Month: December 2011

Sears Stores and Kmarts Closing: A partial list

Sears and Kmart Store Closings

Sears announced earlier this week that they would be closing about 120 stores across the country, due to poor sales volume.

This will include both Sears retailers and Kmart department stores held by Sears.

A partial list of the stores set to be closed in 2012 can be found here:

http://blogs.wsj.com/deals/2011/12/29/here-are-the-sears-stores-that-are-closing/tab/interactive/

Sexist Marketing and Gender-bias Defined

Out of the mouths of babes.

A recent viral video burning up the view stats lately is from a tot in a toy store who has just decided that she is fed up with the gender bias that she finds there.

Her very mature observations are targeted at toy manufacturers and retailers, and she makes a wonderful point.

*Warning: It’s hard not to love this one.

** I apologize for the ads that CNN puts in the vid…Tried to find it on Youtube (sans ads), but to no avail.

http://cnn.com/video/data/2.0/video/bestoftv/2011/12/26/erin-riley-girls-viral-rant.cnn.html

Court document details Indiana girl’s killing

— The man accused of killing a 9-year-old Indiana girl allegedly told police he beat her in the head with a brick, dismembered her body and stored parts of it in his freezer, according to court documents released Tuesday.

Michael L. Plumadore, 39, is charged with one count of murder in the death of Aliahna Lemmon, whose body was found Monday night. She had been missing since Friday.

He was being held without bond Tuesday after his initial court appearance.

In the probable cause affidavit released Tuesday, investigators with the Allen County Sheriff’s Department said Plumadore admitted striking the girl repeatedly in the head with a brick while she stood on the front steps of his home in the early hours of December 22.

He stored the body in garbage bags in a freezer at his house until evening, according to the affidavit, when he allegedly began to dismember it with a hacksaw.

Plumadore allegedly told investigators he threw parts of the body in a nearby commercial trash bin, but kept the head, hands and feet in his freezer, according to the document.

via Court document details Indiana girl’s killing – CNN.com.

A Child’s Magic Mojo: My Christmas Story

First off: Merry Christmas!

Someone asked recently for our “Best & Worst Christmas” stories, and i was reminded of one in particular that was actually a bit of both…

On or about December Twentieth of 1965 my parents sat my younger brother and I down at the kitchen table to break some bad news.

Truth be told, it was probably the worst news I had ever heard up to that point in all my eight years; They had done their best, and explored every option, but it was becoming painfully clear that there would be no gifts under the tree this year.

Now, I had every confidence in my father’s ability to provide us with a respectable Christmas day.  It was no secret to me that he took a second job every year at the end of Summer, just to make sure of that fact. I was entrusted with the duty of running his dinner to him at his second job. I got to hang around the garage with my dad for a brief time, and try to stay out of trouble, while he ate and then sent me home with his dishes.

The part of the story that I couldn’t comprehend at the time was that they had actually bought all of our gifts two weeks prior. Once the car was filled with every last one of our Christmas goodies, they sat in a local diner for a nice celebratory lunch, while a few local thieves broke into their car and stole our Christmas morning.  I’ve only seen my mother cry three times in my life, and that was the first one. I was 8 years old, and to me it was the end of the world.

With only 3 days left to Christmas, and with the eternal optimism that only a child can muster, I decided that it was the right time for me to be a hero and save Christmas for my mother. For my kid brother…and maybe even a bit for me, too.

Adults are completely blind to this fact, but every child knows: Kids have one tiny bit of magic for Emergency Use Only. A personal mojo. That magic bean in the pocket that only he or she can use, because it would never work for a grownup.  Santa Claus only listens to children. Everyone knows that, it’s just common sense.

I wrote the most honest and heart-felt letter to my Secret pal Santa Claus that I could manage, because it was time to play the only ace I had up my sleeve.

I pleaded with him, grown-up to grown-up of course, to please bring some last minute gifts for my little brother and for my mom. Guy was only 4, and that’s just too little to bear this kind of pain and he desperately wanted ( probably because we’re Irish), one of those cool new toy spuds, aptly named “Mister Potato Head”.    Of course, if it’s not too much trouble, the one toy I wanted more than anything in the whole world was a big red firetruck that shoots water, but I understand if that’s asking too much.  Mom and dad had tried their best, and I knew that only Santa could be the backup they needed at this point. I promised that I would never ask for another thing if he came through for us…and I remembered to let him off the hook in the closing, by promising to still believe even if he couldn’t deliver.  Mom taught us that it was unfair to make people feel cornered, and that you catch more flies with honey. This way, if he couldn’t help out this time around, I could put my magic back in my pocket and save it for later.

Once my mom had mailed my letter for me, I had full confidence in my power to save everyone’s Christmas even though I was apparently the only one aware of it. Mom and dad looked gut-punched every morning, and they barely looked me in the eye twice that week.  Guy was happy just to be eating and pooping every day, and remained blissfully unaware of the pending doomsday that his parents were dreading more than drill-work from a blind dentist.

After a hundred warnings from Mom & Dad to not “get your hopes up”, Christmas morning finally arrived without much fanfare. Coming down the steps, the first thing I noticed was that the usual pile of gifts under the tree and spread across the sofa every year, simply wasn’t there. My dad had worked himself to the bone every year to make Christmas the greatest day of the year for each of us, but this year it just didn’t pan out…and I was strangely OK with that.

Mom had a big breakfast waiting for us, so we shared “Merry Christmas” hugs all around, and sat down to eat. As mom was putting the scrambled eggs on my plate, she said, “Oh, there is one thing I need to show you”, and pointed to a rather large wrapped box next to the table with “JIM” whitten on it in black marker. I looked over at Guy, who was sitting on the sofa with dad and being handed a slightly smaller box of his own. I KNEW IT!

Tearing into the gift wrapping, my first peek at the contents was a bit confusing; white lines, lots of them, thin and kinda long..? I steadied myself. No matter what was hiding in here, I will not fail to show happy surprise and gratitude.

As I got the top from the box I realized that these were the rungs of a ladder, the white ladder on top of my new bright, Candy-Apple Red Firetruck. A Hook & Ladder firetruck to be precise, with a little handle that cranked the ladder up in the air, and a small rubber hose that squirts water to put out the thousands of imaginary fires I had yet to stage. I KNEW IT!  And I had done it, hadn’t I?  One peek at Guy was all the confirmation I needed. He was already testing the parts of his new Mister Potato Head to see which ones will fit down his throat, to be eventually recovered in his diaper…One of his favorite games, by the way.

Thank you, Santa.

Thank you for listening, for reading every letter, but most of all for giving me that magic bean in the first place…for my Mojo.

JIM.

>copyright 2011, JBStran.com

Veteran Suicides: Do You Really Care?

To quote a recent story on the Komonews site on the death of a young soldier who hung himself after being picked on:

“More soldiers are killing themselves each day than dying in combat. That right there says that something is very wrong with the system right now, of (the) mental health care in the military.” – Army veteran Josh Simpson.

Seriously?

Sounds like so much finger-pointing to me, over some self-pity gone awry…and I’m pretty sure the last part of that statement, “mental health care in the military” is an oxymoron.

I don’t deny that war is stressful…but how did the high-tech fighting we employ today become more stressful than the low-tech methods employed during the last three (count ’em, 3) major conflicts?

Soldiers in Viet Nam slugged through swamps and mud searching out a deeply entrenched enemy who employed an elaborate tunnel system and guerrilla techniques that American soldiers were poorly equipped to handle, not to mention some of the cruelest methods of killing ever imagined, all up-close and personal.   POW camps that specialized in torture of prisoners also had a knack for making their guests disappear. For ever.

A great many veterans dealt with drug addictions and PTSD when they returned, only to find that their home nation had turned their collective backs and refused to even acknowledge their existence. Only after a few of them demanded it by climbing a tower with a sniper rifle to display his new set of skills did America begin to ask the right questions, and feel a little empathy for the suffering.  These vets learned quickly to keep mum about the whole experience; Many have never told a war story, and never will…but we are not nearly as strong as our fathers.

Our fathers returned home after WWII as heroes, and were assimilated into the social culture like they had never left…Jobs and mortgages were waiting for them like so much fruit on a tree.  They kept their nightmares a secret, and they filtered the war stories around little ears.   My own father was a Golden Gloves boxer who watched his brother’s ship go down at Pearl Harbor while fighting to save his own and survive the Japanese attack.  He had a third grade education, his first full-time job at 9 years old, and by 15 he was feeding his seven brothers and sisters as a street-fighter on the docks of Baltimore…and he never whined about his luck, or pointed a finger, or shed a tear.  These veterans became the new definition of “Tough Guys” …but they were not nearly as tough as their fathers.

Our grandfathers?  Fought through WWI with ridiculously-slow rifles and very busy bayonettes.  Same basic story; Blood & Guts, Heroes, jobs, families, and the same tight lips that keep ships afloat.  No bullet-proof Hummers for these guys. They worked hard, most starting as young as 7, all day long in mills and shipyards for little pay. They worked miserable jobs in deplorable conditions…and they too, hoped to be as strong as their fathers.

Was fighting a war easier in the past 100 years, before the advent of remote-controlled bombers, guided missiles and smart bombs?  Obviously not. So what’s the real problem here?

Single moms, for one.  Whiny, privileged, entitled brats who believed that joining the Army will do for them what their absent father didn’t, and their sainted mom couldn’t: Turn them into men. The problem with this theory is that these apron-stringers never really considered that anyone would ever ask them to earn their own manhood, and then the absolute worst possible scenario becomes reality:  The TI* he has a father-figure crush on doesn’t return his affections, and now there’s No One is around to kiss his boo-boos.

*(TI= Training Instructer, ie: The boot-camp life-coach whose job is to break momma’s baby out of his shell and convert him into useful government property)

In case my warped sense of humor is pushing the point past you, here it is in a nut-shell:

The problem of veteran suicides is not based in the fact that wars have gotten harder (the opposite is true, in fact), but it’s simply that America’s young men have gotten softer.

Not all young men mind you…but so many of them have, that those too weak to stick around are being considered an “epidemic”.

I admit the possibility of course, that the Army has managed to make fighting too easy, which is simply feeding the already rampant sense of entitlement that the young men felt before enlisting. They were promised rides in Hummers and video games that kill people they’ll never have to see…and then someone burst that bubble by asking them to get their hands dirty.

Let’s not forget this misguided and pointless pseudo-patriotism nonsense where we automatically label every kid who joins the service a “hero”.

Reality Check:  The vast majority of new recruits joined the military for two basic reasons; First because they needed a job, and Uncle Sam’s Army was the only job they could qualify for. Second, because they needed a job, and their options came down to flipping burgers or wearing a uniform. Every kid in a uniform is not a hero, any more than every mailman is a hero.   A small percentage actually joined for the status, maybe because high school was rough and he wants to learn how to kick some ass, or because there’s a girl back home (or a father) that he wants to impress.

You were sold this “We Love Our Heros” media blitz after 911 because recruiting for a war on foreign soil is a tough sell, and this Pentagon-based marketing plan worked pretty well. Too well, actually. The kids who signed on to be heroes began to believe their own hype…but there’s no tickertape parades, no million-dollar contracts with NASA or the Donald waiting for them. It’s as if they had simply done a job they were paid for, and now the job is over…Because that’s exactly what just happened.

We paid for their training. We paid for their food, housing, transportation, equipment, and in many cases we even paid for their mistakes. We gave them a paycheck** on top of all that…but now the job is over. Move on.

**Do I think they were paid fairly? Hell to the No. Soldiers with families should make a livable wage so that their children do not have to know what food stamps are, but that’s a subject for another day.

Remember those forgotten laws of nature, like Natural Selection and the Law of the Jungle?  Who are we to argue with Nature?

I submit to you that if these men had not joined the military, they would have simply found another excuse for their own weaknesses, and therefore the fact that he was wearing a uniform when those faulty thought processes caught up to him does not automatically make the military to blame.

So, veterans are taking their own lives in record numbers. Do you really care?

I’m not sure that I do.

>  JB.

Lucky Friday mine incident: 7 Miners injured

12/16/2011

Northeast Idaho:

A rock burst at a mine in northern Idaho Wednesday evening injured seven miners, a company spokeswoman said.

The incident happened more than a mile underground at the Lucky Friday Mine in Mullan, according to Melanie Hennessey, a company vice president.

Twenty-five miners were in the area at the time, she said. The injured miners were treated for non-life threatening injuries.

The Global InfoMine website describes a rock burst as “an explosive failure of rock which occurs when very high stress concentrations are induced around underground openings.”

 

*related stories*

04/16/2011

Lucky Friday mine, Idaho:

 

The roof of a northeast Idaho mine collapsed Friday, trapping a man inside and setting off a complex rescue operation to save him, the mine’s owner and operator said Saturday.

The miner was one of two men working in part of the Lucky Friday Mine when a 10-by-20-foot section of mostly rock fell on him around 5:30 p.m. Friday, according to Phil Baker, president and CEO of the Hecla Mining Co.

He added that no more than 75 feet — out of a 2,200-foot stretch of the mine — collapsed, with all this happening 6,150 feet below the earth’s surface.

 

04/24/2011

Lucky Friday mine, Idaho:

 

The body of an Idaho miner trapped when the roof of the mine he was working in collapsed nine days ago was recovered Sunday afternoon, the company that owns and operates the mine said.

“Words cannot express the deep sorrow we feel at the tragic loss of our friend, colleague and 30-year veteran of the mining industry. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family, loved ones and friends,” Hecla Mining Company said in a statement announcing that the body of Larry Marek had been recovered.

Did Iran Bring our Drone Down by Hacking The GPS?

The US stealth drone broadcast last week on Iranian state television was captured by spoofing its GPS coordinates, a hack that tricked the bird into landing in Iranian territory instead of where it was programmed to touch down, The Christian Science Monitor reported.

The 1700-word article cited an unnamed Iranian engineer who said he’s studying the inner workings of the American bat-wing RQ-170 Sentinel that recently went missing over Iranian airspace. He said the spoofing technique made the craft “land on its own where we wanted it to, without having to crack the remote-control signals and communications” from the US control center.

CSM reporter Scott Peterson and an Iranian journalist publishing under the pen name Payam Faramarzi said the GPS weakness of aircraft has long been known to US military officials. They cited a 2003 report titled GPS Spoofing Countermeasures that appears to warn of the type of attack claimed by the Iranian engineer.

“A more pernicious attack involves feeding the GPS receiver fake GPS signals so that it believes it is located somewhere in space and time that it is not,” the report states. “This ‘spoofing’ attack is more elegant than jamming because it is surreptitious.”

A paper presented at a security conference in October further elaborated on GPS spoofing attacks, laying out the ingredients necessary for a “seamless takeover” of drones and other airborne vehicles.

US officials have blamed the loss of the sophisticated drone on a malfunction, but have yet to explain how it managed to stay in relatively pristine condition after its recovery by the Iranians.

Over the past 36 months, Iran has suffered a series of setbacks that some analysts blame on a covert war carried out by the US, Israel, or other adversaries. The recent assassinations of its nuclear scientists, explosions at missile and industrial facilities, and the worm that sabotaged uranium enrichment plants are three examples.

“Now this engineer’s account of how Iran took over one of America’s most sophisticated drones suggests Tehran has found a way to hit back,” the CSM article states. ®