_____________________________________________________________________________________________________

Friday, February 27, 2009

Mensa: Proving that IQ doesn’t make you smarter since 1946.

Attention Eggheads,

A couple of things:

1) Being able to punch out a 98% percentile on the Stanford-Binet doesn’t necessarily not make you an ass.

1) Using the phrase “I am a member of Mensa, are you?” during the course of an argument definitely makes you an ass.

2) Not understanding why using the phrase “I am a member of Mensa, are you” makes you an ass, makes you a clueless ass.

3) Being a member of Mensa is not the same as having education, certification, experience, or authority on every given subject known to man or even necessarily in one subject. Pretending that it does makes you a horse’s ass.

5) In reference to item (f sub 4) above, insisting that that you’re not being an ass while obviously talking out your ass, makes you an arrogant horse’s ass.

8) If you believe any of the following:

a) the so-called “Face on Mars” is anything other than a naturally occurring rocky outcrop

b) the 1969-1972 US moon landings were faked

c) Big Foot

d) reincarnation

e) alien abductions

f) Elvis with a high-powered silenced sniper rifle on the Grassy Knoll

g) Earth will be destroyed by black holes created by the Large Hadron Collider

h) George W. Bush lit the fuse on the World Trade Center demo charges personally or any variation of the same going back to Pearl Harbor

i) Creation Science, intelligent design, or that T-Rex ate coconuts

j) Reki massage, crystals, aura manipulation, or the power of homeopathic bark tea to prevent infectious disease

k) Ted Steven’s innocence

then you are an idiotic ass. Note: if you can’t figure out which parts of that list are hyperbole, then you’re about average for your organization.

13) If you write to me, try not to use “I’m an active member of Mensa” and junior high school Facebook L33Tspeak in the same sentence, otherwise you are a juvenile ass. If you're responding to something on my website and you haven’t read the commenting rules and you insist on ending all of your sentences with LOL! you are an irritating ass who can’t follow simple directions, and really that’s not an indicator of superior intellect. Just sayin’.

21) If you write to me and you’re trying to impress upon me the genius superiority of your master race Mensan intellect, try not to make your paragraphs a random assemblage of mismatched and partially formed thoughts interspersed with all CAPS and emoticons, otherwise I’ll peg you as a dumb ass. Note: if you need help with this, let me know, I’ll have my 12-year old give you a lesson in proper paragraph structuring, I’m pretty sure he remembers enough of it from fourth grade.

34) Please don’t tell me how your ability to solve logic puzzles and do math problems makes you superior to me intellectually. I spent two decades as a Navy cryptologist. You want to try puzzles? Spend a couple years as a code breaker at the Puzzle Palace and get back to me. The mere fact that you tout your Sudoku scores as a measure of your superiority makes you a pathetic insecure little ass. Really, when’s the last time you got laid?

55) Your Mensa membership impresses me about as much as Julie Peterson’s does – but at least she has a nice ass.

89) For the cream of human intellect, your organization hasn’t really done a hell of a lot. Has it? A couple of scholarships, some free IQ testing, and what else? You play a mean game of Scrabble, but I don’t see Mensa rushing to solve the world’s problems. Hell even your own founder, Dr. Lance Ware, lamented that Mensa as an organization spends far too much time playing word games and solving the Junior Jumble instead doing anything remotely constructive with its abilities. So forgive me if I’m underwhelmed by your claim to intellectual superiority, asshole.

Frankly, unless you’re Buckminster Fuller, Marilyn Vos Savant, or Stormin’ Norman, I don’t think you’re half as smart as you think you are.

So, really, stop bringing it up, because mostly all you’re doing is making yourself look stupid.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

The Internet, It’s Like A Series Of Crazy Tubes

image

I get mail.

A lot of it is cool. I like getting mail from people who enjoy this site.

Some of it is sort of cool. I’ve been getting a lot of offers lately to guest post on other sites. I say sort of cool, because these proposals make no mention of payment. I don’t write for free, unless it’s for myself, here. But then I owe me a favor, so I’m kind of obligated to myself and I'm holding me to my word - if you get what I’m saying.

Some of it is not cool. I occasionally get mail from people who take strong exception to what I write. Usually these emails make multiple references to the special Fundie Bible and where I’m eventually going to end up (one last week mentioned that I should invest in 60+ sunscreen – because, near as I can figure from the, uh, creative spelling and capitalization, apparently the sunlight in hell is really, really strong, either that or brimstone radiates in the near UV). About half the time I’m fairly certain that the writer hasn’t actually read anything I wrote. Ever. I usually delete these, but I do keep a few of the more creative ones, especially if they contain death threats. They might be handy later, if you get my drift.

Then, well then there’s the stuff I classify as other (remember this one?). Today I got this:

SergeG to Me:

IT IS NOT A SPAM, but if you received that message second and plus time JUST CLICK DELETE button and have a nice day. Don't feel bad, please understand original Scarlett's family very desperate to shut down that humiliating antichristian "actress" clones line career development. Hello dear Ladies and Gentlemen! I would like inform you that Scarlett Johansson ?actress? actually is a clone from original person Scarlett Galabekian last name, who has nothing with acting career, surname Galabekian, because of adoption happened in 1992. Clones was created illegally by using stolen biological material. Original person is very nice (not d**n sexy),most important - CHRISTIAN young lady! I'll tell you more,those clones (it's not only one) made in GERMANY - world leader manufacturer of humans clones, it is in Ludwigshafen am Rhein, Rhineland-Palatinate, Mr. Helmut Kohl home town. You can not even imaging the scale of the cloning activity. But warning! Helmut Kohl clone staff strictly controlling all their clones (at least they trying) spreading around the world, they are very accurate with that, some of them are still NAZI type disciplined and mind controlled clones, so be careful get close with clones you will be controlled as well. Original person is not happy with those movies, images, video, rumors and etc. spreading on media in that way it would be really nice if we all will try slow down that ''actress'' career development, original Scarlett will really appreciated that. Please remember that original Scarlett's family did not authorize any activity with stolen biological materials, no matter what form it was created in it was stolen and it is stolen. It all need to be delivered to authorize personals control in Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles. Original Scarlett never was engaged, by the way! Her close friend Serge G. P.S. CONTROLLING ACTIVITY OF ANY CLONES IS US MILITARY OPERATION. Check also here: http://www.flickfilosopher.com/blog/2008/10/warning_stolen_biological_mate.html H.R. 534, the Human Cloning Prohibition Act of 2003, was introduced to the U.S. House of Representatives on February 5, 2003. After discussion, it was passed on February 27 by a vote of 241-155. It now moves on to the Senate for consideration. This bill makes it unlawful for any person or entity to perform or participate in human cloning, or to ship or receive embryos produced by human cloning. The penalties are imprisonment of up to 10 years and fines of $1 million or more. These now join other nations as diverse as Norway, Australia, and many other countries, which had already added cloning for any purpose to their criminal code. And in Germany where it carries a penalty of five years imprisonment they know a thing or two about unethical science.

Back in October, Serge apparently sent a similar missive regarding the illicit cloning of the unsexy Christian lady Scarlett Galabekian to Flickfilosopher Mary Ann Johansson (my very favorite movie reviewer, and one of the few who actually gets The Thirteenth Warrior, go Mary Ann!). Mary Ann posted it on her blog, and Serge even showed up to make a few comments, much hilarity ensued. I’m flattered to make Serge’s mailing list and as much as I like the FlickFilosopher, I don’t think Mary Ann gave SergeG the serious consideration he deserves.

Others might regard this as just the ravings of a crazy mad German, hopped up on yeasty beer and imported mad cow infected meat from England (think the war is over? Think again. How do you want your cheeseburger, Klaus? Rare? Jawhohl!), but to a trained military analyst such as myself the veracity of the message is apparent in detailed analysis of the first sentence: “IT IS NOT A SPAM.” It’s subtle, but with the proper training it’s impossible to miss.

Now, I do admit that it is really difficult to imagine that the original donor of the biological material is “not d**n sexy” – Either that or “damn sexy” means something else entirely in the Rhineland. I mean, according to Serge, isn’t Scarlett Johansson supposed to be a copy of Scarlett Galabekian? (Well, except for the Christian part that is, apparently you can’t clone that stuff). But see, here’s the thing, wouldn’t the clone be less sexy? Clones are copies of the original, and as anybody who has ever used a Xerox machine can tell you, copies lack something. Originality maybe. They’re a little fuzzy around the edges, a little blurry and faded. If Scarlett Johansson is a copy, Scarlett Galbekian must be some seriously smoking hawtness. Just saying.

Of course, cloning being a Nazi technology under command of Helmut Kohl’s staff, and Germans being the anal-retentive engineers they are, maybe they’ve figured out how to make the copies more sexy than the original, kind of increase the sharpness so to speak. Do a little photoshopping in the incubation phase or something. I’m really not up on the particulars of illicit large scale clone armies. Thank God for expert whistle-blowers like Serge. SergeG would know too, he’s Scarlett G’s close friend, so we should probably take his word for it. Beside, he knows a thing or two about unethical science!

It would be easy to dismiss this warning as just another crazy German with an internet connection and no pants – But see Johansson was in The Island, a movie about clones! And who was her co-star? None other than Ewan McGregor, who was not only in The Island (a movie about clones!), but also in Attack of the Clones (a movie about freakin clones!)

Coincidence? Yeah, sure.

The signs, folks, they’re everywhere.

And Cloning would go a long way toward explaining Johansson’s rather fuzzy acting style.

Maybe the Germans could work on that.

Also, maybe they could send me a catalog of available models – purely for research purposes, of course.

And a price list.

_______________________________________________________________

Note: As a retired military officer and someone still bound by the provisions of US security regulations, I can neither confirm nor deny any military mission relating to the monitoring, control, lusting after, or attending movies of any clone.

Also, I completely deny the rumor that I myself am a clone of Tom Selleck – any resemblance is purely in my head.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Uh Oh

Your morality is 8% in line with that of the bible.

Damn you heathen! Your book learnin' has done warped your mind. You shall not be invited next time I sacrifice a goat.

Do You Have Biblical Morals?
Take More Quizzes



Tip of the hat to Les, Over at Stupid Evil Bastard.

I really can't say this bothers me.

Where's Jim Today?

Sorry for the lack of posting today folks.

No, no stop that whining right now.

Today has been a little odd.

Normally I start my weekday by writing for several hours on what I hope will eventually make me a big fat pile of money, i.e. The Novel.

After a couple of hours, my brain turns to sludge - and that's when I crank out a blog post. Then I normally go back to writing work for a while - either taking notes on The Novel, or doing research, or outlining ideas for whatever writing project comes after The Novel.

Mid afternoon, the kid gets home from school - then I'm all done writing. I don't know about the rest of you, but it is not possible for me to concentrate on writing when the child is bounding up and down the stairs, banging doors, rooting through the fridge, chasing the cats, watching Drake and Josh at full volume, interrupting with questions about a random variety of topics every friggin' ten minutes, and so on and so forth and basically doing what twelve year olds do, i.e. drive their parents stark staring bonkers.

So, usually I head out the shop at this point.

I was on a roll this morning and had 3000 good words down on virtual paper when the phone ran. Then the cell phone rang. Then the email notifier popped up with a message from my son's school. Caller ID on both phones was also from the school - the automated notification message. Uh oh. Generally that's not a good thing.

I popped open the email while answering the cell phone and ignoring the land line and pulled up my twitter mail feed on the laptop - because the first thing I figured was that Mount Redoubt had blown.

No.

There had been an armed robbery in the area and the school was in full lockdown.

It seems some asshole held up a coffee stand and then escaped on foot headed towards the schools. The state police notified the schools almost immediately and both the middle school and the high school went into lockdown with troopers outside to make sure the kids were safe and the shithead son of bitch didn't decide to take refuge in the schools.

You know, I can't fault either the police or the school's response, I'm glad they had a plan, I'm glad they were prepared, I'm glad they had the foresight to conduct lockdown drills, I'm glad it worked - but I can't tell you how much it irritates me that the word "lockdown" is common parlance in our schools nowadays - both because of situations like this one, and because of things like Columbine.

They didn't catch the guy.

He didn't show up at the school, thankfully, but he's still on the loose. The cops think he had a car hidden around the corner from the coffee stand. Maybe an accomplice waiting - through frankly I can't imagine that there would be enough take from a coffee stand robbery for two assholes, unless they plan on robbing a whole lot more - which they probably do. I can't say I'm surprised at this - the number of robberies, and home invasions, and thefts has skyrocketed out here in the Valley since the economy collapsed. Mostly it's been north of us in Wasilla, methhead Valley central, but the crimes have been moving in our direction as the shitheads get more and more desperate and daring. This coffee stand was an obvious target, isolated and alone on the back road - anywhere else and this place would have been robbed long ago. But see, Alaska, is usually safe from this type of shit - sadly it would appear that civilization is catching up to us.

Later in the day, about the time my son's bus drops him off down the road, came the sound of gunshots. Now despite the impression most of you have of Alaska, and despite the image our redneck governor managed to insert into America's collective conscience during the last election, gun fire is not common in my neighborhood - especially an hour after an armed robbery, which, for the record, is also not common around here.

Five shots, maybe six, somewhere down the hill from from my house. Close.

Honestly, it sounded more like rifle fire than the pistol the shithead robber was reportedly carrying. Most likely it was just somebody sighting in their moose rifle and oblivious to events. Still, really, really bad timing. Just saying. All the dogs went nuts - but despite the barking I didn't hear any sirens, so I assume the two events are not related.

I suppose I don't need to mention that at the moment I am armed and will remain so until further notice? Woe betide the stupid bastard should he show his face around here.

Anyway, that's why you haven't seen a post until now.

I'm sure you'll find a way to deal with it.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

We Have a Winner

The week is young yet - but I doubt any entries in the Stonekettle Station You're Kidding Me, Right? Spam Subject Line Contest will beat this one:

Your member is big, your member is good, your member beats all men in [the] neighborhood.

I'd love to see the spammer's stats on this one. I'd love to know if anybody in the entire universe ever actually clicked on that link. Because, seriously here folks, who is that guy?

There’s Something Wrong With Your Face

 

My mom used to ask us kids, “Just because stupid jumps off a cliff, would you?”

Yes.

Apparently.

 

Both Polybloggimous and Giant Midgets jumped on the latest internet meme.  For Nathan at Polybloggimous this is kind of a departure, since he is rarely distracted by shiny bits of internet foil. Eric at Giant Midgets, however is a whole other ballgame – if memes were communicable diseases, Eric would need a whole ass cheek full of penicillin.  Eric caught the bug from from The Onion AV Club, which in turn got it from Buzzfeed.

Obviously I got it from Eric and figured, hey, everybody else is doing it…

 

 

Anyway here’s the meme:

Create a random album cover for your new fictional band.

Go to “Wikipedia.” Hit "random" and the first article you get is the name of your band. Then go to "Random Quotations" and the last four or five words of the very last quote of the page is the title of your first album. Then, go to Flickr and click on "Explore the Last Seven Days" and the third picture, no matter what it is, will be your album cover.

Arrange the pieces using the image editor of your choice.

 

 

No, really, I swear, this is what I got.

 

image

Image credit goes to Ucumai, who takes some damned cool pictures. Check them out.

Matos, by the way, is a common Portuguese surname.  It’s also the name of a Brazilian heavy metal guitarist.  How’s that for coincidence? 

 

Now you do it.

Happy Thoughts! Think Happy Thoughts!

It is a proven scientific fact that thinking about something often causes it to happen. Some call this quantum physics. Others simply call it "faith."
It's a proven fact, folks. A scientific fact. If you think about something - it magically comes true. Like a duck's non echoing quack, a bumblebee's ability to fly, or Rush Limbaugh's uncanny ability to levitate the Republican party, science just can't explain it. And, as I'm sure most of you know, when science can't explain something - it's called quantum physics, which is really just a fancy elitist term for faith.

For example, earlier this morning I thought about breakfast. I thought real hard about it. Now I'm eating cheese grits - coincidence? Or a manifestation of quantum manipulation of the underlying fabric of reality in order to satisfy my hunger? Exactly. Think it, be it - that's the power of positive thought, folks. Pretty hard to deny the science when you burn your mouth on it.

I wish I'd thought a little harder about the salt though, my manifestation of quantum reality is just a tad flat.

The statement above is the genuine mainstream validated science behind Faith of Britain Day.
Faith of Britain Day will help us all overcome whatever obstacles and difficulties we may face as a country, an economy and as individuals. With over 80 million people concentrating their mental energies at the same time on the same day, we will unleash an irresistible psychic force that will, quite literally, make our dreams come true.
Basically the idea here is that on March 6th at precisely 11:00AM a group of six quantum psychics (psists?psychisitists? I'm not really familiar with proper designation of practitioners of quantum arts) and faith healing scientists will attempt to focus the mass mental psychic brain emanations of 80 million happily concentrating Brits in order to create an irresistible force and, literally, make everybody's deepest desires come true.

I know, it sounds crazy, but the science behind it is irrefutable.

Allow me to explain. Bear with me here though, quantum mathematics can be a little tricky.

First, there's the day itself. March 6. See March 6th isn't any ordinary day, it's the 6th day of the 3rd month of the 9th year, or 3/6/9. Ah ha! Six and nine are multiples of three, which is about balance, which is what we strive to achieve as humans (Don't feel bad if you didn't catch this right away, that's why there are professional quantumists).

Second, there's the time. 11:00AM. Eleven is a "master number." Eleven is what scientists refer to as a "Powerful 2(1+1)," which as I'm sure you all know from freshman college physics is the duality of the inner and outer self and that which encourages us to look within for solutions. Note: if you can't figure out how to make 11 from 2(1+1), it's because there are brackets in the equation. Brackets are an indicator of quantumness. Basically, you add up the numbers by removing the plus sign and then squish the ones together and then wish real hard about what number you want the answer to be. Thinking about something makes it happen folks - that's quantum physics. Its a hard concept to wrap your brain around, even scientists have trouble with it.

Still with me? Good.

Third, electricity. The human brain uses about 25watts of electricity to operate. 25watts times 80 million Englishmen will produce two gigawatts of electricity! That's 2,000,000,000 watts of juice. Now, even if not everybody in the Empire generates the full 25watts (I've seen the Royal Family and frankly I'm not sure Charles could power up a penlight), that's still a lot of juice. That's enough to run Rod Blagojevich's hairdryer for nearly a month, or maybe even open a rift in space time.

And finally even if you can't understand the math., there is the example of history. History is rife with examples of how mass thought can literally make our dreams come true just by wishing. I'd give you some examples, but it would just be belaboring the obvious.

Now while I think there is tremendous potential for good in Faith of Britain day, I also would be remiss in my duties as the Voice of Internet Reason if I didn't offer a few words of caution.

On the morning of March 6th, the British are going to unleash a powerful force, a veritable tidal wave of psychic energy.

What if works?

What if Faith of Britain Day actually works? And all of England's problems are solved? Suddenly Great Britain is the only nation without problems in a chaotic and fractured world. With the only strong domestic economy, Britain will suddenly dominate the globe. Will they embark on conquest, the Empire reborn? Will the Colonies be forced to once again submit to the Crown? Would there be a Positive Energy Gap between East and West, with each side seeking greater populations of positive thinking people?

The British are not exactly a happy people, what if Faith of Britain Day actually does make their dreams come true? How will the English handle their new happiness? What if the English began to enjoy themselves? The consequences could be catastrophic, hell they could end up indistinguishable from Americans!

And what is it that the British dream about anyway? Well I'll tell you: if Faith of Britain Day succeeds, the French are totally buggered.

Monday, February 23, 2009

But only because I fight dirty

How Many 90 Year Olds Could You Take in a Fight?

Things That Chap My Ass, Part IV

Bite me, Monday.

image

I’m tired, irritated, and I have a headache.

I did not get enough weekend, I need more. Weekends irritate me, they need to be longer. We need an extra day in there, Caturday, LazyBastardday, SitinfrontoftheTVinmyPJsandwatchrerunsday, something. How about Gibbonday? Named for Ron Livingston’s character in Office Space, the guy that got hypnotized into just not giving a damn and then spent the entire weekend in bed, sleeping. Maybe it doesn’t even need a name, maybe it should just be an empty, ambitionless period in between Saturday and Sunday – made up from all the life-robbing hours wasted during the week. Those two hours you wasted standing in line behind morons, plus another two or three hours you wasted waiting for the light to turn green, plus the hours you spent on the phone pretending to be interested in whatever the blathering idiot on the other end was talking about, plus the time spent waiting for the printer to warm up, plus the time you spent surfing websites that promised content but didn’t deliver, plus time shooting the Jehovah’s witnesses and grinding up their bodies and waiting for the resulting slop to render down in large vats of sulfuric acid, plus the time you spent trying to open a new squeeze bottle of ketchup that is wrapped and secured and sealed better than the secret government archives at Area-51, plus time spent deleting spam, plus time on the exercise bike and elliptical machine and having to endure the endless pabulum spewing from enthusiastic skinny people with 2% body fat and a jock-sweat high who just can’t help telling you how good exercise feels – all that time should add up to an extra couple of days on the weekend. Think of it like a tax rebate. You don’t get a free day, you just get back a bit of your own time other people waste during the week.

Yes, yes, fine. you may call it JimWrightDay if you must.

Now, on to the things that irritate me this week:

- StumbleUpon: If you’re not familiar with this, StumbleUpon (SU) is an add-on for the Firefox Internet Browser. It’s sort of a social networking site, but SU’s real utility is supposed to be in guiding you to interesting and useful internet locations. How it’s supposed to work is that people find an interesting site, they flag it in the SU database, leave a brief description, and assign it to a category. When you click the Stumble button on your Firefox SU Bar, SU supposedly takes you to random sites according to your registered interests. You can then give the site a thumbs up or thumbs down rating. I’ve used SU since the first day it was created – and at first it took me to many new and different places, many of which I still visit regularly. Then, just as with everything else, the drooling idiots arrived like a tribe of retarded baboons and started madly flagging the entire Internet. Then the marketing goons arrived and started flagging their own ads. Then the 4-chan crowd showed up and started deliberately mis-categorizing sites. Then the self-serving assholes showed up and started flagging their own sites – and these people really piss me off, because they inevitably add a comment to the top of their sites, “Welcome Stumblers! If you like my site, give me a thumbs up!” Fuck you, any site with that kind of self serving crap automatically gets a down-check from me. What I’d really like is a button you can click to give them a swift kick in right in the balls. Oops sorry, Buddy, I stumbled

- Pilferers: No, not thieves, pilferers. People who would get all self-righteous and offended if you accused them of out and out theft. Those people who justify their theft with self rationalization. It’s not stealing, it’s just one little thing, it only costs a few pennies, the store doesn’t even notice! Yeah, but I notice, and it pisses me off. Next time you’re at Lowes or Home Depot, look in the specialty hardware drawers. You know, those little packages of nuts and bolts. It took me an hour the other day to find one package of 10/24 metric threaded nuts. They come in packages of five, except every single package had been ripped open and one or two nuts removed. For fuck’s sake, the damn things only cost twenty-five cents a piece you stupid bastards. You’ve got enough money for cigarettes and booze and that chrome-plated hubcap-spinning nine mile a gallon monstrosity out in the parking lot, take the whole package and pay for it.

- Book Stores: Goddamn it, do I hate modern book stores. Remember the old days when book stores were little hole in the wall places that smelled of old paper and binding glue? They usually had wooden floors that creaked and groaned under the load of books. And only geeks worked there, the employees were hairy legged women and bearded unwashed guys, sitting behind the counter reading comic books. And only geeks shopped there because nobody but geeks read. It was quiet in a book store, you could spend hours in front of the stacks and never be bothered. Remember that? Now, now bookstores are huge soulless glass boxes. Every damned one of them has a coffee shop, which means the store is full of mouth breathers busy slurping and smacking their lips and stirring and dripping and leaving those goddamned paper cups on every shelf and talking, loudly, on cell phones. I’d like to bash these people in the head with a Webster’s Unabridged Dictionary and bury them under a stack of new-age self-help books. Then there are those tables, up front, the ones with the latest vitriolic fly-speckled vomitus from Rush or Ann or some other rightwing nutjob. You leave garbage like that laying around and sooner or later the cockroaches will show up – ten years ago you couldn’t get a neocon into a bookstore, unless it was for a book burning – now, there they are, all pinch faced and gassy and asking where the American books are, you know, the bible section. And then there’s the kiddie section – here’s the problem, if you have a kiddie section, people bring kids. I know, I know, what the hell were they thinking? It’s a bookstore, not a Chuckie Cheese’s. Kids are loud. Kids don’t stay in the kiddie section, instead they roam the stacks following their parents and complaining in loud shrill voice. I fucking hate kids in bookstores. And that goes double for that squalling crib ape in the stroller. I swear to God, take that howling curtain climber out to the car and wipe its ass or plug a bottle into it or sell it street people, I don’t care – but for the love of all that is holy please make it be quiet. Then there’s the music section – whose dumb-assed idea was this? See, if you have a music section, then inevitably somebody is going to come up with the idea that the store should play music selections over the speaker system. Here’s the thing: people who work in book stores have shitty taste in music, and they inevitably play that shitty music in the store. I don’t want to listen to your shitty techno new age music while I’m looking at books. And then finally, there’s the geeks – the ones that used to buy a stack of comics, excuse me graphic novels, and go home and read them in the basement. Now they just plop their emo asses down on the floor in the middle of the aisle and surround themselves with a stack of magazines, excuse me graphic novels. They pop on a pair of headphones and slurp away at giant frozen frappachinos and just start reading and giggling and jiggling and wiggling oblivious to the fact that I’m trying to get past. Where the hell else is this kind of shit permitted? Do these people go into a grocery and flop down in the frozen food section and have a picnic? Can you bring your jammies and have a sleepover at the mattress store? Is it OK to fire off a few rounds in the gun shop? or get shitfaced in the Brown Jug? So what the hell is the deal with book stores? I just want to kick these people and keep kicking them until they learn a few basic social skills.

I’m tired and cranky and I’ve got things to do and it’s Monday all over the place. Hopefully your day is going better than mine.

And if not, well, tell me about it. Feel free to vent, I’ll listen.

No really, I will.

But I’m going to need a receipt, because I’ll be claiming that time back this weekend.

________________________________________________________________________________________

Other things that chap my ass can be found here.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Question

What the fuck is happening on Long Island?

Seriously.

 

Did the Lizard People land during prom week?

image

I don’t know what’s more frightening, OrangeJuice Face and his brother, Chemical Spill, or the really creepy serial killer looking chick on the right.

Oh God, Not Friday Already!

It's Friday.

I have not yet met my writing goals for the week.

This vexes me mightily.

I got wrapped up trying to resolve a huge hairy mole of a plot point without turning the entire chapter into just two guys talking on the phone. I'm not sure I have it fixed. I've got it all mapped out in OneNote, which is my development tool of choice, and now I need to turn it into actual words.

I'm doing that now.

Anyway, for the those of you struggling through your own Friday work day, here's some Fountains of Wayne:




Stonekettle Station’s Top Ten Perfect Scenes in SciFi

You know, it’s Friday.

Let’s talk Science Fiction Movies, shall we?

I tend to think science fiction, more than any other genre, produces some of the very best, and some of the very worst, movies ever made. No other genre produces such a wide spectrum. From watershed movies like Forbidden Planet that no amount of GCI and Will Smith magic could ever improve on, to unintended humor like Moon Zero Two to utter dreck like Space Truckers to stomach churning abominations such as Battlefield Earth. Not westerns, not war movies, not love stories, not mysteries, not thrillers, or even horror movies – though the later comes closer than the rest.

Some movies, while maybe less than stellar overall, have some truly great moments, scenes where everything just lines up exactly right. The acting, the lighting, the mood, the score – all reach a state of gravitational equilibrium to produce the perfect scene.

These are the scenes that stick with you.

The following list is comprised of ten scenes I think are perfect, they are all from reasonably decent, or maybe even great, movies.

10) Star Wars: Episode 23b(1) Revision 5 (or whatever the hell Lucas renamed it to). I’m talking about Star Wars, the Star Wars. The first one. You know, Episode IV, A New Hope: The scene on Tatooine where Luke is standing on that little rise above the homestead, watching the twin suns set over the desert, and that lonely and poignant John Williams Skywalker theme is playing in the background.

You can damned near feel the sand and wind and the wanderlust and the fading light of those alien stars. Man I loved that scene, the rest of the movie is pure swashbuckling Saturday morning adventure – but that scene strikes right at your emotional core. That scene tells you more than words who Luke is and what drives him. This is the last peaceful night he will know. All around him, under that huge sky and just beyond the horizon, war and revolution flame. The universe is vast, unknown and filled with strangeness. Duty binds him to the farm, but it won’t for much longer, far worlds are tugging at him with strange gravity and some day very soon he’ll follow the pull of that tide and find his place in the universe and damn the consequences. That scene speaks to every person who has ever stood on the edge of the ocean and wished for adventure on distant shores.

9) 2010, Odyssey II: Curnow and Max repelling down the spine of tumbling Discovery.

Overall, 2010 is a meticulously crafted movie, it’s a decent sequel - without the shear gob smacking awe of its predecessor. There are a lot of terrific scenes, Leonov aerobraking through Jupiter’s upper atmosphere, the camera panning across the alien swamp on Europa and coming to rest on the monolith as Thus Spake Zarathustra begins to play, any scene with Helen Mirren. But it’s the scene of Curnow and Max, repelling in space suits down the backbone of the ghostly, abandoned Discovery while wheeling among the stars that brings it all home for me. The details are perfect, the puffs of yellow sulfur dust ballooning around their boots, apparent gravity increasing as they drop further and further from the center of revolution and tension increasing on the lines step by step. The immense globe of Jupiter and the stormy volcanic moon Io swirling around the sky - the sickening vertigo is unbelievable. Curnow’s panicked breathing as the soundtrack. If they lose their grip, if the line breaks, if they slip, they’ll be flung outward toward to stars, beyond rescue, lost forever. Two tiny humans, climbing down the largest spacecraft ever built, beneath the light of old Jove himself and not knowing what they’ll find when they get to the airlock.

8) Alien: Nostromo crew approaching the wrecked Alien spacecraft.

Yeah, yeah. The chest burster. That goddamned cat. Dallas in the air ducts. Sigorney Weaver fighting the alien while wearing the universe’s most idiotic and unflattering underwear. All great scenes. But remember that scene where Dallas, Kane, and Lambert first sight the alien spacecraft? Bundled in spacesuits like something created by Carhartt, with the howl of frozen poisonous wind echoing over the scene, lousy communications and fogged visors and that huge crescent shaped ship from H.R. Giger’s nightmares rises out of the murk. You know it’s big – but then the camera pulls back, and pulls back, and pulls back until the astronauts’ helmet lights are only specks against that weird utterly alien hulk. And suddenly you realize just how tiny men are against the vast and terrible universe.

7) The Abyss: The SEALs jumping from the helicopters on to the deck of the Benthic Explorer.

Classic Cameron. The military snare drums. The SEALs exiting the H3 as if they had done it a thousand times, big, deadly, professional men utterly in control. Cameron lingers on their boots hitting the nonskid deck, just slightly overcranked so the scene plays out with ominous gravity. It’s an invasion, a harbinger of terrible things to come…and then a perfect shapely ankle and stylish high-heel enters the frame. The camera pans up and across the severe beauty of Mary Elisabeth Mastrantonio. There’s this jarring disconnect. And the scene jumps to the bridge and you hear, in Chris Elliot’s disgusted tones, “Oh noooo. It’s the queen bitch of the universe.”

6) The Matrix: Morpheus’ Rescue

The entire scene from the moment in the lobby when the metal detector goes off, to when Neo rescues Trinity and the abandoned helicopter slams into the side of the building and the shock waves ripple outward. That six minutes is one of the best action scenes ever filmed.

5) Blade Runner: Roy Batty in the elevator.

I don’t give a shit what anybody says, Blade Runner is hands down the best damned scifi flick ever made, and one of the best movies ever made in any genre. You will not convince me otherwise, so don’t try.

Specifically though, if I have to choose one perfect scene it is Roy Batty in the elevator after murdering Tyrell and Sebastian. It’s over. He’s done everything. He’s explored every possibility. There are no more options. His destiny cannot be changed, he will die and soon. And in that moment you truly understand the horror of his life, how bleak his existence is, the chains that bind him and the sword that hangs over his head. He has stormed heaven and killed his maker and exacted his revenge and it changed nothing. He stares out over the city and that weird electronic score plays and then, suddenly, he scowls as only Rutger Hauer can do – and that very dangerous, very menacing expression says clearly that Batty is not done yet – there is still one thing left to do. And then the camera pulls back and the elevator drops away.

4) The Thing: The final scene

MacReady and Childs sitting in the ruins of the burning Antarctic station. Night is coming. Cold that no man can survive. No hope of rescue. If they are men, they’ll die. If one of them is the Thing, humanity will die. Then that eerie heartbeat music starts. Dump, dump dump. Dump, dump dump…

3) Dark City: The battle of wills

Everything lines up perfectly in the climatic scene between Murdock and the Others. The lighting, the music, the unleashed primal forces of raw creation, Murdock and Mr. Hand rising up as the structure of the world comes crashing down around them and the very fabric of reality is torn asunder and it just keeps getting more and more and more intense until you think your head is going to explode.

2) The Thirteenth Warrior: The scene on the stairs

Don’t try to tell me that The Thirteenth Warrior isn’t scifi. It was penned by Michael Crichton. It had Vikings meeting Arabs during the dark ages. It had Neanderthals. Scifi, Q.E.D. It’s also one of my very, very favorite movies of all time. If you don’t get this movie, or you see it as nothing but a bloodbath, well nothing I can say will change your mind. But it is far more than a bloodbath and not nearly as bloody as either Alien or The Thing. It’s a quest movie and a coming of age story and a hero’s tale.

The heroes have killed the Wendoh’s evil mother and are trapped by her terrible children far below ground. Buliwyf the hero king is mortally wounded. Herger the Joyous leads them down a stairway deeper underground pursued by the wendoh. The Vikings know they are trapped, soon they will die - and they make jokes (How deep in the earth are we? Deep enough to fall out the bottom). They are men without fear. Warriors who believe firmly and completely in destiny. They laugh in the face of their own death, literally. They live only for the quest, for battle, for adventure.

Or so they would have you believe.

One of the warriors, Skeld, can run no further. He sits down on a rock and waits for the enemy. Ibn Fahdlan must leave him behind. Fahdlan hesitates, and then turns to descend the stairs. Moments later, he meets Herger The Joyous. Herger sees that Fahdlan is alone and says one word, “Skeld?” The Arab shakes his head. And just for a moment, for a bare brief moment, there is a look of utter sorrow on Herger’s face. Then he turns away and dashes down the stairs. It’s like a door opening and then closing, giving you only a glimpse inside the room beyond. It’s an incredibly subtle moment and perfectly executed.

1) And finally, The Fifth Element: LeeLoo’s swan dive from the top of the sky scraper.

It’s about 6 minutes and thirty seconds in.

Perfect, just perfect.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

All Roads Lead to Rome. Sooner or Later.

Thank You, Captain Obvious.

Susan Fiske, professor of psychology at Princeton, presented research this week to the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science that basically said:

“…men of a certain age view sex as a highly desirable goal, and if you present them with a provocative woman, then that will tend to prime goal-related responses.”

According to Fiske’s research, if you present 20 year old heterosexual undergrad human males with pictures of smoking hot women in bikinis, they tend to view them as hot sexy objects that they would like to take home and make steamy boom boom jungle monkey college boy locomotive whoopee with. 

No kidding, Doc. Really?

I did not see that coming at all.

I take it that Doctor Fiske doesn’t spend much time hanging out in bars around twenty year-old Navy Sailors, but you’d think she would have met a few frat boys, which are basically walking hormones, in her time. Hell, I’m pretty sure that even on the staid and Ivy League Princeton campus you can still find the occasional Tequila-Lime jello shooter and a copy of Girls Gone Wild.

Congratulations, Doc, you’ve just managed to prove what the rest of us have known pretty much since the beginning of history.

Men, in general, are piggy Neanderthals and we like it that way.

 

And I’m being an ass, of course, and having a little fun at Dr. Fiske’s expense.  I’m sure that the results or her research weren’t really a surprise to her, after all she is one of the top experts on social cognition, discrimination and racism, gender, culture and a host of other related areas of study. She’s highly regarded worldwide and the author of numerous papers and seven books. Several of which I own.  She’s a brilliant scientist and one of those people who make a difference in many, many lives.  (She’d be a perfect candidate for a Hot Chicks and Smart Men Well Behaved Women Rarely Make History post, except I beat Janiece to it. So Sorry.)

Scientific research isn’t always about discovering something new or unexpected, but also about confirming things we think we know and then figuring out why they are that particular way.

The popular media loves to report money spent on frivolous research, but the truth of the matter is that in many cases, that ‘frivolous’ research sounds silly only to the layman and only if you phrase the way I did above. Very little legitimate research is actually without merit, even if it only closes off blind alleys or confirms things that we already know.

And in truth, Dr. Fiske’s research is much more sophisticated than a simple statement of the obvious.  Her research results are consistent with our conventional view of men and how men tend to view attractive women, but what is interesting is that those male responses are very likely not conscious responses.  It may be that many male brains are wired to view suitable females as objects on purpose.  According to Fiske’s research, in men with the highest levels of hostile sexism, the areas of the brain associated with empathy were inactive while viewing pictures of scantily clad women.  In men, the portions of the brain that are most active when viewing pictures of bikini clad women are the areas associated with tool handling and intention to perform actions. According to a CNN article, supplementary research showed that men tend towards first-person action verbs when viewing scantily clad women (I push, I handle, I grab) but tend towards third-person action verbs when viewing fully clothed women (she pushes, she handles, she grabs). The difference is subtle but indicates that men tend to regard unclothed women as objects, and fully clothed women as in control of their own actions.  Women generally don’t show this tendency, and this is consistent the popular perception that under certain conditions men generally regard women as objects of action, vice equals in their own right.

It shouldn’t take a psychologist to see the broad (shut up) implications here.  This type of research impacts, in varying degree, fields of study from domestic violence to reproductive rights to gay marriage.  Fiske’s research deals a direct and provable blow to those who don’t believe pornography has an impact on how men view women, but it also seems to indicate that women who dress provocatively in the work place are much less likely to get respect from their male peers.  As with anything that deals with complex human thought and interaction, none of these implications are cast in stone and are neither simple or straight forward, and vary greatly depending on complex situational context. Like many other areas of scientific research, it would be easy for bigots and the short sighted to pervert this type of research for their own ends, and to justify actions beyond the pale.  But ultimately the results of this research may someday provide better understanding of complex human interaction and refined methods for dealing with a host of interpersonal problems.

But perhaps the most profound implication of this research is mentioned only in passing in the CNN article – and that is what caused us to be wired this way in the first place.  Research indicates that these results are consistent with modern evolutionary theory.  Early primates, including human males, had strong biological incentive to seek fertile females as a means of reproduction, by force if necessary.  There is an old adage that says, “A chicken is an egg’s way of making more eggs, what the chicken wants doesn’t enter into it.”  And it may be the same with people at the unconscious level. Evolutionary theory predicts this, Dr. Fiske has found evidence of it in our neurological wiring, and in how we think, and in how we treat each other.

And that, right there, is what ‘theory’ means in the context of science.

Last week saw the 150th anniversary of the publication of Origin of the Species and Darwin’s Theory of Evolution.  Those who believe that modern evolutionary theory rests solely on fossils are sadly mistaken.

The evidence is all around us, and there is more of it every day.

The evidence is inside us, if we only have the wit to see it.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

The first thing I’m going to do…

…after I take over as Ultimate Emperor of the Universe is to impose ironclad dictatorial rule. 

I’ll try to be fair.

I’ll try to listen to the people.

Really, I will – even though most of the people are idiots.

I’ll use my unlimited power to make the world a better place.  I’ll feed the hungry, clothe the destitute, shelter the poor, drive technology to unimagined heights, make the streets safe and the trains run on time, repair the environment, heal the Earth, stabilize the economy, impose universal peace, inspire the masses, and basically usher in a golden age of prosperity and free premium cable for everybody. 

I’ll give everybody a plate of brownies and a free puppy.

I promise not to abuse my power, mostly.

But frankly there are a couple of areas where I intend to rule by fiat.  I’m going to issue some imperial decrees and it’s going to be my way or the phlebotinum mines of Pluto. The following items are not negotiable, anybody who doesn’t comply is going to find themselves pursuing a new and exciting career as nutrients in the farming sector (the Empire will be big on recycling).

 

Imperial Decree #1:  All cancelled TV series - no matter how many episodes were actually broadcast - will be required to dismount on a two hour wrap-up movie where all questions and mysteries posed during the series are answered. Followed by a one hour question and answer period.  Supplemented by a detailed webpage where the writers will be available in real-time chat to answer my questions regarding their intentions.

Notice I’m not telling networks that they can’t cancel a show.  I’m not telling networks what shows to broadcast – with the exception of the Imperial Firefly Channel which will be broadcasting a newly revived series with an unlimited budget and the original cast in HD, commercial free, courtesy of your magnanimous Ultimate Emperor of the Universe, you’re welcome – I’m just saying that if you’re going to cancel a great show for no reason whatsoever other than you’re an asshole rating-hound TV executive who thinks that recycled thinly disguised Star Trek plots are edgy and original (i.e. the Rogue Captain, the Professor, the Alien, The Ethnic Guy, and The Babe with Big Tits), well, then you’re either going to provide some answers or you’re going to be spending the rest of your short life at manual labor in hard vacuum on Pluto – right next to the Auto Industry Executives and Donald Rumsfeld.

Frankly, it might be a whole lot easier not to cancel shows I like. Just saying.

Imperial Decree #2: All food products will come in resealable packages. Period.  Under no circumstances will food come in a package that has to be cut open with a pair of scissors and then put in another container in order to be stored in the refrigerator. 

For fuck’s sake, how long have zippered plastic bags and disposable lidded plastic containers been on the market?  Fifteen, twenty years now?  What do they cost to make? A fraction of a penny?  Is there any damned reason whatsoever why my Kraft American Cheese Slices come in an industrial strength, shrink-wrapped, heat sealed plastic envelope that has to be destroyed in order to open it? The Imperial Prince, he likes America Cheese Slices, he’s twelve – do you have any idea how much effort it is to get a twelve-year old boy to close the refrigerator door let alone have to get a ziplock out of the drawer and put the cheese in it? The next day he’s bitching that the slices are all dried out and nasty and then I’ve got to listen to that shit and that makes me irritable – which is a bad thing in an Emperor with unlimited power. Really think about it.  The stuff is already in a plastic bag, put a fucking zipper on it. 

And as long as I’m at it, is there some reason why potato chip bags aren’t resealable? Can’t close the bag, got to eat them all or they’ll go stale, nation full of fat asses – coincidence? Probably not. 

Imperial Decree #3: Computer Error Messages will actually provide a detailed explanation in layman’s terms specifying the exact nature of the error, detailed instructions on how to fix it, and a phone number you can call to get a free hug by an ample bosomed grandmotherly woman who smells of lilacs.   Any software programmer who codes an error message that contains an index numeric code, memory address, or hexadecimal in any form will be immediately deported to Pluto via the most unpleasant and dangerous means available.  The CEO of any company whose software produces an error message that reads in full or in part either “Contact Your Network Administrator” or “You Don’t Have Permission to Perform the Requested Operation” will be thrown into a pit with wild starving dogs and ripped to shreds before cheering crowds.

Seriously, here folks, we’re on what? The fourth or fifth generation of the personal computer, and the third decade since since computer systems became umbiquous enough that we hardly notice them – and yet I’m still getting error messages that say things like “Error 180003 at F00031:C1783D, Contact your network administrator immediately.” Fuck you, I am the network administrator and I have no damned idea what the hell that means.  Just say it in plain English! Why the hell do I have to look it up?  I’m more than half tempted to preemptively pack everybody at Microsoft into unheated cargo containers and ship them out beyond Neptune orbit just as an example to everybody else. 

Oh, and while we’re at it – the “Was this article helpful?” question at the bottom of every software Knowledge Base article?  Pit. Wild Dogs. Think about it.

Imperial Decree #4:  Under no circumstance will spoken disclaimers on TV or Radio commercials be allowed to exceed the speed of a normal conversation.  Period. Also the person speaking the disclaimer is required to breath and use normal conversational breaks between sentences.

Yes, this will cost product manufacturers more to advertise their products, because the standard disclaimer will take a minimum of five minutes to read on the air. Tough shit. Make a product that doesn’t require a disclaimer or suck it up.

Also, all TV infomercial printed disclaimers will be printed in 24 point type across the middle of the screen in flashing red letters.  You will no longer be allowed to print in little tiny unreadable letters at the bottom of the screen “This weight loss product is complete crap. Herbal supplements don’t make you smarter, reduce your cholesterol, or increase the size of your willie. We’re ripping you off. If you buy our product you are a complete fucking tool. Thank you.”  And in fact, all herbal supplements will be required to use that exact disclaimer.

Imperial Decree #5:  All webpages will be required to load completely, once, and then be done.  Period.  Ahhhh, you know, to hell with it, I’m just going to fire everybody at USA Today on-line into deep space. Problem solved. Nevermind.

Imperial Decree #6: Small, Medium, Large. Got it? 

Not Medium, Large, and Biggie Size. Not SuperSize.  Not Jumbo. Not Tall, Grande, and Bellismo.  Not Venti.  No cutsey shit. No obscure foreign words.

Small. Medium. Large. Those are the acceptable sizes. Know them. Love them. Use them. I don’t want to have this conversation again.

_________________________________

There are a lot of things on the old imperial agenda, but those are the important ones.

Thank you for your attention, loyal subjects of the Empire.

 

I’ll entertain suggestions from the crowd for additional decrees now.

Setting The Example

I'm having trouble typing at the moment, because there is a very large gray cat parked squarely between me and the keyboard. He does not appear inclined to move at the moment. It's like trying to type with a sack of concrete sitting on your bladder - if a sack of concrete purred like a broken chainsaw and shed hair like a Yak with the mange that is.

So, until I reclaim my desktop, have some Warren Zevon

If I had a theme song, this would be it:

Dead, Again

As a public service announcement: The new Dead Like Me movie, Life After Death is on shelves this week.

I just came back from the store with my copy. I don't know if it's any good or not, we'll find out tonight.

Whoever canceled that show needs to be visited by the Grim Reaper.




That is all, carry on.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Live and Learn – or Not

Did you catch the Greta Van Susteren interview with Bristol Palin?

Oh, don’t look at me like that, I live in Alaska. I was curious.

I’ve got no intention of judging this girl, one way or the other. There’s been more than enough of that over the last couple of months. Hard enough for her being an unwed teenaged mother, but to get thrust unwilling into the national spotlight and to become fodder for the nattering Nancy Graces of the world, well that must be pretty damned lousy indeed and I’m not going to contribute to it.

I did find her interview, what there was of it, interesting though.

She hit me as an overwhelmed teenager caught up in events beyond her control – which basically sums up being a teenager in the first place – and someone who is very much determined to become her own person without alienating or offending her own family and powerful mother – which again, pretty much sums up being a teenager.

Of course, the only reason Bristol Palin is still in the news is that she is the only 17-year old to ever do something dumb. Sure as hell I never did anything stupid or ill considered as a teenager. Nope.

What?

Oh, well, Ok. It’s actually because her mother is Sarah Palin, neocon Governor of Alaska, former neocon VP candidate, and advocate of abstinence only birth control – and in the minds of many the fact that Bristol got pregnant is just such sweet sweet irony.

Meh, whatever. Irony, it happens – though I do admit to a certain degree of amusement myself.

When asked about birth control, Bristol replied that she thought abstinence was the best option, but she didn’t think it was realistic.

You know, I can dig it.

Certainly abstinence is the best course of action, for a lot of reasons – just as honesty in our politicians is the best course of action. However, neither one is either likely or realistic, and you are a fool if you’re depending on either teenaged self-control or the veracity of politicians.

Making bad choices, failing to anticipate the consequences of your actions, being driven by your hormones and caught up in the moment – these are all part of being a teenager. Being a teenager is about dreaming big dreams, about seeing colors and hearing sounds and entertaining options and passions that adults no longer feel. Being a teenager is about pushing boundaries. The problem is sometimes when you push at boundaries they break, and way too late you discover why those limits were put there in the first place. Most of us live through it and become a little smarter. We learn where the edges are. We learn that we’re not immortal. We learn the difference between wishful thinking and reality. Eventually, we learn wisdom.

Most of us.

Sadly, of course, some don’t live through it. And even more sadly, some live - and yet fail to learn.

Bristol Palin herself appears to have gained a modicum of wisdom – teenaged abstinence-only birth control may be desirable, but it’s just not realistic.

Unfortunately for Bristol, her mother is a leader in a group of people who haven’t learned. A group of people who should be wise but sadly are not, who still can’t tell the difference between wishful thinking and cold hard reality – even when their own children are victims of that foolishness. Sarah Palin still believes that abstinence only birth control is both desirable and a realistic option despite some rather obvious evidence to the contrary within her own family, despite national statistics, despite provable and repeatable data, and despite the overwhelming number of unwed teenaged pregnancies here in Alaska. This is a pattern with Neocons – they believe tax breaks,especially for the rich, are some sort of universal panacea, despite obvious and plentiful evidence to the contrary. They believe the Earth is 6000 years old, or maybe 10,000, despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary. They believe that war is the answer, always. They believe sexual orientation is a “choice.” They believe monitoring Americans somehow helps us prevent terrorism from abroad – or even from within. They believe in the power of prayer. They believe in the Bush Doctrine.

They believe in a lot of things.

But they’ve learned very little.

Perhaps their children will do better.

Technical Issues

Folks, my internet connection is in and out and my bandwidth is connecting me directly to the 1980s.

I've got good signal strength here, ~38dB SNR, so the problem is either my ISP, or my ISP's satellite/undersea fiber-optic cable connection to the lower 48.

Whatever, it's annoying as all hell. It took fourteen tries to publish today's post.

I don't like being annoyed, it makes me want to smash things, especially things having to do with my ISP. So until my ISP fixes their little issue, I'll be out in the shop. Don't expect much interaction today.

//Jim

Monday, February 16, 2009

Miscalculations

Outside of Culpeper, Virginia, is a monument to the madness of the cold war.

It’s a 140,000 square foot facility buried in the side of Mount Pony, about an hour south of Washington D.C.

It was built in the late 1960’s and deemed officially operational on 10 December, 1969. This isn’t one of those places blasted from solid granite bedrock, miles below the surface, designed to safeguard the remnants of America’s military and political elite in the event of all out nuclear war. It’s not a bomb shelter per se and wouldn’t have survived a direct hit by nuclear weapons. Rather Mount Pony is a radiation “hardened” facility – basically a big damned concrete and steel building, buried under several yards of dirt. Lead lined shutters could be dropped over vents and such few windows as existed in the partially buried facility. Huge reinforced vault doors were designed to close the facility off from the outside world. Air filters, power generators, and boxes of canned food would preserve up to 540 selected government employees for up to 30 days against anything short of a direct nuclear strike.

image Most of the lucky 540 people inside would be from the Department of the Treasury.

You read that right.

See, Mount Pony was designed as a Continuity of Government facility. The place was operated by the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond and up until recently housed seven large computer systems which were the central node for all US electronic fund transfers.

And until 1992, the bunker also stored anywhere from one to three billion dollars.

In cash.

We’ll come back to that in a minute.

In the mid 90’s, with the Cold War and the threat of imminent nuclear Armageddon a fading memory, Congress decided to phase out the facility’s CoG function. Mount Pony cost millions to build, and it was still an enormous, robust, and useful facility however, so in 1997 it was designated part of the National Archives and placed under control of the Library of Congress. The bunker was refurbished and last year opened as the National Audio-Visual Conservation Center. It holds more than 6 million items from the media and entertainment industry: files, audio recordings, television shows, pictures, posters, screenplays, musical scores, records and notes, tapes, and fiches. Everything from the original 1957 Carnegie Hall concert by Thelonius Monk and Johnny Coltrane to one of the very first motion pictures ever made, The Great Train Robbery by Thomas Edison himself.

New facilities have been built aboveground to house preservation labs and support facilities. The Library of Congress is in the process of digitizing as much of the archive as possible – and a lot of it is already available to researchers and the public via remote access at the James Madison building in down town Washington D.C.

I think it’s great that this cold war relic has found new life preserving the art and history of the United States. I think it’s great that it was never used for its original purpose – no really, I know nuclear war sounds fun, but really I’d rather take a pass on it. Call me crazy. And I think - unlike all those missile silos moldering out west or all those bombers gone to the scrap yards or all those holes in the ground that we’ve poured so much money and effort into - it’s great that the people who paid for this particular concrete monstrosity, i.e. the American taxpayer, get something out of it (or in this case put something into it).

But here’s what really caught my eye:

This place was built to store money. Three billion in bills and coin - though there was rarely more than one billion there at any one time. That fortune was supposed to help restart the economy following a nuclear holocaust.

Try to picture that, would you?

Nuclear war. Cities in ruin and uninhabitable for decades, if not longer. Industry shattered and infrastructure vaporized. Megatons of radioactive fallout settling across the grain belt. The four horsemen afoot upon the land. Death, famine, pestilence, plague, fire, and flood. Devastation that would make Dresden and Nagasaki pale in comparison.

And the Fed figured that three billion would be enough to get the economy moving again, and start rebuilding the country.

Three billion.

Well, to be fair, three billion in 1969 dollars - which adjusted for inflation would be about 16.7 billion today. And to be completely fair, Mount Pony was just one of several facilities hidden around the country. So figure the Fed stashed away a bit more – let’s be generous and say that today those funds would be worth 100 billion dollars.

100 billion. The best minds in the country during the Cold War figured they needed 100 billion to restart the economy following nuclear war. And who am I to argue with them?



What’s value of the stimulus package? Well the first one, the one signed by George Bush was 700 Billion dollars. The one President Obama is signing today is worth over 787 billon.

One trillion, four hundred and eighty seven billion dollars and change.

That means that the current fiscal crisis is roughly 15 times worse than nuclear war. I’m rounding here. Fourteen, fifteen times worse than nuclear war, really what’s the difference?

Holy fucking shit.

Either those Cold Warriors were seriously off in their calculations, or somebody is seriously off regarding the depth of this fiscal crisis.

Just saying.

Enjoy your President’s day, folks – if you need me, I’ll be in the basement, stocking my bunker.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Latest from the Lathe – Beastly’s Cherry Burl

As regulars know, my pal Beastly spent last summer here at Stonekettle Station.

He drove up the Alaska Highway in his RV and brought along a pile of hardwoods and turning blanks that he had scrounged from various places across the country. Last summer he turned a few of those blanks, and I turned a few. And we incorporated some into other things. But we worked mostly in Alaskan Birch and so some of Beastly’s stock sat untouched in the wood rack.

Including a large, very gnarly cherry burl.

Cherry is highly prized by woodworkers. Straight grained and dense, it makes beautiful furniture. When you’re working with it, it makes the whole shop smell like cherry pipe tobacco - without the burning tobacco under current. But it’s difficult to work with, it burns easily, it doesn’t take certain finishes well – finishes tend to come out blotchy if you don’t use special preparation and sealers – and it tends to splinter and chip out if you’re not very careful.

Cherry is also expensive – especially burled cherry.

So, somehow neither Beastly or I got around to turning that big burl. We’d pick it up. Look at it. Feel the weight. And put it back on the shelf. I’d say to Beastly, “You should turn that.” And he’d reply, “No. I brought that up here for you to turn.” And I’d reply, “Maybe next time.”

At the end of the summer, he left for warmer climes and that cherry burl remained unturned.

Periodically, Beastly asks me on the phone if I’ve turned that blank. Maybe next time, maybe next time.

Last week however, it was cold and wet and windy out – and I was out of prepared birch blanks in the shop. Going out in the weather with the chainsaw to cut more did not appeal to me.

So I finally turned that cherry burl.

Turning a unbalanced and irregular burl with dense heavy bark is a really good way to either bash yourself silly or cut the hell out of your hands. The smart thing to do would be to cut the burl into a balanced round blank on the bandsaw prior to mounting on the lather. This also did not appeal to me – the burl’s irregular, vaguely oval, shape and gnarly bark were part of what made it so interesting. So I mounted it on a large cast iron turning plate and turned it the way it was. Very, very carefully.

I used only the large Sorby bowl scraper, and stopped regularly to touch up the scraper’s edge. With wood like this you want the absolute sharpest tools at all times.

Some turners, like Beastly, go into a project knowing exactly what they want in the final piece. Not me. I usually have no idea what the final piece will look like and in this case as the piece began to emerge from the wood, I settled on a shallow concave shape with a natural oval rim.

When finished, the bowl contained deep bark lines and a partial under-bark rim. Looking at that, and the wood’s natural pink cherry tint, I decided to enhance those areas using a technique I’ve been developing for a year or so now. I won’t tell you how I do it, but the natural recesses were filled with red and gold flake, mixed with a wooden and crystal filler I created, and left to dry. The final effect is created via layering and takes several days. When complete, the effect very closely resembles the interior crystalline structure of a cut geode and it appears that the wooden burl has literally grown around an interior metallic jewel.

I’m quite happy with it. And the pictures don’t really do it justice. In strong sunlight it is simply amazing.

Cherry 5

Cherry 1

Cherry 4

Cherry 3

Cherry 6

This a large heavy piece. Finished in simple Tung oil and burnished.

The chips and saw dust from this project went into my fireplace and are making the house smell wonderful.

Enjoy your weekend.

Friday, February 13, 2009

A Little Effort, Please

You know what irks me?

Well, yeah, OK, a lot of things irritate me. You got me there.

You know what irks me today?

People who do their job really half-assed.

Seriously, a little effort, that’s all I’m asking here.

You pick a profession, maybe it’s what you want to do for the rest of your life, maybe not. Maybe it’s a great job, lucrative, fun, with interesting people, great benefits, good location, groupies, hot babes, fast cars, and an unlimited supply of Jolt Cola and Twinkies or maybe it’s a third world shit-hole where you work thirty-hour days for Kathy Lee Gifford at sweatshop wages with hourly beatings chained to a table in a sweltering rat infest firetrap – whatever, show a little pride, put some ass into it. You start doing a shitty job and it reflects poorly on the whole industry.

Take Spammers for example.

Remember the early days of internet spam? Back when spammers and scam artists and cons took pride in their work? Remember when spammers were professionals? I used to get really great spam. Interesting, colorful, intriguing, amusing, entertaining. Hell, remember the variety? Official looking letters from exotic sounding institutions like the First Banking and Trust of The Seychelles. Lusty emails from widowed heiresses who actually took the time to research my background and wildest fantasies and were mine in Christourlordasavior? I’d get Invitations from filthy rich oil barons to tour the beautiful Ivory Coast and maybe make a couple of million on the side if I was willing to smuggle out a paltry few conflict diamonds and maybe a Soviet era T-72 main battle tank in my colon. I’d get guaranteed investment opportunities in charming third world countries like Panama, Tierra Del Fuego, and Arkansas. I’d get letters acknowledging my heroic manliness and requesting my assistance in helping the author escape from his gold mine in Belize with as much loot as I could smuggle past the Federales. I’d get meticulously crafted ersatz PayPal and Citibank letters advising me to change my password by using the conveniently provided link and handy online line form. I’d get official looking emails purporting to be from the CIA or Department of Health or the IRS filled with cunningly hidden Trojan horses and packed with enough viruses to make Typhoid Mary look like a piker.

Good stuff, and you really admired the spammers in those days. They were pioneers, rough and tough rogues of the wild Internet frontier. Always one step ahead of the law. Real Jesse James and Billy The Kid types – well, if William Bonney was a 17 year-old pimply faced dweeb who broke into nervous explosive flatulence when confronted by a real live female type person that is.

Alas, those romantic times are gone now, lost somewhere in the ancient days of spam-that-was and on-line Castle Wolfenstein.

Spam today is a pitiful pale paunchy balding shadow of its former self – sort of like a Kevin Costner movie. Spammers today just don’t seem to give a crap, to them spam is just a job. It’s not about the lifestyle, it’s not about flooding the inboxes of lonely seniors and gullible housewives, it’s not about originality or a classic Spanish Prisoner con updated to the electronic age. There’s no substance, no style. It’s all about mediocrity, it’s all about volume, it’s all about the bottom line and pandering to the lowest common denominator – again sort of like a Kevin Costner movie. It’s a numbers game, a business.

I blame it on Zombies and cheap overseas labor.

- Learn Top SEO Secrets. Seo? SEO? I thought maybe it was Search Engine Optimization – maybe some original scam spam aimed at IT types. No. “Learn the secrets of top Wall Street executives. Get you’re own Gold Parachute, why should only SEO be rich?” SEO? Oh, he means CEO. And the obvious poor English - that’s just amateur hour, right there. Bad English can really put the polish on a Dubai Oil Widow Scam, but here it’s just pathetic. It’s like the guy isn’t even trying. In the old days, back in glorious 2007 and 2008, no spammer worth his stolen AOL address list would have made that kind of silly mistake. That’s what happens when you move your Tech to Nigeria. Nobody is going to buy secrets from a SEO. Nobody. Stupid N00B.

- Acai Berry Supreme Used By Oprah For Weight Loss: Weight loss? Do they even broadcast Oprah in Mumbai? Because I’m guessing not. What kind of hook is that? I don’t want a berry that makes me look like Oprah – oh, sure you could end up like Svelt Weight Watcher Oprah, but you’re a whole lot more likely to end up looking like The Color Purple Oprah. Frankly, it just isn’t worth the risk. Now a berry that makes you look like Halle Berry, well, now we’re talking.

- You Will Not Get Out Of Your Bed For Days: Well, hell, that’s intriguing – a pill from Mexico that gives me chronic depression and bed sores. Let me get my credit card.

- Don’t desperate enhance desire restaurant milkshake: Um, yeah. Hey, at least we know not all spam operations have moved overseas – we’re obviously keeping a few folks in Alabama employed.

- Be the IT Consultant of Perfect Lovemaking: Know your target audience, that’s what I’m saying. Sure, if you’re spamming a Trekkie Convention or COMDEX, but really, Dude, The IT Consultant of Love? Really? What am I getting spam from Johnny Guitar Watson now?

- Plunge your power drill into her: Um, who’s this aimed at? Leatherface? Jason? Constructions Workers? Plunge your power drill into her? Power Drill? I can’t tell if this is for Viagra or Johnson & Johnson Band-Aids. Rip her to shreds with your tablesaw! Slap her upside the head with your wooden mallet. Grind her into pudding with the leaf chipper! Chicks dig that sort of thing. Apparently.

- Don’t let others laugh at your manhood: Generally this isn’t a problem, as I generally don’t leave my manhood laying around where others might mock it.

- Buy a Degree – The New Way Of Earning A Degree: Yes, because in my country “earn” means “Fake” and nobody ever checks during a job interview, they just hand out money. Is that how it works in Liberia too?

- Solve all lovemaking problems in a matter of seconds: Really poor choice of time unit there, fellas. Just saying is all.

- Don’t pay for your electricity any longer: Just like here in Nigeria, where we steal it right off the pole!

- You need Business Admitration Degree: I hope they spell that right on the fake degree. Generally, unless it’s the WWF Pile-driving School of Spandex, people sort of expect a degree in business administration to be spelled correctly.

- Weekly Microsoft Security Update: Yeah, who’s this supposed to fool? Oh, wait…

Fully half the spam in my inbox is from…me! Talk about phoning it in. In the old days a good spammer could generate a million fake email accounts a day. A truly great spammer, a master, could crack open protected government servers and steal the social security numbers of a hundred thousand military veterans and have ten thousand new Hotmail accounts set up by the time he finished his second Mountain Dew. Now, I get email with my own email address in the “from” line? Like I’m going to look at that and say to myself, “Heeeey! I sent myself some information on fake Rolexes! I’d better check that out!”

Seriously spammers, shape up. Look what happened to Wall Street. Look what happened to the Auto Industry. I for one, simply won’t support any kind of government bailout to the Spam Sector, unless I start seeing some effort.

I have some suggestion for fixing the industry. Click on this link to learn more.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Happy Birthday, Chuck

As has been widely noted in the mainstream media, religious news, science journals, blogs, twitter, various litter, and over pints of bitters, today marks the 200th birthday of one Charles Robert Darwin – and the 150th anniversary of the publication of his landmark Origin of the Species.

I find that interesting.

No, not that it’s Darwin’s bicentennial per se, nor even that today is the publication anniversary of Origin. Rather what I find interesting is that anybody remembers it.

Darwin died on the 19th of April, 1882 (and no, contrary to Creationist myth, he did not recant his theories in those final moments and convert to young earth creationism. His last words were expressions of love for his wife and children and are quite well documented). Darwin was what in those days Englishmen called a naturalist, or what we today would refer to as an evolutionary biologist. By most credible accounts he was a kind, unassuming soul who delighted in logic and the pursuit of knowledge and who was filled with a burning zeal to contribute to scientific advancement. This made him a bit unusual, but not that unusual.

Certainly not so unusual that we should remember his birthday, fully one hundred and twenty seven years after his death.

Ask yourself something, how many other famous scientists are there whose birthdays we remember?

Quick, what’s the birthday of Antonie van Leeuwenhoek? Dutch scientist, father of microbiology, creator of the modern optical microscope, and discoverer of single celled organisms. What do you mean you don’t know? Van Leeuwenhoek’s discoveries have a far greater impact on you, daily, than those of Charles Darwin.

OK, I’ll admit that unless you’ve taken microbiology or nursing or pre-med, you’ve probably never heard of van Leeuwenhoek, but surely you light a candle and have a piece of cake in celebration of the birth of Charles Babbage? Mathematician, inventor, mechanical engineer of the highest calibre (yes, calibre, Babbage was English) and the guy who came up with the concept of the programmable computer (computre? No, guess not) – an idea without which you wouldn’t even be reading this. Babbage’s theories led directly to discoveries and inventions that have a profound effect on your life every single day, both for good and for bad. Surely you know his birthday?

No?

Odd. Babbage was a contemporary of Darwin – hell, they lived in the same city. And today, Darwin’s theories are often tested and simulated on machines that can trace their own evolution directly back to Babbage’s theories.

Nothing, huh?

Well, OK then what about Benjamin Franklin? American Founding Father, kite enthusiast, famed inventor and polymath. Usually called the first American scientist. His birthday used to be a national holiday here in the States. The lightening rod he invented has probably saved your life at least once. And sooner or later you’ll probably be prescribed the bifocal glasses he invented. I’m sitting about ten feet from a Franklin stove right now. And no, Franklin didn’t actually invent it, but still we named kitchen appliances, schools and whole cities after him. Hell, he’s the only scientist whose likeness graces our money. Surely you know he was born on the 17th of January, 1706?

How about Marconi? Tesla? Edison? And Alexander Graham Bell? Unless you live deep in the Alaskan Bush, the combined discoveries of these men have had a major impact on your life. Literally, if you’ve ever been broadsided by somebody busy chatting about their birthday plans on a cell phone instead of paying attention to the road.

I once won the US Military’s Samuel B. Morse award, but I couldn’t tell you when old Sammy was born. I like making bread and enjoy being able to buy King Arthur red wheat flour whenever I want, but I couldn’t tell you when Cyrus McCormick invented the reaper/harvester or when he was born, even if my life depended on it. I tend to wear cottons and wools, I don’t much care for synthetics, and I know that Eli Whitney’s invention of the cotton gin led directly to industrialization of the textile industry and was a contributing factor in the American Civil War. I don’t know what day Eli took his first breath on though. And speaking of the cotton gin, I’m listen to Gordon Lightfoot at the moment, Cotton Ginny, to be precise (which is what reminded me of Ely Whitney), and I realize that I don’t know Gordy’s birthday either, just saying. Einstein? Salk? Bohr? Planck? Nope, sorry, I just don’t know. Hawking? Hell, he’s alive and I’ve heard him speak in person and I still don’t have a damned clue as to what day he was born on. Newspapers carried stories about Hawking’s ride on the NASA Vomit Comet – but no mention of him on his birthday so far as I can tell.

So, what’s the deal with some long dead bird collector?

Darwin didn’t invent a critical, world altering technology. His knowledge didn’t win a war or break a siege for his patron. He didn’t discover a life extending medical procedure. He didn’t define the principles of gravitation and planetary motion or land men on the moon. He didn’t feed the hungry or clothe the poor. He didn’t create the basis for Facebook or High Definition Plasma TV. He didn’t invent beer or bacon or microwave popcorn or free internet porn or any of the other things that make life worth living.

There have been plenty of other scientists down through the ages who have raised profound questions and stirred profound controversy. There have been plenty of scientists who challenged the religious status quo and offended the Church. Some of them were imprisoned or burned at the stake for their impunity. Darwin never faced the Inquisition or the Rack or was broken on the wheel – though he did face some harsh words from certain colleagues and there’s rumor that Dick Owen tied his shoe laces together when Darwin wasn’t looking. But really the guy didn’t face down the church, or the mob, or the government – he just kept plodding along, quiet and shy and unstoppable like the march of evolution itself.

So, again, what’s the deal with Charles Darwin?

Of course, you know the answer.

In reality, Darwin has had profound impact on our lives. He shook the world, he challenged the prevailing religious worldview and scientific establishment. It wasn’t the first time this has happened, and it wasn’t the last – but , unlike van Leeuwenhoek's germs or Babbage’s difference engines or Franklin’s electrical lightening or even Hawking’s radiation and quantum level black holes, Darwin’s discovery directly challenged our image of what it is to be human.

Darwin changed everything.

Because, you see, Darwin’s Origin of the Species and the twelve decades of scientific development and advancement that followed its publication isn’t about God.

It’s about us.

Religion has reached an eventual accommodation with nearly every other major scientific theory - and in some cases embraced those theories enthusiastically long after rejecting them as hearsay.

But not Darwin. Not evolution.

And why is that?

Because all religions, all religions no matter their basic tenants, all faiths, share one fundamental commonality, and that is this: Of all the things in this universe, humans are special.

Some religions say humans are the favored of God, some say humans are cursed – but one way or the other, we’re special.

Darwin’s theory says that we’re not.

And that cannot be reconciled.

Ever.

…or can it?



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Additional thoughts about Charles Darwin on UCF Member Blogs:

Standing on the Shoulders of Giant Midgets

Hot Chicks and Smart Men

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And speaking of Evolution and Religion and strange, strange things:

Check this out.

I'm almost positive this is a parody site. If it is, it's hysterical. If it's not, well, it's even more hysterical.