25 May 2007

The madness begins

I think we can call today the official "line of departure" for what I assume is going to be a couple weeks of sheer jumping through my ass.

I'm flying up to Pittsburgh for MC's wedding, and I'll be back in Tampa on Sunday morning. I've already packed pretty much all my folding clothes in a giant green bag, so the turnaround will be quick.

The turnaround? Yeah - I return Sunday, take the dress (thank you, thank you, MC, for requiring merely "black and formal" instead of some godawful hellish pastel monstrosity that I'll never wear again) out of the garment bag, put the hanging clothes in it, put the bags in the car, and then Mr. Abby and I hit the road.

I expect to clear the Bay area within 90 minutes of my plane landing. We'll drive Sunday, then hit DFW Monday night. Then I will be starting the New Job Tuesday.

While I try to readjust to working for a living, Mr. Abby will be screening houses and doing mortgage paperwork. We have through June 4 to find something we like, then he'll be flying back here.

The dogs, of course, are headed to Crazy Uncle Buddy's (who's made a pile of cash off us this spring).

Y'all know me well enough to know I have no problem spending time blogging even when I have more important things to do. But please bear with me when we come to those inevitable couple of days when I won't be able to muster anything but a thin whine. Things will improve.

24 May 2007

War Dogs

Sometimes you'll catch something of TV about war dogs. Normally, there are pictures of German Shepherds, Dobermans, etc. Jack points out that labs also served with distinction in Vietnam and continue to serve today (last article on the page).

But it's not all about the badasses and bomb-sniffers.

Sparky would like to point out, as Memorial Day approaches, that Yorkies have made their own contributions to the national defense. Well, at least one.

Smoky was found on side of a road in New Guinea, and spent the war as the sidekick of an Army Air Corps aerial photographer. She made some pretty significant contributions as an early sort of therapy dog, but also served on the ground, under fire.

Smoky once pulled a string with phone lines attached through an eight-inch pipe under 70 feet of runway. Every four feet was a couple of inches of sand that Smoky had to dig through.

If the pipe had been hand-dug, the planes on the strip would have had to have been moved to an area that was constantly being bombed. The job would have taken three If three days had it been dug manually. Smoky finished it in two minutes.

Smoky went on to live a long and happy life, appearing on television and touring the country with her person.

We dog people know that deep in the heart of each German Shepherd, there's a war dog snarling to get out. Little did we realize our Yorkies also have martial inclinations.

23 May 2007

Good reading

I caught a news report about mental health statistics from Iraq recently. Seems there's been ongoing tracking by Army Mental Health Advisory Teams, and they recently released their fourth report.

The report, in its PDF entirety, can be read here.

A nice summary (courtesy of Slate.com) can be found here.

I'm not going to dig through it and comment a whole lot. I'm not a psychologist, and I'm not comfortable taking my weird and limited experience and using it as a podium on this particular subject. I'm going to point out a few helpful things from this summary (which I chose because I can copy and paste from it).

“The most stressful part of my job is going out every day and waiting to get blown up.”

This is comment from a junior NCO, and it gets to the heart of one of the most frightening things in this war - you can do everything right and still die.
...the Congressional Research Service reported in 2005 that IEDs caused about half of all U.S. combat fatalities and casualties in Iraq and are killing hundreds of Iraqis

That's from a different report. But the randomness of the single largest threat in this particular theater makes it a heavy burden - soldiers and Marines are, by training, inclined to be aggresive. Dealing with a constant threat that can't be shot, often can't be seen and can exist pretty much anywhere takes a vastly different toll than engaging an organized force of enemy riflemen. Not necessarily a greater toll, or a lesser one, simply a different toll.

Another stressor cited...
Being in threatening situations where you were unable to respond due to ROEs

This is touchy. Strict ROE are vital in this kind of weird-ass war. But there are times when you don't want soldiers to hesitate. And once they watch a couple of vigorous 15-6 investigations over warning shots...it's going to stick in their minds.

OK. Enough parsing through this. It's good reading, and whether or not you support what we've got going on in Iraq, you should take the time to skim through it.

I'll add that the Army deserves a pat on the back for at least trying to get a handle on mental health issues. They are making an effort - there are Combat Stress Control teams deployed at the battalion level in theater, and they're doing good work. Returning soldiers fill out surveys including mental health information. It's not perfect, but it's much better than they've done in the past.

Read it and think about it. We owe it to our warriors to try to understand the repercussions of what they're doing for us.

Oh yes - one addition from pages 17 and 18 of the long version (the first link). Silly rules about the specifics of wear for the PT uniform aggravate the shit out of everyone who is supposed to be concerned with fighting a war. Go figure.

In which Abby is reminded of a song

You heard that new country tune by Brad Paisley? The one where he's using "I'd sure like to check you for ticks," as a pickup line? (Yes, it did occur to me that once upon a time, that's the sort of pickup line that I'd have bit on).

Anyway. He's a guy, singing to a chick. Which is normal.

I, however, spent the last couple hours humming the tune as I picked damn near 20 ticks off the dogs. WTF???

They had their last Frontline on the 10th - they're hardly overdue. I got most of them off Jack, four off of Sparky and a couple from Casey. I've found a few in the past couple days, and finally went on the warpath tonight.

I don't get it. Maybe it's super-intense tick season right now? Maybe Jack washed most of his Frontline off swimming (even though I try to keep them dry for 48 hours after application)? None of the ticks were really latched on that hard - they came off very easily. All were behind ears and on chests and necks.

I've been using Frontline for years, and have never had tick issues while the dogs have been on it. Very odd.

So I hit 'em again - the vet told me early this year that unless one gets really crazy, it's pretty much impossible to harm your dog with Frontline. And tomorrow the clumps of tall grass by the fence they like so much will be gone.

I do not approve of ticks. If I whack the grass tomorrow and Mr. Abby continues to discovers these things, I'm going to insist he put some sort of scorched-earth chemical on the lawn to kill everything while we're househunting.

Immigration bill details

So, apparently, when an illegal is trying to get one of these "Z visas," after being here for a while, there's an automated background check. 'Cause you know, the government is here to protect us - ensure these folks aren't terrorists or anything.

I know I got me some gun nuts out there. We gun nuts know a little bit about these automated background checks, don't we?

Now, please consult a lawyer before you head out to buy a gun, but I've done this a few times and I think I've got a pretty good handle on it. This also varies from state to state.

But here in Florida, it works like this. I troop down to Guns N' Joy, pick out a firearm, and fill out the paperwork. I have a concealed weapons permit, so there's no waiting period for me. The dude behind the counter calls in the background check. If I pass instantly, I can leave with my gun. If I'm a convicted felon and it's clearly on file, I don't get my gun but perhaps I get a ride in a police car. There's a third possibility, and it's not uncommon. Perhaps there's something wrong with the system, or there are two Abigails out there with my last name and one is a convicted felon.

Under those circumstances, I can get delayed (also called "conditional disapproval" here in Florida). Then what? Well, I don't walk out with my gun. Then...

If you get a "conditional non-approval" or a "delayed" response and there is no additional response from the system, the Brady law provides that you may transfer the firearm after three business days have elapsed. However, under Florida requirements you must contact FDLE prior to transferring the firearm if the initial check went through the FDLE. [emphasis is mine]

In short, if there's confusion, and after three business days there's no clear resolution, my dealer may be able to transfer me the firearm.

I used to deal with the "delay" response all the time. Mr. Abby has the most common name on earth. He always gets the gun, but it takes 24 or 48 hours.

Now, why the long discussion of the pain-in-the-ass part of buying a firearm in an immigration post?

Well, because that plan also involves one of these super-dooper guvmint background checks. Same idea, apparently. You can either be good, bad or delayed.

If Jose J. Reyes triggers a "delay," becuase, oh, I dunno...someone else has the same or a similar name, the process is a little different. If there is no absolute resolution pointing out that Mr. Reyes in an evil bastard, he must be given the visa. And how long does the system have to figure out the reason of the delay? 24 hours.

Ladies, and gentlemen - the chapter and verse.

(1) IN GENERAL- An alien who files an application for Z nonimmigrant status shall, upon submission of any evidence required under paragraphs (f) and (g) and after the Secretary has conducted appropriate background checks, to include name and fingerprint checks, that have not by the end of the next business day produced information rendering the applicant ineligible -

(A) be granted probationary benefits in the form of employment authorization pending final adjudication of the alien's application;

(B) may in the Secretary's discretion receive advance permission to re-enter the United States pursuant to existing regulations governing advance parole;

(C) may not be detained for immigration purposes, determined inadmissible or deportable, or removed pending final adjudication of the alien's application, unless the alien is determined to be ineligible for Z nonimmigrant status; and

(D) may not be considered an unauthorized alien (as defined in section 274A(h)(3) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (8 U.S.C. 1324a(h)(3))) unless employment authorization under subparagraph (A) is denied.

That is, as near as I can tell, section 601 (h).

Now, yes, they call that "probationary Z visa status," but...well, look what it gets you.

We, as a country, apparently need to be less concerned about unknown persons who've wandered over the border than about me buying another .22.

Bad idea. Back to the drawing board, gang. Lots of "temporary workers" like to bring their extended families across the border. Perhaps we could agree to maintain possesion of one child or elderly family member while such "delayed" reponses were worked out? I like the idea of having some leverage if we're going to turn loose folks about whom we have serious questions.

Random BS

I have got Things To Do.

Mr. Abby and I will depart the area Sunday evening to head to DFW - I start my new job on Tuesday.

I get to attend MC's wedding in Pennsylvania this weekend - so that takes me out of the loop from Friday PM until Sunday late morning. So, before Friday, I need to pack the clothes and stuff I'm going to need to live in Texas for five weeks. This, of course, will require the Mother of All Laundromat Trips.

Mr. Abby has today off, which is very handy. He's off doing something, I think mostly so I don't keep looking at the ceiling and hinting he should do something about the rats.

To make things better, Dumbass Realtor will be here later today with some people dumb enough to want to think about buying this place. I've long ago given up really cleaning for these people - I just ensure there are no loaded weapons sitting around. I'm sorely tempted to prop the ladder up against the exterior attic entrance and hang a sign on it that says "You MUST check out the attic!" and stage a nice bright flashlight there, as well. But that would be evil, so I won't do it.

Worst of all, I have two MagPul PMags sitting here. They showed up in the mail Monday, and I would just love to take them to the range, but I don't think there's any way I can justify that use of time.

But I'll probably do it anyway, most likely tomorrow.

22 May 2007

Need to know...

Good job, ABC.

One can hope ABC doesn't really think it's appropriate to publish classified information, and that this is clever disinformation, but I don't have a lot of faith in that.

With friends like this, who needs Islamists?

It just keeps getting worse...

You ever been in an old, midwestern-style barn? The kind with a hayloft with a wooden floor? You ever been on the main floor of one of those barns while barn cats were playing in the loft?

It makes a certain sound. A scurrying, scrabbling sound. With the occasional thump.

I'm hearing that same sound right now, but I'm not in a barn, and it sure ain't cats. I know what's in our attic/crawlspace, but I've never heard it before. Fucking rats. Having a goddam rat rugby match up there.

I saw one run along the top of the fence one night shortly after we moved in. I had a repairman up in the attic/crawlspace once, and he pointed out the presence of rat shit. And Sparky killed one in a twisted incident last summer that involved shrieking children and me standing in driveway with a P22 and a Surefire, dripping sweat and ready to open fire.

I'm sure they've been around, but they've stayed appropriately under the radar. Until tonight.

I don't have a fear of rats. But I sure as shit don't like them. I really don't like the fact that it sounds like they're large and lively and plentiful eight feet above my head.

I have less than a week left here. There's nothing we can do about them, and the landlord isn't going to take any action. I'm just going to sit here and cringe and hope the leaking, weak ceiling doesn't collapse and dump a torrent of rats into my lap in the next 100 hours.

EDIT TO ADD: Oh, yes - I am having a very hard time resisting the urge to be the Worst Wife Ever. Mr. Abby is sleeping the sleep of the jetlagged, but I am sorely tempted to wake him up, explain the situation, and whine until he goes up the ladder with a flashlight. I won't - I'm not that mean - but that doesn't mean I don't kind of want to...

Useful Information

I've learned a couple of very valuable things in the recent past. I figure it's a public service to share them.

Item #1 - Courtesy of Mr. Abby - Buy two carwashes, don't extend one. At the local do-it-yourself carwash, it's $1.75 for four minutes. It's 25 cents for each additional 30 seconds. If you've got a lot of washing to do, let the time run out and buy another wash.

I had no idea. I figured it had to be a better deal to just keep adding quarters. That's what I get for not doing the math.

Item #2 - Courtesy of some dude who called into a local radio station - Pantyhose stretched over a sponge do a bangup job of removing lovebug guts without damaging your paint. It's true. It's not a miracle - you still need to apply elbow grease, but it works. It works really really well on glass.

Lovebugs are a Florida phenomenon from hell. It's common to see motor homes on the highway here that are almost entirely black on the front. It's almost impossible to scrape enough of them off to be safe using only gas station squeegees. But the pantyhose thing was a dandy trick when I removed their guts today. Gut removal is important - for some reason, they're particularly hard on vehicle paint.

There you go - hope you learned something. Take a second and do the math at your local carwash, and there's a good use for the old pantyhose the dogs clawed a run into.

The immigration thing

I came home the other day and noticed that this immigration bill issue is the big news.

I read Hugh Hewitt's breakdown by section.

Complex does not even begin to describe it. Hugh points out, among other items of interest, the vast amount of paperwork mandated by this bill and the distinct lack of funding or personnel increases to handle it. That's always a recipe for stunning, spectacular failure.

The immigration debate makes me scratch my head. I cannot fathom why we haven't secured the southern border - it strikes me a basic responsibility of government and I'm quite certain that it's another one of those problems that should be solvable if we used the throw huge amounts of money at it solution.

The Border Patrol is woefully understaffed. It seems there's authorization and money for it to grow, but it's just not happening. I wonder why not...

There's a helpful online outline of the Border Patrol Agent hiring process. An excerpt:

If you pass the written test, your name will be placed on an inventory. The inventory is maintained in score order by geographic location regardless of when you took the test. Referral for a position in a selected geographic location is dependent on the scores of the applicants that are available on the inventory when a list is issued. If you are selected, you will be sent a tentative selection package. That package will explain the further requirements for forms submission, the oral interview with a panel of Border Patrol Agents, medical and vision examination, drug test, background investigation, etc., which will need to be satisfactorily completed before a firm offer of employment can be made.
I'm counting about 14 weeks to get from Step 1 through Step 4 of the process as they outline it. And there are more steps. I'm thinking that might be part of the problem. How much time do you want to put into getting hired into a position that pays $35,595 and for which you have to relocate (with no reimbursement)?

I don't have a idea for fixing the entire immigration problem. I recognize we've got people in this country illegally, and we need to find ways to either normalize their status or get them out. Although it's convenient for business and, at the far end, consumers, to have a pool of super-cheap labor, it's not worth the cost in security, and it's not right to place desperate people in a position of doing our nation's bitch work for far less than we'd pay Americans.

It's not right to put anyone through what some folks I know went through to get here illegally. The "coyotes' who smuggle people across are vicious, evil people. The crossing is not easy - people die lost in the desert. Getting here is not cheap - these immigrants sell everything they own, sell their bodies, sell their futures into indentured servitude, to get here.

We have to find a way to do this better. Step one is closing that goddam border. Step two is unfucking the process to come here and work legally.

We've got to hold our representatives' feet to the fire on securing that border. There's money involved - so they're not going to want to do it effectively or decisively. But we have to remember that the border isn't just a "Mexican issue," it's a security issue. Undocumented workers are a problem that pales in comparison to what we need to worry about coming across that border.

Our elected officials chuckle about our provincial concern with undocumented workers and take campaign contributions from companies and people who profit from that cheap labor. They spend months crafting bills that placate us and provide loopholes big enough to drive a Ryder truck through. At the same time, the next group of terrorist savages may well be slinking across that stretch of empty desert, from Nogales up to Tuscon, from Tuscon into Vegas, with far worse intent than picking oranges and sending money back home.

Canine reading lists

A couple weeks ago, I was throwing Jack's retrieving toy into the lake. Between tosses, he noticed a bird wandering around about 30 yards away. He prompty sat down, stared at it, and trembled with excitement.

Because I'm a bad person, I said, "go get it!" with the same inflection I use when I send him after his throw toy. He took off, the bird saw him coming and departed the ground well before there was any danger. He returned to me looking quite bummed.

I explained that the bird he'd chased was an ibis, and not the sort of bird he'd ever be expected to hunt, and that the point of being a bird dog is not to actually catch live birds.

Little did I know he would take this as a hint he needed to study up.

I snapped the picture, then took the book away. This is my super-good bird book, and I wasn't leaving it in reach of puppy teeth. If he wants to study more, I think I have an old paperback guide he's welcome to use.

21 May 2007

Another pointer

Once, I quoted Bill Whittle, and one of the readers I sent there responded, "I was interested, then I saw the part about being a reformed liberal on the sidebar...."


So many of us were much more liberal before 3,000 of us died. Some of us are still "liberal," in the classic sense - I count myself among them.

It's not about "liberal," and it's not about "conservative." If you've been paying attention, you know that. It's about those of us who buy into the Dream, and those who disparage it. You know where I stand.

Go see Bill. He'll break it down. You can read my favorite of his essays, but you should read his most recent.

AFTERNOTE: If you're one of the three people who don't know about Bill Whittle...brew some coffee and click over. It will take a while, but please, please, read the whole thing. It's worth it, I swear.

Heads up

I don't think I have many readers who aren't alreadly aware on this one - Rachel Lucas is back.

For those who don't know, this is the phenomenal woman whose blog made it clear to me that people liked to read about guns and dogs. She's also one of the blogs I read when I didn't know what "blog" meant.

So, for my three readers who haven't checked in already, go forth.

Hoooly shit...

At long last, it arrives from the CMP.

There is nothing we will be able to tell you until we input all orders ahead of yours into our system. You will recieve an email letting you know your order has been received; a second email from our order processing dept that your order has been processed; and a third email from our packing/shipping dept with a tracking number for your order/orders.

Your customer ID # is xxxxx. This is where all of your information is stored. You are registered with cmp/estore. Also your email password is (xxxxxx). That is today's date with the first and last initials of your name. Let me know if you are able to log in.
Thank you and have a great day.

Well, how 'bout that? Now, the question is - will this go down before or after the move? Not mine, the ship has already sailed on that - but will Mr. Abby be able to bring me a carbine?

Who knows. But at least the order got there.

A note for all my fellow Floridians - Priority mail, from Tampa, FL to Anniston, AL, sent the 26th of April (Thursday afternoon)...arrives the 2nd of May (Wednesday).

Nice job, USPS. (That part was sarcastic).

Go, CMP, go! As I understand it, there's a small and beseiged staff trying desperately to get orders out. Best of luck, y'all. Hurry on that one to Tampa.

20 May 2007

Conversations from a gas station

Gas gets steadily more affordable as one leaves the Florida Keys, passes through Miami, crosses Alligator Alley, and procedes north on I75. One does not want to buy much more at $3.35/gallon than necessary, when 50 miles down the road it will be $3.19.

That's why, today, I found myself in pretty serious need of gas on the Alley (that's the empty stretch of 75 that crosses from Miami to Naples). So I stopped at the Mobil station on the Indian reservation.

I gassed up, used the bathroom (it smelled), then wandered into the store for water, cigarettes and a snack. As soon as I walked in, a guy stepped up to me. A very large, bald, muscular, intimidating guy. Did I mention he was really big?

To my deep, sincere and heartfelt relief, he smiled. "I like your bumpersticker," he growled, with some very heavy accent. "The one about Israel."

I have an "I support Israel" sticker on my Jeep.

"Oh," said I. "Thanks." I grabbed my water and a snack (which I am not confessing the specifics of because it's pathetic) and got in line. The very large man was in front of me, with a small boy maybe eight years old.

He smiled again. I think he realized he'd scared the bejesus out of me.

"I'm from Israel," he said.

"That's cool," I answered. "I've never been there, but someday I'd like to go." I would, and it seemed like an appropriate response.

"What's the other sticker, the one with the knife?" he asked.

"An Army combat action badge," I answered. It's not much - it basically says, something unfortunate happened to me and I didn't run screaming, but I'm proud of it.

He smiled again and left, and the cashier rang up my stuff, which came to a little over $6.

"Were you in Iraq?" she asked.

"Yeah," I said. And the bill magically decreased to $5. "Hey, thanks." I smiled, she smiled. That's an awkward moment, but an appreciated one.

As I walked out the door, the small boy who belonged to the large man came running up to me.

"My Dad said you should take his card." He held out a business card.

Huh? I took the card, thanked the boy (who ran away), and headed back to the Jeep. As I walked, I glanced down.

I, apparently, had encountered Mr. Mike Lee Kanarek, chief instructor at this place.

According to his biography, I was entirely correct to be very happy he approved of my bumpersticker.

Between the ages of 6 and 18, Mike studied judo and then karate until joining the IDF at age 18 in 1985. After serving three years as a Special Forces member in Orev Golani (one of the most elite commando units in the IDF) where he was extensively trained in KAPAP among other combative methodologies and technologies, Mike was honorably discharged as an outstanding soldier.

It goes on from there.

Now, this is the internet, and it's hard to tell for sure how much truth is in anything out there, but since Mr. Kanarek is, if nothing else, a large and intimidating man, I will officially err on the trusting side. He gets an impressed daaamn from me.

And other than being big and scary, he was a very polite man, and the boy who was with him (I assume his son) also appeared polite and well-mannered.

We're home!

I have picked up the Pack and returned to Bad Dog Central. There seems to have been much news out there in the world, and I may come back later to talk more about it.

(Or maybe not - Mr. Abby returns tomorrow and so I must make the house look as though responsible people, not squatters, live here)

Anyway, I shall leave you with a final image from the Keys - a Road-Tripping Jeep, it seems, is a Happy Jeep. It even seemed to like being a drying rack for my beach towel.

I didn't notice that guy in the background when I took the picture, but I think it's entirely possible he's peeing in the mangroves. How tacky.