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 fora  set of spark plugs and so on, they'd at least stay even and, given external input in even the form of 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.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Be Thankful You're Not

     ...Not in my line of work at the GOP convention in Cleveland!  Engineering heard from a News Photographer (videographer)  at the convention yesterday: he'd broken the write-protect tab on one of the (mildly proprietary, they use some sooper-sekrit formatting) memory cards for his camera,* and did we know of any secret way to make the card writeable again?

     Sure we did.  They all involved tools.  There are not a lot of tools inside the secure perimeter and the ones that are on there are closely guarded by the people who cleared them through.  All you need is a solid thing in the "unsafe" position, and that only if the interface is designed to sense write-protection, which is ("Look on my works, ye mighty, and despair.") optional.  As far as I know, no memory cards have an actual internal switch; the switch is in the reader.  Yes, the fancy pro gear we use is all about write-protection; nobody wants to record over important material by mistake.

     But if you don't have a penknife, if you don't have a source of hard-plastic scrap (business card material will do, but it's iffy) and cellophane tape, you're done.  The card will not be being written on.  When last heard from, our guy was hoping to find the on-site support from the manufacturer of the equipment (common at big events -- Sony, Panasonic, Canon, Fuji and the specialized battery and lighting makers usually have a tech-support presence), and had moved on to his next memory card, leaving one not five percent full as a problem to be solved later.

     Reaching out to geek peers who I knew were likely to be engineering inside the convention didn't turn up anyone who'd been allowed even a pair of blunt-end scissors inside once the pre-convention setup was complete. For the media, not even cigarette lighters had made it in (as reported by a very annoyed smoker, who was presumably having to bum lights from delegates and political hangers-on).

     The inside of a high-security event is a very strange place -- and that's well before you get to the actual event itself.  I wonder if anyone at the Constitutional Convention back in the 18th Century saw this coming?  It seems unlikely.
* Videotape is dead, dead, dead and we opted for no-moving-parts recording media.  Naturally, the photogs have come up with new ways to break it.  This is not so much a measure of carelessness on their parts as it is of sheer hours on the equipment: you take snapshots on vacation; a serious-amateur still photographer like Tam may shoot an average of five or six pictures in a day; a news photographer will generate three or more hours of video in an average day and the camera will only leave his or her hand while driving, eating or editing.  In the heyday of print journalism, newspaper photographers put similar hours on their still cameras, with similar wear on the equipment.  Photogs working big news events go through film/tape/discs/memory cards at a staggering rate.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

I'm Torn...

     Is it "train wreck" or "dumpster fire?"

     Nick Gillespie sets 'em up and knocks 'em down.

     Hey, look -- Whigs!

     Also, why does the convention logo look like the elephant is threatening a small bronosaurus?
     Remember, the Libertarian party is on the ballot in all fifty states, the Greens in 47, and there are lots of other choices.  The two big parties have given us decades of the same old suck and fail.  Let's try something else.

Monday, July 18, 2016

Asymmetrical Ruination

     Police are imperfect.  Humans are imperfect.  And just like everyone else, individual officers vary.  Some are jerks; most are not.  Some aren't very good at police work; most are at least competent.  And just as the jerks and bumblers rely on the respect most people have for the badge and the uniform, the good ones bear the ill-will engendered when things go terribly wrong.

     And when things go wrong?  There are plenty of angry, murderous, warped people out there and some of them are moved to act against police generally.  Violently; Texas and Louisiana are only the most lurid recent examples.

     It's like nuclear fission: Action, reaction, reaction2, reaction3...  If there's a critical mass, it keeps growing.

     Various groups are planning to protest at the RNC in Cleveland, and good for them!  It's the American way: wave signs, yell, try some attention-grabbing stunts, get your face and your cause on the news.  Maybe the suits and bosses will hear you.  Some of the groups -- the Black Panthers and at least one nativist bunch -- say they will be open-carrying, which is as legal in Ohio as church on Sunday; thousands of Buckeyes open carry without problems.  (And generally, the groups that do so as a protest or message have a good grasp of this kind of edgy street theater.)

     Reaction? "'Gov. Kasich [...] could very easily do some kind of executive order or something -- I don't care if it's constitutional or not at this point,' Stephen Loomis, president of Cleveland Police Patrolmen's Association, told CNN."  [Emphasis mine]

     Ohio's Governor, aware that he was not elected God-King, has pointed out that such an action is not within his power.

     Threepers have been telling the rest of us for years that a very small minority willing to employ force can effect change.  It turns out that they're right -- and that a lawless few can distort public discourse, public confidence, police attitudes.  (See, there's this about methods and means: they don't have sides.  They're just tools.)

     Violence, violence, action, reaction --  Not a bit of it does a damned thing to address a very real demographic skew in who gets arrested, who gets shot being arrested, and who goes to jail.  I think it's largely economic, but there's no denying the stats.  I think a little of the Black Lives Matter movement is grandstanding at the top and and an excuse for looting at the bottom -- but in between, there are a lot of essentially decent, frustrated people who want things to be better, just like all those decent, hardworking police who are neither saints nor simmers, and who also want things to be better.

     If you could get right down to the core of most of the people who will be protesting in Cleveland, you'd find most of them just want things to be better, too.

     If you could get right down to the core of the bastards shooting at police from hiding?  I'm certain they want things to be worse.

     You want to pick a side?  There's your sides: do you want things to get better, or do you want them to get worse?  As a society, we need to sort that out first; only then can we argue, with means short of fists and brickbats or worse, about what and how.