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Sunday, December 12, 2010

Mystery Missiles and Airplane Contrails

Hard to watch this Titan missile launch and believe that the contrail over LA last month was a missile of any kind. For one thing, a Titan is a BIG missile and it disappeared within a minute or two. The KCBS footage followed for several minutes (they only showed a short bit, but the cameraman said he watched for over 10 minutes - no way he could have maintained visual on a rocket/missile for 10 minutes).

My question is this: Why didn't the media just dig up some footage like this and show it by way of explanation? Instead, they dig up a bunch of kooks who didn't appear to know what the hell they were talking about! A picture's worth a thousand words. Video is worth hundreds of thousands of words.

Here's a bit of the original footage that KCBS cameraman Gil Leyvas shot along with some analysis:

That looks reasonable to me. Funny how the "missile conspiracy" was all over the place, but I had to DIG to come up with a logical explanation. Sad society. We buy into anything that's sold to us as a big, scary conspiracy but the boring ol' rational answers don't get much airplay because we don't want to hear that.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Amy Bishop, Nidal Hasan, and PC BS

So far it appears I'm the only person to publicly observe a similarity between Amy Bishop (UAH whacko killer) and Nidal Hasan (Ft. Hood islamic extremist killer). Does anyone remember the Ft. Hood shooting or the articles that came out about Hasan afterward? Good. Now read this wire story about Amy Bishop and see if it doesn't send a chill up your spine:

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (AP) - Students say they complained to administrators about an Alabama professor accused of killing three colleagues and wounding three others in a shooting rampage during a faculty meeting.

The students upset with biology professor Amy Bishop told The Associated Press they went to University of Alabama in Huntsville administrators at least three times, complaining she was ineffective in the classroom and had odd, unsettling ways. [emphasis added]

A petition signed by dozens of students was sent to the department head. But students said the complaints made a year ago didn't result in any changes in the classroom.

Bishop was denied tenure last year and was in her final semester when she was accused of shooting her colleagues to death Friday.

Ring any bells? Didn't a bunch of people in the Army raise flags about Nidal Hasan? Didn't coworkers basically say he was ineffective and had odd, unsettling ways? Didn't the people in charge blow off those alarms because they were afraid of being "politically incorrect?"

Everything that has come out in the news makes it seem like Bishop was using Huntsville as a place to hide. Lots of people are saying the administration of UAH should have known Bishop's history before they hired her. I disagree. Lots of people have come to Huntsville to escape the weather and the rat race of the Northeast; Bishop wouldn't have been the first. And, since Bishop managed to escape even being charged for most of her crimes, no reasonable records check would have revealed them. Still, someone should have started digging before this happened.

The article says "dozens of students" approached UAH administrators "at least three times." This wasn't just a few disgruntled kids who flunked a badly written exam. When I was at Purdue, we had a physics professor who just could not teach. The guy didn't have any "odd, unsettling ways." He was probably a genius. He just couldn't teach. A bunch of us were flunking his class, and we petitioned the department. He was replaced within days. It's not like these students at UAH were asking for anything out of the ordinary - just someone who could teach. Being good in your field doesn't mean you can teach.

As one news commenter posted, what was a Harvard-educated scientist doing at UAH, anyway? The poster didn't mean that as an insult, and I'm not trying to twist it into one. But, you have to wonder - if Bishop was everything she obviously thought herself to be - why she wasn't hired by a much more prestigious institution. Sure, Huntsville is arguably still a nice place to live, but a PhD from Harvard doesn't usually end up at a relatively unknown regional campus like UAH - unless her career elsewhere is over for some reason.

Look, we all have our quirks. Lots of brilliant folks are known to be downright flaky. But, they're still effective at whatever it is they do. When flakiness and ineffectiveness collide, it's probably time to dig a little deeper. I'm not suggesting that we start spying on the weird dude in the next cubicle because he wears sandals with socks. But, if he's not getting any work done, it might be time to notify higher authority. If they don't act, it might be a good idea to start working from home - with or without your supervisor's approval.

On a final note, it seems to me that the people who blew off alarm bells about Nidal Hasan and Amy Bishop are the same sorts of "authorities" who have told us not to spank our kids. . . So, when her childhood history comes out, are we going to hear that Amy Bishop was abused? Or, that she never learned the meaning of the word "discipline?" (Or the word "no," for that matter.)

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Huntsville-Madison. You Ain't in the Promised Land.

Holy crap. One week to the day after a fatal shooting at a local middle school and some whacko neuroscience professor at the UAH campus shoots up a department meeting because she was denied tenure. Interviews so far indicate she was one of those loony professors we've all had for one class or another - the ones who appear to know the material but cannot teach it. I've always wondered why they bother putting those people in classrooms, but at least this one didn't flip out and kill a bunch of students. Just three fellow professors. She also wounded three others (one of whom was described as being a "staff member" which I suppose could include a secretary, janitor, or some other position).

In case you didn't catch the subtle pronoun cue above, the professor here was a female. A Harvard-educated one, at that. What are they teaching these Ivy League-ers? (Some guy at Yale flipped out and killed a fellow grad student there not that long ago. . . ) Can't really blame the parents here. These are full-grown adults we're talking about. Which makes me wonder how many kids running around today are just powder kegs waiting to explode years down the road.

I guess this didn't take me completely by surprise. This place has a very weird aura. Plenty of great people - don't get me wrong. But, we picked up a very strange Stepford Wives vibe last year at the local ball park. Many people around here seem to feel they are somehow better than everyone else simply because they're here. Never mind that everyone else around here is also here. They're out to prove their worth by building larger, nicer homes and pretending that their kids are all superior. I'm thinking this professor - for no apparent reason - felt sure that she was going to get tenure and probably made some financial decisions based on that expectation. Perhaps she had signed papers to buy one of the many houses for sale locally with prices "from the $500,000s." When she didn't get tenure, she cracked. At least she won't be needing a house for a while.

They're saying that when she was arrested she was clearly in denial that she had killed anyone. She yelled something like, "It didn't happen. They're still alive." As though somebody else staged a mass killing to frame her or something? Nice set-up for an insanity defense, there. If her attorney doesn't claim that she had a psychotic break, I'll be absolutely flummoxed.

But, wait. This woman clearly showed up at a faculty meeting WITH A GUN. Was she expecting the meeting to be ambushed by 9th-grade-wannabe-Crips? Why did she have a gun? There's no place in this town where I feel like I need to carry a gun to protect myself. Well, until recently there wasn't. Now I feel like I should pack at least a .380 any time I'm near an educational institution around here.

This could just be the beginning of the end of a huge facade. There seems to be a silent consensus that this area is some kind of secret Eden where the schools are drug and gang free, we have no crime, everyone makes a gazillion dollars a year, and the streets are paved with gold. That, of course, helps sell houses "from the $500,000s." Within two years, I had already started to see through this. My son spent the better part of 2d Grade practicing the standardized EOG tests. No wonder the schools around here score well on them. They cheat! Now I'm wondering how much of a gang problem the schools have been hiding and covering up. I'm wondering how many meth labs there are IN this county; we always read about the ones in Guntersville but never seem to hear of anything happening right here - just 30 miles north.

There is one twist that I'll be curious to watch develop. Apparently they're also considering this woman's husband a "person of interest." Why? Did she just bring a gun to scare someone? Did her hubby snipe the victims with real bullets from afar while she believed she was shooting blanks? That would have to be the stupidest plan ever, but I think we've all known geniuses who couldn't change their own oil.

Stay tuned. No, really. Stay tuned. It's only been a week and I've already noticed a significant decline in the number of people commenting on the Discovery MS stories. Give it two months and there's a good chance the whole episode will just sort of go away. . .

Friday, February 12, 2010

An Open Letter to Dr. D, Principle at MES

Dear Dr. D

I just read an article on ( which included the following disturbing statement:

Deatrice Johnson's daughter attended Monrovia with Brown before he transferred to Discovery. [emphasis added]

Much has been made of the fact that the shooter transferred from one Madison city school to another. Apparently Todd Brown also transferred to Discovery MS from another school. Not just another school - OUR school, the school my kids will attend soon. Monrovia.
This is NOT good news.

Did Brown's family move into Madison from the county, or was Todd Brown removed from the county schools for some other reason? Did his transfer have anything to do with Discovery having separate academy for disciplinary problems? Since the Browns apparently live in an apartment in Madison, I don't believe their move had anything to do with finding a bigger or nicer place to live. Do we have a problem at Monrovia that Brown's family was trying to get Todd away from?

I'm well aware that kids think this gang crap is totally cool. When I was a kid, the Pagans Motorcycle Club (i.e. gang) moved into our apartment complex and I thought that was totally cool. My dad did not. I sneaked my dad's old leather motorcycle jacket from my grandparents' attic and wore it around so I'd look like a Pagan. Dad was not amused that his son was running around looking like a "hood." But, they didn't really have 9 year-old bikers back then. There was virtually no chance that the Hells Angels were going to gun me down by mistake. My dad took the jacket and hid it anyway. Sadly, the minimum age of gang-bangers has dropped. As we all know.

I have made it very clear to J and J that I do not find this new "gangsta" stuff cool at all. I have told them that just throwing gang signs can get them killed if the wrong person sees them and mistakes their ignorance as a threat from a rival gang.

Ironically, I believe the 3d Graders just finished up their G.I.V.E. poster projects last week, before the shooting. Other than that, my kids haven't said a thing about gang stuff at Monrovia ES. I hope we are watching for signs and have the will to stop any suspected gang activity in its tracks.

Will the county school system be addressing this issue in the near future now that we have a direct connection to one of the players?

J and J's dad

New Twist on Discovery MS Shooting


Deatrice Johnson's daughter attended Monrovia with Brown before he transferred to Discovery. [emphasis added] She said her daughter is "a little scared" and was too upset to attend the visitation."I don't know the family at all, but I wanted to pay my respects," said Johnson. "It was shocking what happened. My daughter said Todd was a fun guy. She is hurting."Johnson said only two weeks ago did she allow her daughter computer access for the first time. Her 10-year-old son is not allowed on the computer.Deatrice Johnson's daughter attended Monrovia with Brown before he transferred to Discovery. She said her daughter is "a little scared" and was too upset to attend the visitation."I don't know the family at all, but I wanted to pay my respects," said Johnson. "It was shocking what happened. My daughter said Todd was a fun guy. She is hurting."Johnson said only two weeks ago did she allow her daughter computer access for the first time. Her 10-year-old son is not allowed on the computer.

So, Brown also transferred in to Discovery from another school. Not just another school. Another school system. Monrovia - the school my kids will attend soon - is a County school. Brown transferred from a county school to a Madison City school. The shooter transferred from one Madison City school to another.

Did Brown's family move into Madison from the county, or was Todd Brown removed from the county schools for some other reason? I'm not suggesting Brown was kicked out of Monrovia - there are other possible explanations. But, moving from the Monrovia area into Madison City seems sort of a strange move. Do we have a problem at Monrovia that Brown's family was trying to get away from?

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Discovery MS as of 2/10/10

Hm. Now they're saying that the shooter wanted out of the play-time gang and that the victim was bullying him over this decision. But, read carefully. Most of the statements in the following article were made by the shooter's defense attorney - not the police.

That doesn't make much sense to me. For starters, I read a comment this week from a kid who claimed to have witnessed an argument between the shooter and victim last Thursday. According to that comment, the victim told the shooter that being in a gang was "stupid," which made the shooter angry.

I'll allow for the possibility that the kid who posted that comment didn't hear correctly or whatever. But, his story actually makes more sense than what the defense attorney is peddling. The victim, by all reports, was well-liked, had lots of friends, and never got into trouble. There appeared to be at least some closeness between the victim and his dad as well as other relatives. I'm not saying the victim wasn't in the "pretend gang" like the MPD say he was - just that he wasn't typical gang material.

The shooter, on the other hand, was a misfit with few friends, had been transferred out of Liberty MS for undisclosed issues, and evidently had virtually no relationship with his parents. He was depressed and apparently spent a lot of time playing computer games. One of the shooter's few known friends, Chris Glover has photographs of himself throwing gang signs posted on his MySpace page. The shooter was exactly the sort of kid who doesn't just end up in a gang but thrives on being in a gang.

So, the shooter finally finds a place to fit in and, according to at least one eyewitness account, the victim tells him he's being an idiot. The next day, who shows up at school with a gun?

If the shooter had decided to get OUT of the gang, the gun just doesn't fit. According to the story, the shooter had received counseling which convinced him to get away from the gang. Wouldn't part of that counseling have included a renunciation of gang-style violence? I don't know - I'm just posing the question.

Consider this. The shooter's father is a doctor and very likely has the resources to hire a very good defense attorney. The victim was black and is dead. It would be easy for the shooter's legal team to throw the victim's body under the bus at this point - make him out to be a bully who harassed the shooter about quitting their gang. I'm not saying that's what's happening here, but it would be a common legal strategy. So far, I'm not buying into it.

Monday, February 8, 2010

School Shooting Rumours and Speculations (and Facts)

This is a collection and analysis of everything I can find out about the shooting at Discovery Middle School. I'll update as I learn more. Not sure what's happening - possibly just an ISP issue, but some photos seem to have disappeared from this post overnight. . .

It's well known that the shooter's name is Hammad Memon. I got that from a comment on a local news posting which has most likely been deleted by now. I've been amazed at how well websites have kept this information quiet.

I also found a link to Hammad's erstwhile MySpace page: . Unfortunately the page was deleted as of 8 February 2010. Some of Hammad's posts to his friends' MySpace pages live on, however, including the following: Oct 17 2009 3:55 PM would you want a dad thats abusive as fucc? if you do, you can have mine .


Hammad Memon

Oct 17 2009 3:55 PM

would you want a dad thats abusive as fucc? if you do, you can have mine

This is just one of several posts Hammad put on his buddy's MySpace page but it probably says more about his personal/family situation than any of the others. Picture isn't too clear, but I'm sure there will be a better one in the news soon - after the certification hearing next Wednesday (2/17) where they'll decide whether to try this guy as an adult. For now, they won't even officially release his name because he's a minor.

Here's another post: Sep 9 2009 1:37 AM so whats up nigga?? what shit you been through?


Hammad Memon

Sep 9 2009 1:37 AM

so whats up nigga?? what shit you been through?

Memon is Pakistani - not black and he was definitely not raised in "the hood." This, kids, is why I go ballistic when you speak this way.

From what I've been able to piece together - and I make no promises that this is accurate - Hammad is the son of Iqbal and Safia Memon. That would be Doctor Iqbal Memon - a Pakistani pediatrician who practices in Athens and Decatur, AL. Previous residences may have included New York City and Osseo, MN. If this is the same guy, he did his medical residency in NYC. No idea what he might have been doing in Minnesota.

This was a "decent family," not "low-income trash" as many commenters on other blogs have suggested. They lived in a nice but not extravagant home in a fairly new subdivision in Madison, Alabama. There was nothing unusual about the place. A fairly nondescript mini-van was parked in the driveway. There was no other sign of life at the house when I drove by this afternoon. Frankly, it was not the sort of place I expected a doctor to live in. I'm tempted to make libelous speculations about money being sent back to Pakistan. But, I won't. The bottom line is that this shooter did not come from a "disadvantaged" background.

Other rumours: It will be very difficult to confirm this one, but it's rumoured that Hammad was removed from Liberty Middle School (which is very close to his family's home) over discipline issues, possibly involving a knife. Dr. Memon talked the school system into allowing his son to switch schools to get away from bad influences at Liberty. Apparently Hammad had been at Discovery MS since this past August.

From the website:

( )

Christopher Glover, a ninth-grader at Liberty Middle School, said the alleged shooter, a friend of his, wasn't a bad person but just got caught up in the wrong crowd. Glover said the boy transferred from Liberty Middle to Discovery this year.

"We had met back in about sixth grade," Glover said. "He wasn't a bad kid at all. He just hung out with the wrong crowds. We were like brothers."

The alleged shooter left a chilling message on his MySpace page 21 hours before the shooting: "Squirming in pain, writhing in agony.

Glover said the boy told him several months ago he had been depressed and had been asking Glover for advice.

"I told him not to worry about it, but he didn't listen to me," Glover said. "He had a strange attraction to stuff gang-related, was an avid gamer and heavily interested in African-American culture."

If Glover met Hammad in 6th Grade, they most likely met at Liberty MS. Which suggests that Glover, too, may have been "transferred" to Discovery MS at some point. Here's a picture of Glover, which makes me wonder 1) if Hammad wasn't the only one with some interest in "stuff gang-related," and 2) whether Glover himself wasn't one of "the wrong crowds." Few of Glover's 123 MySpace friends, including Hammad, looked like anyone I'd want my kids hanging around.

If I ever caught my kids posting pictures like this of themselves, they'd be standing up for a week, but apparently Glover's parents have no problem with his MySpace photos. I doubt they even know he has a MySpace page - let alone what's on it. He claims to be 18 on MySpace; apparently he's hoping nobody notices that he's only in the 9th Grade. . .

Based on his posts to Glover's MySpace page, Hammad's ominous "writhing in agony" post to his own MySpace page last Thursday may have been nothing more than Hammad's pent-up adolescent libido. Hard to tell.

There was a bail hearing on Monday 7 February to determine whether Hammad could be released on bail. His parents are Pakistani immigrants and probably hold two passports; his father is a doctor and probably has quite a lot of cash. I'm speculating that these two factors weighed heavily in the court's decision to remand Hammad to the custody of the Neaves-Davis Center for Children in Huntsville.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

The Unimportance of Punctuality

Those of you who spend any time around me at all know, or will realize upon a moment's thought, that being "on time" is not of tremendous importance to me. It's not that I'm inconsiderate of others, and it's not that I'm just a slack bastard who can't get anywhere "on time." I set out my junior year in high school to earn a perfect attendance award, and I did it. After that, I moved on to other challenges.

Punctuality is a highly over-rated quality. I had a friend once whose philosophy was, "Early is on time, and on time is late." But, in cases where it is vitally important to be at a specific place at a specific time, arriving early is almost always just as bad arriving late. In music, being early is possibly even worse than being late. On an infantry maneuver, being early could get you killed by your own troops. In social situations, it is rude to show up at someone's house early - they may not be ready for you. In most cases, it simply isn't all that important to show up at a specific time.

At work, my philosophy is if showing up "on time" is anywhere near as important as what I do after I arrive, it's not worth showing up at all. I don't work for the German railroad. This attitude caused me a lot of grief when I was in the military. The Army's prevailing attitude was, if a formation was called for 6:30, you were supposed to be there at 6:20. That would have been fine if the Army was as diligent about releasing us from duty on time. They wanted us there early but had no qualms about keeping us late - even when there was absolutely nothing for us to do. I got out after my first hitch. As far as I'm concerned, punctuality cuts both ways.

I'm jealous of my time. It's the only thing I cannot get more of. I can arrive at a given location at a set time when I feel that doing so justifies the opportunity cost. But, that is rarely the case. You can't even say that firemen or medics need to be "on time;" they just have to show up fast when called - not at a particular time. Getting somewhere fast at random times is far different from merely showing up at a place at a particular time day in and day out simply because it's "time" to be at work (or where ever).

You can probably blame my entire attitude toward punctuality on the medical field. I used to show up for doctor appointments slightly early like they always ask you to. Not once was I ever called in at my scheduled appointment time. Never. I may not get paid as much as a doctor, but my time is just as valuable. We each have but 24 hours in a day. Thus, I started showing up for medical appointments between five and fifteen minutes after the scheduled time. Oddly, this neither increased nor decreased my wait times. But, it certainly eliminated the stress of trying to get to a doctor's office "on time."

Gradually, my casual attitude toward time slipped into all other aspects of my life. This was mainly because I found that whenever I showed up "on time," everybody else was late. I decided that I'd rather hurry to catch up than hurry up and wait. You can argue that friends should drop whatever they're doing to be sure they meet each other "on time." Conversely, you could argue - as I do - that when the purpose of getting together is to relax you shouldn't create more stress by demanding punctuality from each other.

In Saudi Arabia (and, I understand, all across the Middle East) as well as Spain, Mexico, and a number of other whole countries, punctuality isn't even an issue. When I lived in Saudi Arabia, I had a room-mate who was probably never late to anything in his life. One afternoon he suffered a massive coronary and died, ironically, what I suppose you'd call an untimely death. In five years, I never once heard of an Arab falling over dead of a heart attack - and they smoke. I also never once heard an Arab utter the words "late," "on time," or "punctual." The Arabs may be on to something.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Ice Hockey and Fighting

We are a hockey family. At our house, we say football is the contact sport for people who can't skate. Any 200+ lb. knucklehead can carry a big ball from one end of a grassy field to the other. Try "carrying" a 3" puck on the end of a stick while ice skating. And, oh yeah, while other people are crashing into you and using their sticks to take the puck away. That, my friends, takes skill. So, I get a little put off when I hear people talk about going to hockey games just to see fights. It's as though they don't think hockey is worth watching without fights.

I've heard a lot of people say they don't understand hockey; they get the fighting, but the rules of hockey itself are too complicated. They aren't. The goal is to shoot the puck into the opposing team's net. How much simpler can it get? There are rules, of course, but they are few and fairly intuitive. You cannot, for example, whack opposing players across the head with your stick. If you do, you'll be sent to the penalty box for 5 minutes.

The one and only rule you should really understand is the off-sides rule, and it's pretty simple. You cannot go across the opposing team's blue line until after the puck has crossed the blue line; if the other team moves the puck back out, everyone on your team must go back until they regain possession of the puck. In other words, you can't plant a couple of players next to the other team's net and leave them there for the entire game. If you understand that, you can watch hockey and you'll know what's happening at least 90% of the time.

Back to fighting. If both benches at a football game started brawling on the 50-yard line, it would be headline news. At hockey games, fights are common. There's a reason for that. Hockey is a non-stop game which moves fast and involves a lot of on-going physical contact. Generally, barring a penalty or lost puck, play continues without stopping until someone gets the puck into a goal. Players rotate on and off the ice constantly because, frankly, nobody can play at full speed for more than a few minutes at a time - but the game doesn't stop. A new "shift" jumps onto the ice and picks up play on the fly. Unlike football (or most other sports which stop frequently), in hockey you don't get much time to cool off physically or emotionally. Getting slammed into the boards and whacked with the butt end of a stick can piss you off, especially when you're tired. A little irritation piled on top of a close game can push players to take a swing at each other. Fights in hockey are a direct result of emotional intensity combined with physical exertion. They are not "part of the game." They are a by-product of the game.

There's more than enough violence built into the game without fights. Last year a player got his throat slashed by another player's skate. Plenty of players have died after being hit by pucks (rubber gets extremely hard when frozen, and pucks move well over 100 mph). Plus, you've got ten guys skating around with sticks at over 30 mph in an area confined by a wall of wood and glass. You know there's going to be contact. You need to see fighting on top of all that?

Do I think fighting should be completely eliminated from hockey? Not necessarily. I have played hockey in a no-checking league where fighting would have gotten a player kicked out of the league entirely. Frankly, I think the games were somewhat MORE interesting without the intentional contact because we relied solely on skill to move the puck. There was still contact, but we couldn't deliberately crash into each other. As a result, tempers tended to stay fairly calm and fights were non-existent. But, knowing that a fight would get us into serious trouble did tend to make us back off a bit in play. I'd hate to see professional play similarly restricted.

Still, I also hate to see the semi-amateur leagues like the SEHL and SPHL use fights to lure crowds of wrestling fans into ice rinks. If you want to see fights, go to a boxing match. If you just like watching overgrown guys bang into each other in the mud, you've always got football. If you want to see some intense play by some very talented athletes, go to a hockey game.