Friday, April 24, 2009

Poll results: Texas secession

Two out of six respondents answered Yes to the following question: "For Texans only: Would you like Texas to secede?"

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

email or text updates to SSJ

Being a Luddite, I can't do the latter but if one checks the dashboard page, apparently there are ways to do that now.

Rain v. MRI

What a way to start the day. CEO of hospital client called to tell me that they had rain…normally a great thing in Texas. The bad news, the general contractor doing some construction at the hospital hadn’t closed up the roof. Result: rain “funneling” into the brand new MRI room (that’s a $1.5M machine with about $400k worth of shielding and other accessories).

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Re: Romanticizing Pirates

We've really glorified them. And they're so cool. Cutlasses, eye patches, baggy breeches (never written that word before)...what's not to love?

Of course, I can’t forget the Texas connection (Galveston) to Jean Lafitte. From the Texas Handbook Online, again without those annoying "qv's":

Laffite remained the master of Galveston after his return in September 1817, and made it a center for smuggling and privateering. When the expedition of Charles Françoise Antoine Lallemand arrived in January 1818, the Laffites plotted to betray the French refugees to Spain. This plot failed, and Galveston went on with its illicit activities. Lallemand's men, having fled from the Champ d'Asile, were at Galveston when George Graham arrived in August 1818 to investigate affairs in Texas. Graham suggested that Jean Laffite should take possession successively of points on the coast as far as the Rio Grande and surrender them to the United States after faked attacks. Nothing came of this scheme, which apparently was Graham's own idea, although James Monroe may have suggested it. Jean cooperated halfheartedly with James Long during the latter's invasion of Texas, but his principal interest lay in the privateering business, while his brother managed the intrigues with Spanish officials and took care of the New Orleans business arrangements. Finally, with nothing to hope for from Spain and confronted with the American government's determination to end the Galveston establishment, the Laffites decided the game was up. Laffite abandoned Galveston early in May 1820 and sailed to Mugeres Island, off the coast of Yucatán. There he continued his illegal activities until around 1825, when, mortally ill, he went to the mainland to die. Although his brother was the leader in all their affairs, Jean Laffite, more colorful than his older brother, has become the center of many romantic tales.

Four Words end the discussion (or start it):

The Dread Pirate Roberts

My dog is above average

Karma the Dog passed a rigorous evaluation to be accepted in a hard-core agility dog training class (or should I say “cult”). Her exam included:
  • walking with me through a meandering sort-of-densely-packed crowd of people and dogs without pulling on the leash or greeting the other dogs or otherwise misbehaving;
  • immediately sitting/downing on command after excitedly playing;
  • sitting quietly while I greeted a stranger; and
  • sitting quietly while people walked around us squeezing squeaky toys and bouncing balls.
It amazes me that she can do these things when I think back to our very first obedience class about a year ago. I thought that night that surely it was completely impossible to get her attention in the presence of other dogs; I thought she simply wasn’t like other dogs who look at their owners when they hear their name, that her inattention was some sort of immutable personality trait. And, a year ago, I was so clueless about dog training that I didn’t even know that one wasn’t supposed to use the leash to maneuver one’s dog.

I grew up with two dogs who had no obedience training and were so poorly behaved that they had to be locked in a bedroom when company came to the house. (My folks disciplined the dogs by blowing cigarette smoke in their faces.) My first dog in my adult years was old and rug-like when we got her, so I didn’t bother with any training. So Karma has been my first training experience and it's been so rewarding to be able to communicate with her and get the behavior I want from her, at least some of the time. It’s convenient to be able to say “leave it” and have her walk away from yucky things (like the head of a pig, sans eyes and brain but with fur, that we encountered during our most recent dog park visit – wacky teenager fun, I’m guessing). There really is no bad behavior that hotdogs and Velveeta can't correct.

Karma is athletic and smart, so I think she might be a good agility dog. I don’t think of myself as a dog-agility sort of girl, though. The crowd of experienced handlers/evaluators and hopefuls last night laughed and giggled wildly at this exchange:
Person running the evaluation: Are there any intact males here tonight? Raise your hand.

Man in crowd (and I know you already know what’s coming which is exactly why it’s not that funny): You’re just asking about dogs, right?
I felt there like I feel at the grocery co-op by our house: these just aren’t quite my people and I don’t really want to turn into these people. Not that they’re not lovely people. It’s just that they’re a little bit crazy in ways that aren’t the same as my crazy.

The place we’re going for agility training is a nonprofit membership organization that has a reputation for being very serious about dogs and training. They’re not interested in provided agility training for everyone who wants it, so they have this evaluation process. There were about 30 dogs at the evaluation last night and eight were rejected (effectively, for a year). But Karma passed, so we’ll start our training in June.

Someone slap me if I start making double-entendre “bitch” jokes.

(Update: Link to the training club here.

Update II: Top photo is Bella, the old well-behaved dog; Bottom photo is Karma)

UT second in Playboy Rankings

What?! Only second?! I’m so proud.

The University of Texas at Austin ranked second [as party school]. Playboy quoted physics major Sam, talking about a party he could barely remember involving "20 kegs and 13 jugs of trash-can punch ... what was a bikini party morphed into women dancing half naked."

Cyber spying

From the WSJ:

WASHINGTON -- Computer spies have broken into the Pentagon's $300 billion Joint Strike Fighter project -- the Defense Department's costliest weapons program ever -- according to current and former government officials familiar with the attacks.

This is really bad. How in the heck are they able to hack the Pentagon? This isn't 24; this is life or death. I don't think the Chineese can afford to build these things but they can sure learn about any weaknesses.

Since it's about Texas history lately

Happy San Jacinto Day!

Monday, April 20, 2009

Eagle Cam

I can't stop watching this. Nest is on a lake in Oklahoma.

Running from the law...

Got an email today from my old college and law school roomie. After practicing law since 1986--the last 21 years at the same firm--he's walking away...heading for the mountains. This has a familiar ring to yours truly; may he be more successful in his attempt.

Dr. Paul on Secession

Another crazy voice chimes in. (I admit, though, that I have read about his point on several New England states considering secession in the early 19th C.)

Fair Tax

I read Boortz's book a couple of years ago and while it has merits, ultimately I'm not a supporter...if for no other reason that it would require a constitutional amendment. Else, we'd ultimately end up with both a national sales tax AND an income tax.

Tonight Hewitt is hawking his new book on the Fair Tax Fantasy.

Mom loved one Republican's endorsement of the Fair Tax during the primaries last year.

Now, for those who don't know, I live in a run down shack in what is probably Austin's toniest zip code. I do so not because of the neighborhood but because it is five minutes from my office. As everyone knows, Austin is the most liberal of all Texas cities. In my mind, it ranks right up there with many college towns in that respect...think Boulder. Stephanie could probably confirm what I've heard about Madison and Ann Arbor.

It may be the most liberal part of the most liberal city in Texas.

After the first wave in Iraq commenced, there were many, many flags flying in my neighborhood. What's so unusual about that? They were UN flags.

Today, I noticed something really unusual when I came home for lunch. A neighbor had a really tacky, handmade sign in his or her front yard. On white poster board scrawled in magic marker:

"Support the Fair Tax!" with a link to some kind of url that supports it.

Saving $100,000,000

Mankiw on the $100M budget cuts:

To put those numbers in perspective, imagine that the head of a household with annual spending of $100,000 called everyone in the family together to deal with a $35,000 budget shortfall. How much would he or she announce that spending had be cut? By $3 over the course of the year--approximately the cost of one latte at Starbucks. The other $34,997? We can put that on the family credit card and worry about it next year.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Recent reading on the GWOT

I've often thought and occasionally said that my second greatest regret in life is not "having served." I've recently finished two and and am starting a third first-hand account of service in Iraq and Afghanistan. Knowing what I know now, had I served (even in my prime) I'd have been extremely lucky just to have made it through basic training and then headed off for a life as a JAG officer, at best, or some kind of Radar (O'Reilly, that is) clerk, at worst.

The first I read was David Bellavia’s House to House. What struck me most was the absolutely honest description of the horrors of battle. Shamelessly lifted from the Amazon site:

Product Description

One of the great heroes of the Iraq War, Staff Sergeant David Bellavia captures the brutal action and raw intensity of leading his Third Platoon, Alpha Company, into a lethally choreographed kill zone: the booby-trapped, explosive-laden houses of Fallujah's militant insurgents. Bringing to searing life the terrifying intimacy of hand-to-hand infantry combat, this stunning war memoir features an indelibly drawn cast of characters, not all of whom would make it out of the city alive, as well as chilling accounts of Bellavia's singular courage: Entering one house alone, he used every weapon at his disposal in the fight of his life against America's most implacable enemy.

The next was Marcus Lutrell’s Lone Survivor. Also pilfered from the Amazon site:

Product Description

Four US Navy SEALS departed one clear night in early July 2005 for the mountainous Afghanistan-Pakistan border for a reconnaissance mission. Their task was to document the activity of an al Qaeda leader rumored to be very close to Bin Laden with a small army in a Taliban stronghold. Five days later, only one of those Navy SEALS made it out alive.

This is the story of the only survivor of Operation Redwing, SEAL fire team leader Marcus Luttrell, and the extraordinary firefight that led to the largest loss of life in American Navy SEAL history. His squadmates fought valiantly beside him until he was the only one left alive, blasted by an RPG into a place where his pursuers could not find him. Over the next four days, terribly injured and presumed dead, Luttrell crawled for miles through the mountains and was taken in by sympathetic villagers who risked their lives to keep him safe from surrounding Taliban warriors.

A born and raised Texan, Marcus Luttrell takes us from the rigors of SEAL training, where he and his fellow SEALs discovered what it took to join the most elite of the American special forces, to a fight in the desolate hills of Afghanistan for which they never could have been prepared. His account of his squadmates' heroism and mutual support renders an experience that is both heartrending and life affirming. In this rich chronicle of courage and sacrifice, honor and patriotism, Marcus Luttrell delivers a powerful narrative of modern war.

This one touched me pretty deeply as his love for Texas and his country (no secessionist here) really comes through. Even more so, his love for his fallen comrades really touched me. Also, he really explores one thing that I really admire about the Muslim (in particular, the Pashtun culture), the concept of lokhay, an extraordinary concept of hospitality. If one offers you shelter, food, er..., hospitality, one will risk one's life, family, and entire village to preserve that hospitality.

Most touching, and I had to remove my contacts to read through the tears, was the way his east Texas community came to the moral support of his family while he was missing.

He had two insights on the US Press that I found very disturbing. Caveat: these insights may ruin the whole account for those not of my political bent though the book was an NYT bestseller and I'm not sure righties alone can get a book that high on the list.

Finally, I haven't read this one yet but heard the author interviewed on the Bill Bennett show. I'm particularly interested in this because the author Donovan Campbell mentioned a crisis of faith as a result of his experience. Also, because my Dad was a marine.

This one is called Joker One:

Product Description

After graduating from Princeton, Donovan Campbell, motivated by his unwavering patriotism and commitment, decided to join the service, realizing that becoming a Marine officer would allow him to give back to his country, engage in the world, and learn to lead. In this immediate, thrilling, and inspiring memoir, Campbell recounts a timeless and transcendent tale of brotherhood, courage, and sacrifice.

As commander of a forty-man infantry platoon called Joker One, Campbell had just months to train and transform a ragtag group of brand-new Marines into a first-rate cohesive fighting unit, men who would become his family: Sergeant Leza, the house intellectual who read Che Guevara; Sergeant Mariano Noriel, the “Filipino ball of fire” who would become Campbell’s closest confidant and friend; Lance Corporal William Feldmeir, a narcoleptic who fell asleep during battle; and a lieutenant known simply as “the Ox,” whose stubborn aggressiveness would be more curse than blessing.

Campbell and his men were assigned to Ramadi, that capital of the Sunni-dominated Anbar province that was an explosion just waiting to happen. And when it did happen–with the chilling cries of “Jihad, Jihad, Jihad!” echoing from minaret to minaret–Campbell and company were there to protect the innocent, battle the insurgents, and pick up the pieces. After seven months of day-to-day, house-to-house combat, nearly half of Campbell’s platoon had been wounded, a casualty rate that went beyond that of any Marine or Army unit since Vietnam. Yet unlike Fallujah, Ramadi never fell to the enemy.Told by the man who led the unit of hard-pressed Marines, Joker One is a gripping tale of a leadership, loyalty, faith, and camaraderie throughout the best and worst of times.