Tuesday, January 31, 2012

While On The Subject Of World Culture

This morning's breakfast, a globetrotting take on huevos rancheros:

Two eggs -- big, orange-yellow free-range eggs from Locally Grown Gardens -- very lightly scrambled and folded once after they've set, sprinkled with a little good curry powder right before flipping and topped with a bit of English Cheddar with Horseradish and Celery (pale yellow and softer than most cheddars), then served with a generous topping of warmed up Red Gold salsa and whatever hot sauce you favor and bacon on the side.

Tam, pretty much a bacon fanatic, inhaled the egg dish before even noticing the bacon. Yes, it's that good. (As ever, the bacon was peppered before cooking and a dab of that grease was used for the eggs. It makes a difference, the flavor's as close to cooking over an open wood fire as I can get.)

"What Is In The Box?"

Notes are in the box, as it happens, musical notes -- that is, if the box is a Shruti Box, a sort of preset background accordion. Looks a bit Subcontinental to me.

Having fallen over the site, I was going to make a snarky comment about it being an exotic, foreign musical instrument that even a clueless hipster could play; but after listening to the haunting little improvisation linked to at the site, I'm inclined to give it a break. It's pretty darned kewl -- and way better than handing the lead signer a tambourine.

PS: I was also intending to make some remark about the device's similarity to the drones of bagpipes still not being a serious threat to the Scottish dominance of that fearsome weapon of war; good thing I had second thoughts, since (of course) India has bagpipes of her own, with a long and ancient lineage.

This gives rise to another question: what odd quirk of English character is it that leads 'em to go ruling over nations of canny, thrifty bagpipers with a high degree of mechanical and mathematical aptitude and little inclination to surrender? "Oh the haggis is well enough but I'm minded to have a curry now...." Gads.

(Or is it all an elaborate, satirical warning of the dangers of stereotyping and over-generalization? Still, it's tempting to wonder if we owe the Industrial Revolution, seminal work on microwaves and huge swathes of mathematical physics to a desire for a more-varied diet and finding someone who could do something about the drains.)

Monday, January 30, 2012

Dr. Zarkhov, Hoosier-Style

When Buck Rogers needs a ray gun -- or a roadside EMP generator -- he need look no farther than Anderson, Indiana's XADS.

Kewl, hunh?

Super This

Lost amid the SuperB0wl hoopla, last Friday a perfectly enormous cargo airplane landed at Indianapolis International Airport for the first trip in a regular, weekly freight service, direct from Indy to the heart of Europe (or possibly the gallbladder, Luxembourg being small, often overlooked but nevertheless important).

This time next week, the professional football excitement will be all over except for cleaning up the mess -- but regular trade will still be here.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Mission Accomplished, I'd Say

Snapped this photo over a week ago and have been amused at the sign ever since:Yes, it says "LEAF REMOVAL." And look at how well they've done the job! I wonder if they plan to wait until April to put up the one offering to remove snow?

Still Not Dead

...Woke up way too early with a migraine and hypersensitive hearing. I tried to just ignore it and go back to sleep -- ended up under a blanket on the window seat, with earmuffs on, hating the buzzsaw wail of the furnace draft-inducer (which is no more than a low purr).

Ibuprofen eventually dulled the pain and roar and I dropped off for another couple of hours. Woke to discover Tam's cat had colonized the tented area beneath my bent knees and was objecting to my efforts to move. She eventually succumbed to the inevitable and here I am, only a little worse for the wear.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Products You Don't Know You Need

The Taxidermied Jimmy Hoffa Coat Rack: He's kind of crouched back with both hands up, so you can hang coats and hats on both hands and his head. C'mon, prove to me that wouldn't sell. (You know you want one.) Aha, so that's where he's got to!

(Also the scaled-down Empire State/King Kong/Fay Wray/Biplanes coat rack. Sure, it's difficult to dust -- but flip the switch and he roars and grabs at the airplanes!)

Tacktical Baseball Bat: For keeping by the door, in black, flat dark earth, Digicam and even a 3/4-weight one in Pepto-pink "for the l'il lady," with high-tech nubby rubber grips and plenty of rails for lights, pistol bayonet(s) and general ouchliness.

Cat Handcuffs: Sure, they're wrong, but I could use 'em. Huck nearly pitched me face-first into a wok of breakfasty goodness (fried wild rice & quinoa, with cabbage, onion, celery, carrot, radish, spicy black & green olives, Emmentaler and plenty of bacon and eggs) as he and Rannie were underfooting this morning, her in hopes of a dab of bacon grease and him just 'cos the other cat was there. (Yes, Huck spurns bacon grease. Where oh where have we gone wrong?)

Chainsaw Bayonet Bayonet: Take it to the next next level! Sure, you got your Sharkhop XV Anti-zombie M4gery with a real chainsaw on it -- but what if you run outta ammo and gasoline before running out of Zeds? Add a blade to that thing! (Also good for splatter-free poking at stuff you don't wanna get all that close to.)


I have been uncommonly fatigued of late, ever since my recovery from probably-Norovirus. This morning it manifested itself by being unable to stay awake for very long until I had slept for twelve hours.

The TV went off and I struggled awake to discover Tam seated on the foot of my bed, channel-hopping from local news to Fox to Rachael Maddow; even that didn't keep me awake. Annoyed, yes, but I did the usual morning things, took a swig of water, made dyspeptic, disparaging comments about the commercials[1] and such,[2] and was soon back in a dreamland fully as immersive and bizarre as Little Nemo's, from which I emerged, still muzzy, only minutes ago.

I'm gonna go make brekky. If I can remember how to operate the stove.
1. Rule One: "If they offer two of them, it's useless junk." Rule Two: "The flashier the commercial and the simpler the product, the more likely it is to be overpriced and cheaply made." There's a short list of items, all of them (how 'bout that!) mail-order/phone-order that I will never purchase.

2. Tam did not like my theory about what Ron Paul was going to do with the delegates he has amassed, to the puzzlement of The Maddow: "Barbecue!" Feed 'em or cook 'em, flip a coin: it's as useful either way 'cos you know the GOP, which I believe to be as incapable of learning as the vile ijits across the aisle, will ice him out of the nomination. The GOP's redeeming features are that they will talk of budgetary restraint and a lot of the things they make laws about, one can dodge if necessary. Not so for the other guys.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Hoosier Presidential Candidates?

I was wondering who (if anyone) has made it onto Indiana's 2012 Presidential primary ballot already. A little Google work* brought me to Indiana's official page for that information, where I saw this:Yeah. Useful.

I am not a violent person and I think political violence should be a very, very, very last resort. But there's a level of sheer FAIL that, in a just universe, really ought to result in some kind of trouncing. Maybe the State could just pull their Internet connection -- 'cos clearly, they are not using it for anything (except possibly pr0n and WoW?), at least since early Autumn of 2010.
* Yes, on actual Google. Like Hebrew National all-beef franks, there's only one best choice. Wish I knew what it was for searches.

The Dentist

That's where I'm headed, bright and early this morning. Week before last, they found something they didn't like, something small. My early working years were, among other things, a time when dentistry was an unaffordable luxury,* so I have learned the hard way the importance of resolving such issues when they are still small.

Update: Survived the experience once again. --Also, I am more impressed with modern dental technology every time I encounter it. In just the last 20 years, they've gone from glopping in mushy metal to UV-cured miracle plastics that perfectly match one's teeth, pre-coatings that improve adhesion, desensitize and kill bacteria, and caries-detecting chemicals. Holy cow -- I remember when the best they had was purple dye to check how well you brushed your teeth!
* No, really -- when I was 23, my parents gave me an unusual birthday gift: removal of my wisdom teeth (the uppers had come in in splinters!) and a whole lot of fillings. One of the best presents I've ever received; it had been five years between times.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Wha'cher Parents Listened To

Or maybe even you?

Ah, those were the daze. Er, "days." Or somefink.


...Right-to-work was voted in by the House; Indiana's Senate already passed their version. So, all over, right?

Nope. They still have to match 'em up. The state's AFL-CIO boss says she has something up her sleeve, too.

And it's still all heat, no light.

Aw, heck, in Anarchtopia, they'd have to work it out one-by-one at the bargaining table. And/or with pickets and brickbats -- it'd either be louder or quieter and, IMO, better either way. As is, if only metaphor were real, the state would be incredibly rich in organic fertilizer.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

An SOTU Moment


President, rattling a big ol' saber: "We'll keep Iran from having a nuke by any means possible!"

Congress: [Lengthy standing ovation]

President: "Of course, peaceful resolution would be better..."

Congress: [Scattered applause that trails off awkwardly]

President: "...And if Iran changes course...it could rejoin the community of nations..."

Congress: [...crickets...]

Yay, war? While I doubt Iran's government could get much more paranoid, I do have to wonder if this is the very same President and Congress that's been so proud about bringing the troops home from Iraq and Afghanistan. I guess the war you thunk up yourself is way better than the one your predecessors left for you -- especially when you won't be going there yourself.

I'm no fan of Iran's government but looking the other way and whistling loudly (while possibly picking up part of the tab) every time Israel overtly or covertly hammers their nuclear-weapons program back into the Stone Age has been working very well so far, and with far less loss of innocent life than a good, old-fashioned war. --Of course, war plays better at re-election time, as President after President has demonstrated, usually with Congress cheerin' 'em on.


(Actual video at the very end of this segment and continues, opening with thunderous ovation here. Bonus V.P. nose-picking adventure starts about 2:45 in the second linked video.)

Birthday Dinner

I'd accumulated some odds and ends and then Tam picked up Utterly Superior Bacon,* so:

Cut three medium potatoes in 3/8" to 1/2" cubes, dice one carrot and cook in salted, peppered water to cover plus a bit. Use a good-sized (2-quart) saucepan.

Chop one leek, half an onion (I had a nice red one, filled with vim and tears), a couple carrots and an Anaheim or other pepper; set aside.

Fry up two strips of bacon in a wok, frying pan or skillet; set aside and drain most of the grease, leaving a little for the next step:

A nice big kielbasa sausage, sliced in rounds about 3/8" thick. Cook in bacon grease, then drain, pat with paper towel and add to the potatoes. (Add water to cover if needed)

Saute the leek, onion and carrot in the sausage grease, adding bacon grease as needed (easy does it!). Add the pepper right before the onion goes translucent. Drain and stir into to the potato and sausage pot.

Add the rest of the bacon grease back to the pan. Take a small cabbage, cut the head in half and cut one half into 5 or 6 wedges. Sprinkle with a good sweet balsamic vinegar -- I used some blackberry-ginger -- and some freshly-ground pepper, pop in the skillet and cook, turning once. It will caramelize just a little. This goes pretty fast. (You can use plain vinegar and some sugar or even honey, but you'll have to experiment).

To serve, dish out the potato-sausage-veggies mix (it's done when the potatoes are starting to fall apart) with a perforated spoon, adding broth to taste (the broth is wonderful!); add a wedge or two of cabbage on the side, with a half-slice of bacon on top.

Save the leftovers! It's a good starter for a hearty soup.

Tamara's cat even liked the cabbage -- make that, "licked." But it was just one leftover wedge by then.
* Bacon is not the same everywhere -- this would be "streaky" or "American style" bacon. OTOH, I suspect any good version of the various kinds and sorts enjoyed in the bacon-eating regions would do just fine. The rest of you are just going to have to improvise.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

A Open Letter To The Vice-President Of The United States Of America

Dear Joe Biden,

On the occasion of a State of the Union address by your boss -- yes, that skinny fellow in a suit in front of you, the one making a speech -- this country asks pretty much just one thing of you. Just one little thing:

For the love of Ghu, man, do not pick your nose, live, on international television! Please!
...Oh, too late.Okay, then please, please, please do not semi-secretly wipe your fingers on your copy of the President's spee-- Aw, gee. Ewwww.

Y'make me wanna claim to be Canadian when people ask where I'm from.

Roberta X

Readers: Gosh, I miss the days when they'd tape his wrists to his thighs for public appearances. I would have been happy to present a bipartisan example, but Speaker Boehner, whatever other failings he may have, managed to keep his digits away from his olfactory orifice for this speech.

Craption Of The Day

...And in Wired, of all places: "Solar: Cheap panels from China have viscerated the US industry."

Stuffed it full of guts, have they?

I suppose that explains the smell. And here I had thought it was the reeking incense of FAIL.

(Pretty good article, btw.)

It's Somebody's Birthday

Happy Birthday to you; happy birthday, Miss Tamara, happy birthday to ewe!

Hadn't you otta git her somethin'?

Monday, January 23, 2012

One Tiny Bit More On Right To Work

The screaming, emoting and feel-good/feel-bad BS is really quite incredible. I made up my mind at lunch today to go find some dispassionate info on the subject to link to -- good, solid stuff, with actual legal and case-study cites, pointing out how such laws really work in the real world when real people in varying situations tangle with 'em -- and it turns out Wikipedia is the best I can do.

Everyone else is full of it, no more capable of giving a straight answer than they are of flying by leaping from a high place and flapping their hands frantically, which I do wish they'd all try.

It's either Yeats' Rough Beast or "Jerusalem wrought in our fair and pleasant land," accordin' to the pols and the howling mobs (or vice-versa, depending on the outcome). Which means probably neither, just a lot of nasty ox-goring and grungy little side-deals.

(Update: The most vexing heat-vs.-light factiod: claims that unions would be obliged to continue to represent "bargaining unit" members who had dropped union membership or never joined. If true -- and how are you still a member of a bargaining unit if you're out of the unit what made the bargain? -- if true, it's manifestly unfair, as lopsided as the closed shop it replaces. In or out; if you wanna stand in the middle, there's financial-core membership and that ought to be options enough. If employers are happier with you out of the union, they're going to have to accept you stopping by to ask for a raise, too.)

The brilliant physicist (and man with a ringside seat at world affairs) Enrico Fermi was, at least in later life, firmly convinced that all political change -- whatever it was! -- was inevitably for the worse, like entropy flowing downhill, no matter how noble (or otherwise) the intent. Man might've had a point.

(On the good -- good-ish, anyway -- side, I did stumble over a link to one of the odder mash-ups of artist, style and theme, The KLF/Tammy Wynette mix of Justified & Ancient (Stand By The JAMS), via "Protestant Work Ethic" to "The Idler magazine" to a former member of The KLF being amongst their writers. And they say nobody was never learned nothing nohow by wandering? Yeah, me neither.)

Aw, Rats

I've finally gone over the off-kilterness event horizon.

I suppose it was inevitable.

Tarzan Is Buried In Shelbyville, Indiana

It's true -- and he was married to the daughter of Edgar Rice Burroughs.

(James Hubert Pierce, not some "Lord Greystoke" fellow -- a Hoosier boy and not the first Indiana Tarzan, either).

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Gabrielle Giffords Steps Down

She's going to focus on her recovery instead of politics. Good for and and her advisors; her terrible situation would have been easy to exploit (her re-election was said to be a sure thing) but she and they have resisted the temptation.

Class act. Grace under pressure, indeed.


Just some...things:

The Vela Incident

The Barisal Guns (!)

Prepare For Ludicrous Speed

...It all sounds a bit, ahem, Hidden Frontier to me.

(My thanks, as ever, to the useful and fascinating Damn Interesting.)

Right To Shirk?

Ruth Holladay links to an Indy Pointy-Sparkly-Thing article about the ongoing Right To Work fight in the Statehouse.

She calls it "investigative journalism;" I think it's the kind of "investigation" that points out the Emperor is starkers -- stark nekkid or stark, barking mad, you decide.

'Cos it is about money, and about the manner in which the Democrats are very much in the union's pockets and the GOP is in bed with crony capitalists; please note that neither one leaves much room for either the actual individual workingman/woman/Yeti eunuch or the small businessman who hasn't got room for political payoffs contributions in his or her (or its snowbound, furry) budget.

Nope, "Clash of the Titans" all 'round, and $DEITY help any of the little folk caught in the gears.

...For me, the funniest thing about the RTW fight -- in a sick-making way -- is that it doesn't outlaw unions or anything, or even make it easier for companies to run 'em out by brute force; it only makes membership voluntary rather than mandatory.

Lookit, if a union is doing a good job for the workers, they'll line up to join -- and don't ladle out the old borscht about free riders; the non-member laddiebuck who appeals to a shop steward for help in a dispute with the company shouldn't expect anything but a cold shoulder (and I do not think the proposed bill requires otherwise; rather a long list of amendments to wade through, see for yourself). Pay up or speak for yourself! Or start up your own group: why should worker representation be competition-free?
Don't look for that to get mentioned, as a plus or minus, by either side. The dinosaurs are too busy running into one another, full-tilt, to stop and puzzle their tiny little brains over it. "Less filling!" "Tastes great!" It's a candy mint!" "It's a breath mint!" Um, yeah. Whatever.

Spy Novel?

I don't even know if publishers would find it plausible: a hush-hush government agency recruits a group of skilled amateur mountain climbers and trains them in secret to install atomic-powered spook gear atop a Himalayan peak in order to monitor Red Chinese H-bomb tests?

Aw, c'mon!

Except, of course, it really happened.

Your tax dollars at work. Oh, and -- "oopsie!" You'll see.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Seriously Loud Horn

Interesting idea: a way to have both a normal and an OMG-loud! horn on your vehicle without extra switches.

The inventor is trying to bootstrap it, which gives you an opportunity to buy one. Have a look and make up your own mind.

I'm considering it.

I'm Not Saying...

...That the U. S. government has been engaged in a series of terrifying trans-human experiments for a staggeringly long period of time; that, after all, would be nothing but the worst sort of alarmist conspiracy theorizing.

--But I've got to point that pretty much from the very start, your mail has been delivered by a "post-man" or even, in recent decades, a "post-woman." And most of them appear to be inhumanly fit, too (or perhaps merely some, per dispute in comments -- though I will suggest that "a graying hippie" with 1860s hairstyle and glasses, who "wears shorts in all weather" could very well be an example of just that sort of thing!).

Food for thought?

Unlicensed Barbering?

Hoosier hair stylists and cosmetologists are chanting, "Doom, doom!" Indiana's legislature is considering doing away with the requirement that they obtain state licenses -- and that might be The End Of Everything.

...Never mind that these are skilled trades; never mind that the schools that teach those trades are generally a lot more than license mills (because most of us can recognize a bad haircut, dye job or makeup application, even if we're not so good at those things ourselves); nope, we're warned that disease and disaster will inevitably follow. Also poverty, 'cos who doesn't want an amateur hair-hacking for pennies on the dollar? (I should talk -- I cut my own hair, mostly, and not too well.)

Amusingly enough, while barbers and their distaff-serving counterparts have raised most of the hue and cry, the same bill would lift the licensing burden on private detectives and security guards, too -- and they're not making much of it. (Ditto dieticians and hearing aid dealers. I don't know if optometrists are jumping with joy over the prospect of being able to prescribe controlled substances or not, but I will note they treat some very painful conditions for which aspirin won't do much.)

Friday, January 20, 2012

Iceiceice Fallingtinklinginklinginkling

It sounds like a herd of scorpions doing the Broadwayesque gang fingersnap fight from West Side Story;* or perhaps the tiny clatter of a big box of buttons, being endlessly tipped and tilted. What it is, is the freezingest kind of freezing rain, hitting frozen and making a tiny clash -- one of millions -- with the impact. And it's been going on for a couple of hours at least.

Side streets around Roseholme Cottage were already skating rinks. Tomorrow's predicted high will be 30 degrees. F.

I have no plans to leave the house.
* There -- serves you right, too.

I'm Not Sure What's Worse

So, is it dumber to "fix" Indy's exploding utility manhole problem by anchoring the covers down using high-strength steel cable, so they will just hop up, emit copious amounts of smoke, flame and/or steam when the stuff down there blows up; or is it dumber to refer to them as "manhole cover explosions?"

...Um, d00d, it's not the cover blows up, it's the transformers, etc. down underneath it!

(Oh, boy: exploding underground utility vaults, some chance of rather a whole lot of snow, and "the world's longest temporary zipline." What could possibly go wrong during Superbowl week?)

Ayn Rand, Underestimator

Rand looks more and more like a prophetess and an overly-optimistic one at that: a group of House Democrats -- including, to no surprise, smilin' Dennis Kuccinch -- have proposed setting up a "Reasonable Profits Board" for the oil industry, with insane taxes on any profits the board deems too much.

Yeah, there's some economic stimulus; I believe it was Dr. Johnson (Samuel, that is, not the plastics magnate) who described this kind of goad best: "Depend upon it, sir, when a man knows he is to be hanged in a fortnight, it concentrates his mind wonderfully."

Thursday, January 19, 2012

My Muse May Have Flipped

Came to me out of the blue:

"In Soviet Russia, clams dig you!"

Especially downwind of Chernobyl?


It's dark. I have a headache, my back hurts and from the way it feels, I have 1.25 sinuses -- two on one side and -0.75 on the other.

And yet somehow -- somehow! -- I'm supposed to be thrilled that:

A) Some sort of bowl-game thingie will be in town.

B) Some indeterminate number of sporting-even fans will be in town. 100,000? More? We don't even know how many of them can drive safely in snow and cold! I don't think we even know where they're from, yet. Not here; our team for this sport didn't even bother to show up this season.

C) I am promised that there will be fun, Fun, FUN! downtown, near the venue to this sporting event that I don't care about and don't have tickets for. My reaction to this heap big fun associated with can only be imagined by picturing Pat Paulsen being offered a lifetime supply of cold, malodorous mud: I'm less thrilled.

D) The players union is sticking an oar in Indiana's Right To Work debate. 'Cos we do a lot of exploiting downtrodden sporting figures here -- the way the coach and players of our team were fired en masse midway through their terrible season, for instan-- What? Kept them? Despite being miserably bad? All? Only fired the top brass, after they were washed out? Oh. It's a pity the players have not threatened a wildcat strike over R-T-W -- that would be news!

I'd call in sick but there's actual work to be done. That is more like fun than fighting ijits in traffic for doubtful access to dubious activities in uncertain weather, with slim-to-none odds of finding a place to park.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012


Wanna see me hobnobbing with the famous (and, I should add, quite courtly)? Then you'll have to follow this guy on a trip through his own past.

Tom's blogging style is interesting -- more observational than most bloggers and often very open-ended.

"Oh, Look, She Relented"

You had twelve hours without free ice cream; if you haven't looked up SOPA and PIPA, made up your own mind and taken whatever action you thought was indicated, then there's no way I'm going to reach you anyway.

I know some big bloggers kind of passed the whole thing with a wave and a nod -- generally folks deriving some revenue and/or personally significant egoboo from blogging, neither of which I begrudge them. Me, I can't do much all by myself, sign a petition and send notes to my horrors-in-office, so I opted to try co-opting you. If it multiplied my effort by any number greater than 1, it did what I hoped it might do.

Liberty: historical fluke or the wave of the future? I dunno. I don't want to spend my retirement in a prison camp and it's too darned much work avoiding 'em if you wait 'til it's too late.



Tuesday, January 17, 2012

I Love An Indiana Spring

57°F right now, raining; thunder has been rattling the windows all morning and winds have been so strong and gusty that at one point, after an unnerving series of thumps and rattles, Tam and I looked at one another and decided to avoid the West-facing windows until the storm had passed.

It's still January, right?

...It must be. The meat-eating urologists are promising a dusting of snow by sunset.

Solving The Problem

Those funny little people inside my TV have been telling me all morning that "there is concern" about "a potential environmental catastrophe" if fuel spills from the Costa Concordia ocean liner, which hit the curb a reef and flipped capsized after the Captain went off course. They weren't all that clear about exactly who was being concerned -- everyone, maybe -- or what was to be done about it.

I immediately had an answer (glib much?) -- hang up a sign reading FREE FUEL and wait for an onslaught of salvagers -- but decided I'd better dig.

Funny; read past the first paragraph and you find out the worried guy is one Corrado Clini, Italian Environmental Minister -- as in, that worry is his job -- and that the company that operates the ship has already hired a top firm to refloat (or at least salvage) the ship and take care of the fuel.

So relax. Yes, it would be very bad indeed if the fuel spilled but you, me and the networks are not the only ones who know that.

Monday, January 16, 2012


"Menu board" type sign on the side of a downtown filling station, below the gasoline company's flamboyant logo:

I would not care to even begin to speculate between that last line's being a signature or identifying the guy who's going to have to pay inside, but it sure looked like one or the other.

It's MLK Day

I am tempted to point out Martin Luther King's life and assassination as an example of the relative power and effect of the pen and the sword, of persuasion and force.

Force says, "Stop!" first and foremost; that's all it really can say and it's up to us to control what it stops -- the Deacons for Defense said "Stop!" to acts of oppression, while a jerk with a rifle* said "Stop!" to Dr. King.

Or tried to. --Force works best against force, the sword against another sword; it only stops what's happening at that moment. It dissuades those whose only tool is force.

Words, on the other hand, can say infinitely more than "Stop!" Thanks to the pen and the printing press, to audio recording, film and video, words live on, even after the man who spoke them is gone. You'll see excerpts from Dr. King's "I Have A Dream" speech all day.

There are any number of ways in which his politics and my own might differ; but on the idea of judging others individually, by "the content of their character," and not their complexion, accent or some other distraction, I agree with Dr. King.

It's a tough standard. Sometimes it's difficult to do. Most people talk about it -- but take the easy way out, whichever way that might be in their circumstances. Try anyway.

(Quite often, around Martin Luther King Day, contrarians will point out the man was no plaster saint. --I've got news for you, not even the plaster saints were saints. George Washington had a terrible temper and could nurse a grudge for years; Jefferson was lousy at business, even the business side of farming. Thomas Paine was so irascible that even his friends found him hard to take! You know what they have in common? They worked past their flaws, to reach for universal and lasting verities, and so did MLK. It's not about hagiography, it's about trying to find the best in ourselves -- and finding heroes who did the same.)
* In keeping with my long-established policy, murderers do not get free publicity on this blog.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

The Senator Doesn't Live Here Anymore

...And Senator Richard Lugar has neither lived in nor owned his official Indianapolis address in decades, term after term. He doesn't even appear to have a studio apartment in the state of Indiana! Not so much as an, ahem, cottage to call his own.

Isn't that special? You have to be amazed at the sense of entitlement that allowed him to just ignore this. One has to wonder if the courts will.

I haven't liked or much trusted the man since pretty much forever -- it was that awful forced smile that worried me -- but I thought he at least understood how to fake honorableness.

BlogMeet, Etc. Report

Pretty good turnout for a spur-of-the-week BlogMeet: Old Grouch, Shermlock, the recovering Brigid, Don -- aka Lurker 2 -- and spouse, The Jack, Tam K. and Mr. Engineering Johnson, a first-time attendee! Photo to follow, if it came out. (Brigid's came out better.)...Which it did. Several folks decided to not be photographed in, of all places, a pub (and I can well understand, Carrie Nation not being quite as departed as one might hope). (That's a joke, I say, that's a joke, son....) This did not include The Jack, who fell victim to my photographic, er, "skills." (I prefer candid shots -- but they do not always work out. Or is it "always do not?")

I did get some things in a very short visit to the Indy 1500: two books (including the latest M. Z. Williamson) and a knife for a co-worker. And possibly more; stay tuned!

N. B.

I should like to point out that Civilization has, now, technologically bypassed the need for "telephone sanitizer" as a job and that the conclusion must inevitably follow that the meaning of this universe is not and cannot be, 42.

What a relief!

Legislative Round-Up (2)

John Dillinger may be completely dead at last -- there's a Senate Bill to make Indiana's short shotgun laws compatible with Federal limits. (So-called "sawed-off" shotguns have strict length limits -- and a number of ways to be Federal-crime wrong -- per bATFe; Indiana just bans 'em, period. 'Cos Dillinger used one, way back when, see? Can't have that kinda thing, see? --Of course, he stole machine guns from police stations, too, and yet the police still keep fully-automatic weapons handy). It'll be interesting to see if this gets out of committee. (I think these firearms were the Taurus Judge of their time -- and still are. Take that as you will.)

They're looking to make it a misdemeanor (Class A) rather than a felony (Class D) to unlawfully possess a firearm on school property -- this is kind of a "little Jimmy gets to be an idiot once" revision and also makes it clear that if you may legally have a firearm, are not a student at the school, and have it locked up and out of sight in your car, you're not breaking the law. --Mind you, even a misdemeanor is no walk in the park and there's very harsh stuff waiting in the wings for anything more than mere "possession," so this looks like a decent change to the law. Dads, if you follow the rules, you can pick up the kids for deer-hunting without risking prison time and loss of your right to vote. SB 0180.

Another Senate Bill (0181) extends State firearms-law preemption to its own agencies! Appears to include State Universities. This may be hard-fought and anyone who is thinking "anarchy" probably should review State laws concerning who can be carrying what, where; they're plenty clear and this simply makes the rules the same everywhere. (Increasingly around here, in .gov places Indiana restricts carrying weapons, they put up metal detectors and X-ray screening. Oh, I don't much like it -- but I dislike the "honor system" even more. At least real screening disarms the law-abiding and scofflaws alike.)

The House has nothing much about things that go boom (other than Right-To-Work arguments!); looks like they are hoping to ease up even more on small brewers: I'm told we're makin' pretty good beer around here and even the Legislature notices. (Do you think enough beer could ease things on the R-T-W divide? Yeah, me neither; they'd just drink it and fight one another with the empty bottles.)

The whole list is here. Enjoy! (Enjoy? This really looks to be another hair-pulling-arguments kind of session; but better that than some buddy-buddy snarfing from the public trough).

Legislative Round-Up (1)

Get along, leetle Doges! While legislators generally approve of messin' with you more, every once in awhile, they slip up and propose the reverse.

Such is the case with SB0006, which proposes to do away with Indiana's archaic "automatic knife" law. Yeah, yeah, you're visualizin' teenagers with slicked-back hair, leather jackets and switchblades; but the fragile knives were never the problem.*

It wasn't the problem but that was what got "fixed," leading to oddities like my one-hand-opening Kershaw (like this, but partially serrated) being as legal as sunshine, but a cheap, dull letter-opener with a 2" flip-out blade that releases with a button being Banned By Law -- oh, and widely-sold at many temporary venues.

(Meanwhile, fixed-blade and folding knives of, well, any size you like, continue to be widely available to America's Troubled Youth, who still appear to favor fists and blunt objects when harming others -- and scorn bans.)

Looking at this mess, State Senators decided to try actually fixing it, rewriting a law that only encouraged contempt for the law. (They're still going to ban knives that fling a spring-loaded, detachable blade, a nasty gimmick thunk up by WW II Germans and carried on by the USSR. Not used by hoods and punks.)

It looks like the rewrite just might make it through, too.

Let your Senator in the Statehouse know you favor SB006 -- unless you're still worried about those kids from old musicals?
* Gee, Officer Krupke, they're socially diseased! West Side Story wasn't a documentary; even many legislators actually realized that. Sadly, they thought Blackboard Jungle was.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

She Returns

Back from the film, which was far better than I had expected (and my expectations were high), better than most documentaries and remarkably deft at weaving the tale together from its various threads. With a packed house of broadcast professionals and avid fans, it received an ovation. We were rapt -- and that's an audience drawn largely from members of a line of work where a degree of ADHD is an advantage.*

--I don't know how well it will play to people who didn't grow up in the Indianapolis radio market, but considering that it involves one of the hottest AMs of all time, one of the first FM rockers, a pirate station that ran locally for several years and that it plays out against a backdrop of popular music -- well, I think Naptown Rock Radio Wars has got a damn good chance. (Pity the poor lawyers clearing copyright and ASCAP/BMI fees, holding up a stopwatch against Fair Use guidelines, such as they are).

Saw exactly two (2) people I know from Way Back. Expected to run into more but didn't. (My crowd was mostly after the period the film covers.) But I certainly knew one of my fellow limo passengers:That's him, the one on the right, famous on the radio and then famous on TV. But I think I have to write him a check if I mention his name. (The other guy? Famous on the radio. Do they appear to have the same tailor? Note to self: next life, work more on the "famous" part. That's where the medium-large money is. ;) Ooooo.)

Wonderful film, see it if you can. May be upcoming on local PBS next month. (You're not gonna get a limo ride with that showing.)
* I'm not being glib. At what point does the intense creative state known as "flow" become "hyperfocus?" That kind of live radio happens one side or the other of right about there.Link

Recover-arrrrgh! Also, BlogMeet

So, I dashed out to the bank at the very last minute, having felt not at all up to braving the gun show today. Probably a good choice, given that the drive to the bank stuttered by like a hand-cranked 16-fps[1] silent.

Fortunately, the drive back home was a little less so and I'm feeling almost human.

Now I face a dilemma! You see, there's an interesting documentary premiering this evening -- interesting to me, at least, as it covers the Indianapolis pop-music "radio wars" from the 196os through the '80s. I was around for the very last tiny tail end of it (and the epilogue), and grew up listening to the Indy stations before that. So, way kewl, right?

Yeah, except I popped for the only available advance tickets: the VIP package, which includes three hours in a downtown bar, hobnobbing with "famous local radio stars." I probably know half of them -- and they're nice guys -- but, um, three hours in a bar with disc jockeys? Who thought that was a good idea? (Free Matches Day at the naptha refinery? Chimps, hammers and a glassworks?) ...Still, most of them are retired disc jockeys these days and have moved on to more respectabler lines of work, so one can hope. Really, I only wanted to see the movie, not enjoy once more the heady aroma of cheap drinks, expensive cologne, full ashtrays and rock'n'roll wreckage. Once you've survived one long Live! From The Vogue!, you don't need another. (And not even bleach will get that smell out of your tennies.)

Presuming I survive this...Experience...I'm gonna try to get to The Indy 1500 tomorrow and follow it up with, yes, an "open"[2] BlogMeet. Let's try to gather at Broad Ripple Brew Pub at 3:00 p.m., Sunday, 15 January. I promise to not kiss anybody!
1. The more-or-less standard of the era; sound films pushed it up to 24 fps and electric motors and nifty synchronizing schemes held it there. Unless you're very lucky, most silents you have seen were ridiculously overcranked; but even at the right speed, they can look "flicker-y" to the modern eye. (Converting the 24 fps film to 30 fps NTSC television made for one of the most preposterously-named and mechanically-intricate conversion methods ever: "3:2 pull-down." I still think it sounds like a Jr. High practical joke.)

2. Please note that I reserve the right to publicly call out jerks and ijits. Loudly. Very loudly. So let's all be on best behavior and if you just can't keep your loathe-thy-neighbor under control, stay away. After four days of Norovirus and an evening of radio-activity, I will not be in a mood to suffer fools in any quiet mode.

They Both Think They Own Me

Rachel Maddow's on the TV in the next room, waxing wroth over a GOP-backed state law (Texas?) that requires women be shown ultrasound images before proceeding with an abortion; she calls it "medically unnecessary" and I expect a lot of the American Left agrees.

--But what's her opinion about requiring girls to receive the HPV vaccine? Isn't that something the Dems have been all in favor of?

Both of the big parties -- matched set of jackboots that they are -- assume they own women's bodies. They just have differing plans for them. "For our own good," of course.

Isn't it time we told those creeps to Get Lost?

Friday, January 13, 2012

BTW, Still Sick

At least the horking came to an end, followed by...well, let us not be too graphic. At one point I was willing to swear it involved molecular acid. But I have, as they say, put that behind me, too.

Now I'm just washed-out and weak. Managed to eat some "comfort food" yesterday -- rice, tuna, green beans. Today, a small bowl of soup and a couple handfuls of popcorn. Either one of the cats could wrestle me to a standstill -- in fact, Huck had to go and prove it. But I'm on the mend. I hope.

Who Was Col. Charles Young?

He served in WW I and died in 1922. He was mentioned almost in passing in a documentary I stumbled across this morning[1] and I was moved to look him up. A U. S. Army colonel, he's responsible for the road that leads out to Moro Rock at Sequoia National Park (the Army used to patrol some National Parks! Who knew?), among other things. Things like leading a cavalry charge against Pancho Villa, service in the Philippines, military intel work in Haiti and military attache to various U.S Embassies.

In 1917, he was medicaled out with chronic high blood pressure, possibly related to a little problem aggravated by the odious Woodrow Wilson; for you see, Colonel Young was black and one of the officers under him complained he "found it distasteful" to take his orders. The Secretary of War Newton Baker knew how to deal with such nonsense and told the officer: "Do your duty or resign!" ...A ruling that lasted exactly as long as it took for Wilson to find out and overrule.[2] Sidelined, Colonel Young taught college (he'd been in charge of Wilberforce University's Military Science department for some time) until the end of the term, then got on a horse and rode 500-some miles to Washington D.C. to show his fitness. He was 54 at the time. It worked; he was returned to active duty, serving until his death.
1. A brilliant Frank Capra/First Motion Picture Unit (more here) lump-in-your-throat documentary with an interesting history -- the first two scripts were kicked back by the Army, who wanted a down-to-earth documentary rather than drama. Writer Carleton Moss and Director Stuart Heisler put together the third version, which the Army found acceptable; but no one involved was ready for audience reactions : "Nobody was certain what the impact of the film would have on viewers, and many people feared that African Americans would have a negative response to the film. However, when the first African American troops saw the film, they insisted that all African American troops should see it. Furthermore, after both African Americans and whites were surveyed about their response to the film, the filmmakers were shocked when over 80% of the white population thought the film should be shown to both black and white troops, as well as white civilians." Yes, it really is that good; wildly optimistic, perhaps, about attitudes of the day, but accurate and inspiring about individual achievement.

2. Wilson has much to answer for in regard to subsequent civil-rights turmoil; in undermining Federal meritocracy, he reinforced stereotypes and anger in both black and white Americans.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

An Apology To My Readers: I've Been Sick

Today was the first morning I haven't had something up by 0815 in...I think, maybe, ever.

Didn't do much yesterday -- I'm on vacation for all but one day this week; I'd worked that the day before yesterday, good healthy physical work, so what the heck, I took a day of sloth. In the evening, my tummy felt a little funny but I chalked that up to having a very light snack instead of dinner.

Went to bed mumblety-late and woke up an hour later, feeling nauseous and overheated. Waited for it to pass, kind of going in and out of wakefulness. You know the feeling, if I woke all the way up, I'd have to deal with this, so I won't.

It worked for another hour and a half, too. I finally got up, still doubting, and found myself sitting on the floor of the loo, yelling into a wastebasket for Ralph while perspiring copiously. Oh, and...talking. When I get a high enough fever, I just start blabbering whatever comes into my head, mostly, "Oh, no!" and random, semi-amusing phrases. I was aching all over.

All of this commotion roused Tam, who asked what she could do. I think I told her to stay back of the firing line.

Ralph having not responded, I stood up, took a sip of water, chewed an antacid and stumbled back to bed, realizing I had a very poor grasp of vertical. By then I was freezing; I wrapped up in blankets and shambled off to a confused state, neither asleep nor awake.

This kept happening, five or six times, an hour or a little more apart, sounding and feeling a little worse each time. At one point, my back hurt so badly that I wrapped up in a quilt on my very firm window seat. Sometime along about 0800, I dropped off to sleep, not very deep but better, and slept until just a few minutes ago.

I have had nothing to eat for well over 12 hours and you know what? I don't much want anything, either. Still a little dizzy but I hope I'm on the mend.

Whatever I had, you don't want. I hope Tam dodges it. (OTOH, maybe it's the full-on version of whatever she's been suffering.)

Wednesday, January 11, 2012


Minding my own business, eating a quiet lunch. Couple of guys in the adjacent booth are swapping stories:

"So, when my security clearance came through and the very first place they sent me was Site R[edacted]. 'It's an interesting place,' my boss said, "you'll like it.'

"We always entered at the [redacted]. That meant a long elevator ride with an armed escort in an elevator car with only two buttons, and he's the only one allowed to push them. I keep thinking we're almost there but it keeps going and going! When it finally does stop, it opens into this anteroom where another soldier is waiting, his gun at the ready. He really is ready to fire. As soon as we step out, he says, 'Halt!' and then, 'Escort, advance.'

"The soldier I'm with starts to walk towards him, so I do, too. The other soldier says, 'Civilian, HALT! Escort, advance,' and his finger is on the trigger. I stopped!

"He waits until the guy who brought me down is next to him, out of his line of fire, then asks him, without ever taking his eyes off me, 'Sergeant, are you under any form of duress?'

"Meanwhile, there I stand, thinking, 'I am one word away from being killed. '

"A month later, we had to go out there again. By then they'd hired another tech to be my assistant and I sent him instead of me. 'You'll like it,' I told him, 'it's an interesting place....'"

Man, the things you hear at lunch.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

It Must Be A Sign

Probably says "No Smorking." Or possibly, "Get Off The Grass." Yeah, hippie, they mean you!

(That's a real sunset, unretouched other than cropping and resizing the image).

Gun Show, Semi-BlogMeet?

The Indy 1500 Gun (and Knife) Show is coming up this weekend. I'm hoping to attend all three days, or at least Friday (see all the kewl stuff before it's sold) and Sunday (hoping to pick up a deal).

How about a good, old-fashioned open BlogMeet Sunday afternoon?

About That Weather

Today may be the last day of it in many weeks -- so it's a good thing we're looking to a high well above 50°F!

In addition to gettin' the scooter out yesaterday, I rode my bicycle to the grocery store Sunday. It's just been all-around good for being outdoors.

Still to come, I need to straighten out the feeder wires for my ham radio antenna, which picked up quite a kink from a branch dropping on them. And maybe fold up the big tarp before it rains.

Which it will, tomorrow. And snow the day after that! Indiana Weather: three seasons in one week.

Monday, January 09, 2012

Oh, Yeah! Scootering!

Treated some gasoline with Magical Stabilizing Goo, filled up my motorscooter, could not get it started and had to charge up the battery, got it started and motored off to the grocery that has the good peanut butter cups (and keeps 'em fresh) to restock my supply of essentials.

--On 9 January!

Those of you from more-clement climes may not quite grasp how happy-making this is. Trust me, it is.

I'd commute on it if I didn't have to go through an iffy neighborhood in the dark. Might be warm(ish) but the days are still too short.

Good Answer!

So, there's a blogger I read who occasionally gets into very deep teleological waters. This suits his deeply-held religious beliefs very well; that's not what this posting is about and I'm not going to argue with you about Who or If Anybody is flyin' this thing, let alone if there is a Destination to it all.

Not gonna argue with him, either, but I couldn't resist snarking along the general lines of, "You can't eat it, heat with it or ride it to market, so what's the point?" This is a tiny corner of the general scientific argument against teleological explanations of natural phenomena, "because whether they are true or false is argued to be beyond the ability of human perception and understanding to judge."

If you look at that long enough, though, it will dawn in a delightfully Gödelian spiral that it is also beyond human perception and understanding to know the truth or falsity of that statement. (And so on).

So, as I asked, why bother to defend (or, for that matter, attack) teleology?

His reply was not a stern lecture on philosophy or the weight of history, not an argument from utility (and I've observed him do that quite brilliantly). Nope, simply this:

Hey, it's the Internet! Why not?

Good answer!

It doesn't sidestep or confront unknowableness; it subverts it. There may, in fact, be a higher purpose; maybe he was put here present the argument, to have the discussion...or it may be an end in and of itself.... Or maybe it just happened.

I dunno. How could I?

This reminds me -- the Hofstadter's Law T-shirts are still running way behind schedule. Really thought we'd planned for that.

Sunday, January 08, 2012

Lighting One For Those Who Didn't Start The Fight

Yeah, I will; this is an issue the narrowly-focused antis can't monopolize. Here's a candle for the people who didn't initiate force but found themselves on the receiving end nevertheless. A candle and something useful. The good guys don't start fights -- but they can end them.

Take a new shooter to the range today. Stand up for self-defense.

(Thanks to Weerd for the idea and promotion!)

Unicode Makes HTML Side With Pirates

Unless there's a string that resolves to a ninja that I don't know about -- there certainly is a skull and crossbones!

(May not show up on all browsers; dealer prep and destination charges extra; as-shown, includes options not available in all markets; may cause convulsions, revulsion, blindness or an aversion to cheese)
Call it up like this (take out the spaces) "& # 9 7 6 0 ;" and thank Wikipedia for the info.

(Title revised per Wayne C in Comments.)

Sunday Brekky Delight!

It's hot, it's filling and it's tasty. I didn't get out at all yesterday, so this morning's repast was based on what I had on hand:
Tinned corned beef
"Brown & Wild" rice mix

Done up as fried rice (a dash of soy sauce to wake up the rice -- a light hand, the beef's salty enough already), with a very little cayenne and a bit more (but still not much) curry powder and some salt-free spice mix ("Mrs. Dash" or one of the similar contestants) just as the eggs are finishing up scrambled in the center of the pan, it's way better than I expected, especially served with chives and some shredded mixed cheese.I was originally thinking corned beef hash, with fresh potatoes. Now I'm actually happy I was out of tatties.

Update, second helping: OMG, maybe you'd better not make this stuff -- I think it's addictive!

Saturday, January 07, 2012

Posted Via Kindle Fire

For no reason other than I can.


So, I'm blearily watching something about WW II airplanes on the Hitlitary Channel, or whatever they call it, and on comes a promo for a new show; I was looking down, concentrating on my sammich* at the time and what I heard was, "Great, uh, Stank Battles!"

Just like the cats used to have?

Turned out
it's something entirely different. But I'm sure that will be be good, too. Still, for just a few seconds there....

(Oh, yeah, I'm sick -- awake for an hour or two at a stretch, suffering chills and walking into things and then I...doze...right...off....)
* A Jimmy-John's "unwich," at my door in ten freakin' minnits. Western Science and Business is so wonderful!

This, That & The Noise Inside My Head

The other NRA -- that'd be the National Rifle Association of United Kingdom, a decade or two older than ours -- sells some nifty pin badges, one of them available to non-members. Different traditions over there and very different laws, but there are still Britons left who can and do shoot very well and even more who'd like to; might as well show a little solidarity.

SpaceX founder Elon Musk: not only is he aiming to deliver groceries and provide taxi service to and from orbit, he's got bigger plans. He would like to sell you real-estate on Mars. Clever lad that he is, he's waiting until he can actually get there and working very hard to make it happen. The more I read about SpaceX, the more amazed I am. (Can't afford a ticket? Get the flying model! It's on my wish list.* Look at it here but please buy via Tam.)

Last but not least, what was mild dizziness yesterday has turned into a nice test for simulated weightlessness today. As I'm not in Earth orbit and don't have that long a task list for the day, I'm goin' back to bed. (Already fell asleep in the bathtub without meaning to, which is a pretty sure sign of something).
* "Customers who bought this item also bought--" lists Neal Stephenson's Snow Crash (sure, it's "escape literature" but look where the readers are escaping to!) and a fascinating documentary I hadn't heard of, Orphans of Apollo, about the failed MirCorp venture. WANT! GOT!

Smoldering-Pants Brigade

So, I was reading an anti-gun site (they'd love to get a link) and stumbled over the assertion that "The U.S. has the highest rate of gun deaths per 100,000."

Um, no. Nope. Un-unh. Based on all gun deaths, Wikipedia claims we're #4, and I think their data set may be limited.

Suicides account for more than half of that; since there is more than one way to punch one's own ticket, maybe we'd better leave that out (but I'll get back to it later) and just look at firearms homicides, where the States are #9 -- right ahead of Northern Ireland, which has gun laws very similar to California (ranked #1 by the Brady Center To Disarm Americans, with an 80% score). Remind me again how those "tough gun laws" supposedly "save lives?" Our rate of 7.07 per 100K puts us right at the knee of the curve; the rate trends up sharply for the top 8 and flattens out below 9.

(If you look at murder rate regardless of weapon, the U.S. comes in at #34,* meaning there are a lot of places where you're more likely to be killed without the indignity of being shot. Is it that much nicer to get strangled or clubbed to death?)

One of the things that makes me wonder about the data set for those gun-death numbers is the similarly-organized pages for homicides suicides list a lot more countries. Perhaps it is easier (and less politicized) to get the overall numbers.

When it comes to suicide, we're number 41 -- after nice, civilized countries like Japan, Sweden, France and Canada. Britons, take heart and face the mirror without fear! You're way less likely to do your ownselves in. So the high firearms-suicide rate in the U.S. simply reflects the availability of means; Japan (with historically different attitude vis a vis taking an early exit) ranks #6 in suicides per 100K, despite some of the strictest firearms laws on the planet. People who seriously intend to do themselves in will do so, one way or another. (IMO, that's a basic human right -- it's your life. I hope you won't throw it away, I'll try to talk you out of so doing, but when the State intervenes and makes laws against it, they are claiming ownership of your life. Didn't we outlaw that sort of thing over a hundred years ago?)

So the next time some anti bewails how the U.S. is sooo0 terrible-awful 'cos we haven't got the gun laws of, say, California or Japan, remind yourself that people get just as dead under draconian firearms restrictions and in many cases, deader -- or at least, with greater frequency and likelihood.

But without a gun, it's a lot harder to keep other people from killing you. Just be able to say no! The best way to do that? Have a gun. Know how to use it. Carry it.

And don't let nattering nincompoops nag you into helplessness. They don't even bother to look up the numbers they so freely bandy about.
* There's a state-by-state table for the U.S., with year-by-year rates for the previous decade. Gun-friendly Indiana rates safer than Brady high-ranker Illinois and Indiana's murder rate is trending down, while Illinois' is trending up. Ooopsie! Remind me again how those "tough gun laws" supposedly "save lives?"

Friday, January 06, 2012

So, Will They Buy Gas For My Car? Plus, A Modest Proposal

The shiny bill to overhaul the "Central Indiana Transit Task Force" includes jacking up my income tax -- and yours, if you lay your head down in dear ol' Naptown -- to help pay for IndyGo buses (the buses I see go by, an hour late and at a staggering 10% occupancy) and light rail between Indianapolis and Noblesville akin to the interurban service that went broke sixty years ago.

Oh, there's a clever idea! Y'know, if a service can't earn enough money to pay its own way, maybe it's time to scale it back to a level where it can. If it's to be considered a public utility and there's no hope of making a profit, then set it up like our gas company -- a Public Charitable Trust, which only needs to break even (and pays back or reinvests any overage).

But don't pick my pocket to pay for your bus ride or excursion to/from Noblesville.

Ah, but there's good news tonight! You can thank House Democrats for it: as long as they're hiding from the Right To Work bill, this bit of extortion is stalled. Stopped cold along with all the other tomfoolery the state legislature likes to get up to.

Hooray! You keep on keepin' -- er, away, Democrats. Sit out the whole session!

(I do have one minor change to suggest: let's amend the state constitution so that a quorum is not required to repeal laws. It's a tiny modification, really, but I think it would make a huge difference.)Link

Thursday, January 05, 2012

Prosecutor Clears Kroger Shooter

Marion County Prosecutor Terry Curry, a Democrat who didn't look like much of a friend to gunnies when he ran for the office, has proved he knows the law and can apply it fairly: the man who shot and killed a robber with a hostage at Kroger will not be charged.

The story includes a few more details of the shooting. It looks like a very clear instance of self-defense to me.

Meanwhile, the only word from the supermarket chain is that they're still reviewing the incident. A commenter claims the shooter has been transferred, which isn't surprising. (IMO, if they want to keep a hard line on their firearms policy, they could fine the guy $500 and give him a $500 bonus; but I'm both cynical and optimistic).

Better Than Gridlock? Right To Flee!

If, as Samuel Clemens wrote (as Mark Twain), "No man's life, liberty, or property are safe while the legislature is in session," then Indiana's House Democrats are public benefactors: they've found a way to have the legislature in session (more or less) and still protect you from its depredations: They've skedaddled to prevent a quorum once again!

Yes, it's over proposed Right-To-Work laws; the linkage between union leadership and Indiana's Statehouse Democrats is so tight that no matter which one you pinch, they both say "ouch!"

The flight of legislators works out pretty well, really: the media has a nice ongoing story, the state legislature can't get much done, some little motel over in the People's Republic of Illinois gets an unexpected windfall, and a big bunch of hard-working union members get a week or more off work to go wave signs at and sing songs to the Republicans, who will show up every day, seek a quorum, fail and spend the rest of the day like high school students in ill-supervised detention. (Last time this happened, the Dems, perhaps out of some sense of fool-in-office solidarity, rented a meeting room and did very much the same thing at their Out-State Hide-Out; which goes to show that legislators will play at legislating even when it doesn't count). --And you thought they ran for office (as opposed to from it) to represent you? Hah!

We've got dueling ads on the TV (and probably in the papers). Of course nobody cites sources; the antis tell us RTW states are generally higher in poverty than the national average and the pros asset RTW states are showing more and faster job growth than Indiana. It could be they're both right, as the the two claims don't cancel each other out.

More amusing are the protestors chanting, "No-right-to-work," which, as a lot of the unemployed have found out, is already plenty true. But there's a right to starve -- and the way Indiana has been bleeding jobs (both unionized and not), more and more Hoosiers are finding that out.

I wonder if there's work filling in at the protestors jobs?

Wednesday, January 04, 2012

A Professional Visits

Jake, the Foreman of the tower crew I wrote about back in December, stopped by and left a comment. Quite an honor -- he's got very little free time. (Yes, even in the Winter, even in the North. And we think our jobs are difficult?)

Tam On Voting For Ron Paul

I doubt it'll make much of a difference, but let's at least try flapping our arms a little before we hit bottom. What can it hurt?
I LOL'd. Then I cried.

Claire Wolfe has linked to some evidence in Dr. Paul's favor, which makes me feel a bit better about him. I don't mind the military, foreign aid and pot-legalizing stuff (the drug war is a particular drain on both finances and civil society, the same distorting influence as Prohibition, only for a lot longer). I'm sure not seeing anyone else I could in conscience vote for.

Americans: An Armed Rabble

A couple-three items bumped together in the vast and aching void I like to think of as my mind:

Point: the changes in occupancy rules at the Statehouse. The state government has decided -- for safety reasons -- to (sort of) limit occupancy of the lovely 19th-Century State Capitol building (not including the pseudo-Brutalist Albert-Speeresque horrors stuck to its back side) to 3000 persons, which includes everyone working there, but not pro lobbyists* and a few other special sorts.

(Update: Our Governor, love-him-or-hate-him Mitch Daniels, decided the timing was lousy same as I did, but he was in a position to change the rules and he did: no occupancy limit. The same low railings and 19th-Century stairways, though, so kids? Play nice.

It's funny how many union folks were able to get the day off to attend today, especially the ones who were explaining how the union made sure they had plenty of work. H'mmm. /Update)

Limiting attendance? It's actually not that bad an idea -- it's a multi-story building, with railed openings at every level -- very low railings, very high ceilings, a long drop to a hard floor. It's also a bit of a jewel, restored to much of its original glory, with a lot of detail that would be easy to scruff up. --And though I've been in the place many times, I couldn't find a stairway on short notice. Stuff it chock-full of people and have one little thing go wrong, and you've got a shortcut to disaster.

But the timing stinks: Right To Work legislation is planned for this legislative session and feelings are running high. The unions want to fill the place up with sign-waving supporters, which would be rather more than the 1500 or so the new rules would allow once you leave out the legislators and the people who work in the building. There's a lot of whining about "But it's the People's house!" Yes, sir, yes it is, and I'd appreciate your keeping my .01 of 1% of it clear and clean, with the gold pinstripes intact and unbloodied.

So my proposed fix is to slap up a nice two-ring circus, maybe a big ugly one-story cinderblock structure, with wide halls too big to jam up, easy-care paint and flooring, simple viewing galleries overlooking both House and Senate with the same kind of barriers used around hockey rinks, and let 'em duke it out, both on the floor and in the halls. Heck, sell controlled-tack masking tape and let folks plaster the walls with posters, first come, first served, clean walls every morning.

They can open and close sessions in the grand old rooms of the Statehouse, but let's do the real work someplace less fragile and dangerous.

Second point: "Americans are fundamentally ungovernable," remember the musings on that wafting out from the current Administration and their boosters awhile back? It struck me as a bit off; we're self-governing. We're un-ruleable. Tell any random American or group of Americans, Left, Right or Sideways, "Hey! You can't do that!" and they'll give you lip. You're not the boss of them! It's The People's House! I can too turn right on red here! Occupier or TEA-Partier, union stalwart or the company that can't keep a factory open 'cos they can't afford to pay union wages, not a one of them will accept being bossed around. You can sometimes convince Americans to do something -- or convince us that so many of our fellow-citizens are on board with that something that we'll go along, at least for a while, grumbling -- but we don't take kindly to being ruled.

Which gets to the third point: anti-gun types are very fond of pointing out that small arms don't mean much against the might and power of Government. In the individual case, it's certainly true; roll up a SWAT team to my door and that SKS over the mantle (the one George Orwell said ought to stay there) isn't going to amount to much.

In the aggregate, though -- I note that among the first acts of the incoming and newly-empowered Iraqi government was to ban civilian gun ownership. The U.S. never did; but the new guys mean to rule. See, if a sufficiently-large fraction of population is claiming you're not the boss of them, and they're armed, they may or may not win in the end, but it'll be a long, ugly time finding out -- a longer time than many people will put up with, which has its own snowballing effect.

So where do I end up? Simple. We're an armed rabble. We can persuaded, but we can't be ruled. And we need to take a long, serious look at the physical institutions of government: they've become too grand. From the jewel-box of a Statehouse to the let's-all-feel-like-bugs Brobdingnagian structures built for State offices behind it, there's too much time and attention spent on the monuments of government (and the exploitation of their weaknesses) -- and too little on facilitating the interpersonal interaction of American-type government.

If right-to-work or any other legislative issue is indeed so contentious (and perhaps they all should be: we've got a surplus of laws on the books already and the lawmakers never use the kind of pencil with an eraser on the other end), let's have the public argument in a suitable venue; and let's not have a legislature that sneaks behind a curtain to pull levers and make impressive-sounding pronouncements, isolated from the hubbub.

Let's keep George's rifle over the mantle; let's keep people from falling over railings, and let's figure out some way to let signwavers and chanters do their thing without filling up the Statehouse halls so solid that dissenting opinions are choked out. I don't think you really manage that last bit by locking nearly everyone out.

(Personally, I kind of like Right To Work; unions that have the support of their member workers are not actually threatened by it and employers are still bound by the same Federal laws and regs that prevent union-busting. Looked at from the American tradition of anti-authoritarianism, unions exist in a kind of tension about who gets to boss whom, and to what extent. I dislike the shoddy tactics both sides of the issue have used, here and elsewhere.)
* An exception that has prompted much huffy outrage. Me, I think it's a snarky way of defining lobbyists as not human. Tsk. A popular notion but we mustn't do that, even to those we personally loathe.

Tuesday, January 03, 2012

Another Tam Update

Called her cellphone about 6 this morning -- she's already awake, sounds rested, and was seeking better road information. Still pretty icy where she is, but it's a whole new day!

It's Okay To Stereotype And Mock Gunnies

After all, it's hard to tell us apart -- we're all surly, scowling people who love camo and can't carry a tune in a basket, right? Just itchin' to "plug" somebody, right? Not quite as couth or clever as our betters, are we?

At least, that's the message I'm reading from one of our local civil-libertarian types, who seems to be very much in favor of 9 out of the first 10 amendments to the U. S. Constitution. But oh, that pesky Second! Oh, those feeeeeelthy, ignernt gunnies! (Oh, heavens, what if one moved in next door? There goes the neighborhood!)

Writing about the incident in which a Kroger employee shot and killed a man with a previous history of armed robbery, who was in the process of taking a hostage to the manager's office by threat of arms,[1] she quotes her husband saying, "Here we go again. It won’t be two days until the gun lovers start insisting that everyone should be armed." And she agrees.

Really? Everyone? Nonsense, dear sir and and ma'am; like the State for a generation now, I simply insist that no law-abiding citizen should be kept by law from being armed if he or she chooses to be armed. Nobody's saying you should be, only that you should not be prevented from so doing.

Interestingly, Indiana has one of the most liberal shall-issue handgun carry permit laws in the country and has been that way for a generation; this state went shall-issue in 1980, seven years before Florida, and had been "permissive may-issue" since before WW II.[2] 31 years on, Indy's still safer than no-legal-carry Chicago.

This doesn't prevent the usual Dire Prediction Of Blood -- not in the streets, this time: "I can see it now: Shoot-out in canned goods! Gunfire in the cereal aisle.... So what if a trigger-happy employee misconstrues a “situation” and starts shooting?"

Except, you see, we're already running the experiment. We've been running it longer than both the shooter and the dead criminal at Kroger had been alive. We already know the outcome: there aren't any "shoot-outs in canned goods" and 99.99999% of the time, the only red on the floor is from a dropped jar of tomato-based product (or hot sauce). Your worst fears have not come true -- because most people, yes, even those of us who had a State Police background check, got fingerprinted and paid for a License To Carry Handgun, most people are good and decent; most people are reluctant to take human life.

I don't carry a gun to shoot somebody, I carry a gun so I can have a better chance of keeping bad people from hurting me.

In Indianapolis, persons with carry permits are several percent of population and you can be assured that any time you're in the grocery, odds are you're in the presence of a lawfully-armed individual. Odds are even better they're not going to plug you over that last can of creamed corn, any more than they'd run you over in the parking lot for taking a space they wanted -- and nearly a hundred percent of the shoppers, checkers, butchers and stockpersons have a car. Why do you trust them with an automobile but not a gun?

Still no word from Kroger. It appears almost certain that they do have a "no weapons" policy; while it doesn't have the force of law, the man who stopped a criminal before things could go from bad to worse may yet lose his job over it -- and Kroger may be waiting for the fuss to die down before they act. Hey, Kroger? Don't count on us forgetting. We'll be watching.
1. It's still an open question if the malefactor had a real gun or "merely" something that felt like one pressed against his hostage's back -- and it doesn't matter; Indiana law recognizes that victims often have no way to tell and that the crime is the threat of force, the "do as I say or else."

2. In fairness, that's for a given value of "permissive." A middle-class or better-off paleface male would have had little problem; for the rest of us, the bar was higher, quite a bit so in some places. Which is why shall-issue is better.

Monday, January 02, 2012

Tam Update

(Updated, 1400)
(Updated, 1810)
(Updated, 1945)

Herself set out for K-town noonish; I left on an extended shopping expedition right before.
[If city streets are like this, how bad is the freeway? --Bad, very bad.]

I was at my last stop, ready to check out, when my phone rang. Tam had just slalomed the BMW rollerskate through a 12-car pile-up, riding the antilock brakes in near-blizzard conditions and come to a stop unscathed.

...Unscathed and next to a Honda leaking gasoline, which is where her first call ended.

I made a few calls of my own and learned the highway had been shut down, due to the white-out Tam described when she called back: "Visibility got worse and worse; suddenly, there was a guy standing in the road waving his arms, and shapes beyond," which turned out to be 5 or 6 cars accordioned into one another on each side of the road and off into the ditches.

She's fine now; the State Police showed up and worked quick triage, sending her (sport-o-car and all) to a truck stop a couple miles down the road. She was going to take awhile to investigate road conditions and catch her breath before deciding her next move. (On the telephone, Tam-seriously-rattled sounds just like Tam-as-usual but even the steel-nerved have to slow back down).

It's been white-out and sunshine alternating at Roseholme. Makes me glad I picked up hot chocolate mix, eggs and bacon.Update (1): She gathered her intel and her coolth, set out down the road again...and traffic ground to a standstill ten miles on. As of about 2:00 p.m., Our Miss Tam is stranded in a pack of 16-wheelers and hasn't quite got 35 miles away in two hours. It's IFR.

In theory, if she keeps going South, things have got to improve; in practice, that's tricky to do if nobody else on the freeway is minded to travel.

Update (2): About ten after 6, she's in Lexington, Kentucky. There's snow on the ground and on the streets; there is no salt or sand on the streets and it is rush hour. It was a very short call.

Near white-out conditions from Columbus, Indiana to a few miles North of the Ohio River had traffic c-r-a-w-l-i-n-g. Doesn't sound like it's much faster in Lexingtion. I take back what I said about conditions getting better as she gets further South. What sort of weather-witchery have they been up to in Dixie? Global what-ening?

Update (3): 7:30 p.m. finds our young heroine stymied by black ice -- and even more so by the way people drive on it -- some 200 miles outside her destination. She's found a motel. Sounds like a darned good idea to me.

Now They've Got Fire

Various and sundry science-y types have managed to get various and sundry of the cleverer primates to communicate, using sign language or point-to-it symbols high-tech and low; heck, most of us manage to communicate with our house pets a little.

But chimps and bonobos are pretty smart primates even without any help; give one a head start with a nice big vocabulary and who knows what might happen?

They might take up cooking.

Now, if only my plan to start arming mountain gorillas so they can take care of poachers on their own could work out... (Unlikely, as they don't seem to have the kind of outlook that makes military recruiters happy. Maybe I've been reading too much L. Neil Smith).

Interesting moral question buried in all this. If you can teach 'em language, give them a better mental toolset, are you obliged to? H. Sap's Burden? (Didn't work out all that well when we tried among our own species, the self-proclaimed uplifters did a lot of down-treading). Bonobos like the fellow in the link are far more inclined to make love than war and could probably be lulled calm with a drum circle; but chimpanzees are bigger, stronger, plenty smart and lacking in scruples. Most chimps are more than happy to stomp on anyone who looks at them funny. I'd as soon not make it any easier for one to beat me at at checkers. Or to death.

Good heavens, what if they got into law school and politics? What if they got MBAs? Haven't we got troubles enough? ("Sorry, Smith, your department has been over budget the last three quarters. I'm going to have chew off your nose and fingers.") Then there'll be the bush-meat lawsuits to sort out. And worse waiting in the wings.