Monday, June 29, 2009

When Buildings Collapse....

Here's a shot of a building that collapsed in Shanghai just recently.
Nota bene that it did NOT collapse into it's own footprint through the path of GREATEST resistance.
Compare and contrast with the WTC collapses on Sept 11. 2001.

To learn more about fire, explosions and building collapses, have a look at NFPA (National Fire Protection Association) 921 "Guide for Fire and Explosion Investigations." It's the national standard.


Sunday, June 28, 2009

You Only Get One Shot at Freedom

On April 14, 1775, when British General Thomas Gage, military governor of Massachusetts, received instructions from Secretary of State William Legge, the Earl of Dartmouth and dispatched Lt. Col Francis Smith and 700 British regulars to the Lexington-Concord area, the mission was simple: disarm the rebels, and imprison their leaders, Samuel Adams and John Hancock in particular.

Though out-numbered, the colonists’ superior intelligence and tactical decisions resulted in forcing the British to withdraw all the way to Charlestown, suffering heavy losses along the way.

This was the famous “shot heard around the world,” and the beginning of the American Revolution, as the subsequent war is commonly known.
We don’t know who fired that shot.
But we do know one thing for sure: the issue was “gun control,” and the colonist’s considered it important enough to fight over.
They weren’t fighting for a right to hunt, or to partake in shooting sports, or even for the right to carry a gun to protect themselves or their homes from criminals.
They knew what everyone ought to know by now: a person has that amount of freedom he or she can protect and defend, and not one bit more.

If the colonists had “obeyed the law” and given up their guns, we wouldn’t have a 2nd amendment -- because we wouldn’t have a United States at all.

Millions and millions of innocent people, in a variety of times and places, have been murdered by governments who had previously managed to disarm those people.

You might just want to remember that.


Saturday, June 27, 2009


To share one heart, one soul.
To see the world through the same eyes.
There's nothing quite as sweet
As time spent with a Friend.


photo by Tamara

Friday, June 26, 2009

Never Trust Anyone.....

....Who wants to deprive you of the capacity to defend yourself.

- sj

image by raftergoblin

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Like the Wind

You’ve heard the expression, “run like the wind?”

My partner’s an older horse.
He’s not in his best condition, got a touch of arthritis here and there.
We go out for a little ride, he’s in no particular hurry.
Takes his time.
No urgency.
No Pavlovian work ethic.
Just strolling along, whistling a tune.

But every once in a while, he gets in a mood.
Most often it’s on a cool, cloudy day when the wind is up, tugging at his mane, tiny whirlwinds dancing up dust as they spin across the paddock like valkyrie, teasing and taunting…

He gets in this mood where he can’t keep still, paws the ground, paces, tosses his head, like a boxer getting ready to answer the opening bell.
He gets in this mood where he just wants to run.
And when he does, I just turn him loose and let him fly.

His gallop eats up ground the way an alcoholic going off the wagon tosses down tequila.
The world becomes a blur, and I lean forward, feel the powerful beat of his hooves under me, each one lighting on the ground just long enough to spark off of it again.

When he gets in this mood, he could run forever and just might, except there is no such thing as time. Just being. And I believe that when the Creator thought “horse,” this is what he had in mind.

When he’s satisfied himself, he slows to a trot, a prancing trot, then finally down to a walk that’s about 80 proof strut.
We pause to look behind us, and way, way back there, choking on our dust, we can just make out The Wind, bent-over by the side of the road, puking, swearing and gasping for breath.

And we laugh about it all the way home.


Thursday, June 11, 2009

A White Rose for Sophie

She died 8 years before I was born.
Had she lived, she’d be 88 years old now.

Our lives were separated by time, space and events, yet I don’t think I’ve ever felt more of a connection to anyone.
Would we have been friends, I wonder.
More than friends?
What integrity she had.
What courage.
Could I have matched her courage?
I don’t know.

I can’t think of her without tears coming to my eyes. Not the kind of tears you shed for a young girl’s life brutally cut short.
But the kind of tears you might shed when you listen to King speak about his dream, or when you hear beautiful music beautifully played; when an underdog wins the title; when a firefighter makes a daring rescue; when somebody stands up unafraid and tells the truth; whenever somebody, somewhere stands up for what’s right and strikes a blow against what’s wrong in this world
It’s pride.
Not in what people are.
But in what they sometimes rise to be.
And it’s humility, too. I ask myself, what have I done, what will I do, that would put me in the same league as this young woman.
Our battle is the same battle.

Sophie Scholl joined her brother and a few friends, calling themselves “The White Rose,” to produce and distribute a series of anti-Hitler leaflets right under the nose of the SS in Munich.
She was only 22 years old in 1943 when she was executed for high treason only a few hours after a quick trial.
No appeals in a Nazi court.
No habeus corpus.

Witness say she went valiantly to the guillotine with these last words:

"How can we expect righteousness to prevail when there is hardly anyone willing to give himself up individually to a righteous cause. Such a fine, sunny day, and I have to go, but what does my death matter, if through us thousands of people are awakened and stirred to action?"

I wonder, sometimes what she was feeling when this photo was taken.
Sometimes, I think I feel it, too.



YEAH, and EVERYbody KNOWS it...

“Experience indicates that the use of force is not necessary to gain the cooperation of sources for interrogation. Therefore, the use of force is a poor technique, as it yields unreliable results, may damage subsequent collection efforts, and can induce the source to say whatever he thinks the interrogator wants to hear.”

-- US Army Field Manual 34-52

It also happens to be against the law.
But what do we expect, what with the police tasering 72-year old grandmothers, and children?

Land of Greed.
Home of the Depraved.
America the Brutal.

What was that dream we once had?
Seemed like it was a good one.
Maybe a great one.
I'm pretty sure that when I was a kid, I was proud of it, not because it had come true, but because we kept dreaming it and kept trying to make it come true.

I can't recall, anymore, what that feeling was like.
And I wonder if I'll ever feel it again.

I miss it.


Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Kickers v Kissers

As far as I can tell, there are basically two different models for the way a group operates, based on the personal and social styles of the individual members.

In the first model, highly motivated individuals acquire skills and knowledge far exceeding the minimal job performance requirements, in order to achieve optimal performance of a mission that is the organizations reason for being.
Members of the organization are assigned tasks based on their competence and move up in the group hierarchy based on merit.
Interpersonal relationships may develop, but are secondary in importance to the mission. For example, if a members “friend” makes a mistake that compromises the mission, the member doesn’t hesitate to point it out, because the mission is more important than the “friendship.” Right and wrong are constant, regardless of the personalities involved.

My dad would call this a “kick-ass” crew, because everyone in it is an “ass-kicker” in her/her own right.

In the second model, the stated mission takes a backseat to social interaction.
Individuals acquire just enough knowledge and skill to satisfy the minimum job performance requirements and no more. Indeed, anyone who exceeds that is considered suspect.
Members of this group are assigned tasks based on social relationships, in particular, social relationships with the leadership of the group, and moving up in the hierarchy is based on how well “liked” the member is.
There is a social in-group/out-group double standard. Right and wrong are infinitely variable, depending on the personalities involved. An action decried as wrong if done by a non-friend, is defended as being right if done by a friend.

My dad would call this one a “kiss-ass” group, comprised of “ass-kissers.”

Ass-kickers and ass-kissers.
My dad wasn’t exactly a nice guy, and he didn’t know much.
But he’d spent time in Europe during WWII as an infantry grunt.
My own experience in the service suggests to me that my dad probably knew the difference between these two styles.

I’ve seen both of these models in action.
So have you.

If you have ANY familiarity with ANY professional sport team, you know the first model. The mission of the team is to win games – and make big bucks doing it. You change tactics, strategy and players with that goal in mind, and you don’t worry too much about hurting anybody’s feelings doing it.
Today you might play for Boston, and you do your best for them because you’re a pro and that’s what you do. You might get to be great pals with your team members. Tomorrow you get traded to Chicago. And you do your best for them, too, because you’re a pro and that’s what you do.
What happens when you play against your old pals from Boston? You play to win – and so do they. It’s understood. Friendship has nothing to do with it. You can be on a team and NOT be friends with somebody, and you can be on opposing teams and still be friends.
Separate things, see?

On the flip side of that, take a corporate golf group.
Playing a good game of golf isn’t the point. It’s an exercise in kissing. How does the boss feel about losing? Maybe you better drop a stroke or two. Who do you compliment? Who do you ask for tips? What’s the role of shoes, clothes, clubs? The importance of cost? This golf game has nothing to do with golf. It’s 18 holes of office politics with more puckering

I’ve seen the same two models in music, too.
I’ve played in a lot of bands over the years. One of the best was run by a vocalist who came to town riding on a pony with her saddlebags full of charts. Hired some guys to play them. Our mission was the music. We didn’t have to be “friends” to play well together, just good musicians. In fact, there was this one guy…. He and I were like cobra and mongoose. I thought we was a prize jerk – and maybe he thought the same of me.
But, man, could he play. And that’s what mattered. When we were on stage, you’d have thought we were twin sons of different mothers. He never blew a cue, was always where he was supposed to be when he was supposed to be there. OFF stage? I don’t think we ever said three kind words to each other in succession.

On the flip side would be the garage band I played in when I was about 14. It was all about “friends.” They agonized about getting a better “lead guitar” player because the current guy – who didn’t play all that well – was a pal. In the end, they stuck with their pal and changed the music, rather than stick with the music and change players.
I stuck with the music and changed bands.
But then, he wasn’t my pal.

In general, if I get to choose, I prefer the first model to the second.
I was never very good at ass-kissing and I don’t care much for people who are – because they usually aren’t much good at anything else.
Don’t have to be.
And I don’t care to have anyone puckering up toward my haunches, either. I prefer to associate with people who are honest and straight-forward, even if we disagree.
Quoth Cyrano: They make friends as dogs make friends and when I see the manner of their canine courtesies, I say to myself, “Thank god, here comes another enemy.”
I might just get that tattooed on my chest.

With some organizations, maybe it doesn’t much matter if works like it’s an elite team or a social clique.
But with some organizations, it matters a hell of a lot.
A Fire Company, for example.

But it seems like our national style, socially and politically, is firmly entrenched in the ass-kissing model.
Forget about what’s right or wrong, honorable or dishonorable, legal or illegal.
It’s all about how to gain political advantage. Tell different vague lies to all different factions, tell them what they want to hear.
No principles; all pucker.

Too bad.

I heard that, once upon a time, we were real ass-kickers.
Stood up for something.

Maybe that was just a rumor


Horse Dreams

Sometimes, as I watch my partner napping, I have the feeling that this is what he's dreaming...

Sometimes, he likes to run for no apparent reason.
Just because he can.
When he does, his dream comes true.
And I get to be part of it.

I hope I'm in his dreams
The way he's in mine.

That would be something.


Monday, June 8, 2009


Thomas Jefferson once noted, “The price of freedom is eternal vigilance.”
Tyranny is a little like rust on a ship; turn your back on regular maintenance, ignore a spot of rust here and there, and before long the hull will rust right out from under you.
It only takes one hole in the hull to sink a ship.
It doesn't remain seaworthy, even if the total area of it's hull exceeds the total area of the holes.

I guess that’s where we are now.

It’s painfully clear to any but the most determinedly obtuse that Barack Obama represents nothing more than a continuation – and even extension – of the worst of George Bush.
They like to say that you must be bitter, angry, dark, disloyal, pessimistic -- and worse -- if you point out the holes. They ask, "Why can't you be optimistic and joyful and have faith, and focus on the places where the hull isn't rusted through?"
Why? Well, because that would be stupid.
That's why.

Warrantless surveillance,
Imprisonment without trial.
Does that sound like “the land of the free” to you?

But this isn’t a new battle.
It didn't start with Obama.
Or even with Bush.

No free man shall be seized or imprisoned, or stripped of his rights or possessions, or outlawed or exiled, or deprived of his standing in any other way, nor will we proceed with force against him, or send others to do so, except by the lawful judgement of his equals or by the law of the land.

Magna Carta, 1215

From King John to President Obama, this is a battle we’ve been fighting for a long, long time.

It’s the battle of all battles.
The only one that matters.
Without victory in this one, all other battles are lost.

There can be no retreat.
No compromise.
No surrender.


Thursday, June 4, 2009

Horse Dancing

Sister Moon
Brother Sun
Mother Earth
Feel us run
Hoofbeat drum
Thundering on the wind
As we learn horse-dancing again.


From One George to Another

Should any American soldier be so base and infamous as to injure any [prisoner]. . . I do most earnestly enjoin you to bring him to such severe and exemplary punishment as the enormity of the crime may require. Should it extend to death itself, it will not be disproportional to its guilt at such a time and in such a cause… for by such conduct they bring shame, disgrace and ruin to themselves and their country.” - George Washington, charge to the Northern Expeditionary Force, Sept. 14, 1775...