Friday, December 31, 2010

Nice Morning!

Turk Turon's in town and with Tam and Brigid (who I am hoping will have has her own report posted in due time), we made a morning of it -- Mongolian Barbecue for brunch, Gander Mountain, Penzey's Spices and the amazing Artisano's for spices, oils and balsamic vinegar. (Our Crew Enters).

And on returning home, he captured the Official Childhood Portrait of Huck the Cat.

A wonderful way to spend half the day and a perfect cure for the headache I woke up with (not to mention the semi-frantic 0h-dark-thirty call from work over a "lost" password -- lost if forgetting the place it has been kept since Day One counts, that is. Guys, that clipboard you sign when logging in every day? Yeah. It's right there. Than Kew).

The House Reads The Constitution

...At least that's the plan, come 6 January. Our local newpaper-ish publication actually headlined the story last week; just this morning, even NPR got around to noticing that the incoming majority party plans to read the entire text of the Constitution of the United States, out loud, including every amendment.

It's a very good start, though a little alarming at the same time -- something like your heart surgeon showing up at the OR with a stack of medical textbooks, commenting, "About time I had a look at these!"

Will it help? Maybe. (Sadly, Bernie Saunders being a Senator, I'm not going to get to see him on C-SPAN, hands over his ears, chanting "no-no-no" as the words are read; and Dennis Kuccinch is serenely confident his very Reddest dreams can be tortured from the text -- with a smile, 'cos he's a deeply nice man. Dammit).

The new crew are also promising a move that will make them work a bit harder: every new bill will be required to include language citing which part of the Constitution gives Congress the power to meddle in whatever the bill covers. A good idea, though even if it has a longer life than most politician's promises (a bit less than a droplet of water on a sizzling-hot griddle), it could easily become a phatic bit of hand-waving over the "necessary and proper" and "general Welfare" clauses.

On the other hand, it means the Congressbeings -- or at least their staffs -- will have to do a bit more digging than required to produce a press handout extolling the virtues of their next Five Year Plan. The more time they spend doing homework for one bill, the fewer they can turn out in a given span of time -- and that may well be the best news of all!

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Eerie Garden

One of the guys at the Skunk Works came up with it, I elaborated on the theme, Tam expanded it:

Picture a weedy, neglected lot. As you walk through it, you notice, every so often, little red spheres on the ground. Five to six feet away from each one, the tips of a pair of oversized shoes protrude from the turf. They're all strangely aligned in regular rows. Here and there, a worn and tilted stone looms and at the base of a few of the stones, you spot a faded plastic flower.

Curious, you approach the nearest one and bend down to take a closer look. Are there eroded words on the stone? And what's up with the flower? As you get even closer, it suddenly squirts water right in your face!

As you back away, you realize the letters spell out a name: B_ZO....

You've stumbled into the Clown Cemetery!

Stop Press!

Watching Fox News makes You Stupid!
Unbiased Study Reveals Horrible "Truth"
Expert Analysis

Huge Bridge In NYC For Sale, Cheap!
Sudetenland Always Part Of Germany, Experts Say!
Make Millions Owning Florida Swamp Land!

There will not be film at 11. Shuddup and take your Soma. It's a freaking cable network, wallpaper for the boob tube. If you don't like it, change the channel.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Made From Stardust

The man who was probably the first to point out in mass media that we -- and everything else -- are made out of stardust has returned to that stardust. Astrophysicist Benjamin F. Peery, late of Indiana and Howard Universities, was 88.

First Man To Orbit Mercury!

I'll have to check the link, but a photo-story covering new USPS stamps puts two NASA-related ones side by-side and appears to confuse Alan Shepard's Mercury spacecraft flights with MESSINGER, the first probe to orbit the planet Mercury. Yayy, science!

What A Difference A Word Makes

My ISP's home page has a news and features feed that occasionally coughs up items of interest; but you do have read the headlines, not just let them flicker by, or you'll see:
UK Tourists Must Wait To Wax Royal Kate
Instead of:
UK Tourists Must Wait For Wax Royal Kate
Under which we learn, "Madame Tussauds wax sculpture museum said it will try to book a sitting with Middleton after her wedding on April 29 and it would then take sculptors up to four months to make the model." Oh, that. What a relief!

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Nannies Abounding

Want to throw away that dead monitor, ancient computer or old analog TV? In Indiana, you'd better move quickly: starting 1 January 2011, you will be required to recycle them. The trash haulers will refuse them. Yes, even if you're frail and 85, you'll have to find some way to get that 250-lb rear-projection Philco that hasn't worked since 1992 to the "e-cycler." And pay them to take it, in all likelihood.

Me, I'm betting there's going to be a lot more casual dumping of destroyed DVD players, VHS tape decks and anonymous beige boxes with Intel Inside®. Coming soon to a vacant lot or a roadside near you! --And, according to the report, just chock full of toxic lead (alloyed with tin in the solder, same as it ever was) and mercury (flatscreen backlights, exactly like the gummint-mandated CFL bulbs in your lights. Will we be made to e-cycle those, too?). See "Consequences, Unintended."

Our "Newspaper:" Smoking = Mass Murder

Yes, they said it. On the "conversations" page, which used to be Editorials. I guess the purple is not so bright a hue under the other label?

They headlined it "Snuff out smoking in public," even though they are not -- at this time -- calling for the snuffing of smokers themselves. (At least not 'til the scrubbers are fitted on the crematoria smokestacks). Under it, breathless bullet-points float unsupported by hard data: "Smoking bans do not hurt the bar and restaurant business," and, "Secondhand smoke is not merely an annoyance, but a killer on a mass scale."

Yowza. Y'know, I find the aroma of cigarette smoke distasteful. Oh, a faint whiff of the fresh stuff isn't so bad; I grew up with smokers and smoked myself for a long time. But more than that, especially if it even a little stale? Yuck! But calling for a total ban in workplaces and "enclosed public spaces," as the Star does, is nothing but nannying, for-your-own-good interference with individual rights, exactly the same as Temperance or drug prohibition, without even the thin excuse that users are an immediate, unavoidable danger to others.

Dear Indy Star: The Government is not your Mommy -- or anyone else's, either. If you don't like the smoke, avoid it.


From the Not Sure It Helps dep't, seen at Wikipedia:For some reason, I saw something different:Y'know, they had plenty of other news items. There was no compelling reason to put the one next to the other.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Back To The Grind

After three days, I almost miss it. Almost. Today might be interesting: thanks to holidays and an op or two out sick, I'll be putting in some time running the stuff I usually only install and repair. Not quite the same skill set.

Speaking of "grind," my next magical trick will be to port IWOAS the book back to "trade size," maybe add an extra or two, and set it up for the Ka-Blam! version. There's no short cut, it's just one step at a time. Hoping to start on that this evening. (Also, I need to learn more about how Word handles page numbers -- and how to cheat it) (I think I just found that!).

Sunday, December 26, 2010

I Work On A Starship: Book For Sale!

The version is up now. Find it here.
Or you could use this, which includes a downloadable version:
Support independent publishing: Buy this book on Lulu.

Boxing Day Food

Brunch was ham steaks and fried eggs, with a nice splash of white wine sauce and rye toast on the side, just in case. No photos. no recipe; Fresh Market sells the sauce ready-make in a box, the ham is heat & serve, the eggs got a quick sprinkle of dill. Nevertheless, the combo is decadent!

Truck: I Suppose I'm Crazy

Nevertheless, Mahindra's "little big trucks" look awfully interesting. If they're serious about 'em, they're probably rugged little devils; India picked up the British tradition of mechanical engineering and their stuff, while it may be smallish and quirky by U.S. standards, has to hold up to heavy use.

At one time, Indian build quality could be generalized as more about function than form and perhaps more about budget than either of those. That seems to be a-changin'. The Mahindra tractors sold here have a decent reputation and it is clear they're after the global market.

A local Ford dealer will be selling the trucks and I believe I'll have to go for a test drive. I drove my ex's Samurai for years and loved it -- the growly little diesel minitruck could be a lot of fun.

(On the other hand -- I do luv these. Not practical, alas.)

I'm Up! I'm Up!

Not Word One in my head yet this morning. Huck the Cat is waging a minor war with his own tail; Rannie (officer-level Head Cat In Charge) is watching with great interest, hoping he'll lose.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Zombie Awareness For The Holidays

A long-lost 1950's instructional film, just in case Zombie Apocalypse strikes at Yule -- forget "duck and cover," it's "commence firing!"

Christmas Brunch

Some people have turkey (again) or goose; some have a fine ham.At Roseholme Cottage, we had bangers & mash with scratch-made onion gravy and fried cabbage. Looking at the larder, I was tempted to mix things up a bit by making colcannon, but decided cabbage on the side would work better.

Simple, hearty, warm fare for a cold and snowy day.

Update: I had a question about the cabbage. There's nothing to it; cut into narrow wedges, slosh a little bit of red wine vinegar or cider vinegar on them, sprinkle a couple of pinches of sugar on each side and fry, briefly, next to the sausage. I cheated on the bangers a bit, too -- they were such fine, fat examples that I set a pan lid over them for part of their cooking time to ensure they'd cook all the way through.

Merry Christmas!

Or whatever you do for the holiday, whatever you call it, the very best to you and yours.

I Work On A Starship: Christmas Story

This one's from the smugglers free-traders of the Far Edge:
I knew he was a glocker crewman the first time I saw him. The skinsuit gives them away; the working stiffs never bother to unfasten their gloves, even in civic pressure or on a planetary surface. He was sitting disconsolate in one of the little bars near the old cargo port on Smitty's World.

Continues here.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Flabbergasted By The Headline

Reuters: "Iraqi kills daughter who wanted to be suicide bomber."

Parse that with your Western Civ. sunglasses on. One less ijitbomber, that's a win for our side; but a parenting skills fail for Papa and I certainly would not call it a step forward for any shade of feminism. Addressed that teen crisis that a bit late, didn't we?

(I'm picturing the Network TV after-school special, Touched By A Mad Mullah:
DAUGHTER: "But Dah-dee, all the other popular girls are going to blow themselves up in New York, Paris and London!"
FATHER: "I don't care if they do it in Washington or Jerusalem! My house, my rules and that's another beating for you. If you bring it up again, you'll be honor-killed."
DAUGHTER: "You are sooo unfairr!" Runs from room, clutching her hijab to her face, weeping.)

Call Me Soft-Hearted

...But accused axe murderers who behave themselves behind bars generally get better treatment than PFC Manning.

Look, even if you stipulate the kid set out with deliberate intent to release information that would get soldiers killed and otherwise committed acts for which he can be stood up against a wall and shot, that's no excuse for being woke up through the night to confirm to the guards he hasn't, what, bit through his tongue and escaped justice by drowning in his own blood? Howcome he's sleeping in skivvies under genuine non-shreddable, abrasive blankets after the .mil's own head-shrinkers have said he's not a suicide risk? (He's got to hand over all his other attire at bedtime). What's with "exercise" consisting of an hour a day walking in circles, and no sit-ups or push-ups allowed in his cell?

Someone's gonna come back with soldiers in the field operating under far harsher conditions (true, but generally required for their mission) or the fact that folks grabbed by Random Islamofascist Ijits are often treated far worse and run the risk of starring in a televised beheading to boot. True and irrelevant, unless you think we're no better than a bunch of bloody-handed jumped-up goat-herders. This is the frikkin' U.S. of A.; we can keep one secretary-in-uniform locked up and outta harm's way (they've got 'im in solitary, lest some other uniformed miscreant try to pick up brownie points by short-circuiting normal procedures) and still treat him no worse than, say, the rat-bastards awaiting trial at Nuremburg were treated. Bring him up before justice, present the evidence, make a determination of guilt or innocence and render sentence. Until then, he ought to receive the same tender consideration that all the other Maximum Detainees receive -- no more, but no less, either. A sheet, a T-shirt, perhaps some good, healthy time outdoors maybe turning big rocks into littler ones; if he needs shot, there's plenty of time to do that by the book. It's not like there's any need to find out who his co-conspirators or ringleader might be.

Update: Howling snakes! --I guess I cannot get across that this isn't about how cushy he's got it compared to Nathan Hale or John Andres or even poor grunts on the front lines; it's about the government's treatment of a citizen accused of a (very serious) crime while awaiting trial. Punishment phase starts after the official determination or guilt or innocence, remember? And if they'll do it to him with our tacit approval, they'll find it all the easier to do it to you after your impassioned posting on the duty of citizens to resist UN gun-grabbers steps on the wrong toes and you're cooling your heels in the hoosegow waiting for your turn before a court. We have standards for the treatment of prisoners, especially of those who have not yet had their day in court, and we risk much when we bend them.


I slept in. Need to get the latest on family. (Thinking about making an omlette if all is well. Bacon-Swiss, maybe? Or I've got bangers and tatties for mash. Or my fave, hash & eggs....but that gets old for anyone except me.)

Update I: Mom okay, wants to put off thinking too much about matters medical until after the three-day weekend and has been, so far, successful.

Update II: a 5-egg omlette containing bacon, Swiss cheese and a slice of Lebanon bologna; the eggs seasoned with a little bit of paprika, cumin and dill. And a dash of Cholula on it. Yum! And yes, I can fold a five-egg omlette. There isn't even a trick to it. (Firefox thinks it should be "omelet." Best two outta three?)

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Not A Good Day

Idiot docs sent my Mom home --"for Christmas" -- while they arrange for her surgery. Despite the fact that she's had blood pressure issues both nights in the hospital. Mom wanted to do it and my sibs do not seem to have put up much of a fight

I had to work, of course. The wheels fell off both of today's major projects; one wasn't a big deal, client had to get stuff set up at their end and made some ugly booboos, but that's out of my hands.

The other one...test equipment had revealed a problem, a bad RF cable (big, fat stuff, 1-5/8" OD and a few hundred feet of it). We bought the latest-greatest replacement at no trifling expense. The riggers go up, disconnect the bad end...and the antenna feed assembly falls apart. Bad spot in the cable was thirty feet back from that and that's the two ends of a great big almost-flapping-in-the-breeze loop. So, no fix, more spending of money that we really do not want to be spending before we get near to resolving the problem; my department already makes accountants hallucinate.

Came tearing home, made a dinner I had been wanting all day (beef stir-fry, from scratch), got whacked with a migraine eating it and with that comes the unhappy tummy; sat down at the computer and as soon as I brought up the browser, my anti-virus warned me it had three weeks to go. Tried to pay that while Tam attempted to show me a video she had shot on her new iThing and so, of course, I got shirty with her 'cos I am just that kind of a good, good friend. And then the paying thing turned into a huge goat-rope ("Make up a password!" "Are you left-handed?" "Sign up for Eternal Autopay!") and I dumped out of it. What do I need to do to just lay out some cash and avoid the third degree for anti-virus software? Can that even be done?

Hap-py Holidays. Wake me up when they're over, please.



I'm off to the dentist (again) at oh-too-early today, then to work where I get to race the holiday with a pair of major-big-deal projects while Mom is in the hospital. On the other hand, I have a house and the heat and light works.

World War Next

China launches aircraft carrier ahead of schedule! Oceania has always been at war with Eastasia! Who gets to be the next Manchukuo?

WikiLeaks Leaks Russian Secrets

Little something for those of you who were grousing how Julian "Mr. Class" Assange was only releasing item that damaged the United States government. Nope, he's a general stepper-on of toes. Not all of his unwilling dancing partners play as nice as our guys; in this case he has (oh shock horror) linked the highest levels of the Russian government to (dramatic fanfare) organized crime! Who could'a guessed?

I remain in favor shining light into the bloated dark places of nation-states; it's unfortunate that Assange is an uber-jerk and even more so that he encourages half-wits to forsake their oaths...but if you leave "secret" info out where a secretarial-pool PFC can get at it, just how secret was it, really?

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Mom Update; Bonus, I'm An Idiot

Turns out it's serious. There will be surgery. Prognosis is pretty good but it is certainly not what she wanted for Christmas. No word on when yet; they are still enticing surgeons by gently crumpling large-denomination bills in front of them. "Ooo, is that James Madison I hear? Salmon P. Chase? Ooooo, thazza good cardiac surgeon! Sit up, now, sit up and schedule an OR and you'll get a treat! Nice li'l Grover Cleveland treat!" They're less hungry around the holidays, alas.

Oh -- and I lost my temper at my boss's boss, who called me at the hospital and stupid me, in "family trouble" mode, I answered without checking the number and tripped right into "solve problem" before I caught myself. Smooooooth all 'round, especially since the question was mooted by the client. This on a project my end of which (the most hardware-intensive part) has been in place and working for a month -- but a peer did some deceptive things with his portion of it and left on vacation having stuck us with a system we all thought worked, but didn't. (It was tested. He faked his part). Interestingly, this meant everyone else on the project was to blame, even the one who has been away from it for a week and a half on another deadlined, high-visibility project (yep, me), literally miles away. There was very grim talk about our poor work ethic and I ended up putting in more OT hours than I can admit to, reverse-engineering workarounds for a problem I did not create, having to cut short time with my Mom in the hospital -- because I have such a bad, bad attitude. Why, I'm just about a Bolshevik.

When I get it to the printers, please buy my book. :)


...Is undergoing heart catheteization this morning. She had some blood pressure problems overnight. She would appreciate your good wishes and prayers -- and so would I.

FCC Adopts "Net Neutrality"

Interestingly, there's some thought that the FCC may not have the authority to make "net neutrality" rules -- oh, yeah, and those rules are anything but "neutral." There's already talk of a checkmate by Congress.

Always interesting to me that the worst enemy of the Bill of Rights is our own government.

It's The Most ______ Of The Year

And another semi-local LEO has been nicked for DUI in a squad car. On duty.

When it comes to stressful, when it comes to "long stretches of boredom punctuated by moments of sheer terror" or, worse yet, hours of nail-biting tension, police work rates right up there with the toughest jobs. This is a well-nigh inevitable predictor of a few members of the group having seriously major substance-abuse problems; but I still wonder, do their peers hate these guys? If any group is in a position to know the signs, if any bunch is in a position to see the detrimental effects of habitual drunkenness, it's police.

So they're either "protecting" their over-indulging peers -- "protecting" them right out of a career -- or they really don't care. I'd actually accept the latter, even though I'd rate it cold-hearted, but the problem is that a problem drinker with a gun, a badge and an official vehicle he racks up a lot of mileage in on the same roads as you and me is a much bigger problem for those around them than the drunk who toddles off the neighborhood bar or liquor store and not-quite-staggers back home.

Seriously, officers, if you have peers who drink to excess, don't just look away; don't make excuses. Either get them some help or rat them out to the brass. They're a danger to those they are sworn to protect and they are a danger to you.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Tuesday Evening

Today was a bad day. Started well enough, I was on time to the dentist and I only had two cavities. Small and easily-filled, though a bit critical; I have to return Thursday.

Got paged at the dentist. Even though I'd notified the notables where I'd be well in advance, they had not seen fit to share that knowledge. But hey, still not too bad, it was a minor thing and could wait.

Got to the lonely ol' North Campus and the place had not been plowed. But my car made it through.

And the guys showed up a few minutes later and plowed the place out, hooray!

It was all downhill from there. I was only at the place to get a load of scrap picked up. The salvage outfit could not promise an early pickup; my boss really, really wanted me Out Of There and doing usefuller things ASAP. In the middle of mediating that minefield, my celphone rang.

My Mom is back in the hospital. Severe shortness of breath and could I get over there soonest, please?

Added that to the series of e-mails and phone calls and got it okayed, once I made arrangements to have the salvagers call me when they were en route.

Looked outside to see if the plowing was done; it was. But the electric gate was shutting about a quarter of the way, backing off, waiting a minute and trying again, over and over. Got a shovel and drove the third of a mile to find big piles of plowed snow blocking the photocells that keep the gate from shutting on cars and trucks that get in its way. Shoveled it out, took the shovel back and got to the hospital where I am very pleased to report Mom was doing much better.

It's still something of a mystery what happened, though, and they are keeping her to run more tests.

Naturally about the time they decided to move her from the ER to a regular room and my sibs and such and I were told to stay out of they way for twenty minutes or so, which we did by grabbing a bite to eat, my phone rang. The salvage guy and not on the way, oh no, he was at the gate.

At least it was close. I wolfed down my burger and left with a cuppa coffee and a slice of pie to let him in.

...And swap e-mail with my boss, who had spent the last two days seeing the wheels coming off a deadlined project over and over, no matter what he did. As soon as the big truck left, I was headed down to the main Skunk-Working Facility to try to help get things back on track.

Which I think I managed, though not without a lot of frustration, particularly with a co-worker who went on vacation and left his part of the job half-done at best. Plus I worked over by a lot more than I intended.

Updates from my family helped with one worry -- Mom continues to do well.

Barely made it to the market to pick up some yummies for (I hope) breakfast tomorrow and arrived home three hours late to find Tam had had a lousy day, too.

On the good side, cats Rannie and Huck are -- ever so slightly -- playing together. This is a huge step for Rannie, who had been simply loathing the little guy, and something of a change for Huck, too, since he'd been bedeviling Rannie for the joy of making her cuss. Maybe they're starting to accept one another.

I sure hope tomorrow is a better day.

Tuesday Morning

Three fresh inches of snow on the ground (and the residential streets), plus freezing mist. On the happy side, it appears the moon was not devoured overnight and the Northern Hemisphere's* long short day's journey into light is clicking along the cosmic rails right on schedule.


I am within a dozen pages of being done proofreading. Planning to accomplish the last little bit of editing and formatting over the long weekend and I should be ready to send I Work On A Starship off to the printers!


Speaking of the Hidden Frontier, the next chapter in the current arc is undergoing some revision -- we were about to do a bit of possible endangerment that was entirely uncalled for.


And speaking of revision, I'm off to the dentist this morning , though I don't know who it will be. Recently learned my dentist passed away unexpectedly. He was a very good guy and my heart goes out to his family, and to his co-workers, who thought very highly of him.
* Gloat all you like, Australians, EnZedders and everyone else far enough south of the Equator to get a winter-type Winter. Your turn is coming. What goes around the Sun† comes around, axis tilting as it rolls!

† I called it the "Sum" in the first draft but that just didn't add up.

Monday, December 20, 2010

View From The Top

Remember that candelabra TV tower from a few days ago? It turns out my friends at Eagle Tower Service shot some video there:

But wait! There's even more climbing to be done! (And you'll see I was wrong about the antenna being a top-mount. It's side-mounted to a flimsy-looking pole)

Catch his last clear line? "I hate these poles!" Maybe so, but not as much as the rest of us fear them. That last few hundred feet, cantilevered out over emptiness? No thank you.

Fire Frank Straub

The contract of Indianapolis PSH -- sorry, PSD -- Frank Straub goes before the full city-county council tonight.

As an anti-gun, East-coast Public Safety Director in charge of this city's deeply messed-up police department, Dr. Straub has done nothing positive, belittling Indianapolis Metro Police as "rubes" while retaining bad officers, snarking at citizen gun ownership and continuing an overall downward spiral.

If you hope to fix IMPD, he's a starting point: get rid of him. Fire Frank Straub!

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Astrophyics Made Stupid

(Hat tip to Radley Balko)

So, there's a full Lunar eclipse on the winter solstice this year, a once-in-456-year event, just like clockwork. But is that enough some some people?

Oh, hells no. "It's a ritual of transformation from darkness into light," says Nicole Cooper, a high priestess at Toronto's Wiccan Church of Canada.

Lookit, I get that religion is, among other things, a set of tools for dealing with life, an attempt to make the infinite human-scaled (or vice-versa), but does the lily of reality always need gilding?

Fine, then. That's it. I'm gonna go bang on a pot lid in the back yard during the eclipse as precautionary measure. Sure, it looks like an alignment of celestial bodies, a truly mind-expanding thing to consider in its vastness and majesty, but it could be the Fenris wolf after the moon and by golly, he can't have it. You spit that out! Bad dog!

(Update: Received interesting linkage from a couple of non-silly and presumably thick-skinned current or former Wiccans, one of whom points out the symbolism was perhaps less conducive to the Rebbecca of Sunnybrook Farm read than the expert I linked to appeared to believe. Which goes to show, among other things, that reasonableness is where you find it. One does wonder how those so inclined interpreted the veil of clouds that hid the sight from most of the Midwest).

A Very Successful BlogMeet

Featuring our occasional visitor from a couple states over, PA State Cop! As well as Nathan, Joanna, Old Grouch, The Jack, Tam and Your Correspondent.

I handed out proof copies of the book (filled with errors) in both formats and I'm hoping for comment one way or 'tother; verdict seemed to be they were very close on quality and it came down to preference for trade size vs. paperback.

Many splendid tales were swapped and the usual interesting convergence/overlap of interests was found. (For instance, PA State Cop? Huge Discworld fan -- but aren't we all?) And you could've heard 'em and added your own -- if you'd'a been there!

A lot of gun talk, of course; it turns out one of the assembled has developed a yen for nickel-plated revolvers...and an allergy to nickel. :( There's always hard chrome, though it doesn't have the same soft sheen.

A cold day like this, many of us had BRBP's chili (served, in some versions, with guacamole sauce and tortilla strips; on a whim, I combined 'em all: yum!). Their large, soft pretzels were very much in evidence, too.

...And when we headed home, Tam discovered she had a low tire. It's been aired up and we'll see if it holds.

A Cautionary Pun For The Holidays

It was a sad, sad tale. Her parents had divorced; her mother married a Temperance man and took her far, far away from the small Pennsylvania town where her father remained, eking out a living at his tiny distillery.

As a child, she was Temperance, too. But as an adult, overcome by holiday stress, she received a gift bottle of her father's product, forget her pledge, and fell prey to her Parumph, PA Pa rum.
P.S.: Close, but no hooch bottle. Hmm, Pahrump envy?

Saturday, December 18, 2010

One-Term Mayor Ballard

I gave in and went to Family Christmas today. Despite it all, none of 'em are getting any younger.

I did get a nice "every time I see a hunting show, they're using AR-15's. Why do they need an assault weapon to hunt deer?" lecture from a nephew who ought to know better; he looked nonplussed when I pointed out A) the 5.56 x 45 is less powerful than many "deer rifle" cartridges and B) the appeal of the AR-15 platform is the flexibility and the sheer number of gadgets and widgets available for it. (Not to mention they're pretty cheap if you assemble your own). Didn't address the "need" thing 'cos the guy isn't talking about justifying ownership, he honestly seems to think it's some sort of laser-guided full-auto critter exploder.

An okay time otherwise and I have a very smart and funny set of nieces, nephews and great-niece and nephew.

But that's not what I'm here to write about. Nope. See, Mom X lives in adjacent small town another county and I could help but notice that all, a-double-l all of the streets were plowed. Clear of snow.

Meanwhile, down here in The Big City? Not so much. Oh, the main roads were plowed, the secondaries got a quick pass of the blade, a lot of salt and traffic did most of the work. Back where Roseholme Cottage lurks, nothing. You're several blocks in on icy ruts. Days, there's a thin coating of slush, dirt and maybe some salt; a few hours after sunset, it's hard snow if you are lucky, slick ice if you're not.

And one-term Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard? He tells us we will only see a plow on residential streets if there's more than 6 inches of snowfall in a single event; otherwise, tough tootsies, Toots.

There's another two to three inches of snow headed our way next week, maybe more if the odds break wrong. In all likelihood, that means Roseholme Alley will become impassable without snowblower and shovel work. As for the streets leading out to the major thoroughfares, I can only hope by the time I dig my way out to them there will have been enough SUV traffic to clear a path. Got the picture?

Now multiply it by some hundreds of thousands, all over the city.

And that's why I write, "one-term Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard." Y'know, you can be pretty lousy on guns (and he is) and still stay mayor. You can have lousy cops and still stay mayor. Look at Chicago or Columbus; look at Memphis. Look at at NYC! But you don't mess up on plowing the streets and get another turn.

Greg Ballard. Former Marine. Republican. What a disappointment. And the guy from the other team who replaces him will only be worse.

Huck The Cat

He's claiming things -- hearts, for example. And doorframes.Also squirrels. (Gotta love that neckerchief in the first image).

Okay, It Works

It just looks wrong.

"A little to the left -- no, my left, keep going, keep going. Perfect!"
Rilly?The arrangement is called a "candelabra," because normally it has two or three antennas at the top. They even make money by renting out the extra vertical real-estate. Too bad these guys met up with a little slump in the market.

I'm told there are counterweights on the other two corners, btw. Whew!

Update: For scale, you're looking at the top, um, call it a third of a 1000-foot tower; that mast is in the 150' - 200' region and there is quite a view from it.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Ka-Blam, Made Of Win!

Received my order of I Work On A Starship from Ka-Blam! and I am quite pleased with their work. The books are exactly as promised, right down to the "slightly blurry" covers they warned my low-rez artwork would cause. The few photo illustrations came out fine and the text is crisp and clear. (Many of the comic-book/graphic novel folks use Ka-Blam! and speak highly of them. Opinion is divided over their requirement of TIFF rather than PDF for artwork but that's an equipment issue -- that argument is with the hardware, not the people running it).

...Mind you, it has all my typos, omitted words and continuity errors, just like the version; but that's on me and I'm fixing it. I think Ka-Blam!'s binding is better; the other guys have slightly heavier cover stock but not as shiny. Whattaya think?Yes, I will have a few of each at the BlogMeet. I'll have my marked-up copy, too. It's bleeding blue pencil and every one of those oopsies, I made with my very own hands.

I live in an amazing time and place. Hey, so do you!

Indy BlogMeet This Sunday!

There will indeed be a BlogMeet 19th December, come perdition or high snow! 3:00 p.m. at Broad Ripple Brew Pub. See sidebar for details.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Happish Hellidays

The strangely brilliant and brilliantly strange Garfunkel and Oates with their very own take on the holidays: "Present Face." C'mon, you've done that expression.

Teching And Bodging

The previous post and some of the comments got me to thinking about what I will and won't do, technology-wise.

The trade-offs are time, skill, tools and trouble. We needed a new garbage disposal last week; I hired it done. It's not that hard to replace the things and it'll save almost $300, but I was very busy with work and it is a royal pain wrestling 'em into position; I paid a plumber to do it. For other plumbing, it depends on the pipe; all the half-inch copper accepts those nifty push-together fittings. There's some plastic pipe with crimped fittings in the system, though, and I don't trust it nearly as much. I'll probably end up paying a plumber to change out critical bits to copper, when it needs it, and finish it up myself.

I paid an electrician to install new receptacles in my bedroom and the washroom, plus a vent fan in the latter. I could have done it but I don't like opening up a panelboard when I'm by myself, plus he did a much neater job than I could have. On the other hand, I had to point out where he could install the new breakers by removing an unusable range circuit.

On my MGB, I would do everything but adjust the carburettors and valves and major engine work. The first takes experience to do well and the second, well, the procedure is insane, not to mention messy; the tiny engine has to be warmed up, shut off, valve cover yanked and everything set quickly before it cools off; a really cautious mechanic slaps the valve cover back on and has you drive it around the block after he's got halfway so it stays warmed up. I let the shop (gone now and much missed) change it over to electronic ignition, too. (The old distributor conked out and that particular version wasn't available -- they had several different curves for the vacuum advance, to match the carb needle valves. Electronic retrofits can fake it). On the other hand, I've installed new gas tanks and gauge sending units, thermostats, a clutch master cylinder, even changed out a driveshaft U-joint and replaced the front disc brake pads and flexible lines. Newer cars, I'm done at plugs, filters and driveway oil changes -- and it is so much easier to drive through for the latter now.

So it depends. But I still think one ought to at least know enough to see if the hired help is doing a good job or not.

A local HVAC outfit managed to put themselves on my "never hire" list when I was buying this house. On inspection, there was a crummy so-called permanent filter in the furnace, gummed up and flapping in the airflow, too small for the opening. The inspector and I requested it be changed to a proper-sized pleated filter and sure enough, the seller had his long-term HVAC guys do that and included the receipt in the paperwork, showing the work had been done. The first time I went to change the filter? You guessed it. The very same lousy filter. They'd done nothing. And been paid for it.

The basics are not that complicated -- hot on the left, cold on the right and drains run downhill; live wire is the narrow blade, black wire; neutral is wide blade, white wire; ground is the green or bare and the U-shaped pin.* Flues gotta connect, filters need to be tight all the way round and if you can't see light through them, they're probably toast. Reader's Digest turned out a "home handyman" type book and it (or a similar tome) is worth owning even if you never do any of the fixing yourself, because it will tell you how the fixing should be done. You don't need to be an expert, you only need to be able to read and to think -- and to know what your own limits are.
* Unless you don't happen to live in North America. Elsewhere, if you are lucky, you'll find the new "universal" color coding: hot wire is brown, toasty brown; the neutral is blue, cool blue; the ground or earth wire will be green with a yellow stripe. But older homes? Could be anything, check your local codes and practices and ditto on how to wire up sockets. UK and Commonwealth counties with 220-240V mains may find red for hot, black for neutral and clear for earth but do NOT take my word for it. Adjacent countries used the same or similar colors for different functions; way back when, they didn't compare notes and there were only so many colors available. The U.S. practice of using white for neutral supposedly comes from electricians marking the return wire with chalk back when black rubber and cloth insulation was common.

Life's Better When You Know How Things Work

...In which Nathan struggles with a left-handed thermocouple and wins, then gets to school a doomsayer for his encore.

As a short-term fix, he'd duct-taped the critter in place, which provoked this response:
"Geez. When the water heater blows and launches through your roof, I wonder if it will look like the contrail in LA last month."

Nathan for the win: "It can't blow. [...] See, a thermocouple is a dielectric generator that puts out a couple of millivolts of electricity when it is heated (e.g., by the pilot light). It is connected to and holds open a normally-closed solenoid valve. If the pilot light goes out, the electricity stops, and the valve snaps shut, cutting off the gas. It does, in fact, fail safely, which is what happened when the thermocouple went bad[...]."

Yep. No moving parts. No external source of juice. Heat it up, it makes electricity; cool it down, it doesn't. This is true no matter if the lack of heat is from the pilot light going out or the thermocouple falling out of its awkward, backward threads. (And if you think that's fun, the ancient coal-converted-to-gas furnace in my house in Collegetown even ran the thermostat on the thermocouple voltage; talk about failsafe! And it would run and heat the house, albeit without forced air, even when the power was out.)

I don't know when it became popular to assume that all household appliances are monsters teetering on the brink of explosion and that all American men are hapless boobs when it comes to fixing them, but it's not true. It's funny in sitcoms because it's not true.
For the record, I vote with Nathan: left-hand threads on a common thermocouple is just stupid. I'd be very tempted to note the backwards threading on the water heater with a Sharpie or a paint pen.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

I'm So Happy

"Lurking under our nation's beautiful Capitol dome is the most-hated Congress in history, with a 83 percent disapproval rating..." Elspeth Reeve, spreading the good news at The Atlantic Wire.

It's not like Congress is ever all that well-liked, which you'd think would be a lesson to them to stop trying so hard; but they have reached a new low. And kept on digging. But hey! The new guys promise to dig more slowly!

Tomcat Kitten: Reality vs. Vet-Speak

Vet: "He likely won't eat much. Give him half his normal amount of food tonight"
Cat: Came home, gobbled a quarter of the usual amount, went looking for more. Fed more in an hour, he went looking for even more and knocked over a three-quarters full container of unpopped popcorn, possibly on the theory that it was making the right kind of sound when bumped. Ran like mad when it hit the floor and kernels went everywhere. Later, I hand-fed him dry cat food, which went okay except for his intense need to pursue any dropped kibbles. Over about six hours, he had about two-thirds of his normal amount and decided he probably wasn't going to starve.

Vet: "He may just go hide until he feels better."
Cat: Bounced around the house like A. A. Milne's Tigger, only more so. Attacked his scratching post (and the Feathered Thing atop it) and various mouse-shaped toys. When I went to bed, he had a toy Rannie discarded as too big, a kind of fat, furry rat that seems to contain a tennis ball and has a long, furry tail. He'd chased it behind the washroom door and was laying on the other side, energetically slapping the tail sticking out from under the door while working it around with his other paw, a combination of target practice and puppetry.

Vet: "He will probably be drowsy, especially after he gets his pain medicine."*
Cat: Behaves as though it is an energy drink. He finally climbed on my bed about 2:30 in the morning. He did manage to flop down next to Rannie (look, I'm mildly cat-magnetic; I didn't set out to suborn Tam's cat) without irking her too much and even restrained the urge to attack her tail. That's about the only change in his behavior so far.

("See this?" Rannie says, "This is my annoyed tail. It means Don't Touch." Huck: "Neato!" And makes a wild swipe at it.)

Vet: "No baths for the next two weeks."
Cat: No baths ever!

He's a house-tiger!
* Yes, they have pain meds for cats now. Kinda neat.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Para Handy

You've maybe heard of him? Or not.

My most recent foray into the wonders of canals and canal boats led me to the little steamboats -- Clyde puffers -- that hauled this and that on the wider canals and eventually around the Scottish coast, beginning not too long after the States ended their Late Unpleasantness and continuing as late as 1993.

You cannot so much as look at a Clyde puffer without running smack into Para Handy, dreamed up by Neil Munro in 1905. Oh, he never really existed; he's more colorful than real life ever was. And yet somehow his ship -- the Vital Spark, "the smartest boat in the trade" -- and his tiny crew and the skipper himself are iconic of the entire enterprise and uncommonly good fun besides.

Written with dialog largely in dialect (and one an American speaker of the mother tongue may find not especially permeable), Munro's short yarns paint an endearing picture without a hint of sappy sentiment. If you enjoy Terry Pratchett's Discworld series, you just might like this one.

The accent rings clearer to the ear. Of course the BBC could not overlook so ready a source of material, and produced at least three series, the most recent in the 1990s. And it just happens to be on YouTube:

As for me, I'm inspired to see how a similar tale or two might fare in my own Hidden Frontier. The Edgers are all about small-time shipping and free trade, after all....

The Starship Worker Book Update

(Heh. For two pins, I'd do one from the Russian side of the Hidden Frontier and call it TWS, too).

Item: USAS Lupine mugs are back! If I did it right, the store is here.

Item: Ka-Blam! informs me they've shipped my order, USPS priority. When they arrive, I will have a chance to compare them side-by-side with Lulu and make my selection.

Item: Proofreading is a bit over half done, edits to the MS lagging a chapter behind.

Hoping to be done and at a printer's by New Year's or shortly after, at which point they will be buyable. I will probably put a Lulu-printed version on, as the whole business of getting an ISBN and listing is easier that way, but that's all on spec. The "official" edition, available with autographs, etc. will be whichever one wins on price/quality.

Not sure if I will sell the galley versions or use them to level tables. The .75 errors/page average has not dropped. For some reason, I have trouble spotting even egregious errors unless the book is in my hand, in print.

Out The Door Early

So I must head to the shower. Huck-the-cat has a date with the vet (yes, that, and before he starts to spray) and I need to be there in a bit over an hour.

He's vexed with me for taking his food away last night; this morning, he tried to eat the feathers from a cat-toy and spent a little time gnawing on his own tail.

Monday, December 13, 2010


There's four or five inches of the stuff outside -- on the sidewalks, on the alley, on the roads...on my car.

Snow makes Tam a little giddy; it's still something of a novelty and reminds her of no-school days spent drinking cocoa, reading and having snowball fights (repeat 'til sundown) instead of being blown off the road late on a Friday and only getting home because a busload of High School basketball players happened by on their way back from winning, stopped, and set your car back on the road (with you in it!) by the simple expedient of surrounding it, getting a good grip and lifting. Or the moonlit, snowdrifted 4:00 a.m. in the middle of nowhere when I suddenly realized the road usually had a dip in it about where I my pickup ground to a halt in the deepening drifts. That one took three hours of digging with the only tool available, the previous year's license plate: dig three feet, get in, rock the truck forward and back for four feet of progress and do it all over again 'til I was out of the deepest snow.*

On the other hand, those things are exactly what the snow make me think of. I'm for the shower. There's a little digging and a lot of tricky driving ahead.
* Yes, I drove an F150 for a couple of years. The price was right and I was moving from one city to another when I bought it, so I saved the moving-truck rental, too.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

"'Throttle?' We Just Ring Down To The Engineer!"

The Dornier Do-X; an airplane that did not have a cockpit so much as it had a bridge: (Click for the whole image).And, yes, they really did have an engineer standing watch over the dozen temperamental engines and working the (so to speak) gas pedal: (You've got to click this one).Doesn't look like a low-stress job.

(Does this look like the larval form?)


So, I'm in the washroom when Huck the cat come charging in, leaps onto the stepping-out-of-the-shower towel draped across the rim of the tub, slides on it and goes head-over-tail into the tub with a sold THUMP, spins around and races back out the door. We're finding the towel in the tub or on the floor regularly now; he think it's fun.

This is the same cat that raced in Friday morning while I was brushing my hair (a process involving a lot of exclamations of "Ow!" and stops to untie knots), did a non-Newtonian 180 in midair, bounced and vanished into the narrow space behind the door; when I turned to look, he was about a yard above the floor at the doorjamb and climbing rapidly.

I've had kittens and half-grown cats before but this one? I think Tam is showing him Special Forces and USMC videos all day and he's trying to emulate what he sees.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

We're Doomed! Doomed!

...Hell of it is, we probably are. Stansberry and Associates are creating controversy and turning a tidy profit by telling you about it as a way of selling subscriptions to their service; and since it's prognostication, who's to say he's wrong? Trouble is, they have a mildly mixed reputation; when the first Google return for your name that isn't you contains fighting words like "scam," I gotta suggest the ol' emptor might wanna grain of caveat or two.

On the other hand -- the U. S. Dollar is in sad straits and fixing to become sadder, even with tough ol' Ron Paul on course to be chairing the committee that has oversight on the bureaucrats who advise the Fed on-- aw, we're doomed: onions have fewer layers.

You do need to have half a year's food set back (we're three months shy at Roseholme) and water, too (OMG, we have maybe a month); and though it is flat over the long term, gold has the advantage of holding purchasing power while the value of cash money plummets. (There's people swear by silver, which is way below the famous 16:1 ratio. Spin the wheel if you can afford it, I guess). And do those things not because doom is imminently imminent but because it is never all that far away; one winter storm, one tornado, one major illness or accident, one layoff can have you digging into your reserves and getting through -- if you have them.

Interestingly, as talk of a Coming Collapse or Greater Depression-Like-Thingie (GDLT, you read it here first, folks) is bandied about, I've been reading a very apt "seminal book of libertarian thought" that few folks seem to have read: Rose Wilder Lane's The Discovery of Freedom. (Go to Tam's Amazon link, buy a copy. You won't be sorry).

Ms. Lane's thesis, at least in the early going, is that while Government may be inevitable, it is invariably self-destructive as well; for every "service" a government renders past the bare minimum takes away energy that could be put to productive use; Government must inevitably grow to survive (since it accrues layer upon layer); and although "...there is a natural limit to the amount of human energy that Government can waste...," but "because men in Government are using...force, they have no means of knowing what this natural limit is." [Lane, op. cit. p 54, italics in the original].

She opines that societies only grow and prosper when Government is kept small enough that productive effort is not hampered; once Government has got big enough to meddle in economic activity, real progress comes to an end and they coast on past glories, eating up more and more productive capacity in parasitic routine until things fall apart. Government is simply a very complex self-unpowering machine that happens to provide police and courts.

Like that. Only with a lot more steps between "go" and "stopped."

T-Shirt Madness

(Also mugs. I am for some reason having to redo the USAS Lupine mug, btw: it vanished for Reasons Unknown.)

Friends of freedom may want to pick up a State of Jefferson T-shirt; who knows, extreme northern California may, someday, be free. (Imperial Japan ruined the effort last time, which only goes to show what a total rotter Tojo truly was.)

Or maybe you'd like to help build a Beagle -- a sailing copy of the H.M.S. Beagle, that is -- by buying a shirt.

And you can celebrate and promote Joe Huffman's Boomershoot 2011, too!

I Blame CNN

I came to -- it felt more like that than waking up -- with Tam sitting on the foot of my bed and CNN blaring on my TV.

I blame my present soul-searing headache on that.

The TV had gone off at the usual time on the usual channel and The Lodger, in a kindly mood, had come in to turn it off, thought for some reason to see what the commigentsia were thinking (so to speak), changed the channel to Ted Turner's jellybaby and got drawn in by the awfulness of it all.

I returned to full consciousness in time to have my eyeballs tugged out by a push-zoom from a handheld camera moving from the "anchor" (a leaden thing that was preventing motion) to a diminutive meteorologist; this move was followed up by the same handheld staggering across the set to end in a shot of the weatherlady from a vantage at least a foot and a half higher than the top of her head -- a shot they held she proceeded to relate the weather with the usual Ritual Gesturing, accompanied by a disconcerting amount of cleavage. I'm not at all sure what the point was -- drawing in the male viewership, perhaps? -- but as the overture to a headache, it worked all too well.

I've gulped coffee and I'm gonna go cook something. Maybe that will help.

Friday, December 10, 2010

They're Everywhere!

Tam and I are not the only bloggers to adopt a new yellow tigercat!

Have I Mentioned The New Pizza Place?

Bebop. Not as wide a selection of toppings as Bazbeaux but still more than most -- and darned good. Plus, they make a very nice lasagna!

...Yeah, guess what I'm having for dinner....

Update: Bebop's side salad is miles ahead of the competition. OMG. And Dijon vinegarette dressing...!

Freading The Prue, Cat Antics

Update: I had the wrong date for the Sunday BlogMeet! Should have been the 19th. Sorry -- I have a "do not miss" thing on the 18th and I was thinking of it.

...I find I am running about 0.8 mistakes per page. But the first three stories never got a second trip through the keyboard. It should be fairly easy to call up the file and fix them.
Woke up this morning with the sense that a cat was nearby. H'mm, not on my tummy...I turned to my left and Huck was asleep on his back, snug atop the quilt in a valley between my left arm and torso. He leaned his head way back and rolled his eyes to look at me when I reached across and petted him.

Meanwhile, Rannie has taken over the spot behind my monitor where Tommy and The Slinker used to sleep. I think she feels safe there, since I usually eat breakfast at my desk and therefore chase Huck away when he tries to leap up.
Another early day today, so I'll close by saying it looks like the Blogmeet will be 18 19 December. Broad Ripple BrewPub okay?

Thursday, December 09, 2010

They Look So...Book-y

You know I don't even have a word count? But the paperback runs to 314 pages total and they look like this:
Click to embiggenate
Cost to my door was on the near order of $14 per each; pretty as they are (and they're very nice), by the time I make a buck (or, heheheh, two) and send ship them on to you-the-customer, the total is pushin' twenny for a paperback. Ka-Blam can cut that about in half, which is what I'd prefer. Plus it is easier to do my own cover art with them, at least for a given value of "easy."

The cats restored perspective: Huck decided to become Cat In The Box using the box the books were shipped in and Random Numbers approved. She may be estimating postage to Patagonia, though:Very blurry, it was almost dark in the room. Huck had his high beams on but Rannie was dimmed way down.

Various And Questions

No time for much, I have to get an early start. Maybe more later, depending on where I have lunch.

On shirts featuring the Lupine's "nose-cone art," what size should the artwork be? Right now, the image file's big enough for the Zazzlers to do a largeish pocket-type logo, maybe 2.5" or 3" across, upper left. Or I could scale up and do a big version, centered. Any preference?

And I need to pick a time and place for a DECEMBER BLOGMEET. 12 or 19 December?

...The first batch of I Work On A Starship paperbacks should be in my hands this evening. These are essentially "galleys," to be picked over for errors. Of the total (8), I'll only keep two.

And there is a T-shirt design available now! Official Lupine Engineering Shirt. (Ours are ash-grey, btw, but you can pick whatever color/style you'd like)

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Speaking Of Cats

Jeff over at Alphecca has an ill moggie and could use a hand. Just sayin'.

SpaceX Orbits A Dragon

Did it today. Two orbits and return, no one on board; but it's the first time a privately-built spacecraft has done that, managed the whole mission profle you'd need to go Gagarin without having to bum the ride from a Gummint. Story here (may be a bit pop-uppy) and at SpaceX.

Who's flown to orbit and back? Five nations, one group of nations (ESA) and...SpaceX. Run by the same guy who owned PayPal back when they were kewl. He's setting up to haul freight to orbit now and he hopes to sell you a seat someday, too. FedEx, Greyhound, Delta? Move over. New player. New game.

And SpaceX is just the frontrunner. There's an easy half-dozen more coming up behind 'em.

Is It Just Me

Or did you feel a twinge of amusement and maybe a little pity when the President made the far Left of his party foam at the mouth?

Mind you, I'm not happy with the spendthrift "compromise" on keeping tax breaks for everybody (and it is everybody, Big Network News-dolts, not just "the richest two percent") and continuing to spend and spend; but I am glad they worked out something. If it makes Bernie Saunders see red even through his bright-pinko sunglasses, that's all the better. He's threatening to throw a tantrum filibuster. That's standin' up for the workin' man, Bernie: gum up his tax break!

The Coming Thing

Whenever I see coverage from the International Space Station, I am reminded of my work. So many of the devices and gadgets in orbit and on the job don't have front panel controls in the conventional sense; instead, you plug in a computer, either via a LAN or directly and increasingly, without any actual wires.

I was reminded of this by a major CATV provider's latest app: a program guide-based TV remote app for the iPad. (I wonder if it has a "randomize" feature?)

The clock's tickin'. It is only a matter of time before that phone in your pocket or purse becomes the "front panel" for nearly everything around you.

And it is very neat-o, too. Only -- what happens when your phone is misplaced or stolen? Man, you thought losing your keys was bad! (Look for your phone to replace your keys, too. Why haven't they worked up a garage door opener app already?)


For me, the only bar to phone - laptop fusion is that I need a decent-sized keyboard. My 1000-series Eee is about as small as I can use comfortably. Add a mechanical-feedback keyboard to the iPad (bonus points if it folds up like the early Motorola full-sizers -- and yes, they already did it) and a wordproc app as handy as Q10 and I'd be interested. Kinda hard to beat the Eee on price, though.

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

The New Cat

Tam spilled the beans this morning. I'd better 'fess up. His name is Huck. He's a yaller tiger maybe half a year old and full of sass and curiousity.

He showed up in the neighborhood about a month ago and the people everyone thought owned him....didn't.

He had visited Tam and me on the porch, friendly, playful, clean as a new penny and interested in visiting the inside of Roseholme Cottage.

I liked him but I had my doubts. Too soon after my old cats; I'd just found out the vet who took care of Tommy in his final days totally dropped the ball on getting a paw print and I was, well, raw.

But he kept coming back. I left food out for him but I didn't want to encourage him too much, thinking he had a home already.

When the weather turned, one of our neighbors took him in (on their front porch, as they have indoor cats already) and tried to give him back (to the supposed owner) but to avail. And they didn't have room for another cat.

All I knew about then was he'd vanished. I had started to think maybe I had been sent another cat, but guess not. 'Til our phone rang and 'twas The Democrat, our neighbor to the North and a friend to cats everywhere. "Roberta? You remember that yellow tomcat? The [other neighbors] have him but they can't keep him and I wondered if...?"

I was interested. Promised to get him checked out right away. Last Friday I got him and took him to the vet; the weekend passed with the house divided again and Rannie (Tam's cat) had her doubts. Monday, little Huck got a clean bill of health and it has been Cat Dynamics ever since as the Cute Kid and the Elegant Lady work things out. I think he's destined to be In Charge eventually. He certainly thinks so:Woke up last night with him snoozing on me, purring. I believe he's a keeper.

He is fascinated with the bathmat -- and leaves footprints in the tub when he tries to peel it up.

Can't Stop The Huckstering

The Official starship Lupine coffee mug now available!

Buy 'em for the fun of it. If you'd like.
I am making, gee, let's see, carry the e, log of 37... About a buck per each. Eventually. If I don't buy one for myself, but how could I pass that up?

Really Can't Stop The Signal

So, they arrested Julian Assange on the Swedish sex crimes warrant.

So what? Say its true, say he's a horrible, horrible little man, how does that affect the WikiLeaks infodump? It doesn't.

Plug got yanked on servers hosting WikiLeaks; mirror sites sprang up. And up and up.

Say he gets locked away for Swedish violations,* then Eric Holder gets him charged with, I don't know, mopery or Sneaking About While Foreign or receipt of stolen doubleplussecretness and Assange never sees the light of a screen again. So what? There's a thousand more just like him and a hundred thousand wannabes behind them and on and on. For good and ill, the pin's been pulled.

Oh, they -- some "theys" -- could try puttin' a bucket over it; the FCC is champing at the bit to do it now. But they can't do it without calling attention the the fact they're doing it, which is like setting up a superfun Giant Hacker Challenge to get around it, whatever "it" might be. (Some things, like throttling bandwidth, are pert' near impossible to hack around -- but try to bury info others want exposed? Once it's out, it's out. You can't unring a bell).

"The internet sees censorship as damage and routes around it" isn't just a matter of system architecture; it's become a cultural meme.
* I did not check -- I am a Neo-Victorian, you know -- but odds are pretty good you'd find "Swedish Violations" in the adult video section.

The Sigil Of The Starship Lupine

I've finally got a copy posted at I Work On A Starship. I had to track down the artist who did the civvy version after the ship's warship days were ended by the Agreement of 1989. My search ended up in a surprising place.

What sort of guy could take a snarling wolf's head profile and charm it into enjoying the trip? The multi-talented, occasionally pantsless hero of the blogosphere Robb Allen, that's who!


I can't write every lunch hour -- and it was for a good cause.Parts from the junkbox. It even has an "on-air" light. Just about the right size for a gingerbread house.

(It has a Teleprompter, too!)

Monday, December 06, 2010

Raymond Scott Documentary

It's complete and for sale now. I've already ordered my copy. Get yours here!

He was an unusual, multi-talented man, one of the least-known but most-heard fathers of electronic music. If you grew up watching Loony Tunes/Merrie Melodies cartoons, you grew up hearing Raymond Scott tunes.

Word To Your...Congress

I'm always happy to see divided government -- it means they'll spend more time fighting with one another and less time trying to pick my pocket or "improve" me -- but I believe we need to sit the new crop down and give them a stern talking-to.

I'd tell 'em, "You didn't get a mandate. You got this job because the guys before you pilfered the not-so-petty cash and wrote bloated, confusing laws; and the guys before them did the same thing and got into fights, too. We hired you to watch the place and keep us from going broke and only after you have accomplished that should you even think about 'improving' anything." But would they listen?

You've got me there. I don't know if they've ever listened.

A Nice Cuppa' Disorientation

It's kewl but hang on tight: looking up libraries online, Tam and I found a little NYC coffeeshop with a charming book-lined...floor and ceiling!?

At second glance, their angle on the place goes deeper than that -- see for yourself! Their website has a certain charm, too -- and one of the things on it is not quite like the others.

Sunday, December 05, 2010

Live In The Same House And Never Know 'Er

...For instance, Tam once modeled space-age fashion. In an unflattering wig. At least, I hope it wasn't a curl-and-dye job.

New Header!

I Haz One. Are they leaving a squirt-booster launch, or is that just the 8:15 to Tahoma or Bodoni?

Brunch: Icebox Eggs

There wasn't much in the icebox -- okay, fridge (in fact, a British-sized unit with the freezer on the bottom, not one of those massive monsters things get lost in) -- so I improvised: Inspired by vague memories of some TV show in which a celeb cooked up a treat from his youth, eggs scrambled with scraps of day-old tortillas or flatbread or something of the sort.

Got out the Prime Cooking Implement (you may know it as a large, non-stick wok).

I found two strips of bacon, fried 'em.

Diced, I don't know, a quarter of an onion and a handful of baby carrots, sprinkled them with a little cumin and curry powder and let them be while the bacon finished.

Sliced and diced a couple for black olives, a big green olive and a strip of hot pepper, all from a batch of garlicky-pickled goodies.

Ditto a couple of radishes.

Once the bacon was done, I set it aside and dropped in the onion and carrot, plus about half the radishes and olives and sauteed it. The onion turns bright yellow from the curry.

While sauteing, I crunched up about a cup and a half (volume before crunching!) of corn chips -- 50/50 blue/yellow, just whatever we had.

With the onions-plus about done, I dumped in the corn chips and three eggs, turned up the the heat to HI (why, hello) and scrambled for all I was worth. (You use a disposable bamboo chopstick or skewer for this, it's the best way to scramble). Shredded in the bacon as the eggs firmed up, killed the heat when it looked done and added a generous sprinkle of dried chives and cilantro as it was still steaming.

The aroma is enticing -- warm corn, a hint of bacon-smokiness, the chili-scent of onion and cumin atop the delicate curry fragrance, underpinned by the homey scrambled egg.

Served topped with shredded cheese and the remaining radish and olive, salsa added to individual taste. Tam wished I'd made twice as much!

On This Date In 1933, Prohibition Almost Ended

Why, I'll just nip out, buy a fifth at the liquor store and celebra- No? Can't? Okay, I'll pick up a nice bottle of wine at the grocer's* instead- Can't? Fine, I'll visit my neighborhood bar, then; it's too small for a kitchen, so I'll just have a quick cocktail and- What? Closed?

Yeah. But you can still purchase drink on the (Christian) Sabbath in Indiana. In restaurants and wineries, where you've got to drink it where you stand. Breweries can even sell you an actual growler of beer, which you can now, oh wonder of wonders, actually take home to consume. Or just gaze into, while you wonder what other dregs and vestiges of the smaller Grand Experiment plague citizens of other states.

What'd the nannies leave your state with? State-run liquor stores? Bizarre requirements about selling from different registers or even buildings, as though the stuff was radioactive? Did you ever try to get a drink when visiting Kansas? Didja end up with "Local Option?" (Not the only one but the best description I found). Does your state, like many with otherwise almost-sane liquor laws, ban the sale of alcohol on Christmas?

On this date in 1933, Prohibition "ended" in the United States. Kind of. It's enough to drive even me to drink -- but I durst not. Even one drink could put me over the BAC limit.
* They can -- and do -- sell the hard stuff at supermarkets here, too.

Saturday, December 04, 2010

Iron Sky Starts Shooting!

The long-awaited "Nazis on the Moon" film is now in principal photography -- and reveals a bit more about the characters. D. W. Drang has the lowdown.

(Of course I really like this -- though you know it's "hang a lantern on it" disinfortainment about the Hidden Frontier!)

There, I Fixed It For You!

Seen linked at Sebastian's, a bedwetting editorial in the Philadelphia Inquirer Infringer:

"If the General Assembly returns next year with a similar proposal to expand the so-called 'castle doctrine,' the new governor will be faced with endorsing what Rendell calls a 'shoot first, ask questions later' mentality that fails to 'protect the sanctity of human criminal life.'"

Lookie here, Eddie, you ignorant and/or evil beast, telling J. Random Law-Abiding Citizen he can't defend himself or his family and friends when a malefactor threatens them with bodily harm to fails to "protect human life;" conversely, a law that, among other things, shields the legally armed individual from frivolous lawsuits when he has been found to have used a gun in self-defense does "protect the sanctity of human life."

(And when was human life actually sacred and why would protecting that sacredness be better than protecting the actual life itself, anyhow? Something wrong in that man's thinking process).

Why is it guys like the departing PA Governor fret over risks to the life of a hoodlum who points a revolver at you in the alley and demands, "Give it up," while demanding his prospective victims surrender meekly to whatever he might do? His life is sacred, but the life of a law-abiding citizen isn't even worth defending?

Gov. Rendell, baby, this is why you're losing: criminals don't vote. And even their kith and kin are getting tired of being required to knuckle under.


George-from-Canada sent along this link, 'cos he's kewl like that:

A fascinating cross between score and histogram and a bit easier to follow than a 3-D spectrum display (though you should see one sometime. The three axii are time, frequency and amplitude: it's hypnotic).

Best comment I noticed was near the top: "Bach was an alien!" Intriguing but not possible -- any species that would fail to keep him nearby isn't clever enough for even sublight-speed space travel.

Friday, December 03, 2010


I really want to like Ka-Blam Digital Printing: kewl website, useful FAQs and about half the price of, say, And they'll even take my hand-hewn .TIF image and turn it into a shiny paperback cover!one!

Update: Finally heard back and constructive criticism it is too. Yay! Like I said, I want to like them. My cover art's low-rez, which is what happens when you screencap a PDF to make it into a TIF via, ohgawd, MSPaint. Help? Need me a 300 or 1200 dpi TIF preversion.

...That is, they could if they would. But they won't lift a finger even to say, "Get lost!" This, I find frustrating. Their Message Center is the sole and only way to talk to 'em and even that would be okay -- except they don't reply. Nothin'. Not even dialtone.

Further Updates in blue:

So right now I'm stuck going to have some with a suboptimal stock-Lulu cover design and a price that I'm not happy with. But supposedly I have some real proofs in the Ka-Blam pipeline (with a somewhat blurred cover 'til I gin up better art) and should be seeing them before the heavyset B&E man makes his red-suited rounds. Didja hear the rumor he used to be a bishop?

Yeah, I'm not so sure about even that. I doubt any story they tell me about him after the first big one turned out to be untrue. And I would be happy to be proven wrong when I'm starting to doubt online printers that look too good to be true, too. I wonder if FedEx/Kinkos Office does the smaller sizes? (Yes. Costs run a bit above Lulu)

Seasoned Sounds

Ah, the modern, all-purpose, inoffensive carol:

Dashing through the Stuff
In some kind of open Thing
Oh, what joy we'll know
Oh, what songs we'll sing!

Generictime, Generictime, Generictime is here
Filled with joy
And goodwill
And general Holiday cheer!

To the stores we'll go
Making registers ring
How we'll spend and spend
We'll buy most anything!


We won't offend a soul
(Should we have used that word?)
A cultural black hole
Come on and join the herd!


Thursday, December 02, 2010

Weaseling The Words

Claire Wolf linked to a Rasmussen survey on reactions to the most recent set of docs yanked into the light of day by Wikileaks, in which we find this interesting example of contrast:

"While 55% of Mainstream voters agree that leaking the documents is treasonous, a plurality (45%) of those in the Political Class disagrees."

Why, yes, I can see how terribly different the two groups are: 55% of the Political Class would also be either thinking the leaks were treason or haven't made up their minds. Gosh, those two groups are sooooo different on this issue!

If you ask me, they're both wrong, too, and kinda right as well. While the earlier military leaks bothered me 'cos it could get working soldiers killed, this batch is, aw, c'mon. Diplomats are supposed to know better; if you wouldn't say it directly to the Ambassador from Armpitistan, don't effing write it down, either. What is this, Junior High School? That kind of stuff is like mold or cockroaches and a nice dose of sunlight might help limit the infestation. On the other hand, if the leaker is still the same soldier boy (as seems to be the case), his actions probably are treason per the letter of the law and he will be paying the price.

As for WikiLeak's principal, he strikes me as a right snot and not at all noble. He's after attention and he's getting it, too, which is a pity. If he's so all-fired selfless, why didn't he just lay low? Especially since he is supposedly living on the run. A cad, a bounder, seems likely. A traitor, he's not: he's not a U. S. citizen.

But encouraging diplomats to act like grown-ups, to mean what they say and say what they mean? Call me simple but it sounds like a good idea that's never been tried. It won't be this time, either -- they'll try to scrape it under like a cat on a tile floor and pretend it goes away.