Saturday, October 25, 2014

ars gratia artis

Watson Lake Reflection, Prescott, AZ
photograph by Evan Robinson

Prescott is not the "look everywhere and see spectacular landscapes" location that the Eastern Sierra is this time of year, but there are places...
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Friday, October 24, 2014

"Government Didn't Build My Business, I Did"

The Coffee Cup Cafe & Cantina, Boulder City, NV
photograph by Evan Robinson

We stopped for breakfast (for Sara) and lunch (for me) at this cute little place in Boulder City, Nevada, just down the street from the bust of Frank Crowe, who honcho'd the whole damn Dam.

Nice place, and I almost didn't walk in when I saw the sticker on the front door: "Government Didn't Build My Business, I Did".

In Boulder City, Nevada.  A town that owes its entire existence to a government run public works project, Hoover Dam -- and which was government owned and run until 1959, more than two decades after the Dam was completed.  The Dam and associated recreation looms so large in Boulder City that it is one of only two municipalities in Nevada that ban gambling.

But he/she/they built their business all on their own lonesome without any contribution by the big evil gubmint.  Not the utilities they use, not the road that passes in front of the place, not the sidewalk they put tables on or next to, not the police and fire protection they enjoy, and especially, most especially, not that damnable Dam and the lake next door that just attracts oh, their entire f*cking clientele*.

So, "Al and the Stevens family", it's so good to know that you are standing on your own feet and not taking any handouts.

Because government didn't just help you build your business, Government Built Your Whole F*cking Town!

* Because nobody would be living in this godforsaken desert if it weren't for the power and water provided by Hoover Dam, not to mention that all their "Local Boulder City folks" who are "their mainstay" wouldn't have a town to live in if the Dam weren't there.
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Friday, October 17, 2014

Florida Jerk Gets Life in Prison

From ABC News:

A Florida man convicted of first-degree murder for fatally shooting a teenager in an argument over loud music outside a Jacksonville convenience store has been sentenced to life in prison without parole.
Michael Dunn, the Florida concealed carrier who shot and killed Jordan Davis at a gas station, is going to jail for the rest of his life.

Good.

Dunn had words with Davis and his friends about their music and somehow felt compelled to draw his (legally carried) handgun and shoot Davis to death.  Dunn and his girlfriend left the scene and did not report the shooting to police.

Asshole (Dunn, just to be clear) got what he deserved.  At least.

Dunn fucked up in so many ways it's hard to count them.

If you are carrying, you cannot afford to instigate a conflict.  Not even a little one.  Heinlein's quote about an armed society being a polite society is prescriptive, not descriptive.  He fled the scene (and not, apparently, because it wasn't a safe place).  He didn't call the police (which any rational person would do if they'd been threatened with a shotgun, as he claimed he was).  He fucking went back to his hotel and ordered a pizza.

Wow.

When I was training at Gunsite for a week, I put my gun on in the morning at the hotel and wore it until I get back at night.  Largely to get used to the equipment and weight -- adding a couple of pounds of pistol and ammunition to opposite sides of the belt is not comfortable*.  That 30 minute drive first think in the morning and last thing at night was one of the most uncomfortable hours of my life each day.  I was constantly aware that I was carrying.  I found myself at the gas station or Walgreen's worrying about placing my right side to a barrier so that no one could grab for the pistol.  Yes, apparently wearing a firearm makes you paranoid!  :-)

*Clint Smith, who runs Thunder Ranch in Oregon, says carrying "is not meant to be comfortable -- it's meant to be comforting"

Seriously, by the end of the week it was beginning to normalize in terms of that sort of random fear.  But the sense of awe did not go away.  The sense of responsibility and requirement that I "maintain an even strain" did not leave me.  I drove more cautiously.  I responded more kindly to offensive driving.

And I never, ever, not once considered starting a fight, even a verbal one, with anybody*.

Because I was carrying a gun.

*Not that I'm terribly belligerent in general, but my wife will tell you that I have my moments.

That 5 hours of experience driving to and from class at Gunsite looms large in considering whether or not to carry.  And in how I think about other people considering whether or not they should carry.  My favorite thought about it comes from the Anglican Book of Common Prayer:
... and therefore is not by any to be enterprised, nor taken in hand, unadvisedly, lightly, or wantonly, to satisfy men's carnal lusts and appetites, like brute beasts that have no understanding; but reverently, discreetly, advisedly, soberly, and in the fear of God; duly considering the causes ...
If Michael Dunn had thought "reverently, discreetly, advisedly, soberly, and in the fear of God" before he decided to carry that handgun, we'd all be better off.  And Jordan Davis would still be alive.
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Thursday, October 16, 2014

Why Not Regulate Guns Like Cars?

Why Not Regulate Guns Like Cars?

One of the common questions asked by gun control people is "how is it that guns are less regulated than cars" or "why is it that it's easier to buy a gun than a car" or word to that effect -- cars are regulated (you need a license to drive them on public roads) and registered (the government maintains a list of who owns which car) and insured (you need car insurance to drive them on public roads).  Why not guns?

Answer One: Constitutionality

The first common answer from People Of The Gun (POTG) is "because cars aren't in the Constitution and guns are".  Which is factually wrong, of course.    Cars are in the Constitution!  Oh wait, no they aren't.  Wait!  Cars aren't in the Constitution, but neither are guns.  Guns are, in fact, in the Bill of Rights!

OK, enough silliness.  Cars aren't in the Bill of Rights and guns are.  Answer one.  My response would be that free travel is considered a constitutional right and that should penumbrally cover modes of transportation.  This answer, BTW, is why I prefer to discuss the intersection of regulations on guns and regulations on voting.

Answer Two: Bring It On

The second (increasingly) common answer from POTG is "sure, bring it on!", because the comparison about purchase and operation and insurance isn't as favorable to the gun control side as you might think.  For instance, there is no legal requirement (at least in most states) to have a driver's license (for which you need to pass a test) to own a car.  Just to operate it on public roads.  A comparable statute for guns would be no test or other barrier to buy a gun, just to carry it in public.  Likewise, cars are generally registered as part of making it legal to drive them in public.  If (like some farm vehicles) they are used exclusively on private property, registration is not required.  Insurance is a bit dicier but I believe it works the same way -- you do not need to insure a vehicle which is not being operated on the public roads.  All of these comparisons work in the direction that POTG (even the most extreme) like.

And then there's the big one: reciprocity.  If you have a driver's license from any state (and some countries), it's good everywhere in the US, and there is substantial uniformity in driving laws.  POTG presume that "Regulating Guns Like Cars" would include this reciprocity for concealed carry and uniformity of carry and transport and ownership laws, which means a significant win for POTG and the cause of gun rights.

My response?  I actually like the idea of uniform regulations for ownership, carry, and transport.  I'm not terribly afraid of confiscation via registration, but I understand that I may not be representative of gun owners in that regard.  Then again, I might.

Answer Three: Danger Level

Now let's get to what I want to talk about: the relative risk of Cars and Guns in America.  Some basic facts (all figures rounded for convenience):


On initial look, cars kill about the same number of people annually as guns do.  It's arguable that suicides are different from homicides, but CDC does not track intentional vehicular homicide versus accidental vehicular homicide, nor does it apparently track suicide by vehicle.

On second look, the old saw "guns don't kill people, people kill people" has a lot of meaning in it.  Fewer than 2% of deaths by gun are accidental*.  Essentially 100% of deaths caused by cars are -- or at least are assumed to be.  The vast majority of gun deaths are with intent -- directed outward or inward.  That's why lots of effort is put into making cars safer and almost no effort is put into making guns safer -- because guns do not kill a substantial number of people by accident.

* Some of the victims of homicide are undoubtedly unintentional victims -- they are "accidental" in the sense that the shooter intended to shoot someone else.  However, the shooter intended to shoot someone, so a bystander shot to death is still, in this context, an intentional death.  That is inherent in the numbers as gathered.  I don't know what percentage of homicide victims are unintended victims, but their deaths are still with intent and not actually accidental.

Time In Proximity

A more valid argument is that people spend more time interacting with cars than they do with guns ("time in proximity").  Considering that gun control advocates speak of guns as if they were sentient and had volition, I'm not impressed with their use of this argument.  As a seeker of reality, however, I think it has some merit because it doesn't matter how many guns there are in the US if they are all locked up or unloaded, and it doesn't matter how many cars there are if they are all garaged and out of gas.  Even a gun owner (who doesn't carry a gun routinely, which is most of us) probably doesn't spend as much time touching a gun daily as they do touching a car.  Or being in close proximity (defined as a few feet).

But when you consider that, in military parlance, a gun exercises control over a space from 50 yards (a handgun) to 1000 yards (a deer or sniper rifle) in radius, a whole lot of people are within the area of control of each gun.  Especially guns owned in urban areas.  You may be sitting in effective range of 100 guns right now and have no idea.  I know that I'm sitting within effective range of any guns I own even though they are safely safed.

Aside from storage, nearly half a million Washingtonians (the state, not DC) have Concealed Pistol Licenses (CPLs -- what the state of Washington calls a concealed carry permit).  That's about 6.5% of the total population and about 8.3% of the over-18 population (Washington limits CPLs to those over 21).  So about 1 in 12 adult Washingtonians has the legal right to concealed carry.  I don't know what percentage of those who may carry do, but it's not zero because I know at least one.  Each of those carriers is within range of anybody within about 50 yards.  And almost none of those people know they are "in proximity" to a firearm.

Realistically, people are simply unaware of their proximity to guns.  Public delicacy, if not legality, convinces most gun owners to keep their guns out of sight when not actively in use.  Consequently, the question of time spent in proximity -- whether you are more exposed to cars or to guns -- is currently unanswerable with any certainty.

The Major Difference (Deaths)

So cars and guns kill about the same number of people annually, but there is a qualitative difference in the perpetrators of the violence.  Broadly speaking, perpetrators of gun violence have intent and perpetrators of car violence lack intent.

Injuries

Where there is a huge quantitative difference, however, is in injuries.  Guns injure fewer than 100K people in America annually.  Cars injure over 2 million.  End of comparison.

Not enough?  Some percentage of those injuries are intentional.  Not everyone who tries to commit suicide succeeds, not everyone who tries to kill an assailant succeeds, not everyone who attempts to murder a rival succeeds.  So not all of those fewer than 100K gun injuries are accidents.  Some are failures.  If you assume survival rates like Iraq, a lot of them are failures.  OTOH, 100% (or very close to it) of the 2.2M car injuries are accidental.

Once again, we get to the difference between intention and accident.

What's It All Mean?

No one is going to be convinced by this argument.  The lines are already too clearly drawn.  But the reality (leaving the time in proximity issue aside for now) is that cars are far more dangerous to the average law abiding non-suicidal American than guns are.  Gun violence is concentrated in socioeconomic classes -- notably criminals, although spouses of violent individuals (often criminals) are also common victims.  Even "random gun violence" is not terribly random with respect to socioeconomic class.  Car violence is very random and widespread.  There may be higher accident rates associated with vehicular failure in lower economic classes but even poor people drive near richer people.

Car violence is also different from gun violence because car violence is usually accidental.  Efforts to reduce car violence must go toward more reliable vehicular systems and improved training for operators.

Gun violence is largely (98% of deaths) deliberate.  "Making guns safer" is not a primary issue because the only way to make a gun safe against deliberate use is to make it inoperative.  The low number of accidental gun deaths makes it clear that, while operator training* may move people from the injured category to the dead category, it will likely not reduce the total number of gun deaths and injuries.

*I'm a fan of training.  Aside from the expense, I love it.  All the training I've had has been well recommended and I think beneficial.  Not all training is worth doing.  Regardless, training with guns has two distinct branches: safety and effectiveness.  When gun control advocates think "training", they think "safety training".  When POTG think training, they think "effectiveness".  All effectiveness training I have taken included safety training, and some of the RSOs are draconian about it.  I like that.
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Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Mass

I try to think of my mass as "just a number" and worry more about my capabilities.  But as I age and get creakier (back, knee, hips, shoulders, elbows -- hell, everything!) it's clear that less mass would be a good thing.

I've had a struggle with my mass for most of my mid-adult life.  I've tried various plans and mechanisms for reducing it, and have found one that works, but is too hard to maintain for an extended period.

That is low-carb eating.  I can eat as much beef, pork, and chicken as I want, and if I don't eat any carbs (I think it's actually carbs that breakdown quickly -- no bread, no sugar, etc. -- but most veggies are OK) I will lose about 1 pound a week.

Unfortunately for this plan, I love bread.  It's not too hard to avoid when I'm eating at home, but nigh-impossible for me to stay low-carb when I'm on the road, and since leaving Amazon last November I've been on the road a lot (Iceland, Vegas/Arizona, China, Chicago/DC/Blue Ridge, Bishop) this year.

But a couple of months ago, I found a new paradigm to attempt: six small meals per day.  I know that this is a current diet fad and that it's being debunked by, well, everybody who's not pushing it.  I won't go into how I found it or what the reasoning is, I'll just say that it seems to work for me.

Ideally, I'd be eating roughly a custard cup (or muffin tin) of food (emphasis on protein) at 9am, 12n, 3pm, 6pm, 9pm and either 6am or 12m.  I never make either of those last two, so it turns out to be five small meals per day.  And realistically there's something emotionally satisfying about a larger meal in there, so it's really four small meals and an almost-normal sized meal daily.

It seems to be sustainable and it seems to work for me on the road, which is really remarkable.  And I've lost more than 5% of my body weight, and on my last road trip (Bishop for a photo workshop) I crashed through my most recent plateau of 283 and this morning I weighed in at 275.

On top of the eating Sara and I have been working with a personal trainer three days a week -- usually 15-30 minutes of cardio/warm up and 30 minutes of training (something like CrossFit light).  We've been doing this for nearly a year now and both notice our bodies firming and getting stronger.  I can do things (like climb around at 10,000 feet) -- not as well as when I was younger and lighter, but well enough -- better than I expect to.

I have a reasonably well documented antipathy to "calories in, calories out" as a mechanism for weight loss.  The primary reason is that it doesn't work, as well as suffering from an increasing amount of scientific evidence that it is a flawed theory and shouldn't work.  I don't know the theory behind lots of small meals per day -- although I hear mumblings about "activating the metabolism" -- but if it works, I don't really care.

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Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Eastern Sierra Fall Color Photo Workshop at Mountain Light Gallery

I took my very first photography workshop last week.  Sara and I went to her home town, Bishop, California, between Death Valley and Mono Lake on the east side of the Sierra.  It used to be Galen Rowell's stomping grounds, and his business the Mountain Light Gallery is still there.  Last time we visited Bishop I noticed that the gallery had workshops and signed up for this one.  It was led by Gordon Wiltsie, a noted adventure photographer who did a great deal of fantastic work for National Geographic and many other publications.  He was ably assisted by Jerry Dodrill, also an adventure photographer and climber, who used to work for Galen Rowell at the Mountain Light Gallery.

The workshop ran from 2 October to 5 October with an evening kickoff and an afternoon finish.  Each day in between we were up and out before sunrise to local locations to catch the morning light and Friday and Saturday nights we were out late for sunset shooting as well.  We shot at North Lake, on the road to South Lake, out by the Owens River on 5 Bridges Road, near Big Alkali Lake off Benton Crossing Road near Lake Crowley, Convict Lake, Bishop Creek, and up in the White Mountains near the Schulman Grove.

In between Gordon and Jerry provided instruction via slideshow, critique, and Lightroom training.  On location they were very hands on, suggesting locations, shots, techniques, and always answering questions.

It was great.  Here are six images I took:

North Lake Dawn, Evan Robinson,
near Bishop, California

Sunset Tree, Evan Robinson,
near Bishop, California

Mountain Rays, Evan Robinson,
Owens River Valley, near Bishop, California

Dawn Mirror, Evan Robinson,
near Mammoth Lakes, California

Mounts Morrison and Laurel, Evan Robinson,
near Mammoth Lakes, California

Ancient Sunset, Evan Robinson,
near Schulman Grove, White Mountains, California
It occurs to me that each of these pictures is looking west.  That's where the light is, I guess :-).

I took about 700 images.  I have 30-ish that I think are pretty good, many of which I think are among the best images I've ever taken.  I look forward with trepidation to going over my ~30K previous images with my new eyes.  To be fair, I was going to have to do that anyway since my workflow is moving from Aperture to Lightroom because of Aperture's demise.

Right now I feel like I learned a lot.  But the real test will be what images I'm creating next month.  Regardless, this workshop was a test of whether I would enjoy workshops and learn from them.  I did and I did, so I'll be doing more of them.
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Monday, September 29, 2014

How Dangerous is Being a Cop in the US?

I saw a posting on Facebook (which I can no longer find, because Facebook posts are ephemeral and the algorithm used to put things on your timeline is apparently unstable) talking about the cost/person of police departments in major cities throughout the US.  In the comments was the question "how much do you pay someone to risk getting shot every day?" with the implication that your average police officer in the US faces a substantial risk of death by gunfire daily, and therefore whatever the costs were, they were a good value.

And that got me thinking.  Always a dangerous place for me to go.

How dangerous is it to be a police officer in the US?  Is there significant risk of dying by gunfire?  How does it compare with other occupations?

So let's go.


How many police officers are there in the US?  How is that number changing annually?
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there were 780,000 "Police and Detectives" in the US in 2012.  That's our baseline.  That number, BTW, is expected to grow by 5% by 2022, totaling about 821,000 by then.  I'd love more data about this, but it's all I could find in a quick search, so we'll consider 780K as our baseline number of police in the US.


How many police officers died in the line of duty in 2012?  Was that number "typical" for the years around it?
According to the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund, 122 officers died in the line of duty in 2012.  That number is low compared to 2010 (161) and 2011 (171), but high compared to 2013 (100), so let's dig a little deeper with a graph:

Police Deaths by Year 1990-2013
Graph by Evan Robinson

Frankly, I think I see a slight downward trend in the data, but the math says otherwise.  There's virtually no correlation between passage of time and number of police deaths.  I note that 2001 (241) is quite an outlier.  You have to go back to 1981 to get another year where more than 200 police died, but in the 70s, only 1977 (192) had fewer than 200 police deaths.  The 70s were far worse than the 60s, which were worse than the 50s.


What's the chance of death in the line of duty for a police officer in the US?  What's the chance of death by gunfire?
If there are 780,000 police officers in the US and 159.4 die annually (the mean from 1990 and 2013 inclusive), the chance of dying is 159.4 in 780,000 or 1 in 4892.8 or .0002.  That's about 2 hundredths of a percent.  Specifically taking 2012 numbers, it's 122 in 780,000 or 1 in 6393 or .00016, or about 16 thousandths of a percent.  But let's take the higher number of 1 in about 4890, again .0002.  Expressed as a death rate per 100,000, that is 20.4 -- that is, 20.4 of every 100,000 police officers in the US die annually from line-of-duty causes.

The overall annual death rate in the US for 2010 (the most recent final value I can find according to the Department of Health and Human Services, at the CDC website) was 747.0, with a preliminary value of 740.6 for 2011.  So police line-of-duty death rates are about 3% of total mean death rates.

Police line-of-duty deaths, while tragic, are not a significant risk compared to mean death rates in the US.

But wait, we want to talk about gun-related police deaths, right?  Again according to the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund, in 2012 50/122 officers killed died from gunfire.  Over the past decade, the mean percentage of officer deaths from gunfire was 36%.  So the gun-related death rate is 20.4*.36 = 7.4 per 100,000.


How do these death rates compare with other ages, causes, and professions?
In 2008 (the most recent year for which data in a complete Statistical Abstract of the United States is available), the only age range to have a death rate anywhere near that low is 5-14, where the male death rate was 24 and the female death rate was 12.  Police officer line-of-duty deaths are therefore less common (statistically) than any death of 5-14 year old boys, although more common than 5-14 year old girls.  Line-of-duty gun deaths are about one-third as common as all deaths of 5-14 year old boys and about half as common as all deaths of 5-14 year old girls.  In 2008, the mean death rate for males 25-35 (in which age range I imagine many police officers fall) was 225.  For males 35-44 it was 348.  So depending upon their age range, police officers are between 10x and 17x more likely to die from non-work-related causes than line-of-duty causes.  And 30x to 47x more likely to die from non-work-related causes than line-of-duty gunfire.

In 2006, comparable causes of death to all line-of-duty deaths include: Heart Failure (excluding ischemic heart disease aka "a heart attack") at 20.2; NonTransport Accidents (including falls, drowning, smoke inhalation, fire/flames, and poisoning) at 24.4; Diabetes at 24.2; Alzheimer's disease at 24.2; Drug and Alcohol induced deaths (combined) at 20.2.

Also in 2006, comparable causes of death to gun-related line-of-duty deaths include: prostate cancer at 9.5; Leukemia at 7.3; Falls at 7.0; Alcohol induced deaths at 7.4.

According to preliminary data for 2013 (see page 14), the rate of "fatal occupational injuries" in Construction is 9.4 per 100,000; Transportation and Warehousing is 13.1; Agriculture, forestry, fishing, and hunting is 22.2; Mining, quarrying, and oil and gas extraction is 12.3.

In other words, it's as dangerous to be a police officer as it is to be a farmer (3 million people), forester or logger (1.7 million people), commercial fisherman (1 million people) or hunter (about 14,000 people).  So there are over 5.7 million jobs in the US more dangerous than being a police officer.  And another 6 million in construction, which has a higher death rate than police gun-related deaths.


What's it all mean?
So yeah, being a police officer is a dangerous job, but the job-related danger is much less than your basic life-related danger (health problems, general accidents, etc.).  And there are about 7 times more people doing Ag-related jobs which are more dangerous than being a police officer.

So what do we have to pay these people to risk being shot every day?  I'd say a mean of about $57K per year, which is what they get.  Maybe we need to raise the pay of the people in Agriculture, forestry, fishing, and hunting, who get mean annual wages in the $18K - $41K range for more dangerous jobs.


TL;DR (Too Long; Didn't Read)
I realize that putting the TL;DR way down here kind of defeats the purpose, but it allows me to put the conclusion after the work, which I like.

Being a police officer is a dangerous occupation.  But there are plenty of people in the US who do more dangerous jobs for far less pay.  Police line of duty death rates are comparable to death rates from Diabetes and Alzheimer's disease or the combination of drug and alcohol induced deaths.  Police line of duty shooting death rates are comparable to alcohol induced deaths, Leukemia, or death by falling.  A male police officer between 25 and 44 is many times (10x - 17x) more likely to die from a non-work-related cause than to die in the line of duty.  And only about one-third of those line-of-duty deaths are gun-related.

And here's something else to think about
On average a police officer dies in the line of duty in the US about every 55 hours (everything you need for this calculation is above so I'm not going to insult your intelligence by including it).  On average a police officer kills a civilian (about 400 annually) about every 22 hours.  So I think we have more to worry about from them than they do from us.
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Sunday, September 28, 2014

War Surplus



War Surplus Baby
Jim Carroll & William Danoff, 1976
(as performed by Starland Vocal Band)

She's a war surplus baby from Salvation's Army
She plays tambourine and wants to be a star

She stepped out of the Sixties
From a dream world to fix these 
Broken promises I play on my guitar

And we made it through somehow
For the bad and good
She always knew we would

See, she believes in miracles and romance,
In learning how to slow dance
In sacrifice, in freedom, and in pain

Yes, she believes in magic
And she tells me the tragic
Side of something beautiful that never ends in vain

Barefoot and sadness
Bell bottom eyes
We did what needed to be done
So marched all the marches
Ended all the wars
All the time believing that we won

Don't the times keep on changing
The stakes get much higher
It's out of the frying pan into the fire

(made it through somehow)
And we made it through somehow
For the bad and good
She always knew we would

And she still believes 
In love in the morning
And love when you need it
If your soul gets hungry you've got to feed it

She's a war surplus treasure
Her peace is her pleasure
In spite of all this madness

Life Goes On
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Sunday, March 9, 2014

Losing a Toccoan...

William "Wild Bill" Guarnere, 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne "Screaming Eagles", 
1923.04.28 - 2014.03.08, image from wildbillguarnere.com

One of the "Band of Brothers" died yesterday at the age of 90.  William "Wild Bill" Guarnere, who was portrayed by Frank John Hughes in the HBO miniseries "Band of Brothers", died of a ruptured aneurysm at Jefferson University Hospital in Philadelphia.  Guarnere received the Silver Star, Bronze Star with cluster, Purple Heart with two clusters, and the Croix de guerre with palm, among other decorations.

Guarnere was one of the authors of a best-selling memoir about Easy Company, 506th PIR, 101st Airborne: Brothers in Battle, Best of Friends.  Edward J. "Babe" Heffron, Guarnere's co-author, died 96 days ago (on 2 December 2013), also at the age of 90.

The exploits of Easy Company, 506th PIR were popularized by Stephen Ambrose's book Band of Brothers and the HBO miniseries made from it.

If you read, you should read Band of Brothers.  If you don't read, watch the miniseries, then read the book.  If it interests you, read Donald Burgett's Currahee! and its sequels as well.  They are sanitized, as many stories of war are, but they are also powerful.  I prefer Burgett's books to Ambrose, but that may be because I read Currahee! decades before Band of Brothers was written.

I went to Normandy in 2009. I went through my images (how I wish I'd taken the good camera gear!) and found these:

Place Toccoa in Angoville-au-Plain, by Evan Robinson

The 506th PIR first trained at Camp Toccoa in Georgia.  They adopted "Currahee!" a Cherokee word which they believed meant "we stand alone" as their regimental motto.  They did training runs up Currahee Mountain.  When we were visiting Normandy, our guide suddenly turned off the main road and took us to Angoville-au-Plain.

Church at Place Toccoa in Angoville-au-Plain, by Evan Robinson

According to our guide, the church at Place Toccoa in Angoville-au-Plain become a medic post where two American medics from the 501st PIR set up shop.  Robert Wright and Kenneth Moore, both of the 2nd Battalion treated anyone who needed it, so long as they left their weapons outside.  During the night, at least one bomb pierced the roof of the structure and hit the floor, but did not explode.  For reasons unexplained, the church was shut almost immediately after the war and remained so for many years.  It is alleged that the pews still show the bloodstains of the soldiers treated here.  I can vouch only that they have dark stains.

Stained Glass, Church at Place Toccoa in Angoville-au-Plain, by Evan Robinson

Inside the church are several stained glass windows, one of which depicts an American paratrooper.

Stained Glass at Sainte-Mere-Eglise, by Evan Robinson

Stained glass in the church at Sainte-Mere-Eglise, also showing American paratroopers.

Ardean D. Vernatter, Private, 506th PIR, 101st Airborne "Screaming Eagles", Colleville-sur-Mer, by Evan Robinson

Private Ardean Vernatter from the 506th didn't make it past D-Day.

This stone is in the American cemetery at Colleville-sur-Mer, overlooking Omaha Beach.  According to our guide, every year about 1,400,000 visitors come to this little piece of America in France.  Eight hundred thousand of those visitors are French, four hundred thousand are American, and many of the remainder are German.  According to the visitors brochure (PDF), the cemetery is 172 acres in size and has 9387 stones (9238 crosses, 149 stars of David), including 41 sets of brothers (I erroneously indicated 33 in my previous post) and 3 Medal of Honor recipients, whose names are lined with gold leaf.  The names of 1557 MIA soldiers are engraved in the Garden of the Missing.

It's worth the trip all by itself, but while you're there, walk down to Omaha Beach, too.

Omaha Beach near low tide, Colleville-sur-Mer, by Evan Robinson

This is the view of the beach out to sea -- roughly what the defenders might have seen at low tide.

Omaha Beach looking inland toward the American Cemetery at Colleville-sur-Mer, by Evan Robinson

And this is the view up the hill.

Just stand and listen.  Try to imagine what it must have looked and sounded like as 50000 soldiers with their landing craft, vehicles, rifles, mortars, and explosives lay on this beach under withering fire.  Can you hear the screams?  Can you hear the prayers?  Close your eyes.  Can you see the blood they claim still comes from the rocks?  Can you see and hear the fear, the anger, the pain, the dying? 

Some people think that the raw emotion of awful things can stay in a place.  I think it might be true here.

Godspeed, Wild Bill.  Godspeed.  You deserve Valhalla.
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Saturday, March 8, 2014

Red Hot Chilli Pipers at Admiral Theatre, Bremerton, WA

Red Hot Chilli Pipers, Admiral Theatre, Bremerton, WA, 2014-03-07

What can I say?

It's quite a show.  I was surprised by the audience demographics, which skewed older than I expected, but when you consider that RHCP riffs off classic rock, maybe I was misexpecting.

They're in Federal Way, WA tonight, but I suspect the show is sold out.  I haven't been able to find a list of their tour venues, so check your local listings if you're interested.

Bagrock On!

OK, that's not quite fair.  If I'm going to drop this on you, I should at least provide a reasonable review...

The venue wasn't terribly large, but it was full.  The crowd ranged from kids to (I'd guess) late 60s, skewed older than I expected (as noted above) and required a little encouragement to get rocking at the beginning of the show but were pretty into it by the end.  I'm not even going to try for a setlist, but I'd guess it was about 25% classic rock pieces (which are intermixed with bagpipe pieces in short sets), 25% newer rock ("Clocks" by Coldplay, for example), and about half bagpipe or solo vehicles.  I will call out "Amazing Grace", "Don't Stop Believing", "Smoke on the Water", and "We Will Rock You".

The band has a pleasant and friendly stage presence, with several members taking the mike to work the crowd.  Their guitarist is having too much fun out there -- perhaps the pipers are more limited in their movement repertoire?  Drummers are fantastic, with Stephen Graham the snaresman absolutely amazing.

Good tour swag, although I'd love to get my hands on one of those flaming red sporrans.  And a hint -- you should change the red tassels into chili peppers, maybe taken from a chili ristra string of christmas lights?

If you get a chance, you should check these guys out.  Their music is in the iTunes Music Store, available on Amazon, and videos are on YouTube.  You have no excuse.
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Monday, February 24, 2014

Maria von Trapp dies at 99




Maria von Trapp (portrayed as Louisa in the musical and film) died at the age of 99 at her home in Stowe, VT on Tuesday.  Although she was the last surviving member of the singing Trapps, she is survived by at least one half-sibling (born to the Baron Georg and his wife Maria).
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Now Playing...

 
"Our sails swell full 
As we brave all seas 
On a westward wind 
To live as we please"
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Sunday, February 16, 2014

Ya Think?

Photo "Asinine Package Label" by Evan Robinson, 2014.02.16, Lawton, OK

There better be more than a "trace amount" of peanuts in my raw spanish peanuts.

(cross-posted from my personal blog Mischievous Ramblings II)
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Wednesday, February 12, 2014

More things in Heaven and Earth...

There are more things in Heaven and Earth, Horatio, then are dreamt of in your philosophy. -- William Shakespeare, Hamlet

This is one of them:

The Red Hot Chilli Pipers are playing Bremerton, WA, early in March. I must see this for myself.

Cross Posted from Mischievous Ramblings II

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Monday, November 11, 2013

Medal of Honor stamp unveiled today

From the Congressional Medal of Honor Society website:

The Medal of Honor is the highest award for valor in action against an enemy force which can be bestowed upon an individual serving in the Armed Services of the United States.
The Medal of Honor ("Congressional Medal of Honor" is incorrect usage) has been given 3468 times (according to Wikipedia) or 3463 times (according to the CMOHS).  Nineteen men received two, the most recent of them during The Great War.

Fifty Medals of Honor were given "belatedly".  At least 28 were given based upon past racial or religious discrimination (on the assumption that the higher commendation would have been given originally absent such discrimination).  Twenty of those went to members of the 442nd Regimental Combat Team.

The US Postal Service will issue a WWII Medal of Honor Recipients stamp on 2013.11.11 (Veteran's Day, or Remembrance Day):
USPS recognizes the 464 who were awarded the medal for WWII with a Veterans Day unveiling of new stamps.

He has wrinkles now, and his hair has thinned. But Charles Coolidge clearly remembers the day nearly 70 years ago that he earned a Medal of Honor in France for leading his outnumbered combat group through four days of continuous fighting.

"Just a 20-year-old boy. I live it every day. I can't forget it," the Chattanooga, Tenn., resident, now 92, says of that day in Belmont sur Buttant. "If you were there in combat and they were shooting at you every day, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. You'd never be able to forget it."

To make sure the nation doesn't forget his sacrifice either, the U.S. Postal Service is unveiling its newest stamp on Monday, Veterans Day. 

Coolidge's face and those of 11 other WWII Medal of Honor recipients will provide the backdrop for what the Postal Service is calling the most iconic stamp in history: the Medal of Honor stamp.
The stamps will depict the WWII Army and Navy Medals of Honor, but sheets will include images of 12 living (as of 2012) living WWII Medal of Honor recipients.


Take a moment to think about all the heroes.  If you can't think of one in particular, I suggest Rodger W. Young, of Tiffin, OH:


Cross-posted from Mischievous Ramblings II
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Thursday, March 8, 2012

Just Checkin' In...Be Back Here Soon, Folks! And We're Gonna Have Fun...




Life intrudes. You change jobs. You become a grandfather (!). You spend a monstrous chunk of time paying off debts accrued while you were unemployed.

And then?

You come back.

See ya soon, kiddies! :)
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Wednesday, October 5, 2011

"One more thing..."


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Thursday, July 21, 2011

RockStar Parking




Plus the driver strolls out of the car, cool as can be.

Amazing.

You've got to wonder, what was the driver doing to get that kind of takeoff? And then, to stick the landing so perfectly? I mean, even the East German Judge would give that ride a Perfect 10.

I'm not at all certain professional drivers being paid a truck-load of money could recreate that takeoff, flight, flip and oh so perfect landing, AS A STUNT. I'm sure if they tried, it'd be damn near-impossible.

Here's to the RockStar Driver who got it right the first time -- and to the Brew Master who bottled whatever the hell he was drinking. Cheers!

July 31: (Fixed the video)

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Wednesday, July 20, 2011

To Be or Not To Be?

When it comes to the debt ceiling and this administration  I feel like we are nationally having a Hamlet moment. There have been bloggers and writers a plenty who have compared the president to the prince of Denmark, but what does that make the rest of us.

To be Or not to be, that is the question... 

Playing Hamlet- President Obama

Hamlet - The Prince of Denmark, the title character, and the protagonist. About thirty years old at the start of the play, Hamlet is the son of Queen Gertrude and the late King Hamlet, and the nephew of the present king, Claudius. Hamlet is melancholy, bitter, and cynical, full of hatred for his uncle’s scheming and disgust for his mother’s sexuality. A reflective and thoughtful young man who has studied at the University of Wittenberg, Hamlet is often indecisive and hesitant, but at other times prone to rash and impulsive acts. 

The president knows who the bad guys are, He knows what the right thing to do is, He know the risks we are facing and yet he is pacing the battlements wondering what to do.

 Claudius is of course the whole crazy tea-party GOP fiasco with their sexual appetites, bizarre realities and ridiculous legislation.

Claudius - The King of Denmark, Hamlet’s uncle, and the play’s antagonist. The villain of the play, Claudius is a calculating, ambitious politician, driven by his sexual appetites and his lust for power, but he occasionally shows signs of guilt and human feeling—his love for Gertrude, for instance, seems sincere. 

To press my metaphor further, we have the Bluedogs and the Gang of 6 like some kind of Polonius character spouting ridiculous advice and cliche like they are the wise elder statesmen rather than the bluedog corporatist hacks we know them to be.

Polonius - The Lord Chamberlain of Claudius’s court, a pompous, conniving old man. 

And the left, well, we collectively are Ophelia. 
We can't understand why the guy we loved is talking about cutting Social Security and why he is both nice and nasty to us without reason or warning. We are likely to throw ourselves in the river and just give up...

Ophelia - Polonius’s daughter, a beautiful young woman with whom Hamlet has been in love.  Even in her lapse into madness and death, she remains maidenly, singing songs about flowers and finally drowning in the river amid the flower garlands she had gathered. 

To make matters worse, our Hamlet instead of relying on his various Horatio(s), seems to send his closest advisors and supporters packing (like Elizabeth Warren, Van Jones and the like) so he is going it alone against a sea of  adversity.

Horatio - Hamlet’s close friend, who studied with the prince at the university in Wittenberg. Horatio is loyal and helpful to Hamlet throughout the play. After Hamlet’s death, Horatio remains alive to tell Hamlet’s story. 

The American people are Gertrude, they love Hamlet and what he wants to do for them, but they have become shallow and unable to face the truth of the direction that Claudius is taking the whole damn country.
 They are guilty by default as they are distracted by cable news and spout nonsense fed to them by claudius and the gang of 6. They should throw the bum out of their bed and seek their former high ideals and dreams of a more just nation.

Gertrude - The Queen of Denmark, Hamlet’s mother, recently married to Claudius. Gertrude loves Hamlet deeply, but she is a shallow, weak woman who seeks affection and status more urgently than moral rectitude or truth.   

There isn't really a good character metaphor for the Mainstream Media. Maybe they are a part of the Polonius crowd or Rosencrantz and Guildenstern? not sure on that one, but they certainly aren't a friend to our Hamlet. And they have no desire to make a change as they are enjoying the shallow depraved show being enacted between Claudius and Gertrude.

Rosencrantz and Guildenstern - Two slightly bumbling courtiers, former friends of Hamlet from Wittenberg, who are summoned by Claudius and Gertrude to discover the cause of Hamlet’s strange behavior. 

Sadly we know how this turns out. Lots of dead folks. Including our Hero. and All of us... I don't see things turning around any time soon.

This masterpiece theater moment brought to you by the Great American Tragedy and sponsors like BP, WALL STREET, EXON and by a generous grant from The Military Industrial Complex.

notes on Hamlet characters clipped from SparkNotes. 
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Sunday, July 17, 2011

Testing

Seattle Panorama 20110716 by Evan Robinson

I've updated my camera gear for the first time in years (my previous camera is a Canon Digital Rebel aka Canon 300D which I purchased in 2003 IIRC). So I've been out playing with the new equipment (which there will probably be more than one post about). The above is an example. The original is 9583 x 2358, made from 18 images, is 6.6MB as a JPG (pretty small!), and nearly 60MB as a TIF. Pretty much everything on it, from camera settings to Hugin settings to Aperture settings, was default.

(cross-posted from my personal blog Mischievous Ramblings II)
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Monday, July 11, 2011

Who Are We?

I am so disheartened and confused. For decades the GOP has wanted to get rid of some of bedrock most helpful and successful programs, headstart, Medicare, Medicade, Social Security. For Decades the democrats have stood up for these programs and the at risk people that they support. Until now.

One of the ways we beat GW was because of his ridiculous attempts to "privatize" and therefore Bankrupt Social Security.

And now, here we are- with a man we worked hard to elect, voluntarily offering up cuts to this program that helps our seniors quite literally survive in dignity in their final years. Who are we? Where do we go from here?

When the teabaggers took over their party I thought that we might be in a position to see a third party break off on the right... now I wonder if there is any place in the Democratic party for people that support the platform?

Democrats believe that a dignified retirement is central to the American Dream, and its foundation is built on two long-standing institutions charged with realizing that dream: Medicare and Social Security. These two institutions represent an unbreakable commitment to American workers, and for decades Democrats have fought to defend them.
In 1935, Democrats and President Franklin Roosevelt created Social Security. In 1965, Democrats and President Lyndon Johnson created Medicare. Ever since, Democrats have continually fought to defend these cornerstones of the American Dream in the face of attempts to dismantle or undermine both.

Where are the democrats that wrote that sentiment, where are the people who will fight for us in DC?
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Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Oh Hai! GNB Mobile is Here

Mobile Devices. photo Newfangled Web Developers July 2009
From The Future of the Web, Part 2, by Christopher Butler


Download Your Red-Hot GNB Mobile Here!


Bookmark GNB Mobil on your phone, your tablet, Kindle, Nook, iPad, car nav (is it legal to screen watch/type & drive where you are?), and bookmark GNB Mobile on every mobile device you have.

Mobile rocks!

Thank you Google Blogger for this sweet mobile template.

Enjoy, y'all. Let us know if you like, k? Kthxbye.
(Yes. You can has Mobile. Also Cheezburger.)

Like LOLCats? Tuesdays, Maggie posts a "Best Of" @ Meta Watershed
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Monday, July 4, 2011

What does that even mean?

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Saturday, June 18, 2011

Is there a Will?

1945, one month after V-J Day, the Oil Workers’ Union called a national strike 
I often wonder where the backbones of the Progressive movement and the Democratic Party have gone? We are the children of Kent State, of the War protests, of the civil rights movement and yet we seem unable to rise when the stakes get higher and higher. FDL had a book salon with Joe Burns, Author of Reviving the Strike.
In Reviving the Strike, union negotiator Joe Burns draws on labor economics, history, and current analysis to show how only a campaign of civil disobedience can overcome an illegitimate system of labor control that has been specifically constructed over the past thirty years to reign in the power of the American worker. The book challenges prevailing views within the labor movement that say that tactics such as organizing workers or amending labor law can resolve the crisis of the American worker. Instead, Reviving the Strike offers a fundamentally different solution to the current labor crisis, showing how collective bargaining backed by a strike capable of inflicting economic harm upon an employer is the only way for workers to break free of the repressive system that has been inflicted upon them for the past three decades.
It is time to stop waiting for sanity to prevail. Time to stop letting the corporate agenda dictate our lives and our fortunes. Time to stop waiting for things to get better.

I don't advocate violence but I do advocate rising up and refusing to be a part of the systems that are destroying america. The clock is definitely ticking.
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Saturday, June 11, 2011

OSU Rolling preparing an O-HI-O "welcome" for the Speaker of the House

Speaker of the House John Boehner is speaking at OSU Graduation. Students are working hard to make sure he feels very welcome.

See more images here. 

and plans for the protest at ProgressOhio 

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