Thursday, March 31, 2011


Look, I don't care who you are or how hard times are or how tough your neighborhood is; there's just no excuse for having a bathyscape sphere heeled partially over in your front yard, the cables trailing over the shrubbery and raggedly hacked short, the hatch open and a trail of footsteps (or something) leading up onto your porch. It's just not right.

(I should have taken a photograph. Maybe it's not a bathysphere; maybe it's an old Soviet re-entry capsule. But it hadn't ought to be in the front yard, in front of a doghouse and next to an old truck up on blocks).

Update:They had moved it by Friday evening, and cleared away the cables. I was just able to snap an image as I sped by. Whatever arrived it in is in the house now.

Sportwriter FAIL

I don't follow the sports news, not even a little; the headline caught my eye nevertheless, something about an AK-47 and a baseball player....

It seems Evan Longoria and a couple of teammates rented a house together. While they were out doing whatever it is baseball players do at Spring Training, young go-getters were getting into the house and got away a TV set, a laptop, Xboxes, iPads, fancy watches...and Longoria's rifle.

The latter item, sportswriter Dan Brown treats as if the ownership of is evidence of awfulness and as for not having stored the gun as though it was a radioactive escaped child-strangler, why, Mr. Brown is simply horrified it was there at all, lecturing readers that, "Longoria wouldn't want word to get out that he was careless and irresponsible enough to store an unsecured deadly weapon in a rented home that had little or no apparent security system and would frequently be unoccupied." I guess because we should all just assume our houses will be burgled?

The fun comes in the comments, about 19 in 20 criticizing the sports writer for his anti-gun attitude.

Yes, we'd all like to see guns stored safely when they're not being carried* -- but just as it is his choice to leave a costly watch on his nightstand instead of locked in a box in a drawer with his socks, it is the owner's choice how to store firearms. An overwhelming majority of random Internet commenters grasp this obvious truth; sportswriters, not so much. (Meanwhile, the player's local paper manages to cover the issue without frothing at the mouth).

* My reason for going to greater lengths to lock them up than, say, rare telegraph keys or the big-screen TV is because I don't want to walk in on some yahoo who will proceed to shoot me (or more likely, club me) with my own gun, not because they're so especially special-bad.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Grooming Cats

Tonight was cat manicure night, at least for their front paws. Miss Rannie (Random Numbers) Wu loathes the idea; she never had it done before she met me. She usually barely tolerates the procedure and tonight, she grumbled, complained and when we got the the very last one -- her right thumbnail, sharp, long and almost grown back to the pad -- she'd had enough. She struggled and wailed!

Huck sat on the floor and watched in fascination. She was way more riled than he ever manages! He scampered away when I let Rannie go and told him his turn was next, but I caught up with him in my bedroom, when his attention was captured by contemplation of the ascent of the North face of my clothes hamper.

Poor little guy, he squeaked in outrage and had a go at biting me. He only had a few sharp ones, though, so it was over soon.

...Which brought us to treat time! He loves being hand-fed, and will stand up and grab your hand very gently, with nary a hint of claw. I located Rannie under the dining room table, and fed her treats at arm's length; she growled the first couple until she figured out it was a pretty good deal. She's on my desk as I type, handy to my right hand for petting but she's got the mouse well trapped and complains when I have to move it.

Despite all the commotion, they seem to have weathered their terrible claw-trimming ordeal yet again. Especially the treats part at the end.

Unhappy Anniversary

The TV reminds me that on this date, lunatic John W. Hinckley, Jr. took potshots at President Ronald Reagan, seriously injuring Press Secretary James Brady.

In the wake of this tragedy, Mr. Brady's wife had a choice; she could blame the crazy guy who pulled the trigger, and work to improve detection and treatment of such person, or she could blame the gun in his hand.

A logical, reasonable person might point out that a gun without John W. Hinckley, Jr. at the trigger is just a collection of inert parts, while Hinckley without a gun can still carry a stiletto or a can of hairspray and a lighter, or a flask of sarin.

Sarah and James didn't see it that way.

So much for "common sense."

Anything George Could Do, He Can Do Better

...Or at least even more of.

Since I'm already earworming readers with well-known Broadway tunes, why not something from a different "Annie?"

Sadly, the subject of this morning's disquisition isn't as lighthearted: seems Our President, who as a candidate proclaimed that honoring the Rule of Law demanded that terror suspects be Mirandized, now tells us, no, no, noo, and he's urging Feds to go all Jack Bauer on terror suspects, especially if they suspect an immediate threat to public safety.

I'm sure many readers will tell me Mr. Obama has finally seen the light, but it bothers me; it's much too vague and flexible. At a time when Authorities are already tagging mainstream, freedom-friendly/gun friendly organizations as "terrorists" (and when gun-grabbing nutjobs go even farther) , I don't think this is a blunt instrument we should be letting the Federal Gummint wield unquestioned.

And I'm really wondering where all those Democrat activists who issued dire warnings about Federal overreach during the most recent Mr. Bush's tenure have scuttled off to. Guess it's okay when their guy is in charge of Room 101, then?

(This is posted on a delay, I have an eye doctor appointment early as you read it. Sure hope they can make lenses for my new frames; I may even splurge on contacts again.)

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

It's Called "Exercise?"

Day Three or Four (day two in a row, the cold having put a stop to my efforts for a week) of Ride A Mile Every Evening. The temperature has been in the low-mid 40s, which sounds pretty chilly but once you get the bike up to a decent turn of speed, you're generating plenty of heat.

Once I can do the mile in top gear, I'll start increasing the distance. I've got a ways to go before I get back to where I was last summer; I knew I should have set up the stationary bicycle kit this winter but I kept finding excuses not to.

Still getting over my cold, too, but hey, ten minutes or so of deep-breathing exercises have to be going more good than harm, right?

It Is The Way Of Cats

Huck snuck into the basement behind me this morning when I headed laundryward in search of a warmer top. I learned this when I heard him say, quite distinctly, "Ew!" and turned around to find him peering intently down the floor drain, which still has its cover off pending a serious wirebrush-and-repaint effort. He had his lip curled and looked disgusted; then he turned and trotted towards the stairs.

I was poignantly reminded of Miss Slinky, who once walked into the washroom while I was taking a bath, took a nice long look down the heat vent, announced, "Oh, no!" and departed in haste. I never did figure out what that was about.

The Sun'll Come Out, To-morrow...

Tam tells me today is the centennial of the adoption of the 1911 by the U.S. Army. I had this sudden image of the pore little Orphan 1911, sitting all lonely in the orphanage with only its dog 45ACP* for company 'til General Warbucks came along and adopted it, but she says that's not how it went.

(Title is not a comment on the muzzle velocity of the venerable cartridge, honest. "The shot'll get there, to-morrow, you c'n betcher bottom dol-lar..." Heheheh.)
* It only says one thing: "Bang!"

Legislative Walkouts: The Real Price

Yes, the Indiana House Democrats are back -- not even Illinois would have them, I guess -- and both sides of the aisle are trumpeting compromise on the several bills over which they'd walked out. (Other than Right-To-Work, which was killed outright).

And if not having a law is better than having a law, then a watered-down law must only be half-bad, I suppose, though you have to wonder at sharply limiting the number f participants in a school voucher program that could have given low-income kids a shot at attending private schools and look askance likewise at capping a bill meant to save money on big construction projects in a way that means Indiana can only do so on smallish projects....

But hey, give them that; let's say the whole thing is a happy, happy win. We -- citizens of Indiana, not one party or another -- still lose: the legislature's now got one month to finish everything that sat piled on desks while the Democrats sulked in IL.

If the weasels'd sat out the entire session, I'd've cheered: nothing would have got done. If they'd been hauled back over the border by an ISP infiltration team after a few days of playing hooky, I would have been shocked but hey, they'd have been busy as little bees.

But what we have now is a prescription for sleight-of-hand, double-dealing, sneaky language and insufficient debate. We are going to have to watch these boys and girls like hungry hawks over a mouse nest, and I mean both parties of them; they are going to be in a hurry and they're still fair seething over the walkout and/or issues that led up to it. Even with the best will in the world, mistakes will be made -- and make no mistake, there's not all that much goodwill in the House.

I think I'd rather watch sausage being made than laws: you can be pretty sure that the end result of the first process will only go to those who want it and don't mind paying the price.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Songs That Should Not Have Lyrics

"You Can't Catch It From A Doorknob"

"'E's Got A Loverly #2 Pencil"

"Torch Song Of The Tax Accountants"

Theme from "The Men From I.T."

"Hail Colombia" (AKA "A Heartbeat Away")

Danger! Warning!

I didn't mention the most random item yesterday -- I sat down and fired up my amateur radio transmitter and a few characters in, I heard something start to beep. When I stopped, it eventually stopped. When I started up again, it began to beep after a few seconds...!

Finally tracked it down to the (obnoxiously loud) gas/CO detector in the dining room. It's about 20 feet from the open-wire balanced line (it looks like a rope ladder for the Wee Folk) that connects to my antenna, and it does not like shortwave energy, not one little bit. So it got a little vacation.

The sound is oddly nondirectional; while it is loud enough to get one's attention, it does not localize well. Tam was on the porch while I was hunting the beep and remarked, "Oh, was that in the house? It sounded like it was across the street or something." That's kind of an alarm fail, if you ask me.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Random Items

- Actually got a lot of laundry done today -- and folded or on hangars. Even ironed some hankies. I feel so grown-up! (Cloth handkerchiefs? Yes and I'm not just being old-fashioned; colds are really harsh on the skin of my poor nose, which gets chafed and peels and turns bright, bright red. Cloth is even gentler than lotion-loaded facial tissue).

- A couple of friends commented during the height of my cold about how stalwart I was to be blogging. Um, lookit, determination has nothing to do with it. When my temperature is on the bad side of 100, I can't really stay in bed; if I'm gonna be up, flapping my nightgown, perspiring and patting my fevered brow with a cool cloth, I might as well sit down at the computer and type a few lines, too. Keep doing that every time you stumble by and you end up with a post. Note to self: Spellcheck is my friend. I should trust Spellcheck.

- Speaking of colds, the blame thing is still with me. Sinuses filling, coughing up -- well, never mind, but it's not fun. My temperature's steady and while Sudafed is keeping it from becoming overwhelming (doesn't stop it, how messed-up is that?), it's annoying.

- Got on the air on my ham set-up tonight and discovered my "Milennium Bug" Blue Racer needed the dit contacts cleaned. But not immediately: they acted up just as soon as I was actually in a conversation. Isn't that ever the way it goes?

Party Of The Little Guy?

...So there's a Democrat fundraiser in Orlando (F-L-A) with Vice-President Joseph P. Biden as the featured creature and the local papers send a pool reporter: pretty much the usual drill.

Then when Joe Workin' Press shows up at the $500-a-head soiree, they stuff him in a closet. And post a guard to keep him in there. They let him out to hear Mr. Biden and the local pol he's supporting speak and then -- back in 'til all the nice people have have left!

...And he was pretty much okay with it.

Look, we've all wanted to have a reporter or two shut up in a closet but doing it in real life pretty much wipes out any claim a political party could make about "standing up for the little guy." Stepping on him, maybe.

And if you're the reporter who lets yourself gets stuffed uncomplaining into a closet at an event you were invited to cover, you probably ought to burn your Press card and consider a different career.

Though I would kinda like to see a photo of the fellow in question at the event in question -- you don't suppose he had the effrontery to show up at a black-tie event looking like an unmade bed, do you? Tsk, tsk.

Baden-Powell Had His Own View

"Personally, I have my own views as to the relative value of the instruction of children in Scripture history within the walls of the Sunday-school, and the value of Nature study and the practice of religion in the open air, but I will not impose my personal views upon others."

Lord Robert Baden-Powell, Chief Scout of the World, 1912 (in B.P.'s Outlook)

Elsewhere, he writes of the importance of being able to do the thing rather than pass the test -- for example in first aid, he patiently explains being able to render it effectively counts more than tying neat bandages or knowing the proper Latin names.

He even briefly touches on his own politics (pinker than you'd think, at least in 1912) but proceeds to state that Scouting is to be apolitical, "Our aim is to be at peace with all and to do our best in our particular line," helping to build character, and expresses the wish that, by encouraging young men to make the most of themselves, "each one of them may at least get a fair start." And later, "We want our men to be men, not sheep."

Common sense: some people have it.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Paradox UK

Maybe it's built into the British political psyche. After all, the "mother of parliaments" flourishes in a theocratic monarchy without a written constitution; still, it bothers me when British anarchists join and intensify violent riots over government cutbacks. Duuuude, the State is shrinking!

--Oh, but it's shrinking on your patch first, is that the problem? Do it to Julia instead, you say?

(Bonus protip: "Police were pelted with...what they said were light bulbs filled with ammonia...." So that's why they're outlawing incandescent bulbs over here!)

Ahhhh, The Weekend

You'd think after missing two days of work last week, I'd find the weekend redundant. Nope. Last week felt like it lasted a month -- uphill both ways!

Woke up to the lunatics inside my TV chirpily predicting "accumulating snow" starting this evening, so I pulled the covers over my head and went back to sleep. It didn't help; they were making the same forecast when I woke up again an hour later.

And that brings us to here: cats fed, coffee made, bloggage posted. Now it's time to make breakfast!

Friday, March 25, 2011

Oldstream Media: In Search Of Panic

Right on schedule -- if the schedule is a 24/7 round of "Awful, terrible, horrible and getting worse," interspersed with 15 seconds of cute baby animals each and every hour -- the oldstream media has latched onto reports of workers at Reactor 3 encountering water with unexpectedly high radioactive content for a brand-new round of hand-wringing, eyebrow-lifting and person-to-person interviews with men in suits addressing serious, scientific concerns like, "dilithium crystals: threat or menace?" And they're talking meltdown once again. Oh, how they love that word; I'm still waiting for a blue-candlewax animation of the hot stuff cooking its way through. (The Reuters article linked to about is about the most level-headed).

The real story is, we don't know yet; maybe nobody does. The people most likely to know are patiently explaining that if there was an actual meltdown, they'd expect the water to be a lot more contaminated. And somehow, no reporter seems capable of putting together "venting steam" with "water that may have come from the reactor." "Dr. Watson? Mr. Hearst? You know my methods; apply them."

And then there's the exciting -- to a reporter's mind -- news that Reactor 3 was running MOX, a partially-reprocessed mix that, OMG, contains plutonium! --As does every fuel rod that's been cooking very long; the MOX version contains about twice as much as your regular brand but wild-eyed discussion of even-more-deadlier is just more misunderstanding of risk. Some straight talk about MOX at this link. What's in any reactor fuel rod, you don't want on the coffee table in your living room -- but you don't want a bathtub full of anhydrous ammonia there, either, and that stuff is hauled in big tanks all over, anywhere there are farms. If fuel rods were venomous snakes, it might be easier for the newsies to dope out the degree of badness.... Maybe.

Meanwhile, the newschurn pounds on, turning half-understood rumor into pettily-packaged speculation, leaving you and me to dredge the Web in search of truth, Diogenes in a pea-soup fog with half a book of matches. Good luck!

(Speaking of radioactive waste, former U.S. President James Earl Carter is going to North Korea for reasons unknown. Perhaps they'll keep him. Ahh, dreams....)

Scanner Works

See:You might be wondering what that device might be. The nature of that gadget (It's a "QSL-40") and the man who dreamed it up make for an interesting story. I'll have details at Retrotechnologist, later now.

...Epson had to insist I blindly install their image viewer as my default; they slipped it into the install tasks without identifying just what it did. I'll be changing that, since for a quick look, it's no better than the one Bill Gates stuck in and a little slower. Hey, peripheral makers, this kind of thing does not win you friends, okay?

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Here Goes--

Installing a new scanner. Wish me luck. And I found some old projects that might be suited to it.

(Which reminds me, dullest SF novella ever written: Scanners Live In Peoria by Ropemaker Jones. Never caught on.)


My tsunami of a cold has abated, leaving me still with a rattling cough and sneezy (plus a few cold sores 'cos I am so lucky), but there's a definite feeling of not-being-sick. Maybe it's just having my temperature settle for a happy medium.

Outdoors, not so much; there was a short, nasty little front blowing through overnight and in its wake, the warm breezes and sunshine of the last two days has yielded to unseasonable coolth (36! F!) and overcast. Still, no snow, so I'll count it a win.

Elsewhere in the world, Germany is prepared to give up nukes (at least for power generation); or so they say. Not every member of Ms. Merkel's government agrees with the plan. Driven by fear of earthquakes followed by tsunamis, lingering Cold War nightmares or simple, cynical political maneuvering? Who cares; let 'em freeze in the dark. Or buy power from China, who I'm sure will be happy to burn more coal for the Common Good.* The Russians are already in that game, which is fine as long as the countries concerned are being BFF. Oh, and as long as the wind is blowing the other way. Don't mind the ashes!
* Yes, I'm aware this is impractical at best. Maybe the Vaterland could just buy coal from them instead? I'm sure the citizenry won't mind the black rains, as long as they're not radioactive. Umm, "...ounce for ounce, coal ash released from a power plant delivers more radiation than nuclear waste shielded via water or dry cask storage." Oops! Should we tell 'em?

Wednesday, March 23, 2011


Rover's Jet1 1950 jet turbine-powered car. Sure, it'd be a maintenance nightmare, but it'd look just as good pulled onto the berm as scooting down the freeway at 125+ 88 mph!

Bayou Renaissance Man has blogged about this very car, and has additional pictures of it and some related designs.

(And for those of you at home following the box scores, I'm alternating 102 temps with freezing chills on about a three-hour cycle. Sheesh. Had to leave the bed before I burned up.)

Last Night's Dream, National Nightmare

Oh, I dreamed. My temperature was 101.6 when I woke up, so I had high-definition dreams all night in between bouts of hacking and snorting.

I dreamed up an alternate medium of exchange in which the monetary theories of the unfortunate Bernard von NotHaus. Unlike his approach, in which you could hold either instruments of intrinsic value (gold and silver discs of known purity and bearing attractive markings that I never thought resembled FedGov base-metal trash, they weren't even the same size) or "warehouse receipts" for same that could be used as a paper medium of exchange,* in my system, the "instrument of intrinsic value" was high-level radioactive waste.

Not coined -- my dreaming self retained that much sense -- but traded on paper, with tokens similar to the Liberty Dollar's "warehouse receipts." The problem was, users didn't trust the system and tended to try to amass the stuff themselves or sneak into the warehouse and rake up their own pile, sometimes in more than one sense of the word "pile."

That one fell apart with users and founders being hauled off for medical treatment. Back in the real world, the somewhat eccentric Mr. von NotHaus has been convicted of counterfeiting and described as a "domestic terrorist." For producing coin-like objects worth more than the Federal tokens they might have supplanted, "coins" of entirely different dimensions.

And meanwhile, the Franklin Mint is producing "FINE GOLD-clad PROOFS," thinly plated base metal U.S. Mint-type coins with some selective polishing, selling them for well over face value and it's hunky-dammit-dory. Hunh?

Everybody in this stupid gavotte knows who Sir Thomas Gresham was and what his Law says about economic behavior and I don't think they don't care. The FedGov -- and The Fed -- have a built-in antipathy to instruments of intrinsic value, despite the original Constitional proscription of satisfying public debt by any other means.

There is a big crash coming, a "readjustment." I don't know how, when or by how much but if any of your plans are counting on a recovery from the current dep- recession minor downturn the President and Congress will spend us out of any day now, you might want to look 'em over. Things may get better before they get worse but they are most certainly going to get worse.

Care for a bucket of radioactive sand? Or a bucket of the Mint's funny-smelling fake-gold "dollars?" It'll come to just about the same thing, by and by.
* And if you could confuse those with Federal "money," you'd be colorblind, illiterate and/or lack the ability to discern physical proportions of flat objects. I never trusted the paper version completely -- if I have silver or gold rounds, I can know where they are; if some other guy has them, they're only as safe as his safe -- and his inventory skills.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Mars Needs Commies

Hugo Chavez, noted astronomer and planetary ecologist, also fat-headed autocrat, says capitalism may have ended life on Mars. He's serious.

The opposition: they're committed, they're commitable, and they think their ill-informed opinions are Eternal Truths.

Is this what spooked Balko into taking the blue pill?

Radley Balko Goes Over To The Dark Side

In May, Radley Balko will be leaving Reason and joining The Huffington Post as their crime reporter.

How unfortunate. He will be leaving my blogroll. He will be missed.

(Of course, they've promised not to touch his blogs. Yeah, right).

Aw, Crap

I still have a cold. I had a long, crappy day, followed by crap at the drugstore and the five-and-dime (doesn't Target carry facial tissue in grown-up sized boxes? Kleenex?™) and things kept on crappy when I got home, in part due to crappy miscommunication over my crappy celphone, which renders words but doesn't have quite enough crappy bits in the crapulous A>D/D>A to convey tone of voice.

Ghu help any frikkin' telemarketer who calls; I'll turn 'em inside out. Thrice.

I have just about had it with everything on this planet. But it's just like thermo-damn-damn-damn-dynamics, it's the only game in town.

Day Two: Crises In My Sinuses

The cold continues.

Last night was marked by frequent awakenings to clear out my head, interspersed with a bizarre ongoing narrative about an earthquake-wrecked desalinization plant in a Japanese harbor that was, against all odds, continuing to perform.

I suppose it's a metaphor.

Between my sinuses and sore throat, I had to sleep sitting up. If I laid down, I could barely draw breath, though it took a few minutes to creep up. Not recommended.

P.S.: 100.6 temperature. Grrrrrrreat.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Lovecraft Action Shooting!

Shoot your way through the Cthulhu Mythos? Count me in. Proposed here by Elmo Iscariot, pointed to by the Atomic Nerds, who wrote, "This needs more eyeballs!"

It most certainly does. In several meanings of the phrase.

I wonder how much crossover you might get from the HPLHS gang? (A remarkable source of props, btw).

A = B

Point of Order = Non-Maskable Interrupt.

Just sayin'.

Hoarse? But I Wanted A Pony!

Hoarse is what I got, though. My throat was scratchy all day yesterday and this morning, it's ragin'. Feels like strep. I'm off to Doc In A Box to find out.

Update: It's not strep. Has me pretty well knocked out, though -- I fell asleep in the lobby, waiting for my discharge instructions. What's this? Plenty of fluids, soft foods, rest, throat lozenges and/or spray p.r.n.*...? Who'd'a thunk it?

Throat still feels raw and symptoms have now progressed to dizziness and making my ears itch on the inside. Weird as that sounds, it's usually a good sign. What follows is should be ordinary mild cold-type sinus stuff, while my throat improves. Gimme a little luck, serious sack time and 12 to 20 hours and I'll merely be Sneezy, not Dizzy, Grumpy or Dopey. --Wait, was Dizzy one of the Seven Dwarves or did he just relief-pitch for them one season?

Update 2: 8:00 p.m. Temperature 100.9 as of twenty minutes ago. More tea and back to bed. Sheesh.
* Pro re nata: this means you should call up Renata and ask her if it's what she'd do for herself. All the M.D.s think she's really got the best grasp of this sort of thing, just look at what they write on pill bottles.

Sunday, March 20, 2011


I finally made Colcannon. Oh, yowza!This is the version with kale instead of cabbage, plus leeks and ham and a little carrot. Hot and filling; I ate an entire bowl full!

It really ought to have pepper and a pinch of mace but I subbed a bit more nutmeg for the mace. Plus plenty of good Irish butter.

Even the cats wanted a taste. Rannie took a direct approach:Huck tried to convince me to let him sit in my lap, from where he could stage an assault on the soup plate of tasty goodness.Sorry, kids. Kibble and catnip instead?

I highly recommend colcannon. It's easy to make, though a bit pan-intensive. I fried a couple strips of bacon and used the aft and a little high-temp oil to saute the kale (and leeks and carrots) and used pre-cooked ham chunks, simmered in water; when the potatoes were done, I poured the water off the ham and replaced it with the potato water. So there's two saucepans and the wok. I microwaved the milk to heat it up -- the trick is to do it in short jolts so you don't boil it.

Add butter, stir them up with a knife and mash the potatoes in the pan they were cooked in, adding hot milk a little at a time (I leave the skin on, which calls for a good sharp knife; vary to suit yourself. A big dinner fork is ideal for the actual mashing), use a flexible spatula to scrape mashed taters into the wok atop the veggies. Mix and add the ham and the bacon (if you didn't eat it already), stir some more and serve out into bowls with a pat of butter and some parsley. Enjoy!


Yeah, and....?

Remember how the exact construction of even the WW II-type atom bomb was still a closely-guarded secret, super-duper tip top secret?

...So secret that physicists in a whole bunch of tiny little countries ginned up their own, and some of them didn't get the Cliff Notes to work from, either.

But still, to figure that stuff out, you have to be an Atomic Scientist with a whole country footing the bill, right? Not a truck driver from Wisconsin.

Er, right?

In fact, wrong.


Why Are We At War?

...For the third (or is it the fourth?) time?

What, don't you watch magic acts? It's not about the patter, it's not about the obvious gesture; it's about what they're distracting you from noticing.

And while many of us are gleefully replaying every criticism of Mr. Bush's foray into Iraq on the screen of Mr. Obama's weak-tea Libyan reenactment, the Mint's printing presses whir ever faster.

War is the health of the state. Just like misdirection is the health of prestidigitation. Or three-card monte, which the News Cycle and the Government with which it is so deeply entwined took as its model decades ago.

But What Does It Do?

....It delights the eye, that's what:

Hands of a machinist, eye of an engineer, soul of an artist.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

You Know They've Got The Bomb

Enjoying a refreshing glass of Double Cola,* I remarked to Tam that it is bottled in Chattanooga, "Yet another product of Eastern Tennessee. I swear, Eastern Tennessee's got a monopoly on all the good stuff"

Tam: "The region's done right well since the Yankees gave us that atom-bomb factory in war reparations."

RX: "Great, they've got The Bomb and we gave it to them. Should'a built the blame thing in Chicago...."

Tam: (Says nothing, gives me a very schoolmarmish look).

RX: "Oh, right, Northern unions. It would probably be ready just about now...."

(Yes, yes, I'm exaggerating, in Detroit alone union members worked enormous amounts of OT and turned out huge numbers of war-winning products, planes and jeeps and tanks; it's a joke. What's not a joke is that right to work states seem to get most of the new factories, while I've seen the local members of a certain auto-workers union that shall remain nameless vote to refuse concessions that would have kept a plant in town under new ownership; instead, they killed the place and all the jobs it would have provided. How long do you have to keep being underbid before you figure out you have priced yourself out of the market? It's not about what you deserve, we all otta have a shiny-new chicken in every garage and two cars in the pot; it's about what you can get).

(Also not a joke: Oak Ridge got built at Oak Ridge 'cos A] the terrain offered natural shielding and B] there was just about nothing there as far as Washington noticed. It wasn't America's Siberia -- that'd be Hanford and you'll note it's not all that Siberish either -- but you do not, in fact, build atom bombs next to B-17s: first, it's a mess if somebody slips; second, what folks don't see, they don't wonder at and gossip about. They distilled fisionables at Oak Ridge 'cos they would not have missed it much if it happened to blow up).
* It's really quite nice, sweetened with sugar and lacking the phosporic acid "bite" of the big two even though it is in there, just not so darned much.

Gun Show Weekend

Tam and I went Friday; it's my turn "in the barrel" this week, working an early shift Friday and Saturday to cover for a retired co-worker who won't be replaced. ("Him? What'd he actually do here?" --Cover a lousy shift, it turns out).

That shift is pretty rough on me. Add in absquatulating to the Indy 1500 with only a hasty stop to brush my hair and powder my nose (etc.) , followed by walking half the length of the State Fair from our parking spot (it's Garden and Patio Show* weekend, too), standing in line for ten minutes just to get in and then walking the amazingly-crowded gun show end to end on hard, hard floors and it was all I could do not to fall asleep on the way home.

Still, it was worth it. I didn't buy any guns (Tam found two!) but I saw quite a few, including an uncommon Benelli handgun. I did pick up a Roper-Whitney punch, except it's a Roper-Jennings, an older version in a metal box. (One pictures some sort of industrial love triangle, with Roper leaving poor Jennings sobbing by the forge). And a book (Some Went West, by Dorothy M. Johnson) and we both bought one of these, a kind of a super-spork ('cos there's some things that just need sporking).

...And with that, I must depart for my second early shift. Oh, what fun, though a little extra at payday kind of makes up for it.
* With mini-gardens named after Indianapolis neighborhoods, including the snooty (and not part of UniGov) Meridian Hills. I wonder if, should you dally too long, a nice policeman comes by and asks if you live there? Just for realism's sake....

Friday, March 18, 2011

They're In The Walls! They're In The Walls!

I can't explain it; it's all Turk Turon's fault anyway; he linked to an art thing and I followed the artist and ended up... FLATLAND.

It's an art thing, a home 40 feet tall, 24 feet wide -- and about two feet deep! With (mostly) transparent walls and a half-dozen artists (who else?) living in it.

Sure, it's all art-y and odd, but it has a funny kind of treehouse appeal; and when you look at the photos, while it seems a bit crowded with six tenant, it's really a heck of a lot of room for one or two. In the width of a thick wall.

Who'd'a thunk it?

Thursday, March 17, 2011

To The Newsie's Health

After a far too heavy recent diet of television newsthingies, I have decided the best thing to do -- perhaps the only sensible response -- if for each of us to buy one of the TV newreader/reporters a bottle of Moxie. Maybe even two.

...They need it badly, y'see, 'cos it was touted for years with the advertising claim that it prevents softening of the brain. Oh, sure, it's years too late for most of 'em at the network level, but maybe -- just perhaps -- it'll keep 'em from getting any worse.

This morning on CNBC, a muddleheaded anchor asked an (anti)nuclear expert what he thought about "...Japan's desperate move of using helicopters to drop water cannons on the reactors...." Even Joe Anti sat there a moment, stunned. Gads, what an image.

More Moxie, Nurse -- stat!
My dinner tonight: A slice of hot apple pie a la mode, washed down with Fentiman's Dandelion and Burdock soda, both from Locally Grown Gardens. 'Cos I can. Yeah, it's probably wrong. But it tastes just like Summertime.

And Now, Blizzards?

Yes, in Northern Japan. It this point, it's hardly an inconvenience compared to everything else, another little reminder that "loving Mother Gaea" will kill us dead without a blink ('cos a planet is just a big rock, the biosphere little more than an organic smear on the surface. Grow up!)

Otherhandedly, the latest reactor news from a source I trust (also here) is guardedly optimistic, saying helicopter water-spraying had started at Fukushima Daiichi reactor 3, refuting U.S. reports that the problematic spent fuel storage pool at #4 was empty of water and reporting that radiation levels measured at the gate of the plant were, at last, declining. (Down the road at Fukushima Daini, it appears that shut-down went as planned; but there's very few places you'll hear about that.)

Meanwhile, the U.S. State Department (advised by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission) has suggested U.S. citizens stay more than twice as far away from the power plant as Japan's told their own citizens. They're recommending Americans leave the country and they're not being especially diplomatic about it, either; based on very pessimistic reports from our own NRC, State cites radiation concerns as the reason. Oh, that'll help intergovernmental relations!

Speaking of fallacies of reification (see first para.), why is it hypothetical and long-term risks keep crowding real, immediate troubles off the front page here in the States? Is it that much easier to emote over possibly increased cancer rates than dig up a spare dime so somebody's baby can get enough milk tomorrow?

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Help People In Japan, Get A Kewl T-Shirt

It's made of win -- is offering a very nice T-shirt, with the slogan (yes, in Japanese), "Don't give up, Japan! We're in this together!" over a Japanese flag and a raised-hands graphic. ("Gambare" is translated a bit loosely into "Don't give up" --"Keep striving," or "Do your best" are a bit closer from what I'm reading).

All the profits go to the Japanese Red Cross Society. If you don't want a T-shirt, they have a link on that page to a site where you can donate directly.

There you go: a way to help out. And get a T-shirt at the same time, if you're so inclined.

Freezing In The Dark II: Now With Fire

Down, kicked and getting worse; even the offline reactors at Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station are in trouble thanks the inability to pump cooling water to the fuel-storage areas. #4 was the scene of incredible heroism yesterday; it has been reported that after oil spilled from a pump into the storage tank caught fire, crews stayed and fought it, put it out, at the personal cost of considerable radiation exposure.

But troubles persist; according to the report linked above, every reactor in the complex has problems. For a rational discussion of just what those problems might be, this is the best site I have found.

Meanwhile, oldstream media in the US continues to trot out anti-nuclear activists as "nuclear experts"* and you'll find a guide to the players at Pajamas Media along with further thoughts about the mess. Remember, these guys will show up on your screen at home with graphics that say only "nuclear scientist" or suchlike, nary a word of their opposition to atomic power. --Other than the way they eagerly seize the chance to play up fear.

...And all that remains a sideshow to people huddled together in refugee shelters while snow falls, short on food and water, because of an earthquake and tsunami. (Remember those?) The reactor problems and the efforts to contain them may yet take lives; around 50 brave men fought the fire at #4 while spent -- but still hot and "hot" -- fuel rods were exposed; but the 10,000+ lost to dear, loving Mother Gaia are getting short shrift while the media shrilly shills the possible effects of what they're still calling "radiation release" from Fukushima Daiichi. Yeah, that matters a lot to the guy safely indoors in a shelter, wondering if any other member of his family survived; and what are ten thousand real deaths compared to, say, the 4000 statistcally-predicted shortened lives due to Chernobyl?

Not much, to the boob tube and its ailing ink-and-pulp appendages.
* Many of them "expert" in power plant technology much the same way that Paul Helmke is an expert on firearms technology: not a bit.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Freeze In The Dark, Hungry And Thirsty Edition

Look, if you're worried about radiation, stay out of the basement; don't live in a brick house nor take long jet airplane flights. Those behaviors have exposed you to thousands of times more radiation than Chernobyl and Three Mile Island together.

...But don't go on the television and tell me that in an area where the houses and roads have been destroyed, harbors filled with debris and water, gas and electric mains destroyed, that I should mostly be worried about "radiation," especially when the affected area had already been largely evacuated. There are people in Japan still missing meals, without proper sanitation or sufficient water and these are immediate concerns about which something can be done. It is not a matter of luck that Japan, as a nation, as a people, is very good at doing what is needful; but what's needful has very little to do with an atomic reactor in trouble. The same folks handing out meals are passing out iodine tablets...and probably spending more time digging latrines and setting up Port-o-lets, followed by the dull, unexciting record-keeping that will, eventually, reunite families or discover who has been lost.

None of that, of course, is as shiny-scary as going on the air and shouting ATOMIC RADIATION! Chernobyl! Three Mile Island! DOOOOOOM! It's also easier to fly to Washington or Los Alamos in a nice, clean jet (picking up more rads along that way than most Japanese people who don't work at nuke plants) and talk to a nice, clean, non-stressed-out scientist and/or bureaucrat than to actually cover the real story of real people in real trouble a long way away.

(And stop chiding the Japanese power company, too; they knew those plants were old. The oldest one was on it's last bucket of hot stuff, slated for retirement. It seems likely the rest would have followed in due course.)

I guess it keeps (most of) the newsies out of the way of the people doing the real work, but it gets old.


It gets even older when our home-grown freeze-in-the-dark set use the situation as an excuse to tout their no-nukes agenda. The state of the art has moved on since GE cranked out boiling-water reactors in the 1960s. Modern reactors would be shut down by a quake but are generally less trouble when scrammed; backup cooling systems are more rugged. In the U.S., post-9/11 retrofitting beefed up backup systems at existing plants, too, and a couple of the lessons learned in Japan are undoubtedly being checked right now:

1. The "third backup," hooking up big portable gensets to operate cooling systems, was catastrophically slowed due to what is being reported as "incompatible connectors." While I doubt that is the whole story, I suspect a lot of plants are looking at how they'd do if the need arose.

2. It is reasonable to conclude the on-site backup gensets at Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station were insufficiently hardened. (To face a 30' tidal wave!) This, too, will have power-plant operators thinking harder about eventualities previously considered improbable.

Last time I checked, the planet's oil supply was largely in the hands of folks who are not our friends; burning oil and coal is increasingly considered gauche. Windmills and solar cells will only take you so far, ditto water running downhill; here in flat, cloudy Indiana, what're we supposed to do? Burn more sulfurous Hoosier coal? Modern nuclear power plants are cleaner and safer. They're not 100% safe; nothing is; but they're a lot safer than the idiots in my TV want me to believe.

Monday, March 14, 2011


It should be a word. A ninjit is like an ijit, only dressed all in black, loudly pseudo-stealthy, and carrying a short-barrelled shotgun with a scope on it.

Or maybe a shotshell-chambered revolver. Or a tactical Mare's Leg.

I Knew It: Cheerfulness Kills!

At least, that's what the writers of The Longevity Project think:
"Bright-eyed, optimistic children were more likely to be highly social, and "went to more parties where they smoke and drank, craving the buzz," [...] "They died from accidents." Or they remained happy when things were going their way, then crashed when confronted with the difficulties of life.
Other findings? Nose-to-the-grindstone types who don't cut corners outlive the slapdash, happy-go-lucky folks; and people who have a high-stress, rewarding job tend to outlive those with duller, less stressful employment. --Oh, and don't retire, either, if you want to live a long, long time.

...Like all such studies, it's only "true" for some majority of a large group; your personal mileage is liable to vary. Me, I'm gonna keep on smiling even if fortune favors the sourpuss -- 'cos what's the point in hangin' around only to be miserable?

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Waves And Waves

If you're much of a geek, you'll like this. Bonus squee for mathheads and radio geeks!

On Japan

There's very little I can do about their troubles by blogging about it, so I haven't; but as Japan, so the world: our entire species lives on the volcano's edge. We live on a world that will kill us without warning, without doing anything that hasn't happened over and over in the ordinary course of normal happenings, without malice or spite.

Japan, poised atop one of the more-active parts of the Ring of Fire, gets hit more than most, but don't think your turn can't come. Look at the dinosaurs and don't think our turn can't come.

We're all here on this one tiny blue marble, helping each other as best we can when calamity strikes. There is no Plan B.

Maybe it's time there was.

(Elsewhere and yet similarly, at Baby Troll Blog.)

Aaaagh! Somebody's Been Messin' With The Clocks!

Ah...Good morning?

Mostly, what he said.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

For Radio Amateurs

If you have cats, you may have noticed that many of them find the sounds coming out of your radio fascinating...

...Possibly too fascinating!
(Not a ham? Fine. Go watch a Slow Lorus basking in the joy of its very own umbrella.)

Weekend Rabbit Hole

Wow! ...Happen onto tangible-interface synthesizers on YouTube and an hour is gone before you know it.

Raymond Scott would have loved these -- not to mention the waveTable.

What's For Brunch, Roberta X?

Yet another edition of Breakfast Hash, much enhanced by Tamara's ingredient-shopping:

Three strips of good bacon.

Three rounds of Canadian bacon (Er, "bacon." All respect to our Northern neighbors but we just don't speak the same English, er, those of you that do, that is [glances semi-nervously at Quebec and regions east-northeastward], especially in this matter of the highest of pork products). This turns out, in fact, to be a major smoky-savory anchoring taste in the end result.

A half-pound of loose chorizo sausage. (Good heavens, we're having NAFTA for breakfast!)

In a large skillet or (best) wok, cook the meats in turn, reserving grease; leave about a quarter of the bacon fat in the pan for the and chorizo. Both bacons go on a paper towel on a plate and stay on the stovetop or adjourn to a low oven to stay warm, the sausage goes into a lidded bowl,* set tipped to drain.

One packaged of fresh whole mushrooms, de-stemmed and sliced; fry in remaining fat, topping up from reserve stock as needed. Don't forget to keep draining the chorizo, either directly into the pan if it looks dry or into the reserved grease.

Two potatoes (your choice), diced, seasoned with one of the less-salty Cajun seasonings and/or Mrs. Dash (IMO, salt is not all that good a friend to tatties about to be fried). Push the mushrooms to the edges of the pa when the first start to get dark and add the potatoes, smoothing out into a single layer. Turn often until they brown.

Meanwhile, chop a half onion (I used a purple one) or leek/scallion/etc. and three Serrano peppers (+/- to taste). Don't deseed the peppers, just chop them into rounds and halve or quarter the rounds. I'd've added a Poblano, too, but we were out. Add the onion to the mostly-browned potatoes and mushrooms, mix, and cook until onions are almost translucent, then add peppers (I threw in one diced radish, too), mix, cook just a little and--

--Push it all to the sides, turn the heat up to High and scramble four eggs in the center.

When the eggs are done, add in the meat (snipping or crumbling the bacons), stir the whole melange together and take the pan off the fire ASAP.

Serve topped with fresh chopped radish, coarsely grated carrot and Italian-blend cheeses (or whatever). It needs no added seasoning; it's hot, smoky, fresh-tasting. We cleared our plates in record time. It is plenty hot but it's a crisp heat, well-moderated by the cheese and fresh raw vegetables.

No photo. It's Breakfast Hash, it looks just like what it is, a plate of mixed stuff.

I think some fresh dill and chives would have been good with this, too.
* I cheat; back when my ex wasn't, I bought two sets of inexpensive Corelle dishes. The saucers are well-fitting lids for the bowls and it's ovenproof. The wok is another cheat, I suppose. If I could only have one pan to cook in, it would be a wok: saucepan, frying pan and stewpot in one!

OMG 2012!

See? It's just like I tolja, see? And soooo grody. The ancient Incas predicted it hundreds of thousands of years ago with stone computers, when they wrote,
Century: 1, Quatrain: 46
Very near Auch, Lectoure and Mirande
a great fire will fall from the sky for three nights.
The cause will appear both stupefying and marvelous;
shortly afterwards there will be an earthquake.
Then they told Edgar Cayce how angels will send the Great Babylon to the bottom of the sea. The Incas even had that prediction encoded in the Great Pyramid of Giza!

And to think, here we are seeing it all come true in every detail!

Too Arcane?

It's my current desktop at work. Most folks don't seem to get it:

Friday, March 11, 2011

Double Hop

I just watched a TV news anchor (New York) and a reporter (Hawaii) make themselves look positively idiotic while attempting a simple report on very real tsunami worries in the former monarchy.

The reason was simple enough and the fix for it is simpler still; why it happened at all, though, I can only speculate but even speculation makes me giggle.

See, it's a long way from the Big Island to the Big Apple and it's even farther if you're a TV picture..and farther still if you're a digital TV picture. Two satellite hops (Hawaii to the bird to probably LA, LA to a different geosync and back down to NYC, and the likely the same trip back, which is gonna be important). Plus the delay effects caused by gizmos and gadgets all along the way, digital signal processors having significant throughput lag if you're doing anything tricksy with them like resynchronizing on the fly, which is probably happening at both ends and in the middle, plus whatever delay (half a second or more) is in the Fedgov-mandated digital link from the Field Reporter back to his station.

The result of all this is that Anchorlady says, "Hello..." and it's at least four seconds before Field Reporter hears her; he answers back, "Good Morning..." and commences to blather. But back in New York, it's another four seconds before that arrives.

Eight seconds of well-dressed, attractive TV meat puppets looking brightly and blankly into the camera is Too Long; at about the six-second mark, Anchorlady looked panicked and offers, "They seem to be having some problem hearing us in--"

...And at that point, finally, Field Reporter's "Good Morning" comes blaring out the speakers. Anchorlady jumps and tries to recover and when she is halfway through that, Field Reporter realizes that Something Is Wrong and tries to recover. By starting over.

They went back and forth in that manner for nearly a minute until (I'd guess) some harried producer hissed into Field Reporter's earpiece, "When I say 'go,' just start talking and don't stop!" They put him up on the screen all by himself, none of that fancy splitscreen stuff, and got the job done.

See, everybody at each end is accustomed to nearly instant communications, or at least the appearance of it; and since earthquakes don't happen on any kind of schedule nor (often) in places as wired-in at Japan and Hawaii, nobody remembered what an Amanpour lag (named for the awkward pauses in the then-CNN reporter's two-hop sat links out of Afghanistan) was, let alone the various workarounds (smiling, nodding* and shutting up being the quickest).

The appearance of no lag is easy to fake: prior to going on the air, some Assistant to the second Assistant Producer gets on the talkback and says to the field guy, "I'm gonna say 'now' and as soon as you hear it, say 'now" back to me." She says "now" and starts her stopwatch; when he replies, she notes how long it took, divides the number by two, looks at the script and guesses how early to tell him to start talking. When the report goes on the air, Anchorlady has to stick to her script and Field Reporter never actually hears her, just the Producer telling him, "go!" and us at home, why, we never notice a thing. We don't even think about it. When we call Uncle Joe across town, it's a nearly-instant link, even if we used Skype and had pictures at each end. So surely everything like that works just that way, right?

Yeah, that's what Anchorlady and Field Reporter were thinking this morning, too. Ooops.

It was made even better by eight seconds of the field guy staring into space and muttering through his reports when they first went to him. Why, those people sound downright human when they think they're not being watched!

(Update: Another tricky workaround is to semi-script the Q&A and then use absolutely firm times. With GPS, synchronized clocks are are easy; talking to fit the allotted time slots is hard but it's a basic skill of their trade. At least in theory. Newsies who are very, very good can be caught in an advanced version of this trick; listen for a question being asked at the beginning of a paragraph, with a few seconds of pretty drivel following: "JimBob, are the aftershocks continuing? Tell our viewers how things are going in Distant Foreign City. JimBob?" Meanwhile, he started yakking after the first question, while the blather filled the lag. He then does something similar, tagging out early with "For Bigtime Bighair Smileyface News, I'm JimBob Marx in Distant Foreign City, where they're still digging out from under the terrible aftermath of a predawn earthquake followed by a huge cotton-candy explosion (etc.)..." This time, his opposite number started in when he said "Name...Location," the obvious outcue. This requires prearrangement and a degree of mother-wit to read the early cues but it can be done. That it fails to happen in coverage from a major network is...well...unfortunate.)
* Known as an "Amanpour nod" throughout the business. Such is fame.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

For Sale: 440

And I'm not just whistling "A." 70 cm, 440 Megahertz, not no hightone 440 cycles. (442 in Vienna 'cos of inflation).

The huckster hawking what happens to be a ham band is a New York Republican Congressthing.

U. S. Rep. The Honorable The Peter King is a middlin' odious creature, obsessed with terrorism unless you happen to be Irish-spelt-IRA and then it's just innocent hijinx; but Allah help you if that's how you spell $DEITY. And Peter has a dream: he wants to create a new, wonderful Public Safety band, for door-kickers and firemen and the man who bugs your phone, not to mention the EMTs who will stabilize your condition and haul you off to a prison ward after, and he's gonna fund this dream by selling off a popular Amateur Radio band, one often used for disaster-relief communications by hams working with the American Red Cross and other groups. Even working with Uncle Sam.

Slashdot's got more.

Good job, Peter, you half-wit. And by the way, when some 15-Watt intellect decides to make his socioreligiopolitical point by blowin' up a car or a building, his race, religion and/or politics matter to me only as characteristics useful in hunting him down along with all his helpers and bosses; it's the act that offends the peace. Jerks like you only ensure it'll keep happening.

(If you were thinking, "At least he thinks we've got too many Mooooooslims here in the U.S.," yeah, he does; and when it comes to guns, the NRA rates him "D." I guess he'd like you to have to face down Joe Jihadi bare-handed. Still like him? He thinks your smokes should be regulated like medical marijuana, that warrantless wiretaps are Just Fine and Mr. Obama's mandatory "National Service" is a super idea. Nanny-government in an elephant suit doesn't look any better than when it's dressed like a jackass. Or is that a RINO suit? Some days you can hardly tell).

What's For Breakfast Today

Roast beef hash served with a ribbon of wasabi (it's horseradish. Only better) and a fried egg with garden pesto. 'Cos I can.

...Which reminds me, I did try the "green eggs" trick the other day, beating eggs with green pesto and scrambling them:Yum! They're delicious. And green. With a few (little) slices of dry salami chopped up and fried just ahead of scrambling the eggs, even better.

Just don't try getting the kids to eat 'em.

Today's Motto

"Same guts as Sony™."

(Said by Tam, totally at random, watching the West Coast feed of Robot Chicken early this morning).

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

New At I Work On A Starship

A new chapter -- at last! -- at I Work On A Starship:

Our run-in with Port Security had worked out better than expected: though Port Control had flatly denied any chance of the sabotage happening while our squirt-boosters were under their care, the not-police had approached the matter with the cynical skepticism of good cops everywhere and worked their way down the list of every Port employee who could possibly have had access to them.

A cleaner named Mallory had shown up for his shift while the vehicles were starting to be hauled to where Raub and I had looked them over. He'd stuck around just long enough take in what was happening; gate records showed him leaving shortly after. Port Security had sent an officer to his address of record, which turned out to be a vacant lot adjacent to the crater from the tanker crash.

And that, on this still very Edger-like world, was just about that: he'd been hired without references and there's no official paper trail other than voluntary documents. At least for a certain value of "official."
Read the entire chapter at IWOAS!

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

NPR After Dark?

Hidden-camera specialist James O'Keefe catches some NPR execs with their hair -- or pants -- down. It's an interesting look at some...interesting opinions.

Geesh, remind me exactly why my taxes pay for any of this -- especially when their own guys say they'd be better off without Fed money? On the other hand, considering some of the other fool notions expressed in the video, I wouldn't give that assertion much credence.

Am I The Only One?

Full-auto firearms do make a satisfying lot of sound and smoke but if I'm turning money into noise and holes in a piece of paper, I'd rather use something that lets me shoot one round at a time. Even shooting someone else's ammunition.

...I'm not a bad shot and the emotional reward of punching paper pretty close to the X and knowing which shot did it is more fun for me than having the gun go brrrrrap! and keeping the whole burst on the paper.

If I was designing a pure-fun shooting range, it'd look like a cross between an old-time carnival gallery and miniature golf. I wonder if you could use a lightshow-type laser system for the target-occluding windmill blades?

Monday, March 07, 2011

Give Charlie His Due

The former "Two And A Half Men" actor has managed to change "sheenie" from a reprehensible ethnic slur to an adjective: "Have you been drinking? You seem really out of control, almost sheenie."

It's a kind of progress.

Update: Other possibilities: "He has the sheen of madness," or a twist on the old term for over-acting, "Chewing up the sheenery."

Buh-bye, 30-Year Home Loan! Buh-bye!

Interesting article from the New York Times about the possible demise of the 30-year, fixed-rate mortgage. Reading it, I discovered that, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac's involvement in the collapse of the housing market has gone from a wild, unproven right-wing assertion (probably dreamed up by the Koch brothers in between selling babies at a profit and bilking widows) to Received Wisdom. Hunh.

The comments are a scream, though possibly not in the sense of amusement; all the usual hobbyhorses are trotted out, from the guy who thinks that, because he had a budget and wrote it all down (in ink and everything!) and now prices are rising, he's being ripped off to the blame-the-GOP 'tards who seem to think the cause must be the overweening greed of lenders rather the short-sighted concupiscence of those who bought homes they could not afford and were allowed to thanks to improvident Federal policies. They're all shouting, nobody's listening, and, oddly enough, none of 'em appear to be living in discarded appliance boxes.


Sunday, March 06, 2011

Basement: Better; Breakfast, Better Still!

The floor drain is, at long last, draining. Water ingress has slowed considerably. My tiny shop-vac picked up a lot of it and will see more use later this morning.

With USS Roseholme's leaking bilges almost under control, I was able to get some cooking done: a breakfast hash with seasoned ground pork (curry powder, tarragon, cilantro, marjoram, thyme, garlic powder and dried chives -- I'm out of sage! Black pepper would have been good to add, too), one (1) chorizo sausage, diced potato, fresh mushrooms, red onion, a small zucchini and a large poblano pepper and three eggs, served topped with a little chopped Gruyère cheese, diced raw carrot and garden pesto; salt, pepper and/or Cholula to taste. Yum!

The almost-baby zucchini worked very well. Next time, I'll either skip the mushrooms (too bland) or replace them with an exotic, more flavorful variety and add a few diced serrano peppers. I'm tempted to try scrambling the eggs with the bright-green pesto mixed in, which is almost certain to result in tasty, green eggs.

Saturday, March 05, 2011

Bookmarking This: Steampunk Seamstress

Found at Artfire, an Etsy-like site that's new to me: Damsel In This Dress. She makes Steampunk ladies attire, very pretty stuff. Corsets (of course) in a wide range of sizes ('cos, look, they're cute 'n'all but you get too far from your natural waist size, there's all manner of discomfort and trouble -- those fainting Victorian maidens were not faking it for the attention) and marvelous skirts.

I realize many of my blog readers are probably not enthusiastic shoppers, especially for frilly skirts, but by golly I am, and my sense of style is usually not in sync with what they've got at the department store.

It Certainly Smells Wrong

His attorney tells the press, "He's entitled to the presumption of innocence just like every other person."

I suppose he is, but after eight years of the delightful Todd Rokita as Secretary of State, a man who, as far as I know, only put his foot in his mouth once (and apologized immediately) and was otherwise in favor of things like redistricting in a non-partisan manner that would result in districts that didn't resemble a pile of mating gerrymanders (yeah, that got shot right down), the guy who replaced him, Charlie White, is way worse than disappointing. Charlie's been charged with voter fraud, perjury and theft (and more!), with excellent evidence in support of the charges. (Voter fraud? And just what state official, do you suppose, serves as Indiana's Chief Election Officer?)

You can blame me a little, I guess about half a vote's worth; thanks to a peculiarity of Indiana's ballot access laws, I vote for the Libertarian Candidate for Secretary of State. It was Mike Wherry in the last go-round and he did better than many LP candidates. Nowhere near winning, alas.

I don't know the Democrat who stood for that election late November and I probably wouldn't agree with many of his positions, but Vop Osili appears to be an honest man and a guy who does his homework; he's held a number of actual-work jobs in government* and at this point, it is just about certain that the state of Indiana would have been better served with him in the Secretary of State's office.

As it stands, we've got a guy with press coverage that I'm sure is making GOP leadership squirm -- and it ought to. But Charlie's not steppin' down, oh no, no, no. Not 'til he has had his day in court.

He's no Todd Rokita. He's not Mike Wherry or Vop Osili, either. We'd probably have done better hiring the first urban outdoorsman to show up on the steps the State Capitol building the day after elections than the clown we elected.
* To the extent that any of 'em are actually needed, which I'd differ with; but if you're stuck with zoning, you need a zoning appeals board to figure out when the law's being stupid, and Vop was one of the men and women sitting though interminable hearings and trying to figure out workable solutions. Likewise, when a Republican Democrat Governor needed someone who actually knew something about designing and constructing buildings for the Indiana Fire and Building Services Commission, Mr. Osili stepped up. Politics is one thing; work ethic is another.


There's 2" of water in the basement at Roseholme! I can't tell if it is rising, falling or staying steady.

The floor was dry when I went to bed last night. And -- what a coincidence! -- we had over 2" of rain last night.

So much for the neighborhood storm drain/sewer improvements after our last flood several years ago: this does not appear to be coming up the floor drain, but it's not going down it, either.


1. Bought a sump pump, check valve, hose (yeah, boys, with Cuban heels and a seam up the back and no photos of me modeling them. Suffer) and got the water down to "mostly just wet." Yay, hooray!

2. An hour later, back to a rising sheen of water. It's oozing up through the floor and along the walls. Once again, Roseholme has been set afloat! Cue rats. (Leaving). So the pump's gonna have to be run every couple of hours until the groundwater level drops.

It occurs to me I should ditch the whole "basement" concept and just jack the house up, have one or more barge hulls installed under it, and bolt it back down on 'em: instant earthbound houseboat! Maybe I can pick up a nice marine diesel engine to run a generator with while I'm at it. Or a steam engine. You can still buy coal, right?

Friday, March 04, 2011

Indiana Legislature: Now With Fines

Hey, it was good enough for Wisconsin. A majority of Indiana's remaining State Representatives voted yesterday to fine the truant Democrats -- still encamped in Illinois despite having been given everything on their original gift list -- $250 a day for every additional day they skip work.

What I have yet to discover is how many members short of a quorum the House is; if it's only a few, one might wonder if a carrot might work better than a stick. Or would that constitute bribery?

My feelings are mixed; as it stands, it's pretty hard for 'em to pass any laws that spend my tax-extorted money. On the other hand, I hate to encourage the parliamentary equivalent of holding your breath until you turn blue. Though denying a quorum is an old, established tactic, it's born of desperation and should be reserved for extreme cases. With "Right To Work" off the table, House Democrats have run out of things to be desperate about.


Ah, here we go: Indiana Constitution, Art. 4: "Section 11. Two-thirds of each House shall constitute a quorum to do business[...]"

There were, as of the most recent news story, two Democrats in attendance; with 60 Republicans, they're four and two-thirds short and I assume one rounds up rather than subdividing a Representative, so we'll call it five. A hundred Reps in the House, so that leaves 38 huddled en masse across the border.

Fine 'em $250 per day per each, that's $9500 a day. Divide that among the first five to return for every day their fellows sit out, and The Honorables can collect a cool $1900 a day bonus for sitting in the House and voting a firm, proud "Nay!" on matters of which their Party -- or, heavens forfend, the bulk of their constituents -- disapprove.

Oh, Speaker Bosma....? Such a plan I have for you!
Footnote: Intending to make a joke about the Speaker's J.D. degree ("He's a doctor!"), I Wiki-wandered my way to the founder of the first law school in the U.S. and from there to perhaps his most famous client, a truly remarkable woman. This is why we can't take Shakespeare's advice about the profession.

Thursday, March 03, 2011

Do You Live Near Coal Center, Pennsylvania?

Do you know anyone at a freight company?

Look, I'm dreaming.* This is ridiculous, but there's a nicely-motorized camelback drill press on [an auction site] that's "local pickup only" and it's already cycled through once with no takers. Worse yet, it's in a basement; the seller writes, "bring some strong backs."

These things are H-E-A-V-Y, 500 pounds (American!) in this instance; they were built for factories where power was delivered to the machines through an overhead line shaft and you started up a drill or lathe by sliding a wide, flat belt from a free-spinning pulley to a drive pulley.

I shouldn't even consider it; it'd take major rearrangement of "The Roseholme Works," a/k/a my garage, just to fit it in.

But hey... Any ideas?

(I do hope this drill press finds a home. While it's crazy heavy compared to a modern drill press, it's also a lot more stable. If the bearings are good and everything is true and square, you can bolt a cross slide vise [linked example illustration only!] on the table and have a nice "poor man's milling machine" for brass and aluminum.)
* My fingers originally typed "dreadming." Yeah, that's about right.

What's Round At Both Ends And Under The Radar?

Hint: Their legislation to bar strikes by public employees unions and curtail collective bargaining by them is still on track and seems likely to pass. While it's received some national coverage (and quite a lot in-state, I'm told), it has been overshadowed by louder fights elsewhere -- especially since the other battles bid fair to work out the way Mama Media wants 'em to.

The difference is, they've got a quorum in Ohio; last I knew, Wisconsin was still one short (now with fines!). In Indiana, our proposed labor law changes were far more sweeping...until the Democrat walkout caused it to get swept under the rug. But we've got a soundtrack!
All righty, then.

Wednesday, March 02, 2011

Meanwhile, One State Over

The Associated Press has apparently convinced the Illinois Attorney General that the names of FOID holders are a matter of public record. Full details from AP themselves, who are tediously picky about copyright and will therefore not be quoted here (I'll replace the link with a non-AP-content one if I can find it; IMO they're jerks on so many, many levels). But you may interested to learn which entity disagrees. --Here's a TV news story with the basic info. And a bit of local opinion from the Quad Cities area.

AP and the IL AG: Helping move guns from the law-abiding to criminals. Awwww. They care about the underprivileged!

(H/T to Midwest Chick)

Self-Indulgent, Mostly Healthy

Old-fashioned oatmeal with cinnamon and vanilla sugar added to the water before the oatmeal. Yum! Taste it once and you'll spurn the "instant" stuff ever after.

I'm Up! I'm Up!

Have I mentioned I'm on vacation through the middle of this week?

More content later. Breakfast first.

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

Epic Graffiti

Do The Right Thing Dep't:

1. Take a look at this.
2. Decide if you can trust yourself with a silver or white Sharpie™ today.

News Or PR?

In the UK, helps you filter truth from truthiness, or at least spot PR-driven "news."

Do we have one of those over here, or do I just have to keep turning the crank on search-engines?

Food Note: Breakfast Made Better

Set skillet or griddle over a medium-low fire. Non-stick preferred or (and?) use a little cooking oil or spray.
Take a slice of rye bread, hole punched in the center with a tumbler.
Brush well with olive oil (including centers if desired).
Sprinkle of pepper in the skillet; drop in the bread, crack an egg into the hole.
Optional: break yolk and/or additional seasoning.
Flip when possible.
When egg is cooked, remove to plate and spread with garden pesto (etc.) to taste.

(The source of this delicious pesto has a blog filled with recipes. The farther down I scroll, the more I drool).

Dodge Your Job In The Land Of Lincoln

Well, really quite a bit north of where Honest Abe hung out:

Political tourism: the future is now.

Quelle Coincidence!

Lead 'grafs from two stories at The Week:

"Newt Gingrich says President Obama is trampling the Constitution by refusing to fight for the Defense of Marriage Act...."


"The former Speaker of the House is on the brink of forming an exploratory committee to run for president....."

That's Newt, always the pure and idealistic Public Servant.

Y'know, the Democrats are like a hard-drinkin' uncle, undependable and spendthrift but a lot of fun 'til he passes out and drives into a school bus full of orphans. But the GOP? They're the other uncle, a penny-pinching skinflint who keeps slapping the same old threadbare retreads on his Caddy and claimin' they're just as good as new.

It's possible -- only possible -- that the electorate might like something other than a choice between Marxist notions drunkenly askew (or, worse, maudlin) on one hand and the same old, same old, same old fossilized Nixonian distortions of "conservatism" on the other. Don't hold your breath waiting for it.