Saturday, March 31, 2012

Southern Fried


At the risk of TMI, I might have mentioned that my family situation has gotten complicated. My father has mid-stage Alzheiner's and my mother is recovering from a stroke. My sister and her husband have been living in, but had a vacation planned when their sitter quit Thursday. My sister is overwhelmed, and there's nobody to help, save me.

So after a frantic phone call, I found a flight, got up at three a.m. Friday morning, and flew on big metal birds to Louisiana for a rescue visit.

Sat next to the obligatory screaming toddler from Portland to Houston, so sleep was sketchy.

My father tends to get up at all hours wandering the house, can't find his way back to bed, so sleep is still sketchy ... Coming back to Louisiana is kind of like visiting a hot region of the Twilight Zone–left home, it was 40º and raining for the third day in a row, with another week of such forecast. 82º here today, muggy, and watch out for the stinging caterpillars and Fire Ants ...

See y'all when time permits ...

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Fan Page


My editor at Ace wondered if I might not be interested in putting up a fan page on Facebook, to which they could link for upcoming publicity on the new book series. Her assistant sent me the info on it, so I decided, what-the-heck, I could do that.


It is cleverly entitled Fans of Steve Perry ...


And thanks to all my friends who dropped by to Like the page, so that I could get something or the other done for the stats I get to see. 

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

More Knife Progress


Take a jar of murky goop (above) and insert a damascus knife, sans furniture ...


Do this three times and see what the caustic stuff does to the metal ...



Behold the lovely etched pattern. The blue tape masks the back so it doesn't get scratched fitting the handle. And Master bladesmith Chuck Pippin's creation draws nearer to completion ...



I Dunno Why But It Struck Me Funny


From Clint Overland's FB page ...

Monday, March 26, 2012

Not a Kid Any More


Sometimes, there comes a moment when you have one of those epiphanies, a sudden realization that Things Have Changed. Mostly for me, these tend to be small, the big ones being few and far between. 


Let me share an old one ...


As a boy and young man, I did a fair amount of camping. This was back in the day when this meant you'd hike into a site carrying everything you needed for the trip roped to a pack-frame–hatchet, cooking gear, sleeping bag, tent, spare socks, food, whatever. Once there, you'd unpack, set up a tent, roll out your sleeping bag, gather firewood, and do things like trenching, digging a latrine with your folding shovel, hanging your food bag from a tree so the critters could get it, like that. 


I wasn't exploring the Amazon rainforest or anything, but a ten-mile hike into a wood was not unusual. 


If you didn't feel like pitching the tent, you could just roll out your sleeping bag, usually with a canvas ground cover, because you needed to keep the cold and wet from seeping up into you. Lather up with mosquito dope if it was spring-to-winter, and enjoy the great outdoors. 


Winter camping, you'd sometimes wake up with a pot of water you'd left warming next to the banked-fire frozen solid, but at least the mosquitoes didn't bother you ...


Somewhen in the early-to-mid-1980s, another writer and I made a trip from Portland to Colorado. There was a writer's conference in Telluride he wanted to attend; I had a friend in Boulder with whom I wanted to hang out. We drove in my Volvo, packed a tent and sleeping bags to save money camping instead of motel-ing–it was a two-day trip if you hurried, about eleven hundred miles one-way, the route we took.


I dropped him off, went to Boulder. We stayed out our respective destinations for like five days, had fine old times. Done, I swung back by Telluride, picked him up, and we headed home.


On the way back, we ran out of steam at a little town called Snowville, just inside the Utah border with Idaho. It was late, we were tired, so we parked behind the volunteer fire station and didn't bother with the tent, just unrolled our sleeping bags.


It was summer, but the town was at maybe four thousand feet or so, and it was chilly.


Two things stand out from that night. First, I cannot ever remember being as cold and uncomfortable as I became lying in that bag on the ground. I had on a watch cap, my extra shirt, but I was chilled to the bone, and I wound up pulling the bag over my head. Maybe I'd asphyxiate, but what the hell. 


Didn't help much. I was so tired I didn't have the energy, nor the brain-power, to get up and go to the car, where I could have cranked the heater.


Second thing was, about two in the morning, a large, white owl landed on top of the fire station, which was a pre-fab metal building with a metal roof, as I recall. When I say, "landed," I mean that the bird's arrival sounded like somebody had dropped a bowling ball onto the building. 


Scared the crap out of us. Neither one of us was armed, save for my pocket knife. What makes a noise like that in the woods?


"What the fuck was that?"


"I don't know, it sounded like somebody dropped a–oh, look, it's an owl."


Relieved, we drifted back into our fitful, cold sleep. Dragged our tired asses up before dawn, packed, and headed for Oregon. Took turns driving so we could get some sleep. I remember waking up on a freeway and realizing that my buddy had the speedometer's needle at ninety. 


"What are you doing? This isn't Le Mans! Slow the fuck down!"


Now, the point of this story? My realization that my days of sleeping on the cold, hard ground with nothing but a sleeping bag between it and me were done. That hundred and forty pound kid who could do that wasn't me any more. The next time I did any camping, I brought along a self-inflating air pad, we drove to the site and unloaded the car, and even then, it was roughing it.


These days, I prefer the camper, with its fiberglas roof, nice soft queen-sized four-inch thick spongy pad, and an indoor toilet and fridge. 


Hell getting old ...

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Esoteric, But ...


Hardcore science fiction fans will get it immediately ...

Bogart


And if you are past a certain age and went through the Sixties, this will probably make you smile, too.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Live Long and Prosper


If you are a fan of The Big Bang Theory sitcom, this picture will make you smile.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

The Beat Goes On


So the Chief of Police down in Sanford, Florida, has "temporarily" stepped down, seeking to defuse the heat blasting his department over the shooting death of Trayvon Martin by George Zimmerman. What you see above is what you get when you look for images of the admitted-shooter, and it's a booking photo from Orange Country, FL, taken in connection with his arrest in 2005 for battery on a police officer. That charge went away, pled down, then dropped, so we don't know the story there. 


Here's the big problem in this kind of situation: There were only two witnesses to the actual event, and one of them is dead. What you can prove, as a DA, is going to have to be based on circumstantial evidence. The shooter says it is self-defense, and there's nobody to say different. Did he roust the kid and then kill him? Or was he heading back to his truck when the kid attacked him?


Only one story is being offered by somebody who was there. Does he have reason to lie? Sure. Is he lying?


Doesn't matter what we think. It's what the DA can prove.


Good luck, but that's the deal–the DA has to do that beyond reasonable doubt to convict the guy. 


OJ got off with more evidence against him. As long as this guy sticks to his story? 


Nasty. 

Whitney Houston


Cause of death finally released after what, six, seven weeks? Normally doesn't take that long to run a drug screen, and is anybody surprised that the verdict was, Houston was on assorted drugs, including the Devil's Dandruff, and fell face-down into the bathtub and drowned?


A shame and a waste, yes. A tragedy. A surprise? No.

Ammo for the Debate on Violence


Okay, I'm having a discussion online and have run into the anti-gun crowd, as often happens. I want to lay out a line of debate here, bear with me.


Let's divide the room into two groups: If you cannot conceive of yourself ever using deadly violence against another human being for any reason, even in defense of your life or that of your family, go stand over there by the door.


If you would would be willing to take out somebody offering dire threat to yourself or loved ones, then step over there, by the bleachers.


Good. Those of you by the door? Use it. Even Gandhi allowed there were times when he'd choose violence over the alternative, and it's obvious that if you wouldn't step up to knock somebody down threatening your child, we are done talking about this. I have nothing more to say to you. 


Now, those of you who would do what it takes to do the job, let's subdivide you into two groups: A) Those who would use whichever tool came to hand–rock, stick, knife, gun, SCUD missile–to stop the bad guys,  and B) those who have scruples that won't allow them to use a gun.


Okay, those you who chose option A, have a seat there in the bleachers, you can stay and watch.


The rest of you who wouldn't use a gun, why not?


There's an old joke. Guy talking to a good-looking woman. He says, "Would you sleep with me for ten million dollars?"


"Sure!"


"Great. Would you sleep with me for a hundred bucks?"


"No! What you think I am!?"


"We've already determined what you are; now, we're just haggling over price."


If you are willing to kill somebody if the necessity arises, we've already determined what you are–and I'm right there with you–so now we're just haggling over the means. 


Using the right tool for a job is a basic rule of efficient function. I mean, a guy with a gun is pounding on your door and about to kick it in, and his intent certainly seems potentially deadly to you and your family. Would reach for, say, a whisk? Maybe the newspaper? Or would you rather have a gun?


I know about martial arts. Empty-hands don't work real well against knives and guns. If they did, our armies would be marching bare-handed, and they've never done that; even the great apes will pick up a stick and whack something with it. 


Call 911? Sure, but unless they have The Enterprise's transporters, they might not get there for a while. What to do until the Law comes?


There are a lot of reasons for not keeping a gun on hand, and I understand some of them. But what I don't understand is people who narrow down their choices so they don't really have any viable ones in such a situation. If somebody else has a rock, I want one. If they have a gun, I want to be able to shoot back. It's the option, you see. If you don't want it, that's fine, but why should I go there if I think it's not a good choice? I've owned guns for more than fifty years, never shot anybody, and with any luck, never will. But whatever else you might say about the NRA–an organization that certainly does have some blind spots–the slogan that "It is better to have it and not need it than to need it and not have it." makes sense to me. 


So, if you are willing to use deadly violence in justifiable defense of your life and loved ones, maybe even the next door neighbor fighting off a rapist, then why would you handicap yourself as to the legal tools available to you?

This Bright Spring Morning


Saw the book cover when I went to pick up the youngest grandson from playschool. The snow is courtesy of Mother Nature, who stalled a front over us last night and left about an inch the of the stuff all the way to the valley floor here, and 4-5" on the hilltops around Portland. 


Somebody forgot to tell her it's Spring, apparently. They had seven inches of snow down in Eugene yesterday, screwed up Finals Week at the U. 


You know the old saw, Everybody talks about the weather, but nobody does anything about it? Not true. We've pumped enough CO2 into the air to do the trick. Global warming here, the next ice age there ...


Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Spring Has Come and Gone/Enshrouding Idiots

Thirty-eight degrees F. with a rain/snow mix falling on Steve's house. Lovely ...


To a more fun topic: 





Back in 1978, there was a television show called The Paper Chase, based on a novel and movie of the same name. The show centered on a law student, James Hart (James Stephens) and a lot of time was spent in the Contracts Law class, run by the curmudgeonly brilliant and militant Professor Kingsfield, played by the late, great John Houseman. The show was terrific, intelligent, and I loved it, so naturally, it was cancelled after one season.


There was an episode that involved a concept called shrouding. If you were late, or said something stupid, Professor Kingsfield would cast at you an imaginary shroud, which then rendered you invisible to him. He would no longer call on you, nor would he acknowledge your presence in any way. Hart was thus treated, unfairly so, and it was a handicap he needed to overcome. He did, in a clever fashion, and won that round of his battle with Kingsfield.


From time to time, I engage in debate with folks online. Sometimes these are fun, interesting, intellectual battles from which I come away invigorated and pleased. Give and take with somebody smart and educated can be a delight. I fancy that I don't lose many, but now and then, somebody outguns me, and I can acknowledge it when it happens. Nice shot. Your match.


Sometimes, I realize I might as well be talking to the cat for all the intellectual exchange going on, and my opponent has fixed in his or her mind notions that are so off the wall I can't keep going. I particularly like the ones who start to foam and froth, calling me a racist, or sexist, or a  hardcore right-wing jackboot ...


Um. Recently I got into one of these with a troll–I will not feed the trolls! I will not feed the trolls! I should have to write that on the blackboard two hundred times–and I came to the realization that I needed to do: Just toss my shroud over him and watch him vanish as if it was Harry Potter's Invisibility Cloak. Poof! Gone!


It's the best way, really. Trolls don't care; love, hate, doesn't matter which, as long as you feed them any attention. Starving them is the best way. 


Really. 

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Stand Your Ground


It's hard to say, but it sounds as if the black kid who was shot in Florida got killed for Walking While Black. The DoJ and FBI have stepped in, and frankly, I think they should. We need to know what happened, and the "Stand Your Ground" law in Florida doesn't sound as if it ought to apply in this case.


Jury's out on this, and we'll see. But I'll speak to the law a bit, for those who don't know what it means.


Basically, if a mugger hops out the bushes waving a knife in your face, most places, even if you have a knife or a gun on you, you are supposed to run away if you can. That's the law.


This makes a lot of sense, and given the choice, that's what I'd do. If it was just me? Run away!


In your house, most places will let you stand your ground, but there are states where this isn't true, either. Guy breaks into your house to rob or attack you and your family, you legally have to flee if you can. If you are back-to-the-wall, you can fight, but otherwise, you gotta run. 


Doesn't sound like home of the brave, does it?


The stand-your-ground law says if you are beset with what you feel is deadly menace, you don't have to run, you are allowed to defend yourself with sufficient force to stop it, and if that means killing the attacker, it's justifiable.


Here's the relevant passage:


"A person who is not engaged in an unlawful activity and who is attacked in any other place where he or she has a right to be has no duty to retreat and has the right to stand his or her ground and meet force with force, including deadly force if he or she reasonably believes it is necessary to do so to prevent death or great bodily harm to himself or herself or another or to prevent the commission of a forcible felony."


Is being a neighborhood vigilante legal in this case? Would this be considered stalking, following the kid because he was "suspicious-looking?"


How many white kids did Zimmerman follow down the street?


There are times when SYG makes sense. Here's a scenario: You are out walking with granny and the toddlers and the mugger jumps out with the knife. If you run off and leave granny and the kids to deal with the knifer, it is going to make for a really ugly Christmas dinner from now on–assuming your family doesn't tar and feather you and run you out of town on a rail, which they sure as hell should do.


In Florida, the population is one of the grayest in the U.S. Lot of old folks go south when they retire, basking like turtles and turning leathery under the semi-tropical sunshine.


If the mugger jumps out waving the blade, a lot of these folks simply cannot run fast enough to escape. Parables aside, the mugger rabbit with the knife catches the old turtle and upends him every time. So I can see why the law might have come to be there, as well as other states. Somebody comes at you with murder in his eye? Fuck 'im and the rat he rode in on!


It sounds as the self-appointed neighborhood watch guy followed the kid, even after he was told by the 911 operator that they didn't need him doing that. He caught up with the kid, and my guess is he rousted him, maybe got some lip. They tussled, he pulled a gun and shot the kid. If, as some of the recordings seem to suggest, the kid was crying for help and was executed? The shooter is in deep merde


Stay tuned.

Blonde Joke of the Day


Three blondes are in an elevator when it suddenly stops and the lights go out. Oh, no! They are stuck!


They try using their cell phones to get help, but have no luck. 

After a few hours of being stuck with no help in sight, one blonde says to the others "I think the best way to call for help is by yelling together."

The others agree with the first, so they all inhale deeply and begin to yell loudly:



"Together, together, together!"

Monday, March 19, 2012

Blade Runner



Behold Oscar Pistorius, age 36, a South African Paralympic runner, who had both legs amputated below the knees as a child, and who runs on Cheetah Flex-Foot carbon fibre transtibial artificial limbs by Ossur.


"The Fastest Man on No Legs," they call him. 


Those carbon fiber blades give back more energy than regular legs and feet do, an advantage, but then again, you don't get the same push-off for a sprint start, and going around a curve is trickier than on feet you can feel, plus balance generally is an unnatural bitch on these things, so the theory is that it's a wash.


Guy is only two seconds behind the world-record holder in the 400 meters, which means he can outrun a whole lot of people once he gets moving.


There are a lot of divisions of Paralympic sports, with careful gradations of handicap: 


(From the Wiki:)


A letter F is for field athletes, T represents those who compete on the track, and the number shown refers to their disability.


11-13: track and field athletes who are visually impaired
20: track and field athletes who are intellectually disabled
31-38: track and field athletes with cerebral palsy
41-46: track and field amputees and les autres
T 51-56: wheelchair track athletes
F 51-58: wheelchair field athletes



Blind athletes compete in class 11 and are permitted to run with a sighted guide, while field athletes in the class are allowed the use of acoustic signals, for example electronic noises, clapping or voices, if they compete in the 100m, long jump or triple jump.


Athletes in classes 42, 43 and 44 must wear a prosthesis while competing, but this is optional for classes 45 and 46. 


 A guy with one leg amputated is in a different class than somebody with both; above the knee or below matters, too. There are six main divisions: Amputation; Cerebral Palsy; Wheelchair; Visually Impaired; Intellectual Disability; and Les Autres, literally, "The Others," which means everything else that might impair somebody significantly in an athletic competition.


When you see a man like this, it gets harder to justify sitting on a couch instead of working out because your ankle is sore.


What's the old saw? I was sad because I had no shoes, until I met a man who had no feet.


I expect with some of the returning veterans who were severely wounded during the war, we will see more jocks like this. And if it freaks you out to look at them? Consider how they got that way, and think about it when you choose who you vote for ...

New Car


Did I mention that day before yesterday my wife bought a new car? 


No?


Well, she did.


Hadn't intended to. She was driving a two-year-old RAV4 and it was tooling along just fine. My wife has had good luck with Toyotas, a Camry, 4Runner, the RAV.


(Aside: Back in the days when I was a lad and Detroit mammoths still roamed the Earth drinking quarter-a-gallon gasoline and belching lead into the air, solidly-middle class families used to routinely get new cars every two or three years. Wasn't because the old ones wore out, those V-6 and V-8 monsters being worth a hundred thousand miles, easy, but because that was how you showed the neighbors you were doing well during the Eisenhower years. You traded in the "old" one for a new car. 


Given the price of a new car, we tend not to do that now, save for people who lease. I owned two cars for twenty-nine years: A Volvo sedan and a Mazda Miata–seventeen and twelve years, respectively. The Cooper Mini I've got is six years old and I plan to drive it until the wheels fall off or gasoline goes extinct, and no bets as to which might happen first.)


Um. Where was I? Oh, yeah, how come she got a new one? Well, the St. Patrick's Day sale at our local dealer had some good prices. But more importantly, the interest rates for automobile loans have fallen precipitously in the past couple of years. If you own a house, you probably know how that works for mortgages: Say you buy a house and get an interest rate of seven or eight percent. The financial times go bananas and those rates drop to four or five percent. If you go in and renegotiate your loan, you can wind up with considerably less debt, smaller monthly payments, or a shorter term, sometimes all three, so it's worth filling out all the paperwork.


What it boiled down to in our case was, business as slow at the dealership, and they were willing to deal. We could get top dollar for our trade-in. Coupled with the lower rate, what this meant was, we could replace my wife's car with a new model having more bells and whistles, for only a few thousand dollars. Would you buy a brand new car with heated leather seats for three or four grand added to your existing note, you could get it? Effectively, that's how it worked out.


We were just going to look, but there was a car she liked, a deal that was very much in our favor, it was a rainy Saturday and we were putting off doing our taxes. So ... 


Vroom! Vroom!

Muscle Men


Bit in the paper today, an interview with Manohar Aich, the 1952 Mr. Universe winner. He's a hundred years old, and while not at his peak form, was still looking good into his nineties. 


As you can see from the images above, he's still got some tone under his wrinkles.


He was sometimes called "Pocket Hercules," given that he was only 4'11" tall. He came from a poor background, and did some time in jail, but apparently pushing iron didn't do him any harm. How to live so long? Take it easy. Don't get too worked up about anything ...


And check out the photo below. See the guy in the middle? You know who that is?




Sir Sean Connery. The original (and still the man who defines the role of) movie James Bond. He is, what, eighty-two now? He stayed shape for years. When a tabloid allowed how he had gotten fat and lazy after he quit the Bond pictures, he sued them, and had his tailor testify as to his trousers' size. He won the lawsuit.


Before steroids were rampant, bodybuilders not only looked fit, they were fit. They could do gymnastics, they ate relatively healthy for the times, and they were strong. I think men's bodybuilding peaked with Steve Reeves, in about 1947.


Iron isn't necessarily bad for you ...

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Did I Mention I Hate Doing My Income Taxes?


Well, I do. And I don't even prepare my tax form, my accountant does that. But it takes all day, and sometimes two days, to gather all the shit together, to collate and separate and cogitate upon all the receipts and get 'em shoehorned into a questionnaire my tax guy uses to make sure the feds get their proper due. 


Right. As if "feds" and "proper" belong in the same sentence when it comes to skinning the public ...


I don't mind paying my fair share, but I have to say, I'd be a lot happier if they just cut out ten thousand pages of legal and mathematical detritus from the code and took a flat percentage. I expect I'd pay less, and there would be ever so much less hassle to get this done every year. Here, you made this much so write us a check for 15% and we're good.


I don't mind if the poor folks get a break. I'd just as soon the guys who make millions don't get a better break than I and the poor folks do. I mean, really, come on. If you can't hit us with a flat tax, I'm all for the Buffett Amendment. Is that class warfare? Fine, I'm good with the notion that the rich have to pay as much as the rest of us. That's not communism, that's only fair ...

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Root for the Home Team


If you are not a basketball fan, you can skip this posting. (Probably if you are, you can skip it, too–is is not a happy tale ...)


The local team, the Portland Trailblazers, which started out strong this shortened-season has imploded. Crashed and burned and the survivors are stumbling out of the smoldering wreckage looking dazed and confused and blowing smoke rings ...


The Blazers are a second-tier team, always have been. The big money and superstars go to the first-tier markets–L.A., Boston, Dallas, New York, Chicago,  and now, Miami and Oklahoma City. Mostly, the Blazers make the playoffs, and mostly, they don't make it past the first round. The only time they won the whole shebang was in 1977.


Thirty-five years is a long time. Not talking Cubs, but still ...


Since I've lived in this area, the local team has had several not-complimentary nicknames. For a while, players were getting busted for dope, wife-beating, drunk driving, and even dog-fighting, and came to be known as "The Jailblazers." Then they started getting banged up, a lot of injuries, and were called "The Frailblazers."


Last couple of weeks, the monicker has been "The Failblazers."


As happens when teams go from promising to pitiful, setting records for low scoring, most turnovers, fewest assists, and well, everything, the coach shuffles them around, trying to find the right chemistry. There are some good players on the team, including a freshly-elected All Star, LaMarcus Aldridge, who came of age when Brandon Roy was tearing up the court. When Brandon's knees crumbled, LA stepped up and kept the Blazers alive, if not triumphant. Last year, they made it to the playoffs and lost to Dallas, who went on to win the championship.


No surprise they got knocked out. 


Today, after a forty-some point loss to New York yesterday, two players were traded and the coach was fired. We'll miss Gerald Wallace and Marcus Camby, both of whom were doing good enough to get several questionable players and some draft picks. Crash Wallace is one of the toughest guys in the game, and Canby, while old, gets as many rebounds as just about anybody. 


Nate McMillian spent six and half years here and we liked him. 


Adios, boys. 


Tomorrow's game will be real interesting ...


The rationale, as it tends to be when teams fall into a stupor, is to buy young, and aim for a future, two or three years down the line. And Portland has some kids who come off the bench and play their asses off, so it's possible that will work.


That's what local fans are telling themselves.


And that wing-transplant for pigs could also work ...


EDITOR'S NOTE: I sit corrected. The Blazers, with an assistant moved up to coach and two of its starters gone, went to Chicago's house yesterday to play. The Bulls are #1 in the NBA at the moment, and Portland beat them by eleven points. 


Doesn't mean they'll continue to play like that, but for a glorious moment, it was quite the victory.

Expertise


We went to visit my daughter and her family recently for her birthday. She has two sons,  Cy and Dex, they are nine and seven years old, respectively. For Christmas, they got a game system, a Wii, that hooks to the TV monitor and is operated either with a wand or by leaping about madly and waving one's arms and legs.


Not my thing, digital games. "Watch this, Grampa! You see what I did?"


Not really, he might as well be speaking in Greek, but I can smile and go, "Wow! Cool!"


Both of these children are on the autistic-spectrum, and fortunately, high-functioning. 


Cy learned to read when he was three and has a memory like a steel trap. I rattled off the old nursery rhyme riddle: "As I was going to St. Ives, I met a man with seven wives; and every wife had seven sacks; and every sack had seven cats; and every cat had seven kits; kits, cats, sacks, wives–how many were going to St. Ives?"


"One," Cy said, not bothering to look away from the monitor.


Whoa.


Dex, at seven, is a math genius starting to study algebra, having mastered multiplication and such: Say, Dex, what is two to the fifth power? Thirty-two? That's right. 


I think.


So Cy played some complicated game on the Wii. He told me what it was, and it sailed through my head unimpeded, but I think it had Mario in it. The system was connected to the internet and logged online, so that players can track how they are doing compared to other players. Shows your rank, other players' ranks, and where in the world they are, on a big map with flags. Which is kinda spooky in itself, but there you go.


How are you doing, Cy?


Second in the world, as it turns out. And apparently consistently so.


Really? Wow ...


Did I mention he was nine years old? And that he has figured out how to crack the code to get the game cheats, but didn't, because if Wii catches you doing so, you get banned?

Amazing. 

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Knife Defense Fail


A story in today's news. I'll just post the first part of it. You'll notice one line highlighted:

"COLUMBUS, Ohio — A man armed with three knives began a stabbing spree in the admissions office of a technical school in a downtown office building Wednesday, injuring four people, including an employee of the state attorney general, before being shot by a police officer, authorities said.


Columbus police spokesman Sgt. Rich Weiner said the suspect confronted one victim in the admissions office of Miami-Jacobs Career College before 1 p.m. and stabbed him. He said other people intervened and took away a knife the suspect was using.
"We do know that one of the good Samaritans that came to aid the first victim — he was stabbed also," Weiner said.
Weiner said those who intervened didn't realize the suspect had other knives.
Four men, including the suspect, are in critical condition, and a fifth man has minor injuries. Police have identified the victims and the suspect but haven't released their names, Weiner said."
So, five wounded, four of them critical. One–the knifer–was shot by the police, the rest were cut. And the lesson?
Never assume your attacker is unarmed, and even if you take his knife away from him, don't assume you are done. Could be a fatal error.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

We Don' Need No Steenkin' Badges


As a PI, I used to carry a badge, for two reasons: If I was asking questions, IDing myself as a private eye with a nice badge and photo ID card helped show folks I was, if not any kind of LEO, at least a working investigator who had reason to be asking questions. Didn't mean you had to answer them, but at least I had legitimate legal leave to be standing there.

The second was to keep from getting shot. More than a few times, I was in places working on a case that instantly made me a suspicious character. A pair of officers who might roll up on me parked where cars usually were not parked as long as I'd been there, especially in the dark, might be inclined to think me dangerous. A badge didn't buy me a free pass, but it did buy hesitation–maybe we should talk to this guy before we shoot him? That was worth the cost.


Yeah, most of the time I got the "Oh, look, it's a member of the Mickey Mouse Club!" kind of response to my company op ID and badge, but that was okay. I wasn't loitering, I was working, and hey, cops watched Rockford Files and Mannix and tended cut me some slack.


Anybody can carry a badge, and a lot of governmental agencies issue them to folks other than LEOs. DA's, medical investigators, sometimes parole officers, firemen, spouses of firemen or police, big campaign donors who get to be honorary deputies, plus there are all the private ops, including bounty hunters, concealed handgun licensees, who sometimes wear or carry a badge. 


If you are walking into the local Safeway and packing a gat and the wind blows your jacket askew, revealing your heater, you can book it that if somebody sees that they will be reaching for a cell phone pronto. Man with a gun! 


Do not want to be on the wrong end of that call.


But if there is a badge parked on the belt next to the gun? Maybe they jump to the conclusion that you are some kind of LEO and have a right to be carrying that piece. Real police won't automatically make that jump, they'll check it out, but if there is a badge flashing in the sunshine, maybe their trigger fingers aren't quite as twitchy. I wouldn't bet my ass on that, and I'd be moving really slow to produce my license, no sudden moves, but every little bit helps.


Um. The point of all this is that there's a new badge from Smith & Warren, which can be had in black, a distinct advantage for somebody in tactical gear, maybe SWAT, so that the badge doesn't gleam in the sunshine. I just think it looks cool myself. 


Ooh, pretty ... 

Smashwords PayPal Censorship Update


From Mark Coker, founder of Smashwords:

"Great news.  Yesterday afternoon I met with PayPal at their office in San Jose, where they informed me of their decision to modify their policies to allow legal fiction. Effective last night,we rolled back the Smashwords Terms of Service to its pre-February 24 state."

How about that? Now and then, the Forces of Evil lose a round. 

Way to go, Mark. 

Verdant



Rain and snow stopped for a little bit, sunshine gleamed down, and I got a nice view of one of the other facets of Oregon winter. Moss on the trees ...

Heartshot: The Movie

I mentioned here a while back Mike Byer's magazine-killing short story, "Heartshot." This is about a guy who hunts and kills unicorns, and a fine piece of writing it is.


It is being made, on a shoestring budget, into a short movie, and as such things go, money is always a worry. To that end, they are taking contributions to get to the next step, and have established a site to collect money from investors.


(I point out here that you can drop Mark Kilbane a note and send him money, too, for the pre-production work on TMWNM movie, if you have some extra laying around.)


Um. Anyway, the producers of Heartshot will thank you, and not just with a smile and a wave. Depending on how much you send, you'll get a prize, ranging from copies of the finished DVD to T-shirts to wine to a life-sized model of a dead unicorn ...


Drop by and send a few bucks their way, you can brag to your friends about being an investor in the movie biz ...

Weather Here is Weird

video

Today is the 13th of March. Trees have leaved, plants flowered, the grass is riz, and last night and today? We have snow. 


It won't stick, and there is rain coming in later today, but snow.


Hmm. Better check that Mayan Calendar again ...

There's This Little Gland ...


Let's talk today, guys, about Mr. Prostate Gland! In the picture above, Mr. Prostate is the little heart-shaped white thingee with Mr.Urethra running through the middle of him, just under Mr. Bladder–he's the big kidney-bean-shaped organ at the top center of the image.


(Mr. Happy is at the center, extending to the bottom of the photograph.)


Are you still with me?


Mr. Prostate is an amazing fellow. I will not offer Too Much Information, let's just say that end-stage activities with Mr. Happy during which Mr. Happy grows larger for a time–more than four hours, you are supposed to call your doctor–require the assistance of Mr. Prostate to come to a satisfying conclusion.


Thing is, Mr. Prostate is a tricky fellow. While he starts out about the size of a walnut when you are, say, thirty or so, he often continues to grow, like your ears and nose do. So that by the time you are sixty, he is larger, say, nectarine-sized. At eighty or ninety, Mr. Prostate can be as large as an apple.


This is called Benign Prostate Hyperplasia, or BPH. There seems to be a direct link to the amount of circulating testosterone in your system, so that the more manly you are, the more likely you are to eventually get BPH.


The increasing size presents a problem, because the prostate squeezes the urethra, sometimes hard enough so that urine flow is markedly decreased, and the bladder gets backed up. Stopping/starting, retention, weak stream, increased pressure, an urgent need to pee making you get up in the middle of the night, all of which can lead to infections, bladder stones, and major discomfort. 


Fortunately, there are treatments, herbal, medical, surgical. (There's one involving insertion of a tube through the urethra and needles that pop out at right angles and zap the tissue with electricity ...)


Ow. Ow. Ow–


 Oops, TMI. Sorry. 


But  that's one kind of problem. There is another that is worse.


Prostate cancer. 


This is the second-leading cancer among men, just behind lung cancer, and on the rise. There are a lot of things that predispose one to developing this, genetics, environment, diet. While usually slow-growing, it does knock off about ten percent of men who develop it, and just under a quarter-million cases a year are diagnosed. 


Usually, it is so slow-growing that if you develop prostate cancer when most men do, around age seventy, doctors will sometimes recommend that they don't treat it, going with the notion that something else will probably kill you before the cancer does. 


Two guys, same age, one gets surgery, the other doesn't, the mortality rates aren't all that different, so they say, and the surgery carries certain risks. 


I'm not overwhelmed with that argument. The Big C makes me nervous. I know of a case, two guys, fairly young, both diagnosed with prostate cancer. One elected to get the surgery, the other didn't. Guy who did is still around; the other guy isn't. 


Prostate cancer can be aggressive, especially among younger men. Part of being a manly man is that sometimes, testosterone is a poison ...


All of which is to say that one you are past the age of forty, you need to get a prostate exam every year or so. There is a blood test, the prostate-specific-antigen, or PSA, that is used as a screener. The Feds have decided that statistically, this doesn't help all that much, but my doctor is not impressed with their logic, nor am I. If you get a false-positive, you can retest, or do a biopsy, and I want to know what's going on. Statistics aren't all that comforting, and better safe than sorry. 


The more, ah, interesting part of the exam? Again, I won't overload you with TMI, dude, but it involves your doctor's finger, a rubber glove, and KY-Jelly. 


This is not, for most of us who are heterosexual men, the most pleasant of experiences, and I can see why you might avoid it; nonetheless, and if it never crossed your mind, I hereby urge you think seriously about it. If I have to get it done, you should have to get it done ...


Read chapter seven in the text, there will be a quiz on Wednesday, and remember, the quizzes count for one third of your grade ...