Friday, May 31, 2013

No Smoke Detector, Saved By Passer-By

     Along Georgetown Road at 12:45 this morning, a passing motorist realized a house was on fire and rather than taking a picture and posting it to F@ceTwitGram or even calling 911 while driving on, he stopped, got out, and hammered on the door until the occupants were awake and exiting the house.

     Mission accomplished, he got in his car and left.  Who was that helpful stranger?  Nobody knows.  But the family whose lives he saved admit they didn't have working smoke detectors; had he not stopped, they would probably all be dead now.

     "If you see something, say something," works way better for Samaritans than snitches.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Breaking News: Ricin To Bloomberg

     Not a baseball play: some yammerhead slopped a bitta ricin on a letter to gun-grabbing NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg, a letter in which his gun-grabbing ways were unfavorably mentioned.

     Hizzoner promptly (and to no one's surprise) announced such tactics would never, ever stop his efforts to remove or reduce one of your inalienable and Constitutionally-protected rights.  He'll shove us peasants back into the mud even if it takes half his fortune to get it done!

     Hey, yammerheads, stop sending the little rat poison.  First, it's wrong; second, it's a crime; third, you will be caught; fourth, it's redundant and fifth, this is not how to win.

     Nope, we -- normal gun-owners that is, not morons smearin' castor-bean extract on their dork-notes -- win by being right and outnumbering him.  On the one side, a gazillionaire and his bought-and-paid-for servants; on the other, five million NRA members and a hundred million law-abiding gun owners.  Ballot box, mail box, soap-box: we can whup 'im right there, with the great big mallet marked First Amendment.

     And we'll whup 'im a lot easier if nit-wits don't go sending literal poison-pen letters to the freedom-hating elitist-in-chief and/or his higher ranking minions.  Stay off my side, dammit.  Don't give 'em any blood to dance in: they like it.  They're good at it.  Victims are their favorite props; they know how to work 'em.  Why make their job easier?

Book Review

     I recently read John Scalzi's The Human Division[1] (on my Kindle, not that Amazon gives me anything to mention this, the chintzy jerks -- hey, Bezos, you promised to spend all my Amazonbux on Blue Origin, remember?).

     It's good stuff, classic SF ideas presented in the modern style.  Set in the same universe as his Old man's War, it (mostly) follows the efforts of a Colonial Union diplomatic team in the aftermath of the split between Earth and CU. My guess would be that some fraction of reviewers will compare it to Keith Laumer's "Retief"[2] short stories; but where Laumer is satirical and sharply critical of most of his diplomat-characters and their organization and the hero triumphs in spite of their pettifogging and myopic focus, Scalzi's crew, for all they are something of a bunch of diplomatic misfits, work doggedly and to the best of their abilities against rather grim odds.  Some of the byplay and dialog -- and the tone -- reminds me of Eric Frank Russell's connected short stories (collected in Men, Martians and Machines) about the adventures of crew of the spaceship Upskadaska City. (Though, of course, there'll never be another Kli Yang or Jay Score).  And Ambassador Abumwe is as nicely drawn a portrait of a difficult, talented, dead-ended high-ranker as I've found in SF.  The ambassador is not our main focus; many of the stories spotlight the work of Harry Wilson, an apparently unambitious Colonial Defense Forces officer and Hart Schmidt, underachieving third-tier bureaucrat.  Jame Retief and Ben Magnan, they're not -- but they get the job done, in plausible,  engagingly-told tales. 

     If you've been following Old Man's War and sequels, you'll get more from this collection than if you haven't -- but if you don't mind starting in the middle, it would make a good introduction to that fictional universe.  Recommended.
1. Or most of it, via the one-story-a-week release schedule.  If you buy the physical book or compiled collection, there's two extra yarns in 'em, all part of How e-Books Kept An Author From Starving In a Garrett.

2. Why hasn't anyone brought Retief to film yet?  He'd out-Bond Bond and leave most movin'-pitchers SF in the dust! Scalzi has at least been optioned; so one can hope for an eventual film. Maybe it won't be Starship Troopers.

Indy 1500 Gun Show

Yes, it's this weekend!

     Tamara is setting up a mini-BlogMeet for Sunday afternoon.  Late word was 3:00 p.m., at Broad Ripple Brew Pub.

Oh, and PS: Thanks to everyone who wished me Happy Birthday!  Wow -- way more than I would have expected.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

So, Yesterday

     Yesterday, it was my birthday.  One of those difficult ones, in between the ones that start with "3" and the ones that start with, "Wow, I can't believe I made it this far!"

     --Except, of course, they're really all in the latter category.  We're every one of us wildly unlikely critters and yet, here we are.  That's worth celebrating.

     Me, I celebrated by going to bed early.  Ah. sleep: the cheapest gift and yet one of the most difficult to acquire, give or indulge in when you really want to.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

....Um, Hello?

     I admit it: I have been ignoring the news.  I got nuthin'.  Oh, overheard this morning that the EU has decided it is oo-tay to sell weapons to the Syrian rebels now -- 'cos there is nothing Unified Europe likes better the World Peace except, maybe, money and a chance to mess with a former colonized area.  Kids, a hornet's nest and a long, long stick--  Okay, a lotta this type "hornet" is already a bee under their bonnet, and maybe swatting's too good for 'em, but y'hate to look.

     At least I do.  So I have not, as mentioned earlier, been seeking out The News.  And yet it's still difficult to avoid.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Overheard In The Kitchen

     While cooking Swedish Pancakes* (because Swedish Pancakes!):

Thing 1: "Y'know, they write about Bathsheba; they write about Beersheba.  But nobody ever writes about Beerbathsheba, who had way more fun."

Thing 2: "Or her cousin Champagne-Shower Sheba, who had even more fun!"

     Ah, Roseholme Cottage, built in 1924 and still alive with the memory of flappers....
* Simplest recipe in the world: a cuppa flour, a cuppa milk, a coupl'a eggs.  Or three.  Pile high and serve with butter and sugar or good jam between each layer, or syrup.  Whatever.

Memorial Day

     I--  Don't have anything fancy to say.  I haven't even got a photograph.  People -- men, women, mostly men -- have gone out and died in service of this country.  Taking one day, even a few minutes of one day, to remember them?  It's grossly disproportionate. 

     But it's something.

     Remember them.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

I Slept Late

     And it felt goooood.

     Meanwhile, the TV has spent all morning showing me the 500-mile race track and all the fans, from celebs to J. Average Guy.
       Interesting (?) personal trivia #1: in the late 1980s, I worked for a radio station that got itself thrown out of the track; the next year, the new owners -- despite having learned of this history -- refused to apply for media passes and location by the deadline and sent me out to make last-minute arrangements.  I did my best but No Dice; guess whose fault that was?
     Interesting (?) personal trivia #2: My first boss in my current job wouldn't send me into any venue like the track on qualification weekend or race day where getting in and out consumed considerable time: "You're on call.  When we need you someplace like the transmitter site, we need you there ASAP."  Ah, the perfect blend of need and inclination: they need me available and I'm little inclined to brave crowds.

     (Is Carol Brady dodging Gomer Pyle?  Nope, she's recovering from pneumonia -- but he's there, to sing "Back Home Again In Indiana" [proving that Hoosiers are tolerant of anyone who will -- and can -- sing our state song]. She's home instead; and she's usually got a musical number, too,  fillin' in for Kate Smith on "God Bless America."  Not good weather today for anyone getting over a lung infection, even without having to belt out that tune.  Conversely, while Jim Nabors looks about 102, when asked to "do that voice," he sounds 20 as he drops into full Gomer mode. Gawllllleeeeee.)

Saturday, May 25, 2013

End Of The Grid

...As seen from the Left.  Or part of it, anyway.  Interesting -- and maybe it's not an issue that will see division along the stereotypical lines.

Bajaj Chetak: The Flying Percolator

(Post title being make, model and name of my scooter, a kind of semi-copy of a Vespa.)

Self-parody, 'cos no one else will:

Arise, oh daughter of Vespa
Your cloned motor scooter awaits
Arise, oh daughter of Vespa
The Bajaj Chetak's ready at the gate

Gray-silver classic scooter, not sedate
Child of Vespa, please don't be too late;
Needs tires checked and oil level, too
Arise, oh daughter of Vespa:
Your motor scooter's waiting for you

     I am so overdue to get my motor scooter back on the road.  And still suffering balance problems from my cold.  Bummer.

What's China Look Like...

...To a visiting musician?  Imogen Heap shows us.
...And all you brought back was a T-shirt?  Yeah, that and a handful of photos is about all I ever manage, too.

So The Rule Is

...Blog something by 0800, or at least as soon after as you can.

     Achievement unlocked!

Friday, May 24, 2013

Mind The Flame, Not The Centurion

Awaken, oh daughter of Vesta
Your morning repast awaits.
Awaken, oh daughter of Vesta,
Come forth and learn your fate.

A lamp, cooked beans on a plate
Child of Vesta, it's much too late;
New mason's-work and water a-jugged.
Awaken, oh daughter of Vesta:
It's because of the soldier you hugged.

("Written" as an impromptu spoken poem to wake up Tamara for breakfast; started with the first line and it just grew.  More-or-less historically-accurate, too.)

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Yum, Bacon

     "'Nitrates in bacon?'  Look, kid, when I was growin' up, we'd'a happily paid day rates if it would've got us bacon!"

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Scissors Beats Paper

WW II: European theater outcome predicted in one composite image.

     ...Blogging this from bed.  Ears not working very well.  Geez.

Cold: Receding In The Taillights?

     I sure hope it's over.  My sinuses seem stable and my temperature not especially high -- or variable.  I'm kind of sore and weak but that's to be expected.

     This being May in Indianapolis, I'm heading in to work.  I'm probably not quite 100% but even a little will be more use than 0% and we don't have anyone to spare.

     (So, I write that and my temperature s-p-I-k-e-s.  Arrgh. Get thee behind me, O ironic Fates! And somebody fetch me a mirror so's I can keep an eye on them.)

     Yeah, it's doc-in-a-box for me. As soon as I feel up to the drive -- a wave of exhaustion came along with the spike and the pattern has been fever-chills-doze off, fever-chills-doze off over since.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

"Local" Anti-Gunner Smells Astro-Turfy

     So, there's this "42-year-old stay-at-home Mom in Zionsville, IN," one "Shannon Watts" (if that is her real name) who is (supposedly) runnin' some Mommy gun-hater group, working for change so legally-armed people like me will be made to not let the sun set on us anywhere in her world, especially at Starbucks, Cabela's (oh really?) or the Wal-Mart.

     The press release is datelined "Indianapolis," not especially fertile ground for anti-gunners; y'go to her "Contact" page and the phone numbers are all area code 404!  --That's Atlanta, Georgia.  So, hey, private boiler-room operation?  Mighty upscale for a nonworkin' Mom, even in a high-end, semi-artsy bedroom community.*

     I guess the ol' "Fine Arts" gig must pay really well.  On the other hand, it doesn't look to be as engaging for her as trying to take away other people's rights....

     See ya next April, dearie -- unless you take up yet another hobby in the meantime.

     ETA: The semi-amusing part is that for a lot of gun-haters, this is an essentially classist thing and they feel ever so much better about their first-class citizenship when they have (supposedly) second-class citizens like you and me to look down on -- all while serving as willing foot soldiers for the Bloombergs and Joyce Foundations of the world, who look down on them as readily-manipulated climbers. C'mon, surely you learned better in Civics class?  No? 
* Zionsville is Beautiful Music to Broad Ripple's Rock'n'Roll.  One suspects their visual art would be similarly soothing and bland compared to the vibrant, raucous stuff down here in the trenches, but that'd be inverse snobbery or something.


     Prolly not what The Conventional Wisdom would say I should be eating, but Tam brung me a burger from 20 Tap wit' toe-maters (eek!), onyum & lettuce on some kinda fancy-schamncy bun.  Add a little Gulden's and some chili sauce (we of Roseholme sneer at mere ketchup) and it's hittin' the spot most majorly.

     20 Tap is yet another of those Broad Ripple places with a chef-refugee from an El Humongeo outfit expressing his or her long pent-up desires for a menu of truly interesting and tasty food; even something as simple as burger gets extra attention.  Sure they have not a mere 20 but thirty-eight (38) craft beers on tap, but you need some pub grub that'll stand up to the excellence and theirs does.

     Heck, it even works for me, washin' it down with orange pop.

Fever = Drugs?

     Either running a fever is the same as having too much to drink or doing drugs, or there's a network of little low-power noncommercial FM stations in Hawaii that rents time on the brains of engineering-type people running a fever.

     I kept waking up last night saying things, with incredibly detailed memories of working on little transmitters in lush, difficult-to-access locations (and atop a few tall buildings).  "H'mm, transmitter won't stay on.  How's the VSWR?"*  or, "No.  Not that." and so on.

     Darned weird.

     Last night I never got as far as the bathtub.  My limbs felt so heavy I could hardly move and I was very chilly.  Crawled into bed and woke three hours later, burning up, perspiring.  Only slept an hour at a time after that, always nodding off while freeezin' and waking up hot.  And chatty.

     I'm up, I've had breakfast (simplest possible: eggs scrambled with bacon and rice) and I'm going back to bed.  And this time, Mr. Kamehameha, I am not workin' on your nickle-dime transmitters; you need to buy some new ones, made by reputable firms.  Crown or Nautel or somebody.
* Pronounced "VIZ-WHAR," it's a measurement of the matching between a transmitter and antenna (etc.).  The letters stand for "Voltage Standing-Wave Ratio," harkening back to a distant past in which VHF transmitter output was measured in RF Volts across a known load impedance instead of just drawing the meter scale to show the power in Watts, a very simple bit of basic algebra: voltage squared divided by resistance.  Yeah, the scale divisions aren't linear that way.  Deal with it. 

     P.S. So, I go to some transmitter company's website and there's a guy asking, "Suppose I had to hike up a mountain through the snow to replace some major subassemblies in an FM transmitter, what tools should I carry?" Here's my answer: you should be having to explain to your boss why there aren't tools up there already, taken up when the weather was good! C'mon, you don't need anything fancy, the basic electronics tool set has changed little since the 1930s other than VOMs are better and cheaper. You're already going to be lugging one or more power supplies and/or RF amps, kid, you shouldn't have to haul a clanking pile of screwdrivers, wrenches and pliers, too. Harbor Freight is your friend. $200 in tools beats dead in a snowdrift every time.  It's not the ne plus ultra in hand tools?  So what.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Your Hostess Is Ill

     Sick, sick, sick and I don't mean possibly.

     All this past long weekend, I was fighting copious sinus drainage and mild sore throats every morning.  "Allergies," thunk I, and took OTC allergy meds.  It helped, too.

     Woke up this morning with More Of Same, gargled salt water, took allergy meds, went to work, sinuses filling up every hour...

     Along about 1400, I could no longer breathe through my nose.  Not even a little.  And I was dizzy.  By 1600, I was staying in my chair as much as possible and getting more and more short-tempered.  Left, shivering, a tad after 1830, about par.  Ran the vents on recirc, no cooling, in a car that'd sat out in the sun all day and I was still feeling a bit chilly.

     I'm home now, enjoying tea, soup, toast and kale/orzo salad.  I'm gonna take a bath and go to bed.

     Tomorrow's blogging may be late.

Sunday, Rangeday

     After a perfectly remarkable breakfast Sunday, Tam, Shootin' Budy, Turk and I were off to Eagle Creek Park Pistol Range.

     For those of you just tuning in, Indy's vast city park has a (weekends only) public shooting range!  (IMPD uses it five days a week).  As befits a big park, it's a big range:

No, bigger than that; this is just Bay 1 of two identical areas!

     I was shooting okay:
     ...Okay, it was only 25-some feet.

     And here's the stable:
     I left the Combat Masterprice,er,  Masterpiece at home, making room for the little H&R.  Left to right:  Colt Police Positive, Ruger MK II with Pac-Lite upper, H&R and Iver Johnson top-break and High Standard Sentinel.  It counts sequentially: six shooter, seven-shooter, eight-shooter, nine-shooter and a ten-shot semiauto.

     The H&R is new to my collection and has remarkably little felt recoil, more like an air pistol than a .22.  Maybe it's the very small frame.  All are nice but if I could only own one handgun, I'd take the High Standard over the rest: it's got good sights, I shoot well with it and it's never done anything but go "bang!" when I pull the trigger.  (The Ruger/Pac-Lite is nice, but every so often it goes "jam," instead.  I never liked jam.)

     A morning well spent, several hundred rounds downrange. 

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Saturday: BlogMeet, Art Fair, Movie

     Do I look tired?  Sleepy?  It's been a busy couple of days!

     Saturday's main event was -- of course! -- the BlogMeet:
     Owen, Old Grouch, Turk Turon, me, Tam, Shootin' Buddy, Joanna.

     After awhile, The Jack arrived, too:
     (Also, in background, Nameless Visitor Dog and barely-visible Owner.)  It was a fine BlogMeet, though I must admit I listened way more than talked, sometimes with my eyes closed.

     You see, we visited the Broad Ripple Art Fair in the morning: a nice bike ride, a lot of walking, and  whole lot of art:
     The next time someone talks to you about "accessible" art, show 'em this tabletop zoo!  I have many more photos but no time to edit.

     After the BlogMeet, we went to the new Star Trek movie.  What can I say?  The usual heavy-handed story-telling, Jim Kirk chews up the scenery, Spock is quizzically skeptic, Bones is a curmudgeon, Scotty pulls a very big rabbit out of a very small hat, evil is (after much struggle) vanquished and the good guys win!  Some nice nods to earlier films, wonderful sets, terrible physics: like James Bond films, you know what's going to be inside when you buy it and the fun is seeing how they do it.  I liked all of it except for the nazified StarFleet uniforms and the painfully drawn-out resolution of one bit of foreshadowing. While the slightly-emo new generation Enterprise crew sure ain't the Old Guard, they're a remarkably respectful reinterpretation of the originals and easy to like. Either you're happy to see Jim (or James) again or you're not.  I was. 

Friday, May 17, 2013

Begali Key Tester At Dayton Hamvention

Mechanical innovator and key designer par excellence Pietro Begali's key tester, or, as he puts it, "Digital driving mechanical driving digital."

  The solenoids are adjustable for testing any key and it will run for weeks.  Amazing

Is There Another Industrial Revolution Brewing?

     So, y'look over to the Third World and they're ginnin' up ever more efficient charcoal stoves and pot-in-pot fridges (earthenware [mud plus fire], sand and water, plus a breeze) that get the job done and don't rely on the grid; they're charging cellphones and LED lights with junky solar cells and generally managing a better standard of living without The Grid--

     So maybe their kids grow up with more time and more light to learn more and figure out even kewler stuff--

     And meanwhile, down at the Internet Cafe, their third cousin once removed is runnin' a 419 scam--

     What's gonna happen in the next generation or so, when off-the-grid engineers meet robber-baron-esque survivor-scamsters?

     And meanwhile, back here in the First and Second (and/or aspiring) Worlds, the prices of roofing shingles and solar cells are fixing to meet up, while a zillion thrifty Chinese have already installed solar water heaters.  For some industrial customers in the U.S., their power companies already pay more for sold-back "green electricity" from solar or hydroelectric sources than they charge the same business old-fashioned "dirty" power.

     I'm thinking the End Of The Grid is a distant glimmering.  And that may be as wild a card as the species has dealt itself since steam.

     (Here's an excellent example of simple engineering vs. poverty.  Please note the solutions suggested don't suddenly shove people into rocket science.  It's incremental in ways that provide immediate benefit without people having to relearn basic aspects of living.)

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Hundred Year Old Mayo?

     Oh, yum.  --The company, not an actual jar of the actual stuff.  Sheesh.

     (Note: I have received no consideration for this link; in fact, I am not such a big fan of this much-loved emulsion.  Nor do I approve of press-release journalism.  But, hey, they've been at it for a hundred years: that really is kinda kewl.  Also, I guess we must be well past the centenary of the icebox, then?  Closer to the sesquicentennial!)

Wednesday, May 15, 2013


     ...Two-way radio problems at work.  Had to work late.  Have now lost last chance to redd up house prior to visitors.

     Fine.  I'm a vile and filthy barbarian.  I'm just gonna have to make my peace with it.


     I'm off to the dentist at 0MG700 this morning, so a long-form blog post is Right Out until maybe later.  Oh, the price of fame and a childhood spent enjoying sugary snacks.

     One quick note, the aerator on the kitchen sink failed; I asked Tam to pick up a new one at Winthrop Supply (motto: "Yeah, we've got that.").  $1.67 and it's hugely better than the old one ever was!  Best plumbing supply place in town and not too far to bicycle to. Made of Win.  Also, they have a Store Cat.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

May BlogMeet DAY Change!

     The May Indy BlogMeet will be this coming Saturday, 3:00 p.m..  It'll be at Fat Dan's Deli 5410 N. College Ave, in the beating heart of SoBro. (BTW, they do have the beers, etc.  Downside, they are Cubs fans, but hey, that means they're optimists, right?)

     Why a day early?  I'm glad you asked-- See, there's a bunch of family birthdays at about the 2/3 point in May, most saliently my Mom's: she'll be 82 this Sunday!   I darned well will be there.  My baby brother turns some preposterous age two days later and a week after that, someone else has a b-day; can't remember who and she stopped counting some while back anyway.

     Attractions at the May BlogMeet include internationally-famous "Turk" Turon, star of stage, screen and smaller screen.

Associated Press: Associating With Leviathan

     The venerable -- not to say "fusty" -- AP won a recent court victory over Fair Use that appears to preclude anyone ever, ever quoting the "lede" (opening words) of a news story; or maybe only if they don't provide a click-through to the original and/or as a part of parody use -- who can say?  Only the courts, at this point, and you can just bet AP will be trying to cast as wide a net as possible; their hostility to new media is such that most bloggers began avoiding AP news stories back in 2008.  And they have other issues for some us, too.

     But for AP, The Courts and The .Gov have been Their Friend.  Administrative Control Bias?  They haz it!

     The trouble with being a pilot fish is, every once in awhile, the shark eats you.  The Justice Department, in not-all-that-hot pursuit of a leak a year ago about a planned "underwear bomb" aboard a U.S. airliner (in a plot that was itself yet another counter-terrorism puzzle knot, considering the "bomber" was employed by a foreign intel service working undercover against the bomb-planners and the device was fated to fizzle [still with me?]), has grabbed AP's phone records.  All of 'em, a month each way from the undie-bomber coverage, including some covering personal phones of AP employees.  Predictable outcry is predictable and oh, are they yelping.

     One has to wonder if they'll go sobbing to the Electronic Frontier Foundation about it?  ACLU?  Probably; and never stop to ponder it, either.

     Oh, irony, where is thy sting?  Over there on the junkheap with the linotype?

Monday, May 13, 2013

! !!!

     I don't know what it is -- for some reason, I've been suffering exclamationitis in post titles.  Yow!  ...Sorry.

     H'mm, "EPA" is taken and Bang! Anonymous sounds way wrong.  Exclanon?  "Hi, my name is Roberta X and I'm addicted to imperative punctuation...."

Wardenclyffe Saved From Wreckers!

     Nicola Tesla's last big lab, Wardenclyffe, has been saved from developers who were going to pretty much plow it under.

     The Oatmeal spearheaded the effort and it should be noted that this is just a beginning.  Still, the immediate threat is past and what's next is the effort to clean up/fix up and develop a museum.  Given that Tesla appeals to everyone from hard-core science geeks to the seriously tinfoil of hat, hopes are high!

     But if they rebuild the tower and Siberia suffers another "meteorite impact?"  Ummmm...  Coincidence.  Right?  Sure.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Happy Mothers Day!

     To those of you who are one.  (No, sir, you over there with the truculent expression?  What they call you at work does not count towards this.  You'd just eat the flowers, anyway.)

Saturday, May 11, 2013

I Done Tolja Plenty Already!

Also, Streisand Effectors enabledFull throttle!

     Funniest comment at DefDist: "You created this for making the point of second amendment in the united states. But have you thgought about the scale of colateral damage it creates in parts of the world?"  (From a handle that appears to track back to the "People's Republic" of China.)

     H'mm, let's see, .380 single-shot with a short-lived barrel that requires a high-tech printer to make vs. village gunsmiths vs. the sub-Saharan sub-$20 AK-47 (many of them made in the PRC) vs. the largest dam in the world on one of the world's siltiest rivers...  Yeah, talk to me about "damage" and "scale."  Y'know what the little plastic gun is good for?  Saying, "Leave me alone," or "No, you can't rob me," or, if you're really, really brave, shooting a jack-booted thug from behind and taking his big fancy gun for your very own.  Y'know how to avoid that last one?  Get outta the jackbooted thuggery business.  Now 'scuse me, I gotta go talk to the .gov about a log in the eye.

Friday, May 10, 2013

ITAR: Dood, It's State. They Will Lawyer You To Death.

    Some rather interesting up and down today, with people hosting the Defense Distributed "Liberator" files, and then thinking better of it, while others stand on the sidelines and jeer.

     "Grow a spine," is it?  Hmpf.

     Here's the thing: this is not the awkward, waddling BATFE, stepchild of alphabet agencies.  State will not SWAT-raid you.  They will not put FBI snipers in the trees, shoot family members and then work the system to buy the survivors off and protect the shooter.

     Nope.  It's the Department of State.  They play for keepsies, they know what "martyr" means, they know from "rallying cry" and they have a whole lot of nice, dull-seeming boys and girls with law degrees who wear nice suits and carry nice fat briefcases with way more than lunch in them and who take -- or who have their staff take -- copious, detailed notes.  When the dust settles, if they win?  They will take you apart and leave you nekkid.  In a Federal pen.  And nobody but nobody will care.  They have plenty of time and most of 'em lack any sense of drama.  Or, for that matter, sense, period.  If the job is to settle your hash for an ITAR violation, they'll do it, no matter how petty or stupid the violation, no matter how many Canadians are doing the same thing and no matter if the code in question got published on the front page of the Times yesterday.

     To stand up to them, you need deep pockets and deep lawyers.  You need EFF.  You need ACLU.  There is a fight to be fought -- and won! -- here, but painting a target on your nose is a suboptimal opening gambit for most of us.

The ITAR Baby

     Tam's pretty excited about the ITAR restriction being applied to Defense Distributed  printable handgun files.  She sees it as a chance for a strong First Amendment challenge to ITAR.

     [Tam says, "No, that's not what I said."  She sees a fight coming, though, and you should read her blog for her take on it.]

     Certainly DD and many bloggers see this as a First Amendment thing, same as EFF and three lines of encryption software.

     Me, not so much.  ITAR comes spilling into my world at lot more over electronics issues than guns, things like microwave components and equipment.  RADAR.  You go to buy a traveling-wave tube or some damn thing and you have to swear six was from Sunday you're not a furriner, not acting on a furriner's behalf and not gonna sell the thing you buy to furriners, not nohow ever -- and then you still have to trot out your bona fides and references before they'll talk you you about anything but the weather.  Then, once you get the thing, if you let a furriner look at the documentation?  It's a crime!

     Sometimes this gets challenged and in general, the courts look at it, see "Arms" and next thing you know, it's not strict scrutiny as a First Amendment case, nooope, it's that icky Second Amendment, and you're arguing under "rational basis" evaluation.  Not always; but when there's a real gun-type gun involved?  Ouch.

     It's not unwinnable but it's not a slam-dunk, either.  They're going to need a good lawyer -- or several -- and deep pockets.  Remember that when they start passing the hat.  Can't win at all if you're not in the fight.

     Just remember, it's a fight with the ITAR baby and there's no briar patch handy. 

In The Wake Of The Cleveland Kidnap/Rapist

     Some "men's rights" activists are claiming it's a false-flag operation, done to damage the reputation of men in general.

     Riiiiight.  'Cos up until now, no woman in the States so much as thought twice about getting into a car with a strange man and first dates were never, ever an occasion for at least a fleeting flash of worry about how creepy/crazy the guy might be underneath his smooth talk. 

     No, jerk.  What this case has revealed is that you have no idea the degree of suspicion with which I (and many other women) have regarded the male of the species -- and some females -- all along.  You see, while most men are a little bit nutty in a harmless sort of way, some men are way over the edge and it's not always obvious.  Any time you boys go to chat up a gal who has a smattering of sense, she's wondering if you're a member of the latter group.  Because, you see, rape happens.  Assault happens.*

     Y'know, there's about a jillion romantic comedies from the Golden Age of Hollywood to explain this with a lot less in the way of painful looks into the psyche and subtext of courtship.  I shouldn't have to make y'take the red pill; you'll just spend the rest of the movie screaming for the blue pill anyway.
* Mind you, I am not saying bad stuff doesn't happen to men too; all this interpersonal relationship stuff is highly asymmetrical and never more so when it goes off the rails.  In particular, there are plenty of men out there who have suffered huge financial problems over 'em; but that still beats being left dead in a ditch or locked in a basement and raped for ten years.

Thursday, May 09, 2013

Officer Safety Meets Teen-Aged Idiots

     Madcap Hijinks do not ensue: the headline reads, "Columbus Police face battle against BB guns," and I was expecting to read a hand-wringing piece featuring one of Indiana's few "Illegal Mayors Against Guns."  Nope; Columbus fixed that problem at the ballot box and good for 'em.

     There's still lots of hand-wringing.  The problem now is that modern-day BB guns look a whole lot like the real thing -- especially after the choirboys go to painting the Federally-mandated orange tip black.

     Still, you're saying, kids, small city, BB guns, what's the big problem?

     Parents, as near as I can tell.  It boils down to one kid using a BB gun in a manner extremely contrary to the Four Rules -- pointing at cars, people, et stupid cetera -- and his buddy who'd amassed 8 to 12 of the more-realistic examples, at least two fathers who'd done apparently zero safety training of their little gems and now wanted the po-lice to come remove those Implements of Destruction, and this jewel of logic:  "...police are trained not to hesitate when confronted with a weapon."

     Somehow, I'm reminded of this. Which, fraught though it is, stops short of Dillinger-outside-the-Biograph levels of "not to hesitate."  Ahem.

     See, there's a way to avoid all this, and it is called the Four Rules.

1.  All guns are always loaded.
2.  Never let the muzzle cover anything you are not willing to destroy.
3.  Keep your finger off the trigger until your sights are on the target.
4.  Be sure of your target and what is beyond it.

     You'll notice that "don't point guns at cops" (or anyone else) is implied quite strongly in Rule 2.  If more fathers (and/or mothers) were teaching all four rules to their offspring -- and that it applies to bows & arrows, slingshots and BB guns as well as firearms -- there'd be a whole lot less "Please come to house and remove Junior's soft-as-airgun collection."

     But I suppose that would be way too much work.

     Hey, now that those baaaaad BB guns are gone, how long do you suppose it will take before Junior points a more or less gun-shaped stick/board/PVC pipe at passers-by?

Wednesday, May 08, 2013

VE Day

.....And the lights started going back on in Europe.  It was today. 

3, 2, 1, Worry

     I haven't written about the unfolding kidnap/exploitation of three (at least) young women in Cleveland because your home TV set is full of it -- in every sense of the word.  But the media, having approximately the cleverness and creativity of a 1970s photocopier,* is now trotting out every last survivor of long-term creepezoid kidnappers they can find.

     It's a short list.

     Nevertheless, they're playing it up and you may find yourself lookin' at strangers and bus drivers in a whole new way.

     Reality is, the distribution curve for human behavior is way wider -- and way taller in the middle -- than either the talking heads on TV or conventional wisdom would suggest.  And it tapers off in the usual bell-shaped way, which is the real problem.

     See, horrible people do horrible things; always have, even back in "the good old days;" but they are both more horrible and less common than you'd think.  The trouble is, there's a lot of in-between awfulness to give the really icky ones cover.

     Take, for instance, the padlocked interior doors noticed by family members of the guy alleged to have been the prime kidnapper in the Cleveland case (and seen in some published photographs).  They're a not-uncommon feature of poorer homes, to either slow the depredations of light-fingered relatives or in the mistaken belief that law enforcement needs a separate warrant for every locked door.  If Uncle Weirdo is a little paranoid, or hiding illicit substances, who's to pry?  Especially as he's known to have a bad temper? --And so it goes.

     Pervert kidnappers are not behind every corner; but they're out there.  As Breda has remarked, "carry your gun.  It's lighter than regret."
* Ask your googleparents.

Monday, May 06, 2013

Wait, What?

     It should come as no surprise that with the Indy 500 bearing down on us like a skunk trying to pass a bowling ball, Indianapolis is giving the city a good wash-down and sweeping-up;* but here's bad advice masquerading as good:

     "[...C]igarette butts [...] have become a real problem, especially with the city-wide smoking ban. Those butts end up on the sidewalks and streets. The idea is to also encourage everyone to use trash cans and keep downtown clean."

     The scene: Downtown Indianapolis, May 2013, as Mrs. Racefan and little Tammy Racefan, age 7, exit their hotel:
     "Gee, Ma, it's sure a nice, clean soul-searing Midwestern wasteland, but why are all the trash cans on fire?"
     "Shaddup. I'll tell you when we're safely back on Lon Giland!"

     The public trash can: not an ashtray.  Neither's the gutter, but if those are your only choices....  Anti-smoking laws: about as effective as drug laws and about as free from unwanted side-effects.
* And if you think this year's something, wait 'til 2014! April ends with the NRA convention; May opens with the Mini-Marathon, followed by race prep, followed by the Indy 500 race, followed by the Indy 1500 gun show.

Sunday, May 05, 2013

Like An Alien Abduction?

     Yesterday I was digging up dandelions and one does bring up the occasional earthworm -- or, unfortunately, half an earthworm.

     Musing on the myth that both ends of a cut-in-two worm will each grow a new worm, I was pondering about what that's like for the worm -- an insanely sharp thing that plunges in from above, divides it in twain, hauls both halves into the light and leaves 'em to make their way back into the newly-turned earth:

     One Day On The Outskirts Of An Earthworm Village--

     A very beat-up worm crawls into town.  Half of him is shiny new and he looks haggard and drawn, as if recovering from an illness on short rations.  He sees another worm limping into town and calls out,  "Dude!  Dude, you would never believe it!  This-- This thing came down outta nowhere, above the top of the world, hacked me into two, threw me through the air, and I've been three days recovering and regrowing!"

     By now the other worm has gotten close, and replies, "Whoa!  Man, the exact same thing happened to me!  And it was three days ago, too!"

     They come closer and each gets a clear look at at the other.

     "Dude, you look...familiar..."

     "Man, I was gonna say that.  You!!!!"



     And they both turn and crawl away from each other as fast at they can.

Happy Well-Meant But Kinda Ignorant Stereotype Day!

     We have several of these throughout the year in the U.S., though the exact kind and number varies a bit depending on where you live -- Canada Day, for instance, is celebrated so subtly in most of the States that if you missed the temporary addition of French on many signs and labels, you might never notice. 

     Still, most of 'em are well-meant.  Most celebrate the great tradition of turning whatever your grandma ate into fast food and most of that turns out pretty tasty (if not always as healthy as the original); I am , however,withholding judgement on October's fried-sauerkraut-on-a-stick.

     As for me, I'll have my slingshot out this afternoon,  trying to take out an almost-empty bottle of Hellman's floating in a kiddie pool: Sinko de Mayo!

Saturday, May 04, 2013

"How'd That Get In There?" Gun Safety

     It's more than just the Four Rules; it's knowing where your firearm is, where you are -- and what the rules are in that location for both of you.

     Take, for instance, the airport.  After a dozen years of Security Theater and, what, thirty years before that of having to walk through a metal detector lest your flight from Minneapolis to St. Paul end up in Havana, you'd would think it would be dawning on folks that carrying a loaded firearm into the "secure" area of an airport is going to be all manner of exciting, and not in a good way.

     --Sure, that rule is wrong, and when I rule the world, I'll fix it; but what we've got now is what we must deal with now and right now, they frown on it.  For "hauled away in handcuffs" levels of frowning.

     And yet it keeps happening.  Two people were nicked last week in separate incidents at Indianapolis International House Of Airplanes (it once had a much better name) with handguns in their carry-ons.

     "Oops?"  Quite apart from the twittering fears of the brainless, if the people carrying had "forgotten that was in there," they need to take a seat over there next to the other dimwits, put on a tall conical cap, and listen up: A  firearm is not a pencil stub, a paperclip, a furry old cough drop or a wadded-up tissue and if you're not aware of the presence of your personal carryin' iron, maybe you ought to rethink carrying.  What's going to happen if you need it?  "'Scuse me, Mr. Miscreant, it's in here somewhere," as you hold a mess of small items in one hand and root around in your purse or valise with the other, "at least I think it is.  Here, hold my pocketbook while I look, and I'll shoot you just as soon as I find that darned Glocolt & Smithson automatic revolver...."  What's gonna happen when Little Timmy looks through your bag for spare change or a decongestant or a well to fall into?  --You'll be down at the pawnshop buyin' that thing back again, is what; or he'll be out holding people up while they dig through their bag for their gun (btw, you totally need a new set of friends and relatives) and those are just the good outcomes.

     You're free to be a dam'fool but I'll do what I can to talk you out it -- 'cos if I don't, some nitwit-in-office is gonna try to legislate you out of it.  I don't care how badass or nice or Constitutional you are, you pay attention to where your gun's at and keep it away from the secure area of airports.  You're not gonna de-infringe those wasp's nests by poking at them with a "How'd that get in there?"

Friday, May 03, 2013

Officer Bisard: FOP Stops Payment

     Like 'em or loathe 'em, your union's got your back, right?

     Not always.  Do something egregious enough and you're liable to find yourself standing alone.

     Suspended IMPD Officr David Bisard is finding that out; in the wake of his most recent DUI arrest, the Indianapolis Fraternal order of Police has voted to stop paying his legal bills.  I guess there is a limit to how far the "thin blue line" can be stretched before it snaps.

     Attorneys aren't like the gas bill; his lawyer can't just walk away, he's got to go before the judge and convince him (you'd think, "Client isn't paying, I'll starve," would be enough but perhaps not).  And this may well complicate and stretch out the already-convoluted and overly-slow legal proceedings.

     (Elsewhere in Indy, another car-motorcycle accident last night, three riders injured.  Y'know those "Be Aware!  Motorcycles Are Everywhere!" bumper stickers?  Cars are even more everywhere and many drivers won't notice a motorcycle until the rider is bouncing off the hood.  Be careful out there.  The other guy isn't.)

Thursday, May 02, 2013

The Water Heater: Crying Wolf

     Went down to the basement this morning and there was water on the floor; not much but a small puddle and a larger damp area, appearing to be coming from the water heater.  Oh, no!

     Shut the water valves, shut off the gas supply, called the plumber.  Went back down to see what needed to be rearranged and/or moved to the safe...

     ...Took a closer look at the water and spotted the opened-up elbow in the air-conditioning condensate drain, hidden in the shadow of the water heater.

     Y'see, the furnace guys didn't glue the joints in the PVC line; it has a couple of elbows in it and their reasoning was there no actual pressure on it and it's all the easier to clean out.  This has worked out well.  In fact, I had checked it back at the furnace end just last night -- which is when I probably disconnected that shadowed elbow.

     I took a long look at the water heater heating element controls (gas), which is so slathered in safety devices it might as well be a fusion plant for all the sense it makes, and called the plumber back: "All I need is a relight!"

     Sheesh.  At least the water heater is up on little feet.

     Update: Or maybe more than a relight!  There was a leaking connection between galvanized and copper pipe, a previous homeowner not being in the habit of using (or requesting) dielectric unions when connecting dissimilar metal pipes.

Orbital Sciences: Antares Launch Nominal.

     You may not have heard of them -- at present, they're the "12 full ounces, that's a lot" brand* to Elon Musk's Co-Cola, but Orbital Sciences put an Antares rocket through its paces a few days ago, carrying a test payload to orbit smooth as silk:
     Elsewhere, they lit the main engine of SpaceShip Two in flight for the the first time recently -- and broke the sound barrier.

     I'm startin' to think this "space" thing might just work out.
* Ask your parents.  No, wait, ask your grandparents. Or a search engine.

Wednesday, May 01, 2013

MAYDAY: Federal Reserve

     "Mayday, mayday, mayday.  This is your money, calling mayday.  Location uncertain.  Losing value fast.  Gasbag reinflation attempts have only made situation worse.  Mayday, mayday, mayday. I suspect Navagator Bernanke may have succumbed to hypoxia.  Mayday, mayday, mayday...."

     It is, you know.  May Day, that is.

Technological Speculations

I. It suddenly occurs to me that hovercraft, GPS and the kind of mediated fly-by-wire systems that let military pilots fly nearly unflyable aircraft right to the edge of the envelope might be a perfect match. A problem with most hovercraft is they're borderline unstable in the horizontal plane and difficult to control, but these days we can fake stability.  Bet the .mil has been doing it for years already.

II. Watching Onion News Empire last night (hilarious!), I was once again struck by what a kludge the user interface for video switchers is: a whacking huge panel, covered in buttons and sliders.  These days it's just a control surface, the buttons are all freely assignable, but why are they physical buttons at all?  A great big touchscreen would do as well, with one or two mouse-derived external controls.  The operator would just drag icons (thumbnails?) onto a timeline -- or several timelines -- perhaps interspersed with icons for specialized transitions, and just have a big Next Event button and perhaps a set of fader bars as physical controls.  Giant touchscreens are already out there; the IS department where I work has a couple of Windows 8 machines talking to 48" touchscreens.  Physical switches wear out; a sheet of glass, not so much.

Don't Tempt Me

     It's 7:30 in the ayem and I'm already low on patience.