Saturday, April 30, 2011

F. A. Hayek

"Conservatism is only as good as what it conserves."
--Friedrich August Hayek

With Any Luck...

...Or at least industriousness, by the time you read this, I will be on my way to a gathering of the Indiana Historical Radio Society, an organization to which I am unable to devote as much tame time as I'd like.

Someone over Tam's way lauded the British Royal Family (IMO, the nation-state version of purse dogs and I'm much relieved to see they've decided to outcross back to wild stock again, as the breed had got a bit odd-looking in the previous generation) as the "custodians of living history." And maybe they are; other than dragging an entire nation (and a goodly chunk of the rest of the world, at least the parts that speak some flavor of English some of the time) to a standstill every time they get married or crowned or have the poor timing to die, they're a harmless enough affectation. (Not so much in the way of custodians, though -- I doubt a one of them would know how to use a mop bucket, even after it bit them. Um, on second thought the Queen might; she seems sensible enough).

But you know who else is a "custodian of living history?" You are and places like Etsy and eBay are, too. Every time you turn that bedanged Colonial chestnut roaster or the hideous set of matched Art Deco splatchet forks into money by putting them in the hands of some yoik who thinks they are the greatest things evar, you have successfully custodialized some history. I should not be in the least surprised to learn that more of that sort of thing is going on now than has ever gone on before.

And you don't even need blue blood to do it! (This is good -- those horseshoe crabs take a lot of looking after.)

Friday, April 29, 2011

State Of Ninnies

It's a beautiful place, with no shortage of natural wonders or clever and productive people; but the trouble with a place where you can get anything on the ballot is that there are plenty of persons -- or tallish, hairless/featherless bipeds that have (mostly) learned to not make messes in the house -- who have absolutely no grasp of "none of your business!"

And this time 'round, out in the Golden Pear State (look it up), in San Franciso, where happy, smiling people covered in tattoos and scarifications, with piercings through every bit that's pierceable, will greet you and politely ignore your goggling eyes, they've put a proposal to outlaw (male) circumcision on the ballot.

I haven't got a dog in that fight, bein' female and not a mother, nor livin' in Cally-forn-i-a; but I find myself goggling not at the innocent folks who have gone in for heavy decoration but the sheer, ignorant effrontery of the sort of shaved ape who thinks his personal prejudices and whims outweigh, gee, decades of custom, centuries of religious practice and, f'pity's sake, deals made with G-d?

--Sure, you can tell me I'm an agnostic -- but the parties to the cited arrangement are not.

Right about now, you prolly think I'll go Godwin; but I shan't. I don't have to. I just wonder when San Franciscans will move on up to the year 1290 and put an Edict of Expulsion up for vote?

The tyranny of the mob, sooooo much better than the tyranny of a single man. And so very much more wise, too. You betcha.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

"One-Party Nation"

From the Could Not Have Said It Better Myself Dep't, Wick Allison:
When people tell me we need a third political party in America, I tell them they are wrong. What we need is a second party in America.
...The difference being, Wick voted for Mr. Obama (and endorsed him in print) -- the linked article being subtitled, "Why I am recanting my 2008 endorsement of Barack Obama." (We can, finally, be pretty sure that it's not over his birth certificate).

Semi-relatedly, The Week offers five takes on why he-who-must-not-be-named (R0n P@u1) is running for Prez again. Who knows, maybe this time his own party'll let him say a few words at their convention?

Wednesday, April 27, 2011


Or the lack thereof. A huge headache is drillin' in via my left ear. It's just the weather getting synerjiggy with my normal migraine but it has fair driven most thoughts from my head.

I'm not polit-blogging quite as much as I have in the past, largely because I think at the Federal level the system is unfixably broke, in both the "not working" and "no money" senses. Between the Party of Spending and the Party of Spending Even More,* the FedGov is at this point in time running on bad checks and (relatively) good reputation and as Larry Correia pointed out back on the 15th, the finances are so unprecedentedly far out of whack, there is no tellin' how it will fall when it falls, let alone what form it will take. (And do not even talk to me about planned collapse; whle there are plenty of rats gnawing away at the foundations, their contributions are barely a patch on the huge damage done by elected and appointed officials who refuse to believe water runs downhill -- and by majorities who vote for the voteable fools and liars.)

One thing's for sure, the superbigsavings budget Congress came up with is a bad joke; it replaces a cowflop with...a cowflop with a ribbon it! Dig in, kids. If you don't like that, there's a proposal to jack up the taxes on the companies and people who employ us, which, as any simpleton know, could not possibly result in even more bankruptcies, layoffs and offshoring. Oh heavens no. And meantime, the party that was chanting No Blood For Oil elected their Own Very Special Peace-Loving Guy who got us in another war in oil country! Oh, hurrah. Meanwhile, our other wars sputter on, all of 'em producing the FedGov's primary tangible product, maimed young people.

The collapse, when it comes, may look a bit like the fall of the old Soviet Union. We are fortunate in the U.S. that we've got State governments (at least, if you like governments). Many of them are even solvent, or nearly so and when -- not if, when -- the Federal Government of The United States of America augers in, the States will likely be able to cobble something together. If they can manage to dodge debt collectors after the Feds, there may be a path out.

But the clock is ticking. I hope things hold together long enough for the Golden Age of Commercial Space Travel to really get cranking but I have my doubts. It's a pity -- there is wealth enough up there to even prop up the bloated monstrosity headquartered in the District of Columbia; but do you want that? Perhaps the best we can hope for is that it falls slowly.

It's sad. I never thought things would take this sort of a turn, not in this country; but we are within a few years of internal passports (if I don't hurry up and get a passport so I can get a RealID driver's license, I won't even be able to travel far), government is getting back into the business of tellin' businesses what to do (after FDR and Nixon's efforts mostly landed in the toxic waste dump of history reeking quietly as a warning) the wheels keep spinning and spinning as the country sinks into the mud while grinning politicians call it "progress."

Gah! A pox on 'em all!
* Interchangeable, if you don't mind repainting.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Another Blogger Blooms

SF writer, libertarian anarchist, freelance curmudgeon and all around individualist Carl Bussjaeger has a real blog now!

His website was always a bit bloggish but it was hand-carved and not quite so easy to update -- so I'm hoping this means we'll be hearing more from him.

Plus, he now has control of his books, available at Amazon, and has cut the prices!

Stumbling Over Diamonds

I was sitting here, munching on breakfast and looking at Sitemeter, when I followed a an incoming link that led me, in a roundabout way, here. From there, I landed at Antitango's place and from there -- well, from there to the single best gun-forum thread I've ever seen: O. A. Bierkle's 1917.

An amazing connection opens the door to a human-level glimpse of history about an outstanding man.

You wanna know what this-here Innernet is good for? There it is.

Monday, April 25, 2011


Soooo.... I figured the Brew Pub would be open; I mean, how could they not...?

Pretty easily, as it turned out. But no matter; intrepid scouts quickly located those few places that were open (Brugge among them) and 'twas determined that Canal Bistro, right next to the turtle-threatening sculpture, would be our spot.

And a good thing it was; there's nothing like saganaki, battered and deep-fried calimari, gyros, lamburgers (!) and/or a good Greek salad to pep up a chilly, rainy day -- nothing, that is, except good company: ...Not my day for photography. But clockwise from lower left, we have Brigid, The Jack, Joanna, Old Grouch, Dave (Scout 26 of The Cancer Ward -- his very first Indy BlogMeet), Nathan, an empty seat (cos that's mine) and Tamara K!

The food was great and there was even a little excitement outside, but that I will have to let others tell and/or leave for another time, as I'm back to the eye-doctor, to see if they'll maybe sell me some contacts.

Should I admit to seeing things like this? I'd always wondered where they came from....

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Lovecraftian Hand-Eye Coordination

Just Say No when the gene-splicer asks.

Columnist Gets It Backwards

As usual.

Cynthia Tucker wants to know why Uncle Sam hasn't made you ride the bus -- and why he lets you live so far from work. When Congresscritters wanna let our own oil companies drill for oil within U.S. territory, she fumes there isn't enough to make a difference, anyhow.

...And then caps it by sighing, "A dime [more] a gallon can break the budget." She thinks maybe "we" -- by which she means Teh Gummint -- will get serious when gas reaches $10.00 a gallon.

Um, I've got news for you, sweetie: higher gas prices are the single bestest way to get people to find more efficient ways of using the stuff. One reason I put in several evenings getting my motor scooter going was the rise in gas prices: that thing takes me to work on a couple of tablespoons of petrol.

High prices also make the harder-to-get to sources economically viable.

I don't think we're "running out of oil" any time soon, especially not in a solar system where globs of kerogen are out there for the taking. But thanks to the very Wonders Of Economics she decries, any such crash is self-cushioning.

Oh, and if Mr. Obama's government was serious about controlling oil prices? They'd stop printing more and more dollars. Every time the printing press goes 'round, the dollar(s) in your, mine and Ms. Tucker's pockets are worth a bit less.

I wonder how long her commute is -- and if she takes the bus?


Ha! Steak'n'egg'n a bitta bacon, with a toasted English muffin, excellent coffee (thank you, Turk!) and cranberry juice: yum!

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Brazen Burglary?

More like ferrous! The headline says it all: Indiana police investigate theft of railroad tracks.

Times are indeed tough -- even if you have enough heavy machinery and sheer effrontery steal railroad tracks.

Lawful Carrying Of Guns = Edge Of Anarchy

...And that notion's from a man who seems dreadfully worried young African-Americans might openly carry unloaded guns in the (California) approved manner. The man happens to be an NAACP official:

Joe Brown, president of the Pasadena-branch NAACP demonstrated alongside the gun opponents.

With frequent incidents of gun violence ravaging Northwest Pasadena, Brown criticized the message being sent by the protesters.

"Could you imagine if many of the young people carried a unloaded weapon in their car and every time they got stopped they said they had a right to carry a weapon and pointed to the guys in Old Pasadena as an example," Brown asked. "That's almost on the edge of anarchy."

Since that is a right those young people do have -- assuming they're not too young or felons or otherwise barred by law from handling firearms -- I can only assume he's voicing some sort of racist concern over members of minorities realizing they have the same right to own and carry guns as any other citizen of California.

That's not anarchy, Mr. Brown, it's called liberty. And it's not dependant on your skin color or what side of town you live on. Perhaps you've read of the historic efforts along those lines, or are somewhat familiar with at least one the organizations that have worked to promote and retain such equality of freedom in the United States?

(H/T to Joe, who found another quote of amusing interest in the article).

Friday, April 22, 2011

Oooooo! Indiana 2011 Primary Info!

You have to take a Yellow Cab to where N. Pierson St. vanishes. Sneak through the gate and turn right. There'll be a guy behind the bushes, smoking. Ask him, "Are you Mike?" and he'll unlock the side door. Go down the hall, turn right, and take a sharp left at the jog. Go through the first door in your path, go up the ramp, down three steps and along the row of cubicles. Stop at the last one in your left and ask for Sarah. She'll hand you a list of candidates for city and county offices. Whew! Indiana 2011 Primary Election Information.

They did a good job of hiding it from Google.

Do You Know What Day It Is?

It's Bettie Page's birthday! Free suntans for everybody!

A Primary What?

I'm still digging for Primary Election information. The Marion County Election Board has some information for local offices (our Republican Mayor, Greg "lousy on guns" Ballard stands unopposed; the Dems have a three-way fight for the office, all of whom are worse choices. I sure hope the Libertarians find someone to run for Mayor in the fall. Or even someone's dog).

At one point, Richard Mourdock was considering standing against long-time RINO Senator Richard Lugar and if I can see through the shiny, shiny glow of (Gov.) Mitch Daniels in this news story, it appears he still is. Someone ought to -- a vote for the Hon. the Mr. Lugar is almost the same as a vote for a Democrat and if we're only gonna have two parties holding most of the offices, I'd as soon they were two distinct parties instead of one bowl of warm, statesmanesque mush. As for who those of you on the Left side of the hall have to choose between, umm, might as well not even bother looking on the Web.

I get it that this is an off-year primary and there may only be 15 or 20 poor saps per polling place actually voting for a couple dozen candidates but it's still surprising how little comprehensive coverage there's been. Crowded out by the Royal Wedding? Didn't we fight a couple of wars over the business of elections vs. royalty?


(Speaking of the 1.5-Party system, it seems Indiana's proposed "automatic tax refund" of any surplus in the State budget is dead again. Smooooooth, you wallowers in the public-funds trough, smoooooth. Keep on earning that "Parties of Treason" tag, you rats.)

Thursday, April 21, 2011


Tam thinks the city silted them up, trying to use the Intertubes as overflow storm drains. Whatever the reason, this is all you're getting from me until later.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

April BlogMeet!

Yes, it is official and you're invited! The April Indy BlogMeet will be this coming Sunday, 24 April at 3:00 pm at the famous Broad Ripple Brew Pub.

In addition to the obvious, it's an historical date -- the Spanish-American War (™ 1898, Hearst Newspapers) started, Jimmy Carter's mission to rescue hostages in Iran fell apart, the Irish revolted (again) and in 1924, Governor of Indiana Warren T. McCray resigned after being found guilty of mail fraud (an interesting example of a man being right and wrong at the same time).

Also on this date, Apple introduced the Apple IIc portable computer, no doubt to shorter lines of fans, some of whom nevertheless had surely camped out overnight to be at the front of the line.

Big Storms, Too Quiet

One heck of a line of storms blew through last night, leaving downed limbs, puddles and a freshly-damp basement here at Roseholme Cottage in its wake.

--Speaking of sound and fury, we've got an off-year primary coming up on (as a website for Carmel, IN put it) May 3th, and with very few exception, you can go whistle in the wind if you want to learn which offices are going to be up for grabs in the Fall or who's interested in running for them from the Big Two parties. I was going to put in a link but I can't find anything that would be worth your time to follow.

John Galt isn't running; he's decided to sit this one out. ;)

Oh, if you were planning to post a stern letter about this (or any other issue) at a local news outlet's website? Might as well not bother to use a pseudonym. And make sure you still have your good going-to-the-courtroom shoes somewhere handy.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Return Of The Pulps -- Again!

Fans of Doc Savage,* The Shadow and The Avenger (not The Avengers, this dude's singular. Very) will want to check out Sanctum Books, busily reprinting all three, including original covers, illustrations and blurbs.

Back in the real world, J-GRIT is busy indexing and biographing, in their words, "the world's toughest, bravest, and most adventurous Jews." From Emma Goldman to WW II Major General Maurice Rose, some pretty outstanding personalities. Even pirates!

And both links from a Wiki-wander into South American wars of the 19th and 20th Centuries.
* Clark Savage, Jr., the Man of Bronze, perhaps the greatest crimefighter of all time. Ever. They don't make 'em like that any more.

Terms Of Art

A locomotive testing facility in the midst of a residential area, where boys sneak through the fence to watch them test how much mass a big engine can pull? Why, that's a Tractive Nuisance!

Meanwhile, a chemical plant's open, ceramic-tiled pool of sulphuric acid, complete with ladder and diving board? That's a Subtractive Nuisance. No diving!

(Neither term, thank goodness, prompted by a news item).

Monday, April 18, 2011

Not So Much "U," Hey?

Apparently, at least one state is plating them now: It can hardly be considered "U" any more -- and I think the "F" is just poetic language.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

North To Peru!

Peru is north of Indianapolis -- Mexico is, too, but I wasn't going that far. There was an amateur radio swapmeet, a "hamfest," up that way Saturday and I was determined to go. There's a neat antique mall in Kokomo, too, so the trip is a win no matter what.

The trip up U.S. 31 is trippy, too, with interesting semi-abandoned farmhouses, a row of scaled-down power-generation windmills and other oddiments south of Kokomo; there even used to be a strange Navy-type turret pointing a set of twin AA-type guns across the highway!

Little did I know that north of Kokomo, as the land becomes more rolling, the roadside oddness increases, too, from the looks-like-an-oversize-shooting range at Grissom (right smack next to the Miami Correctional Facility Do Not Pick Up Hitchhikers, so it's probably Off Limits) to a neat little air museum I'd overlooked (must schedule road trip with Tam, etc.!) to a pair of hobbit-houses built into hilltops (fatalistically facing the airbase; they're so close, facing away wouldn't've helped so why not point south and pick up some sun?) and a giant yellow rocking chair (no, really). Plus the AA turret reappeared: now it's at a garden-statue center! (Alas, I missed that shot. All of the road-image photographs were taken without using the viewfinder -- just point and click!)

Photos, to the extent they came out, will have followed.

I did find some interesting things at the hamfest: 1940s tube sockets, "doorknob" oscillator crystals, a telegraph key, etc. Some of that will be showing up at Retrotechnologist

Stopping at the antique mall, I found a very nice Stanley bench or machinist's level, all steel and still true, at least on a quick test.* Passed up a couple of nice telephones (candlestick and wooden wall-type), an early Remington Noiseless (not a suppressed shotgun, a typewriter) and a nice-looking but incomplete (missing bobbin assembly) Singer Featherweight folding sewing machine ($295, not a terrible price. I'd buy it if I had any idea how to replace the missing bit). They generally have a decent assortment of hand tools; this time a nearly-complete set of Winchester-branded, general-purpose straight-blade screwdrivers showed up, scattered artistically through a couple of cases and optimistically priced at $45 per each! Don't know when they were made; by appearances and wear, between 1930 and 1955, maybe.

There were plenty of other tools, from old soldering coppers to well-worn, still useful examples of drivers and wrenches and the usual linseed-oiled, wobble-jawed Ford wrenches. Also a surprising lot of large wooden planes, jack or smoothing planes to judge by length; the use of these is probably somewhat mysterious to many modern woodworkers, who just send boards through a powered planer, zzip-burrrr, done. I really should pick one up, a big plane that is, as I don't have any really large smoothers and it's not too difficult to judge condition and resharpen the blade. I passed on an alligator wrench, an idea almost lost in time and perhaps it should be. Still, they're neat when they're not gnawing the corners from hex-shaped fasteners. (Old-time ones were generally built for square fasteners, the modern one actually fits hex and is worth carrying).

Spat rain the whole time up and back and the Hot Needle Of Inquiry (a/k/a a $2000 '03 Hyundai Accent) got terrible gas mileage. Perhaps it's time for a new set of spark plugs.
* How can you tell an old spirit level is on the level? Find a surface it thinks is level, then turn the thing end for end. Bubble still centered? Still good, then. A similar self-comparison trick is used to check old squares; I'll leave the details as an exercise for the reader.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

To A Movie Theatre -- Go!

...Seem to remember reading a line like that in a book review once.* Tam and I saw Atlas Shrugged (Part 1) last night and it was, IMO, excellent.

With the exception of James Taggert -- a bit young and not nearly balding enough -- and Franciso d'Anconia having gone brunette, the characters were very much as I had pictured them. (Wesley Mouch is an impressive bit of casting, in both appearance and the skill the actor brings to the role).

The script is an impressive job, especially in light of the short time in which it had to be written. There's a little rearrangement of events and it all moves very quickly, but dialog that could have been ponderous or even dull is instead light, or at least appropriate to the scene.

It is a little dated, though I think charmingly so; it's a slightly old-fashioned film in terms of situations and pace and that's fitting. The book was written in the 1950s, after all, by a woman who'd learned her craft in 1930s Hollywood.

The story's either familiar to you, or it should be (and I will once again remind readers that is is a work of fiction, no matter how much men like Whittaker Chambers, Lew Rockwell and Roger Ebert might wish to construe it a manifesto or blueprint for revolution), so I won't comment on it directly. I do think the movie does a good job of telling it and I am looking forward to Part 2.
* An infamous hatchet-job on the book and the author, a book review to which I have no intention of linking.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Now I Get It

Charlie Chaplin would have been 122 today. Google celebrated by making their own sort-of homage, a video header for their search page.

In the comments, someone complained about about it, asking "Why didn't they show him..." --But telling that would spoil the surprise. See for yourself:

Okay, now I see why they call him a genius. The usual sappy clips don't do the guy justice. Not even close.

J. Edgar Hoover loathed him; his politics tilted left and he had a dire weakness for young women. But all that died with him. What's left is is work. Look upon it, ye mighty, and enjoy! Beats a couple of trunkless stone legs and a shattered visage in the sand, no?

(The full depth of the drop may be trompe l'oiel l'oeil. That's still some darn fancy skatin'!)

...And I'm Off

I'd like to come up with something topical and amusing this morning but I have to be at the opthamologist's in an hour and there just isn't time.

...Okay, one thought for this 15th April: If "taxes are the price we pay for civilization," we're being hugely overcharged.

April Indy BlogMeet

I'm still darned if I know where to have it but it looks like the 24th is the only open date I've got. (Yes, it's Easter. That's likely to be a problem. --I'm not very good at this stuff).

Can't find a Chinese place that's open early enough (or late enough) Sunday afternoon. I'm open to suggestions. Back to the Brew Pub?

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Huck The Cat: Attempted Escape

He went tearing out the front door tonight, when I opened it without paying enough attention, and I was once again reminded that I intended to not get another cat after Tom and Slinky.

The heartbreak when they die is too darned difficult to get through. And, really, chasing them down when they are run out the door or into the basement is more work and emotional stress than it's worth.

Tam and I managed to corral Huck in the neighbor's front yard and he was back inside in minutes, but my heart was in my throat. Every cat I had as a child was eventually run over; Mother was (understandably) adamant about not having a litter box in the house and all cats were indoor/outdoor pets.

I'll change my mind by the morning and think I was being utterly beastly but tonight, I really wonder if it wouldn't be smarter (or at least easier on me) to just take him to the Humane Society.

Sometimes it's just too much. I'm grateful I don't have any children.

Indiana Gun Law Update

It appears that last year's trend of common-sense firearms law reform is continuing in Indiana; the Senate has passed bills that would end local pre-emption of state law, make it explicitly lawful for citizens who lack a carry permit to transport an unloaded handgun, strengthen the employee protection in the law that allows persons with carry permits to have a gun locked in their car at work, and reform Indiana's long-gun purchase limits to be in line with Federal law.

Looks pretty promising.

On the other hand, over in the House, both pre-emption and the "peaceful journey" bills are still reported as "in committee." With the minority* having proven once again that holding their breath until the entire House faints is an effective legislative technique, things may be slapdash at best; at worst, we may see only the most easily-passed stuff this season.

Here's the biggo list o'bills, Souse and Hen-ate alike, from our pals at
* It's a trick both parties have played after coming up short in the general election, though this year's strike struck me as particularly egregious. Denying a quorum by sneaking out has a very long history, at least back to the 19th Century; I suppose if all the other little politicians went and jumped off a cliff over proposed legislation they disliked, our elected Representatives would go and do that, too.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Put That One In Your DSM-IV

Anarachnophobia: an obsessive, morbid fear of the lack of spiders.

Not to be confused with "Anoraknophobia," which is the title of some album. And/or the fear of anoraks.

An American Chernobyl?

Read John Fuller (or Gil Scott-Heron) and you'd think We Almost Lost Detroit when the Fermi I fast breeder reactor went online.

It had serious problems; zirconium cladding came loose in the reactor vessel and clanged around in the liquid-sodium coolant flow, eventually leading to abnormal operation (and a partial melt-down) which caused the reactor to scram: it shut down.

The operators poked around, found the problem, spent nearly two years gimmicking up the tools and fixing it, and eventually got the thing more-or-less running again. It was never quite what the designers had hoped and in another couple of years, it was shut down.

You may have noticed that Detroit is still there.

So how come? It's not like a liquid-metal cooled fast breeder reactor is an especially forgiving design. But the thing had working safety systems and the operators paid attention to them. In the face of a design or construction problem, they didn't push the system past the point of no return, hoping to win brownie points or dodge a dressing-down, they shut 'er down and began to figure out what went wrong.

And we didn't lose Detroit. Or at least not to Fermi I.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Triumph Of State Control

It was a long natural-gas pipeline; when the techs running it noticed a pressure drop, they didn't want to have to fill out forms or take any blame, so they just cranked the pressure back up and went back the normal routine. They didn't want to make a fuss. It was probably some minor thing, right?

Too bad is wasn't a defective pump or a problem at the source. It was a leak. It leaked out for three hours. The pipeline was in close proximity to a railroad and when two trains passed through the cloud, there was, unsurprsingly, a spark.

What resulted was possibly the most powerful non-nuclear explosion ever, estimated at 10 kilotons: the Ufa train disaster.

It happened in 1989, in what was then the Soviet Union.

Yes, another Chernobyl-esque triumph of communism! Not caused by earthquake, tidal wave or even gloom of night; brought about by guys who followed the written procedure, didn't question orders and weren't about to wake up the boss unless things were totally out of control -- and who, by so doing, let things get far past that point.

Remember that, next time someone hectors you about eeeeevil capitalism.

Dangerous Knowledge

See this? It's chocolate cake. It's pretty good chocolate cake, in fact.So what's so dangerous about this chocolate cake?

It was made in five minutes, start to finish. One mug, one spoon, one microwave. You probably already have the ingredients -- an egg, a bit of flour, sugar and cocoa; a dollop of milk and cooking oil, maybe some vanilla and chocolate chips.

Recipe is at the link. Read it and you'll be five minutes away from chocolate cake whenever you want one. And that's dangerous!

Monday, April 11, 2011

"Get A Move On!"

Tomorrow's Yuri Gagarin day; his famous line is usually rendered in English as "Let's Go!" but all you have to do is look at contemporary photographs to see a fellow not terribly different from the Mercury Seven: physically fit, able to tolerate discomfort without griping and eager to do the thing.

Countdown, with its halts and instructions to check this and readjust that, was no different for him than any American astronaut (maybe worse-- he had to reseat the hatch!) and I can easily imagine any pilot cheering his spacecraft on as the appointed moment arrived.

The Russians were first in space thanks to a clever, dangerous re-entry procedure: Gagarin bailed out at a high altitude; while his capsule thudded down (and picked up quite a dent), he drifted to Earth under a parachute. While this isn't quite by FAI rules (pilot's supposed to take off and land in the same vehicle), I've always thought it made the achievement even more impressive. (It appears that this was SOP for every Vostok flight).

50 years ago tomorrow, the human race slipped out of this planet's atmosphere for the first time. The space race that ensued managed not only to push us out to the Moon but to give the superpowers a kind of substitute for war.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Woo-Hoo! "Atlas" Slated To Play In Indy!

Atlas Shrugged Part One is on the playbill at theatres in Carmel and down on the South Side. Appears to have been picked up in Fort Wayne, too.

The thing about this film is not that I think Ayn Rand was the "it" girl or that I think Objectivism is The Answer and it is certainly not because I think Atlas Shrugged is a blueprint for the future; it's that she's a pretty good propagandist against the ills of big government and creeping socialism and for the benefits of genuinely free trade and a restrained, limited government.

That's a message that needs to get out. There's only one John Stossel, only one Reason magazine -- and only one Ayn Rand. A lot of people are put off by a talky, thousand-page novel, but they'll go to a movie. I'm hoping the filmmaker's done a good job of giving us our money's worth.

Rand's proposed solutions can be poked full of holes from many angles but she certainly managed to identify the problem. And she makes Left-wing hippie's heads explode, too.

Just Say Know

In what person's mind did it seem like a good idea to have middle-school children read a book that describes Truman Capote's nipples? (No, wait, they're Jem's, not Dill's. Still...! Or am I being neo-Victorian again?)

It's no surprise you end up with book reports like the one linked to above. Or rumors about who really wrote the book.

They Wear Masks, You Know

The grounds of Roseholme Cottage had a visitor yesterday afternoon. For the first hour and forty-five minutes, Tam and I both assumed it was a bird and largely ignored it; it wasn't until I headed for the garage to get my bicycle that I saw what it really was. As I crossed the back yard, a louder series of frantic, plaintive wheepling burst out: there was a raccoon kit hanging onto the big maple outside the kitchen, head down and with a back foot wedged in the bark, about twelve feet up.

I yelled for Tam and we checked the situation out: no Mama 'Coon in sight, at least two hours of crying and clearly in trouble. So -- clever sorts that we are -- we decided to get the critter to the ground.'Cos we're all down with Gaea an' like that; also, it's illegal to shoot 'em in town. Now the truth of the matter is, as cuddly and fuzzy-wuzzy as a baby raccoon is (and they are -- cute as a button, that one is), you do not want want to get between one and Mama. You don't want to handle them, either; they often carry a number of very icky parasites and can even have rabies.

So we used a spring rake. The kit was happy enough to climb aboard and with me handling the rake and Tam opening the gate -- the tree is just barely outside of "Fort Bobbi," the fully-fenced back yard -- we lowered the kit to the ground, where it promptly hid itself in the tiger lilies, wheepling and trembling.

After a my bike ride and another couple of hours with no sign of Mama, I left a plate of milk and canned catfood nearby, figuring it couldn't do too much harm (the 'possums would clean it up if the kit didn't).

...Some readers are probably thinking "Kill it! Follow it back to the nest and wipe 'em out!" They've got a point; city raccoons are pests. They are incredibly destructive if they get into one's home or trash cans, and they're rough enough and tough enough to do you some harm, too. Back at my old house, a giant old king 'coon would occasionally raid the outside cat's food and just stare me down when I tried to shoo him away. He was pretty confident he could take me.

But wherever raccoons can live, you will have them, at least in Indy, at which point the question becomes this: do you have a well-mannered tribe or not. Ours has been a good tribe; they live in the storm drains (except when it rains), usually stay out of sight and don't raid trash. It's only the mother and a kit or two, every year. If we did manage to clean 'em out, there's no guarantee the next gang of thieves would be as civilized -- and there would be a next gang.

This morning, the young raccoon was gone and so was most of the food. No sign of a struggle and no footprints other than two sizes of coonhands. Keep an eye on that one, Mama 'Coon, it's a little too adventuresome.

Saturday, April 09, 2011

New Chapter at I Work On A Starship

The plot, it thickens -- also, interior-decorating tips for the geeky:

The lobby was unremarkable, if you ignored the far wall, papered in a regular black-on-white pattern of two-inch tall numbers. In front of the wall, a desk; behind the desk, a woman of that indeterminate middle age I still think of as older than me, despite what my mirror reports.

She was on the phone, finishing one call as I entered and switching to another line with a remarkable bray of "Irrational Num-bers," in an accept that combined an Upper Midwest rasp with the slight over-enunciation typical of most Edgers. She gave me a look that implied I was underdressed for the lobby, tucked the handset under her chin and averred, "Deliveries go through the gate, loading dock, South side. Follow the signs," returning her attention to the telephone immediately after.

I just stood there and waited, studying the wallpaper. I found "3.1415" at the upper left and it started to make sense, in a Far Edge way. Finishing her call, she looked up and realized I was still there. "Can I help you?" she asked, in a tone that implied that she couldn't, wouldn't and I was dim for not realizing it.

"Um, Miz...Mandelbrot?" (That's what the sign on her desk said, YVONNE MANDELBROT, OFFICE MANAGER. The Fate's jest or more Edger humor?). "I'm from the Lupine? To meet Findlay Michaels?" Couldn't keep the questioning tone out of my voice. I felt as if I was back in grade school.

To find out what happens next, you'll need to read the current exciting chapter of Frothup: Dropping In at I Work On A Starship!


Shades of James Bond: Officer Killed In Shooting Aboard British Nuclear Submarine.

I don't care how you slice it, that's disturbing.

Floral Jailbreak!

(Larger version is in the offing here -- I edited this the first one on my netbook and got the picture size too small).

Who knew daffodils were so bossy? Actual photo from the actual garden of my actual Mom. No flowers were touched in the making of this photograph.

I don't think further comment from me is necessary. (You should feel free to add your own.)

Friday, April 08, 2011

Well, So Much For That

El Presidente has cancelled his visit to Indianapolis. The imminent FedGov shutdown -- will the last useless wanker out please shut off the lights* -- is cited as the reason.

He was going to be visiting yet another vehicle transmission plant, which has been a popular Hoosier pastime for high-level Democrat politicians -- Hillary Clinton did it during the campaign, the President hit a different one last November. It must be hard for them to resist: big UAW-dominated factories, deep in flyover country, close to a major airport: in quick, out quick, leave us rubes dazzled.

But it's not to be; with something akin to Actual Work looming, he's stayin' in town. It was okay to go walkabout while Libya festered and another earthquake rocked Japan, but if the old paycheck-conveyor might stop, for however short a time, whoa, Nellie! Gotta man the Oval Office!

Stand by for bipartisan I-blame-the-other-guys; heck, it's already started.

(I can't say as I mind. My Mom has yet more medical stuff today -- she hasn't been back to her house since January -- and I had to take the day off to help out. This resulted in Great Unhappiness from above: we're already shorthanded, we've got techs out on vacation plus the cold I had is still making the rounds and Presidential visits are extraordinarily busy times at the Skunk-Workings. Yeah, well, tough, I like my job but mothers are not replaceable).
* Yes, I wrote "useless." Other than DoD -- that's another battle -- and (probably) border control, can you name one essentially-essential service the Federal government performs? Most the governing you and I get is the nibbling of much smaller and closer ducks -- municipal, county, state -- while the Feds loom large in the background, passing out tax-grabbed largess and keeping people from filling in malarial swamps. True, they do employ a lot of people, people who'd likely have jobs just as good if society wasn't being impoverished by the burden of paying for FedGov; mind you, the in-between would just suck. But 'splain me, what is it Uncle Sam does that you don't already get elsewhere and/or couldn't do without?.

Thursday, April 07, 2011

FedGov Shutdown

I'm darkly tickled to hear that Democrats and Republicans are both flinching from the so-called shutdown of the Federal Government -- not for any noble reason, like worrying a defense contractor or snail darter or your gramma will be harmed but because they're both afraid they'll be blamed.

What they're lacking is called "spine." Not only do they not have it, they don't want it.

I wrote "so-called" shutdown, since whatever Washington considers "essential services" will keep right on percolating. Unsurprisingly, the portion of the IRS that receives your tax payment is considered essential -- but the part that sends you a refund check if you overpaid is not. (Tam points out that the parts that are non-essential might as well be auctioned off: "There you go. Budget balanced, problem solved.") (National parks? Let WWF and the various Green organizations run the parks, Disney can run the lodges and public access -- and we can have retired Federal judges arbitrate between 'em, funded by both sides. I've been on the slow-mo automotive lockstep through Yellowstone; we could hardly do much worse.)

The local TV news grimly observed the Feds are the area's largest or second-largest employer (I was half-awake and they didn't put the story on their website. Foo!) There's a problem with that, too: if you're operating the darned thing (er, "our mighty and noble Federal government") on taxpayer dollars, as the number of Federal employees becomes an increasingly greater percentage of the taxpayer base, y'kinda start running out of dollars -- of course, the Feds have a fix for that, one as old as paper money: print more. The Chinese tried that, not too long after inventing paper and printing. It didn't work then and the inexorable laws of economics haven't changed in the intervening centuries. Come to think if it, it's already been done here, too -- look up "Not worth a Continental." That left a mark.

But if you're concerned about the looming shutdown of the Federal government, don't worry; your legislators, no matter their party or inclination, aren't looking brave enough to try it. When these folks play chicken, they like to quit early. Oh, they may stumble and fumble their way into a few days of impasse, especially if they can figure out how to make it look like an accident, but don't look for anything lasting, or any rhetoric on a level higher than kindergartners in a mutual-blame circle. I'd suggest sending them white feathers but you know some fraction of the poor dears will turn out to have allergies and we'd be scolded by their Moms for insensitivity -- or by the FBI, which comes to much the same thing.

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

New At Retrotechnologist

A whole new angle on model trains! We need a lot more of this.


It's precious far to go, but thanks to online booksearches (about which more later), I recently purchased a P. Schuyler Miller book (long out of print) from a delightful used bookshop in Alnwick, Northumberland -- the one on the other side of the Atlantic. Barter Books is located in a Victorian railway station and the photos on the little flyer that accompanied the book reveal something of a reader's wonderland.

...Enchanting as all that is -- and it is -- another "little flyer" arrived in the envelope* with my book: Some Notes On Searching For Books. With all its hints, links and good advice, it is also presented on their website. Highly recommended!
* Metered postage, alas, unless they've replaced the Queen with a black monolith without telling me.

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

And What Happens To Those Who Will Not Remember The Past?

Foreign Policy has the situation in Lybia all sussed out and they have a new and innovative strategery to ensure ol' Moamar el-throat-clearing-sound is run outta town once and for all: Training! Don't arm 'em, the headline reads.

Yeah, let's send in military advisors! We'll train them boys up an' have them do the fighting! What could possibly go wrong? It's daring! It's innovative! It's -- dammit, haven't I seen this movie before?

(Bonus FAIL, from Wikipedia's Military Advisor article: "These soldiers live with their Afghan and Iraq counterparts, often in very austere and stoic conditions...." No! Wrong! "Stoic" is a human behavior, not a bedanged description of physical surroundings! The soldier are probably stoic -- not to mention brave and dedicated -- the conditions are prolly harsh, difficult, etc.)

Drop 'em some more Liberator pistols. Or let France give it a go (um, should we?). Stop replaying the past hoping what didn't work once will work this time.

Monday, April 04, 2011

And So A New Day Dawns

The sun came up raindrops -- and in the West, at that! Small, intense storms are rolling through as I type. But I feel better, thanks to a good night's weekend's sleep.

Woke to what I first thought might be a nightmare -- our current President's going to run again. On reflection, his uncanny ability to alienate both the far Left and moderate elements of his own party should make for interesting political theatre from that side. Let's see, election, crisis, a nice little war, it all seems to be right on track. The Tea Parties do a better job picking up their own litter than Code Pink, too.

Is it just me, or does American Presidential-election politics keep looking more and more like professional wrestling? Oh, a little less panache and muscle, true, plus the costumes aren't much, but give them time, give them time.

Meanwhile, the Evil Party having got the ball rolling (just a skosh early), the Stupid Party hasn't got a frontrunner, just a milling mob of...what are they, anyway? Surely not that side's brightest lights? And if the Libertarians run Bill Bob ("Alive, alive! See him bite the head from a live chicken..!") Barr again, I may have to sit Prez-2012 out.

Sunday, April 03, 2011


...Was nearly a repeat of yesterday: woke up, cooked, felt lousy, soaked in the tub (hey, there's a change!), went to bed, slept, woke up, watched the toooob and had a bite, and now, back to bed.

I haven't felt anything near 100% for the last three days. Preposterous.

The Moving Finger Writes...And Moves On

And thus the Acme Joke & Novelty's Corporation's overseas company town is left sadly washed-up on the shoals of history and politics: Owatagoo, Thailand.

Astrophysicist Of Doom!

A different kind of TV show review from Physics Today's Charles Day. Last line is world history in a nutshell, IMO.


I got up yesterday, made breakfast, sat around awhile...and went back to bed. Woke up about midnight, watched the last half of K-19: The Widowmaker, picked up a book, read a chapter and fell asleep again.

I don't know if it is that cold (my sinuses are still altogether too busy) or what, but it is not fun.

Saturday, April 02, 2011

Today's Phrase

It's "Regulatory Capture;" it's something like Capture The Flag, only in this game, it's always captured and no matter the professed ideology of the captured regulators and those who've captured them, you and I (and our grandparents and the hippie down the street) lose.

Oddly, most critics seem to think the solution is more regulations and/or better regulators. They overlook the best way to end the game is to remove the prize.

Friday, April 01, 2011

I Was Too Slow

Tam wrote down my April Foolery before I could -- which is a bit of an April Fool's in and of itself.

(I'll link as soon as she's got it posted. Linked!)


I dunno; it seems awfully cold. But everyone swears today is the oneth of Lirpa. They wouldn't be foolin', would they?