Monthly Archives: January 2009

Reading

I finished reading Iron Council yesterday. It is quite possibly the weirdest book I have ever read. (If it’s not then one of the two other books by China Mieville that I’ve read is the weirdest.) For most of the time I was reading it I alternated between, “What the hell?” and “Ewwww gross!” But as usual, Mieville’s writing is so skilled and so beautiful that the whole thing has a kind of strange, surreal beauty that’s quite remarkable.

I can’t resist sharing a little bit. This is from the first page, a sort of introduction. (italics in original)

And in years long gone someone stands on a knuckle of granite, a clenched-up mountain fist. Trees cover the peak as if a spume of forest has settled. He is above a green world while feathered and tough-skinned fauna speck the air below him and pay no mind.
Up past pillars of batholith is the path he has made, and abutting it tarpaulin bivouacs. There are men and fire, little neutered cousin to the conflagrations that fertilize woodlands.
The man apart is in wind that frosts this old moment in place forever while breath cold-congeals on his beard. He consults mercury sluggish in its glass, a barometer and inch-marked cord. He locates himself and the men with him above the belly of the world and in a mountain autumn.

Iron Council is a dark fantasy. It’s about a revolution and a steam train and the people (not all of them human) who take it over and convert it into a moving city. That’s a poor and oversimplified description. The only thing else I can say is that if you like fantasy and can stand a high level of weirdness and some violence (and, by the way, a fairly explicit gay relationship) I highly recommend this book.

Quotes From Here and There

This is a civilized nation with civilized institutions, despite all the hyperbole. And it’ll be quite all right, thank you.here

I’m sure some think wrapping our politicians in dough, boiling before searing them and serving them with sour cream and chopped bacon would be slightly more than a propos.there

Okie Blogs: Part 5

I’m going to step things up a bit and go through two three categories today. Again, I’m only linking to those blogs about which I have something specific to say but they’re all good. You can see the whole list on the Okie Blog Awards page

BEST HUMOR BLOG

Bee Spot – I got excited when I saw this title but it’s not about bees. It is very funny though. A lot of personal, “life is funny” kind of humor. (And who could have guessed John Cage had something to say about blogging)

The Crib Chick – Very nice. Humorous but I am attracted to this one mainly because of the cultural references.

Decisionally Challenged – I am exited about this one because Georgie left several comments here. Thank you thank you thank you. Oh, and she’s funny too. I liked the post on what to do when the kids have a snow day.

Irritated Tulsan – When I saw the name of this blog I thought maybe my oldest son had started another blog. (joking) This is a great blog. Lots of locally inspired humor and lots of photos and other images. I like the Honest Cherokee Casino Billboards.

The Lost Ogle – Funny local and current events commentary. Fantastic ice storm photo with a poke at the local media.

PhotoTune – Political humor. I love the photoshops of Tom Coburn. Heh… a physician nicknamed “Dr. No.”

BEST AUDIO BLOGS – I’m mostly skipping this category because I don’t listen to a lot of audio and multimedia because our “wonderful” so called “high speed” ISP limits how much multimedia stuff we can listen to/watch so I mostly save our tiny allotment for an occasional half hour of YouTube surfing. I do want to mention though, that The Daily Bitch, which is not all audio, looks like a nice all-around blog.

BEST-LOOKING BLOG

I’ve been reading Incurable Insomniac for several years. She always has a nice looking layout. I’ve always liked the little piano picture at the top.

Maggie’s Mind – a pretty header and a nice easy-on-the-eyes color scheme.

Okay City – A fun header image and lots of nice photos in the blog.

Red Dirt Ramblings – a beautiful header and a nice easy-on-the-eyes color scheme that is also appropriate for the blog title.

Design Crush – The design is very plain but nice. This blog has a lot of great photos and art images which help to give it an overall attractive, fine artsy look.

Unreal Albums

I hate when I dream I have CDs that don’t exist. I dream original cover art and everything. What’s really annoying about it is that I almost always realize that I’m dreaming but I think that I really do own the CDs that I’m dreaming about and I’ll think, “I’m going to listen to that when I wake up.” I forget exactly what it was I dreamed this morning (I think one was something by Bach and the other maybe early 20th century… not sure) but one time a CD I dreamed seemed so real that I just knew it had to exist so I tried to look it up on Amazon.com and of course I couldn’t find it because it doesn’t exist.

I Want…

But I’m not going to buy. What is it with women and shoes? I admit it; I have the crazy shoe gene. I wear sensible shoes but that doesn’t mean I don’t see totally ridiculous shoes and want them really really bad. Right now I am in love with this shoe. (in brown) There’s no way I could walk in that. I would fall and kill myself. Or at least do myself some serious and painful damage. But wow, what a great shoe!

This one is pretty cool too. Orange shoes!

Random Linkage

A Go Green guide for Hollywood – Hilarious, though very political and a bit mean. (via AMCGLTD)

Creating healthy spaces – Interesting research.

Unusual and creative games – I especially like the first two images. I’m not a game person but I think I might like some of these.

Cashing in on Obama’s popularity – I want the #5 item. That is so cool. And retro too. When was the last time you saw one of those?

Blind sight – strange medical phenomenon (via Dark Roasted Blend)

Interesting photos – another wonderful DRB collection

Museum of Retro Technology – Fascinating site! Includes photos, diagrams and descriptions. (via David Thompson)

The Longest List of the Longest Stuff at the Longest Domain Name at Long Last – Another fun, interesting site to keep you from getting anything else done for the rest of the day. (via Neatorama)

The Okie Blogs: Part 4

Looking at a few of the Okie Blog Award nominees in the Family Blog category. I expected this to be another difficult category to comment on because I’m not that much into family blogs. I sort of feel a little bad about that. I feel like I should like family blogs because I have a family but for some reason they’re just not my thing. But once I started looking I could see why these were nominated. Here are a few that stand out.

Blithe Revival – I absolutely love her header and she writes well and occasionally has some nice photos.

Dawn’s Diversions – a very nice all-around blog, lots of good photos, local Oklahoma happenings and a great page design.

One Thing – Excellent. Very good writing. Perhaps this one is more interesting to me because she’s about to enter the grandparent phase of her life at about the same age I did. The header photo changes each time you go there or each time you refresh the page. Very cool.

Straight Shooter – Fun, lots of photos and other images. Great page design.

Brrrrr

I’m afraid I have been somewhat less than properly dedicated in my blogging responsibilities. I have failed to complain about the weather these last two days and there is weather to complain about. Yesterday we had light freezing rain. Today sleet has been falling all day.

You know… I am a bit annoyed. I think I remember someone promising me Global Warming. Is that right? Did I just imagine it? Oh, wait. Now I remember. Global Warming is not something that will cause mild winters and longer growing seasons for those of us in the middle of the U.S. It’s something that will destroy the habitats of those cute polar animals and, perhaps more to the point, flood the fashionable coastal resorts where congressmen, lobbyists and wealthy contributors like to vacation. But right now it seems that those other people who have been predicting that the next ice age is coming soon might be the ones who’ve got it right. That is so not fair. I was counting on warming. (just joking)

I have discovered one small advantage to the ice age. Twenty minutes of involuntary exposure to sub-freezing weather has a remarkably positive effect on feline behavior. Look… aren’t they sweet? (Actually, Dax is thinking about being not-sweet. See the way she’s looking at Kes’s tail?)

I made the fuzzy pillow for our old cat Spot who is no longer with us. Kes claimed it long before Dax joined the family.* Dax often finds Kes asleep on the pillow and harasses her until she moves then lays down on it and goes to sleep herself. I moved the big striped pillow over next to the little fuzzy pillow, because Kes sometimes lays on that one, so they would both have a pillow by the stove but they both insist on laying on the small pillow. But if I either put Dax outside or put both of them outside for a few minutes, when they come back in they are very good. Sometimes they find separate places to nap and other times they cuddle up together.

It’s rather pretty outside right now even if it is cold, gray and gloomy. The sleet has covered the ground and looks like snow. Dry grass sticks up through it in places so the world is painted in shades of white, gray, brown and tan. I’d love to show it to you but I’m not going outside to take a picture. No, not even one step out onto my slippery front deck where we have the best view. You’ll just have to settle for the cat picture.

*All my cats have names from Star Trek. Next time I might tempt fate and pick a name from Firefly or maybe even from a science fiction novel.

Folk Art Site

Folk America is an “outsider art” site. (Thanks Bifurcated Rivets) I am intrigued by this sort of thing. I hesitate to say some of these paintings look like they were done by a six-year-old, not so much because I don’t want to look like a philistine Oklahoma yokel but because I hate when people dismiss perfectly good art like that just because it’s not to their taste. But still, some of these paintings do look like they could have been drawn by a six-year-old.

I guess I am slightly appalled by the four figure price tags on some of them but on the other hand I have to admire these people for trying* and when I see stuff like this I always think maybe I should try too. You never can tell when an artist like these will happen to be in the path of the fine art world’s next attack of let’s-reach-down-and-admire-the-simple-folk mania.

I have to point out one painting that I do like and keep going back to: Sunday Morning – a pleasant little scene and, ironically, one of the lower priced paintings on the site.

*Actually, these particular paintings are for sale by a collector not the artists. I wonder how much they originally sold for.

The First Seven Days

Barak Obama has been our president for an entire week. A lot has been happening but no big surprises. Overall I’m pleased with the job he’s doing so far though I disagree with some specifics. Time for my (long, boring) review.

The Economic Stimulus Package – There is no plan so great that Congress won’t chop it up, remix it and turn it into something totally ridiculous and impractical. President Obama’s stimulus package wasn’t an especially great plan to begin with and Congressional tweaking cannot possibly improve it. I agree, in principle, that there should be a stimulus package. I’m skeptical about the tax cuts. I like tax cuts as much as anyone else but I’m not sure it’s the best thing to do right now. If we give tax cuts to businesses there should be strings attached, such as only giving tax cuts to businesses that have hired new employees, with a penalty later on if they hire people only long enough to get the tax cut and then lay them off.

I’m in favor of jump starting the renewable energy industry. I don’t think wind farms are a great idea but there are other things that we could be doing. I agree with spending money on infrastructure but it should be limited to repairing existing roads and bridges. Upgrading the electrical grid is a good idea too. But I worry that none of this can be started as quickly as it needs to be. There are people who need jobs now not one to two years from now.

Closing GITMO – Something needs to be done about Guantanamo but it seems unlikely that it can be safely done in just one year. I see the one year from now date as mostly symbolic. The government never meets its own deadlines but deadlines do sometimes serve as a stimulus for working toward getting things done eventually.

Government funding for abortion – I think abortion is a private decision. But it’s such a controversial issue it is reasonable to ask, “Should the government fund something which nearly half of the country considers evil?” The other side of that is, “Shouldn’t women who can’t afford good medical care have the same right to choose as any other woman?” I can sort of sympathize with both sides. However, I saw a blog post somewhere a day or two ago, by a conservative blogger who objected to being “forced to participate” in something she believes is wrong. Seeing it worded like that pushed me a little bit to the liberal side. I wonder how that blogger would respond to someone who thought the war should not be funded because they didn’t want to be “forced to participate” in a war that they consider evil. (not that I’m one of those people) All taxpayers have to pay for many things they would rather not be paying for so this isn’t a very good argument.

State limits on auto emissions – Several states want to set their own emissions standards and President Obama may reverse earlier denials of these applications. I think this would be a bad idea. There should be one standard for the whole country.

Foreign policy – I believe in the old fashioned idea of “speak softly and carry a big stick”. Taking the diplomatic approach might be emotionally painful to some of us when we know that what some people in the world badly need is to be bashed over the head with that big stick. But often a lot more can be accomplished with a soft, persuasive voice. One might think of Bush and Obama as the bad cop and good cop. Bush was a very bad cop. Obama’s the good cop right now but I think he could turn into the bad cop if necessary. We’ll see.

Of course, America’s role as international cop is one thing that so many people hate about us but we do have to deal with the rest of the world somehow. The way they act naturally affects how we deal with them. If they don’t like us playing cop they need to police themselves better.

Anyway… before I go into full blown preaching mode… So far it’s all talk but I like what I’ve been hearing from President Obama on foreign policy – a little bit of tough talk but mainly an indication that we are willing to listen to and work with the rest of the world. To be honest, deep down I’m a dirty imperialist. I’d like to take that big stick and beat the rest of the world into submission with it but, realistically, aside from it being morally questionable, I know that simply won’t work. Like it or not, sometimes you just have to be willing to talk to people and talk to them in the right way. I think President Obama can do that. That doesn’t mean he can fix all the world’s problems but knowing what we can and can’t fix will be helpful.

I Needed This

A big “thank you” to the Girl Scouts of America for giving me the incentive I needed to pass up your cookies this year. Already, for the past few years they haven’t been as good as they used to be but I kept buying, even though I had to pay $3.50 for cookies that were no better than larger packages of better tasting cookies that cost only about $2.00, because it was the Girl Scouts. Already some varieties, like the Samoas, one of my favorites, had so few in a box that it wasn’t worth buying them. But now they decided to make the boxes even smaller.

If they had raised the price again I might have bought some again this year. After all, it’s the Girl Scouts and it’s only once a year. What’s $3.50 or $7.00 (I ususally buy two boxes) for a special treat once a year? But downsizing feels like a cheat. And they haven’t even been all that special for a number of years. So, Girl Scouts, I thank you, my wallet thanks you… I was going to say my waistline thanks you but I doubt it will notice since I’m always making my own cookies anyway.

More Strange Buildings

Unusual Architecture is a website with lots of photos of strange-looking buildings both public and private. I love the Ideal Palace. Isn’t that awesome? I can see myself living in a place like that. The Nautilus House is very cute and colorful. Looks small though. This thing is quite interesting. And I like the Mind House. It sort of looks like a church.

When I was 12 years old I wanted to be an architect but I’m sort of math challenged. I probably wouldn’t have been a very good architect anyway. I doubt I’m artistic enough to come up with anything original. What I really wanted to do was to revive Victorian style houses. I especially love the huge, old Queen Anne style houses. Here is another great Victorian house gallery. And some restoration photos. And more Victorian houses. (Hmmm…. that’s funny… Somehow this turned into a post about Victorian houses.

The Okie Blogs: Part 3

Continuing my look at the Okie Blog Award nominees. Next on the list are the political blogs. Hmmm… I was tempted to skip these. I have started out this project mentioning only those about which I have something to say and I don’t have much if anything to say about political blogs. But to be fair I guess I can’t skip over a whole category so here are some of the Oklahoma political blogs.

Alternative Tulsa – Nice, newsy, left leaning which is always a pleasant surprise in Oklahoma. I like this short list of Oklahoma trivia

Bates Line – A nice, professional looking, right leaning Christian blog. This one’s been on my list for a long time, mainly because he used to read my blog once in a while.

Green Country Values – Lots of Oklahoma issues.

Blue Oklahoma – Another nice, newsy liberal blog.

Okie Funk – And another very nice liberal blog.

Oklahoma Political News Service – Very good but actually from Missouri. I like this cartoon.

And of course, I’ve already mentioned Bounded Rationality, which was also nominated in the Best Commentary category

Political Compass

I saw a version of this quiz several years ago. Found this one at AMCGLTD. My result:

My Political Views
I am a center-left moderate social libertarian
Left: 1.78, Libertarian: 1.12

Political Spectrum Quiz

My Foreign Policy Views
Score: 0.44

Political Spectrum Quiz

My Culture War Stance
Score: -1.34

Political Spectrum Quiz

That’s probably pretty close to right. I think I might actually be just a bit more libertarian. I didn’t like the way some of the questions were worded. My real answer on some of them would be “that depends” but my only choice on those was to pick “neutral”. That’s probably the reason it put me so near the middle but just because I disapprove of something doesn’t necessarily mean I would approve of passing a law against it. On the other hand, I’m not extremely libertarian. Sorry kids, we do need some laws.

The culture war and foreign policy results… I’m not sure. I sort of expected to be a little farther to the right on foreign policy. On many culture war issues I can sympathize with both sides but I’m mostly libertarian on those kinds of issues – live and let live and mind your own business. It says I’m near the middle on both so I guess they’re not too far off.

The Okie Blogs: Part 2

I guess I need to take back my earlier complaint. Quite a few people have found their way here via the Okie Blog Awards page. Welcome and thanks. I’m a little embarrassed also because I was nominated in the Best Commentary category but except for a couple of posts about the Inauguration I haven’t been inspired to post much commentary lately.

I’m continuing to check out the other nominees. In the Best Overall category, I’ve been reading Dustbury for a long time. It’s an interesting, light-hearted blog that doesn’t take life too seriously. I read Bates Line once in a while.

A few of the others I remember checking out last year. Of those that are new to me I especially like The Last Exit to Babylon. It has an interesting variety of topics including, geeky stuff, family stuff and odd things found on the Web. Also, thanks to JenX67 for checking me out and leaving a comment. This is a great post with some nice photos. It’s funny how sometimes a city neighborhood can be more “small town” than an actual small town. I don’t live in a town but in the small town where we shop, you would think I go there often enough to have developed some passing acquaintances but after more than 12 years I’m still a stranger there. There’s one lady in the fabric department at Wal-mart who recognizes me but we never talk.

Quotes From Here and There

Obama is not the wind, he is the grass bending. He is a symbol of what WE are, not some godlike giant. here

Folks I have never done this before. That is wait all night to watch the inaugural ceremony of a leader of a foreign country but last night I did that.there

The fact that we can orchestrate major changes in leadership without violence never ceases to amaze me. There have been political coups and murders of those in power since the days of Pahoran

But we shift from one leader to another in a relatively smooth fashion time after time.here

Because we regard these fairy tales as children’s stories, many people would consider it an insult to say that this is what the USofA is really all about, but our optimism and desire to learn from our mistakes makes us a fairy tale people in many ways.there

Getting Started

I finally have the tumbling blocks quilt all put together and I’m ready to start my favorite part: the actual quilting. I am a completely self-taught quilter and I have to admit that sometimes I don’t quite know what I’m doing. How is one supposed to pin all the layers together if one has neither a full size quilt frame nor a flat place big enough to lay it all out? I always manage but I’m afraid my quilts can never be as good as I would like them to be because I’m not able to give them the right start in life.

I’m not sure exactly how I’m going to quilt this one. I don’t usually mark a stitching pattern on a quilt. In fact, I’ve never tried it that way. These are extra large tumbling blocks so I need to do more than just stitch around the edges of each piece. As usual I’ll make something up as I go along and thus end up with something original and artistic. Or at least that’s what I’m going to tell myself.

Right now I’m still excited about quilting. I hope this mood lasts because I want to get this one done and do some more. I have the stuff for another top that I could get started on. And of course there are always more ideas.