Monthly Archives: January 2013

Ten Years

In using the Wayback machine earlier today to start recovery of old posts, it hit me that it was roughly ten years ago that I started blogging.

I had seen blogs around, was starting to follow them, and thought I had something to offer.  I can’t remember exactly how that got started, or even how I was proceeding, but John Ringo decided I should be doing more and introduced me to Joe Katzman at Winds of Change.  Joe became my blogfather, and guided me as I moved from posting at WoC to my own blog.  A few years after that, Blackfive honored me by requesting I guest blog at his place, and then let me continue to post after his book came out.
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Are You Ready For Valentines Day?

If not, here are some deals to help you out!  Shop Amazon – Valentine’s Day Event

Powers Pepper Jelly

Pepper Jelly has been an important part of Christmas for as long as I can remember. In the summer, Dad raised bell pepper and hot peppers in our garden, and come the fall he (and later we) would make pepper jelly — usually two or three cases of it — to give at Christmas. To say that family and friends looked forward to it is an understatement, and so did we. It was not unusual for Dad and myself to polish off a jar (along with a block of cream cheese and most of a box of Ritz crackers) “testing” it to be sure it was good.

Dad’s recipe has been semi-guarded for some time, but I have decided that now is the time to share it with the world lest it be lost. One of the things that has helped make this year a good Christmas for me is that I grew hot peppers (the drought was not kind to the bell peppers) and made a batch and have shared it with family and friends. It is good to continue some traditions, and so I share this one with you.

Hardware:
Large pot
Cutting Board
Knife
Food gloves
Large pourable container
Strainers (I use at least two, one medium one fine)
Jelly Jars
Measuring cup
additional container
Jar funnel
Canner

Ingredients:
1 cup finely chopped hot peppers
1 cup finely chopped bell peppers
13 cups white sugar
3 cups apple cider vinegar (use only real!)
Green food colouring
1 box Certo

Dad used, and I use, a mix of hot peppers. Usually about half a cup are home-grown jalapenos and the other half are home-grown small Thai peppers. This year, I used home-grown Thai, jalapeno, habanero, and one home-smoked jalapeno. It is not necessarily the heat, but the flavors that count. That is also why you need to be sure to use real apple cider vinegar and not the artificially flavored stuff that so many places try to pawn off. Always read the label…

Trust me: use food gloves while handling and chopping the hot peppers…

Prepare jelly jars and lids per directions. I run my jars through the dishwasher with heat-dry on, and it is an excellent sterilizer.

Put all ingredients except Certo into a large saucepan/stockpot. Bring to a rolling boil, cut off the stove, and let cool for 10 minutes. Strain into pourable container, add about three drops of food colouring and the packets of Certo. Stir well without adding a lot of air, then pour into the jelly jars. A uniform green colour lets you know that everything is well mixed. There is usually a bit left over, so pour into spare container to let set and serve as your “proof” batch for taste-testing. Seal. Dad could always get them to seal as is, but I never have so I bring a canner to the boil and can for about 10 minutes.

Enjoy.

Rescue Underway!

Thanks to the Wayback Machine, I’m in the process of saving at least some of the old posts from the blog.  It is interesting to see the differences between MT, EE, and WP — and I have to admit I really like the new WP platform.

Standby, old posts will be posting soon I hope.  I’m starting with recipes and such, and will go from there.

Some Thoughts On Photography, Part 1

InThoughtWeb

A good shot of a beautiful lady, taken for a friend

I often read other photographers talking about a particular photograph and how it came to be.  Sometimes, those stories are quite interesting, fun, and even informative.  Other times, I call bullshit — especially when they start into ‘I knew that to get the shot the way I wanted I had to change the asa (iso for older farts out there) to 157, the shutterspeed to 1/249 and the aperture to 3.1218 and use the gmya filter with polarization to get the shot.”

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Some Thoughts On Gay Marriage and Rights

Recently, a friend posted something on Facebook, which she prefaced by saying that she expected to lose friends on both ends of the political spectrum over what was to come.  Sadly, I suspect that she might, though those of us responding early clearly were supportive of her position.  That said, I expect I may lose readers and others by what I have to say on the subject.  I also expect I may gain some too.
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Welcome/Free Download Continues Today

Bumping again as it appears that the free download will continue today.  Not sure how long, so grab it while you can!

The free download of the Kindle version of A Different View continues today, and may even extend into tomorrow (Monday) a bit, but no guarantees.

If you are one of the 1400-plus who downloaded the book yesterday, my thanks and I hope you enjoyed it.  I also hope you will leave a review or comment at Amazon, tell people about it, and if you really like it, buy a print copy as well.

For those truly new, you can find a bio and more starting here, scroll down for more posts, explore photo galleries here, and find out more about donating to support my embeds and work (and even sponsoring same if you are a company) here.  You can also get the short version of why I’m not in Afghanistan as planned here.

Thanks to crackers and others, this is a brand new site.  So, if you have features or other things you would like to see here, let me know.  Can’t guarantee anything, but the feedback will help make the site better for you.

Also, you can follow me on Facebook, and via my author page at Amazon, or on Twitter (I’m trying to do better there).  Most of my military-related posts will be posted on Blackfive and linked here.  Any questions, just ask.

For those who have downloaded, liked, and such:  Thank You!

Saving Pvt. Journalism, Part 10

Reposting from Blackfive in case my archives can’t be recovered.  Originally posted June 25, 2003

Aren’t you glad I’m finally finished. :)

There is more that can and should be said, but I think that I am going to leave it to the people I am trying to get to provide some guest blogs. What I have done is to try and provide some history and context to the situation we face, as well as some constructive recommendations on what to do.

For me, the situation can be summed up with the following statements:

Blogs are the long-anticipated “new media” and the new journalism. Blogs show the best, and the worst, of what can be done in terms of almost real-time information transferal. The best of the blogs report, update, correct, and provide commentary in a timely manner that makes the best of television and radio seem glacial in comparison. The best of the blogs also provide the thought pieces that are necessary as well.

Media consumers are becoming more savvy every day. The trust factor is down significantly with mainstream media and The Media in particular, and a surprising number of people are now turning not to the Web per se, but to the blogs for news and information that is accurate and reliable, as well as for reasoned commentary and debate. This particular trend is only going to increase.

The Media and “journalists” are getting a rude awakening on many levels. Bias, distortions, lies and fabrications, and much more are now being exposed in ways not possible before. Questions are being asked and answers demanded, a thing that is beyond the ken for many of these people. Outlets and journalists are being held to account to a degree never before seen in the history of journalism. That they are less than happy at having their own tactics and “rules” applied to them as organizations and individuals is understandable, if amusing.

Specific suggestions are reiterated below, with a listing by who needs to do what:

You, the reader and consumer of media from blogs to movies, need to:

1. Let your congresscritter know, in no uncertain terms, that attacks on freedom of the press will not be tolerated, and that blogs and people on the net are just as much journalists as are people at the New York Times or Fox News. Remind them also that America does not condone or accept the licensing of media.

2. Let your congresscritter know that you oppose other government involvement in, and regulation of, the Internet for any reason. What is free speech today is all too likely to end up as pornographic or unacceptable tomorrow. Beware the slippery slope.

3. Support your local blogger. Make that monetary donation if they have a tip jar, and make comments to keep them honest. Promote valid discussion and rational discourse. That is, after all, one of your duties to the Republic as a Citizen. It should even be argued that it is your duty as a Citizen of the World.

4. Since no outlet can have specialists in all areas, if you see a problem let the outlet know in a constructive manner. Offer to help them with correction, correct information, introduction to experts, etc.

5. If the outlet won’t make a correction or is otherwise uninterested, let the blogs know and see if pressure can be applied that way. Public ridicule can work wonders…

6. Be an informed consumer of news from The Media. Learn the track records and background of the local or other reporters of interest. If you find they are lacking, switch media and let it be known. Media outlets are businesses, and they can and will change tunes – and reporters or editors – if the proper motivation is applied.

7. If you can’t get others to blog about problems in local or other media, do it yourself. Follow the rules (learn the difference between libel and slander, and avoid both) and do the best job you possibly can. Yes, it will cost you time and money, but that is one of the responsibilities we, as citizens, must bear.

The Media, those that call themselves journalists and news people, and the pundits who publish or broadcast through the same need to do the following:

1. Abolish the practice of so-called advocacy reporting. It is not journalism, it is not good “press” work, and it seriously compromises any pretext at doing real journalism.

2. Make use of specialists in subject areas, particularly in science, business, law, military, and other arcane matters. These are not compromised sources nor should they be second class citizens in the news structure. They are valuable resources and should be treated as such, be they on staff or freelance.

3. Make use of specialists all the way through the process. From writing to headline writing, make use of that knowledgebase so as to avoid mistakes and other problems.

4. No outlet can have all the specialists it needs, so make use of freelance specialists as well. Freelance does not mean tainted or unwashed, and does not automatically mean compromised in the journalistic sense. Get some sense, and grow up on this matter.

5. Offer the same degree of transparency that you demand of big business, government agencies, and others. You are a business, a big business, and need to be held to the same rules and standards to which others are required to meet.

6. Accept the fact that journalists are not elites, and that the club is open to anyone. Quit putting on airs, looking down your nose, and deliberately withholding of the term journalists to those who don’t happen to toil at a major daily. In short, get over it.

7. Make conflict of interest rules and ideals have relevance by including political and other sources of bias as much a part of them as financial and work history are supposed to be today.

8. Start correcting mistakes online, and do so by updating rather than trying to put things down the memory hole.

9. Study the best practices of the blogs and start making use of it on your own online sites.

10. Improve journalism schools and training, so that students are exposed to new ideas, concepts, and more in school. Fair and balanced needs to start there, if it is ever to make it into The Media.

Bloggers need to do the following:

1. Operate to the highest standards of personal and professional ethics. This does not mean play nice or only use good and proper language, but it does mean getting things right, doing things right, and obeying the letter and spirit of the law. Anything worth doing is worth doing right.

2. You/we need not only to point out problems, but suggest means of remediation directly or encourage discourse such that one or more means are developed in the course of said discussion.

3. You/we also need to make use of the fantastic opportunity to update, correct, and refine offered through the medium. The best already do this, the rest of us need to follow the lead.

There you have it. Ten posts, a lot of information and food for thought, and I hope that it does spark some good discussions on a crucial topic.

The Wolf Who Chose me

Echo, the wolf who chose me

Echo, the wolf who chose me

I do wish I had a picture of her in her prime with me in my travels, or at least one I took, as she was gorgeous.  To be honest, I didn’t shoot a lot of pictures of her, as she kept me too busy for that.

Echo came into my life in early 2005 when she returned to Wolf Park.  Any wolf born at the Park who goes to another facility (centers share and trade puppies for a number of reasons, including avoiding inbreeding) has a right of return.  Echo had outlived all the other members of her pack where she was, and her keepers felt she should spend her final years near, if not with, other wolves.  So, she came home.

For me, I knew she was coming back but was bounding around innocent and carefree as I looked for a home to buy.  Having looked at a couple of places not too far from Wolf Park, I stopped by to ask the staff if they knew anything about them.  Echo had arrived that day, and was recovering from her journey in one of the enclosures, and in the company of the two people who had gone to get her.  Pat, who is over most of the animals at Wolf Park (except bison and staff), thought this would be an excellent opportunity to test Echo and myself.  Echo, to see if she was indeed as good with new people as it seemed, and me to see if I had learned some of the basics needed to be a volunteer.

This was early enough in my work up there that I was still wearing nice slacks, shoes, and starched dress shirts to work.  Having gone straight from work to look at the homes, I was still dressed that way.  My normal mode for greeting a wolf was to go down on one knee both for height and for balance.  Obviously, I didn’t want to do that in good slacks, so I squatted.

Echo came over and was glad to meet me.  She greeted, explored, and began to hoover starch out of my shirt.  As she made her way around to my back, I failed to see the gleam in her eye.

She saw her opportunity, in the fact that when you squat it opens a gap between your pants and your back.  Before I knew it, her head was down, her muzzle into the gap and past every waistband there.  In a flash, I learned the truth of Pat’s saying “Canis Rhinus Frigidus” as a cold nose went places I wasn’t prepared for.  It was cold, she got a good sniff, and goosed me with that nose.  I’m so glad Monty Sloan did not get a photograph of my face at that moment.

As for me, there are jaws that can shear through a thighbone with ease near things far more tender and very valuable to me.  I’m reaching around trying to get an arm under a strange wolf’s neck and pull her out of my pants, saying “mine, Mine, MINE” as I did so.  Wolves do not get the concept of no, per se, so we work with mine instead.  All this to the great amusement of the two staff members in with me.

Well, when I got her out of my pants, I swear she was laughing.  I told her she had a low and dirty sense of humor, and that I liked that.  The next day, I paid to be her sponsor.  For she was a bawdy, lusty ol broad with a very low sense of humor — which is why I loved her.  For all that, she demanded respect and got it, with me addressing her most often as “Milady.”

She was a picky eater, and finding out that she liked cheese made some of it a game, as I tried a variety of cheeses to see what she liked/would eat.  The only thing she turned down was limburger, and that one got me a nasty look.  As age caught up with her, several of us had fun bringing in foods for her to try, and even cooking for her.  In fact, she sparked the idea of doing omelletes, which I did for Kiri later.

There are many Echo stories I can share, but I will save those for later.  What I will tell you now is that like many older canids, she developed a vocal cord paralysis that kept her from howling (at least in a range we can hear).  As I was leaving for my second embed in Iraq, she gave me the gift of an audible howl when I said my goodbye to her.

I miss her much, but the memories of her bring a smile to my face almost no matter what is going on in life.  Echo was the wolf who chose me, and I am much the richer for her having done so.

Thanks to peaches for inspiring me to share this

Saving Pvt. Journalism, Part 9

Reposting from Blackfive in case my archives can’t be recovered. Finishing up a repost of this series, just one more to go.
One of the largest keys to saving journalism will be simple to identify, but difficult to make happen: Lose the attitude.

Yes, what passes for news in The Media comes with loads of attitude. There is the open anti-American attitude that is so prevalent in the New York Times, the BBC, and a host of other outlets. There is the less obvious, but no less prevalent, attitude of holier than thou that comes from many in the profession. You see, they are the anointed ones to enlighten the masses, to guide them as betters should guide social and mental inferiors, the bearer of higher standards to which mere mortals (and bloggers) can not possible understand, much less aspire to. Like the Anointed One in Buffy, they forget that the inevitable name for such quickly becomes the annoying ones. There is also a cultural attitude of “we don’t make mistakes” that goes hand in hand with the-end-justifies-the-means approach towards biased news coverage.

The fact is, many in the media are so far involved in causes and politics, that they fail to comprehend that they are, deliberately or not, biasing their coverage. That they are also so far away from real journalism goes without saying, but they will not see that either.

Changing the attitudes will not be easy. The Journalism Purity League and the Journalist Citizen Councils are out in force already, and have been for some time. Even within professional organizations, these groups have fought long and hard against any encroachment into their turf. If you are not a full-time writer at a major daily paper or news magazine, you are lower than pond slime and should not be considered in any way, shape, or form a journalist.

Now, there is a conflict of interest here for me. I have a strong bias and it will show through. For several years, I have fought within one particular professional organization against some of the nonsense, and for highest ethics for all members. This has been met with strong opposition, including some rather interesting political maneuvers and flat out misinformation.

Within what has been going on in The Media and elsewhere, you should understand that there are those who do hold to high standards of reporting and ethics. There are others who wrap that around themselves to build themselves up for other reasons. These are often the people who feel that if you have every done anything other than their definition of “pure” journalism, then you can never be a journalist again. You are forever tainted and unable to join the exclusive self-anointed club at the peak or Olympus. My word to them continues to be “Get Over It.”

The fact is, I agree with some of the ideals espoused by the hard-liners. Conflicts of interest do need to be spelled out, but that needs to include political affiliations, organizational membership, and other things that just are not done by today’s so-called journalists. To do anything less is as dishonest as writing a story promoting a product that you have been paid to promote, and passing it off as an unbiased news article.

The fact is that many members of The Media are quite happy to see their views, their prejudices, and their ideals as “right” and everything else as “wrong.” The fact is that most members of The Media are a rather isolated bunch and most journalism schools do little or nothing to expose them to any outside ideas. Environmental reporting courses often have strong inputs from outfits like the Sierra Club, but limited influence from counter groups. Heaven’s forbid that you send them to a gun range or do anything like that. If fair and balanced is not in the classroom, how can it be in what comes out?

So, today’s suggestions are as follows:

1. Start by improving journalism schools and training, so that students are exposed to new ideas, concepts, and more in school. Fair and balanced needs to start there.

2. Make conflict of interest rules and ideals have relevance by including political and other sources of bias as much a part of them as financial and work history are supposed to be today.

3. Accept the fact that journalists are not elites, and that the club is open to anyone.

4. Start correcting mistakes online, and do so by updating rather than trying to put things down the memory hole.

5. Take the best of the blogs and use it in online sites by The Media

6. As consumers, keep on keeping them honest by pointing out errors, lies, bias, and more.

7. If a media outlet won’t admit to things, then blog about it and force them to honesty.

Now, some of these have come out before, but they are as relevant here as they were elsewhere. This has gone on long enough for now, so tomorrow should be a wrap-up piece. Maybe by next week, some of the guest blogs I have been soliciting will come through and can go up as well.