Monday, March 31, 2014

Pictures!

     Findings from Saturday's outing:
     Goodell-Pratt is good stuff!  My brace collection is almost complete: I now own a "corner brace."

     It's more sophisticated than it may first appear.  The knob is flat on one side; the flat is tangent to the ratchet, so you can drill holes very close to a corner.  The little widget off to one side is the ratchet control: pull it out, turn it 180 degrees, and the ratchet is reversed!

     Here's the bit-holding recess, shaped to the receive the square frustrum of a typical brace bit.  The clamp screw is stuck -- I hope to free it up but the drive works fine without it.

     Tiny pipe wrench, just because.

     Set of wood-screw countersink/starting hole drills, not antiques but useful and they were priced to sell.

     Radio parts!
     (Pilot light holders, balanced-line insulators, binding post, 4-prong plugs, small knife switches, breadboard sockets, six-prong plug, quarter-inch phone jack.)

     Here's a telephone transmitter.  Dimensions appear standard, design is of an older sort.

     And a variometer!  Nifty variable inductor.

     I also picked up a dozen QST magazines from the late 40s/early 50s and a collection of the complete works of Edgar Allan Poe.  Not a bad haul!

Sunday, March 30, 2014

My Laundry

     ...I must do it.  Pictures (of stuff from Saturday's road trip) later.  (Went to bed early, woke up about 0100 and could not get back to sleep for hours.  Grrr.  Finally dozed off, had to wake up to feed cats [0600], went back to sleep and was awakened [0830?] by Tam calling from the front porch, where she had locked herself out when she went out for breakfast with a friend.)

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Road Trip

     Photos to follow, maybe.

    Later: no photos yet.  I am exhausted: Columbus (IN) Hamfest, Exit 76 Antique Mall and the dependable Montana Mike steak joint.  (And let me just say, MM has that whole "road food" thing figured out: their quality is consistent, service is fast and genuinely friendly and prices are reasonable.  Is it the very best steak I ever had?  No, I make the best steaks I ever had, but theirs are darned good.)  I did all that on six (6) hours sleep and a bowl of cold cereal for breakfast. 

Friday, March 28, 2014

Please Stay The Hell Off My Side

     So, some maroooon on NRA's Facebook page opines on the Leland Yee gun-running scandal, "The problem is all these new people with foreign-sounding names!"

     Calm down, paleface; this is the United States of America and we've all got "foreign-sounding" names, even the descendants of the people who were already here when the first Europeans stumbled ashore.  Nope, the problem ain't names, skin tone or where your ancestors hailed from; the problem is crookedness and unAmerican ideas -- politicians on the take (or on the con) and incessant meddling into the peaceable interactions of residents of the U.S. --You can't own a defined "assault weapon" in California; Texas has a fat handful of felonies involving lobsters and in Indiana, if you light up a smoke within eight feet of any entrance to a commercial building, you are A Criminal.  Yeah, even if it's the R. J. Reynolds building, those nice toasted Luckies will get you in more trouble than standing there "only reading Playboy for the articles." We've got a jillion laws (and more on the books every year), most of which are Nanny-type "for your own good" laws, or  laws that limit entry to a trade or profession, or serve to protect (or bail out!) well-connected enterprises. ...Or outright create black markets through prohibitions.

     That's the kind of environment that breeds crooks and sneaks, smugglers and bribery.  You only get rum-running when you have Prohibition; you only get moonshining when there are laws severely restricting distilling; you only get turf wars between drug gangs when drugs are illegal and by golly, "tough, common-sense gun laws" breed gun runners the way filth and darkness attract cockroaches.

     I suppose life -- and the policeman's lot -- would be happy indeed if all the bad guys were swarthy orcs from a Tolkien movie.  Real life is a lot more complicated and includes liquor-smugglers with good all-American names like Burke and Featherstone, Kennedy and McLaughlin (not a one of those names originated within our borders, mind you, but they do flow trippingly off the tongue of English-speakers, for all you probably got one of them wrong) as well as scary furriners named things like Lee and Yee and Moriarty.

     It is not the skin or the name makes the man, nor even the religion.  It's how he treats his fellow man.  Does he interact by persuaion and honest exchange, or by fraud and force?

      For Leland Yee, the public man was well into coercion, applying the crushing weight of the state to control honest, peaceable persons; we should not be terribly surprised that the private man now finds himself facing very credible charges of oath-breaking and smuggling, of using the laws he supported to drive up his profit from violating those selfsame laws.  --I have a lot more trouble with the crookedness than the smuggling.

     What I don't have any trouble with is that he's from China (came here at age 3) and has a name other than Snodgrass or Smith.  Big deal -- him and a few billion other people, otherwise different to one another.  The United States is a polyglot nation, settled by a mad assortment of religious flakes, outlaws, younger sons and malcontents.  And people who just plain wanted to be here.  It's worked well for us.  Get over it.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Mom X Is Back In The Hospital

     Overnight at least, probably longer.  Hers is a delicate balance. I'm planning to go see her tomorrow.  Think positive thoughts, please.

Athens Had It Right

     ...The People all start out as idiots:  "Idiocy was the natural state of ignorance into which all persons were born and its opposite, citizenship, was effected through formalized education."

     21st Century America (and other nation-states that do the "voting" ritual) has streamlined the process by removing that difficult and awkward "education" step and replacing it with simple-minded propagandizing, thus allowing idiots to vote without the necessity of acquiring the tools of citizenship.  Yay, us.

     (Our politicians have responded by being uniformly duplicitous; case in point, California's Leland Yee, standout bringer-of-schadenfreude to gunnies.  The recent charges against him illustrate a general rule: whatever a politician takes the loudest stand against, he or she is probably doing in private.  Which is why we need to vote 'em all out -- for the children.)

Chromebook Learning Mantra

     A Reader is not a Text Editor.  A Reader is not a Text Editor.  A Reader is not a Text Editor.  If you aren't hip to this, you will experience highly unexpected results.  Gee, and Google even tried to tell me.

     The Chromebook learning curve doesn't have much slope but that one was a heck of a ha-ha for about ten minutes.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Another Morning, Another $1.298

          Or something like that.  I've been playing with a new (refurbed) Chromebook; Amazon was selling Acer C720s for $150 and for that money, it was worth finding out what the noise was about.  It's a nice little widget; won't run Q10 (my fave word processor for writing) but what it does run runs well.  The "learning curve" is all but non-existent; you can galumph along as if it was Windows and not go far wrong.  It's about a third the thickness of my Eee and half the weight.

     I've been working on slimming down the briefcase I carry to work; bicycling/motorcycling season is coming and I'd like to start commuting on two wheels.  This may fit in with that project.

     Haven't tried moving files between this and my other laptops and desktop -- I need to get them all set up for Dropbox and Google Docs, and stop moving things on thumbdrives.  (In sudden thought, why am I not saving work-in-progress in either of those offsite services, at least as a backup?)

     ...In case you're wondering, I Work On A Starship continues, I just don't have anything to publish at present.  As I get better with Scrivener (a pretty powerful outlining-and-writing program), I will get to work on putting the current serial back on course; the storyline meandered and ground to a halt.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Thank You!

     Thank you, Martin, for the lovely scarf (and the nice postcards).  The scarf colors are one of my favorite combinations.  It is a treasure!

     Thank you, Elliot-from-the-phone-company, who came back on Monday and rewired the phones exactly as I would have wanted, with a filter at the NI and a dedicated run to the high-speed modem.  Very neat work, too, and Tam tells me you greeted the cats as if they were small, furry people.

     And thank you, Readers, for tolerating my late-Winter slump.  Too much snow, too little sunlight, which should be fixing itself any day now.  A-hem.  Any Day Now...?   Well, eventually.

Monday, March 24, 2014

So, Monday, Huh?

     I should post something but I have, in fact, been looking at and  listening to a documentary about Richard P. Feynman and I was so taken by his lecture style -- Feynman as a 30ish professor is a kind of Borscht Belt Bob Hope with an innate grasp of physics -- that I plain lost track of time.

     So, me this morning you don't get so much of but the link takes you to over an hour and a half of Feynman, much of it in his own words.  It's a fair trade:
 "There are two kinds of geniuses: the 'ordinary' and the 'magicians'. An ordinary genius is a fellow whom you and I would be just as good as, if we were only many times better. There is no mystery as to how his mind works. Once we understand what they've done, we feel certain that we, too, could have done it. It is different with the magicians. Even after we understand what they have done it is completely dark. Richard Feynman is a magician of the highest calibre." - Mark Kac

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Lousy Day, Decent Dinner

     I was ill through mid-day and spent a lot of it horizontal but managed to get the basement work done starting in later afternoon.

      Egg Pomodoro for supper again, this time with some diced Italian dry sausage -- pepperoni, more or less -- as the meat, cooked a little and the grease drained.  I liked it, over a bit of mixed-grain rice-like stuff, and Tam enjoyed her no-egg version, too.

Is It The Weather Why I Feel Half Dead?

     Maybe it was doing yard work, etc. yesterday while watching to make sure the TelCo installer didn't snag himself on my ham antennas or come to grief on the two power drops (house and garage) the phone line threads between.  (Yes, he knows his job and is unlikely to come to harm.  But wouldn't you feel like a prime chump to be sitting indoors with the music turned up while a guy strangled or fried in the back yard?)  Maybe it was cleaning the office floor yesterday morning, because I was going to have to be rummaging around down there and the closer I looked, the worse the clutter and dust got.

     Maybe it was the high-speed pennyfarthing bike ride over to the gyros place and back, fetching dinner.

     Whatever.  I went to bed early, slept very poorly (including one dream involving romantic love-at-first-sight with some guy I never saw before in my life* and Huck fighting -- and defeating -- a mountain lion), then woke reluctantly and late.

     Today I have much to do, almost none of it anything I want to do (a moderately dire family gathering, the very last of the nieces and/or nephews and/or their offspring dropping by Mom X's for "Christmas," which puts even my procrastination to shame, plus rearranging the basement so the Phone Man can get a fine new phone wire from the NI to the high-speed series-of-tubes box, bypassing the old demark and the assortment of ancient R/G/B/Y quad radiating from it -- including one long-disconnected run of cloth-covered twisted-pair-of-pairs that probably dates back to the original telephone installation).  The first one will just be a couple of hours of walking on eggs, the second several hours of hard work. (But it should get us even more speed and maybe less RF noise.)  I've got a short stack of 4x4s in the way, plus in this house of tiny closets there are several racks of clothes that live underground.  And at least one shelf of irreplacable old radios. --Okay, irreplaceable and largely unwanted radios; me and a handful of other geeks are the only folks who notice 'em.

     A full yet strangely empty day and I've got to go start it.   Still beats the unmitigated hell out of shivering in a cardboard box, sleeping on a pile of rags and digging through dumpsters for dinner, a/k/a "My Retirement Plan."
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* Where that came from, I'll never know, and it was as sappy and chastely romantic as a romance comic book from the 1960s.  Second adolescence?

Saturday, March 22, 2014

AT&T Screwed Me And They Still Are

     So, at this posting I have kinda-sorta got Internet service, but no dial tone; apparently, the particular combination of damn-fast Internet and POTS I opted for require some changes at the local switch and -- guess what? -- unlike installers and line techs (of which we have had one each for nearly four hours), the crew there does not work late on Saturday.  Or at all, on "routine" matters.

     ...Which, if I had known when they were giving me the darned routine on Friday, would have prompted me to delay the install, but "yes, yes, we can do it all on Saturday, Ma'am, yoo-betcha."

     They lied, they can't, and we almost got left with only phone servuce, except Elliot the nice installer was good enough to call back and tell me it was either/or 'til Monday and ask which did we want?  I told him, and having Internet was harder to do, which is why he and the installer worked late today and we'll see him again Monday.

     Elliot: WIN.  AT&T: FAILDeath Star, it's only your best people who save you from yourself.

     Upside: 7.74 Mb/s down, 1.86 up.
     Downside no dialtone, no DC, no tip&ring.  Sadness.

High Speed Day?

     Maybe.  The Tel. Co. has throttled my "high speed" Internet to the crawling speed they claim I actually paid for and then -- can you see it coming? -- dangled their new high speed superzoom fiberwhatever* in front of me at a low, low price, only $3.99 more a month than I'm already paying like a worm on a hook.  --The hook is, twelve months later, I'll be paying $10 more a month.

     The barb on the hook?  Ya gotta have Teh Innndernet.  Cable companies around here are egregious clods, who I would not let run a wire into my house if money came out it and won't sell you the 'net unless you sign up for cabledammiteevee, too, and on that there are really only three things: the local stations you can get over the air for free, on-demand stuff my Roku/Amazon combo delivers at least as well, and crap Hitler/Alien/Mermaids/Seance channels that used to run science and history programs but gave up after realizing rehashed tripe, cold readings and program-length commercials for claptrap and quackery made at least as much money if not more and cost less to produce.  (The kicker for me was the leaked memo from one of the historical channels, exhorting producers for "less gray hair" in their choice of experts.  Yeah, done.)  So I'm stuck with The Phone Company and they're stickin' it to me -- but less so than the competition.

     When your regulated utility wins business by virtue of being the least sucky, that's not exactly a badge of honor.  Don't go looking for them to care about it any time soon.  As Lily Tomlin said as Ernestine the Operator, "We don't have to care. We're The Phone Company."  Yep.
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* Fiber.  Y'don't say.  Umm-hmm.  --Except the last mile is still copper and very likely will be  the very same copper as is already there. The trunk and distribution (or whatever telcos call it) around is here is already glass and has been for several years; I can bicycle to the outdoor enclosure where my very own phone pair (and those of all my neighbors) gets turned into glass for the dreadful long haul a half-block over and a half-mile up to the local phone switch, our former exchange.  Don't frikkin' blow smoke at people who put out fires for a livin', TelCo.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Dinner Tonight

     I had a little warmed-up colcannon for lunch.  I've been good all week.

     So tonight's dinner is a small bowl of vanilla ice cream -- okay, Tahitian Vanilla Bean Gelato -- exactly one serving per the label, sprinkled generously with good cinnamon and some crushed walnuts.

     It might not be to everyone's taste but it suits mine to a T.  The cinnamon-on-vanilla thing especially; if you haven't tried it, you've been missing out on one of Nature's little delights.  oooooh, yeah.

     (Also: I use one of those soda-fountain-type ice cream scoops that empty themselves when you push a lever, and I am pleased if not proud that I can still lick the left-over ice cream outta that gadget.  One scoop is one serving, and by golly I am not rinsing any good vanilla gelato down the drain that I can eat instead.)

Indiana's Spring Is Fickle

     More fool I, I looked up the weather.

     Today: sunny, high in the sixties, possibly even upper sixties.

     Tonight, chilly. Okay, it's early Spring, barely started, cold night, fine.  Good sleeping weather.

     Weekend: Saturday, it might reach 48 by mid-afternoon.  Sunday, high in the thirties.

     Spring, WTF?

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Colcannon: It's What's For Dinner

     Tonight, I made the real deal, the pure quill: Colcannon, genuine mashed potatoes with a good ham steak and rich, dark kale garnished with spring onions, scallions and just a hint of cherry pepper -- all mixed together!

     It's an Irish dish, hot and filling and while it might sound a bit odd, it tastes great.  I've made it before but somehow didn't through the just-over long, dark depressing Winter.

     This time I went almost traditional -- chopped up the ham steak and heated it while the tatties were boiling, scissored kale into little bits and sauteed briefly with diced onions and cherry pepper (pickled!) once the potatoes were cooked and while they were drying.  From there on, it's simple -- leave the kale be and mash the potatoes, gradually adding milk and a little butter (etc.)  'til they feel right (I do skin-on, which means the initial stirring gets done with a scissors or a sharp knife). Then mix in the ham and kale, strir it up good and serve steaming hot, sprinkled with parsley and a pat of butter melting in a little divot on top.  I like it with rather a lot of ham and kale in the potatoes.

     Tam went back for seconds; I had a bit more, too.

     ...And we watched this week's Archer which, after a worrisome start, is back to being the best show on television.

Skynet Gets Sniffy

     Wow, when the machines start saying it....
     Maybe I am no fun.  Or is it saying if the transaction had gone through, I could have had enough fun?

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Jan Pieterszoon Sweelinck

     Who?  --The real question is, "What'd he do?" and the answer is "Compose."  See, I'd looked up Paul Erdos,* the famously eccentric mathematician and that'd led me to Glenn Gould, the famously talented (and eccentric) Canadian pianist, and he was a big fan of Sweelnick despite the composer's having left† nearly 400 years earlier.

     The lengthy samples of Jan Pieterszoon Sweelinck's work on his Wikipedia page are pleasant and delightfully complex, pre-Bach but resolutely headed that way, the sort of music that sounds like heaven and takes a hell of a lot of work to play properly.

     Organ music: it ain't just for the hockey stadium and the roller rink, y'know.
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* It's really "Erdős," but in these days of ITAR and renewed tensions near that part of Europe, who's got an o with a double-acute accent handy?

† An Erdős-ism meaning "died."

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Terry Pratchett's Raising Steam

     The latest Discworld book just hit my Kindle.  And -- hey, Discworld -- the hardcopy is headed my way, too.

     Y'know, I seem to recall Tam has a handy link to that great big bookseller, if a person had forgotten to pre-order their own copy....

Homemade Salsa Last Night

     I'd show a photo but I ate it too quickly.  There were cherry tomatoes, sweet onion (or possibly fat scallions; they have a small but definite bulb and a mild, flavorful taste), hot peppers and black olives left over from Sunday and while you can put other things in salsa (a little cilantro, for instance), that combination will do fine.

     Chopped and mixed (mind the olives, which are about the only salt), it was more than fine on corn chips, which is why there aren't photos.  Next time I'll make more: I suspect it would be even better after a night in the fridge.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Malaysia Airlines Flight 370: My Theory

     My theory is that all the "experts," real and self-appointed, all the pontificating pundits both professional and amateur, should shaddup.

     You don't know.  I don't know.   Somebody might know, but they're not talking.  We might find out some day.  We might not.

     There's a plane missing.  Just shaddup.  Shaddup and avoid potted pork products from the Far East.  Keep talking about it and some other nitwits will want to get some of that high-intensity attention; they'll go and nab themselves a passenger plane, too, and air travel will get even more screwed up.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Sunday Dinner: Egg Pomodoro

     It would'a been Eggs Pomodoro, but Tam didn't want an egg.

     That's okay; there's sweet onion, chopped black olives and Italian sausage, along with "Italian-style" stewed tomatoes and some fresh sliced grape tomatoes in there.  Mine on left, Tam's on right:
 

     Cooking it is simple -- lightly brown the sausage, drain it, add diced onion, cook 'til the onion wakes up, add canned stewed tomatoes, slice the grape tomatoes and add them, cover, cook for five minutes; uncover, chop a few black olives into it, mash/break up with a spatula, cover again 'til it steams.  Make a little well in the sauce, break an egg into it, cover again and cook for five to eight minutes.  (I like yolks cooked, I went for eight.)
     Sprinkle with shredded cheese and serve in small bowls.  Garnish as desired -- the sliced cherry peppers appealed to me.  Buttered toast on the side gives you something to sop up the last of the sauce with.  Rice would work, too.

     I've been reading for years "Eggs Pomodoro is so easy" and doubting it.  I was wrong; it really is straightforward, quick, tasty and kinda fancy-looking.

Gun Show Report

     It's another Indy 1500 weekend!  Tam's pal Shootin' Buddy and my friend, the Data Viking showed up at 8:00 a.m. Saturday.

       After a nice breakfast and an altogether too exciting trip by the bank (at the drive-up, I dropped a fully-endorsed check made out to "cash" somewhere in the back seat of the truck and, rather than hold up the line, wrote another after a very short search, figuring I'd find it on the way to the show, which I did not), we arrived at the Indy 1500 Gun & Knife Show...and were directed to the nearest available lot, the length of the fairgrounds away from the show.

     The Indiana State Fairgrounds are large.  It was a healthy walk and probably good for us -- and took about as long as the wait in line to get into the show.

     The show was crowded a couple of hours after opening, so it took some time get through it.  This was the second show the booksellers I've been saying Hi to for over a decade were absent; last time they were there, they were having trouble with their new vehicle and not much enjoying the prospect of winter, so perhaps they've just decided to wait for better weather.

     .22 LR prices are still falling; I ended up buying a couple of boxes from Data Viking, who gets good prices at a shop up where he lives, but we did see some for essentially the same price, still over a dime a round.  --A northern Indiana loader is setting up to do .22 LR (!), which calls for some specialized equipment  to prime 'em (!!) but bids fair to help the supply.  (And for those of you who own obscure larger-bore rimfire: I have no idea if the machinery's various jigs are scalable, but what an interesting thought.)*

     Me, I did not buy a gun; ended up with some purse add-ons (yes, yes, my present purse has some MOLLE-like provisions; and sometimes I wear Army [ish] boots, too, just like your Mom), a knife-like object (Chinese take on an old straight razor, crossed with a pocketknife) and, of all things, a general-coverage radio receiver, 150 kc/s through 30 mc/s, a desktop solid-state unit I hope to put by my bedside.  Yes, went to gun show, bought radio.  And so it goes.  Perhaps I'll pick up a flintlock at the next hamfest.

      Walking back, I had the radio to carry, plus various bags; but I counted myself lucky: Shootin' Buddy had bought ammuntion, plus brass and bullets for reloading.  He'd bought rather a lot of it.  Tam had her new gun and ammunition, Data Viking was carrying whatever the rest of us hadn't been able to: it was a long walk.  We stopped frequently.  Three of the four of us have been in various accidents resulting in assorted minor leg-gimpage and we certainly were well-reminded.  Still: sunshine.  Warmth.  Good healthy exercise.  If you don't keep moving, you'll never get any better.

     Oh, and the lost check?  After a very frustrating attempt to stop payment over the phone (can't be done), we stopped by Roseholme Cottage after the gun show (but before a delightful lunch at 10-01) so I could log on and get it stopped...while my computer was booting up, the Data Viking found the check neatly nestled in a low cupholder in the door.  Whew!  (And that's why he's so good at what he does: not only skill but dogged, methodical persistence.)
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* Meanwhile in Southern Indiana, the remains of what was once the largest smokeless powder production facility in the world remain, looking like a subdivision until you zoom in: Indiana Ordnance Works 1.  --Look for the solid rocket fuel/black powder lines nearby.The whole shootin' match (so to speak) was the Indiana Army Ammunition Plant.  Think of it as a kind of steampunk Hanford.  This is all as a result of me trying to find the name of the folks fixing to load .22 -- my Google-fu is weak this morning.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Cargo-Cult Westernization

     Today's Red China looks a lot like us.  But is it, really, or are we starting to resemble them?  A Western intern at a TV channel in Shanghai got a look from the inside.  How does a modern totalitarian state do the "propaganda" thing in the 21st Century?  Creepily; Orwell's brute, brute boot has been replaced by a tasseled loafer; strident exhortation has given way to the banality of...banality?  My Life and Times in Chinese TV.

     That could be the future for everyone, if we don't watch out.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Hooray! Orange People Who Don't Talk Much At The Zoo!

     The Orangutang Center at the Indianapolis Zoo is nearing completion and it's going to have a beacon on the roof that the orangutangs can control -- at least to the extent of turning it on and off and changing the hue.  One hopes the designers have set things up so the orangs can see it.

     Druther leave 'em t'home but in the wild, they're at some risk these days.  The little colony here is something of a lifeboat, a sort of outpost.  It's certainly one of the most fun-looking apartment buildings downtown.  I hope we can make our vistors comfortable.

SB 229 Passes, Journalists Still Haven't Read It.

     The headline reads, "General Assembly OKs guns in school parking lots," and while the story goes on to admit the bill only clears the way "for some people to have guns in school parking lots," that "some" being handgun carry permit holders, you'd look in vain for the fact that persons with a carry permit can already have guns on school grounds -- if they happen to be operating a motor vehicle at the time.

     Hoi polloi are already at full fret, picturing a shotgun in every trunk, a rifle behind every seat and a cheapie slag-gun in every glovebox, nary a lockbox or trigger lock on 'em.  One commenter warns, "All you have to do is brake the [car] window and now you have the gun . There needs to be more metal detesters on all school doors ."  Ah, yes, if only SB 229 didn't outlaw metal detestors....  Oh, wait: it doesn't.  Or metal detectors, either.  (Also, the Today Show is looking for a new on-screen graphics person and I think you'd brake in just fine, sir.)

     Will Governor Pence sign the bill?  Probably.  Does he know what it does?  Not if he's relying on media coverage for context.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

The Television Is Still Wrong

     Indiana's state legislature has been debating a bill that would fix a problem: right now, if Mr. or Mrs. Carry-Permit-Holder drops off or picks up the kids at school, the law says the only License To Carry Handgun holder who can be armed is the the one operating the car.  Passengers are not mentioned.  And parking the car, locking up your gun in it?  That's a felony: you are no longer operating the vehicle.

     This is at odds with the law elsewhere in the state, where locking your gun in your car is entirely lawful, even in most otherwise non-permissive environments.

     Between existing law and the proposed bill, it's a little more complex than an outright ban or no restrictions at all, so reporting has been muddled at best.  And the usual whiners, especially the Demanding Mothers, have been making the usual predictions, mostly in ignorance of the reality: people with a valid permit are already driving through armed, while persons disinclined to obey the law are already leaving guns in their cars at schools -- or, upon occasion, carrying them right on in.  Sometimes they get caught, and that makes the news; but what percentage of unlawful carriers are found out, do you suppose?  One in ten?  This law won't change their behavior; all it does is keep a forgetful parent from committing a felony by doing something that's already legal nearly every other place they visit.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Dear NBC:

     Those things that one routinely uses to stop an automobile?  They're brakes.  B-R-A-K-E-S.  Not "breaks."  Despite what you put in the on-screen graphic.*

     Cripes, any more you Bigtime TV people are just phoning it in, waiting for the ax to fall.  Sad.  Or it would be sad if you cared; now it's more like a zombie movie, except without victims: just the undead, shambling about, debasing the language.  And the culture.
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     *Ya wanna know why this happens more and more?  The streamlined, all-electronic newsroom is why: some star-struck low-wager from the sticks hunched over a computer in the dark and echoing newsroom at 30 Rock wrote that copy, the homonym skipped right through whatever minimal spellchecking there was and the graphics software pulled out the lower-third without any other human eyes on it until it hit the screen, live and nationwide.  If it's not right the first time, it won't be right, period.  If they're really sharp -- as sharp goes these days, somewhere in the "bag of wet mice" range -- they'll have fixed it the next time the story rolls around, in a half hour.  Or not, if no one who matters noticed or the script's already loaded.  The advanced student might want to look up something called "ENPS," which is how the Associated Press earns beer money these days.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

The Year's First Scoot

     Yes, I got the motorscooter out this evening and ran over to the market to pick up some dinner-like items.  The weather was nice today, supposed to turn worse tomorrow (snow by sunrise, they claim) and cold 'til the weekend, so it was now or much later.

     Gosh, I've missed riding.  Sure, it's just 150cc, a kind of classic Vespa-cousin.  Hey, two wheels and an engine, what more could one want?

     As winter-wrecked as the roads are right now, commuting on it will be a challenge but I'm bound to try.

Weather Better; Pain Worse

     You know how people have weather-predicting aches and pains?  At Roseholme Cottage, they tend to be lagging indicators instead, and the recent huge improvement in weather is resulting in sinus pain that wakes me up from a sound sleep and stabbing knee pain for Tam.

     The only good news is that we've got one more nasty jolt into cold and snow and then -- so the prognosticators claim! -- there'll be a long, steady climb into Spring.

     It can't happen soon enough.  Pretty sure the Vitamin I supply will hold out but it's a near thing.

Monday, March 10, 2014

At The (Home) Cinema: Hunger Games II

     Last night, I watched the second Hunger Games film -- Hunger Games: Catching Fire.

     Like the previous film, it's one of the better jobs of taking a book to the screen I've yet seen.  At two and a half hours(!), there's enough time to tell the story; excellent casting, good acting, a decent script and seamless effects and photography manage to tell it well.

     FYI: this film is notably free of the "shaky-cam" found in the first one.  There's evidence the (different) director was, ahem, very strongly advised to find himself a boom.

     The arena characters were never going to be easy to cast or simple to play but they all did it.  Mags, Finnick and Johanna Mason were especially good and Beetee and Wiress were outstanding.  The players all appeared to have either done their homework (as in, read the book), responded to well-informed directing, or both.

     It's a fine film, with wide appeal -- who doesn't root for the underdog against the overly-powerful?  -- and I look forward to the next two in the series.

     Some of the fun of these films has been comparing the look of them to the world of my imagination from the books.  It's not the same but it works.  I can't say that of most movies I saw having already read the book.

Sunday, March 09, 2014

Saved By Daylight?

     Saved from daylight?  By means of...?  Whatever the saving is, we did it.

     I went to bed way early, in part to dodge the worst aspect of this shifting of time, which is the theft -- outright government robbery-by-fiat -- of an entire hour's sleep.  It didn't help; I woke at the usual time, which wasn't really, sat up, and got whacked by the semi-usual vertigo.

     Laid back and then went about this sitting-up business carefully enough that the walls stayed more-or-less where they ought, fed the cats and went back to bed, whereupon I encountered even worse vertigo, the worst so far until I sat up again, at which point a new record was set.

     Stumbling with eyes dancing or walls and floor shimmying, depending whether you were me or an onlooker, I made it to the kitchen in heavy seas, lashed myself to the rail and fumbled around until I had found and taken anti-vert.  Staggering back to my bedroom, I laid down and held onto my mattress, hoping the storm would pass.

     Some hours later -- only a few minutes ago -- I woke again, this time in bright sunlight, the room rocking to a light swell.  Made coffee, came in here and blogged, still bobbing about on the gentle waves.

     Just gimme some wide bellbottoms and a middy blouse and I'll be fine.  Fiiiine.  Maybe I can holystone the decks later, or splice the main brace or sump'in.  ...Might as well have stuck a knife in the mainmast.

Friday, March 07, 2014

Hafnium!

     All in for Hafnium?  Or only batting .500?  Reactions vary.

Holographic Bad Judgement

     So, you've got a history of DUI convictions and you're driving on a suspended license?  Than you're in a high-speed traffic accident that rolls your car into a ditch, tears up the car you hit, injuring several of the people in at and causing a baby to be thrown from the vehicle and suffer fatal injury -- what do you do?

     Get out and run, of course.  Over 24 hours later, the alleged driver surrendered to police and though details are sketchy, it appears that the "surrender" occurred only after they came and knocked on his door.

     Be careful out there.  Some of our fellow-citizens are not.  Sadly, stupid usually hurts others before it starts to hurt the fool himself.

Thursday, March 06, 2014

Awright, Lissen Up--

     The very next low-down dog what mentions "EDID" is gonna get it.  Both barrels.

     Ho-lee heck.  I worked from 0730 to 1745, and still they call me from 1930 to 2000.  It's called "sleep," dammit.  I wants me some.

Early Start: Late Blog

     Got paged into work early--

     Seems some of the junk connected to this mess done blowed up.   I didn't wire it and the guy who did responded to offers of help with grunts.  Somehow it's my job to sort it out.  While he takes the credit.
     Oh, this is fun.

Wednesday, March 05, 2014

Get-Rich Scheme

     I've figured it out: I'll start a line of frozen "diet foods:" attractively packaged, with photos of tasty meals and inside, a nice reusable plastic plate.  ...And no food.  Not a bit.  I'll call it "Barmecide Feasts." It'll be a year, easy, before anyone bothers to look up the term.

     (And recipes -- "Super-Easy Chicken Barmecide!"  Oh, I will be rolling in money.  Or at least miming it.) 

Tuesday, March 04, 2014

Leviathan Blinks

     Or was that a wink?  As others have pointed out, the FCC has backed off on their plan to swagger into the nation's radio, TV and newspaper newsrooms* and see if you and I have been missing out on news the FCC thinks we should see.

     Or at least they say they have dropped the plan.  Maybe it'll come back in some "kindler, gentler" form, only a little repackaged.  And to think, the Federal legislation that prompted this fool mess simply requires the FCC to look to barriers to minority ownership of broadcast outlets.  How's that require snooping into how stations cover the news?   This isn't "mission creep," it's more like "mission gone wild."
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* They don't actually regulate newspapers and print media has no tradition of having to make nice in that way, so it was going to be a real teaching-the-pig-to-sing moment and an open question who was the pig and who was the music teacher.

Monday, March 03, 2014

The Moon Is A Boat

     The Moon is a boat tonight, afloat (if ever so slightly askew) on the midnight-blue sky, the bright hull under an oval, blue-gray sail.  It's a wonderful angle, a crazy trip through the last of Winter's fury (there's yet another snowstorm before this week's abed) to come to rest, with  skill and luck, at the first and nearest dock of Spring.

     Or so it looked to me as I trudged across the parking lot, muttering to myself, "...And there's still not a Hilton up there."  If there is any justice, both the folks running the hotel chain and NASA's head honcho are haunted each night by the ghosts of Robert A. Heinlein and Arthur C. Clarke, in alternation, asking Why.

Less Is More

     "Roseholme Breakfast Hash" this morning, with only three ingredients rather than my usual paragraph of interesting veggies and exotic meat: today, it's just eggs, potato and sausage.

     That's all it needs.  Mind you, the sausage is Fresh Market's flavorful take on "country sausage" and the eggs are from chickens who got to eat a bug now and then.  The potato?  ...Well now, when and where I grew up, there were only two kinds of potatoes and one of them wasn't really, because it was a yam.  The other kind was large, white, and sold in big net bags.  At home, they lived in a dark and (one hoped!) cool corner of the under-counter cupboards and were used for all your potato needs from chips to fries to baked to mashed to soup.  I grew up eating them and despite all the highfalutin' breeds and cultivars out there, from Yukon Gold to Andesian Purple,* I prefer them.

     Just what I need to gird myself to go shovel the walks yet again.
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* Potato aisle or Colorado herb store?  

Internets From Outer Space

     ...Putting censors in their place....*

     "Outernet," a constellation of cheapie microsats fulla information superhighwayishness; I'm not sayin' it's 110% ready for prime time right now, but with private launch companies proliferating and various kinds of Internet censorship creepin' up, it's an idea whose time has come.
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* "Little satellites, around they race./Is there a profit from this space race?"  Sung to an obvious tune.

Sunday, March 02, 2014

Snowing--

     Snowing with the avidity of college-age kids discovering a fresh sin.

     Snowing like a bad movie about sudden-onset ice ages.

     Snowing like...something I dislike.

     Whatever: it is snowing.

     Lots.

Take Flight!

     When I say, "art--"

     That.

     (It turns out that the artist is a pretty wonderful guy, too.   Kinda restores my faith.)

On The Pleasure Of Loathing

     There's a couple of inches of snow on the ground; the skies are quiet not but they assure me there's more snow in the offing.

     It is perhaps sad that I have come to loathe even the clean, white, new-fallen snow, this its delicate white blanket, so fluffy and smooth, arouses a crawling sensation between my shoulder blades and the dull heat of remembered pain in my lower backs.  I take comfort in remembering that curmudgeonly William Hazlett mused contentedly, nearly two centuries ago, On The Pleasures Of Hating, an essay recommended by his modern-day fellow-essayist Florence King.  I believe a related (however distantly) concept has developed among persons serving in the military: "Embrace the suck," which is perhaps the only way to wade through the vengeful, ragged Napoleon's-retreat-from-Russia of Winter's final efforts against onrushing Time:  Hate it, enjoy hating it, and keep moving; if you stop, it wins.

     For my first move today, I'm making French Toast.  Who's with me?

Saturday, March 01, 2014

Snowstorm Food

     Three-Day Oxtail Stew:
     You take a nice meaty oxtail, some (a pound) stew beef and a scant handful of some kind of spicy meat (country sausage, this time).  Brown the sausage and set it aside to drain, leaving a little grease in the stew-pan.  Salt and pepper the oxtail ahead of time and brown it next. Remove (to prevent overcooking), brown the beef, add the oxtail and sausage back in, cover the stew beef with water and go away for 45 minutes or longer.  (You can sneak back in and turn the oxtail a few times if you'd like.)

     At the end of that time, start adding veggies and broth or stock.  Keep the stock level high enough to cover everything and adjust depending on how much broth you want. I started with a turnip and followed with a golden beet, both chopped into 3/8" cubes.  (You can go bigger.  Depends on how long you plan to simmer).  After a few minutes, I followed them with a large potato, in half-inch cubes and a huge leek, diced.  Then chopped carrot -- a third went right in, 2/3 waited until I had sauteed a package of mushrooms and added them to the pot, then sauteed the rest of the carrots and in they went.  Also getting the saute and add treatment, in turn, three stalks of celery, a half-dozen sliced grape tomatoes, half a large red sweet pepper and all of a poblano.  This took sufficient time that everything was pretty well cooked by the time the poblano got into the pot, so I let it simmer just a little while fished out the oxtail, got out bowls while it cooled, a trimmed off as much meat as I could and added it back to the stew (and the remains of the oxtail, plenty more goodness to cook out).  Look out for occasional little bits of bone in the oxtail meat, which are sometimes left after the butcher has divided it.

     Serve in small bowls, with crisp bread and perhaps a small glass of red wine.  Garnish with raw veggies if desired. That's Day One.  Leftover stew gets refrigerated.

     Day Two, you skim off the congealed fat (there will a bit -- that's why you had a small bowl yesterday and the red wine, too) take a look at how much is left and add something if needed -- a can of mixed beans, or diced/crushed tomatoes, a red onion, whatever  -- heat and enjoy.  Leftovers go in the fridge again, and you make a last try at the oxtail -- there's a lot of meat on them but it has to be winkled out. The bone is likely cooked out by now, and can depart.

     Day Three, the same, and by now there may be so little left you might want a grilled cheese or peanut butter sandwich on the side.

     You can go in other directions; the broth can be thickened with flour, cornstarch or arrowroot ($$!), though I find the turnip cooks down nicely for that purpose, you can serve it in bread bowls, you can push the second- or third-day in a chili-ish direction (very good) and so on.   You could even serve it over rice.

     It's good warmth and energy when the snow has to be shoveled -- I cook it the night before and it's a quick trip from fridge to stove to table.

Darned Right I Slept In Today

     I slept in today because I'll be digging out tomorrow.

     We're gonna get a foot of snow.  Sure, the prediction says "six to ten inches," but I can feel it in the knuckles of my big toes.  This is gonna be a bad one.  Again.