Friday, May 29, 2009

Friday afternoon, and I'm back in the library in San Saba.

Nope, there won't be any Friday dinner with Mom this week. In stead, I'm sitting in my regular seat at computer number two (one of seven here at the library, but one of only two that has Firefox downloaded to it), toiling away at the usual shit. I've got posts to set up so you folks will have somethin' to do while I'm away next week. More on that later.

Oh, everything is cool here. My three jobs have steadily wound down to one. I'm really looking forward to the next four weeks of working only here in Saba (well, one week of fishing and three of teaching), followed by another five weeks of total freedom... meaning five weeks of payed vacation from everyone.
Oh, it's gonna cost me. My salary will go down to about half or two thirds of what it normally is, but it'll be worth it to have the freedom and relaxation.

My Ft. Hood classes ended the Thursday before last, and the classes in Florence fizzled out this week. I had to go down there yesterday to finalize the grades and sign some paperwork, but other than that it's over. The Principal asked me a while back if I was gonna be coming back in the Fall. I told him I was torn. The money's OK, and It's steady, easy work, but
if I stopped comin' I get to sleep in every day until about 10:30 and have Fridays off. Three-day weekends would be nice to have. But I told him I'd be back. I can't turn down the money just yet. Soon though, and it'll be really nice when it does happen.

To tell the truth though, I think I'd miss it if I stopped teachin' these classes. I've gotten used to it all... bein' back in high school again. I went in last Tuesday to finish grading things and take roll. It was the last time I'd see most of those kids. They've been in my classes for two years now, but I've been teaching down there as long as they've been in High School. Four years. You remember how long those four years were when you were in school? I though they'd never end. but these have flown by.

A few of the Seniors asked me if I'd be going to their graduation, which takes place today. They really sounded disappointed when I told them I couldn't. I usually do attend, and I've always enjoyed it. I went to the last few, when some of their older brothers or sisters graduated. But I've got plans for next week, taking three days off from the jail to go fishing in Canada with my cousin and a few other guys. So I've had to come out here to San Saba to make up for a class I'll be missing next Wednesday.

I guess I'm surprised how much it upsets me not to be able to go to that Graduation today. It's always an emotional time. I'll never forget the first time I went to a
CTC graduation on Ft. Hood. Lots of my former students were getting their Associates Degrees. It was fun to recognize people from my classes and see them in their caps and gowns. It was even nicer when a few of them came up to me after and thanked me. It made me feel like what I do really is important. You forget that, getting used to the routine of it all. It's nice to remember it from time to time.

One of the kids in Florence asked me something as the class ended Tuesday. Something about life. She was jokin' around, making light of the fact that we wouldn't see one another again. I told her to live as full a life as she could, "but don't be stupid about it." We both laughed, but I repeated the words again as she was trailing off down the hall.

I figured out a while back that the best thing about teaching high school kids is the chance it gives me to try to pass on what little wisdom i think I've managed to cobble together in 48 years. I pick my moments carefully, finding part of a lecture where I can pontificate a bit. Ether that or I just jump in when I find them talking about a relevant topic.

A while back, a few of the bright ones were talking about their English teacher. She'd given them some Robert Frost to read. You know... The road less traveled, etc., etc.. One of the kids asked me what it was all about, and that was all it took. I told him that Frost was saying that sometimes it's better to take a path in life that takes you in a different direction. It takes courage to go a different way than everyone else. It takes you away from the crowd, and maybe in a getter direction. Of course, sometimes you'll find that path is less traveled for a good reason, but you will have gained a level of wisdom from the traveling. i told them that life was meant to be lived! That they shouldn't settle for just existing.

I told him I thought there was a better poem that said the same thing in a better way, clicked on YouTube and showed them this. It's Bono reciting a poem by Charles Bukowski called "Roll The Dice". You've seen it here before.

That poem always tares me up. I've been such an idiot in my life, wasting most of the last thirty years just existing. I guess, when it comes to being a teacher, I feel like I personify the old joke about "Those who can't do...".

For whatever reason, whether it was my upbringing or my own internal wiring, or maybe a combination of the two, I never had the guts to roll those dice. I've never felt the freedom or the confidence in my own decision making to take that other path that Frost wrote about. Hell, I never even took the well worn path, being to afraid for tripping and looking foolish to all the other walkers. I just sat in my room watching television, were it was safe. I've spent my whole life sitting back and watching others turn down that path, watching as they had a great adventure and envying them, but I never had the courage to go there myself.

Oh, I've had my fun. I've been around the world and seen lots of cool things. But even then, when I saw people going out to live it up, I always stayed behind. So, seeing these kids off into the world, there's a HUGE part of me that wishes I could trade places with them. I'm so envious, seeing the freedom in them. They're so much less tied down than I was. They're like so many of the kids I went to school with, most of whom went on from high school to live full lives.

I started living, really living, just a while ago. I guess I got to the point (with the help of a great set of friends) where the desire to live overpowered the fear of dying. So now, looking back, I see all the things that came my way over the last three decades... all the stuff I passed up, and I let it get to me.

Mostly, I realize that I'm still that scared kid. I still really don't have the courage to take that mysterious path. Don't get me wrong. I'm NOT the scared kid I used to be. But deep down inside, I still prefer the known to the unknown. I still don't trust myself when it comes to knowing the right things to do. The confidence just isn't there.

Oh, when I'm in class, like I will be in just a while, sitting in front of a room full of convicts, I own that fuckin' room. It's mine. I know my stuff and I run things. So I know that I can be confident. I guess I just never developed that level of confidence when it comes to other things. Maybe it's because, at 48, I'm only still just a beginner at life while I've had 18 years to learn how to own that classroom. Yea, that's the ticket. maybe, if I live another twenty years, I'll get to the point where I feel as confident in my personal life as I do in a classroom. Lets hope so. I've got a lot of catching up to do.

Like I said, I'm going fishing next week. Denise and I will go to a gun show Saturday in Belton and then spend the rest of the weekend doing yard work. I'll teach class here in San Saba Monday, but then Tuesday I'll fly out of Austin, headed for Syracuse New York. My cousin Bob and a few other guys will drive by there from Williamsport Pennsylvania Wednesday morning and we'll all head up to Gananoque, Ontario Canada for four days of rest and relaxation (go here for pictures from past trips). I'll fly back to Austin with a camera load of shots on Sunday, and then the grind, though seriously reduced, will begin again the next day when I head back here to San Saba to pick up where I left off.

So, let's all give a toast to the graduating Seniors down in Florence (or wherever) as they step off into the world, and maybe toss another back for those of us who are still stumbling along, tryin' to find our way on this journey. Lets wish them all the best, and that they find the courage to live life to it's fullest, but that they manage not to be too stupid about it. Cheers!

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Ninja Nerd.

God bless him. He's probably been kicked around all his life... but damn, dude, just get yourself a pistol.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Found this on Live Leak. Check it out. The text was written by the person who posted the video.

The American counter insurgency in this Taliban stronghold in Kunar Province has been at a bloody draw for years now. War reporter C.J. Chivers explains the fight from the inside.By C. J. CHIVERS

Published: May 13, 2009
KORANGAL OUTPOST, Afghanistan — The helicopters landed in blackness before the moon rose. The infantry company rushed out and through waist-high vegetation and into forests on Afghan ridge.

Over the next 40 hours, more than 100 soldiers from the First Battalion, 26th Infantry, swept Sautalu Sar, the mountain where members of the Navy Seals were surrounded in battle in 2005. They were looking for weapons caches and insurgents.

They labored uphill through snow until daybreak, when the company broke into smaller patrols above 9,200 feet. They descended the next night through gullies and shin-deep mud and staggered back to their outpost without having yet slept.

All the while, the insurgents watched. Why fight the Americans when the Americans were ready and strong?

Afghanistan is to be President Obama’s war, and the Pentagon is retooling its efforts here in ways it hopes will undermine a sprawling insurgency. But as soldiers on the ground await reinforcements, this American operation showed that an old axiom of guerrilla warfare still applied: Where conventional soldiers mass, insurgents usually disperse.

Even the means were familiar. In the Korangal Valley, the insurgents have spotters on ridges. When the Americans send out a patrol, or launch a helicopter assault, spotters relay word up and down the valley. Then they decide what, if anything, to do.

What is the way through? The United States once talked of winning here. Now it speaks, more carefully, of succeeding. How success will be defined remains any soldier’s guess.

Will it be enough to ensure Afghanistan is not a launching pad for attacks against the United States and its allies — in other words, to ensure it is not a national security threat?

Or will success be declared when Afghanistan aligns with the more ambitious vision projected by the Bush administration? In that plan, Afghanistan, one of the most traditional lands on earth, becomes a nation remade along at least faintly Western lines.

For that to be achieved, a far-flung and multiethnic population would have to accept a national idea and create a functioning government with free and fair elections, women’s rights, honest police officers and courts, and a diverse economy not floated by drugs. Pakistan, which harbors insurgents, would have to stabilize its frontiers.

Instead, Pakistan is simmering, and conditions for Afghan self-sufficiency are not going to be met soon. And so where the war is at its most violent and the other side usually picks when to fight, soldiers focus on immediate things, like not getting killed, and trying to kill the insurgents with whom they constantly skirmish.

Each day there are patrols, and watches to stand, and weapons to clean, and the difficulties of staying healthy in a harsh place, where ravens and dogs fight over the smoldering trash pit and flies move between chow tables and the latrine. And there is the dwindling, as units lose members to injuries, illness or death.

But after a long combat tour, the soldiers have gleaned insights valuable outside their bloody little plot, including that Afghan insurgents are not supermen, as they are often portrayed. They are lightly equipped. Sometimes they appear malnourished. Intelligence intercepts indicate that while they can coordinate their actions, they compete and quarrel with one another like anyone else.

No matter the legends of yesteryear, their ranks are crowded with poor marksmen — a weakness that makes them less effective than they might be.

Even still, the American presence is thin enough, and the Afghan and Pakistani governments weak enough, that in large areas the insurgents are both shadowy and the dominant social and military force. In these places, an American operation can feel like a thrust into air. Heavily armed soldiers are left to trudge, as outsiders in Afghanistan always have, through punishing weather and terrain.

Near the sweep’s end, as the company descended a cliff, a large rock slipped free and began a bouncing descent. Soldiers above warned soldiers below. “Rock!” they shouted. “Rock!”

No use. The chunk of stone, perhaps weighing 70 pounds, spun through the air and slammed into Sgt. Christopher Thompson. It could have killed him, but it struck squarely on his flak jacket, which distributed the impact. Sergeant Thompson was stunned. He drifted in and out of consciousness.

Within 15 minutes he regained his feet. In a half hour he was fording the river with soldiers beside him ensuring that he did not slip and drown. Then he climbed the hill on the far side.

This unglamorous sort of toughness is a common sight. But insurgents display toughness, too, making Korangal Valley an example of what can happen when determined adversaries settle into a competition for a small space.

American soldiers here pass their tours in an incredibly narrow plot: a string of fields, a few hundred houses and the rocky trails that connect them.

If the valley will be won over by fighting, then more troops may tilt the balance. But the Army cannot support more troops here without a road to resupply them, and the insurgents have prevented a road from being built. So the two sides fight as if in another time, with groups of men maneuvering and firing at each other from the same areas each day, gradually thinning each other’s ranks.

The morning after the sweep, the soldiers gathered outside. A pair of boots, a helmet and a rifle had been arranged before an American flag. Dog tags hung from the rifle. They bore the name of Pfc. Richard Dewater, 21, who had been killed by a bomb hidden on a trail.

“Tricky,” the soldiers called him. He had just celebrated his first wedding anniversary, and hoped to start a family after returning to the United States this summer. Instead the soldiers filed past, in pairs and in threes, to grieve his early return. Many cried.

After the ceremony, the violence resumed. The soldiers detected a Taliban spotter on a ridge, which was pounded with mortars and then white phosphorus rounds from a 155-millimeter howitzer.

What did the insurgents do? When the smoldering subsided, they attacked from exactly the same spot, shelling the outpost with 30-millimeter grenades and putting the soldiers on notice that the last display of firepower had little effect. The Americans escalated. An A-10 aircraft made several gun runs, then dropped a 500-pound bomb.

The valley quieted. Had the insurgents been killed? Probably not, the soldiers said. Another day in the Korangal, with both sides making the point they made during the sweep: Do what you will. We are still here.

More American troops are due in Afghanistan later this year, with hopes of strengthening the government, filling seams across the south and east, where the Taliban is often unchallenged, and breaking exactly this kind of deadlock.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Happy Memorial Day.

First off, let me say greetings to a certain geezer who turns 63 today. I tell ya, he makes it look good, slapped up on the porch with a beer and a good ceeegar.

Happy Birthday brother! Enjoy it. I hope you and Judy have a great day, and another great year.

Also, let me say thanks to Mushy there, Bruno, Sarge, Old Soldier, Pat, Myron, and all the other vets for their service. Let's not forget what this holiday is about!

Now, for the weekend report. Denise and I went over to Temple Friday evening and took Mom out to eat. We took her to the Cotton Patch, which is a nice country style restaurant at Temple mall. We decided to start with the fried mushrooms, which were wonderful. Then all three of us chose the Patty Melt and fries. They make a wonderful Patty Melt, with grilled onions, cheese and a hamburger patty on toasted Rye bread. After that we strolled around the Mall for a bit, and then took Mom back to her place. She broke out the Chateau Monet and we enjoyed a little after dinner tipple.

After that we headed back to Harker Hights, outside Killeen, and got tickets at the new multiplex to see the latest Terminator movie. It was really cool. We both enjoyed it a lot. We got there too late to get tickets to the 9:10 movie, which was sold out. So we sat and waited for the next showing at 10PM. By the time we got to our seats I'd already killed off the small bag of popcorn, but I was saving the diet Coke for something special. When the lights went down I emptied a small plastic bottle of Bacardi and used the straw to stir it around. This has become our routine, ever since Chuck told us about it a while back. It's a brilliant, civilized way to enjoy an evening out... sippin' a Rum and Coke while you enjoy a flick on the big screen.

Saturday morning, after we'd taken our time getting up and started, we got up and got a little yard work done. We pulled some weeds out of the front garden, pruned a few bushes and replanted a Hosta that'd been languishing in a pot for about a year. Then we showered and headed to HEB for supplies, and finally drove West towards San Saba.

My buddy Ellis had a camp-out and booze-up planned for the Memorial Day weekend at his families place along the San Saba river. We had plans to show up and have some fun on Saturday afternoon. Thing is, the weather started looking rougher as we drove West. We'd drive through stretches of 190 that were soaked, but the sun was shining. Then the rain started, and it got worse as we got closer and closer to town.

When we got to town we hooked up with Ellis and his gang and followed them out West of town, to the spot on the river. On getting there, we found the rain had washed out much of the fun. The revelers were all huddled under big umbrellas or tents, enjoying the rain and intermittent lightning. After waiting there in our cars for a while to see if the weather would clear, we decided to head over to his house in town and move the party there.

When we got there we sat around and got better acquainted. Denise had never met Ellis before, and I'd never met his new girlfriend Christy. His childhood friend Tommy was there too, regaling us with stories about life in the small town of San Saba. It was a great time.

By the time Ellis got the cooker going out on the back porch, his kids had gotten a good mud fight going outside.

What started with mud pies eventually turned into a mud bath.

It was hilarious to watch. I was reminded of similar scene, some 35 or 40 years earlier, when my friends and I were covered head to tow in mud from the creek that flowed behind our house in Kansas City. I said something about how one of these days, these girls will have to pay big money for a mud bath.

Having gotten the camera to get pictures of the kids, I couldn't resist getting a shot of Denise and Christy. It was great, the way everyone had a great time, even with the rain. Christy made some wonderful Guacamole, and Denise whipped up some veggie dip, so by the time Ellis got back from runnin' his kids one place or another, we were almost stuffed on chips and goodies.

Ellis had gotten the grill started before he left, so the fire was just right by the time he got back and put the chicken on. He grilled some Chicken breasts there on the porch and Christy baked some taters in the oven. It all turned out great. between the pre-dinner snacks and the good meal, we were stuffed by the time we left at about 9pm. We said our goodbyes and headed home, tellin' them that they all needed to come to our place here in Killeen pretty soon and do it all again.

We woke up Sunday to find that the rain from San Saba had made it's way to our place in the middle of the night. So we slept in and enjoyed the Memorial Day weekend war movie fest on TV. Denise made breakfast in the middle of Operation Crossbow and then we had a nap in the middle of Where Eagles Dare. She'd put a roast in the crock pot in the morning, so we enjoyed that for dinner Sunday night.

By then the sun had come out, so we got busy, getting out in the yard. By the time the sun was setting, the two of us were sitting on the swing on the back porch, enjoying an adult beverage and thinking about how nice it will be to sleep in on Monday.

Today, oh, I'll probably go visit dad... Take a few tools out there to work on some of the weeds that will have grown since the last visit. Maybe we'll go see Mom again. I don't know. We'll see. You guys have a wonderful holiday and we'll talk again in mid week. Cheers!

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

And here's what it looks like with the top down.

Looks like an East German folder.

Funky eh?

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

'nuff said.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Obamaman. Try not to laugh.


The name says it all, but what a jump! Damn, and look at that little dude run!

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Friday, May 15, 2009

Back to work, just in time for the weekend.

I got out of class at about 9:30PM Tuesday night and drove home. Denise was sittin' there on the couch waitin' for me, dreadin' the hell out of the drive up to Mineral Wells. But I talked her into thinkin' that we'd both be happier in the morning if we could sleep in till 8AM, rather than get up at 5 and have to make the two-and-a-half hour drive at the butt crack of dawn. She finally saw the sense in it, so we packed one bag, hung our dress-up fuferall on the hook in the back seat of my car and hit the road.

We zipped up 281 at a fairly legal speed, stopping once in Stevenville to pee and pick up a Diet Mtn Dew and some Jerky. You know... road trip food. We got to Mineral Wells by about 1:20AM, rollin' up to the Best Western on the East side of town. Ten minutes and Ninety some-odd bucks later we were slapped up in a king sized bed with a flat screen TV, the alarm set for 7:45AM

The next morning, as Denise got herself together, I went down to check out the free breakfast in the lobby. It was half assed. I managed to scrounge an English Muffin and some Philly cream cheese. We hit the road and headed West, back into town and towards the church.

The Funeral services were nice. They were held at the First United Methodist Church there in town. It was easy to find, right down behind the Baker Hotel. We saw Jim and Terry there when we drove up. Soon I recognised his mother and a few of his sisters, all of whom had flown in or driven up to represent their side of the family. It was great to see them all again, even in these circumstances.

When we got around to the front we saw Terry's Mom, Judy, surrounded by friends and family. She was being strong and cheery, just as she always is. Terry's son (from her first marriage) Kevin was there too, holding on to his Grandmother. They all complemented us on the flowers I'd sent up from a local florist. I was glad that they were well received, since I'd ordered them over the phone, sight unseen.

The service was very nice, to the extent that any funeral is pleasant. I blubbered through the whole thing. I couldn't stop thinkin' about dad. He's been gone a little over a year now. I miss him a lot.

After the service we drove out to a little cemetery in the country, out near the family farm, and there was another short service there. The drive out from town was a bit hectic. I'd never been in a funeral procession before, but I knew that usually there's a cop stopping traffic so everyone can make it through the lights. Sure enough, not this time.

I quickly got behind someone who I thought was part of the group and followed them. I didn't know where the friggin' cemetery was, so I got more and more exasperated with each red light we stopped at. I thought, "If this broad is goin' to her hairdressers and not the cemetery I'm gonna be REALLY PISSED!" But we didn't get lost. Everything turned out fine, and after a short stay there we all drove a little way further down the road to the Farm to relax.

They put on a nice lunch there after everything. We changed clothes, relaxed and spent a few more hours listening to hilarious stories about Tom, trying to comfort Terry and Judy. It was the first opportunity for Judy to meet Denise, and the first time Denise saw the farm. It was also the first time I'd been there in a long while.

The last time I was there, maybe a year or two ago, Terry had just discovered two black Lab pups down by the barn. The assumption is that someone had dumped them off, probably after a German Shepherd or something got into the chicken coop. No way to know one way or the other, but the dogs were precious. They were both little balls of energy, tearin' around the fenced yard with the other family dogs.

Both being male, they decided to name them "Jeff" and "Jim". Sounded funny to all of us then. Well, sure enough, Jim turned out to be a bit too rambunctious, snapping at poor little Jeff now and then, tryin' to be the alpha male in the house. When he bit Judy one day while she was trying to feed the two of them, they decided that was enough. They decided to give him away. The story goes that as soon as he joined his new family he calmed down and now sleeps with the kids of the house.

You can see from this shot that little Jeff is grown to be the very likeness of his namesake. He's a beast, but a lovable one. He's just like me... big and heavy, and yet surprisingly fast when he needs to be.

Like me, he's fond of laying around in a cool place, fond of water, quick to roll over and splay his legs in submission at the right signal, and quick with a nuzzle and a wet tongue for those who show him kindness and a soft touch.

That yellowish tan dog is Jim's little girl Sydney. Look how classy she is. She's always sittin' with those paws crossed. So elegant. He's trained her so that she's always under his control. We've taken her camping, climbing all over Enchanted Rock, and she sat up to keep the coons from getting in our coolers. Good dog, Sydney.

This is Scruffy. I got used to callin' him "Snaggle Tooth", because of the way his lower front fangs protrude out at funny angles. Makes him look like he's got a permanent snarl, but he's a sweetie, just like the others. These are all found dogs or pound puppies by the way. Mutts all, and all wonderful.

Here's one more shot of the twins. Can't resist postin' it. Jeff and Jeff. What a pair we make.

That porch is pretty cool too. Wide and long, like you'd expect in a typical ranch house. Tom and Judy really did build a marvelous life there together. He'll be sorely missed.

We left out of there for the drive home at about 2:30 or 3PM, driving out of the ranch and up onto 281, following it all the way back down to Lampassas. We made the turn there on a back road that leads you to the little town of Kempner, where we stopped for dinner. After Jaeger Schnitzel and such and the Brick Oven, we drove on home. It was a long day, but a good one.

The rest of the week has been uneventful. I gave finals last night on Ft. Hood and then went out to start a new round of 9-ball at a nice new place over in Harker Hights. I won again, so I must have been doin' somethin' right. Two big mugs of dark beer helped.

Today I'm in the Library at San Saba, making up the classes I missed taking off Wednesday. I'll head back to the jail in a little bit and do my evening class, and then the weekend will begin. There's more yard work in the plans, and maybe a trip up to Dallas to see my buddy Russell and his girlfriend Jude, both of whom fly in from Wales Saturday night. They're gonna spend about a week driving around the state, flying back out after Memorial Day. We'll get together at some point. It'll be great to see him again, and to finally meet Jude.

Anyway, It's about that time, so I'll hang this up and head out. You guys have a great weekend and we'll talk on the other side of this one. Cheers!

Tuesday, May 12, 2009


Haven't had the chance to post anything in a while. Been busy with yard work and stuff.

Denise and I went to a big graduation ceremony for the college we work for last Friday afternoon. I sat up in the middle of it all with the faculty and Denise stood guard over the graduates. I get to dress up in a flowing robe and look official while she herds cats. It's always fun. I sat in the chair there with my buddy Dave Lazarus, the BBQ cook-off guy. Then we all went to BJs in Temple for lunch.

After lots of good food and drink (no, I didn't take any pictures), I drove to Belton to pick up a clock that's been in the shop for a while. It's one of the old clocks my Dad bought in England when I was a kid. The clock man says it's an English Fusee, dating from the 1820s or 30s or so. Still runs like a charm, but was in need of dusting. He's still got my Cuckoo.

Dad brought that one back from Germany in the late 1940s. It's in need of work too. When I get that one back I'll take in my third clock. It's a beautiful British clock that's designed to sit on a mantle piece. All three of these clocks were broken, their faces torn off, when those fuckers robbed my house back in 2005. They've been busted ever since. It's great to hear the tick tock again. Though Denise has yet to get used to it, it's music to my ears.

I got home at about 2PM Friday afternoon and crashed, sleeping till about 7PM. Needless to say, there was no dinner with Mom on Friday. Denise and Mom were both cool with that. Denise was tired too. We relaxed the rest of the night and then slept in Saturday.

Saturday was a furious day of house and Yard work. Denise tore me a new one, outworkin' me on every level. We'd pulled weeds in the back yard the previous weekend, till we'd gotten through about half of them. About mid-week, Denise went to Lowe's and got me a new mower. So, Saturday afternoon I put the mower together and ran it through the front yard and into the back. It's a doozie. Runs like a charm.

We pulled and hacked through the rest of the big weeds in the back and then mowed over the rest, taking multiple wheelbarrow loads of crap to the field across the road from the house. In the end, we both sat on the swing on the back porch and admired our handiwork. We still have stuff to do, but it'll get done in time.

Saturday night we celebrated with a great dinner at The Outback Steakhouse. Then we went to see the new Star Trek movie. It was cool as hell. I recommend it. Sunday was a lazy day, spent rollin' around on the couch and enjoyin' one another's company. Then I drove Mom and Sis to Austin and we ate a great Mexican meal at Pappasito's

Aren't you happy I'm sparing you all those tantalizing food pictures? No time. Gotta go.

Monday night, Denise and I went back to Belton and watched a few of our friends go through their Masters Degree commencement. Dave Lazarus, the same BBQ cook-off guy and his colleague Elke Jensen. I've know these folks for years, so it was a lot of fun to see them do the walk. It was cool, until I realized that it's been 20 years since I got my masters degree. I did my walk back in 1988. Makes me wonder what the hell I've been doing with my life since then.

After that we all went to a local place to relax. After a bit, Denise and I went over to the house of another friend of hers to celebrate her commencement She'd gotten her Masters the same day. That's when and where the booze began to flow. I had to turn the keys over to Denise after lots of shots and such. It was fun.

Tonight, I'm finishing up my lectures on base and reviewing these folks for their finals on Thursday. When I get out of here I'm gonna go home, change clothes and pack the car for a drive north to Mineral Wells. I found out over the weekend that a good friend of mine lost his battle with Muscular Dystrophy and Heart Disease. My buddy Jim's father in law, Tom Myers, passed away over the weekend. Denise and I are gonna drive up tonight and attend the funeral there tomorrow at 10AM.

Jim's been a wonderful friend to me for over twenty years. His wife Terry is hurtin' bad. Tom was always a great guy to me, and his wife Judy is a sweetheart who's always been a rock to that family. I want to be there to offer them whatever comfort I can. of course, missing my San Saba classes tomorrow means I'll have to drive out there and make them up this Friday. So there'll be no Friday feed with Mom this week ether. We'll have to make it up over the weekend.

Finally, my friend from Grad School who lives in Wales, Russell, is flying in with his British girlfriend Saturday night. We'll drive up to Dallas and hang out there Sunday, and maybe by Memorial Day weekend they'll be coming back around to visit us here. He's gonna take her around Dallas, San Antone and Fredeicksburg over the space of a week. They should have a good time. It'll be good to see him again.

Anyway, I'm off. You guys have a great week and we'll talk after all this mess is over. Cheers!

Thursday, May 07, 2009

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

So, what's the difference between a Russian AK and a Romanian AK?

Well, where was I. Oh yea, the Assault Gun Ban in the 1990s.

Just when the Romanians were about to begin to import all their cool AK-74 type rifles in the country, some pencil necked, syphilitic moron decided to force all the countries selling AKs to tap weld the muzzle nuts, replace the butt stocks and pistol grips with a "thumb hole" stock, and grind off the bayonet lugs. This meant that guns that were now considered "Pre-ban" guns soared in value. Today, a pre-ban gun that looks something like this...

which originally sold for $350 to $400, new in the box, will today set you back about $2000 or more. Thank you, Slick Willie, for making it so that guys like me have to spend a LOT more money for the things we want. Good job, fat boy!

I was one of those guys back then who always wanted an AK but couldn't make myself plunk down the money until I thought they were about to dry up. Same phenomenon that you see going on today with this latest dufus in the White House. He deserves an award.

Gun shows are as crowded as ever, with people buyin' up stuff at inflated prices because they think it all might become illegal or scarce. I think, in the end, it'll probably be just like it was with Clinton, but we'll see.

Anyway, during the ten years of the ban, the variety and quality of AKs on the market actually got better. To live up to the letter of the law, sellers originally began offering the crappy rifles I told you about last time and just described. Thumb hole stocks and all. Those things were selling originally for less than $200, and with slight, but completely illegal modifications, a person could take off the thumb hole stock and attach a butt stock and pistol grip. The result of the ban then? Many more crappy guns on sale and a whole new criminal class of people who just wanted their semi-auto guns to look like the real thing.

Eventually, importers began selling "Parts Sets". Here's a shot of one.

These are foreign made (this one is Polish, and yea, I have one of these too) military rifles that have been cut in half, rendering them useless. Again, in compliance with the ban, a domestic manufacturer could reassemble that gun on an American made receiver (for which you must sign the paperwork, just as if you're buying a rifle), with enough American made internal parts, and the buyer could have a well made copy of a foreign military rifle with a pistol grip and all. Those finished guns were selling for about $500 until the election. Now they've gone up to $1000 or more. Pure profiteering, but ain't capitalism a blast?

I bought several of those in the last decade, and even found a few interesting parts sets that a friendly gunsmith could build for me special. One was a cut up Soviet made AK-47S.

That's the under-folder version of the original AK-47 that the Russians made for tankers, truck drivers, and paratroopers in the 1950s and 60s. I love it! It's one of my favorite toys. Those slab sided magazines you see in the picture are the original mags the Soviets produced for the rifle. They're rare, but I have some. You can't put a price on authenticity. Well, you can, but I'm a junky for this stuff, so what the hell.

If you want some, try this web site. Just scroll down till you see them. They'll sell them to you, but they'll ship them in two boxes. The housing will arrive first, and then another box will arrive with the spring and floor plate. Yep, more stupid shit we have to go through to avoid the stupid laws that have no real effect, other than to fuck with you and me. Nice, eh?

So, the Romanian rifles that began to show up in the mid-90s looked like this.

To their credit, the attached a really cool stock to it. It's the same stock they attach to their PSL sniper rifle. It's MUCH better than the crappy things the Chinese, Hungarians and Egyptians produced.

Also, like the rifles that were made for the military, the Romanians produced versions of these imports that shot 7.62x39 (the original AK round), 5.45x39 (the round the Soviet block switched to in the 1970s), and .223 (the NATO round). So, there was something for everyone. Plus, the rifles came with a scope rail on the left side of the receiver, just like the rifles the Soviets made for their Special Forces, and just like the rifles the East Germans were producing.

At the height of the stupidity, the Romanians actually produced this little number, specially for the California market (Kevin?). Yep, that's a pump action Kalashnikov. Hilarious eh? and an excellent example of your government working diligently in your interest, to keep you for having the toys that they think you shouldn't have. Yep, the Nanny State... patting you on the head and telling you to stop playing with that or you'll put someones eye out. Beautiful! Does that leave you feelin' like an adult tax payer in a free country? Or maybe like you just moved back home to live with your folks and your dad is still an asshole? Yea, me too.

Anyway, when the Assault Gun Ban died (thank God, useless piece of shit!), the Romanians began selling the real thing again, pistol grips and bayonet lugs and all. So, go back to that British site link, click on Furniture, pick yourself up the right wooden grips, put them on that Romanian gun and PRESTO!

You've got something that looks pretty damn close to the real thing (a Soviet AKM), and to me anyway, something as beautiful as they come. This is what my buddy Waters has been doing.

Now, these guns vary in the quality of manufacture. Your best bet is to get an American made rifle produced from a Bulgarian parts set, or just buy one of the Bulgarian rifles they sell at shows now. Arsenal is the company. Very nice work.

Anyway, it's just a question of money. How much do you want to spend and how much do you care about authenticity? Luckily, I got all my stuff before the latest unpleasantness, so I'm good to go. Happy as a clam, but still wishing I could find the mother fuckers who robbed me in 2005. May they rot in hell! May their syphilitic offspring... Oh, never mind. Cheers!

Monday, May 04, 2009

OK, One of my blogging buddies posed a question recently.

Kevin, out in California (??? are you still in Cali? Jesus, it's been a while), responded to my comments about the rebuild project I had going on with my other buddy Waters. he read that I was helping Waters turn his Romanian AK into something that looked Russian (Soviet). He asked something like... "What's the difference between a Romanian AK and a Russian AK?"

Well, this is gonna be fun. The short answer for Kevin is, basically, nothing. That is, when it comes to the nuts and bolts of the guns, the Romanian rifles that are on sale today are all copies of Soviet era Kalashnikovs that were produced in the USSR. Thing is, there are differences between AKs that are produced in various countries. Most of those differences are purely cosmetic, but some are not. Some of the differences represent attempts by Warsaw Pact countries, like Romania, to produce their own variation on the basic Soviet model. So, if you want something that looks "Russian", there are a few things to think about.

When these rifles first went on wide sale in the US back in the 1980s, the vast majority that I saw at Gun Shows were Chinese or Egyptian. The Chinese models held an attraction because they were basically the same as the rifles used by the PLA, only semi-automatic.

They also looked more like an AK-47, the original version of the rifle (seen above). While they are actually a hybrid, the Chinese mixing aspect of the AK-47 and AKM in their rifles, they looked more like an AK-47. In fact, the Chinese sold a version of their AK-47, marketed as the "Polytec Legend". Those were rare, and usually were snapped up quick.

That's a "Legend" above there. See the similarity? Both had the milled receiver of the original rifle, while every other AK model on sale then had the stamped receiver of the AKM. Of course, with models that sported under folding stocks or under folding spike bayonets...

Chinese models also held an attraction to many folks they looked very much like the rifles used by the Viet Cong. The war wasn't too far off in the past then, and my generation had all grown up with those images in our heads, so there was that. Yea, I have one. It's one of my favorites.

The Egyptian rifles (Maadis) had the attraction of looking exactly like a 1960s era Soviet AKM (the second major evolution of the rifle that went into wide use). They were made from machines that the Russians had given or sold to the Egyptians in the late 1960s, when the Arab armies were being fully reequipped with Soviet weapons, so they were the next best thing to one made in the USSR. The shot below is of a typical Maadi.

The shot above is of a typical Soviet AKM. See what I mean? If you wanted something that looked like a Soviet rifle, you went with a Maadi.

If you watch the movie "Red Dawn" (a guilty pleasure of mine), I think all the Soviet rifles you see in that film are Egyptian, accept for one. The lead guy, Patric Swayze, carries a Yugoslavian SAR. But I think everything else was a Maadi. They have the same laminated wood furniture and black finish as the Soviet guns, only the standards of manufacture were horrible. I mean, they were made about as well as any AK, but the finish on the outside could be horrible. They typically looked like crap, but they were the closest thing to a real Russian AKM that you could get anywhere, so people bought them up.

At the same time, rifles from Hungary and Yugoslavia were seen now and then, but the rifles that most folks had access to at gun shows were ether Chinese or Egyptian. I can remember drooling over a Hungarian under folder several times at shows, but never being willing to take the plunge. Finally, at a show in the mid 1990s, right after the original assault weapons ban went into effect, I finally took that plunge, picking up a Chinese rifle with a side folding stock.

This is basically what that rifle looked like. Some mother fucker stole it from me back in December of 2005. May his soul rot in everlasting torment! May all his progeny stink of syphilis and rot! May his testicles... well, enough said.

Yea, I miss that gun. It was cool as hell. My first gun. First one I ever bought. I had it fixed up to look Russian, with Egyptian laminated wood furniture and a Russian style pistol grip. That Bastard! May his testicles... never mind.

At about the same time that the assault rifle ban came along, we started to see Romanian AKs on sale here and there. The first word I got was that the Romanians were going to put their version of the AK-74 on sale, shooting the modern Soviet round (5.45X39). There's been a brief moment in the 1980s when a limited number of Chinese AK-74s were being advertised, but I never actually saw one on the market.

There's a Soviet AK-74 (above). The word I got was that the Romanian rifles were basically a copy of the East German version of the '74. That turned out to be an overstatement, though the Romanian rifles do owe a lot to the East German rifles. Thing is, by the time they'd gone on sale, the ban had gone into effect, so the rifles we saw were just as crappy as all the other rifles that went on sale in compliance with the law.

Here's a shot showing the difference between what quickly became known as a Pre-ban rifle (below) and the crap that was readily available due to the ban (top). Both shoot the same bullets, from the same clip. The only difference, particularly to us purists who wanted stuff that looked "real", was the fact that you couldn't, by any stretch of the imagination conjure up the notion in your fuzzy head that that piece of shit at the top of the picture would be used by any military force.

Well, guess what, they were used by a military force. I saw a shot once of a group of "Zapatista" Rebels in Central Mexico armed with these things. Tells ya just about everything you need to know about them. They were cheap, ($150, vs. $350-400 for the PB rifles in their heyday), and once you popped in the magazine, they shot just as many rounds as the better rifles. They just lacked a pistol grip, muzzle nut and bayonet lug.

Thing is, industrious folks all over the country found out quick that they could take out three screws and replace the thumb hole stock with the old model and a pistol grip. The parts were sold everywhere. Typical eh? The government makes something everyone wants to do illegal, and succeeds in doing nothing but turn out a whole new criminal class. Ever hear of Prohibition, or the Drug War?

Anyway, they're shuttin' the library down on me. It's time to head back to the prison and teach. I'll continue this Wednesday, and eventually get to the real topic. We'll talk about the difference between a Romanian rifle and a Russian one. Cheers!

Not sure, but I think...

the average ten year old computer gamer could shoot better than the Indian Navy, based on this video of them trying to sink some Tamil Tiger suicide boats.

It looks like the Tamils are better at killing themselves than the Indians are at killing them.

Then there's this. Check out the action at a zoo in Pakistan.

And they say Water Boarding is torture? I was hopin' the lion would take that mother fucker's arm off.

Saturday, May 02, 2009


Friday, May 01, 2009

New cigars, a project, and some other stuff.

First off, guess how I blew my Income Tax refund? Yep you guessed it, I went on a spree and picked up about four boxes of cigars, plus a few bundles on the side.

These here are some of the best of the batch. In fact, some of the best I've ever smoked.

Macanudo 1968s. The ones you see here are the smaller, 5x50 Robustos. I also got a box of 6x54 Toros. I originally found these at one of my local Humidors. They were sellin' these in various shapes and sizes, so I splurged and picked up a few of each. I found the taste to be better, richer and spicier than a regular Mac. I loved the taste, but the price made me gag. Ten or twelve bucks a piece, so I immediately started searchin' all my regular sites to see what they went for by the box.

I was amazed when I couldn't find them anywhere. None of my regular sources had these in stock. So I did a search and eventually found them at Arnold's Tobacco. The price is still high, compared to what I like to pay for a box of smokes, but these little puppies are worth it. Check them out if you find them somewhere, or just come by here. I can spare a few.

The other smokes I picked up came from a Cigars International catalog that I'd been carryin' around, the pages folded over, for months. From that I ordered some Macanudo Gold Label Duke of Yorks and some Majesty Cafes. I also was in the mood to experiment. They always have a few pages of cigars that are offered, 5 smokes for twenty bucks. So I ordered some Hoyo de Monterrey Excalibur Legends (red labels), Excalibur Dark Knight 1066s, and some Drew Estate Tabac Especials. So far, they've all been good smokes, but the Excalibur Legends have turned out to be the strongest contender. I smoke one of those puppies on the way to work, it lasts the full hour and ten minutes and when I get out of the car I'm friggin' dizzy. Love it.

I've also been engaged in a little repro job of late. I mentioned this briefly a few posts ago. My buddy Waters finally broke down under peer pressure and got himself a Kalashnikov. Yep, it was the election. I tell ya, that pencil necked fucker has sold more guns in the last 100 days than any other president. And yet, somehow, that little achievement is lost from all the lists of his great works we're hearin' about lately. I wonder why?

Anyway, Waters, knowing my level of expertise on these toys, engaged me to rebuild his Romanian gun to make it look like a Russian (Soviet) AKM from the 1960s. You see some of the parts in the shot above. I just happened to have the wood, much of it Russian made, and a few other parts, so than now he's got the gun he wanted. Then, all the drama with the AR-15s ensued, but we're cool with that. I'm keepin' my new toy and he's talkin' about tradin' his extra gun for one of those new M-4 clones. Now, that'd be cool as hell to have! Mmmm, it's payday.....

Anyway, a week or so ago, the Monday after the Jimmie Vaughan concert in Austin at Antone's, I was headed to San Saba and guess what I found along the way?

Turns out they'd had a hot rod show in town that same weekend, and one of the cars was on it's way north, zippin' up 183 just as I was on my way to work. I wish I'd been able to get a shot of the front of the thing. It was cool as hell. Reminded me of one of the cars that used to show up now and then in The Munsters.

About the same time, early last week, there was an accident on the bridge where 190 crosses the Lampassas River into San Saba county. An 18-wheeler turned over and burned, shuttin' the bridge down. I don't think anyone was hurt, but the bridge was out for a day. That means I had to drive WAY out of my way, detouring through Bend Texas, near Colorado Bend State park. Taking 580 or 581 means lots of twisty, turny road where you've got to drive 35 or 40 goin' around a curve so as not to end up in a ditch. And your chances of getting stuck behind some poky farmer are multiplied ten fold. Oh, I was stretchin' it. Slid the front wheels for a second on one curve, but I made it to work alive, fifteen minutes late!

Thankfully, they had the bridge open the next day, or I'd be hatin' life. Takin' that twisty detour through BFE each day would have been friggin' miserable.

Late last week I got this shot of a sunset over San Saba while I was drivin' home. I looked out over my shoulder and there she was, pretty as could be. So I turned around a went back for the shot. You can see a few others I took here.

Finally, the other thing I blew my refund on was concert tickets. The two on top cost me about $550, but they'll be worth it. Up front and to the side. Full view of the glorious noise. The Trower tickets were about $100 a piece. No big deal. Up front balcony seats at the House of Blues. Both gig's will be in Dallas in June. Denise and I will have a great time.

The other tickets I got are to a show in October, so the tickets have yet to be sent out. That will be an Allman Brothers show in Dallas at the outdoor arena there in Fair Park. My buddy Glen and I will drive up for that one (he's the guy I went to see Derek Trucks with a while back). Denise isn't into the Allman Brothers. Something about Greg Allman. Not sure, but it won't spoil my fun. I've never seen them before, so I can hardly wait.

Anyway, this weekend we'll try to relax and get some yard work done. maybe the rain will intervene and I'll be forced to lay around instead. You guys have a great weekend. Cheers!