C I V I L    M A R R I A G E    I S    A    C I V I L    R I G H T.

A N D N O W I T ' S T H E L A W O F T H E L A N D.


Friday, August 31, 2012

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Country Time: Mockingbird

Written by sister-brother duo Inez and Charlie Foxx from Greensboro, North Carolina, it was a Top Ten hit for them back in 1963:




In 1974, it was a #5 hit for James Taylor and then-wife Carly Simon, seen here at a No Nukes concert in New York City in 1979:




And in 2004, Toby Keith and daughter Krystal took it to the country charts, where it reached #27:



Monday, August 27, 2012

Lubbock Prepares for Invasion by United Nations


Well boys, the state of the world, and of this great country in particular, is mighty grim, yes it is. But there's one bright spot amid the gloom: the great metropolis of Lubbock, Texas, will not be caught napping in the event that all the forces of evil are unleashed by Obama's re-election this fall. I know you all are as worried about that as I am.

County Judge Tom Head, who presides over the county commissioners' meetings, is asking residents to approve his proposed increase in property taxes to hire more deputies to defend the county on the day when those blue-bonneted U.N. storm troopers come rolling across the plains. Here he is, speaking on the local Fox News channel:



Judge Head says he was quoted out of context, but danged if he didn't make the same remarks earlier in the week in a discussion with local talk-radio host Jeff Klotzman. Here's a transcript in English, for those of you who don't comprende the Texan:
Judge Head: "As County Judge I am the emergency management coordinator. As emergency management coordinator I have to think about the very worst thing that can happen and prepare for that and hope and pray for the best, OK? And in this political climate and financial climate, what is the very worst thing that can happen right now? Obama gets back in the White House. No. God forbid."

Jeff Klotzman: "That's the political aspect of this."

Judge Head: "OK. What's going to happen. Now I'm going to tell you my opinion, OK. Obama has put executive orders and whatever other documents his minions have filed. And regardless of whether the Republicans take over the Senate, which I hope they do, he is going to make the United States Congress and he's going to make the Constitution irrelevant. He's got his czars in place that don't answer to anybody. He's got his documents in place. They're going to be irrelevant.

"He is going to do what he wants to do. Now what do you think he is going to try to do in this next term? One of the things, my opinion. One of the things is he's going to try to give the sovereignty of the United States away to the United Nations. What do you think the public is going to do when that happens? We are talking civil unrest, civil disobedience, possibly, possibly civil war, OK? Now what happens? What happens? Now I'm not talking just talking riots here and there. I'm talking Lexington, Concord, take up arms, get rid of the dictator. OK, what do you think he is going to do when that happens? He is going to call in the UN troops, personnel carriers, tanks and weapons."

Jeff Klotzman: "I hope you don't have like a crystal ball you're looking into."

Judge Head: "Hey I've got to look at the worst case scenario, OK. I don't want UN coming into Lubbock County, so I'm going to be standing in front of their personnel carriers and say, 'You're not coming in here.' And I've asked the Sheriff. I said, 'Are you going to back me on this?' And he said, 'Yeah, I'm going to back you.' Well, I don't want a bunch of rookies back there who have no training and little equipment. I want seasoned veteran people who are trained that have got equipment. And even then, you know we may have two or three hundred deputies facing maybe a thousand UN troops. We may have to call out the militia.

But not to be outdone, them slick-talking Noo Yawk reporters ran over and got a-holt of the head honcho of the Yoonited Nashuns and asst him what time the invashun was a-going down. Well, not the head man, eggzackly, but one-a his gang members. An' he said:
"It's absolutely ridiculous," said U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon's spokesman, Martin Nesirky, when asked if the United Nations had any plans to invade Texas.

He later added: "No one, not even the United Nations, would ever mess with Texas."

Hmmm.   Them names sounds mighty suspishus to me, don't they to you?  And oh wow, think about this - a Russian guy speaking for a Chinese dude.  Dadblamed if that don't sound like somethin' straight out of Revelations!  It all fits perfect, don't it?  The Great Beast and the Image of the Beast.  Whoa! 

Of course you fellas are probly thinkin' whut I'm thinkin' - he would say that, wouldn't he? Iffen they really wuz plannin' on a invashun. Whooee boys, hang on to your hats! No tellin' whut's a-gonna happen next.

Goddamn, I'm just proud as I can be that we got one good man in Lubbock a-lookin' out for Texas! Yessiree bob. You got to get up purty damn early in the mornin' to fool a Texan. I tell you what.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Voices of Sanity from around the World


The Right Reverend Alan Wilson, Bishop of Buckingham, on marriage equality, which the Cameron government has promised to bring to the United Kingdom, and which most of the hierarchy of the Church of England opposes:




From May 2010, an exchange between Michael D. Higgins (who was elected President of Ireland in 2011) and Tea Party-loving radio guy Michael Graham on an Irish radio station:




And from Down Under, Prime Minister Julia Gillard has some thoughts on the birther movement in this country:




Sunday Drive: Bach, Adagio

In remembrance of Neil Armstrong, 1930-2012, first man on the Moon.



Saturday, August 25, 2012

Whose Life Is It, Anyway?

Tony Nicklinson, before a stroke left him paralyzed and speechless

Do take a few minutes to read up on the case of Tony Nicklinson, a 58 year-old-Briton who was paralyzed from the neck down after suffering a stroke in 2005, although his mind was unaffected.  He could communicate only by blinking his eyes and grunting.  Doctors said that with proper care, he could expect to live another 20 or 30 years in this condition. 

Antother pre-stoke photo of Tony and his wife, Jane

Last week, a British court refused his plea to be allowed to escape from a "dull, miserable, demeaning, undignified and intolerable" life - which in your Head Trucker's view is a fate much, much worse than death.  Nicklinson rejected all arguments based on religious principles, because he was an atheist. 

After the crushing verdict, Tony refused food and mercifully died of pneumonia just six days later.

Don't think it can't happen to you, or to someone you dearly love.  I can't bear to go into the story of my mother's death, but suffice it to say that the doctors and nurses allowed her final agony to go on for more than three days of screaming in unbearable pain.  And they didn't turn a hair.  Because they like their very lucrative jobs much more than they care about human suffering; and because behind them are boards and committees and commissions and all sorts of layers of nameless, faceless people who make rules to regulate everybody's else's life and death.

And somewhere at the end of that long, untraceable chain is some fat, self-satisfied churchy person, purring with righteousness, who keeps saying oh-so-sweetly, "Well I just don't think it's right."

Well, you fellas will understand more about all that when you have to face it, as you very well may one day.  And don't think you, or the person you love best in all the world, will escape all the tortures that medical science can devise, just because you say pretty please. Fow now, though, please have a look at Tony's story:



A talk with Tony and his wife filmed by a BBC reporter last year:






Twitter interview with Tony, who answers both supporters and opponents:
Tony Nicklinson: 'I have a fear of living like this when I am old and frail'

Editorial in The Guardian:
Tony Nicklinson: What a Tragic Story Tells Us

By Peter Stanford, former editor of the Catholic Herald:
How an extraordinary day spent with Tony Nicklinson changed my views on right-to-die




Friday, August 24, 2012

Share a Little Sunshine


Gay park ranger Mark Foley, who was featured in a story on Joe.My.God. a couple of years ago as shown above, encourages you to put Florida state parks on your vacation destination list.  Who wants to go with me?




BTW - Ranger Foley is no relation to the disgraced Florida Congressman of the same name.

Waitin' for the Weekend




Why Marriage Matters

An update on the Edie Windsor case, which I've blogged about on the Blue Truck before - and which is now headed for the Supreme Court, along with a bunch of other DOMA cases, this fall.




And meet the Hendersons - an Air Force married couple in Iowa who talk about the distress and difficulties DOMA causes for them:



Thursday, August 23, 2012

Not the Real World


Via Towleroad, on the Dan Savage-Brian Brown dinner that was moderated by a reporter from the New York Times at Dan's house - emphasis mine:
After the dinner was over and the wine had worn off, Oppenheimer asked the participants, including Savage's spouse Terry Miller, about their shared experience. It seems no one truly enjoyed themselves, and Savage wishes he had held the event on neutral ground.

Mr. Miller pronounced the entire night a waste of time. “Brian’s heartless readings of the Bible, then his turns to ‘natural law’ when the Bible fails, don’t hide his bigotry and cruelty,” Mr. Miller wrote in an e-mail. “In the end, that’s what he is. Cruel.”

I spoke with Mr. Brown by phone, and he seemed to agree that the setting had made little difference. “There’s this myth that folks like me, we don’t know any gay people, and if we just met them, we would change our views,” he said. “But the notion that if you have us into your house, that all that faith and reason that we have on our side, we will chuck it out and change our views — that’s not the real world.”

As for Mr. Savage, he felt that being on his home turf had actually worked against him. “Playing host put me in this position of treating Brian Brown like a guest,” he said. “It was better in theory than in practice — it put me at a disadvantage during the debate, as the undertow of playing host resulted in my being more solicitous and considerate than I should’ve been. If I had it to do over again, I think I’d go with a hall.”

Brown is exactly right on the one point: the die-hard bigots, and they are legion, will never, ever change their minds about the gay. Not even if they live next door, not even if they are blood kin to you. That's not the real world - and I know, because I have lived it, and I've told you my stories here on the Blue Truck before.

Here's the complete video of the dinner debate. I can't stand to watch the whole thing, had to stop after a couple minutes of Brown's filthy, hateful talk. You might as well expect a confirmed Nazi to embrace the idea that Jews are human beings.  But if you can stomach the evil, here you go.



PS - You damn well better get your ass to the polls this November and vote Democratic. The fascists will certainly be casting their ballots en masse. Don't think what's happening in Russia, Uganda, and Zimbabwe can't happen here - you'd be surprised how very, very quickly your gay ass can be eliminated.

Talking to Meteorologists


Via Towleroad, which reports on a brand-new Tumblr dedicated to this sort of thing: Talking to Doctors.


Update: Republicans Move Convention to Seventeenth Century.
Mr. Dorrinson added that despite recent controversy involving the U.S. Senate candidate Representative Todd Akin (R., Mo.), there would be no modification of the Party’s official platform: “After we ban abortion in cases of rape and incest, we’re going to focus on America’s spiralling witch problem.”

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Catcalls

From this week's New Yorker.

Why Marriage Matters


The Las Vegas Review-Journal reports:
On the wall of their Henderson home, Brittney Leon and Terri-Ann Simonelli proudly display their certificate of domestic partnership. Under a 2009 state law, the document gives them all the rights of married couples. Or so they thought.

When Leon, 26, checked into Spring Valley Hospital on July 20 with complications in her pregnancy, she assumed that her partner Simonelli, 41, could make any necessary medical decisions if she suffered unforeseen problems. But that's not what happened, they said. An admissions officer told them the hospital policy required gay partners to secure power of attorney before making any medical decisions for each other.

They protested, even offering to go home and return with their domestic partnership document. But they said the admissions officer told them that didn't matter - Simonelli would need a power of attorney. Considering Leon's condition, Simonelli wasn't in a position to argue or spend hours running to a law office. But the admission officer's words left them devastated in a moment that they already were under extreme stress.

Leon ended up losing her baby.

"I am usually a big fighter. But I was so emotionally upset. It was a very bad day for us," said Simonelli, a hotel parking valet and website designer. "We went there thinking we had the state's backing, and then we were told we were wrong. It didn't matter that we were registered domestic partners. It should matter."

A woman who identified herself as public relations representative at Spring Valley Hospital told a Review-Journal reporter in a phone interview that the hospital policy requires gay couples have power of attorney in order to make medical decisions for each other. When asked if she was aware of Nevada's domestic partnership law, she accused the reporter of bias and hung up the telephone.

That law states: "Domestic partners have the same rights, protections and benefits, and are subject to the same responsibilities, obligations and duties under law, whether derived from statutes, administrative regulations, court rules, government policies, common law or any other provisions or sources of law, as are granted to and imposed upon spouses."

Gay marriage is prohibited in Nevada by constitutional amendment, so domestic partners are not considered legally married. But they have the same rights under law as married couples. The only difference is that employers do not have to provide health care benefits to gay couples, even if they are provided to married, heterosexual couples.

During hearings on the domestic partners bill, proposed by state Sen. David Parks, D-Las Vegas, numerous gay couples testified that the law was needed in part because they had been denied the right to make medical decisions for their partners, or to stay with them in the hospital.

There is no specific penalty for businesses that discriminate against domestic partners. They can file complaints with Nevada Equal Rights Commission, which investigates and tries to reach an agreement with the business to follow the law.

As I have written here in the Blue Truck any number of times, you are not a full citizen until you can marry. Historically, children, slaves, the insane, and prisoners were all prohibited from marrying. You are not grown up, you are not fully competent, you are not free - until you can marry.

Not crappy little domestic partnerships that aren't worth the paper they're printed on - not Jim Crow civil unions to keep you "separate but equal," which is never the case - nothing but full, complete, identical civil marriage will ever protect you, or be respected by the rest of the population.

And hey - you guys milling around over there at the back of the bar, muttering shit about how you don't see a need for all that: if you don't want to marry, then don't. Just say no. You can't handle the responsibility, you don't feel the love - then you shouldn't marry. Ever. It's not for tricking around, if that's all you want out of life.

But for the rest of us - it makes all the difference in the world.


Monday, August 20, 2012

Phyllis Diller, 1917-2012; Scott McKenzie, 1939-2012

Well, another favorite is gone:  Phyllis Diller died today at her home in Los Angeles, aged 95.  She had quite a life, and quite a career, though - and made millions laugh.  Which is no small thing in this world of sorrow and woe. 

My contemporaries will recall how very, very funny she was at the peak of her stand-up career in the late 1960's, really the first woman to do that, overdressed to kill with feathers, rhinestones, and the most outrageous wigs and miniskirts that showed off her bony legs - and capping it all with that unforgettable cackle of a laugh:



Your Head Trucker can recommend the 7-part interview done with her in 2000 by the Archive of American Television, which covers every facet of her life and career. The link is here, and the first part is below:




And coincidentally, on Saturday Scott McKenzie also died in Los Angeles, at age 73. As far as I ever knew, he had only the one hit song, "San Francisco" - but OMG what a one-hit career to have: it was, of course, the anthem of the flower-power years of the 1960's, and though your Head Trucker was never part of the counterculture - and didn't want to be - I've always stopped whatever I was doing and cranked up the volume whenever that song came on the radio. I just always thought he had the most marvelous, manly, sexy voice. Sad to think it is forever stilled now, but the song will live on and on:



He was a good-looking rascal too, as you can see.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Sunday Drive: Just a Closer Walk with Thee

I'm playing this old favorite of mine for Randy Travis today, who, I recently learned, has a ranch in this part of the country, and has unfortunately been in the news twice this year for some encounters with the law.  I'm not going to repeat all that here, but I reckon he's going through a rough patch in life, as we all do sometimes.  But he has a great talent, and I hope he finds his way out of his troubles soon.



Saturday, August 18, 2012

Assorted News and Views


Well I've read some things today that I thought about sharing with you fellas, but for some reason I just don't have the oomph to work any of them up into a blog post.  It come up a storm this afternoon about 4:30 and we got a good little shower of rain.  But it got so dark outside it made me feel like time to go back in the chicken house and roost for the night.  So I'll just post the links here and let y'all read the ones that pique your interest; they're all quite fascinating, for various reasons.

Mother of Transgender Toddler Gets a Lesson in Love

When the author's fourth daughter insisted as a toddler that she was really a boy, it took years to figure out that he was really right.

The Crime Committed in France, by France

The speech given by President François Hollande to commemorate the seventieth anniversary of the Vel d’Hiv Roundup on July 16 and 17, 1942, when the French police arrested 13,152 Jewish men, women, and children from Paris and its suburbs, and confined them to the Vélodrome d’Hiver, a bicycle stadium in Paris. They were later deported to German concentration camps.

The Last Book Sale

For years, your Head Trucker has been meaning to get up to Archer City and wander through renowned author (Hud, The Last Picture Show, Lonesome Dove, even the screenplay for Brokeback Mountain, etc.) Larry McMurtry's book store, but now it's too late:  after fifty-five years, he's selling out and closing down.

 Earhart's Anti-Freckle Creme Jar Possibly Found

A small cosmetic jar found on a remote island in the Pacific offers new clues in the Amelia Earhart mystery.  [Be sure to click on the "More Photos" link.]

Destroyed.  For No Good Reason.

Kit home author and researcher Rosemary Thornton laments the wanton destruction of a unique and lovely Montgomery Ward home built by an aspiring Ohio homeowner in 1932.  Be sure to click the links to her previous posts on this topic too.


Friday, August 17, 2012

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Julia's Centenary

My best friend M. P. and I are both big fans of Julia Child, and I just found out that today would have been her 100th birthday. So in celebration of a life well lived, which continues to bring joy to millions through her many cookbooks and videos, here's a delightful little remix made for PBS. Enjoy.



My overseas truckbuddies may not know that Julia was an American institution for forty years, beloved by all. And so much so that her kitchen has been preserved in the Smithsonian. In case you're not familiar with her life and work, I highly recommend the 2009 film Julie & Julia, in which the great Meryl Streep plays Julia in what just might her best performance ever.

Here's an overview of Julia's amazing life from Biography:

I can also recommend Julia's charming autobiography, compiled with the help of her nephew, Alex Prud'homme, My Life in France. And though her cookbooks have never been out of print, I've just discovered that Amazon is now selling videos of her PBS cooking show, The French Chef, which you can download online, either per season or per individual show. A great treasure for generations of cooks to come. Here's a delightful little pastiche that gives you a good idea of Julia's cheerful, down-to-earth personality:
One of my favorite quotes by Julia, responding in 1990 to the criticisms of food critics and health Nazis:
Everybody is overreacting. If fear of food continues, it will be the death of gastronomy in the United States. Fortunately, the French don't suffer from the same hysteria we do. We should enjoy food and have fun. It is one of the simplest and nicest pleasures in life
Exactly. Both Julia and her husband lived to be 92, even with all that butter and cream and cigarettes. And your Head Trucker says: if you're not enjoying your life, what the hell is the point?
Bonus: Here is Julia's very first PBS show in 1962, featuring her famous recipe for Boeuf Bourguignon, which your Head Trucker highly recommends. A year or two ago, M. P. and I - well, mostly M. P., but I helped - followed this recipe to the letter, just to say we had, and the results were magnifique! And here's the printed recipe from her first book, Mastering the Art of French Cooking. Although we found by researching through some of Julia's later books and videos that as years went by, she simplified and made shortcuts to the recipe, which made it a bit easier but nonetheless authentically French. Still, you ought to try this version: there's nothing at all in the various steps that is difficult for anybody who can peel an onion or slice a mushroom. Allow 3-4 hours for this operation, first and last - perhaps as a holiday or birthday meal. You'll be mighty damn glad you did.
PS - I apologize for the crowded spacing above; lately, having more than one video in a post causes that, I don't know why.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Country Time: Summertime Blues

Since it's headed for 98 today in Texas - a bit cool for us - this song just seemed to fit the bill.  It's been done by a lot of artists and bands, but it's interesting to compare the original 1958 version by the song's composer, Eddie Cochran, with the one Alan Jackson did in 1994.  Enjoy.







Monday, August 13, 2012

Twelve Is Enough

I've run a story on Steve and Roger Ham before, but now the Arizona couple is in the news again.  They've finally been able to jointly adopt all 12 of their kids, thanks to the kindness of an attorney friend.

Read the full story at Towleroad, and check out the video below. Of course, I don't know the family, but it's hard to imagine these kids will grow up feeling a lack of good parenting. I seem to recall, BTW, that both daddies grew up in large families themselves.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

The Homo Sin Flowchart

Click to enlarge.


Via Joe.My.God.

Sunday Drive: Grieg, The Last Spring




Honk to my truckbuddy Tim, who tipped me to this lovely tune.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Growing Up Different


My truckbuddy Frank has a blog post that mentions, among other things, this essay by Richard Lopez, "Growing Up with Two Moms: The Untold Children's View." In it, Lopez, who is now an English professor at Cal State-Northridge, attributes a great deal of unhappiness and maladjustment in his life to being raised by his now-deceased mom and her lesbian partner. Excerpt:
Between 1973 and 1990, when my beloved mother passed away, she and her female romantic partner raised me. They had separate houses but spent nearly all their weekends together, with me, in a trailer tucked discreetly in an RV park 50 minutes away from the town where we lived. As the youngest of my mother’s biological children, I was the only child who experienced childhood without my father being around.

After my mother’s partner’s children had left for college, she moved into our house in town. I lived with both of them for the brief time before my mother died at the age of 53. I was 19. In other words, I was the only child who experienced life under “gay parenting” as that term is understood today.

Quite simply, growing up with gay parents was very difficult, and not because of prejudice from neighbors. People in our community didn’t really know what was going on in the house. To most outside observers, I was a well-raised, high-achieving child, finishing high school with straight A’s.

Inside, however, I was confused. When your home life is so drastically different from everyone around you, in a fundamental way striking at basic physical relations, you grow up weird. I have no mental health disorders or biological conditions. I just grew up in a house so unusual that I was destined to exist as a social outcast.

You should go read the whole thing; it's not terribly long, but it is an important statement. Lopez, who identifies as bisexual, is now married and raising a family. He is also a conservative who concludes that homosexuality, whether the result of nature or nurture, is a destructive tendency that leads to . . . you know, all the terrible things conservatives say it does.

I realized while I was leaving a comment on Frank's blog that I really wanted to say a lot more than is polite to cram into somebody else's comment box, so here's my own post on this subject, for what it's worth.

As Frank observes, Lopez might have grown up with some problems even if he had been raised by two heterosexuals "in similar circumstances." And I agree: just cast your minds back to the 1970's and imagine growing up in a clandestine arrangement than involved spending every damn weekend 50 miles from home, stuck in some dinky RV park in a little trailer with your mom and her lover. Not only would you probably be pretty damned bored for lack of things to do, or just to have some personal space, but you'd also miss out on all the ordinary things kids do on weekends at home, and with their friends. Plus, it was something you could tell no one about, whether you were happy or unhappy with it.

Yeah, I can clearly see a big problem there. Lopez writes:
My home life was not traditional nor conventional. I suffered because of it, in ways that are difficult for sociologists to index. Both nervous and yet blunt, I would later seem strange even in the eyes of gay and bisexual adults who had little patience for someone like me. I was just as odd to them as I was to straight people.

Life is hard when you are strange. Even now, I have very few friends and often feel as though I do not understand people because of the unspoken gender cues that everyone around me, even gays raised in traditional homes, takes for granted. Though I am hard-working and a quick learner, I have trouble in professional settings because co-workers find me bizarre.

In terms of sexuality, gays who grew up in traditional households benefited from at least seeing some kind of functional courtship rituals around them. I had no clue how to make myself attractive to girls. When I stepped outside of my mothers’ trailer, I was immediately tagged as an outcast because of my girlish mannerisms, funny clothes, lisp, and outlandishness.

Well I can certainly relate to much of that. My own parents were hetero, but they had a tragically unhappy marriage, followed by a very bitter divorce, which meant a lot of moving around and shuttling back and forth for this only child. And then my dad died unexpectedly when I was 15, and for many years thereafter, like Lopez, I too felt very deeply the lack of a male role model. There are some things you just cannot fucking learn from your mom, no matter how wonderful and loving she may be - do you know what I mean, fellas?  Unfortunately, lots of women simply don't realize or understand this crucial point about their male children.

Continued after the jump . . .

Friday, August 10, 2012

Waitin' for the Weekend

Go ahead, get wet, cool off.

Nick Ayler


Bob Hager

Stunning New Pics from Mars






Honk to Grandmére Mimi at Wounded Bird, who kindly forwarded these.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Nuclear Meltdown in Idaho, 1961

Apropos of nothing in particular, it's just something I happened to run across on YouTube. Never heard of this incident before; I didn't know there was any meltdown in this country before Three Mile Island. Thought I'd share it with you guys, it's kind of a gripping story and interesting for the history and technology of the time. More details available on Wikipedia.



Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Oh Hell Yeah

Via Towleroad:


Jack fucking Twist, get into my truck. NOW.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

WTF: Cereal Killer

Anti-gay activist targets General Mills headquarters in Minnesota. Who knew Cheerios were flammable?




Pssst - Guys, this exactly is what you look like to the other side when you allow all our long struggle for civil rights and equality to be focused down on a commercial product. So just don't go there, okay bitches?

Monday, August 6, 2012

Make It with a Fireman

Um, okay.



Shatner on Mars

I reckon most of you guys are already up to speed on this, but your Head Trucker is a little behind the times out here on the vast and trackless prairie - so it comes as news to him. William Shatner once again takes us where no man has gone before with this animated demonstration of how the Curiosity lander - wonderful name - touched down on the Red Planet last night.

A sky crane? OMG. If you saw it in a movie, you wouldn't believe it.



Sunday, August 5, 2012

Sunday Drive: Vivaldi, Summer



Who Says It's Not Natural?

Birds do it, bees do it - even beetles do it. And here's the proof.


Enuff said.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Waitin' for the Weekend





Lousy Chicken

This is going to be my second and final post on this utterly puerile, self-defeating subject.  To all my truckbuddies, I say:

People who go looking for a fight, against all good sense and without the slighest necessity, usually find one - and should not be shocked, surprised, and oh-poor-widdle-me when they get knocked right between the eyes. You swim with sharks, don't be amazed when they bite your head clean off.



A word to the wise is sufficient. Or damn well ought to be.  But as for the unwise, even experience fails to suffice.

Don't say I didn't warn you.

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Guest Post: Don't Assume, Check!

Contributed by my English truckbuddy Tim, now residing in sunny Spain:

Continuing with our occasional series on Universal Truths, this week it’s “Don’t assume, check!” You know that feeling you get in your gut when you’ve just set off on vacation, and 5 miles down the road you think “Did I turn off the gas?” When the pan is on the stove and baby’s on the move, did you shut the kitchen door? Yes, we’ve all done it, and like that last example, it can get really serious. But to me, it’s always been particularly associated with the military, as we will see.

Let’s go back to the mid-seventies, the height of the Cold War. It’s 4 a.m. over a wild and stormy north Atlantic. Between the 30-foot waves and the oily black clouds just 1000 feet higher, a British reconnaissance aircraft is on patrol, buffeted by the storm around it.

Cat . . .

Inside the plane, the 12-man crew are busy in a tense game of cat and mouse. They are stalking a Russian nuclear missile submarine. Below the waves, its black hull slices through the calm deeper water, unaware of its pursuer, en route to a patrol area off the eastern seaboard of the USA.

.  .  . and mouse.

On board the plane the radio crackles into life. A message is received telling the crew to remain on patrol for an extra hour, the American aircraft taking over from them has been delayed, and they must maintain contact with the submarine until relieved. The message ends: ‘The weather back at base is good; you can use your diversion fuel’. (A reserve of fuel held in case bad weather forces the plane to land elsewhere.) An hour later, and still no sign of the relief aircraft. They wait until the last minute, but finally the crew have to leave, the fuel level is getting low.

When the plane arrives back at base, a strong weather front is passing through, visibility is down to zero. For 20 minutes the crew try in vain to find a gap in the clouds so they can land. Meanwhile the fuel level reaches critical. At last a break in the weather appears and the plane lands just on fumes and the silent prayers of 12 airmen, including yours truly.

At the de-briefing, there were red faces all round. The operations staff controlling the plane had assumed the weather would be good back at the base, and hadn’t checked the latest forecasts. The crew assumed the controllers had checked this, and so didn’t check themselves. If we hadn’t been able to land we would have had to ditch in the sea, losing a valuable aircraft and putting the crew at risk. That’s when I learnt not to assume, but to check – always.

Travelling further back in time, and in rather more illustrious company: June 25th, 1876; the Battle of the Little Bighorn and General George Armstrong Custer.

General Custer and dog.

Whilst the rights and wrongs of Custer’s actions continue to be debated by historians and generals alike, at least two military assumptions contributed to his defeat:

Firstly, the US Army’s estimate of the number of Indians it would encounter in the campaign was based on assumptions made from the inaccurate information supplied by Indian scouts and agents. What had been assumed as a force of some 800 was in reality a force in the region of 2,000.

Secondly, as he surveyed the Indians’ village on the morning of the battle, Custer could see no men about the place, only women and children. He assumed the braves were still asleep in their tepees. In fact, they had already left, prepared for battle.

Finally, he most likely assumed that, should he encounter difficulties, his pack train, under the command of Captain Benteen, would quickly come to his assistance. In the event, Benteen’s men had problems of their own, and although they heard rifle fire from Custer’s troops signalling a need for assistance, were already involved in a fierce fight.

These assumptions cost the lives of Custer himself and all his troops at Little Bighorn. Assumptions had been made, checks had not, and so 268 lives were lost.

Interestingly, it’s often assumed that the sole Army survivor of the battle was the ironically named ‘Comanche’, a cavalry horse. But I checked, and found that other horses survived, taken by the Indians, and 1 dog, perhaps one of Custer’s very own, for they always travelled with him.

Comanche, who survived the battle.

Back to the present. Take a long look at this young soldier.


He’s what, 23, 25? Hard to tell, those eyes are an old man’s eyes.  They’ve already seen too much of life and death. That face, it’s been around the block a few times, 3 or 4 tours in Afghanistan? Do you think he’s survived by assuming and not checking? No, I don’t either. But when he comes home, then what happens? Suicide rates among troops returning from active duty have begun to show an increase this year. Figures from the UK tell a similar tale.

Here’s a post from Stan at Metro Dystopia on suicide rates among veterans (thanks Stan).

So don’t assume when our soldier comes home all will be well. Check with your local veterans groups and associations, your elected representatives; ask them what is being done to help our servicemen and women. You might be able to help yourself.

All Aboard the Gay Train


This is pretty fucking amazing, as Metroweekly reports:
J.C. Penney did it and now so has Amtrak. It has launched a promotional campaign that includes gay families.

As part of an effort to market its standard discounted family travel program, for the first time, the national passenger rail company included gay families in its materials. In an online ad sent by Instinct magazine to its email subscribers, a photo of same-sex parents with their child is featured.

Two version of the ad, one with a picture of a male couple and another with a female couple, were distributed. Both versions include the headline: Priceless Family Moments Are Now Affordable. The ad goes on to promote Amtrak's 50% off campaign for children age 2 to 15 who are traveling with an adult, and directs readers to its gay travel website, www.AmtrakRideWithPride.com.

Note: the Ride with Pride website is totally lame and mostly blank. Some of you travel queens out there need to complain about that.

I remember when my first husband and I rode Amtrak from the Deep South up to, first, D. C., where the Quilt was being displayed, then on to Boston and back, in 1992. I love train travel - it's the only way to go - and that was quite a trip.

Since the trip to D. C. took all day, from about 7 a.m. to 6 p.m., we took some naps in our seats, pulling a bomber jacket over us so we could hold hands underneath it while we dozed - and often one head rested on the other's one's shoulder. The old hard-bitten conductor gave us the evil eye every time he came down the aisle, but we didn't give a fuck. There were, understandably, a number of other gays making the trip on that same train - and it was a happy surprise to find that most of the passenger service attendants were gay, too.

Amtrak is not what it could be, should be - mainly because it is forever starved of cash by Congress, which won't let it die but won't let it flourish, either. Sometimes there are delays, and some of the non-gay attendants can be surly. Still, if the trains are going where you want to go at the right times, I highly recommend it - doubly so now.

Amtrak routes; click to enlarge.
Note:  Service between New Orleans and Jacksonville
has been suspended since Hurricane Katrina in 2005

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Mitt the Twit

What a maroon:



The Guardian has compiled all the blunders.

Smart Gorillas Dismantle Traps


Well, I'll be a monkey's uncle:
Staff at the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund’s Karisoke Research Center in Rwanda recently witnessed two 4-year-olds and a teenage mountain gorilla work together to destroy the types of snares that have killed at least two young gorillas this year. It was also the first time staff members have been able to see up close exactly how gorillas dismantle the snares.

“We knew that gorillas do this, but all of the reported cases in the past were carried out by adult gorillas, mostly silverbacks,” said gorilla program coordinator Veronica Vecellio. “How they did it demonstrated an impressive cognitive skill.” . . .

On July 17 field staff and some tourists in the Virunga volcanoes conservation area that is home to more than half of the world’s 790 remaining mountain gorillas witnessed a group of gorillas getting close to a snare.

One of the staff members reported he moved to dismantle the snare when a silverback (adult male) in the group grunted at him warning him to stay back. Then two youngsters named Dukore and Rwema and a blackback (teen male) named Tetero ran toward the snare. Together they jumped on the taught branch attached to a rope noose and removed the rope. They then ran over to another nearby snare and destroyed it the same way. Pictures the staff members took show the young gorillas then examining broken sticks used to camouflage the noose on the ground.

Every year, Fossey Fund field staff remove more than a thousand such simple but deadly snares set by bush-meat hunters. They speculate the younger gorillas learned to destroy snares by watching the older silverbacks do so.

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