Friday, October 30, 2015

Darwin Award (Arboreal Rodent Edition)

More bizarre things found in soil fill:

This is Squishy Squirrel. How the hell he managed to get caught in the soil stockpile I have NO idea.

The nearest trees are hundreds of feet away from the area where the excavators were cutting borrow. Was he an adventurer whose luck ran out? An outcast, forced to roam the dirt hills of Medford like Chuck Connors in that old Branded TV series carrying around his saber-knifey thing?

Was the Black Squirrel heavy on his heart and all the chittering joy leached so out of gathering nuts that he went out to the field to end it all?

Clearly something went very, very wrong. To be a dead squirrel in a pile of dirt is like being the guy who dies licking a light socket or mortocycle jousting or something equally bizarre. Regular squirrels get pancaked on the pavement. Ol' Squishy must be some sort of Darwin Award winning squirrel to die the way he did.

But the why? We will never know. Regardless of why safe in the fill he now bides, food for worms, brave Squishy.

I have a very odd job sometimes.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Technical Question

To: Project Engineer
Re: Non-Soil Materials, Structural Fill

Note attached image. Prior experience suggests this object is most likely "hobo underwear, used, 1pr, size medium".

Please advise on suitability for inclusion and/or recommended course of action.


(Note 1: the site I'm working was the campground for a fairly large contingent of the local homeless folks. With all the earthwork they have scampered but left a considerable assortment of their stuff behind. I jokingly commented that I was pretty much okay with the occasional pop bottle or tin can but I drew the line at used hobo underwear. So I'm still not sure whether this was a bizarre coincidence or whether I'm being pranked like a boss by someone on the earthwork crew...)

(Note 2: And this story brings back the story I told you seven years ago about the woods, the girl, and the gorilla.)

Friday, October 23, 2015

Descending branch

The hotel I'm staying in covering this grading job has a breakfast buffet every morning. It's...well, it's belly-timber and it's free. So I was sitting at the high table in the center of the sterile room, eating my not-awful eggs and sausage and orange juice when a man's voice behind my right side started;

"Good mor...oh, um, hi. Sorry. For a moment you looked just like my dad."

I turned to the speaker. He was a tall, athletic man in what I think of as "High Middle Age"; mid-thirties to mid-forties. His wife was a similarly pleasant, well-kempt middle-aged middle class woman and he seemed genuinely pleased to see someone, even a stranger, who reminded him of his father.

I just looked at him for a moment, because my only thought was "'re middle-aged, so am the hell can I look like your dad?"

I must have looked strange, because he began to lean back in the slightly embarrassed manner people adopt when they mistake a stranger for someone they know. I couldn't stand that troubled look in his eyes, or the concern on his wife's face so I smiled and returned some sort of happy triviality and we parted to our own troubles.

I looked for an answer in my congealing eggs and found none, except that the man was correct; if I had a son when I was 18 he would be the same age as his today.

And that I am no longer middle-aged. I am, instead, some middle-aged man's dad.

Friday, October 16, 2015

Friday Jukebox: Far, far away edition

This is because I'm on my third day of two weeks covering a grading job in Medford, down in Oregon's Dixie. I'm fairly dirty and tired and bored of eating bad food and living out of a suitcase and it's only the third fucking day, ferchrissakes. I tried to think of something more uptempo and realized I just wanted something slow and kind of dreamy and sad.

Here come the priests, each one wailing and bemoaning
Lordy, they got their heads bowed down
Here come the madmen, they're too excited for atoning:
"Burn the mosque," they're shouting, "Burn it down!"

Hard to believe that Carly wrote that something like forty years ago. Damn.

It's been something of a difficult autumn for me. The Boy is ever more difficult, apparently because he has some variation of "attention-deficit disorder" which, apparently, also makes you kind of an asshole. The real irking part is that he's only an asshole to my Bride, who is the sweet, loving parent (as opposed to the irascible, impatient, demanding, um, well, me...) and who has busted her butt to try and make things easier for him. Well, he's burning that bridge like a torch in the night and driving his little sister - who is a really loving little soul - completely out of patience with him.

The real problem with this is that my presence - even if I'm not looming over him in a sort of Evil Stepdaddy sort of way - seems to turn the little bugger's Asshole down to background noise. It's when I leave for an extended time - as I have now - that Satan's Child comes roaring back out. It drives me nuts, because my Bride takes the hammer and there's nothing that I can do.

And just in case I didn't have anything to feel sorry for myself about, my right hip has decided that being a small, nagging sort of irritation isn't really fun, so it's gone flat-out, full-throttle, shove-the-shank-in-and-leave-it-and-cripple-the-sonofabitch. I can still walk, sort of, with a really awful torquing sort of motion that resembles nothing so much as Igor in the old Frankenstein flicks. But it hurts, hurts like a bastard. I don't even want to talk about putting a sock on my right foot; sometimes I've been that close to tears as the simple act of putting a tube of cloth on a piece of muscle and bome less than three feet away from my hand is just flat out frigging impossible.

I've come to dread these away-from-home trips just because I fear that I'm going to get up one morning and no amount of effort will let me put my sock on or tie my bootlace and I will have to go, barefoot, to some horrified stranger asking for help like a beggar in the marketplace.

My replacement date is now in March, because my current employer - for whom I worked for years back in the day has concluded that my "period of employment" dates only from my RE-hiring in February of this year. Which means I am ineligible for medical disability leave or paid benefits until after that date in 2016.

So I shamble around like some spastic zombie and curse my leg and my ill-fortune.

But enough self-pity, dammit.

I wanted to throw this up before I go, though; it's the full album from which I got the Karen Alexander song Brown Shoes I posted here a while back. If you're looking for something fun and uptempo, forward to 23:00 and the song Baghdad Ragman. You want hooky?

"Hussein the barber's got a razor like a saber, and
Hassan the butcher has a brother who's a baker, and
The whole bazaar it hums like a song, and
The Baghdad ragman comes with the dawn..."

Oh, yeah. I think you'll like it.

Wednesday, October 07, 2015

And speaking of mistakes...

...the latest round of stupidity from this season's GOP candidate field comes from surprisingly ignorant Ben Carson, the climate change/evolution-denying physician.
"I would not just stand there and let him shoot me, I would say, 'Hey, guys, everybody attack him. He may shoot me, but he can’t get us all.'"
Okay, fine; you first, asshole. I'm going out the window.

This latest incident of what Jim Wright over at Stonekettle Station likes to call Bang Bang Crazy has brought all the usual idiots out of the woodwork to recommend that the solution to moar gunz is...wait for it...moar gunz! Because...
Good guys with guns! Amirite, hunh? Hunh?!


Look, I may have been just a simple grunt medic, but I was smart enough to figure out that the way to stop a bad guy with a gun is a fucking battery six with HE-quick in effect. Except you can't fucking do that in a shopping mall or a theatre.

And short of that, you're pretty much just tossing the dice.

Teaching a human being to take effective deadly action is a damn difficult thing. We spend weeks and months training Joe and Molly to do that and the statistics show that we only succeed in about 30-50% of the time. Most people - even most trained soldiers - react to danger by getting their heads down and trying to stay in defilade.

But let's assume that the training works and our hero heads towards the sound of shooting.

What does he or she encounter?

Fucking chaos, that's what. The nutter is the center of it, shooting left and right...but everyone else is amplifying the chaos; screaming, running,'s total mayhem. Into this comes our hero, trained but not experienced - one hopes - in this sort of bloody mess. How's that likely gonna work out?

First of all, one of the hardest parts of learning to be lethal in combat is making sense of it. We humans are used to an orderly world, a world that moves in a linear sort of way at a relatively leisurely pace. Suddenly - and with our own reactions and judgements spazzing as adrenaline turns our brains into an arcing circuit board and our firing arm into a licorice whip - we step into a world gone mad.

Is this guy running screaming at us the shooter in a kamikaze rage or a target trying to escape? Is the dude over by the wall still and silent with terror or does he have his pistol down by his leg waiting to fire again?

Noise, random movement, incoming takes an assload of training to even begin to sort this stuff out, and without experience the likelihood of sorting it wrong is damned likely; that's why we try and make veterans into our combat NCOs. Because they've had to sort through this gibbering chaos and hopefully - seeing as they're still alive - have gotten it right.

But there's another, even more complicating and difficult factor here.

This isn't a straightforward military red-on-blue. There's at least four factions; the "bad guy" shooter(s), the prospective "good guy" shooter(s) - if more than one made more fraught by having no connection or experience working together, meaning just as likely to mistake each other for the "bad guy" - the people being shot at...and the police.

The coppers have NO idea who the "bad guy" is. To them anyone with a weapon out is just as likely to be the murderer, which has, in previous massacres, nearly led to blue-on-blue gunfire.

So. You have a nutter firing right and left. You have "good guys with guns" firing at the nutter...but also possibly each other, seeing as unless they were on-scene when the shooting started don't know which armed citizen is the nutter. You have the coppers, when they arrive, shooting at the nutter...and possibly at the "good guys", since they have no way of telling that they are good guys when they roll up.

I'm sorry. That's fucking nutzoid land. Makes the Battle of Ia Drang look like a sorority pillow-fight.

The idea that We the People are happy with one of these nutter shootings happening every month or so seems just as nutzoid. If you told me that without my knowing anything about this country I'd laugh in your face.

At the same time I have the utmost confidence in my fellow citizens to do absolutely nothing to change anything. And that's just really, really depressing.

Update 10/12: As you might expect, Jim Wright takes down the Mad Doctor more completely than I ever could.

Tuesday, October 06, 2015

Worse than a crime... was a mistake.

I think the thing that drives me utterly batshit crazy about stuff like this is that "we" - our expeditionary forces and the foreign policy staffs that are supposed to be in charge of them - never seem to get how punitive these "mistakes" are. We seem to have so completely lost sight of the strategic and geopolitical goals for the tactical minutiae that we seem to think that we can just lie and deny and roll past them and if we do the locals will forget the way the U.S. public does.

I don't know...maybe the U.S. public is the target for all this lie-and-deny. It seems pretty pointless to try and fool the locals; I mean, when bombs fall on your head and birds and your foreign occupiers' aircraft are the only ones in the sky...who's responsible? It ain't rocket science.

We've been doing this shit for twelve years now. The mantra after Vietnam was that we wouldn't do the whole "one year twelve times" thing that produced the condition called "CRS Syndrome". But it seems like we haven't learned anything. We still can't remember shit like "the only worse thing than bombing people you're supposed to be fighting alongside/for is bombing them and leaving some alive to tell the tale."

We Are STILL So Fucked.

Saturday, October 03, 2015

Wars and Lechery

Part of the genesis of this post was a leftover image from the "Philippine Sea" writeup. I went looking for "WW2 Imperial Navy poster" and found this:

Which I thought was perfect; ships, flags, pretty pin-up girl...there you have your basic "Join the Navy, see the world and get laid" appeal that had probably been a central feature of every recruiter's spiel since the first Sumerian sergeant told lies to a bunch of dumb hicks straight off the farm.

The thing of the other images Google showed me was this one:

Wrong country, right period, but...damn. Talk about a different way of looking at the whole "guns/girls" thing.

I find it hard to believe that even in 1944 an 18-year-old Japanese kid, male or female, had instincts much different than an American teenager. Different manners and mores, yes, but the hormones? Right in there pitching. Look at a picture of a pretty girl? He's thinking "I'd like to get next to that..." (and she's probably thinking "I'd like to be that so he will want to get next to me...").

But the WAVE practically radiates sex - she's a Petty pin-up, y'think..? - as opposed to the very G-rated patriotic Japanese gal in the IJN poster. No wonder so many other cultures think we're obsessed with our genitals.

Not that I think we really are - I think ALL humans spend tons of time thinking about putting Tab A into Slot B. Americans are just more upfront about it and it seems were were seventy years ago, too.

Mind you, the Japanese appear to have made up for lost time:

And that's pretty mild compared to the whole "tentacle rape" thing.

But that's a whole 'nother story.