Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Indiana Dunes State Park and Why I Oppose the Banquet Facility

The proposed banquet facility at the Indiana Dunes State Park. To the left, the building with the arched windows, is the historic pavilion. To the right, the boxy building, is a rendering of the proposed banquet facility.

I am opposed to the new banquet facility at the Indiana Dunes State Park for the following reasons:

1. Architecture: A friend of mine said the new banquet facility looked like a "parking garage" and I can only agree.  It looks like no attempt, except maybe the external colors, has been made to match or blend in with the historic pavilion.  Instead, IMHO we get a box worthy of a low grade motel on a lonely stretch of Interstate.  I think it is butt-ugly.  The Dunes State Park is the jewel in the crown of the Indiana state park system, if a banquet hall is going to be built we can do must better architecturally.

2. Lack of Transparency Before Hand: The public only seemed to hear about this banquet facility, after the contracts were already signed. In other words, word only got out after it was a done-deal. Maybe, I am wrong, maybe the Indiana DNR minimally jumped through all the proper hoops and open door laws before signing the agreement but it does not look very transparent from where I sit.  Save the Dunes also thinks there was a lack of public disclosure and discourse too, and therefore they also oppose it. In the interest of full disclosure, I am a member of Save the Dunes, at least I think my dues are paid up.

3. Continuing Obfuscation: Something about the open house and the Q&A with reporters does not feel right.

Let me be clear, I'm not necessarily opposed to any banquet hall operating at the Indiana Dunes State  Park. The right building with proper public notification and input might be alright.

Likewise, I am all for the restaurant that is going to locate in the historic pavilion which is being renovated.  There once was a restaurant in the pavilion.

In all the local newspaper reporting on the restaurant I have read, it has never been clear if the pavilion is being restored to it's former fancy glory, as in the picture above, or if it is going to be just another uninspired remodeling job.  I wish some intrepid newspaper would clarify this.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

One Reason Why Liberals are So Wrong about Gun Control

Why are these guys masked?  Liberals and many Conservatives were shocked at the militarization of police, and the the way they attacked demonstrators, the press and both local and international camera crews  in Ferguson, Missouri.  In my opinion, the Ferguson police were either a gang out of control or, more likely operating under bad orders from their superiors.

Now we hear reports of Chicago police using CIA-like black site tactics at their Homan Square facility, holding people incognito without access to a lawyer or even without being booked and put into the system for 17 - 24 hours.  So Liberals, do you really expect us to turn in our guns and trust these guys? Seriously? I don't think so.

With that said, most cops, like 99.8% of them are decent men and women doing a dangerous job to the best of their ability. But even good cops can be given bad orders or bad training.  My point here is that any part of the government can become corrupt and an armed citizenry is a powerful check on that. 

Equipping Ukraine for War on a Budget

I have now read numerous articles by BBC, AP and others talking about how light armored vehicles are in short supply in the Ukraine.

The US Department of Homeland Security has been selling surplus armored vehicles, combat uniforms, flak jackets to local US police departments that frankly have little need for them. How about we donate this equipment to the Ukrainian army instead. Yes, it will cost some money but the amounts are chump change compared to normal DOD procurement costs run.  Even several dozen vehicles would help and I suspect hundreds of vehicles are available.  Let's face it, unless US police departments are at war with the American public, most departments will never need armored cars or military Hummers.

Training: We are already doing this, but we can certainly expand the program. We should be training the Ukrainian military. The Ukraine seems to be relying on battalions of volunteers with only a little training to do the bulk of their fighting. Let us, and our NATO allies, train: First, the regular Ukrainian army in advanced combat techniques and Second, if needs be train these volunteer units before sending them into battle.

Weapons: One source of good serviceable weapons are civilian assault rifles and 12 ga. riot guns tat are turned in or confiscated by US police departments every year. Most of these weapons get destroyed. Why not turn them over to the Dept. of Defense for donation to the Ukraine? We did something very similar during World War II when we donated civilian rifle and submachine guns to Britain after Dunkirk when it looked like a German invasion was imminent.  Again the cost to the American tax payer would be minimal.

Of course the biggest need is for expensive high tech weapons and heavy weapons, but every little bit helps and it shows Russia we are serious.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

What Blackberry Does Right

Last night I updated my Blackberry Z30 to BB 10.3.1.  Everything went well and the new update seems to run everything faster and smoother than before. But even with the old version of the operating system Blackberry was doing things the right way in contrast with Apple iOS.

1. Blackberry lets me chose my default browser. Although frankly I am happy with the one that came with the phone, I do like trying other browsers and I hate being locked in to a default chosen by somebody else, no matter how good it might be.

2. I can add search engines, of my choice to the browser.  Blackberry does not exactly advertise this but you can do it and it is not all that hard. For instance I added DuckDuckGo and made it my default search engine in the browser.  The Blackberry browser comes with the 3 major search engines in the USA market: Google, Bing and Yahoo.  This is a place where BB could improve a little by adding some privacy search engines like the aforementioned DuckDuckGo or StartPage mobile right from the factory, but at least they do not prohibit my additions.

3. Specific to 10.3.1, the new digital "Assistant" lets you specify what search engine you want it to search with. So you can tell it: "Search Yahoo for things to do in Paris," and it will use Yahoo.  This is kinda important since different search engines might do one kind of search better than the others.

4. The Hub. All notifications for SMS, alerts, emails, Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin and others appear in the Hub.  Blackberry realizes that a phone is, most importantly, a communication device and the Hub is your communication center. All work just flows naturally from there.  You have to experience it to really understand.  Both Android and iOS have improved their notification handling but they just don't come close to the Hub.

5. App scanning for Malware. Blackberry scans all apps in their store TWICE: first using their own proprietary screening software and then a second time using a scan by TrendMicro.  At least you feel safe knowing that apps will not infect your phone.

Now, there are some things I would like to see BB improve, like weeding some of the dead apps out of the Blackberry World app store, but the good things they are doing far outweigh the bad.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Fountain Pens and Me II: The Middle School Years

Sometime at about age 11 inexpensive Sheaffer cartridge only fountain pens seemed to appear in every school supply section of every store.

It became "cool" in my school to write with a fountain pen again.  The Sheaffer school pens were not great writers, as I recall, but they worked and from my perspective, you didn't need a bottle of ink, which would have been a non-starter with the teachers.

It was exactly these cheap Sheaffer's, which stores stocked for twenty years, that I looked for when I got curious about fountain pens again. Unfortunately, they seem to have disappeared.

At first it seemed like the stores where we shopped had a selection of colored ink cartridges, but over the next couple of years this seemed to get narrowed to blue or ugly blue/black.  I still cannot stand blue/black ink.

You can still find these pens on eBay for a couple of bucks. Frankly, I see no reason to buy on used, other than nostalgia. They were nice for their day, but you can get a Chinese made fountain pen, new for maybe a dollar more.

My use of these pens lasted until early high school. In high school it just became easier to carry a couple of ball points around since they never leaked or dripped.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Fountain Pens and Me I: My first fountain pens

I have recently rediscovered writing with fountain pens after finding them on Amazon. I will get to my recent adventures later, but first I need to talk about my first exposure to a fountain pen. It must have been about 1967, the TV show "Dragnet 1967" was on and at 7 years of age I was a big detective show fan along with reading "Hardy Boys" detective books. I set about setting up an "office" in my bedroom.

 Rummaging around the house I soon discovered two old fountain pens: a Parker and a Sheaffer. One had a clear rubber eye-dropper sort of fill mechanism and the other filled using a lever on the side of the barrel. I think these might have been my mother and fathers pens from the late 1940's or early 1950's, probably their last fountain pens before they switched to ball points. Pens were not disposable in that era and while these were not hugely valuable collectors items, they were not cheap pens either. They were probably the best they could afford and were expected to last and be used for years.

 I asked my mother if I could try them and she said yes, so the next time we visited a school supply section of a store she bought a fresh bottle of ink. This was a pretty big concession on my mother's part, she was a frugal woman and did not make purchases like this lightly. I suspect she also wanted to see if those old pens could still write. Of course, getting them to work wasn't that easy. Neither would pump any ink and I remember soaking the nibs in water repeatedly until, finally, both would draw the black liquid into their chambers.

 One pen had seen a lot of writing, I remember the nib being worn so that you had to hold it at just the same angle that the original user had held it in order for it to write well. I suspect that was my father's pen as he always wrote with a heavy hand. I also think that was the lever fill Sheaffer for some reason.

 The Parker was in better shape and wrote quite well having less wear on the nib.

 I learned a lot about fountain pens from playing with those two. I also remember getting a lot of splats of ink over my desk and on my hands during that learning process.

 Of course, time marches on and little boys grow older to an age when playing make believe is no longer cool and so those pens once again fell into disuse. I'm not sure whatever happened to them, perhaps my mother rescued them and put them back in one of the many drawers of the secretary desk where such treasures are kept, but I no longer have them and now wish I did.

 My second go around with fountain pens started in my tween years and I will deal with that in my next post.

Saturday, January 3, 2015

More blog posts in 2015

I'm going to really try to blog here more often this year rather than post to Facebook.  Anyway, its a Plan, but be warned it will be my opinion with both barrels blazing and you might not like what you read.

Happy New Year.