Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Under a week out, updating my 2012 prediction

So, 9 months ago, I published this prediction on the 2012 election:

This was of course a best case map as far as I was concerned, but here's what I said at the time :
"I'm pretty confident that, presuming nothing insane, ridiculous, heinous etc... happens between now and november, that I will come within 20 votes, and I am moderately confident that I'll be within 10 (the only state I see as particularly iffy here is New Mexico)."
Well, now we're less than a week out; the election is next Tuesday... And I'm still pretty happy with my prediction from 9 months ago.

At this point, I'm unsure about New Mexico, and Pennsylvania; actually I'm counting them for Obama right now...

But I'm still pretty sure I've got it right within 20 or so electoral votes.

My current assumptions are:

  1. People who will actually vote  for Romney are generally underrepresented in polling (for various reasons)
  2. Pollsters "likely voter" assumptions are significantly off. Most polls have a +4 to +8 democrat bias and, I believe the opposite will be true; with at least a +2 Republican bias, and possibly as high as +10
  3. "Independent" voters are breaking at a +8 to +20 for Romney (depending on the poll)
  4. Almost all "undecided" voters are actually going Romney; unless undecideds are more than 6%, or the margin of error is over 4%
  5. Any state polling under 50% Obama, is going to break Romney, unless undecideds are more than 6% or the margin of error is over 4%
  6. Any state with Romney at 49% or higher is going Romney, unless undecideds are more than 6% or margin of error is more than 4%
  7. Any poll with a margin of error significantly over 4% is basically garbage data, and should probably not be considered, unless the polling margin is higher than the MOE plus 2%. 

Now, as to the polls themselves... well, take a look.

Several national polls now have Romney up over Obama by as much as +5. No credible poll has Obama at higher than 50% nationally, and most have him at 48% or below... And that's BEFORE correcting for democrat biased turnout models.

Still, it comes down to the individual states... and that data is VERY interesting:

I still think 270 to win  is the best poll indexer out there (you can click on the individual states to get multiple results from all major polls in the state).

The most critical states right now are Florida, Ohio, and Pennsylvania.

...Not surprising, since they've been the critical states in the last three elections; and probably will be for the next three elections...

That's part of the reason I am calling Ohio and Florida to break Romney; because NO credible polls with a margin of error less than 4% put Obama at over 50% in either state, and only a few even have him reaching 50% (and again, those are not corrected for turnout model bias).

Although the Obama campaign is representing that they are still competitive in Florida, it's pretty obvious at this point that he's done there. His support has topped out, and even with the bad turnout models, he's well under 50%. Not one single poll has Obama even at 50%, even with the biased turnout model. Most have him at 47% or under.

Ohio is still competitive for Obama, with a couple of polls having him hit 50%; but none are showing over 50%, most are 48% or under, and those that show 50% are higher margin of error polls.

So yes, Obama is still competitive in Ohio, but I'm confident in calling it for Mitt.

The only real question is Pennsylvania.

Only four major polls currently show Romney over 50% in Pennsylvania. Of those, one shows him at 52% and three are 51%. All the polls showing Obama at 48% or over, have margins of error over 2.5%. All the polls showing Obama at 50% or over have margins of error over 4%.

So, what's the big picture?

Note: The 8 states with 1 million population or less are generally going to have a very high margin of error in polls; both because the polling companies spend less money on those states (they have less electoral votes), and because the sampling methods polling organizations use are actually LESS accurate, for very small population.

Also, for cultural reasons, most of those states (5 of the 8 are very conservative or libertarian) generally
 have poorer response rates to polls; and tend to have a higher number of "independent" voters, and a higher number of "undecided" voters... ; all of which tend to increase the overall margin of error. 

Given the best poll data we have right now...

That set of assumptions above gives Obama the following states:

New York
Rhode Island
New Jersey

That set of assumptions gives Romney the following states:

North Dakota
West Virginia
South Dakota
North Carolina

These states have a margins under 2%, margins of error over 4%, or undecided over 6%, but I think will break Obama:

New Mexico (New Mexico polls are incredibly inconsistent with huge margins of error and undecided)

These states have a margins under 2%, margins of error over 4%, or undecided over 6% and I think will break Romney:

South Carolina
New Hampshire (the margins of error are concerning me, but the trend is Romney)

That scores out as 291 Romney, 247 Obama

Note, Romney can lose both Pennsylvania and Ohio; so long as he wins Florida.

He can lose Florida, if he wins Pennsylvania and Ohio (and Nevada, New Hampshire, and Iowa as I've projected. Some people still think Iowa and Nevada are competitive states for Obama. I'm not one of them).

If Romney takes Wisconsin or Minnesota (I don't think it will happen, but it's possible), it's basically over.

In fact, right now, there are far more ways for Obama to lose, than there are for him to win... and only a couple realistic ways in which he would win.

The Basic Premise Behind Campaign Finance Laws

A great deal of ink (or film, or bits) has been expended this election cycle, primarily on the far left (though some on the right... particularly with the more populist factions), decrying the actions of "independent" political action committees, superPACs, and "issue advocacy groups"; as somehow corrupt, evil, anti-democratic etc..

The rhetoric on the left, is that the "citizens united" decision has basically given "shadowy actors" like say, Karl Rove and the Koch brothers, effectively a blank check to "buy elections".

Of course, the idea that we need to "get the money out of politics" has been a political meme for approximately as long as politics has existed...

... and to a degree, there is a point there. ACTUAL political corruption, in the sense of directly buying influence or buying votes; is certainly something we need to combat as much as possible.

We'll never eliminate it of course, humans have an endless capacity for venality, greed, and self interest. That's just the way it is...

Frankly, the only way to get money out of politics; is to get politics out of money.

By which I mean, that so long as politics has an impact on my business and my life (and it always will); if I have money, I'm going to have a strong incentive to spend it, to make the political process work to my advantage... Or even just to hurt me less.

And that's the way it SHOULD be... I SHOULD be able to spend my money to reduce the harm that government does to me, or to try to make government come out to my advantage; so long as I am not actually bribing a legislator to vote the way I want, committing fraud etc...

There's a simple way of combating this; and that's reducing the power of government to impact the individual, such that they no longer have any incentive (or really, so that their incentive is lower... since you'll never get that little political interference) to spend their money in that way.

But that's not what these folks are decrying from the hilltops.

What they are screaming about, is essentially free speech they don't like.

Make no mistake, money IS speech. If you don't have money, you can't buy media air time. If you can't buy media air time, then you can say whatever you want, but you'll be speaking to an empty room.

One of the basic principles of free speech, is that you have the right to say whatever you like (short of libel, slander, fraud, or incitement to crime); so long as you are not infringing on others rights by doing so.

Another one of those basic principles is that you have the right to say it... But I don't have to listen to it, and you don't have the right to make me.

It's up to me, to decide who and what I listen to, and to use my own judgement and experience in doing so.

So, you may not like what these people are saying; but so long as media companies are willing to sell them airtime, you have no right to restrict that. By attempting to do so, you are attempting to regulate free speech (conversely, you also have no right to force those media companies to sell time to opposing viewpoints; another leftist canard about "fairness").

Makes sense right?

Well, it does to me... and to the supreme court; and when it's causes that leftists agree with they're perfectly OK with it.

The REAL argument, comes down to this:

"We can't allow these bad evil people and groups to speak, because although I'm smart enough to know the difference between lies and truth, the general population are too stupid to do so."

So, rather than actually convince the people of their own side of the argument, they seek to prevent the other side from even speaking.

It's entirely consistent with the historical leftist narrative that the "proletariat is fooled by the comfortable goods of the bourgeoisie and the lies of the ruling class" etc... etc...

Their basic premise here being that if the people could only hear and understand the truth, that the leftists ideas would be universally acclaimed as true and necessary, and immediately put into place (with the leftist elites themselves in charge of course... after all, who better to lead than those who understand the ideas the best).

They can't accept the idea that maybe people don't WANT more government, with more power over everyone's lives and businesses... Because that would go entirely against the ideas they have based their entire lives and identities on; and that simply can't be possible.

...but that's another argument entirely.
Oh and I should note that there is a "right wing" authoritarian narrative that is nearly identical in principle, that the people are too stupid, lazy, corrupt etc... To be trusted to make their own MORAL decisions; and that the force of government must be used to make people "do the right thing". That's equally as bad; it's just not what we're talking about right now.
Now... I hate these ads as much as everyone else... But not because I decry "those fools actually believe these foul lies" (though they may be foul lies, and "the people" may believe them); simply because they're REALLY IRRITATING.

If the people actually are so stupid that they believe "foul lies"; and the other side isn't smart enough, or doesn't have a good enough argument to convince them otherwise...

Well, so be it.

That's the problem with a democratic representative republic. You have to live with the representatives the electorate choose, and the things they vote for.

It's also why it's so critical that we have a strictly limited government of  enumerated powers only... Or rather, that we return to that; as we haven't actually had such a government since 1861.

Our government was intended to provide protection against the tyranny of the majority... Unfortunately from the first day that government was put in place, people with "good ideas" have attempted to (often successfully) use the force of government, to have those ideas implemented, without regard to the legitimate powers of government, the desire of the people, or the rights of those being governed.

The left are perfectly willing to crow about how great democracy is... until the people refuse to vote for what they want; at which point they try to get the courts to make the people do what they want anyway.

Because, as we all know, when it comes to leftist causes, they are all "moral imperatives"...

Or as a very smart man put it once "The ends justify the means".

It's Time for a New Year

Halloween, Samhain, Dia de los Muertos.

Several of our friends will be celebrating today under those different names. For those with certain religious proclivities, this marks the beginning of a new year.

Oh God yes. Bring on the new year. The faster we can leave this year behind the happier I'll be.

It's not like we don't have good stuff on the horizon. Chris is recovering, we're pregnant, the job search is finally starting to yield fruit. There's good stuff coming.

I'm just really, really tired of the words "shit happens." We use them way too much. Instead of random things going wrong, it would be nice for random things to go right.

It's time for a nice, clean slate. So yay, new year!


Having this little problem

Over the last few months, I've had this little problem.

See... I've started writing dozens of pieces... and I just haven't bothered finishing, or posting them. some of them I've actually finished, but still... I just can't seem to get motivated enough to bother.

I've written some decent stuff... It's just that I feel like I've already said it a dozen times; or that the issues have been covered a million times etc... etc...

A couple things I wrote that I thought were really good, but I didn't want to deal with the morons who would be commenting on them...

Actually more than a couple...

Not my good regular comments and most of the commenters of the gunblogosphere and libertarian blogosphere; the "truth brigade" idiots and the paulbot types and 9/11 truther types... THOSE idiots.

Part of the problem is that the leftist idiots have got to the point... in fact they're way beyond the point... where I can no longer tell their actual positions and rhetoric, from ridiculous over the top satire of their actual positions and rhetoric.

We have reached a point in this country, where it's not just that headlines from "The Onion" are entirely believable; but that the entire articles are not only believable, they are in fact more reasonable... and better written... than the "real" thing.

I've actually got a bunch of pieces sitting in "draft" status right now that I could publish... but yaknow, I just don't feel like bothering.

I do have a megapost on the AR10, and a couple of non-gun posts that I will probably hit the button on in a couple of days....

It's just that if it isn't something really big and important, or really quick, or just fun... I just feel like it's not worth the time or effort right now.

A lot of it has been the cancer of course, and I think a lot of it is election fatigue.

I'm REALLY hoping that I'll feel different after the election.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Bob Mould on Conan

So, Bob Mould was on Conan tonight, performing from his new solo project; and it was pretty damn good...


Frankly, it chiefly served to remind me of two things:
  1. I really miss Husker Du
  2. Damn I'm frikken old now
Husker Du has been broken up for 15 years... and Bob Mould is now 52.

Oh one more thing it reminded me of...

Gay guys can in fact kick ass

Note: For those who don't know, Bob Mould is openly gay. And openly kicks ass. 

For those who know nothing about 80s and 90s punk and alternative; Husker Du,along with the pixies, the replacements, sonic youth, the lemonheads, the melvins, and Dinosaur Jr.; are pretty much the bands that took punk, and indie college radio, and fused them into what became "alternative" (obviously, some heavier than others). 

Without Husker Du, there would have been no Mother Love Bone; and without Husker Du and Mother Love Bone, there would have been no Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Sound Garden, or Alice in Chains. 

Thursday, October 25, 2012

A loss in the family

It's a very bad day here... probably gonna be a bad couple of days...

Somehow, over the past couple months, we went from a three dog household; to a four dog (though one is just a temporary guest. Been meaning to post about her for a couple weeks and just hadn't got round to it. I'll do it in a couple days) and two cat household.

It wasn't intentional on our part, it just sorta happened.

Unfortunately, today we are one less.

This morning, I had to put one of the cats down.

The littlest member of our family, River the tailless wonder... Well, from the beginning, we noticed she had an unhealthy streak of daring to her. She would always be going where she she shouldn't, doing things she shouldn't...

Hell, it's why we named her River. It's probably how she ended up being a tailless wonder. Even the night she showed up, we had to rescue her from predators.

It could be charming, but also irritating, and at times worrisome.

Over the past couple weeks, she developed a very unwise and unhealthy habit of taunting the dogs. Running up to them, then running away; sitting just out of reach behind a locked gate etc...

Well, this morning, she was alternating getting into play fights with Badger (the bigger kitty; and he has got big indeed, swelling to garfieldian proportions over the past couple months), and running down the stairs to taunt the dogs at the gate (we have a gate at the bottom of the stairs to keep the dogs out).

Understand, we're talking about 300lbs+ worth of bully breed dogs, who are used to playing rough with each other (they draw blood, unintentionally, but somewhat regularly).

Now, I knew this was what she was doing, because I could hear it; and had heard her doing it a dozen times before over the past couple weeks.

Then things went south...

I heard her and the dogs start going back and forth at the gate; them sticking their noses through, her batting at their noses or sticking a paw through... Then I herd one of the dogs yelp, and her another one get a nip in at River a second later.

I know what that sounds like; it's happened before, and it's usually no big deal. Generally one of the dogs gets a nip in, then she just runs like the proverbial scalded cat, and hides under the bed or somesuch.

... but instead of running and hiding, for some reason, she fought.

... and dogs being dogs, they all piled into the fray.

At that point, Mel and I were up and running to get down the stairs (we were up in the bedroom), but there was already a three dog, one cat, furball going.

... and things ended up about as you would expect when a 5 pound cat starts a fight with three dogs that collectively weigh over 250lbs.

The dogs broke off the second we got there; and the whole fight lasted maybe 20 seconds from the nip to the end... but it was already too late.

I won't go into painful detail... suffice it to say, I know when it's not a survivable injury, and it wasn't.

At the end, I know she wasn't feeling anything when I put her down.

We're... devastated is inadequate. It's been two hours, and Mel has barely stopped crying. We both feel, just sick. Mel can't even look at the dogs.

It's hard enough to lose one under any circumstances, but like that... And we had to see it happen...

Yeah... it's gonna be a bad couple of days.

This day is called the feast of Crispin

Henry V; Act 4, Scene III (excerpted)

No my fair coz,
If we are mark'd to die, we are enow
To do our country loss; and if to live,
The fewer men, the greater share of honour.

God's will! I pray thee, wish not one man more.

By Jove, I am not covetous for gold,
Nor care I who doth feed upon my cost;
It yearns me not if men my garments wear;
Such outward things dwell not in my desires;
But if it be a sin to covet honour,
I am the most offending soul alive.

No, faith, my coz, wish not a man from England.
God's peace! I would not lose so great an honour
As one man more, methinks, would share from me
For the best hope I have. O, do not wish one more!

Rather proclaim it, Westmoreland, through my host,
That he which hath no stomach to this fight,
Let him depart. His passport shall be made,
And crowns for convoy put into his purse.

We would not die in that man's company
That fears his fellowship to die with us.

This day is call'd the feast of Crispian.

He that outlives this day, and comes safe home,
Will stand a tip-toe when this day is named,
And rouse him at the name of Crispian.

He that shall live this day, and see old age,
Will yearly on the vigil feast his neighbours,
And say, "To-morrow is Saint Crispian."

Then will he strip his sleeve and show his scars,
And say, "These wounds I had on Crispian's day."

Old men forget; yet all shall be forgot,
But he'll remember with advantages
What feats he did that day.

Then shall our names,
Familiar in his mouth as household words,
Harry the King, Bedford, and Exeter,
Warwick and Talbot, Salisbury and Gloucester,
Be in their flowing cups freshly rememb'red.

This story shall the good man teach his son;
And Crispin Crispian shall ne'er go by,
From this day to the ending of the world,
But we in it shall be remembered,

We few, we happy few, we band of brothers.

For he to-day that sheds his blood with me
Shall be my brother; be he ne'er so vile,
This day shall gentle his condition;
And gentlemen in England now a-bed
Shall think themselves accurs'd they were not here,
And hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks
That fought with us upon Saint Crispin's day.

-- William Shakespeare

I believe (with no hyperbole) these to be the greatest words ever written in the English language; though they really must be heard performed to be properly felt and understood.

 Here is my favorite filmed version:


I honestly believe Brannagh did it better here, than the filmed version of Olivier  (those who saw Olivier live said he did it far better on the stage), because it is more naturalistic and expressive.

Here's Richard Burtons recording (which is one of my favorites, and  I believe what Brannagh modeled his performance on), John Gielguds recording (I don't believe there is a film of Gielgud performing the full play; only selected scenes, from the film "Chimes at Midnight"); Tom Hiddleston (Loki from Avengers) doing an extremely low key, conversational style delivery; and a video comparing four versions , all showing how different actors (and directors) can have very different takes on the speech.

None of them however, quite capture what I hear in my head when I read this. I've seen it live a few times, and some of those performances have captured it... Hell, I may post a recording of me doing the speech later if I can find it (or I may just do another one).

UPDATE: I couldn't find my original recording of me doing the speech, so I made a new one just for the hell of it:

forgive me, but this is NOT a polished performance; it's an off the cuff reading, recorded at 1:30 in the morning on my couch, in one take, with no edits. My accent, breath control, timbre, and expression are all very inconsistent.

This was just intended to serve as an example of the phrasing and expression I think work best for the St. Crispians Day speech.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Wood Butchery - "Free" style

Wood Butchery - v. def:
1. An amusing and self deprecating reference to high quality hand crafted woodwork
2. Rough carpentry, low quality, fast, and cheap

Normally, when I refer to my woodworking projects as wood butchery, it's in the sense of definition one. Frankly, I'm seriously anal about... well, just about everything I do... but in particular I'm anal about doing high quality artisan work.

I spend a lot of time and effort making sure what comes out of my shop, and off my bench, is the best work I can possibly produce; with the highest quality materials and finishes.

...But sometimes, you just need to do a little bit of quick and dirty carpentry... Like today for example.

After a wonderful indian summer here in North Idaho (days have been in the 60s 'til a few days ago; much warmer, much later in the year, than is normal); the weather has finally turned, and it's getting cold.

Although they've been wrong each time, the weather people have been predicting snow the last few days. I was pretty sure they'd be wrong Sunday and Monday (we had cold rain, but no snow), but I'm expecting the snow to show up in the next few days... Possibly tonight, or tomorrow.

As it happens, I've got 2 cords of three year split and seasoned; silver, black, and white birch firewood; sitting stacked under tarps, on top of my shooting platforms (they were convenient when I was dropping the wood off last fall), behind the house.

Unfortunately, behind the house is a pretty bad location for it; particularly when it's been snowing. Also, it gets in the way of the plowing of my driveway and parking area (and takes up a good bit of said area etc... etc... ).

... in case you weren't aware, north Idaho can get some pretty serious snowfall.

So, at this point, we have to get the firewood out of the big bulk pile it's been in, and stack it neatly in firewood racks that are convenient to our entry doors; and we have to do it in the next day or two.

Now, the original plan was to build some firewood racks from dimensional lumber and plywood this spring and summer. I even bought the lumber etc... And had the plywood for six racks rough cut to my desired dimensions (96" width, by 48" height, by 16" depth; enough to hold one face of a cord under the top, plus a benchtop surface to work on, stack kindling on etc... The six would have held both cords).

Unfortunately, my cancer had other plans; and I didn't manage to get the job done before I got too sick to do it; and I haven't got around to it since.

As it happens, we have a local business about a mile down the road from us, that gets a couple hundred pallets in a month. So many that they put out stacks of pallets free for the taking about once a month.

We're not talking the worlds greatest pallets here. They're in all different sizes and all different qualities of construction; but I find a lot of use for them around the property; and worst case, they're good enough to break up for firewood for the cast iron wood stove in my shop.

I've had a stack of about 12 relatively decent pallets sitting in a stack beside my shop for the past couple months; and there just happened to be four identical ones sitting there.

Perfect for making a couple of big firewood bins, with some quick and dirty wood butchery.

The trick to building things out of pallets, is to find ones that are as close to identical as possible to act as bases. The length and width aren't 100% critical, because you can pad those out with 1by, 1by, and 4x dimensional lumber easy enough; but all the pallets on the same side, need to be exactly the same width.

So, I could have taken all four of the identical ones and made the bins from them; but instead, I decided to make two bins, using two of the identical pallets each.

So, step one is to gather your tools and materials:

  • Two identical pallets for the base
  • Two "pretty close" pallets for the sides (more on that below)
  • Ten 8' 2x4 sticks of dimensional lumber (pressure treated is preferred, but not required)
  • One 8' 4x4 (optional, but possibly useful for cutting reinforcement blocks)
  • About a gross of 3" deck screws (about 1.5lbs)
  • A few 4" deck screws (optional, but may be useful)
  • A drill, preferably corded, and with a quick change drill/driver set (or two drills set with one of each)
  • A circular saw, recip saw, trim saw, table saw, flush cut saw, or miter saw; to trim the 2x4s to length

Next thing we do is join the pallets together at the front, screwing a toe rail in to the pallet blocks; and creating a reference plane that all other measurements and angles will be set from.

If you're using pressure treated lumber you can just let the toe rail rest on the ground. For several reasons, I prefer to have it set above ground level; so I blocked the rail up with another 2x4 laid flat, and then screwed the rail in. Conveniently, that put the top of the toerail at the same height as the pallet frame.

I did the same on the back side, but I wanted to have a ledge on the back to keep the bottom layer of wood from sliding out, so I used a 2x4 laid on its edge as the spacer; and I only screwed it in at the center to join both pallets (that's important right now. You only want the side pallets fastened to the front rail for now).

This let me slide the side pallets in, with enough tension to hold them while I screwed them in on the front side (what I was about to do here):

As I said above, the side pallets can be "pretty close", instead of identical; so long as at least one side of each pallet you want to use for the sides, is within about 3/8 of the depth of the base (the advantage of wood butchery over precision woodworking).

Of course, the disadvantage of not using identical pallets, is that you have to compensate for the differences in dimensions.

In this case, I had two pallets that were within 3/8" on depth, but to do so they had to run in different directions. Also, one pallet was 3" shorter than the other when oriented in that dimension

Also, pallets come in many different designs. Some are only screwed (or stapled, or nailed) together with boards; some have boards and blocks. Pallets without blocks (as the smaller pallet I'm using as a right side above) don't give you a lot of surface to join wood to.

So, we pad out the height with two lengths of 2x4 (32-5/8" in this case), screwed into the top rail of the short pallet.

You can screw through both at once with 4" deck screws (2x4's are actually 1.5", giving you an inch of bite on the rail); or you can offset screw them one layer at a time (which is what I did here. Just make sure you offset the laminating screws from where you're going to want to screw any cross pieces etc..):

Then I had to cut some screw blocks. Normally I'd use a 4x4 here, but since I had already cut 65" out of another 2x4, I decided to just cut the blocks from that. I wouldn't use them for a real load bearing structure, but they'll be plenty strong enough for a side wall when used as doubling blocks over an existing rail:

The one thing about using 2x4 blocks, is that you'll definitely want to predrill  to avoid splitting. You might want to do that with a 4x4 block anyway (to avoid splitting, and to make driving the screws easier), but it isn't 100% necessary most of the time.

Actually, in general, you may want to pre-drill for those same reasons; but depending on your wood, your screws, and your drill, you may not want to bother.

Also, on the base corners, you're going to want to double your blocks, pre-drill, and screw through both with 4" deck screws (and obviously, be careful to properly offset your screws, so that you don't hit the screws coming from the side through the blocks, with the screws coming in from the rails):

In general, you would prefer to situate the blocks so that you're not screwing into endgrain in either direction; but this pallet was about 1/8" too thick for me to block it in that direction, and had to cut the blocks to 3-5/8" (then trim them down by like 1/2 a kerf on the blade to actually get them into position).

From there, it's just a matter of setting the rails on the back and top, and screwing the backside corners down.

Set your top rail on your back corners first, then screw a ledger rail on to that, making a 90 degree corner; and screw through that ledger rail into the two side pallets.

Unfortunately, it was getting too dark for me to get pics of that... So I'll finish it up tomorrow morning, and get the rest of the pics up then.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Lessons From the Well Spouse - Part 2, Post-Crisis Exhaustion

Or, alternatively, if things are getting better why do I feel so horrible?

As I explained in the previous Well Spouse post, there are certain challenges in being married to someone with an acute or chronic illness of any type.

I realize it's odd to jump from pre-crisis to post-crisis but I'm currently dealing with this issue that no one seems to talk about. No one warns you about how bad you'll feel after things start to get better.

Everyone has their own definition of "getting better" as well as their own ideas about what constitutes the end of the crisis.

For me, my criteria ended up being two-fold: 1. that Chris's symptoms start improving and he starts acting more like himself and 2. everything in the future treatment plan be something we've already gone through and therefore know how to handle. Since the future treatment plan is "nuke it from orbit again if necessary" I KNOW I can handle what comes next because we've already gone through it once. As for Chris acting more like himself, his ambition is starting to fully reappear and some of his most bothersome symptoms are on the wane.

You would think that being out of the crisis would lead to elation. Well, yes of course I'm thrilled.

I'm also completely exhausted. I'm not talking "need more rest" exhausted either. Chronic exhaustion or what is now called mental or emotional fatigue.

I hate those terms. Mental and emotional fatigue doesn't really describe what I'm going through. Chronic exhaustion of the "have to drag myself out of bed" variety is far more accurate. Some would mistake it for a major depressive episode. It's not. I still enjoy things, I have ambition and motivation. I'm very irritated at my body's unwillingness to follow through on my ambition and motivation and my brain's complete fatigue.

So why chronic exhaustion, and why now?

I think it's two-fold. One part is simply the effects of being in crisis mode for too long. If you've spent a long time (in my case years) grappling with a problem and pushing yourself to the emotional and mental limit, you're going to be exhausted. At some point the pressure lifts and your mind and body say, "yay, now we can rest and the world won't end!" No, you don't get a say in the matter.

The second part is re-adjusting to life with less stress. Once the huge cloud of medical crisis lifts there's considerably less stress to deal with. If the crisis went on for a long time you naturally adjusted to that stress level. With the crisis gone there's not near as much stimulus or adrenaline or pressure. Life becomes somewhat boring. It's really not boring at all, you just need to adjust to your new circumstances.

What this leaves you with is systemic exhaustion combined with no compelling reason to not sleep for 12 hours a day.

So while you'd love to be out celebrating the good news, the likelihood is all you want to do is sleep and rest. That's fair. You need time to recover from everything you've done during the crisis.

I think I'm finally somewhat rested, renewed, and adjusted. It took a fairly long time (4 weeks) but I'm almost back up to a reasonable energy level for a pregnant woman. I'm not very happy with certain things I've let slide but now I can tackle what needs to be done.

I'm very, very glad to be on the upswing at last.


Saturday, October 13, 2012

Guess there's SOME advantage to being Kindles bitch

I have 358 kindle books currently in my library so... Looks like I'm about to have 400 or so books in my kindle library.

Not sure how many of my library are eligible, but theoretically I could be getting something like $470 in e-book credit, and I'll probably be getting at least $100.

Of course I've got several hundred more books on my wish list right now... Actually it might be over 1000...

Friday, October 12, 2012

Had a pretty good week

Jim, my best friend of 29 years visited this week, from Sunday through Wednesday morning. This was the first time I had seen him in 3 years, and we really took advantage of the visit to have a great time.

Mostly, we just drove around from cool place to cool place here in North Idaho, enjoying each others (and of course Mels) company.

... Actually not ALL north Idaho, as we also visited eastern Washington, and western Montana (for a few minutes anyway. We just drove the scenic route around Lake Pend Oreille and the Clark Fork River, hitting Montana a bit before sunset, before driving home).

Otherwise, we hung out back at the house, with the dogs hanging out all over us (Jim is as big a dog person as we are), watching movies, talking, and eating large quantities of smoked meat (we smoked beef and pork Monday).

We were originally going to do some ATVing, maybe get some shooting in... and just decided that we were having more fun relaxing and not doing too much, so we'd keep doing that.

We dropped Jim off at the airport early Wednesday morning, grabbed a bit of breakfast, ran some errands then came home and collapsed. I hadn't really slept much the previous few days, so I ended up sleeping pretty much the rest of the day, got up and had some leftovers for dinner, then went back to sleep 'til this morning.

Finally, we got a bunch more errands done today; then Mel and I hung out at the local dog friendly microbreweries tap room, with our little escape artist doggie friend Wash.

He has a habit of sneaking through the fence one way or another. When he does, we sometimes gather him up in the truck, and take him around to run errands with us. Most of the area is very dog friendly, and Wash is great around people... and he just loves to be out and about.

It's been beautiful this whole week, mid 60s and sunny in the day, and not hitting freezing overnight (though it came close). The indian summer is winding down, and real fall is starting, but not this week (the rains will be starting Saturday or Sunday... and rain and snow will pretty much be the order of the day 'til next April).

All in all, a pretty good week.

Monday, October 08, 2012

Overxtending myself... again

Every once in a while I am forcefully reminded that, though I feel a thousand times better than I did two  years ago, I am most definitely not in any way shape or form, recovered.

Thursday and Friday, I decided to take advantage of the wonderful indian summer we've been having up here in north Idaho, and get some long overdue yard work done.

Like... six months overdue.

Between the long warm season, and the very wet spring, out grass growing season this year has been... very fruitful shall we say?

Farmers have had as many as four cuttings of hay on their lands this year, and most everyone made three cuttings.

However, my yard, was not intended to be a hay field.

1.67 fenced in acres of 3 foot high grass and brush, on a 20-30 degree slope, is not all that fun to clear out

Before my surgery, I tried to deal with the overgrowth using our wheedwacker and a brush cutter attachment.... And discovered just how surprisingly tiring it is to attempt such a thing, and just how little progress you will make over the course of four hours.

So, Thursday afternoon, I picked up a heavy brush mower from the equipment rental place, to really take care of it all before the rain and snow came back (thus making it nearly impossible to cut down).

I got it home, and realized I needed to take down a few trees first; so for a couple hours Thursday I felled and bucked four dead birch trees (with my chainsaw). So dead in fact, that when I cut them and stuck the moisture meter on them, they were already seasoned for burning.

So, starting out on the yard Friday late morning (it was 20 degrees overnight; didn't warm up to 40 until 11am, on its way to 65 by 3pm), Mel and I managed to get the entire fenced portion of our yard done in about four hours.

1.67 acres of brushy hill terrain is not exactly easy to clear, even with a 13hp billy goat mower.

Now, I was expecting that Saturday, I would be paying for my overexertions, but actually it wasn't too bad. A little stiff an sore, but otherwise mostly OK.

SUNDAY on the other hand...

Yeah, late this afternoon my knees and back started locking up. By the middle of the night my knees were swollen up like grapefruits and basically locked.


The good news though, is that my best friend of not quite 30 years, is visiting us (up from Arizona) for the next couple days.

Painkillers and anti-inflammatories. Lots of them.

Thursday, October 04, 2012

Obama gets a lesson in just how much delivery matters

At this point, no matter how far in the tank they may be, pretty much everyone has to acknowledge that Romney CRUSHED Obama in Oct 3rd debate.

Beyond crushed actually... Lefties are literally crying about the beating their guy took. And the thing is... They have no idea why.

Well, some do; but from the general commentariat I'm hearing a lot of "why didn't he go after him on his evil foul lies" etc... etc...

That is definitely NOT getting it.

Romney didn't win on the facts; though he certainly had those far enough in his favor. Romney won on his attitude, and his delivery.

 Obama dictated to you... Everyone who disagrees with him is wrong. Everything he says is right. All of his failures are just because you didn't do what he told you to do... and all your failures are either because you didn't follow his advice, or because some big bad greedy businessman did it to you.

Romney was trying to have a conversation with you. He was asking you to listen. He was saying "look, maybe I'm wrong, maybe I'm right... I don't care about being right, I just want to do what works".

Obama was the college professor neighbor you don't like, because he's always telling you how you're doing everything wrong, and how if you'd just follow his advice, you'd be just as good as he is at everything.

Romney was your smart, successful, nice neighbor, who coaches the baseball team, and is on the schoolboard trying to get the local high school back on track.

Obama stayed on message, hardcore, repeating his talking points to the point of irritating the entire country.

The message wasn't working.

He should have realized that talking points weren't going to work, and he should have gone extemporaneous... Though after what we've see the last four years, that may be as close to it as he gan get.

 Now, let's see how they try to spin this for Obama. Should be fun.

Shocked, shocked I say to find libertarianism in this establishment

From which has some interesting data breakdowns under all those links.

Of course, like any poll questions they're somewhat simplistic, but actually if you expand the options, they're a lot more comprehensive than most.

Actually, there was one surprise... Who the hell is Virgil Goode... Oh wait, right, the "constitution party" guy. Yeah...

Yaknow, I should be the target voter for the constitution party... 'cept their platform has way too little to do with the actual constitution, and way too much to do with god. If a politically aware and knowledgeable, constitutionally oriented guy like me had never even heard his name before now... ...well, that says a lot about the "constitution" party doesn't it.

And Rocky Anderson? He's a former far left democrat running under a party that was specifically founded to put him on the ballot in 2012... But would make a perfectly fine "progressive party" "workers party" or other pseudo-socialist party candidate. He's the "Dennis Kucinich" of 2012 I guess.

Wednesday, October 03, 2012

Nose, Fingers, Toes

So, here was Baby Byrne at 8-1/2 weeks:

Yes, at 8-1/2 weeks, our baby looks a hell of a lot like a kidney bean inside a chili pepper.

This is baby Byrne just four weeks later, at 12-1/2 weeks:

Baby Byrne is now about four and a half inches long from crown to rump.

Mel is still morally certain it's a boy, but at 12-1/2 weeks it's impossible to tell accurately, and the baby wasn't every in the right position to make a guess. We'll know for sure at the next ultrasound in 8 weeks.

What IS clear though, is that our baby has a face, with a clear nose and jaw.

Our baby has two arms, with two hands, and five fingers on each.

Our baby has two legs, with two feet, and five toes on each.

Our baby is VERY active. We were watching him kick, punch, and roll over, pretty much constantly, for the entire ultrasound.

Four weeks, from a kidney bean, to a baby...

Amazing, this whole creation of human life thing.

Monday, October 01, 2012

Yes, that's pretty much it

"All Americans value liberty, but libertarians seem to value it more. For social conservatives, liberty is often a means to the end of rolling back the welfare state, with its lax morals and redistributive taxation, so liberty can be infringed in the bedroom. For liberals, liberty is a way to extend rights to groups perceived to be oppressed, so liberty can be infringed in the boardroom. But for libertarians, liberty is an end in itself, trumping all other moral values."

 -- Matt Ridley, Wall Street Journal, 9/28/2012

Yeah, pretty much.

The piece itself is cast in terms of the "moral intuition" theory of political viewpoints promoted by Dr. Jonathan Haidt in his book "The Righteous Mind"; which has been talked about extensively in the blogosphere over the past few months. It's an interesting perspective on the issue of why we believe what we believe.

Celebrate World Vegetarian Day With Us

In the only way world vegetarian day should be celebrated:

That would be 1/4lb of bacon, cut into chunks and fried crisp; then 1/4 pound of corned beef torn to shreds, and 1lb of ground beef, fried in the bacon fat.

The bacon and corned beef give you all the salt you need, but we added a bit of black pepper, ancho chili, garlic, hot mustard, and cumin to complement the beef and bacon (and bacon fat).

Just after we took this pic we added some habanero hot sauce and some cheese, and served it all up as tortas (on telera rolls); with a side of tater tots (baked, since we've got enough fat with that bacon grease).

The combination and contrast of flavors and textures, between the crunchy bacon and tater tots, the firm beef, creamy cheese (and the sauce created by the mix of fat, hot sauce, and cheese) and the soft pillowy torta roll is just great.

If I had wanted to up the starch content even further, I could have tossed some nice black beans in the mix, or even served this with rice and beans (and a lot more hot sauce).

It's How You Use It That Matters

Breda posted this on Facebook this morning:

I'm trying to figure out the difference between this and mothers who elect to abort disabled babies but I just...can't.

The article she is referring to:

 Nazi extermination of thousands of disabled children featured in new Berlin museum exhibit

The exhibition, entitled “In memory of the children. Pediatricians and crimes against children in the Nazi period,” displays photos and documents related to various Nazi projects concerning the murder and torture of children, such as Action T4 and Lebensborn. 
While Action T4 focused on exterminating children who were physically or mentally handicapped, Lebensborn was a eugenic breeding program using unwed mothers, in which children with features not regarded as sufficiently “Aryan” were disposed of like so much waste. 
“Through 1945, over 10,000 [children] fell victim to the various programs which were designed to exterminate ‘life unworthy of living,’” the museum states. “More than 5,000 children and teenagers were tortured and murdered in the Nazi ‘children’s departments’ alone, institutions which were specially created for the purpose of extermination.”

I tend to agree with Breda on this matter. There is no gray area as far as we can see. The problem with "life unworthy of living" is that the determination of worth is in the eye of the beholder. The child in question may have an entirely different opinion of their own worth.

Our views concerning abortion (and eugenics for that matter) are well known so we won't get too deeply into those. The short version is we are very deeply pro-life for religious, moral, and ethical reasons. We are however also anti-legislation because the government can't possibly do anything but make the situation worse.

The bottom line is convenient pregnancy or no, we will do everything we can to preserve as much life as possible. That's a conversation we had long before we were married with the understanding that we would never terminate a pregnancy unless it was to prevent my death.

It's been 9 years since my last pregnancy. During that time prenatal testing has come a long, long way. 9 years ago genetic screening for chromosomal abnormalities and congenital heart defects was only used in high-risk pregnancies and the only widely-available tests (amniocentesis for example) carried a slight risk of miscarriage.

Now genetic screening at the basic level can be done with non-invasive tests and is far more widespread. Through advances in sonography and blood testing the risks of abnormalities for a specific pregnancy can be calculated with a true positive rate of 79-90% combined with a false positive rate of 4.7%. That's not perfect of course but if results are positive the more traditional more reliable invasive tests can be used.

Now genetic screening is offered in all pregnancies no matter the mother's age. Including ours.

This definitely leads to some moral quandaries. If testing is positive some choose to terminate the pregnancy and that's horrible. I know from personal experience that there are adoptive parents for children with all types of disabilities so the child not being wanted is not an issue.

Many parents, when offered the testing, become very offended. According to my doc many couples jump right to "I would never abort no matter what!" and decline testing. They don't even want to deal with the moral question.

Then there are those who, when offered screening, see it as an opportunity to be better prepared. Special-needs infants quite often need special handling at birth and sometimes require c-section in order to preserve their life. If the obstetrician knows ahead of time arrangements can be made and quite often the birth will happen at a hospital better prepared for the special circumstances.

We're big fans of being prepared and we want to preserve the life of our child if it is at all possible.

Our screening will be on Wednesday at the same hospital where Chris had his surgery. The testing, while widely available, takes specialists to both administer the test and read the results.

We'll be doing a nuchal translucency test and a first trimester blood panel. The nuchal translucency test measures a fluid cavity at the back of the neck. A larger than average cavity (and therefore more fluid) is an indicator of many chromosomal abnormalities (most notably Down Syndrome) and an indicator of congenital heart defects. The blood tests measures for blood markers that can also indicate abnormalities. By taking into account both tests 79-90% of chromosomal abnormalities can be detected by calculating probabilities based on the results. If a high probability is determined a follow-up test will be done using the more invasive technology.

No, our chances aren't particularly high (1 in 323 at my age) but when medical conditions are involved the probability you have what you have is always 100%.

If it turns out that we're having a special-needs baby we want to be prepared. We want to do everything we can to make the best possible life for that baby.

Genetic testing isn't inherently good or evil, moral of immoral. It's inherently amoral. Where one person would use the results as a reason to end a life, another would choose to take that knowledge and possibly save a life.

Genetic testing is like firearms. It's all in how you use the tools at your disposal.