Saturday, May 13, 2006

Afternoon Near The Garden Of Good & Evil

Alive In Savannah

We made it!

It really wasn't that hard--just a couple of hours including filling up on gas before leaving St. Simons and making one wrong turn coming into Savannah looking for Abercorn Street. I was surprised at the number of new fourlane bypass roads that have been constructed in the past 8 years or so.

Abercorn Street is like Atlanta's Peachtree Street, and its loaded with popular landmarks. Pat was suprised when we drove past many of the famous squares and the cemetary that was featured in the film "Midnight In The Garden of Good & Evil."

This little town has changed a great deal since I first set foot here in 1979. Since then I've been driving around Savannah at least a couple of times each year on business, but I haven't been back since about 1998 and boy has the change REALLY accellerated.

I guess it helped when "Midnight et. al." and "Forrest Gump" were filmed here and brought it to national attention. In my considered opinion, more is not better, and there are definitely more tourists and more "tourist streetcars" filled with gawking senior citizens and although urban renewal has removed much of the industrial clutter on the waterfront--I still think that I liked Savannah of the late 1980's and early 1990's better than todays version.

We've already wandered down to River Street (like Bourbon Street or Beale Street in Memphis) and had a late lunch, and now I'm sitting here in our second room at the hotel (the first one's internet connection wouldn't work--but I didn't pitch a fit) happily blogging away watching the weather channel.

I'm gonna get up at dawn tomorrow morning and run out to do a photo shoot on a bunch of the public buildings and churches within just a few blocks of where I sit here now. The early hour will hopefully eliminate all of the people from the scenes.

Wish me luck...

Neighborhood Nazi’s

At It Again

Just look at this stupid CRAP:

Garland Simmons was excited when the Cowboy Church began meeting at his place on Horseshoe Bend Road in late March.

It appears, however, that somebody did not share his enthusiasm. Simmons was notified by Bedford County officials that the Cowboy Church meetings violate county zoning regulations.

"I got the notice certified through the mail, Monday morning," Simmons said.

The notice consisted of two letters. One was from Gary McIver, the county's building official. McIver wrote that, by hosting the Cowboy Church on his property, Simmons is using it in a manner contrary to its agricultural (AR) zoning.

He also wrote that the building in which the Cowboy Church is being held, is defined as a farm building by the Virginia Uniform Statewide Building Code. The Cowboy Church constitutes a change of use for the building.

"We are all in agreement that this event is a worthy and admirable cause," McIver wrote.

However, he wrote that it is an unpermitted change of use for the property.

The other letter was from Lindsay Blankenship, a planner in the county's department of planning. It directs Simmons to "obtain the necessary permits for the establishment of a Religious Assembly" on the property by May 28.


What ever happened to a man’s home being his castle (and his outhouse being a library or his barn being a church if he wants it to be)?

That tears it…I thought that I was through writing tonight, but the above story reminded me of my own situation that I hadn’t bothered to vent my spleen about here on the blog.

You see, we’ve got our own “Neighborhood Nazi” problems.

We live in a fairly nice condo complex with all of the obligatory covenants, rules, regulations, and limitations—some of which sometimes verge on insanity.

The thing is, you are supposed to know what the rules are when you move in and thus far we have managed to avoid the wrath of own “Neighborhood Nazis.”

Notice that I said “so far”?

Well, that all ended last Wednesday when I received a phone call from the owner of the Condo property management company. She said that she had received a complaint from one of my neighbors about the “red lights” that I had hanging inside around the perimeter of our screened sun room.

By “red lights” she was referring to the two new strings of parrot lights and pink flamingo lights that I had hung up a week or two ago in anticipation of celebrating Cinco de Mayo.

The manager tendered the call in a humorous fashion and didn’t demand that I actually had to remove the lights; she was just obligated to pass the complaint on to me because it was her job.

What is ironic about this situation is that I’m pretty damn sure that I know who complained, and said mean old bitter busybody hag the lovely woman sits on the board of directors with me and has been sparing with me over issues relating to the swimming pool for the past two years.

Did I mention that I’m the only non-owner that’s been asked to sit on the board of directors?

Did I mention that I’ve spent at least 40 hours of my time at no cost to the Condo Association writing specifications, attending board meetings, and meeting with contractors on site?

Did I mention that I just got through doing about 8 hours of work LAST WEEK at no cost to the Condo Association buying materials and managing their “Pool Fence Painting Project?”

Did I mention that this week I have spent another four hours studying metal roofing options for our Condo Complex and soliciting proposals for the installation of said metal roofing on said Condo Complex?

Did I mention that I had a couple of strings of white lights installed in the exact location for almost two years and received nothing but complements about their appearance?

Did I mention that, if the mean old spineless bitch or bastard the person that has a problem with my celebratory lighting will address me personally in a direct and polite manner, rather than calling the authorities on my ass, that I will consider removing the plastic parrot and pink flamingo covers from the lights—leaving an appearance exactly like we’ve all lived in harmony with for the past 26 months?

Did I mention that my “red lights” are still hanging up and will remain lit throughout my weekend visit to Savannah, and will only be turned out when a bulb fails or I find something costing less than $19.99 that I want to replace them with?

If they keep screwing around with me, I’m going to buy an entire flock of plastic pink flamingos to put in the front yard and buy an old VW bus and park it up on cinder bocks in the back yard and serve happy hour drinks in it.

I will win this one…just watch.

I’m A Ramblin’ Man

With All Due Respect To Greg Allman

I’m sitting here this morning doing something I rarely do these days…WORKING.

Actual ENGINEERING WORK, if you must ask.

That’s right ladies and gentlemen—I have some paying engineering consulting work that I’m doing for an associate in Atlanta—looking into the potential cause of an accident that caused the expansion joints in some 16” diameter steel pipes to rupture in a Data Center chilled water system.

OK, you can stop yawning now…I won’t bore you with any more technical details, but aren’t you impressed?

I am, because my old brain cells, or at least the ones I haven’t killed already, are spinning around on their little synapses and neurons trying to remember things that I learned almost thirty years ago in my “Statics”, “Dynamics”, and “Deformable Bodies” classes at Georgia Tech.

Unlike the coursework taught in many classes inflicted on engineering undergraduates, I’ve actually managed to USE the knowledge gained in those fifteen quarter hours of torture many times in my professional career, but I have to admit that it’s been at least six years since I sat down and drew a free body diagram of a beam or column and it’s taken a few hours to clean the dust off of my skills.

Meanwhile, I’m also mentally preparing to make a long weekend trip up old US 17 (running parallel to I-95) between Brunswick and Savannah where we’re spending a long weekend.

There should be a number of great photo opportunities including old buildings along the route, not to mention the beauty of downtown Savannah where we’re staying a couple of nights near the river.

I’ve spent part of the evening cleaning up the hard drive on the laptop so that I have room to download photos in route.

While working this evening, the words to one of my favorite Allman Brother’s songs kept creeping into my head while I was waiting for the computer hard drive to finish defragmenting…

"Lord, I was born a ramblin' man
Tryin' to make a livin' and doin' the best I can
And when it's time for leavin'
I hope you'll understand
That I was born a ramblin' man"

You'll have to excuse me if my blogging is light for the next couple of days.

But then again, if something stupid happens in the news or I get all inspired over something I see , you’ll be the first to know.

Regards Y'all

Friday, May 12, 2006

Loose Lips Sink Ships

Translation: “Leaks Sink National Security”

Is there anyone else out there besides me that doubts the coincidence of the Senate’s confirmation hearings for General Michael Hayden as CIA director this week and USA Today’s Wednesday recycling of the headline story about NSA’s “massive database” of American phone calling habits?

In fact, USA Today has managed to kill two birds with one stone story—bashing Hayden as he sits before the Senators and keeping the “Bush bashing” going as the country moves toward November’s mid-term elections.

USA Today is also counting on their readers having short memories

As Michell Malkin points out in today’s NY Post , USA Today’s effort is just a rehash of an old NY Times article ON THE EXACT SAME SUBJECT published last December.

The only thing that I found new in the USA Today story was that AT&T, Verizon, and Bellsouth were cooperating with the program, while Colorado based Qwest has thus far balked at providing their cooperation.

I see a new add campaign emerging for Qwest:

“Qwest and Al Qaeda—Can you hear us now?”

Or maybe “Qwest—Preferred by nine out of ten terrorists living in the USA…”

I don’t care if you AGREE with the use of these type programs or not (I happen to support them), what you and I should be concerned about is the on going LEAKING OF NATIONAL SECURITY INFORMATION to the media and ultimately--TO OUR ENEMIES.

I want to slap the somber smirk off of Pelosi’s and Reid’s partisan faces when they jump in front of the nearest camera and declare their intention to “Get ToThe Bottom” of this story and other non-stories like it.

NEWS FLASH—There is absolutely nothing for them to get to the bottom of, because key senators are already constantly briefed about ALL of the NSA’s activities.

SECOND NEWS FLASH—IF a government employee, private contractor, or any other of the so-called “unidentified sources” has any concerns about the legality and propriety of anything which the government is doing, they already have official procedures in place to complain about it and insure that it is investigated.

Instead of going to USA Today or the NY Times with the story, why not pick up the telephone and go straight to the horses’ mouths Pelosi, Schumer, and Reid and let them deal directly with the potential offending parties.

But Nnnnooooooooo, dealing properly with their concerns, following the chain of command wouldn’t accomplish their actual goal here.

The goal isn’t about personal privacy or the legality of the programs, it’s about stirring public hysteria and thereby publicly embarrassing their political enemies.

I sincerely want President Bush to order the CIA and the FBI to go out and find a couple of these treasonous partisan assholes”unidentified sources,” try them publicly in court, televise the entire proceeding, and if and when they are convicted, lock them up in jail for about twenty years.

That should take care of the endless stream of “unidentified sources,”

It would also force USA Today’s reporters to do some actual reporting rather than simply serving as a conduit for the transmission of our national security secrets directly to terrorists.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Chasing Our Own Tail?

More Government Stupidity

I don’t know about you, but I’ve been pretty impressed with the success to date of The Minuteman Project in demonstrating the shortcomings of government border control efforts while at the same time improving border security.

It’s amazing to me that regular citizens—mere amateurs—can do a better job for FREE than the Imperial Federal Government of the United States could spending billions dollars annually.

In spite of being called vigilantes and “a ticking time bomb” by the usual suspects (various “immigration activists”, socialists, liberals, Democrats, and many in the Lamestream Media,) to my knowledge there has been no reported abuse, injuries, or deaths of any prospective “guest workers” trying to walk or climb or swim across the Rio Grande in the presence of the Minutemen and Minutewomen.

Hundreds of illegal border crossings have been thwarted and dozens if not hundreds of potential “guest workers” have been rounded up and either sent back to Mexico or are awaiting justice in jails in the Southwest.

I would think that a reasonable person or group of persons like the Government officials responsible for border control would be thankful for the assistance, but instead this article indicates that our government may be actually tipping off the Mexican Government of Minutemen activities in advance.

While Minuteman civilian patrols are keeping an eye out for illegal border crossers, the U.S. Border Patrol is keeping an eye out for Minutemen -- and telling the Mexican government where they are.

According to three documents on the Mexican Secretary of Foreign Relations Web site, the U.S. Border Patrol is to notify the Mexican government as to the location of Minutemen and other civilian border patrol groups when they participate in apprehending illegal immigrants -- and if and when violence is used against border crossers.

A U.S. Customs and Border Protection spokesman confirmed the notification process, describing it as a standard procedure meant to reassure the Mexican government that migrants' rights are being observed.

"It's not a secret where the Minuteman volunteers are going to be," Mario Martinez said Monday

My first reaction was my usual “What the HELL?”, but after letting things develop during the day today now things don’t seem so cut and dried because US Customs and Border Protection is now publicly denying the allegation.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection is refuting a Daily Bulletin report that the U.S. Border Patrol provided information to the Mexican government about the whereabouts of civilian border watch groups.

Today's report by the Inland Valley Daily Bulletin, `U.S. tipping Mexico to Minuteman patrols,' is inaccurate," read the statement issued Tuesday evening. "Border Patrol does not report activity by civilian, non-law enforcement groups to the government of Mexico."

Kristi Clemens, a spokeswoman for the Department of Homeland Security and Customs and Border Protection, would not elaborate on the agency's statement other than to say the U.S. gives information to Mexican officials under the rules of the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations of 1963, which provides foreign nationals being detained by a government the right to consular access.

I did a little snooping of my own and, being unable to read much Spanish, I was able to get Google to give me this translated copy of the Mexican government website containing a discussion of US cooperation with them regarding the Minuteman project.

Looks to me like someone here in the US is talking to someone south of the border, and it looks like the information is making it onto the internet and could potentially be used by someone intent on getting a job plucking chickens here in Georgia.

Of course a critical question in my mind would be the timing of the supply of the information.

IF data is changing hands, are things done in real time or in historical report form?

Knowing the chicken shit manner in which our government handles border security, and considering the level of jealousy and embarrassment that certain officials (elected and appointed) might be feeling over the success of the Minutemen, I certainly wouldn't be too surprised if we’re handing them the location of the border enforcement efforts in an effort to undermine their success.

Let’s just sit back and see where this story goes.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

I’m Not Much Of A Groupie

Mundane Celebrity

As most people already know, I’m not much of a fan of pop culture.

Some people might think that I’m gay or something because I can’t name a half dozen “super models” by name and couldn’t put faces with names if one of them offered to marry me and share their fortunes.

That said, I had my third ever contact with a famous musician this afternoon while hanging out down at Murphy’s—our local tavern.

The first time I ran into someone that was a big time artist was back about 1990 when I walked into a bar/restaurant in Marietta, Georgia and sat down to order a beer. When I looked at the man on my left and spoke to him, I realized that I was sitting next to the country singer Travis Tritt.

Being the smooth operator that I was, I introduced myself, shook his hand, and told him that I realized who he was but that I would not disturb him because I thought that it was cool that he was able to hide under a cowboy hat and try to go out in his native Marietta and act like a “normal person.”

His anonymous status lasted about another fifteen minutes as word of his presence spread and fawning little waitresses and other patrons bombarded him with greetings.

I left the room shortly after sharing a beer with him, but without an autograph—I’m not an autograph kind of guy.

This afternoon I managed to sit down beside a slightly less famous, but none-the-less talented guitar player named Stevie Holland. There were only three of us sitting there for about an hour (the bartender that had known him all his life, Stevie, and Me.)

For those of you that don’t remember, Steve Holland was one of the founding members of the southern rock group “Molly Hatchet.”

In college my friends and I probably saw them perform three or four times in Atlanta in the late 70’s and early 80’s, and Stevie has turned his life around after a nearly twenty year absence from the stage and has reassembled a group of former Molly Hatchet band members as a group called ”Gator Country.”

He’s a very down to earth guy. He answered my questions and told some great stories about traveling on the road and performing as the opening act for bands like “The Who” in Europe; and performing at London’s Albert Hall with Eric Clapton, Robert Plant (of Led Zepplin fame) and my fellow blogger and reader John Hooker.

What started out as a trip to grab a quick cold beer and talk to my friend Brad turned into a once in a lifetime experience with someone that lived and breathed good old Southern rock and roll in it’s infancy.

I once again left the building with a handshake, but no autograph.

(For those readers in the Orlando, Florida area, “Gator Country is making their public debut at Orland’s City Hall Plaza this coming weekend. If I didn’t already have plans to spend a long weekend in Savannah I’d have accepted Stevie’s invitation to come down and bring my harmonicas—can you say “BAD TIMING?”)

Things I Know I Can Do Without

Late Night TV Ads

Those that know me personally or that frequent this blog and read my daily rantings know that I’m a night owl. As background noise, I generally turn on the Discover Channel, History Channel, or FOX News and vegetate while surfing the Web or writing about the “topic du jour.”

What totally drives me crazy is that, if I'm not having to look at Greta Van Sustren’s crooked mouth while she talks about some pitiful missing teenager on FOX for five hours in a row, then I'm being tortured sometime between 3 and 5 AM when most cable channels switch over to…(get ready)


You know...

Paid “infomercials” featuring of all things—INANE CRAP LIKE…

A. Anything made by "Ronco" and that marketing genius Ron Popeil. God save us all...

B. Giagantic CD collections of 1970's or 1980's music.

Sorry folks, but I LIVED THROUGH the 1970's and 1980's and I can buy all of the music I can stand to listen to all by myself without having it blended together in a mind numbing mix.

Why don't the try selling me something by Jimmy Hendrix on 8-Track tape format?

C. Real Estate purchasing “SYSTEMS” requiring no money down.

Yeah, RIGHT, I’m going to watch a few video tapes and listen to a few cassettes and then run out and develop a Donald Trump type real estate empire starting with only twenty dollars while making the government and other people pay for it.

I can’t decide who is a bigger Moron—the “system” buyers or the “system” sellers?

D. “Wild” Party Girls Videos

These poor girls parents just have to be totally mortified by their behavior, not to mention that their chances of wearing a white dress and walking down the church isle with a straight face with anyone but a boorish pig are forever reduced by their choice to drink and accept a few hundred dollars to flash their tits on national TV.

E. Girls gone “Wild” Videos (see D above)

F. Exercise equipment comprised of wheels and leavers and bows and springs that are guaranteed to help me lose 50 pounds and give me six pack "Abs" in just six weeks (and hides neatly under my bed or in my bedroom closet.)

Just mail me the six pack and we'll have a drink or two during happy hour.

G. Diploma Mill “colleges and institutes” that offer to teach me to be a male nurse or a TV repair man (something that I really need after I throw the remote control through the picture tube) in the privacy of my own home in only three weeks for two easy payments of only $49.99.

H. Various and Sundry male genital enhancement products—including prescription pills and other things that might cause “Priaprism.”

I didn’t know that the condition “Priaprism” had a name.

You want “Priaprism”, I’ll give you “Priaprism” because I say that most men battled “Priaprism” from about age 14 to age 30 and many just couldn’t find a girl that would appreciate it.

Now you'll please have to excuse me, because I have to go study my TV repair manuals…

Monday, May 08, 2006

My Fish Is Smarter Than Your Fish

Oops...I Mean Mammal

In the past I've had the opportunity to see and interact with Bottlenose Dolphins in the wild while deep sea fishing and scuba diving.

I firmly believe in the popular estimates of their intelligence--often exceeding that of many politicians and media personalities found wandering around out there in the "real" world.

Take a look at this story indicating that individual Dolphins might have specific names, and actually say their names from a young age as a means of introduction and identifictaion.

The Sunday Times - Britain
May 07, 2006

DOLPHINS may be closer to humans than previously realised, with new research showing they communicate by whistling out their own “names”.

The evidence suggests dolphins share the human ability to recognise themselves and other members of the same species as individuals with separate identities. The research, on wild bottlenose dolphins, will lead to a reassessment of their intelligence and social complexity, raising moral questions over how they should be treated.

The research was carried out by Vincent Janik of the Sea Mammal Research Unit at St Andrews University, who has found bottlenose dolphins to be among the animal world’s quickest learners of new sounds.

He said: “Each animal develops an individually distinctive signature whistle in the first few months of its life, which appears to be used in individual recognition.”

The research has its origin in the 1960s when dolphin trainers first noticed that captive animals each had their own personal repertoire of whistles.

This prompted speculation that dolphins had their own language and might even have individual “names”. However, the theory was controversial among whale and dolphin researchers, and until now, there had been no means of testing it.

I wish that congress would pass a law giving Dolphins the right to vote rather than passing that responsibility to illegal aliens and many humans that I know.

But then again, I wouldn't like having to live in a giant concrete pool performing tricks for frozen chunks of Mackerel and Sardines, and that's probably what the Dolphins would do to all us Humans given the opportunity.

Remember...what comes around goes around...

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Mexican Food

See What You Missed?

The dust has settled, but I'm still tired.

Time to fry some fish for dinner...

Over 30 Were Fed

(And No One’s Dead)

I am so relieved…I actually did it, and not by myself I might add.

If it hadn’t been for Pat’s steadfast support and my friend Rusty’s ability to imitate my own limited tamale making skills, I might have caused a minor bout of starvation at dinner last night, but instead I laid my head on my pillow before midnight secure in the knowledge that our dinner party was a resounding success.

I sort of out-smarted myself in waiting a bit late to start putting the tamales together because I wanted them to be “fresh,” but Pat and then Rusty jumped in and helped me with the production process and in the end we probably had close to 100 little neatly tied corn husk wrapped packages.

Our buddies down at Marsh Point Bar and Restaurant loaned me two deluxe commercial sized covered chafing dishes and we ran a smaller third chafing dish containing my Mexican Rice mixture and just to put things in perspective let me say that I think that…

Our guests “chowed down.”

I think that everyone was surprised at the quantity of food that we were serving (My Invitation said DINNER and I meant it,) and I never got around to cooking the fish for the tacos and all of the chicken tenderloins still lay raw in the fridge when the dust settled. (I’ve got a long way to go when it comes to estimating proportions.)

In the end I realized that cooking for two or four or six is a no brainer, but that cooking for thirty is HARD WORK, yet having people come back through your buffet line two or three times and rave about your food makes it all worthwhile.

Captain Dave and one of his friends (I forget his name) provided the entertainment by playing the keyboard and harmonica, and I jumped in a couple of times with my own harmonicas and the crowd sang along to things like Billy Joel’s “Piano Man.”

All in all, a “Large Time” was had by all, but I'm definitely not ready to do it least for a few months.