Saturday, October 31, 2009

goats are neat

This article on goaty outdoor maintenance and Google's recent use of goats to do the lawn got me all nostalgic.

My family had Nubian goats on our bit of land and they were hilarious and useful. The billy reeked but that's his job. Ate a few cabrito, which does wonders for my street cred with my Hispanic students. :-)

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Tasting: canned beef

I canned some beef (cubed) earlier this year and broke some out last night for dinner. It was tender and tasted like roast beef.

Served with mashed potatoes and steamed cauliflower. I think I'm going to try frying cauliflower sometime. I had it fried at Ali Baba and it was interesting; the high heat developed some brussel sprout flavors in the white veggie.

Speaking of mashed potatoes, have you had instant mashed potatoes lately? I'm something of a purist and use a potato ricer for my smashed potato adventures. I have rejected instant mashed potatoes as heresy, partly for their "instant" nature and partly for the horrific flavor and texture I remember from the 80s. Recently my SIL gave us a packet of them to try. I sneered for a couple of months and then we made them. Wow. I don't know what happened to the technology since the 80s but these were really good. And at ~$1/bag they are pretty cheap. And storable. The thing that's really got my head spinning is that I don't think I can consistently make homemade smashed potatoes as good as these new instant packages.

So now there are a couple pouches in our pantry and a couple in our 72hr kit.

Attempted residential burglaries booked as lesser crimes?

This article deals with a bit of a gray area in crime reporting in DPD. This is an important issue because RPD does the same thing, and we should probably think about what it means.

The RPD position is that in some cases the burglary cannot be proven but a lesser charge of criminal mischief or vandalism can be. This seems to be a reasonable position, although I think maybe the prosecutor should be making that call. Maybe the prosecutor[s] have already given a rule-of-thumb to the RPD which they follow. I don't know.

Hardboiled cynics might say that this downgrading is intentional because it makes the crime stats look better. I am not quite that cynical yet.

But the take-away is this: when you see crime stats for criminal mischief or vandalism consider the possibility that this was an attempted burglary that was written up as a lesser offense. I know I am a broken record on this, but if you want to know why the LEO was called in the first place you're going to have to listen to the scanner traffic. It's not a perfect solution but it's better than the alternatives.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Lottery fraud in GP

This same thing actually happened to me once in Richardson, albeit for a much smaller amount.

This was in the late 90s when there was a (different) craptastic Quickie Mart near Star of Siam on SpringValley/75. One night I took my four-out-of-six winner to the counter; it was due an $85 prize based on the size of the lottery that drawing. The details are fuzzy but that's the idea.

Me: [handing over ticket] "I got four"
Clerk: [runs ticket, looks at printout, pulls $4 out of the register] "Four dollars"
Me: "No, I got four numbers. It's $85"
Clerk: "Oh". [pulls $85 out of the drawer]

He would have pocketed $81 on that deal. Safest way to check numbers is to scan them into one of the lottery machines at the grocery store. Much faster than checking nums on the website.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Seriously, get a carry license

At the Spring Valley DART station today, taking the train to the fair.

Wife and I were walking up the stairs when a aggressive/freaky/huge looking dude stops dead in the middle of the stairway facing us and stares at us. We had to rearrange to go around him. I said "good morning" as we passed. He didn't answer and I didn't hear him move behind us. My heartrate was a little elevated because this dude did not seem right. He had that "I am a sociopath and would just as soon kill you" vibe.

A few minutes later we were up on the platform. He walked upstairs again and came right over to us. Oh boy. Here we go.

Him: Hey man, do you have $2?
Me: No, I don't.
Him: I didn't mean to be rude when you talked to me down there.
Me: No problem. It's all right.
Him: [suddenly agitated] Why did you talk to me?
Me: [boggling, WTF?] What?
Him: [more agitated, seemingly unhinged] Why did you talk to me, with all these other people here? Why the hell you wanna...
Me: I said "good morning". [At this point I pulled my elbow in a bit so I could be sure of the positioning of the subcompact 9mm in the holster on my hip.]
Him: [he continues ranting]
Me: "We're done here", and I shepherded the wife away.

Moved to the north end of the platform and he followed within a minute or so.
We moved to the south end and he followed after a bit. Crap. This isn't a coincidence.
Moved to the north end again and placed a call to RPD.

I identified him in pieces, as he kept getting close enough to hear and we had to relocate several times: Black male, 30+ yrs old, 6' 1" or 6' 2" (he was taller than me), 200#, black knit cap, dark sunglasses, long desert-style camo parka shell, brown pants.

Within a couple of minutes two officers (244 and 264) showed up and walked the platform. They walked south-to-north like they were scoping then went downstairs. I couldn't see where they were, if they had left, or what. My guess at that time was that they had ID'ed the guy from my description (he was obvious) and was waiting for the train to clear the crowd before moving in. At this point I was still on the phone with dispatch and we agreed to drop the call since two LEOs were on scene.

After the cops had been (downstairs? gone?) for about two minutes the fellow got agitated again and started asking a group of commuters "why the cops here? What they looking for? Those was Richardson po-lice, not DART po-lice."*, etc. We moved away again and so did not hear the rest.

Interesting that he was so clued in to the difference between the affilliation of the officers, and that he saw both of them although they were moving seperately in different areas and in a low-key fashion through the crowd. I knew they were on-scene somewhere and still barely spotted them until they were quite near. I suspect his questions indicated he understood the LEOs were not there on a random patrol, and he wanted to know who called the police. Frak.

Train came shortly thereafter, wife and I boarded, and our pet psycho stayed on the platform.

I came home and listened to the scanner traffic. Call came in at 9:28am, and my description was reduced to "BM, 6 foot, camo, panhandling and behaving strangely". Both cars were on-scene by 9:33am, then nothing more until one of the officers announced he was clear at 10:23am. Normally if they had stopped someone they would have run a background check on the NCIC channel, but that was not on the recording. I bet a dollar that psycho had an active warrant somewhere. I suspect no contact was made.
Lesson learned: next time I will request officer contact so I can ensure contact gets made with the suspect. I did not request contact w/me as we were waiting on a train and didn't know when it would arrive.

I guarantee you that an encounter like this with a potentially dangerous pursuer is much different when you are armed. Instead of being in trapped animal mode, you are aware of the options in the scenario. There is no huge power disparity, there is just a human acting strangely and aggressively which you have to deal with safely.
Here's another pointer to a decent unofficial overview of how to get started with your concealed carry license.

* I was conflicted about whether or not to transcribe this outburst into standard English. Tried it both ways and it seemed more artificial to put words in his mouth. So those are direct quotes. If you have a problem with this word choice or syntax, feel free to take it up with him.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Another reason to love Mickey$oft

MS slips a Firefox extension in a windows update. It makes FF users vulnerable to IE-style drive by infections, and is nearly impossible to remove.

Yes, it's not enough that they make their own software into virus incubation tools. They want to infect everyone else, too. Now watch them claim that FF is no more secure than IE after poisoning the well.

Nice. When you get sick enough of the MS crap, take a spare PC and install linux on it. Ubuntu is probably the easiest to get started with.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

stop yelling

Although I am libertarian and predisposed to support Ron Paul's quixotic adventures, I was disappointed in hecklers that shouted pro-Ron Paul statements at Sen. Graham at a recent town hall meeting in Greenville, SC.

Hecklers: make your statement in a civil manner at the microphone when it is your turn. If it is not your turn do not shout. I know it's not going to get anyone on TV, but please display enough self-control that people are not worried that you have the right to drive, breed, and live on your own without a parent (or nanny state) around. Be an adult.

COR council meeting audio 200901005 20091012

10/5 and 10/12.

Much better audio this week, at least what I've heard. I am about 2 weeks behind on all my audio and blog consumption.

[10/14: I've just noticed that the city is posting audio files so I'll stop reproducing that effort.]


In theory last night was National Night Out.
Only it wasn't because Tx met later to avoid the heat. So it was Texas Night Out.
Only it wasn't because COR moved our NNO to Oct 13.

But in Highland Terrace it looked more like National Night In (because of rain?) . I rode and drove HT from 6-8pm last night and met with two block parties. I also spoke with folks I saw outside that were not out for NNO.

One of the block parties consisted of two homeowners and the other was a comfortable group of folks (including part of the Crime Watch Patrol) with yummy food/drinks relaxing around a fire pit. They looked happy and neighborly. I think they have the model right. I'll spend more time with them and see what they they makes their block work when others do not.

I think the challenges of NNO are the same challenges that confront neighborhoods in COR in general:

* neighbors unaware that they live in a defined neighborhood. Sign toppers would help rectify this, but the recent COR council work session revealed how expensive that can be.

* many people were unaware this was NNO. Hmmm. I wonder how much one of those low-power radio stations costs to run? Farmers Branch has one and I like it.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Update: Best Foundation flyer

Update from the previous post.

I got a professional response from Always Distributing (AD hereafter), who appears to handled Best's flyer work. I received their email a few days ago but am just now answering; busy weekend.

Here is my email reply, with his text redacted as I am a little squeamish about posting email without consent when the sender appears to be operating in good faith.

[AD was concerned I had been inconvenienced]

I haven't been inconvenienced. My intent was to help local businesses comply with local law. [my personal info redacted], I am keenly interested in who enters our neighborhood and whether or not they perform their business lawfully.

[AD requests I delete the blog post]

I will update the posting, noting that you responded professionally.

I'll give it a month (Nov 2) and will contact Richardson PD to confirm that Always Distributing has obtained a permit to distribute flyers in Richardson. I am confident that AD will comply, as the process is inexpensive and easy (particularly when compared to the $500/day fine for distribution without a permit).

[AD is concerned that my blog post about AD's failure to comply will reflect poorly on Best]

I don't think it does. Looked like they handed my concern over to you quickly and you responded quickly. In a perfect world they probably would have responded to me directly as well but that's their call.