Sunday, December 28, 2008

My Salute to 2008



Little did I know that the snowman built in my yard on Christmas Eve (by a member of the Snabulus family) would melt into an interesting gesture, but I think it sums up 2008 rather well. What started as something resembling human ended up, as President Bush put it, gesturing back at us with less than all five fingers (which he may have learned from the Dean!). In the end, it was just sticks in the grass.

Nonetheless, I would like to hear from you. What are three (or more) good and three (or more) not-so-good things you would like to attribute to the year that passed. They can be personal, cultural, political, or anything you want. You can make your own categories if you want to. Have fun with it.

The winner receives a 2008 VW Jetta. There will be no winner. However, I am 5 billion dollars in debt, so please bail me out.

I will start...

3 Good Things:


  1. My knee is finally doing better.

  2. I still have a job and my family is healthy.

  3. Our house is painted and looks pretty decent.



3 Bad Things:


  1. My other knee is killing me. (Just kidding). The economy. Thanks to taxation rules prohibiting distributions to non-market based retirement funds, most people have highly devalued retirement and education investments.

  2. The untimely death of Josh Westhaver. Sudden tragedy is a terrible thing. I know most readers here have known this pain; some many times over. My heart goes out to you. Geez. I can't even get through a blog post without tearing up.

  3. The continuing destruction around the world caused by humans against other humans. Inhuman.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry (White) Christmas

Merry Christmas Snabulus readers. I thought I would share a public information statement from the National Weather Service.

... Christmas 2008 is by far the snowiest in Portland history...
... December 2008 is the snowiest December on record near Portland
Airport...

Residents of the Portland Metro area have had an abundance of snow over nearly the past two weeks now... with falling snow reported at Portland Airport today for the 11th consecutive calendar day.

Historically... the 18.9 inches of snow that have fallen so far this month at the National Weather Service office in northeast Portland ranks this as the snowiest December since records began at the nearby Airport in 1940. Additionally... this month now ranks as the second snowiest month on record... only beaten by the remarkable 41.0 inches that fell in January 1950.

Note that while December 2008 GOES down in the record books as of the snowiest in history since 1940... there were many months prior to 1940 where the official downtown Portland climate site recorded snowfall in excess of 30 inches. This well exceeds the amount of snow reported from anywhere in downtown Portland for December 2008.


=======================================

... Portland Airport and nearby National Weather Service office...

Snow data period of record: Portland airport: 1940-1996...
NWS office: 1996-present)

snowiest decembers
--------------------
****** 1. 2008 December 18.9 inches ******
2. 1968 December 15.7 inches
3. 1964 December 11.0 inches
4. 1972 December 6.1 inches

snowiest months (any month)
-----------------------------
1. 1950 January 41.0 inches
****** 2. 2008 December 18.9 inches ******
3. 1969 January 18.3 inches
4. 1968 December 15.7 inches
5. 1951 March 12.9 inches
6. 1980 January 12.4 inches
7. 1964 December 11.0 inches

=======================================


Notice how December of 68 was followed by an even snowier January of 69. My mom wrote of a winter when I was a baby when the snow reached the 3 foot porch at the old house. I believe it. Image a combined 34 inches of snow in a city with no salting equipment and very limited plowing capabilities. I am happy with the current pile melting.

Of the 11 days of snow, today was the first day I saw sun on the snow. It made me realize that, as pretty as the storm was, the sight of sun on the snow is 10 times prettier. Good old dingy, gray Oregon. Sadly, it is going to warm up and stay gray and rainy, so there will be no brilliant days with white land and blue sky. Maybe next storm...sigh.

Have fun all.

Monday, December 22, 2008

More Snow Pics

This is officially the biggest snow storm of my life (which isn't saying much to some of you other Northerners). Here are a few more photos of the experience.



Where is Birdo? There is an Oregon Junco hiding out here in the dregs of our cherry tomatoes. See if you can find it.



This is a shot of our Red Versa. If you look close, you can see the stratigraphy of this storm. There is about 6" of snow under 3/8" of ice under another 4" of snow (the actual depths were more but the wind kept the cars a bit cleaner).



After the freezing rain, I saw the birds trying to get food under the ice in vain, so I went to the store and got some sunflower seeds for them. I think they approved.



Another junco.



Not sure what this bird is, but it found the food!



These are two 5 gallon buckets I left outside. As you can see, the snow has almost buried them. I find the cones above them somewhat attractive for reasons I cannot fathom.

Random Intolerance Cartoon

I saw a pretty good cartoon over at Alternet for the article entitled, How to Get on an Atheist's Good Side by Greta Christina



Replace gays for atheists and you have the whole Obama / Rick Warren thing in a nutshell. Obama got a good trade out of it though. He was able to speak to a few thousand in return for Warren being able to speak to the whole world at an inauguration. There were better conservative voices than a Megachurch pastor. How about a Mormon or Jehovah's Witness? Or no prayer at all since it is all posturing anyway...Ah well.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Super Mega Winter Blast Burst Freeze 2008!!!!! Part Deux

Well, the snow keeps on falling. We are over 6" (15cm) with that much more expected tonight. That would set a record for my lifetime (although I heard we had a few feet [1m] the year before I was born).

Here are a few shots from earlier today.

UPDATE: The precipitation picked up this evening and we could hit the one foot mark. That would be a first for me at my own residence. The black pot is about 18" in diameter.



And here are the originals...





Friday, December 19, 2008

If You Can Read This, You're Old

The MiniSnab just informed me that MySpace rocks and blogs are what old people do. Oops, pardon me while I go take some Geritol...dang it all I can't find my walker. Old. Geez, I must be ALMOST 30 or something. It was an interesting little snippet of conversation between her Aunt, Ladybug, and myself. While I left behind the 30 marker a long time ago, it was all very amusing.

(Don't assume I was kidding about the Geritol and the walker...okay, assume.)

In other news...

Portland, Oregon has been channeling the spirit of Philly or Boston this week. Snow, cold, and wind have been the major themes along with generally yucky roads (although the last 2 afternoons weren't bad). The real fun is supposed to start tomorrow night when (supposedly) 6 to 10 inches (15 to 25cm) of snow are supposed to fall in Portland. This is going to be followed (we are told) with a half inch (1.25 cm) of freezing rain on top. It is a good thing we are heading into the holidays because the MiniSnab has already missed a week of school (Arkonbey is probably saying WTF?) due to the weather. I have a feeling that will need to be made up later in order to meet state requirements. I have a totalled Saturn station wagon with ABS, traction control, and brand new chains, so we can head out for groceries if needed (or walk to 7/11 and live off of junk food). This is the one time of year having a trashed but running vehicle pays dividends.

In yet other news...

Well, I was going to write about current events, but I changed my mind. Most of it is contrived crap. So fudge'em.

I have a fair amount of vacation to use up, so I have only one work day before the end of the year. All this time off is really welcome because I realize how much I've sacrificed for this small company over the last 7 years. This is my due and I am taking it. Thanks to the holidays and the overall financial scene, I am going to focus hard on the home front instead of going on any long trips.

I just finished Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut. It was an interesting book with a very sobering message, but Cat's Cradle was written better and engaged me more. Vonnegut was a POW who was one of the few to survive the firebombing of Dresden. The number who died in that event was around 130,000. After reading this and contemplating what I read about Moody and Pandabonium's trips to Hiroshima. After all that apocalyptic destruction that makes 9/11 look like a gnat on an elephant's ass, one must hope that it is never repaid in kind and that we learn to quit talking like it is our divine and sole right to wield such demonic power. And yet if it is going to happen, you and I will be powerless to stop it. So it goes.

The next book is Good Omens by Terry Pratchet and Neil Gaiman. It should be more a bit more fun.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

My Splotchy Contribution

I had to approach the matter delicately. Mere lack of humanity would be no excuse as far as Lilith was concerned; she was so particular about such things. When she moved she always did so with purpose. Every step, every breath, every twitch in the nether regions, every time her arm flexed in that characteristic way it always did whenever she scratched her left eyebrow (which always annoyed the spit out of me), it was all part of her routine. As far as I knew she was still as much in the flesh as when she was born, but there were often times when she seemed more mechanical than I. Her wires were of a different sort from mine; they were woven from ego rather than alloy.

I remember clearly how I struggled to find the words. Unfortunately, when the implants had gone in, my imagination had gone out. Improvisational eloquence used to be second nature to me, but like a thesaurus that had accidentally gone through the wash, I was left only with so many incoherent smudges in my mind. I stammered and quickly shoved the stammer into yet another box of meaningless small talk. But she was too sharp for that.

"Huh!" she said. Strange. It wasn't a "Huh?" of curiosity; rather, it was a "Huh!" of idiotic amusement.

"Huh huh!"

I asked her what was wrong, and I got only more "huh"s.

No, that was wrong. I remembered that day clearly. She hadn't said or done any of that. The memory was all wrong. My recollection of that day had somehow become corrupted. Had they found me out? Were they using some nameless telepathic conduit into my soul to twist my memories into a blasphemous abomination?

"Huh huh!"

No, wait. It was even more wrong, for I knew I was no longer thinking of that day. So the "huh"s weren't coming from my memory at all, then. They were in the Here and Now! I immediately suspected the dog, but when I glanced over at him he was (unfortunately) sleeping peacefully. Where, then? Where was it coming from?

"Huh huh huh!"

Then it came. That sudden, sharp impact. It sent a jolt through my senses far greater than any psychic flatulence Yog Sothoth had ever lobbed at me. It was total; it permeated me, became my reality, shifted my reality...

And then I woke up. And I saw HIM. There he was, that sorry, bloated, empty-headed, buzz-cut argument against evolution. He was standing there in front me, retracting the hand he had just used to pop me on the head. In his other hand he held...NO!!!

My precious, newly-bought book!!! My beloved tome from the alien gods!!!! It was in the flabby paw of that vile creature!!!!!

"Huh huh huh!" he farted from his mouth. "What's this, you little fag?" He looked at the book with a look that spoke of pure vacuum. "'The Best of H.P. Lovecraft'? Who the f*** is that?"

"Give that back, Bob!" I cried, dismayed at the wimpy sound of my own voice.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Splotchy Story Virus

From Splotchy:

Here are the rules:
Here's what I would like to do. I want to create a story that branches out in a variety of different, unexpected ways. I don't know how realistic it is, but that's what I'm aiming for. Hopefully, at least one thread of the story can make a decent number of hops before it dies out.

If you are one of the carriers of this story virus (i.e. you have been tagged and choose to contribute to it), you will have one responsibility, in addition to contributing your own piece of the story: you will have to tag at least one person that continues your story thread. So, say you tag five people. If four people decide to not participate, it's okay, as long as the fifth one does. And if all five participate, well that's five interesting threads the story spins off into.

Not a requirement, but something your readers would appreciate: to help people trace your own particular thread of the narrative, it will be helpful if you include links to the chapters preceding yours.

The bus was more crowded than usual. It was bitterly cold outside, and I hadn't prepared for it. I noticed that a fair number of the riders were dressed curiously. As I glanced around, I stretched my feet and kicked up against a large, heavy cardboard box laying under the seat in front of me. (Splotchy)

Rivulets of sweat began cascading down my face and I hurriedly wiped one from my brow before its salty bitterness could burn my precious, precious electric eye. No, the fright couldn't simply be attributed to my allergy to cardboard that always resulted in patches of bloody pustules and mottled skin akin to a poorly applied KISS® -- see, Gene? Put your lawyers away -- makeup job nor the fact that a fair number of the riders were curiously dressed like a toupee-less, yet masterfully make-upped Chaim Witz nor the fact that motionless tentacles were protruding from a number of randomly punched holes in the cardboard box that bore the hideous label Contents, frozen spawn of Old One, 72 oz. nor the realization that I had forgotten my glasses and couldn't see not whom, but what, was slowly shambling down the aisle towards me, its apparently glistening appendages slopping on the possibly filthy floor of this potential deathtrap of a bus recklessly driven by an attractively miniskirted, yet maniacal, maniac, her lapel bearing a button barely visible underneath a swath of jet-black hair and emblazoned with I worship Dagon, ask me how!, which I never did by the way.

No, the fright couldn't simply be attributed to any of those mundane things. My wind wandered, dreaming up all sorts of misadventure where I stared death in the face and he stared back and then we had a series of staring contests of which I think I won nearly 40% of them, an excellent number against an entity bearing a head-lopping scythe, don't you think?

I stared out the window, and the undulating, slowly shifting, tree-saturated landscape stared back. I won that contest but quickly remembered the old saw about looking into the abyss and having it stick its tongue out. I pulled my electric eye back into the bus and stared ahead instead.

Next, a cavalcade of nervous fumbling and rummaging through my pockets to make sure I had an extra nine volt battery. I did -- the apparently glistening appendages slopping ever closer amidst a cacophony of bizarre, intermittent noise -- so I knew I wouldn't have to worry about my electric eye running out of juice until I got back.

Which, of course, turned out to be the case, for how else could you be reading this erratic, poorly-written account of horror, unless you stumbled upon the abandoned wreckage of the bus and were rifling through my strangely mutilated corpse severely underdressed for the freezing weather and found this sheet of crumpled and charred paper riddled with poor penmanship along with my wallet that contained a drivers license, library card, work ID, three singles and a bus ticket!

But you didn't because I'm not dead, for I just handed the bus ticket to the shambling beast which indeed was slimy for it -- and it, despite its general human visage, was the most accurate description I could muster -- was close enough that I didn't need my glasses.

"Last stoop fer yew vis'turs."

Ahead in the distance, beyond the cardboard box's melting water -- at least, I assumed it was water, and you know what they say when you assume: Nyarlathotep tears you a new one, chump -- pooling at my feet, the creepy troupe of riders and the inhuman coughing of it, bathed by the light of the red moon, I saw the low, yet eerily distinct skyline of Arkham. (Randal)


Arkum hums with a high electric whine, a noise that is like tinnitus to the nth. The man with the monocle who was so strangely dressed coughed on me as the bus lurched to a stop. I hope it wasn't the virus. Now I hunch my shoulders against the freezing wind that hugs the frozen ground. I have two cloptomiters to go before I'm home and it's dark but for the purple neon gloom, looking like a distant nuclear disaster but is merely low light bouncing off the distant metropolis along with the nearly unbearable high whine. And then the wind blows it back upon itself and for a few moments of relief I almost hear silence. I can barely see the ground beneath my feet.

What was I thinking when I dressed for the day? My feet are freezing. Thank the dog for the electric eye. I can see the faintly pink glow of my signature footprint along this well trod strip of stone. But it seems eerily empty for now. Odd. This time of night is usually humming with voices coming out of the dark. All I hear is the high city hum and the wind. Several layers of skirts fly up from a gust of wind and I almost topple backward. These tall rubber boots on their platforms are wonderful in a crowd, extend the stride, and strengthen the buttocks, lifting its heft of weight into the air like a pillow. But skirts?

I hear the dog once and know I will turn left half way up the lane to my bunker. His voice always rings out once when I reach this spot and even without the eye I turn left, arm raised, palm flattened upward to make contact with the wire of the compound. I trail my gloved fingers along the fence until I feel the gate. Here I must remove my glove and place my naked palm against the freezing surface of the palm ID pad. And it slides open almost silently. I enter and hear it slide shut behind me. It locks with a hollow sound that makes me shudder with pleasure. Now small photocell lights flank the path like little pale full moons.

I have a single bunker. I am gifted in certain arts. I can talk to the mad and read their minds. I can smell danger. And I am old. No small accomplishment in these times. So the dog, as he calls himself, and I live together in a cube of concrete with a pyramid roof alone, in silence, but for the sound of my own voice softly talking to myself and his rare great bark or low growl.

He doesn't rise when I come in. But I hear him panting softly in his dark corner. The room is only warmed with his body heat. All the fuel was burned long ago. But food will be brought for both of us. He could so warm me better if we slept together but he will not. So I wear all my clothes trying to keep from shivering. I would never ask to sleep in his bed but have invited him into mine. Often. No luck.

And now before my fingers stiffen in the cold I must answer the questions sent to me by the mad. Only the mad understand the mad, but not all the mad have my gift to hear their inner voices. We are all somewhat gifted. Some of us have visions, hear voices, but I can only listen to the inner voice, the one that never says aloud what it most fears.(Utah Savage)

The irony of hating that Will Smith movie where he was the only pure human he knew of makes me laugh until I cry only once a day usually, but this makes the second time today.

I'd like to be able to distract myself from this existence as I sometimes can with some maudlin or quirky tale that was uploaded to this confounded eye, but for the time being I just place it on its charger, wondering yet again what renewable substance has been able to sustain the charger's life these 25 years. If I knew that, would I be freezing here like this?

I wish someone, anyone, could or would answer that question. I wish Lilith were here to ponder it with me.

Yes, there are the halflings, but they really are not very good company. The electronic portions of them seem to override most of their humanness. But, compared to those the blogoscopic entities have fully infiltrated, they are a veritable schmorgesborg of spontaneity. I am not sure if I should admit that my insane mother was right and that my "specialness" would "save" me in the end, but those like me are few and far between these days.

What was once a blessing, my telepathic tendencies, has become such a curse that I would no doubt kill myself were it not for Lilith. My only hope is to find her. (Freida Bee)

My human part slept while my body electric recharged its high capacity 9 volt battery and spare. Visions and algorithms of chaos and order merged into organic patterns that ultimately morphed into circuit boards with dendritic hierarchies of contacts and junctions. The damn things recurred every night in increasingly complex ways. Start with a fern and a laptop and merge them at ever deeper levels to the nth degree, then throw in the spikes of fear and uncertainty that only occur in dreams and that is close to what I experienced.

My circuits were designed explicitly to increase my ability to absorb the impossible, but they can only do so much. When a person is strolling along on that perfect day only to become a witness to Fishmen devouring the sanity of best friends and professors; well, it is just too much for even electronics to bear. A cleft formed between my organic and electronic parts.

I rambled through Arkham analyzing the meaningless life forms carrying on what they believed were normal lives. What dupes! My electric eye could see the sub-nanometer band, viewing parasites feeding on the souls of so many, sapping them of confidence and ambition. I tried to feel some compassion, but the firewall stopped me and I felt nothing.

When I finally found Lilith, she was horrified at the abomination I had become. I was crestfallen and it seemed as though I choked on a thousand copper wires trying to maintain a semblance of humanity. Humanity was losing and I couldn't stop it. I knew then that she would become bait in my quest to vanquish the Old Ones. (Don Snabulus)




Okay, I tag:

Moody Minstrel (on this page if he desires)
Hypatia
Thepsilam
Overdroid
Somebody famous!!!!

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Super Mega Winter Blast Burst Freeze 2008!!!!!

Storm Team 12 and Task Force Blizzard Freezecakes (ok, I made that up) predicted it and it finally happened. It got cold and snowed.

I woke up early this morning and it was above freezing and green. I scoffed at this stupid weather forecast. Fifteen minutes later it started snowing and it kept going all day today.



During the heat of the day, the temperature had dropped about 8 degrees F. As evening closes in, it is getting even colder.



The MiniSnab (with my help) put up the Holiday Lights (ordinarily I would say Christmas Lights, but there IS A WAR on regarding blah blah blah). She did a decent job until she started getting cold, then it got a bit sloppy. If the 50 to 60 mph gusts tonight don't shatter the bulbs, we will fix it tomorrow.



The cat wanted to go outside, we obliged, and when we noticed him at the door a couple hours later, he had snow on his fur and he appeared to be rather ticked off. We let him in, dried his fur, and let him roost in his indoor resting spot. These are the feline perils when humans lets kitties make their own decisions.

The outdoor faucets are sheathed in styrofoam, the crawlway vents are closed, and we have enough food to avoid driving for a few days. Temperatures could get down as low as 10F (-12C). It should be fun watching the weather and the local news hysterics on TV (though we generally ignore the local news).

Thursday, December 11, 2008

A Very Sad Day

Our friend Josh died today. Swinebread has the details here. He was a good guy and he will be missed. This picture of him in costume was from a 2005 party at our house.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Practagedy

The MiniSnab volunteered to be a disaster victim for a drill at a local hospital. It was a massive earthquake and she was "injured" in the event. They let her wear her "wound" home. Here are the pics:



Maybe I should have called this "Ich bin ein Berliner":



It sounds like she had fun and it was time that our Homeland Security money went to something that teenagers found fun.

640...1240...CONELRAD

Monday, December 08, 2008

The Pr0n P0l1ce

or The Porn Police in non-Hackese...

Remember how superior we felt when we heard that China routinely filters and censors Internet content to "ensure harmony" within their country?

That can't happen in "civilized" democracies can it? Australia, UK?

Well, yes.

Australian Gov't Mandatory ISP Filtering/Censorship Plan

The Australian Federal Labor Government, which was elected on 24 November 2007, has a 'plan' to force all Australian ISPs to implement server-based filtering systems to block access to 'child pornography', 'X-rated material', 'violence', 'prohibited' material, 'inappropriate' material and 'unwanted' material on a secret blacklist compiled by a government agency. Prior to the election, Labor said the objective of their 'plan' was "to ensure that children are protected from harmful and inappropriate online material".


UK ISPs switch on mass Wikipedia censorship

According to discussions on the Wikipedia administrators noticeboard, this is because a transparent proxy has been enabled for customers of Virgin Media, Be/O2/Telefonica, EasyNet/UK Online, PlusNet, Demon and Opal. This has two effects: users cannot see content filtered by the proxies, and all user traffic passing through the proxies is given a single IP address per proxy. As Wikipedia's anti-vandalism system blocks users by IP address, one single case of vandalism by a single UK user prevents all users on that user's ISP from editing. The effect is to block all editing from anonymous UK users on that list of ISPs. Registered users can continue to edit.

The content being filtered is apparently that deemed to meet the Internet Watch Foundation's critera for child pornography – in one case, this involves a 1970s LP cover art which, although controversial, is still widely available.


Even here in the good old US of A, they are trying to softshoe the same approach...

Bush FCC chairman considering 'porn-free Internet'

The proposal to allow a no-smut, free wireless Internet service is part of a proposal to auction off a chunk of airwaves. The winning bidder would be required to set aside a quarter of the airwaves for a free Internet service. The winner could establish a paid service that would have a fast wireless Internet connection. The free service could be slower and would be required to filter out pornography and other material not suitable for children.


I don't need to tell anyone here what the problem is. Smut may start out as hard-core porn, illegal images of children, and so forth. However, as you've already noticed above, it can quickly become an excuse for much more. It is also a foot in the door to move beyond so-called "no brainer" crime legislation and into the kind of political censorship that is rampant in places like China.

We tried using parental controls for the MiniSnab, but soon found problems going to medical sites that discussed women's issues. In fact, I found out that if you turn on Safe Search at Google.com and look for "clitoris," you will not get any matches. However, if you search for "penis," no problem...there are thousands of hits. How does that tickle your fancy?

Blame it on the liberals. Blame it on the conservatives. When it comes to governmental power, they are guilty and guilty.

There is a lot of crap on the Internet. The ONE and ONLY thing about the Internet that makes it a revolutionary medium is the freedom of expression and free flow of ideas, sometimes controversial ones. Without that, it is no more than a fancy television. If you can't navigate or speak without a goddamn cop or lawyer breathing down your neck, then you would be an idiot to keep using the medium. This is what the neanderthal Labor Party of Australia and conservative Kevin Martin at the FCC (seriously dude, the Nazi eyeglasses need to go) don't realize.

On the other hand, if we all went encrypted then none of their stupid filters or e-mail reading software would work. HTTPS and PGP are our friends. Cut out the spy-in-the-middle. If Microsoft sold our info down the river, the hackers would find out and we could all switch to an open source platform. Just a thought.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Some Stuff Just Didn't Happen

This is pretty funny and a reminder that not all threats are created equal: