Monday, December 08, 2008


I read an article that pointed me to this story: Report Links State Gun Laws To Rates of Slayings, Trafficking:
The study is the first of its kind and comes after the mayors and 30 law enforcement organizations successfully lobbied Congress last year to release portions of the ATF data. Public access to the reports had been restricted since the 2003 passage of the 'Tiahrt amendment,' authored by Rep. Todd Tiahrt (R-Kan.) and drafted with help from the National Rifle Association. Tiahrt said at the time that he was 'fulfilling the needs of my friends who are firearms dealers.'
I don't know if the study is accurate, nor if the inference (that more stringent gun sales laws could decrease gun violence) is useful. But the existence of the data and people's inability to get to it is what stuck out.

This triggered a thought I've had bouncing around transparency (I've blogged about it a couple of times).

I figure that the government should be transparent to a fault. I think we should have all government spending records made available on-line (in hypertext and spreadsheet form, searchable PDF at the absolute minimum). It's our money, we have a right to know where the $700B bailout (or $1T or $2T, depending on what you're including) has gone! Earmarks in congress can stay, we just need to see what they're for and who added them. Only then will we have accountability.

Certainly, all contractors who are hired by the government should have their pay listed - as well as the contract signed (so we know what was gotten for the money spent), and who else bidded for the job. We have no idea if the contractors hired are doing their job, and we're hiring them to do more and more work.

Transparency should apply to non-budget areas as well, the information used in the above study about guns sales and crime is useful. Many have have talked about having the FDA require all studies done by pharmaceutical companies be published when a drug is approved - both good and bad (right now the company can (does)">cherry-pick which are released). Information about police activity (number of tickets/arrests), TSA activities, number of street cleaners, births, deaths, number of buildings owned, whatever - it should all be available.

With Bush especially, we have less and less of an idea of what the government is doing. And as we know less, the government has free reign to do whatever it wants.

Transparency should apply to what we get from contracts as well. If we get a software service (say, billing, or library catalogs, or planning), the government agency should be guaranteed access to the data in a well known format (XML, csv, text, HTML, whatever) at all times. This access provides incentive for the company to stay current and not get complacent because they have "locked in" a government contract by using a proprietary format. Additionally, if the company goes belly-up, the government should have a right to a copy of all the application source code (free of licensing). It is just ridiculous to imagine that a company going out of business should lock up part of the government. You do business with the government, the government gets a copy of your code should you disappear.

[12/09/2008 Edited to add this:]
The EFF has a transparency agenda for the new administration that is short and worth the read.

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Words Of Advice I Should Heed

Back off, everybody. Be grateful that Obama won. He is smarter than you. He knows more than you do.

Ok, I will. He needs some time (he's not even officially the president yet).

Friday, December 05, 2008

For Your Educated Eyes Only

Now if only I could understand what I write.

blog readability test

Movie Reviews

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

The 56, 5 Book Meme

"Do not eat for two hours before the test."

The Triathlete's Training Bible, 2nd ed by Joe Friel.

Pass it on:

1. Grab the nearest book.

2. Open it to page 56.

3. Find the fifth sentence.

4. Post the text of the sentence in your journal along with these # instructions.

5. Don't dig for your favorite book, the cool book, or the intellectual one: pick the CLOSEST.

Hat tip: Letters to the Oregonian

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Reacting to Obama

Jay Smooth says it well, electing Obama was big deal, but it's just the first step in what will be four years of hard work if any real change is to come about.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

A Tale Of Two Chillies

A while back I bought two chilli plants at the farmer's market. The two types are Twilight chilli, and Super Chilli - both of which supposedly grow well indoors and don't get too big.

They haven't been quite as low maintenance as I'd hoped. First, they came with a aphid infestation - so I've been spraying them daily with water for quite a while (it finally seems to be under control). And then (in the middle of the aphid recovery plan) we traveled back east - and the plants didn't get water for a week. The Twilight handled it fairly well, but the Super Chilli not so much. You can see the two plants in this photo - one looks healthy and vibrant, the other ... was on its death bed.

The Super is coming back, slowly - there are now 4 peppers growing and a couple of blooms. It just looks sad because all of the big leaves are a pale yellow-green, but the newer, bright green leaves haven't grown to their full size yet.

Maybe all this will add a special flavor to the chillies.

Obama's Foreign Policy Team

Read about Obama's Foreign Policy Team:
[Obama's] choices for his foreign policy and national security appointments are drawn exclusively from conservative, centrist, and pro-military circles without even a single -- yes, not one! -- chosen to represent the antiwar wing of the Democratic party.
Remember the approval ratings of Democrats in congress? They were very low. Why? Perhaps because 60%+ of the population (probably much higher %age of Democrats) want the US out of Iraq, and the Dems did nothing.

Now we've got an Obama staying the course with foreign policy.

Let the disappointment begin...

Friday, November 21, 2008

Simone Can Open Doors With Round Doorknobs

She can now open doors with the round doorknobs.

I'm sure this will surprise some of our guests when they're using the bathroom.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Conservatism Isn't Finished

I'm never as eloquent as professional writers. This has been in the back of my mind for a while. This is part of the reason I think Obama either won't get as much done as he wants, or he won't do what I (or the Democratic base) want.

Conservatism Isn't Finished -
The reason those [red state/blue state] wars have raged ever since 1968 was because they help Republicans win elections. For Democrats to wish that they would please stop was about as useful as asking Genghis Khan to a tea party.
It's difficult for me to conceive how we can unify the country when one side is doing things like labeling Obama a Muslim (oh the horror), calling it's base "real America", refusing communion to Obama supporters, doubting the patriotism of those who think different.

Seriously, how does one bridge the divide when one side is so hateful?

It is like inviting Genghis Khan to a tea party.

And, to top things off. The Republican party has declared war on science. Rational thinking is no longer allowed.

Original Bailout - A Plan To Ruin The Government?

A couple of months ago I heard about The Wrecking Crew, a book that argues:
The same [Republican] politicians who guffaw at the idea of effective government have installed a regime in which incompetence is the rule. Nor will the country easily shake off the consequences of deliberate misgovernment through the usual election remedies.
The idea that conservatives run up the deficit, sell of parts of the government, and run things into the ground. It sounds a bit cynical, but interesting.

Thinking about the latest fiasco: the global credit crunch. Look at the proposed solution. $700B of taxpayer money - to buy the toxic assets.

First, this is a great moral hazard - it lets the lenders off the hook for bad loans. Additionally, it completely bypasses any notion of individual responsibility - a staple of the Republican slogan.

Second, the issue with the assets is that nobody knows what they're worth. Republicans (and many other people), think the government is incompetent. So, why would Paulson want the government to take these over? An incompetent government is guaranteed to screw up pricing and selling these assets - so it's guaranteed to hurt the government. And, seriously, if the smartest folks at the biggest banks can't figure the value of these assets - how are some government number crunchers going to do it?

Third, buying the assets is completely reckless. It's guaranteed to fail - with no way to know the right price, the government is either over paying (losing tons of money) or under paying (screwing up the bailout). So Paulson was setting the government up to fail - even under the best of conditions.

Fourth, the original plan had no safeguards to preserve the taxpayers money.

Fifth, with all the hype about "socialism" and "fiscal responsibility" and "welfare" - this was (is) an obvious and direct redistribution of the money from the people to the financial institutions. It still boggles the mind that nobody talks about that.

So, with all these things (and others I'm sure I'm forgetting), Paulson (and the Bush administration), was putting forward a plan - trying to ram-rod it down our throats, that was guaranteed to weaken the government, and was poorly thought out. It was the epitomy of the horrible governing they always rail against.

I'm glad they're out of the office - it can't be soon enough.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Neat Hiking Trails Web Page

Northwest Hiker presents Hiking in Oregon

The site also covers Idaho, Montana, and Washington.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Be Scared, Very Scared Worldwide:
Members of Congress, taxpayers and investors urged the Federal Reserve to provide details of almost $2 trillion in emergency loans and the collateral it has accepted to protect against losses.
Yah, you thought tax payers were only on the hook for $700B, plus some minor bail-outs. You forgot about all the loans the government said we'd give to financial institutions before the $700B bailout was announced. We're now on the hook for nearly $2 TRILLION. And we have no way of knowing what we've gotten for our money.

Last week I was sitting with two guys I work with and they said something about Obama moving us toward socialism and redistributing our wealth. I was stunned and tongue-tied. I've since then figured out what I would (should) have said - story of my life. Anyway, this is a clear and direct example of how our government is distributing the wealth upward.

Just lovely.

Transparency is key. Perhaps we do need to lend $2T, we just need to know where it is and what we got for it. Kind of like all the money that we've thrown at the Iraq war - we've lost money there and nobody knows where it has gone.

Maybe it's the cynic in me, but I doubt any of the money the government has lost is now lining the pockets of Joe the plumber, or any other middle-class, salt of the earth people. And you know it hasn't gone to any poor folks.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

20 Yards of Leaves

The city lets you sign up to get a dump truck full of leaves (or 2 or 3 dump truck loads). I'm sure this saves them a ton of money - they don't have to manage composting them, and us folks get something back directly (as opposed to paying for the compost this could turn into).

The load size is about 20 cubic yards. That's a lot. If my math is correct, that's an area 32'x32'x6 inches deep. Pretty big (my first guess was about 4 times that much, so it's actually a relief).

Here's what the pile looks like:

One guess as to what I'm doing this weekend...

Mother And Daughter In A Cabinet

I liked the setup. It was kind of dark in the room, and I didn't want a flash. So I held still - it came out pretty sharp for a half second exposure, don't ya think?

One Hundred Push-ups Update

A while back I started a 100 push-up program. Every week has gone according to plan, until now.

Well, that's not quite true. The first week-3 was very difficult, the jump was a bit much for both Mary and me, but we persisted and did push-ups during the week we were on vacation. However, we both fell off the wagon that following week.

Two weeks passed, and I started up the program again, doing week 3 over b/c I tested at 30 push-ups. I tested at the end of week four and had progressed to 41. Week 5 was challenging: I logged over 550 push-ups for the week. I was able to do everything as scheduled - except the last set which I generally did in two parts.

Last night was the test after week 5, and the results were ...


I've got to re-do week 5.

I seriously doubt I'll be able to do 100 at the end of week 6.

But, I do know that I can do 200 push-ups in less than an hour, which is tons better than when I started.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Balanced Supreme Court?

I don't know that much about the Supreme Court. I listened to a book covering the important Supreme Court cases - which was interesting.

Anyway, I remember hearing talk of this article somewhere, so I dug it up. The main point that stuck with me was:
In 1980 Stevens often operated as the Court's median member; in many cases he (along with Powell) was the Justice Kennedy of that era. But Stevens is frequently described as the most liberal member of the current Court. If he qualifies for that position, it is not because of any significant change in his own approach, but because of a massive shift in the Court's center of gravity.
Kind of boggles the mind what we think of "liberal" now.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Simone In October

Just some pictures of Simone. She's reading tons - she knows most all the titles to her books (not by reading, but she recognize the cover and say them). She's also singing lots. There's an album to the Boynton song book, and Simone sings along (the "Cows" song is very cute).

Without further fawning, here are some pics:

Friday, November 07, 2008

Philip Zimbardo shows how people become monsters ... or heroes | Video on

Remember the infamous psychology study done at Stanford, where college kids were divided into jailors and jailees? That was Philip Zimbardo's study.

He has a very interesting talk about that, and how it relates to Gitmo.

Philip Zimbardo shows how people become monsters ... or heroes | Video on

Time For A Change?

Election is over, Obama won.

Many people are ecstatic about the potential for change, and FSM bless them, I'm sure there will be a change. How can we not have a change from one of the most incompetent unpopular presidents ever?

What strikes me most about this election was how little change in voting there was. Imagine the setup: most unpopular president ever, financial crisis, very unpopular war, same party candidate voted nearly identical to the most unpopular president - versus a dynamic, charismatic leader preaching change. Would you have predicted popular vote margin of only a 6%?

That's actually very disappointing. If you look back (ignoring W's two elections) you have to go back to Carter vs. Ford to find a presidential election where the popular vote margin was less than 6%. Seems like people still (for the most part) voted party lines.

Obama may be able to find middle-ground with the Democrats and Republicans, but I don't know that "middle-ground" is the change people were wanting. Obama certainly doesn't sound like FDR - though pundits are making comparisons, Obama certainly didn't win the election like FDR did.

Many pundits say he should govern from the center (though were perfectly happy with W governing from the extreme). I fear that's a road to disaster and disappointment. I fear Obama will do just that.

To me, it seems as though the Republicans play politics, and Democrats try to be the nice guys - which means Democrats get sand kicked in their faces, and Republicans generally win. For instance, when Republicans were in power, you constantly heard about the Democrats filibuster. Yet when the power shifted, Republicans have been filibustering - but you never hear of it. McCain and Palin made stump speeches out of lies (Obama raise taxes, against the bridge to nowhere, etc.), and even when called on it - they continued to say the same things. Hillary and Obama never did such things. So, after 8 years of being governed from the extreme by W, having Obama govern from the center would (IMO) simply be weak.

Perhaps Obama will lead in a direction the Democrats and Republicans haven't. That would be leadership.

The problem with running a campaign on "change" is that the slogan is very vague, and people are believing it means what they want it to mean - and Obama is going to have a terribly difficult time living up to all those diverging beliefs.

Scalzi said it best:
Your next president is going to disappoint you. Barack Obama does not fart cinnamon-scented rainbows. He is not trailed by angels and unicorns. Reality does not reshape itself to his wishes. Dude’s a human being, and a politician, and he’s going to have to work with other human beings who are also politicians.
Take a look at this short article which examines Obama's position on Iraq. In analyzing his most recent (at the time) speech this was the final point (the first being that Obama didn't mention troop withdrawal):
Third, and most troubling, Obama says that Americans will have to tighten their belts because of the "cost of the war in Iraq." Doesn't that mean that the war will continue?
As much as I want to believe Obama will make some radical, long-lasting changes (for the better), I fear his election can be attributed to what Krugman said: "there was a national wave against Republicans, suggesting that we don’t need a complex narrative."

I truly hope he'll bring about change for the middle (lower) class. I hope he'll focus on the environment. I hope he'll put some regulation back into the economy (or at least transparency).

Hope is a dangerous thing. Hope can drive a man insane.

(For a detailed examination of Obama's foreign policy, read

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Sleepy Kitty

Posted by Picasa


Mmmm... sauerkraut.

That's the answer to the question, "What do I do with two large heads of cabbage?"

Just grate, mix with salt, and pack into a jar.

A couple of weeks ago we had dinner with friends, and they had a crock of fresh sauerkraut at their table. It was pretty tasty (Simone even seemed to like it). They talked about how easy it was to make. I'd considered it in the past, but was always discouraged by every recipe's mention of mold on the top and having to clean that off.

But, armed with a recipe, and 2 large heads of cabbage, I began.

Shred 5 pounds cabbage, mix in 3 Tbs salt, pack in jar. Done.

It was that easy. I used the "plastic bag filled with water" method of keeping the cabbage submerged under the brine. It has the nice affect of actually keeping the brine from getting any air, and thereby prevents any mold from building up. woo-hoo

I kept it in a cupboard for 2 weeks. I checked it every couple of days, packing the kraut down to get rid of air bubbles in the middle/bottom that were due to the fermenting. I tasted it a few days before it was done and it was actually kind of spicy. But now that the fermenting is done, it tastes like sauerkraut should taste.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Ethanol Thoughts

For some reason, I've been thinking of ethanol fuel lately. Perhaps I heard Obama or McCain mention it, or maybe I saw a car w/a bumper sticker.

Either way, I started thinking about it - and what struck me was the question of where the biomass (corn/soy/switch-grass) was going to come from.

Ignore for a minute the fact that even if we turned all the corn/soy we grew into fuel - we still wouldn't have enough gas to run our vehicles. Ignore for a minute the fact that nobody has come up with a cost-effective (and efficient) method of converting biomass into fuel.

Where is this biomass coming from?


Ok. Fine.

What do all farmers know? They know that to get something out of the ground you need: water, light, seed, and nutrients. After a few generations of anything, you need to feed the soil. Where is the fertilizer going to come from? You can't compost - you just turned all the biomass into fuel. You need fertilizer - and that's going to increase the cost. People talk about using switchgrass - and that it is responsible for the fertile soil in the Midwest. Yes, it's how we got such fertile soil - by having switchgrass grow there for generations - not by harvesting it twice every year.

Yes, stuff grows in the ground, but it's not an unlimited bank account. This is something everyone knew before the industrial revolution. But now ... people think you only have to harvest/harvest/harvest.


Also, to get an idea of the scale of the problem, I was reading this article: The Oil Drum | Cutting Through the Coskata Cellulosic Ethanol Hype, and it breaks down an analysis of a particular company's claims. The part I found most interesting was the quantity of biomass required:
In Coskata's case, they promise 100 gallons (+) per ton. How much biomass then to run a 100 million gallon per year facility? A million tons per year. How much biomass is this? If we return to the Douglas fir example, it is the biomass equivalent of around 1.2 million mature Douglas firs per year.
To put in the context of rail cars, the coal cars lined up outside of a coal-fired power plant are a familiar site. According to this, each car carries about 100 tons of coal. For a million tons of coal a year, you would have to have 1 million/(100 tons per car) = 10,000 cars per year coming into and leaving the plant. That's more than a car an hour, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. And of course coal is quite a bit denser than biomass, so more cars would be required in the case of biomass.
Wow, a train car every hour, every day, to produce ... 100 million gallons of ethanol. That's a lot of biomass. But 100 million gallons is a lot, isn't it? No: we use 390 million gallons of gas per day. And, that's ignoring the fact that ethanol only has 2/3 the energy of gasoline.

How are you going to solve the logistics of getting that much biomass shipped around? To cover all the gas we use in vehicles we'd need nearly 1500 such ethanol plants, each requiring at minimum - one train car full of biomass every hour.

The numbers are simply staggering.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

File This Under Kinda Creepy

I remember when EFF first pointed these out four years ago. The printers still do it - be aware.

EFF's "Yellow Dots of Mystery" on Instructables | Electronic Frontier Foundation:
it's deeply troubling that printer manufacturers implemented this surveillance mechanism under the table after secret meetings between government representatives and technology manufacturers. Printer companies don't disclose the tracking to their customers and so the existence of these yellow tracking dots remains secret.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

How Long Will President Obama Last?

People have been noticing McCain's supporters are out of control. McCainiacs think Obama is an Arab, a terrorist, Muslim, and much worse.

The lady who told McCain that Obama was an Arab still thought Obama was an Arab after McCain took the microphone away from her and said Obama was not an Arab.

It turns out there's a study on this: The Power of Political Misinformation: "Bullock and others have also shown that some refutations can strengthen misinformation, especially among conservatives."

So, we've got McCain (and Palin) doing all they can to play up doubts about Obama's patriotism/trust/heritage, so much that their supporters believe these falsehoods and actually boo McCain when he tries to correct the falsehood. And, conservatives are much more likely to believe in something false after the falsehood has been revealed.

How angry are these people going to be when McCain loses? To an Arab/Muslim/Terrorist? Oh, throw in the fact he's black. They're gonna be pissed! They're gonna go postal. And, trying to talk them down will only further convince them they're right!

Obama's days are numbered if he is elected as president.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

U.S. Iraqi Agreemnt, Bush Signing Statement: "All Your Oil Belongs To Us"

From a blog I read - an Iraqi voice on politics.

Raed in the Middle: U.S. Iraqi Agreemnt: Final Draft leaked:
I think it's really interesting that while the bush administration are putting the last touches on this long term agreement with their Iraqi allies, bush issued a new presidential signing statement last week specifically to allow the U.S. government to control Iraq's oil resources! The statement was issued as a response to a congressional law that prohibits the U.S. government from taking control over Iraq's oil and gas resources.

Shroom Class

On Sunday I did the field trip portion of my mushroom class. The instructor (again) made a comment about how he didn't sign up to teach the 30+ people, the class was supposed to be limited to 20. I agree that the class was too large to get good exposure to the instructor - hopefully the parks and rec will enforce the class limits they set up next time.

That being said, I had a good time. The class split into two groups that each headed down different roads on Mary' s Peak. I joined the smaller group, which had the two "assistants" leading it. We all had a great time looking for mushrooms and sharing our findings with each other. I had the typical knack to find LBMs (little brown mushrooms) and initially had trouble finding anything but the LBMs. But I did end up finding two Chanterelles on my own, as well as a couple of Lobster mushrooms. Unfortunately, Lobster mushrooms are very popular with a number of insects so you have to find them before the insects.

I plan on going out to look for mushrooms in the future - it was a hoot.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Pictures Recovered (mostly)

Well, thanks to a flash card reader and ZAR, I was able to recover most of the pictures off the memory card. A couple were corrupted, but most turned out. ZAR worked well, especially for a trial version - they specifically tell you to use the trial version for photo recovery.

I've learned my lesson, never use auto-delete, even when it's doing the "safe" delete. I may switch to ACD See (which Sam swears by) instead of Picasa (evil software which deleted my photos).

Here are some of the cute Simone pictures.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

I Want My Pictures Back

I just somehow deleted all the photos on my camera. Picasa2 was "importing" them, doing a "safe delete" - which only deletes the photos after they're copied to my computer.

It didn't work, I lost all the photos. Some were very cute photos of Simone (she's cheesing it up now), and photos from my mushroom class.

Not pleased.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

St. John Monastery

A while back, we traveled up to see the family in Yakima. I forget the trip details, but it was fun - Simone loves her cousins.

On the way back we stopped at the St. John Monastery's roadside store. We've always wondered what it was like, but we've always driven by on a Sunday (for some reason we don't notice it while driving to Yakima). But, because it was Labor Day weekend, we came back on a Monday - and it was open.

We stopped in and picked up a pan of spanikopita and baklava. The spanikopita rocked, and the baklava was pretty good (though I'd prefer to make my own).

If you're in the neighborhood, check it out.


Mary and I went to the coast on Monday. Nothing terribly exciting, just a nice day hanging out with each other.

We stopped into a little market that had odd snacks, picked up two huge pickles and some licorice.

I've got to say, it was the best licorice I've ever had.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Pirate if you do, Pirate if you don't...

From xkcd:

So true.

Friday, October 10, 2008

East Coast Trip 2008

Mary, Simone and I traveled back east to show them my own stomping grounds and the fall colors. Plus we spent a couple days in Maine visiting Mary's cousins (from her dad's side). We had a great time, the weather was good (only one day w/rain), the food was good, and Simone traveled really well.

We walked around Cornell - campus hadn't changed very much - though the U-Halls were gone (my freshman dorm) and had been replaced with some slightly larger buildings. We ate hot-truck, lunch at Moosewood, college town bagels, and (surprisingly still around) Aladdin's.

It was also nice to meet Mary's extended family - unfortunately I didn't get any photos of them.

One surprise was that we found out Simone's namesake (Mary's great-aunt) spelled her name with two "N"s: Simonne.

Check out the photo album:

East Coast 2008

FM 100 Hue Test

I scored 11, not too bad (0 is perfect).

FM 100 Hue Test

Monday, September 22, 2008

700 Billion

We, the tax payers, have decided (through our elected officials... wait, an appointed official from the most incompetent president ever... sigh) to bail out the financial markets.

It's disgusting. Is it needed? Maybe, but the people who are saying we need to do it are the same people that let us get into this mess. I've got friends who swear by the capitalist system: it's the most efficient, generates most progress, etc. etc. And when you throw up critiques like it has led us down the path of destroying our environment, commoditizing the commons, preying on the un-educated, privitizing public programs, and so on. Of course the standard response is something along the lines of, "well, that's because the costs were not set up properly... blah blah blah" Nice out, it's akin to saying, "X is the best. Oh, it's not working? You're doing it wrong."

Anyway, transparency is a good thing all around. Mark Cuban thinks that's what's needed to get the bailout to work: 700Billion bailout ? Ebay it ! « blog maverick

Sunday, September 21, 2008

September Simone

It's been a while since the last photo post. Here are some snippets of what we've been doing the past month. It's mainly been: going to the park, to the water fountain, to the farmer's market, hanging around at home, working in the yard, the usual.

Fireplace, Take 2

Wow, I just looked, and I never posted pictures of the finished fire place from last year. I know we've got them - they're probably on the other computer.

So, if you don't know the story about the fireplace, it was finished last fall. It was beautiful. You really need to see the pictures. Notice the past-tense. In November or so, during a big storm, it collapsed. Mary and I had just gotten into bed when we heard a huge, "whump!" I sleepily got up, knowing what it was - Mary was a little more panicked because she thought it might have been Simone falling out of bed.

Kiko came out (apologizing profusely) and figured out the flashing wasn't quite right, and the water had dripped down and saturated the front of the chimney at the base - and that's where things collapsed. He'd come out earlier when we saw the chimney starting to weather poorly, and we'd wrapped it up in tarps, but I guess that wasn't enough to save it.

Long story short, we no longer had a fireplace.

Well, now we have one. It's a completely different design. I really need to find the older pictures so you could see. But here it is. We fired it up two nights this week and it works pretty well. You can't see the chimney in any of these photos, I'll have to get another picture.