A nation of anxious children?

Writing in the Wall Street Journal, columnist Peggy Noonan thinks the government is dissembling with regard to the Ebola situation. I think I largely agree: The government is not making any sense:

Dr. Frieden’s logic was a bit of a heart-stopper. In fact his responses were more non sequiturs than answers. We cannot ban people at high risk of Ebola from entering the U.S. because people in West Africa have Ebola, and we don’t want it to spread. Huh?

It is my impression that everyone who speaks for the government on this issue has been instructed to imagine his audience as anxious children.

It is well worth a read.

via Who Do They Think We Are? – WSJ.

Pardon the Mess

Usually I begin to grow dissatisfied with my web site in the Spring. This year the feeling came early and I’m in the process of revising the design. All the content is still here, it’s just really ugly right now.

I’m using a new tool that will allow me to build custom WordPress themes for clients. It’s fairly straightforward, but there is a slight learning curve (and I’ll need to spend a fair amount of time customizing the CSS styles), so building a new template structure will take a couple days at least.

Fortunately, nobody ever visits this site anyway.

New Seattle Holidays

What has become of Seattle?

They raised the minimum wage to fifteen dollars an hour.

Then they announced a new plan to inspect household garbage and impose fines for wasted food.

Now they’ve voted to no longer celebrate Columbus Day, renaming it Indigenous Peoples’ Day.

Since Seattle has clearly lost its collective mind, why stop with Columbus Day? There are plenty of holidays left to express solidarity with the oppressed, assuage your guilt, and make you feel better about yourselves.

Here are a few suggestions to get the healing started.

Valentine’s Day. The idea of love is outmoded and antiquated, and this selfish holiday propagates the idea that love is somehow best expressed between two distinct people. But love doesn’t happen in a vacuum (unless you’re into that sort of thing – I don’t judge). True love must be inclusive of everyone, especially ugly people (a group traditionally left out). We now understand that love is in fact a communal concept, encompassing the whole human collective as expressed in our shared reliance on government services. Therefore true love can only happen when the government is properly funded. To celebrate this proper understanding, Valentine’s Day should be renamed Government Orgy Day. On this day, civil servants will be available to collect your tribute in return for hugs and, well, let’s just see where it goes from there. Of course, like any other day, sex with politicians is encouraged (especially by the politicians).

To fight bullying and to accommodate zero-tolerance school Gun-Free-Zones, Memorial Day will become Peace Activist Day.

Father’s Day. No longer can we defend the Patriarchy! It was men that got us into this mess in the first place. Instead, we need a day to reflect on the heavy burden we have all paid as a result of the patriarchal lust for power, and the greed that lies inherent in the genetic code of this brutish gender. History demands a day to counter the violent, oppressive male nature we have all endured and continue to live under since the dawn of history. The Earth, Gaia herself, cries out for vengeance, pleading with us to deliver a figurative blow for justice. Therefore we must end Father’s Day, and rename it Soccer Day, a day to be spent kicking balls.

In and effort to valiantly confront our obesity epidemic, Halloween will be renamed Eat Your Vegetables Day.

Thanksgiving will be renamed Apologize To Indians Day.

In recognition that not all children are born into royalty, Christmas will be Yay Abortions! Day.

To focus our efforts on fighting climate change, New Year’s Day will be called We’re Killing The Planet – It’s Really Dying, No, Really It’s Gonna Happen For Sure Any Day Now, Day.

Hope this helps, Seattle.

Faith’s Addiction

Mrs. Sigmadog has a sickness. She can’t stop watching home renovation shows. It’s an obsession. The HGTV channel is like her crack, or meth, or whatever the kids are doing these days. She’ll watch with fascinated interest a crew repairing a subfloor in a century-old home, and offer critical appraisals of their technique. Sealing and repairing a cracked foundation is like foreplay to her. She rifles through every page of This Old House Magazine like she’s looking for the centerfold.

Recently, she decided to install a toilet in our basement bathroom (finishing the basement has been an ongoing project for some time). I remember thinking:

“Right now my wife is in the basement using an impact-drill to install a toilet while I’m up here in my office goofing off, which makes me either 1. a terrible, wretched, sad excuse for a man, or 2. the luckiest guy on the planet.”

Hey, why can’t it be both?

Her obsession has paid off, however. In 2012 we purchased a 102 year-old house in Ellensburg, the town where we both went to college (Go Wildcats!). My reaction when I first saw the house was:

This home is so old it belongs in a home!

But she talked me into the purchase, and working with a local contractor (Rios Contracting – what a great guy and crew!), Mrs. Sigmadog managed the renovation project. I provided the layout and visual direction for the final look, and in 5 months it was transformed.

Before

Before


After

After

These days the house is an attractive rental property just 2 blocks from Central Washington University. Being so close to campus makes it very attractive to students, but it’s also got a lot of curb appeal on its own.

That’s no idle boast, as This Old House Magazine recently ranked it within the top forty renovations in the “Best Curb Appeals Before and Afters” category of its America’s Best Remodels 2014 contest.

Damn! That’s only going to encourage her.

Actually, I’m serenely reconciled to the idea of my wife wearing the contractor pants in our relationship. In fact, for our Anniversary, I gave her a new Ellensburg project:

Anniversary Gift

My awesome Canon 70D

When it comes to photo equipment, I’m a Canon guy all the way. I have nothing against Nikon, Olympus, or any other camera makers, but I chose Canon in 1989 when it came time to retire my trusty (and cheap) SLR kit that I had had since my early days in college. Once that purchase was made, and after having since spent a couple thousand dollars on some spiffy Canon lenses, there really was (and is) no turning back.

Most of the professional photographers I know use Nikon. There must be something to that. Still, Canon is a fine brand, and I’m happy with my choice.

Especially today.

For lunch, we went to Coeur d’Alene to visit my favorite camera store, the Camera Corral. It was there that my lovely bride purchased, as an anniversary gift to me, a brand new Canon 70D.

The Canon 70D is, in my view, as close as I can get to a professional-level camera while being reasonably priced and without requiring higher level lenses. I hear the Nikon 7100 is just as good if not better in some respects, but since my lens investment is with Canon, I didn’t even consider the Nikon.

This camera has so many features it will take me a good couple months to begin to feel competent in its use. I’m excited to see how much I can learn, and how much my photography will improve in the process.

Here are some of the super cool features:

  • 20 Mega Pixel images (that’s 5472 x 3648 pixels, which translates to over 18″ x 12″ images for high-resolution offset printing which is usually 300 pixels/inch – this is a big deal for a print designer like me).
  • It shoots HD video! I tried it today for the first time and with just a simple flick of the finger I can go from stills to video. Amazing!
  • Built-in wireless for transferring images to other devices. While not as capable as I would have liked (ideally I’d like a wi-fi connection to my iPad that would transfer high-res images for proofing – this won’t do that) yet it will be a useful feature for sharing images.
  • Fully articulated LCD view-screen that is touch enabled. It’s like using an iPhone to take photos, but better.
  • ISO settings of 100 – 12800 for real low-light situations.
  • Did I mention it shoots video!
  • Exposure settings from 1/8000 to 30 seconds. My old camera only went to 1/3000.
  • For action stills, it can shoot up to 7 frames per second. I’m looking forward to this for the next Bloomsday shoot.
  • Frickin’ video!

These are just a few of the features that got me excited. There are many many more. It’s an awesome tool, and I’m hoping to get a lot of great work out of it.

Here’s one of the first stills I shot of Boris with it today (you can click on the image for a larger size to view the incredible detail this camera captures):

Boris isn't a big fan of photography, but he's a good sport about it. Here he strikes a pensive pose.

Boris isn’t a big fan of photography, but he’s a good sport about it. Here he strikes a pensive pose.

1

Comedy in Spokane

Went out to a comedy show tonight at the Chan’s Red Dragon Lounge in Spokane. As my friends all know, I love comedy. In fact, I have been doing it as a hobby for a couple years now – just Open Mics, strictly amateur.

Tonight was different. I was just another audience member, and the nearest word to describe it would be an Audition for the Seattle Comedy Competition. From what the MC said, this was the first year that the competition was considering comics from Spokane, so it was a big deal for all 19 participants. Each competitor got to present their best 5 minute set.

Both Faith and I enjoyed the show immensely.

There was a wide spread of comics, most of whom I’ve seen at Open Mics in the area. There were a couple that stood out in my mind. One of these was a young kid named Tom Something-Stamos (yes, his name is hyphenated, and the middle name is hard to remember).

I’ve seen him before, and there’s something about him that I find incredibly apealling as a comic. I’ve seen him on some of his less successful open mics, but even in those I thought his stage persona was amazing. I don’t know why, but I immediately expected great things from him; and when the jokes didn’t materialize, I felt perhaps I missed something. After all, a kid this confident MUST have great stuff.

He’s a young comic who, if he sticks with it and works hard to hone his craft, I honestly expect great things from.

Perhaps there’s just something about me that makes me hope for the best whenever I see young kids with so much potential (I’m the same way when judging design portfolios – I’m full of hope and optimism), but I never seemed to witness a truly amazing performance from Tom at the open mics I attended.

But tonight at the comedy show, I saw Tom at his current best. I think he can be even better, but tonight was a wonderful vindication of my hopes for him as a comic. In my opinion, he was one of the top three comics of the show.

I made a point of seeking him out after the show to tell him what I thought. I think I may have overdone it – I mean, a drunken old guy staggering up to a young kid and heaping praise on him can imply a number of unseemly agendas; I just hope he saw the sincerity in my words and didn’t immediately dismiss me as some old drunk.

I actually gave him a business card and told him to contact me if he needs any help, a truly weird and creepy thing to do. In my defense I must say that the bartender was very generous in his measurement of Jameson shots, because I ordered two and drank the equivalent of four, so I was a bit more expansive and generous in my interactions (translation: I was drunk. Mrs. Sigmadog drove me home.). But the desire to help was real, and if I can help him in any legitimate way, I will.

The night got me thinking of doing more comedy work. I think I will visit the Red Dragon again for Friday Night Open Mic sometime soon to see how it goes.

Having done only a few open mics, I’m hoping the comedy competition will happen again next year, because if so, I’m going to practice my stuff and sign up and give it a shot, if only to see what happens.

Arches National Park, Utah

Arches #3668

Hey, McDonalds!

Burgers made by robots! Yum!

Here’s the solution to employees demanding impossibly high wages: fire ‘em and go robot!

Burgers made by robots! Yum!

Burgers made by robots! Yum!

City of Rocks, New Mexico

City of Rocks #3564
1

The Suicide Bombers – a short short story

mushroom-cloud

When the Suicide Bombers moved to town, there were concerns by neighbors and community leaders. There were also some protests.

The local chapter of the American Legion organized a rally outside the home of the Suicide Bombers. They held signs that said “Freedom of Speech: Yes. Freedom to Kill: No!”, “Threats of Violence Will Not Deter Us!”, and “Say NO to Terror!”, plus many others. They were a spirited crowd. Then little Samir, with his father watching proudly from the metal-reinforced viewhole in the front door, walked into the middle of the protesters and pressed the big red button in the center of his vest.

The boom was heard from miles away.

Protest rallies were severely cut back. The town elders passed hate-crime legislation banning protests on the grounds that such demonstrations not only served to reinforce stereotypes but also unnecessarily increased the risk of further violence.

In an effort to reach out to the Suicide Bombers, the Rotary Club organized a picnic at the park and invited the whole town to come and meet the Suicide Bombers. Most who came were polite, but stand-offish. The Suicide Bombers took note of the fact that beer and hot dogs were among the food items being served. They soon left the picnic, leaving little Sumah behind. She stood near the town elders and pressed the big red button on her vest.

The explosion destroyed a historic oak tree reportedly as old as the Bill of Rights.

The town unanimously adopted a “live and let live” policy towards the Suicide Bombers. Soon they became accepted members of the community. The father joined the Fraternal Order of Elks and participated in that organization’s weekly functions (now completely alcohol and pork free). The mother traded recipes for bludgeoned goat and other staples with the womenfolk, who no longer wore makeup or dressed provocatively like infidel whores.

In summers, they vacationed at the lake, the children playing in the water with life-preservers fitted over the top of their bomb-vests. Father would lie on a towel in the sand, dozing in the sun with his finger resting gently on the big red button, with mother right beside him on her own towel, sweating in the sun beneath her full length burka, a bulge showing in her middle where the explosive waistband was strapped. They were a happy family and these were happy times.

At school, little Abdullah was the class clown. Sometimes his antics required disciplinary action, like after the beheading of his classmate David Brinstein. Such discipline was handled with care, however, lest Abdullah’s finger begin to stray too close to the big red button on his vest.

mushroom-cloud

One day, a substitute teacher had the temerity to scold Abdullah in front of his friends. Words were exchanged, and Abdullah, eyes flashing, told her “Daughter of Satan, forever will you serve me in Paradise,” just before his finger found the button.

The school, renamed Abdullah the Martyr Elementary, was rebuilt in record time and things returned to normal. Everyone was a little wiser and more considerate of the Suicide Bombers.

The father eventually became elected to the town council. At his swearing in, he gave a speech during which his finger, in a habit he had developed over the years, tapped and danced on the big red button of his explosive vest for the length of his oration. Though the hall was air-conditioned, everyone in attendance was sweating profusely. He was voted President of the Council in a unanimous voice vote immediately afterwards.

Many happy years passed for the Suicide Bombers in that town. There were parades and celebrations organized by the infidels in honor of the Suicide Bombers. This kept the Suicide Bombers in a perpetual state of pleasure and happiness, which was good for all concerned.

It just so happened that one day, the father decided it was time for him to retire from the family business. In a modest ceremony attended by all the townsfolk, he spoke briefly about his life’s dream to be a Suicide Bomber, about his pride in his children who had followed in his footsteps, and his great fondness for this, his adopted town.

Finally, as he reached the end of his brief remarks, there was just one thing left to do…

Piper down

bagpipes-small

The degeneration of “law” into regulation is a problem. The post-constitutional order is, too. But something bigger is in play. To remain free, a people need something more basic – the spirit of liberty. Once you’ve lost that, there are no easy roads back.

Mark Steyn