Wednesday, December 31, 2014

The Boys in the Boat

Interesting in or involved in rowing? Read "The Boys in the Boat," by Daniel James Brown.

"The task of shaping a motley crew of young men into an Olympic team to venture into the heart of Nazi darkness seems like cinematic gold. So, not surprisingly, a film version of The Boys in the Boat is already in development, with Kenneth Branagh signed to direct what might well become another Chariots of Fire – or Seabiscuit."

1936 University of Washington Crew

2014 - 2015

Happy New Year!

Thursday, December 18, 2014

The Lion and the Sun -- Christmas 1994

“Are you with me, Dan?”
Conte turned and looked at Scigliasi, who was looking at Conte with his head tilted to one side and a slight scowl on his face.
“I said, you need to read this.” He handed Conte a brown envelope. “Eyes only. Reseal it when you’re through, will you?” Scigliasi tossed Conte a roll of heavy paper tape, then walked over to a desk in the corner, sat, and started sorting through papers.
Conte tore open the envelope. There was another envelope in it marked with an If lost, return to stamp, with a name Conte didn’t recognize written on the line. He opened the inner envelope and took out a cable with a TOP SECRET//COMINT cover sheet. The document itself had other caveats and restrictions on distribution, including UMBRA -- the blackest part of the shadow, where absolutely no light penetrated. Conte rested his backside against the table and read.

Subject: Russian Agent Planned Defection
Summary: A Russian intelligence service agent, code name, Tetris, contacted a United States intelligence officer and stated a desire to defect to the U.S. Tetris is a known SVR officer with a long history of working some of Russia’s highest priority operations, including the recent joint operation with U.S. special forces to recover a Russian plutonium pit that found its way into terrorist hands in Iran. Bonafides provided check out. Tetris has placed certain demands on his defection, including specifying who will bring him into US hands. Tetris’s current situation is tenuous, as he is being pursued by the Russian FSB and has been unable to leave the country. The DCI requests immediate action to extract Tetris and acquire this high-value target.

Conte skimmed the rest of the document, looked over at Scigliasi. He was watching Conte now. Conte held up the document. “You’ve seen this?”
“Yeah,” he said dismissively. “No secret who it is, or who he wants to bring him in from the cold.”
Conte tossed the document on the table. “Shit.”
Scigliasi walked over and began repackaging the document.
“Oh, sorry.” Conte handed him back the tape.
“Look, Dan, I don’t think you’re in any shape to do this. I told Corbin Bishop that. He said that Bala… Tetris is a dead man if we don’t get him out now, and thinks that if you’re well enough to travel over here, you’re well enough to go the extra mile to pick up Tetris. But you know, you can just say no.”
“And then what?”
“They’ll find someone else that’s acceptable.”
“You think so?”
“It doesn’t matter what I think, but it doesn’t have to be your problem.”
Conte sat back down, raised his one good arm, and rubbed his forehead. Balakirev was counting on him to come and get him. He trusted Conte. And he’d made sure that Conte owed him. The tape had saved Conte’s ass. Then again, who set up Kaitlyn? He’d asked that question twice now and no one seemed to know.
Conte looked up at Scigliasi. “What’s the drill?”
Scigliasi walked back to the desk and picked up his briefcase. He put it on the table, entered the combination, and snapped the locks open. He took out an envelope and handed it to Conte. “Passport, identification papers, cover materials, itinerary, airline tickets, et cetera, et cetera. You’ve been through it all before.”
Conte fingered the envelope. Looked at Scigliasi and then down again.
Scigliasi shook his head. “You’re going to do it, aren’t you?” he asked, with a look of disbelief.
“I don’t know.” I don’t know.
Scigliasi sighed. “Well, you’ll need to read the plan here and give it back to me. The rest of the stuff you can take.”
Conte looked at the airline tickets. The flight left Vienna International the next day at 1117. He read the plan. It was a typical pickup operation. Dead drops, test runs, diversions, hand offs – tradecraft; the advanced course.

The Lion and the Sun, Published May 2013

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Merry Christmas

The Rathaus came into view, its four spires and soaring campanile lit by floodlights, the square in front filled with booths and milling people. The whole effect like a combination outdoor sale, flea market, and county fair all garbed in Christmas decorations (The Lion and the Sun).

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Elephants Threaten the U.S. Second Amendment

China has been accused of allowing gangs to smuggle massive amounts of elephant ivory on a state trip to Tanzania. African terrorist groups like Boko Haram use ivory to gain capital. What kind of soulless country would be the biggest retailer for such a cruel product?


No, actually, we are only No. 2. Earlier this year, the Obama administration passed legislation banning all ivory sales unless the ivory is technically an antique. Congress was mostly on board, until it became apparent that the NRA wasn't.

Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN) sponsored Senate Bill S.2587: The Lawful Ivory Protection Act of 2014, a bill designed to counter the attack by Elephants on the treasured Second Amendment rights of law abiding American citizens. Counterattacks on elephants appear to be going well, with over 100,000 killed in just three years. More elephants are now being killed than are being born. But once again Obama and his government overreach program is attempting to step in and prevent the trade in Ivory to save the elephants, of all things!

Alexander has a long and storied history of supporting positions favored by the NRA and they favor killing as many goddamned elephants as it takes to protect Americans' Second Amendment rights. The fact that the elephant is the symbol of the "Grand Old Party" (GOP) has not escaped Alexander. "If all the real elephants are dead, we'll just use ivory elephants as our symbol. Because that's who we are!"

John Stewart recently addressed the subject.

If you think it's worthwhile to save a few elephants, and not just in the zoo, I suppose you could tweet the Senator, @SenAlexander. For example, "#KillS2587 not elephants," or something like that.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Colonoscopy -- Unpleasent but a necessary preventive measure

I had my 10-year follow-up colonoscopy last Thursday (one year late). My first procedure showed no problems, so the follow-up was recommended for 10 years downstream, rather than five, as are those involving polyps that require removal.

I'm a firm believer in preventive medicine (as well as preventive dentistry), so I felt I should post the video of my colonoscopy, just as Katie Couric did hers. A lot of people are very hesitant to undergo this procedure. Believe me, it's not as bad as people imagine. The worst part is the prep. The procedure itself is quick and painless -- actually, you're sedated, so you don't feel a thing, and there's no pain afterwards.

So here's the video of my colonoscopy.