Monday, May 31, 2010

Memorial Day

The finest tribute we can pay
Unto our hero dead to-day,
Is not a rose wreath, white and red,
In memory of the blood they shed;
It is to stand beside each mound,
Each couch of consecrated ground,
And pledge ourselves as warriors true
Unto the work they died to do.

Into God's valleys where they lie
At rest, beneath the open sky,
Triumphant now o'er every foe,
As living tributes let us go.
No wreath of rose or immortelles
Or spoken word or tolling bells
Will do to-day, unless we give
Our pledge that liberty shall live.

Our hearts must be the roses red
We place above our hero dead;
To-day beside their graves we must
Renew allegiance to their trust;
Must bare our heads and humbly say
We hold the Flag as dear as they,
And stand, as once they stood, to die
To keep the Stars and Stripes on high.

The finest tribute we can pay
Unto our hero dead to-day
Is not of speech or roses red,
But living, throbbing hearts instead,
That shall renew the pledge they sealed
With death upon the battlefield:
That freedom's flag shall bear no stain
And free men wear no tyrant's chain.

-- Edgar Guest

To Absent Companions, and Fallen Comrades...

Christopher Byrne
USAF 1994-1996
USAFR 1996-2002


God of our fathers, known of old,
Lord of our far-flung battle-line,
Beneath whose awful Hand we hold
Dominion over palm and pine
Lord God of Hosts, be with us yet,
Lest we forget lest we forget!

The tumult and the shouting dies;
The Captains and the Kings depart:
Still stands Thine ancient sacrifice,
An humble and a contrite heart.
Lord God of Hosts, be with us yet,
Lest we forget lest we forget!

Far-called, our navies melt away;
On dune and headland sinks the fire:
Lo, all our pomp of yesterday
Is one with Nineveh and Tyre!
Judge of the Nations, spare us yet,
Lest we forget lest we forget!

If, drunk with sight of power, we loose
Wild tongues that have not Thee in awe,
Such boastings as the Gentiles use,
Or lesser breeds without the Law
Lord God of Hosts, be with us yet,
Lest we forget lest we forget!

For heathen heart that puts her trust
In reeking tube and iron shard,
All valiant dust that builds on dust,
And guarding, calls not Thee to guard,
For frantic boast and foolish word
Thy mercy on Thy People, Lord!

-- Rudyard Kipling

Image from: GU Comics

Thursday, May 27, 2010

The things we say

There's a curious expression... We've all said it, probably lots during our lifetimes... and in one sense we mean it, and it is literally true... but in another, it isn't...

"it's not the end of the world"...

It's a funny one that.

Yes, it's literally true; a major personal catastrophe, or major change, is not the end of the world. In general our lives will go on under the changed circumstances; even if our personal individual lives don't, the rest of the world will (until Ragnarok or whatever your preferred mode of apocalypse comes anyway).

But your mind has this curious property of discontinuity, that makes it, in some ways, really the end of the world.

Peoples minds have a certain fixed set of parameters that define "the world". In some ways these parameters are very flexible, but for most people, there are some fairly hard discontinuity limits.

When your mind hits one of those points of discontinuity, it simply cannot perceive past it. So, for your mind, it literally IS "the end of the world".

That which your mind has defined as "the world" ends; and an entirely "new world" begins, in the changed environment created by these new circumstances and parameters.

... In that sense, in some VERY LIMITED ways, solipsism is right.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

An Update on My Father in Law

Mel just got off the phone with the hospital, and with her father. He's on a lot of painkillers, but he's lucid and aware.

It was not a head on collision as initially reported. He was riding at about 50mph in an area where the speed limit slows from 65 to 55 to 50 all in a few hundred yards; when he was struck from behind by an vehicle doing at least 75mph.

... While wearing an orange silver and yellow reflective safety vest, and a bright yellow reflective helmet, riding on a pinkish beige and chrome scooter (yeah, I know... but he had one as a teenager and wanted one again for puttering around with) IN BROAD DAYLIGHT.

In the collision, he was thrown violently, and his helmet was knocked off when he hit the ground.

He suffered multiple breaks in his pelvis, including his right pelvic socket. His right femur, right arm, and several ribs are also broken. There are numerous other small fractures, including some stress fractures in other bones and small fractures in several vertebrae. He suffered severe contusions over much of his body, moderate but mostly shallow lacerations (road rash), and a few small incised wounds requiring stitches, including a couple on his face, most likely from glass or plastic shards.

He is currently in traction on his pelvis and spine, with a spinal collar.

They believe there is no brain or internal organ damage, and no internal bleeding. As I said, he is stable, lucid, and aware. And in a lot of pain.

They are going to do some more spinal and other neuro tests to rule out any further injury, and keep him under observation for at least a day against the possibility of delayed bleeds.

Then he's going to have reconstructive surgery on his pelvis. They're going to need to set multiple pins, and probably replace his right hip.

From there, he has six months to a year of reconstructive surgeries, and physical rehab ahead of him.

He has most likely permanently lost a significant portion of his mobility and flexibility. He's an aircraft mechanic, which requires crawling around in tight places... It's likely that he will never be able to work again.

My father in law has also been taking care of his parents, who are in their late 90s, and in rapidly failing health. He is no longer going to be able to do that.


We're going to have to put his parents into full time care, and he's going to have to come live with us. There is no way he's going to be able to deal on his own, and certainly not deal with his parents.

His oldest son, and youngest son are really not equipped to take care of him. His youngest son is already disabled, with failed kidneys, requires daily dialysis, and frequent hospitalization; and is moving back in with his eldest brother in Dallas (this was planned already). His middle son has five kids and a wife all living in a small house, on an even smaller income... and frankly he'd go crazy there even if they had the room, or the money; which they don't.

At the moment, he doesn't want to hear it... but he's going to have to face up to it. He's been despondent and deteriorating ever since Mels mom died two years ago, and we've been trying to get him to move in with us ever since... He NEEDS to be around family. The only time he really seems alive is with his kids and grandkids... Now, not being able to take care of himself for so long, on top of all that...

He's coming to live with us. That's that. If I have to go down there and haul him back bodily, HE WILL LIVE WITH HIS FAMILY, and he will do what needs to be done about his parents.

We've already talked with the rest of the family about it. We can be the "central hub" as it were. They can visit us eight months out of the year; and the other four he can go visit them (they mostly live in warmer parts of the country).

But he's going to be cared for by family, surrounded by and loved by family, and he's going to LIVE the rest of his life, not just exist.

A Family Emergency

Earlier this morning we got a phone call from a trauma center in Arizona. My father in law (who is 68) was riding his motor scooter on a secondary highway, when he was struck by an oncoming car.

They airlifted him to the regiona trauma center in Scottsdale (about 40 miles from the accident site). He is severely injured, but as of 9am, he is awake, alert, and responsive.

He is currently listed as stable, and is undergoing additional neuro and physio diagnostics. There may be some major musculo-skeletal injury in the hips and legs; as well as some minor injuries to the upper body and head. He was wearing a helmet, but apparently it came off during the accident.

We are monitoring the situation as best we can from here in Idaho... There's a lot of family chaos at the moment. We'll know more in a couple of hours.

Thank you all for your support and concern. You'll excuse me if there are some long delays in getting back to people today etc...

Update: We have more news, some good some not, about my father in law

Another Sad But True Moment

Brought to you by Surviving The World

Lost... Meh... Glee... Yeah!

So Lost ended this week, with what has to be the STUPIDEST, laziest, most ridiculous ending of a series in all of history.

Meh... I never liked Lost in the first place. Theres a difference between thickly plotted, and "needless complication and misdirection because you don't know what else to write".

I have however discovered that I like Glee.

I like the scripts. I like the unashamedly stereotyped afterschool special caricatures as characters. I LOVE the music.

Yes, I am the worlds gayest straight man. I love broadway, I love showtunes, I love musicals, I love 80s pop and classic rock performed by a show choir...

I WAS one of those kids from sixth grade through graduation (and I played football, and wrestled. I broke the high school caste system).

We even had a kid much like "Kurt Hummel", by the name of Blair White... Yes, a boy named Blair who spoke with a girls voice, and dressed in feminine clothes. Nice kid... He's on my facebook friends list. I think he lives in Provincetown now (though he wasn't in the "select performing chorus", he was just in the full chorus).

Reminding me thereof, I love the references and obscure they stick into the script.

Oh and Kristen Chenoweth is 4 foot 10 inches of FABULOUS...

...Like I said, worlds gayest straight man.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

These Are a Few of My Favorite Things

Yes folks, it's bacon flavored hot sauce... And it's not even from the producers of baconsalt or baconnaise.

For shame slacking off and letting someone beat you to the punch guys.

Yes, I'm ordering a bottle right now. I'll let you know how it turns out.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Hard Freeze

So, the big news around here for the last few days, has been the huge north pacific storm beating us up (we got some wind gusts as high as 70mph), followed by four nights of hard freezes below 30 degrees.

Yeah, we're a few days from June, and it hit 26 in my yard last night. I got up and looked out at my yard, and it was entirely frost. Looked like I'd sprinkled the thing with white pepper.

Of course it's still mid-high 70s during the day, and it should be in the 80s in a week or two; it's not unpleasant at all during the day... but that doesnt stop people from complaining.

Oh and YAY it's not 105 here today... I DON'T miss Arizona whatsoever. 

The farmers and gardners, I'll grant, have a valid complaint. This is going to be a bad year for crops in north Idaho. But everybody else...

You know what a good hard freeze a few nights in a row means? All those bugs that lay eggs in standing water will be DRAMATICALLY reduced this summer.

I can live with a few cold nights, if it means way less skeeters in July and August.

Cross posted to We Few

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

WF, WHF - Adventures in Transplanting

There's a new post up at We Few:

After 2 1/2 weeks of farmer's markets, I've finally gotten all the seedlings I want for the greenhouse. All started locally, all cheap as hell, all free from sales tax. All easily transplantable when we move, and all more than happy to be in the greenhouse.

The girls and I spent part of this afternoon weeding and planting and we're all excited to see what comes of our plants.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Soooooo been there

Look, Geesies!

Also known as our neighbors, as they inhabit the community lot next door.

From Wildlife

Hmmm... Never tried wearing a costume...

Modern Jurisprudence is PROFOUNDLY Broken

Two contrasting stories out of the Supreme Court today, that bring home the fact that jurisprudence in this country is profoundly... hopefully not irreparably... broken.

First, from the New York Times:

NO MORE LIFE SENTENCES FOR MINORS WHO HAVEN'T MURDERED.... In yet another 5-4 ruling, the Supreme Court said this morning that incarcerated minors can't receive life sentences if they haven't killed anyone.

By a 5-4 vote Monday, the court says the Constitution requires that young people serving life sentences must at least be considered for release.

The court ruled in the case of Terrance Graham, who was implicated in armed robberies when he was 16 and 17. Graham, now 22, is in prison in Florida, which holds more than 70 percent of juvenile defendants locked up for life for crimes other than homicide.

"The state has denied him any chance to later demonstrate that he is fit to rejoin society based solely on a nonhomicide crime that he committed while he was a child in the eyes of the law," Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote in his majority opinion. "This the Eighth Amendment does not permit."

The Eighth Amendment, of course, prohibits cruel and unusual punishments.

Justices Alito, Scalia, and Thomas dissented. Chief Justice John Roberts also sided with the minority, though he agreed with the majority on the specific case of Terrance Graham's fate.

In Justice Kennedy's majority ruling, he made note of the "global consensus" against life-sentences for youths who haven't committed murder. The sentence will likely enrage the far-right, which tends to throw a fit when justices take note of international developments.

In a concurrence, Stevens, joined by Ginsburg and Sotomayor, threw an elbow at one of their colleagues: "While Justice Thomas would apparently not rule out a death sentence for a $50 theft by a 7-year-old ... Court wisely rejects his static approach to the law. Standards of decency have evolved since 1980. They will never stop doing so."

and in a complete reversal of logic, this judgement:

AP: High Court: 'Sexually Dangerous' Can Be Kept in Prison

WASHINGTON (May 17) -- The Supreme Court ruled Monday that federal officials can indefinitely hold inmates considered "sexually dangerous" after their prison terms are complete.

The high court reversed a lower court decision that said Congress overstepped its authority in allowing indefinite detentions of considered "sexually dangerous."

"The statute is a 'necessary and proper' means of exercising the federal authority that permits Congress to create federal criminal laws, to punish their violation, to imprison violators, to provide appropriately for those imprisoned and to maintain the security of those who are not imprisoned by who may be affected by the federal imprisonment of others," said Justice Stephen Breyer, writing the majority opinion.

President George W. Bush in 2006 signed the Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act, which authorized the civil commitment of sexually dangerous federal inmates.

The act, named after the son of "America's Most Wanted" television host John Walsh, was challenged by four men who served prison terms ranging from three to eight years for possession of child pornography or sexual abuse of a minor. Their confinement was supposed to end more than two years ago, but prison officials said there would be a risk of sexually violent conduct or child molestation if they were released.

A fifth man who also was part of the legal challenge was charged with child sex abuse, but declared incompetent to stand trial.

The 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, Va., ruled last year that Congress overstepped its authority when it enacted a law allowing the government to hold indefinitely people who are considered "sexually dangerous."

But "we conclude that the Constitution grants Congress legislative power sufficient to enact" this law, Breyer said.

Justice Clarence Thomas dissented, saying Congress can only pass laws that deal with the federal powers listed in the Constitution.

Nothing in the Constitution "expressly delegates to Congress the power to enact a civil commitment regime for sexually dangerous persons, nor does any other provision in the Constitution vest Congress or the other branches of the federal government with such a power," Thomas said.

Thomas was joined in part on his dissent by Justice Antonin Scalia.

It seems clear to me, that both of these decisions are examples where justices are deciding a case based on what they want to do and finding a way to justify it, rather than a considered opinion of the law and the constitution.

In the first case, the majority came to what I believe is the right decision on constitutional ground, but for what appear to be the wrong reasons. The minority on the other hand are supporting an unconstitutional practice, based on pragmatic considerations.

In the second case, the majority supported a CLEARLY unconstitutional practice for pragmatic reasons; and the minority dissented based on the constitution.

Both cases however, highlight a major problem with our "justice system" today: We can't deal effectively with our criminals, our prisoners, or our prisons.

There are many reasons for this of course, but what it comes down to, is that there are too many crimes, too many criminals, and too little honesty in how we deal with either.

Both of these cases are about recidivism. The plain fact is, more than 40% of people who go to prison, go back. More than 60% who go to prison for violent crimes go back. More than 80% who go to prison for sex crimes go back.

There have been a number of attempts at dealing with these difficult facts; none of them effective, and most of them unconstitutional.

In the case of the criminals under 18 being imprisoned for life because of sentence enhancements... The problem here isn't that it's a 17 year old in prison for life for something other than rape or murder... Its that "sentence enhancements" even exist at all.

Firstly, I think the whole "global consensus" thing is not only irrelevant, but dangerous and unconstitutional (interpretation of American law should ONLY be based on the Constitution, and the constitutions of the several states)

Yes, the law evolves, and yes it is influenced by changing moral standards, which is influenced by world culture.

When we wrote our constitution, it was in large part based on principles inherent in English common law; as was the early constitutional scholarship and interpretation until we built up our own body of case law. The goes further back to the greeks, romans, even the Assyrians. Certain basic principles of law and justice are universal; or have filtered up through from the earliest formalized conceptions of both rights, and laws.

However, it is important that case law be consistent with the written constitution; and that any case law which is not be ignored in interpretation of future cases, and hopefully be reversed.

If the American people want to change their constitutions, they can. There is a mechanism for that. Until they do, there should be no other arbiter for American law than the constitution.

One of the fundamental principles of jurisprudence is that the law should be knowable, and predictable; not arbitrary and capricious. One should not need to follow "evolving moral standards" and case law in other countries, to know whether one is violating the law.

In a system where ignorance of the law is no defense, the law must be written and knowable. The fact that in todays world it is not; is not an indication that we have evolved morally, it is an indication that modern jurisprudence is profoundly broken.

All that said however I agree that the law in question should have been struck down, just for a different reason.

I believe that "sentence enhancement" conditions are themselves a bad thing. They are invalid and unconstitutional as far as I am concerned. A crime is a crime, and one should be punished the same way for the same crime, as everyone else.

Certainly, there can be special circumstances, but they shouldn't increase punishment; a maximum punishment should be set, and that's it. There should be discretion for judges to reduce sentences, but not to increase them. Three strikes laws, hate crime enhancements, all of them need to go.

The problem that three strikes laws are intended to solve (high recidivism rates), is more properly addressed by longer or more harsh initial sentences, combined with better rehabilitation and reintegration efforts, and a better running of our penal system.

In the second case, we again have an issue of inappropriate sentencing.

Genuine sexual predators (rapists, molestors etc..) need to be put away for life without parole, or they need to die (though I have grave reservations about the death penalty). Either way, they need to be permanently removed from society.

For some reason, we treat sex crimes as far less serious than major property crimes, or other violent crimes; as if rape were not every bit as serious as attempted murder (believe me, it is).

Some things require ultimate sanction, and serious sex crimes are among those things.

On the other hand though, we now classify the most piddling things as sex crimes. Right now, we have hundreds of 18 and 19 year old young men in prison around this country, for having consensual sex with their 17 year old girlfriends (somehow, we almost never imprison older young women for sex with teenage boys). We make people register as sex offenders for having consensual sex in the back of their cars in a parking lot...

Which just reinforces the point: We're broken both ways. We are far too harsh on one side, and far too lenient on the other; and just plain broken all the way around, because a sentence doesn't mean what it says it means.

The very idea that a state official can simply decide you are too dangerous to be let out of prison, EVEN THOUGH YOUR JUDICIAL SENTENCE IS OVER... It's disgusting. It's abhorrent to the very nature of our country, and our constitution.

Three strikes laws, sentence enhancements, sex crime laws... All are seriously broke; because they are attempting to deal with practical problems, in an impossible way. You can't achieve the goals they're trying to achieve, with the techniques and tools they are using.

We're broken. We need to fix it. We need to protect society from real criminals, real dangerous people, real evil people; and we need to provide a strong incentive for the "casual criminal" (and we are all "Casual Criminals" now). But we need to do it, without destroying what it means to be American.

In order to do this, we must first reduce our prison population, not by releasing the truly dangerous; but by DRAMATICALLY slashing the amount of people we imprison (both today, and in the future).

The first thing we need to acknowledge, is that the so called "war on drugs" has not only failed, but was wrongly conceived in the first place.

Imprisoning people for drug use simply does not achieve the goals it is intended to achieve. It doesn't reduce drug use at all. It doesn't reduce crime at all, in fact it increases it. It turns people who might otherwise be productive... or at least LESS of a drag on our society; into total dependents. It frequently makes them into "harder" criminals.

It just doesn't work.

Frankly, I think we should entirely decriminalize drug use and possession; even if we choose to maintain prohibition on importation, sales, and distribution.

Then there is the question of the proliferation of felonies... Damn near everything is a felony these days. Two students in Virgina were charged with felonies last year for THROWING SNOW BALLS. Schoolchildren have been charge with felonies for drawing pictures with guns in them...

Felonies are supposed to be reserved for "high crimes". Those things which must be punished by long term removal from society.

Does anyone really believe it is necessary to send someone to prison for two years, for serving hotdogs wrapped with bacon out of a cart (yes, that is a felony in several jurisdictions in this country).

The fact is, we classify far too many things as felonies, which simply should not be. We need to eliminate most of those felonies.

What it comes down to, is that we should reclassify most non-violent felonies as misdemeanors, and eliminate custodial sentences for them; substituting EXTREMELY HIGH fines, and supervised restricted release (ankle bracelets etc...).

Combined, that would reduce our prison population by more than three quarters immediately (the drug changes alone would cover 60%). This would allow us to deal with the remainder of that population more appropriately. More harshly for those who need it, and with a higher focus on rehabilitation for those who are willing to make the effort.

Importantly, it would allow us to eliminate early release for those who have not made serious and genuine rehabilitation efforts; allowing prison officials and judges to exercise discretion appropriately.

Perhaps when we no longer have to be so concerned about overcrowding, and inappropriate early releases, and imprisoning those who should not be; we can restore some sanity to the system as a whole.

But that's all related to the practical issue.. The pragamatic justice as it were..

The bigger issue here, is that under todays conception of jurisprudence, it is impossible to know or understand whether you are breaking the law or not. Whether your crime is a felony or not. Exactly what that crime might be, or what the punishment for it might be.

That isn't law, or justice; and it isn't what our country is supposed to be.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Throw up the horns and light up the lighters... Ronnie's gone home

One of the greatest metal vocalists of all time, and one of the originators of heavy metal itself; Ronnie James Dio died today of stomach cancer, at the age of 67 (he would have been 68 in two months).

I had the great pleasure of meeting Ronnie several times during the 90s and early 2000s (great years for hard core metal fans; while grunge displaced metal, and small shows where it was easy to get backstage replaced huge stadiums... at least in the U.S. Metal bands were setting INSANE audience records in Brazil and Japan in those years). He was an intelligent, funny, interesting, engaging, intense, friendly, and generous man; and he will be greatly missed.

I cannot tell you how much time I've spent listening to that mans voice... Thousands of hours certainly, since I've been listening to his music for some 25 years.

Of any of the metal gods, I've seen Dio live the most: performing with a reformed rainbow (for all of about five seconds before Blackmores ego disintegrated them again), with Black Sabbath many times, with Heaven and Hell, with Dio, and as one of the many guest singers of Deep Purple. In fact... he may well be the single artist I've seen live the most, having attended dozens of shows where Ronnie was at least one of the singers (I've seen him in shows where he performed in front of three different bands).

A man who could play at least 7 different instruments (guitar, bass, drums, piano, organ, trumpet, and french horn that I know of); Ronnie was an active professional rock and roll musician for more than 50 years; releasing his first single in 1958 (at age 16), as the bassist, trumpet player, and lead singer, of a rockabilly band (yes, all three... I know...).

I attended a show of his in '09, and he was as amazing as the first time I saw him live, in I think '89... Where he was, I'm sure, as amazing as he was opening for Deep Purple in '69

Ronnie was one of the founders of metal as we know it. He was among the first in America to play what we now call hard rock, with his progressive blues band "The Electric Elves" (they eventually changed their name to ELF) beginning in 1967; primarily as the opening band for Deep Purple during that great bands best years.

When Ritchie Blackmore left Deep Purple the first time, he sort of took ELF with him. They became "Ritchie Blackmores Rainbow". Athough there were others who played metal before Rainbows founding; they were the first band really founded from the start as what we would now call a heavy metal band.

They released one of the first metal hits "Man on the silver mountain" in 1975:

and here's a better version, live in London in 1995:

and later had a hit with "Long live Rock and Roll" (again I'll use the live in London version):

Ronnie left Rainbow in 1978, largely because of Blacmores ego (as most people who deal with Blackmore do); but soon landed the role that would add most to his legend, as the second lead singer of Black Sabbath, replacing the increasingly drug addled Ozzy Osbourne in 1979.

They immediately scored a hit (and an all time classic metal song) with the title track of their first album together "Heaven and Hell"; which gave Sabbath their first platinum album since 1973s "Sabbath Bloody Sabbath":

They followed that up with what is probably the best post Ozzy song from Sabbath, the title track of "Mob Rules":

Now... Unlike most metal songs the lyrics aren't particularly ridiculous... they're actually pretty good:
"Close the city and tell the people
That something's coming to call
Death and darkness are rushing forward
To stamp light from the wall!

Oh! You've nothing to say
They'll drag you away!
If you listen to fools,
The mob rules, the mob rules

Kill the spirit and you'll be blinded
The end is always the same
Play with fire, you'll burn your finger
And you'll get hold of a flame, oh!

It's over, it's done
The end is begun
If you listen to fools,
The mob rules

You've nothing to say
Oh, They're breaking away
If you listen to fools

Break the circle and stop the movement
The wheel is thrown to the ground
Just remember it might stop rolling
And take you right back around!

You're all fools!
The Mob Rules!"

It was during his time with Sabbath that Ronnie popularized "the horns" in Metal. There's been more than enough written about that online, I'll leave it to you to look it up.

In 1982, Ronnie quit Sabbath over artistic differences with Tony Iommi; and along with replacement drummer (and one of the best drummers of all time) Vinnie Appice formed Dio.

From the sublime to the ridiculous I suppose... I LOVE Dio, but they are the epitome of everything cheesy about 80s power metal.

Witness, the video for their biggest hit "Holy Diver" (which is so cheesetastic it is featured on every "best" AND every "worst" video list; and was featured on Beavis and Butthead):


Holy Diver
You've been down too long in the midnight sea
Oh what's becoming of me

Ride the tiger
You can see his stripes but you know he's clean
Oh don't you see what I mean

Gotta get away
Holy Diver

Shiny diamonds
Like the eyes of a cat in the black and blue
Something is coming for you

Race for the morning
You can hide in the sun 'till you see the light
Oh we will pray it's all right

Gotta get away-get away

Between the velvet lies
There's a truth that's hard as steel
The vision never dies
Life's a never ending wheel

Holy Diver
You're the star of the masquerade
No need to look so afraid

Jump on the tiger
You can feel his heart but you know he's mean
Some light can never be seen

But yaknow what? Every time I heart that opening riff, I CRANK THAT SHIT.

Also, while playing with Dio, Ronnie continued his Rainbow obsession with TWO different non-sensical rainbow songs (both of which I love).

Rainbow in the Dark (Again the live version, because the official video is poor quality):

And from my favorite bad 80s move "Iron Eagle" is "Hide in the Rainbow":

Ronnie, you simply cannot be replaced. Rest in Metal loving Peace.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Do you know what perfect is?

Because I do...

Perfect is looking out the front of your house, onto your lake; and watching a bald eagle swoop in and take a fish from the water as it rises to the sunset feed...

Better than perfect is that seeing that, while your family cuddles next to you; and you listen together as a family, to a wonderful book being read aloud.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Shop Talk, Part 2 - Tool Time, Episode 1

Ahhh, it's a few minutes til Friday, and my plan is to finish setting up my shop tomorrow and Saturday; and maybe get some small projects done by Monday.

Now, as I said, I've got a decent, but not huge, space to use; my two+ car garage (it's not quite big enough for a three car, but it's bigger than a standard 2 car).  I've got 672 square feet on the ground floor; about 512 of it free space, clear of walls, stairs, and builtins.

Not bad.. and certainly a lot better than things have been. In Arizona my "shop" was my front "porch" (actually a converted single car car port) and a 12x12 E-Z-UP style pavilion.

In Arizona.

In summer...

Yeah... I didnt get much done between May and October.

Now I've got a decent space, that I could theoretically heat and cool (though neither are in place as of yet); with both a regular entry door and a nice big garage door; and an upstairs loft for wood storage etc...

So... What am I going to fill that space in with?

Oh yay, we get to have some tool porn.

So, I've been accumulating tools for a while; but I never wanted to make a big investment in the fixed "anchor" tools, until I had a real shop... in fact, since this house is just a rental (albeit one we plan to spend at least two years in), I still don't.

BUT... I also want to do a bunch of precision work. I'm going to be using this shop to build a BUNCH of furniture for our house, plus patio furniture, to build a playset for the kids, to help convert my 28 foot race trailer into a toy hauler (yay, custom cabinetry and benchwork), to restore an old wooden boat or two, and maybe to build a new one or two as well.

So I really need some decent quality tools. I really can't get by with what I was working with.... Or at least I wouldn't be able to put up with the frustrating difficulty of getting it done using that stuff. It's time for REAL tools to work with (if not necessarily the ones I'll have as my primary tools when I have a permanent shop that I build from scratch)

The Anchor Tools

In every wood shop, there are some fundamental or perhaps foundational tools. I tend to think of them as anchor tools... Basically, they are the big, important tools, you really don't want to do without.

The most important tool in a wood shop, is the table saw. Without a table saw, it isn't a wood shop. Really, everything else is convenient, and nice to have, but optional.

Theoretically, you can do MOST of what a table saw will do, with a circular saw, a router, and some hand tools... but you really don't want to do without a good table saw.

In a close tie for second place, are a miter saw, and a band saw. You CAN do the jobs they do with other tools (hand saws, jig saws, circular saw); but your life is going to be a lot harder without them.

Next up is a drill press. Again, you can do most of what a drill press will do using hand and handheld power drills; but it will be slower, less precise, and a hell of a lot harder... And trust me, you dont want to hand drill a few dozen regularly spaced holes in hardwood.

Those are the tools I consider absolutely essential (not including the hand power tools like drills and sanders etc...). There are another couple of tools that are optional, but HIGHLY desirable.

First among these, are the jointer and planer. If you're going to do any furniture making, or other finish carpentry, you really must have either a large number of hand planes, and table saw and router jigs; or a jointer and planer.

The jointer and planer (and you really need both; though with a large jointer, and a good sander and router with the right jigs; you can do without the planer for smaller stock 6" wide and under) allow you to mill your lumber down close to finish dimensions, and make it strait, fair, and true... critical for any fine work.

Also optional but very useful, is a combo disc and belt sander. This lets you move the stock, rather than the sander; for working on large flat surfaces, stock removal, and the edges of pieces.

A "nice to have", that has only recently become affordable for the home woodworker, is the wide belt or wide drum thickness sander. This is a lot like a planer, but instead of cutting knives, it has a wide sanding belt or drum; that will rough sand the surface of the wood you are milling. They ARE rather expensive however. Most woodworkers don't have them yet; but I'm willing to bet that in 10 years, there will be more people with drum sanders, than with planers. People are already starting to give up their planers in favor of buying an equivalent capacity and quality sander (they cost about the same).

The final big "really nice to have" is a dedicated dust collection system. You can always run your shop vac over to each tool as you use it; but they aren't actually all that good at pulling dust, and doing that is a real pain in the ass. You're much better off with a dedicated dust collection system. They start off relatively cheap (in the $250 range), but can easily run into several thousand dollars.

Then there's a third category of  "man, that'd be handy, but I can do it some other way".

In that category, I'd put a router table (for dadoes, rabbets, and edge shaping, but can be done with a router and jig), drum and spindle sanders (for edge sanding, but can be done with a drill press and jig), and a dedicated mortising machine (which you can also do with a jig and drill press).

A bit of a special case is the wood lathe. If you're going to do turning, it's not optional; if you're not going to turn you don't need one... I think every shop should have one, but it's something you can put off until you specifically want to do some turning.

Molders and shapers are similar, in that if you aren't going to do a lot of beading or molding, you can get away without them (using your router, router table, a molding/shaping head in your planer etc..), but if you are, you need'em.

In Arizona, I got by with a 10" benchtop saw with a floor stand (not really a contractors saw), a 10" benchtop bandsaw (WAY too small), a 10" direct drive miter saw, a 10" benchtop drill press, a benchtop belt and disc sander, a 4" benchtop jointer, and a 12" benchtop planer.

The sad part is, that's still $1300 worth of tools (oh and it wasn't intentional buying all craftsman, I got them all at different times... it just sort of happened that way)... and all of them will get the job don... just not as well, and much less conveniently than better tools. Trying to work with these tools made things a lot more difficult than they had to be. They just didn't have the power, the capacity, or the quality, to get the results I wanted.

Of course, $1300 doesn't quite get you a decent 10" cabinet saw (though you can snag a decent hybrid for a couple hundred less) from a major manufacturer... So there are certainly tradeoffs.

What that means though, is that I knew I'd be buying a lot of new tools to rebuild my shop here in Idaho; and since I knew I was replacing them, I didn't want to carry the smaller/lower quality stuff with us.

So, I sold, gifted, just gave away, or otherwise got rid of the tools I was planning to replace (I kept all my really good tools),or otherwise didn't want, or need, to keep.

Of course, that left me with big gaps to fill.

Time to rebuild...

(to be continued in "Tool Time episode 2", tomorrow).

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Shop Talk, Part 1 - 672 Square Feet

By Friday, this 24 foot by 28 foot space:

Will be cleaned up, reorganized, and laid out as my new workshop.

672 Square feet downstairs, plus another 400 square feet or so of usable space upstairs (properly structured, insulated, floored, but not fully finished). Right now there's a good bit of lumber and other random storage up there.

Actually, as laid out, the downstairs has more like 16x26 plus 4x24 usable (512 square feet) clear floor space; giving clearance to the stairs, doors, the wall without the benches, and the benches themselves (which are firmly lag screwed to the wall, and run 22 foot along it. The side door, utility service, and a built in cabinet taking up the rest).

And it looks like whoever built the benches, had a radial arm saw there.

The garage is a pretty good space, with LOTS of outlets. It's got a double or quad 120v box every four feet around the walls; plus six light fixtures. They're on four circuits in a 100 amp separate service from the house... ... But they didn't put a SINGLE 240 drop in the entire garage.

Five 240 circuits in the main house (two in the utility room one to the hot tub, one to the oven, and one to the cooktop), not one in the garage... Which will be corrected shortly.

Now... to figure out the layout... Gotta find a good floorplanning tool.

Thank God I have a big lap...

... Because I've got a DAMN HUGE LAPDOG:

Half the reason I got into engineering...

Blind to the logic of the argument

"The primary problem with DRM is not only that it doesn't work, but that it irritates the hell out of law-abiding customers who only buy legal products (with DRM), but doesn't inconvenience pirates in the slightest. It's actually counterproductive. Customers learn to stay away from vendors of DRM'd products, once they've upgraded a device too far and discover that their old files are locked away from them and inaccessible (because the old software or keys won't run on their new gadgets)." -- Charlie Stross (a noted SF author)

I agree entirely, DRM is idiotic, doesn't work, and is counterproductive.

I'll wager most tech savvy leftists also agree with that thesis; because it's irrefutably and provably true.

But there is something else in that argument.

If you pull the logic out, and look at it apart from the subject of DRM you should see something.

The argument against DRM, is also the argument against gun control, and smart gun technologies, and for that matter, drug prohibition.

For each of those topics, the argument is provably and demonstrably correct. You can't refute them, because they are true.

You can dismiss them as irrelevant to the reason you support those policies; but from a practical standpoint, you can't be intellectually honest, and use the "prevention" justification for your support of prohibition.

Monday, May 10, 2010

The Family, as She Stands

Our Mothers Day

Yesterday, we bucked the typical mothers day brunsh trend, and instead went out to lunch.

We went to a great little boat up place a little further south down the lake... This was Mels first experience with a restaurant right on the water like that, and she's been wanting to go since we got down here, but they hadn't opened up for the season til this week.

So, when we walked in the door, there were thousands of framed photos of patrons, some famous, some not; most with fish... but the most interesting were these:

... Our kind of place eh?

Especially when you see that THIS was the view from our lunch table:

Then for dinner, we decide to go out again sparing anyone from cooking; and I picked out another place right on the water... This time literally ON the water; a floating restaurant on Lake Coeur D'Alene (about 45 minutes south of us).

Again, a spectacular view seems to me a wonderful sauce for a supper:

That was the view out the window at our table, about three feet off the water.

Friday, May 07, 2010


Well, it's 306 for the Tories, and they don't have 20 seats to form a coalition, without pulling in the LibDems.

Well... unless by some miracle SinnFein formed a coalition with the Tories... Which is about as likely as Obama firing Biden and naming Duncan Hunter his vice president.

The LibDems are actually closer to the conservatives on economic issues than they are with Labour (for one thing, Labour is explicitly socialist, while the LibDems are about evenly split between social democrats, and free market liberals) but they have four basic policy planks that are fundamentally opposed to the conservatives principles: Eurocentrism, proportional representation, fixed term parliaments (like in the U.S.), and the elimination of the house of lords. There is no way the LibDems could form a long term coalition, without those issues being on the agenda; and there is no way the conservatives can do that.

On the other side of things, LibDem and Labour together still couldn't form a 326 seat government; never mind the illegitimacy question. They would need to get an additional 11 seats in their coalition, which dramatically weakens their offer, and their potential government.

There are only four seats Labour can really count on as aligning with them: Sinn Fein is anti-tory but is HIGHLY unlikely to join a labour coalition (and most of their seats wouldn't be voting anyway, weakening any notional coalition further); The SNP and PC are opportunistic here, but Labour simply can't give them a good enough deal to keep them loyal; the DUP would rather cut their own throats than conference with Labour... They'd basically get the SDLP and Green seats, and everything else is up for grabs...

Camerons offered Clegg the deal... If Clegg is smart, he's going to hold a little bidding war (a PRIVATE bidding war to avoid the bad PR, but a bidding war nonetheless). In the end, he'll still probably go with the conservatives (as I noted in a previous post, trying to form a government with Labour right now would be suicidal) but he'll be able to wring some serious bribes... uhhh concessions... from Cameron.

I do not think this bodes well for Great Britain friends...

My final prediction for the Tories...

309... That's what I think looking at the 40 or so constituencies that haven't returned yet as of 9 am over there.

That means, if the DUP, SNP, and PC all go with the Conservatives (which would be likely in that event, even given the rather radical philosophical differences); they will have a majority coalition, and will be able to form a government... Though how long, how stable, and how effective a government...

And of course, the Conservatives could form a coalition with the LibDems, but that's looking more unlikely as the night/day wears on.

On the extreme side of things, Labour are talking openly about not giving up the government... which would be an unmitigated disaster, and I think Nick Clegg is smarter than that. I'm honestly not sure if Gordon Brown is though.

The LibDems took an absolute whipping yesterday, and if they helped shore up what is probably the most unpopular labour government... well possibly ever (Labour may have been SLIGHTLY less popular in 1924 when MacDonalds minority coalition government with the liberals collapsed because of the Campbell affair... or in 1931 when MacDonald was returned to power, but formed a coalition with the conservatives and was then expelled from the Labour party - VERY interesting man Ramsey MacDonald - But even then they didn't see a 90 seat swing); they know they'd get crushed in any marginal by elections, and that the government would never make it to the next term for general election. There would be a vote of no confidence within months most likely.

If things aren't radically changed in the UK, they're going to get MUCH much worse, very quickly; and no labour government is going to suddenly reverse themselves and say "hey, everything we've done since 1997 is wrong"... though it pretty much is.

Frankly, the smartest thing the LibDems could do right now, is act as an "outsider" party; and wait for the inevitable failure of both Conservative, and Labour to do anything adequate to save the country; picking up the electoral gains from both on the next election.

On the other hand, if the Conservatives get their 309, the smart thing to do for the Irish Unionists and the nationalists (that's what the SNP, and CP are; for Scotland, and Wales respectively, the Scottish National Party, and Plaid Cymru or "the party of Wales". The DUP would consider themselves nationalists as well... but they're northern Irish, and are BRITISH nationlists vs. Irish nationalists. Calling the DUP nationalists might raise the hackles of say Sinn Fein - Irish nationalists - and the Scots and Welsh nationalists for that matter) is to bargain hard for coalition with the conservatives.

In this case, the fact that they are so small a block, is actually an advantage for them; because even one defection means failure. This lets them wield disproportionate power to their actual representation...

Perhaps not the best situation for a democratic republic; but thats the nature of the parliamentary system.

If the conservatives come up short of their 309, then they won't have enough nationalists to make 326, and then the entire damned country is in trouble. The pound is already down 2% on the prospect of a hung parliament and a weak government.

If Brown and Labour actually gave a damn about their country, they'd announce now they were dissolving their government.

It makes sense politically as well. Clinging to power now would just guarantee even further losses after the inevitable no confidence vote. If they step down now, they can turn it to their advantage later. Not only would this be best for the country as a whole, it would make them look classy; and they could then concentrate on blocking the conservatives from actually doing anything effective to stop the decline, and positioning themselves to take electoral advantage of that fact.

Ahhh politics...

Oh and a subsidiary prediction; if Labour hasn't conceded the government by opening bell in New York, we're going to see another 300 or more point drop today. If they do, and no other bad news pops up, we'll see a 250 or less point drop.

And finally, a question... Why are there so many damn MPs in the house of commons?

The UK is a nation one 40th the geographical size of the US, with one fifth the population, and one seventh the GDP... and they have 20% more legislators than we do... (not including the 25,000 elected officers of local government - which means something very different there than it does here - , and discounting the house of lords because they are for all intents and purposes irrelevant, they've got 650 and we have 535 - house and senate - . If you include the lords, they've got almost 1400 legislators ).

When you have so many legislators, it's no wonder you have so many laws, and so much government control over life.

In the U.S. there is one federal legislator for every 560,000 or so people. In the U.K. it's more like one for every 95,000 (or with the lords, twice that). That's basically giving every midsized city their own congressman AND senator (PLUS local government, and with the lords it's like giving them all four congresscritters). Just seems like a bad idea to me...

Your Interface to Content Matters...

I've realized something recently... I am far less inspired, irritated, absorbed.. Far less engaged... with the content I read via RSS, than I was before I switched to RSS.

An rss feed reader removes all of the ... atmosphere... of the content. The site design, the comments (unless you choose to click through), the general feel.

RSS allows you to access much more information, much more conveniently; but it seems to me, that you... or at least I... get less out of it.

I find myself far less inspired by what I'm reading. I find that I have a lower attention span for it. That I'm not writing and engaging in comments or in responses on my own blog.

I'm not sure what I'm going to do about this. The hours that I'm not at my desk, my interface to the net is a netbook (a 12" eee 1201), and the limited screen real estate of the netbook was one of the big motivators for me to move to an RSS reader in the first place (along with the limited processor speed, and memory).

I used to read blogs by keeping all my blogs in a bookmark folder, and opening all of them in tabs with firefox; opening linked content in more tabs next to the blogs tabs and so on... This was a rich content experience, but it took a lot longer, had a lot more crashes, and took up a lot more screen real estate and system resources... I'd regularly see Firefox using 2 gigs of ram or more.

That style of reading worked well for my desktops, and my powerful desktop relacement laptops... not so much when I switched to using a netbook for much of the day (basically if it's not from 8am to 6pm, I'm probably on the netbook).

Also, it's not exactly feasible to do both; one while I'm on the netbook, and one on the more powerful computers; because RSS feed readers have no way of knowing if you've viewed the content in other formats... so I'd end up skipping through hundreds of posts (I should note, my RSS feeds for a typical day get over 1000 updates. I read over 100 blogs, plus another 50 or so news sites, web magazines, industry websites etc... etc...) and it would be more hassle than it was worth just to try to keep up.

But I want to get that richer experience, and deeper involvement with the content back...

I'mna think about this for a while.

Thursday, May 06, 2010

To my friends in the UK...

Where polling places opened up around an hour ago... Best of luck.

There is absolutely no chance of you getting a decent government out of today... but maybe, if you're luck and sensible, you'll get a better one than you've got.

From where I'm sitting, it looks like a hung parliament with a strong conservative plurality... And god help you, you could have a coalition government with libdems and tories... wouldn't that be fun (for certain definitions of the word "fun").

I have to say, Cameron and the conservatives are no prize... about as bad as the worst of our Republicans, without many of the redeeming qualities... But they pretty much have to be better... only by default... than Brown and Labour.

Britain is careening headlong down a long and steep slope. She's been accelerating for years under Labour, maybe a new government can at least slow her down a bit...

Of course, that's better than our situation... We're cruising along on a slight downhill... But instead of a steep grade, there's a gigantic cliff we're about ready to drop off; and it seems our current government wants to go faster...

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Mmm, Yak Burgers

Picked up our order from the local farmer's co-op today.

We're having these tonight:

Mmm, Yak burgers.

Reality Deficit Disorder

RDD is a real, identifiable disorder characterized by:
* Irresponsible behavior
* Lack of understanding of cause and effect
* Lack of general necessary life skills
* Unreasonable expectations, informed by TV, movies, internet, books, and popular culture
* Lack of impetus to grow a pair and become an adult

I suffer/ used to suffer from RDD, and I am not alone. Entire generations suffer from RDD, with readily identifiable symptoms such as:
* Inability to mature (still living with parents, can’t balance a checkbook)
* Strong convictions concerning how “things should be” (if we stop terrorizing people there will be no terrorists!)
* Entitlement issues (but you have to give me an easy, high paying job!)
* Lack of perspective (this is just like the Holocaust!)
* Inability to prioritize
* Persecution complex (those evil blanks are out to get me!)

RDD is caused by (duh) a lack of reality! More specifically, an inability to perceive reality or distinguish reality from art and subterfuge.

There is a treatment for RDD. It consists of:

    1. Admitting that reality does not come from a screen or a page.
    2. Taking responsibility for your actions and the consequences thereof.
    3. Going outside your own front door and experiencing the world through you own senses.
    4. Practicing cause and effect through your own actions, with no safety net (i.e. getting a job, keeping track of your own money, supporting yourself).
    5. Developing critical thinking skills, and actually USING YOUR BRAIN.
    6. Admitting to yourself that no one has all the answers, including YOU.


WF, WHF - Notes From the Weekend

There's a new post up at We Few:

This weekend we also discovered that Tamarack does indeed burn very hot, hot enough to raise the temperature of the house 40 degrees above outside temp without really trying. Oh, and loft master bedrooms are really efficient at trapping that heat, for good or ill.

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

Eh... Close Enough...

Today, I was reminded of a very old, very bad joke...

An engineer and a mathematician are put in a very large room, with a beautiful naked woman at one end, and the following instructions:

"Walk halfway across the room
Stop, and walk half the rest of the way
Stop, and walk half the rest of the way again
Keep doing this until you get to the other side of the room

The beautiful naked woman will sleep with whoever gets across the room first."

The engineer starts walking, and stopping, and walking, and stopping etc...

The mathematician sits, thinks for a minute, and then throws up his hands and yells "This is impossible. If I can only go half the remaining distance each time, no matter how many times I do it, I'll never reach the other side".

Meanwhile, the engineer, furiously copulating with the beautiful woman on the other side of the room, turns over his shoulder and says "Hey... close enough".

Totally how it should've ended