Combs Spouts Off

"It's my opinion and it's very true."

1965 Denver flood

Posted by Richard on June 17, 2015

Fifty years ago last night, the Plum Creek drainage south of Denver received 14 inches of rain in just 3 hours. That sent a massive amount of water into the South Platte River and right into the heart of Denver. Depending on who’s telling the story and where they were when they witnessed it, the wall of water was somewhere between 20 and 40 feet high. 9News has a pretty good piece on the flood, with videos, if you can read through it without accidentally clicking away (don’t click anywhere to the left or right of the story column).

That flood led to the building of Chatfield Dam southwest of Denver just a few years later. It (along with dams on Cherry Creek and Bear Creek) has prevented a repeat occurrence. Chatfield State Park is a major recreation area. But there’s not much recreating this year because a large portion of the park is covered in water. It’s designed to work that way; by using the surrounding park area for additional water storage, Chatfield Reservoir can cope with copious amounts of rainfall and snowmelt.

This year, it’s had to, and is at the highest level since it was built. Not only is an unusually large snowpack melting very fast, but in the six weeks since May 1, Denver has only had (depending on who’s counting and where they measure) 4-7 days without rain. This has so far been one of the wettest years on record in Denver. And the foothills west of Denver and Palmer Divide to the south have gotten much more rain than Denver.

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Our hero dead

Posted by Richard on May 25, 2015

“Flags In” for Memorial Day, Arlington National Cemetary. Photo from Isaac Wankerl (www.iwankerl.com).
The grave of his father, Maj. Max W. Wankerl, is in the foreground.

Memorial Day

by Edgar A. Guest (1881-1959)

The finest tribute we can pay
Unto our hero dead to-day,
Is not a rose wreath, white and red,
In memory of the blood they shed;
It is to stand beside each mound,
Each couch of consecrated ground,
And pledge ourselves as warriors true
Unto the work they died to do.

 

Into God’s valleys where they lie
At rest, beneath the open sky,
Triumphant now o’er every foe,
As living tributes let us go.
No wreath of rose or immortelles
Or spoken word or tolling bells
Will do to-day, unless we give
Our pledge that liberty shall live.
Our hearts must be the roses red
We place above our hero dead;
To-day beside their graves we must
Renew allegiance to their trust;
Must bare our heads and humbly say
We hold the Flag as dear as they,
And stand, as once they stood, to die
To keep the Stars and Stripes on high.

 

The finest tribute we can pay
Unto our hero dead to-day
Is not of speech or roses red,
But living, throbbing hearts instead,
That shall renew the pledge they sealed
With death upon the battlefield:
That freedom’s flag shall bear no stain
And free men wear no tyrant’s chain.

 

Today, please remember those who died “that liberty shall live.” I’m remembering my dad, Col. Samuel R. Combs — who, in the memorable words of Robert Denerstein, “answered his country’s call even before the phone rang.” I miss you, Papa.

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Aw, poor baby needs a union

Posted by Richard on April 1, 2015

My day started with preparing for a 7:30 AM videoconference with someone in Bangalore. It ended after a 6 PM videoconference with folks in Beijing and San Jose. As I was eating my late supper, I read the new issue of Reason magazine that arrived recently. It had a quote that just cracked me up.

It’s old, dating back to January, but it was new to me. A reporter for Politico named Mike Elk, apparently explaining one of the reasons he’s trying to unionize his employer, said “I can’t work the kind of hours I did when I was 24.”

Elk is 28.

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Celebrate human achievement tonight!

Posted by Richard on March 28, 2015

Tonight, from 8:30 to 9:30 in your time zone, the anti-technology, anti-human eco-crazies want you to celebrate their “Earth Hour” by turning off all your lights and appliances, huddling in the dark to atone for your “sins” against Gaia. As Edward Hudgins pointed out:

But this is another way of saying that we humans are actually a burden on the Earth. We don’t belong. We should apologize and feel guilty for every blade of grass we step on, every tree we cut down to build our homes, every bit of food we eat—in other words, we should feel guilty of our own existence. Of course, Earth Hour is wrapped up in touchy-feely theatrics to the effect that turning off our lights expresses our caring about “Gaia” without requiring us to actually think about what values we are actually accepting.

When a blackout occurs because of a storm or some other cause, when the lights, refrigerator, AC, heat, computers, and TVs go out, we don’t cheer, we curse the darkness. Earth Hour asks us to bring a curse down upon ourselves.

I hope you’ll join me instead in celebrating the Competitive Enterprise Institute’s Human Achievement Hour. Turn on lots of lights, play music, watch TV, get on the computer, call friends — in other words, use energy. And celebrate all the wonderful ways in which cheap, readily available energy and technological innovation in general — the products of human achievement — have improved human existence.

I plan to spend the hour creating the largest carbon footprint I possibly can without burning down something.

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Unusual vehicle sighting

Posted by Richard on March 28, 2015

So, I’d just stepped onto my porch to get the mail, when along came a shiny black London taxi cab, a.k.a. hackney carriage. It was right-hand drive, and I could see the meter flag through the front passenger-side window (although I don’t know if it was still connected to a functioning fare meter). It looked a lot like the picture below.

I don’t know if it belongs to a collector, an entrepreneurial Uber/Lyft driver with a unique marketing angle, or what. A search for “london cab denver” failed to turn up anything useful.

London taxi.jpg

London taxi” by Andreas TuscheOwn work. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons.

 

 

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Bergdahl swap fiasco playing out as predicted

Posted by Richard on March 25, 2015

Like many others released from Guantanamo, at least three of the five Taliban commanders swapped for Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl seem intent on rejoining the jihad. They won’t have to wait long.

The five are currently living in luxury in Dohar, Qatar, under the alleged supervision of that alleged ally of ours in the misnamed War on Terror. But their confinement to Qatar ends in May, and they’ll then be able to go where they please. Such as back to Helmand province to rejoin their comrades in arms, or maybe to the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.

Bergdahl, on the other hand, won’t be rejoining the war effort.

Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, who was freed by Afghan insurgents last May as part of an exchange for five Taliban prisoners, was charged Wednesday with having deserted his remote base before his capture in 2009.

The military charges, resulting from a long-awaited but tightly guarded investigation, include desertion and misbehavior before the enemy. A conviction could lead to a dishonorable discharge from the military and, in the extreme, life in prison for Sgt. Bergdahl.

The Bergdahl swap is playing out exactly as anyone with half a brain predicted.

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New frontier in offense theft

Posted by Richard on March 22, 2015

Offense theft is the act of taking offense where none was given. It’s a “disease” (since the medical establishment now equates syndromes with diseases) that’s pandemic in the United States. The educational establishment teaches offense theft to all the young skulls full of mush it gets its hands on, from elementary school through college.

Offense theft often involves charges of racism. And that’s the case with the latest sorry example I ran across. In an interview with Seth Myers reported in The Blaze, Jay Leno recounted being accused of racism by an intern because of his food preferences:

“College kids now are so politically correct. I mean, to the point where — I’ll give you an example, we had interns at the show, college interns. Like, the last year of the show, one of the interns comes and says, ‘Mr. Leno, I’m getting lunch. what do you want?’ I said, ‘I don’t know, where are you going?’ He said, ‘we’re getting Mexican.’ I said, ‘I don’t really like Mexican.’ He goes, ‘whoa, that’s kind of racist.’ That’s not racist.”

“No, being anti-guacamole is not racist, okay?” Leno said. “You have no idea what racism is. That’s not racist, you idiot! You moron.”

Unfortunately, to the “culturally sensitive” (which probably includes the majority of faculty and students at many of our universities), dislike of some foods is disturbing evidence of racism, if not an outright hate crime.

But only certain cuisines qualify for this “protected status.”

I’m pretty sure it’s still OK to dislike haggis, bangers and mash, Wiener schnitzel, lutefisk, …

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Bibi wins, Obama election meddling fails

Posted by Richard on March 18, 2015

So, Obama’s efforts to influence an election with tax dollars funneled through non-profits didn’t work as well in Israel as it did in the United States.

I guess they didn’t have the Acorn-style infrastructure or the SEIU-style goons.

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Happy Pi Day!

Posted by Richard on March 14, 2015

For those of us in the US, who use the month/day/year date format, today is Pi Day, a.k.a. 3.14. Celebrate by having a slice at 1:59! Oh, and it’s also Albert Einstein’s birthday, so exercise afterwards to turn the mass of that slice into energy.

Those who use the more logical day/month/year date format, like the Europeans, will have to wait until July, when they can celebrate Pi Day more precisely on 22/7.

UPDATE: Jeez, I forgot what year this is. I should have had that slice at 9:26:54. Although, as some folks on Twitter have pointed out, next year on 3/14/16 we get to celebrate Pi Day to the precision that our date format actually allows.

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Label directions improved, but I have mixed feelings

Posted by Richard on March 11, 2015

As a technical writer, I’m always interested in the instructions, directions, or other user assistance provided for various consumer products. I’ve always admired the person who first came up with the simple, brief, three-step directions for shampoo use: “Lather. Rinse. Repeat.” A more recent version I’ve seen changes the last step to “Repeat if necessary.” (It sacrifices a bit of brevity for more accuracy and is less encouraging of overuse. I bet the sales/marketing types hated it.)

As a gum disease sufferer, every so often I develop a particularly bad area, and my periodontist prescribes spot treatment with chlorhexidine gluconate. It’s a prescription oral rinse that comes in a pint bottle and is intended (by the manufacturer) to be used like a mouthwash. I’m told to dab it around the problem area with a cotton swab for a week or so (swishing it around in my mouth would stain my teeth terribly). Then I put the remaining 95% of the bottle under the sink for the next several years. By the time I need to repeat the process, it’s expired, and I get a prescription for another pint bottle. Pretty wasteful, but this last time it only cost me $4, so I’m not complaining.

I did notice that the directions had changed since my previous purchase four or five years ago. The label used to instruct you to swish it around in your mouth and then “expectorate.” On the new bottle, it now says to “spit out.”

The technical writer within me applauds this change as being much clearer and more user-friendly. But the high school Latin student in me is somewhat saddened.

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Denver’s February snow record is more of a record than it seems

Posted by Richard on February 28, 2015

Officially, Denver set a new record for February snowfall, but just barely. Through Friday, the official total snowfall was 22.4 inches, just edging out the previous record of 22.1 set in 1912. But wait…

Since 2008, the National Weather Service’s official recording site has been Denver International Airport, about 20 miles east of downtown. In 1912, the official site was in downtown Denver. Being so far out on the eastern plains, DIA typically gets less snow than areas farther to the west. That’s because it sees less of the upslope effect that brings heavy snowfall when winds from the east or northeast hit the mountains west of Denver and the Palmer Divide to the south.

According to KMGH-7 meteorologist Matt Makens, the old record for downtown Denver was unofficially broken a couple of days earlier (and subsequent snow no doubt pushed the total there several inches higher). The unofficial City Park recording station, just a couple or three miles from downtown, recorded over 30 inches in February.

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Protecting the public from entrepreneurial snow-shovelers

Posted by Richard on February 14, 2015

The northeastern US is being pounded with yet another snowstorm this weekend, so it seems appropriate to call out the latest “Nanny of the Week” story at Watchdog.org as a cautionary tale for any ambitious young entrepreneurs in that part of the country.

Matt Molinari and Eric Schnepf, both 18-year-olds from Bound Brook, N.J., were going door-to-door in their neighborhood Jan. 27, handing out homemade flyers that offered snow-shoveling services. School had already been canceled for the next day, when a winter storm was expected to bury their portion of the Garden State under several inches of cold white powder.

But their offer of a free exchange of services for cash caught the attention of the local police force.

According to local news reports, the cops told the kids they weren’t allowed to solicit business by going door-to-door without a permit from the local government.

To get a permit for door-to-door solicitation in Bound Brook, Molinari and Schnepf would have had to pay the borough $450 (and the government-issued permission slip is only good for 180 days at a time, which is fine if you’re trying to run a snow-shoveling business, but not so great if you’re trying to offer services year-round).

At that cost, they’d have little chance of making any profit — unless the fine folks of Bound Brook are willing to pay $100 to have their driveways and front walks cleared.

A similar incident was reported in the Philadelphia suburb of Lower Merion on Jan. 28 as the snow was falling up and down the east coast. Police reportedly told two men they were not allowed to engage in door-to-door solicitation of snow-shoveling services without permission from local officials.

Supposedly, such door-to-door solicitation rules protect people from scams, “distraction robberies,” and the like. But if that were true, then why not prohibit all door-to-door distribution of flyers (not just charge a permit fee) in order to protect people from dishonest roofers, driveway sealers, lawn aerators, assorted handymen, and fraudulent charities? I’m pretty sure a $450 fee won’t prevent roofing or home repair scams that bilk scores of people out of thousands of dollars each, but it sure puts the kibbosh on teens offering to shovel snow, rake leaves, or mow lawns.

For that matter, why don’t we just prohibit people from walking through their own neighborhoods between 9 AM and 3 PM, when most home burglaries occur? Think of how much safer we’d all be!

SMDH (shaking my damn head).

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Obama administration to regulate gas fireplaces

Posted by Richard on January 31, 2015

The Daily Caller headline reads “Feds To Regulate Fake Fireplaces To Stop Global Warming.”

Better go out and buy a gas fireplace and stove soon before federal regulations make them more expensive. Federal officials are looking to regulate the energy usage of fake fireplaces as part of the Obama administration’s effort to fight global warming.

I think they missed an opportunity there. The headline should have read “Feds To Regulate Fake Fireplaces To Pretend to Stop Fake Global Warming.”

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Obama plan to tax college savings reveals his Marxist core

Posted by Richard on January 20, 2015

A couple of weeks ago, President Obama proposed to make community college “free” for everyone. Of course, just like lunch, there is no free community college. The cost, which the administration says will be $60 billion over 10 years (but will probably be several times that), must be borne by someone. His plan to pay for it (leaked in advance of the state of the union address) reveals how thoroughly Marxist Obama is in his core beliefs.

For years, parents (and grandparents) have been urged to save for their kids’ college educations by regularly contributing to a 529 college savings plan. You’ve probably seen the public service announcements countless times on TV. Like a 401k, the contributions grow tax-free in the plan. Like a health savings account, the money isn’t taxed if withdrawn for the intended purpose, in this case college expenses. This is what people have been promised for the past 15 years in order to encourage them to be thrifty and plan for their children’s future.

Obama wants to break that promise. He wants to tax the savings of the thrifty and responsible parents and grandparents in order to give a “free” college education to everyone. It illustrates perfectly that the core belief driving him is the Marxist dictum, “from each according to his ability, to each according to his need.”

This is but one of several wealth redistribution schemes being unveiled, supposedly to help “the middle class” at the expense of “the wealthiest.” Like most such schemes, it won’t just take from “the wealthiest” — not that it would be any less evil if it did. My guess is that the typical contributor to a 529 college savings plan is firmly in the middle class, not in the much-maligned 1%.

This contemptible proposal would punish personal responsibility, foresight, and thrift, while rewarding lack of personal responsibility, failure to plan, and dependency. In practical terms, you get less of what you punish and more of what you reward. In moral terms, this is punishing good people precisely for their goodness, and that is vile.

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Kerry gives France “a big hug”; Hillary benefits most

Posted by Richard on January 17, 2015

Yesterday, Secretary of State John Kerry tried to make amends to the French people for the Obama administration’s non-participation in last Sunday’s massive pro-free-speech demonstration. He did so by saying he was there “to share a big hug with Paris” and by bringing James Taylor to sing “You’ve Got a Friend.”

No, really. In case you missed it (most of the MSM ignored this most awkward part of Kerry’s awkward visit), here’s the video of James Taylor singing while Kerry looks like the doofus he is:


[YouTube link]

If you couldn’t bring yourself to watch all 3½ minutes, I completely understand; neither could I.

Newsbusters called it “one of the most embarrassing moments in American diplomatic history” and a “bizarre attempt at international damage control.”

Hillary Clinton’s supporters must be thrilled, or at least relieved. Because, as Man with Axe noted on Twitter, this farce bumps her out of the top spot for a dubious distinction:

hillary-reset-button

 

UPDATE: *snicker*

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