Saturday, February 28, 2015

No DHS Funding? No Problem!

     Here's the solution for the borders, right?

Too Many Departures

     My baby brother is back with his most recent girlfriend and they've become extremely serious -- he's leaving town to be with her.  Other than my Mom, that's it for immediate family in the area for me.

     His is the only really happy leave-taking of the past week.  Two radio/TV engineers I had worked with passed away this last week, 93-year-old "Doc" Arnett and Charlie Sears, long the transmitter engineer for WTTV, which for decades was the independent station in central Indiana, a kind of regional "superstation" along with lines of WGN or WTBS.  Charlie was an active electronics hobbyist and in local years, we often crossed paths at hamfests and Indiana Historical Radio Society meetings. He taught me (and a lot of other radio-crazy kids) at least two of the three different ways to coil up a mic cable so it didn't have any kinks, twists or knots in it.   He was 81.   "Doc" Arnett was the epitome of small-market engineers; he was the local two-way radio tech and ran that business from his home in his free time.  He had designed the pleasant, functional studio/transmitter facility for the station that was his main employer, a very clever setup that recovered heat from the transmitter and other equipment to heat the building and used internal hallways to sound-isolate the studios from one another.  He appeared to be pushing 150 when I met him back in 1977, but never acted it; in the short time I worked there, I saw him do everything from fix the transmitter to replace everything in the production studio, from the electronics to installing a new Formica top on the 1940s-vintage studio desk. When radio changed and his station was bought by its across-town competitor, Doc moved with the times and kept right on working.

     And one more, bittersweet departure: Bill "Super" Shirk, longtime presence in Indianapolis radio, will work his last on-air shift today.   Bill is best known for his two daytime-only AM stations, the former WERK in Muncie, IN and WXLW here in Indianapolis.  Both were Top 40 in their heyday and under Bill's management, were outstanding stations that exerted a disproportionately-strong influence on how radio was done in this region.  Bill's retiring, after a long career as owner, DJ -- and escape artist.

     Some days I feel old; I look back across the years and wonder how I ever got so far from such a tiny start.  --'Cos I was helped up by giants, is why.

Friday, February 27, 2015

...And When I Rule The World....

     If I was a zillionaire, I'd buy the little New Hampshire town where the first votes are cast in national elections* and rename it "Rising Gorge."
* Which is already named "Dixville Notch," a pretty close analogy to the process as it stands.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

You Know What I Hate?

     Self-entitled jerks, for one thing.  Like the guy who walked in front of me on my way home from work last night.

     Indiana law and Indianapolis ordinances are pretty clear: if a pedestrian is in a marked crosswalk when traffic approaches, the pedestrian has the right of way.  And if the crossing has signal, a pedestrian is not supposed to start crossing unless the WALK light is on.  Seems pretty clear, right?  Solves the problem of getting caught in the middle when the light changes, even.  Conversely, if you choose to cross against the lights or outside the crosswalk, you're on your own, bub; the law will not shield you from your folly.

     So picture me entering a block in my car on a green light.  There's another light at next intersection and it's green, too.  It's a one-way street four lanes wide and I was one lane in from the farthest left.  Needed to turn left two blocks on, so I looked, signaled, pulled out -- and hit my brakes.  Two or three car-lengths up, a fellow carrying a sandwich was doing an Eliza-crossing-the-ice through traffic and stepped right out in front of me.  He never broke step, but shook a fist at my car and yelled "Heads up!" at me as I came to an abrupt stop.  I'm afraid I may have uttered something less than complimentary in return as I got underway.

     City blocks aren't that big.  Flesh and bone isn't that strong.  Play dodgem with a ton or more of moving steel, or walk to the damn light and wait?  It seems like simple math. 

     Some people don't want to work it out except in person.  Besides, you wouldn't dare hit them, would you?

     Sure wouldn't want to, mister -- but if I'd still been driving my old car, we might've both had a much worse evening, and not for any lack of trying to avoid it on my part.

     Have a nice day.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Difficult Mission

     Why modern fads don't always fare well in warfare:

     "Men, today we're going up against the enemy's Very Special Forces.  I don't need to tell you how difficult this is going to be, but remember, we fight them almost just as we would any other of the enemy's troops!  --Now, don't make our victory look too easy, all right?  These lads may not be quick as most on the uptake but remember, they have feelings and they're going to feel just terrible if we round them all up in the first fifteen minutes.  Okay, lets go out there and make them think they're giving us one hell of a fight!"

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Better now...

    Still not one hundred percent.  Spent most of yesterday in bed; found Facebook is a good fit with feeling poorly: wait five minutes and it's a whole new mess!  Reflects the world, I expect.

     Still don't know what I had -- either food poisoning or some kind of bug.  Whatever it was, Tam didn't get it.  (My main suspects at present are some goofy powdered eggnog mix, chili-lemon rice crackers and "organic" cranberry juice, just about the only things I had Sunday that Tam didn't.)

Monday, February 23, 2015

Sixteen Hours Of Misery Later

     I don't know what happened.  Yesterday, Tam and I had essentially the same thing for breakfast and supper, give or take her grown-up gin-and-tonic and my noon snack of Reese's Cups.

     About nine -- call it 21-sleepy -- last night, I started getting a tummy ache and in short order, was exhibiting the symptoms of norovirus (you won't mind if I skip the details?) along with chills and localized abdominal pain.  It just got worse and worse.  I tried to lay down and sleep through the worst of it, but I hurt too much.    Standing and walking weren't a whole lot better and I was having to take frequent visits down the hall.  Around midnight I got some relief soaking in a hot bathtub for a little while and managed to fall asleep for nearly a half an hour.  Dried off, wrapped up in a towel and promptly found myself "calling dinosaurs."  They seemed to take a lot of calling.  Tummy pains were bad enough that Tam suggested I'd better go to the hospital.  I would have, too, but if it was norovirus, I would just be delivering a highly contagious and incurable aliment to a building full of sick people, which is a lousy trick.  So I resolved to see if the pain (not a typical noro symptom) and chills were going to get worse.

     From there until about ten this morning, I never got more than 45 minutes rest and never really got warm, despite turning the electric blanket up to "MAX."   I fell asleep at ten a.m., still hurting and feeling wretched.  Tam tried to wake me an hour later and couldn't.  (She was headed to the store.)

     Woke up fifteen minutes ago.  Still a little chilled but not hurting.  What a relief!  Just had a mug of weak tea and a slice of buttered toast.  Hoping it'll stay with me.


Sunday, February 22, 2015

Lazy Person's Snow

     That's what we had, snow for the lazy -- wet enough to stick together, dry enough to not be terribly heavy by the shovel-full, and then temperatures warmed up enough yesterday to melt the snow away where it had been cleared.
     Kind of pretty, too.

     This is a placeholder, prior to shoveling the walks: when there's more  light, I'll snap an "after" to pair with it.

     Back into the deepfreeze now, so it's good thing I shoveled when I did.  Four below tonight and tomorrow night, single-digit daytime highs, and then a long slow climb that won't get above freezing until next week.

"A Lady's Gun -- And Not A Really Nice Lady, At That."

     That's what UK firearms expert Geoffrey Boothroyd called the .25 Beretta 418 that Ian Fleming had James Bond carrying, and offered several alternatives including the Walther PPK Fleming chose for his superspy. On film, 007 is persuaded to swap the little pistol for a PPK early on -- by no less than one "Major Boothroyd."

     A late donation came to Roseholme Cottage with the injuction "buy something fun," and while I wasn't intending to buy anything at all at the Tri-State Gun Show yesterday with Tam and the Data Viking, a Beretta 418 showed up, I had  look at it, and handed it back with a sigh.  "Thank you, but the price is a bit more than I've got today."

     The dealer suggested I make an offer, and rather than do the aw-shucks dance, I came back with a ridiculously low one.
     He said, "Okay."
     So after all the paperwork, I now have an improper lady's gun.  Or James Bond's. 

     From the serial number and date stamp, this was made in 1949.  It's one of the versions with an alloy frame, and will get cleaned up, checked out, and find a home in the safe.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

I Shoveled All The Walks

     ....And swept off my car and cleared the stubby drive.  Came back in when I realized I could not feel the toes on my right foot.  They're back now.  I'm so cool.

     ...Literally.  Oh, well.

Snowing, Snowing, Snowing

     There's over 3" of snow on the ground and it's still coming down.  Not quite the promised Snowmageddon but the day is young.  Will we get several inches over a half a foot, the approximate worst-case prediction?  I don't know.  Predictions haven't changed and neither has the way it's sifting down.

     It's already done me dirt: last night, as the warnings mounted, the Indiana Historical Radio Society cancelled their early spring swap and show meeting.  So much for this morning. If you're reading this in the U.S. Northeast, you're probably thinking I don't know how good I've got it.  You're probably right.

Friday, February 20, 2015

Indoor Cats In Cold Weather

     Rannie just curls up and gets through it.  Huck, well, it makes him cute:
     Sixteen pounds of muscular cuteness.  The camera angle makes them appear the same size.  Don't be fooled.  He outweighs her by at least 2.5X.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Have I Gone Apolitical?

     I'm a lot less likely to express strong and specific opinions on political matters these days.  It's not due to any change in my core beliefs, that most people are (or at least aim to be) decent and good and aren't made any more so by an ever-increasing burden of law and regulation.

     Nor have I lost the feeling that most new laws -- especially on old topics -- are intended mainly to aggrandize their proposers, enrich some group or class of rent-seekers, or pander to an increasingly dumbed-down base.

     That thought bears expanding: we live in a bumper-sticker kind of world, where Twitter's 140-character limit about matches the typical attention span.  Buckley, Vidal and Mencken* are all dead and buried deep and the latter's "boobocracy" is in the driver's seat, encouraged by as rotten a pack of politicians as we've ever had.  --No worse than the worst, but certainly not a patch on the best.

     The Right have become modern-day Know-Nothings (and even the Left has learned to drop final g's when hectoring the unwashed); the Left encourages a culture of smug superiority, especially among the average (and the Right emulates it with a wink and a chortle), with a resulting downward pressure on the intellect of the body politic: Sure, both sides say, we're Average Folks, but we're way smarter than those crooks and fools who support the other party. Next thing you know, we're all extras in Idiocracy.  (I'm not talking about who does or doesn't have a college degree -- you can walk out with a Ph.D. and still be an ignorant lout about anything outside your specialty.)

    By under-estimating themselves and way underestimating the other guy, by measuring "smart" and "savvy" in terms of buzzwords and unexamined bullshit, The People generally act dumber than they are -- and our "Leaders," who were supposed to be high-minded public servants, have become rulers, laughing behind closed doors at the milling pack of rubes who comprise the electorate. It ain't no way to run a railroad, let alone a nation of people who were supposed to be largely left alone, neither run nor railroaded unless they violated the peace.

     What can I say about all that other than what I just have?  Yeah, if I see a candidate or serving politician I can root for, I'll root for 'em loud and long, and likewise changes in the laws, but more and more I see less and less of either.

     I still pay attention to politics but it's like looking at car wrecks: sure, you do it, and you'd help if you could; but you don't go talking about it much.
* What do these three men have in common?  Hint, it's not politics, it's not their sex-lives, it's not their religion, it's not even that I think any of them had ideas that everyone ought to rush right out and wave banners for.  But they weren't idiots; they didn't celebrate incompetence.  They weren't spooked by big words or big thoughts or sentences so long MSWord suffers conniptions and wavy underlines.  You'll look in vain for their like today.

Three Below

     I don't want to whine, but--

     Make it stop!  Pleeeeeeeeze, make it STOP!

     And I'm not talking molecular motion, either.  Wind chill numbers for this morning start in the -20s and they don't go up from there.  Traffic lights are acting up all over town (the city didn't use a light enough grade of oil in them?) and they haven't yet decided if they will delay trash pickup for the rest of the week or or just cancel it altogether.

     It's four below, fondly Fahrenheit, and Spring is only four weeks away.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

An Inch Of Snow And Wrecks Everywhere?

     Not exactly-- It snowed last night.  It had snowed Monday and night before last, just enough to for traffic on the main roads to melt it.  The city put salt down, but a lot of it must have been carried to the gutters as the snow melted.

     Last night, the more-traveled streets were wet.  Overnight, the temperature dropped, traffic fell off and then we got more snow: as rush hour began, there was an inch of snow over black ice.

     Madcap hijinks have ensued, by which I mean wrecks, some of them very bad.  Be careful out there.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

One Nice Thing About Cold Weather...

     ...Cats will love you.  Especially if you use an electric blanket.  I laid down last night and in a matter of minutes, had a great big yellow tiger tomcat on my shins and a tortie next to me: Huck and Rannie.  Rannie was especially friendly, smoothing on my hand and settling down to nap with her chin pillowed on it.  Huck still takes a dog-like approach to napping with me, preferring to sleep near the foot of the bed.

     Overnight low -- and the afternoon high -- both in the teens yesterday.  Last time I looked, we were supposed to reach the twenties today, and then sharply colder.  Overnight temperatures below zero either tonight or tomorrow night.

     Spring is thirty days away.  Winter's not leaving without a fight.

Monday, February 16, 2015

For Further Reading...

     Having seen the film, I purchased a copy of the Turing biography by Andrew Hodges, Alan Turing: The Enigma.

     The film telescopes and combines events, Truth bending to both Art and Time. Hodges does nothing of the sort. A conceptual Turing Machine consists of an infinitely-long tape being read from and written to, or at least an effectively-unlimited tape: it's as long as needs to be to accomplish a given task.  And thus with the biography: it's a massive book, as long as it needs be.

     It is by no means dull; the cryptanalysis efforts at Bletchely Park (and elsewhere) didn't have the super-science scope of the Manhattan Project or the hard-edged engineering of wartime RADAR, advancing by leaps and bounds, but they were no less vital and equally at the leading edge of thought.  Deeply engaged with his subject and a thorough scholar, Hodges provides the reader with both a ringside seat and the well-informed commentary to make sense of the action.

     I'm at about the halfway point, give or take 55 pages of endnotes.  The more I read, the more Turing's habits of thought remind me of the more-direct thinkers I have known.  The annoying, crucial ability to see the essentials of a given situation while ignoring customary or merely ritual elements is a particular quirk of many engineers, scientists -- and programmers.

     The Alan Turing Internet Scrapbook provides a series of glimpses of a man who, more than most others, was a geek's geek, a nerd's nerd, brilliant, unconventional and confidently askew.  Not eccentricity for its own sake but an eccentricity that grew from a way of looking at and thinking about ideas and the world.  

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Ne Kulturny: Indy Has More In Common With Buttermilk

     While nobody ever mistook the palm-shaded asphalt and neon of La-La-Land ("Ellay," as the natives are said to say) for, say, Paris or Manhattan, it is still something of a comfort to note that my own dear Naptown has got, at least on some scales, more culture than Los Angeles, and that despite our distinct shortage of fictional detectives.

     Bucolic wasteland?  Maybe; I suppose the Eiteljorg's remarkable collection of "cowboy and indian" art might've looked that way, once upon a time   Better look again. The broad sweep that runs roughly along the White River from Butler University, past the Indianapolis Museum of Art, past Marian University, through parks and along the restored canal, past the State Museum, IUPUI, NCAA headquarters and museum, the Indianapolis Zoo and our booming downtown, is only the most obvious element of a vibrant culture of no small depth -- hidden in the heart of a city used as a synonym for "unlettered clods" only a little less often than Peoria.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

They Don't Actually Mine Bees, Do They?

     Here's wishing each and every one of you as pleasant -- and, if that's in the cards, romantic -- a Valentine's Day as you desire.

Friday, February 13, 2015

"The Imitation Game"

     It's pretty much what we know as the "Turing Test:" stick an intelligent something on the far end of a teletype circuit and try to figure out if it's man or machine.

     It's also the title of an excellent film about Alan Turing, mostly his wartime experience at Bletchley Park and postwar conviction and suicide.

     Turing's rehabilitation in recent years has been helped by the issue that ruined things for him currently being fashionable, but make no mistake: sure, he was gay, but ignore that and the man was still an oddball.

     A genius oddball and there's the real point: growing up, I got to hang around with computer geeks back when you had to walk over to a terminal room and log on the mainframe and they all knew who Turing was: a computer pioneer.  They knew all manner of interesting notions he'd put forward but you had to dig to learn how come he wasn't still around.  The geeks didn't give a hang for his sex life and even with lingering wartime secrecy, they all knew he was one of the guys who got the whole "computer" thing rolling, one of the first people people who really grasped that all you needed was a machine that could precisely do simple operations rapidly, over and over, and you could get it to do anything computable, which turns out to be just about everything.

     Just like many of the gang in the terminal room, he was awkward, impatient with fools, insightful, logical and intuitive.  That's the fellow you'll meet if you go see The Imitation Game.

    Benedict Cumberbatch does not look very much like Alan Turing -- and it doesn't make any difference; he steps into the character completely and from the first time he shows up on the screen, you're not looking at the guy who plays Sherlock Holmes in the BBC TV series, you seeing Alan Turing.  It helps that all the little details in the film are as right as they can be.  (The electromechanical decryption machine -- not Colossus -- used to read Enigma messages has been slightly rescaled for greater drama, but the components are right).

     It's a good story, well-told.  A bit complex -- at points, there are three timelines running and you do have to keep up -- but worth the effort.

     Turing's story -- all of it, not just the made-for-tabloids ending but his real and valuable contributions to the bit-counting widgets inside everything these days -- deserves wider telling.  The geeks never forgot him and with good reason.

     ETA: New Yorker had an interesting review of the film, which addresses some of the ways in which the real story was telescoped for the screen and points up a few cultural false notes.  Notably, the cinematic scene of exuberant celebration that punctuates the definitive cracking of Engima not only didn't happen, it simply would not have happened in 1940s Britain, not with that group (and generally, class) of persons.  --Historical storytelling can at times be the art of telling truth by means of lies, of making the past decodable to the present; any time you point a camera at a subject, especially at some remove in time or place, you're faced with a series of choices about what to include, what to leave out -- and what to translate.  With the pressure of time (decryption efforts at Bletchley Park having lasted a bit longer than a two-hour film) as well, you're going to get the occasional off note, a sharpening of drama, a narrowed view, a re-coding for the viewer.  Given the subject and his work, it seems fitting.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Oh, I Hate When That Happens...

     Went to sleep last night -- plenty early, too; whatever had me dizzy the other day hasn't relented much -- with a great idea for a blog post.  Sure wish I could remember what it was.  I hate it when that happens.

     My right knee started acting up yesterday afternoon, almost too painful to bear weight.  That's probably from the up-and-down temperature and barometric pressure of the last several days.  Headaches and possibly even dizziness likewise.  I hate it when that happens.

     Why is it that Brian Williams lying and getting caught out is so totally unexpected -- and why has no one anywhere in the Big Media (and most of the small fry) mentioned Dan Rather's pants-on-fire fall from grace?*  The media have the memory of mayflies.  "Dan who?"  I hate it when that happens.

     And, lookie!  Europe -- well, Eastern Europe -- is closer to war than ever!  I hate it when that happens.  Not as much as Germany's Chancellor does, though; she has apparently sat down with maps and worked out that if you displace the epicenter eastward, today's Germany is in about the same spot as 1940's France.  Ooopsie.  A fresh World War for a fresh century?  I'd hate it if that happened.
* "No one likes to see a run like this end on such a bad note,' says NBC Nightly News anchor Brian Williams. 'But somewhere in Pennsylvania a father of four with 19 years under his belt came home after getting his notice at the factory today, and he would give anything for one week of Dan's compensation. Dan would be the first to counsel massive amounts of perspective on this story.'" Peter Johnson, Media Mix,  USA Today, 20 June 2006

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Oh, Fun

     Lost another day's work yesterday to vertigo.  And possibly a mild sinus infection.  Sitting on the couch, staring at the tube, half-awake, the phone rang.  Tam got it, most calls being for her, but it was my work.  Seems a replacement part had shown up Saturday; Security had signed for it and (presumably) left it at the front desk.  That was the last time anyone would admit to having seen it and they were wondering if, perhaps, I had?

     Nope.  Nobody told me, which is pretty annoying.  It was (probably) addressed to me, which is even more so.  And of course the small module costs more than I paid for my car.

     ETA: They found it.  Addressed to Accounting  by mistake.  Does this mean I'm going to get the bill?

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Stealth Huck

     Poor Huck the cat -- I stepped on one his front paws last night while being a goof (stumbling down the hall when I knew I was too dizzy to move quickly; the variable weather in recent days has played hob with my sinus/whatever issues).  He had to go hide for awhile but was walking normally in a few hours.  I checked him out as soon as I could.

     This morning, he was nosing around in the office while I was online.  I heard various rustling noises...and then an odd bong!  Looked around and he was nowhere to be found.  A few minutes later, Tam walked in and I remarked that I'd thought my cat was in the room but couldn't see him.

     Several minutes later, Tam said, "Look where your cat is now."

     I turned and looked. Nothing.  "What do you mean?"


     And then I realized the curtains behind her desk -- the curtains of the Forbidden Window, into which cats are not supposed to go -- were waving ever so slightly, with the rhythm of Huck's tail when he is watching wildlife. 

     Tam opened the curtains and Huck turned to give her an innocent look.  "Out!"  She closed the curtains. "And not across my desk, either."

     Huck whacked at the curtains, then managed to open them.  Tam closed them again.

     "No, Huck!  --Bobbi, rattle some cat food, willya?"

     I went to the kitchen and he was in the room looking up at me soon after I opened the treat cabinet.  Yes, that's my cat.


Chicken-Fried Bacon With White Gravy?

     Yes, they make that and so can you.  I haven't ever, but I hope to....

     I did try applying my white gravy recipe to sausage the other day -- a 50/50 mixture of country sausage and chorizo results in a light-orange gravy, very good over day-old crusty bread.  It's similar to the gravy at Zest! Exciting Food Creations, which I'd had there a couple of days ago.  I'm not certain chorizo is the secret ingredient in their "Double Sausage-Sausage Gravy," since my version was a deeper orange and I think there's a bit of paprika in theirs, but it could be.    For the record, I had a Billy's Big Bowl, with scrambled eggs and cowboy potatoes smothered in the stuff, about as satisfying a breakfast as can be had.

Monday, February 09, 2015

Book And Mortar Brickstores

     Awhile back, there was -- as a kind of sideshow to the "mostly Baen authers vs. SJWs" whatever-it-was, or possibly the other way around -- a flap over the author's-eye-view of Amazon vs. the traditional publisher/bookstore model, and to a lesser extent, the reader's perspective of same

     I had trouble really engaging with it.  Just "Meh."  Tonight (or early this morning, depending), standing in the kitchen looking out at the dining room-library, I finally realized why.  There are something over 5000 books in there (and elsewhere), mostly SF, and of that number, less than five percent were purchased new.  Many of those were bought via Amazon.  What've I bought new?  Most of the C. J. Cherryh books, a fair amount of Elizabeth Moon and Lois McMaster Bujold, reprints of Robert A. Heinlein books and his last three new novels and collections; recent Ursula K. LeGuin and Kim Stanley Robinson,* plus H. Beam Piper reprints and most of Michael Z. Williamson's SF.† The rest of it -- thousands of books -- I bought used.

     I grew up not poor but by no means well-off, and a considerable distance from the local public library, which kept a few shelves of SF with the children's books.  School libraries were pretty thin, too, a good assortment by not nearly enough of it.  I was and remain a fairly voracious reader.  Harvey's Book Exchange, a dark and cluttered building filled with used books, had plenty of Science Fiction and you could fill a brown paper grocery sack‡ with books for five bucks.  It was the start of a lifelong habit and I watched the demise of the small-scale used book store in recent years with alarm, though the later rise of Half-Price Books has made up for it.

      Visiting the new-book seller has always felt like an extravagance.  Visiting the used book store was a necessity.  And it still is.  I like my Kindle a lot but I like shopping for books more.
* Oh, dear, looks like I'm some kinda borderline commie.
† Or not.
‡ Ask your parents, kids.

Sunday, February 08, 2015

I Don't Want To Say People Are Stupid...

But I was on the Book of Face and got roped into a discussion of the risks and benefits of vaccination. If you run the numbers, Junior is statistically better off getting his shots -- but hey, he's your kid. And perhaps your quarantine.

In the midst of the discussion, I made the intentionally Swiftian suggestion that you could clear up all the debate in a hurry by re-introducing smallpox. I figured there would be outraged responses to this and that I might even find myself banned for a few days.

Ha! Nothing. Nothing from either side. A smallpox epidemic could be as bad as the influenza epidemic that followed the First World War, possibly even worse -- and not a one of the debaters even blinked. That was it for my participation in the thread. There's no point in hangin' with idiots, even when most of them are nominally on your side.

Saturday, February 07, 2015

Ropeburn Warning?

     If I worked in an ER, I'd be getting ready for "Fifty Shades Of Wrist and Ankle Injuries."  It's a movie, y'hear? --Professional drivers, closed course, Do Not Try This At Home.  But they will.  Yes, they will.

Friday, February 06, 2015

Reserve Your Lunar Landing Spot Now

This is kewl: Bigelow Aerospace and the FAA have worked out a system to reserve landing space on the Moon! You still can't claim or own land (yet) but this is a step in the right direction.

Local TV Covers Goofy Gun Lawsuit

     Seems a local FFL sold a firearm later used to injure a police officer and it turns out to have been a straw purchase.  Now the officer has teamed up with the Brady Center To Prevent Handgun Ownership (or whatever it is they're calling themselves these days) to sue...not the straw purchaser, nope.  They're suing the dealer, presumable for not having a telepath on staff to do deep background checks.

     This despite State and Federal laws shielding dealers from such suits.  This despite the straw purchaser having passed a Bardy Bill-mandated background check.

     The news story links this with ballistic tracing and leads me to suspect we may see some Bloombergian agitation for "universal background checks" in Indiana -- which would not have prevented the straw sale and subsequent shooting.

     "Make it illegaller" rarely works.  But I guess going after the root causes of crime is way too much heavy lifting and generates too few headlines to interest politicians and lobby groups.

Thursday, February 05, 2015

Head....Not Empty....

     But what's in it is mostly pain.  Temperature went from the relatively balmy mid-30s to 8 overnight (that's from 1 to -748 in Canada, slightly higher in the EU due to VAT and overseas shipping), barometric pressure did something and now--

     --Now I have the kind of headache where you see spots.  I took something (ibuprofen is totally a thing) over an hour ago.  I might as well have had M&Ms.  Oh, this is fun.

     Meanwhile, per the Book of Face, Bernie Sanders has declared verbal war on the Koch brothers.  I say let's give 'em brickbats and fence off a block of demolished buildings in the Bronx or Brooklyn, and see the networks will televise it.  My money is on the Kochs; sure, they're older, but they're wily.  Maybe we can start a trend.  Indeed, it's cruel and favors the young and strong -- but it'll make a nice change, shake things up a little.  It's got to be better than having us expendable little folk fight for both sides as proxies.

     (Yes, yes, sure, the Koch brothers are Teh Eeeeeeevil.  Remember what C.S. Lewis said about robber barons vs. do-gooders? No?  Here ya go.)

Wednesday, February 04, 2015

"Compresssssed Air....Can Kill!"

     A safety message from a British in-factory radio station, 1970s, warning that compressed air isn't as benign as you might believe.  Clever production, carefully non-specific so as not to give fools any bright ideas.

     ...Meanwhile, Tam just reported that a survey has over 80% of respondents think there should be a law against "three-parent babies," with mitochrondrial DNA from a third source.  This is only useful to prevent certain birth defects, but I guess "tampering with nature" is (in their pea-sized brains) wrong or a way that eyeglasses, dentistry, appendectomies or boob jobs is not.  Just like vaccination, amirite?  (Peanuts, out; correcting birth defects at the start, out; toy guns, right out -- but haul your measelly, mumpsy whelps off to $THEMEPARK and public school?  You betcha! It's your divine-issued right!

     Here, dimwit, play with a tank of high-pressure air.  Don't look directly at the nozzle!*

     ...Sometimes I'm not sure compressed air has done enough killing.  But it would mostly take out the idly curious instead of targeting nitwits anyway, so....
* In the interests of safety and caution, I will point out that my intended-joking reference to laser safety does apply -- but you can do fatal harm with a strong-enough burst against skin.  And we're not even going to discuss deliberate and inadvertent projectiles.  Compressed air isn't a toy.

Tuesday, February 03, 2015

What, That Old Baggage?

Saddle up the drama lama, we'll ride it into town!
We'll get mad and mutter, "I'm-a gonna..." and at least we won't feel down.

Yes, saddle up the drama lama with the baggage of our years
Issues from Junior High and grade school un-huh, nunya business if there's tears.

Saddle up the drama lama, climb aboard and lope away
Rant and rave and wallow in feelings from dark night to full-bright day.

But just this time, I'm slightly wiser, I'll only ride a wee short way.

*  *  *

This is based on nothing online and nothing here at Roseholme Cottage or at work.  Some people do thrive on strife and conflict (and not always appropriately, Mr. James Bond!); some people only really feel alive when they're irked, annoyed or plan angry.  I grew up with a parent who, despite what I believe were huge efforts to the contrary, rode an emotional roller-coaster.  Having three clever, glib and stubborn children didn't do anything at all to help.  As a more-or-less grown-up, I can see the signs in other people; but at some level, I'm still the kid who can't stop it and usually manages to do or say the exact wrong thing.

     If you grew up around it, it's a darned easy roller-coaster to climb aboard.  I still succumb to the temptation occasionally myself, but these days I'm a chickenheart and try to make it just the kiddie ride, short and not too bumpy. (I suspect too many close calls with real-world danger may have burned me out on it.) It's difficult when someone wants to haul you back on board a real thrillride but I'd rather not go.  Is there an AA (or even AAA) for people with mood swings?

Monday, February 02, 2015

Sci-Fi Movie Props, Zeppelin Surplus...?

     Restoration Hardware, which is similar to a trip to a museum:
     Couldn't begin afford it (even if I had room for it) and, sadly, the not-always-well-sunk flathead Philips screws used to hold the nifty aluminum skin on the frame of the streamlined chair don't really resemble rivets on close inspection.  But it sure is pretty to look at.

Sunday, February 01, 2015

Saturday Dinner

     We'd gone to Goose the Market before the furnace acted up, see?  And picked up small amounts of delightful deli-type meat: Black Forest Ham, sopressata, waygu bresaola....  It made for delicious snacks, but sliced transparently thin, even a little is a lot.

     Time had passed.  When you have thinly-sliced, salt-preseved meat in the fridge, it needs to to be wrapped up tightly and even then, it wants to dry out.  Last night, I found that we needed to finish off the bresaola, which is lovely Italian-style dried beef....

     ...Dried beef....  I realized there was only one way to proceed: SOS.  Creamed chipped beef on toast!

     I'm told Uncle Sam has been ruining this stuff for over a hundred years.  I don't know -- all I ever had was the kind Mom made (excellent!) and the version you find in the freezer case (not bad, in fact).

     White gravy is a kitchen staple, just fat, flour and milk.  You probably have the fixings right now.  I was low on butter, so I ended up about half that and half olive oil; added flour to make roux, cooked carefully over medium-low heat so the gravy stayed light (roux can go from white to very dark, depending on what you're after).  Once it looked bubbly-cooked and smelled toasty, I whisked in milk (and a little bit of dried shallot), got it barely to a boil, and backed off the heat, whisking madly all the while.  Then I alternated between snipping in the beef and stirring until it was all in.  After eight minutes or so, the gravy thickened up nicely, it smelled heavenly, and when poured over toast, it was ambrosia.  A bit salty -- the beef might've benefited from a quick rinse -- but it was better than any CCBOT or "SOS" I've ever had.  Tam licked her plate clean.

     (If you're wondering, a little over 2 tablespoons of the fat, about 2 tablespoons of flour and a cup and a half of milk.  Shallots, no more than a quarter of a medium onion's worth.  Each serving got a quick grind of mixed peppercorns and I added dried chives to mine.  You could make this with thin-sliced ham, too, or use it for sausage gravy; in the latter case, use the sausage grease for the fat, adding more butter or oil if needed.)