Sunday, July 31, 2011

[stevenwrightvoice]Hooray, There Is A Budget Deal[/stevenwrightvoice]

Yeah, the Lincoln-green smoke rose up from the vent stack at 1600 Pennsy a couple hours ago. The Feds got themselves a budget deal.

The President claims the new budget deal pushes us back to Eisenhower Administration levels of public spending. Well, it's not Calvin Coolidge levels, let alone Peyton Randolph, but I suppose it's a start. On the other hand, specificity has not been his long suit and no one outside the principals (if them) and their stenogs and eager lackeys have actually seen the thing, so for all we know, it leases Alabama to the Martians as a game preserve to offset Federal spending.

Time will tell. No word at all about it containing an requirement to balance the budget. And remember, it's not a Depression, it's not a Depression, it's not a Depression...

PS: This.

The Phone Rang At 1:40 This Morning

It wasn't work. It was my Mom and her news was distressing: "I think I have dislocated my hip. It hurts just like the times that has happened."

Me: "Have you called 9-1-1?"


"I'll be there." I went thrashing around my room, digging out clean socks and a pair of jeans. Had 'em on by the time Tam showed up, sleepy-eyed and puzzled.


"My Mom--" I gave her the skinny.

She had one question and one statement, "Why haven't you called 9-1-1? I'm coming with you."

We were out the door a few minutes later; I explained that I wasn't sure Marion County's call center was the right one for Mom's adjacent-county-address. I called St. Nearby Hospital, to learn there was no shortcut if I wanted an ambulance.

About then, I was checking my "house" key ring. The Mom section was...not there. Long digression aside (week before last, I'd been sorting out keys, deciding which ones didn't fit anything any more, which ones could be kept in a drawer, etc.), I plain didn't have 'em. Called 9-1-1 as we reached her neighborhood, explained the situation three times, called Mom and told her I was there, help was on the way, and had she left anything unlocked? No? Not to worry!

It was about then the ambulance showed up, preceded by a fire truck (same firehouse as runs the ambulance) and followed by a County Sheriff's Department car. I flagged down the 'bolance so they'd stop closer to the back of the house (easier access), the guys piled out, I explained the "no keys" issue, and they fanned out, checking every entry point.

Plan B was me (or one of them, husky guys in big boots) kicking in a secondary door but as luck would have it, a window was found and we were inside in well under a minute from their arrival.

I led the Fire/EMT crew and their gurney back to Mom, said "hi" and got out of the way, giving the Standard Basic Info to the guy with the (electronic) clipboard. As soon as Mom was squared away, Tam and I locked up and followed the ambulance to St. Nearby Hospital.

Naturally, the waiting-room desk told me she wasn't there (and this after taking time out to dig out the lockbox in my car and do what you don't want to be doing in a dark parking lot at 0230 -- they don't even have the idiotic blue-light "please come out and say 'tsk' after the thugs are done with me" push-button-for-help kiosks in the lot closest to Emergency). So we cooled our heels until they admitted she was, then I went back and said "hi" again and helped answer questions. I'd grabbed her purse, so we did the insurance-card thing while they wired Mom up like a wi-fi paranoid's basement and took a look at her vital stats.

...About then, one of the handsomer EMTs found us and asked if there was anyone who could let him back into Mom's house, as they had left some gear behind. "Just me," I told him, as efforts to reach my sibs had all come up answering machines.

Mom chimed in, "You might as well go -- you can take my purse back, too. They'll be awhile with me."

True, but I didn't like it. The EMT allowed as how he had forms to fill out and wouldn't be ready to leave for 15 minutes anyway; so I stayed with Mom while the nurses got her connected (hey, genuine oxygen, not that nasty California brand with chemicals in it!*), situated and Officially In The Records with the whole Doctors/meds/medical history thing.

Then back to the house, dropped off her purse, they EMTs got their bag, cautioned me to "drive carefully," good advice given the hour and my lack of sleep, plus I'd kind of followed them on the house-to-hospital run and back to the hospital for...more waiting. They finally (an hour later? More?) got Mom off for x-ray snapshots and while that was happening, Tam and I snuck out to grab a bite to eat.

Turns out 0430 is too early for Shakey Steaks to be lookin' at bacon and eggs (???), so leadburgers it was and back to the hospital, where diagnostic progress had been made: good news, Mom's hip is not dislocated. Bad news, a collection of lesser issues that are none of your biz, Dear Reader, but add up to, "We'll be checking you into the main hospital while we work on these."

I napped in the waiting room and Mom's room. As 0600 approached, my sibs woke up and checked in on the phone; I gave them what details I had and stayed 'til 0730. Finally Mom, Tam and a nurse pointed out the situation was under control, I was nodding off standing up and hadn't I better go home?

In no condition to object, I gathered Tam and departed. Neither of us was in great shape to drive but St. Nearby isn't too far from my employer's all-but-abandoned North Campus (machines still work full-time for us there, people only when the machines break), so I could take long-familiar streets.

Stumbled in, did my ablutions and fell into bed; woke up for a text-messaged update from both sibs and a short call from my Nurse-Practitioner niece, who offered her medical insight ("Pretty much what St. Nearby told you, plus I think she may be pushing herself to do too much," which is my Mom, all right) and her (vet-tech) sister's help to make sure Mom's diabetic doggy got his insulin on time. (Yes, the poor little guy was diagnosed about a month ago and Wilfred Brimley's not offering super-duper deals on test kits and supplies for him). Fell -- more like it fell on me -- back into bed and woke up just now, days and nights completely upside down.

Mom is okay, or at least headed towards okay, with decent pain medication to make her comfortable and other meds to help her heal.

How was your weekend?
* Tam and I, punchy from lack of sleep, later spent an entire trip for 24-hour burgers making wisecracks about how the soap/shampoo/tin cans/natural gas/etc. used to be good, until they started putting chemicals in them. Ew, ick, how wicked and wrong.

Saturday, July 30, 2011


(Post has been updated to correct my bad research about who pays what fraction of the total tax bill)

My nephew thinks I ought to consider adding a Corvair 95 "Rampside" truck to the vehicular stable here at Roseholme. In that, he's pretty much spot-on, as I would very much like to have a truck for the truck-type jobs -- and especially if it's something a bit odd. I missed an early-1930's one some years back; it had some kind of modern smallblock V-8 under the hood and needed a new (wooden) bed floor, but wasn't a terrible hack-job. I'm still looking; it's not like I have to have one, they're just handy. A Rampside would be a real gem.

(OTOH, I'd swap the Hottest Needle of Inquiry, my third 2003 Hyundai Accent, for a decent hard-top Suzuki Samurai in a heartbeat. While you really, really don't want to roll the little 4-by, they will get into and out of just about anywhere, in any weather. It's a long, hard slog up to the 55ish mph top speed but they'll happily stay there all day. Like a mule, but without the attitude.)

On the other hand, he appears to believe I'm conservative. --Hecky-durn, Dear Reader, p'raps you do, too? Is it my belief that the State oughta stop frettin' over the freely-made marital arrangements of legal adults that gives that impression, or is it my wild and crazy notion that wandering the world gettin' into fights might not be an ideal hobby for a free nation, that John Quincy Adams' description of America's ideal foreign policy, "Wherever the standard of freedom and Independence has been or shall be unfurled, there will her [America's] heart, her benedictions and her prayers be. But she goes not abroad, in search of monsters to destroy. She is the well-wisher to the freedom and independence of all. She is the champion and vindicator only of her own," might be the wisest course of action? Or is it my notion that we'd have a lot less drug violence, meth-lab fires and hidden drug abuse if the various substances were legal and the persons who got into trouble with 'em could seek treatment without having to cop to a mandatory-jail-time felony?

Nope. See, I figure you should be able to hang onto your own money. Even if you have whacking great piles of it and go diving into it like Scrooge McDuck. That makes me "conservative."

Yep. I guess it's a lot better for Uncle Sam to take it, spend over half of every dollar grabbed on bombing someplace overseas (and related support thereunto), 16 cents on "physical assets and general government," and use a fraction of the remaining 30 cents on widows, orphans and The Poor, less administrative costs and overhead.

After all, what would a rich guy do with excess money? Buy a private island, have a house built on it and hire a staff? Gamble some on investing it in a start-up business, a wacky thing like an Internet search engine or an online bookstore? Use it to keep his business running through hard times? What good would that do anyone?

Especially compared to a government department that, having made a big investment in providing goods and services to The Poor, needs to maintain a sizable group of poor folks to justify the continued existence of said department.

Meanwhile, the eeeeevil, money-grubbing rich guys continue to hire people who will work for the wages offered -- and who pick up skills doing the work. Some of those people will advance, becoming more valuable to their employer in the process. Hey, it's no sure thing -- companies go broke, or move, or adopt polices to keep wages low and staff turnover high -- but in general, they don't benefit from keeping employees needy-hungry poor, not even the cheapest of cheapskates. (Though the latter group may only find out after their company has gone broke, or been sold to China for pennies on the dollar).

Conversely, the poorer you are, the more you need Help From The Government.

So, yep. By that skinny yardstick, I'm conservative; even though I know William Randolph Hearst and Joseph Pulitzer pushed the U.S. into a nice little war, I also know they didn't have any troops, warships or cannon. David Saroff's RCA indeed hounded their competitors relentlessly -- ask the widows of Armstrong and Farnsworth -- but they did it in the courts and the marketplace; they never had troops hunt them down.

See, if we compare "the rich" on one side and "government" on the other, there's an interesting distinction: the wealthy don't put people in concentration camps, they don't drop napalm on towns,villages and interesting scenery and even when they are ripping you off, they don't require you to pay in (this is why Enron's scam was, horribly enough, more moral than the Social Security system). This is not to say that rich people and/or Big Business don't have a whole lot of flaws; but their flaws are generally as nothing compared to the damage governments can and will do.

Y'know, when Toyota and General Motors duke it out, there is no Pearl Harbor, no Iwo Jima, no Hiroshima. When a fat-cat business executive wants a good, old-fashioned war (see above), he's got to chivvy governments into doing it -- and the government funds the war with tax money, just under a third of it yours and not his.* (Unless they're funding it with what amount to bad checks against future tax money, IMO even worse).

So call me conservative. I don't want the Koch brothers, Bill Gates, Warren Buffet or even George Soros to be taxed at any higher rate than I am -- preferably, zero. And that, in this strange day and age, is weird, wild conservative stuff. Even the GOP's pols look askew at that kind of crazy talk.
* For the logic-impaired, those sneaky, conniving tax-cheating top ten percent income types pay 70 percent of the total federal tax bill. You and I and the part-timer who makes barely enough to put him in tax-paying income pick up the remaining 30 percent.

How Difficult Could It Be?

Calculus Made Easy.

...I'm goin' back to bed...

Friday, July 29, 2011

The Moon Is A Hoax

Ha, knew it all along -- just a painted-up balloon. Planes fly behind it. Besides, the true facts have been on the Internet for practically forever! I guess this means the Apollo astronauts must have used a ladder or a helicopter -- or maybe the guys operating the "Moon" over Florida just let down a rope.

Tinfoil Hats At The Ready!

FEMA plans a nationwide test of the EAS system, with live code, no less. ("This is only a test. The broadcasters of your area involuntary cooperation with the FCC to tell you GET UNDER THE CARPET NOW! Smear yourself with jam! Stay tuned to this station for additional information, we need the ratings!")

The present system -- which replaced the two-tone EBS system, which replaced Conelrad -- has never, ever been tested at the national level. The old two-tone (annoying) system was tested all across the country in 1971, by accident, and it failed.*

So, a mere 40 years later -- and what, a quick 14 years after the current system was put in place -- the Feds think maybe it's time to test it all the way through.
Expect paranoid-sound speculation as the word gets out.

Cynics, however, know that this can only mean one thing: they've got a whole other Emergency On The Air Eeek! system ready to roll out. Sure enough, just a tiny bit of websearching finds it -- and this one may even call your cellphone. Oh, joy. Junk phone calls from the Feds. For my safety.

I'd better buy a carpet and stock up on jam.
* One place where it didn't fail was at Indiana's own WOWO, in Ft. Wayne, where all-around good guy Bob Sievers, W9FJT, double-checked the authorization and went on the air with it, exactly by the book -- only there was very little info in the mistaken warning and no follow-up message until the "oops." The link goes to an MP3; if you want to hear how a pro handles TEOTWAWKI and an information vacuum, give it a listen. (WOWO history page).

Two Books

If I told you Monster Hunter Alpha, Larry Correia's latest release, was a soul-wrenching exploration of four people in their struggle with lycanthropy and a bit of a love story, you'd give me a neutral look while you tried to figure out how loopy I'd gone.

Never fear; Larry does what he does so well, writing probably the best action sequences in the general SF/Horror genre, in support of a tightly-plotted story "cast," as they say, "in the Gothic mode," which means there's good, evil, a conflict between 'em, and a hero who sorts it all out. The hero of Monster Hunter Alpha is MHI boss Earl Shackleford, who we've met in the previous books. In this one, we get to spend some quality time with the old man; it's time well spent. It's a good book. I read most of my copy straight through! Buy yours via the link at Tam's.

Where Larry Correia's fictional world postulates our world with a barely-hidden subculture of every monster you ever heard of, the only "monster" in Brian J. Noggle's John Donnelly's Gold is a passing mention of the eponymous job-placement company. Nevertheless, it, too is quite an adventure and one that will have you wondering how it all turns out until the very end. It may be his first novel and self-published at that but the writing is quite good (and his proofreading a zillion times better than mine). This is a satisfying story; I don't want to spoil your fun by telling too much of the plot, which concerns laid-off IT workers (a group of very well-drawn characters) and the twists and turns of their efforts at subtly-executed revenge. I got a review copy but would happily pay full price. Recommended!

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Worth It For The Headline

...Tacky though it is:

"South Carolina woman faces trial for fake testicles"

No, it's not some awkward marriage-rights protest, merely the tasteless truck accessory.

'Sa pity you can't actually breed trucks, though; my truck-owning friends tell me none of the current crop possess all the desired traits and if you could cross 'em and pick the pups that did, you might just have something.... (On the other hand: Oh dear, oh dear, is that a classic VW Bug got into the garage? Somebody turn a hose on 'em, quick!)

But, Ruth....

I enjoy Ruth Holladay's blog. (Though I must apologize for grievously and repeatedly misspelling her name. I guess I still read aloud in my head and write phonetically). Oh, our politics diverge, but she's usually got something interesting to say -- take her recent post about Indiana Black Expo needing a few more white folks to show up. (I will note the event this year returned to relative peace it had from way back until the last couple of years, when a few few thugs made a mess for everyone. The punks got sat on, hard, by the majority of good people).* It's a wide-ranging collection of events with a long and generally positive history.

But in the midst of her post, she wrote something that makes me sad on several levels:
" an independent voter, the president remains my candidate of choice. I worked hard, very hard, for his election in 2008. I am happy to work for him again. This is about making amends: I voted two times for George Bush. I loved Barack Obama's spiel, his eloquence, his vision. I was very disappointed in Bush's flagrant spending --- hello, deficit -- and I wanted to see an end to our involvement in Iraq. Hence my willingness to work for Obama."

While I have a certain sympathy for people who voted for Mr. Obama on the strength of his not being Mr. Bush, his spending has been at least as flagrant as his predecessor's; and while there will purportedly be a significant draw-down in our next-to-most-recent two wars, I haven't seen it yet and the U.S. seems meanwhile to be tiptoeing into another one.

Unlike Ms. Holladay, I never voted for George W. Bush. True, I voted for crazy Libertarian Party candidates instead, but they were gonna end the wars, not start 'em -- wars on nouns and wars on verbs in addition to wars in faraway lands. (I do not recall Mr. Obama or Mr. Bush ending either sort. Did I miss one?)

Used to be, if the rest of y'all in the electorate had the Electoral College pick a Dem, I could take some comfort in four years of less-hawkish behavior and a little more respect for the ACLU's version of the Bill of Rights, at least. Mr. Clinton put the kibosh on that in a big way but the economy tottered on. The two that followed him, though? Y'know, things have not gone so well, even (especially!) the things they supposedly were in a position to do something about. Federal gropers, Federal overcops, bank and automaker bail-outs -- and now they want us to bail out them! Why should I "eat my peas" when Feds have been swimming in ice cream?

So far, the only really good thing I've got from the Obama presidency was when I walked by a bunch of Junior High School kids taking a tour of where I work and overheard a pair of African American lads; one was telling the other that the comment he just made, "...sounded just like the President!" He was speaking entirely without irony; he thought it was kewl. That's been a long time comin'. Now, if the kid will just study law, history and Austrian economists and grow up really fast and get himself elected President.... But I dream too much.

I think sometimes Ruth Holladay might dream a little overmuch, too. I just hope this President doesn't disappoint her as badly as Mr. Bush did. I'm already feelin' let down and I didn't even vote for the guy.
* I will also note the the Middle Eastern Festival weekend, held at St. George Orthodox church, overlaps Black Expo -- and if some clever entrepreneur can, in a spirit of ecumenicism and brotherhood, figure a way to combine the best of the two cuisines, I'll have to fight Tam for a place at the table. Just sayin' -- food can go a long way towards convincing people to get along with one another.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

New Robot Nature Takin' Over

I, for one, welcome our expressionless, yellow, squishy and curiously rhythmic overlords....

(Sure, he seems harmless, but I'm pretty sure these guys work for him).

Thinking Of Charity

It occurs to me that a significant part -- probably not the larger part, but definitely present -- of the "tax loopholes for rich people" the Left decries would be charitable giving.

That would be the same Left that sneers that our government ought to give more to other countries and do more for the poor in this country, too.

So, work it out: if the tax burden falls disproportionately on the middle class (and it does -- there are so many of us, you see) and our would-be philosopher-kings tell us unenlightened rubes in flyover country the Feds should hand out more handouts while "the wealthy" should receive fewer tax breaks, they're really saying that it's better to mulct funds from the middle class and have all-wise central planners dole them out (while taking a little something for themselves and their pet Priuses or Lexii) instead of J. Random Millionaire writing a whacking huge check to the Brothers Of The Perpetual Breadline.

I'm thinkin' these kids were told the Bible story about the widow's mite but got it a little wrong, assuming it would be even more blessed if a couple Legionaries shook her down for the cash and made sure she wasn't holdin' any out.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Sure, It's A Bad World

Congress and the President are bailing a screen-bottom canoe with leaky china teacups while it's headed for Angel Falls and they're arguing about which teacup pattern is best; the Canton, OH finest and second-finest purveyors of street justice turn out be singing the same tune as the President of their friendly local City Council;* people are still starving en masse in Africa and en retail in S. America, Russia, N. America, Asia, Australia and assorted islands -- and your hometown, probably, same as mine.

It's all pretty awful. There's dammit-sai all I can do about it but point it out and drop some bucks in the collection plate -- for the hungry, the can -- and will -- fend for itself.

So I made chickpea salad. Pretty much this recipe, only I did half a red bell pepper and half a green pepper, half an onion (I wept and wept, the darned thing was packin' Mace) and one can of chickpeas. Did about 1.5x on the olive oil and red wine vinegar, skipped the hot red pepper flakes, faked the celery, garlic and rosemary with some Penzy's mixed spices ("Fox Point" and "Sunny Paris") and served it garnished with thinly-sliced radish: yum, yum, yumm!
* The jernt must be similar to Paris, since Council President S------'s motto for the place appears to be, "See Canton, OH while armed and die." Thanks, bub, but I b'lieve I'll pass.

Out Of The Mouths Of, Well, Presidents...

Sayeth Mr. Obama, 'tother night: "The American people may have voted for divided government, but they didn't vote for a dysfunctional government."

You're right, sir; we get that whether we vote for it or not. 'Spose you and Congress stop spending more than you take in, as a first step to becoming "functional."

But I dream. Hold onto your hats, the Feds may not be able to fake their out of this one.

(Elsewhere, like Africa, they're still starving, despite all manner of Overgovernment attention -- always too late and too shortsighted. I'm sure there's a moral here but it's too hard to read through all the bodies. "Welcome to the future," maybe).Link

Monday, July 25, 2011

The Triumph Of The Will

Update:Will checked his comments yesterday and discovered he was not the "William" in question. He graciously writes, "I'd like to claim that it's been a more challenging year than usual for me, but that doesn't excuse my over-sensitivity anyway. I hope Roberta will accept my apology; I was out of line and out of order."

I do accept his apology, which is very much in order and lined up. Status quo ante, Will; you're not so silly after all.

[original post]
Or, No, They Are Not Always Talking About You

Found myself with an unlooked-for link today, from some guy who links to me sometimes, and who some of the people I read link to -- and I write that as some chick most readers know only 'cos Tam links to me occasionally, so don't mistake me for any kind of big-noise blogger. I do this for the fun of it and for the writerly exercise of having to put semi-coherent words on a screen every day.

Seems he is accusing me of, and I quote, "Gratuitous Innuendo," leading off by telling me to, "Just drop it woman."

Until today, he was a fellow I barely knew online and towards whom I bore, at worst, mild goodwill. What's got him spun up is a post in which I described how the Nazi-wannabe Djørk in Norway exploited people's normal deference to a cop and cited two chaps who are an example of what happened in one case when even a mild manner wasn't enough, the abusive, threatening behavior of Canton, Ohio Police Officer Daniel Harless towards one "William" (William Bennett, according to later reports).

You see, my offended linker's name --or nom-de-web -- is William, too.

To cap it off, he ends thus: "While I quite enjoy your extra-planetary fiction (I suppose an autograph for my copy of the book is right out), your more down-to-Earth delusions - at least as they involve myself - are becoming tiresome and quite rude. Please desist."

Ahead of that is some unclear thing about how he appears to believe I have twitted him over not thinking that shooting a guy in the back of the head could ever, ever be self-defense. I do not recall having done so [nevertheless I did, see update at 1], have difficulty imagining a scenario outside a James Bond movie where shooting a person facing away could be self-defense[2] and can only conclude he's blown some throwaway comment by someone, maybe me, maybe he only thinks it was me, into a titanic Internet diss war, the stuff of song and legend.

Wrong, wrong, wrong. Until today, I barely noticed you, William, and if you wanted an autograph on my little hack pulp, it only costs a note to me and postage both ways; that offer is open to anyone who actually paid good money for the thing. If I was going to call you out, I'd do it directly, I'd do it plainly and I'd link you ya to be sure you'd see it. Here's how it would look:

I wasn't talking about you, William. You have imagined some level of discourse between us that does not exist and I find you a silly, silly man, seeing slights and digs where none existed.

See? No innuendo. Oh, one more thing: I'd be pleased if you'd take me off your blogroll. I am painfully shy and suffer from a significant amount of social anxiety. I'm barely capable of dealing with most people even over the Internet and you, sir, you have made yourself exceptional that way. I do not care to be linked to by you. You have become, as one blogger once wrote, "...tiresome and quite rude. Please desist."
1. Update: found it! Tell me, if you were in line at the convenience store, the person ahead of line pulled a gun or a knife on the cashier and you beaned the robber with a milk bottle or whatever was in your hands, would he fail to turn away from his intended victim and towards you? It's a Walter Mitty scenario and one I work to avoid, but what you cannot avoid, you'd better confront).

2. I do think shooting mass-murdering mad dogs in the back, front or side of the head (or elsewhere) while they are themselves initiating force is something of a public service but I have come to accept that not everyone -- including some prosecutors -- feels that way and that fewer still ever get the chance

Stopping A Mad Dog Isn't Political

I'm reading, at Little Green Footballs [Ooops! Sorry.] Random Nuclear Strikes and elsewhere, how wishing somebody sane, mature and closer to the tragedy in Norway had access to a gun is:
A) not helpful, B) make you sound like a right wing SA nutjob, and C) demonstrate a remarkably piss-poor understanding of the Norwegian culture...
I'm not so sure.

First off, I offer no criticism of Norwegian politics or culture; that's the affair of Norwegians, who appear largely happy with both. According to Wikipedia, part of that culture is a well-established sport-shooting tradition; the nation's firearms laws are pretty typical of Northern Europe (or New Jersey, though with less legal hazard for the owner). Available evidence indicates a "high-trust" culture, the kind of place where many people don't even think about locking their doors, where the neighborhood cop is someone you wave to and say hi. I don't know how Norway should be run -- I have trouble enough running my own house -- but it appears they do.

Second, I am an "up"-wing (that'd be libertarian) "SA [Second Amendment] nutjob;*" what of it? In this context, it means I know what a gun is and I have some notion of what can be done with 'em.

Third, "not helping" who, exactly? There's no helping the mad dog's victims this side of a time machine; there's no ready way for me to offer much comfort to the survivors, either. What there is with my reach that needs addressed are U.S. and international gun-loathers, dancing in the blood and using this tragedy to point at the horror...of "weak gun laws!"

And that's something that should be countered. Norway's gun laws are not weak -- and failed to stop a determined malefactor. That's not a new discovery. Crooks, crazies and addled ideologues are able to obtain weapons no matter what the law is, no matter how stringently it is enforced. --They keep on doing other things there are laws against, too.

Fourth and last, even though I am a gun nut, will someone please tell me how it is in any sense political to wish the means to stop this tragedy had been more rapidly available to his selected victim pool? --I freely admit it is wishful thinking; but Norwegians are not less brave or clever than any other people and wanting fewer of them to have been shot by a vile, deranged man isn't a political opinion, it's a human one. I wish someone had been able to shoot back; shooting a mad dog as it attacks isn't a political decision, either. It's a human one.
* If it weren't for the fact that I take a dislike to some pols and vote against them for that reason, I would be a single-issue voter, but not because I'm hugely into firearms. In terms of owning and shooting, my gun-nuttery is a little above lukewarm, one hobby among many; but politically, L. Neil Smith explains it best.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

TSA Supports Dick Lugar

Wow, with TSA on his side, how can the man not lose?

'Scuse me while I go barf in a box. Unrelatedly, anybody remember the address for the U. S. Senate?

On The Norwegian Shooter

...Let us note that the accused, one And3rs Behr!ng Bre!v!k,* is indeed a nutjob, but a clever one, who exploited the following weakness common to many European states and frequently found here:

1. He impersonated a police officer, using the disguise to bluff his way through to his selected pool of victims. After all, one should never, ever question duly constituted authority, no matter how oddball their demands: you can get in big, big trouble for "refusing to obey a lawful order," even when you have no idea if it is lawful or not (Ask William and Officer Harless from Canton, OH).

2. He counted on a centralized police agency to focus on the big boom, while he went off and did worse things. (Y'know when I was most worried about terrorist activities in the United States? Immediately after the first three on 9/11. With every day that passed, the probability of strikes dropped. --This does assume the planners were more-or-less sane and looking to maximize damage rather than shock/demoralize).

3. He picked a pool of very likely-to-be-unarmed victims. Just like Major Malik Nadal Hasan at Ft. Hood or any one of a long list of school shooters, he carefully chose unarmed victims. (Yes, kids, the U. S. Army does not, in fact, hand out guns unless they're in a place where there's fighting to be done; the only folks with sidearms there were police, just like New Jersey only without the mobsters).

So far, the press hasn't focused on any of that, choosing instead to huff that the crazy was a "Christian fundamentalist" -- funny, they didn't seem so outraged about a loony Muslim fundie's faith when he struck at Fort Hood -- and "right wing," used in this context as Euro-code for "Nazi-like racist" and that he did the bulk of his killing with a -- oh, shock -- G-U-N. These are indeed salient points; when your religion and/or politics tells ya to go harm people who aren't initiating force against you and you give it a try, I'm of the opinion you rate the same tender concern and response as the common cockroach: "smash, smash, smash, yuck." And yes, Dear Press, you can kill a lot more people with a smile and gun than you can with a smile alone; where have you been since the arquebus was first deployed, 'long about the 14th Century C.E.?

The world has a remarkably large supply of Christian fundamentalists in the full range of skin tones, most of them not at all racist; I daresay there are more of them than there are guns. All but one of 'em didn't do any mass killing last week -- and I rather doubt most of the people the press has lumped him in with would claim him. Likewise, there are guns in this world; just as long there is metal, charcoal, sulfur and saltpeter, there will be guns and as long as there are criminals and violently-inclined crazies, they will have firearms. Y'know what stops such persons? Honest, law-abiding people with guns of their own.

The Unabomber wasn't any more sane or moral than this miserable jerk, even though he never fired a shot. But there was a better chance of stopping Mr. A.B.B. than Ted Kaczynski -- and an even better chance of limiting the harm he could do had any members of his chosen group of victims been able to shoot back.

The press can go right on claiming that religion is bad (except their Flavor Of The Week, which is merely misunderstood), guns are bad, all forms of political conservatism are bad; the press and their pets can claim that, but most people understand the badness is not in the tool but the one who wields it.

* The hell if I'll add to his Google hits.

The Stupidification Of America

It continues, even when people try to push back. Case in point: ABC's Christiane Amanpour casually and correctly used “perspicacious” on TV, a word more people have read than heard. Someone at ABC came to the same conclusion, and either the segment was pre-recorded or they were quick off the blocks, for a nifty little definition block popped up to enlighten wondering viewers -- and prompted online snark warning her to "avoid such fancy language" lest viewers mistake her program "for a Rosetta Stone class teaching the English language."

Yeah. 'Cos if the proles had more than an 800-word vocabulary, who knows what they might get up to?


Saturday, July 23, 2011


I guess it's a good thing I had a fairish post yesterday, 'cos today my head is nearly as empty as a balloon.

...I did race through Into Your Tent, a biography of British SF writer Eric Frank Russell, a man who in person seems to have been moody, opinionated, sometimes downright rude -- and intensely private. While he is not quite the fellow you'd expect from his stories, he's certainly interesting. There's something kind of admirable about a writer who responds to cheeky, nosy questions about his life with "fibble off!" and/or utter, obvious fabrications.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Officer Goofus And Officer Gallant

Are they still in Highlights? Is the magazine still around? (Yes and yes).

Gallant and Goofus were two boys, appearing in a little cartoon strip. Gallant was clean, polite, honest -- in short, he had all the Boy Scout virtues. Goofus, not so much. They were always shown in parallel situations; one boy did everything wrong and the other got it all right.

Canton, Ohio gives us Officer Daniel Harless as one example of a policeman dealing with a lawfully armed citizen; for the other, let us look to Officer Matt Lyons of Oceanside, California. Both men knew they were being recorded. Both men were dealing with unknown citizens in mildly hinky circumstances.

One officer is Goofus. The other is Gallant. I'm pretty sure all of my readers -- especially the peace officers -- can tell which is which.

But I still kinda wish the artist who did that old series could make up a nice poster of these two interactions, and we could mail 'em to every PD and Sheriff's Department in the country.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Irony? Guilt?

I guess it could be mere coincidence: Spain got the contract to build the Saudis a nifty high-speed rail system.

...I'm sure Spanish railway engineers learned quite a lot repairing the damage done in 2004....

Atlantis Final

And there it is: NASA, the government agency that once gave us a space station with no shuttle followed by a shuttle with no station, is now back to the Skylab days; at least this time they've got a roommate who owns a ride.

A lot of folks are calling it sad, even tragic. Given the vehicle's record and what the late Richard Feynman turned up about the gap between engineering assessment of reliability (most systems with a rough 1-in-200 chance of catastrophic failure) and what their managers told NASA brass about it (1-in-200K or better!), it's more like a tragedy averted; had NASA kept rolling those dice, they would have kept on killing crews. Shuttle crews (a group with a far better understanding of math than the gen. pop.) kept on flying long after real odds came out -- and our space writers call cosmonauts "fatalistic?" -- which is a testament to their bravery and a glaring example of the space agency's ability to make the dramatic and heroic look, at best, mundane.

The Space Shuttle was never the "space truck" it was promoted to be. Plenty of other people have discussed why and most of them know a lot more about it than I do. So far, the cheapest and easiest ride to orbit is still a big conventional rocket carrying a single-use capsule -- and burning most of your luggage on the return trip. (I'm not razzing the Russians here; the Soyuez is a rugged machine. But compared to NASA's "space truck" or von Braun's 1950s needle-nosed shuttles, it makes drastic trade-offs in order to do the most work with the least amount of fuel).

As I wrote when Atlantis launched on this final Shuttle mission, there are plenty of alternatives almost ready to go. Unfortunately, as the don't-call-it-a-Depression winds on, it is more and more a race against time and one in which even hitting the benchmarks won't make success a sure thing -- SpaceX is highly likely to succeed at delivering the groceries and spare fuses and nearly as likely to get their capsule man-rated but if their main client (NASA) has to start kiting checks, getting all the engineering right won't matter.

The "finish line" -- more like merely a good beginning -- is a large commercial presence in space. I'm optimistic enough to think it's a decade away and pessimistic enough to fret that our imploding economy might not last that long.

It's steamship time -- I hope.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Like Fingernails On A Blackboqrd

Tam was reminiscing fondly of cars, garages and mechanics she has known, describing a very common, taking a British sports car otherwise destined to rust away or end up as well-used spare parts, and giving it an American Engine Transplant. This is especially popular to apply to the years when the Brits were struggling to meet U.S. emissions standards and sacrificing engine performance on the the altar of being able to sell cars in the States. It's popular, too, for some of the engines that don't fare well when neglected (Jag's straight 6, for example; you can kill 'em dead if you treat them like Toyotas).

And she's right -- the cars usually have good suspensions, they look nice, why shouldn't J. Random Car-d00d have a peppy, low-maintenance engine in 'em, instead of the whole thing being a hanger queen?

Hey, it's not my car.

...However, the practice grates on me. It smacks of vandalism. Why not keep the darn engine the designer stuffed under the hood? I was sad when the original ignition system of my MGB had to be replaced by electronics -- the vacuum advance in the original distributor had a cam matched to profiles of the needles in the carburettors, you see, and when the distributor died, there was no replacement with that profile to be had.

Still, I tried to keep it original. The idea of pulling out the British Leyeland 1798 cc, "siamesed" 4-cylinder and dropping in, say, a Toyota 1800 (very nearly the same engine, with most of the bugs hunted down and tamed to harness) makes my skin crawl.

So while I appreciate her relishing a Jag-with-Detroit-inside, the machine itself, not so much; to me, it's a monster.

...To the driver, I suspect, it's a "monster," too, but in a good way.

And if the choice is that or a pile of rust? Rust isn't any fun! I still don't like it -- but the owner who does that is keeping one more oddball car on the road, and helping keep the parts suppliers going. So there's a benefit from it even for refeeeeened purist esthetics.

Still kinda makes me itchy. I can live with that.


House-painting should resume today; I say "should" because house-painters, even my own nephew, are a famously independent breed and will reject a day that amateurs like you and I might not. In the case of my nephew, the results of his efforts are, thus far, of such greater quality than anything I might have managed that I am entirely disinclined to second-guess his schedule. I've got all Summer; if Roseholme Cottage looks a bit piebald or calico while the work is being done, the neighbors will just have to adjust.


In conversation with Tam the other day, it came up that, as far as she know, she's never read a single Eric Frank Russell story! I didn't think one could be both a science-fiction reader and libertarianly inclined and not have read Russell, which probably says more about the narrowness of my own horizons than anything else. I suggested the short story, "...And Then There Were None." We'll see if she has time.


Left my bold pen at the North Campus yesterday and in this heat I'm not going to go chasing after it; my fancy (though affordable) Noodler's Ebonite Pen will be pinch-hitting in its place. Though it has a plain stainless-steel nib, it's one of the smoothest pens I have used, with a "feel" more like the best of my older pens. Gee, who would'a thunk suppose the proper tip shape and degree of polishing is at least as important as the material the nib is made of or plated with? ($24 American, Mr. Montblanc -- however, Noodler's doesn't offer a signature fragrance [except maybe a dabba Waterproof Black behind each ear?] or designer eyeglasses either. They just do ink and pens). (Nope, still not bein' paid t'shill. It's just a good pen).

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Britain's Empty Quarter

...Just like here, it's scattered through the inhabited parts. Two UK urban exploration sites will show you a little of it: Forlorn Britain and Whatevers Left.


Local TV station photo choice for "kid's summer safety" round-up article? Kids learning how to shoot BB or .22 rifles -- safely!

Indiana has its good points. This is one of 'em.

Cat Physics In Photos

When you have two cats of opposite charges in close proximity... ...Something amazing happens: They charge each other up! (Photographs taken within the same few minutes).

Monday, July 18, 2011

Quick Takes

I was going to refrain from commenting on Chicago's (Chicago???) 26-foot tall Marilyn Monroe upskirt statue, which gives passers-by a whole new perspective on the iconic scene from The Seven-Year Itch; I was remarking to Tam that I "wouldn't touch it with a ten-foot pole" when it occurred to me that, of course, if you stood in the right place, you most certainly could.


Not quite relatedly, when I own my very own planet, I'm gonna name it "DuLang." I'm going to name the biggest continent DuLang, too, and on a delightful bay on the coast of that continent, I'll establish the capital city, DuLang. In the bay will be a 400' statue of me (some decades ago), young and lovely, and it will be called She's So Fine (DuLang, DuLang, DuLang).


The Army of ever-hungry North Korea has refused to even consider establishing a small corps of musicians playing traditional Western instruments; they singled out one in particular as being an egregious example of decadent reactionary capitalism, declaring the country had no use whatsoever for a fifin' Nork.


And on the topic of food, breakfast here at Roseholme Cottage today was no joke: genuine Surry Sausage (well-smoked, though it wanted cooked) and fried free-range eggs. Yum! Easily the best smoked sausage I have had.

Sunday, July 17, 2011


I'm 'stonishingly irritable this morning, in part 'cos I had very little sleep (OT vacation shift, which ran past midnight; we've only got n techs, to fill n-3 slots) and in part 'cos I had to drive two largeish unfamiliar vehicles on the freeway, in dark, in traffic, one of them with a degree of body roll you would not believe.

Since I'm a white-knuckle driver on the freeway in my own car and have terrible night vision.... Let's just say the muscles in my shoulders, upper back, lower back and points South are still painfully clenched and my upper back wasn't all that great to begin with. (Naturally, I once again missed the "free chair massages" at work Thursday -- if you don't respond to the e-mail for it in five minutes, you miss out. I'm going to have to find someone and start paying to have the knots unsnarled.)

Plus neither Tam nor I picked up any breakfast-type food yesterday. We talked about it but each thought the other had it on her list. I've got enough beans, rice, tofu, fresh tomatoes, herbs and spices to fake something I'd like but it's doubtful Tamara would.

Add in my normal headache and some unusual clumsiness with my web-browser (closed a tab I wanted to refresh, etc. etc.) and it's a heckuva a way to start a morning.

At least there's a lot to do today. Surely some of it will come out okay!

...Speaking of people having a bad day, "Is Obama The 2012 Underdog?" was one of my start-page headlines. Alas, he's still up against the always-attractive Unknown Republican. If the GOP had any known candidates as shiny, they might be in the catbird seat. As it is, None Of The Above looks to have a better chance the usual, were that vacancy an option. Hey, four extra years for the two parties to reassess their front-runner options (and maybe the other parties could, too), four years in which Congress, if they want a war, would actually have to declare it instead of passing the buck -- it might be worth a try.Link

Saturday, July 16, 2011

National Moto+Cycle

(Cross-posted from Retrotechnologist)

After a thoroughly satisfactory breakfast at a local diner, Tam K and I set out to visit National Moto+Cycle, whose storefront may be found in the same 1920s building as Luna Music and Indie Bike (around the corner). They already had eye-candy waiting out front: It's even prettier up close, though the guys were quick to point out that this is a prototype, lacking the custom paint and trim the production models will have. (Notice the helmets in the window, of which I should have taken a closer photo).

Inside, Chief Designer Matty Bennett and his partner-in-vehicularity were waiting and filled with enthusiasm.

National's basic product is a bicycle, but one that hearkens back to the first two decades of the 20th Century, as the "safety bicycle" was at its peak and the first production motorized versions were appearing. But they use modern materials with far better strength-to-weight properties, to produce a bicycle of reasonable weight and retro looks. The race-style turned-down handlebars can be flipped, resulting in a classic recreational/practical bike, or replaced with even more upright "beach cruiser" style handlebars. The bike has a multi-speed kickback hub and optional disc brake system.

...Or you can add a motor! Matty describes it as "like an early production motorized cycle. They're not intended to go superfast," running at the same speeds as city traffic. He plans to add an electric version as well. (More info at this link). The internal-combustion version has a standard twist throttle, kill switch and hand brake.

Sidecars will be available for all models -- they'll be kept lightweight, in keeping with National's goal of attractive, retro, useful vehicles. As you can see, even the showroom is something of a design engineer's dream.

Both the name and the logo are not a new invention but the return of a very old Indianapolis automaker: between 1900 and 1924, the National Motor Vehicle Company built a successful line of internal-combustion and electric vehicles in their plant at 22nd and the Monon (rather a lot of photos here); the building still stands and is presently The Project School.

Matty himself is the eye and hand behind the look of a number of Broad Ripple institutions, not the least of which is Taste. Between that talent, his background in bicycling, enthusiasm for these bikes and the history of National, I think we're looking at a winner.

I've more photos, from National Moto+Cycle's secret basement proving grounds, but they must wait for another day.

Ask, Tell...Psych!

Or maybe it's a double-psych; the Federal appeals court that had repealed Don't Ask, Don't Tell got an emergency request from Mr. Obama's administration to put it back, and did -- but added the service can't do any investigation, penalties or discharges under the rule (why, yes, it's the Ninth Circus; why do you ask?).

I guess that means that while it is (again) not okay to be openly homosexual in the military, they can't do 'em any official harm; which sounds to me like a recipe for unofficial trouble.

Once again, the Feds have taken a situation that was going to be, at best, very uncomfortable no matter how it worked out, and found a whole new way to make it worse. Yeah, way to go.

Friday, July 15, 2011

New Content, Retro And Science-Adventurific

At I Work On A Starship, the plot thickens. Or bubbles, at least:

As I've said, Finley managed to deflect what looked to me like an outpouring of long-suppressed wrath from the hyperspace engineer and we parted from him on at least neutral terms. Once we were making our way back across the gravelled chaos of the "Cooperative," Finley started to chuckle.

I didn't think it was funny. "What got into him? It's just a telephone."

"It is for you. —There's a reason he's not working over at Tweed. Or anywhere else."


"You ever notice how the best 'Drive people, the top navigators and automation designers, all tend to be a little different?"

I thought about it. Take Lupine Engineering: we're an assorted lot but pretty typical of the genus geek, it seemed to me: at turns hyperfocused and distractable, not always so great with the interpersonal stuff. Okay, not average, but who is
Find out what happens next at IWOAS!

Elsewhere, at Retrotechnologist, I write about a remarkable vehicle company, making new-old motorized cycles of the most amazing sort. And they're right here in Broad Ripple.

Serving Up A Raw Deal

...With salt rubbed in it.

I usually decry government spending (not that it does any good) but sometimes the tab is inarguable. Of course, that's when governments dispute it.

Take IMPD Officer Jason Fishburn: three years ago, he was one of several policeman hunting a murderer. Officer Fishburn closed in and got shot in the head.

He didn't die; hung on through a year and a half of treatment, learned to deal with stroke-like paralysis and cognitive impairment and took an office job at the police academy. After struggling with that for a year and a half, he realized he simply wasn't up to it and applied for medical retirement.

So, a tale of courage and determination and pushing through has found one man's limits. IMPD's own retirement board took at look at the situation and recommended 90% pay, pretty typical for medical disability and, considering this is a guy who took a bullet through the brain hunting a serious criminal, a guy who will never again run, use his right arm or be the man he once was, it doesn't seem out of line.

...Except it did to the Public Employees Retirement Fund, where the reasoning seems to be that someone who lost over 30 percent function rates 69 percent retirement.

Needless to say, he's appealing the decision.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

This Just In

North Dakota not actually a State.

Does this mean the feds have to give 'em back all their income tax?

I'm A Genius

You betcha! Did I not say, "they'll turn out the lights on some highly-visible widows-and-orphans stuff?" Here's the headline: "No Social Security checks? Is Obama bluffing?"

Surprise, surprise, surprise.

Can we get the Emperor's horse in here as a Senator? Just for comic relief?

Ahhh, theatre!

New Old Bicycles From The Home Front

Last week, Tam and I encountered a Pashley bicycle, a classic British manufacturer continuing in the old style, with a wide range of recreational and industrial bicycles.

The United States is not without a long and proud bicycle tradition of our own and it turns out we, too have a delightful survivor: Worksman Cycles, around since 1898! I'm kind of partial to "The Dutchie," though what's tempting me most are their high-wheelers -- that's right, they don't just make safety bikes. If a pennyfarthing seems too high a bar to clear, have a look at their surreys and trikes, the latter in both "Family Chariot" and "Industrial" models. The basic bicycle price is quite reasonable, especially for a U.S.-made bike. It turns out you've probably seen their products; if not in a factory or warehouse, then at least when the Good Humor man pedaled by, in real life or in a movie or TV program!

About that "U.S.-made" thing: you'll find a sobering reflection about American manufacturing on their website, too. They're just about the last bicycle-maker still building them here.

(FTC, KMA: I received nothing from Worksman Cycles for writing this other than the same interesting web-browse anyone can have, free for taking the time).

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Fail! (Plus Non-Failing Books And Geekery)

...So, I worked over two nights in a row 'cos of some really annoying stuff about which I have no intention of writing (it's dull, dull unless you're at the fulcrum). Fine, it happens. But I was going to go to Mom's to swap out a storm window for a screen in a door that faces the sunset. You can just about bake bread in the enclosed space!

Couldn't get through on the phone, went and messed with another project, looked up and... 10 p.m. :(

In other news, I seem to have a copy of Edison's Conquest Of Mars and a pair of Eric Frank Russell collections in the reading queue, right after a very interesting novel I'll be reviewing by and by. I also seem to have a late-1930s commercial ham radio transmitter which looks to have been much-modified in the '50s with an eye to reducing TV interference. --Have I mentioned how much more immune digital over-the-air TV s to that sort of thing? It is, which means I have an excellent chance of bringing the little transmitter back to more like when it was new. Look for updates about that at Retrotechnologist.

But the top of my list is calling Mom tomorrow morning and a visit to take care of that door ASAP.

I Know It Goes To 11

But does it ever go all the way to "OFF?" Even when I pull the plug on my TellyaVision and squalid-state Difference Engine, the politicians are still in there, ever so faint, making weird little pinging noises against the screen.

Yeah, it's the Federal Budget Debate, in which the latest move has both sides agreeing to separate the fight over the Feds raising their "debt ceiling" (this is like picking your own credit age 12) from addressing the insane spending that got 'em into into the mess in the first place.

Oh, that makes sense...if you're making up your own rules! Once again, if you or me or the General Emporium down the street ran our finances that way, it would be improvident at best and very probably criminal.

And the posturing punditry? All they do is smirk and smarm about which side is "winning." Stuff it, you little weasels: the bottom line is, we-the-people are losing, losing to a narrow, political-class culture so addicted to making free with other peoples money that passing up an increase in it is referred to as a "cut," taxpaying individuals are always going to lose. (Eventually, those who pay no taxes get their turn at losing, too, once the money runs out).

I probably shouldn't even look at television or news sites in the morning. This last bastion of The West still has a long way to fall but it is painful to realize how far it's already slipped.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

The Great FedGov Budget Debacle Of _____

Aw, heck, pick a year, any year: the Feds have been circling the bowl of paper insolvency off and on for just about my entire life and to add injury to insult, it's unlikely that the Feds have had enough money to pay their debts at any time, if you suddenly called "olley-olley-oxen-free" and all parties had to settle up on the spot.

So when the President climbs up inside my TV and makes long faces about the debt -- and combative ones about takin' it to the brink -- or when his opponents dish up sanctimonious sound-bite snippets about how they would never, ever, ever raise taxes* -- all I can do is laugh, because whoever wins, we'll lose: you, me, the guy gliding by in the Hummer limo and the bum dozing in the bushes, we all lose.

They're gonna go back and forth however many rounds; they'll puff up and they may even "bring the Federal Government to a standstill," though not their paychecks, air-conditioning or in-house diner; none of the present 3.5 wars will stand down and you can depend on the FBI, DEA and bATFe will all be at the same old stand during the "standstill," still employing mother-shooters, rousting California cancer patients and sneaking guns across borders. (What I wanna know about the last-named Bureau is, do they smuggle smokes and booze, too?) Count on IRS still being in their counting-house, too; in short, none of FedGov functions that pick your pocket or break your leg (or the other guy's) will shut down; nope, they'll turn out the lights on some highly-visible widows-and-orphans stuff, then go on TV and sob about how their opposite number(s) in the Legislative or Executive branch just don't care about decent, hardworkin' 'Murricans and/or balancing the Federal budget.

Eventually, they'll "compromise:" make token cuts to a costly feelgood program like MediCare and raise taxes a bit; they'll each blame the other side for the bit that smells worse to their core, you and I will will get socked with the bill, and the Federal budget will go right on running a deficit.

If any individual or business tried to run with a negative balance all the time, it would be fraud. When the FedGov does it, after putting on a medicine show to sell us on their patent snake-oil, hiding the fact that it's only degrees of insolvency under discussion (as opposed to, you know, not spending more than they take in from us poor marks), why, it's got tradition and "the great workings of Our Gummiement" all over it, and we're supposed to obediently pick sides and spat with those who back the other team.

Bedammed if I will. The Emperor and all his court is naked -- and bankrupt. Shut 'er down, Mr. Obama, Mr. Boehner; sell off what you can and shut 'er down. We'll have to run on State governments while we figure out what to do next.

(Don't hold your breath waiting on that -- but don't get sucked into the budgetary pantomime, either. No matter what they do, you will end up worse off when it is resolved).
*The call-and-response then has The Prez intoning that "the rich" should pay "their fair share," to which I have to point out that in terms of using Fed-provided and/or funded in whole or part from Washington City goods and services, is it the wealthy or the poor who make most use of 'em; and if it's the poor who use 'em most and the rich who use 'em least, what's "fair share" even mean in this context?

Monday, July 11, 2011

Humid Enough Fer Ya?

Ye gads! Spent part of the day at the Skunk Works North Campus with a crew of riggers and despite a fair breeze on Mt. Crosley,* it was ghastly; they ran through the water they'd brought ("Lady, we have plenty!") in about an hour and made pretty good inroads into the official-for-site-work supply, kept chilled in the fridge.

I was able to go indoors part of the time and attempt to be useful instead of gettin' in the way (still, you've got to watch the work some of the time; nice guys, skilled guys, but they'll be on the road by sundown, y'know?). It turned out that had its own issues: a couple of iced-up air-conditioning units meant it was raining indoors in two spots, one of them bein' the workshop where my desk-away-from-Main-Campus is. The tiny, elfin waterfall of suck and fail missed that but got part of the toolbox (6' tall, 4' wide and a 30" deep -- and on wheels), so I had to use WD-40 for what it was designed for. For a change.

...Did that little task in the vast garage, which was (and still is, I bet) a plain sauna, 115°F at floor level.

Got home at almost the normal time and pondered the outside things I had half planned, but the walk through the yard convinced me I would rather dance in flaming goat entrails soaked with rancid yak butter than spend any more time outside.

Maybe tomorrow. Then again, maybe tomorrow they'll have flaming goat entrails on special at the Fresh Market.
* This is a joke; the place is swimming in water any time it rains and if it is a couple hundred feet higher than Downtown, that's only 'cos they built Indy in a swamp! Yes, laid out by the same guy who did D.C.. He must have been heartbroken to learn Indiana didn't have much in the way of malaria.

Free Reading!

Claire Wolfe links to several yarns this morning, including t Eric Frank Russell classic, "...And Then There Were None." (Surely you've read it? If not, you otta, if only to learn what "myob" might be and why Our Leaders need to do a lot more of it, followed by getting real jobs).

Also among her links is Vernor Vinge's "The Ungoverned," the short story that got me reading Vinge. Check it out!

(Here's a nice Bud Webster bit about Eric Frank Russell. And then there's this website, perhaps the best Russell resource on the web.)

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Whisky Tango Foxtrot, Over?

This. No.

Goooood Morning!

Here it is, 7:59 and I haven't posted anything.

I went to the Indy Hamfest yesterday, where I proved to myself that walking a lot on grass is better than walking a lot on a hard surface. And proved why I only carry a certain amount of cash to these events....

But I did buy a drill press, a bench-top Craftsman, at a very good price; and I bought something for my peace of mind at work, too: a Tektronics oscilloscope cart, which I will attempt to swap for a top-heavy thing we've been using for various pieces of test gear and which has already damaged one of them.

I picked up several books and quite a lot of minor items of geekery (eventually to be written about at Retrotechnologist), while renewing old friendships, which is the best part of all.

This was as large an event as they have had since moving to the present site from the County fairgrounds, too, which bodes well for the future.

Saturday, July 09, 2011

"I Will Never Smoke Or Chew...."

"...And I won't hang out with those who do."

Michelle Bachmann has signed a similar sort of pledge, though it's got a lot more items on the list.

I think all such pledges and promises extracted from those running for office are little more than dares. We'd do better demanding they bite the head off a live bald eagle in public: at least they'd be obliged to actually follow through. In the case of this list, some of the things it appears to demand of a Presidential candidate would require 'em to subvert the Separation of Powers and the Bill of Rights if elected. (So, business as usual, then?)

And what a list it is! The Family Leader has assembled a grab-bag of social-conservative values for their Pledge, including frequent and obsessive mention of homosexuality (Rick Santorum was frothingly happy to sign). They're agin' it, which shouldn't be a surprise; and they're agin' any claim that "those people" could be as happy or as hardwired as the rest of us.

What're they for? Well, gee, they say married couples have better sex (citing U.S. Census data -- and while I find Census questionnaires overly intrusive, I don't remember any questions about that) and more-successful children, along with a collection of dubious statistically-based conclusions leading to the assertion that, even if two people loathe one another, they should stay wed so's society and their kids will get the same advantages as the kids of the loving, married couple next door. (What's wrong with that, you might ask? Simple, there's no "control" group; it compares children of couples who choose to stay married with kids of couples who chose not to get or stay wed; this tells us nothing about the kids of couples who can't get a divorce or, for that matter, the offspring of faithful unwed couples).

They're for the First Amendment, but against porn in all forms -- so much for that racy summer novel you're reading, and so much for the lack of Zen paradox in the Judicial branch, too.

They appear to be in favor of slavery's support of marriage norms, which is (to put it gently) fairly thin ice; while their observation that the children of pre-Civil War slaves were more likely than their modern counterparts to be raised in a two-parent household (a dirt-floor doghouse of a "household," they omit to mention) is probably true, it's also irrelevant; those selfsame children were also several times as likely to be illiterate and to die of any one of a long list of childhood diseases. (You can cite the same general stat for the palefaces in the Big House; the numbers aren't as lopsided but it's a huge shift away from wedlock. So why bring up the other, except to raise a stink? War's over and the last veteran of it died a long time ago).

Near as I can tell, they stop just short of chasing us wimmens and our toddlers back into purdah -- for our own good; and in another Zen-like move, follow that by denouncing Shariah law[1], which would do the same thing and mealy-mouth the same thin justification for it.

For even more paradox, how's about their citing a long list of the sort of social diseases generally associated with promiscuity as evidence homosexuals should not be allowed to marry? H'mm, bit of a logical problem, you'd think, but it's whole camels for dessert if you can only manage to hack that gnat into pieces small enough to swallow!

The Grand Finale is the best paradox of all, all the more in that it is lifted from the Left: in the name of freedom of speech and religion, it demands the candidate fight against "...the intolerance of any who would undermine law-abiding American citizens and institutions of faith and conscience for their adherence to, and defense of, faithful heterosexual monogamy." At first glance, it's nice-sounding word salad; too bad that when parsed, it's tellin' the Executive to go quash the speakers at the polyamory rally -- in the name of freedom of speech and religion.

Instead of doin' the hard work to demonstrate the superiority of heterosexual monogamy[2] in word, deed and Hollywood movie, The Family Leader want the Feds to stand over it with a whip, herdin' everybody back onto the reservation, willing or no, on the unproven assumption that it will make everything better. Ah, yes, I recognize that Leader Principle!

Top-down social engineering is just as unappealing to me when it comes from the Right as it is from the Left. YMMV.
1. It's almost amusing that the socially-conservative groups that want to fix things by gettin' Us Women back into the kitchen and nursery under the benevolent protection of Men loathe one another so intensely; Protestant monogamists vs. jack-Mormon "fundamentalist" polygamists vs. Muslim fundamentalists. Hey, guys? From over here, it looks like you're all on the same side.
2. Interesting word, by the way, in that it doesn't rule out polyandry; but I digress. Update: I'm also wrong. Alas, seat-of-the-pants etymology.

Friday, July 08, 2011

"The End Of The Manned Space Program In The U. S."

You say it's over? America's all done with flyin' in space unless we hire a Russian cab?*

Geez, don't tell the people at Blue Origin (btw, they're hiring); don't tell Bigelow Aerospace (btw, they're hiring) and whatever you do, don't mention it around SpaceX, the guys hired to deliver freight to ISS and working on their own manned vehicle. (Btw, they're hiring, too).

'Cos they'll fall over laughing at you. As will the good people at The Spaceship Company (hiring) and their prime client, Virgin Galactic. (Hiring, though the bar is very high indeed.)

And they are just the frontrunners of a very long list.

The show ain't over, folks. It's barely begun.
* Mind you, they're very good cabdrivers and as long as you're not too tall, it's a good ride. They've got more flight time on their booster and the basic capsule than anyone. But the fare is a bit high.

Dinner, Wheels

Tam and I stopped by the Scratchtruck for dinner; I noticed they were workin' SoBro on my trip home and hauled her there posthaste.

On the scene, we saw a very nice bicycle parked at the Upland Brewing outlet. It caight my eye at once, with the old-school frame geometry. Turned out to be a Pashley Guv'nor; they still make 'em the old way, which means nearly indestructible and great-looking. Make mine a Princess Sovereign, please! (FTC, they're unlikely to send me one free for a mention, so KMA).

Painting: Will It Commence Today?

Two and a half days of scraping later....

More aggressive methods have given way to heating and scraping: it turns out that takes less leverage and when work switched to a ladder -- you get the picture.

Given the darkness of the old wood (which may be hard pine; hard enough to last nearly 90 years, at least), the first coat will be White Primer Of Overwhelming Force (plus I misplaced my sample chips; we're at that awkward stage, a Valspar color matched in Behr paint*). My painter's got a vacation next week, so the deal is, "Leave no bare wood."

This should establish a nice blank canvas to try out the fancy housepaint in an inconspicuous spot, plus do some prep and small work like screen frames -- I've got at least one screen (wooden frame) that wants redone anyway.

The Indy Hamfest is this Saturday! So that's a day to let the paint dry before I go tryin' anything.
* Which means that no matter how good modern paint-tinting has become, I'll be wanting to get a big order done up in one go, and will be picking up one or two five-gallon mixing cans; you pour all the one-gallon cans together and then even if the Big Magical Machine had a valve stutter or whatever, the color will be consistent).

Thursday, July 07, 2011

Indiana Supreme Extreme Court: Vote 'Em Out.

I'm all for tarring, feathering and riding them out of town on a splintery split rail, but they tell me that's all nekulturny an' stuff.

Okay, fine; we'll vote 'em out. The latest insanity? A Public Intoxication DUI conviction -- for being a passenger! So much for the designated driver thing, kid, Carrie Nation's bastard sons don't like it. Demon Rum, y'know, and y'must be guilty of something. (I have been chided, and rightly so, for misstating the charge. I still gotta wonder: as long as a sober person is driving the inebriate in question home or to another non-public place, just how sensible it is to arrest 'em for being too far inside a bottle as long as they're not harming others.)

Our chance to start removing these "Justices" comes up in 2012, when Grand High (oh, ain't he?) Panjandrum of the Indiana Supreme Court Steven H. David takes his seat in the dunking booth. Let your aim be true, O Fellow Hoosiers, and vote this freedom-hating nitwit back to ambulance-chasing, where he belongs. Or, if he promises to be nice, the gutter, which is a step up.

My home state does a lot of things right. Picking him wasn't one of them. Some of his backup singers need to hie themselves otherwhere, too. Y'know, I'd even take me a straight-up Leftie, if he was a good lawyer and promised to read all the rules and apply 'em fair and square, rather than go diddling around after whatever whim went wafting through the howling, empty wilderness of his mind. But I'm a dreamer; Lawful Evil was only ever a category in a game.
Semi-relatedly: Didja know Oklahoma was Dry from the start in 1907 right up through 1959? Strewth, and it was ended in an unusual manner: "In the 1950s governor J. Howard Edmondson, wanting to end the illegal traffic in booze, realized that the way to end prohibition was to enforce it. With vigorous tenacity Edmondson instructed local authorities to set up roadblocks, search vehicles, arrest violators [...]. [...]Oklahoma began to dry up, liquor became increasingly hard to find, hotels began to lose convention and conference business when it was learned for the first time that they wouldn’t be providing liquor. Now unable to get their drink, Oklahomans demanded change. [...W]ent to the polls and officially ended prohibition." D'ya suppose that was the original goal of the War On Some Drugs? --No, me neither. Anyway, there's your wild and wooly West, all two-faced Temperance an' such for half a century. Next time someone tells you this law or that will "take us back to the days of the old West," don't forget this tid-bit of history!

Housepainting Update: Okay, Now I'm Scared

About a day and a half of wall-stripping has revealed cracked siding, loose siding, funky wood and butt joints (rather than scarfed or half-lapped) where one long board ends and the next begins. Oh, they were caulked, probably when the present coat of paint was applied; caulked using a material similar to chewing gum, though lacking in its adhesive and structural qualities.

The old paint exhibits wildly variable adhesion -- some patches fall off at a harsh word, others require a belt sander. One wall (one of the long ones) is about three-quarters prepped.

I'm starting to worry my young painter has taken on too large a job. Or that the unaffordably right thing is to rip the old siding off and start over. :(

Before Kings Of The High Frontier

...There was Salvage 1, an unlikely 1979 TV show starring (with equal unlikelihood) Andy Griffith as a junkman salvage yard operator who dreamed of stepping into the gap left when NASA stopped the Apollo program...and salvaging all the things they'd left on the moon -- for profit!

Naturally, he and his team succeed; naturally, NASA's bureaucrats loathe the notion and do whatever they can to trip up the intrepid heroes. (Yes, in 1979, FedGov bureacrats -- though not the space agency's hard-working rank and file -- were portrayed as dogs in the manger. Who knew?) (All the folks who put in an honest day's work at NASA are still my heroes in RL. I think the agency is pretty blamed creaky and I wish it wasn't so hostile to profit, but that's not the fault of those with their shoulders to the wheel).

The science is generally laughable, though for the time and the medium it's a noble compromise between semi-right-sounding words ("monohydrazine!") and achievable effects, but the spirit is straight-up independent can-do. The writers struggled a little at coming up for jobs for a commercial space vehicle, though they generally succeeded in getting at least some connection.

I don't know about sending you scrambling for this bit of television jetsam; I stumbled across it on cable 20 years ago. Victor Koman's book has rather more fire and thunder. But it's interesting nonetheless.

(Kings Of The High Frontier doesn't seem to actually be available in an e-reader edition at, where it was priced an affordable $3.50 American and with IMO better cover art than the hardback -- though you can find that via the Amazon link at Tam's. They've even got an autographed version if you move quickly! Oddly, it's not available at Victor Koman's own KoPubCo. I'm guessing the publisher bought all rights).

Wednesday, July 06, 2011

Pugsly Immune To Irony

Huge Chavez, back in Venezuela after having to go to Cuba for cancer surgery (I'll bet he didn't have to bring his own meals and bandages!), praised the independance of the country he's "improved" so much that...he had to leave it to get surgery.

In a reaction that will surprise no one except the semi-commie/semi-strongman, his country's bond prices had risen sharply when it came out he was ill...and fell even more abruptly when he returned. One could hardly look for more sincere criticism. Way to lead the way to prosperity, there, ya little weasel!

(Then there's this photo. Family reunion or has he gone all Charlie Sheen?)

Y'know, that man could do a lot for his county's economy with a solo car trip in a well-sealed garage.

Gee, Mister, I'm Skeered

Operation Housepaint has begun! Only a little bit of the old paint has been scraped off, but every bit counts. I even picked up a couple of gallons of what may be the actual color of the actual paint.

Second Try, and First Try, too, has not, well, not actually drying. It's been several days and the stuff's still tacky; so I went with the (different) brand Nephew had suggested to begin with. Harder to go get but if it works, it's worth it. I got the version with primer in it for this test; I'm thinking that for the first coat and then we'll see, 'cos that stuff is expensive. On the other hand, not having to repaint for a long, long time would be nice.

Tuesday, July 05, 2011


Update: I found that dadratted garage door remote! ...Right where I'd left it, of course. Logical place, really, and if it had been a snake, it could've bit me on the upper arm, several times: it was in top of books on a bookshelf, quite handy for setting-down while stowing the motorcycle helmet and gloves.. /Update

The wheels fell off my day yesterday afternoon; at least it was only a metaphor. Started well enough -- slept in, scrambled up to a family cookout on the scooter, my longest trip of the season to date, and arrived back home a few hours later, half-dazed by a headache.

Fiddled around at Nothing Much and made ready to go get paint.

Incoming text from Nephew synchronicistally questions my choice of brand -- yeah, me, too; but it's what I have a chance of actually having time to get. Wasted some time on that, decided to leave the question open and just go buy primer, headed out to the garage and -- hey, where's my garage door opener?

Not only can I not find it, I don't remember having had the thing in the house. I thought I knew where it was (pocket of my summer-weight riding jacket), but it's not there.

Proceeded to turn garage and house upside down. It's nowhere. Kept looking. Nope. Looked some more; Tam helped. Nada.

Of course, by then the paint store was closed.... I found other things to do, hoping to stmble over the opener. Not!

Ended on a slightly better note: we had fireworks! So did the neighbors, for miles and miles around. Somebody, some distance off, had big stuff and there'd be a BOOOOM! every so often that you felt, interspersed with the pops and bangs and whistles of lesser amusements. Now there's a celebration!