Dilbert’s Brain Groks Trump

I’m doing a shitty job at avoiding politics. As always, I beg forgiveness as I crash into the festering swamp. You don’t have to follow if you don’t want. I’ll be back in reality again sooner or later.

Today I want to point out a statement by none other than Scott Adams, the man behind Dilbert. Mr. Adams and I share an appreciation for good performances. Perhaps we both fish in the experience for what it says about mankind? Here’s a clip of Adam’s analysis of Trump’s salesmanship (click here for the full article):

“But how does a persuader know when to redirect attention to something specific versus being vague so the audience can fill in the blanks? Let me see if I can answer that for you.

A golden rule in sales is “Don’t sell past the close.” That means that once your customer says yes, you stop talking about the product because you might accidentally say something that stops the sale. You never add detail when the customer is already sold. The less you say, the more likely the customer (who is already sold) will continue talking himself into loving the decision because people like to think they are smart. (Google “cognitive dissonance” for more on that topic.)

Now review Trump’s empty sentence: We need to take America back.

From whom? Notice the intentional lack of detail? In this case, the lack of detail is the powerful part of the sentence.”

Well said sir! Who among us is opposed to taking America back?

I’d like to take America back too. Wouldn’t you? You wouldn’t? What are you, a stinking monster? Of course you want America back! It’s where you grew up. You have friends who live there. It’s where you keep your stuff. Your pal Trump and his hair are going to get gritty and claw America back from those (unspecified) bastards who took it! Go team!

From whom shall we seize our apparently stolen nation? Pick anything. It doesn’t matter.

Suppose I’d like to take America back from socialists, debt, whiners, and radioactive wombats? Maybe you’d like to take America back from politically correct eggheads, dumbasses, the Oakland Raiders, and Canada? Maybe my neighbor wants to take it back from war hawks, big oil, Dick Cheney’s evil influence, and con trails?

Normally we wouldn’t have a lot in common, yet Trump stepped over the media’s stunned twitching pulverized body to toss a sales pitch to all of us. Trump picked a masterful statement and is wielding it like a Samurai with a Ginsu.

It’s impressive to watch partly because it’s so foreign to my thinking. If I were running for office I’d put everyone who didn’t hate me into a coma. I’d start discussing fiat currency and even my strongest supporters would shrug, think “math is hard”, and start watching YouTube videos of cats on their smartphones. Trump could sell a brick to a drowning man and make him think it’ll float. There’s a reason why I’m an obscure blogger and Trump has his own jet.

This isn’t a new concept. When America went apeshit in 2008, Barack Obama was playing the same game. He promised “change we can believe in“. Really? Can we just vote for an amorphous thing called “change”? You’d better believe it brother! Can we simply express a preference for an unspecified verb? Yes We Can!

The electorate went for it and the faithful expected awesomeness to happen. The rest of us buckled in for the ride.

Don’t forget the heady feel of 2007. During the full phases of the moon you could watch  great steaming gobs of unspecified hope materializing out of thin air. In a room of faithful followers you’d hear a thousand things their new saviour was going to do. Some of them were attainable. Some were not. Some were beyond the purview of a President. Some were beyond the abilities of a human being. Some were mutually exclusive. Some might delight one member of the faithful but anger another member of the faithful.

Yet most people in his supporting cast spoke like their newest hope had created a package of ideas that was exactly what they wanted. Like a Buddhist chant, a single man became everything by saying (almost) nothing.

Nobody but God can be all things to everyone and even God hasn’t given me the solid gold house I was hoping for. So of course there was disappointment. Reality is boring and governance is hard. Obama blamed Bush a while, then whined that he didn’t have enough power, then (after a “shellacking”) claimed he’d work miracles with a pen and a phone, and finally he gave up and settled for running out the clock. America got some of the change that at least some of the electorate believed in but reality doesn’t comport with hope or change or belief. Now the other party is drinking the same elixir.

I felt the tide wash over me in 2008. I complained; “Obama has become a mirror in which you see yourself.” Adams sees it today but says it more clearly than I. Perhaps because people were really seeing the king’s clothes, few seemed to get my point. Few are getting Adam’s point. It was an interesting time. It remains an interesting time.

Trump is amusing but I don’t want to see him elected. My hope was that he’d encourage his competition to grow balls; a hope that may fade. (What is it with the major parties and gutless dweebs? I have an urge to get up there and start administering wedgies!) Initially I thought Trump would be eaten by a carnivorously biased press. I figured he had 8 weeks or less. I underestimated the power of promising everything to everyone.

Sanity might not get traction. Trump might pull it off. America has done worse. It’ll survive this too. Clearly Trump and Obama are more than coincidence. We’re seeing a facet of human nature writ large. People like to vote for their mirror.

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Freedom / The Glass Is Half Full

I’ve been trying to limit my exposure to politics. Much like I avoid dysentery. I extend that approach to my blog but periodically fail. Forgive me. There are a few things about “freedom” I want to say before Trump flames out and makes some of it a moot point. Here goes:

  • If Donald Trump didn’t exist it would be necessary to invent him. The guy serves a purpose. He’s a counterexample to vat raised political clones who’ve never held real jobs. He demonstrates what a spine looks like. Both parties need exposure to a man who doesn’t cringe, bow, or grovel. We’ve had too many inbred flabby creatures that were bred for office and can’t stand the sun. Trump’s buffooning forces his competition to walk on their hind legs for once. It’s better we all face Trump’s bluster now than both sides studiously avoid ideas until the sun leaches whatever soul out of voting that remains. Hopefully he’ll continue smacking some spine into folks a few more weeks before he flames out.
  • The absence of competition breeds its own demise. Protectionism is self correcting and hubris is reaping it’s usual reward. One party faced competition while the other has been groomed to its own detriment. One side has a plethora of candidates that (hopefully) will grow balls and tear into each other like tigers. (Have at it people! I want debates and campaigns to look like Thunderdome!) The other party has precisely one contender and she looks tired and worn. Even a flake like Trump could vaporize her in a true debate and she knows it. She did unnatural things with State secrets for no particular reason and was “protected” so well that nobody was ready to take over when obvious questions hit her glass jaw. Candidates that have been pummelled mercilessly by a biased press are strong or they wouldn’t be there. Hillary seems grossed out by Americans in general and her campaigning is embarrassing to watch. A person who is attracted to legal entanglements like a moth to flame should have been savaged by lawyers and either learned to fly straight or do time. Unlike the rest of us she was denied her opportunity to learn. That’s why she broke the law as if she were a dipshit hooligan instead just doing her job like a grownup. Lack of competition has piled skeletons in her closet and made her thinking stodgy. I want both parties to be rock solid but at least one has been honed by challenges.
  • Freedom is nowhere near stamped out. Politics can make a freedom loving American despair but don’t give in. Four states have legalized pot and forty two states are shall issue or better for concealed carry. That’s a great big “fuck you” to centralized authority. It’s also a “fuck you” to both parties. If the right had its way the “war on drugs” would last forever. It the left had its way nobody but cops would have guns. Even Stalin couldn’t stop the black market. As the behemoth expands it becomes riddled with holes.
  • You can’t stop the signal. Technology may look like the death star but it’s just machines. Despite epic NSA shenanigans it’s generally empowering. Want some examples?
    • Smart phones created Uber. Neither party could break an $800,000 taxi medallion cartel but nerds with smartphones will take down the system. What other Ubers will emerge in time?
    • Technology has freed up many things we scarcely notice. Stores with automated checkouts have short lines. Outside of Oregon (you poor bastards!) I haven’t dealt with a surly gas station attendant in years. ATMs can’t force me to stand in line during “banker’s hours”. My rural town’s economy is thin but anything I need comes from the internet. (Christmas shopping is done with a glass of whiskey and a mouse!) Craigslist and e-bay continue to thrive. Cheap kindle books broke the publishing houses that tried to force feed me derivative garbage.
    • The future may be even brighter.
      • If they raise minimum wage I’ll finally get a hamburger robot! (Do you hate explaining a Big Mac to the illiterate drooling airhead at the counter? Join me in rooting for a $20 minimum wage.)
      • What new freedoms will come when every home has a 3D printer? I suspect people fretting about “ghost guns” are missing the point. When prescription glasses, pizzas, coffee makers, and socks start coming out of a magic box on the kitchen table it’s going to make the Model T’s revolution look mundane.

Well that’s it. I wanted to post before Trump either self-immolates or is Dan Rathered. Stay sane out there.

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Woodpile Report: A Rant And Some Rain

Looking at my calendar you can take a big black marker and cross out great swaths of September. This means two things: First, whatever firewood I fail to amass right now will be set in stone for the winter and we’ll surely freeze. Second, you’ve totally messed up my garage’s pinup calendar. Now I’m going to have frozen pipes and a messed up calendar. You monster!

First, a win; a speedy turnaround. We had a killer windstorm. That wasn’t a win… in fact it sucked. It took out the power, blew some trees down, and freaked out the duck. But I’m all about finding the silver lining in a shit sandwich so a tree that fell on the lawn was in my sights. Four days after the wind trashed the tree I had it whacked and stacked on the pony trailer. The following weekend it was in the woodshed. It wasn’t a big tree but I was pleased with the fast transition. I’ve occasionally left a tree mouldering in the yard for years. Getting one “cleaned up” in 11 calendar days is the kind of epic efficiency usually reserved for retired men. Not bad.

Next came a Gordian knot that’s not yet solved. In my forest the wind really tore up everything. Of interest was a nice overstory tree. It split 30′ off the ground. Half still stands, a bit asymmetrical but likely to last a while. I’d like to retain it. The other half came down willy nilly into a stand of thrifty young trees. It sent several of them to Valhalla and suspended itself on broken and bent and killed and live trees alike. It even speared a few limbs straight into the ground like fenceposts. All this and it never fully released itself from its trunk of origin.

It’s a great kinetic tensioned web of doom with a deadfall mass hovering 10 feet above my head. It’s a mousetrap fit to kill a musk ox.

I spent a few hours nibbling at the edges. Nipping a branch here SPRONG and releasing a limb there SNAP. Several telephone pole sized trees were still firmly rooted but bent at unnatural angles by the behemoth above. I’d slip in, fire up my chainsaw, make a few surgical cuts, and watch as a severed bole or removed top would break free and make the whole mess shift and twist in hard to discern patterns above my head.

It’s three dimensional chess and I haven’t yet gotten the beast tamed.

After a couple hours I’d had enough time with a gargantuan sword of Damocles weighing on my mind. I shut down the saw and put it far out of the danger zone. Then I slipped in and out with the ATV’s winch cable. I grabbed what I could and dragged bits of limb and trunks  away where it was safer. What a relief that I didn’t bring down a mountain on whatever idiocy I’ve got under my hard hat.

This is not the first time I’ve wished for a different tool in the toolbox. Something crude and simple and cheap that would separate the busted mess from the bole without jeopardizing man or machine. Time for a rant:

“There are occasional times and places where releasing kinetic energy is best done from afar. Like 200 yards and three minutes away from the excitement. There is a cheap technology for doing that. It’s called dynamite and in times of yore it was no big deal. Now, our regulated urban society thinks such things are the stuff of Wile E Coyote cartoons and terrorist jackwits.

Latte sipping urbanite shitheads can’t imagine my world but I’m stuck with their regulations. It’s not just me, it’s thousands of us. Any man who’s crawling around beneath twenty tons of suspended unforgiving physics because a $9 stick of BOOM scares the squares is in his own little purgatory.

In a just world every pansy that posits a regulation that denies an honest redneck the tools of his trade would be forced to get out there and face it himself. Don’t like the idea of gap toothed yokels playing with noisy destructive toys? Then get off your trust funder’s ass and knock down a couple tons of tensioned mass with an iPad or an English degree or whatever tools with which you’re comfortable. Getting corkscrewed into the soil would be a teaching moment and keep you from making my life hell. Eventually I’d be able to by dynamite at WalMart; as God intended.”

But I digress. I swore a few oaths and backed off. Give it a few weeks in the wind and see if it “settles”.

The next day was cold and misty. Fuck it! Are we not men? I stood in the mist and split some of the wood. The mist got worse. I was almost done. By then it was raining. Bah, it’s just a little rain. I started tossing firewood in the trailer. All I wanted to do was clear up some of the stuff I’d already cut. The ran worsened. I positioned the trailer. It was getting windy too but I only had a small amount left to do.

By the time I was done stacking firewood I was in a full on downpour. I managed to top off the pile. I’m up to two full cords. Roughly 8,000 pounds. The equivalent of five smart cars stacked in the woodshed, all done by hand. Not enough for winter but more than I’d started with.

As I sloshed toward the house I glanced at the forest, now obscured by the rain. Maybe the wind will bring down my 60′ tall Jenga Game. Maybe not. I’ll think about it some other day.

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Valhalla Java Shot Glass


There was interest in purchasing a coffee mug with this logo by Curmudgeon’s blogosphere when I bought him one as a present. Sadly, it was a limited run collectible mug and by the time he received it and blogged about it they were all gone. Behold the Valhalla Java Shot Glass! Made by the same company Deneen Pottery for Death Wish Coffee. Buy one if you want to spice up your whiskey consumption to Norse-god-level status. You’re welcome – Mrs. C.

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Woodpile Report: It’s A Marathon Not A Sprint

I’m nowhere near done amassing wood. So what? I’ve started in the right direction. I haven’t eaten an onion sandwich, chased phantom bridge mats from Craigslist, or been financially screwed (see: last year’s bridge mat saga). Nor have I broken a leg or given up. Plus, I can always buy heat… which is what damn near everyone in the civilized world does. (You know you’re being obstreperous when you consider buying something you need a bit of a failure. With age and experience I’m slowly seeing that providing 80% of your needs on your own isn’t so much 20% failure as… well I’m rationalizing here but the zombies haven’t attacked yet so I’m not going to sweat the small stuff.)

In my defense, I’m counting only processed fuel. I don’t consider firewood “in the bag” until it has been felled, bucked, split, hauled, and stacked. (Nor do I count venison as “done” until it’s in the freezer or a fish caught until it’s on the grill.) It’s common for a redneck such as myself to have a 20 cord trainwreck lying in a field somewhere and call that “my woodpile” despite the fact that it’ll take 50 man hours before you get one damn BTU.

Also, when you sweat and grunt and suffer, you appreciate things more. Where most people see “some wood… who gives a shit” I see a complex texture of past valiant efforts and future warm winter nights. Here’s a photo of a cord and a half (more or less):

Just a pile of wood... meh.

Just a pile of wood… meh.

Now with Curmudgeon vision:

I moved every damn ounce of that shit and I know every molecule by name.

I moved every damn ounce of that shit and I know every molecule by name.

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Woodpile Report: Round #3

[The firewood supply rebuild started late and I came off the line slowly and had a dead saw day but my uber-woodsplitter redeemed me. You build a mountain a pebble at a time. It’s a whole lotta’ work so I’m reporting on it whether anyone cares or not.]

Round #3:

My splitter was already abandoned at my friend’s house but he had a tree of interest that was deep in his woods. I loaded my trusty old ATV on the pony trailer and headed out.

Even a wimpy ATV can do more than a man alone. I dragged some logs out of the woods. I bucked them because his saw (which started well) stalled and wouldn’t restart. (What the hell is it with chainsaws this year?) The splitter always starts. Honda should make chainsaws!

The stuff I dragged out wound up hauled, bucked, and split. He kept that wood. I was fixin’ to leave when I spied a stack of old log cants from his portable sawmill. Bone dry! Lonely forgotten wood! Future firewood in need of a loving home!

He was more than happy to let me “clean it up”. I waded into the pile and realized I was inside a six foot tall Jenga game. Good grief! The saw wanted to kick more than usual and there was a certain amount of plunging a bar into parts unknown. Lucky for me I encountered no hornet’s nests or metal detritus. He loaded most of it into my truck while I was manning the saw… which is why he should be wearing a halo.

It was fruitful but slow going. Stacking a truckload of split logs takes effort. Stacking a truckload of “plank bits” takes twice as long because they’re so small. Who knew? After the truck was full we tossed more on the trailer. Unfortunately some moron (me) had already parked an ATV on the trailer, using up most of the space.

End result? Half a cord of the bestest driest most kindling-errific wood you can find. It took unusually long to stack it in the shed but I’m a big fan of quality and this is good stuff. Unfortunately, the woodshed has a mere 1 1/2 cords of wood. That’s not enough. By New Year’s Day wolves will be at the door.

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Woodpile Report: Round #2

[The firewood supply rebuild started late and with a shaky start. However, firewood is not a sprint it’s a marathon. You build a mountain a pebble at a time. My second round was pretty weak though.]

Round #2:

I’d just emerged from a sporting event and was utterly exhausted. Another friend (who actually reads my blog!) was there. She said “would you like to bring your woodsplitter over and get some free firewood for helping my husband cut up some trees?” I, of course, hyperventilated.

A chance to use my super awesome axle-upgraded woodsplitter?!? Be still my beating heart! I let out a sound more appropriate for a teenage girl and started babbling: “OMG! Ihavethecoolestsplitterandcan’twaittouseit! Squeeee!” I have no dignity… I accept that. Having capered around like an idiot for a while I remembered my physical condition, made appropriate excuses, drove half a mile and to the nearest bar, and sat there two hours soaking up air conditioning and rehydrating. (I said rehydrating… I was drinking iced tea dammit!)

When the weekend rolled around I carefully checked my chainsaw. Saws are finicky and I hadn’t used mine in a while. It started on the second pull. Awesome! I topped it off, hitched up THE COOLEST WOOD SPLITTER EVER, and rolled out. Mrs. Curmudgeon came too.

It was hot. Way hot. When we arrived Mrs. Curmudgeon detected air conditioning at my friend’s house and vanished. I stayed in the sun and hoped I wouldn’t melt.

Meanwhile my friend’s husband was explaining his saw wouldn’t start. Did I have any advice to coax it to life? I was no help at all. I opined sagely; “It seems like chainsaws either start right away or you’re doomed. After like five pulls just give up. Nothing will save you. No level of coaxing ever helps me. I’ve tried blowing off the flooded spark plug and all that… never works. Sorry dude, it’s all over for today. Try again tomorrow.”

Luckily I had an alternative; “My saw was running fine an hour ago.” He nodded and we prepared to assault trees. It was shaping up to be a good day. I was the possessor of an awesome splitter and a reliable saw. What a stud!

Predictably the universe intervened and my saw wouldn’t start. No particular reason… it did it just to piss me off. I had it coming.

So there we were, two men looking at a dead tree and embarrassed by two excellent, properly maintained, modern chainsaws that wouldn’t start; because the saws were being obnoxious! Damn! There was some wood just lying around. We split that in not time and I left the wood and woodsplitter behind for his use.

End result? My saw wouldn’t start. I might as well have been wearing a dress. I didn’t deserve firewood.

That evening I pondered the saw. It had been very hot. Maybe it cooked while riding in the truck bed and vapor locked? I dumped out the tank and left the cap loose. Then I took out the spark plug and left that open too.

The next day I returned. It started on the first pull. Have I learned something?

Meanwhile my friend had gotten on the interweb, found something about carboretors, and tuned his saw. Both saws were running like a champ. We were redeemed.

Even so it was hot and the truck’s AC beckoned. Yes, winter is coming but there’s nothing to be gained by getting heat stroke. Once I’d loaded up a truckload of split oak I was done.

The truck’s AC did it’s stuff and when I got home I was so pumped I cut up a bunch of stuff that’s been hanging around the backyard. (It’s still lying in a heap. The chickens are shitting on it.) I left that on the ground and stacked the truckload.

End result? Half a cord of really excellent wood, it was partially green but I think it’ll be sufficiently dry in a few months.

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