Sunday, July 28, 2013

Sunday Funnies 2013.07.28

Living the cowboy life in Wyoming...

A cowboy took his horse to the vet. The horse had an apple in his left ear, a bunch of oats in his right ear, and a carrot up his nose.

The vet asked the cowboy "What's wrong with your horse?"

The cowboy replied, "He's not eating properly."

A nasty lookin' hombre walks into the Dodge City bank and pulls out his six-shooter. He points it at the teller saying, "Gimme all the loot, or you'll be geography."

The shaken teller looks up and says, "Don't you mean history?"

The robber replies, "Don't change the subject."

A cowboy and his bride asked the hotel desk clerk for a room, telling him that they just got married that morning.

"Congratulations!" says the clerk. Looking at the cowboy, the desk clerkasks, "Would you like the bridal then?"

"Naw, thanks," replies the cowboy. "I reckon I'll just hold her by the ears 'til she gets the hang of it."

A cowboy was taken prisoner by a bunch of Indians. The Indians were all prepared to kill him when the chief announced that due to the celebration of the Great Spirit, they would grant the cowboy three wishes before he would die. "What do you want for your first wish?" asks the chief.

"I wanna talk to mah horse!" says the cowboy. He goes over to his horse and whispers in its ear. The horse neighs, rears back, and takes off at full speed. About an hour later, the horse comes back with a naked lady on its back. Well, the Indians are very impressed, so they let the cowboy use one of their teepees. A little while later, the cowboy stumbles out of the teepee, tucking in his shirt. "What do you want for your second wish?" says the chief.

"I wanna talk to mah horse!" says the cowboy. Again, the cowboy whispers in the horses ear. The horse neighs, rears back, and takes off at full speed. About an hour later, the horse comes back with another naked lady on its back. Well, the Indians are very impressed indeed. So, once again, they let the cowboy use one of their teepees. The cowboy stumbles out a little while later, and the chief asks the cowboy "What do you want for your last wish?"

"I wanna talk to mah horse!" says the cowboy. He grabs the horse by the ears and yells,

"You stupid animal, I said Posse. POSSE!!!!"

Friday, July 26, 2013

Friday Follies Happy Hour 2013.07.26

We're up in the Wyoming mountains living the cowboy life. The world would be a much better place if everyone would behave according to 'Cowboy Logic' like they do up here.

Babes In The Woods

Some people should not be allowed to go outside by themselves.
Two lost women -- one who was five months pregnant -- were rescued while hiking only to be killed later the same day in a car accident.

The Washington County Sheriff's Department told HLN affiliate WMTW that the women, both in their 30's, had called to say they were lost on Tuesday near Roque Bluffs State Park in Maine. Before rescuers arrived on scene, a man said he had found the two women and their dog.

He gave them a lift to a nearby home, where they were then taken to their car by the Maine Warden Service.

Just a short time later, the women called in to report that they had driven their vehicle into the water. Rescuers couldn't reach them in time.

GPS coordinates tracked by investigators show that the pair was just a mile from where they were last seen, their car submerged about 175 feet from a boat ramp...
I don't get it. It's not like they were miles from civilization. They had cell phone service, for goodness sakes. And how do you confuse a boat ramp for a road?

I wonder what the autopsy blood tests will show...

Thursday, July 25, 2013

What? Another Vacation?

No, this post is not about the obamas jetting off for the next in a long line of vacations.

Instead, it's about me and my family jetting off for our second vacation this summer.

Regular readers know that we recently returned from a once in a lifetime trip to Australia and New Zealand. Now we're headed for our annual 'regular' vacation at a ranch in the Wyoming mountains. We'll do a little horseback riding, a little hiking, and a whole lot of just chillin'.

My wife's been going to this place since she was 5 years old. When we got married one of the conditions was that I agree to go every year as well. It's not a problem, because the people are great and I like the country lifestyle.

Plus they have great bars.

As you can tell from the last photo, Wyoming isn't the most politically correct state. In fact, drive-thru windows at bars are legal there.

Stay tuned...

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Pop! Goes The Tire

Earlier this year I told the story of a blowout I had driving from Laredo to Central Texas. This morning it was like déjà vu all over again ... with one big difference.

The previous one occurred when a tire on my truck blew in the middle of nowhere. It was topped off by an epic struggle to take off the shredded tire and replace it with the spare.

Today's consisted of a tire on my boat trailer blowing less than 100 yards from a tire store. I rolled on in there, then stood around drinking coffee while sturdy young men swarmed over the trailer and took care of things for me.

But... (there's always a 'but'):

I asked the tire guys to check the remaining tires and make sure they were okay. The verdict was that they looked good, but ... the tires were over 10 years old. While they had plenty of tread left, the sidewalls had weakened enough over time that they were susceptible to blowouts. I was a little skeptical -- were they just trying to sell four new tires to an out-of-town sucker, or were they telling me the truth? -- but I decided to trust them, especially considering that I had over 100 miles to go, towing a heavy boat in the 100+ degree Texas heat.

So I'm now the proud owner of four brand new trailer tires.

The kicker was that I was taking the boat from our little place on Lake Buchanan to my older son's house on Lake Dunlap. Buchanan is only about 30% full, thanks to a multi-year drought in Central Texas. It's so low that none of the boat ramps on the lake reach the water, and haven't done so in two years. Dunlap is pretty close to full, so it made sense to move the boat to where it could be used.

Of course, my son was thrilled with the idea. He gets a boat basically for free - at least until Lake Buchanan fills up again.

And with four new tires on the trailer...

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

For Toejam

Internet celebrity Toejam turns 71 today.

Please join me in wishing him many more birthdays.

You're not as young as you used to be.
But you're not as old as you're going to be.

Mi Nación Es Tu Nación

In 2011 France banned the wearing of facial veils in public. The motivation behind the law was threefold: to help prevent criminals or terrorists from masquerading as females; to protect women from oppression and second-class citizen status; and to emphasize the French constitutional canon of secularism (the doctrine that religious considerations should be excluded from civil affairs or public education). The ban enjoyed widespread support across almost all levels of the French political spectrum.

Fast forward to July 2013, when violence by Muslim immigrants erupted over enforcement of the law.
Riot police patrolled Sunday in suburbs west of Paris after cars were torched and a police station attacked amid tensions linked to authorities’ handling of France’s ban on Muslim face veils.

Some 20 cars were set ablaze Saturday night and four people detained in a second night of violence, officials said Sunday.
What made this noteworthy to me was the timing. I had just read a couple of articles related to assimilation of Muslim immigrants in France and the U.S.

The first focused on Manuel Valls, a prominent member of French President François Hollande’s Socialist cabinet. As a Socialist, one might think he is an unlikely person to criticize Islamic practices. Indeed, Valls has long been critical of the harsh anti-immigrant rhetoric employed by conservatives. But he's also a realist who isn't afraid to say what he means.
Manuel Valls is France’s most popular politician. Valls believes he has reached that apex in the polls because he speaks his mind, whether to give a lawman’s stark warning of looming danger or a trenchant political analysis of the need for reform in Islam as practiced in his country.

Valls, France’s interior minister and top law enforcement officer, covered both public safety and Islam during a recent conversation in Paris and then repeated these points to U.S. officials in Washington in late June.

“We all face a growing threat of radicalization of our populations and more terrorism at home, whether it is promoted through cyber-jihadism, battlefield experience or sermons in some mosques,” Valls told me.

He then plunged headlong into a subject that most European and U.S. politicians furiously dance around: Muslim minorities in the West provide a fertile recruiting ground for terrorist networks because of some of Islam’s practices and tenets.

“Part of my effort is to say clearly that we need a French Islam, an Islam that accepts the separation of state and religion, the equality of men and women, democracy as our form of government,” he said.
In other words, an Islam that rejects many of the foundations of Islam.

Good luck with that one.

Shortly after reading the piece on Valls I read an article by one of my favorite commentators, T. R. Fehrenbach. He made the same point on a broader scale.
As is often written, we are a nation of immigrants. Even the Amerindians came out of Asia.

What is not often mentioned is that Americans have been one of the most patriotic nations on earth.

Our brief persecution of people of German and Japanese ancestry during the world wars was both ignorant and shameful. In fact, America had fewer potential traitors than any advanced nation.

Heavily German-populated areas such as Milwaukee, sent regiment after regiment into the trenches in WWI. No act of treason was attributed to a Nisei, or second-generation Japanese-American in WWII.

The most highly decorated U.S. Army unit was pure ethnic Japanese. As for other immigrants, some of the best American soldiers are increasingly Mexican-American.

One of the reasons, I think (awfully politically incorrect!) is that immigration was a bit different back in the day. Most 19th-century immigrants believed their native political and social systems stank, and they fled to the U.S. not to get a job or make a buck but to live free.

Political refugees make better citizens and assimilate faster than those just seeking work. These cling to their culture as a defense mechanism, longer than others.

This is particularly true of people lacking education. It is a reason why Europe cannot handle its multiple ethnicities.

History is important, not just what we retain but what we shuck off.

My feeling toward immigration is this: mi casa, tu casa; mi nación, tu nación.

I believe the history of my family began the day we stepped foot on the United States. We dropped a lot of baggage, beginning with language.

America is not an exclusive club.

My house, your house. My country, your country.

And my history is your history, once you take the oath.
The common thread here is that immigrants -- both legal and illegal -- come bearing quite a bit of baggage. It is in the best interests of both them and their new homeland that they drop their baggage upon entry. After all, what's the point of trying to make your new home just like the old one?

Monday, July 22, 2013

Bonus FOD 2013.07.22

This just in: obama's disapproval rating is greater than that of George Zimmerman.
A recent Rasmussen Reports poll shows that 48% of Americans view George Zimmerman unfavorably.

The same polling organization found that 52% disapprove of obama's job performance.
Gee, I wonder why...

Who's Next?

They say things come in threes. I certainly hope that's not true, because in the last couple of days I've received the unwelcome news that two of my friends have passed away.

The first to go was an old high school classmate. We weren't close friends, but back in the day we were more than acquaintances (strictly platonic - her choice, not mine...). We'd drifted out of touch over the years, but saw each other once in a while at reunions. We'd lately reconnected on Facebook.

In mid-May she went to her doctor complaining of abdominal pain. A CT scan showed a large mass in her lower abdomen. A biopsy revealed atypical Non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. The cancer was in its early stages and appeared to be very localized. She was scheduled to begin chemo in late June, with a favorable prognosis.

A week before the chemo treatments were to begin her small intestine ruptured near the tumor. She went into emergency surgery to repair the rupture. While the doctors were in there they decided to remove the tumor as well. They got about 98% of it. Everything was looking good.

Then, for some unknown reason, the remaining 2% went crazy. The cancer metastasized and spread rapidly. The aggressive nature of it took everyone by surprise.

She died on July 20th, leaving behind a devastated husband, four grown children, and a number of grandchildren.

She will be missed.

Yesterday I got an email informing me that another friend had passed away unexpectedly. He was out riding his bike with his wife when he dropped dead from a heart attack.

He was around my age and, as far as I know, in the same general physical condition (relatively active, but enjoys his food and drink a little too much). He was a big, barrel chested guy, strong as an ox in his younger days. His nickname was Mongo (after the Alex Karras character in Blazing Saddles), and it fit.

I've known him for around 30 years. Interesting guy - we worked together in Houston for a while, then he left to start his own telecommunications firm. (Side note: one of the first people he hired was my wife. She was the business manager.) That firm became quite successful, went through a series of acquisitions and mergers, and was eventually bought by AT&T. He retired in his 40s as a millionaire.

But he soon got bored and began a new career. He moved to California and bought a vineyard. Unfortunately, all he knew about wine was how to drink it, and he went bankrupt.

Undeterred, he started a consulting firm and clawed his way back up to the top. At the time of his death he was once again a proud member of the 1%.

He still lived in CA, but we got together a couple of times a year for golf and stories. My lasting memory of him will be sitting at a table in the clubhouse bar with a cigar in one hand, a glass of single malt Scotch in the other, and a big smile on his face.

I tossed and turned last night in bed, thinking deep thoughts about life, mortality, what's really important ... all the usual philosophical musings one goes through at a time like this. I came to the conclusion that so many things are out of our control that all we can do is sit back and enjoy it while it lasts.

So if you'll excuse me, I'm about to begin what the obituary writers call a 'celebration of life' for my two friends.

It's also known as an Irish wake...

FOD 2013.07.22

(H/T Curmudgeonly& Skeptical)

(H/T PowerLine )

(H/T PowerLine)

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Sunday Funnies 2013.07.21

I'm not going to waste my time or yours by rehashing all the crap put out there by the media about the Trayvon Martin shooting. The picture below is worth a thousand words.

Q: How many journalists does it take to screw in a light bulb?

A: Three. One to report it as an inspired government program to bring light to the people, one to report how conservatives oppose light and prefer to keep the poor in the dark, and one to win a Pulitzer prize for reporting that the light bulb manufacturer hired someone to break the bulb in the first place.

George W. Bush and barack obama were in a boat. The boat capsized. Both men walked on top of the water to reach shore. The next day the headlines read:

"obama walks on water. Bush can't swim."

After wading through all the inarticulate and biased coverage about the George Zimmerman trial, I went to my local hospital and told the desk nurse, "I want to see the eye-ear doctor."

"There is no such doctor" she tells me. "Perhaps you would like to see someone else?"

"No, I need to see an eye-ear doctor," I said.

"But there is no such doctor," she replied. "We have doctors for the eyes and doctors for the ear, nose and throat, but no eye-ear doctor."

I repeated "I want to see the eye-ear doctor."

We went around like this for a few minutes and then the nurse says: "Mister, there is no such thing as an eye-ear doctor, but if there were one, why would you want to see him?"

"Because," I replied, "I keep hearing one thing and seeing another."

Jay Leno had a great idea for an inexpensive Halloween costume: “Wear a re-elect Obama button and go as a journalist”

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Words Of 'Wisdom'?

We've all been sitting on the edge of our seats, waiting for obama's words of wisdom on the Trayvon Martin shooting.

At last, he has finally spoken.

"Trayvon Martin could have been me..." Obama told White House reporters in a surprise appearance at the daily briefing.
What, a drug-using failure with a shady past?

Friday, July 19, 2013

Friday Follies Happy Hour

An updated version of the CDB classic. Curiously enough, after this video was posted the artist was never heard from again...

Our Tax Dollars At Work

Make sure you have a fresh cup of coffee (or other beverage of your choice) and a few spare minutes before starting to read this one. It'll take a while, but IMO it's worth it just for the sheer amusement value of two tales that illustrate a federal government that is either incompetent, out of control, or both.

Feds put the bite on grandmother's baking of cakes
Maria Perez is 68 years old, has three children and eight grandchildren, and has pretty much led a straight-laced life.

But the retired Kelly AFB civilian employee had her door kicked in during a raid by federal agents looking for evidence that she was — wait for it — baking and selling cakes.

Baking and selling cakes is a means of income, and Perez had been claiming disability since 1995 after injuring her back... She's charged, so far, with making a false statement that enabled her to defraud the Labor Department's Office of Workers Compensation Program of less than $1,000 during 2011. She faces up to a year in jail and a $100,000 fine.

“It was just a hobby she likes, and a way to make extra money,” said one of her daughters, Sophie Sanchez, who said birthday cakes sold for $35 and wedding cakes for about $150.

News of her case prompted some court observers to quietly question why she was arrested when federal agencies have more pressing issues.

During the investigation, agents with the department's Office of Inspector General raided her home, kicked in the door and frightened her and her family, according to court paperwork and one of her daughters.

But, the U.S. attorney's office said, there's more to the case than what is on the face of the charging criminal complaint.

The alleged loss amount is about $10,000, and prosecutors used their discretion to charge her with a misdemeanor instead of a more serious felony. They also summoned her to court rather than arrest her, prosecutors said.
Okay, I'll cut the feds some slack on the charges they chose to file. They showed a little compassion and common sense. And I have no problem with efforts to reduce workers comp fraud. Goodness knows there's too much of that. But couldn't they find some more egregious case? I mean, an alleged loss amount of "about $10,000" spread out over 18 years when there are other individuals whose fraudulent claims total well over $100,000. And even worse are scams by doctors and therapists, who submit fraudulent claims for treatment of non-existent patients in the millions of dollars. Let's go after the big fish first.

And kicking in the door ... really? They needed a SWAT team to take down a cake-baking grandmother?
At her initial court hearing, Perez seemed out of place amid drug suspects, hardened con artists and gang members.

Acting on tips that Perez was working while on disability, the complaint said, undercover agents ordered cakes.
Ohhh - a real live undercover sting operation. Were the agents wired, and was the transaction videotaped from a surveilence van, just like on TV?
Sanchez now is worried about how her mom will survive without her disability benefits, which were just enough for her to live on. She lives with another daughter, and her money covered a small mortgage and a car payment, Sanchez said.

“It wasn't anything to become a millionaire over,” she said. “She wasn't driving a Lexus or Mercedes. (It was) just a little to go out to eat once in a while, rather than to cook at home.”
Okay, the cake-baking grandma case is bad enough, although it does have a tinge of justification. But the next one - who the hell was in charge of this fiasco?
This summer, Marty the Magician got a letter from the U.S. government. It began with six ominous words: “Dear Members of Our Regulated Community . . .”

Washington had questions about his rabbit. Again.

Marty Hahne, 54, does magic shows for kids in southern Missouri. For his big finale, he pulls a rabbit out of a hat. Or out of a picnic basket. Or out of a tiny library, if he’s doing his routine about reading being magical.

To do that, Hahne has an official U.S. government license. Not for the magic. For the rabbit.

The Agriculture Department requires it, citing a decades-old law that was intended to regulate zoos and circuses. Today, the USDA also uses it to regulate much smaller “animal exhibitors,” even the humble one-bunny magician.

That was what the letter was about. The government had a new rule. To keep his rabbit license, Hahne needed to write a rabbit disaster plan.

“Fire. Flood. Tornado. Air conditioning going out. Ice storm. Power failures,” Hahne said, listing a few of the calamities for which he needed a plan to save the rabbit.

Or maybe not. Late Tuesday, after a Washington Post article on Hahne was posted online, the Agriculture Department announced that the disaster-plan rule would be reexamined.

“Secretary [Tom] Vilsack asked that this be reviewed immediately and common sense be applied,” department spokeswoman Courtney Rowe said in an e-mail message.

Rowe said that Vilsack had ordered the review “earlier this week.” But it was not announced until 9:30 p.m. Tuesday. Just hours before — at 5:50 p.m. — the department had been vigorously defending the rule, with another spokeswoman praising its “flexibility,” saying it was designed to accommodate even a small-time operation such as a magician and a rabbit.

For Hahne, the saga has provided a lesson in one of Washington’s bad old habits — the tendency to pile new rules on top of old ones, with officials using good intentions and vague laws to expand the reach of the federal bureaucracy.

“Our country’s broke,” Hahne said. “And yet they have money and time to harass somebody about a rabbit.”
The magic moment came during a 2005 show in a school library in Monett, Mo. One of the parents in the audience was a USDA inspector. After the show she approached Hahne.
“She said, ‘Show me your license.’ And I said, ‘License for...? “She said, ‘For your rabbit.’ ”

Hahne was busted. He had to get a license or lose the rabbit. He got the license.

The story behind it illustrates the reality of how American laws get made. First Congress passes a bill, laying out the broad strokes. Then bureaucrats write regulations to execute those intentions.

And then, often, they keep on writing them. And writing them.

In this case, the long road to regulated rabbits began in 1965 — when Capitol Hill was captivated with the story of a dognapped Dalmatian named Pepper.

The dog had been stolen from its family, used in medical research and killed. After an outcry, Congress passed a law that required licenses for laboratories that use dogs and cats in research.
The road to Hell is paved with good intentions...
In 1970, Congress passed an amendment that extended the law’s reach. It now covered a variety of other animals. And it covered animal “exhibitors,” in addition to labs. At the time, legislators seemed focused on large facilities with lots of animals: “circuses, zoos, carnivals, roadshows and wholesale pet dealers,” said then-Rep. Tom Foley (D-Wash.), a major backer and later speaker of the House.

But the letter of the law was broad. In theory, it could apply to someone who “exhibited” any animals as part of a show.

Apparently, it does.

Hahne has an official USDA license, No. 43-C-0269, for Casey — a three-pound Netherland dwarf rabbit with a look of near-fatal boredom. The rules require Hahne to pay $40 a year, take Casey to the vet and submit to surprise inspections of his home.

Also, if Hahne plans to take the rabbit out of town for an extended period, he must submit an itinerary to the USDA. The 1966 law that started all of this was four pages long. Now, the USDA has 14 pages of regulations just for rabbits.

But not all rabbits. Animals raised for meat are exempt from these rules.

“You’re telling me I can kill the rabbit right in front of you,” Hahne says he asked an inspector, “but I can’t take it across the street to the birthday party” without a license? Also, the law applies only to warmblooded animals. If Hahne were pulling an iguana out of his hat — no license required.

Now, he needs both a license and a disaster plan.

This new rule was first proposed by the USDA in 2006 under President George W. Bush.

Its inspiration was Hurricane Katrina, in which animals from pet dogs to cattle to lab mice were abandoned in the chaos. Now, all licensed exhibitors would need to have a written plan to save their animals.

The government asked for public comments in 2008. It got 997. Just 50 commenters were in favor of the rule as written.

But that, apparently, was enough. After a years-long process, the rule took effect Jan. 30.

Who, exactly, made the decision to implement the rule? An Agriculture Department spokeswoman declined to give a name.

“There was no one person who proposed the regulation or who determined it should be a regulation instead of non-binding guidance,” spokeswoman Tanya Espinosa said by e-mail. She said the agency sought to address commenters’ concerns. “Regulations are issued and enforced by the Agency.”
There's never any one person responsible. That's why we have scandals like Fast & Furious, the IRS targeting certain groups and individuals, the NSA spying on us, four dead Americans in Benghazi ... the list is endless.
The department said its review will focus on the way the disaster-plan rule is being applied to small operations such as Hahne’s. But officials could not provide details about what the review will involve. Or how long it will take.
For now, the law still says plans are supposed to be done by July 29.
Even before the USDA announced its review, not every magician seemed to be taking the job seriously.

“I’ll take a piece of paper and put down, ‘Note: Take rabbit with you when you leave,’ ” said Gary Maurer, a magician with a licensed rabbit in South Carolina. “That’s my plan.”

But Hahne has obtained professional help. Kim Morgan, who has written disaster plans for entire federal agencies, heard about his case and volunteered to help write the rabbit’s plan for free.

So far, the plan she has written is 28 pages.
28 pages?!? For a plan to protect one friggin' rabbit?!? GMAFB!!!
“That’s pretty short,” given what the USDA asked for, Morgan said. She covered many of the suggested calamities: chemical leaks, floods, tornadoes, heat waves. But she was able to skip over some concerns that might apply to larger animals.

If the rabbit escapes, “it’s not going to bite people,” Morgan said. There was probably no need to describe how to subdue Casey with tranquilizer darts or coax her off the highway. “It’s not going to stop traffic and cause car accidents.”

When Hahne’s plan is finally ready, it will go into the envelope where he keeps his rabbit license. On one recent day, that envelope was on the dashboard, as Hahne drove to a gig at Little Angels Learning Academy in Battlefield, Mo. Casey was in the back, inside a travel cage. On the side were ­USDA-mandated stickers, to show which direction was up.
The word "Kafkaesque" comes to mind...

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Shot Of The Weekend

Okay, all you shooters out there - let's see you match this one.

(Thanks, Bots, for the link.)

The Sky Is Falling

You think you've had a bad day? I guarantee it's nothing compared to what happened to Joao Maria de Souza.
A one-and-a-half ton cow came crashing through the roof of a home in Brazil, crushing a sleeping man who later died of his injuries.

The man’s wife was also in bed with him, but the bovine narrowly missed slamming into her.
The cow apparently escaped from a neighboring pasture. It was grazing on a hill above the man's home when it fell through the roof and landed right on him. Adding to the tragicomedic aspects of the events are comments from the dead man's relatives.
“Being crushed by a cow is the last way you expect to leave this Earth,” de Souza’s brother-in-law said.
Can't argue with that.
 “I didn’t bring my son up to be killed by a falling cow,” said de Souva's mother.
What mother does?

And just when you think it can't get more absurd, Brazilian authorities stated that the owner of the cow could be charged with involuntary manslaughter.

You can't make stuff like this up.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

What A Waste, He Wined

Pour Results: $145 Million of Wine, Down the Drain
One of the world's biggest vintners has a roaring hangover from poor U.S. sales, leading it to destroy thousands of gallons of wine...

Treasury Wine Estates Ltd. - whose brands range from the mass-market, U.S.-made Beringer up to $1,000-a-bottle Penfolds Grange from Australia - said it would book a charge of 160 million Australian dollars (US$145 million) against its U.S. business for the fiscal year that ended June 30.
Penfolds was one of the vineyards we visited on our recent Australia trip. If I'd known they wanted to get rid of that wine I'd have suggested a few alternatives.
The vintner relies heavily on sales of less-expensive labels in the U.S., the world's biggest wine market. Treasury Wine said Monday it had overestimated U.S. demand in the past year, forcing it to discount or destroy older wines that had passed their drink-by date.
I consume stuff in the fridge that's past it's use-by date all the time. I think I could do the same with wine.

The article goes on to provide a lot of semi-interesting information about volume and trends of wine sales. The only one worth repeating here is the figure below.

Since most of the wine I buy is in the $10-15 per bottle range, I figure I'm in the top 25% of wine drinkers. I guess that makes me a wine snob.

Uplifting News For A Change

Tired of all the blather about the George Zimmerman trial?

Me too.

Looking for some news that will make you feel more upbeat?

Me too.

So sit back and enjoy this story.
Legendary warrior exemplifies what it means to be a Marine

When Staff Sgt. Cliff Wooldridge arrived here in 2011 to serve as an instructor with Marine Corps Security Force Regiment, he was less than a year removed from beating a Taliban fighter to death in Afghanistan with his own machine gun.

The transition to a training environment wasn’t easy. Wooldridge had served as an anti-tank missileman in 3rd Battalion, 7th Marines, out of Twentynine Palms, Calif., as they pushed through a deployment in Helmand province in 2010. It included heavy combat in Musa Qala and Sangin districts, where insurgents were deeply entrenched.

Despite the difficult readjustment after arriving in Virginia, Wooldridge, then a sergeant, persevered, his colleagues say. He became an instructor with Marine Corps Security Force Training Company’s Close Quarter Battle School last year, volunteered with charities and showed such dedication to work that he was meritoriously promoted to staff sergeant.

He also received the Navy Cross in May 2012 for his heroism in Afghanistan in 2010. The award is second only to the Medal of Honor in recognition of combat valor.

For his leadership, heroism and quiet professionalism, Wooldridge, 25, is the 2013 Marine Corps Times Marine of the Year. He doesn’t think he deserves the award, he said, but he was touched that Marines in his chain of command nominated him for it.

“There are definitely a lot of people who deserve this award over me, but the mere fact that I was even put up for this was incredible,” Wooldridge said. “I’m very humbled.”

Wooldridge recently joined one of the Corps’ Fleet Antiterrorism Security Teams as a platoon sergeant. He will serve as the senior enlisted leader in 5th Platoon, Bravo Company, out of Naval Weapons Station Yorktown, Va. The 50-man unit serves as a crisis-response force, performing U.S. embassy reinforcement, evacuation and other antiterrorism and security missions abroad as necessary.

Marines who work with Wooldridge say he has gone above and beyond to relate his experiences to junior Marines. He leads with a calm, cool demeanor that is rare in leaders with more experience, said his regiment’s commanding officer, Col. Darrin Denny.

“He has always taken a personal interest in knowing his students, and that the students he trains need to be ready to answer the nation’s call when called upon while deployed with the regiment’s Fleet Antiterrorism Security Teams,” he said. “He always remains humble and carries himself with humility, grace and pride.”

Wooldridge, of Port Angeles, Wash., joined the Marine Corps in 2007. He was working as a diesel mechanic on logging equipment, but decided he wanted to try something else. He shipped out for boot camp within weeks, becoming an infantryman.

In 2010, as the U.S. was surging forces into southern Afghanistan, his battalion deployed to northern Helmand. As a corporal, he served as a vehicle commander for a Combined Anti-Armor Team, but the mission dictated that he and his Marines frequently dismount to find the Taliban.

On June 18, Wooldridge’s mounted patrol came under enemy fire in Musa Qala. His squad dismounted their vehicles and maneuvered on the enemy fighters, who were preparing an ambush. Wooldridge, armed with a 5.56mm M249 Squad Automatic Weapon, and the rest of his squad killed or wounded about eight insurgents, causing the rest to scatter.

As the Marines began to withdraw from the area, Wooldridge posted security. Overhearing voices, he rushed around the corner of a building and confronted two more fighters, according to his Navy Cross citation. He killed them both and crouched behind a wall to reload his empty weapon. Then an enemy machine gun barrel appeared around the wall.

“Without hesitation, he dropped his empty weapon and seized the machine gun barrel,” the Navy Cross citation states. “He overwhelmed the enemy fighter in hand-to-hand combat, killing him with several blows to the head with the enemy’s own machine gun.”

Wooldridge, who is 6-foot-2 and about 210 pounds, said he still grapples with memories from the deployment. He wears a bracelet on his wrist to memorialize Cpl. Claudio Patino, a friend and scout sniper with the battalion who was killed. Still, Wooldridge embraces his experiences.

“We had a rough deployment, but it’s war,” he said. “I think about that stuff all the time, but it helped mold me into the Marine I am now. The mistakes we made out there, I’m going to make damn sure those mistakes are never made again by the guys I train.”

When Wooldridge arrived in Virginia, not everyone was thrilled. Fellow Marines, aware of his difficult deployment and fame within the Corps, were concerned he would be difficult to work with or get preferential treatment, said Gunnery Sgt. Todd Leahey, the staff noncommissioned officer in charge of the Close Quarter Battle School.

“But ... you find out he’s just a guy who has a lot of pride in being a Marine and wants to continue the legacy and traditions,” he said.

Wooldridge served as an instructor for the regiment’s basic security guard force, but his shift to teaching close-quarter skills allowed him to relate to students even more directly.

“They do the thing like, ‘That’s him! That’s him! That’s the guy!’” Staff Sgt. Jesse Reed, a team leader at the school, said of the students. “But ... he’s willing to talk to them. He’s very approachable about it.”

Wooldridge volunteered for several charities in the past year, but took special interest in organizations like Honored American Veterans Afield, which seeks to reintegrate combat veterans into society through hunting, fishing and other outdoor activities. Spending time with wounded warriors, he said, is a reality check.

“I love helping out with the wounded warriors because plenty of my buddies are in the same spot,” he said. “I’ve seen how it could wreck somebody’s life.”

A young wounded warrior told him that drill instructors at boot camp tell “bedtime stories” about him to inspire others.

“Hearing that is just humbling,” Wooldridge said, “because these younger guys are going out there and fighting the fight.”
It's heartening to know that we still have people like Staff Sgt. Wooldridge to inspire us. God Bless and Semper Fi.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Bad Buzz

Beer drinkers beware. Mosquitoes love the brew.
Just a single 12-ounce bottle of beer can make you more attractive to the insects...
Boy, am I in trouble...

World Tour Update - Final

Planes, Trains, and Automobiles - Some numbers from our trip Down Under: 

32 - days on the road
10 - different hotels stayed at
10 - plane flights
6 - boat trips
1 - jet boat trip
6 - bus rides
2 - train rides
2 - helicopter flights
2 - rental cars
16 - flights of stairs climbed when the elevator (lift) was out of order (twice...with luggage)
many - taxi rides
uncounted - miles walked
fuzzy - number of pubs and vineyards visited
34 - souvenir t-shirts purchased
1 - kangaroo scrotum keychain purchased (what can I say - we have a teen-age son who thinks the 3 Stooges are sophisticated humor)

Monday, July 15, 2013

Bonus FOD 2013.07.15

This is what happens when an ignorant politician is put in a position of authority over the military.
Remark by Obama Complicates Military Sexual Assault Trials

When President Obama proclaimed that those who commit sexual assault in the military should be “prosecuted, stripped of their positions, court-martialed, fired, dishonorably discharged,” it had an effect he did not intend: muddying legal cases across the country.

 In at least a dozen sexual assault cases since the president’s remarks at the White House in May, judges and defense lawyers have said that Mr. Obama’s words as commander in chief amounted to “unlawful command influence,” tainting trials as a result. Military law experts said that those cases were only the beginning and that the president’s remarks were certain to complicate almost all prosecutions for sexual assault.

“Unlawful command influence” refers to actions of commanders that could be interpreted by jurors as an attempt to influence a court-martial, in effect ordering a specific outcome. Mr. Obama, as commander in chief of the armed forces, is considered the most powerful person to wield such influence.

The president’s remarks might have seemed innocuous to civilians, but military law experts say defense lawyers will seize on the president’s call for an automatic dishonorable discharge, the most severe discharge available in a court-martial, arguing that his words will affect their cases.

“His remarks were more specific than I’ve ever heard a commander in chief get,” said Thomas J. Romig, a former judge advocate general of the Army and the dean of the Washburn University School of Law in Topeka, Kan. “When the commander in chief says they will be dishonorably discharged, that’s a pretty specific message. Every military defense counsel will make a motion about this.”
. . .
In his comments on sexual assault, Mr. Obama said, “I expect consequences.”
Well, he got 'em. Just not the ones he expected...

FOD 2013.07.15

I'm still mellowed out from our Down Under trip. I want to preserve this feeling of tranquility as long as possible, so I'm not going to bash obama today, other than to note that many people overseas also think he's an incompetent asshole.

However, I will make one observation. Shortly after Trayvon Martin was shot obama said something along the lines of 'he could have been my son.'

obama was right. It turns out that Martin was a marijuana smoking wanna-be hoodlum.

It's also telling that obama never said the U.S. military men and women killed in Iraq and Afghanistan could be his sons or daughters...

Sunday, July 14, 2013

World Tour Update #21

Damn, it's hot.

A few days ago we were skiing and hiking on a glacier. Temperatures were in the 30s.

Now we're back home in Texas. Yesterday's high was 101. The 5-day forecast predicts a cool front with temps 'only' in the mid-90s.

When does the next plane leave for Australia?

Thoughts On The George Zimmerman Trial

George Zimmerman is an irresponsible idiot, but he's not a murderer.

Trayvon Martin was an irresponsible idiot, but he didn't deserve to die.

The judge and the prosecutor are irresponsible idiots. They're also spineless pawns who caved in to political pressure.

The people who brought the political pressure are irresponsible idiots who used this tragic affair to advance their agenda. Shame on them.

Bottom line: one person is dead, another person's life is ruined. People in this country are even more polarized by race than they were before. And I'm even more disgusted by the special interest groups and individuals who shamelessly used this tragedy to advance their agenda.

It's pretty damn early in the morning, but I'm tempted to go add some whiskey to my coffee...

Sunday Funnies 2013.07.04

Too much wine and beer...
A Texan goes to Australia for a vacation. There he meets an Aussie and gets talking. The Aussie shows off his big wheat field and the Texan says, "Oh! We have wheat fields that are at least twice as large".

Then they walk around the ranch a little, and the Aussie shows off his herd of cattle. The Texan immediately says, " We have longhorns that are at least twice as large as your cows".

The conversation has, meanwhile, almost died when the Texan sees a herd of kangaroos hopping through the field. He asked, "And what are those"?

The Aussie replies with an incredulous look, "Don't you have any grasshoppers in Texas"?
 * * * * * * * * * * 
An Aussie journalist was in New Zealand doing stories where he saw a Kiwi farmer doing unnatural things with a sheep. He approached the Kiwi and firstly asked, "What sort of sheep is that?" He scribbled down the farmer's reply - "a Merino". The next question was, "Do you shear them?" The farmer replied hastily, "No! Go and find yer own!"
 * * * * * * * * * * 
Q: Why do kangaroos hate rainy days?

A: Because their children play inside.

 * * * * * * * * * *

Q: What is the difference between an Australian wedding and an Australian funeral?

A: One less drunk at the funeral
And one more drunk in the morning...

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Ho Le Fuk

I'm still on vacation mode. I'm not near ready enough to dive into the cesspool that is U.S. news and politics. But I do have to post this one about the gullibility of the media.
Bay Area Fox affiliate KTVU purportedly learned the names of the flight crew of Asiana flight 214, which crashed last Saturday at San Francisco International Airport...

All anyone had to do was say those names out loud and it would be obvious that someone was punking them. But after 4+ years of obama propaganda being shoved down their/our throats I guess this seemed as reasonable as anything else.

For the record:
The National Transportation Safety Board apologizes for inaccurate and offensive names that were mistakenly confirmed as those of the pilots of Asiana flight 214, which crashed at San Francisco International Airport on July 6.
Earlier today, in response to an inquiry from a media outlet, a summer intern acted outside the scope of his authority when he erroneously confirmed the names of the flight crew on the aircraft.
That's one college kid that has a great sense of humor, but not too much common sense.

Sidenote: our return trip from New Zealand was delayed in LA because there was a ripple effect from the SF crash. Seems that the wrecked plane is still on the runway while the NTSB investigates. Since that particular runway is the main one, and the only one long enough to handle jumbo jets, most international and many domestic flights have been cancelled or delayed. Our flight was coming in from OKC via SFO and was about 2 hours behind schedule. It made all the difference between getting home at 2:00 a.m. vs. 4:00 a.m.


World Tour Update #20

Yeah, I know. We're home, so what's with the continuing World Tour Updates?

I'd like to say the answer is that so many wonderful and interesting things happened on our trip, and I didn't always have the time and/or connectivity to write about them at the time, so I'm posting them now that we're back.

That's partially true, but it's also because things slipped my mind ("I meant to...") and I'm just now remembering them. A series of senior moments, of you will.

Anyway, here's one from our recent stay in Christchurch, New Zealand.

I was checking my email and came across a message from an old colleague of mine at the University of Houston. This was in the late 1990's. He was a friend and mentor back then, and we've kept in touch over the years, but haven't spent much time FTF, despite that fact that we live only 200 miles away from each other.

In his email he mentioned that his college-aged daughter would be attending a summer program at Trinity University in San Antonio, and asked if we would be willing to serve as her local contact 'just in case.' I said we'd be happy to, except that we weren't in San Antonio - we were in New Zealand.

His reply: "No shit? I'm in New Zealand too."

Turns out we were both in Christchurch. He had scored a fellowship and was in Australia and NZ doing research at the same time we were visiting. We'd been in some of the same towns at the same times and didn't know it. We even missed each other by only a couple of hours at some of the Christchurch tourist attractions.

We ended up having dinner together and marveling at the quirks of fate that led us there. We'd both traveled halfway around the globe to do something that could have been accomplished with a three hour drive back home.

It's a small world...

Friday, July 12, 2013

Friday Follies and World Tour Update #19

Home at last!!!

Tired, broke, and with a mountain of dirty laundry, but HOME!!!

Damn it feels good...

Thursday, July 11, 2013

World Tour Update #18

We started our trip home 20 hours ago. We just cleared customs in LA and are in the middle of a 7 hour layover. Then it's a 3 hour flight to San Antonio. Add another hour for the drive home and our return trip will stretch over 30 hours. But it'll be nice to finally sleep in our own beds.

It's good to be back in the land of the big PX, but I must say that LAX is the pits. Exiting the international terminal into the waiting area is like entering a third world country. It's crowded, loud, dirty, and everyone's speaking Spanish. The terminal workers are indifferent to the point of rudeness. Quite a contrast to the warm, courteous, and helpful folks Down Under. I'm embarrassed that this is the first impression many visitors get to the U.S.

But right now I'm too tired and hungry to care. I managed to finagle a set of day passes for the family to the United VIP lounge. Comfortable padded chairs, along with free food and drink, will improve my mood.

Stay tuned for the forthcoming battle to reset my body clock...

Monday, July 8, 2013

World Tour Update #17

Back from hiking the glacier. It was a very civilized way to do things. We had a leisurely breakfast, then at 11:00 a.m. we took a helicopter about halfway up. It was the first time I'd been in a chopper since my Army days - memories...

Anyway, our good luck streak with the weather continued. It snowed last night, but today dawned clear and sunny. There was about 6 inches of fresh snow on the glacier. That meant we didn't have to use crampons, but could just wear our boots. Much more comfortable. It also meant that we could bump-slide (sit on our rear ends and bump/slide down the steeper parts) on the way down, which made my knee very happy.

Amazing views, incredible scenery, great weather, wonderful companions ... the only drawback is that the pictures I took don't come close to capturing the scope and majesty of the surroundings. Here's one that gives a little bit of an example of what we experienced. That bluish-white ice and snow on the left is the glacier, with the mountain ridges surrounding it in the center and on the right.

We're staying here tonight. We have a free day tomorrow, stay here again tomorrow night, then a travel day back to civilization (Christchurch, NZ), one final night there, and then on the plane for the long, long, loonnngggg flight back home.

After that will be a period of several days when we ask ourselves why we ever left Australia and New Zealand...

Sunday, July 7, 2013

World Tour Update #16

From hunting to hiking. We're off to our last adventure of the trip - a helicopter hiking trip on New Zealand's Franz Josef glacier. We'll take a copter to the top of the glacier and then hike down. There are also some side trips in the area we can explore, time and weather permitting.

The biggest wild card is the weather. We're on the west coast of the south island of New Zealand, and the weather is really unpredictable. Today we experienced a thunderstorm, a sunny period, snow and sleet, and wild winds - all within a four hour period. The copter won't fly unless the weather is right, so we'll just have to wait and see.

After we finish up here we head for home. It's been an absolutely fabulous trip - the trip of a lifetime. But living out of a suitcase and changing locations every few days is getting old. Our thoughts are turning more and more towards home.

Hopefully I'll have the time and 'Net access to post a few more updates. If not, I'll catch up once we're back in the good old U.S. of A.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

World Tour Update #15

As promised, here's a picture of my red stag. I can't say enough about the outfitter - Simon Guild of High Peak Station. It's a family business, very professional, and he made us feel like part of his family. Great hunt, and even more importantly, great people.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

World Tour Update #14

Being in a foreign country on July 4th gives one an entirely different perspective on being an American. Other countries certainly have their good points, but so far everyone we've met has had nothing but praise and admiration for the U.S. I've heard the phrase "the American dream" more in the last three weeks than in the past three years - and always in a positive way.

Of course, this is based on a very small sample. I'm not naive enough to believe that everyone loves us, but for the most part America is viewed with respect tinged with envy. It makes me proud of my country, warts and all.

It also makes me even more determined to do everything I can to preserve what we have, and to strengthen the values that make us great so that future generations will be able to say "I'm proud to be an American."

I hope everyone has (or had - this time difference is still confusing me) a great 4th. Set off a firecracker and have a cold beer for me.

World Tour Update #13

CenTexTim - 1
New Zealand Red Stag - 0

Managed to bag a trophy class red stag today. 23 points and somewhere in the neighborhood of a 350 B&C score. Pix later if I have the time and can master the technology.

Spot and stalk hunting. Long hard stalk (actually, several stalks - the first few didn't pan out). This country is incredibly beautiful, but also incredibly rugged. And it's all vertical - no level ground anywhere.

We're about 4500 feet above sea level, which added to my shortness of breath. Finally worked our way close enough to get a shot off - about 230 yards. Had to shoot from a sitting position - heavy scrub brush but nothing sturdy enough to use as a rest, plus I was on a downslope, so I couldn't go prone. Still managed to put one through his shoulder using a borrowed rifle (a sweet little Sako .308 topped with a Leopuld scope).

As a bonus I also harvested a wild pig. Nothing like the feral hogs back home. This one was less impressive but more tasty.

Celebrated with copious amounts of good New Zealand beer and wine, along with a hearty dinner. Bed is calling - more later...

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

World Tour Update #12

We're currently in an incredible hunting lodge in the Southern Alps foothills of New Zealand. My red stag hunt starts tomorrow.

Today we got settled in and took a quick tour of the territory I'll be hunting. Absolutely spectacular in terms of scenery. Rugged and hilly in terms of terrain. Cold and windy in terms of weather (2 feet of snow last week, much of it still on the ground).

It's a family run operation. Tonight we had dinner with the owner's son (the GM), his wife (who is 20 weeks pregnant and had an ultrasound today - all is well) and their 2 year old son, who is adorable but quite a handfull.

The meal was delicious and the wine -- from a local vineyard -- was exquisite. The people are exceedingly warm, friendly, and welcoming. After a very short time we felt like family.

If the hunting is anything like the hospitality I'll be thrilled...

Monday, July 1, 2013

World Tour Update #11

Arrived in New Zealand late last night. I'll be hunting red stag the next few days while the wife and kids go off on adventures of their own.

Currently watching CNN while awaiting my turn in the shower. First time I've really paid attention to the news in weeks. I haven't missed much:

NSA leaker Eric Snow den is seeking asylum in Russia. Putin is thumbing his nose at the US.

Big scandal regarding the US spying on European allies.

Situation in Egypt is deteriorating. Arab spring is turning out to be terrorist spring.

It is apparent that Obama is totally incompetent and way over his head. Oh yeah, he's also on vacation.

What else is new?