Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Don't Be Fooled--

     Sure, the sign says, CROSS TRAFFIC DOES NOT STOP, but the truth is, the happy, smiling, friendly traffic doesn't stop, either.

     Doggone lying sign.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

NRA Indy: Yes, More Pictures

With only a little comment -- I was moving pretty fast when I shot these photos, most of them Sunday:
Yes, hand-carved ebony, hand-engraved, cast and carved steel.
Beautiful work.  I didn't think to get a snapshot of the tag -- appears to have a monogram, "HZO." (Notice also the predicted price range for the ebony marvel.)
My first thought instead was of L. Frank Baum.

Colt rifle -- lovely, dangerous, and long before your "Circuit Judge."
Gas-delayed blowback.  Tam and I were mulling over why Walther has yet to really have a big hit with a serious gun in the U.S.
What came before the Luger?  This did.  Georg Luger redesigned it.  Hugo Borchardt wasn't impressed.  Other people were -- and they owned gun factories.
Does not, I am told, actually have a hemi in it.  But it might as well.
If four are good, three should be almost as good...
But this one goes to 16: that's a pair of 8-bores and darned short ones.
These are kid-sized but I kinda want one.  Single-shot .22. peep sight, a nice, basic rifle.
Not kid stuff.  Doug Turnbull's take on the AR-15, looking like something from a Harry Turtledove novel.
     There's still a little more to come, but that'll hold ya for this morning.

Monday, April 28, 2014

More Images From NRA Indy 2014

Tamara insists the "!" must be pronounced.

Colorful Coonans

Can I get a Witness?

Yeah, can I get a Witness?
(In fact, I own two and I like them both)

Study in contrasts.  Pretty sure the Wolverine is in "way too darned" pink.

One corner of the venue, general view.  Huge! (Ceiling by M.C. Escher.)

High Power!  I like these -- and the "scratchy" trigger doesn't bother me.

Actual "crime gun." 

"The name is Volk.  Oleg Volk."
     He's not often caught on that side of a lens.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Good Night, Good Night

     Dinner at Dick's Last Resort with the blog-survivors of NRA AM 2014!  Oh, the horror!  The horror!

     It ain't BF Egypt, but you can walk to it from there.

     ...The motley multitude.  Tam's there, hiding behind Kathy Jackson, along with a whole sleeeeeew of Your Online Pals.

     (Earlier that day: Volley Gun!)

Pictures From An Exhibition

     Presented without much comment, NRAAM 2014:


Wait, an air rifle, you say...?

Not an air gun.  Definitely shiny!


He's not doing what it looks like at first.

Chiappa!  There's something appealing about the single-shot .22

R-51!  They feel good --lots of stuff happening but they've been racked a few thousand times: field-polishing!


Cabot 1911's.  High-end, and they have the kind of extraordinary fit & finish that shows it.

When is a Ruger Mk. II not a Mk. II?  When it's an imported air pistol!  Looks like it would be fun.

Turk Turon, demonstrating that Tactical Bacon is Serious Business.
     And that's Saturday's NRA AM photo-essay.  I need to go help my Mom this morning, hoping to get downtown a bit after midday.

World's Smallest Shoulder Thing That Goes Up?

     Maybe it is...
     Maybe it ain't. 

     Sure seems like it could be.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

All Under One Roof

     At Thr3e Wise Men in Broad Ripple at Old NFO's blogger roundup, and what a roundup:
     Danno of Sandcastle Scrolls
     The Smallest Conservative
     Larry Weeks (!) of Brownells!
     Tam Keel
     Turk Turon
     The Miller
     Mr. B.
     Midwest Chick
     Erin Palette
     Ambulance Driver
     Matt G
     Mad Saint Jack
     Don Gwinn
     Eric Wenthe
     The Jack
     New Jovian Thunderbolt
     ...And dozens more.  (Let me know if I missed mentioning you -- I totally lost track.) You won't see this much of the gunblogosphere under one roof until next year's NRA Annual Meeting


0530: Awaken to the sound of my clock-radio humming to itself, as fire-truck sirens scream by a few blocks over -- College Avenue, maybe -- and dwindle slowy

0540: Awaken again.  Headache like a dull hammerblow, centered between left cheekbone and temple. Find book (Stross's The Jennifer Morgue, on my third re-reading in as many years) and carry to reshelve, since I finished it last night.  (Stross's SOE-spinoff occult-intelligence agency, "Capital Laundry Services," operates in a universe very compatible with that of Larry Correia's "Monster Hunter International" series, with Stross's US-based "Black Chamber" playing NSA to Correia's FBI-analog "Monster Control Bureau."  While the style, setting and tone of the two bodies of work neatly illustrates at least some aspects of the UK-US cultural divide as personified by the two writers, their mutual debt to H. P. Lovecraft and the good entertainment to be found in both men's work tells me that gap -- and other divides in SF -- isn't nearly so deep or wide as might be supposed.)

0550 - 0615: Make toast and coffee, feed cats, check charging state of Chromebook.  (0600: TV wakes up, starts talking to itself about the news until Tam wanders into my room and looks at it to see if "anything interesting" [World War III, invasion of Formosa, Bloomberg suddenly Seeing The Light] happened overnight.  Apparently not; she wandered back out shortly after Huck finished wolfing down his breakfast.)

0615 - 0630: Ibuprofen (at last) with food, post Some Darned Thing on The Internet.

0630 - Whenever: Shower, etc.  Hey, that's now!  Seeya.

0700 - 1000: Uh-oh. Last night's dinner revolts.  I blame the chow-chow relish.

1300: NRA Press Room wi-fi does not work well for anyone -- and doesn't work at all for my Chromebook.  Major fail!  NRA staffers very apologetic.  Hire an IT gunslinger, NRA!

Photos coming.  Saw lots of kewl stuff, met online friends in RL.  Big fun was had!
BANG--  Er, no: it's a laser!

Friday, April 25, 2014

"No Guns" At Downtown Claddagh

     They're claiming "IMPD told us to do it."  I've asked IMPD, and I've asked the Claddagh manager who wrote to me if she can document this, and if she'd be available for an interview.

     Next move...?

     In the meantime, don't go there; tell your friends not to go there.  Use Twitter and Facebook.  My goodness, we couldn't want to pollute the place with firearms, would we?  No matter how peaceably carried, no matter how well-concealed.

     (A reminder to visitors: in Indiana, "No Guns" signs do not have the force of law other than at government buildings, schools and TSA travel checkpoints,* where they will be matched with metal detectors and/or searches.  On the other hand, if you are found to be carrying in a posted business, they can tell you to leave and you'd best comply, or be charged with trespass.  It's not comfortable.  Besides, why spend money with folks who don't want your kind around?)
* Dammit, "Travel Checkpoints."  In America.  "Papers, 'please,'" and the cold-eyed pat-down and luggage-pawing by uniformed officials was a hallmark of the bad guys, of oppression.  I think it still is.

Overheard, Underhanded

Tam, arriving with an awkward armful of stuff from a day at the NRA: "I'm just at that easily frustrated stage...!"

Roberta X:  "You mean, 'Awake?'"

NRA Convention, Thursday

     Tam and I, escorted by Turk Turon (disguised as a regular member instead of semi-Press blogger), picked up our credentials and press package -- the latter, these days, is a thumb drive full of info instead of the old packet of expensive, glossy handouts -- and I only got us a little lost in the vast and labyrinthine spaces of the Convention Center.  Foot traffic outside was moderately high and pretty steady inside, a combination that leaves me not quite panicked but distracted and desperate to keep in motion.

     The setup looks nice and the NRA has done their usual smooth job of arranging check-in (members get in free!), ticket counters  and access to the exhibit halls.  From early indications, this should be a nice show.

    On the way out, we met Bitter and Sebastian on they way in.*  They were looking well and enjoying the coolish Chamber of Commerce weather; I hope they don't mind this morning's spitting rain, predicted to be gone by 10 a.m.

     Today's a school day for me; what I'll write about for Friday's NRA Convention report will have to come from the press handouts or at second hand.
* Later on, they found their first dinner choice posted -- I guess Claddagh wants no part of our feeelthy gun-owner money -- and were delighted at where they ended up instead. 

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Yeah, What He Said....

We've come to a point where every four years this national fever rises up — this hunger for the Saviour, the White Knight, the Man on Horseback — and whoever wins becomes so immensely powerful, like Nixon is now, that when you vote for President today you're talking about giving a man dictatorial power for four years. I think it might be better to have the President sort of like the King of England — or the Queen — and have the real business of the presidency conducted by... a City Manager-type, a Prime Minister, somebody who's directly answerable to Congress, rather than a person who moves all his friends into the White House and does whatever he wants for four years. The whole framework of the presidency is getting out of hand. It's come to the point where you almost can't run unless you can cause people to salivate and whip each other with big sticks. You almost have to be a rock star to get the kind of fever you need to survive in American politics.
          --Hunter S. Thompson

Good? Morning?

     Didn't sleep well.  Slept long but I kept worrying.

     Agenda for today: Visit Mom X in assisted living, visit Sis in hospital, go downtown and pick up press credentials for the NRA convention.

     Oh, and clear garage enough for Tam to get the Z3 towed (done!  The clearing, not the Choiman roller-skate flatbedding), plus take a load of too-skinny jeans to Goodwill.

     Possibly, ride motorscooter.

     Update: Mom yes, NRA yes, Sis no,* garage yes, Z3 towed, Goodwill no, lunch with Turk Turon (surprise!) YES!
* She has four kids, who themselves have various spouses, fiancifulosties and offsprung; yesterday I ended up having to leave because we had too many people in her room.  Hm.  Doesn't help.  I still feel guilty.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

The Soda Of Madness?

Plan view
And elevation
      It's really Green River soda and vanilla gelato.  But it looks like....

When It Rains, It-- Aw, Sheesh

     This morning a drunk T-boned my big sister -- totaled the car she was driving (Mom X's Tankmobile Superba).  She's not terribly injured, but she's injured way more than you'd wish on anyone -- several broken ribs, multiple (stable) pelvis fractures, bruised and shaken up.  She's fretting over Mom X, who she's been visiting daily and helping to make arrangements as Mom transfers from her house to Assisted Care.  It's still too early for the really deep aches to take hold and leave her worrying about getting herself better; she's still wanting to finish what she'd set out to do this morning.  My baby brother was at the hospital first; by the time I showed up, my sister's her youngest daughter (another nurse) was there and her son and future son-in-law were arriving as I departed a couple of hours later.  At some point tonight, the last relative will leave (or get shooed out of the room by the nurses) and in the dark, the reality will sink in.  Been there, done that and it's a good thing pain meds make it hazy.  It's a blow when you realize how thoroughly you have been reprioritized.

     The good news is, the hospital thinks they will have her up and rehabbing in a day.  She'll have to learn how to get around without putting any weight on the affected side, but she won't need surgery or a cast, just rest and careful movement for however long it takes.  We'll probably have to ride herd on her to slow down -- but don't think for a minute it'll be easy for her.  Just broken ribs are nasty to deal with and they keep on hurting for a long time.

     I stopped by home to drop off my briefcase.  Tam wanted to know what was up and after I'd told her, she suggested, "Drive carefully.  The Fates aren't being very good to the women in your family right now."

NRA Convention!

     Facing my usual, "It's seven o'clock, say something interesting" deadline, and for once, I've got a topic: the NRA Convention.  They've stuck a sign up on Lucas Oil Stadium* every bit of three stories tall and not even the Local Noooz Media can ignore it -- though the one I usually watch in the morning did follow with a story about how Indianapolis has been invited to submit a hosting packing for 2016 Democrat convention.  One local Partei light observed this "...would finally put Indianapolis on the map," presumably in the way that the NRA convention or, say, a century (give or take a couple World Wars) of automobile racing has somehow failed to. 

     At least I will (probably) be able to attend the NRA event; at one point it was looking unlikely and I may still spend a fair amount of time hiding in the press room; but I am a-going there, braving the crowds, and we'll see what happens.
* Precisely what function an "Oil Stadium" serves I do not know and find myself reluctant to ask.  One presumes it to have, ahem, "Wessonality."

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

...The Next Day

     It's funny; I slept most of a day and most of a night and I'm still tired.  I could dive right back in for another six or eight hours and not mind a bit.  It's not an option.

     Fans of FX's irreverent animated spy-spoof Archer will perhaps be amused that in the second episode of the second season of Danger Man, there's a semi-retired British spy named Edmund Archer, who handles his fate with much the same off-the-cuff aplomb as Sterling Archer, and perhaps as little regard for the stakes.  Danger Man, the Patrick McGoohan series that preceded The Prisoner, is interesting in its own right.  McGoohan plays a secret agent more polished the James Bond -- and with coldly duplicitous superiors who might very easily have shipped him off to the strange, sunny, holiday gulag of The Prisoner.  --Yes, guess what I watched, waiting for the ibuprofen to kick in when I woke up with a headache in the middle of the night?

Monday, April 21, 2014

If Sisyphus Had A Daughter

     Remember Sisyphus?  Sneaky Greek king, whose chicanery earned him a spot in the afterlife rolling a boulder up a hill. As soon as he pushed it to the top, it would get away from him and roll back down and he had to start over.  My lot hasn't been much different.  I don't know who I may have chicaned (I don't even follow Formula One) and I don't remember being inhospitable to travelers, but I keep getting rock-rolled nevertheless.

     I worked an overnight shift last night with a couple of the best tower guys I've met.  We were changing a flashing top beacon light on a 1000' tower, replacing a very old (possibly 1957 vintage) incandescent fixture with a modern LED version, which takes less electricity and supposedly lasts longer.  And when I say "we," I'm the ground crew; 1000' up in the dark on something smaller across than the average apartment washroom is not something I do.

     Attempted the project with a different crew (good me) two weeks earlier and got stopped by weather: 40 mph winds aloft and gusting higher.  Last night was cool and calm, so hopes were high.

     Plenty of spare parts were on hand, extra wire -- nothing could go wrong!  Nothing!

     Well, except for something. After some false starts, they changed out the fixture, wired it up, I threw the breaker and the light began to flash: once, twice--

     "It's making a weird sizzling noise," they reported over the two-way.  "It stopped flashing."

     I knew that already.  The circuit breaker had tripped, a sad little tick of sound.

     "What'll we do next?" from up top.

     I had them disconnect the wires.  If it was the new light, we'd know about as soon as I turned the power back on.

     Several minutes later, they were all unhooked, and I flipped the breaker again.  On, on....tick.

     "It made that sizzling sound again."

     They'd only replaced a little of the wire, a kind of heavy-duty extension cord.  Because of the way things are put together at the very top, there was nearly a hundred feet more running down to the conduit that carries power from the ground all the way up.  We had wire and (barely) time; they replaced it.  It took awhile.

     Over to hours later,  I threw the breaker again and the light began to flash: once, twice--  You know the story.  SizzleTick.

     Tick and tock: there was no more time to experiment.  There was barely time for them to batten down what wanted battened and get clear of the danger-when-transmitting area before it was time to resume transmitting.

     Theories abound.  Maybe the breaker is old?  It wasn't tripped when the old, high-current lights burned out.  Maybe the flasher is bad?  It ran for a couple of weeks with no working lights on the far end.  Couldn't I try jumpering power over from one of the other lights?  Maybe, maybe--  But there's a wire up at the very top that goes sizzle when power is applied.  This is not the one-hand-clapping sound such wires are supposed to make.  It's three feet long.  I've got plenty more.

     And some night soon, I've got to to try rolling that boulder uphill again.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Electric-Fire Visegrips

     No, that was just how it felt.  I woke up having somehow worked up a nasty headache; woke again not too much later and fed the cats, trying to not open my eyes too far or make too much noise, fled back to bed and tried to run away from it.

     Doesn't work.  If you make your migraine chase you down, it's just that much more angry once Slumberland kicks your vagrant, furtive self protesting out into the daylight where it can get at you once again.

     And so it went for me.  I'm up now, coffee brewed, two slices of toast made, one eaten, two ibuprofen, working on the next slice of toast (with butter and, o wonder of wonders, grape jelly), and the hammering of my fingers on the keys is like unto the hammering of hammers on my skull.

     I'll be back later, when my life has less resemblance to a bad acid trip as described by Dante or possibly Spider Robinson.*
* "[...] in the distance, a toad farted ominously."  S. Robinson.

Friday, April 18, 2014


     Who needs it?  Y'know, it's all written down in books; most of what I use in my job, you could sit a smart, motivated kid with a smattering of math down with a handful of parts and VOM and explain the basics in an afternoon; yet the arguments people in my trade -- including me -- get up to are simply staggering.

     99.44% of the time, the problem is not that either side is wrong; it's that either or both hasn't fully put together everything they know.  It's stuff they apply fairly often but there's some gap in understanding on either (or both!) sides of the dispute that prevents reasoning from specific examples to the bigger picture and back to how the other person understands matters.

     TL;DR version: Oh, ghu, I gotta quit arguing on the internet.  It only frustrates me and annoys the pig. 

Thursday, April 17, 2014

About Mom X

     She is now comfortably ensconced in a furnished 1-bedroom suite, getting "Respite Care" for awhile at a place just up the road from her house.  She chose it and is there to get healed up for some (minor) surgery that should help her get even better; and after she's healed up from that, she (and her kids including me) will figure out what's next.

     The place is pretty much a fine hotel with a nice dining room, 24-hour nurses and falling-down monitors.  I think she'll be safer. I hope she'll worry less.  I think I will.

Glibness Isn't Understanding

     F'rinstance: The Very Serious Man in the TV told me yesterday, "We know more about the surface of the Moon than we do about the depths of the sea." Yes, but we also know more about the surface of the Moon than we know about Brooklyn -- because any fool with a telescope can look at half of the Moon but to look at Brooklyn, you have to go there or fly/orbit over the place! (Also, we don't really know all that much about the far side of the Moon -- a scant handful of mapping flights have yet to get a complete image of that side.)

     All too often, we -- and perhaps especially The Media -- substitute some half-baked fragment of common lore for the truth: "We only use ten percent of our brains." (Wrong)  

     Remember, it's not what you don't know that's the problem -- it's the things you think you know that aren't so.  Me, too, only more so

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Cognitive Dissonance In America's Richest Bedroom Community

     I'm not kidding about either one; Mom X, by virtue of the power of annexation, lives in Carmel, IN, the wealthiest little city in the nation.  As it happens, her corner of it used to be a collection of shacky little houses, dog runs, and pickup trucks mostly up on blocks, with a name you'll still find on maps (Homeplace) but lacking incorporation; but by the Sixties, they'd thrown up some nice subdivisions outside the auto-body-shop and greasy-spoon core of the un-town, and that's where Mom and Dad X came home to roost[1] in the mid-1980s.

       Enter the Nineties, and the Highway 31 corridor that formed the western boundary of Homeplace sprouted office towers like feral hemp springs up in a northern-Indiana ditch.  By the Noughties, hospitals and medical centers followed and these days, from about 91st street to well past 131st, there's a great big wall of suit & stethoscope voodoo lining the highway like a City of Gold gone wrong.

     Now comes Your Heroine, struggling with the electric monstrosities of an induction cooktop and a Keurig[2], squinting northwest out the west-facing kitchen window at the arc-welder glare of--  The rising sun?  Well yes and no, too:  the good old sun still rises in the East, even in this howling, savage-haunted wasteland, and reflects most harshly from the glittering mirrorshaded office tower a block north and two streets over, and right into Mom X's kitchen window.

     But I swear to you, for just a moment the entire Earth spun and swung, unmoored beneath my unfamiliarly slipper-socked soles.
1. Hey, didn't I just use that already?  Ah, well.  It was entirely true for Dad: a brisk walk back to the center of the community took you, until they pushed it over a few years ago, to the little brick house where he, a half-dozen brothers, on sister and a few cousins had grown up, while a walk about as far in the other direction reached the more-rural corner where once has stood the house in which he was born.  Mom X lived on the good side of the tracks in Carmel proper, a bit too far to walk, and only since Jr. High.  But the place is certainly well within their teenaged watershed, for all that it was a woodland back then.

2. I'm sure that's also the name of a city in Turonistan, where Turk Turon once served as Mayor, Chief of Police, Dogcatcher and restaurateur.  (Hint: avoid the "catch of the day.")

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Home As The Cow Flies, Home To Roost

     Or something like that.  The Sandman's bill came due several hours early Monday.  By 4:00 that afternoon, I was having trouble walking because the darned floor wouldn't stay level -- and neither would the walls.  When it finally dawned on me that I could either drive home now or be carried out on a shutter at quitting time, I asked the boss if he could spare me early.  By good luck, the evening shift was fully staffed (we're already in vacation season), so I made my cautious way home and was in bed within the hour.

     Eleven hours later when the alarm went off, I resented it only mildly.  Maybe I'm finally caught up on sleep.

     (P.S., If you think "cow flies" was a typo, you ain't lived in the country.  It's not the cows themselves that attract them, mind you; but I'll always wonder why they named 'em horseflies.  They like cattle better. Or, rather...  Ahem.)

Monday, April 14, 2014

Three Day Weekend!

     Done the hard way: came home Friday (late), slept, got up (early) and did the hamfest/Grissom Museum trip.  Slept, woke up about 9 p.m., went into work, worked, came home, slept, woke up about noon, got my taxes done and visited Mom X in the hospital.

     She sounds great and is in good spirits, but she looks just like anyone would who had fallen face-first onto a concrete floor.  The hospital's given her a very nice room, practically a hotel room with hospital fittings.  She's hoping to be released early this week -- and planning to spend some time with either home heath care or in an assisted-living place, once she finds one she likes.  Too many falls in recent months.  She's looking at long-term options and I'm not pushing; she's very much in command of her faculties and well aware of her fragility.  It's not easy for her. She has always been very active.

     Back into the relentless maw of work for me, and bearing bad tidings to boot: the weekend overnight work mentioned above was nipped in the bud by uncooperative weather and now I get to explain that to folks who look askance at the wind at 1000' being greatly different to the wind at ground level. 

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Qualified Impunity

     Police can be bad enough they get sent home without supper -- or any police powers.  IMPD's David Reese did something Friday -- details are sketchy, just two counts of battery and one of "residential entry" -- that earned him suspension without pay, loss of police powers and some time with IMPD's "Wellness" program.  And some other time in court.

     What happened, exactly?  Couldn't tell you.  And neither can our local media outlets.  Thin blue line is running a wee bit opaque at present.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Not Much Blog Today

     I have a very busy day, on the heels of a busy day, to be followed by...  Well.

     Road trip this morning, overnight work at work (weather permitting) and taxes tomorrow.  Friday afternoon, my Mom fell again and she's back in the hospital for evaluation and treatment of minor injuries.  I took her cell phone to the hospital after a late day at work (it had been left at her house when she went in) and found my siblings and partners filling Mom's room but no sign of Mom.  She was getting some form of imaging.   The room was crowded even with the rolling ER bed gone, so I went home: when the only function you can serve is to get in the way, the best thing to do is get out of the way and let the professionals work. (This is naturally taken of a sign of indifference, coldness and a failure to respect the gods of the household shrine.  Well, maybe; but I'd rather that than be a ghoul.)  Me, I'll "think good thoughts" her way and show up later, when the medicos have things sorted and she'll be wanting company.

     (If ever I go in hospital, I hope my previous pattern holds true and it takes hours if not days for anyone other then me and the docs to know about it.  Early on, anybody without some flavor of EMT, RN, LPN, N-P or M.D. after their name or driving a mopbucket is mostly in the way, just one more knot of worry to afflict the patient. Who has, in case you haven't noticed, more pressing problems than playing a foil to your desire to emote.)

Friday, April 11, 2014

Voice Of Spamerica?

     "...[T]hey broadcast from...a world that no longer exists. I view these stations, Voice of America and Radio Liberty, as spam on our airwaves." That's what our good, good friends the Russians say, or at least it's what the  official who turned down VOA's routine request to renew their contract to broadcast via transmitters inside Russia said.

    RIA Novosti general director Dmitry Kiselyov sent a one-sentence refusal but has since has plenty to say to Russian media outlets, dismissing charges that he's suppressing dissenting voices, "This does not have anything to do with freedom of speech because Voice of America and Radio Liberty do not talk about anything original."

     Ah, it's voices-from-the-ash-heap-of history time again is it?   VOA -- like other shortwave broadcasters -- has been steadily shutting down transmitting facilities (with the possible exception of Greenville B),* but -- again, like other traditionally shortwave services -- maintains considerable web and satellite presence. While they're no longer on boomboxes in Russia, VOA is still pumping out signals to all the world, for anyone who cares to listen.

     Spam?  Better check the supermarket shelves, Dimitry: that stuff still sells.
* The big Crosley-built site in Bethany, Ohio is long gone except for the building.  Dixon, California is shut down, as are Delano in CA and Greenville A in North Carolina. 

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Wimmen Only: Is It Just Me...

...Or do like one in three Revlon lipsticks end up spontaneously ejecting the actual lipstick from the lipstick tube at some point in their useful life?

     (A post which illustrates the old folk-wisdom that anytime women talk about anything, men interrupt with blithe unawareness of the appropriateness of their incursion..  Boys, it's cute but there really are times when you should stand silent.)

Frank James Is Recovering

     Mas Ayoob paid him a visit and has good news!  Frank is one of the most impressive people -- and best shooters -- I have ever met.

Wednesday, April 09, 2014


     H'mm, I got nuthin' -- Hey, didja hear the Rooooshians, in the closing ceremonies for the Sochi Winter Olympics and Farewell Party, played the instrumental version of a song about reclaiming Alaska? 

     Welcome to the run-up to WW III.  Be sure'n take your iodine tabs.

     Frikkin' morons.  Y'know what the upper-limit boundary* to the time between really honkin' big wars is?  The lifespan of the participants in the previous one.  Seriously, check your history books.  Oh, you'll get a few outliers and there's regional variations, but about the time the bulk of the guys who fought amidst massive loss of life are dead, another opportunity to look at people's inside on a large scale comes along.  The species may be programmed for it in our hardware.  It only takes a few bastards to flip the switch and's on.

* The lower limit is, of course, the time it takes to re-arm.  Twenty years, more or less, is the modern record.

Tuesday, April 08, 2014

The Warning

     Sir, is that...Limberger?
     Becky-Sue, dial 9-1-1!

Beretta Builds A Gun That Is Actually Smart

     Nope, it doesn't know who you are, nor does it care.  I've never shot one and I have no idea how they perform -- but the ideas informing the A400 Xcel shotgun design apply modern electronics and mechanical design to the Old Reliable "shotty," and end up with the hybrid offspring of an M41A Pulse Rifle* and a classic hardwood-and-blued-steel Remington Model 11.*  Love it or look askance, it's an interesting machine.
* You guys do realize I don't have to look any of this up, don't you?  Not because I know, but because at Roseholme Cottage, all you have to do is shout, "What's that rifle in Alien with the LED round counter?" and "What was the first semi-auto shotgun?" and the question is answered, in full.  Yep, with Tam around, who needs a reference book or a search engine?

Monday, April 07, 2014

Your Tax Dollars At (Inept) Work

     So, the very same Federal Gummint that likes to listen to your phone calls and read your Internet traffic, and had to build a giant server farm in Utah to save copies of it all, can't keep track of the drawings and docs for nuclear weapons.  They don't even know who had made changes to the drawings they can find, nor if they're notes for improvement, as-builts or somebody's idle fantasy.

     Okay, okay, NNSA is not NSA, but still, you'd think atom bomb plans would rate a little closer attention than, oh, I dunno, frikkin' wiretaps.

     I sure wouldn't go shopping in any junk stores around Amarillo; no tellin' what kind of burn-before-reading stuff might be stuffed in the back of the drawers of some surplus file cabinet or desk.  ...Yeah, I wish I was joking.

     The can't keep its own secrets, wants to know yours.  Probably already does know, and doesn't that make you feel ever so much safer? 

Sunday, April 06, 2014

Charles Stross: Merchant Princes

     I'm currently working on the fourth of six books in Charles Stross's six-episode "Merchant Princes" series.*  Or halfway through the middle book of the trilogy, if you purchased the most recent recombining; it seems the original set only ended up as six books when some bean-sorter decided they'd be dauntingly fat as a trilogy. (You know how us readers just hate finding a good long book to keep up the entertainment.)

     Whatever.  Six or three, they're great fun.  I'd put off looking into them because at a glance, they sounded like fantasy and I find most fantasy unreadable, even by writers whose other work I enjoy.  (Heinlein and Pratchett are exceptions and the whole Unknown magazine-shading-to-Lovecraft axis usually works for me.)  I was wrong, wrong on all counts: it's not exactly fantasy, no more than Piper's "Paratime" or Laumer's "Imperium," and Stross's worlds and storyline are a fresh look at what had seemed an old notion.

     The essential "one different thing" is that some people, a very few, can shift themselves and as much as they can carry to an alternate world and back again -- one world.  Ours.  Theirs is...different.  A civilization stuck at a late-medieval level, perhaps as far along as double-entry bookkeeping and three-field crop rotation, with feudal power structures and a whole lot of peasants tilling the fields and doing the grunt work.  The world-walkers, originally a single family of tinkers, have clawed their way into the aristocracy over the course of a century and a half years, thanks to their access to rapid communications, medicine, advanced weapons and so on.  They're also making a fortune in our world by smuggling: it's impossible for Customs or cops to intercept goods carried, albeit by slow wagon, in a different Earth.  Into this setup, Stross throws a lost noblewoman, orphaned and marooned on the Earth we know for 30-some years, who suddenly discovers her heritage.

     Because he is who he is, so far the narrative has run from investigative journalism to court intrigue to action adventure, with side trips into Dynasty reruns playing on a flatscreen TV in a drafty castle dining hall, steampunk, the drawbacks of garderobes, revolutionaries under severe threat and what moving from one world to another does to one's blood pressure.  Plus Dealing With Bureaucracy, something that comes as naturally to him as Stupid Diplomat Tricks did to Keith Laumer.  (I think the Dynasty thing is a bit of a "hanging a lantern on it," since the series can sometimes resemble a nighttime soap opera -- one with battle scenes, misplaced nukes and steam cars, mind you.)

     My only real quibble is that the our-Earth action takes place in the U.S. and while Stross does a good American accent in dialog, some Briticisms do creep in, usually in the form of turns of phrase that pass unnoticed in his home country.  There's also rather a lot of firearm use, generally competently described despite a couple of minor slip-ups in the fine details (or at least terminology) of the purchase and licensing of same and their bearers. Since one of the primary POV characters is a Bostonian, such glitches are darned-near inevitable -- I don't think I understand the gun laws of Massachusetts well enough to avoid bobbles, and I have the advantage of being a firearms-hobbyist and living in the U.S.  (A big problem for writers in our very-connected world is getting trivia right without veering into pedantry. Stross does this well.) 

     I won't synopsize farther. I don't want to spoil the fun -- and these books are fun, a complex adventure that just keeps recomplicating, cliffhangers and all.  Read 'em. They're new stuff as good as the best of the old stuff.
* And for those of you concerned about excessive sibilance, an incipient lisp or a whistling upper plate, "Charles Stross's six-episode Merchant Princes series" is about as good a test phrase as you could get, even at gunpoint (which would be a damfool way to ask).

Working This Morning

Early shift.  This here's a robot-timed  post.   I'll post something more interesting later.

Saturday, April 05, 2014

Tri-State Gun Shows: Indianapolis

     Tam and I went to the Tri-State Gun Show today, out at Stout Field National Guard Armory.  These are always nice, medium-sized shows that punch well above their weight in terms of the items one encounters.  (It's there Sunday, too!)  I saw an H&R "Silver Sportsman" 999 in nickel-chrome, priced for about what it was worth, mid/upper three-figures, a bit out of my reach.

     However, I also saw this H&R:
     Had to take it home, of course.
Not supposed to be rotated!
     There on the top strap, it actually says "TRAPPER MODEL," and this long-barrelled, large-grip .22 was intended for .22 Short, used to deliver a merciful coup de gras (sic) to animals caught in traps.  These days, I'd use Colibri or CB/BB caps for plinking at the range.  No crane; it's a "pull-pin" type revolver with a press-to-release latch under the pin at the front of the frame.
Even the cats are armed at Roseholme Cottage

    Mind you, that's if Tam's cat ever lets me shoot it!  She laid a claiming paw in it as soon as I set it down in her patch of sunlight for photographs.

     A good show; I picked up a workbench mat and a 9-shot .22 speedloader (H&R) as well.  Tam...  She bought other things.  She might even tell you what they were, if you ask nice.

     (Also, my first gun show wearing contacts instead of eyeglasses in some years. It's somehow different.)


     Well, my overnight-shift task was cancelled.  This is either good or bad, depending.

Friday, April 04, 2014

Imogen Heap Has Fixed The Theremin

     The theremin is an interesting instrument; brilliant in conception, difficult to play and limited in control.  The Thimbletron gloves developed by TradeMark G of the Evolution Control Committee are a fascinating user-interface, limited to the number of feasable fingertip-touch combinations, and how fast can you mime "The Itsy-Bitsy Spider?"

     Imogen Heap plays a dizzying array of instruments, some of them via varied and wondrous UIs.  Her latest notion is "musical gloves," using the entire range of gestural motions: driving a modern synth, it's Theremin times Thimbletron, cubed!*   The UI options are huge. The end result crosses playing an instrument with dance -- at least with the software she's running. 

     You might do something else, and you have a chance to find out: the software's open-source and the gloves are getting Kickstartered!
That's (Ther * Thimb)^3, I mean, and possibly an understatement.

Ain't We Got Fun?

     I don't know about you but I certainly do; at least for a given value of "fun."  I'm now in the slow "clack, clack, clack" stage of a roller-coaster ride that flips my shift from day to overnight to early morning before precessing back to days, and does so with a 12-hour (+/-) shift smack in the middle of the weekend.

     There's no "best" way to accomplish this.  Times I am up for it, a series of short days work: go to bed early Friday night, get up very early Saturday, make an early night of it by midafternoon and go to work 11pm-ish after a short nap.  When I was younger, 20+ hours awake was the way to go.  This time?  Up very late tonight, sleep even more late tomorrow, and hope for the best.  Monday will be a super-early shift (3 a.m. et seq.) and the return to days by Tuesday will let me reclaim some of the sleep debt.

     Downside, no weekend as such.  Well, there's plenty of 'em in a year, right?

Thursday, April 03, 2014

Spent The Night At Mom X's House

     Mom was back in the hospital briefly, after another fall, this one due to an artificial joint acting up!  She hardly gets a break.

     So now they've put one of her legs in a immobilizer, and she's hurting.  My sibs took her to the hospital and watched over her through the day and I took the night shift.  She was feeling better and moving better this morning but will want watching.

     We'll all be where she is some day.  Her mood is good despite recent adversity; I just wish entropy would go easy on her for awhile.  

Wednesday, April 02, 2014

Wednesday Potpourri

     (The second word in today's post title is not, as it happens, French for "kaffeeklatch."  And yet -- there's the pot and the pouring, right there in the word.  Darned etymologists, why didn't they stay with bugs?)

     So, Mom X improved steadily; they dropped one of her medications and lo, it was the underlying cause of her symptoms. She was able to return home yesterday afternoon.  This made her happy -- there's company in the hospital and these days the food is pretty good, but it's just not home.

     The kitchen drain here at Roseholme Cottage remains, shall we say, blocked.  I took the trap apart yesterday, just in case things were simple, but they're not: the block is further in, somewhere in the approximately 2" diameter PVC pipe that snakes crazily across the basement ceiling between the kitchen sink and the old cast-iron main drain line, the full width of the house and half the length away.  I considered trying the vacuum, but A) my Shop-Vac is a tiny one and B) life is too short to spend much of it scrubbing sewer slime out of a Shop-Vac, unpaid.  The plumber should have the tools for this job and the experience to know which one to use.  The drain crosses above my ham shack, present packed full with things moved to make a path for the high-speed Internet installation, so that could be a complication if the drain is really badly blocked.

     Rannie Wu the Cat appears to be able to discern the difference between Bertolli Classco olive oil in a glass bottle and the same thing (according to the label) in a plastic bottle, and she disapproves highly of the latter. Sniffed at it and stalked off, radiating disappointment.  "We are not at home to Mrs. Cheapskate."  Sheesh.  You take the cat to Broad Ripple and she turns into a foodie snob.  I'll see if native-born Huck wants any; he'll usually give it a taste.

Tuesday, April 01, 2014

You Know You Are Geeky...

     ...When you find yourself stop-drilling a cracked fingernail with a red-hot paperclip.  Ew.

More Words To Live By

     Do not put uneaten, in-the-pod edamame* down the garbage disposal.  Do not put 'em down there.  It doesn't work out well.

     The good news: garbage disposal unit is not jammed.

     The bad news: the kitchen drain is Stopped Up.  Or at least as good as; the standing water did trickle away overnight but it ain't fast.  Can't use the sink or the dishwasher until it's cleared away.

     The Other News: I've gotta go for my annual eye exam this morning.  I have no idea where the old-fashioned drain snake has crawled off to -- haven't seen it since before I moved -- and I am of the firm opinion that, as a general rule, amateur drain-snaking is to be avoided.

     I've got three choices for plumbers; I'll try Broad Ripple (SoBro) based Hope Plumbing first.
* When did plain old soybeans decide to put on an accent and pretend to speak Foreignese, exactly?  I'm not ashamed to admit I eat soybeans; they're tasty!  If it makes you feel better to eat 'em in bifurcated socks and those crazy sandals, okay, but they were eaten in the U.S. before there even was a U.S., and while they caught on slowly, WW II kicked soybean production into high gear and they (or oil and flour from them) have snuck into many of the foods you eat.  Green, steamed in the pod and served with chili oil, cilantro and salt, they'll make you sneer at most snack foods, whatever you call them. Indiana is the third or fourth largest producer of sobeans in the United States and these days, it's us who export them back to where they came from -- what we don't eat here, that is.  Or get stuck down the drain.