Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Fun And Games With The Light Company

Monday we paid the light bill. I really don't know why I'm surprised that the call came in Tuesday morning.

"We are going to turn off power in your area in less than an hour to do equipment repairs. The power will be down for about six hours." There was more, mainly a recording of someone I've never met telling me how sorry she was for something she had nothing to do with. The last part they could have left off. And here I was thinking they might make it through March without going down.

Maybe next year.

OK, at least they called. It was annoying, but no big deal. It was the middle of the day, and Helene and I both had lots to keep us busy that didn't depend on house current. I didn't even have to fire up the generator.

It wasn't the middle of the night on the coldest night we have had in years - like the last time. That time only lasted three hours, but those three hours made an impression I'm here to tell you. We are blessed with electric heat!

As it turns out, they actually got the power on fifteen minutes early. Good for them.

This morning I was sleeping in a bit when Helene called to me saying the Electric Company Tree Killers were back!

Now, a couple of weeks ago they came through. This time the foreman talked to me about what their tree thugs were going to be doing. We agreed how much would be cut off the trees they would cut, and which ones they would not touch. That part was respected, but no one said anything about the herbicide I caught them spraying on my dew berries. They insisted they were only spraying the small trees growing up in the right of way.

They Stopped.

I must have made an impression on both the crew and the folks I talked to at the company. Insted of the three to five business days they first offered for a call back, the foreman was back in person about two hours later. We agreed that dew berries didn't grow high enough to bother their wires. We also agreed they could cut the small trees out with branch cutters.

No more poison!

The guys today had walked onto the property so we wouldn't hear their truck, but 'Bear da dog' let us know they were there. I caught them with a pole saw working on the plum tree the company foreman had agreed not to touch. They assured me they didn't know anything about that, it was all a misunderstanding. You would have thought they had never seen an irate fat man in a bath robe before!

I will close with one question. Has anyone else found Tent Caterpillars in a tree you gave the electric company a hard time about cutting?

Friday, March 25, 2011

A Suggested release date for One For The Money

Not long age I posted a joyful article that the Stepanie Plum movie, One For The Money, was scheduled to be released July 08, 2011. There was a great rejoicing among the masses of fans that will flock to theathers across the country.

A couple of weeks later I heard Lionsgate had decided to move the date up to June 03 of this year. Before I got around to posting an update One For The Money was taken off the release list. I have a suggestion for what I think will be the perfect release date, but more on that later.

Before I could post the idea there was a new release date - January 27, 2012. I won't say I screamed myself horse, or threw and kicked things around the house, but the cats were hiding under the bed for hours. The problem is I have seen this before.

Some years back two movies , Capote and Infamous, were in production at the same time. Both were concerning the grizzly murders that inspired Truman Capote's best seller, In Cold Blood. They were filmed in a blizzard of publicity. I have no idea where Capote was shot but part of Infamous was filmed in Marlin, Texas - about 26 miles from HomePlace. To date it's the only time I was ever on screen with Sandra Bullock.

Other than bragging (Look at me - I'm in a movie!) the point is the race to finish the filming and post production was won by Capote. Infamous didn't want to go head to head or in Capote's recent wake. They delayed until the next year and may as well have gone straite to DVD, if they didn't. I never saw it in a theater.

Truth be told, I expect Stephanie Plum fans will come out in droves no matter when the movie is released. Delaying, for what ever reason, is pointless. Pallets of the new Stephanie Plum book are shipped to book stores all over the world each year for the release of the new adventure, serval per city. They not only fly off the shelves the day of release, but all the books sell well the rest of the year.

Helene and I always make a point of getting the Audio book. It cuts down on fisty cuffs over who reads the book first and elimates exchanges like "Have you got to the part ... DONTTELLMEDONTTELLMEDONTTELLME!"

So what could go wrong? Lionsgate could have dropped the ball and made a pitiful excuse of a movie. It has happened before with movies and TV shows.

In the 1980's fans of the comic series Jon Sable - Freelance were thrilled to hear a TV series based on those stories was planned. By the end of the first episode we knew the only requirement to work on the show was to have never read any of the comics. Imagine a politically correct mercenary who defends the weak and helpless - but doesn't want to shoot anybody. The comic book Jon Sable wasn't laughing I'm sure.

More recently the Dresden Files had a stab at being a TV show. While this series was certainly handled better there were departures from the books, both good and bad. The casting of Paul Blackthornne as Harry Dresden and Valerie Cruz as Murphy was not what many of us expected, but the actors did their parts well.

Bob the Skull became Terrance Mann whenever he spoke. At first I was livid, but being a person rather than a talking skull actually worked better for TV. I didn't recall Morgan being black in the books, but Conrad Coats made the part his own. I personally got a kick out of the Blue Beatle being replaced by the M-38 Willys Jeep.

On the other hand they had Harry living in a storefront that was also his office. This didn't have the feel of the basement apartment in the books. The story lines either went completly off the reservation or were crammed into a TV show time frame. Storm Front, one attempt to follow a book, suffered from the time allotted to tell the story. Harry's staff and blasting rod were replaced by a hockey stick and a drum stick? That's what you get when you cheap out and film in Canada. Hey - American who works in the film industry from time to time and doesn't have a sag card. I have issues!

I feel both Jon Sable and the Dresden Files would have transfered better to a movie formate. Saddly I don't think that is going to happen since the TV shows didn't work, either from poor execution or not being given a chance. Someone tell the genius that cancelled Firefly about Star Trek.

Well, climbing down from my soapbox, I will close by saying I don't think Lionsgate dropped the ball and made a pitiful movie. Even with the poor judgement refected in delaying the release date of One For The Money they have a good record. The cast they assembled are pros.

When One For The Money is finally released into movie theaters Stephanie Plum fans will come for miles. I expect there will be numerious repeat viewings, not unlike Star Wars, - if a touch less fanatic and with less body paint. Those sad souls who don't know who Stephanie Plum is will come alone if only to find out what all the ruckus is about. I am always shocked to see how many rabid Harry Potter fans have never read even one of the books.

In the beginning I said I had a suggested release date for Lionsgate. How about One For The Money coming to theaters on June 21, 2011? This is the same day Stephanie Plum's new adventure, Smokin' Seventeen, hits the bookstores.

So how about it Lionsgate? Ask your PR department if they could make anything out of that.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Goodby Elizabeth Taylor

The news program Helene and I were watching yesterday was interupted with a special announcement: Elizabeth Taylor was dead. It is strange how news that dose not surprise a person can still leave them numb.

She was a special lady who carried herself with a nobelity that is rare in this age. Due to health she hasn't been seen much the last few years.

I will always keep the image of her as she was, and I have asked Netflix to send me THE TAMING OF THE SHREW and ELEPHANT WALK. These are not the movies most folks think of, but they are the ones that spoke to me. I'll let other folks watch CAT ON A HOT TIN ROOF and WHO'S AFRAID OF VIRGINIA WOLFE.

God's speed Elizabeth, you will be missed.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Machine Gun Packing John Deere’s

I've always loved old vehicles, but the 'green machines' are my favorites. That causes some confusion among classic tractor enthusiast. By green machines I mean military vehicles. There is a stark utilitarianism about old military vehicles that appeals to me.

When I left home in the 70's, if anyone told me I would ever buy a tractor I don't know if I would have laughed in their face or decked them. Today I am the proud owner of a 1945 Farmall H. The older tractors have their appeal as well, but I never realized John Deere built an armored combat vehicle durring World War Two. While watching Classic Tractors on the RFD channel the other night I saw a segment on the John Deere Armored A vehicles. I had never heard of these.

There were only two prototypes made, both based on the John Deere A. These tractors are common at tractor shows and parades, but a large number of them still do farm work even today.

The Armored A's were the brain child of a great grandson of John Deere, C.D. Wiman, in 1940. He felt that these small armored tractors cold be produced in mass quickly to provide cover fire for troops in the field.

The Armored A1 had the narrow tricycle front wheels of it's civilian conterpart. Anyone who has driven a tractor with this front wheel arangement (like our Farmall H) knows they can be unstable on uneven ground. They also tend to bog down in sand and mud. If this is true with the civilian tractors imagine the 9,500 Lb. Armored A. These had a top speed of 13 MPH on a hard surface road.

In addition to armor plate the Armored A had two machine gun turrets, one on each side of the vehicle. These were cramped boxes intended to house one gunner and a .30 caliber M1919 machine gun. Unfortunly John Deere's engineers had no experience with the M1919 and the turret didn't have room to mount it's ammo box. This lead to feed problems.

The turrets were manually rotated and had very poor visiblity. At first at least the guns had no travel stops, which allowed to gunners to shoot their own vehicle on occasion. Both the turrets and the drivers compartment were ice boxes in the winter and ovens in the summer, but that was in not uncommon in armored vehicles.

After the first test in January of 1941 the Army asked for a second test vehicle, the Armored A2. The most noticable were wide front wheels. Even with these improvements the Armored A's were slow moving, high profile beast any enemy gunner would have considered a birthday present. The Army also requested a third prototype without the machine gun turrets to act as a front line prime mover, but it too was rejected.

The orginal Armored A's were scraped years ago and no effort was made to preserve documentation. What remained were a handful of old photographs. The armored John Deere's were doomed to be a footnote in history until some Iowa Antique Tractor collectors got on their trail. Since nothing was left the beasties had to be replicated.

Brian Anderson tackled the job of recreating the Armored A1. Les Milleman and Curt Clark took on the A2, The result are working examples of the two 'Gun Tractors' as faithful as they can be made to the nine photos that have been located to date.

Today these two odd beasties are popular crowd pleasers in parades and vehicle shows. Since they don't belong completly to the Classic Tractor hobby or Military Vehicle hobby, they are welcomed by both.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

57 Years Ago Tonight - Dien Bien Phu

History is full of heroic battles no one has ever heard of. Dien Bien Phu took place in a world tired of war, and in a little country most folks had never heard of unless they had been there. That would change, but at the time those in power called it French Indochina. The locals called it Viet Nam.

Dien Bien Phu was a French Strong Hold built in the Moung Thanh Vally basin surrounded by mountains. Several of the mountains had fortifications built on their peaks as well. The purpose was to provide a base of operation against the Viet Minh who opposed French rule. No real opposition had been encountered, or expected. The French considered their fortress complex unassailable. At 5:00PM March 13, 1954 that changed with the launching of a massive artillery barrage.

For the rest of the day Viet Minh guns, the French didn't even know were there, hammered Dien Bien Phu, but when night fell they weren't finished. The 13th. of March was chosen because of a new moon which allowed for an infantry attack under the cover of darkness. The butchers bill was still being tallied.

Under the French noses the Viet Minh had made a detailed study of Beatrice, a hilltop fortification to the north of the main camp. Members of the 312th. Viet Minh division had been slipping up every night, cutting barbed wire and removing landmines in prepration for their attack. They were able to clear obstacles and defenses to within 200 yards of the camp.

The infantry assault was as compete a surprise as the the artillery barrage. French guns in other positions, unsure of the enemies location, held fire so as not to drop rounds on their own people. What followed was a vicious fire fight that ended in hand to hand. A little after midnight Beatrice fell to the Viet Minh. Some of the 500 French legionnaires may have been wounded, but most were killed outright. This action alone cost the Viet Minh 600 dead and 1,200 wounded.

The French launched a counter-attack on Beatrice at first light on March 14, 1954 but were driven back by Viet Minh artillery. These were the opening exchanges of a siege that lasted 55 days.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Technical Problems

Please bare with me folks. I'm having some technical problems.
Question, is anyone else having trouble droping text and links into their blogs?

Thursday, March 10, 2011

The Girandoni

One of the great stories of in United States history is Lewis and Clarks trek to the Pacific Ocean. Among the oddities and wonders of that journey is the Girandoni air rifle.

My experience with air rifles has been limited to the spring powered BB gun I had as a child. The Sherlock Holmes stories speak of compressed air weapons being used by big game hunters, but I never looked into them. The fact that such a weapon was on the Lewis and Clark Expedition pretty much exhusted my knowledge of the subject.

A couple of days ago our son, Matt, sent me the following link.

It seems my handwritten link is not working. If you do a goggle search under "Lewis and Clark air rifle" several links will come up. This will include a couple of videos, including the one I was trying to send you to.

Sorry, still working bugs out.

The Girandoni held abilities not obvious to the untrained eye. The shoulder stock was a reservoir that held enough pressure for about fourty shots. A tubular magazine on the side of the barrel held 22 .46 caliber lead balls.

They were loaded by way of a spring loaded, sliding block with a single cavity. When the block was pressed the cavity would move from the breach to the magazine where a single ball would drop in, then back to the breach and the weapon was ready to fire. Imagine a 22 round, .46 caliber rifle that could be emptied in less than a minute.

The Girandoni used a different set of tool than gunpowder weapons, carried in this case. It included a bullet mold, spare parts, and a 'bicycle pump' for charging the reservoir. It took about 1500 strokes for a full charge.

Meriwether Lewis was impressed enough with this weapon to purchase it out of pocket. He used it in a most effective manner on the Expedition to the Pacific. I found this U-tube video to be most interesting and very enlighting. It's well worth the time to look, and I hope you will enjoy it as much as I did.