22 October 2005

Working Title

Been busy.

Too much work.
Too much training of new people.
Too many new people quitting the job once they have been trained.
Too often starting all over with other new people.

Thats almost a haiku. Too bad I havent the energy to rewrite it into the proper syllabic form.
In the meantime, the last two trainees appear to be staying, so maybe I'll have some bona-fide free time again.

Theres been quite a lot going on here and in the world in the meantime. I was looking to buy a Russian/Soviet Moisin-Nagant rifle when I came upon a German-issue Mauser K98k that I grabbed instead. There must have been some activity recently from surplus military arms importers, because what piqued my interest in the first place was several Moisin-Nagants that I had seen at gun shows. This K98 wasn't the first of its kind that I had seen, but I have been seeing more of them lately than I can recall. This one isn't perfect enough for a museum piece since a few of the numbers do not match (meaning it was rebuilt from parts of other
rifles that had been issued), but in my book that means its OK for shooting and perhaps some minor modifications. The bore is corroded from the salts used in WWII era primers (deposits in the bore attract moisture), but I think I have learned of a 'fix' for that. A proper fix would probably be to replace the barrel. I'll have to see what happens.

Cool weather returns, and I still live in a poorly insulated and drafty townhouse. Well, I refuse to spend a metric ass-load of money on natural gas heating. I went to Home Depot and got a second electric heater and a pair of 15 amp timers (the sort that normally are used to switch on lamps). The heater I bought is a variation of the baseboard heater, but it has a "soft on" power switch. That means that I've got one too many timers, since the device plugged into the timer should be left on, and lack of power causes auto shut down on this unit due to the rudimentary computer that controls the temperature and a timer which determines how long the heater will run. Thats not quite the sort of timer I had in mind, but since I intend to do without gas heat, I'll be leaving this thing on a large percentage of the time. I only going to actively be heating a 2-3 room area to 55 or 60 degrees, so continuous duty shouldnt be a problem.

Now I have some caulking to do.

11 September 2005

Book Report Time

Not a lot to say at the moment, been reading up on the Indo-Europeans lately, and much more about that soon. I'm still assimilating it and gathering my thoughts.

I have a problem focusing on one book at a time, but I'm done with one and finishing a second. I'll add the second later today or tomorrow.

"Sophie's World" by Jostein Gaardner

Mr Gaardner has accomplished something quite admirable with this book. He has couched a fairly complete overview of the history of Western philosophy in a story of a 15 year old Norweigian girl, AND made it to the New York Times best seller list. That's something to be proud of; getting the masses to read more philosophy! Gaardner covers most significant philosophers (and some minor - depending on their contribution and what era they lived in) in most major eras of civilization, noting their major contributions and when applicable the social and historical context in which they formed their ideas. I found the book to be very illuminating, in some cases correcting misperceptions I had about some philosophers.

What I did not like about this book was that it focused almost exclusively on Western philosophy. I will grant that the majority of novel philosophy and influential thinkers lived in the 'Western' world, but the omission of non-Western philosophies constitutes a blinkered or incomplete picture. Philosophical schools of thought tend to be 'alive' like languages; influenced by preceding and concurrent ideas. Omitting 'Eastern' thought is tantamount to saying that the Western world exists in a vacuum. The Semitic peoples are only mentioned long enough to introduce the social context surrounding the birth of Christianity. Hinduism and Buddhism are glossed over very briefly, while Islam is ignored completely. Confuscius isn't even mentioned and Buddha only merits a pair of passing comments - because his philosophy was similar to that of Hume and Kierkegaard, though he predated both by 2500 years.

Next up: "Blood and Oil" by Michael T. Klare

16 August 2005

Tommy, can you see me?

I was progressing in my philosophical/religious research (or trying to) when I realised something that occurred to me to be extroardinary.
But again, I should start at the beginning.

I'm finding the Indo-Europeans fascinating, theres a few good articles here and here. I have also been trying to see what I could learn about mysticism in these societies.

Mysticism is defined as the gaining of direct knowledge (of the world, the universe, or God) through a subjective experience that is neither based in reason or perception. The Oracle at Delphi was a decent example of mysticism. A priestess inhaling fumes from a fissure in the earth uttered things that her acolytes interpreted as answers to queries from petitioners. Ostensibly a trance brought on by planet fumes gave her mystical insight. A curiously lasting rumor goes that the Oracle declared Socrates the wisest man in Athens.

What I recently realised is that there is a very common form of mysticism that is practiced fairly often in the modern world: prescience in dreams. It is foreknowlege of a sort. Specifically it is typically foreknowledge of yourself at a future time, and thus is knowledge of the world or the universe. For me personally, it has only occured once in a great while.

What seems more significant to me is that most (or some, I havent taken a poll or anything) people of this glimpse of mysticism in their dreams. So the subconcious is capable of mystic knowledge at rest, how much greater if effort was put into the task?

21 July 2005

Why North Is Not Always Up

Once again, just as I am poised to spill the beans, the real world scoops me. Or not. So I'll save my conspiracy theories for the moment.

I had an interesting conversation the other day. I was training a new contractor to take up some of our workload in anticipation of a Zero hour that is expected to coincide with August 1. Things will then return to the normal level of mind-unraveling frenetic here at work. Naturally that will precipitate a long pause in blog updates, or perhaps a series of longer pauses.

Anyway. I was talking of my work-related sojourn to Alabama with this trainee. It is noteworthy that he appears to be of Indian descent, possibly first generation American. He made a comment that reflected that the old stereotypes about Southron "Good Ole Boys" were alive, well, and prospering. I pointed out that while I certainly found strong evidence of rampant Conservative Christianity, there was no racism evidenced in the places that I visited. I went on to say, before I caught myself, that while there were still traces of the Old Ways, Southroners in general had become largely "Westernized".

Now wasn't that a strange thing to say?
I cannot even claim that I was consciously using a language more suitable to my audience. I don't normally do that (to an extent that I am aware). Nor is the term "Westernized" a normal part of my speaking vocabulary. "Y'all", on the other hand, makes a regular appearance - making a sailor's dive from my lips into the cauldron of conversation.

For as strange a thing as it was to say, it seemed the right term to use in that context. The definition of 'Westernized' is particularly bland. It is more informative to define what we typically uphold as a contrast to the trappings of Westernization. What comes to my mind immediately is the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. The majority of the population lives in traditional Muslim culture while all 4000 or so of the Saudi Princes jet-set around living it up in a fashion that is common to Western Capitalists. Thus the contrast in this case is a culture that is deeply rooted in religious tradition, typically poor, subservient to its rulers in a feudalistic or tribal hierarchy, and relatively poor access to a 'liberal' (non-religious) education.

As you can see, there is a huge difference between the 'backwards' culture that I describe and the stereotypical Southron American man: most middle-eastern Muslims simply hate Westerners whereas the xenophobia of the Southroner is much more pervasive.

So I suppose that 'Westernized' must refer to a culture found near an imaginary "pole" that is located significantly north of the Mason-Dixon line.

My apologies to any Southron folk that take offense. I would wager, however, that anyone who does take offense can also take you aside and tell you that most Southerners "....aren't like that hereabouts. But now, you go visit that town in the next county? You know the one? Now that is like being in the Land That Time Forgot!"

10 July 2005

Turn Your Coat and Cough

On July 6, 2003, Joseph C. Wilson the 4th was published in the Op-Ed section of the New York Times, where he stated:

"I have little choice but to conclude that some of the intelligence related to Iraq's nuclear weapons program was twisted to exaggerate the Iraqi threat."

I suppose that it is a bit late to say this, but I suddenly realised who the Prime Mover behind the Valerie Plame leak is.

I was reading Frank Rich's latest treatise on the ultimate developments of the same issue, and while surfing over his hyperlink back to Wilson's article I dashed my brains on the shoals of insight. I'll omit where the surf-board hit me.

I'll expand on this tomorrow, I have work to do now.

09 July 2005

There's a Hole In My Bodkin, Dear Liza, Dear Liza

Message from Alabama - summary and prologue

So, how'd I come to be here, and what's with the disjoint continuity??

Kind reader, the fact is that I am lucky to have any access to media services beyond rudimentary telecommunication. When I suddenly achieved blog update capability, I felt it my duty to convey the most amusing tidbits available - in case this ability turned out to be fleeting. I have managed to configure an Outlook accout at work to receive e-mail from my personal accout, but it seems incapable of sending anything. I am, however, getting ahead of myself.

How did I come to be ejected out into tornado Alley?
Greed did play a large role. On June 28 or 29 (I forget which) my boss sauntered in awkwardly and sat down. [That sounds an odd, doesn't it? perhaps an awkward meander would be a better description?] The very fact that he was willing to remain in the hot room long enough to sit down was sufficient to gather my attention. He stammered something about how one of the other company facilities was experiencing difficulties and was significantly shorthanded; since our facility was relatively inert (sufficient for me to be concerned about being cast off for a month or so) would I be willing to willing to go down to Alabama for 2-4 weeks to help them out?

I thought for a moment. I realised that I was not on the verge of completing a major symphony. I did not recall any significant upcoming exams, probably due to my not being enrolled in any classes. Nor would I be leaving anyone of either sex at the altar if I was away over-long.

"Sure" I said.

My boss told me that I would be flying down there on Sunday, July 3, and then watched apologetically as I contemplated the best protocol for withdrawing my jaw from the floor.

The short version of the rest of the story is that the preparations for such a long away were relatively painless compared to the same endeavours as percieved in my mind's periscope. A minor hitch or three have occurred, but overall results have been positive - Yours Truly should bear no evidence of permanent scarring.

Positive ramifications are manifold.
One: I get to stay for free in a fancy home that the company took over in recent years.
Two: all my foodstuffs and related consumables will be reimbursed by said company.
Three: they even sprang for a rental car (this eliminates the need for a second person to act as a taxi service). Dashboard design aside, I am liking the 2005 Toyota Camry.
Four: (and not entirely foreseen) I am getting lotsa working hours. They generate the same products here as at the Chicago facility, but have all different customers. This mandates different tests to qualify the material for the customer's specifications. While there are similarities and differences between the procedures of the two facilities, the similar things are often done differently, and add to the completely foreign methods I must learn.
Five: while I am riding an ersatz gravy train here, I am not at home augmenting the sortfall of energies that must be supplied by the utilities.
Six: while being away for so long, my car will be idle for an unprecedented number of consecutive days. I took swift advantage of this by delivering it to my mechanics on July 1. At the time of this writing, a palpable drain on my finances indicates to me that their arcane manner of posturing around my horseless carriage has reached its climax. Hopefully that means that meine auto has regained its superb fuel economy. That will be most welcome for the imminent gasoline crisis that will materialize in approximately Q3 of 2006. If not sooner.

In short: Having a good time. Wish you were here sweating your balls off (instead of me). Suffering withdrawal for lack of unrestricted internet and e-mail access. Money and rental car good, weather ambivalent, tornadoes bad, don't whiz on the electric fence.

I have been told that I "talk like a Northerner, but ya dress like a Southroner."

Truthfully, I do like it here.

Now if only I could sleep for more than 5 hours a day....

08 July 2005

How Not To Be Seen In All The Old Familiar Places

Message from Alabama III

12 hour shifts are hardly new to me, so it was with some consternation I realised Monday night that my eyelids were bound and determined to engage in Greco-Roman wrestling. Similar occurred on Tuesday night, when I should have been much more rested than on the previous evening/morning/moment/eon/epoch/period/age. Ultimately, I determined that my symptoms were a product of my environment.

In Chicago, it had been warm of late. Warm/hot at work, and warm/cool at home. Typically I switch on a window air conditioner when I feign death, but of late I had become concerned that the power requirements of that unit were not being properly met. I had been trying (with little success) to get by without it until a relevant solution appeared. [That issue has yet to be addressed, so back to this one.] When I considered what was new or different about this Southron environment I could only pick out two interrelated factors. The air conditioning works here, and I am in it for a substantial time. At my job in Chicago, the building has air conditioning, but my corner of it is by far the hottest room or area within it.

Aha! So, the problem appears to be that the A/C here is making me cold and somehow sleepy. No problem, instead of just the T-shirt, I shall don a long sleeved shirt!
That is to say, I would - if I had one with me. In truth, I do have one. It is a nice dark royal blue dress shirt that is a blend of cotton and silk fibres. It is my precious. It is also not going to venture near a fithly lime kiln.

Whilst I was packing, I considered bringing several sleeved shirts. I dismissed the idea, however, since some miscreant had planted within my skull the notion that Alabama was hot. To be sure, its a bit warm here, but no more so than was Chicago when I left it. Apparently the significant meterological feature of Alabama is the humidity. This is a side-effect of Alabama being located within that special place called "tornado alley". When tropical storms saunter by (as they are wont to do) they have an annoying habit of sending rainstorm heralds to announce their potential arrival. This causes it to rain here a bit more often (and more suddenly) than might be normal in Chicago or elsewhere. So a sudden rainstorm in the middle of the afternoon which clears quickly to re-admit the powerfull sunshine gives rise to some nifty humidity. The locals tell me that it gets so humid that one has trouble breathing. (I'm all a-tingle in my nether regions with anticipation of this new sensation.) Digressions on weather patterns aside, I'm still up Alabama without a sleeved shirt.

Well, through the miracle travesty of Karl's dressing habits and the properties of cotton fabrics, I managed to solve the problem anyway. At this moment, I am alert, lucid, and functional at 4am. The fact that I am wearing two T-shirts is not a coincidence.

I know.
You are ever-so-glad that I could share that with you.

That's what I'm here for.

28 June 2005

Quick reaction to headlines

Such interesting things happening: where to start?

Most noteworthy is CNOOC late attempt to buy Unocal - but that deserves a separate blog. Its actually a big enough topic where a cursory treatment doesn't do it justice.

Recently read about the "Evicted Three" - three young pro-Kerry people that got kicked out of one of Cheerleader W's "Social Security" forums for having a liberal bumpersticker on their car. If you haven't heard of it, that pretty much sums it up. The bumper sticker said "No Blood For Oil". They had tickets from a local congressman, and were stopped on their way in by one of the "extended" White House flunkies who was acting like a Secret Service agent. Oddly, the Secret Service says no, it wasn't one of theirs, and allegedly they are looking into it as a criminal investigation (which in itself is strange). Anyway, a liberal group is footing the bill for them to go to Washington and protest getting thrown out for that. In an ironic twist (I'm getting a real charge out of this!) some of the most White House freindly conservative Congressmen are coming out in support of them since the whole issue smacks of a Free Speech (or Assembly) violation. There was even a remark from a congressman like this: if W is only preaching to the choir, isn't that counterproductive?
Rah-rah! Go Evicted Three!

Mister Grey, former head of the FBI under Nixon, is feeling betrayed now that it turns out that his trusted #2 was the one that broke the Watergate story. Well golly. Apparently Mr. Gray didn't quite understand the terms of his posting. Mr. Grey, it says quite clearly in your job description that you don't get to complain or feel betrayed.

The Supreme Court refused to hear the case of Miller and Cooper, reporters who will now be jailed for contempt of court in what I ironically am led to call "the Valerie Plame affair." Ironic because her name becoming public is the guiding theme of this whole circus. I do sympathize with the reporters, but the legal precedent in Branzburg does ~not~ protect the reporters from the arena of a grand jury hearing (if I read it correctly). The precedent set there is clear enough to make the matter a non-issue.

There was at least one more thing in the news....

... ah well, thats probably enough entertainment for today.

23 June 2005

Send Bolton to the Sudan! Please???

As I previously telegraphed, the topic is John R. Bolton.
Why him? Why now? Why are some legislators that I otherwise
respect (e.g. Sen. John McCain) supporting him? And just... why?

When I think of the United States' Representative to the United Nations, I picture a kindly gentleman schooled in the subtleties of statesmanship. I imagine an atmosphere of negotiations, where an economy of international relations is transacted in the coin of prudently chosen words of goodwill.

The stark reality callously betrays my idealism.

I did some diggin' around on the 'net. At first I wasn't sure where to start. I'd been following the story in the NYT, and outside of overt support from the left (esp. Cheney) there hasn't yet been any significant reasons given why this thug should be Representative to the United Nations. Without a clear motive and no significant clues in the news articles I had little to start with. I didn't bother trying conservative websites, they'd only rehash the say-nothing tagline the White House has been using. The past usually makes a good starting point for understanding the current situation. So, who were the previous Reps to the U.N.?

A quick search reveals that John C. Danforth was the last Representative, with a tenure of 6 months (????), and before him John D. Negroponte. Those are interesting names, and we got more Johns' than a whorehouse already!

Go ahead and read up on Negroponte first, I'll wait right here.
All of a sudden his new job as Spook Master makes more sense, doesn't it?

The important part for this discussion is that for 2001-2004 (when, for his faithful dervice, he got shipped off to darkest Iraq!) he was W's point man for trying to bully the Security Council into going along with resolutions against Iraq. Aha! The plot thins! Now Bolton makes sense! Also bully-boy would be helpful to the Neo's for the upcoming expansion of the U.N. Security Council. More members means the U.S.'s influence on the council will be diminished. So the conservatives came up with a plan - we'll support you as a candidate for the Security Council if you agree to not gaining veto power until a later date. Much later.
Here's yet another situation at the U.N. Bolton should be well prepared for.

Danforth doesn't fit this picture though. I like this guy. He's written several opinion peices since resigning from his U.N. post. Often suggesting that conservatives are only hurting themselves by going along with the Christian extremists.

Here's an article that I found really interesting though:
It has been an important time to be in this position, especially as we attempt to enlist greater U.N. participation in the future of Iraq, and as we advance the interest you have personally shown in helping the desperate people of Sudan."

"the interest you have personally shown" ???
Having read this man's writings, and thinking what I do about W - I think that was a swipe!
W is personally interested in not being accused of ignoring the Sudan conflict, but otherwise I am sure his attention flags.

It seems clear that Danforth's experience as a mediator in the Sudan was poor preparation for the dissonance of the U.N. I rather think he would have resigned (or been asked to resign) from the U.N. had his wife not been ill.

So that's why Bolton.
W needs someone who can bully the security council and threaten the Islamic nations that think that terrorism is a 'right'. If he has any spare time, he can go back to trying to force Dr. El Bardei, ther head of the IAEA to resign. Man's gotta have a hobby I guess.

The good news is that, much like Negroponte, Bolton doesn't have much hope of being appointed by the Senate. They only caved on Negroponte a few days after 9/11.

So there's still some hope for a bright future.

21 June 2005

Ahhhhhh, the pain!

Its been a while, so I apologise for the lull.

I have scarcely done anything but work, so I didn't have much to blog about. What I did percieve happening politically, and did intend to blog about - W losing his mandate, some republicans wriggling free of the party straitjacket, and Dr. Frist made to look bullheaded (W-esque) by 7 'rogue' Reps forging a compromise with 7 Dems - was all covered fairly succinctly in the New York Times. In fact, so many things are going not quite so well for our Cheerleader-in-Chief that I may well reduce the effort and requency of my disaffection.

Many years ago (early 1990's I think) I was watching the NFL draft on ESPN. They had the 'war room' cams going at several team headquarters, including for Jerry Jones' Dallas Cowboys. Now, I suppose that there must be many people with good things to say about Jerry Jones. I can only recall how upset Russell Maryland was when he was told (camera footage of Jerry talking to Russell, who had put down the weights he was lifting and was visibly upset) by Jerry that his contract WAS being restructured so that Jerry could raise the money to offer a one-year contract to some baseball player. On this particular draft day, Jerry wasn't getting what he wanted. I gathered that he had been trying hard to trade up into the top 8 picks or so (I think they were coming off of a Super Bowl victory, making the task that much harder). It was simply not happening. So there was Jerry, on live TV, losing his cool in a fit of frustration in his war room. It was beautiful.

I loved it. It was much better than 'Cats'. I laughed. I cried laughed. I want to see it again and again.

I want to believe that somewhere, in the White House, W is having a fit. Just like that. That bullheaded, obstinate man that we caught a glimpse of during the first debate with Kerry when he let his cool facade slip. He's punting the designer wastebasket and flinging poll results across the room.
Ahhhhhhhh. Such a wonderful image.

I do have something to blog about today.
You may have noticed in the past - um, I probably blogged about this previously - that I was at a significant loss for why a Neocon policy maven like Bolton would be nominated as Representative to the United Nations. More to the point, why would he want to go there??
It would seem to me that he would be happier in the State Department bullying analysts and skimming secret communiques.

So, I did me some of that thar interweb suff'rin.

It had suddenly occurred to me to compare Bolton to previous Reps to the U.N. I found what I was looking for. Not quite a smoking gun, but enough to satisfy me.

I don't recall who the Rep to the U.N. was under Clinton. W nominated John Negroponte early in 2001. His reputation... or..

hmmm, time got away from me again.
I'll finish this Tomorrow as a separate blog entry.
However, heres a chance for you kids to try and guess what I know.

John Negroponte UN Rep 2001 - 2004, then sent to Iraq as ambassador
John C Danforth UN Rep 2004, resigned after 6 months

Gentlemen, start your browsers.

31 May 2005

Cogito ergo kama sutra

It's been a while, yes.
Mostly I've been working, but there has also been an interesting pause of sorts on multiple political fronts. I'll say something about that soon. I'll have to because, from my perspective, there is an interesting and unusual power shift taking place. Hell, I may be wrong again, but we'll see.

For now I thought I'd mention something on the Oldsmobile front.
Due to workload, I'm prevented (in general terms) from getting Oldsmobile-related things done. Most of my usual free time is immediately after work. I am variously prevented, however, from using that time for car work.
Firstly, the car area is out in the open, so I am at the mercy of the weather. Then there is the after-work problem - it is always at an awkward time of day. After second shift its too dark. After third shift... well, I just dont care to be hammering away at 8am; that strikes me as bad form from a neighborly perspective. [I don't know why I care - the neighbors seem to hate me] That leaves what daylight remains after first shift, which is workable. The problem there is that the first-shift guy (the "day-slave" as I call it) gets run around and generally abused such that I'm often feeling too drag-ass to do anything constructive.

I do keep some car parts indoors, and for some time I have rather wished that I could do some things inside. Most of what I need to do involves grinding rust off of parts, and that would generate airborn mettalic particles which would generally be bad for everything from the carpet to my stereo equipment. I do store some flammables in the bathroom, and have been cleaning some small parts, but it really hasn't been that fruitful. Not like it should be.

Yesterday I realised that there was a fairly simple solution: I can work indoors, I just need to prepare for it properly. {ooops, pepsi evaporated again} What I intend to do is fabricate something like a blasting cabinet. The purpose of such a unit is to contain and recycle blasting media. I don't have a media blaster, and I don't intend to buy one, but I would like to restrain any metal particulate matter to the area in which I am working. What I mean to build is more in the vein of a glove box. Well, a glove box the size of a large blasting cabinet. I don't know why I didn't think of this sooner, since I already have a majority of the materials I will need: plastic sheeting, wood scraps, and a table with a metal top. I have previously used my small Hoover 'cannister' (its not a proper cannister, but I call it that) vacuum for car/shop related jobs so that will serve for cleaning the interior of the glove box.

Of course, a commonly recurring theme will re-appear now as my current impediment. I need to clean up a bit in here to make room for this endeavor. Funny how that keeps happening. Its a goal that I seem to approach tangetially. Or is that asymtotically?

I'm starting to beleive that the Zeroth Law of Termodynamics is wrong. Simply stated as an equation; E > 0, or entropy is positive. It is expressed as "entropy increases" with the implication that it perpetually increases. One expression of that law is the phrase "nature abhors a vacuum." If entropy increases, then disorder propagates and displaces order, and a vacuum is a nice orderly lack of anything in particular. I think I'll go ahead and take that one further. I think the situation is much more pronounced than that.

Its not that nature abhors a vacuum.
Nature abhors my vacuum.

That would satisfactorily explain the mess in here.

18 May 2005

Our Father, Who Art in America, Hallowed be Thy Name

That little dialogue about abortion directed my thought in a direction that they had seldom traveled before. As a result, I suddenly realised that America no longer has Freedom of Religion.

America's ties to religious freedom began in 1681 with the founding of Pennsylvania, "a holy experiment in religious toleration." and was crystallized in the First Amendment to the Constitution. "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof;" It is in modern times, after 300 years of success, that this freedom is being curtailed. I would submit that the spirit of this freedom has already been destroyed.

Allow me to explain with a rather extreme example.

Since we have Freedom of Religion, Freedom of Speech (and inferentially 'freedom of expression'), and Freedom of Assembly, any otherwise law-abiding citizen (such as myself) is free to create and subsequently observe any crackpot religion of his choosing. I'll make the rash assumption that you agree to the last statement.

So...... as an example, I am herewith forming a crackpot religion.

My new deity is the Great Dismembered Foetus who reigns on high from his Shattered Womb of Heaven.

(Yeah, its tasteless, but I do have a point coming....)

As a minor tenet of my new religion, practitioning females will willingly have abortions performed, by the "Dilation and Extraction" method. Yes, this religion involves partial birth abortions.

You can already, without my assistance, detect a problem with my new religion.
Right from the inception of my new Holy Cause, my religion, and its practices are subject to persecution. Despite the "freedom" that I am alleged to enjoy.

"Karl, you dumbass, you are intentionally using an extreme example in an effort to distort the facts!"

Extreme, yes M'lud, guilty as charged. I have not, however, distorted anything.
[Speaking of distortions, you might note on that last link, that the D&X method accounts for a mere 0.85% of all Ohio abortions in 1999. Isn't it odd that prevention of so rare a practice requires an overt act of Congress?]

The concepts that "all life is sacred" and "abortion is bad", or even "evil", are borne of religious convictions and not requirements of civil law. As you can see in my extreme example, the insertion of religious views into the legal code is only to the detriment of Religious Freedom.

And infringes upon my Constitutional right to worship the Great Dismembered Foetus.

14 May 2005

To Tree, or not to Tree

It looks like I posted about abortion after all.
I meant to lead up to it, but then I seemed to strike the right vein, and just kept going with it.
I thought it went well.

Going to be far busier than I had imagined. The money will be proportionally good. No. Exponentially good. I'm looking at 68 hours next week.

I'm mostly using this space now because I think I came up with an ending for "sorrow" and I wanted to get it down without too much distraction.

Fred was losing focus. His perspective had slowly been drifting from a subjective bystander to an objective one. He no longer sensed the wind on his skin or rustling his hair, but he felt the wind. It pushed at him playfully; he could sway gently with it, but never yeild. He sensed the sustaining earth beneath him and the airy sky above - and at the same time the world was fading from his eyes. He realised that the pain was subsiding, and then the memory of his wounds was gone.

He heard a noise. Sobbing? He looked/felt/sniffed around and detected a figure huddled against the trunk of a tree. It was Morgaine. And Fred was the tree. That puzzled him for a moment. She was caressing the tree and calling his name. He thought he should say something but found no voice, only the rustle of his leaves in the wind and the creaking of his branches.

Fred had a last fleeting memory of holding her in his arms. He thought he should do that now... before that memory fades as well. Then he found he had no arms to reach for her with. He had only branches now, and they could grasp only at the sky.

A breeze sighed through helpless branches.

13 May 2005

Of Specks and Boulders, Beams and Splinters

I know, I'm late.
I owe you lot a dialogue on abortion.
All of my sheduled 8-hour shifts grew to 12-hour shifts, so perhaps you'll understand that I simply don't have time at the moment to lay awake pondering the existence of Dog.

However, in anticipation of that dialogue - no, thats wrong, at best it is a soliloquy - here is a follow-up thought on the soul and yet more about what I believe.

I was talking about how unscrutable the soul is. If there is re-incarnation of the soul, how many souls are there total? There are 6 billion people on the face of the earth at this moment, so at present there are at least that many souls, right? Thats quite a large number of souls. What were they all doing before there were 6 billion corporeal entities to inhabit? Hanging out at a Nirvanic laundromat?

As part of research for my attempts at writing fiction, I have been trying to learn something about Hinduism. I was digesting this heady work when I came across this statement:

"Let the wise man, having examined the world and perceived the motives and the results of actions, realize that as from a blazing fire sparks proceed, living souls originate from the indestructible Brahman and return to Him. All doubts disappear and the attachment to work subsides when the Supreme Being is cognized."

A quaint little bit of circumspection with some interesting ramifications. Not only does this outlook make a tidy explanation for re-incarnation, but at the same time, it identifies God as greater than the sum of many parts. A gestalt of souls, if you will.

And now for something completely different.

The Quakers among the original colonists came here seeking freedom from religious persecution. That specific freedom, of all those freedoms that we enjoy, was the specific impetus that formed this nation. The other freedoms followed as a matter of course. Unfortunately, freedom of religion appears to have evolved into "freedom to practice conservative christianity," even at the expense of other freedoms.

Separation of Church and State is an important principle of American Government, and must remain so in the interest of religious freedom. It is not separation of the Christian Church from the State, but the divesture of all religions from government apparatus. For freedom of religion to be maintained, there must be balance, not bias. Murder is a crime not because it is specifically mentioned in the Ten Commandments, but because murder is contrary to the interests of social order.

If abortion is a political football, it should not be so. As I mentioned before, I believe abortion should be regulated better. Pregnant women should have the benefits of all the counseling or guidance that they could ever want. Anyone that doesn't like what happens in those places should chastize their randy male children instead of perpetrating social disorder. That book with all the thump-marks on it contains a word that's been overlooked far too often. The word is forgiveness; it starts at home and is not supposed to end, ever.

The so-called "Pro Life" movement consists largely of conservative Christians, and they desire that abortion be banned because it is against the laws of their God. I say that they are suburbanites with too much time on their hands and a burning case of "Not In My Backyard."

They claim that all life is precious, but I don't remember hearing much of a fuss from them about ethnic cleansing in Darfur, or Rwanda, or Yugoslavia. One would think that a greater hue and cry would be raised over such atrocities. This leads me to believe that some lives must be more precious than others. It would seem that the exchange rate for sentient beings has grown out of proportion, making foriegn lives worthless compared to domestics. If that is the case, perhaps Congress can regulate it due to their authority in matters of commerce. Perhaps this imbalance is an application of the 'new math.' They'll have to explain it to me someday.

These groups are only some of those that intend to affect the U.S. government by installing pro-life judges so as to bias the judiciary in the same way that the legislature and the executive branches have already been affected. The only possible result from this is an end to religious freedom. Speech will be the next casualty (it is already being affected) and assembly is sure to follow.

Once again our very way of life is imperiled by religious extremists: our very own conservative Christians.

May God help us all.

05 May 2005

Soul What?

My friend Jim asked me to expound a bit about abortion, but his question was more philosophical than political, so its a bit difficult to assail that all in one go. I'll tackle the impossible part today, then the possible tomorrow, and Saturday, and Sunday...

The main stumbling block is his definition of abortion. Which I am not certain that I understand. Apparently the foetus must be transformed to a person from mere flesh and blood by the addition of a soul before it is considered a living person, which would then make termination of same a killing.

I don't follow that reasoning at all. First of all, pinpointing the moment that the foetus becomes a person or is imbued with a soul is masturabatory philosophy. You can argue about that all you want and all you will get is tired.

What is a soul? Where does it come from? Where does it go to? Is there reincarnation of the same soul or does every person get a brand-spanking new soul? Do animals have souls? If so, how far down the animal kingdom do you have to go to locate non-soul species? And then what about ghosts: is a ghost a soul? If so, is a ghost a 'trapped' soul?

I cannot answer those questions, nor do I intend to try.

I will mention that the conversation we had about this was fairly lively. I had to say that I could not accept the concept of a new soul being created at a particular time in the evolution of the foetus. Multiple independent spontaneous miracles like that seems to be a bit too miracle-intensive.

If I had to commit to a philosophy of God's intervention in the world, then I prefer to think of God as the Clockmaker. The Clockmaker fashions a clock (the world), bringing a complex and intricate machine into being through the sheer force of His divine will. He winds it up, then sits back to watch it run.

"And just how does that explain Jesus?" Jim countered.

"Jesus," I replied, "is daylight savings time."

03 May 2005

We want information. Information. Information!

"You won't get it."

"By hook, or by crook, we will."

Somehow this has been a consistent theme throught my life.
I never seem to possess, or have at hand, the information that I need to properly proceed in my duties and responsibilities. There were some early occurrances in my childhood, but the amount of repetition in my "professional life" (it iss a stretch to call it that) is staggering.

When I worked at a Hazardous Waste facility, I was the lead man on night shift. For the most part I was (unwittingly) the man to talk to if you needed anything, but I still didn't have all the answers. It became clear after a time that the boss was talking about new developments/procedures with the guys on day shift, and somehow thinking that by telling them, he was communicating with me, too. This was never more obvious than the day the EPA raided us. They popped in about 5am and gathered us all into one building so they could conduct some interviews without anyone leaving. They asked to speak to "crazy Carl". That was apparently a reference to me. [I typically wore a camoflage bandana, and I presume that this was one of the reasons that the operators were calling me "Jeffery Dahmer". It is germane to mention that these operators were the "general labor" of hazardous materials, culled from the finest that East Chicago, Indiana had to offer. Naturally,
these poor lads were any oblivious to any serial killers that didn't make headlines during their lifetime. It also doesn't take a huge leap of intuition to realize that it was a former operator that called the EPA. Anyway...] The EPA guys asked me about places that seemed of great importance to them, yet that I had never, ever heard of. What was really unfortunate about the episode was that we would have loved to toss the whole company "under the bus" (as my boss was fond of saying), but the EPA guys weren't interested in how poorly we were treated. Those issues were not within their jurisdiction, and we didn't know anything damning that was.

Then there was the time I worked at an oil refinery. Due to the predisposition of most materials contained within to go "boom", there is a significant amount of safety training required. Also, everyone's outer layer of clothing MUST be flame-retardant Nomex. Someone conveniently didn't tell me that last one. They issued me a Nomex jumpsuit for the duration, and when it got cold I wore a coat over it. I had at least three VERY confusing conversations that in retrospect were adressing the Nomex issue, but it was not until later that someone explicitly told me what the problem was. (This leads me to a corollory that I'll mention in a bit.)

That was when I came up with the most appropriate way to describe it: "discovered check".
I can not act without discovering that I am doing something wrong.

The corollory to "discovered check" is a related phenomena that I don't have a catchy name for... yet. I also become party to conversations that make absolutely zero sense to me, but ultimately turn out to be related to "discovered check".

I was entering the refinery and this guy Julian stoped me and talked to me. I remember his name, and that he asked about the jacket I was wearing, and that something seemed important to him, but to this day I haven't the slightest idea what he wanted. Apparently he was concerned about the Nomex issue. One would think he would SAY that to me.

After driving for hours on Michigan state highways on a moonless night I arrived in Lansing. I already had a hotel room reserved, so my first errand was to locate a liquor store. It was not at all obvious that the first one was closed until I had gotten out of the car, so I got back in and resumed my search. I was then pulled over by a police car. This is a direct quote of the first thing the officer said:
"Isn't it kind of dark out?" (expectant pause)

You might possibly begin to grasp at how utterly dumbfounded I felt at that moment. It turned out that I had failed to turn on my headlamps when I returned to the car. That corner of Lansing was positively lit up like the sun compared to the roads that I had been driving on less than an hour before, so it's not at all unreasonable that my brain did not grasp the current need for illumination. The punch line for that story is that the officer then obliged me by directing me to the nearest liquor store.

Those are just shining examples. This sort of thing happens altogether too often. Yes, yet again today it occurred. "Discovered check" reared its ugly head at work. Yet again what I've been doing for a year now was wrong. Or I was under-informed. Whatever. I think what actually happened was this: a clash of realities. On the one hand, its likely that I was trying to enact what my boss proscribed, which in reality conflicted with what the operators and the company lab guys were doing (I'm a contractor here). I had been aware of only one instance of such a conflict before, and didn't really expect that the schizm was more pervasive. I am of the mind that I am not prepared to continue with this: being caught between what the boss says and what the techs/operators do when I am the one without any job security.

However, lacking information, it appears that I was not prepared at all.

28 April 2005

To Thine Own Self Be Cruel

It has been suggested that I had ought to outline what things I support if I am going to go casting aspersions on arbitrary other agencies. That would establish the persona and quantify whatever credibility the author may have. Actually, I have been thinking of doing just that. I don't however know of an apropriate (or easily portable) label that describes what I beleive in.

I'll just take it from the top then, shall I?

I beleive in God; I was raised as a Midwestern Baptist. I'm not particularly devout, and certainly not evangelical in practice.

As a scientist, why do I beleive in God? My life's experiences have brought me to the conclusion that a God must exist. I do beleive [ARGH] believe that it is the ultimate vanity to think that "my" god is different from "their" god. I have heard this philosophy described thus: "There is one god, he has many faces." Furthermore, I believe that in the hereafter, Stuart Copeland will sit at the right hand of the Almighty (
Neil Peart ).

Politically... well, I'll call myself a Libertarian-leaning
Centrist until I find a better label. I agree with the Libertarians up to a certain point. That point is where the extreme "Constitution in Exile" Libertarians live. I may tend to agree that the Federal Government is too excessive and overreaching, but I believe that we need the regulatory agencies (such as the EPA) that the "Exile" Libertarians would like to do away with.

Libertarians firmly believe in personal freedoms. I believe in the lowest common denominator; the human animal is consistently self-serving and in general will take advantage of any absence of regulation.

Abortion/Gay marriage. These two subjects are not related, but are treated the same in my philosophy. There are those who favor Constitutional amendments to ban either. My belief is based on the document that precedes the Constitution. The signers of the Declaration of Independence cited "...certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness." If you as an American accept this as a guiding principle, then you also have no right to impede, hamper, stigmatize or castigate anyone else's "pursuit of Happiness," whatever the goal or object of their happiness may be. Live and let live, what other people may want to do is none of your damn business.

I also believe that the legislature and its system of checks and balance in the federal government has become flawed in modern times. The President should not have allegiance to any political party in the legislature. Explain to me please: how can Emperor W possibly be impeached (I'm not saying here that he should be, I am saying that the framers of the Constitution intended for impeachment to be a normal process when neccessary) when a majority of the legislature support him as his fellow Republicans?? What was intended as a representative government has degenerated to two warring factions of political idealogies that simply can not (and sometimes has no intention to) function in the best interest of its constituents.

I believe that Social Security was a wonderful idea. It works; it may need a little tweaking to work better (be properly funded), but it does work.

If any Constitutional amendment is necessary, then I believe it should be amended to allow the legislature explicit authority to create, oversee, and dissolve when neccessary, Federal regulatory agencies. The Constitution, as it stands, authorizes congress to regulate commerce between states and with other nations, as well as regulation of the military, and all monetary policies.

I believe in government and corporate transparency... and....

I believe that my knees are burning?
They are both physically warm to the touch. Damn, I haven't even done anything today. I suppose its more to do with actually being idle. At work I've been walking as much as 10 miles in eight hours, up from the typical 6 miles. So I guess its the sudden relative exertion followed by relative inaction. Not to mention I didn't feel the need to take my after-work knee-related "dietary supplements". How amusing would it be if this is a kind of withdrawal?

Survey says this blog entry is over.

27 April 2005

Ist das nicht ein W?

My friend Jim recently made the suggestion that my recent attempts at creating fiction might be akin to "pulling a W."

For those that aren't familliar with that banter, it is a mocking reference to how Emperor W. made war on Iraq much as his father did. That is the intended meaning anyway.

The truth, unfortunately, is that a neo-conservative by any other name would smell just as bad.

Once again, its all about oil.
Even before Saddam, the only significant military powers in the Persian Gulf were Iraq and Iran (and it is significant that they are themselves oil producers). The Nixon doctrine called for backing "freindly" powers in the region with funding and hardware in order to protect the interests of the United States (Saudi oil). After the revolution in Iran, no friendly military powers remained in the region. Fast forward to the first Bush administration and Saddam's invasion of Kuwait.

The U.S. could not care less about Kuwait. The concept behind Operations Desert Sheild and Desert Storm was to protect (sheild) the Saudi Kingdom from possible conquest by Hussein. [The Saudi peoples are sufficiently disaffected with the Saudi Royal family that Hussein could easily have pulled off a coup similar to Hitler's annexation the Sudatenland]

Let me be absolutely clear here. You've seen on this blog how I've characterized the U.S.-Saudi relationship. The character of this relationship is very important. It is significant because every other country with a significant Islamic population is sympatico to the plight of the Palestinians and generally hate (for lack of a stronger word) the United States for supporting Isreal. The only thing that is preventing a 1970's style petroleum embargo against the United States is our cozy relationship with ths Saudis. There are other oil-producing nations, but the Saudis have so much more that they will still have untapped reserves when every other country has been pumped dry.

So, in a way, George Herbert Walker Bush was forced to go to war as a natural extension of the Nixon doctrine. There simply were no third-party options available, only direct U.S. military intervention. Under the guise of a multi-national force, of course.

Fast forward to September 11.
The assault on Afghanistan was necessary and sufficient; the country had become a safe haven for terrorists. For the neo-conservatives that came to power on Emperor W.'s coat-tails, however, this was precisely the scenario they wanted. We already had forces in the region for "legitimate" purposes; lets take out Saddam too while we're at it! [Rumsfeld was quoted as saying as much on September 12, 2001] "Neutralizing" Iraq by invasion would accomplish several things that Cheney and his pals wanted. Primarily, Saddam Hussein and his ambitions would become a non-entities in the Persian Gulf. Secondly, but more important (if also more short-sighted) for the long run, it provided a chance to "stabilize" the region with a democratic government that would (naturally) be freindly to the United States. Just in case anyone forgot, Iraq has oil too, thats another significant reason.

So, did W. "pull a W."?
My answer is no. George H. W. Bush was forced into Desert Storm as a natural result of the doctrines of preceding administrations. Emperor W always could have chosen not to make war on Iraq, but I seriously doubt that it was the W itself that made those decisions.

I know its too late to make a long story short. Why did Jim think that "Pulling a W" might apply to me? Well, I have a father too.

Should my prose be well-received, I'll accept that as a good thing.
W or no W.

20 April 2005

The Things They Do. The Things They Slay.

[not really happy with that title, but I'm tired of working on a better one]

What really infuriates me about this administration is its patent character of arrogance. I have already had my fill of "the White House denies..." over the last four years, but whats so appalling is how aptly that describes a significant number of the administration's players and supporters. Its very unsettling for me to hear some of the rhetoric that these brownshirts are doling out.

For this discussion I have to omit the actor who portrays Emperor W. Not because he isn't arrogant in his veiws. It is because when he isn't reciting speeches, the man makes no sense at all.

Rumsfeld is equally dense; "You go with the Army that you've got." Apparently you go with the Secretary of Defense that you've got too. (He's another puppet of the neoconservatives, why he's heading the DoD is beyond me)

Cheney is one of the few brains in this operation, and like Karl Rove, he's smart enough to keep a very low profile. If it weren't for news articles outlining the origins of "enemy combatants", a majority of America would scarcely have seen him since his debate with Edwards. [He mostly bellowed "You've got your facts wrong" but Edwards was pretty much correct. Since Cheney didn't say anything particularly enlightening of his own accord, all he effectively did was look like a bully. See the above statement about the last four years...]

Condoleeza Rice. I honestly do not know what to say about her. "W's pet" will do for starters. The NYTimes calls her "a scholar of Russian history." Its true, but its no accident either. I don't recall how long she's been in W's entourage, but she was earmarked very early on to be the principle Russia expert in W's future administration. (you read that right, I believe that at least 6-8 years of planning went into W's ascendency) Now, I'll respect her as a scholar, I've no trouble with that. What is remarkable is that her outlook seems to be colored by her loyalties.

In today's New York Times Online: ... she said recent trends in Russia's struggle to become a full-fledged democracy were not positive, citing increasing central control of state governments and broadcast media. But, she added, "it would be a mistake to start to think of this as somehow reverting back to Soviet times."

When I hear that kind of a statement in normal conversation, it is my cue to shut up and go away. When the other speaker has not just an opposite viewpoint, but one so badly distorted and in such a harsh contrast from what information I have access to, there simply is no middle ground for anything resembling a conciliatory attitude. (but thats just me I guess)

Anyhow, why is this arrogant? It is arrogant because it is another instance of the truth being distorted to fit W's Black and White universe. Bush and Putin (from most accounts) get on famously and may even be good friends. It would be anathema for members of this administration to label Putin a neo-Soviet (although it sounds right to me, that would make it the Russian version of a neoconservative) or otherwise paint him or his government in an unfavorable light. The fact that all forms of dissent, opposition, and even independent news sources have been marginalized (if in fact they are fortunate enough to have survived at all) must be trivial. The the blatant attempt to compromise the Ukranian government must have been similarly innocuous. [I am not going to go into the Yukos saga for good reason. The trials don't appear to be fair, but perhaps I missed something crucial: I have yet to see anyone from Yukos claim that they did not owe gazillions in taxes. If they do owe the government, thats not our concern.]
"...It would be a mistake to start to think"... sorry Condi, but I already think that, so I guess I've gotten past the mistake of starting to think that way.

The "non-Soviet leaning" Russian leadership brings me directly back to this administration. Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings and her predecessor Rod Paige have referred to top educators and their associations as "un-American" and "terrorist organizations" respectively. The educators are trying to perform their duties and responsibilities within the framework of the new "No Child Left Behind" law, and would probably prefer to hear something a little more constructive from the administration.

The list goes on and on and on. Tom DeLay and the congressional republican leadership that conspires to sheild him from ethics rules: arrogant. John R. Bolton (insert anything you want here): arrogant. The White House's defense of same (Condi Rice is on-message for this one too): arrogant.

OK fine, thats politics right? We want "our" respective people holding power so we can pursue our respective agendas. I understand that concept. Fighting to put a real turd like Bolton into office (into the United Nations of all things! He's a better candidate for Secretary of Education, if the current and former ones are indicative of desirable qualities) is positively absurd. It is presently the summit of their arrogance. I'm sure there is more to come, so it would be more appropriate to use a mathematical term: local maxima.

What really gets to me is how low down the political ladder this nonsense goes. And its not "us versus them" or even "my way or the highway" anymore. We've somehow regressed all the way back to Senator Joe McCarthy accusing everyone of being a Communist sympathiser; and especially since 9/11. Now these people in power are using phrases like "un-American" and "terrorist organisation" when dealing in national affairs. I don't have the reference handy but I read where a leader of christian conservatives said of Democrats: "They hate your God." We have freedom of religion in this country, but this guy makes it sound like one of the next 4 or 5 Constitutional Amendments will correct that.

When they were talking about the importance of values, they should have specified whose values they were talking about. Now it appears that they really meant the values of the Josef Mengele family.

I resent this administration, and their arrogance, and their lies. I am not, however, diametrically opposed to their program. It is the feral sophistry of their conservative extremism that rubs me the wrong way. Listening to them rage on, I am forced to remember that some 51% of America voted for this.

Welcome to the Melting Pot.
If you don't agree with us, we can always make it hotter for you.

13 April 2005

I Before E Except Afternoons And Evenings

Perhaps it is a disease. I keep writing everything (even freehand) in absolute contradiction to the rule. I even wrote "concieved" a few hours ago, so I am even getting the exception backward! This is extremely embarassing for one who aspires to wrestle with diction, or other politically incorrect fare. It must be a new strian of vuris.

This is a good, and fairly shrewd article on the times that bind. My only real objection is I think he's overly harsh with the media. On the other hand, I have my own reasons to think that the New York Times is a conservative-leaning wolf in non-partisan drag.

One of the contributors to the Science Fiction Blog wrote this regarding a news item:
"Truth is stranger than fiction, because fiction has to make sense." It's possible that I have taken that too much to heart. I kept trying to re-write resurgence because the introductory banter when the two characters meet never felt real to me. Instead of "Ooooh! Tell me more!" she should kick him in the balls and scream for the cops. Several rewrites later it looks like I'm writing a completely different story. So many ideas, so little focus. What I ultimately decided... um, about 12 hours ago (golly I need to get to bed) was that I need to get resurgence posted, even if its only a first draft. What I did to resolve the dialogue issue was to put it in a strophe/antistrophe format... if thats the correct term. I think it actually reads better that way. I also corrected the dead link on my home page to link to a menu containing it and future literary misdeeds.

10 April 2005

More Guns Than The Texas Legislature

Well, that was a long, interesting trip. Several people were interested in my rifle, including a man whom I rather presume was german. He apparently has a set of claw mounts such as I might need to mount a scope. I told them all that I was not interested in selling. I wonder how true that really is. At a guess, I could probably get $1500 for it which is easily thrice what I paid for it. On the other hand, I'm old-fashioned, and a romantic. Posessing a rifle chambered for a cartridge that is: a) archaic, and b) not currently mass produced by any company (8x57J), greatly appeals to me. [Norma used to make it, but last I heard (5 years ago) they no longer do] At any rate, I am feeling remiss that I did not get the german fellow's contact information.

It turns out that I cannot use stripper clips. There is a cutout guide for a stripper clip, but the 'ears' have been filed down long ago (bluing over the truncated ears). The claw-mount type scope mounts are a kind that would have to be readjusted every time you remove and replace the rifle's scope. Thus the scope would be left in place, and since the scope leaves no clearance for stripper clips (which must be held directly above the receiver and pushed down into the magazine) the cartridges were loaded manually. So now, even though I have neither the appropriate mounts or original scope, I cannot use a stripper clip because the ears are gone, and the clip would not be held properly.

I saw a WWII-issue (1943) Remington Rand Colt .45ACP with chrome finish. Very nice. Has "Property of US Govt" on the right side of the slide and looks brand new. It's also $1200. I took the vendor's buisiness card because he's also a dealer for Eagle Grips (as in for 1911 pattern pistols). Spotted a Ruger GP-100 for $340, $100 less than I paid for mine... wow.. 8 years ago?? Saw a 9mm CZ-75 in stainless, I like that design, but I'll pass on any 9mm. There was a
n Astra .45ACP pistol for $270. Should be a decent gun, and at a sweet price, but I have no practical use for a compact pistol. Kimber. One vendor was a Kimber dealer who had a nifty array of their products. Noteworthy was the 'Warrior' model. Apparently a civillian version of a SOC Marines pistol. Steel frame, black matte finish, night sights, and lower frame accessory lug for flashlights or laser dot sight. What really makes the 'Warrior' attractive is the tan (or is that Army olive?) grip panels, which appear to be rubber. Also noteworthy is that it does not have the Kimber Series II safety. I presume that is due to the Marines requiring a "series 80" saftey. I would expect the military to be picky like that. The one I saw wore a tag of $1150. The vendor also had a 'Raptor' model, but there's nothing new there, just fancy (and expensive) cosmetics. Just in case I hadn't had enough, on the way home I stopped by a Gander Mountain store that was near the fairgrounds. They also had a selection of pretty Kimbers, as well as other brands. I was not aware that they had a gunsmith on staff. I'll have to remember that.

I was standing by an older man who was peering at pretty guns at one of the vendor's tables. The man asked to inspect one of the guns and showed his IL FOID card. The vendor said "That's not valid; you have to sign it." The card dispay's the owners picture at the upper right, and right where the right edge of the card ends, there is a faint blue line on the lamination. Words on the right edge of the lamination (where there is no card underneath) say "sign name above using ballpoint pen only". I had not noticed that either. Actually, that is idiotic. You should be able to sign the card BEFORE the lamination is applied. What really happens is that, once approved, you get the card in the mail from the State, and as I recall, there was no hint about any need to sign the card. Just tiny letters in faint blue, on the hazy clear lamination.

I have to go make a bumper sticker now. It will say: "I brake for stop signs."
What a world we live in.

09 April 2005

Does a Fusillade Increase Entropy?

I was rather pleased Friday morning at work. I had about two hours of idle time in the morning and turned out about four pages of dialogue for 'Resurgence'. [That'll probably turn into one page of dialogue after I transcribe it.] Finally I have the time, and am in a frame of mind to do the transcribing, but just thinking about what I have written, I want to change it during the transcription. Some parts I want to change radically. So now I guess I need to hang on to my rough notes longer than I had intended to, just as a means of preserving the product of Friday's thought processes. Well, I guess this is another instance where the filing cabinet come in handy.

Finally, my weekend is here. As I've mentioned, I work seven straight days, then have off only about 40 hours to change to a different shift for another seven days. And so on. Then after seven days on 'first' shift I get a 4-day weekend. Thats where I am right now.


I spent a good deal of time yesterday and this morning playing Counter-Strike: Condition Zero with my clan mates, as this is also pretty much the only time that I have free time that coincides with people actually playing on our clan's server. Also last night I realised that following my not-so-recent HDD issues, I had never updated the chipset drivers. Since this is a PIII 800MHz system (obsolete), using updated drivers does actually make a significant difference in my in-game performance.
Also: ah, much better.

Off and on I worked on filling the filing cabinet, and other related 'spring cleaning' functions. I think I have a majority of the catalogues filed; a small victory won over the encroaching chaos. I have a sudden urge to give each file a discrete name in order to starkly contrast each one to the other, permanently establishing this compartmentalized order.

My friend Jim asked me if $660 sounded reasonable for a Kimber. I knew that name, but I guess I had not grasped the sheer sleekness of their products. As it turns out, I should think that $660 was a steal, depending of course which model is being considered. The polymer frame models sell for a bit less than the other models. Of course, the real problem was in my seeing these wondrous things, because now I want one. (The Royal Custom II appeals to me, but if there are any examples still available of the 25th Anniversary Custom Limited Edition (2004), that should be a nice peice at a very reasonable price.) Its foolishnes, of course, but that fact doesn't blunt the perceived longing for a new 'toy'. So I'm going to the Kane County Gun Show tomorrow. Hopefully several hours spent looking at the pretty guns will cure me of the new desire. Of course, there are practical purposes for going. My rifle needs proper scope mounts 'smithed on, and I need to locate stripper clips that will fit it in order to chamber the sweet 8x57J goodness. Its typically a good long ride out to the better events, not to mention I work on 3 out of 4 weekends, so I only go to these shows once in a great while.

Which of course reminds me that I need to awaken in 6 hours to get on the road.

05 April 2005

Spring Cleaning

But first, a bit of fun!

Mr. Anon! A. Mouse writes: "Everything that you write is automatically copyrighted by yourself, so there's no need to do anything special if you wish to reserve all rights to your writings."

The legalese goes this way: That is very true for this blog, for multiple reasons. In general, once I "fix" anything onto paper or recordable media (includes HDD's such as wherever this server's storage media is), I secure copyright to it. (Note: What if I lose the media and it doesn't have my name on it? I'll come back to that.) This blog automatically encodes the date and time, and has (sometimes) my likeness over in that area, so there is little question of whom created it when. Thus the copyright is automatically, and obviously, attributed to me.

If my normal website (well.... for certain values of 'normal' anyway) happens to be disorganised, or incomplete, then (this is my interpretation) copyright of material on those pages is automatic, yes, but ownership is a bit vague. You can tell ownership of the web page from the META tags (whoops, those aren't filled in), or the associated "about me" page (oops, it doesn't exist, or the link is broken), but there could be a problem if its not obvious. That's why folks like to use the explicit notices on their most prized work. That leaves no doubt as to ownership.

Fortunately, copyright law allows you to register for a formal copyright with the patent office (providing you act quickly) if any suits or similar issues regarding your work arise. That should protect your work adequately (given the copyright is granted, of course). So if I lose the paper with my award-winning poem on it, I can simply contact the copyright office, only to discover that I cannot remember how my poem goes....

I learned what I needed to know in any event. And perhaps I should clarify - no, I didnt lose a poem.

Another good day for me. The brutal content of my work for the next 3 days took a significant downturn at the end of today's shift. So it turns out I will not be having my rectum used to score a ringer after being propelled skyward to carrom off of the 'stone guy'. This newly revised job workload does actually rank in the 'acceptable' category, a very unexpected but delightful twist. After work I did actuall spring cleaning stuffs. I actually swept up some (not all, I didnt want to overdo it!) dead leaves and twigs in the area where my Ninety Eight resides amongst a throng of random engine parts. Sweeping dirt outdoors: I must be getting old. Then some apartmental cleaning. Again, quite a lot to do in here, but it's happening.

It turns out that the HHW event is a good ways downstate. What this means for me is that instead of breaking even for the refresher training fee, I may actually gain some money due to a fuel allowance. The agency hasn't confirmed that my prescence is needed, but a day off is good too.

04 April 2005

The Eyewashes Have It

OK. Got my HAZWOPER refresher training done and certificate in hand (well, figuratively anyhow).
I used that company last time I needed a refresher, and although their website really falls short of convincing me of their legitimacy, nobody has questioned my certificate (but then, how often do you ask to see a mechanic's credentials?).
That's taken care of anyway.

Mr Anonymous comments: "Everything that you write is automatically copyrighted by yourself, so there's no need to do anything special....."

That sounds good. "Automatic protection" however, doesn't quite sound like the America I know. Yeah, I'm probably just being paranoid, but I'd still like to see the legal-ese on that. Also, I can't beleive that "Mr. Anonymous" is spending his time at work reading my blog. On the other hand, since you're getting paid while you're heading, I'm happy to distract while you earn monies towards your next domicile.
(It is possible that I have mis-identified Mr. A, but my intuition verges on the uncanny, so I really doubt that it is a Mr. E)

I'll call that 1.5 of two pressing issues down and an unexpectedly easy day at work. I only got a speck of foreign matter in my eye once. [Saturday was horrible on my eyes: grit, quicklime and coal dust multiple times. You really don't want to know how painful coal dust is.] Very nice weather too; if I could bottle it I would forge a diction. That would probably be redundant, so I just tried to soak it in while I could. Moving down the laundry list, two items are of moderate importance: more HTML on the website, and I need to finish a draft of "Resurgence".

I cannot imagine why I decided to call the homepage "ground zero". Maybe it sounded progressive. Maybe it sounded cool. Maybe I need a good slap. There's certainly almost nothing happening there, so the Zero works. That phrase is also a designation for the rubble from the World Trade Center. I'm not particularly pious when it comes to cultural icons but thats the sort of sacred cow that I'll prefer to respect: neither milking nor slaughtering it. Perhaps something quite the opposite would be better. "Dead Zone" sounds bizzarre and perhaps pretentious. Doldrum is probably more to the point but... it's one of those words that becomes awkward in parlance. "Welcome to the Doldrum".... So is it a singular doldrum where everything is just dead? Why bother to issue a greeting? Just take a pillow and pass them around. At any rate, change is needed.

Resurgence. I really like that for the title. Not a case of multiple meanings, but multiple ways to apply the same or similar meaning. It makes a nice short story, and I certainly need to get something finished. Because after that I have an alternator to rebuild (still), more filing, multiple expressions of spring cleaning, car stuff....
(hmm.... writes down "order carburetor rebuild kit")
With the sudden spate of fair weather, I'm instantly behind in everything.

.....and thats pretty much it for now. Its way too late again, and I haven't even come up with a title. I thought of one this morning, but I've forgotten it. That title may have been more appropriate for an essay about Vladimir Putin, which I thought I was going to write about - and still will, I think. Another time. So, I'll go with a combination of HazMat and all the crap getting in my eyes on Saturday. Goodnight.

03 April 2005

Is It Safe?

I just got a 4-drawer file cabinet for $40.
OfficeMax lists these for $160 new!
(insert happy dance here)

I was visiting my brother, who lives very near where we grew up. While I was there, I excused myself and walked down the street to the GNC at the mall, to score some melatonin and Chondroitin (I tend to use the latter religiously, the former, less nowadays than I used to... so I guess its appropriate that it was also my birthday). Anyhow, the Circuit City branch that had been there had closed and was gone. Just two guys selling off the furniture & fixtures. A lotta beat up junk, including the file cabinets. And the Brother happens to have a van... YES!

Yeah, it probably shouldn't be such a big deal, but it is to me.
I have been needing this very badly. I make tornado alley destruction look like an anal-retentive's closet. Car parts, parts catalogs, car magazines, old Oldsmobile parts books, old car literature, a pamphlet about how to find parts catalogs (if you can beleive that!). That's only the automotive section. "Pack rat" probably applies to me. I am way more excited about this than I really should be. I even installed a lock on the cabinet. My brother pointed out (correctly) that it really didnt need one. Well jeez, its my parade, damn it! I'll go overboard if I want too. Hell, call it the "bling" for my new toy!
Plus I was impressed at how easy the install was... low-cost ego boost!

So that's been filling my non-work time recently. What to file, and how to file it.
Dammit, I just realised its been keeping me from working on HazMat refresher. Crap. That's time sensitive. I'd like to have it done by Friday. Sooner if possible.

I had to do a quick wash at the laundromat. Left 'Blood & Oil' at the Brother's house, so I was without my usual laundry passtime. Instead I decided to do a little writing. Ended up using the last few pages of my mileage logbook (no great loss, its unlikely I'll ever fill it up) to progress with the Sorrow story. Wrote 2-3 pages, added a new twist that I rather like. [I'm glad that I managed to distance myself mentally from the last "idea" I had for this one. That was so awful.] The experience of writing at the laundromat got me to thinking. That was probably the most casual setting that I'd written in. Sooooo.... when I was returning some filing paraphernalia today I bought a .... uh... what're these things called? Its a leather "pad holder". I had been using a VERY low-rent folder thing to carry my resumes and related certificates around in. This should be able to do double duty as a resume aid. I guess its always easy to justify luxuries if you're just willing to think too much about why you MUST have one. Anyhow, it does fulfill a perceived need. I had been keeping a tiny notepad in the car for capturing creative moments, since I'm likely to forget what the hell it was that I was thinking of. This is much easier and sturdier to write on and fits between the seat and the center console.

And speaking of poor memory, I want to snoop about the net for information about copyrighting what I've written. Is there something that I can do that will cover what I write as I am writing it? Or do I have to finish something (yeah, as if!) before any such protection can apply?

Mitaswell mention the actual birthday. The Brother hosted a family thing oestensibly for me, when in actuality I was like 3rd or 4th on the actual list of attractions. I'm the oldest child, but my younger brother is married with a boy-toddler and a girl-infant. Both of whom rated far higher than I on the scale of my parents attentions. But I showed them! I got food poisoning or something similar and eked out my personal 5 minutes of spotlight for that evening at the mere cost of my own severe discomfort. And mild embarrassment. I haven't been ill like that since before I quit drinking. Fun birthday huh?

I do have a rather pithy political dialogue coming, but I thought I'd put that off just a bit. I can use that angry energy to file more things away!

Must sleep. I'm the day-slave this week.

30 March 2005

To Be, Or To HazMat, Is That The Question?

Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to survive, or to collect a paycheck and pray it expires before you do.

While spring may or may not have arrived. The weather gives no definitive answers, but agitating the ethereal 8-ball yeilds the determination "my sources say yes".

The weather is once again warm enough for Household Hazardous Waste (HHW) pickups. The gist of it is that a township (in conjunction with the state's version of the EPA) will arrange for a HazMat company to set up a temporary staging area where the locals can come by and drop off their nasty things. Typically arranged on an odd Saturday on a large parking lot.

Working in Hazardous Materials (as I used to do full-time) requires quite a lot of training, especially in safety. Its standard for new hires to have 40 hours of training before they are allowed to be in the HazMat facility. Thats just the start. Its been years since I was fired from that job. I deserved it, but I was also very glad to go. It didn't have to be a difficult job, but that was one of the few parameters that evaded my control. The training (naturally) I get to keep. While I was unemployed, one of the odd jobs that helped was going on these little HHW pickups. The snag is that the essential HAZWOPER training requires a yearly "refresher" training. Employees sit in on a session paid for & scheduled by the company. For me, having no company, the best I can do is a $100 course on the internet. Call it an investment. I guess.

So, now I've been contracting again, at the same client for a year, and starting to get financially stable again. BUT now I work most weekends. Well there's another HHW coming up on April 9th. Miraculously I don't work that day, but my certification has expired. So, do I drop a yard and call it an investment for the next 365? This may be the only day that I can work, and if so, I'll break even at best. It'll look good on a resume, though. I'm really tempted to just take the darn day off, too.

25 March 2005

Sorry, Mohammed lives three mountains down the road.

Yesterday's concept was 'stepping stones.' Even a failed venture can have positive fruits. How, I wonder does that explain me?

Today we'll learn how to saw a lady into three bits and then dispose of the evidence.
Oh, Damn. She ran away. Even faster than the man with nine legs.

I had a great idea for a story a few hours ago. A good, funny ending too. You won't see it today. (See Jim? Ya shoulda stuck around! Thanks for the Marlinespike.) You won't see it tomorrow either. It's good enough that I think I'll mail a copy of it to myself. That's actually part of a problem I am having. The disbeleif angle. You see, I have to wonder if some of these things aren't me remembering other work. From my perspective, what I've just started writing feels a LOT like Harlan Ellison's prose. HE is one of my top 5 favorite authors, so that's more a compliment to myself if it is genuinely original work. I don't beleive that I fear success on my own merits or anything like that. I'd really hate for anything of mine to be received as really great and then be revealed as someone else's work.

You've heard the BS saw about monkeys and typewriters? BS I say. How in the world are you going to have a monkey want to type instead of running around eating, fucking, or shitting on everything? A population beginning as small as multiple millions tends to be used in the example right? There are now 6 billion people in the world today. Alive right now. I cannot fit that number into my brain. 6 billion. Now lets count backwards to the era of the printing press. Just for grins. A generation is what, 18-30 years, depending on degree of prudishness? Call it 4 generations per hundred years? (a longer rather than shorter generation is more conservative and helps correct for "losses", you know, like genocide) All the way back to 1436. Does 27 generations sound right? With a population decrease in each generation going backwards. I won't do the math but lets consider ALL of those people at once. Everyone who lived during and since the printing press was invented. More than 10 billion sound good? 12-15 billion? Sounds good to me.

So, call it 15 billion humans, from printing press to now. Not monkeys, but bona fide homo sapiens. Once of all those people, of all that time, only one William Shakespeare. What I'm thinking about right now are his sonnets. "Shall I compare thee to a summer's day.." was written, I beleive, about his young son, who died at an early age.

Monkeys tend to pick insects off of their children, not sonnets.

So you bring your one gazillion monkeys. I got a nice IBM Selectric. First one to type a sonnet wins the argument for good and all. Creativity trumps fecal ability.

So how does that explain congress?

24 March 2005

Listen to mah story 'bout a Gov'nor named Jeb....

A poor Texas Oil Baron that barely kept his family fed.

Yup. Politik.

I don't expect anybody to beleive this. I first realized about two years ago that Jeb Bush is being groomed for the Presidency. Oh its not such a huge revelation, and the little ways that it is happening are becoming more and more obvious. Did anybody notice when Jeb went on a tour of the areas devastated by the tsunami? Thats right, Governor Jeb acting as foriegn dignitary and faux good-will messenger.

Funny how things work. I thought that he had a state to run, you know, duties or something. What precisely was Jeb going to do about what he saw, implore congress to send more aid? The entire concept seems masturbatory until you consider his future political prospects. The same could be said right now about the Terry Schivaro case. There's Jeb again. Now he wants to assume custody of Ms. Shivaro. I guess he has a nice spot planned for her in the garden of the Governor's mansion. Since the constitution still works properly, hes not going to accomplish anything. Our courts and the application of the law must be absolutely devoid of feeling and compassion. Unfortunately, whats really happening is that Jeb is campaigning (yes, I'm sure you noticed that too). He threw himself on this political football early on, and now, despite his failure to accomplish anything, he's the #1 champion of Ms. Shivaro's right to life. [I'd rather it be him than Tom De Lay, but thats personal bias] Look for a post-failure invitation to the White House for the Shindler's (Shivaro's parents), also attended by Jeb. That last part is actually a bit of a suprise for me, I hadn't expected the entire GOP to jump on the bandwagon at the last moment. Two weeks ago I would have guessed the invite would be to the Florida Governor's mansion.

Now I'm going to make a subject transition, and its something happening a lot like Jeb's Presidential prospects. Jeb's attempts may have been fruitless, but he is gaining in recognition, in potential political power to be called upon for a future goal.

That is precisely what is happening in America's oil industry. Domestic oil production has been falling off since the 1970's, resulting in increased dependence on foreign oil. You knew that. [Pepsi break.... mmmmm] The 2001 National Energy Policy made a number of politically dangerous reccomendations; facilitating better ties with foreign oil producers (particularly in the Western Hemisphere when possible, and that means Hugo Chavez!), and increasing domestic production. ANWR raises its ugly head.

Let's not have any illusions here, if current efforts fail, the GOP and Big Oil will try again, and succeed at some point. Big Oil, however, has been becoming a bit disillusioned with the current push. They were hoping it would happen sooner. Whats the point in spending billions to lobby congress when thats what the billions that went so support GOP campaigns was for? Whats really happening is that Big Oil knows something that you dont. Very few people do, actually. The President himself might not know, and if he does, he is NOT telling.

There was a geological survey performed on the area some years ago. The results, however, are secret. I can guess what it is though; There is an oil deposit there, but strategically negligible in size. If there was an oil feild there to put the Saudi's to shame, then we would already have been pumping it. As it stands, if there is (miraculously) some 10 billion barrels of oil there, that source will reduce dependency on foreign oil by 3% for about 20 years. Much Ado About Nothing.

So its a political football, and any success is going to be moderate at best. So why all the fuss? It is because Big Oil has a bigger goal in mind. ANWR is just a stepping stone. If they can bludgeon their way through to drilling in a protected wildlife refuge, then they are one step closer to the real goal of drilling off the coast of the continental US. Especially off California. Yeah. Wouldn't the environmental groups just throw a fit.

The sad fact is: thats what it has come to. A majority of oil from overseas, and a minority of energy conservation at home. Switching gears to focus on renewable energy would throw a constellation-sized spanner in the works of the American economy. The real point should be that the same will happen when we suck the Saudi's so dry that their testicles shrivel up and die. When that happens however, we will be nearly 100% dependent on them. So a small crash now, or a much bigger one after the incumbent political figures are out of office. Pretty easy choice for them to make.

What a marvelous country we live in.
At least the legal system still works.