Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Challenger - 23 years later

At 8:39 PST on January 28, 1986 the Challenger Space Shuttle Exploded 73 seconds into its flight. Killing all seven astronauts.

I had been working as a young engineer here in Ridgecrest for only about 2 months when this happened. Several of us wanted to watch the launch, so we were gathered around a small TV in the projection room of one of the conference rooms in Mich Lab. The projection room was so small that we had to stand in the hallway and look in through the door in order for more than just 3 or 4 people to see what was going on. When the shuttle exploded we were stunned. Quickly the crowd around the TV grew so that most folks could no longer see the set, and they had a hard time hearing also because of all the sniffling and crying going on. The crowd quickly filled the hallway. We had been standing there for several minutes when suddenly an angry voice demanded "What the hell is going on here. You people need to get to work."

Simultaneously about half the crowd snapped back "Shut up!"

Fortunately one of the people in the back of the crowd quickly explained to our now very irate department head what had happened. So he didn't take being told to shut up by a cocky bunch of young engineers too personally.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009


Mostly Cajun had this up, and I'm looking for an excuse to put off working on my volleyball club website. Which I need to do, but am just having a hard time getting started.

1. What time did you get up this morning? 5:30 AM
2. Diamonds or pearls? Other than my wedding ring I don't wear jewelry. But my dear wife is partial to diamonds.
3. Last movie you saw? Soldier of Fortune with Clark Gable and Susan Hayward is on right now.
4. What is your favorite T.V. show? Firefly. Favorite that is still on the air? - Mythbusters
5. What do you usually have for breakfast? A bowl of cereal.
6. What is your middle name? I haven't been in enough trouble lately for anyone to use it.
7. What food do you hate? Hate? None, but I'm not too fond of Macaroni and Cheese and I don't care much for brussel sprouts.
8. What is your favorite CD at the moment? Boston's first album.
9. What kind of car do you drive? Dodge Magnum stationwagon (I didn't get the hemi engine - too expensive)
10. Favorite sandwich? Pastrami with brown mustard and onions.
11. What characteristics do you despise? Loud, pushy, arrogant.
12. Favorite item of clothing? sweatshirts
13. If you could go anywhere in the world on vacation? Norway, Egypt or Israel, but I certainly wouldn't go to the last two these days.
14. Favorite brand of clothing? Whatever fits good and is comfortable when I am forced to shop for clothes. I don't look at brands.
15. Where would you retire to? I would love to retire to the mountains anywhere outside of California. Preferably the Black Hills, Wyoming or West Virginia. But I'm not ready to leave my volleyball team yet so that will all have to wait.
16. Favorite birthday? The next one.
17. Favorite sport to watch? 1) Women's court volleyball. 2) The Tour de France 3) NFL
18. Furthest place you are sending this? My hosting service is in Utah. So I'm sending it there. After that I'm not sure where it will be viewed from.
19. Person you expect to send it back first? No one.
20. Are you a morning or night person? Night
21. What is your shoe size? 12
22. Pets? Absolutely not. I don't like house pets. I like dogs as long as they are not in my house or yard and they belong to someone else.
23. What did you want to be when you were little? older
24. How are you today? older
25. What is your favorite candy? I have a horrible sweet tooth so just about any candy will do. Favorites are Reese's Peanut Butter cups, Almond M&Ms, Chocolate Covered Cherries.
26. What is your favorite flower? Anything that will bloom in this desert we live in.
27. What are you looking forward to? Time to keep up with all the hobbies I keep starting.
28. What are you listening to right now? Were you not paying attention to No. 3.
29. What was the last thing you ate? Girl Scout Thin Mint Cookies (my stash from last year is almost empty)
30. Do you wish on stars? No
31. If you were a crayon what color would you be? ???
32. How is the weather right now? Cold, windy. Well at least cold for the desert.
33. Last person you spoke to on the phone? The father of one of my volleyball players.
34. Favorite soft drink? Grape Soda, sometimes root beer.
35. Favorite restaurant? Mama Maria's but it has been closed for years. Right now it would be In-n-Out. I would eat at Prejeans in Lafayette LA or the Parson's Table in Jonesborough TN any day.
36. Color of hair? Clear
37. What was your favorite toy as a child? Books
38. Summer or winter? Never liked winter, but summers here are just way to hot to like. I'll take what passes for spring and fall around here.
39. Hugs or kisses? Kind of partial to both.
40. Chocolate or vanilla? Milk Chocolate
41. Coffee or tea? Coffee
42. Do you want your friends to email you back? No, just leave a comment.
43. What is under your bed? Shoes, extra leaves for the dinning room table, my dear wife's wedding dress (archived in a sealed box), dust godzillas and some sort of monster that nibbles on toes that hang off the edge of the bed at night.
44. What did you do last night? School Advisory Council meeting, helped out at a volleyball practice, updated the club's website while watching a little TV.
45. What are you afraid of? What kind of nation are we leaving for my kids? Am I being a good Dad? Am I being a good husband? Am I being a good coach?
46. Salty or sweet? Some of each, but usually not together.
47. How many keys on your key ring? 8
48. How many years at your current job? Less than a year. I've been working at the same place for over 23 years and haven't had any single job last more than 5 years.
49. How many towns have you lived in? Madison, Rapid City, Hot Springs, Cheyenne, Laramie, Casper, Brookings, Amarillo, Ridgecrest.
50. Favourite seafood? Crawfish ettoufee. But since Louisiana is so far away I'll settle for shrimp, crab or scallops.
51. Do you make friends easily? I make acquaintances easily, friends take a lot of time and effort that shouldn't be rushed or wasted.
52. How many friends will you send this to? I'm not sending it to anyone.
53. How many will respond? Check the comments to see for yourself.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Happy Birthday JMB

John Moses Browning was born January 23, 1855 in Ogden, Utah. He was a remarkably prolific weapons designer. From his first rifle, a single-shot falling-block design through his last, the Fabrique Nationale GP35 which is more popularly known as the Browning Hi-Power. JMB was awarded 128 patents in his career. He also developed at seven different cartridges for use in his weapons. JMB passed away on November 26, 1926 while working on his final design the fabrique Nationale G35.

Both of my favorite weapons to shoot, rifle and pistol, are John Browning designs. More importantly, while they are not old weapons, they are essentially unchanged in design since the day Browning created them. My Winchester 94 30-30 is only 34 years old but it is exactly the same weapon that Browning invented in 1894. It is also the longest run production rifle and has sold over 7.5 million copies. It is the first hunting rifle chambered for the first smokeless powder cartridges.

My favorite pistol is a 1911A1 45ACP. I only just got mine last year. But I used to love shooting my Dad's 'colt'. That is what he called it - 'the colt'. I never had to ask I always knew exactly which weapon he was talking about, even though he owned four other colt pistols. His 1911 was the only one he ever named. I haven't named mine - I probably won't either. I don't usually assign names to inanimate objects. Besides mines not a colt its a Rock Island Armory. No, I'm not going to call it Rocky.

Thank you John Moses Browning your designs gave my Grandfather, my Dad, myself, and now my children hours of enjoyment. Food for our table and the ability to defend ourselves.

Thank you.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Students Robbed in Classroom

A wigged gunman walked into a class room at LeMoyne-Owen College in Memphis TN and ordered the 18 students and 1 professor in the room to turn over their wallets and purses. No one was hurt, but the campus was locked down and classes were canceled for the afternoon.

All I have to say is HOW DARE HE? Doesn't that evil gunman know that college campuses are gun free zone. Boy he better hope the authorities don't catch him or he'll be in real trouble for having a gun on campus. This just isn't right. We need a law. What would be so hard about passing a law mandating that you aren't allowed to steal from people in gun free zones.

In case you missed it, the previous paragraph was written with the sarcasm switch on my keyboard turned up to high.

Now the really disturbing part of the whole thing:

President Johnny B. Watson says the "incident is over" and that faculty followed set protocol in an emergency situation like this. Watson said those who feel the need to go home should do so.

The guy was not caught, but since no one was hurt the President decides that the incident is over because they followed the rules. What the hell? What is the mascot at LeMoyne-Owen College? A sheep? Maybe its a victim?

What kind of administrator deals with a situation like this by just telling the victims if you feel the need to go home you should do so? Today there should be 18 sets of really pissed off parents in that clown's office demanding his head on a pike.

If the politicians and bureaucrats in this world want to take the responsibility for defending ourselves away from us, then they had better be ready to step up and do the job for us. Maybe we should get the lawyers involved - every time a person is victimized in a gun free zone they should sue every administrator of that area and every politician that is in charge of that gun free zone. Start with the mayor and work your way up through the governor, congressmen and senators. After all they are the ones who made those 19 victims such easy pickings. If they want to disarm the population they should have to pay the price when those disarmed people are victimized.

Now, I'm not sure I like the idea of unlimited guns on campuses. I remember how stupid most of the kids were when I was in college. I'm not sure I want kids that drunk carrying firearms. But I have a daughter going off to school in less than two years and I would like to know that she is able to defend herself if need be. Because depending on university bureaucrats and politicians to protect her isn't going to cut it. Do you think the criminal in this story would have been so bold if he thought that the professor and maybe one or two of those students were carrying concealed.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

CA Out of Cash

California's Controller, John Chiang, has announced a 30 day delay on tax returns and other payments, beginning on Feb 1, because the Golden State is running out of money.

OK, being a little snarky right now, but I haven't gotten a refund from the state for almost 10 years now. I always owe them something, no matter how much I have deducted out of my check each month, it is never enough. But then I always try to guess how much I will owe and pay only that much. I have never liked making interest free loans to the government.

But back when I did get a refund, it was always a check, and it took a long time to get. Usually at least 6 to 8 weeks. So first off is anyone going to notice a 30 day delay?

Secondly. Since the state has said that they are going to delay those payments will we, the taxpayers, you know, the people these clowns work FOR, be allowed the same indulgence? Will I be allowed to send in my tax return with a note that says
"Sorry cash is a little tight right now, I will send in your check in 30 days."

I'm not holding my breath on that one.

But this leaves me with one very important question. The state is facing a huge deficit, some experts are saying as much as 41 billion over the next 18 months. And yet our state legislature still hasn't come up with a balanced budget proposal that does not solve all our problem by taxing the hell out of all of us. Are we still paying our state senators and congressmen? Are these clowns collecting a paycheck for running our state into bankruptcy? If the state starts issuing IOUs will the first ones issued be given to the asshats who have legislated us into this situation?

We need a policy here in the Republik of Kalifornia - on the the day the budget is due and the state government has not produced an approved balanced budget, their paychecks stop, immediately. They do not get paid until they start doing their jobs.

So in the interest of not just bitching but actually trying to do something useful I'm going to quote the Governor's own Budget proposal explaining why we are in this mess:

In 1998‑99, the state’s budget was balanced and projected to remain in balance. Figure INT‑01 displays General Fund revenue and spending growth since 1998‑99. As the figure shows, one year later, revenues increased by 23 percent, due to a stock market and dot‑com boom that drove unprecedented increases in stock option and capital gains income. These were magnified from a state revenue perspective, because the state’s income tax system relies disproportionately on the very high‑end earners most likely to receive such gains. The surge in revenues resulted in massive – and unsustainable – new spending commitments. When revenues declined, the state relied mostly on one‑time measures, such as borrowing, to temporarily reduce spending without cutting back underlying program commitments. Thus, the structural deficit was born.

Emphasis is mine, in order to point out that we got into this mess because our elected officials were spending like drunken sailors and when the good times of high revenues ended the spending didn't. Now our elected officials want to punish all of us for their idiotic and irresponsible actions and fixing the problem by taxing us back into a high revue condition.

Of course it never occurs to them that runaway spending got us into this situation so maybe we should stop rein in the spending. Its like the old joke of the man who goes to the doctor and says "It hurts when I do this." and the doctor replies "then stop doing that."

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Great Movie Quote

Over at Curmudgeonly and Skeptical there is a thread discussing favorite comedy movies. One early comment pretty much describes my opinion of my movie theater experiences the last 10 years or so:

I got tired of spending the entire contents of my wallet on a small popcorn and two hours of Suck. - AWM

Thursday, January 01, 2009

Happy New Year

Welcome to 2009! Does it look, feel or smell any different than yesterday? Other than your hang-over, I mean?

My 16 year old daughter had a New Years Eve party last night. She had 7 friends over, two of which had to go home before midnight. So five of them slept over. My dear wife and I stayed up till midnight to welcome in the new year, share some bubbly and a new year's kiss. Then she headed for bed. I ran herd on the party to make sure they didn't stay outside making too much noise for too long. Then I finished up some volleyball scheduling I was working on, then headed to bed. The girls were all settled down to watch movies. But since they were watching them while laying down with their heads on pillows and snuggled under blankets I don't know how long they all lasted.

Yep, that was it, the wild New Years times at our house.

However getting through the early evening I was reading a lot of blogs. The one common thought I found all over the internet last night can be summed up as:
"Thank God this horrible year is over."

"2009 is going to be so much better!"

Say what? The only thing that ended last night was the functionality of your 2008 calendar. Our economy is still tanking, the recession is still gaining momentum, our elected officials are still incompetent boobs who think they are smart enough to fix our problems, as a nation we are exchanging freedom for socialism, our retirement accounts are still worth only 60% of what they were a year ago.

So what has changed? Overnight, in the last 24 hours what really changed?

The answer is NOTHING!

Yeah, Personally 2008 wasn't that great a year in many ways.

- I turned 50
- I ended up in a job that I really hate.
- My savings and investments aren't worth as much as they used to be.
- Gas was $4.50 a gallon.
- I didn't bowl well in the city tournament.
- I didn't get to go to the state bowling tournament.
- I finished the summer golf league with a losing record.
- My club volleyball team tore itself apart off the court and didn't play well at Nationals because of that.
- My middle school club team followed up three years of local championships by finishing fourth this year.
- I think our new President and the administration is going to lead this country down a path to nanny state communism that we may not be able to recover from without another civil war.

But there were a lot of good things that happened this year also.

- I turned 50. Hey, 20 years ago I wasn't sure I would make it this far.
- I hate my job, but it pays the bills, and it is necessary work, even if it does bore the living crap out of me.
- Sure the market tanked and my savings and investments aren't what they used to be, but at least I have some savings and retirement left, for a while at least. But more importantly, I'm still able to support and provide for my family.
- Gas was over $4.50 a gallon but now it is under $2 a gallon.
- I didn't bowl well at city, but at least I got to bowl.
- OK, missing state sucked. No silver lining there. Except that I missed it because I was with my club volleyball team. I can't think of a better reason for missing something I love doing other than to do something else I love doing.
- Yeah, I lost more matches than I won golfing this summer. But I still got to golf. And at 50 years old with my 60 year old ankles and 70 year old knees I can still walk the course, carrying my clubs, in 100+ degree temperatures and still be competitive in most of my matches.
- Yeah, I screwed up as a coach - I let my club team's off the court problems effect their on the court performance. But we still finished tied for 5th at Nationals which I thought was pretty good for a first time club team with a first time club coach.
- Yeah I screwed up again in middle school. I wasn't able to get my 8th grade team that had more 6th and 7th grade players than 8th grade players to compete well enough to beat all the other 8th grade teams at our end of the season tournament. But we had fun that season and we did finish higher in the other two tournaments we playing in than our previous teams ever managed. I have been complaining for years about the level of volleyball competition in the middle schools in town. Well I finally got my wish. The other schools in town don't roll over and play dead for us anymore, and that is a good thing.
- I am going to try and be optimistic that our new government won't be as bad as I think it will. But I'll give them credit for one thing. I have wanted to buy several different guns for many years now but just never got around to it. But with the pending gun bans that are going to happen I finally got in gear and bought the guns I wanted. So far my son, oldest daughter and I have had a blast at the range shooting them.

So let me wish you all a happy new year. You know what the new year really means don't you? For the next four weeks most of you will be writing year old checks.