was the newest guy on staff.)
Besides that, they live literally around the corner in the nicest house in town.

Anyway, she gave a training session. It was one of those "Let's all stay an extra two hours after work and learn about diversity!" kind of things.
In this case, it was "differentiated instruction," which is the "tactical" of the education world. Good idea, but now it's just a buzzword to most people.

She didn't handle it that way. She did two solid hours of one classroom technique after another. No theory, all applications. I used 2 (TWO!) of her ideas the next day, and they both worked. I can't emphasize enough how weird that is; these things are NEVER practical. NEVER. Normally it's like going to a hippie retreat with a bunch of people who don't believe in hippie retreats.

Anyway, I wrote her one of the little "Recognize a Professional" notes they leave in the work room in the desperate hope that we'll be nice to each other. But I also emailed a note praising the practicality and telling her how well her ideas worked--and I CC'ed that to our building principal.

You'd have thought I hired a skywriter to put her name across the wide, blue prairie skies along with hearts, moons, stars and clovers. She looked like she might very well burst!

(Frankly, I was being more than a little selfish--I wanted the principal to see that the staff would go the extra mile if the training was practical and focused on what we do in the classroom.)

Random Good Stuff That Happened today

Today was a good day.

I got the second pocket door frame installed and level. It looks like a complicated mess, but really all the shimming and leveling was the hard part. The two frames are overlapping inside a double-thickness wall, opening in different directions. When it's done, all you'll see from the hallway is two pocket doors, each 18" from one end of the hallway, opening in different directions. All the liquid nails, shims of varying thickness, nails, and screws of varying lengths and colors should be neatly hidden away behind the drywall.

Grandpa told me once that the difference between the professional and the amateur is that the professional knows how to cover his mistakes. Grandpa was a professional pipefitter and factory mechanic, actually, so maybe that wasn't very good advice for him. But, hey, it works in carpentry.

The nice thing about doubling these pocket doors is that it makes rooms this size possible. I can fit a 36"x36" corner shower in the little bathroom with a toilet and a sink, which is going to make a HUGE difference in our quality of life. With a door swinging in, I couldn't possibly make it fit; with a door swinging out, the hall would be blocked when the door was open. The drawback to these pocket kits is that they use "split studs"--pairs of 1x4 on either side of the door, with the flat side facing the wallboard rather than the edge of a 2x4. That's a lot more flexible and a lot less strong. But by using these two frames doubled up, I got the chance to screw the frames together solidly, which should strengthen them both considerably.

Donovan went scooting up the new attic dropdown ladder like a monkey today and took a look around. It's too high for him to reach, but he caught my eye and said "I can't reach the cord to pull it down, but that's OK, because I can't go up there without you." Smart kid.

I had my first IEP meeting of the year (a special education meeting where the team writes a plan for the student's education for the next year-parents, teachers, administrators, speech, psychologists, etc. at one table) and it went very well, thank you. Nobody yelled, nobody threatened to sue anybody, nobody stormed out or anything.

Then I got to go to the Early Childhood Developmental Clearinghouse in Springfield. This is located on a seedy little street/alley in Springfield where you actually have to park your car and hop across two sets of railroad tracks to get to the clearinghouse, but it's a great resource most people don't know exists. I wanted to get materials for the Very Late Paper so I can finish it and turn it in. I owe my professor a paper that was supposed to be self-directed and somehow just fell by the wayside in the midst of a million other things. I want to finish it and turn it in whether she'll give me credit for it or not, because frankly she was trying to help me out by assigning it and it would be an insult not to finish it. Besides, it's a paper on co-teaching in a classroom with a regular-education teacher, and it turns out I have to do that in every single class this year. Every one. I don't even have a classroom of my own. Woohoo.
Anyway . . . the Clearinghouse. This is a small library of everything related to special needs kids/special education/child development. You can check out materials for free, except for periodicals, which they copy for you while you wait. For free (!) When you walk in, you tell the librarian "I need to make a reading list for co-teaching" or "I need to make a reading list on Asperger's Syndrome" and they search out everything they have on that subject. Then they search a national network of university and public libraries and give you a listing of sources available at other libraries in Illinois.
Does this sound awesome yet? Even if you're not a teacher, if you have a child with any developmental difficulties happening at all, or if you know someone who does, encourage them to look these people up. I'll try to give them their own post soon, in fact, and maybe it'll show up on search engines. Someone might actually get something useful out of this little monument to myself.

When I was done there, I managed to get to Guns N' Hoses while they were still open and get a belt case for my pager so I won't miss calls by leaving the damn thing on a table somewhere. It's a Motorola Minitor III, and the damn things have delicate little faerie gossamer plastic belt clips held in by even more delicate pot metal pins. I of course snapped mine off cleanly within days of receiving my pager. Guns N' Hoses is a neat little EMS/Fire/Police shop with some specialty stuff you'd otherwise have to order. I got some CPR shields, too, to put in our family cars. Chatting with the very hot girl behind the counter, who I strongly suspect was the owner of the car with the "GRYFNDR" license plate parked outside, was a delightful bonus. I love my wife very much, but tasteful ogling is always acceptable as long as you have an excuse.

That accomplished, it was time for a trip to the hardware store. I was just picking up some sanding and paint stuff, but hey--hardware store! Who doesn't love a good hardware store?

Finally, tired but satisfied, I headed for home, where I found that not only had my bride cooked chicken stir fried with many and various vegetables and spices, but there was a box from my good friend The UPS Guy on the front porch--a box of Dura-Coat! With which I shall refinish my beloved West German SIG-Sauer P220 .45 acp pistol.

A good day.

By the way, if anyone out there knows a simple way to add night sights to an early P220 without a dovetailed front sight--the front sight is integral--I'd like to hear it. I guess I need to go show it to my smith. I REALLY wanted some Ashley Outdoors 24/7's . . . big dot front, express rear, tritium . . . but they said even if I have a dovetail cut, the slide's profile will be wrong because the newer ones are different. I'm wondering if I could have the sight drilled and a tritium vial installed . . . or have the dovetail cut, install the sight, and either shape it down or fill in with solder until the profile matches. I'm going to Dura-Coat it anyway, right, so I don't need the metals to match.

Wow . . . . that became a long post.