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Friday, October 31, 2008

Trick or Treat Fail

Attention Employees of Restaurants, Grocery Stores, Starbucks, and oh hell, well, everybody who dresses oddly all year around: If you're going to wear an actual costume on Halloween, you need to also wear a button or a sign that says,

"This is a costume, please compliment me on it. Thank you."

If you dress in such a manner that I can't tell the difference between your normal appearance and a costume, do not act offended when I fail to notice on Halloween.



If you normally wear makeup in unnatural colors that looks like somebody applied it to you with a paint-roller or an industrial caulking gun, if you normally decorate your face so that it looks like the south end of a northbound peacock, if your standard makeup scheme can best be defined as "David Bowman's psychedelic passage through the Star Gate Monolith from 2001: A Space Odyssey" then don't be surprised when I don't notice that your Halloween costume is a mime, Bozo the Clown, Nancy Grace, The Joker from Batman, or a Japanese kabuki girl.

If you normally choose your wardrobe from the Salvation Army dumpster and your Halloween costume is a 60's go-go dancer, a homeless person, a Lehman Brothers investment fund manager, or Kurt Cobain, there's a pretty good chance I won't notice even if you pointedly ask me what I think of your outfit. The best you can hope for is that I'll say something noncommittal like, "It looks good on you."

If you wear camo pants or your dad's old Vietnam Army jacket every damned day of the year and your Halloween costume is a deer hunter, the Deer Hunter, The Master Chief, or a member of the Michigan Militia, well, I'm probably not going to notice just because you added a camo bandanna tied around your forehead and I'll probably be giving you a wide berth anyway.

If your face is pierced through every conceivable fold, flap, lobe, brow, lip, nostril, cheek, chin, and tongue and you've got more stainless steel embedded in your head than a kitchen supply store, don't be surprised when I don't notice that your Halloween costume is a blender, motherboard, cell phone tower, doberman pincher, The Terminator, or Dick Cheney's mechanical heart.

If you are an emo kid and your costume is Dark Matter, Darth Vader, Johnny Cash, Bono, a black hole, black body radiation, the Labrea Tar Pits, the personification of self-pitying angst, or Dick Cheney's black mechanical heart there's a pretty good chance I'll just laugh mockingly at you in my usual fashion unless you either smile or wear something pink, yellow, or generally uncorpse like. Also, try taking a shower.

If you are covered from head to toe in skull and spiderweb tattoes and your costume is a Hell's Angel, a member of the Aryan Nation, or a Folsom Penetentry Alumni out on parole, well, you just stay on your side of the room and I'll stay on mine. OK?

If you are a chimpanzee, bonobo, baboon, Bobo the Monkey Boy, or any other non-human member of the hominids and your costume is George W. Bush... dude, seriously, don't. It's demeaning to your species and it's too easy.

The following costumes are absolutely garenteed to make me kick your ass at least once on All Hallow's Eve: Osama Bin Laden in a 7-11 uniform, Sarah Palin complete with annoying faux Minny-sota accent oh yeh, Tina Fey costume under Sarah Palin costume complete with annoying faux Minny-sota accent oh yeh, a Texan, Sponge Bob Squarepants, Dick Cheney's black mechanical heart, Ted Stevens with his hand out, an Ewok, PeeWee Herman, a Postal Employee, or a Pirate costume complete with large belt-buckle mounted steering wheel so that when people ask about it you can respond with "Argh! It's drivin' me nuts!"

Thank you and please don't TP my house.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Manly Bloggin' Thursday

In the comments below the previous post, Random Michelle asked me to post "more kitty pictures." Then she tried to guilt me into it by claiming to feel "sick."

Gah.

Sorry, no. This is a manly blog where we talk about manly, manly things. Kitties are fluffy and cute and girly and definitely not at all manly.

No kitten pictures.

(Note: Rescuing a freezing kitten from the ferocious wilderness of my back porch is manly, which is why I posted about it. And I posted one kitten picture purely as a manly public service in order to return the kitten in question to it's child, again a manly superhero sort of thing to do. I was not, in fact, posting gratuitous pictures of kittens in order to increase my chick appeal. I'm quite manly, thank you, without resorting to such girly-boy tactics).

In order to prove this blog's manliness, today I will take you on a manly tour of my manly wood shop. Put on your man pants, and prepare to get dusty, sweaty, and gassy in a manly pull my finger way.

First a picture of one of my manly 4x4 ATV's, which I use in a manly fashion to harvest big burly logs from the deep and dangerous Alaskan wilderness. A powerful manly machine that could outrun a Formula 1 race car and pull a fully loaded 747 up a cliff without shifting out of 4th gear or spilling the drink cart. Note the manly gun rack on the front.

shop 22

Next we'll look at the manly planer, a horrifyingly powerful machine, designed gnaw through literally yards of rough cut lumber. It could kill a lesser man in seconds and turn him into a pile of quivering pate. Seriously, this tool is only for the use of manly man, there is nothing fluffy or cute about it, as you can clearly see:

shop 23

After processing in the planer, I move the lumber (lumber is more manly sounding than 'board') in a sweaty and gruntingly manly fashion to the tablesaw. Many men have lost their lives to this ravening beast which can slice through yard thick chrome steel in seconds. Note that this machine is equipped with the deadly stacked Dado blade, a truly manly device designed to remove human limbs. Never, ever, allow children or pets near this machine. Ever. Just sayin'

shop 19

After cutting lumber to rough size on the manly tablesaw, I often stop and scratch, maybe even burp out loud in a manly fashion. Then I cut the lumber into more manageable sizes (not that I can't manage whole trees mind you, but some of the machines simply aren't up to the task despite their fearsome power and brutal capacity). I do that on the manly Dewalt chopsaw, a guillotine like device with huge spinning blades and no safety guards of any kind. A true test of manly strength and dexterity. Note the HUGE plastic jar of manly dog treats on the left hand side of the picture.

shop 15

Next, depending on the manliness of the job, I might cut pieces on the manly industrial Powermatic 77 scroll saw. This huge cast iron behemoth can lop off a fist full of fingers in seconds, girls get sterile just looking at it:

shop 17

I might have to bore manly holes into a piece and for that I use the manly Jet Drill Press, a powerful boring machine capable of drilling clean through the earth and killing everybody in China should it ever come unleashed from its stand. Note the giant manly quill handles and powerful manly red switch on the front:

Shop 3

Sometimes I have to stop and swear in a manly fashion, before cutting mortises in the Delta mortising machine, a cunningly cruel tool used to cut manly square holes in wooden stiles. Note the large red manly pipe wrenches hanging on the manly tool board above the manly work bench, I've used these to kill Kodiak Brown Bears in a single swipe to the head, that's why they're red, to hide the blood:

shop 4

Of course, the real manly work is done on the lathe, a powerful and temperamental machine capable of turning an entire Honduran mahogany tree trunk:

shop 16

In true manly man fashion, I built a mobile manly lathe chisel stand from the salvaged hull of an old Soviet nuclear submarine, it's only slightly radioactive and real manly men don't worry about a little fallout anyway. Radiation is good for manly men, puts manly hair on your manly chest.

shop 10

Once I've finished with the lathe, I might do some manly power carving on the downdraft table. Note the large assortment of manly razor sharp carving bits, these are placed in the manly Foredom carving tool, which is powered by an monster 8-cylinder Buick motor:

shop 9

Vacuum is supplied to the various machines by a huge manly cyclonic dust collection system that I built myself, or rather by forced orphan labor working diligently under my manly lash:

shop 6

And finally, a sample of my manly efforts, drying in the manly finishing cabinet. These bowls were coated in the tears of bitter and sorrowful women applied with brushes made from the hair of my vanquished enemies:

shop 8

And there you have it, a manly tour of the manly Stonekettle Station Woodshop.

We do many manly things here at Stonekettle Station, but what we don't do is cater to the pitiful cries of sickly women.

And no kitty pictures.

Ever.

_______________________________________

Hope you're feeling better, Michelle.


_______________________________________

Some sissy readers might have noted a rather large number of typos in the initial post. This was done on purpose, as manly men are not girly English professors and they construct sentences however they please. In other words, they command language, it doesn't command them. Yes. However, the shrill girly whine of some unmanly people was getting on my manly nerves. So I fixed it. You're welcome.

Now, pull my finger...

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

The Final McCain Obama Faceoff

Whoever created this is a freakin' genius - a genius with too much time on their hands, but a genius nonetheless.


Good Things, Small Packages

Got a package in the mail the other day.

We get packages all the time, so I didn't notice right away.

Usually it's clothes my wife orders through the mail (not a lot of petite woman's clothing stores in Alaska and my wife is like a real wife, only smaller, so she normally orders business clothes through the mail from the lower 48). If it's something for me, she'll toss it on the table next to my recliner and eventually I'll get around to it.

I didn't recognize the return address and I didn't remember ordering anything recently. Hmmm, suspicious. Something from Walter Wagner maybe? My own micro-black hole? Cool, maybe it would suck up all the damned cat hair.

Nope. It was a shirt. Yeah, yeah, stop that giggling.

My very own Nathan Gendzier designer T-shirt.

Cat 1

Apologies for the crappy picture. The Sony's batteries are running low and I didn't want to run into the house and get another one. Yeah, I am just that lazy, thanks for asking.

The back says "Gawd, I'm an idiot!" which is the publicly sanitized version of Nathan's personal motto, and even more funny if you ask me.

You'll notice I'm not alone in the picture. And the creature on my shoulder doesn't resemble either The Fat One (which would probably kill me to have on my shoulder) or Stupid.

No, Nathan didn't send me either of his brood, accidentally or otherwise. This one arrived all by itself. Night before last both of our cats were pressed against the glass door leading out onto a small porch off the sunroom. They were twitching their tails and staring out into the dark. I didn't pay them any attention, there's a small squirrel that likes to sit on the firewood pile and do the cat taunting dance and I figured that was what was holding their attention (seriously, that squirrel is a jerk when it comes to mocking the cats, which I find hysterical). Anyway, my wife detected a mewing sound, which frankly I never noticed (twenty years of having shit blow up next to my head, sue me if I can't hear high freqs any more), and went to investigate and discovered a small black and white cat outside the door crying to get in.

Hmmmm. Didn't look feral from what I could tell. And I'd seen it around the yard earlier. Nothing unusual, the neighborhood cats make the rounds every day through our backyard, looking for carcasses of birds that occasionally slam into the sunroom windows and break their stupid necks. Hey, it's thirty feet of big assed glass windows, I've got 'predator silhouettes' on each window which are supposed to keep the little birds away. Yeah. Sure. Every other day BANG! and another one bashes its brains out. Not much I can do about it. Sorry. And the cats come by and clean up the wreckage, leaving little piles of feathers in the snow.

Anyway I figure the cat would eventually lose interest and wander off home.

No.

It was still out there the next morning, rolled up into a tight little ball on the porch.

Damn. So I went to check on it, figuring it would run away as soon as I got close. Instead it came straight at me, mewling piteously, and shaking like a leaf in the subzero cold. And that's about the time I realized that it was not very old and that it was scared, hungry, and damned near frozen to death. The thing clung to me like a drowning man grabbing onto a life-preserver and tried to burrow into my jacket.

It turns out that I'm not the kind of guy who can leave a kitten to freeze to death. Yeah, imagine how disappointed I am with myself.

I couldn't bring it into the house, Stupid and Tubby would have torn it to shreds, cats don't like new cats in their territory, so I took it out to the shop. After the kitten had warmed up and stopped shaking, I got some food and water which it devoured like it was starving - though that was probably just the normal cat hunger, the kitten looks well cared for, not starved or ragged, so it couldn't have been outside on its own for long. No collar. No fleas. No worms. No injuries. Seems very healthy. It's a little female and just incredibly affectionate. She's also utterly fearless. She followed me all over the shop and then went off to explore. Eventually she curled up on my shop stool and watched me. None of the power tools scared her, not even the thickness planer which howls like a banshee in operation.

She obviously belongs to somebody and I suspect that somewhere there's a kid in tears wondering what happened to her. I figured she couldn't have made it very far and so I checked with the neighbors, both beside me and down the hill behind my house. Nobody's missing a cat. No missing cat posters on the community mailboxes or power poles.

She spent last night in the shop. I gave her more food, my wife found an old towel for her to sleep on and I put out a pan of litter. She was curled up asleep on my stool this morning when I turned on the lights. She shows no interest whatsoever of going back out into the cold and seems to be perfectly happy in the shop.

Today I'll take her down to Animal Control and see if she's chipped, and if not I'll put up some posters of my own and see if I can find her owner.

If not, well, I don't know what to do. I'd hate to give her to Animal Control or a shelter, but I seriously doubt the other cats would accept her into the household. Maybe I'll end up with a shop mouser. We'll see.

Right now, she's asleep on my workbench and acting like she owns the place.

Cat 2

Frankly, I'm surprised the eagles didn't get her.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

And Again, Idiot Parents

I'm a gun owner.

I've spent my entire life around guns, both in and out of the military.

My dad taught me to shoot at a young age. I've had extensive professional training since. I'm a graduate of numerous weapons' schools. I attended the Smith & Wesson Range Master Academy. I've been to Tactical Survivor School. I've been through the USMC Tactical Officer's Weapon School, and US Navy Boarding Officer's School, and special operations ground combat training. I've been through security forces training and marine (marine, not Marine) SWAT team training. I'm rated expert with both long guns and hand guns, both with right hand and left. I've shot competition. I've carried guns in every conceivable situation. I've handled everything from small pistols to the M-16A1 and A2 to the MP4 to 60Cal squad machine guns to large 25mm autocannon and grenade launchers all the way up to US Navy 5"54 main guns. And I am rarely very far from a weapon, even today. I'm extremely comfortable around guns, I'm a certified gunsmith, and I can field strip a government model M1911A1 .45ACP and put it back together blindfolded in under a minute. I live in Alaska, and rarely venture into the bush without my reliable Colt Anaconda .44magnum, or my Colt M1911 .45ACP at the very least.

So, you might think I'm a gun nut.

Not so.

As I mentioned elsewhere today, I'm a strong advocate of gun control. While I understand and support the 2nd Amendment, I don't think just any jackass should be able to own a gun. Hell, some people shouldn't be left alone in the kitchen with a Cuisinart, let alone be allowed to handle a pistol. I think a fifteen day waiting period for any gun purchase is a damned fine idea (Seriously, a guy runs into a gun shop all wild-eyed and wants a gun RIGHT NOW, that's probably not somebody we need to be armed, just saying). I think background checks should be mandatory for all gun purchases, every time. I think mandatory training for first time purchases should be required - we make people take drivers education, but any idiot can own and operate a gun, yeah, that makes sense. I think that there is no conceivable need for any civilian to have a military grade weapon in his house. AK-47's and AR-15's (the civilian version of the M-16) are not sporting weapons, they are designed to kill people, period - and the people who buy these weapons are exactly the kind of people who shouldn't own weapons in the first damned place. I'm not a fan of national gun registration for the average gun owner, but I do think that "Gun Collectors" should be registered and licensed and regulated, period, with major fines, jail time, and confiscation of all weapons for any violation. And I think all gun owners should be held strictly accountable, with severe penalties for allowing a weapon to fall into the hands of a child or for any other negligent act. You buy a safe, you lock your guns up, you take responsibility. Period.

And gun shows? Well, gun shows just plain piss me off.

Ever been to one? It starts in the parking lot. With the giant trucks and the Confederate flags and the stupid pseudo patriotic bumper-stickers and it gets worse, a lot worse, inside the convention hall. Gun shows are where every drooling idiot with a gun fetish goes to rub uglies with other rednecked retards. Gun shows are tables and tables of deadly paraphernalia for sale by idiots who think they know something about guns to idiots who learned about guns from reading Soldier of Fortune magazine and watching the military channel. Gun shows are full of grade-B ignorant morons in camo pants who jerk off to the Guns & Ammo centerfold with a fist full of Break Free CLP pistol lube. It's a place where deals get made under the table and guns change hands for cash without any form of accountability. The average IQ at a gun show is roughly that of a troop of termite eating baboons. If I had my way, I ban gun shows altogether, and I'll tell you flat out that the people who go to gun shows are the kind of people who shouldn't own guns in the first place.

Sound harsh?

Let me give you an example:

With an instructor watching, an 8-year-old boy at a gun fair aimed an Uzi at a pumpkin and pulled the trigger as his dad reached for a camera. It was his first time shooting a fully automatic machine gun, and the recoil of the weapon was too much for him. He lost control and fatally [shot] himself in the head.

That's right, last weekend at a gun show in Westfield, Massachusetts, 8-year Chris Bizilj (Bay-seal) was given a fully automatic .45cal Uzi submachinegun. He aimed at a pumpkin, and pulled the trigger on full-auto. Instead of helping to control the weapon, the 'instructor' was standing back watching. Instead of helping to control the weapon, the father was taking pictures. And apparently, it did not occur to anybody present that giving a fucking machine gun to an 8-year old was a bad, bad, bad, bad, bad idea.

If you've never fired an automatic weapon, well, it's nothing at all like in the Rambo movies. Even a big guy with a patented GI-Joe kung-fu grip and forearms like Popeye the Sailorman has a hard time controlling a weapon on full auto. All guns kick, it's basic physics: for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. That's why when you pull the trigger the muzzle tends to move up in recoil (that's assuming you're holding the weapon correctly and you have sufficient strength to manage the recoil. If you don't, well, then then muzzle tends to move in unexpected directions, including straight back into your face. Seen it happen, many times). Even a light weapon will kick, and that recoil is magnified many, many times with an automatic weapon - and especially one with a high cyclic rate of fire and light weight - like the Uzi. Even a relatively heavy automatic rifle like the Navy M-14A2 in full auto will knock the shit out of you. I once saw a petite Sailor, a young female Petty Officer firing an M-14A2 in full auto from the prone position, get pounded backwards by the repeating recoil. Once the weapon began to fire and she began to lose control, she automatically clenched her hands on the rifle in a attempt to just hold on, thus jamming the trigger back and emptying the entire 15 round magazine in one burst. The recoil knocked her backwards off the firing platform and the line of fire described a perfect arc over her head as each round raised the muzzle another six inches. She blew the roof off the firing platform and damned near killed fifteen people, including me. And she had training.

A light machine is worse. The weapon doesn't weigh enough and the barrel isn't long enough to help offset the recoil. The cycle rate is very high, several hundred rounds per minute as opposed to the much lower firing rate of a large caliber machine gun. They tend to get hot very, very quickly and if you're not holding them correctly you get seriously burned, which means you lose control or drop the weapon. They are extremely difficult to aim, extremely. An Uzi for example is commonly called a scatter gun or a fire hose, because the bullets tend to fly all over the damned place in full auto. Despite what you see in the movies, most modern light automatic military weapons are burst weapons as opposed to being fully automatic, i.e. when you pull the trigger and hold it down they fire a burst (usually 3 rounds), then you have to release the trigger and pull it again. Why? Because even a big beefy leatherneck who lives and dies with his weapon (All Marines are riflemen first) usually can't maintain aim past about three rounds in automatic - plus it saves ammo, big time. A couple of other things: automatic weapons are loud, startlingly so for the uninitiated, and they eject a stream of hot flying brass, which often ends up under your feet like marbles (or dropping down neck of the guy standing beside you like red hot ingots, which is why I always wear a boonie hat on the firing line).

And this is exactly my point.

Gun shows are full of rampant hard-ons who only think they know something about guns. Note the 'instructor' in the article, who obviously, obviously, didn't know shit about firearms instruction to children - let alone anything about teaching automatic weapons fire. Second, note the utter fucking moron of a father who thought it was cool to give his 8-year old son an automatic weapon, and not just any automatic weapon, but an Uzi submachinegun. Note how both the father and the idiot instructor were obviously ignorant of the points I outline above regarding automatic weapons. Third, the Uzi. Somebody please explain to me why there were automatic weapons at this gun show. Somebody please explain to me why there were automatic weapons being fired at this gun show. Somebody please explain to me why any idiot with a bloodstream full of viagra and no damned sense whatsoever was allowed to fire an automatic weapon at this gun show. Somebody please explain to me why an 'instructor' didn't have the basic common sense of any Range Master when presented with an 8-year old child, who had neither the physical development nor the maturity to handle a regular hunting rifle let alone an Uzi.

Predictably, or at least predictably to anyone with an once of common sense and a modicum of training, when Chris Bizilj pulled the trigger, the weapon's muzzle rose with each succeeding round, he immediately lost control and because the Uzi is a very short barreled weapon and the muzzle was below his head when fully vertical, the kid shot himself in the forehead.

I feel deep sadness for any father who looses a child under such tragic circumstance. But I feel nothing but rage for the shear and utter stupidity that precipitated these tragic circumstances in the first place. The operators of the gun fair, the instructor, the venue owners, and especially the father should be held strictly accountable for manslaughter. The show operators for failing to adhere to basic firearms safety guidelines. The venue owners for failing to determine those guidelines in advance and for not ensuring that they were enforced. The instructor for criminal negligence and criminal stupidity.

And the father, for child endangerment.

See, this wasn't the first time Chris had fired a weapon beyond his capability. He had fired pistols too and it would seem that his father is enamored with American gun culture. I can see a child learning to fire a small caliber (.22 rifle, 410 shotgun) around eight years of age depending on his maturity and development. My son is twelve, and has not yet fired a weapon and will not for another year or until I'm satisfied that he is mature enough to understand my rules and stick to them. But no child should be firing a handgun of any kind until well into their teens, they simply do not have either the maturity or the physical development to operate handguns safely. You can argue with me all you want, but I'm a professionally trained range master and firearms instructor and I taught small arms for twenty years to military people and I have extensive experience in this, so if you're going to argue think carefully before you comment.

It's long past time to get rid of the hodge-podge mishmash of city, local, and state gun regulations, and long past time to impose a unified set of federal gun regulations. We can easily protect our 2nd Amendment rights and still have common sense regulation that reduces the likelihood of the kind of tragedy that occurred in Massachusetts last weekend.

Call it the Chris Bizilj Act.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Signs of the Times

Down the road from my house is a church and Christian school, Baptist I think, but I can't be sure and don't care enough to find out.

They've got a sign out front. One those message boards, where they broadcast whatever God is thinking about this week. You know, the usual helpful loving messages: God hates the homos, God hates the Atheists, God hates uppity women, God hates abortionists, God hates evolutionists, God hates the Muslims, and, well, God apparently hates a lot of things.

This week God hates liberals and admonishes us to "Vote in accordance with Biblical Guidelines."

I'm not exactly sure what that means, God hates liberals? Hmmm that's probably why he had his kid nailed to a cross, huh? I don't mean to point out any logical fallacies in modern conservative Christianity or anything, but it seems to me that Jesus was just about as liberal as it gets. So, if God hates liberals, and Christians should emulate God, then Christians should hate liberals and therefore shouldn't they hate Jesus too? Forgive me, Father, but I'm a little confused.

The sign, it often has that effect on me.

And then there's that whole vote in accordance with biblical guidelines thing: So far as I remember, there weren't a whole lot of democracies in the the bible. A word search on the King James Version yields exactly zero hits on the word "vote" and biblical scholars back me up on this. The word vote doesn't appear anywhere in the modern bible. So I'm unclear as to what "Vote in accordance with biblical guidelines" actually means.

There's this passage: Deuteronomy 1:6-13: The LORD our God spoke to us at Horeb, saying... Choose wise and discerning and experienced men from your tribes, and I will appoint them as your heads. OK, done. So now what? Does God just pick one or what? How do we know, does a rainbow appear over the winner? Does God smite the loser? What? Details of the process would be helpful at this point, but the damned sign isn't saying.

There's this passage: Job 34:1-4: Then Elihu continued and said... Let us choose for ourselves what is right; Let us know among ourselves what is good. Well, hell, that's just a bunch of stone age sheepherders who don't have any more of a clue than their four footed wooly girlfriends. I mean, Elihu doesn't exactly list any criteria for determining what makes a good leader, he basically says, "Hey, let's pull it out of our burning bush!" The message on the sign is quite specific, we're not supposed to choose for ourselves, we're supposed to use the biblical guidelines. Be nice if the damned sign would cite chapter and verse.

Then there's this bit: Romans 13:1-14 Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, for he is God's servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God's wrath on the wrongdoer. Therefore one must be in subjection, not only to avoid God's wrath but also for the sake of conscience. ... Um, if you read that and switch your internal narrator to a nasal Minnesotan accent (go on, try it), it sounds a whole lot like something Palin would have said when Katie Couric asked her about the economy, NAFTA, or Iraq: i.e. I have no damned idea what it supposed to mean. Amusing, but not helpful, really.

Perhaps we should try: Hebrews 13:7 Remember your leaders, those who spoke to you the word of God. Consider the outcome of their way of life, and imitate their faith. Hmmm, somehow I don't think that's what the sign meant. And thinking about my leader's way of life doesn't really help me in the voting booth, other than making me feel like punching them in their dangling chads, that is.

Frankly, I've driven past that stupid sign a dozen times this weekend and I've been tempted to stop in and ask. I mean, damn, could it be a little more vague? And I hate to criticize, but the Good Book needs to be better formatted, numbered tables and some colored graphs for example, and an index would be helpful. I mean, I can't find the part where God says it's OK to just make shit up about you opponent, you know, call him an Arab, say he's not an American, call him a terrorist, question his patriotism, and like that. I've racked my brain trying to recall the Sunday school lessons where the minister told us that God wanted us to carve backwards letters into our faces and blame it on big black Democrats, but you know I just can't remember it.

Look, I'm not trying to pick on the Republicans here, but the sign is directed at them (because as you know, Democrats are heathen atheist devil worshipping gay lovers who don't go to church, and by default all good Christians are Republicans - Hey, don't yell at me, it's the sign. You got a problem with it, you go talk to the sign and get off my case).

I thought I might get some clarification from the church's website, instead I got a link to here. Um, yeah. Thanks.

And don't get me wrong, I did find this passage: Luke 22:36 He said to them, “But now let the one who has a moneybag take it, and likewise a knapsack. And let the one who has no sword sell his cloak and buy one. I'm pretty sure that's clear direction to grab the RNC checkbook and do some spending at Neiman-Marcus and Saks, and maybe get your kid a spiffy designer knapsack. On the other hand, this ought to shut the damned liberals up, when Jesus says to upgrade the ole' wardrobe, well, who's to argue with Him. Right?

All and all, I'll probably just go with Elihu up there in Job, and figure out for myself what's right.

Somehow, though, I don't think that's what the sign meant.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Dear Alaskan Independance Party...

...stop it. You're embarrassing us.

If you haven't been by Smug Puppies today, you're missing out on some major asshattery. Go there right now and watch the video of AIP candidate Daniel DeNardo.

As a little teaser, he says "70% of Alaska is under joint US/Soviet control." That's right, joint US and Soviet control. Soviet. He's running on an anti-communist platform.

Alaskan politics, it should come with seat-belts and tranquilizer dart gun.
_______________________
A speaking of dart guns, I've got to go to Parent/Teacher conferences and find out what my son has been up to. Back in a couple of hours.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Muzzy Headed Stupid

It's parent/teacher conferences today and tomorrow and the kid doesn't have school.

So I slept in an extra hour this morning, sue me.

Sleeping in is not actually a good thing for me.  Extra sleep leaves me muzzy headed and dull witted and usually gives me a headache - but you know, it's a matter of principle, damnit, and this morning I was willing to make the sacrifice.

So, anyway, this morning I was scanning my news feeds, like I always do - except an hour later than usual.  Hunched over a cup of coffee and wishing to hell I could find a way to quadruple its caffeine content, my blood sounds like sludge pounding through the arteries in my ears and I've got to reread each paragraph one word at a time because nothing is making any sense. I mean, I understand the words, they just don't make any sense together - this is normal for me, not all of my neurons wake up at the same time.

So, it took me a while to notice that something was weird in my Google Alaska-specific newsreader.

Off kilter.

See, if you can spot it:

Top Story: Palin spends $150,000 on clothes: blah blah something about campaign funds, outrage, Neiman-Marcus, blah, blah, a designer handbag and her kid (not the preggo one, a different one, apparently she's got a couple), democrats and burst blood vessels, ooh ooh squeak, ooh ooh squawk, and etc. Jimmy crack corn and I don't care.

Actually, in the reader I'm using, this is like the top fifteen articles. Palin, clothes, campaign funds. Got it, ferchristsake lets get to something that doesn't sound like Paris Hilton and Entertainment News Tonight.

Next: Five die when boat sinks off Alaska: the usual stock picture of a Coast Guard rescue helicopter (which I find amusing, since I'm just alert enough to realize it's a picture of an ancient H-3, which the CG hasn't used in like, I dunno, a hundred years or something), which makes me think of my friend Jeff, who's a Warrant in the Coast Guard, which reminds me of the movie The Guardian - which in turn reminds me of Kevin Costner, and then my head really starts to hurt. No mention of how much the Coasties spent on their clothes however.

Next: Something about the property market in Alaska.  More about money. Yeah, like I'm going to read about the Alaskan economy with a head full of cotton. Sure. Frankly, I don't need tortured comparisons of how rural Alaskans are losing their shirts while Palin is buying hers at Saks Fifth Avenue - it's not that I don't care, it's just that I don't care before the second pot of coffee.  I'm looking for something funny, or something with a lot of pictures.

And I get it, the funny with the pictures.

All the way down in the feed something catches my eye. It's a headline about how a conviction wouldn't actually bar Ted Stevens (R-AK) from the Senate.  What's that? And I read it again, sounding each word out and covering one eye - and it still says the same thing.  See, if Uncle Teddy wins reelection, something he's likely to do at this point, and is convicted of financial chicanery, well, he could still serve in the Senate unless, and until, that body votes to expel him by two thirds majority.  The story mentions that Representative Don Young  (R-AK and our only representative) is also under investigation, and that, I dunno, like everybody in Juneau has been convicted of either giving bribes or taking them.

Did you spot the weirdness?  Palin's pantsuit, a fishing boat capsizing (of which there's like ten a week here), and the price of houses, a moose on the Glenn Highway, A story about Alaskan winter produce  - all come before the fact that damned near our entire state government is either under indictment or facing serious jail time - or is, in fact, already in jail.  Google, I think your sort algorithm heuristics are more muzzy headed than I am this morning.  Seriously, Google, buy that software a big cup of double-shot capachino with four extra sugars and an espresso brownie.

Then the rest of the weirdness hit me:

Palin spent what? $150 grand on clothes, which she'll eventually donate to charity says she.  I mean, shit, a hundred and fifty thousand dollars on clothes?  Damn, you people in the lower 48 sure buy some expensive duds, because a $150,000 would buy every working stiff in Alaska a new pair of Carhartt overalls and really, you only need one pair, you just wear 'em until there's nothing but grease and stink left (we have contests, seriously, at the state fair to determine who has the most disgusting Carhartt jacket. I'd like to see Palin wear one of those to a $4000 a plate GOP fund raiser). 

Here's the part I find funny, Palin spent $150,000 on new skivvies - and people are outraged. $150,000 that's a shitload of money, right?  But, see, here's the thing, Stevens is going to go to jail over $250,000 in bribes - yeah, not even double what Palin spent on shoes. 

But wait, $250,000 over seven years, that's $35K a year.  $35 thousand?  Fuck, I could do that.

Hell, if I'd have known I could buy my own Senator for a piddly $35 thousand things would be very different right now.  For starters people would be flying in and out of the Jim Wright Anchorage International Spaceport, and not the Ted Stevens Memorial House of Grease My Palm or whatever they call it right now.   I mean, seriously here, $250K isn't enough to get Teddy above the fold on the Google News Reader, and he's going to go to jail over it?

How stupid does he feel right now?

Yeah, that's what I get for sleeping in this morning. Good thing I didn't sleep for two extra hours.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

A Turn 'O Phrase

In recent years I've heard, and come to use myself, the phrase Jumped the Shark to describe projects and ideas that have gone off the rails.

Eventually, being me and having a fascination with the entomology of words and phrases, it occurred to me to examine the origins of "jumped the shark" and I was amused to discover its source.

Do you know it?

It's a colloquialism that originated with TV critics and fans to describe what happens when a long running and once quality TV series makes a sudden and dramatic change of rudder and veers into the absurd and ridiculous in an effort to maintain its ratings and viewership - following which, the show is doomed.

The actual term itself comes from the 70's sitcom Happy Days, and specifically the three-part season five opener entitled "Hollywood," where Fonzie in swim trunks and trademark leather jacket jumps a shark while water-skiing (and to be perfectly clear here, Fonzie was the one on skies, not the shark). Though the show produced another hundred episodes following Hollywood, the quality declined significantly, the jokes became old and tired, and the audience gradually lost interest - and we ended up with Joanie loves Chachi and that wasn't good for anybody.

Recently a new phrase has emerged to replace the Happy Days term, i.e. Nuke the Fridge. Which comes from the movie Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull and describes a scene where Indy, complete with his version of Fonzie's jacket - the trademark Fedora, survives a nuclear test blast in a lead lined refrigerator. He emerges from the fridge unscathed to the audience's disbelieving groans, after flying literally miles through the air at supersonic speeds and slamming into the New Mexico desert, bouncing end for end across the rocky sage. Personally, having my suspension of disbelief and a big bucket of popcorn firmly in hand, I loved that scene and still do - but, I'm in an insignificant minority here, others found it much less entertaining. Hence the emergence of nuke the fridge.

I'm going to stick with shark jumping, nuking the fridge doesn't have quite the same ring to it for me. But others are welcome to turn the phrase as they see fit.

Another recent phrase that has entered the common American vernacular, at least in the minds of one political inclination, is Pulling A Palin, meaning that when questioned directly, a person responds not with an actual answer, but with random things they happened to be thinking about at the time (Which is essentially what I'm doing with this post - as my mind is elsewhere at the moment and I'm penning things I hope you'll find amusing or at least distracting and not notice that I don't, in fact, have a point). The origin of the term comes from a hilarious comic strip face-off between XKCD's Randall Munroe and The New Yorker's Farley Katz (Science + Booze = String Theory, I nearly ruptured an intestinal wall over that one). The origin of Pulling a Palin should be obvious to anybody with a pulse and a TV set.

I've also heard Doing the McCain, which is where the answer to any question, shouted in an angry whine, is "I was in the Navy, damn your eyes!" or alternatively "I was in Hanoi at the time, you draft dodgin' hippy!" This is a replacement phrase for Doing the Reagan, which is best described as waving, grinning, then putting your hand to your ear and shaking your head in response to shouted questions - then you climb into Marine One and fly away.

Or the Obama, which is where you respond to the question by giving a stirring speech on the economy or race and emphasizing how things need to change. Then you shake a lot of hands and smile. This is a replacement phrase for Doing the Carter, which nobody remembers anyway.

There's Doing the Donohue, named for the Catholic League's Bill Donohue, where you answer every question by blaming the Jews or atheists.

Me, I'm coining the phrase Doin' the Wagner, where the response to any question is to blame everything on micro-black holes created by advanced particle accelerators and to dismiss the question by claiming expertise in unrelated fields and/or by pinning on faux titles.

Remember kids, you heard it here at Stonekettle Station first. Repeat as necessary.

What's your favorite new phrase? Feel free to make up a couple if you like.

Monday, October 20, 2008

The LHC and Walter L. Wagner, Dangerously Insane (now with more nuts!)

Update at the end of the post

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Members of the UCF know what I'm going to talk about this morning, God knows we've beaten the subject to death elsewhere for the last couple of days.

I want to talk about insanity.

Twenty years ago, when I was stationed on the island nation of Iceland, there was no off-base housing. So all of us single folks lived in the barracks. Iceland is a strange place, at least it was back then, and for a number of reasons - the endless winter darkness, the brutal cold, the surly hostility of the insular Icelanders, the confined quarters, the intense mission, the irregular and endless workload - it tended to exacerbate people's natural quirks and tics. Most folks could handle it, oh we drank a bit more, or lost our temper a bit more, or became a bit more prickly, or became a bit more withdrawn or outgoing than usual, but mostly we did OK.

But some people, well some people just went bugshit.

There was this guy, a enlisted Navy Journalist. He was one of the AFRTS (Armed Forces Radio/TV System) newscasters and was on the local base closed circuit TV news each day. He seemed normal enough, if canted towards the weird end of the human spectrum. But over a period of months he became more and more distant. He would do odd things, like roam the corridors late in the night, knocking on doors, or suddenly leaping up and changing the channel on the lounge TV without asking the people watching it for permission. Then, well, then he got the Jesus and was born again - and that's when things really started to go pear shaped. He'd rave, and mumble disjointed bible passages at people, he'd knock on my door at odd hours of the night and shout "He's the ONE!" when I opened the door. He ate alone, and talked to himself, and gradually it reached a point where you couldn't hold a coherent conversation with him at all, on any level. But, see, at work in front of the camera, he was perfectly normal. We'd see him, calm, collected, professional on the TV news - and then he'd come back to the barracks on the bus and he'd get off twitching, literally twitching.

The thing was, nobody was completely normal, isolation does strange things to people, and because I find extreme religious belief goofy under the best of circumstance, and because his descent into batshit craziness was so gradual, I just didn't recognize it for what it was.

Then, one day, during a live TV interview with a visiting Four Star Admiral at the base airport, he snapped.

It was bizarre, like a Bugs Bunny cartoon - the one where Bugs' ears go flat out, his eyes cross, and his whiskers suddenly become rigid and he starts making that ack ack! noise. One second the Journalist would be asking the admiral a normal question, and the next he'd starting twitching and making strange expressions and shout "He's the ONE!", then he'd be suddenly normal and resume the interview, and then it would happen again. We watched it unfold live on TV, and the admiral's perplexed expression was absolutely priceless. Welcome to the edge of the world, Admiral.

And then, like a wind-up clockwork mechanism suddenly tearing itself to pieces in a cloud of flying springs and cogs, the Journalist threw down his microphone, and ran away across the apron, tearing his clothes off in the subzero temperatures and screaming "He's the ONE! He's the ONE!" - live and in color on the evening news.

We all ran upstairs onto the roof to watch the spectacle in astounded fascination, drinking beer and shouting encouragement. It took a squad of MP's over an hour to catch him. It was utterly hysterical - a group of huge apes in camouflage and helmets, trying to catch one scrawny arm-waving naked guy running about on the tarmac like a demented chicken in a barnyard. Eventually the Marines cornered him and dogpiled on top. They brought him back to the barracks, wrapped in a blanket, kicking and struggling.

He wouldn't stop screaming.

Eventually the medics got a needle into his arm and pumped him full of sedatives. But, even sedated he wouldn't stop, the medics and the Marines kept trying to stuff him into a straightjacket, and he kept popping out and shouting for Jesus - it looked for all the world like a group of guys trying to fold a beach umbrella in a hurricane. Eventually he had the bad misfortune of landing a blow on the nose of a pissed off Jarhead. The Marine returned the favor, plus interest, with a fist the size of a Buick and the kid went limp and bloody. After that they had no trouble whatsoever putting the restraints on. That was the first time I'd ever actually seen a straightjacket, let alone somebody actually being put into one - but it wouldn't be the last. Then they took him away. What happened to him, I do not know. The Master-At-Arms cleaned out his room and packed his stuff into boxes and the movers came and took it away. He went out on the next transport plane, still wearing his spiffy coat with the zipper out of reach on the back, bound for the psychiatric care unit at Bethesda and how the hell he took a piss on that fourteen hour flight I'll never know and don't want to - and we never saw him again.

It wasn't until they pulled out the coat with the buckles and straps and long sleeves that I understood that I was actually looking at real batshit crazy. Certifiable, clinical, textbook, stark staring, barking at the moon mental illness.

And suddenly it stopped being funny, right there - and just became sad and pitiful. He was one of us, and somehow he just broke.

See, I had no experience with mental illness and just didn't recognize the signs. He just seemed, well, a little odd. Then a little odder. And then a little more. But the truth of the matter was that there was something fundamentally wrong in his brain, a structural defect, crossed wiring, a short circuit, a chemical imbalance, something, I don't know. He seemed like a normal if eccentric human being, but like that unchecked clicking sound in your transmission, it just kept getting worse, until one day BOOM!

Over the years, I've seen similar things happen. I've met many folks who suffer some form of mental issue. I've seen the VA waiting rooms full of guys with PTSD. I've seen guys jump off the fantail and try to swallow the ocean. I've seen guys drink themselves out of a marriage, a career, life. I've seen guys who talk to invisible friends and shout at imaginary enemies. I once saw a 2nd Class Electronics Technician tangle himself up in a communications cable on the pier in San Diego and thrash and thrash and thrash, shouting and squealing like a gut-shot pig, fighting invisible enemies, until he was completely hogtied - next to the Iceland episode, it was one of the damnedest things I've ever seen.

I don't pretend to be a psychologist, or a psychiatrist, or any other kind of mental health expert - but I will say that, to me, mental illness seems to fall into to two basic categories - people either know they're mentally ill, or they don't.

Take depression for example: a person suffering from depression may not realize that it's depression per se, but they generally know something's wrong. They look around and think, hell, how come everybody else is happy, and I'm not? They often seek help, sometimes in a bottle and sometimes in a doctor's office.

Then there's the other kind of mental illness, the kind where you look around and think, why am I happy and why is everybody else wrong? These people don't get help, they set out to fix the world in their own image - or create a world of their own making in which to live. They revel in their insanity, and feed it like a pet every day. They don't want to get better, because that fantasy world is all they have.

And over the course of the last couple of days I've come to believe that Walter L. Wagner is the later type of nuts.

See, just like with the journalist in the sea story above, at first I just didn't realize it. I thought he was your garden variety crank. A guy who is terribly afraid of being nobody, a guy that wants to be special and knows he's not, a guy that has told so many lies, and bullshitted so many people that he just can't keep it straight any more. A man who is desperate to be somebody, anybody, if only for a moment.

And while Walter L. Wagner may have started out that way - little by little, over time, he has come to believe in his own sad self-fabricated reality. In his mind, Walter Wagner is the ONE!

My friends in the UCF warned me, but I just didn't see it at first. But I've come to agree with them.

Those in the UCF, our closed on-line community, have all had run-ins with this pitiful little man, and with members of his deluded and paranoid following - themselves equally mentally defective or even more so (really, ignore Tankersley's post and read the comments, especially the ones claiming to be scientists). But for those of you who read this blog and are not members of the UCF and have not been following along, Walter L. Wagner is a Conspiracy Theorist of the worst kind (really, note the byline). He has filed suit in US Federal Court to halt activation of the Large Hadron Collider, the world's largest and highest-energy cyclonic particle accelerator, located and controlled by the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) in Switzerland. Wagner feels that the LHC will create sustained and non-evaporating micro-black holes that will eventually devour the entire planet Earth. The case was dismissed on the grounds that the US has no jurisdiction in the matter. Wagner, according to his own words, is filing an appeal. He claims the LHC is unsound and he makes this claim based on "research" that only he can understand, because you see, Walter is a genius.

Yes, Walter L. Wagner fancies himself a true genius, a polymath of the highest caliber, a doctor of science and of the law. He proclaims himself a self-made scientist and has directly and publicly claimed superior expertise in physics, particle physics, nuclear physics, astrophysics, biology, botany, nuclear medicine, general medicine, advanced mathematics, and especially US Law. He has publicly claimed to be an attorney and a chess grand master. He claims to have made astounding scientific breakthroughs, and to have had the credit for those earth shaking discoveries snatched away by acclaimed Nobel Laureates. He claims to have published widely accepted scientific papers in peer reviewed journals.

He has made these claims online, in court, and in media interviews. He has made them repeatedly and frequently, and he has continued to do so, as recently as yesterday.

If true, Walter L. Wagner would be one of most celebrated geniuses the human race has ever produced.

Sadly, all of these claims are complete fabrications.

All of them.

I thought, at first, as I read each unbelievable claim, that Walter L. Wagner was a simple con-man, hoist on his petard. A contemptuous and contemptible liar, braggart, fraud, and charlatan. But, over the last few days I've come to realize something: Walter Wagner believes, truly believes, that he is indeed all of these things - and more.

I'm not good at recognizing the subtle signs, but I know outright lunacy when I see it running naked across the tarmac flapping its arms. In my admittedly layman's opinion, Walter L. Wagner is mentally ill.

Again, I am no mental health professional and I'll avoid the terminology of the profession, since from me it would be Wagnerian pseudo-scientific mumbo-jumbo at best. But, it is obvious, even to a layman, that like my little friend from Iceland, Walter Wagner has constructed a fragile bizarroland of his own making, and somewhere in the remaining rational portions of his mind he knows it. He actively and aggressively avoids anything that would challenge his little house of cards, constantly and consistently turning aside questions regarding his self-proclaimed expertise, and dismissing the inconsistencies in his elaborately constructed fantasy. Without fail, Walter L. Wagner turns any question of his credentials into a personal attack, and then transparently attempts to turn the question back on the questioner and always, always, always avoids answering the question directly.

UCF member, MWT has done an excellent job of summarizing the Refugees From the City comment thread on his own Blog of Siram. If you haven't been following this sad chicken chase from the rooftop, read MWT's post first before diving into Refugees. Refugees is a UCF member blog and where we all got actively involved as a group (though Wagner has appeared elsewhere within our community - and specifically emailed UCFer Janiece at Hot Chicks regarding some of her comments). The comments on Refugees are pushing around a hundred at the moment and it's a long and painful slog through the thread.

UCF member, John the Scientist, an actual scientist - a physical chemist to be precise - and a blogger at Refugees, has examined Walter L. Wagner's scientific credentials in detail here with the detached and detailed analysis he is known for. Additionally, UCF member, Eric, a practicing attorney and graduate of one of the top law schools in the country, takes Wagner's law credentials apart in detail in the original Delusional post comment thread - where you will also find the rest of the UCF comments regarding specific details of Walter Wagner and James Tankersley's (A deluded Wagnerite) comments.

If you are an accredited mental health professional or you happen to know one that would be interested in looking at the links, we in the UCF would love to hear your/their comments - understand, we'll probably check your credentials too, so come prepared.

Here's what we've managed to verify. With the single (possible) exception of a Bachelor's degree from Berkeley in 1973, Walter L. Wagner has no credentials at all. None.

His claims of being a lawyer are bogus, his law degree is a worthless piece of paper from an unaccredited diploma mill in Sacramento. And even though he did specifically claim that he worked as a lawyer representing clients, so far as we can determine he never took or passed a Bar exam in any state (unless it was, you know, a bartender exam). Yet he repeatedly introduces himself as a lawyer and as an attorney. The records are quite clear, Walter L. Wagner is not an attorney and never has been.

His claim of being a physicist of any kind is bogus. He minored in physics, that supposed BS degree from Berkeley, with a major in biology. That's it and that's all. No further education in physics at all - by his own admission. He did a stint as a minor lab tech while in school, which he has exaggerated into the epic scientific discovery of the century when it was really less than a forgotten footnote. He claims to have aced a grade school teacher's exam twenty or more years ago, and uses this as proof positive of his expertise in modern high energy, cutting edge particle physics. He wrote a letter to the editor of Scientific American, and claims that this is published scientific research in a peer reviewed and credible journal (Note: I have the highest regard for SciAm, but they'll be the first to tell you they ain't any peer reviewed journal of any kind). His so-called expertise in astrophysics comes from, God it pains me to say this, involvement with a kid's astronomy club. His claims of being a nuclear physicist come from a stint as a Radiation Safety Officer at the VA hospital - i.e. the guy who monitors the X-ray machine and makes sure the film badges are properly disposed of - note, he also uses this job to claim that he is a Doctor of Nuclear Medicine (though, he, ehem, doesn't practice).

He planted a garden in Hawaii, this makes him a Botanist. [see update below]

He plays a mean game of chess, this makes him Bobby Fisher - or Deep Blue.

And he believes it all and gets hostile and outraged when questioned. Again, I'm no shrink, but I knows 'em when I sees 'em.

So, why am I posting this? Wagner would accuse me (and probably will in the comments) of being mean and vicious and of engaging in ad hominem attacks on his honor and integrity - in a taunting the retard sort of way, I suppose. He and his adherents consistently resort to such tactics when challenged. They get angry and hurt and sullen. They could, of course, put me in my place and stop all such challenges by simply putting their cards on the table, i.e. naming the dates, places, institutions of their credentials and accomplishments.

They can't.

No more so then Elwood P. Dowd could produce Harvey the Giant White Rabbit upon demand (the difference being that in the end, evidence for Harvey's existence was shown to the audience, Wagner's hat trick has yet to produce a single bunny).

I'm posting this, one because I felt like definitively summarizing my opinion of this pitifully deluded quack and charlatan and two because it needs to be said, far and wide and as many times as necessary. Because the news media and those on the Internet consistently give this crazy bastard a platform without restraint or caveat or challenge.

Walter L. Wagner is nuts. He's a crank, and while his illness may not be his own fault, he's a crank nonetheless. He is costing you money in tax dollars and court cases. He has instigated fear and hysteria in the general population which in turn has caused death threats to the scientists at CERN. He is a raving nutcase and he needs to be called on it loudly and often and rebutted at every step along the way. He's used the power of the media and the Internet and the court to call attention to his particular brand of insanity, and I fully intend to use that same power to counter his false message at every turn.

His is not just a differing viewpoint: or rather it is, but it's the viewpoint of a madman, a deluded fake, and charlatan.

Join me.

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Note: I'm going to leave the comment thread unmoderated for the moment. Yes, I know that's like leaving the office unlocked in the Mental Ward.

I have my reasons.

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Updates:

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addendum 1: 10/20/08

Christ, this just keeps getting more and more bizarre. And frankly more than a little sad.

- That garden I mentioned up there in the post - well, there's an interesting story about that and Walter and a little fast shuffle with the accounting.

- Walter Wagner has done some some pretty crazy things with a Geiger counter and kitchen tiles.

Go here, read Eric's post. Or go here and read the original article about the tiles

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addendum 2: 10/21/08

Walter L. Wagner and his adherents claim the support of a "growing number of scientists." These scientists, as you might expect, are of the same cloth as Wagner himself. Some are outright frauds, nuts, and kooks. Some, while scientists, are on the fringe of actual science itself, or completely outside their area of expertise. None are actually qualified to evaluate Wagner's alarmist nonsense, and have jumped on the bandwagon largely for the same reason Wagner has. An excellent breakdown of these people can be found at the On-screen Scientist.

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addendum 3: 10/21/08

And again. The more we examine Walter L. Wagner, the more and more disturbed this man becomes. He is mental ill, and to a far greater degree than we had originally imagined. From Giant Midgets:

Mr. Wagner hasn't made this easy. According to Classmates.com, Mr. Wagner started at the McGeorge School Of Law, an accredited school, and finished at Lorenzo, an unaccredited school. So why didn't Mr. Wagner just come clean?

Why didn't Mr. Wagner just come clean? Well it seems he's a convicted and disturbed nutcase who stalked a fellow classmate, both in school and years later. Eric ran the whole sordid mess to ground and it can be found here, in an update at the end of the main post.

Walter L. Wagner is one sick silly son of a bitch, and that's putting it as nicely as I can.

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addendum: 10/23/2008

John, over on Chicago Boyz takes the media to task for their failure to do even a modicum of background checking on Walter Wagner.

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Wagner and his band of merry pranksters have been snooping around Stonekettle Station, and the various UCF member blogs. And while they were outspoken in their defense over on Refugees they've been remarkably quiet here. As I said in the post above and elsewhere, when confronted directly with the facts and when they have their nose rubbed in their own bullshit - they run away.


______________________________________________________

Anyone who gives these people credence in any way should consider this simple fact: they've lied repeatedly about their past and their credentials, why would you believe their physics?


Friday, October 17, 2008

Busy

Folks, I'm busy this morning, phone calls, I and have to go run errands. As such no post until later.

I think I've got everybody's order straight at the moment and the proper pieces labeled and set aside. Come hell or high water I will have a post up later showing those pieces and who each one is reserved for. Additionally I will post pictures and details of the pieces I currently have for sale, including a couple of extra ordinary pieces that Beastly produced here in my shop, and a couple of collaborative pieces. But I simply can't get to it at the moment, I've been putting things off for a week now and I have to go out and take care of some business. I appreciate your patience and I'm loath to make excuses, but it is what it is.

Thanks, back in a bit.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Let's Get Ready to Ruuuuumble!

I know, you all expect me to talk about the debate.

Meh.

Seriously, somebody please explain to me exactly what the point of Presidential (and especially Vice Presidential) debates are?

We're what? Two or three weeks from the election? Who the heck hasn't made up their mind yet? No really, Joe the Idiot Plumber? Who is this indecisive moron anyway? Frankly, I don't care how he votes, but seriously I sure as shit wouldn't hire him to fix my pipes.

"Hmmm maybe I should go with the copper 5/8 inch? Or, I could put in PVC. No, wait, the copper. Fuck it, maybe I'll just wait until the septic tank bubbles over and then decide. Larry, pass me another brewski while I think about it! At $75 bucks an hour plus parts and labor, this is going to take some time, Baby."

If Joe the Plumber is helping you decide which candidate to vote for, you might as well be getting political commentary from Mr. Ed. Seriously, don't vote - you're just gumming things up for the rest of us.

I mean, come on, if you watched the debate and you're a Republican, McCain could have eaten a baby harp seal, live and squealing and then rolled in its blood and - and you'd still call his performance a victory.

If you watched the debate and you're a Democrat, Obama could have jumped up, donned a keffiyeh, and married Joe Biden - and you'd still call his performance a victory.

If you're a Republican, you still think that Obama is an Arab, a Terrorist, a Gay Loving Liberal who will destroy your sacred marriage and not one damned thing he said last night convinced you otherwise - in fact you probably muted the sound when he was talking because you can't stand to look at his face.

If You're a Democrat, you still think McCain is a crazed and raving old man with a bad, bad case of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and one foot in the grave and not one damned thing he said last night convinced you otherwise - in fact you probably cranked up the volume just so you could laugh at his disjointed gibberish and shrill petulant whine.

If you're Joe the Plumber's Helper, you still have no damned idea how you're going to vote, but you're pretty sure Obama can't pay for his economic plan, and McCain can't pay for his education plan, and you'll probably either get drunk and vote for Mickey Mouse or just not show up at the polling station at all - and then brag for the next four years about how at least you didn't vote for the incumbent idiot.

If you're a Republican, this morning you're sure McCain won and you're madder than hell that the fucking liberal press is lying about the poll results and ACORN is stealing your vote.

If you're a Democrat, this morning you're sure Obama won and you're madder than hell that conservatives just won't admit it and you're worried that the Republicans are going to steal this election just the way they did when they lost the last time.

If you're Joe the Plumber's Crack, this morning you're irritating the piss out of everybody in the unemployment line with your insightful commentary about how both candidates had some really good points, but you still haven't figured out which one you like.

So, and again, what exactly is the point of all this? What exactly did either candidate say that we haven't all heard before? Obviously, the point of the debate isn't so that the candidates can state their positions, they've done that, over and over and over.

Nothing said last night changed my mind in any way. I thought Obama acted presidential, sane, calm, and considered. I thought McCain acted angry, arrogant, and dismissive. I thought that Obama's demeanor would be a whole lot more likely to get results when dealing with Congress or a foreign nation. I thought McCain's demeanor would get an entirely different kind of result, the same kind we've gotten for the last four years. I think Obama confronted McCain's accusations directly and in detail, despite McCain contemptuous snorting and eyebrow raising. I think McCain deftly avoided answering Obama's questions in large part, and that he used belligerent bellicosity to deflect any criticism (especially in his dismissal of Obama's accusation that GOP supporters shouted "Traitor," "Terrorist," and "Kill him!" when Obama's name was mentioned at Palin's rallies). I think Obama's ears are funny looking and that his hair resembles a yarmulke. I think McCain's eyebrows need a good weed wacking and his head looks a whole lot like Darth Vader's when Luke pulled his helmet off in Return of the Jedi.

I think they both acted like they knew what they were talking about, but I'd be surprised if either one can accomplish half the crap they both claim they'll do if elected. I think Obama acted like a man who is winning and confidently knows it, and McCain acted like a man who is losing and knows it and can't figure out why and it pisses him off.

But nothing either one said changed my intended vote, and I doubt it changed anybody else's either.

Frankly, it seems to me that we do debates because, as Americans, we like to be entertained. We're the tractor pulling, demolition derby, Jerry Springer nation. We've got short attention spans and we like our worldview to come in packages no bigger than a sound bite, and our shows to last no longer than the time it takes to consume a super-sized plate of ultimate nachos. We want laser light and flashpots, crashes, smashes, and boobs. We like the debates because it lets us see the candidates take cheap pot shots at each other, and because it's supposed to let us see them under pressure and in action.

So be it, says I.

Like I said in comments on the Whatever, put 'em in a ring and let 'em duke it out, naked, on pay per view. Their choice of weapons and fight to the death, winner takes all. Joe the Plumber will be entertained and, hell, he can even enjoy a big old plate of greasy nachos - but he doesn't get to give the thumbs-up/thumbs-down coup de grace if necessary, because the stupid bastard will keep us there all night while he makes up his mind.

Now that would be a debate worth watching.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Latest from the shop

Just so you don't all think I've been wasting my off-line time, here's this week's work from the wood shop.

First, a stoppered closed form - technically I guess you could call it an urn, and I suppose if you wanted to store somebody's ashes in there you could. Yuk.

Urn 1

Urn 3

I actually started this piece when Beastly was still here and finally got around to finishing it. It's made from Alaskan Birch burl and Hawaiian Bubinga wood, with inlayed copper and finished in Tung oil and spar varnish. I did this to experiment with turning technique. Each piece was turned separately, glued together, then the whole urn was finish turned as a single piece. It's about eighteen inches tall and very heavy.






This next piece was a royal pain. It's a piece of Alaskan Birch burl and getting it balanced on the lathe just about killed me. However, I really, really like the irregular look and natural edged rim.

Burl Bowl 2

Burl Bowl - Detail 2

Note: the second, detailed picture is true color. I was having some issues with flash and lighting and didn't realize that I had some settings wrong - then I didn't feel like re-shooting the first picture, so just suck it up.

Pain that it was, it was worth it, because the piece came out incredibly beautiful. I inlayed flaws in the wood with turquoise and copper and then finished it with Danish oil and thick crystal epoxy clear coat. This is a fairly large and heavy piece, about 14 inches across the long axis.

And last, a knife and stand:

Knife and Stand 1

The knife is similar to one I did previously, except in this case I added an inlaid Alaskan State Quarter to the handle as a maker's mark. The coin is covered in a crystal epoxy, smooth with the surface of the handle. The handle itself is Alaskan Birch burr, with a blade guard of African Purpleheart. The whole thing was hand carved and finished in a marine grade acrylic. While the knife is intended as a display piece, it is fully functional as a salmon filet blade. The stand is carved from birch burl and intended to resemble a waterfall. It's highlighted with turquoise, copper, silver, gold, and lapis. There are a number of carved red salmon around the base, decorated with red and silver metal fleck which resembles fish scales. The whole thing is coated in high-gloss sprayed spar varnish so that under light it appears to be wet.

All of these are reserved and not for sale.

And now if you'll excuse me for a while, I've got a couple more projects that need attention.

Attention, Internet

As I mentioned, my ISP upgraded my cable moden yesterday.

It came with an interesting new feature.



Note the button on the right, the one labeled "Internet On/Off"

That's right, I now control the Internet.

Seriously, you don't want to irritate me - because I will turn the whole Internet off if I have to. I will.

One push of the button, that's all it takes. So, you know, behave yourselves. I am not kidding.


Tuesday, October 14, 2008

The Difference a Week Makes

Last week, it looked like this out my sunroom window:

First Snow

Today, it looks like this:

Snow 1

Seriously, we've gotten about two inches of snowfall in the last hour, and it's coming down thick right now.

Winter, it's so here.

The kids are outside snowboarding in the front yard - yeah, there's that much snow.  No doubt I'll be making hot chocolate sooner or later.

Me? I'm not going out in it until I have to.  I have a shiny new copy of Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (yes, we've seen it, and frankly I loved the damned thing, couldn't hardly wait for the DVD) and me and the wife are going to watch that in front of the fire. Speaking of which, it's probably a good thing I ordered a cord of firewood today, isn't it? And put the plows on the ATV's, and gassed up the big snow blower.

Ah, winter, no bugs and no godamned tourists.

Bliss.

And We're Back

As you may I have noticed Stonekettle Station has been off-line, mostly, since Friday.

It was a combination of things this time.

Server problems in Wasilla. A failed local distribution amplifier on the pole that feeds my internet drop. A bad cable splitter in my basement, and an outdated Toshiba cable modem.

All of which are now fixed or replaced, and I'm back up at about a MPS faster than prior to the repairs. So, woohoo, so on and so forth.

If you've sent me email in the last few days, and really, who hasn't? (I'm sitting here watching both my public and private email queues fill up) I'm behind, and it'll be a day or two before I get back to you, maybe longer depending on how motivated I feel.

So, anyway, what's been happening with you all? Feels like forever since I talked to you, Internet.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Eaten By Black Holes

Well, it snowed this weekend, and you know what that means.

Yep, intermittent cable service.

Currently we're in backup mode, that's where we bundle the trons up and carry them to the servers via dogsled, one at a time. Through the snow. Up hill, both ways.

So, if you don't see me for the rest of the day, that's where I am. It has nothing to do with the LHC, I swear.

_____________________________

Update: I've spoken to my ISP's service department, they are aware of the problem and working on it. I'm still getting intermittent service disconnects and intermittent bandwidth restrictions. However, service does seem to be improving and the service department's response this time is significantly better than the last time I had a problem - which may have something to do with the note they have in my file.

Anyway, until this stabilizes I'm going to refrain from posting.

This actually works out for me, because I need to put the chains and plows on the ATV's instead of fooling around in the internet. It snowed a couple of inches last night and winter is upon me.

See you later this afternoon.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Who will monitor the monitors?

As many of you know, I spent most of my life in military intelligence.

Generally, I specialized in electronic intelligence and specifically in the highly specialized sub-category of information warfare. I spent most of my military career in and around the National Security Agency, and in fact used to have an office in the OPS III building at the main facility at Fort Meade, Maryland.

Nearly everything I dealt with was highly classified, and I can't and won't discuss it.

However, there are things I can talk about - and one of those things is privacy and the 4th Amendment of the US Constitution.

There are many, many misconceptions regarding the exact role of NSA in the US Intelligence structure (I almost said "organization", but the US Intelligence Community is anything but organized), and most people, American or otherwise, have little knowledge of what, exactly, NSA does. Popular misconception sees NSA and the people who work there as another version of the CIA, a Cold War relic, only more so - sort of a CIA on steroids and Viagra. The media portrays NSA as manned by steely eyed men in dark suits who command secret and murderous technologies, patrolling the shadowy periphery of civilization with icy determination. NSA "Agents" are invariably portrayed as stone cold killing machines and psychopathic super humans.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

While I'm often reluctant to use the Wikipedia as a reference, in this case the Wiki description of NSA is accurate. For those of you not familiar with the terminology used in the description, I've left the hyperlinks intact:

The National Security Agency/Central Security Service (NSA/CSS) is a cryptologic intelligence agency of the United States government, administered as part of the United States Department of Defense. Created on November 4, 1952, it is responsible for the collection and analysis of foreign communications and foreign signals intelligence, which involves a significant amount of cryptanalysis. It is also responsible for protecting U.S. government communications and information systems from similar agencies elsewhere, which involves a significant amount of cryptography. The NSA has recently been directed to help monitor U.S. federal agency computer networks to protect them against attacks.

The NSA is directed by a lieutenant general or vice admiral. The NSA is a key component of the U.S. Intelligence Community, which is headed by the Director of National Intelligence. The Central Security Service is a co-located agency created to coordinate intelligence activities and co-operation between the NSA and U.S. military cryptanalysis agencies. Contrary to popular impression, the NSA's work is limited to communications intelligence and not field or human intelligence activities. By law the NSA's intelligence gathering is limited to foreign communications, but its work includes some domestic surveillance.

Note the last sentence in the quote above. Also note that NSA is part and parcel of the Department of Defense, not the Department of Justice or the Department of Homeland Security - which means that by Constitutional Law, NSA is bound by the concept of Posse Comitatus.

Posse Comitatus is an integral part of US Law, specifically Title 18 of United States Code, Part I, Chapter 67 - which explicitly prohibits federal military forces (which includes all entities under the purview of the US Department of Defense) from domestic law enforcement, unless specifically authorized by the Constitution and the US Congress.

Posse Comitatus is specifically why federal police and law enforcement agencies such as the FBI and US Marshal service fall under the Department of Justice, and why the US Coast Guard (the US maritime law enforcement agency) falls under the Department of Homeland Security (Prior to the creation of HomSec, the USGC fell under the Department of Transportation). Except under very, very specific circumstance, the Department of Defense has no authority over US citizens whatsoever.

When I first joined the US Intelligence community, from the very first day, we had the concept of Posse Comitatus pounded into our heads. We were given examples from history, the Reconstruction in the South following the Civil War, the Red Scare, the Civil Rights Movement, Watergate. We were trained in the law and the Constitution, and we were reminded of our sworn oath to the Constitution at every turn. We were given periodic refresher training and required to take professional development courses, and required to sign documents attesting to our understanding of the same. We in the military and within the US Intelligence Community command vast and terrifyingly powerful technologies - and the potential for abuse is simply staggering. But we knew where the line was, and we dared not cross it, ever. This was our sworn duty and our obligation and we took it very, very seriously indeed.

This is not to say that abuses did not occur. But when they did, rarely, they were dealt with swiftly and with the utmost firmness, and those who were convicted of such abuse went to Fort Leavenworth, Kansas or the Navy Brig in Philadelphia and we looked upon those people with absolute contempt. Those failures were widely circulated within our community as abject examples of what happens when you forget your oath and your duty to the Constitution and the citizens of the United States.

And so, I was appalled, utterly appalled when those strict controls were relaxed out of fear and hysteria in the dark days following 9/11. I was appalled by the short sightedness of Congress, the White House, and the Judiciary when the Patriot Act, the Protect America Act, and the John Warner National Defense Authorization Act were passed and signed into law. Because I know, better than most, what happens when those controls are removed even slightly.

In addition to the changes in law, and at the same time, there were widespread changes occurring within the US Intelligence Community - and one of the most troubling was the sudden and massive influx of new personnel, personnel who were not trained as we were, personnel who had never labored under the restrictions we willingly placed on ourselves, personnel who did not understand what happens when power is unleashed without strict control and oversight, and personnel who do not understand duty and honor and commitment to high ideals. This, combined with the changes in law which allowed the US intelligence apparatus to be directed towards US citizens under the control of one man and one man only, sounded a strident warning bell within the minds of many of us.

Many of us within the community spoke out, but we were assured that adequate controls were in place and that the power of our organizations would never be abused.

I didn't believe it then, and I believe it even less today.

And I'm right.

Yesterday, it has emerged that electronic intelligence operators at NSA have been routinely eavesdropping on overseas communications between American service members, journalists, contractors, aid workers, and various other American citizens in direct violation of their duty, oath, law, and the mission of the National Security Agency. Operators and analysts (there's no such thing as an NSA "Agent") recorded personal conversations between Americans overseas and their families here in the states. They then played these often intimate conversations back for the amusement and titillating entertainment of others within the organization.

Note: the original story was published yesterday by ABC News as an exclusive based on the testimony of two former military cryptologists - people similar in background and training to myself. However, despite ABC's claims of a scoop, the actual allegations have been circulating widely for several years. However, despite knowledge of the problem, Congress failed to become outraged or even interested until ABC made the matter public.

Be that as it may, here's the thing: a number of those conversations were recorded from government maintained or contracted phone lines or satellite and cellular phones links. All government communications systems are flagged with the caveat "Subject to Monitoring" and those of us who use them are aware that our conversations can and are monitored for the purpose of national security. HOWEVER, the recorded conversations in question were not recorded because the monitoring operators felt that operational security had been violated, or because they had indications of a breach in national security - they were recorded and played back because they were entertaining, embarrassing, titillating, dirty, scandalous and because the Jerry Springer Show isn't available within NSA Intercept and Analysis spaces. Even under the relaxed guidelines NSA personnel operate within nowadays, this abuse is a federal crime and a direct violation of the 4th Amendment.

Understand something here, it is imperative that we monitor our own communications circuits as well as other forms of communication. However these vital functions must be under the strictest of controls, with the strictest of oversight, and subject to the highest level of integrity, duty, and honor. Period and no exceptions under any circumstances. Those who cannot immediately see why those controls are necessary simply do not understand either human nature or the vast and terrifying power of the National Security Agency.

I have no doubt, now that this abuse has been exposed, that something will be done. Those operators responsible for the gross violation of civil rights will be found, low level scapegoats named and punished, and we will be given the standard and worthless governmental assurance that it won't happen again.

But it will.

It will.

And it will continue to happen until those responsible for allowing it to happen are held strictly accountable for their utter failure of leadership and duty. It will continue to happen until the foolish, short-sighted, misguided, and unconstitutional nonsense of the Patriot Act and the Protect America act is repealed. The Warner Act was repealed in 2008, HOWEVER, President Bush attached a signing statement which said plainly that he did not feel the Executive Branch was bound by the changes enacted by the repeal. That's right - the President of the United States said, in writing and signed by his own hand, that he was not constrained by the law of the United States of America. And both Congress and the America people let him get away with it.

And that, Ladies and Gentlemen, is precisely the problem. Right there and in no uncertain terms. When the Commander In Chief says clearly that he is not bound by law, that sends a very clear message to those who are required to follow his leadership.

Abuses such as those perpetrated by NSA will continue to happen until and unless those who are ultimately responsible are forcibly reminded in no uncertain terms of their duty, oath, and obligation. When a ship founders, not only is the man on the wheel held accountable, but the Captain is always ultimately responsible for the actions of his crew. The President, the Secretary of Defense, and Director of Central Intelligence, and the Director of the National Security Agency need to be held accountable for this abuse.

This is their fault and their failure of duty and their ultimate failure of leadership and oversight.

They set the example - NSA only followed.