Wednesday, December 31, 2014

New Year's Eve Day

     By dint of remarkable luck and a complete absence of planning, I have New Year's Eve off for once.  All day, in fact.  --Some planning was involved, I guess, but not for a holiday.  I was holding back a vacation day in case Mom needed additional surgery, which has been put in hold in favor of less-invasive treatment.  So the left-over day was "use it or lose it," and today was the very last chance to use it.

     So far, I have slept in extravagantly, followed by a breakfast of such stunning decadence that Tamara demurred on one course: she skipped the stuffed cherry pepper omelet (pickled green cherry peppers, with a thin slice of prosciutto wrapped around some kind of hard, light cheese filling each one -- dice with some olives and hot pickle and you've got a fine omelet filling).  Along with that (and her choice), a small stack of Swedish pancakes with blueberry jam between each layer and a little applewood-smoked bacon on the side.  Yum! 

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

"Well, Here I Am..."

     ...Which is one of the last lines from the Firefly episode, "Objects In Space."  Set during a sleep shift, it has a certain dreamlike or nightmarish quality, which is about how I feel at the two-thirds point of the three days that go from "early" to "earlier" and back to my normal shift, when I pull one of the earlybird fill-ins.  Usually they're just one week in three, but between holidays and vacations, I have been the predawn engineer every other Sunday-Monday for several weeks now and more to follow.

     I'm not complaining -- it's mostly indoors and there's no heavy lifting! -- but between lost sleep and being awake when one usually sleeps and vice-versa, I inevitably get a funny Monday evening stretch of wakefulness, having come home and stayed awake as long as I could manage, then slept deeply and fast and bobbed back to the surface a long way from Tuesday morning.  I'm not usually awake enough to take on anything very challenging, so I just read, watch TV or hang out online for awhile, drifting until the sandman calls once more.


Monday, December 29, 2014

I'm Tired

     ...Tired of running as fast as I can just to not lose ground too quickly.  The bank that holds my home loan keeps pressing me to swap my 30-year, fixed-rate loan for a 15-year one, same payments, fixed and lower interest, but they want $2.5K up front and it all sounds too good to be true.  What's in it for them?  Then there's the little problem of just having bought a car and therefore not having a couple grand to sling around.

     Found a network of deep cracks in the driver's-side front tire of that car, along the sidewall near the rim.  Not sure what that is but it doesn't look promising.  May need new tires before winter is over.   

     I need a new mattress.  The one I have now was old when I moved to this house, seven years ago, and it's hurting my back to sleep on it.  (I don't use box springs, that's way too soft.  I'd sleep on a 3" slab of foam like an RV mattress but it's too much trouble finding the stuff and it's unfriendly to fitted sheets when you do).  Well, there's $500 or more and that's not happening soon.

     There are still funky things with the plumbing and some of the natural gas piping seems iffy to me in terms of support and routing; I've got a plumber coming in to have a look and give me estimates.  I'll do some water plumbing myself but we're short on shutoffs and some of the things I want redone had been plumbed with field-crimped PEX, fine if you're a plumber and use the tools all day every day but impractical for doing one's own work.  Yeah, more expense.

     Meanwhile, my peers and I went without raises from 2008 until, h'mm, a year and a half ago, and that was 1%, with  more of the same to follow.  Not complaining, either: at least a half-dozen of the other technical-type people have been laid off.  Meanwhile the grocer, the mechanic, the utilities and skilled trades all want more.  At least gasoline prices are down.

     But it's tiring.  At the end of it, if I am very lucky, I'll have a house paid for and enough coming in to pay utilities and eat.  And that's if I work until I'm 72.  50 is the new 30, right?

     UPDATE: So, the plumber just added some hangers for the line; he used the good bubbles and found no leaks.   But the "Check Engine" light came on on my way home from work.  Oh, and have I mentioned we haven't had any dial tone since Friday?  Internet service is int rmitt nt, too, which makes Tam exercise her vocabulary in interesting ways.  I just ran the phone tree with AT&T twice; asking for high-speed Internet repair got me to "Your call did not go through."  Asking for phone line repair got me deep enough into the automated process that they sent a big old slightly-hot jolt of ringing voltage down the line, which did make my phone ring (weak ramping to normal) and lo, we now have dial tone -- and the robot proudly told me, "The problem does not appear to be in AT&T's equipment."  This is incorrect: there's a water leak at the neighborhood terminal box (or whatever you call it, honkin' big transition from glass or a fat copper digital multipair cable or wigwaggy-flaggy to the old-fashioned  UTP) and it's messed up our phone service before and been "repaired," I suspect with a wad of chewing gum which has now dried out.

Patrami Hash?

     As I suspected, thick-cut pastrami makes a very nice hash -- diced potatoes, diced pastrami, a little onion, a little this and that.  Yum!  I scrambled an egg in the middle of mine and splashed on a little hot sauce.  Any of the brisket-based deli meats will do (or you own home-made brisket or roast beef leftovers) for hash -- in my experience, the home-cooked ones are best but it's hard to go too far wrong.

Sunday, December 28, 2014

"Family Christmas" Was Saturday Evening

     And it was nice.  Some years, it's been kind of stressful but this year everyone who could attend was determined to get along.  My great-nephew and his step-brother (ages 5-and-half and 4-and-a-half) went on some kind of sugar-fueled small-boy rampage involving new toys and a game of catch with plastic cars, but even that was relatively pleasant and avoided running into people or furniture.

     My Mom gave new anti-SAD lights to the adults, which will be a welcome addition to the office at Roseholme Cottage.  Look out, short days, Mom's doin' Science back at you! 

Saturday, December 27, 2014

A Happy Day-After-Boxing-Day To You!

     I do hope the Brits and Canadians aren't too bruised?  --After an entire day devoted to pugilism, I mean.  But they do have so much fun with it.

     Christmas (etc.) traditions around the world are not quite as uniform as you might think, and those socks or that tie may be a much better present than you realized -- at least, if you encounter Iceland's Yule Cat!  (No, not just in the funny pages.)  So I hope you neither cried nor pouted, and that you received a nice new sweater in plenty of time.  (Rannie approves, BTW.  But she would.)

Friday, December 26, 2014

About That Clumsy Anti-gun PSA

     --The one that shows a child taking a handgun from his mother's dresser and bringing it to school so his teacher can "take it away?"  Even the State of California Department of Justice (Kamala D. Harris, Attorney General) "Tips for Gun Owners" page clearly addresses the basic notion, showing it to be dangerous and a violation of state law.  (Yes, California has "safe storage" laws, with the express intent of preventing minors from having unsupervised access to firearms.  Agree or not, there they are).

     ...And the page's "Rules For Kids" section is straight from NRA's "Eddie Eagle" gun safety program: Stop!  Don't touch!  Leave the area.  Tell an adult.  AG Kamala Harris and the NRA, at nearly opposite ends of the political spectrum, agree word-for-word on what a child should do when encountering an unsecured firearm -- and it isn't "take it to school and give it to your teacher."

     I found that out with a fifteen-second web search. The production company could have done the same but instead produced a message so inept that even many anti-gun people are crying foul or "false flag," and just this once, I don't blame them.   Oh, it's fun when one's opponents make mistakes, but this was so over-the top that it's almost sad -- or, if applied in the real world, tragic.

     (The video has been made "private" on YouTube, but the producer's web-page still has a Vimeo version, which shows up in search engines if you search on her name.)

Thursday, December 25, 2014

The Fink On The Shelf

     Every Day, No Days Off uses the Shelf Elf to wish you a Merry -- and un-surveilled -- Christmas!  Never thought I'd agree with Dick Cheney about this, but in this one instance...well.

Holiday Just In Case

     Internet service at Roseholme Cottage has gone very iffy this Christmas Eve, so I'm posting this (with a timer on it) while I can.

     Merry Christmas to you and yours, or appropriate wishes for whatever midwinterish holiday your family celebrates on or about this day.  Humans have been marking the shortest day of the year since about the time they figured out there was one, and whether by Divine Plan, some careful calendar-nudging and/or chance, quite a few religions have significant dates that fall near it.  Celebrate!  Feast! --And know that the seasons cycle onward, the planet yet spins, and sunlight and warmth will return.  There are a couple of months of heavy slogging to get through, and fortified by this holiday, slog we will. 

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Ferguson, Berkeley...

     I was going to link to the latest news out of Berkeley, MO, which is right next to Ferguson, MO in more ways than the map shows.  Alas, the "major news sites" are so full of adware and tracking bugs that with ad- and script-blocking turned on, most won't even load at all.  You don't need that junk sneaking into your computer, so the best I have is a snippet of live-streamed video in which some idiot lobs a firework at the gas station where the latest mess occurred, while the place is crowded with both police and local citizens.

     Tempting as it might be to just let the whole place burn to the ground  (the dead, after all, get along just fine and treat everyone around them exactly the same), I doubt anyone could throw a lit firework into a gas station from far enough away to be safe if the place did go up.  The act is a microcosm of the greater mess: if the fire catches, neither side is getting out alive.  They're packed in too close and, like the crowd at the gas station, when a new ball of flame arcs in, they're just milling about.

     Not unexpectedly, a nearby convenience store was looted, too, and you can find raw video of that on the web, too.  One of them concentrates more on another amateur photojournalist, stepping over debris and through a shattered door with her smartphone held high, looking around as though expecting a clerk to pop up from behind the jumbled mess of the counter.

     Those of us on the sidelines are milling about just as uselessly as the crowd at the gas station, everyone trotting out their old familiar slogans and attitudes, examining the situation though the lens of our own preconceptions and -- surprise! -- reaching the same old moss-covered conclusions.  In the latest mess, police shot a young man who they say pointed a gun at them -- and indeed, a gun was found at the scene.  There doesn't look to be any video of the event, so it's all down to eyewitness testimony.  Nope, there is surveillance video and it appears to support the officer's version of events.  Will that help?  Time will tell.

     Might be time everyone took a giant step back.  Even if just for one day.  25th of December ought to be a suitable choice.

     If you were looking to me for answers or even well-formulated questions, better keep looking.  I haven't got any.  Things didn't get this bad in St. Louis -- or anywhere else --  overnight and they're unlikely to get better in any greater hurry.  But it sure wouldn't hurt if everyone would stop stirring the pot.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

In Anti-Gun Land....

     .....Every day is Rat-On-Your-Parents Day!

     Yes, go look -- it's a PSA that suggests kids ought to take guns from home and bring them to their teachers at school. (So they can "feel safe.")  Kids, don't do this.  It doesn't end well for you or your family.  It's a Federal crime -- several Federal crimes, in fact.

     Watch it and picture, instead of a gun, a Bible, a Torah or a science textbook that contradicts their account of creation.  Maybe Mom or Dad's copy of National Review or Mother Jones, a union membership card, a Masonic ring....  "Here, Teacher.  I don't feel safe with this in my house."

     This isn't a good trend.  The video shows a clean, orderly home; the adult female, presumably the child's mother, is well-groomed and calm; there is no sign the child's home is anything but a little above-average, or that the child himself is mistreated.  The only "bad" thing in the home is a poorly-secured firearm (and just how well have you childproofed your power outlets and household chemicals?).  But it's A-OK in the PSA producer's view for the child to substitute his own judgement for that of his parent -- or at least it is when the topic is a G-U-N.

     Maybe this PSA just ignorantly well-meant but I figure book-burnings aren't all that far behind.  "Wrongthink!  Ungood!"  And oh, how we will come to love Big Brother.

Monday, December 22, 2014

My Job Description Says "Tech."

     In fact, it says "Engineering Technician."  It does not say "Witch."  When you call me with a minor problem in something I'm not all that familiar with, five minutes before it absolutely, positively needs to be running -- and it's able to do so as-is -- it's probably not going to be changed to suit your desires. 

     Maybe next time, you'll check it well ahead of need?  Probably not.

     The list of co-workers I'd willingly go mountain-climbing with keeps getting shorter.  "Oh, damn, all these carabiners are no good.  And wow, that rope sure is frayed...."  Harrumph.

The Sign On The 50-Caliber Rifle Case:

"In case of alien attack: remove from case, load, point directly at menace and squeeze trigger slowly. There will be a loud sound. Repeat until problem is eliminated.  Hearing protection required." 

Sunday, December 21, 2014

You Know You're Reclusive...

     ...When you dread the human contact of opening your mail.

     Sheesh.  I'm a monster.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

It's Saturday

     Shouldn't you be playing outside, or in traffic, or something?

Friday, December 19, 2014

Dead Leader Films: Then vs. Now, Us vs. Them

     2004: Team America: World Police is released.  North Korea's high and mighty whatever for life Kim Jong-Il never commented publicly, though his government did ask the Czech Republic to  ban it.  They refused, somewhat dismissively.

     2006: some Brits produce Death Of A President, a mockumentary about the assassination of George W. Bush.  It wins the Prize of the International Critics at the Toronto Film Festival. Senator Hilary Clinton, no fan of the then-serving President tells the press, "I think it's despicable. I think it's absolutely outrageous. That anyone would even attempt to profit on such a horrible scenario makes me sick."
     The U. S. Federal government does....nothing.  There is no computer hacking of the studio that made it, no drone strike on writer, producer or director, and Senator Clinton's comments are typical of the most violent reaction out of Washington.

     2010: the Red Dawn remake, with Red China cast as the aggressor, is about to be released.  Leaked copies of the script find their way to the People's Republic of China, which complains in state-rune newspapers.  MGM goes through a Chapter 11 bankruptcy. Studio suddenly decides the film would play a lot better in the PRC if they weren't the bad guys.  At least, that's what MGM says.  Lots of post-production later, the invader is now North Korea.  Released in 2012, film does not do well at the box office.

     2012: Innocence of Muslims, a 14-minute film clip, is released on YouTube and is blamed for widespread rioting in the Middle East by people already much inclined to anti-U.S. rioting.  Murder and misplaced apologizing ensue. 

     2014: Sony prepares to release The Interview, a film about the assassination of the North Korea's leader, gets hacked by claimed agents of same, backs down.  Some cinemas attempt to replace The Interview with Team America: World Police, a plan which is nixed by Paramount.

     ...Sudden Spinelessness Syndrome?  Norks tired of being the bad guys?  (Yeah, well -- shoe fits, donnit?)  Film studios continuing their spiral into nebbishy irrelevance?

     Whatever.  This doesn't look like where we came in but the picture is getting terribly dull.  Hey, didja hear the one about the auteur who turned a charming (and relatively short) fantasy novel for children into a film trilogy with huge, bloody battles between orcs, elves, humans, dwarves, hobbits, dragons, wizards and whatever else he could throw into it?  Or the SF film that tossed science out the window in favor of fancy images and the Transforming Power Of Love?

     I'll try to barf quietly.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

THINK, Dammit!

     Most politicans and a sadly-high proportion of leader-type "activists" are scam or con artists of some stripes.  They deserve to be argued with, debated, questioned severely.  But your neighbors -- even that [INSERT NAME OF POLITICAL PHILOSOPHY OR PARTY HERE] you keep running into at the grocery or hairdresser's/barber shop -- are largely sincere.

    I saw an interesting bumper sticker yesterday evening, a U.S. flag-like graphic with the stars in the blue field replaced by the word "Think" and below the stripes, the phase continues, "it's patriotic."

      A quick check online shows it being marketed to the liberal/Democrat folks, but really-- I know it's fun to claim one's political opponent are unthinking, lock-step fools and dupes, but that's utter BS. "The science is clear..." "Anyone with half a brain will realize..." No. There are some smart cookies out there who have -- at least by their lights -- thought things through and yet they came to conclusions utterly at odds with your own.

     We all like to think we're clever, smartest rats in the maze; and if there's a thing or two you're especially good at, you might be, at least with regard to those things. On everything else, you're just like the rest of us nekkid apes: you've got some information and you are making your very best guess.

     Surprise, we don't all guess -- pardon me, reason -- our way to the same place. It's not necessarily due to stupidity, or conformity or lack of trying. It sure doesn't mean you shouldn't think.

     Think -- and realize the other bozos on the bus are thinking too, at least as often as not. Think, and understand that even with the best will in the world and the greatest determination to be guided by fact, we still don't all end up with the same notions on anything more complicated than which way is down. And that's okay; we've got centuries of working out how to get along in a nation and world full of disagreement.

     Think. It really is patriotic. It beats the alternative.

Good In An Omelet

     How about ham, pastrami, BellaVitano and Jarlsberg Swiss cheeses?  Oh, it's fine!

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Things Seen In A Photo

     No, Rickn8or, it's not a cat but a bat!  --A plush toy bat, that is:
     The photo was taken in low light, with a cameraphone.  Looks like a chalk drawing.

     NJT and Garrett Lee: well spotted!  The typewriter is indeed a Remington Portable.
     It's my "axe," man. One of them, anyway.

Cats, Books, Christmas

     The holidays are an especially cluttered time at Roseholme Cottage:
     I think we're going to need some larger shelves.  Huck and Rannie are right at home, in new play/scratching structures.

     Yes, the shelving projects are nowhere near done. That far wall around the windows?  Going to be full of bookshelves.  The other side of the archway is about a third done, and the wall behind the couch will eventually get a set of display shelves, most with plexiglass doors.  That was going to be an Ikea hack and may still be, though they discontinued my first choice.  For some of us, it takes years to really "move in" to a new home.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Breakfast Photo Op Lost

     Again.  I made Swedish Pancakes this morning and each one is a different map of another new planet, cratered or covered in shifting hues like Mars.  They're lovely, but they're also better hot than at room temperature and when you are running a batch through the same skillet, there's no time while cooking to go fetch a camera.

     So I got a tasty breakfast, but alas, mapping the uncharted moons of a distant star will have to wait for another time.

     Sidenote 1: I used one of those non-stick green ceramic pans; they sell a pancake-specific flipover version, essentially two frying pans hinged together.  The non-stick performs as advertised, and the close-to-flip arrangement works fine.  Found the gadget at the drugstore with a low, low price and a big "As seen on TV" label, and decided to give it a try.

     Sidenote 2: My sort of crepe-like "Swedish" pancakes are thin and a bit heavy, just flour, milk and egg, roughly one cup of the first two items and two eggs, scaled linearly for however much you want.  Served stacked high, with butter and sugar or jam between layers, it'll cure what ails you on a chilly morning.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Get Me Tired And...

     This is pretty much what the inside of my head sounds like:


Dear BATFE and DHS:

     When you've lost public radio....  (In fairness, Ira Glass is pretty skeptical about, well, just about everything, as close as this generation gets to H. L. Mencken.)

Oh, Darn It!

     Tam just started watching the classic, incredible The X-Files episode, "Jose Chung's From Outer Space," and I don't have time to sit down and watch it.  Truly one of television's finest moments and The X-Files at the top of its form.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Sunday Lunch

     Meatloaf, truffle mashed potatoes (!), Brussels sprouts with bacon -- and chili wings for Tam (plus a taste for me).  Yum!

     You think I've been slaving over a hot stove?  Not hardly!  I had to work the early morning shift.  It's all out of the deli counter at the neighborhood grocer's -- and darned good, too!

     "Lata vita laniatus"

The Illegitimati?

     I've been reading a fascinating book (borrowed from Tam's bookshelves), by John Lewis Gaddis, The Cold War: A New History.

     Don't any of you tell me how it comes out -- I'm about three-quarters of the way through.  Gaddis has good things to say about Eisenhower and Truman, Reagan and the second John Paul; Nixon and most of the Soviet leadership, not so much.  A recurring theme in the book is the legitimacy of governments: how it is derived, how it is maintained, how it is lost.  Also the degree to which a government is subject to its own laws.

     It's a worrying perspective.  The Federal government of the United States these days shrugs off domestic violations far more serious than actions that were once shattering revelations -- and it passes with little comment. 

     In 1989, the Soviet Union looked as strong as ever but was, in fact, balanced on the edge.  One more tiny shift and--  It collapsed.  The United States is the last remaining Cold War Superpower -- but is the clock ticking on our own 1989?

Saturday, December 13, 2014

DirecTV Is A Sack Of Bastards

     These days, if you have a decent antenna, there's more on over-the-air TV than ever before, including a nice selection of rerun-and-old-movie channels, multiple streams from PBS, local weather and music videos.  Add one of the video-via-Internet widgets from Google, Amazon or Roku, and what more could you want? 

     Once upon a time it didn't work that way; there was only cable and cable was expensive and not all that great.  But direct-broadcast Ku-band satellite TV was a brand-new thing, with way more channels than cable and sharp, clear video.  My ex and I signed up for it and wow, there were entire channels devoted to History and Science and even Science Fiction!  It was amazing.

     And then, slowly, it stopped being amazing.  Science gave way to empty-headed glitz about "ancient astronauts" and ill-informed cryptozoology.  History slipped by degrees into a fascination with Hitler that would have made Godwin shudder and Science Fiction was replaced by "SyFy," complete with cage-match wresting, movies about shark-storms and a determination to "get away from that narrow focus."

     The death knell for me was the infamous History Channel "no more white hair" memo, aiming to interview younger, more-telegenic experts, even if their expertise was considerably more limited than that of the paunch & wrinkles set.  Time went on, and the satellite-delivery service started charging more and more for content that had less and less of interest to me.  When I moved to Roseholme Cottage, the "free professional installation" guy kicked up a huge fuss over the number of trees, declared the project impossible, and started to get back into his truck until I argued with him.  ("What do you know about it, lady?"  "It's part of what I do for a living.  I know the dish can 'see' the satellite -- you don't have to take my word for it, look at the one in the neighbor's yard!")  He did a sloppy install -- a single pole, indifferently hammered into the ground -- but it worked and I was stuck with it for a year while the contract ran down.  In the meantime, the provider stopped selling channels "ala carte," and when I tried to restructure my service to remove an expensive movie service and control costs, they managed to stick me with fewer channels and higher bill, with no reverting to the previous deal.

     Then the lousy install started acting up and that was the last straw.  When the contract expired, I cancelled.  They argued with me -- how could I possibly not want their service?  I explained (see above), even going so far as to suggest my disinterest more due to the providers, not the delivery service itself and was told no, that was wrong, the channels were better than ever and the lousy installer was "an isolated incident." I insisted, they eventually accepted -- and have been mail-bombing me ever since.   Hey, no problem, if it shows up in the mail and says "DirecTV," it goes right into the trash unopened.

     Yesterday, they sunk to a new low.  When I got home from work, Tam said, "You got a couple cards."  One was a renewal notice from the Antique Wireless Association, bless 'em, and the other--
     --had one of my more-distant cousins married?  How kewl!

      It's an ad.  Inside the card shown was another flyer, offering a fat month's rebate and -- ahem -- "free professional installation," along with low, low rates...for the first year.  After which it would no doubt balloon back to their typical $100+ per month, for channels with nothing on them I want to see.

     No thanks, DirecTV, and a big ol' Bronx cheer to you for trying to sneak in under the radar.  Your lack of couth is fractal: it's weasels all the way down.  DirecTV is a deceptive sack of bastards -- and they think they're being clever.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Untruth In Advertising

     How can they call it "Chili con carne" when forensic tests show there's not a single speck of circus-roustabout meat in it?

The Earworm Turneth

"It's about that secret base,
 Secret base -- no Martians!"

     (Et interminably cetera.)

Here we go:

Because it’s all about that Secret Base.
Secret Base, no Martians
It’s  all ‘bout that Base, Secret Base, no Martians
It’s  all ‘bout that Base, Secret Base, flyin’ saucers
It’s  Secret  Base, Secret Base.

Yeah we got it then, during World War Two
We made them better, better just like we wanted to
 See, we got that zoom, zoom all the pilots want
Just the right ride in case  you are gonna  confront
I see the spies working  pro-propaganda
We know that pic ain’t real
Y’all drop that agenda
If you got science science just raise ‘em up.
‘Cos the technology ain't perfect
And our research sure won’t stop.
See, our Congress they told us don’t worry about the price
They say the Air Force wants a silent  spaceship in which to fight.
It sure no fake-U-FO photo, Photoshopped up shiny-bright
So if that’s what you’re thinking
Then you best just move along

Because it’s all about that Secret Base.
Secret Base, no Martians
It’s  all ‘bout that Base, Secret Base, no Martians
It’s  all ‘bout that Base, Secret Base, flyin’ saucers
It’s  Secret  Base, Secret Base.

I’m flyin’ a saucer back
Go ahead and tell them scoffers No
Hey, I’m not playing, I know they think they’re tough
But I’m not believing that.
No matter what they try to do, they won’t be tough enough
See, our Congress they told us don’t worry about the price
They say the Air Force wants a silent  spaceship in which to fight.
It sure no fake-U-FO photo, Photoshopped up shiny-bright
So if that’s what you’re thinking
Then you best just move along

Because it’s all about that Secret Base.
Secret Base, no Martians
It’s  all ‘bout that Base, Secret Base, no Martians
It’s  all ‘bout that Base, Secret Base, flyin’ saucers
It’s  Secret  Base, Secret Base.

Because it’s all about that Secret Base.
Secret Base, flyin’ saucers.


Thursday, December 11, 2014

Of Course

     Having mused aloud about why I blog and gotten folks worried I might stop (your concern is touching.  I'm not planning on it), naturally this morning I come up blank.

     Some of it is due to the time of year.  I'd kind of like to hide under the bed until after New Year's.

     The holidays are not easy.  I was never much of a holiday person -- more of a "grit my teeth and get through it" type -- I try to get through it with minimum drama rather than ducking out and besides, it was such great fun for the kids.  My family has reached the point where my nieces and nephews have kids of their own and I have trouble keeping track of names and ages.  When they get a little older, it'll be easy ("Amazon gift certificates for everybody!") but at this point, there's still plenty of magic for 'em and I feel obliged to pride a little of it.  Shopping is nearly eighty percent done...and now it's time to check the lists twice.  Oh, oldest two nieces, I'm gonna need your relative-tracking expertise!  

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Why Do I Do This?

     Blogging is essentially dead, outstripped by platforms that are more succinct (Twitter), more visual (Instagram) or aggressively social (Facebook), stabbed in the back by adware (the gradual perversion of Sitemeter is one example and the flip side would be Technorati's death-by-unprofitability) and generally, by 2014 standatds, sluggish.  Readership has dropped off; I was running a good, steady 500 per day at one point and it has faded and faded; if the trend continues, it'll be back to me and the 'bots like it was when I started.

     Possibly for the best -- there was less pressure then.  As a loner and introvert, anymore I feel kind of hemmed in and elbowed no matter where I am or what I'm doing and yet I find myself complicit in it; in particular Facebook's social feedback is as addicting as it is bad for me.

     Oh, I'm not quitting, but one of the intangibles was looking at the S---meter count and seeing if I'd broken 500.  No more; all things change.

     Hey, ho, another day in the future.  I suspect I'd better enjoy it while it lasts.

Tuesday, December 09, 2014

I'm Back! Problem Fixed!

     Sitemeter went rogue, bought up by some kind of adware outfit; they were doing redirects, if you didn't have pop-up blockers, and were especially exploiting Explorer vulnerabilities.  So they're gone now.  So long, Sitemeter, it was good while it lasted, and then it wasn't.

     I fixed my other two blogs, too.

     Later: For the record, I pulled the plug on the stats service at 1,251,010 visits and 1,808,077 page views.

Warring Calibers

     Oh, to heck with it -- I'm gonna invent the .39 Gored Ox, which will actually be 9.9 mm and have terminal ballistics at the mean value for all the rounds between .38 Special and .45 ACP.*  Just 'cos.  And so there can be even more moaning and whizzing in the wind.

     Is gun.  Is not safe.  All of those rounds hurt.  None of them is a sure, 100% one-shot stopper, so, you know -- try to avoid having to do that.  And train well and thoroughly in how, when and why, so if you have to use it, you'll do it right.

     There's a reason for that little cluster of handgun calibers and ballistics from around 3/8" to a bit over 7/16" and it mostly has to do with controllability, not "stopping power."  Might be a lesson in that.
* Possibly not the .44 Magnum, 'cos I have been hit on the palm with a softball bat already.  Ow.  

Monday, December 08, 2014

Another Gun Store Robbed

     Last night, L. E. Firearms got the standard smash-and-grab, this time with a stolen van though the storefront.  But -- for once! -- the bad guys didn't get far.  The criminals managed to wreck a second vehicle, used for their getaway.  Five men were arrested and it appears many of the guns were recovered. 

     I don't know if this is the same bunch who've hit other gun stores over the past year or so, but one can hope.  The trick of running a stolen vehicle through the front of the store is a common method.

     (In other news, sales of heavy duty bollards have shown a surprising uptick....)

Top Of The Workweek

     ...And right now, we're at the point where it's going and up and up.  Fun, right?  So they tell me.

     The TV is running down the hall,* too low for me to easily hear (which, distressingly, is not all that low) and as a result, the back of my mind is sticking together any meaning it can from what filters through.  So far, the stalwart young male anchor has invited viewers to, "Enjoy a World's Fair foot-long, or just become a Maraschino businessman," followed by a an automobile dealer touting their "weatherproof sackbomb."  H'mm, it's not the right world but it seems to be an interesting one.  Oh, be right back; the network news report just told me, "Commenting on Obama's toes, the Toenail Party said to trim them."  Politics has taken a sudden turn and not for the better!
* Oh, dear.  We'd better catch it, then, before the cat does.

Sunday, December 07, 2014

Pommy Eggs, What?

     Sunday brunch started out as Eggs Pomodoro, but what I had for meat was a nice Surry Sausage and the cheese topping was Swiss.  So the nice Italian dish went a bit Brittuncular* and there you go:

     From the pan to the plate:
     It picked up some cheese, paprika and mixed pepper along the way.  Tasty!
* From the pen of an irked Roman commentator: Brittunculi, "wretched little Britons." Yeah, well, they outlasted Rome, didn't they?

Sunday? Sunny?

     Why yes.  Yes, to both.  And me with leaves in the yard, too; so there's a plan.

     Breakfast first, and high hopes for it (watch this space!), then a soak in the tub while the day warms as much as it's going to.  And then, then?  Some form of more-or-less useful labor outdoors, and laundry as well. 

Saturday, December 06, 2014

A WENN Christmas

     An outstanding Christmas episode of the AMC gem, "Remember WENN," a series set at a small radio station in Pittsburgh the 1940s.  Video quality is nothing much, but the clever writing and wonderful audio make up for it:

     I thought it was one of the best shows on television -- and it vanished with barely a trace after a few seasons.

     (Cynics will point out that I may be a wee bit prejudiced towards liking this series; after all, the young heroine is a writer, she's from Indiana, and she's working in radio during the Golden Age.  They're probably right.)

Friday, December 05, 2014

It's 1965 All Over Again

     If you ask me, the staff of NASA's Orion program owes Elon Musk a drink.  Once all but shelved, the closer SpaceX's Dragon capsule comes to man rating, the more interest NASA's brass has had in Orion. 

     NASA has launched an unmanned Orion spacecraft, successfully so far, and though it is often compared to the Apollo capsule, the thing is at least as much a "Big Gemini," and NASA's manned space program has reset the clocks to the 1965-66 time frame.  

     Maybe this time they can arrange to stay where they go.

     N.B.: Tam thinks I'm three years off.  She's got a point.

Thursday, December 04, 2014

The More I See Of People, The More I Love My Cats

    Or did I want the Mencken line about how, "Every normal man must be tempted at times to spit on his hands, hoist the black flag, and begin to slit throats," maybe?

     The latest series of jabs in the mutual strawman-wrestling match among leftie "Social Justice Warriors" on one side and a loose association of right-wing/"Men's Rights" types on the other has reached truly elementary-school levels of behavior.  Not content with doxxing and (at least threatened) SWATting, which, while despicable, are at least mostly in the category "things grown-ups do," the contestants have moved on to name-calling (the boys have gleefully and predictably adopted the SJW appellation for them, "shitlord") and a string of crude rape jokes on Facebook, starting with, "What's the difference between jam and jelly?" and proceeding downhill from there.  What's next?  --Probably a careful campaign of writing calumnies on washroom walls, followed by hair-pulling, the passing of mean notes and possibly even tactical spitballs.

     I don't have a dog in this fight.  Both sides lost me early on -- well, the "Nerf the world for everyone except the pale males" SJWs never had me, 'cos I know what a NO DOGS OR IRISH sign looks like and they aren't any prettier when applied to whatever the current $DESPISED_CLASS happens to be, Jews or African-Americans or crudely-caricatured "Japs" or white men -- and their childish rudeness to one another (and all us bystanders) has sealed the deal.  If it was a real dogfight, I'd happily turn a firehose on 'em or spray them down with pepper spray and count it a good deed.  Instead, I have some people to unfriend, a few of them with genuine regret.  Let me know when you're ready to sit at the grownup table again, okay?

     After WW I's* "Christmas Truce" of 1914, the commands on both sides issued orders to try to keep it from ever happening again, including holiday artillery barrages.  It wasn't entirely successful until poison gas came into use and convinced soldiers on both sides that the other lot were inhuman monsters.  Drop the present-day "shitlords" and SJWs into the same 1914 Christmas Eve and they'd've happily machine-gunned one another and then slit the throats of any survivors while humming "Silent Night" in smug satisfaction, probably harmonizing with their own lice.

     Via Claire Wolfe:

     Stuff that in your pipe.  Or wherever.
* In my darker moments, I'm convinced that war actually marked the end of Western Civilization.  It was a civilization with a lot of warts but it was, largely, civil, and great strides were being made (a few of them, like Prohibition, in reverse).  We've been messing about in the ruins ever since, pretending things were going to be okay again, fiddling around with treating our fellow humans as if they were, at least, human and tinkering up high tech, but something important and brave died in the trenches and on the battlefields of WW I, coughing its lungs out, eyes ruined, broken, hurt and wondering why.

Wednesday, December 03, 2014

Tuesday, December 02, 2014

I Do Work On A Starship

     There's a new story up at I Work On A Starship:

     It was only a drill.  It felt all too real.  The starship didn't buck and shudder but it certainly sounded as if we were returning to what we still try to claim is "normal space."  To judge from the pops, groans and subsonics, it was a middling-rough transition, something like a high-speed elevator rumbling to a stop while a troupe of luggage-testing primates hammered brand-name suitcases into the sides.

     Want to know what happens next?  Read on!

Come On, Ibuprofen!

     Woke up and fed the cats with a slowly dawning realization that it was a darned good day...for my left ear and surroundings to hurt like hell.

     You don't want to take the good OTC pain meds -- any of them* -- on an empty stomach, so I hurried through breakfast listing to port, got a bite of my bacon & egg sandwich down and gulped Vitamin I, followed by the rest of breakfast.  Now it's just tick-tick-tick until it kicks in, which it had darned well better.

     There's aspirin for afters, if needed.  The third choice, we're out of.  I need to fix that.
* Acetaminophen/paracetamol is about the gentlest but you still probably shouldn't, even though many of us do.

Monday, December 01, 2014

To Not Be A Slug

     I've been spending way too much non-productive time at the computer.  Fun though the Book of Face can be, I've got to cut down -- and if I haven't friended you, it's because most of my interest there is interaction with people in jobs like mine: we're a small group and getting smaller.

     Managed to rake up the leaves from the front yard yesterday afternoon and bag all but two piles; they were on the dark side of the house by the time I finished and there was only one bag left.  Weather permitting, I'll start in on the back yard this week.  Until it gets too cold for my bargain-priced farmhouse light to run, there's plenty of illumination over most of the back yard.

     There's lots to do in the house as well, this being prime shedding season for the cats, Huck especially; he's got fairly long fur for a shorthair and appears to be growing in a winter coat.  And there are plenty of books to shelve.

     At the computer, I need to spend more time writing fiction and less time looking at cute or sad videos, and way less time on politics: most of the time, all the political stuff does is get you riled up with nothing to do about it.  My conservative and liberal friends spend a fair amount of time being deeply irked by various "them" and sundry issues of supposedly worldshaking import and what good does it do?  What good to they do?  --Not much, if any.  That's no way to live; better to do what you can to make the world more like the way you'd have it and let the rest of that stuff go hang.  If you're not going to write your Congressthing, go wave signs, raise money, make a speech or live in a commune of occupation (etc.), unclench and go do something you will put some sweat into. 

     I'm also gonna rip some new music into my iPod, darn it!  I hadn't done so for a long time even before I misplaced it.  In fact, I think I'll do that now.

     --Oh, I should have another short story posted soon, too.  Held it back thinking to sell it but I was convinced by reviewers that the cast of character is too big for the length.  I can't help it -- the USAS Lupine is a very large starship and it takes a lot of hands to keep it running.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Went To Gun Show, Bought Paperweights

          Saturday, Tam, the Data Viking and I trundled off to the Tri-State Gun Show at Stout Field National Guard Armory in my SUVesque vehicle.  It was my first time taking it on the freeway.  As I am no fan of freeway driving and the route slithers through the downtown "spaghetti bowl," this was slightly white-knuckly, but it went okay.  (The RX300 has just a little bit more vroom than my Accents had!)  I'm still working out where the corners of the plush truckwagon are.

     It was the usual interesting show.  I think Tri-State's shows lean to more collectorish sellers than does the Indy 1500; you don't see the big aisle of mostly not-for-sale shinies and tables crowded with new guns from the big dealers ending in a line of buyers filling out 4473s.  Instead, interesting and obscure stuff abounds, offered by smaller dealers, collectors, pawnshops.  This is not to say you won't find pink-and-white Taurus revolvers ("for her!" assuming her fits some stereotype on the Donna Reed-to-Vargas-model line) and brightly-colored derringers (please, don't buy derringers.  You'd be better off with a pastel Brazilian wheelgun), but there are a lot unusual and/or old firearms and the better-known classic manufacturers are well-represented.  

     Tam found herself some kind of Miami Vice S&W wondernine -- 12 +1 shots and a grip that's only moderately 2x4ish.  The Data Viking looked at High Standards, as is his wont, but the semi-autos were too new for his taste and the very clean Sentinel (R-101) .22 revolver is something he's still thinking about.  (I love 'em, but that's just me.  .22 plinkers grow on you.  Or not.)

     And me?  I hadn't planned to buy anything.  Hey, I just bought a car!  Looked at some knives but I've got just about any kind of knife I might ever want, from practical work/general purpose knives to carpenter's marking knives to razor-sharp scalpel knives for removing wire insulation to knives for eating, "fruit testers" like folding steak knives and hobo knives with fork and spoon.

     And then....then....  Well, there was this guy, see?  With a few very old revolvers, see?  Both are some variety of .32.* One was a missing-parts velocipedist's revolver from the late 19th Century, short barrel, folding trigger, the holes where a safety used to be and a short, rounded grip.  The hammer-spur shape and safety make it likely  to be European.  Belgian proofmarks confirm it.  There was a near-twin a few tables over, intact and complete, for something over $225.  One nice touch to the design is that with the hammer down, the (fixed) firing pin is held well away from the chamber unless the trigger is held all the way back; it's a "rebounding hammer."  As late-1800s designs go, this would have been considered pocket-safe with every chamber loaded.  This one's missing the loading gate and ejector rod as well as the hammer-locking safety, so it's a curiousity.
Okay, they're upside down to the text describing them.  I fought the "properties" for twenty minutes to get this far.
      The other one was shiny and appears to be chromed rather than nickled.  A top-break, it has many of the features of a Hopkins and Allen...except for the interesting lockwork that keeps the firing pin blocked from the cartridges until the trigger is pulled.  Instead, it has a rebounding hammer...and an ornate "F&W" on the well-preserved grips.  It's got ratchet issues and a line of sock-drawer corrosion along the barrel on the side away from the camera in the photo above.
     Looking at the rib atop the barrel tells the tale:
---FOREHAND MODEL 1901.---
     (Yes, "CT."  Coincidence, not anachronism.)

      The story of Hopkins and Allen is somewhat star-crossed and not for any lack of quality; in 1874, Charles A. Converse (the silent name in H&A) sold his half-share to the Hulbert brothers and H&A became the sole manufacturer of the delightfully strange, well-made Merwin Hulbert revolvers.  Hulbert went bankrupt in 1896 and H&A did the same two years later, but reformed as Hopkins and Allen Arms Company and then lost all their machinery in a fire in 1900.  Through all this, they'd been making revolvers under contract for a long list of names, including Forehand and Wadsworth.  In 1902, F&W was bought by H&A, and this little gun probably dates to about that time period.

     Trouble persisted for Hopkins and Allen: in 1905, their warehouse was emptied by thieves.  They staggered on and even won a contract to build Mauser rifles for Belgium's military at the beginning of WW I.  For obvious reasons, that contact was never completed.  H&A went bankrupt in 1916 and in 1917, Marlin Rockwell Corporation bought the remaining assets.  Finis, H&A.  (Marlin has been collecting and being collected by New England firearms makers ever since; in 2000, they picked up Harrington and Richardson and in 2007, Remington bought Marlin.)  If all this buying, building, patenting and bankruptcy is reminiscent of the semiconductor/computer industry, there's good reason.  Quality mass-production machine work started with firearms, spread rapidly to engines and bicycles, and mushroomed from there along Moore's Law lines, technology spreading and morphing, companies forming, merging and going under.

     That's some entertainment, from a pair of not-fireable guns offered at $50 each and bought for $85 for the pair.
* Pop quiz: how many .32 cartridges can you name off the top of your head?  .32 S&W, .32 S&W Long, .32-20, .32 ACP (7.65 Browning).... The neighborhood of .32 is thickly populated, though .38/9mm may have it beat.

Friday, November 28, 2014

I Suppose...

     ...I should offer up some insightful, pithy commentary on Black Friday, commercialism, plastic junk, Ferguson protesters, people who camp out all night to save $50 on a big-screen TV or the frikkin' insanity in mall parking lots on this day, but in fact I ain't gonna.

     This stuff is fun or fulfilling for some people.  I'm not one of 'em.

     I'm gonna go make mashed-potato pancakes.

     Update: They're not world-beaters -- I haven't made potato pancakes in forever -- but they're not bad.  Especially with some peri-peri sauce.   I'm reminded I should make some nice Midwestern salmon patties this winter, possibly with braised asparagus on the side.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Thanksgiving Dinner, 2014

     Yes, another Roseholme Thanksgiving dinner.  Tam and I took it down to essentials this year:   
I suppose it looks scary.  Tastes very good, with dressing and sausage in addition to the three birds.
     Onion-mushroom-bacon gravy (a la Farmom)--
Slightly sweet, with caramelized red onions, steamed mushrooms (the steaming water used for the gravy) and good bacon.  The bacon fat is used to fry the onions and then for the roux.
     Served over skin-on mashed potatoes--
     With olive medley garnish and a nice glass of locally-made hard cider.  It was delish.  I have been sluggish ever since.  Perhaps I'd better sleep it off.

Thanksgiving. Giving Thanks

     The earliest Thanksgivings -- and they go back at least as far as the Reformation -- were days set aside to celebrate some general or special event.  In the United States, we have a ready-made (but poorly-documented) account of Pilgrims and Natives sitting down in awkward amity to share the bounty of a successful harvest and we've spun it neatly into national myth.  As such tales, go, it's a good one, a lesson in getting along.

     ...It's also a good day to consider what things you might be thankful for without ever even realizing they were there -- or even complaining about when you do notice.  Take another look at the world around you and consider just how much worse it could be.  What you've got ain't perfect but it's something.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

"Absolutely Nothing Whatsoever Happened Today In Sector 83..."

     First, the TV news told me things were less unsettled in Ferguson, MO overnight, which I took to mean burning and looting were significantly down, angry people with signs and slogans was up slightly, and farrows and gilts were steady while wheat prices were trending upward-- but this was right after the farm news and I was just waking up, so I may be a little off.  They had some video, too, which appeared to be from Ferguson or nearby.

     Then the TV shared that a couple of FBI agents had been shot and wounded while serving a warrant only a few miles away from Ferguson, Missouri -- but the incident was "not directly related" to the protests and rioting* in that town.  Hunh?

     Y'know, when The Oldstream Media, carefully spoon-fed by The Gummint, goes out of their way to tell me two things in proximity and then that they aren't related?  I kind of think otherwise.  Neither entity has what you might call a history of straightforward truthfulness.

     Darned if I know what's what -- I do know there are some 2,000 National Guardspersons  presently in Ferguson, 'cos it turns out violent reaction to police perceived as an occupying army results in getting some real soldiers in to do actual occupying.  Ooops.  Or was that the whole point?
* It's a good idea to look closely at whatever video you see from whatever events are happening in relation to the grand jury verdict.  Some people are just carrying signs and yelling; others are setting things that aren't theirs on fire and "redistributing assets."  One of those sets of activities is Constitutionally protected.  The other, not so much. The media and especially their assorted punditry doesn't always want to distinguish between the two.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Dodged The Fallout -- So Far

     Not the radioactive kind -- the news-cycle active variety.  Last night,the grand jury in Ferguson came to a decision: that Officer Darren Wilson hat not committed a criminal offense in the shooting death of Michael Brown.  The prosecutor was at some pains to describe the process, including multiple autopsies and eyewitness testimony, including the witnesses whose accounts which had changed over time, and gave the narrative the grand jury had arrived at after their investigations.  Fat lot of good it did -- as near as I can tell, Fox was the only over-the-air network to cover that part of his statement, while the other three contented themselves with quick coverage of the verdict and crowd reactions in Ferguson and then back to America's Most Talented Amateur Detective Wizards and toothpaste commercials or whatever.

     The President came on not long afterward, as calm and calming as I've heard him (though he still looks like Dick Nixon to me, right down to making only fleeting eye-contact with the cameras), and was still talking when Tam, looking at a news network online, reported the first brick-hurling and tear-gassing.  --Not that any President has ever stopped any rioting, but he did get out there and try, fat lot of good it did.  I'll leave it to the pundits pick apart his words.

     News media keep worrying at the situation like it was an itchy wart; they're not helping, either and unlike the President or the prosecutor, don't much look to be trying..  

     By the time I went to bed, Ferguson stood at two (empty) police cars ablaze, a freeway blocked, at least one store looted and a strip mall burning.  Nobody dead.  No rubber bullets fired and it's hard to tell but appears most if not all of the reported "shots fired" may have been ammunition cooking off in the burning police cars.  Quite a few thrown brickbats and plenty of tear gas lobbed at the crowd.

     I watched quite a bit of Bassem Mastri's live-streamed celphone journalism; his comments were sometimes a bit naive, wondering why the police weren't putting out the burning cars (which were well outside police lines and any attempt to douse the fires would have involved confronting protestors) and bemoaning the "military-style vehicles" (used not to assault the protestors but as a mobile barrier) and "soldiered-up" LEOs in riot gear (some of the other photographers were wearing helmets and gas masks, too).  Well, it did look just awful and he did a good job of showing it, but I never saw so much as an orange shotgun full of less-lethal shells pointed anywhere but down.  Tear gas was lobbed from well behind of the line -- and sometimes lobbed right back.  As riots go, it was more of a protest and I think that's a good thing.  In a final ironic touch, a Person Unknown jostled Mastri, grabbed his phone and took off running into the bordering residential district, live stream still feeding the web until the thief got a few blocks away and shut it down.  And there you have the whole picture: courthouse, cops, protestors, journalists (about one in three of the crowd had a camera or celphone in camera mode), a few "direct action" types and a smattering of the kinds of predators who hunt whatever's grabbable when things get messy.

     Now we've got today.  Protests overnight in various major cities did not approach even the level of violence in Fergeuon, MO.  Might get worse today, might not; if you live in a big city, expect pissed-off people with signs in whatever are the Ususal Places.

     One good thing that might come of this: the case and the reactions are all based on eyewitness accounts; there's no video.   If Officer Darren Wilson had a camera on his person, we -- and the grand jury -- could have seen pretty much what he saw.  There would still be room for debate, there always is, but it would be a lot less driven by speculation and stereotype.  Rugged little cameras have become cheap and sticking them on policemen is cheaper than having to replace burned-up police cars and burned-up civility.

     One bad thing: after George Zimmerman shot Treyvon Martin, I saw a lot of young African-American men going around in hoodies with the hoods up, making a statement on even the hottest days.  Michael Brown came to Darren Wilson's attention by walking well out into the street -- and starting today, you may find people making a statement by doing the same thing.  Look out for them.  Agree or disagree with the "statement," but let's not have people die of posturing, hey?

Monday, November 24, 2014

Dodged The Weather -- So Far

     First it was amazingly cold for this time of year; now it's been raining pretty steadily for twenty-four hours.  Luckily for us, the temperature went way up first.

     It's in the mid-50s now.  If it was still so cold, we'd have had a healthy snow.  Right at freezing, it is likely we would have had an ice storm.  It's the right time of the year for them.  I don't much care for snow and heavy snowfall is a problem; I'm not a fan of heavy, days-long rain.  But ice?  It's a nightmare.  A disaster.  I'm happy we missed it this time -- but it's not over yet.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

So, I Bought A Car

     My '02 Hyundai Accent, The Hottest Needle Of Inquiry and third in a series of Accents, has been getting very long in the tooth.  As in "needs new CV joints," as in "poor oil mileage," "poor power steering fluid mileage" and the ever-popular leaky steel wheels.  The hood had picked up a nasty case of rust and I had to baby it up from a dead stop to about 5 mph, a range through it had little torque and tendency to hiccup.

     On the other hand, car dealerships are a wretched hive of scum and villainy and, worse yet, Indiana's blue laws and my schedule meant I had about one whole day a week when the car dealers were open and I had time for 'em.

     Saturday morning, Tam had had enough.  "What're your criteria?" she asked, and I repeated the same slightly unrealistic list I'd been searching on; she pushed me to make a few adjustments (paying a little more, mostly) and we found a couple prospects nearby.  My friend The Data Viking was visiting (we had planned to see Interstellar) and was roped into the search.  After a perfectly delightful and only a little insane set of breakfasts at Taste,[1] off we went.

     The search seemed doomed at first.  The Hyundai wing of the sprawling Butler series of dealerships had just moved to a new and distant building, leaving a subset of wrong signage pointing at their Fiat/Maserati dealership (where the salesmen do not deign to converse with hoi polloi, or me either).  We tried on the other side of Keystone, at their Toyota/used lot, and were at least pointed a half-mile down 96th street to the new Hyundai building.

     There, at last, was one of the vehicles Tam had found: a 2000 Lexus (!) RX300, a sort of slicked-up SUV for the city.  While it lacks 4WD, it does have a leather interior -- and a combination of sophisticated traction control and decent road clearance that should cope adequately with snow -- especially in the alley behind Roseholme cottage.  After a checkout, test drive, various back-and-forth between Tam, the salesman, me, The Data Viking, a sales manager, and a frank admission that my present car was not, perhaps, sparkling new, we came to a price I only loathed.  We stuck there for awhile, until it came up that I would be paying cash.  The Sales manager mentioned a number I thought was mildly stinky.  He named another number that was barely smelly at all-- and there he stuck.  It was a couple hundred more than I wanted to pay but he out-stubborned me, and I finally decided I needed a car more than I needed that $200.
Now I can see over other cars!  Umm, sorry, guy behind me.
     So I bought a Lexus.  Almost -- had to go back home for my car while they "processed paperwork," and when we returned, there was, of course, a line to get to the one (1) financial guy they had working.  Oh, and they'd broken off the already-bent radio antenna in their car wash.  (Good job, guys).  They'll be replacing that (got the IOU right here); the radio works okay without it as long as you listen to local stations.

     And so, after paperwork more like buying a house -- and remember, I paid cash, no financing -- I bought a Lexus.  Do I get to sneer at the peasants now, or does that take an even fancier marque?

     We never did get to see the movie.  Next weekend, darn it!

     By the way, despite lower clearance, a nice ride front-wheel-only drive[2] and a remarkably civilized set of amenities, this vehicles came in third in testing by Car & Driver, right behind the BMW X5 3.0i and the Acura MDX and that only over a lack of gung-ho offroading ability.

     So, there's one task off the list!
     Bonus: helping clear out The Hottest Needle Of Inquiry, DV found my iPod, which I thought I'd left in Turk Turon's rental car when we went to the Dayton Hamvention this past May.

     Oh, one other thing: after three cars named after a Kzinti spy starship, a new brand calls for a new name.  The first interstellar vessel I could think of that had a leather interior and a nicely-finished hull was a real classic and thus, I dub my new car The Skylark Of Space.  I hope E.E. "Doc" Smith wouldn't have minded.
1. Seriously, Roman Emperors would've killed for that food.  You could pay more but you won't eat better.  Tam has photos but she hasn't posted them yet.
2. No, I'm told the one in the Car & Driver test did have four-wheel drive.  Mine does not -- on the other hand, those are the costlier parts of the drivetrain.