Saturday, July 30, 2016


     After a long day, I slept, got up to feed the cats...and went back to bed as soon as they were done.  Up now, but I want to make a donut run.

     Here's an abandoned Cold War bunker in Scotland to keep you entertained!

Friday, July 29, 2016

"Vote For Me Because I Have Breasts!"

     That seems to be Secretary Clinton's thesis after having had her selection confirmed as the Democrat nominee for the Presidency.

     As reasons go, I think it's slightly worse than "Vote for me, I have no filter and I have made a lot of money."*  Maybe a lot worse, since she's asking voters to vote so she can make a record, like being the first woman to climb Everest or trek to the sources of the Nile. Valentine Tereshkova and Sally Ride were inevitable; however, the inevitability was not theirs but their role.  Likewise, some day the U. S. will have a woman as President.  She does not necessarily have to be Hillary Clinton.

     Indeed not.
* "Vote for me, I'm good on trade and I have been a Governor," is looking better and better, if you ask me.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

I Do What With What?

     My basic trade is electronics, learned in an age when analog was king and transistors were suitable for low-power, portable devices and while a few -- a very few! -- clever designers might be able to coax enough fidelity out of 'em for professional applications, if you needed real power, more than a Watt or two, you used tubes.  Professional equipment took at least two people to lift.

     It was a time when workbenches were kept clear -- clear-ish, anyway -- and big 75 Watt soldering irons hummed in their rests while analog volt-ohmmeters kept watch.  When we did mechanical work, it was drilling or punching a few holes in a metal chassis to clear sockets and transformers, potentiometers and pilot lights.  "Digital" was safely off in the exotic realm of computers, where conservatively-suited IBM techs swapped out module-loads of tiny tubes or simple semiconductors, while punched paper tape or Hollerith cards told the equipment what to do.

     Chassis gave way to circuit boards and an Engineering shop that built gadgets from scratch made space to set up an etchant tank (oh, okay, a glass baking dish under a heat lamp, if you insist on accuracy) and counted themselves among the elite -- and the elite's elite added another tank for tinplating the copper of the finished board.  Transistors shrank, got faster, FETs showed up, and all of a sudden a few dozen transistors on a single slab of silicon formed a whole building-block -- an analog amplifier or a digital circuit smaller than a stick of gum.  Parts kept getting smaller and smaller and by the time surface-mount components came along, you needed special equipment to do much work at the component level.

     But through it all, it was largely a shirtsleeves pursuit, done mostly at tabletop scale.  These days, a lot of it is done on a computer, configuring and provisioning very clever boxes for their particular task.  Good, honest, clean work.

     So why do I have a "tools for work" list on the Roseholme Cottage dry-erase board reading, "string, level, 25-foot measuring tape," why am I glad I have an extra pair of work gloves, why am I wondering if I might want decent boots today instead of my hiking sandals and why, oh why, am I contemplating spending most of the day working in a lift about 15 feet above the floor?

     Just lucky, I guess.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Busy, Busy

     I'd post more if I could. 

     For now, if you don't like what you hear on NPR news, why not try rearranging it?  "Don't Play With Your News" is an art/game website that lets you assemble newscast snippets (choose your anchor) and then play them back.  Fascinating.

     This software uses a remarkably intuitive user interface that would make editing spoken-word programs a snap.  It relies on good speech-to-text software, which is only getting better.  It's a toy now, but you're looking at the future.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Claire Wolfe Could Use Your Help

     Claire's moving.  Backwoods Home stopped paying their bloggers -- it's a return on investment thing, they're not a charity -- and she's working on a new blog.  And on propping up her house.  Might as well lend a hand -- you know it's going to a good cause!

All Systems Of Government Fail; Some Fail Uglier Than Others

     Venezuela is just the latest proof: socialism doesn't make the poor -- it makes them poorer.

     Think it through: if nobody has hardly anything and a government comes along to redistribute it, while siphoning off even a little bit to pay the redistributors, what's left to hand back out?  Less.  Whereas if people were left to get on with taking in one another's laundry, babysitting, swapping excess green beans for a  set of spark plugs and so on, they'd at least stay even and, given external input in such minimal form as repairs that take only skill, free-range eggs* and wild-gathered fruits and vegetables (etc., etc.), might make some upward progress.

     ...Mind you, throw a bank in there operating under modern U. S. regs, which all but bar them from taking a very long view, and they'd make a mess of things, too.  And there's another lesson in that.
* Supposedly, at least where there is forage, this can result in a significant reduction in feeding costs.  This works if you have a low-density population of hens for their ranging area -- and there's something there for them to eat.

Monday, July 25, 2016

Shooting Zen

     You know why I work to shoot well?  So I won't have to.  --Not exactly true, but  the better you shoot, the more likely you are to want to avoid having to shoot someone.  If you want highfalutin' self-defense philosophizing, there you are.

     Tam posted a video recently of some goofy "tactical training" for beginning shooters, complete with quickdraw exercises and a shooting posture that involved getting up on tiptoe.  Meanwhile, many of the novice shooters were leaning back, holding the firearm loosely or without enough hand wrapped around the grip, and making similar uncorrected mistakes.  But the beginners sure had the jerky faux tai chi moves down cold!

     Don't be like them.  At the very beginning, you will be sitting at a table, with the instructor pointing at drawings and/or handing around a plastic model, explaining the controls and operating function; later, you will practice loading and unloading with inert plastic "cartridges."  Learn these basics!  You may find it dull but it is background you must have.

     Eventually, you'll go out on the range to actually shoot.  It's not really that hard.  Keep the muzzle pointed downrange and concentrate, again, on basics.
Fifty rounds of .22 at 21 feet from a Ruger Mk. III with a Millet red dot sight. Four or five in the ten ring.  All the rest in the X ring.  If you have fair eysight and motor control, you can do this -- probably better.
     Plant your feet, fairly wide but comfortably.  Bend your knees -- and lean forward.  Not so far you go off balance, but you're basically hurling pebbles very, very fast, so lean into it, for pity's sake!  Get a good hold with both hands wrapped around the grip, not some of the silly holds you see on TV.  You can look this up online but your dominant hand grabs the grip, your other hand grabs from the other side and wraps the gun and the first hand.  Both thumbs end up on the side away from your trigger finger.  If there's any grip showing between your hands, that's probably a sign you haven't quite got it.

     Getting your grip and stance right is the instructor's job. Keeping you mindful of safety is the instructor's job too.   Close-order dance drill with blue plastic guns?  Not so much.  It looks kewl on YouTube but you know what looks better?  This.
This target was shot 54 times from 21 feet away using an H&R "Sportsman" top-break, double-action revolver and iron sights.  The trigger pull is long and not silky-smooth; the sights are just plain flat black.  It's not as close a grouping as the one above -- there's even one in the 9 ring! -- but it's a lot more challenging a gun to shoot accurately.  This is not supergood shooting: it's adequate shooting.
     Pay attention, know the basics, practice, and you'll be able to do this years quicker than I did.  I started out with very little good instruction and it took time to unlearn what I'd got wrong.  Don't do that -- and look out for fast-talkers selling "gunjitsu" and their very own sooper-special holsters and Secret Techniques.  There are only two secrets: fully grokking the basics and practice, practice, practice.

     Oh, and as for "gun-fu?"  Those targets were shot at a rate of about one round per second.  Do that, consistently, and you can start thinking about draw speed and/or the "action" type shooting competitions.  (I figure if I can get my centerfire skills back to this level, I might be able to shoot bowling pin competitions again.) Just get a solid grasp of the basics first.  Don't be sold a fancy bill of goods.

Sunday, July 24, 2016


     The Data Viking visited!  He and Tam and I had breakfast and then hit the range.  He brought three of the nicest old S&Ws I have seen in a long time.  It was a good day.

You Know What Ends Republics?

     Caesarism, that's what ends republics.  If you don't trust the Romans, ask the French; they've had republics get whacked from within and without by Great Leaders.

     Just an idle thought.

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Yes! Fire 7 HD Supports Text Editing!

     I had hoped my first Kindle Fire might be as hand for writing as it was for reading, but somehow forgot to check again after it turned out the early subset of Android software for it didn't include a text editor.

     There are several text editors for the Fire 7 HD -- and it's got Bluetooth.  Which means this:
     Yes, it's paired with the Qwerkywriter keyboard, which was a huge indulgence back when I bought it but is now far, far less so.   Now to find something a little quieter for the road.

     (As an aside, I shorted myself on sleep last week.  Perhaps worse than I realized.  Slept in today, Tam and I went to the five and dime -- okay, Meijer -- then Twenty Tap for dinner, and I had a nap after we returned home.  Yes, that tired.  Planning to go back to bed pretty soon, too.) 

Friday, July 22, 2016

I Probably Don't Remember How To Work For Sane People

     I'm up to my earlobes in a huge project  -- a huge wrench'n'screwdriver and spending $2k on materiel three times a week project -- that I had kind of hoped to dodge.  And it is merely in support of a far larger (though entirely invisible to the suits up on Management Row) project, which seems to be jumping from vaporware to jackhammering without ever passing through that fiddly measuring tape and blueprints stage.

     All of that on top of ongoing capital projects left from earlier this year, on top of trying to catch up to much-deferred maintenance, on top of trying to repair a minor but critical system that the manufacturer went non-support on five years ago -- and it depends on another gadget that went the same way even earlier!

     --Not that any of that dull old stuff matters because -- shiny!  Can't you hear  the staccato siren song of something new and badly planned?  About the time I'll be able to come up for air on the huge project and the fifty ugly orphan ones it shadows, it'll be panic-fixit time on the actual mess it enables, as the sweeping lack of detail gives way to the hard, cold reality of trying to put 25 pounds of tech into a glitter-covered five-pound plastic purse.

     Once upon a time -- long ago and far away -- I worked at a trade where we put things down on paper in detail and planned and checked and revised and worked it all out just as well as we could before the first bit of framing or conduit was cut and shaped.  None of my co-workers will even pretend that they think such a process ever happened anywhere in our business; they scoff at trade magazine articles describing exactly that process as being a pack of self-serving lies.  They sincerely believe that everyone jumps out of the airplane with a mulberry bush, a couple of caterpillars and a pair of knitting needles, hoping to have a parachute made before impact.

     It may yet drive me plain batty.  Possibly even fancy batty, which is the same thing but with lace antimacassars.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Vice-Presidential Hijinks: Maybe It's A Message?

     If so, it's not one the bosses of the two big Boot On Your Neck parties want to hear.  From Wikipedia, editing mine:

     "Vice Presidential voting has been problematic since the beginning, as [...] it provides for mischief, as was the case in 1972's Democratic Convention where the vote was scattered between 50 'candidates' and 1976 Republican convention, where the vote was also scattered widely. In 1988, both parties decided to have the designated candidate nominated by 'suspending the rules' and declaring him or her nominated by 'acclamation.' The last Vice Presidential roll call vote was at the 1984 Republican convention."

     Yeah, that's right, you got it: delegates to the Party conventions, about as sure a group of sure things as you could find outside of tourists lined up to buy the Brooklyn Bridge, started putting up some fuss and bother over the Veep, an office once described as being "as useful as a pitcher of warm spit on a hot August day,"* kept doing it year after year in both parties, and the response was to...find a workaround. 

     So, they didn't think it was a message, and maybe more than "we're bored," then?  There's your two parties and their concern for responsiveness and democracy: they just want a nice, smooth coronation. 

     Maybe that's a message, too, but hardly anyone notices.
* Probably bowdlerized by the Press, as it was a long time ago, back when we pretended no role model ever, ever swore.