Thursday, April 30, 2009


I was reading a Leftish blog the other day -- he'd love to be mentioned by name -- and the auteur was whinging about universal (mandatory) health care and how the Right just didn't get it, since after all, waaah, health care is already rationed based one's insurance and ability to pay or the lack thereof.

Suuuure, you're right -- just like houses and cars are "rationed." Just like food is "rationed." Or for that matter, like insurance is "rationed:" if you can pay for it, you can have it. (In the case of employer-provided health insurance, it's actually a part of your pay).

Here's the deal: just as you are not entitled to free food, free housing, a free car or even free potable water, you are not entitled to free health care; each of those things is the result of someone else's labor and if you claim it is yours by right, you are claiming a right to enslave the people who provide it to you. Some friend of the workin' man you are!

IMO, one of the things wrong with the high price of health care is the overhead involved; an awful lot of that appears to be CYA and direct costs involved in malpractice insurance, thanks in part to a quirk of our legal system that turns physicians, hospitals and related businesses into a sort of low-risk pinata filled with money. This game requires lawyers and by the most amazing coincidence, guess what profession is best represented in the United States Congress? --Don't look to them to fix this any time soon.

Another contribution to the overhead of doctoring: the record-keeping requirements of health insurers and governments. This tends to drive doctors into large groups, where staff costs can be shared; but the groups often become medical "factories," trading personal interaction for volume. If you think handing government control over them will change matters for the better, you've never spent time dealing with the IRS or your state BMV/DMV.

Health care is not a right. Neither is efficiency. That doesn't keep fools from trying to claim they are. Or from trying to take my money to commit acts they deem good against others. Funny how they never want to dig into their own pockets, isn't it?

Pandemic? Lost Business?

Either way the coin comes up, Indianapolis loses: in just about a month, we'll be havin' the big, big wrap-up to a huge event that takes over the little town of Speedway and turns the race track for which the town is named into one of the larger cities in the state all by itself.

That is, we're planning on it happening that way. If fear of Swine Flu keeps people away, that will hurt the local economy; if it doesn't, we'll have a huge concentration of people from all over the world with a population density rivalling that of Harlem between the World Wars, a lovely situation to spread an illness like influenza and pretty good odds at least a few of them will be carrying it.

Heads, we lose; tails, flu wins. And there's no way to quit the game.

Could be quite a ride.

Oh The Awfulness

Okay, for years the lefty Press -- even the Press that passes itself off as "center!" -- has been warning you of the vile hive of scum and villainy that is the mind of Ann Coulter. And she does sometimes make even me wonder if she's had all her shots.

For almost as long as they have been gibbering there-is-a-blonde-monster-under-the-bed, that same press has been reporting, well, murmuring like a flasher tryin' to get you to look under his raincoat, about torture.

Put the two together (no, no, Ms. Coulter writing about torture, you and your sick, sick mind) and what do you get? Several gleeful column-inches of "Do 'em again harder and then make 'em Methodists!" maybe?

Um, no. Not even close. But she does relate the horrible details of the mind-numbing ... goofiness. It even involved caterpillars. (Cheshire cats, Mad Hatters and/or dormice appear to have been ruled out). Dear heavens, I think there might not have even been breaks at teatime!

Wednesday, April 29, 2009


What I said about my knee this morning? Wrong. Whistling past the orthopedic specialist, even.

Oh, it felt better, all right. But it started aching again in the course of my morning ablutions and primping, or whatever it is I do between coffee and leaving that takes so much time for such little result.

Stayed pretty steady on No Fun 'til I had to work on my knees with my head stuck inside a huge, awkward piece of starship equipment, swapping out a circuit board: went to stand up and realized my knee was not wanting to straighten out.

Managed it and moving helped, but this blamed knee is not right. And I don't have time to fool with it right now. Having to gimp around puts me in a remarkably vile mood, everything takes half again as long if it requires any walking and some things I just can't do at all.

So here I lay all ibuprofened up, blogging from bed with the cyro-cuff running. Hey, at least I've got that gadget!


...The bump in the middle of the week. Folks call it "hump day" but it's more of a sump, really.

Not to whine overmuch -- my bum knee is a bit better after four solid nights of sleeping with a high-tech icepack on it, interspersed with days being one of those perpetually-irked cane users,* all of which has helped enormously. I count myself lucky it is so readily treated. (And that I have such a fine excuse for being crabby. Hooray?)

Besides, today is Duke Ellington's birthday! (Also that of the namesake and founder of Vassar, but we'll give him a break 'cos the institution he founded kept Grace Hopper in pretzels & beer 'til the Navy realized they needed someone who grokked electronic computers even before there were any).

Good news (of a sort) from the Atomic Nerds about Swine Flu, flu in general and the coming Zombie Plague. The last item's been called off. In all probability. Also? Gitcher dang flu shot. Now.

More good news, the weather might be just barelydecent enough (i.e., neither storming nor pouring rain) to ride my scooter to work. If I get movin' now, that is!
*I'm minded of a former co-worker, one of the few since Salk who still get hit by polio; he had used the same leg braces and forearm crutches for years and was something of a human volcano. One of those guys whose temper is a tourist attraction. He changed docs and the new one asked him when was the last time he'd looked into leg braces? ...Next thing we knew, he was an altogether different man: brace tech had improved to the point where he didn't need those sticks and the impact it had on his outlook and demeanor was enormous. Humans stood up on our hind legs to free up our hands -- anything that interferes with that leaves us, at best, ticked off.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

"The Stupidest Thing I've Ever Heard"

The title quote? It was said by reliably Democrat cheerleader and Today Show co-host Matt Lauer, as the show cuts away from a nice little cornering of DHS capo Janet Napolitano about yesterday's airplane panic in New York City.

Today first interviewed Ms. Napolitano about this Spring's wave of Swine Flu, then asked her to wait; they followed with a story about the foolish flyover (a backup Air Force One plane, followed by a jet fighter, low over Manhattan, gee, that's not a...problem, izzit?) complete with cellphone-shot fleeing-crowd footage resembling nothing so much as a Godzilla movie, then cut back to the suddenly stone-faced DHS Director to ask, "Howcome?" and "What were you thinking?"

It was clear the matter had never so much as reached her desk ahead of time. The interview sputtered along to the predictable "Mistakes were made" conclusion, camera cut back to Matt Lauer and cohost as he shook his head and uttered the line I've used for a title.

All you folks to the left who spent the last eight years referrin' to the Prior Occupant and his administration as a bunch of insensitive clods? Looks like your team just showed they can go President Bush's guys one better. And even their pet media notices.

Common sense: rarely found in D. C.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Another Day, Part 9


The next day, I'm up, knockin' around in what passes for a kitchenette about this flying junkyard. My 400 square feet costs extra -- standard housing allowance for a tekkie rents a nine by twelve cabin with private, zero-G-ready bath, built-in bunk (zig-zagged with your next-door neighbor: one side gets an upper bunk, the other a lower), built-in desk (with telephone, looking nothing like yours at home), built-in dresser, built-in closet (zig-zagged with your other neighbor) and just about enough room to turn around once you bolt down a tiny fridge and a comfortable chair.

Me, I would just as soon have more space; standard-issue was a big step up from a 'Drive Engineer's berth on the Schramm but that was just about indescribable to anyone Earthside who hasn't served aboard a submarine, or so they tell me. So my 20x20 has a bunk-in-a-cubby like the standard but there's room for two walls of bookshelves (with mandatory retaining bars) and something kitchen-like on the far wall: tiny microwave, an actual sink (with zero-G lockouts and a extra tap for near-boiling water), a smallish fridge, cabinetry and countertop including a breakfast bar. No range -- there's a section of countertop where one can be swapped in but you would not believe the extra cost, especially what it does to one's insurance rates. Still, maybe someday-- Or not; what I have now suits me very well.

I was pondering the thrills and excitement of recent events (sounds better than "horror and tragedy" even though that's closer. It's the frontier. People die -- and you don't get used to it) while watching coffee drip through the Chemex (probably another item that'd drive my insurance up if I'd bothered to ask) and the microwave count down to hot oatmeal. The last especially noteworthy happening during my time on the Lupine was when one of the ship's librarians had smuggled a Slow Loris aboard and the critter had, in its methodical way, wandered off and vanished. No harm, no foul that time: the little prosimian had turned up in the break area for the Central Power Room, being tickled and fussed over by a group of electricians and fusion techs to their mutual delight. The group was blissfully unaware their new friend had poisonous elbows; the librarian was reprimanded and fined but the Captain spared the Loris after meeting it. It now resides in a well-appointed garden cage in the center of the small hardcopy portion of our library, looked after by a group of trained volunteers, including the smuggler.

No such fairytale ending this time, just a dead stranger who'd been closer to the 'Drive field array than I was comfortable thinking about. She'd had a tattoo on one forearm, a design that had looked familiar. Where had I seen that stars and rifles pattern before?

The microwave went bing! as realization dawned: Far Edge Marines. It's not something seen much this side of the nebulous intersection between the Earthside sphere of influence and the advanced but elusive Far Edge, but there's trade and contact at settled planets throughout that overlap. In my second and third years on Lupine, the ship had made the long swing out as far as La-a ("La-DASH-a" and don't ask; there's no parsing the planetary naming process at the Far Edge) and back, and F. E. Mil/Space (it's just our side calls 'em "Marines") had been recruiting heavily; the logo and their motto ("Peace Through Strength") had been all over. Our mystery corpse had been a Space Marine! --Or, less likely, involved with one. It's not a mark to bear lightly.

Oatmeal and coffee forgotten, I went to the phone and called Sherriff Mike's office. Rang right through to him; I babbled my clever observation.

"And y'think I might've missed that?" he replied.

I stammered something, caught up in belated wit. Mike's ex-USSF and second-generation at that; in his office on the bulkhead opposite his desk there's a large photo poster of the ruins of the never-finished Lunar missile base the Far Edgers took off from and his computer desktop image is the ice plain on Io where the only real battle between USSF and FE troops was fought, inconclusively for all but the fallen. The latter group included Mike Senior.

I managed, "But-- What's a Space Marine doing on the Lupine?"

"There's the question, Nancy Drew. Maybe I should give you a hand with the Stardrives?"

"...I had that coming, Mike. Okay."

"I know y'want to help. It's my headache."


Google FAIL

Today is Samuel F. B. Morse's birthday! (What did you get him? An iPhone?)

Google gave him "Google," spelled out in Morse Code! Only not. Here's a screencap:And indeed, this does spell out "Google" in the most commonly-used telegraphic and radiotelegraphic code. There is just one wee little problem with it: It's not the telegraph code Morse (and Alfred Vail) invented!

Nope. It's in International Radio Code*; what Morse invented is known as "American Morse Code" or "Railway Code." It uses a more complex arrangement of symbols, one in which O is . . not - - - and L is a longer than usual dash though not as long as the even longer dash used for for zero. American Morse has a higher symbol rate for a given "clock" speed than International but it's trickier.

But hey, Google: the "G' and "E" are right! Hurrah, you!

International Radio Code is used by many anateur radio operators, a few shipboard operators and a few militaries even today; American Morse is preserved by a largeish handful of dedicated hobbyists, including some of the few remaining ex-railroad operators. Most of the latter are staggeringly fluent in both kinds of "Morse Code" and an encounter with one of them on the amateur bands is a delightful experience. In skilled hands, telegraphy is as much a language as whatever it is you speak or sign; sadly, there are fewer of those hands with every year.

Google, at least you tried. Half a point and a chance at a retest. Next time, do your darned homework!
* Vulgarly called "International Morse Code" or even just "Morse Code," but invented in Germany. And not by Mr. Morse.

Training, Shooting, Nitwits

This is a placeholder for a rant I don't have time to expand at present.

...Sometimes a netizen will get his whatever in knot about another netizen and if they happen to be shooters, occasionally some form of shoot-off challenge is issued, often in the general form of "I'll meet you on the range and whup you at bullseyes!"

Very rarely is the challenge some form of semi-realistic competition - IPSC, IDPA, not even bowling pins or falling plates. Nope. Punchin' paper.

--Looky, accurate is desirable but if you keep 'em on a 3x5 card at ten yards, you're good enough when it counts -- if you are also aware, well-drilled, and don't panic.

Me, I do not shoot so well. I shoot about well enough and what I find myself working on at the range is gun-handling skills more than markswomanship. Reloading. Presentation. Flash sight picture. Focus. If I'm shooting way accurate, hooray! But I'll accept adequate. Real life does not hang there with concentric circles on it, fluttering in the breeze.

Excessive sharpshooter fixation is yet another way in which the best is the enemy of good enough.

Which is a truth some net.trolls appear to be hell-for-leather to act out. Think of 'em as a negative training aid.

Squirrel. Must. Die.

A squirrel is trying to eat my house. He's been at it for some time. It's very annoying.

He's after the siding on the little bump-out where my kitchen is. Little tree-rat sits on a fencepost and graws away, making an unpleasant grumbly sound. I started out after his furry domophagic self this morning and Tam handed me an air rifle. But that would be wrong; also, I can't do it in such wise as to remain unseen by the neighbors. H'mmm, unless I pick my angle with great care. But it would be so wrong. There's a fine, even.

Just about then, my oatmeal boiled over and I had to deal with the mess. So we're not going to find out today.

Frickin' little rodents. They've been peeved ever since I closed up the squirrel hole into the attic. Go eat someone else's house!

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Liveblogging The Apocolypse April BlogMeet

1500 -- Left for BRBP on the scooter.

1513 -- Here, along with Tam, Caleb, Frank W. James, Joanna, Shermlock & family, Wayne, Old Grouch, Carteach0, Brigid, Mark Philip Alger, Nathan Brindle, Og, Owen of Owen's Life and more!

1515 -- No sign of Hank Morgan. Oh, well.

1520 -- Chatting with Joanna about Eee, the apostrophe (I will link to Bob the Angry Flower later), etc. Met Nathan Brindle, hurrah!

1530 -- Go to, sayeth Joanna, to find Aviary, a shareware open source Photoshoppy-thang.

1535 -- Two more arrivals (Charles & spouse), we need chairs! Too late, left while I was typing. Grrr. I was gonna declare a Beer Emergency. Come back!

1540 -- My life would be improved by not seeing men in their late 50s wearing bicycling togs. Unless they work out. (Joanna: "At least we're not at the beach!" Ick.)

1555 -- Mad Saint Jack just arrived.

1610 -- Jerry of Back Home Again stopped by for a visit on his way across the state.

1614 -- Tattooed waiters with Dear Leader stickers on the back of their order books? We must be in Broad Ripple.

1627 -- Big group introductions. Our tattooed waiter is Andy.

1630 -- Andy is handing out checks. Not the kind you can take to the bank, I am soooo bummed. Where's my unicorn?

1715 -- Talking to Old Grouch about recording media and technological obsolescence. In 500 years, will anyone be able to reverse-engineer compact discs?

1745 -- Line at the washroom. Geez.

1750 -- Og on rare hunting books, patience, etc. Mark Alger has photos up! For the record, I was making a face at the time.

1800 -- Tam, SB, Shermlock departing.

1805 -- Gear up, talk more, depart on scooter, 1815.

1827 -- There is chocolate in the fridge. Yummm, chocolate

1828 -- liveblogging from kitchen with Caleb, Tam and Shooting Buddy. We dissect the Taurus Judge and other fine products. South American gun laws are addressed. 20-round .380? Hey, whatever it takes.


I hauled my sorry, lazy self to Iggle Crick at the ghastly early hour of...10:47 am. Ish. Up with the milkman, the paperboy and the cows! (Had to take time to make bacon, eggs & Swiss sandwiches on rye bread toast, it is the weekend after all) . There were a few bloggyshooters there already.

Later, more showed up, one and two at a time -- Wayne (with kewl zombie targetage), Frank W. James, Tam, Shootin' Buddy, and even more folks as I was headed out.

I put, gee, several hundred rounds downrange -- about half a 525-round box of .22, all my remaining .45ACP (have I mentioned in the last fifteen minutes how very much I like my Sistema Colt with the Cylinder & Slide M Corps kit? Oh, yeah!) and 75 or so rounds of 9 Luger, despite a very loose rear sight on my Star. It needs some help, just like my first slide on that frame did.

The inestimable Mr. James brought a nice [CAN'T TELL YOU YET] in .380 he's evaluating and I got to try it -- very small, quite accurate, lightweight but felt solid; it seems to dislike FMJ ball ammo but cycles hollowpoints like a house afire. Also? You have to step back and admire a man who runs hot 10mm loads in a Colt Delta Elite while both the gun in his hand and the target (50 feet away) look like he's shooting .22. --There's no mistaking the tumbling brass, though. I was in the next bay, six feet away, and it was flying past me, yelping all the while.

Broad Ripple Brewpub next, see you there? I'll be trying to liveblog it.

Our Great Father In Washington

...Continues to talk big and back down later, as noted by no less a bastion of Leftidity than the New York Times and bemoaned by even Leftishier whiner Eric Altman. ...But lemme point at something:
[Various other backdowns quoted from the Papered Record of Notions, see below] "...And Thursday, Mr. Obama suggested that he would not fight in Congress to renew an assault weapons ban that expired in 2004.”

Let’s take these one by one. First off, did anyone actually vote for Obama, as opposed to either Hillary, Edwards, or McCain, because of his pledge to slash farm subsidies? I mean, it would have been nice, but… (And since when is having your proposal “effectively killed” the equivalent of “a willingness to capitulate?”) Ditto, on the private insurers paying more of veterans’ health care costs. Did that even come up during the campaign? And finally, the Social Security commission thing. I watched the election pretty carefully. Did I go to the bathroom during that part?

Class? What thing did the strange man not mention? Anyone? Yes, that's right: The Assault Weapons Ban. Perhaps he was wetting himself during that part.

I count it progress when even some of the whackiest on the Other Side treat the issue as Kyptonite. Which, Dear Leader, Elected Minions and cheerleaders, it is. Don't forget!

Rest assured, o foe, that we are watching.

Snow Dinosaurs

...Now it turns out they lived North of the Arctic Circle. Great, even the North Slope wouldn't be refuge if the great Thunder Lizard returns!

Er, I'm just sayin'. Oh, would you lookit the time?

Saturday, April 25, 2009

BlogMeet/BlogShoot Update!

The BlogShoot is ON! Sunday, 26 April 2009

Location: Eagle Creek Range, see their website for directions and prices ($20 American/day, $65 for a 10-visit pass, huge savings!) Anyone who needs, see me for the use of my pass.

As for starting time, that depends on how much shootin' you have planned and whatever else might be on your schedule. The range opens at 10:00 am. We're hopin' to have bloggers/blog readers comin' and goin' right through 'til 2:30 or so. I will try to get there near opening time; Tam and her Shootin' Buddy will show up noonish (she has laundry and he's got a class).

BlogMeet is on, too! 3:00 pm, Broad Ripple Brewpub, 842 E. 65th St. Good food, fine beer, adequate companionship (Tam! Caleb! Frank W. James! Maybe other luminaries of the gun-blogosphere!) and the warm glow that comes from hangin' around with like-minded folk.

In other news, AR-15s (in .223) smell funny when shot and my AR works! (Yayy! I built it!) Also, I can knock down falling plates all the livelong day with .22 but with a 9 or .45, fuggetaboutit. The very same .45 I was hittin' bowling pins with earlier that same day, too. I think them plates is witched. It must be. But on these topics, possibly more, later.

Update: After posting this, I got my riding gear on and readied the scooter for a trip to the SuperDuperMarket. Leaned over to attach a bungee between the scooter and my milk crate cargo carrier and my tricky right knee said pop! So I've got a Cryo-Cuff on it, complete with the little air pump, which I will be wearing as I sleep. And there's a chance I'll be doing the brace-and-walking-cane thing tomorrow. Ooops. --My knee's been acting up a little for the past couple of weeks.

...Of course I went ahead and rode my scooter up to the store. Hey, you put the left foot down at stops. And the rear brake is more of ankle thing. :)

Friday, April 24, 2009

Breakfast + Savages

Breakfast, from earlier this week:
Don't you wish you were here for that? --Even better with a little fresh-ground pepper or some hot sauce.

And then we have a brace of Savage .32s! On the right, my Buy-A-Gun Day purchase; on the right Marine right, also known as left, the one I bought some while ago. (Huge pic, so you can click and drool if so inclined).
Similar and yet very different: notice the spur "hammer" (actually a "cocking lever," as this is a striker-fired gun) on the left and the solid, round one on the right; fine slide serrations left vs. coarse ones right.

And the rear sights! On the right, a conventional dovetailed-in notch; on the left, there a bit of a bulge atop the slide near the rear, and that's got a square notch milled in it, nicely faired in. On both of them, you can't see the sights if the striker isn't cocked.

The magazine releases are different, too. It's at the bottom of the frontstrap, clearly visible on the right example. On that one, you press with your pinkie and the 10-round double-stack magazine drops free. On the lefthand version, you press with your ring finger -- the pivot point is the same but the direction of travel is reversed! All later Savage magazines have two catch openings, so they'll work with either method. (It's difficult to find good magazines for these guns. The most common aftermarkets ones are, ahem, sub-par).

Savage also offered a loaded chamber indicator, which neither of these guns has.

They are about the height and length of a S&W pocket hammerless .38, while just over half the width; not bad for a very early 20th Century design.

Linky Truth

This is exactly how everyone in Engineering thinks. Including me.

A Very Happy Birthday To Frank W. James

I like his long-term plans!

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Reporter Arrested At Accident Scene

...Ostensibly for getting in the way. Video has been yanked, so I dunno. (Update: Found it. Still hard to pick a side. A lot wrong each way).

I'm torn -- Freedom of the Press is a good thing, a vital thing, but stayin' the hell outta the way so the actually helpful folks can, y'know, actually help is also vital and if it's me or mine the paramedics are tryin' to get to, I know which side I'd be on.

Zoom lenses, newsies. Shotgun mikes. Use 'em. (Update: Also, don't park in the tiny berm to the left of the fast lane. Idiots. Plus, there is a new Fed rule about havin' to wear a high-visibility safety vest when working in the right-of-way of a Federally-funded highway, no exceptions for the Press; I mention this not because I agree with it -- Darwin! -- but because it is something for which you may be, drumroll please, legitimately arrested. Oopsie).

Starship Lupine Exterior View

(Much busy, so here's a descriptive tidbit to tide you over).

At first sight, the Lupine resembles nothing so much as a junkyard sculpture of a horseshoe crab. The ship is so huge that the fine details are lot once you're far enough away to take it all in.

Originally a combination colonization/freighter/carrier vessel, one of three in the United States Space Force fleet, built back when the vacuum tube was king and the only power source up to the job of folding space to outrace light was not one but five modified Navy-type nuclear reactors,[1] it was intended to pursue the fleeing ships of what came to be known as the "Far Edge" after they swindled the USSF out of their planned Lunar missile base. By the time she was complete, it was already too late, but USSF had to find out the hard way. "Better safe than sorry," especially when your quarry possesses the means to wipe out the Earth several times over.

That, as it turned out, was never the problem. But it was a heady time, when the "black" budget swelled to unaccountable levels and a trip to space was, like as not, one-way journey. Very few people have realized that the primary goal of Project Mercury was perfecting reentry techniques: a late-1950s squirt-booster would get you to Earth orbit and beyond but landing on a celestial body was a much trickier prospect; the airless Moon allowed for "bounce-down," cushioned by JATO[2] units and vast airbags but return to Earth was problematic, as the Sgt. Snodgrass Crater in Nevada testified.

At closer range, Lupine is more "junkyard" and less "arthropod," a collection of various sized structures interconnected by corrugated tubes, vast M.C. Escher arrays of scaffolding and a myriad of random what-is-its, shoved along by acres of MHD and ion rockets underneath.
1. "How did they condense the working fluid and shed waste heat?" you ask, and considerin' that USN has entire oceans (or at least seas) to cool theirs, it's a good question. The answer, like a lot of things from the early days of the USSF, is unsatisfactory. A lot more water in the loops plus vast radiating area, for one thing; and the even more vast framework of the ship to heat up, as well. At full steam on a long jump, this meant things were...toasty...aboard at the end of it. They'd make orbit and shut as much down as possible, shining brightly in the infrared. Not at all stealthy but in a fighting-type situation, the .mil squirt-boosters would have been dropped off shortly after returning to normal space and before deceleration, so they'd be moving at an appreciable fraction of the speed of light, while the carrier vessel lagged behind.

2. Some readers want me to say "RATO" but here's the deal: we're talkin' about folks back In The Day who had just finished whuppin' Nazis. Germany had RATO units, fueled by flesh-melting T-Stoff; the United States had JATO units, running on good ol' American know-how (also solid rocket fuel). The Brits had real jet engines in theirs but in any case, JATO is what the USSF boys called 'em and so will I. Wikipedia says we're right enough.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Happy Blogsversary!

Belatedly -- Baby Troll Blog turned seven yesterday!

Seven. Years. Amazin'!

Sun: Sleepy Now, Party Later

Now: Quiet sun.

20 (da-da-daa-DUMMM!) 12: Angry sun.

Stock up now.

--Do you know what the propagation's gonna be like on 20 meters in 2012 if the Sun hots up in the manner of our prophets-of-doom? On 10m? On Six?

Oh, yeah, massive power outages, all that. We'll be catchin' rainwater to supplement our stored supplies and cookin' canned goods in the chimenea but hey, there will be all manner of DX to help pass the time!

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

True Fact!

That heavy-duty, roughly car-height bumper-type gadget the at the back of a semi trailer? It's called a Mansfield Bar.

Good Morning!

I'm headed for the kitchen, to make a kind of Breakfast Hash incorporating bacon, sausage, eggs, potatoes, mushrooms, leeks and probably cheese and diced radishes as a topping. Maybe carrots, too. Washed down with good, Chemex-brewed coffee.


Monday, April 20, 2009

Buy A Gun Day

...Not right on the 15th and there was transit time involved; and I'm going to count the changes made to my Sistema as part of festivities.

On the right, below, note the unblued Cylinder & Slide hammer, the only externally-visible part of their fine M Corps drop-in 5-piece hammer set. Like any "drop-in" parts, it took a little work, mostly chucking up the pins in a hand-powered drill while applying various grades of hone with frequent stops to check the fit. Swapping out a mainspring was a new and different experience as well and one that brought home how very badly I need to clear off and finish setting up my main workbench.

The completed pan-American 1911A1 is one of the nicest of the breed I have shot (helps if it is your very own and this is my first true 1911); it cycled a hundred rounds with one failure (a bad sub-stovepipe jam -- operator error?) while chewing out the center of the target at 20'. I had five flyers. In a hundred rounds. And they were due to my mistakes. My successes, on the other hand -- the Sistema's in good shape and having the example and advice of Tam and Caleb has led to marked improvement in my own shooting.

Can you name the shootin' i-ron on the left?
Yes, it's a Savage autopistol, Model of...1905. Or '07 or 1910, depending on how you score it. My second one and a whole other variation, pix to follow. It's a nice little .32ACP (they were also made in .380) with an early double-stack magazine -- 10 rounds for the .32. The controls and operating system are unique to Savage; among the more salient points are a nice low bore axis and a grip angle that results in a very naturally-pointing sidearm. These little pistols outsold Colt's corresponding models in the years leading up to WW I. (There was a .45 version, which went up against the 1911 in Army trials. Came in second, which is to say it lost. Scarce today and commands insane prices when found).

And that's my Buy-A-Gun-Day gun. Had to transfer it in from out of state and just picked it up today. Naturally, the gun store was all out of .32 ammunition.

Breaking News - Second Amendment

All I have is the headline: The Ninth Circuit Court has ruled for incorporating the Second Amendment.

UPDATE: Uncle has the skinny.

Presumably this would be via the 14th Amendment. This would mean -- in the areas covered by the 9th -- that the Second Amendment, as interpreted in Heller, applies to State and local governments.

Free Day! Yayy!

Actually, a couple of free days and possibly a long weekend next weekend (BlogMeet/BlogShoot weekend!) .

So we'll be visiting a local range or two, picking up my Buy-A-Gun Day treat (watch this space!) and otherwise having the big fun.

...I am also way overdue for a report on Michael Z. Williamson's latest book. The short form: if you like H. Beam Piper's work, you'll enjoy it.

Best of all, I already have the replacement yard light up and it works! Nothing fancy but it is bright, automagic and the price was right. --And the old light? Wiring, just about fried. Ballast, toast. Well past removal time.

Seeya later today!

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Theme From "Stapp"

Who's the Air Force Colonel
That's a 46-G hero to all the kids?
(John Stapp)
Got that right!

Who is the man who'd risk his neck
for his pilot friends?
Can you dig it?

Who's the cat who has blacked out
from the most G-forces on his route?
Right On!

They say this Stapp discovered Murph-
I'm just talkin' about Stapp

He's a dedicated man
And we all benefited from his research.

Too much free time? Whatever -- the film that'd be the theme music for? I'd sure like to see it.

PS: Any ambitious baritones out there?

Lookit The Morph!

Evolvovision from TrollArt. Also: Sabertooth Salmon. That'll make you approach sushi with caution!

Saturday, April 18, 2009


...So I look up Sergei Prokofiev's March from his anti-opera opera, "For the Love of Three Oranges" and YouTube has a recording from a player piano roll as played by the composer himself and not a bad one, either. Kewl!

Then I scroll down the comments to read, "wow! the sound quality is amazing for such an old recording."

Gads. One of the very bestest, neatest things about player piano music is that it is software. Unlike a tape or a vinyl disc (or a wax cylinder), it's rugged and can be copied without playback.

"Wow, those MIDI files from the '80s still sound so good!" Arrgh.

Bad Gibberish

I'm catching up on Joss Wheedon's latest effort, Dollhouse, which comes pretty close to being a tribute to the late Philip K. Dick. The particular episode was a wrenchingly straight-in look at the nature of consent, free will and personality, handled better than the little screen usually does.

--And nearly ruined for me by some of the worst, unnecessary made-up technospeak I have yet encountered.

Looky here, screenwriters, if you don't do jargon, go find someone who does. It is pretty much impossible to fake it; you can avoid it, by just taking the tech for granted and letting your players push the buttons and turn the knobs needed to advance the plot unexplained but if you have to hit it head-on? Tackle it. Get the advice to address it in detail and then boil off as much excess as you can[1] or you'll send the viewer's disbelief plummeting in from low orbit, screaming and flailing all the way down.

[Major Character] finds a spy-type bug; he takes it to walk-on Generic Geek, who opens it up, glances at the thing and intones sheer, utter nonsense about "inverting the frequency"and then proclaims that it turns the signal into noise, which makes the receiver untraceable.

This is all over wrong and yet so very easy to fix -- let him peer at it a tiny bit longer and he can say, with a little sarcasm as he describes how much more of a needle-in-a-haystack it is, "No dice. This is spread-spectrum stuff,[2] way longer range than you'd think. A normal bug, yeah, maybe if you checked every possible place in a two-block radius around it you could find the receiver, but this? You'd have to cover half the city! Very advanced stuff."

So easy. So jarringly wrong as actually done on the screen.

It's still a good series, as television goes. The television just doesn't go very far, most of the time.
1. This is part of the the long-term plans for my alter-ego's blog from the Hidden Frontier; a lot of the wrench-turning paragraphs are going to become glib sentences in later drafts. Not all of them, it'd lose the flavor, but really, I can't be tellin' just everyone how to swap out phantasmajectors, can I?

2. Which can actually appear to be noise, just the little random grunge that pops up on a spectrum analyzer; on some digital-based instruments, it can be impossible to find if the hopping is quick enough and random enough.

Tea Party Poll

Over at Yahoo, they want to know if you agree with the Tea Party protesters, or what. Might be worth tellin' 'em.

Pointed, pithy and dead-on comment from Kevin (The Smallest Minority) Baker:
No, that's NOT what they're asking. They're asking (surprise, surprise) the WRONG FREAKIN' QUESTION

"Yes. Obama's tax changes are irresponsible."He hasn't changed taxes yet. It's his SPENDING that's completely off the rails. Taxes come LATER. Apparently along with a renewed AWB and gun registration.

(Gun registration? Remember Prohibition?)

Planet Hunter

No, not a new TV show (though it should be!) --NASA'a Kepler spacecraft has begun sending back pictures! Be sure and wave Hi when they point it your way.

Interesting trivia: there's a very close link between this device and canning your own food.

Friday, April 17, 2009


Acquaintance: "What're people gonna do if they say you can't own a gun any more?"

Me: "What did people do when they said you couldn't buy alcoholic drinks any more? Massive non-compliance, is what. Though I guess if it was perfectly symmetrical, gunrunners will be spraying competitors and the Feds with shaken-up champagne."

* * *
I went to the Mountain of Geese today -- hardly any 9mm or 45ACP on the shelf, especially plain, ordinary ball type, the stuff people use for practice. They've got fair stock on some self-defense types, generally various hollowpoint designs, and .22LR aplenty. It is amusing to notice that 7.62 Nagant revolver rounds are still around $50 per box of 50, which has gone from a crazy-high price to starting to look reasonable in under six months. So I guess buying the Steampunk-esque Russian revolver wasn't that silly after all.

Stopped by Pop Guns to check out my Sistema (it's all happy with the Cylinder & Slide parts; full report forthcoming, possibly even with photos) and they, at least, do have the affordable stuff -- if you're shooting on the range or buying a gun. Otherwise? I'm thinking a sincere tale of genuine need would not go unheard.

Of guns, there is no shortage. As for ammo, the problem right now is not "they," it's us. I'm not at all unsympathetic to the notion of stockpiling but let's not forget to burn up a little of it training: there's a word for the guy with a basement full of cartridges but zero time on the line and it isn't "competent." Those shooty items are only tools; the weapon is you. How's your stockpile of skills?

When it's Prohibition time, the home-brewer doesn't have to go Dry. Food for thought.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Another Day, Part 8


Maybe I should have said, "Not that complicated to misdiagnose?" One of the two; while anticipating the Chief's wrath, I went back to put the cover over the Isolated Supplies board and looked directly above it to see a pair of fat filter capacitors, screw-terminal ones, with the screws, well, gee: a bit unscrewed. Hanging at angles, the lugs that should be held down are instead supported by the wires that connect to them and looking a little burned. It's not all that obvious if you're looking in from the outside but from less than a foot away, how did I miss it earlier? And how long has it been this way?

"Hey, Jon, I think I've found something -- hand me that Philips, willya?" Sure enough, the screws are wobbly-loose and for no good reason. We haven't changed out the components or the subassembly they're a part of since this PA was installed, five years ago. Whatever, those caps are across the heater supply and the connections should be tight.

So I proceed to torque them down and Jon and I button up the cabinet, set everything back to normal and power it up with no signal applied. Whoa! Heater voltage is way up there, much higher than it had been. A good sign but we had to shut down, open the back and change to a lower voltage range. Fine, twenty minutes of my life I didn't need anyway.

On the next go-round, things are looking up: voltage in the right range, though we still have to run it a little high to make the control logic happy, and the no-signal Phantasmajector current is So Fine. I trip the Buffer Amp breakers back on, applying signal, and start inching up the power control, 10 percent, 20, 30...all the way up full idle, 50 percent, with the other two PAs throttling back automagically to Almost Nil. It holds. It's happy. Phantasmajector collector current is right on the money. You know what this means? It means the Chief is probably not gonna put a lot of effort into his, "This could have been done a lot faster and more directly" lecture, is what; also we're now that much less likely to find ourselves as-good-as marooned between very distant here and even more distant there, the avoidance of which is what we in the starship biz like to think of as a Plus.

It's a funny feeling, a combination of relief, wonderment and the sincere awareness that this is something I should've caught weeks earlier.

But there's no time to bask in it; Jon looks at his watch and proclaims, "Hup! I should've been gone half an hour ago!" And he's gone in the time it takes to work the hatches. From the sounds of his egress, I'll find the outer hatch undogged.

I reduced the number 2 final back to nominal power and turned to number 3, which hadn't been getting near 100 percent. 80's the rated gotta-fix-it level; I pushed it to 50% with front-panel controls while the other two throttled back, then reached for the intercom handset and punched for Drive Control. "Gary...Oh, Eric? Get ready for a little glitch, I'm gonna drop the signal to two and one so I can run three up a bit more. Can you give me a fifty, no forty-percent duty cycle on the 'Drive waveform?"

"Okay, that's pre seven, isn't it? Yeah, there it is. Standing by."

"On my mark....mark," as I reached out and flipped the IPA breakers for 1 and then 2. Number 3 power came up but stopped at 75%. It felt as if the deck wavered ever so slightly underfoot and I heard Eric mutter, "...c'mon," then he spoke up, "Pre six. Fifty percent."

"Thanks, Eric, sorry 'bout that. Hold on just a sec--" I took the tweaker screwdriver from my pocket and turned up RF LIMIT adjustment on #3, watching the output rise past 80...90...95. "There. I'll turn it down and you can go back to normal once I get the other two back on, ready?" as the power fell low enough to get the other two finals online and Eric replied, "Whenever."

"Okay, on go: three, two, one, go." He must have hit the switch while I was flipping circuit breakers; there was hardly a glitch as we came back to three finals online and nominal idle signal to the CLASSIFIED. I took another couple of minutes getting the outputs balanced.

With all three stardrive PAs back to normal, I pull a set of readings (nice little vampire software looks at the remote control data and grabs it right into the utility portable), add notes on the problem and the solution and readings from the five meters that don't have telemetry outputs, the ones in the High Voltage section we read through a transparent window (heater voltage of course among 'em), enter that in TASKER, forward a copy to the Engineering redundant docserver, print it out (hard drives crash; active storage gets EMPed or bit-flipped by stray cosmic rays) and add it to the Maintenance Log clipboard. Might as well give the next tekkie -- or me, if I'm sleepy enough -- a head start. Plus there's still the Triennial Inspection. Never know exactly what logs and such they'll want to see.

Securing the drive compartment takes awhile. All the tools, books, materials and supplies have to go back in their clips or cubbies. I do a quick walk-through, including checking the side compartment where the RF driver for the aft octet of ion maneuvering engines resides and on back along the pressurized sections of the CLASSIFIED and their connections to the huge power dividers and waveguides that feed power to the 'Drive projector array. It all looks nominal and I've just time to take the official Engineering electric car crawling back down the service passageway and bop up to the Engineering Shop to sign out. The main room's empty. According to TASKER, Handsome Dave finished his day in the portside squirt-booster bay, initializing some new escape pods (coolness!) but bedarned if I know where the rest of the guys are off to. I hear a chair creak from the Chief's miniature office and walk back to the open hatch. He looks up from his monitor and almost smiles, "Nice catch on the Number Two HPA, Bobbi."

Yowza. Caught me off guard. "I don't know why I didn't find it sooner, Boss."

I hear footsteps and voices behind me and the Chief harrumphs, turning back to his paperwork with a louder, "See that you do in the future!" as Conan the Objectivist and his usual shift mate enter the shop, hauling some blamed bit of dusty, malfunctioning electronics.


That's 8-on for me, a sweep through Drive Control to trade an inquiring look for a reassuring nod with Eric on my way out of the Tech Core and onto slidewalks, five miles back aft to my apartment.

Where I lay awake and wonder about the mystery Sheriff Mike told me to ignore. Who wanders into the hot stuff unaware? It's posted in five languages and simple cartoons, repeatedly, way before you're in any danger. And it's not something that could be done to the victim; she had to get there under her own power.


Huffy Threats?

Read on HuffPo:
If you are wondering what Fox News is doing organizing anti-administration rallies around the country, its obvious strategy is to aggregate all the already existing opponents of Obama into one audience. An audience for Fox News. And to incite that audience into paroxysms of believed illegitimacy regarding the Obama presidency.

As I mentioned to a top Republican consultant with whom I had an early lunch before checking out the Capitol tea party, this is a time-limited strategy, as half the audience will be dead in the next 10 years. A proposition with which he rather ruefully agreed.

Emphasis mine. So, which is it? Ageism? A threat to send our nasty, anti-Big Brother selves to The Camps? A promise of civil war? Bizarre hyperbole?

Sheesh. Keep panicking, twits. It's funny as can be. Sign-wavin', motivating people, gettin' the vote out -- that's how the game is played and if it bugs you to see the other side at bat, that's 'cos you wanna be the only team on the field. Which is not how we play the game in the 'States.

April BlogMeet: The Poster

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Tea Parties, Bedwetters, Protesters Generally

(Update: FWIW, the local protest was a good-sized crowd and very much the same sort of group as elsewhere reported: largely middle-class, with a smattering of students and retired folks but mostly ordinary workin' Joes and Janes who had taken the afternoon off to remind our elected nitwits that a slim majority is not a mandate -- and that every misspent tax dollar, every kited check, every tax increase or expansion of Federal, State or local authority, weighs that much heavier on the electorate. It's not a group much given to sign-waving; it takes a bit more to wake them up).

Protesters -- peaceful protesters -- are a good thing. If we stop seein' 'em, there is Big Trouble In Store. It doesn't even matter what kind of protesters, NAACP, KKK, "Million" Moms, stoners and emo kids with signs bemoaning the war or a Ron Paul supporter in a Wookie suit, noble, repellent or plain wrong, the freedom to express dissent is an inherent part of a free society.

Still, I was not surprised to hear a 20-something with facial piercings and hair of a color not found in nature, interviewed by one of our fine TV stations with the local Tea Party in the background say, "I don't know why they're protesting. When me and my friends protested The War, they told us to get a job but they're here in the middle of the afternoon" -- this was at 5:30 pip emma, btw -- "so where's their jobs? Probably lost them and government spending will help them."

Where do I begin?

Aw, heck. I almost don't even wanna bother. Sweetie, when "we" decided to go to war against Iraq, I got yelled at for posting "Ilea iacta est" and mocking Congress as a bunch of self-panickers on an online form; I still think the interests of the civilized world would have been better served by wiping out Saddam Hussein and his government, possibly by posting a huge bounty, but A) once we were in, I agree with Ayn Rand, "Fight to win!" B) I am not, in any way, shape or form, a military or diplomatic expert and C) as happens, the U.S. FedGov swore some doofy oath to not assassinate foreign leaders no matter how icky, so we're sort of stuck with the having to have a war thing if we wanna get rid of one.

And then -- in your world, kid, do they have "personal days?" D'ya understand the concept?

And last but not least, so far I've yet to see any evidence that massively increasing the Federal deficit -- and, eventually, the tax burden on us the taxpayers (dearie, you do pay taxes, don't you? Oh, not while you're finishing your degree? Give it time) -- is going to be a whole lotta "help" to any entity but the Feds, and long-term, probably not them, either.

You know why they're out there waving signs and making speeches. purple hair? For the same reason you were: 'Cos we're Americans, and that's what we do. And at our best, that's all it takes to get the ball rolling. I thought you were all about "change?" Well, here's some more!

Pendulums swing. It's what they do.

Like Something From Hank Morgan's Work

(Or perhaps Hank's world. Ah, La-a during robot season!)

Supersonic Reflectoscope found it first but it is so amazing, I am shamelessly reposting it:


To The Moon!

With flowers. Or bell peppers, or, actually, Brassica.... Do you remember the Google Lunar X Prize? Biggish bucks for the private outfit that lands a working rover on the moon? Looks like there may be green growing things along for the ride, too.

Been done, that Plants In Space thing, but it hasn't been seen to be done for awhile. 'Bout time!

Which Two Headlines?

(A rider of coat-tails? Moi?) If you were wondering what I was muttering about to push Tam's Quote The Bard button:

These two headlines. Either they're namin' merchant ships after outfielders or there's a team in Pittsburgh with serious shoulder-fired arms, take your pick.

News Of The Obvious

Breaking News! This just in! Inbreeding may have been cause of Hapsburg decline! Who would'a thunk it?

Other than everybody, I mean.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

April BlogMeet

I yield to the popular vote: let's make it 26 April. 3:00 p.m. at Broad Ripple Brewpub okay?

Tentatively, GIMPD willing, is anyone up for a BloggerShoot at Eagle Creek Range beforehand?

Another Day, Part 7

Just now, I'd rather listen to Jon than follow my own thoughts to the dead end about how a stranger ended up dead on the hull in a stolen pressure suit. Four and a half minutes later, Jon is wrapping up, "...So there's a huge flash, half the lights go out and Steve is standing there, holding onto just the fiberglass handles of his cutters. The cutter part is plain gone! He looks at that and he says, 'Doggone it!' and he--"

"Throws them so hard they make that dent in the wall?"

"Yep, right over there!"

"Steve's my hero, Jon." Except when he's the Don't Be That Guy guy, that is, which he was for much of his stint aboard. "Ready light's on, it's time." "Okay..."

I step up to the rig and push BEAM ON and the ka-THUNK! sound of the vacuum contactor, followed by the quiet, emphatic Tick! of the step-start dropping out, slaps the room and the POWER OUT meter quivers and leaps up to 95%. I've stepped back -- it makes me nervous, starting the finals up and Jon turns to me, happy, "Fixed!"

"Fixed? We know whats not wrong and it's back on, Jon, but there was no reason for it to have shut down. Something's not right. I'm thinking the lower limit for Back Heater OK's set too high; we'll set it a step lower."

"Isn't that inside?"

"In the HV section, you betcha. We'll let 'er run a bit, then shut down, open up and have a look."


After a half hour and another of Jon's tales, it was time to have a look inside the rig -- this yarn was a rehash of the time the Lupine and sister ship Vulpine caught first sight of the Far Edge mothership SeeYa! (if radar and fuzzy optics count as "sight") since her abrupt and unannounced departure from what was supposed to have been the U.S. Space Force missile base on the Moon (and didn't that take some fast talking to smooth over with the Russians, not to mention our NATO allies). "Sight" was all it was, a distant, fading contact in the Linden system, where they'd once again had radio contact with a burgeoning settlement. By that point, the fleeing Far Edge revolutionaries? Refuseniks? had a very nearly reliable squirt-booster system, but the USSF was still having to do brute-force de-orbits, flaming ballistic re-entries ending in parachute landings with their handful of shuttle craft and were having a good day when half of them landed relaunch-ready without needing extensive repair. Jon had been on the second lander down, which darn near augered in; last I heard, the wreck was still in the Star City museum. The story's a little different every time he tells it but even discounting the wilder bits, it's some adventure.

But all good things come to an end, or in this case get cut short in the middle of his amazing hard-way discovery that basic homebrew vodka has no discernible taste. I dropped the final into OFF, Jon swore yet again that after having launched with a hangover in a lander cobbled together from the best parts of three others, nothing would ever bother his digestion again. Meanwhile the Stardrive cycled down, high-speed blower howling to silence followed by the OFF tally lighting up, it and LIQUID COOLING OK the only two indicators on the Christmas Tree still lit.

Walked around to the back of the cabinet, popped the Control Power switch which frees the mechanical interlock to the big rotary HV-shorting switch and flipped that switch while turned away: it's behind a clear window so you can be sure it's made contact, five places, and there can still be a little charge in the power filters. If so, there will be what Tweed terms "a small flash." Yeah, right, _small_ -- last time it happened, I had sunburn on the backs of my fingers. Stepped back to the Power Control cabinet where the contactors live (the High Voltage Supply proper, in its bath of hot oil, is in vacuum in a blister on the hull and even though that means it takes a pressure suit to work in it, I'm good with that, something about not wanting to be sprayed with transformer oil heated to its flash point) and snapped all three — Main, Control, Beam -- to off and engaged the lockout. No need to tag it ("Under Repair, leave your mitts off! Signed --") unless we have to leave it. Next step, pull the back panels and Tweed figured they shouldn't make it easy, lest we try it while the power's on: 16 screws per panel, three panels, and that still leaves the top quarter of the thing behind the cabinet-purge fans and the big shorting switch. Jon and I take a panel each and go to it, electric screwdrivers growling, the handy-dandy toe rail a danger to knees as we work our way down, stashing the screws in plastic bags as we go. Only need two panels off for where we're after, which doesn't take too long. Jon stows the panels in clips between the Power Control while I unclip the shorting hook and poke around at the bits that had better not be live. They're not.

Stuck my head in and unlatched (thanks, Tweed. For once) the cover over the Isolated Supplies Board, lifted it off and dead center on the circuit board thus revealed are two rows of jumper pins, labelled "HI LIMIT" and "LO LIMIT," with voltages indicated next to each pin. "LO" is on -- wait for it, wait for it -- the lowest setting. Of course.

It's not that complicated a thing to diagnose; a component has drifted in value. The ones we can check with power off, not so much, which leaves the exotic and wonderful compared-to-what reference, a two-lead component the civvy version of which you can buy at your neighborhood electronic emporium* and the 'Drive-field hardened version of which I have right... Riiight... Um. Not here. Not there. And after checking the database, we haven't stashed any with Stores & Cargo, either. The Chief will have Comments. They will be short, pithy and will not employ any words you could not say to Girl Scouts but it's gonna remove my hide in strips nonetheless. Oh, happy day.
* What, you don't have one? The homeworld gets stranger and stranger to me with every year.


Various/In Haste

More Starship Stories are on they way! ...Managed a couple of para. last night, pretty sure how to write the next part. Some of this stuff happened over a year ago so it takes some effort to get it right.

Spike TV is working up an anti-pirate series -- sorry, guys, no Letters of Marque, they're hangin' with the Navy. Still, it's gettin' closer to the Pirate-Hunting World Championships I'm hopin' to see. (Update: Maybe it could be a Bake-Off?)

And that's it. I've gotta git. My "problem child," Stardrive Power Amp 2, is unhappy yet again; I'm meetin' Big Tom at the Drive Room and we're gonna see if we can make it run. Oh what fun.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Keep The Tapes

Remember the Lunar Orbiters? Yeah, me neither. NASA just about forgot them, too, but they spooled back scads of pix for Apollo prep, used and then forgotten; by the time the space agency was fixing to dump the tapes, there were few machines left that could even read them -- and then the tapes, waylaid on their way to the burn pile, languished in an enthusiast's garage NASA warehouse for decades....

But this is The Century Of The Geek! A mad band of highly-skilled fans has pieced together the remaining few tape drives (most of which did spend decades in an enthusiast's garage) and is spooling off glorious, hi-rez pix of the good ol' moon even as you read. Even the LA Times thinks it's kewl!

Eee? Eeeeeeee!

Just unpacked my Eee; I've been saving up lunch money for a goodly while now. And this blog entry is -- natcherly! -- via the gadget. No, wait, not that gadget!

My hope is that having a book-sized machine handy will be a help in writing. I'd take the Marko approach but I often have to look up and link to many things, sooooo. Here we are. (Besides, I'm pretty sure my starship-tekkie alter ego has one already).

And now I have to go turn off the "tap on the fingerpad = left click" function. Never have got on well with it. Can't have the netbook in my hand five minutes without messing with it.

Moron Piracy

...No, wait, I meant "More On Piracy." Or did I?

Latest news is the pirates have sworn revenge on anyone who would dare oppose them -- like, say, the United States Navy (or the French Navy, who took out a batch of pirates even earlier).

Good luck with that.

I'm thinkin' they're not understanding the disparity of force here; but I'm pretty sure there are at least a couple of Navies who would be more than willing to provide examples. While I'd rather see Letters of Marque and Reprisal issued, I'm okay with havin' the Navy handle the problem. Or the Orkin man, if he could target them precisely. Pirates are vermin.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

All's Well That End Well

Navy 1, Pirates 0. And isn't that the way it's supposed to be?

So That's Why!

It has always amused and bemused me that, as an anarcho-capitalist who is quite content to let other people decide which consenting adult(s) they will marry, what drugs or herbs they will ingest and what contracts they will enter into, I am frequently accused by Left-leaning bloggers and commenters of being a "wingnut," a Republican (often prefaced by "Bible-thumping," making me one of the very few agnostics who does, were it true).

Now I know why: Rasmussen poll finds 30% of self-identified Democrats prefer socialism. Meanwhile, the Republicans overwhelmingly favor capitalism. (In fairness, a whopping 39% of Democrats think Adam Smith had it right, too). So now I know: to a certain subset of yammerheads, anyone who has determined that capitalism the the fairest and best economic system (and hey, it's the only one that doesn't have to be imposed from the top down) simply must be a Republican and one of the very purest quill.

...Rasmussen didn't include a glossary with their survey. In December 2008, a different poll found that, "70% of U.S. voters say a free market is better than one managed by the government." As Mahatma Ghandi said of Western Civilization, "I think it would be a very good idea." Maybe we otta try it.

...As for my politics and the various and sundry attempts of Our Masters In Washington to Make It All Better, Ghandi has a thought about that as well:
Freedom is not worth having if it does not connote freedom to err. It passes my comprehension how human beings, be they ever so experienced and able, can delight in depriving other human beings of that precious right.
Freedom includes the freedom to try things that might not work out; freedom includes the freedom to pursue happiness -- but does not promise you will ever catch it.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

The Pentultimate Thing I'd As Soon Not Do

There's an interesting -- and civil on both sides, for a wonder -- debate going on between Kevin Baker and James Kelly (among others) in re guns and the risk/benefit ratio of various approaches to ownership thereof, with the United States and United Kingdom being compared.

It's brought me to realize that among the things I don't want to do, the next-to-the-last is to have to shoot someone. However, the thing I would least like to do is to be killed or injured, which trumps the whole not-wanting-to-shoot thing. And it underscores the importance of training; not just being able to shoot well but understanding when it becomes necessary to do so in self-defense.

Wikiwander, With Detours

...So, Alan at SnarkyBytes sent me lookin' for Miskatonic University paraphernalia, which led me to the source, which pointed me at (but not to) the MU team, the Fighting Cephalopods (yayy, PODS! Victory through sacrifice! Volunteers needed for pep rally, sign-up sheet below) and that led me to their perfect rival: UC Santa Cruz' Banana Slugs! ...Which led me to the real thing and then right back into Lovecraft-land, only realer than ever: stabbing snails and the Love Dart. (Warning, explicit snail-on-snail action).

Also, I want me a Zen Slug T-shirt. Yah, the U and me, not so much on the same page in many ways. It's still a kewl mascot.

I also need a Miskatonic South Pole Expedition sweatshirt....

Update: Y'know, they tell us that the "elf-arrows" our ancestors sometimes found were merely Neolithic arrowheads but beseems me some of the Sidhe were entirely too smallish for that to work out. D'ya suppose anyone might've taken a snail's cast-off love dart to be such a thing?

Welcome To Airstrip One

Even Winston Smith's Britain, impoverished and brutalized though it was, had pubs. George Orwell, peering into a distopic future he feared could only too easily come to pass, never dreamt of a publess future.

Well, dream on. The neighborhood pub's become an endangered species. The linked telescreen report cites a variety of reasons (most of them stem from various sorts meddling by the Servants Of The People) -- and mentions calls for the Government to bail 'em out. Glass of Victory gin, anyone?

Friday, April 10, 2009

Sherlock Holmes: The Case Of The Curious Herb

"Once you have eliminated in your hat, Watson, you cannot put it back on. At least not without consequences. Quickly, now!"

Some people dream in Technicolor. Me, I get flickering B&W films with Ring Lardner dialog.

Thursday, April 09, 2009


The Tom Cat is after my coffee and oatmeal -- cat, did your Mom not tell you you're a carnivore? -- I have like five minutes to get in the shower and there is much to do.

I probably don't have time to tell you about the co-worker, half-listening to a news segment about Mexico (or was it Easter?), thinking he heard the phrase "armed resurrection." At first I was thinkin', "Kewl!" but then I realized this means the zombies have guns. That's so not kewl.
There's only one defense: lock them in a newsroom, where they'll starve to death for lack of braaaaiiinnns.
Why do zombies never try to eat each other's brains? Don't tell me it's implausible -- I've seen what cockroaches do in a Roach Motel! I can picture the scene now: after a week, they unlock the door of the tile-glue warehouse and one really fat, bloated zombie slowly looks up from the sprawled, brain-et remains of his ex-peers and mutters querulously, "b-b-braiiiins?"

...No time, either, to mention the commercial for some health-insurance policy, in which the voice-over sincerely tells us, "It pays out from Day One!" Or it gets the hose again? Ew.

I have gotta stop watchin' the late-late horror movies.

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Thank You But Please Try Harder

...If you are gonna e-mail your pals about my Real Life Tales Of Starship Tech-ery On The Hidden Frontier, get the tag right: it's "I work on a starship," not "I work on a star." Them star things are hot, an' you weigh too much on 'em, too. Plus it's hard to get any sleep.

New readers (both of you), they're in reverse chronological order. Click on the link, then scroll back to the earliest and read forward. Or read them in reverse, it's your dime and my novel.

Lighting Update

...The blame thing commenced to HUMMMMMMMM at dusk for about thirty seconds and...gave up. Stopped, quit, fell silent and did not illumine nohow. The lux, she no fiat.

I am not stuffin' a new bulb on a crummy ballast, especially not in the dark, on a ladder, into an iffy fixture; there's another light at the back door and this night, that'll have to do. Surplusage de Escargo,* here I come!
* What, that's not "Tractor Supply?" My sincere apologies to the French but even more to Francophone Quebequois, since it was my baby brother's attempts, at age six or seven, to "talk French" while visiting their fair and pleasant land that have inspired my utter lack of a grasp of the language of luuuve and diplomacy.

What Happens

...If you cross this (we'll call it FOO) with this (we'll call it BAR)?

Could it be.....FUBAR? (Or BARFOO, I suppose, which isn't slang AFAIK but sounds disgusting).

"We're from the government and we're here to help you," keeps sounding more and more frightening.

Also? I'm thinkin' about studyin' Mandarin. Just in case.

So, It's Come To Cat-Blogging

...Last night, I picked up Tam's cat, Random Numbers, who is pretty much a one-woman cat. Rannie promptly settled in, began purring and after a few minutes, suddenly perked up and looked around for the traitor cat who was in the arms of Not-Mommy and yet purring. She only stopped purring long enough to make Serious Eye Contact and call me what must surely be a very bad word indeed. ...And then right back to purring and kneading at the air.

She was miffed when I started laughing but I just couldn't help it.

An interesting Rannie-rule: (usually) only Tam can hold her upside down like a baby for very long but she will ride on my shoulders quite happily. It almost makes sense, if you are a very suspicious (tactikewl?) housecat: easier to escape if I suddenly turn out to be eeeeevil.

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Guns, American "Cowboys" And Whatnot

The usual vast blank white space, a gaping maw of Write. Something. Now. stares at me and the topic(s) that are most bubblin' have yet to coalesce. So I'm just riffin'.

Kevin (The Smallest Minority) Baker linked to a Rachel Lucas posting about firearms and the UK with a long and fascinating debate in the comments section; at one point one of the anti-gun UK subjects commenting remarked on the "appalling disregard for human life" in the U.S. as compared to the UK, citing our gun laws vs. theirs and it gives me to think.

Let's see, after the tragedy of Dunblane, did the Brits come to the conclusion that nutters represent a danger to the young? Did they decide that school security was too lax, or that persons wanting to work with children needed more careful vetting? Maybe they raised an outcry for better access to mental health services? Were teachers trained and armed in the manner of their Israeli counterparts? Did the Brits, in accord with their previous trends, demand better screening of persons applying for firearms licenses? Oh, hell no: they blamed the tool. 'Cos loonies would never, ever torch a school full of kids, or walk in with a sledgehammer. What kind of "regard for human life" does that indicate? Are there any humans even in the focus at all?

With the ban on guns handguns,* knife crime is up in the UK, so much so that swords and knives are getting banned, too. No one, no newspaper, no M.P. or Mayor, no nobody is callin' to even look into what the problem is that so many Crown subjects, the majority of them young men, are turnin' to predatory violence. People? What're they? Take the knives away! --Cos that shows, you know, "regard for human life." The bad 'uns and their victims, forgotten, and now the poor darlings will just have to pick up a brick or a cobblestone or a cricket bat, while their victims are sternly warned never to carry, let alone use, use anything that might be deemed an "offensive" weapon.

Lecture me about the American "disregard for human life," willya? At least we give the victims a chance to fight back; for that matter, given that the vast majority of defensive gun use incidents do not result in someone on a slab, it could be we even give the aggressor a good, strong incentive to re-examine his chosen path, too.

And people wonder why, with my MGB and my (sadly, now lapsed) RSGB membership, I am not the least interested in visiting the UK; lovely though much of it is, I strongly suspect their "regard for human life" will get me stomped flat.
* There's a gun-fearing lad (who's hoping to get sued by a gunblogger, or perhaps it's luuuuv) who pointed out, quite correctly, that Britain does not have a total ban on all guns. They've a near-total ban on handguns, while long-arms require begging permission for each one from the local authorities, who have complete discretion over not only if you may have them but how much ammunition you may possess and the manner in which they are to be stored -- and they do check. Compared to the freedom to keep and bear arms enjoyed by even citizens in Massachusetts or Illinois, it's a ban. Also? I am not all-knowing. Oh, the horror, how can any of you ever trust me again? And why should you when you are hooked into the greatest engine for finding out for yourself yet invented? Anything you wonder about, go look it up. And if you'd like, you can come back and tell me where I got the facts wrong. Go team you!

Monday, April 06, 2009

April BlogMeet?

When's good for you?

Thank You, Congress*

Hey! Congress! You miserable, creepy, crepitating, crepuscular bags of pus; you whey-faced daughters (and sons) of the horseleech, forever lookin' for what's not yours:[1] thank you just all to hell.

See, my old barnyard light that lights up the back yard here at Roseholme[2] is acting up. Tam claimed it sounded like the compressor was going out. (Nontech people, that's, like, a joke).

Tonight, I tried changing the photoelectric control and the lamp to no avail. It's a mercury vapor light and the noise is the ballast growling. It's goin' out. It'd be a pain to change -- there's no marked breaker for it and it is several feet up in the air but hey, I can do that. If I can find the part....

No prob, I'll just hop on the 'net, surf over to McMaster-Carr[3] and...hey? Hey!

No dice. It seems you can't get that kind any more. EPAct 2005 did 'em in. (PDF) I might be able to horse around and stuff in a dual-marked one, but the light won't be UL-rated any more, which is the kind of thing insurance companies like to fish out of the debris and point out when they are denying claims. "Lookie here! Didn't say 'Simon says,' naughty-naughty!"

So it looks like I'll be hangin' a new light. I might instead be able to buy one of these (it's the right spec an' all) and keep the old one going but the more I look at that fixture, the less happy I am about it.

Tractor Supply -- a kewl place anyway -- has a light I like. It just might do.

And oh, yeah, Congress? Thanks ever so. Ya jerks.
* Funny, I typed "Congrass" first try....

1. The heart of that's from the Bible, I'll have you know. The Old Testament, and a fine description it is, too. Can you not just look at 'em and see the resemblance?

2. We of Roseholme have lights at the street, the porch, the back yard and the alley, 'cos the previous owner was a LEO and he got it. In the same way that I was happy to pay for a street light at my old place.

3. You know how people lookit the old, old Sears catalogs and exclaim over how they had everything? McMaster is still kinda that way. They can be spendy on some things but A) they have it, B) their tech support is outstanding and C) it ships today. Today. Website has excellent drilldown, too.

Sharing Distraction

A long wiki-wander led me to an interesting place: Europe's only Buddhist nation!

...To the very long list of obnoxious acts of the Soviet Union, add the attempted homogenization of Kalmykia. Doesn't appear to have worked. People are like that.

Sunday, April 05, 2009

A Little Knowledge?

I Am Not A Lawyer (oh, so very not) but I have always read the various warnings to be found on the 'Web about how "treaties trump the U. S. Constitution" with no little skepticism. Didn't have a reason, the idea just didn't sit right; it is surely not what the Framers intended. Turns out there's some basis for that grain of salt: Reid v. Covert.

Back in 1957, the Supreme Court averred: "[T]his Court has regularly and uniformly recognized the supremacy of the Constitution over a treaty...."

Mind you, such decisions are not written in stone. It is, however, one more impediment to the kind of tricky end-runs around the Constitution and especially the Bill of Rights that folks worry over.

Saturday, April 04, 2009


...Don't forget that there once was a real, working flying submarine.

Kinda makes most hobbies look a little weak.

Another Day, Part 6

So the inner hatch opens -- and these are the oldest type on the Lupine, slightly-modded 1950s submarine-style, with analog gauges and brute-force idiotproofing: if pressure's not equal on both sides, they won't open. So it's not like, say, a door in your apartment. Not even close. Opening (and closing) takes some effort and time, the four dogs scraping free, the bolts backed out by the gear and wheel (which is why there's a nice little "trip bar"to hook your toes under on at least the floor side of such hatches and a grab rail on the side opposite the hinge, too, or you wouldn't be able to open them in zero-g) and then a nasty "schluck" as the seals break.

Followed by Jonny Zedd, puffing like a steam engine but grinning nonetheless. "Helloo, Bobbi! Have you got it figured out?"

I gave him The Look, slightly modified on account I was glad for the help. "Well, maybe, but we're gonna have to hang a 'scope on a couple of spots on the Analog-Digital Interface board to find out -- hey, did you close up the outer hatch? -- and it's behind the Logic and Control board. It'll take three hands just to get in there..."

Jonny turns to check the hatch; over his shoulder, I can see the bolts are engaged but the dogs, not so much. So he sets them and makes a production of closing the inner hatch as well. I understand his casualness but we are at the end of a long corridor. While it is unlikely we'd end up trying to breathe vacuum, I'd still rather not have to try.

While he's finishing, I start in on the #2 'Drive Amplifier: unlatch the "door" that carries half the meters, the "Christmas tree" display and local control buttons. The door is about four inches thick and on the back of it, there's another set of latches that free up the back panel to swing away, revealing the tops of two circuit boards, each about two feet square: Logic And Control on the front-panel side and Analog-Digital Interface on the back. ADI has a nice collection of connections, fiber-optic, coax, data bus and such and up in one corner is the fiber lead for Back Heat OK and the IC that buffers it -- the hard-to-reach corner, naturally. Oh, and if you shut the door assembly with the back unlatched, it hangs up on the cabinet and takes careful finagling to open again. At least it's not surface-mount. Something to be said for conservative design! However, there would also have been something to be said for not having to have my head stuck in between two very critical PC boards, unable to see the local control panel.

Jon's done and peers over my shoulder. "Which one is bad?"

"I don't know if any of them are, yet. Should be an IC test clip stored on the 'scope cart, would you get it?"

He rummages and finds it, a gadget like a wide clothespin, studded with test points; I clip it over the IC, allowing me to hang the scope probe on the pin I want to look at. Jon takes up position on the control side and steadies the door without having to be asked, I get the ground and probe tip attached and we both look at the scope. Flatline. The signal asserts high and the amplifier's off, so that's right.

"Hit BACK HEAT, wouldja?" I ask. (Have I explained the "heater" is the glowing filament inside the phantasmajector tube? It is. Except we can't see it, since the tube is made of ceramic and metal and nestled inside the tuned cavities, so the "glowing" part is kind of a matter of faith, plus the tube would not work if it didn't).

"You got it."

No change. "Try HEATER ON."

" HEATER ON. See anything?"

For an answer I turn the 'scope a bit so Jonny can see it. Fat nil is what there is to see.

"Is the tube even gettin' heater voltage?"

Fair question, the answer to which is behind door #2, the tall door that closes the larger half of the amplifier cabinet, behind which is the phantasmajector, on a cart and wrapped in trick RF plumbing -- and behind that, there is a Plexiglas window through which can be glimpsed the various meters operating at the -36,000 Volt Beam supply, including Heater Volts. I pop the latches and we take a look: 6.4 Volts, normal for this tube. So why...?

Sometimes dumb wins. Why ask why when you can just turn it up? I have Jon drop us back to BACK HEAT, take the screwdriver from my back pocket, and run up the Back Heat voltage (counterclockwise, I have to remind myself, which is not the usual direction of "up"). I see the 'scope trace wiggle, turn into a series of square-wave pulses and then steady at about five volts, just as Jon calls out, "Back Heat light just went green!"

"Drop to STANDBY and we'll get unconnected."

He does, we do, and in a trice -- for a certain large value of "trice" -- the IC clip is off, the halves of the control door are back together, the door's shut and we're in BACK HEAT once more. I punch HEATER ON and half a minute later, the FULL HEAT led goes green, too. Hey-la! And then it flickers. I say a bad word and inch the Full Heat voltage up a bit, too. "Five minutes, Jon, then we can hit the go-button and find out. Could be loud."

"Loud? You don't know from loud. Why, I remember the time Vanderhooven cut through a 208 line up here and about threw his cutters through the bulkhead...."

It's an old, familiar story but we've got five minutes to waste while the beast warms up. Might as well hear it again.


Friday, April 03, 2009

Science Fiction

Just watched the latest "Stargate" made-for-TV movie and it's not bad; they made a time-twisty plot work well.

Alas, it fails of great on a simple thing -- Our Heroes, stuck in a timeline in which their skills are unverified and having spent some time far away from military tech, are suddenly called up and stuffed into two-seater fighters on a crash-urgent mission-- one on which they will be accompanied through the Stargate by four Marines (oo-rah!), since the alternate timeline .mil/.gov does not trust 'em. This would all hang together...if only the script had not called for the two pilots on this subset of the SG-1 team to be flying the airplanes.

Wham! Suspended disbelief breaks free and heads floorward! Not workin' -- I happen to know (slightly) a real-life Samantha Carter and she struggles to remain current on less-demanding vehicles between defeating aliens and doing astrophysics. A jet fighter is not a VW Beetle, you don't just hop into one and take off from Washington, D.C. to Antarctica after months of not even flying paper airplanes.

Of course there was a dogfight, not to mention a drastic change in destination; and of course the limits on maximum range without refueling and weapon load (live weaponry? In planes flown by untrusted strangers who claim to be from another timeline? Surrrrre .mil would do that, you bet!) were ignored.

Here's a tip for SF writers in every medium: you can only do handwaving on the science-fiction-y bits. The actually-existing hardware has to be right or you give the game away. (A great advantage for me, of course, is that all the hardware I write about is real. If you wanna write about starships, go work on a starship).

...Don't even get me started about Daniel Jackson firing M92s one in each hand. At least the actor has the arms for it, but still.... Not.