Thursday, June 28, 2007

Human Stupidity Causes Global Warming

Not in the way Uncle Al would like us to believe, but because of this. Compare the temperature graphs of these sites with the Orland, CA site on the home page. Notice anything odd? Which of these two categories do you suppose the majority of weather stations in the third world fall into?

Do you suppose that before we Just Do Something, we should figure out exactly what is happening and what it is that we think we are preventing?

Nah. Uncle Al is right. Better to jump all over Kyoto which will destroy the Western economy while exempting the 1/4 of the world's population that lives in China.

Someone at the RIAA Needs to be Kneecapped

I don't care how much is being lost by music "piracy," this is simply unacceptable.

This is another one of those tests I keep yapping about. Due to the fact that stupidity like this has been going on for years, I don't hold out much hope of our passing it.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Updates on Several Pending Items

We've had a lot of loose ends sort of hanging out there that we have managed to clean up in the last week. The biggest one was the house. Monday, June 25, we signed the final papers and got our check. No more $2,000/month payments on a house we don't live in. No more worrying about snow on the roof, frozen pipes, dead batteries, cranky generators, or if the angle on the solar panels was supposed to be changed this week or next week. We are done with the whole mess.

Life lesson: if you would like to lose seven years of your life and convert $100,000 in savings into $200,000 in debt, build a house.

But it's over now. We did hang onto the cabin and 17 acres so we still have some real estate in case we make any long-term visits to the area, but we are completely and totally out of debt at this point and even have a little cash left over to re-fund our sad little savings account.

While we were in Traverse City, we (very quickly) cashed the check from the house before anyone could change their mind. We also hit the office for the people that handle the gas royalty checks and got everything straight with them for the change in ownership. We needed to contact the township people about a couple miscellaneous items, but those loose ends are still dangling. And while we were in the same state as all our financial records, I got the last of the numbers I needed to be able to do the form for the sale of a residence on our 2007 taxes.

While we were in Michigan, we hit Tristan's open house. I have a bunch of photos, but I don't have them on Flickr yet. Mostly due to sloth; I find I'm pretty lazy when it comes to my time in the evenings. Probably because I was outside working all day today and it was around 100 degrees for most of the day. But it's a dry heat.

We also spent some time with Deb's mom. She is way ahead of the game recovering from her knee replacement surgery, so we didn't have much to do other than some shopping and being taxi drivers Friday and Saturday, which really wasn't much of a chore. We drove her to a restaurant on Friday where she bought both of us dinner, then drove her to Tristan's open house on Saturday, which we were going to anyway. We got off pretty easy all around. They really do things different these days. I remember people getting knee replacements back in the 1990's that were helpless for weeks, even months. Now they have you walking on the thing the day of the surgery. I'm not sure what they do different, but it certainly is different.

Another loose end was what department I was going to be working in. I started the process of moving to the foundry, but then a position opened up in ceramics. I had never really considered ceramic until the manager came to me and asked if I was interested. I put the foundry manager on hold and threw my name into the hat. I found out today that the position went to someone else, so I'm back on for moving to the foundry. I'll probably move on July 16 or July 23, depending on when I hear that I'm officially moving. There is a manager meeting tomorrow where is will be made official.

Well, that's enough for one post.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

More Photos

More photos on our Flickr account. They are mostly documentation of all the digging I've been doing over the last couple months down in camp. It was a simple leach bed repair, but some rocket scientist put the bed over five feet in the ground.

As a matter of fact, I am paid by the hour.

I didn't do all the digging; A backhoe did about half the trench about three feet down. I also had some assistance from others in the maintenance department and some of the June workshop participants. But all the stuff you see in the photos, laying and leveling the perf pipe, dumping in the stone, laying down the filter fabric, setting the inspection and clean-out pipes, and starting to back-fill the trench was done by yours truly in two days. I had to constantly do finger-stretching exercises over the entire weekend before my hands stopped looking like I was still holding a shovel. The good news is that next week, we will be renting a frontloader for another project, and I will get to use it for an hour or so to finish up the project.

Unsettlingly Settled?

Or unsettled settlingly? (Not sure that is an English word; Blogger doesn't think so.) Our "leaders" keep harping on how every "credible" (meaning "agrees with my preconceived and baseless notions") climatologist agrees that driving SUV's will enable us to grow date palms in Siberia.

And yet....

I recently heard a quote from one of the dissenting ICCP climatologists that all human activity amounts to "a fart in a hurricane."

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Another Mom update

I finally got to talk to my Mom this morning. She seems to be doing good. Yesterday the "pain management" problem was because the nurse and the aide both dropped her leg -- twice in one day! No wonder she had to have morphine shots before her therapy. She has been up walking with some help -- she was able to wash her hair yesterday (or this morning) herself. Her sugar is still too high, but the Dr isn't too worried about it. It isn't being caused by what she eats -- it is the stress from the surgery to her body. The Dr did not release her home today -- he would have if Mom would have insisted, but they both agreed to another night in the hospital. Mom knows the pain meds are much better while in the hospital and after the set back of having her leg dropped twice, she wasn't up to going home on regular pain meds. She should be released tomorrow sometime. The therapy will be set up to come directly to her home, so she won't have to deal with trying to get in/out of the car right away.

One Busy week

Well, we have finally moved! AAA office (not us again!) We had to have everything packed up and off the phones/computer last Friday at 4p. Of course, at 4p, I was still working on some tickets for a client. Oh well....we got finished up with what us employees were responsible for and got out of our old office around 6p or so. Had the weekend to rest, then hit the new office raring to go at 8am Monday.

First problem, the manager's key did not work in the back door locks. Luckily the facility guys from headquarters were already there and she got in the front door. Next thing noticed .... I did not have a desk where we thought it was suppose to be. Connie (my boss) got on the phone and found out from the higher ups that they decided not to authorize the extra desk --- WITHOUT notifying her. Great! I still got my own desk, just not near the back by myself. I share a cubicle area with the NATS (North American Travel Specialist) That did not go as planned either -- we decided the new full time girl (Alexa) would be next to me so I could help her out when needed with cars/hotels/Apollo system. Next thing I know, when Bill (a part time person) comes in around 11am, he decides he wants that desk (set up is good for him?!) He is a bit bothersome, but I hope to be able to tune him out when needed.

We spent Monday and Tuesday trying to unpack and arrange things. Who would have thought so many people would have so many ideas about where to put the envelopes?! Monday we called it quits at 5p, but Tuesday some of us worked until 7p. We had to have the complete inventory done and in the system before we could open to the public on Wed. Each and every map, tour book, camp book and retail item that was there had to be counted and entered into the system. We found old things that weren't even listed on the inventory sheets. (Mostly old stuff from 03-05) And like most companies, AAA can't be consistent with what number they have entered in their inventory system. The 6 digit number at the top, the upc on the front or the upc on the back ---- oh no, the two upc did NOT match.

Since I spent most of Tues helping with inventory, I didn't get a chance to get my desk in order. And as of tonite, it still is not done. We have hit with clients as soon as we opened on Wed. We had 127 people in on Wed, 116 on Thurs and only 97 today. One of the other travel agents was off sick Mon/Tues and came in late on Wed. She was still pretty week and coughed alot -- she ended up leaving early each day (she is the other full time agent) and I got to close each night this week. Lots of overtime for my official first week of full time!

Since we are so busy, I told my boss, I may have my desk organized by the "grand opening" (which will be Friday, July 6th) Even though we officially close at 5p, I still had two phone calls to return. One I reached and ticketed two tickets and a car (flying to Michigan for a wedding) and the other had to wait. One thing I may not like here is AAA's policy about always two people in the office at a time. I can not stay past 530p unless the cashier will stay (and apparently it better be an emergency!) I hate to go home and not have stuff done, or organized for the next morning. Tonite I had to gather up all my quotes and notepad and basically throw them in a cabinet and lock it all up for the weekend.

I haven't been able to connect with my Mom yet in the hospital. When I try calling she is out of her room -- usually for therapy or joint class. I have talked to a couple of the nurses so far. It sounds like the surgery went well, but she is having problems with pain management. (Whatever the nurse meant by that!) Mom can tolerate alot of pain, so to have problems with pain makes me wonder what is happening. I hope to catch her in her room tomorrow morning. The nurse said she wasn't sure if she would be released Sat or not. If she is having "pain management" problems, I think they may be keeping her longer. We fly back to Michigan Thursday night. We will be with her most of the weekend....she is hoping to be well enough to go to Tristan's (grandson) open house on Sat. We then have the BIG CLOSING scheduled for Monday at noon. It sounds like the lawyer does not have any more surprises for us. That will be one big burden off us.

It was over 100 again today (104.4) and no relief in sight. We have three fans going in our room. One in the kitchen window blowing in, one upstairs in the loft blowing out and a big industrial one near the door pulling from the kitchen towards the loft area. We tried to keep the door closed the past couple nights, but it got so stifling in here, I had to open it last night to cool it down some. The bugs have been getting in -- our screen we bought does not fit the door good. The small things don't bother us, it is the large "cone bugs" that are apparently not too nice and bite you. I might have to google the cone bug and see what it has to say about it. I don't think they are poisonous, but bothersome and the bite hurts since they are so big.

Well it is after 11pm here and I am tired. Ric spent the whole day down at camp working one the septic project there. I picked him up around 7p when I got home and we ate the pizza I picked up after he showered. He laid down to take a nap when he was done eating and hasn't budged since. All the hard/heavy physical work in the direct sun and over 100 degree heat is taking its toll. The camp thermometer registered 110 down in camp today. He misplaced his water bottle (or somebody took it) so he has been using his camelback. Having that strapped on your body probably isn't helping too much. He probably doesn't keep it on all the time, but still.... We may have to buy another big water bottle for him if his one from Brick Wheels doesn't show up this weekend. (at least it will be easy to spot if somebody has it in their hands!)

Friday, June 15, 2007

Mom Update

Debbie's mom had her knee replacement surgery today. Her therapy has already started, and she is doing well and not in too much pain. The only real problem so far is that she is in a shared room, and the AC doesn't really work in the room. The fact that she is worrying about those sorts of things is probably a good sign.

More when we know more.


Today it was 105 and 6% humidity. I feel an inexplicable urge to dump barbecue sauce on myself.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

And Yet Another Blog

This one is by Russell Steitz. Good stuff.

One of his latest columns talks about the unintended consequences of turning food into fuel. This is one of the beefs I have with the bio-diesel industry. Instead of using vegetable oil from soybeans, they should be using vegetable oil from non-edible sources like switch grass or algae. It would be cheaper, and it could be grown on land unsuitable for farming. But that's too logical; lets cut down the Brazilian rain forest to grow soybeans and starve the poor people of the world by using up all the corn to make ethanol to burn in our cars and save the planet!

Never forget that the true agenda of the eco-tards is to reduce the world population. Whether by malaria or starvation really doesn't matter. What matters is getting the numbers down by any means. Everything else is theater.

Before You Plan Your Retirement....

... take a good hard look at this page.

Bottom line: The US dollar is being inflated at 11-12% per year. What that means for your retirement planning is that something that costs $100 today will cost $310 in ten years, $965 in twenty years, and $28,900 in fifty. Is it any wonder the US savings rate is negative? Why save when the absolute best return you can reasonably expect is just keeping even with inflation? May as well have fun with your money while you still can!

If you are a twenty-something, don't bother to save or invest. You're just making other people rich with your money while depriving yourself of its short-term pleasure for no reason.

(And yes, I realize that 12% inflation is unsustainable for fifty years. But the economic tsunami that will hit the US when the current 30-year party ends will wipe out all those mythical savings just as effectively as 12% inflation. Damned it you do, damned if you don't.)

But We Mean Well!

From The Belmont Club:
Kenyan economist James Shikwati is interviewed in Der Spiegel. And he says what many people think about the development assistance and international NGO racket but are quite afraid to say.

SPIEGEL: Mr. Shikwati, the G8 summit at Gleneagles is about to beef up the development aid for Africa...

Shikwati: ... for God's sake, please just stop.

SPIEGEL: Stop? The industrialized nations of the West want to eliminate hunger and poverty.

Shikwati: Such intentions have been damaging our continent for the past 40 years. If the industrial nations really want to help the Africans, they should finally terminate this awful aid. The countries that have collected the most development aid are also the ones that are in the worst shape. Despite the billions that have poured in to Africa, the continent remains poor.

Great. My tax dollars are being used to spread Half-Assedness all over the African continent like butter on toast. Ye flippin' gods.

Camille is Back!

Actually, she never left. But about five or six years ago, Salon decided to charge for reading her essays, so I stopped reading them. Today, I was browsing around elsewhere and followed a link to her latest piece. It seems Salon has moved to the PBS model (asking for money, but not hampering access to popular content if you don't cough it up). So for now, I have added her column page on Salon to the blog list (Yea, yea, yea; it ain't a blog. But neither is about half the stuff already there. Don't like it, get your own blog.)

Does It Make Me a Liberal....

...if I agree with Camille Paglia?

As I have argued for years, we desperately need a return to vocational training. The virtually universal conversion of American high schools to a pre-college track over the past half-century has watered down the curriculum to its present deadening uselessness. Lower-middle-class and working-class families who pay taxes have a right to expect that primary schools will prepare their children for a productive life.

My platform calls for a revalorization of the trades (which are related by craftsmanship to the art schools where I have taught for most of my career). Upper-middle-class families should be ready to support their children's unorthodox choice for a career in carpentry, masonry or landscaping. We need to strip the elite aura from the claustrophobic "prestige" jobs in sterile corporate offices, where high salaries drug the worker clones from recognition of their own imprisonment and castration.

(You will find this on page two of the linked article.)

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Froo Froo Menu Generator

This is a hoot. And dishes with names like these are why I only eat at chain restaurants that serve steaks and burgers, or foreign restaurants where I won't know that I'm eating Fried Rhinoceros with a Vodka Pasta because I can't read Mandarin.

[Ric's Friendly Tip for eating in foreign restaurants: buy a lot of a la cart items, and don't look at them too closely or try to figure out what the strange little lumps are; just shovel it in with your eyes mostly closed. If it tastes good, just keep shoveling until it's gone. If it tastes nasty, spit it back into the bowl/plate, take a couple healthy gulps of water or soda, then move on to the next thing quickly before your mind has time to register that you just tried to ingest ostrich anuses.]

Arcosanti and Half-Assedness

Fred has a few good points on what makes a rich vs. poor country. One of his key indicators of poverty is the prevalence of Half-Assedness. Fred defines Half-Assedness as "... a curious mixture of just not giving a damn, lack of ambition, little interest in academics, and sometimes something that looks like lethargy." I'd say the same thing is true of organizations. Actual quotes heard here on property:

Guest-with-baby-in-tow: Excuse me; there is bat shit on your high chair.
Arco Cafe Employee: Yea. It happens.

"Would you just stop working so we can talk?" (Said repeatedly to me by various managers; also heard said by same various managers to a couple other people who still have a work ethic.)

"Would you stop getting projects done so fast? This is Arcosanti!" (Said to me this morning in jest, but telling none the less.)

"So, I guess you're just his/her boy." (Said to me by my manager whenever I do a quick repair for someone without giving them a 45-minute lecture about how they should do it themselves or making them wait six months to do a five-minute job.)

"You'll stop that nonsense after you've been here a while." (Said to me by a manager when I starting picking up trash blowing around the site. Oddly, he was right. I have stopped.)

Yep. Half-Assedness. Goes a long way towards explaining why it has taken 36 years to build 5% of the place.


In a couple weeks, I'll be making bells. Once I learn how to do that, I won't care if the place falls off the mesa. I'll have learned how to do something that I would be very unlikely to learn anyplace else. Not that skill in Bronze-Age metalworking methods is likely to be a marketable skill, but it will look a lot cooler than "toilet snake technician" and "pool boy" on a resume.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Wil Wheaton Has a Blog

Remember the geeky kid on Star Trek: The Next Generation that everyone wanted to slap? Well, he has a blog. And two kids. And he is (by his own admission) still a geek.


Another blog to add to the list. I may have to thin the ranks if I plan to ever do anything other than read blogs.

Another Smart Guy on Global Warming

Freeman Dyson gives his views on global warming.

It's nice to see that he agrees with me on the whole "too much CO2" thing. If CO2 is such a problem, then instead of bankrupting Western Civilization (while simultaneously exempting China with 1/4 of the world's population) with Kyoto, just remove the CO2 with vegetation. In other words, plant a tree. Then if it turns out that the extra CO2 was holding off the next ice age (which is over-due), burn the wood to put the CO2 back in the atmosphere. But if there is one thing that Uncle Al and his global warming hysterics like better than cherry-picking the data to fit their hypothesis, it's making a lot of noise about the problem without offering any solutions.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Just Some Random Blah, Blah, Blah.

Last weekend, we saw the third of The Three's of the Summer '07. Mostly they reinforce the old adage to quit while you're ahead. Shrek III was the most disappointing of the lot. Definitely wait for the DVD. Pirates III didn't seem to make a lot of sense, but we wrote it off to being the late show (10pm - nearly 1am) and the second movie we had watched that night. However since we saw it, I've heard a lot of similar complaints from others. We'll try it again when the DVD comes out. Spiderman III was the best of the three even if it did rely on alien black goo from a meteorite as the primary plot device. I realize that Marvel comics probably created that particular cliche, but I'm sure five minutes of thought would have resulted in a more satisfying replacement in the 21st century.

It's still hot in Arizona, in case anyone is wondering (90's for the last week).

It's still dry in Arizona, in case anyone is wondering (less than 10% humidity).

I will be leaving the maintenance department sometime in the next month or so. I'm not entirely sure where I will end up. I had originally talked to the manager in the foundry last Thursday and he was going to start things from his end. Then over the weekend, the manager of the ceramics department mentioned that he may be getting a new position the first part of July and would I be interested in making ceramic bells. Perfect timing, as usual. In any case, I will be leaving maintenance to make bells around the first part of July. I just don't know if I will be making bronze or ceramic bells.

I've spent the last several days digging a really big hole. The leach field for the showers and wash machine down in camp plugged up over two years ago. My crack boss has ignored the problem while sewage has been backing up into the showers, so I forced the issue by starting a bunch of digging to find the problem. Over a month later, I'm still digging.

Did I mention that it is hot and dry in Arizona? I'm blogging wearing nothing...

...but a pair of shorts. (Ha! Had you going there for a second!!)

I downloaded some software for ripping DVD's. My problem is storage space. A clean rip (no compression, full screen, surround sound intact, etc.) takes somewhere around 6.5 gigs. The only way to store a decent number is to get one of the new terabyte external hard drives. The problem is that they run over $350. And yes I realize that is less than .40/gig, but it is still $350 for something to store movies on. It's hard to think of anything more frivolous than that. The other option is to store them is some sort of compressed format, but, unlike MP3's, I can definitely see the degradation in both the video and sound, which will drive me nuts.

My fancy straw hat died a while back. The wind blew the top out of it while I was doing a tour, so I walked around the site leading a group of giggling tourists with a hat that looked like an opened tin can. Now I'm looking for a replacement, but I can buy a decent used car for what a hat costs. In the meantime, I'm wearing a black baseball cap.

Did I mention I've been spending all day in the sun digging holes? And that it is hot and dry here?

Not much else.