Thursday, April 30, 2009

Things That Chap My Ass About Clueless Morons

The human race has stopped evolving.

No, wait, that’s wrong.

Human intelligence has stopped evolving.

Yep, evolving I said and evolving I meant.

And don’t start in with that whole, but, Jim we don’t believe in evolution, we think the human race was intelligently designed crap either. Intelligently designed? Take a look around. We’re ass deep in clueless morons, you can probably see four or five from where you’re sitting right now, and it’s getting worse. Intelligently designed? Sure, maybe a few folks were designed by intelligence, but the evidence at hand would seem to indicate that the rest of the human race was just thrown together like a bland tasteless meatloaf made from whatever crap God happened to have in the fridge.

Seriously, folks, if God did made the idiots I run into every day, well, I’m guessing He was either hungover or doing it while he was talking to somebody else on the phone and not really paying attention.

On the face of it, evolution is a whole lot more likely.

Evolution is based on the concept of survival of the fittest. Now, people have managed to pervert that concept into all kinds of stupidity and most completely fail to understand what “fittest” means in the context of evolution – but still the concept is valid. See what that phrase actually means is that the process of natural selection over time increases the probability that those creatures with characteristics favorable to survival in the current environment will, well, survive. And have kids. And pass those characteristics on to the next generation.

See basically, evolution is the process of getting rid of idiots.

Take rabbits for example. Predators love rabbits. Everything eats rabbits – hawks, eagles, wolves, coyotes, bears, lynx, bobcats, weasels, lawyers. Everything. A rabbit doesn’t have big claws, or razor sharp spines, or the ability to spit poison or operate a flamethrower. A rabbit has basically one defense – sit absolutely still, if discovered run like hell and zigzag a lot – usually though, the running doesn’t really help. It’s the sitting still and being verwy verwy quiet part that is the rabbit’s actual defense. Now in any group, there’s always one jackass. The stupid loud guy, i.e. the clueless moron. You know him, he’s the guy who spent a weekend in the hospital after shooting bottle rockets out of his ass like he saw those guys on MTV doing. Yeah, that guy. Every group has one. Even rabbits. Take a colony of rabbits, sitting down at the local Starbucks, enjoying a lettuce frapachino. In walks a large hungry red fox. The rabbits freeze. The fox, being in a hurry, doesn’t notice them and goes over to the counter to order – and bang! the door flies open and in hops Fluffy, the booger eating rabbit, completely oblivious to the danger. The other rabbits motion frantically towards the fox, freeze Stupid, freeze! But Fluffy doesn't get the message. “Yo! Fellas! What’s Up! Why so serious? Why so serious? Who’s up for a game of ‘chicken’ with the Bald Eagles?” and that’s the end of that (it also explains why you find rabbit hair and little globs of flesh under the seats at Starbucks. Nature is brutal at the watering hole, kids. What? Well, it depends on the Starbucks. Sure). See, evolution is about weeding out the idiots.

The problem is that once a species evolves intelligence then it’s very likely that the process of natural evolution stops.

Now, admittedly we’re working from a single sample here, and not a particularly good one. But it would appear that once a species evolves enough intelligence to eliminate predation this allows the idiots to breed, and they do. A lot. And as a result there ends up being a lot more idiots. Need an example? Australia. A while back some idiot brought rabbits to Australia. Now for some damned reason and despite the fact that every goddamned thing in the rest of the world eats rabbits, as it turns out nothing in Australia does. Nothing. They've got some pretty weird creatures in Australia, and not one of them eats rabbit, including Australians (who mostly exist solely on beer and headbutting). It didn't take long for Australia to be overrun with rabbits. I've been there, you literally have to wade hip deep through the damn things. The entire continent is slowly settling under the weight of billions and billions of bunnies. Here's the thing (and you didn't think I had a point did you?), a lot of them are retarded. Rabbits that would have gotten weeded out of the gene pool like Fluffy up above, survived and went on to marry idiot female rabbits with big hair and boob jobs and have a whole shitload of idiot children. Remove the predators, allow the goofy bastards to breed willy nilly, and you eventually end up ass deep in idiots. That's what happens when you screw with the natural order.

Allow me to illustrate:

I had to go into to town yesterday.

I stopped by the Post Office.

The Palmer Post Office.

You know what I think of the Palmer Post Office.

Yesterday’s visit didn’t change that impression one bit, and if anything reinforced it.

See it started with the whole bait and switch thing in the parking lot.

The empty parking lot.

Woohoo! Thought I as I pulled into the parking lot, there’s nobody here! How often does that happen? (well, OK, once a week. On Sunday. You got me there). I looked through the windows as I walked - clutching my package, hope in my heart, sun on my shoulder, the wind in my hair -towards the door, and there was nobody in line.

Holy Mackerel, I though, it’s the Rapture. Finally. I’ve got the place all to myself.

I made the woohoo sound again, maybe more than once.

Well, turns out it wasn’t the Rapture after all, damn the luck (and really, when is that going to happen? Sooner would be better, there’s a lot of born again assholes I’d like to see sucked right up into space, just sayin’). There was one person at the window.

Hey, only one person? Usually the damned line is twenty or thirty people long, one person is great!

Turns out, it depends entirely on the person.

Because see, the woman at the counter was actually the poster child for frozen evolution. The veritable queen of cluelessness. Somebody who should have been run down and eaten by saber-tooth cats long ago.

She had packages. Lots and lots of packages. I don’t know how many, but it was a lot. Big ones, small ones, tall ones, short ones, round ones, rectangular ones, odd sized ones, regular sized ones, oversized ones. Some were actual postal boxes, some were recycled from a previous life, covered in scratched out bar codes and addresses and a label for canned peas (1 dz, canned, green, packaged for individual resale). They all had one thing in common though – they weren’t addressed. She was doing that at the counter. I watched, clenching my fists, as she filled out address labels one at a time, slowly and laboriously and oblivious that anybody was in line behind her.

She chatted with the postman while she filled out the labels. Nice weather we’re having, isn’t it?

Others arrived and formed a queue behind me.

They made comments, only one person in line. Woohoo and so on and so forth. Foolish, hopeful people.

She wanted insurance.

Behind me in line, a guy began to cough. No, not like cough to clear your throat, more cough like he was infected with swine flu. Hack, hack, cough, cough, wheeze, hurrrumph, cough, hack, snork! And here’s another sickly bastard who should have been pulled apart by dire wolves long ago. Do us all a big favor, would you Bobo? Stay the fuck home, I don’t appreciate being covered in your mucus and chunks of your fecund lung tissue.

She needed delivery confirmation.

Cough, wheeze, hack, snork!

Another evolutionary dead end arrived, this time in the person of a large hirsute type with a giant mug of coffee in one hand. Literally, one of those ass crack construction types who carry the obligatory mug big enough for an entire pot of coffee – you know the sweaty asshole who takes the entire pot of the good stuff and leaves you with nothing but day old decaf. He then proceeded to slurp loudly, and smack his lips after each gulp.

She wanted stamps.

Cough cough, wheeze wheeze, hack, snork! Slurp! Slurp! Gulp Smack. Gulp ahhh smack. Snork!

Anything else, Ma’am? No? Your total is…

Cough, cough, wheeze, hack snork! Slurp gulp slurp smack smack. Snork!

She fumbled in her purse and finally pulled out a checkbook.

Somebody started tapping impatiently on the package desk. Tap tap tap.

Cough, cough, tap tap, wheeze, hack snork! Slurp gulp slurp ahhh smack smack. Tap Tap. Snork!

If the next person through the door was playing a kazoo and carrying a banjo we’d have a complete bluegrass ensemble.

A checkbook.

A goddamned checkbook. The bitch was going to write a check.

We’re damned near a decade into the 21st Century, and the clueless bitch is writing a check? I mean, come on, it’s like paying your taxes to the King’s Factor with a couple of bushels of hand threshed wheat and a brace of rabbits. It’s 2009 for crying out loud, can we please get the hell rid of checks?

Cough, cough, Tap Tap, wheeze, hack snork! Slurp gulp slurp smack smack. Tap Tap. Snork!

I hate check writers. I hate them with the passionate heat of a thousand fiery evangelical ministers denying that they were caught snorting cocaine off a gay prostitute’s ass.

What’s the date today?

Gulp tap tap gulp, slurp. Snork!

Make it out to who?

Wheeze wheeze, pardon my phlegm, hack. Slurp! Tap. Tap, wheeze.

How much was it again?

Cough, cough, wheeze, hack snork! Slurp gulp slurp smack smack. Tap Tap Snork! Everybody now, you know the words!

Now we get to the rest of it. See you can’t just write a check, can you? Oh hell no.

She proceeds to fill out the check resister and balance her checkbook.

I swear to the Intelligent Designer – this, this is the best you can do? Seriously? Excuse me while I roll my eyes in derision.


What we need here folks is to get evolution back on track.

How do we do that, Jim? I hear you ask.

Folks, it’s simple really.

First we need some saber-toothed cats and a couple of dire wolves…

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Stonekettle Station’s Top SciFi Movie Lines…

and how to use them in everyday life.

I was talking to an old friend the other day, and we were reminiscing about the ‘70’s – and one of us said, “remember how everybody used to say, ‘and may the force be with you?’ after Star Wars came out?”

Even people who had never even seen Star Wars, and wouldn’t be caught dead watching that silly Buck Rogers stuff, used may the force be with you on a regular basis.

My wife and I still use that phrase upon occasion, usually when one of us is about to engage on some damn fool quixotic enterprise – like stuffing the cats into their travel box for a trip to the vet (and believe me, force is exactly the correct word for such an endeavor. Really).

It got me thinking about this week’s Ten Top SciFi list, specifically phrases from science fiction or fantasy movies that should be used in everyday life.

See, the idea is to use a line from a science fiction movie who’s meaning is immediately obvious even to someone who hasn't seen the picture.

Like so:

That’s no moon! That’s a space station!

Origin: Star Wars. Obi Wan’s exclamation upon spying the enormous menacing bulk of the Death Star for the first time.

Meaning: Jesus Christ! Run for your lives!

How to use it in real life:

Hey! Check it out. Isn’t that Rush Limbaugh at the donut counter?

That’s no moon! That’s a space station!

Out of the way, Peck!

Origin: Willow. Airk Thaughbaer to Willow Ufgood. Airk is marching to a battle where his men will be slaughtered, he doesn’t have time for questions from little people.

Meaning: I’m an asshole.

How to use it in a sentence:

Excuse me, Mr. Bush, but we found one of your waterboarding memos and …

Out of the way, Peck!

Study your math! Key to the universe.

Origin: The Prophecy. The Archangel Gabriel giving a little cowbell to Katherine Henley.

Meaning: You’re doomed.

How to use it in a sentence:

Wow! This is so cool. We just sign right here and we don’t have to pay anything but the interest on our new house for five years! How did you guys at Countrywide come up with this? You guys are the best!

Study you math! Key to the universe.

Get to the choppa!

Origin: Predator, of course. Dutch’s (Arnold Schwarzenegger) command to the survivors of his special forces team to get to the rescue helicopter before the alien predator kills them all.

Meaning: We’re doomed.

How to use it in everyday life:

Mr. Madoff! Mr. Madoff! There are federal regulators at the front desk!

Shit! Call my lawyer in the Hamptons and hold ‘em off while I get to da choppa!

Boy oh boy, I wish I’d taken the blue pill

Origin: The Matrix. Cypher’s line to Neo, after Neo figures out that reality isn't all it's cracked up to be.

Meaning: Dude, what the hell was I thinking?

How to use it in everyday life:

Senator McCain, in retrospect how do you feel about about your selection of Sarah Palin as your running mate?

Boy oh boy, I wish I’d taken the blue pill, Larry!*

*Note: there is more than one possible meaning here. For extra credit, see how many you can find.

Oh, noooo! It’s the Queen Bitch of the universe!

Origin: The Abyss. Chris Elliot’s line upon spying Lindsey arriving onboard board the Benthic Explorer.

Meaning: Oh No! It’s the Queen Bitch of the universe!

How to use it in everyday life:

Ladies and gentlemen, I’d like to introduce the Secretary of State…

[It’s OK, folks, we can say it, it's Bill's pet name for her]

That son of a bitch took my pants!

Origin: The Terminator.

Meaning: You’ve got to be fucking kidding me.

How to use it in everyday life:

Today Exxon posted record profits for the third year in a row…

Bloody hell! That son of a bitch took my pants!

Then we’re stupid and we’ll die.

Origin: Bladerunner. Pris, realizing that she and her friends are stupid - and about to die.

Meaning: Because the terrorists will win!

How to use it in everyday life:

Mr. Cheney, how to you feel about Obama’s closing of the Gitmo facility?

Then we’re stupid and we’ll die!

What the hell are you saying?

Origin: The Thirteenth Warrior. Ahmed, sitting comfortably enjoying a fine meal and a great party, to his translator upon learning that life has just dealt him an unexpected blow.

Meaning: Holy shit! What am I gonna do? I just bought a new Gulfstream III! Fuck!

How to use it in everyday life:

Mr. Wagner, I’m afraid that in order for the Fed to agree to yet another GM bailout, the President of the United States has personally requested your resignation as CEO.

What the hell are you saying?

And there you have it. Stonekettle Station’s list of great Science Fiction movie phrases and how to use them in everyday life. Practice a few in front of the mirror and dazzle your friends.

Now that I’ve got you started, feel free to suggest a few lines of your own in the comments.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

A Man Walks Into a Bar With a Chicken and a Two-foot Salami…

The Pope died and went to heaven.

He was stopped at the gate by a sleepy watchman who said, "Halt! What do you want?"

Great! I do 30 years of God's  work to get stopped by this clown, The Pope thought. Out loud he replied,  "Look I am the Pope. I have done many years of good work.”

“Got any ID?”

“I’m the Pope!”

The guard says, "Sorry, Buddy, I’m just kidding. Admin lost your orders, don’t worry we’ll get it sorted out.  Go over to the Transit Barracks and get some rest and we'll see you in the morning." 

He then gives the Pope directions to an old WWII open bay barracks and a chit for the base galley. The Pope checks into the barracks only to find all the lower bunks taken and the only lockers left have no doors.  So he throws his gear under his rack and goes to sleep.

The next morning, the Pope is awakened by loud music and cheering. He runs to the window to see a long black limo with a US Navy Chief Warrant Officer in the back, smoking a huge cigar, hanging on to a mug of fresh hot coffee and with two beautiful blonde angels hanging on to him. The heavenly crowd is cheering madly, ticker tape fills the air, cherubs are singing, and the beer flows freely. Heaven is at Holiday Routine.

The Pope is furious.  He stomps down to the quarterdeck and says, "I'm a senior officer! I’m the Pope! I do 30 years of Gods work aboard the Vatican only to see some squid that probably did every sinful thing imaginable get treated like royalty while I spent the night on a lumpy mattress! What gives?”

The watchman shrugged and say, "Pope?  Big deal, we get a pope every decade or so. We got the complete set, all the way back to Peter. This is our first ever Chief Warrant Officer."


Ba dump bump.


Tell me a joke.


As you might guess, I’m not a big Hip Hop fan.

Most Hip Hop, and especially Hip Hop’s angry parent, Rap, I find irritating at best and downright destructively obnoxious at worst.

I also feel the same way about Country and Western, so you know, don’t go getting all offended on me.

But, every once in a while, I hear some Hip Hop that throws me for a loop and makes me realize that it isn’t actually just noise, at least not all of it, and that some Hip Hop artists are exactly that, artists.

Take Emmanuel Jal. Born in the village of Tonj in southern Sudan just as the civil war broke out. His father disappeared into the rebel SPLA and his mother was killed by government soldiers. Seven year-old Jal fled towards Ethiopia, along with thousands of other orphaned children hoping to find refuge and education.

Instead he was taken by the SPLA and turned into a child soldier.

He fought for seven years, and was exposed to almost indescribable horror. Eventually he escaped with a handful of other soldiers, and they ended up in Waat. There Jal met a Emma McCune, a British aid worker who smuggled him into Kenya and into recovery and school. McCune died in a car accident several months later, but her friends helped Jal finish his education and recover from the horror of his childhood.

Instead of rage and bitterness and a thirst for revenge, Emmanuel Jal became a voice for peace and forgiveness and works through the fans of his music to overcome ethnic and religious divisions and heal the divides in the youth of the Sudan.

Though relatively unknown here the US, he has become a huge hit in the Sudan, Kenya, and across Africa. He joined some of Britain’s best know musicians on Help: A Day In The Life in order to bring aid to children in the conflict zone. And he performed with an all-star line up at Nelson Mandela’s 90th Birthday concert in London’s Hyde Park – an amazing journey for a orphaned child of war in the Sudan.

What brought Jal to my attention was the movie Blood Diamond. My wife and I watched Blood Diamond again the other night and I’d forgotten just what an incredible and moving and horrifying picture it is. Jennifer Connelly I can take or leave, but Leonardo DiCaprio and Djimon Hounsou are both gifted actors. DiCaprio’s Danny Archer is a testament to his ability (truly, if you don’t believe DiCaprio can actually act watch Blood Diamond and then The Aviator, and see if you still think the same thing. The man is truly talented). And the same is true of Hounsou’s passionate portrayal of Solomom Vandy.

The music of the movie, primarily the theme music by James Newton Howard is incredibly powerful and literally makes the movie. But what caught my attention was the African Hip Hop song Baai (Dutch South African, Afrikaans, for “Bay”) by Emmanuel Jal. The song is a mixture of Arabic, English, Kiswahili, Dinka, and Nuer – the languages of the Sudan – and performed by Jal and Abdel Gadir Salim, a Sudanese folk singer.

Whatever the language, the message remains the same: Peace.

Monday, April 27, 2009

A Little More Perspective – The Moose Death At Colony Middle School (updated)

Update: Original Post is here. If you're not a regular reader of Stonekettle Station, you might want to read that first. //Jim

Those kids should be lined up and thrown into that same fence until they wish they were dead instead. Make their names public so we can watch out for them and their parents – Bob, MamaDance, an Alaskan Parenting Blog

This is exactly why the names of minors who commit crimes should be released in newspapers when reported on. So people can ridicule the crap out of them for the rest of their lives. - Pepsi One, PETA, an animal rights blog

Sarah Palin's sadistic animal killing Alaska is rife with too many human demons who have no reverence for the lives of our fellow creatures. – Brien Comerford, PETA


Shame on the parents for having such awful children!! - Maurikelly23, PETA

I am disturbed about the school’s apparent cover up. I think they are only making matters worse…There have been many conflicting stories because the school district refuses to reveal details so far. - Alaska Mom, MamaDance

Sick, sick, sick. These kids need a punishment to fit the crime. I suggest they be ordered to each take part in skinning and cutting up the moose for food–and I do mean take direct part in it, as in getting bloody, sawing the bones, etc. They need to learn that the only acceptable reason to kill an animal (other than for euthanasia) is for food. - CorningNY, MamaDance

Now the troopers are animal behavior scientist? I don't think so, the animal may have just laid there and peaceful died if left alone. The students behavior WAS a factor in this animals demise. My child would have a rude awakening if he took part in such a inhumane treatment. Believe me this was cruel, I worry about today's youth and there thinking. - Oops, The Frontiersman

- Thank God, you selfrightious,vindictive,all knowing,imbasils who crave to play judge,jury and executioners all belong to a minority class of low life, low educated, idiots. Hope fate never has me come to that Mat-Sue region/town. I'd rather spend my tax dollars eslewhere. Perhaps we should put Alaska up for sale to a communist country,one with no regards to inalienable rights. – Wise Owl, The Frontiersman

- The school district and the two boys are responsible for this cruel, dangerous, and completely unnecessary incident, and I want them to accept that responsibility, and prove to the community that something like this won't ever happen again. Concerned Resident, The Frontiersman

- We need steps to insure nothing like this happens again! I would like to see the holes in the school fence closed so this cannot happen to another unfortunate wild or domestic animal. I would like to see an aggressive program of education so all students fully grasp the importance of respect toward all living things - and community service and counseling for the two boys and their families, and volunteer aides for teachers. - Concerned Resident, The Frontiersman

- Why didn't the principal use this as an opportunity to strongly condemn bullying and cruelty?Instead she hid in her office, and refused to answer questions - Khachney, The Frontiersman

- The kids should be expelled at the very least and their parents should be flogged. – Ex-Colony Student, The Frontiersman

- What C***!!!!. No one is responsible? From what eyewitness reports I have read in the other blog something here smells of Moose dung. What part of "Two students started yelling at the moose, poking it with sticks and throwing small stones" is there no responsibility. Minor injury? - an antler rammed back into its head again WHAT C***!!!!!!! – Appalled, The Frontiersman

- I'd put them to work on a highway cleanup team all summer long with no vacations. Make sure they're wearing jailhouse colors when they do it also. Maybe then these kids would learn some kind of respect for others and wildlife. I bet if they did a criminal background check on their parents, the apples don't fall far from the tree. Aweful Sad really – mikmaq, Anchorage Daily News

- This story sounds like a cover-up to me! … It sounds like bits and pieces of the story are true, but the story is being spun in the light most favorable to the school district. I don't like that. – rdrosenberg, Anchorage Daily News

- I am outraged by this! I think the name of the kids and their parents should be made public and humiliated. These mean-spirited, evil kids and the parents that raised them deserve more than light discipline. – tweedledeetweededum, Anchorage Daily News

- you are so stupid!. I bet you think you are a big touff man, just lick those two little bastards criminals who killed that moose to suicide!! Kids will be kids thats what YOU say. You are just ignorant. Those kids and you should be shoot!!!! I hope you get stomped by amoose! – WendyS, via eMail! (from the writing, I thought this might be a child, but other things in the letter indicate that this is a CMS parent and somebody who is in their late twenties). [Update: Correction, WendyS is a parent, and does have children in the MSBSD, but not at CMS. WendyS is also outraged that I would criticize her writing ability and also that I am an "elittist basterd jerkhole [sic]." Thanks for writing, WendyS]

- I DO think animals have rights. I DO value animals rights over humans. Humans are EVIL. Animals are innocent. These kids should be killed by having THEIR heads slammed into a wall. – [PETA Zealot], via Email.

- You said you were a parent. I find that hard to believe, or especially that you have a kid at CMS. CMS is a terrible school. The teachers are covering this whole thing up so they don’t loose their jobs or funding. Obama is a tree hugger and you can bet if they told the truth, they would lose federal money jiffy split. You need to wake up and smell what your shovelling before you’re own kids becomes a psychopath just like these two kids. Oh thats right – your military, you probably like killing and think its “cool.” Some hero you are. If I see you on the street, I will punch you in the face and show you how smart you are. And I have your picture, Palmer is a small town, Mr Wright. And the kids that killed that defenseless moose. – Dave, via email

And so on, and so forth. And so forth and so on. And on, and on. And on. There are thousands of comments like these, all across the nation. The ones I posed above are the comments from my fellow Alaskans, responding to the moose death on Colony Middle School grounds last week.

The comment are posted verbatim.

Here are the common themes:

1) The school should release the names of the kids involved so that people may take the appropriate action such as shunning, ridicule, scarlet lettering, lynching, threatening, and so on. I didn’t actually see the terms “stocks” or “pillory” but I’m sure that was just an oversight.

2) The school should publically detail the punishments given to kids involved so people may judge if they think it’s appropriate. And in fact, whatever the school issued as punishment isn’t enough, no matter what it was. And besides, school discipline is the business of the entire community, see paragraph 1) above. The kids should be made to skin a moose and be drenched in its blood, given community service, made to clean up along the highways, forced to work in animal shelters, or have their heads beaten against a pole until they wish they were dead. Basically, they should be made to hate themselves and be drowned in guilt for the rest of their miserable lives – presumably their parents will also be forced to place “My Child is a Moose Killer at CMS” bumper-stickers on their SUVs as well.

3) The parents of the kids involved are horrible people, their homes are terrible places, they are criminals, lowlife scum, and so on, who should be flogged or worse.

4) The school is engaged in a cover up, so are the State Police. Presumably so that they can go on slaughtering innocent wildlife with impunity on the school grounds.

5) We must make sure that THIS NEVER HAPPENS AGAIN!

6) It’s all Sarah Palin’s fault.

7) I am so stupid.

It really makes you proud to be an Alaskan.


I tell you, folks, the whole thing is about as ridiculous as the She’s a Witch! sketch in Monty Python and the Holy Grail. It would be almost amusing, that is if these people weren’t, you know, actually serious.

As I mentioned in the update to my previous post on this topic, this is exactly how mob hysteria happens. You’d like to think that we’re a bit more advanced here in the shiny 21st Century than the superstitious Puritans back in 1692 Salem, but it would appear that at least some of us are not.

This morning I spent some time at the school where I spoke to the principal, the assistant principal, and the head of security. I’d like to thank them, and the rest of the school staff I talked to this morning, for taking the time to meet with me. I learned a few things, and confirmed a number of things I knew already.

And so, for the benefit of my fellow Alaskans, allow me to clear a few things up about this incident and specifically address you, the mob of torch bearing witch-fearers.

First, the school and our children are in excellent hands. Principal McMahon is neither “hiding” in her office or “refusing” to answer questions. She specifically invited parents to contact her directly or visit the school so she she could personally address their concerns, she sent this message to all parents via the school’s automated phone message system and via email. Principal McMahon is out in the halls and classrooms and cafeteria, she’s in meetings with her teachers and staff, and is highly visible should you choose to take her up on her offer. Principal McMahon is outgoing, outspoken, and hardly shy – you should have no trouble finding her. Now, I suspect she does spend some fraction of her work day in the office – but she’s hardly hiding. She answered all of my questions, provided me with written information, read her notes on the incident to me, and was completely forthright and upfront – as were the members of her staff. And in fact, here’s the funny part, PETA claims on their website that they’ve contacted her, in order to obtain information and request access to the students – but the truth of the matter is that nobody from the organization has actually contacted the principal. It didn’t happen. And I strongly suspect that other similar claims are also complete fabrications. Certainly the claim that Principal McMahon is “hiding” in her office is a complete and total fabrication. I didn’t bring a camera along to document my observation though, you’ll just have to take my word for it.

Note that in the previous paragraph I said “parents.” As in Principal McMahon contacted parents. She has also updated her boss, the MatSu Borough School District Superintendent via the proper channels. During the events in question, the proper state and local authorities were contacted and kept advised, and their directions were followed. Outside of that, Principal McMahon is not obligated or even authorized to contact anybody else. The school district, like any other organization, has a Public Affairs Officer. Contact with the press, and the public outside of parents, and other organizations such as PETA must go through proper channels. There is a good reason for this, not the least of which is that Principal McMahon is paid to run her school, which she is doing very well indeed, and not spend all day fielding phone calls from crazy people and holding press conferences. Bottom line, if you don’t understand why all public release of information goes through the PAO, instead the principal, students, teachers, or the lunch lady, then you should probably just stop reading right now and go back to whatever conspiracy website you surfed in from.

Second, the school is absolutely obligated to protect the identities of the students involved. Period. They are minors. Releasing their names is against the law, school district policy, and could be dangerous. The school is receiving threats, and threats specifically against the children involved in particular - people who are expressing the same type of sentiments as the commenters I quoted above. The school has a responsibility to protect the students, even if they’ve done something wrong. It is likely that most of the commenters who have advocated violence against the school and the students are just engaging in angry hyperbole and would never actually carry through on their threats. But some might. The more zealous animal rights advocates have hurt or even killed others in pursuit of their goals. The school cannot take that chance. What is certain here is that if the school were to comply with demands and release the students’ names – those students and their parents would be deluged with harassing phone calls, email, maybe physical harassment, and maybe far worse. Maybe you think they deserve that, if so, you’re an idiot. And don’t tell me it won’t happen. Hell, I’m getting harassing phone calls, email, and three people came to my house on Friday to complain about what I wrote (and on that note, if you’re considering coming to my house to express your disapproval, I’d highly recommend you reconsider that course of action. I don’t take kindly to assholes, I’m armed, I’m a combat vet, and I have no compulsion about perforating your ass if you threaten me or mine. Really, you should probably just send me hate mail like everybody else).

The children were disciplined. Again the exact nature of that punishment is protected by the privacy act, and frankly it isn’t anybody’s business but the school and the students involved and their parents. This is why we have disciplinary guidelines, this is why we have a formal process and don’t discipline children, or adults for that matter, at the hands of a mob. Listen to me carefully, I’ve spent most of my life in war zones and third world countries where the rule of law is few and far between – I’ve seen what happens when the mob rules. You have only to look to our own past, hanging, lynching, stumping, range wars, branding, scaring, and vigilante justice are what happens when the mob determines “justice.” Think I’m exaggerating? Go back and reread those comments again. Then do a little research, start here.

While I’m on the subject of discipline, a rather large number of folks seem to be laboring under a serious misunderstanding of the scope of the school’s authority. Despite threats to ruin an unruly kid’s entire life with the promise of a black mark in the old “Permanent Record,” neither the district, the school, nor the principal have the authority to assign students to field dress a moose, perform community service, or to rot in hell as a rather large number of people have demanded. Additionally, it would appear that it’s a little known fact that the school does not actually have the authority to punish parents. If my child screws up, even if he should use harsh language in the presence of a harmless bunny, Principal McMahon, cannot, in fact, call me up at home and assign me detention, let alone community service. Punishment beyond the scope of the school’s authority would have to be meted out by the court, after trial, after charges have been brought. I’d like to take this opportunity to remind you all that despite eight years of George W. Bush, this is still the United States of America and we are a nation of laws and not ruled by the mob - and that’s a damned good thing.

The incident was investigated by the Alaskan Department of Fish and Wildlife, and by the State Police - both of which considered this to be an unfortunate accident and that the school is handling the matter appropriately. Here’s the bottom line folks, you don’t have all the details, you’re not going to get all the details unless you’re a parent of a CMS student, because it is NOT your business – no matter how much you’d like to stop and gawk. If you are a parent, and you want details, then read your email, or answer the phone message, and follow the directions to contact principal McMahon.

Now, I want to close this post with one final observation. Prior to the meeting with the Principal and her staff, this morning I dropped my son off at school as I do every morning. And just as I do every morning, I saw parents in two ton SUVs careening through the parking lot well above the 15MPH speed limit, talking on cell phones, rushed and late for work. I saw those same parents, just as I do every single morning unless there is a police cruiser present and sometimes even then, speeding through the school zone well above the 25MPH speed limit. I saw, just as I do every morning, soccer moms with Save the Planet and PETA bumper-stickers impatiently tailgating the school buses at unsafe distances. This despite the fact that it is often dark out, visibility is limited, and there are kids crossing the road and walking along the side of it.

As I passed the high school, on the far side just out of the school zone, a large black dog with collar and tags jangling dodged out of the brush alongside the road and darted past me, hackles up, passing behind my truck. I glanced in the review mirror and realized that the dog was chasing a large bull moose that had emerged from the woods alongside school property and was crossing the road directly behind me. The dog harried the moose into the woods and I lost sight of both.

Allow me to be blunt: before you go condemning the school, the principal, or the kids – you need to take a serious look at yourself. If you are the type who endangers both children and wildlife because you’re in too much of a hurry to slow down in a school zone, or put down the cell phone while driving though the school parking lot, or if you’re the type of person who allows your pets to roam free – anywhere, but especially here in Alaska – without regard for the consequences, if you are the type of person who advocates violence against children to satisfy some misplaced sense of vengeance, if you are the type of person who penned those comment above without understanding the consequences of what you’re demanding so self-righteously – then you are every single bit as guilty of poor judgment and immaturity and inhumanity as the students you are endangering with your careless rhetoric.

That makes you a hypocrite.

That makes you somebody who threatens children.

That makes you far worse a human being than anything these kids ever did.

See, they’re kids, they have an excuse. You don’t.

Think about it.


Update: I've made a number of corrections to this post. Mostly fixing typos and such, the basic gist of the article remains unchanged. //Jim

Saturday, April 25, 2009

From The Lathe – Heart of Gold

As regulars know, our good friend Jeri lost her husband on March 19th.

She asked me if I would be interested in making a cremation urn.

I was honored to do so.

Jeri and I talked about designs and what she wanted. I forwarded her some ideas. And I started out with something very specific in mind – and like almost all of my work, it evolved along the way and what I ended up with is not what I originally had in mind at all.

It’s better.

Wood is like that. It’s organic. It grows. Its beauty (or ugliness) is hidden inside under layers of bark and sapwood and knots – and a lot of the time I never know what I’m going to get until the final piece emerges under my chisels and scrapers on the lathe.

It has taken me several weeks, but the urn is now complete.

I forwarded pictures to Jeri a couple of days ago, hoping that she would like the final design. She did. I asked if I could post the urn’s development here on Stonekettle Station. Jeri said she would like that.

I started at the wood pile. I have several piles of green stock, sorted into type and grain, in various states of drying. The piece I selected was a 4’ long birch log, with a crotch or branching at one end that had been drying outside for about a year. I cut a large piece, about 20” long, centered on the crotch (in this case, actually called a “shoulder”) using the chainsaw.

I intended to turn this piece longitudinally (with the grain) – sort of like hollowing out a log. Because of the shoulder, the piece was heavy and dense and irregular shaped. It weighed about fifty pounds. Now, you can spindle mount a piece like that and turn it, but it’ll knock the crap out of you in the process. I wanted to square up the piece first, and balance it. That way it would turn much easier and faster, and reduce stress on the lathe and, more importantly, on me.

I first squared the log into a rough rectangle using the chain saw and a squaring template (just a square of hardboard, cut to the dimensions I wanted). I could then have run the piece through the thickness planer, but I decided to do the squaring by hand. There was a soft bark line and complex grain running up one side of the log, and I was afraid that the thickness planer would damage those areas. A hand plane gives the woodworker more of a visceral feel, unlike the power planer, and better control. It takes practice to learn how to sharpen, tune, and use a hand plane properly – but you’d be amazed at the results if you saw it done by somebody who knows what they’re doing. I’ve had a lot of practice. That’s a Bailey No. 5, a Jack Plane, in the picture below. Using that and the Bailey No. 7, a large Jointer Plane, made very short work of shaping the log. When a plane is properly sharpened and tuned (the art of truing and adjusting the tool, which can be a complex process), it produces long, soap bubble-thin curls of wood. In the picture below you can see a 4” wide, translucent curl next to the plane.


In the following picture, you see the pile of shavings after about five minutes of work. That’s a Stanley No. 2 smoothing plane (with the red wedge) in front of the Bailey No. 5.


Once the piece was balanced, I squared the ends up with the big radial-arm saw and spindle mounted it on the Shopsmith, using an 8” cast iron turning plate on the drive end and a heavy-duty live center on the tailstock. A lot of turners don’t care for the ShopSmith, which is actually a multifunction machine and not a dedicated lathe. Me? I love it. I’m left handed and have nerve damage in my left arm and hand, which affects how I work. I tend to use nonstandard techniques, my tools are ground differently, and most turners would go mad if they tried to duplicate my techniques. The Shopsmith works perfectly for me because it can be configured in ways that a standard lathe cannot. I actually have two Shopsmiths, an old Mk V, Model 500 that I use as the lathe and Beastly’s much newer MK V Model 520 which he kindly left here last summer. My 500 has been modified, and I own a number of aftermarket add-ons. I can do things with it that you just can’t do on a regular lathe. Now, I’ve been told that it’s impossible to get professional results from a Shopsmith. Bah. Basically, when it comes to woodworking, one size doesn’t fit all and the proof is in the results – You’ve seen my work, you can decide for yourself if it’s “professional” or not.


I began by shaping the wood with the roughing gouge, turning it into a cylinder.

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Sometimes birch itself can be very plain, sometimes spectacular. It was fairly obvious almost immediately that this piece would of the spectacular variety.


Next, I marked out the basic dimensions of the original design and began shaping the cylinder. I wanted that dark bark line and the surrounding complex grain to be the center piece of the final urn. I’ll show you why in a minute.

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With what I thought was the basic shape established, I stopped turning for the day and began enhancing that bark wood line. This area was formed around the original shoulder, a place where a large branch split off from the main trunk. Sapwood, heartwood, and the bark line all grew together in complex patterns. While, ultimately, this creates very beautiful effects in the final piece, it’s an area of weakness in the wood. With a piece this large and heavy, spinning on the lathe, well it can cause the whole thing to fly apart. It can also cause the final piece to distort as the wood dries, causing cracks or even making the finished urn split apart.

I stabilized the area by cutting away the soft wood and crumbly bark with a Foredom rotary tool and a carbide cutter. Then filled those areas and any cracks in with a custom filler mixture made from a fast setting glue and various types of wood dust and precious metals, specifically gold (forgive me if I’m a little vague here, it’s taken me a long time to perfect this technique, and I'm kind of proprietary about it). In the picture below the filled areas appear yellow orange, almost like amber, because of the glue. Once cured, the area will transform from being a weakness to the strongest part of the entire piece, and the gold will stand out like ore seams in stone.


I let the piece dry slowly for a couple of days, wrapped in a plastic bag to control the process. If the piece dries too fast it will distort and crack.

After a week, the wood’s surface moisture level was reduced by about half. The center of the block was still very wet. The filler was cured and very strong (I used a type of glue that bonds with moisture and, in fact won’t cure properly without it)

Then the piece was reversed and remounted.


I parted off the top, what I originally intended to be the lid, and then began hollowing out the inside.


Once the interior was roughly hollowed out, I parted the urn in half.

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Why would I cut the urn in half? Well, first because it makes hollowing out the endgrain interior a hell of a lot easier, but really so I could glue in a exotic hardwood piece – in this case bubinga (Guibourtia demeusei) commonly known kevazingo, a species of exotic hardwood from the African Congo. The pieces spent a night in clamps, waiting for the glue to cure, I then turned and balanced the whole piece spindle-mounted against the tailstock. Cut bubinga smells like exotic spices and flavored pipe tobacco.

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Then the interior of the bubinga is cut away, carefully in order to preserve as much of the wood as possible. Bubinga is very expensive. The piece removed to create the bubinga ring, which I call the donut hole for obvious reasons, will become the base of the urn in a later step. I also added more gold flake to the bark line at this point.


With the bottom portion done to rough, I moved on to the upper section of the urn. I had intended to reattach the original top that I parted off during the hollowing process, unfortunately (or actually in retrospect, fortunately) that piece disintegrated on the lathe.

So I fashioned a new piece from the same log that the original wood came from, and changed the design in the process.

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I hadn’t intended to change the design, but as the grain emerged from the new piece I decided to follow where it led. In the picture below, the new upper piece is sitting on top of the lower piece and the bubinga ring so I can see how it looks and check the shape. The whole assembly is sitting on the shattered original upper section. You can see the difference in shape. The new piece will make the whole urn taller and more elegant.


You might notice that the grain of the upper piece perfectly matches the lower piece, even though the two pieces came from different sections of the original log. That took some careful engineering. I was happy with how it all fit together, so I glued it up, including the bubinga base, and let it sit for a couple of days, this time inside a paper bag to control the drying process. The lid is inside that plastic bag on the bottom right of the picture below.


After a couple of days in the drying cabinet, the moisture content had dropped to about 15% and the piece was ready for final turning. The following picture shows the whole urn spindle-mounted on the lathe using a set of large Cole jaws to drive the urn against a live center. In the background you can see the bottom portion of the powered dust collector intake. That sits on top of three large 400cfm/2 micron canister filters and is driven by a 1hp motor attached to 800cfm squirrel cage blower. When I’m sanding a turning piece that dust collector system is directly behind the lathe and gets 99.9% of all dust and fines, which allows me to turn without a respirator. The filter stand also holds my work light and various tools.


I carefully shaped the hardwood pieces, stopping frequency to put a burr edge back on my turning scrapers. A catch or gouge at this point could completely ruin the piece. The following three pictures look very similar, but if you look carefully you can see the piece subtly changing shape.

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The last turning step was to complete the lid. I had turned the basic shape from the same piece of stock that the upper section of the urn came from. I dovetail mounted it in a Nova chuck and turned the final shape. Then I reversed it in the chuck and turned a recess for a bubinga finial. I cut a rough bubinga disk on the bandsaw, then trued it against a disk sander using a simple circle making jig. This is something that the Shopsmith makes incredibly easy. I set up the jig on the second Shopsmith, the advanced 520 I use for special purpose work, configured for disk sanding and in minutes had a perfectly turned disk of bubinga cut to exact size. That was then glued into the lid’s recess, clamped, and left to dry. A day later I remounted the lid and finished the finial. Then the whole piece was allowed to dry to a final moisture content of about 9%, remounted in the lathe, sanded and burnished with birch wood chips. Then saturated in several coats of natural Danish Oil.

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All surfaces inside and out were sealed with wood sealer, and finally the piece was coated in a dozen coats of glossy varathane finish.

The final urn is 17” tall and 8” in diameter at the shoulder.

The idea here was to create an urn that incorporated Alaskan themes (the birch and the gold) with hints of deeper complexity and mystery – and elements of the world outside (the African bubinga). I wanted to create something that spoke of Bryan, Jeri’s husband, an Alaskan at heart but experienced in the world and with a sense of adventure, complex, warm, and unique. Flawed, as we all are, but within the flaws are seams of gold.



I don’t normally name my pieces, but for certain very special ones I do.

This one is called Heart of Gold.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

A Little Perspective – The Moose Death at Colony Middle School (updated)

Monday a young moose died on the Colony Middle School campus in Palmer, Alaska.

Moose die here in Alaska all of the time, killed by hunters or the environment or predators. It happens.

What made this particular moose’s death newsworthy was that it died after apparently being harassed by the students.

The story was reported in the Anchorage Daily News, and picked up by various media outlets across the country with varying degrees of promotion. A number of animal rights organizations picked up the story. And, of course, the tale is loose in the blogosphere and the twitterverse, becoming more embellished with each retelling.

As you might imagine, a number of folks are up in arms.

As usual, both the so-called professional mainstream media, and the blogosphere are more interested in hyperbole, hysteria, headlines, outrage, self righteousness, and hype. With stories like these, and increasingly all stories, it’s getting harder and harder to tell mainstream reporting from the tabloids.

FOXNews reports: Alaska Middle School Students Scare Moose to DEATH!

AP News reports: School Moose Death!

Other headlines shout: Eighth Graders In Alaska Punished for Taunting Moose To Death! Panicked Moose commits to Suicide to Escape Children! Students Disciplined for Terrorizing Moose (this is my personal favorite. Terrorism. Yep. It always comes down to terrorism, thank you Bush Administration, thank you so very much indeed). Do a Google search, see what you come up with.

Commenters under these stories frequently note that mass murderers often killed animals as children. The commenters express outrage and demand the children be variously: punished severely, expelled, jailed, fined, and so on and so forth. Nobody actually mentioned tar, feathers, or boiling oil, but I got the impression some of them were implying it, especially on the animal rights sites. There are calls for the school staff to be fined, fired, penalized, and so on an so forth and in this case I think tar, feathers, and boiling oil were mentioned. A large number of people have called this event a horrifying tragedy. Animal rights organizations are spitting venom.


Colony Middle School is a block from my house. My son goes to school there. The moose in question was a yearling calf that was most likely in my yard last week with his mother. My son told me about the incident Monday. Over the last three days I’ve spoken to other parents and I just got off the phone with the school.

So, speaking as an experienced Alaskan, a parent, a member of the Palmer community, and as somebody who has a kid in the school in question and as such is extremely familiar with the school and the kids and the staff and for that matter, moose, allow me to say this:

Shut the hell up. All of you.

Now, take a deep breath and let’s get a little perspective here before we break out the torches and pitchforks, shall we?

Before we condemn the kids as future mass murderers, the teachers as lax and incompetent, and the moose as a martyr to Truth, Justice, and the American Way, let’s all just take a second to get a few facts straight:

Monday morning, the eighth grade physical education class headed out onto the athletic field to run laps.

The athletic areas are behind the school, and border a thickly wooded area. Moose are common, especially this time of year when they come out from the deep woods in search of new growth to feed on – such as the grass on the athletic fields. Unknown to either the students or the teachers, a young moose had wandered onto the campus.

This particular moose was a yearling calf, most likely only recently pushed out on his own by his mother. He was young, inexperienced, and not used to being alone. Now don’t get all gooey eyed and start projecting your own feelings of youthful angst onto the moose – this is a normal event, and moose aren’t people, they’re moose. Yearlings are pushed out on their own, because very soon the cow moose is going to birth this year’s generation of calves. That’s how it works. A certain number of those newly liberated yearlings aren’t going to make it. They fight other moose for territory, they get killed by wolves or bears that they don’t have the sense or experience to avoid, they get hit by cars because they haven’t learned about roads, they die from malnutrition because they can’t find enough to eat in the period between winter and summer, they die because they’re sick, or lame, or just plain unfit. This is not a tragedy, it’s just nature. Those young moose who die provide food for other animals, from bear and wolf cubs, to foxes, to eagles and crows, to bugs and mice and all manner of creatures. The ones that are hit by cars end up feeding needy families, or sled dogs if they’re too damaged for human consumption. Welcome to life in Alaska.

The moose on the Colony Middle School campus had gotten himself inside one of the fenced in athletic areas – likely he would have eventually found his way out again, or he might have tried to butt down the fence or even jump over it. This could have ended badly for the moose any number of ways. Moose get tangled up in fences and swing sets and clotheslines all over Alaska all of the time – some die as a result. Now, the path the students use for laps runs down the side of the enclosure. Two students apparently stopped when they noticed the moose, and began yelling at it. They also apparently threw pebbles and maybe a stick or two.

The moose did what moose do in such situations, it attempted to run away. Apparently it butted into the fence, which probably confused it – a chain link fence looks a lot like underbrush to a moose, something they’re used to plowing through. The moose became agitated, and charged the fence, apparently breaking its neck. Which, understandably, killed it almost instantly.

The teacher was on scene almost immediately. The students were rounded up and brought back inside. The state game office was called, as were the State Police. State game officers normally only respond if the animal is trapped or injured and needs to be freed or put down or there is some question of identification. If the animal is dead, the incident falls under the purview of the State Police – which was the case here. The police examined the situation, determined that no laws were broken and reported the kill to harvest list (a list of approved folks who will salvage the meat for proper use and charitably distribution) and dispose of the carcass. This happens all of the time here in Alaska, usually with road killed animals – about 200 hundred moose where killed in Anchorage and on Valley roads last year, just to give you an idea. Almost all of that meat was salvaged, very little went to waste).

The school examined the situation. Then the principle held a meeting with the students to explain what happened, what should have happened, what went wrong, what went right, and how to deal with such situations in the future. The principle informed us parents via the school’s automated phone message system, and via email and gave us a contact number where we could reach her for further details. She also invited us to drop by the school and discuss our concerns should we have any.The two students who were responsible for harassing the animal were suspended.

Various reports have embellished the story, adding layers of outrage and imaginary details like children playing a game of “Telephone.” But, what I’ve told you above is the actual story as it happened.

Now a couple of things:

First this is not a tragedy. A tragedy is when a child goes to sleep hungry because she’s too poor to get more than one decent meal a day. A tragedy is when a child dies from whooping cough or measles, or mumps, or some other easily preventable disease because his idiot parents are too ignorant to get him immunized. A tragedy is when children die because their parents are drug addicts or drunks or just too damned stupid to slow down on icy Alaskan roads. A dead moose isn’t a tragedy, it’s an unfortunate accident. Nothing more. Over 200 hundred moose related accidents happened in the Valley alone last year, most hit by cars. A number of those because drivers were going too fast, or talking on their phones, or daydreaming, or eating a cheese burger instead of paying attention. Strangely though, few call for those people to be tarred and feathered. Hypocrisy in action.

Second, a large number of commenters, both on blogs and under news articles like the ADN piece linked to above have stated that mass murderers start out by torturing animals, QED these kids are going to be mass murderers. For crying out loud. Folks that’s called the logical fallacy of Circular Cause and Consequence. Only a few murderers actually started out by killing or torturing animals. Not all, not a majority, a couple. A rather large number of murderers have been described by folks who knew them as “a real nice guy who wouldn’t hurt a fly.” Saying these kids are going to turn into mass murderers because they yelled at a moose makes as much sense as saying a boy scout is going to became Charlie Manson because he helped a nice old lady across the street. That’s the cause part of this fallacy, here’s the consequence part: just because a kid teases his dog or pulls on a kitten’s tail does NOT mean he is destined to become the next Jeffry Dahmer. The kids in question here yelled at a moose, they maybe threw a couple of stones at it. It wasn’t torture, it sure as hell wasn’t terrorism, it was a couple of kids being kids.

Third. As noted above, we’re talking about kids here. A number of blogs and commenters I read expressed outrage at the lack of judgment displayed by the involved children. Lack of judgment? These people are kidding right? They obviously don’t have teenagers, have never actually met a teenager, and were obviously never teenagers themselves. Seriously, only a complete idiot would expect mature behavior and sound judgment from thirteen year olds.

Fourth. A number of folks have called for the teacher and the school to be disciplined. I’m sure this will be the topic of the next school board meeting. Again, are you kidding? What exactly should the teacher have done? The kids were running cross country laps over an area of several acres. There are fences and trees and outbuilding and hills, the teacher can’t see everything or be everywhere. As immature as an eighth grader is, they are old enough that they can run laps on the school grounds without being watched every second. We’re running a middle school gym class here, not a prison exercise yard. You want jailors and end-to-end eyeball coverage for every student 100% of the time, you’re going have to pony up one hell of a lot more money to hire that kind of manpower. Think about what you’re demanding for a moment. Do you let your thirteen year olds play outside in the yard or the neighborhood without supervision? I sure do, and I’m not holding the school to higher standards of supervision than I display as a parent. I do expect the school to take reasonable precautions, and reasonable safety and security measures, and provide reasonable supervision – but it’s Alaska, there’s going to be moose in the yard (and there’s actually one outside my window at the moment, probably the mother of the moose that was killed). The teacher responded as quickly as humanly possible once she was aware of the situation. She took immediate action to ensure the safety of the children first. What else would you have her do? This entire event took place in seconds. It is possible the moose was startled more by the arrival of the running students - who it might have confused with predators - than from the actual taunts and stones.

Fifth. The kids. Look, the kids shouldn’t have yelled at the moose. They shouldn’t have thrown stones. Maybe. And maybe they should have – under other circumstance frightening the moose back into the woods and away from humans is a good idea. Look, if you don’t know about moose, you should keep your mouth shut. Moose aren’t like cows or dogs or people. Moose are not harmless – contrary to what a number of commenters claimed in the ADN. Moose are wild animals, they can be extremely dangerous. More people are killed or seriously injured by moose here in Alaska every year than by all the bear attacks combined. Moose are, however, a fact of life here. They live in the bush, but they also live in our backyards. We live beside them, we photograph them, and we eat them. The kids don’t get excited about moose around here, they’re used to them. Maybe too used to them. Most people, me included, have scared off a number of moose by yelling at them, or tossing a stick. I’ve scared dozens out of my flower beds. So, it is highly likely that the kids involved saw absolutely nothing wrong in yelling at, or tossing stones at, a moose. Should they have expected the moose to die as a result of their actions? Should they have extrapolated the moose’s panic or its response? Refer to the paragraph above regarding teenaged judgment.

Should this have happened? In a perfect world, no. Of course not. Just like all of those animals killed on Alaska’s roads every year – a lot of which are preventable – shouldn’t happen.

This was an accident, the kids didn’t intend to hurt the animal. But they did display poor judgment and the animal died. That’s all that happened. It’s bad enough, without making it worse by talking out your excretory orifice.

Here’s what you should take away from this incident

1) No child was killed or hurt. If you can’t see why this is the single most important takeaway, if you place the life of a moose above the life of a child, then I don’t want to know you. Don’t comment here, don’t email me, just go the hell away I don’t want to talk to you.

2) An animal died. This is unfortunate, but it needs to be viewed in perspective, and its death will not go entirely to waste. This young moose will feed a family for months, or a team of sled dogs. Again, a little perspective here, folks. Don’t go anthropomorphizing the moose. Maybe it panicked, maybe it didn’t. You weren’t there, you don’t know. Maybe it was afraid, maybe it was just confused, and maybe it was just doing what moose do for their own inscrutable moose reasons. It died, but its death was no more horrible than being shot, or being run down by wolves, or being hit by a car, or being torn apart by a bear, or starving to death, or dying slowly from a broken leg – all of which happens to moose every single day in Alaska. That, my friends, is just how it is. I’m not saying you should be blasé about the death of an animal, but try to have a little perspective.

3) The children learned that actions have consequences – this is something that many adults don’t seem to ever learn. It is unfortunate that they had to learn it this way, that the death of an animal was involved, but perhaps this abject lesson will serve to help them always remember and temper their actions in the future. It certainly made an impression on my son (who was not directly involved in this). If this incident prompts parents and children and teachers and Alaskans to learn something about the world they live in, then the death of this moose will mean one hell of lot more than the deaths of the other thousands who will die unlamented this year.

4) The school has implemented uniquely Alaskan training: what to do during an animal encounter. All the kids will receive this training as part of the curriculum. I’ve given my son this training myself, but I am all for its inclusion and reinforcement in the schools. These children are Alaskans, they will encounter wildlife in the future, and this single incident may very well save their lives.

5) The school took prompt, correct, and professional action. The students involved were disciplined. The parents were kept informed. There is nothing else that needs be done.

Colony Middle is an excellent school with high standards, the staff and teachers are outstanding people, and the kids themselves are an outstanding bunch of young people. This incident, though unfortunate, was an accident and nothing more.

Let’s try not to blow it out of proportion.



In the comments thread below, a commenter took exception to my use of the word "zealot" when referring the members of PETA.

Zealot - a fervent and even militant proponent of something.

Now, go read these comments under the PETA website regarding the incident described above. This is what the compassionate members this organization believe:

What a bunch of scumbags, they probably live miserable lives because nobody loves them, not even their parents. So they decide to get their anger out on a poor innocent creature, which is BS! I hope they get far worse punishment for what they did.

THIS IS AN OUTRAGE! An innocent creature was tortured and killed at the hands of bullies and cowards. This community needs to show that ANIMAL ABUSE IS TOTALLY UNACCEPTABLE AND WILL NOT BE TOLERATED. Failure to work with PETA at this time could lead to more crimes in the future.
these little thugs are cowards ... people who pick of animals are the most cowardly people alive. children like that should be held responsible and punished for their cruelty towards a sentient being.

Note the embellishment, note the logical fallacies, note the cognitive disconnect and poor logic and group think. Note that PETA apparently believes moose are sentient - a surprise to biologists everywhere, no doubt. Note the immediate and absolute condemnation of the kids involved. Note the condemnation of their parents, homes, and community, state, and governor. Note that only PETA can save the day.

There is more of the same here, in the comments under today's ADN article, and more under yesterday's. With the addition of conspiracy theories - sooner or later I'm sure we'll learn that in addition to "probably being the State Troopers kids" the youngsters involved also killed JFK by taunting him to suicide from the grassy knoll.

These are exactly the kind of people who used to burn witches, heretics, and non-believers. These are precisely the kind of people who used to enjoy a good lynching and a little frontier vigilante justice with a rope. These are the type of people who create conspiracies whole cloth in support of their fanatical beliefs.

These are the type of people who speak passionately of compassion, love, and respect - for animals - and have nothing but hate, loathing, and disgust for two teeanaged human beings.

That is exactly who these people are.

Zealot I said, zealot it is.

And that's the kindest word I could have used.


Follow up post and additional thoughts are here.

Here's a Question For You

Who the hell watches "Paid Programing?"

No, really?

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

You ever notice…

…that whenever there’s a cute young thing in the store that you’re surreptitiously watching walk away, there’s always some huge sweaty bastard in a dirty wife-beater T-shirt with his ass crack hanging out who manages to insinuate himself directly between you and the object of your gaze and stay there like a big stinking eclipse? Usually he’s eating something disgusting… or picking his nose.

… that whenever you’re in a hurry and there’s absolutely nobody on the road except for you, some clueless moron in a rusty jalopy will pull out directly in front of you – and then proceed to drive 20 miles per hour under the speed limit deliberately catching every single red light. For the next ten miles it’s a no-passing zone. Then inevitably, a semi-truck shows up out of no damned where and tailgates your ass?

… that when you just need to get an address or a phone number out of your online address book, that’s the moment when Windows decides that it just has to index every single bit on the hard drive? Or alternatively, that’s the exact moment your virus scanner decides that it just absolutely has to scan every single byte of data in the system? Or alternatively, that’s when every piece of software you own decides that it’s the optimal time to download updates? Or better yet, all three events occur simultaneously.

… that nobody calls you all week, but if you’re on the phone with an old friend that’s the exact moment every single person you know decides to call you? And the doorbell rings. And your wife hollers for you from upstairs.

… that they only clean the public restrooms when you’ve really got to take a piss?

… that your flight is only delayed if there are kids involved? Yours or somebody else’s – specifically the ones sitting directly behind you, kicking your seat. And speaking of air travel, why is it that every single person you end up sitting next to is either hygiene optional, afflicted with the fear of flying and Crohn’s disease, or just loves to talk about the Jesus – for eight hours.

… that your nose only itches when you’re cleaning the catbox?

… that if you’re all alone in an aisle at the store and you pass a little gas, a really hot chick will show up almost instantly to give you a dirty look? The more foul the gas, the larger the number of hot girls who will show up. Guaranteed if you had chili, pickled eggs, and dark beer for dinner the night before, you'll be sharing an elevator with the Hooter's A-Team in the morning.

… that if you’re on a long trip in the car and your wife has been dozing for hours without comment and you pick your nose, that’s the exact moment she opens hers eyes and asks how come you’ve always got your finger up your nose? And speaking of long car trips, how come your kid never has to go to the bathroom until the exact moment you pass the last rest stop or exit for the next sixty-five miles?

… that if you put up something really lame on your blog, for some reason that’s the day everybody comes to look? That’s the day you get links to half a dozen forums and popular blogs and CNN? And you can look at your stats and see them all looking at that one lame-ass post and you want to scream, Wait! Don’t go, read the thing about the Rubber Chicken, Dick Cheney, and the Lesbians! I swear that’s not lame. Please don’t read the lame post. Hello? Hello?

Maybe it’s just me.

What is that you notice?

How have I been missing this?

I only recently started watching Boston Legal.

I’ve caught a few episodes now and then and liked it, but last night the HD network was running some kind of Boston Legal marathon , so I managed to take in several episodes.

Holy shit, what a weird, quirky, utterly hysterical show.

I suspect I’m preaching to the choir here. However…for those of you who live in a remote village in central Zimbabwe and haven’t seen it:

The core cast is terrific, both Candice Bergen and James Spader are truly funny people, but William Shatner completely steals the show – the guy is just absolutely, insanely, hilariously brilliant.

Case in point: Last night they aired Season 3, Episode 16: The Good Lawyer.

Denny’s (Shatner) girlfriend, Bethany (played by the utterly gorgeous little person, Meredith Eaton) makes him go to Temple. Denny claims he can’t go because he’s a Christian. When Bethany asks what kind, Denny flounders around and finally says he’s Lutheran. Bethany then asks him what Lutherans believe in, and after a minute Denny replies: “Luther.” Obviously he has no clue and is just trying to get out of going to Temple. It doesn’t work, and later in the show you see Shatner sitting in Synagogue, utterly lost. First he won’t sing, then after Bethany jabs him, he starts belting out nonsense pseudo Hebrew words off key, until Bethany jabs him to shut him up. Then he falls asleep, and two kids a couple of rows ahead of him notice his snoring – so they shoot him with spitballs. Denny wakes up with spitballs glued to his face, realizes what’s going on about the same time Bethany does, and whips out a pen, which he proceeds to disassemble into his own peashooter. Bethany realizes what he’s doing and tries to stop him.

By this time I’m laughing hysterically, mostly because of Shatner’s maniacal intensity, but I still had some control of my bodily functions.

But when Bethany leaps on top of Denny – the image of Shatner wrestling with feisty midget Meredith Eaton, his eyes bulging out and his jowls wagging, while attempting to chew a wad of paper into a spitball, I pretty much lost all control.

Denny flings Bethany away, and as she slides down the polished wooden seat he loads his peashooter and takes aim at the two kids. He lets fly just as Bethany comes leaping back like some kind of mini-westler and body slams into Denny…and the spitball hits the Rabbi dead in the eye. I think at that point I was lying on the floor making hiccuping noises.

And the final scene…Denny and Bethany sitting across the table from the Rabbi and his lawyer, Denny explaining his version of Middle Eastern politics – and you suddenly realize the Rabbi is wearing an eyepatch and they’re suing Denny. It’s a wonder I didn’t completely pass out from lack of oxygen.

Boy, if I only had a nickel for every time a midget has broken up with me over politics…