Saturday, May 30, 2009
Migration Heads Up (Updated) (Updated Again!)
Please leave a comment under this post, so that I know the changes and redirection are working.
I own the stonekettlestation internet domain and its several variations.
Over the next couple of days I'll be (hopefully) migrating this blog from the Blogspot domain to its own Stonekettle Station domain.
It's entirely possible this process will go off without a hitch.
Possible, but unlikely, because as you know - the universe likes to screw with me.
Once the blog is rehosted, you should be automatically redirected from the original stonekettlestation.blogspot.com to the new site, and then you can update your bookmarks and such.
I'll let you know before it happens.
I expect to make the switch either late Monday or first thing Tuesday morning.
Thanks for your patience while we undergo these fabulous new renovations in order to serve you better and blah blah blah.
You have been warned.
False Alarm. Everybody calm down. No need to panic.
Seriously everybody take a deep breath.
Christ, I even mention moving Stonekettle Station and the stock market takes a dive, GM files for bankruptcy, there's panic on the switchboard and chaos in the streets.
Fine. Fine. Fine.
I'm not moving. There are issues and it's more work than I have time for at the moment.
So, you do have time to prepare yourselves. Please do so. So that we might make this transition in the future without further undo panic and social disorder.
However, I am making a few small changes here and there on teh Internets.
For example: If you type www.stonekettlestation.com into your browser's URL address line, you'll be seamlessly redirected here to stonekettlestation.blogspot.com. Cool huh? I made that change world wide, this morning. All the major routers are onboard with it (Note: I do not believe that this is the direct cause of GM going tits up, however even if it is, sacrifices have to be made in the name of progress. I can't be concerned about every little company out there).
Anyway, you may notice subtle changes to your reality. All is well, do not panic.
Update X2 Below:
Ok, I lied.
I moved. You didn't even notice, did you?
Stonekettle Station's new permanent URL is www.stonekettle.com
Please update your bookmarks and linkage as necessary.
NOTE HOWEVER, that the original blogger URL, stonekettlestation.blogspot.com will continue to work (duh, obviously, since you're here).
ALSO NOTE: since www.StonekettleStation.com also belongs to me, it will redirect to www.stonekettle.com until I find something else to do with it.
ALSO NOTE, the linking and redirecting and various internettry is still shaking out, don't be surprised if there's a little weirdness for a day or so.
I'm done making changes for the moment, frankly I'm tired of monkeying around with computer crap today. In addition to moving Stonekettle Station to it's new domain, I installed a new router and wireless access point - which required that every wireless device in the house (and there's a lot) be reconfigured to the new encryption and access point. Which in turn meant that the stupid server wouldn't accept any of the other machines as fully privileged peers because it no longer recognized their connections. It was a firewall issue, which has now been reprogrammed to recognize MAC addresses rather than the original static IP addresses from the local network. Why did I use static IP addressing originally? Well, because I used to have two different network print-server adapters that would only use static addressing (hey, they were old, what do you want?), and additionally I used static IP addressing to record a log from the nannyware and parental controls installed on my son's computer. Static IP addressing made that much easier to manage. Additionally static IP addressing made my network more secure, the wireless access point was set to only accept specific static IPs and reject all others. Yes, it's more work to set up, but when I first set up the network I was living in Southern California, where wardriving is a sport - and so is connecting to your neighbor's WAP and downloading kiddie porn.
The old print servers have long since been removed from the network, I no longer live in Socal (thankfully), and I don't need the nannyware anymore. But I never updated the router or firewalls or yadda yadda because it worked the way it was.
Until I swapped out routers. Then nothing worked. Blast!
It's all fixed now.
I got extended wireless range that works out to the shop. I've got the latest encryption. And I've got significantly improved wireless throughput. In addition, according to the Dali Lama, when I die I'll have enternal happiness - you, you know, I've got that going for me.
And because I know you were all curious, the Playstation 3 is now wirelessly connected to the new access point. Firmware updates are completed. It appears in the network map - and my son can now compete against his friends in Gears of War. Yay.
I am sick of computers.
I'm going to go make sawdust for a while.
Friday, May 29, 2009
Liberalism, Conservatism, and Insanity
That’s The Stupidest Thing I’ve Heard In a Long Time
- even in the bastion of Neocon central, i.e. South Central Palinville, Alaska.
Saw this in Wasilla yesterday:
* Note: Clicking on the picture will take you to Jarbina.com where you can purchase a T-shirt with this phrase for $17.50. (Also note: the T-shirts are tight and form fitting, so if you’re built like the typical Neocon they’re going to make you look queer as Ted Haggard in a wet t-shirt man-boob contest. You should probably order a baggy XXXL. Think of the children. Just sayin’)
The bumper-sticker was affixed to the approved neoconmobile, a Ford pickup, complete with rust, a pit bull mix with spiked collar, beer cans, and gun rack – though the weapon in the rack appeared to be a Daisy BB rifle (Seriously, WTF is this? Alaskan Redneck Lite?). The bumper-sticker was prominently placed next to the requisite “Abortion is Murder,” “Marriage = 1 Man + 1 15-year old Cousin” (Ok, it might have said “1 Woman” there was dirt on it and I couldn’t quite make it out), “NObama," “McCain/Palin” and, as required by law in Wasilla, Alaska, the mandatory National Rifle Association sticker. The only thing missing was Jesus and a pregnant under-age local politician’s daughter.
Liberalism is a mental illness.
This phrase, of course, comes from the title of a book by ultra conservative font of verbal vomitus and host of radio talk show The Savage Nation, Michael Weiner, AKA Michael Savage (apparently conservative test audiences began hyperventilating uncontrollably and secretly visiting Castro Street bath houses when first exposed to The Weiner Nation, hence the nom de guerre). A self proclaimed combination of Plato, Henry Miller, Jack Kerouc, Moses, Jesus (yes, Jesus), and, um, Frankenstein, Weiner is nothing if not humble. The book ended up on the NYTimes Best Seller list, in the top ten no less, which just goes to show you that conservatives will buy books other than the bible and Guns & Ammo, as long as they are bound in vellum made from the warty skin of Charlton Heston’s massive scrotum and printed in bitter black inky tears collected from members of the Michigan Militia.
The book, Liberalism is a Mental Illness, doesn’t explain or provide proof or references from actual mental health experts on why liberals are certifiably nuts, Savage manages to aptly dodge that little burden of proof. Mostly the book is 272 pages of frothy spittle about why gays, the ACLU, feminists, immigrants, lawyers, liberals, the courts, and most especially the Goddamned Muslims should be imprisoned or worse. Sort of like a “bathroom reader”, Liberalism is a “bunker reader,” i.e. something neocons can toss off to in the root cellar by the flickering yellow light of their generators while clutching their AR-15’s in one hand and themselves in the other.
But it makes a catchy phrase, doesn’t it?
Liberalism is a mental illness.
Let’s review shall we?
Generally, liberalism divides basically into two categories, Cultural and Social.
In the US, Cultural Liberalism is a view of society that stresses the freedom of the individual. Generally people that are culturally liberal believe that:
- All religions, including none, should be tolerated, i.e. religious belief is a personal issue – providing that said religion does not infringe on personnel freedom (Liberals might “suffer a witch to live” for example, but not if she sacrifices neighborhood children on a pyre to the Earth Mother. However, liberals aren’t going to let Christians burn witches at the stake or press them into piecrust under large stones either).
- While all religions, including none, should be tolerated, religion itself has no business in government. Period. Religion is between individuals and their God, gods, or other such mojo. Government is an agreement between people, God has nothing to do with it – just the same as with legal contracts which are enforced by law, not the Divine. What’s the phrase? In God we trust, all others pay cash.
- They believe strongly in freedom of expression, and are opposed to censorship. For example, those of us in uniform used to say, “I don’t agree with what you said, but I’ll defend to the death your right to say it.” That, exactly that.
- They believe that family and marriage and sexual orientation should be left up to individuals and that no lifestyle is inherently better than another, again providing that said lifestyle does not harm individuals or involuntarily restrict personal freedom as defined by the affected individual him or herself.
(Holy crap! That sounds a lot like the, gasp, Constitution!)
Social Liberalism is a view of government that believes strongly in personal freedom, but acknowledges the reality that the majority of citizens cannot fully benefit from an advanced and crowded and expensive society without at least some assistance. That assistance being things like, oh, education, law enforcement, public services and safety, enforcement of human rights, welfare - no not Welfare, but rather that which could include medical, unemployment, retirement, and emergency services of some kind, not always and not all the time and not for “free” and not without restrictions, but there when you need it because if the strong do not help the weak what’s the point of society in the first place?
As a group, liberals tend to believe that:
- peace is better than conflict and that diplomacy is preferred over saber rattling and that national pride is not a reason for going to war.
- we are stewards of the Earth, not its owners, and that wantonly destroying the life-support system without replenishment is a bad idea, especially since it’s the only one we have.
- we have a moral obligation to take care of the less fortunate members of our community, society, and world – even if it means that we have to tax people to do it. Liberals tend to believe strongly that it is immoral for children of the richest nation in the world to starve to death or die from neglect or lack of care. And yes, many liberals believe that it might have been better if some of these kids hadn’t been born, or at least that their mothers should be the ones to make that choice.
- and that, here in America at least, we are capitalists, but like anything else capitalism must be regulated so that a tiny minority doesn’t end up with everything, including goods and power and money and services and education, to the determent of the majority (not that that’s ever happened, mind you. Lately), i.e. we are a civilization, not a mob.
There’s more, of course. Much more. Infinitely more, in infinite variation. But that’ll do in broad outline. And I’m obviously simplifying things drastically. It’s not that cut and dried, it never is. Liberals hardly share a unified vision and social compact, and in point of fact if there’s any group that liberals vehemently disagree with more than conservatives, it’s other liberals – such is the nature of individualism and personal freedom. Exhort people to think freely and differently, and they will.
Now, certainly, some extreme far left Liberals seem to hate the human race and would kill us all to save the bunnies. They are provably a tiny minority. These people are probably insane to some degree of obsessive maladaption.
Some far left Liberals are socialists and/or Marxists – even if they don’t realize it. Some of them believe that all wealth should belong to the state and the state should care for every citizen in equal measure from cradle to grave in some kind of idealized hippy utopian wet-dream. They don’t know or don’t care that wealth can be created, or seem to understand that wealth is not intrinsically evil in and of itself, nor is there anything noble or enlightening about poverty. They seem to think that eliminating wealth will somehow eliminate poverty, when just the opposite is demonstratively true – and in fact history shows repeatedly that when individual wealth is universally redistributed the result is not a universal middle class but rather universal poverty without the concentrated wealth to do anything more than maintain the slowly decaying status quo. These people ignore the lessons of history, specifically that socialism carried to extremes leads directly and inevitably and inexorably and without fail to tyranny and a complete loss of that individual freedom they value so much. These too are a minority. I don’t know that these people are insane per se, but a number of them are clearly deluded and engaged in self deception.
Some less far left Liberals seem to think that if we all just held hands and sang Kumbaya and gave Osama a pony all men would magically become brothers through the miraculous power of rock and roll and we’d all live in an endless Age of Aquarius like a worldwide Burning Man Festival. These people do not understand that no country would survive more than a day past the demise of its military. And they simply cannot seem to grasp that most people are bastard flavored bastards with bastard filling and little bastard sprinkles on top and without the constraints of society they would rapidly shed the thin veneer of civilization and slit your throat for the change in your pocket (What? You don’t believe me? Go visit any country in the current Horn of Africa, or the Congo, or Haiti of five years ago, or Cambodia of 30 years ago, or right here in America in the Watts Riots or Southern lynchings or the witch trials and get back to me. Go on, I’ll wait). These Liberals are also in the minority, some are clearly in need of help, most are just supremely ignorant – and a number are simply stoned and have been since the 60’s.
But the vast, vast majority of liberals are not afflicted with mental illness and I find it more than a little disingenuous and more than a little hypocritical, and more than a little mentally ill, that ultra-conservatives would label liberalism, all liberalism, as a mental defect.
Is desiring peace over war, diplomacy over conflict, life over death, a mental illness?
Or is the belief that killing people will solve your problems a sign of mental health? Shooting doctors to save children, using murder because you didn’t get your way in court, is that rational? Is beating a gay man to death because you believe a supposedly loving Son of God who spoke passionately of peace, love, and tolerance wants you to commit murder, is that sane? How about declaring war on false pretexts, knowing that the pretext is false? How about persisting in the rightness and righteousness of that war, despite having it abjectly demonstrated to you that the justification for it was a lie? How about the complete and total inability to admit error based on blind patriotism or the inability accept criticism or to perform critical and objective self analysis? Last time I checked denial and delusions of grandeur and the willingness to do violence without regard for the law were sure signs of mental illness.
Is the desire to understand others a mental illness?
Or is xenophobia a trait of the mentally stable? How about constant hatred, fear, and paranoia? Hatred of those that are different from you, fear of the unknown, paranoia that everyone is out to get you? How about basing your entire worldview on that hatred, fear, and paranoia? And persisting in that worldview even when it is shown to be abjectly false and utterly wrong – say like the belief that gay marriage somehow harms traditional marriages, despite all evidence to the contrary and in fact cannot be shown to have harmed children or destroyed American values (whatever those are) or in any way whatsoever to have impacted even one traditional marriage in the slightest fashion. And when confronted with this simple fact, actually concoct fictitious anecdotes and fabricated justifications solely in order to persist in this irrational hatred? The mental wards are full of dangerous nuts like this. What about blaming and hating and calling for the extermination of the people of a particular religion, because certain members of their belief system did you harm? Is genocide a sign of sanity? When Hitler and Stalin and Amin and Milosevic did it, we said they were crazy, but when conservatives such as Limbaugh and Coulter and the savage Weiner call for the extermination of Muslims that’s a sign of sanity? Why then not call for the extermination of Christians after Timothy McVeigh committed a heinous act of terrorism against Americans? No, that would be crazy, wouldn’t it?
Is the desire to know the world a mental illness? Is a thirst for understanding a mental illness? What about a belief in those things you can see, feel, and touch? The quest for knowledge? Is that a mental illness?
Or is mental health a belief, without a single shred of evidence, in angels and demons and fairies and invisible beings who live in the sky? Is mental health a denial of hundreds of years of scientific advancement - backed up and reinforced by multiple disciplines and error checking mechanisms – in order to maintain a persistent belief that the Earth is 6,000 years old because a book written by stone-aged sheep herders and translated and edited dozens of times is deemed to be the literal word of God and utterly infallible and utterly without human error and true in every regard despite numerous and glaringly obvious contractions and demonstrably false statements – such as the Earth is flat or that a man could live inside a whale or that two of every kind of animal lived within walking distance of Noah’s house. That is, of course, what sane people do, isn’t it?
Is the desire for personal freedom a form of mental illness? Were our ancestors, those men and women who fought against tyranny, who forged this country, who spoke passionately of law and liberty and justice for all, who wrote the Constitution – were they mad?
Or does the rational mind believe that doing evil is acceptable, as long as you mean well? Is torturing another human being something that sane people do? Is torture something that sane people want their government, or their military, or their nation to do? Are sane people proud when their government tortures humans beings, creates secret prisons, and disappears people? Truly, is that what sane people think? How about the failure to see the contradiction in claiming to be for smaller government, and yet being responsible for the single largest increase in government growth since the founding of the country including a massive new internal secret security apparatus? How about claiming to be fiscally responsible while driving up the single largest debt in history in order to prosecute a war started on false pretext – and then blaming the debt on somebody else? Is that sane? Are denial and shifting the blame and rationalization the marks of sanity?
Is a desire to protect the environment we all live in a form of mentally illness? Is making sure that our children - those same children certain conservatives are willing to kill for - have a world to grow up in a mental illness?
Or is wanton and rapacious consumption of resources without regard for the consequences the viewpoint of a rational and mature civilization? Do rational people go about systematically destroying their food supply and contaminating their drinking water? Do they? Do sane people regard demonstratively limited resources as bottomless and infinite and endless, and do nothing to plan for the future except party like it’s 1999? If an astronaut died because he deliberately fouled his suit, poisoned his air, and shit in his food supply would we say he was sane? But doing the same thing on a global scale is, right?
Is a desire to help others a sign of mental illness? Is it? Is compassion and a sense of justice mental illness?
Or is rationalizing poverty as the just station of the poor and thereby beyond our responsibility the sign of the perfectly functioning mind? Is killing to ensure children are born, and then claiming that you have no further responsibility for them rational? Is waving the flag and marching in parades and beating the ever living shit out of people for not being patriotic enough to suit you, but seeing nothing wrong with letting tens of thousands of Americas go without decent jobs or a living wage or adequate food or shelter or medical coverage or education sane? Is it?
Is a desire to see all citizens equal before society a hallmark of mental illness?
Or Is a fanatical belief that you are superior because of your race or sex or religion or income or station or car or home or looks or job or inheritance or the state you were born in or luck or overblown sense of entitlement make you sane? Does it? Is a sense of smug superiority a trait of sanity? Is a belief that your own shit doesn’t stink, that you can’t make mistakes, that you are marked for destiny, that you are God’s chosen one, and a belief that all others are inferior and consequently get what they deserve because of it – is a God Complex sanity? How about if you believe that you are “Plato, Henry Miller, Jack Kerouc, Moses, Jesus, and Frankenstein” all rolled into one – but you’re too afraid to use your own name when you make that claim? Is that sanity?
If Liberalism is a mental illness, then Neo-Conservatism is the bugshit, barking at the moon, lead paint swilling, self mutilating, piss drinking, dirt eating, kidnapped by space aliens, playing with invisible friends, gibbering in the land of de Nile, born again shut in the closet and covered in your own shit, screaming wackaloon of mental disorders.
Liberalism is a mental illness, my ass.
In fact, just the opposite is true: attempting to resolve conflict without resorting to violence, promoting tolerance within broad and reasonable limits, seeking equality for all, protecting the world we live in so that we can go on living in it, and taking care of the weak and the less fortunate are the hallmarks of the mature and the rational and the healthy and the sane mind.
And in point of fact, these very things are the founding principles of nearly every mainstream religion, but most especially Christianity – Jesus was the ultimate Liberal. If you claim to be a Christian and you’re a NeoCon then you are a Goddamned hypocrite.
These are the founding principles of every major conservative service organization, from the Masons, to the Elk’s Lodge, to the Boy Scouts of America.
And these are the founding principles of the United States itself.
Liberalism is what sanity looks like.
No wonder Neocons don’t understand it.
Over on Burlaki on the Thames, Ilya posted a video of The Proclaimers’ version of Roger Miller’s King of the Road.
Which, of course, put The Proclaimers earwig in my head. I’ve had I’m gonna be 500 miles and I’m on my way playing in my brain for two days now.
There’s really only one way to deal with an earwig (well, OK, there is two ways, but I’m opposed to the bleach, power drill, and bent coat hanger method for safety reasons). With an earwig, the best thing to do is to just fire up the album and get it out of your system*.
So this morning I’m listening to Sunshine on Leith.
Here’s the Scottish duo, Charlie and Craig Reid, better known as The Proclaimers and (I’m gonna be) 500 Miles:
* Note: Stonekettle Station does not recommend this earwig suppression method should you be afflicted with an Abba, Dancing Queen earwig – in that case, only the bleach, power drill, and bent coat hanger method has been proven as an effective treatment.
Warning: Do NOT click on the above link. No really. Not even to see insane Swedish people in tights. No, don’t do it!
You fool! You did, didn’t you?
Bleach is under the sink. Grab the jug, come on out to the shop, we’ll use the drill press.
Thursday, May 28, 2009
Ear Plugs Please
We bought him a Play Station 3 to replace the aging (and no longer cool) Play Station 2 about month ago.
What do these two events have in common?
He's been bugging me to take him to Gamestop so he can cash in his old PS2, GBA, various games and controllers and whatnot. So, today while he and I were out running errands, I capitulated to his request (which is a nicer way of saying I was sick and tired of his endless nagging, Dad, please please please take me to Gamestop so I cancashin myoldpeeestooooostuff andgetbigmonenyandbuyrockbandsomethingorotherblahblahblah).
You know, in the grand scheme of things, Gamestop is a pretty cool idea. You can turn in games and game boxes and assorted game related stuff and get cash or credit and buy used games and game boxes and assorted game related stuff for pretty decent discounts.
Including RockBand for the PS3.
What is RockBand you ask? This is a big friggin' box of stuff that includes a guitar, drums, and I don't know whatthehellall that plugs into the PS3 along with some software. Basically, near as I can tell, the object is to make as much goddamned noise as possible short of a Titan missile launch complete with main booster malfunction and accompanying explosion.
Once, when I was in bootcamp, I got caught sneaking a smoke when the smoking lamp was out. The Drill Instructor made me light up a non-filtered Camel, assume push-up position with my head and shoulders inside a large metal garbage can, and do 100 push ups while hotboxing the cigarette with the rest of the platoon beating a thunderous cacophany on the outside of the can with various metal objects. My head rang, my eyes watered, and my stomach heaved for hours afterward. I'm fairly certain that the severe degradation of my hearing began on that day.
Rockband Hero for the Playstation 3 is a lot like that experience.
It's going to be a long, long summer.
This cat will kill you, but first he needs to take a nap.
Take the time to prepare yourself.
There will be a post later about the recent Prop 8 ruling in California. I've got the snark, and I'm not afraid to use it.
In the meantime feel free to play with the cat. Bandaids and Betadine are in the medicine chest in the downstairs bathroom. Have fun. Oh, and keep your guard up, he likes to go for the eyes.
Wednesday, May 27, 2009
Frankly I didn't notice.
I looked at it this morning, it looked OK. Didn't see anything pressing and went on to other things (and in fact now that I think about it, my queues looked remarkable similar to how they looked on Saturday morning, which should have set off the ominious nagging feeling - but didn't, for some reason).
Got a forum message from a friend saying she'd tried to email my private address and had the message kicked back because the account was full.
Ten Megabytes full - according to the webmail status page.
Near as I can figure, sometime Saturday my local client partially crashed and stopped downloading traffic from the ISP mail server, which promptly filled up - mostly with spam.
I think I've got it fixed, but it's still downloading at this point and it's going to be a while before I can sort through everything. So if you're one of the privileged horde who has my private email address and you sent me a message and you were expecting a reply, here's the deal: if you didn't get an error message from my server, you're probably good and I'll get back to you eventually. If you did get a server error, some technobabblygook about your message being rejected or my inbox being full, you'll need to resend.
I see at least one issue, an email conversation, that I should have been involved in where people are probably wondering what the hell the deal is. Sorry folks - and I'm sure you know who you are - I'll get on it. In the mean time, count me in.
The counter on the spam folder just went past 4000.
As a slightly related aside: You know I purely hate spammers. I think we should hunt them down, strip them naked, bend them over a waist high post, nail their scrotums to it with industrial staples, and jam large toothed eels up their collective asses by the bagful with a hydraulic ram until their colons explode.
Oh, like you haven't had that exact same thought.
Messages sent to my public Stonekettle gmail account are fine.
My Phone Camera Sucks
Yes, it does.
Just thought I’d share that.
Tuesday, May 26, 2009
Eklutna Lake Trail
Well, it’s finally summer here in Alaska.
It doesn’t last long and you really need to taken advantage of what nice days you get.
Saturday we went to see Terminator Salvation in Anchorage (Woohoo! Awesome! More on that later) and then I spent most of the afternoon doing spring maintenance on our ATV’s, figuring that if Sunday was decent we’d get out and do some exploring.
I even demonstrated my optimism by loaded the ATV’s onto the trailer, coupling up the truck and parking the whole rig in the shop in preparation for an early start the next morning.
Sunday dawned clear and beautiful with temperatures in the low 60’s.
So, we loaded our day packs and the rest of our equipment and set out for the Eklutna Glacier Trailhead in Chugach State Park.
(Just for the record, we made the kid ride inside the truck)
The trail starts at the Eklutna Lake State Park camp grounds, and follows the edge of the lake roughly ten miles to the Bold wilderness airstrip. Then the trail continues on, following the Eklutna river another three miles up into a deep valley, a mile or so short of the glacier. If you want to explore the ice, you have to do the last mile on foot over very difficult and dangerous terrain, even rugged 4x4 ATV’s like ours can’t navigate that climb.
The trail itself is an improved jeep trail, though vehicles larger than an ATV are not allowed. Speeds are limited to 15MPH and there is a lot of bicycle and foot traffic so you need to pay attention and observe basic trail courtesy. There are some rough spots, but nothing difficult and it’s an easy trail for a beginner and a good place to refresh your riding skills after the long winter. There are two remote wilderness campsites along the trail, one at 8.8 miles and one at mile 11. There is also a wilderness cabin at mile 12 that you can rent.
The views are spectacular.
Eklutna lake is a seven mile long, deep, fresh water lake that fills a valley carved by the retreating glacier. Several large streams feed into the lake…
…but its primary input comes from the Eklutna River which is in turn fed by glacial melt. Because of this, the lake’s water level can change by as much as sixty feet, depending on season. The Eklutna glacier itself grinds over the bedrock and its weight powders the stone into fine talc, called glacial flour. That flour washes down the river and into the lake, which is what gives the water that otherworldly opalescent milky-blue glow.
You wouldn’t think so, but fish live in the lake, Dolly Varden mostly. They eat bugs and algae and crap cement.
The picture above is the far end of the lake, which we reached in about an hour, then we turned to follow the river towards the glacier, which you can just see nestled in that deep valley in the center of the picture below.
The trail crosses the river several times. The state has built bridges, while this isn’t as exciting a fording a glacially cold, fast moving river on an ATV, it’s a lot safer and more importantly has a lot less impact on the environment. All traffic is limited to the trail and the bridges, this eliminates random damage by idiots on ATVs and prevents erosion (It also has the added side benefit of eliminating most of the idiots, as they think the trail is too tame and they look for adventure elsewhere leaving the traffic here mostly well mannered and well behaved).
Note: You might notice in the upper picture, that my son’s hair is cut short in a high and tight military style. I bribed him into to it. The day before this trip I was so damned sick of that mop he usually sports that I offered to buy him a very nice model rocket - if he’d get his hair cut military style for the summer. He agreed. Bawahahahaha! You have no idea how much this tickles me. Maybe he’ll grow to like it. I told him it makes him look older. Also, chicks dig Marines. He said it was a lot more comfortable inside his helmet. I consider that a promising sign.
Several miles past the lake we came to Serenity Falls.
It doesn’t look like much, but later in the year when the melt is in full gear and the water is really flowing, it’s pretty spectacular.
And finally, we came to the end of the trail, about a mile below the glacier. We ate our lunch and decided not to climb on foot to the ice field itself. It’s pretty treacherous up that way, vertical in some spots, muddy and wet.
And in addition, the bears were out in force.
We could see two black bears stalking mountain goats across the valley, which we watched with binoculars for about an hour.
The goats seemed most unconcerned. I had no doubt that unless the bears were armed with rifles, they weren’t going to be eating goat for dinner. That’s them circled in the picture below. Hard to see in the picture, but hey what do you want? They were damned near a mile away, and a thousand feet up the side of a cliff.
Eventually, one of the bears got tired of the stalk and went off to find better pickings. We watched him cross an ice patch and disappear into the alder scrub. That’s him, that little black dot in the picture below.
On the trail back, we got a much better and much closer view of a black bear.
That’s him, that black blob in the picture above, crossing a stream about 50 yards away. Let me tell you something, getting a picture of a pitch black bear in blinding sun is a royal pain in the ass, especially when he’s moving. Out the ten shots I took, that’s the only one that’s even vaguely bear shaped. He’s a young male, maybe 120 to 160 pounds. We came around a blind corner and caught him in the middle of the road twenty yards ahead of us. My wife and I were on the lead machine, with my son following. I braked hard, and my wife signaled my son to stop. Both my wife and I were armed, me with the large frame .44Mag, and my wife with a .45ACP auto. Either weapon was more than a match a small black bear. We believe in prudence when it comes to Alaskan wildlife however and we have no desire to shoot a bear – well, other than with a camera. We knew there were bears on the trail, the rangers had warned us before we set out, and we’d seen bear scat along the way, and we were prepared for the encounter.
He wanted nothing to do with us, he turned and ran into the woods and I snatched the big camera out of the saddlebag and snapped that shot as he crossed a stream and disappeared into the brush.
A large group of hikers came up the trail then, and another group from the other direction, we warned them about the bear danger and continued on.
We crossed the final river and hit a muddy patch of the trail. My son had been pestering us the whole way for us to allow him to plow through the water at speed. So when we came to a flooded portion of the trail, we let him have his wish.
He was quite happy with the results.
Until he learned that he would be washing the muddy machines when we got home, that is.
Round trip, we covered just under 30 miles (we took a couple of detours to check out the Bold Airstrip and the campsites). The smaller Arctic Cat performed perfectly, but the big Polaris 700 gave me some grief. It lost power several times and stalled – for all the world like it wasn’t getting gas. I popped off the engine covers, figuring it was a clogged fuel filter, but when I vented the fuel injection bar at the relief value gasoline squired two feet sideways under pressure. Plenty of gas. Probably a wet or dirty electrical connector then. The Cat is fully manual, there’s not much to go wrong with it, but the Polaris is a computerized electronic fuel injected monster, it’s an excellent machine but the more complicated you make them, the more that can go wrong. I carry two full tool kits on each machine, and there’s not much I can’t fix on the trail, and so I fiddled around a bit until I got it running again. Worked fine for the rest of the trip. But if necessary I could have towed it back with the other machine. This afternoon I’ll strip it down in the shop, run the diagnostics, and find the problem.
We were filthy dirty and dead tired by the time we got home. But a hot shower and a hot dinner fixed most of that.
It was a great day.
What adventure did you find this weekend?
Monday, May 25, 2009
Things That Chap My Ass About Memorial Day
Memorial Day is a US Holiday
This holiday was first known as Decoration Day, and it began as a day to honor Union soldiers who died during the US Civil War, first observed by order of the commanders of the Grand Army of the Republic as set forth in the following missive:
The 30th day of May, 1868, is designated for the purpose of strewing with flowers, or otherwise decorating the graves of comrades who died in defense of their country during the late rebellion, and whose bodies now lie in almost every city, village, and hamlet churchyard in the land. In this observance no form or ceremony is prescribed, but Posts and comrades will, in their own way, arrange such fitting services and testimonials of respect as circumstances may permit.
We are organized, Comrades, as our regulations tell us, for the purpose among other things, "of preserving and strengthening those kind and fraternal feelings which have bound together the soldiers sailors and Marines, who united to suppress the late rebellion." What can aid more to assure this result than by cherishing tenderly the memory of our heroic dead? We should guard their graves with sacred vigil that the consecrated wealth and taste of the nation can add to their adornment and security, is but a fitting tribute to the memory of her slain defenders. Let pleasant paths invite the coming and going of reverent visitors and fond mourners. Let no neglect, no ravages of time, testify to the present or to the coming generations that we have forgotten as a people the cost of a free and undivided republic.
If other eyes grow dull and other hands slack, and other hearts cold in the solemn trust, ours shall keep it well as long as the light and warmth of life remain in us.
Let us, then, at the time appointed, gather around their sacred remains, and garland the passionless mounds above them with choicest flowers of springtime; let us raise above them the dear old flag they saved; let us in this solemn presence renew our pledge to aid and assist those whom they have left among us a sacred charge upon the Nation's gratitude—the soldiers and sailors widow and orphan.
II. It is the purpose of the Commander in Chief to inaugurate this observance with the hope that it will be kept up from year to year, while a survivor of the war remains to honor the memory of his departed comrades. He earnestly desires the public press to call attention to this Order, and lend its friendly aid in bringing it to the notice of comrades in all parts of the country in time for simultaneous compliance therewith.
III. Department commanders will use every effort to make this Order effective.
Memorial day was enacted to commemorate the men and women who have died while serving our country in uniform. The very heart of this day is that third paragraph, the one that reads:
If other eyes grow dull and other hands slack, and other hearts cold in the solemn trust, ours shall keep it well as long as the light and warmth of life remain in us.
Memorial day is a day that we who served remember those who fell. And, hopefully, Memorial Day is a day that those who have not served also remember those who have fallen in their defense.
That list, of the uniformed dead, grows larger each year.
There are many to remember. Some died as heroes. Some died as cowards. Many died just doing their jobs, just doing what they believed in. Some of those deaths ring down through history, heavy with meaning. Some are long forgotten, even by us, their deaths meaningless and wasted. However they died, for whatever reason, this is the day that we Americans remember those who gave everything so that the rest of us might be free.
No matter how they died, this is their day.
This is the day that we honor our fallen.
Or, rather it should be.
Those who don’t remember the fallen today do not bother me, for if other eyes grow dull and other hands slack, and other hearts cold in the solemn trust, ours shall not. And that’s enough.
No, what bothers me this day are those who see this holiday as just another opportunity. Those selfish and self centered sons of bitches who have not forgotten the true meaning of this day, but simply don’t care. I’m talking about those who would use this day to further their own agenda.
Oh yes, sure, I’m talking about the sales and the promotions – where the profits go into the pockets of the retailers and have nothing whatsoever to do with the real purpose of this day. Sure, I’m talking about those who profit on the corpses of those who died to keep them free.
And yes, of course, I’m talking about the gratuitous self aggrandizing politicians. Who bloviate about service and sacrifice and then go back and vote to cut military funding unless it’s for a weapons program built in their district, or to leave Gitmo open, or to “stay the course.” Yeah, those selfish assholes. Sure I’m talking about those people.
And Yes, exactly, I’m talking about the Beltway Generals, the ones who’ve never seen combat. The ones who think sacrifice is having to ride First Class instead of via private military jet. The ones who believe that facing adversity is not getting new carpeting in their Pentagon Offices this year. And that duty is golfing with that Colonel they don’t like instead spending the afternoon in a hotel with their secretary. Those who remember that rank hath its privileges but forget that it also has its responsibilities, while they send the rest of us into the meat grinder ill equipped and ill prepared. Yes, I’m talking about those people. Sure.
And yes, I am talking about the defense contractors, those profiteering bastards who’ll sponsor picnics and flyovers and full page ads today – in order to advertize their own product line, the same substandard crap they charged us ten times too much for and delivered a year late and only partially functional. Certainly, I’m talking about them.
But what I’m really talking about is this:
Remember, Jesus died in the Service too. Memorial day is about honoring his glory.
This message was printed on a sign in front of a Baptist Church in Butte, Alaska.
You know what? Wrong. Today is not about honoring Jesus, unless Jesus wore a uniform and served in the armed forces of the United States of America – and that sign just plain pisses me off. No, really, you have no idea just how much that sign and its message piss me off. It’s the selfishness of it, it’s the self-centeredness of it, it is the single-mindedness of it, and it is the utter disdain and disrespect and disregard for those in uniform who have fallen so that that pitiful shitty inbred asshole church could put that message on that sign that just utterly and completely pisses me the bloody fucking hell off.
My urge was to drive over the sign repeatedly until there was nothing left, then pour gasoline on it and torch the ruble, and then hunt down the priest, minister, padre, shaman, or whatever the hell he’s called, who put that goddamned message up in the first place, and kick his fucking ass.
I didn’t, I drove on, fuming.
And I’m still fuming.
That sign brought to the forefront something that has always irritated me, and something that has gotten worse and worse in the last couple of years. I’m talking about those who want to lump their bullshit in with military service. I’m talking about those people who today will seize the microphone to talk about 911 victims, or starving kids in Africa, or AIDS victims, or the dying polar bears, or Jesus.
Today is not about any of those things. Not even Jesus.
And if my opinion pisses you off, so be it.
If you find my words offensive, too damned bad.
Because you see, I am offended.
I’m offended by those selfish and self centered Americans who would pay lip service to Memorial Day solely in order to further their own agenda. These people, and acts like the ones I described above, dishonor and disregard and disrespect those who died in uniform.
Better they should forget us, rather than spit in our faces.
Let us, then, at the time appointed, gather around their sacred remains, and garland the passionless mounds above them with choicest flowers of springtime; let us raise above them the dear old flag they saved; let us in this solemn presence renew our pledge to aid and assist those whom they have left among us a sacred charge upon the Nation's gratitude—the soldiers and sailors widow and orphan.
Sunday, May 24, 2009
Almost like it won't rain.
However, we're Alaskans, we are not fooled by the blue sky and sun. No we're not.
We're off with the ATV's to Eklutna Glacier today on our first adventure of the Alaskan summer.
Don't whine, I'll take pictures.
It'll be almost like you're there with us - only without the mosquitoes.
Back later, much, much later.
Friday, May 22, 2009
Stonekettle Station’s Top Ten Classic Scifi Novels That…
…should be made into mini-series.
Things that Chap My Ass about the Stinking SyFy Channel
You know, when they first came out with the SciFi Channel, I, like many fans, thought “At last! Bawahahahaha, at last!”
A channel dedicated to just us. Us Science Fiction fans.
A channel just for geeks, freaks, and nerds.
A channel where Star Trek, The Next Generation wouldn’t be pre-empted for Monday Night football or some Bass Fishing Classic (seriously, how do you get to be a professional bass fisherman? No, really, what exactly do you major in at Fat Lazy Bastard University to prepare yourself? Beer and hookers? Is there a Union? and more importantly, who the fuck watches two guys in a boat, fishing?)
A channel where they’d show endless repeats of Space 1999, and Star Trek, and, hell, maybe even the excretible Starlost. With movies of the week like the classic Forbidden Planet and maybe Destination Moon and even the hysterically bad Moon 02.
A channel where they’d show interviews with great authors, like a video version of John Scalzi’s The Big Idea.
A channel where they’d show sneak peaks of upcoming SciFi movies and interviews with the cast, crew, directors and writers – kind of a TV version of the old Starlog Magazine.
A channel where they’d make cool new science fiction series without having to dumb it down for the mundanes.
A channel where they’d cover the conventions, live and in color.
A channel where they’d utilize modern technology to blog and plurk and twitter and connect us all.
Man, I was all kinds of excited.
Hell, if it was up to me, I would have gotten the rights to exclusively broadcast NFL football – and then preempt the game with about ten minutes to go. Up yours, jock douche bag knuckle draggers, how you like it? You may now pucker up and kiss my ass. La Dee Da, Bitches, name all the Planets of the Federation and maybe we’ll broadcast the rest of the game - at 11:30PM. (You may, if you like, visualize me gleefully giving the finger to professional televised sports at this point).
Boy, it sure didn’t take long for that dream to die a small whimpering death, did it?
Instead of a SciFi channel, what we got was SyFy, which mostly consists of ECW wrestling and unbelievably bad movies like Mansquito and Snakehead Fish Monsters of Venus (or whatever it was called, like it actually matters), and Jennifer Love Hewitt hunting ghosts or some silly nonsense (seriously, the girl is nine kinds of funny, why she’s doing this crap is beyond me).
Every once in a while, they manage to pull a decent science fiction series out of their corporate sphincters, Farscape and BSG come to mind. So it is possible for those running SyFy not to actually shit all over the only people who watch their wretched channel.
Now that BSG has proved beyond any shadow of a doubt that there is great profit to be made in quality Science Fiction, and that a great number of people like me actually prefer intelligent fare over the tractor-pull retarded nonsense of the ECW, and that a science fiction show can actually be referred to as “the best hour on television” by mainstream media, I’d like to suggest that those who run the SyFy Channel pull their collective heads out of their aforementioned sphincters and turn to some classic science fiction novels for inspiration.
In this day and age of relatively cheap and excellent special effects, a decent science fiction series can be done that would have been beyond conception even ten years ago. And while I’d dearly love to see some of my favorite novels come to life on the big screen, few Hollywood blockbusters could do justice to them. No, for them to be done right, they need to be a well made mini-series, done with the same dedication and passion as series like Firefly or the BSG reboot. That’s what the SyFy channel should be all about.
Take the following for example:
The World of Tiers, by Philip José Farmer. Specifically the first book in the series, The Maker of Universes. Set in an artificial universe, upon an artificial planet built by godlike beings to resemble a world-sized wedding cake, The World of Tiers is filled with strange creatures, odd and wildly varied civilizations, godlike creatures, Indians, knights, steamboats, long extinct animals, evil, good, and many things in between. It’s a quest and a voyage of discovery – and the ending is both predictable and startling.
Ringworld, by Larry Niven. Louis Wu and his motley crew crash land on an Enormous Big Thing - a sun girdling ring more than a million millions wide. As Niven himself says, the Ringworld is an intermediate step between a planet and a Dyson Sphere. They find mystery and adventure, floating cities and flying castles, betrayal and trust, old enemies and new friends, immortality, and the ruins of ancient star-faring civilizations beneath the light of the heaven spanning Arch.
Starship Troopers, by Robert Anson Heinlein. A coming of age story that follows Johnny Rico from callow youth to seasoned and respected officer in the star spanning Mobile Infantry. The classic military scifi tale – and the only way to do this novel correctly is as a mini-series, ideally by the same folks who did Band of Brothers.
The Foundation Trilogy, by Isaac Asimov. Still considered one of the cornerstones of Science Fiction and written on the scale of Rise and Fall of the Roman Empire, The Foundation Series spans the final centuries of a slowly dying Empire and the aftermath of its collapse. Possibly one of the greatest works ever. Ideally, a mini-series would devote each season to each specific epoch in the series.
Rendezvous with Rama, by Sir Arthur C. Clarke. Explorers intercept and explore an enormous world sized ship as it transits the Solar System. They attempt to unlock its secrets and are only marginally successful. Supposedly a movie adaption of Rama, led by Morgan Freeman, has been in the works for over a decade – but that movie is unlikely to be made.
Alas, Babylon, by Pat Frank. The classic post apocalyptic survival tale set in small town Florida, often imitated over the years, but rarely duplicated. Ideally, I’d like to see this told exactly as Frank wrote it, set in late 1950’s America, complete with segregation, and Soviets, and poverty, and the moldering remains of the Gentile South.
The Forever War, by Joe Haldeman. Another coming age tale and a conflict that spans centuries. Less about war, than about the toll it takes on those who fight it and the civilization they leave behind - and how their war shapes that very civilization. This novel was born out of Haldeman’s experience as a soldier in Vietnam, and ideally it would be filmed in the same manner as the classics of that conflict. Apocalypse Now and Platoon come to mind.
The Peace War, by Vernor Vinge. Vinge’s breakout novel. Set in a world built upon the ruins of our own, controlled by descendents of scientists who ended war and imposed peace upon the world – at the cost of freedom, scientific progress, and the lives of millions. In this world of ironclad dictatorship an old man who once discovered the technology used to rule the world, a women out of time who was once his love, and a young mathematical genius set out to destroy tyranny. Along the way they discover a startling secret, turn it into a weapon, and change the world.
Pern, by Anne McCaffery. (Technically, this is a fantasy, but what the hell). Technology has finally reached the point where the dragons of Pern could be brought to life realistically. This is a classic tale of discovery and bravery and perseverance in the face of overwhelming odds. For twenty years I’ve carried in my head the opening scene to this series: The great dragons and their riders soaring low over the exotic coastline of Pern with the Red Star flaming like an eye in the heavens above and reflecting on the dark waters below, and then rising up through jagged dark peaks just as the sun breaks above the horizon and Ruatha Hold appears against the Ramparts. The Voice, by The Moody Blues is the theme song.
Titan, by John Varley. Ringmaster, the first manned ship to Saturn, discovers and is destroyed by an ancient and insane world sized creature, Gaia. The captain, Cirocco Jones, and her crew awaken scattered and shattered inside Gaia. The living world is built like an enormous Stanford torus. Stranded and alone, some altered beyond recognition, some damaged, and some changed in terrible ways, the people from Earth seek each other out and attempt to solve the mysteries of this inside out world and its bizarre inhabitants. Eventually, some of them storm heaven to confront the godlike Gaia herself.
The Blue World, by Jack Vance. A vast oceanic world with no land, populated by the descendents of shipwrecked criminals who live on giant sea plants and battle the mighty King Kraken himself. Just because, seriously, this would be so freakin’ cool.
World out of Time, by Larry Niven. A cryogenically preserved man from the 1970’s awakens in the far future into the body of a brain-wiped criminal. He has no rights, no citizenship. He’s a slave, and nothing more. He is trained as a ramship pilot and sent to seed mankind among the stars. Along the way he escapes his fate and finds a way into the future. He returns more than a million years later to a vastly changed and dangerous Earth.
Hell, I’d even suggest David Gerrold’s Chtorr series, maybe that would get him to finish it.
And there you have it, Stonekettle Station’s Top Ten SciFi Novels that should be made into outstanding and captivating mini-series.
What books do you think would make a great science fiction series?
What You Waiting For?
Over on Twitter, Random Michelle made a comment about being “super-hyper” and that reminded me of this video.
The Rushes, What You Waiting For?
I’ve mentioned this band before. They’re from London and I really dig them. Still can’t seem to buy their stuff in the US though, at least not anywhere outside of iTunes.
Magic 8-Ball Jesus gives this video 2 thumbs up and a sandal clap.
Thursday, May 21, 2009
Quirky Traditional Alpha Male
Your result for The Social Persona Test (What kind of man/woman are you?)...
The Late Bloomer (QTAM)
Quirky Traditional Alpha Male
You are a horrible persona to be until sometime in high school or college, and then things just can't go wrong for you. Sure you are a bit nerdy, but the cool type of nerdy; and you have developed confidence as if it were a well toned muscle. When selecting a date stick to nice, traditional women, preferably ones who share your interests.
You are more QUIRKY than NORMAL.
You are more TRADITIONAL than LIBERAL.
You are more DOMINANT than PASSIVE.
When picking a date, consider: The Rarity (QTAF) or The Librarian (QTBF).
(Image from scificool.com)
Take The Social Persona Test (What kind of man/woman are you?) at HelloQuizzy
Blatantly stolen from Carol at Just an Ordinary Goddess.
Wednesday, May 20, 2009
The Mystery of Science
What would life be without a little mystery?
Not science, that’s for sure.
That question didn’t even make the top ten. See, LiveScience lists what the boys in coke bottle glasses consider the top ten greatest mysteries in science. And as I read through the list, something occurred to me – scientists really need to get out more often.
Seriously folks, I knew the answers to all of these so-called stumpers:
- What drives evolution?
Stupidity. Evolution is a natural process for weeding stupid people out of the gene pool. Do you see anybody poking a Tyrannosaurus Rex with a pointy stick nowadays? No, you do not. All of those giggling idiots got recycled into the ecosystem as dinosaur crap a long, long time ago. Of course, without stupid stick poking people, eventually the T-Rexes starved to death, and we had to start all over.
- What happens inside an earthquake?
Apparently anybody can be a scientist. What happens inside an earthquake? Well, there’s a whole lotta shakin going on in there. Hell, even Jerry Lee Lewis knew that, and he was from Louisiana.
- Who are you? I.e. what is the nature of consciousness?
Science Dudes, seriously, how stoned are you right now?
- How did life arise on Earth
Not one of you watched the Battlestar Galactica Finale I take it?
- How does the brain work?
Beer + Boobies, mostly. Well, that’s how my brain works anyway.
- Where is the rest of the universe?
Did you look under the sofa cushions? That’s where it was the last time.
- What causes gravity?
Pillows. Seriously, there are some mornings where the gravity is so strong, I really don’t think I have the strength to lift my head off the pillow. The gravitational attraction of pillows is an invisible force that reaches right through other objects – for example, the couch pillows are pulling at me right now with an almost irresistible tidal attraction. The force has already fastened both cats securely to the couch. You can’t fight gravity, folks, don’t even try.
- Is there a theory of everything?
Yes, Buttermilk. Honestly, how many times do I have to go over this?
- Does alien life exist?
Actually it’s here, right now, watching us, cleverly disguised as William Shatner’s hair.
- How did the universe begin?
If I have to explain it to you, you’ll never understand the answer. Let’s just say that it involves Jennifer Love Hewitt, a vat of lime jelly, and a rip in space-time and let it go at that, shall we?
Now seriously, folks, this was the best scientists could do? This list?
How about some tough questions? How about questions science can’t answer?
Who the hell buys a Honda Element on purpose? No, really.
Does anybody, anywhere, think Ben Stiller is funny – besides Ben’s mom?
What is Tofu and why would you put it in your mouth?
If you are an attractive busty blonde, is it even possible that you won’t get tapped for the TSA’s new full-body X-ray vision machine?
Why is Keith Richards not dead?
Will George R.R. Martin finish the Song of Fire and Ice before the Earth is frozen solid by the heat death of the universe?
Why are Pop Tarts so bad… and yet so very, very good?
Why can’t California drivers comprehend the basic concept of “Left Lane Fast, Right Lane Slow?”
Could Rush Limbaugh be a bigger asshole?
Why oh why doesn’t Hollywood make more movies with Kate Beckinsale in tight black vinyl and fangs?
I Bet Megatron Has One
That’s the Ravage Transformer 2GB USB thumb drive.
It’s $45 dollars and won’t ship until September from BigBadToyStore.com and I’m not even a Transformers fan – but still, how cool is this?
Magic 8-Ball Jesus gives this product two thumbs up and a sandal clap, with a saucy swish of the robe to Gizmodo
Tuesday, May 19, 2009
How To Fix The GOP
Republican National Chairman, Michael Steele, has a plan for fixing the Grand Old Party.
Steele gave what his press secretary called “an important speech” today at the monthly Republican Luncheon in Prince George’s County, Maryland.
Why do you care?
Because Steele will be silent no more. He will no longer go quietly into that good night. He will no longer play the lovable buffoon. He intends to retake the reins of power. Hear him roar.
The RNC captain has acknowledged his party’s failings and set forth a plan for plugging the holes, patching the leaks, refloating the hull and setting USS RNC on a course full speed ahead into the shining future of America. He intends to have traitorous Democrats officially branded as Socialists and the filthy liberals walking the plank by 2012.
And such is the strength of his conviction that he just might do it.
Most Americans, conservatives and liberals, don’t expect such leadership from Michael Steele, who of course has been the butt of jokes and suffered ridicule since he first took office as the head of the RNC. In light of today’s speech, it is apparent that this criticism is is unfair, unjust, and unfounded. Steele is a canny and intelligent leader - maybe too intelligent. People simply don’t understand him, and what they don’t understand they ridicule and crack wise about in order to hide their own shortcomings.
See Michael Steele speaks fluent Republican, and non native conservative-speakers have a difficult time understanding his accent. This is a failing on their part or maybe because of the Liberal Press, or the public schools, or the gay agenda – but not Steele’s.
So, as a public service, Stonekettle Station will translate Michael Steele’s comments into plain language so that godless atheists, handwringing liberals, crying homosexuals, American apologists, illegal aliens, socialists, communists, evilutionists, vegitarianists, and other sissy members of the Democratic Party can understand.
I know, I know, but I’ll speak slowly and use small words. If at any time you don’t understand, raise your dainty little hands and we’ll consult the special Stonekettle Station Magic Eight-Ball Jesus.
Term: Monthly Republican Luncheon in Prince George’s County.
Translation: Open bar. Hookers.
Magic Eight Ball Jesus responds: Ooo! You twist like a girl!
Michael Steele on the ownership of his testicles: The era of apologizing for Republican mistakes of the past is now officially over. It is done.
Translation: His holiness, Rush Limbaugh, accepted my most abject and sincere apology. I will never question him again. I abase myself and crawl on my belly – if that’s OK with you, Mr. Limbaugh, sir.
Magic Eight Ball Jesus responds: Ow! Stop! I’m just the middleman!
Michael Steele on lessons learned: We have turned the page, we have turned the corner. No more looking in the rearview mirror. From this point forward, we will focus all of our energies on winning the future.
Translation: We’re not changing a damned thing – if that’s OK with you, Mr. Limbaugh, Sir.
Magic Eight Ball Jesus responds: Ow! Ow! Ow! That’s it! You’re getting hemorrhoids!
Michael Steele on class and dignity: Republicans will continue to criticize the Democrats. But, we will do it unlike the shabby and classless way Democrats took on Bush, Republicans will take on Obama with class and dignity.
Translation: Obama is a Muslim! Obama isn’t an American! Obama hates America! Obama is an Arab! Obama’s brother lives in a shack! Obama consorts with Terrorists! Obama is a communist! Obama’s middle name is Hussein for crying out loud! Those who don’t agree should take a lesson in class and dignity from Rush – if that’s OK with you, Mr. Limbaugh…Sir.
Magic Eight Ball Jesus responds: I hate to tell you this, but you’re the one person on Earth I don’t love.
Michael Steele on priorities: We need to intensify our party building efforts.
Translation: We’re broke. Please, Mr. Limbaugh, Sir, could we have some money?
Magic Eight Ball Jesus responds: You call that pain? Try listening to Pat Robertson praying for 20 minutes!
Michael Steele on scapegoats: It's time for us to get our heads out of the clouds and out of the sand and stop moping, and lay out an agenda that looks forward to the future.
Translation: It’s all Colin Powell’s fault!
Magic Eight Ball Jesus responds: Ow! I’m feeling a little cross right now. Heh, heh. Cross, get it?
Michael Steele on popularity: He's young. He's cool. He's hip ... he's got all the qualities America likes in a celebrity, so of course he's going to be popular.
Translation: This is such bullshit! It’s so unfair! I can be cool! I can be hip! What? I’m sorry, sir, of course you’re still more popular than Jesus, Mr Limbaugh, Sir.
Magic Eight Ball Jesus responds: Aagh! Don’t make me have to rise from the dead and kick your ass!
Michael Steele demonstrates how math works: Republicans may be the minority party at the moment, but we represent the ideas and concerns of the majority of Americans.
Translation: 2+2=5, or more specifically according to Gallup this morning, Americans are (53% Democrats + 39% Republicans + 5% illegal immigrants + 20% Muslim terrorists + 15% not so good at math) = clear Republican majority. Clear. Isn’t that right, Mr. Limbaugh, Sir.
Magic Eight Ball Jesus responds: Ow! You can’t handle the truth!
Michael Steele proclaims his mojo: They can contemplate all they want to, but the reality is if they want a figurehead chairman you can have a figurehead chairman, but it won't be Michael Steele.
Translation: If that’s OK with you, Mr. Limbaugh, Sir.
Magic Eight Ball Jesus responds: You know, if you got laid more often, your wouldn’t be this sadistic!
Michael Steele on friendship: Some of them were supposedly friends that were in some cases, when I was a young state party chairman, were mentors to me and it's kind of eerie to see them standing with their knives bared.
Translation: We need to reach out to republicans who can’t be here today. When are the prison visiting hours again? Which reminds me, please, Mr Limbaugh, Sir, could I have another teabagging? I’ve been bad. So very baaaad…
Magic Eight Ball Jesus responds: You know, you’re one alter boy away from never being heterosexual again!
This concludes today’s public service announcement.
Please stay tuned to Stonekettle Station for more words of wisdom from Michael Steele and Magic Eight Ball Jesus.
Good night and drive safely.
Magic Eight Ball Jesus
Monday, May 18, 2009
Things That Chap My Ass About The Star Trek Reboot
spoilers are all safely below the fold line
We went to see the new Star Trek movie yesterday.
I hate going to The Movies.
Don’t get me wrong, I love movies.
But I hate movie theaters.
I’d much rather sit in the comfort of my own living room, in my Lazyboy, with my laptop connected to IMDB, in front of my huge HD Plasma screen and watch movies on DVD in surround sound.
Movie theaters suck, so do movie goers.
Movie theaters are a study in how many seats you can pack into a given space, plus ten percent. Movie seats are specially designed - by a descendent of Torquemada himself I suspect – to cut off blood flow to your ass. I mean seriously here, what kind of chair makes your ass fall asleep? How is that even possible? Legs I can understand, but nowhere other than in a movie theater seat does my ass fall asleep. I’ve ridden for hundreds of hours in the back of C-130 cargo planes, strapped into a parachute seat, basically nothing but a metal frame and some nylon – and even that didn’t make my ass fall asleep. It’s done on purpose, so you can’t escape no matter how shitty the movie. Fifteen minutes into Mallrats II, they don’t want to see you at the ticket booth demanding a refund.. And just to make sure, theater operators coat the floor in same glue they put on those strips of fly paper. You’ve got to keep moving your feet or your shoes become permanently affixed to the floor. That’s why at the end of Battlefield Earth you saw shoeless people belly crawling up the aisles on their forearms dragging their numbed hindquarters and shrieking Travolta’s name like a curse.
What they ought to do is redesign the seats so that your arms fall asleep instead of your ass. Seriously, that way it would be completely impossible to operate a cell phone during the movie. Who the hell are these dolts? They pay $12.50 a ticket and the minute they sit down they’re on the phone. Who are they talking to anyway? The 911 operator? Help! I’m trapped in the dark, my ass is asleep and my shoes are stuck to the floor!
The theater announces before the movie “the rearmost row is reserved for handicapped people and people in wheelchairs.” Screw the handicapped, let ‘em suffer with the rest of us. Reserve the rear row for tall people, that’s what I’m saying. What the hell is it with tall people anyway? They know they’re tall, don’t they? I mean, you look down and all you see are the tops of other people’s heads, you gotta know, right? And where do the gangly bastards sit? Yeah, exactly. Tall people are assholes. That’s why I bring a peashooter with me to the movies, if I can’t enjoy the flick tall people aren’t going to either. One way or the other, I’m getting $12.50’s worth of entertainment.
Two bottles of water and a small popcorn? $13.00 dollars. I’ve got to tell you, I was looking forward to that water, for the price I figured it had to be magic water. Maybe it would make me tall enough to see over the NBA Defense in front of me, or pump extra oxygen to my butt cheeks, or generate a cell phone blocking electromagnetic field. Or, what would be really useful, maybe it would gift me with clairvoyance and give me the power to guess which upcoming scenes would be slow and boring so that I could choose the best time to go take a piss. No such luck, it wouldn’t even dissolve the glue holding my shoes to the floor. Looks like I spent $4.50 each on just plain old water. Next time I’ll get the $6.00 spring water. Don’t get me started on the popcorn.
But, I digress.
Let’s talk about Star Trek.
As I mentioned yesterday, a reboot of the series is the only way you’d get me into the theater to see a Star Trek movie.
I’ve said elsewhere, it is my considered opinion that once you start calling something a “franchise,” the quality declines rapidly. Nowhere is this more true than Star Trek and all of its finite variations. The episodes of the original series, way back in the sixties, were concepts new to the general public, hell most of it was new to scifi fans. Everything about the show, from its multiethnic cast, to story lines, science fiction on TV itself, was new. It was weird, and ahead of its time, and original.
By the eighties though, the blush was mostly off the rose. A lot of scifi had come and gone since the original series. Cardboard sets and salt shaker props weren’t going to cut it. The Next Generation started out with the same basic characters, just in different bodies and positions. The writers recycled and repackaged nearly every episode of the original series – but mostly, at least at first, they did it the same way you lovingly retell the same old joke that everybody has heard a dozen times and, yet, you still get the laughs. Next Generation was going to be a hit, no matter what they did. We’d been waiting for it for twenty years, we loved it even if it did have Wesley Crusher at the helm (sorry, Wil, you know we love you). Maybe too much. We wanted more. Deep Space 9 did its best to be original, and so did Voyager, but the truth of the matter is that both shows - and the horribly boring Enterprise – were mostly just more of the same. Same characters, same stories, same plots, same conflict, same same same. There was the time travel episode, you know, the one where they all end up on Earth in the present day. There was the holodeck malfunction episode and the evil alternate universe episode. There was the robot malfunction episode. There was the rift in the space time continuum episode. There was the trial episode and that one where the captain is on a diplomatic mission and the one were the Bad Guys show up and the one were Worf gets a Klingon pimple or the Vulcan goes into heat.
And there were the movies. The first one (hell I don’t even recall its name at this point) was watchable, but Wrath of Khan is, of course, the holy grail of Trek movies. The Voyage Home had its moments – but it was the time travel episode all over again. And after that things went down hill fast. Things started to get ridiculous and had hit truly ludicrous speed by the time Undiscovered Country came along. First Contact was pretty good though, and I thought maybe the series would revive (Hey, even the Bond franchise had Moonraker). But by the time they got around to Generations, I was long past caring.
The same people had been writing the same characters for so damned long that any spark of originality was long, long cold.
Now, I realize that at this point, diehard Trekkies (those that bought the boxed HD director’s cuts of the Enterprise series for example) are spitting and foaming, but the simple truth of the matter is that Gene Roddenberry’s vision of the future was just too damned limited. He had this nice tidy little 1960’s “Wagon Train to the Stars” thing going on, every once in a while they rearrange the furniture in Trekverse, but the basic concept never changed – and whether they want to admit it or not, even those 40 year-old guys who wear collector's edition Star Trek Underoos (and you know who you are) were getting bored.
The problem is that Trekkies are a huge, huge market. There is no way the owners of the Trek franchise are going to let those dollars (and Euros and Yen) slip away. They needed another movie. Do it right, and you’ve got a guaranteed blockbuster, do it wrong and you’ve got Insurrection. Do it right and you’ve got a whole new series, do it wrong and you’ve got Enterprise. Do it right and you create a whole new generation of fans, do it wrong and you’ve got New Coke.
There’s only one way to do it right, and that’s to reboot.
Now, there are two types of reboot, soft and hard.
A hard reboot is what happened with Battlestar Galactica – i.e. a complete reset.
A soft reboot is where you keep the basic characters and storyline and change just enough that you can break out of the corner you’ve been painted into.
J. J. Abrams softbooted Star Trek.
And he did a hell of a job.
Sure, as a number of folks have noted, there are some plot holes big enough to drive a Romulan mining ship through. And Trek tech is still Trek tech, white and pristine and beautiful like the extruded plastic dinner trays in 2001 A Space Odyssey – and the science is utterly ridiculous. And, as always, one shouldn’t look too closely at the back story least you see it for the cardboard cutout that it is.
But overall, Star Trek, is a blast and well worth the price of admission.
I enjoyed every minute of it. The cast is uniformly excellent. The little sight gags and hidden tributes to the Trek-that-was are fun without being gratuitous. The plot is tightly wound and the story, if predictable, moves right along. The special effects are some of the best I’ve ever seen – this is how CGI should be done. And the break with traditional trek canon is explained logically (Trek logic, but still) and the explanation is within canon, then Abrams moves past it and doesn’t bother with it again neither dwelling on it, or apologizing for it.
A word of advice, if you haven’t seen it yet. Stay for the end credits. The background images are stunning.
I loved this version of Star Trek much better than the original, and I hope we see more of it.
Spoilers below this line
I wouldn’t be me if I didn’t mention a couple of things that just chapped my ass about this movie.
- Star Fleet. Seriously folks, even for a fictional outfit, this is one fucked up service. Kirk is what? Twenty maybe. A cadet? And he gets promoted to Captain and given his own major command and sent off to explore the universe? Riiiiiight. All those Ensigns and Lieutenants and Commanders who’ve been working their way up the promotion ladder for the last fifteen years aren’t going to be the least resentful? They follow him willingly. Yeah, how hosed up would they have to be? Only in Trekverse. (Of course, this may explain why Star Fleet keeps making really, really, really lousy strategic and tactical decisions – you know, like jumping your whole damned fleet straight into the danger zone without maybe sending a scout first).
- Starship Captain. Really, how tough could this job be? If any inexperienced twenty year old kid can do it? Well, any twenty year old kid with an arrest record that is.
- Red Matter. Others have noted it. But it is so damned stupid even for Trek Science that I’ve just got to throw my two cents in. How’s this shit work? A drop of red matter makes black holes. Just a drop. A single drop. A drop injected into a planet’s core creates a black hole that grows so rapidly in size that it consumes the entire planet in minutes? But a mass the size of a VW bus has no gravitational effects on the ship holding it, or the vulcan standing two feet from it? Or the plexiglass of its containment. (Seriously, given the demonstrated results, even a drop of this stuff should be enough to produce enormous tidal strain and gravitational effects at short range, a drop of it is a black hole – it would have to be by definition). And given that, why would you have to inject it into a planet’s core? Just drop it anywhere in the gravity well. (mmmm, one wonders if it requires the intense heat and pressure of a planetary core to … oh, nevermind. Now, I’m starting to sound like Geordie).
- The Drill. I loved the orbital drill scenes. I did. But two things bugged me. 1) What happened to the drill-head’s orbital velocity? I.e. its angular momentum? 2) What keeps the hole open long enough for the Red Matter to reach the planet’s core? If I have to explain either of those questions to you, you wouldn’t understand the problem – but here think about this, what altitude is this thing at? Because the atmosphere is dense enough for Kirk and Sulu to breath and fight normally. It’s stationary over one point on the planet’s surface, which means the supporting ship is either in geostationary orbit (roughly 22000 mile out for an Earth mass body) or it’s in a powered orbit. But if it’s in a powered orbit what holds the drill head stable and tensions the cable? Arrgh. Sorry, but the physics are making me itch. See if the drill is under thrust, how do Kirk, Sulu, and their enemies remain standing on the platform? See? See?
- The Supernova. Make a black hole to contain the blast of a supernova. Make a black hole. To contain a supernova. A super nova. Super nova. And making a black hole to contain a supernova is so easy that one old feeble vulcan in a ship by himself can do it. Yay. But, um, he can’t beat the Romulans?
Look, I write Scifi. I’m all about the suspension of disbelief – but, man, seriously, I felt my brain wobble close to a credibility implosion a couple of times.
Still, I enjoyed it.