Friday, June 3, 2011

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.


  1. You should ask to see Abe Gong's IRB approval. Survey research requires quite a bit of paperwork to be approved beforehand, and even more if information is tied to actual identities.

    If he doesn't provide it, you could probably get him kicked out of grad school if you were really motivated.

    Now, assuming he's legit, using a properly-designed survey rather than trying to figure out people's answers from reading their blogs actually is the scientifically-appropriate thing to do, but that doesn't sound like a properly-designed survey.

    (I'm not a social scientist; I work with people who are and they do the heavy lifting. I've picked up a little bit, and now you know about as much as I do.)

  2. Thanks Phiala, at the moment I'm really not that motivated but I shall keep your advice in mind.

  3. Just using my powers of surliness for the greater good.

  4. Thank Dog you're on our side.

    Uh, you are on our side, right?

  5. Um.


    Of course I am.


  6. I can totally relate to your description of AF types, my dad always had his knickers in a bunch about piddly stuff until he retired, then it got more relaxed. Now he's so relaxed we have to verbally pinch him to wake him up.

    As for posting every day, 'tis better to have something to say as opposed to having to say something. The perfect example being the Idiot on the Bus. I would be totally mortified if I was a retired teacher and that was tied to me biologically.

    Looking forward to future posts, and enjoy our very short summers. I'd be out breaking in new boots as well, but I don't have any yet.


    wv "nonspo"-stuff idjits spout.

  7. Sent you an FB friend request, as suggested.

    Maybe she can take that bus on the "bridge to nowhere?"

    JMocha aka Eve, finding the bad news half of Heinlein's "The Happy Days Ahead" more and more accurate... and almost all the Republican candidates looking a little like Nehemiah Scudder.

  8. Okay, so the American Revolution was about the right to bear arms. The American Civil War was about states' rights. Got it. Cool.

    Let's see, that covers the Second Amendment and the Tenth.

    So, what I think we need to do now is we need to go ahead and fill in the rest of America's wars with appropriate Constitutional Amendments that were the real issue.

    Here's my rough list so far:

    Barbary War: eminent domain.

    The War Of 1812: cruel and unusual punishment.

    Indian Wars: right to confront witnesses and compel attendance of favorable witnesses in a criminal action.

    Mexican-American War: due process clause (but only Fifth Amendment, not Fourteenth Amendment).

    Spanish-American War: the right to have juries for civil trials where more than $20 is at stake.

    WWI: quartering of soldiers.

    WWII: freedom of speech.

    The Korean War: the right of a person not to be searched without a warrant or probable cause.

    Vietnam: speedy trials.

    Granada: non-disparagement of personal rights not otherwise enumerated.

    Panama: right not to be compelled to incriminate oneself.

    Iraq I: right to petition government.

    Afghanistan: excessive bail.

    Gulf II: double jeopardy.

    I feel like I'm leaving some conflicts out, but that's okay. Also, we can totally shuffle these around. You'll note that some wars were fought over different clauses of the same Amendment in the Bill Of Rights, but I figure that's okay. Also, I think we could expand the scope to include other, later amendments: e.g. maybe we could say that the Mexican-American War was really fought over changing the salaries of members of Congress or the Second Gulf War was really about repealing prohibition (in fact, maybe that could be a nice symmetry if Iraq I was over the Eighteenth Amendment and Iraq II was over the Twenty-First, whaddyathink?).

    This is going to be fun! We should totally write a history book and sell it to Texas!

  9. What about the Michigan/Ohio War? Wasn't that about the right to be strip searched in our airports?

  10. Add it to the list!


    bearfyin: as frightening as being surprised by a bear would be. "I saw that Friday The 13th movie on the USA one night and that's one bearfyin' movie you got right there."

  11. I'm going to friend request on FB, and follow you on Twitter. I need more fluff: particularly anything relating to the fluff known as ShopKat!

    And I'm with ya' on SP...can't we just ignore her...please?! I get stoopider just by looking at pictures of her, and I studiously avoid watching video (especially with the sound turned up). I blame John McCain!

  12. * picks teeth with dirty fingernail *

    * BELCH!! *

    * phweeeeeet *
    (I figure you can guess that one)

    Just another polite and tidy USAF employee! But I'm a civilian. The support contractors really raise farting to an art form.

  13. That can't be right. Gulf War I was the direct result of "Of the two original proposed amendments that were not ratified promptly by the necessary number of states, the first related to apportionment of Representatives; the second, relating to compensation of members of Congress, was ratified in 1992 and became Amendment 27." (Microsoft Bookshelf '95)

    It took two centuries and a detour towards Baghdad, but it was accomplished.

    Dr. Phil

  14. Hah! You win! You set up La Voldemort to fluff her Paul Revere response two years ago: "They want to be ready in case Sarah Palin gives the alarm like a modern day Paul Revere from Alaska when the Rooskies surge enmasse across the Bearing Sea..." (in your "The More Things Change" post from June of 2009).

    Why yes, I'm reading through the archives, why do you ask?

  15. Given a choice between typing away at a computer or roaming beloved Hatcher Pass, it's no contest. And I envy the choices you have; where I am, it's in the high 90s with 8000% humidity. Man, I can't wait to get back to the Valley.

    (BTW, per your instructions, FB request will be inbound shortly. I need the daily fix. And our Mighty Tiger sends greetings to ShopKat and company.)

  16. Actually Eric, quartering of troops is the only right on which there seems to have never been a violation.

    It seems to have never come up.

    Although if the President needs to quarter some troops in Arizona I can make a suggestion.

    osment - the real meaning behind The Wizard of Oz

  17. I work with some folks who once thought Sarah Palin was the great GOP hope. Now, every time I see that freakin' bus, all I can think of is a fluffer on a porn set. Out to get everyone hard (esp the media) but never a part of the real action.

  18. Ok, here's my contention. (And the only reason I did not check "you're my god" among the options after the last two posts).

    Sarah Palin is by no means "stupid". I would be a Palin anti-fan, and it would be a dream leave her to yesteryears's news cycle, begging for a chance to be on "whatever happened to..." on the the Biography channel, at best. But not being stupid is why she's still here, and we're still typing her name (a keystroke away from PAIN, I know) despite the best of our intentions. (I promised myself I would NOT make any comments about her on my fb page after "blood libel," neither cheer nor boo posts or blogs entries about her, and yet... here I am. (though to my surprise it's the first I've tumbled from that wagon).

    Call her ignorant, call her "not intellectually curious" (I think that was Fareed Zakaria, but I'm not certain enough for an annotation), call her many things, but she is most definitely not stupid. As you as a warrant officer must know, there are many other routes to intelligence, and evidence thereof, than the academic kind. So, she also lacks the analytic skill, engaged openminded approach, and talent with synthesis of complicated ideas and subtle notes (not to mention adequate handling of syntax in the English language) that many of us would set as criteria for intelligence. However, there is also emotional intelligence, and with a certain subset of the population with whom she has truly struck a chord, it's very powerful. This would be, yes, the ultimate Jesusfreaks, the Klansmen, and less thinking, more shooting NRA extremists- but also the previously harmless stay at home Christian mom set (not necessarily as Jesusfreaky at large), and the large segment of both washed and unwashed unheard anti-elitist blue collar Patriots- your standard cling to guns and religion set. It's not just the very fringe, or she could not be so powerful and get the attention she does (see Ralph Nader). In some opinion column during the 08 election(again, unable to annotate) there was the analysis that her driving force was her war with those academics who made her feel small during her college career, where she was forced to withdraw and try again few times (2, 3?) before she got her degree. She was probably used to BigFish/Smallbowl success with her beauty queen/basketball star rise in Wasilla, but in the larger world, found her talents not only not noticed, but demeaned. I think this may be so with a lot of folks who, while very talented in other areas, feel belittled by people with degrees who do not appreciate the wide array of intelligence out there. Her EQ, if you will, is exceptional though, and she's set it to her (nauseatingly folksy lingo laden) speech and become the voice for the underdog- or, imo, convinced those underdogs who are also less intelligent across the board.

    Hopefully, though, more and more will come to appreciate the hole in her EQ the size of Africa (which she always knew was a continent. of course.)- lack of true compassion and empathy. Sooner or later I can't imagine she can keep the Momma Grizzly Teresa facade up forever, and her evident glaring narcissism will be blinding. In the meantime, she twists, manipulates, and magnetizes the media (and me), sharp as can be.

  19. It still breaks my hear of what John Edwards did. The morally bankrupt must not be tolerated into office.


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