Monday, November 5, 2012

The Duke

My dog Duke. Named in honor of John "Duke" Wayne. Because, like Mr. Wayne, he is a gentle giant. He is a terrific dog and I can't imagine my family without him.

Monday, October 29, 2012

World Champions!

Buster Posey and Sergio Romo celebrate as Miguel Cabrera walks away dejected after looking at a called third stike to end Game 4 of the 2012 World Series which the Giants swept, 4 games to 0.

It took 10 innings to do it, but the San Francisco Giants won their second World Championship in three years last night. They had shut down the powerful hitting of the Detroit Tigers for the first three games. The Giants had never trailed in the score but the Tigers were not going to go quietly. Knowing that game four was do or die, the Tigers brought their big bats. But the Giants started the game they way they had all year, score early. Hunter Pence doubled in the 2nd inning and then Brandon Belt hit a triple to score Pence. It was Belt's first hit in the series. Then in the bottom of the 3rd, Miguel Cabrera hit a home run to right field off of starter Matt Cain with a man on. It was the first lead for the Tigers in 29 innings. With Cain pitching well and great defense behind him, the Giants waited for their big hit. They got it in the top of the 6th when Marco Scutaro got on base and Buster Posey drove a home run over the left field wall just inside the foul pole.

The Giants had retaken the lead but it only lasted until the bottom of the inning. Delmon Young hit a home run off of Cain to tie the game. Cain pitched a full seven innings and, like Detroit starter Max Scherzer, allowed 3 runs but kept his team in the game. In the 8th inning, Jeremy Affelt started off by walking the lead-off batter but then struck out the next three batters — all of the Tigers' big guns; Cabrera, Fielder, and Young. In the 9th, Affelt struck out the first batter but then Jhonny Peralta hit a long fly to centerfield that Angel Pagan ran down on the warning track. Santiago Casilla came in and got the last out.

In the top of the 10th, designated hitter Ryan Theriot singled to lead off the inning. Brandon Crawford bunted him to second and Angel Pagan struck out. Then with two out, Marco Scutaro singled and Theriot scored the go ahead run.

In the bottom of the 10th, Sergio Romo came in and faced the 1-2-3 hitters. He struck out the first two (Jackson and Kelly) and then had to face Triple Crown winner Miguel Cabrera. With the count no balls and two strikes, Cabrera was looking for Romo to throw his trademark slider. As the ball left Romo's hand, Cabrera leaned in to reach for the slider but the ball didn't break. Cabrera froze for a split second — that's when the fastball from Romo went right down the pipe and the umpire rung him up! With the hopes of the Tigers and their fans riding on Cabrera's bat, he never took a swing at an 89 mile per hour fastball that froze him like an ice sculpture.

Which is why I get to say:

San Franciso Giants — 2012 World Champions!

Please visit the Official Web Site of the San Francisco Giants for more stories, photos, and videos.

Together, We're GIANT!

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Hearing Elvis for the very first time

I am a music fan. I cannot deny it. I love music. Not all kinds of music. Rap isn't music, it's more of a social statement with a backbeat. And I don't ascribe the word music to a "song" with lyrics made up entirely of the "N" word and the "F" word.

I will admit I'm not a fan of jazz or Dixieland. It's not awful like Rap, it's just not my cup of tea. But I will listen to just about anything.

I have many MP3 files of my favorites. I use WinAmp as my player because it is superior to any media player. I could go into a long dissertation about how Windows Media Player destroys cover art, but that is a discussion for another time. What I want to talk about is Minilyrics. I have mentioned this product in blog posts before. It is fun to see the lyrics appear as the singer sings each line. It completes the song.

However, today I decided to create the lyrics for Elvis' version of Don't Be Cruel. I went through my steps, assigning a specific line of lyrics to a specific time in the song. When I played the song back to check that the lyrics matched, I was startled. I was watching the lyrics appear, but when Elvis would sing the line, it was disconnected somehow. I would see and hear the words, but something was...well, missing! And then it dawned on me.

Elvis' vocal style is so unlike anyone else. Yes, the words to the lyrics you see are correct. Yes, you can sing along. But there is just something WEIRD about reading the bland and unemotional lyrics at the same time you listen to Elvis put his heart, soul, and passion into every syllable. It's like listening to someone describe the contents of an Ansel Adam's photograph. Yes, technically there is a mountain, and sky, and clouds, and a lake, and shadows, and flowers, and all manner of nature. But when you actually see the photograph you realize the narrator hasn't told you anything about it. The contents are there but the distinction between what you see and what you observe is monumental.

This is what Elvis brings to music. It's like I heard him sing for the very first time.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

The Greatest Generation

I always think about the people that were born around the last decade of the 19th Century. They were close to their early teens when Orville and Wilbur Wright taught us to fly. They were around 80 when Neil Armstrong took us to the stars. They saw both the beginning of flight and its ultimate expression in space. They were in awe of the wood and fabric and wires doing what up until that time, only God's creatures could do. They experienced the power and majesty of metal and chemicals and fire shot into the vacuum of space — a place were none of God's creatures could go.

But they are all gone now. And even though we have the photos and movies of these things, they lived through them when both were new. Only they had the experience for the ages.

My mother's mother was one. And, until the day she died, she knew how special her place in history was.

I don't know if there will ever be another leap in technology like those 70 years. Think about that — less than 70 years from first flight to walking on the moon. Think of all the people that tried to fly before the Wrights. All of those centuries of dreaming and scheming and trial and error and getting SO CLOSE but falling at the finish line only to see two bicycle dealers pull it off. And then someone snaps their fingers and Neil Armstrong is walking on the moon.

Sometimes, it's like a vacation post card. Wish I was there...for both.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Why I no longer care to watch the Olympics

Posted by Stranded in Sonoma

My epiphany about the stupidity of the olympics took 2 full olympiads; 1984 in Sarajevo and 1988 in Calgary.

In the former, the US had a few athletes in the Nordic Combined (ski jump and cross-country). The US entrants were very good in cross-country but just average in ski jump. After the first round of ski jumping, the US held the 1st and 3rd places. Realizing that the strength of the US athletes was yet to come, the "judges" determined that it was unsafe to start the ski jump from that height. Never mind that ALL entrants had already jumped safely. They moved the jump height down a bit, forced everyone to go again, and they were happy with the results because the US was safely out of the top 10, and therefore, out of possible medal contention in a Nordic or Alpine event.

In Calgary in 1988, the women's figure skating was a sham. East German Katarina Witt was up for her second gold in a row and US skater Debi Thomas was supposed to compete against her. In the prelims, an unknown Japanese skater, Midori Ito, rocked the house with her routines. She hit every part of every routine and was almost in shock when she finished — the crowd went crazy with her performance. She got 5.1s because this was her first olympics and "hadn't paid her dues." Witt and Thomas looked like two automatons going through the motions of trying NOT TO LOSE a medal. Then Canada's own Elizabeth Manley skated her heart out and put both Witt and Thomas to shame. Granted, it was a hometown crowd but she, like Japan's Ito, couldn't believe how well she had done and the crowd responded. But...

Witt — Gold
Manley — Silver
Thomas — Bronze.

Should have been...

Manley — Gold
Ito — Silver
Witt or Thomas — Bronze (you pick, both were boring).

The winter olympics were always better in my mind because they were much faster. But now, with Russian and French judges screwing everyone else and the IOC refusing to take away every Russian and French medal, send both countries athletes back home, and ban them from the next two olympics (summer and winter), it's just become a ho-hum of zero competition when you realize you're going to lose no matter how well you perform. Kind of like Obama's fundemental transformation of a once great country.  


Friday, June 22, 2012

Sputnik moment, revisited

Posted by Stranded in Sonoma

I wrote this comment on a site just after Ofailure said we need a Sputnik moment. What a schnook. Here are the facts about the Sputnik and Explorer spacecraft and other socialist junk versus the excellent equipment created by freedom.

Socialists have to be first, not best. It's part and parcel of the propaganda. Remember the Soviet space program?

Sputnik 1 was the first artificial satellite, but complete garbage. It died in about 20 days because it used dry cell batteries and gave no meaningful scientific data except in the negative. Read this from Wikipedia:

1) Apart from its value as a technological first, Sputnik also helped to identify the upper atmospheric layer's density, through measuring the satellite's orbital changes. 2) It also provided data on radio-signal distribution in the ionosphere. 3) Pressurized nitrogen in the satellite's body provided the first opportunity for meteoroid detection. If a meteoroid penetrated the satellite's outer hull, it would be detected by the temperature data sent back to Earth.
Let's go through those. 1) So if it's orbit didn't change then nothing would be found. Dumb. 2) Maybe. You can bounce radio signals from the Earth through the ionosphere and get pretty much the same info. 3) IF...a meteroid penetrated the satellite. What if the skin was too thick to allow penetration by smaller particles that might be significant scientifically? Ooops! And it had to penetrate the satellite's hull! What if a meteroid penetrated the hull and caused the orbit to change? Wouldn't that screw up the first test of checking the atmospheric density? Wouldn't an external grid be a better way to test for these impacts? If there was no penetration, there was no data. Once again, just typical socialist crap.

Vostok 1 was the first manned satellite to orbit the Earth but the spacecraft was so crappy, it didn't have it's own parachute; the pilot, Yuri Gagarin, had to eject and parachute to safety, in violation of the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale rules which stated the pilot had to take off and land with his craft. So, according to the rules, Gagarin was NOT first. But the socialist French overlooked that and gave him the record anyway.

The first space walk, again by the Soviets and a near disaster. The cosmonaut, Alexey Leonov, almost didn't get out of the craft. They had to deflate his pressure suit to get out and then it was reinflated per normal use. But when he tried to get back in, he couldn't and they had to deflate it again, but this time it was deflated to almost zero pressure because he couldn't fit through the hatch. It damn near killed him.

Now, let's put these three up against the effort of the United States.

Here is the Explorer 1 info, again from Wikipedia:

The scientific instrumentation of Explorer 1 was designed and built under the direction of Dr. James Van Allen of the University of Iowa containing:

Anton 314 omnidirectional Geiger-Müller tube, designed by Dr. George Ludwig of Iowa's Cosmic Ray Laboratory, to detect cosmic rays. It could detect protons with E > 30 MeV and electrons with E > 3 MeV. Most of the time the instrument was saturated;

Five temperature sensors (one internal, three external and one on the nose cone);

Acoustic detector (crystal transducer and solid-state amplifier) to detect micrometeorite (cosmic dust) impacts. It responded to micrometeorite impacts on the spacecraft skin in such way that each impact would be a function of mass and velocity. Its effective area was 0.075 m2 and the average threshold sensitivity was 2.5 × 10−3 g cm/s;

Wire grid detector, also to detect micrometeorite impacts. It consisted of 12 parallel connected cards mounted in a fiberglass supporting ring. Each card was wound with two layers of enameled nickel alloy wire with a diameter of 17 µm (21 µm with the enamel insulation included) in such way that a total area of 1 cm by 1 cm was completely covered. If a micrometeorite of about 10 µm impacted, it would fracture the wire, destroy the electrical connection, and thus record the event.
Electrical power was provided by mercury chemical batteries as opposed to the dry cells used in Sputnik. This from Wikipedia again:

Mercury batteries powered the high-power transmitter for 31 days and the low-power transmitter for 105 days. Explorer 1 stopped transmission of data on May 23, 1958 when its batteries died, but remained in orbit for more than 12 years. It reentered the atmosphere over the Pacific Ocean on March 31, 1970 after more than 58,000 orbits.
Please don't tell me you think Sputnik had any scientific impact compared to Explorer. Also, Explorer 1 found the Van Allen radiation belts. What did Sputnik find? That socialist crap burns up in the atmosphere just like good American spacecraft. Big deal.

The Mecury spacecraft was much better than Vostok. Not the least of which was it had it's own parachute to allow for a safe landing. The pilot didn't need to exit the spacecraft unnecessarily while it was hurtling through the atmosphere at thousands of miles per hour, as with Vostok.

When Ed White became the first American to walk in space during his Gemini 4 flight with Jim McDivitt, there was no issue with pressurization. The only problem was that the hatch was momentarily stuck. The pilots got it unstuck in short order and everthing went fine.

Technology produced by socialism — unmitigated shit. Technology producted by freedom — the best in the world. Or even out of this world!  


Thursday, June 14, 2012


Matt Cain, right handed pitcher for the San Franciso Giants threw a no-hitter last night against the Houston Astros! Cain is the elder statesman of the Giants having been with the team since 2005, the longest of any current Giant player.

But this wasn't just any no-hitter. This was a perfect game! Not one Astro batter reached first base. The reason this is historic is because it is the first perfect game thrown by a Giant pitcher, in the 129 year history of the club! Even the umpires knew it was special.

It took some outstanding defense in the 7th and 9th innings to secure the win. In the 7th inning, right fielder Gregor Blanco made a diving catch on a deep ball hit to the warning track in Triples Alley. In the 9th inning, Third Baseman Joaquin Arias handled a tough ground ball and made a great throw across the diamond for the final out. One of the best outs was the third out in the 7th inning. Astro shortstop Jed Lowrie, batting left handed, swung and missed on the third strike, lost the grip on his bat and it landed to the left of home, then he spun 180 degrees and gave home-plate umpire Ted Barrett a high-five! You can see all 27 outs here.

Cain got 14 strikeouts, 7 swinging and 7 caught looking, to match the previous strikeout total in a perfect game by Sandy Kofax. Congratulations, Matt! I can't think of a pitcher more deserving of a no-hit perfect game. And thank you for the memories!

Wednesday, June 13, 2012


My kitty kat Raider playing on our porch. Click the picture for a larger version. Should I enter this photo in our county fair competition?

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

The Great Crusade

Today is June 6th. Sixty-eight years ago, on a very bleak and windy Tuesday morning, Operation Neptune, the code name for the naval invasion of Normandy, started as thousands of soldiers, sailors, and airmen began the Allied liberation of Europe. The overall operation was called Overlord and was scheduled to last until D +90. At that point, the Allies believed they would be on the south side of the River Seine with the Germans holding the north side. From there, the breakout would happen and Eisenhower's broad front strategy would slowly consume the German army in the west. Of course, it didn't happen that way.

There were five invasion beaches, Utah, Omaha, Gold, Juno, and Sword, running west to east along the Calvados Coast. The Americans came ashore at Utah and Omaha, while the British used Gold and Sword with the Canadians at Juno. British paratroopers dropped behind Sword Beach to secure vital bridges over the River Orne. American paratroopers dropped behind Utah to secure vital causeways off the beach and to take the important town of Sainte-Mère-Église. At Omaha Beach, the German's had the entire landing area zeroed in and the casualties were high. Eventually, in small groups, sometimes as small as one or two men, the 1st and 29th Divisions moved inland and secured the Omaha beaches. The invasion went much smoother at the other four beaches with the Canadians at Juno advancing the farthest on that Day of Days.

The Germans reinforced the area around the city of Caen and British General Montgomery failed miserably in his bid to take the city on D-Day. Eventually having to destroy the town to take it, Montgomery's men had most of the German armor facing them while the Americans under General Bradley had to contend with the Norman hedgerows. After nearly two months of brutal fighting, Bradley unleashed Operation Cobra. The Army Air Forces would carpet bomb an area near St. Lo, and the ground troops would rush through the shell-shocked Germans. At that point, General Patton took over 3rd Army, General Hodges took 1st Army from Bradley, and Bradley moved up to command 12th Army Group. Patton replaced the infantry spearheads with armor spearheads and broke out into the flat country south of the Cotentin peninsula. Patton swung his forces west to take the Brest peninsula and also east on a rampage that would end up with 3rd Army helping to seal off the German army and take bridges over the River Seine. Less than a year later, in May 1945, the Germans surrendered and the Great Crusade was over.

One of the finest books on the subject is D-Day, by Stephen E. Ambrose. If you haven't read it, do so. It details the details of the invasion. The most fascinating detail to me was the order in which every unit had to hit each specific beach. On a floor in Allied HQ, thousands of 3x5 cards containing information about each unit were placed in the order of when they would hit the beaches. If any data changed for a unit, someone had to go retrieve the card, make the change, and then put it back. These cards were shuffled to and fro until the commanders were satisfied. All of that without the aid of any computer. Amazing! And the most amazing thing was that they were able to keep the invasion secret. The Germans never knew it was Normandy, even with thousands of little 3x5 cards floating around.

For those that put themselves in harm's way to keep us from harm — Thank You.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012


I was watching an episode of 12 O'Clock High and I just thought I would pass along some observations on what it was like flying for the 8th Air Force between 1942 to 1945. I have a bit of credibility; my father flew 30 missions over Germany in 1945.

I'll start with what Bill Mauldin said in trying to get the folks back home to understand what it was like for an infantryman.

Dig a hole in your back yard while it is raining. Sit in the hole until the water climbs up around your ankles. Pour cold mud down your shirt collar. Sit there for forty-eight hours, and, so there is no danger of your dozing off, imagine that a guy is sneaking around waiting for a chance to club you on the head or set your house on fire.

Get out of the hole, fill a suitcase full of rocks, pick it up, put a shotgun in your other hand, and walk on the muddiest road you can find. Fall flat on your face every few minutes as you imagine big meteors streaking down to sock you.

After ten or twelve miles (remember—you are still carrying the shotgun and suitcase) start sneaking through the wet brush. Imagine that somebody has booby-trapped your route with rattlesnakes which will bite you if you step on them. Give some friend a rifle and have him blast in your direction once in a while.

Snoop around until you find a bull. Try to figure out a way to sneak around him without letting him see you. When he does see you, run like hell all the way back to your hole in the back yard, drop the suitcase and shotgun, and get in.

If you repeat this performance every three days for several months you may begin to understand why an infantryman sometimes gets out of breath. But you still won't understand how he feels when things get tough.
Here's what I have to say about flying and fighting in a B-17 or B-24.

It's oh-dark-thirty. You get up and shave with tepid water because you're only allowed so much coal for the furnace. You shave very close because if you don't, the oxygen mask you wear later will feel like thirty-grit sandpaper on your skin.

At breakfast, the oatmeal is overcooked, the powdered eggs are burnt, and the pancakes are rubbery. The coffee, however, is warm -- just like the powdered milk. This could be your last meal. If the previous night was a bit too strong, breakfast is vomit and a cigarette.

At briefing, the MET officer says, "High and persistent contrails." You moan because you know that means the Luftwaffe will have a big white arrow in the sky pointed right at you. And the distant target means this is a long mission. No milk run today.

You take off, form up, and climb to your cruising altitude of 25,000 feet. It is 40 degrees below zero. If you remove your gloves and touch anything, your skin will stick to the metal. You are on oxygen; there is no pressurization. The skin of the airplane is 40 thousandths of an inch thick. That is your entire armor. Flak rips through it like a blowtorch through butter. Not to mention 20 millimeter cannon shells. Your .50 caliber machine gun holds enough ammunition for 1 minute and 45 seconds of continuous firing. This mission will last eight to ten hours.

You fight your way to the target through everything the Luftwaffe throws at you; 109s, FWs, guns, cannon, rockets, missles, jet planes, rocket planes. If this is 1942 or 1943, your fighter escort has left you long ago. If it's 1944 or 1945, well...there are only so many P-51s to go around. You find the primary target is obscured by clouds. You shift to the secondary and it is, too. The closest tertiary target, or target of opportunity, is far enough away to make you think about fuel. You fight your way back and hope to pick out a target of opportunity on the way. You don't find one. You drop your bombs in the channel because you can't land with them. When you land, you fire two flares to show you have wounded aboard. So do a lot of the other bombers. Some of the bombers will fly again with work. Others will only be useful as parts. You don't get mission credit.

You do this 38-40 times in the hope that at least 35 of them will count. You also know that if you only have a 1% chance of dying per flight, that rises to 40% by flight number 12. Not all 12 count as missions; you know that, too. When you get 35, you'll get some time off stateside. But each group has an infantry quota to fill. A number of officers and enlisted men are transferred from flight operations to the infantry; you could finish maybe 10 to 15 missions and get transferred. See what Bill Mauldin said above about the infantry.
Freedom isn't free. Remember...