Friday, February 28, 2014

At Seventeen

"It isn't all it seems, at seventeen...." Janis Ian, At Seventeen, 1975

Scanning the digital world, cup of coffee in hand. Loyal Portie at my side and music streaming down on Rhapsody. Glancing over e-mails, I visit a discussion on PoliceOne.com about fitness testing for cops. One of the writers is getting a little worked up - lots of words in ALL CAPS. His opponent asks him to stop shouting. I don't know that the writer is aware of the convention. "Anyway, oldtimers over fifty...."

SERIOUSLY!?

Bikecopblog, the ravings of an unstable oldtimer, has passed seventeen thousand visits. This "thank you note" is for all of you out there who can't quite keep a flat stomach, color in your hair and the wrinkles from appearing. Maybe we've lost a step, have to tuck in behind our thirty-something bike cop partner on the way to a call, head home at night to soak our old bones instead of heading to Bee Dub Three.

Seventeen was scary. I'm an oldtimer with a fulfilling job, a good marriage and three fabulous kids. Beat that with a stick.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Crossing the Streams

Dr Ray Stantz: You know, it just occurred to me that we really haven't had a successful test of this equipment.
Dr. Egon Spengler: I blame myself.

He was the inventive, introverted genius Dr. Egon Spengler in Ghostbusters. When down on his luck best friend John enlisted in the Stripes Army, Russell Ziskey goes in with him. He was the writing genius behind those movies...and Caddyshack, Analyze This and a host of others. A generation of young men and women grew into adulthood - or at least were old enough to claim it - uttering the unforgettable lines that began in Harold Ramis's mind.

A formidable writer passed away today, a giant in an era that celebrated men as we probably really are - distracted, a little immature, obsessed with the tactile physical "positioning" of relationships. 

Thank you, Mr. Ramis. The movie dialogue you wrote still makes me smile.
  

Friday, February 21, 2014

Three Consequential Lives

Have you ever read a book and, upon turning the last page, were sorry that it had ended? The Aviators is such a work.

I happened upon it accidentally, a consequence of margaritas, enchiladas and three hours catching up with a dear friend. The walk back to Union Station, the West Line and home, passed Tattered Cover. A few minutes to clear the head and.... What could it hurt.

Aviation as a subject matter has appealed to me since my father took me to the Johnsville Naval Air Station for my first air show in 1959. My first novel begins at the EAA Fly In at Oshkosh. The cover naturally caught my eye, and I plucked it from the shelf.

Winston Groom is a writer of repute - Forrest Gump among many. A few moments of scanning and I had to have it.

Groom describes the lives of three American giants in the early moments of aviation. Eddie Rickenbacker, the "Ace of Aces" flying during WWI. Charles Lindbergh, "Slim" - New York to Paris in 1927. Jimmy Doolittle, diminutive command pilot who planned and led America's first response to Pearl Harbor. He writes in a direct and accessible manner.

Lindbergh had been a non-interventionist prior to World War Two. He had believed the European War would prove a disaster for civilization as a whole, no matter who was victorious. Upon America's entry, however, he set these views aside (never totally disavowing them) to assist with improvements to fighter aircraft in combat over the Pacific. Lindbergh served as a civilian, nevertheless flying fifty combat missions, shooting down an enemy plane and often leading formations. "Lindbergh was no longer a visitor," Groom quotes a squadron commander, commenting after a mission. "He was a fighter pilot and he talked like one. He wasn't the novice we thought him to be."

The personal insights into the men were both revealing and deftly told. Rickenbacker had been a race car driver who helped facilitate the growth of commercial aviation in America. Doolittle's engineering background (married to exceptional flying talent) led to the development of "blind flying," the use of instruments when nothing is visible from the cockpit. He was the first person to take off, fly a pattern and land without any outside references. And then this - hard drinking, hard living Eddie was asked, during a taped interview for his autobiography, if he'd ever had an extramarital affair. "I never had the time!" Groom reports, was the undisputed answer.

The Aviators may not have a place among the great literature of flying. Nevertheless, Groom has revealed details of these three men that, in one volume, lead to a greater understanding of how aviation evolved from wood and fabric to aluminum and little bags of pretzels.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Goose-herder?

Please welcome my friend and guest blogger Wil Cochenour. I cannot count the number of bike miles we've shared, both on and off duty.  

Discovering your own innate talents is often a lifelong struggle as you try various things looking for the kind of success and satisfaction that tells you that you've found your ‘calling’.  I had the honor to witness my good friend, Jim discover his ‘calling’. 

Jim and I took a long early season bike ride today.  We enjoyed and took advantage of the April weather in February.  Of course, so did many others.   The trails we rode on today were busy with people walking their dogs, taking their children for walks, and the occasional homeless person enjoying the riverside.  In addition there were a gaggles of geese using the trails today. 

I am still struggling with a term for this particular talent that Jim discovered: “Goose-herder”, “Gooseherd”, “Gaggler”, “Goose Whisperer”?  Although the last term I think was not what I saw, as there was no training happening, just the motivating of multiple geese to move aside.  The tonal quality of the honking produced was second only to the geese themselves, and the geese had to call in concert to get the volume that Jim attained. 


It’s not everyday that you discover an innate talent.  In fact, many people go through life without ever realizing any of their talents.  Today I was proud to witness my friend in his personal growth!  

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Introducing the Mustache

My PhotoIt is with great pleasure that I introduce Rambling Mustache, the new blog of my friend Darren Maurer. He writes with a zest I wish I could emulate. At some point he will release his book on his K9 partner that will captivate everyone who reads it.

Visit. You won't be disappointed.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Law Porn

"North Philly, May 4, 2001. Officer Sean Devlin, Narcotics Strike Force, was working the morning shift. Undercover surveillance. The neighborhood? Tough as a three-dollar steak. Devlin knew. Five years on the beat, nine months with the Strike Force. He'd made fifteen, twenty drug busts in the neighborhood.
"Devlin spotted him: a lone man in the corner. Another approached. Quick exchange of words. Cash handed over; small objects handed back. Each man then quickly on his own way. Devlin knew the guy wasn't buying bus tokens. He radioed a description and Officer Stein picked up the buyer. Sure enough: three bags of crack [cocaine] in the guy's pocket. Head downtown and book him. Just another day at the office." US Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts, in dissent.
I write on this subject (as I have in the past) knowing that it will garner...oh, maybe...ten or fifteen readers. Most of them, I fear, can't believe what they are reading. I might ask a friend "So, did you read my latest?" The answer is usually a tepid "Sort of" which I generally take to mean "I started it but...c'mon, man!"

There is likely a "chicken, meet egg" thing about posts like this. Do I read law cases, especially Supreme Court cases, as recreation because I went to law school, or is it the other way around? Given the passage of time the consideration is moot, stale or di minimus depending on the argument. But, there I go again.

Law cases are fun! I recently clicked on Sandifer v. United States Steel Corp. because I have a friend at work with the same last name. I found our hero Justices deep into the meanings of "changing" and "clothes" for the purpose of donning and doffing pay under the Fair Labor Standards Act. 

Zzzzzzzzzzzzzz....

No, really! It was fascinating, and contained a bit of tastiness beside the obvious. (Not obvious? Ouch.). The decision was a clear 9-0, except that Justice Sotomayor didn't join in footnote 7. Footnote 7?! Well, let's see what mayhem the Court tried to slip past her. Something about exemptions being narrowly construed against the employer trying to assert them. Okay, Sonia. Be that way.

A case announced recently contained the following line in the written opinion by a Federal judge - "Our Constitution declares that "all men" are created equal. Surely this means all of us." What?! (That comes, of course, from the Declaration of Independence).

Aviation cases are always fun, so how about Air Wisconsin Airlines Corp. v Hoeper. 'Kay, a pilot has trouble learning a new aircraft so he can still fly out of Denver. They give him four chances to qualify, and he fails three of them. On the fourth (and evidently final) try the simulator tells him the engines have quit due to fuel starvation. He screams at the simulator instructor and storms out, getting on a plane home. Oh...did I mention he's part of a program allowing pilots to carry guns while they are flying the airplane? What do you think the company does.... Come on, this one's easy. Of course they detain him and search him. The gun, it turns out, is home. No harm no foul? Ha! The pilot sues for defamation and wins 1.2 MILLION DOLLARS. But wait....

Would anyone want a guy who's pissed, cranky, probably just lost his job and...oh, yeah, might be armed, to get on a commercial aircraft without some kind of questions asked? The court decides - here is where it gets fun - that although it is theoretically possible to show "actual malice" with true statements that typically....

Where did you stop reading?

(Sigh).

Okay, I'm done. The rest of the day is yours. I'm going to the recent 9th Circuit 2nd Amendment case where they found an individual right of "honest, law-abiding citizens" to carry firearms outside of their homes. Yes, that 9th Circuit. Not just brain candy - it's law porn.


Sunday, February 9, 2014

Deploying the Murse

“For last year's words belong to last year's language 
And next year's words await another voice.” 
― T.S. EliotFour Quartets

The other day I ventured to our Police Academy, to assist with report writing instruction. Because it was a duty (though plainclothes) assignment I was armed, but not in the traditional sense of wearing a holster. I carry a Maxpedition Versipak. Not wanting to leave it in an SUV with no trunk, I brought it inside the building. Of course, eventually it was labeled a "murse." I beg to differ.

Murse is a made up word, a conjunction of man and purse. Anything bigger than a biker's wallet on a chain seems to fit the title. I submit that the expression throws an altogether overbroad net covering bags that, frankly, enjoy a more tactical appeal.

True, my Versipak contains the usual comfort items - chapstick, anti-bacterial hand cleaner, lotion and sunscreen. Were that it...okay. Maybe. That's where the accessories diverge.

Attached via PALS is a Individual Light Duty Combat Casualty pouch. An organizer holds a charger for my Soldier Information/Communication Center. A hardened container protects a pair of Visual Acuity Re-calibration Instruments. An array of pens and pencils accompany a "rain or shine" tactical notebook. Knife, multi-tool and flashlight are tucked into individual loops, accessible via color-coded 550 cord survival fobs. Finally, there is a 550 bracelet a friend made clipped outside for ready use.

It is a Battle Bag, if only because it has morale patches on the outside proclaiming that my "fun meter is pegged", and I'm "that guy."

A murse. Puhleeeze.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

A Cold Day in Hell


Desperate and armed, a parolee on the run forced his way into an Arvada home and took a thirteen year old boy hostage. Initial efforts aimed at persuading him to surrender failed. SWAT was called.

Did I mention it was snowing, the temperature near zero?

Monday, February 3, 2014

Stinker

Vinny Gambini: Oh, a counter-offer. That's what we lawyers - I'm a lawyer - we lawyers call that a counter-offer. This is a tough decision here. Get my ass kicked or collect $200. Let me think... I could use a good ass-kickin', I'll be very honest with you... nah, I think I'll just go with the two hundred. My Cousin Vinny (1992)

One need not be an athlete, nor watch sports very long or often, to be acquainted with "The Blowout." Seemingly professional, well-prepared teams peaking at just the right time throw down an awful performance. Bike racers in top shape get spit out the back of the peleton, .300 hitters struggle to make contact.... A certain Hall of Fame quarterback goes from "Omaha" to "Oh My God!" in an instant. Shit gets real...real fast.

Last year, game one of the World Series.  "Cardinals shortstop Pete Kozma committed a pair of costly errors, including a missed catch on the front half of what might have been an inning-ending double play grounder hit by David Ortiz in the first. Second base umpire Dana DeMuth initially ruled that Kozma lost the ball on the transition, but the crew held a brief meeting and changed the call.
Mike Napoli made Kozma and the Cardinals pay for the gaffe by depositing a cutter fromAdam Wainwright into left-center field for a bases-clearing double, giving Boston an early three-run lead.
An inning later, Wainwright and Yadier Molina allowed a harmless pop up off the bat ofStephen Drew fall between them in front of the mound. Three batters later, Kozma's second error loaded the bases, and the Red Sox added a couple more runs -- although it could have been more, if not for Carlos Beltran's catch to rob Ortiz of a grand slam." So said ESPN. 

In a "one and done" the stinker is a season killer. Happening in the Super Bowl, it is impossible to hide. The Broncos threw down a stinker. Roger that. 

Welcome home, Broncos. It was a classic season. 


Sunday, February 2, 2014

The Zen Master

Gust Avrakotos: There's a little boy and on his 14th birthday he gets a horse... and everybody in the village says, "how wonderful. The boy got a horse" And the Zen master says, "we'll see." Two years later, the boy falls off the horse, breaks his leg, and everyone in the village says, "How terrible." And the Zen master says, "We'll see." Then, a war breaks out and all the young men have to go off and fight... except the boy can't cause his legs all messed up. and everybody in the village says, "How wonderful."
Charlie Wilson: Now the Zen master says, "We'll see."
Charlie Wilson's War (2007)

I first noticed Phillip Seymour Hoffman in Twister, a somewhat forgettable movie with an amazing cast. He played one of the storm chasers, a ragtag sort of group of vagabonds. He was over-the -top goofy, with a huge heart and enormous appetite.

He had won an academy award and been nominated for another before Charlie Wilson's War. Wilson (Tom Hanks) was a Texas legislator who represented "the only district in American that doesn't want anything. They want their guns, they want low taxes - that's it." Charlie was enlisting the the help of offbeat CIA agent Gust Avrokotos to garner support for, and to arm, the mujaheddin in their fight to rid Afghanistan of the Russian invaders. Tom Hanks is an American icon, but PSH stole the show. 

Hoffman was talented, revered and had won a number of awards for his art (including an Academy Award nomination for his role opposite Hanks). He also battled drug addiction. He was found dead in his Manhattan apartment with a needle still stuck in his arm.

A good friend and I were called to a library bathroom one evening. There was an unresponsive man in a bathroom stall. When we arrived, his was purple, not breathing and cold to the touch. We had to unfold him to drag his body onto the floor in front of the sinks. We turned him on his side in what we thought was a vain hope of resuscitating him. Paramedics arrived and injected him with a dose of NARCAN. Moments later his eyes roared open, he pulled the intubation device from his mouth and demanded to know "what the fuck" we were doing to him.

No one was there to find Phil Hoffman in time for NARCAN to make a difference. How sad. In the real world, there is no second act. Phillip Seymour Hoffman was a successful, rich and talented actor with three children and a huge future. The Zen master - in this case the awful evil allure of drug addiction - said "We'll see."