Friday, August 28, 2015

...And...?

     In the wake of tragedy, sometimes it's difficult to figure out how to follow it.  This one hit close to home -- murderer and victims could easily have been people I worked with.

     At the circus, they'd send in the clowns.  Real life is not a circus.


     So, in attempt to get back to normal, I have some images of the occasionally-James-Bond-scale of my part of the bigtime world of mass communications from high atop a building that must remain nameless:
     It's a nice view, especially if you don't think about it too much.  And it's safe enough -- you're inside railings and much farther away from the edge than it seems.  This is looking north, with the gutted remains of the Paul Cret-designed library visible just over the rail.  The big curved thing behind it is where they keep the books -- pardon, "media" -- now; the bluish glass is a connector atrium where the stacks once were.  I do not approve.
     When I call the stadium "monstrous," I'm not referring to the manner in which it is a huge tax sink so much as I am describing the size of the thing.  I've lived in towns that would have fit inside it -- might take four levels, but they would have fit.
 
     "Inside a railing," I wrote.  Sometimes only barely, but inside it nevertheless.


     To get up there, you have to climb a caged ladder from here, which is above a heat-exchanger the size of a two-story house.  (This is where the villain would leave James Bond, no doubt dangling over one of the big fans with the protective screen removed.)  The uncaged ladder in the distance is a shorty, and pretty much "trained professionals only" because of where it leads to.
     To get to the top of the heat exchanger, you go up this spiral staircase.  Very carefully.

     And on the way home, an apartment building designed by an ocean cruise line!  --C'mon, if you had the penthouse, you'd put a binnacle and ship's wheel on that balcony, wouldn't you? 

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

It Bled, It Led, Dammit

     ETA: It was the lead story on local and network news last night; it led in NBC's Today show just now, Thursday morning.  TV just can't pass up the bait -- and the continuing coverage only makes further crimes of this type all the more attractive to the next violent loser with a manifesto.

     By now you already know the story: a recently-fired TV reporter fired two years earlier shot and killed a pair of his former co-workers while they were on the air, live from a remote location.  Worse, he posted first-person video of it to social media.  It has been suppressed, but that genie is out of the bottle and it will be bouncing around the Web for years.

     Let us hope this does not become a trend.  TV news crews working in the field are almost pathetically vulnerable: their attention is on their task.  Their hands are usually full, figuratively and literally.  Photographer -- "cameraman," only inside the biz, that's not the term -- and reporter are extremely task-focused, especially when taking video or editing and the photog quite often sees only what his lens picks up, in black and white at that.

     The roots of this incident may go back years.  There's no question the shooter was unhinged and he may well have started out as a personality on the edge; he seems to have been inclined to collect grievances and perhaps encountered people very willing to hand them out.  There can be no justification for what he did -- but at the very least, at some point his growing anger should have rated a first response more probing than a pink slip years before the one that apparently set him off.  We may not pay enough attention to one another's "gruntles," and maybe, as a matter of self-protection, we ought to. (This is not to say people should do even more tiptoeing around the sensitivities of others than they already do -- but "don't be a jerk" and "speak up if something's not right" are good guidelines.)

     The usual pundits will say the usual things about this incident but I'll tell you right now, live news is a high-risk and highly-exploitable activity.  I have been at the public appearances of Presidential candidates and though the security is tighter than that for passenger air travel, there are aspects I will not even get close to discussing: no security is perfect.  And for J. Random News crew covering lower-profile events, "no security" is exactly what they have.  Some of it is just part of the job -- police try to push the Press back from hostage and active-shooter scenes, the press push back and more than one crew has returned with stories of the sound a round makes as it goes whizzing by.  But publicity-seeking murderous nitwits targeting newspeople is a new phenomenon, and not a good one.

     Look for a hard fight: this guy put a scare into the yapping mouthpiece of American politics.  I don't know of any law that could have stopped him -- but that won't keep the easy-solutions crowd from proposing a few dozen.

Ed Delany, Are You A Fool, A Pawn, Or Both?

     Good old State Repressive Representative Ed Delany thinks it's time to "finally talk about gun violence," I guess as opposed to talking about gun violence like everyone else has been doing.  (And I'm still not sure why it is somehow worse to be subjected to violence by means of firearms instead of knives or clubs or even bare hands. Can't we address the common factor, violence?  No?  ...Coward.)

      Ol' Ed has sent around a nifty mailing based on talking points from a Bloomberg anti-gun group a New York Times article. The article itself is flawed, including the false "40 percent of all sales are done without a background check" claim.  Ed's got his opinions and I have mine, and that's just how it goes -- but Ed gets the facts wrong, and that is not how it goes; that would be what we call lying.

     So let's start with his intro: "...we can't sit idly by* without at least talking about solutions to the gun violence and mass killings that seem to dominate today's news."
     What, like the National Firearms Act, a late response to the uptick in criminal violence during Prohibition?  Like the Gun Control Act of 1968, a response to the assassinations of prominent political leaders?  Like the Brady Bill in 1993?  Mass shootings per capita are down; violent crime and murders are down.  Yes, they still make headlines and they should: these are outrages against human decency and civil peace.  But it appears Ed doesn't actually want a conversation.  He wants to dictate "solutions" handed him by anti-gunners.  He wants to show party loyalty. And he may be deeply and willfully ignorant.

     In the mailing, he proceeds on to wanting to  "balance gun safety with gun rights while keeping weapons of the hands of those who want to inflict harm...."  Notice he presents "safety" and "rights" as opposed -- try that with the First Amendment, and see how far you get.  (The Fourth Amendment?  Presently a slightly different story, if you accept the notion that travel by air or rail is not a right.  But they're busy chipping away.)

     So what does Mr. Delany want to do, other than furrow his massive brow in concern? He's got a little list:

     His first point says we ought to recognize that "potential penalties will not deter mass murderers..."  Yes, and they won't deter regular criminals, either.  He says "We must do everything we can do to keep guns out of their hands."  This apparently includes keeping guns out your hands and mine as well, since his second point starts out with this gem:

     "Ban the sale and use of automatic weapons."  That would be every handgun that's not a revolver or single-shot-per-barrel, every long gun that is not a lever-action, bolt-action, pump or single-shot-per-barrel.  Glocks, 1911s, Berettas -- all gone.  "Turn 'em all in, Mr. and Mrs. America," as one of his fellow-Democrats once hoped.  He goes on to want bans of "armor-piercing bullets" (already banned, except for two rifle bullets the Federal Government makes available through the Civilian Marksmanship Program), and any magazine that can "hold more than ten rounds" (more ignorant nonsense: magazines can be swapped out in a second, while more than one mass shooter has been stopped or slowed by a crummy large-capacity magazine jamming).

      Point three: "Establish a more thorough licensing system to verify whether an individual should be able to purchase and own a gun," which is to say, license an inherent, Constitutionally-protected human right.  We know how well that's worked at reducing violence in Chicago and Boston, right? Plus, he wants "...a mandatory waiting period until all background checks are complete..." and elsewhere cites Walmart's buckling under pressure from a Bloomberg group and banning all sales when the Brady background check is not completed in three days by asking, "What does Walmart know that the rest of us don't?"  Gee, I dunno, that bad publicity from a well-funded advocacy group sucks?  The kicker in this is that an uncompleted background check would mean restriction of a Constitutional right by bureaucratic whim or fumble.  And Ed wants this to include "private sales and gun show transactions," which is unenforceable and cannot be done with the present NICS system.  His choice of phrase also reinforces the crazy notion that gun show sales are somehow not covered by the same laws as any other sales: FFLs at a gun show (90% or more of the sellers) must do NICS checks.

     Point four: "Ensure states add the names of those people deemed unfit to own a gun to the federal registry."  ...Even a stopped clock finds the occasional ear of corn: NICS is there and the states are supposed to be turning their lists of felons, dopers (don't like this one?  Then change your state's drug laws!), convicted spouse-beaters and the adjudicated mentally ill.  There are ways you can lose the right to keep and bear arms; they are written down in law books and it's pretty hard to argue against most of 'em.

     But Ed goes through all this looking a guns and only guns, like Mr. Magoo peering at the shoelaces of an angry giant under the impression they are snakes, unaware of the greater threat.  Hey, Ed, what about young men joining gangs so they can belong to something bigger than themselves?  What about a deeply damaged culture and drug laws that create financial rewards for lawbreakers?  What about a broken mental health system?  What about young people who are profoundly alienated from ideas of basic decency and fair play, and who expect neither from the government and society in general?  What solutions have you got for those things, Ed?  --I'm asking 'cos if you can make even fair progress towards fixing those, "gun violence" will decline, right along with violence in general.

     The United States has always had poverty.  We've always had social stratification, disaffected youth, insanity, drunks and dopers† and for nearly 150 years, we had cheap guns, mail-order guns and no background checks or restrictions on ownership or sales in nearly every state and city. What we didn't have was "if it bleeds, it leads" 24/7 news; we didn't have so many people who ignored their neighbors.  It was far from halcyon but it had its good points and we'll likely do better polishing them up and putting them to work than building taller, tighter fences that mostly hem in the law-abiding.
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* [sic]. Y'all done split the infinitive.  Might want to watch a little less Star Trek and spend more time doing your homework.  These Bloomberg cribsheets aren't helping you. 

Since ether was invented, anyway.  Or were Colonials smoking the "herb of the fields" before then?  Does even tobacco count?
 

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Monday Dinner

     Soup, or maybe stew:
     Stew beef, Italian sausage, onion, potato, carrots, beef stock + water, sauteed red bell and poblano peppers, zucchini. No seasoning other than what was in the stock, a dash of pepper on the beef and a cube of chicken bullion late in the cooking. It was good last night and I hope it will be good at lunch today.

     The things you do when you crave fresh veggies and you're short on grinding teeth!

Monday, August 24, 2015

Salmon-Tuna Patties

     Aside from the bicycle trip for Saturday brunch, I slept most of the weekend and apparently needed it.   Still, one does need a little energy even to sleep and I found myself peckish Sunday evening. Tam said she was probably going to make herself some salmon salad; she had three packets of salmon and would I like one?

     I thought perhaps so.  However, I am not a huge fan of mayo.  I love salmon patties (croquettes, loaf, whatever) and so I went looking.

     The little packets aren't all that much -- 2.5 ounces, very little of which is water.  Had some cans of tuna, three ounces, and drained, that would add up near enough to five ounces of canned fish.  Could salmon and tuna co-exist?  Never know unless you try!  (This is Depression-era cooking, comfort food for my parents generation; it is what I learned growing up.)

     A third of a cup of crushed crackers (saltines and Italian Herb Ritz), sufficient milk to make a kind of paste, and one beaten egg later, I was ready to add fish, seasoning and spices.  Traditionally one uses dill but we were out.  Onion and celery are nice, too.  Didn't have any of those, either.  Sooooo...  A couple dashes of curry powder, a bit of celery seed and more than a bit of chives, a little parsley, rosemary and cilantro* and a grind of pepper later, three medium-sized salmon-tuna patties were sizzling in the skillet, sending the cats into ecstatic transports of delight (I bribed them with treats).

     (When you combine the ingredients, the result should be neither dry nor drippy; cohesiveness and homogeneity are the desired properties.  Adjust with milk or cracker crumbs if needed.)

     Tam decided she'd have a canned-fish patty instead of salmon salad and pronounced it "very tasty."  I had to agree.  The curry powder adds a subdued hint of flavor, not like dill but remarkably harmonious.  As for salmon and tuna, they get along -- dare I say it?  -- swimmingly.

     Tamara, seeing my Better Homes & Gardens Cookbook open, told me I had better mark that page.  I had to explain it was only open for rough reference proportions of grain, milk, egg and fish; their salmon loaf recipe, made with soft breadcrumbs, is delicious but significantly different to what I cooked.
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* The thing about cilantro is, people who don't enjoy the taste of it are not likely to when it shows up unexpectedly.  If you dislike the vaguely "soapy" herbal flavor encountered in some salsa, you should leave it out of this.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

"Kitchenette?"

     "They named it 'Kitchenette,' really?"  That's what I asked my little brother when he told me about a new breakfast/brunch place in Broad Ripple.

     The answer, it turns out, is "Not exactly."  It's called Northside Kitchenette, and it is yet another of the amazing, wonderful places to get a bite to eat in  my corner of town.  Relatively light fare, breakfasts and sandwiches, but oh my, what breakfasts!  What sandwiches!

     Checking at home, the menu promised much.  Tamara and I rode our bicycles up to the place, an hour and a half before closing, and  what the menu promised, the kitchen delivered.  She had an Italian sandwich, hot and piled high with wonderful meats and cheese; her fresh-made French Fries had a light, wonderful hint of malt vinegar but were crisp and tasty.  (Tam ordered them instead of the house chips -- not chips from a bag, chips fresh from the fryer.  Observed examples were thin, golden, curly, tasty-looking.)

     I had a breakfast burrito, a whole-wheat wrap enclosing eggs, chorizo, pico de gallo, good cheese, fried potatoes and green-chili sauce.  Even with my unfortunate shortfall in the molar department, I found it flavorful and easy to eat.

     The coffee was good, the service was splendid and we will be back!

     Food and beverages for two came to $26, which is about average for Broad Ripple.  Portions were generous and despite our lateness, we were not rushed.

     Northside Kitchenette is part of a new group of restaurants. Broad Ripple has several such groups, most famously the Patachou family, and it appears to be an excellent strategy.  This new bunch consists of The Northside Social (a pleasant-looking, upscale restaurant with a huge, well-stocked bar that replaced The Stone Mug, a would-be/once-was biker bar), Northside Kitchenette and Village Cigar, all side by side in a tiny L-shaped strip mall, plus down in SoBro, Delicia and La Mulita, which offer "modern Latin food" and nice bar spaces.  They easily meet the very high standard for dining in Broad Ripple.

  (As for me, I rode back home, laid down, and was asleep by four in the afternoon.  I was awake off and on between then and now, mainly to take OTC painkillers, but never awake for very long until the TV began talking to itself at six this morning. Possibly just exhausted from the healing at the former site of the removed tooth and the effects of pain there and elsewhere; I was subjected to dentistry Friday and found it extraordinarily wearing.)

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Eh? Speak Up, Sonny!

    For some reason, I feel as if I was two hundred years old this morning -- well, maybe only 150.  Gah.

Friday, August 21, 2015

Expect The Worst, Especially With Cars

     Two rotors under "discard" thickness, two close -- arguably turnable but there would not have been much left.  Two more rotors on top of everything else were relatively trivial.  The bottom line was not, so I got all-new brakes and the bank will pick up some more interest from the increased balance on my card while I whittle it back down.  (There's an irreducible minimum, it seems.)

     Costly, but it does beat not being able to stop when I need to -- or stopping with a degree of grabbiness that had me worrying with the car/truckette on wet pavement.

     This isn't doing the "new teeth" project any favors.  With the tooth they took a couple weeks ago, I can no longer eat many kinds of raw vegetables and crunchy foods are challenging.  Almonds, cashews, pistachios, etc. are right out.  Of course I want some now.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

What Do You Get When You Cross A Locomotive And A Snowmobile?

     Here comes one now!

The Lombard Log Hauler. The ultimate carpool vehicle! Except nobody ever wants to be stoker.

Car To The Shop

     Yes, it's time for my (oooooo) Lexus RX300  to go in the shop (it's a high-mileage 2000 model, so you can stop the plutocrat jokes right now).  The brakes have been funky and I hope I have not waited too long.  I'll probably ask for an oil change while it's in, and there's no telling what else they may find.

     Hoping this won't be too painful.  The last nice experience I had with front disc brakes was when I discovered I could replace the disc brake pads, etc. of my MGB using common shop equipment -- C-clamps and wood blocks.  Most cars are not built that way, which lends some credence to my theory that the MGB was built so the owner could indulge the thing as a hobby; when I say "could," I mean, "had better," because if you treated one like a Chevy, or how I treat my Lexus, you'd be walking a lot.  With other cars, I'm lucky to get them in for service before I have ruined the rotors. 

     Meanwhile, the Lexus itself has been moving along with a degree of ghastly silence, luxurious comfort and utter smoothness that approaches that of the ten-year-old, horribly-painted (looked like a brush job, possibly with house paint) Jaguar XJ-6 I bought in 1991.  Considering that the Lexus is twice as tall and relatively five years older (and, alas, was not lovingly assembled at Coventry by doughty yoemen), that's impressive.  Car & Driver called it "a quiet, ingratiating vehicle whose on-road poise and wholesale absence of truckishness do much to overcome its paucity of off-road skills."  Probably not the thing to climb over boulders -- but it sneers at chuckholes and we have a lot more of them than rugged hard-rock country hereabouts.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Todays Rant: My Carry Ignorance

     It might be less than yours but there are only a few themes to this bit, which I wrote in response to an off-topic question in comments about how to carry and if AIWB wasn't barred by the Three Laws of Robotics Four Rules of Gun Safety:

     I don't have an answer for you.  I'm not an expert on ways to carry a handgun -- in fact, because my employer does not allow employees to carry firearms on their property, my handgun normally travels in my purse and is locked in my car (per Indiana law) whenever I am on company property. I use a small "pocket holster" to keep the trigger covered at all times and when I carry on my person, the holstered gun goes in the right rear pocket of my jeans. Know your local laws and the policies of your employer.  Either play by the rules or understand the risk of not complying.  The goal here is to maximize positive outcomes and minimize or eliminate negative ones, which each of us has to weigh for ourselves.

     All that said, I can tell you what I think I know:

     The Four Rules are not negotiable.  If you are pointing a gun at yourself in order to holster it, there's something wrong with your procedure and/or equipment.  As general rule, a proper holster must cover and protect the trigger; a holstered sidearm gets holstered before you put it on and stays holstered until you take it off (and probably afterwards).  Other than practice at the range, the only exception to "stays holstered" would be drawing it for self-defense, at which point it's probably not going to get re-holstered, but end up in an evidence bag for however long it takes the law to resolve matters.

     You get to decide for yourself how you will carry.  It should be a way that you find comfortable, that you determine you can safely carry and readily access your sidearm.  It should provide adequate retention during your activities.  It is as personal as your choice of underwear, and as much anyone else's business as your choice of underwear, too; Internet debates about ways to carry are useful insofar as they reveal possible ways to carry, known failure modes, and poor equipment choices, but you should not be emotionally invested in any particular style nor pay much mind to the choices promoted by others. The Internet is a vast source of rumor, posturing and misinformation with a little real info mixed in and on firearms it is even more that way.

Some quick jabs:

     IWB/OWB under a cover garment behind the point of the hip is extremely widespread and didn't get that way for no reason.  It doesn't work for everyone and can be problematic when seated.  You cannot pay too much for a good holster -- and (IMO) any holster you buy readymade off a peg is probably not all that good.  (Some are much worse than others -- there's one with an index-finger-activated release that seems to build very dangerous habits, and a brand of polymer holsters that break easily, for example.  Tam has little good to say about Uncle Mike's, other than most of them provide, at least, some coverage of the trigger.) (Tam corrects me, saying some brands of readymades are pretty good when properly matched to the gun. Ask her about brands, I'm not qualified to have an opinion.)

     On training and this habit of keeping the gun holstered, you may encounter people suggesting "dry fire," the practice of aiming and pulling the trigger of an empty gun.  Some pros do this. Some amateurs do this. Me, I'm not a pro and I have heard lots of horror stories about forgetful people shooting holes in their house or worse; I use a solid plastic "blue gun" for that kind of practice.  YMMV.

     Think of a handgun as you would a fire extinguisher: you are very unlikely to need to use it but when the time comes, you must know how.  Money spent on reputable training courses is never wasted.  But your daily-carry gun is likely to spend nearly all of its (non-range) time in the holster; when you do need to use it, if shots are fired (and you should not draw unless this is a possibility!), it's effectively single-use: it's probably not going back into the holster for months or years.

     Get training.  Buy good equipment -- you're better off with an affordable, dependable gun from a reputable maker in a well-made holster than a really super-duper high-end gun in a cheap holster and with either one, the more good training you have, the better off you will be.  Guns break, wear out, run afoul of idiotic laws, etc.  Holsters wear (and they do.  Throw them out when they get floppy) or are lost.  Training lives between your ears and in your habits and so-called "muscle memory."  No law or thief can take it from you and it doesn't break or wear out.  A trained person with a crappy-but-working gun is better off than an untrained person with a really good gun.

     Bit of a rant.  Hope it was helpful.  I think it will be today's post.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

...Searching...

     I've misplaced a bill from the Drive-By Doc-In-A-Box.  I think it was already overdue.  You'll excuse me if I don't post much until I found it?  --And finished breakfast?

     There is this about waking slowly: you do have occasional moments of sheer panic as the previous day's unfinished business seeps slowly into your awareness.  It's a bug, not a feature.

     Update:  The savages!  They have no way to pay it online!  Dear merciful heavens, do I have to write and mail a check, like some kind of animal?  I'll call them, or -- if they haven't quite made it out of the 19th Century -- telegraph.  Gads.

    Mind you, in the late 19th Century, the mail arrived -- and went out -- twice a day.  Western Union wired cash anywhere, not just for scams; in fact, their system was foolproof for the time.  I could probably have hired a boy on a bicycle to deliver a check in a sealed envelope and bring back a receipt.  But it's 2015!  These people could have a robot looking at the Internet and accepting payments 24/7/365.  Instead, I just called their office, at 8:06 a.m., only to have a much dumber robot tell me to call back later, between the hours of eight a.m. and seven p.m.   Um, sure.  Right. I may be dealing with bears with thumbs.  Since this is a medical firm, I find the concept appalling.