Monday, December 31, 2012

31 December 2012 Send Congress out with the old year

Cassi Creek:  The continual refusal to undertake any cooperative effort to conduct the nation’s financial and other affairs has marked this Congress as singularly ineffective.  The public has little or no confidence in the Congress or respect for the members of either chamber. 
          Despite Obama’s re-election, he is facing the same obstructionist behavior by the GOP/teavangelists based upon the racist and political attitudes that still exist in this nation and which were carefully cultivated by the GOP propaganda machine. 
          I voted for him twice.  I’m still not happy with his performance.  He waffled and wimped out during his first term when he should have utilized his bicameral majority to push his platform past the opposition.  Instead, he allowed the opposition to bully their way into a blocking force that prevented many items on his platform from ever seeing the light of day.  I wanted a single payer universal national health care program that eliminated the health insurance industry.  I wanted the financial criminals on Wall Street prosecuted, fined, and jailed for their efforts in destroying the economy.  I wanted our military out of Afghanistan by now. 
          Obama wanted re-election.  I understand that.  However, his first term behavior conditioned the GOP to believe that they can use him like a doormat. 
He’s been handed some horrid conditions to deal with out of the gate.  He’s actually accomplished a fair amount of positive change.  He can’t seem to realize that he doesn’t have to answer the media or his opposition until he’s ready to speak with all his facts assembled.  I hope he learns that quickly.  Otherwise, 2013 may be another very bumpy year. 
          As for Congress, they aren’t worth the money it costs to open their offices.  Recall them all and send this batch home.  It would be difficult to assemble a worse bunch of bought and paid for pretenders. 

Happy 2013!

Sunday, December 30, 2012

30 December 2012 Another day of lists

Cassi Creek:  The newspapers, magazines, and electronic media have reached the point in their yearly cyclic coverage where the bulk of their content consists of lists of the worst and/or best of some topic.  This is an annual occurrence that seems to grow in prevalence every year.
          There are a few topics that I find interesting.  “Most annoying word,”   seems to attract my attention, as well as “most annoying phrase/cliché.”  I’m far from being the best student of the English language.  My speech is nothing to present as an example of how the language should be spoken.  I get sloppy at times in written and spoken communications. 
          I’ve noticed recently that my typographical errors have increased in frequency.  Typos were troubling before I began showing signs of Parkinsonism.  It was almost physically painful to post a comment that contained errors in composition or in editing.  Now I find it even more so.  They strike me as indicators of the disease’s progression
          I need to renew my driver’s license before March ends in 2013.  Because I want the photo ID function that a license affords I will need to find a time when the office is open and then plan on spending half a day or so waiting in line.  I want to get the renewal completed before I become more obviously affected by PD. 
          Today’s dinner is in the works.  We have four large pork rib chops in the slow cooker.  They were seasoned with salt and cracked black pepper then layered over a thinly sliced sweet yellow onion.  Between the onion and the chops there is nutmeg, ginger, and cinnamon. Over the chops are layers of sliced gala apples and sauerkraut.  ¼ cup of Chablis went into the mix and the cooker is now happily braising away at low temperature for 6 hours.  This should provide two good meals for us.  

Saturday, December 29, 2012

29 December 2012 Lazy Saturday no excuse needed

Cassi Creek:         28 December ended with rain and wind sounding a winter song underscored by the heavy background of rushing water and tumbling boulders.   We banked the stove and turned in early last night.  Early for us, anyway. 
          Today began as yesterday left off.  The wind is gusting to about 10-15 MPH and pushing small cells of rain along with it.  Gloria has fed the birds and squirrels.  I’ve hauled in two loads of firewood and may bring one more in before nightfall. 
          We have nowhere we have to be, no urgent tasks to accomplish.  It is a good day for reading, for enjoying the pleasure of each other’s companionship and love. 
          We plan to have pho for dinner tonight.  We have the perishables on hand and a base broth already on the shelf.  We have deli roast beef, suitably rare and suitably thin, so that it will cook quickly in the soup bowls as the broth is poured over it.  It’s good meal for a damp winter’s night. 
          Loki is curled up in front of the stove, impeding foot traffic.  The wind has died down as the afternoon progresses. 
Shabbat Shalom!

Friday, December 28, 2012

28 December 2012 Avoid WalMart

The low part of the day was about 90 minutes in WalMart.  Beyond that, life is good. 

Thursday, December 27, 2012

27 December 2012 Feed the fires of panic

Cassi Creek:  The NRA and its corporate backers are doing everything that they can to create a panic among gun owners.        

            “Gregory showed LaPierre a high-capacity clip with 30 bullets and asked whether it might help to outlaw such clips.
            “I don’t believe that’s going to make one difference,” LaPierre said. “There are so many different ways to evade that even if you had that. You had that for 10 years when Dianne Feinstein passed that ban in ’94. It was on the books; Columbine occurred right in the middle of it. It didn’t make any difference.”
            “LaPierre on Friday launched a program that seeks to install police officers and/or armed security at every school in the country, with the idea being that armed, trained security could prevent further carnage. He said he is not bothered by criticism.
“If it’s crazy to call for putting police and armed security in our school to protect our children, then call me crazy,” LaPierre said. “I think the American people think it’s crazy not to do it.”
            I talked with a neighbor Monday about the artificially created panic.  He told me about a friend of his who went gun buying Saturday and returned with two Glock handguns, a Kimber handgun, and an AR-15 rifle.  She spent what had to be in excess of $4000.00 before adding ammunition into the purchases.  She doesn’t hunt, she has fallen into the artificial “societal collapse” panic that gun manufacturers and survivalist whole-salers use to ramp up sales. 
            Nearly all such sales are being made by people who already own at least one other gun.  The models leading the in-demand list are the semi-automatic military style guns with high capacity magazines.  These are not hunting weapons, no family will go without meat for the winter if such weapons are restricted or prohibited from sale to the general public. 
            We own guns.  We find ourselves on the sharp edge of this question.  We see no need for the public to own assault style weapons and support full background checks and closing the gun show background loophole.  That makes us somewhat at odds with our neighbors, and indeed, most local gun owners. 
            What is the solution to such spree killing and massacres?  We don’t have an answer.  One thing, however, is certain.  The NRA has neither the desire nor means to end them. 

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

26 December 2012 Blow you winds of morning

          We went to bed around midnight last night with a high wind warning hanging over us.  The front moving out of Texas and up into New England was spawning all manner of dangerous weather, nature displaying its options.  The SPC graphics for convection showed us in a predicted thunderstorm area, a high wind area, and a slight distance from a winter storm advisory.
          The previous wind warnings blew through our locale as fiercely as predicted.  The areas that took much of the damage in April 2011 took a lot of damage last Wednesday and Thursday.  It was with a sinking feeling in my gut that I watched the projections displayed and played forward.  We were predicted to be the target zone for the front currently wreaking havoc on the eastern seaboard. 
          Last week’s storm blew into the area with the breaking day and took about 12 hours to peak, decrease, and exit.  Today’s front was forecast to show up about 0100 and then build in intensity.  That would put the strongest and windiest part of the storm overhead in the dark.  Given the terrain and the lack of light from nearby towns, the only illumination useful for observing the sky is lightning.  Not the best source. You hear things in the wind on dark and stormy nights that don’t manifest in even the weakest daylight.
          The wind began picking up about 2330 and gusts of around 20 MPH were being recorded by 0100.  I woke up at 0450 and heard some fairly high, sustained winds but managed to doze off for another hour.  By 0800, the strongest winds were blowing down valley.  A trip out to the mailbox with a wind-spooked dog revealed no trees down in the road.  We could hear the wind decreasing and see blue sky overhead as we ate breakfast.  By 1130, the clouds were rolling back in and light rain was falling. 
          It’s 1245 and pouring rain now.  The creek is high and will be higher by the day’s end.  The winds have decreased and the promised damage has not been visited upon Cassi Creek.  It’s a good day to bunker in and chase Gloria around the house. (Honestly, every day is a good day for that).  We may see some snow tonight.  We may not.  The winter advisories don’t include us.  But, the delineation line is only three miles distant and 3000 feet higher than where I sit right now.  There’s a scraper and a snow shovel in the Pathfinder. It’s a good day for sea stories and good coffee. 
          The winds of morning have blown past.  Yesterday’s fog has lifted and there’s no likelihood of hearing the Flying Dutchman tonight.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

25 December 2012 Foul weather ahead

          The region is mostly recovered from the last round of high winds.  Power has been restored and people are warm and dry, assuming that they were warm and dry previously. 
          Today’s forecast includes a high wind warning that is aimed at us.  The winds will now blow at high velocity from the Southeast.  The potential for damage to trees and property is high.  This storm may actually bring more reason to worry.  The higher winds and potential thunderstorms are forecast to arrive late in the afternoon and increase in intensity during the dark hours. 
          What one hears but can’t see is often far worse in generating concern than what one can see and hear.  There’s very little prep we can do to lessen the impact of tonight and tomorrow’s winds. 
          Still, while the forecasters have become better at their craft, the storm intensity may drop a bit.  The storm track may wobble or bend.  We can certainly hope for an intensity decrease.  Trees that broke last week may not undergo any further breaking. 
          We remain fortunate.  We have no travel plans that require us to hazard the highways in blizzard or near-blizzard conditions.  The stove is loaded if it is needed tonight.  We have warm clothing, headlamps, and many things to read.  We may even be able to conjure up some Chinese food and a movie. Although that would have been more appropriate for last night. 
          “Chopsticks ready!”

Monday, December 24, 2012

24 December 2012 Ain’t no easy exit

Steep U.S. drawdown in Afghanistan brings substantial risks
The Afghan National Security Forces, now 352,000 strong, have made considerable strides, but they remain heavily reliant on U.S. help for air support, logistics, intelligence, route clearance and other key “enablers.” The Defense Department’s newReport on Progress Toward Security and Stability in Afghanistan noted that only one of 23 Afghan army brigades is able to operate without coalition help. The report also “anticipates that the [Afghan army] will continue to require assistance with logistics and acquisition processes beyond December 2014.”
Afghanistan is not expected to have a functioning air force before 2017, so Afghan forces will remain especially dependent on U.S. help for air support and aerial medevac. But it is doubtful that U.S. commanders would call in airstrikes without having U.S. advisers embedded with Afghan units — and under the rumored plan, no such advisers will be available. Afghan security forces will be on their own to face an entrenched insurgency, which has been degraded by the surge but remains a major threat in southern and eastern Afghanistan, thanks in no small measure to its havens in Pakistan.
It is hard to imagine how anyone in the Obama administration could conclude that a force of just 6,000 personnel would be sufficient after 2014 when, even with 68,000 troops today, the United States cannot prevent the Taliban and Haqqanis from operating openly an hour’s drive from Kabul. Such a precipitous drawdown vastly increases the risk of a Taliban takeover”
.Cassi Creek:  the planed draw down is inherently dangerous to any and all U.S elements serving in the Afghanistan-Pakistan Theater.  As a reference point for calculating the impact upon our troops, recall the Vietnam War in the period called Vietnamization.  As the combat units, their attached logistics, and other support units were rotated to the CONUS, by simply not replacing troops who had completed their tours of duty, the operational capabilities of those units was degraded to the point that they were incapable of defending and supporting their assigned troops.  What developed was a pattern of units retreating into support bases where security duties were officially shifted to ARVN units but which were actually covered by U.S. troops.  The level of trust in the ARVN units was politically announced as high.  Every trooper I knew regarded ARVN units as riddled with intelligence leaks and incapable of supporting their selves.  The Special Forces units and some of the U. S. advisors may have found ARVN units that were reliable and effective.  They worked at a much closer level of mutual need. 
          The article above makes no attempt to whitewash the level of capability resident in the Afghan armed forces.  The cultural and social differences that have already manifested as reasons for increased danger to our troops will only become a greater problem as the Draw down continues. Remember the photos and films of the 1975 evacuation of the U.S. embassy in Saigon.  Complicate that clusterfuck with the longer distances that evacuees must cover to safely leave the theater.  The best thing we can do for our troops is to formulate plans to affect their exits now.  We need to remove as much of our hardware, transport, ordnance, and other ancillary systems as possible.  The time for us to engage in nation building in Afghanistan is over.  The Afghans must either pick up the tools and begin to create and defend their own nation, or watch the Taliban resume where they left off ten years ago. 
Weather or not:  The NWS has indicated that there may be severe thunderstorms with the risk of long-lasting, long-line tornadoes along the Gulf Coast States and into the Southern Appalachians.  The potential threat is documented by the Storms Prediction Center in Oklahoma. 
If the forecast zone shifts, it may very well put us into another after dark storm pattern.  The weather underground maps and radar interface that worked so well for warnings in 2011, has been modified by the programmers so that the real-time capabilities have been degraded and eliminated. 

Sunday, December 23, 2012

23 December 2012 Table for two, pack of three

We drove into Johnson City last night to have dinner at a Thai restaurant that had received a favorable review.  We thought, perhaps, that we might do some shopping en route.  We need to replace a UPS, need new bulbs for the security lamps, and thought to replace some newly discovered frozen dinner items that Gloria finds both palatable and healthy. 
          This plan took us into Johnson City by way of Jonesborough.  We were able to look at a fair selection of lighted homes along 107 and 81highways.  The bank ATM refused to accept my debit card.  After three attempts to make a deposit, we gave up and proceeded with the plan of the day.  The parking lot at Wal-Mart was packed as we approached the exit.  We decided that nothing on our list was necessary enough to join that mob of milling cars and frantic buyers.  On to dinner!
          We had checked to be sure the restaurant was open, decided against a reservation, and arrived to find a full dining room.  Still, we were seated within 5 minutes.  The menu is a broad spectrum sampling of modern and more traditional Thai cuisine.  We shared two appetizers, stir-fried mussels and fried calamari.  I opted for a sliced beef salad and shrimp spring rolls.  Gloria ordered a steamed red snapper entrée.  I added a Pad Thai entrée, knowing that it would almost certainly be transported homeward.  Service was rapid, unobtrusive, and the staff was well informed about the menu items. 
          We watched a group of people seated next to us box up their leftovers and then walk out while leaving them on the table.  We found this mildly amusing.  They decided either that they didn’t want to take their food home, or they were more forgetful than I want to become. 
          We shared a fried ice cream dessert.  The format was somewhat unlike what we expected.  The ice cream was sent to the fryer in what tasted like a cake batter.  Not unpleasant, but not necessarily a repeat item for us. 
          We paid up, got ready to face the cold, and walked away from the table without the leftovers.  The error was noticed before we made it through the door.  I’ll enjoy Pad Thai tonight. 
          The drive home was uneventful.  The light displays were less apparent on 67 highway. 
          As we walked up the stairs to the front of the deck, we were suddenly surrounded by three dogs, all-insistent on our attention and all trying to get to the Pad Thai.  They were extremely difficult to chase away from the door.  Getting inside without them meant having to force them all off the deck in order to keep them from jumping on us or through the screen door. 
          The dogs are someone’s bear dogs.  They were wearing locator colors and owner ID plates on their collars.  However, the constant jostling for position and the glare of the flashlight on the brass collar plate, made it impossible to read the phone number on the collar.   The dogs are used to locate and chase bears toward the hunters if possible.  If they lose the bear or can’t locate one, they will roam over half the county or more looking for their owners, home, food, or shelter. 
          We finally shoved them back far enough to get through the door without them.  We don’t know if the dogs belong to the family compound at the head of the valley, if they wandered in from another valley, or even from North Carolina.  They looked reasonably gaunt and were wet and dirty.  They are probably expensive dogs.  No doubt, in the next day or so we’ll see someone driving on Cassi road with a RDF antennae held outside the truck, looking for a locator hit on the dog’s transmitters. 
          Loki was very interested in finding the dogs when I took her out last night.  She was still eager to track down the invaders who are not present today.  The dog pack’s insistence on occupying space we knew to be ours reminded me of the pre-song patter from The Dillards rendition of Old Blue. 

Saturday, December 22, 2012

22 December 2012 Try our on-line self-help

          We lost power twice Thursday.  We called about the loss of service via land line.  By the time we called in the power board had already determined the scope of the outage and uploaded a message to let customers know that they were being taken care of. 
          Some time this morning, around 1100, we lost cable internet and cable television.  After determining that the problem is located beyond our walls, I called ComCast.  It is now 1119 and I’ve been on hold for 15 minutes, subjected to bits of bad music and a stream of commercials and sales pitches. 
          When I have no service, it is a bad time to try to sell me anything that requires the service I’m calling to report as unavailable. 
          After 20 minutes of hold time, I was finally connected to a customer support employee who took another 3-4 minutes to tell me “we are experiencing an un-planned outage.  I thanked her for that, announced my displeasure at being directed toward unavailable internet “self-help,” and wished her good luck.  She is, assuredly, assigned to the “under-staffed for the holiday weekend” desk; fielding calls from people who are suddenly saddled with kids who have no internet access and no cable television to entertain them.  Not a job I’d care to have to work. 
          We’ll ask for credit for lost service when the system is back up. 
          The weather today is sunny, breezy, and cold.  The predicted high, before we lost internet feed, was 40°F.  The predicted low for tonight, 18°F
          During the next week, I need to change out the weather station batteries.  I’ll hope for a reasonably warm, dry day, as the screws for the rain gauge are smaller than dried cloves and impossible to see if they are dropped.  If they are not replaced, the electronics for this component are no longer watertight.  Fingers crossed.

Friday, December 21, 2012

21 December 2012 Out in the cold rain and snow

The world won't end on December 21, but the 2012 winter solstice is still on the astronomical ... Winter Solstice 2012: Myths And Facts About The Shortest Day Of The Year
Cassi Creek:            Winter has officially arrived.for the 2012-2013 season.  The ages old celebrations of the solstice are taking place in the northern hemisphere while the southern hemisphere celebrates the return of summer and longer, warmer days.  The official time was 0612 Eastern Standard Time (1112 Zulu).
            The arrival of winter in the United States was brutal and disruptive.  There were chain collisions with fatalities due to blowing snow (and driving too fast for conditions).  There were airline travel cancellations.  An immense “spring-like” storm brought severe weather to the central and Eastern U.S. 
            The day began with temperatures in the 50s here in N.E. TN.  The central low pressure at the core of the storm produced hurricane like conditions in many places.  Some of the local storm cells were moving along the front at >110 knots according to radar measurement.  The two counties we call home were among those with the most severe weather.  Winds that can flip a semi-tractor-trailer rig are higher than I care to contest for the highway. 
            The wind began decreasing about 1700 yesterday.  The temperature began dropping slightly earlier.  We wound up staying up until 0130 this morning in order to verify the proper functioning of the lamps that keep our well filters warm.  That required that the air temperature be at 35°F or below. 
            There was light snowfall at 1230 AM.  The wind was still gusty.  By 0700 this morning, we had about .25 inches of snow accumulated with periods of blowing snow.  At 1155, the accumulation is about 0.50 inches.  The wind is lighter at ground level but still audible echoing off the higher valley walls and canyons.  The blowing snow continues and the temperature is 30°F and still dropping toward a predicted low of 20°F.  
            Our neighbor, Mike, had several trees blown down, several more broken by gusts.  Our tree damage is much less than his is.  
            I listened to part of the NRA response to Newtown.  The use of fear to convince the public that more guns are the answer is foul and exactly what I expected of the NRA.  If teachers are armed, that will make every teacher an immediate target.  The John Wayne approach can only result in victims that are more innocent.  I don’t know what percentage of the NRA membership and officials have actually participated in a firefight.  I doubt it is very high.  Firefights, for the best-trained members of the military, are quite capable of creating confusion among the participants.  Add into the mix teachers trying to defend children while making rapid assessments of strange situations; and armed guards arriving in the middle of a fight with no clear idea of who and what; and the stakes suddenly mushroom into a situation that could quickly result in many deaths by “friendly fire.” 
            The NRA had a chance to eliminate their use of fear to generate more gun and ammunition sales.  They turned it down.  They blame the media, some elected officials, mentally ill monsters (bad guys with guns), violent video gamers, and everyone but the NRA (good guys with guns).
            Statistics and polls  indicate that the number of gun owners – percentage of population – is decreasing.  Yet gun sales are increasing rapidly.  The only valid conclusion is that current gun owners are buy more guns.  They have been convinced of impending societal collapse, government confiscation of guns, the impending loss of sovereignty to the UN, and the need to buy still more guns and ammunition by a propaganda machine that would has spread stupidity for the teavangelists and other portions of the GOP base.  People who own more guns than they can shoot in a month were already stripping the shelves bare by Saturday morning after Newtown. 
            The “bad guy” – “good guy” analogy is designed to appeal to people who view their selves as the last hope for the restoration of a nation that never actually existed in the format they want to recover. 
            The weather here is cold, frigid, brutally unpleasant.  It is much like the heart of Wayne Lapier, VP of the NRA.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

20 December 2012 Powerless on Cassi Creek

Cassi Creek:
            The roaring wind woke me at 0500.  I dozed 9off, on until0530, then gave up, and rolled out to start the coffee.  I showered, hedging bets against probable power outages.  Woke Gloria at 0650 to shower.  \lost power at 0709.
Rain began aaabout0800.  Wind continues, delaying power restoration.  The wind varies between roaring bursts that roll down the valley,,,, and howling gusts that belong in a horror movie sound track. 
I dragged the trash can out for pickup, hoping it won' blow away, at 0920 still no power but turkeys are feeding in the front yard,

The power was back on at 0936.  All our hardware and toys came back on line except Gloria’s notebook, the modem, the router, and her UPS.  The UPS and her hardware kept cycling on and off.  This prevented the modem and router from connecting and staying connected.  Currently, we have a heavy-duty power strip powering her desk and shared hardware. 
The trashcan stayed in place long enough to be picked up.  It appears that someone threw diaper trash into the open can.  Most of our neighbors don’t pay for trash disposal, and some of them think that any length of road that is not theirs is acc3eptable for solid waste disposal.  When I went out to retrieve the can I found the gift and picked up what I could. 
            The wind, at 1030 was strong enough to push me and the trashcan off balance and up the driveway.  I have the first of seven PTSD clinic appointments scheduled for 1300 today at Mt. Home.  The NWS has issued high wind warnings from this morning to tomorrow evening.   I decided that the 60 mile round trip on rain-slick roads, with high velocity crosswinds is not worth the risk to me and/or the Pathfinder.  I called in my regrets.  I can catch up with the material next week. 
            This storm puts me in mind of hurricanes.  Some of the storm cells are tracking at over 100 knots/...  The ground is becoming covered with branches and dead snags are being blown down.  I’ve dragged one far enough out of the road to avoid blocking traffic.  According to the NWS, the storm should slack off somewhat after 1600.  However, we’ll have high winds with gusts through tomorrow evening. 
            So the question of the day is, “How does this storm tie into the advertised end of the world tomorrow?”. 
            I’m planning on sweet Italian sausage with onions and mushrooms, for dinner.    

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

19 December 2012 Mountain Wave to the wind
Mountain Waves is defined as oscillations to the lee side (downwind) of a mountain caused by the disturbance in the horizontal air flow caused by the high ground.
The wavelength and amplitude of the oscillations depends on many factors including the height of the high ground above the surrounding terrain, the wind speed, and the instability of the atmosphere.
Formation of mountain waves can occur in the following conditions:
§  Wind direction within 30 degrees of the perpendicular to the ridge of high ground and no change in direction with height.
§  Wind speeds at the crest of the ridge in excess of 15 kts, increasing with height.
§  Stable air above the crest of the ridge with less stable air above and below that stable layer.
Vertical currents within the oscillations can reach 2,000 ft/min. The combination of these strong vertical currents and surface friction may cause rotors[1] to form beneath the mountain waves causing severe turbulence.

Cassi Creek: the National Weather Service has posted a high wind advisory for tonight and tomorrow morning.  Higher elevations may clock 30-40 sustained winds with gusts exceeding 60mph.  While the foothills may not log sustained winds at those velocities, the formation of mountain waves is possible causing wind damage at lower levels by rotor-driven winds.  The graphic above shows the mechanism for rotor formation. 
          The atmospheric conditions are conducive to thunderstorm formation in the Ohio and Tennessee drainages.  There is a strong winter storm bringing heavy snow and winds to the plains states.  The northern Appalachians may get snow while the southern Appalachians get more rain, possible thunderstorms, and possible severe storms. 
          We’ve had enough rain this month that the wet snow combined with wind might cause a lot of wind damage to trees, power and commo lines, and property. 
          The inclement weather is going to be particularly annoying tonight.  I have a weather station fixed to the back deck that captures local conditions every 5 minutes for local logging, and every 15 minutes to upload to a nationa database.  The program I upload to, Weather Underground’s Wundermap has been as very reliable and very user-friendly program for many years.  It provides me with almost real time graphic reports from other local weather stations plus five minute loops of local and national radar for my purposes. 
          For some unknown reason, without warning subscribers, Weather Underground uploaded and installed a new revision of Wundermap.  The timely access to local data and conditions is now unavailable.  The program is ext to useless compared to its previous incarnation.  I’ve made my displeasure known.  I think that I may join the search for a better program to link with. 
          The potential for severe weather tonight and tomorrow has Gloria and I battening down what we can. 
          We plan on going into town sometime during the coming week for dinner at a Thai restaurant.  Like many couples, we have a set of customs and quirks that are tradition for us.  We celebrate this period in December, as it is when we first met.  The initial meeting is, to our collective mind, very worthy of celebration.  To that time, I had never seen such a blinding smile as the one that graced her face and lit up the airport terminal.  I see it frequently now.  Mornings and evenings are welcome events. 
          I think the winter project may be to encourage her to become familiar with the air rifle, then with the .22 lever action Henry.  The firing lane is clear and we have the time to practice together.  I need to put in some practice time as well.  My atypical PD makes my ability to hold on target more difficult than ever before. 
          Yesterday we received a photograph of Olivia and Helena, Gloria’s nephew, David’s daughters.  I’ve only seen the girls via Skype.  It is a great photograph and Gloria is thrilled to have it.  It was kind of David and Daisy  to take the trouble to frame it and send it.   
          The NRA has begun their propaganda campaign.  Their first official spin mentioned prayer, grief, mourning, tragedy, working to prevent such events in the future.  Today’s Oliphant cartoon is more accurate a depiction of what I think is actually taking place in the corporate NRA offices.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

18 December 2012 Any reason but the right one

          President Obama is in a unique and powerful position.  Now, while the nation is still displaying its anguish about The Connecticut grade school shootings, is the best time to begin any changes in gun control.  He has no worries about re-election.  Many members of Congress are lame ducks, and there is a small but steady stream of Senators reversing their positions about firearms control. 
          While the fiscal problems he is dealing with are of utmost priority, there is nothing to prevent him opening and maintaining a national review and reworking of gun laws in these United States.  The public really understands very little of the so-called “fiscal cliff.”  It is a manufactured crisis that is more about which branch of government will be able to tell its base to celebrate a victory.  The public may not understand the ins and outs of gun control, but it does understand that murdering 26 children and teachers is wrong and must not happen again. 
          The anti-gun lobby wants a ban on almost all guns. .  The extreme edge of the anti-gun lobby wants to round up and eliminate all guns.   That will not happen.  There are millions of legitimate hunters, target shooters, and other competition shooters who obtain guns legally, store them safely, and use them with utmost caution.  Their privileges under the law should not be endangered. 
          The pro-gun lobby wants open ownership, open carry, unregulated possession with the extremist edge advocating private ownership of every type of firearm imaginable, including machine guns, anti-aircraft guns, and any weapon that they can acquire. 
          Many of the pro-gun people have fallen prey to the anti-government, hate group, militias, and “take back America” propaganda.  These groups use fear of social collapse, xenophobia, anti-Islam, and dozens of other excuses to recruit members and to expand their audience. 
          The primary causation for Friday’s murders was the easy accessibility of high powered, high capacity firearms to a person with an unstable mental status that led him to kill.  Without the weapons readily available he would not have been able to carry out as many murders.  
          It should come as no surprise that with the blood on the walls still not dry from Friday’s murders, Saturday’s gun shows were filled with people buying every handgun and long gun available.  Ammunition dealers are showing depleted stores as the fear of confiscation drives hoarding. 
           Who is at fault?  The gun owner, who paid with her life, was at fault, along with every violent movie and video game that fell into the hands of a disturbed and/or mentally ill individual.  Add to the list of the guilty, The NRA, other gun lobbys, the survivalists, secessionists, religious hate mongers.  Don’t forget the demagogues who will stand over the newly filled graves and proclaim that these murders happened because “God is no longer welcome in our schools. “  They may also blame the major social and cultural changes, such as the redefinition of marriage and women’s right; which threaten the power and income of the churches and demagogues.  We can put up with the status quo or we can behave like civilized people around the world.  We can limit the type of guns we allow citizens to own without limiting the legitimate hunter or target shooter’s access to the tools of his or her sport.  The 2nd Amendment defines a privilege, not an unlimited right.  We no longer need neighborhood militias.  There is no reason to believe that a bunch of want-to-be commandos is going to protect the nation from a “tyrannical government.” Nor will such a group frighten or defeat any invading army. 
          But the failure to enact meaningful and long lasting laws that may help decrease the rate of gun violence lies in the hands of our legislators who take re-election funds from gun lobbyists.  It lies in the hands of the  corporations that make movies using violence and special effects to cover a lack of plot and acting ability; in video games that call for body counts to keep score; in paint ball and other shooting games that let the losers reset or get up and walk away unharmed.  The John Wayne “its just a flesh wound” myth lives on today but the victims of the NRA’s propaganda don’t. 

Monday, December 17, 2012

17 December 2012 John Wayne to the rescue

I've been reading a bit about armed citizens intervening in mass shootings. A lot of people have said in recent days, "If only an armed citizen nearby had a gun, nobody would have been killed. The problem is not too many guns; it's too few." 

Well, I decided to see what I could find. I can't find ANY cases where a private citizen (not a police officer and not a trained, professional security guard) intervened and prevented a shooting in progress.

I found a couple cases where armed citizens apprehended and subdued a shooter after the shooting spree was over. I also found two cases (one at a shopping mall in Washington and one in a courthouse in Texas) where armed citizens confronted a gunman and wound up getting shot themselves - one guy got killed, and one was comatose for a while but later recovered. Though it technically falls outside the "citizens" criterion, I also found a case where police officers in New York confronted a gunman in 
the middle of a shooting and wound up wounding an additional nine innocent bystanders. 

I did find a couple church shootings stopped by security guards, including the well-known New Life Church shooting where a security guard (and former police officer) wounded a gunman who then shot himself.

All in all, the score is lousy at best. When an armed citizen confronts a gunman, it actually appears more common that the gunman wins. So at this point, we've got 300 million privately-owned guns in a country of 314 million citizens, and more gun stores in America than there are Starbucks coffee shops in the entire world. If the score is still that lousy with this many guns, how many more do we need before these armed citizen interventions actually work???

In summary, it's an easy fantasy to say "if we had a few more guns around at Sandy Hook, none of this would have ever happend." But in the real world, the facts are a lot more messy.
-Brian Dunigan”

Cassi Creek:  I’m sure that uploading Brian’s piece will initiate another chapter of the NRA orchestrated grand chorus, “They’re coming for your guns!  “Buy more guns to protect yourself from the government that wants to take away you freedoms, your religion, and your 2nd amendment rights.”
            Honestly, I’m very tired of hearing those bits of propaganda.  “They” aren’t coming for your guns.  Limiting the number of guns one person may buy in one day may be annoying, but so is finding the grocery store out of your favorite bread.   There is no logical reason for any private citizen to own a machine gun or assault rifles to protect their selves from societal collapse/end of the world.  Those myths are just that, myths.  If someone is so frightened of the future that they build an underground bunker, stock it with freeze-dried food and all the latest survivalist toys, they may as well go ahead and move into the bunker; then close and bolt the door.  That freeze-dried shit is just that, No matter how much food they store, some will spoil due to age and the rest will become so boring that it becomes a chore to choke it down.  If society degrades that much, someone will remember, where their bunker is, find the air intake, and gas them all in order to take over the bunker.  All their hoarded bullets and guns will be of no benefit. 
            So the segment of the populace that wishes to take their guns and migrate to a place populated by “real patriots” should be encouraged to move to Texas.  It won’t become a self-regulating nation as is predicted in the survivalist novels.  It will become anarchy until it depopulates itself in an immense blazing gun battle that erupts when half the population insults the other half about caliber, bullet weight, or some other earth-shattering topic. 
            Then, perhaps it will become safe enough for the people who realize that John Wayne was only an actor , shooting blanks  and throwing punches in a carefully scripted performance, to let their children live normal lives again.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

16 December 2012 ides of a bloody December

            December is a cruel month, capable of ripping apart he most stable of personalities, leaving them bent, broken, and bloody, struggling for the slightest glimmer of light.
            Earlier cultures found the loss of daylight and the deepening cold weather bound them to their huts and cottages, eating the last of the fruits and vegetables, carving ever-thinning slices of increasingly gamey meat, to flavor their porridge of grains.   Keeping warm and dry became full time work.  Layers of animal skins and coarsely woven cloth harbored hungry populations of lice and fleas.  Typhus, cholera, and plague vied with starvation, exposure, and accidents to decrease the survival rate.

            Cold winds howling down from higher latitudes, inland from icy seas, and off barren glaciers brought voice to legends of Frost Giants and banshee.
            As we became more civilized, better able to build shelters that did more than slow the wind and blunt the force of winds, the manner of survival became more important to the survivors.  Pagan festivals merged with those of supplanting cults pushing old traditions into a mix with new to celebrate the return of light and warmth to the lower latitudes.  
            The industrial age increased the separation between the social classes, accenting the gap in wealth between workers and the industrial barons.  The rise of unions helped to create a middle class of professionals and workers that lasted until a new group of ultra rich decided that it was allowable for them to destroy the world and the global economy as long as they profited immensely in the process.
            We find ourselves in December and in a mental December that takes power from the solar dark and cold.  Millions of unemployed find that they lack the money for the winter festivals. The dominant cult and the dominant culture insist that existing economic behaviors favoring the ultra wealthy be continued. 
            The physical and climactic violence of December gets incorporated into the customs and cultures that control behavior.  The increasingly violent “black Thursday” demonstrates that violence has become  acceptable in preparing for the winter solstice..  From there it is only a short step to the point where we find mass murder an acceptable gift for those who sit for hours playing video games that simulate high numbers of killings as the players rack up body counts.  While video game manufacturers and firearms manufacturers claim there is no link between games and violent spree killings, the evidence of the link was widely broadcast during the Gulf War as one American pilot declared “This is just like a video game!” as he guided a missile onto its target via radar and optical guidance.  The removal of the enemy pilot from the reality of the situation bothered me then and bothers me today. 
            December 2012 has tallied at least two major mass murders and several smaller incidents.  The end result will be a stalled effort to limit these incidents and a spike in gun sales. 
            The supposed end of the world (Mayan) along with other end of days scenarios playing out under the encouragement of Christian extremists and others who foresee societal collapse because of Obama’s re-election and/or financial and cultural meltdowns; have instilled irrational hatred and fear in the minds of millions who lack the ability to separate high-pressure sales ploys from reality have primed the pump for those who want to mark their exit with a splash.. 
            December is a time when depression increases among the mentally troubled as daylight and warmth decrease in the outdoor world that is becoming an enemy of too many.  The pharmacologic celebration of the solstice is not of great efficacy when the outdoor world becomes an enemy again.  As the wind howls in the wires, wolves howl in the minds of the out of work and out of reality who take on the guise of a paladin who, alone, can chase away the winter’s dark and the winter’s cold.
            Lock up the mentally ill, lock up the guns; lock up the NRA executives who feed fear into the already fearful.  Option three sounds most likely to bring back some semblance of sanity in a dark and bloody month.


Saturday, December 15, 2012

15 December 2012 A simple request

Cassi Creek:  I don’t do chain letters.  I rarely forward anything to anyone.  I ignore “cute.”  I don’t believe in miraculous cures.  I select charities to support with a very skeptical eye.  I rarely, very rarely, ask others on-line to call, write, or otherwise contact – with the exception of politicians, who should be hammered unmercifully into performing the job they were elected to do, rather than feathering their nests by letting lobbyists into their offices.
          Today, I ask everyone who reads this to take part in the development of a rapid, reliable, non-invasive, painless, diagnostic procedure for Parkinson’s Disease.  It is simple, takes only a few minutes, and there is no cost to anyone.

Follow the link:

Make the phone call,
Follow the instructions


Friday, December 14, 2012

14 December 2012 Inquisition or witch-hunt

“…Thursday’s humiliating denouement fooled no one who has been around Washington for more than a minute and a half. If the president wanted Rice, her withdrawal never would have been accepted.
It never should have been allowed to come to this. On that score, Mr. President, as you say, I’ve got a problem with you.
It never should have been allowed to come to this.”

Cassi Creek:  Marcus is right!
          This demonstration of political bullying should never have taken place.  The choice of cabinet officials does not reside in the out of power party.  The long and short is that Rice, by virtue of gender and race, yet another reminder to the GOP/teavangelists that they lost the election; has become a unwilling participant in a witch hunt.  The GOP/teavangelists are looking for anything at all that they might be able to use in trying to impeach Obama.  This seems to be the pattern since the Clinton era.  If you lose, impeach or try to.  It is time for this idiocy to stop. 

          Connecticut grade school shooting. 
          This is the third high profile shooting within the last 14 days, carried out with assault style weapons or with high capacity handguns.  Motives remain uncertain.  Fatalities have occurred with each of the three incidents. 
          The NRA will go into full defensive mode.  “If more people were armed they might have prevented as many injuries or deaths by taking out the shooter.”  Yet the thought of a bunch of would-be commandos shooting at who they may think is the initial shooter is more frightening than the thought of a single shooter such as the 22 year old in Oregon or the Aurora gunman. 
          The sale of guns will mushroom over the holidays.  We’ll watch as self-proclaimed Christians celebrate the mythical birth of the “prince of peace” by giving guns as gifts.  The local newspaper has been running ads for gun sales all month.  My morning hiking partner is a 2nd amendment voter.  He makes his living selling hand-made handgun holsters.  They’re quite good, very durable, I own two of them. 
          I’m caught on the horns of this dilemma.  I’m writing this with two rifles and a shotgun within 3 feet of my desk.  I have a concealed carry permit, as does Gloria.  I don’t expect to ever have to defend us or our home with firearms.  I hate the thought of such an event.  Yet, if it were necessary, I have no doubt I would be capable of doing so. 
          I’ve been trained to use a rifle, shotgun, and handgun by military and NRA instructors.  I know about target identification, and about the need to avoid shooting at anyone who is not a threat.  That means, if I should wind up in the conventional mythical convenience store/gas station/grocery store/theater/school, along with a dozen other people carrying a concealed weapon, I must first determine who is unarmed, who is armed, then which armed people are actually the initial dangers.   By the time I secure my own safety, the initial shooters will have had several seconds to keep shooting.  I will have to be concerned about bullets coming from all directions. The smartest thing I can do is to wait for a break in the gunfire and further my escape.  By that time, the poorly trained or untrained concealed carriers will likely be adding their contributions to the bullets flying about. 
          I disagree with the NRA on almost everything.  No one needs an assault rifle to hunt game.  No one needs to own a machine gun or fully automatic rifle/machine pistol.  No one needs thirty round magazines for handguns.  No one needs to be able to buy multiple guns per day.  Gun shows need to close the loopholes that let people buy and sell firearms with no records and no background checks. 
          We don’t need the NRA lobbying for any of those things.  We don’t need the NRA scaring people into buying more guns to “prevent Obama taking your guns.”  We don’t need vigilantes, middle-aged militias, and people with a pathologic loss of contact with reality planning to “retake the government and country from “Those people”.”
          There is a place for the NRA.  They have excellent hunter and gun safety classes.  One of those classes should be a requirement for any gun purchase. 
          We still have two weeks to go in December.  How many more victims will we ring up before we ring in  2013?

Thursday, December 13, 2012

13 December 2012 End of the world next four exits

Cassi Creek:  Atypical Parkinsonism! 
          That’s the diagnosis that accompanied the skull MRI order.  That’s the diagnosis that will or won’t satisfy the VA criteria for a disability rating and compensation.  The MRI showed no abnormalities that would cause Parkinsonism-like symptoms.  The medication prescribed for me has resulted in some palliative effect, lessening of tremors and fine motor control dysfunction.  Since Parkinsonism is largely diagnosed by ruling out other causations, the diagnosis seems to be firming up. 
          I’m 64 and was exposed to Agent Orange in the Iron “Triangle” and other regions of former South VietNam during the period of highest usage. 
          I have excellent support and help at home.  Gloria is an R.N She knows when to help and when to push me.  My mother, also an R.N. has set the bar extremely high as a result of her own medical adventures.  I have our neighbor Mike to walk with, gets me up and outdoors. 
          I have numerous on-line friends including a microbiology tech from Ohio who keeps me current in that arcane.  I routinely converse with pathologists, attorneys, musicians, fly fishers, singer-songwriters, and other veterans of my era. 
          There is a very special group of friends, most of whom I have never seen in the flesh, but with whom I have shared music in various formats, argued and discussed politics, and shared all aspects of life on three continents.  We came together, on line, in order to complete a project concerning the music of The Grateful Dead.  That project is long finished but the compendium crew remains mostly intact and strongly bonded.  The depth of experiences and interests matches the diversity of professional and personal skills found among the members.  I’ve never gone there with a problem or concern without finding at least one valid answer.  Most of them got the information about my diagnosis today.  The response has been intensely supportive. 
          I don’t know how rapidly this disease will progress.  The initial onset seems, according   to the neurologist I see at VA, to be more rapid than expected.  Thus, the “atypical” modifier.  That discrepancy may be my doing.  I was not really looking for symptoms prior to 2008 when I began daily entries in this blog.  Whether medications palliate it successfully and it remains a slowly progressing disease; or whether it becomes culminant, I will be well looked after by family and friends.  To date, since 2002, the quality of personal care I have received via the Veterans Affairs department has been adequate to grate.  There are delays caused by understaffing and other availability concerns.  Only Congress can change that.   It’s time for all citizens to sit on their Congressional members, shake them by the neck, and insist that they adequately fund health care and compensation for the troops they are so happy to send overseas and so quick to forget once their cronies supplies of oil are ensured.
          Parkinsonism is a horrible diagnosis.  But I look around me as the year draws to a close.  We avoided all the natural disasters that marked the year 2012.  We’ll go past the exits that have sidetracked so many Americans this year.  I know what I am dealing with, have access to meds and medical care, There’s no need for Gloria and me to take the exits that lead to loss of everything.  We get to call the dog and enjoy each other. 
          Agent Orange:  Been there, done that, guess it’s time to get the t-shirt.  There are two I like.  One is the chemical description in orange on navy blue.  The other, short and to the point: 
“Agent Orange!
What’s your excuse?”

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

12 December 2012 There but for fortune…

Decades after a risky Cold War experiment, a scientist lives with secrets.

Vets feel abandoned after secret drug experiments
By David S. Martin, CNN
March 1, 2012 -- Updated 1356 GMT (2156 HKT)

Cassi Creek:  There are times when, despite your best efforts, the universe is functioning in such a manner that you can’t win.  In the cosmic competition for what we feel to be our share of the pie, the dice are always loaded, the deck is always stacked, and the house has all the advantages.  We may think we have a system, or we may think we have the games figured out.  That lack of applause is the universe inhaling in order to laugh at you. 
          I spent most of the summer of 1968 at Fort Sam Houston, training as a combat medic.  The class content included ward duty – taking care of patients who had not yet become shot, who had survived being shot, or who needed medical care of some other manner.  However, we all knew that we’d entered the pipeline and we all knew where the pipeline spilled its contents. 
          The manpower needs for the 1968, post Tet Offensive army were high.  A large number of non-English speakers had been scooped up and added to the mix.  The result of this was training companies that contained men unable to understand the training material and unable to pass even the simplest written exam, necessary to document completed training before they were assigned to save the lives of wounded. 
          From my training company, three of us were encouraged to become tutors; working after evening chow to help the non-English speakers assimilate the class material.  Our reward was a guaranteed pass every night until Taps, and every weekend.  We also escaped some of the more odious housekeeping duties. 
          I recall discussions about an assignment option that involved testing medications, antidotes, and other things beneficial to the combat troops in general.  If I recall correctly, the recruitment drive took place in the evening, while I was tutoring.  It had been presented as an altruistic thing to do that would prevent assignment to VietNam, the ever-present carrot.  Looking back, I can’t say if I would have taken the bait or if I had already lost my confidence in the benevolence of the Army.  I know that a couple of men in my rotation were assigned to the program.  Beyond that, I have no recall of any who became guinea pigs. 
          The reports surfacing now are frightening.  The use of nerve agents, while the results may be beneficial, is horrifying.  From what I know of designer drugs, it appears that some of the “volunteers” had too much, too fast, and wound up with partially fried gray matter. 
          .  I can only imagine the difficulty the victims have had; incurring Parkinson’s by 20 years of age, yet unable to obtain any VA compensation for injuries received in Army sponsored research. 
          I’m lucky, in that my “atypical Parkinson’s” most likely due to Agent Orange exposure, has only manifested in later life.  I have some chance of obtaining compensation from VA.  When, and how much, remains to be determined. 
          For which ever reason I missed selection for one of these programs, I’m extremely grateful.  I didn’t beat the house, but I may have broken more or less even. 

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

11 December 2012 One pill makes you…

Cassi Creek:  The morning hike with Mike took place in a cold, damp valley, with lowering clouds at the visible head wall and numerous cars driving too fast for the road conditions in the lower valley. 
          Gloria and I went into Johnson City for groceries and lunch.  When we returned the weather conditions were much as we had left them earlier. 
          I’ve a fire laid in the stove and just brought in a load of wood for tonight.  It has been, and remains, a very high pain day.  My latest medications have helped somewhat with tremor reduction but have no effect at all on pain.  They are not pain meds but I’m at the point where I wish they might have some synergistic effect with my pain meds.  That sort of cosmic bargaining is of no value and no benefit.  Time to give it up and get on with the day. 

Monday, December 10, 2012

10 December 2012 Looks like rain

          The morning began gray and windy with a fingernail moon hanging high overhead.  The walk out to the mailbox for the paper had its own audio track, wind in the wires, whining and making Loki uneasy. 
          The lyrics to “Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald” surfaced along with the wind.  The potential for bad weather is high and the abnormal warmth in the air suggests that the forecasters know what they are paid to know. 
          Loki did her early-warning dog routine while we showered.  Normally she stays out of the bathrooms.  During thunderstorms and other potentially severe weather she follows us into the bathrooms and can’t be chased out.  This behavior has always been slightly part of her behavior.  But after the 27th of April in 2011 it has become pronounced. 
          No hike with Mike this morning.  His gout is bothering him and neither of us like being on the road in wet conditions.  Our neighbors drive too fast.  Several times this fall it has been a real fine line between jumping into the creek and hoping that the oncoming drivers will slow down and make the turn away from us. 
          Last night’s seared scallops were well received.  Soup for dinner.  That should go well with the declining temperatures.