Thursday, December 31, 2015

I'd Whine

        Alas, whining* doesn't help.  This is an oucheriffic morning for me  Loud sounds -- like normal conversation or my fingers hammering the keyboard -- are unpleasant and the pressure/pain in my left ear is overwhelming, unavoidable and just, dammit, there.  But that does mean I hardly notice the tinnitus.

     See, there's always a bright side.
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 * Brits apparently "whinge," while here in the U.S., we "whine."  Not sure what they do in Canada -- complain very quietly to themselves in two languages and get back on-task, I suspect.  In Australia? "Something, something, beer," innit?  But maybe not.  Maybe we all gripe.

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Tam Smithed Me

     Yes, now I have two S&W revolvers -- the lovely pre-18 .22, and this:

     "Right in your wheelhouse," she said, and she was right: a 1920s, nickle-plated .38 M&P, Model of 1905, 4th change (it says right here).  The very thing for discouraging ruffians!  And a little less quirky than the .380/200 Enfield revolver for that purpose. 

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Monday, December 28, 2015

And Now, The Weather...!

     Christmas Day was mild and lovely, a little hint of Spring.  Every day since, it has rained, varying from drizzle to downpour; when it isn't raining, it's about to and looks it.  The weather is growing increasingly unhinged, with floods overnight, freezing rain just to the north and a band of heavy rain sweeping into Indy as I type, with high wind warnings in its wake.

     The rest of the country is having their own versions of crazy weather, none of it pleasant.  It's not a typical winter but it's winter nonetheless: hostile and unforgiving.

      It is a reminder that lacking technology, a lot of the planet is unfit for human habitation.  Oh, it doesn't take power plants and gas pipelines; various peoples got by (and some still do) with little more than edged tools, fire, carpentry and leather-making...and working from sunrise to sunset, each and every day.  Thinking that, I'm all the more grateful for the roof over my head.

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Family Christmas

    ...I went, I dropped off presents, I departed.  A dozen people in a very small house!  Wish 'em all well.

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Forehand Model 1901

     Pocket revolver in .32 S&W* made by the Hopkins & Allen Arms Co.
     Five shots and a design that holds the firing pin well away from the primer at rest.  Christmas present from Tam, and a darned good one!
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* Or .32 Merwin & Hulbert.  ("Sittin' in a tree, r-e-b-r-a-n-d-i-n-g," which is what they did with this and .38 S&W.)

Friday, December 25, 2015

Merry Christmas!

     Here's the best wishes of the season, from all of us at Roseholme Cottage (yes, even Rannie Wu) to all you out there in blogland!

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Happy Christmas! --A Seasonal Guide

     There's been a bit less grumbling over holiday greetings this year, but for those of you who need a reminder, when someone says "Merry Christmas" or "Happy Holidays" to you, or bids you a joyous Solstice, Happy Hanukkah, or the best Kwanzaa ever, they're wishing you well.  They're feeling the seasonal spirit and they're hoping you'll feel some touch of it, too.  They're not trying to colonize your mind.  They're not dissing your particular observance that just happens to fall on or about the day when days start getting longer again, they're feeling happy and attempting to share the joy.

     And what you do is, you wish the same right back to 'em.  No matter how dark your mood is or how unlikely you are to be burning the same kind of Yule log as your well-wisher, you pick whatever version of seasonally-appropriate good wish you like and you send 'em out to those who have expressed them to you -- and you don't whine about it, either.  People out there want you to be happy.  Go along with it, willya?

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Stop, Thief!

     Dan Zimmerman, widely held to be a longtime intellectual property thief and, I am given to understand, founder of Dead Hooker Magazine, has stolen Tam's "Fun Show Song" and posted the lovely video made as a Christmas present for Tam by Ambulance Driver and Squeaky and posted it over at TTAG, the other sink of iniquity and inequity with which he is associated, utterly without attribution to anyone but himself.

     Other than polite reminders (already issued) and the distant possibility of lawyering up -- Tam's a writer and her stock in trade is the unique groupings of words she creates -- there's not a whole lot that can be done.

     But there is one thing.  Cato famously ended every speech he made in the Roman Senate with "Carthage must be destroyed," even if all he was talking about was proclaiming Junior Vestal Day.  The phrase I'd like you to remember and to post all over the Internet is "Dan Zimmerman. Intellectual property thief. Dead Hooker Magazine."  And good morning, search engines! 

     Retraction: Readers, I may have been mistaken; I can find no link between TTAG's Dan Zimmerman and Dead Hooker Magazine other than they show up in the same search results.  There are credible allegations connecting TTAG's Dan Zimmerman with intellectual property theft, though they do not appear to have been pursued past posting of links and screencaps. Certainly that blog has a long and well-documented history of "scraping" content from other blogs and presenting it as their own, without backlinks or attribution.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Science Fiction

     So, home after an early-shift day yesterday, I watched some more of The Expanse.  It remains visually nice but muddled of story and a bit weak on that "science" stuff -- "SF" as produced by people who picture the fan base as a seething mass of Star Wars and Star Trek fans, but fail to understand the specific collections of tricks that keep those two series afloat.   The setting and much of the "feel," the political tension between Earth and The Belt, is deeply derivative of C. J. Cherryh's Alliance-Union universe, possibly with a side order of Larry Niven's Known Worlds -- and they both do it far better than this TV series has managed.  Of course, their casts and crews are orders of magnitude less expensive....

     An antidote to bad art is good art; I picked up a paperback of Kim Stanley Robinson's The Martians, which appears to be a collection of short stories set in the same universe as the Red Mars novels.  He and I would probably have terrible arguments about political systems, but he is one of the very best writers working in SF, ever.  His settings are lived-in and he gets the science either right or well-handwaved without being obtrusive about it.  In terms of clarity and precision, his work cannot be beaten and is only rarely equalled.

Monday, December 21, 2015

Homemade Corned Beef Hash

     Turned out pretty fair.  I gave it the full treatment: potatoes, corned beef, onion and two different (mild) peppers, an Anaheim and a yellow bell pepper.  Fried up an egg for on top.

     Cooking it all, I was reminded that I miss high-walled iron skillets.  But you can't just rinse one of those out and put it in the dishwasher.

     ...Readers will note that I sat out the Democrat debate.  Y'know what's even less interesting to me than Trump and the Seven Dwarves spatting and playing fast and loose with the Bill of Rights?  Hillary and Bernie and what's-his-name trying to look as if they are making nice while playing fast and loose with the Bill of Rights.  H'mm, seems to be a common thread here.

Sunday, December 20, 2015

The Expanse: Disappointing

     I watched the pilot of The Expanse and gave it benefit of the doubt on an implausibility or two.  Making decent film or video SF is tricky and the line between handwavium and hokum can be pretty thin.

     In the first twenty minutes of episode two, a crucial complication depends on the inner door of the airlock a small spacecraft being routinely left open.  I have trouble with that: it creates an avoidable single point of failure.  It's stupid engineering.  Then we find out the acceleration chairs don't support the astronaut's head and neck, despite the ship being capable of considerable thrust, possibly even as much  as the previous episode showed requiring special medication to endure.  Yet this is not a problem.   And then--

     Then, in a scenario similar to the one at the heart of Robert A. Heinlein's 1948 short story Ordeal In Space, a character goes out on the hull to repair Something Important.  The spacecraft is apparently under some acceleration -- and the character doesn't have a safety line.* While attempting the repair, a wrench slips from his hand and goes flying away.  No safety line on people working on the hull I might grant, especially in an emergency, especially with some of the alternative hardware already shown.  But no lanyard on tools?  No.  Ballistic junk is already enough of a problem in 2015 that when ISS crew is working out on the hull. their tools are on short cables, connected to the worker or the space station.   It's routine when working on the outside of tall structures; it's not uncommon for divers.  An advanced spacefaring civilization would be very cautious about this.

     When your story counts on bad engineering that none of the characters find remarkable, you've lost me.  You don't care enough about suspending the viewer's disbelief to even try to fast-talk your way through it -- because you either didn't notice, or figured no one watching would -- and that ruins it for me.  It's either ignorant or condescending.

     I may watch more of the series; the visuals are pretty good.  But the science -- no, the technology -- isn't.
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* Heinlein's did, if I remember correctly. Then, for a logical reason, he has to go farther than it will allow.

Saturday, December 19, 2015

I Got What She Had

     ...Maybe.  Appears I have a mild case of the fatigue, joint ache, mild sinusitis stuff Tam had awhile ago.  I am not liking it.  The feeling is, I think, mutual.

     Gah.  Of course, this was supposed to be a busy weekend -- and of course it won't be.

Friday, December 18, 2015

Windows X?

     It's the the hot newness, or whatever the kids say these days, and they say it mostly via Apple and Android operating systems, so maybe they wouldn't say it about stodgy old Windows.  My computer keeps popping up happy little invitations to do my Free Upgrade To Windows Ten.  So, hey, I clicked on learn more and--  Ooops!  My video adapter isn't compatible!

     Or so the not-so-happy popup told me.

     "That's that, then," I thought to myself.  No more flippin' intrusive invites to Ten myself.

      Yeah, no.  They're still happening.

     Up yours, Microsoft.  With a ho, ho, ho and a long string of Christmas lights, the old hot glass ones.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

"Speak Truth To Power?"

     Yes, you can do that very thing -- but when the "power" includes your boss and your particular "truth" is a matter of opinion, you may find your words have consequences.

     The editor of a small newspaper in Bowling Green, Ohio found this out when she wrote a blame-the-guns, blame-the-NRA editorial similar to the recent New York Times front page hit-piece, sent it to her publisher for vetting and the publisher asked her to drop it.

     Instead, she enlisted her staff and tried to bring the publisher around to her point of view.  It didn't work; pressing her cause, she was fired.  --As any of us might expect to happen if we proposed something, our boss told us "don't do that," and we rallied the other workers and argued past a certain point.  The "certain point" varies, but when you're operating in the realm of opinion rather than testable fact, it's not very far.

     For the fired editor, internet fame has followed -- and there's the ol' First Amendment at work, protecting the airing of even even scurrilous commentary; it just doesn't guarantee a platform to air it from.  (Also, now you know what happens when there's an argument between people who buy ink by the barrel.)

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Mom Is In The Hospital

     Again.  Slipped and fell in the bath.  X-rays showed no major damage but they were keeping her overnight.

     She appreciates your thoughts and prayers.  So do I.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

TV is OFF

     Not watching the debate.  It's not going to tell me anything I don't already know.

     I think we'd better better served by lining up all the Presidential candidates from both major parties, sawing them in half and counting the rings.  The one with most probably would have been adequate -- if he or she hadn't been sawn in half.

The Underfoot Wu

     Tam's cat, Random Numbers, established quite some time ago that her family name was "Wu."  Thus, in Americanized form, her name is Random Numbers (Rannie) Wu.

     But her larger family, her clan or sept?  I have established to my satisfaction that she is an Underfoot.  Cooking with Rannie arouund is a constant adventure, with the cat variously between my feet and the stove, smoothing on an ankle, sniffing at my calves and occasionally, after what appears to be careful study, nipping my legs.  Socks do not get as much consideration; a crumpled-down sock is liable to get a quick, double-action chomp or a rapid paw-slap if I move in a direction Rannie doesn't approve.

     Yes, Random Numbers Wu, of the Underfoot Wu sept.  They talk only to top-of-refrigerator cat, of course, and the fridge cats talk only to Ceiling Cat.  Small wonder she finds our young Mr. Huck a bit déclassé; he's simply Not Her Sort Of Cat, you see.

     And this is why she's an underfoot Underfoot: she's quite sure that as a member of the elite class, she's got first claim on anything that might fall to the floor during cooking -- or even any overlooked dust bunnies under the stove.

Monday, December 14, 2015

Can It Be...

     That there's a chance the Presidential primaries will result in a general elections with an  "Eat the rich" populist on one side and a rich guy out to eat the world on the other?

     No, that's not the joke -- the joke is on us: no matter who runs or which side eventually wins, the IRS will be at your door with their hand out on April 15th, and by hook or by crook, they'll come get it eventually if you don't pay up.  And that's not going to change.  We could vote flat-taxers into the White House for the next four Olympiads and it wouldn't change.  That's not one of the President's powers!  And neither is most of the crap the current crop of Presidential candidates are promising.

     I can't decide if I should ask Santa Claus for better candidates or better Civics education.  Both seem equally unlikely to happen.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Coleslaw

     With only one exception (Locally Grown Gardens makes an Asian-inspired slaw, easily the best in the entire county), restaurants around here offer bland, mayonnaise-heavy shredded cabbage concoctions; there's even a TV ad from a mayo company in which a defiant loner in a diner slams his slaw onto a hamburger sandwich and proceeds to enjoy it with gusto while a voice-over announcer suggests he did so solely for the white condiment--*

     But mayonnaise isn't even required.  Most of the homemade slaw of my youth -- and good many of the lunch-counter versions back then -- based the slaw dressing on vinegar, sugar and water plus spices.  I picked up a bag of shag-cut cabbage at the store a couple of days ago (all their instant salads were a day shy of expiring and looked it) and proceeded to make my own.  Cider vinegar is better for this but I had only white vinegar.  Mixing by taste, I ended up using the basics listed above plus black pepper, celery seed, a tiny pinch of salt and -- just to see how it would work out -- nutmeg.

     It worked out fine, albeit needing the amount of vinegar reduced after it had sat a day, and tastes just as good as I remember.

     Hey, who was Cole?  He or she wasn't; it's an English-language pronunciation of the Dutch word for cabbage, kool.  Cool!
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* As if!  The northern Indiana fast-food chain Penguin Point has offered a cabbage leaf on their burgers for years and it's way better than lettuce.

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Foot, Mouth? Mea Culpa, More Or Less

     Mom X was back in the hospital briefly this week, with one of those issues that are minor when you're 50* but worrisome at her age.  I stopped in to visit.  She had a question for me: "So where have you been going to Thanksgiving?"

     Yes, in re my blog post.  Busted!  I had compiled a "worst of" and tried to play it for laughs -- fairly dark laughs, at that.  It was unfair of me; before I moved out at 19, Mom ran the holiday feast like a general and other than the constant conflicts of my youth ("Bobbi, put that book down and come out where everyone else is," and sibling arguments while doing the dishes), they were not the kind of mess I wrote of.  What I can remember of them is pleasant.

     Later, when all us kids were as adult as we were going to get (not very), my sister and her (then) family started hosting Family Thanksgiving and I found the gathering awkward and uncomfortable.  She and I do not get along. I drew most of my Worst Of from those years.  The feasts eventually fragmented and had recoalesced at Mom's house for the last several years she lived there; those were about 50/50 for me, which is not a reflection on Mom's efforts but my own limitations.

     Having grown up shy and extremely introverted in a family where everyone else was far less so -- my siblings were relatively extroverted -- my experience was not the same as theirs.  One person's delightful, family-filled fun day is another's six hours to try to get through without too much stress and I do not think that's something to apologize for. On this, opinions vary.
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* A milestone her youngest child passed this last year.

Friday, December 11, 2015

The Complex Breakfast

     A/k/a the "I didn't buy eggs Special:" Diced and spiced potato, fried up with shiitake mushrooms, a leek and a bit of dry salami added as the cooking progressed.  It turned out pretty good.

     Would've thrown in an egg, but I hit the supermarket at 5:05 p.m. yesterday, walked in the door and there were huge lines at every register and a milling confusion of humanity the likes of which I have never seen there.  Great for them but way too much for me; I put my baskart back and left.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

The Simple Breakfast

     Crusty pull-apart bread with herbed olive oil to dip it in. Coffee and juice.  It doesn't always have to be something big and fancy!

Wednesday, December 09, 2015

Chair Repair

     Not as extensive as the last major repairs, but the center point for the legs of my wooden office chair had cracked very badly, making the whole thing sag on that side and tilting the seat.  Took it apart yesterday evening, glued and clamped overnight, and reassembled this morning.  So far, so good -- but I have ordered a new truck and base assembly.

     The chair is at least twenty years old, built from a flat-pack kit bought at a home-improvement store.  They don't appear to sell them any more.  It's overdue to be sanded down and refinished.

     Update, 24 hours later: glue bond broke.  Not surprised.  Maybe a little dowel action while I wait for the replacement to arrive.

And This Morning

     This morning, The Tamera is on her futon half-awake having a conversation with whichever member of the Greco-Roman pantheon is responsible for the legs, probably Mercury/Hermes:  "No! No, no.  Nooo!"

     This is not her favorite time of the year.  We're in the middle of an unseasonably-warm stretch, with a twenty or more degree temperature swing between noon and midnight (or three and three, probably) and she feels it in her bones.  Offers of breakfast have not tempted her from her lair.  I've turned up the TV and that should, eventually, lure her out.  Oh, Tamara....it's neeewws!  Freshly-slanted news!

     (Later: Yep, worked.)

Tuesday, December 08, 2015

The Roseholme Ailment

     I dunno what it is, some kind of sinus infection, perhaps, but whatever it is, Tam's got a bad case and I have a mild case of it.

     Not at all fun or nice -- doing the inner-ear thing to me, with dizzies and so on.

Monday, December 07, 2015

Dave Brubeck: Unsquare Dance

     He left us some amazing music.

     There's lots more on YouTube.  Go listen.

Civilization Trusts You

     You know what? I trust people. I have to -- and so do you.

      I have heard a lot of elitist nonsense from the anti-gun side, and a little from the pro gun side. And I get that the world is stuffed to the gills with yahoos; I've seen "People of Wal-Mart." I qualified for Mensa; I'm supposedly smarter than most of the folks I meet and I'm pretty sure that's so.

      But many of those "yahoos" have skills I lack. Some of them are just better people than I am. And the truth is, most people are all right. I've had cars conk out in bad neighborhoods and had three guys show up to push the thing to a gas station; I had a muffler fall almost off in a wealthy neighborhood, had to pull into the nearest driveway and wire it up out of the way, and the homeowner came out to see if everything was okay. The rich guy didn't run me off. The poor guys didn't rob me.

      You trust these people. You have to. You trust your next-door neighbor with natural gas and a charcoal grill. You trust his seventeen-year-old kid at the wheel of their car. You trust the utility workers to not zap you or poison your city water. You trust the Mormon down the block, with a couple of year's worth of food and who knows what else socked away in his crawl space. You trust the drivers of enormous tractor-trailer rigs on the highway, and the garbage man in his huge truck. You do so every day and you don't think about it much.

      And your neighbor with a gun or two, or twenty? You're trusting him, too, like it or not. The odds are hugely that he's not out to get you -- the firearms death rate (other than suicide) in the U.S. is one third of the automobile death rate. (Add firearm suicides in and the rates are within a tenth or two of being equal, a little over 10 per 100,000.)

      If you want a safer world, get to know the people around you. If you want less violence, make more friends. The world is full of people. Most of them are pretty much like you: they want to get along. We mostly hear about the crazy and the wicked -- but they are a tiny minority.

Sunday, December 06, 2015

Why Old Women Shuffle

     Rannie tha cat -- who has been being quite a pill this morning, including trying to bite my bare leg twice -- was finally good enough for long enough that I could give her a little dish of olive oil without rewarding bad behavior.  Shortly after, I stepped over her on my way out of the kitchen, and she dodged -- right under my descending foot!

     I stepped elsewhere, Rannie called me A Very Bad Name (RrrrrraitMmmmeanie!), and disaster was averted.  But it's a darned good reason to not pick up one's feet.

Saturday, December 05, 2015

Food, Instead

     Went to Twenty Tap for a late lunch yesterday: their Pork Bahn Mi sandwich (a personal favorite) and a soup du jour: "Silken Turnip with Potato."  Oh, my, was that soup ever good!  I guess you've got to like turnips (which I do), which are a member of the madly versatile brassica family -- it had a lovely, complex flavor and was just as smooth as the name promised, enlivened by small chunks of potato.  I recommend it,

     Then for dinner last night, I made oxtail stew, and gave it a good long simmer.  I went a bit light (see above) but Tam had two bowls -- and there was plenty left, now frozen and waiting to simmer again this evening, this time with crushed tomato and some more veggies.  If you're passing up the sections of oxtail at the meat counter, and you like soups and stews, you're missing out.

Friday, December 04, 2015

What Executive Order?

     I could swear NBC this morning promised to tell me all about The President's Exeutive Order that would, ahem, "Close the gun show loophole." Hasn't happened yet.  Maybe he's saving up spit?

     By this hoary construction, "gun show loophole," they appear to mean a ban of private sales, since FFLs -- who comprise the majority of sellers at gun shows around here -- have no "loophole" exempting them from Federal background checks and record-keeping when they sell at gun shows.  The rules for private sales vary from state-to-state but aren't any different at gun show than they are in a living room or garage sale -- and there's no private cross-state-border selling, at least of handguns; that'd be a Federal crime already.

     I'd love, looooove to hear how a ban on private sales would have stopped the tragic (yet pissant*) outrage in California, which was committed, last I heard, with a couple of legally in-state purchased handguns, in a state with very strict procedures (the antigun Brady organization gives CA their very highest marks for limits on purchase), and a couple of AR-15 rifles that were either bought legally if they had all the California-compliant features (fixed, small-capacity magazines being the salient one) or transferred illegally if they were privately sold (a no-no in CA) and/or had features that made them non-compliant or otherwise violations of the arcane "assault weapons" laws of that state. Possibly making that purchase even illegaller would not have been a deterrent.

     Neither of the killers were on the secret government "terror watch list" a/k/a the "no-fly list."  So the other measure being pushed, of banning anyone on that secret list from legally buying a gun, would not have stopped the crime, either.
     Will someone please tell me why it is okay to have a secret list of people that bars them from certain activities, with no way of challenging one's inclusion, no way of knowing if you are on it or not?  That's before we get to denying a person's civil rights on the basis of their being on such a list.
     On the other hand, if there are people known to the Feds to be so dangerous they must be kept off airplanes, why are they out there walking around, driving cars, buying LP gas and fireworks, going to the mall, etc. etc.?  If they're so much a threat, why aren't they in the basement of an FBI building right now, learning to breathe water?  (Ooops, that's right, "we don't waterboard here," they'd have to be taken to some country where that's okay; and they'd have to be flown there, which they can't 'cos they are on the list, so hey, Catch-22, amirite?)  Look, if they're up to no good, arrest 'em, charge 'em, try 'em and if found guilty, lock 'em up.  "Secret lists" are bullshit -- especially once the cat is out of the bag.

     I'm still waiting to hear that executive order.  Still waiting for the knock on the door.  "Parlous times."  And not a time to go gentle into the miserable night.
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* Yes, pissant.  Small-time.  Out of some 38.8 million people in California, more than the entire population of Canada, the junior jihadis killed 14, wounded 17.  Mostly workers in a city Health Department.  Yeah, that'll bring the Great Satan of the U.S. right to its knees....  As a military action, it wasn't even a pinprick.  It is a huge human tragedy, make no mistake; the attack was an outrage, a crime.  But in any military sense it was utterly valueless, even compared to, say, an IRA bombing.  They achieved nothing.

Thursday, December 03, 2015

Mass Shootage: I Don't Care What The Media Thinks, I Don't Care What The Perps Think

     I'm not even very interested in "how."  And I am certainly not interested in the various pundits emoting over how "guns kill more people than terrorism," which is patent nonsense; it's like saying "Cars kill more people than running:" one is a thing, the other an activity, and guess what?  $ACTIVITY often involves use of or interaction with $THING.  You cannot extract meaningful numbers from that.

     Nor do raw numbers tell the story.  We have a very large population as countries go, and if you use raw numbers to compare anything that is an activity done by people, you're going to find the United States, India and China near the top of the list. Per capita, the United States does not have the most mass shootings; this country is number six.  Still nothing to be proud of -- but we also have way more guns per person than Norway, Finland, Slovakia, Israel and Switzerland. (Perhaps we're better, saner people than they are?)

     And will someone please explain to me why it is a half-dozen people -- who just happen to have skin darker than a paper bag -- can be killed in Chicago (etc.) by person(s) who are also dark-skinned, and it's treated by the media as pretty much routine -- but when victims are pale and/or when killers are pale or cops, suddenly it's a much bigger deal and rates national attention?  (The murdered TV reporter and photographer in Virginia apparently count as a "mass shooting" now, but if it's four dead African-American punk kids on the South Side?  Nope.)

     In the present mess in California -- California, with the highest Brady antigun rating of any state! -- the ijit news media still wavers between "workplace violence," $GENERIC_MASS_SHOOTING and -- flinchingly -- Not-So-Sudden Jihadi Syndrome.  Gosh, remind me, would you, just what organization it was that promised large-scale violence here in the U.S. in the wake of the attacks in Paris?  ...Not Black Lives Matter protesters, not the NRA, no, it was...  C'mon, one of you has the answer, NBC?  CBS?  CNN?  New York Times? Do any of you know who....?  --Thought not.

     Nope, it's All Gun Control, All The Time in the national news media.  President Obama promised to do all he could to push for more gun control and look, what a co-incidence, he's got himself mass shooting after mass shooting (no matter how much each one must be tortured to fit the mold) and he wants Strict New Laws to restrict the law-abiding.   'Cos you know, fiftyish midwestern spinsters who own guns are exactly the problem, and must be stopped.  Or, realistically, more likely to comply.

     Yeah, that?  Don't count on it.

Wednesday, December 02, 2015

Great Parodices Of Science

     First, this: BETTER - Π = BEER.  Why?  No one knows.  It Is A Mystery.  Personally, I'd just as soon have pie and coffee.  Maybe warm apple pie, with vanilla ice cream.

     Then, the Ehrenfest paradox actually breaks pi.  Which is terrible; a good crust will just crumble.  You need to use a sharp knife, but oh, no, he goes right at it. 

     And a funny thing happens if you have two spaceships and a spool of thread.

Tuesday, December 01, 2015

It's A Joke, See?

     No, it's just divisive--

     If the punchline of your "joke" boils down to HURR HURR HURR LOOKIT THOSE IDIOTS REACT, please don't tell it to me and give serious thought to not telling it at all.  This includes donating to a cause not universally supported in the name of someone who opposes it.  It's not funny, merely tribal and, if the conflict is over deeply-held feelings, needlessly cruel.

     This applies even if "they'd do it to you."  There are people in this world who'd skin you alive for a pack of smokes and even so, you don't get to make lampshades out of them.  If you think you ought to, you are no better than they are.

     Be the grown-up you'd like to see in the room world.

Monday, November 30, 2015

Colorado Horror: Don't Be Stampeded

     In the scant few days since a lone gunman shot several people at a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado Springs, my TV and my Internet feed have been hemorrhaging the de-damnedest slurry of thin facts, howlingly partisan BS, grasping at straws, straining at gnats and swallowing Camels whole -- probably while they're still lit.  Everyone from the President of the United States, eager to ride his own gun-control hobbyhorse, to conservatives desperate to disclaim the killer -- really guys, look at him and ask yourself what is more likely, that this guy is C. Jenner's long-lost soul-sister, or that he was too busy being gnawed at by his own mind to tick the right box on a voter's registration form?

     Hey, you know what?  It's over; it was over the moment the police took him into custody and now there's nothing but a long, dull police-work slog back through the timeline, figuring out what happened when.  "Why" is probably always going to be at least a partial mystery: there is no perfect window into other people's thoughts.  Eventually, such facts as are findable will be found; eventually, this criminal will end up in court.

     What this isn't -- what no situation like this is -- is a shadow screen for anyone to project their pet causes on.  Not "progressives" trying to paint anti-abortion people with this crime (they didn't do it.  One individual did), not "conservative" pundits pointing to it as evidence of the chaos spawned when people don't do things as they were always done in some idealized past, not gun-banners or even those of us who think more people ought to get trained and carry sidearms.  The reality is you can't stop crazy, not 100%.  Never have, never will: given that society operates under a baseline assumption of peace,* the attacker will always have the advantage of surprise and whatever defense there is will be struggling to get ahead.  Given the will to do harm, harm will be done; you need look no further than the highly-controlled environment of a prison to see that this is true.

     Every person with an applicable agenda to push and a soapbox to declaim from will be trying to use this horror -- but remember the underlying reality: people are dead and one man initiated force to kill them.  Nothing will change that.  This is not how differences are resolved; it's not how the vast majority of even the most committed foes and supporters of abortion address their conflicts over the issue.
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* Yes, it does.  Maybe you're in Condition Orange 24/7/365, but most people aren't.  And they're not going to be.  The majority of  people aren't wired up for that.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Temptation

     It's probably a good thing I'm a slow riser.  At least, good in terms of my eating a proper diet.  You see, The Dancing Donut is located between Roseholme Cottage and my work.  I can count on being able to stop by once a week, maybe twice if neither of my days off falls on Monday, when they are closed.

     If I could find time to go there every morning, I probably would.

     Their menu changes very slowly.  I have been working my way through it, starting with items I knew I'd enjoy, like "Nutella the Hun," a donut filled with Nutella-based cream and rolled in cinnamon sugar, and "Fritta Astair," an excellent apple fritter. 

     Yesterday, I bought a couple of innocent-looking, regular-sized powdered-sugar donuts, figuring they were nothing special, just a good, dependable standard.  They even call them the "Plain Jane."

     I underestimated them.  By a lot.

     At one time -- and it wasn't that long ago -- there were still a few hole-in-wall* coffee & sinkers joints left around town.  Most of them fried cake-type batter in deep hot fat, producing a slightly chewy-crunchy crust around a light and airy inside.  Served up still hot after a quick roll in cinnamon sugar or powdered sugar, they were a genuine treat, one I haven't had in over twenty years -- and  the ones Dancing Donut makes are exactly that kind, but even better.  It's a taste treat from the past!  Not the cheapest place to buy donuts but my, oh my -- and their cappuchino's good, too.
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* In some cases, without even much of a wall -- there was one by the 24-hour laundromat in Carmel in what appeared to be a former Fotomat booth.  It was worthwhile to time one's laundry to finish just as their first batch of the morning came off the cooling rack.  Yum!

Saturday, November 28, 2015

"The Stuff You Only Thought You Owned"

     Intellectual property, that is.

     Amazon's The Man In The High Castle is wildly popular amoung my friends at work -- most of whom appear to be watching bootlegged copies, passed hand-to-hand on thumbdrives.

     They rave about the special effects, the detailed worldbuilding,* the way in which Arendt's "banality of evil" is shown and so on -- but they're missing something.  Dollars are votes; dollars are ratings points.  If you like this kind of detailed science-fictional drama and want to see more of it, the only way you have to signal that back to the people who produced it is to pay for it.

     If you will only watch it if it is free, eventually all you're going to see is content produced cheaply enough that it's worthwhileto give it away; you'll get embedded commercials and you'll learn to like them, and/or utter drek, badly written, poorly acted, clumsily shot.  Or you'll see ever-stronger digital rights management, and ever stricter legal punishments for breach of same.

     Dollars are votes.  If you like it and want more, don't steal it, buy it.
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* Though I could swear in the pilot, the license plate "WGG 055" showed up on more than one vehicle.  Details like this are the bane of continuity and prop people.

Friday, November 27, 2015

You Know, It's Odd...

     ...My fried mashed potatoes are not all that great as such things go (they really need a binder -- either mix in an egg or coat them in plenty of flour or even roll them in grated raw potato) but I sure do eat them up fast when I make them!

     Bacon, eggs and mashed potato pancakes, my favorite next-day breakfast after a holiday meal.  I'd post a photograph but, yes, they didn't last that long.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Thanksgiving Dinner


     The deviled eggs were a new addition.  I had three hard-boiled eggs in the fridge -- but no mayo!  (I don't use it as a condiment; Tam often keeps a little but today, no.)  But it turns out coarse mustard and a little milk is all you need to mix with the egg yolk for a very tasty filling.

     Turducken, skin-on mashed potatoes with bacon gravy (plus turducken drippings) and a nice green salad filled out the bill.  I had coffee and a Pimm's with lemonade, Tam a soda and a nice craft beer.

Thanksgiving

     "Shaddup, smile and enjoy the turkey!"

     ...I say this because for some of us, that's what our memories of this holiday -- any holiday -- are: something to be got through.  Here at Roseholme and with Tam as co-conspirator, I have largely reclaimed the day, with traditions like turducken, bacon-based gravy and taking a little time out to remember what we are thankful for (regular paychecks, cats, readers and friends, among others).  It's a good day.

     But in honor of years upon years of polite silence and gentle -- albeit forced -- smiles, here are The Rules Of My Family's Thanksgiving Dinner (etc.):

     1. No matter what you brought, it was a disappointment and/or someone can't eat it or dislikes it.  This works like mortar and pestle with:

     2. Rejecting the food is rejecting the person and you are bad and wrong to do so, no matter how politely you demur.

     1 and 2 concatenate ratchetwise rather than algebraically: When  $RELATIVE turns their nose up at the dressing you spent great time and effort on and made both with and without oysters,* there will be raised eyebrows and treacly sympathy that your cookery has never been very good; when you pass up the candied/mashed/French fried yams, you who have never eaten yams other than a horrifying taste every year to recall that the taste, texture and combination of seasonings used on them are all repugnant to your palate, why, you're a horrible person, especially after $RELATIVE_A, $RELATIVE_B and $RELATIVE_C  all spent hours over their particular preparations of the dire root.  Don't you love any $RELATIVE?

      3. After the meal, $THE_MEN will sit and hoot at sporting events on the television, while $THE_WOMEN are required to retreat to a world of table-clearing, dish-washing, changing poopy diapers, and rendering permissive babysitting and minor first-aid† to $THE_CHILDREN.  No member of any of the three groups -- or worse, any combination thereof -- should ever, ever take a half hour out from the fray to read a book and recharge.  That's just utterly antisocial, uncaring and probably evidence of unAmericanism. (And this in a family of readers.  I don't understand it.)

     4. No matter what, someone will leave in tears ($THE_WOMEN and $THE_CHILDREN) or cursing ($THE_MEN).  These are firm lines and should any of the first two groups say as much as "drat" or "shit-oh-dear," there will be tsk-tsking at the very least. $THE_MEN, of course, do not cry; they just turn the television up louder.

     5. No matter what you wore, it was wrong, either too casual, too formal, or just plain weird.  Family Thanksgivings at their peak looked like a particularly unimaginative masquerade, and no one approved of anyone else's choice.

     Earlier this morning, I made three pieces of toast and dropped one.  I called it Very Bad Names and Tam told me to not stress out.  She doesn't entirely realize how very much less stressed I am, compared to the past.

     I'm thankful for Thanksgiving at home, in my house, eating things Tam and I both like.  I believe this is the seventh one, and one of the few where I won't have to scurry off to Family Thankspurgatory a day or two later; this year, they're having it on my work day and a considerable distance away.  Yeah, y'all have fun with that, mmmkay?

     Incidentally, Tam loathes yams, too.
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* Surely mine is not the only family that makes oyster dressing?  It's good.  Haven't had it in years; you see, mine was never really up to par in the serving line....
 
† Temporary and moderately indulgent child-overseer is the best of these jobs, if you ask me.  Too many members of the distaff subset of $RELATIVE pick fights over the dishes, which is then a good excuse to dash from the room weeping and get some time alone.  Turns out you're still in dutch if they catch you reading, though.  Um, so I hear.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Pro Tip

     Do not shake the milk bottle after loosening the top.  Really don't.  Especially if it's a new, full bottle.

Turducken: Found!

     I went by the grocer's almost by chance last night; I'd been planning to pick up a couple of nice Cajun meals at Yat's but (as usual) there were no parking spaces for a couple of blocks in any direction.  So I went to the market instead.

     The meat counter only had one person at it, so I gave the row of cooler cases a looking over -- and there were three boneless* turduckens just sitting there, unclaimed!  Seen and asked for, quick as that.

     Hadn't been sure what we to do for the entree, come the day (I was pondering a day-before cooked whole chicken or turkey breast from the deli counter) and now it's solved itself.  I picked up some good applewood-smoked bacon to make gravy, plus some salad.  Potatoes were already in hand and there we go.
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* I don't think there is any other kind.  Fresh Market nevertheless labels them that way every year, so I'm passing the verbiage on to you.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Eye Doctor Follow-Up/Nightmare In Gold

     Went back in yesterday afternoon, too see if things had stabilized.  They had, which I had thought would be the verdict.  My big gray floater has mostly moved off to the side, the flashes seem to have ended, the black specks still hover at the edge of my vision (leaving me, from time to time, reacting to things that only I can see but which are really there, just very near and tiny instead of farther away and huge) and the hordes of tiny ones are as ignorable as ever.

     It's more weird than horrible and remember, this is the good outcome.  As I understand it, if you're nearsighted enough, it's practically inevitable that something like this will happen -- and the other things like this involve retina tears or detachment.  Instead, the big blob of gel that fills the eye came away from my retina and some floaters got in, really the lest-bad outcome by a very wide margin.

     This is all well and good but in the meantime, arranging things so the ophthalmologist can take a very good look involves not the usual simple set of eye drops but three different ones: a topical numbing agent (!) and two different dilating ones.  Last time, it was a fine gray fall day and I went out for leisurely lunch afterwards, shielded by my sunglasses.  Yesterday, the plan was to go back to work.

     That was the plan, and a fine cold, clear day it was.  I put my sunglasses on as the doctor walked me back to the lobby and even there, I was noticing light sources and brightly-illuminated surfaces had a bit of a glow, a sunburst or "glory" effect. It was a bit after 4 p.m. when I paid up and walked out, squinting -- and was blinded by the glare when I turned to go west on the sidewalk!  If I looked up facing the Sun, there was nothing but a golden fog, though which slightly darker shapes drifted.

     By looking down and holding up a hand, I made it to the corner and around to my car.  I flipped down sun visors and managed to drive slowly down shady side streets to home, a bit under a mile and all stoplights or 4-way stops, and by that point, I was plain done.  The sun was streaming into the kitchen over the cafe curtains* and bouncing from the tiled surfaces and it was somehow worse than outdoors.  Bright golden lances were coming in the dining room widows and through the "piano window" high in the living room wall, but at least it was dimmer.  My bedroom is set up with blackout shades and curtains; I threw my coat on a hook and headed there mostly on somatic memory.  Sat in the dark and thought; called my boss and confessed I was not going to be back and why, and laid down. Ten minutes later, work rang back with a trivial question, which was both insulting and predictable: it was a fine, sunny day, and I suppose someone whose pupils weren't so dilated you could barely see the iris might've been tempted to play hooky.  Me, after that call I tried looking at Facebook on my phone through sunglasses (not a good idea, too bright), then laid in the dark until I fell asleep.

     The cats woke me at their dinner time, which was after sundown -- sunglasses and a wide-brimmed hat proved necessary to cope with the overhead lights and I still found looking up was not a good idea.  The computer room/study was a particular nightmare; the kitchen was bearable  I grabbed myself a little snack while the cats ate and returned to the blissful darkness.  At some point, I woke up again and changed to sleepwear,† turned on my Kindle with the brightness way way down, and started a new story in the anthology I was reading.  It was about a landing on Mercury that turned out to be too close to the sunward side.‡  For some reason it was particularly vivid.  I still fell asleep halfway through.
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* Boys, that means the curtain rods are only about halfway up the windows.  This is normally a nice, sunny arrangement.  Yesterday it was more of a nightmare.  I find I have a little more sympathy for vampires than previously.
 
† For the imaginative, I am sorry to ruin whatever image you have but at this time of the year, heavy flannel is standard.
 
‡ It was an old story -- it turns out Mercury isn't stuck with one side facing the Sun after all, and there went some striking SF images.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

I Learned The Truth, It's Seventeen

     (With apologies to singer-songwriter -- and SF fan! -- Janis Ian).  I was going to write a brrrr-ific post about how the outside temperature was in the 20s and only a couple of days ago we were still enjoying highs in the 50s and whine a little bit about Nature and Its Wonders and maybe snark a little.

     Then I thought, I'd better check the temp or some petulant neckbeard will show up in comments and chide me over it having "...ackshully been thirty degrees...."

     Yeah, dream on.  As I write this, the official Indianapolis temperature is 17ºF, with wind chill making it feel like 8ºF.  Eight. Flippin. F. Degrees.

     I got nothin' for that.  I'm gonna go snuggle with the cats.  You call me up about Springtime.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Coffee: Vivendum, Bibendum. Also, Toys

     I slept in.  It felt goood.  And so is breakfast.  Alas, The Tamara is in recovery mode and nuked herself a glass of chicken noodle soup, leaving me to consume a kind of mixed-grill (bacon, ground sirloin, three kinds of Italian preserved meats) scramble with potato, onion and Anaheim pepper.  With plenty of coffee!

     Another nice toy arrived yesterday -- well, I found out via e-mail USPS had tried to deliver it the evening before and left a note, which must have promptly been whisked away by either the breeze or a late-sleeping malefactor; the Postal Service has a slick online presence that allowed me to set it up for pick-up and produced a claim-check I could print out.  With that and ID, I was able to get the package early yesterday -- and the postal worker was quick, friendly and efficient.  His peers appeared to have similar attitudes.  E-commerce may have breathed new life into the old zombie and, Spooner help me, I can't say I object: the staff no longer seems to be mired in misery and pleased to spread it.

     Ah, but what was in the box?

     This thing with a screen, perched on the Qwerkywriter:
     It's a Surface 2 Pro, about twice as fat as the RT (and about twice the price, if you'll buy used and don't mind a few scratches). The Pros have a gen-u-ine Windows desktop, meaning they will run actual software.  This one did not come with Office -- but I have loaded the lovely no-distractions text editor Q10* and the writerly goodness of Scrivener, and I suppose there might be some way to get my paid-for Word2010 on the thing.

     I can't deny that this somewhat extravagant purchase was motivated by my recent eye problems. As was the "designated driver" screwdriver.
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* Per the programmer: "Q10 will clean your kitchen, walk your dog and make excellent coffee. Well, not really. But it's really good as a full-screen text editor." Which it is.  I do dislike the typing sound, but there's a mute button.  IMO, it's even better than the excellent no-distraction text editor in Scrivener.  But bear in mind that I used PerfectWriter and WordStar when they were respectively CP/M and DOS programs, and loved them.

Friday, November 20, 2015

The Domestic Tiger

     Every morning, when I open the door that separates the cats for mealtimes and Huck comes bounding through, I am reminded that at Roseholme Cottage, there's a tiger behind every door -- and, as Rannie Wu reminds me, a lady on the other side.

     Interestingly, this does not remove the suspense.  Huck may be a very small tiger but he's also a very mischievous one.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

"Derpliberate"

    Definition!   

derp·lib·er·ate
adjective: derpliberate
dərpˈlib(ə)rət/
1.
 done with great enthusiasm and minuscule knowledge.

"a derpliberate 'tactical' three-ring binder."
2. embarrasingly useless form or function. 

     Your Word Power, Improved.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

In Which Gilbert & Sullivan Present An Internet Troll

     ...Over a hundred years early!

     For those who don't want to sit through the singing:
If you give me your attention, I will tell you what I can
I'm a genuine philanthropist; all other kinds are sham
Each little fault of temper and each social defect
In my erring fellow creature I endeavour to correct.
To all their little weaknesses I open peoples' eyes
And little plans to snub the self-sufficient I devise
I love my fellow creatures--I do all the good I can
Yet everybody says I'm such a disagreeable man
And I can't think why!

To compliments inflated I've a withering reply
And vanity I always do my best to mortify
A charitable action I can skilfully dissect
And interested motives I'm delighted to detect!
I know everybody's income and what everybody earns
And I carefully compare it with their income tax returns
But to benefit humanity however much I plan,
Yet, everybody says I'm such a disagreeable man
And I can't think why!

I'm sure I'm no ascetic; I'm as pleasant as can be
And you'll always find me ready with a crushing repartee
I've an irritating chuckle; I've a celebrated sneer
I've an entertaining snigger; I've a fascinating leer!
To everybody's prejudice I know a thing or two
I can tell a woman's age in half a minute--and I do!
But although I try to make myself as pleasant as I can
Yet everybody says I'm such a disagreeable man
And I can't think why!
     ...Pretty sure I ran across him on Facebook the other day.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

So, I Broke My Surface 2 RT

     I have no one to blame but myself; I carry a largeish, leather soft-sided briefcase and for over a year, the (refurbished) Surface has just ridden inside without sleeve or case.  Set the thing down kinda hard at work Thursday -- it slipped from my hand -- and thought at the time, "Sure hope I didn't break anything."  I had Friday off.  Took my Surface to lunch Saturday, planning to get some writing done while waiting for Tam.  It powered up, I logged on and suddenly the images on the screen started to quiver.  After thirty long seconds of that, it stopped -- and only two-thirds of the screen was touch-sensitive!  On close inspection, I found two cracks in the top glass.

     Windows offers only a replacement Surface 2 RT -- for $360, three times what I paid for mine.  I may be able to replace the glass (kits start around $75) but in the meantime, I have ordered a used Surface Pro 2 for considerably less than what they sold for new.  I've always been frustrated that the RT won't run the first-draft (Q10) and editing (Scrivener) software I like. (Mind you, if you are comfortable with Microsoft's own set of tools, it's an endearingly competent box.)  Pressure from the new models has pushed the prices for older Pro versions from outrageous down to merely annoying.  Supposedly, they'll run regular Windows software.  I'll be finding out.

     The damage was frustrating for another reason -- I had preordered a Qwerkywriter keyboard at a time when overtime had me flush and they've started to ship.  It's a genuine mechanical-key keyboard, a kind of distant cousin to the Unicomp (essentially the IBM Model M, from the OEM) I favor, with the aesthetics of a pre-WW II typewriter.   It seemed like it might be a nice match to a tablet like the Surface.   ...Of course, to use it, you've got to have a Surface, or at least something tablet-y with Bluetooth.

     Please, keep the comments clear of brand-name fanboying of the kind that puts down everything that isn't $FAVORED_BRAND.  Yes, yours is probably good and way kewl besides and I'm all for you singing its praises -- but putting down Brand M or W doesn't actually make your fave stand any taller.  Give a determined pygmy a lightsaber and he can indeed become the tallest fellow in the room -- but he'll still need a ladder to change light bulbs in the chandelier.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Breakfast, Books

     A delightful cheese omelet (Manchego, Jarlsberg and a crumbled strip of bacon: outstanding!) for the first.

     As for the second, my reading's been all over the block, including Tim (Network Neutraility) Wu's* fascinating The Master Switch: The Rise and Fall of Information Empires, in which he considers that communications media tend to evolve from open, innovative systems to closed and very stable systems.  You can disagree with Tim's proposed solutions, but he makes a very strong case for the cycle from wide-open and disruptive to centralized, consolidated and tightly-controlled, using the telephone, broadcast and motion pictures as his main examples.

     That's on my Kindle; in the bath, in used softcover, I'm reading The New Yorker Book Of War Pieces, covering 1939 to 1945.  It is engrossing, with the level of writing you'd expect from New Yorker and an immediacy nothing written after the war can quite capture.  Fighter pilots Brendan "Paddy" Finucane (d. 1942, in action) and Philip Cochran (survived the war to die while fox-hunting at the age of 69; model for a character in Terry and the Pirates and at least one of the sources for "Steve Canyon")  are among the many people profiled, along with events from 88 days on a raft in the South Atlantic to an escape from Occupied France to (so far) the invasion of Italy.  In the early going, resolve is greatly apparent, but there's uncertainty, too -- can the Allies win this war? This is history as you rarely get it, but should.

     For the discursive mind, these books and Internet access are a heady combination, at least as addictive as reading footnotes. 
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* Rannie Wu says "No relation." It's a name about like "Smith," after all.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

"We Really Know Our Worth, The Sun And I...."

     I am not a huge fan of sopranos.  This is perhaps because I ended up a contralto,* after having a very good range and at least fair pitch in childhood.  It didn't last.  However, there is one piece that send chills down my spine, W.S. Gilbert and Sir Arthur Sullivan at perhaps the top of their form -- I first heard it by channel-surfing happenstance.

     Having spent the morning looking for a version of "The Moon and I" (aka "The Sun Whose Rays Are All Ablaze...") from Gilbert and Sullivan's The Mikado at least as good as the one in the film Topsy Turvy, I was frankly delighted to discover this one, recorded "for showcase only:"

     Wow.

     For contrast, the British-through-and-though take from Topsy-Turvy, gorgeously sung, can be heard here.

     Best line: "I mean to rule the Earth as he the sky." Ambition!  (For those unfamiliar with the story line, it is not really such an unreasonable one as you might think.)
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* In musical theatre, contraltos are generally limited to playing "witches, britches and bitches."  Basically, the "bad Bond girl" is about as good as it gets.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Communications Security

     It doesn't exist.  If NSA wants to read your mail, they're reading it.  If Google wants to read your mail, they're reading it.  They are probably doing so by means more devious than a brute-force decrypt -- but the "never decodable in finite time" stuff is a happy fantasy, playing off the manner in which we are easily impressed by large numbers.

     The Phone Company has been in bed with the Feds since there was Federal regulation of 'em.  They rat people out as a matter of routine.  The Telegraph Company was doing so even before there was regulation!  ...Mind you, there's a whole alternate to AT&T for the Internet backbone.  It's a network built and operated by the Federal government.  Ahem.

     Communications security is like the Maginot Line: not nearly as impregnable as it appears.  

     If you have information that has really, truly got to be kept secret, don't put it on the phone.  Don't put it on the Internet.  Don't talk about it near a phone. Don't talk about it at all, if you can manage to, and don't write it down, either.
  
     Two people can keep a secret -- if one of them is dead.  (Cribbed from Heinlein but absolutely true.)  Don't want your mail read?  Tough.

Paris, Earth

     I don't have much to add to reactions to the horrific attacks in Paris.  You have the Internet, TV, radio.  You know as much as I do, probably more.

     ISIS, ISIL, whatever, they look pretty tough against unarmed civilians.  Against a real military?  Nope.  Unlike earlier Islamiod movements, they have a fixed, physical presence, a series of nice, fat targets -- and against a professional First-World military intent on winning, they're not tough at all.

     So go on, idiots, keep poking at The West.  See how that works out in the long run.  Learn what Kaiser Bill learned; find out what Hitler and Tojo and Mussolini found out: you can snicker at and pester the "soft, decadent, weak-willed" denizens of the most advanced civilization on this planet for a pretty long time; you can push them around a little -- but only so far.  Only so far, and then the bill comes due.

Can You Stab A Boogeyman With A Butterknife?

     0735: Tamara has ostensibly left for work; the basement door has shut and latched, ka-thunk.

     0736: Roberta goes to the kitchen and butters three great big crackers for a light breakfast.  There is a sound from the basement, great brute boots tromping up the stairs: clomp, clomp, clomp...

    0736:20: Roberta is thinking, ohGawdohGawd, I'm gonna have to take on the boogyman with only a butterknife?

     0736:25: Tamara's cheery voice through the basement door: "Later!  First boot-wearing morning since Spring!" Clomp, clomp...  The back door slams.

     Oh, that.  Okay.

Friday, November 13, 2015

Hesitate, Lose

     Thought to treat myself to one of Brownell's "Designated Driver" hex-bit screwdrivers, a nifty little tool with an anodized aluminum handle that neatly stores multiple bits in individual chambers.  Quick, Bobbi, to the Web-site!

     Went there.  No.  It's been discontinued.  Not coming back.  I've been dithering over the thing for literally years and while I did so, the product ran its course.

     Update: On the other hand, eBay....  Found one, ordered it.

I Posted Near-Gibberish Last Night

     So I took this morning off.  I gues I could do some kind of long, self-pitying rant but I'm not minded to.

     I have been watching the Aaron Sorkin HBO series The Newsroom.  Taken in the proper light, it's amusing as hell.  Just as The West Wing was the Clinton White House re-imagined as a kind of second (third?) Camelot, with all the nasty bits papered over and and the lecher-in-chief changed from a horny Arkansan* political hack with indifferent impulse control to a noble, thoughtful Yankee† professor concealing a tragic affliction, The Newsroom is the crappy, slanted networks as liberals wish they were, right down to the demented capitalist ownership, the crusty old-time liberal in charge of the news division and the properly-tamed Republican anchor.  Today, I snickered my way through oh-if-only unhistory retelling the NBC editing of Zimmerman's 911 call (caught, apologized for in the same hour-long news show and played in full for the viewing audience, as opposed to the real-world days of intransigent denial) and the media's mistelling of the cause of the Benghazi embassy murders papered over as "...we knew we were probably wrong, but in the aftermath of [Main Dramatic Story Arc Thing], we felt we had no choice."

     It's hilarious but dangerous, Winston Smith's job at the Ministry Of Truth played for profit, busily scribbling over the common memories of what actually happened in the real world with an appealingly-packaged fantasy.  If you know what's going on and what really went on, you can laugh at it; if it's tapping into your selection bias and preconceived notions, well--  Not so good.  There's more truthiness than truth in this drama.

     For the record, they are spot-on in the small details of how newsrooms work -- including the appalling youth of most of the people actually doing the legwork and finding stories to begin with, the isolation of most of the faces who sell you the news from the mess of unearthing it, the incredible pressure of time to gather news and the even greater pressure to report it in a minute-thirty or less of screen time.  The drinking, the long hours, they get that.  The noble motives?  No.  Forget it.  People get the job with motives they think are noble but once on the job they don't even have time to scratch where it itches, let alone look to the big picture.  Bias in news mostly sneaks in unexamined from those very young staffers, in which pitched stories make it to air, and in what news that the directors and senior producers in News departments think will draw the most attention.

     The news media like to tell themselves that they are in the business of informing you.  Maybe they are.  A lot of the staffers would like to be and honestly try to be.  The organizations who employ them are in the business of helping to sell you soap and new cars, prescription drugs and pet food.  You are not the consumer: you are the product they sell to advertisers.

     And so I watch The Newroom and snicker.  That show has something to sell, too -- and it's not news.
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* No offense to natives of that state, but you've got to admit that like Hoosiers and Sooners, there's a certain reputation for unsophistication that comes with the territory, however undeserved it so often is.

† With respect to my Southern friends who use the word to mean anyone from a state on the winning side in the Late Civil Unpleasantness Between And Among The States And Feds, I mean here "Yankee" in the Northern sense of fine old eccentric New England (Maine, Vermont and New Hampshire, possibly Rhode Island) plus the set of Mass., Conn., New York, New Jersey, Delaware and similar festering hellholes so sacred to our media elite.  --With all due apologies to the inhabitants of the latter.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

The Princess And The...Holy Cow!

    [This post has been edited in an attempt to make it intelligible.]

     So this morning at work, my left foot suddenly started to ache.  It was really bad for a little while, then calmed down.

     The return of real-shoes weather is never a happy time for me; I carry most of my weight on the balls of my feet, I have very high arches and when I walk, I roll my feet from supinated to pronated like it was goin' outta style.  Keen has closed-toe sandals that fit me fine and in really cold weather, Milwaukee makes a jump-boot-style motorcycle boot that I find comfy.  The seasons in between, though--  I've worn Merrill trainers for years.  In recent years, I started getting squeezed across my foot just behind the toes and had to change to a box-laced pattern that only pulls tight across the last two eyelets.

     I mention it because this afternoon, the ache had faded but it sure seemed like the old discomfort was back on the left.  It almost felt like there was a rock in my shoe! I checked (no rock, it's never that easy) and loosened up the laces but it only helped a little; I was limping pretty bad when I left work.

     Got home and decided to have a close look at my foot.  There's usually nothing at all to see when this happens, but it felt pretty bad.  Peeled off my sock, turned my foot to see the sole and--

     Found a large and somewhat inflamed-looking spot with a big, dark splinter in the center of it!

     Sometimes, there is something to see.  Sometimes, the Princess isn't just being petty and petulant -- sometimes there's a good-sized pea under the mattress after all!

     A little careful tweezer work later, I feel much better.*  Maybe a bit of a soak in warm water and Epson Salts for that foot after dinner.
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* As John Astin was wont to say in his role on Night Court.

Sorry, Internet

     I have a dire headache -- ibuprofen has taken the worst of the edge but it remains, dull any awful -- and I'm not dealing at all well with the eye thing.

     Here's a little thought for the morning, in the aftermath of Veteran's Day:
   
"War loses a great deal of its romance after a soldier has seen his first battle. I have a more vivid recollection of the first than of the last one I was in. It is a classical maxim that it is sweet and becoming to die for one's country; but whoever has seen the horrors of a battlefield feels that it is far sweeter to live for it." 

     Pop quiz: who said that?  Some WW I soldier-poet, leaning to pacifism in the aftermath, perhaps?  A WW II journalist, traveling with the troops?  A Korean War novelist?

     Nope.  John S. Mosby, writing in 1887 and reflecting on his Civil War experience as the commander of "Mosby's Raiders," what today would be called an unconventional warfare force, operating with considerable impunity behind Union lines in West Virgina.  At the time, the Union called them "guerrillas," with roughly the same connotation then as "terrorist" has today.  Their exploits read more like imaginative fiction bordering on farce than reality, with reports of rousing officers in their beds, intercepting payroll wagons and so on. (H. Beam Piper told them most entertainingly in Rebel Raider.) Mosby's words stand as a sobering reminder that warfare is not a romp; the bill does come due, payable in blood and death.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Armistice Day 2015

     The TV was burbling this morning with happy information about food freebies and discounts for veterans on this day -- a nice gesture but it felt a little trivial.  It is probably not so trivial to the guy I see many mornings holding up a sign reading "Homeless Vet, Will Work For Food" at a downtown freeway off-ramp.

     Originally, this day marked the Armistice that ended World War One.  Europe had been devastated.  A generation of young men had been lost.  The United States had been drawn into our first European war and lost innocence and isolation.  In thousands of ways large and small, that war determined the future: the airplane went from toy to terror in three years; Edwin Armstrong's "superheterodyne" receiver circuit made both broadcasting and reliable transatlantic radiotelephony practical; the Soviet Union emerged from Russia's agony; Germany was brought low, humbled by the victorious, and seethed with resentment; the Austro-Hungarian Empire was no more and the Ottoman Empire would totter on for only five more years after the end of the war.  When the "War To End All Wars" staggered to an end, the seeds for many future wars had been sown.

     Through it all, the soldiers carried the worst burdens -- gassed, shelled, bombed, shot, and doing the same back.  Sometimes with enthusiasm, sometimes reluctantly, rarely refusing (most famously in impromptu "Christmas truces" in the early years, something their generals subsequently tried to prevent ever happening again).  In WW I, soldiers fought lice, rats, inflamed gums, foot-fungus and poor rations in addition to their enemy.  The warrior's lot has improved in subsequent years but even far from the fighting, it's still no bed of roses.  It is fitting that the focus of this day, conceived in great solemnity to mark the formal end of a terrible war, has shifted to the men -- and women -- who have served and are serving.

     A free breakfast may sound like a trifle as I lay in my warm bed, but it's a "thank you" for the veterans, a mark of respect for them and all those who came before them and will follow in the years to come.  It behooves the rest of us to do as much on this day, the eleventh day of the eleventh month, the day when, at the eleventh hour, the guns fell silent and the men manning them and the men they were aimed at could breathe a sigh of relief, however short-lived that respite proved to be.

     Thank you for your service.

Heat At Last!

     Yesterday evening marked the official start of the heating season for Roseholme Cottage.  It was somewhat delayed by my having discovered a large circumferential crack in the flue running from the furnace to the chimney, at which point I had to locate a replacement, find that they were sold flat, and learn how to properly assemble and install them.

     When Tam and I went to put the new section in, I managed to let the entire assembly -- several sections, about six feet of sheet-metal flue in the standard two-foot lengths -- fall clean out, which meant learning a bit more and starting over.

     Anyway, after a few chilly nights, it was complete (before someone gives me A Serious Fatherly Lecture, I have a CO2 (ETA: wrong-- it's a CO detector, as it should be) detector and it is plugged in and running) and we started up the furnace for the first time this Fall last night.  Seems to be working fine.  I try to keep the thermostat between 65° and 68° F in winter; the 75° or so that many people seem to prefer strikes me as wildly impractical if you are properly dressed for cold weather.  The computer room here at Roseholme stays a bit warmer, for obvious reasons.

     Ahh, central heating!  It's hard to imagine what life would be like without it, unless you've read, say, A Christmas Carol.  The past is another country -- and a colder one, about half the time.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

"Posterior Vitreous Detachment"

     No, a posterior vitreous detachment is not the group of military personnel you send to stop someone photocopying their backside.  It's when the big glob of gelatinous stuff (the "vitreous humour." I'm not laughing) that fills up your eyeball pulls away from the retina.  It causes flashes and a big increase in "floaters," and there's an increased risk of retinal detachment for several weeks afterward, but the condition is not all that serious in and of itself.

     Things that increase your risk?  Being female, nearsighted and over 50 all appear to be at the top of the list.  I fit the profile only too well.

     My own eye doctor did some high-detail imaging as well as the traditional methods of looking into the eyeball and explained that in my left eye, the detachment was right at the point of best vision, which would be why the floaters are there, too.  They will likely settle a bit and I'll get better used to them,* and that's it -- another of Aging's thefts.  I'm right-eye-dominant, so for now my shooting should be unaffected.

     On the home front, I did manage to fill up five bags of leaves yesterday.  It started to rain while I was at the opthamologist's, so that will be that until the rest have some time to dry out.

     After the exam, I was sleepy but hungry.  My "Monday" began at 11:00 p.m. Sunday and I left his office after 3:00 p.m., well after what would have been my suppertime.  My pupils were vast and so light-sensitive that I had to wear sunglasses in the dim, gray rainy light.  Most any place else, a tall woman with a Betty Page hairdo and wearing big, dark, old-fashioned-looking sunglasses might stand out, but this is Broad Ripple; I repaired to Public Greens and enjoyed a tasty pork ragout -- shredded pork, pasta shells, some kind of flavorful dark green leafy vegetable and a crumbly white cheese in a wonderful sauce -- and a big cup of cappuchino.  It hit the spot.

     Came home and stayed awake only long enough to feed the cats before going to bed.  Woke ten hours later and could have slept longer.  This has been an "interesting" weekend.  I'd like some dull ones, please.
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* Or is it, "I had better get used to them?"  There is something they can do for floaters, but it is drastic and, like a lot of medical treatment, only adequate if doing nothing is far worse: they drain your eye, (possibly) filter the gel, and then fill it back up, adding sterile saline as needed.  This then becomes a regular maintenance thing.  It is to be avoided if possible.

Monday, November 09, 2015

Not An Adventure

     So, yesterday I had an--  H'mm.  Not an adventure.

     I was working a fill-in shift, which meant getting up a little after 1 or 2 a.m. to get to work not later than 5:00 a.m.  Getting ready, I realized I was seeing little flashes of white light in my peripheral vision on my left side and there was something -- maybe stray strands of hair? -- at the edge of my vision on the right side.  And hey, was that a spider or a little bug on the  floor?

     But it whisked out of sight when I looked at it, at which point I realized the various dark spots were floaters inside my eye, little bits of stuff.  You get them as you age; if you haven't had one, you probably will eventually. Mystery solved.

     Hours later, I was at a desk at work when I realized a really big floater was moving around in my left eye.  I looked up at a well-lit, plain wall, and realized that in addition to the big one, there were layers and layers of tiny specks in the vision from my left eye, drifting about.  It was kind of scary and the symptoms, flashes and a sudden bunch of floaters, seemed vaguely familiar.

     Of course I looked it up online.  That combination of things has something greater than a ten percent chance of indicating a torn or detached retina.  They can be repaired -- if you get treatment in 24 to 72 hours.  But it was Sunday.

     A few calls later, I had learned hospital ERs deal with this kind of thing routinely; I left work an hour early and went to the ER, where they checked things out pretty thoroughly. An ER is not an ophthalmologist's office but they have a specialist on tap, along with the good old fashioned instrument for looking into one's eyes -- chin rest, bright light and fancy optics for the doctor.  That was about the last step, after the regular ER doctor had done pressure checks, dye-and-UV checks for damage, and -- to my surprise --ultrasound imaging.  Nothing turned up.  That's a relief.

     They sent me home with hugely dilated eyes and instructions to contact them if anything changed and to schedule appointments with my eye doctor and family doctor.

     I've still got the floaters but at least I have a plan.

Sunday, November 08, 2015

Leaves Partially Raked

     Did all of the front yard, most of one side yard and got one entire bag filled Saturday.  Plenty left to do. 

Saturday, November 07, 2015

I Do Not Like Freeway Traffic

     Here in The Big City, we have got big-city-type freeway traffic: nose-to-tail, at or over the speed limit unless there's been a wreck or the number of cars has exceeded the capacity of the road (parts of the "Inner Loop" of interstates 65 and 70 through downtown are notorious for this), and pretty "red in tooth an claw" when it comes to exits and merging.  Here at the crossroads of Southern-style semi-courteous and Yankee-type "get your nose in and just keep moving" traffic manners,† you can never be quite sure what the other drivers will get up to -- and from the number of last-minute four-lane cross-dashes, some of them aren't either.

     I don't like it. In fact, I fear and loathe it.  Driving a small and nimble car helps; even the little Hyundai Accent and Suzuki Samurai I once drove usually had enough zip to get out of the way; while the bigger Lexus RX300 I have is scarcely petite, it's got decent acceleration, good brakes and a very positive control feel.

     On the other hand--  Last afternoon, I got tapped to do some field work.  Pretty simple -- take a heavily-laden "Sprinter" panel van ten miles down the aforementioned Inner Loop, drive another few miles of stop-and-go suburban traffic to a location, set up, work with a crew for a couple of hours, and then return to base.  The actual work is a snap -- set up a microwave link, run a few cables and an extension cord, push a few buttons and then take it all down afterwards.  But driving that bedamned truck--!!!

     It's ferociously underpowered.  Maybe if it was kitted out with plumber's tools and supplies or filled with parcels to be delivered, it would be fine, but in my trade, we mount thousands of pounds of equipment in these vans.  0-60 is a matter of a couple of minutes; okay, I can deal with that, see "Suzuki Samurai" above.*  But the brakes are frighteningly spongy and slowing or stopping is more of a request than a command.  Steering is a little soft and tends to hunt.  None of these are so bad as to make the vehicle dangerous -- but when you put, oh, me at the wheel and head into bumper-to-bumper, 65 mph, multi-lane traffic on a route where highways merge and split and some of the exits require getting across two and four lanes merging into six in what seems like barely enough distance, it's a recipe for white knuckles.

     There and back, I kept putting my hands on the wheel in the well-defined modern 4:30/7:30 position, and the next time I'd glance down, they'd be back at 1970s Driver's-Ed 10 and 2, my bloodless knuckles all but glowing in the instrument lights.  On the return trip, I made sure to free up and flex one hand or the other before they started to ache.

     Made it, didn't even miss an exit or split, don't think I cut off any semis or even ordinary cars (large side mirrors topped with convex "panorama" mirrors are some help), but it certainly got me to my target heart rate and boosted my adrenaline.   
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* The tough little baby SUV has a sub-one-liter engine about the size of an old-fashioned tabletop sewing machine and nearly the same horsepower-to-weight ratio as a full semi tractor-trailer.  They're pretty good up to 45 mph if you flirt with the red line and don't mind doing a lot of shifting but at freeway speeds, it runs with the trucks.  The drivers seem greatly amused by this
  
† U.S. 40, running smack through the middle of town from east to west, is the "greaSy/greaZy" dialect divider, one marker of Northern/Southern speech.  We really do have all kinds.  OTOH, it's 2015, which is to say you probably do too, wherever you live.

Friday, November 06, 2015

The Sad Thing About The "Early Release" of Fake Anonymous KKK Info

     ...Was that a lot of it seemed plausible.  Buncha politicians secretly racist?  That's an easy sell -- easier than some guy down the block with eyeholes in his pillowslips, which is probably the bulk of what's going to be mined from the actual data-dump.

     There's a problem with this sort of thing and it's the same problem as the "Red scare" witch-hunts of the 1950s and earlier:* the guy who went to a meeting or signed up for a mailing list out of curiosity, ignorance or orneriness and later turned away is painted with the same stain as the most wild-eyed True Believer and it's difficult to sort them out by cross-examination: how do you tell honest regret from sneaky deceit?

     I'd suggest we can only judge men and women by their actions; their true thoughts can never be determined with certainty.  Despite that, expect witch-hunting and sensationalized (and likely highly imaginative) accounts.  The Press will love it if they can find at least one public figure to topple.

     Is it better to have a determined gang of "hacktivists" do this sort of thing† rather than J. Edgar Hoover's FBI or a House or Senate Committee?  Probably; but the falsely or inaccurately accused will still face the same kind of stigmatization, albeit free of the wrath of Congress and/or Federal prosecution.  ...Think what a comfort that will be for their children, to know Mommy or Daddy won't be going to jail, merely loathed by the neighbors....

     Were there Communists in the State Department, Reds in Hollywood?  Yep.  Was everyone accused of it an actual commie or fellow-traveler?  Nope.  Did every Soviet mole, spy or sympathizer get  rooted out?  Oh, hells no.   Remember that in coming days.  Haters still gonna hate and like the poor, they'll always be around.
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* Yes, earlier. Red-hunting history didn't begin with Murrow's news coverage of McCarthy.
 
† Mind you, even that is nothing new.