I’m back

It takes buying a house to find out that “Money Pit” was a documentary.

And now you know why I was away from the blog, and pretty much from everything else, for almost a year.

Published in: on May 31, 2011 at 11:54 pm  Comments (4)  

Flag

In earlier years, I have never put a flag on my house. Well, except for Jolly Roger on Halloween, that is.

Back in the old country, if you saw a Soviet (and later Ukrainian) flag, you could bet any money that the building it was on was some government institution.

When I first came to US, flags on private houses really surprised me. The idea that a private citizen would put a flag on his house, of his own free will, without government forcing him, was totally alien to me. You see, when you are taught that your country and your government (and the ruling party) are one and the same, you make a connection that the flag represents the government as much as it does the country. And when life teaches you extreme cynicism about anything government-related, because of corruption, hypocrisy and Orwellian machinations of the government (not politicians, government as a whole), flag of that government is the last thing you want decorating your residence. It took some time to learn that you can be cynical about the government, and even despise the ruling party (or all parties for that matter), and still love the country.

During the years of H1B serfdom, and later, during the green card years I didn’t feel that I had the right to that flag. I lived here, but had no right to call this country mine; the flag on my house would make me seem an impostor.

Now I do have a right to that flag. And today is a perfect day to fly it, honoring those who died to make and protect this country and its freedoms.
My son helped me today. We raised the flag half-way in the morning, then all the way at noon.
For him it’s natural to want a flag of his country on his house. And it’s a good thing, I want it to stay that way.

I wanted to write something about Memorial Day itself, but someone, who writes better than I ever could, already did. Go read

Published in: on May 30, 2011 at 7:36 pm  Comments (10)  

Hmm

Saw this little gem, by way of Tam:

Till the very end I was waiting for the camera to pan down and show a significant other of either gender being the cause of the sounds … because I simply couldn’t imagine a normal person making noises like that for so long in any other circumstances.

What bothered me here:

  1. He actually videotaped himself moaning at the rainbow … for three f…ing minutes
  2. He made that video public
  3. He votes

The first two – I don’t really care, as long as I’m not forced to watch it. The third is quite another matter.

Published in: on July 6, 2010 at 10:10 am  Leave a Comment  

Proud Varyag

When naval history geeks have conversations about battles that were hopeless before they started, the battle of Chemulpo Bay comes up as one of the top examples .. a battle for the honor of the Navy, against overwhelming odds, that did not manage to overcome those odds, and made the names of the ships that fought it probably the most known in Russia.

On February 8, 1904 a Russian gunboat Koreets, sent from Chemulpo Bay to Port Arthur to report sighting of a large Japanese force, met Japanese cruiser Chiyoda. Chiyoda launched torpedoes (all of them missed), Koreets fired two shots from her cannon (also missed). Both sides denied afterwards that they were the first to fire. These were the first shots of the Russo-Japanese War 1904-1905.

Koreets returned to Chemulpo, rejoining another Russian ship, cruiser Varyag. Chemulpo Bay at the time was host to warships of several major powers: Great Britain, France, Italy, United States and Russia, and was considered a neutral port. In response to an ultimatum from commander of the Japanese force, admiral Uryu, on February 9th Varyag and Koreets left the port to attempt to break through to Port Arthur. Their Captains knew they had no chance to succeed. They knew the odds: one modern protected cruiser and one outdated gunboat against two armored cruisers, four protected cruisers and eight torpedo boats, all modern. The Japanese force was sufficient to block each exit from the port with superior force. Captains of the neutral ships were advising Varyag‘s Captain Vsevolod Rudnev to surrender. His decision: “Make every shot matter”.

Cruiser Varyag

As Varyag was leaving the port, English and Italian crews cheered, the orchestra on Italian cruiser was playing Russian anthem.

There are examples of battles won against the odds in naval history. This isn’t one of them. Varyag came under fire of six cruisers. Koreets’ old guns couldn’t reach Japanese ships. First shots from Asama destroyed one of two range finding stations on Varyag. Soon after, the other range finding station was also destroyed, most of the guns were damaged, rudder drive was damaged, crew was fighting multiple fires, Captain was wounded… Unable to maneuver and with almost all guns damaged, Varyag returned to port. Russian casualties: 31 dead, about 191 wounded. Japanese casualties: 30 men and one torpedo boat, according to Russian sources; none, according to Japanese sources.

As the ship, damaged below the waterline, starts to sink, the crew is evacuated to neutral warships. Varyag was sunk, Koreets was blown up. The crew made it back to Russia, where they received heroes’ welcome. In 1907 Captain Rudnev was decorated for valor in battle of Chemulpo Bay by the Japanese. He received the order of the Rising Sun, 2nd degree, and never wore it.

Varyag was raised by the Japanese, converted to training ship and renamed Soya. In 1916 she was purchased by Russia from Japan and renamed back. In 1917 she went to Great Britain for repairs, and was confiscated there after the Russian revolution. In 1920 she was sold to Germany for scrap, and ran aground while getting towed, near Scotland. She sunk in 1925.

There were two more Varyags in the Russian Navy after that.

Aircraft Carrier Varyag

Next Varyag was an aircraft carrier, that started construction in 1985 as Riga, and renamed to Varyag in 1990. In 1993, following the collapse of the USSR, the Black Sea Fleet was divided  between Russia and Ukraine. Varyag ended up in Ukrainian fleet. Her construction was never fully completed and in 1998 she was sold to China. She’s now known as Shi Lang.

And the latest Varyag started construction earlier than the one before – in 1979, as missile cruiser Chervona Ukraina (Red Ukraine) – ironic, isn’t it? This ship ended up in Russian fleet, and in 1996 changed her name to Varyag.

Missile Cruiser Varyag

Rocket launchers P-1000 Vulcan (П-1000 Вулкан), anti-sub launcher RBU-6000 Smerch-2 (РБУ-600 Смерчь-2) and anti-aircraft gun AK-630 on cruiser Varyag (Варяг)

Which brings us to why I started writing this bunch of historical trivia in the first place: two weeks ago Varyag arrived on the first visit of major Russian warship to San Francisco since … I’m tempted to say since Juno, but Juno wasn’t technically a major warship.

Interestingly enough, her stay in San Francisco coincided with a visit from three Japanese cruisers …

Japanese cruisers visiting San Francisco

Chemulpo Bay

Published in: on July 5, 2010 at 2:50 am  Leave a Comment  

News from Respectable Sources

There’s MSM editorials, good mostly as a substitute for sleeping pills, and then there’re editorials that are not only more to the point, but also fun to read. Larry Correia, one of my favorite authors just put out one of the latter kind. Money quote:

Meanwhile, a bunch of left wing hoodlums are burning stuff at the G-20, just like they do. Every. Single. Year. Why is it that the media is so deathly afraid of us right wingers being violent, though we hardly ever are, yet lefties and socialists shut down a city for a week every year and nobody notices because it’s so ho-hum. It’s probably because if a single local Tea-Party got into a mood we could overthrow a small country. My side doesn’t screw around. When we get violent, we go big or we go home. I see your trash can through a store window and raise you a Barrett M-82, hippy.

Published in: on June 30, 2010 at 2:39 pm  Leave a Comment  

I am in the wrong business

How do you forget $37K???

Question: how much do you need to be stealing earning, to think of $37K as pocket change that you can just forget to mention?

Is there anyone in that crowd, who understands that they are supposed to be our employees, not our rulers, above the law, and that the word “integrity” is not just a talking point for their PR people, but something the rest of us actually do take seriously?

And this little piece of inconvenient truth is just disgusting.

Published in: on June 29, 2010 at 3:46 pm  Comments (4)  

Didn’t take long

It’s almost like it was predictable or something:

Daley didn’t specify what measures he intends to push, but he said he planned to move quickly to get them in front of the City Council, saying that it is possible a special session will be called to address the issue.

He said he’s considering creating a registry of the names and addresses of everyone in the city who legally owns a handgun, which would be made available to police officers, firefighters and other “first responders” before they arrive at the scene of emergencies.

The mayor also said Chicago might follow the District of Columbia’s lead in requiring prospective gun owners to take training courses that include several hours of classroom learning about gun safety and passing a 20-question test.

Daley has suggested that owners may be required to buy insurance for those guns.


Wow. Registration (most likely, costing money), training (no doubt, not provided for free) and mandatory insurance (costing money by definition), all in one response. Anyone believes any of these will make Chicago safer, rather than simply make handgun ownership expensive to the point of prohibitive to people whose income level forces them to live in high crime neighborhoods?

Published in: on June 29, 2010 at 2:26 pm  Leave a Comment  

Happy Dance

Yes!!!!

It was the right thing to do, and still many of us held our breath waiting for the decision – the right thing to do isn’t always the thing that gets done. Well, the wait is over, 2nd Amendment is incorporated. I can’t find words to describe how happy it makes me feel.

Go read Sebastian’s great analysis of the SCOTUS decision, or read the decision itself.

Coming up next: what does this mean for the right to keep and bear arms here in Kommiefornia? Which of the current restrictions will stay (ban on standard capacity magazines?, ban on non-essential but scary-looking rifle accessories?), and what will happen to the “bear” part of the right? Right now concealed carry is pretty much impossible, and open carry is one vote away from getting banned – clearly if that ban passes, this will mean an outright ban of a right that is supposed to be protected from any infringement.

I think we’ll witness some very interesting court cases, and backpedaling by local legislatures, trying to find ground and see just how inconvenient they can make our lives, while staying within good graces of Heller and McDonald decisions.

Published in: on June 28, 2010 at 11:22 am  Leave a Comment  

An ordinary day for me

Today is Autism Awareness Day. Unfortunately, for some of us, Autism awareness is just part of everyday life.

May it never be part of yours.

Published in: on April 2, 2010 at 9:28 am  Comments (4)  

On Jokes and Opinions

New guy comes to a club, and observes a comedian on the stage saying: “Thirty One.” The audience collapses with laughter.
Another comedian gets on the stage and says: “Fifty Three with an Irishman.” He gets a standing ovation.
Our guy has no idea what’s going on, so he asks one of the waiters. The waiter explains: “You see, Sir, what we found is that same jokes get told over and over with very small variations, our regulars know them all, so we created a catalog, assigning a number to each of the jokes, and our comedians now just name a number and sometimes add their variation. It saves a lot of time and our customers enjoy more jokes and feel less inhibited to get on the stage themselves.”
So, after a while our guy decides to try it. He gets on the stage and says: “Fourteen.”
He’s met with dead silence. Then one guy walks to him, smacks him on the face, and says: “We don’t tell that kind of jokes, when the ladies are present, Mister.”

My friend Ann brings up a good question on appropriateness of jokes, given their potential to offend. An issue I have more than a passing acquaintance with: in the past, a number of friends commented to me that they would be really offended at my jokes, but couldn’t get themselves to be offended at me. And a number of people that barely knew me, mostly from online conversations, got pretty upset over some of my remarks.
A lot of it has to be in the delivery. I love people, especially my friends, and it hurts me to see them offended. In personal conversations this must come through pretty clearly. Online, written word (not my strongest form of communication) is the only thing people see, and the message gets distorted.

I’d like to think that I’ve learned from those experiences. Unfortunately, the “learning” means that my online jokes are much fewer and milder than they used to be, and my jokes in real life, while nowhere near as mild as the online stuff, are also fewer and milder than before.

Still, pretty much any jokes are a risk to offend, and this risk should never be the reason to abstain from joking. Any words have the potential to offend, and if we kept the conversation only to things that would offend no one, this would lead to political correctness hell, where we would spend the time bored to death, or silent. Or both.
This is not about jokes, jokes just bring the issue to the surface. Expressing strong opinions – political, religious, economical, etc. tends to do the same.

The principles I hold with regard to both jokes and opinions:

  1. It’s not ok to make a personal attack
  2. However, it is ok to make light of, or attack an opinion. If one of the people I talk to happens to hold that opinion, it’s not a personal attack against them. If they can’t tell the difference, they have bigger problems than just holding the opinion in question.
  3. Making fun of an opinion often leads to an argument, and holding an argument, no matter how polite, sometimes requires walking a very thin line on the border of a personal attack. For example, when in order to counter someone’s opinion we have to point out their incompetence in this area, would this be justified? “How can a person with such a big nose hold this opinion?” obviously would not be. “How can a person with no experience in this area make judgment calls about it?” is perfectly fine. Not everyone seems to agree with this, and it got me taken off one person’s “friend list”. Their right, I stand behind everything I wrote, and have nothing to apologize for.
  4. The only person who can make jokes about someone’s personal appearance is that someone, and no one else.
  5. The only people who can make jokes about race, religion, sexual orientation, etc. are the people who belong to that race, religion or sexual orientation. (Can I please, please, please get Catholic priests excluded from this rule – I know a really good joke …)

What are your experiences and rules with jokes and opinions?

Published in: on March 28, 2010 at 11:12 pm  Comments (3)