On Terrorism and Politics

Regardless of who sets the stage, it takes a conscious decision to play the part.

[After the latest round of terrorist bombings in Paris, people are alternately blaming Presidents Obama and Bush for setting the stage for the attacks.  ISIL may have been created as a response to the invasion of Iraq, and ISIL declared their responsibility for the Paris bombings, but the core of every atrocity committed in the name of ISIL is an act perpetrated by a thinking individual that could choose a different path — but didn’t.]

I Am a Turd Burglar

I am my dog’s personal turd burglar.

Most nights I take Butter, the dog, for a walk around our neighborhood.  It’s good for her and it’s good for me.  As a responsible citizen I clean up after her.  I wouldn’t want to step in another dog’s waste, after all, so I don’t inflict it on my neighbors.  I wish everyone else were so considerate —  most are, not all, but that’s a different topic.

Butter isn’t very regular.  Some days she craps three or four times in the span of our walk (about 45 minutes to an hour), other days there’s not a single bowel movement.  If I could choose which days would be more feculent I would pick garbage night so that I wouldn’t have to carry the bags very far, but I don’t get to choose so sometimes I wind up carrying around a lot of purloined stool.

She pees a lot too, but that seems to go alright because I don’t hassle her about where she makes water and I certainly don’t go back for it.  But her manure is fair game for pilfering, and it’s mine, all mine.

I think Butter has a vague idea that we do our business in the bathroom instead of outside.  I find the dichotomy interesting, actually: a dog’s bathroom is outside, in the open.  If a person made them defecate and urinate inside their house, and other people found out, that person would be considered weird (and probably a bit filthy) and no one would want to go visiting at their home.  The flip side of that coin is, if I am caught soiling the ground outside I could be arrested for disorderly conduct and possibly charged with other offences — even if I do it in the bushes and offer to scoop everything into this nice little baggy I brought with me.

When it comes time to make doody I imagine Butter’s internal monologue goes something like this:

“uhh… hold on… ohohohoh uungh… ahhhhhhhhhhhh

“oh I feel better, time to kick it away and clean up —

“why is he yelling at me to stop?  Doesn’t he like clean —

“ugh no he’s fiddling with the rustling things again.  He’s going to —

“oh gawd yeah he’s picking it up again.  Why do you have to make it weird?

“dude.”  Looks at me reproachfully.  “If I drop a deuce in the house you yell at me.  I do it out here and you insist on bringing it all the way home with us.  What’s up with that?

“gawdammit everywhere I sniff it smells like my poop now.  How can we search for everyone else’s scat if all I smell is my own?

“You’re a moron, did you know that mister?”

And so it goes.  From her perspective I stalk her in order to plunder her excrement and keep it for myself.  I think I confuse her a little, but not too much because she’s not that smart.

Humans, on the other hand, supposedly are smart.  We recognize that dogs are a paradox.

She might be the smart one, though.  After all, she gets free room and board, and a personal turd burglar.

Drywall is UP!

Our latest home-improvement project has reached a milestone: we have hung the ceiling in the dining room.

naked dining room ceiling
All of the drywall is hung – eight panels on the ceiling and one panel on the wall

Meghan and I completed the ceiling in a one-day marathon of equipment procurement and hard work.  We finished the wall section the next day after returning the rented panel-lift and truck.

Next up: “mudding” and removing the remaining sections of wall paper.

Power Tools

Home improvement can be a real pain in the ass.  Buying new tools makes it fun again!

Oscillating Multifunction Power Tool
Oscillating Multifunction Power Tool

Today’s project involves removing baseboard trim that was installed before the hardwood floor. (who does that?!)  It’s nearly impossible to remove, so we’re going to cut it out so it’s even with the floor instead, and install new trim the right way.

 

There are 10 types of people…

There are 10 types of people in the world: Those who understand binary, and those who don’t.

There are 10 types of people in the world. Those who know binary, those who don’t, and those who didn’t expect this joke to be in base 3.

There are 10 types of people in the world. Those who know binary, those who don’t, those who didn’t expect this joke to be in base 3, those who didn’t expect this joke to be in base 4, … , and those who didn’t expect this joke to be in base n.

There are 10 types of people in the world. Those who know ternary, those who don’t, and those who mistake it by binary.

There are 10 types of people in the world. One who knows binary, and nine who can’t tell a joke right.

There are two kind of people, the ones that can extrapolate information with incomplete data

There are 1 kinds of people in the world: those who start their arrays at 0 and those who don’t.

There are two hard things in computer science: cache invalidation, naming things, and off-by-one errors.

Welcome to New England

It snowed today.

Well, they were really flurries but still, it snowed today.  I believe that this is the earliest snow I have ever seen in southern New England.

I have a hypothesis that the earlier the snow and cold come, the milder the winter will be.  I’m hoping this rings true this year.  I’m no fan of global warming, but I’m also not into paying huge heating bills either.

Maine 2015

Backstory: a long time ago as the ice sheets from the latest ice age slowly receded, an island was carved out of the Maine coastline.  My father purchased a few acres of land shortly before humans showed up in North America to jack up the prices, intending to build a vacation home when modern building methods were developed.

Alpha, Beta, and Butter
Taking a quick break on the trail

A house never materialized but we made annual treks to the island, called Islesboro, for years while I was growing up.  After my parents lost interest, I occasionally went there on my own to go camping until finally I, too, got busy with life and stopped going.

Fast-forward a couple of decades, to last Sunday night in fact.  Meghan and I got to talking and we realized that we’re really only a short drive away from Islesboro nowadays– only about 3 ½ hours from door-to-ferry slip.  Why don’t we go?  So we booked a room for Friday night and started rearranging our schedules.

A little more backstory: When I used to go up by myself, I generally spent a my first night at a little motel on the mainland, just a mile from the ferry slip.  This motel was about as bare-bones as you can get: little cabins with a clean bed and a shower, and if I recall correctly it was about $25 / night back then.  They family that owned it made you breakfast in the morning (Best blueberry pancakes I’ve ever had.)

The hotel is still there, under new ownership and a new name but still relatively inexpensive – and still clean and comfortable.  They also accept dogs, so we could bring Butter instead of trying to board her on short notice.

We left mid-day Friday, after I finished up my tasks and morning meetings at work — my employer offers some scheduling flexibility and I put in a number of extra hours over the course of the week to make sure my promised deliverables were deliverable (I have to explicitly mention this since some of my co-workers may actually read this blog).

Meghan, WW1 memorial tower
Megh standing near the peak of Mt. Battie. The tower is a memorial to the soldiers of ‘The Great War’, dated 1921.

The trip was rainy as hell on the way up.  We detoured into Freeport to visit the LL Bean store — even if you’ve been to a L. L. Bean store, it’s not as big as the L. L. Bean store.  The girl-folk went inside to procure winter jackets for the kids, while I took a nap in the car and walked Butter around in between squalls.  (Did I mention I’ve been staying up late all week to get stuff done?)

Hiking Mt. Battie
Hiking upwards on the Tablelands Trail, Mt. Battie

We arrived in Lincolnville around 5:30 pm.  The rain was still coming down and occasionally pouring, but the breaks were getting longer.  After settling into our room, and letting everyone (including Butter) stretch their legs a bit, we headed back up to the road to downtown Camden in search of dinner.

We found a nice tavern, away from the main drag, called the Smokestack Grill.  Not much ambiance inside — it looks a bit like a sports bar with large TVs over the bar — but the building is an old mill so there’s architectural interest.  I had a jalapeño cream cheese and bacon burger, Meghan had calamari, and the girls split a fried shrimp dinner.  The bill was quite reasonable, our server was attentive and friendly, and the food was delicious.  Butter, sadly, stayed in the car and waited for us.

Afterwards we went back to our room and got ready for bed – except me, I stayed up until the rain stopped so Butter could get in a short walk — she is a princess and doesn’t like to get wet, and sleeping in close quarters with a wet dog is not high on my list of things to do.  I  didn’t have to wait too long, and we were all in bed early.  There’s something about travelling that just makes you tired, even if you’re sitting in the car all day.

Saturday morning was sunny but really breezy and chilly.  The kids were divided on whether or not to go to the island, so I cast the deciding vote: no, the seas are rough and I don’t want to spend $70 to have two seasick kids and a sick dog – we’ll come back for that.  Lets go do something else this time.

Right up the road, between the motel and downtown Camden, is a state park called Camden Hills State Park / Mt. Battie.  We drove in, paid our fee, found a place to park, and went hiking up the ‘Tablelands Trail.’  It takes you right up to one of the peaks, which overlooks both the Penobscot Bay and downtown Camden, from nearly 800 feet up.

After playing around on the peak for while, and after the clouds started playing peek-a-boo with the sun, we headed back down to find some hot chocolate in Camden to warm us up.  The breeze was making us chilly even when we were ascending on the trail, so without the sun we got downright cold.

Camden starts to shut down before October, so while a majority of shops were still open there were a few that have already closed for the season.  We window-shopped and walked around downtown for an hour, and hit the road for one last stop down Route 1.

Maine State Prison showroom
The Maine State Prison “showroom” for prisoner-made woodcraft. The store is still staffed by prisoners and prison guards. The items inside are made with impressive quality, including furniture that is as nice as a high-end store (but much lower cost)

For whatever faults the Maine prison system may have, they maintain an intriguing program of teaching trades to prisoners, including woodworking.  The finished products are then sold to the public.

I’ve been stopping at the Prison Store in Thomaston for as long as I’ve been going to Maine.  The last time I was there was in 2001, and the store was still attached to a working prison; in 2002 the prison was closed and subsequently torn down, but the store remains.

Unsurprisingly, we came out with some gifts for family and a few things for ourselves.

After Thomaston, we made a bee-line for Bath (home of the BFC – Big Friggen Crane – at the Bath Iron Works) and the interstates so that we would be home in time to make dinner.

All in all, it was a fun little jaunt, even if we didn’t actually step foot on the island.  Next time I think I’ll try to just take the day off instead of squeezing five days worth of work into four.

Penobscot Bay
Over looking Penobscot Bay – Islesboro is the big island in the middle, stretching the width of the picture. If you click to view the full-size version you can see the ferry.
View of Camden from Mt Battie
Looking down on Camden from Mt. Battie. There is a trail that descends from here into town, which looks like it might be a good hike for next time. The color is a little washed out because we’re pointed right into the light.
SE view from Mt. Battie
Taken from the tower on Mt. Battie, looking off to the south east.
View of Mt Megunticook from Mt Battie
Mt. Battie isn’t the highest peak in the park, it merely has the best view. Mt. Megunticook stands 400′ higher — I think I’d like to tackle that next time.