Saturday, July 31, 2010

The Shortest Distance To Your Wallet

Scam or bad engineering, too many years have passed to be entirely sure. They did run trains, or more properly, interurbans; they even ran their own amusement park!

What'm I on about? ...Gimme a minnit; this'n's good. Questions first:

What's the shortest distance between two points? Why are rails-to-trails projects popular with bicyclists and pedestrians? If you said, "A straight line," and "Easy grades and gentle curves," go to the head of the class!

Better yet, go to offices of The Chicago-New York Air Line...oops, you missed 'em. But in 1906, they had a plan: to speed travelers from Chicago to New York City in ten hours (for ten bucks, call it $200-odd in those Federal greenbacks clogging your wallet) on a track so straight and flat it gave surveyors migraines. One straight line, straight through, eat-your-heart-out, 20th Cent. Ltd. They even built and ran trains on a few miles of track in and around LaPorte, Indiana (stops included the aforementioned amusement park) before going belly-up in 1917.

It wasn't really an engineering shortfall that did 'em in -- the Ancient Egyptians would've had the skills to get 'em through Indiana and Ohio and the Glorious Imperial Romans actually built comparable rights-of-way. But the banks were too small. They needed 742 miles of track, straight and level; they built, at staggering expense, right around ten miles and teetered on the slippery brink of bankruptcy from Day One 'til they finally fell. Not even high-order Masons could have guessed what the price of crossing Pennsylvania straight and level might've come to.

Remember this little lesson the next time high-speed rail comes up. The engineering's easy. Folks did it with steam and horses before Woodrow Wilson sent young men off to finish up the Great War. Paying for it's the hard part; speed isn't cheap.

(PS: y'know what killed streetcars and interurbans? --Okay, okay, the flivver; but even after that, they were hangin' on, keepin' little old ladies and teenagers from clutterin' the streets, right up until Mr. Roosevelt's government, still trying to Do Something about that darn Depression and those wicked-evil fatcats who were hurtin' the little people, handed out the Public Utility Holding Act of 1935, which forever sundered power companies from railways. Unable to get their electricity at dealer cost, the traction companies saw their last fragile margin of profit crumble; the final interurban left Indianapolis in 1941, never to return. Yeah, they Did Something, all right. Remember it the next time you're trapped behind blue hair or T-boned by a texting teen).

Just Like Elvis

What is it about dead, famous Southern-born folk? Why won't they stay dead, or at least have the consideration to show up as shambling, decomposing zombies?

Truman Capote (September 30, 1924 – August 25, 1984) is alive, well, and gives every sign of having a wonderful time on his sojourn in this dreary, Midwestern hell:Here he is at the intersection of College and 54th, enjoying our quaint local miltaria shop. I was on my way to the Fresh Market; looks like his native guide is taking him over to Butler student/yupster hangout Moe & Johnny's, diagonally across the intersection.

(Looking up Mr. Capote's biography, I was reminded why even though I loathe most of his political and personal views, I enjoy hearing Gore Vidal speak every bit as much as I liked listening to William F. Buckley. Sayeth Mr. Vidal: "Truman Capote has tried, with some success, to get into a world that I have tried, with some success, to get out of." Woosh! Is there anyone else left who can fight in the same weight class?)

Saturday Morning Munching

...Corned beef hash "supercharged" with a can of plain corned beef (gotta rotate those emergency rations!), eggs cooked atop it and garnished with a lot of fresh red bell pepper plus a finely-diced skinny, bright-red $HOT PEPPER surplused from our neighbor's garden, toasty warm when you leave in the seeds, washed down with good hot coffee with just a dash of cinnamon. Yum!

There'd've been a photo but it didn't last that long. Stick around; I'll add a snapshot of Wednesday's fare, Hoosier-fried rice. (Plus, A Famous Dead Visitor: it's not just Elvis any more!)There ya go: "Caribbean" rice mix, fresh mushrooms, green onions, tiny sweet peppers from Locally Grown Gardens (cut into decorative rings!), eggs and bacon. Delightful!

Friday, July 30, 2010

Not A Coat Of Arms

It can't be a coat of arms, 'cos only the Royal College of Heralds can draw 'em up and U. S. citizens -- if found worthy and you do have to be just a teeeeny bit special to rate the honor -- can only ever receive an honorary grant, anyway. Plus, the War of the Roses-GI Bill grant of arms my maybe-ancestor got had an expiration date; that naturally-colored rose on a silver background ran out long ago. --But while I'm playin': Greatly tempted to adopt the motto A Subterranibus Venio, dog Latin for "I came from the basement." Where all the kewl toys are!


Tam's looking up state mottoes and reading them out loud -- but not very loud:

TK: "Arkansas! Re- (inaudible) -nek Populus!"

RX: "'Redneck Populace?' Aw, c'mon!" (snickers) "That's just mean."

TK: "No, regnat populus. --'The people rule.'"

RX: "Whew!" (Spends next ten minutes occasionally muttering, "redneck populace?" to herself and giggling).

Arkansasians, my most sincere apologies; your motto truly is a lot better than "The Crossroads Of America." But please, never, ever drop elocution from the curricula of your schools.

What I'm Reading

Friend of mine described a book -- a pair of books -- as having an unusually large and assorted cast and a broad narrative sweep in a well-developed setting of unusual depth and scope. I asked if it was, perhaps, Melissa Scott (possibly one of the most skilled worldbuilders presently writing science fiction, as in, she makes [or made, the website's gone] money teaching the art to others) and he wasn't sure, but offered to loan me the books.

Peter F. Hamilton is not a pseudonym for Ms. Scott; among other details, he's British and it shows in subtle ways. He is, however, quite a worldbuilder himself and appears to have set out to hit as many SF tropes as possible while telling an entertaining and original story. His novels Pandora's Star and Judas Unchained (link goes to Tam's blog; follow her sidebar to, if you would) have the size and scope of an early John W. Campbell novel or something from E.E. "Doc" Smith. Did you like the travel concept behind Tunnel In The Sky or (somewhat) Crawford Kilian's "Chronoplane" novels? It's in there. Long life, in the manner of Heinlein's "Howard Families?" Check. Big Science, Big Capitalism, the struggle for the little guy? Check. Well-integrated direct brain-to-computer interface, realistically used? (Akin to Cherryh's use in Hammerfall and Forge Of Heaven) You'll find it. Strong heroines and stronger heroes (even a Kimball Kinnison analog -- which reminds me of the used of bugs for "bugging," another bit of business you'll find in both Hamilton and Doc Smith). Let's see, what have I missed? A highly-critical little something from Olaf Stapledon's First And Last Men, a visit from elves (! so to speak) and a walk down their paths (!!), a side trip through a leftover Andre Norton ghost world, at least two angles on a Kim Stanley Robinsonesque Mars, an Investigator whose birthworld and person seem strikingly U. K. Le Guin-worthy and a couple of smart-alec inventors who could sneak right into most John Varley novels.

That's just the beginning and yet the work is neither derivative nor parodical. These books are well-written, freewheeling Space Opera (complete with Girl Reporters Gone Wild, Dashing Romantic Heroes and Desperate Struggle Against Impossible Odds -- oh, and chase scenes). I'm about seven-eighths of the way through the second book and I highly recommend them.

(Up next, steampunk epic Boneshaker, thanks to a very kind reader who sent me a copy!)

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Stupid Quote Of The Day

In an interview about guns seized from teens, GIMPD Chief Paul Ciesielski doesn't hold back: "Every gun in the hand of -- someone, is a potential homicide." Even mine, I guess. Wonder if the State Police realized that when they did the background check and granted me that lifetime carry permit?

"Every gun is a potential homicide" in the same way that every penis is a potential rape and every woman a potential prostitute. So it's chastity belts for the lot of us, ey, Chief?

[There was a video here. The hosting site has yanked it].

Note, too, that Officers of The Law finding, in teen hands, between 7 and 18 guns over the course of a month is an "enormous number" in TV-land, not to mention the assertion that today's youth have an easier time acquiring firearms than any prior generation -- including all those kids who, before GCA '68, could walk into the hardware store and buy a gun....

Also note that guns are blamed for teen violence. What, the unfortunate little choirboys are just dragged into it all by eeeeevil guns? Riiiight. Now, about that swampland y'had for sale?

Indy doesn't have a gun problem. We have a teen violence problem. And as long as there's rebar and brickbats for the taking, we're not going to fix it by making firearms the focus.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

And Then There Were Two

Limax has a girlfriend! Limax has a -- well, actually, slug relations are both more and less complicated than that (slugs have only one sex, Utility Infielder); but it's the principle of the thing. I noticed them when heading back into the house from working in the garage. I have been trying to keep an eye open for the critters, wondering if the one I saw lived nearby or was just passing through....

Asked and answered: For scale, the round pods next to them are hackberries, almost as big as green peas.

Are these slugs fast? They were both in plain sight when spotted, elephant-gliding across the walk. In the time it took to me to get indoors, cross the kitchen to the library, grab my camera and race back out, the Number One Head Slug In Charge was ducking under the downspout. For slugs, they've got game. Not sure if this is the same Great Gray Slug I spotted soloing earlier -- markings are close. The caboose one looks very different. Pretty fair sidewalk-patterned camo, though.

Sure wish I could get 'em to hunt ants. We have a surplus.

TV Sweeps: News Promo Of Death

There's nothing more to say:


Y'know what's good? A bacon & egg sandwich on toasted rye with a slice of Swiss cheese, plus half a nice Texas red grapefruit and a few Bing cherries, all washed down with fresh Chemex-brewed coffee, that's what's good.

--Bonus: and who's the Bing cherry named after? 19th-century orchard boss, Ah Bing, that's who, from back in 1875. His boss -- de whiiite debbil -- appears to have believed in credit where credit was due. Call up the newspapers! --Oh, wait, they won't believe you. (Congress was of a different mind at the time).

Speaking of "Want"

It's a bit Arty. It's not cheap. But for kewl, it's kinda hard to beat Empiric's Magic Lantern Slide Boxes, featuring nature and astronomy themes. (Top row center: oh, yeah!)

Magic lantern slides are around 3" by 4", unlike the later slides you might just barely remember having to sit through showings of at Uncle Oddie's. Large enough to make for nifty backlit viewing!

(Found following up the maker's name from online quirky-decorator site One King's Lane -- requires log-in, they are something of a spot discounter).

Tuesday, July 27, 2010


MakerShed's "Bulbdial" analog clock: the hands are made of shadow! Kinda spendy at $90.00, especially when I was already being tempted by the open-source mp3 player kit....

Mood Lifters: Airplanes, Clever Republicans

...Aw, heck -- any politician from any party who was clever the right way would be jake with me; but so few are. This item's fun just for the Palinesque Leftie-heads-go-splody aspects: "Has Jeb Bush" (dramatic organ chords) "Gone Tea Party?!?!?!"(even dramatic-er organ chords). I dunno. But I'll bet he'll go where the votes are.

And as for planes -- more to the point, air shows -- a reader sent me this link to his collection of air-show photos awhile back and I have been savin' it for a rainy day; with the current humidity, we're close enough. Have a look -- enjoy!

Now I Gotta Stop Right Here....

And apologize to Mustelidae, certain .mil pilots, all 47 (+/- an indeterminate number depending on the credulousness of judges and juries and their own glibness and perspicacity) honest & non-sneaking lawyers in the sundry and assorted States and Territories of this vast and variegated nation and at least one (1) blogger for my gratuitous and flippant use of the term "weasel." Not to mention every last little black-footed ferret on the Great Plains and probably the Vietnamese River Otters who pair-bond for life like swans, too.

Howsomever, I do hope the readers will consider that the very same, "avoid, evade. Synonyms: balk, beat around the bush, circumvent, cop out, dance around an issue, dodge, etc." so amusing in a smallish, short-legged predator (unless it is after our own chickens), so vital a skill in air warfare and so endearing when it is our attorney doing it on our behalf, becomes something less than admirable when it is done to us or to members of our loosely-affiliated and far-flung tribe -- and all the more so when a mealy-mouthed essayist essays verbal prestidigitation in proposing the continuing impoverishment and disempowerment of our entire society so his own ill-conceived pet causes can keep on with the free money from The Government.

That is all.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Starve A Weasel For The Greater Good

[Bumped to top -- originally posted 11:14 last night]

Some people make money by creating new things; others do it by exploiting quirks of the systems humans have established in order to work and play together without overmuch shooting.

Make up your own mind about this example -- he's the chap who buys up copyrighted news, then sues bloggers who quote overmuch. "Fair use" being a nebulous sort of thing and his client list not bein' entirely secret, dry him up: STOP quoting and linking to any outfit whose copyright he's bought up.

Those content providers start suffering a link-drought, could be they'll reexamine who they bed down with and what the offspring'll look like.

You'll find the beginning of a client list at the original linkery here, via a source I may be able to share later.

I have no sympathy for the kind of aggregator, often automated, that just grabs and grabs other people's content, with nary a link nor an attribution; IMO they really are stealing. But a line, even a paragraph* and a link? C'mon, that's fair use and free advertising.
* Tip of the hair to "Mark Twain," who took issue with an entire page in A Connecticut Yankee..., pointing out the young court worker was "hardly more than a paragraph." If you were after a succinct definition of fair use, look no further.

Speaking Of Weasels--

Not that I'd call Fran Quigley, local peace and hunger lawyer (he lives peacefully and avoids hunger by feelin' dweadfully bad about the hungry and warred-upon) a weasel; it's his words that do the weaseling, gamboling in blood and stolen money like lambs in springtime.

This time 'round, he's irked. Irked at those horrid, horrid war-profiteers, like Blackwater(!)* and Northrup Grumman. Why, (he asks) do you know what they've done? For every U. S. solider, sailor, Marine or airman they've kept armed and alive, we've had to put up with unfilled potholes, with fewer police and teachers and mid-level bureaucrats; we've missed out on extra helpings of government cheese because of -- sob! -- Warbucks! Er, war bucks.

He calls this loss (a loss measured in the lives of soldiers, remember; though he does not) "opportunity cost."

...Pray note that Fran never considers what opportunities were lost by taking that money out of your pocket, nor does he ever propose returning it to you. Oh, hells no. You're a cash cow to him -- just like you are to the current edition of the War Congress; the only diffo is what they want to spend your money on.

Me, I'm an "isolationist" in the manner of Rand: win the war, come home, proceed to buy low and sell high with anyone who'll trade. But that's never been a popular notion; not with the Hard Wilsonians (and haven't they just got a chubbie for world-mending, and look how well it's worked out doing that instead of shootin' the bad guys and goin' home) and not for the Sons of the Red Diaper, either. Both want to rob you blind for the Common Good -- and both bitterly resent when their old foe gets funded. They never see you as anything but a hacked ATM. Remember the "Peace Dividend?"

Next time 'round, remember the do-gooders that got it. And why they're worse than the Department of Defense.
* The astute reader, not being a newspaper columnist or an "international poverty attorney," will be aware they've been Xe since October 2007.


...So, if the city (this city) sells our water utility to the public-trust gas company, is Citizen's Gas gonna start having the same kind of chronic broken-main problems that plague Indianapolis Water?

Don't laugh too hard; the boosters of this little something-for-nothing are claimin' "cost savings," which we can prolly translate to "lost jobs." When a water main breaks, boo-hoo, things (mostly streets) get soaked and you might have to boil or even haul in your drinking water. Gas main, it's often just the least bit louder.

Maybe this is a great idea. Citizens Gas is, in my experience, a well-run outfit that delivers quality service at low cost. But what do they know from water companies? Sure, I'd like to think their excellent gas-man espirit de corps will infect whoever's left actually diggin' holes and spinnin' wrenches at the water company...but experience bids me fret it might be the other way 'round.

Food for thought. City-County Council votes on this brave new notion tonight. Hold onto your hats! --And your wallets.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

"...could have been anything he wanted to be..."

But who'd'a thunk the descendant of Alexander Graham Bell would have decided to spy for Cuba -- from inside the State Department!

It may sound like one of the wilder accusations of ol' Joe McCarthy, but Kendall and Gwedolyn Myers were arrested June 2009 and tried just last week; they'd been feeding information to Castro's regime for years.

I'm reminded of the old John Bircher billboards in the little town where I grew up, a map of Florida and Cuba with the latter in lurid red and the legend, "It can't DID happen here!" Whattaya know, it still "can't" -- and it still does.

(Tickles me to link to the pinkos at MSDNC for this story, though they're just rippin' and readin' webbin' a wire service. Ah, how they must've wept, reporting it).

Saturday, July 24, 2010

So, Dija Hear The One About The Power Outage?

Around about 1600, Roseholme* Cottage Standard Time, I was starting to feel dizzy again and commenced to hit $LOCAL DRUGSTORE for Bonine and Benadryl, then stopped at the market for breakfast fixin's and cat food. About the time I was loading up my car at the grocers, we -- and the entire rest of Broad Ripple, with very few exceptions -- were well and truly disAMORCed, with nary a fizzle to warn us. Call it 1650.

I didn't know 'til I got home, realized I had left my garage door opener, and called Tam (see why I have the Olde Time Telephones?), for an exercise in frustration:

RX: "Tam, I'm locked out. I left the--"

Tam: "You're locked out 'cos the power is out!"

RX: "What? Look, I left the opener--"

Tam: "It wouldn't do you any good."

RX: "Unh, okay. Could you unlock the gate, then?"

Tam: "I'll be right out!"

...She then proceeded to open the garage door instead of the big double gate. I was sooo confused. As it happened, Tam had errands of her own to run, so I ended up closing the overhead door after her. Amazing how lightly it moves with both springs intact!

[sarcasm]Always prepared for emergencies[/sarcasm], I bicycled down to Locally Grown Gardens to buy ice for the fridge and other goodies (the Asian coleslaw is back! Hooray!). Power was still out when I got back, so I ate about half my coleslaw. Still no juice, so I sharpened knives; all that takes are stones, hones and a decent light source (sunlight's free). (A Sharpie helps for difficult edges; sure, it's cheating, but so what?)

(Handy Tip: Fridges and freezers work better mostly full -- leaving room for air to circulate -- than mostly empty. Fill the empty freezer space with bags of ice! Empty boxes will do for the fridge. Then, if the power conks out, move some ice to the fridge [replacing the space-filling boxes] for the duration).

Power stayed off 'til 1815 -- quarter after six! It was fixin' to get warm and I was about ready to bunk in the basement.

According to IPL, the unzapped region was a big area -- 52nd to 62nd Streets, Keystone Avenue to Northwestern/Michigan Rd. And why? They've got nothin'. Linesman's trucks were nosing around down alleyways and dead-end drives like cats searching when there's fresh fish in the house, hidden. I am less than encouraged by this. Power grids, like CATV and even telephone wiring, are not the tightly-managed things you might imagine; sure, there's a map on paper or even on a computer somewhere, but any resemblance between that map and the actual territory is more a matter of luck than a triumph of technology.
* Readers, this is not a reference to the famous nearby university, but to my family's one claim at nobility, a grant of arms during the Wars of The Roses consisting of a "naturally-colored" rose on a gray (silver, really) shield, plus the usual small plot of land, etc. A "holme" is a small island, "land that is liable to flooding," which both ties back into my family name and aptly describes the basement here....

What Izzit?

There's this stencil:Somehow connected with this loooooong-term project:If I ever get it done and if the stenciling and finishing goes as planned, it might not be too bad. I picked out fabric for the cushions the other day...but that gives too much away: yes, it's the long-planned window seat for the Dining/Library here at Roseholme Cottage. Given that Tam's cat will probably stake out a semi-permanent spot on it, I need to come up with several different covers for the cushions, just as we do now with the futon.

It'll be marked as if were once a crate containing airship parts, sent to The Roseholme Works sometime around 1899; and for all you know, it was.

That's genuine excelsior on the floor, by the way -- I'd been planing the oak corner trim. Why sand when you get a glass-smooth surface with a bladed implement?

Make Your Own Glowsticks!

Yes, if all you have left after TEOTWAWKI is your chem lab, you will not be left in the dark!

What's Worse Than A Headache?

Not, the answer is not "Congress." Um, well, it is, but that's not what I was after--

Yesterday morning went as planned, took my headache into the shower and emerged feeling a bit better; took up the ol' neti pot and ran warm salt water through my nose (big fun! Usually helps, too). When I finished, I realized that with every movement, the room was spinning and lurching: vertigo!

It was very mild. I've had it before. The main thing is to not let it get to you; if you can keep your balance (mainly by using external references), it's like being a little tipsy without the mental blurriness. So I kept on getting ready, with the occasional sigh or giggle over missteps and Sock-Donning Adventures (and it truly is, when you're precessing like a tumbling gyroscope).

Told Tam what was going on. She was not as amused, warning, "You'd better stay home." In hindsight, not such a bad idea; but we're short-handed Fridays and I have better uses for the pooled Personal Time Off we draw both vacation and sick days from.

In I drove and it wasn't too bad. Figured things were looking up. Indeed, for the first hour or two, if I was careful how I moved, I hardly noticed.

Then it started getting worse. And worse. And worse. Started to feel like my throat was closing up, even. By the time I was working (ground crew!) with a tower-climber, my head was seriously spinning and nausea had commenced. As soon as that job was done, I checked out and drove to the nearest health-care provider.

Almost didn't make it. There were two turns at normal city speeds. My car made a 90°; my head made an 810°. But I got there, stumbled through check-in, triage (which they've finally started calling that, instead of some nice-Nancy obfuscating name), and found myself in an exam room being offered anti-nausea meds.

Didn't have to ask me twice. After bein' looked over by an M.D., I was fitted with an IV and shot up with an assortment of Modern Drugs. All of it aimed at the symptoms; the verdict was that they didn't know what was wrong but they could darned well control the effects.

It worked, too. Head still spinning, I was asleep in minutes; work up an hour later spin! Weak, a bit out of it (little antihistamine in the mix) but gyros fully functional. It was such a relief I went back to sleep 'til they came back 'round a couple hours later and asked pointed questions about how maybe there was someone who could drive me home?

And here I are; Tam took me home (they promised not to tow my car) and other than a dinner break (pizza; it's loaded with nutrition, y'know), I have been asleep ever since. 16 hours? Longer.

I didn't even have a chance to tellya about the -- holy Joe McCarthy! -- spies for Cuba who showed up last week, workin' in the State Department. You'll have to come back later for that.

Friday, July 23, 2010


O.M.G. Almost didn't get out of bed and havin' serous issues with that verticality thing, not to mention any light source that uses more than 15 Watts.

More blog later -- for now, a quick one and it is (oh, horrors!) a hat-tip to the paper; big TV coverage this morning of picketing workers and former workers at a downtown hotel, arrested for gettin' in people's way, sidewalk-blockage and general moping-about; which is pretty standard stuff. But what's the beef? This isn't air-traffic control; they can organize and generally the law makes everyone play mostly fair, right?

--Here's where the paper comes in: they (and not, alas, the lean, mean electronic media) report that it seems the sticky wicket is would-be union wants to use "card check," a Soviet-style open ballot, to vote on organizing, while the hotel is holding out for the kind of secret ballot that was good enough for even the most militant CIO organizers in the 1930s. And the law protects the secret ballot process in such matters; all the wannabe-union would have to do is paint by the numbers. In-ter-est-ing.

One has to wonder how much this is about unionizing the folks who slap fresh "Sanitized For Your PROTECTION" labels on the water glasses and toilet seats...and how much about forcing employers to accept the "card check" process.

Gotta go. The shower calls; perhaps on top of the OTC pain pills I gulped down 45 minutes ago, my head won't be ready to go 'splodey after some time in the steam and warm water.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Full Foam-Rubber Jacket

It's made of WANT: a magazine-fed, full-auto Nerf™ rifle -- short-barrelled, even!

C'mon, who'll be the first brave-stupid soul to take one to New Jersey? Chicago? NYC? Massachusetts? Bonus ijit points if it's painted flat black (except for the muzzle brake, gotta play by the rules).

The Lugar Cannot Change Its Spots

Or, as they say on Discworld, "The leopard cannot change its shorts." Terry Pratchett's never explained the aphorism, as far as I know.

Indiana's likewise unexplained "Republican" Senator, the Horrib-, er, the Honorableness The Richard Green "Dick" Lugar, has given his support to the Obama administration's pick for the U. S. Supreme Court, Ms. Elena Kagan.

The Senator did not say, "Might as well relax and try to enjoy it, maybe even fake an orgasm and hope for a tip," but one has to wonder. Y'know, Bub -- may I call you "Bub," Senator? -- some of us count on the opposition party to do some serious opposing. It's called "checks and balances," not "lubricant application."

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

New Chapter At I Work On A Starship

They could put a bell or a beeper on electric forklifts. They could especially put a bell on the automated ones. Sure, it will eventually drive everyone who works near 'em luridly nutty, but think of the children and innocents it might save. Including me! But even if they didn't do that -- and they don't -- I do not care how talented a programmer of servomechanisms you are, nor how sophisticated they are, the rotten machines should not do a happy little dance after they have nearly hit me and rolled up to their destination.

Read exciting Chapter Three of Frothup: Dropping In at I Work On A Starship!

Mr. Smith Goes To Firefox

I don't know how long they've had it but I chortled in delight when I saw this:
[Click to enbiggenify]
Heh. I'm not seein' a "dictatorship of the proletariat" button. Not even a "collectivize" one.

They Sell Printing Presses To Anyone

Your character doesn't matter. There isn't even a background check. Fork over money, receive printing press, try to lose money fast enough to meet payroll. And then, you get to write headlines like "IS RIGHT THE NEW LEFT?" It piqued my interest...until I read the subhead, which told me it was about strange new kinds of traffic intersections.


It turns out that "peaceable assembly" thing is wide-open, too; you're not limited to just one a month and as long as it is peaceable, it doesn't need to have a sporting purpose or nuthin'.

You're (often) good to go even if some of the assemblees aren't very peaceable -- take the recently-ended Indiana Black Expo, for instance. I'd like to tell you the shooting that marred Saturday evening was an unusual occurrence, but it keeps happening. After years of having some level of violence break out in and around the teen-focused events Saturday night and making vague promises to fix the problem, IBE's CEO has announced the formation of a task force; this time, in addition to working on ways to make the event safer, they are to "look at the root causes of youth violence." Yeah, "look," that'll make gangs less attractive to young folks. Especially with no one younger than 30 on the committee. Mostly, they're talkin' serious levels of weapons screening and fencing-off: kind of like prison, but with music. It seems suboptimal.

Event organizers very rightly point out the remainder of the Expo does not suffer this sort of trouble; the health fair, job fair, resume help and (for lack of a better term) grown-up concerts (etc.) are safe and positive events.*

At least one member of the task force gets it: Rev. Jeffrey Johnson, no stranger to task forces, points out, "There are reports this thick from task forces that are sitting on desks all over this city. ...We have not figured out a way to implement them." Me neither; it only takes a few ijits to mess up a whole evening.

(Interesting story in this vein from Ruth Holliday, addressing the incident and the media sugar-coating out-of-control youth -- have a look).
* Y'know how we point out that if guns cause criminal behavior, 99.99999% of the guns in the U.S. must be broken, 'cos it's a vanishingly small percentage that are used in crime? If crowds cause violence, this one is broken, too: out of well over 40K people, one or possibly two moron gangstas initiated force. And cast a very big shadow over the entire event.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Furor Mis-Aimed

Or maybe it's just me; an obscure blogging service had their server seized here in the U.S., in what is reported to be a case against, you guessed it, an Islamic terrorist mess of some sort or another. Ripples through the blogosphere warn of the Dire Horrors Of Government Crackdown On Blogs.

...More like the Dire Lag Of Intellectual Property Laws, if you ask me. If J. Random Badguy's blog of badness and evil just happens to be on the same server as, say, my blog of sweetness and light, and the machine is named in a warrant and gets grabbed The Law, my innocent natterings go away, too...unless I saved a backup and can haul it over to another host. And yes, that sucks, and yes, that means Your Stuff gets taken.

If it really matters, make a backup. At least be aware of what might happen. Good, bad, indifferent or Illuminati,* the gears are very large and individual bloggers are very small.
* Weirdly enough, that's a word Blogger and Firefox both have in their spellcheckers. Helps to know your market, I guess.

It's Pronounced "Hypocrisy "

Richard Feldman, M.D., --not the ex-NRA lobbyist but one of the local panic-pulp's gun-banners -- has done Seen The Light on another issue, smoking; he tells us he was all fixed to write a piece on how it was okey-dokey to discriminate against smokers in hiring and firing, what with them not bein' a protected class an' all and the business being able to do as they choose. (And indeed, courts have generally so held when such practices were challenged).

...Ah, but then the doc had a second thought (and one that, I am sure, had nothing at all with any possible desire to make sure people and companies are regimented and controlled coming and going); he figured that while there might not be a right to smoke in "public, enclosed places, because it detrimentally affects the health of others" (Um, doc, that does not equal "at work," nor is it the reason your employer can bar smoking on his property), it's okay-fine to smoke at home, since that doesn't affect unwilling others. Why, if employers could fire you for smoking at home (under some circumstances, they kind of can), "it dangerously broadens [employer's] sphere of control; individuals lose the right to lead their lives the way they choose. ... Riding motorcycles, social drinking or engaging in dangerous sports are...examples."

Hey, pretty much right at last! (Even though he then goes on to present a muddle of rules, regulations and proposed lawmaking to enable this "freedom") --But gee, if that's so, what about the Constitutionally-protected right to keep and bear arms? Can't I go to the range, can't I keep my firearms at home as a "lifestyle choice," even though Dr. Feldman thinks it is dangerous?

Helloo? ...Doc...?

Monday, July 19, 2010

July BlogMeet

Went well, I thought, though after I told our waitress that we "expected a dozen friends," the total was at least 17.

There was an absolute monsoon rain pouring, which resulted in one bunch of bloggers taking shelter inside and another finding a dry spot under the awning. As the rain ended and more folks looked around, we stopped wondering where everyone was and merged the two groups.

Topics under discussion ranged from novels (being read and being written), .mil rifles and why it is the Army is so very keen on standardization while some other branches seem to be way more interested in #ALTERNATIVE LONGARM DU JOUR (hint: which one still frets over needing to train and arm a zillion recently-ex civilians in a hurry?) to some background on Top Shot and a reminder of local cartridge-maker Acme Ammo (Shootin' Buddy gives them two thumbs up).

The attendee's list is something of a who's who:
Crucis, Mr. and Mrs!
Earl, "Just the Library Keeper" (Yep, on his trusty steed -- photo later)
Frank W. James
Caleb "Mr. Television"
Shootin' Buddy
The Jack
Owen Nathan*
Og (and Mrs. Og and the Oglet, who has cleverly inherited the best characteristics of both parents)
Shermlock & Mrs. Shomes
Old Grouch
Owen, Our Man On The Cutting Edge
Roberta X (who?)

Much sweet corn was distributed. (Fresh Indiana sweet corn!). Much good talk, delightful beverages+ and fine food!
* Why two Owens and no Nathan? As I was typing, I asked Tam, "The dark-haired fellow you were chatting with, his name's right on the tip of my tongue..." "Owen," she said, as I was just fixing to type "Nathan." Fingers followed ears instead of brain; then, a few names on, I added Owen to the list a second time. Sorry, guys.

+ Those inclined enjoyed Broad Ripple Brew Pub's fine assortment of beer, ales &c, both the in-house brews and various others; for me, sleepy as I have been and as susceptible as I am to the Demon Rum, it was Sprecher Cherry Cola, very good.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Excellent Blogmeet

17+ bloggers, friends and family in attendance. Hope to post more later -- I have been asleep yet again.

It Looks Like A Rabbit In Armor

...Though much smaller: the Pink Fairy Armadillo, which appears to have been originally gene-engineered by the Wee Folk as a battle animal. A big one is over four inches long; huge examples can approach 6" from head to tail, all with very definitely pink armor. And while armadillos can be pests themselves, it seems these little critters are very fond of ants, to the point of siting burrows near anthills in order to have a ready source of snacks.

Y'know, we could use one of these outside Roseholme Cottage -- if the giant slugs didn't get it.

Not On The Range

...Doggone it. I was exhausted yesterday; got up, posted something, felt tired and slept for a half hour, dropping right into an entire movie's worth of dreaming sleep. Woke back up, made breakfast, showered and afterward, got all dizzy, laid down again and pow! Off to Dreamland 'til late in the day.

At least I did a little laundry and helped with dinner (steaks a la Tam, which would be seared in a little high-temp oil with salt & pepper; I made electromagnetically-baked potatoes plus a cucumber, radish, leek & shredded carrot salad that paired up nicely with a mildly sweet vinaigrette). After that, though, just a little Internetting and back to horizontal until about 0900.

I begged off A (Huge) Healthy Breakfast and trip to Eagle Creek this morning. I'm still tired. I shorted myself on sleep last week, while doing a lot of physical work; you can't make up on the sleep per se but it is possible to get one's neurochemistry a little out of whack by not sleeping enough...and the body will, eventually, set things right by demanding downtime. I guess that's what happened.

Tam did mention yesterday she had a range date but even then, I was dubious about attending. Plus, I'm way behind on cleaning guns; if I don't take my Mk. II apart and get the grime out, Ruger's gonna send someone around to take it away!

It is interesting that my ex, very much a paper-puncher, was religious about cleaning firearms; Tam and Shootin' Buddy, both highly-trained tactical-type gunnies, are firmly of the opinion that any gun reliable enough to carry only needs to be taken apart and scrubbed up a couple times a year, pointing out that inept and/or over-enthusiastic cleaning can result in more wear than just shooting. They're right, but I'm over the six-month mark on my .22 and it's getting balky. (I should point out that they don't carry dirty guns; for carry-caliber stuff, the rotation is from hip to range to cleaning + function check, followed by a return to the hip; and this is why you don't own just the one carry gun and why you keep 'em as alike as possible).

So, here I am, with a little housework to do, followed by the Indy BlogMeet -- 3:00 p.m. this afternoon at Broad Ripple Brew Pub!

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Hail, Limax Maximus!

He's a visitor from Europe and his coat is gorgeous. Tam and I walked over him several time until she noticed the little guy and said, "Whoa! Wow."

Blurry, but here he is (at right) in racing mode. He's not at all happy with bright lights, so when I went to get a better photo, he'd bulked up into Tough Slug, and was holding perfectly still, hoping to be taken for a stick or perhaps something the dog left. Ha! We haven't got a dog, pal.Known -- and complained about -- as the leopard slug, these big guys ("The Great Grey Slug!") have snuck out of Europe and can now be found just about anywhere. I've never seen one this size before. There was a tiny one in the basement when I bought Roseholme, which I "liberated" to the greater risks of the garden and for all I know this is the same critter, grown fat on cat food stolen from next door; it turns out they're mostly carnivorous.

And, yeah, they're gross ol' slugs. Still, that's one heck of a paint job. He was headed for the woodpile and I let him be. There's a storm rolling in and the clever slug seeks high ground. Besides, with a name like Limax Maximus.... C'mon, that's some gladiatorial-kewlness points right there, even before you learn they carry a shield!

And then there's this from Wikipedia, I should blush to repeat it but it's almost too good to be true: "This species has a very unusual and distinctive mating method, where the pair of slugs hang in the air, suspended from a tree branch or other structure, using a thick thread of mucus." And you thought the couple who got married while bungee-jumping were extreme? (Wikipedia, again, "mating habits...considered unusual among slugs." Oh, but when the neighbors do it, that's same-old, same-old?)

Our slug must be single; I'm pretty sure Tam or I would have noticed any swinging-from-chandeliers-type activity. (Alas, the rest of their mating habits are baroque and bizarre rather than high adventure). On the other hand, we have had a couple of trees fall over, under semi-mysterious circumstances. ...Slugs!? What have you been up to, anyhow?

They're also said to have a strong homing instinct. Homing slugs. Yeah. Paging Larry Corriea....

Not What It Sounds Like

...But it sounds hilarious, Evinrude. Er, "even rude," that is. But totally SFW.

Found on Boing Boing

Smartphone Singularity

Eric S. Raymond points out the Smartphone Singularity: that is a tricorder in your pocket and with every new model, it does more of what other things used to do.

Who knew we'd back into that ol' SF trope, the pocket computer, via portable radiophones? The Future: usually weirder than predicted.

Friday, July 16, 2010

But Was He On A Horse?

Can you parody near-parody? Hey, even if it's commercial, it's worth a try:

Is, Too

Flong is most certainly a word, a perfectly good word with a long and distinguished history, especially in rotogravure. I am flonging sick and tired of having to flong around with every flonger that won't believe it. In a just world, such persons would be flung from a height, precipitately.

That is all.

(Semi-related: made a batch of flan the other night, just the mix-from-a-box kind. All gone with 12 hours. Especially nice in hot weather!)

Firefly Gear

Holy browncoats, Cap'n Tightpants -- the folks at Quantum Mechanix seem to be set on creating the 'Verse! Or at least some of the more-marketable parts of it. Shiny!

(Sadly, FTC, they didn't give me nothin' for sayin' that. 'Sa pity, too -- one of those Jayne "Troublemaker" T-shirts would be right nice, but noooo. So KMA, ya nosy Feds).

Not So New Math

Walt Kelly's Pogo is being reprinted, every last bit of it, in fine hardcover volumes; this is kewl. Better still (attention Donald Fagen fans), it starts off with a bang, lampooning the 18-month International Geophysical Year, "...[O]ne and a half birthdays a year. " " And one and a half Christmases." Sign me up! (Then there's a little insight into elections...).

PS: Attention Local Newspaper (for which I'd'a thunk up a new name but I gotta shower): You wanna do Big Socially Important Cartoons, you go study Walt Kelly, who did it by talkin' small, not bein' a jerk and delivering actual entertainment.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

The Paper: Now With Fewer Words

I noticed recently the Daily Catbox-Liner And Semi-Covert Democrat, which is what we have in Indy instead of a newspaper,* had revamped their Editorial page in such wise as to mostly eliminate those pesky, 500-or-so-word "tl;dr" editorials and I'd briefly mourned the loss of such a cheap and easy source of snark.

This just shows my lack of faith in the professional committment and journalistical ability of America's Print Pundits; the low-hanging fruit has brought itself down even lower. Today, they've unveiled a new, multi-part feature occupying all of that page:

An editorhetorical comic strip! In color!

And a classic piece of leftie-worldview self-affirmation it is, too, at about the same reading-comprehension level as a Chick tract and slightly less entertaining.

So if you have been wondering as have I, in our dull and unenlightened way, just exactly what the paper's opinion of our mental horsepower might be, wonder no more!

I would'na given them the link but it's almost got to be seen to be believed.

(Related: Local real journalist Ruth Holliday's pointers to newspaper deflation. Geesh, it's like sittin' in a hospital room with a terminally ill friend, knowing the end is inevitable...).
* What's your town got instead of a newspaper? Somebody's got to keep those pulp mills running!

I Wonder If

...Do protesting Classical Egyptian polytheists speak Toth Thoth to Power, or do they instead speak of the Power of Toth Thoth? (Or would they simply cheer, "Ra, Ra, Aten-Ra?" H'mm, no, might be taken for monotheists, so unhip to the modern mind).


If James Brown had been born into the British nobility and matriculated at Eaton, would he have later gone on to record the hit tune, "Father has acquired the latest-model scro--" A-hem. Never mind.


Thanks to Og, for catching my diresome spelling error. At least it wasn't Seth (who is that guy?) or Sekhmet! And I am pleased to be reminded of the rilly kewl thing about Thoth: he's a pen-and-ink kinda guy.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010


Turk Turon links, under the banner Good News, to a New York Times piece in which the Paper Of (broken) Record laments the stunning successes of pro-Second-Amendment groups, especially NRA; and it is a happy read.

But the photo NYT uses at the top of the page is as nasty a bit of attack photojournalism as I've seen: Wayne LaPierre, small behind a podium with a huge NRA backdrop, shown from well below his own line of sight, with his hand in the air and mouth open, obviously in the middle of a word. Gee, that's not spozed to be...evocative of anything, is it? I'm callin' Godwin on the Gray Lady. Meanwhile and further down, gun-grabber and Randian "Kip's Ma" icon Carolyn McCarthy is presented standing in sunlight in front of the Capitol, hand on her heart, looking as sincere as ever a Congressbeing can manage.

Not that there's any, you know, bias there.

Ingenious Engine

The Simplicity (!) Motor Works One-Cylinder Rotary Engine. Sure, it sounds insane, but it makes perfect sense once you've seen it.

Still, it's the darnedest thing I've seen in awhile. Two connecting rods and a split crankshaft? Yowza! --And just to prove irony ain't rusted away yet, the makers note, "It is ideal for drones or UAVs!" Great; when they come for me, I'll be too fascinated by the kewl machinery to do anything about it....

I Wonder If...

Do dental protesters speak Tooth to Power?

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

BlogMeet! This Sunday!

Remember, the big Indy BlogMeet this Sunday! 3:00 p.m. at Broad Ripple Brew Pub, 18 July.

We're hoping Farmer Frank can will be there with sweet corn!

This will be my last BlogMeet for awhile; I'm going to put them on hiatus for August. I have been unable to give planning, promotion, prep and artwork as much attention as it deserves and I'd rather stop doing it than do the kind of phone-it-in job I've done for the last two. If others want to pick an August weekend, place and time, that's fine by me. I don't own the trademark.


Yes, they finally did it: "Defence firm BAE Systems today officially unveiled its first ever high-tech unmanned stealth jet."

Not just "unmanned;" it's a testbed for fully autonomous, stealthy hunter/killer drones. When exactly did BAE relocate to a dormant volcano on a tropical island, staff the place with kickboxing supermodels and issue Persian cats to all the top execs? Did they sleep through the Terminator movies?

It just doesn't seem like a good idea. The h4xx0ring possibilities, not to mention "oopsie" friendly fire, would be a bit worse than from other weapons.

On the other hand, it's exactly the sort of videogamer touch that could be just the ticket for turning today's couch potato into tomorrow's soldier -- different attire, better controller, and it's Space Invaders in 3-D as the drones roll in. "You there, solder, you call that a caffeinated energy drink? My Mother drinks stronger stuff -- and she'd whup you good!" (Ignore him, d00d, everybody knows sergeants don't have Mothers).

Monday, July 12, 2010

Echoes From The Oil Country

...It's a series of books, reprints of a column by one "W. Osborne" in a machinist's magazine during the early years of the 20th Century. I picked up Volume 4 at the Indy Hamfest and have been enjoying it in spare moments ever since.

Across such a gulf of time, you'd think both style and substance would be alien, impenetrable. You'd be wrong; Osborne writes in nearly the manner of a blogger, telling instructive stories about the work in a machine shop (and at customer's sites) in the Pennsylvania oil country, addressing himself to the importance of understanding "why" as well as "how" and the amusingly familiar interactions of a large shop filled with skilled workers. Read even a few and you'll have a better notion not just what people thought and did way back when, but how they thought. It's a fascinating glimpse down the corridors of time. Highly recommended!

Cleverness Breeds Cleverness

And bad judgment breeds...? More damfool decisions.

Reverend Al Sharpton was in town Sunday, come to protest a whole string of lousy decisions by encouraging an audience of 2,000 to make even more. And across town, another dozen idiots -- in response to the precipitating incident and reactions, including inviting the Rev and probably even professional golfers -- protesting "all efforts to mix the races of mankind," 'cos idiots, much like hope* but with maleficent intent, spring eternal.

But let us turn our sights to the precipitating incident and the incident that precipitated it: little (not!) Brandon Johnson got roughed up -- but good -- by officers of the law. They didn't just see him readin' Bible verses on the street corner when the "Whale the tar outta some innocent citizen" light lit up, though. Young Mr. Johnson's brother was observed trying to kick his way into an abandoned building and somebody called the po-leece, who were (hey!) nearby and nabbed him for B&E (look it up, I'm on a schedule here). From this point on, the story gets muddled; there's a general agreement that Brandon took exception to the arrest and fisticuffs ensued, but who threw out the first punch and if any late hits were thrown is undecided. The end result was a 15-year-old with a prizefighter's facelift. Oh, and no charges for either sibling.

IMPD's leadership wasn't especially indecisive; the officer alleged to've done the most exuberant subduing has been recommended for termination and the one who made the initial decision to arrest rather than chase off got a stern letter stuck in her file. The rest (and 'twere several)? Umm, they had a nasty few days waiting to find out what would happen.

Bad judgment all 'round, starting with don't kick in doors, even of abandoned buildings and continuing on at the same general level of thoughtlessness right on through. So now we've got Rev. Sharpton, and we've got ijits with signs, and we've got ministers asking why the Mayor sends his LEOs out against these fine, upstanding young fellers but he won't have a nice, long meeting with "their leaders" (I'm quoting) -- 'cos we all know idle young door-kickers of any color look to their ministers for guidance and leadership.

...Speaking of which, where are the brothers Johnson now? Brandon's been paraded around (with some signs of reluctance) like a prize poodle; his sibling, not so much. What lesson d'ya suppose they're learning in all this? I suspect it won't be anything terribly useful.

But man, the grownups are havin' a helluva time. Um, I guess we've got to call them grownups. The bar seems to get lower every time I notice.

And it's all just in time for Indiana Black Expo! O Fates, thou setteth us up.
* As far as the ancient, pessimistic Greeks saw it, the last item out of that crate Pandora wasn't spozed to open was the worst of all; for hope makes you expect things can get better and they usually don't.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Sur-prise, Sur-prise, Sur-prise

One much-linked article in the Chicago Tribune warns of the dangers of guns in the home (from studies that failed to control for, among other things, if the firearms were legally possessed).

Another Trib piece tells of a proposed ordinance to reduce or eliminate lighting up one's property at night, even to limit streetlights.

Why, it's almost as if criminals controlled the government up-- Oh.

(On a happier note, citizens in that neck of the woods don't seem to share the notions their putative betters espouse. And not even all Tribune staffers toe the party line, either. How 'bout that?)

Skateboard Shoes?

RX: "No, really, the shoes were a total surprise. Leather-upper trainers, lotta Vans and Nikes, superkewl colors..."

Tam: "Yeah, skateboarders love 'em. Converse whaddaya-call'ems, too--"

RX: "Chuck Taylors? Didn't see any there."

Tam: "Must not be Converse dealers. Hunh. Chuck Norrises, that's the ticket. Chuck Hestons!"

RX: "'You can have these shoes when you take 'em from my cold, dead feet!'"

Upon reflection, I'm certain the Chuck Norrises can whup any other shoe made, single-footed.

Oh, and under "two wheels and noise?" One of the two guys workin' the counter in the skateboard shop had his commuter vehicle parked out front, a nicely-ratted Honda motorcycle in flat, flat black. I took that as a good sign.

Insight: watching the vids playin', I suddenly got the last bit of the puzzle. Yeah, y'see these small-but-deadly stunts and think "adrenaline," and that is a big chunk of it; but the other part, especially when there's a whole series of nifty/dangerous tricks in a row, all of which have to be right the first time, is a mental state called "flow." It's highly addictive and that's not hyperbole; generally, you need to be doing a complex task that calls for good coordination, exact timing and quick thinking. Dancers get into it, so did Top 40 disc jockeys in the back old days.* I suspect some kinds of improv comedy can trigger it and so can mountain climbing (though at a slower pace). Skydiving, motorcycling twisty roads... All of 'em can drop you into a wonderful totally-here Zen state. And that's part of the reward that gets your neighborhood lookit-that-lunatic skateboarder back up off the concrete and onto the stair rail until he gets it right; that's what tilts the risk/reward scales far enough to make the effort and the price worthwhile.
* In hindsight, that kind of radio wasn't near as interesting to listen to as it was to do. Shuddup and let me hear the music! Over the long run, those guys were the best Walkman and then iPod salesmen, evar.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Hamfest Update

...In brief: I passed up several very nice glow-in-the-dark radios (I have...well, a lot, already), bought mucho kewl parts and small items (xtals for 80 and 40m!), saw the same wondrous Pilot Super-Wasp* I saw at Dayton...for about the same pricetag, $650 (!!! probably worth it, but still -- !!!), met a very tiny gray-and-cream tabby kitten who lives near a dumpster, fed half a hot dog and gave a bottle of water to same (the kitten has bowls, but they were empty), and, ummm, what's a skatebike? I own one now. Needs a new front truck. The one on it is hoze-ed to the max. Or whatever it is the kids are saying nowadays.

Updateder: So, I went to Rise Skateboard Shop (an' prolly fomenters of anarchy?), where the kind of guys Tam tells me are called "skate wanks" proved to be friendly, competent, and mildly interested in the middle-aged housewife's strange vehicle. They decided all it really needed was new bushings on the truck, so twenty minutes -- and $2.00, yes, two bucks! -- later, I was good to go. So far, my longest ride on the thing has been about ten feet and I'm not gonna push it. (Big surprise: it appears skateboarders wear some darned nice shoes...except for a few who prefer to practice their hobby in socks!)
* Holy cow, if you're into old ham gear, you have got to see the page that's from -- look for links to it to show up at Retrotechnologist. W2ZM, wotta guy!


Indianapolis Hamfest this morning -- like a gun show, but with amateur radio equipment, tools, parts and books instead of firearms -- so: blog later. Maybe with photos!

Friday, July 09, 2010

Harassment Training

It's mandatory where I work. The latest incarnation is a little online course. Very slickly packaged, set up so students can exit at any time, then return later to where they left off.

Funny thing is, I was noticing even before I had time to do the class that borderline-harassing behavior, the innocently-meant things that someone could take the wrong way if they were minded to, was way up in the last two-three weeks. ...People are suggestible; start talking to them about not hugging, not making jokes about personal appearance and so on and next thing you know, they've put those beans in their ears. (Dadrat it, I can't find the polka version! You'll have to make do with the semi-commie edition and miss the entire "don't pour molasses on the cat" verse).

Taking the course, most of which is good manners and/or common sense -- at least common sense for dealing with Nerf-raised moderns; they'd've fainted dead away at workplace interactions in the small-town jobs two decades ago where I started out -- I learned another lesson: in each segment, you've got three viewpoint characters who offer reactions to the various examples shown, from which you-the-student must choose the right response. If you went through the course and simply assumed the European-American looking male wearing a tie was always wrong, you'd get a passing score.

So write that down, friends and neighbors; remember it whenever Congress or the City Council is in session: whatever pale males who dress nice tell you, it ain't right. Everyone else, it's 50/50.

....Mister course-designer guy? Pro tip? Computers are really, really good at tossing random-enough numbers in the air and applying the results. You could avoid those nasty ol' not-so-subtle subtexts by coinflips for every segment to pick who'll be savvy and who won't.....

(Not really related but does ask the question that has puzzled philosophers through the ages: "If a tin whistle's made of tin, what's a fog horn made of?")

Thursday, July 08, 2010

BBB: Bradys Unfit For Donations

Here's a tip from the Better Business Bureau: The Brady Campaign To Disarm Citizens does not measure up to the BBB's critera for accountability. Might as well put that quarter in the gumball machine -- at least you'll know where it's going.

Speaking of "at least you'll know..." one of the failures is, they're not tellin' BBB what security measures (if any) are in place to protect personal information that is collected. Ooops.

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Buying Ice? Not If You're Under 21!

Indiana's liquor law got a little tougher; you now have to show ID to buy booze no matter how old you look. Perhaps there was a spate of purchasing by by underage, gifted theatre students? --Whatev'; Prohibition's legacy just accreted another layer, yackety-schmackety, legislative bloat-as-usual....

Except it's gone a bit stranger than usual; liquor store owners, havin' read the law with a wary eye and mindful of the scant discretion granted Excisemen, are carding everyone, for every purchase. Buy a bag of ice, a jar of pickled onions or a bottle of (irony alert) Canada Dry? Not if you're under 21!

While I, for one, eagerly await the day they ban Sunday ice sales to keep us safe from the scourge of and grapefruit juice (at least we oughta ban cold ice -- think of the children!), Indiana State Excise Police are considerably less amused. A bit swamped with calls and queries, they're pointing out, "'s not state law that you have to show an ID to purchase non-alcoholic items...." Good luck winnin' that argument with the hired help at Gin To Go, though; she's just trying to avoid getting tripped up and if that means carding you over a pack of gum, hey, no problem. Papers, please and that'll be $1.298!

Carrie Nation, thy ax has become a clipboard; thy pledge, a mere stumbling-block. But oh, your spirit haunts the spirits forever more, in tight-lipped fear that someone, somewhere, might be enjoyin' themselves without having all the forms filled out and every name listed and checked twice. ...If then....

July BlogMeet

(Now that I have probably ticked off everyone, bein' insufficiently respectful of a beloved comic-book icon) --How about 18 July for the next Indy BlogMeet? 3:00 p.m., Broad Ripple Brew Pub.

Odds favor Frank W. James (noted Internet novelist and all-round shooter & gunwriter) showing up with a goodly supply of Indiana sweet corn -- yum!

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Oh, They've Got Me Wondering, All Right

Lately, there's been a lot of talk about the most recent makeover of Ms. Diana Prince's working costume, from a jewelry-heavy, Vegas-ready tankini-corset getup to tight leggings, a tighter top and a sorta scruffy-lookin' jacket. (And yes, bling).

My reaction is "meh." I was never more than a lukewarm fan. Oh, it was kewl to have a super-duper superheroine who wasn't like Superman's annoying kid sister; but her boyfriend was dumber than a post and generally inept, despite every effort to build him up. She kept having to go bail him out, more Mom or babysitter. ...In hindsight, maybe she needed him around to avoid DADT problems. C'mon, Diana, it's 2010; you might have to get a different job but sneaking around is no way for a supposed role model to behave. Let poor old Steve date someone who won't use him to hide behind.

For that matter, the fellow who dreamed her up had some...different...notions about role-modeling. I'm no fan of Fred Wertham -- now there's a dirty, dirty mind! -- and it's important to point out that the evidence is Dr. Marsten and Co. successfully raised a large, happy family (who speak very highly of them) but in terms of comic books and related TV and films, I feel vindicated in having been far more a fan of Batgirl (and even Catwoman, who wasn't ever really majorly evil, y'know). Nearsighted and surrounded by adults entirely unconvinced of the merits of graphic novels, I soon migrated to thick books with a lot more text. Grown-ups were a lot less likely to take 'em away and Admiral Heinlein had tickets to the Moon!

Taxi! Taxi? Hooray! Hoo...ray?

The City-County government's been licensing cabs since Day One and prior to that, the former city government did it, too. It was all about keeping us safe, right? Oh, sure there was a nice, fat fee, but the cab operator received Official Documents and all was right with the world, no?

...Not so fast. Here's the money quote, from Adam Collins, Esq., licensing administrator for the city's Code Department: "By aligning the city's licensing function with an inspection and enforcement arm for the first time, the city will be able to hold cab drivers more accountable." [emphasis mine]. Yep. Ipse dixit, mind you; maybe they've had some rules and some sort of enforcement thereof all along, but it certainly sounds as if it's been a straight-up swap of money for Official-Looking Paper since they first started makin' hack-drivers get a special permission slip. (Yet when Uncle Ned did the very same thing, on the very same paper and in matching type, they said it was wrong and made him go stamp out license plates).*

But it's all better now; why, we've even got a "Passenger Bill Of Rights," complete with assurances that we're entitled to a clean ride, no matter our hue, faith, accent, crutches or twitch or who we're makin' out with, and no extra miles, even; drivers have even gotta have a local version of The Knowledge, though there doesn't look to be an official exam thereof.

Alas, 'tis all in vain. We may be right out of of the taxi-riding biz; there's a poison pill in Article Six that's doomed the entire enterprise: not only does the driver have to know the city, he's required to speak English.

Sigh. There they go, the whole lot of them. That's a whole lotta people with chauffeur's licenses to throw out of work at once.

But hey, shiny-new goofy fake Bill of Rights! Wowie!
* He must have failed. We still have license plates.

Notice To Readers

Commenters, especially: Something's gone a bit funny and new comments aren't showing up. (Amusingly, they do still get e-mailed to me). This will probably change. I suspect Blogger/Google is messin' with some section of the series of tubes. It's probably a hair clog.

Monday, July 05, 2010

Bread-- Well, Something --Cast Upon The Waters

A few days ago, Tam and I had a conversation about the late Howard Phillips Lovecraft and the Motor City. It got linked and from that link came another link, one that led to a seriously alien angle on recent history, an angle of such creeping, inhuman horror that even now, my mind recoils in inchoate, gibbering terror.

Read, ye mortals, and weep in fear!

That John J. Reilly, he's a Deep One --er, did I hear that correctly?

In The Paper

...But not, for once, their fault: local business ran a full-page ad for a religious outreach, one of the more fundamental Protestant groups -- hey, it's their money and they were after doin' good; I am okay with that -- featuring four Founding Fathers: Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, John Adams and George Washington.

I snickered. I don't know a whole lot of theology; I would in no wise argue that any of those men thought of religion -- and most especially Christianity as they knew it -- as anything other than a public good[1], but what you have there is A) an admitted Deist (though a huge fan of pretty much any religion that provoked folk to eschew evil and do good), B) a fellow so skeptical that he produced a Bible with all the miracles edited out and whose dinner parties resulted in shocked comment from some of the attendees on the impiety of conversation to be found there, C) a Unitarian[2], and finally, D) a man whose church attendance is well-documented, though he seems to have been wary of giving any particular congregation too great an appearance of Presidential endorsement.[3] History FAIL.

I don't get it. I'm not especially well-read in American Revolutionary history and I can name at least one fellow right off the top of my head who fits the bill to a T, a patriot and a churchly man: Patrick Henry. One can see why Alexander Hamilton might not be high on the list, though it isn't for lack of religion. On the other hand, you'd think John Jay would be a natural. As for a fourth (presuming Mr. Hamilton hasn't made the cut), why, you're on your own. There are plenty of other well-known men with good qualifications.

The rush to claim the biggest Big Names, no matter how badly they fit, never ceases to amuse me. Hey, do a little homework; it was a great big, inclusive kinda Revolution and faithful or doubter, Deist, Protestant, Catholic or Jew, one or more of your guys was in there. There's no need to co-opt the ill-fitting.

And there's no reason to pretend the Founders were of one mind in all things. It is because they were not and didn't pretend otherwise, that there's as much liberty built into the system as there is.

In writing this, I am probably putting a great big "kick me" sign on my own back but looky here, this isn't a First Amendment debate. The Founding Fathers were who they were, real human beings, not plaster busts looking down nobly on mere mortals.
1. Though Mr. Jefferson's opinion of the funding them with tax money may be found carved into the base of his statue in the eponymous Monument. Look here for a little more on Thomas Jefferson's religious opinions -- and a whole lot of speculation about James Madison's.

2. At a time when that meant utter refutation of the Trinity. That'd be a downcheck, Christianity-wise.

3. El Neil, among others, makes much of Washington's somewhat lofty manner; but he was keenly aware of the precedents he was setting and I think the man did his level best to do right as he saw it. Can't ask for more than that.

Reflection On The Fourth

Independence Day! --I didn't post anything special for the day, though I marked it by flying the same Gadsden flag I've flown on holidays for over a decade.

Last night sounded like World War Four, though it looked prettier, firecrackers and skyrockets and Roman candles going off all over the neighborhood; every once in awhile, there'd be a big, dull boom as some particularly ambitious amusement was set off.

I love that. Indiana has fairly open fireworks laws on paper and in practice, there's a tendency to push the envelope. Law enforcement pushes back but the end result is, you can buy some pretty good toys and set 'em off in your own back yard. I suppose that's a kind of liberty.

I do worry. I worry that this country could, under the guise of "security," end up as what Tamara calls "Europe with better gun laws." That would be a very serious loss.

The Declaration of Independence is a lovely piece of prose; it's a fine collection of noble ideals. It's got less legal force than a personal check. The piece of paper that describes your liberty is the Bill of Rights. Don't let 'em get hollowed out; the ideas are far more important than the piece of paper with writing on it.

Sunday, July 04, 2010

Linguistic Patrol: Time-Traveling Fish

Watching a program about Florida's Everglades on one of the nature channels in which biologists are conducting a survey of fish found in the dry-season 'gator excavations, and time after time, finding non-native species. "All exotics in this trap," one of them exclaims, and the voice-over announcer goes on to explain, "These fish are the ancestors of fish from fish farms and home aquariums."

...This means the problem in FL is even worse than I thought; those sneaky piscine invaders are going back in time and sneaking into our hobbies and food production! Quick, release the Burmese pythons! --What?

Saturday, July 03, 2010

Visting Miami?

Planning on riding MetroRail? Don't bring a camera!

When they passed the ijit USA PATRIOT Act, I said "Alea iacta est," and all my friends said "What?"

After I 'splained, they looked at me like I was crazy and kept on saying, "What?"

Y' broke freedom. We broke it and way too damn many of us cheered it on. Not by laws, really; the USA PATRIOT Act hasn't seen widespread application against you and me, but by accepting and encouraging a fundamental change in attitude, another one of Garet Garrett's "Revolutions within the form."

I have long maintained that 1913 was the knee of the curve and that the New Deal greased the skids; but to break the metaphor, over the last eight-plus years, the bottom has done fell out.

I don't think we're gonna be able to fix it. Slow it up a little, maybe; put some bobbles in it before the last bit of freedom has gone smash, sure; the Roman Empire went under in a long, slow death and our civilization is no less robust -- but you are less free than your grandfather and your children and grandchildren will be less free than you were. The overall trend is not going to change until the next reboot -- if then.

(Radley Balko and a couple of brave fellows did all the heavy lifting on this one).

Related: Don't Report Freelance From The Oil Spill! Hat tip to The Underground Carpenter, who linked it first.

Breakfast Challenge!

Had to work late Friday and didn't get to the market on the way home. So this morning, serious cabinet and fridge scrounging has turned up the following:
1 box Zataran's "Jambalaya" rice mix
1 can of straw mushrooms
4 eggs
Most of a package of bacon
Half an andouille sausage
Some halved, pitted black olives
Think I can make a nutritious, tasty, filling breakfast with only that to work with? ;)

Update: And I didn't even use the olives!

Friday, July 02, 2010

"Gun In Your Car" News Coverage Collected

You'll find the round-up at Indiana Law Blog with a slightly silly headline: "'Take A Gun To Work Law' Goes Into Effect." Includes coverage of some of the outfits that are claiming a Federal law trumps State law -- and for some businesses and some locations, it does. Looks like the airports have a bit of a clue, but then again, they have already had to put some work into understanding who can have what, where, and in what condition.

The massive steel Euro-firm ArcelorMittal is certain the Feds say no for them, but hasn't cited the law. Yeah, you bet -- 'cos, you know, there's nothing else dangerous at a steel mill; guns would be simply horrifying to the fragile, dreamy millworkers.... (And why's an outfit that makes armor plate worried, anyway?) They're sure not talkin' about it on the Innertubes:However, if you dig far enough, you'll find this: "Ignorance of the law is generally not considered a valid defence when an infraction is committed, regardless of the jurisdiction where the Company is operating." So you'd think they'd point folks to what the law might be, no? No. But here's a clue from Indiana Business Journal back in March: "Our partners at The Times of Northwest Indiana report ArcelorMittal USA Chief Executive Officer Michael Rippey wrote to Daniels the day after the proposal was passed by the General Assembly. He says exemptions in the bill for some workplaces are "arbitrary and capricious" and lack any 'rational basis.'" H'mm, the plot thickens.

Elsewhere -- more or less -- our dear, dear pals at the Indiana Chamber of Commerce now claim they, too are only miffed that the law is inconsistent -- why, it doesn't even exempt banks! Got news for ya, kiddo: I carry a gun into the bank all the time. It hasn't leapt up and tried to rob the place yet and neither have I. Shocking, isn't it? Tellya what, a few more armed bank employees'd slow the robbery rate right down, too. If we did a little wayback action, we'd find IC0fC was totally opposed to the law when it was just a bill. Fascinating. They claim it's all about property rights -- yet my car or other vehicle is my property and the law specifically does not allow me to remove my firearm from it while on my employer's property. Golly gee, Mr. Chamber, how's that work? Are the only citizens with property rights you recognize named Inc., Co. and LLC? Stunning. And tell me, dear ICofC, when did you and the Euros end up singin' in such sweet, sweet harmony?

Oh, for a cluebat. But I guess that would be wrong. Have to pelt 'em with lawyers, instead.

Interesting Post-McDonald Discussion

...Over at esr's place. Includes a nice pointer to a challenge to "may issue" in California.

In other news, the first day of "guns in your car at work" in Indiana was marked by being just like the previous day. Hmm.

Thursday, July 01, 2010

What Earthworms Admire

A post at Atomic Nerds sent me into Wiki-land, looking at tetrapods, where I found one sort that are anything but four-footed. They do have a well-developed skeleton and strong, strong skulls, but if you met one, you'd probably take it for Conan the Earthworm: caecilians. They're actually more like Mr. Magoo, as most sorts have eyes so simple all they can see is if it's dark or light out; this hardly matters, as they spend most of their workday tunneling through wet dirt like organic piledrivers.

They're the guys parent earthworms would (if they had, you know, speech-capable brains) tell their young to eat all the dirt on their plates so's they can grow up to be like; ain't gonna happen but hey, gotta have goals. (Then again, there's evidence they bear the same relation to worms that sparrowhawks do to sparrows...).

Have to wonder if the writer of Tremors had met up with one of these.

Newspapers: Don't Know Much About...Anything

I really should just stop reading it. It can't be good for me; one really expects to feel a great disturbance in the Force, as though a bazillion brain cells just...stopped. Theme music: "Dunno much about History..."

The paper wants to get you jailed; Page One, below the fold: "Gun owners are allowed to bring firearms to work, as long as the weapons are left in locked vehicles." No, no, no! If you do not have a License To Carry Handgun and you are not transporting your handgun unloaded and "in a secure wrapper" for purchase, sale or repair, you are breaking state law. "Handgun locked in your car at work" only applies if you have a permit. Could you have a rifle or shotgun? Possibly; I'd sure want to ask an attorney first.

The paper wants you worried; an editorial today refers to Indiana as "a state known for the looseness of its [gun] laws;" see above for just how "loose" those laws really are. Mr. Editor-thing wants one-gun-a-month laws (despite a lack of hard data showing they do anything but limit the law-abiding) and is still miffed that the state made my home address and other private data -- and that of other permit holders -- unavailable to any noseyparker who could afford the cost of photocopying. Publish yours first, d00d, along with a hint you own something criminals would like to have!

Last, the paper wants you worked up over bad math: syndicated columnist Leonard Pitts fumes that though " terms raw numbers, whites are far and away the biggest users -- and dealers -- of illegal drugs," nevertheless "black men are 12 times likelier to be jailed for drugs while ones..." Gee, it does sound awful -- until you remember that in terms of raw numbers, there are about 5.6 times as many European-Americans as African-Americans, even if we count Kim duToit and Peter in the latter category, while the "12-times as likely" comparison is per capita. Add in the known economic disparities per complexion -- poverty being a better flag for probability of drug use than skin color -- and suddenly "12 times as likely" is trimmed down to size. --Which is not to say there are not police abuses, nor that they do not fall more upon groups least able to afford lawyers and most likely to be around drug-users; but to call it a "new Jim Crow," as he and the author he quotes do, is to indulge in race-baiting hysteria. I suppose that is easier than actually doing something. Which reminds me, Al Sharpton's gonna be blowing into town to raise Cain over a recent police pile-up. It's an ugly incident, extensively covered by local media, has got one officer fired and Rev. Sharpton gives every sign of wanting to make it uglier. Help-ful. Yepper.