10.31.2006

Festus { Happy Halloween/Samhain


Happy Halloween or if you prefer Samhain!

10.30.2006

Politics { Same Sex Marriage

I keep wondering if a good solution to this is to abolish all marriage
as being recognized by the gov't, basically if everyone wants to be
'married' in the eyes of the law, then they engage in a civil union.
'Marriage' can be defined and handled by the respective religions, as
even within religions some differences in the definition of marriage
exists. Basically extend the separation of church and state to
include the whole concept of marriage. Make civil unions be equal for
all, regardless of orientation, race, etc. A flaw with this idea
probably exists, and I am sure that many of the right-wing christian
base will cry foul as the gov't would be trying to outlaw the bible
and criminalize ministers (which it wouldn't). But it does seem like
a way to drive this issue out of the gov't while providing an equal
but equal footing for everyone. I know some religions have
reconciling and progressive movements that are making strides towards
allowing same-sex couples to be recognized as well as serve the
church. A complete civil union law would theoretically make them
free to perform same-sex couple marriages/civil unions if they wish as
churches are private institutions able to make their own rules (it
would also open the door for vehement oppression and abuse as well),
while the gov't exists for all and should discriminate against none.
It would also make marriages not legally recognized by the gov't. I
know its a semantics game. But since they want to make marriage a
legal as well as religious issue, the only solution could be to
separate the two halves.

Separation of church and state was one of the most forward thinking ideas the fore fathers had, and it was for situations just such as this.

10.25.2006

Tech { Firefox 2 Released

So far so good. It is a nice update. Larger search bar, cleaner look on Macs. Overall great effort, nice job.

Download link

10.24.2006

Politics { Santorum; Iraq = Mordor

From an article on salon.com last week:

Rick Santorum and the "Eye of Mordor"

In an interview with the editorial board of the Bucks County Courier Times, embattled Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum has equated the war in Iraq with J.R.R. Tolkien's "Lord of the Rings." According to the paper, Santorum said that the United States has avoided terrorist attacks at home over the past five years because the "Eye of Mordor" has been focused on Iraq instead.

"As the hobbits are going up Mount Doom, the Eye of Mordor is being drawn somewhere else," Santorum said. "It's being drawn to Iraq and it's not being drawn to the U.S. You know what? I want to keep it on Iraq. I don't want the Eye to come back here to the United States."

We're sure that we wouldn't either, if only we had the slightest idea of what Santorum was saying. The Courier Times translates for those of us who are not so conversant in spooky Tolkienese: The "Eye of Mordor," it seems, was "the tool the evil Lord Sauron used in search of the magical ring that would consolidate his power over Middle-earth."

To be fair, Santorum's interview with the editorial board wasn't all about fantasy. Well, at least not the Dungeons and Dragons kind. Santorum said that he disagreed with the notion that the United States is "bogged down" in Iraq. As for talk of a troop withdrawal? Santorum said: "I don't think you ask that question. I know that's the question everybody wants to ask. But I don't think anyone would ask that question in 1944, 'Gee, how long are we going to be in Europe?' We're going to be in Europe until we win."


Someone on boingboing.net contributed that what was meant is that by putting the troops at the 'Gates of Mordor', to be the bait, the terrorists fight them there, and not us here in the US. Seems like a stretch to me. I don't much like our troops being bait. Plus I think that person is giving Santorum a bit too much credit. Mr. 'Anal Froth' does not strike me as someone that hip (or nerdy).

If this is in fact the case Mr. Santorum, then who are the hobbits? What is the ring? I suspect you would say freedom and the American way. Here's my analysis, its a bit of role reversal. The Eye of Mordor, the all seeing powerful entity, is in fact the American public. The hobbits (Gonzales/DoJ) are carrying the one ring (the Constitution/Civil Liberties) to the fires of Mount Doom to be destroyed. Distracting us are evil-Aragorn (Bush) lead by evil-Gandalf (Rove/Cheney) at the Gates of Mordor (War on Terror/Iraq). The mouhtpiece of Sauron (the public Media owned by corporations) are treating with them (I would say they have a love affair, as Bush has not endured a fraction of the criticism previous Presidents have). While the Eye (us) are fixed on the exchange in Iraq (and the Spectacle that is Bush, glamoured by the illusions of Gandalfcheneyrove), the hobbits are carrying the ring to its doom, and with it will usher in a new dark age.

10.23.2006

Politics { Govenor Threesome

All three gubernatiorial candidates support increasing funding for police. But one of them already had that chance. Can you guess which one? Yes Pawlenty. As Govenor he proposes the budget (that the Attorney General uses) to the Legislature who then modify and approve it before he signs it. So you he's had this chance, why didn't he take it? Oh that's right, he wont 'tax' unless it is a Constitutional mandate (which are in the longer run bad for us, stop mucking with our constitution and assume the responsibility that the gov't has to fund service, and that means taxing).

10.22.2006

10.20.2006

Ouch { Contractors in Rochester

So as part of the carpeting, we were referred to a small-time carpenter who loves 'small jobs'. I like the people who did our carpet so I decided to call this carpenter. He came over and took measurements, we said we wanted to have a 1" high trim board installed around the base of the wall, stained if possible to the color of the existing trim on the doors. He said no problem, he would get me back a quote in a few days.

I got the quote today.

$1100.00

I had priced the material at Home Depot, and it would cost around $60 for the pre-made finished trim boards along the lines of what we are looking for, a little more to factor in the nails and my time to install. A good rule of thumb generally for accepting a work bid is 2xmaterials cost, that would have meant the quote should have been around $120-180. I had the quote done not because I probably couldn't muddle myself through this, but because I am running under budget and could spend $200 on professional work (as opposed to amatuer work that I do).

$1100 is an insult to my intelligence. Its also a rip off. A co-worker had a similar experience (not the same company) where they quoted $30000.00 to remodel his basement (a job that only cost $2000). He was livid and when he asked why they said it was because the job was too small. I find that insulting. Just say the job is too small and say 'no bid' and walk away. Giving out outrageous quotes accomplishes nothing save the fact that I will never again consider you. We had a lot of carpentry work planned for next year (deck, some new doors, etc.). You can guarentee we will never use you.

This has been a major irk of mine since coming to Rochester. The contractors in this town come in two flavors, good and expensive, bad and expensive. The contractors who have worked the best for us were found via word of mouth. They generally didn't advertise. But the ones in the phonebook are almost crooks.

There is a huge housing boom in Rochester (which I think is finally starting to slow down) so contractors have a lot of work now. This will not always be the case and many will soon be wishing for the 'small jobs'. Don't screw potential and future customers with insulting quotes.

10.19.2006

Politics { MN Congressional 6th

Our fellow Minnesotans in the 6th District need our support. This is the district where Mark Kennedy came from and is the home district of Michelle Bachman. It is a product of Gerrymandering and is a funny shaped district across the northern metro area, design for maximum conservative concentration. The DFL candidate is Patty Wetterling, who has decided to run again this election, which I commend. She was badly smeared by Mark Kennedy in 2004 in classic Republican attack dog style. She is Jacob's mom, which still resonates with people from Minnesota. Jacob was abducted one day, which sparked a nation-wide search. She dedicated her life to finding him and helping to prevent it from happening to others. She is relatively unproven as a politician, which in my eyes makes is a plus compared to some we've had. She can't do worse and she seems to honestly care. She has surrounded herself with smart people and has strive to learn about issues, what they are and how they work.

The City Pages had a great article about why Michelle Bachman is '10 kinds of crazy'. I recommend a read. She is one of the new breed of conservative that MN does NOT need.

10.18.2006

House { The Journey Is Nearing Its End

When we moved into our new house the basement was finished, or rather was once finished. It had wood paneling, 1950s era linoelum flooring, and an awesome fireplace. But the panelling was damaged by the great Rochester flood in the 1970s, and so the bottom six inches had a discoloring, the walls were covered in soot from the fireplace, evidence that the fireplace needs work. The linoelum was no longer shiny and in many places was chipped and had started coming up. It also had not been used in some time and the spiders had taken over and turned into something similar to Shelob's Lair. Every trip down was a quest, with the phial of Galandrial and 'Sting' by trusty flyswatter. It also had a smell that hinted that a cat's litter box had once been there (which is not good if you own cats, as they tend to go where others have gone before them). It was in short in sad shape.

Twelve months ago we decided each of us had a need for more space in our home offices, nerdwife for studying, and me for my game hobby and a place I can work from home. Originally we were to convert the two smaller bedrooms next to each other into offices, but the need for a home library was greater than the need for an office (we have a LOT of books) and so we moved our offices together. It is not a bad situation, but it also meant that we could not both use our 60s era desks, which are quite large. So thus is was decided the basement was to be remodelled.

In January I dug in and started removing the panelling, a closet, and decrepit cabinetry that once looks to house board games. It was dirty work that require much spider, millipede, and faux ladybug slaying. It took about six weeks of part time work to pull out all the panelling. Behine which I found sooty, pink painted, cement block, and, thankfully, framing adequate enough to hang sheetrock on.

I lost the will to go farther as it was now almost March. It sat like this until June when I took the panelling finally to the recycling center (3 full pickup truck loads). I started researching and cost estimating what it would take to sheetrock the basement. I found it would be beyond what I've ever done, and I didn't have all the tools. I decided I couldn't do it, well I could, but it would look terrible. I'm glad I didn't. We found a great contractor who did the work for $250 less than I had budgeted for a contractor to do and along the way I learned that I would have missed a lot, insulation, vapor barrier, and there was no way I could have made the mudding and seams look as great as he did. I wasn't able to schedule him until after Labor Day, but it was worth the wait.

Once the rock was hung and dry the quest for paint began. Originally I had thought it would look awesome in a dark red like the living room, but nerdwife pointed out that it would have given the 'Nerd Lair' as it was starting to be called a cave like feel as well as making it smaller. She was right, eventually we settled on a very light slate-blue that accentuated the colors in the fireplace brick work. It makes the room brighter and appear larger.

Once the painting was complete, which was, for the first time in my history of homeownership, not a terrible experience. Painting on sheetrock was effortless. A great difference from the 'textured' plaster walls of the old Victorian we had in St Paul, which required special rollers and gallons of paint. Things went smooth and it looked good.

Next step was the carpenting. Originally we had thought about getting carpeting from this company that specialized in modular carpeting, that is carpet in squares that you can lay down indvidually in your own designs. But it was expensive, and time is a factor, as both nerdwife and I have busy lives and jobs. We budgeted some more for carpeting and called 'The Rug Bug' a family run business who had recarpeted our library when we first moved in, they do exceptional work and are reasonably priced. I picked a berber carpet that had a mottled array of blues, grays, browns, beiges, and creams and it compliments the walls and fireplace nicely.

I have made arrangements for a carpenter who likes small jobs to come and give us an estimate on trimming out around the carpeting and fixing/replacing a few doors. I have also contacted a chimeny sweep to come look at both of our fireplaces and fix what is necessary to get them useable. I have also contacted professional movers to move my desk, which nerdwife found at the University of Minnesota Recycling Center and is a tanker desk. It is massive, beautiful and very 60s. It is also 250lbs. According to the guys at the RC, it is called a 'tanker desk' because it used to be used on Oil Tankers and it is heavy so that it did not shift around on the open seas. It is very heavy, so heavy in fact nerdwife and I can only move it a few inches. We decided professional moves, who are licensed, bonded, and insured should move it, because if we did it we would only hurt ourselves and probably the house.

The journey will be ending soon and I am looking forward to it.

10.17.2006

Politics { Do you know the difference?

The NY Times had an interesting op-ed piece "Can You Tell a Sunni From a Shiite?" where the reporter had gone around Capitol Hill asking members of Congress and the various security agencies responsible for the 'War on Terror' and our security if they could tell the differences between the two groups. The results were less than encouraging.

I wonder if this reporter were to go back and ask these same people if they could explain the differences between Irish Catholics and Irish Protestants in Northern Ireland if the results would be similar? This shows a seemingly 'brain drain' in our vital gov't agencies.

10.14.2006

Musings { The Art of War of Intolerance

Last night nerdwife and I went to the Twin Cities to see a play, 'Mrs. Man of God' directed by a close friend of ours Blayne Lemke. This play is about a 'man who loves a man who is in love with God'. It is a powerful and moving story about a gay couples life in the church told from the perspective of the partner to pastor. It was part of a GLBT in the clergy conference. The backdrop of the play was wall of stoles of clergy who've had their creditentials revoked for being gay. At this play I encountered friends I have not seen for years, from praxis, from when we used to go to plays, from the UMC, from United Theologian Seminary (where nerdwife studied for a time). We were greeted and embraced warmly and it was shown we were not forgotten and are still loved dearly. I still love these people. They showed me that religion does not have to be a tool of hate and oppression. They actively go out into the world with messages of tolerance, acceptance, understanding, and love. Love regardless of what you believe. This is the group of people who founded praxis, something that we were a part of for many years. Praxis did not convert me from Atheism, but it did shift my perception on religion, spirituality, acceptance, tolerance, wealth, love, politics, and understanding. At praxis we had communists and conservatives, atheists and pagans and catholics, many races, many ages, many sexual orientations, many genders, all coming together not to worship perse, but have a dialogue about spirituality, community, faith (which I posit is different than spirituality), religion (personal and organized), wealth, service and how to live together. Seeing these people brought back memories of praxis and it recharged my spiritual batteries so to speak.

I returned to Rochester with a feeling I have not felt in a long time. A feeling of hope. A feeling that the good fight is still being fought and should be.

The work yet to be done was illustrated this morning when nerdwife and I went out in Rochester for a cup of coffee and an pastry. In the back, as if often the case at this place, a heated discussion of politics was raging between two professional types. The crux of the argue was about the 'liberal' flogging of the Foley case for their own ends and why of all the scandals they picked did they pick the sex one? This sent me thinking. Rochester, even being the home of the Mayo Clinic, a world class organization devoted to the art and science of healing, is a very intolerant place. It is a conservative stronghold in an increasing purple state. Homosexuals and people of different races are not well tolerated by the residents, which seem at odds with the international stature of the city. Many are well educated and wealthy (many upper-middle class/upper class) residents, who seem socially liberal (focus on education, charity, volunteer work, etc.) yet are financially quite conservative (will tithe to church, will donate to charities, but will not accept increases in taxes). "Liberal", "Democrat", "Gay", "Atheist", "Communist" are dirty evil words here. No one is openly hostile against anyone as is the passive-aggressive nature of Minnesotans in general. But the hate and intolerance is there, festering just under the surface. You can't see it if you look directly at it, but you can catch it out of the corner of your eye, at a glance.

Don't let me seem like I am condemning everyone out of hand. A lot of good does happen here as well, Mayo and IBM do help those in need, they invest a lot back into their communities, generosity does flow outward. But it is amazing with all of this, that hatred, intolerance, fear, and paranoia exists. Well-groomed, and hidden. I call this intolerance when I can, I was instantly labeled 'the liberal', 'cosmopolitan', 'elitist', etc. when I arrived in town, labels I wear with pride. Its ironic, me, a farm boy from east-central Minnesota, whose only international travel has been to Thuder Bay Canada, has been labeled 'cosmopolitan'. I digress. I try not to actively convert people, because that is not what I am about. But I serve as an example, a counter-point, a presence. It has met with some success. If only one person has changed their perception about the larger world, I will have considered myself lucky. There are liberals, progressives, as well as those of non-traditional orientations here. A lot more than perhaps many of the ultra-conservative elements would like to believe. They have formed into close-knit groups who are, in my opinion doing good where they can. They are just not open about it, which down here is more of a survival trait than lack of will.

I guess this post has drifted in many directions, and the title is more a 'shocker' than anything. I am going to try and remember my friends in praxis and what we tried to accomplish in the years we were together. I am going to try and become more tolerant. I did not realize how far I drifted. This place has that effect, it wears you down like a stone slowly grinding on you.

I can sense a change in the wind, but I can't yet tell if it is for the better or for the worse.

Musings { A surreal journey through the desert (dessert?) of the real

Reality is a story your brain tells your consciousness based on sensory input.

Our experience of life is like watching a movie, on a delay.

10.11.2006

Cinema { Holy Crap



Robert Rodríguez + Quentin Tarantino + Retro Camp = f'ing nuts

oh, NSFW

Musings { Answers to Questions based on observations

Q: WWJD (What Would Jesus Drive)?
A: Based on observation analysis (i.e. while looking for a parking spot after being cut off by a SUV driving across parking spots), the biggest fucking SUV possible. Seriously. I see more Jesus fish on SUVs than any other class of vehicle. Jesus would drive a military-styled suburban assault vehicle. Two blocks. To get milk.

Q: WWJB (What Would Jesus Bomb)?
A: Based on various news sources and from musings by President George W Bush, who has said Jesus is his favorite philospher, which must mean he is well read in the works and teachings of said philospher, the answer is: Brown People.

Q: Why do hot dogs come in packages of eight and hot dog buns in packages of six?
A: The world hates you.

Q: How many licks does it take to get to the center of a tootsie pop?
A: 17 before the candy develops slight ridges and fissures that are razor sharp and will slice your tongue open.

Q: Why is the sky blue?
A: Its a yellow consipracy.

Podcasts { Energy and Environment

Matthew Simmons (mp3) talks about the economics of petroleum/peak oil.

James Lovelock (mp3) gives a very pessimistic overview of global climate change (caused in no small part by the fossil fuel used to run the economy mentioned above), and his belief that we will have to seek out a global development retreat in order to be sustainable.

Politics { Rock on Olbermann

Keith Olbermann does a scathing (it would be funny in a Jon Stewart sort of way if it were not actually happening) critique of the Military Commissions Act of 2006.

10.09.2006

Bling { Enterprise-D model sells for $0.5M

The Star Trek model of the USS Enterpise-D made in 1987 for the title sequence and the episode 'Encounter at Farpoint' sold at auction for $500,000.00. Yowza!

Life { Happy Anniversary Nerdwife

Thank you for 7 wonderful years of marriage!

Idiocy { North Korea

Ugh.

So an isolated militarized (not to mention starving and miserable) nation run by a wingnut has tested a nuke and confirmed that they possess weapons whose only implementable use are as instruments of terrorism and fear.

Based on history, it will probably lend them bargaining power.

I wonder what the world response will be, aside from the obvious denounciations. Sanctions? Naval blockade? Incineration?

10.04.2006

Humor/Politics { Are you a sexy young stud...


Evil Bobby had an excellent cartoon on his site, so I decided to post it here.

[L'histoire] Déjà vu

Parallels in the NYT.

Typical { Mail Bomb

The NSA MUST be able to listen in on your phone calls. However we won't read the correspondence of convicted, dangerous, felons/terrorists in prision.

10.03.2006

Numbers { New Math in America

(911/2001) + (3162/2001) + (6166/2006) = 1984 = 1776

NSA { Minor Victory

The Senate adjorned last Friday without passing the NSA wiretapping legislation.

What does this mean? Not much, without investigations into the program by Congress we have no idea how or what they are doing, if they've stopped, and how we can prevent them from doing it again. Assume it is still going on, but don't live in fear of the gov't or the NSA.

10.02.2006

Politics { Interesting and Tragic...

Day starts off with news that a member of the House of Representatives sexually harassed under-aged pages and the GOP leadership covers it up, then suddenly all news coverage is focused on the shooting of six in Pennsylvania.

The shootings are tragic, never get the impression that I marginalize the loss of human life in such a violent fashion. However the conspiracy theorist in me is screaming to get out.

I wonder if anyone has done a correlation over the last six years to the number of times the shit hits the fan for the Republicans and suddenly we distracted by shootings, abducted blond-white girls in the Bahamas, or terror alert level increases (2003 saw a record number of what I would call 'chicken-little' scenarios)?

Politics { 2008 Twin Cities

We should protest the RNC in 2008. I wonder what it would take to organize something like that?

Politics { Infamy

Read this alternet.org article.

10.01.2006

Musings/Crafts { Strength, Sweat, Steel


I forged a sword today...ok well it wasn't a sword, it was a fireplace poker. However I forged it in the old ways, hammer, anvil, coal, sweat, steel and strength. The forge was stoked until the heat made the soul of the steel glow and pliable to the ministrations of the hammer. The steel was hammered, split, angled, and twisted. It was shaped to my and by my will. When its glowing thirst was quenched by the cool water, it was lavished with and lathered in oil (olive) and once more was it put back to the fire to complete the ritual and seal in the essence of the steel.

I felt something primal. I felt pride when I was finished, sweaty, sooty, and grinning.