Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Funicular? Wilderness Of Mirrors?

I dunno; Federal politics partake of both. Like the funicular (but far less benign), there's a left side and a right side; one's up when the other is down, and they never quite touch in passing (though it's possible to get badly torn up if you get caught in the middle). It travels, but the net motion cancels out.

On the other hand, the amount of mutual dis- and mis-information bandied about makes it generally impossible to be sure of anything but the most banal and inane facts about office-holders and office-seekers. What's true, what's gaslighting, who has his fingers crossed when he says what-- You don't know. You can't know.

Looking at who's running for President -- and who isn't -- I can only conclude the deeper pundits (and perhaps pockets) of both sides have decided the economy is going to tank even worse in the next four years, possibly followed by a nice game of the-center-cannot-hold; the Dems have left a less-than-popular incumbent to take the fall (seriously, have you seen what his own party's Left has to say about the guy?) while the GOP has abandoned the field to a pool of perennial also-rans and perpetual candidates. Other than Mr. Santorum's religious fervor (a bit polarizingly off-kilter for a guy who aims to be President of the entire mixed pot of citizens), the whole bunch of them rate little more interest than "meh."

Their Party seniors can read the wind; what they read, they're not sayin', but what they've left fluttering in the breeze looks more and more like a hurricane flag.

And that's this morning's happy thought. At least I got the link to funiculars in there.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

On The Ohio School Shooting

...I don't have much: it is a tragedy. There'll not be much disagreement with that, all across the political spectrum.

I will point out that a 16-year-old in unsupervised possession of a firearm is illegal in Ohio. It's illegal under both state and Federal law for someone that age to buy a gun; it's illegal to sell a gun to them and it's illegal to have it in a school. It's illegal to shoot people who are not presenting a threat and Ohio even has very specific laws about unsafe discharge of a gun on school property.

Seems unlikely that one more law would have prevented this terrible crime. You do have to wonder, though, if one more real friend might have: the shooter is being described as a "quiet loner," as so many are. Social isolation seems to be a frequent precursor ingredient in this kind of behavior. --Smile at a stranger and say "Hi" today; it might not help but it is unlikely to hurt.

Monday, February 27, 2012


Something unexpected showed up on my Kindle: in one of the rock-bottom-price collections of classic SF, a couple of Andre Norton Westerns!

Or a Western and a Civil War novel featuring overlapping casts, both nicely plotted. Norton's writing is something like Shaker furniture, devoid of stylistic frippery (aside from some dialog tics found in much of her early work), and these two yarns deftly follow young orphan Drew Rennie through final years of the War (Ride Proud, Rebel!) and then out West, reclaiming his past (Rebel Spurs).

Both seem to be well-researched and accurate in details like weaponry, horsemanship, and the South's supply situation (and what the troops did about it) in the latter parts of the Spirited Disagreement.

...Presently working my way through Vernor Vinge's A Fire Upon The Deep, this in paperback. Only difference between paperback and Kindle (and between paperback and hardback, for that matter)? Too heavy to read as I am falling asleep! Paperback falls on face: no big deal. Kindle or hardback, I wake up as it slips from my fingers.

Space Tourist

Nifty promotional video from Virgin Galactic, showing SpaceShip Two flight-tests. Say what you will about Richard Branson (he can't stop you. Mostly), when it comes to space, he Gets It.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Take Away The Faces On The Trees...

...The pixie dust, the singing frogs....

There's a cute rapid-shipper commercial that Tam both loves and fears. It starts with the happy enchanted forest and then rubs out all the magic, item-by-item. At the very end, there's just one happy, overlooked singing frog lalala-ing along next to the delivery driver, who notices it, says "Ooops!" and it pops out of existence.

Me, I like magical forests but this one is just too silly; I got all Wile E. Coyote and suggested he should've taken his clipboard to it. This made Tam exclaim, "Nooooo!!!"

I can't help it; I keep coming up with ways for the driver to finish off the last singing frog:

--He throws it out the side window, it hits the picture window of a house with a splat! and slides down to the ledge in sad heap.

--He produces a slingshot, grabs up the frog, and fires it into the closed passenger window; our last clear sight of the frog is an extreme close-up of its horrified little face, right before impact.

--He grabs a sawed-off double barreled shotgun from under the dash,* pops one of the shells out, stuffs the frog in, shoves the shell back in after him, flips it closed and fires it, one-handed, out his window. We hear "La-la-yiiiiiiike!" trailing off into the distance.

--He reaches over his shoulder and comes up with one of those folded-flat boxes, pops it open, picks up the frog, drops it in and closes the box as it continues to sing, now somewhat muffled; it ends with him addressing the box to someone named "Walt" in Orlando, Florida...

--He pops it his mouth, chews, swallows, looks at the camera with a smile and says, "Ooops."
* This is totally against Giant Cosmodemonic Delivery Co. rules, you know.

English As She Is Spoke -- And Heard

So, Saturday, Tam and I went to an amateur radio swapmeet and a gun store (I'd say which one, but they've got a .32-20 Colt I'm saving up for).

I drove.

As happens, I am not the smoothest of drivers; I tend to stepwise corrections and while they're not reckless, it can be a little abrupt. Our route took us through a very flat and very square turn (in the middle of nowhere -- the Indy area has a few of these, where road planners seem to have come back from lunch thinking, "aw, heck, wrong way!" and rather than erase and start over, just sketched in a 90) and Tam made some comment as I shed speed and took the turn.

When I replied...well, I know what I said but what she heard was, "Hey, it's digital and the anchorman isn't funny."

She gave me a very odd look again and said no more until the next stoplight. Then she repeated it in a questioning tone and it was my turn to do a you've-finally-skitzed-out double-take. Thought it over and started to giggle. Thought about it more and began to guffaw.

Tam gave me one of those "Okay, what..?" looks and I managed to choke out, "No, 'It's digital,'" wiggling the fingers of my steering-wheel hand, "'and the increment isn't fine.'"

English, the language of mutually-incomprehensible mumbling.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Atomic Locomotive?

The USSR talked about it. The U.S. talked about it (there were even toy versions!). Modern Russia is giving it serious thought. The Red Chinese are supposedly thinking about it, too, but they're not sayin' much.

...No matter how safe or careful, a reactor-on-rails is going to be difficult to insure -- the rails can be fraught with hazard.

(The USSR did build the world's first civilian power reactor, then ended up running it 18 years past the planned 30-some year active life when Soviet checks started to bounce. It's a museum now, a memento of an earlier time. It's a tiny prototype of the big RBMK design -- yes, that RBMK.)

...All that, and I never even mentioned Supertrain! Well, until now.

Friday, February 24, 2012

He's Goin' To The Big His Own House

Yep, Indiana Secretary of State Charlie White, found guilty of felony Home Address Misreporting, will be serving....home detention. ("I can't wait for the appeal," say he, in his political-mood tone-deaf way.)

Well, he's hardly a violent offender; on the other hand, there are nice, quiet stoners and otherwise-saintly habitual parking ticket offenders in the gray-bar hotel right now, wishing they'd run for public office, too.

While we're on "public office," in Indiana, a felony rap does not qualify one to become Governor; on the contrary, it means you lose your space at the public trough. But that makes for a whole new problem, as it appears there's not a totally clear next step -- does the next runner-up get the crown and the ceremonial duties, is there a whole new pageant, or does Bert Parks the Governor get to name a new SoS? That's goin' before the Indian Supreme Court shortly; given that court's slant and lower court decisions so far, we'll see Vop Osili, Democrat challenger from the election, getting the job. (He seems honest and dedicated; no doubt we'd differ substantially on many issues but he was the only other Hoosier who acted interested in the job. He ran for City-Council and won, so one way or another, we'll be seeing more of Mr. Osili.)

An amusing (oh, really?) sidelight is that Mr. White got in trouble for having too many possible residences, and choosing to use one (his ex-wife's) that let him keep a paid political job instead of the one the courts figured he should have used (his fiance's). Meanwhile, Senator The Honorable the Richard Lugar doesn't even have a residence here, lists a place where he hasn't slept in several decades on his documents and so far, the "experts" keep sayin' it's all good. I'm sure there's a moral there, but I don't know what it is. Or would it be an "amoral?" Possibly, "Sleep in your car, it's safer."

Don't look back, gentlemen, something might be gaining on you.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Hatin' On The Girl Scouts

Indiana has a state legislator who has decided the Girl Scouts (U.S. version) are baaaaad.

(Update: He has made a sortapology. Yeah, nice career you had in politics, there. Any plans for the future?)

He voted with his (daughters') feet and they're in one of the similar organizations with an agenda closer to his liking. I don't have a problem with that; in fact, it looks to me like an optimal solution: don't like the .org, find one you do like.

...However, he took the occasion of a non-binding resolution marking the 100th anniversary of Girl Scouting to 'splain how they were "a radicalized organization," and note that --oh, shock, horror -- Michelle Obama was their Honorary President, and she's in favor of Planned Parenthood and all manner of liberal progressive stuff and therefore yadda-yadda.

Now, the First Lady probably is onboard with all that, and I'm no big fan of her husband's politics, but the fact of the matter is, the President and First Lady are, by virtue of the President's job, Honorary Presidents of Boy and Girl Scouts, respectively. Scouting, wherever you find it, tends to be quite strongly patriotic and involved in public service, and here in the U.S. namin' the Chief Executive and his spouse* to the nominal top office is part and parcel of that, all part of being Head of State. GSUSA wasn't magically conservative for eight years and then magically flipped over.

Nope, here's the thing: Girl Scouts (and Boy Scouts, too) are both "big tent" organizations; they try to walk a narrow line of common values -- honesty, helpfulness, respect, spirituality -- and no matter how hard they try, there'll be folks who find them too much one way or the other. (I think the current LDS-dominated Boy Scouts are a bit too SoCon, for instance, and Girl Scouts leans a bit the other way -- but I do think both groups make an honest effort as they see it). That's why there are alternatives and plenty of them, from American Heritage Girls to Navigators USA; if you don't like the big show, there are others. Are there issues? Why, yes -- what did you expect?

--But land's sake, is it not possible that the hundredth anniversary of a children's organization that does enormous good (and sells first-rate cookies, IMO -- if the supply of Thin Mints was not limited, I would probably live on them) might not be a time to go flailin' away at the drum of how awful you think they are? Bob Morris, I'm not saying you should vote to congratulate an organization that makes you distinctly uncomfortable, just that you could maybe have found some other time to go soapboxin' about it? Thousands of little Daisies and Brownies and their big sisters got to watch you on TV, sayin' how their friends and local Girl Scout leaders were horrible, bad, awful people.

What lesson do you suppose they took from that? Do you really think it was the one you intended?
* Y'know, they're both gonna have to do a fast shuffle the first time we elect a female Prez -- and I wonder what's been done by Girl Scouts in the past when we had bachelors or widowers in that office?

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

He Returns To Meta-Troll Like A Dog To Its...

Either you know the line from the Bard of Avon or you can look it up; the "dog" in question is none other than saddle-burr and content thief R-b-rt F------ (or possibly only someone who loves him very, very much) and his latest brain-spew -- the name rhymes with "Choke 'n Chunder" -- is "a whole new, new, new concept in blogging," gun-blog-as-social-media.

As new as 1995 -- or 1985.

You may have encountered this sort of thing when it was more slickly and collaboratively done, over a decade ago, by entities with names like "The High Road" and "The Firing Line," "" or even "Democratic Underground." Or when it had names like "dial-up BBS" and blazed to your computer at up to 2400 Baud!

Yeah, like that, only with a pushier moderator and graphics that'll make you long for '85 and ANSI color.

This guy is lookin' for links. Good links, bad links, "Go see what a jerk he is" links, it doesn't make any difference; the links more his new site gets, the sexier it looks to search engines. Post there with a link back to your blog and that also counts. Follow a link there and that's a hit, and that helps, too. He's happy to tick folks off if it gets him links and hits; they're money in the bank.

I'm all in favor of people making money with their blog or whatonlineever. My blog is non-commercial 'cos my real job is for an outfit that's in the business of sellin' eyeballs and I don't care to compete with them in my spare time, but I have no problem renting Tam out my attic and getting paid, partially, in blogdollars.

I do object to bein' used, especially over guns by a guy who doesn't strike me as much of a gunnie; and I disdain content-piracy, using names and images without permission and jerks who try'n skate just inside the law.

If you do, too, you won't link to him or visit his sites. There's nothing of use there -- other than you. I'll bet you've got better uses for yourself than to be link-farmed by slick huckster.

Plenty of others have blogged about this, mentioning specific privacy and piracy concerns, but alas, they linked to the site in question. Don't do that! Kill them links! (Yeah, yeah, the clever have used "nofollow" but doesn't that still let the hit counter tick over?)

Let the site die in the dark.

The Long Slow Slide

I've backed off quite a bit on overt political content ("Vote for so-and-so!") here: I think the U. S. is doomed. Probably doomed to a long, slow Roman Empirish-ish decline -- "History doesn't repeat, but it rhymes." Doomed nevertheless: too much is given away from the public purse to too many. It adds up to a solidly pro-Leviathan voting bloc, especially when one includes government workers, and it is an effective majority already.

So all that can be hoped for at the ballot-box is to wage a valiant defense. You will lose; I will lose. Vote in the Great Libertarian Hope and I'll still bet on losing in the longer term. U. S. citizens are less free than they were in my childhood and they are likely be even less free when my great-niece and nephews are all growed up. If I vote very, very carefully, they might be only a tiny bit less free. They may even have gained a little in some areas while having lost in others.

The soap-box can do some good; but while the pen may be mightier than the sword, that's only in the broad hindsight of history: we still read Mencken but it no longer does him any good. At any given single point in time, the sword speaks louder and with greater personal immediacy. --And in re swords, the cartridge box won't fix matters, either; while it's a great way to say NO! to criminals, it's damning to say "No!" to a government that way when all around you are shouting YES!*

However, recent history (...U.S.S.R., anyone?) suggests that past a certain size, insolvency and degree of smug self-containment, the beast may collapse of its own weight -- at which point some application of (with luck) pen and (if needful) sword may actually do a little good. But that's not politics as presently played and bedammed if I will wish my own country such dire fortune; right, wrong or rotten to the core, it is still my country and I will keep on voting against the worst as it slides ever downhill.

I won't kid myself about which way entropy slopes; and thus, I'm not writing so much about politics. It feels too much like arguing about how thick the filling should be in a big ol' crap sammich.
* The American Revolution's 1/3 for, 1/3 against and 1/3 who'd go along with whoever was winning is sometimes cited as a miraculously narrow scrape -- but it's rarely understood. The critical third are the ones who'll just go along; if they are hoping the opposing factions will just go away, the enterprise is doomed. Ponder this in light of, say, voter turnout and be enlightened. (A whole third solidly pro is, by the way, pretty good as modern revolutions go.)

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Ushanka Contest

The contest to guess how much was in Karl's President Obama Cuss Jar was won by someone who was referred by this very blog!

--But whoever it was didn't leave a name. Please let Karl or me know who you are, so you may claim your prize.

Running The Numbers

With the new Brady Scorecard out, the numerati are running correlation studies, looking for any relationship between Brady Score and crime rate.

The envelope, please!

Oh, my. Still no significant correlation; there's a very slight relationship between lower crime rates and having fewer Brady-approved laws and limits (and an even slighter correlation the other way, more gun laws and higher crime rates) but the upshot is -- gun laws don't deter crime. Pretty much the same way any other law doesn't: people inclined to be peaceable and play by the rules, do (and that's most of us); people inclined not to, don't.

Why apply prior restraint to a Constitutionally-protected right, then? Barring stupidity, deliberate ignorance or outright insanity (and the Other Side asserts over and over again how clever and clear-eyed they truly are), unreasoning prejudice is the only motive.

Update: Commenters who have urged demographic breakdowns for analytic purposes are missing the point: gun laws apply to all of us. E-v-e-r-y-o-n-e (with the possible exception of Chicago aldermen). Unless you think we should have demographically-applicable laws, shuddup. If you do think we should have demographically-applicable laws, shuddup thrice.

Precedent(s) Day?

Just because the once, they mashed Washington and Lincoln's birthdays together and decided in a moment of jam-sticky effusive togetherness worthy of any third-grader that the resulting train wreck celebrated all the U. S. Presidents, just 'cos they did it that one time, 'twas determined it would ever after be thus; which is why yesterday was Precedents Day.

A local furniture retailer has decided to push matters one more step. Their TV ads for the seasonal sale have featured a solid red background, with a dark-blue ribbon bearing a single row of stars winding up one side: Confederate bunting. --With all due respect to those readers who will aver "the game's not over at halftime," I am at pains to point out that Mr. Jefferson Davis, while he was indeed President of an American county, was never President of this one.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Soup For One

Remember that stuff? I liked it; it was exactly enough for one person and had some recipes that were not otherwise available.

Comedians ridiculed it as "sad." (I guess they didn't figure a couple might buy two cans?) --I digress; my point is, it was just big enough for one.

And on that note, here's a 250 square foot apartment just big enough for one -- but, thanks to clever design, not at all crowded. The site's got links to some NYC "microapartments" but they're crude hacks in comparison.

Sunday: Gun show, BlogMeet

Tam zippy-zapped us out to the Tri-State show at the National Guard Armory -- a nice show as ever, with plenty of collector items. I picked up an oddball knife with a scraper blade and a "knife roll" to civilize the penknives I've been keeping in a plastic bin (you just end up with them -- well, I do, probably because my fingernails break easily). Plus some CCI .22 and .38s for my Colts.

Tamara found herself another Savage 1907 in .32, this one in near-sparkling shape. If it has had one entire magazine though it, I'll be surprised. Price was right, too.

Saw: a Colt Service Ace (1911 .22) in excellent shape (and priced like it) and a very nice Ballester-Molina "Ace" .22 factory (or Argentine Army?) conversion which sorely tempted me. Priced 'way over what I had to spend, but there's very little wrong with the basic Ballester-Molina and the .22 version would be a stable, cheap-to-shoot 1911-style platform. If you've never heard of 'em, the original is a .45 ACP service sidearm, lockwork very similar to the Star Model P, but designed around the Colt 1911 barrel and magazine (and recoil spring, barrel bushing -- I think that's all.) Not a bad dodge for a military on a budget. Argentina went to them after the Sistema Colt-licensed 1911A1 clone as a lower-cost alternative, and kept both in service side-by side for a considerable time. (I have one in .45 but it has been much-traumatized and dinged-up by ill-use and there's not a speck of blueing left; local 1911 gunsmith Jesus Quintana put it into good shape but it still really only trusts one magazine, the one it came with.)

And we ran into many of the usual folks we see at shows, too. Time well spent!

After, off to the BlogMeet, a small-but-good gathering itself, at 10-01. Old Grouch, Kerry, Don, The Jack, Tam and Yr. Crspndt. in attendance. Kerry handed out pens with thumbdrives inside, promotional leftovers and a good example of Moore's Law in action. (Thanks, Kerry!) Who doesn't want a thumbdrive? --Other than Iranian nuclear-weapons workers, that is, and they had to find out the hard way.

Conversation tended mostly to pets and critters (perhaps started out by Tam's dove-shoot posting. Hey, lookit, don't shoot the P-TA-clone drones, kids, shoot the pigeons! They're rats with wings and North America's got a surplus. Conversely, if you won't shoot 'em if a camera is watching, stay home -- why'd you even bother to come out?), with sidetrips into food (Kerry and family have been dehydrating garden vegetables for later use and says they're great in soups and stews), home/semi-pro lighting controls (CFLs have made for all manner of difficulties) and other topics. I broke my no-gluten resolve to sample the Waygu Beef Oxtail Stroganoff: wonderful! But probably the cause of my coming home, falling asleep at the computer and going to bed about 5:00 p.m. Hey, I needed the rest.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Went To The Range

Went to the range yesterday -- Marion County Fish and Game, that is. The place was busy; the pistol end of the main range was just about full and the shotgunners, etc. were busy at the other end (25 yard targets and up, says Tam). In between, there are two-three trap setups, which weren't in use; however, the two "new" pistol bays (three years old now) were fully occupied.

I had three revolvers to check out and I'm pleased to say they all work very well. The lane I was on didn't have a target holder but the berm was well-littered with broken bits of Day-Glo orange clay: free reactive targets!

The H&R High Standard .22 9-shooter was remarkably pleasant to shoot, with little felt recoil. At short range (10 yards), it shot right to point of aim. Nice big sights and comfortable in the hand: it's a keeper! DA trigger pull is long but fine. Tried SA once but that's not what I bought the gun for.

The Colt Police Positive (.38 S&W) had barely more recoil; it's small in the hand and the sights are vestigial. The grip is okay and the sights weren't a problem in bright sunlight -- ka-pow! More broken clay. DA trigger pull is fine, SA is firm. Wish the ammunition was cheaper. A little cold blue (or flat black, unaesthetic though it would be) on the sights would help.

The Colt Official Police (.38 Spl.). Oh, boy! With Tam's old Brass Kings reloads, the recoil is no worse than the other two; the sights are good-sized and the DA pull is smoooooooth. And it's accurate even in my revolver-inexperienced hands. In no time, I was chasing ever-smaller bits of orange around the berm; to line up on a chunk was to break it, nine times out of ten. When they talk about "Colt's legendary DA trigger feel," this is what they're on about.Between times, I shot my Ruger Mark II (on the grab-bag .22 I've ended up with, something of a jammomatic. Seriously, who makes really good .22 LR? 'Cos what I've got, a mix of Remington, Winchester and I Forget, ain't makin' it happy.)

I also shot Tam's loaned-for-review Rimbaud SpaFon Rumspringa Boberg XR9S. It's a pocket 9 that shoots like a pocket .380 -- and uses the nifty engineering (last seen in the Gabbet-Fairfax Mars, a century ago) that yanks cartridges from the magazine backwards, resulting in a lot more barrel length in the slide. DA pull is okay, a little longer than my revolvers but not rough or "stack-y" and I was able to get 'em close to where I was aiming. (Real target for this). It's winter and my fingerprints are about slicked away, so I'd've like more aggressive texturing on the grips and front strap but that's a quibble. I will save up for one of these: it's a good gun and I would have no qualms about replacing the Colt Pony I often carry with a Boberg. While both the Boberg and the Mars use a rotating barrel to lock the breech, I feel obliged to point out that unlike its distant cousin, which tended to eject brass right at the shooter's face, the Boberg throws spent brass politely off to the side.

I also had occasion to try Tam's Remington 51 and Bayard 1908. I didn't shoot well with the Remington, which has a short, hard trigger pull and might do better with a classic one-hand grip and stance. The Bayard 1908, a .380 very nearly the same size as this century's Kel-Tech P3AT (!), was supposed to have nasty recoil: not feelin' it. Oh, it's snappy, and the slide velocity is simply freaky-quick, but recoil is no worse than most pocket .380s, better than many and the gun itself is smaller than all except the 3AT. It was easy to achieve and maintain a good grip, too, which can be a problem with a tiny firearm. Disassembly is somewhat alien (the front sight retains the recoil spring!) but I wouldn't shy away from shooting one of these again.

All in all, a good trip to the range on an unseasonably nice day. --Anyone who thinks the shooting hobby is on the wane is wrong; MCF&G was a small, sleepy club for years and has seen a huge increase in membership. They've put the money right back into facilities, from the two new bays to new windows for the clubhouse and, literally, a new "facility:" a nice new washroom! (Ask around. There are similar happenings most places.)

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Dick Lugar Still Doesn't Live Here Anymore

The latest from Ogden.

Look, Dick, all we're sayin' is -- get a room. Even Senators have to play by the rules. (Okay, Carl -- Senators should have to play by the rules. That they don't is a sure sign of a decaying Republic. Like we needed more.)

Good? Morning?

Migraine. Computer unccoperative (something's hosed Firefox). Grr.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Gun Show!

There's a gun show in Indy this weekend! --I've already made plans to attend the Indiana Historical Radio Society's soiree Saturday morning but that leaves the rest of the day.

It's out at Stout Field National Guard Armory, put on by the nice folks of Tri-State Gun & Knife Collectors LLC. Tam and I found a lot of interesting things at the previous one.

--And remember, there's a BlogMeet Sunday, 3:00 p.m. at 10-01 in Broad Ripple. See sidebar for details.

Easy As π*

* Pi, that is. The film. Just watched it and guess what? It's straight-up SF/tech-fantasy and though they are slingin' BS, they put in detail work to make it middlin' convincing.

As the storytelling POV is highly subjective, details are all it takes; you can never be sure if the lead is seeing reality, hallucinating or in touch with the deeper meaning of it all when he's alone. The tension builds and builds as he is caught in a tug-of-war between unlikely opponents -- and his own mind. There are (inadvertent and pleasant) echoes of Michael Flynn's In The Country Of The Blind and if you've had enough rockets'n'rayguns in your cinematic science fiction, this gritty, grainy black-and-white, calculator-lit trip down Paranoia Lane is quite the palate-refresher. IMO, a good way to spend 84 minutes. (Don't think this guy would be amused but his entry's "see also" will lead you down an often-misconstrued byway. Or "piway," as happens.)

I suppose I should have waited 'til 14 March but the way I habitually write dates, you'd have to be dyslexic to get it.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Outbreak Bowl?

Not yet -- but Indiana's got a touch of the measles and it looks like Superbowl crowds may have played a part.

...That's how it has worked since time immemorial: get a big enough crowd together and they will share more than loaves, fishes and opinions. Modern sanitation helps but even if visitors and workers had been hosed down with Lysol,* the venue would have been a prime spot to share colds and more.

State Health Commissioner Dr. Greg Larkin is on the case.

As a small child, I thought the disease began with becoming very vocal and, as it progressed, one's eyes might turn blue and cross (especially the boys). Eventually, hands, feet, ears, nose and chin would turn a lovely sable.... Turns out that was "'Mesels" and it doesn't even exist. Drat!
* Not very far up on lists of "fun things to do." YMMV, but I'd as soon not know about it.


Guess how much is in Karl Ushanka's Obama Cuss Jar (a lot) and win a prize:...As you can see, he's quite a fan of the Chief Executive.... Click on the image to make a guess!

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Musical Batteries?

This time, those Red Chinese-generic batteries ("included with purchase!") have gone too far: (Hey, they're still around. Or again.)

Oh, The Horror Of It All!

I'm reading a book by a Briton (Grame Donald, Lies, Damned Lies and History*) that explains how the common understanding of a lot of "famous history" is garbled, over-wrought and/or just plain wrong (Napoleon, for instance? A strapping blond, wait; I made that up).

Where I can check his facts, he's mostly right; but when he ventures to opine, he sometimes strays off the reservation. Take, for instance, cowboys; he's correct in pointing out they were far from universally armed, especially with pricey revolvers (but more than a few were, more for protection from snakes and four-legged varmints, not bipedal ones). He then takes the opportunity to sniff about " who could determine their own destiny and the course of history with a gun and the willingness to use it," going on to whine that, "Unfortunately, there are still many Americans who, believing this to be true, seek infamy in the shadows of that myth with countless students and, for some strange reason, postal-workers (...) routinely paying the ultimate price in college and work-place slaughters." (ibid, p. 163) --Emphasis mine; exaggeration, his. What was the Robbie Burns line about "...the giftie gie us...?" (And to whom, or what, was it addressed?)

Not so fast there, Johhny Bull; I seem to recall two fairly serious occasions back in the 20th Cent. when that "American...myth" of "men...with a gun and the willingness to use it" was anything but infamous to an embattled Empire. As for "countless" and "routine" deaths (no wonder the marble at the Broad Ripple Postal Station is red!), the most recent case of "going postal" in the States was 2006 and the killing was done with an automobile. Far from countless; including suicides, there have been 35 deaths in 11 incidents between the present time and 1986. Most appear to be linked to job-related stress. Bad as it might appear from newscast anecodote, the homicide rate for postal workers is 0.26 per 100,000, not notably high. As for colleges, the U. S. rate appears to be about at par with other nations -- and you're in greater danger crossing a busy street.

It's okay to have opinions. Sneaking them in as faux-historic, histrionic snark is not so okay. More debunk, sir, and less plain bunk.
* The History Press, 2009


It's another edition of Roseholme Breakfast Hash, this time with day-old cornbread as the starch.

Tam is very fond of 10-01's (mild) jalapeno cornbread, which arrives in the form of a 5"-square slab a couple inches thick, cut once diagonally. That's a generous serving and since it arrives with deep-fried Brie bites and cranberry compote, she's usually got one intact half left over and brings it home for later.

There was one in the fridge this morning. That called for an experiment! I cut the cornbread into small cubes, with about a third of them (and all the crumbs) stirred into eggs. The remainder stir-fried up well enough; I added leftover leeks from Monday and an Anaheim pepper that needed to get et, too. (All this after a few strips of bacon). The eggs/cornbread crumbs got whupped up with some milk and Italian olive salad, and scrambled in the center of the pan. After crumbling the bacon back in, it turned out to make a fine breakfast.

You never know unless you try.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012


There's been a nice (as in not) cold going around work the last couple of weeks and it looks like I'm getting it. Oh, what fun.

I'm goin' to bed.

Quick Takes

Very quick -- I had a 4:00 a.m. phone call from work that blew a huge hole in the night's sleep. Not that I'm complaining: I'll get paid for it.

Supreme Court Justice and foe of the Second Amendment Stephen Breyer, held up at machete-point on Nevis:* I'm sure he's greatly relieved it wasn't a gun. Pity there was no possible way the honest folk could stop the crime, h'mm.

The President has sent forth The Great Budget! --And a Raw Deal it is, with any possible end to the red ink pushed out a decade or more. Spend, spend, and tax the rich harder -- at least, until they join their friend Mr. Justice Breyer on Nevis, where a once-in-a-decade $1000 visit by a machete-wielding bandit would look like comic relief compared to the's bite. Look for this budget to be no more than a colorful glob in the food-fight of Election 2012 (da-da-dum!) and just as likely to end up in the trash instead of feeding anyone.

The late Whitney Houston, sent home to Newark, New Jersey for her funeral after a a career plagued by drug use. Newark, NJ? Ah, lady, there's the problem! ...Dammit. Y'know, if they'd spend a quarter of the tax money-- my money and yours, too -- applied to the The War On (Some) Drugs in cleverly promoting that being stoned was uncool, we might manage to lose pop singers at a much lower rate -- ditto the several thousand unknowns who check out for every musician or actor found dead in the loo. (Too glib? Too bad -- poor woman spent the bulk of her career on the brink and nobody seemed able to pull her back. For every Whitney or Elvis, there's an army of Jane and John Does dieing by degrees. Don't look for any of them to get three days of oh, whhhhyyy??? on national TV.)
* Part -- by their accounting, the neglected part -- of the island nation of St. Kitts and Nevis, an ex-British colony, Commonwealth member and with a decidedly British take on firearms. A beautiful place, withal.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Ahhh, Food!

As I write, I'm digging into a bowl of colcannon. This is the kale/ham/mashed taters version, with some leeks and chives for zing, a nice hot, filling dish for a cold evening. (Here's an Official Recipe and I'll even give you hint: that's about 2 pounds of potatoes.)

It's a bit more heart-healthy than the usual sort, as the market had feck-all for cream; but 1% milk and plenty of Irish butter does well enough. I steamed the kale and leeks, then steamed the cold diced ham, too, yesterday's honeybaked spiral-cut ham sold at a discount. Mash the tatties and stir it all together, serve with a dollop of butter and the chives on top.

Washing it down with blackberry soda, a lower-sugar version with plenty of flavor. Ahh!

(H'mm, finish off the colcannon tonight or save it to take in to work for lunch tomorrow? Decisions!)

Welcome To The West

To America, in fact, where we may fall short of our best aspirations, but the last guy jailed for blasphemy was Abner Kneeland, early in the 19th Century, who did a couple of months for being "a cantankerous and inflexible heretic."

At least, that's what the judge called him. Why, the impious madman had the temerity to aver that women ought to have the same rights as men, that miscegenation was a-okay and that slavish obedience to centuries-dead prophets was not the only way to practice religion....

Meanwhile, if you want to know who was the most recent individual found guilty of similar "crimes" in Saudi Arabia, Iran and points between, you'd better pick up a paper or look at a website from there -- and read fast, there's plenty more where they came from. It's likely they'll suffer something worse than "sixty days in the cooler," too.

Respect other cultures? Yep, I will -- starting with the ones that don't arrest their Abner Kneelands.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Whedon's Firefly, Piper's "Terran Federation," Norton's "Free Traders"

For many long-time science fiction readers, the TV series Firefly "clicked" immediately, unlike most television* (and even cinematic) SF.

At least, it did for me, and it was only recently that I realized why. The universe of Firefly is a very familiar one, with deep antecedents in age-of-Campbell SF. H. Beam Piper's Terro-Human Future History neatly brackets the series, with a central government ("Terran Federation" rather than "Alliance" but both including a Parliament) and a war of consolidation (Piper's "System States War" vs. the "Unification War") and the events in Firefly occurring after the war but before The Cosmic Computer.

While Piper's fictional stage-setting includes faster-than-light travel and Whedon's does not, travel times are comparable, as are the range of planetary cultures and their socioeconomic variations, both internal and external.

...But it's not just Piper; the Serenity's own work niche was greatly presaged in Andre Norton's novels of the Free Trader Solar Queen, one of many independent traders operating at the fringes of an interstellar civilization, often in conflict with large, corporate ventures (Blue Sun, anyone?).

Piper and Norton served as a template for many SF works to follow; thus parallels and echoes can be found in the work of C. J. Cherryh, Lois McMaster Bujold, Greg Bear and many others -- a company into which Firefly fits quite comfortably. You cannot say the same of much SF on the large or small screen; Babylon 5 was, in its better moments, Cherryh-esque, but without any dust in the corners or broken pipes.

Whedon, corny-Western dialog and all, managed to tap into a nice corner of SF turf without leaving muddy bootprints; he and his writers may not have realized exactly what they were doing, but they were clever enough to play it as they found it.
* Star Trek, for example, is very much its own self-contained thing, a TV (and later film) drama that merely happens to take place in a far future framework -- and that's not to fault it, that's what it set out to be; Gene Roddenberry described TOS as "Wagon Train to the stars." But it has weak ties to SF's own history as a result.

Slept In

(It got down to 15°F last night --you'd've needed much better camping gear that I have to've slept out.)

Whatever the sinus thing is, it never really went away yesterday. As I'd already incurred a big sleep-debt...the bill came due. I'd be asleep right now, but I need to make some breakfast.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Ouch-Ouch, Sinus Calling

I have no doubt this morning that my dreadful headaches are sinus-driven. A nice, sharp front gusted through last night -- and woke me up with stabbing pains on the left side of my face. OTC pain med and a hot, moist washcloth took the edge off and I was back asleep in no more than an hour.

But yowza, that was pretty bad when it hit. I could barely stay vertical. Fortunately, there was no need to.

Friday, February 10, 2012

There Is No Such Word

Yep, the word in question does not exist. ...In English.

'Dja ever wonder why it is we do not refer to an especially agreeable, willing-to-compromise person as "transigent?"

It turns out we stole intransigent from the French -- who'd run off with it from Spain when the Cortes wasn't looking. And while the French took the whole set, English didn't bother; we'd rather have a good argument anyway.

And I'm not gonna bend even a little, tiny bit on that.

10-01: Blogmeet

Tam and I had lunch at Broad Ripple's newest eatery, 10-01. Excellent food and I think it is entirely BlogMeet-worthy. Why, there's even parking.

Tam had the cornbread, Brie bites and cranberry compote (a felicitous combination), followed by their iceberg wedge salad. I enjoyed a burger and a salad -- a remarkable burger and an excellent salad, accompanied by something that I wish was commonplace but isn't: really good coffee. That alone would have capped it for me but when Tam pointed out the nice variety of local beers on tap, well...!

So let's make it official: Blogmeet, Sunday, 19 February, 3:00 pm at 10-01. (That link is a map).

Thursday, February 09, 2012

Gene-Modding Poetry Society Presents:

Walter Xenobia Phipps
Spliced a breed of chickens with lips.
Word got out
(From the chickens, no doubt)
And they gave poor Walter the slip.


Walter Phipps, he took him some eggs
Bred up chickens with all of four legs.
More drumsticks, hooray!
But they quick ran away
'Cos Walt, he broke the gene regs.

Walter got even exciteder
When he crossed chickens with spiders.
"No venom," he pledged --
He forgot about webs.
Turns out spideychickens truss you up tidier.

The Invisible Man

....Can't help but notice that as far as The TV News is concerned, R-- P---- continues to be The Candidate Whose Name Must Not Be Spoken, despite increasingly strong primary finishes.

Mitt, Newt and even Mister Rick, they can pigeonhole in a word or two. The Trouble From Texas? Not so much; so they ignore him unless there's an easy, one-word shot and there usually isn't.

Wednesday, February 08, 2012

Kroger Self-Defense Shooter Resigns

(via Karl Ushanka) I'm way late with the story but the gist is, the Kroger manager who stopped a bad guy in the act is...quietly stepping down.

Given Kroger's well-known policy on armed employees ("Ew, no!"), this is about as good an outcome as could be expected. I suspect public attention is what kept him from getting the boot. Not so long ago, they would have dumped him within days of the incident.

So it's progress; not everything we might want, but progress nevertheless.

Tuesday, February 07, 2012

Wolfram Alpha: A Logic Named (After) Tungsten?

For all that its name sounds like an asteroid base -- or a software company's internal codename -- Wolfram|Alpha is the darnedest unsearch engine ("Computational Knowledge Engine") I've seen. It'll solve differential equations (and show its work) and can give a good answer to "How hot is it?" Bing and Siri are both said to ring it up when they get in over their heads. --And it has its own gift shop.

You're on your own about the T-shirts, coffee mugs and hoodies but you might like to try the Thing Itself, next time the Usual Search Suspects are struggling to make sense of whatever it was you were looking for.

(Title refers, somewhat obliquely, to A Logic Named Joe, the first science fiction story about The Internet, by the underrated but brilliant Murray Leinster. It would only confuse you to add that he wrote it in 1946.)

Monday, February 06, 2012

Morning Thoughts

- You know what's fun? Turning off a megawatt generator in the dark. No, wait, that's what's not fun; not the turning it off (flip a tiny switch and a huge silence falls) but the long walk in the dark. I have got to check the remote start/stop on that thing, which probably works but every time I have to use it, I think, "better not find out the hard way."

- On the other hand, my own "lion" (well, Broad Ripple Miniature Biting Tiger) decided to drape himself across me, purring, and sleep most of the night. They do love you best when it's chilly out and the electric blanket is on -- but it was still sweet of him.

- Props to Jimmy Fallon, whose post-game chat-show opening sequence did my city proud. So did the Superb Owl coverage; Indy's about #11 in population (and #26 in media markets) and Downtown is generally overshadowed by the Motor Speedway in the national spotlight. We did okay for a "cornfield with lights," tax-funded boondoggle of a stadium and all. Hey, it's here now, might as well have some fun with it. ("Mister Nero, put down that violin!")

Sunday, February 05, 2012

It's Superb-wl Morning

Do you know where your beers are?


Y'know, but for one little slip of the fingertip, we could've had a Superb Owl. Which would have explained this. But no.

Saturday, February 04, 2012

The Very Large Cat (And Friends)

Huck the cat, of course, shown here napping near -- but not too near -- Miss Rannie Wu:
And for a better idea of scale, laying atop a book with Tam's forearm in the background. Yes, more than a cubit of cat, and 16 pounds, too.He napped next to me though mid-day (I have a night shift tonight and a loooong day tomorrow), quite content.

Me, On Voting And The "Choices" Offered

I wrote it in Comments but I'll stand behind it on the front page:

Withal, neither [of the big parties] has run anyone for President in the general election that I felt I could in conscience vote for. I used to just stay home on election day, mindful of Claire Wolfe's "If voting could change anything, it would be illegal."

Except voting can change some things, especially in smaller races and in some of them, there's actually a decent choice.

As for the Presidency, I don't know if I will ever see the big parties run anyone for the office other than charismatic boobs, Party-faithful nitwits, incompetents and crooks. Seriously, can you look at the choices in the last four elections and tell me, honestly, that any of the men they put forward in November would have been your first choice?

...I cannot.

O, Nature!

Looking at the Gentoo Penguin, q.v.:...You have to wonder, exactly what did they change from the Gen One Penguin? (And are they open-source?)

Friday, February 03, 2012

"Poly" = Many; "Ticks" = Blood-Sucking Insects

I suppose I ought to have something to say about the GOP slugfest between Newt and Mitt, but it's like watching two drunken bums fighting in a open-topped septic tank while the MC sprays 'em down with even more sludge. I suppose it's exciting if you're into that sort of thing, but from any distance away, it just looks sad.

("O-M-G, Mittens doesn't care about the extremely poor!" Yeah, 'cos face it, they get better press than he does, and probably more contributions, too; ill-stated as it was, there really are a lot of programs and helps for those who have fallen right over the edge. It's not a solved problem -- I think history so far demonstrates it's not a solvable problem -- but given that Johnson's "War on Poverty" is still being waged, I'm darned if I know what else the Press thinks a President ought to be doing that, say, the current one ain't. Don't even get me started on the PR disaster/slime explosion that is Newt, or the crazed way he seems to think the path to victory is followed by winning High School Debate Club-type points.)

Even more sad than any of that is having to watch the Republican faithful as, once more, they play the Battered Bride, talking themselves into the belief that a liberty-fearing Massachusetts patrician won't be so bad, not really, I mean, at least he's not a Democrat, right? (Got news for ya, kids: in Indiana or elsewhere in flyover country, he probably would be). Or that Newt has any chance at all, or that Ricky's blend of rose-colored glasses and generalized xenophobia (where "xeno" means "doesn't resemble any member of his immediate family") is somehow a Good Thing. --Or even that Ron Paul hasn't been Goldwatered out over his own decades-old past by the press once more.

Face facts: any of them are DOA on the November ballot. --Or as good as; Mr. Romney might have a bare chance, though so far he seems to have just as much aptitude for torpedoing himself as any of his primary opponents, but he's a Milquetoast middle-of-the-roader, liable to appoint wishy-washy turncoats to the Supreme Court at least as bad as anyone Mr. Obama might choose, if not worse.

Vote for whatever Noble Failure the GOP faithful trot out? I'm not doin' it. Makes my gorge rise. While I am still thinking about giving Dr. Paul a shout-out in Indiana's primary (assuming he's still on the roster), I am more likely to sit it out and vote Libertarian when the main event comes 'round. Or, hell, Communist; the way things are going, we may need a Marxist or two for the lamp-posts and wouldn't you really rather have an overt one than a sneak?

Nobody running in the Presidential primary is your friend. No friend to gunnies, no friend to the small businessperson and no friend to free individuals. They see your liberty as a threat; Mr. Schumer over in Congress speaks for all Washington when he wants you injected, inspected, detected -- not neglected! -- issued a card and sat down, probably, on the Group W bench with "all kinds of mean nasty ugly looking people..." And not a one of them will even bother to ask, "'Kid, have you rehabilitated yourself?'"*

I dunno about you but I still haven't. A pox upon 'em.

A pox -- and a ballot. It's the only thing other than money that gets their attention.
* A few lines there from a possibly-familiar song.

Vintage Projects

Not the accumulation of "someday..." projects on my workbench --- well, those, too, but also and even more so, an interesting collection of exactly that.

This rates a mention over at Retrotechnologist.

Thursday, February 02, 2012

Be A Retronaut

Retronaut? It's as easy as clicking on the link -- in fact, that's how you get there, for visits to real pasts and pasts that never happened.

Another Morning...

...Another headache and -- perhaps lingering from last night's struggle to pay my telephone bill -- the nagging sense of failure. Well, if I haven't done much, at least I can hope to have not done much harm, either. Right? Right?

Wednesday, February 01, 2012

Dear AT&T

Die in a crotch fire. Figuratively, of course, but no less seriously.

Yes, I know diacf is LeeAnn's line and I hope she doesn't mind, but dammit, every month -- every month! -- when I go to pay my landline/Internet/cell phone bill, you have done something.different.arrgh with the login; every time, no matter how hard I try to find the right magic door, it goes wrong, and despite being the only effing name on the effing account, I haven't logged in as the Prime Meridian, or The Kirk, or somedamthing, and cannot therefore even so much as get a glimpse of my bill, let alone pay the rotten thing.

This time, I went 'round and 'round and answered the SuperSekrit Security Kwestions twice and I am still not considered to be me enough to see my own effing telephone account. I finally had to call up the Annoyingly Cheerful Robot Man and do it that way. (BTW, he doesn't know what "Die in a crotchfire" means. I suppose it is highly allegorical language.) "I'm sorry, I didn't quite get that, Dave. What are you doing, Dave? Dai-sy, Daaaaaai-sy....."

Ah, dreams. Well, back in the real world, stuff it up your fat pink patoot. I swear, I'm gonna find wherever you have hid your office and pay the whole thing in two-dollar bills next month, crumpled into a big fat wad. --Unless I can figure out how to do it with a singing telegram.

For land's sake, why oh why would any business want to make it so dreadfully difficult for customers to send them money? Are you insane?

Oh, that's right, you're The Phone Company. I think Lily Tomlin already covered this: Of course you are.

Official Police

Colt Official Police, that is.

Yes, I finally own a Colt revolver in a "normal" caliber, an Official Police .38 Special from 1950. It showed up at the most recent Indy 1500, purchased for cash Sunday afternoon at a remarkable price -- thanks to the cash discount, the smile-at-the-nice-man discount* and (mostly) the "don't want to have to pack it up and take it back to my shop" discount.I'll try to get a better photograph after sunup, but if it looks like a felt-tip cold reblueing job on the cylinder, alas, it is. Should polish right off with a mild cleaner.

Appears to be in good mechanical shape otherwise and makes my 1921 Police Positive, chambered in .38 Colt New Police (better-known, these days, as .38 S&W), look positively gracile. --The contrast also makes clear why the .38 Special was (once) considered more than adequate for police work; although similar in nearly every detail, the later gun is about half again as large, beefier in every component.

This brings the Colt Count to three. (My .32-20 is in the shop for ratchet work.) I have got to get to the range -- either early in the morning this week, or on my next day off, eight days away.
* These days, I dunno if it's the "pretty girl" discount or the "you remind me of my Mom" discount and I'm afraid to ask. ;)