Thursday, October 29, 2009

The Continuing Toll

A member of the Drug Enforcement Agency’s FAST (Foreign-deployed Advisory and Support Team),Special Agent Forrest Leamon died this week in Afghanistan.

He was killed in the line of duty, when the helicopter he was riding in went down following a firefight with Taliban drug traffickers.

He was 37.

He leaves behind a wife, Ana. They were were expecting their first child in February.

Forrest was a friend and shipmate, one of my students, a fellow teammate and Owl, and a hell of a guy.

Fair winds and following seas, Forrest. You will be missed.



Don’t expect much from me today.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Latest from the Shop, Turned Birdhouses. Part 2 (Updated)

10/31/09 12:30AM ATZ:

Listings updated again.

Only one still available at this time are: 7

The last one! You want it, you know you do!

I have the following reserved:

#1 Mensley (confirmed)

#2, 20 Janiece (confirmed)

#3 Nick from the OC (confirmed)

#4 Joe (Confirmed)

#5 JanN(Confirmed)

#6 Melissa (confirmed)

#8 Cass_M (confirmed)

#9 Nzforme (confirmed)

#10 Kelly (confirmed)

#11 Karl (confirmed)

#12 Mike (confirmed)

#13 USAF Wench (Confirmed)

#14 Chris Gerrib (confirmed)

#15 Lauren (confirmed)

#16, #18 Nocurling (confirmed)

# 17 AnonGF (confirmed)

#19, #22 Pam Adams (confirmed)

#21 AIM (confirmed)

Update: Everybody who has reserved a birdhouse has confirmed via email. Electronic invoices have gone out via email to everybody, you should have gotten yours by now. If you didn't, let me know, and I'll send you another one. About half of you have paid, thank you very much. That rest of you deadbeats...ur, I mean honored customers and beloved readers, cough it up.

Packages will go out Monday. Everything ships via USPS priority mail. That’s usually the best and least expensive route out of Alaska. And you get your unique handmade genuine Jim Wright work of art in about 3 days (if you’re in the lower 48. If you’re in Canada or some other strife torn socialist nightmare with universal healthcare, the metric system, and happy people, it could take longer just on principle). If the post doesn’t work for you, let me know before you submit payment – because if you want it UPS or FEDEX it’s going to cost more. Probably a lot more. Alaska is far, far away from you, in another country, on another planet. Really.

And I'll be in the shop, making more.


As promised, birdhouses.

The previous batch of birdhouses I made were turned from exotic hardwoods, mostly South American. This time I moved north of the equator. Most of the wood in this batch is native to North America – though I did use some Brazilian Rosewood and Jacaranda for accents in several pieces.

As before, If you would like one – so state in the comments. Each one is numbered. First come, first served, note in the comments section which one you want by number. Put your selection on the first line of the comment, for example: “#59, please,” so that everybody can see which ones are taken. Periodically I’ll try to update the post, but I expect to be busy as hell tomorrow and may not get to it. Again first person to comment gets the piece. One each. If they don’t all go, you may have two or more. I’ll let you know when.

As always, I prefer PayPal. If that doesn’t work for you and you just have to have one of my birdhouses, email me and we’ll make alternate arrangements.

I’ll post a summary of who gets what. Once that’s up, send me your email address and I’ll send you a PayPal enabled invoice. Note: you don’t have to have a PayPal account to use the electronic payment method.

I know, one of these days I’m going to have to come up with a better method for doing this, today is not that day.

There will be more. I have plenty more stock, and plenty more on order. Figure about every two weeks I’ll have about twenty or so – depending on how much other work I have to do. Prices are determined by the cost of the wood, and how much effort went into the piece. I’m trying to create a range of prices, so that everybody can afford something, and I’m trying to keep prices as absolutely low as I can afford.

Shipping and handling for all pieces is $10. If you end up with more than one, I’ll combine them in the same package, S&H in that case is still $10.

As before, though I consider each piece a unique work of the woodturner’s art, each birdhouse is fully functional and can be hung out of doors for small nesting birds. They are finished in bird safe oils and waxes, but they will fade over time if hung outside in the elements. They are wood, they will weather – it’s OK, I’ll be happy to sell you a replacement each season. I’ll include a card with each birdhouse telling you how to care for them.

Birdhouse #1: Walnut and Birch. $50

Sold: Mensley

The body is American Walnut, dense, rich, and hard. The cap and perch are made from white birch colored with red aniline dye. I’ve been experimenting with dyed woods lately, mostly for bowl turning and I had a batch of red dye made up. I thought the color made a interesting contrast. I may do more of this style in the future.

image image

Birdhouse #2: Walnut and Jacaranda. $60

Sold: Janiece

The body is American Walnut, the cap, skirt, and perch are Jacaranda, a beautiful South American hardwood.

image image

Birdhouse #3: Cedar and Oak. $60

Sold: Nick from the OC

The body is red cedar, and the cap and perch are white oak. The hanging finial is made with a captive ring (a free ring of wood, held held captive on the spindle – something all woodturners love to make, some with greater success than others).

image image

Birdhouse #4: Walnut, Jacaranda, and Birch. $60

Sold: Joe

The body is American walnut, the cap and skirt are Jacaranda, and the upper and lower finials are Alaskan birch.

image image

Birdhouse #5: Walnut and Oak. $35

Sold: JanN

The body is American walnut, and the cap and perch are red oak. This is a small, simple design. The wood of the bottom and finial is highly polished – unusual for natural walnut.


Birdhouse #6: Walnut and Jacaranda. $40

Sold: Melissa

The body is American walnut, the cap and perch are jacaranda. The cap on this one is a bit different, it’s a square bowl type turning – what turners call a knuckle buster, because the square corners will give you one hell of a clout if you’re not paying strict attention. This one is blood free, no worries.


Birdhouse #7: Walnut and oak. $40

The body is American walnut, the cap and perch are red oak.


Birdhouse #8: Walnut and oak. $40

Sold: Cass_m

The body is American walnut, the cap and perch are red oak. This piece of walnut, like the one in #5, comes from a knotted area of the original walnut slab I cut the blanks from. The grain is dense and strange and dark and highly polished.


Birdhouse #9: Cedar and Oak. $45

Sold: nzforme

The body is aromatic red cedar, the kind of wood they make cedar chests from – the whole shop smells like cedar when I’m turning it. Cedar is a type of Juniper, and this wood came from the Great Lakes region. It’s some of the most beautiful cedar I’ve ever seen. The cap and perch are hard red oak. There is a small captive ring on the hanging finial.


Birdhouse #10: Cedar and oak. $40

Sold: Kelly

Red Cedar, red oak. This one sort of reminds me of those old water towers that used to sit alongside the rail lines.


Birdhouse #11: Cedar and oak, with a rosewood perch. $35

Sold: Karl

The hanging finial on this one is called an acorn turning, for what should be rather obvious reasons.


Birdhouse #12: Cedar and oak. $40

Sold: Mike


Birdhouse #13: Cedar and oak, with a walnut perch. $40

Sold: USAF Wench


Birdhouse #14: Cedar and oak, with rosewood perch. $40

Sold: Chris Gerrib


Birdhouse #15. Cedar and oak. $40

Sold: Lauren


Birdhouse #16. Walnut and oak. $40

Sold: Nocurling


Birdhouse #17. Sassafras and rosewood. $40

Sold: AnonGF

The body is sassafras, an aromatic tree that grows around the great lakes region and in parts of the North Eastern US and Canada. The wood is dense, yet light – and the roots smell wonderful. The roots and bark are used for tea, and to scent soap and candles. I used to love the smell of sassafras when I was growing up in western Michigan. I love the golden yellow of the sassafras wood. The cap and perch are Brazilian rosewood for contrast.


Birdhouse #18. Sassafras and birch. $40

Sold: nocurling

The body is sassafras, the cap is dyed white birch. I thought the vibrant green was a excellent compliment to the gold of the sassafras. Again, I will do more of this style, if people are interested. This is another acorn turning.


Birdhouse #19. Sassafras and Brazilian rosewood. $35

Sold: Pam Adams


Birdhouse #20: Sassafras and Brazilian rosewood. $35

Sold: Janiece


Birdhouse #21. Sassafras and Brazilian rosewood. $40

Sold: AIM


Birdhouse #22: Sassafras and Brazilian rosewood. $25.

Sold: Pam Adams

I’ve marked this one down significantly. There’s nothing out and out wrong with it, but the sassafras was cut from near the heartwood and it has grayed a bit. Frankly I don’t think the color is all that great.


Twenty two. And that’s going to do it for this batch. Hope you like them.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

What’s in a Motto?

We need a good motto.

And by “we” I mean us, people.  The human race.


Doctors have a motto: First, do no harm (to the patient’s ability to pay). 

Navy Seabees have a motto: Can do (your daughters)!

Strategic Air Command has a motto: Peace is our profession (carpet bombing your ass is more of a hobby).

The Boy Scouts have a motto: Be prepared (in case gay atheists try to invade America).

The US National Security Agency has a motto: Anything is possible, the impossible just takes longer (and a shitload more money, about a dozen illegal wiretaps, two repurposed satellites, and a couple cases of Top Ramen).

The Zapatista Army of National Liberation has a motto: Ya Basta! (Hey, it’s easy to remember and sounds good in a riot).

Hell, even Levi Johnson, erstwhile Palin stud horse,  has a motto: Look at me! I’m naked! Woot! (Go, Levi! God, I love this kid).

I think, in general, all people should have a motto.  Something to live up to, something to aspire to.

I have a suggestion, how about Don’t be a dick?


If ever there was an admirable life philosophy, that would have to be it. Just don’t be a dick. It would be like Google’s motto, Don’t Be Evil, except it would be for everybody.

Don’t be a dick.

I’m pretty sure that’s what Jesus meant when he said “do unto others...”  If he meant for his followers to be dicks he’d have said, “Good news, we’re saved. To hell with everybody else. Party at my house!”  Hell, most major religions have at their core the simple philosophy of don’t be a dick – and then their adherents go around being dicks trying to impose their prophet’s don’t be a dick message on everybody else.  Seriously, suicide bombers? Major dicks.  Jehovah’s Witnesses? I think I prefer the suicide bombers.  TV evangelists?  Do I need to spell it out, Dick Tracy? The framers of the US Constitution created a document that basically says the government can’t act like a dick – in retrospect, it’s obvious that they should have been a lot more specific, but then too should have been the guy who wrote the bible. In fact, ninety nine percent of the world’s problems are caused by people being dicks (the remaining 1% can be attributed to the machinations of cats).  War? Caused by a little prick from Texas. Recession? A couple of rich fuckers on Wall Street were responsible for that. The housing crash? Greedy wankers in the banking industry. Bigotry? Global warming? Spam? Westboro Baptist Church? Somali pirates? Vista? All caused by people being dicks. You know I’m right, read the news – that balloon kid? His parents are dicks.  That guy with the shitty beard in Iran? Dick. The guy in the pajamas in North Korea? Dick.  The former VP bashing the current president? Dick Cheney. Those two pilots who were arguing in the cockpit about how bad their 150K a year jobs suck and missed the turnoff for Minneapolis and about a hundred radio calls? Captain Dick and Dickie the Co-pilot.  Jon and Kate Gosselin? Should be Dick and Dick Gosselin. And the media who insist that the vile antics of this revolting pair of human hard-ons is actually newsworthy? Dicks. And the knuckle dragging mouth breathers who actually tune in to encourage this public car crash? The biggest dicks of all – but, then I guess dog pit fighting and tractor pulls are currently in reruns or something. 

Is it just me? Or do there seem to be a whole lot more dicks than there used to be?

It’s easy to spot them, isn’t it?  One of the simplest methods is to hunt them in the dark. They stand out in the dark.  Next time you’re in traffic at night, glance in your rearview mirror, look into the stream of oncoming traffic – see that car with the actinic blue headlines like twin welding arcs that leave permanent burns on your retinas? The guy driving that car is a complete cock.  Don’t drive? Step into a  movie theater, any face you can see illuminated by cell phone light? Those are the peckerheads.  They glow in the dark, the dicks do.

How much better would it be if everybody had the motto don’t be a dick as their guiding principle?


Bernie: You know, even though I’m richer than Scrooge McDuck, I want more money. I needs it, Precious. The gold, it pleases us, yes yes!

Assistant:  uh…

Bernie: Let’s see, let’s see. I know! Bawahahahahaha! I’ll turn the company into the biggest Ponzi scheme the world has ever known! I’ll screw widows out of their pensions. Yes, yes! I’ll steal from orphans! Oh, yes!  I’ll squeeze and squeeze the investors of every last penny, and then I’ll squeeze them some more! Oooooh! I am the Walrus, coocoo Chachoo!

Assistant: Uh…Mr. Madoff, sir?

Bernie: What is it, Minion? Did you bring me more loot? Add it to the booty pile!

Assistant: You’re being a dick, sir.

Bernie: What? Are you sure?

Assistant: Oh, yes, I’m sure. Right now you’re Dickity Dick McDickerstein.

Bernie: What was my motto again? Wasn’t it be a dick?

Assistant: Don’t be a dick, sir.

Bernie: Oh…damn.


See how that works? Think how much better things would be if we made that mandatory.

After I become Ultimate Emperor of the Universe, I’m going to impose that motto on the general population – which I admit, is sort of a dick thing to do, but like I said, people should have a motto. People, as in the general rabble, should have a motto. Oh sure, after I seize ultimate power, people will still get a choice. Sure, they can insist on being dicks if they absolutely must do so.  I’m just saying that if you insist on begin a dick, there’s going to be some consequences, you’re not going to get rewarded for it, that’s what I’m saying here.

Take the dick separator lane – or as I call it, the Fuck You Lane. That’s the lane that looks like a regular lane, but disappears right after the stoplight.  The purpose of this lane is to separate the dicks from the non-dicks.  The people who came up with this idea are dicks, and the people who form up in that lane and squeal away at the green light in order to cut everybody off are dicks too.  Now, you see this everywhere, the dick separator lane, it started in California and has spread plague-like to the four corners of the world – hell, they even have one here on the military base. The funny thing is that unlike outside the fence in the civilian world, almost nobody uses it here on base.  Military folks are trained to look out for each other, they roll onto base and stop at the light and everybody stays in the left lane. Nobody tries to get around the line and jump to the front.

Well, almost nobody.

There’s always one guy.  He’s usually driving some little Junior Officer mobile, you know the one they issue with your fighter jock wings – he always pulls out of the back of the line and zooms to the front, because, see, as a pilot he shouldn’t have to wait in line with ground pounders. He’s special.  Screw everybody else, screw his squad mates and fellow airmen and soldiers. Screw. Them. He has got to get to the ready room first so he can spend fifteen minutes admiring himself in the mirror in his spiffy green g-suit.  

After I’m Emperor of the Universe, I’m using that lane to determine who gets volunteered (or what we in the military call voluntold) for the dangerous missions. Want to be first, do you, Lt Dickhead? OK. You get to probe the enemy air corridor, before the air defense suppression package is in place – we’ll use you to figure out where the anti-air missile batteries are. Good luck, dickweed, you’ll need it and thanks for volunteering.   How’s first looking now, Maverick?

Out in the civilian world, I’m just going to put a pit with pointy stakes in the bottom at the end of every Fuck You lane. Fuck you. No, no no, fuck you and your blue headlights.

You know who else are dicks? Femnists.  Oh I don’t mean feminists, small eff.  I like strong women. I’m married to one.  No, I mean Feminists with a big damned angry capital case of I’m offended by stupid irrelevant things – like the fact that the president doesn’t play basketball with women on his lunch break.  Seriously? Instead of noticing that he appointed more women – including the Queen Bitch of the Universe, who was his most bitter rival during the campaign – than any other President in history to actual powerful governmental positions within his administration where they have direct influence on the actual operation of this country, these people are raising a stink that Obama doesn’t play recreational sports with woman during his afternoon pickup game?  Are you kidding me? Dicks.  What’s the logic here? The boys are doing the real business of government on the court? Please.

Random Lobbyist Guy: Mr. President, Mr. President! Can we talk about healthcare reform for a minute?

EVERYBODY ELSE: Don’t be a dick, Dick, shoot the goddamned ball!

Seriously, do these idiots even know what basketball is? Have they ever seen a pick-up game of basketball? Ever? Trust me, nobody is discussing anything more important than how much your jump shot totally sucks donkey balls.  Christ on a pogo stick, you wanna play? Put on your jock strap and get the fuck in there.

I swear, once I’ve assumed ultimate power, I’m going to appoint Andrew Dice Clay as High Lord Air Marshal of Equal Opportunity and Wet T-Shirt Contests, just so they have something legitimate to actually be offended by.

How about Ron Paul? Whoa, major case of dick-rash this morning.

I always thought the guy was an unhinged nut about one fifth of Jack Daniels shy of being an Exxon tanker captain (Proof? Hello, republican from Texas. Are we done here? Thought so), but if there was a Nobel Prize for Being The World’s Biggest Dildo For a Day, today would Ron Paul day.  Paul, along with Rep Cliff Stearns (R-FL) and Rep Ginny Brown-Waite (R-FL) delivered a letter to President Obama informing him that in their Bush Owned State opinions, the President cannot accept the Nobel Peace Prize unless he gets congressional permission.  Waite-Stearns said, “I urge President Obama to affirm his devotion to our Constitution and seek the consent of Congress before accepting the award in Oslo, Norway, on December 10.”

Face palm.

Because, apparently a president doesn’t need permission to be universally reviled the world over, but admired and respected? Yeah, we’re not going to put up with that Norwegian bullshit. I mean, holy hell, they want to give the President a Nobel Peace Prize? How fucking embarrassing is that? Who do those socialist pussies think they are anyway? Canadians? It’s like France is breaking out all over!

I hereby urge these three retards to affirm their devotion to our Constitution and go do the job they were actually elected to do, instead of being complete hypocritical tools.  Of course, these are the same pudknockers who think that George W. Bush is a real no foolin’ motivational speaker and are willing to shell out major greenbacks in order to hear his stimulating lectures on world peace, global prosperity, and Texas Barbeque Jeeeesus Style. I’ve heard GWB speak in person, trust me here, he should be paying them. His speech patterns are like having knitting needles jammed into your ears. Flaming knitting needles, dipped in the preserved stomach acid of Ronald Reagan.  Seriously, if they don’t knock it off, once I’m Ultimate Emperor of the Universe I’m going to lock the entire GOP in a room with an endless loop recording of George W. Bush’s greatest hits alternating with with Al Gore’s Nobel Acceptance speech and a pistol with a single bullet – just to see who cracks first.

Yes, yes, I’m always a bit ranty the day after a migraine.

But, at least I’m not a dick about it.

Not yet, anyway.

Seriously folks, we need a motto.

And a poster:


_______________________________ _____________________________

Update: Okay, obviously we need to add the dicks at Adobe to the list.  What’s the deal with updates to Adobe Acrobat reader anyway? It’s just a reader for a 30 year old piece of shit document format, what in the name of the Big Eared Six Trunked Elephant God can be so goddamned important that I need an update right fucking now?  Do you want to update Adobe? No.  How about now? Do you want to do it now? No, fuck off. Now? Do you want to update now? No, die you bitch.  Guess what? We’re just going to update you anyway.  Seriously, Adobe, you’re being dicks. Stop it right now.

Monday, October 26, 2009

I Haven’t Forgotten You


It’s just been a very busy day compounded by a migraine complete with the whole nausea bit. My favorite kind.

The headache is mostly gone now, leaving me feeling, as usual, as if I had been kicked through a cement wall into a Sarah Palin fund raiser.

I’m taking pictures of the birdhouses, once I get them cataloged and priced they’ll be posted for your buying enjoyment, I’m trying to make that tonight. We’ll see how that goes. I may just end up on the couch watching Heroes, in which case you’ll just have to wait another day, I’m not risking a migraine reflash.

If you don’t get in on this batch, there will be more (figure about two weeks – I’m waiting on a wood shipment).

I’m also waiting for a woodturning air filtration helmet. I’m almost positive that this latest headache was triggered by me breathing a modest amount of either oak dust or rosewood dust – both of which are irritants and can cause respiratory problems. I run very good dust collection while turning and sanding, and all of my woodworking equipment is hooked up to a cyclone dust/chip collector – but no system is 100% perfect, especially when it comes to a lathe. By the time I finished up in the shop last night I knew I had sucked in way too much dust.

I hate standard air masks, they’re hot and uncomfortable and they make my safety glasses fog up – and after years of wearing a gas mask under uncomfortable conditions, I just plain have an aversion to the damned things.

Accordingly, I’ve ordered a professional woodturner’s filtration helmet with a powered air supply. Actually, I ordered it two weeks ago via express delivery (those of you who bought the first batch of birdhouses paid for it, thank you very much). It arrived two days later. Smashed. Looks like it left the warehouse that way. The distributor is sending me a new one, which should be here tomorrow. Safety first, you know.

Just keeping you in the loop.

Update: Not happening tonight. Camera batteries died a couple of pictures into the process. I thought I had a fully charged spare, but what I actually had was a fully discharged spare. Sigh. Tomorrow, for sure.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Privet Carrier…

…not for hire!


So stop asking, damn your eyes!


Saw this parked in the lot in front of Home Depot in Anchorage.  I was lucky to get a clear picture, just moments before it had been surrounded by screaming bikini clad hotties trying to hire the vehicle and its driver, an impressive man in a very large pair of overalls (and not much of anything else – unless “chest and back pelt” could be considered apparel) .

Ah, the sights of Anchorage. What a marvelous place.

Where I’ve Been All Weekend…


…in the shop, making your birdhouses.


The light colored ones are made from sassafras, the reddish colored ones are made from aromatic red cedar, and the dark ones are made from American walnut. Some are simple, and some are fiendishly complex.  As you can see, there is a variety of styles, colors, and accent woods.

There will be more soon.

I need to take pictures of this batch, catalog and price them, before I can put up a post for you to buy them. I’d hoped to have that done today, but it’s not happening.  I’ve been in front of the lathe all day, I’m now tired and hungry. I’m going to eat my dinner and go a watch a movie with my wife.

I’ll take pictures and have a post up tomorrow with these in more detail.

Best Lawnmower Add EVAH!

I don't know why, but I really want this lawnmower.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Die, Outlook Die!

OK, that’s it.

I’ve had with this damned piece of Microsoft bloatware.

I eradicated Symantec’s resource sucking piece of shit Internet “Security” system from my system months ago (replacing it with the full paid version of AVG, which is teh awesome) and I deleted the stinking Norton anti-spam toolbar from Outlook – and yet every time the program starts, there it is again. It’s like the zombie COM extension that will not die.  Additionally, Outlook manages to forget my configuration at least every other restart, requiring that I go back in and turn on my reading pane, and move things around the way I like them.  And more than anything the program is just a giant bloated resource sucking hog.  I’ve had it.

I’m thinking about switching over to Mozilla’s Thunderbird, but I’m open to suggestions.

Please make some.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Ask Stonekettle Station – It’s a Doozy, A Crazy Crazy Doozy

Did Obama bail out the auto industry so he could track you on On-Star?


Yes, that’s it exactly.

Teh Eevil Communist Obama Of Eevil is sitting in the National Command Post right now, tracking you. Because, see there is nothing more vital to the Democrats than following you…to the liquor store. Yes.

Now, go take your medicine.

Thursday Update

You'll have to be satisfied with the Santana videos today (and seriously, the Smooth video? Yeah, I could watch that all day. What? I like the, uh, guitar).

I was in the shop last night until midnight.

Turning your birdhouses.

Then I faced a decision, sleep or write something for you.

Like I said, watch the Santana videos.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

You Better Change Your Evil Ways, Baby.

For some reason, Carlos has been in my head all day.

There are worse things in life, trust me.

Now, it's in your head too.


Update: Apparently I must now listen to my entire Santana collection. In case you were wondering that's about 26 albums, 196 tracks give or take.

Breakfast of Champions

This morning I stopped to get coffee.

I suppose I need to expound on that at bit.

This morning on my way to work, I stopped at the Quick Mart on base to get a cup of coffee (for those of you just joining us, I’m currently working for the US Air Force on Elmendorf Air Force Base, I’ll be there for about another year, then I’m going back to being retired). Now, these days I usually drink decaf, but this morning I had a dozen meetings and I was very tired – I felt like I needed to be heavily caffeinated, preferable intravenously if at all possible. I had damned near fallen asleep while waiting to get on base – the lines were extra long today (You can always tell when the military is manning the gates and not the lean mean donut eating machine rent-a-cops, the military actually checks IDs and looks in your car – this takes longer, hence the line. The rent-a-cops mostly shoot the shit with each other and dream about being real police). Just inside the back gate, there’s a small mini mart type store, the coffee there is fairly decent – so I stopped to get a cup of something called “Columbian Energy Blend.” Which, when I type it, sounds like something that would get you five years in a spiffy orange jumpsuit.

I took the cup up to the register.

In line ahead of me were an Airman, a Marine, and a Soldier.

I realized that I was looking dead into the face of a joke:

The Wingwiper had a poppy seed bagel and a bottle of cranberry juice.

The Jarhead had a bag of beef jerky and a soda.

The Squid (me) had a large black cup of thick bitter coffee.

And the GI had two chili cheese dogs, with onion, and a large energy drink.

“Breakfast of Champions,” I said

The Airman ignored me.

The Marine nodded curtly, gave me the once over, and said,“Morning, Sir.”

The Soldier grinned, and said “We’ve got an eight mile run this morning, I need the carbs. I’m hungover as fuck.”

An eight mile run on a hangover with a stomach full of chili cheese dog?

Damn, I miss those days.

What’s the weirdest thing you’ve ever eaten for breakfast?

Monday, October 19, 2009

A (pointless in retrospect) Conversation With My Child

Me (calling from work, after my son texted me letting me know he was home safe from school): How was your day?

Son: Fine.

Me: Study for two hours. Math. Science.

Son: OK.

Me: Two more things.

Son: Yeah?

Me: Go to the big chest freezer, get out the whole chicken.

Son: uh…

Me: Whole frozen chicken. Says “Whole Chicken” on the label. It’s on top. Looks sort of like a big bowling ball at this point.  Get it.

Son: uh…

Me: (sigh) are you at the freezer?

Son: Yeah.

Me: Really?

Son: No.

Me: Go there now.

Son: (thump, bump, bang, slam, shuffle, shuffle [freezer is in the garage, it requires movement from the couch] bump bump thump [and I finally hear the correct door open over the phone]) OK.

Me: …

Son: …

Me: …

Son: …

Me: …

Son: …

Me: Open. The. Lid.

Son: OK.

Me: Do you see it?

Son: uh…

Me: (sigh) Chicken. Whole. Frozen. Chicken. On. Top. Looks. Like. A. Bowling. Ball.

Son: Oh…riiiight.

Me: Get it.

Son: OK.

Me: Go to the kitchen.

Son: OK.

Me: Wait!

Son: What?

Me: Close the freezer lid.

Son: It is!

Me: Really?

Son: …no.

Me: Close it.

Son: (Foomp!)

Me: Go to the kitchen.

Son: OK

Me: Wait!

Son: What?

Me: Take the chicken.

Son: …right.

Me: (with the patience of Job) Are you in the kitchen?

Son: uh huh.

Me: Really?

Son: No.

Me: Go there now. Don’t stop anywhere else. Try to concentrate. Kitchen

Son: OK

Me: Wait!

Son: What?

Me: Take the chicken.

Son: OK

Me: Are you there?

Son: Yes.

Me: Put the chicken in the microwave.

Son: OK…bye

Me: Wait!

Son: What?

Me: Push “Defrost”

Son: …

Me: Push. The. Button. Marked. “Defrost.”

Son: …

Me: …On the microwave.

Son: OK

Me: Set the timer for 30 minutes.

Son: …

Me: Push three. Zero. Zero. Zero.

Son: (Freep beep) OK

Me: Two more zeros

Son: (beep beep) OK

Me: Push “Start.”

Son: OK

Me: Is it started?

Son: uh huh.

Me: I can’t hear it. Are you sure?

Son: Yes.

Me: Good. Now go turn on the dishwasher. You forgot to run it last night. There are no clean plates for dinner. (It’s the boy’s job to clean up after dinner).

Son: OK.

Me: Did you start the dishwasher?

Son: Yes.

Me: Really?

Son: I’m doing it.

Me: Wait!

Son: What?

Me: Put a soap tablet in it.

Son: OK

Me: Did you do it?

Son: Yes.

Me: Really?

Son: I’m doing it now.

Me: I didn’t hear the dishwasher door open and close.

Son: (Whump!)

Me: I didn’t hear the cabinet door open and close (where the soap tablets are stored)

Son: (Thump!)

Me: Wrong order.

Son: What?


Son: OK (Thump! Whump!)

Me: Turn it on.

Son: It is.

Me: Turn. It. On.

Son: I meant I’m doing it now.

Me: Is it on?

Son: Yes.

Me: Remember, study. Math. Science. Two hours. Then you can go over to (friend)’s house. Study first.

Son: OK.

Me: Have a good afternoon. See you tonight.

Son: OK



I’m home now.


You know, I’ll bet he didn’t study either.


What does a writer owe his or her readers?


Other than words, I mean.

If you’re a novelist, do you owe your readers anything other than words on paper? The readers buy your books, which hopefully puts money in your pocket – but is it anything beyond a simple business arrangement? They pay, you write. Period. Do you owe them access too?  In the old days, back before the Internet directly connected writers and readers, fans might write authors a letter, and the novelist might correspond – Alice Sheldon was famous for her correspondence with fans - as James Tiptree Jr, she didn’t feel she owed them her real identity. She wrote thousands of letters to other writers, to fans, to people she hated and admired. Some authors are famously reclusive, never responding to fans either in person or via letter.  I think that’s OK. I don’t think they owe the reader anything beyond that.

What about columnists and newspaper reporters?

Sure, they’ve always connected to their readers via easily ignored letters to the editor. Writing for magazines and news media seems much less personal than writing novels and short stories – though upon occasion I find myself connecting to a columnist, say like Leonard Pitts, a columnist for the Miami Herald that I particularly enjoy, or Dr. Jerry Pournelle who used to write a column in the now defunct Byte Magazine (he’s also a novelist and blogger and owner of Chaos Manor, quite possibly the worst formatted site in the history of the Internet. I love Pournelle’s writing, but his site makes my brain hurt).  Do these folks owe their loyal readers anything other than the weekly column and the occasional response to angry letters?

I don’t think they do, owe their readers anything beyond words.

Traditional media isolates the writer and separates him or her from the reader to a great extent. Most people understand that – and in Science Fiction, Horror, and Mystery genres that’s where the conventions came from, at least to some extent, a desire for a closer and more personal connection between fans and creators. And if a writer chooses to attend one of those conventions, well, he or she had better be at least somewhat accessible to the fans. But outside of that venue? Not so much.

But what about blogging?

Blogging is a different form of writing. It’s much more intimate. By design, it directly connects reader and writer on a personal and informal level – at least for the most common form of content and comment enabled blogging.  Do bloggers owe their readers something beyond mere words? Do bloggers owe their readers friendship, or at least what passes for friendship on the web – i.e. the emerging virtual relationships that are taking root in this rapidly evolving world wide community we call the Internet? Do bloggers owe their readers loyalty? After all, readers show up day in and day out, they read the good posts and the bad posts and the posts where you were hysterically funny and the posts where you were just too damned tired to do anything other than put up a picture of your stupid cat. Again. They offer advice and wish your family happy birthday and Merry Christmas, they send you email correcting your spelling and pointing out the stupid little errors you make in a sincere effort to help you look a little less stupid. They try to pick you up when you’re feeling blue and they knock you down a peg when you’re a little too full of yourself. They connect to other readers on your site and sometimes, if you’re very lucky, they form a community.

Do you owe them anything? Do you owe them loyalty, the ones who come back and stick with you through the good times and the bad?

I guess what I’m asking here is this: when do readers become more than just words on a screen? Ever?

Do you owe long time readers your loyalty? Or do you throw them over like a shallow high school cheerleader ditching her friends for a new boy when new readers come along?

Do you, the blogger, the writer, owe your readers anything? Beyond the words?

I think you do.

Unlike traditional media, I think the maturing and yet still evolving medium of blogging is a collaborative effort between writer and readers. No money exchanges hands. Rarely, if ever, does a blogger make a living from blogging. There’s no payoff to blogging. The only reason to do it at all, unless you’re nothing but a narcissistic bastard, is that interaction with the readers. Their comments become part of the article you wrote, sometimes – again, if you’re very lucky - their comments become the most interesting part of the post altogether and take you and your readers in directions you never imagined when you hacked out the piece in the first place.

If you do it right, you, the blogger, become little more than a catalyst for something much larger than yourself.

As most of you know, this hasn’t been the best of weeks for me, online. 

And it got me thinking about loyalty and what a blogger owes his long time and faithful readers.

I think he owes them loyalty in kind.

For those of you who come back here time and again, for those of you who read Stonekettle Station on my good days and on my bad days, and for all of you who offered your support and advice and sympathy and friendship this last week, thank you.

Thank you.

Sunday, October 18, 2009


I’ve got a large number of requests for turned birdhouses. Really, it blows my mind - in a good way.

The number of requests for turned birdhouses has not yet, however, exceeded the number of requests that I drop dead due to my genderfailing.  If only I had a dollar… what? Oh, yeah, sorry, never mind. But someday I am going to figure out how to profit from the Die Sexist Pig Die! meme. I swear. Even if I have to wear a Leia Biki… What? Oh, right, sorry again.

Anyway, the birdhouses.


There will be many.


Later this week.

Be patient, it’ll be worth it.

Flu Shots

We had to into town for a couple things today.

We decided to swing by the clinic and see if we could get flu shots for my son and myself (my wife got hers at work last week).  I can get them free through the military or VA, but I’m never in the neighborhood and never have enough time to stand in line.  I’d rather just pay the $25 and get it done.

And with the pig flu scare, most places are actually out of the regular vaccine (and the swine flu vaccine is rare and non-existent so we haven’t even tried to get that), and the few times I’ve stopped by the base clinic or the VA, they’ve been out.

So, we dropped into the Palmer clinic today.

Sure, said the receptionist, we’ve got the shot.

We’ll take two, says we.

The son and I went in the back and rolled up our sleeves and the shot guy asked if we wanted the H1N1 vaccine too. Buwah? I thought we were out of that here in the Valley? Nope, they just got in 20 doses.  Hot damn, we’ll take it – and I had the guy go tell my wife in the waiting room. She joined us a minute later.

The son and I got the shot for the seasonal crud, and all three of us got the Flu-Mist version of the hiney swiney flu vaccine.

I’ve never had the Flu-Mist inhaler vaccine before. People have told me that it tastes horrible. They must have have gotten the rotten egg and gasoline variant, the stuff I had today tasted vaguely fruity and was gone in a second with no aftertaste. Easiest inoculation ever.

So, I’m now flu-proof. Woot!

Which, of course, means I’ll probably get strep throat or pink eye or something…


How about you people? Do you get the flu shot every year? Have you gotten yours this year? What about the swine flu inoculation? Do you think it ought to be mandatory?

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Attention Screechy Monkeys

You can stop sending me hate mail now.

I apologized once, I'm not going to do it again.

You're wasting your precious time, time you could be spending sucking up to famous science fiction authors and rubbing up against each other in self-righteous anger. Please, go there, do that, and leave me the hell alone. I'm not reading your silly nonsense, I don't give a flying fuck about your opinion of me, and it is very unlikely that your uber feminist frothy man-hating bullshit will change my outlook on life in any way whatsoever - an outlook, by the way, that is not what you think it is. You've made a value judgement about me based solely on my gender and you continue to do so - this makes you hypocrites and bigots of the highest caliber.

Maybe you ought to take a long look in the mirror before you take a poke at me.


For those of you who have no idea what I'm talking about, don't worry about it. I'm not going to link to the issue or give the site in question any more traffic or attention. Suffice it to say that I'm getting a large amount of hate mail from a bunch of perpetually offended man hating feminists with an all consuming case of penis envy.

In case you haven't noticed it, I'm taking a break from the Internet for a couple of days. This entire incident has pissed me off and left me feeling depressed and angry for reasons I'd rather not go into at the moment. I need a break. I'm taking one.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009


Over on GiantMidgets, Eric is talking about GoogleWave.

Wave is supposed to change the world, change how people interact, change how communications and work get done.

I doubt it will change much of anything.

But the hoopla over GoogleWave got me thinking about something I noticed earlier today at the gas station – and that’s this: more often than not, it’s the little things, not the big things that change our lives.

Rarely does big shiny technology have much impact on how we live our lives. 

No, it’s almost always the little technology, the almost unnoticed technology, that alters the very fabric of how we live. It’s subtle, it creeps in on little cat feet and before you know it, the way you live is different – and you don’t even notice.

Computers and the Internet and cell phones are an obvious example. So are portable music players with an entire radio station’s library of songs onboard and no moving parts.

But debit cards are a far more subtle and pervasive example of what I’m talking about.

I needed to get some things from the store this morning and I decided to take the Jeep instead of my truck.  We just had a lot of work done to the Jeep and I wanted to see how it drove. The snow is coming, it’ll be falling within the next two weeks, and that means my wife will have to put the convertible away and drive the Jeep and I wanted to make sure it was ready.  It was, and in fact we probably should have had this work done a while back, it drives like it did when it was new – which was about eighteen years ago now. On the way home I pulled into the gas station, I figured I’d fill up the tank so it would be ready when my wife needed it, because I’m a really cool husband like that.

Here’s the thing, I don’t have any idea how much gas I put in.

Twenty something dollars? Fifteen? Seventeen dollars and forty three cents? I dunno.

I don’t put gas in the Jeep much anymore, I don’t know how much it takes without paying attention. I didn’t get a receipt. I never do. And it doesn’t matter. It’ll show up on my electronic bank statement – and in fact it already has. My wife can download it into Quicken, along with the week’s transactions. I don’t care what the exact amount is.

That wasn’t true before debit cards.


You’d watch the pump like a hawk, eyes tracking those little numbers as they whirled past the glass, slowing down, slowing down, and then squeezing the handle just so in order to get an even number. Exactly ten dollars, exactly twenty. So you could hand the guy in the glass both or behind the counter the exact right sized bill.  Or if you were writing a check, it made it a hell of a lot easier to balance the register if you got gas in exact multiples of ten.  You didn’t do this with anything else, just gas.

Nobody does that any more (hell, who writes checks? For gas, I mean?)

Well, mostly nobody.

Watch the next time you’re getting gas.  You can tell who still pays the old fashioned way, just by watching how they pump their gas.

It’s more than that. Ten years ago you had to make sure to fill up within a certain time frame, or know where the 24-hour gas stations were. You had to plan around it. Now? Most of the places I fill up aren’t even manned.  It’s just an automated gas kiosk in the corner of some parking lot.  It’s always open. Why wouldn’t it be? I don’t need to plan around filling up my tank.

You can tell which generation somebody was born in by who they ask for information.  Old people ask somebody else. Young people ask the Internet.  It never occurs to the older generation to Google it, it never occurs to the younger generation not to. Woman accuse men of never stopping to ask for directions, with MapQuest on my GPS enabled Internet phone, I don’t need to.

I don’t think the Internet itself changed people’s lives as profoundly as we expected, but search engines did.

Personally, I use Google to find the 24 hour gas stations.

What little things do you notice?

Monday, October 12, 2009

Happy Annie Veri Sorry

My wife and I met in Pensacola when I was stationed there as an Instructor at the Naval Technical Training Center.

At the time I was the king of really, really lousy relationships. Really.

Think I’m kidding?

In no particular order, I’d been involved with a self-destructive alcoholic, an self-destructive obsessive compulsive, a self-destructive hypochondriac, a pathological liar, and a faithless bitch who managed to get herself pregnant while engaged to me all the while loudly claiming that she was still a virgin (just for the record the father wasn’t me, it was half the Marine barracks, a couple of Seabees, and a Tijuana horse act). Those were the highlights. I wasn’t any better at the casual date – in fact my so-calling ‘dating’ life was an ongoing comedy of errors that resembled a Ben Stiller movie, i.e. not funny and more than a little mean, just for meanness sake. My dating life could be best summed up by that sound the Titanic made as it slowly and inexorably ground down the side of the iceberg, ripping open its guts in a scree of tearing metal, freezing water, and impending doom. Hell, I once went out with a girl who, during dinner, mentioned that she had to be home by 8:00PM so she could get ready for her real date - see that guy couldn’t pay for dinner but he was really hot, so this way she got a good dinner with me, and got to go clubbing with a really hot guy later. And she was the kind of girl who couldn’t figure out why I might be insulted when she dropped that little gem of gold digging logic in the middle of the main course. As I recall, she ended up taking a taxi home.

Remember that Zevon song? Lawyers, Guns, and Money? Like that, only without the joy.

By the time I met the woman who would become my wife, I had basically sworn off relationships of any kind, forever. No dating. No nothing. Kiss my ass.

Bitter? You have no idea.

But I had a friend, a woman I worked with as a volunteer on the weekends at the USO, who just would not leave me alone. She swore she knew a girl who was perfect for me. She pestered me for weeks about it. She kept on about it every single time I saw her, like one of those little yappy dogs. Yap yap yap. It was driving me insane.

A blind date? With my track record? Sure, what could possibly go wrong?

Tell me about her, I said. Well, replied my friend, she’s really nice! Nice? Uh no thanks. Idi Amin in drag, no doubt. Nice girls are the absolute worst.

But my friend just wouldn’t leave me the hell alone and finally I gave in and agreed to call the girl. I fully expected it to be a disaster of about 9.98 on the shitty-date-O-meter. She’d be crazy (because, as you know, all woman are psycho), she’d have hygiene issues and terminal BO, or talk to invisible friends, or bring along her husband who was out on parole, or be a Soviet spy, or some goddamned thing.

The only reason I agreed to the date was so I could get it over with and so I could say, “See? I told you so, now shut up. No really, shut up or I will hit you in the head with a shovel and feed your body to the alligators. Shut up.”

Things didn’t work out exactly as I expected.

It was literally love at first sight. I kid you not. She was the most amazing woman I’d ever met.

And she liked me.

As of today, we’ve been married 18 years.

I’m taking the day off. See you tomorrow.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Bitter Irony

I was at the base Exchange on Elmendorf Air Force Base today.

I stopped by after work to pick up a few things.

I followed a guy into the parking lot. He was driving a newer model foreign made SUV. I’d seen this particular vehicle around base before. In fact I’d followed it through the gate last Tuesday morning. Something about the vehicle made it stand out and when I followed it through the gate and I asked the guard whether the person driving it was military or a civilian. She looked confused, then confessed that she had no idea despite the fact that she had examined the driver’s ID and, supposedly, glanced at the driver not more the fifteen seconds before and despite that fact that it is her job to notice such things, guarding as she is one of America’s military bases – just another reason why, in my military opinion, we should have Marines at the gate and not half assed, don’t give a shit, ten-sandwich eating out of shape rent-a-cops, but then nobody asked me.

Why did I ask about this vehicle? What caught my eye and made it stand out? Why would I care if the driver was military or a civilian?

It was the bumper stickers.

One said “It’s an Obamanation!”

Now you could take that a number of ways. I’ve seen the term “Obamanation” used by both pro-Obama and vehemently anti-Obama people.

However, the other bumper sticker cleared up any ambiguity. It said simply: “Fuck Obama.”

The reason I wondered if the driver was military or civilian was that if the driver was military, he was in gross violation of the Uniform Code of Military Justice – specifically Article 88, Contempt Towards Officials.

If he was military, I fully intended to give his First Shirt a call and have him straightened out. He’s welcome to think what he likes, he’s not allowed to express such sentiments regarding the Commander In Chief. Period. Don’t like it? Don’t join the military. Don’t swear the oath. When you hold up your right hand you agree to abide by the law, rules, and regulations of the military, which includes certain limitations on your freedoms. Either your word is good or it’s not. And if it’s not, you are accountable. Period.

If he was a civilian, well that’s a whole other ball of wax – and not much I could do about it.

Tuesday I didn’t have time to run him down and find out.

But today I ran into him in the parking lot of the base exchange.

I parked next to him.

He was a civilian.

Some type of contractor, a construction type, I gathered from his apparel. Probably one of the yahoos constructing the new F-22 hangers, if I had to guess.

He caught me looking at the bumper stickers.

“You really think that’s appropriate on a military base?” I asked.

“How so? I have a right to say what I think!”

“Not saying you don’t. But do you think that’s appropriate given that he’s is the Commander In Chief?”

“He’s not the CINC, he’s nothing but a usurper (he pronounced it “err-serper”). It’s a damned disgrace, what he’s doing to this country,” he said angrily.

Ah, a birther I guessed (but kept to myself, really didn’t feel like dealing with the fanatical crazies today).

As I started to walk away he said, “The sooner the military tosses him out the better. We need to take back America.”

The sooner the military tosses him out…?

Oh Christ on a crutch, not only a birther, but a revolutionary.

“Don’t hold your breath,” I told him.

He snorted in agreement – I don’t think he caught that my sarcasm was directed at him, and not the supposed dithering forces of righteous revolution.

Somebody has been watching way too much Glenn Beck.

And like Beck, they are neither capable of critical thought, nor understanding America’s military.

Beck, of course, in addition to his own acidic vomitus, was regurgitating columnist John Perry who penned a rightwing extremist screed in Newsmax calling for a resolution to the “Obama Problem.”

Will the day come when patriotic general and flag officers sit down with the president, or with those who control him, and work out the national equivalent of a "family intervention," with some form of limited, shared responsibility?

Imagine a bloodless coup to restore and defend the Constitution through an interim administration that would do the serious business of governing and defending the nation. Skilled, military-trained, nation-builders would replace accountability-challenged, radical-left commissars. Having bonded with his twin teleprompters, the president would be detailed for ceremonial speech-making.

Military intervention is what Obama's exponentially accelerating agenda for "fundamental change" toward a Marxist state is inviting upon America. A coup is not an ideal option, but Obama's radical ideal is not acceptable or reversible.

I’d give you a link to the original story, but the post has been taken down. Apparently calling for revolution and military juntas in the US are just a little far beyond the pale for even a rightwing blowhole like NewsMax. A PDF copy of the original post, however, is available here.

Beck and Perry weren’t the only ones calling for a military led revolution, Jim Quinn from The War Room with Quinn & Rose on Clear Channel called on troops to “run for your life, get out, this guy [Obama} is going to get you killed.” He went on to say, " Discussing health care reform, you have got to say no to this, and if they push this through, you need to riot in the streets. You need to riot in the streets. Our country was built on revolution and it's about time we took it back.”

Michael Savage of the Savage Nation keeps talking about revolution, “We're going to have a revolution in this country.” Savage is particularly concerned about how “the white male” is being discriminated against in America. (I shit you not, it’s a common theme with Savage, how Da Man is keeping Whitey down. Retch).

Hell, even kicked in the head one too many times Chuck Norris jumped up on the revolutionary bandwagon, “How much more will Americans take? When will enough be enough? And, when that time comes, will our leaders finally listen or will history need to record a second American Revolution? We the people have the authority according to America's Declaration of Independence." (Chuck is not real clear on the difference between the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution and which one forms the basis of law in this country and which one is little more than an interesting historical document. He also doesn’t seem to grasp that a majority of we the people elected the current President.)

Hannity, Limbaugh, Beck, Savage, Quinn, my friend in the parking lot – all of them have watched one too many of Chuck’s movies, I suspect, where countries are overthrown, the girl bedded, and democracy triumphant in a flurry of mano e mano fisticuffs in just under 90 minutes.

But see, reality isn’t a Chuck Norris movie. And the military is nothing like Hollywood.

We swear our oath to the Constitution of the United States and to obey the orders of the President. Quinn, Limbaugh, Hannity, Beck, and Savage have no idea what that means. But Norris served in the military, the Air Force to be precise – hell, that’s where he learned to fight. He was the Air Force’s Veteran of the Year in 2001. He really ought to know better.

Monday, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates summed up the American military’s role very, very precisely. He said, (I’m paraphrasing here) our job is to give the President the very best advice we can. But once the decision is made, our job is to carry out his orders. Period.

And that’s it exactly.

Our job is to advise the President to the best of our abilities, experience, knowledge, and training in military matters. But once the President gives the order, whether we agree with it or not, our job is to march forward smartly. Period.

Anyone who has taken the oath should damned well know that.

It’s ironic that these super patriots, these men who think they are the only true Americans – Limbaugh, Beck, Quinn, Savage, Norris, and their followers – would advocate a military coup in this country in order to overthrow the duly elected, democratically elected, majority elected President. It’s ironic that these so-called patriots would turn the United States into nothing more than some third world shithole where monthly revolutions and military juntas are a way of life – all while beating the drum of American patriotism. It’s ironic that they would wave the American flag and a copy of the Constitution while advocating deposing a president they call a communist and a Marxist and a dictator in order to bypass the Constitutionally designated electoral process and install their own leader – exactly the same way the dictator Saddam Hussein came to power, exactly the way the Communist Joseph Stalin came to power, exactly the same way the Marxist Fidel Castro came to power.

It’s ironic that these men who wave the Constitution as a rallying cry seem not to have actually read it – otherwise they’d be familiar with the constitutional process for removing a president from office. (Hint: It doesn’t involve a military coup). Or maybe they have, and realize that they have no grounds for their claim, leaving only revolution to get their way and impose their will on the American people – that’s not irony, that’s hypocrisy, but I digress. Again.

And it’s ironic that they would call upon us military folks to uphold our oath to the Constitution, when they clearly have so little respect for it themselves, and even less respect for honor, moral courage, and duty.

And it’s just plain pitifully ironic that the Grand Old Party of the Republic has been reduced to this.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009


How will I die?
Your Result: You will die while saving someone's life.

The most noble of all deaths. Your rewards will be great in the next life. You are most definitely a humanitarian. If not currently, you will be. To give one's life is a precious moment that will be remembered by friends and family for many decades.

You will die in a car accident.

You will die while having sex.

You will die in your sleep.

You will die in a nuclear holocaust.

You will be murdered.

You will die of boredom.

You will die from a terminal illness.

How will I die?
Quiz Created on GoToQuiz

What's the deal with "you will die in a nuclear holocaust?" If that's true for even one person, shouldn't that be true for pretty much all of us?

Nuclear holocaust, not exactly a personal disaster. Just sayin'

Latest from the Shop: Birdhouses

Update: The mystery wood (birdhouse #4) is solved.

Update: All the birdhouses are sold.  More will be available shortly.


I meant to post this two days ago.

Between the Microsoft Malfunction and the fact that I was so dog tired last night, I didn’t get around to it until today. You understand.


As I mentioned previously, birdhouses are a fun project on the lathe.

They’re fairly easy, depending on how fancy you make them. They are a good way to practice turning skills, both basic and advanced skew work (the skew being the hardest of the lathe techniques to master, at least in my not so humble opinion), spindle turning, and face turning. And they are a good way to introduce kids to the lathe.


I start with the wood, of course.

Birdhouses 002

You can use whatever you’ve got laying around. That’s a large 4” thick slab of American walnut, some Brazilian rosewood, tigerwood, babinga, bloodwood, and some mahogany.  None of it looks like much, but it cleans up real nice. Trust me.

I cut the wood into 4”x4” pieces, six to eight inches long. Drill a 1” hole with a Forstner bit in the middle of one side (this will become the opening, the door, in the front of the birdhouse) on the drill press – it’s a whole lot easier to hold the blank steady on the press when it’s still a rectangle. Then I spindle mount the blank on the lathe between a spur drive (a spike with a ring of teeth around it, that allows the motor to turn the blank) and a live center (a pivot inside a bearing that supports the non-drive end of the turning) - and rough turn it to a cylinder.  I cut a dovetail on what will be the bottom end so that I can securely mount it in a heavy duty dovetail chuck (that shiny silver jobber in the picture, sort of like the Terminator’s oven mitt).

Like so: (note for you turners: the live center in the right hand picture is only there temporarily to ensue that I get the blank exactly centered in the chuck before cranking it down tight):

Blackberry 040 Blackberry 041

I then core out the middle of the blank using a large Forstner bit mounted in the tailstock:

Blackberry 044 Blackberry 045

You can already see in the above pictures that the wood is pretty spectacular. And it should be, it’s Amboyna.  Amboyna comes from the Narra tree, Pterocarpus Indicus, which grows in Southeast Asia – with the most prized trees growing on the Andaman Islands in the Bay of Bengal. The wood is extremely rare and very, very expensive with some (burled) cuts costing as much as $500/board foot. Wood like that is usually used for master crafted musical instruments. 

This isn’t one of those pieces.

It’s a straight non-burled chunk I got out of a cast-off bin along with some other odd sized pieces.  It was cracked and split, but enough remained to make a decent little project like a birdhouse out of – a really expensive birdhouse. Whatever bird takes up residence in this house is going to be the cock of the walk, just saying.


Next I reverse mount the piece on a friction chuck – which is a fancy way of saying that I push it firmly onto a wooden block mounted in the chuck:

Blackberry 046

Then I start shaping it with a gouge and skew.  Usually I have no idea what the final shape will look like.

Blackberry 047 Blackberry 048

One thing.

It is very, very, very, very, very important to measure the depth of the interior hollow correctly. Mark it on the outside of the turning. Pay attention.

So, you know, you don’t ruin a really expensive and unique piece of wood.

Very important.


Blackberry 049


I misjudged by about a millimeter.





Well, it’s an easy fix.

birdhouses 004


Oh, settle down, I’m just kidding.


No way I was throwing out that piece of wood. In addition to being unique, spectacular, and – did I mention? – expensive, it was an ever lovin’ bitch to turn. The wood is incredibly dense and hard and difficult.

Contrary, I think is the word I’m looking for here, contrary.

So, I cut off the bottom and glued in a piece of Brazilian rosewood – which I thought was a nice compliment, color wise, and is about the same density. Then I glued the finial back on:

Blackberry 050 Blackberry 052


Blackberry 053

Doesn’t look like much, does it?

Just wait.


Next I turn the perches.  Those are about the size of a matchstick.

When I mentioned birdhouses in the last post, I got an email from a guy claiming to be an “old school” turner. He chided me for saying I turned the perches on my Delta 46-525. He thought I might be exaggerating. The 525 is a fairly big lathe, designed for industrial shops – Old School suggested that I was really turning those perches on a mini lathe.  Why would I exaggerate about such things? Old School didn’t say, but I took him to mean that I was fibbing in order to impress Saw Dust Groupies, you know, that band of hot chicks who follow middle aged wood turners around hoping to sleep with them and bear their children.  Well, the chicks and the fame and glory.


For the record, I really do turn the little bitty perches on the 525.

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I never went to the old school, I didn’t know I couldn’t. Sorry.


The caps get turned from whatever contrasting wood I have on hand, in this case birch burl, rosewood, and tigerwood.


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Remember the Amboyna? Here it is with a cap of and perch of Brazilian rosewood, finished in walnut oil:

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Pretty, isn’t it? The picture doesn’t do it justice at all. The wood is amazing, I really wish I had more of it.

This one is not for sale. I’m sending it to my Dad. He’s an avid birdwatcher and my folks’ backyard is filled with birdhouses and feeders. I think he’ll like it.


This next one is also not for sale. Or rather it’s already been sold, this one is going to Stonekettle Station regular and UCFer, Janiece. It’s South American Bocate, a yellow and black striped wood taken from the Cordia tree. It’s a dense and very fragrant fruitwood. Capped with Brazilian Rosewood and finished in walnut oil.

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The following pieces are for sale.  Each one is numbered. There are six of them. First come, first served, note in the comments section which one you want by number. Again first person to comment gets the piece. One each. If they don’t all go, you may have two or more. I’ll let you know when.

I know, I know. Different time zones and such, unfair. Yep. I wish it were different, but life is sometimes cruel in the willy nilly wild and woolly world of wood turned birdhouses.  Besides, I’ll be making more shortly. Please, no pushing, no shoving, no throwing of panties on the stage.

(Snark aside – I will have more available soon, probably next weekend)

Prices are set by the cost of the wood.

Shipping is $10 for all pieces – which is a bargain from Alaska. Shipping will be via USPS, unless you specify otherwise. And otherwise will cost you more.



#1 – White Birch, Cherry and Tigerwood. Tall, very light.

The body is birch, the cap is cherry, with tigerwood inlay.

Price: $30

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#2 – Bocote and Birch Burl Cap

Price: $40

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#3 – Bocote and Tigerwood Cap

Price: $35

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#4 Mystery wood Orange Agate and Spalted Birch Heartwood Cap.

Honestly, I have no idea what the body of this piece is made out of.  I got the wood out of the turning blank bin from a hardwood supplier in Anchorage. It came in with a consignment of odd pieces from South America but nobody had any idea what it was. Neither do I.  My good friend and regular reader, fellow wood turner and expert of exotic hardwoods, Beastly, might know.  If he figures it out, I’ll make an update.

It’s Orange Agate, a wood cut from the jungles of Peru. It is hard as a rock, fragrant and quite beautiful with amazing grain and figure.

(Thanks to Beastly for identifying it).

Price: $40

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#5 – White Birch and Rosewood

I really like this one.  I like the contrast between the woods. This is a small house, with a teardrop shaped door. Just because I felt like experimenting with door shapes. In the future I may do ovals and other teardrops.

Price: $25

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#6 – Bocote and Rosewood

Price: $35

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All the birdhouses are finished in walnut oil – a non-toxic, bird safe natural oil. The houses are decorative, however they are suitable for hanging outdoors and for use by nesting small birds – BUT they will age and weather over time, unless you oil them once a season.  Additionally, NOTE: They cannot be opened for cleaning – I’m working on a design that will allow you to remove the cap for cleaning, but I’m not there yet. If you need to clean these, you’ll have to pull the old nest out in pieces through the opening with a pair of needle nosed pliers. It’s perfectly doable and not really a problem, I just like you to know what you’re buying up front.


As always, I prefer payment via Paypal, but I’ll consider other methods as long as we work it out via email first.