Sunday, November 30, 2008

Well, Sometimes I'm Serious

Most of my blog posts are random musings - material that I can't seem to fit in as comments on other people's blogs (for which I'm sure they're grateful).

Considering the current state of the economy, and the ongoing debate regarding the bailout of this or that industry, I had occasion to revisit someone whose writings I used to follow on the pages of the Wall Street Journal.

Graef "Bud" Crystal has for decades researched public companies and their performance and criticized executive pay plans that excessively rewarded too little of the latter. He's amassed tons of databases on the subject, and from reading his articles for some twenty years or so (he's been at it about 50, according to his website), I regard him as an expert. Moreover, irrespective of what I think, he IS an expert.

Anyway, without liberally cutting and pasting bits from his essays, I thought I'd simply put a link to his website, where I believe you'll find some very useful and compelling arguments vis-a-vis many of today's economic issues, specifically those regarding executive compensation.

Glory Days

I was reading someone else's blog yesterday - a friend of a friend of a blogger I follow, you might say. Anyway, he had a picture of himself at a car show, in front of a car just like his first car.

Being of similar vintage as that blogger, and having posted an image of a motorcycle like my first, I searched the 'net for a picture like my first car. Of course, since my first car was a four-door family sedan, I instead chose an image of the coupe version, which to my way of thinking is still a pretty stylin' ride. You may or may not agree:

The automobile pictured is a 1968 Chrysler Newport, with a 440. My sedan had the more mundane 383. As you can see, the body features concave "dished" sides. Ironically, the car I am currently driving, 35 years younger and also a domestic, sports dished sides, albeit without the sharp top and bottom creases.

Although my finances will not permit it, I would love to have the car pictured above, maybe with a hot-tub or a bowling alley installed in the hangar-sized trunk, to cruise down to the Sonic (Sonics if you live in Lake Worth) for a #2 Cheeseburger combo and a cherry limeade.

Well Isn't That Special?

As if there weren't enough issues to bog down the economy, an article in the upcoming issue of Newsweek magazine reports that 25 percent of workers access internet porn sites while at work.
While I [truthfully] never accessed porn at work, I have seen co-workers spend much of their days on eBay, various entertainment venues, Yahoo!'s "The 9", and other non-work related fare, so it's easy enough for me to believe that supposedly working people might be looking at dirty pictures during part of their workdays. And while porn is not my vice, I've occasionally kept up with the news (MSN or the online version of the local paper), almost always mindful to keep such usage brief.

There's more than a month of Sunday sermons that could be made about porn. I could lament how it's almost gained mainstream acceptance since I was a teenager - witness the recent movie entitled 'Micki and Maude Make a Porno' (I know this isn't the correct title, but it's close), and the incessant revelations that this or that celebrity has a 'sex video' from their past showing up on the internet. I don't know how I've made it close to half a century without taking pictures of my privates or anyone else's. With this age of self-expression and self-publishing (e.g. blogging) comes a responsibility, apparently not well understood, of self-editing.

So what to do about employees stealing employers' time getting their jollies? Several years ago I worked for a software company that had hit a rough patch by allowing its core product, a proprietary multi-user DOS program, to carry the company, while little R&D was being pursued to adapt the application into the emerging GUI environment. The speed and efficacy of the character-based app were unquestioned, but new sales became hard to come by as [business] buyers demanded Windows based platforms (because it was easier to train new unskilled workers). Ultimately the company sold to a dot-com white knight that injected development capital to speed the transition, then got caught in the tech bubble burst. After a few years in the doldrums, the company is healthy again, and capturing a strong segment in its applicable markets.

Anyway, reading the Newsweek article made me think that perhaps it would be best if managements reconsidered how technology is deployed in the workplace. I don't think anyone ever got caught looking at Babes-r-Us or even eBay on an amber screen Link or Wyse terminal.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Say, Could You Hand Me the Vise-Gri...

You've gotta feel bad for space shuttle Endeavour astronaut Heide Stefanyshyn-Piper, who last week lost her grip on a tool bag while spacewalking on a repair task outside the orbiting International Space Station.

I know what it's like to drop a tool while working in an awkward position - I've done it a thousand times. Judging from the ratchets and sockets and miscellaneous tools I see on the road, it's a common occurrence. And from experience, I know to disconnect the battery cable before using an oil filter wrench on an '84 Nissan Sentra. Ouch!

Initially, NASA officials were hopeful that the tool-bag could be replaced, until they found out that the next Cornwell Shuttle wasn't scheduled until 2010.

Anyway, the mission continued, with another toolkit now being shared by the astronauts. The missing $100,000 tool-bag is, thankfully, being tracked by a helpful Canadian with binoculars.

Ironically, the task was to repair and lubricate a balky tone-arm on the Space Station's phonograph, which is now stuck playing the same passage over and over: "Ground control to Major Tom...ground control to Major Tom..."

More Training Required

Recently we've opined on the defense of lawful commercial activities in retail and transportation.

Now, the Indian Navy has apparently sunk a Thai fishing trawler believed to have been a mothership for pirate activity. Before I proceed, let me clarify that the Indian Navy in this story is that of the sub-continent nation, not a group of Village People tryouts in buckskin and canoes. I only mention this because I know the type of readers who follow this blog.

Well, it turns out that perhaps the trawler was not a pirate hub, but was itself under seige when it was destroyed by the Indian Navy. Major 'uh-oh'.

We hereby respectfully suggest a remedial course of Hostile/Friendly Identification, which would also include the following admonition from the estimable late Col. John Dean "Jeff" Cooper, with particular emphasis on #4:

The rules of gun safety follow from this mindset. While there are many variations, the rules introduced by Colonel Jeff Cooper are those most commonly taught during gun safety training:
1. "All guns are always loaded".

2. Never let the muzzle cover anything you are not willing to destroy.

3. Keep your finger off the trigger until your sights are on the target.

4. Always be sure of your target.

—Jeff Cooper

Buddy, Can You Spare $350 Million?

In a major 'Oops!' moment this week, it's been revealed that beloved Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones has come up a wee bit short of funds to complete the franchise's new mega-stadium in Arlington, Texas. The 'wee' shortage is said to be about $350 million. The original plan was to refinance about $126 million, as well as to borrow additional funds to complete the project, but the credit crunch has supposedly thrown a wrench in the works.

While we understand that the credit crunch is real, and have no reason to disbelieve Mr. Jones' difficulty in finding willing lenders to supply additional capital to America's Team's project, we can't quite shake the little voice that wonders if this shrewd businessman is simply becoming, in the words of fellow blogger Don D., the latest 'Bail Me Out Elmo'. After all, Mr. Jones has had the 'chutzpah' to be a pioneer in extracting public money to hedge his business ventures even in good economic times, so it wouldn't be that much of a stretch to imagine that he might ask taxpayers, whether local, state or national, to ease his financial pain in lean times.

Stay tuned to see how this one turns out...

Update: We were, nonetheless, very pleased with America's Team's performance at Texas Stadium yesterday (Thanksgiving).

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

I Don't Get It

Off the east coast of Africa, the continent, Somali pirates have hijacked a Saudi oil tanker loaded with upwards of 2 million barrels of oil. The tanker, the size of an aircraft carrier, was seized in open waters about 450 nm from Kenya. It's only the latest event in a growing piracy trend in that region.

As you can see, such a vessel is not much of a runabout, but for cryin' out loud, the pirates who are commandeering these commercial vessels are doing so from dinghies, pulling alongside the lumbering ships, and boarding via grappling hooks and rope ladders.

Why in the world are the ships' owners not arming their crews, or positioning mercenaries aboard to thwart these would-be Jack Sparrows? After all, even if they don't eventually lose their shipments, the time value of money on the goods in transit (in the case of the oil tanker, said to be around $100 million), and the payroll for the crew, add up to quite a tidy sum.

We think it would be a great idea, and great fun, to staff a few of these ships with a few good men (possibly women too, we're equal opportunity), armed with the following varmint rifles:

The top one, a Vulcan .50 cal, could put a few dents in the pirates' dinghies, while the AR-30 in .338 Lapua and the SU-16 could be used if the miscreants actually succeeded in boarding. We think a few well-publicized rounds of 'prairie dog' shooting, complete with empty dinghies floating off the African coast, might persuade up-and-coming pirates to return to fishing or basket weaving.

Are You Red or Blue?

First, I want to send a 'shout out' to thank my good friend, RTB, for rekindling my interest in a life-long but until recently dormant hobby, detailed elsewhere on these pages.

This election season, we've been treated to much media obsession over "Red or Blue"states. Another example of dichotomization of the world, as in 'right or left', 'black or white', 'Ford or Chevy'. Well, the pictures below represent a choice that could be difficult to make:


Actually, I'd be pleased to find either of these under my Christmas tree, though it isn't going to happen. And, as it often occurs in the real world, there are more than red or blue choices: another manufacturer also makes red widgets, a couple make green ones, and yet another is orange.

Although I'd love to have one of the red or blue units above, I will content myself for now with my (1) green single-stage (RS-3), (2) red turrets (4 & 5 hole), and (1) orange turret (6 hole). But, for the all-out sexiest [non-progressive] widget on the market, it goes to the one of the green manufacturers, and has a great name, to boot:

Monday, November 17, 2008

I guess it was inevitable...

Not that this will be on my shopping list, or anyone I know, this Christmas:

Hey, maybe I can be an eBay reseller. One free pair of knitting needles with each bear purchased!

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Calling Dirty Harry...

News from the Fort Worth Startlegram:

Men make off with guns, cash in Parker County heist

Sherriff's deputies are looking for men they think swapped lead with a clerk at a gun store near Reno on Thursday, making off with six handguns and cash from the store.
The robbery occurred on the Jacksboro Highway near Reno, between Azle and Springtown, about noon Thursday, said Parker County Sheriff Larry Fowler.
Fowler doesn't think the suspects or the clerk were injured, though, based on evidence at the scene.
"What (the clerk) said he was shooting was .41 Magnum, and believe me if somebody would've been hit with that, he would've still been there," Fowler said.

The men took off in a red Cadillac, with molding missing from the right side. A nearby convenience store caught a photo (right) of the getaway car.

We, too, are big fans of the .41 Remington Magnum, partially on its merit, and partially in deference to the late Bill Jordan and Elmer Keith. A lovely caliber bridging the gap between the capable and venerable .357 Magnum and the über-capable but difficult to control .44 Magnum, the .41 never fully realized its rightful place in the handgun firmament, and in time was overtaken by numerous auto-loading pistol cartridges for law enforcement duties. The Marlin lever action 1894s, and revolvers from various manufacturers (e.g. Ruger Redhawk) in this caliber are highly prized.

We recommend remedial marksmanship training for the clerk so that he may properly dispatch the next group of goblins.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Interesting Addiction(s)

Now comes word from the entertainment world that award-winning actress Salma Hayek is addicted to breastfeeding.

Let us keep this woman in our prayers.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Have A Nice Day!

Today is Veterans' Day, when we reflect on the sacrifices our service personnel have made throughout our history so that we might live in liberty.

While for many it's a day to get a great deal on a new mattress or shop for towels, I am glad to say that I engaged in none of those type of commercial pursuits.

I began my day with a prayer group of distinguished gentlemen from my church, mostly in their 70s and 80s, who, for reasons unknown, have welcomed me into their midst, despite being a generation or more their junior. Afterwards, I was blessed to have breakfast with two very good friends - on their day off, we met for breakfast, then proceeded to our planned activity...

For the next couple of hours, we practiced punching holes in paper, like little kids. Oh, except our punches were in assorted sizes (in inches) of .22, .38, .44, and .45. Does it get any better than this?

Friday, November 7, 2008

The Bigger Picture

Again, something I didn't write, but offering perspective:

A Ray Of Hope
Got this e-mail yesterday from a friend - what a timely thought! Just to share it with your after yesterday's doom and gloom! It was entitled "Top 10 Predictions No Matter Who Wins The Election..."
1. The Bible will still have all the answers.
2. Prayer will still work.
3. The Holy Spirit will still move.
4. God will still inhabit the praises of His people.
5. There will still be God-anointed preaching.
6. There will still be singing of praise to God.
7. God will still pour out blessings upon His people.
8. There will still be room at the Cross.
9. Jesus will still love you.
10. Jesus will still save the lost when they come to Him.


So, I guess we can all get back to work...


Thursday, November 6, 2008

'Lady' Looks Like a Dude

I think I used to work with this guy...

Wait, um, oh that's k. d. lang. Nevermind...

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Separated at Birth?

You decide...

Granny, let me see your hands...

Greatest...Ever Devised

On these pages I have already expressed my interest in motorcycles & firearms. Those of you who know me know that, like Paul Harvey, I want to know 'the rest of the story', and will sometimes go to great lengths to research (read: waste a lot of time on) a subject.

I have already shared information on John Taliaferro Thompson, creator of the 'Tommy Gun' sub-machine gun. Others in the pantheon of firearms designers that I should also research and share would no doubt include Sam Colt, Leonard Geiger, Dr. Richard J. Gatling, B. Tyler Henry, Daniel Wesson, Erskine Allin, Fordyce Beals, John Marlin, John Moses Browning, and Bill Ruger.

But today's segment is about John C. Garand, father of the Garand rifle, which Gen. George S. Patton once termed "The Greatest Battle Implement Ever Devised", and was crucial to the U.S. infantrymen in WWII. Despite the great success and accolades of his invention, he never received any royalties for his design.

Inventions come and go, but great designs are truly timeless...

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Please Forgive The Lady of the Harbor

John 11:35 states simply: Jesus wept.

At 10:00 p.m. central standard time, November 4, 2008, Lady Liberty wept.

More Stuff I Didn't Write

While walking down the street one day a US senator is tragically hit by a truck and dies. His soul arrives in heaven and is met by St. Peter at the entrance.
‘Welcome to heaven,’ says St. Peter. ‘Before you settle in, it seems there is a problem. We seldom see a high official around here, you see, so we’re not sure what to do with you.’
‘No problem, just let me in,’ says the senator.
‘Well, I’d like to, but I have orders from higher up. What we’ll do is have you spend one day in hell and one in heaven. Then you can choose where to spend eternity.’
‘Really, I’ve made up my mind. I want to be in heaven,’says the senator.
‘I’m sorry, but we have our rules.’
And with that, St. Peter escorts him to the elevator and he goes down, down, down to hell. The doors open and he finds himself in the middle of a green golf course. In the distance is a clubhouse and standing in front of it are all his friends and other politicians who had worked with him.
Everyone is very happy and in evening dress. They run to greet him, shake his hand, and reminisce about the good times they had while getting rich at the expense of the people.
They play a friendly game of golf and then dine on lobster, caviar and champagne.
Also present is the devil, who really is a very friendly guy who has a good time dancing and telling jokes. They are having such a good time that before he realizes it is time to go.
Everyone gives him a hearty farewell and waves while the elevator rises ..
The elevator goes up, up, up and the door reopens on heaven where St. Peter is waiting for him.
‘Now it’s time to visit heaven.’
So, 24 hours pass with the senator joining a group of contented souls moving from cloud to cloud, playing the harp and singing. They have a good time and, before he realizes it, the 24 hours have gone by and St. Peter returns.
‘Well, then, you’ve spent a day in hell and another in heaven. Now choose your eternity.’
The senator reflects for a minute, then answers: ‘Well, I would never have said it before, I mean heaven has been delightful, but I think I would be better off in hell.’
So St. Peter escorts him to the elevator and he goes down, down, down to hell.
Now the doors of the elevator open and he’s in the middle of a barren land covered with waste and garbage.
He sees all his friends, dressed in rags, picking up the trash and putting it in black bags as more trash falls from above… The devil comes over to him and puts his arm around his shoulder.
‘I don’t understand,’ stammers the senator. ‘Yesterday I was here, and there was a golf course and clubhouse, and we ate lobster and caviar, drank champagne, and danced and had a great time. Now there’s just a wasteland full of garbage and my friends look miserable.
What happened?’
The devil looks at him, smiles and says…….
‘Yesterday we were campaigning.'
Today you voted.

A parable, perhaps?

h/t: Aprilwine

This Looks Bad

A few election cycles back, a bit of an uproar resulted when some idiot on a college campus thought it germane to ask Slick Willie if he preferred 'boxers or briefs'. Soon, politicians everywhere were being asked their undergarment predispositions.

Thankfully, that particular bit of useless knowledge has been absent from this election, albeit replaced by a bevy of banal bits of likewise irrelevant information. We are now treated to learning about candidates' clothing styles, automobiles, and musical tastes - the subject of this post.

Last night, I took the bait and read what Obama's & McCain's top ten songs were, presumably on their iPods (does John McCain have an iPod?).

From the looks of it, BHO followed a fairly predictable path (Kanye, Springsteen, Marvin, U2), and seemingly tossed in a couple of selections calculated to broaden his appeal to middle America (Rolling Stones, Sinatra). As I said, some of it appeared contrived, but maybe I'm just being cynical.

Now for the bad part.

John McCain listed his top 10 also. Louis Armstrong. Sinatra. Haggard. Neil Diamond. Beach Boys. ABBA - twice! Whoa there, Maverick! Two of your top 10 songs by ABBA? Mamma Mia, what were you thinking?!

Editorial confession: In the '70s, I had a demo copy of ABBA's greatest hits. A visiting relative purloined it, probably thinking that since I had an after-school job in a record/tape warehouse, I could easily replace it - but I never did.

There's probably a myriad of explanations for the ABBA inclusion. They would've been sort of popular when McCain returned to civilization after 5-1/2 years in the Hanoi Hilton, so maybe they're seared into his consciousness. I hope they weren't included 'to appeal to the young folks', as they are the most recent songs on McCain's list. Nothing from the '80s forward - not even Huey's "Hip to Be Square".

The point, though, isn't what each candidate does or doesn't listen to. It's that in our voracious ADHD appetite for wall to wall programming for a zillion 'information' outlets, we've 'comfortably numbed' ourselves to the trivialization of some of our most sacred processes and responsibilities. Senator Obama has made a career of calculated avoidance of controversy, while at the same time giving glowing oratory - yet in this campaign cycle, we have gotten very little substance from either candidate on a host of issues that really matter to Americans.

We really should demand better from our media and the the candidates.

Also, we should also ask why there are no Eagles songs on their playlists. "Get Over It" would be an excellent campaign song, don't you think?

Monday, November 3, 2008

Other Truths, Less Self-Evident

I didn't write any of these, but wish I's a good break from all of the political coverage.

1) I went to a restaurant that serves 'breakfast at any time'. So I ordered French Toast during the Renaissance.
2) A cement mixer collided with a prison van on I-45. Motorists are asked to be on the lookout for 16 hardened criminals.
3) I used to be bullied at school, called all kinds of different names. But one day I turned to my bullies and said 'Sticks and stones may break my bones but names will never hurt me', and it worked! From then on it was sticks and stones all the way.
4) My Dad used to say 'always fight fire with fire', which is probably why he got thrown out of the fire department.
5) S*x is like playing bridge: If you don't have a good partner, you'd better have a good hand.
6) I saw six men violently kicking and punching the mother-in-law. My neighbor said 'Are you going to help?' I said 'No, six should be enough.'
7) If we aren't supposed to eat animals, then why are they made out of meat?
8) I think animal testing is a terrible idea, inasmuch as they get all nervous and give the wrong answers.
9) You know that look women get when they want s*x? No? Me neither.
10) Politicians are wonderful people as long as they stay away from things they don't understand, such as working for a living.
11) I was the kid next door's imaginary friend.
12) Right now I'm having amnesia and deja vu at the same time. I think I've forgotten this stuff before.