Saturday, 26 July 2008

Summer Camp

Growing up in Bama....in the rural sticks.....a kid can dream of summer camp....but its mostly a dream. I grew up with subscription to "Boys Life", which was a scout magazine which advertised far and wide with sixty or seventy summer camps.....all up in the New York state, Ohio, Michigan, and Penn areas. I thought it'd be neat to go off to a camp...just to get off the farm for a week.

My dad came up one day.....with the mighty news of the county 4H crowd having a summer camp deal. A full week with the 4H crowd....in Tishomingo, Mississippi. Apparently, there was a state park over there....with cabins....and they had activities lined up for the entire week.

So at the age of twelve....my dad drove us over on a Sunday to the county seat...Florence. There stood four or five school buses....and the head 4H dude for the county. We piled on....with twenty bucks in pocket money, and headed off to Tishomingo.

Looking back....it was crap. But since I had nothing to compare it against......I couldn't say a word.

The cabin? Well...it was at least standing, and had a light bulb. The toilets barely worked and the shower smelled like some sewage canal in New Jersey. We had some 15-year old kid as the cabin chief.....but he really didn't do anything.

The chow hall? It was pretty much the worst food I'd eaten up to that point in my life. Except for the morning meal of sausage and eggs.....thats basically it for the rest of the day.

The pool? It was probably 30 percent chlorine, 10 percent urine, and 60 percent swamp water.

The guys in charge kept cautioning us from day one on...about the rattlesnakes in the area. We never knew if they were kidding or being honest.

This was my introduction to shotguns.....they actually brought along a dozen shotguns and a thousand shells....and did a clay pigeon toss with five pigeons with each one of us. I ended up hitting all five of mine in a roll....which was apparently a fair feat. That was the last time that I ever handled a shotgun in my entire life....amazingly enough.

By the morning of the last day.....I was begging to leave. I probably had lost three or pounds....starving there. It was a fairly lousy week. It felt good to finally get on the bus and leave this hellhole.

So a year goes by....and my dad comes up and mentions another week episode possibility at Tishomingo. And you know.....I stood there and said sure....and did an entire repeat of the entire experience again. Nothing improved....except I took $30 along and had a hamburger over at the state park snack bar each afternoon.....and survived easily off that 50-cent burger each day.

That was the end of my summer camp dreams. I never had any interest after that point. For a kid from rural Bama....this was probably the best you could hope for. In the midst of summer....I'll occasionally ponder this week of wasted time from my period as a kid.

I drove through Tishomingo about fifteen years ago.....and saw the sign for the state park....and kept thinking if I should stop.....but never did. Its best not not to torture myself again.

The amusing thing....is that I was doing some reading a while back, and Tishomingo's state park came up. It was originally a CCC campground in the 1930s for road crews and they simply fixed up the cabins and had the chow hall built....then left. The state guys thought it was a swell structure, and just blessed it as a state park....tossed in a pool and fishing area....and there you go. I sat there and thought that cabins are in the same shape as they were in 1930....with the same funky smell.

The Ossama Driver (Parody)

So the court episode with Ossama's driver started this week. The best charges that they could dream up at Gitmo? Running guns and planning attacks. The court sat there and has tossed out various charges because the information came via interrogation....which was questionable.

I sat and pondered this dude. Here is a driver.....and thats basically his entire job for Ossama.....just driving the guy around.

Enter the CIA interrogation team after capturing this dude. At the end of a long hot sweaty interrogation.....this is likely what we learned:

1. Always use 30W/40 oil, a better blend for the engine in a harsh environment.

2. Leather seats in 110 degree temperature makes you sweat.....so use the wooden beads....and its better for your back.

3. Fix and turn-up your car when it back-fires immediately.

4. Never, ever....wax a car....the sandstorms will make it crap anyway.

5. Check oil daily.

6. Ford ought to put drink holders in every backseat area.

7. Never let your cousin paint your car....its always a bad job.

8. Never, ever....leave dead fish under your seat and forget about then later.

9. Always carry an extra roll of toilet paper....in case you got to go bad....out in the desert.

10. CIA guys never take care of their cars....and make for lousy drivers.

At the end of this interrogation....the CIA guy probably got all upset....and then classified this entire event. We'll never know about the advice on painting or about the necessity for drink holders in the back of every Ford. Sadly....this is the way that things work in the government.

Old Anderson and New Anderson

I grew up about three miles outside the city limits of Anderson, Alabama. Its really not much to brag about, and I rarely ever bring this up. There are various things about my youth that I come across and ponder....time and time again.

In this small podunk town of maybe 250 folks....there was old Anderson and New Anderson. The two lay on the side of the Anderson Creek....which changes names at least five times, depending on where you are standing along the creek...and likely stretches twenty miles before it drains off into the Tennessee River.

Before the 1920s and the massive explosion of growth in Anderson....there was old Anderson. If you turned at Rogersville and headed north to the major town of Pulaski, Tenn....you had only two significant towns to encounter (Anderson and Minor Hill). Neither amounted to much but both had a gas station...which was very important by the early 1920s.

Old Anderson grew up with one major church, a graveyard, a lumber yard, a one-stop shop of a grocery store, a gas station, and a barber shop. There wasn't much you could say about this little town which barely hung on the side of the road as you traveled north toward Pulaski. Thankfully, you were still in God's country and couldn't buy booze.

At some point in the 1920s....new Anderson started some growth....which was a mile down the road. The bank, another grocery, another gas station, and the school popped up. Then came a church or two more.....and the post office.

Most folks in this area came to address this division as old Anderson and new Anderson...which always stuck in my mind. Its the same damn town....no real difference. The amusing thing is that life in old Anderson, with the exception of five or six houses and the church....died off. The stores went under and gas station eventually failed.

By the 1970s....new Anderson had two gas stations, a garage, a Fish Creel restaurant, and a magnificent softball field with lighting. My dad got talked into a "bond" program for the Anderson softball field lights. I think it was around $50 that he tossed in. The bond....as far as I know...never paid off. My dad once dragged out this nifty looking document.....which I would imagine the local bank helped to make up.

When you drive into Anderson today....the bridges are all fixed and very drivable. The cotton gin is long gone. The majority of old Anderson has fallen down into the creek or stands there abandoned. The town has one BP-type station with a quicky market inside, which sells some fine bar-b-q sandwiches. The barber shop is still there, and the bank exists although I doubt that more than four folks actually work inside. The Fish Creel is still there but was closed on Sundays (at least the last time I was there), because you weren't supposed to work on Sundays. Thats the kind of mentality you still run into there.

Above all....its still God's country....where no booze is sold and most folks never----ever----drink. Well....they swear that to the minister, before they take off to the stateline to consume five or six beers and chat with some 55-year old female bar hostess named Martha Jean. Alcohol is the tool of the devil....if you know what I mean. So these folks try to stay pure and clean....for church purposes.

There used to be no crime, except the guys that got ticketed for driving with booze in the car...which paid the town lone cop his extra $15k a year in bonus money. These days, you have alot of minor robbery where your tool chest disappears out of the back of the shed....the $500 Craftsman kit is taken....the TV gets stolen while you are visiting Grandma at the old folks home....etc. Its related back to meth-users mostly. They rob folks to a extent that they are willing to accept it, but the cops never get serious. So far, the insurance folks have readily paid out tens of thousands over the past decade.

Anderson isn't much to brag about....its just a place where I grew up....and thats about the best sum of words that I can say about the place.

The Case of German Beers


Its been a week now, since the Belgium dudes bought the Budweiser Beer company. Most folks are disturbed by this, but willing to just accept it. I was kinda amused.

In fifteen years....I've had a chance to sip an awful lot of German beers, some were just a sip, cause I'd never buy that type.

You see....these German guys take beer to another level. They dump science into the pot, and come out with various varieties of beer.

First, there is Cola-Beer....which is 50 percent Coke and 50 percent beer. Its sweet and pretty hard to get drunk on. Most folks develop a slight taste for this. I hated it....but if it'd been Pepsi....it might have been different.

Then you got the white beers.....which is a slightly different type of taste. Then you got the dark beers with the strong wheaty taste. Then you got he low-cal beers, the no-cal beers, and even the no-alcohol beers.

Then you have the tinted beers...with the grapefruit taste, the strawberry taste, and various other fruity combinations.

If you walked into a local grocery....there are likely seventy types and tastes of beer. Most are 4.0 percent or better. You can even go for the Danish beers which are eight percent.

I'm thinking you American beer drinkers need to start considering your options....and think of diversity. And the best way is to ask the local drink store in your hick town...to acquire some Carlsberg Elephant beer....at least a case. As you wake up in the backyard as the sun rises...wondering where your clothing disappeared to....and you have complete amnesia over the previous evening....you'll strongly fall in love with Danish beer.

Citizen of the World?

This week, I had to contemplate a new country existing....with world citizenship existing....and what it all meant.

As Obama stood up in Obamaville (Berlin)....the crowds cheered on, magnificently, applauding at the vision of world citizenship and finally an American president who understood the grand dream.

In the past thirty years, this concept of world citizenship has often found itself on various publications and on various news clips. The dominating factor is that the rich help the poor. To be a world citizen....you got to cough up money. So somewhere in the midst of this drama of world citizenship....there are world taxes.

I realize you are likely scratching your head. You already have gas taxes, car taxes, sales taxes, luxury taxes, property taxes, state income taxes, and federal taxes. So this basically adds onto your burden. How much? Well...in the beginning of this grand vision...I'd be guessing $100 a year. Later on....ten years down the road....maybe $1000. This is the way of taxation.

What exactly do you gain by being a world citizen? Passport? Nope.....you can't have that. Permission to immediately move to southern France? Nope....you can't do that. Permission to buy a Bulgarian-built car without the fancy pollution equipment? Nope....you can't do that. Permission to hunt in Ecuador? Nope....not unless you want to bribe the local politician figures there. Permission to marry a 13-year old girl in the Ukraine? Nope....well....if you are a local, then yes, but as a foreigner....no.

After a good ten minutes of pondering, then you start to wonder what the hell you get for $100 a year and to have your world president (Obama of Obamaville). The answer is....nothing. You might get a chance to feel good. But its the same feeling you can get from the Thai massage forum down on state highway 33....or the feeling you get after eating heavenly-smoked ribs at Smokey Joes in Nashville....or the feeling you get after lightning storm as you sit on the front porch while smoking a Dominican cigar. Most of those feelings are less costly...well....except the Thai massage forum, but thats a different kind of good feeling.

So when the German walks up and smiles like they've been smoking good imported weed from Brazil....and chatters like a mad Congo monkey on the Obama world citizen topic....sit there for a minute and let the idiot chatter on. At some point, when you think he's gushed all the wind he can toss up....ask what world citizenship costs? Ask him in round numbers....just what this might require. Then ask if he has extra money in his pocket to toss toward some banana-republic in Burma....where your citizenship money will sink into a black pit. Ask him where the $50 billion in world funds that have been given to African countries over the past forty years have gone. Ask him if those on minimum wage in Germany have money for world citizenship, or if they even care about such.

After a while....the Obama chatter monkey will idle back his enthusiasm, and then walk back to the nearest pub to have three or four beers....strong German beers. He'll feel good that evening....kinda like the feeling from the Thai massage forum visit, but not quiet as good. Me personally....ifing I had the choice....I guess I'd just like to be a citizen of Ripley....and be happy with that. I don't need any worldly stuff....just a sip of ice tea, a Dominican cigar, and a newspaper to read.

The Kwame Episode

There is hardly a week that goes by....that I don't notice from my front porch....the comings and going of Detroit. Mind you....I'm not from Detroit.....I've only traveled via the airport there....and I did spend a night or two in a airport hotel....but thats my only connection to the city.

This week....there were two curious events.

Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick is in deep trouble with the authorities, over various issues. This week....a cop tried to deliver a subpoena to the mayor's sister, who lives in town. There at the front door....was Kwame. Kwame didn't exactly greet the guy or shake it hand or even offer him a "great Detroit morning". Nope.....Kwame more or less pushed the back into some reporter standing about five feet behind the cop. The cop left at that point. Based on what the papers said....I don't think the subpoena was ever served.

The chief of the police.....says this is pretty serious....IF true. He has doubts. In fact....he'd even have doubts that the subpoena exists....I'm pretty sure. However, if proven, and the witness will likely make this real miserable for Kwame....it'll be up to two years in prison for assaulting a cop. There isn't much discussion, if the witness agrees.

I'm thinking this cop will smile at Kwame and say....$100k in cash....in a briefcase....and I forget all about this episode. Kwame smiles and makes it so....and then says it was all a misunderstanding. Then the next day....another cop shows up to deliver the subpoena again, and Kwame assaults that dude probably. Thats the Kwame way of doing things.

Then we have episode number two. For those who hadn't hear of Belle Island Zoo or the Belle Island Aquarium....both are enterprises in the city of Detroit. The Aquarium has had several problems in opening. The Zoo? Well...its ok....not a four-star place....and some might argue about it even being a three-star zoo. There is talk via the press and in Detroit forums that the city is thinking of a major project to renovate the entire enterprise.

But in this case....I'm guessing its a $20 million dollar project where $15 million get dumped into the enterprise and five million into the pockets of some group for helping the mayor.

There is no doubt that the city deserves something better and I'd be the first to say "approved" for fixing up some limited facilities. However, under the current regime.....this city is in pitiful hands, and I have no hope for them.

Asking for the Impossible

The Washington state Board of Education has agreed to require all students to take Algebra II to graduate from high school. I started laughing when I read this....thinking it was for a special group....but no....its for any kid in the school system.

The truth here is that eighty years ago....there were a significant number of kids in America that were required to take Latin and heavy-duty math. At some point...probably after WW II....that got washed out....and we went to practical skills. The curious thing that I've observed is that in the German school system....most kids are doing Algebra II-related math by the seventh grade.....but they got heavy doses in the third and fourth....to prepare them for this. This is something that we simply aren't doing in America.

So how will the Washington requirement work? Well....the guys want results quickly....other wise the program dies quickly. So I'm thinking the only way to surge on this one....is a massive number of tutors hired by the state and working extra hours within each school. Maybe even 20,000 of these Algebra tutors. It would have been more simple to attack the second and third grades....demanding more math in those years....and then introducing like the Germans....this Algieba II idea around the seventh grade. But in the case of Washington state....this is a failure from day one.

Additionally....how many kids will be laughing at this skill requirement...when the best they can hope for in work....is a job at a local Sears or PIzza Hut.

So stand by....maybe those Washington folks will bring back Latin too....that would be a curious skill to have at Pizza Hut. The customers would stand there in shock, and then run out screaming if the kid responded to the order in Latin.

A Interesting Moment


So this is the woeful tale.

Obama had a episode reserved and written in stone to come to Landstuhl hospital at the tail end of his grand tour in Germany. Ninety percent of the details had been worked out and most everything was clear.

Then.....the point guy on this part of the grand tour arrived....an Air Force retired two-star general....who we will not name....because of the foolishness that he triggered. We shall only say that he was a fighter jock at one point....even served as the Ramstein safety officer....and retired in the past two years.

The dimwit (retired general) arrives to arrange the final parts of the Obama tour of the hospital and the wounded. The Pentagon (note, not the hospital or EUCOM or the Air Force) had given rules over presidential candidates and how such environments with wounded troops could be handled in a election episode. The rules are fairly simple....the candidate can visit....the entourage can't. The wife of the candidate is generally not permitted to visit. All video is shot by the military, not by the candidate staff....then the military reviews the video and releases the appropriate shots to the guy later.....which he is free to use for promotion or advertising. This is a fairly simple rule list.

Dimwit shows up.....and goes over the planned arrival.....the entry at the gate....the driver parking here....and how he (the dimwit) and Obama would exit the vehicle and be greeted by the hospital's general in charge. Then the hospital commander would take them on a tour of the hospital. At some point, the PA for Landstuhl.....stopped the dimwit....and corrected him. Obama would enter the facility with the hospital commander....and there would be NO entourage. The PA probably pointed straight at the dimwit....indicating that he was entourage.

The dimwit got huffy and puffy. He was a retired Air Force general.....he was not entourage.

So then (my speculation)....the dimwit pulls out a cellphone and begins calling Stuttgart and Ramstein....looking for a Air Force general (which there are around six in Germany)....while the other one member of the Obama planning team is sitting and watching in terror at the massive mess being created by this poor pathetic retired general.

The curious thing....all of the rules came down from the SECDEF's desk. None of these European based generals can say a word....and even if they did.....the hospital PA would have smiled at them in manner to let them know that they were way out of their territory.

So eventually, this mess has hit critical mass, and the dimwit threatens to cancel the entire tour.....trying to blame this on the PA or the Pentagon. The PA guy standing there likely said that Senator Obama is welcome....you aren't. That was the final straw.

So came to an end....the opportunity for Obama to visit the troops. It was an amusing episode.

How many dimwits (retired military officers) are on the Obama payroll or just hanging around freely to help? I'd guess forty of them. As for this dimwit.....he's mostly out now.....from the little forty-man club. What makes these idiots play this game? Well....its about a personal agenda.....a think-tank agenda....a commercial agenda (oil company, foreign country, Boeing, etc). They all sit there....like chickens......waiting to help the Obama in his grand tour. Its mostly a pitiful sight.....and we'd all better off if they were just working honest hours at Best Buy....selling merchandise there, rather than fooling with PA folks at Landstuhl Hospital.

How many episodes occur each year around military bases and posts with retired generals? I can think of at least two on Ramstein within the past ten years. I'd be guessing that it numbers into the hundreds. Someone once told of a retired 1-star Army general going nuts at some golf course in Virginia....trying to pull out his rank and establish his authority over the post golf course. At some point....the manager had to ask friends of the general to simply take him out of the facility before he got into "real trouble". These guys have too much time on their hands....and end up making fools out of themselves.