Thursday, February 28, 2013

Sequester, Sequester--

     I'm just not feeling pestered by this supposedly dire threat, or no more than is usual.  Congress and the Executive are playing Chicken again.  Unable to settle on a budget, the two have nevertheless managed to spend money the Feds don't have at unprecedented rates and will keep on doing so even after (or, I suppose one must say, if) the "deep and painful cuts" in everything from Head Start the Department of Defense the sequester invokes take effect.

     In fact, those cuts will hardly slow it down, since big, popular vote-getting programs will scarcely feel the pinch.  Cut back the military and air traffic control and let TV newsies tell you just how much more dangerouser your world is?  Sure thing!  Cut aid to disadvantaged children, who are then used to tug at your heartstrings?  Absolutely!  Touch Social Security?  Er-- Only to the extent of a small furlough for workers.  Medicare will be facing cuts: all of two percent (This source --PDF warning! -- says they're both exempt.)  See, if it'll get a solid chunk of voters riled up, they ain't a-gonna do it.

     Bread.  Circuses are free but oh, the Empire does hand out bread.  We have built our New Rome and now we're stuck in it.

     And it doesn't appear that dancing with bankruptcy even begins to get their attention on the Capitol hill.

     (Bonus!  "Women, poor hardest hit."  Um, duh.  Trot out the widders an' orphans, Senator, and threaten them some more; and could you please 'splain me how it is moral to use a client class largely of your own creation as a hostage to support your unrestrained spending of the funds with which the electorate has entrusted you and continuing to spend long after those monies are gone?)

     ETA: Y'know, it would be paranoid to suggest that Feinstein, et. al. want you disarmed before the bottom drops out -- which the PDF linked above puts at 2027 - 2028 -- but it sure is interesting how Congress has had all manner of free time to spend plotting and attempting to justify infringing a fundamental, Constitutionally-protected right with the sequester rising up before them like a tidal wave.  Priorities send a message.  What does theirs tell you?

Wednesday, February 27, 2013


     Creator?  It's a film, and an underrated one at that; the plot and characters have always reminded me of Theodore Sturgeon's best SF ("Slow Sculpture" and "When You Care, When You Love" spring to mind), though it's actually based on (Hoosier!) Jeremy Leven's first novel.  I watched it tonight -- all the way through in one sitting, for the first time -- and count the time well spent.

     Peter O'Toole stars, as a brilliant physician and biological researcher obsessed with starting a clone of his late wife, gone thirty years, opposite Mariel Hemingway, Vincent Spano and Virginia Madsen and a remarkable supporting cast.  The "science," such as it is, is quite muted (and rather bogus, but definitely there) and the story is something of an emotional roller-coaster.  It was marketed as a romantic comedy, which is quite an undersell; but I suppose it would have been impossible to sell as a nice example of good-hearted literary SF.

    Strong story, a few laughs, Peter OToole (another of the men I can just sit and listen to talk; and boy, can he inhabit a character!).  What's not to like?

     Warning for the action-minded: no gunfights, only a few small explosions.  Rather a lot of "mushy stuff" but it's all in service of the plot.

Indiana To DoD: Please Drone Us

     We need the money, so the state government is pressing to position Indiana as a drone-friendly place, even hiring a Director of Unmanned Systems, an ex-military intel guy who glurges, "We are not...spying on people or anything like that..."  Nope, he wants to "...get into the civilian applications because there's going to be so many of them that we haven't even thought of yet."  Other than spying on people and possibly blowing them up?  Name three.  Name three you can't do better/faster/cheaper from orbit, using what's already up there.

     Hey, somebody's got to murder bystanders by remote control, why not refine the process right here?

     Sometimes living in the future sucks.  One of the darker aspects of the short-lived Fox series Dark Angel (pretty good and gritty post-apocalyptic SF, before it wandered off into silliness in the second season) was the hovering presence of "police drones," small, quiet UAVs that spied on the struggling after-the-Pulse population, a nasty, nagging, over-the-shoulder presence no one could avoid.  Do we really want to live like that?

     On the other hand, Indiana could use the jobs, and is a police drone really any worse than police patrolling in a car?  --In a way, it is; the drone operator, safely back at the control point, can never interact face-to-face; literally alienated, his surveillance choices and (if available) use of force may be drastically different.

     And on the other other hand, military uses of drones will probably remain the most common, especially in the near term.  Parts of Indiana are already routinely bombed  (portions of Camp Atterbury) and/or shot (the former Jefferson Proving Ground, among others).  Getting droned would probably be an improvement.

     "Death by remote control" doesn't sit well with me and hovering robot spies are scarcely more comfortable.  NSA and NRO have been able to read my license plate from orbit since before I even owned anything that had license plate; is a closer view of what's already in plain sight somehow worse?

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Wait, What? Workin' On A Starship

     The call was for Big Tom; the starship Lupine was well out of Jump, inbound to Farside City, snug on the unEarthly side of the Moon, and at the start of first shift, the ship had just been caught up to by the first Mad Russian ("Express Delivery Service," a/k/a "BisPosEtKom," or what FedEx would look like if they went faster than light and were run by ex-Soviet Space Force courier and fighter pilots -- no, it's both better and worse than you think).

     "Engineering, Roberta X speaking...."

     "Is Big Tom working today?"

     "Yeah, he's right here" I moved the handset away from my mouth, "Tom, it's for you--"

     The voice in my ear protested, "I don't need to talk to him, just tell him his '42' is at the mailroom."  And he hung up.

     I repeated the message to Tom and asked, "What's a '42'?"

     He grinned.  "It's a secret."

     C. Jay was at the desk next to me, deep in e-mail from some Earthside manufacturer who hadn't bothered to ansible out any service bulletins; he had a lot of catching up to do. "Somebody sent Tom The Answer to Everything."
     In the corner at the Calibration bench, old-timer Gale Grinnell had some kind of data transcoder laid out in pieces and was poking through it was a 'scope.  He looked up in annoyance. He served aboard Lupine when she was a warship and and thanks to various time-dilation effects ended up so far out of sync that he has never gone back home (by the calendar, he's well over 70; by his calendar, he's barely past 50) and he figures everyone else in Engineering is in a conspiracy to waste his time.  He gave me a dark look and muttered between clenched teeth, "Probably a damn' stripper.  Foolishness."

     The boys rose to the bait.  C. Jay, "Ooh, a stripper.  '42' could be gooood.  Or it could be bad."

     Big Tom: "Yeah.  It's probably her shoe size!"

     Gale just grunted and went back to his scope-probing, while I endeavored not to blush.

     Undaunted, C. Jay speculated onward, "Shoe size?  42?  Oh, man, a clown stripper!"

     Tom and I both expressed revulsion, but not for long.  From The Chief's tiny office opening off the back of the Engineering Shop there came a determined and somewhat censorious throat-clearing.  "Tom.  That forty-two-inch monitor is for EVA monitor wall in the Environment & Physical Plant console room.  They're in a rush to get it before the outside work really starts."  He'd been moving as he talked and was at the hatch to his office by the last word, fixing all of us with a gimlet eye.  "Seems they got too involved skylarking and one of the techs put an elbow through the old one.  A-hem."

     Tom headed out.  The rest of us got back to work.

*  *  *
     Via the big dishes at Farside City, we're close enough to dear old Earth's original Internet (with seven herbs and spices) that a web search is possible if you don't mind  the answer taking a bit over a day to come in.  "Clown stripper" sounded like a real bad idea, which could only mean one thing: someone was already doing it.  Ew.  Sure enough, there's a video hit: Ew.  (Link is sans nudity but probably NSFW.)

I'm Callin' BS (Incorrectly, As It Turned Out)

     On this photo (in a generally-positive Wired piece on the AR-15 originally linked by Unk).

     Image, supposedly from 1967, shows a soldier in what could be 1960s Army uniform, laying in "jungle" (looks like North American woods to me), holding a rifle described as an AR-15 (!), which has an adjustable stock and a suspiciously ribbed and non-tapered foregrip.  I'm thinkin' Airsoft.  Seriously, you .mil folks and fans, terminology aside, when did the modern adjustable shoulder stock come into use?  

     It's an AP photo, so I'm not quoting it here (they have a little problem understanding "fair use"); that would account for the ignorant caption.  But the photo itself...?  Compare the rifle to others shown on this page of AP pictures of '67 Vietnam troops.

     Hoax or time travel?  Yeah, that's the question.

    ETA: PDB and Frank W. James bring the win in Comments: probably an XM-117E2 or E1, an astonishingly modern-looking full-auto variant. AP's caption description is still wrong, of course.

Poach, Darn You, Poach

...Waiting on The Egg of Eternity this morning.  Maybe I annoyed it by laying a slice of ham on top?  Whatever.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Note From The Ratlab

     You know the classic experiment where scientists inserted a wire that stimulated the pleasure center of the rodent's brains when a button was pushed, then let the rats push the button for themselves whenever they wanted, only to discover that the rats would push it and push it, passing up food and drink (etc.) in favor of pushing the button?

     That's why I can't have Cool Ranch Doritos.

     Sometimes I forget.  Thank heavens the bag eventually runs out.

Ed Rasimus's First Two Books

     When Thunder Rolled and Palace Cobra: I read them over the last week.  They're like stepping into a time machine; while the authorial voice is the guy you knew from his blog -- and should be, he wrote the first one not all that long before starting it -- it's still, somehow, a much younger guy talking, from an earlier time.

     The two books recount his two tours in Southeast Asia (some years apart), flying sorties over North Vietnam; and they're about dealing with fear, dealing with the addictive exhilaration of doing the job, day after day, and making it back.  They are memoirs, not novels; some threads start and are never returned to.  They capture the scene with compelling clarity.

     Fighter pilots are a specialized breed and these two books give you a view of them you'd never get in real life unless you were one.  Highly recommended.  Available as both book-type books and for the Kindle.  Get them via the Amazon link at Tam's.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

The Cow goes, "Baaa!" (With Sincere Apologies To Rene Magritte)

     The man was a genius, if you ask me; but sometimes a fool in a hurry stumbles down almost the same path, all unseeing.

     I get e-mail flyers from One Kings Lane, an intere$ting enterprise that specializes in high quality small-lot antique/unique home furnishings and similar items, a business model based on both style and speed.  Occasionaly, this leads to amusing results:
     Nice folk art -- give me a jigsaw, a free afternoon, scrap wood and some milk paint, and I'll make you a half-dozen -- but it is manifestly not a cow.

      Fluffy.  White.  Short-legged. Rudimentary tail.  Pudgy-looking. Poor city kids, never seen gamboling lambs grow up to become stolid, silly sheep.

Pizza Robber Update

     It now appears the 15-year-old attempted robber of a pizza delivery driver was armed...with what reporters are calling "a BB gun."

     Doesn't matter.  Point a gun at someone -- even if it's really a carved bar of soap -- and use it as an inducement when demanding, "Hand over your valuables," and you're committing armed robbery.  Even with a BB gun or an inert replica.  After all, the person you're pointing it at has every reason to believe it's the real deal.

     In comments at the original story, someone who likes steak but would never, ever kill a cow was happy the delivery driver was unhurt but expressed amazement at " many people think that the death penalty is proper punishment for armed robbery."*

     Wrong.  Defending yourself is not a matter of "punishment."  You're not out to correct your assailant's behavior, you're wanting to stop it, as quickly and effectively as possible, with the least collateral damage.  Whatever does that is what you should do.

     The delivery driver did the right thing.  Not "to teach these thugs a lesson" (they'll either learn or they won't, and just what lesson they will take is hard to predict; maybe they'll decide it's better to bop their victims over the head and avoid direct confrontation).  Not "to make society safer."  Nope, he acted to defend his own life from a person who was threatening it, period.
* What's with this notion of the death penalty as "punishment," anyway?  What, so they'll act nicer in the next world? That's not really our department.   If they are killed, they don't learn anything.  Some people are, after a fair trial, determined to be too dangerous to have around.  The State kills them or locks them up forever; I favor the latter, as it is usually cheaper and if it turns out the results at trial were in error, they can be (to some degree) corrected.  But that's unrelated to self-defense and conflating the two conflates rapid reaction to preserve life with the careful deliberations of judge and jury.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Paxton Zumbo Quigley?*

     Aw, darn it.  Early adopter Paxton Quigley -- as in Armed & Female -- had a bad case of the Zumboes talking to pompus twit Piers Morgan.  She was goin' along great guns and then-- and then--  In re Uncle Joe Biden's Home Defense Advice, Paxton said, "...Well, I agree with him that I think an AR-15 is not something that the normal, average citizen should have."

     No, no, no.  Geesh, it's just a rifle.  With a lot of accessories, but it doesn't fire an especially powerful round (in the common .223 chamberings), it doesn't fire them any faster than any other semiautomatic rifle, and it's a normal, average gun; there are more AR-15s at a typical Indy 1500 gun show than any other model of gun -- and that includes the popular and widely-copied lever-action cowboy rifles.  Before the panic creatures like Joe Biden and Dianne Feinstein stirred up, it was the cheapest good rifle you could buy and by far the most versatile; they managed to make it even more popular and now they're selling as fast as they can be made, at amazing prices.

     And Paxton Quigley is selling them out.   Selling us out, too, to a pomaded, tea-drinking twit unworthy to wipe up after H. L. Mencken's dog. Please, please, someone take her to the range with an AR-15 and show her what she's talking nonsense about, before she Zumboes herself into irrelevance.  Wake up and smell the fail, lady: if you give them my AR-15 now, they'll be back for the revolver in your purse by and by.  Antis gonna ant; give them a foot -- or a round -- and they'll take a whole magazine.
* I was thinking about "Quigley down under the bus" for a title, but she's throwing herself there and it seems overly mean to capitalize on it.

Pizza Guy 1, Bad Guys 0

     Don't try to rob pizza delivery drivers in Indianapolis -- they find it objectionable.

     The tl;dr version: two choirboys took it on themselves to relieve a delivery driver of pizza and, presumably, cash.  One of them, a mere 15 years old, made the request at gunpoint.  Pizza delivery guy shot first; his young assailant is in the hospital, en route to jail.

*  *  *
(To a familiar, molluscian, tune:)

"Piiiizzzza time has come
With pepperoni please have some
But please don't steal the pizza
Not the drinks or the car or the tip
(Just don't be like they are)

"Come on baby
(Don't steal the pizza)
Baby, take one slice
(Don't steal the pizza)
No anchovies, don't cry
(Don't steal the pizza)
Baby, it's here in my hand

"La, la la, la la
La, la la, la la

"Pizza pie is almost done
Here, but not quite gone
Pepperoni and mushrooms
Altogether just too yummy
(Pepperoni and mushrooms)

"40,000 pies delivered every day
(Some pepperoni and mushroom)
40,000 pies delivered every day
(They define happiness)
Another 40,000 selling every day
(Please don't steal the pizza)

"Come on baby
(Don't steal the pizza)
Baby, take one slice
(Don't steal the pizza)
No anchovies, don't cry
(Don't steal the pizza)
Baby, it's here in my hand

"La, la la, la la
La, la la, la la"

     (And so on.  I forget where guitar solo goes.)

Friday, February 22, 2013


     I watched the film Gattaca again tonight.  I can't watch it without crying at the ending, proud for Vincent and--  well, no spoilers.  I think it's one of the best science fiction films of all time, gracefully balancing the need to clue the viewer in with the need for the characters to naturally inhabit their world.  --And the photography/sets/music are simply stunning.

     Plus, it's a film about individual heroism, success despite almost overwhelming odds.  If you haven't seen it, if you like SF and film noir, if you like to see the underdog earn his day -- you may like this film.

     Warning: silver lamé jumpsuits, hovercars and big, sweeping views of gadget-studded spacecraft lumbering majestically though the starry void are nowhere in evidence and the most dangerous weapon seen is a pocket-sized vacuum cleaner.  It's a thriller nonetheless, a murder mystery and plenty more.

Storm, Not So Nice

     It could have been worse.  It could have been one of those telegenic ice storms with two inches of ice on everything, trees all bent over, power lines snapped and a general sense of Fimbulwinter come to call.

     Instead, we have a scant dusting of icy stuff.  But the TV reports over 350 school closings or delays and the pattern is clear: delayed in the city and larger towns, cancelled in the countryside.  The storm has laid down a near-perfect layer of black ice and if your street hasn't had sand, ice or a steady stream of traffic on it, it's liable to be a skating rink.

     And there's the least freezing mist steadily renewing the ice, something between sleet and pogonip.  Out at the airport, that's the problem; departing flights are cancelled, not because of ice on the runways, where they started with the weather and kept well ahead, but ice on the planes: by the time they get a loaded jet deiced and taxied out to the runway, it's icing up again, at a rate that will have it in a very bad way before it has climbed through the weather.  So, no flights until the ice mist ends.

    So, how about that weather, hey?  Sheesh!

     ETA: Worse than it looks from indoors and the mist has picked up to a steady drizzle.  My G5RV ham antenna, a 120' long chunk of wire (a kind of center-fed doublet), is weighed down by accumulated ice and walking a full trash bag out for collection is very difficult.  3/8" ice on windshields and sidewalks, maybe a little more.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

A Nice Storm

     Oh, if only that had been what the nice man inside my TV had said.  He didn't; he said, "An ice storm," and it's freezing raining or sleeting outside right now, a steady susurrus of tiny little Faerie hailstones just at the cusp of freezing hard enough to clatter like the sands of time, piling up in corners and clefts in a hit-melt-refreeze cycle that bodes ill for the dawn.

     As in, might not have juice.  Might not have DSL

    Temperatures are supposed to climb pretty rapidly tomorrow; all this mess should be in the storm drains by noon.  Between now and noon -- ah, there's the adventure.  Or something.

     For now, the trash is out, the laundry is running, Tam has volunteered the Subie as Emergency Back-Up Vehicle Du Jour Of The Day and I'm getting on the outside of a bowl of warm beef stew, revved up with chickpeas,* diced red bell pepper, chives and a splash of hot sauce.  I'm prewarming the bed with an electric blanket, just in case.

     Maybe it'll just be a nice storm.  Guess I'll find out.
* I admit it: I love 'em.  Chickpeas, ceci, garbanzos, whatever you call 'em.  They were my favorite ingredient in umpteen-bean soup and the Indians (East) do marvelous things with them.  Hot, cold, buttered or spiced, they're one of my comfort foods, especially on a cold and stormy night.

What Ticks Me Off About The Gun Control Push

    ...Is what it has done to price and availability.  An AR-15 used to be about the cheapest good rifle you could buy and the only one you could use the modified Johnny Cash ("One Piece At A Time") method* to put together as you could afford it.  --Well, good luck with that now.  You'll probably be doing it one piece at a time, all right, but not on the cheap and there'll be serious scrounging involved.

     And the vanishment of .22LR ammunition is just sad.  Doggone it, that stuff is the firearms equivalent of penny candy and now there ain't none?  Grrrrrrrr.  I'm down to like my last 1200 rounds and it's making me itchy.

     If I'd needed any more reasons to oppose gun control, this would be plenty. 
* The "modification" being, you buy the parts one at a time instead of sneaking them out of factory.  John, John, what if everyone did that?  --Well, the UAW kinda did.  Madcap hijinx have ensued, also bankruptcy.

Positive Gun Coverage On TV

     It does exist, but you've got to look close.  In this case, an unlikely partnership resulted in a positive story when IMPD -- yes, the same IMPD I pick on over officer DUI; it's a big force and most of them are darned good police -- invited a local TV news anchor to run through a one-day training course that included simulator time and actual range time.

     The result is a pretty positive story.  The police training course emphasizes the ambiguity of real-world situations and the need to exercise judgement and control; good things to know and to learn before you need them, IMO.

     While this story is framed with "more women are becoming gun-owners," there may be a little more backstory to it; there's a proposal under study by the Legislature to create another level of Indiana's License To Carry Handgun, a photo-ID card with a training requirement, in an effort to get more reciprocity.  Sponsors swear our shall-issue, background-check-only permit would remain.  Gun-owner opinion is divided; I learned last night that people I know have testified pro and con.  If non-resident permits become harder to obtain, this idea might have merit; as it stands, a Floria/Utah non-resident permit combo covers just about every state that offers reciprocity.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Dear Joe Biden:

     1. How in the name of all that is holy or even merely sensible is a heavy, hard-recoiling and (probably) wrong size out of the box double-barreled shot gun "easier to use" than a lightweight, highly-adjustable, low-recoil AR-15 in .223?  Are you really that ignorant?

     2.  How in the name of -- well, the name of Anything At All -- does it make sense to randomly discharge a shotgun when under threat?  Especially if one takes your full advice to "fire two blasts" from a double-barreled shotgun and is then left holding a heavy, awkward club?  --You really are that ignorant, aren't you?

     3. Please pass this along to Mrs. Biden: Look, you're living at the Naval Observatory.  It's a well-secured site.  If somebody's lurking or trying to break in, lock yourself in the bathroom and call Secret Service or the Navy; they are mere seconds away.  Take the shotgun along but don't fire it unless you have to.  Stay the hell off the balconies; maybe you dote on ol' Joe but he doesn't know what he's talking about when it comes to self-defense.

     Gah.  Vice-President Joe Biden: in favor of unaimed gunfire, ill-fitting guns and home-defense hardware better suited to "Green Acres" reruns than real life.

People Doing The Right Thing

     Turn on the evening news and it's one disaster after another, one twisted or violent loser after another -- and that's just the "entertainment" news.

     It's easy to conclude the whole world is some kind of snake-pit, in which only the scum rises to the top.

     But while that may be part of the story, it's not the whole story.

     Take, as one example, the Arlington Ladies.   In 1948, Gladys and Hoyt Vandenberg -- make that USAF Chief of Staff Vandenberg and wife -- were walking in Arlington National Cemetery when they witnessed servicemen being buried with no friends or family present.  Gladys Vandenberg resolved that someone needed to step up and it might as well be her; she formed a group from the Officer's Wives Club to attend all Air Force funerals and the other services eventually followed suit.

     Somebody not government-issued is there to see service members off.*  Maybe it's just sentiment but it's the right thing to do.
* USMC has no official "Arlington Lady;" Marines look after their own and you can count on it.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

H&R Top-Break, A Photo

     Here's a first look at the graceful little plinker:

     --As a seven-shooter, it's still New York legal!  I wonder if the old Iver Johnson and High Standard 8 and 9 shot .22 revolvers are?

TV News And Antigun Bias/Armed Lunatics

     Flash!  Breaking News!  Newtown mass shooter may have been studying Norwegian mass shooter!

     Really, this is news?   I am far from the first to have already been pointing it out: when you give these madmen such staggering publicity, it gives other crazies the notion that killing a lot of people is a great way to get famous.  Knock it off.  Deny 'em names.  Deny 'em fame.

     Side note, the Norwegian killer was referred to by a newsie as "the worst mass killer of all time."  Really?  Stalin, Hitler, Mao, all the lesser murderers that ran their extermination systems, the human experimenters of Unit 731, they somehow don't count?  Horror is, sadly, as quantifiable as any other human activity.  And over and over again, the lesson is that you stop bad guys killing people by sending in armed good guys -- one at a time or whole armies at a time, it's what you do.

- - -

     Speaking of which, there's dissention over the Californian ex-cop killer, who (probably) suicided while local police were in the process of burning down the cabin in which he had holed up.  (Tear gas is flammable, how convenient).  Plenty of folks think they should have set up a perimeter and outwaited him; after all, he was getting any resupply.  Others are cheering on the burning, and deriding the first group as impractical fluffheads who care nothing for officer safety.

     Couple of points--

     First, policing is not really about officer safety; if the plan was to keep them safe, they'd armor up their cars and never get out.  Cops, like it or not, are the pointy end of the spear.  As a civil force -- not soldiers! -- they end up hanging on to the nasty end of that pointy stick; they don't operate in a war zone.  Sometimes that means hanging back and waiting, when waiting will do no harm.  (Look up the Indianapolis Baptist Temple situation for an armed standoff that just stood off until everyone was thoroughly sick of it and quit.)

     Second, it is best if justice is done and seen to be done.  The ex-cop in CA was pretty clearly deranged but burning him down leaves his claims standing unresolved.  Getting him into court and either demolishing them as the fantasies of a diseased mind or uncovering a systematic pattern of racism in LAPD would still leave his crimes unjustified and he'd've been locked up for them essentially forever, even in CA,* but there'd be no question about the motivating circumstances and no halfwits standing up like he was some modern-day Spartacus.

     Frikkin' work the system.  You don't get shortcuts even if you've got a badge and a spiffing uniform.  And you guys cheerin' 'em on, will you please take a step back and realize that while it's a good thing to stop a murderous madman, it's not an unalloyed good for the State to do so by means that are too easily construed as street justice without trial.
* While I would personally prefer "shot in the act by one of his intended victims" or a public hanging after a fair trial, you've got to take what you can get and locked away forever provides nearly the same societal benefit at relatively low cost.

Today's Breakfast

     It was an experiment: a nice, smoky Surry sausage cooked in a little bit of water while poaching an egg beside it.

     Totally. Successful.  Oh, yum!  Especially with toast slathered with orange marmalade on the side.

     A Note for the Cook: when poaching eggs* over the years, I have used a number of grease-type substances to keep eggs from sticking to egg rings.  I was out of shortening and real butter, and I didn't trust the bacon fat; so I wiped olive oil on it and got the egg cracked in immediately after setting the ring in the near-boiling water.  It worked great!  YMMV but it could be worth a try.
* Technical note: it's really "poaching" only when you gather them in the wild, out of season.

President's Day

     You know who doesn't get President's Day off -- in addition to those of us with real jobs, I mean?  Presidents.  Even when Congress is off catching some slack, he's stuck with it.

     I'm trying to picture it.  Scene: The roof of the White House, where our Chief Executive has just bummed a Marlboro from a Secret Service agent, out of sight of the roof hatch so maybe Mrs. Chief Executive* won't find him, perhaps musing aloud about how bitter clingers like me are so darned bitter and clingy....

     A cellphone rings, just a few bars of Hail To The Chief.  "Aw, fertheluv'a-"

     It rings again.

     SSa: "Hadn't you better get that, sir?"

     "Hmpf.  It's President's Day, you know."  Another ring.  "Oh--  Hello?  Yes, speaking, what?  What?  No, they burned--? Aw, crap.   Look, call Biden.  Yes, Joe.  It's President's Day.  I don't have to deal with this today."


     Ah, but he can't do that.  At the very least, he's got to be on-call wherever he goes.  So, sure, I had to work today; but at least I'm not having to live over the shop and be available at all hours of the day and night.

     There's a lot of things to take issue with this President about -- or with any sitting President, for that matter -- but it's still a pretty lousy job, even with fancy vacations to exotic and/or picturesque locations; there's always the guy with the launch-code "football" and the guy with the red phone and the guy with the other secure phones and there's no Executive-Ordering them away.  It's something of a consolation to me to see that he's stuck with it, like a car-chasing dog that finally catches one.
* Also, what's with all the buzz over her hairdo?  C'mon, people, isn't there more important news?  First ladies have been kind of annoying at least ever since Eleanor Roosevelt crowned herself National Den Mother but the wonderful thing about First Ladies is we don't vote for 'em, they don't hold office and the only power they have is the power to persuade.  If they're not nice (or can't fake it), even a sympathetic press tends to get restive.  If she's busy hectoring kids about eating right and getting exercise, well, that might do 'em some good and there's a long, long list of worse stuff she could be doing.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Oliver Heaviside: A Geek's Geek

     If all you ever knew about Oliver Heaviside was that he was the second name in "Kenelly-Heaviside Layer," or even that he put Maxwell's Equations in their best-known form, you'd probably  figure he was a dusty academic with a long string of degrees to his name. 

     Um, not so much.  Largely self-educated, he was, simply, eccentric in the grand British tradition, described by friends as "a first-rate oddity," predicting ionospheric reflection of radio waves 22 years before it could be proved, patenting coaxial cable in 1880 (!) and inventing the method of inductive loading telegraph and telephone lines to increase the distance signals could travel without suffering distortion.  --And he loved "scorching," pushing a bicycle as fast as possible on hilly roads, often at considerable risk to himself.

     He predicted Cherenkov radiation in the 19th century and engaged in what can only be described as flame wars in the scientific press; despite living in poverty, he passed up several awards and offers of payment when he felt his contribution was misunderstood or misrepresented.

     In short, he was a proto-geek, often socially isolated, who chose to spend great slabs of time alone, working out things that only a few other people really understood at the time.  If you work in electronics, you've encountered the terms and concepts impedance, admittance, reluctance, conductance, permeability, permittance and electret* -- all of the words (as terms of art) and most of the concepts first used by Heaviside.

     Slightly deaf, with bright red hair and intense eyes, Oliver Heaviside was a geeks' geek, a solitary genius of the kind rarely seen.  He helped build your world and it's likely you've barely heard of him.
* Yet another Heaviside notion that no one managed to put to work until decades later, when Gerhard Sessler and the real James West (!) invented the first practical electret microphone in 1962. There's probably one in your telephone right now.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

The Dangers Of Spoonerism

     You've got to be careful with that stuff, Mrs. Malaprop!  Sure, "Dallas Cowboy" cheerleaders are all cute, but "Callous Doughboy" cheerleaders are a bunch of harsh, flea-bitten dudes in well-worn WWI uniforms who show up, bayonet the rest of the cast of the half-time show, beat the stuffing out of anyone who objects and then leave.

I Am Awake

     Overslept, the electric blanket is on the fritz, an important drain stopped up (and I cleared it), cleaned up, started laundry, cooked a little breakfast and now I'm waiting for "Gabby Giffords' astronaut husband"[1] to show up on Meet The Press and explain how he isn't planning to take (all) my guns away (yet).

     Ew, just had to sit through 20 seconds of Chris Matthews explaining how mean ol' 'pubs are the only thing preventing Mr. Obama from creating Jerusalem in (our) green and pleasant land.[2]  Riiiiiight.  'Cos any pol or group of them, ever, could bring us on the jubilee.

     The Mark Kelly interview went exactly as expected.  Him and Bloomberg, the new Other Side.
1. That's gotta rank right down there with being "Mr. Ayn Rand," although -- and I'm sad for her about it -- there's about zero chance Mark will ever be as thoroughly overshadowed as Frank


3. Which reminds me of a fascinating Ward Moore book, possibly about being careful what you wish for on a couple of levels.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

H&R .22 Top-Break Revolver

     Added to the .22 revolver collection at last, an H&R .22 top-break.  It's a seven-shooter.  Based on information found here, it is probably a Premier No. 30, 6th variation, made between 1916 and 1924.  It's the 6" barrel version, blued, marked "22 RIM FIRE" so I may need to be careful what I shoot in it; the ads list .22 Short and .22 Long, not Long Rifle.  Still,the finish is in good shape other than some rust in the front of the grip frame, right where one's middle finger wraps around.  There's a nasty chip missing from the stocks, but I don't think it will affect shootability.

     Not the 999 I'd like to find but an H&R top-break .22 nonetheless.  With the Bekeart-type grips, it's like a slender version of my Iver Johnson top-break .22s.

     It's about time for me to do another .22 revolver photo-roundup.

Mathematics And Culture: "It's Beautiful"

     Russell Peters, on the kewlest thing his ancestors invented, and why:
      Yep.  What he said.  And that's why a diverse world is good -- or you'd've had to learn long division with Roman numerals.  Trust me, that you don't want.  Not even.

     (I may have posted this before.  It's timeless.)

     ETA: An interesting 40-minute interview, "India Questions Russell Peters," with a little more background on his comedy and some digressions into his take on accents -- "Everybody has an accent." -- with the surprising to me assertion that a "Indian" lilt is somehow unattractive. ...While there's as much regional variation in the Indian version of our patched-together common language as can be heard in the States, I find the entire subcontinental approach to it pleasantly musical.  Sometimes my Midwestern ears take extra effort to get in sync but oh well, it's not as if I don't have the same problem with the more-rapid subset of New England Yankee-speak and the occasional Southern word that comes out completely different than expected, too.*  --Sheesh, our various and assorted regional and individual accents are what lend flavor and impact to speech; it'd be a much poorer world without them.
* Some years ago, on Tamara's first visit to the original location of Boogie Burgers, Tam and I looked across the street to the Shaved Ice stand along the Monon Trail and for unknown reasons, read their sign aloud in near unison, using a Hollywood "Southern" dialect and immediately broke into a helpless fit of the giggles.

Atlas...Scratched His Head

      A: "I can't use this new uplink!  It only tells the output in dBm!"

      B: "Oh, come on -- it's just deciBels referenced to a milliWatt.  +30 is one Watt, the power doubles for every 3dB increase, 10 x for every ten dB.  Easy."

     A:  "I'll never remember that!"

     B: "Okay, it's basic, just like in school, 10 log (P1/P2), right?  And you know the reference is a milliWatt, so all you do is work it backwards, simple algebraic manipulation."

     A: Deer-in-headlights look, "But I never took algebra."

     B: Slowly, "Divide the power in dBm by 10; raise ten to the result and divide the answer by a thousand, done."

     A: Utter panic.  "Can't you make us a chart?"

     B: Defeatedly.  "A chart.  Sure.  I'll do that."

     C: (to A): "Or you could just use a smartphone ap.  That's what I do."

     A: "What if I don't have my phone?"

     B: "What if you lose the chart?"

*  *  *

     The chart is posted -- printed on a self-adhesive plastic label, stuck right above the offending "dBm" readout.  Do you suppose they'll catch on that the the "Watts" digits repeat every ten dB with the decimal shifted?

...Yeah, me neither.

Friday, February 15, 2013

"Senator Donnelly Breaks With His Party Over State Of The Union...:"

     That's what the television told me, right before going to commercials (I'm pretty sure my brand-new Cheforyota has more fiber than the other cars and will be whiter than white with fifty percent fewer cavities for President's Day but I might not've been paying close attention, I was so excited).  Wowzers, ol' Triangulator Joe finally grew a spine on the gun issue?

     He's been trying to saw that baby in half: No, no, no for a new scary-black-rifle ban but yes, yes, yes for universal regis- er, background checks and [inaudible mutter] on magazine capacity, last time I checked.  And now it looked as if he'd picked a side -- my side!

     Or had he?

     Don't count your chickens before they come home to roost: the dancing Presidents waltzed away,*the station logo popped up, the happy talking heads came back and they told me Joe Donnelly had had enough with Federal preschool.  He wasn't gonna go along with President Obama's plans to get a zillion four-year-olds into the tender claws of a loving State, nosireeebob: that's a local matter, it is, and he would work with local officials, not vote down the the full might of Feds on their toddlers and school-tax bills.

     Um, thanks?  Me, I'm all for separation of School and State, as long as we can still make 'em play nice and colorblind but given where the fire and ire in the State of the Union was directed, it seems a  It reeks of prestidigitation and leaves me wondering what it might be that Our Junior Senators doesn't want to talk about.

     Whatever could it possibly be?
* I'm hardly a worshipper of The State And Its Leaders but I wouldn't cross the street to spit on the guy who thunk up the "dancing Washington and Lincoln" schtick for President's Day sale ads, even if he was on fire and I'd be paid to do it.  It's just not right.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Ed Rasimus

     We lost Ed Rasimus at the end of January and I haven't said anything here.  It's been gnawing at me; he was among my favorite people online and I always intended to read his books.  Never got around to it; I will now but it's too darned late to tell him.

     Godspeed, Ed.

     I haven't got anything to offer in memorial but my own writing and a berth for him on the Hidden Frontier.

Drones On A Starship?

     Hey, if they'll put snakes on a plane...!

      A new historical vignette at I Work On A Starship:
     When you see a skinny geek with bad digestion striding along with that "pilot" look in his eyes, or a smiling, tiny young woman in a powered wheelchair talking shop with a squirt-booster driver or a rigger, you've found yourself a remote op.  On a civilian starship like Lupine, you're sure not going to be able to ID them by their collar pin: they won't wear them.

     Read the rest here.

Medals For Drone Pilots?

     LOLwhut?  For what, exactly, "...bold action in blowing up Achmed Badguy, Mrs. Budguys #2 and 3, a dozen little Badguys ranging in age from 3 to 19 and most of a 2011 Mercedes, despite a really huge boil on his hinder parts and a raging case of hemorrhoids during a sunny, warm April afternoon while the coffee machine was broken and none of his buddies could spare a buck for the pop machine, W/O J. Random Geek is hereby awarded this Distinguished Award For Outstanding Sitzfleisch ....," a medal that ranks a bit higher than the lowest one awarded for doing brave things while actual hostile forces are actually shooting at your actual self with actual bullets, using IEDs, etc.

     Not just no but Hells no.  I'm still trying to make up my mind if some drone uses ought to rate war crimes trials and the Pentagon wants to hand out real medal-type-medals for playing a video game that kills people by very remote control?

     (Note, you can also get this here decoration for valorous hacking, possibly with Jolt-can clusters.  Everyone knows the really good hackers are motivated by general-public glory, right?  Just ask Anonymous!)

     Drone pilots do well?  Great.  Buy 'em dinner.  Send 'em to a movie.  Write them up in the Base newspaper, just like you would a clerk or an IT tech serving far behind the lines.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

'Cos I Are A Poet

In a world where daVinci (so cute)
Gave us the first parachute
I hope that galoots
Invented ballutes.

     (You want to see kewl?  Oh, we have got ballute-kewl!)

The Political Class/Tooting Horns

     Think back to High School -- remember those obnoxious twits who ran Student Government?  Vain, shallow and ignorant of most anything but tennis and how to get votes?  How come is it that we ever believe they've gotten any wiser now that they're all grown up?

     I live-blogged the SOTU last night and made a stab at doing the same for Mr. Rubio's reply (which I found even more devoid of content than the original, though at least he sounded feisty.)

     Nacherly, the President declared war on our gun rights in his speech, repeating the same distortions and lies that have fueled the current efforts and asking for "a vote" on gun bans, magazine bans and "universal background checks" (a dogwhistle for registration).  The NRA's got a reply to that, and an appeal to call your Congressthing, at (202) 224-3121 and tell them to vote NO on gun control.  And you can buy the T-shirt, Turk Turon's clever updating of the Revolutionary War plea for unity (all profits go to NRA!).

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

The Other Side (GOP Rebuttal)

     Oh, this should be rich...

     Starts a little more personally, as befits the much more intimate setting.

     Personal immigration story -- and his is a good one.  Opened with general comments on social mobility in the U.S., moves onto his, cites free markets as the reason and contrasts that with the President's, "tax more, borrow more and spend more."

     Damn, he talks purty.  Sure wish his party did more of what they talk about: smallerizing gummint.

     Whackin' on ObamaCare.  And he's not making up the problems some businesses are having affording compliance.  It's true.  How widespread, I don't know.

     Says the Prez won't fight fair.  --Well, sir, that's how politics works.  Say it but please don't whine.

     Ah, he's not -- hits his middle-class, immigrant roots again.  "I oppose your plans because I want to protect my neighbors -- hard-working, middle-class..."  Oh, please don't be hyping, this will be fact-checked.

     Says the President's tax-increase for deficit reduction numbers are unrealistic.

     He want the energy sector to grow, too.  Now on how, there's disagreement.  Well, there would be.

     ...Pushing for better schools, etc.  Standard stuff, really only varies from the President in details.  This is why I'm an LP voter.

      Student loans....  Yeah, that's a puzzler and all the worse for the lack of jobs for the freshly-degreed.

     Onto the deficit again.  We're all mild white fish: scrod.  Of course, he doesn't quite say that.

    Pledges how he loves the MediCare.  'Cos old people will mess you up bad if you don't.

     "Accountable, efficient and effective government."  Roll back to the 1903 version, please.  Bonus: that's before that bastard Wilson segregated it, too.

     Oh feh, pious plea for bipartisanship.  Et tu, Rubio?  C'mon, I send men and women to Washington to spar with one another, not hold hands and sing songs.

     More sob stories.  With hope!

     (This thing is even more content-free than the President's.  He's kind of channeling Reagan lite.)

     Could have sucked worse.  But not Mention One of the Second Amendment.  Sigh.

State Of The Union: I Tried To Wash Dishes Instead

     Ran myself out of soap for the dishwasher and did the dishes by hand -- and still got done before the SOTU clambake and soiree.

     Thus far, Himself is paraphrasing the opening of the Orson Welles production of The War of the Worlds: "The war scare was over.  More men were back at work..."  BS, BS...

     Oh, my, cites "rising corporate profits" as a bad thing!   Zero-sum economics.  :(

     Wait, he wants children to become entrepreneurs?

     Ew, calling for selfless bipartisanship?  Mr. Divisive?

     Wants to get a budget.  Yeah, goooood luck.  Not, I note, a balanced one.

     Fear-mongering over those eeeeeevil cuts they're a-gonna get, if they don't gin up a budget.  The stick!  Any carrot?

     Nope, more stick -- "Yikes, they'll cut MediCare and Social Security!"  But he says he's kewl with "modest reforms."

     ...Especially if he gets to sock the rich good 'n hard!  ::Yawn::

     Pimping the Affordable Health Care Scam.   Yah, yew betcha.

     Reforms okay -- but the Iron Rice Bowl (look it up) must stand!

    No more loopholes or deductions "for the well-off and the well-connected."  That's me -- when the Dems tax the rich, I'm rich; when poor folk are told to suck it up and shaddup, I'm poor.  This is modern "middle class."

     "Shoulder to shoulder" noise about "tax reform," a/k/a higher taxes for the rich -- see above.

     "The People's Government."  Yowza.   Oh, us "the People," we're gems.  Unless we have guns or the Mary Juawanna, of course.  Or Sudafed.

     More Iron Rice Bowl noise.  Back-patting over his new New Deal.

      BRB, gotta go barf.

     "Apple will start making Macs in America again!"  Do they even still make "Macs?"

     Pushing the Military-Industrial Complex as an agent of recovery.   Gawd, he is Dick Nixon.

     Pushing Fed-funded high-tech.  Solyndra, anyone?

     America is producing natural gas?  It's all those beans.  And fracking.   Odd, I thought fracking was bad on the Left?

     Anthropogenic climate change fear-mongering.  He will save us single-handedly if Congress won't!  Captain PLANET!!!  (Never mind the correlation with solar output.)

     ..."New oil and gas permits?"  Yeah, where?   And he wants to sell 'em to fund an "energy trust" to invent magic alternatives.  'Cos governments are soooooo innovative.

    Blue-sky SF maundering.  Bo-ring.  Yeah, fix the damn bridges.

    More War of the Worlds paraphrase.  Oh, and Uncle Sam is gonna put a thumb on the scales of home-lending again.  'Cos it worked so well last time -- 2008, anyone?  "Why would we be against that?"  Geez, you idiot.

     "Give me the child and I'll give you the man:" Fed-funded pre-school!   Hooray!  Fill up those tiny minds! With Fed-worship!  Gotta go barf again.

      Eff-all about things like tryin' to encourage families to stay together....  Naw.  Preschool will fix it.  More paint chips, Billy?

     High School diploma as a ticket to a real job?  Only if the jobs are there, Mr. President.     

     Pushing the "affordability" of college, and blamin' those horrid profiteers at the nation's colleges; the Feds will fix it by bargain-shopping and steering grants to the "best bang for the buck."  Econ 101: guess what that will do to the price?  He can't.

     Aha, now we're onto immigration reform.  "More boots on the southern border!"  And more free rifles for the other side?  Plus that "back of the line" bilge.  A little web-search reveals this to be nonsensical.  But don't it sound good?  (Mind you, I figure if you can get here, get a job and work hard, you qualify for citizenship; but I'm a starry-eyed dreamer.)

     Now he's tellin' Us Wimmens what he would do for us, if only the House would bend to his will.   Too late, pal, I make more than most of the boys in my department.

     Minimum wage...he wants to raise it.  More jobs lost!  But hey, for every new bum-and-a-half, one-third of a minimum-wage worker will finally not qualify for food stamps!Wants to tie it to the cost of living -- as calculated by Social Security?  (Look it up, they fudge the index.)

     "More men should be back at work."  Welles, you are lucky you died when you did.

     Heyyyy -- actually talking about de-incentivizing single-parent homes for low-incomes!  Okay, please do.

     Salutes the troops.  Yep, you better.  Says we can win in Afghanistan and bring the troops home.  Hey, 50% is a pretty good batting average, right?  And he promises to have the war over by the end of next year!  Hear that, Al Queada? Taliban?  That's how long you have to hold out!  --Idiot.

      Says more handouts will prevent the need for more wars against the goat-herding savages.  Appeasement!  Sure.

     Says they'll be drone-killing and detaining indefinitely in accordance with U. S. law. whoopee!

     Tweaks the Norks, good on him for that.  Tweaking Iran, too, like they'll notice over the very loud crazy?

     Oh, cyber attacks.  Gah, I thought he said cybog.   Real world: if you can get to it over Teh Innernet, people will.  People you don't want to. Heck, it's vulnerable even isolated, if you let people blug in their media (thumb drives, etc.).

     NAFTA, North Atlantic style.  Is that a giant sucking sound, H. Ross?

     More shiny BS.  But wow, just like a Norman Rockweel painting -- and he'll cure AIDS!   WTF???

     U.S. as a shining beacon of freedom and democracy.  As long as his party gets to define "freedom and democracy."

     Says the U. S. will stad steadfast with Israel.  Louder, sir, I don't think theyre any too sure about that.

     "We will maintain the best military the world has ever known."  Well, y'need that if you try to police the world, but, um, "standing armies," sir.  Ah, support for LGB troops.   Already did that, didn't you?

     Big kissy for ol' Joe Biden.  Just like a dog, that one.  Ack, dog germs.

     ...Voting.  OMG, unscrew the lid on that partisan can of worms?  Long lines at the polls as a bad thing.  So they're gonna "improve the voting experience."  Not "improve voting."  So...snack bar?  Valte parking?  Background music?  Get less nasty evil peoples like me to show up?

     Oh, screw me, he's onto guns now.

     "Background checks" --Which his own Justice Department says can't work without registration.

     AWB/magazing capacity ban -- which his own Justice Department says won't work without "mandatory by-backs."  Confiscation, in other words.

     Blood-dancing over the poor little girl who performed at the Inauguration and got sent back to Chicago to be shot in a park "Just two blocks from my house."  In gun-controlled Chicago, with every law the Pesident says will fix this....  Doublethink much?

     Litany of mass shootings, as if that justifies gun-grabs.  Hey, I didn't do them.  My guns didn't, either, so why do you want to take them?

    Cheering individuals who Do Good. (unrelated to his gun hangup, too!) Okay, give him that, someone otta.

     Spoke too soon -- now mentions the police officer who took on the bad guy at the Sikh temple.  We're kinda on the same side in considering that cop a hero.

     Weird riffing on "citizenship."  Which you should'a learned in Civics.

     Thank you!  God bless you, and God bless the United States of America.   All done.

     Could have sucked more.

     Media latching onto guns like vampires on a hemophiliac.  Cripes.

      Guns, guns, guns.  Pundits admitting "a vote" is about all the mad dreams of the anti-gunners are gonna get.  CALL CONGRESS!  Tell 'em to say NO to gun-control: 202 224-3121.

     And now it's the festival of economic ignorance.  Can any of these newsies balance their own checkbook?

     Must call it a night.  Talking heads are making me queasy.

Gunnies Must All Hang Together

...Or the .gov and astroturfing anti yammerheads will hang us separately.  If you're thinking, "They'll never come after my skeet gun," think again.  Turk Turon has updated a classic image from the past and put it on a T-shirt!

Profits go to NRA.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Iron Sky!

     Thanks to Unk's review, I found out Iron Sky was available for home viewing and watched it on the Roku  tonight.  --Not quite the film I was expecting but in many ways better.  Oh, it's a bit of a B movie and most -- maybe all -- of the characters are preposterous caricatures, but it's a (dark) comedy, after all.  (It ends on a very dark note,  but by then you're looking at the entire human race in half-shocked, half-amused laughter anyway.) As science fiction movies go, it's pretty good -- plenty of well-assorted widgetry, almost no stopping to explain any of it; the players take it for granted, just as they should.

     There are a number of call-outs to other films, one of which was laugh-out-loud funny.

     If you don't mind the U.S. government being as much the butt of the joke as the bad guys are, it's an enjoyable movie.  Unk called it "so bad it's good," and it is right over the top, with impossibly compressed time scales and violations of orbital physics galore; but for all of that, more pretentious SF films could learn a thing or two from Iron Sky and I hope they do.

     Somebody'd better be optioning Heinlein and C. J. Cherryh.  These days, film industry has the technology to do those stories right.  I sure wish they would.

Feeding Strays: Indianapolis Motor Speedway Wants To Go On The Dole

     Yep: the 500-mile Speedway, a venerable private-enterprise success, is asking for public funds to light the place up for night racing -- oh, and add more ramps and accessibility features, the same thing the corner store has had to do without asking for a handout.

     The local basketball and football teams are already on public assistance; neither the Colts nor the pacers would be viable efforts without a lot of freebies, including not only venues free for nothing but a huge share of all of the revenue from them, not merely their own ticket sales.

     It's like feeding stray cats: the longer you do it, the more show up.  Around here, most of the stray-feeders also get the feral critters spayed or neutered -- but it's hard to see how that scales up to professional sports.

     When socialism comes to the Midwest, it's wearing team colors and waving a checkered, talking nonsense about "prestige" and "civic pride."  --'Cos a bunch of guys not from here, any one of which would bail without a backward glance when offered a better deal, somehow reflects glory onto me?  Sports success: can't eat it, smoke it, date it or even take it to the bank: sports teams and their various venues are generally revenue-neutral or worse, actual money-losers for the host community.  The Speedway was a rare exception and if it can't pay its own way now, they need to be looking at some other use for that big old patch of land, not sniffing around for taxpayer-funded handouts with the other vagrants.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Paranoia In D.C.

     M-1s without bolts at the Inauguration?  This does not seem to have been the usual thing until the most recent ceremony.

      What, suddenly we're Egypt?

    You keep it classy, Mr. Obama -- or whoever it was that decided the armed forces of this country had better not be trusted with intact ceremonial rifles around the President.

     I keep invoking Richard M. Nixon -- another President who neither liked nor much trusted the American people (and whose thoughts on private ownership of firearms* ran parallel those of the current Occupant of 1600 Penna.) -- but the level of paranoid distrust seen here makes Tricky Dick look like a babe in the woods, a piker with a clumsy PR team.
* It's so cute that some antis assume that if a well-known Republican, like Presidents Nixon and Regan, can be shown to have said something favoring gun control at some point in their careers, Second Amendment supporters will somehow be converted or silenced by it.  Wrong; it doesn't work that way -- and what does it say about the people who think it will? 

You're Living In The Future

     And some folks want you to live in a post-scarcity economy:

     I like this.

Saturday, February 09, 2013

The Gravel Must Roll!

     So, I'd followed the "Space marines" thing as far as the Wikipedia article on Robert* Anson Heinlein and been diverted, as I often am, to the Google Maps view of his self-designed home off Bonny Doon Road.  It is recognizably the original for Jubal Harshaw's house, albeit on a slightly smaller scale.

     I'd turned on "photos" and was zooming out, hoping someone had posted street-level views of the place, when a couple of long, straight lines caught my eye, one with a photo thumbnail atop it: it's the "Coast Dairies (?) Conveyor Belt," carrying limestone to a cement plant on the coast.  The quarry appears to have been locally contentious and I'm not even sure it's still operating, but you do have to wonder how the man who wrote The Roads Must Roll decades earlier took to having such a long moving way right there on the other side of a hill or two.

     (ETA: Beseems I must explain that "decades earlier" refers to the relative chronology of story and house, the latter having been built long after the story was published.  Written, I think, during RAH's first California sojourn. The Bonny Doon home was built after their leaving the Colorado Springs house -- Mrs. Heinlein not doing well a mile up and neither of them entirely pleased that their miles-from-any-target home was, of a sudden, sharing Cheyenne Mountain with a very tempting target indeed.  What good is that nice fallout shelter at Ground Zero?  Anyway, I thought this was clear enough from context....)
* If one's own first name happens to be "Roberta," it is all but impossible to type "Robert" without having to invoke the backspace key.

Of Course, You Know This Means WAR! With Space Marines!

     Games Workshop doesn't know it, but they're messin' in my patch.  They believe they own the term "space marine" and they've sued an author over her use of their trademarked term in  her novel, Spots the Space Marine.  Amazon received a takedown notice (nonsense, as DCMA takedown notices apply only over matters of copyright), took it down and has since reinstated it, thanks to the work of the Electronic Frontier Foundation.*

     All unbeknownst to me, but while E. E. "Doc" Smith and Robert A. Heinein would be hard to hale into court over their space marines, me and my Far Edge semi-private enterprise Mil/Space fighters, commonly (though erroneously)  referred to by USSF/NATO forces and even regular folks on their side of the "border" as Space Marines, are only too vulnerable.

     Maybe it's good to be too insignificant to sue but that was close one.  The (don't don't don't say "Bat Signal," it's a trademark issue), er, alarum was raised, early and loud, but the war between the nail-everything-down mercantilist corporate forces and creative folk who want the entire language out there, unshackled and ready for use, rages on.

     Can't let the bastids grind us down. "Illegitimi Non Carborundum," as Mr. Twain so elequently put it, despite having to invent his own Latin word to do the job.

     Oh, yeah, I bought a copy of the book.  Amazon link at Tam's, friends.

     ETA: Turns out there are a couple dozen genuine, real-life, sho'nuf Space Marines (USMC, NASA) to whom this trademarking would come as a surprise, too. Y'know, that's not a group to irk casually.
* EFF is to online First Amendment issues as NRA is to Second Amendment issues, complete with their own 800-pound gorrilage.

I Thought It Might Be A Movement

     Heading out to pick up some rental equipment Thursday, I was driving though one of the hardscabble neighborhoods on the East Side when a sparkling-clean medium-sized building caught my attention.  Shiny with red, off-white and dark-blue paint, the name SANDPAPER AMERICA in huge letters was the only marking other than the street number.

     ...It  didn't look like a company logo.*  Sandpapering America seemed like an awfully big job.   Maybe it's some outfit that wants us to be more sensitive to one another?  Or could it be a literal imperative? I've sandpapered a little bit of America myself, if furniture and the occasional interior door count, but that hardly, er, scratches the surface.

     Nope, wrong and wronger: it's a local success story!  Sandpaper America is a local manufacturer of high-quality sanding belts and wheels.  (And I'll leave it to them to explain about the Wolf Head Sander, which is another of those phrases that strikes my mind's ear oddly.   Don't sand that wolf's head, kid, it'll bite ya if you try!)
* They do have a perfectly good one.  Maybe it's on the front door and I just missed it.

Sorry, Gang

     I woke up several times this morning, each time with a worse headache and backache.  I know the cause of the latter: a lot of walking in heavy boots, the contortions necessary to install a plumber's nightmare of waveguide in a very tight space and lifting a massive old spectrum analyzer in and out of a, h'mm, lets call it box truck that contains a Ku-band transmitter, 'cos the real Hidden Frontier truth is just too classified to reveal.

     All that aside, I am just now vertical, hurting and so photophobic I'm typing in the dark.  It's a beautiful, sunny day out there and it hurts to peer at it through sunglasses, squinting.  Ow.  Ow, ow ow.

Friday, February 08, 2013

Can't Make It Up

     Someone just hit my blog searching for "How to make a Cheese Raygun." 

     Lookit, I was semi-okay with nerve gas and thermonuclear bombs, but the Cheese Raygun is simply unthinkable.  Stop now, I implore you, before you unleash such a horror on an unsuspecting world.

Dear Mass Media

     So tell me, please, why is is that when a crazed Right-wingish ex-mil guy in Alabama kills a bus driver, takes a child hostage and holes up in a bunker, his (probable) political leanings play a big ol' part in the story despite there being no sign so far of a manifesto or statement outlining them, but when a crazed Left-wingish,  ex-mil, ex-cop guy in California kills two or three people, threatens thousands more, leaves a trail of crime and damage across the state and drops out of sight, his politics get little or no mention even though he left a 22 page screed on Facebook, including gems like predicting Hillary Clinton will make a great President and expressing support for Senator Feinstein's latest gun-control bill?

     I mean, c'mon, either the politics of lunatic killers are of significance and interest, or they aren't; you don't get to bury it just because it might embarrass your side.  --That's not a plea or a reminder, it's a fact.  Welcome to the internet, mass media, and by the way:

     California Killer Cop A Staunch Democrat!

     Now, willya please just go back to your printing presses, microphones and cameras and try to remember to report the facts? All the facts?

Brekky, Friday

     A dab of bacon, a "breakfast steak" (well-marbled filet mignon, split), fried egg, toast and half a blood orange, served like grapefruit.  Yum!

     I highly recommend the "split filet" trick, which provides a much better breakfast steak than any you can buy.  The price works out to very little more.  And blood oranges are outstanding as "mini-grapefruit!"

Thursday, February 07, 2013

Doubling Down On The Overreach

Nancy Pelosi wants "the boldest possible" antigun legislation.  Yeah, sure, swing for the fences, Nan.

     ...So, will you please write or call your Congressthing now?  She wants to play for keepsies.

"I did it. I bought a gun."

     It was one of my co-workers speaking, a man some years ex-military, politically conservative, the kind of guy whose neighbors probably figured already had a gun.

     Technically they were right; he'd bought a shotgun the previous month, figuring if the bans came down he'd at least have something.  He'd certainly been talking about buying a handgun for a couple of years.  As the weeks rolled by and the antis grew more strident, he'd called his Senators and even his Representative (at least for the record, his man in the House being Andre Carson, who is rather more the President's man) and was considering applying for a carry permit,* at which point he was going to need something to carry.

     I'd advised starting with a .22; sure, he'd shot a Beretta 92 in the service, but that was years ago.  A good .22 handgun is cheaper to shoot, less likely to inculcate a flinch in the self-taught shooter and there's a ready market for them when it's time to move up.  But they're marginal at best for self-defense and by the time my co-worker went to buy a gun, the gun store shelves were getting pretty bare: ammo, guns, all in small and dwindling supply.  Selling faster than supply.  He figured now was the time, and bought a name-brand polymer handgun in a grown-up caliber.

     So far, so good; he's a pretty big guy and plenty strong, with previous experience so his muscles know what to expect in the way of recoil.  Given the givens, it's a suitable choice.

     ...Except for one thing: he may not get much of a chance to shoot it.  While the store did still have some selection of good quality handguns, when it came to handgun ammo in popular calibers, the shelves were bare.  The range from .380 to .45ACP was empty.  If this goes on, collectors like Tam and to a lesser extent me will still have 7.62 Nagant, .32SWL, .38S&W or .44 Russian (etc.) for self-defense, but the guy with a shiny new 9 or a .45 might be scramblin' until the supply catches up to demand.

     There are problems with that.  Issues of self-defense aside. a guy with a Glock collecting lint in his sock drawer is not as apt to be politically engaged and he's certainly not in class at the range, learning good habits and marksmanship.

     Do what you can.  If you've got plenty saved back, spare a box for new shooters.  If you can find the time, help new shooters at the range.  Teach good gun-handling -- and where to look up the name of Congresscritters.

     We're getting an influx of new shooters.  Let's make sure they stay.  We need their voices and their votes.  I believe it's better to have plenty of allies than more ammo stockpiled than I can shoot in a year. You can only shoot each round once, but people vote year after year.

     Want to keep your guns?  Share your ammo.  Be a friend.
* Indiana's is the License To Carry Handgun, a shall-issue permit.  There is no requirement to conceal and no provision for open-carry without a permit: if you want to carry a loaded handgun in Indiana, you need a permit.  Already have one from your state?  Then you're good here; our State legislature understands the "full faith and credence" clause.

Wednesday, February 06, 2013

Toys Like You Had

     Remember those neat-o toy guns from your childhood?  The wood-and-metal bolt-action rifle that had a painted-wooden "bullet" visible when you opened the bolt? (My baby brother had one)  How about cap guns?*

     They're still around.  I mentioned the rifles to Tam, reading someone's comments on  their relatively gun-free childhood and she remarked, "Oh, those rifles!  I still remember that they were made by some company called 'Parris.'"

     ...And they still are.  Retail site here.  Toys just like you grew up with!  (Except for those orange barrel tips).

     Some people -- some gunnies -- are not comfortable with the idea of toy guns.  There are people who believe they encourage an overly-casual attitude towards firearms and that is a decision parents must make for their own families.  I know the distinction between toys and the never-to-be-touched Real Thing was made early on in my family, and as us kids got older, my Dad started making mention of how to carry the little wooden toy rifle and where it should not be pointing, half-joking at first and a little more seriously as we got older. (I don't remember him ever much worrying about the all-metal, solid-barrel cap guns, which were hard to take seriously as "firearms.") By the time I had started shooting a real bow with target-type arrows and baby brother's first spring-powered BB gun had shown up, we were ready for serious safety instruction and we got it.  But that's just one approach.
* There were cap guns around as far back as I can remember, growing up.  Make of it what you will; that was in the days of paper-roll caps, when I'd get fed up with the lousy feed mechanism in the cap gun and use a hammer and a concrete block to make the caps go "bang!"  Yes, I was a childhood gunpowder junkie; I've admitted it and I feel better. for having done so.

Sunday BlogMeet Report

     ...Which I have somehow omitted.  A fair turnout, for a chilly, odd  day: sunlight and snow flurries, by turns.

     Old Grouch, the Jack, the Shomes (Mr. and Mrs.!), Fuzzy Curmudgeon, Don, Joanna, Tam and Yr. Crspndt., plus good pub grub and a surprisingly untattooed waiter.  (Hey, it happens; he probably has a nice big backpiece or something.)

     See you next time?

Tuesday, February 05, 2013


For the record: two slices of sourdough French Toast, half a blood orange (sliced), a taste of bacon, half a small tomato (lightly fried -- man, that's good with bacon!), coffee and juice.  Because I can.

NSSF: Nicely Done

     They have some advice for the Skeeter-in-Chief.  His form may be pure noob but NSSF has an excellent stance.

Monday, February 04, 2013

Persistent Lies

     For whatever reason, I found myself arguing with idiots and anti-gunners (but I repeat myself!) over the weekend and I noticed several versions of a persistent lie cropping up.

     The simplest version is the Feinstein Fallacy: that some scary-looking semiautomatic rifles are far more dangerous than other guns.  Yes, you and I know it's total nonsense, but J. Random Never-touched-a-gun sees that weird-lookin' gun, all flat black, flat dark earth, O.D. green and/or desert tan, slathered in rails and incomprehensible adjustments and bristling with accessories, and he or she is more than willing to credit the thing with the power to "blow a man's head clean off" while still regarding Uncle Jim's .44-40 lever-action hunting rifle as a friendly, familiar object.  Wrong on both counts -- "Is gun.  Is dangerous," as the old line has it -- but it's a tough point to get across.  If you can trust a person with .22 rimfire or a shotgun, you can trust 'em with a .223 and if you can't, why're they walking around without a keeper?

     The "advanced" version is even more pernicious and consists of sly insinuation that the rifles used in infamous mass shootings were in some way modified for extra deadliness, typically implying full-auto operation.  It's not true -- once again, you and I know that it's not so simple to do and a Federal felony as well, which dissuades most sane persons from trying.  I doubt the likelihood of criminal charges slows down the average murderous madman but the degree of difficulty certainly does.

     Both of these ideas frequently crop up in emotion-laden discussions, in which logic is ridiculed as "heartless" and any notion of armed defense scorned as impossible.  But they've got to be countered nevertheless.

Sunday, February 03, 2013

Fisk This

Some nasty propaganda from the other side, awaiting the fisking-table:

     Mother Jones: 10 Pro-Gun Myths, Shot Down.  Bonus: includes their already-discredited claim that no "armed civilian* has stopped a mass shooting," thanks to their setting the definition of "mass" at "four or more" and ignoring the expressed or implied intent of the would-be mass shooter.  See also the cherry-picked scattergram under Item 2, complete with incorrectly-described (and biased!) source material.  (You'll find more recent and better-documented scattergrams in the back numbers at Sebastian and Bitter's blog.)

     A very nasty hack-job under the title "The Second Amendment was Ratified to Preserve Slavery" simply begs to be taken apart.  A thin collection of largely out-of-context quotes tries to prop up a tortured reading of the word "State" in the Second Amendment; things go downhill from there.  The thesis seems to be that if the 2A can be shown to have been added in support of slave-revolt suppressing militias, why, then, the Amendement must be altogether bad -- even though these days, it supports the right of all of us to keep and bear arms without regard to race or ethnicity.  (The editors there appear to delete any effective refutation of their nasty little notion, by the way.)

     Fisk away, my friends.
* MJ appears to believe the police are not "civilians."  Funny, I find no mention of them among Uncle Sam's seven uniformed services

Overslept, Again/Blogmeet

     I must have needed it.

     Remember, there's a BlogMeet this afternoon.

Saturday, February 02, 2013

Clint Van Zandt, Saint

     So here's Clint, Subject-Matter Expert on the morning news; and here's the Network News Guy, going on and on about the police response to the hostage over footage showing .mil-looking SWAT teams swarming over the location.

     Clint: "...He's got a TV in the bunker, so we may be talking to him now, while negotiators are building trust...  The little boy is unharmed.  This man is a veteran, he probably didn't mean to shoot anyone..." (et calming cetera.)

     TV News Guy muses aloud that this sort of thing usually ends in gunfire, "and not like in a TV show."

     Clint: "The hostage-taker and child are safe right now and let's have faith in the talking cure; he may have some statement he wants to have heard..."

     TV News Guy continues in the whole shot-by-policemen vein/only one possible ending to this, oblivious, and then cuts to commercial.  If Van Zandt didn't grab that dimwit by the throat and give him the what-for as soon as the "On Air" lights went out, then he's even more of a saint.

     Hey, stupid: he's got a TV in the bunker.  And you're on the TV.   Possibly even on that TV. Whyn't you refrain from from making things worse by idle talk and instead follow your hired expert's lead?

The Moon Is Down

     Claire Wolfe recommended The Moon Is Down a few days ago.  It's a Steinbeck novelette set in a small town in Northern Europe starting on the day the conqueror's troops take control.

     It's well-written propaganda from 1942 -- as approved by Wild Bill Donovan!* -- but it could be set in many places and many times.  About any point in history -- trade the rifles and pistols for spears and short swords, and the troops could be from Rome or Babylon.

       While not (I hope!) directly analogous to current events, it certainly contains a valuable lesson, one I hope the Great White Fathers in Washington D.C. are capable of grasping.
* Strange but true.