The stars at night are big and bright...

The stars at night are big and bright...
The stars at night are big and bright...

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

The Return of Awful Karaoke!


I refuse to let this bit die. Deal with it.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Ghosts Of Christmas Past

I've probably told this story before but it bears repeating. 

In a time long ago in a land not that far away, I was a young newlywed Father-to-be with a full head of hair. It was the first Christmas with the new In-Laws and we had family Christmas dinner at MeMaw and PawPaw's.

Fish  out  of  water.

I did my best to suppress the full blown panic attack simmering just below the surface and be the charming (yet shy) new addition to the family. Things are going pretty smooth and the meal is fantastic. Nobody cooks like a MeMaw... nobody!

I'm digging thru my second savory helping of turkey, ham, yams and dressing when PawPaw suddenly decides now's the perfect time to make a public announcement that he's giving me his prized gamecock as a Christmas gift.

Uh.... what?

Honestly, up to this point in time I had never exhibited any interest, or slightest desire to participate in bloodsports. To be quite honest the whole idea struck me as backwoods, barbaric and inhumane. This was LONG before Michael Vick. How could I tell PawPaw my true feelings at his Christmas dinner table in front of the whole clan!

Awkwarrrrrd.

I did my best "Oh it's too much" and "I don't know what I'm doing" routine, but he would hear nothing of it. PawPaw was bound and determined to make me a champion cockfighter! I finally had to drop the charade and tell him (and the entire family) my honest opinion of cockfighting and cockfighters.

Oddly, we didn't hang around for dessert. But the blackberry cobbler and pecan pie sure looked good.

Holiday Memories


There weren't many holiday traditions around The Reata, but this was always guaranteed to make Dad laugh.

Merry Christmas From The South 40

Friday, December 24, 2010

It's A Small World After All!

So I go Christmas shopping earlier this week in the belly of the DFW Mall Beast. Who should I happen across filling his stocking stuffer list?

The one, the only...




Knock me over with a feather!

Surprise, Surprise, Surprise!

So I'm doing a bit of closet cleaning and find a set of cufflinks in the pocket of one of my suits. I decided to put them in my (don't you dare call it a jewelery case!) lock box. When I opened the box I got an immediate WTF??? Inside was the gold money clip my Dad gave me... and it wasn't empty.

The last time I went to Winstar playing poker, I did the old your money/my money routine. This was "their money" and I completely forgot about it (must be nice, right?). $850 worth of forgot about it!

Now the question is do I take my ill-gotten gains and put it to work on the holiest of holy days?

Yer danged tootin'! Shuffle up and deal!

Blatant Facebook Theft

Yeah, I stole this from a friend. But I couldn't have said it better myself...


Dear Santa, 


I don't want much for Christmas. I just want the person reading this to be happy. Friends are the fruitcake of life. Some are nutty. Some are soaked in alcohol (!!). Some are sweet. But mix them together and they're my friends.

Merry Christmas!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Go Speed Racer Go!

There was a demon that lived on the internet. They said whoever challenged him would get disconnected. Their modem would freeze up, their videos would buffer wildly and their packets would be lost. The demon lived at 56Kbps where the wire could no longer move out of the way. He lived behind a barrier through which they said The South 40 could never pass. They called it Dial-up.

Since 2000 I've tried to get broadband, but no go. Sprint DSL didn't reach this far. Topography blocked microwave service. My only choice was satellite, but it has a minimum 1 second delay. Ever watch an interview via sattelite and notice the delay between question and answer? If you're a gamer (which I am) that is a death sentence. That was the purgatory I was sentenced to.

Until today when I got my CenturyLink router and after a short call to tech support I am now officially off dial-up. Hell, I've even got a wireless network for my laptop!

Hello 21st Century!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

The Gods Are Angry, Somebody Bring Me A Virgin!

I'd post some pics, but none of my cameras are good enough to do any justice. This is freaky cool to watch. Centuries ago somebody would be losing their head or jumping in a volcano right about now.

I checked off and on for the first hour or so then watched the last 1/4 before total eclipse. It's hard to describe what I felt, but I did feel something. Awe, a connection with a greater power, a rift in the space/time continuum.... whatever. You could see it happening and feel the darkness enveloping you as previously unseen light became visable. Stars, planes, distant houses, ect.

It was strange. A complete and total blackout where the darkness wrapped it's self around you. A strange red object piercing the darkness above. The last time I felt something like this was sailing on the Arctic Ocean many years ago. It genuinely touched me and I felt connected.

The cherry on top was when several meteorites entered the atmosphere and gave a beautiful, but brief show. The darkness enhanced the shooting stars like I've never seen before.

Maybe one reason it feels so different is because of this:

 A lunar eclipse smack-dab on the date of the solstice, however, is unusual. Geoff Chester of the US Naval Observatory inspected a list of eclipses going back 2000 years. "Since Year 1, I can only find one previous instance of an eclipse matching the same calendar date as the solstice, and that is 1638 DEC 21," says Chester. "Fortunately we won't have to wait 372 years for the next one...that will be on 2094 DEC 21."


Since I don't have any decent pics, I leave you with this selection. I almost went with the Apacalypto eclipse scene, but after watching the sun return in a totally unexpected area of the Moon's surface (meaning I didn't even understand the angle of the eclipse and the orbits), I realized yet again just how very insignificant I am in the universe. 


This seemed more apropos.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Obi Adios? (Updated)

Is it just me or did AnObiter suddenly drop off the map?

Update: OK, I get it now. Internet stalking is so lame. Some of you people take this interweb stuff way too serious. (Thanks for the heads up W)

The South 40 Emerges From The Primordial Ooze!

I got a flyer in the mail last week saying broadband was now available to me. I've recieved those mass junk mail flyers before, but I called anyway. To my shock, DSL is indeed available at The South 40. Since the dawn of time I've been limited to dial-up. Topography blocked microwave broadband and the phone infrastructure couldn't support DSL

I was living in a Black Hole, or lagoon as the case may be. Now Centel has sold to Sprint who sold to Embarq who begat CenturyLink that merged with Qwest.

I don't care who's running the show, I'm finally getting broadband. My order is booked and the router is on the way via UPS.

This time next week I'll be YouTubeing and Facebooking (not to mention online gaming) my ass off!

Heh, I'm giddy like a schoolgirl pumped!

Friday, December 17, 2010

Introspective

What does it say about me that I'd stay up all night to watch an Andy Hardy marathon on TCM?

Entr'acte

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Buenos Dias

DVR Alert: Prefontaine

Excuse me if I've posted about this before (because I have) but this is simply a great film that's highly underrated and mostly forgotten. Everybody knows "Rudy!", but how many of you remember "Pre!" ?

There were 2 films made on the life of Steve Prefontaine. This is definitely the better of the two.

Steve Prefontaine (Jared Leto) was America's greatest distance runner in the 1970's. Under the tutelage of legendary Oregon Track coach and Nike co-founder Bill Bowerman (portrayed brilliantly by R. Lee Ermey) he shattered NCAA and AAU records.

Too small and legs too short, Steve Prefontaine held every American record between 2,000 and 10,000 meters. A feat that's never been accomplished since. Pre was the little engine that could. He won races on sheer determination. Pre was the favorite for Gold in the '72 Munich Olympics.

He finished a disappointing 4th in Munich.

But Steve returned home and took on the powerful AAU and their practices. While AAU officials were traveling 1st Class and living in style, athletes were struggling to survive off Food Stamps and forced to pay their own way and compete in specified events to maintain their amateur status..

Steve Prefontaine changed all that. He stood up to the AAU and won. Now, Olympic athletes have proper training facilities, accommodations and nutrition. They are no longer the unpaid puppets of the AAU.

Tragically, Steve was killed in a car wreck prior to the Montreal Olympics. But his legacy lives on with each Team USA that competes in the Olympics. One man can change the system.

You have 1 chance to catch Prefontaine this Friday at 1:05p on Showtime Extreme (DirecTv 549). I can't recommend this film enough. It's greatness for the whole family.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

The 6 Million Dollar Dumbass

I once hopped a train on the Seattle waterfront that was heading toward my ship. I remember laughing at all the guys I had been walking with and yelling "See ya, Suckers!". 


The train was running about 10mph and it beat the hell out of walking the 2 miles down Alaskan Way back to the ship. There was a huge railyard a few blocks from Pier 36 and I was sure that was where we were headed.

Did I mention I wasn't a Quartermaster? 


The train started to pick up speed and veer away from Alaskan Way. Then I saw the tunnel approaching and it was pretty tight between the train and the hillside. I decided to swing between the cars and hang on, it couldn't be very long. I mean heck, the railyard is right down the street!


We entered the tunnel and started to pick up speed. I was enveloped in pitch darkness, noise and diesel smoke. I started to get disoriented. I thought about sticking my head out to see if I could see the literal light at the end of the tunnel. Then I realized that and/or falling might be a very bad thing right now and decided to hold on to the ladder for dear life instead. 


It seemed like we were going to be underground forever and it was hard to breathe. Then, just as suddenly as it went dark and stagnant, it became bright daylight and sweet fresh air once again.

I gathered myself and quickly took my bearings. I was on the opposite side of the Kingdome from where I needed to be and moving farther away... fast! We were also continuing to pick up speed. I knew it was rapidly reaching the point of no return.



Unless I wanted the uncharted no-frills tour of the Cascade Mountains, now was the time to disembark. I saw a wide 4 lane crossing approaching and went for it. I hung off the side ladder as far and low as I could, did a practice swing with my leg and jumped.

I WAS Steve Austin! 


When my right foot kissed the ground, it was like I was long jump/pole vaulting. I took a good 20 foot leap before my left foot came down and I bounced up again, but I was losing E fast. I was also losing my balance and starting to nose over with nothing but gravel followed by pavement to catch me. 



Plus let's not forget the speeding freight train right beside me and a huge metal crossing guard approaching alongside. No room for error. I pulled back hard and did my best Olympic record ribbon breaking finish.

I still wonder what that lady sitting in her car at the rail crossing was thinking when I came bouncing out of nowhere like a cartoon superhero in front of her and then casually curved off and jogged down the sidewalk towards home. 

I never hopped another train after that either.


Why is this story relevant? Because of this. I never knew how roomy a 727 nose gear compartment was. But I do know it isn't pressurized.



















All Quiet On The South 40 Front

All in all it's been very quiet around here lately. Too quiet, if you know what I mean. My "Spidey Senses" are tingling. It's like sailing across the calm sea knowing there's a rogue wave out there somewhere and it's got your name on it.

Life does that.

Oooh, I did get to see the new granddaughter of a dear late friend. All I could think of (besides how precious the baby was) was how proud Sheila would be of her. She did an excellent job raising her daughter and I have no doubt Jenn will do the same with Jade.

I also got to meet her husband Mike for the first time. I was very impressed with the young man. Emphasis on man. He's an Army scout home on leave from southern Iraq and just reupped for another hitch. 9 more months and they will be at Fort Lewis.

I have very good feelings about the future of those two 3!

One thing that isn't quiet lately is my tinnitus. It was all I could do to keep track of the conversation with them while we were eating lunch at Cracker Barrel. The ambient dining room noise mixed with the tinnitus drowned out their voices even tho I was sitting right next to them. I must have said "Huh?" 50 times. I said "Huh?" more than Danica Patrick says "You know?". I said it so much I started to get painfully self-conscious about it and went with the old smile/nod/laugh routine.

I hope it didn't look like I was being an ass and not paying attention to them because I was desperately trying to without standing up and yelling "EVERYBODY SHUT UP!". Besides creating an ugly scene and possibly causing me to be banned for life from Cracker Barrels coast-to-coast, I would have woke up the baby.

AARP in a little over a year. Ugh. I was never supposed to live this long. Somebody lost big money on the over/under. I should have went out years ago chopping down an oak tree in a ball of flames at 160MPH. Can ya smell that smell? All I can say is Carroll Shelby builds a damn fine automobile.

How did this post turn so dark?

I probably should have used bullet points, too.... meh.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Facebook WTF???

So I'm fiddling around with my Facebook friends settings trying to get a bit more current (because I really suck at the Facebook) and click on my aunt in California when I get... Ali A. Akbar.

I'm pretty sure there was some kind of mix-up somewhere. I'm also pretty sure I'm on some kind of no-fly list now.

It wouldn't be the first time. Quickly Sherman, set the WABAC machine for San Francisco International Airport circa 1980...

I was changing planes from Seattle to Dallas and had a 5 hour layover. Funtimes. I called my former D.I. (BM1 Diekel) and caught up on old times in. The remaining 4 hours and 59 minutes decided to spend at the nearest airport bar.

After a couple hours recharging and living the hip jet set San Fran bar scene I hear "Will American Airlines Airlines passenger "Blank" please pick up the white courtesy phone. Hey, that's me! Excuse me ladies, VIP duty calls. (I am so in when I get back)

I find the nearest bank of courtesy phones (for those of you unfamiliar with the concept, way back in the day they had in-house phones distinguished by color next to the payphones.) and as soon as I touched the white phone I was tackled by an airport SWAT team and whisked off to an indiscriminate windowless nearby room.

NOBODY expects The Spanish Inquisition!

Suddenly, I sat face to face across a 4 x 4 table from Federal Special Agent Testosterone and he's holding a surgical steel blade hunting knife I had packed away in my seabag.

Remember this is 1980, not 2008. There was no TSA then. This was long before 9/11.

I'm introduced to (we'll call him) Agent Van Alden.. He takes my knife out and starts playing with it in front of me acting out some Michael Crichton story in his mind. It was like living in a live episode of American Dad 25 years before it was created.

"Where did you get the weapon?"
"Bought it at my ship's store."
"Why do you need the weapon?"
"You never know when you will need it. Semper Paratus."
"Why was I carrying a weapon?"
"I'm on leave and I'm not leaving my valuables behind in my locker."
"But why would  I carry a weapon on the plane?"
"OK, you busted me. I packed a knife with my military uniforms into my seabag with my name on it and sent it thru checked luggage so it could be X-Rayed and mixed up with all the other luggage. Then, in midflight I'm going to claw my way thru the cabin floor with my bare hands and make my way into the cargo area undetected. There in the dark I'll find my seabag, unlock the Master lock, retrieve my knife, crawl back up thru the floor undetected and hijack the plane."

After quizzing me for another 20 minutes and confirming my identity as a member of the armed forces, Agent Van Alden finally allowed me to continue on my flight. But to do so I had to take my knife and put it in an envelope with my name on it. I put that envelope in a box and put my name on it. I took that box and put it in another box with my name on it. That box went into yet another larger box with my name on it.

A Russian nesting doll scenario if you will.

I then had to wrap the box with red striped tape.

I was free to go, but it was clear Van Alden and I were operating on very different agendas.

Boris Badenoff ain't got squat on me! I didn't make any friends in the Air Marshals. But, I thanked Agent Van Alden for making it much easier for me to locate my knife midflight in the dark now.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

I'm Feeling Randy Today...

And not in a good way.
Good Lord, I need to lose some weight.

A Date Which Will Live in Infamy


It's tattooed on our souls...
From The Startlegram:


It was 7:55 a.m.
Pat Perry Duncan had just begun his bugler/messenger watch on Sunday morning when a single-engine aircraft appeared, flying just above the water and heading directly toward the USS Raleigh.
To his disbelief, the plane dropped a torpedo.
Witnesses said that when the projectile struck the Raleigh’s boiler room, the stern of the ship was lifted out of the harbor by the blast. A huge wave knocked down Duncan and fellow crewmen who stood on the quarterdeck. The Raleigh was one of the first targets hit in the assault.
“It’s the Japs!” Duncan heard someone cry.
Almost immediately two other planes scored hits on the nearby USS Utah. As the aircraft veered off, Duncan could see the red “meatball” roundel of the Empire of Japan painted on their wings.
The officer of the deck turned to him.
“Sound general quarters!” he shouted.
Duncan dutifully lifted his bugle to sound the lively notes, the command to prepare for battle.
But his instrument, filled with water, was mute.
“I started shaking it like mad,” Duncan said, a smile playing across his lips.
As he gazed out a picture window at his home in Beeville, the 87-year-old great-grandfather could see himself on that historic day, a kid who didn’t know what to think when told during basic training in San Diego that he likely would be sent to Pearl Harbor.
“I’d never heard of it.”
Duncan cleared the water from his bugle and amid the confusion, he hurriedly went to all hatches, sounding general quarters.

Within minutes the assault was in full fury. A cataclysmic explosion sank the USS Arizona, sealing the doom of 1,177 of its 1,400 crewmen.
Stricken, the USS Oklahoma capsized and sank.
The smell of burning oil filled the blackening sky, along with the menacing growl and whine of planes, 183 of them in the first wave, swooping and strafing, raining their destruction on American warships moored on both sides of Ford Island.
“I don’t know how they kept from running into each other,” Duncan said of the attacking planes.
The 7,000-ton Raleigh quickly began to list.
Duncan was ready to jump. “I was sure we were going over.”
The ship’s captain ordered sailors to throw all topside weight overboard. They dumped two scout planes. Torpedo tubes. Boat skids. During the second aerial attack a bomb pierced the Raleigh’s hull, below the water line, and detonated on the bottom of the harbor.
The bomb barely missed two large tanks containing 3,000 gallons of aviation fuel.
Duncan, assigned to a gun post, helped load ammunition. The Raleigh crew bravely fought back and helped destroy five enemy planes.
Remarkably, not one sailor on the USS Raleigh was killed that day.
The damaged cruiser was stabilized when a barge with salvage pontoons was lashed alongside.

Duncan served in the Navy for six years, seeing action on three ships. After the war he began a long career with the Santa Fe Railroad and lived for 40 years, until 1992, in Fort Worth.
After his wife of 60 years died, Duncan remarried three years ago and moved to Beeville, near Corpus Christi, where he and Penny live in a oak-shaded rural home north of town.
On Friday the couple flew to Dallas/Fort Worth Airport. There, they met up with three of Duncan’s buddies — Frank Curre, J.C. Alston and Charlie Boswell — fellow members of the Central Texas chapter of the Pearl Harbor Survivors Association.
As if summoned by a bugle call, the four men traveled together to Hawaii to attend the Pearl Harbor Day Commemoration one last time. It is the 69th anniversary.
Only about 3,000 survivors of the Dec. 7 attack are still alive, and many of them are too ill or too frail to travel.
American Airlines gave the men and their companions first-class tickets. Duncan’s daughter, Jan, helped raise $7,600 in donations to help cover lodging and other expenses.
This morning, at that solemn, hallowed site, Duncan and his companions will put on their matching blue vests and caps that identify their brotherhood, the last of the iron men of the Greatest Generation.
As they wipe at wet eyes and salute their lost brothers, many still entombed, each must deal in his own way with the lifelong question.
Why? Why were their lives spared that day?
“My guardian angel, I think,” Duncan said, his voice trailing off. “It’s a miracle, really.”
Curre, of Waco, was aboard the USS Tennessee, which was moored next to the Arizona. He said he didn’t think he would live to be 18 1/2. Now he is 87.
“I can’t remember what I read in the newspaper 15 minutes ago,” he said. “But I remember everything that happened that day. Everything. We all do. It’s tattooed on our souls.”



Thursday, December 2, 2010

Let's Rodeo

Looks like the WC is going to be well represented in this year's NFR.

I love watching the NFR and I'm glad ESPN carries the event. But what confuses me is the way they do it. If you want to watch it live you have to tune into ESPN Classic at 9pm and watch it in standard def. To see it in HD you must wait for the rebroadcast at Midnight 12:30am on ESPN2.

Shouldn't that be the other way around?

That's what gets me about ESPN. they make a committment to carry an event like the NFR or NASCAR, then they find any way possible to screw it up thru scheduling. Thank God for DVR's.

Anyway, Round 1 of 10 is tonight at 9 on ESPN Classic and again at Midnight 12:30am on The Deuce.

Cowboy up, ya'll!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

"The Game Changer"


The Pentagon has rolled out prototypes of its first-ever programmable "smart" grenade launcher, a shoulder-fired weapon that uses microchipped ammunition to target and kill the enemy, even when the enemy is hidden behind walls or other cover.
After years of development, the XM25 Counter Defilade Target Engagement System, about the size of a regular rifle, has now been deployed to US units on the battlefields of Afghanistan, where the Army expects it to be a "game-changer" in its counterinsurgencyoperations.
The gun's stats are formidable: it fires 25mm air-bursting shells up to 2,300 feet (700 meters), well past the range of most rifles used by today's soldiers, and programs them to explode at a precise distance, allowing troops to neutralize insurgents hiding behind walls, rocks or trenches or inside buildings.
The revolutionary advance involves an array of sights, sensors and lasers that reads the distance to the target, assesses elements such as air pressure, temperature, and ballistics and then sends that data to the microchip embedded in the XM25 shell before it is launched.
Previous grenade launchers needed to arc their shells over cover and land near the target to be effective.
"It takes out a lot of the variables that soldiers have to contemplate and even guess at," said Lieutenant Colonel Chris Lehner, program manager for the XM25.
If, for example, an enemy combatant pops up from behind a wall to fire at US troops and then ducks behind it, an XM25 gunner can aim the laser range finder at the top of the wall, then program the shell to detonate one meter beyond it, showering lethal fragmentation where the insurgent is seeking cover.
Use of the XM25 can slash civilian deaths and damage, the Army argues, because its pinpointed firepower offers far less risk than larger mortars or air strikes.
The result, the Army says, is "very limited collateral damage."
The Pentagon plans to purchase at least 12,500 of the guns -- at a price tag of 25,000 to 30,000 dollars each -- beginning next year, enough for one in each Infantry squad and Special Forces team.
Lehner said the XM25 was special in that it requires comparatively little training, because the high-powered technology does so much of the work.
"This system is turning soldiers with average shooting skills into those with phenomenal shooting skills,"