Saturday, June 25, 2011

Latest From the Shop – More Damned Pens (updated)


Pen making is a subset of lathework, or what is more commonly called “turning.”

There are folks who turn only pens using small specialized pencrafter lathes and specialized turning knives. There are organizations, such as the International Association of Penturners, that are dedicated specifically to the art.  There are contests and conventions and many, many books dedicated to the craft of pen making.

I’ve been turning and carving for going on 40 years, but I mostly turn bowls and vases, and the odd bird house and tabletop.  I only started turning pens within the last couple of years. 

I really didn’t think I’d enjoy penturning, but any artist is always looking to expand their skill set and turners are no different. So I thought I’d try my hand at pen making, just so I could say I’d done it.

My first few attempts were certainly functional, if pedestrian, but I was interested enough in the process (and pen making is a process) to buy some dedicated equipment specifically for penturning.  

I turned  some more pens, and bought some more equipment. 

I learned which shapes I liked and which ones I didn’t.

I learned which pen kits I liked and which ones I didn’t.

I bought more equipment – including a specialized drillpress dedicated just to pen making and nothing else.

I bought a number of books.

I went to a convention.

And then, one day, when I found myself in the shop at 5AM turning pens before going to work, I realized I was hooked. 


Nowadays I hunt eBay and the local woodshops looking for unusual and exotic wood blanks. I’ve got an inventory of hundreds, maybe thousands, of pen blanks, stacked and sorted by type on my wood rack.  I also look for interesting materials that I can incorporate into the designs.

And it’s a rare week goes by when I don’t make at least one or two or a dozen wooden pens.


Now, pens are just about the worst thing you can turn wood into.

Pens are clenched in hot sweaty hands. They are chewed on and tapped on tables and used to pry the lids off things. They’re stuffed into pockets, or buried in purses with keys and change and other hard abrasive items. As such they need to be made from materials that can stand up to punishment. Many of my current designs incorporate Corian –  a hard, wear-resistant, resin-based product typically used for countertops – which makes an excellent material for the grip area and turns easily with standard turning knives. Corian never loses its polish, and indeed becomes more polished with use, and will stand up to years of abuse and wear.

I’ve settled on a signature design based on the Euro Style Twist pen kit:


From right to left: 

Pau Amarello, commonly called Yellowheart for obvious reasons, the wood is naturally a bright canary yellow and comes exclusively from Para, Brazil. The wood has a beautiful sun-like shimmer in strong light.

Cocobolo, an extremely hard and expensive wood from South America.  Typically cocobolo is used for gun grips and knife handles and for fine musical instruments.

Sunken Heart of Pine, from the heartwood of Michigan white pine, salvaged from the bottom of Lake Superior.  The wood is extremely oily and dense and glows with a translucent shine in strong sunlight.

Redheart, a highly figured Central American hardwood that grows from southern Mexico to Honduras.  I love the blood red, tiger-striped look of Redheart.


And the last pen on the left is made from Pau Ferro, commonly called Morado, a very hard, highly figured Bolivian hardwood:


The decorative material at the grip and top end of the pen is not Corian.  It’s an experimental matrix I made from chips of Readheart, walnut, and Pau Ferro in a polymer binder.  The material is mixed together and pressed into a mold with the Morado end pieces, then clamped tightly and allowed to cure for 24 hours.  This was an experiment and it worked even better than I’d hoped.  Now that I know the technique works, future variations will incorporate precious metals and crushed semi-precious stone – say like the copper and turquoise I’ll be mixing up today. 


So, what are you doing with your weekend?



Coffee grounds, walnut chunks, copper, and turquoise.  Just in case you wondered what I did with my day



Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Upon The Sands of the Coliseum


And so it came to pass that Jon Huntsman declared for the White House.

His campaign was glorious while it lasted – all fifteen minutes of it – there was a speech before the Statue of Liberty, people shook hands and took pictures, balloons floated serenely into the cerulean sky, peace and good cheer filled the perfumed air, small brightly colored bunnies danced the Boogie-Woogie with joyous abandon upon a lush carpet of dark green grass, and the sound of flapping America flags was like the music made by rustling angel wings.

Also, there was cake.

And, for a brief moment, all was right with the world.

Then carnivorous flying monkeys rose up suddenly from a fiery rift in the earth and killed Huntsman.  The leather-winged beasts stripped the flesh from his  skeleton with horned claws and stuffed the bloody gobbets into their frightfully fanged mouths with gleeful relish.  His yellowed gnawed bones were then thrown into the angry gray sea beneath the baleful copper gaze of Lady Liberty.

And nobody shed a tear, not even the brightly colored bunnies.


The only person less likely than Jon Huntsman to be elected president in 2012 is Cannibal Hitler’s Preserved Head In A Jar, and frankly I might have to give Pickled Fuhrer the edge if it turns out that he once snorted cocaine flavored Jell-O shooters out of Michael Jackson’s hairless bellybutton while video of the event streamed live on Facebook – as long as he was later forgiven of his sin by Jesus. Voters love a zombified severed head who has found redemption and, of course, everybody digs the Thriller-era King of Pop.


But there is no redemption for Jon Huntsman.

To conservatives, his sins are myriad and unforgivable:

He’s a Mormon.  My God, he might as well be a Muslim. And in fact, there are now two Mormons in the GOP Conga-line – those insidious tie-wearing heretical bastards are taking over the country!  It’s only a matter of time until we’re chained to the yoke of Sharia  Mormon law and forced to … well, I don’t know what the Mormons will make us do exactly, but that doesn’t matter because Jesus hates them and their perfect hair and those oh so white smiles.

Even though he dropped out of high school to play keyboards in the Donny and Marie cover band Wizard, Jon Huntsman is still an elitist.  It’s a ploy, folks, don’t be fooled. Playing in a band is no different than going to Yale law school, any flying monkey can tell you that.  As conservative commenter Bobcat says on Yahoo, “Obama Clone! They both drink the same Kool AID another elitist!” Indeed, wise Bobcat, indeed.

He’s a moderate.  A communist Nazi moderate!  God, how true Republicans hate those filthy moderates. Another Yahoo commenter, Diogenes, says, “If the press labels him a ‘moderate,’ that means he’s a flaming liberal.” 

The fringe is the new middle, folks, write that down, there’ll be a test later.

Jon Huntsman hates babies.  He claims to be pro-life, but like his so-called religion, that’s just another lie. Proof? Well he audaciously refuses to sign the Susan B. Anthony List, the “pro-life presidential leadership pledge” promoted by real conservatives such as Michelle Bachman, Newt Gingrich, Ron Paul, Tim Pawlenty, Cannibal Hitler’s Head in a Pickle Jar, and the great defender of life himself, Rick Santorum. Santorum is the veritable pimp John Hancock of pledge signers. Nothing shows true actual no-foolin’ patriotism and love of all God’s wee creatures like signing a pledge, in blood like a clubhouse of six-graders.  Isn’t that right, Newt? Newt? Hello, is this thing on? Never mind, who knows what a man who won’t sign a pledge is capable of? Huntsman likely performs late term abortions in his living room using nothing more than a Chinese made corkscrew while REO Speedwagon’s Riding The Storm Out drowns out the screams.

Jon Huntsman promotes the secret homosexual agenda. Yes, he actually believes that gay people are entitled to (almost) full citizenship under the Constitution.  Remember the brightly colored fuzzy bunnies? They’re all the colors of the rainbow, folks.  Oh, yes, they’re just like a big gay rainbow.

Huntsman is a RINO who once supported Cap’n Trade and believes that maybe we ought to do something about global climate change. Hell, this guy is more liberal than Barney Frank riding a pink polar bear to Al Gore’s tofu tasting party!

And of course, Huntsman worked for the Obama administration. 

In China.

The guy actually speaks two Chinese dialects, socialism and communism.

I don’t suppose the glowing letter of reference from his previous boss is going to do him much good with conservatives.

“I’m sure that him having worked so well for me will be a great asset in any Republican primary,” quipped President Obama at yesterday’s White House press conference.  The President then thanked Mitt Romney for inspiring Obamacare.

Well, at least Huntsman will look good to moderate Liberals, independents, and centrists, right? Especially those who are disappointed with President Obama but don’t have any real Democratic alternatives in 2012.


Oh, that’s right, Huntsman worked for George Bush too, didn’t he?  Which Bush? Both of them and Ronald Reagan too, hell, Huntsmen might as well be that three-headed demon dog from Harry Potter.  Reagan, Bush, Bush the Lesser, and Obama, that’s one hell of a toxic resume Huntsman’s got there – defecting liberals are more likely to vote for that aforementioned rotting head in a pickle jar full of formaldehyde and onions.

Huntsman rides a Harley and loves motocross, the guy is practically a redneck.

A rich redneck. 

He’s heir to billions, he makes Cindy McCain look like the chain smoking curler crowned queen of the local trailer park, which is probably why John McCain doesn’t like him either.


Here’s the thing, of all the wrestlers currently on the mat, Jon Huntsman is the one candidate who could, conceivably, appeal to both sides of the aisle.  He’s the one guy who might, in a better America, be able to appeal to a broad swath of voters right down the middle of the American political scene.  If the TEA Party was actually the people they pretend to be, you know those folks who claim they’re tired of politics and tired of politicians and tired of political parties and tired of toxic political rhetoric, Jon Huntsman would be their candidate.  This is a guy who has served under both liberals and conservatives. He was a popular and successful governor who won re-election in Utah with 78% of the vote – not to mention that under his tenure Utah was deemed the “Best Managed State in America” by the Pew Research Center.  No other candidate can match his foreign policy acumen, and certainly not one has his detailed firsthand knowledge of our biggest and most powerful trade partner, military adversary, and holder of a significant fraction of our national debt.

Hell, Huntsman is even an Eagle Scout.

But, he’s far too liberal for conservatives.

And he’s far too conservative for liberals.

Maybe he could overcome that. 

But this morning, in front of the Statue of Liberty, he committed an unforgivable sin.  Beneath the shining symbol of America Jon Huntsman called for polite political discourse and promised to run a civil campaign.

Huntsman didn’t vilify his former boss, instead he claimed that both he and President Obama love their country, but have different visions for its future. 

As outrageous as that was, Huntsman went even further.  He crossed the line and said 2012 is about “who will be the better president, not who’s the better American.”

That’s when the crack appeared in the earth and an ominous rumbling began as the flying monkeys stirred in the fiery deep.

Huntsman said, "Our political debates today are corrosive and not reflective of the belief that Abe Lincoln espoused back in his day, that we are a great country because we are a good country."

Can you imagine?

Can you imagine a civil campaign.  Can you imagine how boring it would be? Without the vitriol and exaggerations? Without the lies and hyperbole? Who would we hate? Who would we cheer? 

Act like civilized adults?  That’s no democracy!

Americans don’t want civil discourse.

And they sure as hell don’t want to see candidates who refuse to engage in mudslinging, brawling, and fear mongering. Fight you bastards, don’t just stand there! Fight! Fight!

Americans don’t want moderates! We want extremists!

We demand to know who is the better American!

There can be only one.


Oh, and we want flying monkeys.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Essential Apps For The 2012 Presidential Candidate


Ain’t technology wonderful?

Here in the shiny 21st Century, we don’t yet have flying cars or atomic sex robots, but we do have intelligent phones. We’ve got smart phones and genius iPads and brilliant tablets. 

And the best part? Apps. 

You can download an app that will not only make your phone more useful, but will make you into a more successful human being.

It’s true.

I read an article this morning about Apps for Socially Awkward People.  We’re talking about free applications for your phone or network device that will make you taller, better looking, more confident, and a hit with the opposite sex (or the same sex depending on your target demographic - just be careful to download the right version of the app or you could end up with an awkwardness multiplier, just saying). 

Picture it: You’re wandering aimlessly down the street, dateless and without prospects, your buddies have ditched you for a couple of drunken Russian circus acrobats and it’s looking like yet another Friday night home alone with a can of instant frosting and the rubber chicken – suddenly your Blackberry begins vibrating suggestively in your pocket!  The BlueBalls app has made contact with CougarProwl.net. You whip out your phone and Google Maps directs you to a bar with the Viagra fueled strains of desperation (or maybe that’s Neil Diamond, it’s hard to tell) thundering in the background. Through a fog of Pall Mall smoke you spot your target and your phone whispers possible pickup lines into your ear via Bluetooth as you make your final approach, “Lance Savage, big game hunter, cross country skier, I’m a Leo, how about you, Babe? Bartender! I’ll have a Shirley Temple, extra Shirley if you know what I mean!” Score! This is what it must be like to be Charlie Sheen! Thank you, Motorola!

The next article I read was about last Monday night’s GOP Presidential “debate.”


Seriously?  I’ve had Hooter’s buffalo hot wings that were more exciting than that dog and pony show. Hell, I’ve had buffalo hot wings that came out the next day a lot more exciting than that so-called debate.  These people have all the charisma of week old tofurky loaf – though in Newt’s case I can sort of see it since there’s a strong physical resemblance, especially around the jowls. I mean, come on, the biggest argument was who had the better hair, Romney or Bachman (my money’s on Mittens).

But, you know, I’m nothing if not an idea man and that’s when the synergy hit me.

What these people need, I thought, are some apps.  Apps for the socially awkward presidential candidate (of course, they couldn’t be free, because that would be socialism…):


Bloviator: The extreme(ist) quote generator.  A far right quote of the day, downloaded fresh from the Glenn Beck website. Apply in any situation, relevant or not.  “And thank you for that question about how I would encourage economic growth, Mr. Moderator and I’d just like to say … (glance surreptitiously at phone) … liberals in New York are trying to ban fried food because they hate business! (wait for applause) Also, buy gold.”

PATROIT Transfudiator!!! Allows the potential candidate to write Fundamentalist like a boss.  Converts standard grammar into patriotic capitalization and misspellings. Random punctuation function including unlimited exclamation points. Automatically inserts “LOL,” “JESUS,” and assorted racial slurs. Converts periods into serial ellipsis.  Never look like an over educated elitist again!

For example:

“I enjoy intelligent political dialog and would welcome a chance to discuss the issues that face our nation with you”

translated into Tea Party equals:


Right Wingman: uses your phone’s camera and facial recognition software to scan the web for the identity of any potential hookup along the campaign trail and alerts the user if said hottie appears to be a) a dude, b) a member of the media, or c) Arnold Schwarzenegger.  A plug-in for detecting foreign agents will be available in 2016.

Right Turn Only: A plug-in navigator function for Yahoo Maps.  Uses your phone’s motion sensor and sounds an alarm if you appear to be veering left…

Obamatron: Random presidential sound-bite generator, “Obama is why Baskin-Robbins doesn’t have 32 flavors.”

Do-Over: History Interpreter. “The Titanic sank because all the lazy poor liberals in steerage dragged it down, just like they’re sinking the American economy today. See, the iceberg was coming to take our 3rd Amendment rights and the ship couldn’t turn because labor unions were jamming the rudder. Trust me on this, I know my history.”

Outrage! The Patriotic Offense Alarm.  Advises candidates when something is offensive to America. “Al Gore invented the internet, that’s why every address ends in .’com.’  Com = Communist!  No American should be forced to use communism! If I’m elected I will issue an immediate executive order to change all web domains to .USA!”

Goal Post Mover: Automatically changes the subject when the candidate is backed into a corner.  “Osama Bin Ladin? Sure, but what I want to know is why hasn’t Obama done something about the loud Cicadas in Michigan? Because he’s weak on hearing protection for our children that’s why! Obama hates children! And children are America’s future. Well Sir, I’m not going to stand here and listen to you bad mouth the United States of America!”

Magic Eight Ball: The Federal Budget Cutter Campaign Slogan Generator. Simply shake your iPhone for a random computer generated one sentence solution to the debt crisis. “End the Fed!” “Mawr Jobs!” “Nuke China!” “No Taxation Without Representation!” “Feed the homeless to the hungry!” or the ever popular, “Ask Again Later”

PoorSquare: Uses GPS and advanced credit checking to warn candidates when they are approaching concentrations of poor people. With the deluxe version, you get Gaydar and the all new Islam-O-Fascist Detector.

FlipFlopper: I was for it before I was against it. Uses the phone’s position sensor to determine the candidate’s political position depending on the phone’s orientation and which way the wind is blowing. Not to be confused with BackPedal: I’m sorry you misunderstood what I said.  Note, Tim Pawlenty was using a Beta version of this app the other night when he attempted to answer questions about Obamneycare, those bugs have been fixed. Mostly.

Cherry Picker:  Randomly assembled words that sound like quotes from the founding fathers that can be used to justify any political position.  “George Jefferson was talking about Einstein’s famous Fear Of Relatives when he said the Tea of Liberty must be refreshed with the blood of turnips, which as you know proves this nation was founded by Christians.”

CrapShoot: A Paypal add-on that gives current Vegas odds and allows you to place bets on whether or not Sarah Palin will throw you under her bus.

Constitutionalizer: Instantly find constitutional justification for even the most cockamamie position.  Also, the Biblizer.

Regular Joe: Make yourself more cool and appealing to the average voter. Put in basic crowd parameters (white, evangelical, Texas), get an instant new you! “According to my phone, I love light beer, country music, and working on cars –  that is when me and my secessionist militia buddies aren’t out ‘repatriating’ illegal aliens  with our AK-47s… wait, that’s not right, what the hell? White? I meant to enter Hispanic, God damned autocorrect!”  Includes a list of previous addictions you’ve overcome with the help of AA, Jesus, or Chuck Norris.

TweetScuse: The Social Media Excuse Generator. “I accidentally tweeted a picture of my shaved balls to the Facebook Prepubescent Blond Boys Club page because my camera phone butt-dialed in my pocket when I kneeled down in church to pray for gay people to get straight. I guess I just love Jesus too much.”


Now you try.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Various and Sundry for the Week of June 10

Lots of email this week, asking my opinion on things Palin.

A while back I joined other bloggers and some media outlets in a voluntary Palin black-out.

I discovered that, after a month without Sarah Palin, well, you know I just didn’t miss her.

At all. (I suspect that’s how Todd feels after a month at fish camp, but I digress)

So I endeavored to keep it that way.

Sure, every once in a while, when she did something especially silly, stupid, or hateful I’d write a bit about her, my Palin ban is more like Anthony Wiener’s pledge of fidelity than what you’d call an actual hard (get it? Get it?) and firm rule. But I’ve been trying to keep the Palin to a minimum. I’ve actually written a few posts about her and then dumped them just because I didn’t want to give her any more attention. There are plenty of sites out there that keep her sufficiently covered, and for the most part I would like nothing better than to see her fade quietly into the arctic tundra with the rest of last year’s moose manure. Alas, I strongly suspect that she will not have the good grace to go quietly away and enjoy her new found millions. The words “grace” and “Palin” don’t belong in the same sentence together. And now, as the American 2012 presidential election cycle is jiggling into full Brownian motion, she’s starting to occupy more than her fair share of my email again.

This irritates me.

It irritates me for a number of reasons. One, because there are four hundred and fifty million Americans and surely there are better candidates for the GOP nomination than this silly git. It irritates me that a significant fraction of Americans are so damned stupid that they’d vote for Zombie Robot Cannibal Hitler’s Head In A Pickle Jar so long as he belonged to the right political party. And two, because writing about Palin is gratuitous. It bugs me that Stonekettle Station’s hit count jumps by twenty thousand every time I mention the word Palin (damnit, I did it again!). Yes, I know, I’m a blogger I’m supposed to want high hit counts, and I do, but it irks me nonetheless.

I understand that people, both those who are Americans and those who aren’t, are fascinated by Sarah Palin. It’s the same simian trait that makes us all slow down and gape at a horrific car wreck or watch that poor bastard try to do a lift with Kirstie Alley on Dancing With the Stars. We can all deny that we do it, but we all know that we can’t help but watch in horrified fascination – especially when we think nobody is watching us. An anonymous commenter under the previous post lamented the amount of press Sarah Palin gets and then went on to suggest that I spend my time doing something constructive instead of writing about her (the commenter didn’t specify what that might be, but I assume he meant I should be at my computer curing cancer, working towards world peace, or bitching about Obama’s socialism) – and yet that same commenter searched the internet for “Sarah Palin, Paul Revere gaffe,” read the whole article here on Stonekettle Station (and sixty something comments under the post), and then took the time to make a disdainful admonishing comment.

Like it or not, she’s news (which says something about us as a species).

Like it or not, for good or bad, she’s a force in American politics (which says something about the state of American politics).

Like it or not, she’s unlikely to go away any time soon (you can see where this is going, right?).

Like it or not, people are curious about her and the media would be remiss in its duty if we didn’t write about her.


And so, like I said, I get questions.


What do you think about the release of Palin’s Email:

I think it’s much ado about nothing.

I think that if you’re expecting some big surprise, a smoking gun, a wienergate, well, you’re going to be massively disappointed. The Alaska governor’s office released 24,199 pages of email – and withheld 2,275. About 20% of the released material has been redacted. The current governor’s office and Palin’s lawyers have gone over this material with a fine toothed comb, it’s taken them nearly three years to do so, and you can bet they didn’t leave any major surprises. People who love Sarah will see her voluminous correspondence as evidence of an engaged, common sense, hardworking state CEO … and people who hate Palin will read each line as further proof of her vindictive, small minded, hateful incompetence. Whatever camp you happen to fall into, you’ll likely find support for your view in the released documents.

The fact that there are few Americans in between those two positions says more about Sarah Palin than anything likely to be in those emails.

Do you think Palin is going to run for President:

No. Yes. Beats me. This is a sucker bet. I think she’s doing exactly what she says she’s doing, i.e. keeping her options open. I think she’s thinking about it in as much as she thinks about anything. I suspect at this point, more than anything else, she’s basking in the adulation of her supporters who keep begging her to run, save us Sarah! Saaaaave us! Yer so pretty, yer so wunnerful! Derp derpity derp! I think she enjoys the cheering crowds, the paparazzi, and the attention one hell of a lot more than she’ll ever enjoy actually campaigning. She’s on vacation and having the time of her life, a campaign is work, damned hard work and she’s not doing that. Yet.  But, notice that she very, very carefully has not declared support for any other candidate or potential candidate. You’ll also notice that she rickrolled Mitt Romney – and don’t you believe for one damned minute that she didn’t do that deliberately. Romney is the best candidate the conservatives have at the moment, there is no way that she wasn’t warned that she was about to drive the Juggernaut of Freedom right over top of him. Palin the High School Beauty Queen doesn’t like competition, she’s made that abundantly clear. She upstaged Romney on purpose, bet on it.

I think she’s waiting.

If I had to guess, I’d say she’s waiting to see if a genuinely popular conservative jumps into the ring, somebody she can’t beat in the primaries. If so, she’ll offer herself as a running mate, and if not she’ll step in at the last minute as the GOP savior by popular demand.

But like I said, predicting Sarah Palin’s next move is a sucker bet, I wouldn’t put any money on it – the only thing that is for sure and for certain is that she loves it when you try to guess what she’ll do next.




Speaking of the campaigns that aren’t: Gingrich can’t convince his staunchest supporters that he’s the right man for the job. What’s that tell the rest of us?

Honestly folks, if you haven’t figured Newt out by now, the fact that his entire team abandoned ship within the first month of the campaign should tell you a few things:

- Folks who specialize in getting people elected, don’t think Newt is electable. And they’d rather be unemployed than try to run his campaign. Whoa.

- Newt can’t pick people to run his campaign, yet you expect him to be able to pick a Cabinet? The Joint Chiefs? Supreme Court Judges? Color me dubious when it comes to his personal leadership and his ability to judge people. 

- Newt will not heed the advice of experts, including experts he’s paying to be experts, even if it means he crashes and burns. You think he’ll follow the advice of his Cabinet, The Joint Chiefs, The Supreme Court, You, should he become President?  If you believe that, I strongly suspect you’re the kind of person who thinks your cheating spouse will settle down once there is a baby on the way – Let’s ask Mrs. Gingrich 1 and 2 how that worked out for them.

- Apparently, what brought this about was the fact that he decided to take a two week vacation in Greece because his trophy wife was complaining about how much time his campaign was taking up. Note that he’d only been campaigning for two weeks. Poor Newt, I strongly suspect his love of power will cost him yet another marriage.

Strange things happen in politics and I won’t count Gingrich out until he’s out – and maybe not even then – but if Newt was playing the Tarot, I suspect he’d be looking at The Hanged Man right about now.


And finally: The Wiener Mobile

“This was a very dumb thing to do”

That’s what Tony “Oscar Meyer” Wiener said yesterday.  This was a very dumb thing to do. Dumb?  No, Tony, it wasn’t a dumb thing to do. Dumb would be a step up. Dumb would be screwing up American history on national television and then pretending that you didn’t. That’s dumb. 

Texting pictures of yourself in various states of undress to random people on the internet wasn’t dumb, it was downright criminally fucking stupid

It’s the kind of stupid that you only get from men who refuse to grow up. 

It’s the kind of stupid you only get from men who think with their dicks. 

Stop, I know what you’re thinking.  But, before you start telling me how Tony the Hard-on didn’t do anything criminal, how he’s such a great Congressman that he should be forgiven, and how tweeting pictures of himself to woman on the internet is something between him and his wife, just stop before you say something you’ll regret later.

See, Anthony Wiener is a United States Congressman.  Sexting it up with random women on the internet? Sending pictures of his junk out into cyberspace?  Folks, this isn’t some dumbassed teenager, what he did was not a stunt or a mistake.  And it sure wasn’t some isolated incident. This was a grown man, a married man with a pregnant wife, a United States Congressman who deliberately and with malice aforethought sought out women on the internet for sexual relationships.

Big deal, right?

Wrong. Wrong. Wrong.

Now pay attention because this is the important part: Anthony Wiener isn’t a guy who just “made a mistake,” Anthony Wiener is the kind of guy who put his dick ahead of the security of the nation.

Yes, that is correct. Anthony Wiener put his dick ahead of the security of the United States of America.

See Anthony Wiener is a guy with a security clearance and congressional access who deliberately put himself in a position to be compromised.

We are all damned lucky that a scumbag tabloid journalist like Andrew Breitbart ended up with those pictures, and was self serving enough to publish them, instead of if Wiener’s online infidelity had ended up in the hands of somebody who decided to blackmail their way into congress. 

Understand now?

Do I think he should keep his job? You’re kidding, right? 

I wouldn’t trust this guy to hold my jacket while I washed my hands. 


More later.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Sarah Palin’s Midnight Ride on the Failbus

“What have you seen so far today, and what are you going to take away from your visit?”

That’s the question asked of Palin by a random voter while Palin was visiting Boston’s Old North Church as part of her fire-in-the-belly-of-Liberty non-campaign campaign bus tour or whatever we’re calling it today. 

What have you seen so far?

What are you getting out of it?

Note that the question was asked not by the media, but by a random citizen. 

Note also that the question was not “Mrs. Palin, pop quiz! You have two minutes to give American voters, political analysts, and historians a quick dissertation regarding the specifics of Founding Father Paul Revere, including his famous ride, the particular warning signals used, the nature of Revere’s message including its intended recipient and the thought process behind its dispatch,  and how that relates to gun ownership in the nascent proto-United States. Go!”

No, instead the question was basically an innocuous, “Gee, Sarah, cool, uh?”

This seems to me a reasonable question asked by any citizen, left , right, or center, when given the opportunity to greet a famous politician with the TV cameras rolling.  What have you seen?  What do you think?  Certainly, Palin’s security team wouldn’t have let the petitioner close enough to ask that question without knowing what the question was going to be. 

What have you seen today, what do you think about it? Seems like exactly the kind of softball question a politician would relish.

A savvy and prepared politician would have answered, “What’s your name? Mary? Thank you for asking, Mary, (that’s just the bestest question ever! Gush!) and it’s just great to meet you here at the Old North Church (or “this historic place” if you can’t remember where the hell you are)!  It’s great to be here at the place where the United States was born. I’m humbled to stand in some of the same places as our founding fathers, those great men (or “patriots,” if you must) who risked all for freedom (life, liberty, truth, justice, and/or the American way).  But, you know, really, the best part of my visit is meeting people like you and hearing what you have to say!” Blah, blah, fluff, fluff, kiss, kiss, and etc.  Thanks again for asking and we’ve got to go! Wave, wave, bye bye,  hasta lasagna, don’t get any on ya. 

Any savvy and experienced pol has a set of canned responses for any given situation, from an obnoxious heckler to a baby puking on their tie.  Swap a few words around, shift the focus of the question back on the questioner, freedom, liberty, the American spirit, yadda yadda and make an innocuous wisecrack.  You never catch a savvy politician off guard, because they never are off guard – even if they’re caught tweeting pictures of their junk to social media sites, or wiggling their foot under the door of a public restroom stall, or trying to sell a Senate seat to the highest bidder. 

You want to be a player, you better learn to play the game.

The problem is that Sarah Palin is not a savvy politician. She’s a spoiled brat with the manners of a mean and petty high school homecoming queen.  She’s pretty and popular and so far that’s worked just fine for her.  People give her stuff just because she’s pretty and popular.  And that’s also why a hell of a lot of staunch conservative men support her – they don’t really want her to be president, and they would be the last guys to take orders from a woman, what they really want is to get laid.  They think if they sing her praises loud enough and follow her around like a dog in heat she’ll maybe sleep with them, Palin isn’t the only one still in high school (Don’t believe me? Yeah, how much support do you think she’d get if she was fat and ugly and flat-chested with short kinky ginger hair?). The sad part is that if you’re not in her little clique with the jocks and the cheerleaders, well, then you just don’t count.  Palin will throw anybody under the bus that even looks like they might pull the spotlight off of her – just ask Mitt Romney. Thinking isn’t Palin’s strongest muscle, because she’s never needed to use it, and the only questions she’s prepared for are the kinds of questions a beauty queen gets asked, “As Queen of the World, I’ll work for world peace, Jesus, and fluffy bunnies who fart sunshine and rainbows!”

She’s a beauty queen, that’s why The Donald loves her, she reminds him of Mrs. Trump (First, second, the current one, and the next one, there’s a pattern here).

What have you seen so far today and what are you going to take away from your visit?

“We saw where Paul Revere hung out as a teenager, which was something new to learn. He who warned, uh, the British that they weren’t goin’ to be takin’ away our arms, uh, by ringing those bells and makin’ sure as he’s riding his horse through town to send those warnin’ shots and bells that we were going to be secure and we were going to be free and we were going to be armed.”

I know. I know. I see you there in the back, waving your arm. I hear you.  Waitaminute now, Jim, I hear you say in that tsk tsk tone you use when you think I’m the guy who drew a Sharpie mustache on your autographed picture of Sarah, you said you wouldn’t give The Sourdough Shill any more air time, and yet here we are. Seriously, Jim, Whiskey Tango Foxtrot?

Well, yes, I did deface your copy of America By Heart, don’t worry it’ll still work just fine as fertilizer. And I did say that I wouldn’t give her any more electrons  – unless she actually does declare for the White House or unless she does something so damned stupid that I simply can’t ignore it.  Her blathering idiotic response above doesn’t break the threshold for either criteria.

No, what did it was the follow-up comment.

"You know what? I didn’t mess up about Paul Revere. Here is what Paul Revere did. He warned the Americans that the British were coming, the British were coming, and they were going to try to take our arms and we got to make sure that we were protecting ourselves and shoring up all of our ammunitions and our firearms so that they couldn’t take it. But remember that the British had already been there, many soldiers for seven years in that area. And part of Paul Revere’s ride — and it wasn’t just one ride — he was a courier, he was a messenger. Part of his ride was to warn the British that were already there. That, hey, you’re not going to succeed. You’re not going to take American arms. You are not going to beat our own well-armed persons, individual, private militia that we have. He did warn the British. And in a shout-out, gotcha type of question that was asked of me, I answered candidly. And I know my American history.”

I know my American history.  You know, if she’d hadn’t added that little bit, I might have ignored her. 

I know my American history. Just like Rush Limbaugh knows his.

You know what? I didn’t mess up about Paul Revere.

Palin is pathologically incapable of admitting a mistake. That doesn’t bode well for her as a politician, but it sure sounds like the high school clique queen bee, doesn’t it?

He warned the Americans that the British were coming, the British were coming, and they were going to try to take our arms and we got to make sure that we were protecting ourselves and shoring up all of our ammunitions and our firearms so that they couldn’t take it.  But remember that the British had already been there, many soldiers for seven years in that area…

The British were coming … but they were already here. Or something. Wait what?  You’d think, knowing that this was going to be the topic of conversation during her FoxNews interview, that she’d get somebody to do her homework for her.  Guess not.  And in fact, that statement – made after two days of reflection, two days of preparation, during a voluntary interview specifically about her original statement, in front of a friendly audience and a sympathetic interviewer – is even more inane and incorrect than her first blathering nonsensical statement.

Revere was dispatched on the evening of April 18, 1775, by Dr. Joseph Warren and instructed to ride to Lexington (Massachusetts, not Lexington, Kentucky – you know, just in case Michelle Bachman is reading this) to warn Samuel Adams and John Hancock that British Regulars were marching to arrest them. 

Wait, April 18th, 1775?

Why, that’s a full year before the Declaration of Independence and the beginning of the American Revolution.

What the hell?

See, the vast majority of colonists (who were not yet Americans per se, but were rather British colonists in The Americas) were still loyal to the Crown, most of them didn’t want independence, they wanted better representation in Parliament and full rights as British citizens (including the right not to bear the tax burden of the Empire’s war with France – which is what that whole Tea Party thing was all about, you know, back in 1773).  The folks who would eventually become our Founding Fathers, including Revere, were, in 1775, mostly regarded as a handful of disgruntled troublemakers.  The Redcoats weren’t invading, they were already here. They weren’t coming to take “our” arms, they were coming to arrest the rebels.  It would be very unlikely that the British would round up arms from the civilian population at that point, they needed irregulars – i.e. the colonial militias – to deal with the natives and brigands and the odd Frenchman.  The Crown was broke (which, you know, was the whole reason the king was taxing the crap out of the colonies in the first place), every Redcoat in the Colonies was one less to fight the French elsewhere and was costing the King a fortune.

Revere and William Dawes were dispatched to warn the rebels that the Regulars were coming to arrest the rebels.

There was no mention by anybody of the Army coming to take the colonists’ weapons.  It would not have occurred to the world’s most powerful military that it was necessary (or possible.  Note for comparison that in Iraq and Afghanistan today, our own military has made no concerted effort to disarm the population. Because it would be a futile gesture, doomed to failure from the start).

Now, Dr. Warren – another founding father, and disgruntled troublemaker, who had been gathering intelligence on the King’s forces – felt that the contingent of Redcoats headed toward Lexington was too  large a force just to arrest a brewer and a merchant.  Warren thought that they might be looking to garrison in Concord. After warning Adams and Hancock, and dispatching additional riders to warn surrounding towns, Revere and Dawes continued on to Concord. Along the way they meet Sam Prescott. All three were stopped by a British patrol at Lincoln. Prescott and Dawes escaped (Prescott managed to make it to Concord, Dawes fell off his horse in the dark and busted his ass – which is why most of us have never heard of him), but Revere was captured and detained.  When questioned by the Redcoats at gunpoint, he did what any good troublemaker would do – he lied his ass off.  He told the Major in charge of the patrol that they were surrounded by rebels, that the whole countryside was arrayed against them, and that they were screwed. The Redcoats of that small patrol were understandably a bit nervous at this news – and then a distant shot rang out.  Revere told his captors it was the rebels, firing shots to “alarm the Country!”  There were more shots. The British began to panic.  Then the bells in Lexington began to toll (probably in response to the confused situation).

The simple truth of the matter is that nobody, British or Colonist, had any damned idea of what the hell was going on. There were rumors galore and misinformation aplenty and confused panic on both sides.  Along with a rather large number of the usual idiots who always show up in any crowd and throw gasoline on the fire.

Trust me, this is a common event in war, conflict, patrol in hostile territory, and even during training exercises. In the days before instantaneous communications, decent maps, and electric lighting, it was far, far worse. Modern military intelligence systems didn’t exist, spies and information gatherers were freelancers, on both sides, and the British were woefully uninformed of the actual situation. So were the colonists.   The Redcoats were alone, outnumbered, surrounded by hostiles (or so they thought) and under fire (or so they thought), in the pitch dark and without communications with higher authority.  One thing you can bet was on that major’s mind, he didn’t want to start a war with the colonials, his job was to keep the peace.  Colonists pay taxes, rebels don’t.  England already had one war, she didn’t need another with her own citizens.  That Redcoat major had to be very aware of what his distant commanders in Boston would think about his actions that night. 

Revere played the situation for all it was worth, shouting, “The bell’s a’rining! The town’s alarmed and you’re all dead men!”  He had no idea why the bells were ringing, they could have been warning of fire or some other disaster.  He had no idea what those gunshots were about either. He just took advantage of the situation.  Scaring the British wasn’t his mission, it was just something he improvised on the spot. Honestly, what did he have to lose?

The British decided that discretion was the better part of valor, a wise military decision. They released their prisoners, including Revere, and headed back to Boston post haste, happy to be away from the uncouth and unruly colonials.

Palin’s assertion that Revere’s mission was to warn the British that they could take “our” guns when they pried them from “our” cold dead hands is complete provable bullshit – despite the fact that her supporters are still trying to get into her pants by changing Wikipedia to give her version support (funny how these folks sneer at Wikipedia, but then immediately try to use it to validate their own position, but I digress).

Her original statement is the kind of shallow garbled Mickey Mouse nonsensical version of history that you get from a cursory glance at a few information signs in a tourist stop, or a half-remembered jumble of words you heard from the park ranger. 

I know my history.

Yeah, my ass. 

Her follow-up statement is pure rationalization and nothing more. It’s the twisting of a person hoist on their own petard like the class nerd hung from a locker by the back of his underpants – a feeling that I’m quite sure a pretty popular little has-been beauty queen is most unfamiliar with. Doesn’t feel too damned good, does it, Sarah?

And in a shout-out, gotcha type of question that was asked of me…”

Ah, yes.  And there it is. The question was a gotcha – as are all questions that Palin can’t answer. That’s what a beauty queen says when she loses the pageant, the questions were unfair! The Judges were biased! The stage was crooked! The other girls cheated!  I tap danced my ass off! My boobs are perky! My makeup is perfect! I played a flawless version of the Star Spangled Banner on Kazoo! It’s not my fault! 

It’s not just the lamestream media, oh no, it’s some random American who just happened to ask Palin, “What have you seen today, what do you think, what do you read?” That’s what an insecure jock says when they drop an easy lob during an expo game, “the sun was in my eyes!”  We’re all against her, the media, the internet, the voters, the universe, some random person in the crowd.

This form of thinking is a habit with people like Palin.

It’s the result of a creationist worldview.  Creationism not only colors what you think, it colors how you think.  The symptoms are a manifestation of defective reasoning ability, a cognitive malfunction, a chronic intellectual misfire.  People who can dismiss the entire body of modern science to embrace the creationist worldview display an aggressive willingness to rationalize all kinds of nonsense and cling to those false constructs despite all evidence to the contrary.  From holocaust denial, to climate change denial, to birtherism, and truthiness, to irrational hatred and bigotry, to politics … to revision of well documented and established American history.  So much so, that they will consider themselves greater experts (I know my history) than actual historians, scientists, and researchers. 

Any contradiction or correction or criticism from actual experts is dismissed as “elitism.”

She doesn’t make mistakes, the media does, the viewers do, people who laugh at her do, people who disagree with her do, but she does not make mistakes. Ever.

Palin is a creationist, and it shows.

It shows in every action she takes and every insecure word she speaks.

Before her nomination as John McCain’s running mate, she managed to keep her mental aberrations more or less in check.  As my friend and fellow writer, Eric, at Standing on the Shoulders of Giant Midgets, said, she was a small person on a small stage.  But her nomination and subsequent unearned popularity has removed any restraints she once might have had and given unfettered rein to her narcissism.

She has become the Charlie Sheen of American politics.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

The Day in Pictures: Birds and Cats

A few pictures from around my yard today.

I have a number of feeders around the yard, one for finches filled with thistle seed, and a couple for other small birds filled with arctic bird seed mix.  I also put out squirrel feeders.  So, the squirrel eats the bird food and the birds eat the squirrel food. Go figure.  I love the colors and focus in this first picture:



Later in the day it clouded up and started to rain.  This bothered ShopKat not at all. She loves the rain and she spent the afternoon hunting voles in the wet ferns or looking down over the valley behind the house.





Stupid, one of the indoor cats, accomplished nothing. As usual.


Friday, June 3, 2011

Attention Alaskans: Melanie Gould Is (no longer) Missing

Update: Saturday, June 11

Melanie has been found. 

According to the media, Melanie Gould contacted the Alaska State Troopers in Cantwell today.  She appears to be physically fine and was transported to the regional hospital in Wasilla.  Reportedly she was aware of search efforts but had been avoiding the searchers.  If the reports are accurate, then obviously she’s got some issues to deal with.

The important thing is that Melanie is alive and safe and getting whatever help she needs.  This is a good thing.


Iditarod Musher Melanie Gould is missing.
Alaskans, keep an eye out for Melanie. If she’s between Talkeetna and Denali, she could have gone off the road anywhere and not be noticed for days.  Keep alert, pay attention, and find this lady. 


Update: Saturday 06/04/11

She's still missing as of this morning.  More information on the search effort organized by Melanie's friends and neighbors is here.


Update Saturday 06/04/11 18:10

Alaska State Troopers have found her truck parked along the Denali Highway. No sign of Melanie yet. But no sign of foul play either.  Troopers are searching the remote area.

Various and Sundry


As some of you have noticed, I haven’t been posting much these last few weeks.

I’m well, thanks for asking. And no, I’m not in any imminent danger of giving up writing.

But, see, it’s now spring here in Alaska and there is much to do in the real world.

For those not aware, I’m doing some work for the military.  When I took the job, I expected it to take about a year. That was eighteen months ago. Now it’s looking to be turning into a permanent gig.  This does not fill me with any particular woe.  They pay me well and I like the folks I’m working with, a lot, even if they are mostly Air Force types and therefore a bit too clean and polite. If they want me to stick around, I will.  So, at the moment, during weekdays I’m mostly offline except for the occasional pithy comment on Twitter or Facebook or a longer bit from the netbook if I find the time at lunch – assuming I take lunch, which I usually don’t.  Typically these days, I write blog posts in the evenings, which is why most of the articles on Stonekettle Station appear around midnight, Alaskan time. However, as I mentioned, it’s now spring here in the Alaskan Matsu, and there is much to do and little time to do it.  The warm seasons are short and I don’t have a lot of time to do the normal homeowner things that involve painting and yardwork and the planting of green things and the shoveling of potting soil.   I have things to do in the shop, far more projects than I have time for lately.  And then there’s the whole having to spend time with the family thing.  Given the choice of spending the day with my wife and kid in Talkeetna enjoying the first sunny day in about nine months or with you – well, let’s just say that I love you all dearly in your own special way, Internet People (except for the Texans, I can’t stand you pointy toed bastards, I just put up with you so you won’t cry and feel bad about yourselves. You’re welcome), but I’m going to Talkeetna.  Also, you should know that I bought an awesome new pair of hiking boots at REI yesterday, and it’s very likely that I’ll be off in Hatchers Pass this weekend end breaking them in.  If you’re good (and don’t cry and feel bad about yourselves), I’ll post some pictures.

And so, writing has taken a back seat while I enjoy things in the real world.

This will get worse next month, when the salmon start running in the Russian River. Prepare yourselves appropriately.

However, fear not, I haven’t given up blogging or on writing in general. But a while back I made a conscious decision not to post fluff on Stonekettle Station just so I had something to post every day – I reserve that for Twitter and Facebook.  If you want to see the shiny acorns that fall off my brain every day or pictures of my lunch or a discussion of my cats’ robot litterbox  (and really, how could you not be curious about such things?), friend me on Facebook or follow me on Twitter. Links are over there on the right.

A note about the science of phishing:

I got a couple of emails from some guy calling himself Abe Gong.  Abe is supposedly from the University of Michigan and claims to be conducting a survey of bloggers.   The general impression is that he’s a grad student involved in the kinds of weird obscure studies that grad students typically are – though he doesn’t actually say so.   He says he’s seeking my opinion as a blogger about “issues and events in society today” and wanted me to take an electronic survey.

Um, yes, see here’s the thing, why would you need a survey for that?  My opinion is  clearly stated on my blog. In fact, that’s sort of the entire definition of blogging in the first place, isn’t it?  Grad students aren’t the cleanest pipettes in the lab, but damn, man.

But the part that really got me was this:  “Our goal is to assemble a clear picture of ideas, opinions, and demographics in the blogosphere.”



Good luck with that. Really.

I read three questions into the survey. The first two asked me to confirm that I was indeed Jim Wright and that I was indeed the owner and operator of Stonekettle Station. The third question wanted to know if I was a United States citizen, and asked the question in a fairly pointed and personal manner  – and gave me no option to decline the question. 


I had not answered any questions, and I stopped reading the survey at that point.

I went back and reviewed the emails and the little blurb at the top of the survey.  Nowhere does Abe clearly describe the purpose of the study, nor does he provide any description of how the information will be used, who will have access to it, and how it will be stored, protected, and disseminated.  And again, nowhere does Abe provide any type of credentials whatsoever, other than a supposed UofM email address.

The paltry information provided by Abe says that the information I give will be kept confidential … and yet the first three questions clearly seek to establish my identity and tie it to my website. The electronic survey is also hosted on a non-secure connection.

Call me crazy, but I pass on this opportunity to participate in science.

Honestly, I’m having a hard time believing that any dissertation  advisor, let alone one from UofM, would sign off on any such silliness.

So I strongly suspected that this was something else.  My first suspicion was that it is phishing scam or some other form of chicanery.  It has all the hallmarks of a classic con,  playing on the mark’s sense of self importance (which is, you know, sort of the defining characteristic of a blogger. Heh heh), minimal information the details of which the victim fills in for himself, and so on.

However, being a retired expert in Information Warfare and someone familiar with scientific studies in Psychology and Psychological Warfare and Information Operations, it occurred to me that If indeed Abe was conducting a valid study, I highly doubted that the vaguely stated purpose was the actual objective of the experiment – more likely Abe was looking to see who would give up their personal information – same scam as above, but for a more noble purpose.

Turns out I’m most likely wrong on both accounts. 

A little searching around led  me to Abe Gong’s webpage at the University of Michigan.  He does appear to be an actual grad student in Political Science engaged in data-mining the blogosphere to support his doctoral dissertation. I’ve reviewed his LinkedIn page and  I’ve read his dissertation abstract, it seems seriously short of actual details – but, hey, it’s PoliSci.  So, it would appear that Mr. Gong is indeed a real person engaged in legitimate research (of course, it could still be an elaborate scam. Hey, I watch Leverage. They can do that, you know).

I suppose I should be flattered that somebody at the UofM thought Stonekettle Station interesting and influential enough that they asked me to participate in the study.

I’m still going to decline the opportunity.

Abe, as I said in my email response to you, you’re welcome to send me much more detailed information about your study and answer my questions. Perhaps I’ll reconsider.

John Edwards:

I saw he’s been indicted on felony charges for allegedly using campaign funds to cover up the extra-marital affair he was having while his wife was dying of cancer.  If you’re looking for a way to completely and totally screw yourself over, betray your family, destroy your life, and earn the disgust of pretty much everybody, you couldn’t find a better role model. At this point, since Dr Kevorkian went to the big garage full of car exhaust in the sky this morning, I think the only option Edwards has left is a descent into alcoholism and male prostitution outside the set of the next Arnold Schwarzenegger movie.  Frankly, I can’t muster much in the way of sympathy for this douchebag.

Sarah Palin and the Crazy Bus of Doom:

Paul Revere rode, whooping and shootin’ into the air, in defense of the 2nd Amendment.   And what a patriot he was, that silversmith, defending a constitutional amendment that was neither in danger nor in existence in 1776.  Seriously, this dopy bitch is so fucking stupid that even FoxNews is at a loss for words. Folks, unless and until this ignorant hateful bimbo formally declares her bid for the White House, or unless she drives the Giant Liberty Battle Tank Of Patriotic Freedom And American Values through the front windows of the Oval Office with little Trigger manning the forward .50cals and the paparazzi following along like hypnotized rats chasing that guy with the pennywhistle, let’s not give her any more coverage. OK?

Romney Declares for the White House:

Big surprise.  Somebody go check the front grill of Palin’s Leviathan of Freedom and see if he’s still alive.



I’ve got a couple things I want to write about in detail, hopefully I’ll find the time this weekend.