Saturday, October 31, 2015

The Man In The High Sukayaki?

     Watched the second episode of the Amazon's take on Philip K. Dick's The Man In The High Castle recently.  It's still excellent.  They used this old pop tune in the music:

     The title is entirely unrelated -- translating the original results in a very Country & Western-sounding, "I'll Walk Looking Up (So My Tears Won't Fall)."  Nice tune, widely covered.  And chilling in the show's context.

Friday, October 30, 2015

Off On A Tangent

     "Sine and drive," the car dealers TV ads tell me.  Never "Cosine and drive,"* never "Tangent and drive."  Hmpf.
* More like "Cosign and fret," the parents of kids buying their first car tell me. Point taken.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Later Than I Thought!

     Spent too much time looking up The History Of Cheese (it may be older than wine -- the ancient Greeks thought so) and reading how the President blames Indiana's "lax gun laws" (like the Federal one that makes direct cross-border handgun sales illegal?) for Chicago's crime problem.  And he wants us to fix it by making illegal stuff even illegaler! Um, sir?  Sir?  How come Indianapolis, despite our recent surge of violence, is still less crime-ridden than Chicago?

     Here, sit down, Mr. President.  Relax.  Have some nice cheese.  Ya nitwit.

     Time to go soak in Epsom Salts.  Dissolved in hot water. That's for me, not the President.  I'm sure the Secret Service will draw him one if he wants.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Yogurt: Not A Fan

     I can't deny the truth.

Man Goes Crazy? Freeway At A Standstill!

     I was half awake; I thought the news story was about some unfortunate with mental problems, in trouble on an interstate through town.

     A cup of coffee and another turn of the newswheel later, I caught the real story: Mangoes!  Crazy enough.  It's a big mess at the North Split between I-70 and I-65, the aftermath of a semi wreck.  They're still cleaning it up -- the truck has been hauled off but the slippery mess of pulped fruit and rainwater remains.

     It was almost better the other way around.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Keep Talking, Pinko

     Bernie Sanders was just on NBC's Today show, talking about about socialism and "free" stuff, including "free" college.  --Of course, someone has got to pay for it; some professors might teach for free, but the cafeteria ladies and the fellows who run the steam plant and most certainly the administrators want to get paid, on time and in full.  Something is broken in higher education, and someone is already getting "free money from the government" -- universities, in the form of guaranteed, no getting out from under them student loans, which have ballooned prices way over the rate of inflation no matter how you figure it.  Do you suppose those big schools would welcome the kind of austerity a responsible fully government-funded college system would entail, or will they want to keep the good times a-rolling?

     But Mr. Sanders, he handwaves his way past that, and goes on to claim the National Park System as a fine example of socialism in action.  That would be the National Parks first set up by the noted socialist, Theodore Roosevelt. Yessiree, Teddy and Engels, they were best buds....  Right?

     The more Bernie Sanders talks, the wilder and more alienated from core American values he sounds, and if you started out thinking, "at least he'd shake things up," you'll likely end up worried about this sincerely, deeply, wrong-headed man.  He is innocent of real economics, innocent of the degree to which profit provides motivation, and sincerely believes he's the fellow to Fix Everything.  He appears to be a nice man and more's the pity -- it's the guy who believes in his heart that he is Doing Good who often does the worst harm: double-dyed villains might get the trains to run on time (or at least have the worst slackers taken out and shot) and no one is very sorry at the end when the dictator is hanged from the nearest lamp-post but do-gooders create chaos, weeping real tears as their victims pile up, unable to grasp why they've not yet "built Jerusalem in [this] green and pleasant land" and redoubling their efforts as the goal slips farther and farther away.  (There's some deeply weird stuff that's gone on....)

     Yeah, kid, he makes your Dad see red (or Red*) and your Mom sigh in despair, but that's not actually a good reason to like him.  There's plenty gone wrong in the U.S. politically, economically and socially, and people of good will can reasonably disagree about the problems and possible solutions -- but Bernie Sanders is exactly one flavor of what we don't need.

     Unfortunately, his opponents within and without his own nominal party are most of the other flavors of the same repugnant dish.
* Remember when The Media told use they were going to alternate red and blue for Dems and GOPpers every Presidential race?  --And then as soon as they flipped the Republicans to red, they froze the color-coding?  Sheesh.

Monday, October 26, 2015

Do It Now

     It's a rule I should live by, but all too often don't.  There are about a jillion leaves in the front and back yards -- and it's supposed to rain for the next three days, starting tomorrow. 

     Great.  This was news to me; I thought I had the week to clear them up, a little at a time.  Not so much.  Not at all.

     "Do it now."  Tomorrow may be too late.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Went To The Range

     I do not mind standard-velocity .22, Mandrake -- but it is pretty light-shootin'.

     On a related note, the fixed-and-secured ejector on the Tactical Solutions Pac-Lite upper of my Ruger Mk. II worked just fine through at least 200 rounds (hey, I was short on time).  Made holes right in the middle of the target, with both standard and high-velocity .22.  And if anyone wonders, the nice big H&R 999 was along for the trip; I ran several full cylinders through it and between mass and barrel length, there's not the least muzzle lift when you shoot standard-velocity.  There's barely any with the faster stuff, which is a large part of the fun.  It and the Ruger with aftermarket upper* are essentially similar, with nice big sights and graceful handling characteristics.
* Ruger makes and has made Mk. II and Mk. III versions with very nice bull barrels in similar lengths, which would have answered my wanting bigger sights and a longer sight radius just as well.  At the time, mine was a standard, tapered 4.75" barrel model and I had been eyeing the nice, brightly-anodized uppers for a year's worth of gun shows.

Went To The Gun Show

     Bought some punches in steel and brass and a tiny hammer, because that's something I usually need.  Looked at plenty of kewl and attractive guns (and lots of junque) but none of it stood out while also being a) reasonably-priced and b) a shooter rather than a display piece.  Bought 500 rounds of .22.

     This may sound like a lot, but in fact, it's about one-and-a-quarter practice sessions for me, and that's if I'm being lazy.  I can shoot a .22 pistol pretty well, for an old lady who wears bifocals, and a lot of the reason why can be found in that statement.  If you think 50 rounds is a lot, you're not shooting enough.  If your targets still look like Swiss cheese, you need to slow down, line up the sights and keep your eyes open while squeezing the trigger slowly -- you can squint the eye that's not looking over the sights if you like.  Do so, and a hole will appear in the target at your point of aim. Or it should.  If you keep doing that consistently and the target still looks like Picasso's pegboard, take a class.  Take a class on shooting, not on "Armed Urban Survival Tactics,"* because unless you can run that thing in your hand, and run it safely and well, you've got no business playing at ninja.  (Later, you may find you haven't much reason to; read some of Tam's reports on her more-advanced classes and see the skill sets they're building -- and the basic ones they're built on.) Take several.  Do what the instructor tells you -- and you'll find your shooting will improve.  You'll also start to look on 500 rounds of .22 as "inadequate for three days of practice."

     Thus endeth today's lecture.
* As a general rule, the more lurid the title of the class, especially if it is entry-level, the less likely it is to be of any use and the more likely it is to be taught by some wannabe who has never seen that particular elephant.  Learn the mechanics instead; learn not to go stupid places with stupid people and you'll do all right.

Saturday, October 24, 2015


     Firefox appears to have lost all my open tabs.  So it goes.

     There's about a zillion leaves in the yard.  Guess what my tasks will include, the next two days....

     Later:  Good news, everyone!  I found my tabs!  And it's raining, so no leaf work.

Friday, October 23, 2015

"No, It's Getting-Hit-On-The-Head Lessons in Here..."

     I spent about an hour and a half tracking down a problem at work yesterday, which turned out to be all the way back to one connector away from the source, where a sub-miniature coaxial cable had apparently been damaged by rough handling, wiping out a high-definition video signal.

     In the old days, video was shipped around in RG-59-type cables, or big, fat Belden 8281.  Both of them had relatively incompressible solid plastic internal insulators.  You could very nearly hit the stuff with a hammer without harming it; you could walk on it with impunity and the normal wear and tear of being crammed into tight spots with a few score other similar cables was insignificant.

     Fast forward to 2015 -- heck, to 2005 -- and the demands of high-speed serial digital video mean we're using foam-dielectric coax, in about 0.25" and 0.125" diameters.  Kink it, bend it tight around a corner, bend it sharply at the connector or step on it, and you have killed it dead.  Crunch a tie-wrap tightly around it and it'll conk out deader'n last years Cat. 6 cable under similar circumstances.  The littlest stuff won't even withstand a straight pull of more than about 40 pounds force!  And occasionally, it lingers, expiring slowly, waiting until the least convenient moment.  Now the old-timers at work, they know all there is to know about working with coax -- if they don't know it, it's not worth knowing.  Yes, they know everything about the proper care...of RG-59 and 8281.  Foam-insulated coax, now, well, the habits of a lifetime are not easy to change.  Especially if you don't give too much of a damn. Besides, it usually works.  Until it doesn't.

     And so it goes.  Me, I never drink -- well, hardly ever -- but I came home from work last night and made a nice tall glass of Pimm's No. 1 and rose-elderflower lemonade.  I'd've made and consumed two, if I'd had more lemonade.  The mess I had to dig through was never very nice but it has somehow become exponentially worse over the last few months, and there's no way to fix it without causing considerable disruption.  I'll probably have to be the disruptor -- again.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

"Nothing Good Happens Away From Home After 9:00 p.m."

     ...Or so the old saw has it.  Criminals often prefer the cover of darkness, so why oblige them?

     On the other hand, there's plenty to do hereabouts after dark, 99.9999% of it well within the law.  It's that 0.0001% that's the problem.  Last night at 11:00 p.m., three fine upstanding young choirboys in hoodies and bandannas* held up Binkley's, a nice little restaurant/bar on College Avenue, a reasonable bike ride away from Roseholme Cottage.  It's not the first hold-up in Broad Ripple and odds are it won't be the last -- any time you have a nightclubby district, you get predators -- but it was one of the boldest, right out of Pulp Fiction: they walked in, ordered everyone on the floor, and cleared out wallets, purses and the cash register, then exited.

     Nobody hurt, no shots fired by the robbers -- or, alas, at them.
* "Hoodie and bandanna," the 21st-Century version of the striped sweater and goofy domino mask worn by robbers of yore.  Great.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Good Morning!

     I woke up semi-early, made a delightful breakfast (ham, Anaheim pepper, cherry tomato and pepper jack cheese omelet) and now... Gee, now it's time to get in the shower.

     Recent reading: My Name Is Frank, from a series of BBC talks during the war (WW II, that is.  My parents were Depression babies; WW II was always "the war.") by a merchant marine seaman.  Fascinating look back through the eyes of someone who was in the thick of it when the material was recorded.

     In the middle of Operation Mincemeat, the more-recent coverage of the The Man Who Never Was, with the then-classified bits filled in -- or corrected.

     I finished Terry Pratchett's final Discworld book a little while ago.  Read it, it's good.  You will probably cry.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Saw The Martian Yesterday

     The Martian is a darned fine film, not merely one of a tiny number of hard-SF films that gets the numbers right* but a movie that gets the characters right, too, from the habitual fitness of astronauts through a wide array of geeks, bureaucrats -- and geeks-turned-bureaucrats -- and even to a few "regular people," spouses and TV reporters.  It's a big cast and we spend a lot more time with Matt Damon, trying not to die, alone on Mars, but they're part of what makes the film work.

     Another part -- a big part -- is the planet itself.  This is a film that knows its roots.  If you remember the 1956 book The Exploration Of Mars (Willy Ley, Werner von Braun and Chesley Bonestell), The Martian's "Ares II expedition" looks like an updated version of it, in a setting that is more than merely evocative of the Bonestell paintings (with, I think, a touch of Maxfield Parrish: that light!).  Mars itself is one of the film's characters, from vast, red-sand landscapes to terrifying storms.  Will Mars really look that way to the first explorers to see it for themselves?  I don't know (and it depends where they land), but I doubt it will be all that different.  (There's a more-overt Bonestell connection in the film, too.)

     The movie is a celebration of problem-solving, of the will to survive and the wit to make it happen.  Some reviewers have complained the plot relies too much on coincidence and luck, but I disagree.  Oh, there are a few "stretchers" and one point where the odds are so far out of whack that you'll have to power past it (trust me, by then you'll be up for it), but most of the "luck" is the kind that comes to the prepared mind, already working on the problem -- the kind of intense geekery that you're not going to get if you've never Been There or Done That, the sort of thing that if you don't work in some kind of science or applied technology, you may never have experienced the, "oh, of course" moment of realizing a totally orthogonal solution will work.

     If you like SF (and especially if you find most SF films disappointing), if you like stories where the good guys win through determination and intelligence, if you're a techie or boffin of any sort -- see this film.  You'll be glad you did.
* Despite the dated style, Destination Moon springs to mind, and the more biologically-inclined Gattaca.  Parts of 2001 as well.  Past that, your cinematic SF choices are mostly horror (e.g., the generally well-done Alien films) or various flavors of space-opera gee-whiz fantasy that play very fast and loose with physics and science in general past the handful of impossibilities essential to the yarn (which was my problem with Serenity, which went much worse that way than Firefly) and most of which also ignore or mock the conventions or written SF.  Exceptions are incredibly rare -- Predestination (the film adaptation of Heinlein's All You Zombies) is striking for exactly that reason. The various Philip K. Dick books that have been translated to film have held up well.  Star Wars and Star Trek films are good fun with reasonable internal consistency, but they're fantasy space opera: stirring stories you could probably file the off details of and reshoot as cowboy, war-story or pirate films without much effort.

Monday, October 19, 2015


     "Tell us a ghost story!"

     Sunset -- and a double reflection in the glowing windows.

     If I had painted this, people would say it was too overdone.

     And these are why a phone with a camera in it is a brilliant idea!

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Dance, Monkey, Dance

     Here it. is another early-early shift and I've got to put something interesting on Teh Innernets.*  For all that it a self-imposed obligation, it is one nonetheless.

     A comment by C.J. Cherryh on Facebook about noticing a number of female TV presenters and guests with voices that are, for want of a better term, squeaky had me musing on the odd skills and personal traits that go into being worth a darn on Teh Toob.  And about why so many of them are, well, not people you'd want to hang around with all that much, and I'm not meanin' politics.

     At the entry level, there are Subject-Matter Experts and Local Leaders who, if they happen to have moderately interesting personalities and can ignore the camera, often come across very well.

     Newly-minted On-Air Employees, on the other hand, are often self-conscious and you may wonder why.  After all, aren't they in control of everything, there at the center of attention?

     Nope.  Center of attention, sure, but they control nothing.  Not a single thing, and they never will.  Instead, they have a producer mumbling in their ear, while they're trying to read from a teleprompter -- big, ugly print, four or five lines on the screen and no more than three words across, scrolling past at a rate that either they control (not easy) or someone else controls (even harder).  The good ones are reading the whole screen while saying what's on the second line down; that way, they know when punctuation or an unexpected word is approaching.  They may even have read the script once beforehand.  If they fall behind, they can end up reading the bottom line instead, which makes for frequent surprises and those oddly...placed pauses you...may sometimes notice.  Meanwhile, they are at the mercy of a floor director pointing them to which camera to look at -- or having to follow the red light, if no one is working the floor (like everywhere else, staffing in the "fast-paced, high-paying television industry" is being reduced and reduced).  And they're at the mercy of a director picking which camera that will be to suit the needs of the presentation, no matter how unflattering or how awkward the move to face it.  How they look, what they wear and how they cut their hair is determined by others, though usually carried out by them, and they typically find out if they did it wrong after they've gone on the air with it and their boss calls them in for a dressing-down once the show is over. 

     Anyone who can manage that, especially if they're reasonably good-looking and have some skill at gathering and reporting news or sports, would have to have an especially irritating voice for it to be a career-ender.  And anyone who can hold up under that kind of pressure, over so many niggling little things, is likely to be self-contained to a degree that people who doesn't do that kind of work will find off-putting.  Like fireman, policeman, soldiers or the guys who build tall buildings and high towers, those crazy people inside your television do a high-pressure job that really cannot be understood unless you've done it -- and if you do it for very long, you'll end up like them.  (And without even the element of risk the other jobs I mentioned have, which gives others a glimpse of what it must be like.)   They are so far from controlling anything that many become quite demanding over little things, probably without even realizing it's a grab for something they can control directly.

     Me?  I was on the air in radio when I was much younger.  I was on the air on TV a few times back then and found it terrifying.  I don't know how Howdy Doody did it, and at least he had someone else moving him around!  Mind you, just because I have some empathy for people in that job doesn't mean I like them any better than any of their co-workers or neighbors; I just understand that's pretty much how they've got to be.
* Some people really like mine.  And didja know there's a whole book on the history and sociology of the footnote?  Bought it on sight, of course.†
† Or second sight, I suppose -- I did leaf through it first.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

The Intersection of College Avenue and Murder

     Driving home from work last night, I was headed north up College in heavy traffic a few blocks north of the 38th St. (a major east-west thoroughfare that runs past the State Fairgrounds) when a southbound police car with lights and sirens caused us all to pull over.  A few minutes later, four more followed, and looking in my rear-view mirror, it appeared they'd taken up position at the stoplight at 38th, blocking it from both directions and hold College open.

      Just as traffic got back to moving, two ambulances came roaring south and we all pulled over yet again.  I hadn't noticed anything when I crossed 38th, but there's a fair amount of foot traffic there, so it could have been ugly--

     It was ugly but it wasn't at 38th.  There's a little commercial corner eight blocks south of that intersection, a gas station turned repair shop, a commercial building with three dead storefronts, a former school that's now a retirement home and a gas-and-snacks convenience store that faces 30th Street. 

     At the latter, a man had run over the curb in a minivan, stopped, got out, collapsed and died.  He had been shot moments before.  So far, police have no idea why.  There's a lot of crime within a few blocks of 30th, right across the city; if a shooting or home invasion is reported, the odds are pretty good it will have happened between 22nd and 38th.

     This has been a bad year for murders in Indianapolis but it's a big city.  If you follow the guidelines, "Nothing good happens on the street after 9:00 p.m.," and, "Don't go stupid places with stupid people," you'd usually never know if you didn't see the news.  This is as close as it has come to me.  Because it has fewer stoplights and less traffic than Meridian Street, I've been taking College Avenue all the way from Broad Ripple down to 16th for years now.  Maybe that's no longer such a good idea.

I'm Looking For A New Dentist

     So, I go up to try my relined partial.  Dentist lookes it over, rinses it off, hands it to me and I pop it in.  Fits nicely.  Does not appear to have a lot of movement.  She has me take it out, says something about, "I'll just relieve it a little on that side," and I hear the burr whirr and make contact while I'm saying, "Maybe we shouldn't...?" 

     Too late.  The relined part had been got at, right where it wiggles. She had me put the partial back in to check the bite and adjusted that a little.  And yes, the darned thing now has what feels like excessive movement again.

     I lasted until noon with it, then got tired of being unable to speak clearly.  (And of being irked about that -- my temper is short enough without help.)

    It's way too early to give up on the appliance but I am thinking my dental problems might benefit from a fresh pair of eyes.  It's been over twenty years and maybe that's too long. 

Friday, October 16, 2015

Back To The Dentist

     They have relined my partial.  I suppose that's like relining automobile brakes?  Anyway, it's supposed to be better.  I hope so.

     In later life, Enrico Fermi supposedly expressed the belief that all political change was for the worse.  Any more, that's how I feel about dentistry past the most basic prevention and treatment, as well as about any attempt to do anything about my maigraines/left-side face pain.

     My M.D. has got onto that last bit, with the slightly-addled optimism of someone who has never read the complete, thick file, and her most recent effort, one of those stupid damn anti-depressants they hand out to fibromyalgia sufferers* and on the package insert, in at least 24-point type, it says, MAY MAKE YOU SUICIDAL.  MAY WORSEN DEPRESSION.  I'm not taking that stuff.  I have, in the past, long ago, been almost that depressed and I'm not going back there.  I'm not even taking a chance of going back there.  Ibuprofen, acetaminophen and aspirin are sold at at every drug store, five-and-dime, grocery store, convenience store and corner gas station; it's even free from the first-aid cabinet at work and if those drugs don't make the pain go all the way away, they do well enough just about all of the time.  And they don't make you wake up wishing the planet could be improved by your absence.
     Even if the choice was only between feeling pain and feeling depressed, I'd take the pain, 'cos the other is way worse.  Instead, it's between those things and one more option, having to be careful to not take too much of common, over the counter drugs.  I'm not saying they are safe for long-term, high-dose use (some studies say ibuprofen contributes to heart disease and we all know about the overdose dangers of acetaminophen) but they don't seem to be rewiring people's heads for the worse. Next time I see the doc, I'm taking my headaches off the table and if she doesn't like that, I'll have to find another doc and just not tell 'em.
* I'm not saying that's not a real thing -- who am I to talk, after all, with my chronic pain with apparently no findable cause? -- but people diagnosed with it are most certainly one of the favorite targets of those gawshawful drug-pushing ads on the TV, with twenty seconds of happy scenes and forty seconds of Dire Warnings read in a rapid monotone over still images of pastoral settings.  Y'know, if the stuff was so wonderfully wonderful, M.D.s would be pushing it high, wide and mighty, 'cos they are the kinds of people who are nagged by unsolved problems. Since they're not --  Ahem.  The corollary should be obvious.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

See, There's This

        H'mm.  As it turns out, there isn't.  I was feelin' sorry for myself but there's plenty of people a lot worse off.

     Headed to the dentist to see if she can do something about my partial.  There are issues.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Okay, Let's Take This "Get Rid Of The Guns" Thing One Step At A Time

     You tell me that silly old Second Amendment notion that an armed citizenry can stop an aggressive government force is nonsense in this day and age of modern, well-equipped armed forces?  Great, explain to me the substantial and lasting victories the U. S. military has achieved in Iraq and Afghanistan, against a rag-tag and ill-assorted bunch of locals with small arms and improvised explosives.

     But no, forget that.  Try this one: It's [unspecified future date] and a profoundly ignorant demagogue with bad hair has just won the Presidency of the United States, squeaking by with a tiny margin of the popular vote and doing okay in the Electoral College.  This nitwit proposes to Fix Things by roundin' up illegal immigrants, assault weapons, Muslims and profiteers, deporting the humans and meltin' down the machines.  A spineless Congress passes legislation enabling the President to order such action if he so chooses (thereby letting Senators and Representatives dodge the blame but grab some of the credit, depending on how things work out) and the Prez sends out the FBI, Immigration, the Marines and whoever else, maybe the Air Force band, to start the round up, adding married gay couples at the last moment.  They commence kicking in doors and checking for brown-ness, lack of citizenship, incorrect religion, evil black rifles, cigars getting lit from $100 bills and rainbows.

     Decision time!  Is it a moral obligation to oppose this oppression even if you can't win and will likely die trying, or will you just sit back, thinking, "Well, I dislike some of what's on that list and as for the rest, you can't fight Washington; besides, the President did get 51% of the popular vote!"  And are you not pretty damned loathsome if you take the latter course?  --And wouldn't it be, I don't know, maybe just a little handy if you could take a few of the door-kickers out before they got you, perhaps with something like a gun?

     Don't bloody tell me it couldn't happen here; it couldn't have happened in post-WW I Germany, a modern, civilized, tolerant country where Jews were valued, productive members of society and, unlike Britain or the United States at the time, it wasn't even specifically illegal to be homosexual.  It did happen there.  And it (or something like it) could happen here.  Political rhetoric on both sides of the aisle is increasingly intolerant and inflammatory and Congress has all-too-often been unwilling to successfully stand up to the White House over anything but spite. Scapegoats are easy; you pick someone who is Not Like Us (for a given value of Us) and you blame 'em for whatever is wrong and convince folks it's time to get together, put their shoulders to the wheel and Do Something.  It's large-scale lynching, with the same lovely sense of community and same poor slob(s) getting strung up with no legal determination of guilt. Bet it won't ever happen to you?  The odds aren't great -- and the stakes are extraordinarily high.

     People tell me the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising was a meaningless blip and I suppose it was, measured against six million dead Jews and another few million Gypsies, gays and assorted "undesirables;" but it got a little notice.  Had it been larger, it would have gotten more notice.  We whitewash history; we'd like to pretend that nobody outside Germany knew anything at all about the camps and the killing and the gradual, hateful build-up to them, that the U. S. never turned away an entire shipload of Jewish refugees or that before open war broke out, most nations were refusing visas to the large number of Jews trying to flee Germany -- but it happened.  Governments, people, news organizations were largely pretending it wasn't happening, that it wasn't that bad, that it would blow over--  Maybe if more people had fought back, it would have been harder to ignore.  It would have made some kind of difference, and that sure would have been better than what did happen.

     Maybe we are just little, and governments are huge.  That doesn't mean we should make it any easier for them to do bad things than it already is.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

A WW II Film: The Man Who Never Was

     I watched the film version of Ewen Montagu's book last night.  Both tell the story of a fascinating -- and slightly gruesome -- intelligence effort during WW II that used a corpse clad as a British officer, planted to wash ashore in Spain to convincingly plant false information about where the Allied forces were headed after taking North Africa.

     This is trickier than it might seem, since the ruse is an old one and any gap in the dead man's background will give it away; you can't just leave a dead Lieutenant with a folder of fake invasion plans marked "Most Secret" in enemy or friendly-neutral territory without raising suspicion.  How Montagu and a very small group did so, how they made it convincing, and the wider effect -- German intelligence never again trusted similarly-found information, including at least two potentially disastrous gaffes -- makes for a fascinating book and an engrossing movie.

     66-year-old Clifton Webb plays the 42-year-old Montagu (who makes a cameo appearance as someone else) with ease, suggesting relative youth with nothing more than hair dye and movement; his mid-Atlantic accent, barely punched up, is as close to that of an upper-class Briton as any American can manage without sounding affected.  In three different films, I've seen him play three very different characters and he drops right into them -- this is a guy who was very good at his trade, so good you saw the character, not the actor.

     Not the deepest of films if you were after subtext and subtle anguish but well-researched, with good sets and a talented cast.  There is a slightly silly spy-movie digression in the later part covering confirmation of successful deception, for reasons of security: in 1955, the ULTRA decrypts actually used to confirm the operation's success were still classified. Montagu's book does not hint at them, instead showing documents captured after the war and implying the Allies proceeded on little more than hope.  In fact, they were all but reading Hitler's mail and were certain Axis forces had been diverted.  With the truth behind a wall of secrecy and Montagu's version impossible to present with any drama, the film takes a different course, borrowing the tone and wording of the recovered documents.

     This film, despite a distinct lack of battle scenes and overt derring-do* (there is a sort of a car chase, for the fidgety), nonetheless tells an excellent story of modern war, and would be well-paired with Patton. As for the book, it ought to be sat right next to Gen. Patton's War As I Knew It, as a reminder that every great success requires foundation-stones.
* As the daring might, in fact, do.

Monday, October 12, 2015

"Hi, There's This Problem Out At The Works...."

     Yes, one of the flail-rods went askew on the treadle -- again.

     Had a call from the Operations tech on duty last night, to tell me temperature in one room of the remote (but critical) North Campus was unusually high.  85°F.  Bad but, I thought, not too bad.  I told him to call Facilities and keep an eye on it.

     I called back about fifteen minutes later.  Yes, Facilities had been notified, and by the way, "that column, bar-graph thing on the remote meters, where it says POWER? It went down to 75."

     Oops.  That is very much in my bailiwick.  I did my level best to not sound as if I was rolling my eyes while asking, "Are there any alarms in red on the screen?"  Red would be active rather than cleared and logged.  "Have you looked at the security cameras?"

     "Oh, we looked at them first thing.  Nothing out of the ordinary. And," long pause, " red alarms. I stepped through the whole list."

     "Okay," I replied.  "I'm going up there.  Did Facilities give you an ETA?"

     "Um, he was going to check things on his computer from home."  (There's a whole separate remote control for the cooling systems.  For stupid department-rivalry reasons, I don't have access to it.)

*  *  *

     I drove up, wondering what was going on, and arrived to find the front room -- only! -- mildly  warm at the door, and in the 85° to 90° range near the critical equipment.  Each room has its own cooling; the front room has six 10-ton units, out of sight above the ceiling in a long row above a long row of equipment, half of which sits idle since we went digital. At the end where the working equipment sits, two were not moving air at all and one was pushing hot air.  There's not as much mixing of air as you'd expect and as a result -- with 10,000 cubic feet of air per minute air going into the equipment and coming out ten degrees hotter than it went in -- was a hot-ended room and a distinct reduction of output power.

     The little workshop/office has its own cooling and the double doors to it were closest to the warmth; I propped one door open far enough to clear a couple of fans and set them running while I called up the Facilities guy to explain that this was A Problem Of Importance.  He was already en route, his telemetry software having revealed not three but four of the six units weren't cooling the air.

     He was twenty or more minutes out, so I checked room temperature and power out -- down a little and up a little, respectively, then went to the back room: much colder.  Colder than the workshop by several degrees, at least.  If I moved the fans to that door, they'd pull in some really cold air, and help move air from the less-warm end of the front room to the hot end -- and there was a wire-rack shelf I could use to vertically stack them!*  I did it, and it helped; output was up to 80% by the time Facilities arrived.  Two new belts and some inspired fiddling later, he had two of the four offline air handlers back to making cool air, and the room was rapidly heading towards its normal 70° temperature.  The other two units?  Turns out they had been down for some time, needed either extensive repairs or replacement, and the second-floor folks were skeptical of the expense.  (Ahem. Good to know.  Ahem.)

     We both hung around for another half hour while things stabilized -- a big HVAC system has a "capture transient" like a phase-locked loop. It's usually very well damped, but recovery from a large excursion can produce interesting overshoots and the last thing we wanted was to freeze up a coil as the cooling units worked hard to recover.  Didn't happen.  Just a nice smooth ramp-down (and ramp up) to normal temperature and 100% power, and we went away happy, having agreed to gang up on the accountants to get the remaining two units taken care of.

     But what a way to spend a late Sunday night!
* When you stick a fan in an opening, the amount of air moved goes up as you close off the non-fan portions of the opening.  The is one of the Rules Of Fans.  Another rule is that the moved air needs an exit or a return to the back side of the fan; a room or duct or whatever can't just expand like a balloon.  I was breaking that rule but it's a huge room and they were small fans.  Had it come to that, I would have had to go to the 24-hour five-and-dime to buy more fans, and opened more doors so I could move air between the rooms in a big loop.  The building is laid out for it; we did have some inkling that we might want to do such a thing.  But this time, I was pretty sure even a small change would make a big-enough difference, and I was right.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Total NOPE

     Meet The Press is on the TV in the next room and they're talking about the possibility of Mr. Bloomberg running for President.

     There's more No there than I can say -- the poster-boy for smiley-faced overreaching government, the man who sold "stop and frisk" police procedures right out of the "Papers, please?" scene in a WW II movie to New Yorkers, a nanny-of-nannies who puts salt on his saltines while demanding your French fries be served without it and all this is before you get the the real hot-button issues?  Oh. hell no.  Hillary would be preferable and if she wins, I'm gonna be shoppin' for somewhere to run when things get too bad.

     Everyone running for the Democrat nomination wants to turn a large number of gun-owning citizens into some kind of Federal criminal, with the only question being, "felon or malefeasant?"  But only one of them has hands-on experience in the kind of police-state tactics it would take to make that work, and in making them palatable to a population of people who could reasonably be expected to be skeptical.

     Meanwhile, most of GOP's hot prospects are sellin' various flavors of Return-to-Jesusland* and shippin' out the Dangerously Brown (a difficult trick -- y'know how there are so many guns in the U.S. that no power could ever grab 'em all?  Imagine if those guns had volition didn't want to be found...).  I'll grant that there are serious, good reasons -- including humanitarian ones -- for a more secure and better-patrolled border; it's this business of plannin' to comb through the population and root out a "dangerous element" often referred to as "parasitic" that stinks on ice to me -- and it should to you, too.  Do you recall what kinds of societies had any success at that kind of thing?  Do you realize what it takes to make it work? (Ahem, "Papers, please?")  Did you sleep through World History class?

     This is one of the lousiest candidate pools I have ever seen. Mr. Bloomberg is the worst of them -- worse than Mr. Sanders, worse than Mr. Trump.  If he enters the race, I may have to vote in the Democrat primary just so I can vote against him.
* Except this country never was. The American Revolution can be cast as a kind of dialogue between the Enlightenment/Age of Reason ideas that pushed it and the Great Awakenings that bookended it.  From that angle, the Establishment Clause of  First Amendment represents a brilliantly common goal: neither party was desirous of a State church.  Thus the United States was explicitly made a safe place for believers and nonbelievers of every stripe.  This is a delicate balance and has been maintained with varying degrees of elegance and civility though the years.  We should fear any politician who feels a mandate to Do Good -- especially if he or she believes it was granted by Divine authority.


Just play the record.

Some nice stuff in that.

Saturday, October 10, 2015


    I'm sorry for the language but this is bullshit: "'American troops in the Middle East were surprised to be shot at from the minarets of mosques,' Lopez explained, because the troops thought mosques were merely religious buildings like Christian churches."  [Emphasis mine.]

     That'd be Clare M. Lopez, "an intelligence expert with a focus on the Middle East," which she might be; but I guess she never saw many episodes of Combat or any movies about thge Allied invasion of Europe in WW II in which -- I'm sure you remember this -- church steeples and bell towers are shown to be a favorite of snipers and observers. This is basic, basic stuff.  Not knowing it is a fine example of Gell-Mann ammnesia and casts a huge cloud over claims of expertise.

     In the unlikely event that the statement is true, who are the idiots training and leading our troops and why are they unaware of the danger presented by high points offering good visibility, concealment and possibly even cover?  Nooooo, that's not happening.  That stuff is so basic there's no way what she says is true.

     Clare is one of a dozen women called out -- all but hitlisted -- in a SPLC hit piece (complete with scaaaary drawings, just in time for Halloween) about anti-Islamist women.  Okay, fine, opinions on all sides, okey-dokey, but the SPLC bit does look kinda like an assassination politics brief, which is not okay or fine.  Flipsidely, the quote above is from a PJ media story that also includes references to the "mosque" (it's not a mosque) "at" Ground Zero (nope, a block or two over) -- and yeah, that is irksome but you're living in a country with a First Amendment and still some notion that property-owners have some (a little) freedom in what they do with their own property; if that's unworkable for you, the war's already over and we lost.

     Is there a threat of bad guys doing bad things small and large, sometimes as part of wider schemes by larger groups?  Damn skippy there is, and a lot of 'em pray five times a day, too.  Scare-mongering from either side isn't how you stop 'em; it's sure not how you whup 'em.  Let them be jumpin' at shadows, while we remain calm and stop them when they try to start.  Oooga-booga, terrorists, I'm an average American woman and I'm armed and trained!  Yeah, baddies, nearsighted, fiftyish spinsters with literary pretensions are on to ya -- think how much worse for your evil dreams the rougher folk must be!

Got New Teefs

     Not sure what I think about them.  My Dad had an upper partial plate just like I do now, but where his was some fake teeth in simulated gum tissue with discreet clips and one or two tough metal strips connecting the two sides, mine has the teeth/gums set in a bizarre, organic-looking solder-splash of metal that covers over half of my hard palate, comes right up to the tooth/gum transition of my front teeth and makes speech difficult.

     I'm stuck with it now, but come next year, I'm probably going to shop around for something a little less 21st-Century.  There's just too darned much of it.  And it wiggles.

Friday, October 09, 2015

Goin' To The Dentist

     Maybe I'm getting a partial upper plate today, maybe I'm not -- I've been having some problems with the Permanent Mess in my upper left jaw that may slow things down.

     Either way, back later.

Thursday, October 08, 2015


     Yesterday went bad about 5:20 or 5:30 p.m. we took a power hit at the Skunk Workings.  The generator started and some of the lights came back on--

     But not all of them.  Most of the older part of the building remained dark and a hasty examination of generator, transfer switches, the "new" main electrical room and the "old" electrical room a floor lower and the length of the building away that the new room feeds didn't reveal anything obvious -- no tripped breakers, warm spots, smoke or fire.  The old room has a number of high-current switches with unreadable labels, some on and some off, the result of changes made when the building was expanded.

     There was much mad rushing about, trying to maintain a semblance of normality.  They were mostly successful.  The main process was working okay and then, all of a sudden, an hour after the initial failure, it wasn't.

     That was my department. I was tracking down the exact point of failure and had found it when the lights came back on.  Those switches with unreadable labels?  They are the visible portion of huge (possibly ground-fault) circuit breakers, with an oddball reset procedure.  The Building Maintenance guy showed up. realized they were what was wrong, and (with help -- it's a two-man lift) reset 'em.  A weird power-line transient had tripped them. My department is not allowed access to the electrical rooms, so we had no way of knowing what was normal.

     And the smaller but still bad problem I tracked down?  A single distribution amplifier on an unreliable stand-alone UPS instead of the big one.  My old boss had insisted on it, over my objections.  I moved the power for it over to the big UPS and that won't bite us in that way again.

     But the big power problem?  That's not my department and hasn't been any of my concern for years.  The boys in suits decided to get clever and go for compartmentalization and that is their problem.

* * *
     Got through all that, an hour after my usual quitting time, and still had to pick up a prescription for my Mom and deliver it to her.  Easy, right?  --She lives in a retirement complex in the next count to the North.  I was downtown.  Indy has no north-south freeway in that direction; the nearest approximations take you miles out of your way.  So I fought up Meridian St. to the wiggly Westfield Boulevard, turned left at the intersection of Westfield and Westfield (don't ask, it just does that) and zoomed up to the county line, where it becomes Rangeline Rd.  On up to the market by hazy directions, pharmacy was still open, I got her prescription and grabbed some stuff for dinner later.  Across the little town (sorry, Carmel, compared to Indy, you're still little) to Pennsylvania, hoping the road connected (Carmel exists in a permanent state of Road Construction), and up to The Home.

     The complex doors were locked.  I knew they would be but Mom had given me the code.

     The code did not work.  Simple keypad.  Tried the obvious permutations.  Did not work.  Mom came to the door from the inside: the crashbar does not override the lock.  Can't have the old folks wandering off! (I can't speak for the others on her floor, but Mom doesn't wander in body or mind -- she's frail, but she's very much all there.)  I tried calling: a phone tree, leading to no answer, just a machine.  The place is staffed 24/7 but they have plenty to do.  I tried tripping the alarm at the main doors.  Nothing.  I tried a good, healthy rap: nothing.  I tried the "house phone."  Nothing.  Another couple of knuckle-raps and the main door popped open.  I popped in, got Mom, rolled her chair back to her room, gave her the pills, we had a nice little conversation and on the way out, I managed to find two staffers chatting in a quiet corner off the main lobby.  One of them let me out -- and gave me the correct code.

     Seems the memo Mom got had the wrong one.  Well, oopsie, but what if she'd needed medical assistance, an ambulance?  Where had they been ten minutes ago?  I can't speak for hypothetical EMTs, but I'd'a got in, and sorry about the door.  --And on the other hand, how lousy is your system if an annoyed woman can  pop the lock by rapping on the main door, trying to attract attention?

     I finally got home and fed the cats about 9:30.  A nice, restful evening, hey?

Wednesday, October 07, 2015

This, That And SF World-Building

     It's lovely outside this morning, fog slipped in among the trees and rooftops, softening outlines, hazing and hiding distance, gentle silvery morning light.

     Went to an engineering conference yesterday and was treated to a quick course on the Smith Chart, a tool that is easy and friendly if you use it often and like a Chinese translation of ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs if you don't.  The PE who gave the talk is the best sort of a "throwback:" an old-fashioned, hands-on engineer with a thorough education and years of field experience, who enjoys RF work and wants to share the joy.   Professionals of that sort are gems; his mentor (now gone) was that way, too.  He's years younger than, me, too, which is a relief: I'm not gonna run out of really clever PEs to brainpick before retirement.

     "Stakhanovite" is a term I have been toying with idly for a couple of years, trying to fit it into the complicated, funky culture of the independent, sunless trading hub/semi-secret society, "Smitty's World."  There has to be a fair amount of Russian, ex-Soviet culture there, or nobody would get it when some joker stencils "sto pervyy kilometer" ("101-й километ") in the airlocks that separate the first "hidden" sections from the public ones, and I think I've got it -- the guy that works extra-hard (and is a bit or more of an apple-polisher) is said to "work like Stanky Vic," or even "like stank," which manages to snarl up both old Soviet and American slang in a neat little knot. 

     I was in the basement folding laundry and Tam was off doing something* when I thought I heard someone groan at the back door. Kept folding, only to hear, "Ooooh!  Aah!"  So I went upstairs.  Tam's cat Random Numbers Wu was sitting in the hall doorway, as close to the center of the house as you can get, wailing about The Unfairness Of It All, Especially No Second Breakfast.  I got her plate out, which Rannie-of-two-hours-ago had thoughtfully left unfinished, and set it down in front of her, with Huck locked out so he wouldn't take it. She seemed happy with that.  But oh, my, the sadness before!

* Possibly arranging Tammerdammerung, which is a version of the dreadful dark end of the Norse gods and all the world in which, just as things are at their very bleakest of bleak, all is lost and it's all headed ineluctably downhill to rack, ruin and oblivion, The Tamara shows up, scolds the whole lot of 'em for "grabastic faffing about," kicks every combatant's backside, tames the Fenris wolf with a pat on the head and nice collar and leash, tempts and soothes the world-girdling serpent with a fat mouse, grabs Loki by the ear and adjusts his attitude permanently, does the same squared to the Frost Giants and puts 'em all back to work, straightening up the mess and puttin' the world to rights.  There's a lot of grumbling by bigawd it gets done and in jig time.  Then she hauls them out to the range so's they can start to learn instead of being whining posers.  Which is exactly as things should turn out.  It's a lovely story and it otta be a warnin' to us all.

Tuesday, October 06, 2015

Ow, Dammit, Ow

     Some time last week, Tuesday or Wednesday, I "bit" down on a granola-type bar with the toothless gum where my upper left back teeth would be, if I had any.

     That's the approximate place where, almost twenty years ago, a tooth root punched all the way through the bone and not quite into my sinus cavity, setting off years of pain, tooth loss and dental/medical maladventure.  Despite rather a lot of well-intentioned surgical intervention, the bone underneath my gum tissue there is rough and sharp, and when you apply pressure--

     Well, it's a problem.  It tears up the gum tissue from the inside out and that seems to be what has happened now.  It hurts a lot.  I take OTC pain meds but it hasn't stopped hurting; in fact, the tissue in that area is swollen and tender and there's a nasty little spot at the center of the scar that feels like it's a sore.  From past experience, I don't think there's anything much to be done except apply "the tincture of time" and try not to be too uncomfortable, but it sure does hurt.  It sets off the whole ears ringing, ears hurting, eye hurting migraine-like mess and I find myself moving kind of slowly and carefully.hoping to keep it all down to a dull roar.

     There's an engineering conference to get to this morning starting plenty early and miles away from my dentist's, or I'd go bother her.  As it is, I'll hazard a phone call about their opening time today.

Monday, October 05, 2015

Two Sunsets And A Yellow Beauty

     We get some good sunsets in Indiana and this time of year can reward the prepared:

    Same day, a little later:

     Every once in a great while, I have lunch at the former Stutz factory, home to an assortment of business and artists theses days, and one nice eatery (with a bar and a kind of 1920s/30s lunchroom ambiance) called Bearcats.  The building contains many classic cars -- Stutz products and others on display in the corridors and, if you know the right shortcuts, the interesting vehicles driven by tenants and owners:

     Do want!

Sunday, October 04, 2015

HAARP: It's A Student Project Now

     Uncle Sam's .mil had been semi-quietly scuttling HAARP -- causing earthquakes, controlling the weather and susceptible minds either being too much work, or at least not enough of an edge to sway a Senate subcommittee -- when University of Alaska Fairbanks, who'd already built the site's fluxgate magnetometer, admitted they'd like to give it a go.  UAF bein' a big old space-grant university,* they were able to swing some funds for locomotive fuel† and snowplowing, and there it is: HAARP's now a student-staffed project.  And it's back in the transmitting business, or preparing to be.

     So don't you come cryin' to me when Indiana soybeans and Ukraine wheat come up paisley, okay?  And for pete's sake, don't get crosswise of UAF. 
* No, really.

† Still, really.

Saturday, October 03, 2015

0400 And Screaming

     Well, quietly screaming, anyway.  Or not that quietly --  loud enough Tam came to my door asking, in fact.  My phone alarm, for some misbegotten reason, went off at 0400 and when I rolled over and reached for the alarm clock to shut it off (I don't always wake up as the keenest fork in the spoon drawer), then corrected mid-roll to grope for the phone, my right calf knotted up.  Very badly.

     It was at that point that the aformentioned cries of pain occurred, subsiding rapidly to mild swearing interspersed with whimpers and my admission to Tamara, "It's a damn calf cramp.  Ow."

     "You know you can massage those out, right?"

     I tried to sit up to reach my calf.  This set off another, smaller knot. "Maybe not this one."  I scrunched around until I could reach it.  "Aha.  Okay."  I kneaded at the knot.  Tam wandered off, presumably back to Slumberland, and I managed to get the pain down to a dull roar and nodded off for an hour.

     Woke back up hurting a little after five, limped around at morning ablutions, fed the cats and committed a little basic cookery (eggs fried in a hole punched in two slices of rye bread, using Worcestershire sauce butter, plus a little of this and that from the spice cabinet on the eggs -- try it, you might like it), woke up Herself at the appointed hour (she has a Thing to get to, early-early) and here I am, still hurting and limping.  But hey, I am here.

Friday, October 02, 2015

"Looky Here, In The Porlock Observer...."

     Tam and I get along well, but there are days when we take turns being one another's person from Porlock.  Other days, it's the calendar's turn -- this morning during breakfast, I was pondering a fairly light-hearted story from Alaska (for paranoid-theorist values of "light-hearted") as a launching-point for a blog post while Tam watched the news, when she suddenly realized it was trash day and very near the time the trucks start.*  Mad dash ensued, and now I'm back to breakfast.

     Meanwhile, the news drones on with photos, full name and half-informed speculation about the college shooter in Oregon, press and politicians blithely, blissfully unaware that the more attention they heap on pathetic losers who harm easy victims, the more of them there will be.  They're rewarding the behavior and continuing to fail to harden the target.  Yeah, keep on blaming me and people like me instead -- who'm I after all, who are we all but powerless worker bees in the vast, dull middle of the country who own guns and use them responsibly, not very photogenic, easy to blame, easy to push around.  By the time I retire, we'll probably be accused of poisoning wells and stealing babies.  Accused by persons from Porlock and by their Great Leaders, and taken out with the trash.
* The sadists who run trash pickup vary their starting locations from time to time, which changes their pickup time.  Our truck is usually by about 9:00 a.m. but is occasionally as late as 11:00 or as early as 7:00.

Thursday, October 01, 2015

So, Of Course

     This afternoon in Oregon, some nitwit feeling disempowered or some damn stupid thing decided to punch back -- at random (or nearly random) strangers, who undoubtedly wished him no ill.

     Hey, dammit, I'm real sorry most people don't notice you, but the fact is, most people don't notice very many others, not in any deeply meaningful way and that is how it works and always has.

     People were killed, people were hurt and that is just plain wrong, period.  It shouldn't happen.  The shooter is dead -- much too late.

     Naturally the President got on TV to chide the American public and (indirectly, oh, how softly, softly) the NRA.  He somehow did not chide the mental health provisions Affordable Care Act, the friends and neighbors of the shooter, or college policies that ensured no law-abiding person was going to be able to shoot back.  Nor did he mention, let alone condemn, the possible four ch@n* connection.  I'd say, "Funny, that," except it's not.

     As if to demonstrate how deeply he doesn't get it, the President mentioned the nearly 1:1 correspondence between the number of guns known to be in private hands in the U.S. and the population, and then praised gun-seizure efforts in the United Kingdom and Australia as admirable models, countries with smaller population and an enormously smaller number of privately-owned guns per capita.  Politics, feeling and personal opinion aside, it's not practical to grab 'em all, even if there was no resistance, avoidance and political pushback, all of which there most definitely would be.

     There's a political fight ahead and it's not going to be pretty.  Meanwhile, the UK is "enjoying" a rising tide of crime, most of it not committed with guns (which must be a real comfort to those beaten to death, or half to death for that matter), while public safety officials and politicians are trying to get people to turn in their knives.  Learn to shoot back, or make yourself an even more attractive target?  It's decision time.
* Some things, you don't spell right.  Ever.  I was really hoping this might be a case of Sudden Jihadi Syndrome but present and very preliminary indications are it's another instance of Spoiled Beta Male.  Makes me want to puke.  Little weasels are just the mirror-image of metrosexuals, only without the grooming or brittle Peter Pan charm.

Forget Irony, This Is Lousy

     This city's one hundredth murder was committed yesterday on Centennial St.

     If the present rate continues, Indianapolis will meet or exceed last year's total of 137 murders.  Eleven a month, plus.  In comparison, the towns in Shirley Jackson's The Lottery or Le Guin's The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas don't seem to be getting such a bad deal.

     Wrong.  --There are significant differences, and not merely the worse odds of a one-in-three hundred chance Jackson's townsfolk get.  In both of those stories, everyone's complicit, even those who, in the LeGuin, leave, having done nothing.

     Real life isn't fiction; Indianapolis has a whole array of people doing something, from police trying to solve crimes (and possibly, every so often, catch trouble before it escalates to felony) to the preacher camping out in a hard-hit neighborhood.  A stunt?  Sure; but it gets attention on the problem.  It's better than doing nothing.

     If it were all bad guy-on-bad guy crime (it's not; robberies gone worse, stray shots and mistaken targets account for no few deaths), that might not be so awful -- except bad guys have families, too, families that are bent by the crime.  When killing someone is a legitimate -- or at least very possible -- way to resolve problems other than an imminent threat, don't be surprised when it spreads from generation to generation, brother to brother to friend.  And when the law creates underground markets, don't be surprised to find them run by the lawless.

     There's a theory that police exist not so much to protect society* directly as to protect criminals (including the merely suspected) from the rough justice that they would otherwise face from their fellow-citizens, and thereby protect society from its worst impulses.  It is nowhere more obvious than in those transactional spaces outside the law and the remedies sought by involved parties when goals conflict or deals go bad.  Those "remedies" tend to spill over; the blood gets tracked widely.  Ten dead a month -- how many of the criminal victims who comprise the majority would have "had it coming" in the justice system? 
* They're not there to protect you personally -- ask the Supreme Court! Oh, they may do so in the normal course of their duties, but they are not obliged to.