Saturday, March 31, 2007
Yeah, its not golf-green perfect, but it's a hell of a lot better than when I started out. There are no "before" pictures, because I was way too embarrased to put them up on the net. Just believe me, it looked like CRAP.
There's plenty of weeds out there, but what the hell, they're green, so I'm not going to sweat them too much. Now, I just need to figure a way to keep my dogs from digging and crapping throughout...
Next up, citrus trees! Man, I've been wanting my own lime tree for ages, and a Meyers lemon too...
Friday, March 30, 2007
South Carlsbad State Beach, baby...
This was the view from our campsite. We were camped on bluffs about 30-50 feet above the beach. Absolutely beautiful. We came in late Friday, after having a blowout on the trailer (it has 3 axles, so I didn't even feel it -- some guy pulled up next to me on the freeway and told me), and stayed through Thursday, the first week of our kids' spring break. My wife's family stayed with us over the weekend, which was a lot of fun (and brought about the untimely demise of many, many beers).
My daughter's classmate Kamryn's family was staying there that week too, which was pretty cool. She had someone to hang out with (as did her brother, since Kamryn has an older bro too).
My wife is obsessed with sunsets, and no post about our trip would be complete without a picture of one...
We had a great time there, with the exception of the tire blowout and the subsequent $200 hit at the local tire shop...
One caveat... this is a STATE beach campsite, so there are a lot of BS rules to put up with, for example, no generators after 8pm and before 10am (10am!? Who the hell is still asleep at 10am in a campsite?)
Nevertheless, we will be back....
I'm still a British citizen, I was brought up on the great history of that nation, and at any other point in time the British PM would have dropped the hammer for bullcrap like that. Can you imagine Churchill putting up with this for even an instant? Whining to the UN only reinforces Iran's assumption that they are a player.
The problem is that this tactic has worked for these asshats for 30 years. After taking down the US embassy, they got to keep US citizens for 444 days without consequences (and NO, sanctions are not a serious consequence for dictators/tyrants). This isn't the first time they've kidnapped British servicemen either. They keep doing this because it works.
This is a perfect example why diplomacy doesn't work, unless it is backed by the credible threat of force. Despite what the lefties would have you believe, violence DOES solve problems. Iran is obviously confident that they can pull stunts like this without fear of reprisal in our brave new politically correct world.
It's becoming apparent to me that the only thing that Middle Eastern states respect is the willingness to use force, something they have, but the West currently does not. Until the West learns this, we can expect more of the same.
If they can't respect us, they at least need to learn to fear us. I won't hold my breath.
Thursday, March 29, 2007
I see that while I've been gone that the Iranians have been doing what they do best - hostage taking. I heard on the radio on the way home that the Brits want the UN involved, so I guess they're not serious about getting their guys back...
Anyway, pictures of the beach to come soon...
Thursday, March 22, 2007
Oh yeah, the Democrats run the show now, so they chair all the committees.
Al Gore does not strike me as a brilliant man, so I suspect he is a true believer. Democrat lawmakers, the smart ones at least, see opportunity. If they can get the idiots to buy into this garbage, it means more government control, more rules, more taxes, more power. For the "common good", of course...
Barbara Boxer (present chair of the Senate committee) was her usual, congenial self: "Elections have consequences, so I make the rules," she announced, while holding up her gavel, telling Inhofe he's not in charge any more -neener neener-. I'm so ashamed that this imbecilic, sophomoric beeyotch represents my state. And keeps getting re-elected. I guess maturity and civility are just too f*****g much to expect from the people who actually run our country.
I don't get it anyway. If you're going to ditch, at least go do something fun. What's the point in ditching just to sit on the side of a street, doing nothing? Why not just sit in class and do nothing? At least that way, you won't get dinged for attendance. Hmm. Maybe I'm just getting old.
Wow. The cops just called me back. That's great - class is out right now...
The fight scenes were brutal, and as well choreographed as anything I can remember seeing. I haven't enjoyed a movie this much in years. I can't believe it was pegged as a low budget movie ("only" $60 million to make).
Sure, there's plenty to quibble about for all the historians out there, but the overall Spartan spirit of honour, courage and sacrifice rings true throughout this movie, and that's what's more important I think.
I love movies like this, because as well as being incredibly entertaining, I think they encourage people to look into the history for themselves, and unlike many events that are glamorized by Hollywood, the true story of the Battle of Thermopylae will definitely not disappoint.
Monday, March 19, 2007
I let the insurance expire on my Harley in October (it's on a separate policy from the rest of our "fleet"), because I don't ride so much in the winter and I didn't really have the funds to renew right away (Christmas coming up and all that) so I parked it for the winter. Tags came up in January (I received notice in December) and I paid them promptly. I then received a letter from the DMV "Financial Responsibility Program" stating that they had no evidence of insurance and they were serving me notice of intent to suspend registration. OK... time to get insurance. I picked up a policy and emailed them the proof they required. A week later, they still hadn't dealt with my email... "we get a lot" was the response I received on the phone. OK... I'll just wait, still a bit cold to ride anyway(I'm all about comfort when it comes to riding... real hardcore)...
A week after that, I received a letter stating that their requirements had been met. Great. Now where's my tags? "You have to call the main number for your tags". OK...
So, I called the main number and asked for my tags, now two months past when I paid them for.
"Sure, no problem, just fax over a copy of your proof of insurance".
"But I emailed it to you."
"No, you emailed it to the Financial Responsibility Program".
"Is that not also the DMV? Can't you just get it from that department?"
Testily, "Look sir, it would just be faster all around if you just faxed over that proof of insurance"
"But don't you people communicate with each other?"
Very testily, "Sir, there are a lot of problems with this system, so it would be just easier if you sent that copy to us".
Meekly, "OK, no problem, whats the fax number?"
So, rather than get into a shouting match with this lady over why she can't get off her ass and go talk to the other department, I submitted, because, at the end of the day, I just want my tags.
Sigh. Still better than actually going into that hell-pit known as the local DMV field office, I suppose.
And, yes, next time, I won't be letting my insurance expire. The less I have to talk to government hacks, the happier I am.
Thursday, March 15, 2007
This state has a rich history of Liberty, resistance and independence, gave us figures like Ethan Allen, played a large part in the revolution and is home to the most liberal (in the good sense of the word) gun laws in these fair United States. "Vermont Carry" is the standard all other states in the Union should aspire to.
On the other hand, Vermont has foisted such abominations on America as Howard "Yeeeaaaarrgghh!" Dean (they elected him their Governor, for the love of all that's Holy!), Ben and Jerry's (great ice cream, horrible politics) and now this latest lunacy.
Thirty-plus towns in this tiny little state calling on Congress to impeach Bush?
I just don't get it.
How can such lenient gun laws possibly be allowed to exist alongside so much blatant leftist moonbattery? Why have they not been struck down? (Not that I want them to, of course). This must be unique. Liberal, progressive politics and personal liberty (the real stuff, not just the right to have Gay Pride events) coexisting?
California=Lefty Paradise=Strict Gun Laws
New Jersey=Lefty Paradise=Strict Gun Laws
Massachusetts=Lefty Paradise=Strict Gun Laws
New York=Lefty Paradise=Strict Gun laws
I am flummoxed.
Yeah, I may sound like one of those annoying braggadocious parents, but whatever. My little girl deserves the recognition...
This is a fantasy series, but unusual in that the tech level is roughly equivalent to the High Middle Ages - military technology has advanced to the level of pikes, arquebuses and carronades. Yep, they have gunpowder technology. The setting is reminiscent of Europe, with a lot of squabbling kingdoms, a "muslim" threat from the East, and an overwhelmingly powerful church that throws its weight around readily.
Toss into the mix "Dweomer" (magic) and a westward voyage of discovery that uncovers an evil empire steeped in magic, and you have the makings of a compelling read.
Wednesday, March 14, 2007
Well, obviously the desire to ride never left, in fact it was probably intensified because I wasn't riding. Swede's (My wife's grandpa) stories of his dirtbike riding when he was younger did not help at all.
For three years I resisted, but eventually, selfishness won. I talked it over with my wife (so much so that she was probably sick of hearing about it) and we settled on a compromise... I would get a dirtbike so I could get my fix, and I didn't have to sweat dealing with traffic/idiots on the road. Riding dirt would be much safer, hey, it's still a bike, I can do this, no problem... riiiight...
Once we decided, it took me about a week to find a bike. My talks with Swede helped me determine that I wanted a four stroke, a thumper. We were pretty broke, what with the baby and a mortgage, so my options were limited. I found an ad for a 1980 Honda XR500 in town that was going for $800. Paid $700, got the bike plus a helmet. The bike had been first sold in '88 and the guy I bought it from had treated it really well. It looked old-fashioned, with dual shocks in the back, a big puffy seat and a metal tank, but it was clean. Started on the first kick and ran like a champ. One minor dent in the tank was the only problem it had.
I took it out in the hills north of town, and all my assumptions about riding dirt went clean out the window. I must have dumped it a half dozen times. Going up hills was cake, but coming down them and maintaining control was a whole different story. I learned rather quickly that riding a dirtbike required a whole new skill set. Long story short, it was mostly unpleasant, and by the end of the day I was considering packing the whole thing in. This was my first time on a dirtbike, and I was 30 years old. Did I really want to get into this?
Well, hell, I'd spent all this money on a bike, I wasn't going to write it off after one time. I hooked up with a coworker's brother who had also just bought a dirtbike (a mid - '90s XR400) and we started going out riding together. He had more experience than me, so I followed his lead, and started picking it up. I was getting more comfortable, and I really started to enjoy myself. This was a lot of fun!
Having lived the first part of my life in England, I had never much cared for the deserts of California. That all changed once I started riding. Getting out on open desert, winding out the throttle and holding on through all the bumps and dips was a blast. When you're out there, riding at the edge of your ability, your mind just empties of everything else. You're not thinking about work, you're not thinking about your bills, nothing. You're all about focus, concentration, watching the trail coming up ahead of you. A second's distraction, and you're on your ass. You're completely absorbed in the moment.
It's a lot of work, too, wrestling a big bike (that sucker was all steel... it was a pig) through miles of rough ground. The day after riding, my back and shoulder muscles would be stiff and sore.
That bike never let me down, even though I would dump it almost every time I went out. It always started on the first or second kick, except for those rare occasions when I flipped it and flooded the carb.
I got to know the guy at the prop shop in town pretty well, because I would frequently go to him to get my skid plate welded. I busted that a few times, hitting rocks and rough terrain. My worst spill bent up my handlebars and my clutch lever, but even then the bike got me home (well, back to the truck).
We rode in the high desert around Barstow and Victorville and I was introduced to the Slash X. This is a bar out by Stoddard Wells, where you can ride right up and kick back for a couple of drinks and food. The waitresses were pretty rough, but they were funny. My buddy told me that one time he heard a guy ask for his fries lightly done, and the waitress replied "You'll get 'em how we cook 'em".
I loved that bike, and I firmly believe that it was the best $700 I ever spent.
I had a couple of problems with it, though... my buddy would consistently leave me behind, because his bike was faster, and that suspension would just beat me up. I had the opportunity to ride newer bikes, and the difference in the suspension made up my mind. I wanted a faster, newer bike.
So... I sold my trusty 500 (for$500) and with some money I had saved as well as a tax return, I paid cash for my very first brand new bike - a 2002 XR650R (I bought it new in 2004, for $5300 OTD). I had the power-up kit installed, which consisted of bigger jets, a larger exhaust insert, a larger carb intake boot and removal of some airbox restrictions.
This is probably the fastest bike I've ridden; not top end, but man, out the gate, you'd better hold on! The only drawback is that it is a bitch to start. That high compression engine is a pain to turn over, and if you've been out in the dirt for a while, it can be real tiring. They don't call it the Big Red Pig for nothing! It's a great bike though, but I don't ride it as much as I'd like to.
This is a 1980 XR500. Mine looked a lot like this. You can see the rear shocks - not much travel at all. Still, all in all a great bike.
This is my XR650R. That seat may look less comfortable, but the suspension travel is way better. This is about as much bike as I think I'll ever need for the desert.
Tuesday, March 13, 2007
Um, what would you expect at the North Pole in March?
"...extreme cold temperatures drained the batteries in some of their electronic equipment"
"My first reaction when they called to say there were calling it off was that they just sounded really, really cold," Atwood said.
Here's the money quote:
"They were experiencing temperatures that weren't expected with global warming," Atwood said. "But one of the things we see with global warming is unpredictability."
That's right, folks; EVERYTHING is attributable to Global Warming. It's the perfect conspiracy theory for the left. "Too hot? Must be Global Warming. Too cold? Must be Global Warming. Don't you see, it's ALL Global Warming! We're all going to DIE!!!" (exits twitching)...
The -rational- debate about Global Warming is OVER.
Sunday, March 11, 2007
I used "NRA Official 50 yard smallbore rifle targets", which are 14x24in sheets containing 5 targets that are a hair less than 6" in diameter. Ammo used was 40gr Fiocci FMJ. Here's my best group with the Savage:
I shot in groups of 10 (a full magazine) - there's a flyer off to the upper left that was off-camera. It's not too tight, I know, but that's why I bought this rifle - to practice prodigiously without bankrupting the family :)... Bear in mind that the front post of my sight is bigger than this black circle at 50 yards...
Contrast with my Ruger 10/22 at the same range:
My overall impression of the Savage is that it is a good value for the money. I love the accutrigger! After initial take-up, it is just the barest twitch to fire, so no jerking the barrel. When I picked up my Ruger, the difference was obvious, and it took me a couple of magazines worth to get used to it again.
The bolt did work itself in somewhat, but I did have a couple of misfeeds, though that may have been the wobbly magazine. It's a decent rifle, though I need more practice with it.
Saturday, March 10, 2007
This is the POW memorial.
This is a plaque commemorating the battle honors of the 3rd Infantry Division.
This is the Medal of Honor memorial. In the foreground, inlaid in the pavement are the seals of each branch of the service, including the Coast Guard. Beautiful.
Inside the memorial, each Medal of Honor recipient's name is engraved in the black walls (marble? granite?) in gold leaf, starting from the Civil War and going all the way up to Iraq (2 so far). The names are arranged by war, or interim period.
This was interesting. Korea 1871? I was not aware of a US-involved war there at that time. The guy next to me said he taught history, and that he'd never heard of one either. Can anyone shed some light on this?
In case you've never seen one, this is what a Medal of Honor looks like. This is the highest award for valor that our country bestows upon our heroes. Some of the men named on that wall had more than one!
This was an educational visit for me, and a humbling one. I could have saved this post for Memorial Day or Veteran's Day I suppose, but I think any day can be a day for remembrance. You cannot stand in hallowed places such as this without being fully aware of the huge debt we owe our servicemen, past and present. It is fitting that their names are memorialized thus.
Friday, March 09, 2007
Dear Mr. Nehring,
Please find enclosed with this letter my donation pledge of $25. My delay in sending this donation arose out of a feeling of frustration with the progress of the Republican Party in this state. However, I made the pledge, and I am going to keep my word.
Unfortunately, I will no longer be sending money in support of the California Republican Party, because I am extremely unhappy with the direction you have chosen to take.
Arnold Schwarzenegger is the chief architect of this shift, and I have watched with growing concern as he strays from the values that I hold dear.
His signing of AB50, the ban on .50 BMG rifles, was the first such ban enacted in the country that made it a felony to own a bolt action rifle and a slap in the face to Second Amendment supporters everywhere.
Mr. Schwarzenegger has furthered his leftward drift with such legislation as the cell phone ban, and support of such nanny-state nonsense as government-funded free health care, embryonic stem cell research and the like. His announcement that “The debate over Global Warming is over” coupled with his pledge for more government interference in citizens’ everyday life, was the final straw.
I will no longer support a party whose figurehead proudly proclaims such aims as those stated above. I can no longer differentiate between your party and the Democrats, and I will fund neither.
Thursday, March 08, 2007
Though, if anyone out there needs/wants one, I guess now is the time for you to get some of yours back...
Most of them are damaged, which to me is an even more flagrant waste of taxpayer money. They can't even be bothered to take care of the useless crap they buy.
Don't get me wrong, I'm still very concerned about his stance on the 2nd Amendment, but it would be easier to pull the lever for him if the only other option is Hilary come November '08.
It was a pretty entertaining movie, though, a clever "bank robbery" (In quotations because nothing was really taken) and only slightly colored (pardon the pun) by Spike Lee's version of social commentary (racist cops, evil rich white men, etc..).
Not a bad movie overall, though the ending didn't wrap up too well. Worth renting, not buying.
Wednesday, March 07, 2007
Laws that make criminals out of people for something that "might" happen, rather than for something that "did" happen, make me VERY uncomfortable. It just takes a very few steps down that road to criminalize all SORTS of behavior, "for the public good".
Tuesday, March 06, 2007
Here's the tale...
December 2nd was my birthday, and I received some money from my wife and in-laws..
December 15th: I finally got around to picking out my gun, and ordered this one sight unseen from the store. The price was right, and I wanted to see how the vaunted Savage accutrigger was.
December through February: called once a week, only to hear "Nope, it's not in yet. Nope, we don't know when it'll get in. Try back next week."
February 23rd: Called the store and found out that YES! It's in!
February 24th: Went in to start my DROS, the California-required background check and 10 day waiting period. You know, in a twisted and psychotic kind of way, it's sort of exciting -- having to wait heightens the anticipation*...
March 6th: I am the proud owner of a new rifle... at last!
First impressions: the bolt seems a little stiff, the clerk said it would need to be worked in. Hmm. We'll see. The magazine wobbles a little in place, and the catch is a flimsy looking piece of spring steel. Well, for $170, what should one expect, right? I'll have to see how it shoots this weekend...
*This statement is in no way meant to construe any sort of endorsement whatsoever of California's unconstitutional, paranoid and flat-out insane gun laws.
The left, as usual, aided and abetted by the media, responded with their typical howls of outrage, John Edwards himself even going so far as to push for "Coulter Cash" donations on his campaign website to "combat this kind of bigotry". Talk about milking it for what it's worth.
I have to admit, I love Ann Coulter. Her antics bring a smile to my face, because she is one of the very few on the right who will step into the ring with the howling monkeys of the left and makes no apologies when they start to cry.
I've kind of had it with Republican politicos wringing their hands and apologising over every mis-step, real or imagined, thinking the left even cares about their apologies. They don't. They hate Republicans regardless. Apologising to them accomplishes nothing but handing them a petty victory, a vindication.
The left gets it. When was the last time you heard an apology out of Ted Kennedy for any of his outrageous comments? How about Hilary? Murtha? Anyone? Democrats can get away with anything, from calling the president a liar to comparing the administration to the Nazis (and this is from Democratic members of the house!) because the major media doesn't call them on it. Most journalists agree with them, after all.
Ann Coulter understands this very well, and I think this is one of the motivations behind her behavior. Besides the sheer entertainment value of poking sticks at the left, that is.
"But, but she's sinking to their level!" You may cry. Yeah? So what? Do we on the right EVER get any credit for civil dialogue? Nope. At least she's helping the left achieve one of their stated goals: leveling the playing field.
Monday, March 05, 2007
Disneyland was PACKED. I don't think I've ever seen it that busy. The in-laws hooked us all up with annual passes (which is incredibly generous of them, and they do it every year), so our next forays into the happiest place on earth will be during the week, and hopefully we can hit more than THREE rides...
I tell you, even though we only live about an hour away from D-land, staying at a hotel close by the night before is the way to go. Just roll out of bed, grab a coffee from Starbucks and hop on the shuttle. Very civilized.
Unfortunately, we had to wait about an hour for the ride back to the hotel - seems like we caught the "J" route guy on his lunch break.
Even so, I never have a bad time at D-land. Just watching the kids go nuts makes my day. Pictures next time, I promise...
Saturday, March 03, 2007
Double tragedy: the guy loses his house to a fire, and his liberty to a government jackboot stamped in his face.
It's shit like this that makes me want to get the hell out of this state.
And don't give me any crap about "well he had too many guns", "he had too much ammo". Those are things you decide for yourself. No-one carps about "too many cars" or "too many books" or "too many cooking utensils".
Ahhhh, but they're entitled to it.
The last line made me chuckle...
"Sympathy protests were held in Hamburg, northern Germany, and in Norway, Sweden and Finland"
Gotta love "sympathy protests". Man, there are a TON of people with way too much time on their hands over there.
Thursday, March 01, 2007
I just read a discussion that pointed something out to me that I wanted to explain; the difference between semi-automatic and fully automatic weapons.
A fully automatic weapon, AKA a machine gun, is one which will fire continuously when you depress the trigger, and will only stop when you either take your finger off the trigger, or run out of ammunition. With the exception of Class III firearms license holders, these weapons have been banned for DECADES. They are not available to the general public.
A semi-automatic weapon is one that fires one round every time you pull the trigger. No more, no less (unless you jam). No other action is required (e.g. pulling a bolt, racking a slide, or working a lever). If you hold that finger down on the trigger, after firing the first round, nothing will happen.
Some of these semi-automatic weapons look a lot like what our military is using in Iraq and Afghanistan right now, but they are functionally very different. It is this "look" that gun-banners focus on to muddy the distinction between the two, referring to them as "assault weapons", or "bullet hoses". These "assault weapons" are no different functionally from any other semi-automatic rifle, for example, my Ruger 10/22. My 10/22 has a wooden stock, so it doesn't look as "scary" as a black plastic AR-15.
Gun-banners rely on the ignorance of average Americans about this to push bills like HR1022.
Being a liberal, you're awfully concerned about this phenomenon known as Global Warming, and resolve to use your shiny private jet to go to speaking engagements around the country, warning the unwashed masses about the coming crisis, imploring that we all cut our energy consumption.
Unfortunately, just one of your mansions uses about twenty times the energy of a typical American household, and that jet you love so dearly will use more fuel in one cross-country trip than Joe Blow's car will all year.
Now, you don't want to get rid of all your pretty things, but you do feel just a teensy bit guilty about your consumption, especially given the subject of your latest crusade. You can assuage most of those twinges of conscience by reassuring yourself that the important "work" you do telling the proles about energy waste justifies that private jet and those monster mansions, but you still can't quite meet your own eyes in the mirror. So, what to do?
Solar panels on the roof of the house? Please! Those black monstrosities look positively ghastly!
Compromise and fly first class? Uh, no thanks. That's just a little too plebeian. You might actually rub shoulders with some of those unwashed oiks in baggage claim. Ewww.
Wait! There's the solution! Carbon Offsets! Just throw a chunk of money that way and you can proudly announce that you're truly living a carbon-neutral lifestyle! Wow! You really are practicing what you preach!
What are Carbon Offsets, you ask? Well, they're a way to offset your energy consumption. One example would be for every x gallons of jet fuel you burn, you send enough money to Hippie Joe's Green Conservancy to plant y number of trees. See? Easy! It just takes money, and all that guilt is just washed away.
Except it's just so much crap. If you truly care that much about the environment, why wouldn't you conserve in your own life as well as pay to plant more trees, or pursue alternative energy sources? You're still pulling the same load off the electrical grid, but it's OK now because you paid some joker to plant a few trees in Costa Rica? Please.
By adding this price tag, "egalitarian" liberals would just make it harder for your average joe to get that larger, nicer house. This is what truly disgusts me about the left. I don't begrudge them their nice things, it's their money and I'd do the same if I had that scratch, but the sheer NERVE they have to turn around and scold us because we don't have a Prius yet just turns my stomach.
"It's alright for me, buddy, but not for you" is truly the motto of the American Left.