Montana Jones

Montana n: A state of the northwest United States bordering on Canada. Admitted as the 41st state in 1889. The fourth largest state in the union, it includes vast prairies and numerous majestic mountain ranges.
Syn: Treasure State, Big Sky Country, Last Best Place.

Jones n: slang. An addiction or very deep craving.

Sunday, April 29, 2007


When I laid eyes on the headline "Jack Valenti Dead" the very first thought to flicker through my mind was "Good Riddance". Funny how the brain works. I immediately arrested that thought and replaced it with "do not speak ill of the dead". But it is telling how the moment showed my true opinion.

Jack Valenti was the head of the Motion Picture Association of America for a long time. Jack is the man responsible for movie ratings. G, PG, PG-13, R and so forth. To his credit it replaced the previous version known as the Hays code which was basically movie censorship. Even though the new system is still not perfect it is an improvement that gave filmmakers more opportunity to make provocative films.

So Jack Valenti has had an impact on American culture and touched most of our lives. Arguably in a positive way. What has truly raised my ire about the man is his reaction and fight against the 21st century. When home video recording technology was introduced Jack feared the demise of the motion picture industry. He is famous for testifying to congress "I say to you that the VCR is to the American film producer and the American public as the Boston strangler is to the woman home alone." Pretty strong stuff, arrogant, demeaning to women and as completely wrong as could possibly be.

Jack continued to fight against new technology for the rest of his life. He was a champion of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, advocate of anti-copying technology, and fighting against the power of the internet. When you start up a DVD movie that you legally purchased, yet you cannot skip past the FBI warning, an anti-copying warning and an advertisement accusing you of being a thief. Jack Valenti is responsible for that. Arrogant, demeaning, and completely wrong.

That is why I hated the man. Because he hated me. He battled against the new internet technologies that I was making my living with. He hated the idea that I wanted to share and participate in my own culture. He misunderstood the value of digital data and called people thieves even after taking their money. He foolishly fought to stop the tides of change.

So my first reaction to his passing was "good riddance". It may be wrong to speak ill of the dead, it may be that he did good works in his day, but our future is brighter without him in it.

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Friday, April 27, 2007


I have a weird muscle ache on my lower right side.

My legs stiffen up when I sit still too long. I limp when I start walking.

My feet hurt.

I have strange red scrape marks along my right forearm

It hurts to move too fast.

My ankles are sore.

I feel generally beat up.

Yeah, I found a place to play Ultimate near home.

Can't wait to do it again next week.

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Thursday, April 26, 2007

Small World

I grew up near previous address, so I know a lot of those people. My dad runs a restaurant there so I go back and hang out a lot.
Which restaurant?
It's called @.
No shit. Your dad is R_?
You know him?
I used to work for him at @. Back in the day.
No way.
Yeah, back around '89 or so. I spent some time in his kitchen.
That's pretty crazy. I probably even met you.
Your dad is one of my favorite people I've worked for. One of the best bosses I ever had.

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Monday, April 23, 2007

The handwriting project

Last fall my internet surfing turned up an article about the decline of cursive writing due to the more common use of keyboards. It caught my eye because my handwriting has always been considered poor and I too had early abandoned longhand script over issues of readability. Last year I had asked a school teacher friend if it is possible for a grownup to improve on their sloppy handwriting. She didn't think so.

I spent some time thinking about the topic and surfing the net and somewhere in that reading and thinking I found a website introducing calligraphy. No, I did not attempt to take up the art, but I did learn something. I have been writing incorrectly my entire life. More precisely, I have been using the wrong muscles. The way I have been writing is to grasp my pencil firmly between thumb and forefinger, plant my wrist against the paper and use the muscles of my fingers to push the point around. The calligraphic method is to hold the pencil still in your hand and use the muscles of your arm and shoulder to move the point around. The difference is that the former method produces tight and cramped letters, while the latter produces smooth flowing lines. Another advantage is that the muscles in your arm are stronger than the ones in your hand and can be trained to be just as precise.

Somehow I got the crazy idea that I could improve my handwriting by re-learning the muscle memory of letters with a different set of muscles. I started by practicing with my arm instead of my hand. Drawing slashes, circles, X's, squiggles, spirals; simple marks to get the new muscles used to doing this sort of work. Then I adopted a new grip for my pencil, I would hold it between the first and second finger so I could not accidentally push it around with the wrong muscles. I then picked out a nice font to try to copy and set about re-learning how to write.

I felt like a first grader again. Great big letters, slowly and carefully drawn. I would spend about ten or fifteen minutes a day and work on one letter each day, drawing it over and over again. It looked like a first graders work too, imprecise lines that were only roughly the right length and direction.

It took much longer that I anticipated. Being human I began to skip days and lose the discipline to do my homework. It was a few months before I had practiced every letter of the alphabet in both upper and lower case. Then it was a couple more weeks of doing numbers. The hardest letters were M's and W's, with two halves that I could not quite make symmetrical. The loops in P's and B's proved a minor challenge as well. For some reason the lower case A is pleasant to draw and I can use the same loop in lower case D's, G's and Q's as well.

After learning my letters I began to practice making them smaller. Then I started using my new writing in my day to day work. Actually using this new handwriting has been the best way to practice it. Small, neat writing is not difficult but it is painfully slow. If I need to scribble out a note quickly then I revert to my old cramped style. These days I am pretty much bouncing back and forth between the two techniques depending on how fast I need to write something out. I can see some of my old style writing creeping into the new. But some of the new is creeping into the old as well. My habits about things like where to start the line in a letter are changing.

It has been six months since I started this experiment. I still need more practice, this new writing is terribly slow and when I rush it becomes ugly. It may actually be a couple years before I am writing proficiently in my new hand. By then it might be time to tackle cursive again.





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Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Chick Music

Music in Montana is nothing like what I had back in Big City. I have grown an appreciation for bluegrass while here, I guess that is a good thing, but there is a new trend afoot that has me a little worried. I've been listening to lots of girl music lately.

I recently found myself at a Wailin' Jenny's concert. I have seen some interesting shows in my day. I've moshed at skate parks, I've head banged to metal, I've kicked it with ska, I've funked, rockabillied, and reggae'd. Good times. Nowadays I'm living in Montana and doing some mellow toe tapping to harmonizing girls.

I bought a CD while at their show. I've listened to it and enjoyed it. But it got me thinking about my playlist lately. These days my mp3 rotation has musicians like Sarah Harmer, Amy Winehouse, and the Be Good Tanya's. Good god I even downloaded some Sheryl Crow the other day. And how 'bout that Alanis Morissette My Humps cover? Sweet. But I am noticing a trend here.

There is an argument to be made that I am becoming more rounded and worldly. There is also an argument to be made that I am becoming a pussy. I'm loosing my edge. I have been getting in touch with my feminine side. I'm turning sensitive new age guy. I'm succumbing to girrl power. I've been whipped. I'm going touchy feely. I'm becoming one of the girls. Stop me before I ask directions or start matching my boxers.

I think I am going to blame Montana for this. Totally kick ass and thrashing bands like American Head Charge (*Wink*) just don't come to Montana. In fact the only good acts I have seen in Montana tend to be bluegrass and chick bands. Perhaps there is too much estrogen in the water supply. I just don't know what to do. How can I face my friends back at Big City and tell them that I have been buying chick music and liking it? I think I need a dose of punk stat.

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Sunday, April 15, 2007


I first felt it a long time ago. About this time last year. An interesting ache in a back tooth when I drank cold water. Or bit into food that was too hot or too cold. I could tell there was something there I would have to deal with sooner or later.

I procrastinated.

It's not like it hurt or anything. Just a gentle reminder. I made a habit of chewing food on the other side of my mouth. I wielded my toothbrush a little more vigorously. I knew I would have to deal with it sooner or later, I just kept putting it off. Sort of like cleaning out the car. You think of it when you are in the car, but most of the time when it is out in the garage you forget about it. I remembered my tooth when eating, but mostly forgot about it.

Dentistry ain't cheap. Back when I worked for others I took advantage of the health insurance and the dental plan. Now that I work for myself, health insurance is blessed expensive. Being the only year round full time employee I can't even get into a group rate.

Knowing that the dentistry bill must come from my own pocket makes it easy to procrastinate.

Back when I was getting regular dentistry, the hygienist would constantly criticize me for not taking better care of my teeth. I came to expect it as part of any medical treatment, the reminder to brush more, floss more, and employ some gadget or treatment. I was convinced that there was no possible way on earth that anyone could brush or floss enough to satisfy a dentist, so I didn't try very hard. Once at a doctors checkup I was cringing with anticipation of the lecture about exercise and diet. I finally asked to doctor for it just to get it out of the way. She said no. "But my dentist is always berating me." I said, "I sort of expect it." "Yeah," she agreed. "You can't please your dentist."

Not wanting the lecture makes it easy to procrastinate.

Funny thing, a bum tooth won't heal itself. Over time it grew more persistent. Interestingly, my dental habits grew better along with it. As the hurt made itself more known I spent more time and care with my toothbrush. I spent more time and care with my dental floss. I brushed and flossed more times during the day. The nagging tooth was a better reminder than a nagging dentist could ever be.

I finally broke down and called a bunch of dentists from the phone book. I picked one that was friendly and helpful on the phone. Not the cheapest, certainly not the most expensive. I made an appointment for later this month. The first appointment is an inspection, it will take a follow up appointment and more money to actually fix any problems.

I am expecting to get a lecture about dental care.
I am expecting to get a sales pitch for dental care products.
I am expecting to pay more than a month's rent to get my tooth fixed.
I am expecting an argument about how often I should make appointments vs. how often I can afford to make appointments.
I am expecting the dentists nagging to be less effective than a sore tooth when it comes to motivating me.

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Thursday, April 12, 2007

Code of Conduct

While I have not yet received any death threats for my blogging, the issue is pretty hot these days. I figure I better lay the groundwork in case some sociopath drops by and starts intimidating everyone. So here are the rules that I will enforce to make sure the Montana Jones blog stays a nice and civil place.

No Spam.
If I think you are selling something or just being a link whore I will delete your comment. If you think I am selling something you might be right. Your rights include buying it, not buying it, going to some other website, or turning off your computer and going outside for a while.

Be friendly.
You know how everyone in Montana waves at you as you drive past. Even if you don't know them. Often with that two fingers raised from the steering wheel salute. A friendly wave is mandatory on this blog. What? Is your hand broken? I think you can lift a finger from that mouse to give the good folk who stop by here a wave.

No speaking ill of anyone's mother.
You keep my mother out of it and I won't bring up your mother.

No stupidity.
If you post a stupid comment I will either delete it in order to remove a tiny bit or stupidity from the universe, or leave it up as proof of your stupidity. If I post anything stupid you are obviously mistaken.

Do as I say, not as I do.
This being a free internet and all I'm gonna do whatever I want with my own little corner of it. I will probably adhere to everything on this list, 'cause that's just the way I roll. But if I end up breaking any of these rules, tough titties. Go get your own blog. See also my manifesto.

Do not reference a television show to make a point.
It's kind of like that time on Star Trek where they had to do the thing to the thing. Yeah. This is just like that.

No double dog daring.
If you want to place a dare on this blog, you may bring it up. You may even double dare. But double dog daring is right out. That's just silly. What the hell is a dog dare anyway? I don't even own a pet. And if you cross the line into triple dog daring, well, you are just asking to be moderated.

You may not criticize Star Wars.
Yeah, I know, The pre-trilogy sucked. This is common knowledge and we do not need to hash it out again and again. That said, you may not criticize Star Wars. The Star Wars hero mythology and the good vs. evil battle are an integral part of my youth. It is a deeply cherished memory of good times and I intend to continue cherishing it well into old age. Criticizing Star Wars will not be tolerated here. (Except to reiterate that Han shot first.)

You must be naked to comment.
Hey, I try to post naked, I think you should too. For proof just whip out the digital camera and send photos to my Email address. Thanks.

No posting while drunk.
Unless you brought enough booze for everyone.

No Leet Speak.
1f j00Z 7h1nk 7h15 ru|3 sUX0Rs, 60 b4ck 70 5K00| 4nd L34R|\| 3n6|15h.

Please limit yourself to one smiley or emoticon per paragraph.
Montana Jones is about serious discussions only. Littering up the comments with cute little symbols will make this place look like a hang out for teenage girls. So an occasional wink ;-) or smile :-) or four eyed geek 8-) is acceptable when clarifying the emotion behind a statement, abuse of smiley's will be moderated. And please don't sign your comments with a rose. @--`--,-- That's just cliché.

Bribery earns extra privileges.
Gas, grass or ass. No one rides for free.

No bureaucracy.
Do you realize how badly my spell checker chokes on the word bureaucracy? When I get that bureau prefix wrong (like "beaurocracy" or "beurocracy") my spell checker just chokes. It can't suggest anything to get it right. And like any word with lots of vowels I am constantly misspelling it. I have to keep going back to the old school paper dictionary for it, like I did just now. I have put four check marks in my dictionary next to bureaucracy; it is one of my all time most misspelled words ever. I think it will be easier if we just ban the word.

Thank you for abiding by this code of conduct. I'm sure you will agree that voluntarily adhering to these guidelines will make this blog a better place.

Montana Jones

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Sunday, April 08, 2007

Easter Egg Hunt

Drunk Guy:
Alright, Alright, lissen up. Hey, you gotta be quiet if you want to hear this. Hey! Okay, here is the deal here. We got fifty of these little bottles of booze, hey lissen! It's an Easter egg hunt. We got fifty of these shots of booze hidden on the grounds. Now here is the rules. When you find 'em you gotta bring 'em here so we can count 'em off. We don't want your kids finding these later this summer so be sure to get 'em all counted and hey, wait, I didn't say start. Wait, don't go yet. Hey! That's a penalty for starting early. You haven't heard all the rules. Wait, ahh hell. Go have fun.
Aren't you playing?
Naw, we are beer drinkers. Looks like those guys have already found half of them.
Tattooed Girl:
Oooh, heres one. And here.
Sunburned Guy:
Oh yeah, got one.
How far should we look? Are they on this side of the road?
Loud Girl:
Hey, how many did you find?
Tattooed Girl:
I only have eleven. Go look, there are a bunch more out there.
I know where one is, it's in plain sight, just disguised is all.
Well, where is it? Tell me.
I'm having too much fun watching you all miss it.
Drunk Guy:
None of them are across the road. They are all between the road and the road and the parking lot.
Sweatshirt Guy:
Nice, I got one from the rafters.
I think this is just a ploy to get the drunks to pick up the litter in the yard.
Tattooed Girl:
I already got the one from the flower pot.
I found one just sitting in the grass.
Don't bother looking under those cushions, I already looked there.
Loud Girl:
So how many have we got? What's the count?
There are still eleven or twelve out there.
If I find one this is gonna be the coolest Easter ever. If I don't I'm gonna think this sucks.
Drunk Guy:
Hey, you wanna hint?
Drunk Guy:
Go look at that beer can over there.
Cool, how the hell did you get it in there?
Loud Girl:
It was in the beer can? Can you do that?
Thanks for the Easter entertainment.
Drunk Guy:
No problem man, it's good times.

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Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Minimum wage sandwich

I'm already thinking ahead to how we will have to raise rates in 2008.
You know, we didn't used to have to change rates so often. We could go for four or five years before we needed a rate change.
Well, from watching the last couple years I am convinced that rates will have to go up every year. It's a hassle.
Yeah, food costs are going up, and that minimum wage is going to cost. You know, I have as much empathy for the people living in the ghetto as anyone, but hell, you don't get them out of poverty by lifting up everyone. Raising the minimum wage only makes everything cost more. The cost of every sandwich.
Around here wages were already up anyway. Doesn't help us.
That's how you can tell what minimum wage is you know, the cost of a sandwich at a restaurant.
Hmmm, really?
Yup, that's how you tell what the local economy is like somewhere. Go to the lunch counter and order a sandwich, or a hamburger. A basic working mans lunch sort of thing and it will cost roughly what the hourly minimum wage is in that area. Not a McDonalds or fast food, but a sit down sandwich.
I never knew that. Sounds about right though.
And the minimum wage change is just going make every sandwich more expensive.

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Monday, April 02, 2007

Working for a living

So where is it that you work?
I work for A_. I'm a mining contractor.
And you said that mining is booming right now?
Oh yeah. We need staff badly. We can't get enough people.
So is this a good job? Like something that someone could make a career out of, afford a house and health care and retire on and all that?
Yeah, last year I think I grossed over a hundred thousand.
Yeah, you could buy a house with that. Ever since I moved here I have been trying to figure out the Montana economy. I see help wanted signs everywhere and there are even good opportunities like yours but I can't figure out where the people are or what they do.
Guy 1:
I've seen people pass up on a ten dollar an hour job because they were holding out for the big money.
Guy 2:
Kids today don't want to work. They think they can come out of school and be the boss and take charge and make top dollar. They don't understand doing the hard work and earning your place.
Especially in mining. That's just a hard job and there are not many people that want to do it. Even for good money.

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