The Hess Report

Tuesday, May 31, 2005

The Loooooooong Weekend 

Lucy "graduated" from preschool on Friday. Saturday morning, we were talking about school, and what she was going to do this summer, etc. At one point, I said:

"So you're done with school for the summer."

Lucy nods. "Dad, when are you done with work?"

Grrr. "Never."

At this point, Maddie chimed in.

"Dad," she said, the look of "duh" showing on her face, "when you're dead!"

Thanks, girl.

Friday, May 27, 2005


Someone posted an "interesting" comment on my previous post about Major Mark Bieger in Mosul. Obviously, this person is working in what I consider to be the lower levels of wacked out moral relativism, but you can scroll to the bottom and read both his original comment, and my response:

oohh, dead children

At least I know I'm pissing somebody off.

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

All You Need To Know About American Idol 

I am amazed at the level at which one can sustain a conversation about American Idol with a four year old.

Me: "So, who's going to win?"

Lucy: "Bo."

Me: "Do you like Bo better, or do you just think he's going to win?"

Lucy: "I like him better. And he's going to win. Carrie's always flat."

Me: "She is. It's pretty awful."

Lucy: Rolls eyes and shakes head knowingly. Gives a grimacing thumbs down.

Lucy: "I can't believe A-Fed lasted so long. He should have gone before Constantine." (A-Fed is the semi-derogatory nickname for Anthony Fedorov, aka Trache-Boy)

Me: "Yeah. I was surprised he made it so far. He's not very good."

Lucy: "I liked [his] Poison Ivy, though."

Me: "Um hmm." (It sucked, but she dug it, so I didn't want to totally crush her.)

Lucy: Shakes head again. "Constantine."

Other than her insanely cute voice and a blind spot for Poison Ivy, I don't see how this conversation differs substantively from one you would have with a teenager, or another adult who wasn't afraid to admit that they watch AI.

Monday, May 23, 2005

Dolls and the Army 

We're back from the beach, and I had a weird dream last night. I dreamt that I had a desk job with the Army, working in some bright office building. I wasn't sure exactly what my job was, but I had a bunch of nicely typeset documents on my desk to review. I was the junior guy.

But, in my previous assignment, I had been tasked with making a diagram of a male soldier, and one of a female. Think plain outline paper doll diagrams, with accompanying cutouts for clothes that folded around and stayed in place. I did as directed. It came to light in my new assignment, though, that these diagrams were the talk of the service. They were, apparently, wonderful. I was shown one of the presentation pieces they were handing out to all officers and NCO's. It consisted of the two dolls, about three inches tall, cut out of stiff white cardboard. Surrounding each doll were the clothes pieces, including helmets, etc., made entirely from velcro.

I remember asking one of the military judo instructors, who was raving to me about the dolls: "So they just used my design out of the box? It worked perfectly without changes?"

"They're great," he replied, while his students practiced throws and chokes in the background. "The pieces fit right together. It's beautiful. It's helped us a lot."

Cool. And then I decided to grab an iced coffee on my way back to the office, because it didn't matter if I was late. I was the guy who made the doll diagrams for the Army.

How cardboard dolls with cut-out velcro military outfits helped the U.S. Army, or how I came to be affiliated with them, I'll never know. But I'll keep it in mind, just in case.

Thursday, May 12, 2005


Vain sort that I am, I occasionally Google the Hess Report (as well as BlenderPeople and my screen name harkyman) to see if anyone has linked to it, etc.

At the moment, the Hess Report is coming up on the front page, result number nine to be exact, which is waaaaay better than the last time I checked several months ago. I think it was back on page seven, then. So The Hess Report the weblog has passed a bunch of other studious reports and official pronouncements in Google's pagerank, even though I've done literally nothing to link-whore. Pretty cool. I've also noticed that THR is getting between sixty and one hundred visitors a day. Also pretty cool.

Of course, it wouldn't kill you to leave a comment, so we know you're out there.

Did I say we? Indeed I did. THR now has three people with contributory access. Will the other two ever announce themselves? That'll be up to them.

Anyway, just so that when it slips back off the front page, I've vainly cached the appropriate search page here.

Monday, May 09, 2005

Deconstructing Ford 

"I'm a Ford Truck man.
It's all I drive.
I ain't got no boundaries.
I don't compromise."

Wow. That's some tough talk. And the guy who sings it sounds like a really tough guy, almost like he wants you to say that Ford trucks aren't King of the Mountain and aren't Built Ford Tough, just so he can pound your ass into the pavement.

But I have a question that I don't think Mr. Super Ford Singer Guy (SFSG) has thought of: isn't stating that you will only drive a single kind of truck a bit limiting? Does it not, in fact, constitute a boundary, in direct contrast to the subsequent assertion? Faced with this clear contradiction, the listener is forced to consider their options for reconciling such wildly diverging claims.

As I see it, there are three ways to approach this:

1. The double negative in "ain't got no boundaries" is meant to be interpreted logically, instead of colloquially, and we are to understand that SFSG is admitting to having boundaries. If that's what he's doing, then I say fair enough. He's basically saying "I exhibit senseless brand loyalty, and also experience issues with self-imposed boundaries and my inability to get along with others in the form of compromise." A brave statement for a tough-sounding man to make. Maybe his group therapy is working well for him.

2. The statement about boundaries is meant to be taken colloquially, ignoring the double negative, but is not intended as relevant to the choice of trucks. It's more of a personal statement, akin to "I cannot keep my hands to myself." Using this interpretation, the lyric scans as "I only drive Ford trucks, and, though it's not related, I thought I'd let you know that I'm prone to inappropriate touching."

3. Like President Clinton, we could carefully parse the contracted "is" in "It('/ i)s all I drive." One could assume this to mean "it is all that I currently drive, have ever driven, and will ever drive." I think that this is the most likely interpretation, relying on SFSG's dismissive tone which suggests a confidence into perpetuity. However, assuming that is the case leads us to the above contradiction, so it must not be. The next way to look at the statement is that "is" only refers to the now. No future endorsement is intended. "It's all I drive today," he may be saying, "But if next years Mitsubishi trucks are better, then I, being a person not limited by boundaries, would switch to the offering of the upstart foreign competitor."

Oh, wait. I said there were three explanations. There are actually four. Here's the last, best one:

4. Toby Keith is a whore who will say anything for a buck.

And everyone seems to know it, too. I tease the people I know who actually own Ford trucks. I ask them if they're a "Ford Truck Man", and they get all embarrassed. When I ask them if they don't have any boundaries and whether or not they compromise, they usually do that squinty nod and say "Ha, ha. Shut up. Those commercials suck. Ford actually makes good trucks."

So the inference I take from the aggregate consumer response to this ad is that it is embarrassing (because they know that Ford has a man-whore shilling for their product), and it actually casts doubt on the quality of the product (to a man, everyone has felt the need to defend the quality of their purchase when confronted with this ad, as though such an ad were a challenge to its quality).

I think it's time for Ford to switch their ad campaign. Or to just disappear altogether. Oh wait again. That's already happening.

Thursday, May 05, 2005

The Difference Between Us and Them 

I don't usually do current events, but this picture affects me greatly, and to me is one of the iconic images of the Iraq war. You can click the image for a much larger version. It's worth it.

The man is Major Mark Bieger. His patrol was attacked by a suicide car bomber in Mosul several days ago. According to someone who was on the scene, the terrorists could have chosen to wait for the American units to progress further down the street, but chose to stage their attack when the American's were passing a group of about twenty waving, jumping children. In the words of the photographer:

"Major Bieger, I had seen him help rescue some of our guys a week earlier during another big attack, took some of our soldiers and rushed this little girl to our hospital. He wanted her to have American surgeons and not to go to the Iraqi hospital. She didn't make it. I snapped this picture when Major Bieger ran to take her away. He kept stopping to talk with her and hug her."

I feel personally touched by this picture, because that would be me. If I were in the military, my education would have made me an officer right off the bat, and knowing how I do things, I would probably be about where Major Bieger is in his career right now. That would be me running with that girl. Stopping to comfort her when she needed it. Watching her die.

That's why a picture like this one breaks my heart. I've held my sick daughters just like this - their feet sticking out the bottom of the blanket. You put your face close to theirs so you can talk to them in a low, calm tone, telling them that they'll be okay in a little bit. You show them the confidence on your own face so they know not to be scared. I know that's what he was doing.

Like so many of the greatest works of art, literature, this picture of this moment in time brings together the exuberant innocence of childhood, the courage and compassion of humanity in the face of adversity, the extreme barbarity of which we are also capable, and the inevitability and finality of death.

Monday, May 02, 2005

Range Report 

I took the firearms to the shooting range this weekend, for the first time in a couple of months. Ideally, I'd like to go once a month, but it hasn't worked out that way. My philosophy is that if you're going to do something, you ought to try to do it well, and in the case of guns, that means practice.

The range that I go to is public and free, situated on a State Gameland, about a half an hour from our house. As public ranges go, it's very nice: ten benches each at 100, 50 and 25 yards, and ten more at (I think) twenty-five or thirty feet for pistols. The entire shooting line has either benches or stands, and is covered by the standard slanted roof so you can shoot in the rain if you really want to.

On Saturday, I took the Saiga-20, which you've met before, and the relatively new Ruger Mark II, a .22 semi-automatic pistol. The Ruger's magazine holds ten .22 long rifle cartridges. It has a form-fitting walnut grip, red dot sight, and a custom target trigger.

Ballistics and gun geek stuff for the rest of the paragraph, so feel free to skip it when your eyes start to glaze over: I bought a box of 500 cheapo rounds that cycle okay through it, and have also tried CCI Velocitor hi-velocity cartridges which give a nice crack, but seemed to hang up pretty frequently. Saint!Joy bought me a box of Remington hi-velocity rounds for Christmas, and they are my favorites to put through this gun. They have noticeably more pop than the other rounds, and are far more accurate. I put eight out of ten of them into a two inch circle, shooting offhand at twenty-five yards. I put ten of ten into a one-inch circle at twenty-five feet.

Anyway, here's the Mark II:

The chunky thing on top is the red dot sight. From the perspective of the shooter, it appears like a TV laser sight. You look through the viewfinder and see a small dot of red light. Whatever that dot is resting on within the viewfinder will receive a bullet if you pull the trigger. It's an optical effect, though - it doesn't project a laser dot onto the target itself, just within the viewfinder. It's pretty cool, and after a twenty rounds or so, it becomes very intuitive.

My only regret during this trip was the I shot the Saiga first. Range rules state that you cannot shoot regular shot at the range - it would scatter all over the target props, etc. To shoot a shotgun at a State Gameland range, you are required to use slugs. Slugs are like a giant bullet that you shoot from a shotgun, instead of the normal scattering shot. They're big, mean, and can go through lots of things and smash them to pieces. As much as you don't want to be on the receiving end of any shotgun, it goes double for a shotgun loaded with slugs. Acquaintances of mine who hunt have told me that shooting a deer with a rifled slug not only kills the deer, but apparently knocks it violently to the ground. I had never shot them before Saturday. As it was a new experience, I decided to try it first.

I mentioned before that this was a mistake. Not only had I never fired 20 gauge slugs before, I'd never fired anything even close. I was unprepared for the power of that first shot. The Saiga made as loud of a boom as anything I've heard there. The slug tore a big hole in the target 25 yards down the range. I laughed a little, which probably would have been scary to the other people there if they had not done it themselves at some point. It was the laugh of, combined: that was fun; I had no idea it would be that powerful; that's some amazing shit; and that was really really fun. The guy beside me, who had been shooting some little single-shot .22 shot rifle, nodded and smiled. I fired off the other nine slugs.

The kick, even on the AK-47 based Saiga, was significant. After putting ten rounds through it, my shoulder hurt. The slugs cycled the gun (it reloads itself to be ready for the next shot) without error. The gun shot a little high, but as I was told later by those who know, just hitting the paper with slugs at twenty-five yards is more than good enough, and I put ten out of ten through that target. Anything alive that was hit by that would not only be dead, but very extremely really seriously dead. Even a bear. Now I don't have to be afraid of bears breaking into my house anymore. And let me tell you that ever since I overheard my Mom describe a campsite bear-mauling dream to my Dad when I was little, it's been in the back of my mind. So, one more childhood fear put to rest, and I'm only 34!

After that, I shot the Mark II, which was fun, but after the calamitous glory of shooting giant missiles of lead through a target and exploding the dirt embankment beyond, it was sort of anticlimactic. New shooting rule, which I should have been able to glean from almost every other life experience I've ever had, but didn't: start small and work your way up.