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Wednesday, July 23, 2008

The Right Thing

I'm currently reading "Double Share, A Tale from the Golden Age of the Solar Clipper," the latest in Nathan Lowell's series. This started with "Quarter Share." You should be look it up, you're missing something very good indeed. HINT: There's a reason it's called the "Golden Age" of the Solar Clipper.

What I've always loved about Nathan Lowell's stories is, every story is about doing the right thing. And doing the right thing leads to the right results. Mostly. People forget, you remind them, and after you get the blood washed off and get a few stitches, all is much better.

Even just making good coffee. The three secrets to making good coffee, are a clean pot, clean, fresh water, and fresh, good quality coffee, in the right proportions. Great coffee takes only a bit more, once you start with making good coffee. And I learned that in the Air Force, by the way, as a cook. I flipped burgers in uniform.

Bottom line, getting anything done starts with getting something done. Might be something little, or seeming so. But you do that one thing, that's one thing that doesn't have to be done next. Simple idea, and when things go totally down the toilet, in retrospect, it's because that one first, little thing didn't get done, so neither did the rest of it.

And I mostly honor that in the breech rather than the observance. But even so.

Most science fiction, most fiction, is all about drama and gunfire and car chases -- or space battles, which are car chases with bigger guns. The best detectives make very good coffee. Especially private detectives who are former cops. (Movie ones anyway.)

My Dad was a cop, he told me, just after World War II. Cops know really bad coffee, and really good coffee, from experience. Cops don't go to donut shops for the donuts. It's the coffee. You should ask, sometime. Tell 'em I said hi.

Cab drivers, btw, are the same. Nothing worse than too-quickly-prepared coffee stored in a thermos till it's lukewarm, or in a cup till the wax from the paper melts into the coffee and becomes part of the flavor. Sitting down on a real chair for a real cup of fresh coffee is like having a real life again.

Doing the right thing, in small doses. Add up enough small doses, you have something really big. Try it some time, it works.

As the saying goes, "There's nothing like a good cup of coffee. And this is nothing like a good cup of coffee." ;-)

Nice job, Nathan.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Good morning, Sir Phelps

Listening to the Podiobook, "Murder at Avedon Hill." Interesting story. Ongoing annoyance, one choice in music, that sounds a lot like the "Mission Impossible" theme.

This Podiobook will self-destruct in five seconds.

Other than that, so far, so good.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

A note from SETI@Home

Hello again, folks. Got this message from SETI@Home the other day. Dunno if you've heard about it. It would be a real shame to lose this resource. The Arecibo Observatory may be the only tool available for the Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence, and it is a remarkable system, a whole valley covered with antennas, as far as I know it's the only one of it's kind.

And it may no longer be available for this purpose. No money. Sucks, huh?

Dear Grizzly Smith,

Arecibo Observatory, the world's largest radio telescope and the source for
the SETI@home data that your computer analyzes, faces massive budget cuts that
will END its ability to continue the search for life beyond Earth. The decision
to ensure full funding currently rests upon votes in Congress on Senate Bill S.
2862 and House Resolution H.R. 3737. These bills desperately need more support.

Please take a moment to help us SAVE ARECIBO.

Clicking the link below will direct you to a web page that allows you to print
out letters prepared for your Senators and Congressional Representative urging
them to support Arecibo. Printing and mailing the letters is really easy, too!
You will also have the chance to add a few personal thoughts, if you wish, to
let your Senators and Representative know why this funding is important to you!
And if you're really feeling passionate about saving Arecibo, please use these
letters as the basis for letters you write yourself, urging your congressmen
and women to vote to save Arecibo.

Because our representatives in Congress rarely give much attention to all the
email they receive, printing out and MAILING these letters via standard U.S.
Postal mail remains our best option for contacting them and our best hope for
saving Arecibo (The second best option is to call your representatives). Your
42 cent stamps on these letters could help us get the millions of dollars
needed to save Arecibo.

Our search cannot continue without the necessary support. Your work, as
SETI@home participants, represents an indispensable resource for conducting the
search. Now, we need your help to ensure that our other most valuable resource
- our eyes and ears to the cosmos - can continue to probe the universe as we
seek to answer the question: Is there anybody out there?

http://setiathome.berkeley.edu/arecibo_letter.php

Thank you for your help,

The SETI@home Team

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Grizzly's Growls Yahoo Group

I keep forgetting, because it doesn't get used. But if you didn't know, there is a Yahoo Group for Grizzly's Growls, Hiber-Nation, and Life and Times. The group is at http://groups.yahoo.com/group/grizzlysgrowls/.

I think I set things up so the group receives all postings from the Blogs, including new show episodes. Sure tried, anyway. We'll see if it works.

Feel free to stop by. The hope would be that you'd discuss amongst yourselves, and maybe I'd get a better idea what you'd enjoy. Most of the podcasts have forums set up on their websites, and I'd suppose, since you stay on their websites, you spend more time looking at the ads. I don't have any forums, just this.

Thank you for your support, and your patience.

What the hell are we thinkin?

Ya know, most of the time, when I'm drunk, I spout off on something that strikes me as vitally important. Then I wake up the next morning, and think, "OMG, what the hell did I say this time?"

But this morning -- well, yesterday morning -- I woke up, jumped on the internet, read what I'd posted, and didn't disagree with a damn bit of it.

I've followed a discussion on a newsgroup about the importance of the Heller decision. The Supremes decided we American citizens actually have Constitutional permission to own handguns. Everybody was arguing back and forth about how important it was that the Supreme Court finally said what the Bill of Rights has said for a century or two now. If this was a Right, and apparently it was, we didn't need the Supremes to give us permission to exercise that right. But now the Powers That Be are arguing what to do next.

And the only thing that came to mind, night before last, was, "Who the hell cares?"

Who the hell cares what the Supremes say? Who the hell cares what the Bill of Rights says? The Bill of Rights runs through this whole littany of "Congress shall make no law" about this, that, or the other.

But not so long ago, Congress made a law saying the US Gummint can go anywhere at any time, snatch anyone they please, for any reason or no reason, haul them off and put them in a prison camp in a military base in a foreign country, based only on accusations, no proof, and keep them there indefinitely, with no recourse and no real court to which they can appeal. They don't have to prove to anyone they have the right to do that. And THEY CAN TORTURE THEM TILL THEY CONFESS TO WHATEVER THEY'RE ACCUSED OF.

Whoa. We're the US. We're the Good Guys. The Bad Guys kidnap and hold in camps in the middle of Communist dictatorships and torture till they confess. We're the Good Guys. We don't do that.

But we do.

Congress says so. Congress passed a law saying it's required. And every year since then, Congress has made a law funding more of the same. The President signed it, too. Sure, the President's a moron. But he's the President. And he signed it, so it's a law now.

But "Congress shall make no law..."

So.

Now we have torturers on our payroll.

I remember back in the '70s, watching the documentaries how those pathetic Third World countries perpetrated attrocities, grabbing folks without trial, "dissapearing" them, Night and Fog and whatnot. And how evil that was, remember? And remember how we felt our US Government oughta Do Something? That was simply intolerable, and no right-thinking American could tolerate such injustice.

Well, they Did Something. They declared us all to be folks who put people in prison camps and torture them till they confess. You could look it up. And I, here's the truly sucky part, I, as a loyal American Citizen, as someone who voted for them to run stuff, gave them permission to say that. So now, I am a citizen of a country that kidnaps folks, imprisons them without trial, and tortures them till they confess.

And it was apparently all my idea.

Yours, too. Congratulations. Welcome to the Party of the People.

We're all torturers, now. We're part of the big conspiracy to imprison, and torture, and occasionally kill.

And what's our National excuse? "But the other guys are worse. Besides, they started it!"

And you want more joy in your life? Marines are torturers, now. Probably mostly.

Ever read any Fantasy fiction? Know what the Truly, Profoundly Evil Guy does when he takes over the Good Country? He corrupts the most incorruptible agency in that country, and makes them evil. That's how he wins.

And our President, representing us, on our behalf, at our orders, and according to our desires, ordered the US Marines, the most noble, honorable and loyal among us, our Best and Brightest, to capture, torture, and eventually kill these folks.

We have taken the absolute best among us, and turned them into torturers.

Your tax money, and my tax money, pays for full-time professional torturers.

Didn't we used to be the good guys?

A few months ago, the Canadian government published a training pamphlet for their diplomats, to inform them of the horrendous evils being perpetrated by other countries. And we, you and I, and our country and our government, were declared to be a Torture Threat.

The Canadian Foreign Minister came out later to apologize. I'm still trying to figure out, what he apologized for. Because we are a torture threat, and we are apparently damned proud of it.

What the hell were we thinkin'? Because we were apparently thinking. Congress deliberated and voted and here we are. Supporting torture. Being torturers.

I think this is shameful and embarassing. We've taken our most honorable folk, and made torture part of their day-to-day work. And it's our day-to-day work, too. Every day, we work, we make money, we pay taxes. And apparently we're fine with the use of our taxes to imprison people and torture them and often kill them.

What the hell were we thinkin'??

Monday, July 7, 2008

Are the Feeds fixed?

I've been trying to figure out a problem with Podcast Pickle. At long last, I ran a new Feed Validator on the Feedburner feeds, for the Main podcast feed, the Podcast-Only feed, and the Hiber-Nation feed. I think I fixed all the problems. Hope that didn't mess things up for too many folks.

Sorry about that; should have done that earlier.

The process of fixing the Blog feed is not as straightforward. The feed is valid, but there are some problems I don't understand and don't quite know how to fix.

I'll struggle with it a bit more.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Blood Money

Periodically, when I don't have enough money left from my paycheck, I donate plasma to get a bit of cash. Did that today, in fact.

Usually, I'll wear a long-sleeve shirt when I go to donate, so I don't get looks or questions about the bandage in the crook of my elbow. I guess I've been a bit embarrassed by being that broke. Sure, they say there's a charitable aspect to it, but to me, it's all about the money.

And I think, too, part of my trouble with it is having started donating plasma in the late 1970s, as a stop-gap cash source during vocational school. I didn't finish school. I didn't finish any significant amount of school in the past 30 years. But I'm still donating plasma, because I'm still short of cash.

Today, I walked out of the Plasma place in a short-sleeve teeshirt, and my backpack with the plasma guys' company name printed on it.

No looks, no questions, no problem.

Most of the time, it seems, shame is one's own. Most folks don't notice or have reason to care.

History, or worse

On the show I recorded tonight, I suggested folks "do a Google Search on Duluth and Lynching sometime." While I was playing the show back after I'd posted it, I went ahead and did just that. A tremendous number of links turned up, including a book by former Mayor Mike Fedo on the subject.

I wonder how many people come to Duluth, and would never have thought to do such a search. "Duluth? In Minnesota? They didn't have lynchings in Minnesota -- did they? Really?" Just isn't a connection most folks would make. Or at least, if one were to list places where one thought there'd been a lynching, Duluth wouldn't even be on the list for most people, I suspect.

But just one quick search, and there it is, with all the shame that goes with it. When Billie Holliday sang about "Strange Fruit," she was singing about my home town, too. It's a funny old town. But it's not all funny. There's ugly bits, too.

Friday, July 4, 2008

Confusion, Uncertainty and Doubt

For those of you who know a bit about all this subscribing to feeds stuff, I put up something on the blog page that illustrates I'm just as confused as you probably are now -- Feed Counts for all six feeds.

In order:

The Life and Times feed, the original subscribers to the current blog.

The Changeling Turkey feed, folks from the old blog, now on the current blog.

The Odiogo feed, the text of this blog read by an automated, "text-to-speech" program. Works like a podcast.

The Grizzly's Growls feed, which includes both the Grizzly's Growls podcast, and the Stories from the Hiber-Nation podcast.

The Podcast-only feed, which includes only the podcast.

The Hiber-Nation feed, which includes only the stories.

I'm sure there are a number of people who are now subscribed to two or three or more of these feeds, and probably don't need to be. But I'm worried if I eliminate any, I'll lose someone. This Internet stuff sure can get complicated, huh?

Sure hope you didn't have the impression I was entirely sure of what I was doing.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

The Peter Principle for Podcasters -- Like Me

Once again, I seem to have "broken" my podcast. Everything works, and nothing helps.

I had changed my main "Grizzly's Growls" feed a while back to only show the main podcasts, and not any of the stories. I have a separate "Stories from the Hiber-Nation" feed with only the stories, none of the podcasts.

Then I decided it'd be nice to add a feed that was both the Podcasts and the Stories. So I changed the old Libsyn feed address to have both.

And then I thought some more. Bad mistake.

I decided it made more sense for the oldest, "main" feed to have both. So I changed the main feed back to everything, and introduced yet another feed, GGPO, to have Grizzly's Growls Podcasts Only. The stories are still on grizzlysgrowlsstory. But now it seems like nobody knows what they ought to be subscribed to, so I'm losing subscribers on all three feeds.

Dumb of me. Which made me think of the Peter Principle for Podcasters -- a podcaster will tend to keep tinkering till no one is subscribed anymore, because all the changes annoy the subscribers, and they say "to heck with all this."

At least, if "a podcaster" means Me.

Sorry about that. Assuming anyone still reads this. I should just pull the pin on the ancient Changeling Turkey blog, too. I haven't had anything more to say there, and it's just diluting the message, confusing me, and confusing everybody else, too.

If you're subscribed to the Changeling Turkey feed, I've redirected it to the feed for my newer blog, the "Life and Times" blog. Don't like the name as much, but ... Hmmm... Well, that was easy. Why didn't I think of that before?

Anyway, the Changeling Turkey feed will continue to work for the moment.

Oh, well. If I were an expert -- I'd be Leo LaPorte.