_____________________________________________________________________________________________________

Friday, February 29, 2008

Lunch

Just got back from Anchorage and lunch with Tania.

She lied in that previous post - as it turns out, she's every bit as cool in person as she is online and on the phone. She made me laugh several times and I thoroughly enjoyed myself. My wife, Becky, was able to join us for a couple of minutes, despite being in the middle of a hectic day - so, like Tania said, bonus.

It's funny talking to her, it was like meeting an old friend. We've all spoken online so much that there really wasn't any surprises. Tania was exactly as I expected her to be, and I'd have recognized her across the parking lot, if she hadn't seen me first.

Tania had get back to her business meeting, and I had to get home to pick up my son from school, and the hour went by way too fast. As we were walking out, we wanted to get at least one picture to prove to you all that we had actually met - and in front of the Moose's Tooth were a couple of Minnesota State Hockey players, drinking beer and waiting for a table. We got one of them to take this picture.


One thing you might note, Tania's tall (okay, I'm not particularly tall my self, but still...). Also she'd said something funny right at the moment the Hockey guy snapped the shot, which I think makes a cool picture.


We'll get together again, next time Tania's in town - and hopefully we'll have a little more time together.

Thanks for a great time, Tania, good to finally meet you in person.

Attention, Liberty, South Carolina

Hey, cousin Dona, email me, would you please?

I can't seem to get your email correct, and it keeps getting bounced back at me.

Off to Anchorage

For the second time in as many days, I'm headed into Anchorage.

Last night my wife and I attended the Wells Fargo Iditarod banquet at the Sullivan Arena. It was terrific. Our favorite Iditarod mushers, Aliy Zirkle and her husband Allen Moore (who recently won the Cooper Basin 300, go Allen), were gracious enough to sit at our table. Both are funny, wonderful people. They own and operate the Skunk Place Kennel in Two Rivers, Alaska. Last year my wife, Becky, was lucky enough to win a spot as an Iditorider, i.e. she got to ride in the ceremonial start, about twenty miles from downtown Anchorage out to the Campbell Airstrip. She rode in Allen's sled and had a great time. The day before the Ceremonial Start, Aliy and Allen took my son and I for a sled dog ride around Campbell Airstrip. Think about that for a minute, the very next these two were about to embark on a epic dog sled race 1100 miles from Anchorage to Nome - and they took time out of their training schedule to give an eleven year old kid and his drooling fanboy father an hour long ride with their championship teams. Yeah, did I mention they are incredibly nice people?

Here's Becky, sitting in the sled in downtown Anchorage at the start of the 2007 race, that's my son standing next to her. Allen Moore is on the left in the musher bib, and that's Aliy's father standing on the sled brake to keep the team in place until the proper time (there's about twenty excited dogs hooked up, and they are like a souped 4x4 - talk about traction and pulling power!)




This year's race start is tomorrow, we'll be out there cheering them on. And Sunday is the restart (the real start of the race, on Nancy Lake about 40 miles north of my house here in Palmer). We'll be there too. Expect pictures.


Anyway, I'm headed back into Anchorage this morning to meet regular commenter Tania for lunch at the Moose's Tooth. I'm looking forward to it. Expect pictures (With Tania's permission, of course).

Back later.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Bowl Status

#42 just sold, so the only one I have left at the moment is #50 (which is an awesome, awesome, piece - so, you know, get it while you can).

Updated Original post is here, including pictures and links to #50 (which is still available).

NeuronDoc, the second piece you requested is done, except for some finishing work. It will be piece #51. Both #43 and #51 will be ready for shipment on Monday, 3 March. I'll email you with the details, and post pictures here and on my Flickr gallery.

For the others that have requested additional pieces, they're in progress and should be mostly done next week. I'll post details when I get closer to finishing them.

For those of you who have already purchased pieces, thank you, and they either shipped yesterday or are shipping today - in about an hour. They're coming via USPS, insured. Expect 6-10 days before the package arrives on your doorstep. I sincerely hope that they meet your expectations and that you enjoy my work. Thanks again.

I'll have more pieces available online in about two weeks.

#50, it's available. Just saying.

Who's da man! Yeah, that's right!

Stealing Procuring ideas from a fellow Chief is a time honored tradition in the US Navy.

As such, I stole this online quiz from Senior Chief Janiece at HotChicks, because it's just that damned cool.

I'm tickled by the results, I am.

I am:
Arthur C. Clarke
Well known for nonfiction science writing and for early promotion of the effort toward space travel, his fiction was often grand and visionary.


Which science fiction writer are you?



Arthur C. Clarke is one of my all time favorite writers. The scope and vision, the utter grandeur, of his work has always captivated me. When I finished 2001, Childhood's End, or The City and the Stars, I'd put the book down feeling as if my brain was sore, the way little used muscles are the day after a workout. Clarke is one of the few writers who can see a billion years into the future - and make you believe that he's been there.


Janiece, of course, is RAH - also a stellar (heh heh) choice. What about the rest of you?

-------------------------

I've got to go run some errands, but I was sitting here watching GWB on CNN talking about the economy. I think he's missing the causal effect of the economic downturn, in a major way - energy, and lack thereof of a practical and sustainable domestic energy policy - but that's not what got to me, it was GWB himself. He looks, hmmm, unwell. Pale, distracted, sickly - I mean significantly more than usual. He's always had an odd disjointed speech pattern, but today it's almost aphasic (or more properly, dysphasic), the way you'd see in post-stroke victims. It's strange, or stranger than usual. It may be that the interview wasn't scripted, but I think it's more than that. Yeah, just something else to worry about.

Off to the store, back in a bit.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

This month's interweeb meme

Steve Buccheit posted this meme on Story Bones, which he swiped from his pal Camille Alexa.

I thought you all might get a kick out of it, so I stole it.


In thirty-five questions, tell me about yourself. I'll go first:

1) Ever been in a relationship lasting over 5 years?
Yep - my wife and I have been married for 16 years, and we lived together for 6 months before that.

Other than that? No. In fact, up until I met my wife I was the poster-child for bad relationships, seriously. In order, I was involved with: an closet alcoholic (of the abusive kind), a cheating whore (really, later I found out she charged for it and eventually got pregnant, yet still claimed that she was a virgin), a raving hypochondriac (you have no idea), and a compulsive lier (of the major psychotic break kind) and yes, these were all different women. When I met my wife, I had sworn off relationships, forever. A friend kept trying to set me up with someone she knew. A blind date? Yeah, with my track record? But she kept at me and in order to get her to shut the hell up about it, I agreed, and that's how I met my wife.

2) What was one of your dreams growing up?
To live in Alaska. No, really.

3) What talent do you wish you had?
Musical ability. I am so lacking in musical ability that it defies description; I was the only Slug (Chief Petty Officer candidate) who was ordered not to sing during initiation.

4) If I bought you a drink what would it be?
Something Irish. Killians Irish Red Ale, ice cold, in a frosted pilsner glass. Or an Irish coffee.

5) Favorite books?
Nova, Samual Delany.
The Man Who Would Be King, Rudyard Kipling.
Ringworld, Larry Niven
The Dying of the Light, George RR Martin.
Star Hammer, Christopher B. Rowley
Farmer in the Sky (Star Scout), Robert Heinlein

6) What was the last book you read?
Second Genesis, Donald Moffitt

7) Astrology: Menace to science education or entertainment?
Menace, not to mention just plain goofy.

8) Any tattoos and/or piercings? Explain where.
No. Well I've had my hide pierced a number of times, but it was strictly unintentional.

9) Worst habit?
I used to smoke, my wife made me give it up 16 years ago. Nowadays, it's probably swearing, for which, as a Navy Warrant, I was widely admired. As a civilian, it's a much less impressive habit. I'm trying to give it up, at least in everyday speech.

10) Best attribute?
Loyalty.

11) What are your favorite hobbies?
Wood turning (didn't see that coming did you?)
Reading.
Blogging.
Photography.
Hiking.
Fishing.

12) Do you have a negative or optimistic attitude?
I'm on the fence, sometimes I'm incredibly optimistic, sometimes I'm a pessimist. It has to do with the things I can control - if I control the situation, I'm optimistic. But when it comes to things like politics and the economy and etc, not so much.

13) What would you do if you were stuck in an elevator with me?
If I like you, I'll talk your ear off. If I think you're a jerk, I'll beat you up and take your lunch money (really, I'd probably just ignore you, unless you piss me off).

14) Worst thing to ever happen to you?
Hmmm, that's hard to say. I've been in the midst of many strange and dangerous situations, but I survived them all, and learned things, and became a little wiser (maybe).

15) Best thing to ever happen to you?
Met my wife, whom I couldn't imagine life without, and had my son, whom I couldn't imagine life without. Doesn't get any better than that.

16) Tell me one weird fact about you.
I hate tomatoes, so does my wife. What are the odds that the only two people on the planet who detest that vegetable would hook up?

17) What if I showed up at your house unexpectedly?
I hope you like Killians Irish Red Ale.

18) What was your first impression of me? (Since I swiped this list from Camille Alexa's site, I'll answer her).
Uh, I don't know. I read your comments on Steve Buccheit's site and you seem like an interesting and intelligent person. Plus Steve likes you, so you're ok in my book.

19) What scares you?
The cat box.

20) If you could change one thing about how you are, what would it be?
I'd probably say that I'd like to be able to suffer fools gladly, but that would be a lie.

Truthfully if I could change anything, I'd probably have myself modified to replace my increasingly arthritic skeleton with an exotic alloy combat-chassis like the terminator. Oh, and I want my forearm to turn into a phased-plasma rifle, in the 30kilowat range, or a flamethrower. Then I'll be happy to suffer the fools, oh there'll be some suffering going on, gladly.

21) Would you be my crime partner or my conscience?
I'd be your conscientious crime partner.

22) What color eyes do you have?
Greenish blue gray. My driver's license just says "green."

23) Ever been arrested? If so, what for?
Yes, twice in one day as a matter of fact. In Louisiana, the backward-ass, xenophobic, inbred, six-toed, cousin-humping, sister-loving, cross-eyed baby having, corn pone, tire-swinging, rattletrap-truck driving, confederate flag-waving, grits-eating, trailer-park dwelling, rusty car park in the yard, three refrigerators on the front porch, ignorant, illiterate, uneducated, creationist science believing, bible-waving, mosquito-invested, alligator dodging, NASCAR worshiping, redneck capital of the universe. Reason? "Ya'll ain't from aroun' heaer is ya, boy?"

24) Favorite dessert?
Chocolate fudge cake with chocolate fudge ice cream on a chocolate fudge brownie with chocolate fudge pudding filling, smothered in chocolate fudge sauce covered in shaved chocolate - with a side of chocolate fudge. If that's not available, I'll take 'The Volcano' at any Rain Forest Cafe.

25) If you won $1000 today, what would you do with it?
Fill up my gas tank, twice.

26) Tell me something you want me to know about you.
I'm left handed.

27) What's your favorite place to hang out?
My woodshop.

28) Do you believe in ghosts? Aliens?
Ghosts? No. Aliens? It depends. Out there, somewhere, sure. Visiting us here? Not so much. And if they are coming here - well, I think they're not beings I'd want to know. I mean, come on, they cross umpty dozen light years to get here, traveling at or near light speed, years in transit, requiring more energy than the White House spends deleting it's email - and when they get here they mutilate cattle and have sex with Louisiana Rednecks who can't even get laid within their own species? Yeah, I'm going to take a pass on meeting the ET's.

29) Favorite thing to do in your spare time?
I don't have any spare time, but if I did, I'd probably spend it fantasizing about what I'd do if I had more spare time.

30) Do you swear a lot?
Fucking A.

31) Biggest pet peeve?
Deliberately stupid people. People who drive too slow in the fast lane. People who believe they were kidnapped by aliens. Creationists. Neo-con Republicans. People who don't know that Alaska is actually part of the United States. Tourists. Cell phones. Stupid tourists on cells phones. Wal-Mart. Women who carry little dogs in their purses. Guys who can't talk about anything other than sports, ever. Guys who brag about their conquests. NASCAR. Nancy Grace. The fact that my country is led by a power-mad idiot who resembles a chimp. And like that.

32) In one word, how would you describe yourself?
Contrary.

33) Do you believe in/appreciate romance?
Oui, mon cheri

34) Most unusual place you've had sex?
Maine.

35) Do you believe in an afterlife?
No. But I sure as hell believe in this one.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

How cool is this?

Yeah, I can totally buy this...



In bars frequented by colossal death robots, you're always the quiet guy at the back who no-one ever bothers. And for good reason. You've fought in several nuclear wars, could beat the sun in a staring match, and have a chin larger than many articles of furniture. Morals are not a concept you understand, but strangely enough, nobody ever questions your judgement. Usually because they're dead. Even Judge Dredd wets himself when you turn up. Grrrr.

ABC Warrior!
I am Ebola. Hear Your Organs Squelch.
Which Horrible Affliction are you?
A Rum and Monkey disease.



I love this survey. And as somebody over at Hotchicks said, clearly I have too much time on my hands.

Bowl Status

On the bowls:

Kate has not responded so, I'm making #50 available again (no problem, Kate, I can always make you another one in a similar form if you like, or you can grab it right now!).

So, as of right now I have the following pieces available:
#42 Hollowform filigree. $60, plus S&H
#50 Large shallow side, sculpted and filigree. $100, plus S&H

The original post is here, for those of you who have no idea what I'm going on about.

For those of you who have responded via PayPal email (Tom, where you at buddy?), your pieces will go out tomorrow, with the exception of Natalie. I'm finishing some additional work for her and all of her purchases will go out as a single package in order to reduce S&H costs.

And about that, Shipping and Handling. Yeah, $20 bucks is a bit high. But none of it goes in my pocket. That fee buys the shipping box and packaging and pays the USPS freight bill, which is the best option out of my neck of the woods. As I mentioned to some of you in email, cargo flights out of Anchorage can be a little rough, and the bowls, while not particularly fragile, have to be packed well, or you'll be getting a box of firewood. Fedex and UPS are the same, and twice as expensive, and I have to drive a long damned way to drop off packages to them - they won't come here to pick stuff up.

Anyway, there you go.

Now, off to the shop...

Another Upgrade

I'm a creature of habit, especially when it comes to technology.

And especially when it comes to software.

I tend to stick to things I know work for me.

I use MS Word as my word processor (oh, yeah! I'm a maverick, I am), and have for a long time. I stopped upgrading around 2003, I mean, seriously folks, how many enhancements to a word processor do you really need? Word 2003 has worked just fine for me for a long time. I used to do extensive relational database programming and I like Access a great deal, but again Access 2003 has worked just fine for me for, well, the last four years. Same with Outlook and PowerPoint (which I use for many things, including template and pattern making in the shop - no really, it works great for that, though I do feel a bit like a heretic saying so, I am a graduate of Professor Edward Tufte's courses after all, and Tufte considers PP to be the ultimate in Devil Spawn. In fact he and I got into an argument on that subject in the middle of one of his lectures, but I digress). And then there's MS OneNote, which I use on my tablet - for notes, organization, and data collation there's really nothing better suited to my mental process than OneNote. Especially on the tablet. My wife uses Excel (me, I have no use for spreadsheets, I hate them in point of fact, and I tend to make databases that do the same thing as a spreadsheet - only with much better interfaces). So, I prefer the Microsoft Office Professional package - and we've been using Office 2003 around Stonekettle Station for quite a while now.

There's a few bugs in the software though, and an especially annoying one in how Word works under the XP Tablet operating system. It has to do with mouse scrolling after an edit in fullscreen mode, and it irritates the crap out of me (as does any interruption when I'm writing). I've submitted bug reports over the years (I'm a registered MS beta tester), and I kept hoping the folks at Redmond would come out with a patch to fix it eventually. No such luck. And MS has recently announced that they will stop providing patches and upgrades for Office 2003. Sigh. I saw it coming, but still...

So, anyway, I decided it was time. Yesterday I finally got around to installing Microsoft Office Enterprise 2007, which includes Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook, Publisher, Access, OneNote, InfoPath, and Groove - whatever the hell that is.

Seriously Groove? I'm sure it's just me, but when I hear somebody from Redmond say the word 'groove' I picture the 1986 Prince's Charity Trust concert in Wembly, England. It was an all star rock concert given in support of the Prince of Wales' Charity Trust (oh, you thought I meant that Prince, uh, no. Shudder). Reason it springs to mind for me: Dire Straits accompanied by Sting and Eric Clapton were belting out Money for Nothing on stage. The sound coming from Knopfler's Fender Stratocaster was intense enough to induce nuclear fission, it was absolutely fucking incredible, and up in the Royal box Princess Diana and her girl pals were dancing their polka-dotted highborn asses off and everybody was having a blast. Next to them was his royal highness, Charles, Prince of Wales - with a pinched look on his face and an expression that said very clearly that he would rather have been just about anywhere else at that moment. Every once in a while he would stiffly move his shoulders, or bob his head - that's what I think of when I hear Bill Gates say the word 'groove' - Charles in a dark suit, trying to fit into a rock concert. (and now you have a frightening insight into how my mind works - I am nothing, if not a connection machine, but, see, OneNote allows me to organize that very process.)

Anyway, back to the upgrade. There's been a few changes in the last four years.

I've got it running on my big machine, under Vista Ultimate. The installation went smooth as silk, along with the registration process. With Vista, MS has made some real improvements to the embedded installer. The installation package automatically brought up the Window Update Control Panel and after my acknowledgment, downloaded the latest service pack and upgrades - again painless and easy. Though, if you don't have a high speed connection, you might want to skip this step - the download was 197MB.

The new software is certainly cool looking, that's for sure. Under the Vista Aero interface, the look and feel of each application is slick and glossy. And that's where I started having a bit of trouble. Being the aforementioned creature of habit, I'm used to having things in a certain way. And I've heavily customized my Office package over the years, with tools bars and macros. Of course, all of that customization didn't carry over to the new software. Drat. No problem, I figured, I've been using Office products for going on fifteen years, and somewhere in the past I was certified with the MCSE-I and MCSD qualifications - how different could it be?

A lot, actually.

First impressions:
1) It's going to take some serious getting used to. I'm not sure I like how the new menu system works - it took me twenty minutes to figure out where they'd hidden the 'options' dialog box, and it's not exactly obvious. What is obvious, is that MS doesn't want you fooling with their default settings, screw them, I want my software configured the way I want it. I paid for it, and I'll damn well use it the way I want to (and don't start with me about Linux or OSX, they're just as bone headed about this stuff).

2) In Word, the styles (fonts and their properties) are now graphically displayed across the top of the window. Yeah, I'm sure that sounded like a good idea, but come on, how many styles does the average user need in a document? One, maybe two? Seriously, is there anything more annoying and distracting than a document written by somebody who just has to use every font, bold, italic, underlining, color, size, and etc installed on the machine. Really? Well, yeah, sure it's handy if you're writing Neo-Con Republican viral email screed, but for the rest of us? I use one, maybe two, styles when I'm writing. If I'm writing technical papers in government format, I use maybe four styles. And I tie those styles to a button and put them on a button bar down the right side of my window. I don't need or want twenty different style icons displayed across the top of my screen. I want them to go away, and they won't.

Now, if you hover your mouse over them, they will preview the style in your document by changing the text, that's cool, I like that. But i want the bar to display only the styles I want, not take up screen space with every single damn style in the system. It may be possible to modify it, or make it go away entirely - but it sure isn't obvious.

3) In Word, full screen display - When I'm writing fiction, I want my screen to look like a sheet of paper. White background, black letters. Nothing else, no buttons, no icons, no menus, no window frames - full screen. That's what I want, the new version of it doesn't quite work for me. It'll display in full screen, and there's some cool new features, but there's still crap on the screen. OK, it's mostly unobtrusive, and I'm being petty about it, but it still bugs me.

For the most part, however, full screen is OK, and I'm sure I'll get used to it. I do like the ability to display multiple pages side by side on my big-ass wide-screen flat panel, though it does irk me that I can't display two pages at the same time with Ink and Comments turned on. I use comments to add notes to my text and I use Ink (pen enabled tablet handwriting) to add sketches or handwriting notes in the margins when I'm working on the tablet. I want to see those notes in the margin when I've got multiple pages up, and I can't. So I've got to go back to single page display, and that irritates me.

4) OneNote seems to be about the same, and that's good for me.

5) Access has been completely over hauled, and that's not so good for me. I don't have time to play with it right now, but I've got few projects coming up, so maybe I'll take the time this weekend and fool around with it.

6) Excel looks to operate about the same way, except that they've changed the menu system just as they did in Word (go figure).

7) Outlook 2007 I've used and it's OK. I do like the email summary popup and the integrated RSS reader.

8) PowerPoint is all fubarred up. I don't like it at all.

9) Groove? Yeah, I'll look at that later too, but I don't see much use for collaboration tools around here. I work alone, damnit.

Anyway, there you have it. As you might have figured out, I'm not getting much writing done this morning - and I've basically given up on it for today. I'll spend the rest of the morning fooling with Word and trying to get it customized to my liking. Then I can get back to finishing Chapter 22 tomorrow. Joy.

Monday, February 25, 2008

These are the Informations we need

I was cleaning out the Spam (OK, I was fishing through it looking for your emails) when I came across this:
-------------------
Your E-mail Account Is Having Problem With The Netherland (STMP ISP Server).
You E-mail Account will be close down any moment from now due to the Interrior
of ISP (221.174.1929) of your Storage Limit. If you don't want your E-mail
Address to be closed down, Send us your E-mail Account informations so
that we can verify the problem of your Account. These are the informations
we need from you in other for us to Activate your E-mail Account.

They are as Follows:
1. Username:
2. Password:
3. First Name:
4. Last Name:
5. Age:
6. Sex:

Contact The Administrator
E-mail: __________@hotmail.com
STMP ISP Server
Re: Os X Stmp/POP server
Archive - RE: [Oz-ISP] Mail STMP server
Netherland
-------------------
I dunno, it seems legit, and it has a lot of technical sounding words in it. And the Dutch are cool right?

I don't want any Interrior ISP problems with my storage limit, and I damn sure don't want my E-mail account to close down at any moment. I spotted the problem right away, my system is not configured to handle the unusual Nether-Regions non-octal 3-group IP Addressing scheme (221.174.1929), maybe they could download me a plug-in or something.

I sent them my username, password, first and last names, age, sex (yes, please), and just for good measure I included my picture, the name of my first pet, SSN, credit card numbers and banking info, and a DNA sample, because I want this matter cleared up right away. My God, what if I couldn't email the Netherlands? I mean, I don't know anybody there, but I like to keep my options open.



Seriously, who falls for this shit?

Bowl Status

Update:
I moved this post to the top of the queue, wasn't sure if everybody concerned was seeing it way down there below the Rondy post.

I've gotten a few confirmations, still waiting on others (that's ok, just keeping you all in the loop).


OK, this is what I have so far

#42 Available
#43 Rserved for NeuronDoc (confirmed)
#44 Reserved for Janiece (confirmed)
#45 Reserved for Tom (confirmed)
#48 Reserved for Tania
#49 Reserved for Becca
#50 Provisionally reserved for Kate

Additionally
- NeuronDoc has requested a duplicate of #43.
- Anne C. has requested a piece similar to #45, with some additional specifications
- Shawn Powers has requested a duplicate of #48.
I'll get to work on those this week, expect at least two weeks before completion.

Note to Kate: Anne C. has requested some special work and has noted in comments that if you are still interested in #50, it is yours. I'll hold it for you until 0800ATZ, 26 Feb (Tuesday). If you haven't spoken for it by then, I'll mark it as available to all again. No pressure tactics here, just want to make sure you get it if you want it.

If I missed something, or there are any problems, corrections, second thoughts with the above, so note in the comments - or drop me an email.

All who have a piece reserved, please email me at jlwright@gci.net, including the following:
- "Birch Bowl" in the subject line
- Payment method you prefer, i.e. paypal email, or check via snail mail.
- the address you want the piece shipped to

Yes, I know some of you have already emailed me, please, do it again. I didn't quite get the spam filter programming right, most of you ended up getting eaten be the moat monster. I've managed to retrieve most, I think, but I can't be sure (I've been getting spammed hard the last couple of days and the queue overflowing with enough male-enhancement to jump-start Dick Cheney)


I'll have more pieces available probably once or twice a month, depending.

And thank you all, for your interest and comments.

Just another day in Anchorage

I mentioned yesterday, we spent a gloriously sunny Sunday afternoon in Anchorage at the Fur Rendezvous.

For those of you from more mundane places, the Fur Rendezvous - or Fur Rondy, or more often just 'the Rondy' - is a two week long winter festival held annually in downtown Anchorage in one form or another since about 1935 (except for during WWII. Portions of the Alaskan territory had been invaded and Anchorage was an Army camp on the edge of the Pacific theater then, and a damned serious place). For us, it signals the end of the long dark winter months and the coming Break-up (we don't have 'spring' here, the foul brown and muddy period between Winter [yes, with a capital 'W'] and summer is called Break-up. Yep, you just learned something).

The term 'Fur Rendezvous' comes from the old semi-annual gatherings where trappers would come to the ice-free anchorage on Cook Inlet in order to sell their winter fur harvest, buy supplies, drink, socialize (read that as fight, weapons optional), get one of their twice annual hot baths, see a show, and maybe get down and do the wild thing with some of the local ladies. Nowadays, there's still a lot of socializing and drinking, a bit of fur trading and selling, and rumor has it that more than a few are still getting down with the wild thing. There's a carnival, and good food, and snow and ice sculpting contests, dog sledding, and reindeer in the streets. All of which leads to the biggest annual event in Alaska, the Iditarod Sled Dog Race - 1100 miles from Anchorage to Nome through some of the roughest territory on the planet. It's one of my favorite times of the year, here in Alaska - and if the crowds are any indication, it's pretty damned popular with everybody else too.

As is our habit, we parked at the Anchorage train station near the port, in order to avoid the traffic and the expense of downtown parking. That's the train station and beyond it is the Port of Anchorage, check out those ice cubes in the water. Makes me cold just looking at it. The long covered stairway leads up from the station to 3rd Street, in the middle of downtown.


Since we were at the train station, we started with the snow sculptures, which are over in the train yard to the right of the station, out of frame in the above picture.

This was one of the better sculptures, title Space Picnic, and sponsored by my favorite communications company (who has kindly kept my connection up this morning, long enough to upload this post, yah GCI). Over the astronaut's left should is my son acting like a twelve year old, and my wife:


After the snow sculptures, we visited the train station and wandered through the model railroading tables - which my son and I always enjoy. Then we tramped up the stairs to the 3rd Street carnival (that's Becky in the red Iditorider jacket, and Jimmy in the skater punk hat, bottom left):


Jimmy got his highly anticipated caramel apple:


The wife and I settled for Starbucks.


We stopped by the 3rd Street Fur Auction and watched millions of dollars worth of animal hair change hands and listen to the auctioneer. Probably not something you see at a festival outside of Alaska. We don't get much in the way of protesters here, and the pelts are gorgeous. In the below picture Linux guy (the gent in the red hat - get it?) is holding up a matched pair of Arctic fox winter pelts - I think they went for $150 a piece, which is a damned good price. A dozen more and you'll have fine warm coat. These will probably end up as hats.

Behind the Fur Auction was the native blanket toss, where the kids where 'getting some air' the old fashioned way:


Then on to the main event, 4th Street. Bet the main street in your town doesn't look like this:

Normally 4th Street is filled with cars, and we do plow it occasionally. During Rondy, snow is trucked in and about ten blocks of it becomes the domain of the mushers and their dogs. In two week the Iditarod ceremonial start will take place right here. The dog teams on the street today won't be in that race, those guys are out training right now. For those you not familiar with mushing, those are dog sled trucks parked on the far side of the street, the sleds go on top and the dogs each go in a side dog box. They're a common sight around here this time of year:


My son, drinking hot chocolate next to one of Anchorage's weirder sculptures.

This year there was something new - the Reindeer Run. Hmmm. OK. See basically the idea is that 2000 fools paid $20 to run in the street with about ten Reindeer, ala the Running of the Bulls in Pamplona, Spain. Couple of problems here, the biggest being that reindeer are the small sheep-like, passive, domesticated versions of caribou. Aggressive? Nope. Excitable? No, not really. Mostly they stood around - and it took a guy out front with a bucket of grain and several plucky folks behind with spray bottles full of wolf piss to get them to do more than just stand around and watch the crowd curiously. Basically, it ended up being a large mob of people running down 4th Street with a couple of reindeer tagging along like dogs at the start of the Boston Marathon.

But it was fun anyway, in a uniquely Anchorage sort of way, and we had a blast:

Everybody enjoyed it, including this dog - who had one hell of a sense of balance. He sat, lay down, and walked along that very narrow handrail for a full hour, watching the Reindeer Run and the people below, and you could tell he was enjoying himself immensely (don't worry, his owners were up there with him, and he was obviously very used to it and knew exactly what he was doing).



Anyway, we had a great day and didn't get home until late. If you're ever in Alaska in the dead of the arctic winter, make sure you get to the Rondy, you won't regret it.

Two weeks to the Iditarod. Can't wait.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Rendezvous, oh yeah.

We're off to the Fur Rondy this morning.

I look forward to this all winter. Fur Rondy means that the Iditarod is only two weeks away. The Fur Rondy/Iditarod is one of my two favorite Alaskan events, the other being the State Fair.

And it's a perfect day, reasonably warm and sunny. I don't know that I've ever been to a Rendezvous in sunshine, usually it's snowing and sleeting sideways. So this will be a new experience.

I'll take pictures and post a few, just for you.

We'll be gone all day, so don't expect to hear from me before this evening (my time).

Go, enjoy the weekend with your families.
------------------------

Anyway, I'll check the bowl post when I get home, sometime this evening and confirm your selections.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Get your lathe turned genuine Alaskan birch bowls here

(updated: availability of each piece is current as of 3/17/08)

Yes, after much delay, many excuses, internet connection issues, uncooperative Alaskan weather, a hosed up PayPal account, and a broken nail, I am finally ready.

Thanks for being (mostly) patient.

OK, this is the first time I've sold my stuff over the internet, so there may be a few bugs. Apologies in advance. As I noted previously, I'm a bit leery of doing things this way. I'm quite confident in my abilities and the quality of the bowls, however I think there's a huge difference between looking at a couple of pictures on a computer screen and holding the actual piece in your hand, especially if you've shelled out your hard earned moola for it. So, I've tried to make as much info available to you as possible, and if you do decide to purchase one of my pieces I hope you enjoy it and consider it worth the price you paid.

Here's how it works:

1) I've listed the pieces I currently have available below. Each piece is numbered and linked to a hi-res Flickr picture gallery. Prices are listed, along with shipping and handling.

2) If you're interested in a piece, so note in the comments section below, refer to the piece you're interested in by it's number. First come, first served - I don't like doing it that way, because I think it's a bit unfair to anybody who doesn't check my site every ten minutes, but I don't want to do the bidding thing, and I can't think of a better way to do it at the moment. So, whoever posts first, gets the piece. You may call dibs on one bowl. After 24 hours, you may call dibs on another one, if it's still available. I will confirm your selection in a follow up comment.

Note: Some of you have previewed my Flickr gallery and sort of staked out your claims. That's OK, and I'd ask everybody to be respectful of other's who have expressed interest in a particular piece. However, and again, first come gets first dibs.

2a) If you really want something, and somebody beats you to it, so note in the comments section. Try not to be all whiny about it, loser. I'll make you a another, similar piece. Note: you see how fast I get things done, so figure it'll be at least two weeks before I can complete your request. Just saying. And no, you do not have to pay me in advance - if I get it done and you decide not to buy it, I can always sell it locally, I've got more buyers than I've got pieces (yeah, tourist season is coming up).

3) There's two methods of payment, the quick and easy get-your-artwork-before-you-know-it email method, and the slow and painful mail-me-a-check-and-wait-method. Your choice. The email method works like this, once I've confirmed your selection in the comments thread, you'll email me and I'll reply with a PayPal enabled email. You'll be able to then connect to the secure PayPal site and pay either by using your own PayPal account or by credit card. You may also mail me a check or money order. I'll provide you with my mailing address if you choose this method.

4) The bowls: Because I work in green heartwood, all of the bowls may change shape slightly depending ambient temperature and humidity. The hollowforms should hold their shape fairly well, but the straight sided, shallow walled designs will become slightly oval, some more than slightly, depending on the wood and a number of other factors - I consider this a feature, not a bug. These pieces are made from living, organic materials and if you want something that is, and remains, perfectly geometric - these are probably not for you. Additionally, each piece will contain small checks (cracks running across the grain), these are naturally occurring imperfections, caused by flex (wind and felling) damage to the tree and by drying wood. The cracks and checks have been sealed and will not get any larger or weaken the bowl. Again, I consider these features, not defects, and they add to the character of the piece.

Birch Bowl #42

Status: Reserved
Full image gallery for this piece here.
Description: Green turned Alaskan birch heartwood. Hollowform design. The sides are relief sculpted to emphasize the complex heartwood grain pattern, and then filigreed along the grain lines. In strong overhead light, the filigree and grain patterns suggest swirling white water. This is a display piece and not intended for practical use. It is finished in tung oil and a tough glossy acrylic that should last for many years.
Diameter 7" Height 5.5"

Price: $60 USD, plus $20 S&H

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Birch Bowl #43

Status: Sold
Full image gallery for this piece here.
Description: Green turned Alaskan birch heartwood. Hollowform design. Some slight sculpting and filigree which emphasizes the wood's natural grain patterns. This is a display piece and not intended for practical use. There a two checks on the interior surface, both are sealed and stable. It is finished in tung oil and a tough glossy acrylic.
Diameter 7.5" Height 5.5"

Price: $60 USD, plus $20 S&H

---------------------------------------------------
Birch Bowl #44


Status: Sold
Full image gallery for this piece here.
Description: Green turned Alaskan birch heartwood. Hollowform design. The sides are deeply relief sculpted to emphasis the extensive heartwood grain pattern. The walls are thicker than I usually make them, in order to support the deep sculpting. As a result this piece is heavier than it would appear, it has plenty of heft and is not very delicate. This is a display piece and not intended for practical use, though due to it's weight, would make a good vase for dried flowers or such. It is finished in tung oil and a tough glossy acrylic.
Diameter 7" Height 5.5"

Price: $60 USD, plus $20 S&H

---------------------------------------------------
Birch Bowl #45


Status: Sold
Full image gallery for this piece here.
Description: Green turned Alaskan birch heartwood. The sides are relief sculpted to emphasis the extensive heartwood grain pattern. Complex filigree swirls around the bowl. This is a display piece and not intended for practical use. It is finished in tung oil and a tough glossy acrylic.
Note: I love this piece. The pictures don't do it justice. Under strong, white light it is simply amazing.
Diameter 7" Height 5.5"

Price: $65 USD, plus $20 S&H

---------------------------------------------------
Birch Bowl #48


Status: Sold
Full image gallery for this piece here.
Description: Green turned Alaskan birch heartwood. This piece was made from wood harvested near Big Lake, Alaska. The tree was damaged in the 1998 Houston/Big Lake fire, and portions of the bowl rim and sides reflect this damage. There is also some slight spalting and other very interesting features. The simple shallow bowl design is intended to emphasis the unique beauty of this wood. The sides are very slightly relief sculpted to emphasis the grain pattern. It is finished in Danish and walnut oils and a tough glossy acrylic.

Diameter 8" Height 3"

Price: $70 USD, plus $20 S&H

---------------------------------------------------
Birch Bowl #49



Status: Sold
Full image gallery for this piece here.
Description: Green turned Alaskan birch heartwood. This piece was made from wood harvested in South Central, Alaska. This is a large piece and the heartwood grain patterns resemble the magnetic field lines in solar flare pictures, at least they do to me. The sides are relief sculpted to emphasis the warm yellow grain patterns, which contrast sharply with the darker sapwood. It is finished in Danish and walnut oils and a tough glossy acrylic.

Diameter 10" Height 4.5"

Price: $100 USD, plus $20 S&H

---------------------------------------------------
Birch Bowl #50

Status: Sold
Full image gallery for this piece here.
Description: Green turned Alaskan birch heartwood. This piece was made from wood harvested in South Central, Alaska. This is natural edge bowl, in others words the rim is shaped by the curve of the original log. There is a strip of smooth bark wood along a portion of the rim. The sides are relief sculpted, and then filigreed. It is finished in Danish and walnut oils and a tough glossy acrylic.

Diameter 9" Height 4"

Price: $100 USD, plus $20 S&H


----------------------

That's it for the moment. I will have some additional pieces available later this week. Now that I've got a process established it'll be a whole lot easier. About once a month, I will post what I have available.

Just one of those days

Okay, folks, I have to run up to customer service at my ISP, I'll be back in a while. And I have to go now, because that's the way it is. So, it'll be a bit on the bowl post.

Now, about the bowls, I'm in the process of uploading hi-res pictures to my Flickr Pro account. It's taking a while. You may view what's up right now by going here.

I'm a bit reluctant to sell my stuff this way, because it is so difficult for you to tell exactly what you're getting from a picture on the internet. Art is funny that way. I don't want anyone who buys my stuff to be disappointed, or to feel like they've been cheated. Therefor I want to make sure you have high resolution pictures and complete descriptions of what you're buying. And that's taking a while, and yes I'm being anal about it and that's making it take longer.

The rest of the pictures will be up in a couple of hours. Then I'll post low-res pictures here, along with a detailed description of each piece, and it's price. Number 44 has been reserved for Murph Da Mick, though she is entitled to change her mind about it. As to the rest of them, before deciding if you want one, wait until I finish uploading the rest of the pictures please. Then I'll describe how you may purchase one and who gets what. And here's the thing, if you want something, but somebody else beats you to it, tell me and I will make you a similar piece - only better. So no need for trampling, elbowing, and Who Concert Behavior (and if you don't get that, it's because you're not old enough, and you can keep that shit to yourselves).


Back in a bit

Friday, February 22, 2008

Bowl Update(d)

They're done. Mostly.

I've got to run up and get my kid from school.

After that I'll take the pictures and get the post together.

Woohoo!

---------------
Udate: I'm working on it. I swear to God, if I have to stay up to midnight, I'll get this post up tonight - or tomorrow morning.

But, I had a couple of unexpected events happen in the last couple of hours. Nothing earth shaking, just had to go help out a couple of people and had a couple of phone calls. Right now I'm fixing dinner, so it will be ready when my lovely wife gets home (Roasted Chicken, mashed potatoes, stuffing - and that take precedence over the bowls. Hungry Wife = Mean. And I have to live with her, it's the law. The worst you people can do is call me names).

So, after dinner I'll go finish the pictures and work on the post.

It will be up tonight (even if I have to back date the post tomorrow).

Not safe for children - woohoo!

This rating was determined based on the presence of the following words:
  • hell (6x)
  • torture (5x)
  • dick (4x)
  • dangerous (3x)
  • suck (2x)
  • bitches (1x)
Uh, dangerous? Hmm, OK.

What about the other words I use on a fairly regular basis? Words such as the vulgar forms of fornication and the human digestive system evacuation orifice? And I'm pretty sure my use of Dick refers to the diminutive of Richard, not the male reproductive organ. Just saying.
-------------
Anyway, I've got to run up to the store for a minute. Then I'll finish some touch up work and photograph the bowls. Then, if my connection is still up, and stays up long enough, I'll upload the pictures and prices, etc. Back in a bit.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

On the nature of Trolls

I haven't visited the Whatevereque in a while, for reasons I've mentioned elsewhere.

But, as one of the original members of the forum and as what was once one of it's most prolifically posting commenters, I feel a certain compulsion to to stick my head in every once in a while and see if the situation has improved.

So I did, and it has not. If fact, I think it's gotten worse.

A number of juvenile, asinine dickheads have taken up residence, and they seem to be attracting more juvenile, asinine dickheads. You simply can't have a decent conversation without these trollish children sticking their dirty noses into it. When they can't find a suitable thread for their obnoxious bullshit, they start one. I've used the 'enemies' function to suppress comments from people that I find idiotic, annoying, stupid, disruptive, and just plain obnoxious - and that doesn't leave much. This irritates me, tremendously, because the place was interesting and just plain fun before the population turned into the IMDB comment thread.

I've noticed a few things:
1) Almost without exception, people who engage in trollish behavior use online handles instead of their names. I find this fairly telling. I suspect that in real life they are unhappy, friendless jerks of the sort who believe that it's the rest of the world who is responsible for their misery. Without exception, trolls lack respect for any opinion other than their own, even if a commenter agrees with them. The very fact that there are opinions other than their own seems to make them insane, and they immediately resorted to bluster, name calling, and empty threats. However, I suspect that in real life they are timid cowardly creatures who can only find their courage when hiding behind the anonymity of pseudonyms. I suspect that in real life, they are the type of people who lie about themselves, their experience, their past - to make themselves seem more interesting, more important, or more credible than everyone else around themselves. I suspect that as a species, trolls hate themselves even more than they hate others, and the only thing that keeps them from slitting their own throats is the belief that the world simply couldn't survive without them - I think they regard their behavior as a public service.
2) I find trollish pseudonyms enlightening. Take 'Sgt E" for example in the above 'e' link. Here's a guy who by his own admission, was in the Marines for about ten years, leaving the service about ten years ago. Yet he still identifies himself by his (assumed) former military rank. I suspect, though I don't know him personally (and really, really wouldn't want to), that he is one of those blowhard assholes who demands respect and attention for his service all those years ago. I suspect he is one of those annoying vets who constantly brings up his former military experience, regardless of it's relevancy, in every conversation - because it's the only thing he has. By his own admission his experience in the combat zone was brief and limited, and is now a decade or more out of date - yet he considers himself an expert in all things military, or even vaguely military related, or anything not military related. It's fairly apparent to me that he considers his former service as a trump card in any conversation, military related or not. I know a few folks like this, and they are without exception avoided by everybody around them. I suspect that the online community is the only form of sustained interaction they get.
3) Trolls, as a group, seem to require validation. They constantly list their (supposed) credentials, relevant to the situation or not. I.e. "As a former National Guard supply clerk, short order cook, IT Wizard, and dog groomer I'm sure everyone will agree with me when I say your opinion of The Princess Bride theme song is totally lame and that you are stupid and ugly." There are times when your background is relevant and it is necessary to state your experience in a conversation - but trolls do it in almost every post. This, to me, speaks volumes about their lack of self worth and self confidence.
4) Trolls seem to require conflict. They seem to be incapable of interacting with other people on any kind of equitable or respectful basis. I suspect that in real life, they are the annoying dickheads who manage to insinuate themselves into every meeting or presentation and who constantly argue over minor points and throw up roadblocks until you just want to beat them over their square heads with the powerpoint projector.
5) Trolls are incapable of letting go. They must always have the last word. They must. Have the last word. Always. Must.
6) Trolls cannot admit error. They may start out sounding fairly reasonable, but they will inevitably, and in short order, resort to the most inane and bizarre rationalizations to justify their positions. They consider themselves intellectuals, and they'll link and quote and cherry pick any source to make their point. The argument, whatever it may be, is the single most important thing in their pitiful lives, if they lose, they lose it all.
7) Trolls have no sense of humor, they are deadly serious about everything - even humor.
8) Trolls always, without exception, consider themselves 'students of the human condition.' When called on their obnoxious behavior by a third party, they will invariably reply that they are just trying to provoke a 'real' response in their targets in order to 'understand the situation better.' They consider their bile and vitriol justified because they are 'trying to cut through the bullshit and get to the heart of the matter.'
9) Trolls consider politeness and respect to be the purview of small minds and the weak. A real man speaks his mind, bluntly, and lets the chips fall where they may. If you're offended by anything a troll says, it's your failing, not his.
10) Trolls are offended by anything and everything, no matter what the subject or the context. Trolls can twist any off-hand comment into a personal insult. When countered, Trolls will inevitably decide that even though they aren't insulted per se, the commenter has insulted a large group that they're a part of, i.e. Dog Groomers, Evangelicals, the Marines, America, Martian Americans, something, and it is the Troll's civic duty to take up the sword in the offended party's defense.


One of the reasons I've never made the effort to expand my reader base, is because I don't want these trollish idiots showing up on my electronic doorstep. I like you people, I think you're fun and interesting. Scalzi often says that his readers are just words on a screen to him, he's not being an ass, that's just how he feels about it and with 50K plus readers a day I can understand why. But for me, you people are a bit more than that, and I enjoy the sense of community I get from our interactions and I won't allow Stonekettle Station to turn into the shit flinging monkey fest I see over on the Whateversque. I've had a few trolls around here; you might not have noticed them, because I delete their bullshit without comment as soon as I notice it, along with the spam.

No snappy wrap up, I just thought it needed to be said, again.

Please Stand By, Again

My internet connection is blinking in and out.

We're now in the third week of my ISP's area upgrade.

In addition to the server issues, I've had a rather large number of cable company workers roosting on top of the utility poles in my neighborhood for the last several days.

Sigh.

I can't really complain, they gave me a month's credit on my cable and internet service. But, damn, I wish they'd get this job done soon.

Anyway, if you don't hear from me for the next couple of hours, it's because somebody pulled my plug. Look at the bright side, it just means I can start drinking early today - ur, I mean I can take the time to finish those bowls. Yeah, that's what I meant. They should be basically done today. I'll get them photographed this afternoon and up for your perusal tomorrow morning.

Unless my ISP has other plans.

Space Cowboys

The USS Lake Erie shot down a falling satellite on the first try.

Man I love typing that.

Having been part of a number of missile shoots myself, I can say that unless you've done it you just can't imagine the shear number of things that can go wrong in a "normal" intercept. To take out an orbital target with a single interceptor, that's just plain friggin' incredible.

Well done, Lake Erie.

Hopefully COMTHIRDFLT will allow them to paint a satellite on their bridge wing.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Man Stuff

Parent/Teacher conferences yesterday and today.

My wife and I went yesterday. Kid's doing great, except for failing to turn in a couple of assignments. He's a much better student than I ever was.

So anyway, my son has had a four day weekend. Wonderful. Frankly I'm surprised he's even getting an education, considering the number of days off the kids have in Middle School.

To make matters worse, once again it was unseasonable warm today, and it rained, again, all day. Which meant he couldn't play outside. None of his friends could come over. So about noon he became unbearably bored.

Well, hell. I keep promising to teach him how use the big scroll saw, so...

The scroll saw is a good place for kids to start learning their way around a shop. As stationary tools go, it's pretty safe when run at low speed. It's easy to control, and easy to supervise. He's already pretty familiar with shop safety and we spent an hour going over the machine until I was confident he knew how to operate it correctly.

Here's my son practicing on a piece of MDF. He was cutting out the letters of his name. Pretty good for a kid that had just learned how to use the machine.




Working on smaller, finer detail pieces after a change to the wire bi-directional blade.

He's even got the official 'woodworking face' down pat.

Anyway, it was a fun day. I managed to finish a few more bowls. Two days and I'll be able to post picture and prices. Sooner if it becomes less damp out.

Hell of a morning

Wow, Fidel Castro has resigned.

Amazing.

Well, OK, it's not all that amazing I suppose, he's 81, he hasn't be seen in public in 19 months, he's sick and feeble. But, still, he's been in power for 49 years, he's an institution on the world stage. I always figured he'd die in office, somehow I could never see the old guerrilla resigning.

My dad was stationed in Cuba in the mid 50's, and according to him actually met Castro and his brother Raul, in the period sometime after the disastrous Moncada Barracks attack and before the beginning of the 26th of July Movement. Here's a shot of my dad from around that time, circa 1954 or so. My dad would have been about 18 or so, and he's standing in front of the EM Club on Guantanamo Naval Base. What a punk.



Anyway, I admit to harboring a sneaking admiration for Castro. Oh, stop it. I don't admire his politics or the crimes he committed against his own people, or all the subversive Marxist crap he instigated in Latin America - or the fact that he always looked like he needed a hot shower. In fact, there's a hell of a lot of things about him I don't admire. Still, here's a guy who has managed to be a thorn in the side of every US President since Eisenhower, despite everything those powerful men could throw at him. Ten US Presidents now have been confounded by this tinpot dictator from some dinky island banana republic. They tried everything to get rid of him, from poisoned cigars to invasion to embargo to sactions - nothing worked, Castro shrugged off the CIA and everybody else. Ten Presidents have had to put up with the results of Eisenhower's idiotic foreign policy and his decision to back the Batista coup in order to keep the sugar and the profits flowing. It has always amused me, because instead of learning from that lesson, every single one of the last nine Presidents has gone on to make nearly the same mistake - in fact, Cuba could be considered a template for our foreign policy in the third world, i.e. back the corrupt dictator until he either turns on us, or is overthrown by a regime that is, for some strange reason, utterly hostile to us, we'll call that 'promoting democracy.' And it's worked like a charm in Cuba, Vietnam, Panama, El Salvador, Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, and yeah, etc and etc.

I've always thought that Castro was like one of those Voodoo dolls that are so popular in his part of the world. As long as he's in power, we're stuck making the same mistakes over and over.

Maybe now that he's gone the curse will be broken.

Probably not, I expect he'll be laughing at us from beyond the grave, but I can hope. Right?


-------------------
Speaking of dictators:
- Musharraf (a 'Key Ally' in the War on Terror) conceded Pakistan's elections this morning. We'll see if he actually gives up power, and if he doesn't - well, one guess as to what our reaction will be, I mean he's a key ally and all.
- The US Supreme Court (also a 'Key Ally' in the War on Terror) conceded it's power this morning by refusing to hear an ACLU suit against warrantless wiretapping. In your basic catch-22, the court said unless the ACLU could prove the wiretapping, the court wouldn't hear the case. The proof is, of course, classified. So, unless NSA or the phone companies decide to incriminate themselves - no case. Yeah, way to go there, SCOTUS, way to go. Well, look at it this way, the whole concept of 'Checks and Balances' will be a lot easier to teach in the schools:

Teacher, "Who can explain the role of the Supreme Court in the US Government?"
Little George, "Uh, it's a joke?"
Teacher, "Very good, Little George."

Monday, February 18, 2008

President's Day

Crap.

I should be out in the shop already.

I should be writing.

I should be doing a number of things I've been putting off.

But, see, there's a Firefly marathon on the scifi channel, and the evil bastards have seen fit to include the Whedon's original pilot. Damnit, damnit, damnit.

I have the complete set, in HD, but still, it's on TV right now.


Happy President's Day - for what it's worth.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Update on the bowls

I know, I promised to post pictures and prices of my current work by this weekend.

Obviously I have not done so.

That's because I'm not done yet. The environment is not cooperating.


What does the environment have to do with it? A lot, actually. See, this time of year it's normally very, very dry - humidity wise - in my shop. Because normally this time of year in South Central Alaska it's 20 to 30 degrees below zero outside. This week the weather has been bizarrely unseasonal, to put it mildly. Today, for example, it was 40F, and it rained - poured actually - all day.

Because I work in green wet wood, which is normally cut from frozen logs stored outside my shop, the wood needs to dry a certain extent after turning, before I can do the finishing work. This time of year, that normally happens pretty quickly, sometimes too quickly and I have to take precautions to keep the wood from cracking if it dries too fast. Right now that's not a problem, because I can barely get the wood to dry in the first place. Also, because I use a combination of oil saturation and water based acrylic finish, ambient moisture has a huge effect on how quickly each application sets and dries. Normally, this time of year, the oil coats will dry within six hours. Right now, it's taking about twenty four hours. I need to apply several applications. Then about ten coats of water-based acrylic, which cannot be applied before the oil is 100% dry. The acrylic normally dries within an hour, today it's taking much, much longer. I've got fifteen bowls out in the shop, in various stages of completeness - all of which are taking much longer than I planned on.

Blame the weather.

Anyway, just as soon as I'm finished I will post the pictures and the prices. A couple of days maybe.

Sorry, but you know how it is - you must suffer for your art.

Y'all ain't from aroun' heaer, is ya?

I love online quizzes. Probably because I enjoy screwing up the bell curve; I almost never fit into one of the pre-defined categories. I used to love taking the Meyers-Briggs battery, because I inevitably skewed the results for the entire test bank (I also think that MB is total crap, and about as accurate as tea-leaf reading).

I came across this quiz on Saqid's I don't know. There some interesting insights there, and some cool pictures. Go check it out.


Anyway, in this case, the quiz is pretty damned accurate. I was born and raised in western Michigan, right smack in the middle of the area of right speaking peoples. And, I lived for a number of years in New England, Down East Maine to be exact, land of incomprehensibly speaking people. Just saying.

What American accent do you have? (Best version so far)

Northern

You have a Northern accent. That could either be the Chicago/Detroit/Cleveland/Buffalo accent (easily recognizable) or the Western New England accent that news networks go for.

Personality Test Results

Click Here to Take This Quiz
Brought to you by YouThink.com quizzes and personality tests.



________________________

Still working in the shop. I'll have pictures and prices up late this afternoon. Promise (you can't see my fingers crossed behind my back, can you?)

Saturday, February 16, 2008

You know what makes me laugh?

This:

Berkeley spent $93,000 on police overtime to control the Marine protesters outside of City Hall Tuesday.

$93,000.

And now you know the price for acting like idiots. Way to go Berkeley. Seriously, you people really might want to think about replacing your town council - or running Code Pink out of town. Just saying.

-----------------

I slept in this morning, which I almost never do - just because I felt like it.

I'm in the shop this morning, finishing your bowls.

More later.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Various and Sundry and a couple of predictions

First the various and sundry:

1) As I mentioned in the comments under yesterday's post, I intend to dissect Former Colorado Governor, Richard Lamm's infamous 2004 speech I have a Plan to Destroy America. This nonsense has been making the rounds on conservative and xenophobic websites for the last three years. It is wrong in almost every respect, and I'll justify that assessment in detail.

However, I don't have time this morning.

I want to be fair and accurate, and that means a certain level of research and analysis, which is going to take me some time. Which I don't have at the moment. So, I'll be working on that this evening. Expect the post tonight or tomorrow (Yes, I know you're excited and eager, go play outside for a while and settle down).

2) Part of the reason I don't have time this morning is that I promised earlier in the week that I'd have bowls available this weekend. As such, I need to finish them. And photograph them. And get them priced. And etc.

3) It snowed last night. A lot. Again. I have to go plow before I can do anything else. This will take a while.

4) After I plow I have to run some errands. The roads suck, because it snowed last night. A lot. Again. Therefor and undoubtedly the errands will take twice as long as I have time for.

5) I got a new shop toy yesterday, I want to play with it a bit. Yes, I'm selfish that way.



Now the predictions:

1)
Situation: Congressional Democrats have stated publicly that Waterboarding is torture, along with several other 'enhanced interrogation' techniques. They have drafted a bill that would outlaw the practice, and direct that the CIA must adhere to the US Army Field Manual which forbids such techniques. The President has vowed to veto this bill.

Prediction: The Democrats will wail and shout and sing and dance. They will thump their fleshy chests and make impassioned speeches. They will send the bill to the White House, the President will veto it. Congressional Democrats will then fold like the limp noodles they are - and they'll give the President everything he wants.

2)
Situation: Congressional Democrats are holding up renewal of the Protect America Act, which authorizes US intelligence agencies to, amongst other things, spy on Americans without a warrant. Democrats aren't particularly concerned about this, their beef revolves around a provision in the bill which grants immunity to communications companies who cooperate with the National Security Agency. They have removed this provision from the bill, and refuse to renew the law if it is included. The White House, of course, wants it left in - why, I'll leave as an exercise for the reader. If Congress sends the bill to the White House without the provision of immunity, the President claims he will veto it.

Prediction: The Democrats will wail and shout and sing and dance. They will thump their fleshy chests and make impassioned speeches. They will send the bill to the White House, the President will veto it. Congressional Democrats will then fold like the limp noodles they are - and they'll give the President everything he wants.

And there you have it. More later.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Yes, More Head 'Splodery

[Caution, really long post containing things that make my head explode to follow. However, I suspect you all will be mildly amused, just saying]

[Updated: I had originally posted the first draft of my reply letter, which I copied before I sent it. I fiddled with the letter a bit, adding a couple of items and rewording a few things, but forgot to recopy it to the blog. Because I know that you, Dear Reader, demand accuracy - I have updated the post with a copy of the actual letter. It is essentially the same, just a bit more refined.]


As I mentioned previously, I seem to have somehow given the impression to a number of neo-con jackasses that I am one of them. One in particular, the local Scout Master, just will not a take a hint, and continues to forward me right-wing alarmist spam. This irritates me. And, as most of you know, irritate me enough and eventually I reach a point where I stop being a polite civilian and revert to mean, nasty, brutally blunt Warrant Officer mode.

Today is that day.

First the original email in it's original (mostly) format. I did make the font smaller, since it was originally about 24pt - you can thank me later. CK is the neo-con jackass in question. He has the annoying habit of abbreviating names and big words, and using symbols and numbers instead of spelling things out. Mostly, I believe, because he is a) afraid of computers and teh gay interweebs, and b) because he types like a one fingered three-year old. I've seen this dreck before, but when it ends up in my box with a caveat to 'mull it over and ACT', yeah, the internal pressure in my brainium starts to fizz and bubble:

__________________
All,
... mull this over & ACT.
CK
-----Original Message-----
From:
Sent: Tuesday, February 12, 2008 4:57 PM
Subject: America's Suicide

This is an interesting must read!

Subject: America's Suicide

Wherever you stand, please take the time to read this; it ought to scare
the beejeebers out of you!

We know Dick Lamm as the former Governor of Colorado. In that context his thoughts are particularly poignant. Last week there was an immigration overpopulation conference in Washington DC, filled to capacity by many of America's finest minds and leaders. A brilliant college professor by the name of Victor Hansen Davis talked about his latest book, 'Mexifornia, explaining how immigration, both legal and illegal, was destroying the entire state of California. He said it would march across the country until it destroyed all vestiges of The American Dream.

Moments later, former Colorado Governor Richard D. Lamm stood up and gave a stunning speech on how to destroy America. The audience sat spellbound as he described eight methods for the destruction of the United States. He said, 'If you believe that America is too smug, too self-satisfied, too rich, then let's destroy America. It is not that hard to do. No nation in history has survived the ravages of time. Arnold Toynbee observed that all great civilizations rise and fall and that an autopsy of history would show that all great nations commit suicide.''

'Here is how they do it,' Lamm said: 'First, to destroy America, turn America into a bilingual or multi-lingual and bicultural country. History shows that no nation can survive the tension, conflict, and antagonism of two or more competing languages and cultures. It is a blessing for an individual to be bilingual; however, it is a curse for a society to be bilingual. The historical scholar, Seymour Lipset, put it this way: 'The histories of bilingual and bicultural societies that do not assimilate are histories of turmoil, tension, and tragedy. Canada, Belgium, Malaysia, and Lebanon all face crises of national existence in which minorities press for autonomy, if not independence. Pakistan and Cyprus have divided. Nigeria suppressed an ethnic rebellion. France faces difficulties with Basques, Bretons, Corsicans, and Muslims.'

Lamm went on: 'Second, to destroy America, invent multiculturalism and encourage immigrants to maintain their culture. Make it an article of belief that all cultures are equal; that there are no cultural differences. Make it an article of faith that the Black and Hispanic dropout rates are due solely to prejudice and discrimination by the majority. Every other explanation is out of bounds.

'Third, we could make the United States an 'Hispanic Quebec' without much effort. The key is to celebrate diversity rather than unity. As Benjamin Schwarz said in the Atlantic Monthly recently: 'The apparent success of our own multi-ethnic and multicultural experiment might have been achieved not by tolerance, but by hegemony. Without the dominance that once dictated ethnocentricity and what it meant to be an American, we are left with only tolerance and pluralism to hold us together.' Lamm said, 'I would encourage all immigrants to keep their own language and culture. I would replace the melting pot metaphor with the salad bowl metaphor. It is important to ensure that we have various cultural subgroups living in America enforcing their differences rather than as Americans, emphasizing their similarities.'

'Fourth, I would make our fastest growing demographic group the least educated. I would add a second underclass, unassimilated, undereducated, and antagonistic to our population. I would have this second underclass have a 50% dropout rate from high school.'

'My fifth point for destroying America would be to get big foundations and businesses to give these efforts lots of money. I would invest in ethnic identity, and I would establish the cult of 'Victimology.' I would get all minorities to think that their lack of success was the fault of the majority.
I would start a grievance industry blaming all minority failure on the majority plation.'

'My sixth plan for America's downfall would include dual citizenship, and
promote divided loyalties. I would celebrate diversity over unity. I would
stress differences rather than similarities. Diverse people worldwide are mostly engaged in hating each other - that is, when they are not killing each other. A diverse, peaceful, or stable society is against most historical precet. People undervalue the unity it takes to keep a nation together. Look at the ancient Greeks. The Greeks believed that they belonged to the same race; they possessed a common language and literature; and they worshipped the same gods. All Greece took part in the Olympic games. A common enemy, Persia, threatened their liberty. Yet all these bonds were
not strong enough to overcome two factors: local patriotism and geographical conditions that nurtured political divisions. Greece fell. 'E. Pluribus Unum -- From many, one. In that historical reality, if we put the emphasis on the 'pluribus' instead of the 'Unum,' we will 'Balkanize' America as surely as Kosovo.'

'Next to last, I would place all subjects off limits. Make it taboo to talk about anything against the cult of 'diversity.' I would find a word similar to 'heretic' in the 16th century - that stopped discussion and paralyzed thinking. Words like 'racist' or 'xenophobe' halt discussion and debate.
Having made America a bilingual/bicultural country, having established
multi-cultum, having the large foundations fund the doctrine of 'Victimology ' I would next make it impossible to enforce our immigration laws. I would develop a mantra: That because immigration has been good for America, it must always be good. I would make every individual immigrant symmetric and ignore the cumulative impact of millions of them.'

In the last minute of his speech, Governor Lamm wiped his brow. Profound silence followed. Finally he said, 'Lastly, I would censor Victor Hanson Davis's book 'Mexifornia.' His book is dangerous. It exposes the plan to destroy America. If you feel America deserves to be destroyed, don't read that book.'

There was no applause. A chilling fear quietly rose like an ominous cloud above every attendee at the conference. Every American in that room knew that everything Lamm enumerated was proceeding methodically, quietly, darkly, yet pervasively across the United States today. Discussion is being suppressed. Over 100 languages are ripping the foundation of our educational system and national cohesiveness. Even barbaric cultures that practice female genital mutilation are growing as we celebrate 'diversity.' American jobs are vanishing into the Third World as corporations create a Third World in America. Take note of California and other states. To date, ten million illegal aliens and growing fast. It is reminiscent of George Orwell's book 1984.' In that story, three slogans are engraved in the Ministry of Truth building: 'War is peace,' 'Freedom is slavery,' and 'Ignorance is strength.'

Governor Lamm walked back to his seat. It dawned on everyone at the conference that our nation and the future of this great democracy is deeply in trouble and worsening fast. If we don't get this immigration monster stopped within three years, it will rage like a California wildfire and destroy everything in its path, especially The American Dream.

________________________

Here's my reply. I think it gets the point across. But it is possible that I was too subtle, you decide:

Note: in the reply below I mention a 'memorial wall.' Each Memorial Day, CK puts on his Scout Uniform and lays a wreath in front of the MatSu Valley Veteran's Memorial - he likes to equate his Scout Uniform and his wreath laying to actual, you know, military service - of which he has precisely none.

Additional Note: for those of you who have not served in the military, please do not take what follows as a slap in the face. It is directed at one person, and one person only - and strictly because he continues to harp at me about 'patriotism' and 'duty' and 'sacrifice.' He lectures me ad nauseum about military service and how you're not a true America patriot if you haven't served and more importantly if you're not a straight Christian Caucasian (and yeah, you know, a Huckabee supporter) - and yet when questioned about his own service, explains that he had a family and obligations and his poor old mother was sick and yadda yadda during Vietnam, but he would have loved to have served if it wasn't for his bum knee and ... and etcetera etcetera and etcetera. So, this reply is directed at his hypocritical ass, not you. I don't care if you've served or not - I sincerely respect you either way, as long as you don't, you know, act like a hypocritical fucktard.

Anyway, my reply:
________________________

[CK]

Please stop sending this garbage to me. I find this type of racist, right-wing, alarmist spam annoying and offensive. And I am insulted by your comment that I should “mull this over & ACT.” Personally, I don’t care what you think of me, however when you include me in a group email of this nature, you imply publicly that I share your beliefs, this is emphatically not the case and I resent the implication.

It is obvious that you have no idea of who I am or what I believe in. And since politely ignoring your xenophobic nonsense obviously does not work, I will explain my position bluntly so that you do not make this mistake in the future.

For the record, I have done far more than simply ‘mull it over’ and my actions are a matter of record. My opinions are based on a lifetime of experience and action, not neo-conservative alarmism and racist scare-tactics. While you and Dick Lamm were sitting around talking about patriotism and how the country is going to hell in a hand basket, I was serving the United States in uniform. I spent 24 years in military service, honorably retiring my sword six months ago. I served in two wars and numerous actions short of war, as both an enlisted man and as an officer. I was decorated thirteen times, including citations for valor in combat and for saving the lives of 43 Iraqis. I led US fighting men on four continents and six oceans. For two and half decades I upheld my oath to the Constitution of the United States and the Navy core values of Honor, Courage, and Commitment. These actions are a matter of public record; as such, I am sick and tired of attempts by those who have never served this country – those who have never put their own ass on the line – to lecture me on patriotism and service. And I am fed up with your racist, xenophobic, homophobic, and bigoted agenda.

Here’s something for you to mull over: many of the people I served alongside were immigrants, or the children of immigrants. Many were not even US citizens. A significant fraction of US military forces are made up of men and women from Mexico, Liberia, the Philippines, and many other nations – including Middle Eastern nations. They are men and women of many religions or none, of many races and ethnicities, who speak many languages, and who have many and diverse traditions and histories, but who all have sworn to stand together and uphold the fundamental principles of the US Constitution. They are men and women who have come to this country seeking a better life for themselves and their families. They have voluntarily sworn serve and defend America and they are out there right now in the dark and dangerous corners of the world fighting for your right to call them unfit. They have placed their own precious selves in harm’s way in the service of a flag that is not even their own so that they and their children may one day share in the American dream. Many have returned in body bags. They lay entombed in the soil of a foreign nation far from their families and homes, buried honorably beneath the American flag. Some were my friends and shipmates and they have done far more than either you or Dick Lamm, or the current jackass of a President for that matter, to secure the future this country. But because they spoke a language other than your own, you ignore and deride their sacrifice under the very banner that keeps you free. I suggest you mull that over, and your hypocrisy, the next time you stand smugly self-righteous in your scout leader uniform before the memorial wall.

Regarding the xenophobic nonsense below, nearly every bit of it is easily proved false, but you’d have to look at more than just neo-con propaganda. Throughout history, there have been many, many multicultural and multilingual nations that have enjoyed long and rich histories, many still exist today and I’ve visited a number, you might do some research before propagating this crap across the internet. As to America, my own great grand parents were Dutch and Irish immigrants. They, like millions of others including your own ancestors I suspect, came to these shores decades ago. They brought with them their own languages, beliefs, cultures, and traditions – and far from destroying America, they enriched it. They built the railroads, and the farms, and the factories. They dug the mines and built the dams. They became doctors, and policemen, and scientists. And when this country was in need, they marched to war and many did not come home again. But throughout it all, many kept their languages and culture alive. Today the result is St. Patrick’s Day, Pulaski Days, Mardi Gras, the German fair, the Scottish Highland Games, Cinco de Mayo, China Town, Black History month, Jewish Kosher delis, pizza, loan words that have expanded American English, and a thousand other things that have made America a dynamic and vibrant culture. Far from destroying America, those immigrants built America – and today’s immigrants are no different. They come here for the same reasons your ancestors did, and they look upon this land with exactly the same sense of wonder and awe that my own great grand parents did. Today immigrants pick the fruits and vegetables you enjoy year around for low prices. They do the menial labor in restaurants and hotels and factories that you wouldn’t dream of stooping to. They work in the sweat shops of New York and Chicago so you can wear shirts with “made in America” labels on them, and they wear the same clothes you do and are just as proud to do so. They work for far less than minimum wage, and they scrimp and save, so that their children may one day have something better – exactly as your own ancestors did. They may speak a different language, or worship different gods, or have different traditions - just as your ancestors did - but their children will speak English and be as American as you and I. Their diversity adds to our strength, your fear and small mindedness subtracts from it.

In the entrance to New York Harbor, stands a gift from France and the very symbol of America: the Statue of Liberty. She stands upon a marble pedestal, and engraved at her feet are the following words: Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed, to me: I lift my lamp beside the golden door. These words were not meant for only English speaking Christian white people, but for all of mankind. These are the people I fought for, and alongside of. These are the people who gave their lives to secure your freedom.

I suggest you and Dick get used it.

I do not associate with bigots, racists, anti-Semites, homophobes, or people who think that ‘patriotism’ means hate and fear. If you had any questions as to why I pulled my son out of your scout troop, this should pretty much clear up the matter.

You are not welcome in my household. Cease, immediately, any further correspondence, phone calls, or visits. If you attempt to contact me in the future, I will consider it harassment and take appropriate action.

Jim Wright, Chief Warrant Officer, United States Navy (ret).

________________

Too subtle?

One final thing: I hit 'reply to all' on this. So if you hear what sounds like neocon, racist, homophobic, xenophobic, Christian White People heads exploding all over the country - well, you know, it's a good thing, don't be alarmed.