Friday, October 31, 2008

We're #2!

Apparently this blog is the #2 Google result for "John Daly and Montgomery Gentry." Huh.

In case you missed it, I did review the Montgomery Gentry/Heidi Newfield show a few days ago. The verdict was "see it" but if possible, see it in a better crowd than I did. I can't help but think Heidi Newfield is going to be a big star headlining her own tour soon, and when it comes time to decide whether to swing in and do a show in Springfield, she's going to take a pass. She sounds better than she looks . . . . and she looks like this:

<-------- I'm just sayin'. Also, "Montgomery Gentry" commented on my review and thanked me for it, which I thought was a pretty nice gesture. I'm sure it was some guy at the record company, but hey, somebody read the damn thing and that's shocking enough without worrying who it was. It wasn't my mom, so I'm happy.

This is what Montgomery Gentry looked like a long time ago, when I had all my hair and thought "Montgomery Gentry" was one guy's name:

Monday, October 27, 2008

I Could Tell You, But She'd Have to Kill Me

". . . . and if you blog that, I will kill you. I'm not kidding. I will murder you."
"But I'm sitting right here, and it would be awesome!"
"No, it would be you signing your death warrant. I'm serious. Now I sort of want you to try it. Give me an excuse."
"I . . . . I don't want to anymore."
"That's right."
. . .
"But . . . . I can post everything after you said not to blog the first thing, right? I mean, that's kind of awesome, too."
"Well, yeah, obviously. Just don't make me do anything rash."

I love my wife and respect her privacy and she reads this blog, so I will be a man of my word.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Montgomery Gentry and Heidi Newfield: See It If You Can

I haven't been a huge Montgomery Gentry fan over the years, but my wife liked 'em pretty well, so when I found out they were going to be in Springfield the day after My Bride's birthday, I went online and got tickets. I figured a night off to go have some fun without anybody's kids would be a welcome birthday present, even if the show wasn't great, and last summer I had managed a hit by getting Reba McEntire tickets for our anniversary, so why mess with success? The McEntire show was good, not great, but she's Esperanza's favorite. That time, I bought tickets online and we ended up fairly high in the cheap seats. There were no bad seats in that little arena, but we did get yelled at for standing up. The crowd was . . . . seasoned. Lots of salt, not much pepper left.

This time, I bought tickets a few minutes after they went on sale and scored seats in the fifth row on the floor. The opening act was Heidi Newfield, whose name you might not recognize. I had no idea who she was; I thought she was a very new act, but she's got one single out that I really do like a lot, "Johnny and June." She sings about wanting "to love like Johnny and June" and manages a pretty moving love story about Johnny Cash and June (Carter) Cash.

It turns out that Heidi Newfield was the lead singer for Trick Pony until a couple of years ago, so if you liked "Pour Me" ("Poor me . . . poor me . . . pour me another shot of whiskey . . .") or "Heartache" you would have heard those last night. Her voice is amazing, and she can wail on a harmonica. She's also got this piano player, (Correction: Dave Lagrande, not "Mcgrand.") who was playing rockabilly piano solos and then jumping to get a saxophone strapped on so he could burn that up, too. It was a great show, but there was one problem that I couldn't get past: the crowd.

Springfield has a reputation for this kind of thing. They have a "convention center" and concert hall, and it seems like the only acts that can fill it are monster trucks and motocross. Musicians and sports teams get booked, fill the place half full, and struggle to get the crowd to look interested. After each act gets tired of this and takes their show elsewhere, everyone then complains that there's nothing to do in Springfield and it's a boring backwater. Newfield and her band were tearing it up last night. There wasn't much slow stuff, and the songs that sound a little pale on the radio (which is a lot of modern country music, to my ear) were rocking along with a lot of fire. The band was obviously having a great time playing, but they were looking at each other a lot. Newfield, for her part, was trying to get people to do something--anything--out in the crowd. We were clapping our hands over our heads, singing along (well, I shout along) and getting out of our seats, but we felt a little lonely at it. When Newfield belted out the first song, Esperanza's comment was "She's perfect. I hate her." When she played her last song, My Bride's verdict had changed: "I feel so sorry for her. I told her 'Thank you, you did a good job' in sign language. I bet she wonders what she did wrong."
I had to wonder myself. Did these people all have some sort of personal grudge against Heidi Newfield? Or maybe they were feuding against the idea of fun on a Friday night? Maybe they just needed to be more drunk. We both wondered what the Montgomery Gentry show would be like with this sleepy crowd of dispassionate observers.

We needn't have worried too much. Those guys started the show behind huge translucent curtains with their shadows projected about 15 feet tall. As "The Big Revival" began with bass thumping and an old-time preacher howling about brimstone and sin, you could see these giant shadows dance and watch one of them spinning something like a creepy scythe (that turned out to be Eddie Montgomery's microphone stand, which he carried all over the stage and spun, twirled and tossed in true Steven Tyler fashion--if Steven Tyler were a big bald guy in a cowboy hat.)
Reverend Jones, he struts and dances
while the guitar plays " Amazing Grace".
He testifies in tongues of fire
with tears of joy runnin' down his face.
He ain't sure and we ain't sure exactly what he said.
But praise the lord and pass me a copperhead.

That'll get the night started, all right. And yes, a lot of this music has a religious component to it. And yes, I'm an atheist. But I like to think I'm not the sumbitch kind of atheist everybody hates. You know that guy--he's the one who would turn up his nose at a wild rockabilly show because a lot of rockabilly music is about going to church. There's a reason nobody likes that guy. Don't be that guy.

We were on our feet the rest of the night, singing along, waving hands, and having a good old time. We're hoarse this morning, and my shoulders feel like I've been painting ceilings, but it was well worth it. Those guys have enough hits that they can play mostly radio singles all night, and people love it. More than that, they put on a fantastic show. There aren't a lot of effects--the curtains are about as wild as that gets--but the band is all over the stage. They've got one guitarist who looks like Carlos Santana and one who looks like a cross between a young Charles Bronson and Mark Wahlberg (but, hey, I'm not jealous of that good-looking guitar-playing bodybuilder . . . he's probably a jerk. Or something. Seriously, this guy looked like he was created in a lab in an attempt to breed a new master race of ubermensch, but somewhere along the way he discovered the power of rock n' roll. There may be a movie in there somewhere.) Anyway, those guys are all over the stage, too, so wherever you were in that front section, they spent a lot of time singing and playing directly at you, and made a lot of eye contact.

The end of the show was bizarre. Of course, they had to do the "encore" song-and-dance, where they yell "Goodnight!" and everyone runs off the stage. Will they be back? Are they really going to leave without doing "My Town?" Well, since the ticket says the show lasts from 7:30 to 11:00, and it's now 10:35 . . . . . I think they might come back out. On the other hand, the crowd was back to its former limpness. I wouldn't have blamed them too very much if they'd said to hell with Springfield and sent the roadies out to start tearing down the stage. There didn't seem to be much demand for the encore from what we could hear, but we tried to make some noise.
They did come out and play "My Town" and end with "Gone." But between those two, they called to the back and had John Daly come out with a guitar. What John Daly is doing on tour with Montgomery Gentry I don't claim to know, but they are sponsored by Jim Beam, so draw your own conclusions. Anyroad, Daly came out with Troy's white guitar and led the crowd in a rendition of "Knockin' On Heaven's Door." I thought that was a good pick, because most people have only heard Bob Dylan and Axl Rose do it, so it's not like you're trying to fill Johnny Cash's shoes. I sing a lot of Willie Nelson for the same reason. If you can't handle a note, just take it down a little and let your voice waver a bit--people are used to that on Willie Nelson songs.

Daly was terrible at first; he was late with the chorus literally every time for about eight repetitions. That song is mostly chorus, so this wasn't sounding too good. Esperanza, a trained singer, was covering her ears. But his voice wasn't bad for rock n' roll, and he caught up with the chorus a little better in the second stanza. "He's winning me over!" I yelled in her ear. She grimaced at me. By the third stanza, he was right on and doing a better job than Axl Rose did on the studio version. He was singing it like Dylan, and Bo Garrett (Santana) was playing the guitar solos like Slash. It was a surprisingly good mix. I have to admit, I didn't even know the song had a fourth stanza, about mama putting his golf shoes in the ground because he can't make cuts anymore. Who knew that song was about golf?

Anyway, if you see this show in your town with a good crowd, you'll have the time of your life. If you see it with a limp crowd of blouse-wearing poodle-walkers, like we did, you still have the option of having a great time, but people may look at you a little funny as they sip their Diet Pepsi in their folding chairs. I kind of enjoy those looks, but your mileage may vary.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Overheard: Esperanza Birthday Edition

"Is the baby in bed?"
"Yeah. Should I even bring in the chocolate cake, or do you just want me to put it in the refrigerator?"
"Ohmigod. No more cake. The cake must stop."
"OK. It'll go in the fridge. Hey, you know what'll make you feel better?"
"No. What?"
"A hot shower . . . . and a backrub . . . ."
"I love you so much. NO. I just want to lie down."
"No problem, we can go lie down. Whatever works for you, baby."
"No, I'm going to bed. No one is to touch me or speak to me until morning."
(CRASH from the kitchen.)
"And you get to take care of those two."
"Okay . . . . but that's your birthday present."
"That'll do."

Happy Birthday, Esperanza!

You are the love of my life.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

In Which Murphy Puts His Two Cents In . . . .

The acquisition of "Silvertip" (I'm still trying these out, so bear with me) didn't go very well yesterday. I called my insurance provider and switched the Camaro's coverage to the 850 ("Silverback"?) without any trouble.
"Heck," I thought to myself in a naive tone of voice, "this is easy. Now off to the DMV!"

Now, people love to be snarky about the DMV, and these people certainly weren't all that friendly, but it wasn't their fault that I couldn't register "Sterling." That happened because the seller and his wife are both named as owners on the title, but only he signed the sale box. The box with only his name turns out to be the address box. So the good news was that my trip to the DMV was very quick, and my issue was resolved. The bad news was the resolution: "Come back when you have the title signed." As I say, that wasn't their fault. On the other hand, they did seem to enjoy it more than I would consider appropriate.

The seller and his wife live over two hours away, and I can't make that drive this week, so I FedExed the title to him in a fairly secure manner. He says he'll have his wife sign it and send it back; I'm hoping to have it back by tomorrow or Thursday.

In other news, I have a Camaro tire thumping and making noise ever since I filled it with Fix-A-Flat; it's hardly noticeable at low or high speeds, but between about 50 and 65 miles per hour, it's enough to make me feel a little ill. So I took the car to a cheap tire place, where they very helpfully determined two problems:

1. My license plate sticker is expired; there's no sign of the new one we bought for September.

2. I never put the special locking-lug key socket back in the glove compartment, so they couldn't even remove the wheel.

So we've got one Ford Minivan that's working pretty well (since we paid through the nose to have the brakes redone on Saturday), one Volvo that runs great but has no license, one Camaro that runs but doesn't have a valid license sticker (If a cop runs my plates and they come back valid in the computer system, I hope that overrules the outdated sticker, because I'm really not sure what I did with that thing), and finally, the 1986 Chevy pickup sitting out back with a load of gravel in the bed. It's starting to get a little crowded around here again. But I got some repairs done on the Camaro last night, and once I get the tire situation sorted out I expect it to sell pretty quickly. There's no shortage of teenagers who want to look fast in something low and red.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

An Embarrassment of Riches

  • I got a silver 1994 Volvo 850 Turbo Sedan
  • My Bride dropped what she was doing and drove across the state with me so I could drive it home.
  • The Bears won, 48-41 in a nailbiter. I listened to it on the radio as I zipped between the cornfields in my new Turbo.
  • The Vikings lost, 48-41 in a nailbiter. I listened to it on the radio as I zipped between the cornfields in my new Turbo.
  • American Rifleman arrived.*
  • Playboy arrived.*
Life is good.

*Well, technically, they arrived yesterday, of course. Nobody was home to get the mail.

Sunday Skepticationalism Will Have to Wait

UPDATE: I didn't much care whether it was an R model or not, and certainly wasn't paying extra for it, so I was perhaps too casual about that part. There was no R model in 1994; the actual race car they were based on was campaigned in the 1995 season. It's just a plain old silver Turbo model. I will cope somehow.

I just made a major (for me) purchase, and now I have to go back across the state to where I was yesterday to pick it up. It's a 1994 Volvo 850 advertised as a Turbo model, but it's not.

It's an 850 R.

And most importantly, it has a back seat and back doors, and I can put all three boys in the back, even with the baby's car seat.
"If you've ever purchased a sports car in a cornfield . . . it's just possible . . . you might be a redneck."

UPDATE: Oh, man, the sweetness. The sweetness envelopes and overwhelms. I wonder now whether a beneficent deity cast me into a Camaro so that I would understand this automobile in a way otherwise impossible, in the same way that a man must know evil that he may truly know goodness.

And now, random stuff that I swear people really said:

ME: "You know, guys, this car is faster than the Camaro, stops and handles better, and gets better gas mileage while it's doing it. Plus it has a nice big backseat."

KANE: "and we can put more guns in it!"

Friday, October 17, 2008

I Guess It Was Inevitable

Kane's class had a mock election yesterday. Kane voted for McCain.

The rest of the day, the other kids taunted him and called him a racist. It was a pretty good preparation for adult political discourse, come to think of it. We had a little talk about it, and I gave him the same advice I give grownups--if you know you're not a racist, what do you care what "they" say? Being called a racist is a sure sign that you're winning an argument, anyway.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Reboletti Responds


Thank you for your support. We are working on getting paypal up on the website, but until then checks can be sent to Citizens for Dennis Reboletti, PO Box 90, Addison, IL 60101. This is the second time they have done this. In my previous career I was a prosecutor. I didn't realize now I was anti-law enforcement, family and children.

Thank You,

Rep. Dennis Reboletti

Representative Reboletti, you might recall, is an Illinois state representative who voted against a redundant background check for handgun purchasers who had already undergone background checks. The Brady Campaign and their puppet groups in the so-called "Freedom States Alliance" brought their full political might to bear on him and another targeted legislator named Sandy Cole . . . which resulted in increased support for Representatives Reboletti and Cole. I know I, for one, didn't know who these people were until the Brady Bunch was kind enough to point them out. Both offices reported that the phones, FAX and emails ran about 5-to-1 in favor of their votes.

So there you have it. I don't know about you, but I'm sending Rep. Reboletti a check with a handwritten note enclosed.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

The Brady Philosophy: If It Doesn't Work, Do It Again--Harder!

So the Brady Campaign has the "Gun Guys" bragging to their email list (which still seems to consist mostly of pro-gun bloggers) that they're "holding legislators accountable" in Illinois for voting against gun control. There are a few things they're NOT telling you about their mailing campaign against Dennis Reboletti in his race for the Illinois House of Representatives:

1. Reboletti voted against the bill that would have imposed another background check on buyers of handguns in Illinois. That was redundant, because Illinois already requires both gun sellers and buyers to record their FOID card information, and you can't get a FOID card without undergoing a background check in the first place. The Bradies know this, as Days of Our Trailers has already pointed out; they gave Illinois a higher score on their "report card" because it requires the FOID and background checks (the grades are not required to correlate with reduced levels of violent crime committed with guns, which is lucky, because Illinois would be dead last in its region if that were the standard.)

2. The Brady Campaign has already sent out almost identical mailers against Reboletti once this year. They resulted in a flood of phone calls and emails to Reboletti's office . . . in SUPPORT of Reboletti. The Brady Bunch succeeded only in making it clear to Rep. Reboletti (and Rep. Cole, the other legislator they targeted last time) that they had absolutely no influence. Actually, it seemed clear that having the Brady Bunch as an enemy is an excellent way to build support in Illinois.

3. The Brady Bunch is trying to make a big deal out of their opposition to Reboletti, but that's not the big story. The bigger story is that the NRA and the ISRA are endorsing Reboletti this year. At first glance, if you don't follow the politics of firearms, this may seem like a wash. The Bradies are agin' him, and the NRA is fer him, so they cancel each other out, right? Wrong. The NRA is huge, connected, well-funded, with a membership in the millions. The Brady Campaign doesn't have members; it has a few donors. Those donors are relatively wealthy compared to NRA donors, and a few are immensely wealthy--for individuals. But the NRA has millions of donors, and they add up. An endorsement from the NRA is a huge gain compared to the small bite taken out by having the Brady Bunch in opposition.

Personally, I'm going to send Representative Reboletti some cash with a note explaining that anyone the Brady Bunch hates this much has to be doing something right. Then I'm going to settle back and see who's next. Sandy Cole was the other target last time, but she seems to be running unopposed this year, so we'll have to wait and see what comes up.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Your Attention Please:

Please, please, your attention, a moment only . . . . thank you. Ahem.

The Management would like to announce that the link in the post entitled "Why Do Squirrels Hate Freedom?" has now been repaired and will take you to the full story of a local veteran of the Iraq war, who survived an IED attack and was awarded the Purple Heart, being savagely attacked by a freedom-hating squirrel. Photographs of his wounds are included, of course.

Monday, October 13, 2008

For sure it is an evil spite, and breaking to the heart,

. . . for lib'rals to watch a bail-out, and not be taking part . . .

If you thought it was fun bailing out California with federal tax dollars, just wait until you bail out Illinois. Well, we've been wondering how Blagojevich and the legislature planned to avoid bankruptcy. I think a lot of us figured that California would go bankrupt before we did (maybe slightly before, but before) and when they got bailed out, it probably caused Blagojevich a momentary panic.

The thing you have to understand about Rod Blagojevich is that, at least in my opinion, he thinks he's doing a good job. I think he still thinks things could turn around in the next few years and people would wake up to what a great job he's been doing for the people--and start talking about him as Presidential material again.

Governor Says States Need Help to Survive Financial Crisis
10/11/08 @ 7:53:57 pm

Governor Blagojevich has written a letter urging Congress, the Secretary of the Treasurer and the Federal Reserve Chairman to work together to help the state survive the financial crisis. Like many states, Illinois relies on short-term borrowing to manage cash flow and pay for services, such as Medicaid payments and payments to school districts. In the letter, Blagojevich warned that some of these services may have to be cut or even eliminated if a resolution does not come quickly.

The letter, in part, states, "During past periods of economic uncertainty, Congress led the charge to provide fiscal relief to states and help ensure that working people get the assistance they need".

Blagojevich used the 700-billion dollar bailout as an example, saying that American families need that type of assistance and stimulus to help the economy get back on track.

Why Do Squirrels Hate Freedom?

Iraq veteran details squirrel attack in park

Frank Garren is tough guy. The 6-foot-4, retired Army sergeant was awarded a Purple Heart after surviving a roadside bomb while deployed in Iraq in 2004. He knows about combat and quick reactions.

An angry squirrel is another matter, said Garren, who reported just such a run-in recently in Washington Park.

“You might expect a mugging in the park, but not to be attacked by a tree rodent,” the 34-year-old Springfield resident said Monday. “I never thought a squirrel could kick my (behind).”

Read the whole thing, you won't be sorry. Sgt. Garren has a sense of humor.

Happy Columbus Day!

I hope yours was as good as mine. I celebrated by gathering a mutinous crew and setting off on a voyage of indeterminate length with a rather questionable goal. I topped it off by getting lost. Twice. Further adding to the historical realism, I promised them fabulous treasures (well, OK, used Volvos. Work with me here) which I then utterly failed to deliver.

I like to think the whole family got a little taste of the whole Columbus experience, especially when we reached our destination, a small auto dealer in St. Louis. The locals were indeed alien to us in their customs and way of life, a fact which was brought solidly home when, as we were getting the baby out of the van, a man in a large white GM panel van pulled up next to me and asked me, and I quote, "Hey, there, boy? You wanna buy a real good, big piece o' meat? Like, about this big? (Hands held approximately one meter apart.) Like filet mignon, man, you know?"

That's not something a country boy like me is equipped to handle. I wasn't sure what was going on, but I had several theories:

1. This guy had several sides of "beef" in the back of his van, and most of them had answered his personal ad in the past week, or

2. This poor guy had been told his CIA handler would be a fat guy with a red beard, but I was not giving the proper countersign, or

3. I was supposed to stare at him while someone else got me from behind so they could empty my pockets (HA! Joke's on you, Hood Robin! You should have tried robbing the rich!)

4. For some reason, this guy had some meat he had to get off his hands quickly, and he figured the best way was to drive around St. Louis asking big fatties to buy it from him.

I guess it must have been Number Four after all, because I checked all around me, turned so my back was in the open doorway of my van (which also blocked the baby in his seat) and smiled. BIG smile. "No, but thanks for the offer." He pulled past me, pulled into the alley so he was about ten feet away, and stopped. Now I was really starting to hear alarm bells, and I strapped the baby back in, started to get the bag with the Gun Blog .45 ready, and made ready to close the baby's sliding door (it's a power door that closes with the push of one button. My Bride and the boys were already out on the other side, and I wasn't sure what to have them do, so I just said "Let's stay right here a minute until we see what that guy does." In retrospect, if I'd sent them into the crowded car lot, they'd have been a lot safer--it was hard to walk between the parked cars and if anyone had really had bad intentions they'd have been that much closer to the offices with the phones and the people.

But eventually, after what felt like 2 minutes but probably wasn't, the mobile butcher service backed out and drove past us back to the main street (this all happened about half a block off Gravois Avenue, for those who know the area.) It made sense that he would probably have to get back to Gravois, so I relaxed a little, took a look around, and on we went. By that time, I figured the office might be the safest spot anyway.

The cars? Well, I looked at two mid-90's Volvo 850 wagons, a '96 Turbo with an automatic transmission and a naturally-aspirated '95 with a 5-speed. I didn't buy either one, and the sales staff did not impress. More on that tomorrow, maybe. If nothing else, I did decide that I don't need a turbo, at least not if I can get a 5-speed. It wasn't any more sluggish than that stupid Camaro.

(And yes, I'm kidding a little bit about the danger of the mobile butcher van, but the quotes are verbatim and it did feel like an "interview.")

. . . And Gilgamesh!

If you were in my history class, you'd get to do goofy stuff like listen to They Might Be Giants in class, and you could be confident that I'd find some way to call it educational:

Hey, there is a lot of review in there. The kids noticed:

1. Sargon, Hammurabi, Ashurbanipal and Gilgamesh.

2. Sargon writes songs in cuneiform on a clay tablet, even though nobody cares and the world sucks.

3. There's no such word as "Mesopotamish." But there should be.

They didn't notice the reference to Mohenjo-Daro, but hey, we haven't covered that yet.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Sunday Skepticationalism I: Facilitated Communication

Being The Inaugural Edition of the Sunday Skepticationalism Feature:

Ahem. Let's talk about woo-woo. What is woo-woo? I'm glad you asked. Woo-woo is the willing suspension of disbelief that makes the enjoyment of fiction possible--except that woo-woo is applied in real life. Woo-woo treats belief as a virtue in and of itself, and shuns skepticism--and by extension, shuns reason, evidence, and investigation.

Today I want to talk to you about a bit of woo-woo that has invaded the education community, particularly the "special education" community: "Facilitated Communication" or FC. Facilitated communication is a method used to communicate with people with severe Autism, mental retardation, and other disorders that inhibit communication to a severe degree. It promises a way for people so high on the autism spectrum that they don't communicate verbally at all, whether orally or in writing, to talk to their loved ones. Imagine being the parent of a child who has never spoken a word to you and never will, and you begin to understand the desperation of these parents. That's important, because the purveyors of FC understand that desperation very well. They know these people would do anything if they could hear their children say "Hi," much less "I love you, mom." Many of them believe passionately that FC works; in fact, many are parents who took FC "training" so that they could be the FC practicioner for their own kids and help them communicate with the outside world. It's hard to judge them very harshly from the point of view of a man whose children can tell me they love me every day.

If you've ever played with a Ouija board at a birthday party, you already know how FC works. The non-verbal person's hands are placed on a keyboard and held by the FC practicioner. As the NVP moves his hands about, the FC practicioner guides and steadies them, providing just enough feedback and pressure so that the NVP can find the keys he's looking for, which allows the NVP to type his innermost thoughts for everyone to read. It's shocking the sort of poetry, vivid prose, and revealing personal emotional descriptions that can result. One network news report I watched this year reported matter-of-factly the tale of a young girl with severe autism who, aided by her mother through the magic of FC, is able to write amazing accounts of what it's like to be her. One of the experts even stated without irony that the writing skills and even the outlook on life the girl demonstrated in her amazing writings would be more expected from a middle-aged woman, and wasn't it ironic that such a precocious writing talent was trapped inside a girl who would be unable to express it without her mother's Facilitated Communication technique? The far simpler explanation that maybe a middle-aged woman really was writing all this stuff--and that a young girl who has never learned to type is probably not typing out prose from the point of view of a much older woman--either didn't occur to anyone or got left on the cutting-room floor.

That probably sounds more or less harmless. The mother loves her daughter and she wishes they could talk to each other, so she takes up this FC technique. The daughter is not really communicating any more than the spirits of the Ouija board, as her mother's guiding hands are doing just what the users do with Ouija games, divining rods, and all manner of other magical devices--guiding them to give the result the user expects in a phenomenon known as the ideomotor effect. The problem is that it's not harmless. The mother is deceived into accepting her own thoughts as her daughter's. If there's ever a time when the daughter disagrees with the mother about something important, you can bet that a session of FC will show the opposite. And it can go a lot further than that. Take for instance the case recently dismissed against the Wendrow family in Michigan. Their 15-year-old daughter is severely autistic and unable to communicate verbally--or so they thought until they tried Facilitated Communication. Then she began to pour forth words. Hallelujah! Huzzah! Hurray!

Then the words changed. Through her Facilitated Communication specialist, their daughter supposedly accused them of rape. Her father, the FC writings said, had been raping her for nine years while her mother, who knew all about the abuse, did nothing to stop it. Now, this presents a problem if you're the Wendrows. A week ago, you were overjoyed that your daughter had escaped the shell of autism and was learning to communicate with the world. You believed in FC with all your might. Now you have a choice to make, because you know these rapes didn't happen (a fact confirmed by medical examinations of the Wendrows' daughter.) In a move that wouldn't shock a true cynic, the local prosecutors decided that the word of a Facilitated Communication specialist trumped the physical evidence and indicted the Wendrows anyway. It took four grueling months before the charges were finally dismissed, and the Wendrows are still filing lawsuits and trying to get life back on track.

The thing that drives skeptics craziest about Facilitated Communication is how obvious the hoax seems. A short bout of critical thinking would seem sufficient to puncture it fatally:
"So you're saying that you're going to hold my son's hands, and guide them to keys, but he'll be the one typing his ideas? But . . . that sounds like you're the one deciding what to type. And . . . . my son is severely autistic, so he never learned to type. And . . . . as far as anyone knows, autism isn't a stubborn refusal to use words, but a basic difference in how communication is processed in the brain. We know for sure that autism isn't a deficiency in motor skills, so how will steadying someone's hands make any difference?"

If that's not enough, the experiments have been done. It's been proven over and over. If the subject and the specialist see the same picture and are asked to describe it, then it gets described. If the subject is shown one picture and the specialist a different picture, then the only one that ever gets described is the one the specialist saw. They never write about the picture that only the subject saw because the subject is not writing anything. The specialist is simply using the subject's fingers to type.

So why does the myth persist? Well, it's a special kind of woo-woo. Very few people are selling FC for money. Most of the people pitching the idea to parents and therapists are doing it because they believe from the bottoms of their hearts that FC has revolutionized the treatment of all communication disorders. They believe it's a breakthrough. They see themselves as practicing altruism and comforting the afflicted. Most people find it so hard to believe that such earnest, honest do-gooders could be perpetrating a hoax that they never get around to checking for any evidence that what they're doing actually works. The idea that they're being sold a bill of goods by a true believer never occurs to them. We're all wired to detect deception, and even the best con artists can't avoid a tell or two, if you're observant enough to see them. But people who think they're telling the absolute truth don't have tells. They've already deceived themselves, so they have no need to try to deceive you.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

"I Have Read About Him. He Is An Arab!"

Good thinking, folks.

Boo your candidate for calling the other guy a decent man, because people who get booed by their own supporters are perfectly positioned to come from behind in a crucial election. Awesome.
Boo your candidate for calling the other guy a decent man, because it's so crazy and unreasonable for a politician to show his opponent basic courtesy.
Boo your candidate if he won't go along as you call Obama "an Arab," because A) Being an Arab is such a terrible thing that you can just cite it as a reason not to elect somebody, and B) The fact that "Arab" is a defined ethnicity and Obama can't be considered any kind of arab by any known standard probably won't come up. I wouldn't worry about it if I were you.

Friday, October 10, 2008

A Basic Issue of Fairness

"Have you had coffee-cup circles on your breast all day?"
" . . . . "
"Did someone set their drink on it? Do you not at least demand that people use coasters?"
"It's not from a coffee cup! You know that little bleach cup thing on the washing machine?"
"I can't wait for this. This is going to be epic. This will be-"
"Yeah, great, whatever. Anyway, I leaned over and I put my boob in the bleach cup, and I guess it left circles on my shirt, but I didn't know until I got to school."
"Uh . . . okay."
"Shut up."
"Look, I'm not mad at you or anything. And I don't care about the shirt. I just think it's a little unfair that the washing machine gets more second-base action than I do."
"The washing machine is a lot better at shutting up."
"Oh, that is indeed going up on the blog."

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Monster Hunter International

I got my copy back today; it was in my mailbox at work. I'm guessing that means my coworker is done with it.

That would be the guy I loaned it to last spring. . . . but in his defense, he told me he was very busy and it probably wouldn't get back to me very quickly. He tried to warn me, but did I listen?

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Uh . . . Hell No. Bill Ayers Is On His Own.

From Cam Edwards, I find that there's actually a petition online you can sign to show your support for William Ayers, the guy who built bombs for the Weather Underground, killed people (mostly his own people, sure, but incompetent evil is not OK.) You may recall that Ayers later reinvented himself as the only creature more useless than a bombmaker who blows up his own comrades--a Professor of Education.

The petition says Ayers "passionately participated in the civil rights and anti-war movement." I guess it takes passion to murder people with explosives, all right. And he must have been truly passionate about it, because over thirty years later, after he had reinvented himself as the mild-mannered radical leftist college professor, he was still telling the press that he doesn't regret setting bombs. He does have regrets, of course, but he regrets not setting more bombs. The link says he participated passionately "as did hundreds of thousands of other Americans." I don't know whether they don't know what the word "as" means, or whether they think there were hundreds of thousands of Americans setting bombs for pacifism back then. Either way, it doesn't look good.

So, to sum up, these people are lying about Ayers to get teachers to put their good names on their petition to do . . . . what? Salvage his reputation? He HAD a good name of his own. Then he made some choices. His choices were evil, and his name got some on it. Why would I want to get it on my name?

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Great Lies of Humanity, #1

"It's so sexy when a man changes diapers."

Alternate wording:
"The sexiest thing a man can do is take care of his baby."

Bokonon would approve, because it's a sweet lie.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Windows Errors

I wish I could blame Microsoft. I really do. But as it got dark, and the mosquitoes settled in on the backs of my knees while I ladder-surfed unsteadily with a 3x4-foot window in my hands, all I could think was "This is all your fault, dummy."
I was talking to myself.

Our windows are atrocious. We need to replace all of them, more or less; most are original to the house, which makes many of them close to 100 years old. They consist of single panes of glass caulked into wooden sashes which ride in frames constructed of cut plank sections. Long ago, these window sashes rose smoothly to admit fresh air and sunshine, aided by large iron counterweights hung from ropes which ran over pulleys hand-fitted into the window frames. Nowadays we usually find the counterweights in the bottoms of the walls when we strip the old plaster; the ropes have rotted to the point that they can be plucked apart by children. The kids like to tie each others' wrists with the window ropes and then burst free in the manner of Superman. But I digress; the point is that the windows are terrible things. They let in entirely too much fresh air, particularly when the air temperature hovers around zero in the winter, and they are difficult to open and close (except for the ones entirely painted shut, which don't open at all.) In the kitchen, there were two small windows side by side over the sink that particularly seemed to hate me. Both broke (more than once) and both were nasty in the winter. When it was cold, I repaired the panes. This summer, when those broke, I simply removed the bottom two panes and substituted aluminum wire screens. That worked as long as the summer lasted, but on the first 35-degree night, we had a cold morning. I taped wax paper over the screen (hey, Laura Ingalls was used to wax-paper windows and considered glass windows a luxury!) and purchased a new window. It was a fairly cheap unit, but it was big, it let in a lot of light, it had a simple sliding mechanism and "Low-E" glass with nitrogen between the panes, and did I mention it was cheap?

Between yesterday and tonight I labored to install the window. I skipped the setup for the IPSC shoot at Lefthanders' Gun Club on Saturday to haul old furniture to the city cleanup days at the dump, and figured I might as well get that window in. Ha, ha, ha. By the time 9:00 PM rolled around, I gave up and My Bride stapled a sheet over the opening. Let it never be said that we don't make an effort to support our neighbors' property values. In my defense, I had a pretty good-sized hole made in the wall by then; it was the installation of the window that was stumping me. Specifically, the hard part was figuring out how to add the right thicknesses of lumber in the right places to get the hole down to a more-or-less standard opening, because NOTHING on my house is standard, or straight, or square. Or level or vertical, of course. The walls are strangely thick, being contstructed of 2x4's which are very nearly four inches wide, sheathed in oak planks exactly one inch thick, covered over with wooden clapboard siding which no one bothered to remove when they installed half-inch thick green foam insulation board, followed by vinyl siding. Getting anything to work is an exercise in patience. I ended up cutting up some old 2x12 boards I had lying around from an old waterbed frame so that I could cut some 2-by-4.75-inch custom lumber to frame the opening.

None of that would have worked very well without my dad. See, I don't have one of those large hand saws you see carpenters use. I have a circular saw, a pull saw for making neat cuts on trim, shims, and other things that aren't right out where you can get at them, and a couple of smaller hand saws for miter boxes. Well, I used to have all those things, but apparently my circular saw has disappeared. I believe there may be a pocket dimension with an entrance somewhere in the closet of the New Bathroom, which concerns me somewhat, but luckily for me, my dad has four circular saws for some reason. The odd thing about my dad and his four circular saws, however, is that he wasn't sure he had one. Then, when he started looking through the antique store warehouse that is his garage, they sort of jumped out at him one after another. The one he loaned me is an ancient Craftsman monster; I'd guess it's from the 1960's. The body is cast, polished aluminum, and the trigger is a simple affair. The carrying case is an elaborate steel suitcase that opens wide like a clamshell, with the saw resting on a platform to which it can be bolted securely for travel. It is a most excellent circular saw, and I am impressed. With it, I was able to make many fast and true cuts, and tonight I finally have the window in, nailed and screwed. It works. There's no trim and no weather-sealing yet, but that will come Tuesday night (the Sangamon County Rifle Association meets tomorrow, and a man needs priorities.)

When I do that, I'll also do exterior trim for the other window I installed quite awhile ago and left looking ghetto, and then I hope to put up siding where the fire stripped it. That will leave only the bay of tall windows looking bare and unfinished, and once the other windows arrive, we'll finish that, too. Then the neighbors' property values should cease to plummet. I hope.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Congratulations ISRA: CCRKBA Affiliate of the Year

"Out of hundreds of eligible organizations, the ISRA is the only group to have received this award twice. The ISRA was first recognized as Citizens Committee for the Right To Keep and Bear Arms Affiliate of the Year in 1999. This year's award was presented to ISRA President Don Moran and ISRA Executive Director Richard Pearson by CCRKBA Chairman Alan Gottlieb during the Gun Rights Policy Conference held this past weekend in Phoenix, AZ."
Years ago, when I first got involved in the concealed carry battle here in Illinois, I took a look around to see the lay of the land. Who were the players? How was it going so far? What was the strategy of each side, and where was it working? What I saw was not encouraging. The "other side," such as it was, was disorganized and often foolish, but they had the advantage of inertia. They didn't really have to convince most people that the "bear arms" part of "keep and bear arms" was outmoded and best ignored; most people in Illinois didn't even realize that they'd ever visited a state where law-abiding citizens carried firearms for their own defense. They were certain that decent people had never done such a thing in Illinois. If they gave it a little thought, they often decided that it wouldn't be so bad if, say, a woman who'd been threatened by her abusive ex-husband were allowed to carry her gun with her, but generally the leapt from there to the assumption that there was some sort of license such a person could get by showing need, perhaps from a judge or something. That isn't true in Illinois, but the thought satisfied most people, in my experience, and they were loath to give it up.

My side, on the other hand, had an uphill battle. It wasn't rolling the boulder up the hill that was stopping us so much as budging the damn thing out of its rut to get it moving in the first place. And "our" solution to the problem seemed to involve fighting amongst ourselves to determine the strongest group (we'd know which one was strongest because it would be the only one that survived all the infighting) and then wishing what was left of that biggest dog the best of luck in taking on not only anti-gun activists, but a fiercely anti-gun Democrat political machine in Chicago, a pragmatically anti-gun Republican political machine in the state government, and of course our old friends inertia, apathy and general ignorance. This did not strike me as a wise course, but I still got sucked into it. In those days there were, I think, about the same number of pro-gun organizations in Illinois, but some have gone by the wayside and some have sprung up in the meantime. Maybe I'll profile each in a post of its own soon; that's better than having to think of a topic.

In those days, the ISRA was the bogeyman for many Illinois groups. The national NRA groups wanted nothing to do with Illinois, and the ISRA was more or less on its own. The perception, fair or not, was that the ISRA was more a shooting club for ISRA members around Chatsworth, IL with a pretty good record of defensive lobbying--you might say many of us thought the ISRA was bitterly clinging to its guns, but not going out on the offense. Now, having gone out on the offense a little bit myself, I've begun to realize the difference between criticizing others for their lack of initiative and taking the initiative yourself. But, at the time, it was a widespread perception. Probably still is, actually, for a lot of people, but I believe those people are missing out.

Well, we've come a long way since those days. The ISRA today is reaching out to bloggers (some of you might have gotten here from my new ISRA link; it accounts for about 5% of my traffic lately, which is pretty productive) and to internet forums like Illinois Carry. They're working closely with Guns Save Life and these new internet resources, and it's starting to show. We still haven't budged that boulder out of its rut, but it's starting to feel like more people are pushing on the rock instead of pushing their personal rivals out of the way. The ISRA deserves a lot of credit for that turnaround, and this week the CCRKBA gave them an award. I hereby bestow the Armed School Teacher's Seal of Approval, which I'm sure will have everyone sighing a big sigh of relief at ISRA Headquarters, because, really, what's the point of an award from the CCRKBA if you don't get my approval?
Actually, they got my approval months ago, when I bought memberships for my entire family. I don't agree with the ISRA leadership every time, but everyone in my house is an ISRA member, so take that for what it's worth.

Friday, October 3, 2008


In case anybody other than my wife cares, I'm down almost 10 pounds from my Blackwater weight. I don't look any different yet, but there's a certain pleasant smugness.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Rites of Passage

"Dad?" he asked in the car as the dark fields and bright signs flowed around us.
"What, buddy?"
"I hope the guy in the shirt with the glasses is at the match on Saturday. I forgot to tell him thank you for doing my safety briefing and stuff."
"Yeah? Well, I don't know if he'll be there, but I'm glad you want to say thanks."
"Yeah. He took his own time from his shooting just to help me get started."
I smiled in the dark as he sipped his milkshake in grown-up fashion and turned the radio back up. We were almost home.

Obviously, this is NOT the obligatory VP debate post. You can find that here or here.
I didn't watch the debate. I didn't even listen on the radio until the last half hour or so. I took my son to the weekly USPSA shoot instead. I do not regret my choice; it's just too bad that his brother's grades have dropped, so he couldn't come with us.

Tonight was Kane's first chance to shoot, but it didn't start out that way. I've been bringing him and his brother along for a couple of months now, except when their grades or behavior aren't good enough. They watch people shoot, load magazines, pick up brass and magazines, reset steel, even paste targets--the only jobs they haven't done are RO and Scorekeeper. I haven't let them shoot because, frankly, I've been worried. It's a lot to keep track of all at once, when you're trying to shoot, move, make reloads . . . . I didn't want to push them into doing something they weren't ready to handle, because I certainly didn't want to put them or anyone else in any danger. And, as long as I'm being honest, I've messed up before. We were shooting at an outdoor range and having lots of fun a couple of years ago, and Kane wanted to shoot my P220. My .45 ACP P220. Sure, I said, why not? I loaded one round, we moved up to about three yards, and I stood behind him and held his hands on the grip. He did a great job, squeezing the trigger smoothly back in one motion and hitting more or less dead center. But I, on the other hand . . . well, I cupped my hands under his, rather than wrapping them around his hands to help him control recoil. The pistol came up so hard that it hit him in the forehead, and he was clearly shocked at the violence of the recoil. I couldn't stop thinking about how eager he'd been to try that, how much he had trusted me without even really thinking about it, and how badly I'd let him down. I've never let him shoot a centerfire handgun since, but the experience hasn't dampened his enthusiasm. And when he saw people shooting USPSA courses . . . . he was hooked in the first moment.

With all these things in mind, I packed our trusty old Ruger MkI (that's right, not a MkII, I shoot a MkI while the rest of the world has moved on to the MkIII) and a couple of boxes of .22's tonight. We don't have a holster for the old plinker, but I knew the guys at my club would work with us. I told Kane that we would find someone else to give him his safety briefing (mandatory before your first time in any case) and then talk about how well he'd done at that. No guarantees, I told him; he could do well at the safety briefing and I still might not let him shoot, and although I would listen to his briefer, I reserved the final decision to myself. I was still nervous, if truth be told. We talked about the safety rules as we drove back up to the range; I can tell Kane to "show me your trigger finger" at any time, and he'll make a fist with a perfectly straight index finger to show where the finger belongs. It does my crusty old heart good, I tell you.

We arrived to find a very small crowd, since the first of the month is the dreaded Classifier night (Classifiers are standard stages shooters run to find out how they stack up to "standard" runs by Grandmasters on the same stage--they're usually challenging, but with low round counts--old-fashioned IPSC-style stages, you might say. People who have their classifications often avoid them, but I shoot them so I can find out my classification--and because it's still an excuse to bust caps.) The course tonight was simple, but not easy: from a box behind a bar a little above navel height, the shooter was to engage two targets, each half-covered, from above the bar. The two were about 15 yards away. Between the targets were four poppers, arranged so that one was behind (and guarded by) another, and the shooter was required to engage these from below the bar. Personally, I tanked it twice. I used the Gun Blog .45, which worked very well, but I managed to miss a popper each time--and since I only loaded the 8-round magazines and not the chamber, that left me doing a reload before I could make that last shot. I did not cover myself in glory.

But when I was done, it was time to get Kane a safety briefing. He'd picked out the shooter he wanted to ask for help, so we approached him and he readily agreed. We retired to the safe room, where I picked out a comfortable chair in the corner, sat down, and shut up. He did a great job with Kane, but I have to say with no bias whatsoever that Kane did a great job himself. He listened carefully, he followed every direction to a T, he asked thoughtful questions, and he laughed at his instructor's jokes (the mark of a great student.) When he was done, his instructor seemed to take it for granted that he would fill out a stage sheet and go shoot. Having seen his safety briefing, I couldn't help but agree, so we headed out to load magazines and fill out his form.

We loaded two MkI magazines with nine rounds apiece, Kane plunked them into my FOBUS dual mag carrier. They rattled like broomsticks in buckets, but they were where he wanted them. We don't have a holster for the old .22, but it was agreed that Kane would start from low ready. After filling out his form (Shooter #62, Kane Gwinn, USPSA # N/A, Class U, Production, Minor) we headed into the range area with eye and ear protection firmly in place. Kane only had to wait for two shooters, which probably helped cut the nerves. It might not have hurt that the shooter before Kane, a very good A-class shooter with years of experience, scored a zero after he forgot to duck below the bar to engage the four poppers. He ended up with 2 Charlies, 2 Deltas, 4 steel, and 4 Procedurals. Oops!

When Kane's turn came, he didn't hesitate, but there was some discussion. The bar was right at eye level; he couldn't engage over the top. The RO suggested that he engage all targets from below the bar, but a voice from the peanut gallery suggested that he be allowed to stand in front of the bar and engage freestyle. This was quickly seconded as I carefully and silently studied my shoes. I didn't want to favor Kane, but more than that, I didn't want to embarrass him or put any more pressure on him. I brought the pistol case when I was summoned, let him take it out safely and carefully, and withdrew to the crowd. I can't be sure, but I don't think he was nearly as nervous as I was. His RO took him through indicating readiness, loading and making ready, and the low ready stance; the little gamer was planning to start with his sights on the first target when the beep went off. At the beep, he brought the pistol up quickly and squeezed off two shots at the left target, then swung over slowly to take two shots at the right target. Then he dropped to one knee to engage the poppers (Later, he explained that "I didn't want to do it an easier way unless I had to.") He missed several times, but once he found his sight picture, he rang the things like bells, going through two magazines. Since they were calibrated for 9mm, he only knocked one down--my guess is that he hit that one near the top edge. But when it was time to unload and show safe, he stepped out of the box, handed me his magazines and asked to go again. The smile on his face was clear and easy to read. And me? I was just proud. The kid did great.

And so another gun nut is born. He's going to need a holster for that .22 of his, and one of these days I want a .22 upper for the Gun Blog .45 so we can all shoot it more. But in the end, Kane's vision is his limiting factor. He sees very poorly, and his glasses can't help that much. Focusing in three focal planes with standard sights has to be next to impossible for him, but he does well with a red dot sight on his .22 rifle. He may be the only middle-schooler shooting in the Open Divsion if he sticks with this, because the red dot really makes a huge difference for him. And it wasn't a perfect night for him; he came close to "breaking the 180" (pointing the muzzle back up range toward the other shooters, an automatic disqualification if it happens) when he dropped a magazine and tried to retrieve it. But he handled even that very well, and when his instructor and I each took a moment to remind him about the 180 rule afterward, he accepted our advice with equanimity. His comment on his only regret? "I wish Donovan was here."

In a way, Kane opened my eyes tonight. I wouldn't have let him shoot if I hadn't thought he'd been handling himself more maturely lately, and certainly not if he hadn't gotten his grades up. But even so, I found myself riding a wave of surprise and pride when I watched him take his safety briefing and step to the line to shoot his first stage. I've raised him for six years now, but the kid managed to surprise me. He's really not the kid I thought he was, and even the next time he does something stupid and immature (and he will, sooner or later) it won't change the fact that he was this new, grown-up little man tonight at his first USPSA shoot.