Saturday, August 31, 2013

Friday, August 30, 2013

Scene In An Alien Barracks

     (In which nearly everyone's ox is gored.)

    The sign outside translates into English as "Primitive Alien Improvement Corps" and we follow two silvery-uniformed creatures past it and into the barracks dome: a tall, languid, vaguely reptilian humanoid, and a short, stocky, tough-looking gray biped with very large, black eyes, a small mouth and no visible nose, carrying an object the approximate size and shape of a clipboard..

     As the two enter the dome, a buff-appearing gray creature in a similar silver onesie with simpler insignia leaps to his feet and shrieks, "Officer on the deeeeeeck!"

     The assorted beings who have been variously lounging, sprawling, gaming, smoking, sparring, levitating and, in one instance, glowing bright green immediately stop whatever it is they were doing and leap to their feet and/or pseudopods, standing strangely braced in two facing rows and doing their best to look serious, alert, focused and neutral.

     The tall lizardoid waves a hand, "At ease, at ease."  There's a shuffling and shifting as the group adopts poses marginally less strained.  "Gentlebeings.  And, erm, PFC Glorpt.   As you know, this unit is undergoing millennial review and I have to tell you -- I have to tell you -- High Command are not best pleased."  His eyes scan over them, moving independently, each silver-uniformed being near-quivering with earnestness under their gaze.  "Well.  Your efforts to date with the bug- er, mammalians on this planet, this-- aha, 'Dirt' have not met effectiveness standards.  Aha.  Not at all.  Therefore, you have been assigned to a new NCO, who will be reviewing your performance and, ah, suggesting better approaches.  SSGT Xlmnt, here, will be replacing SGT Mohenjo-Ashurbopanipal, effective immediately."  The officer turns to the short, mean-looking gray alien who accompanies him, "SSGT, I leave them to you." And with that, he teleports out.

     As the officer evaporates, the troops let out a collective exhalation (and/or glow, blip or exudation) of relief.  SSGT Xlmnt gives them a glare and seems to grow to twice his size.  "Atten-shun!  Not one of you critters has been dismissed."

     A shudder passes down the ranks and suddenly, you could hear a scale drop -- in fact, one does, half-way down the line, tink.  Xlmnt glares it at and those nearest swore later they could see it shrivel.  He transfers his glare back to the troops.  "I have been going over your after-action reports and by my sainted aunt's second-best mammalian-species immobilizer probe, you silver shitheads have made a right cock-up of this bunch of primitive sophonts from Century One right down the line.  I'm gonna hit the highlights and I doubt anyone could explain to me just how is it High Command expends billions of ergs sending supposedly highly-trained cultural reprogrammers to this overlooked spawn-sac in the vestigial ovipositor of Nowhere and gets repaid with the kind of screwed-up results you insults to the silver you wear have produced."

     Xlmnt inclines his head to the infopad in his hand.  "CPL Enlil? And your squad, PFCs Enki and In'anna?"  A hooved soldier with a vaguely goaty face and scaly skin salutes and takes a step forward, followed by a short, muddy-looking biped with a clanking tool belt and a taller creature who, other than a faint glow, bears a remarkable resemblance to a young and curvaceous human female.  "First of all, Corporal, who is this 'Ninlil,' and by whose authority did you ignore the very clear regs against fraternization?  --No, no, don't answer me now, there's plenty more.  Enki?"  Xlmnt holds up the infopad, covered in spiky-looking writing, "Is this not the imprint of the handle of your species' toothbrush?"  The muddy-looking tech looks at the floor.  "Don't look away.  I see they called you 'The Confuser of Languages.'  Did you turn a neural scrambler on these primitives?"  Enki nods, sending a small spatter of mud floorwards.  "I hope you had very good reason.  Now, In'anna--  Miz In'anna. At least Corporal Enlil confined his attentions to just one of them.  And not for money.  I was opposed to adding highly-gendered species to the Service back when they first did it and soldiers like you prove me right.  Shameful."  Her glow dims, purples.  Xlmnt shakes his head, more-in-sorrow-than-anger. "Just shameful, the lot of you.  At least you got them looking at the stars  and counting but you messed up even that.  Base twelve math...?  For creatures with ten manipulating digits...? Didn't you bother to check?  Back in the ranks."

     "So, the next place you tried was that little pointy section.  The reports say Sergeant Mohenjo-Ashurbopanipal figured the mountains to the north kept it isolated.  Corporal Krish?  You were in charge.  Step forward."  A handsome, blue-skinned humanoid of above-average height takes a step, as do a handful of others, one with a long, prehensile limb on its face.  "I see here you and your squaddies had a few fights.  In heavier-than-air vehicles.  In plain view of the locals.  With thermonuclear weapons."  Xlmnt wags his head.  "Nice job.  Oh, cle-ver. Taught them a little math, I see, and then you divided them up by occupation and told them no cross-fraternization?  And why?"

     The blue-skinned trooper briefly looks truculent and thinks better of it, "Um, Sarge?  After 'Anna and Enlil...?"

     Xlmnt cuts him short.  "I don't think so.  You just wanted to make them easier to manage and breed.  'All PAIC troops are silver,' but the trouble I have had with the blueish-silver ones...  Step back, you; the knots you left behind may never get untied.  Certainly not by our next wonder-boy.  Gautamama?  Is that how you pronounce it?"

     There's a flickering at the end of the row, as a hazy outline shifts shapes and settles on a cloudy approximation of a human, drifts out a pace from the row and emits, "Sir!"

     "You don't call me sir you call me Sergeant Xlmnt and that is exactly the kind of poor form I should expect from you.  Your then Sergeant sent you down there, to the very same place as Krish's crew, with a simple job: clean up the mess.  Untangle it.  Simplify. Step in to replace an addled 'noble' who died fasting under a tree.  How hard could it be?  And what did you do?" He looks again at the infopad.  "Oh, yes, here it is: you told them all reality was illusion, that to live was to suffer and the very best thing to do was, let me paraphrase, 'tune in, turn on, drop out.'  And you proceeded to spend the better part of a hundred of their years doing just that.  I'd ask you what you were smoking but the latest guidelines from High Command define that as racist when applied to cloudforms.  Step back and thicken up, son, someone missed a whole lot when they trained you."

     The troops are fair squirming by now.  Xlmnt favors them with another unblinking, unreadable stare.  "And now we come to more recent times.  'Tell them about the High Command,' Sergeant Mohenjo-Ashurbopanipal decided, 'but do it in terms they will understand.'  Enlil, you helped work that out, didn't you?  It's still not clear what you told that old shepherd, but the genetic modding is pretty obvious.  Your former Sergeant managed to muddy the waters over just how that native ended up on a mountain-top waving a knife at his kid but I recognize that kind of low humor and you are all very fortunate you thought better of it at the last minute. --And that reminds me of something I need to get out of the way, will the groups assigned to the middle and southern portions of the ocean-isolated continents please step forward?"

     A large, feathered, sinuously-columnar being moves forward, tiny wings fluttering briefly for balance, followed by a dozen other highly-assorted silver-uniformed soldiers.  It barks, "Sergeant-I-take-full-responsibility-Sergeant!"

     "Yes, Medic Qxtl, I'll just bet you do. I will just bet. Fat lot of good it did the locals!  Open-heart surgery?  Really?"  Xlmnt taps the surface of his infopad. Qxtl and the rest of his group fade out as Xlmnt grins a tiny, evil grin at the remaining beings.  "They're gonna be patrolling the event horizon of a black hole for a long, long, long time. Let that be a warning to the rest of you.  Don't try to play the flying snake with me.  You will lose.  --But back to the shepherd. You kept on messing with that poor man and his offspring, didn't you?"  Xlmnt flicks the work surface of his infopad.  "My, my.  Plagues, floods, rules, pacts, tablets, electrostatic shock--   What didn't you do to 'em, that's what I wonder. Cookouts every week?  Led them into the wilderness and fed PAIC emergency rations to them? --I'll get back to this.  Just in case, you decided to run an alternative in the nation next door.  A-10 was in charge, I see. A-10?  Roll the golden boy forward."

     A shining, yellow, smooth, manlike, metallic form steps out.  "That is anti-mechanist, Sergeant."

     "Is not. That was last year. A-10, you need to download the High Command updates more often -- when you're not too busy getting a king to relocate his capital city to the middle of the broiling desert, that is.  There's only one sunlight-powered intelligent species and it would be yours, not theirs.  Also, son, that is not how monotheism is supposed to work.  Didn't your Basic Training tapes on that topic take?  Nice work on the civil engineering side, total failure at all the rest of it.  Step back.  Next, next--  Back to the old shepherd's kids, I suppose you all know that Jess is still in sick bay and the doctors say he'll pull through, no thanks to you.  And that mess eventually derailed the Romans, didn't it?  Most hopeful-looking civilization on that planet 'til then and you barely noticed when you shot it down. Dark Age, knowledge lost... That means we move on to, oh, yeah.  The 'write' being.  Hey, Red?  Yeah, with the wings-- Did you not check what that ignorant desert savage was writing down?  And just the one guy?  Did you not even realize he was illiterate?"

     A tall, winged biped with red hair like a living fire has stepped forward.  He shrugs.  "I gave him rules to pass along.  They were air-tight.  They were specific.  Legal checked them out. I thought they couldn't possibly screw this up and after what happened to Jess, I was not going to--"

     "Shaddup.  Excuses, excuses.  Step back.  Morony?  Corporal Morony?  Look, I have been over this six times and there is no way you did not hand one of the locals your official PAIC virtual-reality rig.  'Gold spectacles?' 'Reading rocks?'  Excuse me?  Those things are not ever supposed to leave this base and it appears -- it appears the entire rig is still locked up somewhere down there.  What's your excuse, PFC?  Didn't want to get tripped up by that literacy thing again?  I don't care.  I don't want to know, I want to see that equipment back here by the end of the week and there had better not be even a blip from the natives, not a peep, do you understand Private?"

     Morony's another of the winged beings, though his hair is golden, a glowing nimbus rather than a flame.  He's blinking fiercely and may even be on the verge of tears.

     Xlmnt is unimpressed. "Leaking?  Are you-- crying?  There's no crying in Primitive Alien Improvement, man." He mutters, apparently to himself, "I was better off supervising the unhatched."  He looks the group up and down.  "You have a simple mission: haul these apes up to civilization.  Get them interested in space, get them to build a modern industrial base so they are of some damn use.  I have never seen such a series of screw-ups.  And on the subject of screwups-" He looks at his infopad.  "Rawn?  Al-Rawn?"  A portly, spiny being takes a half-step.  "You were the latest hope.  Take over for a pulp writer, kick them down the path towards simple rockets, inculcate rationality, encourage them to better themselves--"  Xlmnt sighs.  It's theatrical; his species doesn't actually do that but the simple flaring of membranous head-crest tissues that serves the same purpose is too easily misunderstood.  "So, Al-Rawn, just why did you keep on writing that...'scientifiction' crap and what's with the phony machine?  And why'd you let the solid-fuels expert blow himself up?  'A guy could make a lot of money founding a religion,' is it?" The being seems to be about to speak. "No, don't bother, you can't unring a bell."

     Xlmnt looks them over, silent at last, and the silence goes on and on, the soldiers looking increasingly sheepish.  Finally, he says, very quietly, "I'm going leave you collection of losers to think this mess over tonight.  By chowtime tomorrow, I'd better hear just how you think you're going to set this right, you had all better at least show willing and no excuses.  You've left these people in a helluva muddle and High Command says we will be needing this sector in less than two hundred years.  That isn't very long and you're not much to work with.  I will make you do it with ear-brushes if I have to but it will get done. Dis-missed!"

     And he stomps though the middle of them, all the way to his private quarters at the back of the barracks dome, glaring at them as they stand speechless and clueless, and slams the door behind himself.

     ...And then my alarm clock went off.  No more late-night  pineapple pizzas!

     (More of my SF at I Work On A Starship.)

     (Left on the cutting room floor: "Soldier, choke yourself.  No!  Not like that, you idiot. With my mind.  I'm finding a distinct lack of faith here."  Also: "The best part of you is in a tin on a shelf in a genetic-sampling vault marked, 'Defective.  Do Not Reuse.'")

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Squeaky Could Still Use A Hand

     Her Squeakness is looking at an empty (or one-third empty) larder in the near term.  Also, Erin sat down and told some serious stuff today.  What with the way I poke fun at the chat shows and their endless string of woe-is-me guests, I spoze it would seem likely to some readers that I'd wax waggish on this, too--

     --Except, y'see, there is a way big difference between making the sob-sister circuit and doing what Erin did, which is to find some way to hack some kind of modus vivendi, have at it, and user-mod it when it became a barrier to meeting friends in the real world.  That there's actually admirable.  Discomfiting?  I'd be lying if I didn't admit to a little.  Nobody ever promised life would be without its awkwardnesses* and it is precisely for such moments that the human race evolved manners.  Y'know, graciousness?  Treating folks decent because it is the done thing?  And that is what I advise and expect in this instance. I'm standin' with her, and y'all can at the very least stand by politely. Nota bene, y'hear?
* Awkwardities?  Also, I might be a bit fretted I'll fumble a pronoun but Erin's got to get up and face the world through askew prounounage et cetera et ali, each and every damn day.  It cain't be no fun, McGee.

I Have A Dream

     "I have a dream today: that one day, little black children, little white children, American children of every race, every creed, will grow up straight and strong and join together to bomb the crap out of two-bit, Third-World countries; that they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the accuracy of their bombing runs....."

     Achievement unlocked.  --Had Dr. King actually said that, I mean.  I was mildly surprised when the President didn't use yesterday to announce the aerial trouncing of Syria was about to begin, phase one of Operation I Can Start Wars Just Like Modern Every President After Carter.

     How times change -- back in the Twentieth Century, you would walk a mile for a Camel; in the 21st, you must walk a mile for a Camel.  Or a Lucky, etc.. No Smoking within 5000 feet!  And the .gov has the .mil bombing the dickens outta the genuine article.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Wild, Wild Life

     Wild Kingdom on a small scale: last night, the bug-census on the rear (outside!) wall of Roseholme Cottage included two cicadas -- one lurking stealthily along a high-mounted lighting conduit (do they hunt in adulthood?*), the other in such a tizzy that he flew right against my head, buzzing, which brought on a certain amount of flailing around on my part (I caught him and brought him into to show Tam, who still doesn't like them, and he flexed his mighty wing muscles the whole time until I took him back out and let him find a safe spot -- and two bright-green katydids, one larger and a bit worse for wear, the other smallish.

     There was a circada on the kitchen's back window this morning, possibly the same one I gave a tour of the house last night.  Fortunately, he wasn't there to serenade. (Male cicadas can turn off their ears.  Many male humans seem to have a similar adaptation,)

     I do wonder, if they could think, what the slender, graceful, melodious, night-shift katydids would think of the squat, sun-worshipping cicadas, who toil grubbily in the darkness for seventeen years before they emerge to find high spots and holler all day.  "Declassé," they might sniff.  "Common.  And Much Too Loud! Oh, but would you look at the shoulders on that one...?"  Fairies and trolls, they are, or as close as one ever sees in real life.

     Tonight, slim pickings, just the usual fat, self-satisfied spiders, who mended their nets earlier and now peacefully seine for a late dinner, and one large, paranoid-acting red ant with ninja aspirations, patrolling the wall.  When I walked my fingers towards the ant, she cocked her antenna, braced and leaped at 'em!  Man, I dunno what they're feedin' ants these days but it's got too darned many vitamins.
* Nope, they're sap-sucking vegans.  Perhaps it was making a long, slow stalk of a tree.  Or just hoping to not get et.

We Will Save Syria

...Even if we have to bomb it flat!  --After all, that approach has always worked in the past, right?

     And remember kids: polls looking bad?  Start a war!

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Stabby, Stabby: Henry's No Prophet

     Hardly a ruthless warrior, Henry Petroski is sometimes called "the poet laureate of engineering."  Writing in 2003, he tells us,
     "A kitchen knife is a pretty basic piece of technology that can be used to prepare dinner or to commit a crime.  But no one claims that a chef's knife should be redesigned to eliminate its pointed tip.  Should we want to give up the civilizing effects of fine dining for fear of the occasional fight in the kitchen?"*
     [Emphasis mine]

     Six years later, across the Atlantic -- and a cultural gulf that seems wider every day -- a BBC  article touts the "anti-stab knife:"
     "The first 'anti-stab' knife will soon go on sale in Britain and has been designed to work as normal in the kitchen, but be ineffective as a weapon. The knife has a unique 'combination tip' that reduces the risk of injury. ... Doctors have lobbied in the past for kitchen knives to be redesigned."

     No one, doctors, hey, whatever.  If a civil engineering professor who grew up in NYC understands that it is intention that makes a tool a weapon, wouldn't you expect doctors could, too?   Oh, you dreamer!
* Petroski, Henry, Small Things Considered, 2003, pg. 147

Monday, August 26, 2013

Don't Get Me Started

     I had a crappy day and a crappier evening, fighting with a crappy job I have put off for well over a year (clearing the curb, where dirt accumulates and weeds grow and the neighbors look at you crosswise if you don't clear it and even more crosswise if you pick out the weeds and sweep the gravelly stuff into the street and then -- then, dammit, when you are chivvied into doing the right thing and sweeping it up, it is almost impossible to parcel the stuff out in small enough lots that the bags you sweep it into don't break) and I'm short of temper and filled with loathing for my fellowman (srsly, if all the rest of you would just leave or just vote yourselves into your own damnable gray dystopian paradisease, I'd be fine for decades, quite fine and unlike Burgess Meredith, I have multiple spare eyeglasses).

     So of course, today we find out yet another IMPD officer got nabbed for DUI.  I'm well over that sack of bastards, too; about the only way I might regain even a smidgen of respect for them would be if their drunkards would either start having the grace to eat their gun after being bonded out or started getting themselves shot while resisting arrest beforehand and neither one is gonna happen. Hell, you can't even get them to an AA meeting or in front of the TV cameras admitting they have gone wrong and pledging Temperance. The department itself has clearly got all the self-respect and self-discipline of a town drunk and no matter how many times it wakes up in the gutter, reeking of stale booze and staler urine, not a single thing will change.  It's a damn pity, it was as good a police department as any, with Marion County Sheriff's Department running neck-and-neck, and then they had to go and combine 'em and suddenly no one was watching the watchmen, especially at the bars and liquor stores.

     Feh.  Today would sour anyone's beer, even those of us who don't drink it.

     (Update: well, here's a bandaid for a sucking chest wound.)

They're Rousting Out A Hooverville Today

     There've been a group of homeless folks encamped under a railroad bridge for the last year or more -- now the rail operator needs to work on the bridge and the city is pushing them out.  Some have already pulled up stakes; others are refusing to go.

     No tanks or flamethrowers, though I won't be surprised to see a bulldozer or two before it's over.

     Plenty of people in comments at the linked story are expressing support but so far, none of them are offering their own back yard.  Funny, that, but not very.  What're you gonna do?  Chase them off to shelters?  (Not always the safest option.)   Should the city find some tolerable spot for a "hobo jungle," a barrio?  Ought tax money dig 'em latrines and pipe in water, police them for crime and too-obvious vice?  Or do we keep letting them settle in overlookable corners and then shoo them out to find another when the mess and bother gets too offensive?  --Either way, they're not going to just dissolve.

     (And how come it's not an "Obamaville," or, by historical analogy, a "Bushville?")

     The poor, we're told, will always be with us, and there are few folks poorer than those living under a bridge.  Some of the people and organizations trying to help out seem to've provided tents...but no land to put under them.

So, I Went To The Gun Show, the BlogMeet...

     ...And to bed, very early.

     Tam wanted to ride bikes to the Indy 1500, and to noon o'clock me
it sounded like a great idea for many reasons.*  So we did, and we walked the whole show, and said Hi to Mike Z. and the bookseller lady and a few zillion other folks, and then time was a-wastin'.

     Tam was riding straight for the Brew Pub and the BlogMeet -- it's straight up the Monon but I needed to stop by home.  My energy was flagging and I figured I'd switch to car or motorscooter.

     Made my stop and decided the trouble of parking (and, in the case of the scooter, changing shoes, pre-flight inspection, etc. etc.) was just too much, and set out on the bicycle instead.

     Enjoyed a perfectly fine BlogMeet with at least 99 amd 44/100 of the Usual Suspects--
     And a perfectly fine barbecued brisket sandwich and realized to my horror I could hardly hold my eyes open.

     Made apologies, made my way home (downhill most of the way, or I wouldn'a), made my way to bed right about 5:30 ex poste meridiano and except for a brief bout of wakefulness elevenish, snored there, largely insensate, 'til right before six ayem, when Huck the Cat began trying every trick he knows to get the Big Giant Monkey In Charge Of Morning Feeding (me) outta bed.

     It was a pretty good Sunday.

     Oh, yeah: I bought a gun, another Savage .32 handgun, this one the "1917" model, with trapezoidal grips.  Tam is trying to buy it from me already, since we both collect Savages and neither of us had a 1917.
* Like, you get in the Fairgrounds free for nothing.  Also, try as I might, I'm not getting any taller and that leaves only one other variable on that persnickitty chart in the doc's office.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Gun Shooooow!

     Y'know, I'd post something lengthy and thought-provoking, but there's a gun show today and I wanna go see it.

     BlogMeet at 3:00 this afternoon, hostessed by Tam -- see details at upper right!

Saturday, August 24, 2013

The American Astronaut

     It's a film.  A science-fiction film, a space-western grittier than Firefly or Serenity at either effort's darkest -- and shot in black and white.

     It would only confuse you to add that it's a musical comedy.  And yet it is.  Come to think of it, the plot's about as thin as a 1930s Saturday morning serial and the effects are, too--

     And with all that, it's good fun.  The hard-bitten space trader of the title gets entangled in a series of deals that -- if he succeeds every time -- will leave him rich.  Or at least they will if his nemesis doesn't kill him first.* There are a number of WTH--? moments but in the end, it turns out you can trust director/actor (and occasional bouncer) Cory McAbee to never quite go over the edge and after the last scene, I laughed and laughed.

     I wrote of the science fiction of the late R. A. Lafferty a few days ago and this film, in theme and attitude, is as close to his work as you're ever likely to see on any screen.

     Showed Tam the trailer and she commented, "That made no sense at all."   So there is that.  YMMV.  If you were hoping for an art-house Star Wars, you might as well save that nickel for next week.  But I thought it was interesting and entertaining.  Bonus: includes the most surreal prank I have ever seen done.
* Wow, I can't even write what I was thinking without giving too much away -- but if you watch this, see if you don't see some parallels to a later, larger film.

I Must Be Weakened From The Workin'

     Or possibly the doctorin' -- whichever.  Worked 36 hours through Thursday, so I could work a half-day Friday and go to the doc for some minor outpatient surgery in the afternoon.   Returned home from that, laid down for a nap, and other than Tam waking me for about 45 minutes around 8 p.m. when her regular Friday evening pizza shipment arrived, I have been asleep ever since.

     Jim the Tree Guy called a few minutes ago; we tried to make contact Friday so I could pay him and couldn't, so he'll be stopping by any minute now.

     I'm trying to convince myself to not go back to bed after that.  It's a purty day out there and there's a gun show on, just down the road.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Suddenly, The Front Yard Is Bare

     When I left for work yesterday, there was still (most) of a dead tree standing in the front yard, plus the stump that's been there for three years, along with a large stump-grinder, a gas-powered knuckle-boom on treads (and with huge, pneumatically-driven feet on articulated legs) and 80 percent of the yard was covered in tarps.   And a large truck and flatbed trailer were parked on the street.

     When I returned home last night, there was...nearly nothing.  One neat pile of chips where the stump was.  A few more chips mixed with soil where the poor dead tree once stood.

     What make this all the more amazing is how things went the previous evening: Jim, the arborist, had started staging his equipment about two hours before sunset and it went more quickly than he had anticipated. Stump grinder, knuckle-boom, spare gas, traps tarps spread over the grass and flowers, chipper-shredder ready behind the house, all in place.  So up he went, and started limbing the dead tree.  He'd just begun sectioning the trunk when the engine of the knuckle-boom sputtered, coughed and died.  "Oh, darn!  I meant to fill it up!"

     Tam watched all this, and went inside to get me to help with the gas refill.  By the time I was outside, Jim had rigged a rope, rappelled down and was refilling the tank himself.  "I'll just switch the controls over to 'local,' and..."

     Nothing.  He'd brushed against the kill switch when he got out of the bucket. The knuckle-boom has electric backup, so he asked me to run an extension cord.  "Okay," I said, "But is it an 'engine kill' switch or a 'safety' switch?"

     He wasn't sure.

     We ran the cords and....  Nothing.  Yes, it was a safety switch.  

     "No problem," said Jim, "It's pretty dark and I have plenty of cleaning-up to do; I'll just clear away the dropped branches and be back in the morning."

     It sounded like a good idea to me.  I went inside and did some housework before readying for bed.  The sun was well down by then and the last thing I did before heading back to put on my nightgown was to shut off the living room lights.  I proceeded bedroomwards but was stopped by a quiet tapping at the front door.

     It was Jim, sporting a sheepish grin and asking, "May I make a call?"

     I brought out a telephone (and a bottle of water, because he looked pretty dry), and he thanked me, chuckling.  I gave him a quizzical look.

     "I've got to laugh," he said.  "I got in my truck to leave and when I pulled out, it didn't feel right.  Sure enough, the left front tire was flat.  So I reached for my celphone to call home and--"  He pointed upward, "I left it in the bucket.  So I've got to laugh."

     He made his call ("Wife, you're not gonna believe this...."), handed back the phone and we parted company for the night, leaving power equipment, tarps, rappelling rope and a few tree limbs in the front yard.

     Thus the idyllic, empty peace of the next evening's view of the front yard was even more a contrast than you might've thunk.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

On The Internet, Nobody Know You're Really A Cat

     Or maybe a cockroach typing by leaping up and down on the keys.*  (Title reference explained for the history-impaired.)

     Been a lot of snark and blather about Bradley Manning's long-telegraphed ("bombshell"?  Puh-leeze)  announcement that he would far rather be a she, much of it altogether crude.

     Let's step back a moment, shall we?  Like you, I'd just as soon so much recent history didn't read like Jerry Springer transcripts, but in the case of Pvt. Manning, a guy that small and that young was going to be in serious risk of rape in a heavy-duty Federal pen even if his nickname was "Spike" and he could punch though walls bareknuckled.  Going public -- and probably getting sent to the "sexually-different prisoner" unit you'll find at nearly every large prison, official or not -- is Manning's safest possible course.

     I have repeatedly opined that a sworn member of the military in particular has a price to pay for breaking security, no matter how morally motivated their actions or how trivial the official secrets revealed.  He took an oath to serve and then broke it, and now the piper must be paid.  In this case, the bill is 35 years in prison.  --It's not 35 years of sexual abuse.

     The kinds of abuses prisoners inflict on one another, and particularly on the most vulnerable among them, are no joke.  It's just another way in which prisons become finishing schools for crime and bent minds; it doesn't punish in any proportional way and it doesn't do a darned thing to reform criminals.

     Is the whole call-me-Chelsea thing kind of, well, tacky?  Yes.  Is it discomfiting?  Damn skippy.

     That doesn't make it a very funny joke.
* archy wants you to know that computer keyboards have solved his problems with the shift key.  And there's an odd connection, here, too: the original illustrations of archy the cockroach and his pals were drawn by George Herriman, better known and much loved for Krazy Kat -- and from behind a drawing board, nobody knows you're black.  For all his talent, for all his work was enjoyed by millions, he spent his whole life hiding his hair under a hat, talking about Greek ancestors to explain his dark complexion, "passing" lest he be despised for his true ancestry.

Hammondhotep X: Breakfast Treat

     Hieroglyphic square eggs, that's what I made for breakfast.

     Start by frying a couple of strips of bacon and saute some diced onion in the hot fat.  While it's getting translucent, use a water glass to punch holes in a couple of slices of bread.

     Fish out the onion and put the bread in the pan -- flip it over after dropping it in, so both sides pick up a little grease.  Break an egg into the opening in each one.  Once the eggs have cooked up a little, divide most of the onion between each egg (you can crumble some or all of the bacon in, too.)  It will sink towards the center.

     Slice some small sweet peppers into rings, and couple 2-3 of the rings into very small bits and add to the egg.

     When the eggs are set enough (I trust your judgement), flip 'em over and top with a thin slice of Swiss and a thin slice of good ham.  Add remaining bacon (if any), sauteed onion, and top with sweet pepper rings -- the interesting, colorful shapes of these look like ancient Egyptian writing if you hold you head right, thus the name, "Hammond X" Egyptianized.  Well, Khem-ized, really.

     When the cheese is melting out, it's done.  Yum! 

     Spice to suit -- I peppered the bacon before cooking and put a little sesame/garlic in the pan before I dropped in the bread.


     A local man showed up at an area hospital in the wee small hours with a gunshot wound in his leg, telling a familiar tale: "...random bullet...[gas station] parking lot...."  It happened around 3:15 this morning.

     The news story got about that far when Tam and I were both wondering aloud if, just possibly, the "gunshot wound" might maybe have associated powder burns.  No matter what part of town you're in, a bullet in (or through) the leg is more likely to be self-inflicted than random.

     No matter how this particular story plays out, today's lesson is: use a holster.  Keep your itchy durn fingers off the go-bang lever.  Please.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Mission Creep: The War On Terror Leakers

     So...didja hear what our buddies the Brits did the other day?  They nabbed 'em a suspicious terrorist changing planes at Heathrow and held onto him, interrogating him for the maximum time their law allows.

     ...Except the "suspicious terrorist" was Glenn Greenwald's boyfriend, David Miranda, and what he was suspected of appears to be the dire crime of being a known associate of the crusading* journalist who was Edward Snowden's primary contact in leaking details of the vast UK/US surveillance of their own -- and each other's -- citizens.

     There's a shiny lining to every cloud and in this case, it must be reassuring to those who think a vast homosexual conspiracy has grabbed the reins of power: GCHQ (and thus presumably NSA) aren't afraid of 'em, not even a little tiny bit.

     For the rest of us, it's a reminder of the the continued covert growth and waxing strength of shadowy intel agencies.  Sure, nobody hurt Mr. Miranda and when time ran out, they set him (though not his telephone or laptop computer) as free as a bird.  But the trend is clear and by the time they've worked themselves up to a kinder, gentler Room 101, they'll be working their way down from lovers and friends of journalists who help leak embarrassing secrets to slobs like you and me, who merely look askance at abuses of power.

     You may not like Mr. Greenwald or approve of his politics and/or personal life; you may see Snowden as traitorous or shallow.  But along with secret stuff from the real (or at least earnest) fight against Bad Guys who try to do Bad Things, they've hauled into the light a mass of festering rot that, unchecked, will do more real damage to Western Civilization than any bunch of goatherds-turned-bombers could ever dream of.

     H/t to Claire Wolfe, who has a keen eye for such abuses.  I hope she's right when she sunnily opines, "...freedom ultimately wins. Because power is DUMB."  Dumb it may be, but it's certainly quite powerful, and on the subject of power, one of history's more bloodily successful autocrats observed, "Quantity has a quality all its own."
* I use the mostly-neutral term advisedly; as Newsweek put it, "His independent persuasion can make him a danger or an asset to both sides of the aisle."

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Indy 1500: Tam BlogMeet?

There's an Indy 1500 Gun Show this weekend.  I'm trying to convince Tam to schedule a BlogMeet for that Sunday, the 25th.  Whaddaya think?

Federal Felony Stupid

     Right here in Indy, some young entrepreneurs were fixing to shoot a rap video.  On High School grounds -- but on a weekend, they're no fools.

     Well, kinda no fools.  Sort of.  Um, possibly fools--

     When your videos have already attracted the attention of the IMPD Gang Unit thanks to a fascinating array of guns/dope/big wads'o'cash props, it might not be the best of ideas to use social media to announce plans for time and location for recording the next one.  If you do that, though, you'd be wanting to make very sure your prop items were, in fact, merely inert props, right?

     Not so much.  Ezell Triplett was arrested for having a firearm on school property.  Oh, and it seems there were Controlled Substances involved as well.  (I'm no friend of the Moron War On Drugs, but y'know, clever folk avoid war zones when they can, even if they disapprove of the war).

     But it was darned sportin' of him to give The Law an engraved invitation, wasn't it?

Policemen: Come To Indy, Drink Heavily--

     --Get arrested.

     I don't know what it is about Indy that results in LEO public intox, but if we can figure it out, we ought to bottle it.  Bottle it and then send the filled bottles to Yucca Mountain, entombed in huge concrete casks: we've got way too much of the stuff.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Hot Cuisine -- And Quick, Too

     I'm enjoying a small bowl of deliciousness for supper.  It's smells wonderful and tastes even better, yet it was made in one pan with only the most rudimentary of preparation and very little attention.

     It's Amy's Organic Hearty French Country Vegetable Soup* with sauteed fresh mushrooms and a sliced Surry sausage, plus a little of this (a quarter of a white onion, diced) and that (a handful of cherry tomatoes, sliced).  (I think this one is the particular Edwards sausage product, should your local butcher not have 'em.)

     Of course, you cook it in the opposite order: rinse the mushrooms (I buy pre-sliced) and toss them in a large pan with a little olive oil for luck; break them up if they're really large slices, you're going to be eating this with a spoon.  Then slice or snip the Surry sausage into it and cook while you chop up the little bit of onion and stir that in.  Let it go until the mushrooms are just starting to darken and smell really good, slice up the tomatoes if you like and chuck 'em in, push it all around a bit, cover, go find the can of soup, open it up and pour it in, rinsing the can out with maybe a quarter-can of water and pour that in as well.  Cover, simmer and ignore for 15 minutes or more.  Next time you lift the lid, you'll say, "Ahhhhhhh!"

     ...If you like sort of thing.

     Serve with crusty bread or hearty crackers and nice fresh raw veggies. It doesn't need a speck of spice.  The Surry sausage is done up to a faretheewell, the soup stock is in no wise shy, and the rest stands nicely on its own merits.  I'm saving some for Tam when she gets home (if she wants it) and some more to take to work for lunch tomorrow.
* Yeah, yeah, it's organic and dolphin-safe and happy hippy rainbows all the way home. You know what else it is? Damn good, that's what.  Amy might be woowoo as can be but she sure can cook.

Secret Pleasure

     I wouldn't tell just anyone, but Dear Friends, I can tell you, right?

     I have this terrible weakness.  It's something I sneak off to do.  The pleasure is nearly irresistible. 

     Yes -- I can say it.  I can finally say it:

     I love peanut butter and margarine sammiches. On white bread.  The darned things are just--  So gooood.

     There.  That's a relief.


Sunday, August 18, 2013

How The West Was Weird

     Looking up old TV shows -- I like The Wild, Wild West and The Adventures Of Brisco County, Jr., and listed them on the Book of Face, but alas, where was Legend? -- I encountered the genre "Weird West."

     The Wikipedia listing included a list of titles of films, TV shows, graphic novels and books but there was a huge omission: the brilliant SF writer R. A. Lafferty.

     Like Avram Davidson,* Lafftery's short fiction was strikingly original.  Quirky.  Some of his best work is set in the West -- the Southwest, typically, and no surprise, since that was where he was born and lived.  Soothly there is no way work like Sodom and Gomorrah, Texas is anything but Weird West, and of the very finest sort.

     Perhaps at the other end of the Weird West scale, you'll find Paladin.  Weird? A little; but in a broader sense, the hero of Have Gun -- Will Travel is a proto-superhero in the mold of Batman: he's got two identities (the cultivated esthete vs. the tough mercenery), a recognizable superheroing costume (the all-black trail clothes) and works by his own sense of justice and the law.  He's even got an origin story, very much in the classic graphic-novel style.  (The writing of these half-hour dramas is remarkably good, by the way.  Watch a few and you'll wonder at the flabby meanderings of a modern hour-long drama -- of course, the modern TV "hour" is around 40 minutes of story, vs. 27 or more for HGWT.)  I think it qualifies, just over the line between "regular" and "weird" Westerns.
* I can't remember who it was pointed out that Davidson's work, while often not very long, was unusually deep and unusually broad.  You can't mistake either of them for any other writer, that's for sure.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Margaret E. Knight: Mother Of The Grocery Bag

     You've never heard of her, yet until fairly recently, one of her inventions was an unavoidable part of your life: Marget E. Knight is the person who realized a flat-bottomed paper bag would hold a lot more than a flat bag and proceeded to invent a machine to automatically cut, fold and glue them, not too long after the end of the U.S. Civil War. 

     Who was she, some kind of engineer?  --Well, some kind, I suppose, but she'd left school at the age of 12 to work in the textile mills of her native New England; her first invention was a device to improve worker safety on looms, variously described as a "covered shuttle" or "stop-motion device,"* and widely used (yes, by those grasping, greedy capitalists...who didn't like having to stop a machine or an entire mill to untangle a mangled worker, train her replacement, etc.: it turns out that safety saves!).  Later on, she went to work in a paper bag factory, where the notion of the flat-bottomed bag occurred to her.  --She almost didn't get the patent, when the machinist she hired to build an all-metal Patent Office model from her wooden prototype stole the design instead and tried to patent it himself!  In 1871, she won the patent interference claim on the strength of her detailed, dated notes -- which does indeed make her some kind of an engineer in my opinion.

     Never wealthy, never a fancy "inventor" with an office and a staff, Margaret E. Knight is nevertheless one of my heroines, a systematic thinker who saw things through.
* Dagnabbed non-technical historians!  Where's Henry Petroski when we need him? Already there, as it happens: he has some coverage of Ms. Knight's work in "Small Things Considered," but I don't have the book.  Yet.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Cue The Spooky Music: Government Admits There Is An "Area 51"

     Gee, and the Russians have only been taking photos of it for 50-plus years!  Yes, citizens, there is an Area 51.

     ...Alas, this does totally demolish my theory that they had it on the books as a Naval Air Station, thus allowing USAF to honestly claim it wasn't one of theirs.  Oh, well.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Latest "Revelation" In The Manning Case

     I'm reminded of what happened Arlo Guthrie on the "Group W Bench" when one of the "mean 'n' ugly 'n' nasty 'n' horrible and all kind of things" guys already there, "...sat down next to me and [...]said, "What were you arrested for, kid?" And I said, "Littering." And they all moved away from me on the bench there, and [gave me] the hairy eyeball and all kinds of mean nasty things...."  D'you suppose Julian Assange and Edward Snowden flinched away in like manner when the Army released a photograph of Bradley Manning in a wig and makeup?  (See there what happens when you embarrass the Army? They'll tell everybody what was in the note you sent the Algebra teacher!  O-M-G, adult life is just Junior High writ way too large.)

     ...But I don't mention that to trot him out like Milton Berle in a gold lamé* miniskirt, a human punchline.  The afternoon chat shows have done learned me that Life Is A Many-Patterned Quilt and has little if any fashion sense.  Nope, I'm still wondering how an Army Private ends up with access to such sooper-sekrit documents and exactly what kind of "rigorous, in-depth screening program" cleared a soldier with that much baggage for such a job -- and kept him in it, long after warning signs that would get most people bounced from running a cash register at Ted's All-Nite Discount House Of Stuff?

     I disapprove of gummint secrets on general principles; history tells me a government sneaky enough to need so damn' many secrets is likely to be gettin' up to nasty stuff, there in the shadows.  Military secrets (in the classic or war-movie sense) are a different sort of thing, usually one with a short shelf-life: D-Day is no secret the day after troops land in Normandy.  Nevertheless, you take the oath, you've got to know the price for breaking it.  I'm pretty sure you don't get a discount for being a girl and even more so for tryin' to put in for a transfer to the distaff side -- even in the post-DADT military, they frown on that.

     Is it too much to hope for that this sort of leak-thing could happen with a little less ready-for-Jerry-Springer drama?  Congratulations, modern whistle-blowers and leakers: you've managed to make the process not merely sordid but tacky.  All you need now is Bette Midler to belt out a theme song.

     Of course, in a world with a lot less CYA-secrecy (and that's what at least eighty percent of it is) to be unveiled, Manning would've been sent home from the Army on a General Discharge, Snowdon would still be just another .gov IT nerd snapping a whip over lowest-bidder servers, Assange would merely be a creep who gets slapped a lot at parties and we'd'a never heard of any of them.  O, happier, better world!

     Don't hold your breath.
* It was probably really gold guipé, but why confuse matters?  More than already, I mean.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Just Call Me "Two-Gun:" A Brace Of .32-20s

     Tam brought back a surprise from Coal Creek Armory: my other .32-20 Colt revolver, the one with a mangled ejector star, left with gunsmith Shannon just in case a used part turned up.

     It never did, but gunsmiths being gunsmiths and idle hands finding something to do, he had laboriously welded up and recut the ratchet teeth!  This is no mean feat: you can ruin the timing with a misplaced stroke of the file and it's slow going to get things right.

     Since I had another one (even a malfunctioning .32-20 Colt is addictive: they're quick and accurate, and don't beat you up with recoil, so when a nicely-reblued example showed up, I bought it), I was in no hurry.

     It was worth the wait:
Reblued .32-20, top; restarred, bottom. On gen-u-ine brown canvas duck dungarees, too.
     Yep, y'all c'n call me Two-Gun Bobbi now; I've just gotta save up for a fancy Western gun belt!  --And there's the "obscure ammo" advantage: in times of drought, the supply and price of less-common cartridges stays about as it ever was.  When .38 Special and 9 mm Parabellum are scarce and costly, .32 Nagant, .32-20 and even .357 Sig are usually still on store shelves.

     Plus, I admit it, they're just kewl.

Yet Another IMPD DUI

     The job is stressful, but so are many others.  If there's any group who should know the kind of trouble that can arise from drunken driving and just how few drinks it takes to cross the .08 line, it would be police.

     But it's happened again: another IMPD officer has been nabbed and charged with driving while impaired, this time after reports of someone driving erratically.

     Meanwhile -- and I'm sure it's totally, completely unrelated -- the Marion County Prosecutor opines the city's police force is short some 700 officers.  But hey, no pressure, huh?

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Guide To Interacting With An Introvert

Linked here.  (Just one more click after, promise.)  Too right. 

     (The category for thisn's a pun!)


     ...Spent most of yesterday flat on my back in bed, with about enough energy to flip the page or hunt up a channel clicker.  Which the Web -- but not my Doc -- tells me me can happen: "...some patients...may require two or three days of bed rest...."   Oh.  Well, it's good thing I didn't have a tap-dancing recital or climbing one of Indiana's rugged mountains on my schedule, that's for sure.

     Things I Learned:
  •       Don Knotts is still funny; while many of the situations his scrawny, hapless Everyman are thrown into are hopelessly dated, period pieces now quaint as gas light, his well-intentioned befuddlement is a universal constant. 
  •      It is nearly impossible to watch McMillan & Wife as a simple lightweight detective drama.  Did the scriptwriters and directors intend to set up situation after situation, line after line, fraught with multiple meaning, or is it irony by hindsight?  I ended up changing the channel instead of speculating further.
  •      There were plenty of good-hearted Night Gallery segments.  For some reason, I only remembered the scary ones from childhood.
  •      I occasionally hear the expression "Bazinga!" used as a fill-in for "Wow!" or "Eureka."  ...But it appears to refer to a Japanese equivalent of the 19th-Century Gibson Girl. Who knew?

Monday, August 12, 2013

Words Of Royalty/Man Without A Country

     When the Soviet Union fell apart, a group of Russians hunted up the man with what they determined was the best claim to the Tsar's throne.  He refused the honor, saying, "Gentlemen, I could not be more pleased and flattered at your invitation, but I must tell you that I am entirely satisfied with my present occupation."  Paul R. Ilyinsky was the Mayor of Palm Beach, Florida at the time. (Wow, like Floridians didn't already have an attitude about their state's attractiveness!)

     In 1974, a would-be kidnapper ordered Britain's Princess Anne out of her car, after having shot her driver and one of her guards.  "Not bloody likely," replied the Princess, and bailed out on the side away from her assailant.  She survived unscathed. The kidnapper did not; he was punched in the back of the head by a passing pedestrian and chased down by police.

     The first (or best-known) Citizen Of The World died last month.  Garry Davis was one of those "one-worlder" types (and a huge fan of Eleanor Roosevelt), but he had a lot more skin in the game than most, having renounced his U.S. citizenship in 1948 and never became a citizen of any other nation.  He spent much of his life afterwards travelling the world on his own "World Passport," though generally not without a struggle.  That degree of commitment deserves to be recognized, especially since along the way, he revealed the essential ludicrousness of lines on  the map backed up by armed men; cross over and it's still the same place, really.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Jamestown Or Roanoke?

    Maybe the next batch of ships will find a thriving colony or maybe just "CROATOAN" hacked into a rock, but the die is darned well cast:

    I will be of retirement age when they leave and I'm too set in my ways to go.  But at least I've seen this day, and may yet see them depart.

     (My own streak of the contrary whispers, "Remember Kornbluth's The Rocket of 1955."  O perfidious doubt, silence!)

The Revolution Will Not Be Televised -- And The Royalties Might Not Be Shared

     Gil Scott-Heron's daughter is suing her (nominal) half-brother.  It seems a DNA test shows him to not be related to the late performer -- which does tend to complicate that whole "inheritance" thing.

     From meditating on what a real revolution would look like to fighting over royalties from it in two generations.  How's that for upward mobility?

     And they say things never get better.

Adventures In Oversleeping

     It's Sunday; I woke up to a nasty headache, blocked sinuses, a blaring alarm clock and a shouting TV.  I shut off the latter two but Tam was watching the news in the living room, so I got up, took an allergy pill and an acetaminophen,* put on my hearing protectors, and went annoyedly back to sleep.

     It worked, too: a mere three hours later, I was merely achy all over and only mildly grumpy, both of which a small breakfast is rapidly solving.

     What's your excuse? --Er, if you needed one, that is.
* Y'know why the Brits call it "paracetamol?"  'Cos you can spell that without wondering if you went wrong!)

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Help A Sister Out

     Squeaky (as in Wheel) continues her odyssey through The Medical System, at least now getting actual diagnoses of actual Things Wrong They Can Fix, but as it turns out, the rule is "No bucks, no Dr. Kildare," too; it ain't just Buck Rogers you don't get for free.

     She needs a hand and there's a lot of us, so the hat's being passed and it'd be a kindness to kick in if you can.  For those as squeamish as I when it comes to details, the tl;dr version is, big, obvious problem requiring big, invasive surgery and long, low-activity recovery time.  The good news it, it's all looking fixable.  If you've followed even ten percent of her travails, you know what a huge improvement that is. Barring a solid-gold meteorite in her back yard (which they won't let her lift anyway), she needs our help to get through this.


     Rannie (Tam's tortoiseshell cat) jumps up on my desk and commences a slow stalk of my bacon, eggs and Emmenthaler cheese on toast sandwich.  I pick it up with one hand and push on her side with the back of my other hand, saying, "No!  You already had a nice saucer of grease* -- hey, are you purring?"


     She is purring in anticipation and pressing back against my hand, happy to get the attention but still mostly focused on my sandwich.  "No, Rannie, you cannot have my breakfast."

     "Nao? Mrrrr."

    "No," I tell her, and increase the pressure until she hops down.  Outside of meal time, she's permitted on the desk so she has a refuge from Huck when he's especially determined to play with her, and the "Not while I have food" rule is a little too subtle for a cat's mind, not to mention contrary to her natural inclinations. I look down at her as she walks abound the desk to stare accusingly up at me.  "I'm sorry."

     "Mmrau."  Rannie raises up and put both paws on my knee, eyes wide. striving to look as kittenlike as possible, and asks again, "Menk-Nao?"



     She doesn't quite talk yet, but it's not for lack of trying.

     (Meanwhile Huck watches silently, waiting, a tiger biding his time.)
* Not grease, really about a tablespoon of olive oil, enlivened with a half-teaspoon of bacon grease because she was begging for it, despite having been served kibble when I first got up.

Jeepers, Ow

     I had a minor medical procedure* yesterday afternoon that resulted in some of the most abiding and annoying discomfort I've ever endured.  Not major ouch but very persistent.  I slept 2-3 hours at a stretch last night and none of it was especially restful.

     Drat.  Much to do today.  Perhaps if I keep busy, I'll forget all about the discomfort until it has faded.

     Later: No, trying to keep busy doesn't help a bit. I'm going back to bed.
* No details.  (Joke for the hams: Or at least no details until I get a 75-meter AM 'phone rig running, ha-ha.)

Thursday, August 08, 2013

Broad Ripple Shooter Update

     The case is going before a grand jury, who will be deciding if he acted as "a reasonable man" would have behaved in the same circumstances.

     Remember those words!  If you're ever involved in anything but the most straightforward armed self-defense situation, that's (probably -- local laws differ) the standard you'll be evaluated by, too.  This is yet another reason to do your darnedest to avoid having to shoot folks well in advance of actual confrontation.  You may be pure of heart, as stalwart as John Wayne and as skilled as a ninja, but in the end, what you did in the blur of the moment will be analyzed by a bunch of your peers sitting in comfy chairs with lawyers, police and a judge around, and if they don't think what you did was reasonable....  Ahem.

     The grand jury system is not without faults but they'll be getting testimony from the sources instead of filtered through a reporter and we will, in time, at least find out if the guy's a ham sandwich.  Will he be charged?  Will there be a trial?  Stay tuned.

     The more I hear about this, the less I think I know.

Wednesday, August 07, 2013

"I Really Feel As If I Have Forgotten An Article Of Clothing."

     That's more-or-less how Tam put it; we had -- without consulting one another -- both decided to comply with one of Indiana's very few state-mandated victim-disarmament zones[1] and refrained from carrying sidearms while at the State Fair.

     I can -- sort of -- see their point; the Fair typically has outdoor crowd densities of the sort that make Fire Marshals twitchy and nervous, and the more-popular indoor venues sometimes resemble a Tokyo subway at rush hour. (And they'll let you lock your gun in your car in the State Fair parking lots,[2] at least.)

     Still, it's a strangely naked feeling and much worse for Tam than for me; I'm vain enough to rarely carry IWB or OC, whereas she puts a holstered gun on her belt as a part of putting on jeans, as automatically as you tie your shoes.

     ...Withal, it's worth it for our State Fair.  I don't have any grounds for comparison but I'll tell you, Indiana puts on a heck of a show, from 4-Hers and their critters to local beers and wines to technology old and new, a zillion tasty things to eat, rides and midway contests of luck and skill, High School Band Day competition, concerts, hucksters, DNR archery and angling and I don't know what all else lessons, crafts of every sort, the Historic Antique Drugstore (open year 'round, bring the kids in to see the leeches!) and -- as we were leaving -- a Peruvian folk band cranking out a remarkable arrangement of "A Whiter Shade Of Pale" on traditional instruments.  If you can't find something you like (maybe the 3-D zoetrope or the guy who sells rubber duckies in the accoutrements of a few hundred trades and professions?), you're probably dead already.

     --It would seem this posting, written last night, incited the Fates: here's what happens if you get caught with firearms at the State Fair. (tl;dr?  He was walked right back out, they handed his unloaded guns back, and he probably had to go to bed without supper. No Fair for him!)  The video, at least when I saw it. contained some fact errors, referring to the law as "policy" and claiming it was in effect all of the time.  Nope; the State Fairgrounds are a disarmament zone only while the Fair itself is on.  That where the Indy 1500 Gun Show is during non-Fair times!
1. This is a matter of law:
 80 IAC 4-4-4 Deadly weapons prohibited
Authority: IC 15-13-2-9
Affected: IC 15-13-2; IC 15-13-7
Sec. 4. (a) This rule does not apply to a federal, state, or local law enforcement officer or to a person who has been employed or authorized by the state fair commission to provide security protection and services during the annual state fair.
(b) No person in possession of a deadly weapon shall be permitted onto or be permitted to remain on the fairgrounds during the annual state fair.
(c) Any deadly weapon found in the possession of a person while on the fairgrounds during the annual state fair is subject to immediate confiscation by law enforcement officers or other personsauthorized by the executive director of the state fair commission.
(d) Any person properly licensed to carry a firearm must secure the firearm in a locked compartment of his or her vehicle, and it shall not be visible to passersby. (State Fair Commission; 80 IAC 4-4-4; filed Jul 7, 2003, 3:15 p.m.: 26 IR 3538; readopted filed Oct 4, 2007, 10:29 a.m.: 20071024-IR-080070451RFA)
As written, this law applies to knives, too, but I have never had my belt-carried Latherman multi-tool or pocket-clip knife questioned at the Fair.

 2. However, the cautious gunnie nevertheless does not use the overflow parking at the Deaf School immediately to the north: it is, after all, a school.

Tuesday, August 06, 2013

Pennsylvania Shooting

     It's all over your TV screen this morning: in Ross Township of Monroe County PA, a local with a long and acrimonious history with the township government shot up a township board of supervisors meeting, killing three people and injuring two others.  He was eventually tackled by a couple of citizens and injured by a round from his own gun.

    There are a number of issues here, including the right to be a scary-looking loner with a yard full of junk vs. public health and safety concerns* but as a high-profile shooting, it plays right into the anti narrative and the spin starts right at the source: a reporter from the local paper was at the meeting and escaped unscathed.  His description?  The people inside my TV quoted him as saying, "There were more than ten was automatic, like a string of firecrackers."  (Emphasis mine)

     No description of the weapons from police yet other than "a rifle" and "a handgun."  But full-auto fire seems unlikely, and wouldn't sound like a string of firecrackers.

     Expect renewed calls for magazine capacity limits and bans of "assault weapons" in the wake of this crime, even if he used a hunting rifle and a revolver.
* I'd like to think this is straightforward -- and then I trip over the notion of an old dead tire with a pool of water in it, full of mosquito larvae that are themselves full of West Nile virus and don't stop at the property line once they take to the air.  Or, as appears to have happened here, living without any sort of sewage system, not even an outhouse.  Where do you draw the line?  In June, the shooter told a reporter, “If I lose this property, I have nowhere else to go.”  And nothing else to lose, apparently.

Monday, August 05, 2013

Vacation Is A State Of Mind

     And I like to think I can be as vacant as anyone, once I've, er, put my mind to it.

     Progress of this one, so far:

     DVD/CD freestanding shelves for living room, about a third done (all shelves cut to size).

     State Fair: Spent most of one day, would happily go back.

     Ham antenna: relocated the front-yard end of the big one (G5RV) to a different tree, haven't checked it yet.  It's a bit less straight-line than it was.

     Removed a lot of dead branches from the new antenna-holding tree.

     Dying tree in front yard: spoke to Local Tree Expert Jim, who was working around the corner, and he'll get back to me with an estimate.  I'm sorry to have to give this one up; it split into two large branches about 10' up and we lost the longer (and most leafy one) in June of 2010. What remained was hanging but didn't fare well in last summer's drought.  Ths year, it leafed out valiantly, but they started dropping several weeks ago and now nearly all the remaining one have turned brown.  Poor tree!  It did well but had trouble ever since the (former) other silver maple fell on it in 2010.  And yes, this is the tree I moved my antenna from

     AM ham transmitter: powered it up slowly with The Gadget last evening, had it running and was making good progress until I shut down to get my RF Wattmeter: turned it back on and the internal fuse blew!  I may have short-cycled it, as I was using the switch on the power strip and some tube gear doesn't like that. Or there could be a component failure. Took a quick look under the chassis before I started and it appears all of the parts are original. (For hams who read this blog, it's a DX-60, so the "internal" fuse is in the power plug.  How British. Except this is the American version, once commonly used for electric fence power supplies.)

     Plenty left yet to do.

Sunday, August 04, 2013

Blue Monday? Not With This!

     You'll sneer at the old washboard once you've got one of these--
Photo credit: T. Keel, whose camera stops water in mid-slosh.
     It's as manual a powered washing machine as you'll find, but it'll run forever (just about literally, since you control the timing of each step)!  I had a roommate once who owned and used a slightly newer version, with a round enameled tub instead of a square galvanized one. Operation is much the same, though hers had (IIRC) a gentle cycle as well as regular. That's the drain hose, hooked to the side at right: lower to empty.  The wringer'll do a better job removing water than most spin cycles, and it's just about as good at adding wrinkles as the spin cycle, too, unless you know what you're doing.  Mind your fingers!

     What makes this one nice is what's buzzing away underneath:
Photo credit: T. Keel.  Wait'll she learns they made go-carts with these engines, too.
     A little Maytag boxer engine, stomp-start and all!  My old roomie's was an electric, nicer to have in the house but lacking the geeky charm.

     These are the machines that built the Maytag reputation for reliability, and with good reason.

     This example is just one of a dozen small engines and the things they run, all working away on a trailer in Pioneer Village at the Indiana State Fair.

Saturday, August 03, 2013

The Smoke Of Progress!

     Good ol' Indiana coal!  (The smell is oddly nostalgic for me.)

     Here's what it's burning in -- look closely for the glow from the fire, barely visible (if at all) at the top of the stoking door.
     The only thing "automatic" on a steam engine are the oilers (if provided) and the flyball governor (if it has one), and they're not very.  Maintenance is an ongoing job and not easy--
     Daily descaling is a necessity.  (Around here, even city water is hard, hard, hard.) I stand corrected, descaling is done at much greater intervals; I'm informed that it's the outside -- well, the exposed-to-firebox side -- of the boiler tubes one cleans daily, as soot build-up prevents good heat transfer.  It makes sense -- and it's a much dirtier job.

     (Purchased in the same Pioneer Village area as the lovely old traction engines, only slightly newer tractors and small stationary engines both IC and OC: a sorghum lollypop and maple sugar candy!  The State Fair is something of a sugarfest for me, including the wonderful honey ice cream in the Horticulture Building (where the apiarists set up, for obvious reasons.)

     This makes me happy:
     Military vehicles are copiously, obviously marked with what goes where, what the tire pressure should be, etc.  I'd like to see that on more of the vehicles at work.  I'd like to see more of that everywhere.


Can you hear it?  The pounding of drums?  That's the Horticulture Club!  We're all doomed.  Doomed!
See?  There really is a use for pink camo; you just have to be hunting flamingos in an hibiscus jungle.  Probably with a slingshot, or perhaps a butterfly net.


They're found in several places at the Indiana State Fair -- little ones, head-butting and playing King Of The Rock next to the DNR building, all sizes in the 4-H barns, and in at least two places all lined up to be fed and fussed over:
"Hi, how ya doin?  Welcome to the Goat Fair!"
     This small goat had decided it was best to hang out right next to the kibble-vending machine and try to look cute.

Friday, August 02, 2013

Went To The State Fair

     And they think I look like this:
     Pictures -- photos! -- of other animals to follow.

Eeediot Goes "Bang"

     Or so it appears and I'm not much minded to ignore it when it happens a few blocks away: four people were shot last night (shortly before three this morning, actually) when a fight broke out in front of The Vogue, a popular Broad Ripple nightclub.  Nobody was killed but one's in serous condition.

     To fully grasp the idiocy in question, here's a picture:
     The area can be presumed to be well-lighted (and fairly busy, even at 2:50 a.m., ten minutes before bar-closing time) and IMPD seems to think the exits of the new parking garage are an excellent place to find impaired drivers; there is frequently at least one police car parked almost directly across from The Vogue.

     The wounded were found around the corner, in front of a pizzeria on the even more well-lit and populated row of bars etc. along  Broad Ripple Avenue.

     So, some number of young persons get in a fight, and one of them starts shooting.  --What're the chances he's already barred from being around guns?  What're the odds he's got a permit?  I've got my opinions and I'll be watching this story; for now, police say they've already got the shooter in custody. It's not looking like self-defense.

      What're the odds the antis will lay this'n on responsible adults who did all the paperwork?  Or that toast will fall butter side down?


     ETA: Shooter now claims to have fired in self-defense. There appears to have been an earlier argument that resulted in all four being tossed out of RA nightclub, followed by renewed contact outside.  And yes, he's got an LTCH.  I'd'a lost that bet.  ...Also, it appears that the fourth victim was an innocent bystander; which may explain why the shooter was arrested for criminal recklessness and battery with injury.

     There's still more to this story, I think.  Tam's already reminding me of the rule, "Don't go stupid places with stupid people -- especially if you're carrying a gun."

Thursday, August 01, 2013

Claire Wolfe Vs. The Hoplophobes: Fools, Liars Or Both?

     Claire writes 'em so I don't have to; she's examining the crazy things antigunners say and...wondering.

     Y'know, you've kinda got to.

I'll Probably Make A Complete Mess Of This

     I'm going to try it anyway.

     Recently, I stopped hostessing BlogMeets and I scrubbed a couple of blogs from my blogroll.

     I hated to do it.  While my hearing and people-coping skills are barely up to the non-job of doing a BlogMeet, they were fun and I hoped Tam might set one or two up,  And I didn't want to drop the links, either; they went to guys who were (mostly) fun to read and had interesting things to say.

     But they've bought into and promote something I regard as a "Glittering Lie," a cross between a Glittering Generality and a Big Lie and their minds are quite firmly set.  And it's the kind of thing that can get people killed; it's the kind of thing that can get very bad laws made, and lead to very bad decisions.  And every time I look into one of their "irrefutable examples," the example turns out to be easily refutable.

     What is it?  Why, that gay people pressing for the right to marry one another is an attempt to destroy religion -- specifically Christianity and (per some) the Catholic Church.

     A couple of the most recent examples cited were:

    -Denmark's recognition of gay marriage; this traces back (as nearly as I could tell) to a guy speculating on a message board that clergy will be required by law to perform marriages for gay couples.  However, the law specifically allows individual clergy to refuse to perform such ceremonies.  (The Danish State Church is under a requirement to find a pastor who will if a couple's choice says nope -- but it's arguable if any other church in Denmark can be so required and has not been tested.)
     Denmark is not the United States, especially so on the notion of relations between church(es) and the State and yet even there, Just Saying No remains an acceptable response.

     -A baker in Colorado is being sued over twice turning away gay couples who wanted wedding cakes or wedding-reception cupcakes, and telling them it was on account of the owner's religion not condoning their relationships.  This is only about religion to the degree the owner chose to introduce it and in fact, they probably could've gotten away with a Bartleby-esque, "I would prefer not to," or a claim of being overbooked already.  But their particular location has chosen to apply Public Accommodation laws to homosexuals the same way they apply to race and religion: if you hang out a shingle to serve the public, you're obliged to serve all of the public (or at least the ones wearing shoes and shirts), and if you don't like that, it's time to either move or get out of business.*  Also, please note nobody was asking them to perform the ceremony nor is their church in any way harmed by them baking a cake.  True, it's all squicky for them; life's tough.

     But here's the problem: instead of pointing to this as examples of an activity they find undesirable, my dropped links claim it's part of a conspiracy.  An attempt led by "the gays" to destroy their church or Christianity in general.   This is highly unlikely, and would come as a surprise to those L/G people I work with who happen to be good, church-going folks (and no, not Metropolitan Community Church, either).  But it's more than unlikely: it's pernicious.  It's a Glittering Lie on the order of the one that, back in the Dark Ages, claimed Jews caused the Black Death by poisoning wells.  It's the kind of lie that violent fools use to justify harming others -- and I don't mean by making them bake a cake.

     Here's where it gets twisted: the same guys spreading the "gay marriage is really a plot to destroy the Church" bumfodder tell me -- straight-faced -- that they bear gay folk no enmity.  None whatsoever; why, as long as the LBG set keeps the shades drawn, it's no problem at all.  And I am sure they mean it, too. 

     Nevertheless, those who claim "Jewish businessmen stabbed Germany in the back" "The Irish are subhuman, lazy louts "African-American men have uncontrollable lusts" "gay people don't really care about wedlock, they just want to ruin the church," are gonna get 'em killed.  In ugly ways.  By idiots.  Oh, the brickbat won't be in their hands, nor any blood on 'em; they'll read about it in the paper over breakfast and remark, "Tut-tut.  How dreadful."  (And the victim's partner will get turned away at the morgue, having no recognized connection to the deceased.)

     I don't condone that.  If you want to believe such things and spend thousands of words on it, go for it; but you can't do it here, nor in any forum I control.  If you simply don't approve of gay marriage, fine; we can disagree.  We can write our Congresthings, or wave signs at one another; that's how it works. I don't care if you like gay people or loathe them, as long as you give them the same respect you give any other fellow citizen. If you don't understand how the First Amendment works anent religion here in the United States, perhaps you'll learn.  But I won't help spread what I can only regard as dreamed-up paranoid fantasies, no matter how finely-chopped the prose espousing them.  It makes me sick to my stomach -- actually physically bilious -- to be placed in a position of even appearing to do so. 

     You know what else curdles my guts?  Having to write this.  But I kind of had to.

     Comments will be deleted if they cross the line. If too many people whine about that, comments will be closed.
* While I would personally prefer businesses were free to openly discriminate  just as much as they liked against whatever people or groups they didn't like and get boycotted and/or picketed over it big as life, that's not the world we live in.  Instead, the discrimination's subtle and sneaky, unless somebody's looking to pick a fight.  Remind me again why that's an improvement?