Monday, June 30, 2014

Advice To My Daughter

My little girl turned 18 today. I'm not a mushy, sentimental kind of guy, but today has been tough. I don't care how old she is, she will always be that little girl who ran to me for comfort when she scraped her knee, or turned to me for help with her homework. She will always need my assistance and protection, whether she realizes it -- and wants it -- or not.

That said, here's my advice for her as she goes forward.
High school is not real life. Neither is college. But they are great opportunities to learn new things, try new things, and practice for later.

Some people are just plain mean and/or stupid. Learn to deal with them.

Don’t judge anyone, but expect to be judged - usually by mean/stupid people. Ignore them.

People will disappoint you. That's just human nature. But the ones who apologize and never do it again are worth their weight in gold.

Things (including shoes!) will not make you happy. Good people in your life will.

Don't let anyone push you around. Stand up for yourself and for those who cannot stand up for themselves.

Don't be afraid to say “NO.” Don't feel guilty when you say it. But don't be afraid to say "YES" once in a while.

Honesty really is the best policy.

Read everything you can get your hands on. Knowledge is power.

Never put anything into digital format that you wouldn't want your mother to see.

Don't be afraid to trust your gut instinct. If it feels wrong, don't do it/get out of there.

Not every problem is the end of the world. Pick your battles. Life is too short to be worrying or fighting about trivial matters.

Being the first person to apologize doesn't make you weak.

A smile, especially a smile at the right time, will go a long way.

Don’t be a bystander. Get involved.

Be a leader, not a follower.

Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Asking for help is not a sign of weakness. It's a sign of maturity.

If someone gives you constructive criticism, don’t assume they’re being critical. Take it for what it's worth, smile, and say "Thank you."

Don’t be in such a hurry to grow up. Yes, you’re now officially an adult, but there's plenty of time ahead of you for adult things. Enjoy being young.

Don’t make the same mistakes I’ve made. Make your own.
You are now old enough to vote. For God's sake, choose carefully.
Forget Prince Charming. Marry your best friend. That's what Mom and I did, and as a result we got something priceless - you!

Remember, you are loved, and always will be.

Public Service Announcement

A firearms safety PSA that is humorous, effective, and makes its point without being preachy.

A great big "Thumbs Up"!!!

Sunday, June 29, 2014

No Place But Texas

I actually saw this in the golf course parking lot.

Q: What do wealthy Texans drive?

A: A Shelby F-150 pickup.

In my youth I lusted after a Shelby Cobra, but it was waaay out of my price range.

I had no idea they made a truck version. I also have no idea what it costs, but like they say - if you have to ask, you can't afford it.

Carrol Shelby is an original, one-of-a-kind, American legend. Just for the record, he's also a Texan. My favorite insight into the type of guy he was is this tidbit:
November 1941 - Begins training at Lackland Air Force Base near San Antonio TX. On training missions, Carroll corresponds with his fiancée by dropping love letters placed in his flying boots onto her farm.

Here's some more Texas trivia.

May 30th:

Just moved to Texas. Now this is a state that knows how to live!! Beautiful sunny days and warm balmy evenings. What a place! I watched the sunset from a park lying on a blanket. It was beautiful.

I've finally found my home. I love it here.

June 14th:

Really heating up. Got to 100 today. Not a problem. Live in an air-conditioned home, drive an air-conditioned car. What a pleasure to see the sun everyday like this. I'm turning into a sun worshiper.

June 30th:

Had the backyard landscaped with western plants today. Lots of cactus and rocks. What a breeze to maintain. No more mowing lawn for me. Another scorcher today, but I love it here.

July 10th:

The temperature hasn't been below 100 all week. How do people get used to this kind of heat? At least it's kind of windy though. But getting used to the heat and humidity is taking longer that I expected.

July 15th:

Fell asleep by the pool. Got 3rd degree burns over 60% of my body. Missed 3 days of work. What a dumb thing to do. I learned my lesson though. Got to respect the ol' sun in a climate like this.

July 20th:

I forgot about Morgan (our cat) sneaking into the car when I left this morning. By the time I got to the hot car for lunch, Morgan had died and swollen up to the size of a shopping bag and stank up the $2,000 leather upholstery. I told the kids that she ran away. The car now smells like Kibbles and shits. I learned my lesson though. No more pets in this heat.

July 25th:

The wind sucks. It feels like a giant freaking blow dryer!! And it's hot as hell. The home air-conditioner is not working and the AC repairman charged $200 just to drive by and tell me he needed to order parts.

July 30th:

Been sleeping outside by the pool for 3 nights now. $1,500 in damn house payments and we can't even go inside. Why did I ever come here?

Aug. 4th:

It's 115 degrees. Finally got the air-conditioner fixed today. It cost $500 and gets the temperature down to 85, but this freaking humidity makes the house feel like it's about 95. Stupid repairman. I hate this stupid state.

Aug. 8th:

If another wise ass asks, "Hot enough for you today?" I'm going to strangle him. Damn heat. By the time I get to work the radiator is boiling over, my clothes are soaking wet, and I smell like baked cat!!

Aug. 9th:

Tried to run some errands after work. Wore shorts, and sat on the black leather seats in the ol' car. I thought my ass was on fire. I lost 2 layers of flesh and all the hair on the back of my legs and ass. Now my car smells like burnt hair, fried ass, and baked cat.

Aug. 10th:

The weather report might as well be a damn recording. Hot and sunny. Hot and sunny. Hot and sunny. It's been too hot to do shit for 2 damn months and the weatherman says it might really warm up next week.

Doesn't it ever rain in this damn desert? Water rationing now, so my $1700 worth of cactus just dried up and blew into the damn pool. Even the cactus can't live in this damn heat.

Aug. 14th:

Welcome to HELL!!! Temperature got to 115 today. Forgot to crack the window and blew the damn windshield out of the car. The installer came to fix it and said, "Hot enough for you today?" My wife had to spend the $1500 house payment to bail me out of jail.

Freaking Texas. What kind of a sick demented idiot would want to live here?

Sunday Funnies 2014.06.29

We spent yesterday moving my elderly father from one residence to another, where he will get a higher level of care. He's a little too old and weak to help with the physical part of moving, but he's still sharp enough to 'supervise.'

When we agreed to help Dad move, we didn't know the elevator wasn't working. So after hours of carrying heavy boxes and furniture up 3 floors, we were wiped out. When he asked us to search for his favorite vase, no one moved.

"I'll give a bottle of Scotch to whoever finds it," he shouted.

Within minutes, my nephew found the vase.

"Good," said Dad. "Now look for the Scotch."

When my father decided to move after his retirement, he invited us to his home to take a few pieces of furniture he wanted us to have. One item was beautiful but very heavy -- an antique dining-room set. Our teenage son helped us wrestle the set into our truck. It took the whole day, but finally the table, chairs, and china cabinet were sitting in our dining room.

"Just think," I said as I admired the furniture while my son sat resting. "This set is 100 years old. And someday, it will belong to you."

"Oh, no!" he replied with a stricken look on his face. "You mean I'm going to have to move this thing AGAIN?"

Moving Dad's curio cabinet.

My sister, who thinks she knows what she's doing.

My brother-in-law, tasked with moving the refrigerator.

The DBA name for our moving group.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Well Done Amy Adams

Maybe it's because my wife and daughter have been gone for a while. Maybe it's because the relentless cascade of depressing, disturbing, and disgusting news has worn me down. Or maybe it's just because I'm getting old and tired.

In any event, I was in the mood for some positive news for a change - something inspiring and uplifting. Thankfully, I came across this.

What Actress Amy Adams Quietly Did to Show Her Respect for the Military Will Make You a Fan

Every now and then a story shows that not everyone in Hollywood is a left-leaning bleeding-heart hippy with no sense of honor or sense. Yes, they’re rare, but that’s why we have to showcase them! This time it was a small sacrifice that actress Amy Adams made to show that she appreciated the huge sacrifice so many in the military make for us:

Even more telling, she didn’t do it with any fanfare or as an opportunistic photo op – she tried to do it without garnering any attention:

If you’re wondering, Adams came from a Mormon family, and says she still retains the values of that faith, even if she doesn’t necessarily follow the faith. Whatever motivated her to show an act of kindness and respect to our military, it’s appreciated.
In addition to making that soldier feel much better, Ms. Adams has made this tired old man feel reinvigorated. Many thanks to her!

Friday, June 27, 2014

Friday Follies Happy Hour 2014.06.27

My wife and daughter are still in London. I'm sure they're getting homesick by now...

BTW -the winding road the motorcycle is driving down at the 3:00 mark goes to our weekend cabin. Small world state...

No Easy Answers

I posted something yesterday about the increase in violence along the Texas-Mexico border. Along with that increase, we've also seen an unprecedented increase in the number of "unaccompaied alien children" (UAC) crossing the border.
The massive border breach by “unaccompanied alien children” has been building since 2012, going from 6,560 in fiscal year 2011 to an estimated 90,000 this year, and a possible 150,000 in 2015.
That post led to one of my readers asking about the "why and how" of those children crossing the border. The answers are complex and disturbing.

Let's take the "how" first, because it's the simpler of the two. A large number of the UAC are what is referred to in these parts as OTM - Other Than Mexican. They come from various countries in Central America (more on that later). They get to the border by riding "The Beast."
There's a network of freight trains that runs the length of Mexico, from its southernmost border with Guatemala north to the United States. In addition to grain, corn or scrap metal, these trains are carrying an increasing number of undocumented immigrants whose aim is to cross into the U.S.

These aren't passenger trains; there are no panoramic windows, seats or even a roof to guard from sun or rain. People call the train La Bestia, or The Beast. Some call it the Death Train.

It's estimated that up to a half-million migrants now ride The Beast each year, sitting back-to-back along the spine of the train cars, trying not to get knocked off their rooftop perch.

Many Beast riders have suffered physical injury or death falling off the train or getting sucked into the wheels trying to board it in motion. In some areas, that's the only way on.

Most of those making this 1,450-mile trek are not from Mexico. They come from Central American countries like Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras...
(More about riding The Beast can be found here. Also, please take the time to visit the other links in this post. They explore this issue in more depth than I can do in a short blog.)

Once they get near the U.S. border they put themselves into the hands of 'coyotes' - human traffickers who take their money, and then subject them to hardship, abuse, and torture.
Human traffickers are forcing illegal immigrant children to cut off the ears and fingers of other kids traveling into the U.S. in order to extort money from their families

The coyotes ... 'are not well-meaning social workers trying to care for these kids. These are hardened, cold criminals. These are transnational, global criminal cartels. And they are vicious, violent murderers.'

'These children are being subjected to physical abuse, to sexual abuse. Some of them are losing their lives.'
Nevertheless, enough of them survive The Beast and the coyotes, and make it into the U.S.

They next question is "why?" What compels these kids to undergo these hardships and risk all for an uncertain reception here?

There is no one simple answer. One way to look at it is in terms of 'push' and 'pull.' Push factors - those that drive the UACs away from their homes - include poverty, threats, and violence.
Countries in what’s known as the isthmus, the region that stretches from Nicaragua to Guatemala, have the highest murder rates in the world, according to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime. Data from that office shows Honduras is home to the deadliest city in the world, San Pedro Sula, where 169 out of every 100,000 people are murdered. The murder rate in Guatemala is nearly as bad and getting worse. And while El Salvador has seen a slight decrease in murders, it is still ranked fifth globally, according to the latest figures available.

Gang violence in Central America escalated in 2006, when the Mexican army went to war with the cartels there, setting off a years-long street fight with thousands of civilians caught in the crossfire. The war squeezed out the weaker gangs and “the smaller ones were displaced to Central America” said Noriega, where they were able to take root and in some instances displace local governments and police entirely.

Children are among those targeted by narco gangs, along with women and the very poor, and they’re often pressured into service as drug-mules and even assassins, according to the Council on Hemispheric Affairs. Sexual violence against them is common.

Aura Perez was 16-years-old when she was kidnapped by a local drug lord in her small Honduran hometown. He repeatedly beat and raped her over a period of weeks...

Nodwin (last name withheld), an 11-year-old boy, traveled unaccompanied to the U.S. from Honduras last year. While in Honduras, he recalls watching gang members approach a boy his age while playing in the park, strip the boy naked and rape him.
Other examples:
A 17-year-old boy who fled Honduras said, "My grandmother is the one who told me to leave. She said: 'If you don't join, the gang will shoot you. If you do, the rival gang will shoot you, or the cops. But if you leave, no one will shoot you.'"

A 14-year-old girl from El Salvador said: "The biggest problem is the gangs. They go into the school and take girls out and kill them. ... I used to see reports on the TV every day about girls being buried in their uniforms with their backpacks and notebooks. I had to go very far to go to school, and I had to walk by myself. There was nowhere else I could go where it would be safer."
Anecdotes, no matter how heart-wrenching, do not constitute meaningful data. However, there is some more solid evidence that violence is driving the movement.
A United Nations report published in March found that most children feared for their safety in their home countries... The report found a strong link between regional violence and insecurity and new displacement patterns -- children migrating northward.
There's not much doubt or dispute over the push factors. More contentious, however, are the 'pull' factors.
Many say the children are not as much fleeing as being drawn by rumors that the Obama administration will protect child migrants. By letting more child border-crossers stay in the US, it would create incentive for more illegal immigrants to try their luck on the US border, they argue.

They note that the current surge began in 2012, when President Obama signed an executive action that allowed undocumented immigrants who were brought to the country as minors to defer deportation proceedings for two years. Last week, the administration announced plans that would allow these immigrants to defer their deportations a further two years.
Fueling the problem is misinformation about U.S. immigration policy that is rampant throughout Central America.
...Central American families believe that their undocumented children may be spared from U.S. deportation under DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals), even though those arriving now do not meet the eligibility criteria.

Immigrant families also may be assuming their undocumented children would someday be eligible for a proposed pathway to citizenship...
So are the UACs refugees fleeing hopelessness and violence in their home countries, or are they illegal immigrants looking for a free handout? Are they innocent victims - children - seeking safety and stability, or gang members and criminals trying to expand their reach into fresh territories?

Like many other problems today's world, this is not a simple black-white either-or question. The answer is not clear-cut either. It would be naive to assume that all the UACs are pure as the new-driven snow. But is would likewise be harsh, unfeeling, and incorrect to assert that they are all deadbeats or evil thugs who deserve to be returned to sender.

Complicating matters is a legal differentiation between children from contiguous countries - Canada and Mexico - and children from non-contiguous countries.
Unaccompanied children from Mexico and Canada are repatriated unless they are determined to be victims of trafficking.

But with non-contiguous countries, children are taken into U.S. custody.

Federal law says minors cannot be held at a Border Patrol facility for more than 72 hours. They have to be processed and then either sent to live with a relative in the United States or released to a shelter operated by the Office of Refugee Resettlement, which falls under the Department of Health and Human Services.
It is these shelters that are being overwhelmed by the flood of UACs. Similarly, the immigration system that reviews each UAC's status has been overwhelmed as well.
The law mandates that a child must at some point appear before an immigration judge, who could decide to grant special immigrant juvenile status if that child has been abused, abandoned or neglected and is unable to be reunited with a parent.

Immigrant advocates say they have seen young children appear on their own in court, not knowing how to make a case for themselves. It's a situation that's made even more difficult by the fact that few are able to obtain proof of what happened to them in their homelands. Often, there are no police reports or other documents, so judges have to rely on the veracity of their stories.
In short, the whole sad situation is a mess. There's so many more factors in play here that I can't do them justice. As for the solution, it's easy to say "Secure the border, " but what does that really solve? Do we simply force these thousands of children to pile up on the south side of a fence running the length of the U.S.-Mexico border, leaving them to die of starvation or exposure, or abandoning them to the tender mercies of the coyotes? Do we wash our hands of them and tell Mexico "Hey, it's your problem?" Do we shoot kids trying to cross? Do we throw them in jail? Do we welcome them with open arms, turning them loose to run free in our country? Do we create some sort of refugee system to house them, feed them, and educate them? What do we do with them after that?

I don't know. I just don't know...

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Here We Go Again 2014.06.26

Stop me if you've heard this one before.

Issa Threatens EPA With Contempt as Team Obama Celebrates Its Climate Anniversary
While most of President Obama's Cabinet was touting the anniversary of President Obama's landmark speech in which he laid out plans to address climate change, EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy was left facing a contempt threat from House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa.

Issa issued a subpoena in November for documents and communications between the Environmental Protection Agency and the Executive Office of the President over a five-year period as part of an inquiry into whether the White House interfered with how the agency responded to congressional inquiries.

That request has gone unfulfilled, said Issa, who says he's planning to convene a committee business meeting after next week's recess and hold the agency in contempt if the documents are not turned over...

The hearing also included a bit of deja vu for the committee when members grilled McCarthy on lost emails from a hard-drive crash (the same issue that wiped out emails from IRS employee Lois Lerner). In this case, the emails in question were from retired EPA employee Philip North, who was involved in the agency's decision to begin the process of preemptively vetoing the Pebble Mine project in Alaska.
Side note: the Pebble Mine project is a controversial proposal to tap into "A particularly significant deposit of gold, molybdenum, and copper—the largest known untapped copper deposit in the world" on the shores of Alaska's Bristol Bay. The risk is that toxic waste produced as a byproduct of the mining process would find its way into the bay, which is home to the world's largest sockeye salmon fishery. The controversy, similar to that surrounding the Keystone XL pipeline, revolves around the tradeoff between jobs and energy (or in this case, rare mineral) independence versus potential ecological impact on invaluable natural resources (Bristol Bay in Alaska, the Ogallala Aguifer in the Midwest).

The reason Congress is investigating the EPA over the Pebble Beach project is because the EPA took the rare and aggressive, although not entirely unprecedented, step of invoking what's termed a "404(c)" action that essentially halts the decision-making process. The EPA's action has outraged Alaskans and politicians who believe Alaskans should have the final say over whether or not to allow the mine.

In a statement, Governor Sean Parnell, a Republican, called the EPA’s action “egregious,” “unprecedented,” and “beyond federal overreach. The EPA has not only cut off public input and process, but has also unilaterally decided that they, not Alaskans, know what’s best for our future.” Republican Don Young, Alaska’s House representative, characterized it as the “jurisdictional power grab” of “an agency corrupted by politics, one with no regard for the state or federal permitting processes found in statute”—adding, “The EPA seeks to broaden its reach until their tentacles encumber every aspect of American life.”

So that's the backstory. Now let's return to the lost emails.
North, who declined an interview request by the committee, is retired, and committee staff say they have been unable to track him down. According to a committee aide, North's hard drive crashed in 2010—which was around the same time that the committee is investigating the agency's discussions of a potential veto—and the emails were not backed up.
What is it with federal agencies and crashed hard drives? I've used multiple computers over many decades and have yet to experience a single hard drive crash. In my corporate life I also oversaw IT functions for an international financial organization with hundreds of thousands of PCs. Granted, there were a few hardware failures, but we had appropriate backup procedures in place.

Oh, and by the way, the missing retired EPA employee (Phillip North) whose emails are in question has been found alive and well in New Zealand. That is literally about as far away from Alaska as he could get.

I'm sure there's a reasonable explanation for the multiple hard drives crashes of key federal employees, the lack of backups, the difficulty in locating Mr. North, and his choice of a distant and isolated residence.

Surrre there is...

Things That Make Me Shake My Head 2014.06.26

I used to live and work in deep South Texas, just a stone's throw (literally) from the Rio Grande. I also have hunted in the border region for years. I've gotten to know a few of the ranchers down there. Back in the day it wasn't uncommon to find evidence of illegal aliens traversing a ranch, but it was usually no big deal. In fact, there were times when the 'accidental tourists' would do a few odd jobs around the place in exchange for some food and water before moving on.

Things have changed.
Ranchers in South Texas say they are seeing a greater criminal element among illegal immigrants trespassing through their property.

(Ronnie Osburn, a rancher who lives just south of a Border Patrol checkpoint in Brooks County, Texas) says he has had to take extra precautions... “When I go to sleep at night, I lay down and I put my pistol there, I measure it where if somebody comes in the house I can pick it up and go,” Osburn says. When mowing the lawn, Osburn says, ranchers in South Texas always need a pistol ready.

“Down here there’s no question, ‘Oh, was it loaded?’” Osburn says. “Well, hell yeah, it’s loaded. Why have a gun if it’s not loaded? And it’s off safety too. That’s the way we live.”

Other ranchers tell me that the amount of OTM — other than Mexican — traffic is increasing in South Texas, and that the disposition of the travelers has grown more hostile. Ranchers say the immigrants who reach Brooks County are ready to fight.

Mike Vickers, a doctor who lives on a ranch a few miles north on the opposite side of the Border Patrol checkpoint, says he has had his home broken into too. He says that one week, he had to pull his gun three times. Two of those times, he says, he wasn’t sure whether or not he’d have to pull the trigger.

“We’re fighting a war here and we’ve been fighting it a long time,” Mike Vickers says. “These people we’re encountering here are combative.”
Of course, it's not simply a walk in the park for the invaders immigrants. South Texas is a harsh, unforgiving country. It takes its own toll on people passing through.
Nearly 250 bodies have been recovered in Brooks County since 2012, says Benny Martinez, chief deputy of the Brooks County Sheriff’s Department. He says once you’ve reached Brooks County, there’s no turning back.

“The terrain doesn’t discriminate,” Martinez says. “Whether you’re 16 or whether you’re 60, if you’re not equipped to do the walk, if you’re not equipped to have everything in place to assist you to get through, you’re not going to get through. It just ain’t going to happen.”

He says the vegetation is thick during the summer, but will thin out during the fall months, which will allow more bodies to be found.

“Birds have a tendency, the caracaras, to get after their eyes sometimes even when they’re comatose and not dead yet,” he says about a man who bled out through his eyes over his chest. “We see a lot of that.”
In an ironic twist, the caracara that is feasting on the (almost) dead bodies of illegal immigrants is Mexico's national bird.

Caracara - literally "face-face" (don't ask me why). The bird is a cross between an eagle and a vulture.

The discouraging thing about the situation is that this has become a way of life for those who live along the border, yet those who live farther north are virtually unaware of it. That may be changing, however, with the massive and unexpected influx of "unaccompanied alien children" (UAC).

Or was it really that unexpected?
On January 29th of this year, the federal government posted an advertisement seeking bids for a vendor contract to handle “Unaccompanied Alien Children“.

Not just any contract mind you, but a very specific contract – for a very specific number of unaccompanied minors: 65,000.

•  Why would DHS and ICE be claiming “surprise” by the current influx of unaccompanied minors on the border in June, when they were taking bids for an exact contract to handle the exact situation in January?

• Secondly, how could they possibly know anticipate 65,000 unaccompanied minors would be showing up at the border, when the most ever encountered in a previous year was 5,000 total ?

Here’s the bid specifics:

... The Contractor shall provide unarmed escort staff, including management, supervision, manpower, training, certifications, licenses, drug testing, equipment, and supplies necessary to provide on-demand escort services for non-criminal/non-delinquent unaccompanied alien children ages infant to 17 years of age, seven (7) days a week, 365 days a year. Transport will be required for either category of UAC or individual juveniles, to include both male and female juveniles. There will be approximately 65,000 UAC in total: 25% local ground transport, 25% via ICE charter and 50% via commercial air.

... In addition, the Contractor shall have personnel who are able to communicate with juveniles in their own designated language(s).
Here's a link to the original DHS solicitation. There's also a downloaded copy of it available at this source just in case the feds have an 'unexpected' hard drive crash and lose the backup.

We now have what are basically armed invaders threatening lives and property along our southern national border. At the same time we have an invasion of "unaccompanied alien children" that includes criminals and gang members, and that is overwhelming our ability to prevent, detain, process, and deport them. Border communities are forming groups (posses, militia, vigilantes...) to protect themselves. The state of Texas is diverting law enforcement and humanitarian resources needed elsewhere to help. And what is the federal government doing?

* crickets *

Oops - I forgot. The feds are hiring escorts for the UAC.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

I Couldn't Have Said It Any Better

Maybe Facebook is good for something after all.
Dan Bongino, a former Secret Service Agent and current candidate for Maryland’s 6th Congressional seat, posted a scathing rebuke of liberalism and the Obama Administration to his Facebook wall on (June 21):

We are watching, in real time, the collapse of the big-government model on which the house of liberalism has been built. The only question remaining is, when will those on the far left accept the results, rather than the intentions of the big government model?

President Obama ran on the idea that a big government can solve big problems, yet this model has not only not solved any of our big problems, but it has created new ones, while aggravating old ones created by prior administrations.

Think about where we find ourselves. We are in the midst of a border crisis on our southern border, a civil war in Iraq, an aggressive expansion of Russian territory, a historically unpopular healthcare initiative, record numbers of Americans both outside of our workforce and receiving disability payments from the government, a crisis where our own IRS admits to targeting Americans, then pleads the 5th, then "loses" only the emails of the suspects involved, destroys their hard-drives and tells us nothing is wrong.

And where is our President on these issues? He is issuing public statements on how he disagrees with the name of an NFL team. Calling this leadership is either willfully misleading or un-willfully blind.

If "Bush did it", then Obama "did it" worse. If we are going to blame Bush for starting the house fire, isn't it fair to blame Obama for pouring gasoline on it?

November is rapidly approaching and yes, voting matters. If you believe otherwise, we'll take action while you sit back and just take it. Stand up, fight back, and cede no more ground.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Dear Diary

Time to catch my regular readers (both of you...) up on current events here at Rancho Not So Grande.

As previously reported, my 96-year-old father is getting more feeble as time goes by. He's in pretty good shape for someone his age, but the time has come to move him into a facility that can provide a higher level of care and assistance than where he's living now. The search for a suitable place has been time-consuming, to say the least. We've finally found one he and we like, and made the necessary arrangements. This weekend I get to load up my truck and make several shuttle runs back and forth between the old and new.

Meanwhile, my wife and daughter have bailed on me and gone off to London. It's a graduation trip for the girl and two of her BFFs, and a boondoggle for their mothers. Yes, it's a 'girls night out' writ large. They'll be there for the best part of a fortnight (if I understand the British time system that's basically two weeks). (No, we're not rich. It's the leftover frequent flier miles and hotel points from my previous career dabbling as a well-traveled consultant.)

And while I'm at it, can someone please explain to me why a simple trip involves multiple, frequent, and lengthy phone calls, followed by immediate and urgent trips to the nearest mall? When I asked my daughter that question I received a withering look and an "Oh, Dad, you wouldn't understand."

She sure got that right.

While they're across the pond stimulating the British economy, I'm stuck at home with our 20-year-old son, two confused dogs who can't understand where the rest of their pack went, and a Siamese Fighting Fish that belongs to one of the other girls on the trip.

Cooking for the boy is a full time job in itself. I swear that kid eats his own weight in groceries every other day. The dogs need extra attention, because the gals were the ones who lavished them with affection, while I do the more mundane tasks of feeding and watering them, and cleaning up after them. Not to mention watering all the plants, filling the bird feeders (seeds for the cardinals, bluebirds, dove, woodpeckers, and sparrows/wrens, thistle for the finches, sugarwater for the hummingbirds, and fruit for the road runners). I'm starting to appreciate the fish more and more - three pellets in the morning and that's it!

My older son runs his own business - a concrete firm. He's on top of things as far as the engineering and construction aspects go, but could do better on the business side (not finding and satisfying customers, but the back office stuff). Lately I've been helping him get that a little more organized and efficient. Interesting and enjoyable, but time-consuming.

Finally, I've been running back and forth between here and our weekend lake cabin, about 90 miles away. It has some maintenance issues that need attention. Nothing major, but nagging little things that need to be done.

On my most recent trip up there - two days ago - I had to run into town for supplies. It was a hot day, and I'd been working hard, so on the way back I stopped off to wet my whistle at Reverend Jim's Dam Pub and Beer Garden. It's a no-frills place (no air-conditioning!) that attracts a varied crowd of locals, bikers, and what is fondly called 'lake trash' (rednecks who live near a lake).

Speaking of lake trash, do you know how to tell if a redneck has class?

The words in his tattoo are spelled correctly...

To give you some idea of the clientele, when I dropped by it was 2:30 in the afternoon. Shortly after I settled in at the bar a regular walked in. He was greeted by another regular who asked him "Are you workin'...?"

That afternoon must have been Geriatric Biker Day. I'm 62, and I had to be one of the three youngest people in the place - and the other two were the barmaids. I'm not kidding - I saw one woman with a pink walker who left on the back of a Harley with an equally elderly gent driving. The walker was strapped to the back of the sissy bar with bungee cords.

There were a number of older guys there with military patches sewn on their Rolling Thunder vests. Some of them needed canes to get around, and their tattoos were faded, but they still had a presence about them that announced "Been there, done that, don't give me no shit." It was, however, a bit disconcerting to watch them line up their pool shots while peering over the rims of their bifocals.

In any event, I was in the shade, a cool breeze was blowing, the beer was cold, and the juke box was rocking. Time passed in a pleasant languor. I didn't get much work done that day (or the next), but my spirit was renewed.

Tomorrow's schedule includes software evaluation and optimizing for the concrete business (I had no idea how complicated it can be estimating the volume of fill and cement needed for a foundation), grocery shopping (again!), and yardwork. Before you get the wrong idea, the boy is going to summer school, part-time interning, and doing odd jobs in his spare time. He's not just laying around playing video games while I wait on him hand and foot.

Anyway, dear diary, I'll leave you with this parting shot. It's not my dog, but I certainly have been in this position before.

Overworked, but still managed to have too much fun...

Monday, June 23, 2014

FOD 2014.06.23

I am of Polish heritage, so the following story caught my eye.

Polish minister says US ties worthless
A Polish magazine said Sunday it has obtained recordings of a conversation in which Foreign Minister Radek Sikorski says the country's strong alliance with the U.S. "isn't worth anything" and is "even harmful because it creates a false sense of security."

In a short transcript of the conversation, a person identified as Sikorski by the magazine Wprost tells former finance minister, Jacek Rostowski, that Poles naively believe the U.S. bolsters their security. Using vulgar language, the person argues that such beliefs are nonsense, and that the Polish-U.S. alliance alienates the Russians and Germans.
It's not surprising that Poland and other Eastern European nations are becoming increasingly skeptical of U.S. support. obama has stood idly by - or more accurately, has fled to the golf course - while Russia under Putin has bitten off a chunk of Ukraine, and is hungrily eying more.
As government troops and insurgents were locked in heavy battles in eastern Ukraine on Thursday, NATO’s chief said a new Russian military buildup was underway near the border.
This is something that should be of concern to everyone, regardless of heritage. It highlights the under-the-radar damage that obama, by virtue of his disastrous foreign policy*, is doing to our country's influence on the world stage. The next president, whoever he (or God help us, she) might be, will have the devil of a time undoing this aspect of obama's legacy.

* obama's foreign policy can best be described as "ignore it and hope it goes away - if that doesn't work, impose sanctions."

How's that working, you ask?

Not so good...
U.S Approves New Sanctions as Russian Tanks Roll Into Ukraine

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Sunday Funnies 2014.06.22

Yesterday was the Summer Solstice - aka the first day of summer...

Q: What did the pig say at the beach on a hot summer's day?
A: I'm bacon!

One hot summer day, a man is filling up his truck at the local gas station. He isn't very careful, and he gets gasoline all over his left shirt sleeve. He ignores it, and leaves the station after paying for the gas.

As he's driving down the highway, a guy in the car in front of him tosses a cigarette butt out the window. As luck would have it, it lands on the pickup driver's sleeve and sets it on fire!

The man drives faster, waving his arm out the window in an attempt to extinguish the flames, but they burn hotter! As he speeds down the highway, a state trooper sees the situation and pulls him over. He jerks the man out of the truck and rolls him on the ground until the fire is extinguished. As the man dusts himself and thanks his rescuer, he sees the officer is writing him a summons! Confused, he asks, "You're writing me a ticket!? What for?"

The officer replies, "Possession of an illegal fire arm."

Did you know that in the Southern Hemisphere, they experience the seasons in reverse? That’s right - they are experiencing remmus right now. (Think about it...)

Saturday, June 21, 2014

What's Good For The Goose... good for the gander.

In this case the goose is the IRS, and the gander is the American taxpayer.

Stockman bill allows taxpayers to use same lame excuses as IRS
Taxpayers who do not produce documents for the Internal Revenue Service will be able to offer a variety of dubious excuses under legislation introduced by Rep. Steve Stockman (R-TX 36) a week after the IRS offered an incredibly dubious excuse for its failure to turn documents over to House investigators.

“The United States was founded on the belief government is subservient and accountable to the people.  Taxpayers shouldn’t be expected to follow laws the Obama administration refuses to follow themselves,” said Stockman.  “Taxpayers should be allowed to offer the same flimsy, obviously made-up excuses the Obama administration uses.”

Under Stockman’s bill, “The Dog Ate My Tax Receipts Act,” taxpayers who do not provide documents requested by the IRS can claim one of the following reasons:

1.         The dog ate my tax receipts
2.         Convenient, unexplained, miscellaneous computer malfunction
3.         Traded documents for five terrorists
4.         Burned for warmth while lost in the Yukon
5.         Left on table in Hillary’s Book Room
6.         Received water damage in the trunk of Ted Kennedy’s car
7.         Forgot in gun case sold to Mexican drug lords
8.         Forced to recycle by municipal Green Czar
9.         Was short on toilet paper while camping
10.       At this point, what difference does it make?
Doesn't have a snowball's chance in Hell of becoming law, but hey - a guy can dream, can't he?

I guess that makes me a Dreamer...

Friday, June 20, 2014

Friday Follies Happy Hour 2014.06.20

My last request...

Clean Living

In what I can only attribute to divine intervention on behalf of my moderate and devout lifestyle (*snort*), I received a phone call out of the blue today.

Several months ago I bought a couple of raffle tickets for a seven-day guided elk hunt from the Cody, Wyoming FFA. I figured the odds of my winning were pretty small. I was right.

I didn't win the first prize, but my name was drawn for the second prize - a Sako Model 85 rifle.

I shot a borrowed Sako on last year's New Zealand red stag hunt and was very impressed with the smoothness of the action, along with its accuracy. To say I'm pleased and excited would be an understatement.

Of course my wife, the spoilsport, pointed out that the rifle is sans scope. Whereas she sees that as a drawback, I see it as an opportunity. I like to go optics-shopping.

And while I am loath to look a gift horse in the mouth, I must admit there is one small drawback to this particular rifle. It's chambered for the .338 Federal cartridge. That's a relatively uncommon caliber, which translates to somewhat more expensive ammo. It's also a much more powerful cartridge than needed for my usual game (whitetails, and on occasion pronghorn antelope). My ancient .270 is perfectly fine for them.

However, I did draw a Wyoming elk tag this year. I'll be going up there in the fall. I did some research on appropriate calibers for elk, and the opinions range from the venerable .270 up to guns that IMO should have wheels on them, such as the .375 H&H (which, again IMO, is massive overkill). Now I have an alternative to my .270.

In the interest of full disclosure, I should also add that earlier this year, in another raffle, I won a Weatherby Vanguard .300 Win Mag. So I actually have three choices for my elk hunt.

Please note I'm not usually this lucky. The only other worthwhile thing I've ever won in my life is my wife, and even then it took more than one try. Plus, the Weatherby came with the same 'shortcomings' as the Sako - no scope and a more powerful caliber than needed.

I'm not sure what to do with these two rifles. I really like my .270, I'm comfortable with it, and I think it will do just fine on elk. On the other hand, I'd really like to try out one or both of the two new rifles. But on the third hand, I haven't fired either one of them yet. That should help keep their value up if I do decide to sell one or both (to buy more raffle tickets....)

It's a tough problem to have...

Thursday, June 19, 2014


I'm not an overly sensitive guy, but when I saw the image below I got a little choked up.

What's so emotionally powerful about a picture of a bunch of kids going to church? Why did it affect me so much?

Part of it is because I'm a sucker for sweet, innocent children.

No, I'm not a pedophile. I like little kids for the same reason I like puppies and kittens. They see things through optimistic, buoyant, unspoiled eyes. The world is fresh and new to them. That's so refreshing to a jaded cynic like me.

But the biggest reason the picture hit me so hard is the realization that I'm looking at a group of doomed children.

Given where those kids live, the likelihood of them surviving unscathed into adulthood is slim - or more realistically, none. The radical islamists who run things over there will see to that.

The list of incidents in the ongoing campaign of violence and intimidation waged by islamists against Christians is long and depressing. I don't know whether to bless the parents for having the courage of their convictions, or curse them for condemning their children to a future full of uncertainty at best, and bloodshed at worst.

All I know is that I'll say a prayer for the kids, their families, and everyone else caught up in that ancient conflict.

Although given the millions of prayers that have been offered over the last few thousand years, I'm not sure what difference one more will make...

Things To Do

Like our Fearless Leader, I have things to do this morning. More later.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Ouch - That Hurts

One of the things us retired folks have to deal with is an excess of spare time. Over the last few days, I've been whiling away the hours by watching the World Cup. As an American, I am appropriately befuddled by much of the strategy and tactics associated with a futbol match.

However, one thing I have noticed is the Oscar-level acting abilities of the players. A little bump, a small brush, and the 'impacted' players drops like he's been shot by a .50 caliber Barrett.

The poor crippled player grabs a body part - usually a lower leg - and then either rolls around on the ground dramatically or else lays there unmoving. In either case, after a few seconds the 'victim' of the brutal assault will crack open an eye and glance at the referee to see if that fool bought the act.

Most of the time the answer is 'no.' At that point the afflicted player rises Lazarus-like and springs to his feet, miraculously regaining his previous physical abilities.

Reminds me of a dog I used to have. She would occasionally run away from me when I took her for a long, off-leash walk in the country. Once she was finally convinced that I was serious about getting her to come back ("Josey, get your worthless ass back here before I get REALLY mad...!") she would meander back towards me and then start limping.

She learned that lesson early on in our relationship, when she once stepped on a grass burr and got a load of sympathy and petting from me. From that point on, any time I would scold her, she limped.

Just another female who wrapped me around her little finger...

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Nice Guys Finish First

If you're a sports fan (and even if you're not), you probably know that the San Antonio Spurs won the NBA title Sunday night. Please pardon me while I indulge in a little gloating.

Spurs Win Fifth Title, Cementing Dynasty Across Decades
SAN ANTONIO — The arena rumbled. It was only the first half on Sunday night, but there was already a growing sense of inevitability with each passing possession. Having withstood the best that LeBron James could offer, the Spurs were closing in on another championship.

Tim Duncan backed down an opponent before throwing in a baby hook. Manu Ginobili raced end to end for an emphatic dunk that nearly blew the top off AT&T Center. And James, the Miami Heat’s resident superstar and the best player on the planet, was rendered powerless by the Spurs’ slow march to history.

With their 104-87 win in Game 5 of the N.B.A. finals, the Spurs celebrated their fifth championship in 16 seasons as black-and-silver confetti fell from the rafters. San Antonio turned the series into a coronation by winning four of five games, including the last three, with the bonus of snuffing Miami’s well-publicized quest for a third straight title in the process.
Sadly, after many sports championships, fans often engage in an orgy of rioting and destruction. For the most recent example, one need only look back as far as last February's Super Bowl.

Seahawks Fans Run Riot After Super Bowl Victory
In another shameful reminder of how Americans care more about sports than the future of their own country, Seattle Seahawks fans reacted to their team’s Super Bowl victory by behaving like animals – lighting fires, damaging historic buildings and ripping down street signs during raucous scenes last night.

While the scenes were not on the same level as some of the post-Super Bowl riots of recent years, Seahawks fans didn’t exactly cover themselves in glory...

Riot police watch over a crowd of out-of-control fans in Seattle

But just as the Spurs are different from typical NBA teams, so are their fans different from other teams' supporters.

Celebrating Spurs Fans Mob Downtown to Clean Streets, Check on Well-Being of Fellow Citizens
Moments after the San Antonio Spurs won the fifth title in franchise history Sunday night, fans began to fill the downtown streets to celebrate and volunteer in the community.

“Wooooooo! We’re the best in the world!” said Spurs fan Gilda Sanchez, while picking up some trash that had spilled out of a waste receptacle and putting it back inside. “It’s so exciting to celebrate in a manner befitting our champions! Excuse me. My voice got a little loud there for a second.”

More than 500 Spurs fans overran a downtown homeless shelter to donate canned goods, while several hundred more were nearby putting fresh coats of paint on storefronts. Video of the celebrations shows dozens of fans converging on police cars to hand-wash and wax them.

“Just a good group of fundamentally-sound fans,” said San Antonio police chief William McManus. “Almost too good. I don’t know what I’m going to do with all of these apple pie and cookies they baked me.”

After about 90 minutes of celebrating and serving the community, Spurs fans were joined in the street by Spurs players and they all together stormed the streets of the city getting cats out of trees and helping old folks across the street.

“I’m glad the series is over,” said Tim Duncan. “Being out here with the people, doing wholesome things — this is the kind of stuff I really love.”
Okay, that may be a bit of an exaggeration. But the folks down here really are, for the most part, respectful and considerate. And the Spurs organization - players, coaches, and staff - contributes a lot of time and resources to the community. It's gratifying to see good guys finish first for a change.

Speaking of Tim Duncan:

Go Spurs Go!!!

Monday, June 16, 2014

FOD 2016.06.16

As part of his weekend excursion, obama stopped off at the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation, which straddles the border between North Dakota and South Dakota.

He spoke for almost an hour on his future plans for increasing every Native American's present standard of living.

He referred to his career as a Senator, how he had signed 'YES' for every Indian issue that came to his desk for approval.

Although President Obama was vague on the details of his plan, he seemed most enthusiastic about his future ideas for helping his 'red sisters and brothers'.

At the conclusion of his speech, the tribe presented Obama with a plaque inscribed with his new Indian name - “Walking Eagle”.

The proud President then departed in his motorcade, waving to the crowds.

A news reporter later inquired of the group of chiefs how they came to select the new name they had given the President.

They explained that “Walking Eagle” is the name given to a bird so full of shit it can no longer fly.

But seriously, folks...

It was just one short week ago when I posted a summary of obama's decision to release five terrorists from Guantanamo Bay in exchange for alleged Army deserter Bowe Bergdahl. A short excerpt:
“All five of those guys are exceptionally dangerous,” says Paul Rester, the former lead interrogator at Joint Task Force Guantánamo. “These are men who ran entire regions for the Taliban, they had thousands of fighters under their command...
They were also deemed extremely likely to resume their jihad against the U.S. by a number of military and intelligence analysts who were familiar with them.

So why revisit that point? Because of an earlier obama decision to release a terrorist leader that has come back to bite us in the ass in a big way.

Revealed: How Obama SET FREE the merciless terrorist warlord now leading the ISIS horde blazing a trail of destruction through Iraq
The United States once had Islamic State of Iraq and al-Shams (ISIS) leader Abu Bakr al Baghdadi in custody at a detention facility in Iraq, but president Barack Obama let him go, it was revealed on Friday.

Al Baghdadi was among the prisoners released in 2009 from the U.S.'s now-closed Camp Bucca near Umm Qasr in Iraq.

But now five years later he is leading the army of ruthless extremists bearing down on Baghdad who want to turn the country into an Islamist state by blazing a bloody trail through towns and cities, executing Iraqi soldiers, beheading police officers and gunning down innocent civilians.

'Abu Duaa was connected to the intimidation, torture and murder of local civilians in Qaim,' according to a 2005 U.S. intelligence report.

'He would kidnap individuals or entire families, accuse them, pronounce sentence and then publicly execute them.'
Yeah, that sounds like someone who will repent and change his ways. Let's go ahead and set him free.

Oh, and BTW,  the U.S. is now offering a $10 million bounty for Al Baghadadi. More of our tax dollars well spent.
Al Baghadadi and his troops had already taken key cities of Fallujah and Ramadi in Iraq earlier this year and have conquered the Iraqi cities of Tikrit and Mosul within the last several days.

They are now on the war path to Iraq's capitol city Baghadad.

President Obama famously said in October of 2011 that the American soldiers leaving Iraq would come home 'with their heads held high, proud of their success.

'That is how America’s military efforts in Iraq will end.'
Shades of Vietnam...

In related news:
Blood-thirsty jihadists are carrying out summary executions on civilians, Iraqi soldiers and police officers - including 17 in one street alone - on their warpath to Baghdad, the UN said today.

As a shocking picture of the ISIS insurgency continues to develop, the Islamist group are posting barbaric videos online with the intent of showing the world they will stop at nothing to achieve their end game.

In one, which is too graphic to publish, fighters are seen knocking on the door of a Sunni police major in the dead of night.

When he answers, they blindfold and cuff him. Then they carve off his head with a knife in his own bedroom as sweetly lilting religious hymns are played over the top.

An image of the officer's decapitated head was tweeted with the sickening message: 'This is our ball. It is made of skin #WorldCup'. ISIS also claims to have executed 1,700 Shia soldiers on their push for the capital.
And while all this is going on, barry is getting in a relaxing golf weekend in Palm Springs.

Way to go, Baghdad barack!

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Sunday Funnies 2014.06.15

Today's post is dedicated to my father -  the man who made me what I am today.

When I said that to my wife her response was "Don't blame him!"

Son: For $20, I’ll be good.
Dad: Oh, yeah?  When I was your age, I was good for nothing.

Q: How do you know your dad is planning for the future?
A: He buys two cases of beer instead of one.

Things My Dad Would Never Say
“Can you turn up that music?”

“Go ahead and take my truck. Here’s 50 bucks for gas.”

“I LOVE your tattoo. We should both get new ones.”

“Here, you take the remote.”

"Your mother and I are going away for the weekend.  Why don't you invite your friends over for a party."

The above are obviously tongue-in-cheek tributes to Dad. The ones below are sincere.
Being a great father is like shaving. No matter how good you shaved today, you have to do it again tomorrow.
Dad shaved every day. And every day, he was the best father a kid could have asked for.

My father was a career military man. One of my first chores was shining his shoes every night. I'm sure he had to re-shine them the first few times, but he never complained. He did, however, show me how I could do a better job...