Sunday, August 31, 2008

How To Spend A Sunday

(Or, Sometimes Whining Works)

I've been very lax about sending lead downrange on a regular basis and it bothers me. There was the moving, and the moving-in and the getting a boarder and more moving-in.

"What," you murmur, "But -- your boarder is Tam! How can you not be shootin'?"
Thing is, we don't bowl in the same league: a well-known gunnie gets invites to go shoot long in advance of the time I know if I'll even have time off. Between that and the insanely frequent scheduled overtime my job has come to involve (yeah, I'd complain, but with my house payments, grotesquely swollen by the Indiana real-estate tax snafu, I'll take time-and-a-half and like it), our availabilities have simply not overlapped. And my membership at the indoor range expired in March -- hopin' they'll take my Ballester-Molina tent-stake hammer .45 in trade for another year's fees, but to improve the odds, I need to get in while someone I know is behind the counter. The "Ballerina Molester" is no prize.

So what with one thing and another, I've gone shootin' maybe twice this year. Until today! I was -- yeah, I'll fess up -- whining on the subject yesterday afternoon and Tam declaimed, "Look, e-mail some of our friends and see if they're available tomorrow, we'll hit Eagle Creek around opening time."

"Oh, I just couldn't, I really don't know them that well." (I'm condensing -- I am unbelievably, stupidly shy about face-to-face meetings).

"Fine. I'll e-mail them and have them reply to you!"

Not much I could say about that other than blush and so it went. Caleb and Brigid were more than happy to go shootin'; we shot from ten until noon or a bit after and then three of us -- the Admiral had things to take care of -- went and had a delicious lunch, about which one of us has posted. For the record, Brigid cooks even better than you'd think from her posts on the topic, impossible as that may sound. Oh, yeah, put together Grade A eats from, as she put it, "whatever I've got here." Delightful but ended all too soon -- I'm not the only gal who gets stuck with being on page.

My fellow shooters are 'stonishin' good even if you go in knowin' they're good. Me, I muddled around a bit with the .22 (Ruger Mk. II), .38SA (Witness Compact) and 9mm (CZ 75B) (sorry about the hole in the lath target support, guys!) before getting dialed in and laying down some (for me) nice tight groups at 7 - 10 yards with the little Ruger and following up not too terribly badly with the .38 Super[4]. Well enough to be within the stoppin' zone on a baddie.

I'd forgotten how much fun the Mark II is once you're, what's the word? In the zone? Line up, press, there's the least little bucking in your hands and the sights are still on the mark when things settle. Or darned close, anyway, and you realign the sights if need be, press....

My shooting stance is mildly odd, as my eyesight requires bifocals (or my half-cheater shooting glasses when I've got contacts in) and so I have to lean my head back to get the front sight in actual focus. You know how they keep reminding newbies not to focus on the target? Not a problem for me: I can't. It's there quite well enough to line up on but if I'm not using something reactive, I haven't a hope of seeing where my rounds land. Like Thomas Edison's partial deafness -- he could hear a telegraph sounder clicking easily enough but the conversation and bustle of the office reached him dimly at best -- I think of it as an advantage. If I'm shooting poorly enough, I'll stop every five rounds and have a look in order to see what I need to do differently. If things are going well, there's plenty of time to check out the target after each magazine, while reloading.

Did absolutely zero malf drills or one-handed work, didn't even start from low ready, just concentrated on puttin' lead downrange on the center, on maintaining a proper grip (and reminding my hands of what a proper grip is!) and reacquainting myself with recoil.

Oh, boy, recoil! I shot a nice full-size, steel-framed Sig .45 ACP and was reminded once again of how pleasantly that fat cartridge recoils, just a slow, heavy push. The Sig was remarkably nice to shoot, with little muzzle flip even for me. Caleb had brought a single-action cowboy revolver in .45LC, which I'd never shot and about which I'd heard Dire Warnings[1] for recoil. He tells me they were downloaded target (plinking?) rounds; whatever the case, it was nice to shoot but I'd need to put in a lot of time just working out the proper grip: the hand-feel is very not a JMB-based semiauto.

Neither is the feel of the Nagant revolver. Tam very generously[2] offered her stock of 7.62 Nagant[3] ammo and I took her up on four of 'em. Tell you what, it's not a wretched thing to shoot -- single-action is acceptable and as I suspected, when the rounds are live, the long, slow, rough, mean DA pull does one's aim no good but it's not nearly as G-wdawful as dryfire at home would have you believe. Recoil is insignificant -- it's a .32 and not the speediest -- the 19th-century-European grip is easy to hang onto and it does what it ought. Emptying spent brass with the gonky little rod on a crane around the barrel is no harder than old American revolvers with fixed cylinders and a similar "smash 'em out" arrangement. At the time it was designed and for what it was meant to do -- last-ditch defense at sword distance -- I think it would have been entirely adequate. That the thing hung on, that it is still in use in some places that were within the former USSR, is a testament to stubbornness and the tradition of using sidearms as insignia. However, they do work.

Adjourned for a wonderful lunch and good conversation, came home, went back to my room with a book and pretty much conked out for a nap. Woke a couple hours later to find Tam had done the same thing out in the living room.

All in all, a fine day!
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1. Mind you, I've shot a lot of real "manly" calibers up to and including .50AE. Smaller than .50 is fun. I can hit the target well enough with .50 but the big Desert Eagle always ends up pointing ludicrously upwards at 45 degrees, no matter what I try. My least-favorite handgun round remains the .40 S&W/.40 Liberty (I owe LNS that much at least), with its nasty short, sharp shock of recoil. I've not tried .454 Casull yet.

2. Have you priced that stuff? I wasn't paying close-enough attention and tried to load one of her saved, once-fired brass on my first try -- saved 'cos at $50-and-up per box, you don't leave empties at the range.

3. Or "Naganat," as someone at Fiocchi labelled the top of the box. Probably not in spellcheck.

4. .38SA is a total affectation and an expensive one to boot. I am fortunate to have picked up a bit extra before prices went way up and Tam had some left over from her last fling with the caliber. It's just so darned much fun: with most brands of ammo, in that compact Witness especially, you get a delightful fireball in addition to a good, solid boom, while rounds go downrange as fast and flat as a .22: accuracy and special effects!

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Happy But Not Handspringing

...Over Sarah Palin as the GOP's VP candidate.

She's pretty darned good in many ways and at least her position's no different to Ronald Reagan's on the things about which I look askance.* I suspect her of being able to think on her feet, to not be especially boring or colorless, to be able to spell and a pretty safe shooter. This sets her way above most Veeps in my lifetime.

One of the things I've been hearing is that if Senator McCain wins, Governor Palin is a shoo-in for the 2012 Presidential nomination; it's there that my "srsly?" alarm goes off. The GOP has a history of chewing up their best conservatives, the ones who believe government is best kept small and out of your peaceable private life, in favor of big-tent compromisers or leaders who want to meddle just as much as the Other Side does, only along different lines. How many runs did Ronald Reagan make at the White House, and how did his party treat him? Have you read up on the nasty infighting Nelson Rockefeller did against Barry Goldwater, leaving the Democrats with plenty of ready-made openings to use?

I've been let down frequently by the Republicans. Gun-owners in general are the battered spouse of the GOP, getting plenty of bruises but always coming back when they tell us they love us as elections loom, especially at the Federal level -- here in Indiana, we've got gun-friendly motorcyclist Mitch Daniels in the Governor's office, not my ideal choice but a pretty good guy; but in the Senate, our one (1) elephant man is smirking Dick Lugar, in no way an ally of the individual citizen gun-owner. They take us for granted.

So when they hand us a really great choice for V.P., man, that's fantastic and no snarkin'. But they're not making any promises.

Let us not build castles in the air. Is she a good choice? Yes. Does she make the McCain ticket more appealing to me? Somewhat. If she was running against Bob Barr, I'd be hard-pressed to make up my mind. But she's not. She's not even running against Senator Obama.

I'm leaning McCain-Palin. But it's not November and my homework's far from done. I refuse to limit my choices to Party Right or Party Left just because they're the only ones from which a possible winner can come: both of them are fronting Presidential candidates who have acted and spoken against the Bill of Rights, an act of treason for which, in a better world, they would be duly charged, tried, convicted and sentenced. (Along with most of the House and Senate. Hey, a girl can dream, can't she?)

...Of course, if that happened after the election and the GOP had won, we'd get Sarah Palin in the Oval Office. H'mmm, Palin or Biden? Like I'd have to think twice?

Damn, that elephant's lookin' better again.
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* And wouldn't you just like to know? Probably not hardly but in any case, tough luck.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Bell Labs: We Don't Need No Stinking Physics

Nope. No more basic physics research at Bell Labs. Management says they need to stick to things that will pay off in the short-term -- after all, that wretched dead end, the transistor, didn't do them any good....

It's official. The inmates run the asylum.

Why bother to care?

Kinda Happy

(UPDATE: Neaderpundit Og argues cogently in favor of voting within the two major parties. I do not agree but he makes good points for his take on things. Go, read!)

...With news of Senator's McCain's Vice-Presidential pick. It's a wise move.

Will it get me to vote for him? I don't know. Still doing my homework -- and it's not like the V.P. can actually do anything.

Still, that's one hell of a good label to put on the box of soap flakes* and the implied promise it holds for the future is appealing. Not 'cos she's, you know, a gurrrl, but because she's got decent small-gov cred, she shoots, and she appears to actually be of some worth as a person. All very good things. Wonderful traits in a candidate for Federal office!

...Alas, she's ridin' second to a man who thinks the First Amendment is something to toss if it gets in the way of his own personal idea of "clean government." People are apt to pick up their boss's habits. This is something of a minus.

What about the threat posed by the other guy? Look, if I find myself fixin' to vote against, I'll vote third-party for sure rather than settle for half an oaf because of fear.

Still...McCain-Palin. I dunno; it does have a bit of a ring to it. It's brought a real wave of relief and joy to the gun-blogosphere and that counts for quite a bit all by itself!

Update: some Lefty commentators have remarked on Ms. Palin as "Governor of a tiny state." Let's assume they're countin' snotty noses rather than area (since nobody, not even a Democrat, could be so stupid as to call our physically largest State "tiny," right?) and do the math, shall we?

Gov. Palin's Alaska, 2006 pop. per the Feds, 670,053. Senator Biden's Delaware, same source, 853,476. But wait, there's more: two Senators per state, so if we take the easy way out, Uncle Joe's got 426,738 Delawary subj- citizens to his name. Sounds like a fair match either way you slice it, neither of them weilding the lash over, er, politicking at by and for even a million souls. In terms of the job they're applying for, only one's got Executive experience -- and she ain't Senator Biden.
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* Every product is soap flakes. You change the artwork on the box, write "New, Improved" on it, jack the price up, downsize the contents by 10% and start a new ad campaign. This has nothing at all -- zlich! -- to do with the quality of the soap.

Not Happy

So, I worked over to get some things done, got home with barely enough time to get in my bike ride, hit the market, pick up some utter essentials at Tar-jzhay, get home, make my salad while Tam did up her steak[1] and, good housekeeper that she is,[2] started up the dishwasher.

Which proceeded to fill up the kitchen sink with icky water.

The drain is (partially) old cast-iron and in need for replacement. With a $400.00 estimate, I was hoping to put that off as long as possible.[3] But the good drain cleaner ("Thrift") hasn't helped in the last three hours, so....

Of course my ham shack desk is -- no, not under it, I avoided that! -- but close enough to be at risk from splashing and to be in the way of burly men wrestling 60-year-old cast-iron drainpipe. So I'll have to move it before the plumber comes by. Good thing I hadn't put any ham gear on it.

Oh what fun.

UPDATE: The next morning, water was leaking from the sink, into the cabinet, onto the kitchen floor, and into the basement! We ended up having to move a lot of stuff -- fragile little radios, most of my telegraph key collection, Tam's less-used reference books and various odds and ends. That would be the third plumbing-induced basement rearrangement. Don't you wish you were kewl like me?
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1. I would so have one, too. If I could. With fries.
2. No, really. Oh, I'll grant taking spiders with a .177 bb gun is not the usual way but it's surprsingly effective. And a nice compromise between the .25 ACP on one hand and the shooing them into a plastic pillbottle and taking them outside on the other!
3. Let me tell you a story about a young woman with big plans who spurned all those idiotic variable-rate and interest-only loans and selected a house that was (just barely) within a pessimistic estimate of her budget...right before they tripled the real-estate taxes. Better yet, I won't. Seriously, if I have a cunning plan involving money? Lock me in a closet until the urge passes.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

September Blogmeet

How does the 21st or the 28th work? Let me know here and we'll set one of the other. Or something else.

Two Immediate Futures

These folks (or a related venture, the Center for Personal Protection and Safety) have produced a video covering usefully proactive responses to campus threats, up to and including loonies using weapons. According to a wire service, "hundreds of colleges" have bought it and the associated training program. It attempts to inculcate a survival mindset and points out that in a crowded classroom, the baddies are outnumbered and can be taken down by determined effort and then proceeds to practical examples.

Meanwhile, this guy, a cryptozoologist, sociologist and anthropologist* fears showin' the poor impressionable kiddies (ages 18 and up!) and their professors such violent images might trigger PTSD -- and that the techniques shown might inspire "troubled students." 'Cos, you know, there's no other place they'd ever hear about or see such things (other than, say, the History Channel, CNN or local newspapers) and it's a lot better to die innocent than to survive with a murderer's blood on your hands.

Like hell it is.

Humans are not sheep, sir; and while our worst predators are members of our own species, so are our best protectors, ourselves. Good people outnumber crazies millions to one -- but far too many of the good lack the basic mindset to prevail over the evil and/or deranged. As long as we line up meekly for the slaughter, crazy will look cool to other crazies. When the baddies start goin' down before their little bloodfest gets well underway, the appeal will fade. It's called "negative feedback."
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* I can't stop myself -- does this mean when he finds Bigfoot, he'll study the critters' tribal structure an' try to get 'em on Welfare?

Freedom Of Expression: So Precious, It's Rationed

Especially during eejit-picking election season.

Seems some public-spirited lad has put together a nice little political ad for television highlighting the well-documented friendship between Weather Underground bomber William Ayers and Senator Barack Obama. All's fair in love, war and politics? Not exactly; it would seem the Obama campaign is fighting back with litigation and threats and have kept it off the air.

First Amendment? C'mon, they don't like that one any better than the Second! Besides, there's a law. (And who put that knotty club in their hands? Why, Messrs. Feingold and McCain -- John McCain. Karma, sir; karma).

NW Freethinker has the story, with links. And an embedded copy of the advertisement. Go take a look.

Can't stop the signal!

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

From Russia, For Cash




















Here's my Nagant, marked 1923/45. To complete the retrospy look, it is paired with a tiny Russian radiotelegraph key! (Which joined Collection X courtesy of Turk Turon, presumably smuggled out by camel-train from Bishkek).

I should have added a coin (kopek?) for scale. The knob of the key is about two-thirds the diameter of a penny.

And just to prove I truly do commute from The Past, one of the radio bookshelves in my office at Roseholme. Note the very modern cameras -- no leathette-covered cardboard Brownie for this gal! -- and high-fidelity Rochelle-salts crystal microphone, improvised from a Brush-Clevite headphone element plus odds and ends, not to mention the very latest edition of Radio magazine's Handbook and several previous years as well.

(Time travel works both ways -- at the upper right, you can just see two editions of Horowitz and Hill's The Art Of Electronics, a marvelous book for anyone with a scientific or technical background who needs to "do" electronics. The boys'll get you up to speed fast! Why two? They did do a fair amount of revsions and expansion but I wore out my first copy; I only keep it for sentiment).

Overheard And Interacted

At work, fixing devices in another department's area while a chat show about "spoiled children" played on the monitors: the segment showed a ten-year-old's new, $350.00 designer purse and I muttered, "A paper bag and string would be just fine."

As it happened, the folks in that area were clustered around the bulletin board, figuring out who had to work what to cover for a vacationing peer; one of them looked up at me in wild surmise and said, "As a replacement for Tom? Heyyyy...that just might work!"

General hilarity ensued. Ouch.

_..._

Back in techie-land, one of the operators was telling fascinating stores of his time in SAC, flyin' around in planes doing comms in a setup not all that different from what he does now -- but with a few differences: "Y'know," he said, "the best thing about that was, I had a job that made a difference."

Not an Earth-shattering realization but perhaps the universal constant differentiating military service from any other work: even if your lot is only peelin' spuds, what you do matters far outside the small place and group in which you do it.

_..._

Even deeper in techie-land, I've decided the gang that wired the place up originally must have done so under zombie attack. I don't remember any in 1981 but the evidence is irrefutable once you've dug past the layers of somewhat-less-bad laid atop it since.

Aw, What's Another Few Booms?

Residents of a Southside neighborhood shared with A) a big landfill and B) underground quarrying operations* that involve blasting,are in full voice over some recent FBI/LEO training at the landfill involving loud explosions (When Trash Attacks 101, with a short seminar on Zombie Removal?). The first session was entirely unannounced and made for a busy time at the 911 call center; when the date for the second was made public and locals griped, the Feds suggested they "...go shopping for the hour we'll be setting things off..." presumably 'cos down by the landfill, those are the homes of folks who do whole lot of shopping. (Note to FBI: hire a better PR flack for these things).

Residents are now pushing for a noise ordinance, though the FBI has no further plans for the area and the quarry's been there long enough that it's almost certainly grandfathered. But if it gets through, I'll be watching the newspaper closely around 4 July for unintended consequences.
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* If Indianapolis ever sinks, M----- M------- is gettin' the escalator bill; they've got limestone operations all over town.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Boiling Points: Beyond Irked

I have a temper and there are some things that set me off in about zero seconds.

- Being patronized 'cos I have not travelled much, had a real education, or come face-to-face with even the beginner's introduction to the run-up to The Elephant. Yes, it's true: I'm a small-town girl, an autodidact and I never even so much as dated a JROTC guy. It does not follow that I am therefore ignorant, parochial, or sneer at those who serve in the military and if you'd like a screaming argument, one quick way is to assume those things are so.

- Ted Kennedy. Well, any Kennedy, really. This is prejudice, for all it has so far been borne out by their behavior in and out of office. I won't make mock of the unfortunate man's brain cancer and I'm glad for him that he appears to have recovered so well from surgery, but he still afflicts me like chalk on a blackboard. Woke up to him on the tube hovering like a Zeppelin over the Democrat convention and regretted having set the television to go off. Gah! Before coffee?

- The two-party system. Sorry, but in my ever-so-amateur opinion one of the very worst features of U. S. politics is the "big tent" theory (a lot of the campers do not so very much play well with others) and the worst of all is the bedamned casting every election as an uber-apocalyptic Ragnarok of Light vs. Darkness. Aw, crap -- it's just another choosing-of-fools to (try to) run things for an even number of years; later, we'll pitch 'em and get another set of meddling eejits. And I'd like to see a wider assortment of fools being elected, who will argue with each other more and meddle with you and I less.

- Unfounded authority. Yeah, yeah, maybe any MBA can manage anything and any biz-school poser can work as a supervisor; but it's all play-pretend unless they understand the specific nature of the endeavor. Slingin' buzzwords doesn't count.

Hooray! Ker-Pow!

This morning over oatmeal, Tam offers, "Blackwater has spoiled me for (local range). I'm going to shoot more and it'll be on the move -- IDPA, falling plates, something not just punching holes in paper."

This could not be better news for me; in the last year, I've shot less than I have in years. I've been wanting to join a local Fish'n'Game club that has a nice range and hold matches and competitions but my extreme diffidence around strangers has proven a barrier. (And it's been just darn painful working weekends while Tam's out shootin' with her friends). So I'm hopin' to maybe tag along from time to time. We'll see.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Random Thoughts From Work

My co-worker Conan the Objectivist claims I have to have a creative outlet or I'd explode; often it's random coinings in response to whatever's going on at the time. Most are not gems but a few may be shiny in spots:

After catching the edge of some marvelously Byzantine maneuverings, "Why am I flying through the air towards the sound of wolves howling, and what happened to all my good, good friends in the troika?"

They're all evil twins until proven otherwise! (The 257th Rule of Soap Operas)

"Feed a man a fish, you've fed him for a day; feed a man to the fish and he's not gonna bother you ever again."

They broke the mold when they made him but we suspect the spores are lingering. (In response to a county judge moving out of his courtroom over a mold scare).

...My coworkers are spared most of these, so I can pass the savings on to you!

I Support A Woman's Right To...

...Choose Not To Blow People Up!

The original Reuters headline reads, "Iraqi girl aborts suicide bombing, surrenders," which struck me as one of the least-controversial uses of that verb that begins with "a." That's a kind we can all support!

Remember, kids: when they ask you to blow people up, fake 'em out! Think of the stories you'll be able to tell your grandchildren. The ones you wouldn't be around to have if you went along with the madmen.
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Swlep me, if people start an argument over the more-typical use of the word, I will pull the plug on commenting, just that fast. There's places for that. Here is not one of them.

Tired? Relieved?

Seems likely, when a conversation like this makes sense:

RX: "You'd better get horizontal. You're so sleepy, I'm afraid you might turn into a turnip and there I'd be, havin' to explain why there's a five-foot-12 girl-shaped turnip--"

Tam, yawning off to her room: "--a pillar of turnip."

R: "Yeah! I'll tell 'em you looked back an' there was a salt shortage. A pillar of turnip by day and three if by sea!"

T: "...Right...?"

...My Mother the Sunday-School teacher is so proud now....

And Now Back To Earth

Looks like final wrap-ups are being posted at the Para Ordnance blogfeed concatenator. We should take a moment to stop by and thank Bitter, who not only had to opt out of the Blackwater trip very late in the planning, but then did all the heavy lifting (and all the detail work, not to mention everything in between) to get the aggregator up and running. Thank you!

Joe Huffman beat Caleb in the shoot-out. Much as I like Joe, I was pulling for the local talent; Caleb is as fast and smooth as a striking snake. Speed and accuracy isn't the entire tale: Joe avoided a "don't shoot" time penalty his challenger was caught by. Experience over youth? Could be. In a crunch, I'd trust either one.

I have to admit after three days I'm startin' to miss the pitter-patter of tiny tactical boots around the house. I've missed havin' another cat-wrangler around here since the Zed Drei cleared the driveway: I'm outnumbered four to one!

In-writing Update: so, the back door went clonk! and the kitchen door creaked open and -- lo, the prodigy hath returned! (Rats, I only made four cups of coffee). Early word? Uttered in tones of pure bliss, "Oh, it was fun, it was fun!" Knew that, but any buzz that survives an 11-hour drive must have been made of 120% cake and win. At least.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Gun Show, BlogMeet, Motor Scooter

I'm just made of happy. (And possibly 25% win and 15% cake, final results are not yet in):

Made it to the gun show and found what I was looking for! --One of the things I was hoping to find, at least; I'd be delighted to find another of the "S" series .32ACP Stars and I wouldn't turn my nose up at an Astra revolver, but neither of these showed up.

However, I missed out on the supercheap Nagant revolvers, last show but one, as I had been unable to source the cylinders that'll let you shoot afforable rounds in these Russian uniquities. I found one, a trace over "supercheap" but within my tiny budget! "Nagant," you say, "what sane person would desire one of those? 'More coal, please, Santa!'"

Umm, gee, it's like this: My boarder's a serious collector of S&W revolvers, so I can't really get into those, plus they cost actual money 'cos they're popular workin' guns. Colts are delightful revolvers, a pleasure to the hand and, when in good shape, the eye as well. But anyone who finds Smiths expensive will faint at the asked-and-received prices a Colt commands. What's that leave? British revolvers (who would not enjoy a nice old MoD top-break?), Spanish revolvers where the options are Astra in .38 and .357 or, as far as I know, "explosion hazards and/or rarities." Or Russian Nagants.

Nagants were carried by everyone from the Soviet equivalent of Barney Fife* to OGPU back-shooters; they made a lot of 'em and most of them worked. With the proper cylinder, you can shoot .32s in 'em for pennies a round (otherwise you about have to take out a loan). Plus, they're just weird enough to be kewl!

So now, I have one. Tam's pretty sure she's got a .32 cylinder stashed away, purchased "just in case." Photos later.

_..._

Left the gun show just in time to get to the BlogMeet. This is a little more interesting than it sounds, since I'd taken my scooter to the gun show. (Only to find a bicycle race had rewritten the map at the State Fairgrounds!) Buzzed out onto 38th and up College, encountering a few of the big boys on bigger bikes and getting The Standard Rider Wave on the way.

Sherlock and Mrs. Shomes were in attendance and Old Grouch showed up shortly after my arrival; most of the rest of the Usual Suspects were out of town or otherwise occupied. This was a Bonus Blogmeet, after all. We had a nice time, addressing the various and sundry issues that came to our attention -- the proper role of government, buckets of toads, lousy drains, dog-eating cicadas, er, dogs that eat cicadas and the consistently good quality of the Brew Pub's brew and grub.

Mrs. Shomes was doing a little prep work for an interesting project: taking apart those store-branded (I AM A FOLLOWER OF SAFE-KROGMARSLDI'S THE MIGHTY) cloth-like grocery bags and reassembling them with the logos on the inside, adding a few personal touches in the doing! I like the idea; you feel a bit less like Consuming Unit #nnnn, your grocery bags are personalized, and you're not piling up heaps of annoying plastic bags or the ever-less-sturdy brown paper ones in valuable storage space. "Good for the planet?" Yeah, right, we'll do 'er in with bags from the market; more to the point, the handles on cloth bags don't give way and the bag won't rip at a harsh look. Made of win!
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* Who would probably be a bumbling railway guard. Y'know, a strange enough mind could have a lot of fun with an Andreev Griffovitch sitcom. "Whyn't y'come by for dinner, Barn'? Aunt b left us a mess a turnips when they sent her to the labor camp last week." "Oh, I dunnoooou Andeee, the GRU's been watchin' you a whole awful lot these days. I'd sure hate to get in the middle of that...."

That Armed Schoolteacher

Don Gwinn is having a blast at Blackwater!

I'm especially taken by his analysis of Todd Jarrett's teaching skills. Coming from a professional educator, it counts as expert testimony -- and I am reminded of the methods used by Motorcycle Safety Foundation instructors: keep things moving, lot of hands-on time and immediate feedback, achievable goals for each student in each stage, etc. This kind of thing really only works with highly-motivated pupils; one stick-in-the-mud can foul up the pace.* But when it works, there's no better way to learn!
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* Observation: in both MSF classes I took, there was one student who was simply inept. One withdrew, vowing to aquire better basic skills and take the class again; the other dogged it through and passed. Both were enthusiastic and despite having no gift for the material, neither slowed up class. Yes, there really are situations where giving a darn beats talent, probably a lot more often than we'd like to believe.

No Gun Show For Me

Not Saturday: Revenge Of The Popcorn continues, in milder form. Frikkin' actors selling food items -- I've had good luck with the brand for other things.

I'll be stickin' to Black Diamond nukable (a lotta "widows" but good-tasting), or just give up and go back to the hand cranked stovetop popper. At least with that, I can use olive oil. Yeah, EVOO, the good stuff, makes popcorn of a quality you would not believe.

Gunshow Sunday? Gee, I sure hope so.

And now to bed.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Idiots With Badges

I'm not sure what Howard Philips Lovecraft would have thought, but from BoingBoing by way of Turk Turon comes the news that a writer got called names and was told to begone after leaving a memento (small plastic frog: Next year in Innsmouth?) and then having the effrontery to be taking a couple of photos of HPL's grave.

With a digital camera, mind you, not a brain in a can with an imaging attachment. (Darn the luck!)

Nor is she the only one -- BoingBoing link lets you punch through to her site, q.v. for more real-life horror tales. I dunno the writer (one Caitlin R. Kiernan)* from Eve's kitchen help but between my scary books and Tam's, I'll have to see if we've got any -- anyone fond enough of HPL to pay a visit on his day probably has other virtues.

Here's the basic rule, mo-rons d'securidaddy and the fat-headed weasels y'serve: If you'll let people look at it, they can take pictures of it, too. Also, they get to write about the Great Fun! they have had. And it gets linked to.

A lot.

...Okay, where's the outfit making digital cameras the size of the old spy-type film ones? 'Cos I'm gonna start takin' pix where prohibited and posting them whenever I can.
______________________
* Oh, ha-ha-ha, Wikipedia, someone went and changed the spelling after I linked to it? And no redirect? Fun-neee. Love you too.

Saturday!

Should be: In shower, making ready to visit the bank and the gun show.

Am: Reading webcomics and drinking coffee.

...And blogging. H'mm, that's not gettin' me ready any faster, is it?

Friday, August 22, 2008

Another Concealed Carry Permit Holder

Drop by Linoge's place and offer your congratulations (if you can get OpenID to work. It's hatin' me) -- on carrying in public for the first time! Holy Bradygrabs, it didn't leap up and start shootin' up the supermarket or nothin'. Why, you'd almost think a sidearm was an inanimate object.

The Blackwateristes

Or is it The Lucky Winners of the Golden Ticket?[1] There's a combined blogfeed for 'em, or most of them, anyway; I notice Miss Tamara "Maverick" K is not (yet) among that lot, though she's posted about the experience already.

UPDATE: They've talked her into signing up. My first guess is that IPA was involved[2], not to mention she's among company that can talk the birds outta trees.

UPDATE UPDATE: For a mercy, our "Slim Jim" trip-prep conversation isn't there. (And should not be, mmmmkay?). I'm not linking to it, either.

UPDATE CUBED: Joe Huffman's Twitter has a running account of his experiences! Quoting Tam already -- she reacts to the sight of firearms and their distant reports with the innocent delight of a shieldmaiden discovering a fresh battle.
___________________________
1. Ever see an Oompa-Loompa ninja? Mind-boggling.
2. As in, at the MayTel Hotel Bar last night: "Hey....yummy yummy India Pale Ale! Mmmmm-goooood! Just sign here on the dotted line before it warms up!" Or, you know, not really.

Be Here Now

Xavier on, not merely mindset, but mindfulness: knowing the situation and the human possibilities.

I borrow the term from the kind of Midwestern Buddhists I knew as a teen. While it may seem an odd group from whom to take lessons in combat awareness, consider that an avowedly non-violent individual has only situational awareness for defense; the survivors got that way by looking (and acting) many moves ahead, way farther than most people ever bother.

A vital part of being in the moment (and being around for the next one!) is understanding the shape of it and where it may go. This becomes extraordinarily clear on two wheels but it's always true. Carrying a weapon does not free you from the need to be here now; if there is a "magic talisman" that can aid your safety, it's between your ears.

When Xavier and Ram Dass both say so, walking up to it from completely different sides, there just might be something to it.

Our Traveller

No word yet from Tam. Knowing her habits, she's driving straight through and our first word will be when she posts to her blog. Godspeed, sis!

And that would conclude this evening's bloggage from me, as my lunch is busy disgareeing with me, at length and in some detail. Yeech. Grape juice and a nice helpin' of plain popcorn, it sounds so innocent.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Cooking: My Turn

Tam had picked up a couple of ribeyes in her shopping yesterday and bade me prepare them for tonight. Quick and easy way is to set 'em in a little Chianti and Worcestershire, start 'taters on the boil, then saute mushrooms in olive oil and add the steaks, brown 'em a bit, then their pseudomarinade in time to make everything finish even. Haute cuisine it's not, but if you're careful to never break a boil and keep the liquid level low and consistent, it's pretty good. About 5 - 7 minutes to medium rare.

I built salads, too: baby mixed greens, red pepper, celery, cauliflower, carrots, cherry tomatoes, broccoli, black and green olives and green onions, topped with a wonderful French dressing.

But the potatoes, that's where I shine: start with four fresh Yukon Gold, quartered but not peeled; toss in a hint of garlic, a dash of salt and pepper, a little of whatever veggies seem extra from the salad (some sweet red pepper, most of the celery leaves, green onion) and let it cook. Once they're good and soft, drain well (save the potato water if it's soup season!), put the pan back on low heat to dry em out, then attack with a knife to chop up the peel; add some butter and a dash of milk and mash it up with a fork, adding milk as you go until you like the consistency. Serve with butter, salt and pepper to taste. Heavenly!

I'm tellin' ya, it's shameful: I would almost pass up the steak. The two of us put ourselves on the outside of classic American cookery in record time while watching the first half-hour or so of Patton. Ah, that's the life!

Me, Too

Awhile back, Lawdog sang the praises of Pilot's "Varsity" inexpensive, disposable fountain pens. Being a fountain-pen person and of an inquiring mind, I promptly ordered a set and have been using them since.

He's right. While you're not going throw away your Mont Blanc or even a Conklin[1] in favor of one, they are very smooth and have yet to leak ink onto the section[2] where you hold 'em. I liked the old Berol Fontaine disposables, but they did tend to get just a little inky. The nib on the Varsity suits my hand better, too.

If you prefer real pens or even think you might, these are worth trying. $2.00 vs. $200.00? Oh, yeah!

I'll be over there, making legible (for once!) notes on The (dadratted and uncooperative) Widget in a wide variety of colors, with circles and arrows and itty-bitty drawings on each page. Who knows, it might even mean something.
____________________
1. Mark Twain's favorite brand -- among other virtues, the "half-moon" filler lever of their top-line classics prevents them from rolling off the desk.
2. "Section:" actual name of that part, by the way.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

My Kinda People

Interesting blogs:

Strikethru -- typewriters, old cameras, typewriters, fountain pens, typewriters.... Kewellll! Current top entry? Crystal-clear typewriters, popular with jailers, as it's harder to hide a shiv in 'em. Ooooooo.

Ditto Pencilthings Info, connected to, it is true, a labor-of-love commercial site but itself more like chatting with the clerk on items of mutal interest.

...And a flat-out product (albeit with a clever blog, linked via "Home") for those who were let down when I mentioned grid-ruled steno-type books and then it seemed the product had been discontinued: a next-best thing at a lower price than the cool Rhodia (though their 8.5" square, spiral-bound grid pads are mighty cool, too): Field Notes, plain, simple 3.5" x 5.5" gridded notebooks just like Dad used to lose!

Good Eats? You Bet!

And all the gooder for having been made by someone other than me. (Don't get me wrong! I do love my own cooking but I rarely have time for it).

"So, you're gonna tell the whole Internet I cooked and it came out okay, right?" Tam asked after dinner'd been tucked into, devoured and the dishes cleared away.

I was neck-deep in Wired, reading about Star City and the exploits of Lord British therein and learning all about the Pencil of the Month Club so, genius that I am, I said, "Nope."
"Hey!"
"Er -- yeah?"

Tam was convinced dinner would be a disaster; she was three-quarters done when I got home and seeing the prep and stress level[1], I nipped out to the market for some hand soap and lunchworthy this and that; but what I'd seen looked intriguing: sizzlin' hunks of meat, well-drained black beans, a can of crushed pineapple and a fresh sweet red pepper.

'Pon my return, Jamaican Jerk pork chops[2] and a very fine black-bean salsa had materialized, sizzlin' hot under a heavenly aroma, not to mention a dusting of chopped green onion.

Tam was every bit the picture of pride and trepidation. She had every reason for the former but none at all for the latter: the result tasted as good as it had promised! I am not fond of sweet flavors with meat; the usual Midwestern brown-sugar glazed ham, for instance, does not tempt me.

...But count me a believer in this combination! The marinade, pineapple, sweet pepper, a bit of cider vinegar and so (secret recipe) on had blended into a delight, with just enough heat and the exact amount of sweetness to compliment the chops. Tam K can, in fact, cook. Despite her claims otherwise. (Ha! It's a fine corner you've got yourself in now, roomie!)

It was worth having to load the dishwasher. It was even worth settin' down the magazine to come in and brag about -- which I would have done anyway.

Now then, about that Pencil of the Month....
___________________________
1. I'd make some hi-larious comment about a first-rate target shooter and all-round tactical gal who gets rattled over cookery...if I wasn't a whole lot that way myself, only minus the tac part.
2. Assuming a 4" cube of tender pork counts as a "chop!"

How Not To Work Mornings

I have mentioned in passing that last week I worked the 4:30 am to 1 pm shift at the Skunk Works. The shift itself is, well, just another Engineering shift, albeit one with several hours of live news (meaning the occasional hurried duct-tape repair) and a lot less adult supervision. I've worked it before and as long as you don't mind being up and about while others are snug abed, it hadn't been especially dreadful.

I even started with sufficient sleep.

What I didn't start with was.... Oh, not much. I was out of oatmeal. I was out of B-complex vitamins -- I don't take massive amounts but what I do take makes a difference. And at the Skunk Works, we'd just received a remarkably complex device with two (count 'em) two befuddlingly complex manuals (hardware and software) of the sort that tell everything except how to make The Widget actually do anything.

In the back of the cupboard, I had some time-release 500-mg niacin and to what I use instead of a mind at 0300, that was just as good as the B-100 pills, right?* Ate something, not much, scrubbed up, got on the scooter and off I went.

Took about three hours before I ran outta steam, badly, and spent the next five fighting to stay awake and make coherent notes anent The Widget, In the interim and entirely unbeknownst to me, the "time release" had behaved more like a slow fuse than an hourglass: about an hour into the day, my ears lit up, I began to itch all over and my temper, usually mild-to-quietly-snarky, went very short indeed.

I didn't associate the symptoms with the pill, just gulped my coffee, seethed and kept on beating my soft, fluffy head against the gritty brick wall of Systemic Documentation Failures: How To Hide The Forest In The Trees.

At the end of my day, I was in no shape to ride but it's something of a long walk even not pushing a small, heavy motorized vehicle, sooo... Did well enough, if the near-miss at a huge steel plate laid across the width of one lane counts. At least it was a nice adrenaline hit!

Once back home, I decided I'd better stick the car for the rest of the week. And I realized I was too sleepy to go hit the market.

Next day, same thing, different vehicle. Right down to the hot flash and itchiness and lousy temper. Still didn't put it together.

By Friday, my mood was abysmal, the flushing and itching was hittin' each and every morning, and I had developed a couple of disturbingly sizeable mouth sores. It was at that point that a light clicked on and I typed "symptoms niacin overdose" into Google.

Yep. A week it took. And the symptoms are a more than close match for mine.

...Though I did sleep most of Saturday away, droppin' the not-exactly-time-release overdose was all it took. No more red-hot ears and face, no more crawling skin, and the delightful other problems were gone.

Now, if I can just get The Widget working (couple'a teensy little issues to resolve), things will be back as normal as they ever are!
_______________________
* Not even hardly.

Monday, August 18, 2008

There Goes Cheyenne Mountain's Other Neighborhood?

Seems the Iranian government recently launched themselves a small payload into orbit -- and offered to loft satellites for other "Muslim nations," presumably only those that measure up to Iran's notions of the term.

(I'd like to point out that someone of Iranian birth has already been in orbit -- and that she's an American electrical engineer and a member of the X-Prize board).

Despite the likelihood of the launch being more special effects than science, for those concerned about small payloads wobbling into low Earth orbit from Tehran, I offer one possible solution:

That should do a fine job of scarin' the crazed away while proving no bar to rational folks!

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Odds'n Ends

Today's Bon Voyage BlogMeet was a success, with Sherlock Shomes and family, Brigid, Old Grouch, Tam and Your Humble Scribe in attendance. If you missed it, fear not-- we're having another one next Sunday!

Afterwards, a few (TBR) of us wandered down to The Good Earth, the oldest "health food" store in the city and one of the most eclectic, stocking items like good chocolate, fresh vegetables, coffee, tea and exotic soft drinks along with the dried mung beans (actually quite good), quinoa, Birkenstocks, neti pots, assorted vitamins, supplements and hemp items you'd expect. (I bought a new neti pot. I've yet to find the old one and my sinuses have been acting up).

We also stopped by the Art Center -- it's a workbenches-and-welders place, with kilns and forges tucked in the corners and wonderful art throughout the building and grounds, most of it hands-on stuff, accessible in every sense. The outdoor exhibits can be very playful, some of the youngster's work is painfully sincere but it's not condescending or effete. Highly recommended, especially if you find "Art" daunting.

_..._

Spent much of this morning extirpating some spyware that was trying to get at the controls of my laptop. Don't know how it got in but it was no treat digging it out -- like a silicon wart!

_..._

I should mention the Peel Microcar, which I just found yesterday while looking for information about Crosley's book-plate variable condenser. (BTW, you can see such a tuning device in the link to the Pup, next post down).

Another cool thing -- literally! -- that popped up in my searching was the Icyball, a batch-recycled cooling device. Yes, it was Crosley invention. Shaped something like a bent dumbbell with spherical weights and lacking moving parts; where the fridge you have now constantly recycles the coolant (Freon or some cousin, the expansion of which does the cooling), the Icyball used a water/ammonia process. The user charged it up once a day over a heat source and it spent the next 23-some hours re-expanding the coolant, keeping the "cold side" sphere at temperatures well below freezing -- as cold as 17°F. Paired up with a well-insulated ice chest, it provides excellent refrigeration with no other power. It's a sealed, welded assembly with a clever check valve and a bubbler to get the ammonia to re-absorb into the water, a process Wikipedia explains. Why aren't they all over the poorer countries? I don't know. They're nor risk-free or foolproof, operating at internal pressures up to 240 psi and holding a few pounds of anhydrous ammonia, but still...! Or is it the fact that it's off-the-grid tech that holds it back? Food for thought.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

I Can Has Radio!

Voila:
Made by Japanese kit-company Gakken, found here at the MAKEr Shed Store and built a little bit at a time over the last few weeks, it played immediately when first powered up. Considering there's not a single soldered joint in the user's assembly (the main electronics are on a pre-assembled PC board) and that the coil/antenna and variable condenser are among the you-build-'em components, that's pretty impressive. I was fretting badly over the nifty loop antenna as I wound it this afternoon -- that's Litz wire, which arrived wrapped around a little card with several kinks and I kept having to stop, clear the kink as best I could, lose a couple of turns on the loop and start over.

That's my only gripe, though. It showed up packed as solidly and neatly as only a .jp company can do, complete with a tiny screwdriver for the tiny screws that hold it all together; MAKE's translated instructions (downloaded from their site) are clear and straightforward and all you need supply is a little cellophane tape and a modicum of patience.
The variable condenser (capacitor, in modern parlance) is worth pointing out. (Please excuse the cat hair and floobydust, the plastic holds quite an attractive charge). It's a book-plate type, invented by Crosley and most famously used in their "Pup," a one-tube radio of about half the footprint of this three-tube job. As far as I know, no manufacturer had made one in the last 70 years. So this little toy represents the resurrection of a technology that had just about vanished; I remember seeing a radio mag from the 70s at a used book store that had a homebrew version, a bit large and kludgey but effective.

This book-plate condenser gadget is half of the tuned circuit that picks one station at a time out from all the ones on the air. The loop antenna is the other half, and its electrical value is fixed; the condenser is variable and lets us slide from one end of the broadcast band to the other. The simplest form of any capacitor is two metal plates insulated from one another and that's all this version is. You can see one in the photo, insulated from the other by blue plastic. The plastic pieces that support them are hinged together at the bottom, a spring visible at the top tries to force them apart and the knob at right turns a fine-thread screw that moves the right-hand plate to and fro. What could be simpler?

So, here I sit, blogging and listening to whatever it is you find on the medium-wave "AM" broadcast band these days (Tam, as I tune from a call-in show to Mexican Polka: "Will this make our brains explode or atrophy?") -- on a three-tube regen set without an earth ground or an outside antenna. Pretty kewl stuff!

Gradualism And Reset Buttons

It's a perennial gunboard topic and has lately been shaking up the gun-blogosphere: the (supposed) conflict between the working-within-the-system folks who seek better gunlaws and the-system-is-broken folks who stand in opposition to any gun laws and send harsh letters to editors.

One bunch is painted as trimmers, effete compromisers, Zumbos in the making; the other as nutjobs with basement bunkers, stockpiling arms, ammunition, food, water and gold[1] who "scare the white people"[2] and "set us back."[3]

Aw, yah, gee, we'd all like to be a credit to our species but let us get some stuff clear:

- There's no getting the gun-fearing weenies of the world to not be scared of and by you once you admit to owning guns. No matter how engraved, antique and/or sporting they are. No matter what license or permit you have. Yes yes, you can wear a suit and speak softly and that does get you into more offices, but if the people inside that office are askeert of guns, you are unlikely to change that fear no matter how reasonable, rational and well-groomed you are.

- Efforts to change gun laws for the better have, in fact, been working in recent years.

- Efforts to change the culture for the better proceed slowly and require everybody's effort, including our self-appointed coal-mine canaries.

- Admitting that you Have A Plan or that you would Stand Your Ground Against Gun-Grabbers just gets you on various and sundry lists. This is small taters if you already are list-worthy by havin' a lot of NFA weapons or bein' otherwise highly visible, especially in places like NJ, CA, MA and IL that track firearm ownership more closely than other States, but there are some who would benefit -- if they think Real Trouble™ is coming -- by layin' low until it's happening. The nail that sticks up does get hammered down when hammer time comes along; this is a valuable public service for the nails that were just pretendin' to lie flush.[4] However, it relegates your own personal role in the fighting to a footnote listing the first casualities. Some individuals would consider that a tactical error.

- Other things being equal, if you were hopin' to have grandkids (or stick around to spoil the ones you've already got), legislatures and courtrooms are better tools for change than street-fighting. Please go read up on the various resistance groups in wartime; while they are brave, often inspiring, fight hard and occasionally win, A) it usually takes outside help and B) the survival rate is wretched even compared to uniformed combatants in the same war. A dead lion trumps a live snake -- but a live lion's even better.


It's not simple or easy. It's not quick. The level of JBTery is not especially high and is unlikely to escalate rapidly, which means any would-be armed resistor is not Mao's "fish in the sea" amongst the general population but more like a fish outta water. Hearts and minds must be won -- not only in the halls of power but right on your street, one at a time. Sometimes a strongly-worded Letter To The Editor works. Sometimes bein' Jane Ordinary helps ("Why, look, she shoots and she's never eaten even one baby!"). Sometimes a nice suit and gentle persuasion does the trick.

Let's try 'em all -- and try to stop takin' aim at the others in our ranks. The enemy is over there.
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1. I'm all for stockpiling the first four, any big city is days away from hunger if the wheels stop and hungry people are no respecters of private property. As for the last, you gonna eat that stuff cold, smoke it or use it for a pillow?
2. Scruuue yoooo: some of 'em scare me and I ain't that white. Some of the bore-from-within crowd scare me, too, and both groups in usually the same way: Rule Two, dammit! A real danger beats airy-fairy yak about if we should write about shooting the bastids or just vote 'em to the curb.
3. When MSM and gungrabbers alike use "NRA" as a codeword for "scarybad gunnies," it's a bit hard to figure what constitues a "setback."
4. Carl Drega is way more symptom than hero. A lotta folks seem to miss that distinction.

BlogMeet Sunday!

...I really should write something. After a week of filling in for The Zedd, a vacationing coworker who has worked the 4:30 ayem to 1 pip emma shift for something like the last 40 years, my mind's fried, the fridge and cabinets are just about empty and if Tam hadn't called to remind me Wednesday to get more, the cats would be out of food and litter.

All that's done with for now and after today to recuperate, market and possibly take in the State Fair, there's an Indy BlogMeet this Sunday!

It will be 3:00 p.m., 17 August 2008, at the Broad Ripple Brew Pub. The Cuppa' Turonistan will be awarded (on some basis or another) and there will be conversation, food, drinks and laughter.

This is the Sendoff To Blackwater BlogMeet. At least one and -- I sincerely hope, Caleb -- perhaps two of the Para Ordnance contest winners will be in attendence. So this is your last chance to ply them with liquor and give them benefit of your advice ("Always also carry a hankie, a toothbrush and a surprisingly large knife," is mine) before they set out for the Southeast.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

The Time Machine Broke Down

When commuting from 1937...
Do not leave a photo of your retro ham rig outside the time-shifting field.
Darn it, that was a nice color shot, too.
(Nod to Xavier for the website)

I Should Say Something Profound

About the Russian/Georgian War but I'm fresh out. As regular readers know, I am officially unimpressed by the glory of war. Heroism, bravery, I'm down with that and some of the finest examples are found in battle but wars just leave a damn big mess to clean up and any more, they don't even settle things all that well for anyone but the dead. There are times when they cannot be avoided and I despise appeasement -- but winning by trickery, guile and outright cheating to avoid a war, I'm a huge fan of -- me and Eric Frank Russell. (Especially see Wasp.)

There has been some talk here and there about Should America Pick A Side? (Oh, hells no, but Congress and the papers prolly will: Georgia, the underdog). It is usually then followed by wise discussion of Nuclear Brinksmanship, c'os y'know, "...us an' the Russkis, toe-to-toe...."

I'm callin' BS. Uncle Sam's brave(?) Congressbeings and The Executive Branch are neither one gonna bet Duluth (or as Tam has pointed out, worse yet an aircraft carrier group, 'cos whattaya gonna do in response?) against peace in Georgia. There's a mess there, one built and left behind by the Soviet Union; it is only one mess of many and you can bet the other former satrapies of the Evil Empire are watching closely. The Ukraine's already gettin' uppity and those are just the first sullen drumbeats. It's a family argument; I've no quarrel with sendin' food and blankets (other than with doing it with my taxes -- pass the hat, instead!) but we'd be otherwise clever to stay well out of this'n. It's not our fight.

Couldn't happen to a more-deserving spymaster turned de facto autocrat than Gospodin Putin. I think he's gonna get handed his own rump, done to a turn, and will have done more to get the old "buffer states" playin' nice together (and against Russia) than a whole nest of diplomats.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

The International Symbol For

DO NOT SING OPERA IN A SPACESUIT? I mean, really -- what?!?!

Found on the packaging for an HP router, which gives one to wonder about the target demographic. Social-climbing and/or artsy spacefarers, or otaku with...hobbies? One shudders to think.

Just remember, it's for your own good. It's all VOX* on the comms and Mission Control never sleeps.
__________________________
* Voice Operated Xswitch. The X is silent.

About Caliber Wars

There's nothing wrong with hittin' targets with a bigger hammer. In my amateur opinion, the actual challenge is having a hammer at all when you need it.

Update: Also, hittin' the right part with the hammer. Yeah, what he said.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

The Stardrive: A Photo-Essay

Here's what a stardrive field "generator" (so-called in the popular press) looks like when it is (almost) ready to get to work. Coolant hoses have not yet been connected, retention rail and outer door are still off:




Pretty kewl, hey? The primary cavity, wrapped around the phantasmatron, is under the big cylinder and just above the fat electromagnet.

The thing we found in it is shown at right, not so far off actual size.







And here's the damage it caused. Gee, doesn't look like much, does it? It doesn't take much to gum up the whole works and there you are, a bajillion miles from nowhere, with a silly look on your face hoping the Captain is in a really happy mood and the Enviro gang hasn't messed up the greenhouse again.


The inside of a stardrive assembly is nasty -- oxidation and fine, fine, fine dust from the high-pressure filtered air, droplets of coolant and so on; so you wear nitrile gloves. Blue nitrile gloves, with heavier gloves over them so they don't get torn up quite as quickly. And you work in pairs. Just sayin'. (I swear I never chased no research subject or like that. It's a coincidence. Honest).
I'm reaching in through the hole left in the secondary cavity (after removing the tuning dome) with a hex driver to unbolt it from the primary. Note the ample, comfortable work space: that and the easy, short hours are a couple reasons why folks are not just linin' up to work in the Just-Barely-Faster-Than-Light Engine Room crew on this nation's starships -- or those of any other nation, most of which are, when compared to ours, frankly, goshawful.

Didn't John W.Campbell Write This Already?

Implausible though it once seemed, researchers say they're closing in on invisibility[1]. BTDT, thanks to a yarnspinner named Don A. Stuart, who turned out to be John W. Campbell in a funny hat. Or have I remembed the story wrong? --Oh, well, or perhaps Wells: it was already an old topic even that long ago.

Radar invisibility, I get. Optical? Quite the dark, dark art and probably never as good as we can imagine; but ask any sniper school grad if there is an attainable good enough -- their lives depend on it. And that's without scifianium to help!
____________________
1. a. Thanks to the wire-service-not-to-be-named for the story -- luckily another outfit covered it, too.
1. b. Invisibility? Oh, I've got your "invisibility;" ask any gal engineer. You make a technical suggestion and the boys sit there like warts; two minutes later, one of them says the exact same thing and oh, boy! It's the best thing since sliced beer or canned bread. Invisiblity's overrated.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Splice The Main Space-Brace

Or whatever it is they do when success rears its happy, ugly head on a biggo starshipish device. One-third of the Stardrive decided to go belly-up last week, which is not so good when you've got cargo from Beijing to haul to the waiting colonists liberators on Whackiedudes 17.

Naturally it was a part costs us $32K, American, one that weighs way more than one person can lift and is a bit too (whisper it!) dangerous for one person to install and -- of course! -- it arrived late on a sunny Thursday.

Oh-ho, sez Your Scribe, I shall just talk Handsome Dave into helping: he's sharp, he's strong and he's "we've changed out a phantasmajector together before;" and we'll get a nice early start Friday so he won't miss his treasured Friday night fun (this involves a tall cold one and removing the pager and celphone batteries, I'm told, and such is the nature of our employment that I envy him). Can you hear the Muse of Irony snickering behind her lace hankie already?

Can you hear the reason I did things like miss a friend's birthday?

Natch-o, that particular phantasmajector had been laboring in-socket (to the extent they have sockets, which they mostly don't) for lo, seven years, which meant the deuterium-filled multi-kiloWatt thyratron had to go, too, and it's not socketed even a little, but wired up by spider-trolls and, like flowers, no two are quite alike; and there are some delicate little bits elsewhere that interface with the phantasmajector that must be replaced after seven year's running.

Starting at the stroke of eight, or a few strokes in, it's 2 hours from the tableful-of-tools-and-high-hopes to having the stardrive assembly unshipped far enough to even think about removing the old phantasmajector, let alone dropping the new one in, reassembling, reconnecting (liquid-cooled it is, mind you, and operates at -36,000 Volts and a handful of Amperes) and starting to get the new one happy. Meanwhile, the thyratron has just about taken Handsome Dave on the first round and is insisting on best two in three.

With one thing and another, it was well past four pip emma when everything were reassembled enough to begin the slow and awkward process of applying power. Start new or let is run in idle overnight to get all happy? Much unhappiness and debate; we end up making the fateful decision to proceed.

...Nineteen ghastly hours (have I mentioned this is all in "Hearing Protection Required" land and involves some mild hazmat? It is. It does) and untold excitement later, H. D. has stopped talking (visions of a frosty longneck and no telecomms long abandoned), I'm incoherent, and the phantasmajctor? She no worky. At the very last step in the process ("Return connections to normal, all breakers ON, increase power level slowly to 100%), things go all pear-shaped and shut down, loudly, at 40% power. Every time. She not even wanna worky.

So there we are, out at the end of a long limb, havin' to crawl back down. I didn't even bother to ask H. D. about working the next day; I'll be lucky if he will even speak to me this week.

....A day, a bath and a hot meal later, Conan The Objectivist (another of my hapless victims) and I yanked the stardrive assembly out, tore it down and there, nestled well into the primary resonant cavity, lay the culprit: a scrap of red plastic smaller than a child's fingernail paring next to the little arc-shot pit it had etched into the silver-plated brass. A mere six hours after that, the stardrive array was runnin' sweet and hot -- and I'd shot another weekend all to flinders.

The fun, it is pretty much endless. So to speak.

Hapsy Birfday Twoooo Yewwww...

....Hapsy two-days-late-with-it-Birfday Squeakyyyyyyyy! Happy Birthday to you!

Dang, my Mom said pretty much the opposite about me: "Take her away, now!" But we made up real soon afterwards.

Saturday, August 09, 2008

Less Is More

Or, at least, Less is back! Coolness. He's one of my fave young curmudgeons. Go read what he's got t'say.

Besides, We Need It For The Catbox

In a Christian Science Monitor[1] mood-piece either wistful or whiny depending on how cynical you're feeling, an upwardly-mobile Angelino managed to sum up the thing I miss most about newspapers:


In the pressroom, language was machinery with exciting physicality. Words were three-dimensional and muscular. To me, the typesetters were heroes – men who loved the shape of words, the literal style of a line, the fonts, the spaces, the ens and ems. The newspaper of the pressroom was visceral, noisy, oily, and thrilling.


I remember seeing typesetters pick up the first paper off the press, snap it open, still warm, and read it like a lover. You've never seen a reader as avid as a hot-type pressman.



Those days are more than gone; they've been melted down to scrap along with the presses that once shook the building -- and the culture that once throve[2] one floor up.

I've been in our local paper's building recently; I was in when they were tearing the old presses out and I've been back since that space at the heart of the building rang heart-wringingly hollow as a politician's soul. Our Paper used to be laid out in a manner more stodgily conservative than the Wall Street Journal, line-delineated columns of tight black type stalwartly carrying tight black workmanlike prose and an editorial outlook (conservative, by gosh) as dependable as sunrise.

When the Linotypes went, when the presses moved outta town (all the way out of the County), all the rest of that went, too. There's plenty of color and white space on the page now and the Opinion pages are as dizzyingly open-minded as a hippie dropping the happiest acid -- and every bit as consistent and coherent, too.

One floor above the haunted, vacant hole at the center of the building, a care-worn remnant soldier on, men and women scattered at desks through a vast, empty-feeling newsroom. They still run three shifts, so it's never going to feel especially crowded outside major events; but it's emptier than ever now. The building never shakes to the gallop of news hot, fresh and inky -- and somehow, the scribes one floor up don't seem as excited, fresh or inky themselves, any more.

Eras end; the last railroad telegraphers clicked their last "30" down the wire more recently than you'd think and regular long-wave maritime radiotelegraphy on 500 kc/s didn't grind to a halt until 1999, largely unnoticed and unmourned. This is progress -- a ship's captain (or even a crew member) can usually make what amounts to a celphone call from the middle of the ocean as easily as you can in your back yard. The trains still run (mostly) on time and into one another more rarely than ever thanks to centralized dispatch centers who know exactly where they all are, all the time, and just how things are going with the train and the track.

While I can spare a stray tear for the signalman's lamp and Spark's half-hourly "Silent Period"[3] watch on the ships hailing frequency, ears straining for the faint, beeping cry for help, I am not so sure we can give up the cynical, surly, fact-driven reporters of yore -- or the pressmen who called 'em on it when they got too big for their britches.

...Oh, crap. The onus is partially on us, isn't it? There's a vacuum in "reportage," and here's all these bloggers...

H'mm.
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1. Nothing personal, I've known plenty of scientific Christians, but the other way 'round, taken literally? I'm sure glad somebody's monitoring that!
2. Add to the list of words unknown to Blogger: "throve." Oh f'pity's sake.
3. More here, if you like this sort of thing.

Comment To A Comment To A Blog-Response To...

...the House That Jack Built? Not exactly. Little bitta caliber-preenage to which Tam pointed.

I'm something of an iconoclast about such matters, believing having a gun at all is far more central to the real issue than just what caliber it is. But you know just as soon as somebody invented the atl-atl,* somebody else tried scaling it up and chuckin' heavier spears therewith, then turned to J. Random Shaggy Ancestor and pointed out the ineffectiveness of his smaller weaponry. It's how our species is wired up.

My take? I thought you'd never ask!

Sure, a .380’s not much — now, go downrange and catch one in your teeth.

What, no? Okay; I want to be fair. How about a .25? The caliber Col. Cooper said was mostly good for being able to tell baddies, “I have a gun!”

Won’t catch that, either?

Darn skippy. It could hurt.

Like everything else, choice of caliber is not so much about what will put a zombie down 100% of the time (answer, “nothing.” I’ve seen those movies) as it is about acceptable risk.

Like toothpaste brands, that’s a matter of personal choice. Mr. Lott (et al) tells us the general odds are that some 9 defensive handgun uses in 10, no shots are fired. For those, 4.25 Lilliput would be adequate; a pellet gun would be adequate, or a toy (but I repeat myself), as long as it looked real.

So, long odds of actually needing a gun at all (kind of like seat belts and fire extinguishers, which I would not do without, either), one-in-ten of having to shoot if you do, and what, maybe 50-50 the sound and fury will send the baddie running?

Any gun is better than no gun. It’s not just nice words.

I’ll carry my toy-Colt .380 (Pony Pocketlite) and hardly notice; I’ll usually carry one of my little Stars (BKM or PD, in 9mm and .45) happily enough. But the Witness compact? The Ballester-Molina, size and heft of a real 1911? Naw. Too Dadratted Big. Too Heavy. I make excuses and leave the house socially nekkid.

So I am better off with a .380. Other people? Other neighborhoods? Your mileage will vary. No sidearm is a sure-thing manstopper. You pays your money and you makes your bet.
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* Can you believe spellchecker dunno this one? Me neither. Man, their ancestors musta just starved. Per Tam, I checked "atlatl" instead, the way These Modern Kids spell it, and nope! Still ungood unword. Wrongthink.

Friday, August 08, 2008

Credit Where Credit Is Due

In this case, to Leonard Pitts, a syndicated columnist I can usually rely on to irk me. Writing about rude reactions to the news of Robert Novak's brain tumor (and noting that Novak is a columnist who irks him), he offers this thought:
...The thing is, there are truths above politics and
one of them is that you do not laugh at the other guy's tragedy.

He's right. Sure, slips and gaffes by the Other Guy are fair game for mockery and how; but when Ted Kennedy showed up with brain cancer, that's a fate I wouldn't even wish on, well, Ted Kennedy. It's not funny.

When your stock-in-trade is drive-by snark, perspective is hard to come by. We set our own limits* and try to abide by them but in the heat of the moment...? Sometimes it's hard to remember that the Other Guy isn't a cardboard cut-out (despite the evidence).
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* Astute observers may have noticed that I attempt to refer consistently to politicians and other Inflated Personages by their right name and proper title. This not just a reaction to the play-with-name game found in the blogosphere; television news is increasingly in the habit of using naked patronymics for such persons: the last name and nothing but. I'm not sure if it's deliberate disrespect or the same kind of exalted deference that gives us "Caesar," "Caligula" and "Charlemagne," but either way, I'm not playin' along. They put on their names one leg at a time, just like the rest of us.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Tam's Back!

...All is right with the world, especially if you ask the cats: they have a full-time servant again! Me, 'cos my Landlady meter's runnin', I hafta try to simulate Mature Adulthood. Kind of.

Also, to the flatbed carryin' broken concrete bits that fall off along the freeway? Stop that! We got the grill of Tam's Z3 reassembled okay but it was touch and go. If it'd hit any harder, we'd've had to apply a bandaid and go try to wheedle new plastic bits from the Beemer dealer -- and they've been wheedled by experts. Bimmer bummer! All better now, though.

BlogMeet Update

Let's Do Both

Some bloggers have said the 17th is good; others, the 24th. Me, I want to have a bon voyage party before Tam heads off to get Blackwatered[1]...but that leaves me with an empty weekend on the 23rd-24th, so why not just refuse to pick only one?

So here's the plan: the semi-official Indy BlogMeet will meet Sunday, 17 August at 3:00 pm at Broad Ripple Brew Pub. The semi-un-official Bloogmeet will be a week later: 24th, same time, same place. Each one counts toward your final grade[2] and this time, the famous cuppa' Turonistan will be awarded at each one.

Once assembled, we can figure out where to eat. BRBP has excellent grub and but this is Broad Ripple, where the options are many and varied!
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1. It's interesting how a rilly kewl weekend of training with the famous & great can be made to sound...slightly ominous. :>
2. Ha! You didnt know there was grading, didja? That's 'cos there isn't.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Hiroshima Day

At least one of my uncles lived to a ripe old age 'cos Truman dropped The Bomb. Were the effects horrific? Yes; and so was Dresden. And that's why diplomats everywhere need to keep their well-clad rumps busy. And maybe play more poker in their off time.

Dead-Tree Opinions

Right after I give up looking at TV commercials, I'm gonna stop reading the Ed and Op-Ed pages of the local garbage-wrap.

Froma Harrop -- who can be relied up to follow the more-or-less American Left's Party line as reliably and smartly as Soviet troops in a May Day parade -- this mornin' uses her column-inches to bemoan the horrid awfulness of both Presidential candidates endorsing drilling off the Atlantic and Pacific coasts. Don't those poor fools know, she frets, that DOE says we couldn't get enough from those sources to make a difference until 2030? --Forgetting two salient truths: A) we're unlikely to have replaced hydrocarbon fuels with pink unicorn flatulence in 27.5 years and B) oil prices are not straight-up supply-and-demand driven. Like any really big-money commodity, news about readily-available supply and new-found possibilities affect crude-oil prices. (At the consumer end, our usage does impact prices; this is one reason why prices dipped a bit in recent weeks, as people changed their use to accommodate $4-a-gallon gas; but it's not the whole story).

She puts on a stylin' Rachael Carson hat and goes on to cite a geniunely bad spill off California -- nearly 40 years ago -- as another reason not to drill. Yeppers, 'cos A) it'd be too, too much to think biz has learned one or two things since then about preventing spills and cleaning up the few that still happen (in Froma's world, all technology is static unless she approves of it). And B) she must not care what happens those icky rednecks and worse in Texas and Louisiana, where offshore drillin' is okay; of course, they never get any bad weather in the Gulf and would know nothing of the hazards of a real ocean, right, Froma?

She rounds out the hand by draggin' the global warming boogyman out from under the bed -- Ooogabooga! Fire BAD!* -- then coming up with a fifth ace in the form of how "it feeds the public's delusions," which is to say that news of possible new supplies would never possibly affect prices. (Tell all the commodity-futures traders to pack up and come home, The Harrop Hath Spake). --I guess when the only economics you know are those of a command economy, that would look like sense.

Give it up, kid. That ship has done sailed -- and your Presidential candidate hopped aboard as the gangplank was going up.


Meanwhile, over on the other page, Jonah Goldberg takes time out to talk sense, using the recent death of Alexander Solzhenitsyn and Peter Rodman as a springboard to channel George Santayana to point out communism's harrowing death toll and working from there to the way the American Left continued to snuggle up to 'em even as the USSR and its satrapies went to bits -- but now looks back and credits their own supposed hand-holding, togetherness and positive thinking with the win, citing Senator Obama's recent speech in Berlin. --Yeah, geez, thanks for nothin'. Thanks for turning "human rights" into a codeword for "ignoring the bad stuff the commies do." Thanks for looking shocked and horrified when President Reagan called a wicked hegemony "The Evil Empire" while you glossed over their millions of victims in the name of international chumship. That was good of yez, y'slimy weasels.

Yeah, once I get the TVs Elvised, I'm gonna start buying blank newsprint in bulk for the catboxes. Any day now. ...Just let me read this one last article...?
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* Hey! Dag-gone it, you're supposed to cower when Authorized Journalists do that. C'mon -- Cower! And stop snickering. Geez. I'm so proud.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Why Roberta Can't Watch Commercials

You think you see or hear too many of them? The bulk of my working life, I've been places where commercials are our lifeblood; where my fellow employees were quick-witted and cynical. It rubs off.

So -- a major pizza-delivery chain is touting its latest offering, hot bread with a chocolate dipping sauce, by having a cute actress stand in front of a bakery, dressed like a baker, and offer 'em up to passers-by in a fake-Continental accent (probably supposed to be French. Fail). Once they've commented favorably, she whips off the baker's apron to reveal -- consternation! -- the logo'd uniform of the drive-by pizzeria and drops the accent. "...But they're really from [name of pizza chain here] and I just delivered them." Oh, wowsers. Gack.

...But in my mind's eye? Off comes the baker's apron and under it, the benevolent purveyor of starchy, treaclely glop wears the stained rags of a bag lady. "Heh heh," she cackles, "They're not from the bakery, I dug 'em outta a dumpster across town, scraped the green off, and made the sauce by adding plenty of sugar to some stuff I found in an old beer bottle along hthe freeway. Seeya, suckers!"

Srsly: don't take candy from strangers.
_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

But there's depths to which I have not yet admitted to sinking. A major soap and lotion company (and it is good stuff) has been running a series of painfully earnest ads aimed at the admittedly preposterous body image advertising tries to sell women.*

The latest one opens with a fresh-faced tween-ager looking at a poster that dissolves into a barrage of overwrought, Barbie-doll images, then stops on another shot of her with a phrase, "Girls today face more pressure than ever," before proceeding with the usual well-meaning stuff.

The Mean Roberta, though, sees the supered line and mutters, "Not the skinny ones!" (What, like you weren't thinking it, or worse?).

Hey, really, soap-people? E for effort but you don't get self-esteem just by deciding to have it. True beauty may come from within but self-esteem calls for accomplishing something. It sure doesn't need to be losing those last ten pounds you really shouldn't, or even making the cheer squad. But lacking alternatives, it somehow always gets back to that. Y'might want to mention Marie Curie or Grace Hopper every once in a awhile, hey? Florence Nightingale? Maybe even C. L. Moore?
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* I have no problem with "pretty;" you don't sell look good/feel good stuff with ugly people. But the degree of Photoshopping, tweaking and all-round lily-gilding that goes into most of it results in looks that are not merely at the far end of the bell curve but actually unreal. WARNING: THINGS SEEN ON THE TUBE APPEAR BETTER-LOOKING THAN THEY ARE. Use only as directed. Or less.

Speaking Of Fair Food

The Funnel Cake[1] received passing mention in my last. Have I mentioned I like them so much that when a narrow-spout, stoneware "funnel cake funnel" with recipe card included showed up in a potter's tent at Feast of the Hunter's Moon, it went from the shelf to my rucksack as quickly as payment could change hands?[2] Yep.

While the fast-talking food vendor at your State or County Fair fries these goodies up in a deeeeep and sizzling vat of hot oil (probably lard. Mmmmm, lard), all it really takes is just enough vegetable oil in a skillet to float the batter. I've done it in less than an inch of oil. Perhaps because they cook up so quickly, I can't tell a difference between the lard and vegetable oil versions -- except the latter are still pretty good when cold.

It's too much work to have more than rarely but when it's funnel cake time at home, usually in the darkest days of Winter, yum, what a treat!
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1. The first link's recipe sounds a little thicker than what I'm used to; the second one is more funnel-friendly.
2. A nice extra is that an old-type funnel has got a handle similar to the one on a coffee mug. This is a lot handier than the flimsy tab-thing found on space-age plastic funnels. Literally.

Monday, August 04, 2008

In Re Food And Yankees

Tam, in one of her recent dispatches from The Volunteer State,[1] commented, "My cholesterol had dropped to dangerously healthy levels since moving to big, flat, square, cold Yankeeland, but it's all better now."

Some of you will be picturing arty, undersized portions of rank greens and praising[2] Hoosiers with faint damns and I'll have you know that's entirely unfair; Indiana bulks right up there among the big-eating states, a mere point-and-a-half behind Tennessee. And no small portion of it is fried up and served with gravy. (You can't get decent red-eye gravy here, I admit, and a good many of 'em are skeert of okra, the fools, but hey, nobody's perfect).

Nope, it's my fault. Lost too many aunts, uncles and fathers to heart disease and/or strokes, for one thing; and I have a positive lust for big, complex salads,[3] for another, and would have 'em for dinner each and every night if I could. Last but not least, I'm still within 15 pounds of my weight at High School graduation and I am in no hurry to change that. Having wrecked one knee and stressed the other while recovering, I can't afford to carry any extra. Is there no end to my wickedness and culinary perfidy? (Clutches at chest and falls over dramatically, sobbing or at least faking it. Poorly). It's a burden.

Elsewhere in the same, Indiana stands accused of being a "flat cold, square Northern State." Two outta three (I'm counting "cold, Northern" as one), roomie and if we're comparing, let's go back to this link and look at the map. Indiana, up there, under the glacier. See the Wabash and Ohio rivers, comprising, with Lake Michigan, at least half the borders of Hoosierland?[4] Now Tennessee, a bit closer to the warmth with, gee, two very short wiggly borders and one teensy hitch in the getalong of one of the looong straight ones. Which state is the most rectilinear?

I shall not even touch on the affront offered denizens of Idaho and Wisconsin, or at least the mad cartographers who drew their respective borders. The way I figure, between her and them, it's just about an even match. Who's for popcorn?

All in good fun, roomie, and you'd better hurry back if you're after the best in deep-fried goodies:[5] the Indiana State Fair starts day after tomorrow!
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1. In addition to the other, famous volunteering, let it be noted they'll volunteer seconds without even having to hint!
2. It may not seem especially praiselike to persons living elsewhere but believe me, we'll take what we can get.
3. Tonight's, baby mixed greens with herbs, diced red and orange exotic sweet peppers and cornichons, topped with shredded mixed Italian cheese and a balsamic vinegarette dressing. Pay no attention to the base calumny in the linked page, the tiny frog-pickles are plenty salty-garlicky. Oh, yeah, and a Pastrami/Muenster/Rye sammich 'cos I didn't get much lunch. So there!
4. Among Blogger's spellcheck suggestions, "Houseplant." Now that's just mean.
5. Deep-fried bananas foster cheesecake -- on a stick. Oh. My. Dear. $DEITY. Can I just stick with one of these or one of those? Maybe both.