Sunday, September 16, 2012

Keln has asked me to co-blog at Nuking Politics. I'm honored and flattered, so of course I said "Heck YEAH!".  Actually it took me awhile to respond, but that's because life is busy, and is not to be interpreted as a lack of enthusiasm on my part.

I have now posted an introduction which I titled "An Atomic Monkey Swings Into The Room", and also  Part 1 of my Post-Cognitive Convulsive Reflex Test.

This doesn't mean that AMAS is going away - oh no - but since I'm so delinquent in posting on my own blog I doubt anyone will notice if posting at Nuking Politics makes me even moreso. Besides, it is more likely to inspire me to be more responsible active here.


Tuesday, July 24, 2012

I had a lot of help.

“Help is on the way! Hang on, stay with me!
You’ve been through the hardest part already… Just lie still!
Help is on the way!
I looked up to see the pickup truck climbing towards the sky, nose to the ground, buoyed upon a billowing dust cloud, spinning madly. She flew out ejected at the top of its arc and impacted the steep winding country road directly in my path.
Standing on the brakes, I skidding off the pavement, while her truck cartwheeled past - blasting through the woods before slamming to a halt in a graveyard upside-down.
It seemed to happen in silence, which can’t be true.  I probably had Led Zeppelin cranked to the max and just can’t remember it.  This was well into my “Robert Plant wannabe” phase during college, and though I was never a druggie or a hippie, I certainly looked the part.
I bailed, tossed keys on my roof and ran to render aid.
She’d rag-dolled to a stop on her back, perpendicular to the road. Alive but unconscious. 
In a glance I realized she had multiple compound fractures in all her limbs, and her skull was exposed in a gash on her forehead. I assumed she likely had neck or spinal damage as well. She was also bleeding into her lungs, which alarmed me no end, and blowing out crimson with every labored breath.
As I moved around to her right side, the memory of my favorite teacher in junior high and high school – my wrestling coach who also taught science and economics on the side – sprang to mind. And thank God for that.
I knelt down, gently braced her neck with my left hand, reached across with my right arm to pin her to the road, planted my forehead in an expanding pool of blood, and started speaking into her ear.
“Hang on, stay with me. If you can hear me, I want you to just hold still. I’m here, I’m with you. You’ve been through the hardest part already, just lie still because help is on the way!”
Coach was by far my favorite out of the many, many fine, intelligent, patient, and enduring souls I burdened throughout my scholastic career. A big, beefy, white Midwesterner, he had a near-permanently jovial expression welded to his features which only rarely and fleetingly gave way to (and I’m sorry to characterize it this way, but it’s true) a comical scowl.
He had (well “still has” actually) a sharp and expansive mind, a razor wit, a truly intrinsic good nature, and could quote with equal ease wisdom from the Bible or Joseph Heller’s “Catch-22”.
He impacted my life in many ways – more than I can easily relate, and probably more than I even know, but three I can recall with ease:
  1. He didn’t freak out and call the police when as my 7th grade science project I brought to school a home-made rim-fire 22 pistol I'd cobbled together out of random non-firearm parts lying around the house. Granted, he was certainly influenced by the times we lived in, which didn’t default to SWAT teams for such infractions as is now the norm, but he being such a natural stoic, I actually don’t think I rattled his cage at all. He almost gave me an “A”, but marked it down to “B” because my documentation was not as good as it should have been, surprising nobody.
  2. He explained to me how to prevent a person from drowning you when you’re busy trying to rescue them from drowning.
  3. He taught me wrestling for many years, making it reflexive to use my head as an extra appendage, as all wrestlers do. This has turned out to be far more of an important life skill than knowing algebra.
She wore gym shorts and a T-shirt, no pockets, no ID. She was blonde, probably in her twenties and was probably normally quite pretty.  But nobody is pretty in that shape.
I had her pinned to the asphalt and was poised to restrain her should she regain consciousness, because I knew she would NOT BE PLEASED when she did.  I feared when she awoke delirious and in agony she would thrash about and injure herself further, so I held on tight in dreaded anticipation and kept up the litany of reassurances.
“You’ve had a wreck, and you’re alive, and you’re going to be OK. You’re going to be ok, but you’re injured, and when you wake up I need you to HOLD STILL. I’ve got you. Help is on the way. Can you hear me?”

I had recently been reading “Shocktrauma” by Jon Franklin, about the building of the R Adams Cowley Shock Trauma Center in Baltimore, Maryland, the first “shock trauma” hospital in America, so the mnemonic for first-responder care – ABC for “Airway, Breathing, Circulation” – was fresh in my mind. It was immediately apparent that I had to address these in reverse order… although broken bone was visible in various places all over her body, there were no arterial gushers so there wasn’t much I needed to do about circulation.  She was already breathing – ragged bloody breathing but breathing nonetheless, so that left making sure her airway stayed open.
Very quickly on I made two simple and possibly life-threatening mistakes.
My girlfriend, who had been driving behind me but who had been delayed by a red light, pulled up and understandably assumed I’d hit a jogger. Looking up momentarily, I made Mistake #1 – I yelled for her to go back to the fire station we had previously passed a couple of miles back, forgetting that there was another much closer fire station at the top of this very hill.  As she pulled a tight U-turn and sped off, I realized that I’d just made Mistake #2 – I’d skipped a step – I had not checked the pickup to see if there was anyone else trapped inside. Now that I was holding the woman’s neck steady, I dared not let go, and I could not twist far enough around to even see the truck behind me. 
Not that there was much to see… it had impacted on all six sides and smashed down in heavy bracken.  And the sun was setting.
The old lady driving the next car to come along naturally rolled down her window and asked if we needed help. Thank God, I thought, and asked her to race to the fire station up the hill and send an ambulance. I didn’t ask her to check the truck, figuring when help arrived, they could. Head down, I resumed my monolog, and feared what would happen when she awoke. 
That didn’t take long.
“Help is on the way. I need you to hold still. I hate to ask this of you but I need to know if you can wake up. Hello? You’re going to be OK. Hey! Was there anyone in the truck with you?  I need you to wake up but hold still!”
She didn’t listen.
She wanted to get up, and roll over, and fight, and knock the leaves off the trees through the power of her voice alone, but as gently as possible I held her in place and kept trying to calm her while the sun disappeared and the twilight deepened.
“Help is on the way! I know it hurts, but you’ve been through the hardest part already, it gets better from here, just lie still because help is on the way! Hang on, stay with me. You need to HOLD STILL or you’re going to hurt worse! An ambulance is on its way!”
It felt better to say that, now that I actually knew it was true.  Help was on the way. 
What the HELL was taking them so long???
I passed the time silently mocking, belittling, and reprimanding myself. 
Every part of my body was starting to ache – knees and head against pavement, I was lying on my left arm, with my left hand under her neck. My right shoulder had started throbbing from the effort of keeping her still. To stay on track I kept mentally comparing our situations. “You think your knees hurt?” I said to myself, “Not as bad as hers do…” remembering her bone showing through, “Stop complaining!” I told myself, “This isn’t about ME!” Whatever was necessary to discourage my natural tendency to fidget like crazy.  I imagined that had this happened in high school, my wrestling teammates would have teased me unmercifully – “So, you’re saying you kept this girl pinned to the road, but you claim it was for HER sake and you weren’t enjoying yourself?” “Yes.” “And she was just wearing gym shorts and a T-shirt?” “I was trying to keep her alive!” I replied, “She’d been chewed up by the wreck! Believe me, there was no cheap thrill involved, and I can’t believe you’d even suggest such a thing! That’s gross!” My old team laughed in my head, “Hey man, this is YOUR imaginary conversation…”
“Stay with me… I’m holding you down so you don’t hurt yourself.  Please keep still… Please, I need you to hold still.  Help is on the way.”
I kept reminding myself that “time flies when you’re having fun”, which must be why it seemed to take foreve- What the HELL is taking them so long???  The sun had not yet set when she’d wrecked, and by this time it was long down and the light was so dim it was getting difficult to see.
A police car screeched up behind me. I’m glad he saw us or things would have suddenly been far worse.  He hadn’t used his siren, and with my face buried in her hair I hadn’t seen his reflected lights. But when his door opened, I could hear his police radio and knew help had finally arrived.
As the cop ran towards us I yelled for him to check the truck for others. 
“What truck? Where?”  He couldn’t see the truck from the road.
Looking up, I yelled “Over in the graveyard!”  I pointed with my foot. “That way!”
He saw my face. “Are you OK!?” he demanded.
“I wasn’t in the wreck, this is all her blood!”
A big, beefy, black Midwesterner, he had a near-permanently jovial expression welded to his features which only rarely and fleetingly gave way to a (and I’m sorry to characterize it this way, but it’s true) truly terrifying scowl.  He also had one of those huge wonderful cop flashlights, the “why do I even bother carrying a nightstick?” type, and quickly determined that there had been nobody else in the truck.
Thank God.
He asked me who she was, and of course I didn’t know. She had no ID on her, and the cop couldn’t find any in the truck, although it being upside down initially made it difficult to be certain. He was going to run her license plates until he discovered the front one was a rainbow-airbrushed meaningless vanity sign, and the rear legal plate had been torn from the wreck along with part of the bumper. Although it was “certainly out there somewhere”, he couldn’t find it.
He knelt in the road next to us, and we spent the next eternity alternately trying to encourage her to wake up and stay with us, or to calm down and quit fighting, as she swayed back and forth between oblivion and overwhelming pain.  At some point the cop covered her with his jacket. We couldn’t get her to tell us her name. She tried, but her voice was so slurred we couldn’t understand what she said.
“At least she’s trying to tell us – that’s a very good sign,” the cop said. “A very good sign.”
Occasionally he would bark into the microphone at his shoulder to get an update on where the hell the ambulance was, getting angrier each time.  He finally stood and walked away lest his shouting into the radio further alarm the woman. He also turned on his high beams.
Strangely, horribly, the policeman and I had enough time for a friendly conversation.  In fact, way too much time, we both agreed.  He generally spent a good portion of every day, when not out answering calls, at the fire station playing cards with the firemen.  He knew of the local band I occasionally played with, but had never seen me on stage.  He was a Democrat. He was surprised I was a conservative, was mildly amazed I could put together a complete sentence, and was somewhat astonished I didn’t smell of pot.  At some point I laughed and admitted that given how I looked, I could hardly blame him for assuming otherwise.
“I have an egg-shaped head, so I’d look even dumber with short hair.”  I assumed from the expression on his face he doubted this.  “Kinda like a cartoon character that you know is an idiot just from the way it’s drawn,” I said.
“Is there a story behind that T-shirt?” he asked.
Since our wrestling match didn’t seem to be in danger of ending anytime soon, I launched into the tale.
“It all started with me being very, very stupid…”
Several years earlier, a dear friend and I were indeed behaving very, very stupidly. We were racing down a Colorado ski slope that we’d never been on before, and we were both just good enough skiers to be dangerous.  It was snowing lightly and the slope looked like a beautiful, long, smooth, mogul-less run, perfect for bombing straight downhill at warp speed.
This was an optical illusion. 
In fact, about three quarters of the way down there was a blind headwall where another run crossed ours. It was effectively a very unofficial, completely unplanned, and highly dangerous ski jump.
You can probably guess what happened next. It is a fun story, and I love to tell it, but I’m going to skip right over it only to say that A) the jump established both my personal relative-altitude and distance records for unassisted vehicle-less airborne flight, which I never care to top, and B) I listened very carefully to the ski patrol as they loaded me onto that embarrassingly obvious red stretcher-toboggan thing to take me off the mountain, and to the paramedics in the ambulance, hoping to learn a thing or two.  When I got out of the hospital my buddy and I bought ourselves commemorative T-shirts, emblazoned with a winged skier. I still have mine, though it is now way too fragile with age to try to remove the blood stains.
“In fact,” I told the cop, “I flew a LOT further than she did, but I also had a much softer landing.”
“Easier takeoff too, sounds like.”
“Yeah, that’s true,” I replied.
About a year and a half earlier, while I was at my parents’ home in Texas for a long fall weekend, my best friend showed up unannounced one night with two girls on his arm. All three of them were blood-splattered and shaking. They wanted to know if they could use our bathrooms to clean up.  It is always amazing how polite people can be when they think they’re imposing and are completely in shock.  We had bathrooms a’plenty, so while the girls were in another part of the house scrubbing down, I asked the obvious question.
“A guy got mowed down right in front of us as we were leaving the Fair,” he said. That would be the State Fair of Texas. “Old man drove straight through the crowd. The guy ahead of us… thrown maybe thirty, forty feet.”
“Is he dead?” I asked.
“He was…” he paused while indicating the girls in the other room, “but they brought him back while I kept the crowd from killing the driver."
My best friend is a very, very big man. 
"The guy was out and not breathing, choked on blood I think," he continued. "They couldn't get a pulse either, or hear his heartbeat... Someone said 'traumatic arrest'..."
"That tends to be notoriously permanent..." I interrupted.
"...But they cleared a lot of clotting blood from his throat, and somehow got him going again.”
The girls' own recollections were a bit more fragmented, but while huddled around drinks they told basically the same story, just with additional detail and considerably more emotion.
Eventually my girlfriend returned to the scene, beating the ambulance by a good measure. The cop and I brought her up to speed because, as I’ve mentioned, we had plenty of time.
It was full-on deep dark night when the ambulance finally arrived. I felt compelled to remain civil. The cop, however, did not.  We quickly found out their delay truly wasn’t their fault – a train had blocked their path. 
They didn’t have to say anything further. This was coal country, and the tracks ran straight through the center of town. Insanely long coal trains heading towards Chicago brought cross-town traffic to a standstill on a many-times-per-day basis, and exactly this kind of situation with the ambulances (and fire crews, and police) was a regular fear. Most of the EMTs went to work on the girl, while I reassured the others that I was fine – that all the blood on me was hers.
After watching the ambulance pull away, the policeman and I profusely over-thanked each other, both of us laughing slightly and ruefully from souring adrenaline. He strongly suggested that I get a haircut, but was nice enough to make it clear this wasn’t exactly a “cop telling the hippie to cut his hair” situation. 
Generally speaking, I’m fine in a crisis. If I’m going to fall apart, it won’t happen until after the crisis is resolved.  This was one of those times.  Once home, I started shaking and second-guessing everything I had done.  I didn’t know squat about first aid, and knew that reading “Shocktrauma” hardly constituted EMT training. Had I done the right things? Did I miss anything crucial? I knew I wasn’t a competent first-responder, so had I screwed up? Was she going to live?
We decided to go to the hospital, because I couldn’t sit still until I knew if the woman was going to be OK.  We arrived at the ER and in my typical arrogant fashion I strode through the big double sliding glass doors like I owned the place. That didn’t last long though, because in an instant all talking ceased and everyone including the staff behind the counter stopped what they were doing to stare at me in horror.
I wasn’t expecting that reaction. This was not how I preferred to command a room. For a moment time stood still. “Oh!” I said, realizing what the problem was, “This is not my blood! I’m fine!” 
Time started up again, and one of the nurses demanded “Whose blood is it???” and right on cue a scream from deep within the ER pierced the air. “Hers,” I said.  She had a powerful scream. I’d even go so far as to say it was a “healthy” scream except that I knew otherwise.
They grabbed her attending physician and had me go over in detail the particulars of the accident.  I relayed what I’d seen and what I’d done, although at that point I still didn’t know what had caused the wreck, or who she was. 
When we were done, I went to wash up in the rest room attached to the waiting area because my arms were starting to itch badly from the drying blood.  As I walked through, I had to pass between four generations of a family and the hospital television they were watching.  Please keep in mind that at this point I was so wound up that I probably barely qualified as sane, but I was still polite and friendly.  After saying “excuse me” for having to cross their view, I stopped and said “How are y’all doing this evening?” in a bright, cheerful voice.
From great-grandma down to the little children, excepting only the baby, they looked appalled. Someone managed to weakly say “We’re doing fine. You?”
“Oh, I’m fine,” I said, and indicating my arms I continued “Don’t worry, this isn’t my blood,” as if that made everything all right.  “What’re y’all up to this evening? Everything OK?”
“Just waiting on Grampa’s dialysis treatment. He should be down soon.”
“Oh that’s good,” I said, “I hope he’s doing well, and it sure is nice to see so many generations here to support him.” I continued in this fashion for awhile. 
At some point I finally noticed the little voice in the back of my head, yelling “Hey Moron! You’re out of control! Leave these poor people alone! You’re frightening them! Listen to yourself! Go wash up!” So while I know it is hard to believe, I actually did cut what I was saying short, and excused myself to the rest room.
I stepped inside, flipped on the light, and caught my reflection in the mirror.
Yeah, I was probably going to need a haircut. That was the least of my concerns.
Forget my arms, I was covered – COATED – in blood.
I’d knelt in it, put my face in it, and with every exhale she’d blown drops of it onto me.
I was a slaughterhouse janitor.
I was a slasher flick extra.
I was a pathologically polite zombie.
It was a long while before I could stop laughing.
“Yes, the law is an ass,” my father said, “but most of it exists for a reason.”
“Break the form,” he said. “It wasn’t made with your particulars in mind, so you can’t expect it to fit your situation.”
“Sometimes, like a good defense attorney, you have to test the system.” He meant by opposing it. “So even if you lose when you’re in the right, you’ll know you did the correct thing.  Test the system.”
Thanks, Dad. I miss you.
I went back to the hospital the next morning to see if she had made it through the night, find out who she was, etc.
I didn’t want thanks, I wasn’t looking for praise, I hadn’t done anything heroic – I’d just been there at the right time, and did what I could. And none of what I did was through my own wisdom, not at all – what little I knew, I’d been taught. I'd had lots of help.
Sometime in the night there had been a shift change, and the hospital staff on duty didn’t know me, didn’t know any particulars about the case from the night before, and refused to look up any details because I wasn’t family and it was a privacy issue. 
“Fine, don’t tell me her name!  Can you tell me if she’s alive?  I just want to know if I did the right things!”
There was a different policeman on duty behind the ER admissions desk who spoke up. “Don’t worry, son,” he said. “There are ‘Good Samaritan’ laws in this state – you won’t get sued.”
My girlfriend saw the look on my face change, grabbed my arm, and forcibly pulled me out of there before I did something very, very stupid indeed.
I graduated soon thereafter, and moved back to Texas.  Less than a month later I witnessed a disturbingly similar wreck on the Dallas North Tollway – similar in the sense of “cartwheeling car tumbling down the highway” – but in that second case I was not the first person to reach the vehicle, and – Thank God – the driver was not badly hurt. 

But for years afterwards whenever I passed that spot on the Tollway, the memory of the earlier accident would come to mind. 

And that’s where the story stopped for the longest time.  Life went on.


Ten years later, for reasons I still don’t fully understand, I suddenly, urgently, had to know if the woman had lived.  I knew the trail had long grown cold, and that my chances were slim of learning anything, but after hardly thinking of the wreck in years I couldn’t get it off my mind.
I located and called the fire station at the top of that hill, and asked if they remembered the policeman who had played cards there every day a decade ago.
They knew him!  He had since retired and was running a barbecue joint in a nearby town. 
I called him. He remembered the night! He even still sounded a little bit angry about the train! 
He said the accident investigators determined, as best they could, that she'd been going downhill at high speed when she likely swerved to miss a deer (someone had come forward to say that they’d nearly hit a deer standing in that road right before the accident), and gotten her right wheels caught in the ditch.  That ditch came to a sudden concrete halt at the culvert under the cemetery’s driveway, the impact with which threw her truck into the air with impressive torque.
But she lived!  He was certain of it! 
“I don’t always remember the ones who live,” he said. “I always remember the ones who don’t – but I do recall this accident because it was so strange and it took the ambulance so damn long to get there.”
She lived!!!

I thanked him again for his help.

“I’m very sorry,” he said, “but I can’t remember her name. I’d honestly tell you if I did.”
"That‘s quite OK,” I told him.  I didn’t really need to know.


Update 09-18-2012:

Found an old picture of that T-shirt, taken a few years before the story above takes place.
Also, that's my pet flying squirrel looking out from my neck line.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

I've kicked off a new Aquaponics project with several other people (who will be named later if they want to be, but I'm not just going to plaster their names all over the web without asking first), that looks like it is going to be lots of fun, and considerably larger than the other systems I've got going. And this one is "for the children!", seriously.

Not far from the Atomic Monkey Action Squad HQ, in fact within walking distance, is the Frisco CTE Center, which is part of the Frisco ISD.  The whole campus is almost brand new, and I've been envious of their greenhouse since it was constructed.  Long story short, we're going to add "Aquaponics" to their course curriculum, and the AMAS - after a fashion - gets to help.

Here's how we're getting started:

I had a spare 12,000 gallon tank lying around (don't ask!), so rather than give our HOA further cause to want to bomb the HQ, we decided it would be better donated to the school than to try to violate all sorts of local regulations by having it installed in our back yard.  Thusly, last week we had it delivered to the center, courtesy of one of their teachers (who did all the hard work and driving).

We're planning on cutting this tank in half, to create two 6000 gallon open-top tanks, which will go under that metal shed in the center of the next picture. The tanks will then be piped into the greenhouse you see to the right.

As you can see below, the greenhouse already has gutters installed, but at the moment the rain isn't being captured. We're going to change that by adding a 500 or 1000 gallon tank, most likely at this end of the greenhouse, and redirecting the downflow into it.

Once we get the big tank cut in two, the resulting tanks will still be about seven and a half feet tall, so they'd still be difficult to service.  We're going to place a portable staircase between them, courtesy of a local commercial pool construction company (again, to be named later if they care to be), so that they can be serviced from either side.  Note: in this picture the stairs are lying on their back in the parking lot:

The kids are going to be constructing their own personal systems as part of their project work, using either 55-gallon plastic barrels, 275-gallon IBC totes, or both, but I'll go into more detail about that at a later time.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Photoshop Rules!

Torn paper? Water damage? Bah!
 Photoshop to the rescue!  


...and following a few hours of eye strain...  


Wednesday, May 16, 2012

I Drop My Name Into the Presidential Biographies

Have you seen this?
"Obama Drops His Name Into the Other Presidential Biographies"

I consider this a personal challenge. 

The question before us is this: Can I "out-stupid" our chief executive without resorting to fiction or creating composite characters?  This is going to be tough... He's set the bar awfully low – I'm no expert Limbo dancer after all – but given the number of stupid things I've done (and I'm including attitudes I've held, or misinformation I've allowed myself to believe), I think I might be up to the task.  But remember; I'm only going to use true facts (or as honest as possible "best recollections") to tell my side of the story, so please try not to judge too harshly.

The main bullet points are from the official Presidential biographies available via  My additions should be obvious.
  • On Feb. 22, 1924 Calvin Coolidge became the first president to make a public radio address to the American people. President Coolidge later helped create the Federal Radio Commission, which has now evolved to become the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).   President Obama became the first president to hold virtual gatherings and town halls using Twitter, Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn, etc.
    • I posted my very first Tweet on Twitter last night, May 15, 2012, despite having had an account there for months.  It also took me a couple of posts to get the hang of how hash tags are used, and lots of rewording to fit the character limit.  All this after gently mocking my father's utter lack of technical ability in the eulogy I gave at his funeral a year ago. @DepartmentOfNo
  • President Herbert Hoover signed the bill founding the Department of Veterans Affairs July 21, 1930. President Obama is committed to making sure that the VA, the second-largest cabinet department, serves the needs of all veterans and provides a seamless transition from active duty to civilian life, and has directed his Administration to modernize the way health care is delivered and benefits are administered for our nation's veterans.  First Lady Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden launched Joining Forces to mobilize all sectors of society to give our service members and their families the opportunities and support they have earned.
    • I had an aunt who passed away not long ago (a couple of years at the most), who was a World War I veteran. I'm pretty sure she was 103 when she died – although she might have been 107 – and I'm sad to say I never got around to visiting her in the last decade or so of her life. I'm proud of her. I wish I'd taken the time to know her better, and to learn from her. Stupid of me not to. (Sigh...) Hindsight!!!
  • On August 14, 1935, President Roosevelt signed the Social Security Act. Today the Obama Administration continues to protect seniors and ensure Social Security will be there for future generations.
    • About four or five years ago (I've honestly scabbed over the memory of how long it has been), we moved my mother-in-law down from New Jersey to live with us in Texas. I'll leave it to the readers, if I have any, to decide if that was stupid or not. (I'm hearing Grampa Simpson say "A little from Column A, a little from Column B...") Regardless, she's great to have around, fun to argue with, wonderful with our daughters, and I'd say more except she'd see through my obvious attempt to suck up to her on this, her 80th birthday.  Happy Birthday, Grandma!
  • In a 1946 letter to the National Urban League, President Truman wrote that the government has "an obligation to see that the civil rights of every citizen are fully and equally protected.” He ended racial segregation in civil service and the armed forces in 1948. Today the Obama Administration continues to strive toward upholding the civil rights of its citizens, repealing  Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, allowing people of all sexual orientations to serve openly in our armed forces. Source: Harry S. Truman Library and Museum
    • OK this one is going to be difficult... not only because I've never been racist – I'm not stupid THAT way – but also because I think it idiotic to equate the civil rights struggles that ended racial segregation with the various struggles the gay community has today.  I need to tread somewhat lightly here, lest I end up adding this very post to my personal "stupid list", but it seems to me that no matter where you stand on gay issues, discrimination that is based on behavior is a different matter entirely than discrimination based on genetic makeup (and I'll include gender in this). You may be opposed to both types of discrimination, or like a huge section of the population you may be opposed to one and ok (or somewhat ok) with the other, or you may be a miserable throw-back creep who is "pro-chains-and-closets" all the way around. I'm not going to turn this bullet point into its own long (longer) diatribe on the subject. Suffice to say that in my youth I was very, very anti-gay. However, God apparently saw fit to humanize me, so now I have friends, coworkers, and relatives who are gay, whom I just love and adore. That doesn't make me "pro-a-behavior-that-I-think-is-wrong/not-healthy/not-the-best", but it does make it fairly inconsequential. If someone were to get in my face about it – which never happens – my canned but heartfelt reply would be "Hey! You're gay, I'm fat, I'm not really wild about either situation, and I can't be 'not-fat' without drastic lifestyle changes, or for that matter in the near future at all. A sudden change is off the table. Can we move on? Next question?"
  • President Dwight Eisenhower established the President's Council on Youth Fitness on July 16, 1956 (now known as The President's Council on Physical Fitness and Sports) after learning from a study that American youth were less fit than European youth. Today the Council is still going strong—with Olympians and professional athletes on board—working in conjunction with the First Lady Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move initiative to help promote healthier lifestyles.
    • I hated compulsory PE my entire scholastic career – especially in college (how the BLEEP can that be a college requirement???), and even when I was co-captain of my high school wrestling team my senior year (I was our school's first four-year wrestler), my unsportsmanlike conduct during our first-ever "Home" meet resulted in me having to apologize to the entire opposing team, in their locker room, after a match I won handily.  In hindsight, a little more physical discipline and a lot less attitude would have been very beneficial because, as I've mentioned above, I'm now overweight.
    • It was a heck of a match though! You should have seen it!  Even though I ended up being the "bad guy", I still love to tell that story. I don't think it would make a good blog post however – the physical semantics are half the story.  If I could get a young stand-in to reenact the match... hey, wait a minute... I'm thinking that would make a pretty good climactic scene in a movie, provided no one minds the protagonist acting like a total jerk...
  • President John F. Kennedy famously suggested the American people: “Ask what you can do for your country.” In 1961, the Peace Corps was created, facilitating service among citizens working toward peace in developing countries. In 2011, President Obama celebrated the 50th anniversary of the Peace Corps with a Presidential Proclamation.
    • I celebrate things all the time, except I've never actually celebrated the Peace Corps specifically (although I can pronounce their name correctly). Like President Kennedy, I'm always asking myself what I – or anyone – can do for our country (other than the obvious answer involving the election), but unlike Kennedy, I keep coming up blank.
  • President Lyndon Johnson signed Medicare signed (sic!) into law in 1965—providing millions of elderly healthcare stability. President Obama’s historic health care reform law, the Affordable Care Act, strengthens Medicare, offers eligible seniors a range of preventive services with no cost-sharing, and provides discounts on drugs when in the coverage gap known as the “donut hole.”
    • OK, I don't know if I can out-stupid the President on this one. I don't go around over-reaching the Constitution, or trying to implement socialist policies, and in fact when Obamacare was passed I was out of state, busy adopting my younger daughter, which was a GREAT decision by the way.  I'm yielding on this one, and I'm not too fond of LBJ's activities either.
  • In 1973, Richard Nixon created The President’s Export Council, which was expanded and reconstituted under President Jimmy Carter in 1979. Today the PEC continues to work towards reaching President Obama’s goal of doubling the nation’s exports by 2014’s end.
    • In 1991 a buddy of mine and I entered into negotiations with the Japanese Exchange Trade Organization (JETRO), regarding our desire and intent to import custom parts of an invention we'd jointly developed.  Sadly, neither of us could negotiate (or afford) our way through the Patent maze at the time, and within a few years someone else had patented the idea. Oh well, live and learn. Or at least live.
  • If I do say so myself, I'm something of a whiz at Photoshop. However, my free-hand artistic skills are pretty much non-existent.  That said, sometime during Gerald R Ford's administration, 1974 to 1977, I one day – just out of the blue – suddenly drew the best free-hand drawing of my entire life, on a chalkboard I had mounted in my bedroom. First let me answer the obvious question of "Why was there a chalkboard in my bedroom?" Because my handwriting was that bad, and I needed the practice.  The practice didn't help – my handwriting is still that bad. Anyways, my best free-hand artistic effort just cut loose one day and low and behold there appeared almost as if by magic not only a drawing, but an actual portrait.  Of Gerald R Ford. I still have no idea why.  Don't get me wrong, I liked Ford. But I didn't idolize him, so "Why him?" is probably a question that will remain unanswered this side of Glory.  But, unlike our President, at least I have a "Gerald R Ford" story to tell, and as far as stories go, it is kind of stupid.
  • In 1977, President Jimmy Carter  created the Department of Energy; today the DOE works with the Obama Administration to drive towards innovation in energy and reducing reliance on foreign oil with an “all of the above” approach.
    • Once again I'm going to have to yield on being able to out-stupid the President.  There's nothing I've done having anything at all to do with energy, or oil and gas, that can compare to the stupidity of the DOE or the current administration, and I say that as someone who as a young man burned up four engines in two vehicles by being too stupid to understand the basic concept of "oil change", PLUS having been electrocuted (or at least badly shocked) on many occasions, including one which sent me flying across a warehouse to land dazed and staring at the ceiling. Everything tasted like copper for days, and NO, I hadn't bitten into a power line.
  • President Reagan designated Martin Luther King Jr. Day a national holiday; today the Obama Administration honors this tradition, with the First and Second Families participating in service projects on this day.
  • In a June 28, 1985 speech Reagan called for a fairer tax code, one where a multi-millionaire did not have a lower tax rate than his secretary. Today, President Obama is calling for the same with the Buffett Rule
    • I call for a Regressive income tax code, wherein the government awards and promotes success by instituting the "more you earn, the higher percentage you get to keep" rule.  If we're going to have an income tax, and it isn't a flat tax, I think this system would be the best option.  However, even I recognize that as a political position it would be stupid. Sad but true.
  • President Barack Obama awarded George H.W. Bush the 2010 Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor, for his commitment to service and ability to inspire volunteerism throughout the country, encouraging citizens to be “a thousand points of light.” The administration continues to promote service and civic engagement, honoring heroes of local communities as “Champions of Change” and fostering civic participation.
    • Ages and ages ago I used to volunteer and teach remedial English and Math at an organization that had been designated as one of the "thousand points of light". Granted, there's nothing stupid about that on my part, but it is getting very hard to "one down" this President so at the moment I'm just aiming for "tangentially related".
  • Continuing his work as a lifelong public service, Clinton created the Clinton Foundation in 2001 to improve global health, education, economies and environments. Affectionately calling him “Do-Gooder-in-Chief”, President Obama has worked with Clinton to make buildings in our country more efficient—announcing a $4 billion investment in energy efficiency upgrades for commercial buildings.
  • In 2009, former President Clinton partnered with 43rd President Bush to help rebuild Haiti, after the country was devastated by an earthquake.
    • Sometime in the mid-90's I drove 120mph through Hope, Arkansas, in fact pretty much through ALL of Arkansas, on I-30 because I was just that impatient to get to Nashville. Had I been caught, they'd have thrown me into jail. Now THAT'S stupid!
  • In 2002, President George W. Bush’s State of the Union was the first to be live broadcast on the Internet. In 2011 and 2012, President Obama’s State of the Union speeches were available in an enhanced live stream version that featured infographics, charts and data side-by-side in real time with the President’s speech.
  • In 2009, former President Bush partnered with 42nd President Clinton to help rebuild Haiti, after the country was devastated by an earthquake.
    • I just recently started my own blog (psssst! look around - I'm referring to this one!), thanks to the kind arm-twisting of Harvey at, and as you can see there are not only just a very few posts at present, but also their quality varies wildly!
OK, so who won?

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

The Parable of the Talents, 2012

I'm a bit belated getting this up here, but thanks again to Harvey at, this time for posting my thoughts on an updated, non-biblical (let's be clear about that), version of the Parable of the Talents.

That post is located here:  The Parable of the Talents: 2012 Version

Monday, May 7, 2012

The Zombie Apocalypse is the Best Case Scenario

Yet again, Hollywood has gotten it all wrong.  There is now an entire cinematic genre based on a complete misconception:  A "Zombie Apocalypse" is not a worst-case scenario. In fact as far as Apocalypses go, it should be considered the Best Case Scenario.

Let me explain, but first let’s make it clear that we’re talking about actual ZOMBIES.  The walking, brain-hungry, contagious corpses. For the purposes of this discussion they could, however, be either the traditional “slow shuffling” or the new Mark II “sprinting” zombies – that aspect doesn’t matter.

There is a certain strategic moral clarity involved when fighting the “undead” that you don’t get when combating other types of eldritch creatures.  For example, it is always emotionally painful to kill a werewolf because you know that when the lycanthropic fit has passed, or when they approach room temperature, they will go back to being the local grocer, the kid down the block, or your girlfriend, so as difficult as such activities may be, trapping, caging, and quarantining are almost always better options.

Even if you add vampires into the mix, so that “hiding” becomes the only available course of action, given enough garlic, silver, and bright lights (and here I need to ask you to try not to think about skyrocketing grocery produce and metal prices, or of the plan to ban incandescent bulbs, and just make an effort to focus on the narrative) you can usually render yourself secure against the creatures of the night.

But with zombies you have no such concerns.  If zombies are on the loose, and you find yourself at a decent vantage point with a high-powered rifle, not even the preachiest starch-collared moralist will look down their nose at you for engaging in some much-needed target practice.  If you’ve got some buddies around, you could even make a game of it, and in fact that’s so obvious that it is a recurring cinematic meme often used for entertaining and action-packed screen-filler before the required 60-minute plot-twist mark is reached.  But even though they spend millions of dollars filming such scenes, and seem to have a great time doing so, they still miss the big liberating point: In no other type of Apocalypse can you do that!

What They Would Label The Act of Randomly Shooting Approaching Entities, by Apocalypse Type:
Type of Apocalypse Label
Obamacare Death Panel Appointee Infestation Murder, with fierce debate over whether "justified" or not, depending on the State in which it occurred.
Tyrannical Government Instituting Stalinistic Measures Other Than Obamacare Murder - most likely followed quickly with "Suicide by Cop". 
Biker Gang Either Homicide, Manslaughter, or Self-Defense, depending on the prosecutor. Not that it matters, since - like most of the "good-guys-who-aren't-Mel-Gibson" characters in "Road Warrior" - you probably won't be alive for there to be a trial.
Invading Foreign Military Short-lived Foolishness 
Robot/Terminator Short-lived Foolishness.  Resisting our robotic overlords by other means is fine, and in fact required, but just randomly plinking away at them from on high is a useless waste of ammunition and doesn't take into consideration their ubiquitous close air support or ability to triangulate both echoes and ballistic paths within microseconds. A better option would be to locate and reprogram Summer Glau.
Space Alien Short-lived Foolishness, because this is essentially "Invading Foreign Military" with technology and armor that likely surpasses the robots.
Mutant Intelligent Ape Yay! Oh I mean, uh, Short-lived Foolishness. It has been pointed out that, excepting an Obamacare scenario, a line needs to be drawn between an "Infestation" and an "Apocalypse".  In an infestation such an act would be viewed more along the lines of shooting Zombies in terms of general appreciation by your fellow humans.  But given that the adjective "Intelligent" is in the name for a reason, in an Apocalyptic scenario they would essentially be indistinguishable from an Invading Foreign Military, except for the delightful smell.
Lycanthropic Murder - and rather difficult to explain to skeptical police come the dawn.
However, it does leave the door open for an insanity plea.
Rage Virus Depending on whether the government has or hasn't fallen, and if still extant then whether or not it is working on developing a treatment, this could range anywhere from Self-Defense to Murder.

In an Interregnum they should be considered akin to smart, fast, strong, cooperative, vengeful, rabid, and extremely angry Zombies with a chip on their collective shoulders against all of Creation. 

Engaging them simply for target practice would be Foolishness, although its duration (short-lived versus prolonged) would likely be determined on a per-mêlée basis.
Reaver Unless you just happen to be Summer Glau, this is Short-lived Foolishness,
and Not At All Shiny.

Behaviorally, Reavers can be considered akin to "Lycanthropes without an off switch", or  "Rage Virus Patients in Space" who have retained both their mechanical skills and ability to strategize.

People encountering Reavers can expect to be raped to death, have their flesh eaten, and their skin sewn into the Reavers’ clothing, and according to reliable sources if someone is very lucky they'll do it in that order. 

Given Reavers' preference for "hit and run" tactics, both hiding and fleeing have proven to be very successful survival strategies, thus the label "Short-lived Foolishness" is deserved.
Demonic Even Shorter-lived Foolishness
Angelic The Shortest-lived Foolishness, as well as The Stupidest and Most Vain Activity Imaginable
Zombie Fun and Productive!
Engenders bountiful praise from, and increases potential mating opportunities with, fellow survivors.

Lest one forget:

  • There are no Zombie policemen, National Guardsmen, or Soldiers.
  • There are no Zombie suicide bombers.
    Bonus question: If there were, could you still call them “suicide” bombers?  Really? Explain.
  • Zombies don’t lead Personality Cults.
  • There will be no elections between living and Zombie candidates where the living ones squabble so much they split their base and end up getting the Zombie elected.
  • A significant percentage of the population will not be persuaded that “even though they’re not really in favor of them”, the Zombie’s policies and agenda are tolerable “for the duration of the crisis”.
  • Although they’re certainly hungry, Zombies do not confiscate, much less redistribute, food.
  • None of your neighbors will be co-opted into a secret police looking to rat you out to the Zombies.
  • Zombies do not create websites with creepy slide shows extolling the virtues of living under their rule.
  • Zombies don’t gather and maintain databases of your personal, commercial, or medical information.
  • Zombies, ironically, don’t impose gun-control laws.
  • Under no circumstance would Zombies ever be put in charge of the Fed, although now that I think about it, that’s kind of sad because it would HAVE to be an improvement, and besides – no Zombie is either stupid or evil enough to ever try to monetize the national debt.  I guess nothing’s perfect.
CLEARLY, if you’re going to have an Apocalypse, and you have a choice, choose “Zombie”!