Thursday, April 29, 2010

We've Come A Long Way, Baybee!

We've probably all heard now that Texas Governor Rick Perry, out jogging, shot a coyote that was threatening his daughter's Lab. Of course there are the usual outcrys about the cruelty to animals from the blue blog world. That would be normal in our whacked out society. However, what really caught my eye was this:

Perry told The Associated Press on Tuesday he needed just one shot from the laser-sighted pistol he sometimes carries while jogging to take down a coyote that menaced his puppy during a February run near Austin.

Perry said he will carry his .380 Ruger — loaded with hollow-point bullets — when jogging on trails because he is afraid of snakes. He'd also seen coyotes in the undeveloped area.

Now, I ask you - what is different about this story?

Generally, the average reporter can't tell a full auto from a semi-auto, nor an assault rifle from a semi auto lookalike, and generally if it goes bang and isn't a handgun, it's automatically a full auto AK47 no matter what the truth is.

But not here - we have most of the pertinent information us gunnies really want to know - it's a Ruger in .380 caliber. It's also laser sighted and loaded with hollow points. This, in and of itself, is a major breakthrough for the AP. Yeah, it happened in Texas, where this sort of thing doesn't attract a second glance, but it was still the frikkin' AP of all things.


Not that they don't need a little more work - what bullet weight were those lethal little pills? Was the laser sighting system made by Crimson Trace? Was the Ruger shooting the short nines a model LCP? How many shots? Any head shots? What kind of range were we talking about?

But, it beats having the gun ID'd as some Saturday Night Special strictly designed to kill nuns, widows and orphans - and puppies. Coyote puppies.

Count the blessings we have - but keep pushing!

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

How Fairly Tales Really End

Because it's been a long day - raiding the ol' email inbox once again. The Truth about Fairy Tale characters:


Snow White

Sleeping Beauty

Little Red Riding Hood

Jasmine (Aladdin)

Belle (Beauty and the Beast)

The Little Mermaid

As is my habit, I did a bit of searching for assigning credit - and it was pretty simple. Artist Dina Goldstein has these and more characters up at her site Fallen Princesses. However, the "sushi" pic isn't hers. I thought it was funny, so there you are.

H/T Gina

Monday, April 26, 2010

No Ice Cream For You

I'm at the Ice Cream Capital of the World tonight, but they're not giving out free samples.

H-E-Double-Hockey Sticks, I say. Shuck - E - Darns.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Trees? Are You Kidding Me?

View The Collins Companies in a larger map

I'm sure this is old hat for anyone who has ever been on I84 at Boardman, OR, but for a crusty ol' prairie resident seeing a virtual forest (eighteen thousand acres worth) of cultivated trees - well, it kinda blew my mind. We've got a few Dutch Elms around here, but they'd have to be stacked to be as tall as these:

Photo credit

These trees would be the Pacific Albus. The "what" you say? It's what I said when we drove by eastbound and could read the signs posted in front of the various "fields." Most of the sectors were labeled as planted in 1999, but some were 1997 and a few smaller sections were in the 2000s. Welp, that's what the Blackberry is for!

It is actually a hybrid poplar and is kinda considered a "junk" tree - good for chip and fiber production. Apparently, that was the original intent for planting these trees - they're a quick growing variety, and it was thought that they could be harvested before they achieved full growth. However, markets didn't cooperate - it turned out that the normal sources for chips and fiber - residue from harvesting lumber at sawmills - was cheaper.

So, with no market and no reason to cut them down, the forest continued to grow. Now, however, they are big and tall enough to harvest for boards.
Because no one has used Pacific albus before, Collins has to figure out how to grade the wood and develop markets for it. The company’s Lee Jimerson explains that Pacific albus is best suited for niches that require light weight but little strength. Forget about 2/4s. Some of the best wood processed at the Boardman plant will go into moldings and other millwork. The very best may be peeled and used in high-end plywood. (It is so light-colored that it won’t show through a .02-inch-thick top layer of some fancier species.) Other good albus may be made into blinds, picture frames, and furniture, presumably in Asia. Ordinary pieces will be made into panels for home remodeling centers that now use South American and New Zealand radiata pine. The low-end wood will be made into shipping pallets and cases.

Our destination was only about thirty miles west of this forest, so naturally we asked about it. Our customers told us about the high tech sawmill contained within the tree farm. Apparently, the logs are scanned to determine the best way to cut to obtain the most board feet of lumber with the least waste, as well as determining whether it is suitable for the peeling process for plywood. I can remember some show on Discovery or some such about how "old tech" sawmill hands have to guesstimate for maximum utilization - and they get very good at it. But, someone figured out software for the task.

It is also thought that the RV industry might prefer this wood for cabinetry and furniture because of the weight savings. Lighter weight figures in using the wood for pallets and shipping containers - more weight will be available on a truck for freight or make the load lighter - either way would save fuel/ton shipped. Naturally, this whole venture is being painted with the broad strokes of the "green" movement brush. Which suits me fine - I hope it works out for them - I'd sure hate to see those trees go to waste because they couldn't be marketed and sold.

It's just this kind of thing that makes these trips worthwhile - ya just never know what is around the next curve or hill in "new to me" country. Some historical site, a beautiful vista, military installation with cool toys, crops that seem "odd" to me, a bunch of local hot rodders out cruising - well, you'll never find out unless you go and look.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

More Bad Pictures

Here are some more pics from my trip to Oregon - apparently a shaky truck and low light aren't the best foundation for a camera phone. Who knew?

This is on I84 north of La Grande, OR, headed up "Cabbage Hill," aka "Deadman's Pass."

It got kinda foggy at the top.

This was supposed to show the vista of the valley below, containing Pendleton, OR. I could see it, anyways. We were headed downhill.

Headed home, south on I84 south of Baker City, OR. Winding roads with small elevation changes. Nothing like I70 west of Denver!

I84 in Idaho was a long stretches of road construction and roads that really need it. We never did see any spuds, but there were lots of dairies. We saw a lot of live bottom feed trucks, but oddly enough, no milk tankers. The Snake River had certainly carved out some valleys over the millenia.

Utah north of Ogden was a flat valley between some short mountains - it was certainly dry looking. Between Ogden and Rock Springs you'll find a few curves and mountainous climbs and drops, most notably the Three Sisters pass. It's really just one straight climb and then drop, repeated two more times. When we were coming back it was raining, but close to freezing. On the east slope of the first "sister," the temperature had dropped enough to make the road very slick, causing some cars to crash. We saw at least five, three eastbound and two westbound. It's easy enough to understand why that happens - you're comfortably hauling hiney at 75 mph, crest the top of the pass, and find yourself on a thin sheet of slick slush with high side winds - definitely a recipe for disaster. It pays to pay attention.

It was interesting to see some new country. I normally don't like being gone that long from home. I logged just over 2800 miles - which isn't all that many for a lot of truckers. For me? Yeah, that's a few. Rooster (my cat) certainly doesn't care for my extended absences - he likes to complain as soon as I step across the threshold. He likes to share his opinions, which are generally negative until he's firmly esconced in my lap. That is when his yowlings quiet and he turns to positive mutterings. Then I know I'm back.

Thursday, April 22, 2010


Lucky was a good boy.

H/T Shane

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Teh Won's Nuke Policy

Yes, I'm sure this will all end well........

Check List

Checking the list of states on this trip - KS, CO, WY and UT - yeah, been there done that. Actually, I hadn't been west of Rock Springs WY on I80 before. ID and OR are new, though.

An interesting rock formation west of Cheyenne WY on I80.

This is either in far west Wyoming or eastern Utah on I80. I didn't get any pictures in Idaho or Oregon so far. I84 through Idaho was kinda busy with traffic and road construction, so I guess that would be my excuse. We had run Colorado, Wyoming and Utah at 75mph the whole trip, then we had to slow down to 65mph for Idaho. Oregon? 55mph. Even Illinois has opened up their speed limits for trucks to 65. Frikkin' Commies anyhow. Looks like rain today, so any pictures might not be very picturesque.

We'll get unloaded today and start heading back.

Monday, April 19, 2010

From the TMI Department

Click for larger - you know you want to. You can, in fact, light farts. I know this because of a rigorous testing regimen in college (living in a dorm - and beer might have been involved). Can you say "blue flame heater?" I knew you could.

And, even more TMI - back in the day, when Moby Dick was a minnow and dirt was new, most of us kids were desperate to shave. We wanted those super cool seventies muttonchops along with our zits and shaggy hair. I'll never forget what my father always said "There you go, trying to cultivate what grows wild around your a$$hole on your face." File that under "Valuable Lessons From Dad." Along with "Shut the damn door, are you trying to heat/cool The Great Outdoors?"

Welp, I digress. Lighting farts is a very, very effective way to "clean up" that area. Just sayin.'

I saw this at my buddy Jerry's place and just had to rip off that picture.

My Retirement Plans

I stand in awe - pure genius. If I could, I'd buy this guy a beer.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Best Movie Car Chase Scene Ever

link - warning, the clip is almost eleven minutes long

The very best car chase scene ever is from Bullitt, the probably otherwise lackluster crime drama starring Steve McQueen (Ronin, The French Connection, Smokey and the Bandit, Vanishing Point, Gone in 60 Seconds - all great but not as good). McQueen was reportedly "difficult," because he wanted to control his characters in specific ways. So what. He was cool in an era with so many other cool actors (who could also drive quite well) - Paul Newman, James Dean and James Garner come to mind. He was into realizing his "vision," and brooked no impediments.

At any rate, what brought this on was discovering another blog - The Selvidge Yard. There is an excellent article there about the cars, drivers and other minutiae involved in the famous car chase scenes. Apparently the 'Stangs used for the movie had to be extensively modified to take the abuse, as did the Chargers, but in the end:
“The Charger ran rings around the Mustang. We trimmed the tires down (on the Charger), we practically made them down to bicycle tires to try and handicap Hickman, and Bill just run them.”
Sorry, Ford fans.

Plus, there is an excellent post about Steve McQueen, too. Great read. Actually, the whole site is a fascinating time sucker - it's what I've been doing instead of other, probably far more important things. Oh well.

I Just Luv Meeces to Pieces


There is no Nolan Cheese - the clip is a promo from John Nolan Films showcasing animatronics. The music choices are totally appropriate - it made me larf right out loud!

But, I still hate mice. The only good mouse is a dead 'un, As Far As I'm Concerned.

H/T Road Pig

Friday, April 16, 2010

My New Bumper Sticker

Want! Seen at SondraK's.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Reason #1572.6 To Shut The CB Off

I was driving on the new south bypass in Dodge City today, headed for US50 west. When eastbound on US50/400 the first bypass is where US 400 splits off, going by US283 South. US 400 winds on around, hooking up with US56. If you follow US56, it will take you by the Flying J truckstop. Or, back on US50/400, one can go through Dodge City the hard way and go by the Flying J. Or, one can take the north bypass - US50, and miss that part of Dodge altogether.

So, this is what I hear:

Is there a truckstop in Dodge?

Where are you now?

Eastbound on 50.

Yes, just stay on Business 50 and go straight through town, or take the south bypass. Either way will take you by the Flying J.

OK, there's a Flying J in Dodge City?


And I have to turn left?

Only if you want to take the south bypass - it's the first left you'll come to. It would be easier if you just went through town.

OK, so I have to turn left?

If you want to go around Dodge to the south, well, yeah, but you don't want to do that. Just go straight. Take you right to it - can't miss it.

OK, I see a left turn.

Where are you?

Behind the (such and such) truck.

You've gone past the south bypass - that's the north bypass you're coming up to. Go straight!

Uh, I'm turning left now.

Uh, this bypass is taking me north.

Uh, will this north bypass take me to the Flying J?

After hearing the nice guy give detailed and easily understood directions, and hearing them ignored, apparently he decided he was wasting his time. There was a bit of impatience in his voice as he kept trying to get the guy to go through Dodge rather than turn.

Uh, can anybody hear me? Does this north bypass go by the Flying J?

I, being the helpful sort:


Of course, there is a way to get from the north bypass to the truck stop - but I and everyone else had heard this clown ignore the directions he'd been given, and no amount of pathetic bleating was going to shame anyone into answering this fool. Why would we want to waste our time?

I've heard this tableau in so many cities and different situations it's not even funny. How some of the mouth breathers behind the wheel of some big rigs manage to find their way across the country amazes me. If he were having trouble understanding people talking to him on the CB - well, he needs to upgrade his speaker or get his radio fixed. I dunno, maybe understanding English might help, too - I'm not trying to make fun of immigrants behind the wheel, but I swear, there are some who supposedly are natives that don't understand simple, direct English. Some idjuts obviously can't read a map. Some show up near their destination and expect others to tell them how to get there, rather than call ahead for directions from the receiver. Some are just plain dense folk who can't be helped, and have their job just because the main requirement was for a warm body behind the wheel, and for that, they qualify.

If I have time, I'll look for my delivery spot on Google Maps, looking at the satellite view as well as the map, and get directions from the customer. Frequently, the mapping programs are wrong, but at least it gets me close. To my way of thinking, if you're planning on being a "professional" driver, you should be able to do whatever it takes to deliver your load, end of story. I'll sure help someone who needs it, but someone who requires that kind of help 24-7? Forget it.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Saturday Delivery

Well, we've all heard the USPS is going to stop Saturday deliveries and how they're claiming to save money doing so. I wasn't sure what the extent of their shutdown would entail, but after reading some of their plan, I've got a clue.

In order to understand what they are proposing, one needs to understand the mechanics of moving mail. I worked at a Sectional Center Facility (SCF) office - specifically, Dodge City KS. That office processes primary (raw) mail going outbound to the world from all the towns that start with 678 in their zip code. This requires a fleet of bid carriers that pick up the raw mail from the towns on their route to present it for processing at Dodge in the evening. The third shift (Tour Three) of clerks process (cancel the stamps, and sort letters into machinable or manual - machinable is then sorted by machine and manual by hand) that mail to go outbound. The outbound mail is shipped on several trucks that have different destinations. One winds it's way around some of the other state SCF facilities on the way to Kansas City, and the other goes straight to Wichita - the main office "over" Dodge. The Kansas City truck stops at Hays first, where mail going to Hays, Denver, and Colby is dropped off - as an example of how the Dodge City office has to separate the mail. They can't just lump it all together and send it to Wichita. Another truck comes straight from the Kansas City Bulk Mail Center and arrives in the afternoon. Junk mail - all of it.

Meanwhile, there are a couple of trucks headed towards Dodge City from KC and Wichita. They get to Dodge a little after midnight with mail from the rest of the world bound for the 678 area. The first shift (Tour One) sorts this mail - it's already processed down to at least the 678 level. Some trays of letters might be directs - all the letters in that tray might all go to Garden City, for instance. That mail is merely "cut" to the staging area for that contractor to haul there. The rest of the mail has to be sorted manually or in the case of letters - by machine. Lots of mail still arrives in bags and must be dumped, then sorted into bags for each town. Towards the end of the shift, the sorting has to be finished and the various letter trays finished and cut to the runs, bag racks torn down and cut to the runs, and so on.

Remember the bid carriers from the small towns? They spent a few hours grabbing some sleep, then early in the morning, pick up the mail for their route, and deliver it to each office in the wee hours. Clerks in the satellite offices finish sorting their processed mail. The bid carriers go to bed for a few hours to repeat the whole thing once more later that evening.

Meanwhile, the home office switches gears and sorts mail for Dodge City. That mail is sorted by carrier route. The machines can sort letters in the order they're delivered, but much of the mail has to be sorted manually. This mail must be finished in time for the carriers to "case" - they sort their manual mail in the delivery order. Tour Two - the carriers, window clerks and maintenance crew show up for work. The carriers deliver their mail, and at the end of their day, one has to go on "collections." That carrier follows a route and picks up the raw mail from all the blue boxes scattered around town, plus the contract outlets at certain grocery stores. Tour Three came on in the middle of the afternoon, and started working on bulk mail, but in the evening, switches to primary.

This goes on five days a week. Saturdays - Tour One has a full load and sends out the usual amount for Saturday delivery. Tour Three is a skeleton crew that merely passes primary mail on to Wichita for processing, and unloads the bulk mail truck. Primary first class volume is minimal compared to the rest of the week. Sundays - Tour One still shows up for work and sorts mail that will eventually deliver Monday. Tour Three is a skeleton crew again - just enough to unload the bulk mail truck and work some of that mail.

Monday Tour One generally sends out a glut of mail - backed up bulk mail and first class mail that arrived at the center both Sunday and Monday mornings. Most of the satellite offices have to curtail delivery of bulk mail in favor of getting the surfeit of first class mail out on time.

This is all an oversimplification, and I'm not sure I'm being all that clear. My point is that there is a rather complicated set of events that have to happen in order and happen frequently or there is a major disruption in the mail flow. I've seen what happens if a truck is delayed by - oh, say - a blizzard. It ain't pretty. Plus, the truck volume is pretty well maximized already. They leave and arrive full. There are only so many hours in a day, and there are only so many workers that exist to sort this mail. In many of the smallest offices - it's just the Postmaster or their temporary replacement - Postmaster Relief (PMR) - who usually only works on Saturday or when the PM goes on vacation.

Now, let's look at what the Post Office has to say:

Discontinuing Saturday delivery and collections would result in significant savings by eliminating work performed by city and rural carriers. These savings account for $2.7 billion of the estimated $3 billion total.

City carrier savings will result from no longer needing the carriers who handle the sixth delivery day. This work is primarily performed by carrier technicians employed specifically for this purpose. These nearly 25,000 positions would no longer be needed. Other part-time and full-time assignments used to replace the regular carrier on the sixth day would also no longer be needed.

To determine the savings for city carriers, analysts considered the profile of average Saturday work — what portions would be saved by eliminating Saturday delivery, and what would still need to be done Monday through Friday to deliver Saturday mail volumes.

Most of Saturday’s office time would be transferred to other days, Monday through Friday. Most of Saturday’s street time would not be needed to deliver volume during the week.

I certainly disagree with that last statement. If you've just eliminated a full day's worth of "office time" - when the carriers sort their mail - it's going to have to be made up somewhere. There will be some time saved due to eliminating duplication of part of the job - the carriers will only be "tearing down their cases" for delivery once rather than twice, but still. I understand where they're coming from by claiming to eliminate the part time carrier assignments on weekends. They are saying the senior carriers will be working five day weeks and the part timers who fill in on the sixth day won't be needed. Currently, carriers work a rotating day off - they might have Tuesday and Sunday off this week, Wednesday and Sunday off next week. There are several PTF (part time flexible) carriers who fill in for them. The Post Office is saying those hours will be cut. I also have doubts about this, too.

In order for this to work, carriers must be able to process twice the mail on Mondays in the same time as before. Not gonna happen. There will be more office time on Mondays for sure. This is going to eat into their available street time. One of the current strategies for getting all the mail delivered on a heavy day is to have the PTFs take part of the regular carriers' mail and deliver it for them as the day goes by. The supervisor hears that carrier so and so is having trouble, so they'll dispatch a PTF to meet the troubled "delivery specialist" and take some of their "loops" to help deliver. Carrier supervisors are going to need all their extra help on site and working during the first part of the week to cover the extra load, period. So much for eliminating beau coups hours thataway. Another thing that has to be noted is the overtime regulations the Post Office is contractually obligated to follow. Anything over eight hours is overtime. Even for part timers. If Joe Part Time works ten hours in a day, and that is all he works all week, he'll draw eight hours straight time and two hours overtime. Also, if he goes over ten hours, penalty overtime is triggered. Anything over ten hours is double time. Supervisors who authorize double time are cutting their own throats for any promotions in the future. So, penalty OT is right out. This proviso is suspended during the Christmas rush - it's just regular OT during that time period. In order to avoid burning penalty OT, managers are going to have to be Johnny On The Spot with help for their senior carriers.

And another thing while I'm at it - reading the Post Office proposal might give you the impression that the "temporary" or "part time" help is sort of unnecessary, thus eliminating them will save money. Welp, the ol' PO is dead set against full time positions and fights the unions over this all the time. They'd prefer that all the help should be in a part time mode. So, any time a full time employee retires, it's a fight between management and the union to replace that position. Sometimes, management wins. As a result, the part time employees actually put in more hours than most of the senior full time employees (who had to run through this gauntlet in the past, and aren't all that interested in tons of hours anymore - they're in a position to refuse overtime, and do so). In order to get the mail delivered in six days requires quite a few "part timers" just because of deliberate short staffing strategies. Do you really think that just because there is a day less to do it all, the part timers are gonna be sent home?

The estimated work-hour savings for the four types of rural routes are based on the current rural carrier compensation rates. Estimated savings are 18 million work hours, nearly 10 percent of FY 2009 rural carrier hours.

The bulk of the savings would come from work-hour reductions for rural carrier associates (RCAs). The wage rate for RCAs is about half that for regular rural carriers

There also would be vehicle-related savings. Reduced driving would provide savings in fuel and maintenance costs for postal vehicles, and reduce payments for equipment maintenance allowances for carrier-owned vehicles.

The rural carriers are private. Most work five day weeks, and have an RCA available for their off day. I can see the RCA hours being cut and money savings, but it's going to come at the expense of the rural carriers. They operate on bids, so it doesn't matter to the USPS how many hours they work. There is no floating pool of "delivery specialists" to help them. They're on their own. And, I can see the vehicular savings as well. If it's parked, the only costs are fixed. The rural carriers will only be traveling their routes five times instead of six, so mileage allowances will be cut.
Eliminating Saturday delivery also would result in supervisor work reductions. These work reduction savings have been offset to reflect the cost of continuing to deliver Express Mail on Saturday.

About $200 million in annual savings could be realized because of lower processing costs at plants and Post Offices. Moving outgoing sorting from Saturday to Monday would allow savings in plant clerks, mail handlers and supervisors, and reduced maintenance.

Further, eliminating Saturday delivery and collections would reduce the need for clerk staffing at Post Offices. While much of the work formerly performed on Saturday would need to be done Monday through Friday instead, there would still be savings from the activities for which costs are driven by the number of routes and days of delivery.

About $380 million in annual transportation savings would be realized by eliminating Saturday delivery via highway contract, postal vehicle drivers, and contract delivery. Highway contract savings would result from a reduced need for highway transportation on Saturday and Sunday.

Air transport savings would be achieved because less mail would require use of air transportation. Also, eliminating Saturday carrier delivery and collection reduces the need for vehicle service drivers to transport mail between Post Offices and plants on Saturday. Contract delivery savings would also result by modifying contracts to eliminate Saturday delivery.

They are clearly saying that all that delivery machinery on Saturday and Sunday will stop. There was a comment about delivery of Express Mail on weekends, but if there is no way to get it delivered to the destination office, there isn't much point in keeping someone around to deliver it to the destination address. There is also not much point in guaranteeing Express Mail delivery overnight or second day by three pm. If you take it in on Friday expecting it to be delivered at the advertised time, you will be disappointed. Can we say USP or FedEx? If they eliminate all the truck routes, then there has to be some sort of system set up just for the occasional Express Mail piece - which works if you are close to a major airport. Otherwise, it has to be trucked.

FedEx actually carries quite a bit of first class mail for the USPS - a major portion of Priority Mail is handled by them. I'm not sure about the capacity - maybe FedEx has enough space on their planes in place and the USPS has it contracted to absorb the glut of mail on Monday. Considering the planning I've seen from the USPS in the past - well, Oh Ye of Little Faith, I guess.

What does this all mean? The Postal Service self monitors it's delivery goals with EXFC scores - External First Class delivery times. That is gonna go to hell, I guarantee you. Historically, the weekend drop-off in volume trickles down to the delivery points about Wednesday. That means the lowered volume takes that long to show up at the other end. Mondays have always been hectic both for the carriers and clerks - volume of primary mail spikes and the weekend backlog of mail inundates the carrier and clerks sorting mail for their office. It's about to get a whole lot worse - it's a kiss of death for a supervisor to curtail first class delivery, but I'd bet that's about to change. Plus, I've already pointed out that the trucks from the major hubs arriving locally are pretty full. The USPS isn't paying for half full trucks to run up and down the highway - if they are half full, when the contract is renewed, they'll want a smaller truck. So, the trucks are definitely full on Mondays already. The mail that wasn't shipped on Saturday? If it's not being shipped, that means it's going to be stored. That means mail will be curtailed due to lack of cubes in a semi-trailer headed to SCF facilities. By Thursday it might all be shipped, but some will be delayed, end of story.

I've been looking at this from two points of view - the carriers and the shippers. Well, the clerks have to get the increased volume worked up and sent out to both - and that's gonna require extra hours, extra help or extra delays. A lot of my dark predictions depend on the clerks to actually get all the extra mail sorted in order for there to be a glut affecting the shippers and carriers. I'm sure they'll partially succeed.

I'd say the USPS will probably save some money from this - not as much as they're so optimistically predicting, but it will save some. What they aren't saying is how it will affect their performance. Add rate increases, and perception is gonna go downhill even faster.

To be fair, at least part of this isn't their fault. While they have a monopoly on the mailbox, they are not allowed to compete fairly in a lot of arenas. Have you ever bought wrapping materials at a Post Office - like a roll of tape? Ever notice how high priced it is? It's deliberately overpriced so as not to compete with other businesses - if you want it bad enough that you don't want to drive to a store that handles that stuff cheaper - you pay. That's out of the POs hands, as it were.

If anyone reading this is into marketing - has it ever bothered ya that sitting right there is still a positive brand with a fair amount of foot traffic, and it's not being utilized? No mini branch banks or McDonalds inside the local PO? No advertising allowed? Wouldn't a Kinko's style business work just great sharing space in a larger Post Office? The USPS pays a price for it's monopoly of certain services, and staying out of other commercial enterprises is one of the associated costs. Another huge advantage UPS and FedEx have is that if they don't have something for you, they don't come by at all. USPS does - six days a week.

I used to be against privatizing the Postal Service. I had drunk deeply from the union chalice on certain subjects. Sending a letter from Chicago to NYC would be cheap, but just how much would it cost to send a letter from Outer Mongolia Montana to Tumbleweed Texas if there were several entities that had to interline to get it sent? That argument ignores the agreements and cheap shipping prices the freight industry enjoys - a pallet of stuff might pass through several different shipping companies, but it's accomplished at a fairly reasonable rate no matter how many companies handle it. I'm sure private enterprise would be able to figure something out, and what was once the USPS could be right in there competing with the rest, and making money instead of wanting bailed out all the time. If not, oh well. Someone would step up.

Otherwise, considering the inevitable decline of mail volume, we'll be seeing this again, only going from five day delivery to four, or some other cut in services and increasing rates.

Frankly, I'm sooooo glad I don't work there it ain't even funny.

Saturday, April 10, 2010


Yannow, I just don't care who is to blame. NASA, Congress, past administrations, whatever. They're all responsible as far as I'm concerned. Our space program isn't enough of a space program anymore to say it's fallen on hard times - the situation is beyond that.

We set the gold standard for space exploration. Our astronauts were our heroes. Now, the most notable one wore Depends to make a long drive to attempt murder. Children used to want to grow up to be them. We used to have something as a nation that gave us some pride - a shared experience that made us glad to be citizens of these United States. Not anymore. We're reducing ourselves to hitching rides to get to the Space Station that we mostly built.

Why, you'd think our fearless leaders and bureaucrats all lack a vision for the future beyond reelection and keeping their cushy .gov jobs. Oh, wait....

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

EPA To Control Pollen Levels

Something Must Be Done

(JNS - JeffroNewsService)Washington DC

Janet Schmedly Wiesbeut, Deputy Director of Non Commercial Violators, EPA announced today that pollen is now considered a hazardous pollutant. Excessive levels will result in fines being levied against the responsible party or parties.
"Too many Americans have suffered needlessly with the wanton spreading of pollen during the Spring season. Untold millions in lost productivity and an entire allergy industry that costs consumers time and money has driven us to this landmark decision. While pollen is a necessary component for plant life, levels hundreds of times above the extremely high mark of 120 is just too much for people to bear. This spring has found levels so high that outside objects have been coated enough to appear green."
"Can you believe it?" exclaimed Luke Duke of Hazzard County GA. "I just washed the General Lee and it's friggin' green. It oughta be orange. It's just unreal."

Ms. Wiesbeut also announced that the expected revenue from fines and the money saved by lowering pollen levels - which will result in increased productivity - will make this program a moneymaker for the general fund. "We anticipate fines in the millions until Mother Nature AKA Gaia starts controlling the pollen levels."

Robert Gibbs, White House Press Secretary, announced
"This is just the sort of Hope and Change we were all looking for when the nation elected our President Barack Obama. Pollen has been a problem we aren't going to allow anymore. It's also a problem that the Bush Administration ignored and we inherited, but we will reduce this form of pollution rather than allow business as usual. This program will result in some serious income from fines that we will apply to other areas, creating a savings dividend."
Former Vice President Dick Cheney, when reached for comment, said: "These people have lost their *bleep*ing minds. Besides, you don't fool with Mother Nature."

As a counter point, current Vice President Joe Biden rebutted Cheney:
"This sort of bad language and backwards thinking is what we've come to expect from the FORMER Vice President. This is just the sort of thing that cost theBush/Cheney ticket the 2008 election."
When reminded that Bush was unable to run and the ticket was actually McCain/Palin Biden responded:
"Yeah, whatever."
It is rumored that the Republican response will include a claim that they were considering punitive measures against Mother Nature, but were not considering wholesale changes in the EPA's dangerous pollutants list.

Monday, April 05, 2010

I Rattled His Doors

To the collector of used bung fodder I encountered Bryan's Corner, OK (intersection of US83 and US412) today:

You, in your POS white (but not washed in the last six months) day cab pulling the pneumatic trailer, saw me stop at the sign and turn left to the east. Of course, it would have completely ruined your day to actually stop at the driveway coming out of the truck stop. Even worse, you'd have to have waited on me to go by, costing you at least ten seconds of your valuable day. No, once you saw you could run the stop and get out ahead of me, you really gassed that sucker, kicking up a cloud of dust and had just a bit of trouble making your corner at speed.

Well, needless to say, I was a bit surprised at the brashness of this move. Perhaps you really had some ponies under the hood of that stripped steel wheeled painted bumper wonder you were driving, and maybe, just maybe, you'd make an excellent front door - leaving me in your dust. That would have worked for me. I'd have understood a bit better, and forgiven you.

Alas, no. Your so called ride had all the oomph of a Yugo climbing Pike's Peak with a load of bricks and lead in the trunk. I had to back out of my modest acceleration efforts.

However, I could see that there was no traffic coming our way, so I thought "What the hell" and eased back down on the loud pedal in a serious manner. As I passed by your cab, I noticed you wouldn't even look at me. Well, I guess I'm not surprised. You were a dick for pulling out and a rude bastard for not having the power to get out of my way, so I conclude you are a dumbass. If getting out in front of me is that f$%^ing important, perhaps actually driving faster than me should be on your checklist.

Really, considering how windy it was, that's pretty sad that I could outdrag you like that with an oversize load. I'll bet you don't brag about this little incident to your buds. I'll also bet you don't pull that shit on me or one of our trucks again. All of our trucks can eat yours for a snack, and don't you forget it. If there is a next time, you'd better stay the hell out of my way.

Sunday, April 04, 2010


This is a little late for an Easter post, but oh, well. I just saw it.

Mr. Deal's Easter - check it out.

H/T Chaz at Dustbury via Twitter

Saturday, April 03, 2010

Rosalyn Vs Calvin

For your viewing pleasure today - a complete story arc of Calvin and Hobbes involving his babysitter nemesis Rosalyn.

Rosalyn always "had Calvin's number." And, messing around online, did you know there is a Calvin and Hobbes Wiki? I thought this comment from Rosalyn's page was pretty insightful:
In the final Rosalyn story, however, the traditional war is averted by a game of Calvinball, in which Rosalyn proves to be a formidable player, and once again trumps Calvin with a clever move in the last panel. This display of extensive imagination showed her to be not entirely lost to the dull world of adulthood, and this trait allows her to sympathize with Calvin's needs and ultimately control him much better than his mother ever could, such as in the same storyline as above, in which she allows him to stay up half an hour past his bedtime, and plays Calvinball with him, two actions which Calvin's mom would be sure to avoid (ironically, on returning home, Calvin's parents refuse to believe that she was able to play a game with him, and assume she is making a joke).
The idea that Rosalyn was actually better suited to controlling Calvin because she could better relate to him never occurred to me before.

But, that's why we all love and miss Spaceman Spiff and Tracer Bullet - the strip was so much more than a collection of sight gags. There was a lot of subtlety in relationships and character studies carefully inserted under our noses that made the strip more than just a sum of it's parts. When Bill Watterson quit, I have to admit I thought he was being just a bit of a prima donna. He was supposed to be a professional artist - getting paid to produce material. But, the older I get and the longer he's been gone its far easier to see just how much of a genius he is and how much he invested himself emotionally in Calvin and Hobbes. He might have been getting paid, and paid well for a product, but it was far more than just drawings to him. He produced art beyond the drawings and even the fabulous Sunday panels. Waterson quit rather than allow his strip to be commercialized like so many others. He didn't hire people to do his work under his byline (can we say Jim Davis?) or keep the strip going by turning it over to someone the syndicate decided was appropriate (Where to start? Wizard of Id, Hagar, Blondie, Beetle Bailey, Hi and Lois, Dennis the Menace and so many others). Mr. Watterson decided he couldn't go on, and he also didn't want someone else messing with his finely crafted creation. Can't blame the guy for that.

And, if there was any doubt before, y'all should realize now what a comics geek I am. Heh.

Friday, April 02, 2010

Ur Doin It Rong

Yep, generations of farmers have been doin it rong. Or at least missing a step or three. Using fertilizers, pesticides, specially bred grains, specialized equipment plus years and years of experience just isn't enough. At least for limousine liberal gardeners, at any rate:

the first lady knelt in the 1,500-square-foot garden and planted two rows of broccoli as well as some rhubarb.

After the rhubarb was in the ground Mrs. Obama and some of the children performed what she called a "growing dance" around the wooden planter. The group chanted "grow, rhubarb, grow" several times, then circled the planter and finished by throwing their hands in the air.

White House assistant chef Sam Kass, who oversees the garden, joined in for the last round of the dance.

Up until now, I had no idea some sort of Wiccan Mother Gaea interpretive dance was necessary. Was this just some sort of ad-libbed performance? Or is it a tradition refined by generations of environmentally oriented Chicago Democrat farmers? Just asking. I'm curious that way. Now, as a poorly practicing Christian I would think a prayer or two might be apropos. Amazing how the First Lady never thought of that - gee, I wonder why? Aren't she and Teh Won supposed to be Christian? Huh. It's so hard to tell from their actions. They did claim to be, after all.

Of course, I'm being kinda hard on her, since she only shows up at the garden for photo ops. White House grounds crew and kitchen staff plus volunteers do all the work.

And, towards the end of the "news" story, I saw something that just absolutely warmed me to the cockles of my withered conservative heart:
Joining Mrs. Obama were Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius ,and several White House chefs.

Well, Kathleen! How the heck have you been? How's that career change working out for you? Jumping on the Obama Bandwagon - well, maybe it hasn't gone just quite like you thought? Did Barry and Co. throw you under the bus? This is what you're reduced to - photo ops in the White House Garden? Isn't organic gardening kind of a stretch, even for you? Where were you during the brouhaha over health care? Wasn't that your purview? Hows come you weren't front and center on your own turf? I'll take "under the bus"for $100, Alex.

Ahh, but I'm a bitter gun owner clinging to his religion and the nuances of progressive thinking are just beyond me, I guess. But, tell me, Kathleen - aren't you glad you threw away being governor of a lousy flyover red state like Kansas to be RIGHT THERE IN THE CIRCLE OF POWER, ready to kiss some Obama Butt? I mean, even if it's just Michelle's ample behind, that's gotta get you some gold stars on your dinner plate! You just keep on keepin' on, while we ignorant types back home try to figure out how to pay for all the stuff you said we had to have!

No, really, stay there in DC. Thanks so much.

H/T Ace

Thursday, April 01, 2010

I've Had Enough

If you ever watch television at all (seems I've got the flu, so opportunities abound), you've seen the diabetic supply commercials (such as Liberty Medical) where they give away a "free" meter, and if you happen to be on Medicare, why gee - all the supplies are shipped to you "free of charge" or nearly so.

OK, politics about "free" aside, what has really been chapping my hide is the meter itself. They're usually some sort of off breed large display (so elderly eyes can read it better) model with a voice synthesizer that can announce the reading - just in case the display isn't large enough. OK, fine. Those are logical benefits that the elderly can use and appreciate.

Invariably, they ALL claim doing this confirms accuracy. Do these wonder meters actually test the blood sample several times? Nope - just once and the visual and vocal readings are based on a single test.

THIS DOES NOT CONFIRM ACCURACY, YOU DUMB SONSABITCHES. In order to confirm accuracy, one needs more than just one data point. Is this meter more accurate over multiple testing sessions than others? Maybe, maybe not, BUT READING THE SAME READING EVEN DOZENS OF TIMES DOESN'T MAKE IT MORE ACCURATE. Does my shooting once at a bullseye and missing it completely, but repeatedly announcing how accurate it was make it true? Not bloody likely.


There, I feel better.

And, just so you know, as a habitual user of blood glucose monitors, I can tell you the ones that claim the sample can be drawn from the arm because they don't need as much blood are full of feces as well. I've got one, and if the blood drop I get from a fingertip is too small, the reading will always be high. As in "Wow, I figured I'd be around 100 - but 350? Are you serious?" Retesting (at over a buck a strip) with a bigger drop of blood will return a more normal reading. So, if my meter was talking to me on the first reading, it would be full of massive amounts of dung. Confirming accuracy, no doubt - keeping up the spirit of the shyster salesmen.

Real Patriotism

As we all know, Tea Partiers are all racist, bigoted, mouth breathing knuckle dragging terrorists in some sort of chrysalis stage, just waiting to erupt and rain down death, destruction, and dissent. Wingnuts. Since Teh Won took office, anyone who deigns to disagree is labeled thusly.

But, let's go back in time a bit and see what passed for intelligent opposing discourse to the Bush administration:


Of course, these people were patriots exercising their right to freedom of speech. After all, advocating the murder of a Republican President isn't considered "out there" or threatening. I hope this helps y'all out if you are suffering some sort of disconnect when you see the "news media" reports on the radical right and think maybe, just maybe, they have an agenda, are hypocrites, and short memories. Nope - Right is bad, left progressive is good. Just remember that, and you'll be fine.

Dead Letter File

Or rather, people in my email address book who have passed away. One of my email buddies crossed the divide. ki0qd won't be broadcasting any more.

Once in a blue moon, I'll go through the list and clean it up a bit. If I've not heard from someone in several years, I assume that maybe, just maybe, they aren't all that interested in hearing from me. So, I'll delete their entries. Or sometimes, it's a married couple sharing an address, and they aren't enjoying marital bliss much these days, so the addy is more than likely unattended.

However, going through my list, I find that I've got several addresses of married couples where the husband has left behind a widow, who still uses that address. I don't edit the listings - they still say John and Jane Doe rather than just Jane Doe.

Then there are the ones who are out right not with us anymore. The address is abandoned - gradually filling up until the mail bounces. These are the ones that kinda bother me. I don't email anything to 'em, but I can't seem to edit them out of my address book. It's my little way of remembering these people - I guess I'm afraid I might more easily forget them if I consider them extraneous data. Keeping their addresses honors their memory for me.

So, am I some sort of weirdo? What do y'all do with your deceased contacts? Surely I'm not the only one who runs into this dilemma.