Sunday, December 04, 2011

Tigers Regain National Championship Belt

When the Clemson football team lost to Georgia Tech back in October, they also lost the mythical National Football Championship Belt they had won earlier in the season. Last night the Tigers not only won the 2011 ACC football championship, they regained the National Championship Belt. Virginia Tech had grabbed the Belt when they defeated Georgia Tech in November but was able to defend the Belt successfully only twice.

Clemson will put the Belt on the line at the Orange Bowl in January. Go Tigers!

Friday, November 11, 2011

Veteran's Day 2011

I can't improve on last year's Veteran's Day thoughts, so I offer this rerun.

Special thoughts for Tommy Rose, George Mims, Robert Walden, and Sam McDowell.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

A Disservice to the ACC

I see by the morning paper that the News & Record has participated in another disservice to the ACC by promoting pre-season rankings in a major sport. Why is this so bad? Because the sportswriters are going to be wrong. How can I say this? Because I remember the pre-season football rankings. Why is this a great disservice to the league? Consider the Clemson football team.

It may all come to a crashing end any Saturday now, but until it does we Clemson fans are really enjoying this season. But just imagine where the Tigers might be if the ACC football writers had been more prescient and seen that this year's team was as good as it is and voted it the favorite for the conference championship instead of fourth. If the Tigers had been pre-season favorites (and perhaps ranked 6th nationally like Florida State), who doubts they wouldn't today be higher in the BCS rankings with a better chance at playing for the National Championship. Oh the injustice!

As Dabo says, the only polls that count are in December, and unless the team is 1-0 every week until then this is all just blah, blah, blah. And don't forget, Clemson still has the National Football Championship Belt. (Where is Ben Holder when we need him?)

At least basketball has a national championship so this same scenario won't play out next March.

Be Careful What You Ask For . . .

Following up on my "Going Public" post from yesterday, I just talked with Dr. Shen at WFBMC and he has rescheduled my surgery for 7:00 Saturday morning. I appreciate their quick response and extra effort to get to my case. I guess this means I will miss the Clemson-UNC game Saturday, but I'll DVR it and hope I'll want to watch the replay when I get home. Go Tigers.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Going Public

Radley Balco's The Agitator is one of my daily internet reads, and today he had a post that was of particular interest to me. Late last month I, too, was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.

I had been having some slight/mild abdominal pain during the summer and when I mentioned it to my doctor, Mark Perini, during my annual physical visit, he thought I should get it checked out further ("We never like to ignore abdominal pain."). I had abdominal x-rays the next day to rule out some obvious things (i.e. kidney stones), and when the x-rays showed nothing of note, he followed up with a CT scan and then an MRI. The CT scan showed an "ill-defined mass involving the body of the pancreas" and the MRI showed a pancreatic tail mass "most consistent with an adenocarcinoma" with "no definite hepatic metastasis".

Dr. Perini immediately followed up with the Comprehensive Cancer Center at Wake Forest Baptist Health Center (where he had gone to medical school) and got me an appointment with Dr. Perry Shen there. At our 9/30 appointment Dr. Shen reviewed the CT and MRI results and believed the tumor was very "operable" with a distal pancreatectomy and splenectomy, procedures to remove the tumor, part of the pancreas (leaving the pancreas head and some tissue to provide some continuing pancreas function), and the spleen (which isn't really necessary for adults. This is the least invasive pancreatic surgery, less severe than a total pancreas removal or a Whipple procedure, which removes part of the stomach, small intestine, and other affected organs as well.

Surgery was scheduled for Oct. 26, the earliest date Dr. Shen had available on his schedule. Since this type tumor is very slow-growing and Dr. Shen wanted an endoscopic ultrasound and biopsy procedure done to make sure of the diagnosis before surgery, it seemed like a reasonable date.

Dr. Shen never used the word "cure" in discussing the treatment, but he did say that surgery followed by chemotherapy or radiation if necessary was the best course of action.

After thinking about the situation over the weekend, I called Dr. Perini on Monday to discuss the schedule with him. I wanted to do the surgery sooner rather than later. He agreed to call Dr. Shen and see if the surgery could be moved up. The next day they called to say it had been rescheduled for 10/20 pending the completion of the endoscopic ultrasound and biopsy procedure. We scheduled that procedure for Tuesday 10/11 and it went off very well.

They gave me the ultrasound results that day as a stage T3NOMX tumor and confirmed a day or so later that the biopsy confirmed the mass was an adenocarcinoma. That day or the next they called to see if I would be interested in moving surgery up to 10/17 and I said I would be.

I haven't talked about long-term prognosis with Dr. Shen, but Dr. Perini tells me that five-year survivability of pancreatic cancer is in the 20% range, so this isn't a good diagnosis. However, if truth be told, I'm not sure I expected much more than five-year survivability when I had cardiac bypass surgery six years ago, so maybe I'm ahead of the game.

From my discussions with Dr. Shen, I expected to surgery to be somewhat like the bypass surgery, with perhaps less risk in the actual operation but a more difficult recovery period. He said I'd be in the hospital for a week or so and have a several-week recovery period afterwards.

I wanted to wait until I had a better feel about the long-term prognosis before I told the world about my situation, so I had only mentioned this to my sisters and my closest friends and asked them to use their discretion in telling others. By last Saturday, however, I realized it would be better for me to tell the story than others to hear by rumor, so I sent out an e-mail announcement to my extended family and some other friends explaining the situation.

On Monday, accompanied by my sister Peggy (and surprised there by my friends Roy and Patsy Johnston), I was at Baptist Hospital at my appointed 11:30am time, expecting to be there for a week of so and then home for recovery. We waited until about 2:00, when Dr. Shen's associate came out to tell us that their first procedure of the day (which they had started at 7:30 am) still had three to five hours to go. He said if I preferred, I could wait and have my surgery when they finished that case, or we could reschedule for a later time. After some discussion back and forth, I thought I'd rather have fresh surgeon than one who had been working 10+ hours already. Besides, I hadn't eaten since 10:30 the previous evening and couldn't have anything to drink before the surgery. So we decided to reschedule. It was quite a let-down, but I'm confident it was the right decision.

When I called yesterday to reschedule the surgery, they said the first time they had available for a first-surgery-of-the-day appointment was November 10. I said I'd take it, but I asked them to see if they couldn't do better since I knew the long wait wasn't going to make my situation better.

After discussing the situation with Dr. Perini, I called this morning re-pleading my case to see what other alternatives might be available to get the operation done sooner (different surgeon, etc.) and I'm awaiting their reply.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

If College Football Were "Rasslin'"

From Tigernet comes the pointer that this week is a big one in the ACC: the National Football Belt is up for grabs in a big game on Saturday--Clemson Plays Florida State with the Belt on the line.

As the web site explains (follow the link and click on Belt Description), since college football doesn't have an actual championship game decided on the field, it needs a Championship Belt, like professional wrestling. When the belt-holder plays and wins, they keep the belt; if they lose, it passes to the winner.

Starting with the first college game between Princeton and Rutgers in 1869 to the present day, the belt is now worn by Clemson by virtue of their defeat of Auburn last week-end. The Belt is thus on the line again this week when Clemson plays FSU. Will the Tigers retain this mythical National Championship symbol?

I hope so. Go Tigers!

Friday, September 16, 2011

Things Seen and Unseen

I am familiar with the Broken Windows fallacy, but until this morning I had not read the essay from which comes, an 1850 essay by Frenchman Frédéric Bastiat. Wikipedia prints the full essay here, but a perhaps more readable version is here. It begins:

In the economic sphere an act, a habit, an institution, a law produces not only one effect, but a series of effects. Of these effects, the first alone is immediate; it appears simultaneously with its cause; it is seen. The other effects emerge only subsequently; they are not seen; we are fortunate if we foresee them.

There is only one difference between a bad economist and a good one: the bad economist confines himself to the visible effect; the good economist takes into account both the effect that can be seen and those effects that must be foreseen.

Yet this difference is tremendous; for it almost always happens that when the immediate consequence is favorable, the later consequences are disastrous, and vice versa. Whence it follows that the bad economist pursues a small present good that will be followed by a great evil to come, while the good economist pursues a great good to come, at the risk of a small present evil.

The essay has a number of subsections: the Broken Window; the Disbanding of Troops; Taxes; Theatres, Fine Arts; Public Works; the Intermediates; Restrictions; Machinery; Credit; Algeria; Frugality and Luxury; and He Who Has a Right to Work Has a Right to Profit.

I'm not an economist, but this sounds like good argument as to why many government economic measures don't work, particularly public works spending and tariffs.

I found the essay very interesting and worth the time it took to read. I'd be interested in looking at articles debunking Bastiat's thoughts.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Castles in the Sand

We didn't do any sand sculpting during our vacation at Holden Beach last week, but a couple of years ago niece Cathy and the kids did a pretty good mermaid--nothing professional, but good none-the-less. [Click to embiggen.]

We were a couple of years early. Yesterday, the Blogfather linked to this article in Popular Mechanics on building sand castles, and today the Wall Street Journal chimed in with this article.

Them are some pretty impressive sand castles. It puts us amateurs to shame.

Monday, May 02, 2011

Today In Baseball

Today, May 2, is quite a day in baseball history.

1876 In Cincinnati against the Redlegs, Chicago's Ross Barnes hits the first home run in the history of National League. The former National Association superstar also has, in addition to his inside-the-park homer, a single, a triple, two stolen bases and scores four runs.

1901 After the Tigers take the lead in the top of the inning at Chicago's South Side Park, the White Sox slow down the pace of the game in hopes the contest will be rained out. Umpire Tom Connolly is not impressed and forefits the game, the first in American league history, giving Detroit a 7-5 victory.

1920 The first game of National Negro Baseball League is played in Indianapolis when the hometown ABC's beat the Chicago Giants at Washington Park, 4-2. Schorling's Park, the home field of the Giants, will be unavailable for another month due to the occupation of the National Guard, stationed there as a result of the The Chicago Race Riot of 1919, prompting the delay of the inaugural season in the Windy City, a huge disappointment for the newly-formed league.

1930 In Des Moines, Iowa, a Western League contest against Wichita becomes the first night baseball game to be played under permanent lights. The unique event, which draws 12,000 fans instead of the usual 600 patrons, is the beginning of a concept which will spread quickly through the minors and spare many organizations from the on-slaught of the Great Depression.

1930 Due to 102 degree fever, Joe Sewell’s consecutive streak ends at 1,103 games when he doesn't appear in a game against the Red Sox at Fenway Park. The Indian shortstop, who hasn't missed a game since 1922, is only 204 games shy of the all-time record of 1,307 games set in 1925 by Yankee shortstop Everett Scott.

Nine years later:
1939 Prior to a game with the Tigers in Detroit, Lou Gehrig tells his manager, Joe McCarthy, that he is benching himself "for the good of the team". The Yankee legend's record streak, which began in 1925, ends at 2,130 consecutive games.

1954 In a twin bill at Sportsman's Park, eight-year old Nate Colbert watches Cardinals Stan Musial become the first major leaguer to hit five home runs in a doubleheader. In 1972, as a 26-year old Padres first baseman, he will become the only other major leaguer to repeat this feat.

1984 Don Mattingly's seventh inning single breaks up LaMarr Hoyt's perfect game bid. The lone hit, an opposite field blooper, is followed up by a double play and the White Sox hurler faces the minimum 27 batters defeating the Yankees, 3-0.

2008 Jose Reyes is thrown out at home plate in an unusual attempt to complete the cycle with an inside-the-park homer. The shortstop’s four hits pace the Mets 7-2 win over Diamondbacks, the club’s 14th victory in the last 15 games played against Arizona at Chase Field.

Read these and 28 0ther interesting facts at one of my favorite web sites: Today In Baseball History

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Notes on Old Movie Week

This past week was sort of Old Movie Week at my house. Last Sunday was India Night. I had friends over for take-out Indian food (from the open-under-new-management Tandoor India restaurant on W. Market St) and a showing of Slumdog Millionaire on Netflix DVD. Though a big fan of Indian cuisine, I hadn't been to Tandoor in several years, when it was Nikita. The food was excellent--as good or better than Saffron. We ordered a variety of entrees and shared, buffet style. I particularly liked the chicken shahi korma (made with boneless dark-meat chicken) and the wonderfully garlicky Garlic Nan.

I would not put Slumdog Millionaire at the top of my favorite movies list, but I can see why it has gotten so much critical acclaim. I'm glad we saw it on DVD, though. After watching the first few minutes and understanding little of the dialogue, we turned the English sub-titles on on the DVD and could easily understand the rest of the movie. Without sub-titles, I think we would have been lost for the rest of the show.

This is the second time sub-titles has saved a movie for me. I watched the BBC version of State of Play on DVD several weeks ago, and though it was supposedly in English, I had great difficulty understanding the accents. The English sub-titles on the DVD saved the day. As best I can determine, Netflix doesn't support sub-titles on watch-it-now movies. This could be a problem for some even "English language" movies.

I had missed the new True Grit movie the first time around. (I had even missed the old John Wayne version of many years ago.) Friday night I went with some friends to see it at the Sedgefield Crossings $1 theater. I enjoyed the show but was particularly surprised with the experience. The ambiance was nice though certainly not luxurious. There were more folks in the theater than had been in last half-dozen movies I have seen total. I think this isn't so much a theater as it's a popcorn stand with cheap movies attached. I enjoyed the experience and recommend it for movies you may have missed in their expensive showings the first time around.

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

Firefox 4 Upgrade Problem

Following the advice of my tech guru at the Wall Street Journal, I upgraded my Firefox browser the the latest version 4 this morning. Unfortunately that created an unforeseen problem: FF4 doesn't work with my password manager, Roboform (ver. 6). I'd have to upgrade to a new version of Roboform (at $10 or $30 or something--no thanks) So I had to uninstall FF4, find FF 3.6 on the web, download and install it. I couldn't find a downloaded version of FF3.6 on my computer. So this was a reminder to always SAVE a downloaded program rather than just INSTALL it, so I can easily re-install in the future if necessary.

Prior to uninstalling FF4 I tried to use Windows Restore function to take my computer back to before the FF4 install. The most recent restore point I had was a week or so ago (I know, I should have established a Restore Point before installing FF4). Restore was unable to do the restore function, so I was left with plan B. As Roseanne Roseannadanna said, "It's always something."

Saturday, March 19, 2011

It's Always High Noon on the Moon

Tonight will be the (pick one: biggest, brightest, closest) full moon in almost 20 years. A lot of guys will be out photographing it, so I thought I'd offer some advice for getting a properly exposed picture of the full moon. Most pictures of the full moon are overexposed--white discs with no surface detail. To get a properly exposed picture, remember the advice I got from The Nikon School traveling show back in the early 70's: it's always high noon on the moon.

This means that the proper exposure for a full-moon shot follows the Sunny 16 rule: the proper exposure for a sunny day is f/16 aperture and a shutter speed of 1/the ISO setting (1.e. 1/100 for ISO=100). So, for tonight, put your camera on manual mode and set the film-speed/sensitivity/whatever to 100, set the aperture to f/16 and the shutter speed to 1/100 sec. You can, of course, use any equivalent setting.

As was point out when I made this suggestion on The Online Photographer blog several months ago, this is only an approximation. The moon is actually a dark gray color (the color of coal, as the Greensboro Daily Photo pointed out) so the applicable rule is more-nearly the Sunny 13 rule, but in today's digital world, either will get you close enough for your first try. (Do remember that a newly rising moon will be darker than an overhead moon so exposure will be different for each position.) Good luck and good shooting.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Why "The King's Speech" Lost the Oscar?

I'm expecting The King's Speech" to win the Best Picture Oscar Sunday night. If it doesn't, this might be the reason: two weeks ago Joe Morgenstern, the Wall Street Journal's movie critic revealed the following story:

With "The King's Speech" gaining the Oscar traction it deserves—the latest boost being an expression of approval from Queen Elizabeth—I can't resist going public with a story that I've relished telling to friends, and to the people who made the movie. Several weeks before it opened, I had a conversation with Rupert Murdoch, who popped a question familiar to movie critics: What should he see?

I suggested "The King's Speech," and, not wanting to spoil it with too many details, gave a shorthand description: Colin Firth as King George VI, who has a terrible stutter, and Geoffrey Rush as a raffish Australian speech therapist.

Yes, he replied, Lionel Logue.

"So you know the story."

Not the story of the movie, he said. "Lionel Logue saved my father's life."

When I responded with speechlessness, he explained that his father, as a young man, wanted passionately to be a newspaper reporter, but couldn't interview people because he stuttered. Then he met Lionel Logue, who cured him in less than a year.

I don't know when exactly the votes were cast, but I can imagine that a lot of Hollywood types would find it very difficult to vote for a movie about a man who played a significant role in Rupert Murdoch's life and success.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Joining the 21st Century

I joined the 21st century in home entertainment this week. I replaced the 22-yr-old TV set in my den/sitting room with a new internet-capable flat-screen TV and Blu-ray DVD player. I'd like to share several observations:

The Shopping Experience. I'm not much of a shopper. I went to two big-box stores, Best Buy and H.H. Gregg, and got good help and advice from both. Both came up with the same basic suggestions for what I needed and prices were similar. I checked both companies' web sites and was surprised to find Best Buy's web prices seemed to be $100-$200 (on a $1,600 purchase) less than the in-store price. The Best Buy salesman said he didn't work on commission, so I wondered where the difference came from.

I bought from H.H. Gregg. I opted for the 12-mo.-free-credit offer. We'll see if that turns out to be a mistake.

The Setting-Up Experience. In trying to learn about what I needed to do to get my cable service into the 21st century as well, I had a lot of trouble getting in touch with the cable folks ( at TWC). I visited the local office twice in person but both times there was a long line for counter service so I didn't wait. I phoned several times but could never get through to a person. There were several frustrating tries, but that's another story. I finally googled "time warner" and tried one of those ads on the right-hand-side of the screen for something like "" and, after another long trip through voice-mail got connected with a person who could answer my questions and, finally, set up an appointment to install digital cable. Because of the circuitous route of getting to TWC, I wondered if I had fallen victim to some sort of phishing scam, but the installation went off as planned on Sunday afternoon.

The TWC installer was on-time and got the system up-graded with a minimum of fuss. He was quite competent in the TWC equipment but didn't offer much help in other areas: best way to connect the DVD player, how to connect to Netflix or the internet, or other non-TWC direct issues. He gave the barest instructions on using the DVR and none on other features part of the system. After he left I plunged in and tried to make sense of things. Early in the installation he had asked me where I wanted the cable box located and I pointed to the side of the TV opposite where the DVD was. This turned out to be in front of the remote sensor for the TV, which I didn't realize until after he had left and I was working through some or the how-to-use-everything issues. I'd have thought he should have been aware of this problem and warned me of it.

The First Few Days. I had set up the TV using my old cable service prior the digital upgrade, and had come across a couple of issues (the question of aspect ratios primarily), but managing the greatly increased number of channels is still an open question.

I got the system connected to Netflix with a minimum of problems and was able to set up instant viewing through my in-house router without a problem. It took a call to my nephew to solve a couple of non-intuitive Netflix issues, but that system seems to be working well.

I had to call TWC customer service to get help in setting up DVR recording, but they got me on the right path and I was able to test-record several programs on Monday. Playing-back those programs presented a problem when the fast-forward and rewind features didn't appear to work properly (they moved at 15-min increments rather than slowly or by seconds). Another call to TWC customer service couldn't resolve the problem so they scheduled a technician visit for Thursday. I thought that was prompt service.

Continuing issues. I still have several continuing issues:

1. Managing the greatly increased number of possible channels is a problem. (Remember the Confucian proverb "He who has a choice has trouble".) The TWC customer service rep advised that the technician could help me with setting up the Favorite Channels feature (which we couldn't find while I was on the phone with them. I subsequently found it but it seems pretty lame and difficult to set-up).

2. I haven't been able to get the DVD player (actually a "home entertainment reliever") to connect with my computer to access my library of .mp3 music and play-lists.

3. I haven't been able figure out how to connect to Hulu, YouTube, or other internet video sources. Maybe another trip out to talk with the salesman at H.H. Gregg will help. Any other suggestions?

4. I don't like the Three Remotes issue (Cable, TV, DVD). My next step is to try to get the cable remote to operate the DVD. If it will turn the DVD player on and off and control the basic playing functions, that will be a help, but moving from cable to internet and back to cable is harder than I wish it was.

5. The new system presents some new furniture problems. The old entertainment center I had made to hold the TV and related stereo equipment is obsolete, as is most of the old equipment (speakers, receiver, cassette player, maybe VCR player). I look forward to replacing this with a 21st century solution (or maybe an 18th century solution).

Overall the process has been very positive so far. I'm impressed with the quality of the HD picture on the TV channels and with the surround sound of the DVD player. I haven't tried a blu-ray disk yet, but regular dvd's look great! I love the convenience of Netflix instant viewing. I wish there were more choices, but I haven't been able to watch all the ones on my current list so I haven't needed more choice yet. My one-DVD-at-a-time Netflix subscription isn't perfect, but so far turnaround time has been very good: return DVD today and get a replacement in two business days.

I hope the positive experiences continue.

Saturday, January 08, 2011

My, How Times Have Changed

On the 76th anniversary of Elvis Pressley's birth, Scott Johnson of Powerline has posted an account of a notable event in Elvis's life: the day in 1970 he met with President Nixon in the Oval Office.

When I read the story, I was struck by several interesting details in the story, including Elvis giving money to servicemen and Elvis hugging Nixon. This struck me as particularly notable:
"California Senator George Murphy was coincidentally on the flight from Los Angeles to Washington. Elvis sought out Murphy back in tourist to enlist his assistance. . . ."
Can you imagine a US Senator flying in Tourist Class from LA to DC today? That would be almost unbelievable.

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

What a Crock of . . .

When the arrest of Thomasville city manager Kelly Craver came to light yesterday, I thought arrest was a significant over-reaction for a minor misdemeanor (Is "minor misdemeanor" redundant?). Today Piedmont Publicus provides more background. This seems like fodder for my internet BFF Radley Balco or a subject for a Garrison Keillor "Worst Case Scenario" where a guy is quietly sharing a joint with a friend at the friend's house and the next thing he knows his is under arrest and out of a job.

I appreciate that we need laws to protect us from miscreants, but one of the reasons we pay police officers and prosecutors is to exercise some judgment in how strictly to enforce "laws". We give them considerable power but expect it will be used wisely. I guess we are lucky that during the time the deputy took to deal with Mr. Craver something bad didn't happen on that 911 hang-up the deputy was investigating.

This is a perfect time for the Thomasville city council to: (1) send Mr. Craver a letter reminding him he should not be committing misdemeanors, even in the privacy of a friend's home; (2) send the sheriff a letter reminding him that his deputies are expected to show some judgment in doing their jobs and pursuing a pot-smoker into his home on the basis of suspecting smelling marijuana smoke is not a good use of police resources; and (3) send the county district attorney a letter noting that there are more important things for the Davidson County justice system to do than pursue citizens committing victimless misdemeanors in their homes.

For the rest of us, it is a reminder of how important it is to practice using the critical phrase for innocent folks when dealing with law enforcement officers: "I do not submit to searches." If you question the wisdom of this advice, consider the case of Mr. Craver.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

And a Merry Christmas to All!

Merry Christmas to all!

Here are some images from the way-back machine: Christmas at the Earle's house in 1949. Does anything look out-of-date about this picture compared to this year's Christmas at your house?

. . . and the 1949 "Earl-e Edition" Christmas card: The 1949 Annual Report of the Earles:

The Cover:

The annual report opened with a message from management and review of the year (click to enlarge each):
followed by a financial statement:

then an In Memoriam and Officers and Directors:

followed by a discussion of Inventories and Affiliates:

This brings back a lot of family memories.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

The Man

I missed Stan Musial's 90th birthday on Sunday, but Paul Mirengoff at Powerline blog didn't. He cited this article "90 Things to Love About The Man" which outlines some of Stan's accomplishments on and off the diamond. I thought this was eyeopening:
#63 • We know where Musial ranks in assorted career hitting categories today, nearly 50 years after his retirement. But at the time of his retirement, he was first in MLB history in extra-base hits, first in triples, second in hits, second in doubles, first in games, first in at-bats, third in runs, fourth in RBIs, sixth in homers and ninth in slugging percentage.

I played golf with Stan at the Duke Children's Classic back in 1985, and I can attest that he is as nice a man as everyone says he is.

Two Great Hitters

Lil and Stan Musial

Friday, November 12, 2010

Instapundit is Wrong!

And so is In a post about how cats drink, the Blogfather links to this article in They are wrong. Here is how cats actually do it (well worth sitting through the commercial if it comes up).

Thursday, November 11, 2010

A Veterans Day Thank You to "The Real Army"

I appreciate everyone who has expressed gratitude towards veterans today, but as a somewhat veteran, I'd like to take this opportunity to thank the army.

My active duty time in the army was a two-year tour at Aberdeen Proving Ground in 1966-68. I had first been introduced to the army in ROTC starting as a freshman at Clemson in 1960, and I had 4 years of ROTC "Military Science" studies at Clemson before getting my commission as a new 2LT in 1964. After a year of graduate school and a year working, I reported to Aberdeen Proving Ground, Md. in June, 1968. After a couple of months of army schooling at APG (where they tried to teach me to be a motor pool commander), I was assigned there for a year (I thought) before being re-assigned to a motor pool in Vietnam.

At Aberdeen I worked at what was essentially a civilian job in the Development and Proof Services of the Army Material Command. There were several other 2LTs and a couple of enlisted soldiers there doing basically the same thing as the various civilian engineers were doing, except we wore uniforms. I was in the artillery ammunition section and spent two years managing various test programs for new and improved ammunition components. Some projects were quite interesting: a test of the then-new "beehive" round for close-in artillery battery defense; tests to determine the cause of recent "in-bore prematures" (shells exploding in the gun barrel) in 175mm guns in Vietnam; and reliability tests on WW2 proximity fuses that had been in storage for 20 years and were being withdrawn for use in Southeast Asia. Other projects were more routine: testing new batches of artillery propellant for actual strength so propellant charges could be produced with consistent performance; and firing new types of shells to gather data so the army could generate "firing tables" at the Ballistic Research Labs at APG, one of the first uses of computers begun back in the 1940's.

But the real benefit of my army service wasn't the day-to-day work I did. It was the numerous "extra duties" the army assigned junior officers. Some seemed routine, but all were very educational.

While in school, I served as "duty officer" in one of the companies of enlisted soldiers being trained at Aberdeen for the Ordnance Corps. I served overnight and week-end duties when the regular officers were off duty. One memorable evening included one trooper returning from the enlisted men's club with serious wounds after a fight with broken beer bottles, and another young soldier half-heartedly trying to commit suicide by cutting his wrists (sort-of scratching them actually, but there was still a lot of blood).

Later, I was assigned duty as the Central Post Fund Custodian and supervised two civilian employees who administered all the funds for the non-appropriated recreation activities on post (swimming pool, golf course, bowling alley, movie theater, etc) with a budget of several hundred thousand dollars.

I served as host officer for several days for a group of Mexican Army senior officers visiting the post. That was a fun duty. (I may still have some of the bottle of tequila they gave me--I'm not much of a tequila drinker.).

I served as Survivor's Assistance Officer for a young pregnant widow in southeastern Pennsylvania whose husband had been killed in Vietnam. I attended the funeral with a bugler from the APG post band and then spent a day taking her to the various government offices to make sure she got signed up for all the benefit she was entitled and to ensure there were no problems with any the agencies (VA, SSA, etc.) It was very heartening to see the respect the folks in those various civil services paid to her and to my uniform.

The Army expects its junior officers to perform these extra duties with a minimum of supervision, but there was always someone available to make sure you didn't screw up too much. It was a level of challenge and responsibility that most 24-yr-olds don't get.

I don't know how I could ever have gotten that kind of experience anywhere else. For that I thank the army.

The Real Army

I never got those orders to Vietnam. I spent my entire two years at Aberdeen. I say I was defending Baltimore harbor from the Viet Cong and did a damn fine job. They didn't get within 8,000 miles of the place.

At the end of my army tour there were some two dozen of us Ordnance Corps lieutenants who had entered the army at the same time and had spent our full two-year-tours at APG. We decided to have a farewell party for our civilian co-workers and military chain of command, including the post commander. We arranged a nice cocktail party and dinner at the Officer's Club, and I think a great time was had by all. (There were some adult beverages served.) At the close of the evening, one of my cohorts, 1LT Tom Watson, (an engineer from Oshkosh, not the golfer from Kansas City) stood up and said he wanted to say something about the real army.

Tom said he'd been introduced to the army as a college freshman in junior ROTC. In one of his early classes a sergeant had told his class of cadets to enjoy their junior ROTC, because when they enrolled in senior ROTC and went to Summer Camp, they'd see what the real army was like.

Tom said he had enjoyed junior ROTC. He had enrolled in senior ROTC and gone to Summer Camp. There, on maybe the first night, a captain had gotten all the cadets together in one of the barracks to explain just what was going happen at camp. He told them to enjoy their six weeks there because when they got their commissions and permanent duty assignments, they'd see what the real army was like.

Tom said he did enjoy his summer camp experience, and when he was commissioned he reported to the Basic Ordnance Officer's School at Aberdeen. There, on the first class day, a Captain had told the new lieutenants to enjoy their basic and advanced training because when that was over, they'd get permanent assignments and see what the real army was like.

Tom said he did enjoy his schooling at APG and then got a permanent assignment there as well. Early in his Aberdeen tour he had made his requisite courtesy call on the post commander, as all officers do, and after some polite chit-chat the colonel told him to enjoy his year at Aberdeen because he was going to Vietnam in his second year, and he'd see what the real army is like.

Tom said he hadn't gotten those orders to Vietnam but had spent his entire time at Aberdeen. Now he was going home to Wisconsin, and he could just see it: In a couple of weeks he'd report to his new army reserve assignment. There, on the first night, the commanding officer would call him into his office, sit him down, and say, " I'm glad you're here lieutenant. We've got some work to do. It's just you, me, and 120 new guys out there, and you and I are the only ones who know what the real army is like!"

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Is This What a Phish Looks Like?

Yesterday I got this e-mail from my bank.

I thought it might be prudent to check on my password (which I have stored in a password-manager program so I don't know off hand what it is). When I clicked on the link, my browser vomited:

I closed the link without going further and forwarded the e-mail to as SunTrust requests. I got an automated reply right back but haven't heard a real response yet. I figure it is some phishing expedition, but it did look real enough for me to take the first step to destruction. I hope Firefox stopped me appropriately.

I got a similar warning a couple of days ago when I clicked through on a link in a comment on to a web site which I just abandoned. Does anyone know if Firefox is just being very picky, or might these sites represent real danger?

Saturday, October 30, 2010

You Might Be an Intellectual If . . .

. . . you read a news article about a plane crash caused by an escaped crocodile and think the most remarkable thing about it is that it contains an ungrammatical sentence construction.
(Check out this item from the most recent World Wide Words e-magazine that Michael Quinion publishes every week.
• Peter Smith read an item on Sky News, dated 22 October (Laurence May found the same piece on Yahoo! News), about a plane crash in the Congo that killed 20 people, including the pilot, Chris Wilson: “Generally viewed as being in a chronic state of disrepair, Mr Wilson had apparently expressed concern about the Czech-built Let-410 before the crash.”

I enjoy the World Wide Words newsletter each week and recommend you subscribe. It's free, so the price is right.

Thursday, October 07, 2010

Where Soldiers Come From: Setting the Record Straight

On Tuesday, Richard Florida with the Atlantic magazine posted an article commenting on a speech Secretary of Defense Gates gave at Duke last week. Florida wrote
"The social divisions of class and inequality have always run through the military. Fighting forces have long been drawn disproportionately from lower-income, lower-skilled, and more economically disadvantaged populations."
I believe this is absolutely wrong! An article from the Heritage Foundation published in 2008 says:
"Based on an understanding of the limitations of any objective definition of quality, this report compares military volunteers to the civilian population on four demographic characteristics: household income, education level, racial and ethnic background, and regional origin. This report finds that:

"1. U.S. military service disproportionately attracts enlisted personnel and officers who do not come from disadvantaged backgrounds. Previous Heritage Foundation research demonstrated that the quality of enlisted troops has increased since the start of the Iraq war. This report demonstrates that the same is true of the officer corps.

"2. Members of the all-volunteer military are significantly more likely to come from high-income neighborhoods than from low-income neighborhoods . . . .

" 3. American soldiers are more educated than their peers . . . .

" 4. Contrary to conventional wisdom, minorities are not overrepresented in military service . . . .

"The facts do not support the belief that many American soldiers volunteer because society offers them few other opportunities. The average enlisted person or officer could have had lucrative career opportunities in the private sector. Those who argue that American soldiers risk their lives because they have no other opportunities belittle the personal sacrifices of those who serve out of love for their country."
See the linked article for the parts that were omitted (the . . .'s) in the interest of brevity. There is plenty of data and a number of charts to back up the above conclusions. I'm wondering where Florida came up with his facts from.

I left a comment last night asking if the author could resolve the apparent contradiction between his statement and the linked study, but the comment isn't posted yet. I believe it is still awaiting moderator approval, so perhaps the Atlantic is preparing an answer for me. At any rate, I wanted to post a response to these commonly held opinions that don't seem to agree with the facts.

Thursday, September 09, 2010

Fifty Years Ago--My Rat Season

One of my great adventures in life began 50 years ago this week: I left home for Clemson College. I don't recall the exact date, but I believe it was Saturday after Labor Day since colleges started later then. My mother and sister drove me to Clemson with what of my possessions would fit in the back of our car (I'd shipped a foot-locker of clothes by bus the previous day), and I began my journey to adulthood. (I hope I arrive sometime soon.)

My first surprise on getting to Clemson was to find my roommate was someone I didn't expect. The college had assigned me a roommate, but that fellow had found another roommate, so I had George Sidroney, a Yankee from Metuchen, NJ, but we got along great.

George before Rat Season Started

I knew only one other person at Clemson that fall, a high school classmate, Fred Cleaves, so everyone I met that fall and everything I did was new. Every day was a new adventure. Only for the first week or so in the Army have I had so many new experiences all at one time.

Clemson had a very active "Rat" program for freshmen back then. It began right after each student got his freshman picture made for the school yearbook and lasted, traditionally, until the Clemson-South Carolina football game. Every freshman got his head shaved and had to wear a Rat Hat (beanie) at all times when on campus outside the dorms. Further, each "Rat" could be called on by upperclassmen to lead cheers in the dining hall during all meals. Punishment for Rat infractions was meted out by a Rat Court and could include having a Block C being shaved in whatever hair had grown back on the offenders head since the start of Rat Season.

My Rat Haircut

Fred Cleaves and me in our Rat Hats

Rat Season traditionally ended after the Clemson-USC football game if the Tigers won (and lasted until Thanksgiving if we lost), but 1960 was a problem because that was the first year the Big Game was played at the end of the season (rather than at the State Fair in mid-October), so the 1960 Rats were not happy about the additional several weeks of Rat Season.

Getting Our War Paint on

Ready to defend the campus.

The last Rat tradition of the year was for all Rats to paint their faces and join a student militia defense force to guard the campus before the Big Game with USC. I did my Rat duty and joined in the defense, staying out all night protecting our honor, but I must admit that more than once that night the phrase "Snipe Hunt" crossed my mind.

In the retrospection of 50 years, it is easy to see the good that Rat Season did. In addition to building an esprit from shared sacrifice, it allowed all incoming freshmen to start on an even (bald) field with each other. Without hair as an influence it was much easier to get to know guys as they really were, rather than being influenced by hair style.

We all survived Rat Season. For most, our hair grew back (though for some it was a temporary process), but the spirit we learn in those three months was permanent. I kept my Rat Hat handy for 45 years. I could probably even find it today.

The Old Rat Speaks in 2004

Thursday, September 02, 2010

Theoretical Physicst Joke of the Day

Werner Heisenberg is stopped by a traffic cop who asks: "Do you know how fast you were going?" Heisenberg replies: "No, but I know exactly where I am."
I don't know much about physics, but this made me smile. (From my IBFF, third item). More info here.

Monday, August 23, 2010

The Best Job in the World!

Jeremy Clarkson has the best job in the world. First, consider this:

"More powerful than a McLaren F1" (2:00); " . . . the fastest road car in the world." (2:30); "It's just a ton-and-a-half of testosterone" (5:14)
Then, there's this:

"Sweet Mother of God this is fast!" (:20) and "Faster than the top speed of an Apache helicopter gunship!" (2:30).
Do jobs get any better than this?

Monday, August 16, 2010

When President Reagan Visited Greensboro Printing Company

One of my favorite bloggers, Ann Althouse, had a post today about a recent visit President Obama made to her home state of Wisconsin. I was reminded of the time President Reagan visited Greensboro Printing Company (well, sort of). It was a short visit in 1986, lasting only a couple of seconds in each direction on his way between the airport to a speech at the coliseum, but the GPC folks enjoyed the break and the chance to pay their respects. See some old pictures here.

I just had to join the ranks of the infamous AlthouseCommentors.

The Answer is "Chickensh**". What Is the Question?


Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Best Kicker Headline of the Day: "Of Ire and Brimstone"

From my IBFF, this: "Churchgoers, strippers protest one another".

Every weekend for the last four years, Dunfee and members of his ministry have stood watch over George's joint, taking up residence in the right of way with signs, video cameras and bullhorns in hand. They videotape customers' license plates and post them online, and they try to save the souls of anyone who comes and goes.

Now, the dancers have turned the tables, so to speak. Fed up with the tactics of Dunfee and his flock, they say they have finally accepted his constant invitation to come to church.

It's just that they've come wearing see-through shorts and toting Super Soakers.

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

Where All That BP Oil Is

There seems to be some concern about where all the oil from the BP oil spill/leak in the Gulf of Mexico has gone. ABC News's report is here. I have a thought: maybe there just isn't that much oil to find. I did some figuring this morning. The EPA tells us that the Gulf of Mexico contains 6.43 x 1017 or 643 quadrillion gallons of water. The spill is said to be 200 million gallons (200 x 106 gallons). By my math, that comes to about three gallons of oil in every 109 (billion) gallons of water. Let's say for the sake argument that the spill area is only a thousandth of the Gulf. That makes the concentration in the spill area about 3 parts per million (ppm). The current legal EPA limit for oil discharge into the ocean is 15ppm--five times this calculated concentration. It looks like there just wasn't much oil in the spill/leak to begin with, so maybe it isn't missing.

Sunday, August 01, 2010

"The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo"

I finished the book The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo this afternoon. I enjoyed it, and it wasn't at all what I expected. I agree with James Lileks' critique:
What began as a book that was either banal in execution or banal in translation, or both, ended up as a book where these deficiencies didn’t matter at all, thanks to the headlong rush of the story. I also enjoyed the sheer Swedishness of it all, whatever that means.

It did take almost half the book before the plot really took off, but it was well worth the effort. The book does make one wish he knew more about Sweden, particularly the geography. Now to see the movie and see how close the two are.

Extreme Photographic Time Exposures

My Internet BFF today had an article about some lovely photographic time exposures. I don't do much with time exposures because they generally require a tripod, which is too much trouble to carry most of the time. These are beautiful photographs and you'll enjoy seeing them. For example:


By SergioTudela

This gorgeous sunset over the Mediterranean on Andalusia's Costa del Sol was captured on a Nikon D80 with an exposure of five seconds, creating the delicate fluff of the blurred waves and the deep colouration of the sky and clouds.

On Friday, John Nack of Adobe Systems linked to some time exposures of a different scale. These use a pinhole camera and have exposure times of up to several years.

When I attended the Nikon School thirty years ago, the instructors said the least expensive photographic accessory was film, so they advised taking a lot of pictures. I suppose that is not an option for someone taking a year-long time exposure.

With the cost of "film" today virtually zero, it is easy to take a lot of pictures. Now we must remember the Nikon School advice on the easiest way to be a better photographer: "Don't Show All Your Pictures". It does take some discipline to put the not-so-good ones in a separate folder and only show the good ones, even if they didn't take a year to make.