Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Playing Hooky

We are under a winter storm warning with freezing rain and snow possible. The Gov and the Mayor were making Chicken Little like comments and urging everyone to stay off the roads. I am taking their advice to heart. I've been caught in one of these ice storms back in '84 and it was not pretty. All the bridges turned into skating rinks and drivers here were playing car hockey. So even though our office is open, I will be at the house.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Valley Fever

Back in the late 90s I was travelling to Bakersfield , CA on a regular basis. The hands there told me about a disease that was caused by the spores of a prehistoric fungus. If you breathed them in, they could cause a severe respiratory disease that was sometimes fatal. This sounded like science fiction to me and I thought they were pulling my leg until I did a little research and found that there was indeed a real disease called Coccidioidomycosis. While it was endemic in areas of the west, it was not very common. Now the CDC tells us that cases are on the rise.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Surfs Up

Winter storms are making some of the best big wave surfing conditions in 10 years on Hawaii's north shore. Here is the wave information/forecast for Waimea Bay.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Submarine History

I was browsing Amazon videos looking for something interesting when I found something titled History Rediscovered - Submarines at War. It turned out that it was a compilation of several post war US Navy films. The first was about submarine action in the Pacific and was titled Now it Can be told. The next one, and the most interesting IMO, was actual footage of the capture of U-505 by Dan Gallery. It was produced as part of a morale boosting program for workers in the shipyards. The next two were about post war submarine training and the beginning of the nuclear program.

The quality was a little rough and the narration was overly patriotic and corny. Actual war footage is edited with movie segments. (If you are a WW II movie buff you will recognize some of the scenes) and the special effects are typical of the era. But if you are interested in submarines, its worth the effort to find this and take a look.

Friday, January 10, 2014

Movie Review - Phantom

This is an obscure movie starring Ed Harris, William Fichtner and David Duchovny. It was released in 2013 and never did well at the box office. I found while I was browsing on Netflix. Ed Harris plays an over the hill Russian submarine captain who is given one last command. His boat is carrying a secret device and a couple of KGB men to operate it. It turns out that the device is a cloaking device that can make his submarine sound like any other vessel on the water and the KGB men have plans that are outside of the captains orders.

The movie was filmed in a real submarine so you get a true feel for the cramped nature of the boat. It must have made filming a real pain in the butt. To their credit, the actors do not try to put on fake Russian accents and the dialog is in US military vernacular which makes things understandable and more realistic.

If you like submarine adventures, it's worth a quick hunt to find this.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Book Review - Tatiana

What does the suicide of an investigative reporter, the murder of a mafia kingpin and a missing translator have in common? Arkady Renko feels they are connected somehow and sets off to solve the mystery. His one clue is a notebook written in a personal code by the missing translator. His investigation takes him the city of Kaliningrad, a small piece of Russian territory isolated from the country between Estonia and Poland. It leads him to something bigger than he imagined.

In this novel, Martin Cruz Smith continues the saga of Arkady Renko and introduces us to a little known part of Russia. In reading this series and having spent time in Russia, I can attest that he captures the mood of Russian life with its tones of hopelessness very well. You can almost smell the boiled cabbage and potatoes and vodka.

Dubai Follow Up

Back before Christmas I posted about the plight of Shezanne Cassim, a young American film maker who was imprisoned in Dubai for making a short film deemed embarrassing to Dubai. I can now report that after 9 months in jail, he has been released and will return home to Minnesota.

The United Arab Emirates promotes itself as a modern, progressive country that is open for tourism but if you scratch the surface, you find that the country is actually run as a dictatorship. The country has antiquated laws. For example, there is no bankruptcy. If you default on a loan, you can go to jail. That's why there are hundreds of expensive automobiles that are abandoned at the airport. Their owners have fled the country to avoid prison. If you do a little digging, you can find stories about western businessmen that have been held responsible for the failure of UAE companies they were hired to manage and they either are stuck in country awaiting trial or have fled. There are numerous stories about tourists that have been jailed for public displays of personal affection. And Dubai has very strict drug laws where having prescription codeine can land you in jail.

The other part of the story is that the US government will do little to help you if you run afoul of the law. The most they will do is to recommend a local lawyer. You will be on your own. Shezanne served his full sentence of 9 months and still doesn't know what he did.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

The Grey Brigade

This came in with todays email catch.........

The typical U.S. household headed by a person age 65 or older has a net worth 47 times greater than a household headed by someone under 35, according to an analysis of census data released Monday.

They like to refer to us as senior citizens, old fogies, geezers, and in some cases dinosaurs. Some of us are "Baby Boomers" getting ready to retire. Others have been retired for some time. We walk a little slower these days and our eyes and hearing are not what they once were. We have worked hard, raised our children, worshiped our God and grown old together. Yes, we are the ones some refer to as being over the hill, and that is probably true. But before writing us off completely, there are a few things that need to be taken into consideration.

In school we studied English, history, math, and science which enabled us to lead America into the technological age. Most of us remember what outhouses were, many of us with firsthand experience. We remember the days of telephone party-lines, 25 cent gasoline, and milk and ice being delivered to our homes. For those of you who don't know what an icebox is, today they are electric and referred to as refrigerators. A few even remember when cars were started with a crank. Yes, we lived those days.

We are probably considered old fashioned and out-dated by many. But there are a few things you need to remember before completely writing us off. We won World War II, fought in Korea and Viet Nam. We can quote The Pledge of Allegiance, and know where to place our hand while doing so. We wore the uniform of our country with pride and lost many friends on the battlefield. We didn't fight for the Socialist States of America ; we fought for the "Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave." We wore different uniforms but carried the same flag. We know the words to the Star Spangled Banner, America , and America the Beautiful by heart, and you may even see some tears running down our cheeks as we sing. We have lived what many of you have only read in history books and we feel no obligation to apologize to anyone for America.

Yes, we are old and slow these days but rest assured, we have at least one good fight left in us. We have loved this country, fought for it, and died for it, and now we are going to save it. It is our country and nobody is going to take it away from us. We took oaths to defend America against all enemies, foreign and domestic, and that is an oath we plan to keep. There are those who want to destroy this land
we love but, like our founders, there is no way we are going to remain silent.

It was mostly the young people of this nation who elected Obama and the Democratic Congress. You fell for the "Hope and Change" which in reality was nothing but "Hype and Lies."

You have tasted socialism and seen evil face to face, and have found you don't like it after all. You make a lot of noise, but most are all too interested in their careers or "Climbing the Social Ladder" to be involved in such mundane things as patriotism and voting. Many of those who fell for the "Great Lie" in 2008 are now having buyer's remorse. With all the education we gave you, you didn't have sense enough to see through the lies and instead drank the 'Kool-Aid.' Now you're paying the price and complaining about it. No jobs, lost mortgages, higher taxes, and less freedom.

This is what you voted for and this is what you got. We entrusted you with the Torch of Liberty and you traded it for a paycheck and a fancy house.

Well, don't worry youngsters, the Grey-Haired Brigade is here, and in 2014 we are going to take back our nation. We may drive a little slower than you would like but we get where we're going, and in 2014 we're going to the polls by the millions.
This land does not belong to the man in the White House nor to the likes of Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid. It belongs to "We the People" and "We the People" plan to reclaim our land and our freedom. We hope this time you will do a better job of preserving it and passing it along to our grandchildren. So the next time you have the chance to say the Pledge of Allegiance, Stand up, put your hand over your heart, honor our country, and thank God for the old geezers of the "Grey-Haired Brigade."

This is spot on. I am another Gray-Haired Geezer signing on. I will circulate this to other Gray-Haired Geezers all over this once great county.

Can you feel the ground shaking???
It's not an earthquake, it is a STAMPEDE.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Head Count

The Saudis beheaded 4 criminals last month to bring their total for 2013 to 73. Three of them were druggies while one was guilty of incest. All were dispatched in the usual way with a public beheading.

In related news, I saw a news article that claimed one of the many Saudi princes was guilty of murder and may be executed. He was not identified and you should note that there are hundreds of people who are related to the king who have no role in running the country. If the family of the murdered individual does not agree to a "blood money" payment, called diyya, he could lose his head.

Finally, although it was not reported in the Arab press, Mohammed Kohail, the Canadian that was in a Saudi prison convicted of murder, was quietly released in 2012. The Canadian press reported it in May of 2013. There was no mention of any blood money payments.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Defeat in Detail

The Battle of Raate Road, one of the key battles of the Winter War, started on this day in 1939. The road through the woods was narrow, allowing only a single file of traffic, and the forest prevented mechanized elements from getting off the road. The Finns attacked on skis and used a tactic where they cut the lines and then segregated the Russians into small groups that could not receive support from the rest of the line. They called this tactic "motti", the Finnish word for a cord of wood. They literally would chop the Russians up into small pieces of wood and feed them to the fire. The Finns lost about 400 men to the Russians 10,000.

This is a classic example of the military tactic Defeat in Detail.