Wednesday, December 5, 2007


It's Advent, folks!

Well, Advent started a few days ago, but you knew that, right?

What's that? You are unfamiliar with the Advent season? Been a awhile since Sunday School for some of you, perhaps?. Well, good ol' Mr. Gunfighter is here with a wee reminder.

The Advent season marks the preparation for the celebration of the birth of Christ. Coincidentally, or maybe not so coincidentally, it happens at the same time of what most people refer to as the Christmas season.

In different faith traditions, the season of Advent begins on varying dates, but in the Lutheran tradition, Advent starts on the first of December... just a scant few days before my birthday... not that I am hinting at any of you.

I'd never do that.

Right... Advent.

From Wikipedia (which explains this so much better than me):

Christians believe that the season of Advent serves a dual reminder of the original waiting that was done by the Hebrews for the birth of their Messiah as well as the waiting that Christians today endure as they await the second coming of Christ.

This is a particularly important time in the church year, and during Sunday services in many churches (and certainly in Lutheran churches) a favorite Advent hynm is sung... that's the one you can hear now, if your volume is up and I embedded properly.

It is called "O Come, O Come, Emmanuel!"

It's a big favorite of mine.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

The Don Imus Thing (pt. 2)

So, Don Imus has returned to the airwaves.

I have to tell you this, his return leaves me cold.

I know, I know, he said bad things. I know. I know he is an ass. I know that I would never invite him to my home for dinner because I think he is a boor.

I get it. You already know how I feel about the subject of his comments if you read part one.

Listening to the callers on C-Span's Washington Journal, yesterday, I get the feeling that a lot of people understand WHY Imus is back on the air.

If you are one of them (and I am sure you are not... all of you are much smarter than me), I am going to explain it in very simple terms. Are you ready?

Here it is:

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It's because he makes lots, and LOTS of these for his employers.

It really is a matter of simple math. The majority of the people who would call themselves fans of that assclown are people that wouldn't stop listening to his program because of those stupid comments vis a vis the Rutgers women's basketball team. Advertisers? They like controversial people... as long as their controversies don't reflect negatively on them.

So... what, then?

Imus makes money for those who would pimp him out. Isn't that the American way? Imus is popular, and some people want to listen to him spew... so what? Let them listen.

Let's not get too worked up over it, ok?

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Starship Troopers

When I was a kid of thirteen, I read a book that had a great, and lasting, impact on me. It was a book called "Starship Troopers" by the late Robert A. Heinlein.

You might be familir with that title as the reult of the REALLY awful movie of the same title that came out several years ago.

Well, this book was initially written as a serial for a science fiction magazine, and was otiginally published in 1959. The novel, set in the not-so-far-off future was about a war between earth and an alien species called the Arachnids... or "Bugs".

In this future, in which there was a planet-wide government, only veterans could vote. The rest of the citizenry enjoyed all o f the blessings of a free society, but the franchise was only extended to those who had actually laid their asses on the line to defend the planet.

An important thing to note in this novel was that while only veterans could vote, active duty soldiers could NOT vote.

The book was really a treatise on the realtionship between government and the goverened, as well a a moral philosphy play.

You can read a much more detailed description of the book and the politics behind it, here.

In any event, as a boy, the book had a large impact on me.

When I was growing up, I was already predisposed to military service because my dad was a career military man, and my brother joined the Air force when I was 13, but this book went deeper than just some sort of literary recruiting pitch formilitary service.

In chapter ten (I think it's ten), a drill instructor gave the young soldiers in his charge a class on tactics when a recruit asked him why they were being trained in tactics of a bygone era, when they (and the enemy) had all sorts of more dangerous weapons. The sergeant replied:

"you've got it all wrong, son. There ARE no dangerous weapons. Only dangerous people. That's what we are trying to teach you here, to be dangerous... to the enemy. So dangerous that if you only have one foot left, you'll still be able to kill the enemy if he gets too close" (I may have some of those words wrong, but that is the gist)

This passage and others, set me on my way. They were the beginnings of my indoctrination in the warrior culture.

I first read that book in 1976.

I have had three copies of that book in my life, all regularly re-read.

It's still important to me.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Book Review: George Washington - A Military Biography

If you are an American, and learned American history the way it was taught to me, you might be inclined to believe that George Washington chopped down some cherry tree, and then told his father "I Cannot tell a lie. I chopped down the cherry tree." (which was made up by Washington's first biographer, Parson Weems, who lived only two miles from our home)

Depending on when you went to school, you might have been taught that Washington was a great man or a horrible man for having been a slave owner. Again, depending on when or where you went to school, you might believe that George Washington was an incredible blunderer or a strategic and tactical genius, who was as brilliant as Napoleon and George Patton all at once.

No matter what you learned, it is likely that whatever you learned was a bunch of crap.

For centuries, different people, for different reasons, have portrayed Washington as an unstained demigod, while others have reported him to be either a dummy or a nefarious character who is just shy of Satan. It's a real shame, because the real Washington, the man, is a very interesting character WITHOUT all of the embellishment.

In his book, General George Washington - A Military Life, author Edward Lengel strips away the history as reported by people with agendas. He brings the facts of Washington's life, as they pertain to his military experiences.

Here, we see Washington as a teenager, who longs for a life in the uniformed service of the British Crown. He first tries to emulate his older half-brother, who secures him a place as a Midshipman on a British man of war. He was thwarted in this by his very formidable mother, but his dream of serving the crown in uniform went un-extinguished.

After the Death of his half-brother and his wife, nine years later, Washington inherited Mount Vernon, which became his home for the rest of his life, and embarked on the rest of his military career.

At the age of 21, Washington was appointed adjutant, with the rank of Major, in the Virginia militia, and only a few years later, was appointed to the Colonelcy of the 1st Virginia regiment, as they were raised for service against the French, who were encroaching upon British claims to the Ohio Valley in the area that later became Pittsburgh.

We see Washington at his very best and at his worst throughout the French & Indian wars, and the long period between those years and the period immediately preceding the American Revolution. We see the Washington as the only American born militia officer with enough military experience and combat experience, selected by the Continental Congress to lead the as yet unformed American army against the experienced troops of the British Army.

(Washington, seen here as Colonel of the Virginia militia, circa 1772)

During the book, Lengel isn't afraid to discuss Washington's successes nor is he afraid to skewer sacred cows when he talks about Washington's failings as a General.

After reading this very frank, but very fair assessment of Washington's military career, one can only come to the conclusion that General George Washington, taken warts and all, was indeed the person that James Thomas Flexner deemed as "The Indispensable Man"

Washington was neither genius, nor blunderer. He was a man, a soldier, and a politician. He was a good field commander, a real fighter, and brave in the face of the enemy. He never lost his nerve on the battlefield.

The history of the military art screams that Washington's strategy in general was, unbeknownst to him, absolutely correct in that he didn't often try to do things that were beoynd his resources against a better trained, better armed, and better provisioned army.

He might not have been 12 feet tall, but he was the man of the moment, and was equal to the challencge.

Kudos to Lengel for a great book on such an important figure in our history.

This is the way Na BloPoMo ends...

This is the way Na BloPoMo ends...

This is the way Na BloPoMo ends...

Not with a bang, but with a whimper.

(with apologies to Eliot and his devotees)

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

An Interview

Hello all.

My new blog-pal, Anno has sent me some interview guestions to answer for her... here are my answers:

1. I just read your Thanksgiving post, and despite the fact that I've already had a wonderful Thanksgiving feast with a delicious wild mushroom bread pudding, I'm salivating over your corn bread stuffing. You cook. You coach soccer. You have a demanding job, and you are a dedicated husband and father. Not to mention the fact that you write thoughtful and interesting posts that happen to be fun to read. What don't you do?

I don't yodel, nor do I play the guitar. One of those things would make me very happy. I'll let you take a guess at which one.

Oh, I don't gamble, either.

2. And with all that you do, what motivated you to begin blogging?

Becuase I am a narcissist? I blog because I like to write... and I want to be heard! (and all the cool kids are blogging, too!)

3. What are five things you hope to see happen in 2008?

1. All American troops leaving Iraq

2. George W. Bush & Dick Cheney impeached, and then indicted and tried for crimes against humanity. (Surely, illegally, and immorally causing the deaths of nearly half a million people has to be worse crime than lying about a blowjob. I mean, REALLY!)

3. Dennis Kucinich, Barack Obama, Bill Richardson, Al Gore, or John Edwards, elected President of The United States.

4. The Price of gasoline to come down to something close to $2 per gallon.

5. Get my next tattoo (I want to do this by June).

4. Al Capone once famously said, "You can get more with a kind word and a gun than you can with a kind word alone." What's your take on the role of guns and diplomacy?

I believe that guns CAN be a part of diplomacy. Sometimes diplomacy includes talking tough. You can't talk tough if you can't fight... it's seldom effective. Having said all of that, I certainly don't think that diplomacy should go anything like this: "Do what we say, or we are invading your country"

5. Any plans for the further adventures of Hamish MacDonald and Abigail Carter?

Funny you should mention them, because I was back at it last night, while I was waiting for SoccerGirl's Brownie Meeting to end. Mac and Abbie will be back, rest assured!

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

The Fall Soccer Tournament

I have started this post five separate times since Monday, in vain attempts to strike some sort of chord. On this, my sixth attempt, I am going to do what I should have done in the first place… tell you about our weekend soccer tournament, focusing not on the odd cultural event that these things can be, but on what this one meant to Soccer Girl, and to the family as a whole.

Our Soccer Club only had one All-Star team in our division, despite the fact that various folks in the club office wanted to have at least two… tough shit, folks… Yours Truly is the League Director this season, and I don’t want two or three all-star teams drawn from nine teams… I want the best team that we can field, drawn from the nine teams… not some primadona show, where some, more exalted coaches get to take their teams as a whole to the tournament. I know some clubs do that… but sue me for being something of an egalitarian. Our All Star team was drawn by picking two of the best players from each team… except for the two coaches that refused to participate if it wasn’t going to be their way.

Well, f*** ’em! (the coaches… not the kids)

This was a large tournament, with 433 teams competing in varying age groups, both boys and girls. The tournament was so large that the fields were spread out over three counties!

Our story starts on a cool, crisp, Saturday morning. I was decently rested, since I had the good sense to leave our happy hour gathering before the REAL fun started… We gathered all of our things, including the folding chairs, Insta-Bench, mittens, jackets, fleecey blankets, books, etc… and loaded them all into the trunk.

We were a little behind schedule, so we had to step on it, in order to get to the field on time. We arrived in time to find a last remaining parking spot… OK, so it was a handicapped spot… Don’t call the SWAT team… I moved the car shortly thereafter.

Anyway, we found our team, and Coach Patty took over. The girls had their warm-up while the parents scouted out the fields, which were pretty cool. It’s rare that the U-9 kids get to play on the artificial turf! I mean, these fields were BE_YOU_TEE_FULL!

Soccer Girl and her chums played a good game of Soccer, but tied the first game. They tied their second game as well. After the second game, we had a few hours before the third game (they were playing 4, 25 minute, mini-games), so we went to lunch.

It really was a beautiful day. This late in November, we could have expected cooler temperatures and some amount of precipitation, but instead, it was cool, crisp, and sunny for the whole day.

At the end of the day, Soccer Girl’s team ended the day with three ties and a win. The teams were evenly matched for the most part, and the girls played hard and tough, without whining (except in the case of one or two). At the end of the day, we were in 5th place out of twelve teams, which was respectable, considering the short amount of time the girls had to practice together.

We went home with a happy but tired eight year old (who was really stinky after her day of athleticism). After SG was fed and watered (and thankfully bathed) she went off to sleep, while Mrs. GF and I talked about our day. Since we are still in the midst of NaBloPoMo, I got online, and began my post for the day, during which I apparently fell asleep at the computer for nearly two hours… finally posting something, and then going straight to bed.

Sunday morning broke bright and clear, and we were better organized for our day. Out first game was at 8:45, so we had to be at the field by 8:15... Which meant we had to be Johnny-on-he-spot getting up and out. You know what this means, don’t you? It means that Gunfighter had to get up at 6:45.





I wasn’t amused.

We got to the field in plenty of time (ok, right on time), and got right down to business. This round of play was all do or die. We had the potential to play 3 games, but any losses meant elimination.

We handily won our first game, and the girls were on fire.

The second game was…. Different.

In the second game, we played the team that was the top seed of the whole tournament. To make a long story short, we got our asses handed to us. Badly. We got mauled. It was 5-0 at halftime. Coach Patty was organizing for the second half, while coach Gunfighter pumped up the girls on the bench. Some of the other dads were coaches, too, so we were able to stiffen the girls spine for the second half.

The second half was different from the first, in that our girls were physically and mentally tougher that they were at the start. Despite being tired, our girls battled back, and made the other team take notice. To be sure, we were outclassed, but at least we held them to two goals in the second half. When the final whistle blew, the girls were able to run off the field with their heads up, knowing that they gave it their all.

I was so proud of them. I was also proud of soccer girl. She was tough, strong, determined and brave.

The tournament ended for us, with our team finishing fourth out of twelve. As it turns out, the only team to beat us on the whole weekend was the team that won the tournament.

Not too shabby.

We had a fun weekend together. It was the thing that we like… concentrated family time.

Of course, the laundry is all piled up, ready for me to do on Wednesday (today), because we didn’t do it over the weekend.

Big fun.

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Saturday, November 17, 2007

Bloggers Night Out.

To make along story short, we had a fine time last night.

We gathered at popular Capitol Hill watering hole, the Hawk 'n Dove, which was a favorite place of mine when I was a much younger man, living on The Hill back in the late 80's and early '90s.

It is always a great time when you get to meet such nice, like-minded, fellow bloggers.

Here are the great folks I got to meet last night... some for the very first time:

Devra Renner
Unquiet Heart (and cool dude, Chris!)
Mamma Loves
Flower Child
Madame Meow

I would go on at great length, but I spent all day at a soccer tournament, and I am friggin' beat.

Must sleep.



Friday, November 16, 2007

Happy Hour 3.0

Hey! Do you know what today is?

Of course you do.

Today is Friday!

Fridays are special to us, aren’t they? Special because it signals the beginning of the weekend… that blessed time where we get to sleep late, relax, and do whatever we want to do, right?


No, the weekends tend to be about getting things done around the house, working in the yard, doing laundry, and soccer, soccer, SOCCER! (how many of you just read that in your Jan Brady voice?).

Well, this post isn’t a complaint piece… not this time. This post is a reminder that this Friday, some of us in the Washington, DC area are meeting for libations at Happy Hour!

That’s right. Happy Hour(s).

If you are reading this and didn’t get the emails that have been going out, and you live in the DC area, or are willing to travel to DC to join us, please get in touch with me and I will tell you where we will be gathering.

So far, there are 9 or ten of your fellow bloggers that have indicated that they plan to attend. So if you can, or if you are willing, come on down!

Good times... good times.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Something Important...

...happened to me today.

I'd like to share it with you, if you'll take a moment to listen.

Unless you are a very new reader, you'll know that my hobby is making rosaries. I make rosaries of all sorts, but mostly of the Episcopal/Anglican variety. I have always found it to be a very personal piece of ministry... so that I could be of some assistance in the prayer life of someone else who might benefit. I have been making these things for a few years now, and for the most part, I just give them away to those in need.

As a result of having posted pictures of my work here on my blog, Many of you have been kind enough to tell me that you think that I should sell them, and recoup some of my costs... well, I have thought about that and at long last, I came to a decision a few months ago.

A few months ago, when the Virginia weather was still blazing hot, I made a trip to the Washington National Cathedral. While in the gift shop, which I and my family REALLY love, I saw some Episcopal rosaries for sale... and thought that I could do better. I got the name of the shop's buyer whom I contacted the next day. The buyer told me that the shop already had some Episcopal rosaries, and that she doubted that they could use anymore... she told me that she would meet with me in .... November.

Well, today was the day of our meeting, and even though she kept me waiting, the buyer greeted me warmly, and we got right down to it. I showed he nearly twenty samples of my work... and she bought seven of them!

You friend Gunfighter is now a paid artisan!

My work will be sold through the National Cathedral, here in Washington, DC.

I can't tell you how pleased I am.

I am over the moon.

I am giddy.

I called my grandmother, and she wept with joy.

I have never had a prouder moment.

Geeky. Yes, I know... but I am still exceptionally excited.

For my entire adult life, I have been valued for my ability to kill and destroy. Being able to be lauded for my ability to create is almost more than I can take.

Please enjoy this moment with me.


Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Career Day, 2007

So.... Friday was career day at SoccerGirl's school. I was a happy participant, and enjoyed doing this for the third year running.

I arrived at the school in plenty of time, so I just dawdled in the office for a few minutes while the teachers prepared the students for the day.

I was presenting to grades 3 through 5, and since this was my third year doing this, I already knew a great many of the kids that I was going to be seeing.

When it was time for me to go to my assigned classroom, I headed in the right direction, being stopped by calls of "Hi, Mr. Gunfighter!, or "Aren't you Soccergirl's Father?" One girl, who had been soccergirl's classmate i the first grade came up and gave me a hug... it was all very cute.

I may have talked about this before, but I think that it is important to revisit here: A single man could do quite well in an elementary school. As I walked down the hall of the school, I got no small amount of attention from the teachers... all of whom were women.

Elementary school is so not man's world.

Anyway, the teachers were all giving me the sunbeam smile, and I was feeling rather good about myself until I realized something: It wasn't me that was um, exciting them. It was my stuff. My stuff. You see, to keep the kids engaged, I was wearing my tactical body armor, big-ass-expandable-baton, pepper spray, handcuffs... that whole shootin' match. They kind of like it.

So I meet my first group of kids, and I talked to them in very general terms about what I do, they enjoyed the presentation, which lasted about 30 minutes, and as usual, there was a segment for questions at the end.

This is where it gets... er, interesting:

"Do you shoot people every day?"

"That stick is to beat people, isn't it?"

"Are you married?"

"Are you really soccergirl's father?"

"Can you pick me up with one hand?"

"How far does a bullet go?"

"Bullets are so small... How do they kill people?"

"Can I shoot your gun?"

"Why doesn't your jacket have any sleeves?"

"Are you allowed to drive as fast as you want to in a police car?"

It was a long day, but it was a LOT of fun!

I can't wait until next year.

Monday, November 12, 2007

A Murder In Washington, DC

The following is a short story based on information traded with a random partner via email.

The assisting minister said “Go in peace, serve the Lord” To which the congregation replied “Thanks Be To God!”.

Hamish MacDonald bolted into the parking lot via the back door, and headed to his car. His pager had alerted him to an incoming call from the dispatch center, which was always a bad sign… especially on a Sunday. Bad sign or not, he wasn’t going to take the call in the middle of the service… Lutherans don’t do that. Especially since today was Reformation Sunday. After the last chorus of “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God”, the service ended and MacDonald could call back to the bosses and see what they wanted… even though he already knew what the problem was.

You see, MacDonald is a cop. A homicide detective. There had been a murder.

The details were few, because the crime had taken place in a sensitive location, but what MacDonald already knew was enough to give him some things to think about while he made the 25 mile drive from Woodbridge, Virginia into DC. The traffic was mercifully light as it is only on Sunday morning in this area… and since it was nearly noon, and the Redskins had 1 O’clock kickoff time, most people had already gone wherever it is they were going to watch the game from.

MacDonald took the 12th street exit off I-395, and as he drove toward the National Mall, he decided that he wouldn’t stop at first district headquarters… what would be the point? He already knew that there was a body at the National Air & Space museum… he already knew that the crime had taken place, and there were no witnesses… well, at least no witnesses that had spoken up, yet.

When he got to the museum, he spoke with the uniformed officers securing the crime scene, who told him that no one had entered the area since they had arrived on scene, and that the museum employee who found the body, Caren Cramer. Was waiting to speak to him in a nearby office. He could talk to Cramer later… he had a crime scene to process.

“Well, no sense wasting any time” he thought… “time to go look at the stiff… er, the departed“.
The Smithsonian security officers, along with a uniformed DC police officer, took MacDonald to the second floor maintenance area located just behind the interior mock-up of the Lunar Excursion Module (LEM), in the Apollo exhibit. The body was laying face down, in pool of blood, that looked like it came from a massive head injury. MacDonald gave a brief, silent prayer for the soul of the deceased, and got right to work. The deceased was a white male, in his middle to late thirties, with brown hair, and he was wearing a suit.

There were crime scene technicians and a team from the coroner’s office waiting to finish their work, so MacDonald let them finish doing all of the things that they needed to do, from checking for fingerprints on doors and walls, fingerprinting the victim, to taking copious photographs of the scene from various angles.

Once all of that was done, MacDonald and his newly-arrived partner, Abigail “Abbie” Carter, searched the body. The search turned up most of the usual stuff, twenty four dollars and sixty one cents in cash, a partially used farecard for the Washington, DC subway system, best known as “The Metro”, an inexpensive-looking cellular telephone, and a key chain with the keys to a Ford. There was also a wallet with the usual credit cards, auto insurance, health insurance, and a drivers license, all in the name of one Julian Krasnovski.

Once all of the items carried by the victim were catalogued and bagged for evidence, it was time to remove the body. The coroner’s office took care of the removal in short order, pausing only for the police photographers to take a picture of the body’s face… Nothing conclusive there, though MacDonald, since the face was covered with dreid blood.

Considering the degree of rigormortis, the body had been there for at least a few hours before it was discovered. The coroner’s people placing the time of death at approximately 7 A.M. “Well,” said MacDonald to Carter, “that’s a start. At least we know when Mr Kasnovski got whacked… now all we need to do is figure out who did it and why” Carter rolled her eyes and said “Great, Mac… this shouldn’t take any more than an hour, maybe two to figure out, right?” MacDonald laughed and scolded his partner with mock severity and said “That’s about right, Abigail (she always bristled when he did that… apparently her dad always called her that), but don’t interrupt your elders while they are solving crimes. Now, let’s go talk to our witness.”

Caren Cramer was twenty six years old, white, with red (almost orange) hair and bright green eyes… a real stunner. When MacDonald and Carter came in to talk to her, she gave them both a very frank look of appraisal, that you seldom see from most people so young. “Maneater” MacDonald thought, but fortunately for him, and perhaps not so fortunately for Cramer, MacDonald wasn’t susceptible to that kind of thing… he had been married for nearly 14 years, to a smart, sexy woman, and he got all that he needed at home.

“Miss Cramer?, I’m Detective MacDonald and this is Detective Carter of the Washington Metropolitan Police Department” he said while both Detectives proffered their police identification. “We’d like to talk to you about what you found this morning” Cramer immediately replied: “Well, I’ll tell you what I told the other guys already, I am the floor supervisor for the early shift at the museum. It’s my job to make sure that all of the exhibits are clean and presentable before we open for the day. I arrived just after 6 this morning, and after I clocked in, I took a look at the schedule to see what, if any, special events were taking place today. There weren’t any, so I started my walk-through to make sure everything was ready I started at the far end of the hall, across for the Skylab exhibit, and checked for clean carpets, the restrooms, and the exhibit spaces themselves. Everything was normal… until I got to the Apollo area. When I walked in, all of the recordings and auto play animation was already running. I saw that the maintenance area door was slightly ajar… which is unusual, because all maintenance doors are supposed to remain shut at all times… that’s why I walked into the space, when I stepped in I saw… well, I found the body.” Carter immediately asked what Cramer had done next… had she touched the body?, how did she conclude that the victim was indeed dead? Who did she call?, did she leave the scene to get help? Cramer answered all of her questions, but by the time she was done, her tone had gone from cooperative to wary.

MacDonald noted the change in tone, and he and Carter shared an exchange of arched eyebrows when Cramer abruptly asked why she was being interviewed a second time. MacDonald told her that the uniformed officer’s initial questions were just used to establish a few facts and that the homicide detectives always started from the beginning in order to get all of the information first-hand. Cramer insisted that she understood all of that… and practically sniffed at the Detectives that she wasn’t an idiot (she was a Georgetown graduate, after all). What she meant, she said with the tone that is usually reserved for the particularly stupid, is why MacDonald hadn’t gotten all of this information from the Federal investigators that arrived even before the uniformed city cops showed up?

“Oh shit,” thought Hamish, “not again”

Miss Cramer…” he began, “actually, I prefer Ms.” she interrupted. “Of course,” he relented, “Ms. Cramer” can you tell me the name of the agency that the investigators were from? Did they show you any identification?" “Of course", she replied, “I’m not some twit who just believes that someone is a cop just because he says so… I was raised in Detroit, and in Detroit, you don’t believe anything anyone tells you just because he says so… not even the parish priest.” Carter said “Oh, you must have been a real pain in the ass in Confirmation, with that attitude” Cramer actually smiled for the first time since they had arrived, and then actually laughed! The loud, braying sound was incongruous coming from that delicate face, and she then proceeded to launch into a tale of her exploits with the nuns in the convent school she had attended. MacDonald actually had to cut her off in order to get back to the discussion of these Federal investigators that she had mentioned.

“Oh... them,” Cramer said “their identification said that they were from the FBI, but I’ll tell you, they didn’t really look like those clean-cut guys you usually associated with J. Edgar Hoover’s boys. MacDonald asked what she meant by this, and Cramer told him that both of the men that she talked to were white, of average height, nondescript suits, and had longish hair. One of them actually had a goatee. One thing she could tell about them, though, was that they were both in excellent physical condition. Carter asked how she could tell what kind of shape they were in, and Cramer asked her how hard would it be to NOT know “after all,” she said, “we’re young single women… we notice these things in men, don’t we?” noting Carter’s blank stare, she went on: “Oh… batting on that side of the plate, are you? Well… whatever.”

“Ms Cramer, I think that’s enough for now, but I am certain that we will want to talk to you again soon, so please make yourself available… we have already taken the liberty of speaking to your supervisors so that we won’t have to visit you at your home. Here is my card, and that of Detective Carter as well. If you think of any details that you might have forgotten about discovering the body, or the FBI agents you mentioned, or anything else, please give us a call”

MacDonald and Carter left the museum and stood near the Independence avenue exit, and pooled their facts while the tourists lined up patiently to go through security. Mac just shook his head, remembering when he first came to Washington, DC as a young Marine in 1986. When he first came to town, the public could just walk into the building. All of that went out the window after 9/11. Security was one thing, he thought, but the problem is that most of the security measures put into place since 9/11 were only useful in deterring the odd crackpot. Anyone who knew anything about security knew that the person determined to wreak havoc, didn’t try to bring a small explosive or gun through the proper doors. Vehicle-borne explosives were the real danger, and short of banning vehicle traffic, there wasn’t a single bloody thing you could to to protect yourself from it… not in an urban environment, anyway.

Setting that tangent aside, Mac and Carter knew that something bad was happening to their investigation, even before it got started… but that didn’t mean they weren’t going to see this thing through. Both MacDonald and Carter were veterans of the United States Marine Corps… and Marines don‘t know the meaning of the word “quit“.… the first thing that they needed to do was to talk to their Captain.

“Feds? What the f*** were they doing there? Who the f*** called them?” Captain Roy Martin thundered, “that’s all I need, the Feds getting in the way. You two be careful, but I want you to continue to investigate this like no one said anything about Federal involvement in this case.”

“OK, Abbie…" Mac said when they were done with the Captain, "how do you want to do this? You want to work together? Or do you want to start running these things down separately?” “Let’s do this together, Mac, there are always a few things that a young detective can learn from an old dude like you” quipped Carter. “Old dude, my ass” was the immediate rejoinder “First, I am only seven years older than you… and I happen to know that the reason that you wanted to work with me in the first place is because of my Yoda-like status in the first district… that and you have the hots for me.” Carter heaved a huge sigh and rolled her eyes in feigned annoyance… she had asked to be assigned to MacDonald, not because she had the hots for him (she already had a special someone in her life) but because MacDonald was as smart guy, a good cop, and even though he was serious about his faith, he was never judgemental about her sexuality. Mac was one of the good guys, no two ways about it.

“Alright, let’s start with the deader, Mr Julian Krasnovski: There is no indication that he is married or living with someone, and the administrative folks are trying to track down next of kin, so why don’t we see what we come up with at his residence. His driver’s licence and some of the other crap in his wallet give his address as 618 A street, southeast, Apartment 325. Let’s get over there and get started, but first, let’s go over to Burrito Brothers and get something to eat… I’m starving…”

Three days later, MacDonald and Carter had found out lot’s of things: First, Krasnovski had turned out to be a an accomplished violinist, who played for the National Symphony Orchestra. He had been some sort of prodigy as a youth, and big things were expected of him. He had gone to Juliard on scholarship, and was noted as a young man on the rise. He came to the NSO as a fairly young man… and that’s when the bottom dropped out for him. It seems that the young Krasnovski likes to gamble. A lot.

They also found out some things… some disturbing things about Caren Cramer… a cursory background investigation revealed some inconsistencies that caused MacDonald and Carter to want to interview her again. When they attempted to do so, they met a blank wall. The personnel office at the Air & Space museum claimed that they had no employee by the name of Caren Cramer. When they attempted to contact Cramer at the address she had provided, there was no one by that name at that address.

With a gnawing sense of dread, MacDonald went to his Captain to ask his advice, the Captain looked him in the eye and asked him what he was talking about. After going over the case and everything that they had discovered, the Captain took MacDonald and Carter to the office of the Deputy Chief of Police, who introduced them to a certain Mr. Johnson, from the United States Department of Homeland Security.

Mr. Johnson told them that what they encountered at the Smithsonian had been declared a National Security Incident, and as such, was under the perview of the Dept. of Homeland Security. They were told that their investigation was being terminated at the direction of the United States government, under the Authority of the USA Patriot act. All notes, evidence, and reports concerning the investigation have been deemed classified at the Top Secret level, and all such materials are to be turned over to DHS personnel immediately, and all personnel involved in the investigation were hereby enjoined from discussing the investigation with anyone.

Please note that this story is a work of fiction. All of the characters are fictitious, and any resemblance to any person living or dead is purely coincidental.

Also note that stuff like this happens… and if you think it shouldn’t be happening in this country, it is your moral duty to oust all Republicans from elected office, at any level, throughout the United States.

It isn’t too late... yet.

The source material for this story was given to me by Jen, who can be found here.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Happy Birthday, Marines!

Today is the anniversary of the birth of my Corps!

For 232 years, United States Marines have been kicking ass at the behest of our government, and nobody, I mean nobody does it better!

Whether is is taking artillery from the British garrison, at New Providence, In the Bahamas, or duking it out with the Chinese communists in Korea. From Belleu Wood, France, to the storming of Koh Tang Island. Yes, indeed, from the Halls of Montezuma (in Mexico) to the Shores of Tripoli (modern Libya), your United States Marines have stood ready to fight, any time and in ANY place, because we're that good!

On this day above all others, I am guilty of the sin of pride. Totally guilty and without shame, because being part of the Corps is so much a part of me that the two cannot be separated.

I will live forever. Not because I have a secret potion or special genes, but because I am connected to every Marine that ever lived, or will ever live.

Happy Birthday, Marines!

Semper Fi!


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Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Electoral Success (Crank That!)

Yesterday, Virginia voters continued a strengthening trend: The "Blueing" of a Red State.

Democrats now have a majority in the Virginia State Senate, and have eaten away much of the Republican majority in the House of Delegates.

Republicans in Virginia had better watch out, because Virginia is poised to fill the U.S. Senate seat of retiring John Warner in 2008... and it is looking ripe for the former Democratic Governor Mark Warner.

As happy as I am about this, I really need to talk about something else, today.

I am willing to bet that some of you have heard of the song called "Crank That (Souljah Boy)". As a matter of fact, some of you are probably already laughing to yourself, because you know what kind of popularity that this song has achieved. You probably already know (and have at least tried) the "Souljah Boy" dance.

I have to make a confession about my total ignorance about this phenomonon until just this past Monday. A reader of mine encouraged me to go to You Tube and do a search for "soldier boy dance". I did, and was greeted with no less than 33 pages of video clips of people doing this dance.

According to Wikipedia, this song was released in April of this year and reached number one on two separate charts.

Now, if you want to spend some time having a full belly-laugh, watch some of those videos! You will see black children doing this dance, white teenagers doing this dance, the University of Maryland Water Polo team, student councils, cheerleaders, Drum Majors, moms, GRANDmoms.... you name it, people are doing it. Just about everybody is doing this dance.

Everyone except me... and Mrs Gunfighter, too (I asked).

You know, I always liked to think that I was rather savvy about the trends in this country... popular culture holds a great deal of interest for me... but I completely missed this. WTF?

If you would like to learn now to "Crank" the Soldier Boy dance, see the instructional video here.

Oh, and I have no intention of "Cranking the Souljah Boy" at Happy Hour next week, so you can forget that!

Saturday, November 3, 2007

Read This Blog!

Many of you, who have been reading my blog for a while know this person's blog. You know it because you have seen her many thoughtful, cogent comments about the foolishness that I often post about,

For those of you that haven't visited her yet, be sure to do so. If you are anything like me, you like smart. This lady is smart.

Her name, well, her nom de internet is Soccer Mom in Denial, but since that takes a long to type (for a poor typist like me), many of her readers reduce that lengthy moniker to SMID.

Good blog-pal SMID is a humble woman who has true social conscience. She cares about the less fortunate, and although she is a physically gentle person, is a true and tough warrior for social justice. I admire her for her passion and dedication to the cause.

SMID is also dedicated to her rugby-playing husband, whom she calls "Amazing Guy" and her three children, all of whom she is raising to be sensitive, culturally aware, questioning, thinking people.

She also takes a great interest in photography, something she shares with us (along with a fellow blogger, about whom I'll talk about later in the month via second blog) at Looking Into.

Thanks for sharing so much with us, SMID, you're a bit of alright.


Hey! Why are you still here?

Go to her blog. Now!

Monday, October 29, 2007

What To Do About Iran?

Have you had enough saber-rattling yet?

I have.

With all of the talk flying left and right, you would have to conclude that either Iran is the most dire threat to world peace, and the security of the United States, or that an American invasion of Iran is in the works, and isn't far off.

Both of those assertions are wrong.

Those on the right... you know, the clods that get their news from FOX, believe that Iran poses a grave threat to the United States and we need to decisively "do something" about it. The leaders of this particular lunatic fringe are none other that idiot-in-chief, George W. "Mission Accomplished" Bush...

... and
Dick "I'll shoot you in the f***ing face" Cheney. Many of the people that come down on the "Iran is a major threat" side argue that military might is the way to go to keep Iran it it's place.

On the other side of the argument, you have peaceniks who believe that talking out your problems will ease and soothe all parties, and if we talk long enough, everything will be fine, and everyone can burn patchouli incense and drink girly coffee drinks together in peace. This fringe element gets their news from the Whole Earth Catalogue, and from the crystals around their necks... they don't have a leader, because herd animals seldom have a central figure.

At the center of all of this, is this drivel-spouting dope, Iran's pain-in-the-ass-figurehead-of-a-President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

President Ahmadinejad has said that it wants to develop nuclear power for peaceful means. Uh-huh. You know? I might be crazy for saying this, but I just don't believe it. Why don't I?, because we say the same thing here in the U.S., and when you get right down to it, having the ability to make nuclear weapons means that you'll make them.

So where does all of this lead us? It leads to this: As much as we'd like to do about keeping Iran from going nuclear, there isn't really much we CAN do about it.

Militarily, we can't invade Iran. Our Army is busted and needs to be rested, the Marine Corps is ready to fight (of course), but is too small to make it happen with success. In short, my friends, as with all strategy, it's about the math. The numbers can't be crunched to come up with a successful plan for an invasion, so that's out.

The only viable military action is an air campaign to destroy the suspected locations of Iranian nuclear sites. Would those strikes be successful? Given our aviation capabilities, I am certain that it would.

So "what's the problem?"

The problem is the issue of unintended consequences and a potential disaster for the United States. Iran is a big country, and isn't really all that weak, when compared to it's neighbors. Do you really think that an aggrieved and belligerent Iran will be good for the region?, especially at a time when we would have difficulty challenging a major thrust at one of their neighbors?

Well, since the nuclear genie is one that is likely to find it's way into Iranian hands, the United States needs to be thinking smarter. We are going to need to guarantee the security of Iran. Promise to not invade their country and not to seek "regime change", blah blah blah.

In return, the Iranians get this: "If you even think about getting stupid outside of your borders, we'll incinerate you."
I really don't see what else there is to do.

I don't believe that a theocratic nation like Iran will sit down and talk in good faith. We can't believe their protestations about peace etc... so we either drop bombs on their heads with some potentially worse-than-Iran-with-nuclear-weapons scenario developing into a regional war, or we flat out threaten them into good behavior.

None of the answers are good, but that's where we are.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

A Thought (for which I cannot take credit)

The Only difference between tattooed people and non-tattooed people, is that people with tattoos don't really care that you don't have any.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Food: Stuffed Pork Tenderloin

A little over a year ago, while strolling around World Showcase Lagoon, at Disney World's EPCOT, a friend of mine told me about his method of stuffing a tenderloin. If you like to cook, you probably know that stuffing a pork tenderloin is sort of demanding, especially if your skills with cutlery aren't what they should be. My friend gave me an idea that until recently, I hadn't put into practice... I decided that it was time to make it happen.

Pre-heat the oven to 375.

The first thing I did was to put on some music, because you know that Chef Gunfighter likes to get his groove on when he cooks. Yes, what you see is correct, I bought that 70's R&B collection from Target. Don't laugh, the play list is very cool. It starts with that all-time favorite song, made for rubbing bellybuttons, the Marvin Gaye classic: "Let's Get it On".

Anyway, I was going to use a mushroom stuffing for this tenderloin, and got started by chopping a bunch of chives and setting them aside.

Next, I chopped a small onion, and a package of fresh, white button mushroom. I sauteed the onions until they were clear, then added the chives and mushrooms.

Continue to saute together until the mushrooms release their liquids, and reduce by about 80%, add a dash of minced garlic here (if you like garlic), and a half teaspoon of ground caraway seeds. Salt & pepper to taste.

Once finished add a tablespoon if bacon bits (use real bacon). Stir, drain well, and set aside in a mixing bowl. Add a tablespoon (or two) of high quality mustard, (I used the full-grain brown mustard).

I have a small family, so using a large tenderloin is seriously wasteful, so instead, I used a rather small (and therefore inexpensive), pre-trimmed, tenderloin from the supermarket for this dish.

OK, knives out! Lay the tenderloin on the cutting board, and using your free hand press down at the end of the tenderloin where you are going to begin your cut. Holding your knife flat, cut a flap in the tenderloin like you see here.

Next, make another cut, similar to the first, which will leave you with two flaps that open from the center like wings.

Spread the stuffing on the center portion.....

...and then close the flap.

Repeat until you are finished.

Pause here to wash your hands, which will be a real mess by now. Pour yourself a glass of red wine. You know, the kind that I like, cheap... usually from a bottle with a screw top. Hey, I'm a Philistine... sue me.

OK, take a minute or two to do some dancing. If you have a partner, great! If you don't have anyone to dance with, dance alone!. Remember what I said about getting down with your bad self, it's important!

OK, calm down, have a last sip of your wine, and put your tenderloin in the oven... bake at 375 for until finished... you'll need a meat thermometer to determine doneness, because different sized cuts of meat require different cooking times.

When you are finished, it'll look something like this:

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Put on some good music (I recommend Andrea Boccelli), and serve with pasta & veg.... and more wine.


Monday, October 22, 2007

Youth Sports & Idiot Parents

As you know, my youngest daughter, who is eight, plays soccer in our local league. She enjoys the game and is fairly good at it, which is why I refer to as soccergirl here at my blog. You also know that I coach her team.

As much as I know that soccergirl has fun playing soccer, I confess that I get a lot out of it, too... and I don't even really like soccer. Sadly, Dr. Einstein was every bit as correct socialogical world as he was in the realm of physics, and for all of the fun that I derive from our soccer league, it is, in equal parts, a pain in the ass.

This Saturday, Soccergirl's team, The Dynamite, played a joyful game of soccer. They played with determination and toughness, they played with a new found maturity. I swear that you could almost hear the mental "click". You know what I'm talking about, right? the mental click that anyone who has ever taught a group of students knows about. You know? The moment that you see the light come on and you know that you have made a breakthrough. Well, while the team was having that moment on the field, I was having a rapturous time on the sideline... and so were the girls' families.

So, you're asking yourself what this has to do with idiot parents?

Read on.

Before our game started, the youthful referee (who was probably 13) came to me and said "Coach, could you please talk to your team's parents before the game? We had some problems during the last game, and I don't want any parents getting out of hand." Sadly, I already knew what he was talking about. One of the teams that played immediately before us, was the culprit, and I'm not surprised. This team is comprised of some of the most obnoxious sports parents that I have ever encountered. They shout inappropriate comments to opposing players (remember, these are 8-9 year old children we are talking about here), and they try to intimidate the referees, who are just kids themselves.

I was really pissed off, but I kept my cool, and talked to "my parents" before the game started. We were playing a team coached by a guy that has a similar phliosophy to mine, in that we know it is about fun, fitness and learning for the kids.... not about winning at all costs.

My team won the game... mostly due to great playing by all of my girls, but especially soccergirl, D, and E, and a couple of others.

The girls played with patience, maturity and smarts. They were tough. They didn't quit when they were tired. It was all I could do not to explode with pride, all over the field when that last whistle blew and my warriors ran off the field to high-five with me and their parents.

Why would anyone... especially a parent, want to wreck that by acting like an ass?

Sunday, October 21, 2007

In Memoriam

On November 10th last year, I wrote about the Marine Corps Birthday, and the October '06 combat death of several young Marines from the 1st battalion, 6th Marine regiment. One of the Marines that I listed in that post was Corporal Nicholas Manoukian, age 22.

A couple of weeks later, I was contacted by a woman named Mary, who had read the post. As it turns out, Mary was Corporal Manoukian's mother. Mary and I have emailed back and forth several times over the last year, and in her emails, she told me about her son... her only child. In our most recent correspondence, I told her that, with her permission, I was going to write about her son again, on the anniversary of his death. She graciously said yes, and provided me with some facts about her son's life and some pictures.

When Mary emailed me the first time, I promised her that I would never forget her son, and that I would keep him, and Mary, too, in my prayers, and I have. So, if you will permit me, I am going to tell you a little bit about who Nicholas Manoukian was. It is my hope that in some small way, I can help keep Nicholas' memory alive.

Mary told me the details of her son's enlistment, and of some apparent deception by Nicholas' recruiter who promised that her son wouldn't have to serve in combat. I can't speak to that issue, but it hurts me more than I can tell you that my Corps now has to resort to subterfuge to gain new members. In my day, the Corps turned away more than half of the people who tried to enlist.

Please read on, I want to tell you a little bit about this good young man.

Nick was born on August 31st, 1984, and was adopted at one year of age by Mary and Isaac Manoukian, of Lathrup Village, Michigan. Nick was the light of his parent's eyes. The Manoukians were a close family, and Nick and Mary drew closer still when Isaac died when Nick was 12 years old.

When Nick was 14 and in Junior High School he met a girl named Danielle. By the time Nick was 15, he and Danielle were an item. Although they would drift apart, later, their meeting would be very important to them later in life.

Nick was interested in many things, including playing the drums, writing poetry, hockey, snowboarding, art and cooking. Nick was also, by all reports, a great hugger! When Nick would see his mother, he would give her big, rib-crushing hugs.

Nick Graduated from Royal Oak Kimball High School, in 2003, and spent some time in college studying art before he joined the Marine Corps in 2004, sometime in this period, he and Danielle rekindled their relationship.

Corporal Manoukian deployed to Iraq the first time in March of 2005, and was involved in the second Battle of Fallujah.

Nick survived this deployment, but his unit, the first battalion, 6th Marine regiment was slated to deploy to Iraq again in September of 2006.

Before going back to Iraq, Nicholas had some things to do, so in July of 2006, he went back to Michigan on leave and married Danielle! After a too-short period, Nicholas was back with his unit, which deployed to Anbar province in September of 2006.

Manoukian had only been back in Iraq for a month when he was killed. His Humvee was stuck by a roadside bomb, while his unit was conducting combat operations.

Nicholas left behind a loving family: His mother, Mary Manoukian Calhoun, stepfather Gary Calhoun, his wife, Danielle Manoukin and stepson Nico Mullen.

Today, it has been a year since Nicholas' death, and his family still grieves. I won't talk about noble sacrifice and patriotism here, today... just about one man and his family... a family misses their son, husband, and father.

Take a moment to grieve with them.


Friday, October 19, 2007

Some Thoughts on Politics

A few thoughts on the world of politics from where I sit. Please note that it is Friday, and I am still semi-sick, so forgive me if I am less than artful in my presentation.

Item: Larry Craig refuses to resign from the Senate, citing his appeal to a judge to have his conviction, based on admission of guilt rescinded. Senator Craig does not allege that he was beaten, coerced, or enforced, or otherwise "made" to confess to a crime... he just wants to "clear his name" . Well, a Minnesota judge said that since Craig wasn't alleging that there was any misconduct on the part of the airport cops, that there was no reason to grant the appeal.

Craig is appealing again.


Note to Senator Craig: You are guilty, sir. Face it. You concealed your arrest and admission of guilt from the Senate, in contravention of Senate rules. You know that you won't withstand the ethics investigation, so step up, be a man, and resign!

Item: What the fuck is wrong with the Democratic party? Do we smell so much blood in the water for the next election cycle that we are bent on nominating one of the sodding idiots that gave George Bush permission to invade Iraq?

Not with my help, pal.

Item: The Prince William County (Va.) Board of Supervisors voted unanimously in favor of enacting a resolution to use County employees to deny use of County facilities to those persons who cannot produce documentation of their legal residential status in the United States. Further, the County police will begin a program of checking the immigration status of any individual who is suspected of any crime, including traffic violations.

Alright. I want everyone that is reading this, to dig into your pockets and show me your documents that give you the right to reside or work in the United States.

I'll wait.

Nobody? That's what I thought. This piece of legislation is racist. In addition to being racist, it won't stand a legal challenge. Further, the county doesn't have the money to really enforce the new ordinance. "So... why do it?" you ask? Because our next election is just over two weeks away, and what better way to cement the electorate than with a good ol' "us against THEM", fear-mongering campaign? It's f***ing disgusting.

Item: The newly installed chief of Air Force acquisitions was recently found dead in his home, of an apparent suicide. The appointment of the retired Air Force officer was under investigation for ethics violations due to the fact that he had been awarded a contract by a firm with deep ties to the Air Force. The purpose of the contract was to give him some working cash in the time between his retirement and the start of his appointment... a period of approx. 4 months. The problem is that the gentleman in question was paid a considerable sum of money... but did no work for the company.


Item: Happy Hour plans are underway, here in DC. If you didn't get the memo, let me know. (Hey, in DC EVERYTHING is political!)

Item: George W. Bush vetoed the expansion of S-Chip. If you aren't outraged by this administration, you aren't really paying attention.

Have a good weekend!


Monday, October 15, 2007

Some Days You Just Have To....

...back away.

No, I don't mean from blogging... I'm addicted, but what I meant was that from time to time I have to stop talking about Domestic Violence, Pictures, dog rescue, Larry Craig, George Bush, and the myriad things that I talk about here.

Sometimes you have to stop talking about soccer, rugby, sex, racial and sexual bigotry in the church... and outside of it. Sometimes I want need do do what I am doing right now: Sometimes you just need to take a minute to get down with your (seriously) bad self!

(and believe it, I am a bad MoFo!, just like Shaft!)

So! You know this song, get out of your chair, and shake your tail feather a little bit.

You'll be glad you did.

That goes for you, too!

Yeah, you... the repressed lady in the Midwest!

Sing it! "Uh! It's gettin' hot in here!"

Lighten up, Francis! I'll bet even the ordained clergy reading this are dancing!

C'mon... You people in Australia... do it upside down! You New Zealanders, you friggin' blew the Rugby World Cup (and got beaten by FRANCE????) you blokes NEED to dance... do the Haka or something. Crikey!


You, too, Canucks... you know I love you, and there is probably 14 feet of snow in Saskatoon, but dance anyway! Do it like Jean Chretien (because you KNOW Stephen Harper can't dance!)

"I like when you uh!-uh! With a little bit of uh-uh!"

See you tomorrow!


Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Book Review: The Religion

A few weeks ago, I finished what is probably the best book that I have read all year... maybe in the last few years. The book was: The Religion, by Tom Willocks.

This book takes place in 1565, when "The Grand Turk" , also known as Suleiman The Magnificent, ruler of the Ottoman Empire, had decided that to ensure the spread of Islam, the Knights of St. John, also known as The Knights Hospitaller, must be dislodged from the Mediterranean Island of Malta.

As this historically true event played out, the fictitious Captain Mattias Tannhauser, a European-born former Janissary soldier in the army of the Sultan, is convinced to bring a high-born Maltese Contessa, Lady Carla, to the island, despite the siege, to find her 12 year old bastard son... a son sired by one Brother Luvodico, a highly-placed Priest of the Inquisition.

What Tannhauser doesn't realize is that his reputation as a military commander has proceeded him, and he has been duped into going to the island so that he can give good military advice to the Grandmaster of the Knights of St. John, Jean De La Valette, to help them withstand the siege.

Predictably, Tannhauser is able to spirit Lady Carla, and her son, Orlandu, off of Malta, but not before falling in love with Carla, and killing Luvodico.

The plot of the book isn't exceptionally intricate, which is appropriate, since this book is and adventure, not a mystery. There are several factors here that make this book and exceptionally good one: The first (for me) is that the subject matter, the religious-military orders of the era, between the 12th and 17th centuries, is an area of particular interest to me. The second is that the author has really done his homework here, in that he not only was able to place this important battle in the right time and place, but he was able to describe that motives and actions of the characters in proper cultural terms. The third important thing for me was the description of 16th century combat and siege warfare. Willocks doesn't gloss over the unholy brutality of personal combat, and the gruesome wounds caused by the weapons of the day.

If you have an interest in history, you will enjoy this book. If you have an interest in grand adventure, you will enjoy this book. If you have an interest in some of the skulduggery of the 16th century Church you'll really like this book.

This book has it all: Violence, history, intrigue, and sex... and it's well-written!

What's not to like?

If you read it, please tell me what you think.


Monday, October 8, 2007


They say a picture is worth a thousand words. I suppose it depends on what the picture is, who took the picture and why, and the person who sees the picture... but I digress.

I want to try a bit of a writing exercise, so I'd like you, my fabulous readers, to send me a picture or ten, without any comments, and I'll pick some and write about them... let's see if I can come up with a thousand words.




"For every one hundred men you send us,
Ten should not even be here.
Eighty are nothing but targets.
Nine of them are real fighters;
We are lucky to have them, they the battle make.
Ah, but the one. One of them is a warrior.
And he will bring the others back."


These days, the term "warrior" is bandied about with ease. Too bad so few really know what it means.

Friday, October 5, 2007

How Far Would You go For Your Kids?

By the time you have read this far, those of you who are parents have already answered that question, haven't you? You'd do pretty much anything for your kids, wouldn't you? I can't think of any way to get more seriously hurt than get between a parent and their child... especially if that child is threatened with harm.

As a parent... particularly, as a father, I take the safety and protection of my children as a most solemn obligation... just the suggestion that someone might ever consider harming my child will put a murderous look on my face.

How far would I go for my kids?

I'll tell you how far: Simply put, there is no place on the planet that could keep you safe if you ever harmed or even attempted or planned to harm one of my children. I'd kill hurt, gruesomely, any person who tried to hurt my girls.

I think you know that this isn't hyperbole when it's coming from me.

Having said all of that, there is a wider question being asked here, isn't there? When we are asked, "How Far Would You go For Your Kids?", that could mean many things besides protecting our children from harm. Let's have a chat about parental ethics, shall we?

We all want our children to succeed, don't we? We all want them to achieve material success in life, don't we? We want them to be well educated, we want them to be secure in themselves, we want them to excel at sports and academics, and in everything, don't we?

Of course we do! We're parents!

But how do we do this? Do we help them achieve excellence, or do we do it for them?

Let's start here: How many of you, in order to maximize the kind of recognition your daughter will get at Girl Scouts, will haul boxes and boxes of cookies to your office/church/playgroup/pilates class/poker night and push those evil things on your friends? You'd do that, wouldn't you? No harm done, right?... I mean EVERYbody loves Thin Mints and those friggin' Do-Si-Does, right?

How many of you know people that spend endless hours online getting information for their high school-aged child, so he or she will get a good grade on their book report?, or worse, do the report for them?

Those of you with younger children might know moms or dads who practically demand that their bright child be labelled as "gifted" when they are in the 2nd grade (As if that is going to get this kid into freakin' Harvard)

I am the coach of my daughter's soccer team, and in our recreational league, the teams are restricted to only one practice per week. I happen to know that at least one of the coaches is holding extra practices on the side... is "winning" that important? Is that what we want to teach our kids? that winning is so important that it is better to cheat and win than it is to work hard, and do your best, and take pride in your results, within the rules?

Have you ever been in the mall or a store and seen some poorly behaved child knock over a stack of books or something, and the parent doesn't bat an eyelash until they see your glare, and then says, anemically, "oh, pick that up, honey?

How about the crackpots that actually get in fights with other parents at school sporting events, or at little league?

I actually know parents who, not bothering to make a child actually READ the @#*%&%$$#% book, actually bought the child the cliff notes instead so the kid could do the report on time.

One woman I know actually called her son at college every morning to make sure he went to class.

I could go on and on. It's so sad.

So haw far would you go for your kids? In my little corner of the world, I have seen some really ugly things regarding parental crazies who even help their kids avoid the consequences of breaking the law.

I work for a federal law enforcement agency, and I know all of the local cops and State Troopers in our area (especially since our community is full to the brim with cops from numerous agencies), I am almost certain that if my child were speeding and got a ticket, she could invoke my name, and probably get out of it... but that would be a big mistake. I don't roll like that. You speed, you take your chances. You get a ticket?, I guess you'll slow down next time, won't you?

Look, I'm all about protecting my kids, but there have to be limits don't there? Do I really want to protect them when they do something wrong at school? What will that teach them? I don't want them to win so badly that I'll teach them that cheating at sports is OK as long as they don't get caught. I don't want them to excel at school, to the point that I will do their schoolwork for them in order to protect their GPA?

Would you?

Do you know what that kind of crap does to kids? It produces adults to whom the rules mean nothing. It produces adults that believe cheating on their taxes is a victimless crime. It produces people that like Michael Vick and Alberto Gonzales, and Larry Craig, that believe that their place in life affords them protection from breaking the law.

I'll give an example of how bad it can be: We know of a family in which a 17 year old son was involved in the theft of several handguns from the home of a deceased FBI agent. After the theft, this kid and his friends spent a lot of time playing playing tough guy with these guns. Now these kids weren't planning any violent crimes, they weren't robbing or shooting anyone, they were "nice" kids from the suburbs. One day, the group was playing the "I'll shoot you" game, not having checked to see if the guns were loaded. See where I am going here?

One kid shoots the other kid in the face and kills him.

I'll leave out all of the drama, but the killer, for that is what he is, intentional or not, never spent a day behind bars. His parents, who had the cash to do it, hired an expensive attorney, made sure the kid could cop a plea, do some community service, and walk away as if it never happened.

As appalled as some of the parents in the area were, I heard at least one of the neighborhood dads say: "He just made a mistake"

A mistake.

A 17 year old shoots and 18 year old in the face, and kills him, and it's a mistake.

Where I come from, it's called a crime.

The parents immediately enrolled the kid killer in the local "alternative" high school program, but immediately started complaining, because she didn't want HER son in that class with THOSE bad kids who listened to "all of "that rap music"


This was about 5 years ago... since then, that NICE kid who just "made a mistake" has committed several other crimes, and is now incarcerated.... which he should have been in the first place... perhaps if his parents hadn't coddled him, and let him pay the price for his actions, he would have learned something and done better, and stayed out of jail later on.

How far would I go for my kids? Not that far.

I'll confess to the Girl Scout cookie thing. I asked some of the guys if they wanted any, but that's about as far as it goes.

Sure, I'll protect my kids, but there is a difference between protecting them to keep them safe, and sheltering them from their own misdeeds.


This post was part of a Blog Blast sponsored by the Parent Blogger Network, and in conjunction with the new Harper Collins Books release, "Dangerous Admissions", which deals with the issue of how far parents will go to help their kids get what they want.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

CD Review: Sara Bareilles - Little Voice

Have any of you ever heard of this young woman?

I confess that I never had until a few weeks ago, when Mrs Gunfighter brought home this CD that she bought on a whim. The song that you are listening to now, is the first song on her recently released cd, titled Little Voice.

Sara Barielles (pronounced Ba-rell-is) is from Humboldt County, Californina and attended UCLA. Her music has been compared to that of Fiona Apple, Nora Jones and other female songstresses. Some of hose may be fair comparisons... but that in no way diminishes the talent of this young singer-songwriter.

I could go on and on about Bareilles' raw talent and driving piano-playing, but I don't have to, you can hear it for yourself.

If you are of a mind to trust me, trust me when I tell you that if you buy this cd you will be really glad you did.


Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Domestic Violence Awareness Month

In the United States, October is recognized as Domestic Violence Awareness Month. All across America, worthy organizations and movements like the Clothes Line Project and the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence are speaking out against domestic violence and violence against women. This is a praise-worthy thing... but the world is changing my friends, and it isn't just organizations that are speaking out, Bloggers are speaking too, and this is where I come in.

A couple of days ago, I was contacted by Gina from What About Our Daughters?, A blog dedicated to combating the destructive portrayals of black women in popular culture. Gina asked me to help her out by posting something about Domestic Violence, and I agreed.

While mulling it over, I first thought I would talk a little bit about domestic violence (DV) from a statistical standpoint, and mention that fact that although black people make up thirteen percent of the U.S. population, black women make up twenty-eight percent of the reported victims of DV.

I thought about it, alright, but I decided to take another route.

Instead of raw numbers, I am going to talk about DV from a personal viewpoint. You see, I know a wee bit about the subject. I witnessed it as a child.

My dad was a wife-beater.

An early memory for five year old Gunfighter was my father coming home after working the late shift at Hamilton Air Force Base, California, and getting into an argument with my mother. I have no idea what it was all about, but I remember the shouting turning into screams. Screams coming from my mother, punctuated by the fist-on-flesh thwacking sound that no child should hear coming from his own mother's body.

After scooping my older sister from her bed, my mother ran into the bedroom that I shared with my brother, herded us into our car and drove off into the night. We drove around for a few hours, finally parking on the side of the road, somewhere in Marin County. I am certain that sometime that night, I must have slept, but I remember being awake, as the new day was dawning, and seeing my mother just staring blankly out the window.

It was 1968, my mother was 29 years old... and she had nowhere to go.

I'll bet you know what we did next.

If you guessed "you-waited-until-your-dad-went-to-work-and-then-you-went-back-home", you get a cookie.

My life changed that night. That night put me on the road that I travel today... the road that leads to responsible fatherhood. The road that leads to marital respect, the road that leads to being a true man.

That beating wasn't the only one my mother ever got from my father... but it was the worst, and the last. By 1969, my mother had divorced my father, and we moved to New Jersey to live with my Grandmother.

The following years were good for my father. He got some help, he remarried, had another child with his second wife (who died in a car crash in 1981), and became a better man than he had been in his dark days. All of this is covered here, so I'll press on.

Like I said... I know a little bit about DV.

I'm fortunate... I didn't repeat the cycle. I don't smack my wife around. I have never hit either of my children (I have two daughters). I would rather stick my hand in a food processor than do those things.

Scientists and Sociologists have opined deeply about the causes of DV, and I suppose that they may be right... but to me I have to say that I believe that spousal abuse is a learned behavior. A behavior passed on from person to person, sometimes father to son.... sometimes passed on by pop culture images or even hero-worship.

I could take this particular moment to go on about the damage done by many of the images in the hip-hop sub-culture, but that horse is dead, and has been beaten by myself and others thousands of times in the past few months. No, I'm not going to blame the rappers specifically (not that they don't share some blame), because there was DV a looong time before the first violent rap lyrics ever showed up.

When dad beats mom, he teaches his son that it is ok to beat women. When dad beats mom, and mom stays silent, she teaches her son that it is ok to beat women, and teaches her daughter that quiet acceptance is alright. When popular athletes, entertainers, members of Congress, or pastors beat their wives, and their supporters close ranks around them and protect them, society teaches boys that violence against women is alright, and teaches girls that even if they speak out, they will be ridiculed, scorned, devalued, and even BLAMED for the violence visited upon them.

Domestic Violence is a social disease and your friend Gunfighter is going to lay down the cure, right here, right now.

There is a cure for Domestic Violence. Here it is: The Man of Character

The Man of Character, is a pillar of strength for his family. They KNOW they can always depend on him to do the right thing.

The Man of Character is a pillar of his community.

The Man of Character isn't a social sponge, sucking up all his community has to offer while giving nothing of himself.

THe family of a Man of Character is never afraid for their safety in his presence.

It is the responsibility of men of character to end this cycle of violence. Men of character must lead by example. Men of character must be sterling role-models to their sons. Men of character must be the kind of man that his daughters will use as their ideal when the time comes for them to think about life-partners. Men of character vote in all elections, men of characters are men of personal values.

When a man loves his wife and children in such a manner, all things are possible, and violence has no place. In that sort of environment, a family is doing the best thing that they can do to break the links in the chains of domestic violence.

Men: Don't do it.... ever.

Women: Don't put up with it... not even once. Rescue your children and run!

DV is a learned behavior, 'tis true, but one good thing you can say about learned behavior, is that it can't be learned when it isn't seen or heard of.

To some, my answers may sound trite... do you have any better ideas?

Friday, September 28, 2007

The Family Vacation

The Family Vacation... What memories! What togetherness! What fun?

Even now, I can see your eyes going out of focus as you look into the mists of your own memories. Memories of vacations past, where you were tortured beyond belief by long boring rides in your parent's car, or by your own children's predilection for projectile vomiting.

OK, that's enough remembering.

The family vacation is something that I didn't have as a kid, so all of my memories of the family road-trip have been created by the adult me (and Mrs Gunfighter, of course).

It has been our great good fortune to have had incredibly fun family vacations, and today, I am going to share our secret for vacation success.

For us, going on vacation means alot. Going on vacation means changing our location... going some place that we enjoy, and spending some concentrated family time. Some time away from our jobs, our work in the church, Scouting, coaching and attending soccer games, commuting, occasional travel for work, local politics, volunteering on County committees, and on and on. We are a busy family, but we love to be together, and while we enjoy our time together as a family unit, that can be in short supply at times.

Clan Gunfighter is made up of creatures of habit. On vacation, we like to do most of the things we do at home... eating home-cooked meals, watching our usual television shows, and spending time together. Whether we do this in Williamsburg, Virginia, where we spend spring breaks, or in Orlando, Florida, where we go in the summer, we enjoy the "home away from home" experience. Because we like to do "home away from home", we became owners in the Hilton Grand Vacation Club a few years ago, so when we go on vacation, we are in a beautiful, large apartment unit, with all of the amenities, as well as a full kitchen and laundry machines.

So: The secret. I suppose I should make that plural, because our secret has multiple parts... the first part being this: The journey is part of the vacation, too. For us, the drive is every bit as much a part of the fun as going to Disney World. Because we tend to take a lot of things with us, like Soccergirl's stuffed "friends", we normally will rent a minivan for the trip. Oh go ahead, scoff if you like.

Decorating the Minivan the night before departure has become a ritual. We use window chalk that we get in the automotive section at the local Wal-Mart.

Everyone in the family is listed (and has their picture drawn on the window)

(The creature that you see there is one of my own renditions of our late, lamented greyhounds: Duncan and Zoom.

Once we have the van decorated and packed, and all of the sundry electronics (phone chargers, XM radio, iPod, DVD player, etc... ) installed. It's time to go!

We head out listening to our traditional music: 500 Miles (I'm Gonna Be), by the Proclaimers. During the ride, Mrs GF and I get lots of time to talk while Soccergirl watches a movie or reads, which is quite nice.

We always make good mileage, but we are never in such a hurry that it is a problem if someone needs to make a restroom stop, before the next "scheduled" stop.

When we arrive at our destination, we unload the van and set up our "new home" and proceed to enjoy each other's company. One central theme of our vacations is that, more often than not, I will cook our evening meals. We do this, not as a money saver, but because we want to enjoy a meal in a home-like environment.

Having arrived, it is time to tell you the next part of our secret, and here it is: Only do what you WANT to do on vacation. I know that Disney World is an expensive vacation... it is the main focus of all of my overtime efforts, but we resist the need to "do everything" while we are there. I can't tell you how many times that we have seen families in complete misery because mom or dad is so determined to do it all, that no one in the family is having any fun. So, we get up late, we swim, we take our time about getting to the theme parks, and we R-E-L-A-X. So what if we planned on going to the Magic Kingdom in the morning and Epcot in the evening, and only made it the Magic Kingdom? Who cares? Don't want to ride the big rollercoater everyone is talking about? Don't! Vacations are supposed to be fun, so we never worry about what we are "supposed" to be doing... we just do what we want. In our normal lives, we spend so much time regulated by the clock, we really have a good time when we only have make sure that we get a certain little girl into bed at a reasonable hour.

The next part of the secret is the most important part, and that is: Have a high threshold for failure. While you are on vacation, don't make any one thing so central to your success, that if idoesn't happen the way you want it, your whole trip is ruined. We have seen people who, while on vacation, must do everything... and not just do everything, but do it in a certain order, and get a certain feeling from having done it, and scheduled every last thing that they are going to do, down to the minute, that if it doesn't happen perfectly, their vacation is ruined. God knows that living within boundaries like that is difficult enough in our day to day lives, imagine trying that while factoring in the vagaries of the weather in Central Florida!

Here is an example of doing it right:

In 2001, the 9/11 attacks took place on our last workday before our vacation. My boss released me from duty early that day, because the chief was about to cancel all leave... Mrs GF and I determined that we should still go on vacation as sort of a metaphorical middle finger to those who think that they can keep Americans down.

We drove to Orlando, and arrived there the same day that tropical storm Danielle made HER appearance. No big deal right? It's only water. Well, we did our best and continued our fun in the (almost) completely deserted parks, enjoying the fact that Soccergirl could ride the Winnie The Pooh ride, Dumbo, and The Carousel as many times as she wanted, with no waiting in line.

We were having a good time until a few days into the vacation. One day, we were in Gooding's grocery store and Soccergirl abruptly puked all over the floor. The staff, knowing how vacationing tummies can be (especially since they were directly across the street from Disney property,), took it in stride. We didn't think much of it until later when she puked again. Hm. The next day, she rallied and we thought we were out of the woods, when we were about to get on The Pooh ride, and she erupted, like Mount Vesuvius all over the front of Mrs GF's shirt. Soccergirl started to cry, Mrs GF was COVERED in vomit, and I was starting to freak out. We all went to the child care center, where Mrs GF change SG's clothes, while I went to one of the shops and bought my poor wife a new Minnie Mouse t-shirt (which she has to this day)

My poor child was sick. We went to the emergency room of a local hospital, and were seen by the nice nurses and doctors, who administered some medication and gave SG some Popsicles (a fun way to re-hydrate). We missed a few days in the parks, but no real harm was done. Once SG was back on her feet, we continued with out family fun, none to worse for the wear. We even stayed an extra day.

We still count that vacation as our benchmark. If you can go through a major terrorist attack, shrug off the forces of nature, and deal with a sick child all in the same vacation, and still have fun, that's when you know that you're doing it right. Any one of those things could have ruined our trip, but we refused to let it.

There you have it... Clan Gunfighter's secrets for the perfect vacation.

NOTE: A couple of years later, we were there for Hurricane Charlie... I'll tell you about that one at a later date.


Today's post for the Parent Blogger Network Family Vacation blogblast, was sponsored by the fine folks at PickPackGo.