Tuesday, June 30, 2009
My son and I are off to Mobile, Alabama this morning to visit the Battleship USS Alabama Museum.
I'll take pictures and as soon I get somewhere with enough bandwidth I'll show you those and the ones from the National Museum of Naval Aviation.
Enjoy your day.
Monday, June 29, 2009
Becky, showing off her melons at the family picnic...
Just so you all understand, this joke was hysterically funny at the family picnic. Just saying.
Saturday, June 27, 2009
Went to the beach again today.
Pensacola beach, which is better than Navarre, though much more crowded.
My son and I spent the day body surfing in what had to be 85 degree water. Perfect for sharks, of which there were plenty. They left us alone though. So, we had fun and left with the same number of limbs we arrived with.
Despite being slathered in 45 sunblock I got sunburned.
It's not bad, I don't look like a boiled lobster or anything, but I am red all over the chest and back. I'm liberally covered in after-sun aloe gel at the moment and smell like the inside of a desert plant.
Bring it on, Vacation, I can take it.
Friday, June 26, 2009
You know, I’ve never been a big fan of the beach.
I’ve just never given much of crap about getting a tan or baking in the sun. I don’t like volleyball or those stupid looking sun visors, and the smell of coconut oil does not fill me with either joy or nostalgia.
As has been mentioned elsewhere, I’m spending time on the gulf coast of Florida’s panhandle. This area is famous for Lite beer, boiled peanuts, white sandy beaches, and its somewhat particular denizens – hence the coast’s unofficial moniker, The Redneck Riviera.
We spent yesterday smack in the middle of it all, at Navarre Beach.
And it was there that I remembered all of the things I purely hate about going to the beach.
Like the sea, for example. Oh sure, I spent most of my life as a Sailor on the ocean, and I have a deep and abiding respect for it. There are days that I truly miss it and miss sailing upon it. But I miss the Ocean, the Deep Blue Sea, the Atlantic and the Pacific and the Indian and the Arctic. The Gulf? The Gulf is full of weird green water, the kind of green that comes from the outflow pipe of a Russian nuclear power plant or a combination of algae, lukewarm temperatures, and water that is at least 20% urine. Hey, it’s not just kids who pee in the pool, fish and whales and dolphins and sharks and sea urchins piss there too. So do jellyfish, just saying. Honestly, what did you think that smell was? Swimming in the Gulf is like bathing in warm whiz. And when fish aren’t relieving themselves, they’re busy biting at the hair on your legs like retarded piranhas.
Then there’s the Gulf Coast sun. Seriously, who dreamed this up? Slather yourself in oil like a red snapper fillet and slide into the ol’ skin cancer broiler. And speaking of such things, here’s something I don’t get – Tanning Shops. Yes, tanning shops here in Florida, there’s one in every strip mall. How does that work? You pay people to get a tan? In Florida? You pay people to get a tan. In Florida. I’m thinking of opening a sauna, if people in Florida will pay for ersatz sunshine they’ll cough up major beer money for artificial heat and humidity too. I won't even need a salon, they pay me and I'll swing by their house and turn off their air conditioner, that'll be $19.95, Bubba. No checks, cash only.
And sand, once you’re covered in saltwater and oil there’s nothing better than a nice coating of grit. Pack your ass crack full and take some home. You know what’s fun? Watching a baby with a slobber covered cookie sitting in the sand while his mother is talking on a cell phone and not paying attention. Sometimes they find extra stuff to put in their mouth while digging in the sand for the cookie they dropped. Cigarette butts are my favorite.
The Redneck Riviera has certain features not found on other beaches, like, oh, Rednecks. You really haven’t lived until you get to watch a sunburned bearded potbellied 24 year old Alabaman with a mullet and a beer helmet attempting to surf on a My Little Pony boogyboard while taking video of himself with a cell phone camera in an attempt to get on America's Funniest Retarded Videos. No you really haven’t lived until you’ve seen that, or until you’ve seen the waves yank the rear of his Dale Earnhardt commemorative swim trunks down around his ankles – then you wish you didn’t live at all.
While mullethead is out there in the surf shouting, “Dahamination ya’ll! Ah got salt water in my Bud Lite! Bitch! Beer me!” his relatives on the beach are laughing drunkenly at his antics, lighting one Marlboro off the other and shouting helpful suggestions. If you’re really lucky Bitty Lou is decked out in a thong - kind’ve like Jabba The Hut wrapped in a rubber band and a couple of Sponge Bob Squarepants BandAids – and when she bends over to bury the baby’s dirty diaper in the sand like secret pirate treasure, well, let’s just say that view of her special tattoo is a sight that will stay with you for a while.
It is inevitable that there will be at least one weird kid. Now I’m not talking good weird, I’m talking weird weird. I talking brain damaged devil monkey weird. Jeffry “I’d like mine rare” Dahmer weird. You know him. He’s the teenager who stands waist deep in the waves about three feet behind you and makes those odd manic noises. When you look at him, he grins and says something quaint and colloquial like “Mexican food makes my butt feel funny!” His hands are out of sight underwater near his swim trunks and he’s grinning madly and you hope he’s being poisoned by a jellyfish and not doing what you think he’s doing. Don’t make eye contact or he’ll be your new best friend and you’ll have to take him home with you.
Weird Kids grow up, get married to Bizarro Girls, and somehow nobody ever manages to tell them that they are just plain fucking weird and that their behavior isn’t acceptable – so they eventually become Lecherous Old Bastards. They wander down the beach in Bermuda shorts with their bellies hanging to their knees like a bloated dead walrus and giant mats of multi-colored hair clinging to their backs like a balding mange-ridden gorilla. And they haven’t changed, they’re still making those weird noises and talking to invisible friends. They stop three feet away and stare at your wife’s bikini clad bottom and talk to themselves like Bill Murray in Caddyshack, “aaaaah Mrs. Rabbit you nasty bunny, aaaah! I love Mexican food!, aaaaah! My butt feels funny!” and their hands are hidden under their bellies near their shorts and you hope they aren’t really doing what you think they’re doing. And when you give them the eye and encourage them to move the fuck along, well, they go about three feet and then pull out a camera. “Ahhhhh Mrs. Rabbit! Just something to remember me for! Aahhhh!”
But I guess what really chaps my ass is this:
Navarre Beach is sandbar. Literally, it is a sandbar and nothing more. There are no rocks, no trees, no soil. It’s a fucking sandbar, about half a mile wide. You get there by taking a bridge over the inland waterway. Now, see that hotel marked with the red arrow? Prior to Ivan that was the only hotel on the beach. During Ivan that hotel got raped, literally, by 200 mile per hour winds and a storm surge that washed completely over the island in a wave 20 feet high. When we saw it right after the hurricane, that hotel was nothing but a concrete slab and a 3D line drawing of steel girders. Everything else, walls, ceilings, beds, desks, restaurant, fishing pier, and the all-you-can-eat catfish buffet ended up in the inland waterway a mile away on the other side of the sandbar.
What did we learn from this?
Well, it’s simple really – FEMA funds will build us a new hotel, plus a half dozen more even bigger ones, plus a couple of multimillion-dollar high-rise condos, on the same strip of sand (strip of sand, not strip of land, strip of sand).
And what’s really cool is that when the next hurricane hits, well the US taxpayers will get to fund their replacement too!
Ain’t life on the Riviera just grand?
Stonekettle Station answers important Internet search queries:
Question: Can a member of Mensa like me be happily married to a non-Mensa member?
Answer: Like you? No.
Mensa, still proving that the top 2% are assholes.
The Air Force doesn't want any more F-22 Raptors.
The Pentagon doesn't want any more F-22 Raptors.
The Secretary of Defense doesn't want any more F-22 Raptors.
The President doesn't want any more F-22 Raptors.
As a tax payer, I don't want any more Goddamned F-22 Raptors. Don't get me wrong, it's a hell of an aircraft. The most advanced in the world. Watching it fly is an amazing experience. It was designed to counter the most sophisticated air defense the Soviets could field - and if there actually still was a Soviet Union, the F-22 would scare the collective Red commie bejebbers out of them.
Just one little problem, there isn't a Soviet Union any more. Hasn't been for quite some time as a matter of fact.
Unfortunately, down there in Jesusland where they teach Creationism and the special conservative bible history instead of, well you know, actual fact based reality, the Soviet Union is still going strong. Conservatives are convinced that we need those F-22's. They want to be ready in case Sarah Palin gives the alarm like a modern day Paul Revere from Alaska when the Rooskies surge enmasse across the Bearing Sea.
The Senate Armed Service Committee voted yesterday to add $1.75 billion to the defense budget in order to purchase another seven F-22's from Texas-based Lockheed-Martin. The committee didn't mention how these super cool and super expensive aircraft will help defuse roadside IED's, find insurgents hiding in caves, hunt down the actual emboldened purveyors of false populism who actually, you know, blew up the Twin Towers, or in any way help defeat the actual threats that soldiers face in the current war.
But hey, as long as it keeps good little Jesus humpin' conservatives employed, it's good for the nation. Right?
I'm curious though if any Conservative lawmaker actually knows the definition of the word hypocrisy. Especially those who screamed, and continue to scream, about the President's economic stimulus package as "full of pork." Funny how it's pork when it's money for roads and schools and bridges and poor people and such, but it's not pork when it's billions for airplanes designed to fight an enemy that does not exist and we don't need and nobody in the military actually wants. Funny how it's socialism when it's money to keep millions of American automaker employees in blue states afloat, but it's not socialist pork when it's money to keep a handful of Texans employed - Texans who keep mumbling sullenly about seceding from the Union by the way.
The President has threatened to veto the bill unless the F-22 and other unnecessary and unrequested funding is removed. Normally I'm not a fan of holding up the Defense Appropriations Bill. I can't tell you how many times those of us in the military have been screwed by Capital Hill shenannigans, going months without funding in the middle of a war without the gear or money we need to do our fucking jobs. But this time around I'm with the President. He needs to veto this bill, and keep vetoing it, until the dead bloated white elephant of the F-22 is removed.
It's about Goddamned time that people understand something: the Cold War is over.
Cold War spending should be over too.
Thursday, June 25, 2009
In response to a number of recent moral failings by prominent republicans and culminating this week with South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford's marriage reinforcing dalliance with an Argentinian national, the Republican Party of Superior Moral Non-Hypocrisy Family Values has decided to change its anti-gay rallying cry to:
Marriage = 1 man + 1 woman + 1 hooker + 1 neighbor's daughter + 1 one congressional aide + 1 illegal alien nanny + 1 one campaign office secretary + 1 foreign intelligence operative + 1 farm animal of your choice + plus various guys you meet in public restrooms + 1 underage congressional page + 2 divorces + 3 episodes of alcoholism or drug abuse (with or without a secret homosexual liaison which doesn't count because God forgives you because you were high and you've been "rehabilitated") + 1 secret bastard child by a woman of a hyphenated-American race who was once your family's maid. But no Goddamned queer marriages because Jesus hates them and doesn't want them to be married because that would destroy traditional marriage and moral values. So there and let us pray.
They're having a little trouble fitting it on the bumper-stickers though.
Wednesday, June 24, 2009
Today's recipe: Ice Tea (Southern Style)
1 gallon of water
1 small tea bag (optional)
1 GIANT FUCKING DUMP TRUCK of white sugar
Diabetes and lemon to taste
I've been here four days.
So far I've seen two cars on fire.
In one case the engine was burning. Flames were shooting four feet in the air. There were a bunch of rednecks all standing around in the road with the hood up watching it burn. Nobody, including the cop, made any effort whatsoever to do anything other than comment and point.
The other one, the interior of the car was burning merrily. The entire front passenger seat was on fire, black smoke was billowing out of the windows. There were a bunch of rednecks standing around in the road watching it burn. Nobody, including the cop, made any effort whatsoever to do anything other than comment and point.
Seriously, what the fuck?
…Every single car and truck has a GOD Bless America bumpersticker, and I mean every. single. one.
…Kilian’s Irish Red is whatcha call “That Fancy Imported Beer.” Real beer is the kind with its name printed on the side of NASCARs.
…You drive one block and count 25 “Pray for our Schools” campaign signs.
…You can’t buy alcohol on Sunday, and yet everybody seems to have plenty – usually in a cooler, in the front seat, right next to the driver.
…The number of churches and the number of bars are in equal balance – and the number of seats in both exceeds the local population by a factor of ten.
…It is so Goddamned hot that if I owned this place and hell, I’d rent out this place out and live in hell.
…There is nothing that can’t be breaded and fried. Nothing. Including a 3-speed manual transmission from a 1974 Ford F50, which you just happen to have two of sitting next to the front door, by the fridge.
…The high school parking lot is cracked and full of weeds, at least two windows are covered in plywood, and the paint is peeling, much of the hurricane damage from Ivan three years ago is still not fixed. The Baptist church next door, on the other hand, is a brand new shining multi-million dollar steel and glass temple of air conditioned splendor. Maybe the school needs a few more Pray for Our Schools signs out front.
…Willie Nelson is considered one of the greatest actors who has ever lived, he’s a pretty good singer or something too.
… and you see things like this:
See the part that’s circled? Yeah, see, that’s the phone line, attached to what was the top of the old telephone pole, the one destroyed in the last hurricane about three years ago. Apparently that couple of feet was OK. So you know, ya’ll’d be crazy to throw that out, even though it’s not actually supporting anything and is in fact only about four feet off the ground. Besides the two poles on either side are mostly OK. Mostly. Probably.
Odd how the phone service is intermittent though, the phone company can’t seem to figure it out…
Tuesday, June 23, 2009
Wife: (repeating statement, adding emphasis) Chairs. We need chairs.
Wife (speaking slower and louder so that the stupid male will understand): We need to make sure we have enough chairs.
Wife (Sounding exasperated at the obvious density of husband): We. Need. Chairs. For the 4th of July. For the fireworks.
Me: Uh...OK. Isn't there like...uh...ground people could sit on?
Wife (through gritted teeth): We need to make sure we have enough chairs for people to sit on. We're going to the park. To watch the fireworks. On the 4th.
Me: It's just fireworks in the park.
Wife: Things need to be planned out.
Me: OK. I'll go count chairs.
(Now you would think that any woman that would plan days in advance, at somebody else's house, to make sure we have enough chairs for people to sit on, despite the fact that the park is full of nice green grass and picnic tables and car trunks and etc, would plan everything down to the finest detail.)
Some time later:
Wife: Uh oh.
Me: la la la la lalalalalalalalaa.
Wife: I said uh oh.
Me: Damn. You know, it's not the heat so much as the humidity.
Me (relenting): Is this about the chairs. Are we short a couple?
Wife: I think I forgot the power cord for my work computer.
Wife: Shut. Up.
Me: Exactly, that's what I'm saying, it's the friggin humidity...
Sometime even later:
Me: Say, Jimmy and I are going to run over to the Aviation Museum. I think I'll go over the new Garcon Point bridge and through Gulf Breeze to Pensacola. Mind if I borrow your TomTom GPS thingie?
Wife: Sure. Here you go.
Me: Where's the car charger?
Wife: Well, see here's the thing...
Me: You didn't bring the car charger?
Wife: No. I figured I could charge it off the USB port on my computer.
Me: Your work computer?
Me: The one you don't have an AC adapter for?
Wife: You're walking a very thin line here, Buster.
Me: Exactly. Does the humidity seem worse today? because it seems worse to me...
Sometime even more later:
Wife: You know, we need to make sure we have enough chairs.
Me: For the 4th of July. I hear ya. I picked up a couple extra at the Exchange when Jimmy and I were on the Navy Base today just to make sure we had enough. Because I love you.
Wife: I suppose we could just sit on the grass...
Monday, June 22, 2009
I'm in the Florida panhandle.
I'm staying about 30 miles from the nearest internet access point, where I'm lucky to have air conditioning let alone intermittent access to the cellular network. Right now I'm logging into my sister-in-law's wireless DSL AP, which seems to be working pretty good, but I don't know how often I'll be over here - all of which is the long way around of saying, don't expect regular posting.
There may be a few pictures later this week. My son and I intend to visit the National Museum of Naval Aviation at the Pensacola Naval Air Station, which is an awesome place if you're into vintage military aircraft. We'll be sure to take a bunch of pictures, and maybe we'll stop by Fort Barrancus and the old lighthouse as long as we're on the base. I'm sure we'll hit the boardwalk at Pensacola Beach and Fort Walton Beach sometime here soon.
I swear though, I don't know how people live down here. The heat is damned near unbelievable, I got off the plane and it was like being hit in the face with an oven door. Despite having lived here for a number of years, and having spent a significant fraction of my life in the South American jungle and the Middle East, I have apparently lost all tolerance for heat and humidity.
Updates to follow.
Sunday, June 21, 2009
Friday, June 19, 2009
Uncle Teddy pork barrelled (it's a verb, look it up) us a metric butt-ton of federal moola to turn the Anchorage International Airport in the Ted Stevens International Airport. And by metric butt-ton, I mean a shitload of money, even by Ted Stevens' porky standards.
But it's mostly smoke and mirrors. The Anchorage airport is like one of those Hollywood sets, all glitz in front, and nothing but a shell and 2x4's behind the scenes. The lobby is all marble and chrome, the baggage handling system is a guy named Wally who doubles as the janitor and Ted's pool boy and who is about 104 years old and unloads the planes one bag at a time and totes the luggage around front on a burro.
Four years ago the place underwent an umpity million dollar upgrade. And today they're ripping it all out and upgrading the upgrades. The place is a construction zone. It's been a construction zone for years and years and shows no sign of ever being done. Ted, still raking in the pork dollars, even though he's long gone. At least he is in the South Terminal, the one the tourists and oil executives use.
Over here in the North Terminal however - well, it's still 1970. Nothing works. The carpets are threadbare and the chairs are ass-sweat soaked vinyl. The status boards are updated with chalk, yes, chalk. There is a tired and dirty air about the place - pre-oil boom Alaska.
See, over here in the North Terminal is where we Alaskans usually fly in and out of. Ted doesn't have his name on anything over here, hell he's probably never even been in the North Terminal. From the looks of things this would be a perfect place for Ted's replacement, Mark Begich, to pour in a few pork dollars.
The plane is late. Hours late. Mechanical failure. They've replaced it with a larger plane, but it's still oversold. They're bribing people to get off the plane. $250 dollar vouchers. Yeah, kiss my ass on that. And really, how is this possible? Frankly, it concerns me when the people who run the airlines suck so bad at math that they can't even get the number of tickets correct - you know, there's shitload of math when it comes to flying the fucking thing. Maybe they should let the pilots sell the tickets.
The upside of the plane being late, of course, is that it's a couple less hours we have to spend in the George Bush International Prayer Emporium in Houston (Yes, Houston, not Dallas, my mistake, sorry).
We're off to a rocky start, but we've made it through security and the plane has finally arrived. Once they hose out the vomit and shoo the moose off the runway we'll be on our way.
Update: Wow, I think that post set the record for misspellings and typos and cut and paste malfunctions. It's also the first post I made from the netbook, which at the time was done using IE7, because I hadn't finished customizing it yet (and in fact, I'm making this update from IE7. I'd forgotten that IE doesn't do spell checking (hey no redlines, no errors, right?), and the netbook screen is small and I can't see everything like I can in the office.
Posting here on Stonekettle Station will be sporadic for the next couple of weeks.
We’re on vacation, headed down to Florida for a couple of weeks to drink margaritas and bake on the beach, then we’ll head up to Michigan for a bit to enjoy the Midwestern summer. We’re visiting friends and family in both the Pensacola and Grand Rapids areas.
I grew up in and around Grand Rapids (though I haven’t lived there in 25 years and hardly recognize the place anymore) and spent a significant fraction of my military career in and out of Pensacola (which is where I met my wife) – and we haven’t been back to either city in about two years. So we’re looking forward to it, and looking forward to spending some time with family.
I’ll be blogging and twittering from the road, depending on the availability of access points, time, and motivation – but vacation is my primary goal here, so as I said above, you can expect posting to be sporadic at best.
I’m hoping to hook up with a couple of readers and members of the UCF as I make my way around the country. Dr. Phil owes me a stuffed crust pizza and I intend to collect once I arrive in Michigan, and I’ll meet up with others as I can.
I’m hoping to make this trip without any further drama, these last two weeks have taken a bit out of me, both the hand injury and the bronchial infection knocked the starch out of my sails and I’m looking forward to the time off. Hopefully the guy next to me on the plane isn’t a Ebola carrier or Typhoid Mary or Dick Cheney.
One final note before I head to the airport – I have to fly through the George Bush International Airport in Dallas, Texas where I’ll be surrounded by people with pointy toed boots and big hats who, with a straight face, named their airport The George Bush International Airport. I’m going to try and arrive liquored up enough to be numb to it all – but it is possible that there isn’t enough booze on the planet to keep me from becoming unhinged with a terminal case of the willies. It is a significant possibility that I will spend the entire four hour layover repeating Sean Connery’s line from Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, when Henry and Indie are in Berlin:
My son, we are pilgrims in an unholy land…
Just kidding, Texas, you know I love you, mostly.
See you on the beach.
Thursday, June 18, 2009
I killed a mosquito.
Yes, I did. I admit it.
I saw it on my forearm and I was momentarily overwhelmed by the sheer bold audacity of the damned blood-sucking beast. I mean there is was, its little proboscis jammed into my flesh like a Exxon Oil rig, sucking out my lifeblood without so much as a ‘by your leave’ and my irritation at this affront momentarily overrode my humanity.
So I squashed it.
I did, I squashed it with great gusto.
She was damned near at full load too, so when I squashed her, blood splattered everywhere – like a suicide bomber in a blood bank or a satiated vampire dropped from a height onto concrete. Pop! Sploosh!
It made me gleeful, it did.
In fact, I may have cackled momentarily in glee, and then shouted at the Alaskan wilderness, Die, bug, die! with the same primal bloodlust displayed by Moonwatcher, that primitive man-ape in 2001 A Space Odyssey after he bludgeoned a leopard to death with the knurled thighbone of a dead antelope. Yes! Die, bug, die!
Then I flicked her crushed and crumpled carcass contemptuously away and onto the gravel of the drive and left her corpse as a warning to others of her kind - the way Romans used to line the Appian Way with the crucified bodies of criminals as a warning to those who would enter Rome with avarice in their hearts.
Yes, I killed a mosquito this morning and I am unrepentant.
In point of fact I’ve killed thousands of mosquitoes, and I intend to kill thousands more. Indeed I own a Mosquito Magnet(tm), a device specifically designed for the mass murder of mosquitoes on an industrial scale (speaking of which, I need to go empty that out and change the gas tank and attractant before I leave on vacation, don’t let me forget). In the shop I have an electric zapper that looks a lot like a tennis racket, if they play tennis in hell that is, except the “strings” are actually an electrically charged grid. When you wave it past a mosquito, the electric charge is transferred directly into the insect’s body with a satisfying sizzle and pop! and the smell of burning hair. I admit that sometimes I use this device on mosquitoes that aren’t even bothering me.
Oh yes, I have killed mosquitoes and I am unrepentant.
And just so you understand the full magnitude of my actions, the majority of mosquitoes that I’ve killed were pregnant females. Yes that’s right. Because you see, it is only the pregnant females who bite – the males I leave for ShopKat, who has eaten many of the slower ones, crunching their bodies between her sharp teeth with great gusto, legs projecting from either side of her muzzle and twitching as the creature is consumed alive – male mosquitoes are big, like a dragonfly.
Oh yes, yes, I have killed mosquitoes, and my cat has killed mosquitoes, and I am unrepentant and I encourage you to do the same.
I am a blood thirsty killer – just like my President, who during an interview with CNBC on Tuesday mercilessly murdered a hapless housefly in cold (blood? Ichor? Seriously what the hell do flies use for circulatory fluid?) before a startled and appalled nation.
I suppose it’s only a matter of time before the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals come for me too.
"We support compassion even for the most curious, smallest and least sympathetic animals," PETA spokesman Bruce Friedrich said Wednesday [in response to President Obama’s killing of a fly on national TV]. "We believe that people, where they can be compassionate, should be, for all animals."
Yes, PETA has condemned the President of the United States for killing a common housefly on national television. PETA is sending the White House a device called the Katcha Bug Humane Bug Catcher so that in the future the President can humanly (and ethically no doubt) capture the bug and release it unharmed into the wild, were it can go on spreading disease and pestilence and laying its little maggot babies in the open festering wounds of Washington’s poor.
You remember our last encounter with PETA, don’t you?
You haven’t even seen the half of it yet.
PETA has issued a call to rename fish… wait for it… waaaaaaaait for it… to Sea Kittens.
Yes, that’s right, PETA wants us to call fish sea kittens in an attempt to make the cold slimy creatures more adorable to humans.
"Fish not only have the same ability to feel pain as a dog or a cat, but they also communicate with one another," PETA’s Ashley Byrne says. "They have complex social interactions; they form bonds; they express affection by gently rubbing against one another."
Sea Kittens. See, because if we rebrand fish to sea kittens, well nobody would want to go fishing, right?
"Most parents would never dream of spending a weekend torturing kittens for fun with their families, but hooking a sea kitten through the mouth and dragging her through the water is the same as hooking a kitten through the mouth and dragging her behind your car," Byrne says.
You think I’m joking, don’t you?
Really, I’m not.
Will we soon see flies rebranded as “Buzzy Buddies?”
Perhaps we should rename tapeworms “Poopshoot Pals?”
How about lice? “My Little Friends”, maybe?
Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got some
Blood-Sucking Disease Infested Flying Alaskan Mosquitoes Fuzzy Air Bunnies to swat.
Wednesday, June 17, 2009
I went to bed last night around 7:30 with a fever and chills.
I slept for 14 hours straight.
Since I rarely sleep more than six hours a night, this was highly unusual for me. I must have really needed it. This morning the fever is gone, my lungs seem mostly clear, the sore throat is gone, and I am left with a persistent cough - hence the cherry flavored cough drop.
I still don't feel 100%, but today is a significant improvement over yesterday.
Unfortunately, between damned near hacking my finger off and whatever funk I've had for the last three days, I am way, way behind. I have a major woodworking delivery that is now two weeks overdue has to be completed no later than tomorrow and I have a dozen things to do before the trip Friday and I don't have time to crank out a blog post right now. Sorry, but there it is.
There may be a post later this evening, depending on how much energy I have left at the end of the day. We'll see. Until then though, I'm going to be off line, taking care of business in the real world.
Have a good day, folks.
Tuesday, June 16, 2009
Some kind of bronchial infection. It's been coming on for a week now, fever, sore throat, crap in my lungs. My chest hurts and I gurgle when I breath.
Oh, fun fun fun.
I hate being sick. I am not a good sick person, as I've mentioned. And I've got to be on an airplane Friday. Being sick now is making me seriously unhappy.
I saw the doctor yesterday, it's not strep and it's not swine flu - so you know, relax. The doctor assures me that you can't catch it by reading Stonekettle Station (as long as you wear a mask and spray yourself with Lysol afterward and then gargle with rubbing alcohol - or you can send me $20US and I'll promise not to cough on the monitor while you're reading). She said I should be well enough to fly without infecting everybody on the plane, so that's good I suppose - though I do intend to cough in my hand and wipe a booger on the TSA jerks as I go through security.
Between this and the damaged hand (Stitches come out Thursday, yay!), don't expect much in the way of posting or shiny content today.
Now, you'll excuse me while I go take another boiling hot shower and have a bowl of soup.
Monday, June 15, 2009
For the next three weeks we’re going to be on the road.
In the air too.
We’re off to visit family. First in Pensacola, Florida, and then up to Grand Rapids, Michigan. I cannot even begin to emphasize how little it thrills me when I regard all that time in the hands of the commercial airlines and the sadistic incompetent jackasses of the Transportation Security Administration.
You may expect ranting from the airports and various hotspots as we make our way through the bureaucratic dystopian nightmare that is modern air travel in the United States.
We’re traveling as lightly as possible. Despite the horror we Alaskans feel at the thought of searing Florida panhandle temperatures and suffocating southern Michigan humidity in June, the advantage of travelling at this time of year is that we don’t need three different wardrobes or heavy clothes.
Which should leave more room in our luggage for technology.
I’ll be carrying my trusty Gateway Tablet. With the extended-life battery it’s heavy, but I like the 7+ hours of operation I get out of it and I’m willing to suffer the extra weight. I also have a bunch of movies and audio books loaded on my ZEN – so unless the guy next to me has swine flu, I ought to survive the flight OK.
However, My wife’s laptop has been dying for a while now and we’ve been meaning to replace it. She’s hated that machine pretty much from the day we bought it anyway – one of those, it looked good in the store deals. She’s been wanting a tablet similar to mine, only a bit more streamlined and much lighter. We’ve looked at a number of different machines, but nothing really caught her eye. Until yesterday. We were in Anchorage to see Pixar’s Up 3D (excellent, charming, funny, poignant, well worth the money, and the digital 3D is seriously cool) and there’s a new Best Buy in town, outside the back gate of Elmendorf. Best Buy is usually a circus, but they’ve got a good selection of equipment and their Black Tie extended warranty service is second to none. So we thought we’d go look.
First, it wasn’t crowded. This pleased me enormously – I hate trying to evaluate technology while I’m being crushed by a crowd of mouth breathers. Usually Best Buy makes me feel like I’m trying to board a Tokyo subway at rush hour, but at 8PM on Sunday in Anchorage there was only a handful of people in the place and plenty of polite help.
It didn’t take my wife very long at all to spot an HP tx2 – she could probably have walked past a basket of puppies in the pet store window with nary a second glance, but that HP called to her.
The tx2 is a touch and pen enabled tablet with a 12.1” HD digitizer touch screen incorporating HP’s TouchSmart technology, 2.1 core duo processor, 4GBs of RAM, 320GB drive and a super multi light scribe dual layer DVD. Fingerprint reader, webcam, and remote (for media and presentation control) built in. It’s running Vista Ultimate. It’s one of the most beautiful machines I’ve ever seen, fast, sleek, and light. I’ve spent the morning introducing it to the network and the other computers in the house, and now I’m installing my wife’s core office apps and moving her data and configuration settings from her old machine to the new one. The tx2 has been running on batteries for the last three hours and is still holding 53% charge (of course I haven’t been running the DVD drive, but the harddrive has been running almost continuously as I load data). The screen is gorgeous, crisp, clear, bright, and HD. The digitizer responds to the pen and to finger touch like an iPhone screen, simple finger motions control the machine, expand or contract or rotate and move the displayed images, control the sounds and video and a number of other functions. It’s pretty damned amazing.
I want one. Sigh. But the keyboard is a little small for me and I like the bigger screen on the Gateway. Plus the GeekSquad at Best Buy just refurbished my tablet, gave me a new screen and everything, as part of their Black Tie service, so I expect that machine to last for quite a number of years yet.
We also picked up an HP Mini:
The Mini is basically a notebook about the size of a ham sandwich. It runs on an Intel Atom N270 processor, with 1GB of RAM and a 16GM solid state flash module which acts as the unit’s non-volatile storage instead of a harddrive – basically the machine has no moving parts, meaning that Li-Ion polymer battery lasts for hours despite being about the size of a slice of cheese in the aforementioned sandwich. It runs on Windows XP, it’s got a couple of USB ports, an SD/MMC slot, and can connect wirelessly to just about anything there is. It’s so damned light I expect it to float away. You’re not going to store a lot of data on there, and the screen is only 9” wide, but it’s perfect for surfing the internet on the go and watching a few movies on. The really nice thing about the Mini is that it retails for under $300, we picked this one up for $280.
I’ll carry my Gateway tablet, as usual. We’ll let my son use the Mini vice his personal laptop (which is much larger and heavier and has a dead battery which would have cost more to replace than the purchase price of the Mini), and my wife will probably parade through every airport between here and the panhandle showing off her cool new HP TouchSmart. I’ll still haul along my ZEN, because I like watching movies on that over the laptop, and I’m sure my wife will do the same with her iPod. And all of us carry our cell phones which work anywhere in Canada or the US without roaming charges. Each of us have a carry-on computer bag which will hold all our tech, plus a sweat shirt (airline blanket = gah), a couple of paperbacks, and a snack.
This upgrade in technology significantly reduces our traveling techno footprint. We don’t need my son’s large laptop, or the travel DVD player (and it's huge power supply and cords), and Becky’s new tablet is half the weight of her old machine and a dozen times more powerful.
I won’t say I’m looking forward to the hellish shit fest that is modern air travel in America, but new tech makes it a little less painful.
Saturday, June 13, 2009
Friday, June 12, 2009
Well, as you all know, I maimed myself last weekend while working in the shop.
The wound is healing, the swelling is almost entirely gone now, and I’ve managed to make it through the week without tearing out the stitches, accidentally or otherwise.
Despite slicing myself open, I still was able to complete the week’s projects, and I thought you might like to see what I’ve been working on – you know, what was worth maiming myself over.
Remember those bear statuettes I showed you a while back?
The same folks asked if I could do something similar.
The Air Force provided me with three large statuettes, resin casts of grizzly bear heads, that needed to be mounted, along with a number of military Challenge coins and a brass plaque.
Two of the statues were similar, and one was much larger. Two of the mountings were to get eight coins, one would get only two. All were to be unique works of art suitable as presentations for departing officers.
I decided that the eight coin mounts would be made of Sitka spruce, and the two coin mount would be made from Alaskan birch. All three would be made in a similar fashion, using similar techniques and design elements.
I had a piece of dried birch already cut in the lumber rack, but the spruce I had to cut from a large log. The spruce log had been taken from a dead tree, killed by a bark beetle infestation, that had been drying in my log pile for several years. I cut the log into two foot lengths with the chainsaw, then split the log down the middle also using the chainsaw. Then each piece was trued up using hand planes, cut to a round blank on the bandsaw, and roughly shaped on the large disk sander.
Then I marked out where the mounting, coins, and plaque would go – and then cut out a mounting platform for the statuette using the drill press and hand chisels (and, yes, this is the step where I managed to gore myself with a razor sharp wood chisel).
Because of the injury and subsequently having to take a couple days off, I didn’t get to the carving for a couple of days. That gave me time to sit in the shop and stare at the blanks and sort of imagine what I wanted.
Normally I carve using a combination of both power tools (primarily a Foredom rotary tool) and hand tools such as mallet and chisels and carving knives. Because I’m predominately left handed but strongly ambidextrous, I tend to use power tools in my left hand and hand tools in my right. Obviously that wasn’t going to work, since my right hand was splinted and bandaged and about as useful as having a turkey drumstick grafted to my wrist.
So, obviously, the first thing to do was get rid of the splint, then rewrap the injury with a smaller bandage, and then cover that with a nitrile glove to keep out dust and dirt. I still couldn’t use hand carving tools, but at least I could use the right hand to steady the work piece while using power tools in my left.
I used the Foredom and a variety of burrs to sculpt the block.
And then smoothed that into the final shape with fine carving heads and sandpaper:
Check for fit:
Using Forstner bits and one of the Shopsmiths in horizontal boring machine mode, I cut sockets for the coins. Then did the finish sanding and fit by hand – since each coin is slightly different in size.
The other two bases were made in a similar fashion, then they were saturated in Danish oil and several coats of a tough acrylic.
Once the finish was dried, the whole piece was glued together. I finished each statue with a cork base on the bottom.
In the photo below, the statues on the right and left are finished except for the brass plaque which will be affixed to the flat area just in front of each statue. The left one is birch, the middle and right are spruce. The larger middle one is not yet finished.
The finished pieces were delivered yesterday, the unfinished one is due tomorrow.
With that said, if you’ll excuse me, I have work to do.
Enjoy your weekend.
Thursday, June 11, 2009
In this day and age of easily offended people, political correctness, and kneejerk litigation, I can certainly understand caution.
However, James von Brunn was caught on a dozen security cameras, seen by a dozen witness, left notes in his car and home as to his intent, and spread his hate across the breadth of the Internet. I think it’s safe to say “Gunman Charged in Museum Shooting” and just leave the “Alleged” out of it.
But this brings up a question, AP editors, to wit:
How come you are so very, very cautious in your word selection in the title of this article, but in the closing paragraphs where you say:
The attack was the third unsettling shooting that appeared to have political underpinnings.
A 23-year-old Army private, William Andrew Long, was shot and killed outside a recruiting office this month in Arkansas and a fellow soldier wounded. The suspect, a Muslim convert, has said he considers the killing justified because of the U.S. military presence in the Middle East.
Late last month, abortion provider Dr. George Tiller was shot to death in his church. The man accused of killing him is a longtime vocal opponent of abortion.
you point out that the man who shot two US Army Soldiers was a Muslim, but somehow fail to mention that the attacks on the National Holocaust Museum and upon Dr. George Tiller were both carried out by Christians.
Why is that?
How is it that you point out the danger Islamic extremism poses to Americans, but somehow completely and totally fail to even mention that in the last ten days there have been two attacks against Americans, and not just Americans but American Soldiers and a Federal security guard, by Christian extremists?
I eagerly await your answer, Associated Press.
Sincerely, Jim Wright.
Yesterday my hand was pretty sore and swollen, and I really couldn’t type more than a couple of lines here and there. So I decided to stay away from the keyboard the whole day.
Today, things are improving.
I appear to be healing nicely. I’ve always healed pretty fast, but then I’ve had practice.
Most of the swelling is gone, I have knuckles again. The redness and pain is mostly gone too, though as you might imagine it’s still pretty sore. The wound appears to be closed and is healing up around the edges, no sign of infection. I’m not wearing the splint during the day, though I put it on at night so I don’t accidently tear out the stitches while sleeping.
I really can’t bend my right index finger more than a little bit at the moment though and that makes typing difficult, so I’m probably going to be away from the keyboard most of today too.
Good day to read a book I think.
Speaking of books:
As a number of you know, I was ambushed the other day.
An odd brick shaped car blasting Hip Hop pulled up in my driveway. Now, I was pretty sure that I didn’t know anybody who drove a Honda Element and listened to Hip Hop at earth shaking volume.
Turns out I was wrong.
I do know somebody who drives that bizarre geometry experiment on wheels and radiates rap music loud enough to start forest fires (though, they claim they were just doing it to get my attention) – UCFer Tania, and her sidekick for the day, Jeri.
Jeri was in Alaska on business and Tania drove down from Fairbanks to meet her in Anchorage. Then the two of them drove out here to the Valley and surprised me. Pictures of that event have been posted elsewhere – I would have put some up here, but it turns out I, uh, didn’t actually get any on my own camera.
Not content with surprising the hell out of me, Tania and Jeri brought me a gift:
That’s Ron Jeremy’s autobiography – yes, that Ron Jeremy, the porn star.
It’s autographed by the Hedgehog himself:
Yes, that is correct, Tania and Jeri brought me an autographed copy of a porn star’s autobiography.
Is this a great club or what?
Now here’s the thing, I would never have bought this book on my own (or stood in line to get it autographed), and I sure wasn’t expecting much. I mean, porn star, how good could it be?
Hysterical, the guy is absolutely hysterical. Charming, interesting, intelligent, and funny as all hell.
The book is fairly explicit, Jeremy pulls no punches about what he does for a living, he’s a porn star – the porn star in a lot of ways, seriously the guy has a gift. I’m only a couple chapters into it, but so far it’s one of the most entertaining books I’ve read in a long time.
So thanks, Tania and Jeri. Thanks for surprising me and thanks for the book. And apologies, I wish I’d been a better host, but you caught me on a day where I was feeling extremely poorly.
Next time, I swear, I’ll fix you dinner and do better.
Wednesday, June 10, 2009
Tuesday, June 9, 2009
That’s the basic law of tools. In an emergency, anything can be used to drive a nail
I’d say the same is true of killing a man, wouldn’t you?
Seriously, does the weapon matter? When you commit murder, I mean.
You want a guy dead. Why? Hell, I don’t know, you’re the crazy person out to commit murder, you tell me. Maybe he insulted your mother. Maybe he screwed your sister. Maybe he shot your dog. Maybe he doesn’t believe in Jesus, or hates America, or just doesn’t see things the way you do. Whatever, you hate the bastard and you want him dead.
Does the tool matter?
He doesn’t see it coming, he doesn’t put up a defense, he’s minding his own business and Blam! there you are. Hit him over the head with a crowbar, run him down with your pickup truck, shoot him in the back, slip poison into his tea, vaporize him from orbit with a laser – as long as he ends up dead at your hands, it’s murder.
Does the tool matter?
It’s premeditated. I mean you hate this guy, right? You wanted him dead. You planned his death. You told people you planned his death. There are hundreds of witnesses who watched you plan his death - hell, it’s a conspiracy, you asked them to help you, and a lot of them did. You choose your weapon and you pointed it and you pulled the trigger and he’s dead. That’s murder in the first degree.
Does the tool matter?
You’re guilty as sin. Guilty in the first degree. You admit it, you admit it in public, on the radio and TV. You take responsibility for the death. You crow about it. You rejoice in it. You struck a man down in cold blood, and you’re Goddamned happy the dirty son of a bitch is dead. Even though you feel that you’re justified, you’re still a murderer.
Does the tool matter?
Hell, it worked so well, that you want to do it again. You’re thinking about becoming a serial murderer.
I’d say the tool, the weapon, doesn’t matter.
Meet Pastor Wiley Drake, Baptist minister, radio talk show host, former vice president of the Southern Baptist Convention, Rightwing Religious Nutjob, and former vice presidential candidate alongside Alan Keyes for America’s Independent Party.
Pastor Wiley Considers himself SAVED. He’s got Jesus as his very own lord and savior and he’s on the fast track to heaven. He’s a self righteous crusader against gays and lesbians, against abortion, against Muslims and Catholics and Jews and Atheists, and most especially against those who advocate the separation of church and state. Pastor Wiley hates those fuckers with the passionate self-righteous fire of man who believes his place in Heaven is assured.
By his own logic, by his own belief, by his own words, Pastor Wiley is a murderer.
Bear with me a minute.
See, Wiley believes in God with every fiber of his being.
There is no doubt in Pastor Wiley Drake’s mind. None at all. God is real, sitting up there in Heaven, wroth in His judgment, Jesus and His fiery sword beside Him. God is angry and He hates the sinners and He answers prayers. Oh yes, even the ones that call upon Him to kill.
See, Pastor Wiley believes in the power of imprecatory prayer. Imprecatory prayer simply put is this: the invocation of evil, i.e. a good old fashioned Old Testament curse. Here’s how it works, under special circumstance, Christians can pray to God and He’ll smite the shit out of some hapless asshole – then that poor bastard gets to go to Hell. Forever.
David did it as described in Psalm 35.
And Pastor Wiley did it.
See, as I mentioned, Wiley hates abortion. He hates it. And he hated abortion provider George Tiller. So Wiley prayed to God to have Doctor Tiller killed. He encouraged his flock to pray for Tiller’s death as well. And according to Pastor Wiley, that’s exactly what what happened, God killed the doctor dead.
Drake, speaking on his Crusade Radio program, from his First Southern Baptist Church in Buena Park, CA, on June 1st, said:
"I am glad George Tiller is dead. [He was] a brutal, murdering monster and I am grateful to God [that the physician is no longer around]”
"There may be a lot who would say, 'Oh that is mean. You shouldn't be that way,' Well, no, it's an answer to prayer."
Drake said he prayed nearly ten years for the salvation of Tiller, medical director of the Women's Health Care Services clinic and an outspoken advocate for abortion rights. But about a year ago, Drake said, he switched to what he called imprecatory prayer:
"I said to the Lord, 'Lord I pray back to you the Psalms, where it says that they are to become widowers and their children are to become orphans and so forth.' And we began calling for those imprecatory prayers, because he had obviously turned his back on God again and again and again.
Drake called Tiller "a reprobate" and a "brutal, arrogant murderer" who "bragged on his own website how many babies he had killed,” and likened him to Adolf Hitler:
"Would you have rejoiced when Adolf Hitler died during the war? Or would you have said, 'Oh that is terrible for him to be killed'? No, I would have said, 'Amen, praise the Lord, hallelujah, I'm glad he's dead.’ This man, George Tiller, was far greater in his atrocities than Adolf Hitler. So I am happy. I am glad that he is dead. Now I am sad that he went to hell, because he had a choice just like everybody else did. He could have chosen Jesus Christ and when he died went to heaven. But he chose the devil. He chose to neglect, he chose to reject Jesus Christ. And therefore on Sunday morning when he breathed his last breath there in the Lutheran church, he breathed his last breath, and he slipped into the presence of the devil. And I have a strange hunch and a strange feeling that there is a special, superheated, super-hot place in hell for people like George Tiller."
Does the tool matter?
Even if the tool is God Himself?
What matters in a murder trial is intent. There’s a big difference between killing somebody with malice aforethought (First Degree Murder) and killing somebody by accident or negligence (manslaughter). In this case, Wiley believes that God killed Tiller because he, Wiley, asked God to do so through the use of imprecatory prayer. Wiley takes credit for this, publically. He basically brags that he hired a hit man (or hit deity if you prefer), had the doctor killed and delivered to unending torment (i.e. torture). He doesn’t deny it, he’s proud of it.
See, Wiley hates the President of the United States and he’s praying for God to smite Barack Obama down too.
I say we take him up on it.
I say we take Pastor Wiley Drake at his word.
I say we prosecute this man for murder, for conspiracy to murder, for threatening the President, for solicitation to commit murder - and we put him in jail and let him rot there for the rest of his miserable, hateful life.
Wiley and his followers can hardly complain if we take them at their word, now can they?
By their own belief, by their own words, by their own confession, they killed a man in cold blood.
By their own belief, by their own words, they intend to do it again.
And they did it because Wiley told them to. Because Wiley told them God wanted them to do it.
Now, personally, I think the power of imprecatory prayer ranks right up there with gypsy curses and witchcraft. Personally, I think Wiley could fart into the wind and have a better chance of killing somebody than through the so-called power of prayer.
But it doesn’t matter what I think, I’m not trying to kill the President.
Pastor Wiley Drake believes that he has already killed a man, and that he can and will kill the President of the United States through the power of prayer. He believes. He believes. His flock believes. Others believe.
His intent is real.
Does the tool matter?
Yes, I should not be typing. Yes, I made the stitches bleed again. Yes, it’s stupid. But Wiley Drake and his flaming Baptist hypocrisy has done pissed me well and truly off, and I could not not write about it.
Monday, June 8, 2009
…somebody will be with you shortly.
Today’s hold music is Mark Knopfler’s final solo from Telegraph Road.
The hand hurts this morning, but hey, what you gonna do, right?
I have to clean the sutures and change the dressing, so at the moment I’ve got the splint off and most of the bandaging – which means I can actually type a line or two in something under ten minutes.
I’ve got feeling and good color in the damaged finger, so despite nicking the artery I haven’t notably damaged my circulation. So, you know, that’s good.
The doc told me I couldn’t get the wound wet at for ten days, i.e. no shower for a week and a half.
Yeah, sure, doc.
This isn’t the first time I’ve been seriously injured, I know what to do. (and yes, I am the kind of guy who rips chunks of the cast off with a pair of pliers). I bought a couple boxes of extra large waterproof blue nitrile gloves last night (two by two, hands of blue – and if you don’t get that, well, I feel sorry for you), without the splint they fit just fine over the bandages.
I’m off to take a shower.
Once I re-dress and splint the injured digit, posting and such will return to twitter sized one-liners.
Enjoy your day – and again thanks for all the kind thoughts.
Sunday, June 7, 2009
Posting on Stonekettle Station will be extremely limited for the next couple of days.
I sliced myself pretty good in the shop.
I’ve got 8 stitches in my right hand and a splint. And can’t bend or use my index finger, so typing is a bitch. Therefore there won’t be much typing for a while. So Sorry.
Right now my hand is numb, but it’s wearing off.
If you’re good, I’ll take pictures.
AFK until further notice.
Since a couple of folks asked:
It wasn’t a power tool that got me.
It was a 1” wood chisel.
The edge of that chisel is sharper than a scalpel, in fact the doc who stitched me up commented on how surgically precise the wound is. That certainly made things easier to sew back together. I nicked the artery though, so there was a lot of blood. Becky drove me to the Palmer clinic while I kept pressure on a wad of gauze over the wound.
Right now it hurts like Billy hell.
Thanks for the kind thoughts.
Saturday, June 6, 2009
June 6th, 1944.
D-Day, H-Hour for Operation Overlord.
160,000 soldiers, 200,000 sailors, and 5000 ships and tens of thousands of aircraft assaulted the beaches of Normandy in order to gain an allied foothold on the European mainland . Spread out across fifty miles of French coastline, at Utah, Omaha, Gold, Juno, and Sword, the Allied forces faced Hitler’s Atlantic Wall, a nearly insurmountable obstacle the likes of which few armies have ever faced. The situation could not have been more perilous, the odds less favorable, the tactical situation more dire.
But if the allies failed to take Normandy, if those men did not climb those cliffs and breach the wall, if the Nazis repulsed the invasion and pushed the allies back into the cold black waters of the Channel, Hitler would have owned Europe forever. The situation was one of the pivotal moments in history, literally a confrontation of good against a mighty evil and an epic battle ranked alongside the greatest in all of history. A battle that will be remembered until the end of time.
And there wasn’t a man on either side of the conflict who did not know it.
In the months leading up the invasion 12,000 American and British airmen were lost, along with over 2000 aircraft, in direct preparation for the invasion. And on that day of days, there were over 10,000 Allied casualties, 2500 of them killed in action and over 7500 severely wounded.
In the days that followed, what today is known as the Battle of Normandy, nearly half a million troops, both Allied and German were killed, including 200,000 Americans.
Many of those men still lay entombed in the soil of France, on the cliffs of Normandy above the beaches and fields were they fell. I have walked between those rows of white cross. They seem to be endless, the names fading and blurred together now, the guns silent, the beaches peaceful. The weight of those dead men push in on you from all sides like a tide, their ghosts are thick in that place. The day I walked among them the skies were dark and it rained, somehow that seemed appropriate.
I was going to write about them today. I was going to tell you about the ones who died and the ones who lived.
Instead I listened to a great man speak the words I wish I’d written myself:
Good afternoon. Thank you, President Sarkozy, Prime Minister Brown, Prime Minister Harper, and Prince Charles for being here today. Thank you to our Secretary of Veterans Affairs, General Eric Shinseki, for making the trip out here to join us. Thanks also to Susan Eisenhower, whose grandfather began this mission 65 years ago with a simple charge: "Ok, let's go." And to a World War II veteran who returned home from this war to serve a proud and distinguished career as a United States Senator and a national leader: Bob Dole.
I'm not the first American President to come and mark this anniversary, and I likely will not be the last. This is an event that has long brought to this coast both heads of state and grateful citizens; veterans and their loved ones; the liberated and their liberators. It's been written about and spoken of and depicted in countless books and films and speeches. And long after our time on this Earth has passed, one word will still bring forth the pride and awe of men and women who will never meet the heroes who sit before us: D-Day.
Why is this? Of all the battles in all the wars across the span of human history, why does this day hold such a revered place in our memory? What is it about the struggle that took place on the sands a few short steps from here that brings us back to remember year after year after year?
Part of it, I think, is the size of the odds that weighed against success. For three centuries, no invader had ever been able to cross the English Channel into Normandy. And it had never been more difficult than in 1944.
That was the year that Hitler ordered his top field marshal to fortify the Atlantic Wall against a seaborne invasion. From the tip of Norway to southern France, the Nazis lined steep cliffs with machine guns and artillery. Low-lying areas were flooded to block passage. Sharpened poles awaited paratroopers. Mines were laid on the beaches and beneath the water. And by the time of the invasion, half a million Germans waited for the Allies along the coast between Holland and northern France.
At dawn on June 6th, the Allies came. The best chance for victory had been for the British Royal Air Corps to take out the guns on the cliffs while airborne divisions parachuted behind enemy lines. But all did not go according to plan. Paratroopers landed miles from their mark, while the fog and clouds prevented Allied planes from destroying the guns on the cliffs. So when the ships landed here at Omaha, an unimaginable hell rained down on the men inside. Many never made it out of the boats.
And yet, despite all of this, one by one, the Allied forces made their way to shore -- here, and at Utah and Juno; Gold and Sword. They were American, British, and Canadian. Soon, the paratroopers found each other and fought their way back. The Rangers scaled the cliffs. And by the end of the day, against all odds, the ground on which we stand was free once more.
The sheer improbability of this victory is part of what makes D-Day so memorable. It also arises from the clarity of purpose with which this war was waged.
We live in a world of competing beliefs and claims about what is true. It's a world of varied religions and cultures and forms of government. In such a world, it's all too rare for a struggle to emerge that speaks to something universal about humanity.
The Second World War did that. No man who shed blood or lost a brother would say that war is good. But all know that this war was essential. For what we faced in Nazi totalitarianism was not just a battle of competing interests. It was a competing vision of humanity. Nazi ideology sought to subjugate and humiliate and exterminate. It perpetrated murder on a massive scale, fueled by a hatred of those who were deemed different and therefore inferior. It was evil.
The nations that joined together to defeat Hitler's Reich were not perfect. They had made their share of mistakes, had not always agreed with one another on every issue. But whatever God we prayed to, whatever our differences, we knew that the evil we faced had to be stopped. Citizens of all faiths and of no faith came to believe that we could not remain as bystanders to the savage perpetration of death and destruction. And so we joined and sent our sons to fight and often die so that men and women they never met might know what it is to be free.
In America, it was an endeavor that inspired a nation to action. A President who asked his country to pray on D-Day also asked its citizens to serve and sacrifice to make the invasion possible. On farms and in factories, millions of men and women worked three shifts a day, month after month, year after year. Trucks and tanks came from plants in Michigan and Indiana, New York and Illinois. Bombers and fighter planes rolled off assembly lines in Ohio and Kansas, where my grandmother did her part as an inspector. Shipyards on both coasts produced the largest fleet in history, including the landing craft from New Orleans that eventually made it here to Omaha.
But despite all the years of planning and preparation, despite the inspiration of our leaders, the skill of our generals, the strength of our firepower and the unyielding support from our home front, the outcome of the entire struggle would ultimately rest on the success of one day in June.
Lyndon Johnson once said that there are certain moments when "¼history and fate meet at a single time in a single place to shape a turning point in man's unending search for freedom."
D-Day was such a moment. One newspaper noted that "we have come to the hour for which we were born." Had the Allies failed here, Hitler's occupation of this continent might have continued indefinitely. Instead, victory here secured a foothold in France. It opened a path to Berlin. It made possible the achievements that followed the liberation of Europe: the Marshall Plan, the NATO alliance, the shared prosperity and security that flowed from each.
It was unknowable then, but so much of the progress that would define the 20th century, on both sides of the Atlantic, came down to the battle for a slice of beach only six miles long and two miles wide.
More particularly, it came down to the men who landed here -- those who now rest in this place for eternity, and those who are with us here today. Perhaps more than any other reason, you, the veterans of that landing, are why we still remember what happened on D-Day. You're why we keep coming back.
For you remind us that in the end, human destiny is not determined by forces beyond our control. You remind us that our future is not shaped by mere chance or circumstance. Our history has always been the sum total of the choices made and the actions taken by each individual man and woman. It has always been up to us.
You could have done what Hitler believed you would do when you arrived here. In the face of a merciless assault from these cliffs, you could have idled the boats offshore. Amid a barrage of tracer bullets that lit the night sky, you could have stayed in those planes. You could have hid in the hedgerows or waited behind the seawall. You could have done only what was necessary to ensure your own survival.
But that's not what you did. That's not the story you told on D-Day. Your story was written by men like Zane Schlemmer of the 82nd Airborne, who parachuted into a dark marsh, far from his objective and his men. Lost and alone, he still managed to fight his way through the gunfire and help liberate the town in which he landed -- a town where a street now bears his name.
It's a story written by men like Anthony Ruggiero, an Army Ranger who saw half the men on his landing craft drown when it was hit by shellfire just a thousand yards off this beach. He spent three hours in freezing water, and was one of only 90 Rangers to survive out of the 225 who were sent to scale the cliffs.
And it's a story written by so many who are no longer with us, like Carlton Barrett. Private Barrett was only supposed to serve as a guide for the 1st Infantry Division, but he instead became one of its heroes. After wading ashore in neck-deep water, he returned to the water again and again and again to save his wounded and drowning comrades. And under the heaviest possible enemy fire, he carried them to safety. He carried them in his own arms.
This is the story of the Allied victory. It's the legend of units like Easy Company and the All-American 82nd. It's the tale of the British people, whose courage during the Blitz forced Hitler to call off the invasion of England; the Canadians, who came even though they were never attacked; the Russians, who sustained some of the war's heaviest casualties on the Eastern front; and all those French men and women who would rather have died resisting tyranny than lived within its grasp.
It is the memories that have been passed on to so many of us about the service or sacrifice of a friend or relative. For me, it is my grandfather, Stanley Dunham, who arrived on this beach six weeks after D-Day and marched across Europe in Patton's Army. And it is my great uncle who was part of the first American division to reach and liberate a Nazi concentration camp. His name is Charles Payne, and I'm so proud that he's with us here today.
I know this trip doesn't get any easier as the years pass, but for those of you who make it, there's nothing that could keep you away. One such veteran, a man named Jim Norene, was a member of the 502nd Parachute Infantry Division of the 101st Airborne. Last night, after visiting this cemetery for one last time, he passed away in his sleep. Jim was gravely ill when he left his home, and he knew that he might not return. But just as he did 65 years ago, he came anyway. May he now rest in peace with the boys he once bled with, and may his family always find solace in the heroism he showed here.
In the end, Jim Norene came back to Normandy for the same reason we all come back. He came for the reason articulated by Howard Huebner, another former paratrooper who is here with us today. When asked why he made the trip, Howard said, "It's important that we tell our stories. It doesn't have to be something big¼just a little story about what happened -- so people don't forget."
So people don't forget.
Friends and veterans, we cannot forget. What we must not forget is that D-Day was a time and a place where the bravery and the selflessness of a few was able to change the course of an entire century. At an hour of maximum danger, amid the bleakest of circumstances, men who thought themselves ordinary found within themselves the ability to do something extraordinary. They fought for their moms and sweethearts back home, for the fellow warriors they came to know as brothers. And they fought out of a simple sense of duty -- a duty sustained by the same ideals for which their countrymen had once fought and bled for over two centuries.
That is the story of Normandy -- but also the story of America; of the Minutemen who gathered on a green in Lexington; of the Union boys from Maine who repelled a charge at Gettysburg; of the men who gave their last full measure of devotion at Inchon and Khe San; of all the young men and women whose valor and goodness still carry forward this legacy of service and sacrifice. It's a story that has never come easy, but one that always gives us hope. For as we face down the hardships and struggles of our time, and arrive at that hour for which we were born, we cannot help but draw strength from those moments in history when the best among us were somehow able to swallow their fears and secure a beachhead on an unforgiving shore.
To those men who achieved that victory 65 years ago, we thank you for your service. May God bless you, and may God bless the memory of all those who rest here.
So people don’t forget.
Raise a glass to those men today, true heroes all, least we forget.