Thursday, April 30, 2009

It's Time To Go Home

My parents live in a small town and there are not very many entertainment options. There is a popular tribal casino located just a few miles from their house and the casino has become a sort of hang-out for locals. My mom and dad go there nearly every day. They don't really do a lot of gambling. My dad is retired and sits with all of his retired friends drinking beer, talking sports, playing keno, and arguing politics. My mom will put $5 or $10 into a slot machine and play until it is gone or until she wins a little bit of money, then she goes home and plays video games on their home computer. Later, she will go out and pick up my dad when he is done socializing.

My parents don't lose much money and it is truly a place for them to go and socialize and have fun. When it is time for them to go home, they go home. I usually go out there with them when I am visiting. I am not so good about knowing when to come home, but I do come home of my own accord when I get tired of being there. Luckily, we always drive out there so we can come and go as we please.

Some people really don't know when to come home. There are frequent announcements at the casino to tell people that the bus that brought them there is loading. They will make this announcement two or three times, then they will start to announce the absent passengers by name through the casino. There is almost always one or two holdouts that can't tear themselves away from craps or blackjack or the slots until the very last second. They won't go out to the bus until repeated threats over the announcing system that the bus is leaving without them, then they will sprint to the door hoping to catch the bus. Some of these people look pretty elderly and kind of frail. It can be kind of frightening watching them sprint for the door.

I remember one late night in particular, a wife had requested numerous announcements for her husband to come out to the car.

The announcements started with the usual: "Robert, your party is waiting for you at the security podium,"

then progressed to "Robert, your ride is leaving,"

then further escalated to "Robert, your wife says that if you aren't at the security podium in one minute, you will be walking home,"

and culminated with "Robert, your wife is going home and throwing your stuff on the lawn."

These were late night announcements and people kind of make light of these situations when someone doesn't want to come home. I just read an article about a woman that took it to new extremes. Apparently, when she didn't want her husband to gamble away the money they were saving for a car, she phoned the casino and told them that her husband was on his way to the casino with a fertilizer bomb to blow the casino up.

She wouldn't tell them her husband's name but said he was intent on blowing up the casino as revenge for losing a whole bunch of money. Unsurprisingly, this is not the woman's first brush with the law. She has been arrested several time at the casino and at other places for drinking, drugs, trespassing, and so on. She said she wasn't too concerned about the charges, but was awfully upset that her phone records were released:

She said she wasn't worried about the charge. She was more upset that police had obtained her telephone records, "violating my civil rights and my privacy."

"I thought this was still a free country," she said.

You can read the full story here. You should take a look at it. It is good for a few laughs. As they say: Life is hard. It's harder when you're stupid.

Monday, April 27, 2009

A Nasty Tumble

People run up and down the stairs outside my apartment at all hours of the day and night and it sounds like a small train running through my living room. This is frequently accompanied by laughter and yelling.

Last night, while I was sitting in my living room, I heard someone going down the stairs much more rapidly and making even more noise than usual and letting out a small scream at the same time. Something about the noise made me concerned and I poked my head out the door to see if something was wrong. There was a coffee cup laying on its side at the top of the stairs and a young Asian girl laying on her side at the bottom of the stairs where she had landed after tumbling down the stairs.

She got to her feet as I was walking down the stairs to check on her. I asked her if she needed help or wanted me to call somebody or get somebody for her. She insisted she was okay and limped around trying to find her coffee cup. I grabbed her cup for her and asked her again if she was okay. She sat on the bottom stair and said she would be fine, that she just wanted to sit for a moment. I stayed and talked with her for a few minutes to make sure she was coherent. Eventually, I decided she was probably alright and she didn't seem to want me around to babysit her.

I went back inside my apartment and poked my head out a few minutes later. She was gone. I guess since she was able to get up and walk away and since I didn't see any blood, she must have been okay. Still, even if you can walk away relatively unscathed, a big tumble down a flight of concrete steps seems like it would suck.

One Week Left

The last several weeks have been pretty packed, but now I am down to my final week of classes. Two of my five classes are completely finished now so this week is shaping up to be pretty easy. I will finish another class this afternoon, and the professor told us that class today is just an opportunity for us to give feedback for the curriculum as a whole and after that is done, we will adjourn for a few drinks at a local watering hole (first two rounds on him). I have one last exam that I will take one week from today and that will be the last academic thing that I need to do to complete the requirements for my degree. I think I have enough points to pass that class even if I score a zero on the final, so I am not particularly concerned about that.

I think the thing that I am looking forward to more than anything is finding a quiet place to live. The last three years living in an apartment building with college students living above, below, across from, and beside my apartment has definitely made me want some peace and quiet. Although I will not be moving out the day that I finish classes, experience has taught me that once classes and exams have finished for the semester, there will be a mass exodus from Pullman as all the kids go home to visit their family. End result: Peace and Quiet. I will be moving one or two weeks after classes have let out, so I will be gone by the time the noisy people show up again.

Something else that I am looking forward to is being around people that can eat politely. Everybody always brings food with them to study sessions and to class. I have spent far too many hours sitting across from somebody that brings a pizza to a quiet study hall, sits down across from me chewing on pizza with their mouth wide open, and smacking on their food like a cow working on a piece of cud. Very distracting. As I write this, I am listening to the guy behind me slurping loudly while chowing down on some Cup O' Noodles. Of course, now I am just being nit-picky, but it will sure be nice to be around people my own age again.

Friday, April 24, 2009

A New Fan Convention

I guess Comic-Con is one of the most popular fan conventions that there is. I remember once when we pulled into San Diego while Comic-Con was going on. One of the guys that worked for me was incredibly excited. It was all that he talked about for about two weeks before we pulled into San Diego. He was, of course, mocked and scorned by everyone else on the boat.

When we went on liberty after we pulled into Point Loma, a few of us went to the bus stop by the mini-mart and waited to go into town. Darth Maul from Star Wars: The Phantom Menace was also waiting to take the bus. I didn't know that Sith Lords took the bus, but there he was.

Anyway, everywhere in San Diego that we went, we were running across people dressed up for the convention. I had no idea that people got into movies and comics to that extent. Tens of thousands of people went to the convention.

The guy that worked for me tried to convince everyone to go with him to Comic Con. He promised that anyone that went with him would have a great time. Everyone refused. A few days went by and we left San Diego. When we got out to sea, he was telling people how great the convention was. He told another guy that worked for me that he saw Gene Simmons at the convention. This other guy was a huge KISS fan and was greatly disappointed that he had missed the chance to see one of his musical heroes.

During a field day, he was lamenting "Man, I can't believe I missed Gene Simmons!!"

A shipmate, nicknamed Wookie, said "So what? Who cares?"

"Gene Simmons, man...I missed Gene Simmons!!!"

Wookie: "So what, you missed a dude that exercises with fat women. Who cares?"

Wookie brought everyone to silence with his ignorance, followed by lots of laughter.

Anyway, the reason that this story was brought to mind this morning was an article that I read in the paper this morning. Apparently, there is a new fan convention happening in Seattle tomorrow. It is called CatchCon and it celebrates the crews portrayed in The Deadliest Catch. There were 500 tickets and they are already sold out with 600 people on a waiting list, so you are too late if you want to go and don't already have a ticket.

Apparently, the people from The Deadliest Catch aren't entirely comfortable with having a crazed fan-following. One of the captains hides his boat when he pulls in because people come looking for it.
"People are always creeping around," said Hansen, who hides his fishing boat now. "It's kind of flattering, but weird."

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Fort Lewis: Wretched Hive of Scum and Villainy?

A sergeant at Fort Lewis has made the news. It was for allegedly committing a crime.
Pierce County prosecutors have charged a Fort Lewis soldier with promoting prostitution, alleging he directed two teenage girls to trade sex for money.

The girls involved in the case are 16 and 17 years old.
Stories about crimes that occur near a military base that involve military members frequently make it into the local newspapers. In some cases, the stories appear to be written in a manner that are trying to put the military in a bad light. Fort Lewis has certainly been in the news over the last few years. Not for little crimes. For big, bad crimes. I don't think the newspapers are picking on Fort Lewis, either. McChord AFB is the next door neighbor to Fort Lewis. A search for news stories about McChord yields results like "Air Show" or "Fireworks" or "USO Hugs and Kisses", but no stories about criminal behavior.

A sampling of some crimes committed or allegedly committed by Fort Lewis soldiers:

Olympia Police Arrest 2 Fort Lewis Soldiers:
Police have arrested two Fort Lewis soldiers following the weekend stabbing of a 24-year-old man outside an Olympia, Wash., bar.
Army Files Charges Against Soldier in Death of Teen at Fort Lewis:
Pvt. Timothy E. Bennitt, 19, has been charged with involuntary manslaughter in connection with the death of Leah King. He was also charged with wrongful use and distribution of controlled substances and conspiracy to use controlled substances.
Soldier Sought in Abductions, Fires:
A Fort Lewis Stryker Brigade soldier accused of abducting and torturing two women is being sought on a warrant that charges kidnapping, rape and arson.
Fort Lewis Soldiers Charged in University District Holdups:
Three Fort Lewis soldiers accused of robbing University of Washington students at gunpoint last month were charged with robbery Friday in King County Superior Court.
Fort Lewis Officer Among Soldiers Accused of Skimming Reconstruction Money:

In a federal indictment in March, prosecutors alleged that Nguyen skimmed more than $690,000 in cash while acting as the civil-affairs officer responsible for overseeing millions of dollars intended for reconstruction projects and payments to private Iraqi security forces northeast of Baghdad.

Nguyen, 28, a West Point Military Academy graduate, is accused of packing stacks of cash into boxes and mailing them to his family's home.

Former Army Ranger Gets 24 Years in Prison for Bank Robbery:
According to documents filed in the case, Sommer was an Army Ranger stationed at Fort Lewis when he recruited two other Rangers, Chad Palmer and Alex Blum, and Canadian nationals Tigra Robertson and Nathan Dunmall to participate in the Aug. 7, 2006, robbery of a Bank of America branch on South Tacoma Way. The robbers, some armed with AK-47s and wearing body armor, made off with $54,011.
Admittedly, the embezzlement crime happened in Iraq, but I felt justified in including it in the list because the money was spent at or near Fort Lewis. Other than the bank robbery, which occurred in 2006, these crimes were all committed in the last six months.

What is the U.S. Army doing about this? These are serious crimes that pose a big risk to the local community. They are robbing community banks, robbing local college students at gunpoint, being very involved in the death due to drug overdose of a local girl, and pimping out local girls.

I certainly don't want to indict all of the soldiers at Fort Lewis. In fact, the soldiers that were robbing college kids were turned in by a fellow soldier after bragging about pistol-whipping one of the students. Still, these are a lot of serious crimes happening in a pretty short period of time. I have commented on these stories in the past, defending the soldiers. It is getting kind of tough to continue to comment that most of the soldiers at Fort Lewis are good people. I think that the time has come that the Commanding Officers of the base and the various units take action to protect the community. These thugs may represent only a small percentage of the soldiers at Fort Lewis, but they pose a substantial risk to the members of the surrounding communities.

I think it is time some officers at Fort Lewis get fired. I am not talking about the O-1's and O-2's. I mean guys that have scrambled eggs on their hats. They are failing in their duties and have squandered their chances to stop this crime wave emanating from Fort Lewis.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

A Squirrelly Situation

The situation with the ground squirrels in Finch Arboretum is rising to the level of national attention. The Spokane Parks and Recreation Department has been using a product know as the Rodenator Pro to cause small underground explosions to kill ground squirrels which are detrimental to the trees in the arboretum. I don't know if blowing up squirrels falls under the "Parks" side of the Parks and Recreation Department or the "Recreation" side of the house. It looks like the people that were blowing up squirrels in the video I found on YouTube the other day were having a pretty good time.

There is an article in the Spokesman Review that gives a little more background. The Parks and Recreation Department had already started using the Verminator Pro without making any announcements. After they had been using it for a little while, people began to call in. I guess the Parks and Recreation Department hadn't considered that people in the neighborhood would be concerned about hearing explosions in the park. Anyway, people called in to ask what was going on in the park, because it sounded like things were blowing up. The Parks and Recreation Department decided it would calm everybody down by informing the public that they were only blowing up squirrels.


Turns out that some people thing blowing up little varmints is kind of mean. How could anyone have seen that one coming?

Here are a few key points that I gleaned from the article:

Rush Limbaugh mentioned it on his show in an effort to tweak the animal rights crowd:

Radio host Rush Limbaugh mentioned the detonation plan on his show Tuesday, saying he wanted animal rights activists “to try this one on for size.”

But Limbaugh focused more on the name of the Finch Arboretum and said it was the first time he’d seen the word arboretum.

“The name for a park, is that what it is?” he asked.

The Humane Society has condemned the practice:
Spokane Humane Society Executive Director Dave Richardson called the “killing of native wildlife” a temporary, unethical and reactionary response to a problem that could be solved by limiting the animals’ food supply.
I am not going to say that one side is right or wrong. But regardless of whether you are in the "Blow 'Em Up" camp or the "Don't Feed 'Em" camp, I think everyone can agree that the people in the Spokane Parks and Recreation Department should reconsider what they are doing:
The Spokane Parks Department once lined burrows with sticks of Wrigley’s juicy fruit gum after hearing rumors that eating the gum would destroy the animals’ stomachs and kill them, Goodspeed said.
Are people that tried to kill squirrels with chewing gum really the same people that we want running around with propane and oxygen explosion generators? Sounds like a recipe for disaster.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Junior is Back in Town

Things are starting to wrap up at school and the last few weeks that I have spent with my nose to the grindstone are finally starting to pay dividends. I still have a substantial amount of work to get done, but the list of remaining reports and presentations before the end of the semester is now at a reasonable level.

I have finally made enough progress that I can watch the Mariner's home opener. I am watching the pregame ceremony now. I think they will have a little tribute for Nick Adenhart, the Angel's pitcher that was killed by a drunk driver last week. They have quite a few things lined up before the game starts.

The biggest attraction of course is the return of Ken Griffey Jr. to the Seattle Mariners. Seattle is pretty excited to welcome back their favorite son and thrilled to have him wearing a Mariner's jersey. I am sure Safeco Field will explode when he is introduced.

I was pretty happy to see him back with the Mariners, although I don't expect a lot of production from him. I am just happy to have a legitimate sports superstar with no hint of scandal attached to him back in town. I am hoping to see a little bit of magic from Griffey today, but even if he doesn't hit one out of the park, I am sure he will get a very warm welcome and I am really happy that I have the chance to watch the game, even if I couldn't be at the ballpark.

Go M's!!!!

Monday, April 13, 2009

Blowing Stuff Up...A Northwest Tradition

I haven't had much time to browse the news and see what has been going on. The news has been dominated today by the story of the American ship's captain that was rescued from the pirates. I am happy that he is coming home safely.

As I was browsing the Seattle Times online tonight, I ran across an article entitled "Spokane Parks to Detonate Squirrels." I thought maybe it was just a headline meant to grab peoples attention, but it turns out to be pretty descriptive of the plan.
The Rodenator Pro pumps propane and oxygen into the tunnels of squirrels, then sends an electric spark that causes an explosion. The shock waves kill the squirrels and collapse their tunnels — but in a humane way, the agency said.
Propane, electric sparks, explosions, shock waves, and collapsing tunnels ...well, at least it's humane.

I went and searched YouTube for Rodenator, and there were quite a few videos showing this machine in action.

As the blog title says, we do have something of a tradition for blowing things up here in the Northwest.

Hopefully, the Spokane Parks Department will watch the exploding whale video before they get started and take away a few "lessons learned" from that brilliant idea.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Huey Lewis & The News

The concert last night was very nice. There were lots of excited moms and kids and Huey Lewis put on a great show. I had forgotten exactly how many songs they have put out over the years. It was a great trip back to the 80's for me.

They opened with "Heart of Rock & Roll" and we also heard "Doing It All For My Baby", "The Power Of Love", "Hip To Be Square", "I Want A New Drug", and many others. Here are a few pictures from the show.

All in all, it was a great show and I would go see them again in a second. Hope everyone else has had a good weekend.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Mom's Weekend

Not my mom, specifically, but Mom's Weekend for the mothers of any Washington State University Cougar. Mom's Weekend is this weekend. My mom has always declined to take part in the festivities. She is a pretty smart woman. As I have said before, Pullman is a pretty small town that is dominated by the university. Now, we add in all the mothers (and fathers that tag along) and Pullman is overwhelmed.

They have Huey Lewis & The News playing tomorrow night. One nice thing about being old enough to be the father of most of the students here is that I am as old as their parents. When they book entertainment for Mom's Weekend and Dad's Weekend, it is geared towards people my age. I haven't taken advantage of this yet, but I decided that I would take in the concert tomorrow night. I passed up on a ZZ Top concert last year, which I probably would have enjoyed a lot, but Huey Lewis & The News should be a good time.

This weekend should be quite a bit more relaxed than the last few weeks. I have gotten ahead on enough schoolwork (or at least caught up enough) that I have tonight and tomorrow night off. I will be going to the concert tomorrow night and I decided to watch a movie tonight. I am going to break out True Romance.

If you haven't heard of this movie, it is a Quentin Tarantino directed love story. There is violence, drugs, violence, politically incorrect language, violence, pimps, violence, prostitutes, violence, mafia, violence, and of course, True Romance.

It has a LOT of well-known actors: Christian Slater, Patricia Arquette, Dennis Hopper, Val Kilmer, Gary Oldman, Christopher Walken, James Gandolfini, and Brad Pitt. This is by far my favorite Brad Pitt role. Here is a little snippet from the movie where Gandolfini meets Brad Pitt.

There is a tad bit of violence in this movie, so you probably don't want to let the kids watch it. At least, they probably shouldn't watch it until they are about 35 years old or so.

I decided I would grab some Guinness Beer to enjoy while I watched the movie tonight, so I ran down to Safeway to grab some. My ID is rarely checked when I buy beer. Today was an exception. The cashier gave me ***REALLY BIG SMILE*** and said loudly, "I know you are probably over 21 sir, but I am required to check ALL ID's for alcohol purchases." I guess he said this to show all the moms in town for the weekend that their kids can't buy booze without being 21.

He didn't need to bother with that. With the exception of two moms, all of the moms (and there were a lot of them) in Safeway were in the beer section buying beer for their kids. I guess it's possible that they were buying beer for themselves, but I don't think that 120 pound blond mama was going to drink two cases of Corona all by herself. The other two moms that weren't in the beer section were in line right behind me with shopping carts full of beer. Well, they might have asked to see my ID to put on a show, but I guess it is nice to show the parents that their babies can't buy booze unsupervised. Personally, I don't have a problem with people drinking at age 18. Old enough to vote, old enough to go to jail as an adult, and old enough to serve in the military...should be old enough to crack open a frosty can of brew.

Well, in any case, I think this will be one of my more enjoyable weekends here in Pullman. I hope that everyone else has a great weekend, too.