Monday, August 31, 2009

From the "Some things just never get old" department



Story Update: I confess I don't know how old this update is, but it's funny as hell anyway.

National Make Yourself Feel Real Good About Yourself Day

So I get this letter from President and Mrs. Obama, telling me of an exciting new opportunity. They're from the government, and they're here to help me...help them. Or something: I confess I'm a bit fuzzy on the details.

Details really don't seem to be the strong suit of these people. I mean, other presidents you could understand. When Clinton said, "I did not have sexual relations with that woman," you knew he meant "I had sexual relations with that woman." When Bush Jr. said, "If you're not not with us you're with the terrorists," you knew that was exactly what he meant and if you didn't believe it the CIA just might invite you on an all-expenses-paid trip to Yemen in a leased Beechcraft. But when these people talk, I don't always know what they mean. In fact, sometimes I get the impression they're not really very eager for me to know what they mean. Sometimes they use words - sometimes they use them over and over - that bring a certain line from Inigo Montoya to mind.

[fake spanish accent]"You keep using that word. I don' think it means what you think it means."[/fake spanish accent]

But I don't really know what they think it means.

Anyway! The letter.
This year, for the first time, the United States will honor September 11 as a National Day of Service and Remembrance. Eight years ago, the tragic events of that Tuesday morning inspired Americans to come together in a remarkable spirit of unity and compassion. In that same spirit, we call on all Americans to join in service on September 11 and honor the heroes of that dark day as well as the brave men and women in uniform who continue to protect our country at home and abroad.
The document goes on for four paragraphs in total, and never once defines what the Prez and his Mrs. mean by "service." However, they do suggest the following:
We encourage you to visit www.serve.com and find a volunteer opportunity in your neighborhood or download tools to create your own project with family and friends.
Well! Being a patriotic red-blooded etc., - and seeing as I'm inside housesitting a sick dog and have nothing better to do - I rushed my patriotic ass right over to the website in question!

This year we commemorate the first September 11 National Day of Service and Remembrance. The tragic events of September 11, 2001 inspired Americans to come together in a remarkable spirit of unity and compassion. It was a stark reminder that our fate as individuals is inherently tied to the fate of our nation. Eight years later, September 11 continues to evoke strong emotion and is an homage to sacrifice and a call to action.

In April, President Obama signed the Edward M. Kennedy Serve America Act which, for the first time, officially recognizes September 11 as a National Day of Service and Remembrance. This year, on September 11, the President, the Corporation for National and Community Service, MyGoodDeed and the 9/11 families will ask all Americans to remember that Tuesday eight years ago and recommit to service in their communities throughout the year. We encourage you to continue to promote service by commemorating this milestone through the United We Serve initiative.

And I read the whole intro page. And they still don't define what the hell they mean by "Serve."

So now I'm getting so pissed off I do what I almost never do at a government (definition: You paid for it) website, I clicked another link.

Learn More>

Ah! Now we're getting somewhere!
What can you do?

Individuals

* Find an opportunity to serve

* Stay connected and spread the word
Hm. Y'know, this isn't a lot of help. I have learned that the United States Government could use a good copy writer, but I'm not volunteering for that. I do have my pride, and there are some jobs I just won't take.

Okay, what began as an idle web-click has now become a crusade. I WANNA KNOW WHAT YOU'RE TALKING ABOUT, BARACK AND MICHELLE! Work with me here, fergodsake!

So I click on a link that promises to tell me all about one of their success stories, in hopes that it will lend me a clue:
The US Department of Commerce is answering the President's call to service through an all-volunteer "Green Team" at our headquarters building in Washington, DC.

The Team is comprised 134 volunteers with representatives from the Office of the Secretary and all seven Operating Units located at, or nearby, the Herbert C. Hoover Building (HCHB).

The purpose of the HCHB Green Team is to promote energy awareness and environmental stewardship throughout the Department of Commerce through efforts in the HCHB.

Recently the Green Team held a cell phone drive to benefit Doorways for Women and Families, a non-profit organization that strives to end homelessness and family violence by offering safe shelter and housing to women and children.

Additionally, the Green Team participated in the Department of Commerce's Annual Earth Day Fair, assisting with distributing information, handing out plants and Earth-themed items, and organizing environmental activities for children.
WTF does any of this feel-good, taxpayer-sponsored bullshit have to do with 9/11? Or with anything else? I am now not only perplexed, I'm getting really bent out of shape. I wish those 134 "volunteers with representatives" had stayed home that day.

Undaunted, I clicked the second link. There are only two. And there I found:
In 2005, the Pierre School District found a need to begin a student health profile on each high school student. The task of screening their 900 students for health risks seemed daunting. As they often do, RSVP volunteers from Central South Dakota RSVP came to the rescue.

Over the last 4 years, nearly 30 volunteers have helped with this important student health event. Retired nurse Ann H. looks forward to picking up her blood pressure cuff again as she faithfully volunteers for the event since it began. “I enjoy being able to meet the children, being introduced to friends of my grandchildren”, remarked Ann when asked why she keeps coming back to this event.

“This is a popular event, we never are short of volunteers who want to help contribute to the long term health of area youth”, says RSVP Director, Katie Nagle. Under the supervision of the school nurse, the volunteers record height, weight, blood pressure and help with registration during the four day long screening process.

“It’s a good feeling to use my skills to volunteer and help the school. I hope I get to do it again next year,” say Ann.
Well, okay, but setting aside the collectivist nature of the event, ("the Pierre School District found a need to begin a student health profile on each high school student?" Why?) it's been going on for four years. The "Edward M. Kennedy Serve America Act" didn't start it, or have anything to do with it. I know I say this a lot when discussing the government, but...WTF?

At this point I run out of steam, or interest. As far as I can tell, nobody at the White House has actually given a lot of thought to the "National Day of Service and Remembrance."

And you know what? Maybe that's a good thing.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Michael Jackson...

Still

Dead

Today.
Jackson's doctor, Conrad Murray, told investigators that he gave the pop star a series of drugs starting with Valium and then Lorazepam, followed by a sedative - all so Jackson would be able to sleep. The drugs didn't work.
Actually they seem to have worked just fine.

Just on a hunch, over the second cup, I opened Google News and typed in "Michael Jackson." 81,409 hits. Granted that the guy could dance, and that none of his pedophilia victims seem to have suffered for it financially. Granted all that - still...

Geez.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

A few recent pix...




'Cause I'm the Taxman...

Is 'Friending' in Your Future? Better Pay Your Taxes First
Tax deadbeats are finding someone actually reads their MySpace and Facebook postings: the taxman.

State revenue agents have begun nabbing scofflaws by mining information posted on social-networking Web sites, from relocation announcements to professional profiles to financial boasts.

In Minnesota, authorities were able to levy back taxes on the wages of a long-sought tax evader after he announced on MySpace that he would be returning to his home town to work as a real-estate broker and gave his employer's name. The state collected several thousand dollars, the full amount due.

The IRS might be looking at your Facebook profile.

Meanwhile, agents in Nebraska collected $2,000 from a deejay after he advertised on his MySpace page that he would be working at a big public party. (SNIP)


Good read, and good advise. Give out personal information carefully, or better yet not at all.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Yeah, still got nothing.

Fact is, it's just been a slow week around the gulch. Which is the way I like it, but doesn't make for scintillating blogbait.

This oldie-but-goodie is fun, though...

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Quote of the Day, fer shur...

Yeah, I can't leave it alone. I'm sorry...I just can't. I did try. A little.

If there really is a just and loving God, Mary Jo Kopechne just got issued a ball gag, a blowtorch, a pair of pliers, and a day pass to Hell.
- Marko

Senator-for-Life Ted Kennedy...

...has left the building.

Oh, the temptation. The temptation!

Six brazillian insulting images on the intartubz, in honor of a man so richly deserving of insult! But I...will be a good boy. Today.
Don't go away mad, Ted. Just...well, I'm genuinely disappointed that this was the only way to get rid of you.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Apropos of nothing in particular...

I'm sittin' here bein' all Deep and Thoughtful and Stuff because it's easier than working, which is what I'm supposed to be doing. Blog-crawling with one hand over a keyboard and the other wrist-deep in a pizza plate full of crackers with melted cheddar. Am I getting highbrow, or what?

Anyway, what with one thing or another I come up with this WaPo article from a couple of weekends ago, written by a lady named Sarah Fine. She's explaining the Deep, Thoughtful reasons she dropped out of teaching after four years, which is her choice and wasn't any of my business until she made it so. The horrifying travails of public schools are a vague interest of mine as I sit in my secluded lair which often, given a satellite connection, seems like a balcony seat at the fall of western civilization: I get to watch, but am far enough away to stay uninvolved in the matter. And from that elevated prospect I'm trying to decide why this lady is pissing me off.

Maybe it started with the title:
Schools Need Teachers Like Me. I Just Can't Stay.
I mean if she can't stay, then maybe schools don't need teachers like her so much as some other kind of teachers. Or if schools really do need etc., then maybe she should re-think leaving. I dunno. But I've a feeling that, no matter the possible negative interpretations, self-aggrandizement is about to ensue.

When she gets done with the Deep and Dramatically Thoughtful set-up for her article and finally gets to reasons for the decision, they seem pretty straightforward to me:
I just couldn't take it anymore, I explain. I describe what it was like to teach students such as Shawna, a 10th-grader who could barely read and had resolved that the best way to deal with me was to curse me out under her breath. I describe spending weeks revising a curriculum proposal with my fellow teachers, only to find out that the administration had made a unilateral decision without looking at it. I describe how it became impossible to imagine keeping it up and still having energy for, say, a family.
I can understand why she'd want to bitch about that: She probably spent a lot of time in some school of education, then found good reason to burn out after only four years. I'd be pissed - though it seems she might have taken a better look before that last step. And I'm still not sure why this is any of my business - or why the Washington Post found it printable. Then she starts bitching about her friends and neighbors:
"Why teach?" they ask.

Do my lawyer and consultant friends find themselves having to explain why they chose their professions? I doubt it. Everyone seems to know why they do what they do. When people ask me about teaching, however, what they really seem to mean is that it's unfathomable that anyone with real talent would want to stay in the classroom for long. Teaching is an admirable and, well, necessary profession, they say, but it's not for the ambitious. "It's just so nice," was the most recent version I heard, from a businesswoman sitting next to me on a plane.

I used to think I was being oversensitive. Not so. One of my former colleagues, now a program director for Teach for America, has to defend her goal of becoming a principal: "When I tell people I want to do it, they're like, 'Really? You really still want to do that?' " Another friend describes her struggle to make peace with the fact that a portion of the American public sees teaching as a second-rate profession. "I want to be able to do big things and be recognized for them," she says. "In the world we live in, teaching doesn't cut it."
And at this point we have a bit of a falling out, Sarah and me. Due to various factors, I graduated public school in the twelfth institution I ever attended. I met a helluva lot of school teachers. And I'm sorry - though I remember a few fondly, by far the majority were forgettable, second-rate people, perfectly suited to the second-rate profession in which they found themselves stuck. In fact, so many were so interchangeably alike that I've long thought the profession - or possibly the identically-specialized schools where they matriculate before being inflicted on kids, self-selects for mediocrity. Hell, Sarah - maybe you bailed after four years because you're too smart to fit in. Maybe your apparent failure is really an achievement.

Or...maybe not.
I often feel the same way. Teaching is a grueling job, and without the kind of social recognition that accompanies professions such as medicine and law, it is even harder for ambitious young people like me to stick with it.

In their book "Millennials Rising: the Next Great Generation," sociologists Neil Howe and William Strauss characterize the members of my generation as "engaged," "upbeat" and "achievement-oriented." This is why we become teachers. We seek to challenge ourselves, and we excel at pursuing our goals. Howe and Strauss go so far as to call us a "hero generation." Our engagement also explains why we are leaving the classroom. We are not used to feeling consistently defeated and systemically undervalued.

President Obama also casts himself as a believer in people my age. "They have become a generation of activists possessed with that most American of ideas -- that people who love their country can change it," he proclaimed in April.

The president is right: My generation does seem to care a lot about Important Stuff. We put our lives on hold to canvass for the causes we believe in. We volunteer like our hair is on fire. When it comes to teaching, however, this fire only burns for so long.
Yeah. Um...Sarah? At some point in their development, most people really do stop caring, or at least talking, about the supposed characteristics of 'their generation' because generation to generation most groups of people are really pretty much alike. What matters are the individual differences, and you might want to start working on yours. I don't know who these fellows Neil Howe and William Strauss are. I'm sure they're very smart, having written a book and all. But they're still full of shit, at least in the snippets you quoted. In any generation, some members will be "engaged," "upbeat" and "achievement-oriented," and other won't. Making such statements about a generation as a whole is a sure sign of having achieved maximum fecal capacity. There is No Such Thing as a "hero generation." Moreover, to put it mildly, the fact that President Obama said something doesn't make it significant, or even true. In fact, often the opposite is indicated.

Now, to be fair I looked up some of the linked references in Sarah Fine's article, such as Teach For America and the (so help me I'm not making this up) Cesar Chavez Public Charter Schools for Public Policy, which is located in Washington D.C., which fact alone probably tells you everything you need about the quality of the teaching experience. Sarah turns out to be a nice, progressive girl, taught in a nice, progressive college program, and then decanted into the rancid stew of Mordor-by-the-Potomac educational bureaucracy. Quitting is probably the most positive thing she's ever done with her life. I hope now that she's published her article she can quit moaning, get over it, and move on.

We're from the government, Ma'am. We know what we're doing.

This is too funny.

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) -- A law taking effect this week could make criminals out of those who bring Tupperware onto many Missouri rivers.

The law was intended to reduce the floating debris from abandoned foam coolers in the state's waterways. But lawmakers, apparently a little rusty with chemistry, barred the wrong plastic.

The white foam coolers commonly called "Styrofoam" are made from expanded polystyrene. But the law bars polypropylene. That's a plastic found in things like dishwasher-safe plastic containers but not usually used to ferry drinks down a river.

The mix up means river floaters can use foam coolers without fear. But someone caught with a dishwasher-safe plastic container could risk up to a year in jail.
Sometimes our rulers require no snarky comments on my part.

Monday, August 24, 2009

This is so sad...

From the comments of the article posted below. And please don't ask me why I went there: I plead momentary insanity.
Mr. Frommer: Thank you! THANK YOU!! T-H-A-N-K Y-O-U-!!!!!
Finally, a voice of sanity in this gun-loving nation! Some people want to arm college students! How about people riding public transportation? Or people shopping at the local mall? (After all, we had an armed deranged person shoot and kill three people at a local mall and exercise club just this past week.) Should I feel safer if I take my gun to the supermarket? The movie theater? The bookstore? My next airplane trip?

This is not political -- this is common sense! When will the insanity stop? How many people will need to have died? How many people can we fit into our jails?

Did you hear the one about the car dealer in Kansas who was giving away an AK-47 with each new truck purchase?

No one should be allowed to carry a gun, openly or concealed, unless he or she is a member of a police force. When will we grow up?
When, indeed?

But let me give you an alternate definition of "grow up," little miss, since I fear that on the road you desire, you never will.

An adult creature deals with his fellows on a basis of equality in all things, excepting only his own individual merits. He most certainly does not put his means of self-defense, the very basis of his safety and his family's safety, into the hands of others who may hold them cheap.

Consider the cat, asleep on your sofa. She is the most civilized of all living things. Her beauty is exquisite, her manners exceed your own for quality, and above all things on earth she desires only peace and dignity from her fellow creatures - peace and dignity that she will most happily reciprocate if left to do so. Her paws are delicate; gloved in velvet, as soft to the touch as down. But within them are sheathed vicious claws: Sharp as needle-tipped daggers, hard as iron. The fangs in that tiny jaw can and will crush bone, at need. Her claws and her fangs form little part of her day-to-day dealings, but she never forgets their maintenance because she knows that she can depend on herself alone for defense, to restore the balance of her peace and dignity when they are threatened from outside. And if she falls to a more powerful aggressor, you may be sure she will be on her feet to the end, spitting defiance with her last bloody breath.

Does that picture trouble you, little miss? Would you prefer that she go down beneath her aggressor helpless, weeping for aid from those she thought her defenders? Aid that will never, ever come in her moment of direst need? Is that really what you want?
Some people want to arm college students! How about people riding public transportation? Or people shopping at the local mall? (After all, we had an armed deranged person shoot and kill three people at a local mall and exercise club just this past week.)
Yes, and they died like helpless sheep, little miss. Where were their defenders? Where were these 'police' in whom you put so much trust? Why were their own hands empty? Do you truly believe that if the sane ones disavow all knowledge of weapons and violence, the deranged ones will just stay home from now on?

That atrocity happened in your safe, sane, de-fanged world, little miss; not in mine. Those people who died, learned at the very end that their 'freedom to feel safe' was a lie. And I imagine that, at the painful, terrified end of their lives, they wished some Arizonan or other uncivilized soul would show up with one of those guns they spent their lives demonizing, and save them from the bad man - and from their own infantile foolishness.

But you're absolutely right about one thing, little miss. This is not political.

This is common sense.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

"I hope Art Frommer will remember..."

"Western man don't need him 'round, anyhow."

Do Guns at Political Events Disturb You? Then Consider Skipping Arizona for Now
For myself, without yet suggesting that others follow me in an open boycott, I will not personally travel in a state where civilians carry loaded weapons onto the sidewalks and as a means of political protest. I not only believe such practices are a threat to the future of our democracy, but I am firmly convinced that they would also endanger my own personal safety there. And therefore I will cancel any plans to vacation or otherwise visit in Arizona until I learn more. And I will begin thinking about whether tourists should safeguard themselves by avoiding stays in Arizona.

According to the Phoenix, Arizona, police, people with guns including assault rifles do not need permits in Arizona, but can simply carry such weapons with them, openly and brazenly, when they gather to protest a speaker at a public event. The police also acknowledge that about a dozen people carrying guns, including one with an AR-15 assault rifle, milled about outside the event at which President Obama spoke.
Hm! Sounds like a nice place. Few times I've been there it's been too damned hot, though; at least down in the valley. And the Lair is shaping up, so I'll stay where I am. But I've met some fine folks from Arizona; much of it is probably a great place to live. Plus you can be sure of not meeting this prissy little stiff there, and that's gotta be a plus.

Friday, August 21, 2009

From the "Don't be on my side" department...

Each time you play this video, a DNC honcho hangs himself.

Of course by the end of the first verse you may be fighting him for the rope, so be warned.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Patron Saint of "WTF is he talking about?"

But NASCAR is about a lot more than just racing cars. It's as much about what you give back off the track as you give on the track. It's about what you're doing to protect our environment and help America become energy independent -- using solar energy, and working to offset carbon emissions, and even hiring a director of green innovation to take your commitment to the next level.
That's weird: I've had it wrong all this time. I thought NASCAR was about drinking beer and watching self-involved guys go really fast in hot cars. Now, if Barry O. had said it's about turning left at every opportunity, well, then I could understand.

Complete text here. Good luck.

H/T to Tam, Our Lady of Hilarious Snark.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Fuel Day

Me: (piling empty, madly-outgassing gasoline cans every-which-way on top of propane bottles in the back of the Jeep)

M: (handing me the last one) "Do you want the mercury fulminate and black powder now?"

Me: "Naw, I'm gonna put that on top of the nitroglycerin in the back seat." (slamming door) "Boy, that was hard work. I need a cigarette."

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Nuke the fence, Pt. 2

When I went to work on The Secret Lair with M yesterday morning, I was all too aware that I had a scheduling conflict. This is ironic, given that I try to make it a point never to even have a schedule. Along with using up two months worth of Tracfone time in as many weeks, which also happened this month, I consider it a very poor commentary on my hermitting skills. But anyway: I was supposed to call the horse doctor and confirm a tentative appointment to bring the KopKruncher back and get his balloon-shaped ear taken care of, now that the hemotoma has had time to stop bleeding.
I couldn't call before 8 AM or so, which gave me an hour and a half to work on the Lair. Never one to miss a Jeep ride, Fritz of course came with. I came back to the property at 8, made the call, and just got an answering machine. To resolve my conflict, W had agreed to take Fritz to the vet for me. I didn't anticipate any problem with this, since Fritz will do anything, including submit to sharp objects, if he gets a car ride out of it. Since I couldn't raise the vet, I left a message for him to call me back, gave my cell phone to W, and locked the now-upset Fritz in Gitmo to await his fateful ride. Then I returned to the Lair site and got back to work.

Maybe an hour later, Fritz showed up at the Lair and climbed under the building with the other boys like nothing had happened. I wasn't able to confirm with W, having given him my phone, but assumed this meant that the vet had called to say he couldn't take Fritz that day. I cursed but otherwise didn't give it much thought: I had a lot of work to do.

Along about 11:30, M and I broke for lunch. When we got back to the property, W came out and handed me my phone: "The vet didn't call," he said.

"Really? I figured he'd called to beg off when I saw Fritz."

W looked puzzled. "What do you mean? Fritz is still in Gitmo."

"Then who's that in the Jeep?"

"Oh," said W. "I thought he got pretty quiet."

Monday, August 17, 2009

Framing Party! Final Edition

No pix today, because I didn't have/take the time to take pictures, and even if I did I'd be too tired to Photoshop them into submission. Eleven hours today. But we're done with this phase.

I'm tired. M and W are tired. The Secret Lair's shell is finished. Eleven hours on site, and we got all the wall sheathing and the roof plywood in place. Thank You Jaysus that S let us use his compressor and nail gun, and that M scrounged nearly a whole box of framing nails for it, because - well, damn.

Another reason for no pix is that there's really nothing good to see: All the window openings are covered with OSB, and will remain so for some time. Now all the strenuous activity moves back to M's site, which is not far from mine and involves things like building inspectors. For the nonce it's important that the Lair go into stealth mode and just look like a utility building, which does not require the permit that it does not, in fact, possess.

I'm going to drag myself to the shower now, and then probably collapse somewhere between it and my bed.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Another Conversation at a build site

Me: (cleaning up wood chips and tag ends) "Man. Invite people to your house for a party, and they leave you a mess."

M: "Hey, you invited people to your mess for a party, and they left you a house!"

Framing Party! Pt. 2

Early morning: Little Bear and Click are not in a mood for action, or even to move and let me make my bed. Click, of course, can snooze the day away if she chooses, but LB is in for a more active time. Let's get cracking! S and M will show up before seven, and by the time they get to the site I've got to have the generator and compressor set up and everything ready to go!
Shadows are still long when we've got the loft flooring in and the front wall up. That's the easy part.

Pretty much everything today is high work. Between S's knowledge and M's youth and agility (of both body and mind) I'm pretty quickly relegated to 'gatherer of wood and carrier of water.' Nothing undignified about that, I suppose, and it does speed things up substantially when people don't have to come down the ladder every time they need a board, but when it's your house they're building, and technically they're just there to help you, somehow it seems undignified. But there's a time to put dignity aside and just go gather the damned wood.
Studs for the upper section were a bit of a poser, until D showed us how to go old-school and cut notches in them. After we got the hang of it (and to my surprise this was fairly new to S, too, and our view of a stable universe involves him basically knowing everything) it went pretty quick. Since it has to be done on the ground, it was only about this time that I got to do something a bit technical today.
Shadows still long, and The Secret Lair starts to take on its final shape.
But it was a long slog getting all those studs cut, notched and in place.
An even longer slog, after we decided that for strength the roof beams needed to be nailed to the studs, which in turn meant we needed to go find a table saw and rip angles in them all. By this time the crew was down to M and me, but to my pleasant surprise the actual installation of the beams went pretty quickly and didn't involve casualties.

So now the framing is done! Done! Ha ha!
Tomorrow: Sheathing and the roof.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Framing Party!

Early morning: The boys and I took a trailer-load of last-minute stuff to the site. Today was the day! Neighbors coming to help raise the walls on The Not-So-Secret Lair. I've got all the lumber I need for framing, I hope (Oh, please please please), the weather will cooperate, everybody will show up, all will go well. I decree that it shall be so!

And when something goes really wrong, please let it not be because of some boneheaded thing I failed to allow for.


And the neighbors showed up, bless'em, and everything went fine for several hours.




Buuuut...the loft beams are as far as we got because I didn't realize that I needed the flooring for the loft before we could proceed with the upper framing. So that's where it fell apart.

Undeterred, M proceeded to talk my tired ass into driving eighty miles to get the loft flooring and - while we're there - all the rest of the sheathing we need, and we loaded it into his long-suffering pickup, and tomorrow is another day! A smaller crew, of course, because the neighbors do have their own things. But still, we shall prevail! If all goes as well as today did, two more days and the shell will be complete.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Remember those halcyon days...

...when a vile republican was in the white house, and:


Hmmm?

Well, voters, that was then.


Get it straight, voters. The right people are in office now, and everything is beautiful all the time. So now, if you disagree with what the government wants to do, and you're so shameless as to speak up about it, you're a "Political Terrorist!"

How's that hope and change working out for you, voters?

H/T to Tam.

Ve are ready to begin der operation!

Put the floor on The Secret Lair today, in anticipation of the wall-raising party scheduled for Saturday. It's taken me a month to get all the lumber I need, after having determined that the scavenged stuff I had wasn't nearly going to cut it.

We're gonna have fun, weather permitting. Seven people confirmed, three possibles, and S is bringing his compressor and nailgun which will speed things up in a very welcome way. Barbecue for lunch!

Naturally, we didn't even have the OSB panels screwed down when it started to thunder: First rain in weeks, and it happened on Floor Day right on schedule. I was KIDDING when I said laying the floor would usher in the monsoon! KIDDING!

Been raining off and on all afternoon, and I'm afraid to look at the forecast for Saturday. Not that the forecast is ever right...

Thank god I never threw away that big piece of plastic I nearly killed the apricot tree with in early spring, because I sure needed it today. Had to patch a lot of holes, but it's the only waterproof thing I have big enough to keep the rain off.

The song in my head...

All. Damn. Day.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

And on the same note as the previous post...

EVERYONE HATES THE COPS, by Ted Rall
I admit it: I don't like cops. I like the idea of cops. The specific people who actually are cops are the problem. My theory is that cops should be drafted, not recruited. After all, the kind of person who would want to become a police officer is precisely the kind of person who should not be allowed to work as one. But I didn't start out harboring this prejudice. It resulted from dozens of unpleasant interactions with law enforcement.
I disagree with the statement in the second sentence: I hate the idea of cops. I think that cops are the worst invention of western society. The very presence of cops gives the powers that be the excuse to say things like 'it is not only unnecessary for you to be empowered to defend yourself, but in the name of social order it is actually forbidden.' That is immoral, and terribly damaging. Adult men and women have been collectively de-clawed, leaving them utterly at the mercy of both legal and extra-legal predators, and it has not worked out well for them. The fourth sentence, that cops should be drafted rather than recruited: I see where he's going with it but strongly disagree. Conscription is no different than chattel slavery, and it shouldn't even happen to cops. I've got no problem with anything else there.

Race has long been a classic predictor of attitudes toward the police. But high-profile cases of police brutality, coupled with over-the-top security measures taken since 9/11 that targeted whites as well as blacks, have helped bring the races together in their contempt for the police. In 1969, the Harris poll found that only 19 percent of whites thought cops discriminated against African-Americans. Now 54 percent of whites think so.
This may be, and if so it's the one positive thing to come from the police-state laws that have advanced so appallingly since 9/11. The most important myth that needs to be busted in this society is that the cop is your friend. The cop is not your friend, any more than the sheepdog is friend to the sheep. The sheepdog works for nobody but the shepherd, who is most certainly no friend to the sheep.

If sheep ever figure out where lambchops come from, god help the shepherd. Can't happen soon enough.

Our Moment of Frightfulness


I'm really happy that this sort of thing is regarded as entertainment.

Really, really happy. Yes.

Just fucking thrilled.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Review of "Patriots," by Rawles

Hokay: First, let me preface by saying that Survivalblog, Rawles' website, is a wonderful place full of wonderful information, and I've no doubt that John Wesley, Rawles (extra comma is his choice, not mine, and please don't ask him why it's there or he'll tell you. You won't like that.) is probably a wonderful guy. We share much in common philosophically, if not religiously, and I'd have his back in an instant. We differ markedly on the whole "sovereign citizen" thing, but I'm not going to get into that. He's a freedomista, and I'm not here to tear him down.

Having said that, Patriots: A Novel of Survival in the Coming Collapse has my vote for Bad Freedomista Fiction of the Month here at TUAK. Strictly from the standpoint of literature, this book makes The Black Arrow read like Cryptonomicon. It is just that bad.

In fact, it's one of those books that, when tasked to describe exactly why I hate it so, I simply don't know where to begin.

Is it the characters? Buddha on a barbecue, I don't even know how to start with the characters. I scanned Amazon comments, and they hit it better than I could if I took all night. "For any of these characters to achieve the description of 'two-dimensional', you'd have to add at least two dimensions." "If I was in a situation where I had to survive with any of these people, I'd kill myself." I was giving Rawles at least one thumbs-up for adding ONE SINGLE PROTAGONIST who wasn't devoutly religious...and then that character repented and got Jesus. I guess I should be happy that the story's single Jew didn't convert to Christianity. And it just goes on that way. I actually found myself happy that the one description that definitely doesn't fit this novel is 'character-driven', because all the characters are bores. It would be so much worse if Rawles actually depended on them. We don't ever learn a great deal about any of the protagonists, but we know what guns they carry, down to the style of the grip screws on their Colt Gold Cup 1911 pistols. An actually typical paragraph:
Among others, Dan owned a Belgian FN/FAL assault rifle, an early 1960's Portuguese contract version of the Armalite AR-10 (predecessor of the AR-15, but chambered in 7.62 mm NATO), a SSG "Scharf Shuetzen Gewehr" sniper rifle made in Austria, a Beretta Model 92SB 9 mm pistol, two Browning Hi-Power 9 mm pistols, including one with a tangent rear sight and shoulder stock, a stainless steel Smith and Wesson .357 magnum revolver, a Winchester Model 1897 twelve-gauge riotgun, a McMillan counter-sniper rifle chambered in the .50 caliber machinegun cartridge, a scoped Thompson-Center Contender single shot pistol chambered in .223 Remington, and several World War II vintage guns including a Walther P.38 pistol, an M1A1 folding stock carbine, and an M1 Garand. Eventually, with much prodding from the group, he also bought a full set of the group standard guns and spare magazines.
I guess personalities are overrated anyway. And in many cases they don't matter, for several characters are set up with lengthy introductions and then vanish entirely from the plot and almost from the book.

Is it the dialogue?
Finally, after taking a sip of tea, Roger spoke. "Earl Grey - my favorite." Next, everyone tried to speak at once, then laughed.

After a few pleasantries and talk about the weather, they proceeded to talk business. Roger reported, "We took several votes in the course of two meetings of the Templars. We are prepared to talk terms of an alliance."

Todd beamed. "Excellent. What scope for the alliance did you have in mind?"

After a pause, Roger answered, "We want to set up a mutual aid and security pact. We would each be assigned a geographical area to patrol and secure."

Todd beamed. "That's exactly what we had in mind. However, we also wanted to clearly set our priorities for providing charity - with no strings attached - both to local residents and bands of legitimate refugees."

"Agreed," Dunlap said.
If only I could compress this wooden dialogue and extrude it into 2X6 forms, my worries about having enough material for the framing on The Secret Lair would be over, over, over.

Is it the plot? I don't exactly know. I can't really talk about the plot, because I barely detected one. There was a vast socioeconomic crisis followed by hyperinflation, the cities all burned themselves down, hundreds of millions of people died...but none of that is really in the story, except in extremely long reports given by various group members as they arrive at The Amazing Retreat and are debriefed. (Yes, debriefed.) There are encounters with looters and passers-by (I especially enjoyed the Communist cannibals), and then the region's economy sorta gets back on its knees, using ammunition for currency (and as God is my witness, one detailed description of who bartered what for what goes on for several endless pages), and then there's a war (With the UN, of course. Guess who wins.) and then...the end. None of it seems very important compared to lengthy descriptions of survivalism details. So I can't really talk about the plot. Possibly it wasn't important either.

Is it the situations that characters get themselves into? Well, they can certainly be entertaining...
The trooper put on a stern expression. "You know, about ten years ago some uppity militia-Sovereign-Citizen type like you with custom plates that said 'Militia Chaplain' tried to smart mouth the Ohio state patrol. He was saying the same sorta things you are, and he was packing a pistol. And they settled his hash, but good. The Federal Task Force boys showed us a training video on that incident. Did you hear about that one?"

"Yeah."

The trooper tightened his grip on the Glock and thumbed off the retention strap with a loud pop. "Do you want the same thing to happen to you?"

Now Matt wasn't just nervous. He was scared.

The trooper intoned with a practiced voice, "Your passenger can stay where he is. Will you please step out of the vehicle?"

"It's not a 'vehicle,' and he's not a 'passenger.' He's my guest. I'm not getting out. You don't have probable cause or even reasonable suspicion. You just want an excuse..."

"Get out, now!"

Matt obeyed the order. He was shaking. They walked in unison on either side of the van and met at the double rear doors. Matt asked, "Don't you want to see these papers?"

"No. I want you to step back to my car. I'm going to search you for weapons first!"

Hearing the urgency in the trooper's voice, the deputy jogged forward.

Matt replied, "I don't want to be violated like this!" and took a step backward.

"You friggin' sovereign-militia types are like peas in a pod. You quote two-hundred-year-old laws, and refuse to be ruled by those in authority over you. You've got no respect for legal statutory jurisdiction. The guys on the task force told me how to deal with you and your uppity attitudes. So you 'don't want to be violated.' All right, son. Then I'll just arrest you for not having a driver's license, and then I'll search you, and I'll put you in jail, and I'll impound your vehicle and its contents. How do you want to play it? You tell me."

Matt stood his ground. The trooper snorted, and said in a demanding voice, "We have three options ... Option one is I'm going to search your person to make sure you have no dangerous or deadly weapons. Odds are I'll find something on you or in your van that could be construed as deadly. Then I'll put you in jail. Option two is I can arrest you for not having a driver's license. Then I can search you and I'll put you in jail... Option three is if you continue to resist being searched, claiming your mythical 'rights' I'm going to ventilate you. Those are the options you have, son. Which would you like to exercise?" The trooper tucked his citation book under his arm and pulled the Glock from its holster.
I can't stand to transcribe any more, suffice that the trooper does in fact begin unjustifiably firing at our hero (inaccurately, of course) two short paragraphs later. Now, I have no love for cops. I have had encounters with cops I found very, very short of heartwarming. But never in my wildest days have I had an encounter that went anything remotely like that one, and neither have you. But things like that happen all the time in this book. Did I mention I especially enjoyed the Communist cannibals? Not just regular cannibals, you understand; those are a dime a dozen. Genuine Maoist little-red-book-carrying Communists ... who eat babies.

Now, I've read my share of bad fiction, same as you, and most of it just can't be fixed. There really isn't even any point in criticizing it, because ... well, what can you say? "Your book sucks" just isn't very constructive. And I realize that up till now I haven't been a paragon of constructive criticism. But the truth is, about three-quarters of the way through I started wanting to like this book. And the reason for that is, I know just what I would have done to fix it.

Patriots' main problem is that it's trying to be two mutually-exclusive things at once, and fouling them both up. It's trying to be both a novel and a (very!) detailed survivalism manual, and I really don't believe that can be done well. If Rawles had stuck to the manual (except for some very bad advice: His section on false ID is a fat forty years out of date, and his description of an off-the-grid electrical system is ridiculous) he'd have been all right: There's some interesting stuff in there. If he had stuck to the novel ... well, the spelling and grammar are quite good. But put them both together and you've got a train wreck. Still: I scanned a bunch of survivalist fora (which shows you the lengths I was willing to go to be fair) and the denizens of nearly every one of them love this book. They adore it; they practically revere it. And what they like is both the manual and the pure escapist fantasy of a bunch of survivalists getting it right and having been right all along.

And it occurred to me that, if Rawles were to take my advice (and after this post I don't expect him to ever want to speak to me, let alone take advice) for the fifth iteration of Patriots he'd drop the pretense of a novel altogether and turn it into a sort of latter-day Whole Earth Catalog, complete with a sidebar running story of Stalwart Survivalists After The Apocalypse that runs section after section to keep people turning pages, reminiscent of Divine Right's Trip. Rawles has done a lot of homework here, complete with name brands and proper models: It'd make a great catalog.

But it truly makes a lousy novel.

Too true. Too, too true.

The word 'politics' is derived from the word 'poly', meaning 'many', and the word 'ticks', meaning 'blood sucking parasites'.
- Larry Hardiman

Monday, August 10, 2009

A conversation in a place...

Sometimes you run across a sign or bumper sticker or whatever that tells you a bit more about a person than you wanted to know.

I was helping move some stuff around in a shop on Saturday when I came upon a bumper sticker that said, and I quote:And I said something like, "That's...heartwarming."

"C'mon," said the guy. "You gonna tell me that's not all there is to life?" He may have been joking.

"Uh...no." Honesty kicked in. "Well...Okay, I'm a guy. I have days like that. But it isn't, you know, something I strive for philosophically."

"Hmph," said the guy, and so endeth the conversation.

An unpleasant trip to the vet

Got back just in time to make the vet appointment for Fritz and Little Bear, a fact which made neither of them the least bit happy. Fritz just needed some gruesome but minor work done on his ear, but since he is a rather large and uncivilized creature (AKA KopKruncher) the vet basically refused to go near him with sharp objects unless he was unconscious. Fortunately for Fritz, he passed out on the pre-op shot and didn't get the big needle'o'dope. So he was stumbling around shortly after we dragged his limp ass home. He's still pretty logy, but fine.

Poor Little Bear, though got his whole day (not to mention all his prospects for romance and progeny) ruined. Right now he doesn't think he'll ever be the same. At the time of this photo he was still just basically fifty pounds of Jello in a dogskin: We deposited him in the Big Doghouse and sat down to lunch. Shortly after he woke up, sort of, but couldn't move and kind of panicked. We settled him down and he passed out again: Now he's just sitting out the rest of the day. Hopefully he'll be moving around by this evening, but the dope hit him pretty hard. I'm sure glad we're done with that, because it's upsetting when bad things happen to my puppy.


Magnus is always funny around Little Bear. Most of the time he's just grumpily tolerant, but whenever LB is in any sort of distress he becomes a Jewish mother. Right now the last thing LB needs is smothering from Magnus, so I've got him quietly in Gitmo and he's just sleeping it off.

An excellent trip

M and I got back last night from our trip to the Big Beyond. As always I couldn't wait to get home where it's more quiet, but we did make some excellent scores. Can't talk about everything, but the principle purpose of the trip was to score building materials and in that we were totally successful. We basically swap a weekend of labor for a truckload of whatever salvaged booty we can score. Since we're both pretty well into the construction phase now we could get more specific about what-all we could use, and we could use a lot. I've got nearly everything I need for electrical, some (surplus, I hope but doubt) framing lumber, and a whole bunch of odds and ends. There was also an excellent workbench that was just sort of sitting there, which started out mine and somehow became M's.

The big question yesterday afternoon was whether M's little pickup would even make the trip with its little 4-banger engine, or whether we'd just collapse into a spontaneously-formed singularity from the weight of all that stuff.

Got it unloaded this afternoon in various locations, these photos being only a portion of the booty, and now we have collapsed into a collective heap and are waiting for sundown.

Friday, August 7, 2009

TUAK going dark

I'll be weekending in the big city, and I ain't carrying the pooter with me. My fellow hermity type Mr. W expressed woe and grief that he's going to get most of three days all by himself in the desert. Actually it was more like joy and glee, for which I take no offense at all: I like my friends completely, but would feel exactly the same way about a few blissful days of solitude with the dogs.

See you all Monday!

Your tax dollars in flight!

From HERE:
Last year, lawmakers excoriated the CEOs of the Big Three automakers for traveling to Washington, D.C., by private jet to attend a hearing about a possible bailout of their companies.

But apparently Congress is not philosophically averse to private air travel: At the end of July, the House approved nearly $200 million for the Air Force to buy three elite Gulfstream jets for ferrying top government officials and Members of Congress.

The Air Force had asked for one Gulfstream 550 jet (price tag: about $65 million) as part of an ongoing upgrade of its passenger air service.

But the House Appropriations Committee, at its own initiative, added to the 2010 Defense appropriations bill another $132 million for two more airplanes and specified that they be assigned to the D.C.-area units that carry Members of Congress, military brass and top government officials.

Because the Appropriations Committee viewed the additional aircraft as an expansion of an existing Defense Department program, it did not treat the money for two more planes as an earmark, and the legislation does not disclose which Member had requested the additional money.
I especially liked this part, toward the end where the total reasonableness of it is being explained to the unwashed:
Thompson pointed out that the cost of the plane would be peanuts compared to the cost to the nation if a top official were taken hostage or harmed taking a commercial flight to a dangerous region of the world.
Yeah. Actually it could save us a bundle, if we just arranged for nobody to ask for the bastard back.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Yup. Another good day.

And I thought it was going to be a waste. We got Mr. & Ms. B's generator going, though it turns out they need at least one battery. The genny hadn't run in over a year or been drained of gas, and I was afraid a snootful of bad gas would have kept us from starting it without more work than anyone wanted to do. The generator's box had been hermetically sealed with silicone by some former owner so it took damned near two hours to get at it, but once at it things went well. Then we did some re-wiring so that their lair could actually make use of it, and they're energy independent! Or will be, once we can start the genny without jumping the battery.

I finally got a call back from the local vet, and I'm leaving as soon as I finish typing this to take Fritz to see him. It sounds as if the ear is nothing very serious, though "hemotoma" has a kind of ominous ring to it.

Then S&T, a couple of neighbors I barely know but who know about the imminent building of the Secret Lair, which locally isn't as much a secret as it maybe should be, showed up with some windows they don't need that solve a couple of knotty problems I didn't have good solutions for. Very generous!

And finally, an experiment that conclusively proved my breadmaker has gone south, which explains why all my bread loaves have been falling for months. It didn't sound very logical, but M also has a breadmaker and when he made the same recipes, his loaves were beautiful. Day before yesterday I made a loaf of pumpernickel and, while it tasted fine, it cratered heartbreakingly in the center. So today I made the exact same recipe, borrowing his maker, and...


Perfection. So...I still don't know why, but I need a new breadmaker. Fortunately the timing is excellent: Tomorrow M and I are going on an expedition to the city and I'll try to find one.

Poor Fritz. Poor, poor Fritz...


Finally gets the special attention he's been craving. One of my first things in the morning, after I'm vertical and possessed of two legs, is to take inventory of the dogs and cat to settle my mind that no bad thing happened overnight. I kinda liked it better when everybody wanted to sleep indoors with me. All present and accounted for this morning, but one on sick call: Overnight for some reason Fritz' ear swelled up like a balloon.

Call a nearby vet: They've been closed for a week, are swamped, and are turning away walk-ins. Call a vet farther away: I can bring Fritz in and take my chances, but there's a heart-stopping fee on top of the usual office visit charge. Call the local horse-doctor: No answer yet. We're starting to discuss sticking a scalpel in his ear to drain the abscess, because he's getting worse and worse as the morning progresses, but then (he may have heard us) he stopped getting worse and so emergency measures are on hold. I got an appointment for him tomorrow evening, but earlier today that was looking inadequate. Still waiting to see, and hoping the local horse-doc will call me back and be in a good mood.

One thing we don't have enough of here, and will be making plans to remedy, is a good supply of vet supplies. We've got too many dogs now (we're up to eight at the moment) to be so dependent on outsiders who are already swamped with work.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

In some more amusing California news...

Federal judges order California to release 43,000 inmates
California must shrink the population of its teeming prisons by nearly 43,000 inmates over the next two years to meet constitutional standards, a panel of three federal judges ruled Tuesday, ordering the state to come up with a reduction plan by mid-September.
So...why'd you lock them up in the first place?

Sure, the Baby is Dead — But the Cops are Free, so Let’s Party!


From Will Griggs @ the Lew Rockwell Blog:
Four years ago, nineteen-month-old Suzie Pena was shot to death by Los Angeles SWAT commandos during a 2 1/2-hour standoff with her father, Jose Raul Pena. After suffering a narcotics-related breakdown, Mr. Pena took his daughters hostage, barricaded himself in the office of his used-car dealership, and began a gun battle with the police.

At one point, Pena was holding a gun in one hand while using Suzie as a “human shield.” In his derangement he seems to have assumed that putting an infant in the line of fire would deter paramilitary police from shooting at him. He was wrong: The child was shot in the head and died, even as her anguished mother, Lorena Lopez, pleaded with the police to be careful and not to shoot the innocent baby.

Lopez filed a wrongful death lawsuit contending that the SWAT team should have used different tactics; that was the same conclusion, incidentally, reached by a panel appointed by Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and Police Chief William Bratton.

But under the evolving doctrine of police impunity, it is not the privilege of mere mundanes to question the tactical decisions of their betters in blue.
So Monday, after Los Angeles fought the lawsuit for four years,
A judge abruptly dismissed a wrongful death lawsuit filed by the mother of a 19-month-old girl who died when her father used her as a human shield during a furious gun battle with police.

The mother, Lorena Lopez, argued that SWAT officers should have used different tactics during the 2005 gunbattle that left her daughter, Suzie Pena, dead. The city said the officers believed the girl was in immediate danger and were trying to save her.

Granting a motion by the city on Monday, Superior Court Judge Rolf M. Treu took the case away from jurors as they were scheduled to begin hearing final arguments. Based on trial testimony, there was no way the panelists could have concluded that police officers acted unreasonably, Treu ruled.
City attorneys, of course, dedicated to the integrity of the justice system, were utterly shocked and horrified at the injustice of taking the decision out of the jury's hands at the last moment, and howled for Judge Treu's head on a pike.

Oh...wait. No they didn't. That's them in the photo.
City Atty. Carmen Trutanich, who was being interviewed by The Times when a deputy city attorney came into his office announce the news, jumped from his chair with a cheer and high-fived the lawyer. Millions of city dollars had been in jeopardy, he said.

“This is a case where nobody wins except the citizens, because no one should have been sued in this case,” said Trutanich, who spent four hours personally vetting the evidence with the city's legal team before it went to trial.
...
“Police did everything pursuant to procedure," [said Trutanich] "they were caught in a terrible situation -- in fact one officer was shot as they were charging the door because they believed the father was going to kill the child.”
And as I recall a commentator saying at the time (paraphrased), 'Apparently the prospect that the father would kill the child was so abhorrent to the police officers that they went ahead and shot her themselves to prevent it.'

But it's okay, as it turns out - they did everything pursuant to procedure. Nobody wins except the citizens. Yay!

Think hard, next time you're tempted to punch 911 in an emergency ... Citizens.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Here's a question that occurred to me...

...While listening to NPR during a trip to town today. What does it say about a society, when the prison industry gets so big it becomes a major part of the economy? When a closing prison causes such financial hardship for a town that they'll do anything, however immoral or nonsensical, to get their prison back?
STANDISH, Mich. — To many people struggling in this job-starved part of rural Michigan, unemployment is a bigger threat than terrorists.

With unemployment at more than 17 percent, many residents say they would welcome detainees from Guantanamo Bay in order to save the 280 jobs at a prison scheduled to close because of state budget cuts.

"We'll take the most dangerous prisoners the world has to offer if we have to," corrections officer Paul Piche said Monday.
...
The reaction was far more positive in Michigan, where signs outside many businesses and even a Catholic church bear the message: "Save Standish Max."

"Anything that keeps the prison open is fine with me," said Perry Pelton, owner of Wheeler's Restaurant on Main Street.

A third-generation resident of the area, 48-year-old Pelton said he lived less than 2 miles from the prison and wasn't worried about the Guantanamo inmates escaping. The facility is surrounded by a 16-foot-high double chain link fence with razor-ribbon wire. There are five gun towers, and armed guards constantly patrol the perimeter in a vehicle.

"No one's ever gotten out of there," he said. "They've got a 19-year track record since that place opened, and they'd probably have even tighter security if we get these al-Qaida people."

The prison holds about 600 inmates and is the top employer in the community about 145 miles northwest of Detroit.
Quite setting aside any arguments about the Guantanamo debacle ("Worst of the worst" vs. some poor innocent schmo kidnapped and sold to vengeful Americans, give'em a trial to appease the squeamish but then lock'em up forever anyway, etc), it was the irony of the thing - not to mention the sheer, horrid hardcore mercenary viciousness of these lovely Christian whitebread ... Oh, no adjective is sufficiently monitor-melting to describe my attitude toward these people.

I listened to the NPR piece, then Googled for a news story, which covers pretty much the same ground with entirely the same lack of irony. Locking people in prison, largely for non-violent, non-coercive crimes, has become such big business that entire communities thrive on it.

And nobody sees anything even slightly wrong with that.

You know you're a REEEAAALLY very sad little man...

...When you find yourself writing and then actually posting lengthy, heavily-researched essays on "The Stormtrooper Effect," which I swear I didn't make up.
The stormtrooper effect, also called stormtrooper syndrome, is an expression used to describe the cliché phenomenon in works of fiction of minor cannon fodder characters being completely ineffective in combat against characters important to the plot (protagonists). This ineffectiveness is typically visible as an inability to successfully strike the target with ranged weapons, even at close range. Though obviously unrealistic, the effect is common in many stories and movies. The stormtrooper effect is often a source of mockery by critics and fandom, but it is generally recognized as bringing a camp appeal where it occurs.

Though the origin of the expression is unknown, it refers to how the trained stormtroopers of the Galactic Empire in the three original Star Wars movies were usually unable to subdue the protagonists despite overwhelming numbers and firepower, chiefly due to their accuracy or lack thereof.

Tam over at View From The Porch, whose snark-fu is surely more powerful than mere Jedi mind tricks and pathetic lightsabers, summed up the sadness far more eloquently than I would ever try:
Hey, Earth to Commander Solo: How about beaming off the bridge of the USS Mom's Basement and onto the surface of planet Fresh Air? Go for a walk. Ride your bike. See if your tricorder will let you communicate with the natives. Something like that.



Of course, the fact that I actually read the Stormtrooper geekathon says nothing about me whatsoever. Nope: No geeks here. Uh uh.

Believe it or not...


This may one day be the only gun you can legally buy. Dig this:
The 100% electronic O'Dwyer VLe "Smart Gun"O'Dwyer VLe "Smart Gun" is to incorporate biometric authorising technology that should enable it to meet new US requirements for "personalised" handguns according to a joint release from Metal Storm and the New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT).Legislation passed last year in the State of New Jersey requires that "three years after it is determined that personalized handguns are available for retail purposes, it will be illegal for any dealer or manufacturer to sell, assign or transfer any handgun unless that handgun is a personalized handgun". The States of New York, Ohio and Tennessee as well as the US Congress, are understood to be preparing similar legislation.
And why would we want such a thing?
NJIT Vice President for Research and Development Dr. Donald H. Sebastian said, "This is a technology that represents the future in handgun safety and control.
Yeah. Emphasis on "control", I'm guessing. I'm not really sure what these hoplophobes think they're buying, but I'm very sure what can be made mandatory can more easily be forbidden. I'll just stick with my 1911 tech for now: It's likely to go bang when I want it to, whether or not I remembered my majick dekoder hringe or whatever they use to get this silly-ass contraption to do its thing.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

One Useful Thing...

One useful thing we did get done over the past couple of days was coat M's pantry/powershed with surface-bonding cement. Four hours to do the inside, and we wondered where the time went. Five hours to do the outside, and it went on forever and I'm still a little lame. Oy. It's been hot lately. But the building is completely done except for the roofing, and then covering the whole thing with earth which I don't think will happen till the house shell is up. Very nice.

Embrace the Chaos, Pt. 2

"No. Dr. Lector has no interest in hypothesis. He doesn't believe in syllogism, or synthesis, or any absolute."

"What does he believe in?"

"Chaos. And you don't even have to believe in it. It's self-evident."
-Hannibal, Thomas Harris

I have expressed the opinion here that the path to contented living in the boondocks is to relax to the fact that shit happens. Today I'm thinking that was maybe easier advice to give than to live. There are different kinds of shit. The kind I find easy to relax to is the kind that maybe drives other people up various walls. The kind that other people actually welcome is the kind that makes me want to climb into a hole and pull it in after me. For me, true chaos is other people: People with their own existential needs, their own ideas about what constitutes chaos and order, people who don't give a shit what I think about it because what I think is self-evidently (to them) wrong. People who show up and (it seems to me at the time) start barking orders and making demands because the way I've been doing things all along are exactly as wrong as the way I think about them. And there's nothing at all I can really do about any of this, because let's face it, if I knew how to deal with people I probably wouldn't be out here in the first place.

I admit it freely: I don't do people well at all. I am a totally clueless male. That's why I moved to the boonies: It was part of my own personal 12-step program. I had admitted that I was powerless over Cluelessness and that my life had become unmanageable. I'm still working on steps two through twelve; I'll let you know.

Oh, all right, there were other political and philosophical reasons for moving here. But right now that seems like the big one, and down deep it may actually have been the real one. Let a wind storm turn the whole place upside-down: I can deal with that. Let the dogs take on a pack of coyotes with three paws tied behind their collective back: No problem, I'm there. But let people I barely know show up and start re-arranging things to suit their own needs, even (perhaps especially) when they have every right to do so, and I become helpless mush. I should stop carrying a 1911 and start wearing a Semtex vest. At least that way when I express myself my troubles will be over.

Yeah, but then I'd go out to the range and try to practice with the thing...

"Embrace the chaos," he says. Christ, what a hypocrite. What the hell do I know about dealing with chaos?

Oh man, oh man, oh man... Pt. 2

Alternate Title: Guys, seriously, what part of "HERMIT" don't you understand?

At one point this morning I counted no less than nine functioning vehicles here. That doesn't count two non-working Jeeps and trailers. Nine. And ten people. We had a couple of neighbors drop by who have never spontaneously "dropped by" during my entire tenure here. We had a dinner party, fergoshsake. Actually, that was kinda fun.

Okay: The two stakeholders who came two months ago have settled in, and I have settled down to enjoying having them around. This weekend two MORE stakeholders came, and Landlady came to greet them and for her regular monthly. And yes of course the new folks have a dog. And yes of course Magnus' first item of business was to beat the shit out of her, and yeah, that got the weekend off to a great start. Thanks, Magnus. They just finish moving away from everything they know, moving clear across the country in a ginormous U-haul with a carry trailer for their SUV, AND they had mechanical troubles, AND he found out halfway here that the new job he thought he had nailed down had developed a hitch, so naturally they're a couple of nervous wrecks, and then Magnus greets them by beating the shit etc. Ah, great.

So that was Friday. They still had all these details to work out, and they all had to be worked out in time to move the ginormous U-haul and trailer to a town about four hours away, find a place for him to stay so he could start his new job, get the truck unloaded, all in time to turn it in by Monday morning. Not gonna happen. They decided, wisely, to find a storage unit in our little town to dump their stuff until they got all the other details worked out, because getting all done by Monday morning was simply impossible.

Lovely dinner party last night with all the stakeholders and S&L. Worked on beginning the stucco on the powershed, mostly just so some new infrastructure work could get started over the Landlady weekend because that's what we do. Now Landlady and the new stakeholders are off on their separate trajectories, I've promised to build a power cable for the new guys' temporary lair, M and W are off visiting the unusual drop-in neighbors ("Ya wanna go with, Joel?" "Oh, HELL no!") and I've got a few minutes of quiet. At the moment that tent in the boonies is looking pretty damned good, but I know I'll get over it; I have before.