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Saturday, January 31, 2009

You See The Damnest People At Wal-Mart

Howdy, Internet Surfers.  Thanks for coming by.  This post is suddenly wildly popular again and has been linked to the People Of Walmart website (though I think they’ve removed the link section at this point in order to keep up with their sudden popularity). The original rant about the Wasilla Alaska Wal-Mart is here.  Again, thanks for coming by and feel free to comment on this post and to look around Stonekettle Station


 

You all know what I think of Wal-Mart.

I hate that stinking place.

No, hate is not nearly a strong enough word, loathe is more like it.

I really, really do. I loathe everything about Wal-Mart. And the Wasilla Wal-Mart? Well, there’s just a special kind of booger eating going on in there.

I avoid Wal-Mart like a Republican fundraiser, unfortunately, sometimes I really don’t have any options. I’ve just got to go there. And today was that kind of day. Now, when we do have to go to Wal-Mart, we try to go early on Sunday morning when every Christian Conservative (I.e. 99% of the MatSu population) is over at God’s house getting all holy with the Jebus. We’re usually in, out, and gone before the post-church marathon begins, because as near as I can tell without actually setting foot in a church, the standard Sunday message from the pulpit must be something like, “Jesus commands you to make haste from this place of worship, trampling the slower members of the flock if necessary, and hie thyself to the holy Wal-Mart where you will feast on McDonalds and roam the aisles loudly slurping coffee that tastes just like Pontius Pilate’s ass crack. Amen.”

Unfortunately, I had to go today – Saturday for those of you who are adrift in the time stream and have come unstuck from temporal reality. And even more unfortunately I didn’t get around to going until noon.

Saturday. At Noon. In the Wasilla, Alaska Wal-Mart.

Yep, we arrived precisely at primetime bizarroland hour.

Holy freakin’ crap.

Remember Wright’s Ten Laws Of Stupidity? Yeah, I may have understated those.

First lets start with with the economy. I’m calling Shenanigans on the whole “Recession/Depression” thing. Seriously. Because so far as I can tell, people have plenty of money. Shitloads of money. Every dipshit from Fairbanks to Edmonton was in Wal-Mart today, madly piling their carts high with crap like the Grinch packing his sleigh with stolen Christmas presents in Whoville. If this is what a depression looks like, it’s a wonder any of our grandparents managed to survive the 1930’s without being crushed under a mound of cheap consumer goods from China. It was like a feeding frenzy in there – seriously I thought the bargain DVD bin was going to get ripped apart like a pig carcass tossed into a piranha infested Brazilian river.

Then there was Witch Girl and Vampire Boy. I literally did a double take. No, really, thinking “holy shit, how in the 9th circle of hell did it get to Halloween already and I missed it?” She was dressed all in black, black boots, black skirt, black jacket, dyed black hair, black lipstick, black makeup like the rings around a raccoon's eyes. Black, well, except for the dead white, zombie-like skin – I believe that color is called “Dead In A Water Filled Ditch For Three Weeks White.” He was also dressed all in black, with the addition of a black Rocky Balboa hat and a ratty thin beard. Both looked as if they hadn’t showered in a while, a long while. And did I mention the piercings? I haven’t seen that much chrome outside of a Harley Davidson store since the last Terminator Movie. Speaking of movies, I looked around for the cameras, thinking maybe somebody was filming a sequel to 30 Days of Night.

Next it was The Bush Family. No not that Bush Family, the Alaskan Bush family. For those of you not from around here, the Bush is what we call any part of the state that basically hasn’t advanced past, oh, about 1830 – think Australian Outback with bears and moose instead of kangaroos and wallabies and you’re in the right ballpark. People live out there. Sort of. It sounds romantic I know, a log cabin hewn by your own sweat from the Alaskan wilderness, no electricity, no running water, no phones – just some sort of idyllic Disneyesque paradise free from the constraints of civilization. Reality is somewhat different. No running water and no electricity means no showers. Also, toilet paper is a major novelty. So is soap and toothpaste. So are clean clothes, haircuts, shaving and deodorant. Remember the shit covered peasants from Monty Python and the Holy Grail? Like that, only without the good dental hygiene. Look, I hate to be this way, but damn, you could smell these people from a long, long, way away. Filthy clothes, rancid grease, old sweat, rotten moose meat, and at least one of them had fallen into the outhouse, maybe more than one. There was an entire ecosystem living in Bush Man’s belly length beard, I swear I saw little eyes peeping out at me.

And speaking of that special ass flavor, there was Self Stocker Girl. She was unloading a cart of fresh vegetables. I noticed her because she kept stopping to scratch her ass. No, strike that. “Scratch her ass,” doesn’t properly describe it. She had an itch, way up there, way, way up there. She kept stopping to jab about three fingers far enough up her ass crack to perform a colonoscopy. Dig, dig, scratch, scratch. Then, she’d return to stocking the produce bins. Yeah. Produce. You’re really, really going to want to wash those fresh veggies. Just sayin’. Me, I'm sticking to canned for a while. Thanks.

There were at least four Screaming Babies. Screaming. Red faced. Tantrum throwing. Snot bubbling. Quivering chubby checks. Screaming incoherently. Like Rush Limbaugh on an Oxycontin bender. Maybe they got a whiff of the Bush Family, that sure made me feel cranky.

The coup d'√©tat though, was The Blind Guy. Yeah, yeah, I’m about to go off on a blind guy – you know me, don’t even act surprised. Anyway, there was The Blind Guy. I know he was blind – the cane and the seeing-eye dog were dead giveaways. The dog had a big sign, Please Don’t Pet Me, I’m Working and Visually Impaired Assistance Animal. The reason I mention it was, well, Mr Blind Guy was perusing the gun counter. Allow me to repeat that, the blind guy was examining the handguns. Now obviously, the man had some vision, but seriously here folks – if you need a seeing eye dog, you probably shouldn’t be using a firearm. How does that work exactly? Does the dog do the aiming? Arf Arf, up up, right, no left, Ok … rut roh, no biscuit. Does the Alaska Department of Natural Resource go around and mark each game animal with Braille? Moose. Bear. Tourist. Oh don’t look at me like that (ba dump bump), a blind guy with a seeing eye dog at the gun counter? And I’m supposed to pretend that the jokes don’t just write themselves?

Yeah, Saturday at Wal-Mart, it’s like two-bit carnival freak-show.

What’s strangest creature you’ve ever seen at Wal-Mart?

Friday, January 30, 2009

The Volcano

Mount Redoubt 3

Original image courtesy of the Alaska Volcano Observatory, G. McGimsey, US Geological Survey

Last week it was earthquakes, this week it’s volcanoes.

In other words, it’s just another day in Alaska.

For those of you who have sent me email asking about Mount Redoubt, it’s no big deal. We’re in no danger of being entombed in red hot lava, or buried alive in ash, or chased from our homes by boiling avalanches of mud.

For those of you sending me death threats, well, so sorry about that. Better luck next time.

Redoubt is a hundred miles south of Anchorage, or about 160 miles south of me. If it blows like it did last time, we may see some ashfall. We’re prepared. I keep disaster kits in my truck and my wife’s Jeep. We’ve got plenty of canned food and camp stoves to cook it on if necessary. Hell, I even have a couple crates of MRE’s, but truthfully I’d probably gnaw my own leg off before I open those.

The big thing about volcanoes, at least in our location, is ash and abrasive dust. It can do serious damage to your lungs if you breath it in. We’ve got good filter masks, a pack in each vehicle and a pack in the emergency kit, so I’m not worried about it. Bigger problem is the dog and cats, they don’t take to filter masks well. I’ll lock them in the basement, if it becomes necessary – or the shop and run the big dust collection/filter system (hell, that might be the best thing for us human type people too). The dust is a much bigger threat to machinery, it can destroy an engine in no time flat. You need to have spare air filters on hand and change them frequently. It can also get into bearings and moving parts and cause abrasive friction failure.

On the other hand, if it falls on the roads, it’ll go a long way towards fixing the lack of friction problem we’re having at the moment (If you don’t get that, well, you probably live somewhere that the roads aren’t covered in ice all winter. It snowed last night, about eight inches and it’s still coming down at the moment. Whee).

Forgive me if I don’t get all spun up over Mt Redoubt. It rumbles. Sometimes it erupts, most of the time it goes back to sleep. Meh. There’s nine other active volcanoes in my neighborhood also, Spurr usually being the most petulant. Also, I lived in Iceland for several years, lots and lots of active volcanoes there. I once sat at an outdoor bar in the little town of Naxos, on Sicily, and watched lava flows from Mt Etna destroy a dozen homes and a 500 year old church less than a mile away. The Sicilians didn’t get excited about it, so I figured I’d keep ordering beer until people started screaming and running. A year later I watched Etna explode in the middle of the night from a US Navy ship ten miles off the coast, it was one of the most spectacular things I’ve ever seen, the mountain was on fire and fingers of liquid flame poured down the sides and into the sea, folks in Naxos were screaming and running then.

This is not to say that I don’t have a healthy respect for this type of natural force. I’ve walked through Pompeii and Herculaneum too. Becky, Beastly, and I once tramped across the live lava fields of Kailua, less than a dozen feet from 2000 degree lava flows after driving over towns that had been buried in the last major eruption. So, you know, I do take it seriously. And we’re prepared.

But I’m not all sweaty about it.

Again, thanks for asking.

_____________________________________________________________________________________________________

For those interested, the Alaska Volcano Observatory website for Mt Redoubt can be found here. There are two webcams, one on the mountain, and one an oil platform in the Cook Inlet. Both update every five minutes or so, but the one on the mountain is usually covered over in ice this time of year. Also, note that the AVO/USGS is experiencing a major deluge in traffic on this site, so every once in a while you get shunted to a low bandwidth text only server.

One thing about Alaska, it’s never boring.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Things That Chap My Ass, Part III

As previously noted, a lot of things irritate me.

I realize that keeping a list of such things could viewed as somewhat sociopathic behavior, however you should know that it irritates the hell out of me to have people point that out. If you want to remain on my good side, such as it is, try to keep that shit to yourselves.

Part I and Part II of Things That Chap My Ass.

Now, moving on:

- Idiot Search Functions: Specifically desktop search functions that search for a file on your computer using the single most retarded and inefficient algorithm possible. Search functions that search for an item on your local machine like a 12-year old randomly poking through the pile of crap under his bed. Seriously here, Microsoft, which one of you idiots thought it would be a good idea to start every single global search in the “Compressed Installation Files From 1999 That You’ll Never Ever Use” directory, then move on to the “Windows And Every Single Goddamned Windows Program File Subdirectory” Folder? Instead of say, I dunno, the fucking Documents directory? There’s a reason why everybody in the universe hates Microsoft.

- Motor Heads: Those guys that are utterly terrified of silence. You know, those clueless knuckle-dragging grease monkeys that get up early on the weekend, crank up the Shania Twain, and then spend the entire day, day after day, fiddling with something that burns gasoline and doesn’t have a muffler. Hell, everybody loves the smell of burnt hydrocarbon and the sound of internal combustion straight off the headers! Crank that shit up! Tuning and revving and roaring continuously, over and over and over, louder than an A-10 Warthog attack plane making a strafing run on the bombing range with its tank-busting mini-gun in full auto-fire. Cars, Trucks, boats, bikes, snowmachines, lawn mowers, 2-stroke, 4-stroke, whatever – as long as it’s loud. Rev rev rev. All day. They never go anywhere, or use the machine in question, but damn is that thing tuned up.

- Gum Snappers: People who chew gum loudly in public, mouth open, lips flapping and smacking, ferociously working on a mouthful of cud like Mr. Ed with a cheek load of peanut butter – and then suddenly without warning POP POP POP! Then back to furious chewing. I’d like to give these people a pop in the mouth, or embed them in a wad of their own bubblegum flavored shit and stick them to the bottom of a desk somewhere in hell.

- Go Faster Cars: Those little toaster-sized four-cylinder rice-burners with a total cubic engine displacement approximating that of a medium sized hamster – with the GIANT STAINLESS STEEL SOUP CAN MUFFLER AMPLIFIER. We’re talking the midget clown shoes of the automotive world here, folks. Seriously, this is the equivalent of putting cards in the spokes of your bicycle tires. Kids, the shiny soup can muffler does not make your car sound big and bad, it makes it sound like a moped with a thyroid condition. I’m not impressed when you pull up next to me and rev that thing, frankly it sounds like you’re throttling a sickly cat. Also do all those parts manufacturer stickers on the side of your jumped-up golf-cart make it go faster? That giant airfoil, the size of the St. Louis Arc? What’s that all about? My dad says that’s a handle, so you can hang your little go-cart up on a hook in the garage. Why not mount a fake batmobile rocket engine on the back? That would be just about as useful and functional (no, of course not, that would be silly). And what’s with those brake-lights? Brake lights = red. Not blue. Not pink. Not Silver. Not White. Red. Red means you’re stopping, which means that instead of crushing you unnoticed like a fucking bug in my 4-ton crew-cab pickup truck, I’ll stop too. Think about it. Really, look in the rearview mirror, and think about it.

- Bullshit Problem People: Those idiots ahead of you in line, the ones that always have some ridiculous problem that requires a convoluted and lengthy explanation when they get to the counter – then during the course of their rambling explanation it becomes glaringly obvious to everybody in line that the problem is total bullshit. People roll their eyes and shake their heads at how stupid the guy at the counter is, then they step up and do the exact same thing. Let me give you an example: The hinge on my Gateway Tablet failed, it’s under extended warranty, I took it to the Geeksquad counter at Best Buy. Best Buy’s Black Tie extended warranty is outstanding, and their Geeksquad guys are polite and professional – I like dealing with them and consider the extra warranty money well spent. But, frankly, I don’t know how those Geeks do their job. I tell you, I’d stab somebody in the eye with a chip-puller if I had to deal with the bunch of retards they do. First, there was Mz Computer Expert. Her laptop wouldn’t power up. She wanted a new power supply, right now. She had important work to do. She didn’t want any crap from the Geeks either, she knew all about computers. It was the power supply. Pure and simple. The Geek plugged the computer in, the green light came on, the machine powered right up. Well, Geez, that’s funny, she says. Besides that doesn’t explain why the lamp on her desk quit working. Uh Huh. Apparently Mz Computer Expert doesn’t know what a circuit breaker is. Then there was Coffee Spill Lady – she hadn’t purchased the extended warranty, but she expected the manufacturer to replace her laptop because, and I quote, “It just quit working for no reason!” No reason except the big sticky splooge of coffee, sugar, and creamer dried all over the entire keyboard that is. Well, yeah, she admitted, there might have been a coffee related accident somewhere in the vicinity of the machine around about the time it quit working. Pure coincidence. And besides the manufacturer’s warrantee should cover that, right? She actually thought Best Buy should give her a new laptop. Ten minutes of this bullshit. The guy behind her rolls his eyes and makes derisive snorting noises (OK, maybe that was me, but just go with me on this). She eventually leaves in a huff, the Geek smiles a small painful smile and motions for snorting guy to step forward. He plops his laptop on the counter, says something like “Can you believe people like that?” and proceeds to tell his long rambling bullshit story which could actually be summed up in four words: Laptop, Dropped, No workee. Do you have an extended warrantee? Yes. Great. Except the Geek can’t find Mr. Butterfingers’ policy in the computer. We go through his phone number, his wife’s phone number, his cell phone number, his previous phone number, his address, his previous address, his dog’s name, his mother maiden name, his finger prints, his retina prints, his DNA but it’s just not in the computer. More explanation. He used to be in the Army. He moved around a lot. Blah. Blah. He purchased the computer and warranty in Annoythefuckoutame Somewhereelse, not Anchorage. Shouldn’t matter, says the Geek, central database. Blah blah, my dad was in the Army, blah blah blah. The Geek keeps searching, but Mr. Butterfingers’ warranty isn’t in the computer. Wait! say Mr. Butterbrains, I have the receipt. It’s got the policy number on it. Would that help? It might, allows the Geek, heroically managing not to stab the guy right in the eye with a chip-puller. Mr. Butternut produces the receipt – from Circuit City. You may imagine the rest of the conversation for yourself.

- Parking Lot Stalkers: No, I’m not talking about those perverts who hide in late-night Wal-Mart parking lots to ambush unsuspecting female store employees. I’m talking about those irritating assholes who slowly follow you through the lot in their giant Belchfire Behemoth SUV’s in order to get your parking spot. It’s like being stalked by a big clumsy elephant. Then they stop, blocking the entire aisle letting traffic pile up behind them, and wait for you to load your groceries. Sometimes they get impatient if they think you’re taking too much time, then they honk, or rev the engine of their Hummers to get your attention like you couldn’t already hear that beast idling like a 747 on the taxiway, or they speed off in a huff in search of new prey. I like to walk as slowly as possible, shuffling along aimlessly - if they want my spot they’re going to have to earn it. Sometimes I stop, and stand for a while watching the plastic bags blow across the parking lot like graceful boneless chickens, just to see how long they’ll wait. Sometimes I get out my keys and pace briskly towards a parking spot right up front, near the door – and watch the Suburbans and Denalis and Navigators come speeding across the lot like hungry lions to the watering hole, bearing down on that fat tasty looking zebra. They curse and jockey for position, they’ll spend four hours running on a treadmill in their designer lycra shorts down at the gym but there ain’t no way in hell they’ll park more than ten feet from the door if they can help it. And just as the feeding frenzy reaches its crescendo, I put my keys back into my pocket and dodge between the cars into the next aisle over. Ha hah! There’s my car! Follow me! Do it enough and you’re like the pied piper of lazy selfish assholes, you can get a whole pack of them to follow you all the way to the furthest, most remote corner of the lot just for a chance at your spot – because by then it’s become a matter of principle, they don’t care how shitty the spot is, they’re not giving it up to the competition, bitches.

- Nancy Grace and Caylee Anthony: Seriously here folks, who in Atlanta thought that this pig snouted, big haired, whored-up, soap-opera milking, queen of the trailer-park trash, sensationalistic tabloid pabulum spewing, yellow journalism loving dye-job was an actual journalist? Investigative reporter? The only issues this irritating corn-pone accented rednecked Jeff Foxworthy caricature is investigating are the boxed wine specials in the local Piggly Wiggly liquor aisle. You’d think that Caylee Anthony was the only kid who’s gone missing and dead in the last fifty fucking years. Yes, it’s a tragedy, but it’s not half the tragedy that Grace and her ignorant self-righteous sensationalistic crusade has made of the once vaunted CNN. I wish this idiot would go missing herself for a good long while.

- Palinites: Those NeoCon retards who continue to try to make some kind of profound connection between Osama Bin Laden and Obama/Biden. Look it rhymes! Rhymes don’t lie. If the glove don’t fit, you must acquit! God made Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve. Our Mama’s gonna beat your Obama. Really shut the fuck up and go back to your little cabin in Montana or wherever. If the world ends, we’ll let you know. Maybe.

- LOL Trolls: Nothing says troll like ending every single sentence with LOL! I’m LOLing LOL! LOLing My Ass Off. LOL LOL LOL. Look, I’m using the Internets LOL! You’re an asshole LOL! Allow me to dazzle you with my clever trollish wit LOL! LOL, it’s the new period LOL!

- Cereal commercials: Attention Post, Attention Kellogg, Attention General Mills: I got it. You cereal is crunchy. Everybody knows. Cereal, it’s not a new invention. It is absolutely not necessary for you to run commercials with happy smiling morning people in bathrobes sitting around a table smacking and crunching and slobbering and talking about how your cereal is fortified with 8 essential sugars and enough fiber to imbue a camel with the ability to shit through the eye of a needle at forty paces. For the love of God, I really don’t need to see these people eating, and I really don’t need to hear them eating. What the fuck is it with cereal commercials? No other food product feels the need to demonstrate the sound of the their product being consumed. Steak? No. Canned vegetables? No, never heard the sound of the Jolly Green Giant chewing 3-bean salad echoing over Happy Valley. Pudding Pops? No. Oatmeal? No. Tuna in a pouch? And etc. So why do I have to listen to people eat your product. Really, I’m not interested in listening to somebody else’s digestive process. It’s a damned good thing the laxative manufacturers haven’t picked up on this idea – or the Beano guys.

I could go on, but I’m getting irritated just thinking about this stuff.

Now, if you’ll excuse me I think I’ll go have a bowl of cereal, maybe the crunching noise will drown out the sound of my neighbor tuning up his snow machine.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Oh Hell No!

Software company president John Thompson is the top candidate for U.S. commerce secretary, a senior Democratic official confirmed to FOX News.

Software Company?

Which software company? Because, you know, it's important.

Oh, God, no.

Symantec.

Symantec, creators of the worlds' absolute most useless piss-yellow interface? Symantec, the company that can't adhere to basic standards for look and feel? Symantec, the operators of one of the worst ever customer service departments in the history of software companies? Symantec, creators of one of the biggest pieces of bloatware since the Windows platform it runs on?

Symantec? Symantec?

That Symantec?

Good Lord, President Obama, you're tech savvy. What the hell are you thinking?

_________________________________________________

Update: for those of you surfing in from Scalzi's Whatever this morning. Howdy. Note that we're (mostly) big gushy Obama fans around here, please read on, you'll see. However, I'm really not a fan of Symantec or Thompson. Really. Hell, I'd be happier if President Obama picked Bill Gates for Commerce, but then again he didn't ask me.

Anyway, thanks for coming by.

Yet Another Law That Sounds Good, But Won't Actually Work

Well, OK, you got me.

It actually doesn't even sound good.

House Bill H.R. 414, otherwise known as the Camera Phone Predator Alert Act is the brainchild of New York Representative Peter King (R). Currently in committee, H.R. 414 would require all cell phones with an embedded camera to make an audible fake shutter noise or a click when taking a picture.

Yep, shutter noise - like thongs, it should be the law, missy.

King wants all phones to make some kind of noise loud enough to be heard "within a reasonable radius of the phone whenever a photograph is taken with the camera in such phone."

“Reasonable radius” is not defined in the draft bill, so I guess it’ll be up to the cops. “All right, hold it right there, Pal, this is the police! Drop the phone and kick it over here. I’m ten feet from you and I’m not hearing any clicking!”

The logic being that children are being exploited by an army of camera phone wielding perverts. See apparently, predators take pictures of kids in locker rooms and restrooms and such like that with their stealthy silent camera phones and publish the resulting porn on spankthemonkey.com or something. Also, there’s apparently a bunch of, uh, well, technically I guess they’re called ‘men,’ who like to take pictures up an unsuspecting girl’s skirt or down her shirt – usually this is done in a public place (I admit to being not completely clear on the sport, researching it on the web is not something you want to be doing if you’ve got young children around or if you’d like to remain off the FBI’s cyber-crimes watch list. Just sayin’).

Now, just so we’re clear here – I’m really not standing here supporting the rights of covert picture snapping pervs. No really. I know you’re shocked, especially those of you who have me pegged as a bunny petting liberal. Personally, I think that a better law would be one that engenders the general public to beat the ever living snot out of anybody caught engaging in such behavior. Tar, feathers, and baseball bats optional. I think a law like that would go a long, long ways towards curbing the perverts, but hey, that kind of liberal thinking never works.

And to be honest, I can think of a number of reasons for cell phone cameras to make a loud noise when used, and not just so we can spot the pervs in the locker rooms. Camera phones are banned from a number of workplaces, because employees were using them to photograph sensitive information. Camera phones are the interactive cheat sheet, students photograph their tests and send the images to their friends in the library and get answers texted back – most schools have banned phones in the classroom for this reason. Camera phones are used extensively by terrorists (overseas mostly, which this law would obviously have no effect on) to conduct covert surveillance as part of the pre-attack planning phase, often it’s children who are given this role. Camera phones are used to invade the privacy of average citizens, at accident scenes, in hospitals, in public. Give it some thought and I’m sure you can come up with a dozen examples for yourself.

So, if Representative King gets his way, all of our camera phones will be making a loud faux shutter noise.

Think that will curb the kind of exploitative porn described above?

Yeah, sure.

Here’s what will happen should this bill pass:

- Our phones will probably get more expensive by some significant multiple of the dollar. Manufactures will have to make special phones just for the US market. Now it’s true that they do already to some extent due to our idiotic three system, non-universal GSM cell standards, which means our phones don’t work in most other countries or even with a different US cell phone service. But basically that’s only a SIM card issue – swap the card and the phone works on a different system without changing the core electronics. The noise and speaker control is a coding issue. So, you’ll have to program certain phones for the US and certain phones for non-US markets. That means our phones will be more expensive.

- You will damned sure know when somebody is taking a picture of children. Say like an auditorium full of parents with camera phones watching their kids’ kindergarten play, or six grade band concert, or high school graduation. In fact, it’s likely that that’s about the only thing you’ll be hearing.

- Those using a phone to record a crime, of which there have been numerous examples lately, would put themselves at risk. “Hey, hear that noise Mr. Cop Beating the Snot Out of That Black Motorist? Howsabout coming over here and kicking my ass too?”

- People will still be able to shoot covert video – yes, video capable phones often display a red LED when filming, which is why people put their finger over it, or cover it with tape.

- Museums and art galleries and other such traditionally quiet places will be full of clicking and loud shudder noises – and probably a lot of irritated people.

- Actual cameras, including old mechanical wet film instamatics and SLR’s, and especially little nearly invisible high resolution digital cameras will remain silent or mostly so.

- A lucrative and highly popular business of hacking the phone’s speaker electronics and/or code will emerge pretty much instantly.

- Plenty of older phones without the mandated noise function will remain is use for years to come.

- Deaf and hearing impaired people will have no warning of exploitation. This is discriminatory. Somebody will sue. It’ll be a class action lawsuit.

and

- The perverts and child predators will be completely unaffected.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

The Earthquake

image

Preferred Hypocentral Solution:

Local Date:
Saturday January 24th, 2009

Local Time:
09:09 AM AKST

Universal Time:
01/24/2009 18:09:50.716 UTC

Magnitude:
5.73 ML

Latitude:
59.3888

Longitude:
-152.8107

Depth:
62 miles (100 km)

Author:
UAF:dutylap

This earthquake was:

22 miles (35 km) E of Augustine Volcano

48 miles (77 km) WSW of Homer

98 miles (156 km) SW of Soldotna

112 miles (180 km) N of Kodiak

162 miles (259 km) SW of Anchorage

253 miles (405 km) WSW of Valdez

413 miles (661 km) SSW of Fairbanks

663 miles (1061 km) WNW of Juneau

_______________________________________________________________

The windows and the plates rattled, but it only felt like a 3.5 here in Palmer.  We’re fine. No reports of significant damage or injures. Just another day in Alaska.

Thanks for asking.

Friday, January 23, 2009

The Alaska Territorial Guard: A Debt of Honor Unpaid (Updated)

ATTENTION BLOGGERS, PUNDITS, AND NEWS MEDIA

This article is the intellectual property of Jim Wright and Stonekettle Station, it is protected by copyright.

I explicitly do not give permission to quote this article solely in order to attack the President of the United States or to make any other rightwing political point. Period and no exceptions. And I explicitly do NOT give permission to use my words to praise former Alaskan Governor Sarah Palin in any way whatsoever.

Let's be honest here, not one of you conservative pundits gave a good Goddamn about these people either, none of you did a damn thing to bring this matter to the attention of the American people, and none of you actually care now - you're only using this to attack the current administration. So save your outrage and self-righteous indignation and leave my words out of it. You're welcome to your hypocrisy, but you can do it without quoting me. Clear?

You may quote me, providing you quote only a brief passage (one or two lines), give a link to this article, AND ACKNOWLEDGE THAT PRESIDENT OBAMA DID NOT CREATE THIS MESS.

While I absolutely DO NOT agree with Obama's current veto of this bill and I find it unacceptable, the plight of the ATG is the result of 70 years of bad policy by both republicans and democrats. I.e. There's plenty of blame to go around. Laying it at the feet of the current president or claiming that it's part of some greater anti-military liberal agenda only clouds the issue further. And it should be noted that one of the principle people leading the fight to restore full benefits to the members of the Alaskan Territorial Guard is Senator Mark Begich, a liberal, and a member of the Democratic Party.

Acknowledge the actual situation as it exists and don't use my words to further your agenda, and you may quote me in accordance with fair usage as defined by US copyright law. Otherwise, don't.

This applies to both liberals and conservatives and any damned body else. This means you.

If you feel that you should be granted some kind of exemption or you have questions regarding exactly what you can quote or not quote, you may email me at the address on the main page of Stonekettle Station and we'll discuss it.

- Jim Wright, Stonekettle Station.

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In 1937, US Army Chief of Staff, General Malin Craig, said “The mainland of Alaska is so remote from the strategic areas of the Pacific that it is difficult to conceive of circumstances in which air operations from there would contribute materially to the national defense.”

Less than five years later, General Craig was proved rather obviously and painfully wrong.

General Craig retired in 1939, relieved by General George Marshal, and while Craig’s attitude towards the Alaskan territory was significantly shortsighted, he can be forgiven for it. Craig was by no means a fool, instead he was a highly decorated and experienced soldier who demonstrated commendable courage and leadership during the St. Mihiel and Argonne-Meuse Offensives in World War I . He was recalled to active duty in September of 1941 and served honorably until his death on July 25th, 1945. He was buried with honors in section 30 of Arlington National Cemetery where he rests to this day.

Craig’s military assessment of the Alaskan Territory was typical for his time, i.e. the intra war period of the 1930’s. The territory was remote and by and large inaccessible (there were no roads to Alaska then and damn few roads inside Alaska, and few ports - none of which were deep water). Alaska’s vast resources were mostly unknown then, the easy gold deposits were long gone and little else mattered except maybe a small amount of platinum and some silver. General Craig was also a product of the so called Mahan Doctrine – the military philosophy adopted by all major powers of the time and named for Naval Academy strategist Alfred Thayer Mahan, which basically said that a nation’s ability to define its own destiny was vested in sea power, or more specifically in capital ships, i.e. Battlewagons. Nations of the time were embarked in a race to see who could build the biggest and most powerful fleet of battleships without going bankrupt. WWI had also taught men like General Craig that if you didn’t want to get bogged down in the trenches of France and Belgium, you’d better have a big, powerful mechanized army – i.e. tanks, and lots of them – and this also was part of the Mahan Doctrine, because in order to move those tanks and the rest of your troops and equipment and supplies, you needed a powerful fleet to protect the transport ships. If you’re paying attention, you should now understand why Germany built all those U-boats and why Craig himself was responsible for the single largest modernization effort in US Army history (which led in no small part to US military superiority during WWII).

However, what Craig and the other Western military men of the time didn’t know, was that the Mahan Doctrine was utterly obsolete – and had been since 11:02 on the morning of January 18, 1911. On that cold, crisp winter morning in San Francisco harbor, a tall skinny daredevil named Eugene Burton Ely, a pilot with the Curtiss Aircraft Company, landed a Curtis #2 Pusher on the deck of the heavy armored cruiser USS Pennsylvania AC-4. Fifty-four minutes later, he took off again (scared shitless - he wasn’t afraid of crashing, but rather of drowning - Ely couldn’t swim and was terrified of water) and changed the world. Naval aviation was born. It took thirty years of development, thirty years to train the pilots, build the planes, build the aircraft carriers, and to work out the techniques. During most of that time, General Craig’s time, aviation was regarded as a military support function by Western militaries and not a combat function – the term “Air Superiority” and the concept it embodies hadn’t been conceived of yet – in the West.

All of that changed on the morning of December 7th, 1941, when the Japanese, striking from ships steaming hundreds of miles away, dealt a devastating blow to the US Pacific Fleet anchored in Pearl Harbor. In that single moment the military philosophies of Alfred Thayer Mahan and General Malin Craig were violently demonstrated to be long obsolete. The weapon of the modern age would be airpower, long range airpower – and suddenly, Alaska was was very, very important indeed. Not to just the US, but to the Japanese who invaded the Aleutians and began pushing toward the mainland.

The US military suddenly found itself fighting on a dozen fronts, the Marines and Navy in the Pacific, the Army in Europe, and the Navy and Coast Guard in the North Atlantic (it would be five years before the US Army Air Corps would become the new US Air Force). There was little to spare for Alaska, but the territory had to be defended. The Army Corps of Engineers began construction of the Alaskan Canadian Highway, a muddy rutted jeep track built by Buffalo Soldiers and other units of the USACE. A deepwater protected port, Whittier, was constructed on a shelf blasted out the solid granite mountains on the western edge of Prince William Sound and a 2.5 mile long tunnel was blasted straight through the base of the mountains to connect the new port to the growing military city of Anchorage. Island fortresses were built on Kodiak and on Adak and Shemya in the Aleutians. New airfields were blasted from the wilderness at Richardson Field, Greely, Delta, King Salmon, Cold Bay, and a hundred other places so remote that most Americans had never even heard of them. That vast effort and the heroism of that long ago time is part of the history of Alaska – it changed the very fabric of the territory and led directly to statehood in 1959. All of us Alaskans today benefit from those efforts, from the Alcan, and Whittier, and the railroads and airfields and the roads.

But it wasn’t enough, not back then.

See, despite all – there was still Alaska itself. It is a vast and powerful land, rugged and unforgiving. The troops who came to defend the territory in 1941 were in large part unprepared. Their equipment was ill-suited for the harsh environment, much of it failed or was simply overwhelmed by conditions that can freeze 80-weight differential oil solid as amber. Their training in cold weather survival was inadequate, many suffered serious cold related injuries. Veterans of the Bulge speak of that horrible winter in the black forests of the Ardennes, but the troops who braved Alaska’s brutal winters to fight in the Aleutians often had it far worse – though their tribulations are largely forgotten today.

And so the Army set out to find a solution – something to protect the vital Alaskan coastline and patrol the remote areas, something to give early warning in the event of a Japanese threat to the critical Lend/Lease corridor to Russia, something to train the troops in arctic survival and operations.

And they found it.

They found their solution in the remote and isolated villages of the Aleut, the Yupik, the Athabaskan, the Inupiaq, the Tlingit, the Haida, the Tsimshian, the Eyak, and the other native Alaskan peoples. Incorrectly called Eskimo Scouts, the Alaska Territorial Guard was formed from mostly native Alaskan volunteers. Both men and women, the oldest 80 and the youngest 12. From 1942 to 1947 these unpaid volunteers from 107 native communities patrolled Alaska. Officially there were 6,368 of them, unofficially it was more like 20,000. These men and woman rallied to a flag and a cause that was largely not their own. They learned to fight and to shoot and to operate Army equipment and they did it so well that battle hardened veterans from Outside were often left in awe of their abilities, dedication, and perseverance under some of the harshest conditions on Earth. The members of the Alaskan Territorial Guard, the ATG, managed weapons and ammunition stores for the Army, trained themselves in drill and firearms and tactics, managed communications and transported equipment under conditions that no others could function in, constructed buildings and support facilities including airstrips and ports, conducted coastal surveillance and long range extended patrols on foot, broke hundreds of miles of wilderness trails, cached emergency stores and ammunition for the Navy, performed land and sea search and rescue of downed airmen and shipwrecked sailors, and directly fought against the enemy in the Aleutians. The ATG was commended for shooting down a number of Japanese bomb balloons and remote surveillance radiosondes and for the difficult rescue of downed airmen from planes that crashed on the arduous journey to Siberia in the Russian Lend Lease program. Members of the ATG also performed medical care for wounded soldiers at a field hospital in remote Kotzebue. And above all, the ATG provided training to the regular army in cold weather operations – training that saved thousands of lives and who’s legacy continues to this day for the troops who guard Alaska and its vital resources.

Though heroic, the efforts of the ATG are long forgotten by history, just another footnote in a time of chaos and war. The bases they built molder on the shores and in the interior, I’ve walked through the ruins of many and marveled that men could carve such places from the wilderness. I’ve stood before the monument at Soldier Summit in the Yukon, the Military Memorial on the Parks Highway just south of Denali National Park, and before the monument on Attu at the far end of the Aleutians – and stood in awe of those who rallied to a banner not their own and swore to give their lives in defense of a desperate nation that barely even acknowledged their existence and called them Eskimos instead of by the true name of their peoples.

But because they were volunteers, and because they were natives and members of the ATG – the Army did not recognize them as true soldiers. After the war they were largely forgotten by the outside world, and many returned to their homes. But some, some continued to serve and they didn’t forget us, in 1959 many former members of the ATG were the driving force behind Alaskan Statehood. And former native members of the ATG were instrumental in the implementation of racial equality within the ranks of the army and within Alaskan communities.

In 2000, largely due to efforts by former Alaskan Senator Ted Stevens, a bill was signed into law ordering the Secretary of Defense to issue Honorable Discharges to all members of the Alaska Territorial Guard. The bill was intended to repay the debt of honor we as a nation owe these people, these Americans, and provided many of the surviving members (now in their 80’s and many living far below the poverty line) with retirement pay and survivor’s benefits and medial care. However history views Ted Stevens it must be noted that he was largely responsible for righting a dishonorable and inexcusable injustice. However, the story of the ATG doesn’t end there – most of the elderly surviving members of the ATG live in remote and inaccessible locations. Finding them was long and difficult. In 2003 Colonel Bob Goodman USA(ret), undertook the effort to find and assist the remaining members of the ATG, at first funded by the state and later out of his own pocket. So far he and his people have located over 150 former members of the ATG, and they estimate there are several hundred more – and they continue their efforts to this very day. Many of those located in the last five years have since died of old age. For those who remain, the benefits provided aren’t much, some medical care and a couple hundred dollars a month, but for folks who now live far below the poverty line in villages where gasoline costs more than $10 per gallon – those benefits mean the difference between life and death.

Those benefits, that mere pittance in retirement pay, would seem to be the least we can do for those forgotten veterans of that long ago conflict.

It would seem to be the very least we could do.

But it’s not.

It turns out we could actually do less.

It turns out that the Army could suddenly decide, say yesterday in fact, to reinterpret the law to read that these men and women of the Alaska Territorial Guard, these men and woman who came to defend our nation in its time of need, these men and women who fought bravely for a flag not even their own, who built the roads and the airfields and the hospitals and the bridges and who rescued downed airmen and stranded sailors and braved the cold and the isolation and the horror of war – these men and women – are not, in fact, entitled to even that small effort.

That’s right. The Army has decided to cut off retirement pay for the twenty-six surviving members of the ATG. Twenty-six, and applications from thirty-seven more identified by Colonel Bob Goodwin and his people have been suspended. Apparently we can not afford to take care of even this small handful of people, this small handful of veterans, this small handful of Alaskans, this small handful of Americans.

However, in a good hearted move, the Army will not seek to recoup past payments.

Big of them, wouldn’t you say?

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Update: In response to some seriously bad publicity in the press and on the net, and following a visit by an Alaskan congressional delegation, Army Secretary Pete Geren has decided to do the honorable thing. Because that's just the kind of guy he is, apparently. Secretary Geren has ordered the Army to dip into emergency funds and issue a one time only payment, equal to two months retirement pay, to the ATG members who had their retirement pay cut off last week.

No mention of why it took a congressional demand, letters to the President, and a shitload of bad press to get the Army to behave in accordance with their professed core values of honor and duty. Funny how the funds were found to pay this debt only after it looked like it might negatively impact unpopular wartime recruiting efforts. Oopsy, should have seen that one coming. Also funny how this emergency payout costs less in total than the new furniture and carpeting the Secretary and Joint Chiefs get in their offices every two years, or the cost of those motivational posters they think are so fucking inspiring, or the gardening bill for one flower bed outside the Pentagon, or the cost of fuel to fly the Admiral's private Gulfstream III over to this year's Tail & Hookers convention, or one of those spiffy static displays in front of every Air Force Base in the world, or one paycheck to the average Haliburton contractor washing towels in Bagram, or...oh, fuck it, nevermind. I suppose I should be glad that it happened, even sullenly and under duress.

Supposedly this one time payment, gives Congress time to fix the law permanently. We'll see.

Meanwhile? Meanwhile there's still 300 hundred surviving members of the ATG out there.

Army honor does't seem to extend that far though.


Forgive me if I'm somewhat less than impressed.

___________________________________________________________________

* Alaskan Senators Lisa Murkowski (R) and Mark Begich (D) are preparing legislation to restore full retirement pay to the surviving members of the ATG who qualify, and they have sent a letter to President Obama asking him to directly intervene. The fact that this should be necessary is a disgusting travesty. The nation, and the Army in particular, owe a debt of personal honor to these men and women – and an apology. I strongly urge you to write to your congressional representative and demand that Congress clearly amend the law and require the Army to repay this debt

Update: Additionally, I think the CINC should order the Army to search out and contact every surviving member of the ATG and inform them of their rights in person. There's plenty of Army in Alaska, plenty of helicopters and plenty of uniformed bean counters. Cost? Sure it'll cost, look's like the Generals don't get new carpet this year. Too fucking bad, maybe we should cut off the heat in their offices too.

** The Army is legally correct in its actions, so far as I can tell. Once the discrepancy was identified, HRC is required to take action and suspend payments. Morally, however, well I'll leave that up to you. Personally, in my military opinion, honor demands that this debt be paid.

Update: while legally correct, it is obvious at this point that the Army does have the discretion to pay these men. Secretary Geran's action proves that. It should have been the Army who went to Congress about this matter and demanded that Congress fix the law and plus up the retirement account. Again, Army honor seems to be in short supply these days.

*** Where is our Governor in all this you ask? Busy, apparently, signing a $3 million book deal, and preparing for her run at the White House in 2012.

Update: Correction, apparently, Palin also signed the letter to President Obama. One wonders where she found the time, at least she didn't blame this failure on Tina Fey.

- CWO Jim Wright, USN(ret)

The Stupid, It Burns

This is quite possibly the most bizarre interview I've read in a long, long time.

Then again, considering the participants, why am I surprised?

Thursday, January 22, 2009

The Stupid Cat





For the curious, Stupid is doing better.

He's still taking antibiotics and he still has a shitty attitude, but at least he's stopped shredding my wallet for the moment.

Ad Absurdum

“No person shall have a right to government services in any other language.”

Today, voters in Nashville, Tennessee, are going to the polls to vote on a measure that would make English the official language of their local government.

The amendment, if approved, will require all official government actions, communications, and publications be conducted in English. The Metropolitan Council, the entity who wrote and submitted the proposal in the first place, could at their discretion mandate exceptions to protect public health and safety, and one assumes that Immigration agents will still be allowed to shout, “Inmigraci√≥n! Abrir la puerta!” in Spanish.

A spokesman for U.S. English Foundation Inc, an action group that supports English-only laws nationwide, said the Nashville proposal is a good one.

"Government programs are aimed at helping people reach self-sufficiency and success," Rob Toonkel told CNN. "Allowing use of a second language doesn't encourage them to learn English."

US English Foundation Inc may have a point, their Chairman and CEO is himself an immigrant from Chile, and the Board of Directors includes a number of immigrants such as Arnold Schwarzenegger.

"The key word is 'actions that bind the government,'" Toonkel said, which would cover transactions such as getting a city contract. And the referendum’s sponsor, City Councilman Eric Crafton said the bill was needed to save the city $100,000 to $150,000 in annual translation and related costs (it should be noted that metro officials told The Tennessean that such services are provided by city employees already on the city’s payroll in other capacities and that making English the city’s official language will not actually reduce costs at all).

You know, I grew up speaking good Midwestern Michigan English. I took Spanish in Middle and High School, at which I did very poorly. Hell, I lived in Spain and still can’t hablar the Espanol worth a mierda. I suck at languages, and I was damned grateful that so many Spaniards cheerfully spoke English. This is also true of the other foreign countries I’ve either lived in or visited, especially Iceland – because seriously folks if I can’t learn something simple like Spanish I’ve got no hope whatsoever of learning Icelandic – a twelve hundred year old language composed primarily of the guttural sounds made by bloodthirsty Vikings.

So, as an English speaker, I say sure. OK. Let’s make English the official language of the United States. In fact, let’s go one step further, let’s make Midwestern Lower Michigan English (AKA, Generic Newscaster American) the official dialect of the United States.

We can start right here in Alaska, with Sarah Palin and that goofy nasal MinniesSotan accent she has. I mean I can understand what she’s saying – but seriously, it’s annoying as all hell. As Governor, she needs to speak proper English.

And the North East States, holy crap! Have you ever been to Maine? I lived in Maine, you can’t understand a damned thing those people are saying. Seriously here folks, one morning in Milbridge I was greeted by a local denizen who said, and I quote, “Mornin der, Chummie! Nice dah fer da crabbin, eh?” To this day I have no idea what the hell he was talking about. Those people spend way, way too much time sucking maple sap out of the trees.

Then there’s Massachusetts. What’s the deal with adding an extra ‘awr’ to every damned word? If you’re going to add extra letters to perfectly good English words then you should move to Canada where that kind of shit is legal. That’s what I’m saying here – and take those nasty baked beans with the globs of pork fat floating in them with you.

And the South? We should have imposed some English on those rednecks at the end of the Civil War. I swear to God, folks, nothing says ignorant hillbilly like a southern accent. Think about it, a lot of people think Albert Einstein was a smart guy – because he had a German accent. See? Germans sound smart. But try to imagine if ole ‘Bert was nicknamed Bubba Einstein instead and spoke with a Birmingham country twang. “See, whatchaya’ll got ‘ere is yer E equals MC squared. Wooee! That ders like if’n ya’ll put a big block 442 in yer Chevy and got ole’ Dale hisownself to drive it! Yeehah! Lightspeed. Dat’s biscuits and gravy, boys!” See? The Nobel Committee wouldn’t even have let him in the front door.

And what about the damned Lawyers? With all their Latin. Imagine how much we could save in tax dollars if we didn’t have to have lawyers translating perfectly good English into legalize and then back again. It’s nothing but a scam. Americans should be able to access the law of the land without having to pay a lawyer to translate their name into “party of the first part.” I think any good English Only law should include a clause to make lawyers speak in plain English.

And doctors. More Latin. And not just that, but doctors just completely make up words – and then tack the word “syndrome” on the end to make it sound legitimate. Take postgastrectomy syndrome for example, which is a fancy way of saying that you have the shits.

Oh, speaking of just making up words, what about Taco Bell? Frutista Freeze? Frutista? And what the fuck is a Bacon Cheddar Gordita? That’s just made up bullshit. For all I know Gordita could mean “ground up Chihuahua.” We need a law that prevents this kind of silliness and requires Taco Bell to use real English words like Burrito and Nachos and Pizza and Hamburger.

Then there’s the auto industry. Somebody want to tell me where Volkswagen gets off selling cars in America with weird assed foreign sounding names like “Passat,” and “Jetta” and “Touareg?” Touareg, hell, those are sub-Saharan pirates for crying out loud, why the hell should we allow VW to sell us cars named for a bunch of African Terrorists? It’s just down right un-American. This kind of crap is leaking over into American manufactures too, hell my GMC truck is a “Sierra.” Sierra is a Spanish word, why couldn’t they just call it “the Mountain?” Chevy is making the “Impala,” another African word, they should have just called their car “Weird Fast Deer.”

Hell, why we’re at it, we should add a clause to make people name their children traditional American names. What’s with all the Madisons, and Shakiras, and Rivers, and Dejuans, and Rainers? Barak? People are just making shit up.

And what about crop circles? Talk about illegal aliens, bastards tear up perfectly good corn fields and don’t even have the common courtesy to write in English.

Is there any reason why computers can’t be programmed in plain English? And speaking of computers and plain English, what about those goddamned errors messages? Seriously folks, if there’s any part of our nation more in need of mandated English, I don’t know what it is.

English, it’s not just a good idea, it’s the law, or at least it should be.

Here’s a bit of English for you:

Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
"Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!" cries she
With silent lips. "Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"

Just as long as they speak English. Right?

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Obama’s First Day

Frankly, it’s looking good to me.

 

 Click for high resolution image

 

The first sunrise of the new administration was pretty spectacular this morning. I sat in the sunroom for half an hour drinking my coffee and watching it. 

Yes, that’s right, I’m crediting this beautiful sunrise to the new President, and while I’m at it I’ll credit the crappy weather we were having last week to the outgoing president. It’s petty, sure, but it’s my sunrise, I can do what I want with it.

How’s your day starting out?

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

First Impression (update)

Love the guy or hate him, I predict that Barack Obama's inauguration speech will become one of the truly great speeches of our history.

My God, the man is inspiring.


And I think inspiration is exactly what this country needs right now.
______________________________________________________

Update: I've been looking at President Obama's inauguration address. I intended to offer my own analysis. I may still do so, but for the moment I think these words deserve to stand on their own:
______________________________________________________

My fellow citizens:

I stand here today humbled by the task before us, grateful for the trust you have bestowed, mindful of the sacrifices borne by our ancestors. I thank President Bush for his service to our nation, as well as the generosity and cooperation he has shown throughout this transition.

Forty-four Americans have now taken the presidential oath. The words have been spoken during rising tides of prosperity and the still waters of peace. Yet, every so often the oath is taken amidst gathering clouds and raging storms. At these moments, America has carried on not simply because of the skill or vision of those in high office, but because We the People have remained faithful to the ideals of our forbearers, and true to our founding documents.

So it has been. So it must be with this generation of Americans.

That we are in the midst of crisis is now well understood. Our nation is at war, against a far-reaching network of violence and hatred. Our economy is badly weakened, a consequence of greed and irresponsibility on the part of some, but also our collective failure to make hard choices and prepare the nation for a new age. Homes have been lost; jobs shed; businesses shuttered. Our health care is too costly; our schools fail too many; and each day brings further evidence that the ways we use energy strengthen our adversaries and threaten our planet.

These are the indicators of crisis, subject to data and statistics. Less measurable but no less profound is a sapping of confidence across our land — a nagging fear that America's decline is inevitable, and that the next generation must lower its sights.

Today I say to you that the challenges we face are real. They are serious and they are many. They will not be met easily or in a short span of time. But know this, America — they will be met.

On this day, we gather because we have chosen hope over fear, unity of purpose over conflict and discord.

On this day, we come to proclaim an end to the petty grievances and false promises, the recriminations and worn out dogmas, that for far too long have strangled our politics.

We remain a young nation, but in the words of Scripture, the time has come to set aside childish things. The time has come to reaffirm our enduring spirit; to choose our better history; to carry forward that precious gift, that noble idea, passed on from generation to generation: the God-given promise that all are equal, all are free, and all deserve a chance to pursue their full measure of happiness.

In reaffirming the greatness of our nation, we understand that greatness is never a given. It must be earned. Our journey has never been one of short-cuts or settling for less. It has not been the path for the faint-hearted — for those who prefer leisure over work, or seek only the pleasures of riches and fame. Rather, it has been the risk-takers, the doers, the makers of things — some celebrated but more often men and women obscure in their labor, who have carried us up the long, rugged path toward prosperity and freedom.

For us, they packed up their few worldly possessions and traveled across oceans in search of a new life.

For us, they toiled in sweatshops and settled the West; endured the lash of the whip and plowed the hard earth.

For us, they fought and died, in places like Concord and Gettysburg; Normandy and Khe Sahn.

Time and again these men and women struggled and sacrificed and worked till their hands were raw so that we might live a better life. They saw America as bigger than the sum of our individual ambitions; greater than all the differences of birth or wealth or faction.

This is the journey we continue today. We remain the most prosperous, powerful nation on Earth. Our workers are no less productive than when this crisis began. Our minds are no less inventive, our goods and services no less needed than they were last week or last month or last year. Our capacity remains undiminished. But our time of standing pat, of protecting narrow interests and putting off unpleasant decisions — that time has surely passed. Starting today, we must pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off, and begin again the work of remaking America.

For everywhere we look, there is work to be done. The state of the economy calls for action, bold and swift, and we will act — not only to create new jobs, but to lay a new foundation for growth. We will build the roads and bridges, the electric grids and digital lines that feed our commerce and bind us together. We will restore science to its rightful place, and wield technology's wonders to raise health care's quality and lower its cost. We will harness the sun and the winds and the soil to fuel our cars and run our factories. And we will transform our schools and colleges and universities to meet the demands of a new age. All this we can do. And all this we will do.

Now, there are some who question the scale of our ambitions — who suggest that our system cannot tolerate too many big plans. Their memories are short. For they have forgotten what this country has already done; what free men and women can achieve when imagination is joined to common purpose, and necessity to courage.

What the cynics fail to understand is that the ground has shifted beneath them — that the stale political arguments that have consumed us for so long no longer apply. The question we ask today is not whether our government is too big or too small, but whether it works — whether it helps families find jobs at a decent wage, care they can afford, a retirement that is dignified. Where the answer is yes, we intend to move forward. Where the answer is no, programs will end. And those of us who manage the public's dollars will be held to account — to spend wisely, reform bad habits, and do our business in the light of day — because only then can we restore the vital trust between a people and their government.

Nor is the question before us whether the market is a force for good or ill. Its power to generate wealth and expand freedom is unmatched, but this crisis has reminded us that without a watchful eye, the market can spin out of control - and that a nation cannot prosper long when it favors only the prosperous. The success of our economy has always depended not just on the size of our gross domestic product, but on the reach of our prosperity; on our ability to extend opportunity to every willing heart — not out of charity, but because it is the surest route to our common good.

As for our common defense, we reject as false the choice between our safety and our ideals. Our Founding Fathers, faced with perils we can scarcely imagine, drafted a charter to assure the rule of law and the rights of man, a charter expanded by the blood of generations. Those ideals still light the world, and we will not give them up for expedience's sake. And so to all other peoples and governments who are watching today, from the grandest capitals to the small village where my father was born: Know that America is a friend of each nation and every man, woman and child who seeks a future of peace and dignity, and that we are ready to lead once more.

Recall that earlier generations faced down fascism and communism not just with missiles and tanks, but with sturdy alliances and enduring convictions. They understood that our power alone cannot protect us, nor does it entitle us to do as we please. Instead, they knew that our power grows through its prudent use; our security emanates from the justness of our cause, the force of our example, the tempering qualities of humility and restraint.

We are the keepers of this legacy. Guided by these principles once more, we can meet those new threats that demand even greater effort — even greater cooperation and understanding between nations. We will begin to responsibly leave Iraq to its people and forge a hard-earned peace in Afghanistan. With old friends and former foes, we will work tirelessly to lessen the nuclear threat and roll back the specter of a warming planet. We will not apologize for our way of life, nor will we waver in its defense, and for those who seek to advance their aims by inducing terror and slaughtering innocents, we say to you now that our spirit is stronger and cannot be broken; you cannot outlast us, and we will defeat you.

For we know that our patchwork heritage is a strength, not a weakness. We are a nation of Christians and Muslims, Jews and Hindus — and non-believers. We are shaped by every language and culture, drawn from every end of this Earth; and because we have tasted the bitter swill of civil war and segregation and emerged from that dark chapter stronger and more united, we cannot help but believe that the old hatreds shall someday pass; that the lines of tribe shall soon dissolve; that as the world grows smaller, our common humanity shall reveal itself; and that America must play its role in ushering in a new era of peace.

To the Muslim world, we seek a new way forward, based on mutual interest and mutual respect. To those leaders around the globe who seek to sow conflict or blame their society's ills on the West — know that your people will judge you on what you can build, not what you destroy. To those who cling to power through corruption and deceit and the silencing of dissent, know that you are on the wrong side of history; but that we will extend a hand if you are willing to unclench your fist.

To the people of poor nations, we pledge to work alongside you to make your farms flourish and let clean waters flow; to nourish starved bodies and feed hungry minds. And to those nations like ours that enjoy relative plenty, we say we can no longer afford indifference to suffering outside our borders; nor can we consume the world's resources without regard to effect. For the world has changed, and we must change with it.

As we consider the road that unfolds before us, we remember with humble gratitude those brave Americans who, at this very hour, patrol far-off deserts and distant mountains. They have something to tell us today, just as the fallen heroes who lie in Arlington whisper through the ages. We honor them not only because they are guardians of our liberty, but because they embody the spirit of service; a willingness to find meaning in something greater than themselves. And yet, at this moment — a moment that will define a generation — it is precisely this spirit that must inhabit us all.

For as much as government can do and must do, it is ultimately the faith and determination of the American people upon which this nation relies. It is the kindness to take in a stranger when the levees break, the selflessness of workers who would rather cut their hours than see a friend lose their job which sees us through our darkest hours. It is the firefighter's courage to storm a stairway filled with smoke, but also a parent's willingness to nurture a child, that finally decides our fate.

Our challenges may be new. The instruments with which we meet them may be new. But those values upon which our success depends — hard work and honesty, courage and fair play, tolerance and curiosity, loyalty and patriotism — these things are old. These things are true. They have been the quiet force of progress throughout our history. What is demanded then is a return to these truths. What is required of us now is a new era of responsibility — a recognition, on the part of every American, that we have duties to ourselves, our nation and the world, duties that we do not grudgingly accept but rather seize gladly, firm in the knowledge that there is nothing so satisfying to the spirit, so defining of our character, than giving our all to a difficult task.

This is the price and the promise of citizenship.

This is the source of our confidence — the knowledge that God calls on us to shape an uncertain destiny.

This is the meaning of our liberty and our creed — why men and women and children of every race and every faith can join in celebration across this magnificent mall, and why a man whose father less than 60 years ago might not have been served at a local restaurant can now stand before you to take a most sacred oath.

So let us mark this day with remembrance, of who we are and how far we have traveled. In the year of America's birth, in the coldest of months, a small band of patriots huddled by dying campfires on the shores of an icy river. The capital was abandoned. The enemy was advancing. The snow was stained with blood. At a moment when the outcome of our revolution was most in doubt, the father of our nation ordered these words be read to the people:

"Let it be told to the future world ... that in the depth of winter, when nothing but hope and virtue could survive ... that the city and the country, alarmed at one common danger, came forth to meet [it]."

America. In the face of our common dangers, in this winter of our hardship, let us remember these timeless words. With hope and virtue, let us brave once more the icy currents and endure what storms may come. Let it be said by our children's children that when we were tested we refused to let this journey end, that we did not turn back nor did we falter; and with eyes fixed on the horizon and God's grace upon us, we carried forth that great gift of freedom and delivered it safely to future generations.


Monday, January 19, 2009

Race and Pennsylvania Avenue

Tuesday, January 20th, 2009 will be a historic day on Pennsylvania Avenue.

Much has been made of the fact that Barack Obama will become the nation’s first black president. Tomorrow, he’ll make his way along Pennsylvania Avenue, from Capital Hill to the White House – following the same route that saw Thomas Jefferson’s own inaugural procession – followed by caravans of African slaves bound for market at 7th Street, British Regulars on their way to burn the White House, Abraham Lincoln and his wife on the way to Ford’s Theater, Ku Klux Klan parades, and Civil Rights marches led by Dr. Martin Luther King to name but a few of the historic events that have occurred along this stretch of road – and at the end of that journey he will raise his right hand and take the Oath of Office as President of the United States of America.

And in that moment, this country will change forever.

Most of us, at least I hope we are a majority, think this is great thing.

There is, of course, a subdued (and not so subdued) minority who seem to feel this event marks the beginning of the End of Days, biblical or otherwise, or at least the end of America as we know it. They’ll watch the inauguration tomorrow in fear and trepidation all the while bemoaning the demise of America. They won’t see tomorrow as a great day, a turning point, a benchmark on the road to realization of the American dream for all Americans, or another step towards realization of the full potential of the Constitution - but rather they see tomorrow as an ignoble day of shame.

Many of these folks are the same people who spoke of freedom and liberty a decade ago when the Berlin Wall came down. Many waxed rhapsodically patriotic about righting the injustices of oppression and inequality – when it came to East Germans. They’ll turn on the inauguration tomorrow, but they’ll keep the sound muted and they’ll talk about Kennedy and Reagan, now those were great presidents.

Some of these folks are out and out racists and make no bones about it, and the mere thought of a black man looking out from the windows of the Oval Office fills them with horror and fear and disgust. They’ll sit home tomorrow, drinking cheap beer and counting their guns. They’ll polish their swastikas and SS Death’s Head pins and tell themselves that they’re the only real Americans left. Most of them are too damned cowardly to do much more than talk. But some, well, they’ll be a problem for the FBI and the Secret Service and they’re the reason why the President Elect will ride the length of Pennsylvania Avenue in a custom-made bulletproof monstrosity nicknamed “The Beast.” You couldn’t pay them to watch the inauguration tomorrow.

Some of these folks tell themselves that they are not racist. Well maybe just a little, but they don’t talk about it, they don’t go to rallies or anything. They don’t actually use the N-word - not in polite company anyway. Hell, they believe a black man could be president – just not yet, maybe some day far in the future when blacks are maybe better qualified to be national leaders – but, you know, that doesn’t have anything to do with race. It’s an education thing. This is the worst kind of racism of all. This is the racism of the 1950’s, the Leave It To Beaver racism, out of sight and out of mind and everybody in their place. This is the type of racism that can look upon a Columbia University and Harvard Law School graduate and sees only an uneducated member of the inner city stereotype. This the type of racism that says most slaves were happy and better off as slaves and that minorities today should be grateful for what freedom they have and not seek beyond it. Tomorrow, they won’t watch the inauguration, they’ll critique it. They’ll provide a critical and derisive breakdown of everything from the new President’s elitist smile to the new First Lady’s horrible posture and hairdo, to the disrespectful way the Obama children are dressed. They’ll sigh and tell their friends how it’s just too damned bad, but race has nothing to do with it. Nothing.

Some of these folks are secret racists. They hide their racism even from themselves. These are the folks who deny their racism loudly to anyone who will listen – and then go so far as to deny that racism even exists anymore in America. They say they’d even vote for a black man – just not this black man. But, it’s not the color of his skin, no, it’s the fact that he somehow stole the election, or he’s a Muslim, or his pastor is a black supremacist, or he’s going to take away our guns, or that he’s a liberal, or his ears are too big, or because his wife is a bitch who hates America, or the fact that he wasn’t born in America at all, or maybe it’s just because he’s a product of the corrupt Chicago Political Machine. Tomorrow, these folks will watch the inauguration and keep interrupting to explain how the new administration will fail within the first six months, then all the damned liberals will be sorry. They won’t mention race, well, other than to say how isn’t it a shame that the administration is pandering to African Americans instead of focusing on the economy or the war or whatever the issue of the day is.

And then there are the people like me, who despite all my efforts and high ideals, began this post by noting that tomorrow a black man will become President of the United States. In this, I guess I’m no different than any of the thousands of others who wrote or spoke on this very subject today. This inauguration is significant for many reasons, not the least of which is that it marks the end of an eight year long nightmare, but the first thing any of us note is that a black man is about to become president.

And that’s a form of racism too.

It’s subtle, but no less true for being so.

Two hundred years ago, blacks walked Pennsylvania Avenue as slaves, chattel, property. A hundred years ago blacks travelled Pennsylvania Avenue as second class citizens. Tomorrow, a black man will ride along that storied road as President of the United States.

America has changed and it’s been a long and often painful trip.

And this event is only a single stop in that journey.

Barack Obama is the first, he won’t be the last. Someday, a citizen will ride along Pennsylvania Avenue to became President, and on that day, a person’s skin color will not be noteworthy. And it’s on that day, that racism will truly be dead in this country.

Tomorrow we take another step in that direction.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Battlestar Galactica, Season 4 Opener Explained

The Earth wasn't destroyed by Cylons.



It only seemed that way because they landed in New Jersey.

Groggy Jim is Groggy

I'm awake this morning, very briefly, to take my son to school.

Then I'll be going back to bed.

Please don't bother me, I'm very tired.

I spent my night field dressing a very large Alaskan bull moose in the pitch dark and dragging a sled with several hundred pounds of meat too damned many miles on snowshoes and ice crampons. The weather, it sucked big sucking shit - howling wind and rain and sleet in thigh deep snow. And just for the record, most of the haul-out was uphill. Then I got to drive home a hundred miles in the same crap.

It's what we Alaskans refer to as "Thursday."

Anyway, I got home and into bed around 3:00AM, which at this point was about three hours ago. I'm very tired and very sore and I'm going back to bed for a while as soon as I drop my son off at school.

Then I've got to get up and take my leaky cat to the vet. Yay.

See you later, Internet people.

______________________________________
Note: While we did run into several other hunters on the haul trail, none of them were Sarah Palin.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

I Should Have Stayed In Bed

I am not having a good day.

We're in the middle of a winter storm here. School's out again today and I've got the kid underfoot.

It's 44, raining, icing, and the wind is doing about 60mph at the moment.

My power is in and out.

I have a howling cat with a bladder infection who has a catheter inserted in his little willie and he's dripping piss in a yellow trail behind him wherever he goes (he's locked in a basement storeroom at the moment for the sake of the carpets. This does not make him happy. The amount of money he's costing does not make me happy. And I have to risk life and limb on frictionless roads later today in order to take him back to the vet, who will then charge me more money.

My Gateway tablet is broken. The hinge failed last night. It's been getting wonky for a while now, but I just can't live without the damned thing. Last night the hinge failed completely. The screen still works, but won't stay positioned. It's like trying to prop up a dishrag. It's under extended warranty and this weekend it's going to the geeksquad at Best Buy, and I suppose I won't see it again for several months. Joy. I'll spend tomorrow peeling all my data off onto the network server and slicking anything personal on the drives. I've got a half dozen other things I need fixed on this machine too (It's not the manufacturer's fault, I tend to be hard on laptops, and this one is tougher than most - which is why I bought the extended warranty), I suspect that they'll just offer me a replacement but I don't want one. I want this machine. I love this tablet, it's the best damned computer I've ever owned and I'm very attached to it. Plus I have a lot of software loaded on it that would have to be replaced. Bestbuy would have to offer me one hell of a significant upgrade and some software for me to even think about a swapout. We'll see how it goes.

Anyway, I'm shutting down all my electronics for a while now, before a power surge or a sag fries my gear.

So sorry. See you later, Internet.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Alaskan Weather: If You Don't Like It, Just Wait Five Minutes...

OK, see last week it was minus 34F.

That temperature was measured on my shop thermometer. I live on a hill and often see more extreme temperature fluctuations than the official NOAA values recorded at the Palmer airport - which I think last week recorded a low of -22F.

Minus 35 or minus 22, whatever. It was cold. And I realized that my attached garage was really, really lacking in the insulation department. The garage is finished and the walls are heavily insulated, but the garage doors were not, and the seals around both garage doors and the side door had seen better days. Normally, I don't really notice - but there's an overhead Mohler gas heater out there and with the cold snap that thing was running nearly constantly, even with the temperature in the garage set to 45F. Understand this is the attached garage I'm talking about here, where we park the convertible and the jeep. The shop is a separate building with fully insulated commercial garage doors and heavy duty "super" wall and ceiling insulation, the shop has better insulation than the house.

Natural Gas isn't exactly free here in Alaska, despite what some outsiders seem to think, and we've recently had a significant (22%) cost increase. I try to be resource conscience, but that price increase combined with the cold snap really brought things into focus for me, and I realized that I'd better stop procrastinating and get things squared away. So, I bought insulation and new seals and some other things and spent a day upgrading the garage insulation. I covered the inside of both garage doors in flexible silverbacked 1cm insulation, added exterior neoprene trim type seals to prevent leaks around the edges and then I replaced the gaskets with upgraded neoprene seals on the side door. Total cost about $150.00.

Those upgrades made a big, big difference, right away.

The Mohler went from running four times an hour, to roughly four times a day. Wow.

So, of course, the weather immediately warmed up.

Today, here in Palmer, it's 46 degrees at the moment.

For those of you not good with math that's roughly an 80 degree difference. Eighty degrees, Fahrenheit, It's raining right now. On top of the ice. Slick doesn't even begin to describe the conditions outside, frictionless to a degree that simply defies all known physical laws is more like it. Also the wind is howling.

This is playing merry havoc with the National Weather Service who really isn't able to deal with Alaska, and especially the microclimes of the MatSu, very well at all. Example? You want an example? Ok, right now the NWS prediction for Palmer shows a projected high of 32F today, and projected low of 38F and the current temperature at 44 (that 46 degrees above comes from my own weather station here at Stonekettle Station which is about 6 miles uphill from the Palmer Airport tower). So the high is lower than the low which is a lot lower than the current. Confused yet?

Yeah, now you know why Alaskans carry boots, gloves, jackets, snow pants, rain gear, shorts, flip-flops, swim trunks, and a sun hat in the back of the truck all year around - and we usually don't bother to listen to weather reports unless we are in need of amusement.

Schools throughout Anchorage and the MatSu are closed (and schools in the MatSu are never closed due to weather. 300 "in-service days" those we got, but never weather). The Glenn and Parks Highways are nigh impassable. Businesses are shut down. My son is singing and my wife is working from home today (which makes me happy because I do not want her on the road into Anchorage. Really, I don't).

All of which means I probably won't be getting much writing done today.

Oh well. I figure it's a good day to do a few more upgrades. I'll pull the molding around the Kitchen window and fill the gaps with blow-foam. That window is due for a complete replacement next summer which we'll probably upgrade to one of those green house planter windows. I've been replacing the upstairs windows a few a time, as we can afford it and intend to the do the main floor next year.

And then I'll be in the shop turning for the rest of the day.

So, you, what to you do to save energy?

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Things That Chap My Ass, Part II

Note: The list of things that annoy me is distressingly long – and it gets longer every day. You can find Part 1 of Things That Chap My Ass here, and it is likely that TTCMA will become a regular feature here at Stonekettle Station.

Continuing on in no particular order:

- The Sarah Palin “Look.” I don’t suppose this is any kind of national fad, at least I hope not, but here in the MatSu Valley I spot the “Palin Doo and Glasses” combo at least ten times a day. Like the murderous, malfunctioning Fembots from The Six Million Dollar Man, I see women with piled up hair and those little rectangular librarian glasses, wandering up and down the isles at Wal-Mart all mechanically perky and with unnervingly bright artificial smiles. That bizarre MinniSotan’ accent parroting forth from bleached and perfect teeth, “You Betcha! You Betcha! You Betcha!” in endless loop. I keep expecting their faceplates to fall off exposing a bank of gears, cogs, and Hollywood transistors. I’ll tell you how bad this has gotten, yesterday in Wasilla near Knik Goose Bay Road I saw a guy walking alongside the railroad tracks. This guy was big, about 6’2” maybe, an unshaven hairy behemoth, stumbling drunkenly along in the snow wearing a pair of Bunny Boots … and an extra large dirty pink off-shoulder sun dress, sporting the Sarah Bun and those little glasses. Seriously folks, when the wild Alaskan transvestites start looking like the local politicians, it’s gone way, way too far. I’m fairly sure the little dog he had clutched under one arm was sporting a Blagojevich toupee.

- TV Pop-up Banner Ads: First it was a little translucent watermark in the corner of the TV screen, then it was a little logo, then it was a bigger logo, then the ads arrived, then the animated ads – now I’ve got the entire first act of Monk prancing around on my screen, waving at me and making the “who farted” face. Jesus H. Christ In a Flight Suit the Flight Deck of USS Abraham Lincoln, who thought this was a good idea? I cannot tell you how much this irritates me. I swear to God, do these retards actually think that annoying the piss out of me is going to make me watch their show? Seriously, it’s like Marketing is manned solely by 12-year boys who think the way get a girl’s attention is to pull her ponytail and eat a bug. Marketing needs a good ass beating – or a visit from the murderous Sarah Palin fembots.

- The timing of Left Turn Signals: Remember the old days? Back before efficiency experts, flow-dynamics computer simulations, and asshole traffic “engineers” who just have to implement every damned stupid new traffic idea that the retards in the California Department of Transportation come up with? Why is it that every state in the Union copies CDOT? Have you seen the traffic in California? Have you? It’s like using FEMA’s handling of the New Orleans disaster as a template for urban renewal. Why is it that whenever I’m waiting for a left turn signal, it’s always the other side that turns green first? And stays green for ten minutes even if there is nobody waiting to turn? Why in the hell are those people more important than me? Isn’t this America? Aren’t we all equal? Isn’t equality the cornerstone of democracy? These damned turn-signals are destroying the very fabric of our great society. They’re divvying us up into the Turns and the It’s-Not-Your-Turn-Nyahs! It’s downright un-American is what it is. This is not how the Founding Fathers intended it to be. Both left turn signals should turn green at the same time, for the same amount of time. Period. Equal. Just like it says in the Constitution. Life, Liberty, and equal turning time.

- and as long as we’re talking about stupid traffic ideas from California, how about that Killer Drag Strip lane idea? You know, two lanes before the light merging into one lane about fifty feet after the light. There’s always some road-raging soccer mom at the red light in the right lane clutching the wheel of her BelchFire Behemoth SUV, squared off against Dale Wannabe Jr. in the left lane in his BMW ViagraMobile. They rev the engines and pretend not to notice each other, and when the light turns green it’s like the quarter mile at Daytona, smoke and flame and middle fingers. Fuck you, bitch! Outta the way, I’m taking the checkered flag! Bawahahahahahaha!

- Music-overs on TV shows: We’re down to the final minutes in our weekly crime drama and suddenly instead of gun fights, or witty dialog, or “Ah Ha! The butler did do it with the president’s intern in the drawing room with a candle stick” moments, we get ten minutes of music from some long lost 70’s rock band with the main characters giving each other significant looks. These’s a reason why they’re called crime dramas instead of America Bandstand. Bones has gotten into the habit of doing this, and it just irritates the hell out of me.

- People who go into the liquor store to pay for groceries: My grocery store has a little section off to one side where they keep the liquor and cigarettes. Strangely enough people go in there to buy … liquor and cigarettes. But every damned time I go in to pick up beer there’s always some ignorant mouth breathing clueless dumbass holding up the line with a shopping cart full of groceries. Goddamn! Look, people who wait in line for booze and smokes aren’t the most patient people in the world; they’re suffering withdrawal of one kind or another, they’re mean and irritable and not sociable by any stretch of the imagination – and I’m their leader. But it just keeps getting worse, it is inevitable that this pudding-for-brains moron will have a whole damned cart full of fresh vegetables, vegetables that have to be weighed, on a scale, a scale that the liquor counter doesn’t have, so the cashier has to go out into the main store and weigh the goddamned things. When the cashier comes back this chowderbrained dolt will suddenly decide to strike up a friendly conversation with the cashier and ignore the rest of us standing behind her with pitchforks and torches, “I don’t know why they can’t get a scale in here. This happens to me all the time, you’d think you guys would get a scale in here. I like fresh vegetables. Not that canned stuff. I don’t eat prepared food, you never know what chemicals they put in there. I only eat fresh, organic food… Oh, and I need a pack of Marlboro Red 100’s.”

- Coffee People: You know, that goddamned prissy bitch at the Starbucks counter who thinks coffee ordering is some kind of Olympic sport, “I’d like a skinny Behemoth half-caf mocha citrus fuckthepeoplebehindmechino half-blended double-spun in a clear bubble cup with a bendy straw and a twist of lime and just a sprinkle of cinnamon harvested from the Jungles of Vietnam outside of Saigon by organic Nutmeg farmers. With non fat whip cream.” Taa Da! Ten minutes of blending and steaming and ice crushing and mixing and squeezing. For fuck’s sake, just order a goddamned coffee before I kill somebody. Or God’s Gift to Woman. You know, the pierced stud with the Spongebob Squarepants tie who instead of ordering starts making time with the barista, “So, working hard or hardly working? Heh, heh. You know, I normally hit the drive through, but my Porsche is in the shop and my Hummer H1 won’t fit under the overhang. You might say I’m a little too well hung. Heh, heh. Soooooooo, what’s good?” Coffee, it’s a fucking coffee shop! Order coffee, you polyester suit wearing throwback to 70’s skin flicks. She’s not going to sleep with you, she’s only being polite because they pay her to be polite to dicks like you. In the entire history of the human race has any cute young girl behind the counter of a Starbucks ever been attracted to your fat balding far-side-of-middle-age Kevin Costner imitation? Ever? Just order your goddamned coffee and get the hell out of the way. And then there’s the woman who wants something they don’t have, “What? That was a Christmas special only? But I love the Rudolf Roast! Those were sooooo good!” For crying out loud lady, it was just a plain old latte in a red cup with a squirt of peppermint. “Well, then I guess I’ll have a Columbus Day Capachino….”

- Gang Posers: People who just have to make that idiotic two-finger horn or the crossed-arms gang sign in every damned picture. Thirty year old whiter-than-Laura Bush’s-ass Joe the Accountant, who pisses himself blind in fear every time he ends up alone in an elevator with a black man, turns into gansta rapper Biggie Smalls the minute anybody in the office pulls out a camera. “Yo, yo, yo! ‘supmynigga?” Yeah, the guy who secretly listens to Dancing Queen while waxing his chest hair is suddenly all pimp mack daddy hip-hop in deh ‘hood. I like to photoshop a Rainbow Coalition t-shirt onto those people.

- Men who spit in urinals: What the hell is this all about? I swear to God, a guy can be perfectly normal, and then suddenly as he approaches the urinal he turns into a cat coughing up a hairball. Hack! Hack! Hack! and then he hocks a loogie the size of a softball into the pisser like some sea elephant with terminal pneumonic plague hacking up a sea urchin. It’s like a reflex with these guys, “Hey I know it’s irritating as all hell, but I can’t piss without it, Man, and I really gotta go! You understand. Hack! Hack! Hack! Ptoooie! aaaaaahh! That’s better.”

- Billy Mays: Holy freakin’ shit, is there anything on the planet more annoying than Billy Mays the Infomercial Guy? Billy Mays is like a whole football stadium of guys who spit in urinals. I can’t tell you how much I hate this bearded idiot. And the crap he sells? Who buys that stuff? It’s a pretty good bet that if Billy Mays is pitching a product, it’s a total piece of shit. Seriously kids, stay in school, study your math – or you could end up hawking cheap plastic wall hooks and magic snake oil stain remover on the Home Shopping Network. And don’t get me started on Vince, the creepy child molester-looking ShamWow! guy.

And finally, for today at least:

- Google Searches that land on Things That Chap My Ass: Seriously guys, just stop it. Really, just stop it right now. “Guys who put things up there asses” [sic]. “What should I put up my ass blogspot.” “Things I like up my ass.” and so on and so forth and that’s just in the last two hours. Really, just fucking stop it right now. Look each to his own and all that, but for God’s sake do you really need to search for it online? Seriously, have you put so many different things up your ass that you’ve run out of ideas? So now you’ve got to search for ideas online? You do know that Google keeps a list of your search strings right? And is there nothing, not one damned blog title, that you people can’t turn into some kind of bizarre porn topic? And those of you searching for Sarah Palin naked combined with this blog title, you people are creeping me right out. Please, stop it right now.