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Friday, August 29, 2008

The worst kept secret in Ohio (updated)

Update:

This post is seriously out of date and has been deleted.

It's the only post to date that I am embarrassed to have written.

Over the months of the 2008 presidential campaign, as the real NeoCon Sarah Palin emerged, as I heard her speak, as I saw her fan the flames of hatred, as I watched her pander to the lowest common denominator and the loonies and the mental defectives and the ignorant and the bigots and the paranoids, and as I saw how she behaved on the national stage, I altered my perception of her 180 degrees.

I wouldn't vote for Sarah Palin to be in charge of a salad fight, let alone in a position of political power. Today, as an Alaskan, as a decorated Veteran, as an American, I am truly glad this appalling woman is out of office - my opinion of her exit is here.

Jim Wright, Palmer, Alaska

Thursday, August 28, 2008

The Firefox 3 for Windows Upgrade

As I mentioned Tuesday, I finally decided to upgrade to the latest release of Firefox.

I'm an unabashed fan of Mozilla's open source browser, and have been since version 1.  But, I'm inherently conservative when it comes to software. I feel no compelling need to have all the latest and greatest shiny new software toys.  I'm a geek, true, and I have a degree or two in computer science, I've done extensive programming, and spent most of my life in the information warfare field and worked with everything from massive MPX mainframes to clustered DEC FIDI systems to a palm-sized Clie - but I hate fooling around with computer systems.

It's like auto mechanics.  Some guys love tinkering under the hood, tweaking, aligning, and polishing the motor. Being covered in grease makes them happy. They talk about cars, and engines, transmission and differential gear ratios, fuel injection versus 4-barrel carbureted air/fuel mixing and that all important quarter mile.  Bah. Me, I can work on cars and trucks, but more than anything I just want the dammed thing to start up reliably and get me where I'm going. And it's the same with software, I'm less interested in bells and whistles and tweaks and geeks, and more interested in having the dammed machine do what I need it to do, when I need it to do it.

As such, I usually wait a bit - sometimes quite a while - to upgrade to the latest software. In fact, I prefer to let everybody else work out the bugs and quirks before upgrading, especially if the software version I'm currently using does everything that I want it to do.  I mean, hey, why the hell should I do free beta testing for a software developer? Frankly I don't need the aggravation.

Be that as it may, I spend a great deal of time hip deep in the Internet, and having the latest version of my favorite browser holds a certain attraction. After a year's development, Firefox 3 has reached stability and is spreading through the web via word of mouth and Mozilla's updater function, and after about the third upgrade availability notification I decided to give it a try.  I figured I'd update the main Vista machine first. If that went well, I'd upgrade the XP tablet, which is where I do most of my online work.  If the upgrade crashed and burned on the Vista machine, well, no big deal.

So, choices, choices. I'm of two minds when it comes to this kind of thing, i.e. should I remove the old version first and do a virgin installation - losing my settings and such in the process, but getting a clean install - or should I simply install over the old version?  Of course, with a browser, even one as advanced as Firefox, this isn't that big of a decision - not like choosing to do a Vista install over XP, for example. However, there have been reported problems with Firefox upgrades over an existing version - especially when it comes to printing (which I'll come back to in a minute) - and as software rapidly evolves and becomes increasingly complex the number of things that can go wrong, both gross problems and subtle incompatibilities which may cause strangely inexplicable problems following an upgrade increase exponentially.  Systems are like snowflakes, the variations in configurations, hardware and software both, are nearly infinite - and there's just no way even the best software development team can foresee every contingency.  Five or six years ago, this wouldn't have been a concern, but browsers and network connectivity are now so deeply integrated into the operating system that it often makes sense to slick the old software first, rather than try and troubleshoot the endless little errors that creep into your system after countless upgrades and tweaks.  You can lose hours of productivity and find yourself chin deep in screaming frustration - all because your upgraded software installation imported incompatible configuration settings from the old version. If it's just one thing, it's usually easy to find. If it's a combination of things, you may never find it - especially if the problem is buried in the program's data and not caused by a bug in the software.

Example: I upgraded from Microsoft Office Outlook 2003 to 2007 recently. I installed over the old version, because I wanted to keep my email, notes, and contact database.  The installation appeared to go off without a hitch - but the dammed thing kept crashing every couple of hours.  And then would hang on crashdump process, so I had no way of figuring out what was causing the problem. I removed all add-ons and plug-ins per Microsoft recommendation. No joy. Crash, crash, crash. Then I noticed the crashes occurred during folder synchronization.  Hmmm.  I flushed the database, archiving anything older than 6 months, and purged the sent items file. And the crashes stopped. Somewhere in my old email files, was a bit of data that kept corrupting the system and inducing the crash.  Did that corruption appear in the old version, or was it an error that occurred during import into the new version during the installation process? I don't know, but it caused me endless aggravation for quite some time.

And it's the same concern here. One of the things that makes Firefox so attractive to me is the ability to add in functionality with third party plug-ins and freeware extensions. And I use a lot of them, not all of which are going to be compatible with Firefox 3 out of the box. And I've got thousands of bookmarks, organized in a very specific manner. And those things could easily cause problems during the upgrade process. 

However,  I decided to go with the upgrade method vice a clean install, for a couple of reasons. First, if it works, it's easier, one click on the upgrade dialog box and off you go. Mozilla has always been extremely good about this process and I was willing to trust them this time based on their past performance - if this was a Microsoft product, I would probably not have been so trusting, just saying, once burned, twice shy and all that. Second, Mozilla has always had very good compatibility checking for add-ons and extensions and again I was willing to trust them.

The download and installation worked smoothly and without error - another advantage of waiting to upgrade, I didn't have to compete with a million other folks attempting to download the pre-release version at the same time.  Once the installation was completed, Firefox's compatibility checker popped and ran automatically - and reported that a number of my existing extensions were no longer compatible.  Some were things I really, really don't want to do without - like PicLens - and some were things that simply aren't necessary in the new version of Firefox.  A number of outdated extensions had compatible updates, and Firefox detected those automatically and downloaded the new plug-ins without problem. I deinstalled the incompatible extensions, after checking manually to see if there were updates. PicLens (a phenomenally useful tool for searching out graphics and video across the web) as it turns out, has been updated and renamed CoolIris - which is why the compatibility updater couldn't find it.

Here are the extensions I know update automatically and work with Firefox 3:

Gmail Notifier, Google Toolbar for Firefox, IE Tab, New Tab Homepage, Adblock, Better Gmail, Colorful Tabs, Foxmarks Bookmarks Synchronizer, Save Session, Split Panel, StumbleUpon, and ClearPersonalData.

PicLens has to be manually upgraded to CoolIris, and after that it updates automatically.

All of the functionality in other extension I had loaded has been incorporated into Firefox itself and I no longer need the third party plug-ins. All in all, they've made over 15,000 changes, according to their website and as far as I can tell after three days of fooling around with version 3, most of them are pretty slick.

None of the themes I used in Version 2 were compatible with the upgrade. Oh well, no big deal, and I deinstalled all of them.  And, truthfully, I like the new default look of Firefox, Mozilla has finally gotten completely rid of the last vestiges of that old hoary Netscape interface and I doubt I'll even load new themes.

 

Now, the good stuff:

In addition to the shiny new look, the thing I like best about Firefox 3 is the significant improvement in performance. It starts up a hell of a lot faster, and page loads seem much quicker and smoother to me.  Firefox now has true image zooming capability, but truthfully I tend to use CoolIris and don't really use this new feature much. I really like the Smart Location Bar, especially the site information feature which I find extremely useful (though I noted that Mozilla itself doesn't provide much useful information on its own site, heh heh), the expanded history drop down is a cool feature as are the one-click bookmark and subscribe controls. I particularly like how browsing history management has been improved and reorganized, and the new Add-on manager. There really are too many new features, all of them good, to mention here. If you're interested, check out Mozilla's Firefox 3 new features page, you can't say Mozilla doesn't listen to their users.

Next, the not-so-good things:

Well, there aren't a lot of problems with Firefox 3, but what problems do exist are a major pain for a number of folks. I haven't experienced much in the way of grief here, but before you upgrade you might check out The How-To Geek as a starting place.

The biggest issue for a lot of folks seems to be with printing, as noted here by commenter Tracy.  In a number of cases Firefox spits out gibberish when it comes to hardcopy.  This problem is not confined to a single printer type or to Vista or XP, and seems to appear equally in both clean installations and upgrades. The problem seems to be a bug in how FF3 communicates with Windows' winPrint module and/or a driver issue and as yet there doesn't seem to be much information available on Mozilla's Support Forums.

A couple of work-arounds that might work for you:

1) under tools/options/content, click the "advanced" button and uncheck the "Allow pages to choose their own fonts." Click Ok, then OK again on the content dialog. Try printing.

2) in the same dialog change the default fonts.  From Times New Roman to Trebuchet for example. Change the font size, save changes and exit. Try printing. If this works, change the fonts back to Times New Roman, save the changes and try printing again.

3) in the same dialog, change the default character encoding to an alternate encoding set.

4) Ensure "Enable Advanced Printer Features" is checked under your printer properties for your selected printer in the Windows Control Panel.

Again, these are work-arounds, not complete solutions. Not all of them work on all machines.

I would expect Mozilla, being Mozilla and not Microsoft, will have this problem fixed pretty quick. 

 

Bottom Line: Overall, I'm pretty happy with Firefox 3, but I haven't had the problems others have reported.  At the moment it appears to be a crapshoot whether or not you'll experience any of the reported problems.  And at least until the printing bug is fixed, I'd be patient if I were you and wait until the next interim update.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Overheard at the DNC

“John McCain calls himself a maverick, but he votes with George Bush 90 percent of the time. That’s not a maverick. That’s a sidekick!”

- Senator Bob Casey, D-PA

__________________________
Another good one:

"A woman voting for John McCain would be like a chicken voting for Colonel Sanders"
- Cecile Richards, President of Planned Parenthood



Post your favorite DNC quotes in the comment section. There are lots to choose from.

Busy

Sorry, I'm a little busy at the moment.

But later today I will post a review of the new Firefox 3 update for Windows.

The thumbnail version: So far it rocks.

I've got it running under both XP and Vista. There are a few quirks, and a couple of annoying oversights that should have been fixed, and were not. I'll talk about those in the review.

More, later.

UCF Meetup

UCF'er Jeri is dropping by Stonekettle Station this afternoon.

The rest of you are invited, should you be in the neighborhood.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Shiny

Notice anything new?

Yep, just upgraded to Firefox v3.0.1.

Woohoo!

Its still got that new browser smell.

Michelle Obama for First Lady

Anybody else watch Michelle Obama's speech last night at the Democratic National Convention?

This is part one of her speech, which doesn't actually start until about four minutes, thirty seconds into the video. Part two and three.

Personally, I was seriously impressed. She spoke about her life, her husband's life, and the American Dream. She spoke about keeping your word, about honor and integrity, about dreams and hope, and about love of country. She spoke of humble beginnings and unlimited horizons. Every single thing she said I agree with wholeheartedly. I thought it was an excellent speech, an inspiring speech, an amazing speech - and should she become the First Lady, I think she'll do more than just a credible job, I think she'll be an outstanding First Lady. She's articulate, passionate, supremely well spoken, confident, outspoken, idealistic, and obviously thoughtfully intelligent. And she's deeply in love with her husband - does that matter? I think it does, at least to me.

It is apparent to me, and has been for some time, that many of the things said about her are patently false. Last night's speech just cemented that opinion in my mind.

This morning the pundits are taking her speech apart word by word, criticizing everything from her Princeton education to her sincerity to her choice of apparel and hairstyle.  Predictable, and no less nauseating for being predictable.  I read somewhere this morning, a comment from some vitriolic idiot who said in essence, "So what? She's just parroting the words some speech writer wrote for her." Bullshit. Obvious bullshit. Listen to her words, watch her speak, watch her eyes. Her eyes are on America, on the crowd, not on some teleprompter. I've given a lot of speeches in my time. I've stood in front of a lot of people and have spoken passionately and from the heart.  And I know it when I see it. Those are her words, not some speechwriter's, and she believes every one of them. True sincerity, you cannot fake that. You cannot, not in front of me anyway.

I've seen a dozen reports this morning regarding her tip of the hat to Hillary Clinton. The most ridiculous being Fox News (of course. Tediously, predictably, of course) who sneeringly questioned her sincerity with regards to Clinton's achievements and iconic status.  CNN went so far as to hire a so-called "body language expert" to analyze Michelle Obama's stance, posture, and gestures during that portion of the speech - just to determine if Mrs Obama was actually, you know, sincere in her acknowledgement of Clinton.  The expert determined that she was "ambivalent."  

Bah.

Again, listen to her words, watch her talk - she's not blowing smoke up Clinton's tailored pantsuit with empty, politically expedient flattery. She was sincerely acknowledging Clinton's achievement - Hillary Clinton came closer to the Presidency than any woman before her, and her accomplishment paved the way for those woman who will follow the trail Clinton blazed, straight into the Oval Office - maybe one of those women will be Malia or Natasha Obama.  Michelle Obama can, and did, acknowledge that fact without reservation. 

Was it a calculated olive branch to Clinton's supporters? Sure, probably.

So?

Welcome to politics. Was is disingenuous? No. No. No. Again, listen to her words, she spoke about unity, about all Americans standing together. All Americans. And those aren't empty words, she demonstrated her commitment to unity by reaching out, right there in Denver, to one of her husband's most bitter rivals.  Far from insincerity, I take this as a sign of the Obamas' sincere commitment to represent all Americans, to reach across the aisle, to unify instead of divide.

Insincerity? No, wrong word.

It's called class, and grace, and style.

 

I look forward to hearing Cindy McCain speak at the GOP Convention. I'm sure it'll be equally impressive.

What?

Monday, August 25, 2008

This Week's Alaskan Panorama is...

...The Alaska State Fair.



This panorama was stitched together from a seven shots taken in the central intersection of the Palmer Fair Grounds.

I learned something - making panorama's from pictures that have a lot of people in them is a huge, huge, pain in the ass. Hell, taking the pictures is a pain - see that old guy on the left hand side, near the light pole? That bastard deliberately stepped in front of me, and kept stepping in front of me, no matter where I pointed the lens. And he kept doing things like sticking his finger in his nose, or making dumbassed gestures. If he was eight years old, maybe I could understand it. But in this case I'm not sure what his problem was exactly, other than just being an asshole. He's lucky he didn't end up capping his fair visit off with a ride in an ambulance chopper, because he was seriously pissing me off.

Here's another pan, facing in the opposite direction:





Both pans swing through about 200 degree azimuth, and I had a hell of a time stitching them together. I removed a few jarring duplications, but eventually got bored and frustrated with the process. So, there are a number of dupes in each pan, and I didn't fix the shadow orientation. And there are a couple of obvious photoshop errors - I mention this only because I know that at least one of you is just a tad anal about such things. Heh. Overall, I think they give you the general idea of the event.


We were worried that the fair would be a bust this year, with the crappy weather and the high gas prices (And yes, the gas prices here are higher than anywhere else in the nation, including southern California, by about 70 cents. Why? Because our governor pushed to get Alaskans an energy check from the state's oil fund - which the oil companies seem to think somehow belongs to them, as if they haven't been screwing us for the last year already - as soon as the bill passed gas prices jumped up twenty cents and haven't budged since, despite declining prices everywhere else. Attention Exxon, Shell, Atlantic Richfield, and Chevron, you are nothing but utter fucking scum sucking bottom feeders, you bastards), but despite all of that the fair was seriously crowded and we had a good time anyway.

And yes, for those of you wondering how I faired in the judging, I did win a few ribbons. I entered five pieces in the wood turning category and ended up with a 1st Premium, 2nd Premium, 3rd Premium, and two honorable mentions. So, you know, I'm just a little tickled, especially since the competition was extremely well done and I would have been happy just to have been considered to be in the same class with them. Some of those guys are professionals with years of experience and their work is absolutely outstanding - and yet they were extremely gracious to a newcomer like me and complimentary of my work. Nice people, really.

So, despite the rain, the jerk that kept stepping in front of my camera, and the bastards at Exxon it was a good day.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Help Create an Internet Phenomenon, and Get Prizes!

So, dropping by jimwrightisanasshole.com I was disappointed to see that not much is occurring there.

And then I realized that the proprietor probably doesn't have much to work with aside from a list of why Jim Wright is an jerk. He's a secretive bastard, is Jim Wright, but it seems a shame to allow such a potential internet phenomenon as jimwrightisanasshole.com go to waste. Why, done correctly it could be bigger than the Rick Roll, Demotivation Posters, or Bacon Cat itself!

And so, in the spirit of the helpfulness that I'm known for, I thought I'd give jimwrightisanasshole.com a little something to work with. However, being a jerk, I figured I'd make you people do all of the actual work - and then I'd just take the credit for it.

And then it occurred to me that not only could I make you all work, I could make you dance!

Bawahahahahahaha!

So, here it is: Announcing the first ever Stonekettle Station Jim is a Jerk Giveaway Super Sweepstakes with prizes and mileage points and a free puppy.

I know, I know, you're all excited now and saying to yourself "I gotta get me some of that!"

Well you can, and here's how it works:

Relate your favorite anecdote about Jim Wright and why he is indeed a jerk worthy of a website soley dedicated to his assholiness. Help turn jimwrightisanasshole into the Internet phenomenon it rightfully should be.

You want to, you know you do.

Time Limit: Midnight (Alaskan Time Zone) Friday, August 30, 2008

Submissions: in comments under this post or via email to stonekettlestation@gmail.com. Email submissions will be published, but if submitters wish to remain anonymous, so note in the email. Non regular commenters (and even those without bowel problems) are highly encouraged to participate - in fact, the judges may be unfairly biased in favor of first time commenters. Then again, they may not, you submits your little story, you takes your chances.

No size limit. Though the judges are drunkards and layabouts and do get bored or distracted very quickly, try to bear that in mind when submitting. Be entertaining, be funny, be snarky, be sarcastic, be subtle. Demonstrate your extensive, and completely made up, knowledge of the subject.

Extra points will be awarded for demeaning other entrants, or just blatantly stealing their ideas. Double extra bonus points will be awarded for putting a hex, the evil eye, or other such dastardly spell on the competition - in the event that any such juju is demonstrated to actually work, the sweepstakes will be terminated immediately and the person placing the curse shall be declared the winner.

No limit on submissions, write as many as you like. However, only one submission per comment or email please.

First Prize: This genuine, one of a kind, handmade, finely crafted piece of Alaskan Artwork, turned from endangered polar bear ivory and rare green sea turtle shells salvaged from an Exxon north slope oil spill, with magic properties guaranteed to increase sexual potency, end famine, and cause Dick Cheney to do a jerky little dance wearing a funky green hat and rainbow pride wife-beater T-shirt when you rub it just right. (OK, it's just White Alaskan Birch Burl, but the Dick Cheney part is absolutely true, I swear)

Birch Burl #64

It's beautiful and unique and the winning of it will bring you the envy of people everywhere. Think of the fame, the glory, the pride, the smug satisfaction you'll get from owning this amazing piece of artwork. Think about making Dick do the monkey dance.

Second Prize: There is no second prize, loser, we don't reward second rate work.

Here's an example to get you started:

Back in '86, Jim Wright was crossing an unnamed Middle Eastern desert. He had stopped to tie his boot and, distracted by a shiny rock, he didn't notice when the rest of his military unit disappeared over the horizon (some say this was done with malice aforethought by the above mentioned members of the military unit, who fed up with his hogging of the government issue MRE oatmeal bars and the resulting flatulence had decided to take matters into their own hands). Alone, Jim Wright set off resolutely (some would say cluelessly or maybe even aimlessly) into the desert. After a while the heat and lack of water, not to mention the vapors from the airplane glue he had smeared on his mustache to prevent sunburn , began to take its toll. Disorientated and hallucinating, he stumbled into a dusty nomad village where much to his surprise he was confronted by a large band of surly, burly, tattooed, thuggishly cross-dressing, Nazi Biker Hoodlums who were having their dirty and perverted way with a small group of Peace Corps Nun Missionaries. Jim Wright, being a trained military man, rapidly assessed the situation and - perhaps due to the fumes wafting from his upper lip - came to a conclusion. Cocking his weapon he sprang into action, spraying bullets and swear words with equal, and random, abandon. When the smoke, dust, and blue air cleared - all of the nuns were dead. And thus did Jim Wright free the captive Bikers, who to this day owe him a debt of gratitude and free beer - or at least so it says on the commendation that he wrote himself, his logic being that he was the only government witness and thus the only reliable judge of what had actually happened that day.

And like that, and so forth and so on.

The hounds, unleash them and dance you filthy little monkeys, dance!

______________________________________

Note: Some restriction apply. Void where prohibited by law, custom, and Nazi biker thugs. Rules are subject to change and so is this disclaimer. Some assembly required. Batteries not included. Objects may appear closer than they actually are. Do not remove tags, or electrostatic protection without proper grounding. Some genetic mutation may occur. Use only in a well ventilated space and with proper protection. Hasta Lasagna, don't get any on ya. Stay off the moors, beware the moon, have a nice day and don't say your weren't warned.

Another Note: After extensive consultation with our illustrious state Senators, the judges have decided to openly and enthusiastically accept bribery, since they feel this will just streamline the final selection process - plus they like to get stuff. Cash is king, just saying.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Impressive, Most Impressive.

Man, I like this.




Where is Jim today?

Busy.

I have a large production run to finish, hopefully the last one of the summer. I'm behind, as usual. Beastly and I are pushing to get it done.

So, no time for the internets today. So sorry.



However here's something I'd like you all to weigh in on:

Have you heard of this service? It's called Hit Me Later. Say you get an email, it's important and you need to deal with it - just not right now. You wish you would have gotten the email later, say in a couple of hours or so, when you had time to address whatever issues it contains. So, what you do is you forward it to XX@HitMeLater.com (where XX is any number between 1 and 24, indicating the number of hours before HitMeLater sends the email back to you).

Um, OK. I get a moderate amount of email, not nearly as much as I did when I was working for the government, but I can't see any situation where I'd need this service. Really. If I get an email, like the one simmering in my inbox from a certain UCFer at the moment, and I don't have time to deal with it, I flag it "unread" and come back to it later, or I move it into a hi-pri subfolder. If I'm feeling really organized I dump it to MS One-note, or Project, set a reminder and keep snoozing it until it goes away.

Here's the thing, apparently a lot of folks use this service. Business folks. HitMeLater's disclaimer says that your email is stored on a secure server and nobody reads it. OK, I have no reason not to take them at their word, and there's no reports of chicanery at HitMeLater.com, but if I was your employer I'd be just a tad peeved to find that you're forwarding company email to an unknown (read non-bonded and secured) email site.

My first impression was that this would be the ultimate identity theft honey trap. My second thought was that this would be a great way to perform corporate espionage, and do it legally - after all, people are willingly forwarding their email to this site.

I don't see anything on the site or on the web that give me a warm and fuzzy about this.

What do you think, tech and legally savvy people?

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

My Security is in the Hands of Idiots

The name, it's all in the name, folks.

Meet James Robinson, retired Air National Guard Brigadier General and now commercial airline pilot. Captain Robinson is also one of the few commercial pilots who fly for a major airline and is certified by the Transportation Security Administration to carry a weapon in the cockpit - and he does.

He's also a terrorist.

See, James Robinson is on the TSA's "No-Fly" list.

Here's a guy who spent a significant fraction of his life serving the country and fighting the nation's enemies, is certified to carry a weapon through airport security and into the cockpit of a commercial aircraft in order to defend his passengers should the need arise, is trusted to pilot a multi-million dollar jet over American territory loaded with civilian passengers and explosive jet fuel, has been issued a flightcrew security badge and trusted with airport security access codes - and has to go through terrorist screening every single time he checks into his job.

Ridiculous?

Not so - not yet anyway, but give me a minute here.

It should be fairly obvious that this particular James Robinson is not one of the droids we're looking for. Nor is James Robinson, former US District Attorney and Assistant Attorney General in the Clinton Administration. And neither is James Robinson, who doesn't currently have an occupation - no, he's not some unemployed slacker, give him a break, he's only eight years old. But because of their names, James the General, James the Attorney, and James the Fourth Grader are on the Government's Terrorist Watch List. All have been stopped at the ticket counter and detained multiple times by TSA. And while they all eventually made their flights, they can expect to jump through hoops every time they try to travel via air, which in the case of James Robinson the Pilot, is pretty much every day.

Sounds crazy doesn't it? But such is the price of freedom from terrorism. As Americans, each and every one of us is a Security Soldier in the Great Patriotic War on Terrorism and we cannot be too careful. Somewhere, somehow, somebody named James Robinson did something that somebody in some division of the TSA took some kind exception to. It's all a little vague.

Who exactly is this mysterious James Robinson? Who is this underworld figure, this James Robinson, who lurks at the shadowy periphery of society? What crimes has he masterminded? What grave national threat does he pose? What has he done to attract the attention of the watery-eyed T-men? Has he tried to sneak more than one ounce of bottled water through security? Was his luggage found to contain an improvised nail clipping device? Did he attempt to board a plane with a pack of matches stuffed into his sock? Did he demand a second bag of peanuts in the air? Was he that coach passenger who attempted to use the first class lavatory after pounding down two jumbo bean burritos and a pint of Porter at the airport Chili's? What could it be?

Well, nobody outside of TSA knows exactly - and from the external indicators it would appear that nobody inside of TSA has a clear idea either. Be that as it may, James Robinson is on the list.

The problem is that there are, well, a lot of James Robinsons.

Over a million, world wide.

In fact, I personally know three James Robinsons myself, any one of which could be the James Robinson.

The mind boggles at the shear magnitude of TSA's job. Imagine the scope of this enormous search, the vast assets necessary to keep the airport bars and boarding ramps and skies clear of James Robinsons. Imagine, any one of those thousands of passengers jamming the concourses of O'Hare, or JFK, or LAX, or BumpPucker, Heartland America could be the man himself, James Robinson, wily terrorist, enemy of the state, hater of freedom and the American way.

Is it James Robinson, Professor of Government at Harvard? Maybe, you know how those liberal longhaired tree-hugging bastards like to blow stuff up. And Harvard is a veritable hotbed of Jihadism. Timothy McVeigh himself was captured wearing a Harvard hoodie (What? Facts? Don't cloud the issue with your facts, we're talking national security here. Start talking facts and you'll be on the list).

Could it be James Robinson, "The Map Guy?" Who makes "art on maps" and is a business partner of the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration? It just could be that ole' James Robinson The Map Guy is hiding a few terrorist messages in those maps. Think of it, secret communications embedded in AAA Flip Books and Auto Club maps, undetectable, hidden in truck stops and gas stations across the county. Why any of James Robinson's Jihadist associates could pick one up for free with their rental car at the airport kiosk! No, best we keep this bastard on the ground.

Maybe it's James Robinson, the British comic book author and screen writer. It's a good bet, the shoe bomber guy was British and we can't be too careful when it comes to the English, after all they did burn down the White House once. The country is full of dukes and earls and knights and other such soccer hooligans - any one of which could attempt to headbutt their way into the cockpit and fly the plane into a Manchester United match.

Is it James Robinson, Director of the Colorado Opera? Opera is often in Italian for crying out loud. There is a lot of terrorism in Italy and it's a pretty good bet that James Robinson is attempting to unleash the basso profondo power at his disposal to destroy America. No, best he be kept off air transport and confined to the mountains of Colorado where the worst he could do is cause avalanches with his terrorist artform and bury a few foreign skiers and a beer brewery or two.

Is it James Robinson the filmmaker? James Robinson the Trombonist? James Robinson the Brooklyn community activist? James Robinson the biblical scholar? The list, it goes on, and the haystack is full of needles.

If only there was a way to sort them all out. If only the technology had advanced to the point where there was a way to sort through this endless parade of Xeroxed James Robinsons. If only there was something like a unique identifier issued to all Americans. If only a government agency could come up with a unique identifier, some agency that could do more to support this war on terrorism, say like the Social Security Administration maybe. Hey, "Security" is their middle name! Or if only each human had some unique identifying feature, damn this bland bilateral sameness we all share. If only the Lord had seen fit to give us unique finger prints, or retinas, or DNA, or street addresses, or even driver's licenses, then the James Robinsons wouldn't be able to hide so easily amongst us.

And if only my security didn't rest in the hands of complete and total idiots.

Yeah, if only.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Wake up, 'Merica!

As I'm sure most of you are aware, many online news agencies allow commenting from the general rabble under certain articles, kind of an instant "Letter to the Editor" blogger thing going on there.

Something I've noticed:

If the phrase "Wake Up America!!!!!" appears anywhere within the comment, especially at the end, then it's a surefire bet that the commenter is a complete gibbering freeze dried wackaloon.  In fact, the phrase "Wake up America!!!!!" (a minimum of five exclamation points are required) is a pretty good indicator that the commenter is one of the following:

1) an "Abductee" of some kind

2) somebody who lives in a "Compound"

3) someone who knows the truth about the supposed NASA moon landings and the "Face on Mars"

4) Miley Cyrus

5) one of those two guys who found a bigfoot carcass

6) roughly sixteen years old and filled with the Jebus

7) pretty much anybody born and raised in Texas

8) a resident, full or part-time, of an "Institution"

9) someone who wears a tinfoil hat, or Kleenex boxes for shoes, a surgical mask, or those blue nitril gloves out in public

10) a Neocon Republican

 

 

I'm off to run some errands, back in a bit.

Monday, August 18, 2008

To the Little Bastard Who Screwed with my Mailbox...

...I will get your ass.

I will.

I'm quite sure you thought it was funny to jam toothpicks or whatever it was into the lock so I couldn't open it. I'm sure you and your retarded, sociopathic, rednecked, one toothed, cross-eyed, sister-humping, inbred goober friends laughed your pimply little asses off at the thought me having to pay $50 to the post office in order to get the lock replaced.

That's fifty bucks you owe me.

And I will collect. In skin if necessary.

In fact, I have absolutely nothing better to do, shithead, and I'm coming for you.

Alaskan Curmudgeon Blatantly Steals Internet Meme

Here, write the headlines about me here.

I'll Start:

Punish that Monkey:

New Musical Sensation takes Alaska by Storm, halt's global warming, and cures cancer.

Retired Navy Chief Warrant Officer Jim Wright, by day an ordinary father, husband, and woodworker. By night, musical crime fighting superhero. Driving around Gotham in his customized Curmudgeon Mobile, he often stops at scenes of musical disasters. Such as the recent opening of Mamma Mia! in downtown Anchorage, where several hundred movie goers filled the sidewalk outside, locked in the throes of uncontrollable diarrhea and projectile vomiting following two hours of uninterrupted Abba. Standing on the roof of the Curmudgeon Mobile, he performed an awesome cover of Mark Knopfler's Punish the Monkey beating mass nausea into submission, lowering the local mean temperature by two degrees thus saving three polar bears, and causing two incurable cancer patients in the crowd to go into remission.

Dear Idiot Parents

You know what average intelligence means?

It means that about half the population is above normal in intelligence - and about half are just plain booger eating morons.

As near as I can tell without instrumentation, stupidity is an attractor. In any crowd, if one person does something stupid it is inevitable that the other mouth breathers in the group will follow suit. This is how you get cattle into a slaughterhouse, e.g. you only have to get the first one to walk in the door - all the rest will follow just to see what the first one is doing.

Stupidity is also logarithmically additive. In other words, two stupid people are three times as stupid as just one idiot alone. Three stupid people are nine times more likely to spontaneously implode into a black hole of clueless dumbass, than just one pointy haired dipshit by himself. And so on.

Stupid people shouldn't breed, but they do. Oh yes, they do. Which means there are more of them every day. They've got books, with lots of pictures to be sure, but books nonetheless. You've seen them: Parenting for the Compete Idiot - frankly, I think that if you've got publish a book to tell idiots how to raise kids, well there are too many idiots having kids. That's what I'm saying here.

What brings me to this startling scientific observational rant you ask?

The first day of school, what else?

The first day of the new school year should be a moment of joy, a moment of peace and tranquility, with singing birds and bright sunny skies. That's how God intended it. Leave to it to the morons to turn the first day of school into a teeth grinding exercise in fist-of-death clenching.

Attention idiot parents:

1) Your kid is not special. He may be special to you, but the rest of us regard him as nothing more than just another pimply faced, baggy pants wearing iPod transport system with a goofy haircut. Hug him before you leave the house; the drop-off line is not a place for teary-eyed long goodbyes. Remember, in much less than a decade you'll be happy to send him off to an out of state college, and you won't even care what subject he majors in - just as long as he's out of the house and you can convert his room into that astral projection and herbal healing den you've always wanted.

2) There are four hundred other people behind you in the drop-off line. All of them are waiting on you. When you get to the front of the line, open the door, push little Johnny HI-tops in the small of the back, close the door, drive away. Stopping is not actually necessary. Kids are flexible and they heal fast and it's important that they lean the "tuck and roll" technique early in life. Best to learn by doing, experience is the best teacher.

3) Pack the school supplies before you leave home. Do not, under any circumstances, wait until you are in the front of the drop-off line to put four reams of paper, two packs of pencils, highlighters, paperclips, calculator, IED, a sandwich, an apple, two bags of chips, a soda, spare iPod batteries, condoms, pistol, crack pipe, and a partridge in a pear tree into the dammed backpack. Remember, it's a tactical egress, tuck around the backpack, jump feet together knees bent, and roll.

4) I know, I know - it's little Sally Hotpants' first day in sixth grade, and you're just so dammed proud to drop her off in her new junior-miss wonder training bra and low riders with her bony little ass-crack whistling in the breeze. But for the love of all that is holy, could you please wait until you're out of the school loading zone before dialing your cell phone to tell grandma all about it? There are kids and cars filled with other clueless morons just like you, milling about in chaotic confusion and the truth of the matter is that you're an idiot under the best of circumstances, leave the phone on the seat and use what little brain power and concentration you have to clear the scene.

5) Those three great big signs in front of the loading zone? Yeah, those don't say, "Hey, if you need to go inside because you were too dammed stupid to come to the orientation meeting we had the other night, park here." What they actually say is, "NO PARKING. Handicapped Bus Drop Off Zone." See, when the special needs buses pull up at 7:00AM, and there are three of them, they need to be able to park along the special curb so that they can unload the kids in wheelchairs. When you park there, even "just for a minute" (which in idiot time is about a half an hour) you leave the buses no place to unload. Since they can't pull over to the curb, they have to stop in the middle of the drop-off zone, which blocks all the traffic behind them for the fifteen or twenty minutes it takes to find your dumb ass so you can move your car. Unless you want me to put you into a wheel chair eating soup through a straw for the rest of your life, don't park there. No, really, I'm not joking.

6) You there, in the back of the drop-off line. In the blue Honda Pilot. Yes, you, the mousy pinched face brunette. I understand, you're in a hurry, you're late for work, you're special, you're important. Screw you, so am I. Stay in line. The next time you pull out of formation and drive up the shoulder to the front and drop your kid off on the left side of the loading zone so she has to walk through two streams of moving cars to get to the curb, I will make you permanently late for work. Understand? If your kid survives to adulthood, it'll be no thanks to you, you stupid, self absorbed, self centered cow. And that goes for the rest of you bovinated cud chewers, just because Mouse Face did something stupid, doesn't mean that you should follow her. She's not showing initiative or leadership here, she being a selfish asshole, and so are you if you follow her. Remember the example above, cows, slaughterhouse.

Seriously, parents, let's try to look a little more educated, wise, and experienced than the pre-teens we're dropping off, shall we? Kids are supposed to be clueless, you on the other hand are supposed have just a bit more sense. You see because even though stupidity is often hereditary, it's not genetic, it's environmental. Monkey see, monkey do. And if you don't want your kids to turn out like little clueless baboons, well then you need to get a clue yourself.

Seriously, shape the hell up - or I'm going to start cracking heads.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

This week's Alaskan Panorama is...

...storm clouds on Pioneer Peak.




This panorama was created from eleven hi-res shots, taken with my Sony Professional D770 from the roof of my house. As always you can click on the picture to get the high resolution version in my Picasa album.

What was I doing on the roof of my house? Checking the flashing around the furnace waste gas vent, of course. It needs to be re-tarred. If the rain holds off for a while, I'll get that done today.

And, yet again, obviously I have not uploaded bowl work pictures. Yes, I am a slacker. I was going to do it yesterday, but then I decided to take Beastly and the kid silver fishing. We headed down to the Eklunta tail race (the stream below the Eklutna hydroelectric plant) for about eight hours yesterday evening. Didn't catch much of anything, the silvers just weren't interested I guess. However, Beastly nearly caught himself a couple of black bears. A sow and a cub were wandering the bank, looking for spawned out fish carcasses. They were well fed and not even remotely aggressive - but still, you really want to keep your distance, especially from a mother and cub.

The bears came down the other side of the river and startled a couple of folks away from their fishing spot. Then they swan across the river and ended up on our side of the bank, upstream. They ambled towards us, but at the last moment turned and wandered up into the parking lot. I wanted to get a picture, but the light had faded by that time and all I would have gotten would have been black blobs. I kept an eye on them for a while, but they were obviously used to people and we weren't too worried. The mother did eventually attempt to come down the bank and over top of Beastly's position. He had the shotgun in hand, but a big fellow who was fishing beside us hollered and waved his arms and the bear decided that she'd rather be elsewhere. All and all, it was more interesting than exciting. But, hey, we had a good time even if we didn't catch any fish.

I've got work in the shop to do, but it is my intention to get those dammed pictures uploaded this weekend. We'll see how well I do with that resolution.

Friday, August 15, 2008

More of the Same Friday

Obviously I didn't get pictures uploaded yesterday.

The trip into Anchorage took a lot longer than I expected yesterday and we didn't get back until late.

I will do my best to get it done today - and get the email out to everybody I owe things to. I have over a hundred picture sets to upload to Flickr though and for some reason the technology around here is not cooperating this morning.

Try to be patient, I'm having one of those weeks.

I've got a lot of things going on and I'm a bit disorganized at the moment. I've got a couple of appointments today, and things that I just have to do that require some preparation. At a minimum I have to visit two art galleries this morning, and I have to go down to the fair grounds in Palmer and enter a number of my pieces for judging. So all of that comes first. Beastly and I have to repack bowls and artwork and do inventory. Wednesday Market was so dammed intense that we couldn't keep track of what we were selling, and now we've got to sort that out.

And with my wife out of town, a lot of what she normally does I have to pick up - and I promised the kid that we'd go Silver salmon fishing this evening down on the Little Su and I've got to dig out the equipment and get that ready. So, you know, bear with me.

School starts on Monday though and I can't tell you how thrilled I am by that. Thrilled. No really. More than anything, the kid in school means I can get back to writing full time, and that's a good thing because otherwise I may just lose my dammed mind. Iyes of the Dead has been hanging in limbo for three months and I just can't stand it any more, it's making my brain itch. Also I need to get Deep Thunder restarted or I may go completely insane. Additionally I have a two other projects, one on military leadership, and one on woodworking that need outlining and research - all of which starts next week. I'm also on the hook for a couple of articles I've been putting off. So yeah, busy week, but one I'm looking forward to.

More later.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Bachelor Thursday

Well, we had a pretty good day at the Wasilla Market yesterday.

We sold about a third of our inventory, mostly the mid-range stuff, which is far better than we thought we'd do. We made a tiddy sum and were pretty dammed happy with the whole thing. But by the time I got home I was starting to feel like I had just returned from a scouting mission up the Shaat al Arab. I had enough energy left to sit on the couch for an hour and watch a little History Channel and the Olympics daily summary on the news channel and not much else. Ten hours of interfacing with customers just drained the life right out of me.

I'm still feeling tired this morning, I'd have gone to bed earlier last night but I was waiting for a call from my wife. She flew out of Anchorage yesterday, headed to Juneau. And this morning she's on her way to Ketchikan, where she'll catch a float plane to this place. Technically this is a business trip. Technically. The company she works for sends a couple of their most valuable customers to the Boardwalk Lodge every year and Becky is going along as the company's rep. She loves fishing and she deserves it, she does. It's a week of fly fishing and gourmet food at one of the best lodges in the world. It's the Mecca of sportsman the world over. And she's getting paid to go.

Jealous? Me? You have no idea. Seriously. Bald faced, green eyed envy - that's me.

Beastly, the kid, and I intend to eat cheese burgers and macaroni and cheese for the next week in protest. We'll probably go to strip clubs and get tattoos as well. Oh, yes, I'm just a wee bit jealous.

I've got to run into Anchorage and pick my wife's jeep up from the airport. So, I'll be gone for a couple of hours. When I get back I'll get out pictures and email to those folks I owe bowl stuff to. And I'll put up a post with our remaining inventory.

Back in a bit, don't touch anything while I'm gone.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Off to Market

We're off to the Wednesday Market in Wasilla, wish us luck and many rich tourists.

The weather is fairly crappy, light drizzle, but we've got a shiny new pop-up pavilion awning, so we're going anyway.

Here's what two months of woodturning and sculpting looks like:

Market Bowls

Well, OK, this is about half of it, just what would fit on the table. And for reference, that's the multifunction table, which also serves as the outfeed support for the tablesaw, it's about four and half feet wide and ten feet long. Beastly had to stand on top of a step ladder with a wide angle lens on the Nikon to get it all into the picture. The perspective doesn't do it justice.  Some of those bowls are pretty good sized. The knobby looking jobbers on the right-hand, front side of the table, and in the bowls on the left, are wine bottle stoppers which Beastly turns from exotic hardwoods.  Front center you can see a couple of the handmade wooden spoons we made for a client who makes clay sugar keepers and honey jars.  Most of these pieces are Alaskan birch, but a few are exotic hardwoods, we particularly like that tulipwood bowl, dead center, second row, front - the red and yellow striped one.

I'll have detailed photos of each piece up in the Flickr album tomorrow (Yeah, that's about 331 pictures, so it's going to be a day, sue me). Anything that doesn't sell today, and isn't marked for the local art galleries will be available online.

One final note before I head out, Janiece your pictures are coming, I swear. Today. The pieces are done and ready to ship to you. I will email you tonight. Promise. I will.  Anne, I've pulled the piece you requested and put it aside, and I'll get started on making the other piece you requested next week.

We'll have the laptop with us at the market, so depending on the cell network I may check in periodically during the day.

Wish us fame and fortune.  Daddy needs some new bandsaw blades. 

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Marathon Tuesday

Beastly and I are still busting butt, trying to get everything done for market tomorrow.

We've got all the finishing work completed, except for a few touch ups.  Today we have to sign, photograph, and pack everything. I also have to run out here in a few minutes and get change and an awning for our table.

You can see where this is going right?

Yeah, I'm busy today and probably won't get around to posting much of anything, at least until this evening. I'm also behind on my usual blog reading and commenting.

You'll just have to suck it up.

 

So here, have a picture.  Beastly took this up in Hatcher's Pass last weekend. Me, of course, in my spiffy new hat, standing on a rock overlooking the beaver ponds off Goldmint Trail.  It was raining, as usual, which is why I'm wearing the rain jacket. There were bears about, which is why I'm wearing the pistol on the outside of the rain jacket, despite the fact that the chest strap on the shoulder harness was choking the piss out of me.

Note the fresh snow on the ridgeline behind me.  No, that does not make me happy. Usually we don't see snow on the mountain tops until mid September or so.

It's been a weird summer.

Jim at the beaver pond

Monday, August 11, 2008

Marathon Monday

I'm seriously busy today.

Beastly and I are busting ass, trying to finish a load of bowls and other art pieces for the Wasilla Market on Wednesday. This will be our first summer market. We pulled everything we've done this summer out of the finishing cabinet the other day and realized that we have over 70 major pieces, and numerous minor pieces. We need to put the finishing touches on about half of them, so that's what we're doing today. Then tomorrow they all have to be priced and photographed, packed and loaded for market.

We spoke to the Wasilla Market manager last week and both he and the other vendors invited us to set up a table at the market - very nice people all. Additionally, we spoke to a number of art dealers in the area and some of our piece will be going to various galleries. So, yeah, yah us.

Note: Janiece, I have both the pieces you asked about finished and I'll be forwarding pictures and prices to you later today via email. Thanks for being patient about this.

So, anyway folks, don't expect too much from me for a couple of days unless I find extra time in between finishing work.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Well, This Can't be Good

Russian Tanks Roll Into Georgia.


I wake up this morning and Russian tanks are rolling into Ossetia? Russian aircraft are dropping bombs into the Republic of Georgia?

Damn it all to hell. Sanity? Is it too dammed much to ask?

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

I've got things to do this morning. And a headache. So, you're on your own for a bit. Feel free to keep telling me why I'm a jerk.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Why Jim is a Jerk

I am nothing if not helpful.

So, in order to help inaugurate the new www.jimwrightisanasshole.com site I'm opening the post up to comments regarding why I am indeed an asshole.

I'll start:

- Jim Wright does not tolerate dissent on his blog, it's his way or the highway.

- Jim Wright hates the First Amendment, he deliberately stifles free speech on his blog. He doesn't know the difference between trolls and a polite difference of opinion.

- Jim Wright hates born again bunnies who fart rainbows and sunshine and fly when they think happy thoughts of Jesus. Everybody likes bunnies, but not Jim. (This actually is not true, Jim likes bunnies, deep fried with spicy rainbow sauce, and he especially likes flying bunnies because they're better for skeet shooting - which, of course, makes him a big fat jerk).

And like that.

Now you try.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Best Google News Reader Headline Evah

Truck Carrying Bananas Hits Buffalo!

....Oh and there was thirty thousand pounds of bananas, of bananas, of bananas!

Best Chapin song ever, crappy video though.

Questions Answered

OK, so I was looking through logs, just to see who was reading the previous post (you can imagine my curiosity regarding this subject and just who's reading it).

Anyway, a search string caught my eye:

"What do you call it when it's dark all of the time in Alaska?"

Winter.

Glad I could help.

Trolls, Free Speech, and Me

Note: The following guidelines DO NOT mean you can't comment here, or should be intimidated about commenting here, or that if you comment here I and my hordes of zombie-like UCF sycophants will automatically rip you limb from limb.

We like new people - they taste just like chicken.

I'm kidding, of course, I like comments from new people. I am interested in what you have to say, even if you disagree with me. Feel free to comment on anything I've written, but please keep the following in mind. Thanks

-Jim

_______________________________________________________




Regular readers are, of course, familiar with the whole troll issue last Friday.

I'm not going to rehash it here, but suffice it to say that several commenters took exception to something I posted. Exception devolved immediately into classic trolling. This is isn't the first time and probably won't be the last.

Both in the comments (before I shut them down) and in the email I've received since, I've been accused of stifling free speech, being an asshole, a poor journalist, being intimidating, and ... well you get the idea.

A number of folks, at least one acquainted with the troll and an employee of the same organization, asked me why I went after the troll with such a vengeance, threatening to out him to his employers and/or the news media. A couple of folks thought that this was unfair, a suppression of free speech, and just plain mean.

I wasn't going to answer those questions - because I think the answers should be obvious if you know anything about me at all - but I keep getting email and it's starting to get on my nerves.

So, in answer to those questions and for future reference, here's how things work at Stonekettle Station:

_____________________

Ten things to consider before you decide to be a troll here:

1) Me: First, in order to understand my response to trolls, you need to understand who I am. Do NOT assume that you know me, unless you've hung around Stonekettle Station for a good long time. But here are the basics: I'm a retired United States Navy Chief Warrant Officer. Retired is a relative term, I will, for the rest of my life, identify myself as a Chief Warrant Officer - it is an ingrained part of my personality. Navy Warrants are unlike any other rank in any other service. We are selected from a highly competitive group, and we are selected for two things specifically, advanced knowledge combined with experience and a specific personality type. As a group, we tend to be profane, hard boiled, out spoken, and supremely confident in our abilities to get the job, whatever it may be, done. As such we get only the worst jobs, the ones nobody else can do. We are not Officers and Gentlemen - and nobody expects us to be. To help non-Navy folks understand what I mean, allow me to illustrate. When I applied for Warrant I was interviewed by three Navy officers, one Warrant, one Limited Duty Officer, and a senior Naval Academy Graduate - a full Commander. My interview consisted of one question, asked by the Commander: "Let's say we make you an officer, when you join the wardroom you'll be surrounded by real Officers, Academy Graduates (at this point he took pains to tap his Academy ring on the table top so I would notice), and that means three things: one, they are better educated than you. Two, they are smarter than you. And three, they are a lot younger than you. How are you going to handle that?" I didn't have to think about my answer, I said immediately, "I'll buy younger, but not the rest of your points. I believe each member of the wardroom has something to contribute, and if I need to know how to chain a woman to a urinal, tear up a Vegas hotel, or cheat on my engineering exam those officers will be the first ones I ask - other than that they better stay the fuck out of my way." The Commander turned bright red, the LDO remained carefully straight faced, and the Warrant smiled - and the interview was over (no, the Commander wasn't being an ass, the Warrant put him up to it. And it was really the Warrant's decision).

And that is how you become a Warrant, and it should tell you something about what kind of person I am. If you find that story only confirmation of your assumption that I'm an asshole, well you may be right, but you're missing the bigger picture. Do some research into why people like me are necessary to the military, start here. My job was to get the mission done, by hook or crook, come hell or high water. You fight until there's nothing left but ashes, and then you piss in the ashes. Warrants exist solely for that reason. We lead from the front, by example, and we have a well earned reputation for bluntness, duty, honor, courage, and commitment to our people and the mission. I've been around the world, fought in two wars, and earned the respect of fighting men on six continents. So when you troll my site and attempt a personal attack on me or mine, well, that's what you're up against.

2) Journalism: Stonekettle Station is a blog, not a news outlet. I am not a journalist. I post things that I find amusing or interesting. I post things I feel like talking about. Sometimes it's pictures of woodwork or Alaska. Sometimes it's politics. Sometimes it's the military. Sometimes it's a soup recipe. And sometimes it's just videos of Dire Straits. I strive for accuracy, but again I'm primarily expressing my opinion of things I see in the world - if you want news reporting, go to a news site.

3) Disclaimer: There is a disclaimer on the upper right hand side of the main webpage that says very clearly that this site may contain profanity, ranting, and strong opinions - my opinions. If those things offend you, if opinionated people offend you, if profanity offends you - then go elsewhere. Don't comment, just go. The Internet is a big place, and surely if you look long enough you'll find a site more to your liking, someplace with pictures of born again Christian bunnies who fart sunshine and rainbows and fly when they think happy thoughts of Jesus.

4) Terminology: If you are unfamiliar with the terminology of the Internet, blogs, or this blog in particular - either educate yourself or go find something else to do. Start with the classic definition of a troll, if you act like a troll then you are a troll - and I will not put up with your nonsense. If you are offended by being dumped under the bridge with the other trolls, then don't act like one. Here at Stonekettle Station I am the sole arbiter of who is and who is not acting like a troll.

5) Free Speech: I believe strongly in free speech. I spent most of my life defending the Constitution and the rights that it guarantees to Americans. HOWEVER, the 1st Amendment does not give you the right to act like an asshole on my site. I do not have to tolerate illiterate, poorly expressed ad hominem attacks. If you act like a troll, I will shut you down - refer to paragraph 1) above. Now, because there seems to be some confusion on this point, let me make myself clear. a) There is a big difference between disagreeing with my opinion, or the opinion of other commenters, and acting like an asshole. When you call my readers morons, you're not addressing the post or another comment, you're engaging in an ad hominem attack. And that is going to earn you a punch in the nose. b) Deleting or moderating your comments on my site does not, in any way, infringe on your freedom of speech. I am under no obligation whatsoever, expressed or implied, to allow you to comment on my site. When you're here, you're a guest - behave yourself or I'll have the bouncers show you the door. This is no different than not allowing you onto my private property so you can call me an asshole. Before you lecture me on the Constitution, try reading it first. c) I don't have to have comments enabled at all, I chose to allow comments because I often enjoy the things people have to say here, however just because I allow comments does not give you the right to say whatever asshat thing you like. d) If you really feel the need to call me an asshole or engage in illiterate blathering, start your own blog. I believe www.jimwrightisanasshole.com is available. Correction, jimwrightisanasshole.com has been taken, you'll have to come up with something else. e) I do not think that just because you disagree with me that you are automatically a troll. If you disagree with something I wrote, then make your case. However, if your entire rebuttal consists of "You're an asshole" or some approximation of the same, then you're a troll and you're going to get punched in the nose. A number of folks, both in email and on other blogs, have accused me of not tolerating disagreement with my opinion. Wrong, demonstrably wrong. Frequent commenter John the Scientist can almost always be counted on to disagree with my views on politics and religion - and yet his comments are polite, well thought out and indicative of a keen mind, professional, and often humorous. We often agree to disagree, or upon occasion he has even changed my outlook on things. I respect his opinion very much, even if I disagree with it. Hell, I once wrote an opinion piece in favor of genetically modified food and every single regular commenter told me why I was wrong, insane, or misguided. They easily convinced me that I was wrong. Not one of them acted like an asshole. They simply said, "You're wrong, here's why." I respect their opinions and knowledge. I was talking out my ass to some extent, and I got corrected by people who knew better. If you want the same respect, then act the same way.

6) You and your employer: I am under no obligation, expressed or implied, to protect you from your employer if you engage in asshatery on company time. If you don't like how I handle that situation, then don't give me power over you, i.e. don't act in a manner that discredits your employer or is contrary to your company's policy regarding Internet access, public relations, and etcetera. Most especially don't do so and then act like an asshole on my site - because I will out your ass just on general principles, see paragraph 1) above.

7) Credibility: If you want to be taken seriously, then take a minute to be professional and to think about what you're saying. If you drop a cryptic one line bit of snark into my comments section - you're not being clever or quizzical, you're just pissing me off. And everybody makes a few typos in the comments section, me probably more than most - but if you consistently don't know the difference between "There," "They're," and "Their," and you are unable to structure a paragraph at least as well as my 12-year old then I'm going to find it hard to take you seriously - especially if you're harping on how uneducated I must be. Additionally, if you use ellipsis in place of a period at the end of every dammed sentence I'll delete your comment out of hand. One final note on this subject: A lot. Two words.

8) Anonymity: I don't like anonymous comments. So why do I have anonymous commenting enabled? Because I want to make it easy for people surfing through without google, blogger, or open ID's to comment if they so desire. However, anonymity seems to give some folks a sense of false courage, and they seem to think they can hide behind it to say any dammed stupid and inflammatory thing they like. And there are far too many of these people on the net these days, and it pisses me off. I am a whole lot more likely to tag you as a troll if you hide behind anonymity. Especially if you're using anonymous posting to hide the fact that you are doing something unethical, like say acting like an ass on company time, see paragraph 6) above. I have the ability to find out who you are, and I will. If you've just got to tell me what an asshole I am, at least have the courage to own what you say.

9) Intimidation: Three people wrote to me and said something along the lines of "I wanted to comment on the whole DSL thing, but I was afraid that you would yell at me. You are too intimidating, you should be less intimidating." I've heard this crap my whole life. Yes, I am loudly intolerant of fools, idiots, and the mentally lazy. Yes, I am confident in my opinions, my abilities, my knowledge, and my experience, those things kept my men and I alive on the battlefield. Yes, I tend to express my opinions in black and white terms. Yes, I have little patience for jackasses and people who are deliberately obtuse or offensive, and people who just argue to hear themselves talk. I am the archetype of the classic Type-A personality - refer to paragraph 1) above. I am not going to change, I don't want to, and I don't have to. If you are intimidated by me, then you have three choices: a) go away, b) keep quiet and bitch timidly about me behind my back, or c) grow a pair of big hairy balls. Good grief, if you're intimidated by some words on a screen written by a guy in Alaska that you don't even know - well, maybe you should take a couple of those self-esteem classes. Or try joining the Navy, it worked for me.

10) Regulars: If you're a drive-by commenter, do a little reading around here first before you start typing, that'll save you the embarrassment of saying something stupid - say like calling me a Bush Republican. Little chaps my ass more than to have somebody accuse me of not doing my research or not knowing what I'm talking about, when it's patently obvious from the comment that it's a case of the pot calling the Stonekettle black. If you're a drive-by commenter and you disagree with me, I may or may not give you the time of day depending on how I'm feeling at that very moment. Regulars get a pass. I know them. Many of them are my friends or acquaintances in one form or another. Don't assume that just because I enjoy snarky comments from them that you get the same treatment. If you want the same respect, stick around, learn the lay of the land, and establish yourself as a credible, reasonable, and intelligent commenter. I'm not saying that you can't comment, or that your comment will get slammed, only that you shouldn't assume familiarity when none exists.

Here's the bottom line: Don't be a dick. There are way too many assholes out there, and frankly I'm just plain sick and tired of it. Every single comment thread under every major news article is full of stupid, poorly thought out and poorly written, illiterate nonsense. Major blog sites are infested with jerks and little surely dipshits who seem bent on making the Internet their personal battleground. Most of these people are obnoxious little blowhards in real life, or mousy housewives who get their worldview from Oprah and those clever little sayings on Starbucks cups, or pimply faced IT dweebs who are still pissed about getting picked on in high school, or depressed insurance salesmen in dead end jobs angry that their football 'career' ended at high school graduation. And the anonymity of the Internet gives them the fake courage to be the jackasses they don't have the balls to be in real life. I will not put up with that garbage here.

If you try it on my site, I will either lock you out, or I will hunt you down and ruin your day - just exactly as the last troll found out. So, again, don't be a dick.

Don't say I didn't warn you.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Soup, it's what's for dinner

Soup and Biscuits

Well, it's what was for dinner yesterday, actually.

It's been a while since I published a recipe, so here, you get two for the price of one.

The soup is sour cream potato, and those round bread looking bouls next to it are what we refer to around here as Hansen Biscuits

Nope, Hansen biscuits are not an Alaskan thing.

The mother of my good friend Jeff Hansen used to make these, she called them piggies - i.g. a variation of pigs-in-a-blanket. Jeff started making them for his friends, it got to be a thing. So, we now call them Hansen Biscuits.

They're simple: Turn three pounds of ground pork sausage into 2" in diameter round balls - you should get 30 of them for 3lbs of sausage. Me? I like Jimmy Dean Hot Pork Sausage.  Cook the sausage balls in a covered pan, turning occasionally, until cooked thoroughly. Remove from heat, drain on paper towels and put into the fridge until cold. This is important, the cooked sausage balls must be cold.  While waiting for the sausage to cool down, make bread dough using your favorite white or whole wheat recipe. Me? I prefer the White Bread 101 recipe from the King Arthur Flour Baker's Companion.  I make a double batch, which would normally make two loaves.  Two loaves is just about perfect for the 30 biscuits, so adjust your recipe accordingly.  Complete the first rise, usually about an hour, then punch the dough down and divide into as many pieces as you have sausage balls.  Wrap each cold sausage ball in dough, sealing it tightly - if the sausage balls aren't cold, the warm grease will prevent the dough from sticking/sealing up, then the bouls will split open during cooking and you'll have a mess.  Place each biscuit on a cooking tray well separated from its neighbor.  Me? I use parchment paper lined sheet trays, I get fifteen biscuits per tray. Two sheet trays fit perfectly into my oven.  Cover with plastic wrap and allow to complete the second rise - about an hour, depending on the recipe.  Brush with egg white and water mixture, and bake until golden brown.

Jeff serves his biscuits with chicken noodle soup and dill pickles - and we like them that way too. But yesterday it was cold and rainy, and that's more of a potato soup kind of day.

The soup is simple:

2 qts water, 1 good sized glob of Tones chicken base and four large potatoes cut into medium sized cubes in a large sauce pan. Bring to boil, reduce to simmer. 2 tablespoons chopped garlic, 1 cup chopped onion, 1 cup chopped celery sauteed in a tablespoon of olive oil until softened. Add a 1/4 cup of flour to the celery/onion mixture, toss or stir to coat, and saute until golden brown over medium heat. Add the saute mixture to the potatoes, stirring carefully so you don't break up the spuds. Add 1 1/2 cups fat free half and half. 1 pinch of salt, 1 tablespoon fresh chopped basil, dash ground pepper, 1 cup shredded smoked Tilamook cheddar cheese, 1 cup chopped ham, and 1/2 cup chopped cooked bacon. Simmer on low heat for 1/2 hour.  Add a dash of Worcestershire sauce, remove from heat. Serve with a generous dollop of sour cream and a handful of shredded Tilamook over the top.

Perfect for a rainy day.

Monday, August 4, 2008

What?

Denver Police Brace for Convention.

OK, show of hands, how many of you read that and thought of Denvention first?

Yeah, I read that headline in Google news reader and immediately flashed on a bunch of geeks dressed up in Klingon foam heads locked in a fierce slugfest with a bunch of dweebs dressed in ill-fitting pastel Starfleet pajamas in the streets of Denver. Books and computer stores trashed by Buffy clones armed with wooden stakes. The DPD in full riot gear and batons pushing back an enraged mob shouting "Bring Back Firefly! Bring Back Firefly! One Two Three, we want Serenitee!"

OK, I'll stop.

Yeah, it's the Democratic National Convention. Big friggin' Whoop Tee Do, like that'll be any kind of newsworthy ruckus.

Reviews I wish I had written

Alan Brinkley, at the New York Times, reviews The Dark Side: The Inside Story of How the War on Terror Turned Into a War on American Ideals, by Jane Mayer.

Brinkely does a terrific job summarizing Meyer's new book - and if his review doesn't make you want to order it right now, Doubleday, $27.50, well, nothing will - and it's actually $16.50 at Amazon, right now.

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One thing I'd like to note:  Brinkley describes the US Military's SERE (Survival, Evasion, Resistance, and Escape) course as a "secret military program," designed in the 1950's to teach high-risk personnel to withstand torture.  While Brinkley is correct overall, there is nothing secret about SERE itself.  It's a well known program, and has been since Vietnam. All pilots, flight crew, and special forces - i.e. folks who operate over or behind enemy lines and are therefore likely to face capture - are required to attend SERE. Now, the particulars of the program are confidential, because we'd rather our enemies not know in detail exactly how our forces are trained, but the program itself and the broad details of what each attendee goes through are well known. 

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Anyway, Brinkely's review is detailed and terrific - and Meyer's book even more so. So, if you're looking for something to add to that stack of books sitting next to your easy chair, well, you could do a whole hell of a lot worse than this one.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

This week's Alaskan Panorama is...

the Friday Fling - i.e. the Palmer, Alaska Friday market.




Clicking on the photo will take you to a higher resolution version in my Picasa Album. And for a while it's the site banner up there on top of the page.

Beastly is somewhere in this photo, do you see him?

Friday, August 1, 2008

Moderation

Comment moderation is off.

We'll see how that works for a while.