Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Today's Question:

Q:  What do you call it when half the staff of the LA Times threatens to quit?

A:  A good start.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Stupid Has a New Name.

Call me rude.  Call me unchivalrous, uncharitable and boorish, but this, my friends, is stupid.  Professor Ruth O'Brien writes to tell the world that the poor brothers Tsarnaev were mistreated during the course of their apprehension.  The authorities violated their rights, she says, and gave the rest of us a black eye in the process.
Now we have captured the two terrorists from Chechnya who come from the troubled region that is Muslim, but we cannot understand their motives, not yet.  And Obama encourages us to refrain.
This said, the mortuary pictures of the older brother of the two are extremely disturbing, raising questions as to whether the Boston Police Department captured him with too much force. I understand the explanation offered ... Yet, it does not ring true.  A picture is worth a thousand words that will keep our ears ringing as we recoil from this photo.  Images have a way of searing themselves into our memory in a way that can't be undone. We have an emotional memory, not just a rational one that is exemplified by words.
First of all, this is just plain lousy writing.  "...who come from the troubled region that is Muslim..." How's that?  My old editing professor would have adorned that with a lovely red "Awk" for awkward, and that would have been a kindness.    How about, "the older brother of the two?"  Using the comparative, "older" implies that there are two.  Had there been more than two, the superlative, "oldest" would have been appropriate (Eldest, for the real sticklers, and you know who you are.)

Am I being too much of a grammar fascist?  Even for those who hold grammar in lower esteem than I, this gem of a mixed metaphor should cause some consternation. "...A picture is worth a thousand words that will keep our ears ringing..." Go ahead; read it again.  That's priceless.

The assertion that, "we cannot understand their motives, not yet," is grammatically sound, but factually deficient.  Anyone who cannot understand the motives of Muslim terrorists is just not paying attention.  And they're working pretty hard at it, too.

But what really bothers me is the author's claim that undue force was used to subdue the bomb brothers. How, exactly, does one subdue gently those who have killed innocents on a street corner, murdered one policeman and thrown bombs at others?  How does one inveigle surrender from those whose goal is to die in  jihad?   Professor O'Brien worries that  the United States, in defending itself against people who blow up children, is "uncouth." and might be "judged harshly by the international community." A reminder for those who've been distracted - the international community consists of nations like Syria, North Korea, and Iran.  The only thing objectionable about being judged harshly by such a community is the notion that its members might ever be in a position to judge us in the first place - a notion, incidentally, that the author seems to accept as a basic premise.

The worst part about fatuous nonsense like this is that it betrays a complete lack of understanding, not only of human nature and its capacity for evil, but also of justice, which demands that evil be addressed, and that innocence be protected.  The professor's concern is misplaced.  Like some schoolgirl with a perverse crush on bad boys, she frets about the injuries to Tamerlan, the gravest of which were inflicted by his own brother, not the police, and disregards the blood of innocents that only a week ago was still pooling on the sidewalks of Boston.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Alternative Endings for Boston

I just bought a movie on DVD that offers an interesting extra feature – alternative endings.  I think it’s a cheesy gimmick when it comes to fiction, but when it comes to current events, the idea has real merit.  Imagine how great it would be, for instance, if we could apply the concept to the Bombing of the Boston Marathon.

Depending on how you did it, you could change the story completely.  Take the case of the FBI’s interview with big-brother-bomber, Tamerlan Tsarnaev.  We could change the ending so that somebody in the Bureau had a clue, and realized years ago that the guy they were dealing with (The name Tamerlan should have been regarded as a hint.) shouldn’t have been allowed to stay in the country.

Or you could alter the part of the story where the FBI failed because of a misspelling, (See kids, proper spelling saves lives.) to detect that Tamerlan had left the country for six months. Had they noted his extended absence while he was awaiting US citizenship, his application would have been denied.

Or you could change the part where officials, aware of Tamerlan’s history of domestic violence,  dithered over his citizenship application, instead of sending him packing.

Of course, you could go back even further and revisit the decision to let the Tsarnaev family immigrate to the US in the first place.   What, exactly, made someone in the State Department decide that these were people equipped to contribute to American society?  Once they got here, what about their behavior made the case for their being allowed to remain?  Was it their mom’s facility for larceny that recommended them as good citizens?
And what about the guy who got himself carjacked by the brothers Tsarnaev?  What if, instead of being a sheep with a “Coexist” bumper sticker, he had been a holder of concealed carry permit?  What if he had acted in his own defense, and as is so often the case, defended all of civilization in the process?  If we could change that chapter of the story, maybe Boston could once again be famous for the kind of men who “fired the shot heard round the world,” instead of the kind of men who, “shelter in place.”

Well, we can’t change the story.  Countless bureaucrats, the same kind of people who will soon be in charge of our healthcare, made a series of decisions that brought us where we are today.  I may be joking about it, but make no mistake.  I’m sickened by the tragedy.  I’m disgusted that, despite a hundred warning signs, these savages were not prevented from harming innocent people, and I’m disheartened that Americans have become the kind of people who ignore an obvious threat because they lack the fortitude to confront it.  If I could change anything about this story, that is where I’d begin.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Confirmed: Appeasement Still Doesn't Work.

Let's review, shall we?

Every agency, bureau, and department of the federal government has a program for Islamic outreach, Islamic  sensitivity, or Islamic cultural awareness.

How's that working out for us?

I want my money back.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Land Rover Door Swap

The only thing wrong with my Land Rover when I bought it was the back door.  It was bent, so it didn't seat properly in its frame, and the bottom was rusted out (the only part of the car that was, thankfully) so badly that it couldn't support the weight of the spare wheel.

Senhor L, while trolling OLX for spare parts, came across a guy with a Defender 90 (a shorter version of what you see above) who was selling his back door, and he put us in touch.

The gentleman agreed to sell me his door, and said he'd give me a better price if I included my old door in the bargain.  That was fine with me, as long as I got to keep the lock mechanism that was on my door, because the last thing I need is another key to keep up with.

We commenced a door swap in his driveway, and I noticed that his door, being a few years older than mine, didn't have the extra brake light, so I asked if I could keep mine.  "No problem," he said.  All we had to do was remove it from my old door.

It's a testament to Land Rover design and appreciation for simplicity that two guys in a driveway with nothing more sophisticated than a couple wrenches and screw drivers can exchange doors, in a little less than two hours.

When I got home, I had the new door installed, but not completely assembled.  It looked like this,

Only a lot dirtier.  This is how it looked today, after about half an hour of cleanup.

After cleaning a decade or so of dirt out of the door, I needed to install the extra brake light.  In jobs like this, the single most important thing is keeping track of all the parts you take off, so that you have them (and know what they are) when it comes time to put them back on.  I thought I had done a pretty good job of this,
which was no mean feat, because the guy I was working with was dropping parts all over the place. He either dropped them on the ground and ignored them, or collected them into groups that seemed to be completely unrelated, which he left scattered between our vehicles.  I hopped from pile to pile trying to sort them and collect them into groups that would help me remember their purposes, and, as I said, I thought I'd done a pretty good job of it, but today while I was putting things back together, I could find only one of the brake light mounts, and I had to fabricate the other.
The genuine article is to the rear; my counterfeit is in the foreground.

After I'd put everything together I ended up finding the part I thought I'd lost.  That's one of those truisms associated with this kind of project; the surest way to find a lost part is to get a replacement.

Because this is an older door, it's not configured to run wiring for the extra brake light, so I ran the wire through this hole in the bottom of the door,
and out this hole at the top, which is where the wire comes from that supplies power to the window defroster.
With the wiring in place, it was time to glue the brake light mounts onto the window.  I bought special glue for this purpose, but the instructions were, of course, in Portuguese.  I understood 90% of them, but it takes only one small misunderstanding to screw up a job, so to be safe I google-translated.  (Caution: nobody should ever consider Google translations as a way of playing it safe.)

In this case, at least, the translation seemed pretty good.  I managed to get the mounts affixed to the glass, and after the glue had cured for a while, I hung the light from them.

I just looked out the window and it's still stuck to the glass, so I think I'm in good shape.  Once that was done, I did a little more cleaning and lubing inside the door, and then attached the door liner.
Now that I have a door that's structurally sound, I can hang my spare wheel on it again.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Officers of Democratic Peoples' Republic of Korea

That's a fine array of medals you've got there, Comrade General.  Or is that North Korea's version of a bullet-proof vest?

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Land Rover Update

Alarm Activated

I've been doing a few small things to the Land Rover.  The seat release handles for the second row of seats were broken off inside the housings, so I had to get into them and rig a handle to the metal arms.  It wasn't easy getting to the housing without being able to fold the seats forward.

Here's the mechanism with the cover removed, and my green wire handle sticking out.  I know it's not pretty, but did I mention that this is for a Land Rover?

Bica hung out with me while I was working, but I could tell her heart wasn't in it.  She just wanted to go for a drive.

Under the original floor mats there was a ton of mud, sand, and a fair amount of broken glass.  One of the great things about these cars is you can just hose them out.  The body is aluminum, so it won't rust.

After several cycles of wash, rinse, and repeat, the floor was pretty clean.  I used the old mats as templates and cut new ones from a sheet of rubber I bought at a hardware store.  

I did the same for the floor beneath the second row of seats.  

Did I say Land Rovers aren't pretty?  I take that back.

One last shot.  This is at Guincho Beach, with Bica behind the wheel.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Couldn't Have Said It Better Myself.

The State of the World in One Picture