How I Spent My Saturday

Monday, 23 August 2010, 8:02 | Category : Life, Mississippi
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Me, driving the tractor

Me, driving the tractor

Among other things I’ve had going on, learning to drive a tractor has taken its place. The extent of my tractor driving is, so far, using it to mow the area around a cabin and pond on property my wife’s family owns about 40 miles from home. I’ve learned a few things:

  • slopes aren’t fun on a tractor
  • slow and steady works best
  • you can bog down a finish mowing deck in high grass
  • mowing on a tractor is hot work

But, it is a nice change of pace from worrying about databases and servers.

favre

Sunday, 22 August 2010, 8:01 | Category : Life, Mississippi, Sports
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favre (färv):

1. To repeatedly change one’s mind about leaving a job (He said he was moving to Montana, but he favred)
2. To be indecisive to an extreem degree (She wanted either the red or the tan shoes, but she favred for two hours)

In Praise Of Cool, Old Buildings

Friday, 20 August 2010, 20:48 | Category : Mississippi
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When I was a kid in the early 1960s, one of my favorite buildings was the Naval Reserve Center across the street from the State Fairgrounds.  At that time, it was a busy place, with reservists there seemingly all the time.  I probably only went there a couple of times, and I have no idea why I would have been there.  My dad was in the Army Reserve, but I don’t think the Army used the building.  I do remember they had some really cool ship models in the front windows.  But over the years, it was used less and less, until at some point it just wasn’t used at all.  In the intervening years, it fell into serious disrepair, with the state apparently spending nothing on upkeep.  So when I noticed last week that there were some people working there, I didn’t know whether to be optimistic or pessimistic.  My route to work takes me on an overpass that goes alongside the building, and I could see that they seemed to be removing the roof at the back.  By today, all the glass had been removed from the many windows, so I decided to drive over and take a few pictures, in case it was demolished in the near future.  Here’s the front:

Naval Reserve Center

The end of the building on either side was what really made it cool:

It was rounded, like stern of an old gunboat from the pre-dreadnought era. I loved that.

As I was driving off today, a truck pulled into the other end of the circular drive. I decided to turn around and see what was going on. It was a contractor working on the building, and to my great delight, I found out that the state is restoring the front part of the complex, the building in my pictures. There’s a long wing off the back and beyond that a near-duplicate of the front, which will be torn down, but the front will survive. The contractor didn’t know what use the state would make of the building, but I’m happy just knowing it will continue to be there.

Loving the Constitution

Tuesday, 17 August 2010, 16:23 | Category : Politics
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All the recent noise about revisiting the 14th Amendment got me thinking about how we love the Constitution. Not how as in “we really love our Consti”, but how as in “What exactly do we mean when we say we love the Constitution”. Or revere it, or honor it. Choose your own word. Anyway, back to the 14th. The problem is Section 1:

All persons born or naturalized in the United States and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.

Suddenly everybody is an expert on the origins of this amendment.  I don’t profess to be.  I’m not even sure exactly how I feel, except that I think the discussion should be based on facts and truth, not hysteria and distortion.  I heard a commentator the other day saying we should revisit this, because it was intended to guarantee citizenship to children of slaves following the Civil War, and was therefore a product of another time.  But you can’t pull one amendment out for that treatment without pulling them all out.  Second Amendment?  Is anybody going to argue that the world of 1787 was the same world we live in today?  Just eleven years earlier, we were writing about “merciless Indian savages” on our frontiers, by which we meant Ohio and Kentucky.  I don’t think the “Any Gun Any Time Anywhere Anyone” crowd really wants to reopen that one.  What is “A well regulated Militia”, anyway?  I never hear any defenders of the Second explaining that;  they like to skip to the last half of the amendment.    And all sides of the political zoo in the United States have had problems with the exercise of the First Amendment.  I’m not saying we should end the endless debate about what the Constitution means.  But we’re on dangerous ground when we start talking about pulling one part out to “fix” it.

Russia’s War

Tuesday, 10 August 2010, 17:40 | Category : Books, History
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I recently finished reading “Russia’s War: A History of the Soviet Effort: 1941-1945“. I’ve read many books on World War II, from many perspectives, but I’d never read one on the part of the war that involved Germany and the Soviet Union. I realize now that part of the reason for that is the lack of information about the Soviet effort prior to the fall of that nation in 1991. With the archives more accessible, a book like this one could be written. I knew from earlier reading that the Soviets contributed massive numbers of men to the war, but reading this book made me appreciate what they did far more than before. As a good American son of a World War II veteran, I grew up firmly ensconsced in the belief that the United States saved the Old World by overwhelming the Germans, Italians, and Japanese when they had the Allies pinned back against the wall. Accounts like the one in this book, however, make you question some things. At the time of the Normandy invasion, the Soviets were facing four to five times as many German troops as the US, British, and other Allied armies. The strength of the German army was being, and had been for a year, sapped in the East. I’m not belittling the efforts of the United States and Britain, but an honest assessment has to give the Russians their due. The United States truly was the Arsenal of Democracy, but the Russians supplied the bulk of the manpower and suffered the most casualties by far. Their industries turned out amazing numbers of tanks, guns, and other military hardware, by devoting nearly all their industrial capacity to the tools of war. But they were able to do this because the United States provided much of the remaining goods needed by a nation. In all ways, it was a combined effort.

But I knew much of that already, for the basic facts of manpower and casualty numbers were known. There was something else that caught my attention. During the 1960s and 1970s, when the Cold War was churning, it was always acknowledged that in the event of the Cold War turning hot, the Soviets would have a huge edge in manpower and tanks. The “party line” I always heard, however, was that the US and NATO would be able to balance that with the greater innovation and resourcefulness that would be inherent in “our” side, because of the differences between our respective societies, free world versus regimented, totalitarian world. But what struck me in this book was how, in the early days of the German attack on the Soviet Union, how junior and mid-level officers were able to change strategy and tactics to adapt to changing battlefield conditions, often in the absence of communications with higher command. It made me think that, in yet another way, it was a very good thing that the balloon never went up.