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Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Oops

Turns out you’re not getting a post tonight either.

My son and I were out in the shop – and I lost track of time.

My son has recently been expressing interest in learning how to turn.

This tickles me.

Tonight he was learning basic techniques. Such as using a forstner bit in the tailstock chuck to hollow out birdhouse bases.  As I said yesterday, turned birdhouses are a great way to learn to use a wood lathe, they incorporate all the basic techniques of both spindle and face turning.

Lathe

It is now late and I am very tired.

Good night.

Ask Stonekettle Station

(Swear to God, this is the actual search phrase)

“What is the meaning of a dead burning moose?”

You have offended the Alaskan Mafia.

Be wary of men in parkas and bunny boots and avoid Sarah Palin at all costs. Do not eat canned salmon or bald eagle meat. Watch out for grizzly bears.  Enter the witness protection program immediately or move to some place really hot, like Iraq.

Good luck.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Ask Stonekettle Station

Today’s Google search phrase:

“My cat sheds a ton, pees on the carpet, and claws everything up. Help!”

No problem.

What you want to avoid in this situation is over calibration.  A .22 caliber short should do the trick. If it’s a big cat I’d go as high as a .380. Anything bigger than that is just wasteful.

Hope that answers your question.

Tired Jim Is Hideously Tired

It probably has something to do with the headache I’ve had all damned day.

Even an hour on the lathe after work didn’t help. Much.

 

So here, have a picture of some turned birdhouses instead of an actual post.

image

The one on the left is zebrawood, with the perch and roof made from Brazilian rosewood.  The one on the right is holly with a spalted birch sombrero roof. 

A lot of turners make these in miniature, usually as Christmas tree decorations. These are full sized, with holes cut for finch sized birds and as they are intended for actual use, they’re finished in simple bee’s wax.

Turned birdhouse are fun and good practice on the lathe.

Speaking of lathes, I’ve been working on the new lathe and sooner or later I’ll get around to doing a pictorial on it.  It’s a massive cast iron machine made by Delta.  It’s 30 years old, but I got it “new” still bolted to its shipping skid and packed in cosmoline (a thick grease used to preserve machinery and weapons).  I’ve spent the last two weeks installing, adjusting, and tuning it.  One of the things I find simply amazing about it is how smooth and precise it is – and quiet. When it’s running I can barely hear it.  And massive as the machine is it allows for some very large turnings, but it also allows me to do some very, very small and precise work – like that rosewood perch on the zebrawood birdhouse. That perch is only about size of a large cribbage peg (speaking of which, I turned some cribbage pegs tonight as well, just because I could).

Anyway, that’s all you’re going to get tonight.

I’m beat, my head hurts, and I’m going to bed.

Good night.

Things That Chap My Ass About Big Box Home Improvement Stores

At least once a week I have to go to either Lowes or Home Depot.

Usually both.

Sometimes more than once.

Sometimes a lot more than once (hey, sometimes I break stuff while fixing other stuff. It happens. So, put a sock in it, Bob Villa.)

This does not make me happy.

I really don’t like those places. They’re supposed to be one stop shopping for home improvement needs, but they’re really not. They never have what I need, and I end up having to go to both stores almost every time in order to get the supplies I have to have for whatever job I’m elbow deep in at the moment. Seriously the damned stores are always located together anyway, where you find one, you find the other – they ought to just build them on opposite sides of the same parking lot. It would sure make my life a lot easier.

What should be a fifteen minute errand always turns into a two hour adventure at Aggravation World.

I always get the helpless helper. You know, the guy in the blue or orange vest who comes rolling up with a big smile and says “Hey, what can I help you find?” Against your better judgment, you tell him because maybe this time it will be different. But no. Hell no. As always it turns out that he has no damned clue as to where the item you need might be or if they even carry it. So he says brightly, “Well, hey, let’s go look for it, follow me!” Sure, just what I need, a snipe hunt with my new best friend. I don’t need help wandering aimlessly up and down random aisles, you idiot, I was doing just fine with that on my own before you showed up.

What’s the phrase? Let’s build something together? Uh, no. Have you seen some of these people? Yesterday there was a wild eyed guy working in Lowes with hair down to his ass and a equal length beard. Yeah, me and Charlie Manson will be out back building a swing set if you need us.

Lowes has this phenomenally irritating automated paging system. I’m fairly sure this thing was cooked up by the same charming folks who invented the waterboard. Some brainless clod pushes a button and the damned system starts blaring over the loudspeakers “Special assistance needed in the board cutting area! Special assistance needed in the board cutting area! Special assistance needed in the board cutting area!” And the impatient mouth breathing dolt back there in the board cutting area just keeps pushing that goddamned button over and over and over until I’m ready to go back there and jam his head into the saw myself. He’s like a little kid on a road trip, “are we there yet are we there yet are wethereyet?” And when some helplessly helpful employee finally does show up to give him the special assistance, some other gomer starts pushing the button elsewhere in the store, “Special assistance needed in …” Jesus H. Christ, one of these days I’m going to snap and run screaming around the store with a pair of wire cutters lopping off those stinking help buttons and maybe a button pressing index finger or two.

I was in Home Depot on Sunday and they must have had every single forklift in the place moving crap around. The beeping was deafening. It was like Day of the Daleks in there. I kept expecting the stinking things to pick up a plunger in the toilet aisle while blurting “Exterminate! Exterminate!” If they started vaporizing customers I would have been cheering them on.

Whatever I need, they’re out of. If I go in looking for 250 feet of 12/2 U/W copper wiring – every damned body in the Valley suddenly decides to put in patio lighting that needs outdoor two-strand 12 gauge wiring. If I need 8mm recessed hex head screws – so does everybody else. It doesn’t matter what it is, or how unusual or obscure it is, they only had two of them and they just sold ‘em that morning – but, hey, no worries they’ll have more next week. They’ve got a whole huge pile of the size I don’t need, and apparently neither does anybody else. Just in time delivery is a business model that can kiss my ass.

I was standing in the electrical supply section, trying to figure out what I could substitute for the things I needed and they didn’t have. Behind me some halfwit was asking the helpless helper for advice on rewiring his main electrical panel. Now the the guy giving the advice was the same dipshit who didn’t know the difference between 12/2 and 14/3 outdoor wiring, but suddenly he’s an expert on your home electrical system? Yeah, better swing by aisle ten and pick up a couple fire extinguishers. Just saying.

Apparently both Lowes and Home Depot get a volume discount on those big rolling stairway ladder platforms that are blocking every single damned aisle. I swear it’s like the silly sons of bitches are doing it on purpose. I think they’re tracking me with those little radios, “sssssh beepblop, this is Charlie on parking lot patrol, he’s getting out of his truck, looks like he’s got a busted sink fitting in one hand!”

“SSSSrk! Bleepblop! Roger all, Charlie, we copy. Try to stall him with the Helpless Helper routine while we move every fucking ladder in the store into the plumbing aisle!”

“fzzzztp! Beeelbop! Yeah, this is Charlie again, looks like he’s in a hurry, better get a couple of the forklifts too…”

“ssssvippp! Roger. Exterminate! Exterminate!”

What chaps your ass about big box stores?

Today’s Search Phrase Oxymoron

“starship troopers verhoeven brilliant genius”

 

Uh, no.

Stop it, you’re going to break the Google.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Today’s Search Phrase

“Big Butt Hairy Asshole Woman”

 

Dude, stop it. Stop it right now.

Or I swear I will hunt you down and make your name public.

Then I’ll email your mom and tell her what you’re doing.

Just stop it.

Latest From the Shop

Just so you don’t think I was goofing off all day:

image

I spent the afternoon on the big Delta industrial lathe.

This is a turned lidded box. It’s large and heavy and the colors are just spectacular. It’s made from Alaskan Birch Heartwood and Brazilian Rosewood and finished in Mylands Friction Wax*.

I also turned a number of spindles, some chess pieces, two birch bowls to rough, and a plate.


For you turners out there, the finial in the picture above was spindle turned using my new Crown Beechum skewchigouge. Seriously, if you do spindle turning, you probably want to check this tool out. It is easily the best damned skew I’ve ever used. I bought the thing on a whim, and after a day with it I can’t visualize spindle turning without it. You want one, trust me on this.

An Important Sunday Question

Homemade Shredded Hash Browned Potatoes.

Do you put ketchup on them or not?

What about cheese?

Gravy?

 

 

Hey, I like to know who I’m dealing with out there.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Suspicion

Three days ago, FBI agents arrested an Afghan immigrant named Najibullah Zazi on suspicion of terrorism.

Specifically, the FBI charged Zazi and three of his friends with plotting to detonate improvised hydrogen peroxide bombs in New York City on the anniversary of 911.

The FBI is being credited with breaking up a significant terrorist operation in both Denver and NYC.

 

It’s a measure of the last ten years that when I first read this I immediately thought, “He’s innocent.”

I immediately thought: here we go again, terrorists, al-Qaida, Pakistan, New York, 911, bomb plot.  Sure. They’ll hold him for six or seven years. Then it’ll turn out that either the intel is so classified we can’t prosecute him, or the FBI doesn’t actually have any proof at all that he’s really anything other than a funny sounding foreign taxi driver. They’ll drop the charges. He’ll sue. Yadda yadda.

 

Now as the case firms up and more information is released it does appear that Zazi is actually who the FBI says he is and that he does appear to be guilty of what they allege he is.

And it appears congratulations are in order for the FBI and that it is nice to see the Federal Bumbling Idiots actually get one right once in a while.

Let’s hope this is the beginning of new trend, shall we? 

Maybe ten years from now when the FBI says they’ve caught a terrorist the first thing I’ll think is, “Good on ya, fellas, way to go.”

God, I hope so.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Friday End of the Week Music

See?

This is what the Internet is good for (well, and porn, but that just goes without saying).

This is a Cher/Marc Cohn mashup of Cohn’s Walking in Memphis. The two singers never actually recorded together or made a video together. Somebody named nanzi1291 just created it via some very creative editing – including adjusting Cher’s voice to match the key Cohn is singing in.

Even ten years ago this would have been difficult for a professional studio to do. Now, anybody with some time on their hands and a bit of freeware can literally alter the fabric of reality to create entirely new professional caliber artwork. Amazing.

Of course, I’m not sure that this is entirely legal, or that copyrights haven’t been violated, or that somebody doesn’t owe somebody royalties…

Still, very cool. I’ve always loved this song.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Yes, I Am Officially Middle-aged

I’ve always had perfect vision.

20/17 in both eyes, plus 20% above average night vision.

Unfortunately, I am now 47 (and a half).

Which means that for the last couple of years I’ve been slowly developing presbyopia.

It had gotten to the point where my arms simply weren’t long enough to read any more – and actually it was worse than that, I just didn’t know it.

Over time I’ve gradually stopped reading on a regular basis. Reading paper books anyway. It really had become uncomfortable and painful.  Mostly I had started reading on the computer, the tablet specifically.  It’s backlit, I can set the font size to whatever I want, and I can download books with much less effort than going to the bookstore.  But I really started to miss old fashioned paper – and you can’t get everything electronically either.

My eyesight had been so far above average that it really took a long time for me to get to the point where I had to admit that I needed correction. Eventually though, I realized that no matter how I held the damned pill bottle or how much I squinted, I simply could not read the microscopic print and crappy font anymore. Period. (Hell, considering that most drug companies print the medication information in a special font called “Pharmasquint .0005pt” it’s a wonder anybody can read it without a magnifying glass the size of the Hale Observatory. Seriously Drug Companies, WTF huh?).

Anyway, long story short, I finally had enough.

Last week I went to see the eye doctor (or iDoc to use the modern vernacular).

My eyes are in great shape…”considering my age” (Seriously, it’s a good thing the doctor was pregnant, otherwise I’d have smacked her upside the head with my walker).  Aside from the presbyopia, everything else looked good (pun most certainly intended). My distance vision is still way above normal. My night vision has faded a bit, it’s still above average, but not nearly what it used to be.  And I needed reading glasses.

She wrote me a prescription – or rather her computer did.

And I took that over to the eye glasses store.

After perusing the available frames, I ordered a pair of Ray-Bands with polycarbonate lens. $200 freakin’ dollars they cost me with the military discount – but that included lifetime frame and lens warranties.  See, I have absolutely none of the habits glasses wearing people have – so I tend to forget glasses. I tend to break glasses. I tend to sit on glasses. I tend to leave glasses laying lens down on sandpaper. And now you know why I only buy the $9 cheapo sunglasses, and why I buy a lot of them. I figured I better have some insurance and “unbreakable” lens and “ultra flex” frames.

 

glasses

It took a week and I was actually excited to get the call telling me they were ready.

Holy moley, what a difference.

I can read again. Comfortably.

I can see things close up.

And I suddenly realized that the computer screen wasn’t half as clear or easy to read as I thought it was – which might explain the large number of typos I’ve been making lately, which I can suddenly see in all their glaring glory.

This also explains why you get a post today about my eye exam instead of something more interesting – because I spent my spare time this evening reading The New Space Opera instead of blogging (it could be worse, I could have had a proctology exam. Count your lucky stars).

Yes, I am officially middle-aged.

And I can see that clearly now.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

One Pathetic Excuse for a Man and an American

In the Badlands of South Dakota, outside of the town of Wall, there is a monument carved into the bedrock of America.

Mount Rushmore.

Next to the Statue of Liberty, Rushmore is quite possibly the most recognizable symbol of what America aspires to be*.

Gutzon Borglum carved four faces into the rock. The faces of who he considered the four greatest presidents of the United States. George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and Abraham Lincoln - all Americans agreed these men were great historical American figures, great American leaders, great American presidents. Washington led the new country to freedom, Jefferson forged the Constitution and the Union, Lincoln preserved it through its darkest hour.

But Theodore Roosevelt?

When Borglum first began blasting his way into the mountain in 1927, Teddy had been dead for a mere eight years. His place in history was still being written. People really weren’t sure that he belonged on the mountain.

It was not long, however, before history showed TR to be one of the truly great Presidents, and the very archetype of an American. He was more than worthy to stand beside the men who had become the very symbols of America.

Educated, cowboy, sportsman, soldier, naturalist, explorer and adventurer, prolific writer, raconteur and gifted speaker, state assemblyman, state governor, vice president, president - Roosevelt was all of these things and more, much more.

TR was a true hero of the highest caliber. During the Spanish American War, on July 1st, 1898, Colonel Roosevelt led the US 1st Volunteer Calvary Regiment and the 10th US Calvary (the Buffalo Soldiers) in a charge up not one, but two hills during the Battle of San Juan Heights. He and his men took both Kettle and San Juan Hills in the face of blistering fire and that charge is one of the most famous and amazing feats of raw courage ever recorded in the annuals of combat. His commander, Colonel Leonard Wood, nominated him for the Medal of Honor – but Roosevelt himself doomed the nomination by raising hell with the War Department over delays in getting his men home from Cuba – and in fact more of the Rough Riders and Buffalo Soldiers died from malaria and yellow fever awaiting transport then died in combat, a situation that outraged Roosevelt. And so he placed personal honors aside for the sake of his troops – this is the mark of a truly great military leader and man who understands honor and who lives it. His men loved him for it for the rest of their lives. In 2001, Roosevelt was awarded the Medal of Honor posthumously, making him the only American president to ever be awarded such.

Roosevelt was a lifelong Republican, and when he returned from Cuba he hung up his sword and returned to politics. He was elected Governor of New York in 1898 and became famous for his honesty, forthrightness, and fervent efforts to root out and destroy corruption. The GOP nominated him as McKinley’s Vice President largely to get him out of New York, so they could get back to business as usual. This maneuver blew up in their faces six months later when McKinley was assassinated. Roosevelt became far more than anyone had ever imagined – except Roosevelt himself, of course. He was a champion of people over corporations (the Trusts). The country loved him and he won reelection in a landslide. He believed that each man should be judged solely upon his merits and not by the color of his skin – and was the first President to invite a black man to dine at the White House as a guest. That dinner with Booker T. Washington cost him dearly, but again Roosevelt was a man who placed honor and integrity above his own personal welfare and he shrugged the criticism off. He believed that it was government’s place to ensure each citizen had the opportunity for life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. He believed in conservation and the preservation of natural resources. He was a reverent man who attended church regularly and believed in the value of family and home. He, personally negotiated an end to the Russo-Japanese War – and earned himself the Nobel Peace Prize in the process.

He had his flaws, certainly. He was often called imperialistic and an interventionist – especially in reference to the Panama Canal. He was outspoken, bombastic, and bullheaded. But he changed the very face of America, and set the nation on the road to superpower. He earned the highest awards any American can, as both a warrior and as a peacemaker. So few people are good at any one thing, Theodore Roosevelt was a master of many, many things. History has been very kind to him and historians regard him as one of the top five US Presidents.

Why do I mention it?

Aside from the fact that Theodore Roosevelt in one of my personal heroes and a man I admire very highly?

John McCain would have been worse for the country than Barack Obama

said Glenn Beck to Katie Couric during the first installment of Couric’s new weekly webcast, @katiecouric.

What does this have to do with the 26th President of the United States?

Well, Beck then went on to say that he would have voted for Hillary Rodham Clinton rather than John McCain if he had been faced with a choice between the two.

I can't believe I'm saying this, I think I would have much preferred her as president and may have voted for her against John McCain. McCain is this weird progressive like Theodore Roosevelt was.

I’m going to say that I can’t believe Beck said that either.

After all his bullshit about liberals, and all his endless bullshit about the Democrats, Beck declares he would have voted for Hillary Clinton over John McCain. Apparently, the woman who championed healthcare reform and staunchly liberal causes is less of a “weird progressive” than John Fucking McCain.

Buwah? Is Beck back on the sauce?

And then, not only does he manage to call McCain a liberal pussy, he manages to piss backhanded on one of the greatest leaders this country has ever had.

You can’t call what Beck does entertainment. He is not an entertainer. He’s a sick joke with a lame punch line.

If you listen to this horse’s ass, if you give credit to anything this ridiculous sad little man says and take it as anything other than the ravings of a malformed mind, well, you’re an idiot.

As much as I disagree with McCain’s politics, Glenn Beck isn’t a tenth of the American John McCain is.

And it’s for damned sure that Glenn Beck couldn’t hold TR’s towel while the President skinny-dipped in the Potomac.

Beck is nothing more than a puss filled carbuncle on the ass of humanity.

And it’s about time he was lanced.


* I am aware of the controversy surrounding Rushmore. I am aware of how the land was acquired. I am aware of how Native Americans regard the monument. This post isn’t about that.

Home Today (updated)

Yep, I’m home today.

The kid is sick.

Flu or a bad cold, looks like.

He wasn’t feeling great yesterday, but insisted on going to school. Yes, this did seem odd.  Later I learned that he didn’t want to miss the “high ropes.”  The high ropes are something new in gym class this year. It’s a climbing thing, with harnesses and pulleys and zip lines and such.  Seems very cool, and I can understand why a 13-year wouldn’t want to miss it.

Just one problem, it’s outside.

And yesterday it was cold and raining as only Alaska at the end of summer can be. Just this last week we’ve got snow a thousand feet down the mountain. The leaves are yellow and falling in great wet soggy piles. The temperature at night is in the low 40’s and there’s distinct chill in the air during the day. Did I mention the cold rain?

So, he went to school not feeling well, and then didn’t have enough sense to stay out of the cold and wet.

And we had a band concert last night on top of things.

This morning he’s running a fever and croaking like a frog.

Yeah, we’ll be seeing the doctor today.

That’ll learn him.

or not.


Well, the good news is that it’s not swine flu.

The bad news is that it’s a fully developed case of strep throat.

Yay.

Monday, September 21, 2009

The Mind of a Child

All pornography is homosexual pornography, because all pornography turns your sexual drive inwards.

Well, at least according to Michael Schwartz that is.

Who the hell is Mike Schwartz? Glad you asked, Mike is chief of staff to Senator Tom Coburn (R-Ok). He was talking about pornography at a session called "The New Masculinity,” at the conservative Value Voters Summit in Washington D.C. this weekend.

Mike Swartz is from Oklahoma (where the wind comes sweeping down the plain). Okies know a thing or two about porn – or at least that’s what the statistics say about good God fearing Midwesterners anyway. They like their porn.

Swartz said:

Pornography is a blight. It is a disaster. It is one of those silent diseases in our society that we haven’t been able to overcome very well. Now, I may be getting politically incorrect here. And it’s been a few years, but not that many, since I was closely associated with pre-adolescent boys, boys around 10 years of age…

Um, say what? This isn’t going to get creepy is it? (We are talking about an ultra conservative republican after all)

But it is my observation that boys of that age have less tolerance for homosexuality than just about any other class of people. They speak badly about homosexuality. And that’s because they don’t want to be that way. They don’t want to fall into it.”

Well, sure, nobody wants to fall into the gayness. That stuff is a bitch to get off your shoes (though, as Carol notes in the comments, your shoes will become fabulous).

Schwartz then talked about a friend of his “who had been into the homosexual lifestyle for a long time,” a guy named Jim Johnson (What Swartz was doing befriending a gay Johnson I don’t know. But I can imagine). Anyway, Johnson was a friend who found Jesus, became cured of his “mental disorder,” went straight, and turned an old hotel into a hospice for gay men dying of AIDS.

“One of the things he said to me, that I think is an astonishingly insightful remark… he said ‘All pornography is homosexual pornography, because all pornography turns your sexual drive inwards.

Now, think about that.

And if you tell an 11-year-old boy about that, do you think he’s going to want to get a copy of Playboy? I’m pretty sure he’ll lose interest. That’s the last thing he wants! You know, that’s a good comment, it’s a good point, and it’s a good thing to teach young people.”

Yep, if a guy looks at pictures of naked women, he’ll turn gay.

And apparently any kid can tell you that.

 

I hear you making that bawuh? sound you make when you’re confused, but for me, suddenly, Flash! the light dawns.

I understand.

I do.

I mean this certainly explains a few things, doesn’t it?

See, according to Swartz, all porn is gay porn, which makes you gay, and gay is bad because if you tell an eleven year old boy that porn will make him want to move to Fire Island and open a cake decorating business you’ll find that’s the last thing he wants.

And, that, my friends, is a good thing to teach young people.

Can I get an amen?

If a boy looks at pictures of naked women he’ll turn gay. Now, seriously, how do you argue with astounding cognitive ability like that? You can’t, really.

Now I hear you still making that buwah? sound and I know what you’re thinking.

But hang on a minute.  As it turns out, if you follow Swartz’s statement to its logical conclusion, why, it makes perfect sense! It explains everything.

See, 11-year old boys don’t like teh gaii. Conservatives don’t like gays.

11-year old boys generally don’t much like girls either.  Really, go ask one, see what an 11-year old boy has to say about the opposite sex. To an 11-year old boy girls are icky and stupid and nothing but trouble. Girls are like slugs, they probably serve some purpose, but it’s hard to figure out what that could be.

Which pretty much sums up Conservatives’ opinion of women, now doesn’t it?

11-year old boys don’t much like broccoli.

Remember George H. W. Bush? Remember his opinion of broccoli? Coincidence? I used to think so, but after Swartz’s comment I’m seeing the situation in a different light.

11-year old boys like to play army.

You see where this one is going? Guns, Hummers, Iraq. Right. No need to spell it out then.

11-year old boys hate school and think it’s stupid. 11 year old boys have been known to twist a dog’s tail and pull the wings off of flies. 11 year old boys often have hygiene issues and messy closets and a not very well developed sense of right and wrong. They are often childish and selfish and have trouble understanding the consequences of their own actions.

You see it now too, don’t you? The punch line?

Oh, yes, you do.

The GOP platform is based on the logic of an eleven old year old boy.

No, seriously, the Republican Party has based its entire platform on the logic of eleven year old boys.

Holy hell! It finally makes sense!

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Of Spooks, Flyboys, and Witch Hunting

Eighteen years ago a bunch of drunken frat boys in a Vegas hotel got caught doing things they shouldn’t have been doing.

Things that involved hookers, sexual assault, battery, and other dishonorable behavior.

You remember.

They called it Tailhook.

Specifically it was called the 35th Annual Tailhook Association Symposium, held in September, 1991, at the Las Vegas Hilton.  Supposedly it was a convention where Navy and Marine Corps pilots gathered to discuss their profession. In reality, it was Animal House, a week of drunken revelry and strippers and carousing in fine Navy tradition. What happens on deployment, stays on deployment – the Navy used that phrase long, long before Las Vegas made it their official slogan. Tailhook was always a raucous event, but in ‘91 a bunch of drunken Navy and Marine Corps Aviators lined up in a hallway and somehow managed to rip the clothes off and otherwise sexually assault over 80 women – and a dozen men. Several of the Navy’s most senior officers were present, including the Chief of Naval Operations himself, Admiral Frank Kelso.

Now, we – those of us in the Navy – we all knew what happened. There wasn’t one of us in uniform who didn’t know exactly what had happened. We had all been on deployment. We’d been to the Philippines and Thailand and Balearic Islands. We’d raised hell on liberty in Norfolk and San Diego and around the world.  We were all more than familiar with Sailors and especially Aviators on liberty. Despite the protestations of the pilots,  we all knew exactly what had happened. We had seen it many times, in many bars, in many liberty ports around the world.  And we could see it in the smirks and the smiles and the mirrored aviator sunglasses.

And we all knew who was going to pay for it too.

They tried to cover it up, of course, tried to hide what they’d been doing in Vegas, tried to hide it from their girlfriends and wives and families and the nation.

But it had gotten too big, too out of control, for the cover up to contain it.

And so there were inquires and recriminations and scandals.  The pilots called it a witch hunt. Senior officers, many long retired, claimed that the investigations would destroy the Navy, destroy Naval Aviation. The phrase “boys will be boys” was bandied about in complete seriousness. Excuses were made and those old admirals issued dire warnings, airing the Navy’s dirty laundry in public would destroy the service and disgrace us all.

NIS bungled the investigation, of course. They fucked it up so badly that instead of destroying the Navy, they destroyed themselves – and were eventually dissolved and reorganized as the NCIS because of it.

After a year they busted a few pilots out of the service. An Admiral got demoted. The senior officers all got to retire at full pensions.

And all of us who weren’t there and had not one goddamned thing to do with it, well, we got to pay. And pay. And pay. We got sensitivity training. And sexual harassment training. And code of conduct training. We got lectured. We got busted for any and every infraction. And we spent a decade paying for those drunken assholes, most of whom left the service and went on to lucrative careers with big airlines and left us holding the bag.

And we got to watch Frank Kelso sell us down the river in exchange for his retirement pay.

See, the Navy has one immutable tradition – the senior officer present is responsible for the conduct of his men. Period. The Captain is always and ultimately responsible for his crew.  Frank Kelso was the senior officer present at Tailhook, he was responsible, it was his Navy. Those drunken louts were his responsibility and a reflection of his leadership.

He had a chance to stand before Congress and take responsibility.

Instead he sold us out.

Most of us sailors, people like me, spent a year watching the circus and were filled with nothing but disgust and contempt for our senior leadership.

But you know something?

When it was over, the Navy ended up better off.

We got rid of a lot of the “traditional” navy leadership, including Frank Kelso. We cleaned house. The transformation we endured following Tailhook was long and painful, but it changed the Navy. A decade later we were a far better and a far more professional service.  Gone were the days of mayhem and mass drunken revelry on liberty. By the time we hit the new century, the last vestiges of the post-Vietnam paper Navy were gone and we had found honor, courage, and renewed commitment to high ideals. I won’t say sexual harassment was completely gone, but it was damned rare and there were severe consequences, the Navy became a model of equality for other services and for corporate America.  Hazing ended. Moral soared and we were glad to see those days lost in the wake behind us.

And Naval Aviation, always the very best of the US Military’s pilots, were orders of magnitude better than they had ever been, proud and professional and they’ve only gotten better since.

Those admirals were wrong. Utterly wrong. Attempting to hide what had happened at Tailhook protected nobody but them.  They were trying to hide decades of drunken shenanigans, dishonorable behavior that they themselves had participated in during previous Tailhook conventions or had turned a blind eye to in foreign ports since Vietnam.

The attempted cover-up by those bastards is what nearly destroyed us.

It was the the investigation that saved us. Transformed us. Made us better. Made us proud of who we were once again.

 

Seven former CIA directors asked President Barack Obama on Friday to quash a criminal probe of harsh interrogations of terror suspects during the Bush administration.

These men too are wrong.

With this petition, the CIA, and those former directors, are basically admitting that they engaged in illegal, dishonorable, and unconstitutional actions.

We, Americans, the world, we know what they did.

If the officers who conducted those interrogations were, indeed, just following orders – well the men who gave those orders are the ones who have the most to lose. And the senior CIA leadership who turned a blind eye to illegal actions and extra-constitutional activities are culpable and they know it. Who? Well that would be men like Michael Hayden, Porter Goss and George Tenet, CIA directors under George W. Bush now wouldn’t it?

And the men who conducted those interrogations are just as guilty – they knew what they were doing was wrong, illegal, and against everything America stands for. But they did it anyway, believing that the end justifies the means. They cohered Soldiers into torture and other dishonorable acts, and then left them holding the bag when it became public - and they’ve never been called to account for it. American soldiers went to jail for things they did under CIA direction, but the goddamned CIA itself has never ever been held accountable or held to the same standard.

The former CIA directors, just like those admirals before them, issued dire warnings. They call the investigation a witch hunt. They said in the letter, "This approach will seriously damage the willingness of intelligence officers to take risks to protect the country.”

Good!

They should be afraid to engage in illegal and unconstitutional actions. They should be afraid of the consequences when they violate the law. And those that would go beyond the pale don’t belong in the service of the United States.

These bastards have believed themselves above the law since before the Bay of Pigs and Iran-Contra. They always manage to weasel their way out of responsibility for their actions and  their monumental fuck ups.

These sneaky sons of bitches believed, just as those drunken aviators did, that they could get away with it.

They’re wrong.

They are accountable.

For the good of the nation, for the good of the agency, this investigation must go on. Morally this investigation must go on. These men must be held to the same standards as the rest of us, to the same law, and to the same Constitution.

Unlike those drunken frat boys who were interested in nothing but their own self gratification, the CIA acted in our name.  The actions they took were supposedly in our defense. They claim those actions were necessary in time of crisis – but, see, it is in the crucible that you find out what you’re really made of. If in crisis and fire you abandon your principles, well, then you never really had them to begin with.

These men are responsible to us – and we, as Americans, are responsible for their actions. We have a right and a responsibility to know exactly what these men did in our name, in our defense.

And we have a responsibility to hold them accountable for their actions. If we turn a blind eye to the actions of our intelligence community, of our government, then we as Americans are no better than those admirals who turned a blind eye to rape and sexual battery and dishonor.

If the CIA thinks that torture and rendition and extraordinary means are lawful and justified, let them defend their actions before the Court of Inquiry, let them stand before the nation and justify their actions. Let them prove their case.

They can’t, of course – and nobody knows it better than those dishonorable men who did torture in our names.

No one is above the law.

No American is above the Constitution.

These men must be held accountable.

And those that perpetrated these crimes in our name should spend the next decade in prison – right next to the soldiers they sent there and left to rot.

 

And in the end, mark my words, we, and the CIA, will be far better for it.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Whack Your Boss

I got 14 out of 14, but then I’m persistent*.

 

 

 

 


I actually like my boss, a lot. However, I thought you people could use this.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Friday End of the Week Music

You know, Rod Stewart is one of the few great rockers I have never seen live.

I regret that.

Because it looks like so much goddamned fun



Also? I love the mandolin. I just really do.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

I Will Be Happy To Read Your Science Fiction Manuscript

At last!

I’ve finally discovered a way to monetize Stonekettle Station.

At last, the reason I got into blogging in the first place will be realized.

Step 4: Profit. Oh yes. At long last!

See, recently, a number of professional writers, such as John Scalzi and Josh Olsen, have published articles on why they will not read your screenplay, manuscript, or unpublished pile of paper that purports to be a novel.

This appears to be a very sensitive topic for a rather large number of folks on both sides of the issue. I don’t want to resort to hyperbole, but I don’t think it is an exaggeration to say that healthcare reform pales in comparison. The term “fistful of auk vomit” was even bandied about on Scalzi’s Whatever by a certain famous writer and curmudgeon. The phrase “Donkey Balls” was also invoked. Truly, this topic brings out the worst in people.

Scalzi, Olsen, and the famous curmudgeon have taken some serious heat over their refusal to read the scribblings of random strangers. They’ve been called variously selfish dicks, pretentious dicks, whiny dicks, and dickish dicks. Yet, they remain steadfast in their refusal, the dicks.

I know opportunity when I see it.

If the world’s leading writers won’t give you the time of day, don’t despair, Little Trooper. I, a world renown blogger, raconteur, artist, world traveler, and professional military officer will read your manuscript and give you the constructive feedback you so rightly deserve. Hell, the opinion of a retired US Navy Chief Warrant Officer is easily worth that of your wife, two neighbors, John Scalzi’s Fluffy Cat, and the sour demented ghost of James Tiptree Jr. combined.

Simply fill out the following form and submit your masterpiece to Stonekettle Station.

Fame, glory, riches, and chicks for free are sure to follow.


Your Name____________________________________________________________________________

Title of your award winning novel/manuscript/screenplay__________________________________

Total number of pages________ Total number of pages you actually expect me to read_______________

What is the original plot of your original manuscript?

___ In the end it turns out to be Adam and Eve (Surprise!)

___ People are food!

___ Raccoons Discover Fire!

___ The Internet Discovers Fire!

Type of critique you’d like:

___ Honest (No, really, be honest, OK not really)

___ Honest (Just kidding, lie to me)

___ Please blow smoke up my ass until my colon is like beef jerky

___ I’ll write it, you just sign it

Author you’d like to be compared to:

___ Robert Heinlein

___ Ayn Rand

___ Dr Seuss

___ Doctor Spock

Book you’d like me to mention in the review:

___ Dune

___ Starship Troopers

___ What To Expect When You’re Expecting

___ Mein Kampf

Award you’d like me to say you’re a shoe-in for:

___ Nebula

___ Hugo

___ Campbell

___ Tasty Pudding

Music I should listen to while slogging through your steaming pile of auk vomit reading the brilliant pearls of your toil:

___ Dire Straits, Money For Nothing, Chicks For Free

___ Gorillaz, Fire Coming Out of the Monkey’s Head

___ Offspring, She’s Got Issues

___ William Shatner, Rocket Man

Phrase you prefer to use in public in reference to my review:

___ Jim is steeped in Jackassery

___ Jim is chock full of dickishness

___ Jim sucks Donkey Balls

___ You Lie!

Boon you’d like to ask of me:

___ Use my in with John Scalzi to shop your manuscript to Stargate Universe producers

___ Introduce you to Sarah Palin

___ Tell you amusing stories about my cats

___ Gratuitous Sex

How you expect to compensate me for my efforts:

___ Brief mention on your crappy website

___ You’ll sue me, claiming I stole your original Adam and Eve Are Robots idea

___ Scream incoherent hatred and spread lies about my manhood on the Internet

___ Gratuitous Sex

Please staple your manuscript to the back of this form. Enclose a money order for $100 (no checks. I don’t take checks from writers, sorry. You understand). Mail flat in a large legal sized envelop (this is very important, folded manuscripts jam my paper shredder, this pisses me off). Allow 4-6 years for processing (i.e. for me to steal your idea, write it better, and sell it to Hollywood for obscene gobs of moola, who will turn it into a B-list thriller staring Demi Moore’s silicon augmented rack. Yowza).

* Note: I make absolutely no bones about fairness or impartiality. Better bribes get you better reviews. Bribes also get your competition adverse reviews. I am in no way opposed to a bidding war, just sayin’ - as long as you’re sending money, I’m willing to entertain you. As Randy Quaid, the drunk pilot in Independence Day said, keep ‘em coming, keep ‘em coming.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Stonekettle Station Ridicules Your Questions, Internet

Today’s search phrase:

Why doesn’t my powermatic cigarette rolling machine work right?

What? It’s not killing you fast enough?

Smoke in your eyes?

Because it’s a cigarette rolling machine, not a doobie rolling machine?

It’s really a pasta roller, try making ravioli. (Duuuuuude, you shouldn’t buy stuff when you’re stoned)

Um, didn’t the whole “roll your own” fad go out with fondue parties and the McGovern campaign?

Now you try.

Attention Nerds…

… Please learn some freakin’ social skills. Thank you.

I was in the bookstore yesterday.

Barnes and Nobles.

I really hate those places. I do.

Don’t get me wrong, I love bookstores. I love old bookstores. I love reading. I love books. I love the feel of books and I love the smell of old bookstores, the musty odor of old binding glue and paper. I especially love used book stores. I love the peace and the quiet and the tall stacks of mysteries and thrillers and horror and science fiction.

I grew up around Grand Rapids, Michigan. Whenever we’d visit my Aunt and Uncle in Eastown, usually every Sunday, My cousins and I would walk down the block to stare in the windows of what had to be damned near the perfect bookstore, Argos - which, I’m happy to report, is still there 35 years later, though it is a very different place from the store I remember. As soon as I could drive, Argos was one of my most frequent destinations. In those days it was a cramped dusty establishment in an ancient brownstone building, nobody ever went there but us bookworms. The front was a wood and glass door with an old fashioned brass handle, there was supposed to be a latch but the old brass thumb lever had long since stopped working. The door stuck and was hard to open, and when you finally forced your way in there was the sudden tinkling and jangling of bells. The shelves were just boards knocked together by generations of college kids who worked the ancient manual cash drawer and helped you find things using an arcane card filing system that only they understood. The lighting was lousy and the old wooden floors creaked when you walked on them. The store smelled of paper mites and glue and ink, and there was an air of mystery and weirdness about the place. They sold mostly used books, but there was a lot of new stuff too, especially science fiction. And they could order things for you and they had stuff that never appeared at Walden’s or the other mall bookstores – such as signed hardcover copies of Poul Anderson’s Orion Shall Rise, or Niven’s Ringworld (both of which I still own, three decades later), or the amazing but short lived Epic Illustrated with such fantastic fare as Abraxis and the Earthman by the incredibly talented graphic artist Rick Veitch

I loved that store.

I spent hours among those stacks - and you could, spend hours among the stacks, because nobody bothered you. There were never any screaming children, I doubt that in those days children ever set foot in the store. There was no coffee shop and therefore there wasn’t any of the associated dipshits loudly slurping coffee and smacking their lips among the aisles. There were no easy chairs sucking up precious space, and thus no freeloading bastards plopped down on the cushions with their feet sticking out in the way, shoes off and sock clad toes stinking up the place, and their sticky finger gunking up the books with biscotti guts. There were no gum snapping bimbos in trashy outfits pushing book carts down the aisle – because, hey, when else would you stock the damned shelves but when your customers are trying to look at your merchandise?

No, Argos was a book store. You wanted to sit about with your pants unsnapped and your shoes off, slurping coffee and passing gas and reading, well you bought the book and went the hell home. The place was a bookstore, not your goddamned living room.

I’ve been back once or twice in the years since.

Sadly the store has expanded and modernized. It wouldn’t surprise me if they sell coffee and have easy chairs. And it’s the same everywhere else, the musty little book stores are slowly disappearing, replaced by giant soulless megastores. There’s no personality to those places, they’re the Wal-Mart of bookstores. They smell of paint and new carpet and Starbucks. One stop shopping – except they never have what I’m looking for.

And worst of all, they’re crowded – full of mouth breathing retards slurping coffee and chomping on Italian cookies and talking on their goddamned phones and chasing their screaming kids. It’s funny how people sort themselves out without even realizing it in one of those mega book barns, isn’t it? A psychology PhD candidate could probably get a reasonably decent thesis out of it.

- The New Age section had a woman in what looked like homespun woolen leggings and a none too clean checkered dress. She had a big violet crystal on a chain around her neck. She smiled dreamily at me as I passed by.

- The guy in the gardening section reeked of burning rope and I think he had been crying, because his eyes were all red. He was wearing those really big and thick corduroy pants and some kind of homespun looking tunic thing – he might have been related to the woman in the New Age aisle. He had a book on organic tomato cultivation. I said “Excuse me,” as I walked past him, he sort of grunted acknowledgement and skrunched over to one side as if he was afraid of contact – in this age of flying pig flu maybe he had a point.

- There was a long haired bearded guy in a gray sweater pursuing the Linux section of the computer aisle. He wasn’t wearing suspenders, but he was wearing sandals with red socks. He passed me about four times looking for something in particular which he couldn’t find, the first three times he said, “Excuse me,” the forth time he just sort of nodded.

- The cooking section was filled with gay guys (OK, two gay guys, but they were large gay guys and they filled the aisle) arguing about pasta. They stepped aside to let the book cart girl go by, and then me.

- There was nobody in the woodworking section. It was right next to the photography section, which featured a large hardcover book entitled “Boobs.” Every single male that passed by stopped, glanced around, then opened the cover - then acted like they were really, really interested in photography when their wives came to see what they were looking at.

Eventually, I ended up in the science fiction section.

Which brings me back to the subject of this post: Attention nerds. Attention geeks. Please, by all that is holy, learn some social skills will you please?

Some pointers:

- Hygiene in public is not optional, take a shower, use soap, use shampoo, scrub your ass - or stay home.

- If you walk between me and what I’m looking at, use the phrase “Excuse me, please.” Better yet, don’t walk between me and what I’m looking at, go behind me. Yes, I realize this will require you to actually be aware of your surroundings, try it, you might like it.

- I don’t know what you had to eat last night during your whirlwind World of Warcraft fest, but it crawled up your ass and died. Don’t share. Really. Burping and farting loudly in public went out with King Henry VIII. If you lack the necessary sphincter muscles to control your flatulence, I suggest you try jamming that cell phone you’re loudly talking on up there as a cork.

- Don’t sit on the floor in the middle of the goddamned aisle with a stack of comic books, snorting and giggling at the black and white line drawings of warrior women and their enormous boobies. Also please stop pawing the Boris Vallejo collections. (Also, maybe if you took a shower, learned some manners, and got a little sun – you’d get to see some boobies, you know, for real, just sayin’).

- If you must stand directly behind me and chew that fucking biscotti, try to do it with your mouth firmly closed. OK, Horse Lips?

- Empty coffee cups go in the trash, not on the book shelves or the floor.

- Shoes, not optional, Sasquatch. Keep yours on.

Thank you.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have some reading to do.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Fresh Kid

I come home from work.

I get out of the truck.

My son and his friend, a neighbor kid, are standing in the drive.

I’m wearing my usual work duds: dress slacks, dress shirt, tie.

The neighbor kid asks, “Picture day?”

 

Damned smart ass kids.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Your Spam Will Be Graded

I’ve been mostly offline for two weeks now.

You may or may not have noticed.

My houseguests are now gone.  I spent yesterday catching up on a number of things.  Today, it’s raining and cold and I’m up early.  So, I’ve been spending my morning trying to catch up online. Holy Carp, folks, I can’t believe the amount of lint that’s built up in the Internet’s belly button in just two weeks.

Especially the spam folder.

Here’s an interesting marketing strategy:

image

Ah, yes, the powerful allure of buying illicit man medicine from the Blue Screen Of Death!  Buy Viagra from this online site and most of the time it works as advertized … but every once in a while, for no reason at all, your plumbing just locks up and no matter what you do nothing works until you perform a full reboot. “Uh, excuse me a minute, would you, Honey? I think I just had a driver conflict… Damn it! I knew I should have gone with Snow Leopard!”

Stop Woody’s softening!

Wasn’t this the central theme of Toy Story V? Woody’s Midlife Crisis. Buzz gets arrested for mail fraud when he tries to buy black market Viagra from Stinky Pete to help out his friend, Woody, who’s having trouble staying in the saddle with Jessie the Yodeling Cowgirl. Hilarious hi-jinks follow.

Take your chance to show off in a bikini

Um, I’m fairly sure I’d get arrested for that. Or propositioned…it is Sunday morning in the ultra conservative MatSu Valley after all. Excuse me, Reverend, does my ass look fat in this thong?  Alternatively, I could wear a bikini to Wal-Mart and end up on that People Of Wal-Mart website. Again.

Be her brutal cave explorer!

Sounds good. Just give me a minute to grab my flashlight and climbing equipment…

Our Watch will look great even on any loser

That’s right, Loser. You’re ugly and your mother dresses you funny. You can’t get a girl and your one ear is bigger than the other. Buy our stuff.

If you had a gold fish, you would ask for a bigger instrument

When was it exactly that gold fish started granting wishes? Do all gold fish grant wishes, or is it just those weird orange and white speckled ones with the droopy tails?  Frankly, if I had a magic wish granting gold fish I’d be asking for more than a tuba (Tuba, the bigger instrument, try to keep up). For starters, I’d wish for the damned thing to clean its own bowl.  Also, you’d have to wonder what happens when the cats go fishing for the magic gold fish, there’s got to be a YouTube video in that, just saying.

Being hung like a horse is more than possible

What if you really were “hung like a horse?”  No, really, picture it.  I grew up around horses, dude, seriously have you ever seen a stallion’s Johnson? Especially when he’s, uh, excited? I think you’d have some serious trouble with that.  Also, how come it’s only men that wish to be horse like?  Why don’t they ever say, “Ladies, you too can be plumbed like a filly!” Just give me a minute to grab my flashlight and climbing equipment…

You too can be bigger in the pants!

I am bigger in the pants. Two inches around the waist since retirement and my cholesterol is way up. I really don’t need a pill to help with this, I’m doing just fine on my own with pie and ice cream, thanks.

Your pole will be promoted!

Promoted to what? General?  Will I have to salute it and call it sir? Will it lord its promotion over my other organs? 

Kidney: Hey, did you see that you know who got promoted?

Lungs: Yeah, I saw. What a suck up.

Elbow: It’ll probably go to his head.

Colon: That guy is a total dick.

If your old watch is killing you, get a new one

If your old watch is killing you, maybe you should consider getting one that isn’t made out of radioactive plutonium. Just sayin’

Acia Diet, lose weight in the privacy of your own home.

Don’t you hate those people who lose weight in public? Always leaving gobs of fat on the bus seats and doorknobs? I hate that. Why can’t they lose weight at home?

Acai Elite burns your fat with the speed of light!

Um, I don’t think so. See according to Einstein’s theory of special relativity, objects gain mass as they approach the speed of light. You start taking Acai Elite and your fat could become infinite in mass, then you’d implode and become a black hole, swallowing all objects in your vicinity, distorting the very fabric of space time. There’s really no up side to that.

Every woman will keep your great size in memory

Woman 1: Remember that fat bastard in the bikini at Wal-Mart?  The size of that guy!

Woman 2: He was hung like a horse!

Woman 3: He had a great watch, didn’t he?

Woman 4: I sure wish he was my brutal cave explorer…

 

 

Whoosh! and the spam folder is clear again.


Previous commentary on my spam folder is here.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Where I’ve Been For the Last Two Weeks

As I may have mentioned, we’ve had guests for the last two weeks.

It’s OK, they’re leaving today.

I’ll try to have a “Things the Chap My Ass About House Guests” post up before they get home to read it.

 

In the mean time I thought you might like to know what I’ve been doing with my time, since I haven’t, you know, been posting regularly.

 

We visited the Matanuska Glacier, it’s cold:

image

image

063

090

108

155 168 179

 

We spent some time at the summit of Hatcher’s Pass:

022

 

028

DSCN0103

We hiked Archangel Valley:

Reed Creek Trail 166

DSCN0076

I climbed a rock, just to prove I still could (and I got down too, without breaking my neck):

DSCN0082

DSCN0094

We picked wild mountain berries, and the next morning I turned them into blueberry pancakes:

Reed Creek Trail 151

I threatened people with tongs:

image

We drank strange wine:

 image

and stranger beer:

image

We went to the fair:

Alaska State Fair 009

where we saw strange creatures:

Alaska State Fair 011

And there was pie.

I’d offer you some, but I’m about to eat the last piece.

Apple caramel, just in case you wondered what you’re missing.

Warm.

With ice cream.

The Wilson Thing

Got a bunch of email this morning asking what I think of the whole Obama Heckled by Wilson thing.

Meh.

After the last nine years of watching the GOP Crazy Bus roll out of control further and further over the edge of reality, all I can say is, “What?  You were expecting something else?”

The Republicans have lost their minds with fear.  They’re afraid of everybody and everything. The GOP is like a small gibbering monkey.  There isn’t any other way to put it, they are so terrified of a black man in the White House, so utterly terrified of a liberal and a Democrat, that they’re pissing their pants in abject fear like a small child locked in a dark room and far beyond any rational thought.

I think it’s long past time to worry about consensus.

Republicans, like Wilson, have had their chance to debate healthcare reform, instead of addressing their actual concerns – such as illegal aliens boogah boogah – they choose instead to gibber on about death panels and insane made up bullshit. Fuck ‘em.  Ram it through. The Democrats have the majority and there’s Democratic President in the White House.  Fuck the Goddamned Republicans, just ram the bill through and get on with it.

There’s no reasoning with crazy people.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Dear Obama Hating Conservatives

Thank you.

Thank you for keeping your kids home from school today.

Thank you for taking a stand.

Thank you for making a statement.

Sincerely, thanks for that.

I admire your conviction. 

I admire that you’re willing to use your kids as unwitting pawns.

Again, thanks for that.

Thanks for teaching your kid that it’s OK to stay home from school because your parents are idiots.

Thanks for teaching your kid that political beliefs are more important than education.

Hopefully what you’ve taught your kids today will be the beginning of a trend and they’ll take to ditching school on a regular basis.

 

See, your kids are my kid’s competition.

 

Yeah, that’s right. Your kids are who my kid is going to be up against in life. 

Now, my kid is a seriously smart kid, gifted even, he’s in the advanced placement classes – but, still, it’s a tough world out there and any advantage you can give him is appreciated.

Every time your kids misses school and drops a little further behind and lets my kid move up another notch, thanks for that.

A couple years from now, when your kid scores a solid 700 on the SATs because you didn’t want him to hear a president you don’t happen to like telling him to stay in school and study hard, well, really, thanks for that.

When your kid doesn’t make it into college, freeing up space and assets and money for my kid, thanks for that.

When my kid and your kid want to go to medical school and my kid has a sound grounding in biology and your kid thinks that sickness is caused by government inoculations and magic fairy dust, well, really thanks for that.

When my kid and your kid are filling out grant paperwork and my kid has a solid education in science and your kid thinks the Earth is 6000 years old and that vegetarian dinosaurs lived on the Ark with Noah, thanks for that.

When your kid and my kid are applying for the same job and my kid explains how he was inspired by the president and your kid explains how the president is really the enemy of freedom and an illegal alien in a rubber human suit, really, thanks for that.

When my kid is running his own company and your kid is serving him French fries at lunch, thanks for the courteous service and there’s a mess in the men’s room that needs looking after.

When my kid is running the country and your kid is mowing his lawn, thanks for that and don’t forget to weed the flower beds.

When my kid is driving the latest car and your kid is the one who changes my kid’s oil at the Jiffy Lube, thanks for that.

When my kid has full health coverage from his excellent job, and you kid’s health plan is “don’t get sick” because the Quickie Mart doesn’t offer benefits and there’s no national health plan, thanks for not raising my kid’s taxes and good luck proving you kid’s worth before the death panels – also this might be the time to explain how we’ve got the best health care in the world, just sayin.

When my kid changes the world and your kid wonders what happened to his life, well, really thank you so very much for that and I’m sure you can take comfort in the fact that at least your kid didn’t turn into a gay socialist Canadian.

 

I told my kid, Look, look at President Obama, listen to what he says today.  He’s proof positive that if you work hard and study hard and stay in school that anything is possible. Education is key to the universe.  Obama was a poor kid from a broken home and yet with hard work and perseverance he got one of the best educations our country has to offer – and that made him the equal of, or better than, any rich privileged asshole who’s family bought his way into the White House. Today Obama is the President of the United States and the most powerful man in the world. He’s gifted and articulate and educated – and his handicaps were far and away more difficult than anything you’ll ever know.  If he can do it, so can you. You can be anything. That’s his message. Listen to him and believe. Be inspired.

So, thanks, Conservatives, for keeping your kids home today.

Thanks for telling them to tune out.

Thanks for not inspiring them.

Thanks for telling your kids that they shouldn’t believe.

Please, do more of it in the future. By all means.

Thank you.

Things That Chap My Ass About Meetings

… Or Did He Ever Return?

 

Ever hear that song?

You know, Charlie on the MTA?

The song tells the tragic tale of Charlie, who handed in his dime at the Kendall Square Station and boarded Boston’s MTA bound for Jamaica Plain. What he didn’t know was that there had been a fare increase, and when the conductor told him it was one more nickel Charlie didn’t have the change - and so he could never get off the train. Thus the chorus:

Did he ever return,
No he never returned
And his fate is still unlearn'd
He may ride forever
'neath the streets of Boston
He's the man who never returned.

When I have to sit through meetings, this song often runs through my head.

Oh Did Jim ever return? No he never returned and his fate is still unlearned. He may sit forever in the glare of Power Point hell, he’s the man who never returned.

As most of you know, I took a job with the Air Force.  Decorum prevents me from talking about the specifics of it, other than to say that it’s interesting and complex and I’m enjoying the hell out of being back inside the military again, even as a civilian, I missed it terribly.  The job will last about a year and will pay for my long overdue kitchen remodel and a new roof on my house – and it has already paid for a new industrial lathe in my shop (whoot! More on that later).

The downside is that I have to sit through endless meetings.

Now, some of those meetings are quick and painless, right to the point and done. 

But a number of these meetings are large scale affairs that leave me feeling like poor old Charlie, doomed to forever ride the Power Point Express, never to return again. There is nothing worse than being literally trapped in one of these affairs, fifty Power Point slides in and seventy something left to go, with the speaker jabbering on and on and on about things that could have been summed up in a few succinct paragraphs of an email.  

Over the years I’ve sat through countless meetings and I’ve noticed that large meetings always have a representative sampling of the following:

The Rambler.  This guy could benefit from a double pressure drip of Ritalin directly into the jugular, he’s got ADHD and his presentation is a lot like a four year old telling a joke (No, wait, uh, wait, oh yeah there was a squirrel, no…).  Nine times out of ten, he’s the guy running the meeting. 

The Devil’s Advocate.  You know this guy, he’s in every single meeting I’ve ever been in.  Just about the time everybody is finally agreed and it looks like the meeting just might end on time, this dickhead leans into the table and says, “Hey, I don’t want to be a jerk, but just to play the Devil’s advocate here, what if we wired the dilithium crystals to the main phaser bank through the bridge view screen?  Somebody tell me why that wouldn’t work?”

The Repeater.  The guy that really has nothing to say, but just has to say something anyway because otherwise you might not think he was important or something, so he keeps interrupting to repeat everything that everybody else is saying. “So, just to clarify, what Tom is saying is that we wire the dilithium crystal difusticator directly to the phaser array, but we do it through the main view screen…”

The Mathematician.  The guy that just has to add one more thing to the end of every single power point slide.   It sounds innocuous, but this guy’s one thing can add an hour to every meeting.

The Endless Detail Guy.  He always starts out with the admonishment, “Listen fellas, we don’t want to get lost in the weeds, but…” and then proceeds to describe every nut, bolt, and washer in the project in endless excruciating detail until you start fantasizing about bludgeoning him to death with the Power Point remote. 

The Big Picture Guy.  He’s the Endless Detail Guy’s antichrist.  He talks in vague terms about “Keeping our eyes on the ball” and waves his arms around a lot.  Nobody has a fucking clue as to what he’s talking about.

And speaking of not having a clue, meet The Clueless Bastard. This guy is in every single meeting and he’s a idiot.  He interrupts with a constant string of irrelevant questions. He’s usually senior so nobody dares tell him to shut the fuck up. Every time he raises a hand the entire room groans under its collective breath.

The Authority.  He’s the guy they always refer to when the Clueless Bastard asks for clarification.  He sits in the back row, so everybody has to crank their heads around like Linda Blair in The Exorcist in order to see him. He sighs a lot – then he corrects the speaker. Why he’s not giving the brief, I have yet to figure out.

The Mumbler. This guy usually sits up front, he starts out loud and then fades pretty quickly, and he’s always got some long rambling question or dire prediction that only the folks in the front row can hear.  “Yeah, excuse, me but won’t the entire power plant explode if we don’t razzle frazzen baloney making hebertooken lamb chop lomtob kablooey rippinn frip tooey phaser array and supesupinator what’s you talkin bout, Willis? 

The Empty Platitude Guy.  This one is my personal favorite.  He’s the suck up.  He’s usually sitting right up front, the same place he’s been since grade school when he was the teacher’s pet monkey. His job is to inject helpful clarifying clich├ęs into the briefing, such as “Remember, Fellas, there’s no ‘I’ in Team!”  Is that right, Monkey Boy? How many are there in “Kiss Ass?”

 

Charley's wife goes down
To the Scollay Square station
Every day at quarter past two
And through the open window
She hands Charley a sandwich
As the train comes rumblin' through.

 

See? That’s what I need, right there.  When I’m trapped in one of these meetings, my lovely wife could hand me a sandwich (or better yet a beer!) through the open briefing room window.

 

Did he ever return,
No he never returned
And his fate is still unlearn'd

(Poor Old Charlie!)
He may ride forever
'neath the streets of Boston
He's the man who never returned.

 

You?  Do you spend any time in meetings?