Tuesday, November 26, 2013


I'm not really certain how much to trust my gut. The problem is self-selecting criteria mainly for when the gut was right. You know, when you had a bad feeling or something wasn't quite right, and you ignored that and got into trouble?

But how many times has the gut been wrong? We don't remember. The gut (call it instinct, intuition, what have you), by nature of being a soft, squishy defenseless mess protected at most by some fat, maybe a little muscle, is cowardly, and will never be comfortable with bold action.

Nevertheless, I do listen to my gut feelings, and lately my gut has been telling me to move to Mexico.

Which is weird, don't you think?

The whole thing started when I came to the realization, that all other factors being what they are, the really important thing boils down to global warming. It's coming. It's accelerating, and it's getting to the point where the acceleration will accelerate into the shock zone.

This feeling stems from my knowledge of past climate variation. Which, yes, I know, is trending, induction, inference, unscientific. The fact remains that in the past climates can change like the flip of a switch, that heating or cooling can catastrophically take place on the order of decades or years.

No, I don't think we will have anything biblical, but I do think, when it happens, it will be a rapid phase change. And you can only prepare so much, but really it's all about location, location, location.

So, why not stay where I am? Chicago has lots of water, the Great Lakes undoubtedly will be stick around for awhile. Yes, but North America traditionally is an arid place. Places like the south and the west are kind of screwed if the rain belts move north as predicted. So it will be more than cities like Los Angeles, San Diego, Phoenix, Las Vegas, Dallas, San Antonio, Denver that are doomed. The Great Plains will return to the Sahara they were one thousand years ago, and not just the plains cities like Topeka or Wichita, but Kansas City, St. Louis, Memphis, Des Moines are doomed as well. Climate studies also suggest decade-long droughts in the southeast United States, so basically right off anyone below the Mason-Dixon line.

And where will all those people go? Where the water is, I guess. So, the Great Lakes may not be such a  nice place to be.

I had originally thought, well, maybe move to Canada, or Greenland, or Scandinavia. But my feeling is, tropical diseases are going to like wildfire through the mosquito and no-see-ums and tick population and you are going to see a lot of very white northern peoples die of exotic diseases and parasites. Plus, my guess is, with the melt, it's just going to be an awful swamp. Just the form of jungle living that white people don't take to so well.

Alright, so why Mexico? Well, it's even more specific than that. My gut is telling me to go to the Sierra Madre del Sur. Why? I don't know the region. I look on a map, I can see the states Michoacan, Guerrero, Oaxaca, the city of Acapulco, but I've never been there. I don't know the peoples. I don't know Spanish. I don't know the indigenous languages there.

I do know it will not suffer for rainfall. It has one of the (still) most diverse and thriving ecosystems in the world. In fact, Mexico as a whole still has a well preserved and very diverse ecology -  one of the most important on the planet.

More importantly, the people there are subsistence survivors. When you compare them to their anglo neighbors up north, they are much tougher and more likely to survive through rough times. Let's face its, the anglo culture of the United States has always been an exploiter culture, and has never really had to rough it in a way that exploited peoples have. They are just more likely to survive, period, in a way that Americans or Canadians will not. So that is another factor.

I don't know. I guess it would help to visit the damn place, don't you think? But I have to wonder why my gut says go south when all signs point north?

(Oh, and by the way, after reading about the latest caper that the rich people's advisers have come up with - freeports to stash all their stuff - I have a desire to crash a fully fueled unmanned jumbo jet plane into one of these swank warehouses, or find me bunker buster. Sour Grapes? Or ahead of my time?)

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Metal Heuristics

I cast an aluminum needle for my eldest student, who is 90. Actually, no, my eldest student is 91, but she hasn't cast any metal with me this year, and probably never again. She's getting old.

Anyway, my eldest student has been making needles and pins and other tailoring instrumentation for about, well, as long as I've been at the college. His father was a tailor and his mother was seamstress. I know that like I'm starting in on the Dozens, but that's what they were. The needle he fashioned out of wax was turned around so that the point goes back through the eye.

In any case, I documented his needle because I failed to rig it properly. I'm a big fan of public admissions of mistakes, not only because you learn may something from my mistake, but I learn something by properly formulating what went wrong. This is the very essence of what Open Source is about. So here we have it:

As you can see, the aluminum froze out in two spots. One spot actually joined, but then was torn apart when the metal and investment cooled, producing what is known as a heat tear (tear as in torn, not tear drop). The as the metal cooled, it condensed faster than the silica investment (the white stuff). The unyielding investment, under compression, won out over the metal under tension. In the other spot, the aluminum flow simply did not meet. My guess is insufficient hydraulic pressure to drive out the air. Here's another view angle, and as you can see, the runner feeding the needle is almost level with the pouring cup.

The solution to all this? There should have been two additional runners at right angles to the two existing feed runners. Unlike bronze, the weight of the aluminum was insufficient to force enough metal through the feed runners. Also, a vent would have helped to eliminated trapped air, which also was a problem. So, metals are different animals, and go figure.

My youngest student managed to cast her Greek helmet, or faux Greek helmet.

It weighs 18 lbs. She looks pretty cute in it.

Guess I may be working my way up to an armorer's position after all.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Work, work, work

I try to make work fun. Doesn't always work. We got a skid of clay in today, and after we unloaded it, what to do with the boxes. I let them do whatever they wish with them before they get sorted, and usually I have to suggest they make a wall or a fort or something. And then what? Well, crash through them. Here's one of the better crashes:

Monday, November 18, 2013

General Giap and the ACA

I've been paying for my own medical insurance since 1998. I've had a hernia surgery, and then the most recent series of cystoscopies for my kidney problems, the ureter obstructions. One hundred years ago, I'd be horribly disfigured by medical science or dead. Currently, I'm doing okay, and if I didn't have the medical insurance, I'd be out around $80,000-90,000. So, I'm ahead on the medical insurance deal. Throw in the fact that I get a tax credit for self-employed medical costs, which means, if you subtract that credit out from what I shell out to BCBS of Illinois, I've been paying about one hundred dollars a year for my health insurance. Oh, yeah, did I also mention I'm one of the people who had their insurance cancelled by BCBS of Illinois, and that they offered up a new plan for me?

Well, that's now changed. I recently completed my application for medical insurance through the healthcare.gov website.

Wait, what? I thought that website was broken, not working? Yeah, well, it worked for me. What's your fucking problem? I tried it out this past Thursday, 11/ 14, and it wouldn't even let me create a user id. Tried it again on Friday 11/15, and I could.

So, I walked my way through the website, and it was no more annoying that completing my tax returns, and actually took less time than that. Nothing crashed. Nothing went kablooey. I had to repeat a few steps, as clearly the private contractor who set up the front end has a sense of humor the way Ikea does.

But it certainly wasn't a nightmare, or any more intrusive than some right wing drama queens have presented. I did not, for example, need to submit a blood sample, or type in my maternal great-grandmother's maiden name, or reveal my most private unsavory habit. For those of you worried about releasing information already obtained by the government anyway, all I can say is, are you intellectually disabled in some fashion?

Now, granted, the Obama administration deserves all the crap you want to foist on it for the website. There really is absolutely no excuse that it didn't work flawlessly the first time out. Part of the blame I figure goes to the President himself, what with his Reaganesque "don't bother me with the details" approach to managing things, the whole mahalo hawaii light up another one mindset, or the Harvard law school "I'm too fucking smart for this thing not to work" mindset. It really is a clusterfuck that needs to get fixed.

But may I remind you that "clusterfuck" is America's middle name?

Seriously? I mean, a country who's most famous war hero, John Wayne, never served? A country who is determined to keep an acre of grass at it's embassy green and lush in Iraq? A coutnry that got it's ass legitimately kicked by Vietnam? (More on that in a minute).

So, Friday, I put in all my information for the application, view my insurance options, and select the same company I have now, BCBS of Illinois, and I am taking advantage of the tax credit premium. This means that I am getting BETTER coverage than I had for one third the cost. Let me repeat that for you.

I am getting BETTER coverage than I had for one third the cost.

Now, if I were to advertise this fact within the newsfeed commentariat, with all the paid trolls, waterheads, or just your average ill-informed dumbshit American yokel that infests those places, I'd be branded as a either a liar, or retarded, or, a propagandist or all three. But nope. It's the truth.

Which gets me to Vietnam and General Giap. I'm reading a biography on Giap. He was the guy who generalled two victories for Communist Vietnam, first against France, and then the US of A. I admire the guy, and figure we've something to learn from him. My mention of this fact got me branded a traitor by a teatard Vietnam-vet-who-saw-action-in-a-Saigon-whorehouse-sour-grapes loser. My response was 1) why feel ashamed for getting your ass kicked by the best?  and 2) no sir, I am not a traitor. Now, Robert E. Lee, he was a traitor.

The sour grapes response from the teatard generation, those right wing losers who really should just let it go, was to produce a lie that Giap once said Vietnam was two weeks away from surrendering. That's a fucking lie. It's the kind lie that makes me want to stab the faces of the promoters of this lie with a barbecue fork duct taped to a broken mop handle.* 

What is true is that the United States won every major battle in Vietnam, and yet lost the war. You don't think there's something valuable to learn there? I do.

First and foremost, what I got out of it was, a lesson that is passed down from that real-life monster Mao Tse Tung through Uncle Ho, to General Giap is that if guerrilla fighters are fish, then the peasants are the water. If you do not have the support of the peasants, you are doomed.

So,what's happening now with the civil war for the struggle for the hearts and minds of the American peasants? You got your slick right wing lies being peddled top down by PR firms and billionaires who want nothing more than feudalism. Because it's easy to win that game of Monopoly, steal the rest of the money when the peasants are powerless. To do that, you need a cult, a cult where the Founding Fathers are semi-divine, and the words of the Constitution is from on high.

The left, on the other hand, is doing a really terrible job. They really should start reading up on the political infrastructure, the near Hebbian web of redundancies that, even today, modern Vietnamese would be hard-pressed to explain, save for the most effective explanation, which is that it worked.

I think the left is hesitant to go full bore tapping into the working class rage against the banksters mainly because that ends up all pitchforks and torches and French revolution, or maybe worse 1840s failed revolution. And people are also culturally bred into the fiction of the antisocial rugged independent, which, when we had a frontier, was a convenient fiction. But seeing as we haven't had a frontier since the 1890s, is it any small coincidence that those in power have ceded some progressive scraps towards the populace, knowing the alternative was armed revolt?

But there is a lot to be said for stressing the positives of community, of means of reconciliation other than the infantile 2nd amendment means which seem all the rage nowadays. Which of course is why I'm reading up on General Giap. Just in case.

In the meantime, operating under the assumption that I should try and take advantage of the situation until falls down and goes boom, I'm taking advantage of this government healthcare program as best I can.

If you want to call me a moocher, go ahead. The only logical response to that is, "Fuck you too, and then go look in the mirror you fucking clueless (or lying hypocrite) fellow moocher!" Anyway, we already have socialized medicine.

Because in today's modern world, here in the US of A, you'd be hard-pressed to find anyone who's entire fucking existence was not subsidized by the Federal government.

*Yes, I stole that. The circumstances surrounding that phrase were less than utopian, but it's a great phrase and I proudly stole it.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

"What charming children you have"

My baby brother, the family archivist, is converting photos to digital format. He sent this one, circa 1975, of us boys minus me (I'm taking the picture).

I'm told the hand thrust forward holding imaginary log gesture is the offering up of a big old dick to smoke (that would be the baby on the right). Note the Bambu rolling papers T-shirt.

...and then younger brother in the middle is in the process of flipping off the camera and you can see his lips starting to form the "f" portion of a "Fuck you".

Meanwhile, eldest brother on left looks on approvingly.

Such nice boys. Their parents must be so proud.

One thousand years ago, these guys would be taunting an Irish slave.

Things just go downhill from then on, but with less hair.

Oh, and um, why I never became a serial killer is beyond me, given this evidence of small animal abuse. I was six. Wasn't I a little old to be playing with baby toys?

(And yes, I did do a stint as Timmy on the Lassie show).

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Ex uno, plures

6 of the 11 rural counties in Colorado have voted not to secede and try to form a 51st state. My thinking is, why would we want them? If they want to secede, go for it, but don't expect help from the rest of us. If we are going to have a 51st state, I'd request Puerto Rico, or Cuba, or Japan, which have a lot more to offer us than those 11 counties. All but 1 is in Northeast Colorado. Since I like maps, here's something interesting:

And then the Niobrara oil basin of fracking opportunities:

Coincidence? Doubt it, because I've been to that part of the nation, and the atmosphere is not so much oxygen as cow shit, and there's not much there otherwise.

My guess is, given the increasing centripetal forces towards Balkanization, America's epitaph will be "Ex uno, plures", and honestly, if it happens, good riddance. Too many dumb shit-covered - proudly shit-covered - rednecks anyway. Best that we just wither up and get stupid and die. It'll start with Texas, given they've used up all their groundwater on fracking, and we water-rich denizens of the Great lakes will just point at them and laugh. (Provided, of course, we are not so stupid to sell our water rights to the oil companies, which, according to the map, oops!)

But anyway, when Balkanization comes, learn Spanish, Texans, Mexico may be your only hope.

Other things. Why are so many of the world's foremost intellectuals such... dumbasses? Richard Dawkins, called by some (not by me) the world's foremost intellectual, can't seem to go a few months without publicly shitting his pants on Twitter. For that matter, he has given us some of the more embarrassing intellectual pant-shitting events. Should we start with memes? The concept of meme is as useful as phlogiston, the liquid calorific, animal spirits, the aether, and the vital pirinciple. (Actually, phlogiston, etc. is more useful in that they have been found to be null hypotheses which, by being abandoned as invalid, advanced our understanding. But memes, so ambiguously and mercurially defined, have yet to be proved to exist. Actually, I do think memes exist, provided we precisely define them as any noise-riddled little piece of turd fragment that can be brainlessly, mindlessly copied from idiot to idiot on the Internet.

Then there's Dawkin's dishonesty about the God Delusion. First off all, pampered little dude, at this stage in our evolution, EVERYONE is deluded. Poking fun at a concept that most anyone beyond the age of eight has rejected is not exactly courageous or praiseworthy behavior. Maybe if you stuffed a little straw in that strawman it might appear more ominous, but... Secondly, the 20th century gave us LOTS of examples that religion is neither necessary nor sufficient to explain the vast majority of bad behaviors. In fact, if we go by the numbers, atheists killed more people in the 20th century than the faithful!

As far the existence or non-existence of God is concerned, Dawkins is painfully dishonest. (Me, I belong to the "don't know, don't care' school of agnosticism, with the caveat that those universal constants sure do seem to be dialed in real tight to get our kind of Universe, not that that matters much, but...). Look, the statement "God does not exist" is a positive logical assertion, subject to the same burden of proof that deists labor under. Trying to weasel out by calling it a "null hypothesis" is a weasel rationalization. The luminiferous aether, the medium through which light waves wave is a null hypothesis. Eliminating it from the model of electromagnetic radiation is NOT the same as proving it's nonexistence. The Michaelson-Morley experiment proves the nonexistence of the aether.

And since no logical argument or empirical observation can definitively prove or disprove the existence of God, atheists rely upon faith in their disbelief. So, don't give me any of shit about your superior intellectual or moral stance. It isn't there, and to insist so is either stupid or dishonest, you jerk.

Do I really need to go off on Pinker, Diamond, Ferguson, etc. ? Dishonest? Attention whores? I mean, we as a species have barely been around long enough to get a handle on the universe, and our most effective tool (science and mathematics) is still in the toddler toy stage. This is not argument from ignorance, it's a statement of fact. And so I... evaluate, oh my yes!.... and reject most of this public meat-slapping passing off as intellectual discourse.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Latest Mechanicules and Machinerettes

All cleaned up, patinated, and waxed. In florescent and incandescent light.

M. gyrinus, approx. 12" x 7" x 3"
M. gyrinus, approx. 12" x 7" x 3"

M. visiovix, approx. 6" x 8" x 4"

M. visiovix, 2013, approx. 6" x 8" x 4"

M. follis, approx. 8" x 4" x 4"

M. gobelinus, approx. 2" x 2" x 4"

M. gobelinus, approx. 2" x 2" x 4"

M. mirofoedus, approx. 2" x 3" x 3"

So now, I've got to make aluminum frames and wooden shadow boxes for the existing glass castings, get a glass casting ready for submission to Emerge, and get three figures ready for submission to the Rockford Biennial, and any other shows I can find. Busy little creature I shall be.