Friday, August 31, 2012

Digital Apocrypha

Or, Don't Believe Everything That You Are Told.

...But they do tell the story, or whisper it anyway, late at night, when the data centers are as quiet as they ever get and ghosts of ancient hard drives spin down, platters as big as truck tires keening at the edge of audibility. It's the story of Grace Hopper, the Navy's earliest attempts at organic computers, and how one small woman routed the clam menace[1] with a single sentence.

You see, researchers working for ONR had discovered that clams could be used as logic elements -- attach the electrodes one way, you had an AND gate; hook them up another way, you got an EXOR.[2] And so on. Big clams worked better than small ones, it was just easier to hook 'em up, and pretty soon they'd settled on the plentiful geoduck clam, so meaty it can't even hide in its shell. A weak-saltwater aquarium full of them was a sight to behold, bubbling away with a full matrix of wired-up geoducks, siphons at full extension in transparent nutrient gel.

The U. S. Navy was proud of these contraptions and were using arrays of bivalve organic gates, so much simpler and less costly than huge arrays of relays, to work out the basics of programming. As soon as they'd smuggled Dr. Hopper past the weight limit ( for reasons of stability,WAVES had to weigh at least 120 pounds and at 105, she was considered unfit to face a Nor'easter...in a computer lab), they sent her to examine the secret ONR clam-logic facility.

She was beyond unimpressed; she was furious at the wasted effort. "Gentlemen," Lt. (j.g.) Hopper exclaimed, "you cannot possibly develop useful programming based on a series of logical phallacies!"
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1. I've mentioned the clam menace before. Sometimes, it's zebra clams, which scour the water so clean nothing else can live in it; sometimes, it's something else. This is an example of the second sort.

2. All ORs were XORs, back in the day; that's just how it was. You were either okay with it or not. Or would that be okay or okay? Depends on which way is up.

Keep Me Safe....In An Æsthetically Pleasing Manner

Sooo, bit of a "crime wave" in Broad Ripple -- especially "downtown," where the presence of hip'n'happenin' bars, young people and the lousy judgement that often accompanies the combination of the two insures that there is always a little crime lapping about the ankles of Riparians.

The response? Why a Facebook page, a fund-raising initiative and a petition asking the mayor to "...install decorative street lights in an aesthetically pleasing way from Broad Ripple Avenue down to Kessler Blvd on the side streets of Carrollton, Guilford and Winthrop."

I'm not mocking -- all things being equal, if streetlights are going in, I'd as soon have lights that fit in with the quaint-to-twee character of residential Broad Ripple and I will happily contribute a few bucks to pay for 'em.

However, if you want to stop a wave, you might want to do a few things your ownself, like keeping doors and windows locked -- won't stop criminals, but it slows them down -- leaving your porch light(s) on (I dislike CFLs, but boy are they cheap to run 24/7!), and even hiring yourself a streetlight.

Yep, hiring one: for a low installation cost and small monthly fee that includes maintenance and power, Indianapolis Power & Light will very happily hang a somewhat unaesthetic streetlight on any pole they have space on* -- or put in a pole or make the light prettier for a little more up front. Dark alley behind your house? It doesn't have to be! (Most power companies offer a similar deal; local laws and customs may vary, please check.)

You could also arm yourself with a gun and some training; but not everyone is willing to do so. Me, I am, but I'd just as soon avoid having to use it. Lights and locks are a big help in stopping crime before it starts. It's not 100% but it has a known deterrent effect. (Also, to avoid crime away from home? Try not weaving back alone and tiddly to your car parked on a dark and isolated side street. Any adjectives you can drop from that sentence will help. Just sayin'.)
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* Trivia: most of the smaller/shorter poles are owned by The Phone Company, who were polling your neighborhood back when the lights burned gas. The various pole owners and users keep track, tallying them up to figure out who owes rent to who (latecomers like cable TV always end up paying!). But that's not your worry.

"A Local Man Who Refused To Be A Victim..."

That was the lede I woke up to, as the TV newscaster reported with a smile that someone had broken into a far-southside home...and been shot by the homeowner. Non-fatally, but the suspect is in hospital -- and handcuffs.

No gentle chidings from the police, no tut-tuttings from the media; kick in someone's door around here and you're likely to meet lead.

Well done, Mr. Homeowner!

Saving Wardenclyffe

Update: A commenter complained that he couldn't make a contribution without sharing personal information. Wrong! I kicked in $3 via PayPal. You do have to give 'em an e-mail address, but it doesn't have to be the same as your PayPal addy. It can be a freebie dropbox, or even a fake. (dev.null is your friend.) That's all it takes.

Claire Wolfe linked to a report of The Oatmeal's efforts to raise funds to buy the Wardenclyffe site and convert Tesla's old lab building into a museum for the father of the AC motor -- and AC power.

He's raised plenty, but your $3 or more wouldn't hurt any. The site has been in danger of being bulldozed ever since Peerless Photo Products moved out in the 1980s. We can help save it! Tom Edison may've lit up your life, but it took Tesla to figure out how to get the juice that runs the bulb from where it was cheap to where you could use it.

...Now, if we can just convince 'em to rebuild the old tower and the huge Tesla coil-like gadget that was going to feed it....

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Sick Day?

Dammit. Upset tummy, chills, fever, exhaustion and dizziness. If my neck gets stiffer or I start thrashing about, that would be a bad sign.

Pass the quinine! Stupid skeeters.

I Don't Remember This Happening When I Was In High School

or, IMPD Officer Handles Situation Appropriately:

When an "out-of-control, knife-wielding student" locked himself in a Home Ec room at Decatur Central High School, the school called the cops; when IMPD Officer Jeff Patterson had a look, he found himself dodging a thrown knife!

That's deadly force, that is. So, did Officer Patterson draw his sidearm? No. His taser? Nope. (Though that seems to have been Option 2.) Nightstick? Huh-unh. He grabbed a nearby trash can lid and went back in!

He persuaded the student to surrender and the situation ended without bloodshed.

I take IMPD to task pretty often. When the local police get something outstandingly right, it's only fair to mention it.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

.22 Revolver Roundup!

Git along, little plinkies.... I should've aligned them with the quilt pattern! (That pattern has a name, do you recognize it?)

Here's the H&R 622 and holster rig in all its glory: Snazzy!

The Colt Police Positive Target .22 is positively gracile alongside the Iver Johnson and High Standard .22s:(All a bit blurry, hurried snapshots -- I need sunlight to make better photos and there wasn't time.)

FYI: Portable Electronic Devices On Commercial Airplanes

Nice big old debate on the topic going on at Tam's -- and let me reiterate, this is not about celphones! (Trouble there is on the ground, not on the plane: your phone lights up too many cells, moving too fast. The system can freak out.) So: WiFi, Bluetooth, incidental radiated yeech: do they or do they not have significant potential to interfere with avionics during takeoff and landing?

Jury's still out, which is why FAA is revisiting the issue. What I'm not hearing from anyone is the other problem with having your toys out during those operations most likely to include some violent maneuvers: they can become projectiles. Me, I am not wanting to see what happens when your ultra-slim laptop slides across the aisle, catches air and hits my head; YMMV. (And willya please put away that fat hardback book, too?)

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Ow! Ow! Ow!

You know what's not fun? Coming home from work tired and climbing up a stepladder and straightening and rehanging badly bent guttering with a battery drill and an assortment of hand tools anyway, 'cos it has to get done.

Remember the video I posted semi-recently, showing a streaming waterfall over the fallen-tree-limb-created low spot in the guttering here at Roseholme Cottage? As of Monday, I still hadn't fixed it and there's a pretty good pothole where it hits the ground. By the time I left for work, I had a little stream of water running into the basement at the base of the wall, nearly in line with the pothole.

Looks like Tropical Storm Isaac (or has he regained hurricane status again?) will grind to a halt over Indiana by the weekend, probably worn down to nothing but a big ol' knot of rain, so it was time to go do whatever I could to get the gutter back to running water to the downspouts. I pushed (with shoulders, thus the ow -- I can feel the effects all down my right arm but especially at the shoulder joint), bent and rebent the gutter with pliers and crowbar, and finally added a couple of long gutter screws and spacers. It's....better. It may still be a bit low-ish at the hit spots but it's not nearly as bad as it was. I barely beat the sunset -- then had to get the ladder back out to reclaim a pair of electrician's pliers I had left in the guttering.

Guess I'll find out how well it worked.

Peddling Pedals

Unk did it, but turns out he was just quoting the headline. At Reason.

As a very wise -- or at least annoyed -- man once remarked, "English, [deleted]. Do you speak it?"

Cripes, the two words are not even perfect homonyms.

Glory!

Came home from work last night, parked, turned and looked up and there it was: A solar glory! Seen more often on U.S. money than in real life -- check out the Great Seal of the United States -- they're not all that uncommon in nature. Still, I was lucky to have captured this image.

Monday, August 27, 2012

WANT: S&W "Bekeart"

Now that I have the Colt .22 Police Postive....

An S&W "kit gun" .22 revolver would be nice. Nicer? A "Bekeart," an S&W target .22 with grips (stocks!) rather similar to the Iver Johnson Sealed 8, a middlin'-large frame and lovely lines. Good examples command impressive prices -- or at least the two I saw at the show last weekend were hoping to.

Still, one can dream.

A Very Fine BlogMeet

Attendees included Dale, Karl Ushanka, Don, The Jack, Owen, Tam, Yr. Crspndt and Turk Turon. Discussion ranged from weaponry -- and the testing to destruction thereof -- to turbines -- and the testing to destruction thereof; from gun school -- and the testing to destruction thereof -- to politics -- ditto.

Photo to follow,...if it's not in this spot already. (Speaking of "spot," The Jack leaned back out of frame at the the exact wrong time. Sorry!)

Earlier at the range, I'd done my own testing, though I am pleased to say, not to destruction. As reported earlier, the little Colt .22 Target Police Positive worked very well and shoots (as expected) to point of aim. Given the age of the gun (1924), the sights are impressively large and well thought out. It is positively gracile compared to every other .22 revolver I one, save one: the H&R Young America, which appears to be a First Model: a black powder gun. Colibri loads are very light and I chanced it. Yes, it shoots. Trigger pull is hard and long, sights are minimal, but it does go bang at least sixty percent of the time when the hammer falls. It is probably over 120 years old, certainly past the century mark.

I also checked out the Iver Johnson Sealed 8, now that it's been taken in hand by Shannon at Coal Creek Armory. Oh, wow! It was fun to shoot before, but cantankerous. Now it's a pure and simple delight, and a real tackdriver too, possibly better than the High Standard Sentinel. Tam showed me a locked-thumb revolver grip that really, really works with the high, vertical grip and lets you put 'em right where the sights are lined up. (The same manner of holding a revolver is a disaster with the High-Standard: too many thumbs in the way! My normal semi-auto grip is best for shooting it.)

While I was shooting, the Rangemaster himself, Guy, stopped by and reminded me of the nice little 6"-barrel H&R 622 rig he'd been given: gun, holster, gunbelt with cartridge loops (for .22!). He'd had his fun with it and was giving thought to selling; would I be interested? ...Did he even have to ask! It needs cleaned, oiled and possibly a new mainspring; I am happy to add it to the stable nevertheless. The price was more than good. (Photos, later...y'know, after I pick up a Tom Mix hat and gloves to go with.)

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Went To Gun Show, Purchased Guns

Two guns-- and wait'll you see them! One a bit David-Bowie. Sort of. The other? Born under a blue dome! Photos to follow, below.

ETA: Went to range. The Colt shoots wonderfully. The H&R Young America...shoots. Colibri. Very heavy trigger. And N.B. on the Colt: it sure is funny how, if you take the old guns and line the sights up with the original index marks or, lacking them, along the center of the barrel, 99 times out of a hundred, they shoot right to point of aim. H'mmm, may be a lesson there. (Also, I somehow bought yet another .22 revolver at the range. More about that, later.)

Here they are. The one on the top, something I'd seen examples of and regretted passing up. Yoday, the fellow with a pretty collection of very nice Colt revolvers said to me, "Tellya what, that one doesn't really fit in my case," being hardly pristine, and proceeded to make me a fair deal. The other one -- from a vendor who went to High School with my Mom! -- caught my eye while Turk Turon was buying something else from the same gentleman. It's an H&R, something of a "19th Century Saturday Night Special," and while Tam avers that back then, even the budget guns were made of real steel, I doubt it'll ever see more than colibri loads. (If that -- there's a chance it's the older version, designed for black powder cartridges.)

What's is called? Glad you asked! Yep, an H&R "Young America." And the Colt is, of course, a Police Positive with a nearly Ruger-sized paragraph on the barrel, though it is list of patents instead of a warning which end the bullet comes out. It dates from 1924.

The discerning reader will have noticed the rear sight had been installed backwards in the Colt. Fixed that, but I'm pretty sure that the Allen-head grubscrew is wrong, too. Should be slotted.

All in all, a good day at the Indy 1500 Gun and Knife Show! (Still open tomorrow -- and a BlogMeet at 3:00 p.m.)

NBC Shows Us Bloggers How It's Done

"Astronaut Neil Young, First Man On The Moon, Dead at 82," reported the venerable National Broadcasting Corporation.

Who knew -- and him a Canadian, yet, and propelled by little more than good wishes, possibly an herb. Why'd we ever bother to stick three pilots atop a Saturn V?

Geez. First man on the moon dies, and NBC's clever lads are suffering too badly from brain-gleet to sit down and punch in, "Neal, first man on moon" into a search engine?

I'm wondering if the day will come when no living man will have set foot on the Moon? At this point, I wouldn't even care a whole lot if he spoke Mandarin.

NYC Shooting

Y'know, in old days, if there was a shooting at the Empire State Building, kids would be looking for Doc Savage.

These days, we have Mayor Mike playing shamey-shamey, while some gunnies have averred this is no time to cast aspersions on the strict firearms laws of NYC and the State of New York.

Balderdash! Balder-double-em-dash, in fact, of the highest water and the greatest magnitude. This is precisely the time to point out that, thanks to "common-sense gun laws," the shooter could count on having nothing but defenseless victims, plus whatever overworked and underpracticed NYPD personnel happened to be nearby.

Do I know for sure that if NYC had the same enlightened firearms laws as, say, Vermont or at least Indiana, the killer would have been stopped faster and before he did as much harm? No; I cannot. But I do know that the laws that are currently in place ensured that his victim and bystanders didn't stand a chance. Pen-knives and bare hands against a .45? Mayor Bloomberg, their blood is on your hands. (ETA: Given that most if not all harm to bystanders was at the hands of police, perhaps my focus should shift from "citizens disarmed by law" to "lack of a viable shooting culture," given that most NYPD officers shoot no more quals/practice than is required. In either case, local/state law must shoulder a portion of the blame.)

Dammit, let's have fewer tragedies, and a fewer deaths when they occur: Mister Mayor, put down that axe-handle and step aside from the gun-store doorway. Power to the people!

Steak a la Roseholme

Also known as Boeuf Tudor or Boeuf Coupé.* Several readers -- okay, two -- have asked for the "recipe."

This is meat cooked over fire. The only real trick is to not use any tricks.

I grill meat on a cheap covered grill, $20 at the five and dime. It has front vents in the lower part and top vents in the hinged lid, each with sliding shutters. Open them up wide while cooking.

The charcoal is the expensive stuff -- hardwood "lump" charcoal, literally random hunks of hardwood. Yes, it costs more. Look, you just saved like $400 on the grill; you can afford it.

The cheap grill has a two-year (light use) layer of ash and partially-burned charcoal in it. Its almost time to remove most of the fine stuff, saving a bigger pieces. You want this; it's a cheap grill. That Far-Eastern steel ain't gonna add anything to the flavor. Cover the grill when not in use, to keep rain out. I use a plastic "lawn & leaf" trash bag.

Steak: I buy good stuff. Filets are preferred here; Fresh Market actually stocks three grades, all a cut above. (The best are aged. I've never tried them.) With filets, you can butterfly one for the medium/medium well diner and do it up in not much more time than an unsplit one for those who prefer rare.

Start the fire without using an accelerant. I like the scent of naphtha, but not on my dinner. (YMMV.) All you need is a wadded-up half sheet of newsprint or a strip torn from a brown paper bag; build a little tipi of twigs and pile charcoal around it, leaving gaps for air and your match. Or you can use one of those coffee-can gizmos. It will take 10 to 15 minutes for the coals to catch; longer is better but mind you have enough to last out the cooking process.

Do not use soap on the grill proper, other than maybe the very first time. Fire and vinegar, plus vigorous scrubbing, will keep it clean. On a grill, like a teapot, a beer glass or a cast-iron skillet, soap risks affecting the taste very adversely.

Okay: start with the meat. Salt and pepper all sides; ordinary iodized salt and sea salt don't taste different to me but fresh-ground pepper is nicer than the pre-ground kind. Others have pointed out that it should not be too chilled when you start (but mind leaving it out too long!). I usually buy, carry home, and cook as soon as the fire is hot, no fridge involved. Put the steak(s) on the grill. Turn when the first side is done and add a small pat of European-style butter on top, taking care that is has no easy path off the meat. (Butter fires, you don't want.) Iterate until it is sufficiently done, adding a little butter if it looks necessary -- cooking times will vary, but it starts smelling really, really good at "rare" and you work from there.

That's all there is to it. When done, close up the grill vents and lid and let it self-extinguish. Put the rain cover back on once it has cooled.

If you want baked potatoes, microwave them first -- 3 to 4 minutes twice (turning over after the first go), first sticking them with a fork (to prevent explosion!) and maybe salting. Then wrap them up in foil with the "magic three" -- salt, pepper, butter -- and set them on the grill with the steaks. (Seal the foil up with a rolled seam along the top, to keep the tatties moist.)

I've also grilled giant mushrooms and most recently skewered vegetables. These take more time; I'd start them with the steaks. Corn on the cob -- desilked and with the husks well-dampened and a single layer of foil to hold it together -- is nice, too.

That's all there is to it. Humans have been cooking and eating meat-over-fire for as long as we've had fire; don't go high-tech and you'll do fine. Your nose, eyes and taste buds know when it's right!
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* The reasons for which will be left as an exercise for the reader, staring at the white-on-red flower emblem of Roseholme Cottage.

Friday, August 24, 2012

We Have BlogMeet!

(Moved to top, scroll down for today's posts.)

Sunday, 26 August, Broad Ripple Brew Pub, 3:00 p.m.

It's Indy 1500 Gun Show weekend: come for the show, stay for the BlogMeet!

Getting Creepier

Remember my "What's in your backyard?" post the other day? The answer, for one Indianapolis resident, was "a shallow grave." Well, make that two.

Most people you meet are good and decent folks; good enough and decent enough. But some of the very few who aren't are waaayyyy out there.

"You Can't Vote While Armed!"

At least, that's what a South Bend man was told when he showed up at the firehouse that is his neighborhood polling place. Election workers turned him away.

Supposedly, there's a local ordinance that restricts the public carrying of firearms...except it seems some folks in South Bend have forgotten Indiana's not-all-that-recent preemption of local gun laws by the State Legislature. Ooopsie!

...Also lawsuit, with a familiar name doing the heavy lifting.

And for the record, yes, in Indiana you can carry a gun to your polling place unless is in one of a very short list of facilities where carry is never allowed (schools, Post Offices, courthouses, etc.). Might make for an interesting day, at least 'til they start figuring out the rules have changed, but you can do it.

(H/T to the local TV news.)

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Oleg Made My Gun Famous --

--Or at least beautiful! My Iver Johnson .22 revolvers went to Coal Creek Armory for attention (verdict: one fixed, one in need of parts that must be scrounged as they turn up*) and on the way back, Oleg Volk shot the pretty/working revolver. With his camera. Go look.

Oooooooooooo. Thank you, Oleg!
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* And according to Tam, at least one of the 'smiths suggested I "should call them for the thirty-minute guide on checking out used revolvers." Sounds like a great offer to me! I have come up with two kinda beat-up ratchets out of the several revolvers I've bought; they seem to be a weak point. Not in the guns, in my evaluation skills!

The Guns Of August

Missed an anniversary yesterday. Remember, the government is here to help you. Or not.

Quick! Look! Behind You!

...Wandered into the living room this morning where Tam was peering muzzily at images on the big TV, trying to wake up. The TV newsies were saying a new 85-inch TV display from LG was "the world's biggest HDTV."

The reality is more complicated than that -- it's a super-zoot, Q-clearance, bib-label, lithiated, supercharged ultra-HD display that the maker says really is almost as good as being there; but that's not the point.

You see, if the chairs and people and desk height on the stage of that news program are about average size, they related this amazing advance in tech sitting in front of a 100-inch* HDTV display that says right there on the front (if you squint, 'cos they have hazed it up), "Panasonic."

Ummm. Biggest....HD...in...the...Hey! Waidaminnit!

::Sigh.::
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* Possibly 103" but mind you, that's merely ordinary HDTV, you can't taste the ice cream or blacktop (stop that, Jimmy, that ad's for either paste or dog food!) when you lick the screen. Or so they say. The relationship between screen size and price is seriously nonlinear and by the time you get up to these things, the curve is headed for the sky.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Everlasting Calamari

So, awhile back I bought a new shower curtain; it's got four little tabs with a couple of suction cups on them. After a couple of months, one tab, at the showerhead/spigot end, fell off, and I set it to one side for later disposal.

And promptly forgot about it.

Came home that night to discover that Huck the tomcat had found it. He had it pinned down on the washroom floor and was industriously gnawing away at the the thing -- he even growled a little when I took it from him.

"Gee, Mom, this octopus sure is chewy!"

What's In Your Back Yard?

At one Indianapolis house, the answer turned out to be "a shallow grave." Not much more than that is known at this time.

What was the line from the Captain Kangaroo PSA for various Children's Museums? "Expect the unexpected?" Sound advice, Mr. Keeshan.

Stuff That Works: LED Lenser H7 Headband Light

One of the items "left over" from Tam's recent Midnight Three-Gun competition was a nice LED headband light, the LED Lenser H7.* It ended up in my hands and last night, when I had to make a last-minute dash for cat food and needed to get some exercise, too, it ended up on my head when I bicycled off to the grocer's.

Oh, it's a keeper! It's light, it's bright, and thanks to well thought-out tilt, focus and dimmer controls, you can make it do exactly what you need it to do. (And it doesn't run hot!)

I already have lights on my bike but they're mostly to make it easier for drivers and other riders to see it. The recent-vintage front light is bright-ish but you need to already know the road you're riding on. Not so with the H7; it is at least as good at the headlight on my motor scooter, with the advantage of it always being aimed where I am looking. It turned the after-dark return trip into no more challenge than a daytime ride.

Worth looking into, if you need a good hands-free light. Amazon sells them. Gee, I wonder, how about getting there via Tam's link? (And the FTC can bite me -- I don't take kickbacks and I rarely accept freebies; this was a gift from a friend. I only review things I have actually used/read/watched.)
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* Surprisingly not also the title of a "Scientifiction" yarn from a Hugo Gernsback magazine. Or the name of a comic-book hero.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

"They're The Same, But I Loathe One Of Them More"

Okay, that's not really what he said. Devo's Jerry Casale actually compared the presidential race between Mr. Obama and Mr. Romney to the "...false choice...between Pepsi and Coke...." He did this while releasing a new song lampooning Mr. Romney's dog-in-roof-mounted-car-carrier incident.

So, Jerry: Pepsi fan?

This refreshing pause in strident, irrational partisanship brought to you by "Irony-Out!" Use only as directed.

Sheesh. It's just like watching MSNBC.

(Ideograph from the culture wars: "Evolution" stencil -- with graphics -- from Athens. Mordant humor: the artist haz it.)

Yesterday, The Elder; Today, Junior

Douglas Fairbanks, Jr., that is. Yes, the handsome Anglophile actor (handsome even when he was extremely elderly).

Y'know about his other career? WW II U. S. Navy officer -- and father of the Beach Jumpers, a psyops team that would fake landings, diverting enemy resources away from the actual invasion site...and onto themselves!*

To judge from his awards and the Wikipedia article, he wasn't content to be a behind-the-scenes idea man, either.

Sure, he and his father were Hollywood actors; they smoked, drank and had interesting marital histories...but they were something more than that, too.
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* The Army had their own version, a corps of artists and fashion designers and sound-effects guys...who would go out and pretend to be a hundred times their number, impersonating officers and spreading disinformation, as close to the other side as they could manage, armed with inflatable tanks, a bulldozer to make track marks, and a great big PA system to make all the right sounds.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Hoppin' Bison

Why not? I had the leftovers, and when a couple of nice-lookin' peppers showed up in the breakroom* at work, it was a done deal.

I was considering Hoppin' John for dinner, but lacking both ham and blackeyed peas, it was gonna be a long scooter ride over to the nearest market with ham worthy of the name. On the other hand, I had about a half-pound of ground bison left over from burgers Sunday night (hey, it was all they had -- and darned good, too; there's a trick to it), a can of Bush's chili beans (Mild, I'd rather season to suit myself, YMMV), one of those quick-nuke (brown rice) cups, half an onion, half a sweet orange pepper and the aforementioned co-worker's bounty: a skinny, bright red, hot pepper and a yellow one that looked like a banana pepper (a fairly mild one, oh well).

Hit the wok with some good cooking spray -- you'll need it, the buffalo being a lean beast -- and start browning over medium-low heat. (Dash of salt, little pepper on the raw meat, it wants it, it's not a cow.) Keep breaking it up as it cooks. Dice the onion and add it, continuing to cook over low heat 'til the onion is as done as you want it. Add the beans and a little liquid, enough to rinse out the can. Nuke the rice. Dice the hot peppers (tiny, tiny). Toss 'em in, adding the seeds for more hotness or not, as suits you. Stir in rice, cover and heat 'til bubbling. Dice the sweet pepper and throw it in -- no need to stir it 'til later, it just wants a minute or two to wake up.

Give it that minute, stir up and dish out. Table condiments as you are moved to use. Looks like it would serve three -- or one, for supper now, lunch tomorrow and maybe a little to share.

Inauthentic? Hugely diverged from the original dish? Guilty as charged. Shaddup and eat.

Changes? I am tempted to make it hotter and use jasmine rice (also now available in microwaveable single servings), washing it down with good mint tea; but that could be just me.
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* I don't know how they do it where you work, but at The Skunk-Workings, excess garden produce (and anything else even remotely edible) can be disposed of in 8 hours or less by leaving it on a breakroom table -- quicker if you add a sign that says "Free." Hey, was that your lunch? Oops. --Srsly, when I left today, the evening crew was tucking into some leftover pasta dishes from an executive meeting upstairs in Management territory, six hours earlier.

Late To The Party

...But Jennifer pointed out a disturbing parallel between a certain Presidential speech and one in Atlas Shrugged and if you haven't read it, I (like Wouter) think you should.

Sigh. Oh, Mr. Obama.... Well, I guess he didn't invent that, either.

Saw The Artist

Yep, the silent. Watched it last night. What a fine, good-hearted and delightful film!

I've not seen many original silents; the best of those, Douglas Fairbanks in Robin Hood at the old Marion (IN) Memorial Coliseum, with a first-rate organist sweating himself skinny on the freshly restored pipe organ and a projector running at the proper speed* with a nice big screen, was more than enough to make me a fan. (Seriously, Doug Fairbanks in his prime? Swooooon!)

...And as it turns out, the title character in The Artist is indeed loosely based on Fairbanks, and played with remarkable grace and elan by Jean Dujardin; his opposite number is not so closely based on any one actress (as far as I could tell, though she has a more than passing resemblance to aviatrix Amelia Earhart!) but Bérénice Bejo was a marvelous choice and manages the look of the times (late 1920s through early '30s) extraordinarily well.

It's an engaging story, well-told; the sets and props are just about 100% right (give or take a record player) and the look of the thing is correct, too, right down to lens shadows when a really wide lens is in use. (Gunnies will appreciate the S&W revolver with hammer-mounted firing pin.)

If you like silent films -- or think you could bear one -- this is a film to see.


I happened to watch this film for an odd reason; two-thirds of the way through reading The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo (in the dollar bin at the used-book store!), I wanted to see if my recollections of the divergence between book and (Swedish) film was correct. (It was, mostly; and the screenwriter did a smooth job of it, too). After two hours and twenty minutes of subtitles, a few title cards are no hurdle at all and I wanted to look at something a little less grim. It was good choice.
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* Silents don't crank at the same rate as talkies. --And neither did the cameras for The Artist.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

State Of...

Meanwhile on the other coast, up around the Bay, they have water temples and quaint little countryside nuke plants, in some cases within an easy motorcycle ride of one another.

I swan, when I was young and read sword'n'spaceship yarns, I thought it was all implausible bilge, Roman Empire crossed with Vikings an' they all had pocket computers and neutron bombs; any more, it looks like the many writers who wrote such things, Californian by birth or by U-haul, were merely being selectively factual about the real world.

Still not tempted to live there.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

No Love Lost

From a New York Herald description of the motive power for the 1870 Beach Pneumatic Subway:

"The blower is known as Root’s Patent Force-blast Rotary Blower, and the principle of it is greatly in use in the West, in all forges, instead of the old blacksmith’s bellows. It is an Indiana invention, and is one of the few good things that come from that state." [Emphasis mine]

Bite. Me. (And dammit, we went ahead and sold them the limestone for the Empire State Building anyway. We even keep the hole it came out of, in case they change their minds and send it back.)


The good news? After the subway demo ended the tunnel had a second life as a 100' indoor rifle range!

Yeah, New York failed on that eventually, too.
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PS: I was hoping to Go Places and Do Things today. Instead, I have got a migraine the size of a western state and flaring arthritis. Oh, joy. OTOH, I did finally get a good long soak in the tub.

ISS: Just Like Home

I'm used to seeing the inside of ISS on the tiny screen, looking cluttered but mostly NASA-sterile, whole lotta white on every surface.* So the full-size Wikipedia image of an astronaut running the ham radio on ISS caught me off-guard. From the fuzzy, well-used hook-and-loop wire/object ties to the lint caught on vent screens, from the bank of very familiar coax switches (we use the same model at work!) at the upper right to the word-processer-printed notes (with illustrations and the occasional exclamation-marked ALL CAPS! word or phrase) taped and clipped to various devices, with due allowance for microgravity, it's extremely close to the kind of environment I work in. ...Other than the hostile vacuum outside and the relative paucity of cabs and buses....

(One other difference: that book visible over his right shoulder appears to be a Russian world atlas, all the better to figure out what part of the world one might be orbiting over.)
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* The Russians, possibly due to greater man-hours in orbit, are better about adding a splash of color, though NASA does try --the restful, salmon-colored paint job inside Unity being an example.

At Last, A Motorsport For My People!

Two words: Blimp Racing.

Oh, yeah!

Moron Tantrum Leaves Students Without A Ride Home

...No, I'm not being rude about some unfortunate student; the morons in question sit at the very front of the bus, holding the wheel -- or, as happened, refusing to.

Some of the Indianapolis Public Schools bus drivers walked off the job yesterday. They're irked an' by golly, they'll show them capitalist oppressors, er, tightfisted subcontractor, er, bungling school system, um, wait -- the State unemployment office?[1]

Yeah. These lamoids -- hey, their union's name is pronounced, "Aw, fsck me!"[2] -- pulled an illegal walkout 'cos they have been gaming the system for years, collecting unemployment while school's out, and the Legislature closed that loophole: if you're idled by a normally scheduled shutdown -- like, say, school not being held in summer -- you can't collect. The bus drivers filed anyway, got their checks...and now Indiana wants the money back. (Good luck with that, I seriously doubt there's a lot of margin for savings even with four months of unemployment dollars added to a school bus driver's pay. Which means the subcontractor's been coasting on the state for years, too, counting on them to pick up enough of the idle-time slack that drivers don't seek other work. Plenty of Fail to go around!)

To the credit of AFSCME Local 3827, union officers were begging the drivers to go back to work, so the kids would get home on time and with minimal parental worry. Some drivers did, good for them; others didn't. Remind me again what it was the students or their parents did to prompt this? (Oh, yeah, vote in a Legislature determined not to overspend. H'mm.)
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1. Actually named "Indiana Department of Workforce Development." Tut-tut, Mr. Orwell, tut-tut.

2. Nothing personal, except it's typical of the degree of nuance to expect.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Catchphrase Of The Future

...uture, ...uture, ...uture...

"Velcro it like you already own it!"

--Actually overheard at work.

Venn Diagramming

This weekend in Indy, all at the same time: Indiana State Fair, Gen Con, Moto GP and the Fringe Festival.

I'm not sure if I should hide under the bed with a shotgun or stock up on caffeine pills. Possibly both.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

REAMDE

I have been wading through Neal Stephenson's novel REAMDE in spare moments at home for about a week. Just finished it.

Oh, yeah! Read this book. It's not science fiction or cyberpunk, it's a thriller, one without any single dashing hero but a whole lot of folks willing to keep on; it's set here and now and you won't be disappointed.

The action is just about non-stop, in the kind of tangled but orderly web Stephenson weaves so well. --And he even gets the guns right!

But that's the least of it. It's a good enough book, I'd've forgiven him pretty serious errors on the fiddly details.

Time and money well spent.

(Hey, have I mentioned Tam has an Amazon link? What a happy coincidence!)

(Turns out I have a spare hardback copy myself -- any interest at half the cover price plus postage? That's like ten bucks and whatever USPS costs to get it to you.)

Through The Thinking-Glass...

...And out the other side, where it's more about feelings and fear-mongering. Somehow this morning I have stumbled over a website where most of the Big Scary Fears of the "Life was better before steam fire" set have been neatly bundled up into a blog and a book; I have already learned that (oh, horror!) lab rats fed GMO potatoes (no other ID given) have developed "undersized brains, livers and testes." (Translation: Eat GMO and you won't be able to think, drink or have ess-ee-ecks.) Does the writer even understand that the food we eat heads first and foremost to a churning cauldron of dilute hydrochloric acid? Or that the reported rat issues -- assuming the results cited are real -- are for a specific GMO vegetable and while the mods may be responsible, it's what the spliced-in genes expressed that did it, not the genes themselves.*

I've also learned about the U.S. military's secret plans for space dominance -- a "secret" revealed in a glossy, lavishly-illustrated, no-long-words PDF supposedly published online at /www.spacecom.af.mil/usspace, a URL that no longer exists. (Did it ever? I dunno. USAF Space Command uses a different one.) If you search for "Vision 2020 U.S. Space Command," you'll find ever'body from Prison Planet to Mother Jones was up in arms about it...in 2001. (Sheesh, I only wish the Pentagon had that level of seriousness about orbital ops.)

And on and on it goes, including a wistful musing about how much better people lived before the Industrial Revolution. I guess it was too much trouble to look up the infant and child mortality rates in those halcyon times, or the hours worked per day by your typical yeoman farmer, his wife and their kids, or even the way they had to boil all their food to mush 'cos they were fertilizing their crops with human waste. Not a word on the manner in which they were largely subject to the whims of a better-fed, better-armed ruling class. And it must have been way too much effort to look up the waves of plague (and "lesser" diseases like smallpox) that swept across Europe until they had steam and carbolic and sufficient excess production that a guy named Pasteur had time to dope out germ theory....

If your blood pressure is low or you need help reaching your target heart rate, see for yourself. Better move quick, before the ghits and elitists have you freezing in the dark...for your own good, of course.
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* For the record, I'm in favor of anything that makes rats dumber and less interested in reproduction. Oh, ratties... Free potatoes...!

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Overhead While Walking Past The TeeVee

"...the traffic rerouting will make it much safer for these students to walk the street."

I'm totally thinkin', Wow, they're going to Whore College?

Conversation At Work

Conservative Co-Worker: "Visited my family in [distant large city] and man, did I get yelled at. My cousin told me, 'You probably think it's okay that just anyone can buy an assault weapon!' I told him, 'Yeah, I do,' and they all started in on me! Do you ever get that?"

Me: "Um, well, see, compared to most of my family, I'm kinda liberal."

CCW: [long, boggled silence] "Wow. I can hardly picture that."

...It's true, though....

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Good Advice For The Low-Tech Spy

From these cats.

(Also, ain't it always like this?)

Atomic Indiana

While Indiana hasn't a single nuclear power reactor, we do have a little atomic history: tiny Dana, Indiana was once the site of the first high-volume heavy water plant in the United States using hydrogen sulfide in a setup that looks like a refinery-gone-mad (see first link); it ran from 1951 through 1957. (More info in this PDF)

The site had previously been been used during the Manhattan Project (don't ask me how they were gettin' the Deuterium Oxide untangled from plain Wabash River water back then, nobody's telling; probably vacuum distillation) and DuPont had been brewing up RDX there since 1942 -- when it was America's first industrial RDX production facility.

But wait, there's more! In 1959, the Army took a look at the heavy water facility and decided it would be just about perfect to remodel into a nerve gas facility. Starting in 1959, they set to and were making VX gas there (more-or-less upwind of Indianapolis) from 1961 through 1968. Every bit of VX the U.S. ever had was made right here in Indiana.

--And still the story wasn't over: five TNT production lines were built in 1968, ran through 1975, and as of 1984, were still maintained in "standby" condition. (Nice history with some illustrations.)

Still with me? That's RDX to D2O to VX to TNT, with the name changing from Wabash River Ordnance Works to Newport Army Ammunition Plant and finally Newport Chemical Depot; and then in 1997, nearly every country on the planet -- certainly all the kewl kids -- got together and decided landmines were oooo-tay but this chemical-weapons stuff* was Right Out. There was still a nice pile of tanks of OMG, er, VX at Newport; they were going to burn it (this actually works, as long as the fire's hot enough), but remember that "upwind from Indy" thing? Yeah, lousy PR if your incinerator hiccups, so they used a chemical method and had it all neutralized by 2008. (Speaking of hiccups, in '05, somebody slopped out 30 gallons of the stuff -- and managed to not kill or even hurt anyone. Three cheers for multilevel precautions!)

In 2010, the music stopped. Newport was closed. There's supposed to be a re-use plan but I'm not finding much. ("Picnic in the shade of the nitric acid tanks! Stroll by the old ammonia oxidizer! Marvel at The Bookends in the area planned for the never-built smokeless powder plant!" ...I dunno)
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* Except, I guess, for white phosphorous, 'cos the chemical action's just a side-effect. Small compensation if a flare comes to call, so try to be elsewhere, please.

Monday, August 13, 2012

TL? DR?

Then scroll down or follow this link to my Indiana State Fair photo/essay!

Police At The Range

Police familiarity (or not) with weapons is a perennial topic wherever gunnies are found and perhaps nowhere more than at the range.

Sunday, not so much, but Eagle Creek Park Pistol Range is IMPD's home range through the week and I believe it gets used for training that includes other nearby departments, so the general subject was on my mind as I drove home from an hour of making .22 bullets go downrange.

The Usual Lines:

1. LEO shows up first time at a public range, and assumes his (or her) badge/training/whatever confers some kind Police Specialness that exempts him from whatever safety-lecture (test, release form, etc.) boilerplate the range uses. General harrumphing ensues. --Okay, kids, he is in the wrong, but be gentle; a lot of police are not hobby-shooters, many are rarely around ranges (thanks to scant training budgets and shorter available time) and they're used to being the only person in their immediate vicinity who knows which end the fast lead comes out of. There's going to be a learning curve.

2. LEO shows up and is not all that great a shot. --What, you expected them to all be snipers? See above, and bear in mind that while police are armed, they really aren't getting paid to go be low, middle and high justice, ventilatin' malefactors right and left; just like you, if Officer Friendly's got to shoot outside a range, something went badly wrong. Neverthless, mild amusement is often the end result at the range if the cops are making Swiss cheese.


Fun though it may be to channel a little indignation or amusement, I think that's a bad approach.

It's important to make law-enforcement folks feel welcome and comfortable and if they don't know the ropes, don't be any more harsh than you would be to any newbie -- and this is not because they are a specially special bunch to whom y'should kowtow but because this is one group of individuals out there in the world you can count on to be armed -- and who are, in fact, expected to use deadly force in some situations. We -- you, me, society in general -- are better off when the police are good shots. They get better the same way everyone else does: by practicing. Their department is unlikely to go much past whatever the minimum requirement might be, and where does that leave the LEO who wants to improve?

It leaves him or her in the lane next to yours, trying to grasp a cultural niche police are not necessarily all that familiar with. They need to be; we need 'em to grok that "unbadged citizen with a gun" is not usually a bad thing -- and we need them to shoot well when they've got to shoot.

You don't have to be a holster-sniffer -- heck, you don't even have to all that fond of your local Protecters-And-Servers -- to understand that some day, you could be in the vicinity of live fire by the police -- and far better they should hit their target than hit you. (Or even, [TINFOIL HAT ON], should the balloon go up, far better they swap fire with you and not take out Mary Lou Bystander, age 6, in the process [TINFOIL HAT OFF].)

Treat law enforcers like any other citizen at the range -- because that's what they are. No better and no worse.

Shooting: The Naptha Cure

It's an old trick for cheap watches: thing stops running, you take the back off and lay it in a saucer of lighter fluid, move it around a little. (Don't try this with an modern watch! ETA: or most older ones, see Sevasteen in Comments.) The volatile petroleum distillate washes out the gunky old oil, dust, etc. Advanced practitioners would add a drop of sewing machine oil.

My balky Iver Johnson top-breaks got a version of that prior to going to the range Sunady afternoon: several drops of Ronson fuel down each side of the hammer. I worked the action (controlling the hammer!) multiple times and then followed with some proper oil ("FP-10," I think) and some more working. The older one, with a stiff hinge, got the same treatment there.

And what do you know -- it worked! Both worked much better today. They could still use a professional going-over but in the case of the Supershot, it made a huge improvement.

I shot my High Standard Sentinel, too, and the H&R 623 just 'cos it is so darned much fun. I saw -- and should have photographed -- an immaculate 622, the blued version; this one had a 6" barrel, a nice holster and cartridge belt (for .22s!) and a story: an elderly gentleman drove up and asked Guy (the range boss; also, he practices law) if he could drop off a gun he no longer wanted. ("My business partner convinced me to buy it a long, long time ago and it just makes me nervous to still have it around.") This was a bit of a surprise. Even after Guy pointed out he could instead take it to a gun store and turn it into money, the man was sure he wanted to give it away there and then. He just wasn't comfortable having it. Evidently, his story was found plausible, and when the firearm in question was revealed, there it was: a little pull-pin .22, a back-yard can-plinker. Naturally, the rangemasters didn't want to see it go unwanted... (I've shot it. It needs cleaned, lubed and maybe a new mainspring, but it's almost 100%). Made sometime between 1968 and 1970, depending on who you believe about H&R date-coding.

With my guns, I got off to a lousy start but found the center soon enough. The Sentinel is a particular treat; once I have got my head in the game, it's a magic fun machine, "Boom! in the black. Boom! In the black," over and over.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

State Fair!

Tam and I bicycled down to the Indiana State Fair yesterday. The Monon Trail runs right by the fairground; back when it was still a railroad, the original FairTrains ran smack dab through Broad Ripple, one every 45 minutes, and stopped just outside the midway. (I think nowadays, they run down the other side of of the Fairgrounds and across Fall Creek Parkway, with a nifty pedestrian tunnel connection to the station).

Bicycling is pretty much the "A" ticket to the Fair, as secured parking (with actual attendants) is free and you get a dollar off on admission. Doesn't work so well if you live in Fort Wayne or Evansville (etc.) but since we're already in town and not too far from the trail....

We walked around the entire fairgrounds, Tam taking tiny little baby steps in her "barefoot" shoes and me galumphing along at my usual too-fast rate whenever the crowds thinned and having to stop for her to catch up. (I hiked a lot growing up and really only have the one speed, a pace I once could keep up all day; Tam had not planned on the amount of hard-surface walking we ended up doing. In retrospect, we should'a caught a tractor-tram).

We saw quite a lot though we skipped all but one of the critters buildings, Family Arts, the Commercial Building and the Hook's Historic Drugstore.

...Which, by the by, was once one of the two "Better Babies" buildings, back when the State Fair had baby-judging contests, side-by-side with the hog, chicken, sheep and cattle judging. Yes, that was when Indiana had eugenics laws and compulsory sterilizations too, which I'd like to tell you were discarded with extreme prejudice during or after WW II but the damned things hung on 'til 1974, long after Better Babies contests had faded away.

We did see the Cattle "Barn" (an imposing brick structure) while enjoying fine ribeye sandwiches. We strolled by the grandstands and commercial-food midway --(there's a precursor to the pineapple stand, by oh, about 90 years). Then we continued around past the harness-racing barns (wooden, historic). Look close -- click to enbiggenate -- and you can just about read the "Quiet, horses sleeping" signs. Do they maybe work third shift? Over the Boy Scout bridge: It leads to the Clean Waters garden; from there, we walked through through the non-midway kiddie area where There Was No Heffalump! Much disappointment in the spot where the pachyderms ought to be, though watching the patient Shetland ponies and their thrilled little riders, just out of frame to the right, kind of made up for the lack. Onward into Possum Hollow, where old technology, old tools and old skills are found. I bought some Indiana Maple Sugar candy (yum!) for me and a raccoon tail for Huck (he was intrigued but keeps looking for the rest. Sorry, pal, a whole real coonskin was too expensive for a toy) and we looked at threshing machines, tractors (love that car, too!), traction engines both large (up close! --Note he's got the automatic oilers filled, the [Indiana!] coal burning and about 60# steam pressure. That machine runs during the Fair, regularly and often, operating various machines doing actual work, from a sawmill to a corn shucker to a baler.) and small (burning, I think, fuel oil, with extra carried in a little trailer and plumbed in along the hitch, and yes, it's belted to some small and infernal-looking machine I'd like to believe is a popcorn shucker, scaled to match both engine and crop), working forges, Liar's Contestants, broom makers, bowl carvers (as we walked by, a fellow carving a heart-shaped one with a home-made adze formed from an old hammer, working just as quickly as you could describe it), tractors and dream cars...And on to the Farm Bureau building, looking at newer farm technology on the way.
IT'S NOT JUST ME, RIGHT? THAT THING HAS EYES!
From there to the Department of Natural Resources and their fine collection of leaping kid goats (like giant kittens, but more mischievous), huge catfish and whimsical paddlefish: Then off to the 4-H buildings for an air-conditioned stroll past dioramas, bug collections, quilts, leatherwork (that's a quiver) and some interestingly-related art, model rockets, more artwork and the relief of finding the possibly largest and definitely least-used washrooms on the fairgrounds ('cos few folks ever get to the second floor -- where there is No Line! Hooray!). From there past the Midway (with a stop for Satay Babi, grilled marinated pork on a stick):
MEAT-ONNA-STICK IS IN THERE SOMEWHERE
And at last to the Horticultural building, for A) a glass of chilled (Indiana) Red Gold tomato juice, best in the world:* And B) honey-related items -- I had a cup of honey ice cream, a heavenly treat. One apiarist had even brought a small frame of bees -- Tam and I had to enjoin a teen-aged barbarian from tapping on the glass. (Did I egg him on? I'd touched it first, gently, to see how hot the bees were in there; they do run above ambient and of course the poor insects were trapped, lest the easily-frightened freak out.) Oh, C) a garden-gauge train, too. That man who has flaunted flouted the "PLEASE stay off the GLASS" sign has a reason: he's the garden-gauge engineer.

After that long, slow walk (nearly five hours), we were both worn out, and made our way back to our bikes and to home. We were even too tired to ride the Ferris Wheel before we left.

Photos to follow included.

(Still to come: bonsai, an undodgeable Dodge truck, and a few other items)
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* Someone is sure to remark on the price. It's for charity, okay? At the grocer's, Red Gold tomato juice is quite affordable ($1.65) by the #3 Cylinder can, which is a week's supply -- ask for it by name!

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Oh, By The Way?

After we'd cleared most of the fallen tree last weekend, I asked our neighbors across the alley if they'd mind me adding some underbrush to the pile of stuff to be hauled away. They were okay with it, so I cleared out a little flowerbed that is actually on my next-door neighbor's property, a raised bed next to his garage and adjacent to the short driveway to my garage. It's no real use to him -- or me, either -- and it gets scrubby.

It seems I picked up a mild case of poison ivy when I hacked away the weeds, honeysuckle bushes and various other greenery. Not as bad as it could be, my siblings and I are low-reactive (my big sister is just about immune) and my Dad was completely immune to the stuff. (He had a theory why: as a child -- age 5 or 6 -- he'd been told if you ate it, you'd never get it. So he did. Do. Not. Try. This! Immunity is pretty clearly genetic, not acquired -- on the other hand, if you do react, every exposure makes you a little bit more sensitive.) Me, I get it but it's slow-developing and usually not too big a deal.

Soooo.... I've had a patchy, itchy rash on both forearms for a week now. Running very hot water over the affected areas usually calms it for awhile. Anti-itch cream barely works. Drat!

Anyone have any other palliatives I can try?

(Vick's Vapo-Rub, suggested online as a source of relief, is working a treat!)

Observation

Mitt Romney sounds amazingly like the actor who played Herb Tarlek on WKRP In Cincinnati. If I hear him without seeing him, I picture Herb and find myself thinking, "Wow, that's so out of character..."

The Things You Learn, Looking Up "Brisance"

Brisy, brisy-- Turns out the word comes from French for "shatter," and refers to the rate of pressure increase when an explosive is set off. PETN is one example of a high-brisance explosive: it is not the most explosive, unit-for-unit, but the pressure wave ramps up very fast and leaves broken bits when it passes by.

It's what the shoe-bomber was trying to use. But it takes a hard push to set off, and for that, the idiot was using-- Um. Why make things easier for fools? Suffice to say there is a very explosive, very unstable substance that can be made from stuff you'd find under the sink, but don't; it's so poorly-behaved that even mad bombers speak ill of it.

For those of you who appreciate irony, ponder the happy, emphatic people on X: that ill-behaved explosive is also an unwanted by-product of MDMA synthesis. So, kid? Don't visit the lab! (Y'otta be nicer to your serotonin and dopamine levels anyway; gross fiddling with them is like trying to adjust a wristwatch with a sledgehammer.)

Clear down at the bottom of this heap of suck, fail and disappointment is a rotten little Easter egg: safrole. It's the reason you can't find real old-time sassafrass root at the grocers, the root being a source thereof: first, safrole makes rats break out in cancer, so FDA banned it along about 1980 (except you'll still find a bit in things like cinnamon, basil and black pepper) and second, it's a DEA List I chemical! So if you were planning to dig up some sassafrass root and brew your own? The Feds will save you a seat on the bus, right next to the enterprising, slender, dentally-challenged fellow who built his very own meth lab.

Geesh. I should'a run with the definition inferred from context. "Brisance!" It sure busted up a little corner of what I thought I knew.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Big Excitement

...Up at the Skunk Works North Campus. I'd gone up to investigate a smaller problem, and had, and it looked possibly solved. I was sitting at the desk when...the fluorescent lights went dim (!) and the entire building growled -- but not for long.

The lights went out, the air-handlers stopped and it was dead dark and silent. Distantly, I heard a loud cough, a deep rumble and a rising whine: the MegaWatt genset starting up!

Thirty seconds later, the lights were back on and I was scrambling around resetting things, hoping the air-handlers would start up soon. The place ran on the generator for about an hour and a half before switching back to commercial power a lot more nicely than it had gone away.

There'd been an accident a couple of miles away, taking out a power pole and dropping two of the three phases, which is never good.

Also not good? About ten minutes after the store-bought juice returned, the lights flickered and something went BANG!-pffffft not very far away. It sounded like a shotgun and was followed by a whiff of smoke! I called the Fire Department and they were on the scene in minutes; but we went through the building three times without finding anything. They could smell the smoke when they arrived but it dissipated. So they left; meantime, my boss and I had spoken and he asked me to wait until he showed up, and we did the same walk-through. Nothing.

Present theories are A) an overstressed light ballast failed safe or B) we have incinerated a mouse in the 480V/1200A switchgear.

Darned if I know. It was more excitement than I wanted.

Buh-bye, Frank, Buh-bye!

Don't hurry back. It's resigned Public Safety Director Frank Straub's last day in office, after months and months of lameducking of the sort you or I would never get -- nor feel right about accepting were it offered -- if we quit our jobs.

Congratulations, sir: from start to finish, from the initial costly office redecoration to a plush "gummit parachute" on the way out, you have revealed (some of) the problems with IMPD. Usually inadvertently.

(Hat tip to alert reader -- um, you know who you are -- who caught this in the void-with-ads where we used to have a newspaper.)

Thursday, August 09, 2012

Picture Books!

Stopped by Half Price Books on my lunch break ('cos I was at Skunk Works North Campus) and picked up both The Spirit: Femmes Fatales and Grease Monkey (hardback!), neither of which I had expected to see. Hooray!

Going Armed To The Terror Of Halfwits And Police

Or something like that.

"An attorney walks into a movie theater with a gun...." Sounds like the opening of a joke? Probably more like a set-up for a lawsuit. It happened in new Haven, CT; the lawyer in question is reportedly president of the county bar association, has a valid carry permit and said he was concerned about his safety going home from the late-night film.

I expressed worry about the short-term world of hurt Sung H. Hwang had let himself in for while lawyering his way up through the court system (assuming the prosecutor is so rash as to file charges); Tam pointed out "What you call Hell, he calls home." Good point, and to drive it home, it's reported that he's an immigration attorney, so he's got plenty of experience with a byzantine and somewhat hostile bureaucracy -- and presumably, the patience of Job.

(Ohoh -- property not posted and the Mayor is an antigunner! First link from discussion at GlockTalk. The plot thickens.)

Wednesday, August 08, 2012

Drive-by Critics

Somewhere in the Meridian-Kesseler neighborhood there is a house I've always liked. It started out as a fairly ordinary, squarish, mildly Colonial Revival/Arts & Crafts home (slight nods either way, depending on which you're inclined to see), with a wide front porch under which twin French doors flank a chimney, giving on, no doubt, a resolutely hearth-centric living room.

But sometime in the past -- the recent past -- the owners have added a flat-roofed, full-width dormer that continues right down to foundation level as a pair of bump-outs. The triangular upper portions of the dormer are faced in what looks like decorative patterned tile and the whole thing suggests that a whacking huge slab of modern architecture has dropped out of the sky and bisected the house. It works for me because it makes absolutely no pretense of being original.

The folks over at Historical Indianapolis aren't so sure. (Their photos undersell the tile -- on a sunny day, the patterns fairly leap out. To my eye, it's an interesting syncopation in a row of very staid homes.)

Tuesday, August 07, 2012

Adventures In Ambiguity

Sometimes, you read the news and it's all as obvious as a soap commercial.

Other times, it's like peeling an onion--

Grandmother leaves child in locked car while shopping, the headline read. OMG! Lock 'er up! Next paragraphs reveal the car was locked, running, and the air conditioning was on; the child was napping. Oh! So, no harm, no foul, then? Doesn't look that way: she's been arrested, the child handed over to Child Protective Services and the car was hauled off to impound. There's probably more to this story, but I can't find it.

So, a fluke, right?

I dunno. Next up, a teenager gets shot by an adult in some kind of neighborhood dispute, dies in hospital. Police briefly have the shooter in custody, believe him to have acted in self-defense, and let him go...and then it turns out that not only was he a felon in possession of firearms -- unlawful possession -- but his most recent stint behind bars was because he was carrying a gun despite being legally barred from so doing. So how'd IMPD miss that, in this Age of Information with a networked computer in every car? Oh, and the precipitating incident is looking less and less clear-cut; police statements imply the victim may have a criminal history, too. Meanwhile, the shooter has gone on the lam.

The adult shooter is white, the teenaged victim, black. The Ten Point Coalition, a group of urban ministers, was working the neighborhood yesterday, hoping to defuse tensions. If you were looking for a simple, clear-cut narrative cast in the gothic mode, this ain't it.


Easy answers? There aren't any.

Monday, August 06, 2012

Another Evil Idiot

As a gunnie, I suppose I'm supposed to make some comment about the vile -- and deservedly dead -- jerk who shot at least seven people at a Sikh temple recently.

But I'm not mentioning him by name, or even a cute nickname; let's talk (generally) about the people he targeted, instead.

Sikhs are monotheists with a tradition of self-reliance, hard work and helpfulness. Mind you, as individuals they're no more angelic than any other group of people; but their faith encourages good works, often in ways that are deliberately inclusive. Take, for instance, the throwaway line in news reports that people at the temple that day were in the process of "preparing a meal." Y'know what that most probably was? A langar, a particularly open-handed kind of free lunch: simple and vegetarian, so most anyone can eat it, no matter their faith; diners sit in long rows, with no special spots or "head of the table" -- and, if I read correctly, no table, either. It's open to everybody and you don't even have to sing any hymns -- show up, sit down next to your fellowman and get fed, period; the only subtext is to reinforce that the other guy ain't so very different from you.

Ponder the kind of miserable, screwed-up rat who would go in and shoot up people in the process of doing that. I suppose there's lower but it's utterly despicable.

Which is why I'm not naming the shooter in any way. While we must never forget that there are indeed plenty of people so evil or damaged that they will do such things, don't make 'em famous. Erase their names and identities from history.

Shooting The High-Standard Sentinel

From last month.

I'm not shooting too badly, for once.

Sunday, August 05, 2012

Beautiful Makework

The WPA project in Excelsior Springs, MO sits empty today but for the offices of the local tap-water utility. You can look this lovely building up but the best photos I have found are on a blog: Life at 55 mph: Hall of Waters in Excelsior Springs, Missouri, though these images are a nice look at the place, too.

Grampa's tax dollars at work. Could there be a lesson for the modern age in there?

So, I Dragooned Myself

Tam and I were out looking at the tree-wreckage; our friend and neighbor to the north (The Democrat) came out to have a look, too, and after a little while, our new neighbor to the south (Atom) and his dog (Bear) showed up, followed soon after by the young couple who own the tree-bombarded garage in question.

I asked if I might not trim away the smaller branches that were in the alley.

"Sure," they said, "We've taken pictures for insurance already."

So I got my little metal bowsaw and nibbled away, while the others cleared away the loose branches.

Tam looked over the bigger branch-chunks and said, "This is chainsaw work!"

"Well, I don't have one of those," The Democrat said, "But I have a little reciprocating saw."

"You've got a sawzall?" I asked.

"Sometimes it comes in handy," she replied.

Not only did she have a sawzall, she had the proper kind of blades to take on green wood. She handed me the saw, saying, "I think I'd trust you with this over myself," which I took as high praise. Tam had fetched loppers and we all set to -- Atom, The Dem, Tam, Bear the dog (supervisor), new neighbors and me. In short order, we had the alley cleared and the garage-owners went in to call a tree guy and their insurance company.

As for the rest of us, we were on a roll. We'd cleared just enough to be able to see our way to removing a lot more -- so we kept on. We kinda made some progress.
YES, I AM LOANING THEM MY TARP. CALL IT BENEFICENCE: I WASN'T USING THE THING.

We finally had to start piling debris and tree-jetsam next to the Roseholme driveway across the alley. When the young couple returned, they were surprised and pleased by the results of our efforts.

Welcome to the neighborhood, folks -- and I hope you own a snowshovel!

On The Subject Of Rain--

The rain that came through yesterday and early this morning did so on the wings of a storm. Our lights flickered several times during each one; Saturday, I heard the distinctive "fzzzz-GROINT!" of an unhappy pole pig, from a few blocks over.

Whew! Dodged a bullet!

...Not so fast; when I went out for a morning bicycle ride today, I discovered the neighbors across the alley were less lucky. Not just one limb -- both sides of a fork. And from pretty high up. Ouch.

I expect to be dragooned (corveed?) into a branch-moving party sometime today. And at that, we're lucky -- in the other direction, they haven't had any power on the far side of our street since at least 4:30 this morning.

Farther north, I came upon a fire truck, lights on but no siren, rolling to a stop in front of a house. No smoke but someone was waving them in and neighbors were out on front porches and sidewalks, gawking. Nary an electric light or TV-screen glow to be seen on the entire block. (At last word, about 2,500 Broad Ripple households were without power.)

(Continues here)

It Rained Saturday

Oh, did it ever!

And even more this morning. About time.

It's Sunday Morning

Y'all are overdue for some proper culture.

Chips, Dipped

Tam bought some (supposedly) wasabi-flavored chips. I grabbed a couple to try. Chip one: faintest of hints of a trace of a taste of wasabi.

H'mm. Fail. What to do with chip two? Turned to fridge, removed pot of ground ordinary horseradish, dipped chip two in, removed and et it. Ahhh! That's the stuff!

Geesh, guys, get with it. I'm not askin' to be hit over the head but there's got to be some zing. Otherwise, why bother?

Saturday, August 04, 2012

Anthropomorphing

An interesting feature of this morning's bike ride, with the air heavy and humid with foreboding bets of later storms (paid off this afternoon, may have vid later), was that the cicadas were having trouble getting started.

It was like homeowners facing the year's first lawnmowing with last year's gas; I'd hear rrrdt, rrrddt, pop-pop-pop and then silence; a little down the trail, rr-rrrdt, rrr-rrdddt, splutter, rrrddtt-dddt-dtt-dt-t... I could almost hear tiny voices cussing.

I was picturing minscule, green/black troll-like creatures, wearing old-fashioned aviator caps and goggles, with hang-glider cloaks and gasoline-powered accordions (or bagpipes?*) they were trying desperately to get started: "C'mon, dammit! It won't be a late-summer day without us," as he gives the starting cord another yank and the thing coughs and sputters, "Consarn it, start! Holy cow, I won't get paid if I don't play -- I won't be able to get a date!" (A topic of vital concern to cicadas, who typically get just the one chance every seven years.)

On the way back, at least one of them had managed to get his instrument, er, voicebox (stridulator?) running, and was making a song about half-way to the other sound cicadas make, trilling up and down with what I thought might be a note of relieved triumph.
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* It could be argued that the accent fits -- and I have to point out the local breed bear colors suspiciously similar to Black Watch tartan.