Archive for November, 2008

30
Nov
08

Of Antlers and Progress

Two completely unrelated stories are running around my brain this morning. The first is the story of how a tame captive deer was slaughtered in a Houston-area park. This past Monday night, a poacher or poachers killed and decapitated a tame white-tailed buck that lived in a small enclosure on Bear Creek Pioneers Park in western Harris County. That only the head was taken shows the motive. The criminal(s) wanted the antlers. And Mr. Buck, the naive deer in the pen, had an impressive set. High-sweeping main beams and abnormally long-brow tines made him a target. I have seen Mr. Buck on many occasions and marveled at how he managed to make children and adults smile. And now he is gone.

The second is to wonder how far we have come in the United States. We have elected a black man to be President and he has chosen his female political rival to be Secretary of State. I wonder how the rest of the world will view our progressive accomplishments?

These stories are unrelated but exist in the same “space” in my brain. We’ve come so far, yet exhibit such callous stupidity.

29
Nov
08

Revenge Toy!

I was first introduced to the gadgets above at the Knob Creek Machinegun Shoot. It’s sorta like a gun show totally amped up on every steroid available to man or beast. But just like any other show for enthusiasts, the exhibitors have a standard litany of complaints. At gun shows, the complaints are actually few, but rather universally felt:

  • The foreplay folks. These are folks that are just coming to gawk. That, by itself, would be fine. A lot of exhibitors actually like to show off their cool stuff and talk about it. But a lot of these lookie-loo’s like to pick up, fondle, caress, work and maw the rather expensive firearms with no intention of buying and no thought of asking permission first. “Please do not handle without permission” signs are particularly ineffective against this group as they most likely cannot read. I actually heard a vendor, on the last day of a grueling show, finally lose his cool. A middle aged armchair commando type had spent nearly 30 minutes pawing and working the action back and forth on a rather expensive machinegun. The vendor finally lost it and asked the guy “You gonna keeep on finger f@ckin’ that gun or are you gonna man up and sleep with it?”.
  • Backpackers. Not hippie backpackers but the folks who feel the need to bring an enormous backpack full of stuff that weighs 90 pounds and take up the space of a large child. Curiously, the folks who have these backpacks tend to the portly side, but I digress. These folks have a habit of going from table to table, taking off the backpack and setting it down and then swinging the backpack back up onto their backs or shoulders upon departure. Lather, rinse, repeat. Unfortunately, as stated, these backpacks are big (along with their owners) and the shows are usually crowded. That means either somebody is gonna get whacked every time that backpack swings or merchandise on display is gonna get toppled, scratched and nicked up. Murfled apologies of “sorry dude” when the backpack just knocked over a rifle/scope combo into another display causing a need for $200 worth of finish repair don’t quite suffice.
  • Kids. God bless ’em. Really. But do not take little irresponsible kids to gun shows. Especially when you cannot keep your little kiddies corralled and under control. We don’t wanna spend a half hour listening to how our gun was used by The Rock in Doom, The Movie. We can’t sell guns to kids, remember? And folks who do want to buy guns really do not want to hear a kid prattling on and distracting us. And then there are the kids who think that gun shows are their own personal toy box. These are not toys. You do not need to touch every item on the table, especially since you forgot wipe off the cheesy nachos and chili from your hands. Setting boundaries for your child is your job. That’s where the revenge toy comes in.

Some friends of mine regulary work the show circuit and they had a pair of the toys poictured above set out on their table. Almost without fail, the toys held more fascination for the little miscreants than the guns. Ah, cool. Protection by a throw down distraction! But wait, there’s more. These are remote control futuristic tanks that can “shoot” each other. And when your tank gets shot, you get shocked. There are two settings. One of those setting levels will most definitely get your attention. My set arrives today from ThinkGeek. Click the picture to get your own pair…

29
Nov
08

Death Threat Spam

Spam had actually slowed down a bit when that bad old bot net was taken off line. But it’s back with a vengeance. The congealed sludge river of spam now flows at its normal pace and mailboxes are clogged with amazing ease again. Efforts continue to shut down the command and control servers, but this is the Internet equivalent of playing whack-a-mole. There will always be somebody willing to host this ridiculous activity because there is money involved. And there are millions of compromised machines out there because too many folks are too stupid to operate their computers safely (for themselves and others). So the casino spam, the at home typer spam, the mortgage spam, the Nigerian scam spam,  the debt liquidation spam, the boob enlargement spam… all of it is now flowing at full force. Got a new one today in 12 of my mailboxes. A new level of gross:

I felt very sorry and bad for you, that your life is going to end like this if you don’t comply, i was paid to eliminate you and I have to do it  within 10 days.

Someone you call your friend wants you dead by all means, and the person have spent a lot of money on this, the person also came to us and told us that he wants you dead and he provided us your names, photograph and other necessary information we needed about you. If you are in doubt with this I will send you your name and where you are residing in my next mail.

Meanwhile, I have sent my boys to track you down and they have carried out the necessary investigation needed for the operation, but I ordered them to stop for a while and not to strike immediately because I just felt something good and sympathetic about you. I decided to contact you first and know why somebody will want you dead by all means. Right now my men are monitoring you, their eyes are on you, and even the place you think is safer for you to hide might not be.

Now do you want to LIVE OR DIE? It is up to you. Get back to me now if you are ready to enter deal with me, I mean life trade, who knows, and I might just spear your life, $8,000 is all you need to spend. You will first of all pay
$3,000 then I will send the tape of the person that want you dead to you and when the tape gets to you, you will pay the remaining $5,000. If you are not ready for my help, then I will have no choice but to carry on the assignment after all I have already being paid before now.

Warning: do not think of contacting the police or even tell anyone because I will extend it to any member of your family since you are aware that somebody want you dead, and the person knows some members of your family as well.

For your own good I will advise you not to go out once is 7pm until I make out time to see you and give you the tape of my discussion with the person who want you dead then you can use it to take any legal action. Good luck as I await your
reply to this e-mail contact:( akajackbrown1960@gmail.com )

Mr.Jack Brown.

27
Nov
08

Government Bailout

I was reading MorningNewsBeat and saw Kevin’s blurb on the Washington Post report that the number of Food Stamp users is poised to set a record, surpassing 30 million. We (as in the government on behalf of taxpayers) have recently doled out industry bailouts to the tune of $5 trillion+. A commonly heard personal refrain is “Where’s my bailout?”… If you look hard enough, it’s probably already out there waiting for you. You probably already qualify for some kind of government remuneration. If auto industry execs can head to Congress with at in hand to ask for billions and billions, while flying their private corporate jet to the begging, why can’t you spend a little time with Google to see what you qualify for. You’d probably be surprised.

27
Nov
08

Cat+Jalapeno No Video

Our fat black cat, who would surely try to convince you that she hasn’t been fed in at least six years (she’s two), just tried to munch a bit of fresh jalapeno that had dropped onto the kitchen floor. Lick, lick, lick… eyes very wide, head violently shaking back and forth and then bolting back and forth across the house. That’s another thing to cross off my list of things to see. Sorry that there is no photographic evidence.

27
Nov
08

Back To Normal

Last Thursday or Friday I started with a splitting sinus deal. Then coughing, sneezing… Well, the head cold kind of descended and became, umm, gastric in nature. Yesterday was the first day that anything consumed did not generate an immediate expulsion urge. Good thing, too, because I was really in need of something more substantial than popsicles and soup. This morning, I even felt like having a cup of coffee (said in my best Eddie Izzard voice). And the coffee did its thing and there was no disaster or, uh, distress/discomfort. Huzzah. And now I shall torture my body with Thanksgiving feasting. The flu is gone!

27
Nov
08

Right To Work?

Hurricane Ike caused a lot of damage to Southeast Texas. The island communities, such as Galveston, were hit particularly hard. Most of the island was wiped out and many have yet to return. Especially hard hit was the University of Texas Medical Branch, John Sealy hospital. It’s a huge service provider and a huge employer. Ike caused an estimated $710 million in damage to UTMB, putting John Sealy Hospital temporarily out of business and saddling the medical school with a $40 million monthly payroll that included many with no jobs to return to. The UT regents authorized the layoff of 3,800 employees two weeks ago to cut UTMB’s losses and the administration laid off 3,000 over a five-day period that ended Monday.

That sucks. But is reasonable and prudent. I really do feel sorry for the folks getting laid off, but if there is no operational facility (they cannot maintain hospital status in many categories because of the damage), the patient base is severly curtailed (the reduced number of folks on the island provide a smaller base and that base cannot fully use the impaired facility), and, more importantly, the income stream used to pay the employees is gone… well, cutbacks are inevitable. It appears as if the laid off workers are being given 60 days of pay… being paid until the January 19th end of the line. Now, some of those who received notices are pissed. Why? Because they have to… wait for it… keep working until the 19th of January. Those workers think it is unfair that they have to do work (the facility isn’t completely shut down) until the 19th while others do not. In addition, UTMB is completely restructuring the administration and staffing and offering re-application to those who were laid off.

I’m trying to wrap my head around all of this. UTMB doesn’t have the money to continue full staffing. It’s going to take a good bit to fix the nearly 3/4 of a billion dollars in damage to the facility and the UT regents are acting in a fiscally prudent manner with state/taxpayer money to mitigate losses. They follow all the employment rules and regulations and even establish a program for re-hiring folks as the facility emerges from damage. I somehow get the feeling that these workers and their union leaders want their employer to just continue paying them for not working. It wasn’t the worker’s fault that a hurricane hit. It wasn’t the worker’s fault that there isn’t enough resource to continue operation. I get the feeling that they want to continue getting paid full boat until the hospital is completely back on line. Umm, no. Apply for unemployment benefits and start looking for a new job. While you are looking for a new job, you can collect a check every two weeks… after your mandatory waiting period ends after your last paycheck (which will be January 19th; this in known as payment in lieu of notice). I think the max that you can collect is $378 per week.

Let’s say that I owned a small coffee shop on Galveston Island that had six employees. The shop got leveled by the hurricane and there’s nothing left of my business. I intend to rebuild, but for now, I have no customers and no way to serve them. I let my six employees go and tell them to come back and re-apply when I get the shop rebuilt. Is there some moral or legal code that says I have to continue paying those six employees until the shop is rebuilt and reopened? How is this any different from what happened to UTMB?