Friday, November 30, 2007
Deep Thunder update
It will be updated. Today. Yes, it will.
It's just that I'm on deadline for a couple commissioned projects and I need time to think very carefully about the next couple of posts. Which leads me to this, I had a long conversation with the character John the other day (No, I'm not having some kind of psychotic break with reality here. John is based on a real person, a very very good friend of mine. Being him, he recognized this right away when reading Deep Thunder and took it upon himself to post in the comments as John. This tickles me to no end). Anyway, 'John' and I discussed a number of ideas for the story and I needed make some revisions to the next couple of posts. With the other things I've got going on, this is taking me a bit of time.
I know you're not patient people, I like that about you. Your impatience will be rewarded. Today. I swear.
Later, though, later today.
On the nature of self denial
Usually, at 7:00 AM, there is nobody in the coffee shop except for me, but this morning for some reason there were eight people in line when I got there. Agh! I hate waiting in line. I. Hate. It. So, I was immediately pissed. But since I'd already made the trip into town, I queued up and tried not to grind my teeth and make bleating noises.
Immediately ahead of me in line were two twentyish rather, uh, large women (I'm being polite here, grossly obese would more accurate). Now, normally I wouldn't be so crass as to mention it, but these women were pissing me off - first, because they had pushed their shopping carts into the coffee shop (the Starbucks is in a little alcove inside the local Fred Meyer grocery store). The place is tiny. There's barely room for the tables, there sure as hell isn't room for one, let alone two, goddamned shopping carts. They were shoving tables aside to get the carts through, as if the carts had to accompany them all the way to the register. How can people be this damned clueless? It never occurred to them that the barrista was going to have to find the time to put the tables and chairs back into order, and it sure wasn't like they were straightening up behind themselves. But, what was really getting on my nerves was the loud conversation regarding their respective weights.
Both were loudly complaining to the other that they just couldn't loose weight, no matter what they did. Diet, exercise, pills, blah blah blah and etc, one was considering stomach stapling. Now because I've been playing dodge-the-cart with these two idiots for the last ten minutes, I can't help but notice the groceries in the carts. Wanna take a guess? A dozen each of Chocolate and Maple bakery donuts, large bags of Doritos, whole milk, frozen pizza, ten kinds of snack food, and, well, you get the idea. Not a vegetable in sight. As far as I could tell, about the only low fat, low-cal thing in either cart was the cardboard packaging around a large frozen Stouffer's lasagna. And then, when they got to the counter, what's the order? The first one ordered a Venti (read jumbo) Christmas Frapasomethingorother, with extra chocolate and whipped cream. The second one ordered some kind of large iced coffee slurpee, with extra fruit syrup and whipped cream. Then, I watched in amazement as the first one added six, that's right six, raw sugar packets to her drink (she also left the empty packets on the counter for somebody else to clean up, arh!). I gathered from their conversation, that this was a daily occurrence (the coffee part, I don't think even these women could have eaten all the crap in those two carts in just one day, but I could be wrong).
Being an acute observer of the human condition, not to mention a highly trained and experienced intelligence officer, I applied my mind, training and experience to the situation.
Problem: failure to lose weight.
Available hard data: they 'diet', 'exercise', and take those weight loss pills ordered from the Home Shopping Network (which, as you all know, are guaranteed or your money back, less S&H).
Conclusion: Self-denial is enormously fattening.
Solution: continue current program until fatal heart attacks cause significant metabolic reduction, followed by immediate and permanent weight loss.
This kind of self delusion pisses me off. I don't know why, it's really none of my business, but it just does. Look, I understand that weigh loss is hard, seriously hard. I do. I understand that some of you struggle with your weight, and I absolutely don't wish to either insult you or hurt your feelings. I understand that there are certain medical conditions that can cause significant weight gain and complete inability to do anything about it - thyroid conditions for example. I'm not trying to be insensitive here. Really. But Goddamnit, there just ain't no way in hell either of these women are ever going to lose weight. Ever. Not with carts full of junk food and heads full of wishful thinking. The one was talking about stomach-stapling. Major Surgery, with a fairly significant fatality rate. To her, this is a better solution to her weight problem than, oh I don't know, putting less sugar in her coffee or leaving the frozen lasagna in the freezer isle, and I'm not even going to mention those donuts.
Myself, I never really have had a weight problem. I could always eat pretty much what I wanted, and as long as I maintained a reasonable level of exercise (which in the military isn't exactly difficult) my weight remained pretty much constant (believe me, I understand that this isn't the case for everybody). But, now that I'm retired and not nearly as active as I used to be, and especially as I push into my upper forties, maintaining my weight is a lot more difficult. I'm used to being very active and eating a lot. So I've gained a bit of extra weight in the last couple of years. As a result I've cut back significantly on my calorie intake. Most days I eat a small breakfast and go without lunch. Or, I don't eat breakfast and have a small lunch. Either way, I've basically deleted a meal from my day. I'm hungry a lot of the time, but I drink a glass of water and ignore it. If I feel like I have to have a snack during the day, I have a banana or some low-fat cottage cheese. This isn't a hard and fast rule, if I'm doing heavy work and burning a lot of calories, especially if I'm working out in the cold, I might have both breakfast and lunch. Otherwise I end up with a migraine. We try to eat a decent dinner, but with reduced portion sizes. We don't have desert, except on special occasions. And I usually have a snack in the evenings, popcorn or cheese or olives or something along those lines. It's not a diet, it's a lifestyle. Diets are something you do temporarily, lifestyle is a permanent change - that's why diets don't work. Do I miss being able to eat a whole pan of fudge brownies without consequence? Oh you bet. It sucks to get older - but that's just the way it is.
Is it easy? No, but it does get easier as time goes by and my habits change. The bottom line is this, if you want to loose weight you have to take in less calories than you burn during the day. Period. There just isn't any other way around it. All the wishful thinking in the world isn't going to help when you're shoving down chocolate éclairs and drinking coffee with six sugars and whipped cream on top - unless you're running a marathon every day and burning eight or nine thousand calories every 24 hours.
It's just basic physics.
Thursday, November 29, 2007
Caution, May Contain Nuts
dont make hitting on the girls so hard, just show them your cock.
Oh yeah, that'll make picking up girls much easier - chicks dig a flasher. For full effect, you should probably use this technique around playgrounds or the mall. Oh and get a raincoat.
Of course, I may be misreading this, in which case I haven't a chance in hell of picking up a girl - I don't even own a rooster...
I'm watching the CNN re-run of the Republican Debates. Please, can we have more old white conservative tight-asses in dark suits? Please? Oh, please? Gah, I don't think I've got enough Pepto-Bismol in the house.
A couple of observations:
1) I'm sure the whole "let's have Joe Average ask the candidates questions via teh Utoobs" sounded like a good idea to the CNN producers, at the time. Here's the problem, Joe Average is a baboon-assed moron. Joe Average is doesn't care about the NeoCon agenda, he just wants to get his You-Tube clip on TV. Is it just me? Or did this format remind anybody else of Let's Make A Deal? Instead of Anderson Cooper, they should have got Monty Hall to be the moderator - then it at least would have been entertaining.
2) I'm sure the whole "let's have good Conservative Christian Americans from the Heartland ask us Good Christian (and Mormon) Candidates questions via that technology intertooby thing the kids are using" sounded like a good idea to the old white conservative tight-asses in dark suits, at the time. You can almost see the planning meeting:
McCain: "Hey, that liberal alarmist, gay loving, spawn of Satan Al Gore might have invented the Internet while I was off fighting the WAR, but by Gawd he doesn't own it! Let's do it!"
Romney: "First I was for it, but now I'm against it! Wait, no, now I'm for it!"
Giuliani: "What's this UBoob thing they're talking about? If there's going to be boobs, I'm in!"
Huckabee: "Jerry Falwell Jr. said God is on our side! And God likes boobs, I like boobs too, just saying."
Thompson: "Can we bring our guns? Reagan would have brought a gun. And I like boobs too. Guns and boobs, I'm in."
Hunter: "Boobs, they got those on computers now?"
Paul: "I think..."
Everybody: "Shut UP, Ron, you boob, nobody gives a crap what you think!"
3) Could they have invoked the shambling zombie of Ronald Reagan any more? Look I liked Reagan, sort of. I worked for him, sort of. I shook his hand once. As president, he was damned good to those of us in the military. He made us proud of ourselves again. He was a hell of a personable guy, even his mortal enemies liked him as a person. His final years were tragic, I wouldn't wish Alzheimer's on anybody (OK, maybe Anne Coulter, but that's where I draw the line). So, I liked Reagan, even if I didn't, and don't, agree with all of his views. But for the love of all that is holy, can we just bury the guy now? What we need here is the equivalent of Godwin's Law - Let's call it the Stonekettle Rule of Reagan Comparisons: As the course of a Republican debate grows longer, the probability of a Reagan comparison approaches 100%. And while we're at it, I hereby declare Wright's Law of Reagan Comparisons: If, during the course of a debate, any candidate invokes the name of Ronald Reagan, they automatically lose the debate. Immediately. Ideally, at this point, the candidate should be escorted from the stage and dumped in the alley behind the building. This also applies if any candidate uses the term Legacy with the obvious implication that it's Reagan's legacy they are referring to. Enough already.
4) The candidates:
- Thompson: Could you tell he used to be a professional actor? It was like watching Don Rickles do his Ronald Reagan impression, entertaining yes, but more than a little creepy. If the others invoked the name of Reagan, Fred was channeling Reagan. If this guy gets elected, you can expect another four years of the President holding his palsied withered claw to his ear as reporters shout questions, then a big smile and wave as he boards Marine One and flies away without answering. You can probably expect jelly beans too.
- McCain: Oh look, John's against waterboarding - this week. McCain really missed his calling - he should have been a professional dancer, then he could have gotten paid for tap dancing.
- Ron Paul: If Thompson was channeling the ghost of Ronald Reagan, Paul has the bony hand of Ross Perot jammed to the elbow up his ass. He even has Perot's angry whine down pat.
- Huckabee: As nearly as I can understand his position, Huckleberry Finn here wants to keep the kids of illegal immigrants and throw away their parents. Hmmm, yeah, OK. And Jesus jokes? Come on, Huck, you don't joke about what Jesus would do, not in that crowd.
- Romney and Giuliani: Well at least their little spat over who gave sanctuary to more illegal aliens was entertaining - for about five seconds. Next time they should mud wrestle. Of course Romney would never go for that - it might muss up his perfect hair. And Rudy, well, he'd do it, if he could make it a 911 Memorial Mud Wrestling match - for the children you understand.
5) and finally, General Kerr: The guy is mad as a hatter, but you've got to admire anybody who would stand up and make a pitch for gays and lesbians in that forum. The guy doesn't lack for guts, I'll say that - but, seriously, did you see the horrified faces of the crowd behind him? Aghast, I believe is the correct word. As in Uh Uh Uh! Who let a FAGGOT in here! It's General Queer! And he's a member of (gasp!) Hillary 'the anti-Christ' Clinton's group. Ah! Ah! He's getting teh gayness all over us! Help us, Jesus, why have you forsaken us! I nearly pissed myself laughing.
Seriously though, if you thought all the nuts were on YouTube or at the debate last night, you ain't seen nothing yet. If you really want to see raving batshit unhinged lunacy go read some of these posts. See how much you can take. Knowing you guys, I'll bet it isn't much.
Anyway, I've got some writing to do. Expect a post here about the direction Deep Thunder will be taking, and some Deep Thunder posts later today. Probably this evening. I've got to spend time out in the shop this morning - I have two commissioned pieces I have to complete this week, so I need to put steel to wood and get them done.
Wednesday, November 28, 2007
Pleasant Surprise at Best Buy
The Gateway was expensive but I got a pretty good deal on it at the Best Buy in Anchorage (computer companies don't offer free shipping to Alaska, in fact they often charge extra. So it's generally cheaper to buy technology locally and pay a little higher retail) - and on impulse I went ahead and bought the extended warranty. Now I don't normally do that, either buy computers from Best Buy or purchase extended warranties. There are damned few things I don't know about computer systems and not much I can't fix myself. I've been doing this for a long time (my first computer was a homebuilt HeathKit 8-bit Z80 breadboard running CPM, that should give you a basic idea of my experience), so I figure I know just a bit more about it than the Geek Squad nerds. Plus, at the rate I go through laptops, I'm usually in the market for a new one before the warranty expires. But for some reason I decided to purchase Best Buy's three year extended warranty, I don't know why, sometimes I do things even I don't understand.
Last week the CX2618's battery charging light came on, and stayed on - after the battery was fully charged. The power meter showed 88% charge, even though the machine had been plugged in for several hours. I unplugged it, discharged the battery, and plugged it back in. Same results. Uh oh. So I tried a full battery maintenance cycle. You do this by disabling the power save options and shutdown warnings. Run the computer until the battery is fully discharged, recharge, and again three times. Same results - the battery would only charge to 88%. Well, crap.
Pretty obvious what happened, 12% loss in an 8-cell battery indicates a cell failure, and a failed cell will cause the other cells to start failing sooner rather than later. I need every bit of charge I can get. A failing battery would seriously harsh my mellow, dammit. So, a new battery is not a luxury, it's a necessity, and I'm looking at $160 minimum, plus S&H, and a two week wait (nobody local carries them).
But, about then I remembered that extended warranty! Ah Ha! What are the odds that the warranty covers laptop batteries? I don't know, says I to myself, let's look. Only I can't find the stinking paperwork. Anywhere. Argh!
We had to go into Anchorage anyway. So I figured what the hell, I took the battery and went to Best Buy to see if they had a copy of the paperwork. Best Buy was zoo, worse than usual with the pre-xmas chaos, and there was a line at the service desk. Three people ahead of me in line all had the same problem - they had forgotten their passwords and managed to lock themselves out of Windows. Uh, duh. $30 bucks for the Geek Squad to do a reset on Windows XP's shitty security. Man, I'm in the wrong business, thats like free money. So anyway, half an hour in line and I finally got up to the geek, I explained my problem and the lack of paperwork. Now I expected two things: 1) no tickee, no laundry, and 2) batteries not included. I was pleasantly surprised to be wrong, on both accounts. He asked for my phone number, which I gave to him, and he pulled up the paperwork in a jiffy. Printed it out and gave me a copy. Cool. A couple of clicks later, and Geek Squad boy says, "OK, sir, you're all set. We'll mail you a new battery in a couple of days. You should have it in within ten days, max." Two minutes and I'm done, and happy. How often does that happen to me? (shut UP. Don't go there)
I got an email notice last night from Best Buy customer service telling me the battery has been shipped via UPS. According to the tracking number it'll be on my doorstep tomorrow. Cool, and just about as painless as it gets in the technology world.
The extended warranty cost me less than the new battery would have. And, get this, Geek Squad guy told me that since I've got eighteen months left on the warranty, to come back right before it expires and swap the battery out for another new one. Oh, and have a nice day.
You just can't beat that. Thanks Best Buy, next time I need a laptop I know who I'll be buying it from - along with the extended warranty.
In case you were wondering
My favorite XKCD comic. I don't know why I find this utterly hysterical, but I do. It's probably the way the 'chicks' are waving their arms.
Tuesday, November 27, 2007
Why they make Prozac
He built himself a tank and went out for a drive, and the town of Granby, Colorado was never the same again (some of it was not as tall as it used to be, so to speak).
You might not be able to fight city hall, but given enough time, heavy equipment, and sufficient batshit crazy, you can flatten that sucker - which is almost as good.
That's a special breed of crazy Marvin's got going on there. But, arguably, Marv had an excuse, click on the YouTube logo and read the comments on the original post, some of those folks need to be darted with a tranquilizer gun.
Man Bites Dog!
The students at the American Justice School of Law at Paducah have filed a $120 million class action lawsuit against the school's administration for mismanagement and racketeering.
Sorry. Couldn't help it. The irony is just so thick that it's practically poetic.
See, it's a law school, the students are lawyers in training, the lawyers running the school lied and stole the student's money, now the law students are suing the school. It's like the punch line to every lawyer joke ever told. Bawahahahahaha!
But, wait, it gets better. If the students win their case, they lose. Because, see, if they win - well, that would show that they have an effective education in bloodsucking lawyerism and therefor the school did it's job. But if they lose, well, then they win, because losing shows that their eduction is inadequate, er, uh, or something like that. Whatever, I'm sure lawyers from a real law school will figure it out.
Things on the news, that I just don't give a crap about this morning
- Dick Cheney's irregular heartbeat. Don't give a shit, really. Unless it stops, that I would find interesting - unless it restarts, again.
- Barrack Obama's opinion of Hillary Clinton. Obama's Super-Tuesday campaign strategy is based entirely on the fact that he's not Clinton. How original, or at least Oprah thinks so. Yawn.
- Hulk Hogan's surprise divorce. What? Another fake TV wrestling personality and his bleached-blond, silicon-saturated, botox-fortified bimbo wife are getting divorced? Wow, didn't see that coming, mostly because I wasn't looking - and neither, apparently, was the Hulkster.
- Erik Estrada at a giant Disco for charity. The simple fact that CNN actually reported this story says more about their pitiful lack of credibility than any sarcasm I could generate. Really.
- Wild Fires in Malibu. Don't care. Mel Gibson, Malibu Barbie, and all their rich neighbors can end up in FEMA house trailers, do them good, builds character.
- Also: Britney, Paris, OJ, Drew Peterson, Trent Lott, Michael Vick, Low Consumer Confidence, or Dancing with the Stars. Just Don't Care.
Sorry, just thought it needed to be said - not that you care, of course. Heh, heh.
Update: It turns out that I also don't care about Hannah Montana/Mylie Cyrus or all the little sobbing 10 year-olds who can't get into her concerts. Just Don't Care.
What don't you care care about today?
Monday, November 26, 2007
Sunrise on Pioneer Peak
And now that my blood is sufficiently settled, I'll get back to writing.
From the "Somebody needs a good ass kicking" Category
Jordan Fox, an Army sniper from Mount Lebanon, PA, who was partially blinded by an IED while on patrol in Iraq, was notified by the Pentagon that he would have to repay $2,800 of his $10,000 enlistment bonus, since he was no longer able to complete his service obligation. When called on the carpet for this nonsense by Senator Charles Schumer (D-NY), Army officials said it was an isolated "clerical error" and canceled the debt. Good enough, right? Everybody makes mistakes.
If Fox's case was an "isolated incident, there has been no explanation of why hundreds of other wounded veterans have also received letters demanding repayment, Schumer said. "When you talk to the Pentagon, you get different answers from different people."
Different answers from different people? At the Pentagon? No, say it ain't so.
Democratic front-runner and member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, Sen Hillary Clinton (D-NY) sent a 'Strongly Worded Letter' to the Secretary of the Army, requesting reversal of the repayment policy.
A strongly worded letter? Big. Fat. Hairy. Deal.
Unless Clinton comes out on top as the person who will clearly be our next President, the Secretary of the Army isn't likely to listen to a damned thing she has to say. What we need here are three things.
1) An Executive Order from the White House, directing all armed services to fulfill their obligations to those disabled in the performance of their duties while in the combat zone. Period. No loop holes. No bullshit. No more nonsense. Pay, and pay now. The White House sent us to Iraq and Afghanistan. The White House authorized the Military to offer incentive pay for enlistment. The President stood up on Veteran's Day and talked about 'our fallen heroes.' The son of a bitch better start living up to his words (yeah, I'm holding my breath here, you bet).
2) A permanent law. Congress needs to fix this immediately. And it's simple and easy to do. The Act doesn't need to be more than one page long. No riders. No loop holes. No partisan bullshit. No more nonsense. Those disabled in the combat zone, and unable to complete their military obligation, will be promptly paid what they were promised by the government who sent them into the meat grinder. Any military member killed in combat will have the remainder of their bonus immediately paid to their survivors. Any disabled service member who has already been forced to repay bonuses, will have those bonus immediately repaid plus 50% interest. Period. It shouldn't take more than an hour to draft the legislation, and it shouldn't take more than a week to get the vote in both chambers of Congress. And it sure as hell ought to be unanimously approved. Fuck the President and his veto, send his ass into combat if he doesn't like it, it's about time that spoiled rich little coward started leading from the front.
3) Fire the Secretary of the Army, publicly and immediately, for cause. That cause being actions which have brought discredit and dishonor to the Service. No retirement. No pension. Fuck Pete Geren, I hope the lying bastard ends up living in box under a freeway overpass. And while we're at it, fire any Pentagon disbursing officer who approved letters demanding repayment from wounded vets. Send a clear and unequivocal message to the Pentagon that this bullshit will not be tolerated. Send a message that any officer who places bureaucracy above honor, who places bean-counting above the welfare of those who have risked their lives in combat, who is unable or unwilling to place his own ass on the line to do what is right, will be immediately cashiered. Period. And don't try to tell me that these officers were just following procedure, that's my point exactly. When procedure takes precedence over honor, then that person is clearly lacking in the single most fundamental qualification for being an officer in the first place. And the proof is in the pudding, they were able to waive Specialist Fox's obligation when they were forced to, weren't they? It can be done, they just care more about their precious spreadsheets than about people.
Americans need to stand the hell up and demand that this situation be put right. Now, not later, not in 2009, but now. This President, this Congress, these rich smug bastards who send us into harm's way need to be held accountable. But like I said above, I'm not holding my breath. Congress will spend ten times more money investigating the situation and making speeches on both sides of the isle, on drawing this out so that both sides can make it into a campaign issue, than we would if we just paid the damned bonuses in full right now.
Gah. I need to go out to the woodshop for a bit and cool down, before I draft the letters that will be going to both my Senators and my Representative.
Sunday, November 25, 2007
All we got to do is mrph unf mumble ...
Saturday, November 24, 2007
I've spent the last two days out in the shop doing woodwork. I cut out ten new turning blanks. I've turned four new bowls and cut leaf filigree into one that has been drying for a couple of weeks. I had to quit because my hands were going numb, but tomorrow I'll finish up the bowl I've have partly done on the lathe right now. So, you know, expect a few new pictures.
Tomorrow morning the family and I will be getting up early and heading into Anchorage to take care of a few things. No, we're not going shopping, which is why we're leaving early. In and out before the crowds, that's the plan. Plus, it gives us an excuse to stop by our favorite small town restaurant for breakfast. So, there you have it. Don't expect anything in the morning from me, and probably not much later either.
However, I will be back to full production on Monday, I swear.
Now, If you'll excuse me - I'm going to watch the Battlestar Razor special. I have high hopes for this, and I expect to be entertained.
Oh Noes, we're becoming girly men!
Friday, November 23, 2007
Otherwise I'd be the size of a house. I have no self control when it comes to Thanksgiving. I like everything, turkey, potatoes, stuffing, cranberry sauce, turkey gravy, my wife's sweet potato pie, pumpkin pie, pumpkin cake, cookies. No matter how much I eat for dinner, I'm always hungry later and I like to eat the leftovers for the rest of the day.
And today, my favorite, cold turkey sandwiches with mayo, salt, and pepper! Woohoo!
As to the black Friday thing, yeah, screw that. We're not going anywhere today. Crowds make me twitchy in the best of times, today's bargain-crazed lunatics and long lines would make me outright insane. I'd be very likely to end up on a roof with a rifle and a big box of ammo - and nobody needs that. Me staying home is a public service, you can all thank me later.
Instead, I'm going to work out in the shop most of the day. I'm behind on the woodwork. So, today and tomorrow I'll be working on the lathe.
I'm not writing much this weekend. I need a day or two to think about a couple of things. I want the comments to help drive the story, but I don't want the comments to snake me off plot. I need to go back and tweak some of the stuff I've got written but not posted. Van's life is about to take a strange turn, and I don't want to screw that up. I think best when I'm turning on the lathe, so that's what I'll be doing. You'll all benefit, so you know, be patient.
Go have a turkey sandwich or something.
Thursday, November 22, 2007
I got up early this morning to make stuffing and get the turkey ready. While I was doing that, my wife was making pumpkin cake and pie. The pumpkin cake took longer than we planned on though, so I started the turkey on the gas grill outside, which worked great.
Anyway dinner was great, and I'm stuffed and sleepy. So you'll excuse me if I go take a nap.
Hope you all had a great holiday and ate more than you should have.
Wednesday, November 21, 2007
Gone this morning
They'll be grinding down a molar and fitting me with a temporary cap (yeah, that's right, the day before Thanksgiving. Yep), and I'll have to wait a couple of weeks for a gold crown to be made. At the moment it looks as if I don't need a root canal, so you know, that's good.
Despite the timing, I'm happy to have this done. This tooth has been bothering me for a couple years now. I got hit in the side of the face a while back and the impact knocked out the filling in an upper tooth and broke this one in half. I've had it 'fixed' three times now. A piece broke off a couple of months back. The military dentists kept telling me I needed a crown, but they wouldn't actually do it. When I mentioned this to the VA, they didn't screw around. I've already had the casts made, today they'll grind the broken tooth down and fit the temp cap.
I just wish tomorrow wasn't Thanksgiving. Though I guess I should be grateful that I'm finally going to get this fixed.
You're on your own for a couple of hours.
Tuesday, November 20, 2007
Just stop it already, really
Anybody who visits Stonekettle Station on a regular basis probably has a pretty good idea of where I stand on things. For those you just joining the program, basically the thumbnail version is that I spent twenty years defending the US Constitution and the ideals it embodies. I believe that those principles apply to all Americans, and anyone who is a lawful guest in this country.
If you want to irritate me, start by telling me how the only real Americans are Straight, Conservative, devout Christian White People who speak English as their Native Language (and yes, I know some of that is redundant), justify your views with poor logic, falsely revised history, made-up sound bites, and unjustifiable platitudes - example: Gay people are bad because God created Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve! (Funny thing here, if you believe in God, then it sort of follows that He actually did create Steve, just saying). But if you really want to piss me off, start waving the flag and talking about Patriotism - with the unspoken but implied assumption that everybody in the military is Christian White People who Speak English as their native tongue. I normally get this from NeoCons who have never actually served themselves (funny how so few of them have, isn't it?), but consider themselves experts on the military and thereby assume that they know me and know my ideals.
I hate lazy thinking. But more than that, I utterly despise when these bigoted assholes can't find anything to justify their ridiculous world view - so they just make crap up. And then they email it to as many other bigoted assholes as they can find. And these other bigoted assholes accept the made-up crap as 'fact' and then email it to yet more people, adding little "Here, here!" comments and "You've GOT to READ this. Thank GOD there are still REAL Americans in America! God Bless America!" (A side question: what is it with fundies and bizarre capitalization anyway?)
I hate teh stupid, and I really hate teh group stupid.
But what really infuriates me, what really gets my blood boiling, is when these NeoCon retards divine from my background that I must be one of them - and I somehow end up on their mailing list.
Take the following picture I received via email from the Straight, Conservative, Devoutly Roman Catholic, White, NeoCon, Scout Master:
Prefaced with the comment: All, I'm with the Duke!
And there it is, right there: just plain lazy stupid thinking used to justify bigotry and arrogance in the guise of patriotism. And it pisses me off.
1) I love that fact that John Wayne isn't patriotic enough for these people, they've got to photoshop in the giant American flag background - either that or this picture was taken from the time The Duke auditioned for the lead in Patton (oh yes, he did). Love the pistol in his belt, nice touch, though any real cowboy who did that with a single-action Colt Peacemaker would probably have ended up shooting his balls off.
2) It is highly unlikely The Duke would have ever said "Now just why in the HELL do I have to press '1' for English?" John Wayne died in 1979, about a decade before automated voice mail became common, and about fifteen years before automated multi-lingual voice mail was in widespread use. In fact, rotary dial phones were still in common use in 1979, touch tone didn't become common until the mid-80's. No touch tone, no voicemail. I can't find this quote attributed to John Wayne anywhere, it would appear on the face of things that somebody just, well, made it up. Also I love the fact that "HELL" is capitalized - apparently whomever made this bit of NeoCon propaganda can operate photoshop, but doesn't know how to use the italics function.
3) John Wayne, especially in the years following WWII, was certainly a conservative (though he did support a number of strongly liberal causes that earned him widespread scorn from conservatives). He was often called a 'superpatriot,' and he said a number of things that could be interpreted as bigoted or even racist (However, if you read his comments in context, you can see that he was actually forward thinking for his time, though far, far short of 'liberal.') and I can see why somebody who hadn't done his research would have thought The Duke might have said something like the bit above. But again, lazy thinking here. John Wayne was married three times, to three different Hispanic women. That's right, Hispanic. His last wife, his widow Pilar, was Peruvian and spoke Spanish as her native tongue, and Wayne spent considerable time in Central and South America. I find it fairly difficult to believe, whatever the man's other failings, that he would have been offended by multiple language options on a voicemail system. So, when the Scout Master adds the comment "I'm with the Duke!" I have to wonder if that means he's hot for Spanish speaking foreign Latinas. Not that there's anything wrong with that, but I'm just asking here.
4) John Wayne, born Marion Robert
Voicemail is the bane of my existence (next to Wal-Mart that is), but for crying out loud are we really such bigoted assholes that it is necessary to fake-up crap like the above and mail it around the internet?
I sent a "reply to all" email back, informing these people that I do NOT agree with either the subject of the picture or the rest of their narrow-minded, bigoted agenda. I told them in no uncertain terms to take me the hell off their mailing list. I also informed them that I am not a Republican and that I think it's about time that Conservatives stopped acting like lying self-righteous patriotic assholes. Either they'll stop mailing me, or their computers will melt down, either way I'm good.
I'm going to be out in the shop for a while this morning. I've got a bunch of stuff to do, but the good news (at least for me) is that I got all the light banks replaced yesterday. It's blindly bright in the shop now, which is a good thing when you're working around power tools. I rented a huge ladder from Home Depot yesterday and spent the afternoon twenty feet in the air replacing 8-foot light tubes, 18 of them. Today I've got a couple of other things to do before I return the ladder, I'm hanging hooks for a pulley system to raise my canoe and bicycles up out of the way in the winter, and the sleds and such in the summer. Got to get that done this morning, so I can return the ladder by noon. Also I need to do some maintenance on the big Mohler gas heater which hangs from the shop ceiling.
There will be a couple of new posts up on Deep Thunder later today - thanks to whom ever is commenting over there, though that last comment took an ominous turn :) Van's a little worried.
Also, you know you're living in Alaska when you've had two feet of snow in the last week, yesterday it was around 10F out - and today it's in the 40's before the sun comes up and everything is melting. All the snow on top of the shop (which is a considerable amount of snow) unloaded this morning and is now a three foot deep heap of densely compressed ice in front of the door. Wonderful. I guess I'll be moving that today too.
So anyway, don't expect much for a couple of hours.
Monday, November 19, 2007
Thinking about Character Develoment
I hadn't really given much thought to what would happen if I started to see comments on Deep Thunder - mostly because I wasn't sure what kind of comments I would see, if any. I'm beginning to realize that the comments can be an integral part of the story - in fact, to ignore the comments would be a failure to recognize a uniquely dynamic aspect of this medium. The Elizabeth comment prompted me to begin to examining how commenters might dynamically shape the story, and allow readers to become something more than passive bystanders. Thinking about it this weekend, I've decided that, depending on the comment, I will use in-character feedback to Van to help drive the story.
Now, I've got a pretty solid outline and a fairly firm idea of the major events that are coming in Van's life - I also have a pretty good idea of how this story will end. You can expect Van's ideals and outlook to change radically as the story unfolds. But, comments may allow me to take some developmental detours along the way - and I've realized that by telling a story this way, I can allow readers to become directly involved in the writing process.
Telling a story in this manner is a radical departure from the normal method of novel writing. Normally, at least for me, I enjoy the asides and the background and the things left unsaid in a novel, almost as much as the central story itself. If any of you are George R.R. Martin fans, well, his work is a perfect example of what I normally enjoy reading. I'm not much into his Fire and Ice work, I've never been a big fantasy buff, but I dearly love his Double War/Federal Empire SciFi, particularly for all the little detours you take into the background and history of his strange and complex universe (yes, I realize that this also annoys the hell out of some people, which is fine too). Because this is the type of story I enjoy reading, it is normally the type of material that I write. The novel that I currently have in the works, tentatively titled The Iyes of the Dead, is very much told in this manner. Style, mood, grammar, deep character background, detailed historical asides that have shaped how the characters think and interact are all very much a part of that story. So Deep Thunder is a radical departure for me, a very stripped down, minimalistic method of story telling, and I'm finding it an interesting (at least to me) experiment. I've also realized that not putting up everything I've written so far was a wise choice - because now I can go back and add additional material without having to fool with what is already posted. I'd rather you read each post once, in order, rather than endlessly revised rough drafts - that's a little too much involvement for any reader (and I assume you've all got better things to do. You're welcome).
I wasn't sure that this would actually work. The Blog format is a pretty stripped down and informal method of story telling. I originally thought that it would be a quick and easy method because I could use the same 'voice' I use here, I wouldn't have to develop complex style, deep background, or detailed character elements, because in a Blog those things are just assumed. I figured this would allow me to write very quickly. I'm beginning to see that this may be more complex that I had originally envisioned, and that I will have to develop a more complex background and more detailed character studies. I've also done a few sketches (which may end up on the blog) and some third-person material such as news reports and inter-post fix-ups that will end up in the printed novel should this make it that far.
I'd be interested in what you all think of this so far - not the story (of which I don't think you have enough of to make a judgment yet), but the method itself.
Caution, Addictive Time Waster
Diet Coke and Mentos
I love these guys, in a strictly one-man-admiring-another-man-making-a-living-by-goofing-off sort of way. Check out some of their other videos.
Sunday, November 18, 2007
On you own for Sunday too
Yesterday we spent the afternoon at the native heritage center in Anchorage, watching native dancing and other cool stuff. It was so cool that we spent a lot longer there than I planned on. So, in fact, I didn't get half the stuff done that I needed to do yesterday. So, I've still got a bunch of stuff to do today. Also I have the local Scout Master coming over to pick up the rain gutter regatta setup that I fixed for the local cub pack. This is a particular trial, since I really do not like the Scout Master, at all. And I suspect that today is going to be particularly difficult, as I have explained to him that I will no longer do any work for the scouts because I do not agree with their policies regarding gays and non-Christians. I've been polite about it, but I've reached a point where I simply am not going to be polite any more (it's a long story, I may tell you more about it someday).
I got up early so I could get out to the shop and pull the rain gutters and support trestles out and get them ready. Unfortunately, this morning I am in major pain, my shoulder is killing me (much more than usual that is), so getting the stuff down from the top shelf of my storage rack was seriously painful. And because I was having problems, and I am too stupid to ask my wife for help, I dropped one of the gutters and broke the end off. Which meant I had to fix it. Argh!
And to top it off, in the middle of the process, the final light bank burned out in the shop. This is not good.
I have three florescent light banks in the shop, which include 18 eight-foot lights. I've been slowly losing lights over the last year. In the summer this isn't problem because I work with both the high bay doors open and there's plenty of light. I also have workstation lights over specific tools. However in winter, when I have to have the doors closed (because it's, you know, negative 20 outside), the light banks become a whole lot more important. Unfortunately, replacing the lights is a major chore, the ceiling is 20ft high, necessitating either a lift or scaffolding. I'd prefer to use a power lift since I can quickly move that around the shop, however a 20ft lift rents for around $200 a day hereabouts. Scaffolding is a lot cheaper, about $80 a day, but you've got to set it up and moving it is a bitch. And I'll have to reposition at least nine times, and frankly I'm just not in the mood for it. Right now I'm trying to see if I can find a rental shop with a 16' step ladder. A step ladder is a serious pain, because of the size of the lights, but much easier to move than scaffolding and much cheaper than a lift. I suppose I should just buy one, but a 18' ladder runs around $400 and I don't need one all that often. I'll figure it out, but as you can see I'm a little strapped for time today.
So, you're all on your own today. Go have fun. See you tomorrow.
Saturday, November 17, 2007
On your own for Saturday
I've got a bunch of stuff to do around the house that I've been putting off, and then I've got to go into Anchorage and won't be back until late.
So, I'm going to be off-line until probably tomorrow morning. You kids have fun.
Also - I'm starting to see comments on Deep Thunder - in character comments. This tickles me to no end. Thanks.
Friday, November 16, 2007
Deep Thunder Weirdness
I'm writing the story in MS Word (shut up!) and then cutting and pasting it piecemeal into the blogger editor after I'm satisfied that each published post won't back me into a corner later (which is why I have a lot more written than I have up on Deep Thunder, very strange way to write a story let me tell you. More like writing a weekly TV serial). Unfortunately, a bunch of buried HTML comes along with the text when you do it that way. Usually it's fairly benign, but once in a while weird shit do happen, so to speak.
I deleted the screwy post, pasted the text into notepad to strip off the coding, and copied that text (as ASCII text only) into the blogger editor. The weird formatting went away - in fact all formatting went away. And it would not, no how, no way, acknowledge the paragraph breaks. They showed up fine in 'preview' but every time I posted it, the text would end up in one big run-on paragraph. So I went back and edited the post in HTML mode, inserting the bracket 'p' bracket code for forced paragraph breaks. Again, looked good in preview, but it was one big mess when I posted it. Weird weird weird. I decided that troubleshooting and determining the actual cause was just too much damned trouble, so instead I applied creationist logic and decided that the problem was a curse on mankind for having sex and eating apples.
Snark aside, I think I've finally beaten it into submission. However I may be wrong. If you go by Deep Thunder, and it looks weirder than usual. Let me know here please. Thanks.
Rymes with Witch
I don't mind taking hits on my records, on issues. But when someone starts throwing mud, at least we can hope it's accurate and not right out of the Republican play book, So said Hillary Clinton in response to John Edwards during last night's debate in Nevada.
Exactly, what Hillary said.
What is it about this women that inspires such loathing in people? Is it because she comes off as such a bitch? When men are tough, outspoken, and forceful, they are referred as, well, tough, outspoken, and forceful. When a women is tough, outspoken and forceful, she's a bitch. Is it as simple as that?
Clinton was widely despised as First Lady, and frankly I've got to wonder why. When Diana, Princess of Wales stopped putting up with her idiot husband's infidelity and decided to stop being the Royal brood mare, and then got involved in world health care and became the poster child for AIDs awareness in Africa, she was hailed as a hero here in America. When Hillary stopped putting up with her idiot husband's infidelity and got involved in the heath care debate, she was reviled as a bitch. Was it because Diana was pretty and demure and wore sun dresses with big dots? And Hillary was, well, not-pretty and caustic and wore severely cut pants-suits? I don't know, but I'll tell you this - at least when Hillary Clinton was First Lady I knew we had a First Lady. Where the hell is, uh, whatshername? Oh yeah, Laura. Where hell is Laura Bush? George might as well be married to Dick Cheney, for all we see of the First Lady in this administration.
Hillary had the wherewithal to get herself elected to the Senate, where she's become a force to be reckoned with - no small feat for a women in that good ole' boys club. So yeah, she's a bitch. A tough, forceful, and outspoken bitch. Of course she is, she'd pretty much have to be, wouldn't she? And honestly, isn't that what you want in your Senator? I mean, the last thing I'd want in my congressional representative is some pretty passive wall flower - I expect my Senator to get into the thick of the fray and swing a couple of roundhouses, damnit.
But, by the Unnamed Feminist Deity, she scares the everliving crap out both Republicans and Democrats alike, doesn't she? Republicans I can understand, there's nothing more frightening to the Christian Right than a powerful woman. Look at Laura Bush, if you can find her I mean. She's the perfectly made-up, manikin-passive, baby-machine, Stepford Wife ideal of the conservative female.
But the Democrats? What's the deal with these people? During the Nevada Democratic debate, Barrack Obama and John Edwards did everything but call Hillary a bitch. However, if you watched it on TV, you can clearly see that both of them were thinking it. It was like that scene in Beetle Juice where Michael Keaton says "Ah Ah, nobody says the b-word!"
I mean, come on. What are the democratic front runner strategies again? Let's review the score card:
Clinton: War, Terrorism, Health Care, Education!
Obama: Vote for me, I'm the Anti-Bush, and at least I'm not Hillary!
Edwards: Vote for me. I'm practically a Republican, but at least I'm not Hillary!
Biden: Vote for me, you bunch of retards. Screw Hillary, that stupid bitch!
Kucinich: Vote for...Hey! What's that in the sky? Look everybody, space aliens!
Hell, Hillary Clinton gets more respect from John McCain.
In my opinion, the rest of the Democratic front runners look and act scared. And when frightened people talk, especially in public, they often fail to see the consequences of their words. By attacking Clinton on a personal level instead of debating her on a professional level, by engaging in childish "she said" rhetoric, Obama and Edwards have put themselves in the position of children facing a stern adult. And just like children facing an adult, they're going to lose. Clinton is a savvy and experienced politician, she's smart and very aggressive, and she's enough of an outright bitch to take control of the situation. And that's exactly what she did last night, she slapped Obama and Edwards down, hard. And did it in a manner that clearly shows she's driving the bus and she's had just about enough nonsense from the backseat.
I've really got to wonder what Obama and Edwards are thinking. They've pretty much burned their bridges, the both of them. If Hillary takes the the Democratic nomination, as seems very likely at the moment, both of them have given up any chance of being her running mate. So what then? You know as well as I do, they'll be forced by their own party to throw their weight behind Clinton in her run for the White House. What are they going to say to their supporters then? Something along the lines of "Well, I know I said she was a nasty bitch, but, hey, better the Democratic Devil You Know as apposed to the Republican Devil You Also Know? And then, I guess they'll go back to being Senators. And how's that going to work, when the woman they vilified is the President they'll have to work with? Here's a suggestion, you two, why don't you guys start telling us why we should vote for you, instead of why we shouldn't vote for Hillary. Just a thought.
Personally, I don't much care for Hillary Clinton, but that doesn't mean that I don't think she wouldn't make a decent President. If it comes down to it, I'd much rather have a tough, aggressive, hardnosed bitch for a President than some whiny, childish git or some likable buffoon. And I damned sure would rather see Clinton in office than the current lunatic tyrant, but I guess that pretty much goes without saying.
Thursday, November 15, 2007
There's now a link box to the blog over there ->
(you may have to do a full refresh to see the changes)
More soon, today, if it stops snowing.
Yes, I am a slacker
(And NO, I did not find the double dammed Corel Paint Shop Pro CD, I went out and bought Corel Paint Shop Pro X2 because I figured I wanted the newest version anyway. X2 is the bomb, it beats the socks off Adobe, and costs about half as much. Runs great under Vista.)
Now, I've got to go plow snow again, and then run to the Post Office and do a couple of other errands. When I get back I've got some writing to do and some posts to make over on Deep Thunder.
So, you know, be patient and shit.
Wednesday, November 14, 2007
In the summer, when the trees are fully leafed out, you can't see the glacier from the ground level of my house, you've got to go upstairs onto the second deck sunroom balcony to see it. In the winter though, you can see the whole icefield from the main floor. Today it's overcast and and gray out, but there was this one shaft of sunlight illuminating the ice. So, I decided to share it with you.
If you're a Google Earth person, you can get to the right place by starting Google Earth, then searching for the placemark: "191205 Op Knik Glacier"
University of Delaware, Jerkoff of the Week, or When Liberalism goes Completely Insane
A quote from the Black Panthers' Mission Statement perhaps? Nope, guess again.
This quote is taken directly from the University of Delaware's Russell Complex resident curriculum, that basically requires all white students to acknowledge that they are privileged racists. If you have the stomach for it you can read the entire thing here (it's a PDF download). But be warned, it's 99 pages long and appears to have been written by a group of people suffering from some form of bizarre shared mental illness.
Numerous articles have been written regarding this program in recent days and I don't want to tread already trampled ground. And it does appear that UD has, at least temporarily, suspended the program of mandatory indoctrination due to the massive negative backlash. Instead, what I want to do is examine how a fundamentally admirable assumption can go horribly wrong through the application of faulty logic and group thinking.
UD's original objective appears to have been sound, which basically can be summed as: Diversity is Good, I Gotta Get Me Some Of That. Then the curriculum developers made some seriously flawed assumptions in support of this objective:
The first assumption was that Student Affairs (the University department traditionally devoted to non-academic student needs, such as housing, employment, tuition, medical, etc) can no longer be just a 'service provider.' Instead, according to 'Leading Scholars' Student Affairs must take an active role in 'designing and delivering an intentional, sequential, and outcome based out-of-class education.'* The new direction for Student Affairs is to 'focus on student learning, rather than student satisfaction.'
*Rationale Statement, page 3-5, Russell Complex Curriculum, Designing Initiatives for Social Justice. Everything else in this document depends from this basic assumption.
Let's start right here. Strangely, for an institution devoted to higher learning, UD seems unable to see the immediate problem with this rationale. In fact, I would almost have to assume that neither the Dean nor the Board of Regents actually read the curriculum plan, because this rationale is so fundamentally flawed that I simply can't see how either could have let it pass their desks. Student Affairs, by definition, is composed of non-academics and non-educators, i.e. Student Affairs is a Service Department composed of service orientated personnel. Student Affairs is not manned by professors. However, with the implementation of this curriculum (that 'out-of-class education' statement) the UD Student Affairs department has effectively self-promoted itself from student support to student education. In other words, they have decided, without academic accreditation, to make themselves into teachers. How exactly, does an accredited institution allow that to fly? This is absolutely no different than if the electricians and plumbers in the Maintenance Department suddenly decided to start teaching mandatory Political Science classes in the student lounges.
The rest of the introduction portion of the document goes on to lament that incoming freshman, while they may have had some diversity education in primary and secondary schools, simply do not have more than a 'surface-level understanding of power and privilege,' and that 'student affairs professionals find they must work to prompt discussion regarding true issues of power and introduce concepts on inequality to the diversity education framework.' Emphasis mine. Question here, who decides what the 'true issues of power' are exactly? Answer, apparently Student Affairs professionals, that's who. Next Question, and what exactly do Student Affairs professionals use to determine this fundamental truth? Answer, beats the hell out of me, since this issue has been debated endlessly without concrete or irrefutable conclusion by philosophers and sociologists since the dawn of time. Apparently, however, the Student Affairs professionals at UD have achieved a breakthrough in the understanding of social power structures that has eluded some of the greatest thinkers in history. Last Question: why is it necessary for Student Affairs to 'introduce concepts on inequality?' If you can force yourself to read the 'Reflection on First one on one' (yeah, I've got no idea what the hell that means either) starting on page 67 of the Curriculum Summary, you'll see that the Diversity Interviews are conducted exactly like fundamentalist Christian cult indoctrination. The interviewers attempt repeatedly to force the interviewee to confront their own (assumed) lack of diversity awareness. These interviews proceed directly from the quote at the top of this post, i.e. all white people are racists. Period. This is a given, and irrefutable. Any student who doesn't firmly believe this about themselves is mentally ill (don't take my word for it, go read the interviews for yourself, I'd be interested in what you think. Personally I find it revolting). Finally, the curriculum rational also states quite clearly and specifically that 'the current generation of students was raised to believe that they were "special" by Baby Boomer parents who were able to lavish them with attention and resources.' This, in a curriculum supposedly devoted to the principle of not stereotyping others? Is it just me who sees the hypocrisy here? And isn't raising a child to believe they aren't special, with anything less than total self-esteem, a form of child abuse according to the current thinking? Isn't that what all those "My Child is a Super Star at Shitforbrains Elementary" bumper stickers are all about? I'm not following the complaint here.
I could go on. I can't find a single paragraph is this curriculum that isn't rife with faulty logic, incorrect or unsubstantiated assumptions, or filled with just outright batshit lunacy. But I've got other things to do today so I'll just get right to the point, which is this - This 'curriculum' is nothing more than an insidious piece of racist garbage. Period. It is based entirely on the following single assumption which is stated clearly and unequivocally in the document: All White Americans of European descent are racist, no person of color can be a racist, period. This assumption is quite possibly the single most idiotic, illogical, and just plain hypocritical statement ever made by a mainstream institution, because it (follow me here) uses racism in an attempt to fight racism. UD says racists are racist based solely on their race, no other factor matters because if you are a member of a particular race, then you are de facto a member of the power elite, and thereby guilty.
Again, it would appear that UD has at least temporarily suspended this program, pending review. But don't think it's gone, and don't think it won't creep back into the program in a different guise. Fundamentalist Diversity is to extreme liberals what Creationism is to Fundamentalist Conservatives.
I don't know about you, but I damn sure ain't sending my kid to the University of Delaware. What a complete bunch of jerkoffs. Racist jerkoffs.
Update: Anybody from UD reading this? Please explain to me why this wasn't incorporated into the formal PoliSci, Philosophy, or Sociology curriculum. Taught by accredited professors in a lecture format, or classroom, instead of one-on-one and mandatory discussion groups in the dorms?
Tuesday, November 13, 2007
Fiery The Angels Rose
As I may have alluded to elsewhere, my intention is to become a full time writer (hey, Bob Heinlein got out of the Navy and was modestly successful, so there’s a precedent!).
I’ve written extensively for a number of professional publications, formal articles dealing with the application of technology in the Intelligence field. And I’ve written a large number of papers and publications dealing with my specialty, tactical and strategic Information Warfare. But I’ve always wanted to write fiction, specifically Science Fiction. And now that I’m retired I’ve got the time, and sufficient worldly experience, so it’s either start making a serious effort or go find a real job.
I’ve been working on a novel for a while now, and it’s roughly halfway finished. I am extremely happy with my work; it’s the kind of stuff I like to read, and the direction the novel has taken often surprises me, making the process an enjoyable voyage of discovery for me. The story is heavily peppered with cool technology, but is focused on how that technology affects the characters and shapes their individual stories. There are enough clues dropped along the way that an astute reader just might be able to figure out the ending, and still have a surprise or two along the way.
As you might expect, that particular work is near and dear to my heart. So when I embarked on the National Novel Writing Month project, I didn’t want to use this particular work. Instead I decided to start from scratch and use NaNoWriMo as an opportunity to do something else I’ve been thinking about. (I should mention that I didn't formally register as a NaNo participant, I meant to, but an apparent incidence of brain damage on my part precluded it. But I decided to proceed as if I was anyway).
Some of the classic stories I’ve enjoyed over the years were told first person, and in a format that made you believe that you were reading a diary or journal (The final section of H.G. Wells’ The War of the Worlds, for example). There is something inherently intimate in that format, as if the protagonist is speaking directly to you, the reader. You see events filtered through the writer’s eyes, through his perception and prejudices and maybe not how they really happened. And even though I rarely, if ever, use first person (other than, you know, here) I wanted to do something in this format. I’ve been playing with a story about war and disaster of biblical proportions, told by a character that lives through strange and sometimes incomprehensible events. Also I wanted to do something, that, while not completely throwaway, was not so important to me that I couldn’t just give it away. And finally, I wanted to update the diary story concept into a more modern format.
So here it is:
Meet VanDerDecken – former Soldier, former LAPD cop, ex-con, and blogger. His has both feet firmly planted on the bottom rung of society. He’s got a high school education, a year or two of college and a lifetime of rough experience from which to shape his worldview. Recently paroled into the near future (yep, that’s exactly what I meant to say), and trying to put his life back together. His world is an extrapolation of our own – and I doubt you’ll have any trouble spotting those extrapolations, some are bleeding obvious, but some are fairly subtle (though if you speak German you’ll be more likely to spot at least one straight away). You may think that VanDerDecken is trying just a little too hard to appear repentant, and you’d be right. You may also think that, despite his protestations, Van is suffering from a bit of self denial, and you'd be right about that too.
A couple of things:
1) I intend to play this straight. It’s a blog, from the future. Not everything will be explained, Van assumes that you've lived, and are living, through the same events he has, and is.
2) Blog Commenting is enabled. Comments are neither encouraged nor discouraged. Commenters may either ‘play along’ with the story, or not, as they please. VanDerDecken may respond to comments made ‘in character,’ or he may ignore you. We’ll see.
3) If this generates sufficient interest, I may, at some later date, roll it up with additional fix-up material and turn it into an actual novel. ‘In character’ comments may be included, or not, and I’ll deal with the legal aspects of that if and when this becomes something more than an experiment.
4) VanDerDecken’s email address on the blog is an actual email address; you may assume VanDerDecken is monitoring it.
5) The name of the blog, Deep Thunder, and its URL, are taken directly from William Blake’s poem America A Prophecy, one of my very favorite things, ever. There is a link to the poem’s text on the Deep Thunder homepage. And if you haven’t read it, you really should (and if you’re a Bladerunner fan, you'll recognize this poem as the source of Roy Batty’s famous misquote, “Fiery, the Angels Fell…”) You may also consider this poem something of an outline for events to come. (and yes, before somebody points it out, I know that the URL is misspelled – that was done on purpose for reasons that may be explained later, for now you may assume that Van is dyslexic).
6) Van’s ‘voice’ sounds remarkably similar to my ‘voice’ here at Stonekettle Station, from this you might infer that I am Van. You’d be wrong. Van and I just happen to sound the same, because Van likes my blog, eventually he’ll find his own voice.
7) Feel free to link, or forward links, or ignore this whole damned thing, as you will. However, I’d prefer that if people are coming to Deep Thunder other than through Stonekettle Station, that they not have knowledge of the link between the two. Savvy?
8) Note the dates on each post, they’re important in the context of the story, some are extremely significant – but I’ll leave it up to you to figure out why.
9) and finally, Van’s a busy guy, posting may be sporadic and come in batches. This is only the first couple thousand words or so, Van has a lot more written and he'll put it up as soon as he gets done washing the dishes and cleaning the cooler. Van also expects to be posting long after NaNoWriMo ends.
10) Thanks to Janiece Murphy for her advice.
10) Thanks to Janiece Murphy for her advice.
Please Stand By
My cable connection is seriously spotty today. So, don't be surprised if I disappear or don't respond for a while. It's OK, Blackwater hasn't busted down my door, yet.
Corporate Dúnedain of the Week
... all 485 Golden Corral restaurants across America will offer any person who has served in the United States Military (including National Guard and Reserves) a free dinner buffet and beverage – no identification required and no questions asked.
I'm not much of a buffet fan (Jimmy Buffett, yeah BIG ugly parrot-headed fan - 'All You Can Eat Buffet', not so much), but these people rock. Seriously. This was 7th year that the Golden Corral has offered free meals to veterans, in partnership with the Disabled American Veterans organization. This is more than a token gesture, Golden Corral has served over 1.5 million meals to vets over the last seven years. That's pretty dammed outstanding.
Monday, November 12, 2007
On one hand, it's dammed nice to be remembered; on the other hand, well, it sure would be nice to be remembered the other 364 days out of the year.
Oh, don't get me wrong here, I'm not an ungrateful bastard, really I'm not. And I'm not saying that the average American doesn't at least think of those who have served, or are serving, once in a while. But, truthfully, the average American is pretty well insulated from the current conflict. Oh sure, if you watch the news or read the paper you can't miss the daily body counts, or the latest spectacular cell phone video of an IED taking out a Hummer, or the heartwarming reunion, or the determined amputee learning to walk again - but it's hardly the top story of the news hour, or rarely above the fold. You might catch the latest edgy show like "Band of Bloggers," which the History Channel is using to boost it's ratings. You might see the occasional peace protest, but even those are halfhearted these days. There just doesn't seem to be much passion in America regarding this conflict, one way or the other. On average, to me, people seem resigned, resigned to this war, and resigned to wait until January 2009. Maybe this is because there also doesn't seem to be much in the way of sacrifice demanded of the average American. There are no war bonds, no scrap metal drives, no rationing, no recruiting posters (Uncle Sam needs you!), no draft, no Rosy the Riveter. Oh sure, gas prices are higher. And those yellow-ribbon magnets are everywhere, which frankly I don't get at all. The original song by Tony Orlando, Tie A Yellow Ribbon Around The Old Oak Tree, was about a guy getting out of prison, not coming home from war. And even if we allow that the yellow ribbon means something else now, Americans can't even muster up enough passion to tie their own bows and instead it's just easier to buy the Chinese-made magnetic facsimile. And even that minor effort is becoming diluted as other groups jump on the magnetic bandwagon, I've seen pink ones for breast cancer awareness, and blue ones for animals rights, and a rainbow one for gay pride.
Frankly, this war is just too dammed easy. That's right, easy. Easy to forget, easy to ignore.
And Veterans Day makes it a little easier. Yesterday, it was easy for our leaders to attend solemn ceremonies. It was easy for the President to lay a wreath on on the Tomb of the Unknowns and talk about brave sacrifice. Yesterday, it was easy for politicians to get their faces on TV, while making speeches about honor, duty, and selfless dedication - and then afterward attend a barbecue or potluck at the local VFW in order to score a few more points. It was easy for the average American to sit on the sidewalk yesterday and cheer the Veterans Day Parade and wave those little flags and drink beer from plastic cups and feel like they'd done their duty.
But what happens today?
Today, those politicians are right back to squabbling and arguing and doing nothing to improve Veteran's health care, or to adequately fund the VA, or to get homeless vets off the street. Today Congress will go back to fact finding, and their bickering committees, and their endless rhetoric, and their failure to hold this administration accountable - and the war will still go on. Today Senators and Representatives will conveniently forget the promises they made yesterday, and today troops will still not have the funding or the equipment that they need. Today the VA waiting rooms will be clogged with veterans, waiting for care. Today hundreds of us will still be waiting for our compensation and pension claims to process, and we'll probably be waiting tomorrow too. Today the rats will still scamper through the walls at Walter Reed and the paint will still be peeling (and ask yourself a question, if the conditions at Walter Reed, the Army's premier medical facility, are substandard - just what exactly are the conditions like in other, smaller, more obscure medical facilities today? The ones that Senators don't go to for free health care?). Today many of those little flags that people waved yesterday will end up in dumpsters or under cars seats, forgotten.
As I said above, I'm ambivalent about Veterans Day. I think it's a good thing that we stop once in while and remember those who fought for our freedoms, I do. I'm grateful to those who express their sincere thanks for my service, I truly am. But I also see it as a way for the average American to escape from thinking about the realities of war for the rest of the year - but maybe, just maybe, that's a good thing. After all, most of us served so that Americans could go on about their lives. Maybe the best way to honor veterans is for Americans to live their lives without having to think about war, maybe that's why I did it. I really don't know.
But, I do know this, I have nothing but contempt for those politicians who use Veterans Day to grandstand and further their own images and make empty promises to both veterans and the American people. If those who made the speeches yesterday truly want to thank veterans for their service and sacrifice - they'll live up to those promises today.
Saturday, November 10, 2007
You decide, frankly I think I may be under-estimating their size.
Actually, this is two spiders, if you look at the middle of the photo you can see where the two of them are locked together.
Frankly, even though I have no fear of bugs or snakes or other creepy crawlers, these things weird me out beyond all reason. They really aren't dangerous, just freaky as all hell - bugs should not be that dammed big.
Other things you can do on the lathe
This is an Ulu Cutting board, and by implication those odd looking knives you see are Ulus. An Ulu is the general purpose cutting tool made by native Alaskan Inuit women, used for everything from cutting meat and vegetables to skinning bears - though traditionally they were made from Caribou antler or other hard bone and not high-carbon steel. If you want to know more, go here.
The Ulus you see in the pictures were made at the Ulu Factory in downtown Anchorage and they are incredibly sharp. It takes practice to use one safely, and even though I once attended culinary school and have been an expert with a French knife for most of my life, I'm not very good with an Ulu - in fact, I dammed near cut my thumb off with that ivory handled one you see in the picture. Most non-native peoples use them for chopping vegetables to a fine dice, and for that you really should have an Ulu board. This is my own design, most Ulu bowls are just a flat board with a concave depression in the middle.
Like nearly all of my stuff, the cutting board is made from Alaskan Birch, turned on the lathe. The cutting surface is concave at a slightly shallower angle than the curve of the Ulu blade, which allows you to rock the knife back and forth, dicing whatever is in the bowl to a fine puree. Perfect for garlic or parsley. The board is finished with olive oil (didn't have any clarified walrus fat or bear grease handy), it's also heavy and has a cork pad on the bottom to keep it from sliding around on the counter top - because otherwise you could, you know, cut your thumb off.
Friday, November 9, 2007
A note on my Ideals
If you've got something constructive to say to me, say it here in the comments section. If you don't have a Blogspot Id, use the 'Anonymous' posting function and sign your name to the bottom of the comment (or not, your choice, I don't care). If you don't have the guts to post your comments in public and risk getting slapped upside the head by the regulars around here, that's your problem. Also I don't care if you did outrank me when you were on active duty, I'm a civilian now and I'll say what I goddammed well please, Commander.
As I said in yesterday's post, I can be persuaded to change my stand, but you'd better have a dammed strong argument, backed up with verifiable fact - anecdotal 'evidence,' hearsay, strawmen, and rumsfeldian scare tactics don't work on me. I've been there, I've met the bogymen you're telling me about, I didn't form my opinion of these people by watching episodes of '24' so save your bullshit. I know better.
Either put your money where your mouth is, or shut the fuck up.
Thursday, November 8, 2007
Don't assume that you know me, really
Over on the Small Wars Journal, in the comment thread under Malcolm Nance’s post, and in several dozen vitriolic emails I received this morning, I was accused of being (gasp!) a Liberal and an Idealist (I was also accused of being a ‘fag’, not really sure where that came from, it wasn’t exactly a literate message, though the author did know how to spell the f-word). This happens to me on a fairly regular basis. Oh the horror, the shame of it all.
Well for the record, I am not a liberal, big “L” or otherwise. I am also not a conservative, Neo or otherwise. I am also not a Green, a Libertarian, or a member of the Ayn Rand Fan Club (I am also not gay, but I honestly don’t give a flying fig if you think so, you illiterate asshat). My politics can best be summed up here. Frankly, even if there was a “Pull Your Head Out Of Your Ass and Show Some Common Sense Party” I probably wouldn’t join that either. My voter registration card says “Undeclared” so that makes it official. If you want my vote – well, pull your head out of your ass, don’t bullshit me, and show me the common sense. Frankly I don’t care what your party is. I don’t vote for political parties, I vote for a person and if you want that to be you – well, impress me.
However, I will admit to being an Idealist, with a capital “I.” It amuses me, when people accuse me of being an idealist - as if idealism was somehow a bad thing in and of itself. As if this country wasn’t founded by idealists. As if the Constitution wasn’t written by idealists. As if all of the men and women we admire throughout history weren’t, you know, idealists. Frankly I’d much rather associate with people who at least have some ideals that they’re passionate about, rather than some empty headed twit with no opinion and no ability to form an opinion like, well, sheep.
Now, don’t get me wrong here. Idealists can be a major pain in the ass too, especially when their idealism is founded on some kind of demonstratably false information or just plain loony reasoning. I find these people especially dangerous and irritating, especially when they justify their beliefs with a web of continually shifting rationalizations and fanatical foregone conviction, instead of looking at the data and then drawing logical conclusions on which to base their idealism. I find nothing admirable about these people and I try to stay as far from them as possible. If you need an example: Young Earth Creationists.
Anyway, yes, I am an idealist. But I like to think that I’ve at least thought about my ideals. And that my ideals are mine, not something ironed on by my folks, or some church, or derived from the mob, or dictated by the media or popular hysteria or the administration. And even though I’m a dammed stubborn guy, and I am dammed passionate about my ideals, I will change my position if it can be reasonably demonstrated that it is wrong by competent authority, based on verifiable proof and not anecdotal ‘evidence.’
What prompted this accusation was my position on torture. I am against it. Period. In any way, shape, or form. For whatever reason, no matter how pure the motive. I do not want to live in a nation that tortures people - no matter how big of evil asshole they are. And I guess that makes me a liberal. However I have no problem taking that same asshole outside after his trial, putting him against the wall, and popping a cap in his ass. And I guess that makes me a conservative. I have no problem terminating with extreme prejudice any asshole who comes on my property and attempts to do me or mine harm, I own weapons and I dammed well know how to use them. And I guess that make me a libertarian. I don’t use lead ammo for environmental reasons, so in a way I guess that makes me a Green. I don’t buy into the whole “they use torture on our guys, so it’s ok to use torture on them” argument. Substitute the word ‘rape’ for ‘torture’ in that last sentence and see if it’s still acceptable to you. So I guess I’m a bit of a Rationalist as well.
With all that said, here’s why I am against torture. This was part of the comment I posted at SWJ (slightly cleaned up):
Mr. Evans, you are correct in your first assumption regarding my past, I was involved in operations that resulted in the deaths of human beings. I am proud of my actions and those of my team during such operations. However, you are incorrect in your implied assumption that I now second guess, or am opposed to, such actions because I witnessed death and destruction and, in fact, was responsible for some of it. I retired from active duty not because I became morally opposed to war, and its associated killing of human beings, but because I am no longer physically capable of performing the duties required to lead from the front, and my continued service might have put my own team at risk. The honorable course of action was to retire [and make way for somebody more capable]. However, if I were still capable, I would cheerfully return to combat duty, and I feel guilty that I'm home safe with my family when many of my men are not.
You asked specifically why I find killing (in combat) acceptable, but not waterboarding (and you may correctly assume that I am opposed to torture in any form), since the (assumed) objective of torture is not to kill. The answer is simple, and black and white. Killing in combat, when facing an armed and capable enemy, is a necessary evil. Your own life and the lives of your teammates are at risk. Force is applied until the enemy is no longer a threat - or you die. This is the nature of conflict, it is horrifying and brutal and nothing at all like the movies portray it to be (though Band of Brothers comes close). However, there comes a time when it is necessary to take life in order to preserve the greater good.
However, once the enemy becomes a prisoner and no longer has a means to resist, you become solely responsible for his or her life, well being, and treatment, both by our own code of conduct and by international agreement. This may be more difficult than actual combat; it is extremely difficult in some cases to treat a man, who has just tried to kill you, humanly. However, if you are unwilling or incapable, if you lack the moral courage, of accepting this responsibility, then you have no business leading the men and women of the US Armed Forces. I am opposed to torture for four main reasons:
1) The prisoner is no longer a threat. Yes, he remains a potential threat, which requires vigilance, control, and restraint. He is not entitled to anything other than the basic necessities of life, i.e. food, water, medical care, shelter, and protection from further harm. If you are unwilling or unable to provide such, don't take prisoners (and you may interpret that last however you like).
2) There are many means available to obtain information from the prisoner other than torture. I was an intelligence officer, I speak from experience. We have compromised our own honor by becoming torturers and what has it availed us? Name one major success derived strictly from information obtained via water-boarding. This conflict was supposed to have been about 911. And yet those responsible for financing and planning the attacks are still free and remain a significant threat. Water-boarding and torture have achieved us nothing, except the disgust and revulsion of free nations the world over.
3) It is hypocritical, dishonorable and contrary to the ideals of the Constitution, military regulation, the UCMJ, and international agreement. [Torture is also categorically contrary to the ideals of Christianity, which the majority of Americans, especially conservative Americans, claim to be. I find this a particularly curious and disgusting hypocrisy] Our government spent considerable time, effort, and money telling the world what a brutal, mass-killing, torturing tyrant Saddam was, and why his treatment of his own citizens and enemies justified our invasion even though the original bogyman of WMDs was found to be false. If torture is morally repugnant when our enemies do it, it is the height of hypocrisy for us to resort to the same methods. By resorting to torture, we have given legitimacy to every tyrant throughout history. By this faulty logic, Saddam was perfectly justified in his use of brutal torture against the Kurds, for example, in order to preserve national security within
4) Finally and most importantly, performing torture - no matter what euphemism you use or justification you use to rationalize it - makes you a torturer. Period. And it makes
Now is the time to choose. Now is the time to determine what legacy we will bequeath our children, and whether our children will see us as free men and women who upheld justice and took the high road, or whether we are little better than Saddam Hussein himself. You must choose what kind of
One final note on this very long post: I find it odd that when the Soldiers at Abu Ghraib used fire hoses and meat pyramids to humiliate and mock their prisoners and used electric shock and snarling dogs to instill utter fear and despair in those same prisoners, it was considered, by Liberals and Conservatives alike, a war crime and a criminal violation of human dignity and rights – and we sent those Soldiers to prison for their actions. Yet when water-boarding is used to humiliate and instill utter fear and despair in a prisoner, many conservatives and even some liberals see nothing wrong with it. I find this strange and disturbing, and I think that it is time for those people to sit down and examine their own idealism.