Thursday, November 21, 2013

Oh, shirt...

I own very few offensive t-shirts, no matter who's defining offensive. Most of my shirts are for places I've worked, vendors whose stuff I sold (and liked) at places I worked, in-state Alaskan airlines, and several military units. (Elmendorf Air Force Base hosts an airshow every two years, and all the support groups host the food and swag booths. So as you walk down the row, you get "Hey! Have a hot dog! Support the Paratroopers!" "Ignore him! Have a burger from our maintenance unit! They couldn't fly without us!" "Hey, they only work on airplanes! Get some cotton candy from the helicopter pilots! We're cooler!" And every single beer-and-brats unit morale fund has t-shirts available for sale. The Blue Angel's slick professional booth looks so out of place compared to the firefighters vs. the small marine group vs. the maintenance units vs. the AWACs crew and their sharpie-on-cardboard signs and cheerful rivalry. How could I not support the guys?)

In fact, other than the shirts I buy to help support Operation Migration (who got this year's flock of whooping cranes to Tennessee yesterday! Another year, another eight birds away from extinction!), I rarely buy t-shirts at all. So I rarely think about what I'm wearing to work beyond "short or long sleeve?"

This week, I was waiting for my boss to finish the meeting-after-the-meeting, so I could provide a quick update on some info I'd presented. One of the gaggle of higher-ups gestured at me as I was waiting a polite distance away, and said to several other layers of management, "And I absolutely love her t-shirt."

I quickly looked down to check what I had on, and tried to remain calm as several heads swung around to stare at my chest. "What is it?" Asked someone even higher up the food chain. It's a shirt Oleg gave me after I had a cooking mishap at his house, I thought.

"It's the front sight on an M16." The short-haired, ramrod-straight-spined manager responded, with a grin. "I've spent so much time looking through one of those..."

I looked at all the eyes looking from him to me, and responded to a raised eyebrow of inquiry. "I figured it's amusing to those who know what it is, and completely inoffensive to anyone else, because they won't be offended by what they can't recognize."

"Ah." The bossly heads nodded, and moved on.

And now I'm left wondering - do I wear a shirt that makes a manager upstream grin, or do I remove it for possible offensiveness? In reality, it's now in the dirty clothes bin, and will probably just end up back in the rotation, forgotten until that manager starts grinning when I'm presenting at another meeting.

Friday, November 15, 2013

The little furry socialist

Housecats are consummate socialists.

1. What's mine is mine, and what's yours is mine, too.
2. Yes, I know you provide free food. But it's filthy swill! Give me better free food!
3. Work? Oh, yes, that's what you do. Get to it.
4. I love you. Wait, no, I kill you. Wait, I love you! So I just bit you - pet me now!
5. My catbox, it is filthy. But we know it isn't mine, because my excrement doesn't stink. So clean up your own excrement, human.
6. It's 3am, and I've decided I'm not getting enough handouts. Snap to it!
7. Shiny! Shiny! Shiny! Shiny! .... what? Stop looking at me like that!
8. I meant to do that. That so totally was my idea in the first place. Ahem. If I look perfect, right after this shoulder gets groomed, then of course everything is the way it should be.
9. What? My claws needed sharpening. What do I care if I'm trashing the accomodations and the sofa? You can always provide another one for me.
10. You expect me to do tricks? I don't work for food.
11. Why are you trying to take my fur off your business suit? It's the perfect fashion accessory! Are you daring to criticize my fashion, slave of the state? Death by twenty claws on your hose-covered legs!

12. So you're interrupting my nap by mopping, eh? Well, I could stay on this nice warm blanket, or I could hop down onto the freshly mopped floor. Hmmm. YAAAUGH!! It's WET!! How disgusting! WHAT WERE YOU THINKING! HOW COULD YOU MAKE THE FLOOR WET?!?

13. I'll forgive you if you give me more catnip, toys, and heavy whipping cream. Ahem. This is a claw. I said, I'll forgive you if...

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Pumpkin Rolling

It's time to remove hoofed rats from the road to the freezer with .50 & .54 cal - no, not BFG deer season, muzzleloading season. I have a muzzleloader, and I have a sore shoulder and a sincere desire to sleep in, so I loaned it to a friend with a promise of cooking whatever venison dish he wants if he brings the gun and some venison back.

Then I went to a spot much, much closer to the suburbs, and met up with Oleg Volk and a friend for much smaller targets. Oleg brought a suppressed .22 pistol with subsonic rounds, a .22 revolver with rounds that were only primer and bullet, no powder, and a suppressed .22 rifle on a bipod - so almost all shooting could be done without hearing protection at all, as the shots were about as loud as an air rifle. We defined a safe window of opportunity, and then one person carried pumpkins to the top of the hill, and set them rolling off at an angle down the sloping path in the side of the hill. As soon as the pumpkin was far enough away horizontally from the roller, and far enough below the skyline that there was a good backstop, the shooting commenced - hit it on the move as it bounces, rolls, and caroms off small trees!

Leaves flew. Dirt sprayed. Every now and then, a small hole appeared, or a chip of pumpkin flew off. Every now and then, a pumpkin met a solid tree, and split. I discovered that, despite all the walking I do every day for work, ten miles on flat concrete does not mean I'm in good shape for hustling up a steep hill. Also, I only got four or five hits out of a ten-round magazine on the pumpkin. Clearly, I need to practice more!

Its a better day than I hoped, though - I got home to find an exhausted young boy with a grin bigger than his head wrapped up in blankets and watching tv, while the friend was out doing stuff. I may have killed a few pumpkins, but the kid got a six-point buck! Seventy five pounds dressed weight after a clean heart shot - time to break out the venison recipes!

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Making Friends and Influencing People

Warning: mentions politics. Do not respond with regurgitated political talking points and thoughtless one-liners, even if you know I like you as a person.

So, Virginia just had a very close race, and the Republicans lost. The immediate, and inevitable result happened - the Republicans turn around and say "You Stupid Libertarians! If you'd only done the smart thing and voted for our person, we would have won! It's all your fault we lost!"

Let's deconstruct this message for a minute, and maybe some of you will understand why this neither makes friends nor influences voters the way you want them to.

1. Libertarians are not Republicans. They don't have the same goals, the same ideals, the same aims, or the same parties. In fact, if you look into the mass of libertarians, you'll soon realize that while they have a lot of differences, they're often less divisive in aggregate than the republican party - and they are far, far away from the "RINO" Republicans that hold the elected seats and are the face and power of that party.

2. If, after every election, you shout and scream at someone "It's All Your Fault, You Expletive!", people don't forget these insults. They remember, and it makes them even less likely to vote for your candidate even if there's overlap with their ideals at the next election.

3. The non-participation of registered voters always far outweighs the percentage of registered voters who went third party. Even if you assume that all the votes were true (very unlikely; we know there's fraud), 20% of the registered voters didn't turn out for this "close" race.

4. People who haven't got a majority party will take any funding they can to use to their end. Look, in South Africa, the apartheid government refused to educate blacks. The western world turned its back on 'em and basically said "You're no longer a colony, so it's not our problem." The only people who would take the desperate and the disaffected and give them education and training were... China and the USSR. In the end, the communist guerrillas they trained, in the form of the "African National Congress", essentially brought down the government and won the civil war. (See who's in power today.) Yes, they've now made a bloody mess of a once-vibrant economy, because that's what communists do, but the point is - if a Democrat-affiliated donor offers a lot of money to a third party, they're neither stupid nor slow, and they're not blindly suckered by a conspiracy theory. Nor will they turn it down and remain poor just to satisfy the Other Main Party's wish for 'ideological purity.'

Put these four points together, and consider how, after several elections worth of finger-pointing and blaming, the message is loud and clear: "I'm not even going to check into what you want, or who your guy is, you have to vote for mine because I think he's right, even if he doesn't want what you do, and I'm going to point the finger and blame you again anyway if we lose... no matter how many of my people didn't think he was worth voting for and sat this one out."

That is NOT the way to get the libertarian vote on your side. I don't care if your candidate is the second coming of Thomas Jefferson, if your party has a history of treating swing voters like that, they're not going to vote for your guy. Add in the long-established Republican tradition of making some noises to the right virtues, and then acting like.. well, John McCain and Chris Christie, Scott Brown and Mitch McConnell... and no, you're not going to woo a lot of badly burned and thoroughly disgusted voters of an entirely different party by a last ditch effort of "But this one's Tea Party! He's Awesome! You've got to ditch your candidate and support ours because he's making all our right noises!" Even if it's true.

Look to your non-participation rate within your own party before you start casting about for a third-party scapegoat, guys, because a dog may lick the boot that kicked it, but swing voters, and voters that belong to another party with different aims and goals than yours, sure won't. All you're doing is ensuring they won't vote for your guy in the next election.