Thursday, December 24, 2009

Christmas thanks.

Christ is the center of a reason for Christmas. Sometimes though I think it is a good thing to say thanks to those who help insure that we can continue to celebrate His birth in freedom. Too many of those folks are away from home and hearth this night and I wanted to say thanks. I know this poem is copied but I am not sure who wrote it. It says things better than I can though.

The embers glowed softly, and in their dim light,
I gazed round the room and I cherished the sight.
My wife was asleep, her head on my chest,
My daughter beside me, angelic in rest.
Outside the snow fell, a blanket of white,
Transforming the yard to a winter delight.
The sparkling lights in the tree I believe,
Completed the magic that was Christmas Eve.
My eyelids were heavy, my breathing was deep,
Secure and surrounded by love I would sleep.
In perfect contentment, or so it would seem,
So I slumbered, perhaps I started to dream.
The sound wasn't loud, and it wasn't too near,
But I opened my eyes when it tickled my ear..
Perhaps just a cough, I didn't quite know, Then the
sure sound of footsteps outside in the snow.
My soul gave a tremble, I struggled to hear,
And I crept to the door just to see who was near.
Standing out in the cold and the dark of the night,
A lone figure stood, his face weary and tight.
A soldier, I puzzled, some twenty years old,
Perhaps a Marine, huddled here in the cold.
Alone in the dark, he looked up and smiled,
Standing watch over me, and my wife and my child.
"What are you doing?" I asked without fear,
"Come in this moment, it's freezing out here!
Put down your pack, brush the snow from your sleeve,
You should be at home on a cold Christmas Eve!"
For barely a moment I saw his eyes shift,
Away from the cold and the snow blown in drifts..
To the window that danced with a warm fire's light
Then he sighed and he said "Its really all right,
I'm out here by choice. I'm here every night."
"It's my duty to stand at the front of the line,
That separates you from the darkest of times.
No one had to ask or beg or implore me,
I'm proud to stand here like my fathers before me.
My Gramps died at ' Pearl on a day in December,"
Then he sighed, "That's a Christmas 'Gram always remembers."
My dad stood his watch in the jungles of ' Nam ',
And now it is my turn and so, here I am.
I've not seen my own son in more than a while,
But my wife sends me pictures, he's sure got her smile.
Then he bent and he carefully pulled from his bag,
The red, white, and blue... an American flag.
I can live through the cold and the being alone,
Away from my family, my house and my home.
I can stand at my post through the rain and the sleet,
I can sleep in a foxhole with little to eat.
I can carry the weight of killing another,
Or lay down my life with my sister and brother..
Who stand at the front against any and all,
To ensure for all time that this flag will not fall.."
" So go back inside," he said, "harbor no fright,
Your family is waiting and I'll be all right."
"But isn't there something I can do, at the least,
"Give you money," I asked, "or prepare you a feast?
It seems all too little for all that you've done,
For being away from your wife and your son."
Then his eye welled a tear that held no regret,
"Just tell us you love us, and never forget.
To fight for our rights back at home while we're gone,
To stand your own watch, no matter how long.
For when we come home, either standing or dead,
To know you remember we fought and we bled.
Is payment enough, and with that we will trust,
That we mattered to you as you mattered to us."

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Book review - Uncommon Sense.

Cal Thomas' 278 page book Uncommon Sense was published in 1990. It is subtitled as "A Layman's Briefing Book on the Issues." The book is divided into three major sections. Within each section are several issues sections that consists of a briefing on each issue and a collection of Cal's commentaries on each. An introduction and prologue start and finish the book.

While some of the issues are dated, the principles and concepts that Mr. Thomas discusses are not. Cal lays out a brief history of each issue and presents a road map of where he thinks we should head from that point. It is very interesting to see just how correct he has been in the last 19 years as far as the dangers of mishandling the issues facing America. It is also a spur to correct, if possible, some of the mistakes that we as a nation have made. As far as the issues that are still open, the book is a nice call to action in those areas.

In spite of the time lapse between the publication of the book and now Uncommon Sense is still very relevant. I give two thumbs up to this concise and engaging volume.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

After action report - Elmore City, Oklahoma.

Went down to Elmore City, Oklahoma this past weekend for what was billed as a tactical event for reenactors only. The information that I had received stated that the U.S. and C.S. camps would be separated and that the area for maneuvering would consist of about 160 acres. The action was supposed to kick off at 0600 on Saturday and continue with only one truce until Sunday afternoon. Sounded like a great finish to the season so I decided to go. Only two other guys from my battalion were able to make it but we figured we could fall in with another unit.

When I arrived Friday evening the other two guys were already in camp and set up. I quickly unloaded and got my gear set up and squared away. Then I noticed the blue. Blue uniforms that is, around the campfire. I inquired as to the reason. Only one camp I was told. So much for pickets or any attempted surprise raids. Confident that things would look better by daylight I decided to retire to my tent for the evening.

Before turning in I asked who was in command. Nobody seemed to be sure, there was no clear chain of command or organization. On that doubtful note I turned in.

I woke on Saturday morning to the sound of women conversing by the campfire. I was under the impression that this was a military only event. I rolled over and grabbed my watch. 0730! Reveille hadn't sounded, never would in fact. I jumped up, got dressed, and out of the tent. Two women in sweatshirts and blue jeans were sitting by the fire talking. A Federal sergeant was in a chair by the fire warming his brogans up. He was wearing house slippers and a hooded sweatshirt while he waited. Across from him sat a Folgers' coffee can with the plastic lid on. A plastic jug of water was thawing by the fire and the hiss of propane heaters emanated from several tents in the street. Nobody seemed to be moving in any particular direction. Beginning to doubt the wisdom of my trip I made breakfast and waited to see what would develop.

The event coordinator showed up in his uniform, and tennis shoes. He remarked that the camp did not look very authentic but that since there was no public we would not worry about it. Hmm. Not a good sign.

Finally formed up at 0930 for safety inspection. Moved out for the tactical at about 1000. Had a nice little fight that ended around 1200 when the truce was called. Headed into town for lunch. This was expected from the original information. Talked over things with my battalion mates. We decided that theme camping was not for us. One of the other guys told the event coordinator that we would be heading out. He replied that he hated to see us go since we would miss the adult beverages that would be passed around that evening. That sealed the deal. Alcohol and tactical events cannot co-exist. After lunch we loaded up and headed home.

While the event was disappointing there were a few bright spots. The terrain was awesome and lived up to every expectation. The concept was spot on, if it had been adhered to the event would have been an overwhelming success. Perhaps in future years the tactical will become a reality, authenticity will be enforced a bit more, and the camps will be separated. If that occurs I would look forward to returning.

Thursday, December 03, 2009

They said it.

"At the Constitutional level where we work, 90 percent of any decision is emotional. The rational part of us supplies the reasons for supporting our predilections."
- Justice William O. Douglas, USCT

"I find nothing in the language or history of the Constitution to support the Court's judgement. . . . As an exercise of raw judicial power, the Court perhaps has the authority to do what it does today; but in my view its judgement is an improvident and extravagant exercise of the power of judicial review."
- Justice Byron White, USCT
Dissenting opinion on Roe v. Wade.

"If this is all that judges do then their authority over us is totally intolerable and totally irreconcilable with the theory and practice of democracy."
- Professor Alexander Bickel

Came across these quotes the other day and have been thinking them over. I guess they explain much of what has occurred in the history of The Supreme Court and other courts. They seem to sum up perfectly the source and problems with the courts that we now have in this country.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Catching up.

Woohoo! Been a busy last week or so.

Had the Thanksgiving Day in there, hope everyone had a good and grateful one. Had Mrs. Spiff's family up for that, they were cold even though we weren't. It was in the 50's but they're from Texas and were having a hard time with the temperature change.

Started hauling out the Christmas decorations for Mrs. Spiff. I don't really mind this but don't care for the actual decorating. I do enjoy the end result though. Advent started last Sunday at church so it's easy to get into the reflection mode of the season.

December looks to be a busy month but I'll try to keep up on the posting.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Book review - The Anti-Federalists.

Jackson Turner Main's book The Anti-Federalists is subtitled "Critics of the Constitution 1781-1788." The 286 page book was published in 1961.

I had always been interested in the ratification battles concerning the U.S. Constitution so I was eager to read Mr. Main's book. While I did find the read to be tedious at times I was not disappointed. Mr. Main first lays the political foundation for the ratification fight and then breaks down the ratification battles by state. While his delving into state by state politics makes the book drag at times it remains an interesting read.

I was previously aware that such notables as Elbridge Gerry, Patrick Henry, Samuel Adams, and George Mason had opposed the Constitution as establishing a too powerful Federal Government. I was not aware that the they did not have a problem with strengthening the Federal Government as it then existed. Their concern was that the Constitution, as written, gave too much power to what they perceived would be a National, not Federal, government. In fact, several opponents called themselves "real Federalists." They did this because they felt that the true issue was whether or not the United States would have a national government or federal one. A national government was perceived as overshadowing and eventually absorbing the states. A federal system was perceived as the states delegating certain powers to a very limited central government but maintaining their rights to govern their internal affairs as they saw fit.

The proponents of the Constitution countered by stating that the proposed government was not national in nature but federal and would never trample on the states. This won over some anti-federalists but most remained concerned. As intervening history has proven, they had good cause to be so concerned.

Another division that Mr. Main explores is the financial one. Most federalist were well off while the anti-federalists were generally the working class. The middle class was mostly evenly split. This led to some heights of rhetoric which I was surprised at. Some of the opponents of the Constitution called for redistribution of wealth. Somewhat of a contradictory view for those who were concerned about an overreaching federal government.

All in all I give The Anti-Federalists a half a thumb up. While the subject matter is of great interest Mr. Main often becomes bogged down in the minutia of the fight. This leads to his well-researched volume dragging at some key times. A good book for anyone interested in the origins of the Constitution and those who have ever wondered why The Federalist Papers needed to be written.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Allergic reaction.

When I first got into emergency services I actually started as a volunteer EMT. Less than a year later I moved onto the Police Department but kept up my by then heavy involvement in EMS.

I can't recall if I was on the Police Department yet or not on the night in question. I was on the overnight call shift which ran from seven at night until five the next morning. Because the town is fairly small we were not required to be at the station while on call, just have our pagers on. I turned my pager on at seven that evening and a few hours later turned my light off and hit the sack.

Sure enough, in the middle of the night the pager tones woke me up. Woman with difficulty breathing. I pulled on my EMS uniform, stumbled out to my car, and drove the the shed. There I met Larry and Ringo. Larry was the patrolman assigned to that night shift and he was starting the ambulance up. Ringo was the other EMT on call and he looked about as sleepy as I felt. Off we went.

Once on scene we encountered an elderly woman who was panting as she tried to catch her breath. After getting a quick history we decided to start the woman on oxygen to try and alleviate her distress. Ringo thought a mask would be good so I set it up. Ringo told the woman what he was going to do and placed the mask on her face. Panic set in. Ringo pulled the mask off. The woman calmed down. Ringo explained again, in more detail. Mask back on, panic. Mask off. Explain. Mask on. Panic. Mask off.

So far Ringo, Larry, myself, and the woman's son had all tried to explain to her about the oxygen. She was coherent and said she understood but didn't want the mask on. She claimed that oxygen was no good for her. What? She had no medical condition that made oxygen use dangerous. No matter, it just wasn't good for her she said. Larry escaped by going out to the ambulance to get the cot. Ringo talked the woman into allowing him to hold the mask next to her face and let the air blow across her nose and mouth. Not as good as if the mask was on but better than nothing.

Larry returned with the cot. The woman wouldn't sit on it. Said she couldn't. We brought the back all the way up. No dice. We tried to talk her onto the cot. Nope. I looked at Ringo. He looked like he was in the middle of a long night. Larry was looking at the ceiling. The woman's son asked if she could ride in a seat in the ambulance. Worth a try. The woman agreed that she could do that. Progress!

We carried the woman out on a dining room chair because she was too weak to walk. As we set her down beside the ambulance she stated that she could not ride in the ambulance because it was too high. Larry assured her that this was not a problem because we would lift her in. No we wouldn't she replied, it was too high. That was her final say in the matter, she would not ride that high up. Nothing we could say was going to change that. Larry looked like a man who wanted to swear but knew he couldn't.

Ringo asked the woman what she wanted to do. She stated that her son could take her to the hospital in his car. The son looked like he might faint at the suggestion. He pointed out that Mom was not doing well in the breathing department. This concerned him. Ringo stepped in, the important thing was to get the lady to the doctor. What about if we EMTs rode in the car with the woman and her son? That would work said the woman.

Grabbing a jump kit and the oxygen we piled into the back seat of the car (the woman would only ride up front). Larry followed in the ambulance. I kept in radio contact with Larry and documented the proceedings. Ringo leaned over the front seat and held the oxygen mask to blow across the woman's face. Whenever he got the mask too close she would push it away and remind us that oxygen was not good for her.

It was a long ride to the hospital. A long explanation to the ER staff as to why our patient wasn't on board the ambulance when we came in. A long report. It will also be a long time before I forget the woman who was allergic to oxygen and the four door car that became an ambulance.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Book review - The Twelve Caesars.

The Twelve Caesars is Michael Grant's 260 page study of the first twelve Roman emperors. The book is divided into an introduction, twelve biographical sketches of the rulers, and a conclusion. The style of writing is engaging without being needlessly dramatic.

In the introduction Mr. Grant explains that his biographical pictures of the emperors will lack detail due to the time that has passed since they lived and the loss of primary sources. Such sources as go exist are somewhat compromised as well by the necessity of the author's survival (the living emperor would be closely monitoring the contemporary historians). This makes them somewhat biased. Mr. Grant also warns that the emperors must be seen in the light of their times to be understood. He claims that what seems depraved and evil to us today was accepted in their time and so they were not necessarily any worse than any of their fellow citizens. The main difference was the lack of restraint imposed. An interesting point but one that gives rise to the question, is evil wrong because it is evil or because it is viewed as such?

In spite of the dearth of source information, Mr. Grant does an admirable job of tracing the creation of the Roman Empire by Julius Caesar through the end of the reign of Domitian. Mr. Grant is careful to clarify what he can reasonably confirm as fact and what is mere legend. Each chapter follows one emperor and the length of each is regulated by the information available as well as by the length of the emperor's reign. For the three who lasted less than three months each there is not much to be said. In contrast, the chapters on Agustus and Tiberius are longer.

In the conclusion the author briefly sums up the impact each emperor had and the lessons that can be drawn from their performances. He also quotes Lord Acton's observation that, "Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are always bad." Mr. Grant takes the corruption spoke of in this statement to be the physical breakdown due to the stress of the job. He also contends that the Caesars were no more bad than any other hero or leader and that they "demand our awed respect and admiration."

I give The Twelve Caesars a half a thumb up. While I learned much about the men and events of the period I was dismayed at the author's attempt to gloss over the atrocities committed by many of these rulers. I was somewhat confused by this tendency until I read the conclusion and discovered his misunderstanding of Lord Acton and his rationalization of evil. While these men may have scaled the utmost heights of power and glory, in the end they gained the whole world but lost their souls.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Book review - Theodore Rex.

Edmund Morris' Theodore Rex is a 555 page study of Theodore Roosevelt's presidency. The book begins with the notification of President McKinley's death and closes as TR leaves Washington following the inauguration of President Taft. In between the two events Morris clearly traces Teddy's actions and outlines the political environment he was operating in.

The first President Roosevelt was a much more complicated figure than he appears in most textbooks. His habit of sounding one way and then another in the same speech confused his opponents and allies alike. His actions though are clearly the forewarning of another Roosevelt who would later assume the presidency.

Mr. Morris' personal beliefs are hard to determine but he concisely lays out TR's populist tendencies and correctly classifies him as one of the first progressives. Roosevelt's policies on railroads and his later war on capitalism are two examples of such tendencies.

By his second term, TR's expansionism had moderated and he was focusing more and more on domestic issues. This did not prevent him from brokering peace between Russia and Japan though. Initially an admirer of Japan, TR began to suspect that a future war was likely. His policy of peace through security helped to stave off that war for a few decades.

All in all President Theodore Roosevelt could be viewed merely as a light version of his more well-known relative, Franklin D. Roosevelt. His policies tended to the socialist side of things, he was an adroit politician with a huge ego, and he had trouble letting go of power. It would have been well had he adhered to his own statement concerning his duties as President, "I do not represent public opinion: I represent the public. There is a wide difference between the two, between the real interests of the public, and the public's opinion of those interests."

One thing is for sure; Edmund Morris serves the public interest well with Theodore Rex. I give this well-written book two thumbs up.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Off the Tallahatchie bridge.

So when I came to work this morning the radio was playing "Ode to Billie Joe" by Bobbie Gentry. I asked the night shift officer what he thought the girl singing and Billie Joe had thrown off the bridge. He stated that he didn't know but had often wondered himself. We discussed the various possibilities for a couple of minutes before he got out of the car.

According to Wikipedia, we're not the only ones who have wondered what got thrown off the bridge. Apparently it was big news at the time the song was originally released and even involved police questioning. There seems to be no clear answer as to what Bobbie Gentry meant when she wrote the song and she has never cleared the matter up very well either.

So, what did get thrown off the bridge? Did that have any connection to Billie Joe's later jump? What is your theory?

Friday, November 13, 2009

Book review variety show.

Ok, so I was planning on reviewing each of the books that I have read in the past few months. Problem is, I still have six books to go. At my present rate that will take me forever since I am still reading. As such I have decided to take a shortcut and do quick reviews of each book. Here we go:

Adams vs. Jefferson by John Ferling - Excellent read about the election of 1800. Ferling does a superb job of laying the foundation and explaining the issues. I learned a lot. Much about Jefferson, more about Adams and his term as president.

Undaunted Courage by Stephen Ambrose - An overview of the Lewis and Clark expedition with the focus being on Meriwether Lewis. I had never read any of Ambrose's work and knew only the basic facts about the Lewis and Clark adventure. Learned much about both. The information was fascinating but I am not sure I share others' enthusiasm for the author.

Benjamin Franklin, An American Life by Walter Isaacson - This book was a very revealing look at America's original inventor. I knew little about Franklin outside his participation in the founding of the United States. This work filled in his background nicely and made his decisions and actions understandable.

Andrew Jackson, His Life and Times by H.W. Brands - Andrew Jackson was an intriguing figure in American history. Brands brings him to life and gives a clear picture of his life, service, and presidency. I was able to glean a lot about Jackson in reading this and it solidified my view of him as one of the worst presidents we have had.

The Second World War by John Keegan - Handy overview of the war by a British historian. The British take on the war was very interesting. While that was not Keegan's purpose in writing the book, it did show through at times. His method of dividing the war into theatres and segments was also interesting.

Mathew Brady by Barry Pritzker - As is fitting the subject matter, this is a nice coffee table type book. The author mixes text containing Brady's biography in with photos containing his work. Being familiar with Brady's Civil War works I was particularly impressed by some of his other pictures. Relaxing and interesting read.

Whew! So there we are, all caught up. I'll try and not let that happen again. If you have any questions about these six books or want more information on them just give me a shout.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Book review - The Late Great Planet Earth.

The Late Great Planet Earth by Hal Lindsey was written in 1970 and the copy I read was printed in 1973. The topic is Biblical prophecy concerning the last days. As a graduate of Dallas Theological Seminary Mr. Lindsey is familiar and comfortable with his topic.

While the references to current events are obviously dated, I found the book to be an interesting read. Mr. Lindsey starts by addressing why Biblical prophecy should be taken seriously. He points out the many instances where it has been borne out in other areas. He convincingly contends that this record of accuracy lends credibility to the predictions about the end times. This was actually the part of the book that I found to be most interesting.

Mr. Lindsey stumbles a bit when addressing future events. The most obvious reason for this was the time in which the book was written. For example, while there are certain prophecies directed roughly at Russia, Mr. Lindsey attempts to apply them to the Soviet Union as he knew it at the time of the writing. While this might have made sense in 1970 it hardly does so now. In other instances Mr. Lindsey gives credence to some of the United Nations bilge on overpopulation and such. Since Mr. Lindsey avoids specific applications the effect of these flaws, though jarring, is not fatal to his work.

Overall I give The Late Great Planet Earth a thumb and half up. Mr. Lindsey does an excellent job of exploring the end time prophecies and laying the foundation as to why those prophecies should be taken seriously. This book is well worth the reading in spite of the Cold War flavor of some passages.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Book review - Days of Our Years.

I have actually read several books since the last review I posted. My Grandfather passed away in June and so I have inherited quite a few books and look to receive more. My Grandfather was a voracious reader who kept almost everything he read. His literary interests were varied and his library vast. I will try and catch up with my recent reading as time permits.

The latest book from the collection that I read was Days of Our Years by Pierre Van Paasen. When I started reading I had no idea who Mr. Van Paasen was, the book was published in 1939 though and promised to be an interesting read about the period between the World Wars. A note written on the title page in my Grandfather's handwriting further piqued my curiosity. In it he stated that the book was of the type that "nearly justifies the burning of books." I do not share my Grandfather's political or religious views so the note was more of an invitation than warning.

In the book Mr. Van Paasen writes of his childhood in Holland, his family's immigration to Canada, and his service in the Canadian army in World War One. That is just the background. He then proceeds to lay out various experiences he had while working as a newspaper reporter.

While I found his sketches of rural French life, his account of being detained at Dachau (yes, the concentration camp), and his travels in French Morocco to be of interest, they paled against his telling of the Italian invasion of Ethiopia, the conflict in the British mandate of Palestine, and his interviews with Benito Mussolini.

In Ethiopia Mr. Van Paasen was befriended by Emperor Haile Selassie. This allowed him to see and recount the Ethiopian side of the invasion. The accounts of Selassie's views and hopes concerning international intervention is of great interest. In one particularly vivid account Mr. Van Passen recalls walking in on the Ethiopian Minister of War as he was holding his youngest son who had just died after being gassed by the Italian troops.

Mussolini comes across as just the type of egotistic buffoon who would jump at the chance of invading a stone age country and then try to claim glory from the endeavor. Mr. Van Passen had a couple of interviews with The Duce and came away with a good understanding of him. He missed though in predicting that Benito would not stay tied to Hitler and would ally himself with Britian and France in any coming war.

In Palestine Mr. Van Paasen spoke with Jewish leaders, the Mufti of Jerusalem, the British governor, and common folks of all stripes. What he reveals about the Arab leadership's duplicity and the British complacency is almost shocking.

All in all I would give Days of Our Years one thumb up. While the accounts of travels and events are very interesting and Mr. Van Paasen is a skilled observer and story teller, he is hampered in two respects.

First, as an avowed Socialist he gives the Soviet Union, and communism in general, a free pass on many things. In one instance he states that the USSR is moving forward and that the end will justify the "discomfort" experienced in the process.

The second area that I found Mr. Van Paasen lacking in was his understanding of human nature. Strange since he was a reporter of human events. Mr. Van Paasen's view that humans are naturally good at their core blinds him to the cause of the events he is recording. He tends to try and blame circumstances and conditions for human atrocities. While circumstances and conditions can affect human viewpoints and strategies every man must still give account for his actions. Mr. Van Paasen misses this and his otherwise insightful work suffers from the loss.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

After action report - Pawnee City, Nebraska.

Went to a reenactment this past weekend in Pawnee City, Nebraska. It was small and not based on any actual battle in the area but I hadn't been out all year and was missing the wool. Mrs. Spiff and the three youngsters went along as well. The event was sponsored by the local museum and took place on the grounds and adjacent property.

We left home on Friday afternoon around 4:00. The drive was only about three hours but took a little longer due to some stops for provisions. Nice to have that short of a trip. On our arrival there were few reenactors (a permanent situation) and much confusion. After attempting to register as per instructions we were told that there was no Friday night registration. The registration took place on Saturday morning, a bit awkward.

First order of business was to get Mrs. Spiff and the family set up. We located the civilian camp and got the tent set up and gear unloaded with no problem. While the setting was less than authentic, the civilian camp offered a nice location for camping.

A short drive into the boondocks brought us to the C.S. camp. I was able to quickly locate my company and begin unloading. As we were doing this the rain that had been falling off and on began again. Fast movement prevented any significant wetting of my bedding. The rain continued most of the night but all stayed dry. A quick shower the next morning would be the last of the rain for the weekend.

Reveille sounded before sunup on Saturday. After dodging the brief shower we lined up for roll-call. That done, breakfast was attended to with rapidity before morning parade. Following parade I was assigned to picket duty. That was uneventful save for a brief encounter with an arrogant cavalry civilian. After getting relieved on picket I was able to get a pass to go up to the civilian camp and check on everyone. Things seemed to be going well and all were surviving. Bug appeared to be enjoying her first event as she crawled around and looked at grass and leaves. Spiff Jr. and Sis being the veterans they are were having a ball. Had lunch while I was up to visit.

Spent the early afternoon practicing for some hand-to-hand combat centered around a Union gun. Took a few takes but we got it down. The fight went well and the hand-to-hand went as planned. A couple of the guys who watched said it looked pretty good.

Following the battle we cleaned up and relaxed for awhile. Then came some dinner and a visit to town. After that I again visited the civilian camp and chatted with the family for awhile before bidding them good night and heading back to camp. A late night offensive was contemplated by command and we were told to prepare before bed. I did so but the movement was inexplicably called off. Slept soundly.

Awoke Sunday morning to a crash of gunfire. Surprise attack and Billy Yank was on the offensive. Scrambled out of bed and into line as we got them stopped just short of the camp. Managed to push them back to their camp and outflank them to gain the edge of their camp before a truce was called. Great skirmish and well played by the Blue-bellies. Somewhat surprising to find them so aggressive.

Following the fight we returned to camp for breakfast. I then packed out some of my gear before church call. Attended a mutual service in the museum chapel. Good sermon. C.S., U.S., civilians, and spectators all present. Nice.

Walked the family back to their tent after the service and then returned to camp. Packed out the rest of my gear. Battle at 1:00 p.m. Not quite as impressive as the first day. We were supposed to repeat the hand-to-hand but never got the chance. Got whipped badly.

No trouble at all getting out of the event. Packed up pretty quickly and hit the road. Faster trip home with fewer stops.

Overall it was a fun little event that I would like to repeat is possible. The forces were small but the setup was acceptable and the powder ration did much to make up for any shortfalls. For its size it was well done and well attended by the public.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Don't forget.

I still remember exactly where I was and what I was doing when I heard about the planes flying into the World Trade Center. I pray that everyone will always remember that day and those who died.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

To drive a big red truck.

I was getting ready for work the other night and visiting with Spiff Jr. as I did so. We often do that when I am working third shift, me preparing to start my day and he winding his down. During these times I get the scoop on the latest happenings in the world of a four year old. Sometimes he surprises me.

On this particular evening he made an announcement as he put his toothbrush away and headed out the bathroom door. He knew what he was going to do when he got older. "I'm going to be a firefighter Dad, because they don't have to work night shift." He then trotted off down the hall to his room.

I smiled. Partially because he used the word "firefighter" rather than "fireman". Partially because I know that the fire-dancers do work third shift, in a manner of speaking. At least they get to sleep through their nights if no calls come in.

As I walked into my bedroom, my wife went to tuck the kiddos in. I heard Spiff Jr. repeat his new found direction in life. His mother was practical and let him know that firefighters do work nights. This perplexed him. He thought for a minute. "Well, are there any emergency vehicles that don't work night shift?" None, came the answer. "Why not?" People need help at night too. This satisfied him. He was still not as sure as to his life's calling as he had been but was able to get to sleep with the comfort of knowing that there is really a reason for night shift.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Game changer.

Yesterday was the tenth anniversary of the Columbine school shooting in Littleton, Colorado. Hard to believe is has already been ten years since that event that changed so many things. Many who are more literary than I have already paid tribute to those who died and survived there. I'll settle for a quick thought on the day.

Barely a week or two go by that I don't think about Columbine. I wasn't involved and don't know anyone who was, but it still impacted me. I remember exactly where I was when I first learned of the tragedy.

I was sitting in an Applebee's with about five or six academy classmates. We were celebrating the survival of an exam and were in good spirits. With six months experience I was perhaps the most seasoned cop in the group and that isn't saying much. As we laughed and joked someone suddenly said, "Hey, what's that?" Looking up to the TV mounted near the ceiling we saw swat officers moving cautiously behind a firetruck. The crawl across the bottom announced that the footage was live from Littleton. We embryonic coppers were transfixed by any swat team anywhere and continued to watch. The story unfolded over the course of dinner and we caught the full impact by the time we finished. Sobered, we sat there trying to absorb what this meant. One of the other members of the group summed it all up as we left, "It's now a different game than we signed up to play when we started."

Saturday, April 18, 2009


Spring has finally sprung and boy am I glad. It always seems to me that Spring doesn't really start until Easter weekend, regardless of what the calender says.

In addition to baseball, the weather is getting warmer. I sure am glad to get out of the arctic temps that we "enjoyed" this last winter. I like my job but the whole working out in the elements sure gets old sometimes.

Spiff Jr. and Sis are pretty glad as well I think. Time to play outdoors again. Picking dandelions, throwing balls for the dogs, and swinging are the current rages among the younger set. Mrs. Spiff is enjoying having the kiddos out of the house as well.

Saturday, February 28, 2009

To Troll or not to Troll...

About a week ago I received an email notice that one of my posts had received a comment. Since such notices are few, I immediately logged on to see what had been said. The post was one of my political ones so I was prepared for disagreement or agreement. After all, robust debate is part of our political system.

I was not quite prepared for what I found. An anonymous user who identified herself (I take their word for their gender) as "Lynore" had taken umbrage at my views on abortion. While that is not unusual, what struck me was the way she went about expressing her views. In an opening comment she dragged out the moth-eaten line that I cannot have or express an opinion on abortion simply because of my gender. She then accused me of being simple-minded and obsessed with women's breasts. Strange way of expressing one's views. I responded. She answered none of my points, confused the abortion debate with the war in Iraq, and accused me of being judgemental. Very odd way of discussing any issue.

Following that, she left comments on several of my other posts. She brought up issues that were not in my posts, implied that I do not understand my job and lack sufficient training to do it and said that I "scared" her. In addition, she went after a previous comment left by a reader who does not post on this blog.

All of this left me wondering, is "Lynore" a true believer in the far left, or a Troll trying to stir up hate and discontent? Is there any difference?

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Book review - The Steel Wave.

Finished reading The Steel Wave this morning. This is the latest in a series written by Jeff Shaara and brings the series up through the D-Day landings in Normandy.

Mr. Shaara started writing this series after the production of the movie Gettysburg, which was based on his father's book, Killer Angels. He first finished the Civil War and then went back to Revolution. Two books on the revolution and one on the Mexican War bring the series to the three books on the Civil War. After that is one one WW1 and, so far, two on WW2. Officially labeled as historical fiction, the series is very close to a historical rendering of events.

I have found all of Mr. Shaara's work to be excellent and The Steel Wave is no exception. Once again, war is viewed through the eyes of those who fight it. From Eisenhower, Patton, and Rommel, to the fictional characters in the enlisted ranks; each has their own story and unique vantage point. They all have different motives and ideas about fighting the war.

While the Allied players are perhaps more familiar, I found Rommel to be particularly intriguing. Historians have long debated whether he knew about the Holocaust and his exact involvement in the plot to assassinate Hitler. Shaara has apparently concluded from his research that Rommel knew little of the plot and was only beginning to become aware that something was dreadfully wrong in the treatment of the Jews. Trapped by his perceived duty to obey but nagged by his conscience, Rommel is torn as to a course of action. In the end he does nothing but still cannot escape. In one passage he asks himself about the world that his son will inherit because nobody had the courage to say no to Hitler earlier. He then asks himself if anyone has the courage now. He leaves the question unanswered.

In summary, Mr. Shaara has again lived up to the high bar he has set for himself in his previous work. The Steel Wave is a must read for any history buff, those interested in human psychology, and everyone who appreciates a ripping good yarn. You would do yourself a favor though to start with the founding of the nation and the beginning of the series.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Bloody irony.

President Barack Obama has lifted the ban on Federal funds being used overseas to promote or provide abortions. The ban, often referred to as the Mexico City Policy, was first put in place by Ronald Reagan. It was lifted by Bill Clinton and reinstated by George W. Bush. Most of the funding for abortion counseling and provision will be directed at third world countries.

President Obama's action is not surprising given his previous pro-death record concerning the unborn. It is a bit ironic though. A man who stated on the campaign trail that determination of the unborn's right to life was above his pay grade has now determined that they have no right to life. Was his pay grade raised? Perhaps. Was he simply lying to avoid a difficult question? More likely.

I find the lifting of the ban by America's first black president to be somewhat fascinating, much like watching a car wreck take place. To see any minority promoting any type of pro-abortion agenda is enough to warm the heart of ethnic cleansing proponents such as Planned Parenthood founder Margaret Sanger.

In America today, blacks make up approximately 13 percent of the population. They account for 33 percent of abortions performed. Some sources estimate that one in two black babies are killed in the womb. The majority of abortion clinics are located in either black or Hispanic neighborhoods. The two ethnic groups together account for over half of all abortions performed in the United States.

Sanger would be thrilled were she still alive. As a proponent of eugenics, she agreed with Adolf Hitler about the weaker races and the need to cull them. However, she thought that he was too broad in his scope and too brutal in his methods. The current situation fixes that problem. Rather than round up the minorities, let them gradually kill themselves off. After all, if it's their idea, who are whites to argue?

All in all, the entire situation is incredibly sad. It does beg one question though. Since President Obama is apparently now pulling down enough to make determinations regarding the life and death of the unborn, just how much is he being paid to be one of the top white supremacists in America today?